Home Sewn at the Dowse: Home Sewn by the Crowd

At opening night at Home Sewn at the Dowse, the crowd was quite as sumptuous as the exhibits. Here’s some that I particularly loved.

Dowse-LovelyPairThis enchanting pair even held hands in the fashion show. Femmes represent!

Dowse-FlapperDapperEven if the orange backdrop wasn’t the best idea on my part, these frocks (and a hat) were irresisitble.

Dowse-Joy  Who needs an orange backdrop when you are both ON FIRE??


A gentler moment with two of my friends – two dresses and a cape that they made. Amazing fit and detail.

Dowse-Spots  This fellow blogger apologized because her coat was “made by a friend.” No apology necessary!

Dowse-TrioThree ravishing gowns, each made by the wearer. Hand-embroidered silk flowers there on the right.

Dowse-TheFutureI love how she went ahead and started the future with this green silk dress that she made from a Cybele pattern, her purple hair, and the Rubik’s Cube handbag.

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Home Sewn at the Dowse: Opening Night

Last night, I went to the hectic opening of “Home Sewn” at the Dowse Art Museum – an exhibit profiling the home creators and designers of clothing in New Zealand. Home sewing was a huge part of fashion in this remote isle until very recently, so this exhibit of the finest Kiwi home stitchers have to offer is amazing. The exhibit is free, and you should go, if you like dresses.

Dowse-PartyViewOpening night was a mad gala, the Home Sewn Night of Fashion, packed with hundreds of women wearing dresses and coats they, or a friend or relative, had sewn in New Zealand. A Dowse photographer captured many outfits for a People’s Choice competition. (Which isn’t online just yet,.)


This outfit, sewn and hand-painted with scenes of Samoa by the artist’s mother, won one of the prizes bestowed by luminaries including the designer and historian Doris du Pont.

Dowse-ExhibitCenterAfter our self-made fashion show, we were the first ones to see the exhibit – a vast cool room full of dresses from the 1930s to 2011, all made by New Zealand home stitchers. Yes, Archival People, I turned my camera flash off for these first-view shots. I love the contrast in this photo between the 1950s dresses and the contemporary viewers.

Dowse-ExhibitLeftThe 1960s side of the exhibit.

Dowse-ExhibitRightDresses from the 21st century – though you might not have guessed that at first, looking at the 1950s-esque eau de nil chiffon and the vivid retro sheath.

Dowse-ExhibitPatternsWriters and creators from the Wellington Sewing Bloggers Network got stuck into the pattern corner.

Tomorrow I’ll have shots of the attendees in their self-made garments, so get ready for another picture-weighty post.

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Blue Mullet Dress

Have some business in the front, party in the back, with this ultramarine-blue “mullet” dress I made.

Business in the front, party in the back!

Mullet dress in the Wellington summer wind

I’m ambivalent about many manifestations of the mullet or high-low look, but it’s a good one to sew at home to get it just right for you. I wanted it as a flexible summer run-around dress, solid, flowing, and sleeved.

Notice the pasty whiteness of my unsunned limbs

Skirt differential: about 12 inches between front and back.

The fabric is a midweight viscose from Global Fabrics in Wellington. This dress is based on an older Butterick pattern, 4972 – from the mid-90s! I used its Petite option, and altered it further as follows:

  • Nipped in the shoulders at the back by a good 2 inches to match my back measurement – A great alteration for other petites.
  • Reduced the fullness of the skirt by 1 – 2 inches per side/back panel – To reduce the weight of the knit fabric.
  • Reinforced the shoulder seams inside with non-stretchy cotton twill tape – To support the remaining, still-proportionally-substantial weight of the knit fabric.
  • Added a strip of elastic at the waist in the back – Further support for that big ol’ skirt! A knit mullet skirt, supported by its waistband, wouldn’t have the skirt-weight problems.
  • Made the neckline an inch and a half higher – This made the neckline fall where it should on my short torso. I also faced the neckline.
  • Added sleeves – These elbow sleeves make it very flexible in temperate Wellington.

The valuable core of the pattern was the main dress structure, based on princess seams, which is hugely flattering, especially with the petite alterations included in the pattern.

Hi, boys

Naughtiness at sunny seaside Shortland Park, Island Bay, Wellington

Both this dress and the photos had their genesis at a lovely friend’s craft afternoon in Island Bay, Wellington.  One Saturday, I cut the dress out (and learned how to copy patterns, too). While I sewed at home, an experienced friend watched and gave me valuable advice. When it was done, a third friend (her photo journal is here) volunteered to take these stellar shots.  A crafting community supported project that left me with a summer dress and pleasant memories. Thank you, everyone.



State of the Scrumptious

A lot has been going on behind the scenes here. Since I went to NetHui in July, life has been exceptionally busy. My mom had surgery overseas (she’s fine!) and my partner’s father visited. A stream of freelance work, burlesque emceeing, increased responsibilities at my day job, and two workshops that I gave on August 26th also kept me on the run.

Then it was time to be my OWN web client and to update this site. A year’s worth of spiffing content now has a mobile-friendly look and feel in a “responsive” theme.

After a year of blogging my main preoccupations all sum up as performing the feminine. Get dressed – it’s a performance. Engage in activities within traditional women’s zones – it’s a performance. Get up on stage, go to a conference – it’s a performance. The fashion and style blogs I enjoy the most discuss style in a thoughtful way – Alison at Wardrobe Oxygen had a magnificent post about this. I am planning on ramping up the style elements here.  That said, while I talk about shopping, and brands will be mentioned, a consumer-advocate perspective is what comes naturally to me, more than being a personalized catalog.  I’ve learned that my readers and I all THINK before we spend.  I’m also investing in a new camera this week, so you can look forwards to more and better photos.

My sewing procrastination is at an end – I made this sequined gown in August. It’s silver and pewter sequin tiger stripes! The microsequin fabric stitched up all right, but it demanded to be sewn with a stretch stitch and nothing but, and it had to be lined with a stretch lining. Definitely a sewing learning experience! I finished it in time for a shoot with Digitalpix on the first day of spring.

Full lycra/poly lining = no sequin itches!

Thank you Digitalpix for this delicious portrait! Black and white shows off this pewter and silver gown perfectly.

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Made A Dress: New Look 6912 – One Shoulder Dress

Me in the dress I made from New Look pattern 6912.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Sketchy Wellington photographer John McGavin.

On July 9th I had the privilege and pleasure of emceeing Dr. Sketchy in Wellington. The featured models were three of the beauties from Miss La Belle’s House of Burlesque. From putting the music together to flirting with lovely door babe Crystal Mischief to seeing the art take shape, I had a wonderful time, plus I got crabs (you had to be there.)  My cup of burlesque joy was full and I look forwards to being in the audience next time and sketching.

If you don’t have any interest in sewing, you can stop reading right here. Believe me, it’s for the best.

Two emceeing events in a row, and I’d blown my costuming budget on Frolic Lounge on July 2nd. For Dr. Sketchy,on July 9th,  I hit up my pattern and fabric stash to make something. This is what the fabric stash is supposed to be for. (Quick, everyone, run out and buy more fabric for your stash! Because you never know!)

I’d wanted to make a dress from this pattern, New Look 6912, for a while. The eternal question with evening wear patterns is, “Where will I wear it?” Emceeing a burlesque event with a cast dress code of “sleek and elegant” was the perfect opportunity.

This is the first sewing post I’ve done here, so, a word about where I am on the seamstress continuum. After several sewing classes, my sewing skills are mediocre to average. I take up pants, nip in waistlines, and make the occasional skirt or dress. I’ve tended to specialize in knits, because I like wearing them. No, I don’t have an overlocker. When it comes to sewing,  I always think of something I read in the Sloane Ranger Handbook: “Slightly wrong things look better on people than on furniture.” Yep, that’s the stuff I make! I’m looking to up my sewing skills over the next year.

If you want more than “I made a dress, here’s the picture!”, below I review measuring, cutting, and making; the pattern fit; and what it was like to wear this dress for an active event.

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