Over ten years ago, tired of fighting traffic to get out of the city, friends of mine decided to host an Independence Day softball game in San Francisco. Since then, we’ve grown from twentysomethings who party into the night to parents who leave by 5 PM; a third of the attendees are under the age of ten. But the Billy Carter Softball Extravaganza is an annual tradition, and one that I celebrated last year with Eliza for the first time. This year, my parents will be in town, and now that I have a matching set of girls, what could I do but make a matching set of dresses for Gillian’s first meeting with Drunkle Sam?
I scoured the internet for acceptable matching outfits, one in newborn and one in toddler size, to no avail. Finding cute patriotic wear in the 0-3 month size is no easy feat, let me tell you. Then I found this on Zulily and snapped it up. It’s not perfect–I removed the bows immediately–but it was a lot better than most of the alternatives.
No matching toddler outfit, but I figured, no problem; I’ll get some navy seersucker, make a little dress and sew on some red and white ricrac. Presto! Matching outfits!
Except navy seersucker is really hard to find. Nothing at Britex, nothing online; nothing, anywhere. Whilst looking for the fabric, though, I stumbled upon a bunch of OTHER cute fabrics, and decided to try a Rocket first: patterns. (You might remember the last dress I made for Eliza, in which I made a pattern on newspaper.) We’re going to Lodi for two weeks on June 14, just to experience some real summer weather, and I’ve been dying to get her some summer dresses. What better way to utilize naptime than to crank out a few cute little numbers?
Turns out that patterns… not so easy. Firstly, unfolding them and laying them out flat made me feel like a general about to lay out my battle plans for Austria and Poland. Even my husband, a veteran manual-reader, called them intimidating. Secondly, they use an entirely new language: topstitching. Understitching. Facing… interfacing… finishing… selvage? WTF is selvage?
None of that was as bad, though, as realizing that one should order one’s fabric AFTER looking at the pattern. I ordered a half yard each of the fabrics I liked, only to find out that a half yard was not enough for any of the patterns. A lifetime of Tetris helped me there, though, along with leftover fabric from my curtain project, and I plunged ahead.
Good on me, though: earlier this year our babysitter sewed Eliza a very sweet little sundress, and it turns out I bought the very same pattern. So I had a good example of a finished product, and I managed to figure out what facing was without much problem. (Understitching I had to look up.) Of course, I didn’t count the right number of pieces for the straps–eight, not four–and had to wing it on two of the straps. By the way, turning straps inside out is not an easy thing. I used a chopstick and poked a hole in the seam, but who’d notice? And I haven’t yet braved buttonholes, so we’re doing snaps and cosmetic buttons for now.
On top of it all, sewing in our apartment is not easy. It’s like camping: leave no trace. Set-up, sewing and breakdown must happen during naptime and after bedtime, and when David’s available enough to deal with Gillian’s needs and Eliza’s not around to go poking in the sewing chest.
All in all, though, I’m pleased with the results. I even headed down to the Fabric Outlet on Memorial Day to snag some notions, patterns and fabrics on sale, and guess what I found? Solid navy seersucker! So be on the lookout for that finished product later this week. Note: the fourth dress is not pictured below, but once I manage to get her into it, I’ll share it.