Thursday, August 23, 2018

A Literary Sewing Circle Project: A Storm at Sea, 1983 Style

Here, finally, at the last moment, is my own project for the Literary Sewing Circle!

I had intended to make a dress inspired by the imagery of Calamity's restored cashew grove, with this seemingly perfect green & yellow leafy fabric. But somehow I just wasn't feeling it! I couldn't get it going. I will have to try again later on.

So I switched projects altogether -- I had this Style 4037, dated 1983, in my thrifted pattern stash, and I thought the loose flowy nature of it reflected Ifeoma's style.

 Plus I had the perfect vintage fabric in my stash as well, likely also from the 80s! It was given to me by a friend's mother, and when I look at it, it makes me think of the final chapters of The New Moon's Arms. In particular, the part in which  Calamity is taking Agway back out to sea, in the dark and the wind, and she falls into the water and is rescued and pushed back into the boat... this fabric makes me think of wind and rain and waves and maybe even a glimpse of seals in there somewhere... Thus, we have the Ifeoma influenced "Storm at Sea" dress!

It was a fun project, but I had some adjustments to make -- as it was an 80s pattern there was a lot of volume in it! Mostly in the skirt - though I don't know if the excessive fabric in the back skirt was intentional or a misprint of some kind: the back skirt piece (for half the back, with a centre back seam) was the same width as the entire front skirt. Since I didn't really want a bustle look going on, I folded out half the width down the middle of the back piece, as I didn't want to affect the side seams - one side was shaped a bit.

This seemed to do the trick. I cut a 14 (the biggest size in my thrifted pattern) rather than my usual 16, adding only 1/2" to each side seam at the waist. It fits quite nicely. There was a centre back zipper called for as well, but I think that the little bit extra helped, as I basted the back seam shut and tried it on and it fit over my head and waist just fine. So I omitted the zip. Which is always nice - not because they are that difficult, but because they are expensive! In this latest ridiculous round of international posturing and tariff setting, sewing notions are rising in price quite a lot, so saving myself the cost of one more zip is getting more important.

I cut it fairly long and decided not to hem it much as I liked the longer, fuller look (and it feels great to wear, the fabric hangs and swings so nicely). The patch pockets were another change - I only noticed after sewing them on to the front skirt that the pattern had them sitting over the side seam, half on the front & half on the back. But the drawing doesn't look like that, and anyhow, I don't need big saggy pockets on my hips. And they are big and droopy, very 80s vibe. When I put the finished dress on, though, I found I didn't quite like the amount of bag in them. So I pleated out the centre top of each pocket by an inch and stitched it down by hand, only about 2 inches down into the pocket. They're very deep so it's not very noticeable but it does keep the tops of the pockets from flopping out too much.

This was a pretty straightforward project other than the few adjustments I made to bring it up to my current tastes. . Now that I have a better sense of sizing I might make it again and keep the zipper in and make the waist more fitted to see how I like that. And I'd definitely make sure the gathered skirt wasn't gathered at the side seams - forgot all about leaving a little bit of smooth at the sides to improve the appearance of a gathered skirt. But I really love the front panel and squared neckline that results. You don't really notice the separate panel when it's all one print like this but the other views highlight it more.

In any case, I enjoyed making this, it is super comfy to wear (yay for 80s loose fits!) and I was even able to get a picture of myself with a big moon behind me to light up this Storm At Sea -- it's an amazing public art installation called The Museum of the Moon, hosted by Stratford Summer Music this week -- even better when it's lit up and glowing at night, and tons of events are happening around it. I'm just happy to have got this picture ;) 

If you've made something for this round of the Literary Sewing Circle, don't forget to post your link! Deadline is tomorrow! But if you make something later on, just add a note and link in the comments and I can share from there -- I hope you enjoyed your read if you were reading along, and that you've had fun thinking about the projects you could make even if you didn't finish anything this time.


  1. I suffered shenanigans n getting my copy of the book so was late to the party. However, I have made something that should match up. I wanted to check my references but was so keen to get friends to read it that I've already loaned it out!
    I#m off for the weekend now, so will blog and post to you on Tuesday if that's OK. Love your dress- very stormy!

    1. Yes you did have trouble getting this book! So glad you have persevered and enjoyed it, and made something :) Send me the link when you have and I'll add it to the linkup!

  2. The feel of this fabric is very in keeping with the end of the novel. The dress came out very well, I really like the square neckline.

    1. Thank you! The square neckline was definitely one of the things that attracted me to this pattern.

  3. Lovely. I think Ife would approve.

  4. Hi Melanie
    Love your dress! And to think you used a 1980's pattern! It is both fitted and flowy. Very nice! Pockets again, so useful.
    I am not out of the race.... I am on version 2 of my top. I finally decided on making a Diane Ericson garment, 'The River Tunic'. It is by no means a prescriptive pattern, as it is one size fits most, and you can make whatever loose alterations you want. Almost hit and miss, but that is the quirkiness of it and is a very 'freeing' concept. A zero waste type garment which doubles as a scarf. Except my version 2 is 100% cotton, and although it flows it is a little crisp for a scarf. As soon as I finish this I will make version 3 out of a silk I have had stored for a few years. Version 1 was cut from a very loose weave silk, which would not tolerate unpicking, it fell apart. I will find another use for the pieces.
    Every time I look at my top I think 'beach'. I can imagine warm days on the sand, lovely evenings listening to the waves, with a glass of wine. (Ah.... it must be summer holidays soon! Except we are still below zero of a night, so not soon enough.) It is a bit different and I think it represents many concepts from this book - freedom, the beach, frugality, comfort.

    1. That sounds cool! Be sure to send me a link or some pics when you're done. I'd love to add it to the linkup!


Share your comments, ideas or suggestions here -- I am always interested in hearing from readers. It's nice to have a conversation!