Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Mother-Daughter Trip: Part 1

Even before we'd celebrated Christmas, Endeavor knew what she wanted for her April birthday.  She wanted to go on a trip to Connecticut (our former home) to visit her dear friends and attend a special event.  I couldn't think of a better gift for my own April birthday than the very same thing.....so the Bionic Man gave both of us airplane tickets to Hartford for our birthdays.

Before we left on our trip, I had to come up with a special dress for Endeavor to wear at the special event.  She had requested something yellow and lavender.  Do you think we could find anything in those colors anywhere?  No, not in Endeavor's size.  So we went to the fabric shop.  Do you think we could find any cute prints with lavender and yellow there?  Again, no.  I was forced to improvise.

It was scary.  This is the most complicated thing I've sewn in the past 12 years.....and it wasn't really all that complex: no zippers, buttons, pleats, or major details.  Still scary, though.  I really, really wanted Endeavor to be happy with it--my goal for this trip was lots of happy memories, and the dress was part of that.

I used this pattern.
Simplicity's Project Runway pattern actually turned out to be a lot of fun to use--and that says a lot, because normally I HATE sewing with patterns.  But this one was great.  It gave lots of different options for elements of the dress, and listed fabric yardages by element, not dress style, so you could really mix things up.  Here were some of the choices we had: 
Endeavor had a very particular idea in mind for what she wanted me to create.  She wanted the dress to be longer than pictured.  She wanted it to be lavender, yellow, and white.  We never did find a fabric we liked with those three colors, so this is what we chose, instead:

Buttery yellow cotton, with an overlay of embroidered organza (on sale for 60% off, thank goodness!).  And those little lavender flowers....were they part of that organza?  No!  I actually sewed those on BY HAND so that they would coordinate with the lavender sash my darling daughter requested.  I'm not kidding.  I did that in an airport while we waited for a plane.  I tell you, this dress for Endeavor was quite an endeavor.

Anyway, like I said, the pattern was pretty simple.  My big sister, Lynne', helped me a lot via telephone.  She has lots of great sewing experience gleaned from sewing formals for her two teenage daughters, and I couldn't have done this without her help.  Thank you, Lynne'!  One of the things Lynne' has taught me is that you can make a simple pattern into a formal gown just by choosing elegant fabric.  See?

Not the best pictures, but you get the idea.  

One of the tricky things about this dress was the sleeves.  I managed to do a number of things successfully that I'd never done before:  line the dress, put on the organza overlay, add the embroidered details.  Endeavor had requested that the sleeves be like this:
Lovely, but guess what?  The dress fit before I put the sleeves in, but it didn't fit after I put the sleeves in!!!!  I'm sure that if I were an experienced seamstress, I could tell you why.  But I'm not, so I can't.  Endeavor and I both cried.  With the sleeves in, the dress looked okay, but poor Endeavor couldn't raise her arms or bend over!  It was just too tight.  With less than 24 hours before we needed to be on a plane, I was at a loss.  I didn't have time to make a new bodice in a larger size, which was what seemed like the obvious solution.  A friend suggested that I unpick the sleeves and just have Endeavor wear a light sweater.

But Endeavor had already named this her Pride and Prejudice dress.  (I recently introduced her to the Kiera Knightly movie version, and she's a big fan.  Yay!)  The first time she tried it on, Endeavor had exclaimed, "I look like I'm going to a Pride and Prejudice ball!  This is like something Elizabeth would wear!" 

 Did they wear sweaters over their dresses in Pride and Prejudice?  No, they did not.  Am I a sucker for anything to do with Jane Austen?  Yes, I am.  I had to do something!  So I prayed.  I prayed hard, and inspiration came.  Cap sleeves!  I am not kidding, I do not know how to invent sleeves that aren't on a pattern, so this was divine guidance at its finest.  The cap sleeves worked out just beautifully, and Endeavor couldn't have been more pleased.  I'm grateful that the original sleeves didn't work out, because let's admit it, the cap sleeves were just so much more Pride and Prejudice.

The little lavender trim worked out nicely, too.  Thank goodness for late nights and layovers!  Hand-stitching is just not my thing.  
The moral of this sewing story?  You can make even a very simple design look good if you find beautiful fabric and add a few delightful details.  

Of course, once the dress was complete, Endeavor had to ask, "Oh, do you think you can do my hair like Elizabeth's?"
Tune in for Part 2 of the Mother Daughter Trip, and you'll see how that turned out.  My goodness, I love my not-so-little girl!  And I do love a good Jane Austen inspired movie!  She knows just what to say to get me to pull out all the stops.

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