May 6, 2010


Sometimes I think that the blog world puts my brain into overdrive. There are so many ideas out there to try, and so many more that pop into my head as I'm cruising around looking at other peoples brilliance. I could just about spend all day, every day making and sewing and baking and cooking stuff that I've seen or stuff that the stuff I've seen inspires me to do. Does that even make sense?

Anyway, that's how yesterday went. The night before I'd been puttering around on an evening blog time, which really means that I start with favorites and end up places I've never seen and probably wont make it back to until my head explodes and I have to go to bed. At some point I made it onto this post. Every so often I end up here, the projects are fun, not always me, but she does a great job at explaining them. Anyway. I saw that dress and though "Evelyn must have one!" I had fabric, after all, just waiting for a dress to be dreamed up for it. And I could find a shirt, probably. There was one snag. I had to do the tie next. My patient boy who today made me a "mother's day ring" out of some elastic that came off his sock, has waited while I fussed with fork dresses and getting just the right pattern. The tie must be next.

Which is how I ended up making a tie and a dress yesterday. I didn't find a shirt for the dress and so decided to combine the pleats and the wide sash of that dress with the shirring I use to make summer shirts for Evelyn every year. Except when it came down to it, I didn't use the shirring after all. Just more pleats. Evelyn was very helpful in both projects. And by helpful I mean she dumped out all the pins, picked them up, dumped them out, put them in the pin cushion, took them out, dumped them out again and then demanded to press the foot pedal while I sewed. Good think my sewing machine has a forced slow setting on it so she can "help" without stitching my fingers into some lovely floral fabric.

While I love to sew with a good pattern, sometimes it's fun to embark with only a vague sense of what you want and see where the wind takes you. When I was in high school I used to make long, A-line skirts for myself whenever I decided I didn't have anything to wear the next day. I'd rush to the fabric store before it closed and the sew when I should have been doing homework so that it would be ready in the morning. I never used a pattern and, to be honest, most of them were crap. I had to staple several hems up and once had to go home and change at lunch because my new skirt was verging on indecent with disintegrating seams and gaping waistbands.

Over the years I've gotten better about patternless sewing. Partly because I'm more patient. Partly because I've just sort of learned some of the basic rules for garment construction.Not that I'm some kind of fashion designer, I'm still basically a lazy sewer, only now it's my money I spend on fabric and not my mom's, so I'm a little more careful. Most of the time they work out, sometimes they fall apart after a few washes. Once I made a really pretty, well made little shirt only to find that, for once, I'd made the sleeves too narrow for my skinny little girl. C'est la vie. This time things went pretty well, for both the dress and the tie, not that ties are very complicated. But still, it's always satisfying when things turn out the way you want them to.

So now Briton is all set to have a tie to take off and try to re-tie in the middle of his school concert, an annual event that generally has the whole school zooming their video cameras in on my son to see what he'll do next. And Evie has a new twirly, girly, play in the dirt, swing till you touch the leaves dress.

Because this was essentially a sew as you go kind of dress, I can only give you general directions. But if you want to give it a go, here are the basics.

I started with a rectangle of fabric about 2 inches longer than I wanted the dress and a little more than twice as wide as Evelyn when measured under her armpits.

After ironing a hem and then folding over and ironing again on both the top and the bottom, I found the center point of the fabric and created a box pleat about 2-inches wide.

Basically that just means I made two tucks that faces away from each other and were the same width.

I made three more pleats on each side, checking their placement on Evie as I went. The pleats use up about 1/2 of the extra fabric and end under her arms.

Using a contrasting fabric I made a sash that was four inches wide and long enough to tie around her in a big bow with room to spare. I stitched this across the pleats at the top and bottom of the sash.

Next I stitched up the back of the dress. For me these were selvage edges so they didn't need extra hemming, but you could serge or zig-zag or even do a french seam here if you needed to.

When I tried the dress on Evie I found that it was still too big,even with the sash tied, so I added another box pleat at the back seam and stitched from where I left off at the sash to where the stitching ans sash picked up again. Originally I was going to shier the back but decided I was too lazy to wind elastic thread onto the bobbin.

I started off with a "v" of ribbon to tie around her neck. Later in the day she complained that she didn't like it so I stitched the ends to the back of the dress for regular should straps. That's something you kind of have to do with the dress on anyway, otherwise one shoulder is inevitably droopy.

The last thing I did was to use a decorative stitch to sew the bottom hem in place (obviously I need to work on balancing my speed on these stitches, you can tell when I tugged a little too hard on the fabric as it ran through)

And that was about it. She played all day in it and it was absolutely filthy by the time she took it off for bath and bed, which, to me, is the hallmark of a successful dress for my girl. If she can play in it, it's a keeper.

P.S. Sadly, little chicklet #1 did not survive the night. The kids were a little sad but are quickly learning that's just the way of life when you have farm(ish) animals. Hopefully tomorrow will bring two more, healthy this time, chicks for our little brood. Fingers crossed.