So I went step by step through the pattern making process but kind of ignored that the amount pleads in the paper model actually was the best amount. When I did the maths on the actual pattern I thought the pleads might end up too small for the fabric I wanted to use.
I didn’t have proper calico fabric so I just used some plain cotton to try and make up the model. Of course this fabric acts entirely different than the heavy winter fabric I used for the actual skirt. So I tried to keep this in mind.
Anyway, the skirt:
I realised much later that I should have added way more hemming for this skirt, here in the first stages the material falls quite nicely. Yes, it is very structured but has some movement. Once I hemmed it, due to the weight of the material it became just too structured and rigid.
Also something that didn’t show in the calico model the transition between the front and the back panel doesn’t work quite right, and I do not yet understand enough about patterns to figure out why this happened.
Google here I come!
Anyway, a photo shoot hides all kinds of sins
The mistake: you can see the weird fold it makes particularly on the right hand side. And I need to do something about the darts in the back as well. So keep an eye out I will try another paper-bag skirt version soon. Maybe ending the sides with a half fold would change this … hm … I didn’t want to wrap the pleads all the way around to avoid making the skirt stand out too much in the back.
I thought for Halloween I share my favourite autumn dress.
The pattern is by Colette called Macaron. The fabric I bought in a small shop in Helensburgh (Scotland) and it is environmentally friendly.
Trying to shoot these photos with my camera’s self-timer and some of the results are more hilarious than stylish:
If you pay close attention you can see the mistake I made sewing the back and front together. The waistband is not the same width front and back, not entirely sure how that happened.
What I really like with the pattern is: how easy it is to wear. I didn’t extend the length of the arms, to make it suitable for cold temperatures, so there is room to combine it with different coloured undershirts, picking up any of the hues from the patterned fabric. The best of course are the pockets! I was thinking of making a version with a hood. hm …
Tip: I didn’t like the lining feature around the neck, it tends to develop a life of its own, not looking neat. In the next iteration I would just make full lining for the red top section.
More about Halloween adventures and the magic of autumn later.
I always had an affinity for collecting stones; and so do several other members of my family. When I was a child my late dad would often take me to the nearby quarry, on the quest for interesting stones, which were carried there by the last ice age. I remember we found geodes, agate, all kinds of quart (the workers found two mammoth teeth in said quarry). He created an impressive rockery from the finds*. My mom and I are particularly keen on worry stones, and the stones you find in the fields that show human impact, such as flint that was worked for blades. To my shamanic-self stones have ‘mana’ as much as the trees in our garden, or the deer passing by the kitchen window.
*It was like a stone rescue mission this way they did not become ground up into sand for cement
In shamanic (in the widest sense of the definition) cultures objects, plants, animals can become sacred. Hierophany, is mainly determined by the shaman—apparently at random (Eliade, 1992). Shamanic cultures are not the only ones assigning sacred or spiritual meaning to stones. If you are more familiar with the bible, than anthropology, in Genesis 28:17 Jacob placed his head on a stone, had a dream (vision) of God and subsequently consecrated the stone. There are coronation stones representing rightful kingship, in a time where kings were still considered as ruling by divine right. Here in Scotland, in Kilmartin Glen—an area brimming with ancient history—we find standing stones, cup-stones, cairns and stone circles. If this stuff is too big for you: there are rune stones used for divination, and energy work, or healing crystals. So across the world, across times, across cultures, people have assigned the sacred or spiritual to stones.
Kilmartin Glen, Cup-Stone
I have a collection of pebbles from the coast, from rivers, and mountain tops. The sometimes smooth, sometimes sharp edges are calming and grounding. I made a dress (The Magic of Stones (2)) that has the colours of Scottish pebbles. When I wear it I think of our hikes, of the raven circling below, the smell of rain. On a bad day wearing this dress is grounding.
The lining of the dress are elephants, symbolizing inter alia strength, power and longevity. So to me both the stones and elephants are symbols of permanence, of peacefulness. In stressful and chaotic times a dress which symbolizes permanence and strength can feel like wearing armor. And maybe somehow, when making my clothes, I sew into cloth my own sacred meaning—making a shamanic dress?**
**but this is a whole other story
I see you still have your eyebrows raised. Go look at the first two photos in this post, as a keen hiker, I encounter people building small cairns, on tops of mountains, at holy wells, at ancient sacred places, or somewhere in the middle of the woods. Every time I pass one of these constructions I wonder what compels us to participate in their creation. Yes, on top of mountains they are likely a mark of achievement, but the two I posted above were in Kilmartin Glen and the other at Lindisfarn Castle (Holy Isle). Are they more than simply a tourist activity? Maybe we have the urge for a shared history—a shared narrative? For acknowledgement that ‘I was there’, ‘I belong’, with the tribe of everyone who was there before me, and who will come after? Maybe it is a silent prayer? An offering, acknowledgement to something we cannot craps? Maybe it symbolizes our want for something that is bigger than just our selves? A collective self? And we participate in this small ritual, and maybe all it does is make us smile for a moment, and pause for a moment, and hold silence, before the mobile phone buzzes again. But for me, my stones are mnemonics with mana.
I ordered some and then tried to come up with a design that would work. As I am not yet able to create my own patterns I had to dig a bit deeper than usual and found the Butterick B6242 vintage reprint.
Don’t Judge Yourself by a Number
One of the soul-destroying and confidence-killing things when working with vintage patterns in the size numbers do not add up. So according to my measurements I would have been I think somewhere in the region of size 24 or so for this pattern. So I dutifully did calculations, and luckily ran a test pattern on an old piece of cotton. … I was still size 12-14! Even in the vintage sizing. I used the measurements on the back of the pack to calculate my size but the actual measurements in reality came to a different size. It was very strange.
Well one thing I want you to pay attention to. Have a look at the graphic of this pattern:
I went through a fat-and-ugly-moment and then continued creating the dress.
The first iteration though wasn’t quite right, without a zipper the waist was not tight enough to create the hourglass effect this pattern is supposed to work on, and keeping the fabric and lining at the same length simply creates this weird effect that makes one look much larger. Also the top bit was not sitting properly. So I took scissors and cut off the hemming disconnecting fabric from lining again, took in a good two inches on both sides at the waist and inserted a zipper.
I hate inserting zippers! This is my sewing Achilles heel! So I tried an invisible zipper as I had to sew it in top fabric down and the top fabric is stretchy gauze the zipper was too close to the top fabric and constantly became stuck. Now I took it out again (luckily before taking in the dress for it’s final measure) and inserted a normal zipper. The next step was to carefully hand-stitch the fabric over the zipper without it constantly becoming caught but making the zipper less obvious.
Another challenging part was the waist band for this dress. You need to take care to stretch the top material really tight for the ruffled effect, but also to ensure it won’t hang loosely. So I ruffled it and then pinned one side tight, pulling the top fabric as much as possible while stitching it to the lining.
Last but not least I cut the skirt lining about 25 cm shorter than the fabric, this already created the petticoat effect I had hoped for but I also bought an actual petticoat to wear underneath.
The Final Dress
Anyways. I am fairly happy with the outcome. As usual there a quite a lot of things that could have been done better, but I think they might not be too obvious with this statement dress.
‘You are what?’
‘I am making a wrap dress.’
‘I have tried this once; never ever again.’ Unfortunately when I had this conversation with mum I was already in the middle of the experiment. After all the pattern does look nice.
And it is a Simplicity Pattern so what could go wrong—right? I love them. They always work.
I think you need way more experience and understanding of how patterns work than I had at the time. Apparently wrap-dresses are notoriously difficult to fit, it was either too loose or too wide in all the wrong places, and I could not figure out why it wouldn’t work. Never ever had I ever had such problems with fitting. Did I say never?
To make it fit and stay in place I inserted a hidden zipper underneath the back-decorative hemming, and the frog buttons are not symmetrically in their distance because they cover fitting sins and hide the bobbles from my fitting problems.
The Obi Belt
So after some botched-job fixes—just don’t look too closely or into the inside of the dress—the result was still not quite what I wanted it to be. As there were already frog buttons I decided to add an obi-style belt to it. So ensure it keeps its shape I inserted extra strong lining into the wide area of the belt.
So without much further ado some detailed shots … AND … the one thing that made all the fuzz worthwhile: The twirl!
I have created an Instagram account that goes with this blog but still need to transfer media across.
This is my first time trying to write sewing instructions for something. Let me know what you think and how helpful they were. Or where you still have questions.
The light grey one was my prototype this is why it still looks a bit disheveled. The darker grey one I used the patter. Also the textile I used was heavy Ikea curtains. I had to shorten these to fit our windows and wanted to make something with the off-cuts.
Tip: If you want to give your knitting bucket a bit more stability to can iron on some heavy weight interfacing to one or two of the wrapping panels.
I am adding a link to the pdf so you can download the document and print the instructions. Otherwise these are the steps for making the bucket.
Length: 69 cm
Height 39 cm Inner Wrap
Length: 63 cm
Height: 39 cm
Length for all pockets: 69 cm
Height first layer: 31 cm
Height second layer: 11 cm
1 cm seam allowance
Hem all pieces of fabric once you have cut them.
If you want to decorate the pockets with vintage lace as in the example don’t forget to cut two strips of 69 cm long lace.
Sew on the lace before you stitch the pockets.
Stitch the pockets before assembling the bucket.
Begin with the first layer (31 cm) pockets
Depending on your needs draw lines for long knitting needles so you can sort them according to size (see picture below)
I also added two 5 cm wide pockets for bigger items
Then place the second layer of of fabric for the small pockets on top of it, before stitching it together, mark out the seams for the pockets and make sure you do stitch exactly on the lines of the other pockets or just leave a space there
Once you have stitched all the pockets take the inner bottom (page 3) and fix it to the inner wrap, outsides facing inwards (see picture below).
Make small incisions around the seam-allowance of the base to ease curvage of material
Repeat for outer wrap
Sew the long edged of the wrapper
Now you have two buckets
Leave the inner (smaller) bucket with the outside facing material into the inside
Turn the outer bucket so that the pockets face outwards
Place smaller bucket into the bigger one
Use the top hem-allowance to fold seams into the inside and then carefully top-stitch
You could also use decorative bias binding to stitch these together