Friday, 30 October 2009
Buttons and bubbles
You may remember that a little while ago I started making a bubble skirt for Princess Bunchy here, which I actually managed to finish in the nick of time for the big party here. As you have had only glimpses of fabric and finished item, I felt impelled to share with you the whole creative process. After all, the show and tell is the fun bit of blogging, and even more fun, it's not confined to once a week like a primary school.
The pattern was from Samantha at The Handmade Dress, and is called Miss Iris; I think I would buy her patterns for their lovely names alone: it is so much more exciting to buy a name than a number.
The fabric is from the Arcadia range by Sanae for Moda - patchwork fabric again, which I found in an Aladdin's cave of a shop in Canterbury called J.E.M.'s: it is the tiniest shop but has the most compendious range of all sorts of things crafty, from fabric to yarn to buttons to beads to ribbons to sewing machines ... I don't quite know how they fit quite so much into such a small space.
As I have said before, Samantha's patterns are a delight to work with: they are so simply constructed, with such clear instructions that they are well within reach of those of us who are a little challenged on the dressmaking front. They are also multi-sized and printed on lovely thick paper, so that they can easily be used again and again.
Samantha helpfully advises you to trace the pattern onto some more paper to avoid cutting the original, and you will see that I used some very fetching pink tissue, which was all that I had in the wrapping paper drawer, having mislaid the tracing paper, which I am sure that I have bought on numerous occasions, in the certain knowledge that it is a useful thing to have in the house, but tracing paper is one of those things, like graph paper, which defeats my effort to locate it in an emergency, having burrowed itself into the furthest reaches of the darkest cupboards, and however many times I buy it, I never have it to hand when I want it.
As Princess Bunchy would say, I think it is the Borrowers, of whom there are at least two in my house. (Which was why I lost a skirt for six months, someone having absorbed it into the morass which was their sartorial storage facility, and only returning it anonymously when a new wardrobe was bought, which necessitated a certain amount of delving into festering heaps under the bed and on the floor, and thus unearthing my skirt, which I had come to the conclusion, after months of searching in vain for it, had spontaneously vaporized whilst my back was turned. And no, it wasn't actually a Princess what did it, and no, it wasn't even worn, and it was probably my fault for buying a skirt from Oxfam, in a fabric and style which faintly resembled the sort of shorts that an adventurous boy might keep uninvestigated in a heap for six months, all the while denying all knowledge of said skirt, because such things are of no relevance to his ilk.)
Where was I? Oh yes, cutting out Miss Iris. Note that I ironed the tissue paper first, as one should do with patterns in the quest for accuracy, and I have to say pink tissue was much more pleasing to work with, on both aesthetic and practical grounds, being slightly stronger than that self-destructing palest buff-coloured pattern paper favoured by the giants of dressmaking, and certainly a much prettier colour.
For those of you who are even more unskilled than me on the dressmaking front, I should like to recommend a grid ruler and cutting mat: I bought these some time ago in the vain hope that they would make a patchwork quilt for me, but although there hasn't been much progress on that front (I think it is like buying fancy mops and dusters from Lakeland: I have the feeling that they will suddenly bounce around the house unaided, just like in Cinderella, and in a trice I will have sparkling floors and shining horizontal surfaces. Unfortunately they don't come with a cleaning fairy, and thus languish accusingly in dark cupboards, probably playing Sardines with the tracing paper.). Sadly, the mat and grid didn't come with a quilting fairy, either, but they, in company with their friend the rotary cutter, make cutting out straight a lot easier.
Except if you get a cutting mat, please don't do what I did. In fact, it all started with the Head Chef, who in an unaccustomed fit of orderliness stored the mat vertically, propped up against the spare leaves for the dining room table, which also lurk in various dark corners around the house, because there is nowhere to put them when we don't have a dozen people to dinner. By the time that I in my housewifely inefficiency noticed that the mat was not lying safe and flat under the sofa, the damage was done, and an unsightly bulge had appeared in the middle of the mat, which makes it a little awkward to keep things straight and even. (And I do admit that I possibly compounded the damage, by trying to iron the mat straight again. Please do not attempt this in your possibly more well-regulated home.)
But zip, zap, the skirt was finished at least two hours before the party: the pattern was so straightforward that I didn't make any mistakes, or have to unpick any seams, and I even managed to get the elastic into the waistband without twisting it at the first attempt.
However, there was no cause for complacency - I had bought a plain white T-shirt to match, and as Princess Bunchy robed herself, I decided that this was all too boring, and started rummaging in my button box.
You can see the end result, which was all sewn on with contrasting coloured threads, whilst the General hovered in the doorway berating me for telling him that we would leave half an hour before we actually drove out of the gate (it was all part of the finest calculation: aim to leave half an hour before you need to, then although you will be half an hour late leaving, you will actually be on time, and be able to do something inefficiently time-consuming while the clock ticks on, like writing a blog post as I am doing now, when I should be driving out of the gate ten minutes ago.).
One day my ambition is to write a simple tutorial from which you will learn something useful, but I think that is something towards which I must work, crabwise probably. In the meantime, under the What I Learn heading (my first physics teacher at secondary school had this as the final heading for each lesson, and I found it so useful: you could just skip the rest and remember the What I Learn) is:
1. Don't apply heat to a self-healing cutting mat as it will melt and deform,
2. Pink tissue paper makes life more fun, and
3. It is very difficult to cut a straight line without a ruler.
And, 4. The application of buttons will always improve anything you care to make, so keep your button box well topped up.
Have a good weekend, and I hope for your sake that it is a buttony one.