We sat on her bed, looking at the contents of her wardrobe. After flicking through the rail, I finally agreed with her. All her dresses were not suitable for a near-teen. It didn’t help that since last summer she has stretched. I mean really stretched. Dresses were now tunics and the rest were too young.
More dresses were definitely required. (Music to a mother’s ears, who likes to sew.)
It was a Saturday morning. The fabric shop would be open. Heading downstairs, I selecting a few possible patterns from my collection and let her choose.
Being a near-teen, she has clear ideas about what she likes. It is a fearless state of mind. She doesn’t seem to compromise and worry about what her friends will think. She knows what she likes and what suits her. I hope she never loses that clarity.
The making of the dress
She opted for Simplicity 5234. A simple dress, that gave a variety of combinations. Different options for the neckline, yoke fabric and sleeves, while the dress stayed the same, simple shape. She could design her own dress. How good is that? She was decisive and went for view B. She wanted a lace overlay, with cap sleeves.
Fearless, I tell you.
Next stop, the fabric shop.
It didn’t take her long to spot the perfect watery-blue. We looked at several laces and background fabrics, finally settling for a white, soft lace against white fabric.
Secretly, I was pleased she chose this dress pattern. I knew it would be quick to make and perfect for a wedding we were all going to this weekend. The dress is a pullover. No zips or buttons. A simple shape with a tie at the back.
I’ve not worked with lace before. The sleeves needed gathering at the top to ease them into the armhole. I found the combination of lace and gathering fiddly, but got there in the end.
Originally, she wanted the long version of the dress, but once fitted, she realised that the hem would work better for her as the short version. I cut off a couple of inches. If she changes her mind, I can easily add it back on.
The pattern was quick to make and no advanced tailoring. A great choice if you’re starting out on your dressmaking journey. The instructions are straightforward. If I was to make it again, I think it would take me an afternoon.
Why it matters that she designed it
She loves her new dress. The dress she designed. She’s not one to ask for lots of things, but when I prompted her, she did say she’d love another using the same pattern. I think I can manage that.
I’m glad we took this route. Yes. I could have let her loose in any number of clothes shops, with a purse full of money. I daresay, she would have found an outfit she liked. Maybe it would have been a compromised choice as closing time neared. This dress should last her a while (especially if I add the length back on). Unlike a shop bought outfit, it will not look easily dated. Eventually she will grow out of it, but it’s not destined to be thrown away in a matter of weeks/months as so much of our fashion goods are in this country. As the fashion passes.
It may seem like a small thing, but I love that I was able to give her control of the design.
I try to bring my children up not to be sheep. Following others blindly, without a thought. They may roll their eyes, but they’re also the first to point out when they see others following for the sake of following. I can also see in their actions that they understand. My daughter loves to draw. She loves to design. Doing it this way meant she could take her skill and transfer it to something she could wear. She led rather than being led by others. She designed it. She did it. Confidence boosted a notch or two more.
She wore her dress to the wedding and had a great time. She said it was an easy dress to wear.
Bizarrely, after the wedding, in a way that no one could ever have co-ordinated the timing so perfectly, we stepped out on to the pavement, and straight into the Bath carnival.
The music and dancing swept us all away. I had wondered if my dress (and this blue one) might be too bright for a wedding. Apparently not this wedding. Not with a carnival to finish off the proceedings.
Linking up with Crafting On and …
I’ve made another patchwork square for your Dear Daughter quilt. This one is called Farmer’s Daughter. I fussy cut the bees for some pieces, but left others so they look like they are scurring under the centre pieces. It would have worked more effective if the red fabric had less white. I’m hoping it shows from a distance.
With every finished square, I include a letter to you. Often I think about my words as I add little stitches to pull the bits of fabric together. The repeating action of sewing concentrates my mind and I can focus on what I want to say. Other thoughts can wait, which fits nicely with the topic I’ve chosen this time. Time to launch in to my letter….
There are no two ways about it. Life can serve up some real humdingers of moments, that we’d prefer to write out of our day. We all have them. We really do. Easy to dwell. Easy to let them pull us down. Easy to let five minutes of something not going our way, to make the whole day feel like a write-off.
So often we forget, dismiss or simply don’t register the simple joys in life, instead focusing on the bad. It’s the way we’re wired. A survival trait.
In basic terms, since time beyond, we are set up to pass on warnings and danger messages so we, and the rest of our community or tribe, survive. There is an immediate benefit from hearing about a wolf seen attacking local sheep. Less true of learning that the lilac down by the river smells particularly good this year. Especially if you depend on your sheep, rather than lilacs, for survival. In this case, focusing on the bad saves lives.
In modern terms, the gossip might fly about the cafe in town that’s linked to a possible food poisoning outbreak, or the road works that add time to your journey and cause major inconvenience. All will be discussed in detail and at length, while a rainbow overhead fades unnoticed.
With the focus on danger and disruptions, it does mean that we need to work a little harder at seeing life’s joy and making it part of us. Hang on. Wait a minute. Why does it matter, you may ask? Good question. I should cover that first.
I think it matters because each of those moments of joy lift our spirits and strengthens us. In contrast, being under a cloud of stress and anxiety leaves us depleted. Try tackling a day in that state and I think you’ll see the advantage of experiencing an uplift instead. Even if it is only fleeting.
By focusing on the small, or seemingly less critical (think lilac), we also glimpse the bigger picture. We gain perspective. It takes us out of ourselves and that is a good thing. A moment to step back, regroup, and then on to tackle at least some of what life can throw at us, slightly stronger than we were before.
Let me give you an example. It’s spring at the moment. We’ve spotted the first swifts of the year, flying over the house. What a sight for winter weary eyes. Often they are flying as pairs, but soon they’ll be more than we can count as they weave and streak through the sky above our heads, outmaneuvering flies to munch on.
Here comes the part that always catches my breath and makes me smile: they’ve flown all the way back from Africa to our patch of the world. Reportedly, without stopping. Just take a moment to think about it. Those little birds have covered thousands of miles, and they do it every year of their lives. Awesome. We witness only the end and the start of their epic journey.
I’m not sure why I was so worried about the traffic jam now. I’ll leave earlier. Although, I might loiter a little longer to watch the swifts dart above my head. ‘Tis a joy.
So how do we see life’s joy in our daily lives? Like gold dust it can be spread thin and difficult to grasp, but with practise it becomes easier. Look around. Stand still and look up. Stop, listen and notice. Take a moment and experience it. For one moment, give yourself permission to not think about the past or overthink the future. Be.
Here are some ideas on how to lose yourself and see the joy:
1. Go outside and take a camera. There is nothing like spotting something new – be it flower, insect or street art – to make you look. I mean really look. Frame it in the camera lens. Take the photo. (this is one of my favourite ways – just look at my instagram feed) Alternatively draw it.
2. Do something you really enjoy doing to the best of your abilities. Entirely for you. Baking, playing the harp, drawing, plant a seed. Concentrating. Getting lost in the process. If you make something, feel free to throw it away at the end, if you want. It’s all about the journey. (Although cake is nice. Just saying.)
3. Spend time with someone you like/love and enjoy their company. Fly a kite. Laughter is compulsory with this one, of course.
4. Find music that really resonates with you. Play it. Dance. Sing. Tap your toes. Lose yourself in it.
5. Meditate. Cloud watch. Stand out in the summer rain.
You will find your own method. Lose yourself in the process. Take no baggage with you. Tomorrow can wait. It will take practise, but the good news is that what ever method you choose, it will make you happy. In a better place to deal with whatever comes next. I know you can do it.
Wishing joy to all.
your loving mother