Tuesday, September 8, 2015

These are washdress days.


This Summer I resolved to finally be honest about my sewing projects.  What did I actually need in my closet?  Did I need more 1950s, fitted-bodice, full-skirted dresses?  Did I need more pencil skirts?  More novelty print aprons?  No.  I needed a dress that I could mow the lawn in.  A dress that had a bit of breathing room.  A dress that I could wear out to do chores, wipe my muddy hands on, and not feel bad when the sun faded it on the clothesline.  I needed a washdress. 

Previously, my mother had given me a box of 1930-40s vintage fabrics that she had, in turn, gotten from her mother.  Nice pieces that while they only measured 35inches wide, they still totaled up to several yards each so could be used for more than just aprons.  I dug through the box, admiring the 1930s ditsy prints and 1940s florals.  They were all so nice.  Too nice!  Honestly, I couldn't bring myself to wipe muddy hands on any of them so I finally settled on this one.  This red floral was the worst of the nice fabrics.  It was not straight yardage, but rather a duvet cover, piped in that microscopic bias that was so popular in the '40s.  It had a few black grease stains in one corner and judging by the soft drape, I knew it had been washed a million times.

Butterick 3467
Rooting through the pattern box, I decided to use this 1970s Butterick pattern.  I've learned long ago that achieving a certain era or style of clothing depends more on the fabric choice and dress details (fit, trims, etc) than it does on the original pattern used.  This had a high waistline and simple shape.  I needed to rework a few construction details, but going from the '70s to the '40s wouldn't be a problem.

I choose to make the dress sleeveless and reshaped the neckline into a simple V.  I moved the zipper from the back and ran it down the center front seam.  I gathered the front bust darts instead of sewing them in flat.  I added patch pockets and trimmed it with quarter inch bias and crocheted lace in accenting colors.

Being that this fabric started life as a duvet cover, the dress was already broken in before I mowed my first stretch of lawn.  It felt like stepping into an old favorite, and indeed, I've worn it quite a lot this Summer.  There's something to be said for lightweight cotton dresses with no waistlines when the days get hot and humid!

And in case you noticed my co-star who was trying to get into the milkhouse, here's a better shot of our new kitten, Tashi.  More on her next time.  

Now that Summer is coming to a close, I need to apply this philosophy to my Winter sewing as well.  Do I need more jacket and skirt ensembles?  More wool dresses?  More plaid skirts?  Heck yah!!  Wool plaid is my idea of Heaven!  Psst, see above tab entitled: Plaid is the New Black.  Well, I'll try to behave myself, but I'm not making any promises.  For now I'll just revel in having made one good sewing decision. 


  1. oh my I love it - you are too cute by the way! My barn cats usually photo bomb my pictures too

  2. yes and yes!!!
    wonderful housedress! i made one last year from a modern printed viscose mix but with distinctly 40s silhouette and i loove it! especially the pockets - always full with little things from house&garden! and thanks for the idea with the duvet cover - i need a new one next summer but could´t find the right fabric in the right price range.
    cute pic of you and the cat!!!


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