It all started last year when my sister sent me a text reminding me that my parent's 40th wedding anniversary was coming up. She said she wanted to throw them a surprise party, and, not living close enough to help very much with the finer details of the party (my family lives in CA and I live in CO), I decided to help by making my mom a dress to wear for the occasion.
When my sister texted me, I had recently been to see Cathi of Gertrude Made give a talk about her fabrics, and thought that this would be the perfect opportunity to make something with these luxurious fabrics. (If you haven't heard of barkcloth, or haven't heard of Gertrude Made, make sure to check out my blog post here!)
I especially love that Cathi names her fabrics after a rural woman, so each fabric has a story behind it. I really loved the blue colorway of the "Kristine" fabric (OMG the gold details!), and once I read Kristine's story I knew it would be the perfect one for the dress. Kristine is a rural nurse who is apparently an amazing cook. My mother's mother (who taught my mom to sew) was a nurse and my mother (who taught me to sew) is an amazing cook: It just felt so right that I could find parallels to my own family described in Kristine's story.
I thought this fabric would be perfectly paired with the vintage look of the Emery Dress. I have followed Christine Haynes for a long time on Instagram and not only do I love her vintage flair, but am so impressed that she is a lady making it happen. She designs, produces and markets her patterns herself, and it feels really good to support that. Also, her patterns are known for being well-constructed with little need for alterations. Since I couldn't exactly ask my mom to try the dress on as I was making it, I thought this pattern would be perfect.
I also found some parallels with Christine: Not only do we both love vintage dresses, but she lives in Los Angeles which is one of the places that I am from, and she has also spent a lot of time in France which makes me feel a sort of bond with her as well after having lived there for so many years.
A bit about the construction: The bodice lining fabric I chose is an organic fabric from cloud 9 fabrics which was soft and light enough to work perfectly as a lining paired with the super soft barkcloth. As for the pattern, I'd say it is an intermediate skill level pattern because of the darts, gathering, sleeves, and invisible zipper. But, Christine has a very helpful step-by-step tutorial on her blog with photographs of each step if you are unsure of anything in the directions. The only thing I found lacking in her instructions was an easy way to make sure the seams line up when inserting the zipper. The best invisible zipper insertion tutorial I've seen so far is this one from By Hand London. The trick with the pin at the seam line is the best!
The dress pattern comes with an optional bow at the waistline. I found some perfect gold fabric to match the gold details of the barkcloth which was honestly the hardest part to sew. The fabric was thin and slinky, which was stabilized by the interfacing but still tough to sew with. I also used invisible thread from the t-shirt quilt I made, which was frustratingly difficult to sew with. Reminder to self: never ever sew again with invisible thread.
All that said, I think the bow really captures the feeling of the fabric with a nice little pop and I'm glad I didn't throw it out the window when I felt really frustrated with it. I didn't sew it directly to the dress because I don't think that gold fabric can go through the wash (but the barkcloth is machine washable since it is just cotton!) - I just safety-pinned it on so my mom could decide if she wanted to wear the bow all the time or not. I think it fancies the dress up a bit, so it might be nice to dress it down without the bow sometimes too.
Even though I knew the dress pattern was known to have a good fit, I was nervous when my mom tried it on, but the pattern held true to the stories and it fit her perfectly without any alterations! She loved the dress and don't tell her I told you this, but she cried both times she has worn it so far. I am so pleased not only with how the dress turned out, but also with the fact that I made my mom an heirloom that I know she will treasure for the rest of her life!
Have you ever made something that you were so proud of you thought you'd burst at the seams? Tell me about it in the comments below!