Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Last Minute Alterations to Wear the Dragonfly Volante

 After two years of hanging in the closet, I decided my dragonfly volante needed an outing - and the Renaissance festival was the perfect excuse to give it one.

A week before I planned to head to the Ren fest I pulled the gown out of my closet, and made the last accessory it needed to be wearable - a stomacher.

From my stash I picked a scrap of green and gold shot silk taffeta (given to me by a friend) and some metallic gold trim. 

Using an early 18th century stomacher in Patterns of Fashion 1 as my reference for shape and a Simplicity pattern piece as a guide for size, I cut out a stomacher from two layers of linen canvas. (The same canvas I used to make my sister's stays last spring.)

I sewed together the two layers of canvas and stitched boning channels.

The stomacher got boned with zip ties.

I decorated the outer silk layer of the stomacher with my metallic trim, then mounted it on the boned linen foundation.

And bound the whole thing with some petersham ribbon.

It was a quick and easy one evening project - and once it was done I figured I was all set to head to the Ren Fest at the end of the week - but then matters got complicated.

I tried on the gown - and oh my goodness. It was a shapeless sack.
Ok, so this style of gown is, more or less, a shapeless sack, BUT.
It should have had a bit more shape than it had.
I tried it on over my big hoop skirt. I tried it on over my small hoop skirt. I tried it on over my pocket hoops. Nothing looked right. It needed help.

I went to Pinterest and looked at all the pictures of Volantes I'd saved two years ago, and formulated a plan. My Volante needed a partial bodice lining to give it a bit more shape.

This partial lining wound up being super easy to add - just a pair of lacing strips with twill tape ties sewn into the back of the gown. Once the ties were all tied together they added just the amount of fit and shape this dress required!

There was now a clear distinction between bodice and skirt! But. . . the ties caused a different issue. The bodice was now just fitted enough when the ties were tied that the gown did not want to slip on easily over my shoulders. Uggg.

I fixed this problem by extending the front opening a good 6" or so and adding a couple hooks and eyes to keep it closed below the waistline.
Speaking of the waistline. . .

When I made the gown I made the waistline a little bit high - too high. So, while I was fixing the gown up to wear, I decided to lower the waistline a touch by extending the bodice pleats down several inches.

This was a pretty easy alteration to do and greatly improved the fit of the gown!

Bodice alterations done, I tried on the gown with my hoop skirts once more to choose which skirt supports I would wear that weekend. My small hoop skirt - the one I wore with my wedding dress - turned out to be the best choice. 

When I'd originally made the gown 2 years earlier I'd intended to wear it with my big hoop skirt (the one for the pink ball gown), and the skirt was cut and hemmed accordingly. 
Well, with the smaller hoops, the skirt was now too long. So, I spent the afternoon before I went to the Ren Fest hemming.

A new hem facing was sewn in!

And finally, two years after it was originally made, the Dragonfly Volante was completed and worn!!

In case you missed any Volante blog posts. . .

Here you can find the story of how it began

This post is all about the initial construction of the gown 

Here I share about the accessories I made to go with it

And here's my post all about my day at the Renaissance Festival where I wore it!

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!