Fancypants neck brace, a knitting pattern

knitted neck brace, ready to be stamped on a coin

The first neck brace scarf was so quick that I was inspired to make another one. Usually I’m all about elaborate crafts that involve at least a year of delayed gratification, which I think makes me very vulnerable to the finished-object high. More more more!

I probably could have stopped before adding the fuzzy ruffle thing, but I wanted to make it weird. My vision was jellyfishy, but unless jellyfishes have a European royal court I’m not sure that really comes through. More of a bizarro-Elizabethan neck brace.

Here’s a snapshot through a dirty mirror that shows the front, and also, incidentally, a quite accurate representation of my personal idea of what I look like.

knitted neck brace, dirty mirror, self image

The creature itself looks like this.

neck brace laid out

Some patterns for knitting one.

  • Knit a long triangle. The decreases don’t have to be evenly placed.
  • I used random-width welts to make the fabric firm enough to stand up. (Alternating stockinette and reverse stockinette stitch.)
  • The main piece used about 50g of worsted weight yarn (one thrifted ball), on 4.5mm needles.
  • The ruffle took a few yards of mohair-esque stuff (again, thrifted and unlabelled) on 5.5mm… could have used much fatter needles for an airier ruffle.
  • I tried it on to place the buttons (actually a long cufflink-thing made out of two pearl beads and some embroidery floss), and to mark the start and end of the ruffle.

knitted neck brace / hall of mirrors

Jellyfish couture still ascending

Jellyfish dress by Valentino

I bought some thrift store yarn in Sidney last weekend (three bags of matching nubby grey cotton), and it gave me fashion monkeybrain. I drew a lot of silly outfits in my notebook when we got home, mostly still in the vein of jellyfish couture.

There are two jellyfish garments in particular that I think really need to get made, after looking at the initial Fall 2006 runway photos on (which is something I apparently do now). The spirit of the times, it is a spirit of jellyfish!

First, I have some sheer, iridescent red fabric that used to be bed curtains, earmarked for a shoulder tutu. I’ve described this in my notebook as “like a big filmy donut made of gauze” and it sits around your shoulders like a huge shawl. (You know, a huge gauze donut that you wear…) It would be like a jellyfish body, around your shoulders (err, my shoulders), and would double as a sort of bizarro 1940s fur collar.

Secondly, the tentacle underskirt. This is something I keep threatening to knit, but which I should probably sew. It would be a long, slim skirt made of verticle ruffles, to turn your legs into jellyfish tentacles. You could wear a shorter, puffy skirt overtop. I see this as the logical evolution of letting a lacy slip show under your dress hem. Just a straight, obvious, rational line, really, the development of the jellyfish underskirt.

But check it: if you ignore the probable artistic “point” of several fashion collections, you can spot a lot of shoulder tutus , long ruffles and general jellyfishiness.

Also worth noting: I hope this Givenchy collection means that my fantasy of women with coiffed facial hair is finally ready for public consumption. If I could grow a beard, I’d style it so hard.

I’m finding underwear really inspiring today

Chris has to get a short haircut for an acting role. We had a little chat, over lemonade, about haircuts and vanity and self-esteem and so on.

We both sounded a little disappointed that identity could get so tied up in haircuts; it seems like a confident person should be able to transcend something as trivial as a haircut, and yet here we are worrying about our ‘dos.

Possible ways to weasle out of this:

  • call it style, or personal expression
  • point out that hair has a big impact on faces, and faces are a primal staging ground for identity
  • turnabout is fair play: sure it’s trivial, so who cares if I care about my hair?

But yeah, weaseling about vanity is hard to do effectively. Once you start pointing out all the things that humans do out of vanity, it gets to be a bit of a sandpit, caving in on you whenever you try to build a way out. If I were still my 16-year-old self, I’d be willing to spin you a reductionist path to the conclusion that everything is vain. Doing nice things for other people? Oh, I guess you just want them to like you so you’re manipulating them with kindness.

Later this evening I realized that I have a similar relationship with underwear as I do to haircuts. I hate wearing boring or ugly underwear, and I sometimes like an outfit better just because I have, e.g., ruffly-backed hipsters underneath. My panty salad contains many colourful frills. This is silly, and yet… I get a lot out of fancy panties.

I’m not in the mood to tie this into the power of costumes, or ornament as communication, or a confession of my own vanity, or any of those angles, but I will happily point out that admiring these overpriced panties is inspiring a lot of jellyfish couture in my head.

This model (meaning the garment) is the most like a jellyfish, with folds and sheer ruffles. It could use some streamers.

Frilled net undies.

These are giving me ideas about new places to add gathers to garments.

Gathered undies

This is only conceptually like a jellyfish, and I admit I had already considered gathers in this location…

Pink, ruched undies.

I’m not sure lace is necessarily jellyfish-esque (too structured, too vertebrate?), but this particular lace arrangement does evoke a muff peeking out, so it gets points from me.

Lace-edged underwear

Jellyfish dress (made from stash)

Presenting: the jellyfish dress As explained last week, I have moved from an obsession with dressing like a jellyfish to action!

I made this comfy dress to remind me of puffy bodies, ruffles and streamers. I was pretty sure it was possible to make jellyfish shapes into flattering clothes, but it’s good to confirm that kind of thing. This is the dress that prooves my concept (to myself). The age of cnidarian wardrobe staples has begun!

Progress on the stash manifesto

The best part! This dress ate the following out of my stash:

  • One fitted floral bedsheet I bought in 1999 to cover a geodesic dome at Burning Man. It didn’t fit my bed, and it had a big hole torn in the middle, but I squirrelled it away, lo these seven years.
  • A length of elastic I bought in 1999, intending to make y-front underwear
  • Three blue buttons from a jar Galen’s mum gave me in 2002
  • Some hook and eye fasteners my gramma gave me for my birthday in 2003, as part of a sewing kit

The only thing I bought was extra thread. (I hope the scope of my stash is becoming clear to you, along with the motivations for my stash manifesto. Ripped bedsheets? Seven years? My collection is ripe, and must be harvested.)

Basic procedure

I used the same strategy I like for web design: make the smallest thing that could work, and add things as necessary. I don’t know much about sewing, so I just tried on pieces in the mirror a lot, to see how they might fit together.

The final cuts looked like this, but I worked it out a little at a time by making the biggest parts first and trying to conserve fabric.

Cutting a ripped, fitted bedsheet to make a jellyfish dress.

The skirt

Jellyfish dress, prancing

The puffy skirt was the clearest part of my jellyfish vision, so I started by sewing a tube using the full length of the sheet, and the width between the hole and the notches.

I gathered each end with elastic to make the tube easy to get on and off and to make sure I could still walk in the cinched skirt. In the mirror, it looked like it needed a ruffle on the bottom, so I added a ruffle on the bottom.

As soon as I tried on the ruffled prototype, I could see how this dress would be both jellyfishy and pretty cute, and there was much excited prancing around in a retro floral potato sack. Galen and Marc get bonus points for being supportive and inquisitive, even though I interrupted the business meeting they were having in the kitchen, and, as they later admitted, neither of them had any idea where I was going with this “it’s a bag/it’s a dress/it’s a man-o-war” design.

The bodice

The remaining fabric had notched corners where I had cut the elastic out of the fitted sheet. I held one notched end up to my chest as a potential bodice, just trying to be thrifty by starting at the end instead of the middle.

The notch happened to make a decent armhole, and the narrow part wrapped around to the middle of my back. That seemed like an easy solution, so after some draping and measuring in the mirror, I cut a matching notch for my other arm.

Rather than mess with facings, I cut a second identical piece and sewed the two together. I.e., I made a something that felt like a pillowcase.

The back and straps

Back of the jellyfish dress

I only attached the bodice along the front of the skirt, to leave room for the elastic to stretch over my hips when I stepped into the dress. To accomodate, I hand-sewed little hooks and eyes under the back of the bodice to keep the skirt up.

This turns out to be a ridiculous fastening strategy, and there is no way I can get it on or off by myself. (The armholes are too snug to wiggle into or out of with the buttons done up, so I can’t twist it around backwards.)

The bodice looked cool from the front, and buttoned together at center back, but the shoulders weren’t attached to anything. Adding straps seemed like the easiest solution.

I thought stubby, straight straps would look like an apron or a work dress rather than glamorously submarine, so I made the straps extra long and let them hang down from the shoulder seams.

When I looked in the mirror, it needed a sash. So I added a sash. I need to learn to tie it in a pretty bow.

If this was knitted, I’d be so uptight right now

Any seamstress could look at these photos and deduce that I have no idea how to sew. Parts of the dress ride up, buckle, wrinkle, tug, sag, etc. I think I learned a lot for next time, especially about bodices (so that’s why side seams are sloped…), and I got a jellyfish dress that fits securely and comfortably out of the experience. Verdict: success! Sewing and I might just become friends.

Jellyfish couture

Jellyfish Many months ago, I borrowed a video about jellyfish from the library. Lucky me, it was one of those upper echelon nature documentaries produced by a specialized research centre with a high budget and a celebrity narrator, in this case Leonard Nemoy.

Dr. Spock narrated in a mesmerizing hypno-voice throughout, and at the exact point in the film where the photography jumped from average jellyfish to mind-bending footage of rare aliens of the deep, our hypnotist narrator compared one especially ruffly, colour-changing, pulsating specimen to an elegant woman, trailing her veils and skirts across the room.

Since then I’ve been percolating on how, exactly, I am going to dress like an elegant jellyfish. Many-layered underskirts? Ruffly legwarmers? Tutus trailing ribbons? Could I knit something? Around Christmas I settled on a ball-shaped skirt, such as you’d see made out of feathers and sequins in the 1920s. Skirts that puff out, then cinch back in. Dresses made from piles of ruffles.

Imagine, then, my delight at finding these diverse, jelly-like creations in the recent catwalk photos at (Imagine my delight at finding catwalk photo galleries in general: endless, silly desktop wallpaper.)


Jellyfish jacket by Balenciaga

Jean Paul Gaultier

Jellyfish dress by Jean Paul Gaultier


Jellyfish dress by Kenzo

Martin Grant

Jellyfish dress by Martin Grant

Alexander McQueen

Jellyfish dress by Alexander McQueen
Jellyfish dress by Alexander McQueen
Jellyfish dress by Alexander McQueen
Jellyfish dress by Alexander McQueen

Pearl of Civilization, private collection

I’ve just finished sewing my own jellyfish dress— out of materials from the Closet of Stash no less. The dress is my surprise contribution to Rock Club tonight (the theme is complicated this time, and involves bringing some kind of art to go with our song). Once it has been officially unveiled I’ll post photos here.

I am very excited. Jellyfish dress!