my favorite oliver + s pattern: building block dress

Here is the next installment of our favorite pattern series. It’s where we ask fans to share a bit about their favorite Oliver + S pattern, telling us why they like it, what they learned from it, and to show off the multiple times they’ve made it. Today we have Raphaëlle. Here she is.

Oliver + S Building Block Dress

Hi, my name is Raphaëlle and I blog over at Deux Souriceaux. The first Oliver + S pattern I ever used was the Music Class Blouse + Skirt. I remember how happy and nervous I was about sewing this precious pattern. I remember that I just could not understand how those skirt pattern pieces fit together. I blindly trusted the instructions and it worked! That was the day I was won over. My love of Oliver + S patterns hasn’t wavered since. But I’ve changed. I made that outfit for my daughter’s first day of kindergarten. That little girl is now in fifth grade and I’ve grown a lot more confident in my sewing. I rarely sew a pattern the same way more than once or twice now. I’ll have a vision of what I want to make and modify a pattern until I get exactly what I want. So when the Building Block Dress book came out, I pounced on it. A basic dress pattern with drafting and grading I can trust coupled with detailed instructions for a bunch of different modifications? It was love at first sight! I devoured it straight away when I got it and my mind started spinning with all the possibilities.

My first time around, I used it to make an A-line dress with color blocking. A good, basic A-line shift dress had been on my wishlist for so long! It’s one of my favorite silhouettes. Of course, I had to add a modification not in the book: those in seam pockets at the front. I used easy-to-sew cottons except for that funky fabric. That one is merino wool felt that I made. I underlined it with cotton to be sure it would be comfortable.

Oliver + S Building Block Dress

The second time, I went even further away. I had a vision for a linen peasant blouse using some trim I’d scavenged from an old dress. I needed the neckline to match that very wobbly crochet lace. I used the Building Block Dress bodice and lengthened, created my square neckline to match the trim and added the flutter sleeves. Would you believe that neckline trim came from a baby dress! It’s amazing to think that it actually fits over her head so well!

Oliver + S Building Block Dress

Then, little sister needed a dress too, right? I made a sleeveless A-line again and let her pick the back buttons. In front, I used the instructions from Pattern Magic 3 to get that shirred circle. The Pattern Magic books are perfect for using with the Building Block Dress since the projects are usually done on a basic bodice. (Pattern Magic is done on a women’s bodice so it has darts but I haven’t found it that difficult to adapt to a dartless bodice.)

Oliver + S Building Block Dress

Last Fall, as a contestant on Project Run & Play, I again wanted to make a shirt and used the Building Block Dress as a starting point. This was my first time incorporating knits into this pattern and it worked beautifully. You can see all the details of my modifications in this post.

Oliver + S Building Block Dress

Since I got eliminated, I didn’t get a chance to make what I’d planned for little sister but I did make her Christmas dress! This time, I tried to stick to modifications from the book. I used the cap sleeves, scalloped color blocking on the bodice, scalloped facing on the skirt, and an underskirt. I think the scalloped color blocking was the trickiest sewing I’ve ever done! I’m sure the stiffness of my fabrics (velveteen and sateen) didn’t help….

Oliver + S Building Block Dress

This winter, I was given the chance to participate in Project Run & Play again. I jumped at the chance but got eliminated before I could share this coat dress. My best work ever, with bound buttonholes, tiny pockets, and embroidery! I moved the opening to the front and extended it to create a double breasted coat and made a V neckline. I made the puff sleeves just as described in the book and they turned out absolutely perfect. I wouldn’t have thought about the necessity of adding a little height to the center top and bottom of the sleeve without the instructions. The skirt is simply the flared version but with a high-low hem. Even the underskirt is from the dress pattern! I used the same flared skirt piece but added a little space at the waist to make pulling it over the hips easier. I added a straight waistband with an elastic in it.

Oliver + S Building Block Dress

Finally, just for today, I made yet another blouse for my daughter. I lengthened the bodice and gave it just a touch of flare for ease of movement at the hips. I kept the opening at the back but shaped the buttonhole side into waves. I used a facing for the neckline to give a bit of shape to it, just a little curved dip in the center. For the sleeves, I did the long puffed sleeve but let it puff all the way down. Then, I split it down the center and rejoined it at the underarm and added a hem allowance to the new edges. This was my second attempt at creating a split sleeve and I’m so happy it worked just as I’d envisioned! Instead of hemming the sleeve, I added a small cuff with an elastic. I hand tacked the two sides of the sleeve together at the elbow. Otherwise, the sleeve just flopped open and looked like an odd wing.

Oliver + S Building Block Dress

I have never used a pattern this much and I foresee many more! For one, I see that little sister hasn’t had her fair share of dresses. I know she’d love a dress with fancy back detailing. I’ll have to give that a go….


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  1. Stephanie Spann

    My daughter would ADORE a shirt like that last one with the split sleeves! Love them all!

  2. Isabel

    What an inspiration! All these lovely creations. That coat is my favorite!

  3. Kathy

    I am awed by so much creativity!

  4. Fiona

    All of your creations are so imaginative, and executed so well. Thank you for sharing.

  5. L

    The red coat dress would be perfect for the Polar Express Santa Train visit. Or the Nutcracker Ballet!
    You did a lovely job.

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