My late mother-in-law was a gifted seamstress. She was also a talented smocker, and hand-smocked many heirloom dresses: prom dresses for her daughters; Flower Girl/First Holy Communion dresses for her granddaughters; baby and christening dresses. She adored fabric and had amassed an enormous collection of it over her lifetime; she believed that beautiful pieces of fabric are true works of art, and just looking at the patterns on them brought her joy.
In three lifetimes, she never would have had enough time to use up all the fabric that she'd collected, but I know that when she looked at a piece she loved, she could see its potential and in her imagination had planned out exactly what she would make out of it when she got the chance.
Recently, I went "fabric shopping" at her house, hoping to find some pretty white material to make two christening gowns for my oldest son and his wife, who are expecting twins. I came upon a plastic storage container filled with a neat stack of pristine, still-in-their packages, white linen pillow shams (twelve in all), replete with decorative cut-outs and delicate embroidery. They are just exquisite--which is probably the exact reason why they were never used for their intended purpose. I'm sure my mother-in-law was saving them because she saw the potential for creating something wonderful out of them. It wouldn't surprise me if she was thinking about using them to make christening gowns for her great-grandchildren. It seemed that they were just what I was looking for! I got permission from my husband's sisters to bring them home with me. Then I picked up two different patterns at JoAnn's. (I couldn't make up my mind which one I liked better, so I bought them both, as they were on sale for the unbelievably low price of 99 cents apiece. My mother-in-law, who was the bargain shopper extraordinaire, would have been proud!)
I will have to carefully take apart the seams of the pillow shams and then figure out how to piece them together to best showcase the embroidered areas on the dresses. I wish my mother-in-law was here to guide me, because she was an old pro at this sort of thing. I usually sew using large flat pieces of fabric cut from a bolt. But I'm really anxious to see if I can create some heirloom christening gowns for my first grandchildren using the beautiful linen pillow shams that belonged to their great-grandma.
Later on, when I'm finished, I'll post the "after" picture.