A brief excursion into sewing

I do sew sometimes, but it tends to be because there’s something I want to make rather than because sewing is something I want to do…

Recently I lent C a Regency frock for her Jane Austen-themed hen day, and she loved it so much she asked me to help her make one herself, and thus an idea for a wedding present was born. However, I’d made several failed attempts to buy fabric for the project and was about to give it up as a dead loss, when I was ambushed outside the Ballroom (a clothes shop catering largely to the college ball market) by a basket of reduced saris on the pavement. I chose a lilac and purple one for myself, and was then struck by inspiration: saris are perfect for Regency dresses. The type of silk and of woven design are both fairly authentic, and it’s a good amount of fabric. I bought a red and silver sari, and over the next couple of weeks I turned it into this:

The pattern is easy – I’ve made it several times before, including once entirely by hand because I’d lost the power cord for my sewing machine. However, easy pattern or not, it’s not straightforward to make a dress for someone when the only idea of their size I had was comments she made about the fit of my dresses when trying them on. It’s also not straightforward to lay out pattern pieces on fabric with vertical columns of woven motifs (as seen in the skirt above). I decided I wanted the top of the frock to be mostly plain, so I had to fit all the pattern pieces in the spaces between lines of motifs; not all of the grain in the top goes the way it should, because fitting the pieces in was difficult. It’s not obvious in the picture, but the shoulders and the cuffs of the top are cut to include a band of the smaller motifs, to visually link the top with the skirt, and I’m really pleased with how that worked out.

To maximise the chances that the frock would fit C with no need for alterations, I added a drawstring to the neckline, but had a problem finding cord – nothing I’ve got would go. I was seriously considering spinning sewing thread into a cord when I was struck with the idea that’s obvious if you’ve read the ‘spinning samples’ post a couple of posts down… I took some plain red scraps left from the cutting out, frayed it into individual threads and attacked them with my hand carders until they became a fluff of silk fibre, then spun it and plied it and turned it into a perfectly decent, and perfectly matching, drawstring cord. (I say ‘perfectly matching’, but it actually looks darker because the carding took away some of the shiniess of the fabric, but it’s still a much better match than anything else I’ve got.)

This is the first sewing project I’ve done in ages, and I had loads of fun and am really happy with how it turned out. More importantly, C loves it, and it fits her perfectly. Now to decide what to do with my purple sari…

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