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kcwc wrap up - and sewing for 'thrift'

Last year, I was talking sewing with someone who doesn't sew often.  I mentioned I was able to make this dress for only $7, factoring in how many times I had used the pattern.  Puzzled, she responded by saying she could buy a dress at  Target or Walmart for that price... without having to do all the work of making it.  [How clothing gets to stores for those kind of prices and who is behind the sewing machines making our clothes is a controversial topic and too complicated for this little sewing blog.  But I learned a lot by reading this.]

With discount retail stores making clothing available at amazingly low prices, sewing primarily for thrift may be a thing of the past.  Yet, one of the reasons I started sewing for my kids was because I saw jackets or dresses at more expensive, boutiquey stores and fell in love with them... but not their high prices.  I thought, I'll bet I could make that for much, much less!

And such was the case with this, a dress from Handmade Charlotte for Anthropologie.

 image found here

Priced at over $200 - possibly closer to $300, I can't find the pricing info anymore- I knew it was not something I would buy for my girls.  Yet it seemed simple enough to re-create.  Wool + velvet (both from Mill End Store) + the Oliver + S Puppet Show pattern and you get this, my final project for the kcwc.  And all for about 15-20% of the cost of the original, while creating a family heirloom.  I might even call that thrifty.

I had high hopes for making one of these dresses for each of my girls last Christmas.  (That might've been cheesy, though, right?).  But with a new, colicky baby in the house, those plans came to an abrupt halt.  Being I have two Christmas dresses in great shape for my older girls, baby Iris was the recipient of this dress.


I didn't have the easiest time making this dress.  I had scribbled down some notes about the pattern, but honestly, I feel most of the problems I encountered were based on the bulkiness of the materials I chose.  This pattern was written for lightweight to medium weight fabrics, not wool and uber-bulky velvet. 


I knew this velvet was tricky to work with.  I had used it last year to make this mermaid for Indigo for Christmas.  The velvet shed a lot and I had to leave a pretty generous seam allowance or it would fray through to the stitching, leaving a hole. This time, I ended up having to re-do the collar.  My first attempt came out looking p r e t t y wonky.

Buttonholes on thick fabric have been my arch nemesis in the past.  It went better this time but wasn't exactly relaxing, either, let's put it that way.   I had to rip a couple of buttonholes and re-do them.   The stitching is so tiny it always leaves me biting my nails to have to rip it.  Ack!  On a dress that's finished, too!  So much pressure.   (I actually don't bite my nails but if I did, this would definitely be a time I would.)

Evie and I chose the buttons yesterday at Joann's.  Evie is our one naturally organized child and was quite content organizing the buttons that were out of place while I browsed.

In the end this dress came together and I love it.   Perhaps later I will add some winterish hand embroidery to the bottom corner, like my inspiration piece.  Maybe a snowflake in grey embroidery floss?  Or, in this case, is less more?

This concludes my sewing for the fall kcwc!  It was lots of fun.  But my laundry pile desperately needs me!


  1. This is GORGEOUS. I love the richness of the cream wool. I want two for my daughters. I know what you mean about sewing and expense. I have these conversations all the time. I can't compete with the mass produced clothing market, but I am able to dress my girls in amazing clothing that compares more to the things I wouldn't buy otherwise. And I love to sew. Thanks for sharing this wee dress.

    1. Thanks so much for the sweet words. That's exactly how i feel as well - it's fun to be able to make what we wouldn't buy. And model for our children a (somewhat lost) art form as well. :)

  2. You cannot put a price on 'Mummy made it for me'!
    Its stunning,I adore it!
    xx N

  3. Really beautiful! Rachel (of Handmade Charlotte) is a friend of mine, and I think those dresses she did for Anthropologie were a very small order, made domestically and probably not in a factory. With the markup taken at retail, there probably wasn't much profit for the sewists (or for Rachel). Which actually makes them a better value than the $10 dresses at Target, in my opinion (not that I could afford them, mind you). Price and origin of our clothing are such complicated issues today when you start thinking about who made our clothes, and the conditions under which they were made. I agree with you that while we don't necessarily sew to save money, we can certainly make things that are better quality that a lot of what can be found in stores for a similar price. And when we sew, we don't have the questions behind the apparel that something purchased for less expensive at a large retail outlet might elicit. Books could be written (and probably should be written, if they haven't already) about this! Anyway, I think your dress is gorgeous. Thanks for the great post!

    1. Liesl, I read somewhere that she may have even made them herself one summer. (Maybe that's urban legend, I don't know.) But part of the reason I don't sew for others, selling my work, is because frankly, I would have to charge so much. So I'm definitely not saying she was charging too much.

      What has surprised me is it's not just discount retailers whose workers are working in abysmal conditions but some high end store as well!

  4. Have I told you how in love I am with your sense of style? This is the most perfect, most gorgeous little Christmas dress I've EVER SEEN!!! Well done, mama.
    (and I say no embellishment needed - it's just perfect :)

  5. it really is stunning, rachel. i can't wait to see her in it!

  6. Absolutely lovely. It is simple and luxurious. I agree with your comment above - one reason I don't sell my sewing is that the labor of sewing is so severely devalued in our culture (because very poor - but very skilled - women are willing to do it for pennies overseas). If I were to sell my work, it would be too expensive for most people! Anyway, for me, it's not just labor, it's a labor of love, something I do for my friends and my children and myself because I enjoy it. :-)


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