The Staples dress – week 1 and a revelation


Week 1 of sewing class. To recap, we’re making April Rhodes’ Staples dress:

The Staple Dress - PDF Download

I forgot my camera so no “in-progress” photos. By the end of the class, I had cut out the pattern pieces from the fabric, which puts me substantially further ahead than I ever got with the Crepe dress. Interestingly, Megan, the instructor, isn’t a big fan of the Crepe dress. She’s an experienced seamstress and agrees with me about the fit of the top (or lack of it).  She’s going to bring her dress to class next week, so I can see the finished product.

About the Staples dress: it’s a relatively easy pattern. It has 2 main pieces, plus a pocket and the bias tape pieces (for neck and armholes). The pattern pieces for the front and back of the skirt and top are cut separately and then taped together before cutting the fabric – saves paper, which I appreciate. The dress has a relaxed fit, which means that I don’t need to make a muslin (loud cheering). The only adjustment I made to the pattern was to go a from an extra small to a small at the waist. Easy peasy.

Here’s what went right: I chose to trace the pattern onto tissue paper, rather than cutting up the paper pattern. Since I opted to pin the pattern to the fabric, as opposed to tracing it with tailor’s chalk, cutting out the tissue pattern was easy. Since you cut one front and one back, it’s easy to see what the finished dress will look like.


Having cut out the fabric, I can say that the colour and design really suit the pattern.


The challenges:  getting the selvedge lined up on both sides. It looked easy when Megan did it. Being the perfectionist that I am, I wanted the edges to match exactly – I carefully pinned both edges together, which created a large wrinkle along the folded edge. After a couple of attempts to straighten my fabric, I asked Megan for help. She promptly took out all the pins, gave the material a good shake and declared it good enough.

The second challenge was entirely of my own making. When I signed up for the class, I asked how much fabric I needed for the dress. According to my recollection, it was between 2 and 3 metres. Using my mother’s tried and true method, I measured the fabric length between my nose and the end of my arm – not quite 3 metres. After pinning the pattern for the front of the dress to the fabric, I realized that I didn’t have enough material to also cut out the back along the folded edge. In actual fact, I barely had 2 metres of fabric. Megan saved the day with some fancy folding and I was able to cut out both pieces, as well as the pockets and pieces to finish the armholes and neckline. I lost an inch or two on the length, but not enough to make a big difference (I’m already contemplating adding a ribbon hem to add another inch or so).


Note to self: double-check the amount of fabric required on the pattern envelope and measure the length of the fabric with a proper measuring device (sorry mom!).

The real take-home from Lesson 1 is that in order to pursue sewing, I’m going to have to dial back my perfectionist tendencies. In addition to fussing with the selvedges before I laid down the pattern, I spent a good 10 minutes trying to get the grain line arrow on the pattern piece for one of the armhole piece perfectly lined up against the edge. Megan wandered by and saw me compulsively checking that the distance between each edge of the one inch grain line arrow and the edges and told me not too worry so much. Apparently a difference of less than half a millimetre won’t throw the pattern off. Left to my own devices, I’d probably would have spent an hour or so trying to get the pattern pieces lined up perfectly against the edges and then given up in frustration.

Loosening the reins on my perfectionism isn’t easy for me. I’ve gradually come to accept that when I make a piece of jewelry, every wire wrap doesn’t need to be identical; however, I’ve gone through a lot of headpins and wire to get to this point. I took a card-making course with my sister-in-law last year and she made 3 cards in the time it took me to make one. Yes, every piece of paper and the embellishments on my card was perfectly lined up. However, no one else looking at my sister-in-law’s cards would have noticed any differences. The odd crooked edge or wonky bow adds, rather than detracts, from the fact that it’s a hand-made card. I still like to take my time with my cards, but I try not to sweat the small stuff.

While there’s nothing wrong with striving to do your best, making a “perfect” dress or bracelet is a pretty hard to achieve. The more rational among us would say it’s impossible. Practice certainly gets you closer – the more wrapped links I make, the better they look. Although I want my sewing to look as good as my mother’s, the rationale part of my brain acknowledges that this isn’t a fair comparison. The fact that my mother has been sewing for over 70 years explains why her stitches are so straight and why she can whip up a well-fitting garment from a Vogue pattern without making a muslin. Her pattern adjustments aren’t obvious to me because they’re so routine for her.

In cutting out my Staples dress, I realized the extent to which my perfectionism has pretty much killed any enjoyment I might have derived from sewing over the years. It’s also been a barrier to improving my skills – why do something I don’t enjoy? Whether I actually like to sew is still an open question. I have a limited amount of spare time and lots of hobbies. I’m not prepared to give up jewelry and card making. I spend most of my weekends during the summer in the garden and I’ve always got a stack of trashy novels next to my bed. Sewing may not be for me. However, I’m going to use my Staples dress as an opportunity to explore the pleasure of sewing and not get too caught up in whether or not my stitches are perfectly straight.

The real test will be Lesson 2, when we start sewing the dress together. I’ve got my pockets pinned and I’m ready to go.


I’m optimistic that I can keep my bliss. Luckily for me, I’m handy with a stitch ripper.



One response »

  1. Oh dear, you definitely won’t enjoy sewing if you worry too much about the little details. When I first started I was a bit like you but after I ruined a couple of precious fabrics I decided I did not need to care so much. Easier said than done, I realize! Here’s hoping you find a way to marry perfectionism and enjoyment in sewing.

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