Updates and Dates

Hair CutFirstly, may I thank you on behalf of Connie for your kind words of support in her decision to cut her hair short and donate it, as well as to fundraise for the charity which uses the hair to make wigs for children who have lost theirs.  I was so moved that this blog prompted many of you to sponsor her and leave lovely messages.  Amongst the familiar names that I’ve got to know over the years and come to regard as friends, there were, much to my surprise, some unfamiliar ones from a few who outed themselves as readers!  It’s very humbling and I thank you warmly.

sideThe cut was booked for Connie’s 12th birthday and I picked the best hairdresser I know, just in case.  She did a pretty good job!  We quickly got used to the new Connie; in fact it’s hard to believe she hasn’t always looked like this!  When the  salon manager heard what she’s up to, he gave the salon fee to the charity and the hairdresser, the brilliant Yvette, did the same with her tip.  But donations arrived from all angles: friends, family, bloggers, the running community…  The latest amount raised now stands at £429, more than twice the initial target.

IMG_3444The day after, we flew to Canada.  A first-time visit and a memorable trip which strengthened friendships and family ties… even if the children did want to disown me for making them walk long distances.  I will write about the experience some day as I found it inspiring to people-watch in the streets of Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal and Quebec City.  But first I’ve to comb through the hundreds of photos we’d taken.

So I return to an imminent deadline for my own Six Napoleon Challenge.  I’ve had feedback from all the participants and unless magic wands are waved over the weekend, the consensus is that probably only one dress has been finished in time to meet the deadline of this Sunday.  Ruth,  you’ve done it again!  I can’t wait to see it, or rather, you in it.

1 t Jo's bodiceDoes this mean that for the rest of us, the challenge is a failure?  Well… not quite.  Other dresses will come I hope.  When they’re ready.  I feel somewhat disappointed in myself in that I haven’t provided the inspiration or the know-how to enable the others to continue – leadership was never my strong point.  But hopefully everyone taking part has learnt or expanded their skills in the process of trying.  Wonderful news came from the west coast of Ireland this week, where my friend Jo is staying with her family …  and a Bernina!  You may recall that back on a teary day in June, Jo and I drafted the Six Nap bodice pattern to fit her.  Afterwards, Jo made the bodice in a rose-print cotton and liked it enough to make it again.

1 t jo

The second version is in a more brocade-like fabric from the stash (we think it might be an upholstery fabric).  It was made to go over a RTW skirt.  I asked if it’s comfortable to wear and was told yes, despite the asymmetry.

1t JO v2 back

1 jo 2

Now Jo is on her third, I think this one calls for a skirt of its own.  Well done Jo: I’m chuffed it worked!

And now, my own experiments….

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I draped following Anita’s method of cutting two stumpy  1 l shapes, sewn together at the short ends. This is similar to joining a circle skirt to a bodice except for the amount of pleating at the lowered waist.  And the circle has been left a rectangle.  I tried it out using pattern paper, joined to make a 2m x 1.4m piece.  (I know  🙄  I try and live a green life then go axe down a tree, metaphorically).  I even sellotaped back a 10cm deep hem.  It was very noisy!  But it’s the low dip of that corner that concerns me; it would reach my feet.

I used graph paper (like this printable one) to try out some ratios.  1 grraph

The first illustration is as in Anita’s tutorial in her guest post.  The second is as in her suggestion of using 3m of fabric.  I raided the charity shop for some bargain bed linen and used 3m to make this.1 bedsheetIt was more fabric that I could cope with, to be honest, though it helped to drape from the waist rather than the bodice hem.  I will play with the graph paper and try to reduce the diagonal length of that mitred corner.

There’s one more method to try.  Now I’ve always suspected Stephanie to be really clever and was very impressed when in her last post she presented another interpretation of the Six Nap pleats.  Which I’ll attempt next.  This method will also result in a shorter length of the dip.  But whether to go crossgrain and risk puffiness or lengthwise and risk showing lots of joins in the skirt?

Phantom of the School Ball

1 phantom of the school dance

Yes, it’s meant to be scary…

If I was a contestant on the Great British Sewing Bee, my filmable speciality would be a tendency towards snatching defeat from the jaws of victory by sewing a seam the wrong way around, or cutting into the garment while trimming the final seam, or some such last-minute act of stupidity.

1 the dressBut I learnt a valuable lesson when I met Lesley last year, when in the course of conversation she said she doesn’t generally use small stitches!  I received this heresy with a pretence of calm, afterwards beginning to ask myself why I insist on using the 2.2 straight stitch length which is there by default whenever I switch on the machine. Do I really imagine my garment would fall apart if I stray towards slightly longer?  Ever since, I’ve been gradually forcing myself to go up to 2.6 or even 2.8 (wey hey!!) with no obvious compromise in quality.

This way, unpicking mistakes is much, much quicker!

There were several instances of unpicking in the making of daughter’s speed dress! It’s hard to concentrate in a busy home. Mum popped over on Saturday afternoon so there was chat – not to mention distracting, horrific cries coming from the TV as the ladies Wimbledon final was broadcast!

1 conichiBut I’m dead pleased with how this turned out. I had to think on my feet in designing it, adding to a basic idea of a bodice and a long, rectangle skirt. Daughter was away at a sleepover on Friday night so in her absence I made the bodice and lining based on a pattern made from the cling-film wrap but decided to put some gathering stitches at the neckline, just below the chin, so I had the option of gathering them to make the centre front fit better if it was gaping (it was). I ended up liking this as a feature.

The other feature – the sash – I copied from a dress with a pleated yoke I made for her three years ago which was dug out for reference.  The new yoke is 1.5cm taller to be more in proportion with her now longer torso. I had no time to make pleats and no time for sleeves.  1 Waistband

And I had a bit of serendipity!  Mid-week I was asked to alter a dress for a very lovely client who came half a year ago to be measured for a bridesmaid’s dress which she ordered online (from China) for a now imminent wedding. Instead of having a skirt that’s fully gathered (too girlish?), the client’s dress has gathering around the middle part only. This I decided to copy for daughter’s dress. It has a nice elegance to it and mimics the gathering at the neckline. It was extremely quick to fit: I cut the rectangle twice the width of the bodice and just gathered tightly in the centre, leaving the half sides even.

1 bodice front

The finish isn’t too bad: I pressed the bodice seams open but didn’t do anything else except hide them inside lining. The skirt (i.e. the rectangle) has French seams, even at CB below the zip, because I wanted the inside to look nice as she kicks around!

The hardest bit was getting the back yoke seams to level up across the zip. I spent ages fiddling and unpicking and sewing again then remembered to look at the clock.  I also remembered the sash will largely cover this part!   🙄

1 maskaDaughter was due at the Masquerade Ball at 6:30pm. I finished the dress at 4 o’clock then gave it a long soak to get rid of the gelatine with which I’d stabilised the fabric. I washed it and it dried in the breeze in only 20 minutes – that’s polyester for you!

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But see this cascade of hair? Alas, she is going to have almost all of it cut off and sent to the Little Princess Trust to be used in making a wig for a child who has lost theirs. She’s also fundraising to help the Trust pay the wig weavers (in China) who make the wigs.  If you can, please help her by making a small donation via her “fundraising page”; any amount would be most welcome (but is not, of course, expected.)

This is quite a bold move, I think, as her friends all have long hair.  I would advise her against the short cut but I love that she’s been moved to support the charity … and quietly admire her desire to differentiate.

1 fantom i maca-horz