My grandmother was a passionate dressmaker. She was constantly on her old treadle sewing machine, churning out clothing for herself and her family. Sometimes she’d admire a dress on TV, stay up all night making it and have the garment finished by morning.
As a young girl, I spent a lot of time with her, watching her work, listening to her stories. My initial attempts at sewing on her machine were disastrous, and caused my grandmother a lot of stress, so I just tried to learn from watching.
As an adult I participated in a lot of theatre productions. When I wasn’t acting, directing or stage managing, I was making or altering costumes. Now that I’m a mom, I’m having a great time making Halloween costumes and dresses for the little one.
At two years old, she was Max from her favorite book, Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are. I scoured the internet for photos of this costume. I found a pattern for a body suit for toddlers and added the feet, tail and headdress.
I used an ivory colored fleece blanket to make this costume warm enough for Trick or Treating. My biggest peeve with commercially made costumes is that they are made with such thin, cheapo material, totally inconsiderate of the time of the year the costume is going to be worn outdoors. This gives me every reason to make our own costumes! I want to make a great costume that is also comfortable to wear.
At three years old, she was infatuated with Disney’s Cinderella movie. She loved the Fairy Godmother, so I thought that would make a magical costume for Halloween. I never got a picture of the whole ensemble. The cloak always manages to be whipped off before I can get a photo, but here is the inner gown, a classic bell-sleeve dress, lined of course, for added comfort and warmth.
She wore this dress for days before Halloween. I always feel so richly rewarded by her appreciation of the work I do. This pink dress on the right, for instance, I am so embarrassed by. It was the first dress I made that year, sort of a trial run before I attempted to make her Fairy Godmother costume. The stitches are messy, the zipper looks hideous, some seams are not well tucked resulting in frays, and worst of all, I sewed the sleeves on upside down. (See how the sleeves bell out like she belongs in a sci-fi movie? It’s not supposed to be that way.)
Regardless of all that, she wore that dress everyday since I made it. I would hide it under other clothes in her drawer, and she would dig it out. I love her. She is teaching me everyday to love myself too.
For her third birthday, I asked her what she wanted. She replied, “Something orange.” Makes sense, considering she was born at dawn on November 1.
I made her this orange and cream dress to wear to her birthday party. It’s fully lined, and I’m really really proud of it. She still wears this dress a lot, and considering that she wore her two-year-old birthday dress until it looked like a blouse on her, I imagine she’ll be wearing this dress until she can’t squeeze in it anymore.
Recently I went on a marathon dressmaking spree getting some special springtime pieces in our wardrobes.
Skirts are the easiest clothing pieces to make. One barely needs a pattern as long as one has the correct measurements. I made this striped candy-colored skirt with a ruffled hem, and a pink and maroon Pink Panther polkadot skirt with two ruffled tiers and rickrack edges (amazing what a little rickrack can do!) all in one night.
I’m really proud of this golden yellow dress. I purchased a pattern for the dress, added the white lace edging on the bodice and on the hem, and the little daisy chain belt. It is fully lined with soft cotton suede, so that it’s wearable in the spring when the air is still cool.
I’m still perfecting zipper installation. It’s not bad, but it’s not super yet. I’ll be making more dresses to keep practising.