Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Rainbows and Buttons dress

Ever since I was little, I've been fascinated by craft and fabric stores, and the idea of Making Something From Scratch.  My mom used to sew dresses for us girls occasionally, and I remember one summer she went on a shorts-making-jag;  not only did she make 3 or 4 pairs of soccer and baseball-print shorts for each of my brothers, but then she went on to make shorts for any friends who would have birthdays in the near future.


I remember distinctly one particular trip to the fabric store: I was 11 and my two sisters and I (my two other sisters had not been born yet), and my mom all needed dresses for a wedding we would be attending. We went to the fabric store and carefully chose a polished cotton in a floral pattern -- pink and green flowers against a navy or black background, and then spent a while pouring over dress patterns until we found just the perfect ones to suit us.  I chose a puffed-sleeved design with a sweetheart neckline, a waist that dipped down into a "V", with a full gathered skirt.


My mom involved me in every part of the dress-making, from laying out and cutting the pattern ("this is how you modify the layout to save fabric"), to pinning the pieces together, to using the sewing machine ("always start your seams with a backstitch" and "the faster you make the machine go, the less wiggly your seam will be").

When we were done we not only had the most beautiful dresses ever (which I wore with full gravity-defying puffy bangs like any early-90's girl might), but we also had all sorts of special memories sewn right into them.  You see, while my mom was teaching me everything I would need to know to sew a garment, she was also spending time with me; visiting, talking about things that were important to me, giving me her time.


As I have been sewing this series of dresses for Lavella's spring wardrobe, Lavella has often been right beside me, playing make-believe with her dolls, working on her own freeform embroidery, singing with me and telling me stories.  I hope that, as she grows, I am able to continue to include her in the things that I do and create -- not only to teach her valuable life-skills, but also to give her the gift of my time, love, and attention.


Dress details: this started out as a plain blue sheet (the color is actually more of a French Blue, but the sun was so bright that it kind of bleached the color out in these pics).  I used the top edge of it for this dress, sewing it up the side to turn it into a "pillowcase".  I cut the armhole using this template (just like for that first floral one from last week), covering the raw armhole edge with a length of matching bias tape.


I sewed a casing for the elastic at the top, and attached rainbow ribbons to as straps.  I attached the straps with a "square" of stitches to really secure them, but this ended up looking so messy from the front that I had to add buttons to cover up the disaster.  I discovered a strand of vintage golden yellow buttons that I'd purchased in Florence two years ago, and was so happy to be able to use a few of them at last!


The top edge of the sheet that I was using (as the bottom hem of the dress) already had a wide hem and a matching blue satin bit of some sort of piping.  I covered it over with more of the grosgrain rainbow ribbon, and the dress was done!

Time start to finish: about 2 hours at most (to include fitting it to Lavella a few times and multiple rounds of "ABC").

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