Sweet Little Red ~Halloween Sewing Tutorial and Free Pattern

9 Oct


Well here it is!  I had meant to get this posted by now, but after a week of sick kids, sick me, husband away on business trip, my daughter’s first birthday, and a large cutom order to finish up (so many excuses!!) it’s a little later than I had hoped.  The “Sweet Little Red” costume and photo shoot are done, and now on to the tutorial so that you can make your own – just in time for Halloween.  I really loved this project, and doesn’t that little model look so cute in her costume?  Her mom, Jackie, also did a great job with the photos.  The skirt on this dress is very full, so you could put it over top of a pettiskirt or tutu and it will flare out beautifully.  I love the little bavarian style criss-cross ribbon in the front, and the girly ruffle detail on the front of the bodice.  If you wanted you could also make the dress in blue gingham, maybe for a Dorothy costume.

This tutorial is for the red gingham dress.   It is for personal use only, however if you would like to purchase a limited commercial license please e-mail me at   If you would like to make the apron also, you can visit my apron tutorial here.  I have two patterns for this dress, one is 18 month size and the other is size 5.  Here is a link to the patterns:

18 Month Sweet Little Red

Size 5 Sweet Little Red

Materials Needed:

18 month
1 Meter Red Gingham                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Red or White thread                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   1/2 inch elastic (optional)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          12 inches of 1 inch red satin ribbon                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        .3 meters of white cotton fabric                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 1 meter of red faux suede string                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               ~A button
Size 5                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     ~ 1.5 Meters Red Gingham                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    ~Red or White thread                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             ~1/2 inch elastic (optional)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     ~16 inches of 1 inch red satin ribbon                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         ~.3 meters of white cotton fabric                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        ~1.2 meters of red faux suede string                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      ~A button

If you are not sure what I mean by red faux suede string, have a look at and enter in the search “red faux suede string” and it should come up with a picture.  Cut out all of the pieces of fabric as indicated on the pattern.   When you are done you should have 4 of the front bodice pieces, 2 of the back bodice, 2 sleeves, and 2 of the centre bodice pieces.  The centre bodice pieces should be from your white cotton fabric, and the rest will be in the red gingham fabric.

First step is to take your red satin ribbon and you are going to cut it into pieces that are 2 inches long.  If you are making the 18 month size you will need 6 pieces.  If you are making the size 5, your bodice will be longer and you will need 8 pieces of ribbon.Next you are going to place the ribbon on two of the front pieces of your bodice and figure out where you would like them to go.  Mine were all two inches apart.  Make sure that they will line up with the ribbon on the other side (use your measuring tape or a ruler!) Make sure you have at least 1.5 inches below the bottom set of ribbon because you will be sewing the skirt there later on.  Also make sure that the top row is at least 1/2 an inch from the top of the bodice to give you a seam allowance.  This next step can be a little tricky.  You need to sandwich the other pieces of the front bodice on top (if there are right sides, make sure the right sides are together) and the ribbon needs to be folded in half with the cut ends towards the outside of the sandwich.  The ribbon should form a little loop inside the “sandwich”  Pin everything in place, and then sew with a 1/2 inch seam, from the shoulder, down, over the ribbon, to the bottom.  When you get to the ribbon make sure that you catch all of the pieces.  The ribbon should be long enough that you can actually leave a bit of the ends sticking out of the side.  Here is a picture – the black lines represent where you will sew.  Now turn your front bodice pieces right side out and press well.  You should now have something that looks like the picture on the right.  Are you with me?  Excellent!

Okay now we are going to work on attaching the back bodice.  Take one of your back bodice pieces, place it right side up.  Arrange your front bodice pieces like this on top of it:

Make sure that the armholes line up; the sleeves won’t go all the way to the edge of the neckline but this is okay because there will be a 1/2 inch seam allowance when you sew it, it will all work out perfectly (trust me!)  Now lay your other back bodice piece on top.  If there is a right side make sure it is facing down; the wrong side facing up.  Pin together at the shoulders and neckline and sew with a 1/2 inch seam allowance like so:

Now we need to make an opening in the back of the dress so that the dress can be put on easily.  Grab the two pieces of the front bodice and pull them out to the sides.  Find the centre of the back bodice and from the neckline measure 3 inches down for the 18 month size, or  4 1/2 inches down for the size 5 version.  Then cut down in a straight line through both pieces of the back bodice. Grab your red faux suede string, we need to make a loop for the button to attach to.  To figure out how big you need your loop, I usually just make a loop, hold the ends with one hand, and test it by passing the button through.  It should just be a little bit bigger than the button, you don’t want the button to go through it really easily because it may not stay buttoned up.  I really hope this makes sense!  So, cut a piece of the suede string big enough for your button to pass through, and add an inch on the end for seam allowance.  Sandwich your loop near the top of the neckline between the back bodice pieces, just under where you previously sewed your neckline together.  The ends of the loop should be sticking out of the line that you just cut.  The loop part should be inside of the bodice.  We are now going to sew down one side of the line, around the bottom, and back up the other side with a 1/2 inch seam allowance.   Clip the inside of the corners around the bottom, so that when you turn it inside out it will lay flat.  Now we are going to turn the bodice right side out and press well with your iron.  Make sure that the side of the  back bodice line up nicely with the sides of the front bodice.

Lets take the two pieces of white cotton that you have cut out for the centre bodice.  Pin them together and sew up one of the long sides, along the top, and down the other side with a 1/2 inch seam allowance.  Leave the short, straight side open so that we can turn it right side out. Then turn it right side out.  Make sure that you get all of the little corners poked out – I use a chop stick, not very technical I know but it works for me.  Press with your iron.  Now we are going to create some ruffles for the front of your bodice.  I cut two strips of the gingham fabric.  My strips were two inches wide, and double the length of the front of the bodice.  First sew a zig zag stitch down one long side on each of your ruffle strips.  One end of your ruffle is going to be at the top of your bodice and visible, so we need to sew down one of the short ends.  Also, you need to make sure that each of your ruffle strips are opposite.  Look at the picture below.   The zig zag is on the right side of the first strip, and it is on the left side of the second strip.   Fold the short end over roughly 1/4 inch and press with your iron.  Fold over again 1/4 inch and press.  Then sew your folded end close.  Take the other long end that is still raw, fold over 1/4 inch and press down.  Fold it over one more time and press with your iron; now sew down the long side. Now we need to make it into a ruffle.  You can use whichever method you prefer; I like to set my stitch length to 4.5, crank up my tension, and sew just on the inside of the strip – on the side that you sewed your ZIG ZAG stitch.  Once you have two nice ruffles, make sure they are the same length as the front of the bodice.  Measure 1 inch in from the front centre of the bodice (the side where you made the little ribbon loops.  Pin your ruffle onto the front of the bodice, 1 inch in all the way down the front.  The side pinned down should be the zig-zag side, and the short end that you sewed down should line up with the top of the bodice.  Sew your ruffle strip onto the bodice, sew down just on the inside of the zig zag stitch, it’s okay to sew over top of the gathering stitch.  Take your white centre bodice piece.  Place it behind the front bodice pieces, line it up nicely with the top of the front bodice pieces and pin it.  You are going to open up your bodice so that the back piece is not behind it.  Now sew down the same line that you just sewed to attach your ruffles.  Hopefully this makes sense, your centre bodice should now be attached to the front bodice.  Here are some pictures to help out.    Take your bodice to the iron and press the ruffles down flat against the bodice.

Okay, now we are ready for the sleeves!! Hey guess what?  The hardest parts are over with!  Take your two sleeves and fold the long straight side over 1/4 inch and press, then fold it over 1/2 inch and press again.  DO NOT sew it down!  Now you are going to sew a gathering stitch along the top  curvy edge of your sleeves.  Open up your bodice and lay it flat, with the right side facing up.  Make sure your sleeve is gathered to the same length as your arm holes, you will probably have to ungather it a little bit.  Pin your sleeve to the arm hole, right sides together. Now sew your sleeve to your bodice with a 1/2 inch seam allowance These seams will be visible, so it is a good idea to finish them up with a zig-zag stitch or a serger if you have one.  Flip your bodice so that the right sides are facing each other.  Line up the sides of the bodice and the sleeves.  Pin together.  Unfold the edge of the sleeve that you ironed earlier.  Sew all the way up the side, and the sleeve to the very end that you just unfolded.  Use a half inch seam allowance.  Repeat on the other side of the bodice.  Again finish with a zig-zag stitch.Now let’s finish up those sleeves!  You have two options here.  You can leave the sleeve loose the way it is.  If you are choosing this option, all you have to do is fold the sleeve back the way it was and stitch around the top of the folded part, 1/4 inch from the edge.  Your other option is to put an elastic in.  If you are doing this, stitch around the top of the folded part, 1/4 inch from the edge, but leave a space  about 2 inches open.  This will make a casing for your elastic.  Take your half inch elastic and measure how much you need by placing it around your child’s upper arm.  Don’t make it too tight!  Thread your elastic through the casing, sew the ends of the elastic and then sew the opening shut.  Repeat the same steps with the other sleeve.

We are almost finished!  Now we have to make the skirt.  I wanted my skirt to be very full and gathered so that it would flow nicely overtop of a pettiskirt.  I took my material and folded it in half lengthwise.  From the remaining fabric I cut two strips, 9 inches wide for the 18 month size and 16 inches wide for the size 5.  The length was just the length of the fabric (so 1 metre for the 18 month and 1.5 for size 5)  Make sure your pieces are still folded in half.  Cut the ends of your strip at a backwards angle to make it an a-line skirt.Place the two pieces of your skirt right side together and sew up the sides (the angled edges) with a 1/2 inch seam allowance.  Zig-Zag stitch your seam.  Press the seams flat with your iron.  Now you are going to sew a gathering stitch along the top of your skirt.  If you have used the amount of fabric that I recommended, your skirt is going to be very gathered.  Sew your gathering stitch, leave long threads so that you can (carefully!) pull them and gather the skirt some more.  When you are done, the circumference of the skirt should be the same as the bottom of the bodice.  Make sure your skirt is inside out and your bodice is right side out.  You are going to pin the skirt to the bottom of the bodice, RIGHT sides together.  I like to line up the side seams of the skirt with the side seams of the bodice.  I hope you can see in this next picture how I pinned it together.  The bodice is inside the skirt.Sew your skirt to your bodice using a 1 inch seam.  And this part is very important: When you come to the front of the bodice, make sure that your white centre bodice is laying flat, and that your ruffle strips are also laying flat.  Make sure you catch the bottom of the ruffle strip in your seam.  This will help it to lay flat, and hide the unfinished edge.  Finish your seam with a zig-zag stitch or serger.  Now hem your skirt, I like to fold up 1/2 an inch and then again and sew, you can finish yours however you like.  Take your red faux suede string.  Fold it in half and put one end through the top left ribbon and the other through the top right ribbon on the front of your bodice.  Criss-cross your ribbon all the way down and tie it in a bow at the bottom.  The last step is to sew the button on the back of your bodice and you are DONE!!!

Thank you so much for following my tutorial, I hope my instructions are clear.  If not, please feel free to comment, I will change things as needed and do my best to help you out!  

Now just for fun – I had to make the size 5 dress for a customer of my Etsy shop and it just so happens that my son is a size 5.  I couldn’t resist trying it on him to make sure it fit properly.  He had fun jumping and twirling, but to his credit he did suggest that the customer would probably want me to throw the dress away and make a Ninja-Turtle Princess costume instead.  Of course I took some pictures…

Thanks again for stopping by!

~Lisa K


5 Responses to “Sweet Little Red ~Halloween Sewing Tutorial and Free Pattern”

  1. Tara October 9, 2012 at 4:26 pm #

    OMG Lisa you are so talented and that is going to be a great blackmail pic. Ben will just love you for it when he’s a teen! LOL

  2. sweetlisak October 9, 2012 at 7:21 pm #

    Thanks Tara, I just hope his dad doesn’t see it, lol.

  3. Carrie November 1, 2012 at 6:30 pm #

    Such a cute costume! Very nice work.


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