It’s a Wonderful Sewing Life

Like so many people in the USA and around the world, my favorite Christmas holiday movie is the 1947 Frank Capra picture, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” starring James Stewart and Donna Reed.  No Christmas season is complete for me without watching it at least once. Bedford Falls, the fictional town where the movie takes place, would have been bereft without the life of Stewart’s character, George Bailey, as he eventually discovers under the benevolent care of his guardian angel, Clarence.  I believe the movie is a good reminder to think about our own lives, the things that make us happy and the talents we have which enable us to do lovely things for others.  And so – I often reflect on how my life would be so much poorer without sewing in it.  I love to sew in all the seasons, but especially at this time of year, I am so grateful that I can sew for my little granddaughters.  It is one of my greatest pleasures to plan and make new dresses for them to wear to all their holiday events.

Last year’s dresses were red and white checked flannel, so this year I thought they should have green dresses.  Trying to find a pretty “Christmas green” in a child-appropriate fabric proved to be a challenge.  Thankfully, on a trip to North Carolina in October, I had the good fortune to visit Mulberry Silks in Carrboro.  There I was able to order a lovely green cotton sateen from a swatch book, and have it sent to my home in Pennsylvania a couple of weeks later.

I already had a vision of a way to make these dresses just a little bit special.  My inspiration came from a feature in Classic Sewing Magazine, Volume 3, Issue 3, purchased from Farmhouse Fabrics earlier in the Fall.

Not only do I love rickrack, I love to embellish it. When I saw this collar and cuffs, I knew I had the inspiration I needed.

Although I wasn’t planning on smocking these dresses, I knew I could embellish the collars and cuffs in the same manner as the illustrated dress.  Of course, I envisioned red and green rickrack crisscrossed, and red and green detailing on the cuffs.

I used lightweight linen for the collars and cuffs, and made self piping for the edge treatment.

Because my girls had outgrown the patterns I used for previous years, I needed a new pattern to configure in their sizes.  Fortunately, the same Classic Sewing Magazine contained this pattern in sizes 4-8.  I knew I could use the smocked dress pattern, by using the bodice lining template as the actual bodice.

The smocked dress on the left had the correct collar, cuffs and long sleeves which I was looking for.

Another feature I wanted to include was this embroidered ribbon which I picked up last year in an after-Christmas sale at a home/design store.

I sewed the ribbon onto a long, unattached sash for each dress.  I have just enough fabric remaining to make plain belts for the dresses in case my daughter thinks the girls can wear them at other times of the year. The pattern called for a buttoned back, but I opted for zippers instead, as a practical alternative.  I thought about adding three little pearl buttons right below the center neckline of the bodices, but then I realized they actually detracted from the design of the collars.

Now it seems every project has some little quirk to it, and this one became apparent to me only when I took photos of the finished dresses.  (I should add here that I was racing the calendar to get these dresses in the mail in early December so they would arrive in New England in time for the Season!)  My photos showed the orientation of the rickrack embroidery was different on the two sets of collars.

What I don’t understand is the fact that I laid out the grid exactly the same on each collar, but once they were attached to the dresses, they were askew from each other.

I am still trying to figure out how the grid on this collar ended up on a slant.

Well, at that point it was too late to try to fix this.  Off they went in the mail, with me scratching my head!  Fortunately, when my daughter sent me some photos of the little ladies in their dresses, this mistake was not very apparent.  And best of all, my little girls love their dresses.

As I am wrapping up my sewing for 2019 (in order to finish wrapping presents, for one thing!), I am so grateful for all the resources available to those of us who sew, I am so fortunate to be part of this global sewing community, and I am so grateful to all of you who read my blog.  Thank you so very much!  I wish each and every one of you a peaceful, loving, happy Holiday Season. And may your guardian angels ever keep watch over you and your loved ones.


Filed under Heirloom sewing for children, Sewing for children, Uncategorized

21 responses to “It’s a Wonderful Sewing Life

  1. Mery

    You made precious dresses for granddaughters who love them. That’s not an error. It’s individuality, about 45 degrees of it. Perhaps one follows the straight grain and the other bias. Whatever it is it’s all beautifully done, uniquely you for each of them. Glad the new pattern fit. It’s a lovely classic.

    • Mery

      It’s not straight/bias. If Kathy hadn’t explained it perfectly, I’d suggest trickster elf assisting you in sewing room.

    • Busy holidays kept me from responding to your comment, but thank you, Mery, so much for your take on these wonky collars. Once i saw the girls in the dresses, I wondered why I was so worried! I hope you had a lovely holiday!

  2. The dresses are beautiful and if not for reading this post, I would not have noticed the collar differences (not sure what that says about me!) The girls love them. I wish I could leave a photo in my comment here… Thank you, Mom, for your beautiful work and diligent planning. When we went to the Nutcracker, we received at least 50 comments from other audience members about how beautiful they looked in their new dresses. 🙂

    • Thank you, Susanna! I didn’t notice the difference in the collars until I looked at the photo. Funny how photos make us see things that our eyes do not pick up on right away. The girls looked so amazing in their dresses; seeing them made me forget all about the difference in the collars. Miss you all so much now… XXOO

  3. I look forward to the “Christmas dress” post every year! I think the reason the rick rack angle changed has something to do with the change in the curve on the larger neckline. I’m pretty sure even 1/8 inch would change the angle at the seam ever so slightly, which then radiates out. Of course, I would never have thought of that before the collars were on! They are just beautiful dresses, and the girls will someday pull these out for their kids!

    • Kathy, you are exactly right about the change in the curve of the larger neckline. I figured that out after looking at them when the girls were here for Christmas. And now I know it really doesn’t matter all that much! The girls love their dresses, and that is all that is important! Hope you had a wonderful Christmas (I know your husband got a very nice gift!)

      • It was a lovely but quiet Christmas at our house this year, but that is the season of life we are in. 🙂 I am so nerdy, that neckline thing puzzled me for several hours until I thought I might have figured it out. :0)

  4. Your Christmas dresses are always so adorable and I love seeing what you create. I’m sure the girls will enjoy their new outfits. Happy Holidays!

  5. Patricia

    Hi Karen, they are the sweetest dresses and will look adorable on your granddaughters. Brings back a feeling of being 8 years old when an Aunty sewed me a similar dress except with short sleeves for our hot Australian Christmas. I loved that dress. Wishing you and your family a safe and Happy Christmas.

    • Isn’t it amazing how a special dress can bring back such memories? I am hoping my little girls will have some special memories of their own dresses as the years go by. Hope you had a very happy Christmas season!

  6. Heather Myers

    Your granddaughters are so lucky! 😊 I actually like the collar you say is not straight. Happy holidays to you and thank you for your wonderful posts.

  7. Marguerite

    Just beautiful! Your grandaughters are so lucky to have these wonderful dresses each year! As always, your work is impecable. Have a wonderful Christmas and thanks for the wonderful thoughts and wishes!

    • Well, I am so lucky to have two little granddaughters who love to wear dresses! They looked adorable in them, so that made me feel wonderful! Hope your December was perfect in every way!

  8. Oh Karen, I LOVE these dresses. It is so apparent that much love & thought went into the creation of them. This post is probably my favorite of yours every year, but I thoroughly enjoy each & every one! I also take classes with Susan Khalje and perhaps one day we can actually meet in person! Thanks so much for sharing a part of yourself with us in the sewing community. Merry Christmas to you and yours and a happy & healthy New Year!

    • It would be so wonderful to meet in person some day, Sharon! I hope that happens, and I suspect it will! I loved making these dresses for the girls, and it’s so rewarding to know that sewing friends like you love to see them! Thank you, and Happy New Year!

  9. Christine

    Merry Christmas from Oz and compliments on the beautiful dresses you have made your grandgirls. I have 5 and 7 year old g/girls to sew for and after completing their latest dresses, as well as some 70’s hippie style flowing pants for summer the 7 year old g/g said ‘These are the nicest clothes I’ve ever had’ You should have seen the smile on my face. Keep on blogging – I read every one.

  10. Elizabeth

    Another wonderful post ….such gorgeous dresses .
    I bless the day I found your blog , you really have inspired me and I have learned so much . Thank you for sharing your talents with us all , I appreciate the time and effort involved in writing Fifty Dresses
    So again a heartfelt thank you for all your posts , wishing you and your family all good wishes for Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year

    • It has taken me a long time to respond to your lovely comment, but I want you to know how much I appreciated it! Thank you so much, and I hope your December was wonderful in every way. Now it is the new year with so much promise – isn’t it a good feeling? Happy New Year to you, Elizabeth!

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