made and worn with love

Five years ago Natalie Chanin made her daughter a Tea Party Dress. We’ve blogged about that dress, and that dress has inspired many other similar dresses, including one that I made for S. Something about that pattern and Natalie’s techniques just mesh really beautifully together, and each of the dresses that I’ve seen using the pattern and Natalie’s method has turned out just beautifully.

The funny thing is, I never would have recognized that dress now. It’s been worn and loved and repaired and transformed so many times. It’s still the same dress, but it has taken on a completely different appearance. And Maggie, Natalie’s daughter, still wears it. Only now it’s not a dress; it’s a top. (I’m amazed that it still fits her at all after five years!) Here it is now.




Natalie wrote a beautiful, touching post about this dress on her blog. Much as she had intended to pass it along to her granddaughter, the dress has become such a precious item to both her and her daughter, they’re considering framing it so they can continue to enjoy it.

Do you save your favorite sewn pieces, or do you pass them along to someone else who can enjoy them. And have you ever considered framing a favorite dress?




  1. Emily

    One of the first pieces of clothing I ever made was a corduroy a-line dress for my daughter, who was nine months old at the time. It was incredibly simple but turned out really well. My daughter’s too big for it now, but I’ll save that dress forever. For me it not only brings back memories of her as a baby/toddler, but also one of my earliest successes in sewing.

    I have some extra fabric from the dress that I’m saving, as well; someday when my kids are bigger I’d like to make a quilt using fabric from their favorite/most oft-worn clothes.

    Framing the dress is a great idea. It’s small enough, and would look really cute framed in my sewing area. Thanks for the idea!!

  2. Framing? No, that’s a bit much unless it’s a real work of textile or craft skill such as smocking or embroidery. I’m content to donate or fold-n-save and move on but then, I’m not that sentimental anyways.

  3. Christina, Natalie’s techniques are a real work of art in themselves! If you haven’t seen or tried them, I highly recommend taking a look. Her work, in my opinion, is American couture like none other. I think I’d call it contemporary couture. Or wearable couture.

    But yes, not everyone is sentimental about clothing. I think we all have our own ways of preserving memories, and for some people those memories are captured in the textiles and threads themselves. For others, photos or memories are enough. I love to hear everyone’s methods and opinions on topics like these!

  4. Sheri

    Hi Liesl,
    We met recently at a class I took at Rock Paper Scissors in Montclair, NJ. I so enjoyed working with you and learned so much!

    When my daughter was born (she’s now 22!), I got my first Brother embroidery machine. I made many monogrammed dresses for her. And I’ve saved every one! I keep telling family members if they name their girl baby with a “K” name I’ll give them away. No takers so far. I’m not sure I could give them up anyway!

  5. Hi Sheri,

    That’s so sweet! I’m sure those dresses hold many, many memories for you. And yes, maybe it’s a good thing you haven’t had any “K “babies in the family yet–it might be really hard to part with them if you did!

  6. Work of art is right! I remember seeing this dress (later as I wasn’t sewing at the time it was made), and I was blown away. Absolutely gorgeous. How nice that she is still getting use out of it! I think framing it would be a wonderful idea, I am sure they have so many memories in that dress!

  7. No, but I am now. This is a gorgeous example of Chanin’s work and it has a different feel from what I’ve seen in the past. I’ll have to check out her techniques more carefully.

  8. Sarvi

    I can see how it would feel like ‘a bit much’ to frame your own work if you feel it’s not too special in terms of the skill, but remember too that your grandchildren may really treasure something from your hands. Especially as we move deeper into a digital era, physical objects worn and loved by beloved family members can take on enormous significance. I have some of my great grandfather’s books and sometimes come across the papers from packets of his cigarettes slipped between the pages as place markers. They’re a commercial product and certainly nothing unique like a handmade piece by an artist of Natalie Chanin’s caliber, but I still feel a sense of connection to him and to our family history that is very meaningful to me. History is not just this fusty thing of the past but something we create and live every day. Think about it!

  9. I save a number of the garments I’ve made for my kids. Some because they were favorites of theirs and some because they were favorites of mine. I am saving all of my daughter’s dresses from the annual daddy-daughter dance. Some are store-bought by grandma and some are sewn by me. I love to see them hanging in the closet from tiny to big.

    I have a huge doily that my grandmother made. It’s not anything extraordinary, but it’s the only thing I have that she made with her own hands, so it’s special to me. I no longer have it on display because I have dramatically changed my decor and the frame is completely out of sync. However, I have it stored and will keep it forever. Perhaps I’ll even find a new frame for it some time.

    I also have two of my dresses from when I was a baby and later as a toddler. My daughter wore one of them on her second birthday and it was so sweet.

  10. Karen K

    I love the idea of framing or shadow boxing a beloved item I’ve made. Sometimes it’s so hard to cut into prized or favorite fabric because once it’s made and worn it will be stained or outgrown and the fabric is gone. I know….I’m ridiculous. But this would be a fun way to preserve it to enjoy, to hang in my sewing space.

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