A Tale of Three Dresses, Chapter 1-The Winter Dress


“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,”Charles Dickens

Ok, so maybe this story isn’t quite as life changing as Charles Dickens’, but…it sure has a great opening line… 🙂

Anyway a couple of weeks ago I fell victim to McCalls Pattern Company’s marketing of my e-mail. Normally, I scan through the endless mail in my inbox stopping only to read the things from real people that I know, but for some reason on this particular day my eyes locked on an e-mail from the McCalls Pattern Company with a subject line, “patterns on sale $3.99.” I suppose adding to this temptation of purchasing a new pattern for so little money, was the already existing winter gloom I was having over the clothes hanging in my closet. So many of my things for this season are black and I am feeling the need to brighten my world with a little more color around me and what better way to start than to make a new dress!?! It seemed easy enough, especially when the shopping was just a click away. (Just don’t ask me how much time that “clicking” used up…!) The result of my window shopping was the purchase of 3 new dress patterns, Woo Hoo!

Image result for quotes about a new dress

I no sooner made my final pattern purchase click when the question of, “What fabric will I use?” started rolling through my thoughts.(Did I mention not to ask my how much time this unplanned window shopping consumed? But how could I think of anything else when a new dress was waiting to be created???)

‘Vain trifles as they seem, clothes have, they say, more important offices
than to merely keep us warm.
They change our view of the world and the world’s view of us.’ – Virginia Woolf

While I waited for my new patterns to arrive in the mailbox, the spare moments of my day became filled with thoughts of fabric choices for each of these fun new dresses. But, because planning three new dresses seemed to be interrupting the necessary parts of my day-meals, laundry, barn work, sleep(just the minor things, right?)-I singled out one of the the three new patterns that would make a great winter season dress.
This pattern is designed for knit fabrics and the fabric suggestions on the envelope  are, “Ponte, Sweater Knits, Cotton Knit.” I knew right away that Ponte knit was what I wanted to use for this project.
“Ponte knits are a very stable knit with a nominal amount of stretching capability. Ponte knit fabric can be worn during any season and is perfect for travel,…”  fabricmartfabrics.com 
After doing a little internet searching for Ponte fabric sources, I found some nice color selections at imaginegnats.com  With the idea of wanting some brighter color in my clothing choices, I wrestled with some bold choices like red and pink or red and orange, but as usual the practical brain cells always jump in to help the creative cells produce an end product that best works for my conservative, country living life. So, I pulled up a color wheel and considered some complementary color choices that might help me achieve a dress that looks a little bold and still has a place in my closet with my shoe choices.

A color scheme based on complementary colors

Example of a complementary color harmony

I settled on mulberry and olive in a Ponte de Roma fabric with a fiber content of 75% polyester, 21% rayon, 4% spandex. “Click, click, click,” the order was completed and the waiting at the mail box began, again.

My new fabric with a nice little note from Imagine Gnats Shop. “No, thank you!”

On the back side of this note from Imagine Gnats is a chart that explains a little more about knits and determining their percentage of stretch. For a beginning sewer, knits can seem too daunting a task, but there are plenty of sources for knit construction and help just a click away. With a little bit of practice you will be hooked on the comfort and ease of adding your own knit creations to your clothing wardrobe.


knit stretch chart

One great things about sewing with knits is that the finished garment fit is usually a little more relaxed. Darts, zippers and other important parts of constructing a garment out of woven fabric are a more rare occurrence in items made from a knit that can drape and stretch.

Sewing with a fabric like this Ponte knit is an especially good beginner fabric choice because of how stable the overall fabric remains.

“Ponte is a double-knit interlock fabric that has stability and firmness in addition to flexibility and softness. This means it can be used in dresses, blazers, and more structured pieces and hold its shape but still maintain comfort and give. Best of both worlds, no?”


Once my fabric arrived, the joy of bringing this imagined dress to life was hard to contain. A clean house would have to wait for this necessary creation to take shape.

Before laying out the pattern to be cut, I took the advice of the pattern directions and did some tissue fitting. This dress is a Palmer and Pletsch design and they have written much about the concept of tissue fitting. I have one of their books on the subject and have used this technique in the past for a few garments. The directions included with this dress pattern give the sewer some abbreviated information about this fitting concept and can help you prevent an unhappy ending to this dress sewing journey. I have found that tissue fitting is much easier done with a partner. It can be difficult to make the necessary observations of the tissue “garment” when you are wearing it. Ask a friend to join you for this part of the project and be prepared to giggle a little, wearing a tissue paper pattern garment can feel a little silly, but the information you gather from this step will be worth the time spent and how can a friend turn down laughter over tea and tissue…

As you can see this pattern is not very efficient in it’s layout. There will be large leftover pieces of fabric to add to your “what should I do with these?” stash. I continue to have hope that someday those much loved pieces with find a purpose.
Make sure to follow the tissue directions closely, the front and back dress pieces have pattern extension that need to be pinned or taped to the bottom before laying them out or cutting. I added 2 inches to the bottom length of view B, after tissue fitting I found that the finished length of the dress was going to be a little shorter that I wanted.
I spent approximately four hours from the beginning of cutting to the final hemming of this dress.
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Using the overlock to sew the side seams

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finishing the sleeve hem with binding

I decided to finish the sleeves with a binding of the contrasting fabric. I liked the idea of carrying the added color to the bottom of the sleeves and was afraid that after hemming them the traditional way they would feel too short.

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When I make this dress in the future I will make the sleeve ends a little tighter and longer and I will cut it a little smaller in the hip area. After tissue fitting I was concerned about it being too clingy around my hips so I cut it one size larger than I had pinned. Now after it is finished I think the finished dress could be a little neater looking if it were finished in the smaller size through the hips.

Overall this was an easy dress to put together and it is really comfortable. I highly recommend you give it a try.

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my attempt at a selfie 🙂 

When I woke Sunday morning with the intention of wearing my new dress to church with black tights and black ankle boots, I had the funniest realization-Under my bed were a pair of antique shoes that I haven’t worn for a long time. They are antique because I purchased them in 1985 when I was a young single, working girl and had money to spend just on myself. Of course that meant many pairs of cute shoes to go with the outfits I would sew. I have hung on to these shoes because they are very good quality(Nine West), versatile(practical reason) and the feelings of nostalgia that are attached to them(emotional reason). The funny part is the color;

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my matching antique shoes

My shoes are a little more taupe than olive, but pretty close, and that beautiful mulberry color inside. It seems amazing to me that while contemplating this dress I thought I was breaking out of my comfort zone a little by picking these color choices and yet, alas, I was just reconnecting with choices that have always encouraged the joy that is in me.

“A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.”
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities



A Snow Child

This past weekend several members of Honorable Son #1’s musical theater group preformed the play A Snow Child. The show was part of a dinner show, but done at lunch time. We had never participated in any of these productions, so it was a fun new adventure.

A Snow Child

“A magical Christmas musical based on a Russian folk tale.

A man and his wife are sad, as they have no children.  Each Christmas they make a crib for the villagers, but one year they are too sad to do so.  Instead they make a Snow Child.  To their joy, she comes to life and is loved by everyone.”


Honorable Son #1 played the part of Dimitri, a toy maker and the “father” of the snow child. It is such a joy to watch him use his gifts and to see him grow as a person through each of these new experiences.

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Honorable Son #1 as Dimitri from A Snow Child

I am not sure where his newly perfected Russian accent will take him in the world, but am thanking God for the opportunity to join him in his journey.