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The Secret Squirrel series is a year-long sewing journey created by An from Straight-grain and Suz from sewpony. Read all about it here.

Now about three weeks ago, I get a email from Jenya of While she was sleeping in my mailbox asking me if I would like to be the next in line for the Secret Squirrel Mission. I would like to say I jumped with joy, but to tell you the truth I panicked a bit. I mean have you seen Jenya’s creations, and for that matter any of the other Secret Squirrel-ers? Could she really be asking me??? Jenya wrote to me to tell me it was my choice, and it was “no pressure.”

Well. Not exactly a no pressure situation here! But how could I refuse? 🙂 I have enjoyed looking at all the Secret Squirrel creations, and while I have not participated before I have been a happy lurker on the flickr group. But this was my chance, and finally when I said yes, I was super excited. And now three weeks later, here I am bringing you my little creation. I hope you’ll tell me what you think about it….

When Secret Squirrel contacted me via Jenya from While she was sleeping she gave me these five acorns of inspiration….

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St. Basil’s Cathedral. Snowflake. Buttons. Harry Connick Jr. A long time ago.

Not the easiest of acorns I could tell. And I needed a bit of research to figure out what to do with them together, and here is whatI have:

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Now more about how I incorporated the acorns. I started with A long time ago, and decided that it is the same as “long years ago.” Which leads me to  a small lesson in Indian history. 🙂 “Long years ago” are the opening words of the speech made by India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru when India won its freedom from the British Rule. This was in 1947, and at the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, Nehru delivered a speech beginning with these words. To most of us Indians, the words “long years ago” will remind us of that speech, and when I was doing a bit of research for this sew along, I found out that in fact this is one of the most famous speeches of 20th century! (You can read more about this here).

So, this then lead me me to what Nehru was wearing, and to generally the question of what constitutes the Indian dress. Well can you guess what he was wearing? Something which is now (in India at least) commonly known as the Nehru Shirt (and Jacket), which has a banded collar also known as Nehru collar. Something not so different from this:

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And that’s how I used the acorn, A long time ago.

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And if you follow the links you can tell that a Nehru shirt (or jacket) needs a front opening or placket with buttons. And this is how I got to my second acorn: buttons.

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To give the shirt a more tailored look I also added a placket to the sleeves. It required a bit of fiddling but I am glad I managed it with a bit of help from my ever useful friend, the seam ripper. 🙂

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Now onto the skirt. When I saw photos of St Basil’s Cathedral and read about it, I was really excited. It looks gorgeous (and I would love to visit it one day), but for now I had to focus on how to make something that would serve as an ode to the marvelous set of buildings. And so the tiered skirt, to remind me of the blue and white dome.

Initially I thought I wanted to make a balloon skirt with vertical alternate panels of the same blue and cream fabrics, but when I asked N what she thought she told me that she wanted to go “round and round” in it. That settled the design: a tiered skirt with alternate panels of blue and cream with some twirl factor, and a simple waist with encased elastic. One more acorn, St. Basil’s Cathedral down!

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She loves it!

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I almost stopped after this. After all I had the requisite number of acorns in my dress (3 of 5), and the outfit has enough colour, pattern and details for me! Besides I thought that the fabric pattern was vaguely like a snowflake, and that I didn’t need to make the whole thing busier.

But I was also itching to do a little hand sewing.

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The reason for this really was because N had by this time gotten really interested in what I was doing and wanted to know what a snowflake was (having never seen one). She asked if falls from the “sky like rain and sit on roofs.” And so I decided to embroider it in the bottom corner of the shirt, to give the feeling of this little snowflake settling on the dome of St. Basil’s Cathedral.

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So this is my outfit for N. Finally I was able to use four out of five acorn (dropping out Harry Connick Jr. out).

A word now about fabric and what patterns I used. The fabric first: I brought it all locally, it’s thin-ish cotton and not really appropriate for this weather unless seriously layered. The buttons which I love, and these were the last ones I had wooden ones from Bangalore. I think they go quite nicely with the fabric. 🙂

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The pattern for the shirt comes from here. I made it in size 110cms and I am glad it is super roomy with a nice length. She can wear a zillion layers underneath it for the next two months and then it’s perfect for summer. All in all I love all the patterns in this Japanese pattern book because the instructions and diagrams are great and things come together pretty quickly. I self drafted the skirt, but it’s really very simple with strips of cloth with increasing length sewn up together. Because of the fabric’s thinness I did a hem facing which I think gives it some weight. The pattern for snowflake is really simple (mostly just backstitch) and comes from this Japanese book.

So that’s that. To tell you the truth, I rarely make any matching outfits for N, and while I am sure both pieces will get plenty of wear individually I don’t know  how much this will get worn together. In my mind it’s a little too much bling and a tad busy. But for now, N loves it. The bling, the (semi) twirl skirt and everything else.

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Thanks Jenya for the super inspirational icons. They were challenging but I had fun sewing with them. And now the Secret Squirrel is ready to leave and continue its journey in the New Year. Will you like her to visit you?

She has  five new acorns with her, for those who are willing to make something. Here they are:

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colour pencils. a long journey. pomogranates. stripes.  paisley.

If you would like and join Secret Squirrel on his journey, leave a comment on this post and check your inbox in a week’s time by January 15th… you may be the chosen one to pass on the baton of creativity that is SECRET SQUIRREL!!!

And of course, if you (sadly) don’t receive a message from Secret squirrel, you can still sew along and post your photos here. There are some amazing prizes to be won. Just a little word of caution: please do not post your creations until March 2nd. The next Secret Squirrel stop will be revealed on February March  1st!! (Oops! The Secret Squirrel got a bit too carried away in New Year festivities and so we are taking a break in February. Which means you have a little longer to sew this time 🙂

So good luck, and happy new year!

Asmita

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