The “Gumnut Baby” Dress | Veronica Darling
Fabric: Thrifted Bed Sheet, $1; some leftover lining fabric, thrifted $0.10c and some curtain netting, free from my old house
Patterns: Simplicity 4230, free, on loan from Amanda in Adelaide
Year: c. 1960s
Notions: zipper, thrifted $.20c
Time to complete: 4 hours
First worn: May 2011
Wear again? Totally, best dress ever!
Total Cost: ~$1.30
My imagination has been in overdrive as I've planned for this Sew Weekly theme, as there are so many wonderfully written (and illustrated!) childrens books and so much inspiration! We read a lot growing up, and my favourites were Enid Blyton's entire collection (Magic Faraway Tree and the rest!), Beatrix Potter, Roald Dahl, and the Australian authors Mem Fox and May Gibbs, and plenty more! I remember creating stories about the authors as well, 'What is A.A. Milne's full name?' and imagining I was Roald Dahl's granddaughter. But I have settled on something a little local and close to home!
When I was very little, visiting my grandparents in the Blue Mountains, the Australian bushland around their house became the *most* magical place because of May Gibbs' Snugglepot and Cuddlepie. Two little 'gumnut babies' who lived in the Australian trees, with loads of adventures and loads of amazing friends (and enemies!).
Their stories were bigger and as real as any Hans Christian Anderson tale, or Walt Disney tv show, when I was young! I am trying to think of what Snugglepot and Cuddlepie would be like anywhere else in the world (to put them in context for you non-Australians), but they are truly Australian and inspired by the unique Australian wildlife and fauna.
"May Gibbs book warns Australian children of some of the dangers of the bush, but also teaches them to respect and admire it." is a lovely quote from this blog, and I remember hugging trees and looking for messages in the bush from Snugglepot and Cuddlepie. Yes, hugging trees!
For my garment this week, rather than take these bush babies literally (they were often naked after all!), I found in my stash this leafy vintage bedsheet and thought I'd use it for a seriously big resizing attempt on this 1960s pattern. Amanda (who's on our lovely Sewing Circle) has loaned loads of her gorgeous vintage patterns to me, and this one is two sizes too big! Luckily a vintage bedsheet makes a very cheap toile for drafting a new sized bodice, and what a bonus: it fits perfectly!
The pattern is a 38 size, and I'm a 33 or 34 usually! To prepare the pattern, I took 4 inches off the bust line (folding the pattern vertically at 2 areas on the front & back pieces) and 2 inches off the waist (folding both pattern pieces horizontally along the waistline) and took a slither off the shoulder seam. It helped writing it all out like a maths equation, and sketching out my changes! I've decided to keep a little notebook of all the changes like that, as it all is a steep learning curve for the non-drafter in me!
As the bedsheet fabric is kinda light & vintage, and I thought it might stretch out after I constructed the bodice, I decided to line the whole top with some leftover fabric I had in the stash, and it has made it more fitted and solid. I love lining the whole bodice of dresses so much more than smaller (neckline and armhole) facings these days! It just makes the insides so neat and amazing! It does mean handstitching (in front of the telly!) the lining to the bodice at the waistline and along the back zipper, but I think it'll also make the dress longer lasting!
These little gumnut babies, when they did wear clothes, often wore little blossom hats and skirts, so I added a little tulle to the skirt (as I overlocked the waistband) for a little softer side underneath.
Whilst the leaves on the bedsheet aren't gum leaves (Australia's most well known native tree and the long skinnier leaves in the park in these pictures), the pattern and colour is just perfect and I think makes a wearable Children's Book outfit! I have been watching Project Runway this week, so wearable and not too literal have been my themes!
Snugglepot and Cuddlepie had plenty of dangerous and fun adventures in the bush, and I am looking forward to my own fashion adventures wearing my Gumnut Baby Dress.