6 min read

Turning thirty-three & sewing an Orchards Dress

My birthday was at the end of September, and I typically like to reflect on my life (at whatever age I am) each year on my birthday. We don't have extravagent birthday celebrations, but with each birthday in our family, we try to make the day feel special and celebratory and fun. And this year, my birthday was just that.

The day before, a Friday, I met my sister-in-law, Katelyn, at a local coffee shop that has beautiful outdoor seating and is adjacent to hiking and bike trails. The boys ran around while we had a chance to talk, pretty much uninterrupted, and then we went for a little hike together, amidst the continual toddler treasure hunt for perfect leaves and sticks. There were skinned knees and tears and lost sticks, but also laugher and fun.

That afternoon, Cooper helped me roll out and assemble the sourdough cardamom knots that I started the process for two days prior (with a stiff levain). Cooper helped me twist each roll and I wrapped them into their characteristic knot shape. I love my little kitchen helper.

On Saturday morning, my actual birthday, we had a fairly typical start to our day with breakfast. And then, while Nicholas entertained the boys, I was able to sneak away to another room and drink my hot coffee, read my bible, and do a word search in the quiet, which is rare and special.

We all got dressed and ready for the day, and I wore my newly finished Orchards Dress (see more details below!) that I earnestly worked on, in hopes of completing it to wear on my birthday.

We visited a local farmers market in the next town over and had organic croissants and coffee, and we purchased polish sausages and a bag of whole bean coffee to bring home. Nicholas took a few photos of me in my new dress, and then we walked to a nearby park that has a great playground. I talked to my parents while we were at the park, and then we headed home. We ate leftovers for lunch, and then I took a nap with Finn, which was such a luxury. We grilled burgers and had them with homemade sourdough hamburger buns on the back deck.

Sunday was church, and then a mellow day where my father- and sister-in-law came over for dessert and coffee in the afternoon with a gift for me.

There were messages and texts and sweet gifts and notes from friends and family, and I felt so very loved and celebrated.

At thirty-three, I really enjoy indulging in and being more intentional about single-tasking. I delight in our two little boys, the spark in their eyes when they make me laugh, the treasure of hearing them say, "Mama." I feel accomplished when the kitchen is truly clean between meals, I have some kind of sourdough fermenting on the counter, and when I make dinner in the afternoon, instead of last-minute. I find great calm in working with my hands, making things for myself or for people I love. At thirty-three, my heart is grateful for a husband who is honest and has great integrity and who loves me well, for a church home we love, for friends who I can share all of life with, for family (near and far) who check in and encourage me, and for a Savior, who draws me near in all seasons.

There is much to glance back and pause in thankfulness for, and much to look ahead for, in anticipation of His future grace. I am thanking God for another year as wife and mama and for this life He's given.

A finished Orchards Dress

And since I mentioned it above, I wanted to share a bit more about my Orchards Dress! I've had this pattern on my short list for sewing for over a year, and after buying the fabric a few months ago, I finally decided to go ahead and start, especially in the hopes that I could wear it some before it gets a lot colder outside.

Garment sewing does require a lot of prep – buying the PDF pattern, printing it at the library (we don't have a printer), assembling the PDF layout while the boys are asleep, tracing my size (and then tracing a different size after I changed my mind), and then finally cutting out the fabric. All of that requires a little bit of mental prep to "gear up" for the process, but then I just sewed on it for an hour or two every day, whenever I could squeeze it in.

This pattern initally made me nervous because it involved some new-to-me skills, namely a collar and buttons/buttonholes. The bodice is assembled first, so after I did that, I felt a bit more confident.

All that said, here are some more specifics:

  • Pattern: Orchards Dress by Vivian Shao Chen
  • Fabric: a blue 50/50 cotton/linen blend from Robert Kaufman purchased at Hobby Lobby on sale
  • Size: My measurements called for a size 4, but since this is a dress with a lot of positive ease (meaning, the finished garment is significantly larger than the wearer's actual body measurements), I looked at various completed dressed on the hashtag, and saw a lot of sewists actually preferred to size down. So I cut a size 2 instead.
  • Modifications: Sized down, as mentioned above. I also added an inch to the bodice length. I would perhaps grade the armholes slightly lower next time, as well as possibly add another inch to the bodice length, but I love the length this version has as well.

I really love the finished garment, and I learned a lot from the sewing process. The pattern was well-written and clear, especially as I am still a novice garment sewer. With each garment I sew, I learn something else about fit and customization. I may make a second version relatively soon, considering that all the pattern pieces are ready to go! I'm looking forward to playing around with layering this with cardigans and tights and boots in the late fall and winter.

And if you, dear reader, have made it to the end, thank you for reading and following along in this little life of ours. It brings me great joy to share the little and big things in our life.


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