last gasp


I want to thank you all, so much, for your kind words on my last fabric post! I'm having such a wonderful time experimenting with dyes and seeing where I can push them and how I might make them my own, and it's been such a joy getting to share that process with you! And you've certainly given me a ton to think about in terms of where all this fabric dyeing might lead...


I also have to acknowledge all the crazy good suggestions you guys had for what this fabric should become! You guys seriously have amazing vision, and I wish I could have taken every. single. one of your suggestions (wouldn't that have been an awesome post!?) 

But, as you can see, I ended up sticking to the original plan and making an Anna.  One of the main reasons for this being that Heather Lou sent me this pattern as part of our hand-dyed-silk-maxi-dress-love-fest earlier this summer, and it just seemed to complete the karmic circle of good-feelings too perfectly to use this pattern with this fabric. And if there is one thing I believe in, it's karmic circles. And silk. Yes, I am a fervent member of the Church of Karma & Silk... any other believers out there?


I also really wanted to make my Anna before our weather turned too cold for me to enjoy it, because if ever there was a pattern for Summer 2013, I believe it is the Anna.  This pattern just feels so very now (yes, I realize that for most of you in the northern hemi summer is already a distant memory, clouded over by wafts of pumpkin spice everything, but in my little corner of the world I'm still enjoying the last few gasps of warmish temps before fall finally decides to settle on us). When I was in NYC I had the wonderful privilege of getting to eyeball not one, not two, but five Anna's in the course of three days! That, my friends, is an excellent example of a pattern going viral.  And, yeah, I wanted in. So consider this my late entry onto the Anna train.

And, boyohboyohboy am I glad I boarded that train! I was actually nervous about this dress - if you can believe it.  I worried that the tummy-hugging silhouette wouldn't be particularly flattering on me, since I generally try to drape myself in volume around those middle parts. I actually made two muslins of the bodice before I cut into my silk, something I haven't done in quite awhile.  I couldn't quite make my mind up between two sizes - a US6 or a US8.  Both, technically, fit. And looked fine. But the 6... well... it left no one in doubt about where I store my chicken and waffles ifyaknowwhati'msayin... So I went with the 8, and I'm very pleased that I did.  I think the dress is still miraculously flattering and feminine and sexy while still allowing me to breathe and, ya know, have organs. 


So let's talk about some of the nitty-gritty, shall we? One of the benefits of being the last person in the blogosphere to make a pattern is that you get to learn from everyone else's experience.  So even before I made my muslins I was aware that this pattern had some issues with gaping at the back neck, and I was able to use Ginger's clever little adjustment to take out excess fabric there (though the back neck still gapes a bit if I stand up 'yoga-straight'...) I also took Oona's advice and skipped the pattern facings and instead used a bias strip facing to finish the neckline.  I had also heard everyone bemoan the miles of french seams and hand finishing that this dress called for. I heard it. And I chose to ignore it. Instead I serged my edges (I know... such a rebel) and....!!! Get this... I topstitched my thigh-split! Say What?!?! It's true. And before you all come at me with pitchforks and buckets of tar, lemme just say: It. Works. Fine. I would especially recommend this if you are making your Anna out of a solid colored fabric. Total time saver. Perhaps not the invisible finish some might desire, but dudes, I finished this dress in a day. 

Cue the horrible construction shots in heinous indoor lighting... 


The one area where I did go a bit overboard on was the zipper.  I hate the feel of zipper tape against my skin, so I debated drafting a facing for the back opening, but I felt like that would really only work neatly if I included all the facings, and I had already decided to go the bias route. So instead I cut strips of my silk and bound the zipper tape in those before I inserted it into the dress. Now, no scratchy zipper tape ruining the delicious feeling of all that silk against my skin! As for my invisible zipper experience as a whole? I have no complaints. Inserting zippers into super lightweight fabrics like this silk is always a bit funky. But I interfaced the seam allowances around the zipper and it went in like a charm, and, I think, looks just about as neat and clean as can be expected.


Nick took these pictures for me, which is always a bit of an adventure.  I usually end up with some absolutely stunning shots, and then I get some funny ones like the shot above. I can only assume he was getting bored with my posing and preening and the distraction of a really big boat was just too tempting! (P.S. Thank you, Nick! You're such a good sport! I love you!) 

Well, since finishing this dress I've already worn it to two events and plan to wear it to another this week. It's actually pretty amazing how this dress can go super fancy or more daytime-casual with just the slightest change of shoes and accessories. Love it! But now I think it's time for me to focus on some fall weather sewing... sigh. It's time. Goodbye summer!





Can we just talk about this dye-job for a minute? I decided this fabric was so special that it deserves it's own dedicated post before I start hacking into it.  (Ouch. It hurts my heart just thinking about that!)


This is just a smidgen over four yards of a light weight silk crepe de chine, dyed up in a pretty, autumnal palette of navy, dusty rose and gold (it may not feel like autumn here, but that doesn't mean I can't sneak some fall colors into my palette!)  Perhaps some of you spotted this post by the ever glorious Heather Lou? If you haven't, I highly suggest you give it a read, as it tells the beautiful story of two friends and ten yards of silk (shouldn't all great love stories begin and end with a crap-ton of silk??) 

Anyway - the short-short version goes something like this - Heather sent me ten yards of silk, half of which I dyed for her and shipped off to Canada (like a mother bird sending her young fledglings out of the nest: a bit teary, but bursting with pride) and the other half I kept for myself.  You see, I work for silk. Heather then commenced to make the most breathtaking dress ever imaginable with said silk, and I sat on my half, hemming-and-hawing as I am wont to do.


So what does this silk have to do with Heather's silk? Well. Everything is a learning process with me. See, while I was working on Heather's silk (the interior dialogue of which sounded something like this: "Expletives expletives expletives.... omigod no.... cursing cursing cursing... I've f*cked it up!!! Okay... wait... maybe if I... alright... okay... that's better... yeah... okay... this might not be so bad... OMIGOD I LOVE THIS!!") I discovered through sheer accident that when you mix sodium alginate (used to thicken dyes to a more 'paint-like' consistency and reduce the 'bleed' effect) with your dyes that it also acts as a very subtle resist - meaning other dyes will not run right into it and muck up the color.  You can, of course, buy commercial resists, or use a wax resist (typical in batik fabrics) but I was interested in the fact that this would allow me to still do a one step dye job - no washing between layers - and, best of all, I already had all the necessary components!


So I brewed up the idea of painting a floral(ish) motif and then painting by hand the negative space around it - allowing the thickened dyes (pink and yellow) to act as a resist, and thereby also preserving some of the white of my fabric.  In this way I was able to create the effect of a lighter design on top of a darker background color.  

But, still, it's always trial and error with my dyeing experiments! I thickened the pink dye more than the yellow, so there is some bleeding happening along the edges of the design. I actually don't mind this at all - I think it's a really lovely element to this fabric, but still, unplanned. Also, since the dark blue color was literally painted in by hand (with a much too small brush, might I add! I might need to remedy that soon...) it takes on a slightly mottled appearance - again, just a little quirk of the handmade!


It's actually quite funny to see these fabrics in real life, because my hand changes as I work down the yardage - becoming more relaxed and maybe trying out a few different design ideas.  In the beginning I'm always over-thinking and over-working it! You can see this in the image above: on the right, you have what looks, to me, like a hydrangea cluster, and on the left you can see what it slowly morphed into... perhaps something one might see underneath a microscope?


You can tell I love this silk very very much, because when I'm in love with a fabric I go all Pre-Raphaelite up in this shit! 

Now... the real question is - what to do with it? I had my heart set on an Anna, but after swanning about with it draped all over me I'm beginning to lose my resolve... Is this begging to be turned into something else? Does anyone else see this silk and immediately think it must be turned into a certain pattern? Or am I just, once again, over-thinking this? Inquiring minds want to know...