Tag Archives: Liberty cottons

A Spring Tradition

Early to mid-Spring means birthday time in our family, especially so now with our two little granddaughters, who have birthdays in March and April.  Fortunately both little girls love dresses and love wearing them, so of course my Spring sewing agenda has to include making two “birthday dresses.”  (Last year’s dresses were a bit more elaborate than what I had planned for this year. In fact, I just lengthened the hems on these “strawberry” dresses so the girls can wear them for one more year!)

I found these Liberty fabrics last year on Fabric.com and immediately ordered yardage in two colors.  They stayed tucked away in my fabric closet until early March when I got serious about getting these dresses sewn.

All along I intended to pair each print with 16thinch coordinating cotton gingham, and then I set about finding a pattern which would accommodate this idea. I ended up using a Children’s Corner pattern (Louise) which turned out to be the perfect choice. View B showed a hem band and collar in contrasting fabric to the rest of the dress.

View B includes the Peter Pan collar and hem band.

These dresses are quite simple to make, and the pattern is precise.  I really, really like that this company gives you separate pattern pieces for each size in the envelope.  For example, this pattern included sizes 1 – 5.  So – there are full patterns for each size. I used size 3 and size 5, and it was such a pleasure not to have to trace a pattern for each dress. Mysteriously, the seam allowance allotted for the pattern pieces was only ¼”.  I increased it to a standard 5/8” as I am much happier sewing with a more substantial seam allowance.  The only other changes I made to the pattern were to make the back opening button on the left side rather than the right side, and to add three decorative buttons to the bodice.

I needed to move the bottom button on this dress as it was not quite lined up!

First I made the size 5 dress.  I realized once it was well underway that a touch of rickrack would add so much more interest to the dress.  Finding lilac colored rickrack was quite the task, but once again an Etsy shop (Creative Trims) had just what I needed.

Looks too plain without some additional embellishment.

The rickrack looks so much better!

I applied the rickrack by hand.

The second dress came together quickly (for me, at least!) Making the dresses alike, but in different colors was an idea I liked, and I was hopeful that the girls would like that, too!

A back view.

I am happy to report that, according to my daughter, the little girls love their birthday dresses.  Time to start planning for next year!

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Filed under Uncategorized, Liberty cotton, Sewing for children

Give me Liberty . . .

. . .  and I’ll make a dress!  Of course, I’m referring to Liberty cottons, one of the great fabrics of the world.  There is, as most of you already know, more to Liberty than just cottons – they make silks, too, and one look at their website will introduce you to the full range of Liberty products, appeal, and mystique.  It is so exciting to me to realize that this company, which was founded in 1875, is still producing some of the finest quality fabrics in the world. Their most famous fabric is that cotton, more properly referred to as Tana Lawn.  Here I quote from The Liberty Book of Home Sewing (about which I’ll tell you more shortly):

Tana Lawn   Synonymous with Liberty, this 100% cotton fabric has a very fine thread count and soft, silky feel.  New print designs are created each season, heritage classics are continuously reworked, and there is also an array of coordinating plain colors.”

It just so happens that I lucked into two pieces of Tana Lawn, originally purchased by a relative in the ‘60s, and tucked away, unused, into a bureau drawer.  When the contents of that drawer were being emptied about a decade later, I was the happy recipient.  At that point in time, Tana Lawn was only 35” wide, so in order to make a dress or blouse, it was necessary to have a good bit of yardage at one’s disposal, to compensate for the narrow width.  Of course, the piece I liked the best had the least yardage:

I find the colors and design of this cotton so appealing.

It sat in my fabric drawer for about another 12 or 15 years, until I finally made it into a dress for my daughter when she was about 8 years old.

The only reason I saved this dress is because of its vintage Liberty fabric.

The second piece had a bit more yardage to it, but it, too, sat in my fabric closet, until last Summer, when I finally decided I would make myself a dress.

This is the same fabric design in different colors.

I knew it would have to be sleeveless, and I envisioned a simple belted bodice with some fullness in the skirt.  The only pattern I could find which came close was this Butterick one:

I chose this pattern primarily for the bodice in View A (the blue one).

Then I began making alterations to it:  a few soft pleats for the skirt instead of all that fullness; I wanted to add pockets in the side seams; to add pockets, I had to move the zipper from the side to the back, which also made it easier for me to fit the pattern pieces onto the narrow fabric. Finally, I wanted it lined, which I did with a very lightweight white cotton lawn.  Here’s how it turned out:

I did not have enough fabric left to make a self belt, so I have worn it with one I already have, until I can find one I like better!

I really like the back of this dress.

Here is a close-up of the back neckline.

Well, it seems I am always rediscovering pieces of fabric in my extensive collection, and although I have known this fabric was there, it always seems like a new discovery when something so pretty surfaces again.  I purchased this piece of Tana Lawn in Bermuda (probably at Trimingham’s, now unfortunately out of business) sometime in the 1980s.

I still love this fabric over twenty-five years after purchasing it!

I could never decide on a pattern to use for it – those ’80 styles were just too awful.  So this fabric is another one of those “Thank goodness I never made this!”  Although it is also just 35” wide, I have a plentiful 4½ yards so I should be able to pair it with a vintage pattern from the ‘50s or ‘60s – I’m still looking and deciding…  Ideas, anyone?  (Interestingly, Liberty apparently changed their production in the early 1990s, and now their Tana Lawn is 44” wide.)

Now, about that afore-mentioned book:  last Summer I was browsing books on sewing and fashion on Amazon, and The Liberty Book of Home Sewing popped up for pre-order.  Being a complete push-over for any books which showcase beautiful fabrics, I signed up for it and it arrived in October.  Of the 25 projects featured, my favorites are the vintage ‘50s look apron on the cover and the peacock pincushion.

This is the cover of the hardback book, showing the frilly '50s' style apron.

And here is the whimsical peacock pincushion project.

What I really like about this book, however, are the full-page representations of Liberty cottons; the Glossary of Fabrics, which includes a little history about each featured design; and the Foreword, which includes a history of the production of Tana Lawn.

Here is one page of the Glossary of Fabrics.

Finally – one last thing:  when I purchased my Liberty fabric in Bermuda, this label came with it:

This tag is small, but packs a powerful message! I'll definitely be sewing it into whatever dress I eventually make.

What is it about a label that can give a fabric or pattern purchase – and ultimately the finished garment – its own persona?  How can something so small add so much validation and completeness to the dressmaker’s labor of love?

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Filed under 1980's dress patterns, Liberty cotton, side-placed zippers, Uncategorized