Dresses and Handkerchiefs

Dresses and Handkerchiefs

I am currently working on the cover for my next book. By working on it, I mean I have found and hired a seamstress to make a Regency era day dress and spencer. My first fitting was the beginning of the month. No, I will not be on the cover, but the dress will be used for JASNA events. My model will simply be pinned into it for the shoot.

Why am I using a seamstress? A few months ago my blog was about accomplished women and I admitted I could sew. So why am I not making this dress? Simple, I’m chicken. I bought the pattern and material, even cut the pattern pieces out, and then got cold feet. You see, while in college, I took on an ambitious project to make a dress for my cousin’s wedding. It was mauve satin with cream lace and the pattern was from my late aunt’s collection from the 50s. Full skirt requiring a crinoline, big bow on the back. It would have been gorgeous. The night before we were supposed to leave, I was up into the late hours finishing it. I was soooo close to being done and tried it on just to make sure all was well. That was when I discovered the bodice was lopsided. One breast was more than fully covered and the other was definitely not. How? How was it even possible to be so far off? With tear-filled eyes I put everything away and went to sleep thankful to have a Laura Ashley dress to wear instead. That was the last dress I ever made for myself.

When designing this new cover, I was determined to make the dress. (For a brief period of time I played with the idea of hand sewing it to be more authentic, but quickly abandoned the thought.) Then the self-doubt set in. In the end, I am glad I didn’t do it. The seamstress found a few problems with the pattern and had to make some alterations as I am apparently not shaped like a regency era lady. (Imagine that.) All of it was definitely above my skill set.

After my initial meeting with the seamstress, I drove straight to a JoAnn Fabrics determined to make my own undergarments. After all, if they turn out unsightly, they will not be seen by anyone but me. I came out with four patterns (2 for dresses to tackle in the future) and material to make a nightgown (because I can’t find one I like in the stores) and the undergarments. My courage carried me home where I cut out the pattern pieces before having to make dinner. … And that’s where it ended. I can point out any number of reasons that more hasn’t been done, but truthfully, I don’t want to fail so I haven’t tried.

This brings us to the handkerchiefs. Being allergic to dust and molds, I have year round sinus issues, but for the most part it is just an annoying drip. (I should have bought stock in Kleenex years ago.) When this new found desire for simplicity reared its head, I decided to begin carrying a handkerchief. Of course, a simple plain handkerchief would not do, so out I went in search of embroidery designs. I purchased some inexpensive men’s handkerchiefs for practice with plans to eventually make my own completely. I wish I could show you a picture of the first one completed, but I’m still trying to decide on the pattern.

So why all this planning, spending, and mental abuse? I have writers block. My next book is due out this summer, the cover reveal will be done in a few months, and I already have three book signings scheduled in the fall, but I can’t seem to end this story. I can’t decide if it is because I have grown so attached to my characters that I do not want it to end or if I just have hit a wall. What I do know is that when I can’t create in one way, it comes out somewhere else. (The last time I had writers block like this, I crocheted a throw that my family fights over because it is so soft and warm.)

So, now that I have procrastinated a bit longer by writing out all my trials, it is back to the blank page. Or better yet, back to the original. I always had the feeling that once Jane Austen finished the meat of her stories she was ready for it all to be over and wrapped everything up quickly. Perhaps that is why we feel the need to tell more about these beautiful beloved characters.

What do you like to create? How do you fight through when your mind just isn’t there?

12 Responses to Dresses and Handkerchiefs

  1. My great grandmother was a seamstress by profession and my grandmother was wonderful at it as well. I wish I would have asked her to teach me as I am hopeless when it comes to sewing.

  2. Oh, this post was hilarious. My mother sewed all my clothes [had to] because I was tall, and long in the torso. It was a nightmare trying to find store bought clothes to fit me. I learned to sew from her, made my own clothes and made many of the mistakes that you have mentioned. She gave me her Singer sewing machine [503A series] when I married. I still have it. It was the last of the slant shank models.

    My grandmother [father’s mother] was a seamstress and sewed for people. She was amazing and created her own patterns using old newspapers for her pattern. I took Home Economics for 4-years in school. They don’t call it that now, nor do they teach sewing any longer. I’ve done it all. Crochet, knit, embroidery, cross-stitch, needlepoint, quilting, and any other thing I could get my hands on. I simply needed to keep my hands busy. I also used that as a procrastination tactic when there was something that I didn’t want to do. I hope you are able to get through this. Thank you for sharing.

    • My mom and my aunt made all my Halloween costumes when I was little. I made some for my kids and we got hand-me- downs that my sister made for her kids. Once they got older and my daughter “found her style”, I stopped. Now I wish I hadn’t.
      Thank you!

  3. I used to sew a LOT. I was always taller than most, and either couldn’t find clothes long enough, or they just didn’t fit right. So, I made most of my clothes. I even made a three piece suit for a boyfriend once. Now, I just can’t seem to finish anything sewing, so am crocheting a lot. While I still have many unfinished crochet projects, I still keep making new ones. And as the last few years they’ve all had people expecting them, mostly grandkids, I am finishing most. Anyway, fun post, and good luck with your writers block, as well as your sewing!

    • Thank you! I actually had a breakthrough yesterday so keep your fingers crossed. 😉
      When my grandmother turned 90 she took orders from everyone of what they wanted: afghans, doilies, slippers. I requested dishrags, because she had already made me a blanket, and got a dozen. I still have one left and she’s been gone … 10 years? She was 101 when she passed. Handmade things have always been special. Keep creating!

  4. I can identify wholeheartedly, Bronwen. Too many projects started and not finished. However, when I hit a snag with ‘Darcy Chooses – Part 1,’ I eventually got it sorted out. I couldn’t come up with a solution for Lydia and Kitty’s failed elopements. When I realized that there was NO solution, I finished Part 2. I’m not an editor, but I am a good proofreader. Just let me know by email if I can help. 🙂

    • The sad thing is, I didn’t completely stop writing. I was just coming up with new ideas and not finishing this one. I might have worked it out, but first I have to fix a soggy middle. 🙂
      Thank you! I will let you know if I need help. 🙂

  5. I can sew on a button. That’s about it 🙂 I like the quest for simplicity. I should use handkerchiefs. If I read your book and tell you how to end it, may I have a throw? (I’m kidding! I really hope you finish it soon 🙂 )

    • The last dress I made was for my daughter when she was in preschool and she is now counting the days until she can get her drivers license – it is amazing what I have forgotten about sewing. I actually am in the market for a beta reader – mine is quite ill at the moment and unable to get me through the end of this book. 😉

  6. I probably would have been in the same boat you are with the clothes. A seamstress I am not!lol I would probably sew a leg hole shut!lol Hope you get past your writer’s block.

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