Bird Tessalation Dress



My sewing dare is done!  Gillian dared me to take on incorporating reverse applique into one of my garments.  I give you my Bird Tessalation Dress!

I knew right away that I wanted to do something with Tilly and the Button’s Coco Dress.  I bought the pattern in December and really meant to get around to it all winter, but was never really got around to it.  I even had this lovely gold polka dot ponte fabric ready to go, but it just didn’t seem very interesting.  At the end of the day, it just seemed like it was going to be a neutral dress with no pizazz.  I really wanted to do this pattern justice, so I began to think of ways to add something to the polka dots.

I missed the boat with the Monthly Stitch Collective’s Put a Bird On It Theme last month, which I lamented as I saw Andie’s very fun bomber jacket.  I decided to make up for my latent creativity by putting a bird on my Coco in some way.

In thinking about birds, I got stuck thinking about the work of M.C. Escher, namely this tessalation:

Two Birds, February 1938<br>Drawing, 228 x 243 mm (9 x 9 5/8

M.C. Escher, Two Birds, 1938

The last time I explored tessalations was in the self portrait I did in my 8th grade art class.


To my 8th grade self…your face does actually get stuck that forever in a self portrait.

I backed it with a tessalation which I now think of as a cross between a ninja star and ponies.  Nothing like a pony ninja starred background to go with the classic junior high eyebrow raise.


I quickly made up a bird tessalation piece with a post it and sketched it out on paper before experimenting with it on a scrap of my dress fabric.  I backed the sample with some peachy pink jersey, then traced the tessalation with a washable marker.


After stitching around my tessalation lines, I cut out the interior of each bird, leaving a scant 1/4″ around each stitched line.  To keep everything flat, I stitched back over the cut borders as close to each edge as I could.


I carved some lino stamps and balsa stamps to print some extra details to make the birds more birdlike, but I couldn’t get a clear impression on the soft jersey without using a marker (I had no fabric marker on hand), so I chose to handpaint the bird details when the time came.

The Coco came together very quickly.  It’s a very simple pattern, perfect for a beginner and a fantastic canvas for lots of creativity.  Other than the tessalation panel, I added a band of faux piping between the sleeves and the cuffs just for the hey of it.  If I hadn’t gone through the applique process, a finished Coco would take about 30 minutes of sewing time.  As it was, I made the dress up completely, leaving the left side seam only basted since I knew I wanted to wrap the tessalation panel from front to back.

Then I traced out my birds and unpicked the basted seam so that I could work on the panel in the flat.  I went through the same process as I did with my sample, but I added a layer of lightweight mesh knit under the jersey.  On my sample, I noticed that the jersey kept getting sucked down into my machine when I was going back and stitching the cut edges.  The mesh kept that from happening and it adds a little more opacity that would be lost by cutting away the polka dot fabric.  I’ve backed applique with mesh before on knits to good effect on this Lace Cuff Tee.


When everything was stitched, cut, and restitched, I hand painted bird details with some screenprint ink.  I gave wings to some of the birds made from the selvage of the knit which had a crosshatch pattern on it that looked a little feathery.


After the paint had dried, I set about matching the bird details across the side seam, which took some effort.  I’m pleased with how it worked out, and I’m glad to see that the birds fly cohesively as a flock from front to back.

birdcocosideseam birdcocosideflight

From start to finish, this was a fun sew.  I really really enjoy adding details to patterns not only to “make them my own,” but because I like trying out different techniques and seeing just what I can do with the materials that I have around me.


I’m loving this Coco, and the birds, though perhaps I’ll avoid Bodega Bay.


Have you completed a sewing dare?  How has it gone?  Did you learn anything new?

My Coco review is here.



Sloper drafting


Skirt sloper in turquoise faille

Have you ever drafted your own slopers? How have you used them in your sewing projects?

For a while now I’ve wanted to learn to draft my own patterns. I have all these ideas in my head, and I’m constantly looking for ways to add this and that to patterns that I really like. In effect, I’ve been using commercial patterns as slopers, but I have no actual knowledge of drafting. I hack away, trying this and that, sometimes with success, sometimes with miserable results. As I move forward in my sewing, I think that learning to draft is the next step for me. I have no idea where it’s going to take me, but I want to discipline myself to learning all that I can.

To get the ball rolling, I enrolled in Burdastyle’s Draft Your Own Personal 5 Piece Sloper Collection class recently. I thought that this class was a fantastic value as it walks you through putting together a skirt, sleeve, bodice, pants, knit and even lingerie slopers.  A lot of sloper classes only have you make one or two drafts.  While some of those might delve into perfecting your slopers more in depth, I’d much rather spend the time getting the building blocks, even if they’re rough to start.  I’m sure this class will go a long way to getting my feet wet as I approach the vast ocean of pattern drafting.  …

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Me Made May Days 10-19

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Couch sides

        Have you ever upholstered anything? We are slowly inching towards completion of recovering my couch. This weekend we were able to get the sides and the seat back finished. When we tore down everything, we discovered that there was only foam under the fabric. The problem with that is that when…

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Giveaway Day winner

Thanks to everyone who participated and commented on Giveaway Day.  I’m grateful for this sewing community we all belong to and I’m glad to share the love of sewing with you all and to give away little bits and bobs of happiness! The winner is: Melissa E.   Stay tuned around here for lots more…

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Me Made May ’15, days 7-9

Here’s where I recap Me Made May ’15, days 7-9. On day 7, my husband and I made a significant dent in our couch recovering project.  Besides being super cool to use, the pneumatic stapler makes really quick work of everything.  The bottom deck and both of the arms are now in place, and they…

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Design a Personal Color Palette

Hi all! I’m so excited to have written an article for Seamwork Magazine called Design a Personal Color Palette. It walks you through creating a color palette and using it as you plan and sew your garments. My hope is that it’ll give you some ideas regarding thinking about color as another element to make…

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