Sewing Projects

SALLIE SILK IN SHIGAWAKE

Something really, really special came into my life recently. Last month, I opened a package from Texas, filled with 5 yards of hand-painted silk from my beloved Sallie Oh. How did this small miracle come to be? I made an offhand comment about some sort of silk trade after seeing her truly magical Satsuki dress, not really expecting her to actually take me up on the offer. But I guess long-distance pen pal love affairs are the real thing…. She emailed me to tell me she would be happy to watercolour her magic for me. After I stopped hyperventilating,  I sent her ten yards of 16mm crepe de chine from Dharma Trading Co for us to share. A few months later I practically wept when I unwrapped her handiwork.

What I emailed Sallie when my preciousssss arrived….

A light chartreuse with a field of indigo and rose watercolour splotches…. It even has a repeat! So in awe was I, that it sat on a hanger in my studio for over a month, terrifying me. How on earth was I going to get the balls to cut into this fabric, made with such love and skill? It kept me up at night. Sallie and I began to call it the Silk of Intimidation – she had the same fear to make it, worried she was going to disappoint me (FAT EFFING CHANCE MY DEAR).

I had Vogue 8827 in mind from the beginning, but deliberated for weeks about whether I was making the right decision. I had fallen in love with the short sleeved maxi dress when it was released and had been waiting for the right silk to come into my life to make it.

There was not EVER going to be a better silk.

Finally, I marshalled my courage. I made a strong cup of tea and spent over 3 hours meticulously and thoughtfully cutting out my pieces, ensuring the pattern on the silk was distributed as beautifully as possible.

The pattern came together fairly easily, but I took my sweet time assembling it, using only the finest silk pins and french seams. I spent many hours watching Orange is the New Black, making the tiniest, most even hem stitches to fasten the facings down the length of the dress. I widened and lengthened the belt to have more of an obi effect, and angled the corners for a prettier finish. The silk is so fine and light, I have yet to Colombo an ideal way to fasten the wrap from the inside. However, because of the crepe texture, it stays together quite nicely with only the obi keeping doing the work.

The only issue with the dress is that the sleeves are quite narrow – I will have to be very careful wearing it over time as I worry about the stress on the armhole seams. Otherwise, it fits perfectly, feels sinfully good on the skin, and blows in the wind like a prayer.

I spent more time on this dress than I’ve spent on almost anything I’ve made yet, wanting it to be as perfect as the silk itself. And when I was finally done, it sat in my closet for weeks. This wasn’t a dress I could shoot on my balcony. My Sallie Silk needed a special location – Sallie Silk needed Shigawake.

Last Thursday I made the 11 hour drive to Shigawake, Quebec with the dress fluttering on the garment hook in the backseat of my rented Jeep. It sat there for 3 days while I frolicked with a huge gang of displaced Montrealers in one of the most beautiful places in the world. The Gaspe region is awe inspiring – think New England, but more rugged and elemental, filled with a salt of the earth mix of English and French, living simply surrounded by sea, field and sky. We camped down the road from an agricultural and music fair and spent 4 days swimming in the ocean, romping in waterfalls, drinking in meadows, cooking over a fire, singing in barns, watching the sunrise. On our last full day there, I asked my friend Sean to help shoot the Sallie Silk in the grounds surrounding our campsite. I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful place to document what is easily the most beautiful garment I could ever hope to call my own.

This weekend has been so much about gratitude for me. Gratitude to live in this amazing country filled with such kind, good people; gratitude for the inspiring friends (old and new) I get to share this journey with; gratitude for the unspoiled beauty of Canada, which takes my breath away every time I get a chance to explore it; gratitude for this amazing small community of sewists and makers, who are so generous with their time, their skills, their support. Gratitude for Sallie, who feels like a soul sister even though we have never met and live thousands of miles away from each other. Gratitude for this little corner of the internet, where I get to share the things I feel so lucky to be able to make…
Thank you Sallie. Thank you goodness. Thank you life.

 

  • Lauren Taylor

    It is STUNNING! What a beautiful story behind a beautiful fabric. And youuu, my friend – you are a treasure. Love these pictures.

  • Oh my heartstopping goodness!!! What lovely pics & equally lovely sentiments you’ve shared! You are truly a visionary to be able to see this kind of potential in that Vogue pattern. This dress is outrageously gorgeous… It’s just… everything about it is amazing. I have no words.

  • WOW, this simply GORGEOUS! I adore the fabric and the amazing story behind it, and you’ve turned it into the most ethereal creation it could have hoped for. Great job!

  • Chillmer

    Wow! That is stunning. I love the colors so much and everything about it is perfect.

  • Stunning fabric, perfectly showcased – gorgeous photos and a lovely story, beautifully told.

  • Absolutely stunning!

  • Kim

    Wow! Gorgeous dress, fabric, flower crown and pictures! Amazing idea to send sallie the fabric and then share it! I hope you make a lot of amazing memories while wearing this dress!

  • Latrice Smith

    Dear Lord, Stunning

  • Perfect use of such gorgeous, special fabric! The extra time you spent on it totally shows.

  • foursquarewalls

    GOOD-LORD this post actually brought tears to my eyes. What beautiful words! What a beautiful dress! What a beautiful internet friendship! Seriously. What I love the most is that both of you played a role in making this dress.

    I wanna go to Canada. I visited Quebec with my French class in high school. It was covered in snow and was absolutely beautiful, but I was 15 and more concerned with how to sneak out of the hotel room so I could sit in the hot tub with my guy classmates. ANYWAY, awesome dress, awesome job. Enjoy owning it and loving it.

  • Helen McFadyen

    This is absolutely stunning and I am so impressed you found the nerve to cut into it. I would have been too scared! Your trip sounds amazing, and the photog got location is beautiful.

  • Sara and Bitty Chicklet

    Now that is a post! May even be a tad teary after reading it. I’ve been waiting to see what this silk became and it is truly stunning. A winning collaboration. Sara

  • HOLY COW. This is amazing!! And the pictures are fantastic!! I don’t know how you could ever wear another dress now. I’d never want to take it off.

  • Amy

    I don’t have any words, I’m in such awe…

  • This is unbelievably beautiful. You are very talented.

  • When I first glanced your dress in my reader, I thought it was Sally in that dress! What a beautiful team you two make. Gorgeous dress–I think you did right by that amazing fabric 😉

  • Eeep, why am I all teary-eyed at my desk?! I mean, it’s not the usual quiet-desperation-slash-drunk-after-work-tears… This dress is too fabulous. I love it so much that a tiny, ugly part of me sort of hates you! So, so beautiful.

  • sallieforrer

    Yep. I’m totally crying. Goodness, I don’t even know what to write! Just… girl… you done me SO so sososososo proud. I wish I could explain just how magical it is for me to see what we made together! That totally sounds like I’m talking about our baby… and I guess it kind of is! And she’s such a beautiful, inspiring baby! (UGH! Words are not working right now!! None of these adjectives are GOOD enough!!!) YOU, my dear, look sensational. What a fucking babe. You are my total embodiment of a wood nymph. And Shigawake and Sean… everything just came together so magically. Even the obi-style belt wrap feels like such a perfect move. Sigh. Heather. I don’t think I can go on. I’m just becoming incoherent. Just know that I am overwhelmed with love, and also gratitude. Thank you for letting me make that silk for you. When I collect myself I’ll try and explain just how much this means to me. Love you girl.

  • Absolutely stunning! I’m totally in awe of the talent that went into that dress, and more than a little jealous 😉

  • Cirque Du Bebe

    Wood Nymph indeedy. This is sooo divine Heather, you and this pattern and that silk were made for each other! Love the dreamy shoot so much, it’s got me dreaming of woodlands…

  • OH. MY. GOODNESS. This is absolute perfection. It’s as if the stars aligned to conceive this beauty. Everything about it is stunning! As soon as I saw the first photograph (before I had even read the title) I thought of how similar the fabric’s print was to Sallie’s gorgeous hand painted silks.
    Not gonna lie, your words left me a bit teary-eyed. Fantastic collab and what a special dress!

  • Aw man, now I’m crying. What a bunch of girls we are. I seriously feel so honoured to be able to cross a continent with our little, busy, crafty hands…. If only we could teleport.

  • meandmypolarbear

    This is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. Gorgeous xx

  • House Of Pinheiro

    It’s stunning

  • I think you stirred something in my soul when you mentioned “elemental new england”. I can only image how beautiful of a place that is, and obviously your photos confirm that image. I can’t even put words together to describe how amazing your dress is!!! It’s…. it’s… good. It’s just so damn good.

  • lisa g

    how brave of you to even cut into that stunning silk! i would have been more than terrified. such a beautiful dress, beautiful place, and beautiful post.

  • sewamysew

    Oh my God! Such a great combo you and Sallieoh. This dress is so totally devine. Gratitude indeed, well done lady 🙂

  • Marina

    I’m having the Worst Week Ever and this was a very nice reminder that everything doesn’t actually suck, even if it seems that way at the moment. Maybe I just need to move to Canada. Anyway, the fabric is amazing, you totally did it justice, and this photo shoot is lovely and ethereal and you look like a fairy princess.

  • You are a princess. Adore.

  • JuliaBobbin

    Holy cow, this pattern and fabric is PERFECT for you and your gorgeousness. I love it!

  • Thewallinna

    From now on, I’ll call you Canadian Forest Nymph! Your post and photos are full of beauty, melancholy and love. I am so lucky to be part of this virtual community of seamstresses! So much inspiration. good vibes and positive energy emanates from everyone! And your collaboration with Sallie is a great proof of it!

  • Mon

    I love, love, love, love!!!

  • juliead

    This is so beautiful (the dress and post), it brings tears to my eyes!

  • JenLouHopkins

    Ridiculously beautiful.

  • joelle

    heather, sallie, this is truly beautiful, i have no words. it;s beautiful i n every possible way, from the friendship you share through your crafty hands to the pictures in the golden sun of the baie des chaleurs. and for me, the location is even more special, and it makes me longing home to read your words describing the beauties of Québec. thank you for filling my day with beauty. oh i’m so emotional…

  • This really is a most beautiful partnership. All the stars are aligned.

  • Bec Stitches

    Gosh, Gorgeous:) Such a nice feeling of friends through blogs 🙂

  • A Stitching Odyssey

    The silk, the dress, you, Sallie: all beautiful and awe-inspiring! What an awesome idea you both came up with and such gorgeous execution of it too!

  • Wow, that is stunning! The dress, the fabric, the pictures, everything!

  • Katy & Laney

    This blows my mind!!! The dress, the flower wreath, the silk, the pictures. Wow!

  • Ezmae Watson

    So beautiful. Everything about this post. Just beautiful.

  • So lovely, location, fabric all of it.
    Great job.

  • Nicole

    That first shot is OH MY GAW BEAUTIFUL.

  • i read this late last night, too late to type a comment (rattling keys sleepy husband) and i had to actually put my hand over my mouth to keep from crying out in delight. so much awesome in every good to the last drop bit of ALL of this post. holy wow.

  • Good god I can’t wait to hang out with you in a few weeks….

  • No doubt all the photos of the dress (and the dress itself) are AMAZE, but the ecstasy-laden fabric recipient shot is officially my favorite! New goal: only buy fabric if it makes me feel like THAT inside! Or outside. Gorgeous work by the both of you!

  • Oh, KILL ME NOW. This is so beautiful, it hurts. I’ve had this dress pattern high on my radar for what feels like forever… just waiting until I come across the right fabric. Your dress is proof that it is definitely worth waiting for the stars to be aligned… It’s just beautiful. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.

  • Truly, truly beautiful…

  • Sownbrooklyn

    Uhm. I got a little teary at the ending bit. I so totally feel the same way!! One day, we’ll get that commune together (maybe in Canada!!) for all of us to live together :0)

    Enough weeping! THAT FUCKING DRESS!!! Amazing!! Amazzzzzing!!! AMAZING!!
    Sallie + Heather Lou=Awesomesuace!!!

  • Wow. Just… wow.

  • merritt

    Truly wonderful. You did a beautiful dress and a beautiful fabric justice with this beautiful post.

  • OH MY GOSH. TOO STUNNING FOR WORDS…

  • This is so impressive. Obviously the fabric is amazing, but you did such a fantastic job pairing it with the right pattern and then making such a beautiful dress! It’s so perfect!

  • Kim

    Just gorgeousness!
    Re: Sleeve tightness, a gusset could be added at underarm which you give you more movement, you find them in the early 60’s dresses. I got good at adding these to dresses when I worked at a Couregges boutique that once was in Seattle. The shape is a bit like the sleeve placket on a men’s shirt. Say you are adding 1/2- 3/4″ width from cuff edge to armhole the extend to bust about 1 1/2″ to 2″and blend to 0″.
    This will keep keep from pulling out at the seams and only be seen when you raise up you arms and say Hay!

  • Kazz

    Absolutely gorgeous, everything, the fabric and pattern-pairing the location the photos, stunning. Big big love.

  • mokosha

    i just stare in these photos for some 15 mins now, speechless.. so magical and so beautiful that it hurts.. it makes even me being proud of you girls, and teary eyed, even though all the story has nothing do do with me 🙂
    also – i wish i can just move to canada and start all over again.. every time i see some lovely pics or video of canada outdoors i get that feeling i need to move out there 🙂

  • Truly breathtaking photos and post. I think you made the perfect dress from your exquisite fabric. The location was another perfect choice and sounds like someplace I’d like to visit. I’ll certainly have to remember Shigwake as I may be moving to Quebec City next summer (my husband is in the CF and got posted there this summer) and am hoping this may facilitate more travels to the east coast. I too am in awe of Canada’s beauties when I get to experience them and even get a little choked up at times, I do love being part of this country. Thank you so much for reminding me and sharing your special dress with us :o)

  • Katy

    I know I’m a bit late to see this, but this post has just brightened my day. I love everything about your dress, the silk, your holiday, the kindness of people. It’s just perfect 🙂

  • Stunning.

  • Oh my god this dress. This dress oh my god!
    Looking amazing, love the silk 🙂
    That Salli sure is a talent!

  • crystalpleats

    This is just so beautiful. What a special gift. Kudos to you for not letting it sit on a shelf.

  • Amy

    Oh my gosh. I am late to this meadow, but oh my gosh. Utter awe and beauty. Have you ever seen Bright Star? Lovely film, so poetic. It’s poetry and flowers and English countryside and close-ups of needlework. It’s the first thing that comes to my mind because like this lovely mise en scene is so… integrated… (all of my loves integrated!)… because when you see art you want to respond with art. Blog comments fall so short.

    That meadow!

    Bravo and beautiful work, both of you!

  • This is such a beautiful post, that the fabric is a hand painted gift is enough, but what you made it into is so amazing! The setting is perfect, and you have captured it all so well with your lovely words.

  • liza jane

    oh dear lord, this dress (and post) is so so amazing. The silk, the setting, the pattern, the partnership. Truly a magical piece.

  • stephanie u.

    This is such a beautiful and inspirational post. The dress is perfect.