Upskilly & Stuff 6: The Dressing-Gown

Sometimes you stitch the project up… and sometimes the project stitches you up. I struggled long and hard with finding motivation for this project, and I think it was largely because it’s so very much a draft copy or ‘wearable toile’. The fabric is so old and worn and it sheds white fluff like there’s no tomorrow.

Old Rags Into New Cloth- Salvage in Britain, April 1942 D7447
Deborah trying to hold the fluff at bay.
I couldn’t help feeling, as a result, that perhaps there would be no tomorrow for this garment, which was rather disheartening when it came to putting in all the effort required to create the garment. Still, it will be useful as a prototype if nothing else, and so I pushed on.

This garment is something new for Upskilly & Stuff 2018: I’m not making it for me. I already have a summer-weight dressing-gown; the Caped Gooseberry doesn’t. In a second startling departure from tradition, I am eschewing the usual Old Sheet fabric in favour of… (drumroll)… Old Bedspread! A partly worn-out white candlewick bedspread, if you want the details.

Since the bedspread has got different patterns of stripes & crosshatches on different parts of it, I naturally wanted to make the best use of these, rather than end up with a patchwork sort of effect, with random lines running in all directions like some sort of candlewicked dazzle camouflage.

SS Empress of Russia 1918 (closeup)
I took measurements of the Caped Gooseberry, measurements of the fabric, measurements of the different patterned sections of the fabric, and I worked through a number of diagrams in figuring out how long I could make the dressing-gown and whether it would therefore be long enough to need to be more than a straight up and down design.

And then I figured out how to achieve that, and whether that would compromise the amount of fabric for the length, and if the shorter length would still need extra width. Maths is not my forte, much less my delight. But I pressed on.

The plan is to have one back, two fronts (curved at the top, thanks to the curved corners of the bedspread), two sleeves, a sash for tying it closed, a pocket or two, and – and this is the real departure from Things I Know How To Do Or Have At Least Tried Before for this month – a sort of box pleat on each side, to allow the wearer to retain the ability to walk (Paul Poiret I am not).

Are they ladies? Are they elegant ten-pins? Poiret was here!
I cut out the fronts and the back, the sash and the strip of fabric which will in due course furnish fabric for the pocketses. I pinned the fronts to the back and checked the fit on the obliging intended wearer (note to self: take small tuck in top of back for better fit).

And then… life happened, and I ran out of time. Groceries, tax returns, the Machiavellian plotting necessary to get laundry dry around the winter solstice in a country known for centuries for its rainy weather (they don’t call it the Land of the Long White Cloud for nothing). Life happened.

On the plus side, since it’s winter, it’ll be some months before there is any need for a summer dressing-gown in this household, and I have every intention of having it finished by then. Although it may still be unwearable – who knows?

Despite not getting to grips with the box pleats (yet), I feel I have learned something valuable for any clothier to know: sometimes things don’t work out the way you intend, and that’s ok. Upskilly and Stuff is about trying and learning, not about achieving perfection on the dot. If you’re not enjoying it, you’re doing it wrong.

Emil Rau Bauernstube mit junger Frau 1889
She is doing it right, even if she does appear to be embroidering moss onto a piece of old bark.
So if there’s nothing else I can offer you this month, I offer you this: be gracious to yourself.

For the second half of Upskilly & Stuff 2018, as the projects grow ever more complicated, each will be divided into two months. July will be all about the measuring tape and that mysterious thing, “the body foundation”.

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