Dress of My Year

There were only two things left on my list for 2014:

  1. Make a dress out of Liberty of London fabric.
  2. 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.

Number 001

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.

Design Notes, No. 001

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.

Liberty of London Tana Lawn "Wiltshire"

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.

Number 001

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.

Number 001

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.


Number 001

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.
Number 001

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.

Number 001

In 2014, I returned to sewing. Before the year ended, I made the dress of my dreams.

Four Wrongs Make a Nice

I got one thing SO right while making this dress that the FOUR things I screwed up don’t even matter anymore.

Four Wrongs Make a Nice Dress

The dart rotation dry run from my last post worked out well enough to make something longer than a crop top. So, I drafted a skirt onto my modified Simplicity top to make a simple shift dress with a gathered neckline.

Four Wrongs Make a Nice Dress

This rayon challis from my stash has just the right amount of drape without being flimsy, making the neckline gathers drape all lovely-like. And, even though the abstract floral print looks like drunk fireworks, I’ve grown to love it now that it’s sewn up.

Four Wrongs Make a Nice Dress

Alas, here is why I nearly set fire to the dress:

  1. A malevolent force distorted the back shoulder seamline at some point, forcing me to improvise with a shoulder dart.
  2. I sewed the bias binding I was so proud of cutting to the wrong side of my gorgeous neckline and had to finagle it in place with a lot of unplanned handstitching.
  3. I didn’t test fit the pattern’s original sleeves (hope and denial are unreliable sewing tools) and discovered a mile of ease in the sleeve cap that I reluctantly gathered to fit. The sleeve ended up poofing out a bit too much, so I sewed a tiny pleat in the sleeve hem to tame things.
  4. Just when I thought it was over, I tried on the dress and the pockets were like two inches too low on the side seams. What? Really!?

I finished the hem with a frown and tried it on one last time to confirm the dress was indeed a wadder. But, wait a minute….Hey, girl, what’s your name?….it didn’t look so bad. Kinda cute, actually. The neckline gathers are so pretty, they just draw the eye up and away from my shitty construction secrets.

Four Wrongs Make a Nice Dress

Rescuing this dress from arson was a confidence boost. My sewing skills are horribly rusty after such a long hiatus and projects like this remind me to take the “L” off my forehead and keep sewing.

The Four Wrongs Make a Nice Dress. My kind of math.

Four Wrongs Make a Nice Dress


Introducing….The “Pinkadot Power” Frock

I made this dress for last week’s Tickled in Pink challenge.

The "Pinkadot Power" Frock

The "Pinkadot Power" Frock

The "Pinkadot Power" Frock
The dressmaking (and loving) story is told here.

This is my third time making this dress style (pleated wrap bodice with midriff + dirndl skirt) and it certainly won’t be my last as I think I’m finally done fussing with the fit.

Hope you dig it half as much as I do.