19 August 2014

Sewing for Tweens: Ghastlie party dress

Lately, I find myself looking at my children and wondering where my babies went. The feeling is especially true for my eldest daughter. She turns nine in a few months, but strangers often mistake her for being a couple of years older. She's tall for her age, and has a maturity about her that I guess comes from being the eldest child. Even so, she's still a young girl who will happily wear clothes that I make for her and it makes my heart glad because I know that this may not always be the case. The challenge will be as she gets older to find the balance between what is age-appropriate versus what she will actually want to wear.

It has often been remarked upon that while there are so many girls' clothing stores, there seems to be not as many age-appropriate clothing options for girls in the 9-13 year old age bracket. My sisters also take a more conservative approach to dressing their daughters which has been such a blessing because the clothes are invariably passed down to us.

Still, it is always nice to have something new every now and then and so it was that I embarked on this sewing project for Sienna last weekend. She selected the fabrics and I looked online for some tween dress inspiration. This polka dot dress with a bit of a rock-n-roll flavour popped up. I was immediately interested in the shape of it and showed it to Sienna, who also really liked it, so that formed the basis for her latest dress.
The fabrics are a black and white stylized print that looks like a Maori koru motif and a slightly subversive Alexander Henry print from the Ghastlies collection. The Ghastlie family have been around for several years and this piece of fabric is from the 2011 series. It had been in my stash for quite a while just biding time until a suitable project came along. I think as my daughters get older, these kinds of prints will become even more popular with them. Some of the facial features are quite menacing especially to younger children like Aimee, who doesn't like the fabric at all but to an older child, the fact that it is slightly spooky and off-beat is part of the appeal. This will be the perfect Halloween party dress.

When we looked at the polka dot dress, the two aspects that appealed to me most were the use of piping and the pockets. I think that by incorporating both of these factors in my version they help to balance out the quite dark mood of the print and keep the dress playful and fresh.
I headed to the blog expecting a detailed tutorial, but found that the instructions assume that the reader has some knowledge of dress construction which meant that I had to rely on what I remembered about making a lined bodice several years ago. I basically resorted to fumbling my way through all the steps, which is fine if you have the time and patience, but I really wanted to whip it up quickly. This is not one of those dresses. There's maths involved, people. There's understitching and adding a zip to a lined bodice, plus handmade piping on this baby, so there are more steps than a Rocky Balboa movie.
Maybe someone has made a dress exactly like this with a free pattern and accompanying tutorial out there somewhere in blogland and I suffered unnecessarily? Anyway, the pain of constructing this dress is really worth it, I think.

Often when I sew without a pattern, there is a lot of unpicking as I am terrible at calculating and pattern drafting in general and I just wing things. I found it to be true for this dress, as I made the bodice too small (I forgot to add seam allowances for the zip - oh, and for the whole bodice) so it's a snug fit. All it means is that Sienna will likely only get a season's wear from it, but that's why I have two other daughters, right? So they can capitalize on their mother's sewing mistakes. I imagined the dress to have a nice, full skirt like the one in the inspiration photo but realized quite late in the process that I had nowhere near enough fabric to make a circle skirt or any kind of full skirt. In the end, I had to settle for one much straighter than I would have liked.
Such a shame because a flared skirt really would have won it for me. With one change in the "plan" (the one that is written in my head), it follows that more allowances needed to be made elsewhere. The hemline was originally going to hit around knee-length, but the straighter style meant that it needed to be shorter to give greater ease of movement. I can't see Sienna doing cartwheels in it, but at least she will be able to run more freely with the hemline at a shorter length.

Are you sick of all the photos yet? Can you tell I am proud of the dress? And of my daughter, but that goes without saying.
Just one more image of how Sienna decided to accessorize the outfit. Love it. Love her. Do you think that I will need to make some new leggings for her?
If you have reached the end of this blog post, well done, now you feel how I did when I finished making the dress. Slightly ragged and a little more aged but pleased to get there in the end. Now go forth and make something. I'll see you over at Leonie's for Show and Tell on Thursday.

15 August 2014

My fears (or one of them) laid bare

Having grown up on a farm, I like to think I was raised to live harmoniously with all kinds of creatures but I have never quite been able to overcome my fear of anything with more than four legs. We're pretty lucky in this country that we have very few venomous creatures - and two of our three dangerous spiders hitched a ride over here from our sharing, caring neighbour, Australia.  We have the native katipo, redback and the whitetail spiders, which are all relatively small spiders on the size scale of scariness. So, my rationale is that because they have no other effective means of protection to repel predators, some of our native creepy crawlies are so ugly and grow to insane sizes just to freak us all out instead. Huhu beetles? Wetas? I wet my pants - I mean, I rest my case. Imagine how I'd go in Australia with all its poisonous snakes and spiders and Tony Abbott.

Then I read this week about the discovery of a tunnel web spider that was reportedly as large as a man's hand. I initially dismissed it as being just one more valid reason to avoid the Wairarapa (jokes, I love the 'Rapa), when I read further that this spider lives happily in the ground NATIONWIDE.
They say it is harmless, but I'd quietly disagree. Look at the size of it, that thing'll gnaw your face off. It's very weird though, even though I feel so repulsed by these kinds of creatures, they also intrigue me. In the interests of research, I googled this spider and learned that it is related to tarantulas and the deadly Australian funnel-web spider, so it's got some fairly decent genes.

I felt certain that I would have nightmares about one of those things finding its way into my bedroom as I have this recurring nightmare where a spider is slowly lowering itself from the ceiling on its thread and I wake up just before it drops onto my face and I do this awesome spider-evading ninja move with my whole entire body that wakes my husband up. It feels so real to me that I have to get him to turn on the light to check if there is something on the bed. I am officially a nut-case.

I haven't had a nightmare this week, but reading the article transported me back to the time when a little friend came to visit and decided to play hide and seek in my bra while I was in the shower. Funny game, weta. So funny.
When I felt it against my skin, that bra came undone quicker than a politician's promise. This all happened four years ago. I'm not traumatized by the experience at all.
I took some photos to prove to my husband that I was actually attacked by a weta the size of one of Saturn's moons and had to wrestle it to the ground before I: A) dealt to it with one of his shoes and staked it to my front door as a warning to all its spiky-legged relatives or B) calmly released it back into the bush depending on whether or not you are a Department of Conservation employee. Or you are this guy:
Have yourselves a happy spider-less and weird bugs-as-accessories people-free weekend, Moonies.