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In which I make a wedding dress

24 Jan

In October, I volunteered to make a wedding dress for my niece so that she wouldn’t have to travel to get one. (There isn’t much available in Southwest Missouri if you want, say, sleeves on your dress or a sweetheart neckline.)

You may think this sounds like an ambitious project, and you would be right, but I have Simon Henry’s book, “The Little Black Dress: How to Make the Perfect One for You,” and a book on making wedding dresses from the library and what can’t a girl do if she’s got the right books and just enough sewing experience to make her think she knows what she is doing?

I used the directions from Simon Henry’s book to pin tissue paper on my niece and then marked and pinned the tissue paper until I had created a pattern made exactly to fit her. The sleeves were trickier than Simon Henry made them sound and I might have become stuck, but my mother-in-law came to my rescue with a magic arm-sleeve-hole ruler that eliminated my pattern drafting amateur mistake.

I sewed 2 trial bodices out of muslin before I finally told myself that it was time to quit stalling and cut the real fabric.

It was my own Project Runway in real life. I stayed up late workingon it, I shed tears over it, I sewed my finger to it, I screamed at my family. SO. MUCH.DRAMA.

I also loved making it, and I can’t explain how something that gave me so much trouble and stress was simultaneously something that I am so happy and proud about.

This dress had four layers of skirts: one lining layer, one satin layer and 2 silk organza layers. I borrowed my mother-in-law’s serger to do the satin and lining layers, but put French seams in the organza layers with my regular machine. I debated this extra trouble for a dress that would only be worn once or twice, but in the end I did it, and I was glad—just the movement of the dress as I sewed it would have been enough to fray some of the seams otherwise.

Unpicking some of those French seams when I realized I had sewn skirt panel in the wrong place. 😩

I hemmed 3 of the skirt layers with horsehair braid. I am in love with that stuff. It is awesome. It made the skirt dance around Maddy when she moved, and it made finishing the hem so much easier than any other way.

I watched YouTube videos and learned how to shape a lace overlay for a bodice so that the seams are invisible.

Then I got really obsessed with adding as many high-end details as I could into the dress. I put ribbon loops with snaps in the shoulders. These were to loop around her bra and undergarment straps to keep them in place under the dress.

I put loops of ribbon to hang the dress on the hanger so that the weight of it wouldn’t pull the shoulders out of shape.

Grandma Rosi hand crocheted these chains which I used to loosely attach the skirt layers together so they couldn’t get horribly twisted or bunched up.

I hand sewed almost 30 pearl buttons done the back of the dress. This took 3 hours alone, but they were beautiful.

I made these knotted thread loops for the top of the bodice and for bustling the skirt instead of using metal loops.

Maddy was radiant on her wedding day, and would have looked beautiful in a burlap sack. But I was really happy about how the dress fit her and moved with her through it all.

Halloween 2019

31 Oct

This year I tried to cut down on the Halloween Last Minute Crazyness by having “Costume Choosing Day” on the first Saturday in October.  I got out my 2 huge Rubbermaid tubs of dress-ups and past Halloween Costumes and encouraged everyone to choose what they wanted.

It sort of worked.  Except I then thought my work was done and forgot about everything until the day we needed costumes.

The Scooter Pies chose to be Buzz Light Year and Woody from Toy Story.  However, on Halloween night, Zeke decided that he wanted to be “Mr Game-n-Watch” who he knows of from playing Smash Bros Brawl on the wii.  Here is his last minute costume:



Skeeter refused to wear anything except “normal” clothes, so we talked him into wearing his monster face hoodie.img_5884

Baby Bean (I really do need to give her a pie name…) wanted to be a honey bee with a honey bucket.  I forgot that this costume needed to be made until the day of our church trunk-or-treat.  So that morning, I dug through my fabric sash, and found a fuzzy yellow scrap just about the right size to make this bubble and some shiny black for stripes.  I made a hasty description to Tamale Pie of how to sew it and left to go grocery shopping.  When I returned, Baby Bean had a costume!



Banana Cream Pie chose to be a Princess riding a unicorn.  All of her props came from the costume box, and I love her for choosing that.img_5888

Key Lime Pie wanted to be the Blind Earth Bending Princess, Toph,  from Avatar: The Last Air-Bender.


I also forgot that this costume needed to be sewn until the day of the trunk-or-treat. She found a green shirt, and I found a scrap of green fabric, traced off a hasty pattern from some shorts and zipped out these culottes.  I found the brown in my tubs as well, and cut it into a poncho.  Pumpkin Pie constructed the headband for her.


Tamale Pie wanted to be Frida Kahlo.  This was the only costume that cost me money this year.  I spent $3 on those silk flowers at Dollar Tree.  She refused to allow me to draw in a uni-brow with my black eyeliner, which was the only thing this costume lacked!



Pumpkin Pie wanted to be Katara from Avatar: The Last Airbender.  I forgot about this costume needing to be made also.  (Have you noticed a theme yet?)


While Pumpkin Pie was at school, I traced a pattern from a knit dress she has and hunted out some navy blue fabric and a bit of white from my stash.  I still can’t believe that I was able to find every fabric I needed.  It was a blessing.


Cherry Pie wanted to be Kisame Hoshigaki from the anime Naruto.


She made this entirely by herself, drawing off a pattern from her winter coat.  I did teach her about the magic stuff called Heat-n-Bond when I found out she needed to applique the designs.  Luckily, I had some of that in my stash too, as well as these black, red and white fabrics.



I am still in shock at how little crazy sewing I had to do this year, thanks to the growing talents of my most impressive daughters.

Halloween was a success!!!

A craft stash is for

5 Oct

When you decide at noon that the girls coming to your 10-year-old’s birthday party at 4pm that day need a party favor to take home.

Then you get out the piece of blue fleece left over from making a pillow for cousin Emily last year,

the ribbon from a box of lace that a sweet granny at church gave you when she decided to reduce her stash,

the fiber fill stuffing your friend gave you when it was left over from reupholstering a chair,

googley-eyes left over from a preschool project,

And E6000 glue because glue.

Enlist the help of your minions, and less than 2 hours later, you have blue cuteness.

Just enough time to clean-up the house…or catch a nap before eight 10-year-olds descend upon you en masse.

Baby Shower Gift

20 Jun

So cute!  I enjoyed making it so much.  

Secret Sewing tip:

**never think you will save time by not pinning the fabric.  You will not save time, you will sew the onesie to itself and have to unpick.

Secret Sewing Tip:

If you try to unpick thin double knit onesies, you will just make holes.  The fabric is ruined and you must start over with a new onsie.  So avoid having to unpick.


 I got the idea and shoe pattern here:

Baby Girl Peasant Dress Ensemble

And the onsie tutorial here:

Click to access Onesie_Ruffle_Dress_Tutorial.pdf

This one looks good too:

10 Minute DIY Onesie Dress Tutorial

Bean Bag Stuffie 

16 Jun

I made this!

It’s the first time I’ve sewed anything since last October. 
It is stuffed full of all the princess dress ups.  
Storage and seating!  I’m so happy

Race the babies

30 Jul

So my life is now a gambling game.  Can I finish this (whatever needs to be done) before the babies are born.  Today I finished a project which I began only 4 days ago.  I think it’s the fasted dress I’ve ever made from purchasing fabric through completion.

Sunday I discovered the need for a new dress.

Monday I bought the fabric.  ( Usually it would then sit for weeks/months/years, but this time I didn’t dare wait.) 

Tuesday I cut out the pieces. 

Wednesday I sewed most of the day.

Today (Thursday) I unpicked the sash I had sewn wrong, resewed it correctly, and attached it to the dress.  Done!!!

Presenting Cherry Pie’s new Sunday Dress.


Isn’t it beautiful?  I love the fabric and the pattern (which I successfully altered to fit her waist.  Woot!)

The pattern is from the book Sew Serendipity by Kay Whitt.  

And check out this professional top stitching 😉

Also, all the seams inside are clean finished despite the fact that I do not own a serger.


Now that Cherry Pie’s dress is done, there isn’t anything more I really care about finishing before the twins arrive.  I’m super ready for them to be outside me instead of inside.  

Per my last ultrasound, one twin is 5 pounds 9 ounces and the other is 6 pounds 7 ounces.  That is 12 pounds of babies wedged between my ribs and hips.  Yes I am ready for them to be out.  Unfortunately for my crowded kidneys and me, the doctor figures we can wait 3 more weeks.  So I’m hoping the babies are less patient than he.  The good news is they have both turned head down (They were both transverse for quite awhile.) 


Snow Day, Sew Day

2 Mar

Every year my mom buys a whole bunch of flannel. 

By a whole bunch, I mean that she buys several bolts of flannel, as in, she could start a store with the bolts of flannel she has in Rubbermaid tubs upstairs.  It is awesome.

For Christmas, my sisters and sister-in-laws and I are invited over for pajama day.  We cut out pajamas and sometimes get them sewn up as well. Mom does crafts and reads stories with the grandkids while we have a great time chopping up those yards and yards of flannel.

This year, I got all the girls’ Christmas pajamas cut out, but not sewn.  Those almost pajamas languished in a pile for more than 2 months. 

Then last Friday afternoon the snow began falling.  It continued to fall all night and all the next morning.  Saturday morning I fixed breakfast (funnel cakes) and cleaned up the kitchen.  Then it was time to fix lunch (hash browns scrambled eggs, and country gravy–I was in a breakfast mood still).  After lunch I took a nap (pregnant ladies get to do that sometimes. ) When I woke up the snow was still falling.  

So I got out my sewing machine.  I popped my 6 hour A&E Pride and Prejudice (Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle) in the DVD player.  I pulled out that stack of Christmas pajamas and got busy.  By the time Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett were married and kissing the bride, I had finished four flannel pants, one fleece pants and matching fleece hoodie, and one nightgown.  

I still had one nightgown left, so I put I my Focus Films version of Pride and Prejudice (Kiera Knightly and Matthew McFaydden). That was a mistake.  While I can sometime watch this version and get enjoyment from it (sometimes I need a P&P fix and I don’t have 6 hours), Kiera just can’t hold up in a back to back comparison.  The timing of every line is off and the whole thing is over acted.  

I just put my head down and finished that last nightgown.  

Finishing that big project was so satisfying, that I got sewing fever.  Church was canceled on Sunday because of bad road conditions and I had to fight the siren song of my sewing machine all day long.  But I triumphed over that temptation and my machine had its day of rest.  

Then today, I whipped the cover back off and sewed again.  Tamale Pie and Pumpkin Pie each have an 18″ doll that they got for Christmas three years ago.  (They aren’t American Girl Dolls, they are a Target knock-off version.)

Well the dream of these two girls hearts has been to have matching pajamas with their dolls.  I saved the scraps from cutting out their nightgowns and Voila!  Today their wildest dreams came true!!

I was a little worried when I got out the pattern pieces.  These doll clothes always take more fabric than I think they should.

If you look closely, you can see that I quilted the yoke on this nightgown. I used the AG pattern for Kristen’s nightgown, which you can download here.  I just left the cuffs off the sleeves and turned the neck piece under so the nightgown would be the same as Tamale Pie’s. 

Pumpkin Pie is happy too.  Hooray for being twiners with your doll!

One good thing about these dolls is that they make thinking up Christmas presents easy.  What shall I get for the girls for Christmas?  Doll clothes & accessories!!

Last Christmas, I made this beautiful red wool coat from an old wool blazer and a little girl’s plaid wool shirt.  Isn’t it gorgoeus?!! I had so much fun sewing it.  

I enbroidered the button holes by hand because they were so small that I was afraid my machine would just bung them up.  The covered buttons came right from the shirt.  

Sewing doll clothes is so much more fun now than it was when I was a girl, because the clothes look good and fit the doll when I am done!!  This apron dress was made from scraps left over from a dress I made Tamale Pie.  It isn’t as close a match in style as the nightgown, but it’s not too bad.  That tiny ric rac around the apron was murderous to sew.

I didn’t have another thrifted  wool piece to make PumpkinPie’s doll coat, so hers is made from fleece.  It worked well enough and is pretty, but it isn’t luminous the way the wool is.  Yes, I made the tam-o-shanter and muff, too.

This dress does not correspond to any of PumpkinPie’s wardrobe.  It is just purple, which was her favorite color for a long time.  Also, the flowers were a good scale for a doll dress. The coats and this purple dress came from Addy’s Pretty Clothes patterns.  The tam and muff are Samantha’s.  In my opinion, Addy and Josephine have the prettiest dresses.

So much fun!! I want to make more!!

12 days and counting

7 Jul

Season 12 of Project Runway begins July 19 at 8pm. Happy Sigh.

Baby Talk and Dollies

17 Jan

IMG_5643Baby Dumpling is saying lots of cute things right now.

When she sees someone else eating something she wants, she reaches for it, saying, “num num num num.”

When she’s happy, she toddles all around the house saying, “gabby gabba gabby dagabbada.”

She loves to rock baby dolls.

It is always fun for me to see how each of my children are different and like different things.  That old nature versus nurture debate always interested me.  I definitely think that some things you are born with. Only 2 of my 5 daughters really like playing with baby dolls.  Another prefers puzzles, another is always creating elaborate games and props to go with them, and the other girl is always talking (loudly) about what would you think of this or that?


The dolly that Baby Dumpling is holding is one I made 2 years ago.  We had a big blizzard that trapped us in our house for a week, but we still had electricity.  An unsual occurrence here in southwest Missouri where a big storm is often more ice than snow.

The girlie pies and I made 3 dolls using the Prairie Flowers Doll Pattern & Tutorial from By Hook or by Hand.  It’s a very thorough tutorial with lots of pictures.


We used freezer paper to trace the pattern and ironed it right onto an old sheet to make the doll’s bodies (We were snowed in, I had to use fabric available!)

The sheet turned out to be a mistake in the long run because the fabric has torn across the doll’s arms and legs and at the necks.  What do you all use when you make dolls?  Perhaps the sheet would have been okay had it not already been so old?IMG_5652

I crocheted little caps for the dolls which we tied fringe all the way around to make their hair. I sewed the wigs to the doll’s heads with invisible thread.


Two of the girls chose for me to embroider their doll’s faces and one chose to color the face.   IMG_3356

It was fun to let each girl choose the fabric scraps for her doll’s shoes.  Tamale Pie’s doll is the one with the belly button.  Pumpkin Pie is the one who chose to draw her own face, different from the pattern.  IMG_5686


We used an old American Girl Doll pattern reduced to 70% for the dresses and they look so pretty! (Specifically it is Josephine’s brown dress but with short sleeves.)  They each chose the fabric for their doll’s dress as well, and here is where I had to bite my tongue.  I wanted the switch 2 of the dresses to match the shoes, but the girls didn’t take the shoe color into consideration at all.  I told myself, it’s their doll, let them choose.  But it was hard.IMG_5684

I never mind snow days when we still have electricity to run the internets and the sewing machine!

Scripture Cases

8 Jan

For their 8th birthday,  we give the kiddie pies their own set of scriptures.  I promised Pumpkin Pie a case to carry them in, and about 2 months after her birthday, I finally made it using this fun scripture case tutorial from PolkaDotChair.

I made one for Cherry Pie, too.

I was making cases for a Bible and Triple Combination, soft paper bound, which together are larger than a mini-quad (what Melissa at PolkaDotChair was making a case for).  I like my cases to fit pretty closely so the books aren’t wallowing around in there.  Also because my kids have a tendency to hoard bits of trash and I didn’t want much room left for bits of paper.  If you want to make your own case for scriptures like ours and don’t want to do the math, here are the dimensions I used.  (Also in case I decide to make more and want to remember the math.)

1–  9 3/8 x 8 inch for the flap
2– 6 1/4 x 8 inch for the front & back
1– 4 3/8 x 20 inch strip for the gusset
2– 2 1/2 x 16 inch strips for the handle

It took a little bit more than a fat quarter for the lining:

2- 6 1/4 x 8 inch for front & back lining
2- 5 1/4 x 8 inch for front pocket
1- 9 3/8 x 8 inch for the flap lining
1- 4 3/8 x 20 inch strip for the gusset lining

Seam allowance 1/2″ everywhere except the handle- do 1/4″ seams on the handle.

The first case I made was too tight.  The gusset was 1/4 inch too narrow.  I ended up unpicking all the seams and resewing them smaller so that there would be more room in the case.

**This is one of the secrets I’ve learned that has made me happier with my sewing.  When it isn’t right, I take the time to fix it.  It’s totally worth it.  If you hate unpicking, check your seam ripper.  If it is so rusty, it looks like you stabbed someone with it and left the blood to dry, spend $4 on a new one.  Totally worth it.

**Secret #2 top stitch.  It makes everything look more professional.

I adjusted the measurements for the second case and it turned out perfectly.  (The measurements above are the adjusted ones.)