I absolutely love this latest project for Minerva Crafts. As you know, I have a lively little toddler (although nearly four so not so little any more), who, like most little ones, is going through the Disney princess stage, or to be more accurate, dressing up in general, not just limited to princesses ("you know what's really cool Mummy? Star Wars!). She's a big fan of Brave (can't think why), and practically thinks that she is Merida, so obviously this was to be next.

I was struggling to find a suitable outfit - I'm always looking to expand our dressing-up box, but it was really bothering me that I couldn't find a "screen accurate" Merida dress. 

This is not a Merida dress!

So, obviously I was pretty thrilled to find a licensed pattern for a proper dress on the Minerva Crafts website (although im sorry to tell you thats its since been discontinued by Simplicity so Minerva have sold out and no longer have any stock).

And I thought... Bring it on! I can do this!

So let's just have a little look at the pattern. You'll see above that they're using a blue-green velvet fabric, but I always though of Merida's dress as a more practical bottle green, with a cream undershirt. I think this has got something to do with her appearance in the film, and subsequent Princess incarnation, when her dress became a little more glamorous. 

So I'm going to stick more with the orignal dress, which is between blue and green, but in a greener colour as that's slightly easier to get hold of (and selfishly, with Mini's colourings, will look really pretty). 

I'm using a slightly stretchy crushed Velvet Fabric, which is great to sew with but a little tricky to cut out as the ends to curl a little. Still, a good pressing will keep it stable. 

The pattern can be made trickier or easier - if you want to go for a full cosplay there is a matching cape to go with the dress, but I'll maybe try that sometime later. 

The dress looks like it's a shirt underneath a heavier dress, but actually it's a dress with separate collar and sleeves attached in the lighter cotton. Then there's two 'gauntlets' in the velvet fabric which attach to the main dress with small poppers, and the whole thing is completed with a petticoat underneath. 

You can see here that the main dress is comprised of three panels on the front, and two on the back, which give a fit and flare shape to the dress, which is really flattering and helps the dress move. This is a (appropriately) called a princess seam, and it's a way of adding contouring to the dress that flows through the whole body. You'll often find it on wedding dresses and ball gowns to create fluidity. 

The fabric, although it's irregular and has the 'crushed' look, still has a nap, which means it's smooth one side and rough on the other, so it's really important to cut the pieces so that they're all in the right direction. Speaking of the pattern...

This was certainly the largest pattern I've ever worked with, three sheets! It took a really long time to cut it out, but it's very well identified so that helped. 

I made sure to label every single piece as some of them looked quite similar, and I didn't want to get in a mess later on. This really helped with sewing the front and back, and gave me a bit of confidence in what I was doing. 

I really love this little feature on Gutterman thread, they always tuck the tail of the tread into the end, and you can pull it out to find it! This thread matches so closely to the fabric colour that it was really tricky to unpick when I did make a mistake...

When added to the pile of the fabric, the thread is almost invisible, which was so challenging to unpick!!

Boo.... thumbs down

I really struggled with the first two pieces of the bodice. sewing two pieces that are curving in opposite directions, and are made out of a fabric that likes to move and curl, is really tricky. It took me about an hour of trying until I got fed up. 

So... time for an ice-lolly break and trying again! 

I actually found it was easier to tack (baste) this area and then sew it, instead of pinning, which still allowed the fabric some movement.

This dress uses gathering all over - the collar, (which is formed by a line of elastic), the sleeves at the shoulders (traditional gathering), and the cuff (elastic), and again on the frill at the bottom... if you need a little refresher on this technique, check out my tutorial. The cuffs are edged with elastic, about one inch from the end which creates a ruffle, similar to my previous project.

This pattern was quite challenging to complete, mainly because it has a lot of pieces, and each component needed a few different techniques to complete. The arm gauntlets are comprised of the outside fabric (velvet), and lined with the cotton fabric, with iron-on facing inside. This makes it pretty stiff, but the gaps (with straps), allow the sleeves to poke through, which gives it that medieval feel.

Now, one thing I must say - the sizing on this dress was way off. 

I've made this dress in a size 4, which is usually a little too big for Mini (she's slightly small for her age), an unfortunately she was on holiday with her Dad when I made it, so I couldn't measure her and had to estimate. It's a fine line between getting the dress the right (floor) length, and it being too long or too short, but when she tried it on it was 7 inches to long! 

I marked the correct length (or slightly shorter as I didn't want her tripping over), with tape, and made a template out of card to trace the slightly curved bottom higher up. Ideally, I'd have measured it from the top, but she was impatient to wear it so I did it the quickest way. 

 I traced all the way around the dress, cut, folded and pinned it to create the hem. I needed to press it quite firmly to make sure the edge was sharp enough. 

I also changed the petticoat. In the pattern, it's supposed to be a separate petticoat, with a ruffle and pin-tuck, but instead I opted to add the petticoat ruffle directly to the dress. I just felt that this would be a little more practical for my little princess, and again reduced the risk of tripping over... she does that a lot!

She kept her jeans on for the photos! 

I love the way the velvet catches the light. 

It is a little short, but as the size of the dress is a little big, this compensates for it slipping off the shoulder a bit - stops it from slipping down too long - let's turn it into a positive!! 

You can see the shape of the dress is closer at the top, with a long skirt, and the ruffle on the bottom gives it a bit of body and movement. 

It's also got a lapped zip at the back, which I managed to put in quite easily (surprisingly), and it's fixed with a hook and eye at the top. 

Overall it's turned out really well - she loves it and that's the most important thing! It doesn't matter that it's a bit long in places and short on others. If she has a growth spurt I will add an extra couple of ruffles! 

Well, that's my first attempt at a costume, what do you think? I really enjoyed it and I think it turned out great. Many thanks again to Minerva for giving me the materials needed to make this dress. 

Much love, 

Verity x