The Dress is Almost as Fun as the Music

Take a look at my choir dress!


Two years ago, I had room in my life for some classical music again.  I rejoined my local Master Chorale after a long break.  Of course performing with a choir group requires a choir dress within a dress code such as floor length, elbow length (or longer) sleeves, and a modest neckline…in black.  What’s a sewing girl to do?  Does she spend a fortune on a lovely gown that will only be worn on occasion IF she can even find one that fits the required description?  Last I looked, modest necklines and long sleeve gowns were not to be found.  Does she run to the discount store and throw together a cheap black maxi skirt and black top?  No and no!  She sews herself something fabulous.  And if you are THIS she, you make this your first adult sewing project EVER!!  Yes, it was definitely a risk that payed off to use Project Runway lingo.

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At the time that I was pondering what to do, New Look 6000 was having its day.  And it struck me that I needed a dress with the party on the top, since that’s really all that is seen by the audience unless you’re in the front row.  And I rarely am since I’m tall-ish.  This pattern has so many great details from the waist up: assymetric waist pleating, sleeve cuffs, and a fabulous 60s-style collar.

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I found a decent wool blend from JoAnn, and used a remnant of black velvet for the cuff and collar contrasts.  Being that this was the first garment I sewed for myself, I measured myself and the pattern pieces several times to make sure before cutting.  To lengthen the dress and avoid having to do any kind of slit or kick pleats, I overlayed a long A-line skirt pattern during the tracing process.  My mom, who owns an antique/consignment store is always a great resource and she brought over several brooches for me to choose from, and from that choice I picked buttons for the cuffs with the right amount of sparkle to coordinate.  She sings in the choir with me, too, by the way.  Its a fun girls night out for us, with our choir friends.  That may sound a little nerdy to some, I guess.  I think I figured my cost on this dress was around $32!


I was so grateful this project turned out.  It is fun to wear and adds something extra special for me at performances.  My husband says it is always easy to find me right away because the dress is so different from what others are wearing and the way the pin catches the light.  I’m thankful for my husband, too.  Despite knowing nothing about music, he comes to all my performances in support of something I love so much!



So I am working on Valentine’s Day tops for my girls, and I got to reminiscing about what I have made for my kids over the years.  I don’t really want to go far back to do in-depth reviews of everything, so I am just going to document it all here (mostly for myself) with a few notes on patterns if I feel so inclined.  It’s that part of me that wants to preserve memories, so everything is just going in this post.  I’m probably just using this as an excuse to procrastinate on recent things that need to be photographed and reviewed!  Here we go!

I just need to preface that for almost every item I could probably state, “I learned a lot working on this one,” because, really, I have learnt as I went and this is pretty much a thorough history of what I have made minus some odds and ends, baby stuff,  and some extensive home dec.

Miss A’s 1st Birthday Outfit:

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I had to sew my first daughter her first birthday outfit!  This is McCall’s 5834 wrap top with the’s Layered Tulle Twirl Skirt.  I LOVE this outfit.  The wrap top has so many possibilities.  I wish I’d sewn more from this pattern.  I learned about bias binding on this one.  A close inspection in person shows one really shoddy arm-binding and a perfect one.  Guess which one is the one my mom sewed (as well as the entire neck-binding)?  That is another theme that runs through some of these clothes:  “Mom Saves Daughter’s Procrastinating Butt the Night Before Big Event/Photo Session.”  She’s really the best, has been sewing nearly her whole life, and was a Home Economics major.  The skirt is amazing, gets lots of compliments, and is a step up from a plain tulle tutu skirt because of the incorporation of fabric in the layers.  BUT, be prepared to gather forever.  I am a slow sewist, but this skirt – which I have now sewn twice – takes a long time to put together.  I don’t think I have it in me to try it again until I do it on my serger.

mccalls 5834

Christmas 2009:


I really like the color story here.  Mr. T (my son) is in a vest made from Simplicity 4762.

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Poor boys – they get vests and ties while the girls get all the fun stuff.  But they really don’t care, and he gets my sewing attention where it counts to him:  Halloween.  He’s very detail-oriented, so I get specific requests and instructions and I have spent a significant amount of time for him pretty much every year in that category.  With this vest, I learned that your lining needs to be at least as big (or bigger) than the shell.

Simplicity 4762 Oliver and S

Miss A is wearing the Oliver and S 2+2 blouse in an eggplant poly silk.  I really love this blouse and it is what I am using for the girls’ Valentine’s shirts, so I’ll review it later, although these can be found all over the internet.  Such a simple, modern top with just the right amount of embellishment.  The skirt is also a tutu from called the Fancy Filled Sewn Tutu in three pretty, subtle shades of tulle: eggplant, rusty orange, and a brownish color.  This one is easy peasy and always get compliments at dance class.  She was 18 months here and both girls aged almost 3 and 4.5 still wear this over a leotard to dance in the fall, so I think we got our money’s worth.  You can make this for every holiday and event throughout the year, and the instructions have ideas for what to use as “filling” in the pocket layer.  I later used it for a princess costume for her and filled it with painted wooden castles from the craft aisle, silk flowers, and ribbon.  It’s a favorite in the dress-up box now.


Christmas 2010:

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Again, boy gets tie; girls get elaborate outfits!  Mr. T’s tie is a pattern from  I found the sizing off, and you can see here it is hanging longer than I’d like, but it’s a good tie pattern and you can get it right by sewing a muslin first (or better measuring).  Here Miss A is in the second version of the Layered Tulle Twirl Skirt.  Miss B is in New Look 6903, which I altered just a bit to add various fabric bands, ruffles, and tulle.  I see in my notes although she’s 9 months old here, I sewed the newborn size, but with the size small length.  That’s pretty typical of Big 4 patterns to run large.  Otherwise it was a very simple pattern to sew from and makes a really pretty dress for such simple lines.  I found the yoke with working buttons to be a nice detail.

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And since we’re on this pattern, I am going to sneak in one Halloween costume made from this pattern for Miss B because it turned out so darn cute:

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As Miss A would say, it’s so darlable!  I was very proud to get the point done right in the hat, because I failed years earlier on a Hersey Kiss costume for my son.  We still get great laughs around here about the “poor, melted” Hershey kiss without a proper point!

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We’re almost there!

Christmas 2011:

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That one shows the outfits well, and here is our favorite “fun” one:

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I didn’t want to overwhelm myself with too much sewing that year and I had found the pretty plaid skirts on clearance at Target the year before, so I just wanted to add that extra-special little something for each girl so that they weren’t dressed identical or straight from a catalogue page.  That’s the benefit in knowing how to sew, right?  The boy was thrilled that I let him wear jeans…no need to sew him anything!

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For Miss A, I sewed a vest from Simplicity 2534.  I love this pattern, and how this turned out.  Plus I learned the difference between bias binding and bias facing.  This one called for bias facing.  I am pretty sure I figured it out through my Reader’s Digest Complete Book of Sewing.  The size 3 (her age here) fit well, but seemed a little short for my taste.  I would add length next time, and hopefully there will be a next time in either the vest or coat version.  Miss B is in New Look 6039:

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This pattern would make an awesome princess/peasant costume with the criss-crossing straps.  Although I did staystitch the neckline, it still seemed to stretch out too large.  Or perhaps the pattern drafting is off.  I’m not really sure which it is, and it has made me hesitant to try this pattern again.  But it made a very cute overdress.

Simplicity 2534 new look 6039

Easter 2012.  I did a little bit of reusing here.  Miss B wore the 1st birthday outfit at the very top of this post as a hand-me-down, and I made Miss A a coordinating dress with the leftover fabrics:

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This dress is another version of the Oliver and S Birthday Party Dress that I reviewed thoroughly on a previous post here.  On this one I used the tie variation instead of the button tab.

We made it!  You deserve an award if you have read this far.  I can see that I have mainly sewed for occasions such as birthdays, Easter and Christmas.  I have less motivation to finish if there isn’t a deadline looming.  I hope to change this in 2013 and sew more consistently on most days and at a fun, enjoyable pace.  Also, I spent the last several years sewing for my kids and upon reaching a certain skill level I decided last year I wanted to sew for myself, too.  So I hope to spend 2013 sewing mostly everyday,  wearable clothes with just the occasional special-occasion outfit, because there is a certain amount of items here that got very little wear.  However, I regret none of it.  Each project has taught me so much and I remember fondly them wearing each one.  Sewing is such a rewarding and useful hobby.  Until next time!

Pinterest Party Dress

One thing I love to use Pinterest for is to peruse for color combinations.  I just love color palettes!  For wardrobe and home styling, I like to think as an artist does about color.  I’ve even pulled out my trusty color wheel on many occasions.  When my first daughter’s birthday was coming up I had this newly purchased pattern from a recent Joann sale, New Look 6140, and some pretty coral and white graphic home dec fabric left over from a project.  So I turned to Pinterest to help me with a cool, modern color combo.  One of those was blue and coral:

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I was sold, so I ran to JoAnn and picked up some royal blue quilting cotton to pair with it.  Here’s what I came up with:


I made this in May, and I’m still pretty thrilled with the results.  It was a hit with my daughter because of its twirling ability!  She and I grabbed these photos just this past week on the last warm day of the season.  Phew!

Pattern Description: New Look dress for toddler has cross-over bodice and full skirt with optional ribbon belt, trim and hemlines. Make matching or contrast bias binding at neckline.

Pattern Sizing: 1/2 – 1 – 2 – 3 – 4.  I made the size 3 (for an average size turning 4 girl) with size 4 length + 1.5 inches.  It was a perfect fit!

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes, I think so.


Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes, I used them and they were good from what I remember.  I did use my Reader’s Digest Complete Book of Sewing for the side lapped zipper installation.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I love the half circle skirt.  Any little girl loves a skirt that can twirl, and it actually gives a lot of movement and drape for a quilting cotton.  I love the opportunities for mixing prints on the border and bias trim.

 Fabric Used: coral and white home dec cotton and royal blue quilting cotton, both from JoAnn’s.

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Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: Yes, I made View B without the applique and with a self belt instead of ribbon.  Also, next time I need to alter the order slightly, as the pattern has you apply all the bias before the side seams which works well for the zipper side, but for the other side you end up with an unsightly seam with the bias edges showing.  I don’t remember if the instructions have you stitch down the front wrap, but I did for modesty.

 Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I would like to make this again next summer as a maxi dress since she was asking for a “dress all the way to my toes”.

 Conclusion: Modern dress with a classic wrap bodice, and lots of opportunities for pattern mixing and embellishment.  I think I have a “pin” worthy dress here!


The hair accessory was made from this pattern: Anais Water Lily.  Highly Recommend!