Fulfillment, finally, for a gift of silk

Posted Aug. 21, 2008, at 11:49 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 12:54 p.m.

The minute I saw Butterick Pattern 4740, I knew the time had come. I was ready to do something with the three yards of silk shantung given to me more than 20 years ago by a friend who was moving to another state.

She was cleaning out a lot of things that day, diving into closets and cupboards, and surfacing with stuff she shoved into cardboard boxes destined for the nearest thrift store, which in those days, was The Salvation Army store. But when she retrieved from a drawer the silk fabric, she handed it to me. She knew how much I liked to sew.

It’s beautiful cloth with a pale powdery blue background scattered with stylized flowers in cobalt blue. It’s a midweight fabric with minimal drape and it ravels easily.

I have no idea where my friend acquired the fabric, but I recall her speaking of a relative who had given it to her. That relative traveled a great deal, including to Japan and China. My friend couldn’t remember how long she’d had the fabric, or how long her relative had kept it, thus leaving the age of the fabric open to question. Yet, the silk seems stable, with no brittleness. I think it has a few good years left in it.

My friend, who didn’t sew, had kept the silk as a reminder of her relative, who had long since died, and because of its beauty. Thus, the fabric became a “remember me” gift to mark the good times we had had sitting in each other’s kitchens drinking coffee when we were young women with energy to burn, our interests bounding from writing to the arts to the comings and goings of our children.

I brought the fabric home, put it away and there it stayed until this spring.

Each time I came up with an idea for what to do with the silk, I’d change my mind and tuck it away again. I think its propensity to ravel daunted me a bit. But I also wanted to be absolutely certain the pattern I chose was the right one. It had to be something that complemented the fabric, something classic and something I knew I’d like wearing.

When the fabric surfaced again recently, I decided now was the time to give serious thought to turning that lovely silk into a jacket. The pattern I chose has Asian overtones with continuous sashing up one front edge, around the neck and back down the other front edge. It has simple lines and set-in sleeves that are not too tight, which would put too much stress on fabric inclined to ravel, nor too wide, which would drive me nuts. The jacket will need a lining. I chose blue for that.

I am toying with the idea of studding a few of the flower centers with a sprinkle of beads, but I am still considering this. I don’t want the jacket to be too formal. I want to wear it with jeans or with a linen skirt.

The jacket takes less than two yards of the fabric, leaving more than a yard to do something else with. A clutch bag, maybe? Or pillows? I’ll think of something. I always do.

Snippets

. Penquis Retired and Senior Volunteer Program volunteers, The Knit Wits, are seeking donations of dark-colored wool yarn to make mittens for service men and women in Iraq. The mittens are knit so that the top can be turned back to expose the fingers. Each pair of mittens requires 2 to 4 ounces of worsted weight yarn. Those who wish to donate yarn or knit mittens may call Ann or Patty at Penquis RSVP, 596-0361 or 800-585-1605.

. If you contribute to Maine’s fiber economy by raising fiber animals, purchasing Maine-grown or processed fiber, making, selling or buying products that are knitted, felted, woven, etc., visit www.getrealmaine.com/fiber and read “Have You Any Wool?” Then take an online survey. E-mail Sue Watson, who is conducting the survey about Maine’s fiber economy, at susan.watson@me.usda.gov or call her at 947-6622, ext. 137, for more information or to receive a paper version of the survey.

. Bear Paws Quilters invites the public to stop by The Cotton Cupboard, 1213 Broadway, to view the group’s custom quilted, queen-size sampler quilt which is being raffled to benefit local charities. Tickets are $1, six for $5. The winning ticket will be drawn Wednesday, Oct. 1. Viewing dates are Aug. 14-30. The shop is open 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday.

. Knitters who enjoy knit-along projects can join the Mystery Shawl knit-along by signing up at http://groups.yahoo.com/MysteryStole4.

. Weavers will find plenty of inspiration in the newly revamped Handwoven magazine. Articles include Indonesian batik, how to make a shaggy bag, indigo dyeing made easy, and Japanese weaving, plus new regular features such as My Space, Tricks of the Trade and Yarn of the Hour. More information is available at www.handwovenmagazine.com

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