Ok, everyone, it’s time for us to go through the myriad of ways you can mix up elements of your Mini Darling Ranges to make a truly unique dress for your little one! The basic shape of the Mini Darling Ranges dress is super sweet, we love it so much just the way it is…but it’s also the perfect base to work from if you want to change things up! Add some length; a special sleeve or ruffle; pop a pocket somewhere different; or create a round or square neckline! The options are endless, let us show you how!
Be sure to tag your hacks with #MNminidarlingranges and @megannielsenpatterns so we can see what hacks you come up with yourself!
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You will need: A stencil to help cut out your desired pocket shape!
It’s a known fact that, just like the sewing community, tiny humans love a good pocket! Everyone needs a place to keep their rocks, bits of lego, crushed up cookies and pencils, am I right? Mini Darling Ranges includes a great inseam pocket, but why not have a go at making your own style! Patch pockets are such an easy way to customise the look and functionality of your little ones dress.
- To make a simple rectangle patch pocket, just cut out the rectangle size you need, then hem the top edge before folding under the remaining edges and pinning the pocket onto the finished dress where ever you like! Just make sure the fabric is nice and flat underneath, then top stitch around the sides and bottom, close to the edge. It’s as simple as that!
- If you’d like to try something a little more creative, like a heart shaped pocket, an easy way is to make a paper template of the shape you’d like, with 1/4″ (6mm) seam allowances added all the way around. For one pocket, use your template to cut out two pieces from your fabric which you can then sew together, almost all the way around. Leave a small gap, just enough to be able to turn the shape out the right way. Before you turn your pocket though, clip into the seam allowances at even intervals, being careful not to snip through your stitching – this will help to create smooth curves. With it turned our the right way, do a row of edge-stitching around the entire shape which will make it sit nicely, and will also close the gap. You can then just pin your pocket onto dress, and sew around the shape, leaving a gap at the top big enough for little hands to fit.
BOWS, TIES & SASHES
You’ll need to keep in mind: Make sure you think about how long you need the ties before cutting! It’s hard to tie a bow when it’s too short!
Have you noticed the bonus bow-length tie that’s included in Mini Darling Ranges? There’s just something about little dresses that scream out for a bow, so we just had to add it in!
- But why stop there, why not play around with it a little more! You could add the bow to the front instead, or add little belt loops at the side seams and make a wide sash in a contrast fabric!
- If you narrow the shoulders of the sleeveless version, then stitch a finished tie to the shoulder seam to knot into a bow, you could create the illusion that the dress has tied shoulders.
- Another idea gorgeous idea is to make a little puff sleeve which ties with a bow! To do that, just take the flat sleeve before you insert it and cut up from the raw sleeve end to form a little keyhole opening, using bias binding to finish the edges. Then sew your sleeve side seam, before doing a couple of rows of gathering stitches along the raw edge of the sleeve end so you can gather it in slightly. To finish the raw edges, attach a band that is the right length to go around the arm, as well as enough to tie its knot, plus a little ease. It should be centred, so that an even amount of the band extends from each side of the keyhole opening, where it will get tied into it’s bow. Cuteness overload!
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NECKLINES & COLLARS
Ideal for: A slightly more formal dress, or just one that has a special little element.
To get even more mileage out of your Mini Darling Ranges pattern, have you considered mixing things up with a different shape neckline? The original has a V-neck shape, like the adult pattern, but before cutting out your pattern, you can redraw the neckline shape to be whatever you like! You can bring it up or down, make it rounder or squarer, it’s up to you!
- Make your alterations between the shoulder edge and the lowest point of the neckline at the fold line. Everything to the right of this fold line is the placket which doubles back on the neckline, meaning it needs to have the same shape. The easiest way to make sure it’s the same shape is when you are cutting out your paper pattern or traced pattern, leave the section above the placket uncut, then fold it back along the fold lines, as if you were making the dress in fabric. You can now see how much needs to get trimmed or added so that it matches up with the new neckline. If you cut along the new neckline, the placket underneath will get cut as well, so when you fold it back out, it will be the exact shape to match the neckline. How cool is that?
- If you are creating a shape that might not be so easy to bind, like a square neckline, you could always use a wider facing instead! Just use the shape of your new neckline as the inside line of the facing and draw the rest whatever width you’d like.Adding interfacing to your facing is a great way to add a little stability to your neckline, and don’t forget to press and understitch to get a nice crisp edge.
- Another cute finish to consider is adding a collar! To skip the whole collar stand business, make a collar the has an inside curve to match your neckline, then when you are sewing the binding to your neckline, you can simply sandwich your collar in between your dress and your binding! The binding will still get turned to the inside and stitched down to enclose the raw edges, but the collar can be simply pressed to sit on the outside. It’s such a simple way to create a completely different look!
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TIERS, FRILLS & PEPLUMS
Make sure: You’ve got enough fabric for all of the tiers you’re going to add!
So the gathered skirt of Mini Darling Ranges is pretty easy, right? Well, guess what, that means that adding more gathered tiers is just as simple!
- Make your second-tier half the length of the skirt, or add a whole extra tier to the original length to make the dress a cute midi or maxi length! The same principle even applies for adding a short frill to the hem – it’s all exactly the sample! The only difference is the height of your second (third, or fourth!) layer. Whatever height you decide on, just remember to add enough for seam allowances & hems.
- To be able to gather your second layer, and to get the nice increase between the layers, your second layer will need to be approximately double the width of your first (the width of the skirt pattern piece). That means that if you were to add a third layer, it would need to be double the width of the second.
- Depending on how wide your fabric is, this might involve making the tier in more than two pieces, but with the busy-ness of the gathers and all that twirling your little one will be doing, no one will spot the extra seams!
- Another cute idea is making the dress into a top by simply trimming the skirt length down to be a peplum. Super cute, and super easy!
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THE PERFECT BASE FOR COSTUMES
You’ll be using this pattern over and over again to make all sorts of beautiful costumes. Alice, Anne, Lucy, Dorothy…the gangs all here!
With Book Week & Halloween just around the corner, it’s costume season! Mini Darling Ranges is going to be your new best friend, it’s the perfect base to play with for so many great dress-ups. And you better believe it won’t just be a one-hit-wonder, it’s all about picking the right accessories!
- With just a red hair ribbon and a book under the arm, you’ve got an instantly recognisable Matilda! Check out Bunny’s Book Week Matilda Costume for Book Week, it’s so simple but so gorgeous!
- The very same dress with an apron & tights could be a super cute Alice in Wonderland, or pop on some red shoes and grab a little basket and plush puppy for an adventure in Oz.
- To get even a little more stretch out of an existing costume, decorating with applique can be an easy but effective addition to a finished garment! Using fusible webbing like vliesofix, you can add some stars & planets for a brilliant Ms. Frizzle! (and just a hot tip – if it’s a night before sort of costume, the fusible webbing is usually sufficient to hold them in place so you can get away with not stitching them down! Just be sure to stitch them in place afterward before you pop it in the wash).
- For a little more detailed costume, you could add some extra puff into the sleeve heads for Anne of Green Gables, or raise the neckline and decorate with some frills like Bunny’s Mary Lennox from the Secret Garden Costume. The possibilities are endless!
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RUFFLES & FRILLS
Make sure: you don’t shy away from frills. A mini dress always looks pretty with frills!
Ruffles and frills are a great way to dress up Mini Darling Ranges for a special occasion, or just add an extra level of cuteness. They are so easy, and also a really great way to use up fabric scraps!
- To make gorgeous ruffles to add to sleeve or skirt seams, cut long strips of fabric, hem one side, and gather them up using a long stitch. If it helps, baste them to one of the pieces first, then simply sandwich them between the layers and stitch the seam as normal.
- To add frills and ruffles as a surface decoration, you can find lots of super cute pre-made trims at your local sewing shop, or cut strips like before but hem both sides before you gather them up, pin in place & stitch down!
- Instead of sewing the elastic at the ends of the sleeve, you can create a really sweet frill cuff by stitching the elastic a little further up the sleeve! You can simply stretch your elastic loop and zig zag in place, or sew in a little casing so the elastic and stitching aren’t scratchy for little arms.
- Adding a tulle layer to the skirt can add some gorgeous volume for a dressy Mini Darling Ranges! And by adding a frill to the hem of the tulle so it peaks out, you can make it even more of a feature!
Perfect for: A small change. It doesn’t take much hacking but will make your Mini Darling Ranges just a bit different.
If you’re a big fan of sleeves, then I’m sure you’re super excited about the three different options in Mini Darling Ranges. But be creative, and have a go at making some of your own variations!
- Widen the sleeve end, slash and spread the sleeve, or add a long flared cuff to create a dramatic, flowy sleeve!
- Cap sleeves are such a cute addition and are great for protecting those little shoulders from the sun.
- Make your own cut line, or add a cute gathered cuff to the shorter length for a great transeasonal 3/4 length.
- Starting with a long semicircle or crescent shape, you can gather it up to make a little frill sleeve to add to the sleeveless version. Using an interesting fabric, like a lovely lace or sheer organza can make it a real feature, have fun with it!
I hope you enjoyed all of these fun Mini Darling Ranges hack ideas! If you’ve some hack ideas of your own let us know in the comments we’re always looking for more inspo!
Don’t have the Mini Darling Ranges sewing pattern yet?! Order the pattern today! We absolutely love seeing what you make, so don’t forget to tag your creations with #MNminidarlingranges and @megannielsenpatterns when sharing on social media, and check out what everyone else is up to!
// Looking for more Mini Darling Ranges posts? //
- Introducing Mini Darling Ranges
- Tester Round Up
- Mini Darling Ranges Hacks (this post!)
- Flat Sleeve Insertion
- Patch Pockets
- Ruffle Sleeve
- Peplum Hack
Plus there is a full range of Darling Ranges tutorials that you can use to help sew your Mini Darling Ranges!
- Project preparation
- Pattern alterations: lengthen the bodice
- Pattern alterations: raise the neckline
- Pattern alterations: rounded neckline
- Pattern alterations: fishtail hem
- Sewing & construction: Bodice & darts
- Sewing & construction: Skirt & pockets
- Sewing & construction: Attaching the skirt & bodice
- Sewing & construction: Placket & Neckline
- Sewing & construction: Sleeveless version
- Sewing & construction: Attaching the sleeves
- Sewing & construction: Hemming
- Sewing & construction: Ties & beltloops
- Sewing & construction: Closures