Mom’s Wedding Dress

The Universe is messing with me, and that ish is not funny! Well, not that funny… yet. Let’s go all the way back to last May so I can tell you what happened…

My cousins in Jamaica invited my parents (his aunt and uncle) to their daughter’s wedding to take place in November. Yes, November. Mom said to me, “I have to get a new dress to wear to the wedding. If you can make me one, that would be so nice, but I can always go down to the mall and buy one.” (From now on, I will refer to said dress as the Wedding Dress, so try not to get confused. My mom was not the one getting married. Dad would surely object.)

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It worked out that we had 6 months, yes 6 whole months, to find the material and pattern, and get my slow-ass self to sew it. Remember the wedding is still 6 months out. 6 months!!! … How many months?? You got it. S.I.X.

Oh! I need to mention here that I’m still terrified to sew with knits. Everyone tells me knits are forgiving. Toward me, they’re not. This will come back to bite me later in my story.

And the hunt was on for the perfect fabric and the perfect pattern. The fabric had to be bold, but not too busy; light but not transparent; good quality but not expensive. The pattern had a slightly longer list of requirements:

  • calf length or longer
  • pleats or gathers at the waist
  • short to three-quarter length sleeves
  • no frou-frou except ruffles; ruffles are always good.
  • no elastic in the waist (on account of the heat and humidity)
  • modest neckline
  • large armscye (pronounced arm-sigh or arms-eye)

Long story short-ish, I searched through fabric store after fabric store in Montreal and online. I did find a very pretty coral linen blend at Fabricville/Fabricland’s website. But the last time I’d ordered from them, I got a piece of trash, so I couldn’t bring myself to click that checkout button without having had my hands on the fabric first. And that’s how an entire season and a half passed with no fabric purchase.

At one point I sent Mom a photo of a satiny embroidered blue thing, and she texted back, “You want me to wear ants to the wedding?!” I looked again at the picture and sure enough, bad lighting + bad angle + phone camera = embroidery ants.

While the great fabric quest was on, I bought several patterns, none of which was just right. That was from the myriad rejected photos of pattern covers I sent my mom. So, not much luck in the pattern department either.

These guys made it to the finals before they got cut

As a pre-emptive backup, I bought this Vogue pattern on sale, although I would have had to do some modifications. I love hacking bags and accessories, but I’m still insecure about hacking clothing patterns.

Still in the running (Photo credit: Vogue website product description)

And then! Two things happened serendipitously. My BBF made some time to drive me out of town to Club Tissus, the huge fabric store in the middle of nowhere. Two hours later, after several mysteriously falling racks and a giggle-inducing “flipping” incident at the cutting table, I walked out of there with a lovely coral printed knit (remember I don’t do knits) and a couple more patterns that looked like they would work for the Wedding Dress (plus, you know, lots of notions I didn’t need.)

That rack didn’t see it coming!


One of the patterns bought at Club Tissus (Photo credit: McCall’s website product description.)

The second thing that happened right around then was that Blackbird Fabrics in BC got some new prints in stock and I fell in love with this pretty camel-coloured floral. (Yes, the colour is “camel” and not “caramel”.) Caroline, the owner, checked my pattern (the Vogue one above) and assured me that this adorable polyester crepe would work well with it. (Check out Caroline’s podcast at Love to Sew.)

Polyester just got delicious! (Photo used with permission of Blackbird Fabrics)


I love the content and care label attached. (All fabric sellers should do this, even when you buy in store.)

I had used fabrics from Blackbird before and loved them, so I was willing to put my Poly-Prejudice aside and trust that it would not behave badly like the traditional Poly-Crap. I ordered some.

There I was at the end of September with two acceptable, but not quite perfect, fabric/pattern combinations.

I just needed to cut and sew, and my mom would have two dresses to choose from. I was feeling pretty confident. But, cats! (The least they could have done is make sure I didn’t get all blurry photos. Jerks!)



Helpers will help, and knits will flip.

And then I forgot to flip the pattern so I cut the left and right bodice the same. (What is up with this fabric and flipping, man?!?)

Two perfectly cut identical pieces


Forgot to flip the flip

They needed to be mirror image and wouldn’t you know it, I didn’t have enough fabric to recut the piece all in one. I had to resort to cutting up the pattern and cobbling pieces together.

Slashed pattern


Now halfway through October, I had to face the fact that I could only do one dress, if that. Hey! why not go ahead and pick the knit one that you have no experience with, Marsh? Yeah, let’s do that! (Mumble, mumble… stupid, uncooperative… mumble… slipping and sliding… flippin’…)

Then mom had a brilliant thought. I would do as much as I could in the time that I had, and she would take it to her very talented dressmaker cousin in Jamaica to finish. Whoohoo! She is so understanding, and it helped me feel a teeny bit better when I was only able to get halfway through the knit dress (McCall’s pattern) and got stuck because I couldn’t make heads nor tails of the instructions. (I did, however, keep track of the tops and bottoms of the pattern bits.)

I reluctantly packaged both un-dresses with the required notions and matching thread, and delivered them safely to Mom’s suitcase. Her cousin could figure it out from there. (Ok, I did feel a ton of guilt and shame, and general misery because I couldn’t deliver what I’d promised. Still not over it, but…)

So, the half-made Wedding Dress 1 and the un-begun Wedding Dress 2 got to the cousin. Cousin Jean didn’t have time to do both, but she agreed to finish WD1. But guess what! Mom tried on the pieces that I had already assembled and the flippin’ armscye was too small, aaaand there wasn’t enough leftover fabric to cut new sleeves. (Whaaaaa!) Skillful Cousin Jean found a solution (I have no idea what) and got it all sorted. Mom wore the imperfect Wedding Dress to the perfect tropical wedding mid-November. (No photos of the finished WD1.)

Now comes the twist to the plot. You thought the story was over, didn’t you? You know better…

Two weeks ago, I got the regular newsletter from Blackbird Fabrics. More new prints had arrived. And, in the mix, was a sweet little viscose thing in two colour ways. As soon as I saw it, I knew that was the perfect fabric we had been searching for. I sent the link to Mom and she squeaked with delight, at least I think it was a squeak. She agreed it was the perfect fabric. Too bad the wedding was 6 weeks ago.

Also last week, Patricia (naughty elf!) from Sew Far North got me looking at the Boxing Week sales at Designer Stitch. That’s where I tripped over this pattern, the Kristen dress. Are you freakin kidding me?

Let’s see… calf length? Can be arranged. Pleats or gathers? Check! Sleeves (not long)? Check! Ruffles? Yes! No elastic? Yup! Modest neckline? Present! And just look at the size of those armscyes! (You can’t really see the size of the armscyes so trust me, they’re big. I asked.)

Kristen dress in red. Oh myyyyyy!


Just look at those perfectly placed ruffles!

Other bene”fits” to this pattern: Princess seams and a choice of cup sizes — two things that help get the perfect fit.

I bought it! Now that I had the perfect pattern and the perfect fabric, Mom casually reminded me that her birthday is in 6 (that number again!) weeks. And guess what she wants. That’s right; she wants a Kristen dress made with coral Open Floral Viscose Crepe that is even juicier when you get your hands on it. Could this be my chance to redeem myself? Possibly.

Patricia frolicking in her version of the Kristen dress:

Don’t be fooled by her charming smile. She’s still a naughty elf!

So now on top of all the no-sew-slow-sewing that goes on around here, we’re adding a birthday dress to the pile. And Wedding Dress 2 is on its way back to languish in UFO purgatory with my other bright ideas.

Why, oh, why didn’t I find the pattern and the fabric last summer? It would have saved Mom and me a lot of angst, not to mention dough. I suppose I better get to printing and cutting so 6 more months from now, I’m not still working on the Birthday Dress. That would just be tragic.

Maybe one day next year I’ll think back on this and laugh and laugh… For now, Universe, you go right on ahead and amuse yourself at my expense.


Marsha Law Sig2

PS. Visit the Canadian Directory of Sewing and Craft Businesses

PPS. I loved saying, “the size of the armscyes.”

Note: Photos of the Kristen dress are all used with permission of Designer Stitch.



  1. Oh heck woman, you made me laugh! I love, love, love, my Kristen dress. It has all the elements I like… fitted, but not overly so: demure but with a bit of sass; the swishiness of the skirt (one needs decent undies underneath); the way the sleeves flutter gently in the breeze. You ought to make a lot of them! But … please make a muslin first … just the bodice with a zipper as it does make a difference. I’ll happily be the naughty elf!

  2. I can’t wait to see your Mom’s new dress! Dresses are in the naughty pile over here, and I’m not in a hurry to think about them. I think about your Mom’s instead. 😉

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