I’ve been waiting to tell you about this garment for years. Â 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. Â Put onÂ Aloha Ka ManiniÂ (Love the fish, or ) by the wonderful Israel Kamakawiwoâ€™ole and thenÂ Ka Uluwehi o ke KaiÂ (The Plants of the Sea) by Hapa. Â These are the songs of my childhood, and the Hawaiâ€™ian songs of the sea.
I grew up in Hawai’i, 10 minutes walk from the sea. Â My parents were farmers â€“ land people, but we kids loved the sea. Â We went down to the beach every time they let us. Â We snorkeled and swam and kayaked. Â 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. Â I was in a hula halau (dance troop) for years. Â 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 itâ€™s a much colder, harsher water. Â Ka Moana Nui â€˜Akea (the Great Ocean of Light) has become Ka Moana Nui a Kiwa (the Great Ocean of the Explorer Kiwa). Â 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. Â There in the corner was a bolt of the most amazing cotton voile in some of my favourite colours, patterned with Hawaiâ€™ian fish and sea life, and emblazoned with their names. Â There was the stripedÂ kihikihi, the littleÂ manini, the deliciousÂ papio, the flying fishÂ malolo, the spikeyÂ wana, the limpet,opihi, clinging to the rocks, the tinyÂ hinalea, even my favourite: limu (seaweed). Â All there, named and drawn. Â IÂ couldnâ€™tÂ 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. Â 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 -Â Butterick 6223, a cute, simple ’50s blouse with a very flattering scooped neck. Â After cutting it out I had a moment of “oh no! Â I think I own a better pattern for this”, but with the blouse sewn up I love it. Â I’m glad I went with this pattern.
The blouse was easy peasy to put together â€“ 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. Â The hem of the blouse is bound in lime green bias binding, and then turned up and hand-stitched down (fabulous!). Â I used white buttons up the front to mimic the white bubbles on the pattern. Â 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 â€“ the national museum. Â I used my American accent to my advantage and asked visitors to take photos of me with the sea themed displays. Â I’m sure they assumed I was a tourist! Â 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. Â :-(. Â 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, Maâ€™am:
Fabric:Â 1 metre of 100% cotton voile patterned withÂ Hawaiian sea life. $18
Pattern:Â Butterick 6223, from my Grandmother.
Year:Â early 1950s
Notions:Â 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:Â 2.5 Â Lovely, fast and easy.
Make again? Â Yes! Â I love this blouse pattern, so easy, and flattering. Â Next time I wonâ€™t size the pattern up though.
First worn:Â 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?Â Yes! Â It probably wonâ€™t be warm enough to get away with it until at least October in Wellington, but Iâ€™ll be going home to Hawaii in August. Â I hope they donâ€™t think Iâ€™m a tourist!
Total cost:Â $18.20. Â A lot for a blouse, but oh, that fabric!