Bat Applique Redingote

Dressmakers often talk about these mystical things called toiles, muslins or mock ups. They refer to the practise versions we make up before we commit to cutting into our really nice fabric. The savvy amongst us employ tricks to cut down on what seems to be a duplication of effort. So you’ll hear us talk about wearable muslins also known a gamble that might just evolve into a bonus item if you’re lucky. It is alsocommon to sew up the lining beforehand to see how something fits and make your adjustments to then. 

I started making a toile for Simplicity 8252 a few years ago from a sheer black fabric I’d picked up for 50 pence a meter. I am always seduced by this quintessential mid-century look of a full sheer fabric overlaying a print beneath and vowed to make this whole ensemble starting with the coat, or redingote to call it by its proper name.  A redingote, as I soon found out, is woman’s long coat with a cutaway front. A perfect design for showing a striking dress underneath!

However I got almost to the end of the toile and then it went in incomplete pile and stayed there for several years. I came across it recently and really wanted to do something this virtually completed garment. It floated around my sewing space on a hanger haunting me daily. 

As I planned out this year’s Halloween projects inspiration stuck me. I thought the circle skirt of the redingote would be a great base for an applique project. This is something I hadn’t tried before and the challenge was tempting!

I had a vision bats flying up the skirt. I started by ordering a meter of black felt and used about three quarters. Then I looked online to find the right image. I resized it into three different sizes- small, medium and large. I knew I’d need a lot so it was necessary to laminate my templates first so they didn’t get too tattered from the repeated pinning. Due to the curvy nature of bat wings I found that cutting out with embroidery scissors was the most efficient way to do it. 

However this wasn’t quite enough: the bats needed eyes! I bought two sizes of purple beads from Hobbycraft and hand sewed the larger beads on the large and medium bat and the smaller bead on the smaller bat. It was strangely satisfying so I suspect there may be more beading projects in my future! 

Each of the skirt’s four sections took four of each size bat. So that’s twelve bats per panel, forty eight bats overall and ninety six eyes.

I liked it but it wasn’t quite as over the top as I wanted. Halloween is a chance for me to overindulge my passion formid-century kitsch. To really emphasise that particular look I decided to embellish the Peter Pan collar with what are actually tiny bat buttons. I marked out a diagonal grid on the collar and hand sewed the bats where the lines met. It was a lot of trial and error the effect is worth it. 

After all this decoration I decided to finish the edges with a simple rolled hem on the overlocker. I got scared, faced my fears and then watched a youtube tutorial. It came out just fine. I would encourage anyone else to do that same as it’svery simple technique but creates a perfect professional-looking finish. 

Sadly there are no parties this year to wear my masterpiece to so you see it here on the dummy. But it would look spooktacular over any dress! It’s the most fun thing I’ve sewn in quite a while. 

Happy Halloween! 

Rosie 

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