I’ve been waiting to tell you about this garment for years. From even before it existed – from the moment I laid eyes on the fabric.
Before you read the post though, you need to set the mood. Put on Aloha Ka Manini (Love the fish, or ) by the wonderful Israel Kamakawiwo’ole and then Ka Uluwehi o ke Kai (The Plants of the Sea) by Hapa. These are the songs of my childhood, and the Hawai’ian songs of the sea.
I grew up in Hawai’i, 10 minutes walk from the sea. My parents were farmers — land people, but we kids loved the sea. We went down to the beach every time they let us. We snorkeled and swam and kayaked. I knew the names of all the fishes, the kinds of seaweed and coral, the history of the fishponds that ringed the coast like stone necklaces. I was in a hula halau (dance troop) for years. I was never particularly good, but my favourite dance was always Ka Uluwehi o ke Kai, a hula in praise of the different seaweeds, and the joy of the ocean.
I still live by the sea, and love the beasts and plants of the water, but it’s a much colder, harsher water. Ka Moana Nui ‘Akea (the Great Ocean of Light) has become Ka Moana Nui a Kiwa (the Great Ocean of the Explorer Kiwa). Every year about this time I get very homesick for the ocean I grew up with.
Three years ago, just at this time of year, I walked into my favourite fabric store here in Wellington. There in the corner was a bolt of the most amazing cotton voile in some of my favourite colours, patterned with Hawai’ian fish and sea life, and emblazoned with their names. There was the striped kihikihi, the little manini, the delicious papio, the flying fish malolo, the spikey wana, the limpet,opihi, clinging to the rocks, the tiny hinalea, even my favourite: limu (seaweed). All there, named and drawn. I couldn’t pass it up.
Also, I may have cried.
I made a blouse for my mum out of it right away, but I saved a bit for something for me. This winter was just the time to make something that would make me think of home, but in the happiest way.
For this very special fabric I used one of my Grandmother’s patterns – Butterick 6223, a cute, simple ’50s blouse with a very flattering scooped neck. After cutting it out I had a moment of “oh no! I think I own a better pattern for this”, but with the blouse sewn up I love it. I’m glad I went with this pattern.
The blouse was easy peasy to put together — I used french seams, turned all the edges of my facings with a tiny rolled hem, and finished the sleeves with a rolled hem for a curvy seaweed effect. The hem of the blouse is bound in lime green bias binding, and then turned up and hand-stitched down (fabulous!). I used white buttons up the front to mimic the white bubbles on the pattern. The buttons are sewn on with no buttonholes – wide necklines + small bust = don’t need an openings.
Thanks to three days of pouring rain, most of the photos were taken at Te Papa — the national museum. I used my American accent to my advantage and asked visitors to take photos of me with the sea themed displays. I’m sure they assumed I was a tourist! I got very theme-y and paired it with shell earrings and a coral necklace that I bought before I knew how back the coral industry was (if you love our oceans don’t ever buy coral jewellery).
The one sad thing about this blouse is that the camera had a moment when I was trying to use the timer to get a few detail shots, and it may be dead. :-(. So this is the only where you can really see the fabric, and the way the words are printed both reverse and right side out:
Just the facts, Ma’am:
Fabric: 1 metre of 100% cotton voile patterned with Hawaiian sea life. $18
Pattern: Butterick 6223, from my Grandmother.
Year: early 1950s
Notions: 5 white plastic buttons (inherited from Nana), 2 vintage metal domes (thrifted or inherited), 1 metre of vintage green bias binding (thrifted, 20 cents)
Hours: 2.5 Lovely, fast and easy.
Make again? Yes! I love this blouse pattern, so easy, and flattering. Next time I won’t size the pattern up though.
First worn: Monday for the first lecture of the semester (my lecture hall is so hot, and I get even hotter talking for an hour), and then for a quick photoshoot at Te Papa.
Wear again? Yes! It probably won’t be warm enough to get away with it until at least October in Wellington, but I’ll be going home to Hawaii in August. I hope they don’t think I’m a tourist!
Total cost: $18.20. A lot for a blouse, but oh, that fabric!