Cutting loose

AUG 20, 2008 updated May 30, 2016

I spent the morning at Spoonflower headquarters yesterday, packaging fabric for mailing–a video to come soon!–and chatting with Danielle about fabric and Photoshop and photography.  When the babysitter returned with our girls, though, it was time to get outta there and get the kids something to eat–pronto, like.  I remembered my purse, I remembered the diaper bag, I remembered the stroller, the bag of library books, the bag of snacks, the water bottles, and the girls’ special stuffed animals.  I did not, however, remember my laptop.  It stayed on the office sofa all afternoon and then went with Stephen to a class for the evening before it came home with him.  That meant I had no internet access for about 10 hours–yikes!

So instead I did a little sewing, which was not a bad consolation prize at all.  While the little girls slept, my oldest daughter and I went through my sewing basket to see what we could come up with to do.  She’s going into the fifth grade on Monday and we both had back-to-school clothing on our minds.  In my giant pile of cloth, we found this late 60’s era purple pattern cocktail dress made of a super-heavy, nubby material–Hawaiian maybe?  Some kind of barkcloth?  I’d bought it solely for the phenomenal fabric, half-thinking that I’d turn it into a skirt for someone.  My daughter, though, wanted it as a dress.

I consider myself an advanced beginner at sewing.  I’ve made up many articles of clothing from patterns at this point, but haven’t altered an existing garment since I was just goofing around with sewing in college.  (And I was by no means good at it back then!  I just had pretty low standards for fit and seam straightness and that kind of thing.)  But my daughter was so excited about the idea of a wild purple print dress for herself.  I took a deep breath.  And started cutting.

I cut off about 12 inches of the hem, I ripped out armhole and neckline facings, I notched liberally, I took in side seams and opened up the neckline, and pretty soon I had a passable dress that could fit a 10-year old.  But more than that?  I had a blast!   It’s not fine couture or anything.  The seams are a little roll-y without those facings and the armholes are a tad too big.  My daughter loves it, though, and it felt great to just whip something up without worrying if I’d mess it up or make it look less-than-perfect.

I guess the moral of this sewing story is that I shouldn’t get so hung up with sewing perfection.  Why allow myself to get frustrated about something I really love to do?  Sometimes it’s just fun to bust out the scissors and start cutting, right?  Right.

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  • Thanks so much for posting this! I am new to the blog (love it!) and am always so happy to read about people breaking free in the sewing department. I trained to sew like a tailor, but I get more joy and so do my kids when I just go for it like I used to as a teenager before I knew better. And so fantastic to be not just saying but actually showing the kids what can be done with an old thing and a bit of creativity. And please pass on my congratulations to Stephen for his recent podcast interview which alerted me to your presence. I’ll be getting fabric from you guys for sure!

  • Great result. That fabric is fabulous. I remember my grandma doing the exact same thing with me before school went back. I was the only one wearing cut-down genuine 1960’s gold lame’ to science class!

  • That`s great. I love just tearing into fabric and turning it into something amazing. Plus, once you have the prototype, you can easily make more.
    I love this idea of designing your own fabric! Tons of ideas dancing through my head . . . do you ship internationally?

  • I think you made an excellent transformation of that dress! I’d have been proud to wear it to my first day of 5th grade. I’ve been sewing since 4th grade, and I still get nervous about cutting and ruining fabric, and make lots of mistakes, but I find if I just keep on trying, I end up with something nice, even if it’s not what I originally planned to make.

  • Man, you’ve hit it right on the head. I love sewing because of all of the things that one can figure out for themselves. When my mom talks about learning sewing as a child she would have to rip out any seams that weren’t 100% perfect, because “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well”. While that rings very true, its also worth doing if it is fun! And think about how much you learn when you just go for it! I loved your post and I love that your daughter has such great taste and sense of fashion adventure! Good luck with all of your back-to-schooling!

  • annemariesswinson

    Advanced beginner here too…and I think, how delightful! The wonderful thing about it is there will be no one else with her dress. How fun is that for her? Neato. 🙂

  • Love this, what a stylish 5th grader she’ll be!
    Maybe Spoonflower needs to do a repro of that fabric. It’s awesome!

  • Cuteness! I made one of those pillow-case dresses that you posted about a while back… as an advanced beginner myself, I need to know: HOW do you hem around a curved area without it getting all bunchy and rolly??