The “2 Nations Joined By A Common Thread” Dress
Fabric: 1.5 mtrs Union Jack cotton fabric £7.49, 1.5 mtrs Stars & Stripes cotton fabric £7.49
Pattern: Butterick 4443 (but adapted)
Notions: Zip $2.28
Time to complete: 4.5 days (see why below)
First worn: 8th January 2012
Wear again? Yes, especially on St. George’s Day and 4th July
Total price: £16.46 ($25.38)
The challenge: “This week we draw inspiration from an accessory — be it a pair of shoes, jewelry, bag or hat. Anything goes.”
I have a confession to make. I have a bit of a thing for flags. And 2 flags in particular – my homeland’s Union Jack (yes, I know all my fellow Brits who watch QI are shouting “it’s the Union Flag, it’s only called the Union Jack when it’s flown at sea!”) and the Star Spangled Banner of my new adopted country.
Not only do I have both of these flags all around my house as curtains (drapes), cushions and wall art, I also have quite a few red, white and blue ‘flaggy’ accessories.
But the accessory of choice to inspire my sewing was this handbag (purse) I bought in a charity shop (thrift store):
I never was a punk. I always wanted to be one and this handbag reminds me not only of home but the Sex Pistols badges on it give me a taste of fashion rebellion. I have a couple of Union Jack t-shirts but this handbag needed something a little bit dressier and a lot more quirky. So this challenge was perfect. I would make a ‘flaggy’ dress to match my handbag!
What do you think? Now you understand why it’s called the “2 Nations Joined By A Common Thread” dress too (a pun on Sir Winston Churchill’s comment about the UK and USA being “2 Nations Divided By a Common Language”).
I have another confession to make…I bought the material a while back. In fact, 3 years ago in January 2009 when I first found out I was moving to the United States. I knew that I’d have a couple of send-off parties and wanted something suitable to wear. The only problem was I’d only ever sewn one thing before this and my plans to make a dress that would be half UK and half USA were, I discovered after cutting out some of the pattern pieces, considerably out of my league as a novice seamstress.
So the handbag, the pattern, the assorted cut pieces and remaining fabric have sat languishing in a wardrobe for 3 years.
Until now! Thank you Mena and Sew Weekly!
And why did it take me 4 and a half days to make a dress designated as ‘Easy’ on the pattern? Because I had to go and make it difficult for myself! I’d been slightly clever in buying more material than I wanted so that I could cut the pieces out to have the best bits of the flag in the centre of each. As you can see from the front of the dress (and the same applies to the back), I wanted to alternate the UK and USA and rotate the directions of the flags so that a portrait/vertical flag would lie next to its neighbour’s landscape/horizontal position. Does that make sense?
You also have to remember that I said that this started out as my 2nd ever sewing project….and wow did I make some classic newbie mistakes 3 years ago that needing working around this last week. No notches cut AT ALL on the 4 centre bodice pieces, not realising that the seam allowance was incorporated INTO the pattern piece already so cutting 6 pieces with an EXTRA 2.5cm all around and even sewing the left side front bodice piece onto the front bodice UPSIDE DOWN.
Then there was me being finickity about some of the angles of some of the flag pieces – in my 1st attempt on the original bodice, all flag pieces lined up straight. Believe me, trying to cut the pieces and sew them to get lines matching up was difficult enough. But when I tried the bodice on, having the horizontal lines all level wasn’t in the slightest bit flattering. So I recut both bodice side front panels so that the flags were more diagonal, still with the important lines matching up but with the main lines sloping downwards. And this ended up looking so much better.
I also adapted the pattern to include straps. I started out making view A of Butterick 4443, the strapless dress. But as I was sewing it I thought it would be a fun dress to wear into school (where I volunteer) on St. George’s Day (England’s patron saint and sort of our national day each April 23rd). To comply with school dress code, shoulders need to be ‘covered’ by a strap at least 3 fingers wide.
Then there’s the fact that I’m still learning how to get around my 42-45-51 measurements (not exactly Marilyn Monroe). I’m learning how to reduce side panels and dart from the top down rather the usual waistline up….and even with adjustments I think I could have made the bodice a little more fitted with practice. Ah well, this is why I signed up for 52 weeks of sewing – I want to LEARN!
Oh and on Thursday night my entry level Brother sewing machine I bought the first week I was in America (on discovering my lovely UK Singer wouldn’t work on the USA’s smaller electrical voltage), it decided it could take no more intensive sewing and popped it’s clogs (stop working/died). I’d been thinking about upgrading (and moving back to Singer) for a while now, so this is what I did on Friday….slowing me down a little by having to teach myself to use a new machine.
I know, excuses, excuses. But anyway, now I have a FABULOUS new dress that really is a one of a kind and I FINALLY have something that matches the quirkiness of my punky Union Jack handbag! Happy Tempest!