Sunday, January 17, 2010

in the beginning.

Although my blog is not new, nor is my love of vintage clothing and patterns, I've never taken the time to write out how this all began for me. I thought it might be fun to pull out some early projects and share with you how I fell in love with sewing.

Like many moms who sew, my sewing bug bit after my baby girl was born. For Lu's first Easter I wanted the perfect dress. Something vintage inspired of course, since I've been wearing or loving vintage my whole life. I searched high and low, in store after store, all in vain.

Finally it dawned on me that if I SEWED this magical dress, I could make it anything I wanted it to be. (Except I didn't sew.) That didn't stop me from scouring the pattern counter books for this elusive design. Sadly, even here I didn't find it. I was running out of time and frustrated. I needed a break from the search, so I perused the magazine rack for a few moments. I picked up a magazine I had never read before, Sew Beautiful. It was March, 1998.


I don't know why, but I flipped the magazine over to look at the back and there in glorious full size, color, free pattern inside (!) was my dream Easter Dress. I almost hyperventilated. I bought the magazine and scoured the directions. I started sewing.

Dandelion Delight from Sue Stewart's website
my "perfect" Easter Dress

Needless to say, I had bitten off way more than I could chew with this project. It definitely wasn't a "beginner's" dress and that first foray into sewing ended up in the trashcan. Lu wore a store bought, sweet white dress & bonnet to Easter that year. Rather than be discouraged however, I was determined to figure out this sewing business and proceeded to try again and again.

I cried over my first bound neckline. I was something of a perfectionist, and I kept ripping out my topstitching because I couldn't get it evenly placed. My mom finally told me to leave it, no one would ever know... And she was right. Lu wore that little dress a million times the summer she was 1...and no one ever said "Say, that topstitching isn't quite perfect."

At the end of the summer, I was ready to try Sew Beautiful again. Not Dandelion Delight...no, I still wasn't quite up to that level yet. But I was itching to try smocking. Which brings me to this first project I want to share. This is a vintage reproduction dress, featured in a 1998 issue of Sew Beautiful magazine. The original dress (from the 1930s or 40s I believe?) hangs in the Kent State Museum. Here, I give you my version.


I used a pink dotted swiss I got on the clearance table at Hancocks. They had it marked down to $1...because it was "old". To me, it was lovely and perfect. The pink borders are a matching 100% cotton, also from the clearance bin.

This garment has a lot of firsts for me...my first curved applique border, and my first shaped collar. (Both of which I hand drew the patterns for.) But most importantly, this is my first smocking. I drew on the little dots and pulled them up to form the pleats, because I didn't have a pleater.


I learned to make buttonhole stitch thread loops for the placket (which I cut too low, but then this was also my first foray into pattern drafting, as I didn't have a pattern to make this dress from.)


My first bullion roses, and some of my first embroidery stitching, around the hem.


I got really tired of making bullions and only ended up making them on the front, but I continued the green stitching all around the dress hem:


I don't think there are words to express how much I love this dress. Lu wore it for her first birthday portrait in August of that year, and for many Sundays and special occasions afterward. Remember, back in March of that year I had never sewn anything past home ec class in high school. I had found my calling, and I never looked back.

Back then, I didn't even have a computer, much less the internet. That came along a few years later. In alot of ways, sewing saved me. I was a single mother of 2 toddlers and I was living on less than $7,000 a year. I needed this creative outlet, just to keep the stress of my every day life at bay. Many days there was only me, the babies, and the hum of my machine.

I can't wait to share more things with you! There's more to the story of my early sewing adventures, and some truly beautiful garments I would love to show you.

27 comments:

  1. What a lovely story. amazing how creating calms the soul - no? g

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  2. That dress is so pretty and timeless. I am dying to have a baby girl to make pretty things for . Thanks for sharing.

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  3. That is an amazing dress! My little girl is what brought me back into sewing as well. I can't wait to see more!!

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  4. That little pink dress is just gorgeous! I am so glad you shared. Can't wait to see more!

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  5. What a beautiful dress! I can't wait to see some of your other early creations. Sewing for your children is so much more than the completed garment. When I look at things I've made for my children, I don't see fabric and thread, or even a beautiful garment--I relive hours and hours of history....finding the right pattern, selecting the perfect fabric, constructing the garment, and every single time the garment was worn!

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  6. That's a great dress! I started out almost exactly the same way, thinking big and starting from scratch (oh those wicked Sew Beautiful magazines and their impossible dresses). I'm looking forward to seeing the next ones.

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  7. I started sewing through taking a smocking class, too. Now I exclusively sew for myself, but I spent a few years smocking and sewing children's clothing. That is some lovely work you did. Thank for sharing.

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  8. That pink dress is just perfect! It's everything a little girl's dress should be

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  9. Such a great story. I am a big believer in biting off more than you can chew. I love your special pink little girl dress. (I drew up the pleats for my first few smocked dress too - my pleater is the best sewing tool ever)

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  10. Jen M3:49 PM

    Thank you for sharing your story - it gives me, a beginner sewer, hope as I stare at my latest project, wondering if I can pull it off. What a beautiful dress!!

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  11. Beautiful! And how impressive.

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  12. I love your story. You are a strong woman.

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  13. Beautiful dress, wonderful story. Thanks for sharing.

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  14. Angie, you are amazing. Beautiful dress, wonderful story. Thank you for sharing!

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  15. Your early work is impressive. It's a dress I'm sure she'll treasure.

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  16. I loved hearing your story and the early sewing experiences. That dress is amazing- I hope it will be handed down and treasured!

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  17. Shannon H10:57 PM

    How beautiful!! My girls are also what has gotten me to sewing :) Love your story and can't wait for more!

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  18. I'm so glad you shared this story. The dress is beautiful!!!

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  19. Beautiful dress and story...you're brave! Drafting patterns and smocking right away... wow.

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  20. That blows me away! I've been sewing for 12 years now, and there's no way I could make anything that beautiful!

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  21. bconky7:49 AM

    Amazing first year dress.

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  22. I love this post! It is wonderful to read how this all started for you, although you have always had it in you. I was watching Judy Garland the other day and I couldn't help think of you and how you used to watch her old movies over and over. Fun days. I am not surprised at all to see that your creativity and love of vintage have come together in this way. :-) Me, I started a doll house for H. Something I've always wanted to do and your post inspires me.

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  23. Ahhhhh, such a preciously beautiful dress for your daughter! Thanks for sharing your fondest sewing memories.

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  24. That's an interesting story. I believe sewing and crafts have helped a lot of people in difficult situations (me, for sure). And the pink dress is just beyond beautiful!

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  25. Beautiful story. Sewing does soothe the soul. Please continue to share more of your story with us.

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  26. What a precious story. And I love your sweet little dress. I know it is a treasure.

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