When I set out to make my One Year One Outfit last year, I was totally determined that it would be something I would wear often, and what happened is that I’ve made something that, although wearable, probably won’t be worn too often – doh! Let me start at the beginning though. When I was in Iceland at the end of 2015, I found this book and felt it was the inspiration I needed. There are some magnificent things in this book!
I swatched a few of the circles and finished up making one called “Brunhilda’s whirl”. I figured I would make a whole dress of these circles and it would be lovely. What could go wrong? I bought some yarn from Bilby’s Yarns that met the criteria and started knitting.
I knitted the doilies on our Great Australian Roadtrip, but they began to wear thin somewhere around the Nullarbor, but I pushed on for a while. I could make one a day if I stuck at it, but estimated that I needed around 40 of different sizes. That’s a lot of knitting!
I used different sized needles to get different sized “doilies” which was a cunning plan, but, you guessed it, some of those doilies were really transparent. I needed lining, so knitted some sheets of fabric to go underneath. I did this on my knitting machine. No way was I going to handknit miles of stocking stitch of 2ply yarn!
Then began construction. I had an idea of how I wanted the sleeves and neckline, but then couldn’t figure out how to fit the rest of the dress together. It needed to be draped on a dressmaker’s dummy and I’m not good at draping, so I took it off to Sarah at my patternmaking class and it came together quite quickly as a concept. Then began the handsewing. Each doily was chain stitched on and then the fabric cut away underneath and finished off by hand. A few things became apparent when I tried it on:
- there was no shape to the dress
- the top doilies couldn’t support the weight of the dress and began stretching out
- I needed to create some firm edges under the arms
I began with the shaping, fashioning in some darts that were on the outside of the dress and felting them in place with an embellishing machine. This really improved things.
Then to deal with the drooping. The dress needed some under support, but how to accomplish this? Sarah suggested building in a bra, which would resolve another issue – the top was quite transparent.
I built the bra from the knitted fabric and lined it with wool roving. All edges were handstitched and then felted together. I used the Maya bra pattern as the basis and went from there.
Here I am felting in some side seams for the bra – the back is wider than a regular bra to help support the dress
One of the interesting things to note is that if you use one of these embellishing machines to felt wool it basically shreds it, but a strip of roving slipped in between the layers to be felted resolves this and you finish up with a wonderfully strong seam. Interesting huh?
I used this roving and felting technique to make shoulder straps that went round the side of the bra, connecting it to the arm opening. This was stitched and felted. Here it is tacked in place (with some wool I dyed in 2015).
and stitching it.
So, I then had another white outfit, which I so didn’t want, but loved the ’20s vibe I had going on. At one point I wondered if I was going to have to knit some Spanx to hold me in, but in the end, I think I’m ok.
The dress sat around for months whilst I dithered about the colour. I felt it needed to be soft, probably pastel, either pinkish or bluish. I did experiment with Aloe from my garden but it turned out to be a dingy, dirty sort of a colour, so that didn’t work. I was also stressing about the size of the pot I was going to need – this dress is quite big and my 10litre op-shop pot was not going to allow the fabric to move freely.
Meanwhile, Mark had been collecting avocado pits for me, so I made a do or die decision (aided along my Nicki’s deadline of – eek – today!) to dye it with avocado and be done with it. I went to a camping store and bought a massive crab pot, at vast expense, put the avocado pits into the insert and boiled and simmered. The dress was soaked in water with no mordant as I didn’t want more “cooking” than absolutely necessary. I did a test swatch which came out red/brown, which freaked me out, but threw the dress in anyway. I simmered for about half an hour and then checked the dress. It was a pleasant shade of musky pink and the water was – completely clear? No point in leaving it to sit overnight then. I rinsed and blocked the dress and this is what it now looks like. I’m not wearing shoes as the ones I made in 2015 do not work with the dress and I just couldn’t make more.
So that’s the dress. However, if I am to wear it in public, I need to add a few things so I auditioned a bit of jewellery and some shoes.
First up my Christian Louboutin’s that go with everything and a really old strand of pearls (around 1915) which I wore for my wedding
The back view. The dress has changed shape somewhat, growing longer and narrower. This may be my poor blocking though.
and Salvatore Ferragamo shoes with a modern strand of pink pearls. I like these less with the dress, but prefer the shoes as I think they fit the ’20s look I’m going for.
I think this is the look I like.
So, this is the dress component. I have also made a jacket and bag, but this post was so long that you are going to get a second post on the topic. Back soon!