experiments on a theme

October 3, 2012

These dresses are all the same pattern, using different fabrics. Made with a combination of hand-woven cottons and vintage embroidered skirts, both from the hill tribes of northern Thailand.

There are three dresses. The first is red with blue and red embroidered bodice and trim. The red fabric is hand woven cotton. It is a thinner weave, and very soft. The embroidered fabric was originally a skirt. I took apart the embroidered and appliqued skirt, and only used one of the sections, pictured below. I have the bottom section left for something else. It includes a corduroy trim and more fabric patchwork.

The dress is billowy, and hits just above the knee (on me anyways). The gathered sleeves, cuffs, and bodice create a peasanty sort of look that I hope isn’t overdone…

The brown dresses are a little bit simpler. The bodice is all the same color. On the first brown dress I added a hem of another skirt. This particular skirt was all hand embroidered. I fell in love with the back of the skirt and used it instead of the front.

The above picture is of the “right side” of the dress, using the “wrong side “of the skirt border material. Below is an image of both the wrong side, top, and the right side of the fabric, bottom.

I am sure that some would prefer the right side of the hem, but I was really drawn to the muted colors and slight imperfections of the wrong side. I saved enough fabric to make another garment, and maybe the next time I will use the right side.

The third dress went along with the simple brown theme and was brown the whole way through, border and all. I made it simple to experiment with using only the cotton. I also wanted to try to belt this dress, and felt that the quieter brown would lend itself well to that. The plain brown one is also about an inch longer, to adjust to the belting.

 

It is delightful to me how two different pieces of fabric, with the same general format can inspire two different designs. By general format, I mean size, color scheme, etc. The difference in these two pieces of fabric was the geometric pattern printed in black. One piece of fabric seemed to be based more on squares, and the other on circles. From that difference came the two different dresses.

Circular vs square neckline, and on and on.

The second dress is also a tunic shape. A bit on the large size. Again, the patterning creates an illusion of shaping!

The sleeves are a little bit more interesting. I added little pleats on the cuffs, and they pouf out a little bit.

The sides of the dress match up nicely, with circles being created at the seams. I love how geometric this fabric is. The cutting and sewing are easy because of the patterns.

The rest of the dress is pretty much straight down. I am thinking that it would look good with a belt, but I don’t have one yet to try it with.

I made this sweater thinking that I would be needing a simple sweater while visiting Thailand. The temperature has been so so hot! I have only used a sweater when traveling in cars, taxis, buses, airplanes, etc. So this sweater is finished, and will probably wait until I am in a slightly cooler climate to be worn.

But it turned out well! I adapted the pattern from a Jo Sharp cardigan that I like. I took out the waist shaping and added a garter border around the front, and ribbing on the bottom.

The yarn is beautiful Silken Straw, by Alchemy yarns. Each strand is made up of many tiny threads pressed together and dyed. When the garment is washed and blocked, the material softens, and takes on a beautiful drape. Each skein is hand dyed, and so there can be a bit of variation from skein to skein. To help balance the color, I kept changing the balls of yarn as I moved from piece to piece.

Also, I knit the back of the sweater using two skeins of yarn at the same time. One for the right side, and one for the left. This created a seam up the middle, and I liked the division of color. It was especially interesting in the upper back when the yarn began to pool in different ways.

 

This is a dress pattern that I have made before, but with a new material. I found the fabric in one of my new favorite spots in Bangkok, Pahurad. It is a street completely packed with fabric vendors. All kinds of materials are piled, stacked, and stuffed into every possible space. I would be happy to wander around for a few days just to see everything!

This material is Japanese cotton. It is thin, and I have a nice slip to wear under the dress. (It would either need a slip or a lining.)

The fabric came in three different colorways. I bought several meters of each, and plan on taking the additional two colors to the dressmaker with my dress and the pattern.

So far I do have only one difficulty with my interactions with the dressmaker. I don’t speak Thai, and she doesn’t speak English. We manage to communicate many things with pointing and smiling, and the rest we figure out by calling someone on the phone, or stopping by and talking with someone who can translate for us.

I would like to have her make some dress samples for me in different sizes, but so far I am not exactly how to tell her that is what I would like. This whole dress making business is certainly a good motivator to learn a bit of the language!!

 

 

bedspread dress..

April 19, 2012

I have a sewing machine, fabric, and time to sew! I got this piece of fabric from India, and was going to save it for a tablecloth or something like that, but I held it up as a dress, and loved it!

First thing was to cut the neck, square to match the pattern.  The dress is rather shapeless, and almost more of a tunic. There is so much complexity in the pattern on the material that I didn’t think that it was necessary to shape the dress itself.

I decided on gathering the sleeves to add a little finishing detail. Because there is so little shaping, it needed a little something to add dimension. 

I tried belting the dress, but the fabric pattern didn’t lend itself to the shape created, and the dress ended up looking a little bit top heavy.

The length is a little shorter than I would have liked, but I wanted to end the skirt at the end of the pattern on the fabric, so no choice there…

The border is really beautiful, and I experimented with my new machine to sew the border by machine instead of by hand. (I got to my room this morning, armed with all my supplies, carefully collected and selected, only to realize that I didn’t have a sewing needle…)

The machine stitch worked well though, and I am excited to have learned how to do it.

I think that the fabric was tie dyed somehow, and there is a strong band of white going around the dress. I am considering dying the fabric a little with some coffee to darken the band. I think that I will have to wear the dress a little first to decide if I like the band or not.

The material might end up being a little rough for a dress, but I am going to give it a try, and wash and wear it a bit. I noticed a tag saying that it was a bed sheet a little bit after I had cut the hole in the top for the head…

for sale

March 16, 2012

Here is a collection of cotton Kanga dresses. And they are for sale! I am working on coming up with dress designs, and am testing out fabrics, sewing techniques, etc.

These four dresses are made with traditional Kanga fabric brought to me by my sister. She and her mother, who lives in Tanzania, pick out the different designs for me, and then I get to make things!

The bodices are lined with another layer of Kanga fabric, and the skirts are lined with a layer of cotton lawn.

The sleeves are left unlined. This design is loose-fitting and perfect for warm summer (or spring…) weather.

Each dress is unique, with the patterns carefully selected and matched for each. The seams are all finished with zigzag, and I tried to cut all the ends off, but I am sure that there are a few hidden here and there. The hems of the sleeves and bottom are the finished edge of the fabric, except for the white and black dress, which has a raw edge.

The material is thin and not too refined. There are imperfections, and I feel that this adds to the character of the pieces. Each piece of Kanga fabric has a quote on it, and I left the quote on the bottom of this dress.

The fabric comes quite heavily starched, and after a few washings and wearings, it softens and relaxes a lot. I always take care with laundering, and machine wash delicate, cold, and always hang to dry.

The dresses do usually need to be ironed a little, or else they end up looking a little bit rumpled.

Let me know what you think!

a volunteer garden

March 14, 2012

I went out to the garden yesterday to inspect things, and found some surprise treats!

The lettuce of course re-seeded itself. I let a lot of lettuce go to seed, and now I have little babies growing all over the place.

Above is a chard plant. The stem from the original plant is under my finger. I had mulched around the plants in the fall, and I think that the dried leaf cover protected the plants during the winter.

Last summer was super hot, and my fall crop of carrots and turnips didn’t really develop well, so I left them in the ground over winter. Because the winter was so mild, a lot of the little guys made it. A row of carrots, which still taste good, although some of them have some sort of frostbite. I am going to leave them in and watch how they continue to grow.

A healthy patch of turnips. These guys might need thinning soon!

Some cilantro, which looks pretty good, and tastes great!

And a patch of frizzled frisee. Hopefully these guys grow into happy plants. I can’t wait to see.

Meanwhile, I planted some dwarf grey sugar peas, dragon carrots, danvers carrots, Paris market carrots, flat leaf parsley, sylvetta arugula (a low growing slow to bolt variety), endive, and chard. I worked the soil in the fall, incorporating manure and straw, and so this morning all I needed to do was turn the soil a little with a pitchfork, and break up a few clumps with my hands. Much easier than last year!! It certainly pays off to take good care of soil.

A happy little garden plot, looking forward to some spring rain this week!

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