Life List #9: Wear a Dress I Made. Check!

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I had sewn before. I’d made curtains and pillows for my home, pajama pants for Jared, and a baptismal gown for Emma when she was a baby. I had never made anything resembling real clothes, however, and I wanted to have the pleasure of actually wearing something I made with my own two hands.

(I admit to watching a lot of Project Runway.)

When I first published my Life List last November, Lisa offered to help me with one of the items:

9. Wear a dress I made.

Technically, she offered to send me her old sewing machine when I was no longer living in an RV. Details. I decided to take her up on her offer for help of any kind while I was staying with her this week.

She drove me around to the local fabric stores until I found a pattern and fabric I liked – or rather, a pattern I liked and wasn’t intimidated by, because there were a lot of patterns I loved that I was pretty sure I would ruin or look awful in.

She also let me use her very fancy sewing machine, and all of her other sewing tools, and guided me through the directions as I struggled to cut straight lines and figure out how to “ease” fabric.

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She also drove me back to the fabric store when we discovered I had half a garment completed in the wrong size.

About that: I almost quit. I suck at cutting straight lines and I couldn’t figure out how to attached the collar properly and I was feeling like I had gotten way in over my head on this stupid *foot stomp* project — and that’s when we figured out the bodice I had made (and all the pattern pieces I’d cut out) were about two sizes too small.

So, I was fatter and less talented than I thought.

It was not a good night. I went to bed only because Lisa encouraged me to put it away and come back to it in the morning, something I am loathe to do when I’ve become obsessed with making something work.

“Put it away, we’ll come back to it,” she kept saying, and I only listened because I was a guest in her home.

By the time the next morning came, I had remembered the purpose of a life list. It’s not to check things off as done, but to add experiences to the tapestry of my life. I wanted to experience using my hands to make something I could actually wear; I wanted to experience putting on a finished product. I didn’t want to half-ass it; I wanted to do it the best that I could, even if that meant starting over and throwing more money and time into the project.

We took careful measurements of my actual body (instead of going by the size I’m pretty sure I should be) and went back to the store, where the cashier used a coupon to give me 50% off my purchase. Yay!

I got back to work.

Four days, a few cuss words, and hundreds of ripped out stitches later, I had a finished tunic.

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It’s not the most flattering thing I own, but I did wear it all day Thursday and I will wear it again. It’s also not a dress, but I’m OK with that, too, and I may make a dress next.

I’m so proud of myself! I learned a lot about sewing, patience, and persistence with this project, and while those things don’t immediately come to mind when you hear the word happiness, I can assure you that the end result was one happy girl.

(Thank you so much, Lisa, for helping to make this happen for me!)

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  1. Love it- looks great on you. I'm amazed- that is such an accomplishment. Sewing/knitting & playing the piano are skills I"d LOVE to have. Going to make anything else?

  2. IzzyMom says:

    I love it! It looks great on you and I'm SO proud of you for finishing it.

  3. Jared says:

    You forgot your awesome husband, who helped with the extra funds.Congrats!

  4. Megan says:

    Looks good from here! I'm so proud of you! I don't think I'd have the patience to make a washcloth. let alone a piece of clothing.

  5. Carly says:

    Congratulations on the experience! I love sewing, but often want to give my machine a good whack with a baseball bat out of frustration during my few and far-between projects. It always feels great to finish a project though :) Also, your hair looks fabulous.

  6. SO insanely wicked happy for you! yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!

  7. Stephanie says:

    Not bad for a first project. Sewing's hard. I have my great aunt's sewing machine, but I mostly use it to simplify making my kids Halloween costumes. My last project bent the sewing needle, and I still haven't gotten around to replacing that.

  8. Sewing is hard, yo. I've done very little beyond little tiny girl dresses (because I find those to be very simple to do!)Congrats on crossing things off your list:)

  9. Allyson says:

    That picture of you on the floor cutting out your pattern looks so much like my mother, I almost cried. She was a professional quilter, so I guess I'm saying, you looked like a natural!

  10. Heather B. says:

    Ha! I saw the photos on Flickr before reading the post and I only thought "Where did she get that?? I want one" and now I know that you made it with your own hands. Awesome.

  11. ohjennymae says:

    yay! it looks great! and don't beat yourself up. pattern sizing isn't the same as off-the-rack sizing. my 8 in real life is a 14 in pattern sizing. measuring is always a good idea.

  12. Jamie says:

    Sewing does require patience and it isn't cheap unless you reuse the pattern. And the sizing thing is a curseword You really have to go with measurements rather than our generously evolved sizes. Love the color and the top. I need some skirts for the summer. Might just give it a go.

  13. ilinap says:

    That is such an accomplishment! I once rented a sewing machine to make my friend a throw pillow. I broke 4 needles, and it took me all night. In the end, the pillow sucked. I haven't tried sewing again.

  14. janey says:

    Well done! That is much more versatile than a dress, I LIKEY!!! And sadly cannot sew.

  15. Lisa says:

    I loved watching you work on this project! I'm happy to have been able to facilitate a life list item for you, and I think it looks great on you. Personally I think I'm going to stick to things that don't have a size. Or collars.

  16. Meg says:

    You did a Fantastic job! Sewing takes years of practice and skill… I'm impressed with the job you did. It's cute too!

  17. Very Cute! I love the detail around the neck line.

  18. the muskrat says:

    Hooray! Congrats to you.

  19. Melissa says:

    I am an aspiring seamstress as well, and I have a bag full of what I like to call “Melissa’s Big Fat Eff-Ups” as a reminder of the learning curve that comes with learning something new. I think your tunic looks super cute, and if you can do that you are ready for a simple dress. :)

  20. Liz says:

    Cute! My grandmother recently gave me a super old, super heavy sewing machine that I plan on using to make my own something I can wear. High five to you for pushing through and making it happen!
    Liz’s most recent post: Life Stuff: Overloaded and Loving It

  21. Patriciaj says:

    I admire your perseverance. I made a skirt and top once in 12th grade, so I don’t have to add it to my life list. Though I must say, I like your new top and I bow before those of my friends who can sew…

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