Wisdom Comes Suddenly

The Goodnight Gorilla Dress

February 7th, 2012 · 4 Comments

You know what you should do during a deadline-intensive week when your thumb pain is shooting up to your elbow and your cough has returned?  You should make a dress.  Dresses make everyone feel better.

Some of you may recall a dress I made for Sara’s 100’s Day (if you are my age, and without kids, you may not know the new trend is to celebrate the 100th Day of School with a party, projects of 100 things, Mariachi Bands, and an insane amount of fanfare).  Sara made a 100 hearts, and truly, honest to God, coincidentally, I had been making the girls dresses made from 100 patches of heart material.

Because Kelly has an usually long memory, she clearly remembered Sara wore a new dress handmade by Mommy to 100’s Day, and she wanted the same.  Fair ’nuff.  She fits into Sara’s 100’s Day dress, but that wasn’t what she had in mind. Luckily she wasn’t interested in “theme”, because her project was her dice collection.  Do I have the only 4 year old on earth who collects dice?  Probably.  Would I consider making her a gambling themed dress for her 100’s Day?  I’d be lying if I said it hadn’t crossed my mind.

But truth be told, I have long wanted to join No Big Dill’s “Once Upon A Thread” event, where she invites bloggers to make clothing inspired by Children’s Literature.  HOW AWESOME IS THIS? My work isn’t intricate enough for the event, but I can always add to the Flickr Group.  It was intricate in my head, but based on the time constraints, it was simply wearable.

A few months ago, I lost much sleep because right as I dozed off, The Goodnight Gorilla Dress popped into my queue of “crazy ideas I’d like to make”.  It HAD to be made..someday.  Kelly LOVES “Goodnight Gorilla” by Peggy Rathmann, and if you don’t, stop reading because we can’t be friends.  I bought Michael Miller’s Zoo Kids Fabric many moons ago, along with the bright watering can fabric that became this, and this.  Kelly refused, and I mean adamantly refused to let me make her a Maxi Tube Dress.  She wouldn’t even let me turn this fabric into a skirt.  But the second I called it “The Goodnight Gorilla Dress”, she was on board Folks! With 4 year olds, the selling is all in the semantics.

Passing Kelly’s teacher in the hallway yesterday, I said, “Hey Mrs. H.!  Is 100’s Day on Thursday?” Um…Lori, it’s tomorrow. (My eyes lighting up with flashes of panic as I realize I put it on the Class Calendar as Wednesday, thereby messing up all 14 families.) “Oh no.  The Calendar. The dress.”  Oh Lori, we’ve known you for a long time.  I’m not worried. Make one tiny snake, and your rep is set, I guess. Thank God Kelly had insisted on carrying in her dice a week early, otherwise we would have spent the evening ripping the house apart, counting dice. I’ll bet you thought I had them all nicely together in a neat little jar?  Sometimes I think you guys don’t even know me.

So, how do you make a dress in one evening?  First, scrap all original plans, other than the concept.  Run to Target and buy a coordinating t-shirt and sweater set in the colors of the fabric. AND, cut the tshirt in half:

Next, take the dress fabric which was cut months ago to be twice the width of Kelly’s body, and sew it into one long tube:

They’ll be plenty of chances to hold it up to the Gorilla Girl, because little girls who know dresses are being sewn down the hall don’t sleep very well, and find themselves transported into the sewing room, peeking into Peter Pan’s workshop, just a few times.  Hem the bottom (if I’d had a double needle, I would have used it to make a double seam hem, but instead, I just used my quarter foot to make an evenly spaced double seam).  I didn’t take a picture, but I cut 7 inches into the bottom of the back seam (oh, by the way, position the 1 seam to go straight up the back, not on the side), turned the sides in a couple of times, and made a kick pleat.  Critical for little girls who like to run, jump, and play.  Just sew a top-stitched seam a few times over the top of the kick pleat so it won’t run up the dress like a bad pair of panty hose.  I could have sworn I took pictures of the kick pleat, but by nightfall, I’m barely conscious, let alone aware there is a camera at my feet:

Now with the tshirt right side out and the skirt inside out, dive the tshirt headfirst into the skirt, which will make right sides touching.  First pin the back seam to the middle of the back of the tshirt, and the middle of the front to the middle of the front, and the sides to the sides.  Now you are left with a mountain of too much dress fabric, hence the essence of gathering.  Pull up the dress fabric and pin in the middle, pin, in the middle, and keep pinning until you can’t pin no mo’.  Now sew, using your fingers to fold in the pleats. Did I make this look easy?  Because it took me 3 tries to get to the fabric positioned correctly:

Turning it inside out, now you have a dress.  Can you quit here? The whole house is asleep, so NO SLEEP ‘TILL THE BROOKLYN ZOO, MY FRIENDS!  I had envisioned a pocket with fancy red ribbons leading to a fancy Zoo pocket with an antique key on the center of the t-shirt.  Heck, I had envisioned making the top and adding all sorts of neck ruffles, giving it a turn of the century look.  The theme of this year is “good enough”…so moving on.  There was simply not enough room for a pocket on that tshirt.  Luckily, I was sitting right next to the scrap of the tshirt, and decided to make a pocket on the dress.  Why not 2?:

Because 2 looks too 1970’ish.  Take one off.  My pockets are nothing fancier than a rectangle of fabric folded in and top-stitched down. Aunt Jenny called and informed me that editing to 1 pocket isn’t aesthetic…it’s logistical.  Either way, off it goes. Hey, 1 pocket!  Make it fancy:

Oh crap.  You just sewed your pocket shut.  THAT’S what happens when you sew past your bedtime.  Every time, guaranteed.  There is nothing I hate more than seam ripping, so I just took out the middle, creating a little loop. Now…to attach the key (bought in the $1 section at Michael’s).  You HAVE to have a key, otherwise how will the Gorilla let the animals out of the cages?

Taking the tails of that ribbon and utilizing that loop, you can make a bow:

Or you can tie the key out (we decided to keep it in):

And just like that, in 3 hours and a few stitches yanked, and some finishing work that will get done before the first washing…the “Goodnight Gorilla” dress was born. Kelly called it “The Dress With 100 Zoo Patterns”, making it the best 100’s Day Dress ever!  100 Zoos!  I love it!

But mostly, I just love this little Boo Boo Chicken, who badly needs a bang trim, who despite my pleading, looks older every day.  I am so glad I grabbed the chance to make this before she outgrows picture books.  Before a childhood zoo scene is too babyish.  Before I look up and see her bopping around the house with my iPod in her ears (uh-hmm…like a certain sister I know).  I’m glad I tucked this key into this little pocket while I had the chance.


Tags: The Girls

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4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Lisa @ What were we thinking? // Feb 7, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    That is darling. She will wear many dresses, but she will always remember that one.

  • 2 Teresa // Feb 7, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    Absolutely perfectly adorable!

  • 3 Amie S // Feb 8, 2012 at 11:42 am

    Promise you’ll teach me this stuff when I move there?? :). Fab!!!

  • 4 Jacque Mickel // Feb 8, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    Your 4 year old collects dice, mine collected beer caps and 5 years later still does. He has been told he will have a killer bar in his college dorm room and his response is, ‘huh?’.