Mission Statement for the week : to create my weekend wardrobe
How exciting! A whole week in front of me. I am going to make
a black gingham skirt,
‘the dress’ in purple polka dots,
a navy polka dot skirt.
Now that’s what I call a Sewing Sandwich!
(although, aesthetically speaking, the gingham should be in the middle as the bread should be strictly polka dot…Mmm! Hope this doesn’t make for a messy sandwich…On verra…But then again, two skirts with a dress filling? That makes symmetrical sense too…)
Step 1 – a trip to Fabricland to buy black gingham and a skirt pattern.
After wasting more minutes than I care to confess to pouring over skirt patterns I eventually succumbed to the charms, once again, of the Burda YOUNG range. Don’t ask me why. I don’t like the patterns. I don’t even like the look of the garments on the front of the wallet. I would imagine that it’s the ‘young’ that wins me over. It has to be, even though I go through the same ridiculous dialogue with myself discussing why I should not go there, only to go on to do so. That and the feeling of hysteria which threatens to envelop me if I don’t get out of the ugly, overlit fabric hell that Fabricland can quickly become and fast. As well as the lack of a sensible skirt pattern in any of the other pattern books. I look through them all again – it can’t be that hard to find a suitable skirt pattern.
My head gets to beat so loud I feel lightheaded and slightly nauseous. I come across the Burda YOUNG skirt and it looks do-able. I could always adapt it. ‘I’ve got to get out of here…’ I can feel that terrible sense of failure that I can’t even buy a simple skirt pattern without having a meltdown. I ring the bell.
‘Could I have this pattern please?’ The young shop assistant gets the pattern, looks at it, then at me. Is that a smile she’s giving me? Or a smirk?
I grab a roll of black gingham, one of white lining, mustn’t forget the zip. I double-take as I read that the zip should be 18 inches long. 18 inches long? This throws me on the pattern and gives me a hint as to why it’s YOUNG but I’m so close to finishing the transaction that I mustn’t lose heart now. The shop assistant’s smirk didn’t shake me, nor should the statement zip (even if the statement is ‘I can only get away with this pointlessly oversized zip because I am young.’)
5 minutes later I’m out of the shop. I can breathe again and I saunter to the carpark swinging my yellow Fabricland bag. Step 1 accomplished…
Step 2 – make the skirt
Before – I believed that working with gingham would be easy. How could it be otherwise? Gingham check = the material equivalent of graph paper.
After – well, you can be the judge of that. How is it that the checks can meet up so perfectly at the top and then be so out as the checks work themselves down? Look at that hemline – I thought that it would be easy to get a straight edge along a gingham check…
As for the zip, no wonder I looked twice when I saw how long it should be. I should have heeded the warning on the pattern. It didn’t say YOUNG for nothing.
It’s something that you can only get away with when you’re young as it really is over-the-top and ridiculous. When I bought the zip I said ‘why?’ and as I sew it in I say ‘Why?’ As I try it on I say ‘Why?’ as I attempt to fold it away in the pleats of the skirt…
I add some lining which makes it feel a little more substantial and pleasant to wear but as I look in the mirror I’m not really sure if it’s going to make it into my Weekend Wardrobe. It looks like a skirt, just. Yet it doesn’t quite work. It’s the sort of shape that makes me think it’s me. I spend 45 minutes trying on every black, white and red top I possess in an attempt to make it work.
But it doesn’t.
Remind me never to go for YOUNG Burda again…
step 3 – make the purple polka dot dress
I’m making my old favourite – a dress I know I can make (give or take a few aberrations which have come about as a result of over-confidence!). I have also got all that I need to get on with it – purple polka dot material, purple lining, purple thread and a purple zip. Pur-fect.
But as my first Weekend Wardrobe item was ‘requiring improvement’ I now have to make this ‘good’ if not ‘outstanding’. So. Slow down.
It’s all in the accuracy of the pattern cutting. I cut out the pattern carefully, resisting the temptation to add width and length ‘just in case’.
I take a break. I plan my next steps so that I can do them fluently as once I start I am always reluctant to stop even when I know I’ve made a mistake. Some sewing demon gets hold of me, driving me on to the hemline. I throw caution to the wind which in turn makes me deaf to any appeal to reason- I just want to finish it and nothing, I repeat nothing ( not even knowing that the dress isn’t going to fit, is going to be too short in the body, too long on the shoulders, off-centre with the zip…) gets in my way.
And so, knowing the madness that is to soon descend upon me I take stock. I plan with the madness in mind. I plan to make it work for me not against me.
I go through the sequence again in my head. Yes, I think I have it. Then I begin.
Pins fly everywhere. I hold up to three at a time in my mouth as I pin and tuck my way to dress perfection. I tell myself that this isn’t the best of ideas but during this sew I can do nothing about it. Next time I’ll plan it out.
I get to the zip. This is where my plan stops. Deliberately so. My intention had been to review progress, adjust and then plan for the sewing denouement (perhaps not the best word to use as it suggests some unravelling…). I hold the dress up so far. It looks neatly sewn. There are no sewing issues. So I could just crack on. Planless. It won’t hurt. I’ve done it before. I look at my gingham skirt with the young zip and the uneven hemline. A timely reality check…
I force myself to have a teabreak. I even iron the dress. I’m chomping at the bit. It’s clear that I’m not going to make a plan but I know that by heading straight to the sewing machine I could ruin all the lovely work I’ve done so far. I reach a compromise (with myself) and decide to iron and hand sew the zip into place.
Then I zipper foot my way to glory, rush to the ironing board to iron myself a hemline, then gently sew my way to the finish while watching ‘Escape to the Country’.
Here’s one, at least while it’s on the hanger, for the Weekend Wardrobe!
I try it on…
Now the gingham skirt was a mistake on oh so many levels but the purple polka dot dress works in nearly every respect. Except one.
When I put on weight (which I have) it turns my chest, to use a furniture metaphor, into a sideboard. Or should that be ‘shelf’? Regardless of the most appropriate item, either piece of furniture is not welcome when it’s displaying itself unappealingly over the top of my dress. Yet another age issue threatens to dash my weekend wardrobe…What might possibly have been interpreted as an attractively heaving bosom in my youth now looks fat and frumpy. And shapeless in a jelly-escaping-from-its-mould sort of way. Perhaps I could wear a scarf…or a matching vest top…
Step 4 was to have been the navy polka dot skirt but I’m having second thoughts. As it’s only Wednesday I’ve still got time on my side so I think I’ll change course for a while and make Simon the waist coat I promised him. Well, promised suggests that he can’t wait, that the waistcoat is seen as a great treat by him, as if I’m doing him a favour by devoting so much of my skill and time to the making of a fine waistcoat for him. In actual fact he’s doing me a favour as I begged, cajoled, teased him into letting me make something for him.
And so I have and rather dapper it is too. So one shoulder might be broader than the other one (I do wish Simon would stop harping on about it ) but no one will ever notice I assure him. ‘Sometimes the right side of my dress is bigger than the left side but I still wear it!’ His face crinkles. I’m not making him feel any better about the assymetrical shoulder look. Best to keep quiet. Time to get some buttons…
Step 5 – navy polka dots
As I look for buttons in the material shop that has become a second home for me these past weeks I am drawn to the roll of navy polka dots. But no! No! As I pick the roll up I immediately put it down. Just next to it is another roll with even bigger polka dots. In cream. Big 10p piece cream dots. And as I fondle the fabric I notice that it is thick. Almost drill-like. Is that a good thing? Would that make a better dress? Or would I look like a table cloth or a funky sofa? I go for the bigger polka dots and make my way to the till. Big. Little. Thick. Thin. Cream. White. I go over it all again and again. I ask the shop assistant what she thinks.
10 minutes later I leave the shop with the little-thin-white material. I look back at the table cloth material. Lucky escape…
Now I’ve got to make it. It’s Thursday so I don’t have long. I get down to it. I remember the heavy bosom problem with the purple dress . I feel sure that I can adapt the pattern to solve the problem. I cut the front piece higher than the pattern. That should do it. I forge ahead. I can finish it. I can.
And I do.
I love polka dots!