honeycomb dress

Pardon my absence these last, long weeks of summer. I’ve been finding my way along an unexpected path, and I very much needed to settle in. The story of how I’ve returned to live in Canada is a bit curious; full of serendipitous accidents, sudden changes, strange realisations. Despite falling in love with beautiful England, we were pushed along by chance and circumstance, and find ourselves beginning life in Canada again. It feels right to be settling on the Pacific Coast, though we are keenly missing my sweetheart, who is traveling the world yet and living with us whenever he can. Such a strange life! Best laid plans and such. We are very blessed to be with family, and can catch our breath and watch what dreams are unfolding. Now I’ve unpacked the boatful of belongings that led the way back, and nestled us into our space for now. I hope to study traditional skills that my adventuring life never left time for – I will share them with you. Though I’ve been reeling from the changes, I have made a few things. The first piece I’ve been wanting to show you is a frock that I designed and constructed on my grandmother’s 1950’s singer, to wear to my dear cousin’s summer wedding.

gathering-dress

Like the honeycomb smocked pillow I once made, I gathered the fabric into pleats;

smocking-dress

Then handstitched in a pattern to smock the gathers.

shirring-dress

After some gymnastics in sorting out the tension, I sewed the shirring elastic in rows along the remaining width of the fabric. Have a look at the shirred linen cushion I made as a study for this kind of piece.

honeycomb dress © elisa rathje 2012

Done! I threaded elastic into a gusset along the top edge to help it lie flat. Then I simply stitched the seam and hemmed the piece.

honeycomb dress © elisa rathje 2012

At the wedding, near an island vineyard. I’m so pleased with the sculptural qualities of the glossy cotton. The honeycomb dress is a lovely, simple thing to wear on a beautiful summer evening. What do you think?

honeycomb smocking

Perhaps the last of my studies in textural sewing with linen, one more toss cushion. (Though now that I think of it, I have a penchant for rosettes that I haven’t yet explored.) This piece uses true smocking, in a honeycomb style, very different from the shirring I’ve used before. The smocking is worked by drawing together even gathers on the reverse, and then on the right side, joining a pair of gathers, slipping invisibly up to the next spot over, sewing it to the gather beside it, and so on, so that a diamond shape begins to appear. Pardon? I’ll let Ginny over at Buttons and Bobbins illustrate this one. The stitched effect echoes my knitted honeycomb handwarmers and pleases me greatly.
honeycomb smocked cushion © elisa rathje 2012

There you are. It isn’t difficult, just perfect for a rainy night watching an old movie that you know well enough to look away from frequently. I find it charming to look at, the soft diamonds with hard edges, cousin of the kissing pleat.

handmade linen cushions © elisa rathje 2012

An education, so far. A variation on the kissing pleat pillow, a quilted and piped piece, this honeycomb smocking project, knife pleats, a second kissing pleat cushion, a ruffled experiment, and the tufted pillow. Someone seems to have made off with the shirred cushion to keep them cosy on the antique sofa, which is next in line for some attention. Tell me, which one do you like?

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kissing pleat pillow

There’s something about having a whirlwind of vibrant children and all of their colourful things in a house that makes me love peaceful shades of linen and white. I’ve been thinking about sewing with texture, and starting to play with old techniques like pleating and pintucks. This pillow is an astonishingly easy pattern; the kissing pleats are made by knotting on the back of the linen. Now that autumn rains are falling I’ll make some variations.

kissing-pleat-pillow-small.jpg