The Birthday Dress

I suppose this whole idea of making a birthday dress for my (almost!) five year old deserves a bit of back-story. I am a mama who loves birthdays. I mean, I really love them. And not my own birthday, necessarily, but that’s ok too. I just love to plan a birthday — the gifts, the party, the cake. And this got so much more, um, pathological? once I had a daughter. But last year I was heavily pregnant with my sweet now ten-month old, Tess, for Emmaline’s 4th birthday party and it was all I could do to put up a couple of streamers and remember to brush her hair before everyone arrived. Ok, I’m exaggerating, but that’s how it felt. Kinda lame.

This year I am determined to put last year to shame. I know we mamas should be gentle with ourselves, not try to put too much pressure on ourselves…. And it’s true. But last year I lamed out all over the place. My husband’s birthday was spent with us all having the flu. I dropped the ball on my mother’s birthday, and one of my good friends only got a card and my pregnant, exhausted presence at her birthday dinner. This year promises a better birthday-me. I rocked out my husband’s birthday. And Emmaline’s is next. Hence the birthday dress. She requested a “red dress.” Not particularly spring-like for a girl turning the five the day before the vernal equinox, but so be it. I determined to do this.

I searched the interwebs for a pattern or tutorial I really loved. In a very roundabout way that I won’t get into, I found this one. It’s a really pretty and (relatively) easy pattern. Plus, free! To give credit where credit is due, this tutorial is actually a guest post from The Cottage Home on the U-Create site. Both are chock full of crafty ideas and inspiration, so check them out!

I then had to find the perfect fabric. Emmaline said red, her favorite color, with some flowers. Hmm. A little bit of searching on Alewives’ fabulous site, Emmaline and I snuggled in the dark on my bed and peering into the screen, and she yelled, “That’s it!”

Yup. That’s red alright.

The day before our last (and final?) Midcoast snowstorm, I drove into Damariscotta Mills and ducked into Alewives Fabrics right before they closed. Ah, what a wonderful place! I lingered a bit too long over the velveteens, but easily located the fabric and was delighted to find it much less McDonald’s ketchup and much more rich cranberry. I found contrasting fabric from the same collection (and a covered button kit! Only $2.99, who knew?) and was on my way merrily with visions of “whipping it up” in a “couple of hours.”

Ahhh, yes. You probably know how this story goes. Maybe you’ve had a few of these stories yourself. A few hours stretched into an entire day.

Cutting out the pieces was easy enough. I’m terrible with math, but I managed to size it for my slim girl.

(see? not the most organized corner)

What sewing tutorials don’t tell you is how much ironing there is. It’s all about the ironing, really. And the finger burning. Oh, and pinning. There’s lots of pinning. So, just to cut it, pin it, sew a seam, iron said seam, burn my fingers, listen to chaos happening in my living room as my dearest husband attempted to run interference with both girls so I could work. Yeah. That took all morning. Little pieces, big pieces. I suddenly wondered if it looked like Emmaline made it. Or if the fabric was like curtains. Was I sewing Scarlett’s drapes? Eight grade Home Economics class project?

(oh, ironing)

(more ironing)

(ooh, nice ironing!)

At some point, the dress looked like a dress.

(ok, this might be a dress now)

I realized that the afternoon was wearing away, that I was shaky from lack of food, dying of thirst, Joel Dewberry’s peonies were swimming behind my eyes, and my fingers were sore with pinpricks. Oh, I still had on my nightgown too. Sewing crazy, that’s what I called it. And I literally lost all track of time.

But, despite the fact that I’m pretty sure Tess thought I was gone forever (she greeted me as though I’d come back from the dead), it was rather blissful to get lost in something. The fabric-covered buttons were especially satisfying. Seriously, run over to Alewives and grab a kit. Best three bucks you’ll spend for your sewing collection.

(cool buttons, mama)

I mean, look! Here it is on my sweet girl. And she loves it. And just four seven hours ago it had been a pile of lovely fabric and a wee bit of determination.

I hope you are inspired to make something. Maybe even your take on this dress for your daughter or granddaughter. Maybe these adorable pants for your little man. I mean, sure, you could run to a store and buy something. Or even have someone else make it for you on etsy. But just the experience of entering the time warp of crafting can be useful, self-informative (I am both impatient and determined, plus have a decent repertoire of curses), and gives you a real appreciation for what you’ve made. And an appreciation for the process of how things are made. Just as there is “slow food,” there definitely is “slow dress.”

Feel free to comment or click on the “contact” link to ask for my sewing notes and edits on this pattern! I’m happy to share my tips. (Erin)

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