Monday, September 3, 2012

Sis Sews a Dress

I have two younger sisters that I’ll call Sis and lil Sis.  While we were growing up, my mother sewed garments for us or for herself.   I enjoyed watching my mother's projects and eventually took up sewing clothes for myself in my teens, since  I was tall and RTW garments were always too short.  Sis and I took Home Economics (sewing and cooking) in junior high school ( grades 7-9). It was required.  When Lil Sis came along 8 years later, I think it was optional.    Lil Sis found her vocation in fine art, with hobbies that include yarn bombing.  Sis works in IT like me, but as a hobby sews gorgeous quilts, but not clothing.   Family legend has it that Sis was so traumatized  by a sewing disaster during  high school, that she never attempted garment sewing again. It is told that she sewed set in sleeves into a blouse upside-down.  When she modeled it for the family, it looked great when her arms were held up in the air, not so good when they were at her side.  The whole family thought was enormously funny.   And teased her about it.

What's wrong with the sleeves?
  So back in June we were at the Quilters Unlimited quilt show, in the SewBatik booth.  Sis loves batik fabrics and uses them in her quilts.  In the booth there were display garments sewn from batik border print fabrics.  One was the Amy Butler Liverpool dress pattern that looked very much like the lovely one Kim made.    And the other was a dress made using Simplicity pattern 2588 and their double border print. Sis called me over to look at it. "Do you think I can sew a dress?" She asks. "Yes" I reply, noting the raglan sleeve. "Would you help me?" "Sure."  I reply. "And I'll make one too.  We could work on it during beach week."

Simplicity 2588

Beach week is an annual family vacation where we rent a big house at the beach and everyone comes to visit.  Theme meals are planned weeks in advance, but daily activities are whatever you want to do.  So we commit to the dress project by buying the required lengths of fabric and make note of the pattern number.
Batik Fabrics for Dresses

About a month before the  vacation, the emails start.

From: Sis
Sent: Tuesday, June 05, 2012 3:17 PM
To: Audrey

Subject: What was the pattern number?
I know I wrote that Simplicity pattern down twice.  Lost it.  What was the number?
From: Audrey
Sent: Thursday, July 19, 2012 8:32 AM
To: Sis

Subject: RE: What was the pattern number?
Simplicity 2588.  There are 38  good reviews of it on the PatternReview web site . Put 2588 in search box on LHS of screen.  None were made in batik border fabric though.  I can buy the pattern at one of the fabric shop sales. The regular price is $16.95, but they go on sale for 1.99 sometimes.

From: Sis
Sent: Tuesday, June 05, 2012 3:49 PM
To: Audrey
Subject: RE:What was the pattern number?
OK.  I will watch Jo Ann fabric sales too.  I will get it before beach week.

From: Audrey
Sent: Wednesday, June 06, 2012 7:59 AM
To: Sis
Subject: Pattern Size
Important thing to know when buying patterns. A pattern size is not equal to a ready to wear (RTW) size  You have to know your measurements and buy the pattern size that corresponds to those measurements.  Generally the pattern size is 2 sizes higher than RTW. For example I can buy a size 12 RTW top, but I sew a size 16 pattern.  Patterns come with multiple sizes in one packet   (8,10,12,14) and (14,16,18,20)  I buy the pattern in the  second grouping (14,16,18,20)   of sizes.

From: Sis
Sent: Tuesday, June 05, 2012 3:49 PM
To: Audrey
Subject: RE: Pattern Size
I was wondering about that, when you wrote on your blog that you sewed a size 16.

 Shouldn’t I also wash the material?  I don’t typically do that for quilts, but I was trying to remember what the rule is for clothes.
Can I sew on my little portable sewing machine for that dress?  I bought the pattern, but haven’t done anything with it yet.  Should I trim the pattern?  Should I see if it needs a (God help me) zipper?   Should I wash the fabric is cold or warm water? Now that you have announced my endeavor to everyone,  I’ll probably have an audience, like on a golf tournament.  “The audience is hushed, holding their breath on this approach…”  

From: Audrey
Sent: Thursday, July 19, 2012 8:32 AM
To: Sis
Subject: Question
About the dress, your description of golf tourny commentary cracked me up.  We could do it at your house so Urs can play with your cutter.  I don’t have anything to cut this year. 

Wash the fabric in the washing machine and dry in dryer.  Mine went through just fine with no color loss.  You can cut apart the pattern pieces, but don’t trim to a specific size until we figure out which one you need.  Warning, there are a lot of pattern pieces in those Pattern Runway patterns because there are many different styles.  You can pick the style we want to make (think it was straight skirt with sleeves) find those pattern pieces and separate them from the rest or just wait. 

What I want to do is cut out the size closest to your measurements in muslin and sew it up for fitting. I can do that before beach week. Once we get that fit the way you want, we can transfer any changes to the pattern pieces and cut out the fashion fabric. Simplicity has a lot of wearing ease built into the pattern. So if your bust is 38 and you chose a size based on that measurement, the fabric will be 42’ around the bust. This info is printed on the pattern piece at the bust, waist and hips. That is a really loose fit. Sometimes I make a size smaller in the bust so I don’t have gobs of fabric where I don’t want it. Fitting the muslin will tell me what kind of fit you like, and if we have to do any length changes for short or long torso, etc. So measure your bust, waist and hips and tell me which size you are closest too. It may be a combination 16 on top, 14 on bottom or vice versa.

From: Sis
Sent: Thursday, July 19, 2012 8:32 AM
To: Audrey
Subject:  Re:Question

I will measure myself tonight at home and send you the measurements.    I like the idea of sewing at my house.  That would work.  
I plan to wash the material this weekend.

From: Sis
Sent: Thursday, July 23, 2012 8:32 AM
To: Audrey
Subject: Arggg!
OK – I am officially old and fat.  I measured myself and also have officially quit eating.  40 35 43.  That’s a size 18 on the pattern.  Also I think a black zipper would be best for this dress.

From: Audrey
Sent: Monday, July 23, 2012 9:00 AM
To: Sis
Subject: Size is just a number
Remember pattern size in no way correlate to Ready to Wear (RTW) sizes.   Those are real close to my measurements. You always were more busty that me!   The size 16 will probably work just fine.    Do you want to line this dress?  It is not necessary but might be nice at least on the skirt so it skim over underwear and such.  

I will find a black zipper, I had set aside a tan one.

 So I cut out  and sewed up a muslin for the fitting.  It was my first time fitting a person other than myself.  Sis wouldn’t stand still. She wanted to socialize with the other gals in the kitchen or kept wanting to check on her daughters.   She was probably as nervous as I was.  Big sis was armed with pins. We got the fitting done and made a few adjustments.  She carries her famine reserves in the same place I do.   Ah genetics, they make fitting siblings easy.
We laid out the pattern pieces  on the fabric so the  border was at the bottom of the skirt. Sis cut the pattern pieces out. She remembers being taught to cut the notches out.  Clipping the notches was new. She remembered how to do darts.  She kept complaining about the big ugly 5/8 “ seam allowances, having always sewn a ¼ inch seam allowance.  She was a wiz at matching seams, being  an experienced quilter.  Marking and  fusible interfacings were all new.  So was edge stitching.  But she did all the cutting and sewing on the dress.  As she finished sewing the under arm seams,  Urs and I announced "You have just sewn in the sleeve!   On the last day of vacation, I put the zipper in for her so we could finish the dress and get down to the beach.  We really hadn’t thought ahead to pictures so they were sans makeup and with flip flops. Hence the cropping you will see below. Overall I thought it had been  a positive experience.  I let a few weeks go by before I asked her about it. 

From: Sis
Sent: Thursday, July 23, 2012 8:32 AM
To: Audrey
Subject: Re: will you clothing again?
I did enjoy the process of making the dress.  It wasn’t like when we were teens and we HAD to sew something to have a nice outfit.  Now we want to sew something to have something different and more flattering then if you bought it off the rack.  Plus the selection of material is so much more colorful and of better quality these days.  Also, I can see the immediate reward potential of a dress making project, vs a king size quilt project. My attention span is sometimes challenged with the larger projects. 

You have my permission to tell your readers why I was traumatized by my teenage blouse sewing event and it only took, what 35 years or so to try sewing clothes again. 

I have not worn the dress yet.  I am waiting for a cool fall day that coincides with a meeting where I meet others outside of my department.  It is front and center in my closet.  You can post the picture of the dress. I am betting the picture of me in it is icky.
It was odd, sewing the larger seam allowance.  The curved parts weren’t too hard to do with the darts in place.  I do believe my quilting experience of lining up the seams helped with that. Urs asked if I would sew another dress on my own, and I said no, because I wouldn’t have you close by to make it look so easy.
I bought some material to make some pajama bottoms so we will see if my skills have improved at all. 
I did like that auto up and down needle stop feature on your sewing machine you brought to the beach.  I took my machine in for maintenance last week.  And like a bee to a beautiful flower – I spied the Janome 12000 on display and bought it to replace my 11000.  I was able to trade up.  It has the up and down feature like yours.  That does speed thing along. I do like new toys.

Hey sis, remember when we were little, and Mom used to  dress us alike?


SueC56 said...

Audrey, lovely dresses and cleverly written posting. Enchanted Sis to keep on sewing garments. She'll get the hang of it.


Anonymous said...

What a beautiful "sister experience" and such lovely dresses on you both. The fit and fabric are excellent! Thanks for sharing.

shams said...

Fabulous! I loved reading the story and watching it unfold. Your sisters dress is beautiful and well fitting, as is yours!

Carolyn (cmarie12) said...

Thank you so much for sharing the entire experience with us. I was reading with baited breathe hoping that your sister ended up with a well fitted dress. I'm glad that you both did! You should help her with another one. I'm sure with a little more help, she might actually start sewing garments again. Oh wait, I think I forget to tell you how beautiful both dresses are! Again thanks for sharing!

velosewer said...

How cool. Mum tried the same with me and my Sis as our earliest Christmas photos are evidence of this. Great fabric choices.

Summer Flies said...

Audrey, both dresses are lovely. It's a great design.I had a great chuckle at the emails back and forth. I sewed (UFO) a dress at high school... still unfinished in a box at my mother's place. I think it just needs to be hemmed ... of course I'd never fit into it now - I was only 15! I have 4 sisters and none of them sew anything, but my mum used to sew us everything when we were little. I recently bought a Singer 66 treadle - same as the one Mum had, but haven't had time to play on it yet.

Mary said...

Are you a comedian in your spare time? I was enthralled, charmed, and entertained by your story. Having grown up with only brothers and a father (no mom), I have none of these bonding experiences. :-) The dresses are darling!

Beth (SunnyGal Studio) said...

batik fabric, what a great choice for that pattern. love your sisterly email discussion, sounds like a fun vacation and you both have fantastic dresses as a result. thanks for sharing.

Robyn said...

Both of your dresses look great and the emails made me laugh :)

kbenco said...

What a fun story. Both of your dresses look terrific.

Gail said...

Yeah for Sis, who by the way, should be told that she is neither old nor fat!

Uta said...

That's a lovely story, thanks for sharing! I wish I had a sis to sew with. Your dresses are gorgeous, and what a perfect fit.

Vicki said...

Well you have recorded this all for history! Great dresses ladies!! Sis must be very proud of that dress . And very happy with old sis for all the help.

Sewingelle said...

Great dresses and fabulous story! Thanks to Sis (and you!) for sharing.

Bunny said...

Great post, cute dress.

Lisette M said...

What fun Audrey! You both ended up with beautiful dresses. I think your sister has the garment sewing bug now!

Karin said...

Sisters are the best!
Both dresses look great. I do love a border print!

KimP said...

Funny and awesome post!!! I remember that fabric - I think I still have some left to make a skirt. That dress I made has now become a tunic - because I can wear it more into fall with a pair of jeans, rather than as a dress.

Your dresses turned out beautiful. I love it when a sewing angel gets her wings - when a quilter learns she can wear her creation rather than laying it on a bed or hanging it on a wall which is about all you can do with a quilt. You were a wonderful sister to shepard her through the process!

Lynn said...

Great post! The dresses are lovely.

Amanda S. said...

What a fun story! Both dresses are fabulous and fit wonderfully.

pdiddly said...

very entertaining story finished by two lovely dresses

Claire S. said...

What a beautiful sisterly story, and at the end 2 beautiful dresses ! Your sister should be very proud of herself.

Mary said...

What fun! I loved reading your sister story. The dresses turned out great.

liza jane said...

I love this post! And both the dresses, too. Fabulous batik!

Linda said...

Loved this post. Your and your sister's dresses look great!

Lynneb said...

Oh Audrey, I just loved reading this post! Both you and Sis look fabulous in your dresses!

Anonymous said...

Hilarious!! Thank you for sharing.

Tia Dia said...

Congratulations to your sister! How fun to have a sibling to sew with. I have one brother, and his expertise is building houses! Both your dresses are just beautiful. And thanks to your sis for letting us in on this adventure. I really do hope she was encouraged. Her dress is lovely!

Renae said...

Ok first off, this was Hilarious to read (totally made my week!) Second and most importantly your sister looks AMAZING in that dress. Your dress ain't to shabby either :).

j.kaori said...

What a fun post! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it! Both dresses look wonderful -- the styles and prints you chose are great.

SewOm said...

What a great story! Both your dresses are fabulous, and now I'm inspired to see if my family would like to do a beach week. It sounds like fun. Oh - and your shoes rock!

Susan said...

Thank you so much for sharing both the journey and the fabrics! This was a truly wonderful story, and the fabrics are so wonderful, I immediately ordered some for myself. You're always an inspiration, thank you.

Carole Mellin said...

What darling dresses and what a wonderful opportunity to do a little 'sisterhood sharing'. I'd love an opportunity to get together like that with my sister, but alas, we share none of the same interests. We love each other, but don't have a lot in common, so enjoy what you have. The dresses are beautiful and inspiring.

a little sewing said...

I am so impressed with the fantastic job your sister did on her dress after a 35-year hiatus. Both of you look wonderful. I loved the story!!

The Slapdash Sewist said...

"Ah genetics, they make fitting siblings easy."

That made me lol. Loved the story and I love the two dresses. You both look great!

Psycho Sue- Sew Misunderstood said...

God bless you for your patience. They are beautiful dresses.

Alice said...

Ah, I really enjoyed reading your story! And I'm glad your sister enjoyed making her new dress, after all those years in the wilderness!

The dresses are both lovely. Please pass my compliments on to your sister - I think the dress looks wonderful on her.