During the beginning of Covid-19 I was only buying fabric for masks and then a sewing friend donated some lovely pieces for me play with. In the stack was this sheer cotton Hawaiian border print fabric.

With great respect to the pattern and the culture I dug through my vintage pattern collection and pulled out my Polynesian patterns.

I asked my friends which one to make. Most said the one to the far left. I liked it but the fabric was way too thin and didn’t have enough structure for a fitted dress. But when one friend said the pattern 3219 on the right would be the most traditional, it struck a chord.

This pattern demanded a lot of attention to detail. I broke the project up into four days. Day one was cutting… as usual I was over a yard short for the pattern requirements. Because it was a bordered print everything was cut on the crossgrain. Since the gown was loose this was all right. Making the front match the back with the bordered print was really tedious. I measured down from the pockets (yep, it has pockets!) and measured again. I ran out of fabric when it came to the inside yoke. The yoke was much larger than I thought it looked on the pattern. I had to Frankenstein some pieces together to make the yoke out of the same fabric. No one would ever know unless I told them, LOL, but now you know.

The directions for the pattern were wonderful. My only mistake was sorting the front pieces from the back pieces.

Day two I made my marks as clear as possible and there were so, so many. I used white chalk on the black, blue ink on the pink and white parts, and pink ink on the green print where the dots were to go on. I knew from pre-reading that the marks were crucial to my success.

Day three I put it all together with the exception of the sleeve. I saved what I thought was the scariest part for last on day four, those sleeves.

Check out that 36″ outer sleeve. The top and the bottom get gathered. Then, with wrong sides together the bottom of the outer sleeve gets sewn to the bottom of the inner sleeve making the seam allowances encased. Every dot and every notch needed to line up. Once the top outer sleeve gets gathered and basted to the inner sleeve I would still need all the markings and notches to get it into the dress.

I bet you’re asking, “Well, why is this the sleeve of the year?” After 40 years of sewing, this pattern taught me to make my gather lines at the 5/8″ and at the 1/2″. Before this I always made them to be encased in the seam allowance so that I would never have to pick the basting stitches out. With this much gathering from such a large piece to such a small piece I realized that their way made much neater gathers and also served as stitching lines to attach my sleeve. I have much more control and precision this way.

I’m honored to have a new trick up my sleeve. Derp!!!

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Thank you for reading,

Tracy McElfresh

Dream it! Sew it!





Tracy McElfresh
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