I’ve got a new favorite dress pattern for wee lassies! It’s not quite on the level of my affection for Geranium, because Geranium has that nice lined bodice and — if you flat fell the side seams the way I like to — no scruffy seam allowances left over inside, and I do love a tidy finish. Merchant & Mills’ Skipper dress doesn’t have that feature, but makes up for it with an adorable sailor bib and little cuffed sleeves. I keep hemming and hawing about this company’s adult patterns, unsure whether I could pull off their oversize sack dresses without looking like a frump in her nightie (and not a nightie my husband would fancy) and yet strangely drawn to them, especially when I see examples like this. I might be tall enough to carry off this look, but I don’t have quite enough spare time for sewing to test the waters. Sigh… maybe next year? Hahaha.

Anyhow, little girl dresses come together more quickly, and if they’re oversize now that just means they’ll fit longer! (It didn’t actually occur to me to check whether kids’ sizing is the same across the pond. I don’t know why I assumed size 6 would mean for a six-year-old girl when my own size basically doubles in translation.) Anyhow, the size 6 is going to fit my daughter until she’s at least eight. I made one for her birthday in a wonderful blue ikat, and since I already had the pieces traced and cut, I went ahead and made another to send off to New York for my niece’s birthday last week.


(I love that Ada wanted her brother’s slingshot as a prop. This looks like a dress you could make some mischief in.) The fabric is from Anna Maria Horner’s Loominous line. (It’s Big Love/Candy, sold out in Anna Maria’s shop but still available in a few other places if you act fast.) It’s got a lovely soft hand, lighter than quilting cotton but not see-through or finicky to sew in the least. It needed a bit of coaxing to lie flat with the selvedges matching so I could cut it precisely. You can see by the seam in the picture above that I didn’t quite manage it perfectly, but oh well.  I am in deep smit with those not-quite-predictable stripes. It’s like madras and ikat had a beautiful baby. I was choosy about laying out the pattern pieces to make the most of my favorite bits.


Apart from my quibble about the unlined bodice and lack of pockets (see below), I really like the details of this dress. Merchant & Mills deserve an award for their pattern layout — extraordinarily clear diagrams often cleared up any confusion I was having about the directions, but those were quite easy to follow as well. I understand about layering seam allowances now! I did manage to sew the collar on my first Skipper upside down, but that was my own fault for sloppy reading. This time I ended up reversing the little triangular flap that snaps the fronts together, but no matter.


One thing this dress has going for it that Geranium doesn’t: my kid can put it on and take it off all by herself. There’s one little snap hidden beneath the collar that opens the front enough to slip over her head; no back buttons squelching her independence! But I had to borrow the Geranium pattern’s side-seam pockets and add them to Skipper. Six-year-olds need pockets, full stop. This 43-44″ fabric just barely had the extra space left over to add the pockets in one piece, but of course I could have patched on an extra scrap.



Golly, that’s cute. Next up: a Tendril dress for me! I am somehow going to find time to sew on the darned bias facings, stitch up the front of it for the resist, and dip the thing in an indigo vat before the week is out. We’ve been learning to build fence and it’s taken up all our time and energy!

Mustang Sally








My favorite sewing pattern in the world, Made by Rae’s Geranium dress, worked up in size 5 (oh, how did she get this big?) in Melody Miller’s most excellent mustang fabric for Cotton + Steel. Can you tell from the photos that the little star clusters are gold foil? Ada and I had some discussion about what those shiny plus signs might signify. Exes? Crosses? “But not like the cross for Jesus, right? Then it would be like Jesus riding on all these horses. Wait, did God or Jesus ever ride on a horse when they were alive?” Thank you, genetic lottery, for giving me a daughter with a busy mind and also the coloring to pull off mustard yellow, since I cannot.

I made the same version I sewed for my girl the last time, except that I skipped the notched neckline so as not to cut into the head of that mustang I tried so carefully to center on the bodice. Ada, who has excellent instincts when it comes to such things, chose the perfect vintage buttons herself. (Seriously, I let the kid pick our carpet and counter top colors. She’s that good. And she’s really firm about her choices. There was to be no question of substituting “wild rice” for “shiitake” Caesarstone. I had five or six carpet samples to consider, but she went straight for the Acadia “Flint” on the argument that it was best against the bathroom tiles, and she was dead right.) Since these have a shank, I added backing buttons inside to protect her from bruising when she lies down. We were lucky enough to find some in the random jar at Modern Domestic that precisely match the pale blue in the fabric.

It’s really hard to believe I’m going to be printing out that top photo to put on the bulletin board introducing all the new children who’ve been admitted at my school. My school that will now be her school. She’s not five until the end of July and will be one of the youngest in her K-1 class, but this kid was born ready. Ride on, sweetheart.


The curtain has gone up on the tenth year of my marriage. Spend that long with anyone and you’re bound to shape each other permanently. These years have seen the usual measure of love, loss, laughter, tears, worry, contentment, frustration, and joy. I’ve watched him plunge into founding a start-up. He’s watched me knit a whole lot. I don’t think either of us really fathoms why the other would want to put so much effort and time into that, but mostly we try to admire the qualities that come to the surface in pursuit of mastery. We daily test and refine our agreement about what matters in the world as we muddle through parenting the small humans we’ve jointly made, and we spell each other when forbearance wears thin. Only this evening he noted the set of my jaw as the children pawed at me for peanuts and frozen peas like so many half-tame zoo bears and he calmly started peeling a cucumber, thereby drawing the little camp raiders to himself and fixing me a Hendricks and tonic at once. I cherish that sensitivity.

We had a long-delayed dinner date yesterday while my parents put the littles to bed. Waiting for a table, we strolled down the docks to look at the boats and watch the sea planes take off. He’d scoffed at my wanting to bring the proper camera along, so I had to make do with his phone for a few shots of our dress-up attire. This is the Negroni shirt I made for his Christmas present and gave to him in May once I’d finally attached the &@#$ snaps. Let’s all take a moment to laugh at my clueless self of December, thinking it would save time to do snaps instead of all those buttons and buttonholes. I’m sure there are seasoned snappers who could have banged out this project in ten minutes. For me there were hours of squinting at internet tutorials and my snap setting pliers and back at the tutorials interspersed with failure to stick the things to the fabric at all or bending the prongs until the snaps looked like squashed beetles and still hadn’t adhered to their backings. Just the memory of it makes me tense. I managed the cuffs and then stuffed the whole shirt back in the closet for several dejected months of time out. And let’s not judge my decision to use yellow flannel recycled from a crib sheet instead of interfacing because I didn’t have enough on hand. I swear I read somewhere on the internet that one could do this; I just didn’t realize that the fronts wouldn’t be sewn down inside to hide the flannel and now it reminds me of insulation peeping out of an unfinished wall. Ah well, keep learning or die, right?


Negroni_back Negroni3:4

The fabric I’d absolutely use again, though. It’s a Robert Kauffman chambray, soft and intriguingly streaky. I got some more for a shirt for myself, which I’ll undertake once the memory of the pain has faded. (They say this happens with childbirth, but two years out I’m prepared to say they lie. Serial mothers are just made of stern stuff.)

My dress was a far simpler project. I’ll admit it was insane to follow the whim to make a garment to wear to a formal party in three days’ time, but Rae Hoekstra bailed me out with her Washi dress pattern. This came together very easily indeed, although I was hemming and pressing down to the last possible minute, with the children flitting about me like Cinderella’s little forest minions offering tiny pitchers of extra water for the iron. I followed Rae’s hints here to lengthen Washi for a maxi version. I didn’t get the bust darts right—they fit quite well, but I’m sure it’s not at all professional to have a frown in your dart because you were too lazy to redraw the gore so you just moved the point of the dart and skewed the seam allowances. Where has shirring been all my life, by the way? Turns out it’s easy and fun on the first attempt. So is the Nani Iro double gauze I splurged on. I felt more than a little smug slinking through an evening gala in what amounts to pajamas. I think I need actual pajamas made of double gauze.


So here we are, he with grey salting his hair, I with brown splotches on my forehead that didn’t fade as advertised after the last pregnancy—all the marks of having lived a little since we made our vows. There’s work to do, weather ahead, but I’m gladder than ever of the company I chose. He’s as much my home as is this seabound shelter up north. Yes to whatever the tides bring us.