sew + tell: building block dress jumper

Believe it or not, I actually did some sewing! I thought you might like to see what I made most recently using the Building Block Dress.

Name: Liesl

Project details: Wool jumper, re-sized.

Back when I was designing for Tommy Hilfiger, I used my employee discount to purchase a jumper as a gift for my niece. My sister dutifully held onto all my niece’s clothing so it could be passed along to the rest of the girls in the family, and a few years ago we inherited that same jumper as a hand-me-down. S loved it. She wore it until the dress was far too short, and then she added leggings to wear it as a tunic as we often do around here with beloved dresses.

Last year we finally agreed the jumper was just too short and needed to be retired. S was so sorry to see it go and requested that I sew her another one. She wanted one as similar to the original jumper as possible, so we chose a black and white wool plaid that reminded us of the original dress and set it aside for the project.

Pattern used: Building Block Dress pattern, size 8 (lengthened to size 12ish).

Fabric used: Wool plaid from Ribes y Casals (my favorite fabric store in Madrid).

Did the fabric work well? Yes, although I can’t say it’s ever fun to sew with plaid, especially when you’re making darts that should mirror each other. Mine are close but not perfect. But I managed to match the plaid everywhere else!

How did the sewing go? Fun! The original jumper was well made, and I decided that I would start with the Building Block Dress pattern to recreate it in a larger size for her. I used a few techniques that aren’t covered in the book: specifically, adding darts to enhance the fit through the waist and opening the armholes a bit so it could be worn with a shirt or blouse underneath (not too tricky, really). I included an invisible zip, full lining with facings at the neckline and hem (just like the original dress), and covered buttons at the wrap skirt closure.

What was the best part? The finished jumper is very, very similar to the original, and she’s delighted with it! Yesterday as she was getting dressed (in the jumper, again), she mentioned to me that she wears it almost every weekend. She wears a school uniform during the week, so that means she’s wearing the dress more often than anything else in her closet. I’d call that a successful project, right?

What else? I also used a technique to sew the lining and facings that I’ll show you next week as a tutorial. It’s sort of a cheater method that I use when I’m feeling lazy or when there are a lot of curves on the facing.




  1. Jennifer McCann

    Oh that’s lovely. That actually would make a great pattern. It is the perfect uniform style jumper. But in a non navy or maroon solid or a blackwatch plaid fabric, it isn’t a uniform at all. I really love this one in its entirety.

    1. Glad you like it, Jennifer! The tricky part of these patterns with darts is that the darts don’t work for the little kids with bellies. So I think a pattern like this would be best for older kids only.

      1. Jennifer McCann

        I agree. It is definitely not toddler belly type style. But for the bigger girls and even teens, it is quite lovely. The shaping on this is so flattering for S. Also to be honest, I could see a similar style in a woman’s dress.

      2. Addie

        It looks absolutely beautiful on S. The classic plaid will serve her well too. I agree with Elizabeth, a similar style jumper could be really nice for women. Jumpers were popular in the late 80’s-90’s but aren’t found much now. You jogged my memory of a holiday velveteen jumper (princess seams & dropped waist, v-neck) that I sewed in about 1994, ha! It seems a practical and versatile garment that may deserve revisiting. And a good way to learn techniques for lining a bodice. You are such good sewing inspiration Liesl!

  2. Nancy Perin Axmacher

    Love love love this! I loved jumpers as a girl. I was tall and thin as S is and jumpers eliminated the problem of blouses (probably cut too short) coming out of the skirts, which were too big in the waist. I asked the question at one of your workshops about the neck and sleeve adjustment to the Building Block pattern. Thanks for the details. I’m printing out this blog and putting it with my Building Block Book!!

    Nancy Ax.

    1. oh, that is a great idea. Also I love the way the skirt looks like a wrap-around. The entire jumper is so nostalgic for me. Perhaps I would make the neckline a little deeper for turtlenecks. S has such an elegant look. I think it comes from her mother. I will print it out too.

    2. That’s so true, Nancy! I wasn’t a jumper wearer, but now that I’m older I can appreciate them, and I’m thrilled S likes this one. I’ll work on that tutorial, I promise!

  3. oh I love it. I used to wear so many jumpers. You can change them up so many ways depending on what you wear under them or what shoes you wear with them. Or you can make it a date dress by finding some great heels and pearls and going to the Student Union. Boy, my days at the Big U. I love the plaid. and the covered buttons. and the upcoming tutorials. And it looks perfect on S. S has such a great figure for modeling the plaid. it would be great with a black turtleneck.

    1. I’ll suggest the black turtleneck to her, for sure! She’s a good sport and I love it when she likes something so much. Hope you’re doing well!

      1. I am doing much better thanks to your blogs and wonderful photos of the beautiful places you visit. I actually think seeing what other women are making is a huge help in overcoming grief. and thank you for asking. Some day I will spell your name correctly. My 3 year old grandson is Neil and I always get the “ei” in the wrong order so please forgive me. S is so lovely. I think you picked a tricky plaid because it does not look symmetrical. I look forward to the tutorial.

  4. Susan

    Very stylish and age appropriate for tweens–even older teenagers. Love the fabric!

    1. Thanks, Susan!

  5. Lizabeth

    S is a well dressed young miss thanks to you! Did you get a chance to measure how tall she is now?

    1. Putting it on my To Do list, Lizabeth! She just keeps getting taller.

  6. I love this so much!!! I want to make a little corduroy jumper for Maggie using the BB book, and although mine will probably be more “little girl” styling, this gives me some really good ideas! Love what you did with the low waist and skirt!

    1. It would be really cute for little girls, Inder, and much easier since you can eliminate the darts. xo

  7. I love it! And S looks very stylish. I am tempted to make a jumper like it for my S, if not for the daunting challenge of lining up the plaid on seam lines.

    1. I hear you, Cindy! It’s not all that hard, and we should really do a tutorial on matching plaids. the real trick is to cut your fabric flat rather than on the fold. I hope you make one!

  8. Nicole

    This is one of the loveliest sewing projects I have seen in a an age.
    Absolutely perfect.

    1. Well thank you, Nicole!

  9. Connie

    That is so cute! I love the buttons and the skirt! I would say you’ve done an amazing job of matching the plaid. Glad someone’s getting some sewing done. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Connie! I need to sneak these projects in between sewing for work or I lose my sewing mojo!

  10. Vanisha

    Love the jumper, and S looks so much older and stylish. Please share how to enlarge the armholes at some point. Thanks for sharing so much information with all of us home sewers.


    1. I promise I will, Vanisha. It’s really quite easy!

  11. Jenny Gage

    Oh Liesl, brava!! S. looks amazing. Love it.

  12. Fiona

    The jumper is a triumph; so very chic! And just perfect for the ‘tween’ agegroup. S looks truly glorious in it, and I’m pleased for you, L that she is so happy to wear it. Thank you both of you for sharing these pics.

  13. Natasha

    I love, love, love this! I have a weakness for black and white plaid, and S looks so charming. No wonder she wears it all the time. I’m going to have to put a jumper like this for my daughter on my “must sew” list!

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