Do you follow the Literary Sewing Circle? Bless Melanie’s fiction-loving heart, she’s organized the fourth instalment of this sewing and reading event. Since its inception, participants in the Literary Sewing Circle have read, and maybe sewn something inspired by, Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, Dance, Gladys, Dance by Cassie Stocks, The New Moon’s Arms by Nalo Hopkinson, and now The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan. Melanie always picks interesting books and leads great discussions about each book on her blog Following the Thread. She also conducts interviews with the authors when possible, posts lots of sewing inspiration related to the book, and this time has even arranged for some prizes. Thank you, Melanie, for bringing together two of my favourite pastimes: reading and sewing!
Right, so what does this Pinnacles Sweater designed by Papercut Patterns have to do with The Painted Girls, a novel about poverty-stricken girls growing up in Paris in the 1800s, trying to earn a living as ballerinas, and modelling on the side for the famous real-life painter and sculptor Edgar Degas? Well, nothing really. I would much rather have sewn Colette’s Elmira ballet wrap top or something with a much more Parisian or balletic feel, but I’ve only had two weeks since the beginning of the year during which I’ve had access to my sewing machine, and I had a *serious* hankering to sew this Pinnacles Sweater. My very tenuous link to the book is that I made it using FRENCH terry. [Feel free to insert groan or eye-roll here.]
Let me talk a little about this top and then a little about the book. The top is fairly simple, comfortable and loungey, but I absolutely ADORE it. It’s the comfiest thing I own, due in part to the roomy fit but much more so due to the incredible softness and lovely drape of the bamboo french terry. Seriously, if I could wear nothing but bamboo french terry from head to toe every day of my life, I would. (Tip: Water Tower Textiles carries a great variety of colours of bamboo french terry as well as matching ribbing. That’s not an affiliate link; I just want you to know where you can get the good stuff.)
I like the diagonal seam lines — I really am sucked in by any pattern that has diagonals in it. The only tricky bit to watch out for is ensuring you get that point where the seam lines intersect in the middle matching up properly. I think I just got lucky — I jammed it through my serger and it came out perfectly aligned.
You can see in the photos that the top is very roomy. I probably should have gone down one size. If you’re making it and in-between sizes, I’d recommend choosing the smaller size.
There are opportunities for colour blocking with this design: use up contrasting scraps for the top and/or bottom vee, or do what Lauren of Lladybird did and turn the top vee to the wrong side — if you’re using french terry or sweatshirting, using the wrong side will give the top some textural interest. (Lauren’s version was what tipped me over to the MUST-MAKE-THIS-PATTERN-IT’S-A-LIFE-OR-DEATH-SITUATION. She even made hers in my all-time favourite colour, deep teal blue.)
Check out the interesting way this pattern is put together. Below is a picture of the piece that becomes basically one side of the top — half the front, half the back, and one sleeve together in one piece. That’s where the really interesting colour-blocking could come in — you could do a different colour on each half of the top.
Have you read The Painted Girls? I really enjoyed it. Actually, I’m not sure if ‘enjoy’ is the appropriate word, as it’s a pretty harrowing story. Three sisters, aged 10 to about 16, whose father is dead and whose mother is always drunk on absynthe, are struggling to get enough to eat and just survive. They end up finding themselves in a host of humiliating and even dangerous situations in order to get by. What I found truly fascinating about the book is that it is fiction based on real characters. One of the sisters, Marie Van Goethem, was the real-life model for Edgar Degas’ most famous sculpture, Little Dancer, Aged 14. The author imagines the inner lives of these real people and deftly incorporates other real-life characters of the time: Emile Zola, the famous french writer whose theatrical adaptation of one of his novels is where the oldest sister Antoinette finds work as an extra; and also two boys involved in an infamous murder trial in Paris at the time who are important characters in the novel, influencing the life-changing decisions of the two older sisters. An extra level of depth is provided by Zola’s and Degas’ belief in a sort of biological determinism — that a person’s basic nature could be read in their physiological traits such as the slope of their forehead. Both the suspected murderers as well as Marie Van Goethem are subtly subjected to the idea of this determinism, and questions of criminality, poverty, and the ability (or not) to better one’s circumstances come into play in the novel. I’m super-impressed by how the author has masterfully brought all of these elements together.
So with apologies for crummy photos — it’s always hard to photograph the details of a dark-coloured garment — as well as for the punny and tenuous ‘french terry’ link to the novel, I give you the best part of this Pinnacles Sweater…
Have you read The Painted Girls? If you haven’t, I do recommend it. If you’re a reader and a sewist, make sure you follow Melanie (blog or Instagram) to get involved in the Literary Sewing Circle. Check out what other sewists thought of the book and what they sewed inspired by it. You can also listen to our interview with Melanie on a previous episode of the Clothes Making Mavens podcast here. Wow, that was only episode 12, and we’re up to 30 episodes already! We’re getting lots of great feedback on our latest episode, featuring Shannon from With a Rare Device, so do have a listen to that one, too.
Thanks so much for stopping by!