sign up for news and inspiration
  • connect
"Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright." - Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah


(Thank you for all those enthusiastic comments about Petty Magic—I wish I could give every one of you a galley!) On a sultry day in Brooklyn last summer, I envied every girl out and about in a pretty sundress. Feminine vanity aside, they were keeping a lot cooler than I was in jeans. I wanted sundresses, one for every day of the week.

The pattern is Heather Ross’s Mendocino sundress, which she has generously posted on her website. I usually try to buy from a designer/shop offering free patterns, and I did pick up some awesome Mendocino fabric via Fabricworm, but I decided to use it for a different dress out of Cal Patch’s Design-It-Yourself Clothes: Patternmaking Simplified. (More on that later.)

I know this is going to sound really nerdy, but I’ve been in love with this calico since I was a teenager. I’d bought a few yards of it at a mom-and-pop fabric shop back in high school for a dress I got quite a bit of wear out of but am much too embarrassed to show you, and every time I looked at that old dress in my scrap pile I wished I had more to sew something up using a proper pattern. I finally made it back to that shop before Christmas, and what do you know–they still had the fabric, and it was still four bucks a yard!

I remember Kelly saying (back in the day) that it was the sort of thing one’s grandmother would wear–“in a good way.” This fabric is very vintage-y (heck, it probably is vintage)–that’s why I love it so much. A few notes, if you want to make this dress:

  • It was $6.47 at FedEx Office to get the pattern printed on a 24 x 44″ sheet of paper. A little bit more than I thought it would be, but taping a lot of smaller pages together would have been rather tedious. (Apparently FedEx ate Kinko’s. Whatever it’s called nowadays, the email-to-print service is pretty nifty.)
  • The schematic indicates that you should position the pockets 14 to 18″ below the top of the dress; I decided on 18″ because I’m tall, but when I finished sewing the seams and tried it on (insofar as it could be ‘tried on’ at that stage) my hands hardly reached the pockets. I decided they weren’t worth adjusting, seeing as I probably wouldn’t use the pockets anyway, so I just ripped the pocket seams and stitched up the sides. But if I make this dress again I’ll go with a pocket placement of 14″.
  • You need elastic thread for the shirring. A nice lady at Jo-Ann pointed me to Dritz brand in the notions section (with all the other types of elastic), which is a lot less expensive per yard than the smaller spools you find on the rack with all the other types of sewing thread. (It’s $1.59 for 30 yards of Dritz versus 11 yards of Gutermann. Or you could buy a ginormous spool of it here, but I can’t imagine ever needing or using $40 worth of elastic thread unless you’re also making jewelry.)
  • Found some handy tips at Projects & Preoccupations. For one, the back hem needs to be taken up a bit more than the front because of the extra fabric at the bust–that probably wouldn’t have occurred to me on my own! So I pinned up the hem and tried it on before sewing.

(Long-arming it. I wanted to get a detail of the shirring, but every close-up I took was basically ‘and here are my boobs!’) This dress was quick to make, too–took less than a week. The pattern says you can sew the whole thing in an afternoon, and if I make another one I’m sure it’ll go a lot faster. I’m excited to be getting more proficient at sewing, but I have GOT to become tidier and more careful–I have a bad habit of dropping pins in the carpet. Yesterday I went for a run, and on my walk back to the car I felt something sharp in my sock. Yup. A pin. I’m lucky it didn’t stab me in the foot. And last week I woke up and found safety pins under my pillow…at least they were closed!

(Thanks to my mother for the first photo.)

6 Comments to Sundress!

  1. cal's Gravatar cal
    March 25, 2010 at 1:43 am | Permalink

    looks great camille! i know what you mean about the sundresses, somehow i have very few dresses in my wardrobe too and they're all i want to wear!

  2. Kate's Gravatar Kate
    March 25, 2010 at 2:30 am | Permalink

    You look absolutely awesome! The first photo should definitely be in a magazine!

  3. Kristina's Gravatar Kristina
    March 25, 2010 at 6:38 am | Permalink

    Ooh, it's beautiful! I've been eyeing these shirred sundresses last year already…I think I need to make some for this summer 🙂 I love the fabric you chose!

  4. Pare's Gravatar Pare
    March 26, 2010 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    Dammit, woman, if you get any more talented at anything I will have to stop being friends with you for sure.

    Also, you need an etsy shop. I would pay serious money for that dress. Maybe I will get the lady that did my wedding dress to make me this one….

  5. Susan's Gravatar Susan
    March 26, 2010 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    Lovely dress for a beautiful author! I do like the picture I took and the last one keeps reminding me of Alice in Wonderland!

  6. emmms's Gravatar emmms
    March 27, 2010 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    I love that dress! Just gorgeous. You make me want to get sewing for the summer!

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Hi! I'm Camille. I only write stories that could never ever happen in real life, though I do believe in real-life magic. If we were in the same room I'd fix you a cup of tea, but for now we'll have to settle for a virtual connection. I'm really glad you're here.