Monday, April 4, 2011

On the trail: the journey to a dress that fits

I just spent this past weekend whipping up a great pioneer costume for an acquaintance of mine from church. This was an interesting project and lots of fun. The costume was for a 10 year old girl. What made this project so interesting was the fact that this little girl is an atypical size, requiring not a child sized pattern, nor an adult sized pattern. The pattern had to be custom made to fit her body. To alter a patter to this degree required lots of measurement taking, a good grasp of sewing with a pattern, lots of numbers (math), and patience.

Before starting this project, I thought it was going to be a lot more difficult than it was. I haven't attempted sewing a dress using a pattern for over 10 years. I have used patterns before for smaller things like aprons, skirts and hats, but it always seemed like I couldn't understand them very well.

Having completed this project now, a process which took me only 4 days in all to complete, I realize that it was fairly easy for me. I suspect it's simply because I've been sewing long enough now to know what I'm doing. The patterns no longer confuse me and I can think out the whole sewing process in my head. Such a good feeling to know you have gotten proficient at something you love doing!

So here's a photo journey of the dressmaking process. In a previous session, I took extensive measurements of Stephanie to get her exact body shape in numbers. Then, using the adult pattern as a base, I marked up the pattern pieces to what I hoped would fit her with additional space to fit comfortably. I was having difficult time getting the proportions just right even with all my measurements. What I ended up having to do was get a child sized pattern for the same dress. I used the two patterns as the opposite extremes (one too large, other too small) and then marked up the perfect size in the middle more or less.

Here I am with Stephanie during the fitting of the mock-up dress I made out of muslin. I wanted to make sure all the changes I had made to the pattern would end up fitting properly.

It's a good thing I did this mock-up, sample dress. As you can see in this photo, the sleeves are way too long and too snug. The back of the dress, too, was too snug through the upper back, the shoulder seams straining to the point of ripping. Using a marker, I marked directly on this sample muslin dress the areas that I needed to add width, reduce width, shorten or lengthen.

Then it was time to go shopping for the fabric that we'd be using to make the final dress, bonnet and apron. Here I am with Stephanie's mom, Sarah, and the fabric they chose.

And finally, here's the results. Stephanie was one very happy and excited little girl in her new pioneer costume. I was very happy, too. This final dress fit her perfectly.

And now, I want to make one for myself.