size 5 project: tea party

Here is the next installment of the Size 5 Project. This series has to do with giving the original four Oliver + S patterns a fitting goodbye before the children we sew for outgrow them. Last month the Size 5 Project was kicked off with a Puppet Show Shorts round-up and sew-along. The next pattern on the list is the Tea Party. Sarvi will be covering this one. Come back later today when she will be starting the Tea Party Dress sew-along. Great to have you here, Sarvi!

This dress holds a special place in my heart, because this dress is, in a sense, the whole reason I sew. Early on in our relationship, my partner bought me a sewing machine as a gift. I’d admired a friend’s sewing, and I’m a gal with a million hobbies, so it seemed like a good idea. But as it turned out, my machine intimidated me, and when I tried to sew, I wasn’t immediately great at it. The horror! So it sat unused for years until I found myself about eight months pregnant with a strong nesting instinct.


The size 5 project: Tea Party Dress


I could knit, so I started looking online for knitting patterns, and found Purl Soho (I imagine a lot of people’s fiber craft odysseys start like this). On their blog, they’d featured the Tea Party dress, made up in a wonderful mix of fabrics. They make everything sounds so tempting, you want to start right away, so I did, and was almost immediately crushed again because of the tricky bodice seam. So I backed up and made a few Popover Sundresses. The wonderful people in the forum were extremely kind about my early efforts. And eventually, I did figure out how to sew that curvy seam, and I’d like to share my tips with you.

But first, let’s take a look at all the different ways you can style this great little pattern. I wanted to go outside my chambray comfort zone and sew something very pink for a pink-loving young friend. Here are some other ways you can incorporate something different from your usual.

In the Purl Soho version, they used two different buttons. With just two buttons prominently featured on the front straps, this is a great spot to include something special, like unique buttons, such as here, here, and here.


Oliver + S Tea Party Dress


The bodice and seams are also great places to try out some very easy-to-apply flat piping like these in red polka dot, yellow,


Oliver + S Tea Party Dress


and blue floral.


Oliver + S Tea Party Playsuit


And check out these clever people. There’s a brother and sister set in coordinating seersucker.

A border print would be tricky to pull off because of the curve, but how sweet is this scalloped edge?

You can always sneak a bit of fun into a school dress code.


Oliver + S Tea Party Dress


Or go all out with reverse applique and hand stitched seams the Alabama Chanin way.

I hope you found some inspiration in all these different takes on the Tea Party.


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  1. This dress and the Sandbox pattern are both near and dear to me as well. I had a terrible experience with a sewing class and Big 4 patterns that nearly made me throw in the towel. Thankfully I found Oliver + S and haven’t looked back. Three drawers full and a notebook of patterns later I have all the confidence I need to try any new sewing project.

  2. Kate Clemens

    I’m just starting the music box jumper dress (view B) and I’d love any hints or tips on how to do it best. Im using different fabrics for the front yoke and skirt… I’ve just started learning to sew after a long hiatus so I need all the help I can get! Thanks!

  3. Rebecca

    Sarvi- that is so funny- my sewing odyssey started just like yours. 🙂 I was searching for knitting patterns and found O&S on the Purl Bee. I found this same tea party dress and the Sunday brunch jacket ( My first pattern was the tea party dress and I still love it so much! I love your version and I’m going to have to make one (or more) this summer.

  4. So many great examples and a variety of styles, thanks for the inspiration, Sarvi! I can’t wait to pull this one out again (soon!).

  5. Thank you so much, ladies!

    Rebecca, I think the Purl Bee is a gateway drug for a lot of folks 🙂

    Kate, have a peep here:

    There’s a lot of great info there, and you can also search the Flickr group for the Music Box pattern and see if folks have done something similar to what you have in mind, to get a sort of preview of how your idea might look.

    If you hit any snags, please do pop a question into the forum and I’m sure somebody will be along soon to offer a suggestion. Off the top of my head, my tip would be to try your hand at covering the side seams with bias tape to match your bodice lining. It’s a little extra work but every time I’ve gone to the trouble I’ve been so pleased with the result. There are only the two side seams so it’s a great way to try out the technique.

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