Thimble-Summer Dress

comments: 41

DressfabricDoes anyone remember Style patterns? I miss them. They were really great. My wedding dress was a Style, and many, many of the dresses I made for myself in college and beyond were from that pattern line. They always fit me well, and their photos of the dresses were always styled (no pun) in progressive, not-lame ways. I look at patterns a lot, and I sew for myself a lot, and I swear, for me, much of the creativity in sewing is just in the imagining that what you're looking at in the pattern book could be something not-lame -- because the fabrics and the photo-styling they use for those books are generally so scary. Man. It's painful. But that's okay, we like a challenge.

DresspatternNevertheless, when I sew clothes for myself, or when I make almost anything for myself that I don't intend to sell, I like to follow patterns to a tee. I don't want to have to make changes or alter things significantly, or fuss too much -- I just wanna make it, not think about how to change it. It seems that most people aren't actually like this, from what I'm gathering -- but I think they must have more natural aptitude than I do! I wish I was better at altering! I've even taken a class in flat-pattern design, but I'm still spatially challenged enough that I'm thrilled when I find something I like, just the way it is. Alleluia! Something that helps is to always look at the pattern drawings. They give you a lot better idea of where the waistline sits, how full the skirt is, where the darts are, and of course what the back looks like -- stuff you don't necessarily see in a photo.

I picked out this pattern yesterday. It's Simplicity 4116. You don't see a lot of contemporary dress patterns with little Peter Pan collars like this, and I love a nice Peter Pan collar. Strangely, the dresses that seemed the freshest to me were the reissued vintage ones that were fifty years old. I don't know a thing about the pattern industry, but it must be a little tough to mobilize -- dresses hang out in the pattern book for years, and new styles don't seem to overwhelm the offerings! I also remember when I was in Europe about fifteen years ago. I was very excited to look at dress patterns there, but lo and behold -- they had (at least at that time) pretty much the same thing we did here in the U.S. Is it the same in Australia? Butterick, Simplicity, McCalls, Vogue, Burda, New Look? Did I forget anything? Aren't several of those companies actually the same company, as well? Hmmm. An opportunity there, for someone illustrious?

Dressfabric2_1This time I think I'm gonna go with view C -- the one on the right, with the little eyelet ruffle sleeve and the strips of tiny eyelet running down the front (what looks like vertical stripes on the drawing). I also, ultimately, decided against the grayish stripes (though I really like that one, I thought three yards of it might be a little much) and the red polka dots and settled on this sort of cameo-pink gingham and the eyelet. It seemed like such an unusual color for gingham, and reminded me of this vintage wallpaper I had just been looking at in my studio. And I love those old-fashioned, flat, starched eyelets. It'll be my Thimble Summer dress, the one I wear to the county fair.


This one promises to be great!

I wish I was so brave and did a bit more sewing for myself.

Can't wait to see your lovely new dress.

Please post a photo of yourself in the dress when it's made!
When my kids were little I sewed for them a lot. My eldest daughter couldn't look at a pattern photograph and visualise it in different fabric. If she didn't like the material in the picture, she didn't like the outfit. My youngest daughter, however, even from the age of 3 or 4, could not only imagine different fabric, but could mentally alter the pattern. "This is nice, but I don't want the collar" or "Could you put big pockets on the outside?" Now 18, she still alters her readymade clothing, but has not got into sewing yet.

Chris Howard says: June 06, 2006 at 08:04 AM

Ah, the scariness of pattern photos. Have you checked out this site:

It celebrates all pattern photos, quite funny really.

Good luck on the new dress! I can't wait to see what it looks like.

can't wait to see it after you make it. I wish I sewed more often. Love the fabric you picked.

Oh, I was just about to buy this pattern too! I love it. Can't wait to see how the dresses turnout. :)

Can't wait to see the dress when it's done.

this is the site of pattern company that makes contemporary patterns, or patterns that are inspired by vintage styles! super simple looking, but that gives tons of room for great fabrics and embellishments.

Would love to see the dress when it is finished!

You are going to look so cute! I didn't know that some of the vintage patterns had been reissued, how great. I'll need to check that out.
Of course you'll post pictures?!

Man do I wish I could sew or what.

Can't wait to see you in all of your pink eyeleted glory :)

Oooh, let us know how it turns out!
Have you seen the reissued Vogue patterns? Gorgeous, but need about 6 metres of fabric because the skirts are so full...

I am self-sewing impaired, does that make sense? I love to sew for others, love giving away what I sew, but can't see to make anything worth wearing. Please make me one so we can be twins.

Love the fabric and the eyelet --
can't wait to see your finished

Love'n this sweet dress! Can't wait to see.

did you know built by wendy has patterns for Simplicity coming out soon?

that dress you picked out is super cute!

That's a great pattern. You are so right about the books - who designs those photos? Do they really think they help sell the patterns? I always check out the vintage reissue section first - it requires so much less imagination on my part.

Love the material you picked out. That is just adorable. I went to the fabric store at lunch and did not see anything that cute ; ) I may have to try another and see if I can find something like it. I am just getting back into sewing and found a very simple 8 panel skirt. I picked out material with a pink background and small pastel polka dots.. not too expensive so something good to try my lost sewing skills (I took Home Ec in jr high and could sew just about anything.. but I have not sewn in a while).
You must take a picture and post it when you are finished.
BTW, how is your Debbie Bliss cashmerino blanket coming along?

Oh lovely! Please oh please show how you look when the dress is done, and how the pattern worked~if you had to adjust it.

What a fantastic pattern. I was just at the fabric store last night, and I SO wanted to find a lovely dress pattern, but my husband had just bought me a new sewing machine, and I didn't want to force him to wait for me while I figured out what I wanted to make AND find the perfect fabric. So, I've decided to do it this weekend on my own. I'll definitely take a look at that pattern. I too love peter pan collars. love em.

I can't wait to see how the dress turns out.(lovely, i'm sure)

great choices. that built by wendy link is a bit scary-- where are their faces? Sizing is constantly an issue when sewing for myself, even though the major companies have all standardized. If i buy it in the store and it doesn't fit perfectly I'm somehow all right-- but when it's homemade and isn't right I can't bear to wear it, and it sits sad and lonely on my closet floor.

We have all the pattern companies you list here in Australia...

hey ali! yes, i remember thimble summer, and that's the perfect dress. thanks for reminding me of that. i might just have to go make one myself... :)

I can't wait to see it finished! Beautiful fabric and I love the style of the dress pattern.

loving your blog - very inspiring. Regarding the patterns available - I agree with you, it is so disappointing the choice available - here in NZ we get exactly what the US do, but maybe more limited... I used to sew a lot, but find it too difficult fitting to my plus sized body. I'll just sew vicariously through you!

You may be interested in this company, they can prduce custom fit patterns using the bodyskanner™: a portable 3D scanner that scans the body in less than a minute. "Unique Solutions™ is the parent and management company of Unique Patterns™ and Unique Systems™. Unique Patterns™ is the world's largest custom-fit pattern company"

Unique Patterns™

Personal Style Guide

One of my favourite sources for unique designs is Folkwear patterns.

Looks great Alicia - that style would also look nice in a soft crepe fabric with soft frills - 40's style tea dresses - pretty pretty!
Gosh its been ages since Ive looked at patterns - I remember Style patterns - simple to make!
I think I should go check some out - the price and quality of clothing in the shops is so sewing machine needs a good dusting though...

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About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at




Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.