Raw silk and regrets

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Whew. When I started this blog I thought I’d be posting at least every other week. It just shows you how lazy I really am. I have no excuses, just a few half-arsed reasons. So here we go: since the brown bag I’ve made a few other things. I don’t consider myself a religious person and I really really hate feeding the big corporate consumer machine, especially during the holidays. So when in doubt, I give neutral home-made gifts for Christmas. I made a couple of rice-filled cotton microwavable bags for those cold tootsies. Unfortunately, I gave them away almost immediately after finishing them, so no pictures. There’s nothing to it, really. Cut a rectangle of 100% cotton fabric (I don’t want to know what happens to anything synthetic when you try to microwave it), divide it into two or more sections and stitch up, fill with dry rice (or beans, wheat, etc.), close the hole with another bit of stitching, wrap it up with a pretty tin of Swiss Miss, and there you have it. A merry winter solstice…er…Christmas.

I also semi-failed at making what should have been a simple and easy tank top. More about that later. (Read: too lazy to take pictures.)

But let me get to the good stuff. I bravely and stupidly offered to make a friend a dress to wear to her brother’s wedding last month. There are various reasons why I thought this would be a good idea, mostly because her birthday was around the same time, but that’s beside the point. Or so I thought. After some oohing and aahing and hmming and haaing, she decided on the Open Back Dress from Burda. She is quite petite and has a lovely figure (athletic but slim), so I thought it was the perfect choice for her, too. After some deliberation and one very indecisive hour at the fabric market in Taipei, we chose a midnight blue raw silk for the bodice, and a yet-to-be-identified fabric in an oddly beautiful pixel-ish/tribal-ish beige and dark blue print. At a later stage, I went by myself to purchase the lining. I found a dark blue drapey fabric for the skirt lining (some synthetic blend, I assume – again, I don’t speak remotely enough Chinese to ask about what I’m buying if the fabric isn’t obviously cotton, silk or polyester) and a dark blue cotton with an almost cheesecloth quality for the bodice. I figured that the soft cotton would be more comfortable against the skin in the heat. The shades of blue weren’t identical, but that obviously didn’t matter. (And I offer my deepest apologies for the quality of the pictures…they were all taken with cell phones. Ack!)

IMG_4367Before I get to the regrets part, let me make a few notes on the construction. My friend has a pear-shaped body, and as slim as she is, we didn’t think that attracting attention to “wide” hips with a gathered skirt was necessary, so I introduced her to the wonders of the full circle skirt. She loved it and I am proud to say that I have converted yet another pretty pear away from the dark side of pencil skirts and into the light of the circle! The little fluttery sleeves were also scrapped right from the start. I don’t know many people who could pull off that look. Kudos to those of you who can. Her slightness of chest also made it easy for me to say no to the idea of boning (in my opinion, you only need boning if you’re a C and up), and convince her that sewn in bra-cups were way more comfortable than the former, and more practical than those silly silicone stick-on chicken fillet thingies, especially in the heat. (Oh, did I mention that the wedding was in South Africa in summertime?) I lowered the neckline by 2 centimetres, and shortened the skirt quite a bit. As you can tell from the first picture, I made the sash reversible. My friend wasn’t sure if she wanted a sash, but I made it anyway, and she ended up wearing it and looking gorgeous.

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I made two toiles of the bodice, hoping to get the fit just right before cutting into the silk, and here is where it gets interesting. I can only blame my regrets on inexperience and shoddy time management. I should have spent more time on the fit, I shouldn’t have procrastinated so much, I should have done more research… In the end I had to put my friend on an aeroplane with an unfinished dress that didn’t fit properly, because I thought I had more time than I actually did. I cannot express in words how terrible I felt. Here I was supposed to be making a fabulous dress for one of my best friends in the world, and she ends up having to take it to a tailor to have the hem finished, and I think she even pinned a few darts into the bodice herself. Cue deepest feelings of guilt and lots of swallowing down lumps in my throat. This woman has done so much for me.

Anyway. Regrets, hems and lumps aside, I think I did a pretty good job on the construction. My first zip ever, and I managed to make it an invisible one sewn into (onto?) a double layer of raw silk (!!!) and lining. (This helped a LOT.) It took me three tries, but shhh… I didn’t screw up the darts or the curved necklines and armholes, even though I fiddled with the pattern quite a bit. I didn’t even do anything to ruin the silk. Crazy, isn’t it? If only I had started earlier and used my time more wisely, this dress would have been an outstanding success. Next time, I promised myself through huge gulps of hot rooibos tea, I’ll be more careful about managing my time. All things considered, though, not too bad for a rookie, eh?

PS. A big thanks to mokosha for her helpful tips on the construction, to dairyllama for his unwavering support, and to my friend for loving the dress anyway.

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4 thoughts on “Raw silk and regrets

  1. πŸ™‚ it’s done! was wondering what happened to that dress.. it really looks beautiful, and so well made too.. hope that now you’re going to make one of those for yourself πŸ™‚

    • Thank you so much… I really admire your sewing, so it means a lot coming from you. Maybe someday I will make one for myself, but right now I’m knitting a cover for my hot-water bottle. Surprisingly chilly in Taipei. The dress will have to wait for next summer. πŸ™‚

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