Sewing Harder/Sewing Cooler

I finished sewing up a dress in time to go dancing for New Years.  It made a swell debut.  For some extra I-Am-A-Disco-Ball festiveness I paired it with my Sparkle Jacket*. To make this latest dress I used my trusty ol' favorite Simplicity pattern for the gazillionth time.  However, I decided to make it a little "harder" than strictly necessary this time with some patchwork action.  

See, I've had this colorful, tropical jungle fabric for a long, long time: Blacks, blues, and greens, mostly;  An almost reptilian texture printed on the leaves; A parrot here and there for a splash of warm colors.  I'm sure it came from my mom.  Nearly all of my fabric does.  I knew I wanted to do something wearable with it, but it just lingered in the stash for years because it was a relatively small piece.  There wasn't enough of it for a dress and, since that's my sewing specialty, I wasn't sure what to do with it.  Maybe a vest...?  Or...?  I didn't know.

Sometime around September I had a lightbulb moment:  There might not be enough for a full dress, but what if I used the tropical fabric in conjunction with some others to make a patchwork quilt sorta dress?  So that's what I did.  

I found some remnants that Matt had dyed for me which were a coordinating shade of green.  They were cast-offs from a failed self-drafted split-leg apron project from looooooong ago.  Then I spotted the bolt of solid black material that I received from the estate of our dear friend David Cleaves, who died unexpectedly last year.  The black could act as contrast to all the bright colors and, at the same time, tie them all together.  Fabric selections made, I promptly got cutting. 

First, I cut out a complete copy of the skirt, including the pocket pieces, in a white muslin.  I wanted to try a technique I've used on my quilted wallets where the jungle fabric would be sewn directly onto a base fabric, adding more and more pieces until the base is completely covered.  I used each pattern piece as a separate base and once they were all covered I sewed the separate pieces together into the finished skirt.  For years I've been calling it Quilt-As-You-Go because of what the wallet pattern said, but I'm not sure that is exactly accurate given what I've subsequently read online.  I figured that using this technique would result in an automatically lined skirt--all smooth on the inside, without a bunch of visible seams from the patchwork.  And it did.  

The bodice is unlined.  The green fabric is a heavier weight that matched the double thickness of the skirt quite nicely.  Plus there wasn't any patchwork going on up there so a lining didn't seem as necessary.  I tested out a little shortcut on the arm and neck holes of the bodice, too. I overlocked the edges and then just turned them under and top-stitched instead of making the arm and neck facings.  It seems to work and was certainly easier. 

When I finished constructing the dress I still had a little pile of scraps leftover from the jungle print.  Inspired by a recently discovered scrappy sewing blog I decided to use them up, too.  It was such cool print and I wanted to wring every ounce of awesomeness out of it.  I decided to make a focal point on the bodice, a sort of fabric medallion.  It was my first time doing anything like this, but I can see a lot of potential with this idea.  I used Elmer's glue to help me hold the wispy, little scraps in place after I got them arranged to my liking.  I gave each scrap a line or two of stitching down their length to secure them to the round base.  I then topstitched all over the medallion in a spiral pattern with my standard sewing machine before using my serger to finish the edges.  The last step was stitching the whole thing onto the bodice.  

Even after a few washings I think the medallion still looks great.  The slight fraying on the raw edges might actually make it even cooler.

In the end, I was left with just a tiny handful of unused scraps**.  It was very satisfying.

Given that I can make a straightforward version of this dress in a handful of hours, it took waaaaaaaay longer to make a dress this way.  At one point I had hoped it would debut on the dancefloor at Hillberry.  (Ha!  Not even close!)  I found it worthwhile to take my time though.  Since I don't really need any more dresses I figure that I might as well make them extra special.  Even more one-of-a-kind.  Groovier than average.

*I got the Sparkle Jacket from Grandma Nina who has been busy these past few years cleaning out closets on the farm.  I love it.  It is a delight.  It had a sparkly dress to match, but that was a bit too much, even for me.  The Sparkle Jacket on the other hand was waaaaaaaaaay up my alley.  It makes me want to dance.  It is a bit of menace though in that I leave a trail of silver particles in my wake everywhere I go.  At the Hillberry Music Festival you could tell which camp chairs I'd been sitting in and, as Matt noted, even what portapotties I'd been using on account of all the glittery evidence I'd leave behind on every surface.  I figure someday the Sparkle Jacket will stop shedding, but for now I just travel with it in a sealed plastic bag and limit the amount of time and locations that I wear it indoors.

**I didn't throw them away either.  I want to play around a little more with this scrappy sewing.


  1. Your dress is so beautiful and clever! Great job really using the fabric you love - it makes us so happy, right?!
    The sparkly jacket stories really cracked me up - haha, the idea of leaving a trail of glitter in your wake! Life metaphor there, I think. . .
    And thanks for introducing me to Priganart - oh my word, I just spent a bunch of time looking at all her techniques. Totally fascinated and not sure I will be able to throw away any small scraps again.

    1. Many thanks, Margo! You sure made me chuckle with the "life metaphor" remark! I like it. :)

      I stumbled onto Priganart through a Facebook upcycling/thrifty sewing group to which I belong. I knew immediately I was hooked. She made me think about my scraps and my resourcefulness in a whole new way! I'm glad you enjoyed as well.

  2. Hi Beth,
    ...I absolutely LOVE your patchwork dress...what a great way to use those precious bits of fabric...
    ~Have a lovely day!


Post a Comment

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and ideas. I value the advice and friendship that you share with me!

Popular Posts