Scandinavian Dresses: How very Frozen of us!

With the huge Disney hit, Frozen, making all things nordic popular this winter, it's quite the serendipity that I actually started my girls' Scandinavian dresses a whole year ago when I ran across the fabric for the skirts - long before I'd ever heard of Elsa or Anna!

That stripe, replete with birds, hearts, scallops & baskets just cried out for Scandinavian styling.  But I knew that, being a complete novice to embroidery, it would take me FOREVER to finish what I had in mind, and I'd need to start early.  I was right.  A whole summer & fall of design and embroidery (and a whole lot of picking things undone) had to happen before I was happy - and how surprised was I to discover that my stylings were well-timed to be completely in fashion and my girls could fit right in at Arendelle!

With embroidery and details that whisper winter in snowflakes and lace, this year's coordinating dresses each have their own unique flair.
How about we go littlest to biggest?
Evey's dress pattern was mostly a classic vintage (Butterick 2159).  I very much wanted to make the jacket too in a grey wool, but never got to it.  I obviously changed the sleeve from the original pattern- added some fullness (this is achieved by simply increasing the arch on the sleeve pattern piece then gathering instead of easing the sleeve), and increased the length of the sleeve to the wrist.  I also added a wide sash tie in back, shaped the neckline a little, and put trim around the neck & at the bottom of the skirt.  For the sweet, scandinavian look, the skirt trim is a scalloped lace with a scalloped grosgrain ribbon.
The embroidery on Evey's belt was a lot of fun!  Most of the designs for most of the girls' embroidery come from one of two gorgeous craft books by the same author: Christmas Crafting in No Time & Scandinavian Needlecraft both by Clare Youngs.  I have checked both of these books out from the library so many times I've lost count! Finally bought Christmas Crafting for myself.  Someday I'll own both...

For Chloe's dress, I used a McCall's pattern - 2661 - also vintage.  I've made this pattern before, with the vest, and that's what I planned on making for Chloe.  She had other ideas - as always.  I wanted the vest in red with embroidery on it - she picked View A because she liked the placement of the trim. I admit it, she was right.  I LOVE the way hers turned out!
Modifications to this pattern include: sleeves (they were cut out per the pattern, but when finished, Chloe didn't like how "poofy" they were - she said she felt like a pirate.  So I cut them down to a slim silhouette and added a red trim to match the bodice) and skirt (this one was a DOOZIE! As is, the skirt is not at all full. It is almost straight with only a tiny bit of gathering.  I wanted FULL.  But with the empire waist, I didn't want a tiny maternity dress either. So instead of gathering the whole amount in to the waist, I only gathered in what the pattern called for, then I inserted gores at the sides, front and back - triangles that tapered out at exactly the waistline.  This made for one of the most difficult hems I've ever encountered - trying to get it straight was a nightmare - but it gave me the result I wanted in the end.)
 For the embroidery, I used several of Clare Young's designs from her books, coupled with some of my own ideas.  I'm including a pic of my design sheet to show the process.  Starting with a copy of the pattern piece, I trace out general ideas, then add in details.  As it develops, some of the elements don't fit quite right - note how the flower is replaced with another taped on top.  At the bottom of the page I have several rejected doodles for potential ideas.  If at first you don't succeed...

The finishing touch on Chloe's outfit was a tatted snowflake made by a dear friend.  She didn't even know she was making a perfect accessory for us! (And don't you love that scalloped ribbon? Hobby Lobby!)  I think tatting is stunning!

And finally, Lily.
 Miss Lily's dress was made from an amazing pattern from a company I'm not sure is around any more - Advance 8352.  Can I tell you how full this skirt is?  Yummy.  I didn't change a thing.  Kept the 3/4 length sleeve that is eased at the shoulder but full at the elbow - kept the perfect skirt length - kept everything! The shape of the "belt," which is actually an inset not a belt, is an ideal canvas for embroidery.  I decided on the image of the bird that is common to scandinavian design, and as I couldn't find one that was exactly what I wanted, I designed one, which you can download here as a .pdf. Enjoy!
One bird looked strange and huge though in the middle of the belt, and it was my graphic designer brother who came up with the idea of two birds facing. Voila! LOVE! I also added a bunch of snowflakes & a few hearts to the border of Lily's skirt - getting more varied and adventurous as I went along because I got so used to doing them and was no longer using any pattern but completely free styling.
  Most of the embroidery on all three dresses is done in a simple to learn whipped-back-stitch, with many French knots throughout.

I wanted to do Lily's hair in a crown braid, but it has been so cold this winter, and her beautiful long hair keeps her warmer.  So I tried a modified crown that picks up in the front and wraps the back. It is lovely! I need to start doing some hair tuts ;)

As a footnote, a tiny bit of linguistics.  I have called my inspiration "scandinavian" throughout.  But as I began to finish dresses, my husband, who lived in Switzerland for a year, asked if I had designed them to make him nostalgic for the Swiss.  I've had others compliment me on the adorable Austrian outfits.  Others asked about my Nordic designs.  Which left me thoroughly confused and curious.  For Germany, Austria, Switzerland I finally found a word that pulls them all together: Alpine.  But I'm still really confused and not sure if my dresses are Scandinavian, Nordic or Alpine - all I know is my girls love them & look cute in them!


Holly Jones said...

Wow! They turned out fantastic! I wish I could sew like that. Nice job!

Piper said...

I am DYING at the cuteness! I would never have thought to use the snowflake as a hair accessory! I LOVE IT! So SO cute!

LeeAnn@Encouragement Is Contagious said...

You are an amazing seamstress AND I love your creative imagination.. Your daughters are going to reminiscence and brag on you forever! What wonderful memories they are going to always have of the love their momma gave them through using her great imagination and sewing skills. Good thing you are taking lots of photos of all of them in these dresses because they are going to want to show everyone when they are momma's themselves as they talk about their special mother.

Unknown said...

Thank you SO much for your kind comments! Totally made my day :)

nest full of eggs said...

wonderful job!

Nika Chick said...

outstanding work! so inspiring! love love love <3

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