Thursday, January 12, 2012


Thank you for all the positive words regarding my "manifesto".  I hesitated about posting it, thinking I sounded a bit too full of myself, and knowing I was setting myself up to be shot down (or to just fall off my pedestal headfirst into the mud!)  Some people mentioned thrifting / charity shop-buying.  I haven't had much luck with that up here.  I don't know what younger women do with their cast-offs in Aberdeen, but I don't see them appearing in the charity shops.  1990's Eastex suits for Sunday church-going?  Absolutely!  A Karen Millen mini dress?  Not on your nelly!
So where was I...?  Following my pontifications of Tuesday, I realised that I need to get a dress out of my head and into fabric.
You know the one.
It is very much like Anna Allen's Henriette plaid smock (left), or this Liberty wool number from Nadinoo or Velvet Bird's checked version of Lola Sings The Blues.
Anna Allen Dress

Nadinoo dress

Velvet Bird's dress

Defining features:
High yoke with gathers or pin-tucks
Peter Pan collar
Long  / 3/4 length sleeve gathered onto a narrow cuff
Back-fastening,  probably buttoned
Above the knee
Loose-fitting, without looking like I am nine months gone
Brushed cotton fabric

I was certain that one of my Japanese books would have something similar, but none of the dress patterns were quite right.  I don't yet feel ready to attempt to draft my own design.

So it was over to Etsy...


NOT maternity - phew!
Of the three, the one that looks most like the dress-of-dreams is McCall's 3463, a maternity smock - sigh!
But I am sure it will be easy enough to pare away a few inches of width from the gathered section.  The envelope notes that it has "the new narrower shoulder" which sounds promising!  It is interesting that all three patterns come from around the same era:  1971-2.

I also found a pattern from the 60's which has a far narrower silhouette, Simplicity 6299.  But it also seems to have a higher neckline, which would be harder (for me) to adjust than the skirt section of the maternity smocks.  And its case was not helped by a note from the seller of this copy that the collar and sleeve pieces are missing!  (Collar - Ok to re-draft, but the sleeve?)  And I didn't want to have to buy the "wrong" size and have to re-size the whole thing.  Ah the perils of vintage patterns!

So I ordered McCall's 3463.

And fabric?  Well... I was considering the purchase of some tartan-esque cotton.  "Sewing from stash"?  Who said that?!
Both pictured fabrics are from CalicoLaine.  The red was made in Portugal (£6.99) , the lilac in the UK (£3.99).  But I wasn't sure about either.  I prefer the lilac but the seller is clear that it isn't as high-quality as the red.  I really do not want to deal with another troublesome tartan terror fabric right now!

I searched online for "ethical" fabric and located organic fairtrade handloomed checked cotton here and here.  But neither sold the warm brushed flannel-type fabric I was looking for.  I want a winter-weight garment.  I thought about using velvet instead (ethical cotton velvet!  Wow!)  but really wanted to stick to my original "vision".  And velvet might be too bulky for this design.

And then... then I found the most amazing-sounding fabric!

"Looks like wool, feels like wool, yet sews and washes like cotton with no scratchy wool itch. Woolies flannel is cozy perfection with classic designs like herringbones, plaids, tweeds and dots in a rich array of home-friendly colours. Guy friendly too! They handle beautifully and need little pinning as the nap keeps the fabric together when sewing! We are sure you will love them too!"

I AM SMITTEN!  (at £12 a metre it had better be as good as they claim!)
Now... dots or checks?

And the resultant ethics?
Vintage pattern imported from the US, so recycling with a bad carbon footprint! Does one cancel out the other?
Fabric is allegedly pure cotton, so "natural", but it is not fairtrade or organic and it is imported from the US.  At least it is from a UK shop:  Quilter's Haven
Pattern:  £4.64 plus £4.64 shipping (tsk!)
Fabric:  3 metres would come to £36.  I haven't bought it yet.  I looked at buying it direct from the US but the shipping plus risk of import tax cancels out any savings.
Total:  Around £45 - £50 for materials... I still have to make it!
For comparison:
Anna Allen dress: around £115
Velvet Bird Dress:  around £60
Nadinoo dress:  £155
"You pays yer money and you takes yer choice"...


Miriana said...

I made some PJs recently with cotton flannel (not sure if it's the same stuff) and it was a pain in the arse - it kept sticking to itself. And I associate flannel with sleepwear. The word 'cozy' in the description isn't doing much to dispel that feeling. Just saying...

Lucy said...

Oh man. You have just placed MAJOR temptation in my way.

Annie said...

Now it's a long time since I made any clothes for me ... but back in the 90s I made a smocky dress with similar fabric, and like Miriana I really didn't get on with it. Plus it looked like a maternity smock even though it wasn't (and I was really skinny back then), something in the drape. Just saying ...
Love the dress shape idea though, will follow with interest.

Scruffybadger said...

Brilliant post telling us your first ethical sewing plan and research. Really enjoyed it and LOVE your two choices of fabric, and those patterns are darling too. Yes, even the maternity wear has some pizazz about it! This is going to be a very feel good frock in many ways!!

hebejeeby said...

dots! I'm addicted to polka dots!!!

Dibs said...

I like the look of the check one.. did you used to watch gavin and stacy? Your last quote sounds like something nessa would say.

Anonymous said...

I say fly in the face of all convention... You'll look great and cause grown men's blood to boil... That's power Roo.

Minnado said...

Great post, ethical fabric shopping is tricky! I think the dress will look fab. I have been admiring Nadinoo dresses for a while now. Look forward to seeing how you get on with this project./ Have a good weekend. x

LinB said...

Dots. I choose dots for you, in honor of my darling daughter. She would grab fabrics with dots on them as a toddler, when I pushed her in a stroller through the fabric store, to the point of yanking the whole bolt off the table. She always chose dots for her dresses. I suppose I should have changed her name to Dorothy ... dots get my vote.

Joe Courtney said...

Having trouble getting message through, so this is a test. Joe Courtney

Joe Courtney said...

Very glad it came through. As I wrote on message that evaporated, I stumbled on your blog last week and read it from when you started it until now - without taking a break -several hours of pure entertainment. I enjoyed all the pictures and sewing stuff, but closely read everything about FL. His situation resembled my own so I found the details of his journey riviting.Very much enjoyed your outlook on things and found your approach to life inspiring.

I am almost 63 and was diagnosed with MM in May of 2007. My wife, Ellen, is almost 50 and is a pre-school teacher for children with disabilities. We have a 12 year old daughter -we sometimes refer to as "The Girl". I have 4 adult children from previous marriage. We iive in Bloomington,Indiana, USA. We consider ourselves "Anglophiles" in that we love British culture -including Scotland and Ireland.(currently am enjoying PG Wodehouse in book form and also watching cds from 1990's tv series with Hugh Laurie.) Last Sept. we traveled through Ireland and England by car for 3 weeks and had wonderful time. Did not make it to Scotland -although my Great Grandmother came from Highlands. My Great Grandfather was from County Kerry Ireland.
So it is wonderful to know you exist and I will continue to follow your blog. Best regards, Joe Courtney

Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm bowheadnan from Texas. We exchanged a few comments several years ago. I think about you often, but have been hesitant to read your blog or write.
My husband lost his 5 year fight with MM in July 2010, he was only 62. I was afraid to share my sad news with you and I was hesitant to read how FL was doing :( I am so glad he is still fighting back.
I have finally gone back to work, chemistry professor, and am getting used to being on my own. Caring for my husband & practically living in the hospital for years really made me loose touch with a normal life but in my new normal I am starting to branch out & get out of the house! I love your intentions for 2012. I already buy most of my wardrobe from second hand shops & thrift stores. I find vintage patterns & always look for Betsey patterns for you. I Find a lot of her children's patterns but few misses sizes. What size pattern should I be looking for? If I find one I'll send it to you .Are you on Facebook?
I love Facebook as a way to keep up with family & friends. My facebook name is bowheadnan. Your novice knitting friend in Texas, Nancy

Roobeedoo said...

Joe - go and have a cup of tea ! If you have read the whole blog in one session you must be exhausted! ;)
Thanks for stopping by - you must get your own blog going so the MM peeps can support you too!

Bowheadnan - oh I am so sorry to hear about your husband. But it's good to hear you are back at work again, finding your feet.
Thank you so much for offering to look out for Betsey patterns! Anything with a 32 inch bust is in the right region of sizing - I seem to fit the teen sizes pretty well! I'm not on F-book, but I am sure we can communicate through comments/ email.