Girl’s sundress in seersucker

For my niece’s upcoming seventh birthday, I made a dress using Simplicity 3859. I immediately envisioned this in seersucker, but as always it took me forever to choose a color and a pattern. My niece is very girly and loves pink, but I’m not and I don’t, so I went with lime green. I think she’ll love the color. I chose white ribbon accents and lined the bodice in soft, white cotton.


The pattern was very easy to follow and the dress went together really quickly except for the zipper. It was my first lapped zipper, and I should have hand-picked it; however I decided to use the machine and the result wasn’t great. For some reason I chose a green zipper rather than a white one, which doesn’t help matters. I thought about taking it out and hand-sewing a white zipper in its place, but I was afraid of damaging the fabric. Instead I covered the zipper tape with white seam binding, which helps a bit. It also needs a good ironing, which is why it looks a bit wavy in the photo below.


I thought about making the bow detachable, but it wasn’t quite as obnoxious as I feared and the dress doesn’t look quite finished without it, so I tacked it in place. After washing and drying, however, the bow is a bit loose, so I will need to tack it in place more securely.


I really like sewing things for babies and children–everything goes much more quickly. I just wish I was better at it.


A dress seven years in the making

While sorting through my closet recently, I found an abandoned dress that I began around the time I got my first sewing machine in the summer of 2006. The sewing machine belonged to Jared’s grandmother, and since no one else wanted it, I ended up as its new owner. Jared’s mother took me to Jo-Ann Fabrics to buy me patterns and fabrics to get me started–this was one of my selections and the first dress I tried to make. It is an easy Simplicity pattern, though I don’t recall which one. The fabric is a white-on-brown floral, soft and with a slight sheen. I had completed the main part of the dress and had sewn the neck facings when I set it aside. Somewhere along the line one set of armhole facings went missing. Rather than cut new facings, I decided to use white bias tape. I also decided to remove the neck facing because, even with the interfacing, the print showed through the dress material.

To position the bias tape, I used my new Clover Wonder Clips. These have been on my Amazon wish list for a while, and I recently purchased a box of 50 with a gift card. They are a great alternative to pins, which I always have trouble with. I love them already. I liked the contrast of the white bias tape, so I decided to use it as a trim rather than a facing. I didn’t do the best job sewing it, but that is not too noticeable.


The dress itself, being super basic, has no darts and therefore is not particularly flattering. Furthermore, I have–ahem–gained a bit of weight since I first began the dress, so it is rather tight in the bodice. This, combined with my facing alternative, resulted in some unflattering armholes.


The loose thread does not help.

Using my Wonder Clips, I found the best position for a dart to alleviate the bunching fabric. I used another new tool, my pen-style chalk liner, to draw the darts before sewing them (I didn’t realize until just now that these are both made by the same company–I think I’ll be checking them out more in the future as I’m very happy with both purchases). The small darts helped quite a bit, as you can see below, though I should have made them before adding the bias tape.


Much better, except for the poor job on the trim.

The dress fits decently, though not perfectly, and there are some mistakes. I can definitely live with a non-perfect dress, but there are a few other issues that keep me from really liking it. Firstly, I don’t know what I was thinking when I picked out this fabric. I like patterns, even loud ones, but the brown and white is both too much and too boring at the same time. I am not really a giant flower print kind of girl, unless it is a totally over-the-top floral print. Although there is nothing wrong with it, it’s not really my style. Secondly, this is a long dress, and I am not a fan of maxi dresses, particularly combined with this fabric. There is a lot of high-contrast floral print. Behold:


So now I’m not sure whether to chop about 18 inches off to make it something I’d wear, or give it to someone who likes maxi dresses and whose style it suits better. However, because of the overall sloppy workmanship, I’m not sure I want to give it to anyone else. I’ll probably end up shortening it and wearing it around the house and while running errands. It does look fairly cute when belted.


Even though the result isn’t fantastic, it’s still nice to (almost) complete an unfinished project. Now we’ll see how long it sits awaiting a hem.


Aqua dress, part two, and a purple shirt

I finished the aqua dress in time to begin my travels. I was unhappy with the pink bias tape, so I replaced it with facings made from a coordinating cotton print. I bordered the neck facing with matching bias tape, which I thought might help it stay in place. It seems to have worked. I hemmed it to about knee length.

It looks a bit shapeless and sad here hanging from a hotel closet, but it really is a perfect summer travel dress–just the right length and quite comfortable. I have worn it as-is and with a long scarf as a belt.

Here is a detail of the facing:

I also made another in a lightweight black linen-cotton blend, but I don’t have photos yet. The second one was super-quick–I used quilt binding on the arm and neck holes and serged all the seams.

Finally, I made a top using a new Simplicity pattern from a fabulous stash of patterns that was a gift from my in-laws. I don’t remember the pattern number, but it is a nice drapey knit top. I used a lightweight, royal purple knit, which worked well but was a bit tricky to sew due to the lightness of the material. Here it is, again hanging rather lifelessly on a hanger.

And here is a detail of the neckline as it looks when worn.

I have been wearing it with my gored skirt from last year; both are great for travel since they dry quickly and don’t wrinkle. I really like this pattern and am planning to use it again; I already have a slightly heavier grey knit that I think will work beautifully.


Aqua dress, part one

After a long and very busy spring and early summer, I finally dusted off the sewing machine (or, more accurately, excavated it from beneath a pile of clothes) to begin a few projects. First on the agenda was a dress for an upcoming research trip. I will be in the Mediterranean area, so it will be quite hot, and I’ve decided to pack a few dresses for comfort. I used Simplicity 9175 from 1970, a simple shift dress with sleeveless and short-sleeved variations. I have made this pattern before with some success, though the dress was a bit too large, particularly in the back and shoulders. I discovered that I could slip the dress on and off without unzipping it, so I decided to make it without the zipper, which would be quicker and also more comfortable for travel.

I used a medium-weight aqua linen blend that I had in my fabric stash. It is a bit heavier than I would have preferred, but I liked the color and the crinkly texture, which will hide wrinkles. Since the fabric frays like crazy, I used French seams (I’m not ready to get out the serger quite yet), which I love. I fixed the neck issue in the previous dress with larger darts, which solved the problem. As I am generally lazy and impatient when it comes to sewing, and I hate making facings, I tried using bias tape instead. I had nothing that matched well so I ended up using a pale pink fleecy tape that I had left over from a project for one of my nieces. This technique didn’t work as well as I’d hoped, in part because the nap of the bias tape made it rather bulky, so I might redo the neck with quilt binding–my favorite super-easy neck finishing technique. I had planned to make sleeves, but I’m having trouble fitting them properly so I might make it sleeveless instead. Anyway, here is what I have so far.

I’m washing it now to see if washing and drying will improve the neckline, but I have my doubts. On the plus side, the dress fits perfectly–it is easy to pull on but the darts make it fitted enough that it doesn’t look overly frumpy. It will work belted or unbelted, and it can be layered over a shirt or under a button up shirt or sweater. Perfect for travel. Now I just have to finish it.


Second wrap dress

I finally got started on the wrap dress for my mom. All I’ve done so far is cut it out; I will probably do the sewing this weekend.

The fabric is black with a white and grey floral pattern. After a long and futile search for a neutral knit fabric at a couple of different stores, I realized that I already had this in my stash, probably purchased on clearance years ago. This is the first article of clothing I’ve made for someone else and I am a bit nervous about it, but it helps that I’ve already made this dress.

Mom, if you’re reading this, I’ll have it done soon!


Altered yellow thrift store dress

Today I finally got around to altering one of my Goodwill dresses from a couple of weeks ago. Here is what it looked like when I bought it:

just a wee bit frumpy

It’s made of a medium-weight yellow-brown polyester. It is a bit big; there is a zipper in the back but I could easily get it on and off without unzipping, and the armholes are too large. While it does have its charms, and I do like long dresses, the length combined with the drab color and super-’70s pattern is a bit much. To make it wearable, I chopped 18 inches off the length, just above a slit on one of the sides. I also didn’t like the high neckline so I lowered and widened it a bit and finished it with yellow-orange quilt binding that I had left over from another project. The binding bunches just a little bit, so I might eventually replace it with binding made from the extra dress material, but honestly I’ll probably never get around to it. I took in a little less than an inch on either side of the bodice to give it some better waist definition and to make the armholes a bit smaller. Finally, I gave it a new, 1 1/2-inch hem. The hem was going beautifully until I noticed that my new magnetic seam guide, which couldn’t get a very good grip because it was almost off the edge of the metal plate, was creeping inward due to the vibration of the machine. The hem ended up a little uneven, and I have learned not to use the seam guide for that wide of a hem. Again, something I’ll probably never bother to fix. So here is the finished product:

The color is a bit off in this photo–there isn’t quite that much color contrast between the neck binding and the dress. I can still put it on without unzipping it, but I didn’t want it to be too tight because clingy polyester is uncomfortable in the heat. The armholes are still a bit funky, but I don’t know if I can do anything about that, so I’m leaving them. I can’t wait to wear it–I think it will look good on its own in the summer and with red tights for fall. I wish I had another wedding to go to this summer because my mom gave me some gloves that are exactly the same yellow as the quilt binding I used on the neckline.

Here is a detail of the pattern.

Total cost: $2.69 for the dress and about an hour of time.