Hot! “Grandma’s Garden” Dress

The Facts

⁃ Fabric: Shirting fabric ( you think I learned my lesson, shame on me)

⁃ Pattern:  Funny that you ask….

⁃ Year: 1940s

⁃ Notions:  Buttons, 1.39 a pack

⁃ Time to complete:  a few days

⁃ First worn:  May 6, 2012

⁃ Wear again?  Oh H3!! no. I’ll probably just use this dress as a pattern.

⁃ Total price: $7.80

First off, let’s talk about my inspiration for this weeks challenge. My Grandma. I loved this woman. She was so strong and amazing. She did things the best way she knew how and I have got to give her credit for that. She was a woman ahead of her time, but had some funny quirks. She was a sorority sister at University of Washington (go Huskies!) Majored in fashion merchandising, then changed her major to nursing. Good thing she did too. This woman was selfless. Born of German/Welsh parents, she loved fashion and was good at not only wearing it, but making it and styling it. She married my grandfather in the late 1930’s, this picture was taken in 1943. When she married my grandfather, she had to take on a different role in life. She had to take on more roles than any woman should have to. You see, my grandfather was an alcoholic. A dirty, mean drunk. Grandma sold their house outside of Seattle and moved the family to a little farming area on the outskirts of Yakima, WA. in hopes that Grandpa would be too busy with their new dairy farm to drink life away. Well, he did just that. He drunk his life away. he died in an automobile accident while driving under the influence of alcohol. Drove head on into a tree. My mother was only 14 and my uncle 16. Grandma became a stronger woman because she had to. Her love for fashion was put on hold for many decades and she helped organize a rehab center in Ellensburg, WA for alcoholics. What an amazing woman to pioneer this great cause before it was worldly recognized. When I came into the picture 1/4 of a century later, she passed on her love of fashion and beauty to me since she had to give it up so long ago. She became a woman of many talents due to the forces of nature. When it came to finding photos of Grandma, I noticed every dress she wore had huge floral print on them. I had only one fabric with huge floral print, the dreaded shirting material.

Which brings me to the low point of my post. See this awesome pattern? I fell in love, and was ready to use it. To my dismay the only pattern pieces that could be found were the facings and the long sleeve. I was so bummed out! But, I sucked it up and said I can make this work, Sadly I didn’t. I had to draft the entire pattern with only the help of the facings and the picture on the back of the pattern envelope. The sewing machine ate the material while trying to sew the button holes. The material did not fold well while trying to do EVERYTHING! But, I was not going to give up. I started this ugly project and I am going to finish it. I can be a stubborn mule at times. I guess I just channeled Grandma. So, I hate this dress, it will never get finished properly. I should have learned my lesson the first time working with shirting fabric. Please don’t make my mistake. I was so in hatred with this dress that I didn’t care that I have no make up on or my hair done properly. I said to the hubs, “let’s just get this over and done with” and handed him my iPhone to take the pictures. Grandma, I promise to honor you on another challenge. This one did just not work out. A funny thing about my Grandma, she didn’t believe in wearing pants ever! Even when doing farm work. The woman wore skirts, dresses, and culottes all year long no matter the occasion or weather. She believed women should not wear pants because it didn’t leave much to the imagination. Funny Grandma, she has a point, but pants are just so easy and convenient. She would have gruffed at that comment.




Bethany is a forever student in Fashion Design. She took a hiatus from her studies due to the fear of using a sewing machine and a long term illness. It wasn't until her daughter was born, she felt inspired to create again and dive headfirst into sewing by machine.


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  1. That is one amazing story, kudos to your Grandma for raising such strong-willed, independent and stubborn people : ) Stubborn isn’t a bad thing and I commend you for sticking this project out to the end! I’ve had a couple of those where I just say “Really????” by the end and then vow to Etsy the darn thing. The pictures are actually pretty good and you’ve captured that farm-girl mood. As I said last week, there’s always the next challenge, onward!

  2. I loved the story and the dress! I can’t comment on the stubborness since I suffer badly from it myself. But I think you did a great job reconstructing the pattern with the temperamental fabric – which incidentally is a gorgeous print. I even have a very similar pair of shoes!

  3. Oh Brittany, what a gorgeous dress and a wonderful story. What a great woman. Thank you so much for sharing. I think the photos are great and I love the lime rose print fabric. I am sorry you hate it – it is great on you! Well done with all that drafting too!

  4. This is a lovely story. I love the print on that fabric, I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you. Kudos on attempting to self draft the majority of this pattern.

  5. What a lovely post, thanks for sharing what a toughie your g-ma was. :)

  6. I think your dress is cute!

  7. Love the dress! Would love to be able to get that pattern myself… Maybe for mother’s day :P
    My grandma has similar story, she had 5 kids and basically worked in a sweat shop when he was alive. She worked in hospital admissions till she retired and passed away about 3 years ago from cancer. She passed he love of sewing, crochet, knitting and quilting onto quite a few of her granddaughters to varying degrees. Some of her great granddaughters are already picking up some of her skills :P

  8. I’ve never sewn anything with shirting fabric. It sounds like trouble, but it looks like you stuck with it and in the end it turned out pretty nice! I really like the last picture where the breeze catches the bottom of the dress.

  9. If you’re interested in tackling a similar dress, Butterick re-issued a very similar vintage pattern:
    (Plus, no buttonholes! It has a zipper. I will do just about anything to avoid doing a buttonhole on my sewing machine.)

  10. What a pity the dress didn’t work out in a way that you are happy with. It’s such great fabric, and such a fabulous colour on you.

    What sort of shirting fabric is it? I usually find shirting fabric one of the easiest fabrics to work with.

  11. Thanks for sharing! What an inspiration your grandmother was and is. I love the fabric and the pictures! You look amazing without makeup-seriously. I like the dress a lot but know what it’s like when a project turns ugly! Hope you’ll use the pattern again.

  12. Hi Bethany, sorry you had to struggle with the fabric but the color looks lovely on. Great story, your Gram certainly was a strong women to push forward under those circumstances.