Seafoam and flamingos

…two things I don’t typically wear. I mean, I wear green, but not seafoam green. I don’t know many people who do, outside of Miami Vice re-runs and kitschy Florida restaurants. But that is where I find myself with today’s make.

This was my first item for Tribute Month, and my second installment of the Cashemerette Lenox shirtdress. I cut out the next size up from the last time, but it ended up not fitting correctly in the bust area, resulting in me taking it in just a bit around that part of the princess seams. Thank goodness that princess seams require easing the fullness of one pattern piece in the first place…it was an easy enough alteration, and things were back on track. I was able to use the sleeves this time around – when I made the first one, the sleeves felt too constricting.

I think for the next attempt (yes, there will be a third attempt…I want to get this perfect), I am going to cut the side front panels at a 20, grading to the 18 around the bust, and cut a 22 for the sleeve. The sleeves worked fine this time around, but I think I want to aim for something closer to a flutter sleeve. We’ll see.

Making this dress was actually a bit of a challenge, but not because of the construction. You see, the flamingo print originally came out about two years ago. I don’t typically purchase border prints, but I kept crossing paths with this fabric at local quilt shops and it finally wore me down.

I wound up snapping up two yards of it back then and made a skirt…that didn’t fit quite right and I wasn’t too happy with. The skirt sat around, unused, as I pondered how to make it work. Then, I made my first Lenox dress and realized the pattern would be perfect for the flamingo material. I wondered (and hoped) that I could dismantle the skirt and use it and the remnants from the original two yards to eke out the pieces for the dress (since it’s a border print, I had used two yards of length, but not the full width of the fabric).

Then I ran into a couple of problems:

  1. I actually located the skirt about two weeks ago, and set it aside, but then couldn’t find where I had put it.
  2. I knew I had saved the unused seafoam**-and-clouds section of the fabric, but I couldn’t find it anywhere in my stash.

While I continued to search my fabric bins at home, I also scoured sites online, looking for anyone who might have at least 2 yards of the fabric left.

Imagine my surprise and relief when I found a listing on Etsy by the vendor FabricSmart. The original listing was for a single yard, but the notes said they had more than a yard, and a larger purchase could be arranged. I contacted them to see how much they had — 2 2/3 yards. Sold! I knew it was going to be just enough to fit the skirt panels along the bottom border, and hoped there would be enough of the other half of the width to cut out all the bodice pieces.

[Note: the seller let me know that they have a little more of the fabric coming in soon, so there’s a chance for you to snag some, too!]

I took my time cutting everything out, taking care to measure that I had enough length for all the skirt pieces before I made a single cut. I lucked out and was able to cut out the button band pieces in a way that the flamingo design went all the way around the skirt with no breaks. Then, I moved on to the rest of the bodice pieces, rejoicing as I got every piece to fit….

…and then everything screeched to a halt.

I had enough material to cut out all of the outside bodice pieces except one of the side front panels.This sewing story has a happy ending, though. I searched for the extra fabric for a week and half (yes, I was that serious about my need for a seafoam flamingo shirtdress). The aggravating thing was…I remembered cutting out the original skirt at the same time that I cut out three other patterns, and I had found two boxes with the remnants from those other three projects. But no seafoam-and-clouds. I had finally decided to put everything aside for a little while, in the hopes of everything showing up (which is usually a sign to the universe to let you find the missing things, but swallow up the other pieces in a black hole, in exchange).

Then, family came up for my oldest nephew’s birthday, and I went looking for a box to wrap one of his presents in. I pulled down a small Amazon box that had been on top of one of my bookshelves for months and there, peering out from underneath a large carwash sponge (don’t ask) was the remnant piece I was looking for.

I may have yelled “ARGH! Are you kidding me? F***ing FINALLY!” before tossing it in the laundry that Robert was starting.

A quick wash later, and the fabric was ready to cut. I went ahead and cut out the final panel, as well as the yoke lining, the outer band collar, the sleeve bands, and two of the pocket pieces.

For the waistband lining, button band facing, collar facing, and the other two pocket pieces, I opted for another remnant that was sitting in my stash.

A little over two years ago, I made a new dress shirt for my father. I had actually written an entry about the challenges of sewing shirts for Dad when he suffered a heart attack and passed away. I deleted that entry, and I’m pretty sure the shirt has found its way to one of my uncles, or someone else in need. There was enough of that fabric left over that I probably could have gotten a short sleeve shirt out of it for Robert, but…I opted for using it for something for me. I think it’s fitting to use it for the flamingo dress. After all, my father went to college for ornithology and, despite spending the majority of his career in the law enforcement field, never stopped loving what he called “his birds.”

Okay, emotional section over for the moment.

The dress went together extremely quickly, once I finally got everything cut out.

Most of the dress was done in one evening. The thing that took the longest was figuring out what buttons to use.

The dress needs 13 buttons, which usually means I don’t have enough of anything in my stash. Unless I want to use plain white buttons, that is. I have a lot of plain white buttons.

White buttons, pre-sorting

I’m not joking. This is what happens when people give you leftovers from their relatives’ sewing rooms, and everyone and their grandmother prefers plain white buttons.

Of course, I didn’t want to use white buttons for this dress. Which meant going out in search of more buttons. Isn’t that always the way. I took a swatch of fabric (that happily contained both the seafoam, as well as a bit of the flamingo/water/boat pattern) and headed out to the local fabric stores. I found wonderful buttons that matched the green and looked like shells at The Quilter’s Studio, but they only had 10. So Mom and I went to JoAnn’s over in Fairfax, and I wound up pulling three different colors: a blue, a salmon pink, and a green.

I was tempted to use all the colors in this layout (I love how the blue and pink ones disappear), but there was a big problem keeping me from doing this. Can you guess what it is?

[The green and pink buttons are four-hole, while the blue ones are two-hole. Yes, this is a deal-breaker for me.]

I took pictures in both the light of my sewing room, and in the diffused sunlight coming in some of the basement windows, and finally decided on the green buttons. While I like the pop of color from the blue, I felt like it made the dress a little busier than I wanted it to be, and took away some of the focus from the flamingo border. Which, let’s be honest, is really the highlight of this dress.

I think the finishing on this dress is the best finishing job I have ever done. The top stitching is on point, I ironed things as I went, the buttons are perfectly lined up…the only thing I wish was a little better is the binding on the hem. I think I ended up pulling it a little while I stitched the first side, so when I turned it and stitched it down, I wound up with some wrinkles on the hem. I’m also planning to change the button layout  for the next version I make. The top button falls about two inches lower than I think it should. I’m not really sure why there is that much of a space between the “V” of the button band and the top button. Next time around, I plan to move all the buttons up at least an inch, and see if I like that better. Besides that, though, I am extremely happy with the way the dress turned out.

Of course, liking the dress and wearing it out are two completely different things. Even though I loved the fabric, there was a little voice in the back of my head that was trying to convince me it wouldn’t work when out in public. Three days after I finished it, I pulled it out to wear to work. I put it on and looked at myself in the mirror…and almost changed into something else.

Something about the color and the style of the dress (apart from the flamingo border) made me think of a waitress uniform in the kind of 24-hour diner where they serve eight kinds of pie. [That is, almost word-for-word, what I sent Robert that morning] Like I said, seafoam green just isn’t all that common a color, most times.

Before I could chicken out, though, I nodded at my reflection and left for work. I hadn’t even finished getting out of my car when a car pulled up next to me in Old Town, its window rolled down. The driver leaned over and called out the window…

“Your outfit is wonderful.”

The very first person who saw me in public liked it so much they stopped their car to comment. I’d call that a win.

At lunch, I stepped around the corner to pick up some pie (a conscious choice, laughing at my early-morning thoughts about the dress…and yes, there is a place around the corner that just sells pies). The shop is a little less than two blocks from the office, and it takes about 3 minutes to walk there. On the way there, five women stopped me to tell me they loved my dress. Another two complimented it in the pie shop.

So, there you go. Sometimes, we need to get out of our own head and step out with confidence.

[A side note…I actually match my car when I wear this dress.]

**the color of the dress is officially listed as “aqua” on the heading from the seller I purchased it from, as well as most of the places I’ve found online…but seafoam is a much more accurate description of the color.

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