A Trip Down ‘Tea Dress’ Memory Lane

When I think about the patterns Martha Pullen Company has produced over the years, there’s one pattern that always comes to mind as one of the classics: Judith Dobson’s Heirloom Tea Dress. This pattern was introduced in the January 1989 issue of Sew Beautiful, and that magazine sold out faster than any of our previous issues. Over the years, we’ve featured so many gorgeous variations of the dress in our publications – from Easter dresses to flower girl dresses and more. I thought it would be fun to take a trip down memory lane today and look back at some of these beautiful dresses:

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The Original Tea Dress and the First Communion Tea Dress

Original Tea Dress: This is where it all began – Judith Dobson’s original Heirloom Tea Dress as introduced in the January 1989 issue of Sew Beautiful. Shown in both blue and pink versions, the design showcased heirloom sewing techniques using lace shaping, entredeux and gathered lace.

First Communion Tea Dress: This version, from our January/February 2004 issue of Sew Beautiful, was made by Mary Blackwell for her daughter Sarah’s First Communion. Mary adapted the pattern by dropping the waist slightly to accommodate her hand embroidery that combined Sarah’s monogram with lilies-of-the-valley, grapes, wheat and the cross. The front neckline was modified to a square shape, edged with a small ruffle peeking from behind embroidered scallops.

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The Famous Tea Dress and the Flower Girl Tea Dress

Famous Tea Dress: In 2007, the popular pattern was released as a stand-alone pattern for the first time and added to our Sew Beautiful Pattern Collection. In celebration, the design was profiled in our March/April 2007 issue of Sew Beautiful along with a Tea Rose embroidery Judith Dobson designed specially for the dress.

Flower Girl Tea Dress: Margaret Land used the pattern to create two flower girl dresses for her son’s St. Patrick’s Day wedding. With creative help from her friend, Candy Minges, she eliminated much of the lace called for in the pattern and added a single, wide fancy band around the skirt. She embroidered a lily-of-the-valley monogram motif for the bodice inset and repeated a design of the same flowers on the skirt band. This version was featured in our March/April 2012 issue of Sew Beautiful.

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The Portrait Tea Dress and the Heirloom Tea Dress Kit

Portrait Tea Dress: Patty Smith used the Tea Dress pattern to create these beautiful portrait dresses for Martha Pullen’s granddaughters Anna Garrin and Sophie Reese. The dresses were featured in our February/March 2014 issue of Sew Beautiful along with Patty’s tips for creating the fancy band and mitered lace points on the sleeves.

In celebration of this timeless design, we have just released the exclusive Heirloom Tea Dress Kit. The skirt fancy band features rows of gathered ruffles, the bodice is embellished with lace shaping and the sleeves feature two rows of shaped lace insertion. Both the sleeves and the neckline are also edged with gathered ruffles. The kit includes Swiss Nelona (in white, pink, or blue), fine French laces, buttons and the pattern in sizes 2T through 10 years (the kit includes enough material for the largest size). For a limited time, the kit will also include a download for the Heirloom Tea Dress machine embroidery design. A stand-alone pattern for the Heirloom Tea Dress is also available.

We can’t wait to see everyone who is joining us in Lakeland, FL this coming week for our School of Art Fashion Boutique! This is our first live event of the year, but we’ve got more coming up – we’ll be in Cleveland, OH at the end of the month for another School of Art Fashion Boutique, plus we have two live licensings planned for later in the year. visit our Martha Pullen Live Events site to learn more and register for any of these events.

Registration is also now open for our next online licensing, Serger, Serger! Fundamentals and Creative Flourishes. This course will run April 30 – September 30, 2016 and includes all the projects and techniques shared in our popular Serger II face-to-face teacher licensing. Visit our Online Licensing site to learn more and register for this course.

We pray for the men and women serving our nation in harm’s way, and for all of you.

Much Love to You All & May God Bless,
Kathy McMakin


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