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  • Writer's picturesarah

I Made Three Dresses Last Week

Last week, I sewed my first dress. And then I sewed my second dress. And a third. It's so much fun!

It was also my first attempt at sewing something for myself and first time using a pattern. Even in Mrs. Ross' seventh grade sewing class when everyone else was sewing stuffed animals with pattern pieces, I opted to make a quilt out of a stash of old Hawaiian fabric squares I found in a closet at home. And that's pretty much as far as my sewing skills ever got.

For some reason, a pattern has always scared me. All the lines and keys and symbols and terms foreign to me feels like looking at a treasure map with the treasure beyond reach. The precision is a bit stressful as well. Like I've always loved baking but when it comes to measuring, I can be somewhat loose. Although I've taught my kids to level the flour cup with the back of a butter knife, I rarely practice this myself.

But once I got the Wiksten pattern and read through the instruction book, it was actually so clear and easy to understand that it actually felt freeing to work off a pattern with exact instructions. As a total novice, I had to google pretty much everything beyond sewing a straight line and backstitching at the beginning and end, but YouTube really is your best friend for learning a new skill. The second dress took me about half the time to make once I had a better understanding of what I was doing.

The Wiksten Shift Pattern is $20 and includes a top, short dress, and long dress with 3/4 sleeve, pocket, and belted variations. With all of those variations, you should be able to make at least 20 or so unique variations multiplied by however many fabrics you can incorporate.

So after the first short sleeved long hem version of the dress, I had planned to make a short hem version with 3/4 sleeves. That plan ended abruptly when I had finished cutting all of my pattern pieces and noticed I had clipped off a piece of one of the shoulder pieces. I have no clue how I managed that, but in the words of Tim Gunn, it was a definite "make it work" moment. I shortened both sleeves and attempted to adjust the other pattern pieces accordingly. The sleeves aren't perfect, but I think they turned out ok.

The modification I made on both dresses was a hi low hem. I just love a good hi low hem. It adds a masculinity and crispness to an otherwise feminine shape, with a reference to a tailored mens button down shirt. It also adds to the versatility--it's so perfect as a tunic over pants and easily dressed up or down.

I bought the linen fabrics I used for these projects from Fabrix, a local fabric shop that sells surplus fabric from designers, mills, and manufacturers. The Wiksten shop has some amazing looking fabrics too.

OK, so maybe I got bitten by the sewing bug. Part of it was that sewing my own clothes helped alter my mindset. I felt empowered being able to make something to wear, customized for me--and ultimately that means buying less new. Granted, I'm still using fabric and thread, but I feel like taking the time to design and create something means a higher chance of wearing and rewearing something I really love and can appreciate--a more sustainable alternative to acquiring clothes from fast fashion brands. Plus, sewing is a great outlet for those of us who are always need to be creating something. If you want more amazing inspiration, search #memade on Instagram.

Thoughts about the hem modification? What other modifications would you make to this pattern?

I had extra fabric from the shorter Wiksten shift so I made the tween a pillowcase dress with free online pattern and tutorial courtesy of the Scattered Thoughts of a Craft Mom blog. It's very easy to follow and was my first time making and sewing on bias tape. Don't do what I did and miss the last corner of the pattern on page 3--you will end up with smaller armholes and a more narrow body. Luckily, it still worked out. The only modifications I made (other than the accidental ones) were halving the width of the tie for a more delicate look and adding a belt per the tween's request. I think the fabric, color, and midi length elevate the dress for my very particular little miss. As long as she's willing to twin with her mom, I'm all in! As you can see, the photo shoot went awry quickly!

All in all, fabric and thread cost $45 for the short Wiksten plus the mini me pillowcase dress, and I still have at least half a yard left (and would love to hear what I can do with this!). I could get used to sewing my own clothes! For now though, the family would probably like their dining table back as well as some clean clothes coming out of the laundry. While I'm matching socks, I'll be dreaming about future projects.

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