The Home and Garden Journal of Kayla Pins

I sewed a dress and it isn’t even awful.

I sewed a dress and it isn’t even awful.


Memorial Day weekend was miserably hot in Iowa, in the high 90s every day. With all of my inside-enjoying-central-air time, I attempted garment sewing. 

When I was little I wore dresses all. the. time. but it has become less pleasant now that my legs rub together. I remember wearing lacy biking shorts under my dresses so my underwear wouldn’t show on the playground. I’ve resurrected the shorts to solve the chub rub and my wardrobe is once again filling with dresses.

Every summer I wanted a “play dress” and that is what I was going for here. Supremely comfortable, plenty of kick and ruffle, but still practical enough to get some work done. A nod to pioneer days would also be preferable.

I’m tickled with what I’ve come up with and was happy to find that both it floats when I run down stairs and has enough twirl to settle neatly around me when I sit cross-legged.

tan ruffle dress finished picture

I wrangled Spencer to take a picture for me and he had lots of “helpful” advice for the dress.

“I think there’s something wrong with the back.”

“I think you made a size too big.”

Clearly, he does not understand the concept of a play dress. The baggier the better!

The bodice is a cotton shift I found at Goodwill and cut off. The middle ruffle is maybe cotton or linen, but I don’t know because it was a 2-yard piece for $3, also from Goodwill. The last ruffle is quilting cotton yardage that has been in my collection for far too long.

tan ruffle dress three layers 80s calico

The binding strips connecting the layers is 2 1/4″ strips from my calico collection that I hacked to bits before joining them on the bias for a scrappy look.

I had a sketch with measurements and math but I got lazy pretty quickly when I noticed the fabric width was awfully close to the measurement I planned for the skirt.

I was very particular on exactly how long the dress would be and where the last ruffle would fall, so I didn’t cut everything to length to begin. I started with a yard of the middle fabric and sewed it together at the selvages.

I cut three 8″ widths from the 45″ quilting fabric for the bottom ruffle and pieced them together, then hemmed the bottom. Using the whole width meant I could leave the selvages for “finished” seams.

To gather, I made my stitch length as long as possible and cranked up the tension as high as it would go, then stitched 1/4″ around. Matching centers (and centers, and centers, and centers) I distributed the gathers of the bottom ruffle to fit the middle piece, keeping wrong sides together. As I sewed I added the binding strip.

tan ruffle dress add calico binding

Then I pressed the binding strip up and topstitched it to cover all of the raw edges..

tan ruffle dress securing binding

With the skirt mostly assembled I tried on the top and pinned the skirt to the length I wanted, then trimmed. I attached the middle layer to the top as I did the bottom layer to the middle.

I had so much fun with this project. It was fun to not really have a plan and just see what happened. I’m quite pleased with the finished product too. Although I love oversized patchy clothes and my Instagram is full of folks in linen and Lagenlook, it’s definitely not the norm in my small town. My dress will get plenty of use at home and maaaaybe I’ll get brave enought to venture it out to the farmer’s market.

Speaking of ridiculous outfits, I took a selfie of my “SPF Chic” outfit to send to Megan because I thought she would get a good laugh. Maybe you will too.

spf chic chicken bootsYup, I’ll never worry about my neighbors spotting me in a bikini. Robe to run out to the clothesline maybe, bikini, nope.

Despite the awful heat I rallied and got my garden in this weekend. It isn’t “finished” per say. I’d like to do a few more squash plants. I think it’s too late to do root crops and lettuce so I’ll do a buckwheat cover crop for now and try again in the fall.

I thought I’d take advantage of the heat and take a long hike to practice for my Utah trip. I hiked 3.5 miles in the 97 degree heat to get home, check the weather, and find that it is 67 at Zion National Park.

It was such a nice weekend, and I’m looking forward to a work week full of end-of-the-year parties, then SUMMER BREAK!


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