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DressJuly 2, 2008

[Hi, you sweet things. This is preblogged from the past. Right now I'm actually up north, at an expanded dispatch near Eureka, working  the fires that no doubt you've heard about. If I may brag about my dispatch center again: we're becoming known for having incident dispatchers qualified in lots of specialties -- we get requested across the state for big fires, and sometimes even other states borrow our dispatchers to work on their lines. I'll be up there for as long as two weeks, so if you don't hear from me for a while, don't worry.

In the meantime, pretend like I'm just writing this today:]

I had a one of those La Brainy thrift-store days a few days ago. In one spot (Thrift Town, El Sobrante), I scored a pair of Doc Martens for four bucks, and a pair of cowboy boots for ten.


AND, while I was cruising the store, a customer randomly walked up to me and gave me a clipped coupon for three dollars off.

I found a piece of fabric that was REALLY loud but I liked something about it. It was ninety-nine cents. When I got it home and unbundled it from its masking tape wrapping, it turned out to be about five yards. Dude. For bright red and shiny gold fabric, that was a little much, so I decided to use it as a muslin for testing a dress pattern I wanted to make.

I have never in my life succeeded in making a dress that I would dare to wear out of the house. Many, many skirts, yes. I can make a skirt. I can make a skirt in a half-hour. Out of a pillowcase. But not a dress.

So I decided to use my brain. I would just practice with this fabric. Instead of guessing at my measurements, I would actually take them. And then I made the size THAT WOULD FIT ME. Sewing does have an odd aspect to it: while I fit comfortably in size 10 or 12 jeans at most retailers, I am an 18 in sewing patterns. I'm a person who is comfortable in my skin, so that doesn't send me into a spin, but it makes me go, "huh." You know?

And in cutting the pattern pieces for this particular pattern (New Look 6375), I had to draft it out a bit, since the bust would work, but the waist was too small. I was so pleased with myself for thinking! For using my head! For realizing that no, my waist is NOT 30 inches, and no matter what I think it is, I need to cut the pattern for what will FIT. I think I am so used to knitting, where we regularly plan for negative ease, that I forget that cotton fabric is, well, a little less forgiving. Positive ease is my friend.

So I cut. And then cut the fabric pieces. Then I sewed. And I basted the bodice and tried it on (another stupid thing I've done in the past is just sew-sew-sew till done, try on, and realize I'm a moron for not trying on earlier). It fit! I sewed some more. Tried it on. Raised the hem. It fit even better!

The weird thing is, when it was done the dress looked good. In the practice fabric. The same fabric that Lala had wrinkled her nose at when I'd shown it to her. It did look outrageous in the bolt. And it looked pretty outrageous when made into a dress and lying flat. But on me, it kinda works. What do you think?


I'm so proud of myself! All I want to do is make dresses! Now I want to make one like this:

But if you want to buy this adorable little thing, it's HERE. I think I'm going to attempt it using Simplicity pattern 3774 (recommended to me by the nice gals at Pattern Review). Maybe I can make another one I can wear out of the house.

In the meantime, today when I went to the county fair I wore this:


It wasn't until after I put everything on that I realized I'd made the sweater (Bella) and the undertank (Coachella) and the skirt (those are martini glasses in black on the blue and green background). So I took a picture. I've come a long way, baby.

(Amy and the bunnies - email me! Thank you! So much!)


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Dude! That dress *definitely* works! I think it only needs a lacy black wrap (or white, perhaps? or a pale pink? can't really make out the reddish colour in the dress from the picture) and you're good to go for an amazing garden party. Very well done :-)

Oh, no - totally doesn't work. Doesn't work atall. You know who it would work on, though?


Hee. Just kidding (well, not about the implied fact that I covet both dresses). It's dead cute.

You are rockin that dress chica. I *LOVE* it!

That dress is adorable! Yes, you should sew more dresses, yes indeed.

The "test" dress looks fabulous on you! I can't even believe it looks bad lying flat, because it's obviously a great dress. You'll wear it with the $10 cowboy boots, of course? (I typed "cowboy boys" -- oops. ;)


The dress looks great! For my first dress, I chose one that said "EASY!" but it wasn't! I learned that the more pieces there are to cut out, and the more 'notions', the harder it is to put together! LOL. I also had to reconcile with the idea of positive ease, although the dress I made allowed for almost 4" of positive ease in a bust like the second dress photo you showed. I don't know how they thought the girls would stay inside the dress with that much ease! LOL. Wish I had thought to baste and try on sooner!

I think you did a great job, and the pattern suits you. Great bargain! That yellow dress pattern made me gasp--how pretty that is.

That dress rocks! And it should look great with the cowboy boots!

I think my brother is up that way fighting those same fires (he's a captain for Novato). Thanks for all the work you do.

It's great, of course!

I too, have had less than good experiences sewing dresses. For some reaason, I can have tons of patience for knitting, and hardly any with sewing from a pattern.

Good job sticking with it and actually thinking while sewing! I may have to try that someday...

Love the dress! And thanks for the link to Trashy Diva, I think. I feel money being spent there soon.

Sewing pattern companies haven't changed their sizes since the 60's or so- whereas ready-to-wear sizes have adapted with the "average" sizes of modern people (some people call this vanity sizing). That's why a ready-to-wear size ten you find in a vintage shop might seem ridiculously small.

That dress has the va-voom goin' on. Rock it with the cowboy boots.

Fabulous dress! I used to sew the same way (sew first on not-cheap fabric, cry later). Stay safe up there in the fire zone, k?

Beautiful dress! I'm up in Arcata and my husband will be working one of the fire camps (Orleans) as a medic next week. Look at the Purl and Hurl group on ravelry if you have time to meet up with fellow knitters in between shifts...

Three things-

1) Awesome dress!!!
2) Thank you for saving our lovely state!
3) Thrift Town rocks!! and I now live ten minutes away!!

It's good to be recognized and appreciated and used doing something you do well.

That counts for the dispatching, the sewing (huzzah!), the knitting, the living.

it looks super -- isn't it funny how that works sometimes something looks ok when it is done but perfect when you put it on. You Rock!!

how cute are you in that foxy little dress!!! man. lala is lucky. Love it!

The dress looks great! I think the print works well with the pattern you chose. I also like the outfit you put together for the county fair. All those colors mixing it up together look so good.

It's been a rough day for me, and your blog made me smile. Thanks, Rachael!

The dress COMPLETELY works! Whaddya think, a little black bolero shrug for cool evenings? What a happy accident. Nice going Rachel!

The dress is cute but wow! that outfit with the sweaters and skirt! adorable!

okay, that was too many exclamation marks.....

Dude, you are just the cutest thing ever.

And now I want the yellow toile one too.

You look FABULOUS in the dress!!

The pattern looks like a pretty good match, but it'd be even closer if you cut the skirt sections for a larger size and then gathered them to fit the waist section. You could do the same for the bodice pieces and gather them at the shoulder and where they meet the middle piece, to make it look more like the original. Aww, now you have me wanting to set up the sewing machine. I need more free time.

I love the practice fabric on you! With one of your fabulous sweaters over it for night time.... adorable!

You look hot in the "practice" dress! You could totally wear that outside the house. A lacy wrap in white or black wuld be perfect with it.

I really need to be able to make practice dresses like that. For a wedding in 2 weekends.

It would look great with the cowboy boots too...

da-yam, girl! nice dress! you inspire me to go out and sew!! (even though i dont know how!)

Love the dress - so much that I am seriously thinking of relearning to sew. But those Doc Martens? I've had that pair for umm, since I started grad school (and I'm a postdoc now). They keep going and going and ...

Fingers crossed for a quick and safe end to the fires.

oh, sigh, how i miss thrift town.
nice work, girl.
And it's been longer than the 60's since pattern companies changed their sizing - it was the mid 1930's when they standardized. When I was working in the fabric store, we supported people through regular pattern-size-related temper tantrums... the worst ones were the ones who bought expensive expensive fabric and then refused to believe that they needed to take their measurements. Oh! How it killed us.

That dress is *fantastic*! And wow...I have anxiety attacks when I have to buy something like dresses, but you made making it sound almost painless. Hmmm.

And thank you so much for your work. I'm sure it's hard to be away from home for a bit, but this is clearly Good Stuff you're doing.

Wow - your test dress, your shoes, your county fair outfit... everything is great, great, great! I love that Trashy Diva dress most of all! I had to bookmark the site! I covet one of the red 1940s dresses! I hope your version turns out awesome!

That dress is totally hot! It does all the right things in all the right places. Wear it often. I want a dress like that - one that makes my knockers look great and my waist small!

I would so wear that dress out of the house! it is so cute on you! Love it! I think I need to go buy that pattern!!!! (I've been on a New Look pattern Kick lately! though the pattern sizing does weird me out a bit too! I'm also a 16-18 in the NL patterns.)

Funny what a great job you can do when you drop all those requirements of doing it perfect the first time. But do you feel like doing it all over again now? I like the dress! And I hate sewing pattern sizes. Please go for the Simplicity dress, I'd love to see it.

I LOVE the dress. Wear it out!


And you sew too?! I so totally <3 you even more now!! Isn't it nice when things turn out right? The dress is great! Best of luck with the next one!

Hubba hubba, hot stuff! That dress looks great!

You look super cute, and I am not just saying that because I designed one of the things you are wearing (I swearz!)
Good luck and godspeed on the fire dispatch.
Now, off to put my hair in two ponytails...

You are so rocking that dress! I have never found shoes at Thriftown so I'm jealous. (It's also my fave store too). Keep on with those mad sewing skillz.

The dress is so cute!!!! Great job! It is so flattering. I just made a skirt and wore it to work- that's a first for me.

You would look SO CUTE in that yellow dress, and the test fabric is also way cute. It works!
Sewing is so fun. :)

just elegant! can even imagine it with the cowboy bootz. would love to see a pic of the fabric up close - it looks divoon on you - can't imagine it being awful at all.

Wow.! Fantastic collection!! I too have 2 floral summer dresses. I got these dresses from Target.

Love your sewing!!!!! So talented, and you work to help mankind, such a woman!!

Wow, awesome dress! Yeah, I'm like a size 22 in patterns, sheesh, even though I fit ready-made clothes in a 16 quite well. Whatever, I just want a great dress! I hope this inspires me to cut some out next week. I've had the fabric forever. (I highly recommend Stone Mountain and Daughter!)

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Rachael loves it when book clubs read her work! She's happy to attend book clubs that read her books either in person or via Skype. Contact her at rachael@rachaelherron.com to make arrangements.


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