Back-to-School Dress

Fabric: 2 yds cotton voile
Cost: $10

I usually don't make clothes for other people, but I couldn't resist when my mother agreed to let me make her a back-to-school dress. I was home for the fourth of July and wearing (of course) my 4th of July Dress when we found a perfect apple-print fabric in a similar cotton voile. (If you live in the area, it is definitely worth checking out Crossroads Fabrics in Watsonville for their great deals). My mother is a 3rd grade teacher and I thought this would be a perfect back-to-school dress. I made it up in the same pattern as my 4th of July Dress, adding sleeves and giving me a chance to correct any construction errors I had made with the last one (and to make some new ones). I even found some fun apple buttons to match!

I loved sewing for my mother because A) she buys me some pretty awesome fabric and I wanted to do something for her in return, and B) because she sews, and will appreciate the work that went in to the garment. There's also C), that she is about my size, and so it makes the dress easier to fit. Generally, however, I refrain from sewing for others. Some say that it's bad luck to knit a boyfriend a sweater because he could never fully appreciate all the work you did, and because you might resent him if he doesn't love the thing you just worked so hard on. For me personally, I usually have so many ideas for things to make myself that I don't really make time to sew for others (although if I have a little one someday, you bet I'll be making him or her some clothes!).

More than a few people have suggested that I go into business selling clothes. I run part of a small non-profit, so I understand at least in part the work that having your own business would require: the marketing, customer service, emails, budgeting, etc. I think that would ruin the sewing experience for me, and take away from what I love doing most: sewing! The craft has become a fabulous hobby for me, and I know that I want to keep it that way, as a hobby. I'll keep my day job, too (which I also love).

Besides the challenge of running a business, I feel the act of sewing itself would become monotonous were I to produce en mass for others. The most successful small business sewists I have seen make stylish, easy to sew pieces in fun prints. They may take hours to draft and fit the patterns, but once they have a great design that works, they must then sew it again and again. I, on the other hand, find that I enjoy making more complicated, unique pieces, and making them once. With the time it would take to make each piece and to make it well would be so inefficient I'd never make any money for the time I put in. And making something twice is just boring! This isn't to knock the amazing crafters out there (who I truly admire), it's just not for me.

That also brings up my final point, which is cost. A lot of times friends will offer to pay me to make them a dress, to duplicate a top, or to create a custom piece. I am always flattered by the request, but the truth is, you can't afford me. That's not to say I'm some amazing designer churning out couture pieces, but even at $10 an hour it might cost you a cool hundred just to have me make up a dress, and that's just the labor cost. That wool cape you love? The materials alone cost $50, and I consider that a bargain for embroidered wool.

So to all my non-sewing friends, I will probably not be going in to business anytime soon. You will also not be seeing me on Project Runway: besides the fact that all the contestants are waaay better than me, I cannot drape or use an industrial machine or even draft a proper armhole. But I do love to sew, and so you can expect to keep seeing all my creations here: the good, the bad, and the ugly (well, ok, I probably won't post the ugly ones).

You can read my review of this pattern at


  1. I hear you on the "you should earn money off of that" comments. I've made lingerie for my friends as gifts when they got married, each time I hear the same thing. The thing is, the last one took 10+ hours to make. Now I know it wouldn't take that long when it's down to a science, but I put a lot of love into that - finding the right fabric, debating on the pattern, etc. My mom has her own business sewing and she does what she wants to sew repeatedly. She doesn't like suggestions from others. She occasionally sews crib sets for others, she charges $5 an hour (so not even minimum wage), they buy the materials and she feels bad when she gives the final bill. I can't pay the mortgage on $5 an hour.

  2. Agreed! I'd rather keep it as a labor of love <3 Thanks for your insights!

  3. I so agree with both of you. It would no longer be fun, I'd have to sew day and night to make any money and I'm too critical of my own work.

    I love your Mom's dress!

  4. People keep bringing this same thing up to me as well. I bring up the time and money already in purchasing the fabric. It has taken me a year just to learn how to fit garments to my own body. Most people have no idea what a sewer goes through when making muslins and making alterations based off of your unique body shape. This is what goes into making a garment stunning. It would take the joy out of it for me. Every now and then as a present I may sew something for someone else, but I am fine with just sewing for myself.


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