I'm even more pleased with this outfit than the last dress that I made. Even though the navy poplin dress I sewed a few weeks ago is beautiful and comfortable, it lacks the versatility of a button-up blouse and midi-skirt. Lately I've found myself reaching for my maxi dresses somewhat less and more often for my smock dresses, shirt-dresses, blouses and full skirts. I love that I can wear this blouse and skirt to church, to work at home, or to go hiking. And it still has personality, and makes me feel like myself. Lately, I've also been more and more interested in clothes with a historical influence---a tinge of 19th century romanticism and practicality. Most of my summer plans for sewing are along similar lines to this outfit: I am aiming for comfort, versatility, and to make items that I will reach for over and over for everyday wear for years to come.
The patterns I used for my blouse and skirt will be familiar to any long-time readers of the blog, as they are two of my most-sewn patterns. The fabric for both skirt and blouse are thrifted, as are the vintage contrasting white buttons. I really like the navy calico for the blouse especially, as I feel that it looks a bit Western, a bit Japanese, and a bit Victorian work-wear. The skirt fabric was from a large 100 percent cotton sheet that had a nice border of tucks along the top, so I used them as decoration (and a built in hem) for the bottom of my simple gathered skirt. There is still fabric left over from the sheet, so I plan to make a matching blouse sometime soon. The notions for the skirt were re-used from my old navy skirt that I sewed three or so years ago that recently wore out. I sewed the skirt in snatches of time over one week, and the blouse throughout the next. The most time-consuming portion was sewing the button-holes by hand and sewing the buttons on one at a time to make sure the front of the blouse is straight and flat when buttoned. I don't mind doing those finishing steps slowly, as I find sewing buttonholes to be a relaxing thing to do with my hands while Mr Rat and I watch our favorite mystery shows, like Endeavor.
I wore my new blouse and skirt with my old Lotta clogs, an old thrifted straw hat, and my silver charm bracelet for a leisurely and summery walk at the park with Gia and Mr Rat
What are your sewing plans for the summer? Do you find that you have more or less time to sew during the middle months of the year? I am trying to squeeze in another two or three simple sewing projects before Mr Rat and I will travel to visit his parents for a week next month. I don't find personally that my sewing rate changes much based on the season----it usually just depends on Gia's health and my husband's schedule, and if I have any deadlines I need to meet in the studio.
Thank you for your patience with my sudden absence from the blog, and for the many kind and supportive comments that you made about my pets' health. The rats are at rest now, and Gia has recovered from her infection. It's been a hard few weeks, but I've gotten back to work in the studio, and I've started sewing again, too.
This is my most recently sewn project, and for once, I felt better about it once I put it on than when I was putting it together! It's nice when a project turns out better than you expected, rather than worse (or when you feel uncertain or indifferent towards it---those can be discouraging feelings, too). I think this may be my ideal prairie dress: a solid dark color trimmed in one of my two favorite trims (eyelet ruffling and ribbon, if you are curious), with a big sweep of skirt, interesting sleeves, and great comfort of wear. I've noticed that pullover dress patterns from the 1970s can be very ingenious, and this is one of the most interesting ones I've come across yet. Essentially it is a big smock dress with a ruffle at the bottom and a belt that is sewn on just at the top of the triangle near the bust-line/neck-line. All of the shape comes from tying the belt---which looks so deceptively like a sewn-on midriff---into a bow in the back over the very full trapeze-style skirt. This means that the waistline is fully adjustable, and because the rest of the dress is quite loose, it could be worn comfortably no matter how my body shape might subtly fluctuate. And yet it looks quite fitted! I think that this is rather a remarkable sewing feat, and I am very impressed by whoever drafted this dress.
It took me about a week to sew. The most complicated part was inserting the eyelet along the bottom ruffle, as it had to be sewn upside down into the seam allowance and then the ruffle sewn over the top and all of it turned and ironed downward. I'd never done that before, but it worked out fine, with only one little bit getting caught in the seam and needing un-picking. The eyelet also gives the big sleeves some more shape and definition.
The fabric is some 100 percent cotton poplin that I got for Christmas from my husband. It was only $2.70 a yard (and had free shipping) which I think is quite a good price for such nice, crisp cotton. I still have almost half the yardage left, so there will likely be another navy poplin summer dress here on the blog at some point. The eyelet was thrifted long ago, and even though I used a lot on this dress, I still have a little bit of it leftover for some other neckline, some other time. This dress really needs the eyelet, as otherwise this particular neckline would be just too low. This particular pattern was a Christmas gift, as well.
I feel like I now have a great prairie-style summer dress to wear to church or family picnics or going to the farmer's market. I like sewing projects that can be worn on nice occasions or more casually. My wardrobe space is not large, so the more versatile items I have in it, the easier it is for me to get dressed every day. Having this dress be a success is an encouraging start to my summer sewing. I'm working on a simple gathered navy skirt now to replace an old one that got worn out, and then I hope to sew some simple summer dresses and blouses, especially ones that I can wear walking and hiking and that are light and cool in the heat that I know is coming.
What are your summer sewing plans? Or winter, for those of you who reside in the other hemisphere?
Mr and Mrs Rat
Mr and Mrs Rat like to sew.