Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My foray into pillowcase dress sales.

NOTE: Many of these dresses are still for sale. Visit the sale dresses here and here for specifics, sizing, and prices.

This month I became a one-woman sweatshop. I cranked out simple little girls dresses as fast as I could make them, sacrificing bathroom breaks, meals, and even the comfort of my own finger tips in order to finishes twelve, yes twelve, adorable little girls dresses. I made them for two reasons. One, because I developed a serious obsession with purchasing vintage linens, and I needed a way to use up my purchases. Two, because Trinity's alumni weekend included an "Artisan's Fair" and I wanted to be a part of it. So I sewed dresses with vigor with the intention of selling them.

This was my first foray into the world of making handmade goods with the intention of selling them, and I think I approached the fair with the naive bliss of a newcomer. I truly thought my product would fly off the table into the hands of loving owners, and that I might make a million bucks in one go-around. Sadly, I only sold one dress. Yes, ONE. I can hardly believe it. The dresses are so darn cute that before the fair I was joking that I may have to send them to a Sotheby's auction because they would be so popular. I was afraid of the fair crowd resorting to riot in order to secure their own pillowcase dress. I was sure my dresses would be the most popular items at the fair. Turns out they were well admired, but not hot sellers.

Regardless of their selling-power, I am still very pleased with the final produc
t. They are truly so adorable that I am tempted to keep them all for myself, but alas I have no children (yet!) and I am certain that if I start hoarding little girl’s clothing I will guarantee myself a family of all boys!

For those of you interested in making your own dresses, there are many links online with instructions, like this photo tutorial, this tutorialtemplate pattern pieces, and this tutorial with graphics.

Making the dresses is a piece of cake:
Step 1) Hit the thrift stores and second hand shops for pillowcases. Be stringent in your standards and purchase nothing with drool marks, thinning fibers, or sub-par patterns. Also, focus on natural figers and no synthetics. Do take home anything that would make you gush if you saw it on a little girl running barefoot in the grass.
Step 2) Soak and launder everything... in hot water... with Oxiclean. Remember, these pillowcases (from strangers!) will end up on some beautiful little girl's body. Make it pristine.
Step 3) Gather your sewing machine, scissors, biased tape, and pretty trims. Grab a drink and go to the bathroom now, as there will be no time to stop for breaks once the sweat shop work begins.
Step 4) Follow the instructions from tutorials above. If you want a long dress, trim very little off the top. If you want a short dress, trim a lot off the top. The more you trim, the more material you will have to make ties later(see step 5).
Step 5) I used the fabric trimmed from the top of each pillowcase to create matching ties, rather than using ribbon as many of the tutorials suggest. This is becuase I found the ribbon options at my local JoAnn's too cheap, too synthetic, and too stiff to do justice to the cute little dresses. If you have extra nice ribbon, use it. Otherwise, just create a tube of fabric with your scraps, flip it inside out, iron into a strap, and sew onto your elastic. The matching ties look super cute and in my opinion more special than just ribbon.
Step 6) Finally, if desired, add trim, ruffles, and embellishments to your dresses. Dress up your own little girl and get ready for the compliments to come pouring in!

The white dress with green and yellow daisies in the far left of the image is the only pillowcase dress I sold at the fair. I made it out of a Vera pillowcase, and I loved it because it looked so utterly vintage and totally original.

This little "under the sea" themed dressed pictured below is perhaps the cutest thing I have ever made... EVER! I bet it is even cuter than the finger painting I made when I was four, or the pretty vintage inspired clothing I make for myself today. To make this adorable dress, I used a pillowcase with different images on each side. One side has a full blown coral reef scene with brightly colored clown fish and plants. The other side is cream with a smattering of miniature sea creatures swimming across the fabric. I created ties with the same corresponding fabrics. Truly, I just gush when I see it, "Oh, isn't it darling?" and "Don't you just love it?" I say to anybody who will listen (my poor husband had been subjected to the gushing every night for about two weeks now). But just look at it. Isn't is too cute...


Tess said...

Kate- they are beautiful! Susan emailed these pics to me- you are so talented. I love the idea of the vintage pillowcases. I want to buy a new sewing machine for some small projects...any suggestions?

lorrwill said...

Wait - you make these ridiculously adorable hand made dresses and you don't have an Etsy shop?