This year Mr Rat and I celebrated my birthday by taking a trip to the Red Butte Gardens to see the colors of the changing seasons: red against green, green just turning golden, flowers still blooming while berries were clustered bright red on bushes and tees, and the birds, bugs and fishes all busy among the leaves. I wore my new prairie dress, made from 1970s-era McCalls 4038, and inspired by the dresses featured in my last post. McCalls 4038 is properly a wedding dress/bridesmaid dress pattern, but that didn't stop me from using it to make an every-day dress for myself. The black broadcloth portion of the dress is from my trip to the LA fabric district with my Mom back in April, and the black and reddish-brown floral cotton is from JoAnns fabric, a gift from Mr Rat earlier in the month so I could make myself a new birthday dress to wear, as I do some years. The alternating panels makes the style of this dress so interesting to me, with its resulting patchwork look. It's a unique take on prairie fashion, and historically inspired dress.
I sewed it with my regular methods---interfacing the back zipper so it won't ripple, sewing hooks and eyes to the collar by hand, and sewing some bias binding into the waistline as a stay and to cover the raw edges of the gathered skirt. The pattern has some interesting details, like elbow darts to make the fit of the puffed sleeves more comfortable, an underlined midriff (which doesn't keep mine from wrinkling a bit in photos---maybe I should shorten the midriff slightly the next time I sew this pattern? Or add a little bit more allowance at the side seams? Or both?), and the bottom band of the skirt is fully faced, which gives it a nice drape and swing. I pinked any of the seams that weren't faced, so the inside is neat and tidy and ready to endure the washing machine. Cutting out all those different panels in two different colors of fabric took quite a bit more attention than the cutting process usually demands. I'm glad that I took the time, though, because I like the result.
I decided that I wanted some embellishment on this dress, so I added some dollar-a-yard black lace from a past trip to the LA fabric district by hand, and then sewed on (also by hand) two rows of narrow black ribbon from JoAnns around the neckband and the wrists of the sleeves. I usually watch Poirot and Marple mysteries from the library while I do hand-sewing. Do any of you have a favorite thing to do while you sew? Or do you need to concentrate the whole time? I often sew and iron with just the sound of Gia snoring, or occasionally with a record or a CD on, but when I'm hand-sewing I find that I have enough attention to spare to put a movie or TV show on instead. It's one of the most relaxing parts of the sewing process.
I'm wearing the dress in these photos with an old pair of heeled boots (I have to wear a chunky heel with this dress or else the hem drags on the ground, which does limit my shoe options---but on the positive side, it makes me look taller), homemade red jasper earrings, a thrifted vintage crocheted shawl, and a thrifted crochet purse. Later on that day we went to the antique store on the way home and I found a very pretty necklace made of glass beads in the shapes of flowers and fruits. It looks really nice with this dress, and I intend to wear them together in the future.
Have you ever sewn yourself a birthday outfit? What do you like to do to celebrate the change from one year to the next? My birthdays can feel very melancholy ever since my grandmother died during the night of my birthday five years ago. When my brother called me the next morning, I thought he was going to wish me a belated happy birthday, but instead he told me the news of my grandmother's sudden passing. Every year I remember her, and remember time passing. But it makes those remembrances sweeter when they happen in a beautiful place with the person that I love most. Then---and when we have dinner with my family, or get Gia up on the bed so we can sleep in a pile after a busy and tiring day, or even if I am sad enough to weep but Mr Rat holds me while I do----then I feel comforted that even though time is passing, and sometimes it brings heartache and hardship, that it also brings moments that are filled with love and affection----and great beauty.
Postscript: have any of you ever dreamed about riding or sleeping on the back of a giant lizard? Mr Rat and I discovered these huge lizard statues in the children's garden and since no one was around, and it was almost my birthday, and I was wearing a special birthday dress. . . well, I just had to take a turn on the back of one of the lizards so I could indulge my fantasies for a moment. It would be so magical to be tiny for a while and see the world magnify in scope to the scale it is for a lizard---but I suppose that is already our view of things as such tiny beings on such a magnificent big planet. But I would like a garden to be my whole world, at least for a while.
Mr and Mrs Rat
Mr and Mrs Rat like to sew.