Two weeks ago I was asked by a local sewing guild to offer a day-long workshop for the members. “What are you wanting to learn?” I asked. “Whatever you’d like to do,” the gal answered. No help whatsoever. I gave her four suggestions – she wanted me to describe them for her in an email, which I did. She emailed me a week later asking me to consider doing heirloom embroidery with the group.
The challenge was this: I spent over an hour online trying to find suitable patterns with a reasonable size front yoke that would work well for displaying heirloom techniques. I could find none.
The Hawaiian muumuu pattern I have used for close to 50 years doesn’t exist any longer, can’t hardly find a photo of it on the internet! It has 5 different sizes (from XS to XL) and I’ve traced the pattern for each size on Swedish cloth so they’re copyable but I don’t want to spend a lot of time at the workshop tracing and adapting the pattern. So I spent a couple of hours earlier this week trying to find a suitable pattern and finally came across this Bowen Dress
It has a yoke that extends into the sleeves (ditch the sleeve ruffles! and add a “cuff” with a lace join and some decorative stitching either side of the join) – the yoke has an overlap that can be worn front or back (I’m eliminating that), the dress is humungous but the fullness can be scaled down easily by narrowing both yoke and skirt. I will remove the button opening at the top and lengthen as well as curve the bottom of the skirt in the front to offset the pulling up by the bust – all straight forward modifications.
I printed out the PDF and assembled the pattern and have marked it up although I haven’t yet traced the modified pattern pieces (I’ll do that later).
What I did was measure the width and depth of the front yoke, cut a piece of white batiste and started working on an heirloom panel.
So far I have a centre piece of lace, with tucks, hemstitching, and pin tucks on either side. I plan on extending the heirloom work into the top of the sleeve area, although not all the way to where I’ll add the cuff.
For now, I’ll carry on with the heirloom work. Once I have the yoke panel done, I’ll trace the modified pattern pieces, cut out and sew the upper part of the dress then figure out how narrow and long to make the skirt!
I figured if I was suggesting this pattern as a starting point for an heirloom nightgown, I should try making one myself to see where the pitfalls might be. Once I’ve figured out the modifications I want to make, I’ll prepare instructions for the gals. They can choose to make the dress as is, or to change it in whatever way they wish. I’ll be prepared with recommendations.