Tag Archive | girls

Easter 2014: A Dress Odyssey

It is a well-known fact that there is exactly one week between Palm Sunday and Easter. It happens every year. Palm Sunday. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Easter. I know this in my head. The crafty portion of my brain is, however, disconnected from logic and basic chronological concepts (maybe this is why I couldn’t tell time until junior high? Even now, my grasp is tenuous at best). Last week — Palm Sunday — I thought, “I should make the girls Easter dresses! I’ll choose a simple pattern; it won’t be too hard. I can sew two dresses in a week.”

What a week it was.

Monday: After dropping the girls at school, the boys and I hit the fabric store. Sprinkaan slept, and Konik was engaged up until I changed my mind about the two bolts of fabric I had been carting around with us. Then I split my time between choosing new fabric that I liked better and playing hide-and-seek with the boy who had had his fill of fabric. “I wish you would have just left me in the car!”

Monday is my laundry day, so I got the fabric washed and dried while I traced off the pattern pieces for Granota and cut out the larger size for Rana. All in all, a pretty productive day.

The pattern I chose

The pattern I chose

Tuesday: This was to be my big sewing day after taking the girls to school. Right out of the gate, Tuesday did not go as planned. I had all the kids ready to go, piling out the back door as I pushed the garage door opener. When I came out, I found the kids standing in front of the open garage door with confused and helpless expressions.

 

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Houston, we have a problem

It was jammed and I couldn’t get it open more than about a foot and a half. Looks like we’re walking to school today, kids! Except that, I had allotted enough time for driving to school, not walking, so we were definitely going to be late. Also, Granota had a field trip first thing that morning. I ran inside to call the school and was surprised to be greeted so enthusiastically by the school secretary until, as I regaled her with the trials and tribulations that had beset us, she paused and then informed me that I had called the girls’ old school. We laughed and I assured her that we would not be walking the 20 miles to that school. I called the current school, told my story again and this secretary told me that the buses for the field trip would leave at 9:00, could we make it? “I think so!”

Before we could leave, I had to get the stroller which… was in the car which was stuck in the garage. So I performed a little Indiana Jones homage, belly crawling under the garage door to get it out. Then four kids and I hustled our hind ends to that school! We arrived just as the kindergartners were lining up outside for their field trip. Whew! I gave Konik a piggyback part of the way home while I pushed the stroller (and later perched him on the handlebar). By the time we got home, we were both beat and sewing was the last thing on my mind. Whether it was from that unplanned jog to school or what, Konik got sick later that afternoon, throwing up everywhere. No sewing that day.

Wednesday: I still didn’t trust Konik’s belly, so I was keeping a close eye on him; Rana woke up with a fever, so I decided to keep her home from school. But when I went to take Granota, once again, the garage door got stuck despite Mr. Gren having fixed it the night before. I told her that she would just have to stay home, too, that day. The difference between Tuesday and Wednesday: Tuesday was warm and sunny; Wednesday was rainy with two sick kids. The two sick kids perked up by lunchtime, but it was still raining, so they were all stuck inside. No sewing that day, either.

Thursday: We got smart and parked the car outside the night before so there would be no issues getting children to school. I got about a third of the way through Granota’s dress. It occurred to me that I haven’t really sewn anything in months. I felt rusty and slow.

Friday: Panic was beginning to set in. I had to get these dresses done. I finished Granota’s and, miraculously, things were moving a bit faster with Rana’s. When Mr. Gren left for work that night, he asked me how late I was going to stay up sewing. “Until I start making mistakes,” I replied. One thing that I figured was pretty mistake-proof was putting in the gathering stitches, so I took every piece that needed gathering and did that. By the time I went to bed, all the individual pieces were ready to be put together.

Saturday: Whether it was having made the pattern once already or just another Easter miracle, I was able to finish up Rana’s dress in just two more hours. I sewed the buttons on both dresses right before I went to bed. Down to the wire! I still excel under pressure, Mom.

Easter Sunday:

In the tradition of family Easter photos the world over, Rana hams it up, Granota looks stiff and unnatural and Konik wonders what's going on.

In the tradition of family Easter photos the world over, Rana hams it up, Granota looks stiff and unnatural and Konik wonders what’s going on.

The fabric for Rana’s dress was called “rose sorbet” and Granota’s was “spring medley.” Cheery, no? It’s hard to see, but there are little rick-rack-bordered patch pockets on the dresses. (I did not make Konik’s suit — it’s on loan from my dear friend, V. Thanks!)

More Easter ham

More Easter ham

Yoke detail with rick-rack and ball buttons.

Yoke detail with rick-rack and ball buttons.

All four chilluns

All four chilluns

I did make the suit that Sprinkaan is wearing; Konik wore it for his first Easter! It’s a little blue and white seersucker overall and jacket.

Sprinkaan in his big brother's Easter suit. Making it look good!

Sprinkaan in his big brother’s Easter suit. Making it look good!

And a close-up of the baby, because he’s adorable and photogenic and actually smiles for his pictures.

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What I learned last week is that I can, in fact, sew two little Easter dresses in six days, however, it’s not really enjoyable and I could benefit from a little planning ahead. Easter 2015 is April 5th (you’re welcome), so I ought to start March 5th, to accommodate sick children, garage door mishaps and whatever else might come my way. I might even have time to sew something new for myself! (Hush, Jennifer, that’s just crazy talk)

Easter dresses are ready for Sunday

First up was Granota’s blue dress which I managed to crank out nearly all in one day. I constructed the entire thing and then let it hang overnight so the bias could stretch. Hemmed it and put in the zipper the next morning! The whole thing went together like a dream. Seriously, it was like an out of body experience where my spirit just watched my body sew that thing up without so much as one grab for the seam ripper. It was beautiful. It would stand to reason that, having made the pattern once, the second one would go together equally well.

Kinda magnificent, if I do say so myself.

Well, the second time was also like an out of body experience, only this time my spirit was helplessly shouting, “No! No! What are you doing?! Oh heck, you completely forgot a step! Good gravy, woman, haven’t you ever heard of a seam allowance? Ah man, not the seam ripper again!” while my body fumbled and muddled through the entire construction process. Instead of the streamlined one+ day to make the dress, it took me four days (three for sewing and one where I completely ignored it in hopes that my brain would come home to roost before I touched the dress again). It really was weird. The whole time I was screwing things up, I knew I was screwing things up. And yet, I was powerless to stop it. I may have a little more compassion when I’m watching Project Runway and the “good” designers turn out a total hack job. My explanation is that their body, like mine, was temporarily host to some kind of sewing-impaired Quasimodo. What else could it be?

It was a long, hard road, but we got there in the end.

These dresses gave me the opportunity to try some things out for the first time.

1) Sewing with brocade. I had never sewn with any kind of slippery fabric before, but this pattern was just calling out to be made in a brocade. (At some point I’ll eventually have to get up and go find the pattern to see what it is since the online catalogs are not listing it. But right now I’m comfy in my chair and don’t want to move.) This brocade is a rayon-poly blend, so it’s not the real deal silk stuff, which is completely ok with me. Knowing my girls and Easter Dresses Past, they are going to wear these things into the ground. No sense in shelling out the big bucks. I read up on important things to know about sewing with brocade and then decided I had better stop wimping out and just get to it. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was not nearly as finicky to work with as I had anticipated. I didn’t notice any extra slipping as I sewed. I was very careful about where I pinned so as not to leave marks. And, all my trials and tribulations with the pink dress proved that you can remove seams without damaging the fabric. You just have to be careful. Of course, it’s better if you were careful in the first place. Despite the mess-ups, which were no fault of the fabric, I really loved working with it. It’s so slinky and shiny and the colors are beautiful. I want to make everything out of brocade now.

I can't get over the color.

2) Using piping. I had never made a pattern that required the use of piping until this one, and even then, it was listed as “optional.” I opted in because I think it really completes the look. It was actually not hard to use at all. Just use a zipper foot when applying it. I loved the outcome so much that now I want to put piping on everything, too. It was actually cheaper than I thought it would be (under $2), so there may very well be more piping in my future.

Fun fact: Did you know that piping has a wrong and right side?

3) Mandarin collar. I wasn’t scared of doing this, but I was interested to see how it would come together. I really liked the process. Pretty simple and straightforward. The collar on the pink dress does not stand up in front as it should; I think I sewed it in too far. Even the blue one is a little turned out. But we’ll see how they look once there’s a neck inside them. It was fun to do, and adds another technique to my arsenal, but I don’t feel the need to put a Mandarin collar on everything.

Earlier, I mentioned hanging the blue dress overnight before I hemmed it. When a skirt is cut on the bias like this one is, letting it hang is a good practice, even if the pattern doesn’t outright tell you to do so. Fabric stretches most on the bias. If you hem it and then hang it, you’ll very likely end up with weird puckers as the fabric tried to stretch, but was prevented by the stitching. Better to just let it get that out of its system before you hem. And if you ever doubted the necessity of it, check out this picture where you can see how far past the pattern paper the skirt stretched.

Lo and behold, the skirt is a 1/2" longer than I cut it.

Convinced now? I promise, you’ll be happier in the long run if you curb your impatience to finish.

Good zipper application

Drunken monkey zipper application

One change I made to this pattern was eliminating the facings. I hate facings. They never lie down right once they’re done, making weird lines and lumps on the outside of the garment. So I lined the bodice with lightweight cotton instead (besides, it’s nice to have breathable fabric against your skin). To make the lining for the front bodice, I traced the outline of the two bodice pieces; I just used the back pattern piece as-is to make the back lining. I think the interior finish turns out much nicer with the lining. It encases the zipper edge and covers the waist seamline as well. Everything is nice and neat!

Lined bodice prior to being attached to the skirt

So there you have it, folks — completed Easter dresses. Not your typical Easter dress what with the Asian flair and all, but I thought it was a nice change of pace; we’ve been down the Puff Sleeve-Gathered Skirt road before. Next up, a little linen suit for my tiny man! I’m really hoping for another one of those sewing zen days like I had with the blue dress. Stay tuned!

Ok, so it's kind of a puff sleeve. But how cool is that piping?