Friday, April 27, 2012

Sewing Class: A Gathered and Rolled Birthday Dress


Firstly, I want to wish the happiest of birthdays to my darling 6 year old daughter! She is cute as a button, sharp as a tack, and as sweet as can be. We love her and all her silly, crafty, charming ways :)


Nobody likes a party dress more than this girl! For her birthday, since she tends to get hand me downs from her decidedly less girly older sister, I wanted to make a fancy schmancy dress just for her, to help her feel special on her big day (actually the day before her birthday, since she is the “Star of the Day” at school today). Her take on fashion is that MORE IS MORE, so I went with layers and ruffles and flowers and bows and tulle and chiffon and organza. MORE. Definitely more.


My goal was to make a dress that a) didn’t look like a flower girl’s dress (meaning it didn’t look like it was trying to match some other dress somewhere else), b) didn’t look like a mini prom dress (too short, poufy like a tutu, and/or chintzy), c) incorporated many colors, and d) was very very very girly. I think I succeeded.


The gathered skirt is made of one layer each of purple and blue organza on top of a heavy weight pale green lining, underlined with a thinner matching lining with a yellow tulle petticoat sewn inside for volume and drama. I added the teal blue chiffon ruffle and flower at the end, just to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. I had some thinner strands of smaller ruffles in pink and yellow that I was planning to add as well, but in the end I left them off because I didn’t want there to be anything stripy about this dress, and that was the vibe I got when I was trying things out. Truth be told, I might have liked the dress much better without that bold blue ruffle, but I wasn’t going for subtle, and I wasn’t the one who was going to love this dress into the ground before I outgrew it.

The bodice I copied (more or less) from a well-fitting dress she already had, and, like the skirt, it required 4 layers of fabric. Lots of basting, a little bit of seam ripping, and a sizable measure of rare patience. I’m getting better at taking the time to do things properly rather than “improvising” my way to a sloppy end result, and I feel good for having done it.


I went with a design including ample rolled hems in order to force myself to improve my skills. Many yards of rolled hems on lining, chiffon and organza later, and I feel pretty confident about it! There was also a lot of gathering, and it was fun to give another specialty sewing machine foot a whirl too. My machine was happy for the change of pace.


I feel that this dress, while perhaps not exactly the mental image I had before heading to the fabric store, embodies the sheer, unfettered joy of being fancy. When I gave it to my girl yesterday so she could wear it today, she was compelled to run a few graceful laps around the yard to celebrate… oh to be so free.


I haven’t been doing much else creative lately, and that made it extra nice to have a purposeful project with a distinct due date (pardon the alliterations). My daily pursuits at present include trying to keep my adventurous baby from diving off the couch (since he can climb up there himself), prevent him from falling out of his high chair (since the belt won’t contain him anymore) and block him from getting to the toilet (since the older kids can’t seem to remember to close the bathroom door), among other less vital tasks.


But, amidst the chaos and occasional bouts of unpleasantness that are an integral aspect of every family’s life, I am doing my very best to take time to smell the lilacs as they sporadically bloom, and to enjoy each and every one of my little people while they are still both little and mine :) Happy birthday, Kitty! I can only imagine what amazing things you’ll accomplish when you get big enough to reach all the art supplies! Don’t ever lose that smile :)


Jodi Bonjour said...

That is a wonderfully girly dress, and I am super impressed with your hems! I'm having specialty sewing foot envy!

Lily said...

You did a super job on the dress! Please share what is your sewing machine? I NEED to shop for a new machine. Love to know what you like about your machine.

Karen said...

Hi Lily! I reviewed my current sewing machine here ( I still love it :) Thanks for the comment!