Choosing the project
I loved the look of this project from the moment I saw it; smart and professional but light and breezy. I was also intrigued by the “Colour-Blocking” use of the striped fabric – (do you call it ‘colour blocking’ when it’s all the same colour?) For pattern see here.
It has pockets – love that in a dress! In a neutral colour it would be a great Spring/Autumn look for the office.
It comes from the February issue of Burda Style – one that’s turning out to be a real favorite of mine.
Once, on a rainy-day, during my Golden Week trip to Nagano, I decided to kill time by visiting an exhibition on Japanese indigo dyeing. And I was fascinated by the social history of this dye.
Aizome, or indigo fabric, has been made and worn in Japan since the 6th and 7th centuries and was at first a high status fabric. However from the 17th century it started being worn by common people. In the 19th century when Japan first opened up to the west it was so commonly worn that the colour was called “Japan Blue.” In the Showa period (1920s ~1990) it was often used for workmen/women’s clothes. Much like the similar blue jeans, it’s usually a tough, hard-wearing fabric.
Indigo fabrics come in many traditional patterns and for this project I wanted something with an underlying striped motif. Also, as mentioned, indigo dye is often used on tough, hard-wearing cotton fabrics, and as this project is unlined, I really had to look for a softer cotton.
Most Japanese fabric shops have a good selection of traditional fabrics but this time I went to the Yuzuwaya, in Sannomiya Kobe, which has an amazing range. I chose this fabric, with the motif of arrow flights. From a distance they look like swirly waves but up close they look a little bit like white embroidery – which I thought would work nicely with all the visible topstitching the project required.
Another great thing about using Japanese cotton is – it’s cheap! I think this was only around 800 yen per meter.
Parts of this project were a right nightmare! It turned out alright in the end but wow I had a real struggle with this project! It sat half-finished for weeks. I would get home from work, sew for 15 minutes, get frustrated and give up for the night.
Maybe it was just me and my inexperience, or maybe the instructions were purposely obscure and confusing. So let’s talk about the fun I had with this project.
Could not understand the instructions here. On my first go I ended up with the pocket flap inside the pocket and other weird lumps and bumps. In the end I decided just to skip the pocket, just having decorative pocket flaps. Besides, would you really want to put anything in a boob pocket?
Result: looks ok, and dress has other pockets.
Another odd set of instructions. Trying to enclose the end of the sleeve into the cuff seemed the messiest way of doing things. So what I ended up doing was
- Neatening the sleeve with my overlocker.
- Sewing up the cuff separately with matching sewing thread, allowing me to make it perfectly neat and even.
- Top-stitching the cuff onto the sleeve with the white contrast threat.
While doing things this way feels a lot like cheating, and looks pretty strange if I ever roll my sleeves up, it gave me so much more control over the cuff construction and went on really nicely.
From my original reading of the instructions I assumed this would go on a bit like bias binding, ie sew it on wrong side, fold over, top-stitch neatly on right side. But no, that just didn’t work, the main issue was that the two halves were attached in the centre, thus didn’t neatly go round the corner. This was the most frustrating part – and took me several weeks and many attempts. I was desperately scouring the web for other blogs that had made it, close up pictures, similar patterns, anything that would give me a hint on how it should work, So in the end, much like with the cuff – I gave up doing it the proper way.
Firstly, I finished off the front opening with my overlocker as best I could. Then I reinforced the back of the fabric with interfacing. (So again this looks pretty weird from the inside!) I then made up the front placket section as a whole separate piece, which again allowed me to sew it as neatly as possible. Finally I top-stitched it onto the front of the dress – this time with matching blue fabric because I’d already done the white contrast stitching neatly.
Getting it to fit on the front of the dress neatly and evenly was a real challenge – and I think it’s quite a bit lower than it should be. (I have to be very careful what bra I wear!)
I do love this dress. I first wore it out with my friends for hanami (Cherry blossom viewing) back in April. Despite the bodge job in the construction, from the outside it looks pretty good. While it may not be the most exciting thing I’ve made – it’s a fantastic everyday item.
I’m also pleased with the way the indigo fabric and traditional pattern work with this western dress. By varying the direction of the arrow flights I was able to achieve the same effect as the original but with a subtle Japanese twist.
Here are some photos of me in the dress and hanami in Osaka castle park.