Mpressive Threadz Studio Blog

Sharing my love of sewing

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The Family Tree Quilt

family tree quilt

Yesterday, I saw a posting by a cousin announcing the birth of his grandson.  He boasted about there now being four generations of men in his family that were alive.  That announcement made me think about the family tree quilt.

This year my mother’s side of the family had a family reunion.  I made a family tree quilt that was part of our opening night activities.  I started the quilt during a week I spent in South Carolina and it was a conversation starter.  Each branch of the tree is embroidered with the name of one of my great grandfather’s children.  Yes, there were 15 children so this tree has 15 branches! I tried to put the branches in birth order, but that posed a problem.  No one knew the birth order for two of the children who had died during their childhood.  All those who might know the birth order had passed away.  All that is known is that one had died falling off a wagon.  Although the branches are not in the proper order, the appearance of their names on this quilt signifies that they did exist.

At the reunion each member in attendance wrote their first name and birth year on a green piece of fabric.  The piece of fabric was then cut into a leaf shape and tacked on the quilt on the appropriate branch of the family.  It was an exciting activity!  Leaves were created for members who couldn’t attend.  Young teen cousins cut the precious green leaves.  My elderly aunts and other cousins helped me tack the leaves to the quilt.  My favorite moment was looking over and watching my first cousins with their nieces meticulously arrange their family leaves around my deceased aunt’s leaf and tack them on the branch belonging to my grandmother.

This quilt has triggered so many conversations, bringing forth so much family history in hilarious stories and sad stories.  I cut 200 scraps of fabric for the reunion and we ran out of leaves!  It was so important to those at the reunion to create leaves for their family members who couldn’t attend or who had passed away.  I will be having conversations over the next year with cousins to make sure to create a leave for each family member.  Some branches on the quilt will be bare.  One of my great aunts did not have any children of her own, but she helped to raise many nieces, nephews, and great nieces and great nephews.   We all adored her, so her bare branch does not represents emptiness because her life was filled with love.

My last remaining great aunt will be the keeper of the family tree quilt.  We have so many leaves to add to the quilt and I will take time to quilt the layers together.  Although I constructed the quilt by machine, I am thinking about actually doing the quilting by hand because that is the way my grandmother did it.  We have a family reunion every two years and the quilt will appear at each reunion so that new leaves for the babies born since the last reunion can be added.  A new family tradition!


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Real Dress

My cousin Tracy thought she would be able to find a gown that would meet her standards in taste, glamour and fit.  LOL!  She recapped her shopping experience after hitting the major department stores. ROTF! She is young and full of life.  So what’s out there for a shapely woman executive in her mid-forties?  You go take a look.

After assuring her that I was fine following my surgery, I made her an evening gown.  She brought her oldest son with her to pick up the gown.  He looked at the dress hanging up in my studio and said, “It looks like a real dress!”  That line is priceless.  What was even more priceless was the look on his face when his mother stepped out wearing the gown.  His big beautiful teenage smile said it all.


Y’s Graduation Dress and Tooting the Horn

First, a study of the graduation dress for my daughter Y.

  • Simplicity 2648 (I cut a size 8 with the C-cup and average fit skirt.  I stitched 1 1/4” side seams which made it 1” smaller and the fit is good.  I added 1/2″ to the center back seam allowance for a 1 1/8” seam allowance, which allows for final fit adjustments when I put the zipper in the actual dress. I curved in the front princess seam under the bust about 1/4″ to get a better fit.)
  • I shortened the skirt length 3” (A compromise between mother and daughter.  Daughter wanted it shorter.  I made her sit down in the muslin so she could see what would happen if I made it as short as she wanted it.)
  • I drafted the pockets by making a 9” square.  I made marks 4” from the front corner at the top of the pocket and 4” from the bottom corner at the side, and connected the marks with a curve.  On the muslin I positioned the pocket at the front princess seam, wrapping it to the back. I will make a dart in the pocket so it fits the curve of the hips better, eliminating a gap at the pocket opening.

  •  In designing Y’s dress, I made a v-neck in the back and added belt loops, a tie belt and patch pockets.  After she tried on the dress, she vetoed the belt loops, so I had to remove them. She wore the dress with the belt tied in the back; cute idea.
  • Fabric: dress is white mediumweight linen; underlining is silk organza; lining is white lightweight cotton.  Underlining the linen dress with silk organza helps to reduce the wrinkling factor of linen, but doesn’t eliminate it altogether.  As well, the underlining gives the dress body as a very lightweight interfacing. 

    after wearing for 7 hours

  • I finished the neck, armholes and tie belt with purchased wide, double-fold bias binding in white.  I used the applique stitch on my embroidery machine to secure the binding, adding a simple decorative element at the same time. I mistakenly left one package of binding in the store, so I cut the binding for the hem from the white cotton used to line the dress, applying it so that it looks like binding on the front and forms the hem facing on the inside of the dress. 

    front of hem looks like binding, back of hem looks like facing

  • Before cutting the dress, I prewashed all the fabrics in the washing machine in plain hot water, using the hand-wash cycle for a few minutes, a cold water rinse, spin cycle and then into the dryer until dry.  This shrunk the fabric so the dress could be washed later without worrying about it shrinking.  Tip: I serged all the cut edges of the fabrics before tossing them in the washing machine to prevent them from raveling; you can also zigzag the edges to prevent the edges from raveling.

I love the fit of the dress on Y and will be making her another one in black, probably in crepe with in-seam pockets.  She has grown up and is off to college soon and every young woman needs a little black dress in her wardrobe.

Now, toot toot on the horn.  As parents we encounter those moments when we look at our children and realize they have leaped to another stage in their lives.  Yesterday at Y’s graduation, I had one of those moments.  She is the salutatorian of her class, with one-tenth of a grade point separating her and the valedictorian. WOOHOO! At her age, she has a bio. I was stunned while it was being read: volunteer work, leadership roles, tennis, and her trip to China.  She walked to the podium in the Comcast Center at the University of Maryland and gave her salutatory address.  A couple of thousand people, her face on giant screens, and she was a picture of confidence.  Her voice projected, she did not fidget, made eye contact with the audience, paused appropriately, used inflected speech, included appropriate humor, and smiled.  She wrote her speech and would not let me read it beforehand.  As far as I know, she practiced it two times, once for the assistant principal and once in her room.  I was amazed at her performance.  Later at the celebration dinner, she and my younger son mentioned how Mrs. Miller at the summer camp at church was always telling them to speak louder when they were doing their presentations.  That’s when it dawned on me, my daughter was being groomed.  At eighteen, she was already where I was at thirty.  I am proud of her and I look forward to her future.


Prom Adventures – Final Chapter

Prom night is over and we have all recuperated.  My daughter and her friends looked glamorous and they enjoyed prom night.  They had their red carpet moment and it started with the limo.  This thing was as long as a bus and they walked a red carpet to enter it.  Big different from the brown Buick LeSabre that took me to my prom with my mother in the driver’s seat.  

I only have shots of two of the dresses.  D was meeting them elsewhere, so I did not get a picture of her in her dress.  Bummer.  I hope to get one from her. 

I love making party dresses and I enjoyed making these.  Today in the Washington Post is a story about an organization that gives new and used dresses to any young lady who needs one.  And there are plenty of young ladies who need help in these financial times.  My husband is still complaining about the cost and I made my daughter’s dress.  This organization is called Once Upon a Prom.   There are a slew of similar organizations.  Use the search term “Cinderella Project” and you will find one near you.  If you don’t, you may want to start one. 

Here’s an idea for the sewists out there.  We all have humongous stashes of fabric, which we may never get through.  How about taking a fabulous piece out of your stash and making a great party dress in any size.  Then give your creation to one of these organizations.  It’s a win-win situation.  Some young lady gets a beautiful prom dress that she would never be able to afford and you get a tax-break for a charitable donation.  This would make a wonderful sew-along.   I have to give this more thought.


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Prom Adventures – Chapter 4

Another one bites the dust.  The second dress is done.  I think of two words when I look at it, fun and sophistication.  It’s a beautiful blue, with a ruched midriff and a draped skirt.  I remember wearing the side drapes on the hips when I was much, much younger and much, much smaller.


I am so glad I remembered how to drape the pattern for the skirt on the dressform. 

I will be pulling an all-nighter on my daughter’s dress.  I can’t complain that she focused on school instead of prom dresses.  Her head was in the right place.  Today she received a letter from the school informing her that she is the salutatorian for her senior class.  That will keep a smile on my face as I finish her dress.

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Prom Adventures – Chapter 3

The most difficult gown is done!  G is scheduled to pick up her gown tomorrow and I will get pictures.  She is very petite (height and width). Her gown reminds me of a forties/fifties dream gown; organza over charmeuse with bling and flare.  Here’s the back and front of the gown.

 Work continues on the others.

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Prom Adventures – Chapter 2

The beading on the dress bodice is done.  I really have to learn how to use a tambour needle to do beading.  I just brought a tambour needle, but it will take a lot of time to master it, so I used a needle and thread to do this.  I did find a good video demonstration by Professor Bob Haven of the University of Kentucky.  Now I can see what I was doing wrong.  I will get to practice once these dresses are done.


The beloved daughter did not spend all her father’s money.  She caught some great sales.  With the remaining $35 she did as her father instructed; she paid the tiny balance on the limo and put gas in her car.


A recap of a conversation between daughter and older brother.

Brother: You got a date for the prom?

Daughter (with the bad-odor expression): NO!

Brother: Okay, because I would have to have a conversation with him. (punches his open hand with his fist and tries to look menacing) Why you don’t have a date?

Daughter: We didn’t want dates.  We are going as a group.

Brother: Oh no!  Don’t tell me you are one of those independent women.  (in a high pitch voice) I don’t need a man.  I got it going on!

Mother: She doesn’t need a man.  She does have it going on.  My friends and I went to our senior prom as a group.  Z went to hers solo.

Brother: Z! Not a good example. (lots of laughter from everyone)


Now it’s time to put the bodice together and finish the dress.