Ah, the hand made gift. Kind of tough, right? You put a lot of thought and time into making something for a friend or family member and then you get to the point where you have to give it to them and you think… shit. By far, the worst part is when they open it and recognize that it’s hand made and are trying to search for most tactful way to ask “wtf is this?” when it is very obviously a… well… it’s you know, a squishy kind of thing… you know for your… never mind, I’ll get you something better for the next holiday.
The thing is, lots of people don’t really want handmade gifts. I’ve been making this mistake for years. And you know, it would cost me nearly as much to buy something ready-to-wear or mass-produced as it does to assemble the materials so in a lot of cases, I just go with the store bought thing and don’t over think it. It’s taken a lot of trial and error, but I’m finally finding my audience. The people who appreciate a blanket with some shaky stitching or a scarf that isn’t totally symmetrical or a stuffed animal made out of recycled jock straps. People like Colleen.
Ah, Colleen. She’s my former roommate, she’s a little bawdy, she’s been known to climb into boys bunk beds in the middle of the night after downing one too many pitchers of mixed drinks. She’s my own personal Blanche Devereaux.
I’ve been wanting to make a special birthday present for her, something inspired by our favorite costume from Pittsburgh Public Theater’s production of The Royal Family. The play (written by George Kaufman and Edna Ferber in 1927) was basically a send up of the infamous Barrymore family of the stage. It wasn’t the best play, but it was certainly entertaining and featured absolutely gorgeous costumes. We talked about drinking tea and bossing people around while wearing silk dressing gowns for months. Here’s a not-so-great photo of the kimono in question:
When I was flipping through my copy of Vintage Notions for blog inspiration a while back, I spotted the fabulous “Magic Pattern” instructions for a kimono-style robe reproduced from the original pattern published in 1925! Magic Patterns are awesome because you just buy the recommended amount of fabric, gather your ruler, marking tools and scissors and you’ve got everything you need. Except geometry. You have to remember how to do geometry. This pattern required 3 yards of fabric and used almost the entire piece through creative arrangement. No waste! It was perfect. I happened to find some inexpensive but soft and silky patterned material at JoAnn’s the following week.
I could have gone for something a little bolder like Julie Cavedish wears in The Royal Family but I just really liked the kaleidoscope pattern. In retrospect, it would have been awesome to do a contrast collar with a bold blue or red.
I didn’t take any photos of the process apparently. I actually made this robe a few weeks back, as Colleen’s birthday was January 18, but I thought I had documented it better. I was surprised to find today that I didn’t have additional photos on my camera. Bummer. Anyway, here’s the final product.
So when it was all said and done, I tried it on and immediately felt like a different lady. It was part Blanche Devereax, part Barrymore, all fabulous. I totally LOVED this project. It was super quick to complete and it has a really striking effect, looking elegant while being totally simple to construct. I’ll be making another one for myself so that we can drink tea together in style.
For the locals: I had a handful of friends/acquaintances mention that they’d like to learn how to sew. This is a good pattern to start with, as it is all straight seams and very simple construction. If you’re interested in learning, comment me here or on facebook and we can have a class at my place one night coming up.