Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Amateur Seamstress

My mom is an amazing seamstress.  No, more like A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.  When we were kids she used to make outfits for us, especially fancy stuff at Easter time.  She also made clothes for Cabbage Patch dolls, back in the days when they were all the rage.  Her stuff was great.  So great, in fact, that the local McDonald's in our small town got wind of her skills and asked her to stitch up mini-McDonald's uniforms for their own Cabbage Patch dolls (in retrospect, I'm not sure what the heck a McDonald's needed Cabbage Patch dolls for. I guess that just speaks to how popular they were)!!  It was awesome.  I recall her trying to show me and teach me as she worked, but I don't recall being too interested...

Fast forward a few years- Cabbage Patch dolls were lame, and "homemade" clothes were even lamer.  And a mom who likes to sew?  Kinda lame too.

Now fast forward a few more years, and sewing ain't so bad anymore.  In my early 20's I picked up an old cabinet sewing machine (I have no idea if that's what they were called- it was a sewing machine that folded out of a cabinet) in a thrift store.  It served double-duty as a table/desk and a cheap way to outfit my apartments with cute curtains & pillows.  It was at that point I first wished I'd paid more attention to my mom's sewing lessons.

After moving that super heavy sewing machine a few too many times I donated it to a thrift store myself, and began begging for a sewing machine for Christmas.  Yes, I realize I sound like a spoiled 9 year-old when I say that, but I did!  Years passed with no sewing machine under the tree, but then 2 years ago my mom relented and I once again had a machine.  She warned it wasn't a good machine, a good machine is expensive, and this one was on sale, she said- no matter, I had a sewing machine!  But once again was wishing I knew how to sew.  I even recruited her to visit for a sewing-tutorial weekend.  We may have done more gabbing than sewing.  But we made pillows.  And they were okay.  I still didn't know how to sew.

I have had a definite love/hate relationship with that machine.  I probably still do, but I'm trying to focus on the love part.  And the hate part is honestly my ignorance.  For the longest I could hardly sew a straight line without the bobbin side of the thread getting into an utterly tangled mess.  Then I realized I needed to adjust the tension.  Silly me.  I wish I knew how to sew.

So, fast forward to last week and a girlfriend & I were shopping around Hobby Lobby for her daughter's 1st birthday party.  She mentioned she was thinking of making a skirt for her daughter to wear to the party.  I was impressed!  Then she clarified that she was going to BUY a skirt and add embellishments to it.  But the seed was planted...  We continued to browse and came to the fabric section of the store.  She instantly pulled out a fabric she loved, and I blurted out she could make a dress with it!  Long story short, we left Hobby Lobby with 3/4 yard of material, a spool of ribbon and a promise that I would make a birthday dress.

Holy crap, what was I thinking??  Clearly I wasn't.  We got home, I found a pillowcase dress in babygirl's closet that I was going to use as inspiration, and I hit Google hard, scouring every tutorial I could find.  I settled on this one because I liked the idea of the sash instead of the ribbon you traditionally see on a pillowcase dress.  I also liked the option to tie in the back instead of on top of the shoulders so little fingers wouldn't continually try to unknowingly undress themselves!  So I had a plan.  But man, I wish I actually KNEW HOW TO SEW!!

I was too nervous to cut the birthday girl's fabric, so I decide to do a practice run with a scrap of fabric leftover from babygirl's valances.  Bad idea. The fabric was too heavy and not cut straight (didn't realize it at the time).  Not to mention trying to use the dress I had as a pattern without taking it apart was NOT EASY.  But I soldiered on, and ended up with a dress.

Here's a pic, just for reference:

I admit it looks okay, but if you looked closely, you'd see it is riddled with mistakes.  The hem didn't line up at the back, the armholes were poorly sewn, the casing on the back of the dress was an unfinished edge...

So I went back to Google, and found this tutorial that seemed like it would be easier, especially for the arm holes.  She calls it the "Easiest Pillowcase Dress Ever", I'm not sure that I totally agree!!  It wasn't hard, per say, but there were lots of steps when making a front & back, versus using one long piece of fabric stitched up the back, which is what I did on the practice dress.

However, the hard part came when I decided it would be a good idea to make matching bloomers!  Oh boy!  I found this tutorial, and it seemed easy enough, but I think I needed to remind myself *I didn't know what I was doing*.  The bloomers came out, and looked cute even, but they were oh so difficult, and literally took HOURS to sew!

Being the perfectionist that I am, I also made 2 hairclips, added trim & buttons to fancy the dress, bloomers & clips, and packed them sweetly on a padded hanger.  Altogether I probably only spent $10-12 on the fabric, ribbon, thread, elastic, buttons & bias tape, which isn't bad.  But the subsequent hours spent crafting the dress may have been better spent on another project, and a 10 minute drive to a big-box store to buy a perfectly made dress there!  That's not to say I'm not super proud of myself, or that my friend didn't LOVE the dress, it just seemed like a TON of effort for a little dress!!

Without further ado, here's the completed dress & accessories:



I did learn a lot along the way, and I do know how I would do things differently the next time (will there BE a next time?!), so I suppose that made it worth it in the long run.  I can only aspire to be an awesome seamstress like my mom someday, for now, I'd say I'm a budding amateur.