Color: Pink-and-white gingham.
Pattern: Simplicity 4709, view A. A baby dress.
I did all the sewing by hand, in waiting rooms and on playground benches.
Is It Suitable for Beginners? It was very easy, with the major exception of the placket in the back: you have to slash the fabric, spread the two sides, and talk that slashed fabric into thinking that it was always a straight line. I'm a bad liar. My placket doesn't believe me, and won't lie flat. Snaps might convince it.
Oddly enough, I could not find any but shank buttons in Jerusalem. The buttons I wound up with look like pink rock candy. My daughter loves them.
She also loves the dress rather more than I do – it's an empire'd rectangle. Loops is small for her age, and I think it's a rather juvenile style on her – but then, I cut it long; it's supposed to be size 18 months and she is quite a bit older.
I sewed an organza ribbon across the front. It is nearly invisible.
One can never have too much organza – I said to my husband that I want to start a kollel in northern Norway among the Sami; we will learn full-time as we herd our reindeer, and wear lots of organza. For some reason he thinks this unlikely.
Color: Grey. I think it's wool.
Pattern: Butterick 3134. View C, because I was in a hurry and it was the only one that didn't need modification.
Is It Suitable for Beginners? Yes, eminently. This would be an excellent first pattern. I sewed it on an airplane en route to the job interview for which I needed it. It is also very easy to adjust for size.
The dressmaker in the family says that hem ripples are one of those things that go away inexplicably with practice.
We attended a wedding at which Loops, who is a girly-girl, went around admiring all the clouds of satin worn by the bridal party.
“I want to wear a froofy dress,” she said.
“Froofy dresses are only for the chasan and kallah's family,” I said.
“Am I the chasan and kallah's family?”
So, I made her something a little bit froofy, for Sukkos.
Color: Loops picked a pink-, yellow-, and aqua-striped seersucker. I thought it looked like a lawn chair cover, but now that it's a dress I like it. When she wears it with white shoes she looks like something out of Gatsby, as if she's going to play tennis, it is so ultra-summery.
Pattern: Butterick 4054, view D.
Is It Suitable for Beginners? There were two challenges with this dress, neither because of the pattern. The first was cutting an uneven stripe – only the timely intervention of one of the family dressmakers, who was visiting, prevented me from getting it backwards (what do you mean? they're stripes, aren't they? – well, no, if you cut one side upside-down, you'll end up with two aqua stripes marching toward each other, with no pink between). The second was getting the fabric not to splurt out like a fountain at the bottom of the zipper. Turns out that when you use an invisible zipper – which is not the kind the pattern called for – you're supposed to insert it before you sew the seam it interrupts. I can't vouch for how this pattern might behave with an ordinary zipper.
I didn't think I would like the elastic in the sleeve wrists – for some reason elastic always strikes me as newfangled silliness – but the sleeves are cut very full, so some control was necessary. Time was short – I went with elastic. It looks fine.
This time I machine-sewed the dress, and discovered that yes, even allowing time to detangle thread, pick out mistakes, adjust clumping gathers (probably for want of a walking-foot), and hand-crank around tight corners, it is considerably faster than sewing by hand. I am hooked.
I offered Loops the choice of a pinafore or a doll. She said she wanted a pinafore. With pockets. And ruffles.
Oh, well, I guess sometime in my life I have to learn how to make ruffles.
Pattern: Butterick 4054 again, view G.
Is It Suitable for Beginners? I couldn't figure out the instructions for the skirt corners – someone had to show me – and white is not nearly as much fun to sew as stripes. But it was easy.
For some reason, although the dress in this size fits perfectly, the pinafore is too big.
It's cute. It's actually very cute. Ruffles and all.
I made Elizabeth Stewart Clark's “Great Auntie Maude's Favorite Cloth Doll”, the ultra-accurate mid-19th century rag doll. Yipes – the shape is very fashionably stylized; the doll doesn't look like any human I've ever met. But that's what dolls of the time looked like, and the pattern works. The lesson learned this time was that it is more effective to stuff a little bit of stuffing at a time into a tight corner (in this case, through the neck into the head) than to push on stuffing with stuffing.