The Blessing Dress
Or “How I Spent My Spring Break” or “Why Do I Leave Things Until the Last Minute?”
I always wanted my wedding dress to be made out of brocade, but an August wedding in Utah wasn’t really conducive to wearing brocade, so my wedding dress was silk instead. My mom and I then made my first temple dress out of brocade. DH and I worked in the baptistry of the Provo Temple for about a year after we were first married and I washed that dress often due to the hem getting wet from the chlorinated water. I’m sure it shrunk some, but I managed to wear it until I had A. (My first child A.) I think my rib cage spread from that first pregnancy and I never could zip the dress up after that. Or else I couldn’t breathe if I did happen to get it zipped up. So it’s just been hanging in my closet for the past thirteen years. I thought that maybe one day I’d have a daughter and I could cut it up to make a blessing dress. (Although the prospect kind of terrified me.)
Fast forward almost thirteen years, and I found out I would indeed be having a daughter. My parents were out shopping one day and my mom called to say they were seeing lots of little white dresses and did I want her to buy one? I said no, I was determined to make a blessing dress, even though I’m not really a seamstress and was still terrified by the whole process of repurposing my temple dress.
Somewhere along the way she happened to mention that she’d saved the brocade left over from sewing my temple dress. She washed it and sent it home with me. Whew, I wouldn’t have to cut up my dress after all! But then I had to find a christening gown pattern. I looked at one that I knew would be incredibly difficult to pull off with my sewing skills, but the only other (much easier) pattern that I really wanted was not in stock at any of the fabric stores around. Then Baby A came 11 days early and I was still patternless. On one of our outings to the doctor or to the hospital to draw blood, I forget which, we stopped once more at the fabric store in Millcreek and in a tender mercy, I checked the pattern drawer again and happened to find the very last pattern I needed tucked inside. I snatched it up!
Looking at the yardage needed, I thought there was no way I could make the dress from the amount of fabric I had so I was back to cutting up my dress. Then life was so crazy with caring for a newborn and getting little sleep, and well, all parents know how those first few months go and so I was about ready to go out and buy a dress. But I finally got brave and cut out the pattern pieces and pulled out the fabric to see how I could make it work. I quickly realized that the pattern was insanely long and I could literally fold the skirt pieces in half and still have a super long gown. It ended up being a little narrower than intended, but that was okay as well.
Then came time to sew. No problem–I can usually find time to sew after the kids go to bed. But Little A decided to have about three weeks where she would not go to bed and was usually crying or at best being super fussy until about 10 p.m. every night. No chance for sewing. With the blessing looming and people getting sick right and left, it was time to declare it spring break from school mainly so I could work on this dress!
So here’s a look at sewing with a baby. And a 4-year-old:
Get up, feed baby. Feed everyone else breakfast. Put baby down for a nap while boys go out to play. Call the 13-year-old back in to finish his job of clearing and washing off the kitchen table. Set up sewing machine on the table. Pin fabric together to sew. Sew four short seams. Notice tension is completely wrong due to 4-year-old messing with every knob and button on sewing machine. Rip apart every seam you sewed earlier and pin them together to sew again. Notice you’re about to run out of white thread. Check sewing basket for more. Find nine different shades of blue thread, but no more white. Baby wakes up. Feed baby. Run to the store to buy more white thread. Come home to clear everything off kitchen table so you can feed everybody lunch. After lunch the process starts all over again.
Add in another trip to the fabric store for fabric to line the bodice and about 8 yards of lace (boy am I glad I didn’t have to pay for the fabric too!) Finally I got smart and set up the card table in the living room and parked my sewing machine there for the week. Of course E just couldn’t keep his little hands off of it and I had to unpick several more seams after he readjusted settings for me and I forgot to check everything before sewing again, but nothing major went wrong.
And Little A was a model baby all week, falling asleep about two minutes after taking her in for a nap, which after three days of her not being so easy this week, I realize was another tender mercy so I could finish what I’m sure is the most difficult thing I’ve ever sewn in my life. I tend to steer away from patterns with gathered inset sleeves! And they were so tiny; I had to inch the sewing machine needle around the openings very very carefully.
The only part I didn’t do myself were the three buttonholes in back. I’ve never done buttonholes with my sewing machine before and I couldn’t find the instruction manual and didn’t want to experiment on this project! So I asked a sister in my ward to help me with those. After twenty experimental buttonholes on other fabric, even she was a little hesitant to sew on the actual dress. No one wanted to mess up the what-will-hopefully-become-a-family-heirloom blessing dress! I assured her I’d prayed a lot over this project already and she told me to keep praying! The buttonholes worked and Little A looked just beautiful!
I’m so glad I stuck with my original intention to make her a dress with some meaning. I have some of the rose motif lace left over. Maybe we’ll have another project for her baptism day!