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What’s On My Sewing Table


Are you a masochistic seamstress and tackle several projects at once? I am too and in addition to sewing bras, I’m also making a red taffeta dress with yes, you guessed it, a ruffle. (it’s gigantic too – eight inches!)

My best friend got engaged over the holidays. We’ve known each other since the second grade – we lived in the same neighborhood, went to the same middle school and high school, collected pet snails in our desks, and dressed up as army men for Halloween. She’s told me not to date so-and-so – “you deserve better” – and she’s told me to change outfits – “you look hideous” – and that’s because she’s a real friend. Even though she went to college in Colorado and I went to college well, everywhere, our friendship has never lost its spark. So when she texted me a picture of her ring with the caption “I got engaged!” one Saturday night in December, I was excited for her, yes, but I was also excited for my attire. I twiddled my fingers just like Mr. Burns, thinking of the dresses I could make. Long? Short? Flowy? Drapey? Silk? Cotton? My wheels were a’turning…

Now, I will be one of her bridesmaid so my outfit for the wedding ceremony is in her hands. But for the parties leading up to her nuptials, I will have full reign over what I wear. I initially thought I would finish this dress for her engagement party but my bra making got in the way. I’m not one to leave a project unfinished, especially when it involves silk taffeta, so I will continue making this dress despite the fact that I missed my deadline. I have a hunch that when I finish, whenever that may be, she will be throwing another party (bachelorette, bridal showers, etc).

This is actually my second attempt at this dress. I was a bad seamstress and researched the fabric after I started sewing. Unfortunately, I found out that taffeta should be lined with organza (to prevent massive wrinkling) and should be sewn with a firm grip from the front and back (or sewn taut). The seams on the first dress were wavy and instead of trying to resurrect and rectify it, I started over.

The dress is inspired by what Freida Pinto wore to a recent film realize. Instead of being strapless, I changed the bodice to be sleeveless with the bust darts radiating from the center front (CF) seam. The back has a large keyhole opening that I think will make it just a touch sexy. The fabric is super thin and very wrinkly so I underlined it with self (to add thickness) and organza (to prevent wrinkling). All three plys were basted together and treated as one ply and surprisingly, three layers of fabric wasn’t too much. Actually, it was just right and I will finish the neck and armhole openings with a polka dot facing. The skirt is a simple rectangle that was slashed and opened to create a bottom opening that is sixty plus inches (measured flat) and the bottom ruffle is eight inches (height) and circular cut. To give oomph to the skirt, I will sandwich shirred tulle between the self and skirt lining. There will be a zipper at the side seam and a button closure at the top of the keyhole opening. And pockets? Every maxi dress has to have them!



  1. Reply


    You ARE a masochist. But the best ones always are. I’m sewing 6 dresses at once at the moment, and I just got done costuming a show. We deserve good long breaks!

  2. Reply

    Heather Lou

    Can’t wait to see the final product! Sounds like it’s going to me magical and that red will be off the hook with your colouring. Two words: matching lipstick.

  3. Reply


    I love the blow by blow description! I can just picture it in my mind’s eye! It’s going to be stunning. Would love to see more sneak peeks as it progresses.

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      Check and check! Be on the lookout for more updates on this dress, especially the eight inch ruffle!

  4. Reply

    Carlee McTavish

    It’s going to look fabulous! Maddie, how do you research your fabric? What are you looking for when you do your research?

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      I research fabric by reading books, online forums, blogs, etc. First, I have a book by Claire Shaeffer called Fabric Sewing Guide (http://www.amazon.com/Claire-Shaeffers-Fabric-Sewing-Guide/dp/089689536X/ref=pd_sim_b_17). It’s awesome! After I read Claire’s tips and tricks, I then go online, searching what tension, needle, stitch length, stabilizer, etc that is recommended for the fabric and silhouette. Blogs are a great resource because someone has tried and tested a method of handling fabric – you can learn from their mistakes.

      • Reply

        Carlee McTavish

        Good to know. I am still only sewing with cotton, but I’ll be graduating soon to other fabrics. I’ve always wondered what I should be researching and where. Thanks for the info!

  5. Reply

    Lady ID

    I am like you but I try to keep it to two projects.

    We are in a similar boat. My sister-cousin is getting married and I am her Maid of Honour. I have to make my outfits for the reception and other wedding festivities. Since we are Nigerian, the fabric was chosen ahead of time and given to family members and friends ( we wear coordinated fabric). It’s typically dutch wax printed cotton and/or lace.

    Anyway I am in the process of sketching, pattern-making, etc – I laid out one of the muslins yesterday. I have all my interlining, lining and notions mostly selected. Very exciting.

    I look forward to the red dress – sounds beautiful.

    PS. What type of dressform do you use?

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      My dress form is from Superior Model Form in NYC and I highly recommend them. I answer this and several other questions regarding the tools I use on my ‘I Am’ page (scroll to the top of my blog and click “I Am”)

      • Reply

        Lady ID

        Cool Thanks. I’ll check it out!

  6. Reply


    ooh, this is going to be great! I like the interesting darts and seams on the bodice.

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      the darts are my favorite part but boy do they need to be pressed!

  7. Reply

    Meg the Grand

    This is going to be so stunning on you! Can’t wait to see that fabulous ruffle 🙂 Congratulations to your friend!

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      the ruffle is going to be grand!

  8. Reply

    Maggie Smith

    I love the look of this so far! Like Sallie, I would love more sneak peeks of this project!

  9. Reply


    Awww, little Maddie dressed up as an army man, so adorable! You haven’t changed a bit, well I mean face-wise. Thankfully the camo on camo is staying far away from your closet, I imagine.

    I love the play by play about the dress. I can already picture it and I can’t wait to see the finished result! I agree with Sallie. Sneak peeks, pleaseeeeee.

    • Reply


      Yes, camo has not and will not make an appearance in my closet.

  10. Reply


    I love the back key-hole! I can’t wait to see this finished!

  11. Reply

    Hannah L Dolan

    8inch ruffle you say? wow-wee that dress is going to be a stunner!
    I like the darts- it’s not often you seem them placed there and I think they will add just that little bit extra interest.

  12. Reply

    Reana Louise

    Oh wow I am sooooooo excited for that dress–the fabric is amazing!

  13. Reply

    Thimble & Cork

    This sounds like absolute perfection! I can’t wait to see the finished dress!!

  14. Reply

    petite josette

    the top looks very similar to a recent dress I made – I can’t wait to see the finished product since with all the detail you describe, it sounds like it will be quite stunning. For mine I used Silk Dupioni, which I don’t think is as hard to work with as Taffetas. http://petitejosette.blogspot.ca/2012/12/finished-project-madmen-dress.html

    • Reply


      Any type of silk is a struggle to work with. Taffeta kicked my butt the first time but I’m determine to conquer it this time.

  15. Reply


    Wow, this is going to be so cool! Can’t wait to see the dress! Congrats to your best friend!

  16. Reply


    Maddie, I’m loving the darts in that bodice! Can’t wait to see the finished dress 🙂

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