Almost one year ago on February 7, 2015, a snowstorm hit my town and clinic was cancelled at the hospital where I work. I had an unexpected snow day. I had gotten a new sewing machine for Christmas, I had set up my sewing room in my new house and I had bought a pattern that got rave reviews on the sewing blogs I follow and on this day, I ended up sewing my first garment. I used some fabric from a box in the attic to make a “wearable” muslin and followed the very clear directions and at the end of the day, I had a dress.
I was so excited that I insisted that my husband take this picture. A feature of the Washi pattern is that there is shirring in the back that is created using elastic thread. The directions for how to achieve this effect are very clear and it feels like magic when it works just as it is supposed to.
The next day I bought some fabric to add a border strip and add length and the dress was finished. Amazingly although it was my first garment and it was full of little mistakes, it was cute and wearable and I wear it all the time.
I call the Washi my Gateway Pattern because it showed me that I could sew cute, flattering dresses and since that first Washi, I have sewn 7 more. I tend to make them in pairs because cutting out two is not much more work than cutting out one.
I am tall (5’9″) so I add three inches in length to the summer versions and have been making winter versions to wear with tights or leggings and boots that I make a little shorter. One thing I do all the time now is to face the hem with a contrasting fabric. It adds a little something to have the cute facings and I get a more even hem line. I machine sew all my hems which makes them go quickly. I line all the bodices using the techniques explained by Rae Hoekstra in her great videos which can be found linked to her Made By Rae website. I can make a Washi in an afternoon. It is a great feeling to conceive of a dress one day and be able to wear it to work a day or two later.
I have been making my dresses from quilting cotton but have a double gauze version in the works. Most of my fabric is from the Cotton and Steel line which is hefty but soft and works well for garments. I have also used many Art Gallery cottons which have a really nice feel to them. I love that all my handmade garments can be machine washed saving on dry cleaning expense. I see many more Washi dresses in my future. It is great to make something that you know will fit and that you know you will love!
Here are my 2015 Washi pairs and my first make of 2016 which is a version with sleeves.
I made these two with black cotton from my stash and used scaps of fabric leftover from a quilting project to add contrasting borders and lining. When I sewed the black and white version the lining was slightly too big and I found that it had shifted up and created the effect of piping so I left it that way. The pink, polka dot version was for my daughter. Sarah likes to wear belts so she has styled it hers a couple different ways.
Details of black Washi dresses.
Styled with belts:
Feeling confident after sewing my first three Washi’s from fabric in my stash, I bought fabric for two more. One was a light blue Lizzy House pearl bracelets version, inspired by Rae’s aqua washi made of the same fabric. The second I made with a beautiful Art Gallery fabric called Brooklyn Bridge.
I loved this fabric because Brooklyn was my home for 13 years. It is where I lived when my children were born. I used to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge to go to work in lower Manhattan and I crossed the bridge countless times over the years and on the way to the hospital in Manhattan to have each of my children so it has special meaning for me. I love the way the fabric is sort of stripey feeling without being too geometric. A special magic happened when I did the shirring and the bridge image popped out. I wore both of these all summer long. Great work dresses.
behold the bridge!
This fall I decided to sew some Washi dresses to wear with boots and leggings. I added 2 inches instead of 3 to the pattern length and made these two from some of my favorite fabrics.
The blue fabric is from Cotton and Steel and the pink is by Pat Bravo for Art Gallery. Love them both and wear them ALL the time. I lined the blue dress with mustang fabric left over from a Beatrix blouse.
My most recent Washi was made just yesterday from April Rhodes Bound collection fabric that I purchased when visiting my son in Austin. I was lucky enough to get to stop by The Cloth Pocket which packs more great fabric into a small space than any store I have ever been to. I bought several great future dresses. I added sleeves to this Washi. I used the sleeve pattern that you can print from the madebyrae website but I narrowed it and shortened it slightly. I didn’t use elastic because the sleeve was a little narrower. I am really happy with the fit. I lined the bodice with a lightweight batiste and did hem and sleeve facings with a pink fabric from my stash. Very cute with tights and boots.
I added bra straps to this one using snaps on a thin piece of ribbon.
I am in the process of finishing another sleeved version with double gauze also from the Cloth Pocket. I cut this a little bigger to allow for french seams. I love wearing double gauze but I find it tricky to sew with. It stretches and frays. So this one is taking a bit longer but I know it will be great when it is finished.
In celebration of my year of sewing, I plan to post on each of the patterns I have made this year: the Washi, Bianca, Ruby and Beatrix patterns from MadeByRae, the Voila blouse and Pocket Skirt from Cali Fae and the Pearl Shirt pattern from Green Bee patterns. Next up, the Bianca!