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!


They say a watched pot never boils, and I’m here to testify that neither does it simmer, at least not when it’s a giant stock pot nearly brimful of clothing and fabric yardage in a soda ash stew that I’m trying to scour for indigo dyeing. The Modern Natural Dyer says to slowly bring it up to 180 degrees over half an hour… I tried for 45 minutes to nudge it even up to 130 degrees before dinner. It wouldn’t be rushed, so I’m having another go now that the kids are abed. And to pass the time I’m flipping through the results of a little photoshoot with the kiddos from this afternoon. I’m holding back the real goods for a few more days, but after I’d clicked away for awhile, my girl requested to have a try on the other side of the camera.

“I want Mama in the middle of the bed, and Jolly jumping all around her,” she dictated. And this is what she got.








We’ll work on focal length next time. But she did capture the flavor of our summer days, up to nothing and everything of consequence. Just a four-year-old and a six-year-old putting down roots in a new home, happy to spend all morning climbing trees in the orchard or prattling away over a herd of plastic horses in their shared bedroom or practicing for the Olympics (in gymnastics and three-day-eventing) on the living room rug. Not that they don’t have big plans; Jolly is earnestly hauling in plums and apples by the shirtload “to can for the wintah.” Today we got a kitchen scale and a lot of jars and a library card and checked out three books on preserving fruit. I’ve never done much canning and I’m feeling just a wee bit skittish about it, but if a girl can teach herself to knit she can probably teach herself to make jam, right?

Ada is keen to work on a gardener doll we started making out of a worn out sock stuffed with raw wool from the spring clip. It’s rather a fragrant doll and she still has no arms or face. I’m helping too much and should just let my six-year-old have at her with a needle and thread and see what happens.

Temperature check: nearly 170! Getting somewhere. If I don’t break an ankle clambering up the patio furniture to hang the scoured goods on the clothesline I haphazardly strung between the wisteria and the dogwood back when it was light out, it will be a miracle. But the days are warm and sunny and with any luck I’ll be firing up an indigo vat on Friday. Plum jam and blue smocks for all! Don’t ever end, summer.



Visiting friends researched what’s going on in town and discovered the English Camp reenactment camp-out is on this weekend. We managed to stumble upon this educational four-day living history event a couple of years ago, too, and were happy to go back.




My son was excited to have the opportunity to go inside the blockhouse, built for defense of the camp. We weren’t allowed up the ladder to the second floor, where naughty marines had to serve time-out, but he did plenty of imagining how it would be to poke a rifle through those little square holes to shoot at emenies all the same. (What is it with little boys and the shooting? I’ve begun to think our species got the idea to invent guns because wee lads were already running about pointing their index fingers at each other and shouting, “Pew, pew pew!”)


The kiddos played croquet and learned a period gambling game in which you spin a four-sided top to take a coin, put in a coin, do nothing, or sweep up all the coins. (They’re 1800s pennies, which were much larger than the modern-day equivalent.) Don’t play against the one in the pink hat. She is already scheming about how we could carve our own top or modify a die to play this at home.


We got to watch a blacksmith demonstrate his craft with his mobile forge, learning about how younger sons were apprenticed to learn a trade and then made their way as journeymen, eventually setting up shop elsewhere so as not to compete for business with their masters.

I didn’t get a photograph of the two Metis widows spinning (Romney, in the grease, from the lock), knitting, and handsewing, but I did learn some off-color Chinook Jargon from them. (Tenino, WA, I’m never driving through you without a snigger again. Please tell me whoever chose to make the high school Home of the Beavers did so in full knowledge of the town’s name origin.) Middle-school humor aside, I’m fascinated by the idea of a trading language with 660 words, whittled down to just what you’d need to communicate with strangers for mutual benefit. I wonder how many similar trading languages still exist around the world?

Thanks for the fun and learning, reenacters. My friend Linus predicts I’ll be joining you within four years… which is probably the length of time it would take me to sew an appropriate costume.