For those of you who have followed me for a while, you know I love upcycling, vintage textiles and vintage fabric. More to the point, I love reimagining textiles that have been discarded, donated, resold or thrifted. The idea that someone has put work into something only to have it be forgotten breaks my heart a little. I know there are many reasons why these pieces end up where they do. I know some of them may have negative associations with them. At the end of the day, I try to see the beauty in them and give them new life.
I recently made a dress from an estate sale purchase of a Grandma's Fan quilt top. I wore this to Quilt Market and got a lot of praise and enthusiasm for it.
The dress was shared numerous times online and some of the comments were not very favorable. Several of them were outraged that I would cut another's quilt top. The level of vitriol was such that I could not take it personally. There was no way MY make could upset them so much. It made me think that there was something else going on. They were misdirecting their outrage at me because they were imagining me doing this to their treasured work. I posed the question on my Instagram, "Do your loved ones know what to do with your creative work when you die?" It elicited a lot of thoughtful discussion. If you haven't yet, I suggest you take a read. Feel free to add your perspective to the conversation.
I found this, and a few other unfinished quilt tops at an antique mall earlier this year. I love all of the tiny blocks and knew it was something I would never make myself. After having it linger in my stash, I decided to make it up.
I love the center design and how it expands to the edges. I decided to make a dress that is a little more everyday wearable than my previous dress.
For this, I used the combination of two retro Butterick patterns. I liked Butterick 5310 for it's single panel front. I chose it so there would be no center front seam to disrupt the design.
I combined it with Butterick 4207. I used this pattern to grade the other for the wider A-line look. I also liked the option for contrast cuffs. The sleeve on this pattern achieves that.
This is a very simple silhouette therefore, pattern placement is important for visual interest. I used my extra large Arrow cutting mat and my new sewing pattern weights to center the design on the front.
I also took care to align the design across the front and back of the sleeves. It required a little bit of fabric Tetris, but in the end, I got an alignment I was happy with.
For this dress, you can see that the underside is a seam and thread filled mess! I get a lot of questions about what I do with those exposed seams. Frankly, I do nothing. I choose to wear a slip as a guard against the fibers on my skin. Adding a lining or underlining the fabric pieces will change the drape and hand of the garment. With all of the seams with piecing a textile, I'm already contending with reduced fluidity of the fabric. I choose not to add to it.
The back of the dress has a center back seam. I took additional care with the placement of the fabric for a symmetrical appearance. The density of the piecing meant the fabric did not flow down my back as it has with other lighter weight fabrics. I added two back darts for a modified sway back adjustment to pull in the added fullness.
When upcycling vintage patchwork, especially with the vintage pattern, I'm always concerned about it looking dated. To modernize this dress, I thought denim accents would do the trick. I added some on contrast cuffs and on the neck tie.
I love how this turned out. It's just the look I was going for. I hope the original maker of the textile would appreciate the use I am getting from it now.