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I am a mother, a grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge was published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon


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Tuesday, December 3, 2019

A little dress

A week ago my youngest granddaughter turned one in San Francisco. I sent her a doll from my mom, a pair of moose hide Mukluks (she will be here over Christmas) and I decided to go old school and send her a plaid dress too.

I have a terrible time imagining weather in places outside my window (which is why I am the world's worst packer) but I had enough sense not to send velveteen or wool to California.

Fortunately I found some plaid in a very nice rayon and hopefully that counts as winter wear on the west coast.

For a pattern I pulled out this out of print Jalie that I got on a sale of their old stock a while ago. I really really enjoyed sewing it and seeing practical but traditional baby clothing details. There is a double folded hem with the potential to add nearly another 4" in length and a back that opens full length for easy dressing.

The pattern also came with some cool bloomers, big enough to cover the biggest diaper, and I made those too. We'll see about the fit but one of the reasons Jalie is my go-to for kids clothes is that there are so many sizes in one pattern - this one has 10 baby/toddler sizes.

I am sewing a lot for family these days (this has had an impact on the blog I am trying to figure out - I might block family members!) because I want to show things that are also surprises.

Right now most of the time I am sewing requests. I realized that rather than having family handle the fact that my kids probably don't want to wear what I would wear, everyone is happier, including me, if I make to order. This also expands my own repertoire and experience by introducing new territory to me.

That said every once in a while I enjoy sewing something that is just a sewing indulgence for me, like this traditional little dress.

It reminded me of the smocked dresses my friend's mother made for my daughter years ago. Who does that these days? Who has the time? Beautiful party dresses with smocking patterns that must have been decades old, giant hems like this one.

Even babies have history.


Kay said...

This is such a pretty little girl's dress! What a perfect, traditional Christmas dress. I love that it has a 4" double hem. Sometimes hems show a little wear where they were folded, but with a wide hem a bit of lace or ribbon can be sewed over the line and it's just another design feature. Since babies mostly go up, not out for a few years after the first year, she'll get plenty of use from the dress.

I haven't lived in the East Bay for almost 40 years, but my memories are that indoor temps were considerably colder than the indoor temps in more frigid climates. We didn't have great insulation, and furnaces tended to be a gravity-feed unit in the center of the house or a few wall units. When my kids lived in San Francisco 10 years ago their apartments also didn't have central heating.

My parents were always surprised at how cold our home was when they visited, given that it almost never got below freezing in the Bay area. But a 60 degree house is cold, whether the outside temperature is 55 or -5.

Anonymous said...

What a sweet little outfit, and so seasonal; I can imagine many future iterations in all kinds of prints; it must take the tiniest bit of fabric!

I enjoyed the new newsletter - turn of the cloth is one of those logical things that I forget in the heat of the moment!


SuryaSews said...

Barbara, oh my, this is just adorable! I lived in LA for two years a while ago, and even there it was cool in the winter, damp. I spent thanksgiving with a sibling two years ago in Sonoma county, near the coast and it was cool and damp at night. I wouldn’t, not send a corduroy or velvet outfit! Thank you for sharing!

barkcloth said...

Hi Barbara,

I once made an adorable smocked dress for the newborn baby of my brother. I never ever saw it again, not even on a photograph. No need to say that it didn't encourage me to sew something else for his next three kids. I admire your sewing for relatives, but I only sew for my mother nowadays, besides for myself.
Thank you for your blog, bye, Barkcloth

Maggie said...

The little dress is so pretty. I sewed too long for my granddaughter. Then it got to where I would ask my daughter if Kayley would wear something. She would say, if you big enough to get her in it! I knew then it was time to stop, even if I didn’t want to. Maggie

Anonymous said...

PS Laughing about your packing problem, I have a similar issue and have a long history of arriving in a chilly in summer place with the linens I would have wanted at home in August, or insisting that everyone have sweatshirts and long sleeves for a summer trip to Montreal (thinking "CANADA! It will be chilly") when the city was in the grip of a terrible heatwave. Its hard to buy hot weather clothes for a family quickly in Montreal in August, I can tell you that.


Bunny said...

Who does that? (smocking), Well, lots of people. Grandchildren can be an inspiration for our highest skill sets. They inspire the techniques that Moms didn't have time for. But young moms smock too. They frequent the smocking boards I visit. You reach a point in life when you are not racing to see how fast you can "whip something out." You are not making things with the best bargain you can find because you have worked and saved and planned. You buy great fabric, sewing with heirloom techniques and give the classic styles to your children and grandchildren to give to their children and grandchildren. Given that magazines like Classic Sewing and groups like SAGA are dedicated to the heirloom arts and continue today as they have for many years is proof that people are still doing heirloom sewing, smocking, and classic simple designs. I'm one of them and like all people with hobbies, I find time for what I love.

Kathy d said...

While your dress is cute, I’m one of those that does smocking and would much prefer it over a simple dress that I can whip up in a few hours. It brings me great joy and I take pride in every smocked and/or heirloom dress that I make. My 3 granddaughters have been well dressed for several years now (6, 7, and 9 years old). They will all still wear smocking, though I have had to come up with older girl designs. I enjoy the challenge of that as well. I would love to see fellow sewists encouraging others to pursue the fine art of smocking and heirloom sewing so that it will not become a lost art. It is so classic! My granddaughters have worn some of the clothes that I made for their moms and the dresses and styles are just as appropriate and beautiful today as they were years ago.


Corinna said...

It's a lovely dress for your sweet grandaughter. I'm one of those who still loves smocking - even as a busy mother of 4. I firmly believe you always have time for whatever you want to do and handwork has always been important for me. My daughter lived in her smocked dresses for play and going out. I made a few each year for her and because they were quality fabric they last so well. I loved the process of smocking and sewing and she loved wearing my creations. Now she's 14 my sewing for her has changed a little and my evenings are more often spent knitting socks for my family members these days. (Another pastime in which the time spent making the end product has no relevance, it's all about enjoying the process.)

lulu said...

I wasn't a fan of smocking (I remember smocked pillows from the '70s) until I saw this smocking-enhanced version of Simplicity 2059 (made by the designer herself):

She shared some pretty cool inspiration photos here: