Upskilly & Stuff 7: The Measurements

Seventeen measurements, to be precise (dictated by Pattern Drafting for Dressmaking). The full panoply of which (good word, panoply) gives you enough information to create a pattern which fits you perfectly. The measurements include everything from your widest point or ‘seat’, to the distance from your neck to your waist at front and back, to the circumference of said neck at the base.

Image from page 14 of "The new dressmaker; with complete and fully illustrated instructions on every point connected with sewing, dressmaking and tailoring, from the actual stitches to the cutting, making, altering, mending, and cleaning of clothes for la

Obviously, these are very difficult measurements to take by yourself, particularly if you want any degree of accuracy (which you do). Unlike the woman in the pictures above, who has either the help of two people, or the help of one freak with two left hands, I had the help of the Caped Gooseberry (CG: where is the base of your neck? me: where those two little knobbles are).

So all I had to do was stand there and help figure out what the descriptions meant. (I think we still got at least one of them wrong.) Seems simple enough, you would think. But now for the hitch in Deborah’s character, to steal (and alter) a line from Jane Eyre.

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The Rose Quilt

Remember I promised I’d tell you the tale of how the Rose Quilt gargoyle came to be? Well, here it is. Pop some corn, brew a cuppa, and settle down.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

Many years ago, when when the world was young and so was I, before wrinkles began to appear upon my face (i.e. about twelve or thirteen years ago), I went to a charity quiz day. It was a great deal of fun. I wasn’t on the winning team, but I did win the prize for Youngest Person Present; and I won some LPs in the auction of donated items which formed part of the day’s entertainment.

Where does the quilt come into it, I hear you ask? Bear with…
You see, it occurred to me, idealistic young creature that I was, that I could make something to donate to the auction at the next year’s charity quiz. But what?

It was then that the Murky Fog of Great Foolishness settled about my head. I saw in a book a paint-by-numbers image of a spray of roses, intended to be applied to plates for an elegant dinner set.

Paint By NumberGosh, thought I, my mental processes already under the dizzying effect of aforementioned Murky Fog. Wouldn’t this look good if it was an appliqué quilt – and a metre and a half across? (That’s about five feet, for the imperialists.)

Sadly, being a student at a university possessed of large copying machines, it was all too easy to produce an enlarged paper version of my mad vision, and then…

And then everything slowed down.

There are about two hundred pieces to this thing, and each one needed to be cut in paper, clearly numbered, laid out (the other way up) on the right colour of cloth (two packs of fat quarters), cut, and tacked. And then I could start on the piecing.

By mid 2008, it looked like this:

Those of you who are good at estimating may have noticed that there are fewer than two hundred pieces shown. That is because only the background parts of each leaf are shown. (You didn’t think I would leave it this simple, did you?)

Those of you who are good at observing may have noticed that these pieces are not actually sewn together, just laid out on newsprint, and that some of the pieces still have tacking stitches.

Fast-forward a few years, to about 2010, and… I’m an unemployed graduate, still sewing little patches on to leaves.

Fast-forward… oh, say, another five years, and I’m married, living in another city, and trying to downsize. I’m living in a house with a spare room, and so I lay the whole thing out and think about chucking it.

Seamstress, Whitsunday morning, by Wenzel Tornoe
But I don’t. I keep going. I sew the elements together into one enormous unwieldy motif (for those of you who are thinking of doing this: don’t), and I pad it. And then I lay out the backing and I pin and re-pin and eventually decide that it’s going to look munted anyway and so I might as well just get it done.

So I sew on the bud and the leaves around it… and then I shovel it all back into the bag for another year or two. Until at last I learned prudence and now it’s coming along. In fact, I was feeling downright chirpy about it until I realized that I have got almost all the way through the step that I started a couple or three years ago. Woo…

Once that’s done, I only need to mark the quilting patterns, make the sandwich (front, batting, back), tack the sandwich together, quilt it, bind the edges, and then get rid of the plaguey thing.
If you’re in the market for a munted circular quilt of extremely variable workmanship, let me know. I’ll try to have it finished before old age overtakes me completely.

Walter Langley - The Old Quilt
So there you have it, my friends. Learn from my mistakes: put the crazy idea down and step away from the enlarging photocopier.