22 Aug 2013 • • by Heather Lou

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.


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