Friday, August 10, 2012

Summer Sewing: Cotton Dresses to Wear at Home

A Thread of Love
by Eduard Niczky (German 1850-1919)

(Please note: You can move your cursor or finger over the scripture citations for a pop-up window of the complete verse.)

Last summer I posted a picture of this soft cotton print from the Wal-Mart fabric department.( By the way, Wal-Mart is re-establishing the fabric department in some stores country-wide.)  Since then, several ladies have written to tell me that they had purchased some of it, and included photographs of the finished garments.

  I also shared how to make a planning page with a drawing and notes about the garment you are going to make. Ladies have also been sending me these, to show. The one you see below was sent by a lady who also uses New Look pattern 6352 , adding a flutter sleeve and a ruffle at the hem. This is great for summer because it is loose and cool. This dress has no buttons or zipper but you could add a side or back zipper.

Another friend sent me this picture of a skirt and blouse made from the same fabric,

and this is what I have done with the same print: very similar to my e-friend's sketch at the beginning of the post, only I chose long sleeves. The dress is not that long; the dress form has very short legs! This pattern is very easy, but for some people may be too big, so trying making it a size smaller. Also, the neckline will need to be raised, and the shoulders will have to have additional inches added at the neckline.
The neckline fits better than it looks on the dressform.

The reason I use this pattern is that it is easy for the homemaker that has so much to do, and she can get it finished in a day.  After I cut out a dress, I take the fabric pieces I just cut out, and lay them on another piece of folded fabric and cut out another dress. Using the pre-cut dress as a pattern is much easier, as it needs no pins or weights to hold it down, so I always have a dress cut out that will be used for a pattern. This I do with other patterns and styles, also, if I like the way the dress turned out.

I will address a question that comes to my email sometimes about my sewing: What do you do with all the clothes and crafts you make?

If you sew with cotton, you know how wonderful it is to wear, and you tend to wear the clothes to death. Every last wear is squeezed out of these garments until it cannot be worn again, and then it is cut down into an apron. If you use the line to dry the garment, you might take something that seems like it has absolutely no wear left in it, hang it to dry, and then discover that the sun and wind added some more starch and body to the cloth, and you can get a few more wearings from it.

Homemaking being as active as it is, the cotton dresses will receive a lot of wear and tear, so I do not expect them to last for years. However, some of the ones that I made for out-of-the-house have lasted 15 to 20 years.

Since these dresses are not expensive and are made of cotton fabrics, they do not hang in the closet for years or go unworn, and therefore, are used up faster than other types of clothing. If it looks like my blog is full of dresses and you wonder how in the world I could wear them all, remember I dress this way at home daily, and I do not wear the same dress every day. I have at least 7 dresses so I can rotate them.  My newer dress just off the sewing machine will be worn to church (about 4 of them) and then as the older dresses wear out, I will use the newer ones to wear to Ladies Bible Class, Wednesday evening Bible study, or Sunday night church.  Eventually I will have several dresses to wear during the week, with newer ones to wear to other occasions outside of the home.  

The pillows, blankets, and other crafts get used up also. My family lives in our house and everything gets some pretty hard wear-and-tear, and I am not afraid to use the pretty ruffled pillows, because if they wear out, it is always exciting to make something else.     Smaller items get put in a basket by the front door to give away to guests or to take to someone I visit, or to be used as a gift when it is needed.

Hand sewn cotton blouses and skirts feel MUCH different than factory clothing. For one thing, they are breathable and do not cling as much, making them much more comfortable. Yes, you can get 100% cotton knit tops and you can get cotton skirts in stores, but it is treated with some different product, which will make it feel much different, even after it is washed, than the hand made cotton clothing.

Making your own clothes, or having a dressmaker, gives you a better fit and more control over the styles, the length or the color choice.  

My favorite fabrics are by David Textiles from Texas, which are stocked by Walmart. The Hawaiian dress in one of the previous posts is a David fabric.  

To plan your sewing, try making a list of things you do and places you go, and then sketching the type of clothing you need to wear. Such a list might look something like this:

Worship Service -  solid color dress and short jacket --make about 4 of them, and use them later when they are wearing out, for your daily wear.

Daily Wear At Home - 7 calico prints of various colors, with sleeves, and one white short jacket to wear over them when you have to go away from home.

Ladies Bible Study - several versions of a skirt and casual blouse (4 or 5 of them to rotate in wear)

Midweek Bible study - a casual dress (make about 4 of these to rotate in wear)

Special Occasions - one black dress with jacket and one white skirt and top, or more formal.

Away from home: vacations, beach, sight seeing, touring, and anything else: it is fun to choose fabrics to go with the activity you are anticipating, or with the scenes or climate.  If you are a "mood" dresser like I am, think of the colors you will see wherever you go, and choose your fabric accordingly.

I am looking forward to taking some time to demonstrate on this blog how to make this dress, with easy instructions. 

One good reason to make cotton dresses for the home is that they are a woven, natural fabric, which wear thinner as they are washed and hung out, and they will not hang in the closet for years and years, like some of the clothing made from oil and plastic products.  Cottons do not cling to body odor as badly as other fabrics, and if they are sewn by someone, rather than store-bought, they have a more refreshing feeling next to the skin.

Some manufacturers have been able to duplicate this in cotton garments. It is a matter of finding them to purchase. A knit cotton will not be as nice as a woven cotton, and a rayon will not be as comfortable as a cotton, even though it is a derivative of cotton.


Mrs. V. said...

I rotate my clothing out in the same manner you do. I love the cotton calico fabrics for everyday wear. I can never have enough calico! I also keep a rotation of more casual housedresses (I suppose more in the old fashioned muumuu style) for relaxing in at home.

Anonymous said...

I can sew, but it seems to take me a long time just to get one dress done. I will admit, I am picky about quality and I have to start and stop a lot due to other responsibilities. I wonder if you might be able to give some suggestions about sewing faster. I would like to pick up the pace so I can get several items each season, rather than just one or two. Do you think an "assembly line" approach is good, or is it better to take a lot of time on one garment, in the hope that I will get used to the pattern and learn to make it faster?

Also, fall comes early here in New England and a lot of the year is very cold. I won't be making any more summer dresses and around here, florals look very out of place in the fall and winter. What fabrics would you recommend for winter dressing? My local WalMart does carry a lot of fabric.

Thank you for the ideas in the post and any answers you might have for me here.

Anonymous said...

I am so thrilled to see this entry this morning,Lady Lydia! I wear skirts exclusively and alot of women in our denomination wear the blue jean skirts all the time and I hate them. They are very hot and heavy for summer and my husband has asked me to wear something prettier because that is all you see the young pentecost women wearing. It seems like we have forgotten how to wear pretty prints these days. Seems to me everything deemed fashionable is drab in color and not comfortable. As I was reading this, it came to mind as to why we feel we must follow that mentality instead of wearing what we truly like. You are correct; cotton is very cool and great for summer. It seems like I feel free to break away from the denim stuff and make what suits me to wear and it sure would be prettier than denim. Thank you.

Jeanie in KY

Anonymous said...

Also, I forgot to add that I have started writing down what i wear to services so I dont keep wearing the same things all the time. When you wrote that about writing down what you were to what occassions I remembered that. It truly does help to bring some variety to what we wear and not feel like we wear the same blouse and skirt all the time.

Jeanie in KY

GentleDove said...

Beautiful dresses and very helpful thoughts for planning a wardrobe. I'm excited to see your sewing tutorial! Thank you for your blog.

Lydia said...

If you can learn to make jumpers from old Laura Ashley patterns of the 1980's and 90's, which are available on the web, you could just use a warmer fabric and wear it over your dresses or blouses. These are sometimes called over-dresses, make of winter-weight fabrics. Since I am in the house more than out, and I wear a coat in winter, I just wear the same clothes all winter, with sweaters or something warm over them. We have a warm house in winter, so it is not necessary for us to dress in too heavy fabrics. I think you can use the jumpers, though, and be very comfortable. I will post some pictures on the main post of some of the patterns

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the cold weather suggestions. I will look for some patterns of the type you suggested. I am going to have some more time to sew soon and I am looking forward to it!

Anonymous said...

This post has been another blessing to read. Thank you Lady Lydia. This is extremely helpful for those of us who grew up with blue jeans monday through Saturday and dresses on Sunday until you came home from church.

I am amazed at the amount of clothing you suggest and thrilled at the same time. Even working outside the home I never had this amount of clothes. Though I can see how it is needed especially for a homemaker . Please continue writting about sewing and such it is oil to my soul.

Michelle said...

Thank you for this post. I have not made any clothing yet, partly because I lack time and partly lack of experience and confidence. Right now, I only have two skorts I've been wearing at home, which gets very boring. I can't even find skirts I like for summer to buy at the stores. I want something lighter then heavy denim and your suggestion of cotton always sounds good. But, I tend to be rough on my clothes at home, getting stains, etc. We live on a farm. Do you have any suggestions on styles, etc? I don't like long skirts/dresses for summer, because I get too hot, and they seem to be in the way.

I'm looking forward to your tutorial. Your suggestions for clothes and sewing are a blessing to me.

Lydia said...

I live a country life and I wear a long apron over my clothes. These types of garments are made of good cotton and perfect for the dirt and wear and tear of outdoor life. They are not made to last forever: they are made to wash and wear and work and use up.

Lydia said...

I meant to say also that these clothes I made are intended to get dirty. However, the way homes are these days, even in the country, with our appliances and running water and mowers and automated things like sweepers and things that make housework and yardwork easier,and, if I move carefully, there is not as much dirt or catching on things. If it happens, it does not matter. These aren't clothes made to last for years. It would be boring if they did. I love to sew up something new.

Gayle said...

Loved reading this,and I always like to see what you are sewing and wearing.Your color choices are so pretty and feminine.What apron pattern do you use the most?And do you make them to match your dresses?

Anonymous said...

I also have loved browsing around your blog, but this is my first time posting!

Those dresses are beautiful, but I am a very new seamstress, and am wondering if you would recommend that I start with skirts instead? (I've never put in a zipper, but have made wrap skirts a few times.)

Also. The fabrics look fairly thin; what sort of undergarments do you use? I dislike having the synthetic fabric next to my skin when it is very hot because we live in a place that is humid in the summer.


Anonymous said...

Do you have any suggestions for pregnancy wear? The maternity clothes in the stores seem so expensive and they are rarely long enough for me. What kinds of things or styles would be good for fall and winter? That's when I'll be at my largest. Thank you so much!