October 2011 Archives

A Summer Dress for Autumn


Since October is almost over and winter will be upon us before it's remotely reasonable to expect it, I thought it was about time I blogged about a sewing project I completed in late spring, before the France trip, and which has been in heavy rotation all summer.

striped dress

This is a Vintage Vogue design (2414), a reissue of a pattern that originally came out in 1950. As you can see from the pattern illustration below, there are quite a few features I didn't get around to adding to my dress before we left on our trip: in particular, the cool two-level self-covered belt, and the lovely little bolero. This is one reason it's taken me so long to blog about this project: I kept thinking I was going to finish up these missing pieces, especially since I do have them already cut out and waiting to be sewn. But you know how it goes: after I got back from the trip, newer and shinier projects beckoned. At this point, I'm thinking that throwing the missing pieces together come next spring will be a great way to refresh this dress for another season.

pattern cover

Still, it's perfectly wearable just as it is. I wanted to sew something that encapsulated my idea of the Norman seaside, and this linen/cotton blend in black and white stripes was, I thought, just the ticket. I wanted to evoke a turn-of-the-century, Proustian world of young girls in the Old World frolicking by the seashore, without looking like I was wearing a costume.

striped dress

Then I received the red Fluevog Ileanas I'm wearing in these photos, and I added a few more modern red details to tie the whole outfit together. When I eventually make up the belt it will be in a very cute, very modern print with a vivid red background, which in turn will pick up the red of these great buttons:


As far as construction, I'm understandably a little hazy on the details this long after the fact. I do remember that the pattern was lots of fun to put together, and I would definitely make it again. The bodice is boned and lined; the directions call for self-lining but I did mine in a plain white broadcloth so as to avoid shadow stripes showing through the right side of the garment. The skirt has an extra panel that wraps around in front and attaches with a hook and eye so that the dress stays put even though the buttons end halfway down the skirt. I added a tiny amount of ease to the top of the dress at the side seams, but I think if I make it again I'll take that addition back out; after a full day of wear it gets ever-so-slightly gappy, although because I included the optional straps, it's not that big a deal. Overall, it fits great and is very easy and comfortable to wear; I love the slightly high waist, and the faux pleat caused by the combination of the wrap skirt and the buttons that end mid-thigh. The asymmetrical pocket is another favorite detail:


Of course, as fate would have it the two days we spent in Normandy were some of the only rain we saw during our whole three weeks in France, so I spent that time in my jeans and raincoat instead of sporting strappy sundresses. Still, I was very satisfied with the overall execution as compared to initial concept. Instead of photos from Cabourg, I'll just have to make do with shots from the little park next to the Bomber Restaurant, where we took the photos for the Saint-Exupéry Hat.

striped dress

Introducing the Saint-Exupéry Hat


Everyone! I am scandalously late getting a blog post together for this, but I have a new pattern up, and it comes with a special deal (for about another week). Introducing the Saint-Exupéry Hat, a design I worked up in collaboration with Sundara, of Sundara Yarn. And for the rest of this month, anyone who buys the pattern ($4.50) will automatically get a coupon for 10% off a skein of Aran Silky Merino: enough to make the pattern!


This is a little design that leapt to mind after my recent trip to France, and in particular the portion of our trip we spent in Toulouse, adoptive home town of Le petit prince author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. In addition to possessing a truly heart-wrenching knack for childrens' fiction (seriously, I still cannot read the part about taming the fox without tearing up), Saint-Exupéry was an aviation pioneer, and wrote his second-most-famous novella, Vol de nuit, about piloting night airmail planes in late 1920s Argentina. Toulouse is proud of its (adoptive) native son, and there are murals (like the one below), statues, and plaques commemorating the time he spent there. Knowing I was a big fan of Le petit prince, our friend and awesome hostess Marie Christine took us on a tour of relevant sites in the short breaks between feeding us amazing food and escorting us to book and tea shops. Tough trip, I tell you. Edit: I'm reminded that Saint-Exupéry was originally from Lyon, not Toulouse, but traveled to Toulouse to work for the Aéropostale. Thanks, MC!


Anyway, when Sundara got in touch with me about the possibility of designing something out of her gorgeous Aran Silky Merino yarn, this hat design emerged. It's a tribute to old-school aviator caps of the 1920's and 30's, complete with fitted "darts" at the back of the head mirroring the seams you might find in the leather versions of these hats, and an optional chinstrap to prevent the thing flying off your head in an open cockpit. I find this also comes in useful when crossing the bridge on my way to work some windy autumn mornings.


When initially brainstorming about color options, I envisioned something a little bit darker than the Porcini Mushroom shade Sundara eventually came up with, but I ended up loving it: it evokes well-worn, faded leather and is light enough to show off the textural and shaping elements that make this pattern interesting. Better yet, my test knitters and I were all able to squeeze a hat out of a single skein of ASM.


Saint-Exupéry is worked from the top down, in a compact "close stitch" pattern that varies garter stitch just enough to create a subtle vertical stripe. The crown is increased and the body of the hat are worked in the round, with the back flap being worked back-and-forth and the whole edge of the piece finished in i-cord. Full design details are on the pattern page, but my favorite parts? The satisfying v's of decreases at the back of the head, the retro silhouette, and the smooshy, dense and pretty ASM fabric. I hope you enjoy the pattern, and the limited-time discount!