Time was, when we lived in Kochi, I wore sarees every day. I don’t remember how I arrived at that denouement, but I did. Perhaps it helped that I didn’t go anywhere (or rather didn’t go into the city very much). All my cotton sarees got a proper airing.
Then we moved to Mumbai and for various reasons (including a midlife crisis and the culture shock of moving to a metropolis) I switched back to wearing trousers and tops or kurtas.
Most recently in my sartorial journey, I’ve moved (shifted!) to dresses. I find they’re so comfortable, easy to get on and suitable for every occasion (unless you make the mistake of choosing fitted ones and then proceed to get highly self-conscious every single time you wear them in public).
Cotton dresses are the best!
After sewing for a couple of years now, and having failed in my previous couple of attempts to sew myself a kurti/nighty/etc., I did the unthinkable.
I fell in love with a particular style of dress that I bought online, and it doesn’t really have a shape as such, though it is styled. So I decided to make one for myself.
Last Saturday, while my daughter was at a paper weaving workshop (we do a lot of workshops, my daughter and I, together and separately) at Bombay Paperie, I went fabric shopping. Which is my favourite kind of shopping nowadays. I hit up Crawford Market (actually Mangaldas Market on the opposite side, to be technically accurate). Browsing through, I saw this cotton block print in beige with black and red, and quite as an afterthought, I saw this slubby, textured fabric, which the shopkeeper told me was khadi cotton. Now, that part I’m not convinced about, but it was beige!
Give me grey, beige, black, white and brown, and I’m a very happy bunny. I don’t know why, but I love my neutrals. So naturally I got the slub fabric, too. Without a conscious plan, mind.
Can you look at that lovely texture and not fall in love???
All week I chafe against work and responsibility, but when the weekend comes, I end up not being able to settle down to any projects, which makes me feel discouraged, which makes it even less likely that I will be able to choose anything to make!
Finally on Sunday I decided to gird my loins and get down to try that dress. Nothing ventured, etc.
So I used the original dress itself to draw out the pattern directly on my fabrics, with a seam allowance. Then I screwed up my courage even further, and drew out the top yoke and bottom hem (with facings). I had forgotten to account for a contrast yoke, so I cut those extra inches out later from the body pieces.
I do have some real patterns saved and maybe even one or two templates cut out, but this was the first time I got as far as cutting out an actual dress in acceptable (to me) fabric. Choosing such an easy shape was a good decision.
Then the sewing.
It helps that I’ve tried so many different kinds of things over the past couple of years, so I could try ways to make the dress as “professional” looking as I could.
I definitely wanted pockets, and these have French seams, which happen to be one of my favourite ways of finishing nowadays, so I began with them. Turned out nicely too, except maybe I should have figured out how to attached them to the dress body before declaring them finished.
Then I turned to the bottom contrast hems, and with the almost straight hems, the burrito method of attaching was a cakewalk. No visible seams! Finished off with a topstitch, naturally.
Having used the burrito method for the bottom, I decided to use it for the yoke as well. Since the yoke pieces were in two halves rather than a single piece like the bottom, I first attached the body to the yoke bottoms, then rolled up the burrito and seamed the tops together.
Once turned out, the tops of the body had a finished look. These I then seamed together and sewed down to minimise the bulk. Doing the yoke this way also means I am less afraid of the slub fabric fraying. The edges are nicely enclosed.
The only thing left to do was sew up the body. This meant I had to put in the pockets and then I realised the pockets I’d finished had to be reworked somewhat in order for me to be able to attach them in the seams.
This was by far the most complicated part of the whole project. I had recourse to my seam ripper, and I had to figure out how to achieve neat and strong seams.
I managed, and learnt a few things. Totally worth it, because I love pockets! (Which does not mean that I might not decide to use patch pockets next time.) I also realised I missed the small pleat the original dress has in the top back, but it still seems to flow OK.
So there you are. My smile says it all, doesn’t it?
So much accidental harmony. Perhaps that’s the best kind. Because I do know that I tend to become anxious when I do anything that is planned in advance. I’m also proud I managed the seam allowances well enough, that my inside finishing is also not anything to be ashamed of. Plus pockets!! And cotton comfort!! And neutrals!!
Should I try the same basic shape for my next one, in brighter colours, maybe, or try something more challenging? I don’t do well with challenge.
Watch this space.