Sunday, 19 May 2019

The Mother of the Stash*

aka  A Tale of Two Fabrics.

Because there's no way I'm leading with the next photo in this post. . .

The Sewcialists blog is marking May 2019 with a theme month: Sew Brave. The idea is to push out of your comfort zone, and sew something which scares you. So I'm taking this opportunity to . . . . make a cotton dress.

On the face of it, this is hardly the ultimate in derring-do. Cotton is super-easy to work with; that's why The Great British Sewing Bee starts off with 'Cotton Week'. And it's hardly as though I never make cotton dresses; see here, and here, and here, and - well, you get the idea. No, the 'brave' bit is the cotton in question.

In May 1991 Mum and I went to Florence. On the theme of being brave, and for the amusement of my readers, I'll actually share a photo from that trip.

Lots of black, a dodgy perm, and a cardigan at least five sizes too big for me - oh dear!

We found a fabric shop in Florence (of course), and despite barely speaking a word of Italian we managed to buy some material (also of course). We both bought cottons with floral designs; Mum's was an iris print and mine was anemones.

Mum's iris-print cotton

Mum, being sensible, made her fabric up almost as soon as we got home. She made a simple shift dress, to let the fabric take centre-stage. She also recently gifted the dress to me (thanks Mum!).

The iris dress

I on the other hand was not sensible. I kept my fabric until I could find a pattern worthy of it. Of course I never did, and it fell victim to Special Fabric Syndrome: the longer I waited, the more special the pattern needed to be in order to justify using the material.

My anemone-print cotton

In the 28 years that the anemone cotton has been in my stash I have: lived in four different houses; been employed by seven different companies (while doing the same job, long story); had all sorts of changes in my personal life; started a Masters, acquired a collection of vintage patterns and - failed to find a suitable pattern for three metres of 142cm wide cotton.

In a way, it's the Masters that prompted me to finally take action. I was talking to several of my fellow students recently, and realised that none of them was actually born when I bought this! 28 years feels like an abstract thing, but to look at a friend and think, "I've got fabric in my stash that's older than you are", really brings it into focus. There was also the small matter of doing the sums and realizing that I have owned this dress length for more than half of my life!

I'm sticking with a pattern I've used successfully before (because there's brave, and then there's foolhardy), New Look 6299, albeit probably with a little frankenpatterning around the neckline.

The basis for the dress
Wish me luck!

* - In Britain, the longest-serving Member of Parliament is known as the Father of the House (so far, the position hasn't been held by a female MP), hence this fabric's title of the Mother of the Stash.


  1. I love your mum's dress! Beautiful fabric. It really suits you. When I read this post - it rang so many bells. Hanging on to fabric for years awaiting the perfect 'outfit' or idea; or making something with precious fabric and then regretting it. I am permanently stuck between those two. As you say, it's Special Fabric Syndrome.

    1. Thank you Kate. I've sorted out the pattern, I just haven't quite got round to taking scissors to fabric yet!