A Fine Romance

oonaballoona | by marcy harriell | A Fine Romance | simplicity 1099 + 2180

Amongst the many things I wish for us, as a people, floating around on this little blue planet: I wish for us all to have a little romance.

oonaballoona | by marcy harriell | A Fine Romance | simplicity 1099 + 2180

A little Frank Sinatra singing Jobim. A well mixed cocktail (or a tall cool seltzer, if that's not your thing). Probably flowers. And dancing. Always dancing.

oonaballoona | by marcy harriell | A Fine Romance | simplicity 1099 + 2180

I'm not just talking about romantic gestures, though. I think romance means caring for someone, and caring for something. Caring for everything. Caring about how you go about life. Your actions. Your implications. Caring about what you create. The details. The process.

I tried to stop myself from making romance, from creating dress after dress with no specific event to don it for, and then I decided it was boring.  Maybe even verging on aromanticism. (Have you heard about this movement? I learned about it last weekend, amongst ALL THE OTHER THINGS THAT HAPPENED LAST WEEKEND. In general, I do not care for last weekend.) (eta: I did not mean to reference aromantic as an identifier; though I absolutely see how it was taken that way, as I used the word aromantic and not aromanticism! Apologies--Aromanticism is the title of statement album I heard over the weekend, and is the word I should have used, and has been corrected. Thanks very much to the commenters who brought this to light.)

But this dress! I care for this dress very much. I have nowhere to go in it, yet, but I made it as if we'd be renewing our vows in it (now there's romance).

The fabric is a sumptuous barkcloth (yes, I used sumptuous and barkcloth together, and I'd do it again) from The Confident Stitch, who quite warmly reached out to me to offer this collaboration. I am always delighted to be enabled to make a dress for no reason other than that I want the romance of it; to make something beautiful. You know how I feel about beauty.

oonaballoona | by marcy harriell | A Fine Romance | simplicity 1099 + 2180

For the design, I chose to marry two Simplicity patterns: 1099 for the skirt, and 2180 for the bodice (which I believe is out of print). I've made, and abandoned, the bodice of 2180 before. Something about the look of it was off to me. I think I might have yelped out loud when I realized all I had to do to fix my squinky eye was omit the neckband. Although this meant I'd be rudderless when I reached that back closure (which is supposed to close with a tie stemming from said neckband), I went ahead and sewed on my merry way. As usual, I decided I'd forge ahead and figure it out when I got there.

That was a bit easier said than done-- I hemmed and hawed for several days over buttons, and loops, and even brooches, until I settled on a small length of elastic and a bow to save the day. The elastic is encased in the triangle points of the back bodice, and that wee bow is securely tacked to the center of the elastic. It solved the problem of getting in and out of the dress, but it does make this an over-the-head-only situation. Which is just fine, as it means Rob has to help me out of it, furthering the cause for romance. WHY SLIP OUT OF SOMETHING SOLO WHEN SOMEONE CAN HELP YOU TAKE IT OFF, MAN.

oonaballoona | by marcy harriell | A Fine Romance | simplicity 1099 + 2180

The waistband of the skirt is faced, catching just the front bodice. I went handsewing everywhere, and could really do another post on the details of this baby. Her insides are all rayon bemberg, in a combination of lining/underling, also from The Confident Stitch. Kate, the enabling proprietress, suggested the bemberg. Would you believe I've never worked with it before? The slippery stuff had me wrinkling my brow at times, but it was a love-hate relationship that turned into adoration. The insides look like pale cloud cover, and the feel of it is luscious.

oonaballoona | by marcy harriell | A Fine Romance | simplicity 1099 + 2180

I do feel like I'm stepping back in time when I step into this dress--or rather, pull it on over my head. (Fashion-wise, that is. Let's limit our time traveling to fashion, okay? We're going back in time enough as it is.)

Many thanks to Kate and Jane for sponsoring this post, and providing a truly welcome distraction. It was a lovely experience, and I can't recommend them enough! A closet full of barkcloth evening gowns is in your reach, as they have several gorgeous prints to choose from. I actually made THEM choose the print for me, as I couldn't pick my favorite.

That's all for the moment from my neck of the woods. I hope you're finding the time to fit a little romance in, wherever you are.


wax on, wax off

A surprising sidebar came up in a recent post, the original topic of which was surprising in itself (however, said surprises were most likely surprising specifically to me, which is unsurprising, as I am surprised by A LOT these days.)

Of course, the post was about anything but the wax print dress pictured (and after 143 comments, I'm tapped out on that discussion). However, Gillian, one of the most thoughtful members of our stitching community, brought up a sewing dilemma:

Gillian: I've never decided if it's ok for a white lady like me to use Ankara fabric. Cultural appropriation, or awesome print used with knowledge of its history? I don't know, and it's not the kind of thing any one person can decree is ok or not, so here I am, Ankara-less!

Well, my friend, my FRIENDS, as Mixed-Chick-Party-Of-One, I am here to resoundingly decree this ever so much more than "ok." In fact: GO FOR IT!

Go for it, because it is fabric, and who better to treat a beautiful fabric with the respect it deserves than a home sewist?  A commenter pointed out:

Anonymous: as a white lady who appreciates the beauty of African and many other ethnic patterns I would hope that when I employ its use in my own creations others will perceive it as a thing of beauty and my joy in presenting it as such.

Go for it, because, as several commenters were quick to add, its backstory is as mixed as the chick who runs this here blog: it is of Dutch origins, but intended as a knockoff of Indonesian Batik. The "flaws" in processing spoke not to Indonesia, but to Africa, and the colors and prints were changed to suit the audience--geometric shapes and vivid colors, rather than the more muted floral design of Batik. It's now produced in Africa & China as well, and you could call those knockoffs, or you could say the original was intended as a knockoff in the first place. Is it distinctly an African fabric now? Yes. But in my opinion, it's more of an as-tweed-is-British and denim-is-American sort of thing, not a question of racial appropriation. Don't get me wrong, I understand, and am often hindered by, the lines in the sand drawn over race. Some are real, some are manufactured, some grow by perception. Two out of three of those lines should be crossed.

Karen: I am very aware of the multi-cross-cultural journey these patterns have made from Indonesia to West Africa, while both were under Dutch colonial subjugation, and are still being made in The Netherlands! Culture and language are very complex things, continually evolving to reflect current conditions. Let's keep our minds open to other peoples' truths.

Go for it, because, as its origins prove, MIXING IT UP A WONDERFUL THING. And something we are in dire need of today. Yes, I understand the ignorance of wearing a ceremonial Lakota war bonnet to a music festival, but I don't think any sewists wanting to dip their toes in wax print waters are talking about sporting a Kente head wrap.

Leigh: It's just fabric, unless you exact copy a traditional african dress. That could look a bit odd as they're kind of distinct, but you know what? They look comfortable, and how many people have made "kimono jackets" and didn't get crucified in the press?

Go for it, because of the joy you will create around you. Another commodity we are in dire need of today. It is impossible not to smile when you see 12,000 colors walking towards you. And if you don't want to wear 12,000 colors, choose a more docile print like the one I'm sporting here! YES IT'S DOCILE I MEAN IT'S PRACTICALLY A SOLID IN COMPARISON.

CinderellaRidvan: I will say that my ambuyas (grandmothers and aunties) are delighted to see my white friends wearing it, they say the everyone looks better in beautiful prints...

If a civilian raises an eyebrow? Politely divulge the bio of this glorious mixed up cloth. (You could also ask if they're into Rock n Roll, and if so, how much Little Richard do they have in their collection.)

Erika: I am a white lady, who has lived in Zambia and Uganda, who has several garments made of US patterns with African fabrics. I figure it will upset some people, and not others, and my job is to be ready to have a conversation with people who are upset, with a humble open heart.

If a sewist chastises you for using the improper name for it? Again, go for the origin story. There are many names for this stuff, and they are all proper. However. If you've chosen to call it Dutch wax print, and a homesick lass compliments you on your fabric from Ghana? Um, do not inform her of the technicalities of the origins of wax print. Recognize, as I did not, that she's lonely, and it lifted her day to spot some fabric from her homeland. Hey, Professor Sewist: technicality isn't always paramount.

CinderellaRidvan: culture is more about nuance and belief than technicalities.

Well, if you've been on the fence, I hope I've convinced you to jump in, along with these thoughtful words from my fellow sewists! If I had my way, wax print would be everywhere... and all the buildings would be painted in technicolor, and pizza would be free, and we'd have little wine spigots on the streets that popped on every day at dusk...

(One last GO FOR IT: Because you get 6 yards in every cut! Now, if you're like me, you will dive into your bounty with wild abandon, and come very quickly to a point where you realize that while you can make 3 garments out of 1 cut, you cannot print match across seams if you didn't plan ahead. That happened here, with Vogue 9253. Patience and planning. Who knew. Now go sew some wax print.)