Metamorphosis Butterfly Frock

11:20 PM

This is a project I think you'll love or hate.
There's no in between because it's weird, nerdy, and a titch creepy.
Kind of my nerdy spin on all the girly butterfly stuff everywhere.

I took the life cycle of monarch butterflies and appliqued the process on a little dress for Ellaria.

And I love this thing.
My husband had a Saturday off and I had some precious "alone" time and busted it out.
I hadn't sewn in a while with the new baby and preparing our house to sell, and just creating it made me so happy.
Some people exercise, shop, or get a message for "me" time, but making this was so fulfilling and fun...which is why I have a butt-load of pictures in this post.

Anyway, the idea has been mulling in my head for over a year.
In 2nd grade we spent what felt like weeks studying the life cycle of monarch butterflies and I remember having to draw and write out all the stages, so it was fun to relive it a little again.
AP Biology was also one of my favorite classes in high school. 
I remember the text book had an owl on the cover and I seriously considered never turning it back in. 
It was my senior year so they couldn't have tracked me down or had any real consequences, and I really wanted to keep it as a reference because it was that great and I am that nerdy.

But on to this nerd sewing this butterfly dress.

I was inspired by:
- the pretty greens and blues of the chrysalis and steps in this image.
-the jute neutral base and applique hem in Cherie from You and Mie's little Fantastic Mr. Fox tunic
-Ellie's favorite book right now is Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar


RJ (almost 5) was really interested in learning about metamorphosis and helped me plan it out on the dress.
We watched this video over and over, he thought it was cool and I was trying to figure out which stages I wanted to sew.

So basically the life cycle of a monarch butterfly starts as an egg,
then the...





I wanted the images to wrap around the dress so it wasn't just flat on the front.
So I cut out the dress front and back, and sewed the right side seam to work on the appliques with a flat surface.

The baby caterpillar ends up on the back side, but I liked the wrap effect of the imagery around the hem of the skirt.

HOW TO SEW SOME BUTTERFLIES!


The process is really quite easy, and was a lot of fun.

PAINT:
I first took a scrap of green fabric (formerly a sheet) and used fabric paint in green and a mix of blues to paint a strip of green to blue gradient.
Basically pouring a glob of green on one end and blue on the other and sloppily painting them until they slightly mix in the center.

Once dry, this strip is what I used to cut out the chrysalis pieces.

APPLIQUE:
Using the pellon fusible webbing that is double sided with paper backing, I drew out the shapes of the different fabric portions.
Next, I ironed the webbing on the back of the fabric scraps, cut out the shapes, arranged them on my skirt, peeled off the paper backing, and ironed them on.

THREAD DRAWING:
To create the details, I used my free motion presser foot and "drew" with thread.
I put the feed dogs down so I have free moving fabric and draw away.
I think my favorite aspect of the thread drawing is the sketch-like quality it gives the final shapes, like you used pen and ink.

I used different thread colors, like adding white on the butterflies and two colors of gray for the empty chrysalis.

DRESS DETAILS:
After all the time making this dress, I wanted to make sure she could wear it a while.  
So it's a basic a-line jumper that is a dress now, but could be worn as a tunic with leggings when she's older.

The neck and arms use the same orange fabric as the butterfly wings with homemade bias tape.
Milky green and blue buttons finish it off on the back for the 1" wide placket.

So both Ellie and I love this little dress and I've been thinking about my next artistic, nerdy, piece of clothing to make....


....the Krebs cycle? Mitosis?  Immune System cartoon battle?  Pollination & Fertilization of plants?

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119 comments

  1. That is just amazing details! My girls would love it! They were actually drawing butterflies in cocoons today. :D

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  2. Holy cow, Jess!!!!! When you're done with that over there, can you please send it to me? I'd like to hang it in my sewing room and stare at it in admiration every day! Ah-mazing!

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  3. Какая красота!!!Просто чудесно!!!

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  4. Wow, I don't know how anyone could "hate" this dress, as you write. It is lovely -- really, really fun and original and beautiful. Keep 'em coming. I personally would love to see your take on photosynthesis or mitosis or whatever else that creative brain of yours can come up with (-:

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    1. oh yes, why didn't I think of photosynthesis!!! Great idea!

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  5. I hate it... Totally kidding! This is seriously the most amazing thing I have ever seen! You have some serious skills... I am blown away!

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  6. You are amazing. I totally and completely love this so very much!

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  7. Absolutely gorgeous, I love the thread drawing over the appliqués, really looks stunning!

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  8. That is a great dress! Made with a lot of inspiration, you can easily see that.

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  9. This is amazing!! Totally cool idea, awesome execution, and gorgeous thread drawing!! I love it so much! What a lucky little girl to have such a beautiful and nature-inspired dress! This will have to influence her creative and scientific mind, for sure.

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  10. woww, amazing, increadible your aplique!!! just perfect, incluse for boys, my son would love it in his pants!

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    1. I've been trying to think of a way to use the technique for a boy, are you thinking on the cuff of pants?

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  11. You win sewing. This is the best thing I've ever seen.

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  12. That is so beautiful and inventive! Not to mention, very well done with talent and care.

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  13. Gorgeous! One of the most creative dresses I've seen...no, I think THE most creative! You've inspired me to hunt down an free motion presser foot...not that I could do anything as amazing as this!!!

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    1. oh I think you'll like the free motion presser foot. I use mine quite a lot. Oh it's easy, you could totally do it!

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    2. Can you do a tutorial on using it. I'm nervous.

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  14. That is amazing! Really, really gorgeous!

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  15. Haha...the Krebs Cycle. I haven't been here before, but I just made sure I'll come again! This is, hands down, one of my all time favorite projects! I mean, maybe it's because I majored in biology, but really I think because it's just that beautiful. I love it so, so much. I think you should just frame it, really. Ha. I'm so happy to have found this, thanks for sharing!!

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  16. Ehhhhh, I don't think you will find someone who will hate this project. UNBELIEVABLE!!! WOOOOW! And I can't stop laughing at you writing that the butterflies are really easy to make.....no way they can be easy....for starters you have to be able to draw to make them. They are so so beautiful!!! Love love love!

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    1. Well I guess I say it's easy in that it's really forgiving. A big mistake you could unpick, and it's kind of a mess up close so it doesn't have to be too perfect! In the past I've also printed images, traced them on to the fabric then sewn the details...I was just too lazy this time around!

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  17. This is fabulous. I love it!

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  18. OMG - I am in love with this - the amount of work, creativity, gorgeousness, and geekiness... it is PERFECTION! Of course I am a huge butterfly fan, so it is right up my ally. Great job!

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    1. I'm glad you could appreciate the geek in it!

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  19. oh my goodness this is AMAZING!!! Beautiful!

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  20. This is so amazing !!! After making my little ones Valentine tunic, I wanted something original, trust nature!!! I think I can do this but I will use fabric paints, for the drawings. Your dress is lovely!!!

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  21. Absolutely beautiful! Before I even clicked the link my first thought was the Very Hungry Caterpillar. I wish my girls liked that story as much as I do.

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    1. Doesn't that stink when your kids just don't love books like you do? I tried reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to my son and he hated it.

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  22. This is so utterly fabulous, and perfect it every way! From the far away shots, I would never have guessed it was applique. The fact that it *is* applique makes it even more fabulous. I really, really love this (can you tell?!). Beautiful! Also, have you noticed that the Very Hungry Caterpillar book uses the incorrect term "cocoon" instead of "chrysalis." Perhaps it should be called the Very Hungry Moth. Ha! Anyway, I couldn't help but (nerd-ily) point out the distinction when reading it to my kids.

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    1. That's funny you mention it Amy, since learning a little more to make this dress I wondered about that too. Or I was thinking they don't build a cocoon, they wiggle out of their skin!

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  23. Seriously awesome!! You are amazingly talented!! My daughter would love this!!

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  24. This is spectacular. Realizing your vision so beautifully must have made the year-long wait worth it!

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  25. Oh.my.word. I can't even form into words how impressed I am. This is stunning.

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  26. That is so inspiring and lovely!

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  27. I love it!! Think my daughters would love it too. Thanks for the wonderful inspirations!

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  28. Wow...I want a grown-up dress or skirt with this design. I've raised many a monarch butterfly on my kitchen table!

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    Replies
    1. that is really cool. Was it a kit you bought? I've been thinking about getting one--my kids would love to watch the butterflies grow.

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  29. um, i love this. i would frame it. beautiful stitching there.

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  30. Amazing. You are so talented. Thank goodness you have another little girl who can enjoy it, too!

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  31. Words cannot express how much I love this dress. New favorite.

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  32. I am always amazed when you "draw". It looks so awesome :)

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  33. Love this. I can't believe this was all sewn. I totally thought all the details on the butterfly's were some fabric you cut and appliqued on. This is so cool. What a fun treasure for Ellie.

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    1. That would be awesome if someone manufactured nerdy fabric! Maybe Bill Nye the Science guy should start his own fabric line. :)

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  34. It is a beautiful dress. I love thread painting/sketching. ~Major Moma

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  35. So, so, so awesome. I bow down to you.

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  36. You could do a bean sprouting and taking root? Remember putting beans in a baggie with a wet paper towel? That seems rather gender neutral, too, for a boy's shirt or pant cuffs.

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    1. oh I remember doing the beans in 5th grade. That would be really awesome. Great idea!

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  37. This is really really amazing! I mean seriously, I ate up every single picture, what a work of art. I'm so interested in the free motion drawing, I had no idea you could accomplish that kind of detail from that technique! I'm super inspired!
    Miriam from madmim.com

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  38. To be completely honest, if i had not seen the pics of this dress i would've said its not really my style, but i love everything about it! The colors, the details, everything about it is amazing and i am kinda scared to attempt it but am also excited! And i totally think you should do plant pollenation in the near future! Start with a little seed and watch it grow into a beautiful flower or tree! Thank you so much for sharing!

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  39. That is the coolest thing EVER! I love how it turned out.

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  40. This is beautiful and amazing; I love the sketch-like effect of the thread painting too. Just lovely.

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  41. Amazing..I couldn't help smiling as I looked through the photos! and I am with you on the free time bit! whenever people ask me what I would want to do if I had an afternoon to myself..the answer is always sewing:)

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  42. this is just outstanding/amazing/awesome...love,love, love it!!

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  43. Holy cow! This is AMAZING! Looking close-up at the appliques, the detail is just beautiful. And the idea is really fantastic too.

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  44. I LOVE it. This is the most amazing thing I have seen! Incredible!

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  45. That is so awesome and amazing! You are remarkably talented--i love this so much! Cute & educational at the same time--that's two birds with one stone :-)

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  46. It is beautiful... I'm going to have do something like this.

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  47. this is stunning! i love it so much!

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  48. THIS IS INCREDIBLE!!!! What a fun and creative idea. Super high end looking too. You're awesome.

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  49. Quite simply: I. LOVE. IT!!! As a homeschooling mom, this kind of thing totally rocks my world!!! You could so totally do this in other "scientific" topics - lifecycle of a bean/plant, Cloud/water cycle, etc. See, I can keep going too!!

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    1. cloud and water would be a cool challenge! Especially if you did more on the paint side to look water-colored...ooh the possibilities!

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  50. I'm one of the people who loves it... that is gorgeous! Love the hand-painted fabric and the free-motion stitching around it. I love the design too, completely unique and very clever.

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  51. Work
    Of
    Art
    Seriously!
    I love it bunches! I thought the water cycle might be cool, or the seasons. Unisex too so all 3 could wear it! A song (notes!) could anoint an edge! How fun x

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  52. wow. stunning! this is truly incredible=i'm at a loss for words. kudos!

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  53. This is absolutely stunning, what a lucky daughter you have!

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  54. Love this! My vote is for photosynthesis or dna transcription.

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  55. Wow! Super Duper Wow!!! Did you really "knock this out" in one Saturday evening? I am so creatively inspired by this little dress. Call me nerdy, too. I love it! (Now all I need is a free motion presser foot :) )

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  56. I had to come back and look again. And I couldn't remember if I had commented and I wanted to make sure I did! THIS IS AMAZING!!! Beyond amazing.

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  57. So amazing! I bet you could sell these like hotcakes. This is such an amazing idea... so many possibilities! Ants carrying things to a grassy hill would be kind of neat. I am blown away by your creativity, as always. :)

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    1. oooh, the ant idea sounds really great for boys or girls!

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  58. This is one of the most beautiful dresses I have ever seen!
    You did it again. AMAZING.
    I am in awe.
    I would probably even wear that.

    ~Michelle

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  59. This is so amazingly gorgeous! My daughter loves nature so this would be perfect for her!

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  60. I've never heard of thread drawing. You've got an amazing talent with it. You're right about it looking like it was sketched on. Beautiful work!

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  61. Gorgeous! Maybe the next one could be life cycle of a frog?

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  62. You're right about the love it or hate it. I LOVE it so much that I am commenting for the first time to tell you how amazingly, creatively, cool it it! I am planning how to make something similar for my almost 3 year old...

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  63. I cannot tell you how much I love this!!! Granted, I'm a total geek, a biologist, and a sewist, so I suppose that's not much of a surprise. But this is an amazing idea! In my area of research I work with mostly with fish, and I'm thinking a skirt with the various live stages of a fish around the hem would be an important - no necessary - addition to my wardrobe!

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  64. This is an amazing piece of art!! Seriously fabulous!

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  65. So beautiful! The little details are wonderful. I'm sure it will be getting lots of comments whenever she wears it.

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  66. OMG!!! I LOVE THIS SOOOO MUCH!!!! It's so totally nerdy, but that's me too!!! WOW! Seriously, this is a work of art, no kidding. You did an absolutely beautiful job with the free motion embroidery, I am so impressed.
    And I love ALL your other ideas for the next project! Holy cow, this dress is fantastic! :)

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  67. Your thread painting has progressed nicely since the journal cover! Congrats on a very charming and sweet dress.

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  68. This is amazing! What lovely work you did on it!!! I love it.

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  69. Wow that is one labour intensive and beautiful dress!

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  70. Oh my goodness, that's just beautiful! It could work really well for boys too, as it's a not too girly take on butterflies (I'm seeing moths...).

    In terms of nerd projects, I just made periodic table nook covers for my friends boys (except I haven't blogged them yet)

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  71. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. Sorry, embarrassing typo. What I had intended to say was how about frog spawn to frog for the next project - inspired by the brilliant wellies.

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  72. beautiful! But I have to ask... what happened to the poor girl's arm? The I couldn't tell what it was... it looked like a really awful arm cuff (or maybe rubber bands) that that pulled too tight and cutting and bruising her arm. Glad its just a stretchy bandage, but that must be some owie for that little one. :)

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  73. Your sewing skills are so amazing. I am in awe of that free stitching. AWE I tell you!

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  74. I love it! It has a little Ms. Frizzle flair to it. I wonder if it would be too weird for an adult to wear something like this.

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  75. This is so beautiful. All that stitching! I'm pretty sure you just blew the entire internet away.

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  76. It's very beautiful works! thank you for sharing!

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  77. This dress is absolutely beautiful! I love it!
    Helen x

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  78. Oh! Wow. I love it!!! You provided me with instant inspiration, thank you!

    Kind regards,
    Sacha (zolderwerk.les-bastides.nl)

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  79. This is such a beautiful dress...worth all the effort.

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  80. I looooove this dress. I have been making coordinating outfits for my daughter and newborn niece. You have inspired my spring and summer sewing and quilting. Thank you and I will be sure to keep you updated.

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  81. How could anyone not love this dress? It is so beautiful. I couldn't do this in a million years, but it is so gorgeous it inspires me to try.

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  82. How could anyone not love this dress? It is so beautiful. I couldn't do this in a million years, but it is so gorgeous it inspires me to try.

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  83. Holy. Wow. Jessica. I think this may be the most interesting, beautiful handmade article of clothing I've ever seen. You are an amazing sewer. I wish I were Ellaria. I would go to school (well, if she were old enough to go to school, but I digress) and tell EVERYBODY (even people who don't ask) that my AWESOME mom made my AWESOME dress. Love it! You are so talented. If you ever wanna make me one, I wouldn't turn it down. :)~

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  84. This is very clever and very beautiful. Had to pin it for inspiration!

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  85. holy moly girl...this is amazing! jaw dropping. stunning. I would make sure she could wear it for awhile, too! wowzas.

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  86. This is beyond amazing, I love love love love it, so beautiful!!

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  87. i want one! this is an artistic masterpiece. i wish i even knew where to begin making that for my daughter. the first steps seem ok but the free stitch drawing is beyond me!!! well done. i hope you keep it forever.

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  88. Hi Jessica, could you help me with a few things regarding your dress? I am wondering what material is it you used for this dress? Is this made of linen? Also did you use a pattern? I think it is pretty straight forward except I don't know how to add the button closure in the back. That is what I am worried about. Do you by chance remember what paint shades of blue and green you used? Is like to get as close to your design as possible. Thank you, Patricia

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  89. I made this 2 years ago, so most of the details I can't remember!
    I know the fabric was a blend, linen wrinkles so much it definitely has some synthetic fibers. I didn't use a specific pattern but just drafted it myself. The button closure you could use this tutorial and make the plackets as wide or narrow as you want:http://www.running-w-scissors.com/2014/02/simple-blouse-tutorial-hex-color.html

    I have no idea on the paint. I mixed blues and green fabric paint on a scrap. I think the scrap might have been a light lime?

    Hope that helps

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