Just as with the elusive answer to “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?,” those of us who sew can try to answer “Which comes first, the fabric or the pattern?” The answer, at least as I see it, is “It depends.” And sometimes, even, it is a little of both.
When I saw this fabric on the website of Mendel Goldberg Fabrics last Fall, I really did not stop to think about a pattern. It was a “bolt end,” 1 3/8 yards of 58” wide Italian silk. With that width, I wasn’t particularly concerned about the length being under 1 and ½ yards. I just ordered it as soon as I could.
Upon arrival, the fabric was even prettier in person, shimmery with “polka dots” woven in, fluid as only silk can be, and the picture of Spring. At that point, I was up to my ears with my Winter sewing, so I thought about it only casually until just a few weeks ago. I already had this pattern in my collection, and in the back of my mind, I had paired that fabric with the dress in View B on the right.
One interesting thing about vintage patterns is the yardage requirements are often given for widths that are narrower than many modern fabrics are produced in. For that reason, it can be difficult to determine exactly how much fabric is needed for a particular design. I’m getting better at sensing what I need, so I just assumed that I would have enough fabric to make that dress. I had my heart set on it, actually. So much so, that when Britex Fabrics announced an upcoming sale of silk fabrics, I sent off for swatches for coordinating silk for the short jacket (in view A) and lining for the dress.
Dutifully ordered, the fabric arrived from California, and it, too, was even prettier in person! I was in love, and really could not wait to get started, first on the dress, and then on the jacket.
Then reality hit. When I took out the pattern pieces, here is what I found for that unusual flounced skirt:
My heart sank as I knew immediately I did not have enough fabric. There was going to be no Rumplestiltskin to help me with this one. I went back to my pattern collection and pulled out two more possibilities.
With both these dresses I would have to rethink the jacket, as the styles would not compliment each other. I stewed over this, re-measured, re-thought, and left it all in a heap in my sewing room. There was something about that shimmery silk that kept telling me that a dress made from it needed to have some movement to it – like the flounced half-skirt pictured in the pattern. And then it hit me. If I made the front part of the skirt the same as the back, I could probably just squeak it out.
My completed muslin verified this for me, and, not only that, I loved the look, at least done up in muslin. Once again, using the couture technique of laying out and cutting each pattern piece individually enabled me to manipulate the pieces to make the most of the fabric I had available to me. Fortunately, there was no matching to be done, although there is a specific up and down to the design.
As far as the jacket – losing the diagonally shaped flounces on the skirt, makes the effect of the jacket not quite as dramatic, but I think it will still be very flattering – and appropriate. (The jacket has a million pieces to it, so it will be quite the project…!)
Well, I can’t leave this post without sharing another color of Spring, although this one is not silk and not shimmery. Pink cotton gingham is the picture of Spring, especially in a little dress for a little girl! When I made a crib quilt for my younger granddaughter, Carolina, I backed it in pink gingham, appropriately called “Carolina Pink.” I ordered enough so that I would be able to make her a dress for her first birthday (earlier in April) and here it is:
In my tins of buttons, I found these little ceramic ones, purchased years ago when Carolina’s mommy was my little girl. (Well, she is still my little girl, but you know what I mean.) How appropriate to use them for one of her daughter’s dresses.
And with this dress – the fabric absolutely came first!
17 responses to “The Silky, Shimmery Colors of Spring”
All so very pretty! Happy spring! I know what comes next: picture frame in prominent place for two little girls in pink and blue. Plus an indulgence of copies. There will be other dresses but these are the first in this generation to hold so much anticipation and wonder. Thank you for sharing.
How did you know I am looking forward so much to that picture of two little girls, one in blue and one in pink? Thank you, Mery!
Beautiful fabrics! Working out how to get your design out of too little fabric is so rewarding.
It really is, Mary! I always seem to have too little or too much of what I need!
Your fabrics for the dress and jacket are spectacular. Cannot wait to follow along!
One can never go wrong with fabrics from Mendel Goldberg and Britex! We are so fortunate they sell online.
Your little pink dress is so dear. I’ve only gotten as far as finding my old Read pleater and getting new needles! I love all of your mulling over how to best make what you want and it always turns out beautifully! Discovered a
new great fabric store in Asheville – House of Fabrics – having just finished a
2 day fly fishing trip!!!!!!! yes, I have very strange and incompatible hobbies – just trying to stay on the right side of the grass with a few brain cells left 🙂
Did you catch anything? Fish, I mean, not fabric, although I’m not sure which would be more fun for an enthusiastic of both! However, I am sure both activities will keep the brain cells functioning!
Adore the little pink dress Karen. Especially the bow at the back. Lovely owkr as always. Did you use a pattern?
I did use a pattern. It is a New Look 6877, with some of the most unexciting pictures of little girls’ dresses on the front; however, the pattern is easy to mix and match. The pockets were my idea, inspired by a cute dress I had pinned to one of my Pinterest boards.
*work (sorry, too early for spell check I see!)
Ooh that silk is just delicious! Congratulations on making it work with the pattern pieces. Can’t wait to see it finished, just gorgeous. As for the little dress, just adorable. I’d also be interested in what pattern you used?
The pattern info is in the comment above. Thanks for your interest, Katy!
So glad you found a way to make the fabric work! And that pink dress is adorable!
Thank you, Marianne! I love a challenge, so it’s fun to work out solutions to scant fabric!
Genius! A la Project Runway, you made it work! Can’t wait to see the dress and jacket as the fabrics are gorgeous. The gingham dress is really beautiful. It’s a classic! How wonderful that you had those buttons.
I could not believe my luck with those buttons. Even my daughter recognized them from her childhood when she used to look through my button box. I thought they were just perfect for that little pink dress.