Until, that is, she met the "Afternoon at Pemberley" pattern. She fell in love at first sight, and knew that she would never be satisfied until she had tried it. So she ordered some yarn, bought a new hook, and began a new adventure.
In Austentatious Crochet: 36 Contemporary Designs from the World of Jane Austen, Melissa Horozewski presents enticing patterns along with facts about Jane Austen, art from her era, and fanciful interactions between Miss Austen and her characters. They are not period patterns, as crochet had yet to become fashionable in England, but they are designed with the Regency aesthetic in mind. And they are beautiful.
I love lace, and was excited to see a lacy pattern made with macroscopic yarn. Thread crochet still scares me, and the "silky bamboo blend" of Caron Spa yarn sounded delicious. I knew this dress would be a good challenge, and I wanted to do it right. So, for the first time ever, I made a gauge swatch. The pattern called for the swatch itself to be blocked and pressed. This was a tiresome part of the project, as I really wanted to just jump into the pattern. But it is a good thing I was patient. I ended up making three gauge swatches before finding the right hook size. When I crocheted with the prescribed F hook, the stitches were too small. When I tried the G hook, they were still too small. Finally I tried the H hook, and it was just right. So I crocheted, and I crocheted, and I crocheted. And I renewed the book at the library a couple of times.
A wonderful thing about making one's own clothes is customization. Once one gets started, this is a long, straight pattern. I figured out how to add an increase where I needed it, and also devised some short sleeves. When it was long enough, I wet blocked the dress (another first!), and waited and waited for it to dry.
Then I killed it. Or I tried, to, anyway. The directions included pressing the crocheted fabric to add shine and improve drape. When I sought more information, I learned that this technique is commonly called "killing," and evokes the same sort of emotions that word brings in more literal contexts. "Don't kill your acrylic," the naysayers warn. "It will never bounce back again." Interestingly, that convinced me. I don't want to block the thing ever again. So I pressed it, gently, under a cloth. The jury is still out on whether I succeeded. I'm not ready to wash it yet and find out.
I'm entering this project into the Signature Look Sew-along challenge at Project Sewn. Is this my signature look? Well, I certainly don't wear a dress like this every day. But it is normal for me to wear something I've made, my own take on a classic style, regardless of trends. And I think this outfit is pretty unique, just like my signature. So I'll claim it! Check out the other signature looks, and be sure to vote for your favorite on Friday!