I am catching up with posting about my summer makes & I have two special dresses to blog about & have finally done the photos…but I struggled to chose which one to post about today. So I shall go for the one I made earliest!
McCalls 4007 from the 1990 s. A vintage pattern, surely? One for my vintage pattern pledge. With this pattern you can make a combination of outfits from a wrap dress with different sleeve lengths, converting to a top with elastic waisted trousers. It’s got more than a hint of the east about it.
I’ve had this pattern for years. I bought it new in the 1990s it must have been. I’ve said before how I’ve got a fondness for eastern styling, hence why this patten appealed to me. But all I had ever made from it were the elastic waisted trousers as pj bottoms. But it was always the sleeveless knee length dress that appealed to me. Why I hadn’t got round to making it is anyone’s guess, but for some reason I had lovingly gazed at it, lovingly identified pattern pieces for the dress, but done nothing more except cut the pattern pieces to my size.
It was to become yet another component of my summer sewing bender, fuelled by a spontaneous urge to make something new for the By Hand kick starter thank you party. I also knew, deep down, that some fabric that had also resided in my stash a fair few years was also part of this spontaneous sew- Fest.
My friend’s mother in law had given her loads of her old saris, so many that my friend had asked me to take some for myself to make use of. I’d used them so far as special linings for work skirts, reserving the shocking pink and gold sari though as I had always imagined it in dress form. This sari is silk, AND this sari is pre-loved, vintage if you like and has its own story.
Much like Dawn O’Porter is encouraging vintage virgins to embrace the history buying vintage brings by refashioning and altering clothes that used to belong to participants’ grandmothers, aunts, mothers.
I was also feeling the history this sari brought me. I had met its owner on a few occasions and she was a big family energy, happiest cooking up huge Spicy Indian feasts for feeding people brought together to celebrate significant events. This sari would have seen similar action I felt: it shows wear marks where some of the fabric is thinned and the odd marks on it too, like pen perhaps.
I wonder how many birianis it’s already seen. This fabric needs looking after: in some places the interfacing shows through the thinning fabric. It is gentle and this type of wrap style dress showcases the beauty of it without forcing it into shapes that will strain the fabric and put it under a stress that it couldn’t cope with.
Although I have used parts of other saris, I’ve never made anything as long as a dress and it was interesting to discover the design of the sari’s pattern along the length of the fabric with one highly decorated fringed and golden horizontal edge – the end that would be on display when worn over the shoulder. In between this end and the other, less embellished edge, there is a pattern of woven golden suns/ dots , but interestingly the density of the rows, the distance they have between them, gets wider and wider the further you travel from the highly embellished edge. You can see in the pic below, but I didn’t think to take a picture of the fabric before cutting it up. What a der brain.
So the fabric is special, and had meaning, I think I’ve established that. I’ve also shown that the choice of dress pattern whilst being eastern in styling, also suited the fabric’s fragility. What was the sewing like? Well, it all came together very quickly. The dress is made up of a single back piece and two fronts. The front neck edge is on the bias and needs stay stitching – but that’s about the extent of the challenge. It has an interfaced collar to which the waist ties are attached. The armholes are also faced with self bias, which works so well for a delicate fabric such as this.
I used French seams throughout.
But managed to leave the gap in the side seam for threading the belt tie through. I wasn’t sure if that would work, but with some care, it is possible to locate the gap then poke the tie through it without bringing too many raw threads to the outside world….
I managed to sew it in a couple of hours, mostly in one evening with just a bit of handsewing the next morning.
It’s a gorgeous dress to sew and I really like the style to wear- straight down and cool and cute for summer. I like the idea of wearing it with flip flops, it’s one of those classic summer dresses that doesn’t matter which decade it was sold in.
I particularly love that it is the perfect style for this very special fabric. The dress showcased the gold spotted cerise sari in its simplicity. A true gem. It is a precious dress – I even hand washed it (gasp!) Unheard of for me who has a washing machine with a handwash programme …
Has anyone else sewn this pattern? I’m intrigued. Let’s look at it again.
From the pattern pictures it looks as if you can achieve a boxy look by not tying the tie completely around your waist, but that would look total pants on me. I also LOVE the longer black version. Doesn’t it look the height of elegance?