Wednesday, April 17, 2024

An Easter Dress of Butterflies and Ruffles

Over the winter, my mom, sister-in-law, niece, and I met up for a morning of fabric shopping at a little Mennonite fabric store we like. We each picked out all sorts of fun fabrics for different projects we had in mind. My niece loved all the fabric (we're training her well) so while we were there I suggested she pick a fabric for her Easter Dress. 

There were several fabrics she considered, but finally a cotton print featuring stripes and butterflies was picked. (Apparently butterflies are the name of the game when it comes to Easter dresses for my niece! Here's her butterfly Easter dress from last year, and the one from the year before.) I bought 2 yards and promised my niece she would have the dress by Easter. I just had to find the right design for the dress. . .

Since the fabric was striped I wanted to make that a design feature - playing with the direction of the stripes for different portions of the gown. I spent a fair amount of time on Pinterest contemplating different design options. Finally, I decided to mostly base the design on the doll dress pictured above - off center buttons down the front, shoulder ruffles, and a square neckline. I'd add little puffed sleeve (since Easter was early this year and might very well to too chilly for sleeveless), a patch pocket on the skirt (because one must have pockets!), and a band around the bottom of the skirt (just an excuse to play a bit with the direction of the stripes.)

I had just the pattern to use as my starting point - McCall's 3023 - the same pattern I used for her Christmas dress, just with different alterations this time.

Really the only alteration I had to make this time was too change the closure from back to front - and that was easy!

And since I'd already altered a baby doll pattern to have the same lines as the little girls' pattern back at Christmas, it was easy enough to make a little matching doll dress as well. 

Well, easy as in the pattern was ready to go and it wasn't hard to sew - but I did have to play some pattern tetras to get both dresses cut out of the 2 yards of fabric I had. It would not have been possible if my sister-in-law hadn't suggested making the skirt a touch on the shorter side this year so the dress would be easy to run around in. If that dress shirt had been any longer the doll dress wouldn't have happened. Apparently next time I need to buy 3 yards of fabric to accommodate the matching doll dress better!

My niece and her parents came to visit me a couple weeks before Easter, and I was thrilled to have the dresses ready to give her - she and her mommy loved them!

I'm very biased, but I think she was one of the prettiest little egg hunters ever in her butterfly striped and ruffly dress when Easter weekend rolled around!

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

The Last Minute Easter Dress

 Right after Christmas I had grand plans for my Easter dress. A week ago I had no plans for an Easter Dress. Holy Thursday, I started dreaming of an Easter dress again. Good Friday I decided it was absolutely happening, picked some fabric, pre washed it, picked a pattern, and cut out the pieces. Saturday morning I cut the dress out, then went outside and did animal chores. Saturday afternoon I made deviled eggs, a strawberry pie, and a carrot cake. Then I cleaned my kitchen. At 6 p.m. I finally sat down at the sewing machine. Would I have a new dress for church the next morning? It was getting doubtful, but I might as well give it a shot.

From my stash I'd picked a 3 yard cut of Pioneer Woman cotton, which I'd scored on clearance at Wal-Mart over the winter. 3 yards for $5 - now that's a good deal these days!

Minty green covered with brightly colored flowers - looks Easter-y to me! With my fabric chosen I went through my pattern stash. I had some rather specific criteria for this dress.

a) It needed to be simple. I was only going to have Saturday (and not even all day Saturday at that) to sew, so it had to be something that would go together quickly.

b) It needed to require 3 yards of fabric or less thanks to my fabric choice

c) I was scheduled to be in the nursery at church Easter morning, so the dress needed to be something conducive to getting down on the floor to play with kids. Something I could move in. For this reason, wrap dresses and anything with a straight skirt were out.

With all this in mind, I picked a late 1950's/early 1960's (can't find a date on it, going by envelope style here) pattern I hadn't used before. It fit all the criteria, and featured a couple fun design elements to make it special.

Simplicity 4468, if I skipped the sleeves (Which I could easily do because Easter was forecasted to be WARM!), really only featured 4 main pieces - bodice front, bodice back, skirt front, skirt back - so it would go together quickly. It also just used facings to finish the neckline and armholes, which would make this a quicker sew than something with a lining. 

The back of the pattern envelope claimed 3 and 1/8th yards of 44" fabric were required for the full skirted dress in my size. As I was leaving off the sleeves, I knew my 3 yards would be plenty!

And finally, I didn't see any way that this style would get in the way of my plans to look after children for an hour that morning. (As I discovered later that afternoon that dress was also well-suited to climbing on rocks, clearly I was correct in that assessment.)

On top of all the practical things, I really liked the angled darts on the bodice front, and the draped neckline was fun! These two details would make the dress special and a bit different than all the other cotton sundresses in my closet.

There were only two potential issues I could see. First, the pattern was about 2" too small for me so I would have to enlarge it slightly - and I didn't have time to be precise with my pattern alterations, or do a mock-up, so hopefully that would work out alright. Second, my fabric was fairly thick and stiff, so hopefully it would still drape prettily at the neckline.

Saturday morning, with my freshly washed, dried, and ironed fabric, it was time to give this a try. I started with the bodice front. As that was meant it to be cut on the bias it was one big pattern piece rather than just half the piece meant to be cut on the fold.

I carefully laid out the piece on the bias in one corner of my fabric, and pinned half of it in place. I cut out that half, then unpinned the pattern piece and scooched it over approximately a couple inches to add the width I needed. I pinned down the side that hadn't been cut around yet, and cut it out. Thanks to the drapery I knew this method wouldn't screw up the neckline shape like it might with any other neckline style - and just hoped when I sewed together the dress it would fit! I then proceeded to cut out the rest of the pattern with little to no adjustments. (No, this is not the correct way to size up a pattern, but I didn't have time to go about it the correct way, so I decided this was worth a try. For only $5 worth of fabric it wasn't too costly of an experiment.)

As I said above, upon cutting out this dress, I then did a bunch of other stuff before sitting down to sew. Finally, at 6 p.m., I turned on the sewing machine. I had an hour and a half until it would be time to do the evening milking (and the goat I'm currently milking gets quite grumpy with me if I'm late), so we would see how much sewing I could get done in that time.

The downside to a "free range" milker - she will come and find you at milking time

Well, in that hour and a half I was very productive! I got the bodice completely constructed, and the skirt completely constructed. (Including pockets in the side seams!) 

I went outside and milked the goat, fed the other goats, and brought my bottle babies into the house for the night.

The get to play outside all day, but come in at night and sleep in a dog crate in the basement

Once I got back in the house I threw frozen pizza in the oven for dinner (There was no time to cook, I had a dress to make!), then gathered up the skirt and sewed the skirt to the bodice while that baked.

At that point I paused to eat dinner with my husband, then I did a quick try-on to check fit, and returned to the sewing machine to finish this dress!

A zipper down the back - vintage, from my stash - a hem, and the dress was done!!!

All before 10 p.m. that night! Considering I didn't start until 6, then took about a half hour to do evening chores, and another half hour to eat, I'm very impressed with myself. 3 hours of sewing time isn't bad! Heck, I don't think I could go to the store and buy a dress in less than 3 hours once you consider drive time, browsing time, and trying on time - and I much prefer staying home and sitting at my sewing machine to doing all that! 

The next morning, I paired the dress with the red bow belt from this dress, a poofy net petticoat (made years ago, but never blogged), and my favorite dangly earrings and cowboy boots. I was ready to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord!

I cared for children at church during the first service, attended second service to worship alongside my husband and church family, then went and admired the baby chicks some friends had brought for the kids to see in children's church.

Ok, so these are my new baby chicks, but the ones that visited church on Sunday were equally adorable peeping little fluff balls.

Upon returning home, I packed up all the food I'd made the afternoon before and my husband and I headed off to meet my family at a state park for a very delicious Easter picnic.

As with most holidays in the last few years, I was rather dreading this one. Yet another Easter with no children of my own in my arms or running around hunting eggs. This is the 4th Easter where I've said "Maybe next year. Hopefully next year. Please, God, let me have children by next Easter."

But Easter itself? It was wonderful. On the actual day I was able to remember why we celebrate Easter - and it's not kids hunting eggs. It's Jesus. He's alive! And because of Him, we have hope. Our Redeemer Lives! My heart might hurt right now, but I trust that one day He will remove the pain.

And hey, even though the day is not about eggs and bunnies, and new dresses, having a new dress to celebrate in is pretty fun!

Happy Easter!

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Bows and a Cap for the Dragonfly Volante

 Upon completing my Dragonfly Volante, I decided I ought to make a few little accessories to go with it, so it would be ready to wear when an occasion arose. A stomacher, sleeve ruffles, bows, and some sort of cap to go on my head.

That was my proposed list, and I got through half of it back in the fall of 2021. 

The stomacher? I cut that out, made a plan, and never actually made it. Two years later when I was ready to wear the gown I couldn't find the pieces I'd cut out, so I started again from scratch.

The sleeve ruffles? I had a vague plan for those, but never actually did anything with that plan. When I finally did wear the gown, I just wore a set of the sleeve ruffles I made to go with my Sacque Back Bird Gown (apparently I'm drawn to fabric featuring flying creatures) back in 2019. 

The bows? These I actually did make!

In my stash there was a length of mint green rayon satin ribbon. I divided it into 3 and turned it into fancy bows.

I laid out the ribbon in a sort of flat bow shape, with 2 sets of loops rather than one, so as to make a variation of a "4-loop bow".

Then I ran a row of gathering stitches straight down the center and gathered the ribbon up to make the cutest little floofy bows! One to trim each sleeve cuff with, and one for the cap.

The cap? Yes, that happened too!

I looked online at paintings of women in the 1720's and '30's wearing Robe Volantes to see what sort of headgear they were wearing. A mostly flat, mostly circular, little cap, trimmed with a ruffle, seemed to be the choice of the day.

To make my own I cut out a simi-circle and a long narrow strip from some lightweight linen, and roll-hemmed the edges of each.

The long strip got pleated, then folded in half length-wise and slightly whip-gathered.

This gave me a delightfully long, curly, floofy, linen ruffle.

I whip-stitched it around the curved edges of my simi-circle.

I made a little box pleat along the flat edge of the "circle" to help the cap cup my head slightly.

The pleat was covered with one of my green bows, and the cap was done!

Ready to wear with my gown, whenever I found an excuse to do so!

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Making the Dragonfly Volante

 Historical Accuracy was already out the window for my Robe Volante thanks to my Spectacular fabric choice, so when it came to assembling the gown, I went straight to the sewing machine. No need to hand sew the whole thing!

Volantes could have a fitted bodice lining, with the loose outer layer draped over top. Or, the lining could be skipped entirely, giving you just a nice loose tent dress type garment. There are extant examples of both types. I chose the second option for my gown. A lining was one more thing to fuss with and fit - and I just wanted to make the pretty dress! Also, as I mentioned in my last post, I made this the summer I got married. At that time I was quite certain I would find myself pregnant very soon (too bad that plan didn't pan out. . .), so I figured a loose, almost completely unfitted, garment in my costume wardrobe would come in handy in the near future. If not all Volantes in the era had a fitted lining, I saw no reason to put a fitted lining in mine. 

Upon deciding to skip the lining, I forged ahead and sewed up the center front and back seams on the sewing machine, being sure to match the stripes n the fabric across seamlines. Where needed, I serged raw edges to prevent unraveling, but the center front and back were cut on the selvedge edges so this was unnecessary there.

Then I pleated the back. As I mentioned in my last post, early Volantes (1720's and 30's) could really have any arrangement of pleats and gathers in the back. My favorite arrangement of those I looked at was a set of 4 box pleats across the top, so that's what I did with mine. Four box pleats, each featuring butterflies and dragon flies in the center.

For the front panels, I sewed up the center front seam with a very large (several inches) seam allowance, and left the seam entirely open above the waist.

This gave me a V-shaped front opening perfect for showing off a stomacher on the finished gown.

The extra wide seam allowances were then folded back and stitched down on either side if the opening to form a facing. And yes, this part was handsewn. All the interior construction was done by machine, but anything that could be seen on the outside I tried to hand sew.

Once the center front seam and opening were addressed, I sewed up the side seams (leaving pocket slits open of course!), then pleated the front shoulder straps in a manner similar to the Volantes I'd seen online. I pinned the shoulders together then tried on the gown.

It resembled a shapeless tent, but that was kind of the goal, right? Things were coming along nicely! 

I proceeded to make the sleeves (by machine) and the pleated cuffs to go on them (also by machine, but with hand finishings.)

I hand sewed my shoulder straps in place. (really the best way to do any 18th century shoulder straps and sleeves.)

Then set the sleeves with a whole bunch of little pleats. Later 18th century sleeves are usually set with 2-3 larger pleats, but earlier sleeves could have lots of little pleats, and that sounded fun to me, so that's what I did. (Has it become obvious yet that this whole thing was a "that looks/sounds fun so I'm going to do it" type of project, rather than a heavily researched and planned project?)

As with the shoulder straps, the sleeves were hand sewn in place.

Thanks to their loose fit and all the little pleats, these sleeves were easier to set than later 18th century sleeves. (I now highly recommend the early 18th century, it's fun!)

Once the sleeves were on, I tried on the gown again and decided I really ought to make this shapeless tent a bit more shapely.

So I extended the front shoulder pleats, pinning them all the way down to the waist to make the bodice a bit more fitted.

I hand sewed those in place.

Then I bound the back neckline.

And put the whole thing on my dress form - it looked just about right now!

I trimmed up the hem to what I thought was about the right length, then finished it with a hem facing. 

The gown was done!

 To celebrate I embroidered my initials and the year into the back neckline - just for fun!

Now I just needed to figure out a stomacher, sleeve ruffles, and head gear to go with the gown, then I could find an excuse to wear it!

With this in mind, I put the gown away in my costume trunk - where it stayed for the next 2 years. . .

More on that, next time!