Friday, June 24, 2016

"What you up to with Miss Ellen's portieres?"

Scarlett: You're gonna make me a new dress.  
Mammy: Not with Miss Ellen's portieres. Not while I got breath in my body.
Scarlett [grabbing the curtains and tears them down]: Great balls of fire! They're my portieres now. I'm going to Atlanta for that three hundred dollars and I've got to go looking like a queen. 
Mammy: Who's goin' to Atlanta wit' you? 
Scarlett: I'm going alone. 
Mammy: That's what you think. I'se goin' to Atlanta with you. With you and that new dress. 
Scarlett: Mammy, darling....
Mammy: No use to try to sweet talk me, Miss Scarlett. I'se known you since I put the first pair of diapers on you. I said I'm goin' to Atlanta with you and goin' I is.

Last year I travelled to Pennsylvania with my Mom to help empty out and sell a family condo.  In the basement, there was a bedspread, four curtain panels, and a valence made from this fabric that once belonged to my Grandmother.  I am not sure if she made the set herself, or if her sister did.  The fabric was too heavy and bulky to fit in a suitcase, but I expressed interest in the textile and it was eventually mailed to California.

My initial idea was to make a tea length circle skirt, but this was before I had actually looked at the yardage that was available.  The valence was quite discolored and very narrow.  The four curtains were in pretty good condition, although three of them had a few stains and/or imperfections that needed to be avoided.  And the bedspread was very worn at the corners, although the ruffle was in usable condition.  That meant that a circle skirt was out of the question.  

I started pulling out patterns because I wanted to do something with this fabric that would keep it from heading back into storage for another decade or more.  About the same time, while rifling through my closet, I came across this dress.  I really love the design, and had wanted to make the full skirted version ever since the pattern was released.

The four skirt panels fit perfectly on the four curtain panels while also managing to avoid all the flawed bits of fabric!  That left me with a bodice and collar to fit on the bedspread, and I felt like that just might work.

Then I had to deconstruct everything.  To be honest, I was not looking forward to this step.  I really try to avoid a seam ripper whenever possible!  

Turns out, the fabric is in great shape, but the thread did not fare so well over the years.  A tiny snip at one end of a seamline and the thing tore right apart.  I would have been rather upset if I had intended to use the bedroom set for its original purpose, but in this instance, it was a fantastic time saver!

And now I have a new dress, made entirely from stashed items.  It may not be as fancy as Scarlett's amazing creation made from some green velvet drapes, but I am very pleased with my results.

Now that is my idea of repurposing!!

Dress & Belt:  Made by me, Butterick 5747
Headband:  Made by me
Petticoat:  Made by me, Vogue 4203
Shoes:  Remix “Babydoll
Gloves:  Vintage
Necklace:  Made by me
Purse:  Harvey’s Seatbelt Bags


  1. Lovely dress and so flattering to your coloring too!

  2. Oh Darlin', this post made me smile. You are my sewing heroine. I noticed you pattern matched the collar to the bodice. That's some lovely sewing.

  3. Oh now that's just fantastic! It really is a great fabric and I love how you were able to rescue it and give it a new life.

  4. What a recycling effort! The providence is charming, the end result is astounding! More "period" than anything today could hope to be; that fabric is gorgeous.

    Enjoyed your Pennsylvania (and NYC) travelogue. Hope you travel again soon, and take us along for the ride.

    Your fan from a fly-over state

  5. I love repurposing and I love free! What a beautiful fabric it is too! Looks great!

  6. Omg, I love the purse. Such a cute outfit.

  7. Gorgeous dress. Of course this is what immediately comes to mind is Carol Burnett as Scarlet O'hara. Do a google image search for that one.

  8. Beautiful dress! And you look stunning in it, too. Is the fabric very heavy, since it was curtaining material? Very interesting pattern too, I love the wide collar. I had to google what a valence is - turns out it is a term from chemistry, a popular town in France and a town in Spain ;) But I also found out what a valAnce is, so yay, learned something new today!

  9. Your reference to Scarlet's dress reminded me of Carol Burnett's skit 'went with the wind'. Apparently her costumer had an incredible idea for a costume, and then worked like crazy to see the vision happen. The result was the longest live studio audience laugh recorded...I think that record still stands. Although the result is goofy, I'm sure you'll appreciate how long it must have taken....
    (For the record, I am a fan of a job well done.)