contemporary heirloom sewing in sew beautiful

The newest issue of Sew Beautiful magazine (August/September 2013, issue #149) which is starting to arrive in mailboxes now includes a feature I wrote about contemporary heirloom sewing. We made four special Oliver + S dresses for the piece, too.

As part of that feature, I thought it would be fun to show you those dresses in greater depth. I’ll tell you about the fabrics and explain some of the techniques we used to modify the patterns for this piece. I won’t be giving full tutorials on the dresses, but I hope these explanations will get you thinking creatively about your own sewing projects and will get you started on your own creations. And if you don’t subscribe to the magazine but want to purchase a copy so you can read the article itself, you can buy it at newsstands or on the Sew Beautiful website. They really did a nice job with this issue and with the piece itself.




As you may know, we’ve been running special posts about customizing with Oliver + S patterns, and it’s been so interesting and fun to see how you change our patterns to make them your own. I like to think of our patterns as a (very solid) starting point for your own creativity. Our patterns are well-known for giving excellent instructions for making a really beautiful dress with lots of wonderful details. But why stop there? Make the dress your own with other little changes and additions. Here’s the process I used to start my own creative journey with these dresses.

This collection started out with a mood board and color palette. Here is my inspiration board for the collection. I wanted to feature some of the wonderful summery colors and lots of transparent and semi-transparent layers that are happening in the fashion world these days.




The first dress in the feature is the yellow eyelet Croquet Dress. I found this spectacular eyelet fabric at Rosen and Chadick in the garment center a few years ago and held onto it for just the right opportunity. (OK, to tell the truth, I hoped to make it into something for myself. It would have been a great skirt, but, as with many of my fabric purchases, I ended up forfeiting it for the Oliver + S cause. It just worked so nicely with this little collection. Ah, well.)




For this dress we used View B from the Croquet Dress pattern and made very few changes to the pattern. Here’s what we did.

Because eyelet has little holes, we lined the dress with a coordinating cotton oxford-cloth shirting and flatlined the eyelet with the shirting at the front and back bodice. This way the seam allowances didn’t show through the eyelet holes on the outside of the dress. (If you’re not familiar with flatlining, or underlining, it basically means that we basted the lining to the eyelet before we constructed the dress and treated the two fabric layers as one. Flatlining is also really useful if you’re sewing with fabric that’s sheer or doesn’t have enough body for the style you’re making.)

We left the sleeves unlined so the eyelet plays a little peek-a-boo at the arms. The sleeve pattern pieces were cut so the finished hem is positioned at the eyelet’s selvedge (the point where the embroidery ends on the fabric) just for the fun of it and to reduce bulk at the sleeve hems. The skirt, meanwhile, was constructed in two separate layers: eyelet and lining, which we gathered together at the top edge but hemmed separately.

Rather than apply the drawstring/elastic casing to the outside of the dress, as the pattern is written, we made a casing on the inside of the dress using the lining fabric so the casing and the elastic wouldn’t show. And the bow is made from a turquoise organza ribbon, doubled for added impact.

April Henry sewed this dress for us. She did a beautiful job, didn’t she?

I’ll talk about the other dresses in coming days. If you’d like to read the piece itself (in which I talk about a new style of heirloom sewing) I hope you’ll pick up a copy of the magazine.


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1 Comment

  1. Adorable! Great idea to use flatlining too.

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