Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Cutting It - Counterculture, Couture & A Tutorial


I've been at it again - opening my wardrobe and letting loose with my scissors. Not so much shopping my wardrobe as chopping my wardrobe.

This week's creation is the bastard lovechild of:
  • A tie-dyed cotton skirt from the '90s
  • A Kutchi dupatta shawl (cut in two)
  • A moth-eaten embroidered Banjara blouse
  • A handmade waistcoat from a Sri-Lankan fair trade company 

If you fancy having a go yourself then here's a very rough tutorial.

Does that make sense? 

The two halves of the dupatta shawl formed the sleeves and the waistcoat served as the bodice (which I used backwards so it buttoned at the back). The design on the front of bodice was a sleeve unpicked from the Banjara blouse. The skirt had an elasticated waistband from which I removed the elastic before I started. 



My inspiration behind my dress is this amazing nomad dress which was made in the 1970s by the founder of the Folkwear pattern company, Alexandra Hart. Along with many other truly inspirational pieces, the Alexandra's dress featured in an exhibition called Counter Culture: Handmade Fashion in an American Counterculture held at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York in 2017.

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More commonly referred to as the hippie movement, the counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s did away with the conformism of previous decades and heralded an alternative lifestyle that still exists today. The movement saw unique manifestations of handmade fashion and personal style as people fought for change by sewing, DIYing, quilting, crocheting, patch-working and tie-dyeing their own identity.

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The garments, jewellery and accessories exhibited reflected the ethos of a generation who, against the backdrop of the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement, rejected the ideals of an American Dream rooted in consumerism and conformity and instead embraced a vision of a new civilisation based on self-expression, self-reliance, a connection to nature and ideas of love and community which deviated from the traditional ideal of the nuclear family.

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In an age of growing political unrest, increased violence and terrorism and with a planet on the brink of disaster due to decades of rampant consumerism, isn't it about time we all embraced the hippie ideals of the 1960s & 1970s?


I did manage to find myself a copy of the Folkwear Afghan Nomad Dress pattern but it's never been used and it's such a thing of beauty that, unlike the contents of my wardrobe, I'm afraid to cut it up. It's been looking at me for years!

Talking of sewing, how gorgeous was Riccardo's 1970s-inspired Harris Tweed coat on the last night's Great British Sewing Bee? The most fabulous garment I've ever seen on the programme!

WEARING: Me-made Afghan Nomad dress with some vintage 1960s-does-Edwardian lace-up boots (car boot sale) and a H&M felted wool hat (via a charity shop)

See you soon!

57 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, Liz! Those exhibition pieces really are lovely! x

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  2. she did it again!
    and this time with a natural waistpoint! ha - its doable! gorgeous mix of fabrics and thank your very much for the exhibition pics.
    .....i´m away - sewing!
    love! xxxxxx

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    1. Yay! I hoped you'd notice the lower waist!! I could have made it shorter but it seemed a shame to cut that waistcoat up even more. See you with a new creation soon - I hope! xxx

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  3. Bring back Woodstock! that is a very clever bit of sewing and it looks really fun to wear. I just don't find things like this in chazza's but will look with new eyes at the rails now for things that can be repurposed. If you come across a Christy's fedora hat, don't chop it - it's got my name on it!

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    1. Thanks, Betty! We've got a wealth of foreign textiles in our shops, I love it! I often find the saris on the bedding rails or chucked in the scarf baskets, keep your eyes peeled.
      If I do find a Christy's straw hat it'll have your name on it, aren't they fab? xxx

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  4. That's brilliant! We keep saying you should be on Sewing Bee! We both loved Ricardo's coat last night too, one of the best garments ever created on the show. x

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    1. Hello, you lovely pair! Jon and I loved Ricardo's coat. I could never go on the Sewing Bee, I get nervous just watching it! xxx

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  5. Love those dupatta sleeves!
    Consumerism seems to have won the hearts of millions once again in this modern age.
    Unfortunately.
    xox

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    1. Thanks, Bibi! Those mirrored insets are blinding in the sunlight!
      Consumerism sadly does seem to have take over even the most sensible of people's lives. i despair. xxx

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  6. I'm sitting eating my lunch, reading this and just loving it. I totally agree with your sentiments and I love the dress.
    Your (very clear) instructions are great and I think hand sewing it was so mindful of you. So often, I'll run up a seam on my machine and I've done it so fast it was the wrong seam and I have to unpick it. Hand sewing is not only restful, it's produced a real treasure....can you tell I'm impressed?! xxx

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    1. Thanks so much, Sally! I agree with you over the sewing machine method, it often takes me twice as long as I have to unpick my mistakes. Nothing beats pulling up a chair, threading a needle and sewing along to 6Music - especially when Cillian Murphy's the guest DJ! xxx

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  7. woww, thanks for this cute handmade tutorial, it looks pretty accesible for a clumsy seamstress as I am! ;DDD. Sewing without a pattern looks difficult, but not that bad once you try it!. I feel encouraged to keep on sewing!
    I'm in love with that exhibition and those colorful dresses!!
    besos

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    1. Thanks, Monica!! I was a bit scared of sewing without a pattern but once you've got an idea in your head and a good seam ripper it's not as scary as it seems! xxx

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  8. beautiful! Upcycling at it's best. I love Folkwear patterns, use then all the time. They do have instructions that are for a more advanced stitcher than regular patterns. My go to sewing book in high school (early 1970's) was called The Hassle-Free Make Your Own Clothes Book. It was very "hippie" and showed you how to make patterns using clothes you already had. It's probably out of print by now.

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    1. Thank you! Are you in that Folkwear group on Facebook? I love seeing what the members have made, their talent blows my mind!
      Thanks for the book recommendation - I've tracked a copy down and it's on it's way. it sounds like a blast! xxx

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  9. I have the tweed coat to look forward to as I'm catching up tonight with the GBSB...

    Your dress is wonderful and as a non sewer I completely got your sewing instructions so, yes, it made perfect sense!

    If I had to classify myself as ever following any cult or group it was the hippy movement of the late 60s and early 70s. I wore the clothes; agreed with the philosophy and tried to practise it; loved and listened to the music and took the drugs...the clothes in this exhibition were just fabulous and brought it all back to me. The dress with printed (landscape?) panels was simply beautiful.

    What will you make next, I wonder?
    xxxx

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    1. I hope you loved the tweed coat as much as Jon, me and most of the internet did!
      Aren't those pieces wonderful? There were so many images to chose from i had trouble trying to narrow the photos down.
      The hippy movement was definitely the one I'd have been involved in, I'm envious that I was born too late! xxx

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  10. Your dress came out amazing! Considering how clothes have been produced for most of history in comparison to the fast fashion of the last few decades, I see no other solution but to return to our crafty upcycling, mending, and refashioning ways of the not so distant past!

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    1. Thanks, Becky! The only was is the DIY way of the hippy! xxx

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  11. That Afghan nomad dress you made is a thing of beauty. I also really like the dress you took as inspiration. The dark green velvet bottom of the original dress is gorgeous and goes so well with browns. The lively colours you choose are lovely as well. I love the pink and the purple with the blue.

    Hippie movement was probably the most stylish movement of all times. Counter culture creating a culture of its own- what is there not to love about that? There is so much to take inspiration from in the original hippie movement- the clothes, the music, the lifestyle, the organic approach to life...I'd take it all.

    I'm not surprised you don't want to open that vintage Nomad pattern book. I have some vintage books I'm afraid to read lest they fall apart. I pride myself on having books in bad condition because it means I actually read them, but when it comes to vintage ones, those that are really old, I want to treasure them.

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    1. I feel your pain with the vintage books, it's a phase I never grew out of as a child - worrying about spoiling something. No wonder everything I own is usually secondhand! xxx

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  12. Trace the pattern. Your creation is stunning!
    Barb

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    1. Thanks you - I hasn't thought of that until you were kind enough to point it out. I shall use that pattern - eventually! xxx

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  13. Once again, you've managed to create a fabulous garment. I love how you used the waistcoat, and those sleeves are fantastic! Chopping your wardrobe made me chuckle ;-) Oh, and now I'm sorry I missed the Great British Sewing Bee ... I would have loved seeing that exhibition, those clothes are unbelievable. I especially love that amazing coat! The graphics on that pattern are divine. It would be a shame to cut it up. Maybe you can frame it? xxx

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    1. Thanks, Ann! Do you have the Sewing Bee in Belgium? Even as a non-sewer it's absolutely fascinating, great snippets investigating iconic pieces and famous labels and crazy skills. i don't know anyone who doesn't love it! xxx

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  14. Your have serious creative and sewing skills! I just know if I gave this a bash I'd be frustrated and stuck within 30 minutes of starting.

    All of those pieces from Counter Culture are spectacular.

    The majority of people don't give a damn about the environmental crisis we are in and it sickens and disheartens me. Every day we are losing more species on the earth. I. Can't. Even.

    Suzanne
    http://www.suzannecarillo.com

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    1. Thank you!! I have to be in the mood for creating but once I get an idea, I'm like a dog with a bone.
      I know, I despair of seemingly intelligent women showing off the piles of cheap tat they've bought in the shops - it'll be in the charity shop in another month. They claim to care about the environment until a insta-worthy outfit catches their eye. xxx

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  15. How very clever of you to create this new dress, Vix! I loved your instructions, and they totally made sense to me. That coat makes me go, "Wantwantwant." I spotted two beautiful crocheted dresses in a consignment shop on the weekend (one cream, one turquoise) which I'm going to stalk until they get marked down, but this post makes me want to get out my crochet hook and make something! I learned to crochet when I was a kid - I even made a complete Barbie wardrobe for my nieces years ago (dresses, skirts, tops, pants, shorts, coats, purses, shawls, bathing suits, even a wedding dress!) and had so much fun doing it. Thanks for the inspiration!

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    1. That coat - along with everything else in the exhibition - made me giddy with joy!
      I've yet to progress beyond the humble granny square so I envy you your crochet prowess! I hope those dresses get discounted soon, they sound fab! x

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  16. I love your pieced together dress - you have such talent. No longer do moth-eaten or torn garments need to be thrown away

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    1. Thank you!! No, all manner of tat can be rescued from landfill now. x

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  17. WOW Vix you are so clever. That dress looks stunning.
    Ricardo's coat was a beauty wasn't it although my favourite challenge last night was the deck chair and parasol fabric challenge.
    Hugs-x-

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    1. Thanks, Sheila! Leah's deckchair/parasol challenge was wonderful, I reckon she'd have been for the chop if it wasn't for that creation. x

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  18. I love the fashion and aesthetics of that era... but believe in more frequent bathing!

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  19. Lovely creations again vix , I loved Ricardo coat i had a blue one exactly the same style in 1970 xx

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    1. Thanks, Eileen! His coat was so beautiful. xxx

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  20. Love your refashioned dress! Actually, more a new creation from existing garments. :-)

    You know your body so well and can visualize your ideas so clearly that you don't need to use a pattern unless that's what you really want to do. Sometimes it can be helpful if you want to learn a new technique or can't quite transition gracefully from one design aspect to another.

    As bbarna noted, you can trace your Folkwear pattern rather than cutting it. Requires more time, but is well worth it if you cherish the original. I use medical exam table paper to create and retrace patterns until everything is correct. It's available on Amazon, as well as specialty sewing sites. A roll lasts a lonnngg time! You can tape sheets of gift tissue together, if you prefer.

    If you do trace your pattern, be sure to press it smooth with a dry iron on fairly low heat. Make that an EMPTY dry iron. Repeating my errors is not recommended! ;-)

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    1. Thats a great tip about the exam paper, I'll have to see if Amazon UK has anything similar, thank you so much!
      xxx

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  21. Vix, you're a creative genius, making another nomad dress!
    I'm a hippy at heart, I think. X

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    1. Thanks, Jess! All the best people are hippies! x

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  22. I loved Ricardo's coat. Along with Juliet's jumpsuit from Episode 1, it's my favourite thing from this series. Tweed is one of my favourite fabrics anywhere, but then that colour combination...

    I bought some sewable tracing paper - I think some places call it Swedish Tracing Paper and trace my patterns rather than cutting them. It's handy for me as I'm not always certain which garment size is best for my figure. It would be a way for you to make your Folkwear dress without cutting the pattern.

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    1. Ricardo's coat made both Jon & I gasp with excitement - those colours were just perfection.
      Great tip re the tracing paper, I'll have to hunt something like that down. Those Folkwear patterns are absolutely stunning, all based on traditional costume. There's a wonderful Facebook group where people share their makes, too. x

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  23. Riccardo's coat was SUBLIME!!! I couldn't believe how wonderful it was!!!! I really like him!
    Your dress is ALSO sublime- I love how you married together those thrree garments into an amazing technicolour dream dress!! I agree with harking back to those simple hippy ideals! xx

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    1. Wasn't it gorgeous? The colour combo was sublime! Its so exciting to tip my fabric box up and lay the bits and pieces out to see what works well together, it's like magic! x

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  24. I'm bookmarking this post. I don't know if I'm brave enough to start cutting at the moment, but someday I'll feel motivated and I have enough odds and ends to hand where this would be a good project. Won't be as beautiful as yours though!

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    1. Do it, do it!! I didn't expect either of my attempts to amount to much! xxx

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  25. Clapping my hands here. What a great result with your cutting and chopping and how nice to share in a tutorial.
    You’ve really got your creative mojo back now Vix.
    I like your research pictures as well. I do love a bit of research and development.
    We had an old neighbour who could be seen stood still in the middle of the street staring round and we’d say “what you upto Ronnie” and his reply would always be “I’m on research and development” or “I’m giving it a good coat of looking at”. Really it was his legs that were killing him and he’d have to stop while the pain passed. We still use his phrases today xxx

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    1. Awww, I like the sound of Ronnie!
      There's nothing like a research mission (ie hours looking at pretty pictures on t'internet) to get the old creative juices flowing and even better now I've discovered the Up-Cycled Cloth Collective gang! xxx

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  26. Could u not scan the pattern and cut the copy? This may have been suggested already as I haven't read all the comments yet. Great dressmaking skills as ever xx

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    1. Hi Shelagh! Yes, a couple of people have suggested I trace the pattern, thanks for the suggestion! xxx

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  27. I can easily imagine you wearing any or all of those brilliant outfits in the Counterculture exhibit! I have always been in awe of your creative skills with fabric. One of these days, I'll make something ;)

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    1. I'd happily give wardrobe space to any of those incredible garments! xx

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  28. Another delicious creation Vix!
    And yes, I did see Riccardo's 1970s-inspired Harris Tweed coat, it was lovely. I really felt for the lady who didn't finish her orange lantern coat, I think if she had she wouldn't have been sent home. Shame.
    xx

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    1. I felt sorry for Jan, that orange coat was brilliant and fitted her model really well, so sad she had to go - I loved that Ricardo took her to Ministry of Sound afterwards tho' xxx

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  29. I completely agree with you about the tweed coat made by Riccardo - it was the most beautifully designed and made garment, and I was seriously coveting it!

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Lots of love, Vix