Saturday, May 7, 2011

First Communion Dress -- Finished!

Yes, the dress was finished on time . . .

so that Granddaughter #2 could wear it on her very special day.

Here's a close up of the bodice:

(I had hoped that you'd be able to click on the photo to see the lace between the two groups of tucks, but Blogger doesn't want to co-operate.)

My favorite part of her outfit was the veil, something for which I can claim no credit whatsoever. It was made by a family friend for Granddaughter #1 who wore it the year before. Isn't that fabric gorgeous? My daughter-in-law says that her friend, who also makes vestments, mail ordered it. How I'd love to see the catalog!

And now it's time to confess. This is not the dress as I originally envisioned it. After buying 5 yards of white silk dupioni, after discovering new techniques for sewing with it, after learning how to alter the pattern for a custom fit, and especially after struggling with the washing and ironing issues, it became apparent that the learning curve was too steep for the time allotted. And this was one project that had to be finished on time.

So I ditched the silk and bought polyester satin at (blush!) JoAnn's.

Then the dress went together fairly quickly. I simplified the sleeve cuffs but otherwise left the pattern the way I'd planned. I wish, however, that I had made one other change. When I'd been planning to use the silk, I changed the skirt from a slightly gathered four-gore skirt with a curved hem to a dirndl with a deep, straight hem. I now think that the original A-line skirt would have been better suited to the fabric because the polyester satin was a bit too "springy" to be so tightly gathered.

The satin had its own problems, of course. For one thing, it had a tendency to fray even more than the silk. I used a serger to finish most of the seams and a product called Seams Great to finish the armhole. So everything was nice and clean inside.

My first invisible zipper went in without a hitch, thanks to Bernina's #35 foot. I think I'll use them more frequently from now on. They really are easier than regular zippers. No top stitching!

The dress had only two really visible problems. For some reason the sash kept riding up above the waistline despite the thread loops. The instructions said to place one end of the loops at the waist seam and the other 1 1/2" above it. Perhaps the one end of the loop should have been above the waist seam and the other below it. And, possibly due to the springiness of the fabric, the collar had a tendency to flip up a bit.

But my granddaughter seemed to like it which, as I reminded myself, is what was really important.

Making this dress has taught me a lot -- and not just about sewing. I realize now why having to switch my plans from stunning, heirloom frock to ordinary, nice dress upset me so much.

Although I do take a lot of pleasure in sewing for its own sake, I fear I'm also motivated by the show-off factor. The need to astonish others with my expertise and to inspire their admiration had begun to outweigh my original desire to please my granddaughter and to praise God with the work of my hands. Next time, I will aim for little less pride and a little more humility.


Jemajo said...

What a brilliant and interesting post!
I just love the dress (and yes, the veil is amazing, but not the subject of this comment). The skirt suits the style perfectly, and is just right for a young girl - very heirloom style, more so than a drindl might have been, I think. Also the material you used is more resistant to stains than the silk, so she could enjoy her day and not get too upset over stains.
I would love to sew my niece's FHC dress in 7 years time, so maybe I'd better get practicing now and not wait until there's only a few weeks to go!
Your last paragraph struck home with me too, but I wonder if it is the "show-off factor", or just the human desire to do our very best with the God-given talents and patience that we have? We always compete with our previous best, don't we?
It is good to get well-deserved praise for a job well done, but it is more an affirmation that we have done our best, and not just our own opinion (either rose tinted glasses or ultra critical because we know where the fumbles happened!!).

As for the original silk? It's still good for her Confimation dress in a few short years, right?

Rebekah said...

Hi Mary,

I've been thinking about this dress a lot over the past couple weeks and was so glad to be able to see your granddaughter wearing it. It looks perfect, you should be very happy with what you accomplished!

I, too, am on the same boat like you and Jemajo in regards to aspiring to make jaw-dropping sewn items. But I've come to realize that this aspiration of mine can lead to being overly conscience of the little mishaps that happen during the sewing process. I become engrossed in the details that are slightly--and I mean slightly--off like some top stitching being askew or the serger stitches not perfectly uniform. It really can start to eat at you and that is why I've found it important to remind myself: all I can do is my best and nothing more. And I mustn't forget that I will get better with time, some things just need more practice.

So thank you for sharing your thoughts on the subject. You've made me realize that it is more important to simply do my best than try to impress people. And to also thank God for allowing me to do what I love to do. :)

Catholic Bibliophagist said...

Thanks, Jemajo. I'm glad you liked the dress.

My granddaughter liked it too, and when I saw her twirling around in it I was glad that I'd put all those gathers in the skirt.

Yes, I'll certainly make something else out of the silk someday, though I don't yet know what.

Catholic Bibliophagist said...


Yes, not only can perfectionism eat at you, but I find that it can inhibit me so much that I make fewer and fewer projects. Sometimes I just have to remind myself what G.K. Chesterton said about how anything worth doing was worth doing poorly.