I had my project for the first Historical Sew Fortnightly challenge ‘Starting Simple’ all planned out, and it was going to be so very simple.
I decided to use my 1930s Garden Party frock pattern – so easy and fun, and I’m so familiar with it so it would be so very simple to put together. I would get the frock cut out in the week before Christmas, assemble the bodice and skirt, put in the bias facings at neck and armhole, and take it with me to Nelson when we left on the 24th.
Then, as we sat around with my parent-in-law and Gran and Grandbob in the days after Christmas, drinking tea and watching cricket, I would hand sew down all the bias facings and assemble a belt. Mr D and I would arrive back in Wellington on the 30th, I’d quickly sew the skirt to the bodice on the night of the 30th, and we’d do a photoshoot on New Years Eve morning, just in time for the challenge. That was the plan. It would be so simple.
And then everything got very complicated.
The call arrived at midday on the 24th. “Gran went to hospital in an ambulance that morning. You’ll be able to see her when you arrive in Nelson. Can you drive your BIL to the airport?”
Our day fell apart. We couldn’t focus – couldn’t get ready to leave for a week. I abandoned my sewing – forgot to take the dress, focused on taking care of Mr D. He looked at his suitcase, full of shorts and summer shirts, stood in front of the closet, his hand on a suit. Would he need it?
Christmas day was sweltering hot, and passed in a blur of waiting, of trips to the hospital and jumping every time the phone rang. “Come to the hospital immediately”. A few minutes later “No, no need to hurry, she’s doing better”. It rang last just before midnight. Gran was gone. The skies opened, and it poured.
We came back on the 30th, the funeral over and the week gone. There had been lots of tea, but no cricket. We cuddled Felicity and sat in the silent living room. I looked at my sewing machine and the fabric, and tried to get motivated.
The sewing finally happened, but slowly. It wasn’t done until 5.30 on the 31st. I put on the dress and Gran’s wedding pearls and put my heels in a bag and we went for a long walk then – across the hills and down a hidden lane. Mr D took pictures of me in the dress. I thought of Gran making biscuits, of the roses in her garden, of stories of Gran reading Coleridge to guinea pigs, of her working for women’s rights, and I smiled.
Gran’s garden was full of roses in apricot and pink and yellow: sunset roses. But her guest room where we stayed when we visited was done up in lavender and green florals, and I always think of those colours and Gran.
The dress is like wearing summer – it’s light and airy and flows amazingly when you move, It’s like a very gentle hug. Like Gran.
Just the facts, Ma’am:
The Challenge: #0 – Starting Simple
Fabric: 3m of rayon, bought in the Arthur Toye 50% off sale
Pattern: 1930s Garden Party Frock pattern, with curved waistline and dropped hem
Year: 1930 – the year Gran was born
Notions: rayon bias binding from stash
How historically accurate is it? Very, except that I overlocked the interior seams because I want to be able to just throw this in the wash.
Hours to complete: 9 – I was very slow and distracted
First worn: 31 Dec for a walk and the photoshoot
Total cost: $21