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
What a difficult time for you both, and what a difficult Christmas. Big hugs to you all, I am sure Gran’s proud of you remembering her with this beautiful dress.
Thank you. I appreciate the hugs. I hope Gran would have liked the dress!
Your Gran sounds like quite the lady! And what a lovely tribute to her! She must be very loved = )
Gran was truly amazing – I haven’t begun to touch the surface in this post. I’m hoping to be able to write a fuller tribute to her life later.
I’m so sorry and my heart reaches out to you and your loved ones. What a lovely dress and way to commemorate her with it. I can just imagine her in it in.
Thank you Laurie.
When you said there was bad news, I had no idea it was so terrible. I’m truly sorry for you, Leimomi; I understand what if feels like, as I’m sure everyone else here does, as well. I’m so glad that you’ve been thinking about your happy memories with your grandmother, rather than dwelling on the sorrow you’ve experienced with your loss. If you keep thinking about those memories, it eventually gets easier. Please do keep well–you’re in my thoughts and prayers!
On the topic of the dress, I think it is very, very lovely! Florals are one of my favorite types of prints (as you’ll see from my #0 challenge–I decided that, since I can’t make nice things for myself, I can at least sew things up in miniature and get my fill), and I love your pearls, too!
Thank you for your condolences. Gran lived such a full, amazing life that it has been much easier to focus on that, and to be glad she was able to live the way she wanted until the end, and could pass quickly, without pain. I find that death isn’t such a hard and terrible thing if it comes at the right time.
I thought you might particularly like this dress 🙂
Now I understand what you meant about your sad Christmas. I’m so sorry to hear of your loss, though it’s lovely that you’ve made this dress and can think of your Gran while wearing it. Thinking of you and yours and sending love. X
Thank you, that is much appreciated.
I’m so sorry for your loss. My grandmother passed away recently too. I loved how beautiful a tribute you made her in this dress and this blog post.
Thank you. I’m sorry to hear of the loss of your grandmother. I hope your family is healing.
I’m sorry for your loss. On the other hand, the dress is beautiful, and a fitting tribute in its way.
Thank you for both sentiments.
What terrible timing, no one should have to go through something so sad on Christmas.
The dress looks so lovely with that parasol. Are you using some sort of filter on the camera? There is something odd about the light, it makes you look like a picture from a storybook.
In a way, Christmas was a good time – the whole family was there already with minimal fuss, hassle, last minute tickets and stress. We could just focus on each other.
I’ve run my photos through a filter to get the dream-like vintage effect. On some of them I blurred the edges in iPhoto as well.
My heart goes out to you…am glad that you are celebrating her in one of the ways you know how to do very well.
With warm condolences,
Many thanks for your condolences.
I’m sorry for your loss. She sounds like a wonderful woman. I hope being with family and sharing happy memories of her helped ease the pain of your loss.
Thank you. She was indeed wonderful.
I’m so sorry. My sympathies to you and your family.
What a beautiful way to remember your grandmother. It’s a lovely dress and I hope it brings you good memories always.
Thank you. I really appreciate that.
I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. The dress is lovely, I’m sure it will bring back happy memories of your gran for a long time to come.
When my MIL passed away some years ago I inherited her sewing basket, and it reminds me of her every time I use it – which is pretty much daily.
I find the same thing with my sewing things – so many of them are inherited from Grandma and Nana and I think of them as I use them. I’m glad you get the same comfort.
I am so sorry to hear of your loss Leimomi. I know too well that feeling of waiting and jumping when the phone rings. My thoughts are with you, Mr. D and family at this difficult time. I am sure Gran would be happy about her connection with one of your wonderful frocks.
As ever, you look marvellous. I love the dress, I love the 1930’s and I can’t wait to see you at the vintage sewing weekend in early February.
Blwyddyn Newydd Dda. (Happy new year in Welsh).
Thank you Claire.
I look forward to seeing you in Feb too and making early 1930s pretties with you!
Hau’oli Makahiki Hou (Happy New Year in Hawaiian)
Thanks so much for sharing your journey with us. What a wonderful tribute to make and wear such a pretty dress in honour of someone so special.
Thank you, I’m glad to hear you appreciated it.
What a lovely tribute to your grandma, she sounds like a real lady. So sad it happened over christmas. Sending lots of love your way.
Thank you Hayley. The love is appreciated!
I am so sorry for your loss, words aren’t enough. My dad’s partner and a couple of good friends also lost their mothers at the same time, which is just… too much coincidence for comfort. So my heart goes out to you with extra love and thoughts and strength. The dress is lovely and the most fitting tribute.
So sorry to hear about your loss as well. Please pass on my condolences.
Oh, gosh, that was a rough Christmas! And your dress is a wonderful homage to her, she sounded like a wonderful woman! Sending thoughts your way xx
Thank you for the thoughts.
This is a stunning tribute to your Gran. I am very sorry for your loss. Such a lovely dress and so wonderful it triggers sweet memories of your Gran.
Thank you for your compliments and your condolences
Sorry to hear about the sad Christmas; how odd is it that these kind of things often happen over the holidays.
All my love to Mr. D and his family, and what a nice tribute your dress is!
Thank you. In a way it’s like Gran arranged it so we would all be there, and so no-one would have to do a mad scramble to rearrange their life to get down to Nelson. So like Gran!
I am so sorry for your loss and at such a time of year. Your dress is lovely and a beautiful memorial to your Gran.
What a perfect response – to sew her into a dress, so to speak. Wonderful memories of a wonderful woman. Thank you for sharing this with us. xo
I’m sorry for your loss. It’s a beautiful dress and you have lovely memories of your Gran. Best wishes for 2013.
I’m very sorry for your loss!
The dress, and the pictures, turned out beautifully!
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I am super late to this post since I’m still catching up on my holiday blog reading, but I just wanted to say that this was an absolutely beautiful tribute to your grandmother. I teared up reading your lovely words. I didn’t know either of my grandmothers, and never really felt like I was missing out, but gosh, this post really tugs at my heart. So sorry to read of your loss; she sounds like an amazing lady.
Darling friend, I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. She sounds like a wonderful lady and storyteller, and I think this was an amazing tribute to her and your family and all the memories you’ve collectec.
Thank you Meg.
I’m sorry for your loss.
Reading a novel with a reference to calamanco shoes has led me to your fascinating website. Here I sit in Scotland and within minutes am thinking of you and your grandmother-in-law and your husband. Serendipity indeed! May I wish you well and I look forward to exploring more of your site, once I’ve finished the book.