The Paper Dress

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My daughter goes to this amazing art camp. It is no-joke amazing  – very fun and wildly creative. I am so glad she is able to go there. Last year her focus group performed on stage with words found -in old books, around old Deerfield, in overheard conversations – while enormous painting were being created simultaneously (they even made the scaffolding to get them to those great heights). It was weird and beautiful and very entertaining.

Like most camps, they have a “funky day” where the kids dress outrageously and Ava has been planning her outfit since the coldest winter months. Her plan: a dress made entirely out of paper. She designed and I sewed – the night before it was to be worn, of course, despite the months of knowing the plan. Well, we were both very pleased with the results!

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I would walk you through all of the steps, but honestly, it was really made by folding and sewing those folds to create a form fitting shape., so let me give you just the basics.

I started by making a pleated skirt. To do this, I folded kraft paper back and forth into a fan – enough so I could sew two pieces together to make a skirt that was the right measurement for Ava’s high waist. Before sewing the side seams, however, I stitched along the upper edge of the pleats to secure them permanently. The seams were on the outside of the skirt, so to make them look good, I cut the edge with pinking shears and pressed them open with an iron.

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I cut the bodice from a double layer of paper – better safe than sorry when a 14 year old is concerned. Ava designed the dress with a sweetheart neckline, so to make this, we folded the paper in half to cut a symmetrical line. The paper was long enough to wrap around her body (no side seams for this) and give me lots to work with for the “fold fitting”.

We made 2 darts by folding.

We then made 2 more by cutting, overlapping, and then sewing (see following images).

Okay, we were just too involved in the making to stop and take pictures after this point. Have a look at the pictures and you should be able to tell how we sewed things down. She wanted it fitted, so we left the back open (even past the waistline a bit so she could pull over her head) and attached self-adhesive velcro dots as a closure.

Some parts were impossible to get under my little sewing machine, so I hand stitched with embroidery floss, which worked great.

Ava folded strips of paper and sewed them up with a zig zag stitch. They were sewn on in the front and then I used brads to secure them in the back – that way they could be unstrapped when the dress went on and off.

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This is my favorite part – the bodice.

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Paper is, in some ways, forgiving stuff.  If you want it to fit differently, just fold, press and sew. Wait, that really isn’t any different from sewing any garment. I guess if you can work symmetrically, then anything goes – unless, of course, you are into asymmetry.

The punch line:

She was feeling super exhausted and it was pouring on Funky day, and the girl DID NOT GO TO CAMP! Actually, I don’t really care. I was glad she was home.

Workshop on Creativebug


I can’t say enough good things about the new-ish site called Creativebug! Seriously, they are the real thing – fully committed to supporting artists and makers and providing the richest content for anyone who wants to learn how to make the plethora of stuff being taught there. Sometimes I don’t quite understand how we got so lucky to be a part of this community, but I’ll just count my blessings and smile at the magic the creative folks behind the scenes work on their workshops. In the beginning of the summer, my kids and I hosted a crew in my studio and we filmed a collection of workshops, including the one that is just out today! Head on over with your favorite kid and go make these sweet little tweets:



Sewing School 2 Book Review + Giveaway

One of the perks of being a Storey author is that you get handed loads of gorgeous and worthy books to read and use.  With “creative self-reliance” as the backbone of their philosophy, they couldn’t be publishing books that are more interesting to me – farming to preserving to sewing – or done more beautifully.  So, when we were asked to review Sewing School 2, I did not hesitate to say yes. I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed and, if course, it is a subject that is near and dear. I remember walking into the Storey office back when we were working on Improv Sewing and seeing Sewing School placed prominently on the reception desk, so it really brings up great memories – of course I walked out that day with a copy in my stack of books and LOVED it.

First, the design of the book screams out for kids to pick it up and use it. It feels like a very genuine display of an actual sewing school where kids are creating with abandon and having a blast – who wouldn’t want to sew when it looks so simple and fun? Mission accomplished, gals!

I teach sewing to kids (I know how fun it is to watch them succeed on the machine – empowering!) and really appreciated their approach. I got the sense just from reading Sewing School 2 and all of the little tips highlighted in the pages, that they keep it easy and fun and drive the important lessons home with simple and straightforward reminders. In particular, I love how the tip to help kids avoid having their sewing thread get sucked back up into the machine – no one wants to re-thread their machine every time they start. Full disclosure: I fled the hot New England weather for a few days and took my computer but forgot the book, so that tip really stands out in my mind, but I can’t quote it or tell you the page it is on. What I can tell you, is that besides forgetting to put the foot down before sewing, the biggest annoyance to any sewist of any age, is not leaving long enough tails when you cut your threads, so the next stitches you try to make are foiled by the disappearance of the sewing thread. In any case, Sewing School 2 lays out the great habits from the get-go, and that is no small thing.

Before leaving on this mini vacation, Harry(my 8 year old) and I braved the hot studio and whipped up a snack bag in no time at all. It was great! There was a pattern so he didn’t have to measure, and directions he could follow himself . He found an old pillow case that I bought in Paris over a decade ago to use and I was so happy to have it being used for something I will see regularly.

It is about 95 degrees, but we are going to sew!

Harry looks through the book and picks out the snack sack project.

Wrapped in a beautiful old pillow case that he is about to cut up, Harry cuts out the pattern piece.

Using chalk to mark the fabric – his choice.

Cutting out the fabric.

Sewing up the bag was a breeze!

Sticking on the self-adhesive velcro dots.

It is done! I swear this took about 10 minutes to make and we can never have too many snack bags around here!

If your kids want to learn to sew, I wouldn’t hesitate to add Sewing School 2 to your shopping bag. You can be as involved as you want, or let your kids feel the empowerment of making stuff on their own. Great book!!!

Update!!! I completely forgot that we have a copy of Sewing School 2 to give away! If you are interested in taking part, simply leave us a comment here and I will do one of those random number generators on July 18th and let you know if you are the lucky one. You do need to be a U.S. citizen – sorry. Good luck!

Evelyn, you are the winner! Email me at with your address and we will get that book to you ASAP!

Creativebug Umbrella Workshop

AppliqueUmbrellaIt is so rainy here in New England right now, though it has also been scorchingly hot. Either way, having a nice umbrella to block out the sun or rain is essential, so head over to Creativebug and have a peek at my new appliqued umbrella workshop. This is a great craft to do with a kid, but even grown-ups need stylish umbrellas, right? It is very easy to make and the design possibilities are entirely customizable.

Creativebug Workshops are cheap cheap cheap this week!

There are so many choose from and so much to learn. This is a great way to try something out for a tenner, so head on over there. Debra and I can teach you to make a dress for yourself or a little one. We can teach you to draw with thread and make a zillion things. I can teach you to make a rope basket that you will use all the time! So much!


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