On Handmade Clothes ~ 10.19.16

On Handmade Clothes…..

When I was 4 or 5 I learned to sew from my housekeeper, using the inadequate notions in a stocking mending card, an oddity that was common in the days when women wore stockings and garters and horrible, rubberized , metal-inforced unmentionables.  Making doll clothes and presents was my aim. The colors and textures of textiles were of incredible importance to me, and when I began to read, anything with descriptions of fabrics and styles, especially antique clothing was savored. Dimity, damask, faille, poplin, lawn, muslin, melton and  gores, bustles, stomachers, petticoats and farthingales were some of my favorite, secret words.

There was an older girl a few houses up the street, that I met not long after acquiring the rudiments of stitchery. I wasn’t allowed to leave the property, but our backyards connected with a wooden fence in between and we would sit on our respective sides, passing cloth and dolls back and forth while Helen tutored me on finer points of the art.

Later on, age 10-11, my mother let me sew on her 60′s Singer machine and I made some rather horrible attempts. However, my busy mom decided I should have couture sewing lessons and dispatched me every week to Mrs. Farrington’s Fine Sewing School.

This was the very early 70′s, so if you were there, you can recall the utterly outré, outlandish outfits! Skills for making bound buttonholes, interlining,  silk bias binding, and accomplishing pad and roll stitching, pick-stitching, and of course, basting and fitting everything properly everything was de rigeur. All for crazy garments such as a cerise velveteen maxi skirt or a mini-quilted denim pant suit, with an Italian print floral lawn blouse matching the lining. Aack!!!

Well, tastes and styles improved . Also, back then, slow fashion was just the way many people dressed. My mother knit and sewed and whatever was purchased was of the best quality, and our closets and drawers had not many, but wonderful clothes therein.

And now, while I don’t want or need highly tailored or fine clothing, I still love to make what I can, plus also knit my own sweaters and accessories, as well as naturally dye some of the fabrics and yarns I use. Since I live a rural lifestyle, clothes  have to be sturdy and comfy, but I also like to see the hand in homemade garments and enjoy using rumply linens, cottons, and fulled wools.

This latest…a simple magenta cotton tunic, from fabric I’ve had 12 years or so, cut freehand based on a cross between a kurta and an Afghani dress. There is a small embroidery detail, one that marked the piece as being mine and rustic and referring to its source of inspiration.

detail tunic

The color in real life is NOT this bright!!! It’s a much richer, deeper magenta.

It happens to work with  a scrap hat of alpaca that’s nearly done, and a shawl I made of lightweight wool, naturally dyed with cochineal and indigo from Botanical Colors.

new clothes


Even have handmade shoes, from Aurora Shoes, and a bouquet from my friend’s flower farm to finish it off!

dye bouquet

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