Sewing, What I wear

A Sewing Magic Skirt

Sewing Magic Stella Skirt

My sewing goal for Summer 2017/18 is to get my PHD (project half done) pile reduced by half.  Which means finishing at least a dozen projects, because it’s a little out of control!

I’m getting a little help in the push to finish things thanks to the re-launch of the Sew Weekly (ooooh!), though it’s Instagram only this time ( 🙁 ).  But I can still show you the things I make here, and be able to talk about them in depth.

First off: something for the way-too-easy-to-be-on-theme-for ‘UFO’ challenge:

Sewing Magic Stella Skirt

This skirt has been on my PHD pile for over a year, ever since I started it along with a class I was teaching.  Things begun along with classes are the problem with half my pile.

As a textile fanatic (aka, snob), printed ikat-look fabrics usually make my head hurt. The weave is so intrinsic to an ikat. This one, however, managed to win me over.  It’s a heavy stretch herringbone twill, and the weave of the fabric and the colours of the print just worked together perfectly.  And it was only $3 a meter at a Fabric Warehouse sale!

The skirt only needed hemming and a waistband to finish.

For the photoshoot, Mr D & I went to the City Gallery Wellington to see the Colonial Sugar exhibition, which touches on many of the same themes that I discussed in my post on Blackbirding & Bislama.

Jasmine Togo-Brisby’s Bitter Sweet artwork was amazing. Even Mr D was properly impressed.  Sadly, it was too cold for the sugar to have any smell, so that element of the artwork didn’t have as much of a sensory impact.

Sewing Magic Stella Skirt

Tracey Moffatt’s Plantation photographs were a perfect counterpoint to Bitter Sweet – both glossy and beautiful reflections of a very un-beautiful episode in our history.

Sewing Magic Stella Skirt

If you have a chance to see either work, I highly recommended it.

While Colonial Sugar was the reason for our visit to City Gallery, the skirt is named after the other exhibition we saw while we were there: Occulture: The Dark Arts, featuring art that explores the occult.

Colonial Sugar was about a terrible event, and Occulture about our beliefs, but Colonial Sugar just made me sad: Occulture actually made me profoundly and personally uncomfortable, and it’s rare that art can do that.

I’m used to honouring and respecting art, and people’s beliefs.  I was brought up to consider art a valid and profound part of the human experience, which helps us to explore who we are on an individual and societal level.  I was also brought up to respect the beliefs and practices of a wide range of religions and cultures.  I think of myself as being being kind and respectful to people of all faiths (or lack thereof), even when they knock on my doors at inconvenient times, trying to convert me.  Whatever you want to believe, I thought I was OK with it, as long as it’s your choice, and isn’t negatively impacting those who didn’t choose it.

Seeing an exhibition about various forms of the occult, from artworks that were meant to be literal ‘spells’, to those that treated magic and astrology and astral planes as completely valid, real, beliefs, made me realise that while I think of myself as unprejudiced and non-judgemental, there is a huge swathe of beliefs that I react to, with, at best, mildly condescending indulgence, and, at worst, complete derision.  I respect art, but consider astrology (for example) rubbish pseudoscience, so to see the former combined with the later in artworks that treated astrology as a completely valid science, using it to explore major world events, was extremely disconcerting.

I think of myself as openminded, but to look at artwork, after artwork, where the artist’s message was something that I think of as silly, and maybe even a little dangerous?  Quite disconcerting.

And very good for me.  Because artwork is meant to stretch your mind, and in my world of academics, in the most educated city in a very liberal country, and living a life where my background and choices all encourage me to meet a very diverse range of people, I can sometimes fall into the trap of thinking mine is completely open, and it isn’t.  We all still live in our own little bubbles, and while I didn’t expect mine to be pricked that day at City Gallery, it was, and I appreciate the new angle on myself, even if it was uncomfortable.

Sewing Magic Stella Skirt

So this skirt is named in honour of the experience, and a kind of magic I do believe in: sewing magic.

Because it really is quite amazing and magical that we can take flat fabric and make 3-D shapes that fit our bodies out of it, and that a garment can completely change our mood and perception of ourself, or another person.  Fabric can warm us, shield us, protect us: all the things spells are meant to do.

And it’s quite fantastical that a bit of very careful pattern matching can make a seam right down the centre of a skirt completely disappear. 😉

Sewing Magic Stella Skirt


  1. Elise says

    Yay! Lovely skirt. And swell timing of the artwork. Colonialism (and it’s accompanying slavery–chattle or de facto) hurt for generations. We (as human, and especially those with privileges) should honor those who still feel its effects, like the light-skinned guys linking arms or resting hands on their darker-skinned teammates who are taking a knee to protest deadly police brutality. In the US, at least, our past of slavery, then the horrors of reconstruction and Jim Crow are still keenly felt (just ask Mother’s of the Movement, or the five Air Force Academy prep school students who saw N*** go home). It makes me mad that people want to sweep it away, or only study the ‘good parts’ of our past as if sadness is unpatriotic. But I like to focus on the parts where leaders solve the problems, and the movements that change people’s minds so that everyone sees the problem. That’s patriotic!

    And you totally hit the nail on the head: I can truly believe what I said above, then unconsciously violate my own standard. Thanks for the reminder that we should all be on guard, and to make a conscious effort to be the kindest and most awesome we can be.

    Lovely post. And sorry for the ramble, only both of your topics (to remember colonialism, and to stay on-guard against our own negative biases) have been on my mind, and it feels good to explore, and to do a little of my part as an American to affirm publicly that racism is still strong, here, and that I stand (or rather kneel) with Kaepernick.

  2. Darlene says

    Great garment…if you are in the palm beach county area, I have lots of fabric I would live to donate to your projects. I sewed for a while now I am trying to give away unused fabric. Lots by the yard. Please email me and let me know if you are interested. Just trying to bless.

    • Celestine says

      I would love to be a recipient of some of your fabric please lol

    • Brenda says

      Make small items all the time could use some fabric also. I do stuff for the schools. Raising money

  3. That’s the best thing about art: it challenges our perceptions and makes us see the world in new ways, even if we don’t necessarily change our opinion as a result.

    Well done matching the pattern there. That truly is magic! Of course, in Europe and possibly other places too textiles and clothing production were often associated with magic. Think of Aphrodite’s girdle and so on.

  4. nanny norfolk says

    How sensible you are, and clever a lovely unusual skirt.

  5. Okay, that seam indeed is sewing magic.
    It’s occurred to me I have not had that kind of experience in a while. So at the moment, I can’t completely relate on an… emotional? level; but I can agree on an intellectual level.
    Which is actually pretty much exactly what such experiences are for, I guess? Taking one from a purely intellectual level.

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