The mistake that turned into a dress

You may have noticed the lull in my summer dress production. Little did you, my faithful readers, know it but I was in The Slough of Despondseamstressly speaking.

Dresses number one, two and three went down like kingpins, and I was feeling quite the thing. I shared a confident post about dress number four, then… silence. Well, behind the scenes here in the Tomato Patch, I was industriously working away at resizing the pattern for that what I was sure would be lovely dress. But since the task was daunting (sizing up fifteen inches,) and my experience minimal (as in nil,) I was having a dickens of a time. No matter what I did, I just couldn’t get those sized-up-pieces to fit together right.

Now, part of the fitting process, especially with a new or untried pattern, is the making of a mock-up of crucial parts of a garment, such as the bodice. This mock-up is called a “muslin.” It’s called a muslin, because one uses cheap, throw-away fabric… such as oh, maybe a huge old piece of fabric one purchased at the thrift store for $1.30 (originally $2.59 bought on half-off-blue-tag-day.) When I bought this fabric, I had high hopes of it being vintage; the print seemed older and the hand was a tad heavier than our modern calico and very soft. The gals on my favorite sewing board, who are experts on such things as dating fabric, helped me to see that this couldn’t possibly be an older piece due to it’s enormous width of about a hundred inches. Older fabric never came any wider than thirty-six inches. And so, when making my muslin, I ruthlessly hacked into this disappointingly-non-vintage fabric.

But when I cut into it, I realized that it was not in fact a single, very wide piece of fabric, but rather three narrower strips sewn together in very fine narrow seams. Which meant that it was most likely a truly old piece of fabric; a very large piece of older fabric… large enough in fact to make an entire dress out of. And I was slicing it up to make a muslin. I was verklempt.

I calmed myself down enough to make a somewhat coherent post-of-panic on the aforementioned favorite sewing board, and being buoyed by my sisters’ encouragement, decided to make an actual dress out of my muslin pieces (which was trickier than it needed to be since I had carelessly hacked into the fabric willy-nilly.) But I did it. And I love it… I absolutely love this dress. This dress has that truly older look that I have been striving for but somehow always hitting just off the mark.

I originally intended to trim all the little trimmy places with rick-rack, but couldn’t find any all cotton rick rack in the right shade of blue (or green, or red, or violet, for that matter.) I almost accidentally laid this bias trim made from vintage gingham across the fabric and loved the way the two patterns played together. So I used it.

I added little gingham-covered-buttons. I love these little gingham-covered buttons, by the way.

Something else I love: pockets. Pockets trimmed with gingham bias trim…. ahh bliss. And since I was on a roll with the whole gingham-bias-trim-thing, I finished my seams and facing edges with it.

That way the dress looks sweet even when it’s lying in a rumply, inside-out heap.*

*Not that I ever leave my dresses in rumply, inside-out heaps, ya unnerstand. so yeah.



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35 Responses to The mistake that turned into a dress

  1. 1
    Jenni says:

    Hooray!!! Beautiful!

  2. 2
    Beautifully Veiled says:

    Praise the Lord that He redeemed the dress for you!!!! It is too precious! One day, when my children are a tad bit older, may I come up, spend a month with you, wear nothing but sweet cotton dresses and just be free!!????

  3. 3
    J♥Yce Burrows says:

    That be quite the lovely lavender lady dress, fabric, and workmanship, dear one♥

    btw, do you actually, like me, love the yesteryear idea of dresses actually being made from fine muslin ~ some with whitework embroidery(google images search: muslin dress)?

  4. 4
    Becky K. says:

    Me neither! No rumpled little thingies on my floor…ever….

    Cute dress.

  5. 5
    Anonymous says:

    Beautifully done! For less than $2 and nothing new purchased you have a wonderful dress with a cute story behind it. Compacting at its best.


  6. 6
    Tasha says:

    Beautiful my friend. You did a great job!!!

  7. 7
    Nabila Grace says:

    I love the detail of the fabric! :o ) yay for an oopsie *diamond* :o )

  8. 8
    Jane says:

    We were wondering when the next dress was coming. This is your best one yet! I'm happy it worked out so well for you. Did you make the gingham buttons or buy them like that?

    Like you, I love having pockets. I've thought about sewing them into all my skirts that don't have them.

  9. 9
    Beth says:

    Beautiful fabric and dress!!
    I have, for a very long time, invisioned a long flowing "gardening dress" for me in white with pretty dainty little lilacs in it. I then want a pretty gardening hat with a wide brim to go along with it, just to wear in the back yard when I want to look lovely for my hubby…..hehe….
    However, I really want to lose about 60lbs before I look the way I want to in it….possibly 80lbs…do you think I will ever get that dress???????????????

  10. 10
    Munger Mom says:

    Nicely done, Congrats!

  11. 11
    Anonymous says:

    I am glad you were able to recue the fabric. It is lovely. The dress has "nice lines" and the trim is pure Diane.

  12. 12
    Barbara H. says:

    I think you did a remarkable job. It is a sweet dress!

  13. 13
    Sommer says:

    Oh my! That turned out splendidly!!! I just love it and I agree, that gingham bias trim is PERFECT!!!!

    I'm so glad you were able to salvage that lovely fabric and make a dress that you are happy with :-)

    Lots of love,

  14. 14
    Lisateresa says:

    Go, Diane!! I knew it, I knew it, I knew it!

  15. 15
    Serena says:

    It is so perfect and beautiful! The gingham is JUST the right touch!

  16. 16
    Cheryl (Copper's Wife) says:

    It's beautiful. Truly. The gingham bias tape was just the thing, too! I'd love to see some pictures of you in some of your new frocks.

  17. 17
    Diane says:

    thanks for the cheer jenni!

    linda… oh yes, that does sound wonderful. we'll do nothing but sip tea, read delightful books and go for long leisurely walks….and then we'd miss our kids so much we'd have to call them up and invite them to join us;-)

    j♥yce… aren't those dresses just the lovliest things? i can't imagine the hours of work each one cost.

    becky… oh my goodness, no!

    debbie… i have gotten so used to not buying things that it hardly even occurs to me to go to the store… now ebay, with all of the old sewing things there that's another story, lol. i can't go there anymore- it tempts me too much!

    thanks tasha☺

    nabila… i really do love the fabric. it has such a nice feel to it.

    jane… you can buy a little kit of sorts for making covered buttons- that's what i used. they give things such a nice finished look, don't they?

    beth.. well, you can always make the dress now and take it in as you get slimmer. i am actually losing weight these days, so probably i'll have to take them in next summer. i think looking nice inspires me to take better care of myself somehow, does that make sense?

    thanks munger mom!

    ahhhh…. "nice lines"?? are you my mother??! yay! you finally figured out how to do the comment thing!! ☺

    thanks barbara♥

    sommer… i never would have thought that the gingham trim would have worked… the pattern is so busy! i just happened to lay the roll of gingham trim down next to a fabric piece when i was going through my trims and i immediately knew it was right. a very happy mistake:-D

    lisa teresa, my dear, i think you would make a very fine cheerleader♥

    oh thank you serena… and what a lovely avatar picture! is it new?

    cheryl… i'm hoping to wear this dress to a zoo trip on wednesday- should be lots of camera clicking going on. i'll try to get a decent one of me in the dress!

  18. 18
    Tracy says:

    So beautiful!!! The best "muslin" ever:)

    I adore the gingam bias tape, I love homemade bias tape, charming!


  19. 19
    Sabine says:

    Your dress is beautiful, Diane! I was so looking forward to the next dress and here it is. You are an inspiration!

  20. 20
    It's Just Dottie says:

    Lovely summer dress and made of dreamy cool looking fabric. My grandmother use to say dickens!!!
    So sweet.

  21. 21
    Ganeida says:

    Diane : That is lovely material & a truly lovely dress. I hope you get much enjoyment from wearing it lots & lots & lots. [like every day ☺]

  22. 22
    Susan T. says:

    Oh Diane…that is my dream dress. Floral prints with gingham accents are my absolute favorites.

    As a matter of fact, I was shopping for a birthday present (clothes of course!) for my grand-niece and my-oh-my the little dresses were so frilly and sweet!

    I dreamed how wonderful it would be if I could purchase the dress I want in size 4T and then take it to the nearest sympathetic seamstress (who wouldn't try to talk me out of it because the style is inappropriate to my age and figure!) and have her replicate the very same item for me, only in size…er…ahem…well, anyway, Large-ish.

    I signed up to use your favorite seamstress forum and am hopeful that someone can point me in the direction of a beginning/remedial sewing tutorial.

    In the meantime, enjoy your beautiful wardrobe. That gingham seam binding is the bomb!

    Kind regards from Susan T.

  23. 23
    agnusdei1996 says:

    So glad you made it work–it's absolutely lovely!

  24. 24
    vivian says:

    such pretty fabric! and I love the blue gingham! take your piccy in it for us!
    hey! I actually came up on your porch today and rang your bell… but alas, you were not to answer your door and it was dark inside!
    One of these days.. we shall meet again! lol!

  25. 25
    J♥Yce Burrows says:

    Me thinks your muslin tops those, yes time gobble lovelies(is that a word?), in a myriad of ways. :-)

  26. 26
    Susan says:

    It. Is. Beautiful. I love it! The gingham really blends well with the fabric. Aren't you glad you worked so much with it?!

  27. 27
    Cherie says:

    What a BEAUTIFUL dress. You did a wonderful "save" job!! I love the print with the gingham. I love to sew myself. I just can't seem to find enough time. How do you do it with 4 children and homeschooling and with such a busy life? Do you set aside a certain amount of time a day or week?
    Blessings dear sister in the Lord,

  28. 28
    Domestically Inclined says:

    Nicely done! It reminds me of the house dresses my mother used to wear around the house with an apron.

  29. 29
    Elissa says:

    Hello! I've been a lurker for a while, (except when you had a giveaway, I believe I commented then, but then, who can pass up a sweet give away right?) anywho, I just had to comment and tell you how much I adore your sweet dress. I just love how vintage it looks! And what a blessing that you were able to salvage that adorable fabric!


  30. 30
    Lady Dorothy says:

    You and everyone are right! That trim is darling and goes so perfectly with that fabric! Good eye!

  31. 31
    Diane says:

    tracy… sadly, i have an addiction to bias tape. making my own is my only way of supporting the habit;-)

    sabine… i've got the next one allll planned out (and it doesn't involve upsizing any patterns, so it might actually be done in a timely manner)

    dottie… so did mine♥

    ganeida… you know me so well. i have seriously had to restrain myself from wearing it every single day since i completed it! but i really want to wear it on our field trip wed, so i need to keep it clean. until then anyways:-D

    cherie… well, firstly i must admit that i am only schooling the younger two kids now, so that makes things a lot easier. but i do schedule a couple of hours of sewing into my days… here's a post i did on my schedule: (not that we always stick right to the schedule, but it's something to aim for yanno?)

    susan… girl, i know exactly what you mean about the little girls' dresses! it seems that everything degrades from sweet and adorable to skimpy and sleazy once you hit size 7. i wish i could dress us all in those sweet simple styles♥
    looking forward to seeing you at sensibility!

    thanks agnus☺

    vivian… you came up on my porch?! my mortification knows no bounds! it is a disaster area right now… flower pots and bags of potting soil and chairs all strewn around. i guess i'd better get out there and get those flowerpots filled, my chairs cleaned and the cushions on! then you can come over for tea and we'll sit on the porch together♥

    j♥yce… sounds like a word to me!;-)

    susan.. i am glad i put the effort into making it nice, i really am☺

    domestically inclined… really? well then i do feel as if i have succeeded! i was really aiming for that sweet housedress style.

    elissa.. i am so pleased you ventured out of lurkdom.. and speaking of giveaways, i should have another one. very soon!

    thanks lady dee, my dear☺

  32. 32
    ~~Deby says:

    Beautiful….love love love the bias tape touch…oh I wish you lived close…I need dresses like this badly…and I am not a experienced seamstress….you always stick with the stuff, and turn your projects into things of beauty…yes you do..IMHO

    still around, but not as much these days….I will try harder

  33. 33
    Heather says:

    Very pretty!!!!

    Thanks for visiting my blog and the sweet comment!

    Love, Heather

  34. 34
    Melodie says:

    That dress is absolutely darling! I had hoped to start some sewing projects this winter but with little (read no) experience I was a little more than worried. Your sweet post made me look forward to it again! Thanks and God Bless, love your blog!

  35. 35
    Diane says:

    deby.. hon, i'd love to sew you up a couple of these. if we were neighbors, i would!☺

    you're welcome heather.. and thanks for visiting me!

    melodie… the best way to get experience is to just start sewing, lol! i really only started up sewing a few years ago, and my gracious those first few projects were so full of mistakes. yipes. the more you sew though, the better you get;-)

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