Another bi(ke)furcated slip

If I cark it tomorrow, I’ll be happy knowing that my greatest contribution to the world of sewing was the Bifurcated Slip. Especially this one, which is louder, longer and more scandalous when it shows than any of my others.

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If you wear a frock and you cycle, you NEED a bifurcated slip. They also help keep you toasty warm in winter. The hot pink silk twill this one’s made from was a bargain from a Sydney Rd fabric shop a while back, and the length is just past my knees! But my poor machine did not enjoy sewing the twill. Two layers: not happy, but bearable. Three layers: pushing it, lady. Four: tell her she’s dreaming. So to get the deluxe French seams to sit flat, I had to do topstitching by hand. And while I was at it, I hemmed and bound the waist by hand. Boooooring. But a bit lovely now that it’s all done.

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Melbourne is grey and dreary these days and a flash of fuschia as I pedal past bolsters spirits, methinks.

Revisiting my very first vintage pattern

The first dress I ever sewed from an old pattern, five years ago, was a disaster. There are pictures of it in the WeSewRetro archives and now, of course, I see why it sucked so much (grey? Really? For me? GREY?)

The dress is long gone to some op shop pile somewhere, but I still have the pattern – a mail-order job from the early 50s, I think. I’m trying to sew more separates so I whipped up this top from a scrap of pale blue op shop fabric. I think it’s linen but it’s also got a bit of a scratchy raw silk quality to it.

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You’ll just have to believe me that I fill it out a little better than Headless Esme. It’s a bit short to wear with anything but high-wasted pants but it fits well enough to have a bash at making a whole dress again. NOT in grey. In something more to my tastes – loud, lurid and wildly patterned.

Grey. What was I thinking?

Project round-up: New Look 6674 wrap dress

You may have noticed some seriously shabby photographs assaulting you on MITYFI. I apologise profusely and promise to treat your precious retinas with more respect. See, I’ve been reduced to cruddy phone snaps because my point ‘n’ shoot packed it in a while back. I’m in the market for a new camera and kindly, my Ma has lent me a DSLR to test out and get a feel for this newfangled film-free SLRing. Anyhoo, I have a backlog of projects I haven’t posted just because I didn’t want to subject you all to more rotten pics.

But lo, with the fancypants camera, I’ve hardly roamed from the auto-everything icon on the dial (I’m calling it the ‘dumbass setting’ ) yet it makes even my scribbled, misspelled pattern alteration notes look arty.

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These are the changes I made to New Look 6674 to make it fit. The neck dart and the shoulder narrowing are my usual adjustments to fit my human A-frame construction. I changed the waist (not ‘waste’) shape as a de facto bodice lengthening trick. I also made the front skirt sections much wider. I don’t know why the model looks so smug on the pattern envelope because that nasty tropicale print with dark blue band looks completely rubbish.

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And here’s mine, made from the dyed piece of op shop floral. Authentically crumpled from wear and from acute residency in my dirty washing basket. If you’re offended by my utter disinterest in ironing, just look at the glories of my vegie garden instead.

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Wondrous Dutch wax

Let me recount a little internet meander that’s got me all excited about textiles and semiotics. I know. Semiotics. I must be listening to too much This American Life.

I was perusing the free trial edition of Selvedge and zoomed in on the article about Dutch wax resist fabric. A month or two back I visited a pop-up exhibition of African textiles as part of the Castlemaine State Fair. The portrayal of politics and events and status and society in the garish prints were completely fascinating. Even my feller in tow, who cannot abide fabric shopping, found it interesting. I have a couple of examples of Dutch wax in my stash; the yardage I bought in New York is a cheap Chinese replica (but! Giant shoes!) but I do have one length of rooster-strewn Real Super Wax Print I bought from a US eBay vendor a few years back. I’ve also made a shirt from this style of fabric. And Kazz is going nuts with it in her new shop – I seriously covet this suit she’s made.

Headless Esme models a swathe of rooster-print Super Wax Print in my stash. I have plans to make a *chortle* cocktail frock sometime...

Headless Esme models a swathe of rooster-print Super Wax Print in my stash. I have plans to make a *chortle* cocktail frock sometime…

Anyhoo. That’s about all I knew about Dutch wax resist, other than ME LIKEY LOUD COLOURS. The Selvedge article mentions a Dutch company called Vlisco as being the manufacturer of choice so I plugged Vlisco in the googlebox which took me to their website and all the glory therein.

I’m particularly smitten with the Homage a l’Art range, particularly this self-referential virtual museum of Vlisco icons. WOW. And they have a free pattern to download of a classic bomber jacket, if you like that sort of thing.

But it’s not just about the pretty. The phenomenon is all tied up in colonialism, consumerism and questions of identity. Artist Yinka Shonibare uses Dutch wax to explore these ideas and more. Look at his sculptures, for starters. It’s easy to see how brightly-coloured geometric prints are read as ‘tribal’ in a visual shorthand for Africa (you know, because, it’s just one big homogeneous place…) but the history, symbols and meanings are so much more complex. Western eyes might see ‘Africa’ (whatever that means) but the target market fully recognises the international origins.

Slate.com has a terrific article about the tangled cultural string. Here’s a schnippet to whet your appetite:

Though European manufacturers identified the fabrics by number, West African traders often named them, and those names became widely known. One famous pattern that shows a bird cage with an open door and a little bird escaping from it is called “You fly, I fly.” It is generally worn by newlywed women, as a bit of a threat to their husbands. “The minute they are named, they are also used to communicate,” says Jessica Helbach, a Dutch curator… naming the fabrics, and using them to express certain ideas, is a way for West Africans to claim the foreign-made cloth as their own.

(Fabric is brilliant stuff, isn’t it?)

Burda Crossover Blazer finished

A quick reminder of the platonic ideal – Burda Crossover Blazer 06/2012 #121

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Burda Crossover Blazer 06/2012 #121

And thar she blows – my version in two shades of linen. I cut a size 42. I added an inch to the arm length and cut the shoulders in a bit. Oh, and bound buttonholes? Pffffft.

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Blazer in red linen with dusty pink linen cuffs and collar.

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Back view.

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Close up of the lovely linen. I reinforced the pocked edges with little bursts of satin stitch.

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All buttoned up is a little severe but will be excellent for draft-stopping as the weather gets colder.

Things I like about it

  • I may have forgiven linen for its earlier transgressions. This red stuff is lovely. I like its flop and its crumple.
  • Always glad to use up some of my Buttonmania buttons. These are splendid.
  • The lining – polished cotton that once lined a bedspread – is so soft. Heavy but cosy.
  • Extra long arms are terrific!

Things I like a little less

  • I think a few design details lose the right proportion when graded up. Perhaps it would have been better with an extra button. And compare the angle on the lapel – did it stretch as I sewed?
  • I’d curve it in at the waist more next time.
  • It’s bloody tricky to find the spot for the button second from the top!

Crossover Blazer lining

Lining’s done! I didn’t have enough of the linen so I pieced it with some neutral polished cotton that once lined a bedspread (which I turned into a dress. Double recycling!). All the bits that will show are pink.

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It’s almost handsome enough to be the outer layer!