Thursday, December 18, 2014

Mary Lennox

Lady Skater dress in rose print ponte knit
One of my very favourite books of all time is The Secret Garden.  When I was younger, my uncle gave me a beautiful version with the original watercolour illustrations.  I read it often growing up and now I read it with my own daughter.  It was the magic of an entirely secret place that intially drew me in. As well, I identified with Mary Lennox as an only child; I spent a lot of time playing on my own, just like Mary.  There were so few books out at that time that had only children as central characters, so I naturally devoured this book.

I remember feeling secretly shocked at Mary's outright rude behaviour at the beginning of the story. It was incomprehensible to me that someone could and would behave that way and seem to get away with it!  Colin's behaviour was not much better and I rejoiced when Mary gave him a very large piece of her mind! A young Raja, indeed!

See my Wilma Flinstone necklace? I love it! I thrifted it for $3.99!
I was breathless reading the chapter when the robin showed Mary the way to the garden.  I was bubbling with excitement when Mary brought Dickon to the garden and they began to bring it back to life.  The illustrations at this point become much brighter and more cheerful; you can see the happiness being planted and slowly begin to bloom within the garden and within Mary and Colin.

It's due to The Secret Garden that I have a love of floral prints, specifically roses.  Rose printed dresses are the most common floral in my closet and I always feel pretty and feminine when I wear them.  I was missing rose prints in my winter wardrobe until Gillian shared photos of her floral print ponte knits.  That girl knows her knits! seems to be my go-to for online fabric shopping of late.  They have what I'm looking for at good prices and the shipping is quite reasonable.  It was a bit of a challenge to find a printed ponte knit that wasn't on a black background (I don't wear black very often) but I did find this one and this one.

I sewed the 3/4 length sleeves and left the bodice about 1" below my natural waist.
The fabric is, of course, 100% polyester but, amazingly!, feels soft and not like you're wearing a giant plastic bag. It breathes (thank heaven!) and the skirt drapes and swishes beautifully.  It's lovely and cozy but not too warm to wear to work where the heat tends to blast.

It's my grown up Mary Lennox dress.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

11 Claverton

Colette Patterns Laurel dress with self-drafted long sleeves

When I was growing up, I used to spend the summers with my grandparents in their little village of Stoulton, outside of Worcester.  They lived in a lovely row house with spectacular gardens - both front and back - and a good sized greenhouse at the very edge of the back fence.  They had lived there since being bombed out in the war.  I remember when my grandpa showed me the back of the piano embedded with shrapnel from the bomb that destroyed my granma's London house.

I learned how to peg out the wash properly and prop up the washing line with my granma's big stick so the clean wash wouldn't touch the ground.   It was really lovely to peg out the wash in the back garden.  I used to go through the scullery where my Soda Stream machine was kept in order to get outside (Intergalactic Space Juice was my favourite flavour).  On the right hand fence, my grandpa grew miles of sweet peas (my granma's favourite) that smelled so gorgeous and, I swear, would perfume the clean wash as well as the lavender rinse my granma used.

I eliminated the back darts and zipper for an easy fit. I add a belt if I want a more fitted look.

The left side of the garden was roses and other beautiful flowers whose names I can't remember.  The back garden looked out onto farmland at the time and my grandpa used to tease me that we could see all the way to Gloucestershire it was so flat!

In the greenhouse, they grew all sorts of vegetables - a habit left over from their victory gardening days - and the longest cucumbers I'd ever seen with the vilest tasting skins! Those skins were so bitter that your mouth would pucker practically closed! My granma would peel off those vile skins so we could eat the cucumbers without curdling!  One lunchtime, my grandpa bet me a pound that I couldn't eat 5 sausages. I ate them and got my pound which I promptly spent on toffee at the corner store down the road

Playing with print direction on the pockets

The front garden was exclusively roses and I remember at least 10 different kinds.  I took a petal from each one and sent them in a letter to my mom one summer.  Over the front door, in pride of place, were these enormous hanging baskets just exploding with fuchsias.  They were so lovely and I remember that I used to bolt through the front door at top speed because I was terrified of the bees that were constantly humming around them.

This fabric reminded me so much of my grandparents' fuchsia baskets and many happy summers spent gardening, pegging out the wash, and eating fresh vegetables.  I wasn't quite sure of the 'proper' way the print was supposed to run and, in the end, I decided I like the leaves pointing down.  When I look down, the fuchsia flowers appear upright to me.

Made with Sweet Lady Jane in Fuschia Rose by Jane Sassaman
Number 11 Claverton, Stoulton, Near Worcester was a summer haven for me.  I loved spending time there and am so grateful for my grandparents taking the time to fly me over.  My granma was the one who taught me to sew and crochet (and, belatedly, knit), as well as cook and keep house.  My grandpa used to tease me mercilessly but always with love.  He used to save his pocket change in a piggy bank we called Percy all year for me.  When I arrived, we'd bag it up and take it to the bank to have it changed into bills.  Whatever was saved there was mine to spend as I wished.
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