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Blue Willow Inspiration

I am so thrilled with the amazing reception my dress has been given – winning First in Fashion category and People's Choice awards! All the congratulations and appreciative comments both in person at the CGOA conference as well as online has been completely overwhelming and so lovely! I did not anticipate this level of response – my post on Facebook of the “ta-dah” dress reveal moment has been shared over 350 times which simply blows me away! Sorry I have not written the pattern for this dress (many have asked), but I thought some people might like to know a bit more about how the dress evolved.

My inspiration for Blue Willow came from a small doily. Doily plus ombre teal blue, leaves of willow trees and a long halter neck dress smooshed together with a crochet hook, and well – you have seen the result! (And if you haven't, keep scrolling...)

My Grandmother taught me to crochet as a young child, and she made many doilies – usually featuring the pineapple lace motif. Man, she loved her pineapples! When my grandmother passed away, I was given all of her crochet pattern booklets she had accrued of the years, and a stack of (pineapple) doilies. Last year my parents brought me another box of her crochet they had found – a set of pieces I had never seen before, full of exquisite stitches and not a pineapple in site! I am now guardian of this special collection, and within it is this doily that triggered my brain into overdrive:

The open leaf motif in the middle of this doily got to me. I already knew I wanted to design a full-length halter neck dress for the #cgoa2019 design competition. So far, the plan had been solid fabric with feature seams and texture at the bust, with separately made motifs sewn over the top. Something botanical. The colour should be light at the top, graduating to darker tones of the same colour at the hem, and I wanted to make the skirt a lace fabric – I had now found my inspiration for the skirt!! Here is my original brain-storming design sketch while I toyed with different ideas for the back:

Working with Scheepjes whirl in “Petrol Please Me” (562) for the dress, I used the same leaf motif as the original doily at the top of the skirt, then I changed it in a different way with each subsequent off-set round of lace down to the hem, making them bigger and more textural the further I got down the skirt. Despite all that negative space in the lace design – that skirt still took for-evaaaaaa (or at least it seemed that way working against a deadline).

I had wanted to also use the unusual peony-like flowers at the edge of the doily on the bust, but it just didn’t look right. (However they are the reason the lower skirt lace almost looks like peacock feathers - see below). The rounder shapes took up too much real estate of the bodice fabric. From a distance they looked like blobs and weighed the dress down, so no-go. (One thing I have learnt as a designer, is don’t feel bad about throwing away hours of crochet – if it isn’t working, just let it go!) The willow leaves on their own had a stronger high-contrast appeal, and mirrored the skirt lace shapes – “Bazinga!” - (yes I am a geek at heart).

So anyway, the end to my story is this: I was well and truly into the skirt when I visited my parents for a few days. Grandma had lived with them for a number of her twilight years, and for a long time my family have used a water jug that sits on the kitchen bench with a crocheted jug cover she made over the top of it. You know the type – beads around the edge of what is essentially a loose doily so the beads weigh the edges down over the sides of the vessel. I was pouring myself a drink when I realised I was looking at THE SAME leaf motif on the jug-cover (this time combined with some pineapple lace mind you, it is still all Grandma’s handiwork). I had been looking at this motif for YEARS without realising it!!!!

Lol - Subliminal memory does strange things to you. I find it amazing what your brain stores away in the background. I fixated on the “rare” doily because I HAD seen it before rather than because I hadn’t…. crazy.

So my “fancy” event dress stems from a humble jug cover and doily, but its extra special to me for having my family history packaged inside. Small elements of life can trigger design ideas anytime!!

I have more dress making pics to share in another blog soon.

Happy stitching,

Susan (Peppergoose)

1 Comment

Ruth Lambert
Ruth Lambert
Jul 29, 2019

What a beautiful story!

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