Tag Archives: Dress

A dress for grandma’s funeral

As mentioned in an earlier post, my grandma passed away this winter. January 31st was her last day, and as I was ill when she got her second bout of pneumonia in as many months, I wasn’t with her when she went. I had visited her just weeks before, and my brother and I had a happy time with her then. In a way it’s nice to have that as my last memory of that grand and impossibly stubborn old lady.

I loved my gran. My whole life we were very close – perhaps too much so. She was a Hostess with a big H, always catering for guests and urging us to eat for four (my family still employs the term “grandma-full” as a term to describe the feeling of being especially over-stuffed). She was part of the resistance movement during WWII, and after my grandfather passed away years before I was born, she lived alone in her big house. She filled it with people and activity up to the time she went blind from glaucoma. The blindness was a slow process, and almost my whole life she needed some assistance. I was always her eyes when we were outside the house. This May she would have been 100 years old.

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Me and gran at my 20th birthday

My grandma, always the queen of drama. It’s a wonder she survived the war, what with all the episodes of coming face to face with a German gun, daring the soldiers to shoot. Despite all her anxiety in her later years, I doubt she had it in her to be truly afraid. Life was a play and the world her stage. Being part of the audience wasn’t always easy, but it was never dull.

At gran’s request, my brother and I played a Duet by Mozart, her favorite composer, at the funeral. I play the flute, my brother the French horn, and we hadn’t really played anything together before this. It was no easy task to play at grans funeral. I’m glad we did, but I’m never doing anything like this again. On top of the duet, I volunteered to play Bach’s Air at the beginning of the funeral.

Back when I’d just started to make teddy bears, I made one for gran. To this date this is  the only bear I’ve made who has an open mouth. Binna (she-bear in Norwegian) became gran’s companion, and gran slept alongside her for many years in addition to bringing her with her around in the house. Some years ago gran requested that Binna should accompany her when she died. During the week between gran’s death and me taking possession over my fabric shop, I went to the funeral home and brought Binna with me for a last farewell with my gran. My brother made an ice bear from pipe cleaners years ago, and this went into the casket with Binna.

Binna with a little pipe cleaner ice bear made by my brother

Binna with the little pipe cleaner ice bear sitting in her waistband

As my grandma was prone to depression, always expecting the worst and making a scene if nothing else was happening , I could never wear anything other than black at her funeral. When my other Grandma died two years ago, I opted for pale yellow silk, as I wanted to celebrate her long life, rather than mourn her death. She was a half-full-glass kind of a person. This time around, I was saying goodbye to a person who could be the poster girl for the half-empty glass most of the time.

Still, I wanted to do something special, not just make any LBD and run with it. I decided to use wool gabardine and wool crepe. My inspiration was in large part a dress made by one of my classmates back when we were all making landscape dresses. I remembered her making these softly folded bias strip inserts in her dress, and thought it would be interesting to try. I designed a dress with a folded bias strip running through the whole dress, starting and ending in the back hem. It also features wool crepe inserts in the sides and a double inverted kick pleat in the back. This was not an easy project, and the finished dress feature wool crepe bias strips sewn on top of pattern pieces made from wool gabardine, as the strips by themselves had too little structure. I also discovered that corners are impossible to make with this technique, and the dress is a bit tighter than it started out to be, as I had to cut all the corners, turning them into curves as I went along. Still, I’m pleased with the end result, I really love this dress. I think gran would have loved it too, as all the bias strip details give a lot of structure to “see” with ones hands.

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The necklace is a gold watch. This and the bracelets are all heirlooms from my grandma.

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It was a lovely service, and on the days after the funeral, all I wanted to do was to call gran and tell her all about it. She would have loved to hear about all the stories that were told, the details of the service, the people present, the lovely priest. It was a fond farewell with a real special old lady.

Goodbye my impossible grandma, and thank you for being part of my life all these years. I miss you.

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Vogue 1329

A lifetime ago I signed up for Katrina Walker’s Decorative Seams class on Craftsy. I watched through it this spring, and let me tell you, this class is a true gem. I love Katrina Walker’s teaching style and all her inspiring ways to finish the seams on various garments.

The class features Vogue’s dress pattern V1329 free of charge, and I really wanted to have a go at this one after watching the class. My dress turned out as a homage to projects from the sewing course, made from leftover fabrics from the gaucho pants and my scarab dress. I used black raw silk (a wonderful fabric to work with!) for the main parts of the dress and red linen for the yoke and contrasting panel. I made some changes to the yoke lining so that this extended all the way around the sleeve openings and made this from black cotton sateen. Then I used the peach coloured silk lining both to line the dress and to make a bias strip with I folded in half, pleated and sewed into the front dress seam for that wow-factor on the dress. Really love how this one turned out 🙂 I plan to get some wear out of it at some special occasions coming up at the end of this month/beginning of next month.

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This was a great pattern to work with, and I’d love to have it in soft wool come winter. But I’ll have to change the yoke a bit, as it doesn’t quite fit me along the neckline, where it tends to gape a bit. As I ran out of fabric and didn’t fancy putting in a dart or a seam, I left it the way it was on this dress, making notes to change the pattern in the future. If I make it without the screaming peach strip of silk going down the front, this will be more of an everyday dress, I think.

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First project on my new Janome

After playing around with decorative stitches on some scrap fabric, I decided to take my Janome MC6300 Pro for a spin around a real project. I opted for a new dress, using some leftover Tilda fabric that I’ve previously made into a skirt. I’ve longed for another Princess dress since I made my grey dress a year and a half ago – I’ve practically lived in that dress through the last two winters – so my pattern choice was easy this time.

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I measured my pattern pieces and added a bit to the circumference as this seemed to be needed. When trying on the dress, turns out it wasn’t – in fact I needed to take away a bit more than added. Still it feels slightly big without me being able to pinpoint exactly where I need to take a chunk out of it without distorting the fit completely, so I decided to leave it at that – it’s comfy and looks good enough for me to wear it at school (the ultimate test with all the trained eyes of the sewist and seamstress there).

The sleeves were altered to make somewhat longish capped sleeves.

When I looked through my zipper stash, I couldn’t find a matching zipper that was long enough, and I opted for added creativity in the back, inspired by Gertie’s “Home Sewing is Easy” dress (she has a tutorial on the back detail here, I think I made my back in a similar fashion). I’ll definitey do this again, I love the cute V-neck collar and buttons in the back! Plus I got to use supplies from my stash rather than making a trip to the capital only to buy a new zipper 🙂

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I’m still in love with my new sewing machine, and I find myself petting it fondly when we’re in the same room. It’s just what I needed: A stable work horse that makes sewing my own clothes a dream. I can’t wait to see what we’ll make together next 😀

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Finished scarab dress

 

Well, almost anyway. I hadn’t enough time to line it (though I did make a lining this time). This was a great project to work with – I sewed for five days straight last week and enjoyed it all the way through! Though exhausting, it’s so rewarding to make something so beautiful, do something new and work with new fabrics (raw silk was a first for me – it was a wonderful experience!). I didn’t manage to blog about it earlier because of the poster-part of the project, but that’s finished as of last night.

Anywho – I left off with a partly assembled front and back last time, and I’m proud to present my finished dress:

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Isn’t it a beauty? I’m just so happy about how this one turned out!

Close-ups of the folds and how the organza flows through the dress:

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The two folds in the front are secured by stitching in a piece of organza between their seam allowances on the inside (a genius idea of my teacher’s):

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The back fold is slip-stitched in place the same way I did the hem. This is one of the minor peeves I have with this dress – if I had the time and energy, I would definitely rip these stitches out and do them over, perhaps even make the front a little less skewed along my organza. Stitch and learn, I guess. The arm holes are a little on the big side, but not so big as to be a bother. All in all the dress looks fantastic, just as I envisioned it, and with hair up and good shoes it’s party-ready 🙂

And my interpretation of this as a “scarab” dress: The ancient Egyptians saw the scarab as a sun god, rolling the sun across the sky – hence my fiery organza. The beetle itself is black like my raw silk, it has iridescent wings and digs tunnels – again not unlike my iridescent organza that weaves its way across my dress.

We also had to do a figurine as part of the project, and in my search after a suitable figurine, I came across this blog and used the wonderful Leila as my template. I found a suitable venue for her and dressed her up for a night out:

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And if you’re not fed up already – here are some more pics of the dress:

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And my beautiful peaches-and-cream lining (love the colour!):

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I hope you find this just as inspiring as I do 🙂

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Progress report: Scarab dress

I needed more time than anticipated to get the collar right, but I think it turned out great. The organza is meant to come out of a slit where the pins are at the bottom. This project is time consuming, certainly not easy, but so much fun to work with! Next I’ll assemble the rest of the dress, including a draped organza coming out of a fold where the pins are placed at the bottom of the front shown below. This will go around and end in another fold in the back skirt of the dress.

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As a bonus, I wanted to show the silk organza in front of a mirror – here both the fuchsia and orange are present! (This is what our sewing room looks like at school btw.)

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Update on my dress and an old WIP

I finished my dress pattern today and bought fabric. Pictures will come, as my fabric now resides in my school locker while I’m at home. I decided on a black raw silk with a peach coloured silk lining for the dress and a bright 2-coloured silk organza in orange and fuchsia for my collar and draping. It’s gonna be a party-LBD! The dress will be about knee-length and have a pegged silhouette.

I draped a collar using thing pattern paper last week. The upper collar will be more voluminous than the lower one, which I started with. Below are some photos of the process.

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I started with just a strip of paper, which was pinned to my neckline. The outer edge was then increased using the slash-and spread-method while still on the mannequin.

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The collar outlines, crucial fastening points and fold line was drawn before I removed it from my mannequin. Luckily, it turned out quite flat!

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This is the finished pattern for the lower collar. See how the collar starts out from the neckline and ends in the fold?

I really look forward to cutting out my pieces and start sewing this dress tomorrow!

Now something from home: I recently started working on my coat project from last winter. I started this at a time when I mostly had to rest and the coat never even made it to the fashion fabric before summer arrived and I needed summer dresses… Guess what? It’s cold again, and I still don’t have a proper winter coat. The project is back on, though made two sizes bigger (all that bed rest last year came with the advantage of accumulating extra body mass). I measured the pattern and found that it looked good as it was. The skirt was modified from last years half circle to an a-line based on the coat pattern (I just closed the darts and straightened out the hips). I also constructed a shawl collar after spending some time pondering how to do this. I basted the bodice together and tried it on, found that I liked it and ripped out the seams. Then I added reflective piping (I still think both biking helmets and retro-reflectors should be “cool” and incorporated in daily fashion) to the princess seams. I’ve cut out my coat from the fashion fabric and will proceed to sew it together an cutting out my lining and interlining. 2014 is definitely coat-worthy.

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Coat front …

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… and back

What do you think?

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Losing yourself in the design process

This shouldn’t be a shock to anybody, but I’ve come to realize that I’m definitely no fashion designer, nor do I think I ever will be. And that’s OK, my passion lies in creating things, learning new skills, perfecting the skills I have – I love to make clothes, and I always try to do the best I can to ensure good quality in what I make. I still find it interesting to learn about the design process and tricks to move ahead when I’m stuck, and just sketching clothes with no direction, not knowing where I end up can definitely be fun.

But it’s also exhausting, in part because I lose track of so many details when I try to find ways to translate my scarab into dresses. Over the last couple of days I’ve realized that fashion designers know each detail of the parts that go into making a dress intimately (obviously). They don’t necessarily know how to construct or sew a garment, but they have memorised a map of bodices, skirts, collars, sleeves etc. and know how to use this to make something new from it. And that knowledge is not something I have yet, but something I’m prepared to spend time learning.

Another aspect I miss, is the fascination of the showpiece – this big elaborate eye-catching garment that in most cases seems to be constructed only for show (therein the name), not to be worn as a garment. I like clothes to serve multiple purposes, including being worn off the runway. But all this is something I’ve worked hard to repress during this last week, as I need to at least try to move some of my boundaries when designing a mini collection based on a beetle.

I’ve had lots of help from my teacher, who’s passionate about fashion and design, and I’ve definitely pushed my limits if not exactly moved them. She’s had lots of ideas based on sketches I’ve made, and it’s been fun exploring my options. Still, I ended up lost, after shooting between different design routes, all of which were to some extent based on lines I found on the creature, like when I made dress from a landscape. I forgot about sleeves, collars and other details I’d really like to learn about constructing, and when I occasionally remembered them, I couldn’t find anything that fit into my designs.

So what have I worked with? Below is a picture where I’ve drawn in the lines I’ve worked with in orange.

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Scarab lined in orange

In addition to these lines, I’ve tried too keep the turquoise and emerald green colours found in the pictures below in the back of my mind while I was working. There’s something about the scarab’s shell that screams taffeta, heavy satin or dupioni to me, and the emerald green would be stunning on a dress. During my exploration of lines I also touched the warm ochre and orange colours I associate with (Egyptian) deserts.

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Scarab amulets

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Green scarab

Yesterday my other teacher was supposed to tell me which of t he three dresses of my mini collection I should make. She took one look at my sketches and told me they didn’t look like anything I actually wanted to make, much less actually wear. How right she was! My sketches were finished in a hurry the night before, and I just had to have something to show at school the next day. I’d completely lost track of myself during this process. She asked me to take some time and look at pictures and sketches of clothes in order to locate something I actually wanted to (learn to) make. Then she would help me incorporate this detail into my work if needed. I love how these two teachers have such different approaches to the task at hand! Though I was bone-tired and really just wanted to be done with this, but I realised that I got an opportunity to turn thing around compared to what I did on my landscape dress. Then I just ploughed on through, tired and in need of some closure on the task. This time I get to find something to make the designs more appealing to myself, and hopefully I won’t be so tired of the design before I even start on the pattern that it all becomes a race to finish and not have to look at the thing for a couple of weeks.

I’m no fashion designer, nor do I think I ever will (want to) be. But I love making clothes, and I love to learn about the whole process of turning an idea into a finished garment. I also love the fact that I’ve learned at least two new techniques to move ahead when I’m stuck in the design process:

1. Look at the object of inspiration and just try something new and elaborate this (in this case I used the lines on top of the beetle’s shell and decorated my dresses with fractals from this) to see where it will take you.

2. Find an interesting detail and work to integrate this in the design or use this as a base for the design.

That’s all for today. Hopefully I have a new mini collection ready for inspection tomorrow, I can’t wait to go fabric shopping!

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