Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sewing Makes Sense for a Girl with Old-Fashioned Sensibilities

I thought I would begin my blogging adventures by sharing the very first “wearable” garment I ever sewed.

In high school, my friends and I were in love with all things Jane Austen.  For a drama class exercise, we decided to go all out and create our own costumes.  Of course, this required some parental help, as none of us had ever used a sewing machine. 
B’s mom was kind enough to volunteer her machine and time to the endeavor if we showed up with everything else we would need.
I distinctly remember piling into A’s old Volvo and heading for the local JoAnn Fabric Store.  We spent quite a bit of time with the pattern books, trying to find something basic, without zippers and buttons, but with a definite Regency flair.  I recall lusting after this Folkwear Empire Dress pattern and deciding that it was too complicated for a first-timer. 

We settled on McCalls 8100, an empire seamed dress with puffed cap sleeves and ties that pulled in the extra volume without any need for zippers or buttons, grabbed three of them, and headed to B’s house.

Turns out, patterns come in different sizes – who knew?  I am not sure how we missed this – it must have been all the excitement and having no idea what to look for – it’s amazing the final dresses turned out as well as they did!  So, we headed back to the fabric store.  At the time, patterns were stamped “no return” upon purchase, but thankfully, the cashier remembered us and agreed to a size swap. 
Of course, this was before I had a general knowledge of McCall’s tendency to have way too much ease in their patterns.  The finished product is rather oversized, especially in the non-draping cotton/poly blend I chose.  And there are other issues:  I did not tuck the raw edges of the sleeve into the binding, and the set-in sleeves are a bit messy.  It is interesting to note that I was attempting minor alterations to the first thing I ever made.  I envisioned my dress with a bit of a train (remember that Folkwear pattern?).  With that in mind, I cut the back skirt piece at bit longer than the pattern piece.  Well, at least I thought it was the back . . . turns out, it was the front.  With the scraps I had left over, my mom helped me level out the hem with my remaining yardage.
There are other things that went awry, but we did all end up with finished products, and even went to school as the Dashwood family for Halloween that year. 

This is a dress that I will never wear again (save for my recent photo shoot), but I am loath to part with it for sentimental reasons.  I love all of the “mistakes” that were made because it reminds me how far I have come, and how much more I have to learn about garment construction.

Do you still have the first thing you ever made? 


  1. The first thing I ever made was a pair of red and pink striped shorts for my mother... with pockets. She was a trooper and wore them (indoors) all summer.

  2. I was in the eighth grade when I made my first garment. It was a pinafore/jumper made with a twill type fabric. Brown with orange and yellow flowers. (in the early 70's) I was afraid I'd go too fast and run over my fingers with the needle if I pushed the foot pedal, so I made just about the whole thing by turning the wheel!

  3. Oh God, the first thing I ever made was a pair of hip hugger bell bottoms and an Eisenhower jacket in a brown windowpane check. It is loooong gone!
    My sewing teacher loved it. The only mistake I remember was pressing the creases in the pants inside out, but that was easily remedied.
    Certainly no way it would still fit. I commend you on that!!!!

  4. Laura Mae, are you saying the dress above is the one with all the mistakes? It is GORGEOUS! Oh, do keep it! Yes, I still have the first thing I ever made. It is a tiny square of an apron, complete with darts, sewn on a ribbon waistband/tie ends. (I gave it to my mother, a tradition I carried on for any new needleart/craft that I tried.) Anyhoo, your dress is lovely; I hope you keep it forever! Have a great day and God bless.