A Dia de los Muertos Farrah Dress

Today I am sharing a very special project as part of the 2020 Chalk and Notch Collaborators Team. It is definitely an honour to be part of such an amazing team of inspiring sewists; all sharing our love for Chalk and Notch patterns. I had the privilege of choosing which pattern I wanted to make up and I chose the Farrah! I’ve been eyeing this pattern for a while and I am so excited to show you how I made her my own! This project is dedicated to my aunt who my family lost this year to cancer. I didn’t get to say goodbye so this is my way of doing that. Aunty Denise you are truly missed and this one is especially for you!

The Pattern

The Farrah is a woven blouse and dress pattern with a feminine ruffle detail. View A includes ruffled sleeves and View B is sleeveless with a front ruffle. Both views include a side slit with a high-low hem detail. The pattern is available in sizes 0-18 and is recommended for intermediate level sewists. I made View A with the gorgeous ruffle sleeves! Two of the features I love most about this pattern are:

  1. The gathered back that attaches to the yoke (bonus points for burrito method yoke application)
  2. The loose silhouette that allows me to eat an elephant and no one would know! I love a good shift style dress!

The Fabric & Alterations

For this project, Chalk and Notch kindly provided the fabric from a store of my choice. My Farrah is made from Blackbird Fabrics‘ Viscose Linen Slub in the colour Lime Zest. This is such a stunning colour on my skin tone and the drape of the fabric is perfect to show off the ruffles. Although I washed and ironed my fabric before cutting, I ran into some issues with the fabric growing. I made a mock up of size 12 from a 100% cotton fabric and it fit fairly close so I went up to the 14 to get more room in the bust and hip. I should have actually made the 12 because the dress was huuuuge on me when I tried it before hemming. The armholes had stretched out and the dress grew both in width and length. If you have any tips for avoiding this, please share below! I have this problem with linen allll the time. I shortened my pattern 3 inches to account for my 5’4″ height, and let me tell you, the dress pretty much grew those 3 inches right back! I had all intentions of styling this dress with heels but honestly I felt like I was in a nightgown after it grew so much and I decided it was time to hack off some more inches. I turned it into a mini dress to wear with sneakers. Here is a photo of what the dress looked like before my make it work moment.

So unfortunately, since I had to hack off a few more inches, I lost the shape to get the neat mitered corner split. I still wanted the high-low hem, so I cut my back 2 inches longer than my front. In the rush of things (this was literally right before shoot time), I completely forgot to turn under ¼” on my hem and I serged instead. It didn’t even click to me until I was editing the photos that the overlocking would show. I definitely need to fix that before I actually wear the dress. I also feel like one side of the back hem is longer than the next so I’ll address that as well. It was a real panic moment because of how special this dress is to me. I scrambled and wasn’t thinking straight but overall I am super proud of my ‘make it work’ moment.

The Story

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I love to dabble in hand embroidery every now and then. I’ve never really said it out loud, but I owe some of that to my aunt/godmother. Aunty Denise always believed that our hands are precious and can do so much! She always taught me and my cousins to use our hands to create. When I was younger, my family used to visit her on Sundays after church. Ofcourse the adults had alot of catching up to do, so to keep us kids busy, she would give my cousins and me little cross stitch and embroidery kits to work on. Other little sewing projects too, I can’t remember it all fully. But she always wanted us to use our hands to be creative and crafty. I was doing needlework in school at the time, and sewing and embroidery could have seemed like just school work. But she gave us such fun things to work on that it piqued my interest a little extra.

Funny enough, I’d never seen her sew or do any of these projects she would give us. I have no idea where she even found those kits to buy. She wasn’t even a ‘girly girl’ to me. She liked to operate heavy machinery, drive big tractors and so forth. I feel like that ‘sewing project gifter’ part of her existed specifically for me. I didn’t see the deeper meaning back then but I totally understand now. I remember how excited she was when my husband gifted me my machine after I moved to Barbados. She said “yes every woman should own a sewing machine!”.

Aunty Denise was such a bright colourful soul. She would get mad if I wasn’t ‘dressed up’ enough or if my clothes were too dull. She would literally wear the brightest colours, the boldest lipstick and dye her hair crazy orange! I specifically picked the Lime Zest fabric to please her! I knew I had to do some colourful hand embroidery to say thank you for all you’ve taught me and thank you for pushing me to be creative and use my hands. Aunty Denise was so supportive of my sewing journey, she was the first person to subscribe to my Blog. Everytime I sign into MailChimp, I see her email address first on the list and I get so emotional imagining all of my blog posts unread in her inbox. What could I possibly embroider to pay tribute to such an amazing woman?

The Embroidery

I ordered a bunch of embroidery patterns on Amazon and when they arrived, it was quite clear they would be way too big for the yoke. I started researching to find different ways to transfer designs to the fabric, whether hand drawn or printed. I bounced upon Sulky Stick n Stitch, a sticky back sheet that you can print on that then adheres to the fabric and washes away after embroidery. I’ve never clicked that order button so fast in my life! It sounded too good to be true. Well it worked a charm! I’ll have snippets of the process in my Youtube video.

I headed over to Urban Threads to see what patterns I could find that would suit my purpose. Being Halloween season, everything Halloween popped up first. There were so many beautiful sugar skull patterns! Growing up in a Christian household on a very small island in the middle of nowhere, I wasn’t really exposed to Mexican culture or anything to do with Dia de los muertos. I just always assumed it was something spooky or eery. I remember seeing sugar skulls in baking shows on Food Network during this season but never even bothered to look them up. This one sugar skull pattern with monarch butterflies really stood out to me, and though I dismissed it, I kept coming back to it for some reason. I decided to do some research into sugar skulls and Dia de los Muertos and boy was I surprised!

Dia de los Muertos

I am not claiming to fully understand the culture by any stretch of the imagination but I am going to share what I learnt and my interpretation and how everything just fell into place for this to become the perfect embroidery piece to say goodbye to my aunt. Day of the dead is celebrated on Nov 1st and 2nd, a tradition originating in Central Mexico. This ritual was developed by the Aztecs who believed that we should never grieve the loss of someone who passed but rather celebrate their lives and welcome the return of their spirits to the land of the living once a year. Tears were not allowed because they believed the tears would make the spirit’s path treacherous and slippery. It was a joyous occasion where families gathered and had food, drinks and music. All of the different foods have meanings. Sugar skulls are crafted from pure sugar. The colorful designs represent the vitality of life and individual personality. Monarch butterflies migrate to Mexico every Fall. They were believed to be the spirits of the ancestors coming to visit.

I am not saying that I share all of these beliefs. But I understand and appreciate this part of Mexican culture and I think that one thing we can definitely adapt is the celebration of life rather than mourning. I’ve always found tribal and historical traditions and beliefs interesting but this is one I regrettably skipped over. I just knew in my heart after doing this research, that this sugar skull and monarch butterfly embroidery was the perfect send off for my aunt; The perfect way to celebrate her colourful personality! R.I.P Aunty Denise. P.S. Cancer sucks!

Toodle-loo

Keira

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11 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing your story about your Aunt. This is a wonderful way to honor her memory and all that she shared with you to spark your creative journey. What a blessing! I know how hard it can be to lose someone to cancer and I’m glad you can find comfort in the joy she gave to you.

    • Keira Wood
      Author
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      Thank you so much Crystal! Losing her was a really difficult time especially because I couldnt go back home to be with my family. I feel so guilty about not being able to attend her funeral although it wasn’t by choice. Making this dress helped to bring me some kind of closure.

  2. Keira, this is such a sweet post! I love how you paid tribute to your sweet aunt by making such a beautiful garment. The embroidery is beautiful. I know she is looking down on you from above with such love and admiration. Bravo my friend👏🏻👏🏻

    • Keira Wood
      Author
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      Thank you so much Koe! That means alot to me!

  3. /

    What a beautiful tribute and story. Thank you for sharing.

    • Keira Wood
      Author
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      Thank you so much! 🙂

    • Keira Wood
      Author
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      Thank you so much Kris!

  4. /

    What a beautiful tribute to your aunt! I know she is definitely smiling on you! (And we know she loves your color selection too!). Your aunt sounds like a wonderful person I would have love to meet and hang out with (she can teach me some thing about colors too, LOL!) I never heard about DIA DE LOS MUERTOS, So this is my first time and it’s very interesting! thanks so much for sharing!

    • Keira Wood
      Author
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      Thank you Myra! She really was special! I heard about it before but just assumed it was creepy.

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