From Scraps to Treasures….

The journey to a new dress began with finding this beautiful calico fabric at the store. It’s minute little roses touched my heart just so. That was a few years ago. It takes time for me to squirrel away funds to buy a bolt of fabric. But, in time, it came to be and I re-found this calico… and it was on sale, too, which made it doubly exciting.

The next step to the journey was deciding what style of dress I wanted. I truly was thinking I’d like to make a Cherokee Tear dress… but alas I couldn’t get enough of the calico to make it. Ribbon, too, has been scarce these last few years. So, I began to look at other options. There was the standard Women’s Southern Cloth dress that I’ve made many many times…. but, I wanted something different. My own tribe, Shawnee, traditional wear is beautiful, and truly I prayed very deeply about going with that style (Strap dress, with tiered overcape). I even dug into my cloth and found I had enough black, and a yard or so of a fabric with little hummingbirds on it that would make a nice, single tier overcape. And, I will make that later.

I considered that I won’t be dancing anytime soon between pandemic and my health that just isn’t going to happen. Then, I was invited to flute for some friends and I thought it would be nice to have new regalia (given that I’ve passed on my Jingle wear) for that occasion. Which will be happening tomorrow! YEAH! And so, I started to pray and consider what kind of regalia would protect my privacy when I raised my arms to play, yet still be Native. In the end, I decided on an Ojibwe style dress. It’s NOT authentic, but hopefully not offensive either.

I like the dropwaist as it reminds me of the 1920’s… and I really enjoy the music and the “freeness” of that time. I envision flappers, and women’s sufferage, and all the dancing… tons of dancing…. So, the base gown was born. I added a little bit of ribbon for shimmer. Next was onto the underskirt… a simple wrap. Sorry, it’s not traditional. I’m allergic to the wool, and couldn’t afford the yardage for simulated wool right now. Not that the store actually had said fabric to begin with. Like we all know, pandemic has stretched our supply lines to the limit, so one must make do with what one can get… in my case, a basic cotton. It will serve for the moment I believe. So I made the wrap skirt, leggins and caplet to match.

Then came the hardest part… adornments. Natural designs are appropriate with elaborate beadwork. Frankly, all the images I saw were just too “fancy” for who I am. I am a simple woman. I tend towards the simplicity side of life. So, I wanted a design that reflected that part of my nature. Okay, so I found some patterns for embroidery and for applique, and they were all tremendously beautiful…. and would require a year or more to complete… and I was limited for time. I was almost to the point of tears and cancelling the engagement Friday. Then, I thought…. buttons… simple,, yet could be laid out quickly, and removed later when I had time to do it up proper. So, off I went to store in search of buttons to match in size and color to my dress.

No. Such. Luck. I didn’t want plastic. I didn’t want white, or black. If I was going to use buttons, then they had to be wooden or shell. No such luck. There was a distinct shortage in both wood, and shell buttons. Another option blown away by pandemic. Then, I slipped down the bead aisle. Maybe I could do a simple line of seed beads and later add to the design. Yeah, that could work, I told myself. Blew my nose, wiped my eyes, and changed my thought process.

To my joy, I did find some beads… and what do you know but that they were on sale at 50% off. I would’ve paid full price for them, but hey, I’m not gonna knock a sale. So, then I decided on a simple design that could be picked later if I chose to do applique or the like. So, for now, I have natural stones in place of glass beads… The deep brown of the Tiger Eye set off by the red of bamboo coral, and shell chips. Simple, yet I like it. The beads give just enough weight to keep the caplet from flying up in my face, too. So, I spent all of last evening and today sewing and knotting each bead into place. At the center front, I made a simple “fourwinds” type design.

It’s a far cry from my jingle dress, but already this dress is full of prayer and promise. The little roses bring a smile. The tiger eyes remind me of an Apache story. The red stones remind me of the blood of my savior, And the shells, hmmm… dare I say that they keep me grounded. reminding me to find the good in things most would take for granted, or not care about. None of the stones or shells are perfect, each one is unique.. like each of us. Together, we create our beautiful world.

Now, it’s time for me to get my flutes out and play a little as the sun sets on this gorgeous day. May you each find joy in your journey this week. Be blessed and know that I carry your prayers with me tomorrow as I play.

Sewn to the bone…

I’m not sure if I shared this project before, so excuse me if I did. This is a reproduction of a Victorian Era sweet bag. A project found in Piecework magazine… about the best magazine subscription I’ve ever purchased. I love the articles that speak of the history, and of course the projects to go with. I was especially entranced by this sweet bag. The article describing it’s original use was very interesting, too. So, I decided to give it a shot. It’s rare, very very rare that I go to the extravagance of purchasing taffeta…and white taffeta at that! But I did. There was not any silk threads to be found, so I used regular cotton DMC threads. Still, it’s coming out very nicely. I’ve now finished the one side and am sewing on the other side.

As you can see, it’s not a huge bag… the bottom edge is only 9 inches before sewing. The top edge is 7 inches. It’s mostly long&short stitch with some couching with metallic threads around the center motif. I’ve purchased a piece of pink satin for the lining, and matching ribbon for the ties. I cannot wait to see the finished bag! 🙂

In other sewing news. I decided to go with the Ojibwe Smoke dance style dress this time around. As you can see it’s a pretty basic drop-waist indicative of the 1920’s. I like the style a lot. I was in a quandry about the material, but finally decided that I rather love the small roses in this calico. I love roses, and I like the earthy tones in this pattern, the subtle antique pinks mixed with dark green/brown stems. It goes really well with the maroon and brown satin ribbon that I used around the hem. Sorry for angle of photo, relying on Hubby and he’s not so good with the phone. Now, onto the skirt…

The dress really calls for a simple rectangle of cloth tied around the waist and coming down halfway to the ankles. As you can see, I have rather short legs that make this an “odd” combo. So, before I cut into the lovely suede-like, or the maroon-ish fabric that I bought, I wanted to give it a try with muslin.

Please excuse the junk in the background. Sooo, I think the muslin looks about right. It’s not a wrap perse, though. I tried it wrap style with the suede-like fabric and couldn’t get it to stay in place long enough to walk downstairs for a photog. grrr…. I know, I know, the original fabric should be wool, and wool would hug the body the way it’s supposed to. Only one problem with that – I’m allergic to wool. So, for me it must be cotton or a synthetic (like the suede fabric). So, suede didn’t quite hang the way that I wanted it to, nor did it withstand walking tied in the traditional manner. What’s a girl to do at that point. No Elders around to call on, I’m on my own to figure this out. UGH! So, I’m resorting to a wrap around skirt pattern with a cynch tie/elastic waistband. You won’t be able to see that part, so I hope it will swing for my needs. The bottom will hang properly with a straight edge on the flap part, It will have nice lines. It is what it is the best that I can manage it. Last night, I cut the skirt from the maroon-ish fabric, and pin fitted it. It does actually look even better than the muslin mock up. Oh, my hand is at natural waist level in the photog. I have a long torso so it makes the dress waist seem more dropped than it is. Anyway, I may still do the little caplet, gauntlets and leggins in the suede since it took all the maroon cloth just to do the skirt. Sigh….I’ve yet to make the final decision on decoration for those parts. I’ve narrowed the selection down to three… still praying about it, though.

If you’re curious, the sweet bag pattern can be found in this issue of Piecework magazine…. And no, I’m NOT going to attempt the argyle socks…. way beyond my skill set they are.