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Getting back to making clothes

Jane in a dark green linen dress and the Deren cardigan by Jacqueline Cieslak

When I was a teenager I made most of my clothes.

Partly it was financial - buying several dresses from jumble sales (and jumble sales were SO good in the 1980s) and refashioning them was a cheap way to get something new to wear.

Partly it was fit - I had a narrow waist and wide hips, a figure that ready to wear brands struggled to accommodate.

Partly it was style - I tended towards fancy dress in my clothing tastes; Edwardian slips, chef’s whites, satin pyjamas, you probably get the idea. When I went to University, as well as my sewing machine I packed 20 vintage hats.

Partly it was boredom. Growing up in a village in the 1980s left an awful lot of unfilled time.

The clothes were slapdash, sewn in haste, often the hems were held up by sellotape. I preferred to sew a new outfit each week rather than make something properly that would last. I was the sewist version of fast fashion.

I sewed my graduation dress - white jaquard silk with a paisley pattern, gored skirt and antique handmade lace around the neck.

I sewed my wedding dress - a raw silk puff of of a dress with a hand embroidered bodice and an underskirt fashioned from a Victorian crinoline.

I sewed my honeymoon outfit - a navy and white capsule collection made from patterns in Prima magazine.

And then I stopped.

Jane in embroidered linen dress

I made a lot of things for my daughters before they got to the age when pink and glittery became important. But from 1996 until last year, I didn’t make anything for myself to wear.

I don’t really know why.

Perhaps it is that thing that often happens when children are born, that the mother’s focus moves and many activities are simply abandoned or switched.

Perhaps it was a body shame thing, a feeling of worthlessness - steroid treatment for an auto immune condition made my body change to the point I didn’t really recognise or value myself for a long, long time.

Perhaps it was lack of space and time, a lack of intention.

For I always said that I would like to get back to sewing clothes - but I just didn’t.

Last week I made a dress, as I type this I am wearing it.

I ordered a pattern online from Elizabeth Suzann, got it printed by Netprinter, and found some old glazed cotton fabric to make a toile.

You can see that I am aiming to put the slapdashness of the past away.

The toile showed that the style just didn’t suit me - I had missed that the sleeves were part of the body, with fat facing cuffs, I had missed that the neckline was high, that there were no bust darts and, even more distressing, no pockets.

By the time I had cut up my toile and re-cut the pattern all that was left of the original was a beautifully shaped hem, dipping at the back, rising at the front.

I made it from a purple linen left over from some lavender bags we once made for Jason Statham - but decided that I didn’t fancy owning a dress the colour of parma violet sweets, so I dyed it olive green in the washing machine with a pack of Dylon that had been in the cupboard for years.

On Saturday afternoon - killing an hour before picking up rugby watching blokes from the pub - I decorated the hem with freehand machine embroidery, cream poppy seed heads and cow parsley. The instructions are now in the Freehand machine embroidery course.

Jane in embroidered dark green linen dress

I don’t know whether this will be the start of a creative wardrobe - I have worn the dress three times since last week which is encouraging and I love that it is a walking work of art. At University my MA dissertation was on artistic dress - from the Pre-Raphaelites to Sonia Delauney - maybe this is a circling back around and taking inspiration.

I have my next pattern picked out. It is based on an apron dress that Tove Jansson, the creator of the Moomins, wore. I just need to work out how to fit a larger bust into it . . . .

Linnet patterns

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Comments: 2 (Add)

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Corrie Fairlie

Dearest Jane,

The dress is beautiful and you look beautiful in this beautiful dress. Thank you for writing about how you made the dress. Very, very interesting.

No apologies for repeating myself, the Seven Wise Men of Greece did! "Wisdom can be repetitious", according to Thomas Cromwell when he was speaking to his son Gregory in Hilary Mantel's 'The Mirror and the Light'...

Judith Schur

I used to sew loads of clothes from Prima magazine patterns too. I had a file full of ones that I wanted to use but since having children I have only made one dress (and I've only worn that once!!) Reading this reminds me how much fun it was :)

Snapdragon social

A few people have asked for a list of the restaurants in Hvar that we loved best. To be honest we didn’t have a single bad meal - the food is beautifully sourced and cooked, informal, seasonal delicious. But there were a few places that were particularly good. 

First if you are flying into Zadar airport and have time to spend in the town then @konobastomoricazadar is worth a visit. The cuttlefish and chickpea soup/stew was the best thing I’ve eaten this year. 

In Hvar itself @konobamenego is a cosy restaurant with a great menu of traditional food, including vegetarian options, we shared a plate of marinated fish (eel I think) and then I had courgettes and aubergines in a sweet and sour sauce prepared to a family recipe. Go early as once they are full that’s  it, there is no squashing in extra sittings, the kitchen staff need time off. I loved this. 

Our nearest town was Stari Grad and we lived @antikastarigrad - tables set outside so we could people watch, great food. Celery and smoked mussel soup with pine nuts 👌🏻

The dog is the photo was snapped at #konobahumac - a deserted hilltop village which featured in last week’s Friday film. There is a small restaurant with a wood fired kitchen - you can either order 24 hours in advance for traditional dishes cooked under a dome or have simple grilled meats and salads. Simplicity is wonderful. 

I’ll continue this in the comments.
Back from holiday, looking a little less frazzled than my pre-holiday photo and I'm trying to keep it like that (which is why Instagram posts are now in the afternoon - I'm reading in the morning).
In this week's Friday film I talk about the difficulty that I've always had in not working while on holiday and why that is a great mistake and what changed this year.
For me getting proper rest is important for living my best life.  It isn't a sneaky productivity trick - I don't want to rest on holiday so that I can work more efficiently when I get home.  I want to rest so that I can feel more alive, stand taller, be more vibrant.
I've also added in a film of the sea, a courtyard garden and a deserted hilltop village to show you why Hvar is one of the best places to go if you need a little relaxation.  The link is in stories.

#hvar #mudridolac #smallbusiness
This is a woman who is about to head off on holiday but has packed absolutely nothing.

Today’s Friday film is out - I’ll post the link in stories - and it’s all about why I’m deleting social media apps while I’m away, what is the kind of ‘work’ that I find revitalising on holiday and what stops me relaxing. And a tour of what I actually do day to day (minus the boring bits). 

Here till 5pm today and then away for a couple of weeks. 

Knitting is #heirloomquiltcardigan by @katrynseeburger
I seem to have spent this year writing about plants that have turned out to not be what they were meant to be . .  but that I have grown to love more than whatever it was I thought I wanted.

There were meant to be Hopi black dye sunflowers, Tceqa' Qu' Si, (Helianthus annuus macrocarpus). They clearly are not.

I've never actually grown giant sunflowers - and these tower over the sweet pea tunnel, gawky, heads bowed.

I love them.  The birds will love them even more.
I'm not really a person who is very good at theory.  I'm not enthused by swatches.  I was never good at experiments in science class.

I mean I appreciate the science in botanical dyeing, and I really, really appreciate the people whose brains work that way, but it just isn't me.

I love the process but even more I love the result.

I think that the most obvious example of this is the ongoing knitted blanket - three stripes from every plant that I try dyeing with in the garden.  A record of sorts. The best I can do.

At the moment a lot of the dyeing and making and embroidering that I do is centered around clothes - bought second hand and made more beautiful. I'm inspired by @prophet_of_bloom and @thedogwooddyer and they way they wear their creativity.

I've bought this silk camisole from Vinted (it was described as vintage but I refuse to believe that the 1990s are vintage). I've now dyed it with fresh indigo for my younger daughter, a mermaid blue, gently mottled teal.

The photos of the process are up on my blog - last night I gave it another coat of leaves so I am now waiting for it to dry to check the colour before I post it to Katie.

#botanicaldye #naturaldyeing #prelovedclothes
In the early summer this rose - nicknamed the
This week's all about managing my energy - I go on holiday in a week and traditionally I've been terrible at pacing myself in the run up to a break.
Everything seems to get out of hand and pile up on my desk, leaving me exhausted and crabby. 
This year I'm determined not to let that happen so I'm building in plenty of the things that I know buoy me up into my days - rest, creativity, nature.
The rest and the making are being combined in making squares for the Heirloom Quilt Cardigan - a wonderful pattern by @katrynseeburger - which I'm knitting in a linen/bamboo yarn that I botanically dyed a couple of years ago and have been hoarding ever since.
You can see what I'm on about in stories . . . .
Often people tell me that they would love to learn to dye with plants but they don't have a garden, or they worry about foraging for plants or that they run out of time and never get around to it.
I completely get that. I am the same.  Life is busy and unless things are easy I often let the desire slide.
It is why I am spending time each day drying out the dye plants that I grow here and packing them up into sealable envelopes - each decorated with a drawing.
I want to make it easier for people to try out botanical dyeing with a wider range of plants than is generally available.  So far I've been packing up willowherb and dahlia flowers alongside the more traditional marigold and dyer's chamomile.
I'm not completely sure what form this will all eventually take - kits that make everything easy perhaps, possibly a 'workshop in a box' kind of thing.  I'm currently trying to work out all the practicalities while prioritising making sure the flowers and leaves are packaged properly so that they won't spoil while I work out the details.
At some point, if you are on my newsletter list, you will no doubt get an email with some questions in it! 
But in the meantime let me know what you think - what would you value in a botanical dyeing kit? Help me make something that will inspire people to create something beautiful.

#dyersofinstagram #botanicaldye #botanicaldyersofinstagram #tagetesdye

About Snapdragon Life

At Snapdragon Life I help bring the changing seasons into your daily life, helping you slow down, so that you can experience increased well being, calm and creativity.

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