Friday, June 13, 2014

Sewing Dreams

Me and Maeve at an Irish dance competition - Aonghus is in the sling I made.
It's been a long, long while since I've been in the sewing room. I've got a million things planned but haven't been able to get in there because... well, because the baby is a lovely little boy who wants to be awake - all. the. time. He pretty much doesn't do more than a small cat nap or 2 during the day, although he is known to fall asleep in the infant seat while I drive, which really does me no good. It means that there are things that I cannot do when he's awake, since he really needs to be upright due to his reflux. So I usually have him in the sling. Actually, now that I think about it, I did stumble into the sewing room about 2 weeks ago and I made a new sling, which he loves. And by loves I mean that he squeals and makes happy baby noises when he sees me put it on my shoulder. I bought the aluminum rings from Sling Rings, and used the instructions at the Maya Wrap website. It was all pretty straightforward: I ordered a selection of rings because I didn't know what size would be best and then used the largest size, bought 2.5 yards each of 2 coordinating fabrics because I wanted something that was reversible and because I didn't like any of the heavier fabrics that didn't have a wrong side. I washed the fabrics, then trimmed them up, placed them wrong sides together and serged the sides, turned them toward what I wanted to be the inside, and stitched them. Next I serged the ends and then simply followed the rest of the instructions on the Maya Wrap site. I used the entire width of the 45"-wide fabric because I wanted to be sure that this would grow with baby boy. In fact, the only reason I made it was because I was so frustrated with trying to adjust the old one I'd had for ages; it had padded rails and they just didn't allow for fine-tuning and made me feel as though Aonghus wasn't secure in the sling. The length means that even my husband could wear him, and that's a good thing, plus the longer tail means that I've got an impromptu nursing cover if I need one. The fabric is Kaffe Fasset and I think it's quite a lovely combo.

Not sure if you can see the lining, but it's a mustard-yellow with turquoise dots.

Meanwhile, my oldest has moved up in Irish dance so that she is at Beginner 2 level in all her dances. A few competitions ago, she came in 4th in her reel and 3rd in her treble jig, putting her quite close to moving up to the next level in those dances. Then last weekend she placed 4th in Slip Jig, which is great even though she couldn't move up. That's really important to her, since next level is the Novice level, and while it may sound as though it has absolutely nothing to do with sewing, it actually does. At the Novice level dancers are allowed to wear a solo dress and if you know anything about Irish dance at all, you'll know it's a big deal. If not, Google the term feis dress. You can also check out my Irish dance board on Pinterest. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Back already, are you? Do you see what I mean? Gorgeous dresses. Lots of embroidery. In some instances, lots of fancy fabrics and trims, lots of crystals. Maeve isn't really into the dresses that are ultra sequined or heavy with crystals - it's not her style. But she loves the traditional Celtic knot work motifs and really can't wait to be allowed to wear such a creation. But the cost of a dress is highly prohibitive. A good simple dress can cost upwards of $400 or $500 dollars, used! If you're lucky you can find one somewhere for less, but it's been worn quite a bit and most of these dresses cannot be cleaned in the washer or by a dry-cleaner. And a used dress is less likely to be what you want and every girl wants THE dress. So I've become obsessed with the idea of making a solo dress.

Yes, I know it's probably biting off way more than I can chew but honestly I know I can give Maeve what she wants and liking the dress you wear means that you feel good when you're competing. And that means you're more likely to smile and more likely to do well. Judges like smiles. Yes, in the end it will probably end up costing the same or close to it as if I had bought a used one. But at least it will be new. And I want her to have something that no one else has.

Maeve in her school dance outfit. This is 2 pieces - a black net skirt with gold sequin trim and a black top with Celtic knot embroidered appliqués (purchased patches) and a lace collar sewn on.

The other part of this is that I desperately want to stretch myself in my sewing. I already have the embroidery machine, so that's in my favor. The local woman who does dresses does an okay job but I feel like her craftsmanship is slightly sloppy. She makes the school dance dresses and the one that Maeve has is not exactly up to my standards on the interior. Personally, I wouldn't let something like that out of my workroom but I'm a perfectionist. And she doesn't do embroidery, she just uses fancy fabrics. Since the fabrics won't be as glitzy, the work on the appliqués and embroidery would really stand out on the one I plan to do. Patterns for Irish dance dresses are available from Irish Threads and from Feis Dress and I plan to buy one of each, so that I can do a muslin of both and then determine what direction I want to go in. It will be a true labor of love, think. And I'm so excited to do it. I'll definitely end up doing many blog posts about it, just because I want to document the process. But it will probably be interesting to anyone reading this who sews. And the dress she loves best? A gorgeous dress by the company Prime Dress Designs. Just to prove that I need to make this, rather than buy one? That dress cost $1500 new, and it's not even got a ton of crystals or lots of fancy fabrics. Granted, the one I make won't be exactly like that one; it's the color combo and the fabrics that really make the dress, and as long as I can get the right embroidery and appliqué shapes it should come pretty close. *fingers crossed* In the meantime, I haven't bought the patterns and won't until she makes Novice in at least 1 dance. Then I'll buy them and start with the muslin, but I won't buy the fabric for the actual dress until she's made Novice in 1 or 2 more dances, since she won't be able to wear it if she's not in Novice level. This seems to be motivating her to practice more, so I'm hoping that she'll continue to improve and place in her Beginner 2 dances.


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