The House of Tatterdemalion


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The last little piggy stayed home; this one went to market

August 18th, 2007 by tatterdemalion

So last Friday evening, the 10th, I checked my email and saw that I had an email from my friend Abby that contained the line “Also, Millie’s birthday is next Friday. . .on the off chance that you’re able to come, no gifts needed, missy!!!” I read it carefully. Very carefully. It said “needed”, not “allowed”, so I figured I was still okay. Besides, last year she said that, and everyone brought gifts anyway. (They did this time, too, for the record.) And ever since I made piggy number one, I’ve wanted to make a second one.

Question: How come it takes me 4 years to make myself ONE dress, but only a scant seven days to make a stuffed pig complete with three dresses fully finished, an apron, and a hood?

Answer: I don’t know, but I think it has something to do with why the zipper on the fancy blue dress I’d made (which failed a few months after it was made) has yet to be repaired. I told myself I’d fix it when I sewed the buttons back on my favorite shirt. Which hasn’t happened yet.

For the purpose of working toward my certificate of insanity (my sewing room walls are bare; I need to hang something on the wall. I think a certificate of insanity would look nice up there), I’m going to show you all how I did it.

On Friday evening, I pulled out the fabrics I had set aside 4 months ago for this express purpose.

On Saturday, I washed the fabric, and accidentally stayed up to 11 pm ironing it. There’s no clock in my sewing room.

At this point, my father already beings to question my sanity.

On Sunday, um, I can’t remember. I think I forgot entirely about it.

On Monday evening I carefully and precisely cut the skirt rectangles. And I think I cut out all the body pieces for the piggy.

On Tuesday evening I sew together the ears and the arms.

On Wednesday, I start feeling the first pangs of panic. There are only 2.5 days left, and I’ve hardly gotten started!! I embroidery the face before supper; afterwards, I go over to sew with a friend (pre-arranged 3 weeks ago). We stay up till ten o’clock working together, but since when we work together I keep stopping to talk, I don’t make as much progress as I might. The head is assembled, the back is assembled, the front is assembled, but nothing is connected.

On Thursday, the panic really starts setting in. Abby and her kids are supposed to come mid-morning to pick blueberries with us. I spend the morning trying to get the body pieces connected, which is made a little bit more difficult because I left the instruction at my friends house. I finally do get it put together, but I’m 10 minutes late to the blueberry patch because I lost track of time while trying to get the arms put on right. First I would see that the fabric had wrinkled, and I had caught too much of the chest up in the arm. So then I rip it out, and re-sew it. Then I see that in some places, the arm had slipped out, and there are holes. So I rip it out, and re-sew it. Then I see that the fabric had wrinkled, and too much of the chest had gotten caught up in the armhole.

I finally got it right, and cleared away most of the storm clouds above my head before getting to the blueberry patch.

When I got home, I immediatly sat down and started sewing. Panic is now full-blown.

The good news is that since this is the second time I’ve used this pattern, I know all the places where I can take short cuts. The bad news is, I thought the dress pattern was faulty (really the last piggy had stretched), and so I wasted precious time trying to “fix” the bodice before realizing it actually fit this piggy pretty perfectly.

For the second dress, this is what I did:

  • Cut the bodice, front and back, out of the “fashion fabric”. For the back piece, I slide it about (I only eyeball it) 1/4 inch away from the fold, because I need a little extra room for fastening the dress closed.
  • Cut the bodice, the same as above, from the “lining fabric” (just a different cotton print) According to the instructions (and what I did last time), I’m supposed to bind the edges with bias tape, and make little sleeve bands that will need to be set in. I skip both of those, because this is so much faster.
  • Sew the lining to the bodice along necklines and armholes.
  • Pink the edges of the above seams with pinking shears that are getting dull.
  • Turn the pieces, and finger press them on my leg. No iron actually ever touched this project, which was a far cry from how carefully I pressed everything in piggy #1.
  • Sew the shoulder seams.
  • Sew the skirts on. Orginally (and what I did last time) the skirts are supposed to be gathered. I free-form pleat them, which is much quicker:
    • For the bodice front, I pin the skirt piece to the bodice, matching the corners. Then I pin the center (I just fold it in half to locate it) of the skirt to the center of the bodice. Then I just guestimate about where is half-way between pins, and pinch up the extra fabric there. I flatten the pinch to either side, and pin it in place. This makes an inverted box-pleat. Then I sew it in place.
    • I repeat it in the back.
    • I pink the bodice-to-skirt seams and the shoulder seams with getting-duller pinking shears.
    • I sew the side seams.
    • And pink them with dull shears.
    • And then I haphazardously turn up a hem, but I could have left that part out, because I wound up making them shorter. This was also a far cry from how I did it on the last one, where I was so carefully measuring 1/4 of an inch, pressing it under, measuring an inch, and pressing it. This time, no measuring, no pressing.

All of that took me half an hour.

At this point, I realized it was 4 o’clock, which is the lastest time for me to go over and hand-quilt with Mrs. M (the one who taught me how to knit). And she will be lonely without me. So I call her up and say,


And she says,


I talk too fast. Sometimes she says “I didn’t quite catch that.” Sometimes she says, “I didn’t understand a word you just said.” Sometimes she just squints and tries to read my lips. And so I take a deep breath and remember to add spaces:

“Hi, do you have a place where I can set up my machine, and machine sew today?”

And she says,

“Oh, sure! You can put it on my desk!”

And then I say,


And she says,


“Oh good, because I’m working on a birthday present and the party is tomorrow and I’m not sure I’ll be able to finish it in time!”

“Oh, boy. Well, come on over!”



I give an embarrassed giggle. I’m doing pretty bad, speech-wise, even for me. Usually she can get 98% of what I say. So I translate, and then hang up, and throw everything I think I’ll need into plastic grocery bag, and dash out the door.

I stay there two hours, in which time I assemble the third dress, re-hem the three dresses to a better length, and finish off the back opening of two dresses with bias tape. I’m half-way through finighing the opening on the third dress when the power goes off (and any way, it’s time for their supper). During that time, Mrs. M suggests using velcro instead of snaps up the back, which is a really good idea, because I can attach it by machine, instead of by hand.

I get home, and the power comes back on, but we’re going to have a late supper. So I finish the back of the third dress. Then I start looking to trim the dresses. Orignally I had thought I would use 3/4″ lace as sleeves, but decide any kind of sleeve is out of the question. I look at various types of ribbons, but finally say, “Self, who are you kidding? You need to do this as fast and as simply as possible. Just pick something and go with it!” So I sew the 3/4″ lace along the stitching line from the hem. I’m working on the last dress when I’m called to supper.

Did I mention supper was late? And also, it was my night to wash. And I couldn’t trade, because I’d just traded on Wednesday, so I could go sewing with my friend. Here it is, Thursday night. I have to go to my grandparent’s all Friday. I still have the rest of a dress to trim, velcro to apply to the backs of all the dresses, and I had wanted to make an apron (no pattern) and a hood (have the pattern for). And the piggy still has a hole in it’s belly, where I stuffed it. It needs to be sewn up by hand. Instead, I am washing dishes. Until 9 pm.

I manage to squeeze in about an hours more worth of work, in which I finish trimming the last dress and make an apron.

Friday Morning I’m running around like a chicken with my head cut off. I toss everything in the car, including my sewing machine, my bag of stuffing, lace and fabric and multiple thread colors and scissors and a box to wrap it in. I get to my grandparents house, and instead of mopping floors and vacuuming like a good little granddaughter, I spend the morning sewing on velcro and sewing up the stuffing hole and making a hood. By early afternoon, I’m borrowing my grandmother’s wrapping paper and tape. Finished!

I spend the afternoon vacuuming, mopping, making cups of coffee for my grandpa, helping him with bathroom difficulties, and helping my brother bring in the groceries and make supper. He graciously agreed to make supper an hour earlier, so I could drive out to Abby’s while it was still light. I have mild issues with driving. Not panic attacks or anything, but severe dislike and a strong dread of driving anywhere I haven’t driven before, or haven’t driven very many times before. (The funny thing is, I’m quite relaxed being the navigator, and riding shotgun and telling someone else where to go when I’ve never been there before.) I’ve been to Abby’s house a few times before, but on Friday I had yet to make it there and back again without getting lost, confused, mixed up, or missing turns. So I was really dreading the driving, and especially trying to find her place in the dark.

All of this when I can point it out precisely to you on a map. And even though the directions were as simple as “Go Straight until you can’t anymore. Turn left. Go straight until you cross the bridge; take a left at the first light. Go straight until you see her house on the right.”

Anyway, I finished it, and I got it to the party on time. But I don’t have any pictures of it. Because my sister’s camera got it’s memory card filled up before we got to present opening, so I took pictures with Abby’s camera. But I didn’t get to take any pictures of Millie opening it, because it started pouring rain, and I asked Abby to pause the party. Then I dashed outside to close the windows, and while I was gone, Abby tried to pause the party, but some kid handed Millie a package behind Abby’s back. And so Millie opened the piggy and neither me nor Abby nor the camera got to see it. I told Abby she had to take pictures of the piggy in better light and send them to me; she owed it to me because I got a picture of her camera-shy husband on her camera!

So if you all get to impatient for photos, nag Abby. I’ll foward your comments until she is over-come with guilt.

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