Sunday, December 29, 2013

Projects I've Been Working On

Lately I've had this urge to sew, which was always my mom's way of coping with life's tough transitions.  Sometimes I think she has more influence on our family from that side of the grave than she had from this one, but that is a subject for another day.

I have the sort of conscience--maybe from Mom??-- that sees sewing as play rather than work or medicine, so I feel like I can't sew until the other housework is done.

And is housework ever done??

But in a happy turn of events, I have two adult daughters at home who, when they're not employed otherwise, ask me to make a list of things that need to be done around the house.

I also make a list for the 14-year-old daughter who doesn't ask for it.  Yet.

And then I go sew with a free conscience.

Mom always seemed like she had a magnet inside for scrap fabric, and it would come to her, unbidden, from neighbors and relatives and sewing factories, and even, it seemed, stealing across the frozen cornfields in the dark of night, quietly slipping into her basement stash.

I have the same attraction for castoff fabric, and I get an unreasonable delight from finding ways to use it up.

Like these bags which I made from sack-like fabric pieces with one hemmed edge each.  They combined well, I thought, with the vintage Holly-Hobbie cutouts that showed up.  At least one bag is for the niece who likes all things repurposed, vintage, and quirky.

I'm tucking in a notebook from Thailand, knowing she would appreciate the unusual translated English as much as we did.

We should all remember to do this first.

I'm also on a roll with 50's dresses, with simple fitted bodices and a pleated or circle or gathered skirt.  In another happy turn of events, so are my daughters.

Back in the day, I'd make one of them a new dress, preferably Daisy Kingdom, featuring a full skirt and ruffles and a big white collar with ribbons.

"OOOhhhhhh, Moooommmm!!!"  they would say, and then they would twirl and exclaim, "OHH, it's a CAKE dress, because when I twirl and then go down, it poofs out like a cake!!"

A few years passed and I'd make them something.  "Um, Mom?  I don't know how to say this, and I don't want to hurt your feelings, but this is really kind of, I don't know....I think I'd rather you bought me clothes instead of trying to make them."

But now, oh happy day, my girls once again like me to sew for them.

Recently I sewed them each a dress. 

Somehow they all wear a size 8 even though they are three different heights, so it's easy to use one pattern for all three.  Except I never just pick a pattern and follow it.

I used the bodice pattern on the right below for all three dresses, altering the neckline as requested.  For Jenny on the left and Amy on the right (above) I used the pleated skirt on the left below.  Emily's dress has a full circle skirt.


I think this is called "popping your heel."

Am I blessed with lovely daughters or what?? she asked proudly.

Up close.  The polka dots and elephants came from Thailand.


While the girls posed, our friend Anna cleaned up the kitchen with Steven.

Emily's dress fabric was kind of an odd shifty material, and the circle skirt ended up hanging very unevenly.  So I had her stand on a tall stool in the kitchen while I re-measured and pinned the hem.

She felt dizzy, up that high, so Paul offered his services as a post while he read the comics.

It reminded me of that scene in The Yearling where the mom, played by Jane Wyman, Ronald Reagan's first wife, wants to pin the hem in her new dress so she has her husband, played by Gregory Peck, wear the dress and stand in the middle of the kitchen while she goes around and around, frowning and pinning, while the son looks on, smirking.  And it is utterly awfully obvious that Jane Wyman had never sewed a stitch in her life.

Somehow that made me feel good about myself.

Twenty years ago we were living in the North and drying all our laundry on indoor lines, so Mom used her salvaged fabric and made me a bunch of hangers with clothespins attached, to dry socks and such.

They were wonderful, and I used them until they fell apart, long after we had a dryer.  Then I made some more.

I got the idea to make some for the Smucker ladies at our Christmas dinner this Saturday, since we like to give each other small gifts.

Here are three.  I'll post a tutorial soon because they are pretty easy to make and surprisingly useful.

Smucker ladies: try to act surprised on Saturday.


  1. Ok, that middle dress is way too cute... I love the retro look it has!!

  2. Oh dear... I so "get" your "convictions" about sewing.... and just giving you a heads up.. That Holly Hobbie fabric is worth a mint on ebay...:-)

  3. My mom promised to make me a dress for my kindergarten graduation...23 years later and the fabric and pattern still sit in her craft drawer. :-)

  4. oh my word, I resonate with so many things in this post! New fabric, chosen by me at a fabric store, bores me to tears. I'd much rather try to work within the confines of the found fabric. Once people know you take orphan fabric, IT COMES. Just came back from a family gathering yesterday with a sack full :)

    I adore that circle skirt. And Gregory Peck wearing a dress. I think I need to watch that movie.

    Also, I have a clothespin thingy made by Amish around here - it's all wood, but I love your fabric/hanger idea because then I could use up scraps of fabric!

  5. I love those dresses, especially the one with the polka dot fabric.

    It's interesting that sewing is your method of coping. I've always found that painting, cleaning my room, and rereading cards from friends is comforting.

  6. oh my. So much fun wrapped into this post! Our sewing circle is where all the fabric lands. We work with all KINDS of stuff there and it really is fun to repurpose it. Love the bags. The daughters are lovely. Laughed about the post who was Paul reading the comics--and the movie photo and description. Sew away with a clear conscience. It's Christmas vacation, after all! ~Luci~

  7. I so loved this post! I totally understood about sewing being nothing but play and thinking all my work has to be done first. I sure haven't achieved your status however of my girls wanting me to sew (my styles)for them. HA. I maybe could get them to pose and pop their heels but not in pleated or full circle skirts made by Ma. This was a very fun post to read. We just finished with Christmas week at our house and we made a bedroom for our oldest granddaughter in my sewing room. She totally delighted me by telling me how she would lay and view my fabric on the shelves... then dream of what she could make with it. My kind of girl for sure. Our two oldest granddaughters played dress-up and pin-up with my dress form, pinning yards of fabric to the cloth form, dreaming and envisioning. Such was part of the wonderful memories of Christmas 2013 at Grandma's.

  8. Very nice post, even for a reader who is not into sewing! Beautiful dresses

    2 things to add:

    The picture with the tea-pot is really beautiful

    do you use your sons to try on the dresses??? :-)

  9. Love this post! I also love sewing. To me it is like being on vacation in your own house. To enhance my vacation I have an embroidery machine so I spend a lot of time on the web looking at other people's projects and designs for inspiration. So much fun!

    Yes, I also collect orphan fabrics, mostly from my sister and fabric stores, like remnants. One time a male visitor saw my stash and my three sewing machines (a Husquvarna serger, a Bernina, a Pfaff embroidery machine) and wondered whether this was a factory! lol

    I also love your daughter's dresses! They are so feminine, so pretty! Enhances their beauty tremendously!

  10. Oh, PLEASE share a clothespin hanger tutorial. I wanted one of these (or three or four) to hang down in my basement in the winter for socks and mittens. I was sure I could make them, but didn't quite know where to start!

    And I'm hoping that when my daughters are the age of yours, they will still love a new dress sewn by me!

  11. Kay, thanks for the info about Holly Hobbie fabric!
    Lois Ann--sounds like your granddaughter is a girl after your own heart.
    Pierre--my sons do not try on dresses. I am trying to imagine what it would take to make that happen.
    And yes, I am very blessed to have daughters who like me to sew for them! May you all be so fortunate.