Tag Archives: dragon tea society

BurdaStyle Twisted Maxi Dress, with literal blood, sweat and tears

I sewed through my finger for the first time ever in the making of this dress.

Fortunately the blood washed out.
Fortunately the blood washed out.

Not intentionally–though I have been assured that this sewing-through-fingers business is a rite of passage–but I still think it could add a touch of gravitas: I bled for this dress. Stupidly.

You know how it is. This fabric is a super slippery, very slinky rayon jersey and it did not want to stay lined up properly, so I was using my fingers to hold edges together even though I’d used a ton of pins, and the machine was going really fast and my finger went up and over the presser foot and, yeah. Yelling. Blood. Half a roll of toilet paper to staunch the bleeding. Band-aid. And then, because I am hardcore, right back to the sewing machine to finish the dress.

The Back, with the tie.
The Back, with the tie.

(OK, it’s not that big a deal, but it’s the first time it’s ever happened to me. Any sewing injury stories to share, Dear Readers?)

The dress, by the way, is the Burdastyle Twisted Maxi-Dress 02/2013 #115.  It turns out pretty much exactly as it looks on the web page, it fits well, it’s very heavy due to all the fabric in the folds and twist, it’s incredibly low-cut in the front so beware of that (I ended up stitching the front pieces together an extra 2″ or so to provide bra coverage), and the front twists and folds are fiddly to put together. There was quite a bit of sitting on the floor with the fabric pieces and the instructions, and squinting back and forth from one to the other to figure out how it went together–but it did, and here it is, and look! Not bad, eh?

Front twists and folds.
Front twists and folds. I do look a bit maniacal in this one, don’t I? 

It would look really smashing with a border print, if you have a border-print jersey. If you don’t, it looks plenty nice in a regular jersey cut on the straight-grain, which is what I did, so long as it’s a four-way stretch. It took 3m of narrow fabric and I cut a size 40/44 mix with a bit of shoulder-broadening thrown in for good measure. The hem was just finished with the serger.

The fabric, by the way, was dirt cheap at $6/m, so altogether with the thread and pattern this is a $30 dress, sewn up in a fit of productivity/procrastination for the Dragon Ball. It’s also super-comfortable to wear, and you can’t even see the blood.

Dragon Ball and a heap of dragon t-shirts

Once upon a time, a highschool friend, Frances and I made up something called the Dragon Tea Society. It was very simple: get dressed up; go to a fancy place that serves afternoon tea; bring a stuffed dragon; consume. The trickiest part was getting to the restaurant, which invariably was in downtown Toronto.

Guests of Honour
Guests of Honour

My Aunt Sue, when I was describing this to her a couple of years ago, thought this sounded like the best thing ever, except that it didn’t go nearly far enough. So last year, Frances and I headed down to Ottawa and, together with Aunt Sue and Uncle John and cousin Shauna and her children and Mary, a family friend, we had a Dragon Tea Society weekend. It involved stuffed dragons, tea and little sandwiches, of course, served at a historic mill by a river; it also involved dragon cupcakes and handmade dragon jewelery.

When my Aunt Sue was describing this to my Aunt Heather last year, Aunt Heather thought this sounded like the best thing ever, except that it didn’t go nearly far enough. So this year, Frances and I headed down to Aunt Heather’s cottage where–together with Aunt Heather, Uncle Brian, Aunt Sue, Uncle John, cousin Sarah and her family, cousin Shauna and her kids, and my brother Matthew and his family–we had a Dragon Ball, involving Dragon Egg hunts, dragon crafts, a talent show, contests and prizes, tents, feasts, a dance party, an unbelievable multi-person dragon costume (I wish I had a picture that did it justice), and my main contribution to this enterprise: a small stack of dragon scale t-shirts.

The Masked Mischief-Makers
The Masked Mischief-Makers


The dragon scale fabric was the main inspiration; once it had been seen, it could not be unseen, and it demanded to be made into something appropriate for young children loose in the woods on a dragon-themed weekend. It came from Glimmericks‘ shop on Spoonflower, and I bought it on the organic cotton jersey. A few fabric notes:

1. It is thick. A very beefy knit; just a layer of fuzz removed from sweatshirt jersey.
2. It has a decent but not overly generous amount of stretch.
3. It’s very soft.
4. I’m glad I ordered swatches. Some of the prints didn’t print as well and were quite pixel-y (the ones I ended up going with are tree dragon and sparkle blue ice metal dragon). All were run through the washing machine and the dryer to test for fade, and both of these passed nicely.

My serger absolutely hated this cotton. Don’t ask me why. I had to turn the tension dials all the way to 8 to prevent an unbelievable amount of grin-through; it was like every seam had teeth.

The head of the dragon costume, which should give you some idea. It lights up.
The head of the dragon costume, which should give you some idea. It lights up.

The original idea was to make Frances dragon-y pajamas, because this is a girl who adores dragons in every incarnation you can picture. She has a small mountain of stuffed dragons. She has every remotely child-appropriate dragon novel ever published. She has a small collection of dragon movies. She has a bazillion dragon figurines. She makes dragons out of polymer clay; we have about ten and the family is constantly growing. And so clearly she needed to have dragon-scale pajamas, so that she could be a dragon while sleeping or lounging around the house. Right?

And then dragon-scale pajamas for the Dragon Mistress became dragon-scale t-shirts for child attendees of the Dragon Ball, or at least, for those whose parents cooperated with my request for height and waist measurements. This totalled four.

Second cousins, being dragons.
Second cousins, being dragons.

I used three patterns, all from Ottobre magazine.

Ottobre is a quarterly magazine of patterns for children’s clothing, made in Denmark but published in several languages, including English. Their clothing styles are simple, modern, comfortable, and stylish. No dresses or pants loaded down with five pounds of ruffles, and no weird quilting cotton monstrosities. Just good basics, mostly out of knits. The magazines themselves are a good quality, with good photographs and good (if short) instructions on assembly. The sizes cover newborns to teens and there’s something in every issue for every size range. There is a fair amount of pattern tracing, but it’s totally worth it.

With the five issues of the magazine I have already, there were lots of t-shirt patterns in a variety of sizes to choose from. Two of them I’d already used to make Frances all of the (non-dragon) t-shirts she needed this summer, both with and without sleeves, and they needed only minor tweaks to the sleeves to get a good, comfortable fit (plus the standard fitting adjustments we make to every pattern).

– widened and lengthened the sleeves
– slightly enlarged the armhole on the sleeveless shirt (but not enough, per the recipient. Rats. Sorry, Dani!)

I added the seam binding, too, and embroidered each kid’s first initial onto it so that I could tell them apart when we got there.

The boys got black ribbed trimming at the neck, and black cotton jersey sleeves, for a bit of colour-block style and a touch of added toughness (not that dragon-scale really cries out for street cred–right?–or would that be cave cred?). And also to preserve the very expensive spoonflower fabric. (Shhh.)

The smallest recipient was shorter than the size range of the patterns I’d used before, so I experimented with a smaller drop-shoulder t-shirt pattern. It seemed to work.

A very frightening mini-dragon. Her secret weapon is glitter.
A very frightening mini-dragon. Her secret weapon is glitter.

I ended up grabbing measurements for the last two kids at the camp, so I’ve got two dragon t-shirts left to make.  And then most of a year to figure out what we’re going to do for next summer!

My apologies for the apology

One thing I have learned from reading about SBC blogs (as opposed to the blogs themselves) is that some people get awfully annoyed when bloggers post excuses about why they haven’t been sewing lately. To the effect of:

No one cares if you’re busy! Sew when you can, post when you can, forget the stupid schedule!

That’s not an actual quote, but I think it’s a fair summary, and it’s also a fair point. Dear Readers, if this describes you, avert your eyes. (Except for the last two paragraphs.)

It isn’t so much that I’ve been busy as that my dining table aka sewing space has been booked with actual, like, dinners. As in, I had guests for two weekends in a row, meaning that the dining table had to stay empty and the room fairly neat. Horrors!

Though, actually, it was pretty fantastic. This Thanksgiving I had several friends over, one of whom is new to Canada, and it was so lovely. I now want to do this every year. Plus, I got to use my fancy dessert plates and tea cups, which doesn’t happen often enough.

And then the following weekend was another meeting of the Dragon Tea Society, wherein some aunts and uncles came down, and we ate little sandwiches and pastries and drank tea. I won’t bore you with the details, but my Aunt Sue wrote about it on her blog, for those of you who may be interested. Frances got out her collection of hand-sculpted oven-bake clay dragons and her mounts of dragon stuffies and reveled in her role of Dragon Mistress. And who wouldn’t.

At any rate, it’s all been fantastic and so much fun, but I am itching to cover the dining table with fabric and cutting mats and patterns and the serger once again. This weekend!

In the meantime, I offer you this non-sewing related link: a Sci Am article about the importance of negative emotions.

Why? Because the more I think about this in my dotage (ahem), the more it seems to me that all of our emotions–positive and “negative”–would only exist if they had served an evolutionary purpose. Nature isn’t in the habit of giving us traits that get in the way of survival and reproduction. It bugs me (negative emotion) when I see people trying to wash away every trace of anger, dislike, irritation, fear, etc., because they’re “not good for you,” “irrational,” “dangerous,” “negative” or what have you. No. No, they are not. If they weren’t good for us, we wouldn’t have them. I say, be negative–and apparently, so do the experts.

Negative emotions also most likely aid in our survival. Bad feelings can be vital clues that a health issue, relationship or other important matter needs attention, Adler points out. The survival value of negative thoughts and emotions may help explain why suppressing them is so fruitless. In a 2009 study psychologist David J. Kavanagh of Queensland University of Technology in Australia and his colleagues asked people in treatment for alcohol abuse and addiction to complete a questionnaire that assessed their drinking-related urges and cravings, as well as any attempts to suppress thoughts related to booze over the previous 24 hours. They found that those who often fought against intrusive alcohol-related thoughts actually harbored more of them. Similar findings from a 2010 study suggested that pushing back negative emotions could spawn more emotional overeating than simply recognizing that you were, say, upset, agitated or blue.

(This scholarly paper digs a bit more into the various theories of the evolutionary psychology of emotions.)