Some of the most popular sewing classes I teach are focused on sewing with knits: lots of experienced sewers have never worked with knits, and knits are a great next step for beginner sewers. Â I teach classes on T-shirts, knickers & leggings, but the first two canÂ be fairly fussy & stressful for beginners (bindings are tricky!), and they are all really pragmatic. Â I wanted to be able to offer a REALLY easy class with no bindings or set-in sleeves, for a knit garment that could beÂ practicalÂ or glamorous, and winter or summer appropriate.
So, playing around with this idea, and riffing off a couple of tops I’ve owned and loved over the years, I came up with the Miramar dress and top. Â It’s got cut-on sleeves, a flattering V-neck, and can be as fun or elegant as you want, depending on fabric. Â Plus, with just two pattern pieces, it goes together quickly.
Quickly is where this dress comes in. Â Mr D & I were heading down to Nelson for his grandfather’s 90th birthday back in July, and I needed something to wear to the party, and the weather prediction was for COLD. Â Cold and I are NOTÂ friends. Â So I needed something dressy, glamorous, and WARM.
I’d just finalised the pattern for the Miramar dress, and I realised that a long version of the dress would be perfect. Â I had a couple of meters ofÂ merino-silk blendÂ knit in graphite (yum!), I could wear merino leggings and a merino undershirt underneath, my Capelet of Yay over it, and be elegant and snuggly.
When did I realise all of this? Â At 11:30pm on Friday night. Â With our flight leaving Wellington at 11am the next morning.
I laid out the fabric & pattern pieces Friday night, traced out the alterations for a longer skirt, and went to bed.
On Saturday morning I popped up at 8:30, whizzed through all the seams, hemmed the dress (slightly shorter than I should have – sigh) tried it on, and had a little panic. Â In my haste I’d nicked the seam allowances in the upper arm while cutting, so had to cut the sleeves slimmer, and since the knit didn’t have quite as much vertical stretch as the pattern was drafted for (it had none, in fact!) my upper arms were snug little immovable sausages. Â Ergh.
Brainstorm! Â Slice off the seam allowances to shoulder, grab length of black lace trim, insert lace along sleeve allowances (note to self: never attempt to insert lace into a closed sleeve again), re-hem sleeves, admire wider sleeves.
And we made our flight in time and I wore the dress to the dinner and was almost warm enough.
As I’d been cutting and sewing the dress I thought to myself that the silhouette was quite medieval, as was the very simple construction. Â In the black merino silk, with black lace insets, the dress felt like a lost garment from the gothic phase I never went through, so was instantly dubbed the Miramar Gothic dress.
And obviously, if I had a Miramar Gothic dress, I needed to do an American Gothic style photoshoot!
I thought about finding a house in Miramar in Gothic Revival, or at least bungalow-y style to shoot in front of, and posing with Mr D, but I would also need a photographer, a pitchfork (or whatever we decided was the appropriate Miramar equivalent), AND a cooperative Mr D, and it was all just too hard.
Plus, I’ve always agreed with the female model that the painting depicts a man and his daughter. Pity my Dad is in Hawaii and I can’t pose with him, because he’d be a great sport about it.
My dad is in Hawaii, but there IS a statue of him in Miramar…
…Or at least, a statue that would be a dead ringer for him if he grew out his beard really long and wore robes and capes and carried a wizard’s staff!
Yep. Â My dad looks a LOT like Ian McKellan, and hence, my dad looks like Gandalf. Â If we dressed him up and hung out inÂ front of Weta Cave and near the LotR filming spot in Mt Vic I bet we could get a bunch of tourists REALLY excited on a daily basis. Â He’d have to keep his mouth shut though, because I think the American accent might give the game away.
But, without a dad to pose with, there is at least a Gandalf statue in front of the Roxy Cinema in Miramar, so after breakfast on Saturday Mr D & I headed down to try to recreate American Gothic.
Here’s how we did:
I should really be looking slightly to my left, and Gandalf should be holding his staff between us, but not too bad! Â He does look suitably stern. Â And it’s certainly very Miramar!
We only had a few minutes to pose because 1) it was COLD (as as mentioned, I’m not good at cold), and 2) the queue of tourists started giving us dirty looks for hogging the statue, so I had to move off and let them get their photos with it.
After a stint in the car with the heater blasting to take my hands back from purple to normal-ish human colours, we went a few blocks further up Park Road to where some awesome person has painted an electricity shed to look like a bookshelf.
I posed in front of the shed for as long as I could stand, having fun reading the book titles (lots of classics, books relevant to the Miramar film industry, and other Miramar relevant books & documents, including The Taranaki WhÄnui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika Claims Settlement Act 2009, and a binder of power bills.
I’ve made a couple of changes to the dress since Granbob’s dinner, which you can see in the photos.
The lace looked gorgeous and worked, but was itchy, so I replaced it with a strip of the merino silk that runs from sleeve to sleeve, across my shoulders. Â It twists across my arms in a really interesting way, which I quite like.
Because the strip runs across my back, it created extra fullness at the back of the dress, so I took that in with a series of small tucks.
I’ll tell you about the belt I’m wearing with my dress in my next post.