Tuesday, April 30, 2019

A 1970's Style Dashiki Dress

I bought the fabric for this dress a few months ago and made the dress in mid March, wanting to get in done in time for the spring equinox. While I did finish it by then, I didn't wear it for that particular occasion since it was a rather cold day and evening, so not terribly suitable for wearing a thin cotton dress. 

This gorgeous fabric was made in Kenya by a manufacturer specializing in these lovely cotton panels of fabric, which are traditionally made into shirts. I found the length at an antique mall in Cincinnati (the best finds at antique malls are often things that are not antique!) 😂 When I purchased the fabric it was boldly printed in red, black, white and gold. Once I decided I would make the material into a garment I overdyed the length in blue, to tone down the colors a bit so I could wear them. 

I did a little research on the material since I wanted to honor it by making it into something appropriate to wear. It is difficult, sometimes, when dealing with items crafted by another culture, to use those things in a way that honors their origin. I wavered between making a wrap skirt or a dress but decided on the dress as the best way to showcase this lovely material. My inspiration are the many extant late 60's/70's colorful dashiki dresses that were frequently worn by those in the counter culture of the time, embracing peace, tolerance and love and rejecting materialism, violence and inequality. While my own spiritual beliefs slightly vary from the stereotypical "hippie", I find a lot of similarities and it feels right to make and wear this kind of dress. 

Original 1970's Dashiki Dress from Etsy

Most extant dresses I have found appear to be cut in the same way, as a one or two piece design with cut on sleeves. This is a loose, flowing garment and does not require a lot of fitting or measurements to make a pattern. I actually just put my fabric on the floor, eyeballed it, and cut two pieces. These pieces were sewn together at the shoulders and the long under arm/side seam, to about mid-calf length. 

I used french seams for durability and tidiness. The neckline is bound with bias strips cut from the scraps of fabric left once the dress shapes were cut, and I made a few little eyelets along the front neck slit to lace a cotton cord through. The sleeves, utilizing the natural selvedge edge, are unhemmed and the skirt is hemmed with a narrow machine hem. I added ties made of leftover fabric at the high waist popular in the 70's, to give a little bit of shaping. 

It was a very simple project but I took my time to do each step well. There is a lot of love poured into this dress! I do not usually have a reason to make or wear a beautiful modern dress. To me, this dress is beautiful and I feel so happy when wearing it - full of joy and deep gratitude!

I do so love the sleeve shape on this dress!

I shall wear it tomorrow for May Day as we celebrate this wonderful season of planting and growing. I thank my son Malachi for taking these pictures for me last week when he and I, along with the littlest children, visited a sacred site near us to meditate and drum and just enjoy being outside in the greening world. 

My bodhran drum and I are still getting well acquainted 😂 but I am learning the deep connection that can exist between a person and a percussion instrument - so all my previous many years of bias against anything not string instrument related is quickly washing away!

Much love to you all!


Friday, April 19, 2019

New Blog!

The new blog is up, and you can find it here, at http://www.littlehouseinappalachia.blogspot.com. You know, it was very difficult thinking of a name for the new one. I remember when I started this blog, 12 years ago, Romantic History was meant to just be a placeholder name until I could think of something better. I never did change it, and now it's rather too late to do so (although I do regret now the insinuation of a romanticized, whitewashed history, when real history is absolutely anything but).

Anyway, you all are invited to follow along at the new blog if you so desire. I am actually pretty happy to have an outlet to post more about life and the photos I like to take. I have Instragram and Facebook but a picture and short caption are sometimes not very satisfactory to me. It is nice to have a place where I can expand on my Instagram and Facebook posts just a bit more, for me to look back on later.

The lovely April moon a few days ago - almost full!

Have a blessed Good Friday, as well as a happy Pink Moon. Today is drizzly and cold but we are still looking forward to going to our drum circle gathering this evening as long as the weather permits!

Much love,


Wednesday, April 17, 2019

A Shirred Maxi Dress

Ahhhh my computer is fixed! I'm so glad the guy who worked on it last time was able to work on it again. And he managed to save all my photos and documents, and sold me a lovely laptop so. ..hopefully I can blog more consistently since the task is now much, much easier. I'm thinking of starting a separate blog for non sewing related photos since I take far more of those than I do of sewing projects, so I'll hopefully get that up fairly soon! It is such a beautiful time of  year and I love seeing how everything is changing and growing. Anyway.

I forgot all about this dress I made last summer until I pulled it out at the beginning of the month, in a slightly late, slightly frantic attempt to find something somewhat normal looking to wear to my brothers wedding. While I ended up not wearing this dress, pulling it out and trying it on reminded me that I had not blogged about it, even though I did take pictures of it and fully planned to!

This dress came about because of three lengths of floppy, light, stretchy knit fabric I got at Wal Mart last year. The first bit I used for a black t shirt (and it wasn't great for a fitted t shirt) and the second pink bit I used for part of a fairy skirt I made Anne to give a friend for her birthday. The third length was this tan knit fabric, which I thought was a lovely neutral color but has the unfortunate tendency to appear flesh colored. I remember thinking I ought to dye this dress but I never got around to doing so. Maybe I will, so I can wear it more confidently this year!

Since the fabric was really bad for fitted things or things with many seams I decided this could only be a successful dress if it was cut all in one length. Therefore, the basic dress is just a tube, hemmed top and bottom, and the straps are also tubes just sewn onto the tube dress. To create a little shaping I decided to shirr the bodice area by using elastic thread in my bobbin and regular thread on top. While it worked out okay, I regret doing each row separately as the elastic thread wants to pull away from where it is sewn together at the center back seam. A spiral sewing pattern of one continuous seam from top to bottom of bodice would have worked out better. So, lesson for next time!😁

I finished this dress right before 4-H fair and wore it there - it was nice and cool during a pretty hot, humid time of summer. 

And now it's April and already getting warm and even slightly humid - huzzah! Time to pull out this dress more frequently and wear it often!

Much love,

Friday, April 5, 2019

Rosie's Purple Luna Moth Wings

It's a rainy Friday and last night I was up late pruning my two peach trees - last year I failed to prune them and the fruit was small and not good quality, and the trees really became overgrown and gangly looking. I feel  bad cutting off so many budding branches but, as Rosie cheerfully told me, "It's just like a haircut, Mommy!" True, true. It is.

Since I can't do outdoor work today I am going to post about these wings. My computer has been giving me trouble recently so I need to do it while I can! (It's overdue to be replaced - this computer is many years old and just can't handle a lot of the newer software the kids like and want!)

I took these pictures last week at one of our favorite places. The creek flows into a nearby lake and is generally always quite shallow, with the prettiest rocks and little waterfalls and, in the summer, minnows that swarm and flash like silver. This time of year the valley is still flooded with sunlight since the trees are not yet in leaf but it is warm enough to enjoy being outside without a lot of layers and to wade in the still-very-cold water.

Rose chose this kind of wild purple cotton fabric for her wings. This fabric is pretty special to me since I recently bought it, along with a few other similar lengths, at one of the first little antique and quilting shops I visited after moving here. Sadly, one of the owners passed away almost two years ago so since then, her husband has kept the store open only select days to sell off the inventory and the historic building is for sale. I never know if the store will be open when I go down to that little town so I snatched up as many pretty fabrics and craft supplies as I could last time I was there. It may well be the last time I go before the place passes to new owners.

The fabric was folded up on a back cabinet that I had never looked through before and I got an entire 5 yard length for $2. It is heavy cotton and and quite stiff so was a great choice for Rosie's wings.

As with the wings I made my niece, I used fusible foam instead of batting and only one layer of interfacing. To make the wings stand out nicely I cut two layers of the back wings and sewed two channels on each side to slip in lengths of zip ties cut to fit. The zip ties worked PERFECTLY to stiffen the wings and I will definitely use this method for future wings! Another plus about zip ties is that they can washed and dried without harming them.

The wings are very lightweight, too. I did go with the size small again, since the pattern piece for size medium was just so much larger and Rose is, after all, still quite little.

When Rose wears these she pretends she is a variety of things: a fairy (obviously! 😂), a butterfly, a princess, a bird, a bee, a pterodactyl and, randomly, a vampire bat. 😕

At any rate, these were lovely to see her wear and play in when we were out in the woods - dress up and imaginative play is so great for little ones!

Much love,

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

A Hooded Plaid Flannel Shirt

This year I made some personal resolutions. Well, not exactly resolutions, but goals. Resolution sounds like a very cut and dry sort of thing, which you must do, or don't do at all. Goals are more flexible, right? Giving you space to develop and grow and something to work towards. Goals are about the journey; a resolution is about the destination.

Anyway, one of my personal goals was to do something for me, apart from the children. I LOVE being with my children but. . . I don't want to say I "need" personal time (sewing is fun but they're still around!) but well, I'm starting to accept that I DO need that. At least, for my mental well being. 

Our task here was cutting out honeysuckle, which is an invasive species that greatly
inhibits the growth of native plants and consequently decreases the habitat of animal and insects.
I am so, so lucky to live in an area of the country where we have one of the best preserved forest areas. For the past few years I have spent a ton of time in the woods and nature preserves and parks that this area has in abundance. I've come to know more about this land and the history behind it and the cultures that called this area home. I am humbled to walk on this same earth. The natural beauty here is unequaled. I have found much healing and much joy seeing this place slip through the cycle of seasons, each one as beautiful as the last. I feel rested, comforted, rejuvenated and strong. I have so enjoyed these little gems of forests here and so, I was thrilled to discover an opportunity for me to give back, in a tiny way. 

The Arc of Appalachia is a local organization that cares for several nature sites, including stewardship of some of the Hopewell and Adena mounds and earthworks. They have many volunteer opportunities and I was delighted to be able to spend some time recently doing land stewardship training. It is exactly what I need to do - oh, yes, so much so! Being able to go out into the woods and care for the earth in a very physical way is healing to the land as well as spiritually nourishing to me. While it is possible and likely I will take at least a few of my children with me in the future (I know my son Malachi would love helping out!) I greatly enjoyed my one-on-one time with the land as well as interacting with the others in my group.  

Anyway, that is why I made this shirt. 😂 I have a long grey sweater that I bought when I was pregnant with Rose that I still wear almost all the time in colder months. However, it is not suitable for the woods as the branches catch on it and I've had to repair more than a few pulls.  

I got this heavy blue plaid flannel early this year or late last year at Wal Mart. It was heavy and thick and a lovely color so I got it, not knowing exactly what I would make from it. Then I purchased the Lisel & Co classic shirt pattern and decided my blue flannel would be shirt. I didn't get around to it for a while then I signed up for a guided hike and kind of planned to make my shirt before the hike. The hike ended up being cancelled due to the weather so, the shirt still didn't get made!

Finally, the day before land stewardship training I pulled out my pattern and my fabric and decided to see if I could get it made in a day. Thanks to my sewing machine and my serger I did! 

I cut the size according to my measurements but was a little dismayed to see how large the shirt was when I got it done enough to try on for a mid-project fitting. There was just a bit too much ease for my liking! I decided to modify it a little to make it into a hooded overshirt or jacket and I am really glad I did this. It fits nicely over my clothes and is comfortable and sturdy to work in. 

I omitted the collar on the shirt and instead added a hood made from a double layer of grey ribbing. I used the hood pattern from the Scroop Otari hoodie for this. I also shortened the shirt (it was nearly to my knees!) and hemmed it without a shaped hem. I thought about adding a band to the bottom but decided not to; again, I am glad that I chose this. I like it exactly how it is!

I didn't feel like doing a lot of buttonholes so I used some snaps I've had forever and applied those last. I did, however, use buttons/buttonholes on the sleeve cuffs.

I really loved the instructions in this pattern. They were super clear and made the construction very neat and clean and quick. I had never done a mid sleeve placket before so I enjoyed trying out that method on these sleeves. Otherwise, the construction was really similar to the 1860's mens shirts that I have made in the past with a double layer back yoke, set in sleeves and curved side seams for a nice fit. 

Yes, it's wrinkly since I took photos of it after wearing it!
One other awesome thing about this pattern is that it comes in different cup sizes. It was so, so nice to make a shirt that does not strain across the bust while fitting everywhere else, or fitting the bust and being too large everywhere else (although, yes, the entire shirt is just a bit big! I'm going down two sizes for my next one). The cup size is achieved through different shirt fronts which you can print from the layer option in adobe reader, and a dart on each side of the bust creates the nice shaping, which is then covered up (mostly) by the pockets. 

All in all, it is a great pattern! I love my shirt and look forward to making some lighter weight versions for summer! But even more so, I look forward to wearing my blue shirt a lot more when going out to work in the woods. 

Much love,