Sunday May 23, 2010

I grew up watching my mom sew.  She made, well– everything.  Quilts, dresses, curtains, stuffed animals, Birthday Banners, costumes; there seemed to be no limit to what she could sew.   I enjoyed my hand made Easter dresses and teddy bears but I never took an interest in sewing until recently. 

I guess what I’m trying to say is… this is all new to me.  I have very little experience, only the basic skills that my mom managed to pass on to me, and a lot of enthusiasm.  Which is what it all really boils down to right?  I’m learning as I go and enjoying the process (most of the time ).  My seam ripper and I are well acquainted with each other.

So I decided it was time to venture into the world of sewing fashion.  I wanted to make myself a dress and I found this pattern…

…on this delightful website.  Meg McElwee is the author of a great book called “Sew Liberated”, and has designed quite a few sewing patterns.  Her blog is beautiful as well.   It is a nice mix of home life and sewing related posts.  I read some reviews of the Schoolhouse Tunic, and they all said it was a good pattern for beginners.  Great!  That’s me!  Jessica, Dani and Trisha bravely volunteered to try the pattern with me.

We had babies and toys scattered all around us as we sewed.  We cleared away blocks, pacifiers, and sippy-cups to make room for our machines and ironing board.  I didn’t get any pictures of me sewing as I was the official photographer for the day, but I did get a few pictures of me in my dress.  Hopefully at some point I can talk the other girls into modeling their dresses for me so I can post them at a later date, but for now here is mine~


I made a few changes to the pattern.  I added 10 inches to the bottom because I wanted it to be a church dress.  I also made a matching belt to draw it in at the waist a little.  The pattern has a dress length and a shirt length.  The hardest part about sewing clothes is taking your measurements… but you have to do it!!  Otherwise, you will put a lot of time into a dress that isn’t going to fit you, which in turn will make you upset and frustrated, and by the next morning your sewing machine may find it’s self in the bottom of a canal (at least that’s the way it played out in my head).   The good news is:  this pattern is roomy so you will probably end up making a size that is very similar to your “store-bought” size.

Jessica came up with an idea for a sleeveless version of the shirt that I thought would be adorable.  She suggested making the shirt, completely lining the bodice (the pattern only has a partial lining) and then leave the sleeves off.   Wear it sleeveless in the summer and in the fall put a plain long sleeved shirt underneath.  It was a well designed pattern that I am eager to try again.  The Schoolhouse Tunic is great because of it’s versatility.  It is easy to change it up and add on different embellishments.  Here are some fun examples of other tunics.

More wardrobe embellishments~

A few weeks ago (make that a month ago) I was trolling the sales rack at Gap when I came across a silk ribbon embroidered t-shirt.  It was beautiful, but still $19.99 on sale!  I know, I know… that’s not a lot of money to pay for a nice article of clothing, but I can’t bring myself to pay that much for a t-shirt because I know at some point, one (or all) of my children will end up using it as a tissue for their nose.  However, right next to the $19.99 shirt was a soft gray plain t-shirt on sale for $5.99.  I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this…

The next morning I started in on my own silk embroidered tee.

I started by cutting out three different sized circles from gray tulle.  I did this for two reasons; 1. To add a little bit of soft texture to the shirt, and 2. To help me keep my flowers circular.

I measured each circle to find the center and then pinned them in place.

I carefully stitched them on and them moved onto the silk ribbon.  You can buy silk ribbon online or at specialty sewing stores (it is no longer available at Beverly’s).  Fortunately I had my mom’s excellent collection to dip into. 

You thread silk ribbon just like you would a regular needle and thread.  I started in the center of the circle from the under side of the shirt; pulling the thread until it was all through.

Then you lay the ribbon flat and position it where you want your petal to lay.  You need to decide how long you want your petal and then stick the needle back down through the ribbon.

Pull your thread until it leaves just a little bit of curled up ribbon at the end and then move onto the next petal, starting again in the center of the flower.

I initially wanted to do a cluster of french knots in the center of each flower but I ran out of ribbon.  Which was kind of a relief because I’m not very good at making french knots.  So I decided to sew some small seed beads on instead.

I always use monofilament thread (which is like fishing line except a lot finer) when I am sewing beads onto an item.

I also added a few vintage applique flowers to the mix.  So there you have it; my $6.00 version of Gap’s silk embroidered tee.

I will finish with one last thought.  Wait!  Let me get up on my soap box first…

Don’t be the person who sits around saying “I wish I could do things like that”.  If something really interests you just do it!!  Jump in with both feet!   It will get messy and you will make mistakes (if your like me you’ll make a lot of them) but in the end you will have gained a whole new set of skills, and have something unique to show for all that work and mess. 

Alright, I’m putting the soap box away (for now).

12 thoughts on “Sunday May 23, 2010

  1. Anonymous

    so beautiful! I love all the things you make especially the flowers :) funny that you added that little speech at the end becuase I was thinking “I wish I could do that…..” just like you said!  I would try, I just really dont have any time to experiment right now.

  2. TConway

    LOVE!!!  The details you put on the tunic are lovely.  I tried a sleeve-less version and I really like it – I’d give it a try, I think it’s a nice version for summer.  Your re-fashioned shirt is darling – let’s get together and have a re-fashioning day!  I could really use your inspiration!  If I just had an ounce of your talent….

  3. inanorchard

    @TConway - I want to see your sleeveless dress!  How did it go the second time around?  Were you able to take in the arms?  I would love some pictures!

    I think a refashion day sounds like perfect.  I also think we should buy a sweet jacket pattern and make them for the girls for the fall.  I like the Oliver + S jacket and there are some darling patterns on Etsy too!

  4. inanorchard

    @Carissa - Thanks!  I had a lot of fun making them and I completely understand about time limitations!  All of these projects do take valuable time.  It is best to start with small, simple project.

  5. manuelmusings

    I like your dress more than the one on the model; hers looks chunky and yours looks graceful.  I think it’s the longer length and the belt that improve it.  It would also look cute with pearl buttons closed with loops down the front (or frogs for a more asian look).


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