Hot! The “Gumnut Baby” Dress | Veronica Darling


image from ny-image3.etsy.comThe Facts

Fabric:  Thrifted Bed Sheet, $1; some leftover lining fabric, thrifted $0.10c and some curtain netting, free from my old house
Patterns: Simplicity 4230, free, on loan from Amanda in Adelaide
Year: c. 1960s
Notions: zipper, thrifted $.20c
Time to complete: 4 hours
First worn: May 2011
Wear again? Totally, best dress ever!

Total Cost: ~$1.30

My imagination has been in overdrive as I've planned for this Sew Weekly theme, as there are so many wonderfully written (and illustrated!) childrens books and so much inspiration! We read a lot growing up, and my favourites were Enid Blyton's entire collection (Magic Faraway Tree and the rest!), Beatrix Potter, Roald Dahl,  and the Australian authors Mem Fox and May Gibbs, and plenty more! I remember creating stories about the authors as well, 'What is A.A. Milne's full name?' and imagining I was Roald Dahl's granddaughter. But I have settled on something a little local and close to home!

image from When I was very little, visiting my grandparents in the Blue Mountains, the Australian bushland around their house became the *most* magical place because of May Gibbs' Snugglepot and Cuddlepie. Two little 'gumnut babies' who lived in the Australian trees, with loads of adventures and loads of amazing friends (and enemies!).

Their stories were bigger and as real as any Hans Christian Anderson tale, or Walt Disney tv show, when I was young! I am trying to think of what Snugglepot and Cuddlepie would be like anywhere else in the world (to put them in context for you non-Australians), but they are truly Australian and inspired by the unique Australian wildlife and fauna.

"May Gibbs book warns Australian children of some of the dangers of the bush, but also teaches them to respect and admire it." is a lovely quote from this blog, and I remember hugging trees and looking for messages in the bush from Snugglepot and Cuddlepie. Yes, hugging trees!

 For my garment this week, rather than take these bush babies literally (they were often naked after all!), I found in my stash this leafy vintage bedsheet and thought I'd use it for a seriously big resizing attempt on this 1960s pattern. Amanda (who's on our lovely Sewing Circle) has loaned loads of her gorgeous vintage patterns to me, and this one is two sizes too big! Luckily a vintage bedsheet makes a very cheap toile for drafting a new sized bodice, and what a bonus: it fits perfectly!


SW_Storybook-14The pattern is a 38 size, and I'm a 33 or 34 usually! To prepare the pattern, I took 4 inches off the bust line (folding the pattern vertically at 2 areas on the front & back pieces) and 2 inches off the waist (folding both pattern pieces horizontally along the waistline) and took a slither off the shoulder seam. It helped writing it all out like a maths equation, and sketching out my changes! I've decided to keep a little notebook of all the changes like that, as it all is a steep learning curve for the non-drafter in me!

As the bedsheet fabric is kinda light & vintage, and I thought it might stretch out after I constructed the bodice, I decided to line the whole top with some leftover fabric I had in the stash, and it has made it more fitted and solid. I love lining the whole bodice of dresses so much more than smaller (neckline and armhole) facings these days! It just makes the insides so neat and amazing! It does mean handstitching (in front of the telly!) the lining to the bodice at the waistline and along the back zipper, but I think it'll also make the dress longer lasting!

SW_Storybook-13These little gumnut babies, when they did wear clothes, often wore little blossom hats and skirts, so I added a little tulle to the skirt (as I overlocked the waistband) for a little softer side underneath.

Whilst the leaves on the bedsheet aren't gum leaves (Australia's most well known native tree and the long skinnier leaves in the park in these pictures), the pattern and colour is just perfect and I think makes a wearable Children's Book outfit! I have been watching Project Runway this week, so wearable and not too literal have been my themes!

Snugglepot and Cuddlepie had plenty of dangerous and fun adventures in the bush, and I am looking forward to my own fashion adventures wearing my Gumnut Baby Dress.

And we can't really have a child related post without a bit of kidding around as well! Here's my Snugglepot (or maybe Cuddlepie) impersonation, hiding behind the gumleaves:

image from






Veronica Darling

Veronica Darling has been sewing well for about 4 years, blogging for 5 years and smiling for over 33 years. In 2011, she joined Mena's Sew Weekly in sewing through the year, and in 2012 will keep challenges slightly smaller in scale.


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  1. Veronica you are darling! I love everything you did with this challenge. Your dress is beyond adorable! I agree, love as in LOVE Roald Dahl!

  2. judy roberson

    Veronica, What a cute inspiration.. Just love your dress.Great idea..

  3. I of course know nothing of the characters, but that is the prettiest dress I’ve seen in quite some time.

  4. Oh I agree- I loved all of Enid Blyton’s stuff, and Beatrix Potter…
    And your dress is lovely. I like the ‘inspiration’ rather than recreation tactic you took too :)

  5. This is the sweetest dress Veronica, I love everything about it and you look so beautiful in it!

  6. I love this dress! The fabric and fit are amazing!! I loved Laura Ingalls Wilder, Maud Hart Lovelace, Roald Dahl, and Astrid Lindgren (Pippi Longstocking) when I was small.
    You’ve done a brilliant job – I love it!

  7. I looked at Snugglepot and Cuddlepie and just couldn’t think how to use them – you have done a superb job. I really like the simplicity of this dress. It has beautiful lines.

  8. I love this dress on you!! The fit & shape is perfect. So impressed you came up with something wearable from a near naked character. lol.

  9. margueritedesigns

    Love the ‘peeking out from beneath the flowers’ and the fit of the dress is great!

  10. This is soooo gorgeous. I love everything about it and especially your story that backs it up.

  11. Oh, this is so cute! And brings back memories of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie as well – we had one of those books when I was a kid, they’re adorable stories and the illustrations are so lovely! Thanks for bringing backing those memories. :-)

  12. This dress is fabulous and fits you perfectly. I love it!!

  13. What a gorgeous print! And the fit is fab too- your fitting skills never cease to amaze.

  14. This is my favorite dress so far. I love that it is a sheet. You look fantastic in this dress and well, it looks made for you. LOL! Great story pick too. I have not read this book but I just love how you brought it all together. Great Job!

  15. wow, this is amazing! I would never have guessed it had a former life as a bedsheet.

  16. this is so pretty!

  17. That is a beautiful dress–good for you for going for wearable and not literal, as it is absolutely lovely. And thanks for introducing me to some children’s book characters I’d never heard of before.

  18. absolutely cuddly last picture! i love your gumnut story and picturing you as a little darling in grandparent’s blue mountains. that’s a children’s book in itself.
    beautiful dress!

  19. I love this dress on you!

  20. This is one of my favorite projects on Sew Weekly so far! Adorable and wearable. And the fit is perfection.

  21. Can I love this? :-)I want to leave work right now and scour thrift shops for sheets!

  22. love this dress! What’s even more? I love how inexpensive it was to make! Way to go!

  23. Love the dress!

  24. First, that dress is so cute! I love the fit and the lovely leaf-themed fabric – so modern, but also very vintage looking! Secon, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie have the be the cutest names for characters ever. Ever in the history of time!

  25. You look so beautiful!

  26. Love love love love love love love!

  27. Snuggle Pot & Cuddle Pie! Your dress is so adorable and you look STUNNING. Your husband takes the greatest photos ever. I also have very fond memories of those books, my sister and I used to make our own gumnut babies and put them in the trees! Thank you for road testing the patterns for me – I’m learning lots!

  28. Oh Cathe! I am with you! My first book of Roald Dahl’s was the ‘Magic Finger’ and I was REALLY little, like 5 years old (!?), and I remember pretty much yelling afterwards ‘I read a WHOLE book by myself and it was GREAT!’

  29. Thank you Judy, I always look forward to hearing your thoughts! xoxo

  30. Thank you Faye! It really is a local story, but so beautifully told and illustrated!

  31. Thanks Rachel, and it was that ‘don’t take it literally’ kinda saying I’ve heard on Project Runway that helped me along this one!
    May Gibbs’ is probably Australia’s Beatrix Potter!

  32. Thank you Adey, can’t wait to see yours! xoxo

  33. Thanks Sarah! I’ve not read Laura Ingalls Wilder or Maud Hart Lovelace! I’ll have to look them up! I really liked Pippi Longstocking though!

  34. Thank you Jen! I really looked at the lack of clothing and then at ‘Ragged Blossom’ for ages… but I just couldn’t imagine anything wearable with a pink tutu or eucalyptus sectional dress. Thank goodness I had the fabric up my sleeve!
    I adore the book, and the dress!

  35. LOLZIE! Thank you Casey!

  36. LOL, I try to make a ‘fun’ photo for you! And I’m super impressed with the fit as well! I can’t believe my resizing skills are totally in tune with my body shape!

  37. Awww thank you Janene! You should try and read Snugglepot and Cuddlepie sometime, you’ll feel all the love and gush I have! xoxo

  38. Aw thank you Kat! I forget that perhaps NZ peeps might remember the darling book too!

  39. Thank you Jessie, I’m super happy with the fit! Couldn’t be better!

  40. YAY, thank you Amber! So pleased with the fit too! I’m totally amazed!

  41. Thank you so much Sue! So lovely to hear your thoughts! Makes me so happy!

  42. Pretty amazing bedsheet, hey!?

  43. Thank you Nancy, and this author has a bunch of other stories as well. I forgot to say, but they came out in the early 1900s – like 1916 or something – and incredibly imaginative and innovative with her stories about the environment.
    Wearable was key with this one, considering they didn’t really wear a lot of clothes!

  44. Oooh Oona! I included the last photo because I thought someone like you would giggle! xoxo
    Love seeing you on Mena’s blog xoxo

  45. Super nice comment Amanda! Thank you!

  46. YES! Take a longer lunch break and look for us! Wishing you every thrift store good luck Karen!

  47. OMG. You look A-MAZING in this dress! I love it so much! The fabric is fabulous–and like the others I can’t believe it’s a bed sheet…the pictures are also amazing. How do you make it go all blurry in the background? Is that in photoshop or with your camera? Love it!!!

  48. Veronica, many thanks for the mention of ‘A Book A Day..’ Much appreciated.

  49. Hey Audrey, I, too, LOVE how inexpensive it is, and how there’s only one of these in the world! Sewing It Yourself (SIY?) is the best!

  50. Hee hee! So cute hey? Don’t you just want to cuddle them!?!
    Thanks babes!

  51. I remembered today that I would call out to them in the bush “I’m here to visit you”!
    Thank YOU Amanda xoxo your patterns are the best!

  52. Thank you Debi!
    Husbie’s camera has a couple of lens’ – this one has a very good ‘depth of field’ which means it focuses on my dress and makes everything else out of focus, hence the blurred background. You CAN do it in photoshop as well, I’m sure you can google a tutorial?!

  53. Thank you Emmet, for the wonderful review of the book, it was a perfect quote!
    Best, Veronica