Mums for my Mom: The Completed Linen Jackie O Dress
Today’s post is all about my process of sewing for others. It’s what’s been on my mind a lot the past month, in terms of sewing. Things have gotten pretty crazy (good crazy, but the I-only-got-two-hours-of-sleep-last-night-but-I-am-excited-that-I-met-my-deadline kind of crazy) over in my part of town lately, which has slowed my sewing output. While it’s easy to set my own projects aside, like my orange jeans and my hand-tailored jacket, it’s the things I’ve promised others that I don’t want to let fall behind. While that means these projects add a bit to the crazy, the good thing is that they also keep me turning on the sewing machine when I have 15 minutes here and a half hour there; they encourage me to pull out the hand sewing needle when my husband and I are catching up after a long day at work. In general, they are very, very good for keeping at least a low level of good sewing mojo alive no matter how busy things get. Now, just to be clear, all of my sewing for others are gifts, so I’m not writing as someone who picks up commissioned projects or makes hundreds of garments for others a year. All of my sewing is purely hobby sewing.
When I begin a project for someone else, the pattern typically comes first. Then the size. For example, when I won Simplicity 6402 from a Daughter Fish giveaway, it’s vintage, Jackie O-esque style landed it into my must-make pattern pile.
I’m not a size 36, but I figured it was close to my mom’s size. Since I wanted to make it out of a woven (a fabulous Irish linen from FineFabrics.com with a beautiful silk crepe de chine lining covered in mums, shown here), I made up a muslin and sent it to my mom (if you remember back in the day, it was as a Christmas present place holder, to be filled by the final dress – now finally eight months later!).
My guess that she was around a size 36 was spot on. The muslin only needed a few minor tweaks at the darts and side seams. My dad helped her with the first round of fitting at home, and then we finished it up together the next time we were together.
I’m more daring with guessing sizes for others and just going for it when the garment will be made of knits. A baggy or slightly too tight knit garment is more wearable than the same out of a woven. The Sewaholic Renfrew pattern has been a good pattern for gifts since it’s meant for knits and includes a wide range of sizes. Plus, everyone loves a striped knit top.
Another big consideration when sewing for others is construction and seam finishing. Since most of the people I’m sewing for are used to ready-to-wear, I want to give them a good impression of the quality that can come from handmade garments. For my mom’s dress, I underlined the linen with silk organza in the hopes that it will help keep it from wrinkling as badly as linen can. I catch stitched the neck and armhole seams down to the silk organza and pinked the side seams. I also took advantage of the underlining for the hem. After stitching on a bright hem tape (a gift from VickiKateMakes when I won one of her giveaways), I catch stitched the hem to the silk organza for an invisible finish. I hand stitched the lining to the neckline and arm holes using tiny fell stitches and understitched to keep everything in place.
As one last final touch, I added short thread chains to the side seams and back seam at the hemline. I would have done all of this for my own dress, but I was extra careful that everything was a perfect as possible for my mom.
I shipped the dress off to my mom after it was complete, and I’ve never gotten an email with so many excited exclamation marks as she sent after she received it. She was so happy and proud to have a dress made just for her by her daughter – how could I not want to keep sewing for others? In fact, I’ve already started on my next gift: another Renfrew for another sister-in-law. In silk jersey. Oh la la!