(this post was originally published on 26 june, 2004, with the title "done is better than perfect".)
i'm not a big fan of perfection. i've never been good at it, i've never even been good at trying to be good at it. it just doesn't seem worth the effort to me--everything i've ever seen that was "perfect" was boring. things made by machines are perfect, they are exact, they are carbon copies, and they have no humanity to them.
that's why i go for "done". besides, i can accomplish "done". i have never, so far, accomplished "perfect".
and that's what this blog is about--getting past the goal of perfection and onto the goal of completion. with that in mind, here's my first offering, a quick and easy project that even a beginner can complete in an evening: an old-fashioned pillowcase dress like this one my baby ella is wearing.
the traditional method of making these dresses creates a drawstring casing around the child's neck, which the proponents of the method claim makes the dresses adjustable for a growing child. however, not only is a drawstring around the neck unsafe, it is (in my never-to-be-humble opinion) rather sloppy looking. my method eliminates the drawstring casing while still preserving the adjustability of ties.
start with one pillowcase, cleaned and pressed. you'll also need 12" of 1/2" wide elastic, and one package of bias binding (you get this in the notions section of the fabric store--look for double fold binding tape). and you'll need a couple of safety pins for threading your elastic.
set your sewing machine for straight stitching, 10 stitches per inch.
step 1 (5 minutes)--measure your child from the shoulder to the desired length of the dress. measure this distance on your pillowcase from the open end, and cut straight across. this cut edge will be the top of the dress.
step 2 (5 minutes)--on each side of the pillowcase, at the cut edge, draw armscyes (that is the dressmaker term for armhole). the shape is like a letter "J" with the top of the J at the cut edge of the pillowcase. for a small child, it should be about 3" deep, for a larger child make it 4" deep.
step 3 (10 minutes)--fold the two top edges 1/4" to the inside and press (don't worry about making it exact--just get close enough). fold down and press these edges again, this time 3/4". doing this double turn makes the finished edge neat. stitch along the first fold, from one end to the other, forming a tunnel (this is known as a casing).
step 4 (10 minutes)--cut your elastic into two, 6" pieces. attach a safety pin to one end of one piece and use that to thread the elastic thru one of the casings. as you thread the elastic, the casing will draw up, forming a stretchy neckline. you'll need to pin the other end of the elastic when it gets to the casing so that it doesn't come all the way out. repeat with the other elastic and casing. stitch across the open end of each casing to hold your elastic in place.
step 5 (15 minutes)--you're almost thru! cut two pieces of binding, each 26" long. you'll notice that the binding is folded lopsided--one side is wider than the other. this is to help make sure you get both sides stitched. always stitch with the narrow side of the binding facing up and you can be sure you're catching the back side as well.
slip one armscye edge into the fold of one of the binding pieces, leaving about 10" or so overhanging the top--these form the ties. pin as much as you feel you need to in order to keep things neat. beginning at one end of the binding, start stitching along the free edge, continuing all the way around the armscye and to the other end of the binding. repeat for the other armscye.
that's it! the hem is already finished for you. now you just have to tie the ties to fit your child.
here are a few more pictures of pillowcase dresses i've made for ella: