Make an Impressionist

Dress: Cashmerette Honeybourne, made from cotton sateen fabric from Digital Fabrics (print design by Susanna April)

I am not, let’s just say, an accomplished sewist. I can sew a straight(ish) seam, and I’ve more or less learned how to read the instructions of a sewing pattern. I know the difference between a French seam and a felled one. But apart from moving a hem up or down I don’t really know how to do alterations. About this time last year I bought myself a copy of Jenny Rushmore’s book Ahead of the Curve, thinking that it was probably time to teach myself how to do a full bust adjustment at the very least.

Reader, the book sat on my shelf. Then it sat on my shelf a little more. And then the team at Digital Fabrics got in contact to see if I’d like to road-test their brand-new cotton sateen, and I thought ‘Ooooh, I’ll need to make something really special with that!” and decided maybe it was time to try my very first Cashmerette pattern.

Based in Sydney, Digital Fabrics is a digital textile print house that prides itself on its quality, quick turnaround, and ease of design services. All their inks are non-toxic and water based, and they have a huge range of fabrics on offer including cotton, rayon, linen, ponti, lycra, canvas and more. They also offer on-demand cut-and-make product services for people who might not sew, but would like to take advantage of the ability to print their own artwork onto cushions, teatowels, curtains, totebags, etc.

On the website they have straightforward tutorials on how to create your own seamless fabric repeats, and if you’re feeling Very Serious about this textile design thing, you can actually take a one-on-one online class that will guide you through the process. Or you can do what I did, and simply choose an existing print from Digital Fabrics’ gallery of artists.

The print that I chose leapt out to me from the screen with its gorgeous painterly hues of blues and greens and hints of pinks. It reminded me immediately of Claude Monet’s Water Lillies series. Perhaps aptly, it’s called My Heart’s Garden, and it’s by Brisbane based artist, Susanna April.

Digital Fabrics sent me My Hearts Garden printed on their beautiful new Poppy sateen, a 100% cotton fabric with a slight sheen, and a soft hand-feel. It’s light enough to billow when it catches the wind, but with a weight of 140gsm, it’s perfect for use in items that need just a little structure. Which is to say: it was perfect for Cashmerette’s Honeybourne.

The Honeybourne is available exclusively with Ahead of the Curve, and it’s a woven dress pattern with a darted front, sleeves, and a full skirt. It’s the pattern where Jenny teaches you a brand range of alteration techniques, including full and small bust adjustments, a narrow shoulder adjustment, a full bicep adjustment, a swayback adjustment, and broad back adjustment. It comes in sizes 12-32 and in three cup ranges: C/D, E/F, G/H. I made the 18 E/F, and full disclosure – for all my hyping myself up to learn how to do adjustments, it fit perfectly (as far as I can tell) straight out of the packet.

With the full gathered skirt, fitted bodice, and half-length sleeves, it’s got a real 1950’s party-dress vibe to it. There’s an enormous amount of yardage in that skirt – it’s actually six panelled, though the abstract print disguises that well – and it’s actually the perfect length for me to wear over my tulle skirt when I really want to fancy it up.

I love the pattern, and I LOVE the fabric; which at just $44 per metre is virtually the same price you’ll pay for fabric from one of the big European design houses. I’m keen to try my hand at designing my own print next time (or enlisting some three-year-old help!)

Me Oh Maai(Design)

With brands like Gorman, Witchery, Portmans, Kuwaii, Nancybird, and Obus extending their size ranges it feels like mainstream fashion in Australia is finally catching up on the need for size diversity. Which is ironic timing for me, because as my confidence as a sewist has grown I’m finding that increasingly my wardrobe is less-and-less store bought fashion, and more-and-more pieces that I have sewn myself.

I find sewing to be a strangely meditative process. I enjoy the challenge of finding the perfect fabric for a style, of pinning and cutting and stitching, and the magical alchemy that turns a flat surface into something that curves around the shape of my body, fitting precisely (or precisely enough) the measurements that the fashion industry has found so impossible to cater to for so long.

When I first started sewing I bought the majority of my fabric from Spotlight and Lincraft. I couldn’t necessarily tell the difference between a good quality fabric or a poor one, and the concept of boutique textile design companies was a foreign one. Discovering independent online fabric shops like MaaiDesign was a bit of a revelation.

Based here in Victoria and stocking fabric, patterns, and supplies from some of the world’s most covetable textile companies MaaiDesign is a great place to browse if you’re looking for something a bit different and a bit special.

This absolutely splendid 100% cotton lawn is from Lady McElroy, and features a fantastic contemporary print of overlapping line drawing of hands.

It’s part of Lady McElroy’s Ethically Sourced and Go-Greener Initiative, which is focussed on promoting sustainable cotton production: environmentally, socially, and economically.

It’s a lovely light fabric with a soft hand-feel, and it was an absolute dream to sew with. It’ll be lovely to wear as the weather warms up, because despite the absolute opacity of the fabric, it’s whisper-thin against the skin.

The pattern I used was The Assembly Line’s terrific Cuff Dress, which comes with an elastic waist and gathered elastic cuffs on the sleeves. The nature of the print meant that I could get away without pattern-matching, but I did cut the back piece on the fold (eliminating the keyhole fastening) and replaced the neck facing with bias binding.

Worn with red ballet flats from Vivaia.

Thank you so much to Maaike for sending me this fabric for review!