Used to be a tablecloth…

And now, finally, it’s a dress.

It’s a summer dress but I got lucky! Just as the late spring and summer of this year were unforgettably generous to a London sun-worshipper like me, giving what seemed like weeks of uninterrupted dream weather, so did this autumn bless us with several days when I could wear the dress.

I wore it to work with a denim jacket and fashion trainers (white, as all fashion trainers seemed to be this year).

This dress would look great with medium heel sandals, but that’s something to try next year.  It is now suddenly very cold.

I hope to find other interesting cotton or linen tablecloths languishing in charity shops to cut up, especially since your comments in the last post pretty much sanctioned this barbarity (as Alys said, not everything is a museum piece).  What do you think of harem pants with this kind of lace lattice-work about the calves and knees?

I would like to wean myself of using chemical dyes though.  Once again washing machine Dylon worked beautifully but I’ve come to rely too much on this process that pollutes the water supply, and Dylon’s recent switch from cardboard to plastic ‘pod’ packaging is disappointingly backward suggesting a complete environmental indifference.  Do you share my concerns?  Or do you think all efforts of a single seamstress amount to a drop in the ocean?

However, my favourite new colour discovery is turmeric.  Maybe that’s not the official name for the variant of the very autumnal dark yellow you will surely have noticed everywhere in RTW this season, but it’s the colour of Haldi which certainly stains my teeth when I put it in curry so it should work on dyeing natural fibres too.  But how do I fix it? Time for some desk research, and experimentation.  Do please share the benefits of your experience if you’ve dabbled in natural dyes.

Used to be a tablecloth…

but now it’s a dress.

Well, almost. There are two steps more until it’s finished.

The recap

Some believe that to take a finely crafted tablecloth and cut it up is sacrilege!  Etemi – who sparked off my wicked ways when she organised a “used to be a tablecloth sewing challenge” – made me laugh when she reported her mother as saying, and I paraphrase slightly but listen anyway: ‘just let that beautiful thing BE!’  I agree that it’d be regrettable to cut up some heirloom once made by granny for her trousseau.  But lesser tablecloths can be found in abundance in charity shops and giving them the light of day by turning them into unique garments not only helps the charities but it’s a great ‘up yours’ to the peddlers of polyester who would swathe you, I and the entire planet in their tat.

And after all, who still uses tablecloths? My daughter had a fit when she saw one on holiday.  “Not wipeable?  What’s the point of that?!”

Dress 1

Two years ago I bought this large “drawn thread work” piece and turned it into an amazing dress.  It wasn’t a quick make.  I wanted to use as many of the lace motifs as possible without the holes in the cotton being too misplaced.  The tablecloth was white but once sewn, the dress was dyed indigo.   I don’t have any photos of what it looks like when worn in late summer against tanned skin but it’s an interesting Moroccan lantern effect and very sultry. It is also totally NSFW – not suitable for work! – so I decided to make another dress using the remainder of the tablecloth (I still had a big piece, though somewhat shredded-looking) aiming for something….  warmer.

Used to be a tablecloth – Dress 1

The now

Once again, I’ve worked with the fabric in the original white.  My husband who hasn’t yet caught on to my cleverness warned I’ll end up with a giant doily!  But fear not.  The whole thing will be immersed in dark dye, hence the black stitching and the black zip.

For the bodice I used this vintage pattern which I have always longed to try but I’m always held back by the voluminous skirts and concerns that I can’t pull off the willowy cover-babes look.

When I designed the blue dress I had lengths of fabric at my disposal and it made sense to use the original lace edging for the hem.  This time there wasn’t enough left to do the same though it was clear that the hem would have to be cut somewhere on the lace.  But how do you hem lace?  After some head-scratching I realised I just had to embrace the suck and spend ages mimicking lace by zigzagging scallops along the bottom then cutting to the stitching.  I practiced on scraps, trying to get the stitching to look similar to the drawn thread work.

Don’t you think that a lot of these things us dressmakers do in order to get it right take a very long time – you wouldn’t ever take up sewing if you knew how long!  But it is a fraction of the time we will spend wearing the garment, and worth it for those moments of appreciation, be it our own (especially our own) or from others.

I thought the solution was so effective I decided to turn the remaining scraps into sleeve cuffs, strategically using as much lace as I could, and therefore again having to sew scallops.    So yeah, just the cuffs to attach, then the dye job.  I think it’s going to be a stunner.  Just gimme a week.