Easter ’11 ~Laurel’s Dress



In desperation, I’ve tabled all my to-do’s and should-do’s then surrendered to MUST-do, which is sewing. Not only is Easter just around the corner, but also I am in serious need of  a powerful sewing fix.   So I’ve retreated to my textile cave, AKA Sewing Machine Garage and Stash Storage Facility,  for needle and thread therapy.  If ever I were to fall seriously ill, I’m pretty sure an heirloom sewing session would cure me.

Laurel is first in line for Easter finery.  Handling Swiss batiste, heirloom laces and stitching embroidery does for me what baby cord and Imperial broadcloth cannot.   Those items, by the way, are the components of the grandsons’ outfits that I have planned.




Since Judith Dobson’s Tea Dress appeared on the back cover of Sew Beautiful in the January 1989 issue,  I’ve wanted to make this beauty.  At the time, my Rebecca was already 14 years old so I knew that making the Tea Dress was not a project I would take on  in the foreseeable future.

Now that my precious granddaughter Laurel is nearly 7, the Tea Dress seems like a perfect transition between little girl high yokes and big girl waisted frocks.  The design and lines just seem a little more sophisticated to me.  Nonetheless, this confection would sweet on girls of any age–but not 14.

Coordinating outfits for my three grandchildren is quite a challenge. Do you remember Debbie Glenn’s Sew Beautiful series on sewing for three?  Who can forget!   I plan to pull out those mags and re-examine them from a need-to perspective.  With the Alastair 2 and Robert 5 years old, I can only coordinate them with Laurel’s garments by using color.  So blue it is.


bodice on blue


I’ve struggled with the bodice embroidery and finally decided on designs from the Fil Tire’ and Fancywork Combinations machine embroidery collection,  the product of collaboration between my dear  and talented friend Suzanne Sawko and me.  The fil tire’ looks especially nice against a contrasting color, so a blue Imperial batiste slip will be worn under the white Nelona dress.  As I write, that batiste is en route from Farmhouse Fabrics which I imagine to be the Ultimate Textile Cave.  Some day I’m going to make a pilgrimage there.

Suzanne and I are in agreement that a little hand embroidery significantly enhances a machine embroidery design.  With Easter’s April 24th date rapidly approaching, I could only manage a few French knots.  But I do think they add nicely to the effect.



bodice scan


We also agree that cotton embroidery thread enables a “hand look” machine embroidery to look more convincingly like the hand embroidery it strives to emulate.  The fil tire’ is stitched with a wing needle and ecru 80 wt.Madeira Cotona.  For the leaves, 30 wt. Mettler thread was used, for the flowers, 50 wt. DMC and for the tiny tendril, 60 wt. Mettler.  A 50 wt. cotton quilting thread from Robison-Anton was used for the L monogram (from Monogram Wizard with the addition of a spray from the same fil tire’ embroidery collection).   http://www.allthreads.com/Robison_Anton_50wt_Cotton_Quilting_Thread_King.aspx

This Super Stitch 50 wt. quilting thread is my #1 choice for monograms as it is much heavier than the DMC 50 wt. I love this thread!!!   I bought three 3000 yd. king spools, in white, ecru and eggshell so I will never run out.  Likely it is 3 ply, though I haven’t taken the time to examine it closely. Its extra weight gives lettering a padded satin stitch look.  But because the Nelona is sheer and fine,  I did reduce the density by 10% in Buzztools2.    In my opinion, the variety of thread weights contributes positively to the “looks like hand embroidery” deception attempt.




The back yoke is embroidered with another design from that collection.  So often I think of Elizabeth Travis Johnson’s suggestion that “something pretty” should appear on the back.  Twice, I roomed with this delightful legend who waxed eloquently on the subject.

As you may know, she was deaf for a good part of her adult life.  Consequently she spent much of Sunday worship service  in personal prayer, meditation and contemplation.  She confided that once, sitting in the pew in near silence, she looked at the congregants backs and wished there had been some detail that would catch her eye.  After that, she often made a point of wearing a pin on the back of her dress for church.  For children, she suggestion, the back is what is most often seen, so why not embellish it?  The petite sprays on the back of Laurel’s Tea Dress honor EJT’s suggestion.

I used my own technique for constructing the bodice.  The instructions direct you to create the front–inserting lace, working embroidery, and then repeating these steps on the back.  I’ve never been happy with the lace seamed at the shoulder and often the lace does not match up exactly.  This is probably operator error, but I don’t like to struggle when there is an easier way.

Joining the shoulder seams first and then inserting the lace gives a nicer effect, in my humble opinion.  By doing so, not only is the lace continuous and unseamed, but the pinstitching is also continuous and flows smoothly across the shoulder.

I hope to finish the sleeves tonight. And like Robert Frost, I have miles to go before  I sleep.  But my miles are marked with pinstitching which is not “the road less traveled.”  Now, back to my textile cave.

What are you sewing for Easter? Have you started?  Are you finished?

4 responses to “Easter ’11 ~Laurel’s Dress

  1. Gorgeous!! That is just stunning. I can’t wait to see it done. I have always loved that pattern, too. I hope I will get to make it someday. Thank you for sharing more beautiful inspiration!

  2. That is so beautiful! I love the “something pretty” for the back. I’d enjoy hearing more about “sewing for three.” I’m sewing two smocked Easter dresses. One is nearly done; probably because I pre-constructed it. I’m counting on the rapidly approaching deadline to motivate me to finish the other!!

  3. Hello! I have the book, “Fine Machine Sewing” by Carol Laflin Ahles and in it she says that there is a free download for Fil Tire at a website that is no longer in operation. I googled “Fil Tire” and your name keeps popping up. I see you refer to Fil Tire’ and Fancywork Combinations machine embroidery collection in many of your posts and would like to know where I can get the collection (or some parts of it).

    Your work is beautiful and I would love to be able to get a couple of the embroideries for my Designer SE.

    Thank you,
    Betty White

  4. Hi Betty, I’m glad to know that you like the Fil Tire’ and Fancywork designs. My dear friend Suzanne Sawko digitized the designs and I edited and wrote the directions. The collections are available from me, either sent as an e-mail attachment for on a cd send through USPS. There are three collections, each with the opening title of Fil Tire’ and Fancywork.

    FTFW Elements includes the block of fil tire’ that was on the closed web site. This block can be used in place of any fabric in an applique’ design. There are also some rectangular fil tire’ blocks with BABY embroidered on it. There are also some basic applique’ shapes, including the antique baby carriage, as well as individual designs like the handwork-look flowers, tendrils, yo-yo’s by machine and much more. The individual tiny flowers are sweet between buttonholes, as on Laurel’s Easter dress.

    FTFW Combinations has fil tire’ already built into designs, for instance the shape of a heart, crescents and a small circle surrounded by the handwork flowers. Some are suitable for continuous hoop, creating borders of unlimited size.

    FTFW Frames and Phrases is a set of frames, with and without text, such as Home, Sweet Home, God Bless America, and much more.
    The collections are priced for e-mail delivery or USPS shipment. I accept personal checks, money orders or Paypal.

    Let me know if you would like me to send scans of the sew-outs.
    I’m glad to hear that you have Carol’s book. It is such a wealth of information and includes such good instructions and photos. Thanks for writing, Betty.

    P.S. The collections are only offered in .pes. I cannot convert to .shv for your Designer SE.

    Elements $30/$35
    Combinations $40-$45
    Frames and Phrases $30/$35

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.