Monday, 5 August 2013

Freedom Construction - creating a felted and eco dyed dress with Pam de Groot

What an amazing four days!It's always a pleasure to drive out to the lovely Samford Valley to Wendy Bailye's studio. You can feel everything else get left behind as you take time out to just be. After a relaxed start chilling on the couch outside, it was straight to work, and we spent the first day making 5 metres of prefelt on tissue silk.

Cutting into the prefelt!
The final corner!!
The layout
The pattern piece
These two pieces were sewed together to create large metreage, which on Day 2 we placed our bodice templates on, ready to cut! This was no normal pattern - just the bodice (on opposite sides!) and then wooooah!! Crazy swirling shapes and a hole to boot! You can see how impressed I was at having to cut into my massive piece of prefelt! But I was here to trust and learn!

From here we stitched the
sides together, then hung our ghostly pieces up from dowels to start adding offcuts and other pieces of fabric.
At times this had to be done from inside the dress.....!!

Pams' Freedom Construction' technique is related to Julian Roberts' "unconventional garment pattern cutting method  called Subtraction Cutting. It is an approach to garment pattern making that incorporates chance discovery, distance, gods-eye views, and the ability to cut fast and inaccurately without too much reference to numbers, fractions or mathematics.The basic premise of Subtraction Cutting is designing with patterns, rather than creating patterns for designs. The name derives from the fact that you reduce space to increase outward shape." I was aware of this method, but just looking at it blew my mind, and I think starting to play with it in the incredibly forgiving medium of felt was a great way to begin.

Oh Wendy!!
Day 3 was another early start to catch up - Wendy kindly allowed us to let ourselves into the studio whenever we arrived to start work, and both she and Pam were out soon after! The morning was taken up with sewing (and caramel tarts!) and the afternoon was the felting of the beast.
Maggies' lovely lumps!
This was when I started to lose my s%#t!! I could not comprehend how to deal with all the areas that needed resists - surely this thing was all going to felt together?!! Honestly, it just did my head in! There were strange pockets of felt and so much silk to deal with! Determined not to fall behind, I pressed on, at some stage telling Pam that I didn't think I liked her any more!! Desperate to finish, I gave no thought to any embellishment, unlike Maggie who managed to put some lovely bumps in hers - jealous!!
This strange beast is what I brought home on Saturday evening - an oddity in felt and silk! I was gratified though that Matt seemed to see the work, and the potential in this creation. I was very glad he could see it before dyeing!
Day 4 was dyeing day! Pam inspired and amazed us with her wonderful samples of natural dyes and eco prints. Eager to begin, we  soon found it harder than it seemed, as we laid out mountains of leaves, petals and onion skins on our dresses and folded them in on themselves.

Strawberry leaf print !
For me, it was into the onion skin dyepot for four hours. To entertain us whilst we waited, Pam put on several pressure cookers for us to do some quick samples in.  After lunch we chillaxed for a bit - until we got to see the results of these sample pots! I was thrilled to see the result on my sample piece of milky merino - look - a butterfly!! After the excitement of all this, we were galvanised into action, and quickly bundled up some more samples!

The chrysalis
Unfurling in process!
Then it was time for the big reveal - and I had quite a chrysalis to unfurl! Steaming, burning hot- it did not deter me! At one stage Pam advised that it might be good to be a bit methodical in unwrapping for identification purposes. Having no idea what I'd put in, this did not not inspire me to slow down at all! And here was my reward.....
 It was like Christmas as each parcel was unwrapped, and those that had put their bundles in the dyepot later than others felt like the kid without the present as they waited for their turn! Although not participating in the workshop, Wendy was thrilled to pop some samples in the dyepots, and here she is revealing the results of the onion dyebath on some silk to Pam.
Wendy and Pam
Wendy's sample

Rhonda's fabulous dress
My dress and samples

 Here is my dress, unironed and just pinned together to give you an idea of where it might be headed. There's a bustle to be sewn at the back, and I need to shape the long pocket shape into an interesting shape on the front right hip. The camera really does not do the colours justice!

I worked my butt off, I had a great time, I learnt a great deal and met a fabulous lady - 4 days well spent! Honoured to be in the first group to do this particular wokshop, from creating the felted dress to dyeing it! Thank you Pam for a wonderful journey.


  1. Great summary .... and a great 4 days .... lovely to spend some time with you and all the other ladies .... Wendy and Pam are fabulous

  2. Fabulous.. I am really envious, as I put my name down initially, but then decided that I was not ready to do this yet!

  3. The dress looks amazing. I want photos on you when you have finished the final tweak. It was great to meet you too I'm sure I will see more of you in the future.