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.