Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Hannah's Austrian outfit

Hannah the Hedgehog sat on my shelf
When I was in hospital I sat and sewed an outfit for my daughter Caitlin's toy hedgehog.  3 years earlier on our last holiday to Austria I had made Hannah from a kit I bought in Jedburgh years earlier while staying with my best friend who had just moved to the Borders.  At the time we went into St Johann (im Tirol) where there is a good haberdashery shop and Caitlin and I chose fabric and buttons to make Hannah an Austrian outfit but never got round to it.

The fabrics and buttons are very typical, silver and wood are traditional materials used in Austria for buttons, the edelweiss (meaning pretty white flower!) was an obvious choice.  It should be noted that the mountain gentian, not the edelweiss, is the national flower of Austria.  It's not all Sound of Music!  These fabrics are very typical, complementary plains and stripes with lots of flower and leaf patterning.  In Austria clothes are very expensive and the traditional dresses with apron (dirndl) are often made from bought fabric so the St Johann shop always has a tasty choice.

So finally I was marooned and the action of hand rather than machine sewing was a wonderfully meditative one, like sewing Evie's quilt, getting each stitch just so.  It's like drawing, and if you're sewing people tend to come over and ooh and aah then leave you much alone.  I strongly believe the enforced downtime was a form of message and this luxury of time was deeply healing.

To hand sew I used cotton thread and what are known as betweens.  These are needles designed for hand quilting that are shorter and narrower than regular sharp needles which have a small eye, they make a lovely small neat stitch.  The fabric was all cotton and I added an apron which was just a rectangle of fabric pleated and held in place by being stitched into a band along the top.  A traditional Austrian dress is sleeveless with a usually white blouse worn underneath with puffy sleeves and lace around the neckline.  For Hannah's dress I adapted the attached sleeves to look like this by putting elastic in the cuffs so they pulled in and could be pushed up.  You can actually see from the picture where the same fabric was used 3 years apart.  When I made Hannah I lost one of the pieces for the base of her feet and cut a piece of replacement fabric from the green fabric I was going to use to make her dress.  Then I made the dress 3 years later!  Fabric choices and directional choices were all Caitlin's, pleasure and pleasedness all mine!

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