A few years ago, after traveling in India, my daughter Meg gifted me with a beautiful red and gold silk sari. It has been waiting for the right occasion to come along so I could stitch it into something special, and this Fall it did. My husband and I would be attending a gala in New York City to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Shanti Bhavan (the school in India where Meg taught and with which she continues to be very involved). Since the sari is red, I hoped whatever I made would also serve as a holiday ensemble.
I began by looking for ideas on Pinterest of garments made from saris, creating a board called Evening Wear. I loved the beautiful dresses I found, but of course I wanted to use a Fit for Art pattern so I could talk about our business! Eventually I chose as my inspiration an outfit with a dramatic jacket, curving longer in the back than the front, accented with a striking facing inside the visible lower portion of the jacket; I would make slim Eureka! Pants and a simple tank top to wear with it.
A traditional Indian sari consists of many yards of fabric in 3 sections – one section is designed to be used for the short blouse or “choli” that is worn with a sari, one highly decorative section is meant to be the part of the sari that is draped over the shoulder, and the rest an allover pattern for wrapping into the skirt. My sari had a continuous 5” wide gold border on both selvages, so it didn’t take long to decide that the border would be used for the front band. I also decided to use the densest gold decorative section to create the facing for the hem of the coat. I had thought I would use the choli section for my top, but ended up changing my mind because there was already so much going on with the coat.
I started by creating a pattern for the Tabula Rasa Jacket, extending the center fronts to my knee and the center back at least 12” longer, the side panel creating a bridge between them. When I started to lay out the pattern to cut the jacket pieces, the first dilemma I encountered was deciding which direction to cut the fabric as it had a distinctly directional flower pattern. Should the flower’s center point up or down? I sent these photos off to a few trusted friends for an opinion:
Which would you have chosen? My wise friend Edye advised me that they are hibiscus and should point up.
This was a project that required decision-making all the way along. My next dilemma was that my extended back pattern piece was too long to cut in a single piece. My solution was to create a yoke with the gold border crossing the back at the yoke.
As I cut the silk, I discovered that it frayed A LOT, so I chose to use French seams for all interior construction to make sure it didn’t come apart. I also found the silk to be rather stiff, so even though it’s transparency would have been lovely as a jacket, I decided to line it to give it better drape. Luckily Rae and I were heading to New York to buy knits fabrics to sell at our fall retail shows, so I was able to find a silk crepe de chine for the lining and a darker red silk dupioni for the pants and top to complete the outfit.
After the jacket was constructed, I put it on to plan a pattern for the hem facing. I needed to factor in the depth required to face the back in relation to the section of the sari I was planning to use. I ended up cutting the hem facing in 3 pieces, joining them at the side seams. In the photo of the paper patterns, you can see the design images I sketched onto the facing patterns to help me cut and join the fabric as accurately as possible.
The last major decisions involved finishes – the front band and the sleeve finishes. The gold border seemed too wide for the front band; it would just overwhelm me! I found that the border could be folded along its center and used as center front if I carefully positioned the band pieces so that the full design in the border fabric would be created through mirror images on right and left front. I began by placing safety pins where a single repeat of the border pattern should sit.
Then I pinned the left and right front band pieces to the jacket, insuring that they matched in front.
After setting the front, I joined the left and right bands behind the neck; by some amazing bit of luck, the design also matched perfectly at center back!
Finally, I added a single frog closure which would also keep the designs lined up. I decided to use the full width of the border pattern as a cuff on the sleeve.
And here you can see the finished jacket! I sure hope I can find a few occasions to wear it this winter.
What are you making to wear for holiday events? We would love to see some photos and hear your stories, so please post them on our Facebook page or send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happy Sewing! Carrie