There were only two things left on my list for 2014:
- Make a dress out of Liberty of London fabric.
- Properly line a dress.
2014 is ending and I did those things. I did them so well, I am having trouble caring about anything else I made this year. Or ever.
That anxious feeling most makers have before actualizing the thing in their head? I’m beginning to get used to that. What I was calling my “birthday dress” became a daily source of welcomed anxiety while I planned its making. So, once I dropped the idea that I needed to wear it on my December birthday and simply set out to MAKE it on my birthday, the dress in my head was free to come out.
My go-to pattern combo (made previously here, here, and here) of Simplicity 2217 (bodice) and McCall’s 6503 (skirt) has become a signature silhouette of mine. I wanted this version made with the best fabric I could afford and no shortcuts. The dress in my head would be the anchor of my wardrobe, setting the tone for all makes after it. No pressure.
Since there was no fitting to contend with, I could really focus on fabric choice. And, for me, for this dress, that meant Liberty of London. At about $30 a yard, I always felt Liberty was out of my league. Like I needed to become a better sewer to earn the right to cut into it. I wouldn’t be caught cutting into the loveliest cotton in the world with half-ass sewing and fitting skills. And mine are finally where they need to be. With help from a vote on Instagram, I made my choice, and bought 3 yards of Liberty Tana Lawn in the “Wiltshire” print from Fabric.com. It exceeded my expectations when it arrived. Gorgeous in every way.
With all of my meticulous planning, the dress in my head couldn’t do much about the lack of available time in my life. Spending my birthday sewing was a noble idea, but a fully-lined dress (my first attempt) was more than an 8-hour work day’s worth of making. I learned this at the end of Day 1, when cutting was all I’d accomplished. This is where an amazing gift from my husband was presented.
He’d already agreed to Daddying solo, so I could spend my first day of winter vacation sewing obsessively. I was not prepared for him to offer that arrangement for the rest of the week! He told me to think of it as “a sewing retreat at a local B&B.” No diapering, cleaning, or cooking. More like a well-balanced eat, sew, play, eat, sew, play, sleep, repeat kind of pattern. That was my life for 4 days straight. And, it was bliss.
I spent my birthday week exactly where I wanted to be, doing exactly what I wanted to do, with my favorite two people only yelling distance away.
When it was all sewn and done, it took 32 hours to make (about 8 hours a day). An interesting fact for planning another ‘no shortcuts’ dress. But, if I’m honest with myself, only 70% of that time was spent on making. The other 30% was spent:
- Fretting over cutting into the Liberty. It was like one of those professionally decorated cakes that’s too splendidly crafted to slice.
- Figuring out the construction sequence for attaching the lining of a mock-wrap bodice with midriff. The original dress pattern had only facings (which I left out) and no lining – so, without instructions, there was much staring and noodling.
- Troubleshooting my machine until I realized my tension problems had to do with a bobbin holder I replaced crookedly.
- Basking in the moment. Oohing, aaahing, and fondling the Liberty.
If I make a dress under these circumstances again, I will plan for a full 32 hours of making (70%), fretting (10%), fawning (5%), and solving (15%). The spell of Liberty has worn off a bit by now though and my fear of linings is behind me, so my next version of this dress would take about 25 hours. A whole day with no sleep or responsibilities. Three, 8-hour working days. Or, in my case, one full week.
I know it’s cliché to say, but this dress has changed my life. For real, y’all. I can’t stop looking at it or thinking about it. Just as I had hoped, it turned out to be THE dress. The one that represents my style and skills. It’s been hanging on the outside of my closet door ever since I hand stitched the lining to the zipper (a dressmaking milestone for me). Everything about it makes my soul smile.
In 2014, I returned to sewing. Before the year ended, I made the dress of my dreams.