Thursday, April 05, 2007

A Work of Heart

I haven't posted about this project before, maybe because it's been absorbing so much of my time and thoughts. It's the first project I have branched out and "designed" on my own: the Easter dresses for my daughter and niece.

The fabric, above, was the catalyst. It's shirting fabric, handed down from my Great Aunt Iva. (That is to say, scavenged from her home after she passed away. She did not waste much, did my great-aunt. It lay in a drawer, perfectly pressed, with a paper pinned to it indicating yardage.) Iva was an amazing seamstress and weaver, needlepointed, baked, and knew how to knit and crochet, though family lore indicates she didn't ever enjoy knitting.

I wanted to make Easter dresses for my daughter and niece and fell in love with a picot-edged dress in Debbie Bliss's book Special Knits. I knew, however, that I didn't have enough yarn--only two balls of KnitPicks Ambrosia--for full dresses.

The solution: a knitted/sewn hybrid.

At first Aunt Iva's fabric seemed perfect because of how well the blue/purple yarn coordinated. But when the first ball of periwinkle-ish Ambrosia ran out halfway through the first armhole edging and I needed to do the armholes in green instead, I got cold feet. Did this color combo work?

I even purchased an alternate fabric, one with both blue and green, plus some other spring-y stripes:

I decided that my original choice worked better than the seersucker--there was just too much going on between the seed stitch, the picot bindoff, and the stripes--and the second fabric is now destined to become curtains in Baby E's room.

OK, so how to attach fabric, inherently un-stretchy, to knitting, inherently stretchy?

I thought about gathers. I thought about casings. I set the whole project aside for fear of the skirt. Finally, I decided to keep it simple, and, using a Butterick pattern as my starting point, cut out a simple skirt front and back. The top was 22" around, so, I made a small casing and threaded 22" of elastic into it. It gathered simply and naturally and I evened it up as much as I could by hand.

I then hand-stitched the bottom of the casing to the cast-on row of the top, being careful not to stitch through the elastic, catching the purl bumps, and leaving lots of slack so the skirt would still have some give to it. After that I did the same thing with the top of the casing:

I used the hemstitch on my machine to make a pretty blind hem:

And here's the final result:

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