“Saving” My Emery Dress

Young woman wearing an ill-fitting short sleeve dress. The dress is green with frog faces on it.

In May/June of 2021, I enrolled in an Intro to Classic Dressmaking class at Notion, where I attempted to sew an Emery dress out of a frog patterned quilting cotton. Attempted for a few reasons, for starters, it was hard and I’m by no means an expert sewist (yet?). The more important reason, however, is that when I blended two sizes together to form what I thought would be the correct size bodice I was left with a shoulder area that could have been smaller (aka I probably didn’t need to blend a larger size into a smaller size)! This is probably why people sew a mock version before attempting the project in their final project, similar to creating a large swatch in knitting. Needless to say, the only way my Emery dress would fit would be if I suddenly grew about two cup sizes.

If I’m honest, the dress sat on the floor of our bedroom for several months. Literally staring me in the face day in and day out with its cute (and just a tad creepy) frog faces. My husband, who hates clothing on the floor, stopped offering me pitying looks about the situation after about a week. At least he didn’t say anything about moving it, I was suffering from a feeling I’m sure his inner artist understood.

A size 6 month pinafore dress with a repeating frog pattern laying next to a pair of matching baby bloomers.

It finally came to me, after spending probably too much time on Pinterest looking up sewing projects for babies (their clothes don’t require a lot of fabric!) and a strong desire to have the little frogs live out their destiny to adorn someone’s body. In less than an hour, my missized Emery dress became an adorable Crossover Pinafore (free pattern from Smashed Peas and Carrots) with matching bloomers!

Pros and cons of the Crossover Pinafore really come down to how well you can manipulate fabric around the tight corners that form the straps (which in my case means that they’re a little wonky). I like that the pattern is reversible, but I used some leftover black cotton from an art project my husband was working on, and don’t foresee anyone flipping this particular version to that side. It was also a fantastic excuse to pull out my machine’s buttonhole maker, which always blows my mind a little bit. All in all, I can see myself making this when a friend announces that they have a little girl (Is this too girly for a boy to wear? Do babies even really care?) on the way with purposefully picked lining fabric so that it’s actually reversible.

Now that it’s done, I can’t help but think about the remnants that can be found in my fabric stash. I must have enough fabric leftover to make another one (combined with more black remnants of course!).

A belated “Happy Halloween”

No matter how you swing it, the best part about re-sewing the same pattern again is that you’ve already assembled the pattern. Like ironing your fabric before cutting, assembling the pattern is one of those steps that always takes longer than you think it should. So when I sat down on Halloween morning to make an Ilsa dress with Jade sleeves part two, I honestly anticipated the project having zero hiccups and only taking a few hours. In my mind, it would receive a lot of compliments while I handed out candy to trick or treaters and would have paired well with the denim jacket that I would throw on to stay warm. My machine, however, had a different plan in mind for the day.

Perhaps it’s my fault, perhaps if I hadn’t waited until the day of to sew the project things would have turned out differently. Even after all the time playing around with my tension settings, I still don’t really know what happened (but am tempted to try a new stretch needle next). This is all to say that no matter what I did, my machine wouldn’t stop eating my ghost fabric and the dress that I thought I was going to make is not the dress I ended up with.

After trying, testing, and failing, to fix the problem after a half-hour, I was left with hole-y fabric and a strong desire to rage quit. Each piece had been carefully cut so that the ghosts lined up playfully along the pieces, I didn’t have fabric left over to recut anything. The situation quickly reminded me of playing a hard challenge in a video game as a child where there was nothing to do but throw the controller down and turn it off. Except I didn’t have the ability to try again later, a few of my pattern pieces were beyond saving.

So instead of rage quitting, I found myself reaching for the 3-6 month Germanium pieces that I cut out this past June. These fit perfectly within the Ilsa pieces that were still intact, so I took a deep breath and prepared to start over.

The final dress is not perfect, in fact, I messed up the bodice construction and had to make a few modifications in order to compensate for it. Technical difficulties aside, I am happy with the final product. In the end, it felt more important to sit down with my machine and sew than it did to wear a ghost dress this year. With all the knitting I’ve been doing for Blue Sky Fibers and Wonderland Yarns, it’s been easy to walk by my sewing machine and let it sit unused. In the end, it felt good to persevere and produce something unique. This little dress may become a romper so that it’s more gender-neutral, however, that’s an adventure for another day!

Baby dress in size 3-6 months made out of blue fabric with large white ghosts on it.