I Need Your Help: Sewing Plans for 2014

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I am, as I have always been, addicted to possibility. Every new pattern, fabric, button, trick, or tutorial makes me giddy. I am notorious for gathering all the materials for a project– pattern, fabric, notions– but never actually start work on it. Even after starting one, most recently Simplicity 4156, I get backlogged and frustrated. I’ve been working on this latest project for almost 3 months now! I am nearly done, but if I had put my mind to it, I could have had it done weeks ago.

dress designThis was my early design for the dress. The colors have stayed the same, but the belt detail, sadly, had to go, and I’m rethinking the trim (worked better on paper than on me). Otherwise: it looks just like this!

It may seem a little late to be posting Sewing Resolutions for 2014, but I’ve begun to lag behind. I just don’t have the “get-up-and-go” to make things. I need a little motivation! All of you– my readers, fellow costumers, family, and friends– are the best motivation ever and I don’t like to let you down! I’m going to post a few project ideas here because I know that if I promise to complete them for you all, it will give me that extra push I need to get back into the groove and put my stash of fabrics to good use.

Despite taking so long with it, I am really in love with Simplicity 4156. Now that I have it fitted to better suit my body and know what to expect from it, I’d like to work more with it. I have lots of stash fabric that would work brilliantly for the pattern as well, including two cottons and an oatmeal herringbone in particular that scream 1890s to me:


My favorite of the bunch, but sadly, a little chewed up (you can see one of the many pulls on the left). However, it would…no, WILL…be a great rough-and-tumble day dress!


Slightly more Edwardian than the last print, but still applicable to the 1890s, I think. It’s a fine cotton with subtle woven-in stripes in the background. The flowers are much punchier in person: a very crisp cornflower blue and black. It WILL make a lovely spring/summer day dress.


I don’t know what fabric this is as it was a remnant. It reminds me of poly-wool blends, though, and is very drapey and smooth. It WILL make a great walking dress for cooler days.

One of the funnest parts of my addiction to possibility is getting to draw all my future dresses! Making a fashion sketch keeps me from wandering around a project (and the fabric store!) without a clear direction. They really do help with focus! I don’t have photoshop or any other fancy drawing program, but I do have a paper sketchpad and Microsoft Office PowerPoint. So I sketched a basic outline of an 1890s dress based on Simplicity 4156, photographed it, and imported it into MS PowerPoint to add color. Ta-da! My plans for the three fabrics I’ve chosen:


The Rainy-Day Dress
For the chewed-up-but-perfect grey cotton.


Fine China Day Dress
For the blue and white floral (it reminds me of my grandmother’s blue willow china)


Business and Pleasure Walking Dress
For the oatmeal herringbone weave. The center fabric is a fun one. It’s not really period-perfect, but it’s got pizzazz…and I’m all about pizzazz! It was a happy accident: I found it right next to the oatmeal fabric–a work of fate!

You’ll notice that there’s a big difference between these designs and my current dress, which is made 90% true-to-pattern. Here’s the original 4156 dress design sketch that’s published in the pattern:

Excitingly, my current dress is going to turn out almost exactly like this! YAY! I am so proud that I actually got those sleeve to work!

The design is very large and over-the-top. It’s fabulous for my dinner dress, but it’s a little too much to manage if I want to go to events, especially outdoors. The gigantic sleeves are very apt to catch in the wily Texas wind and flop around like two unruly balloons! I also want to make some dresses without the peplum. The peplum is really nice because it neatly hides the place where the waistband of the skirt meets the bodice white adding to the illusion that you are wearing a separate jacket, and peplums were all the rage in the 1890s:

Wool Suit Fashion Illustration, circa 1894-97

 Ladies’ Demi-Evening Toilette Dress for a Paper Doll, circa 1896
This paper doll’s dress is almost a perfect match for Simplicity 4156!

However, I wanted to make something less fussy. In the process of doing research for my current dress, I found lots of wonderful dresses with straight-across waists combined with sash belts that were directly sewn onto the dress:

House of Rouff Dress, circa 1897

April 1897 Fashion Plate
It’s just like my little yellow sash!

Garden Party Toilette for a Paper Doll, circa 1895


A photograph I bought from a local antique store. I really love her dress! It’s a later design, probably around 1897-99, but it’s just so darling. It has an applied sash around the bottom that doesn’t meet at the front. The bodice she has on could easily be made from the pattern pieces I have right now: just make two “collars” and apply them on either shoulder under the lapels instead of at the back of the neck! Hmmm…ideas…

Luckily, all three of my fabrics are perfectly complimented by mustard yellow, so I only have to purchase one small piece of velvet to make sashes from. Added bonus: they will all match the same hat! I even have a hat base picked out that will work perfectly:

Hat Base by Humboldt Haberdashery on Etsy

I hope posting all this here will give me the motivation I need. I don’t like to disappoint people, and so long as you are here to support me and jab me in the ribs if I get a little slow, I think we can get through these dresses together! My goal is to get all three done by the end of the year. It’s only three dresses, but there are plenty of other patterns and stash fabrics that need attention, too, and I’m working on plans for them as well.

I’ll keep your updated on my progress (with plenty of pictures, I promise)!


6 thoughts on “I Need Your Help: Sewing Plans for 2014

  1. I also make little sketches of prospective projects! Into a ziplock baggie goes the sketch, some notes, notions, pattern, fabric swatch….but I never get around to actually making these!!! Gahh!

  2. making sketches is a great idea. I thought about making that Simplicity pattern but the sleeves scared me a lot! I look forward to seeing how you tackle them. all the best :)

  3. Beautiful images. I too do sketches to test out colour and fabric combos…problem is I decide which one I like…go to the fabric shop and can’t find anything exactly alike so I then chnage my mind. lol!
    Will you need some pillow like arrangements under the sleeves to help them stick out?

    1. Ah, yes! I do the same! Or I get distracted by newer “better” fabric choices. But I try to stick to my plan as best I can.
      To support the giant puff sleeves, Simplicity 4156 uses crinoline netting to poof them out from the inside, but the smaller version of the puff (and many extant examples) don’t need stuffing or fluff. The stiffness of the fabric actually holds itself up quite well.

  4. can´t wait to see your progress! the fabrics look lovely, and the accessorizing with yellow is gorgeous!
    …i do sketches all the time – in my age i need every help i can get to remember my ideas ;-)

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