Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Making an Amish Dress

 I'll give you a bit of history about this subject in order for you to grasp our familiarity with the Amish community.  We live next to six large, Old Order Amish communities.  We spend a lot of time with several different Amish families and have made some great friends.  Our daughters play together.  This picture is of our daughter (which explains the white tennis shoes) trying on one of their dresses.  She absolutely loves these dresses.  Trying to make one of these dresses isn't because we feel she needs to wear these dresses, however, they
are modest and very comfortable.  She has begged me to make her one for more than two years a friend matched her size up to one of her daughters, sent home the pattern and the dress with me and I got busy.

My first step was to copy the pattern for my own use.  Their patterns are created with wrapping paper or paper grocery bags, some are even made with shower curtain linings if they are going to be used over and over and over.  Pretty smart idea I think.  So here I am with several pattern pieces and the dress so I can figure out which pattern piece goes where.  I copied the pattern and labeled each one carefully.

There was one piece that confused me and I thought it could possibly be for a skirt section.  Don't ask me was the first thing that came to my mind and I went with it.  I carefully measured and counted each tuck in the back of the skirt and took pictures of every piece of the dress so I would know how to put it together.

When I returned the dress and pattern, I was sure to tell my friend that there wasn't a pattern piece for the sleeve.  She looked very perplexed and stated that she was sure it was in there.  I rattled off the pattern pieces that I copied and she grinned at me.....the piece I thought that was a section of the skirt, was in fact the pattern piece for the sleeve!  Good grief!  That was dumb of me, but we both got a good laugh.  She explained that you simply use a big square for the skirt.  It sounded very simple.

The next week I began to work on the dress.  The bodice was cut out and sewn together in one evening and I decided to wait on the skirt until the next evening.  As I thought about it.....I realized I had no idea how big of a square to cut out.  I knew my daughter's waist measurement, but with all those much did I need?  I should've measured the bottom width of the skirt!  For some reason, that completely stumped me.  I moved on to other projects and left the bodice hanging in the closet.

Spring rolled around and growing season was here at last.  I hadn't seen my friend in several months, but I ran into her daughter and asked her about the measurement.  She said she would find out for me.  Well.....that was two months ago, they have had two weddings in their family.  A thought snuck up on me......I measure my daughter's waist, add the extra material for the tucks and seams and cut it out according to that!  Now why couldn't I have thought of that last fall?  I dug the bodice out of the closet and guess what!  That's is too small!

By the grace of God, I caught wind of another Amish lady that actually will sew for others making aprons and bonnets, so I ask if she'd make our daughter a dress.  She says sure and I tell her my tale of woe.....she laughs and was actually impressed (or seemed impressed) I got as far as I did with what I had.  The bodice is very fitted and their are eight pieces to it.

Needless to say....I am very excited to be relieved of sewing this very simple looking but complicated dress.  Plus I've made a new friend!  She is an incredible woman, 12 children.  We sat on the porch and talked surrounded by children.  There was a nice breeze considering how hot the day was, and one daughter was baking chocolate chip cookies for us to enjoy.  It got me to thinking how she ever had time to sew, but I quickly came up with the answer.....the children are very well behaved and help care for each other, each handling different household and farm duties leaving her time to sew, which she needs to do a lot of with 12 children.    Fortunately, she enjoys sewing.  Maybe she'll be willing to teach me a thing or two!


  1. I know this post is old, but I do hope you gets my comment anyways! I have the opposite problem of daughters cape dresses collect dust in her closest, her kapps are safely tucked away until we can find a way to get to church or meeting. It saddens me though, I remember how excited she was when her cape first cape dress arrived in the mail!! We had matching mother/daughter ones made *sigh*. But, on Sept 22 Grace turned 13 and I turned...well, not important and trust me, only I got a new kapp! thank you for sharing your story with me! What a wonderful mother you are! I look forward to getting to know you and your family better. Maybe you can help teach me or tell me where I can learn to set up a wonderful blog like yours. God bless you and yours,

  2. While I am not sewing cape dresses, I am SO upset by the lack of feminine, Christian clothing in stores. I am learning to make simple, flared, below the knee skirts and simple high necked shirts with medium sleeves. I sew every stitch by hand. God wants wemon to LOOK LIKE WEMON and to LOOK CHRISTIAN! I am looking forward to advanced sewing projects that separate me from this unchristian world!! I can leave my house at any moments notice and look like a Christian- though I dress like a Christian at home on ordinary days as well. :-)

  3. I've done alot of sewing, but never heard of using a big square for the skirt, usually it is somewhat flared. Great post, and it's inspiring to read of one who wants to sew!


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