Spring Dirndl Project

I can’t very well make a new sacque gown every year. It’s a huge commitment in time, fabric, and cost. Honestly, there is nothing wrong with either of my gowns so unless I fall in love with a fabric, it’ll be a few years before I attempt a new one. Besides, last year was the year of the Vermeer. But I do itch, every so often, for a new sewing project and dirndls are easy, relatively speaking, and require about $30 worth of supplies.

So, even though it was beautiful outside and any sane person would have been outside enjoying the weather, I did a fabric-walkabout and decided to whip up not one but two dirndl. I can justify this insanity as the Pumpkin’s dirndl is in really bad shape and getting smaller and tighter and we never know when we’ll want to wear our dirndl so we like to be ready.

At the New Hope Car Show, 2012.
In dirndl at the New Hope Car Show, 2012. That’s the one the Pumpkin has grown out of and that’s my fancy dry-clean only dirndl.

Picking out fabric is really hard. There are five fabric stores, all within two blocks of my house, that have a decent assortment. The challenge always comes from having to narrow down the options. Dirndls work best in cotton or wool, but for a casual dress, cotton. I have a more fancy, special occasion version that’s dry clean only (silk and Ultrasuede) but I like to wear them for more than just festival days. My other cotton dirndl is a lovely blue stripe floral with pink birds and is a beautiful machine washable cotton sateen but it has as ribbon bodice so also very festive.

What I’d like, are a few everyday dirndls, slightly departed from the typical Oktoberfest fare. With this in mind, I narrowed it down to a few options. One, was a very cute print with beer steins on it. The Pumpkin fell in love with it so the dirndl will make of that fabric along with a green gingham apron. I debated letting my 10 year-old wear a dress with beer mugs on it but it’s really too cute. The other option was this adorable tea pot print I can’t even begin to explain but some of the pots looked like cats or elephants. I have a feeling that one will happen, but maybe as a different style and maybe even for myself being that it’s cute but likely doable for a young-at-heart adult.

For me, I’ve been drawn to a particular fabric for quite some time. I liked a few of the blue fabrics but I already have a blue dirndl and wanted something different. What caught my eye was this somewhat 1960’s pattern with what might be melons or garlic bulbs, I’m not sure. It’s several lovely shades of green on a black background. The name of the pattern is called “Brooklyn Heights,” which cemented the deal (a sign?). I didn’t bother color coordinating for an apron and got some lovely dotted swiss for that.

I was so excited about getting the fabric, I left my card at the store. Thankfully, they’re good folk and had it safe and sound.

As soon as I get the pieces for the dirndl worked out, it won’t take me more than four hours to make one. However, I am still fighting to get the bodice just right so quite a bit of time put in this weekend. However, I think I may have done it this go around. I took the front and side from my grandmother’s dirndl and the back from a Folkware pattern and voila! I added an inch to the height and now the skirt lays where it should. I do believe I have success! Before I forget what I did, I need to transfer all the notes to a proper paper pattern and it should be smooth sailing for all my future dirndls.

Inspired by the Vermeer project, I did very small pleats for the skirt. It’s gloriously full and swingy! However, I think I may have overdone it a bit and what probably is the best is the 3/4″ box pleating that I used on the blue striped dress so I will use that going forward. I’m debating pulling the skirt and fixing it but we’ll see. As far as the length of the skirt is concerned, it looks like 28″ is the winner, with a small 1/4″ rolled hem (f.y.i. I’m 5’5″). If you’ve ever cobbled together a dress pattern from old garments and several other patterns, you know how important it is to have the details down somewhere. If you happen to like dirndl and can sew a bit, it’s surprisingly not hard, I figured I’d share my notes.

Finally, I love zippers but have never been very good at setting them. I’ve always tried to cut corners and machine-sew them in. This time, I decided to just give up and sew it by hand. Of course it came out very well. We have a saying in our house, “laziness leads to regret,” and how true this is about zippers.

Unfortunately, the Pumpkin didn’t want to take a photo so I’ll have to get a picture at a later time once both the dresses are really complete.


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