Friday, June 18, 2010

Sewing Clothes

All of my school years were spent attending private schools. Not that we were wealthy... quite the opposite, actually. My Dad was a teacher in the elementary grades, and chose to work in private faith-based schools, so all 5 of us kids were able to attend the schools where he taught for greatly reduced or even free tuition.

Anyway, that's not the point of my story today. The part that I disliked the most about private school was the quite restrictive dress code. Specifically, we had to wear dresses or skirts every day, and the hem had to touch the floor when we were on our knees. My more petite friends were able to find fashionable clothes in the department stores that worked just fine, but my slightly taller than average frame (I'm 5'8") was just a *tad* too long for many of the styles of that time, and if I tried to get away with a store-bought skirt, I was often found out. The result was that I was either wearing my skirts "low-rise" (way ahead of the trend on that one!), or I was wearing some home-sewn frock which I really didn't like. Sewing my own clothing was one of my most hated tasks- deciphering the instructions, dealing with tissue-thin pattern paper and almost always ending up with a product that didn't fit quite right and looked hokey.

Needless to say, although I have sewn a few quilts and lots of curtains and pillows in the years since, I have not had even a *slight* urge to sew myself a piece of clothing.

Then a few years ago I started browsing etsy, with its shops full of amazing hand-crafted and unique clothing articles, and I began to view home-sewing with interest. But with two young rascals to care for, and a remaining dread of commercial patterns, I resisted quite easily.

Meanwhile, I was growing frustrated with the clothes available locally, finding current styles either too young or too matronly or too fitted or too low or too blah, blah, blah... And when I did find something that I really liked, it was almost always well out of my budget price range (can anyone say single-income-family-in-a-down-economy?), and besides, the kids continue to grow and need new clothes, so it was hard to justify a new wardrobe for me just for vanity's sake.

But finally, I am taking the plunge. And I plan to let you all in on the process, whether it be good, bad, ugly, or perhaps even fabulous.

I used some birthday money that I had been saving, along with some of my recent earnings from a wedding cake to buy a serger to be used in conjunction with my old hand-me-down sewing machine.

I also bought this book, because I would love to one day be confident enough to branch out beyond patterns to craft my own clothes:

and a few adorable patterns for little girls from ManiMina on etsy, which I chose because of their simplicity and potential for adaptation.

My plan? To practice on Katie, because even badly made clothes look cute on 2 year olds, right?

Now, after sticking with me for that long explanation, you deserve a small reward. Want to see my first attempt?

Not wanting to mess up brand new fabric, I first made a "muslin" out of a thin cotton fabric that a friend's parents brought back from a trip to Africa.

Super easy to make, with clear instructions, and way cuter than I expected.

Little Missy's favorite part was the re-purposed tie from an old t-shirt of mine. She kept stroking it saying, "Dess, Mama make pretty dess".


Stay tuned for more adventures in sewing.


Berit said...

Wa-hoo! I'm also curious about this sort of endeavor; looking forward to your entries about it!

Christina said...

What an amazing first attempt! A gorgeous model too! Such a cutie.

heather said...


Kelly said...

Your daughter is adorable! Good luck with the sewing endevor. I am with you, I could sew when I was in school but I would not dream of sewing anything now. The surger is perfect for your linen edges so it will always have a use.

BTW...I paid my dry cleaners to surge a rather large piece of linen used in Beautie Spot. It cost me $5.00 for them to surge white thread around the edges. Maybe you could make a little cash on the side...

Marie said...

very cute!! Oh, and the dress is sweet, too! You did a good job!

Catherine said...

Your dress turned out fantastic!! Of course it wouldn't have been as cute without Katie modeling it!

Lynn said...

Good luck on your sewing. Don't give up. I agree with all you said in your blog. Our fasion industry is not suited for the general public, All you have to do is look at the models and I know I'm in trouble. Your Katie is adorable.

joann renee said...


Let me know if you figure out zippers. They are the bane of my existence.

Alice said...

You are right. That little girl of yours looks cute no matter what she wears. I think your first attempt looks great on the little angel. Take as many photos of her as you can. They grow up so quick!

Missy aka Birdy said...

Oh I think you are my twin!! I too went to private school due to my dad working at the school and he too got a discount to send all 5 of his children through school. I too can relate to the dress/skirt length being that I'm 5'9 I was the tallest in my class.

I have always wanted to sew my own clothing especially trousers because I have such a hard time finding a pant with my desired in-seam and I would love to sew blouses that have a little longer sleeve that all the cap sleeves that seem to be the current rage.

I look forward to seeing your progress on your endeavor.


kelley said...

Katie is so sweet ~ love her in her new dess ~ she is quite the little lady

EEEEEK sewing clothes...I was a home ec geek in middle, high school and college...wanted to be a home ec teacher even so I took lots of tailoring classes...and today ~ stitching is strictly for quilts and crafts...

Amy said...

Excited for you & the new adventure Beth! Katie it IS a pretty dess!

Dora said...

That third picture of Katie is so precious! Very sweet. The dress turned out so cute.

I've been sewing since the teenage years and have enjoyed sewing clothes so much, learning new things with each pattern. Most sewing now is for crafts. I loved sewing my daughter's halloween costume every year when she was younger. Simplicity patterns were always a favorite.

I'll look forward to seeing more of your clothes modeled by Katie!