The Berry Good Dress

As previously discussed, my sewing machine in India does not enjoy knit materials. It is a tragedy that haunts my life, and sears my soul in painful ways, but we live the lives are given, don’t we? And woven is perfectly nice. However, last summer, I made the landmark decision to buy a second sewing machine, what luxury, what excess, thank you, book deal! and keep it in my parents home in Philadelphia for when I come back and visit. This sewing machine is a Brother, it is very nice, and it is beautiful with knits, and I love it. So now I stockpile knit projects for visits home, and when I saw the Seamwork Bobby pattern, I knew it would make an excellent quick knit project for a summer dress. I live in a land of constant summer, too, so that’s a plus. And I had a nice length of jersey I bought online on sale from Mood Fabrics, so that all came together well. I just had to wait, like, three months to make it. Ah well, anticipation makes the heart grow fonder, right? Sigh. I’m back in Mumbai now, and dreaming of jersey projects for my next trip home.

 

The Bobby dress is a lovely pattern, easy to make, and it has pockets, so ya know, it’s basically everything. I did the one with the flutter sleeves because I love that, they are dramatic and fun.

The fabric is strawberry printed, and it feels delightful an d whimsical, which I’m down for. It’s a departure from my trademark animal printed fabrics, but it’s still in that world of prints that I love and my husband rolls his eyes at so it’s perfect.

One thing about this pattern, though, is that it was drafted to be really long. I know I’m short, but jeez louise, I chopped a lot off that hem, and this dress still goes to my knees!

There aren’t many construction details here, it comes together pretty easily, the only thing about it that was a bit of a surprise was that the bodice is self lined, which is a clean finish, but it makes it a bit heavier and therefore hotter. This fabric is a little thick, so maybe it wouldn’t be that way in a thinner fabric, but something to keep in mind if you are thinking of making this puppy, which you should, it’s a nicely fitting comfortable knit dress that looks cute. Who doesn’t need one of those?

It’s also comfy as hell. Knit items are all secret pajamas.

So there you go. Strawberry me with flutter sleeves, knit needs met. Not much to say about this, except that I look at it and long for my Brother machine, sigh. Back to the wovens, I guess, what a life.

 

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The Colony to Colony Dress

Flags are rather funny things, aren’t they? It’s really just a rectangle of fabric, something we stitchers are familiar with, but suddenly, with the wave of a hand, it goes from being fabric to being symbol, from something you can make a t-shirt out of to something you have to salute, or spit on, depending on your side of things.

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with these books about historical figures in United States history when they were young. It was called The Childhood of Famous Americans and we had, like, at least ten of these. I was also very very into the Martha Washington one, so much so that I used my knowledge of her to shame a historical re-enactor on a visit to Colonial Williamsburg. I mean, if you are going to be Martha, BE Martha, you know what I mean? I was ten. Part of me wonders how these books have stood the test of time, part of me doesn’t really want to open that can of worms. Anyway, I really liked the one about Betsy Ross for many reasons. One, I’ve always been into crafts, even before I learned how to use my sewing machine. Two, she is from Philadelphia, and so am I, in fact, her house is a historic landmark, you can visit it. Three, there weren’t that many books about women in the series, again, this thing might not hold up well in 2019, and frankly, I was sick of reading about dudes doing stuff and how they would become presidents and build planes and hit baseballs. And of course, in the United States, our flag comes from Betsy’s flag, just with more stars for more states. But our flag, in the United States, also comes from the Union Jack, which if you think about it is sort of bizarre. Like, you’re this scrappy ragtag group of what are essentially guerilla warfare rebels, freezing to death in Valley Forge, hoping the French pass you some cash so you can survive your extremely powerful overlord’s attack, you’re building a new nation, you’re trying it out, and yet you decide when it comes to your flag to make a version of their flag? Like, did they think the only possible flag colors were red, white, and blue? I guess those are the colors of both the UK and the French flag, but surely they had heard of other nations? Spain has a lovely yellow and red thing going!

Actually, come to think of it, England really spread that stars and stripes and color trio around, didn’t it? I mean, the Australian flag is like, a union jack and more stars, as is the New Zealand flag. Maybe this was the post-independence deal you DON’T hear about, like, okay, fine, you can have your freedom, but you gotta keep our flag as a part of your flag! Take that, former colony! I wonder how Canada got away with omitting blue? Well done, Northern neighbors, well done.

Anyway, I don’t spend all that much time in my native land these days, living, as I do, in India, another country that avoided the red, white, and blue trap, wonder if that was why they gave up the kohinoor, as a bargaining chip for flag freedom, (although, India did take Ireland’s colors in it’s flag so maybe it’s a double screw you to the UK which, well done India), but more often than not, I end up back stateside during the 4th of July. This is not because I have strong feelings about the 4th of July, although I love the classic musical 1776, who doesn’t, but more because my birthday is on the 9th of July and I love to be home for my birthday.

So when I saw this fabric in my new Kolkata main fabric squeeze, Geeta’s Circle, a must if you find yourself in the area, when I was shopping with my friend Liz, hi Liz!, who visited me in India this spring, I knew I had to grab it. I don’t usually go in for a patriotic purchase, but I was enchanted by the fabric, and tickled by the idea of this very sort of US oriented, at least to my mind, cloth on sale in an Indian fabric shop. It’s not just the color, of course, it’s also the print, because as you know, I love a gingham, and there is something about it that just screams USA to me. What do you think?

As American as apple pie! Which is German. But also, probably French, and British, and Austrian, too. Apples in pastry, people, it’s not inventing the wheel, here, a variety of nations have figured it out.

 

I made this dress using my bodice block, which Liz, by the way, made for me, so that seemed more than appropriate. I hacked the bodice to make it a looser fit, with cut-on sleeves. I added a button placket, cut on the bias, and cuffs, also cut on the bias. The fabric was wide, so I could fit a nice circle skirt.

And pockets, of course, as one does. I liked the idea of a kind of soft portrait neckline.

I finished it with bias tape that I stitched to the wrong side of the bodice, then flipped out so it would be visible. I love how that turned out, it’s one of my favorite parts. I had what’s his face take these photos in San Juan, where my parents and I (and him, duh) spent our Fourth of July.

I enjoy this dress a lot. I was a little worried that I wouldn’t wear it much, I’m loathe to make an item just for one occasion these days, because, well, what a waste, right? I’ve been sewing long enough that I realize no matter how fun the process is, if I don’t wear the garment there is a real sense of guilt and frustration afterwards. But recently I pulled this out and wore it here in Mumbai, and I felt great, not a walking poster child for American patriotism, but just a women in a dress.

It’s got a great swish, I’ll say that for it. Circle skirts might be my favorite skirts. I know, I know, controversial statement, but damnit, I don’t regret it!

So there you go, a dress made with Indian fabric, strongly resonating with United States flag themes, worn in San Juan, Puerto Rico. A regular colony hopper, this one!

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The Whirly Twirly Girl Skirt

While I made both of the garments on display in this post, I’ve named the post itself after the skirt, and I think you will know why when you see the photos.

Sometimes you see an idea on the internet and despite all of your attempts to not be a pure unadulterated consumerist, (by the way, how was your me made may? I learned a lot about my outfit patterns and gave away some things I never touch, which was great!), you just hear a voice in your head whisper gimme. And this skirt tutorial from By Hand London was 100% one of those things.

Link in photo!

 

No matter how many years I celebrate, 32 this July, yay! (I love my birthday!!!) or how many times my mother gives me the “stop dressing like a little girl” look, I love a ruffle. Dammit, I do! Is that okay? Can I be a feminist if I love ruffles? Yes, of course I can. But why have ruffles become so gendered? I mean, look at the way men USED to dress:

I mean, come on. That’s some hard core manly ruffle right there. That’s DOPE. How did this happen? Why didn’t men fight back? Who doesn’t want to feel so fancy? How did we come to THIS:

Ah, well, their loss. Perhaps in this age of openness in the realm of sexuality and gender we can somehow return to a more egalitarian ruffle space. We can only hope. But for now, I love a good ruffle, and that doesn’t compromise my plans to tear down the patriarchy, but it does mean that when I twirl I look amazing!

RIIIGHT? Ah, a good twirl, who doesn’t love it?

Weeeeee!

I used the tutorial to make this skirt, and it couldn’t be easier. It’s also, by the way, a total fabric hog. I eked this out of three meters of  58 inch wide striped fabric from Thakur and as you can see, the ruffle is no where near as ruffly as it could be, so, well, I guess my mother will be happy.

Still, I was able to play with the directionality of the stripes, which I love. I get a lot of compliments on this skirt when I wear it which is always a good sign (although I dress for ME!).

The shirt is a Deer and Doe Plantain, in an organic cotton knit from Fabric.com, and that’s all there is to say about that, I mean, it’s a knit cotton t-shirt, I’ve made a bunch of them, whatcha gonna say about it, yeah you could buy it at H and M or whatever but it takes me, like, two hours to make from cut to hem.

The bow in the back is a cute touch. Love it. Love this skirt! I don’t really have that much to say about it but what’s-his-face got some great photos of me so….what else are blogs for?

Twirl! Twirl! Twirl! It’s very hard for me to not do this everywhere I go in this skirt.

I made it midi length which I like, despite my height. I’ve been over this on my maxi and wide legged pants journeys, but it’s still so tempting to live by old fashion rules. Whatever, I can’t possibly find this dowdy, I mean, it’s too fun!

Ah, this skirt. I recommend that you make one for yourself, should you so desire. Obviously don’t dip into consumerism or do it if it compromises your sense of your feminist journey, but sometimes, that little gimme voice is right. You might need this thing in your life. I know I do…

 

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The If One Can Toucan Dress

Ah, the well fitting woven wrap dress, a creature not unlike the Yeti, in that it is often discussed, frequently mythologized, and almost impossible to find, at least, if you have something going on up top.

You see, I love a wrap dress, I’ve said it before and I will say it again. I love it because its fun, it makes you feel like you are going out dancing in the 1970’s, but, thank goodness, you aren’t, not if you don’t want to be doing so. But the downside of the wrap is the neckline, an ever-shifting proposition that highlights slim sternums and reveals generous busts alike. I have made a certain amount of peace with my generous bust, but that doesn’t mean I want everyone to see it all the time, so a woven wrap dress, even more than a knit one, which has that lovely stretching ability, needs to have a neckline that stays in place for me, even as the rest of the skirt gears up for dancing, should dancing occur.

Honestly, on the subject of dancing, and this is just me personally, but I would much rather dance around my living room than in some kind of evening organization. I feel like going out dancing was probably a lot of fun in, like, 1952, and was probably a lot of fun if you like a drug-fueled mess in 1975, but now, going out dancing as a concept makes my head hurt, because I’m thinking about how loud it is. I think I’ve been to approximately 5 clubs in my life, my first at the age of 16 on a trip, and even then I remember thinking wow, this is really truly terrible. It’s just so loud, you can’t talk to anyone, it becomes a swirling mass of bodies, it kind of goes to a Bosch hellscape space for me.

Talk about Saturday night fever, am I right?

I am sure that there are many people who just love love love going out dancing right now, in 2019. I mean, something keeps the clubs in business, right? Here in Mumbai, many bars turn into a club at some point on a weekend evening, at which point What’s-his-face and I usually Irish exit that situation. Obviously for many, these are not Bosch’s hell, but his heaven, where you can dance around inside of blue raspberries and be cool.

Oy. For me, I would rather be dancing by myself, in a woven wrap dress of my choosing. And this is the wrap dress I’ve chosen!

And it’s covered in toucans!

Seriously, the print makes this dress.

The FABRIC makes this dress, actually, it’s light and floaty and excellent, and it feels like a breeze on my skin even on humid Mumbai days, or even hot Goa days! I wore this dress in Goa this weekend, and it was heavenly.

This is, would you believe it, a MUCH altered Seamwork Ruth dress? Well, it is! I removed the collar and finished the neckline in bias tape, and changed out the skirt for a circle skirt. Sliding it over a Seamwork Savannah top lengthened into a slip, it’s basically two Seamwork hacks in one!

I loved the shape of the bodice, the grown-on sleeves, I’m just very into that look right now, I don’t know why! We go through stages, right, of looks we love? Right now, I’m all about the sleeve that just blossoms from the bodice, what can I say?

I also like the blousy back, especially coupled with this floaty fabric.

In order to secure the neckline, I put a snap right at the point I wanted the wrap edges to meet and stay. So far, so good!

See, you get a hint of decolletage, but not, like, the whole sha-bang. The time before the Mumbai bar becomes a club, but not, like, the club time. Get it?

This was a great dress to swish around in while exploring Goa!

I feel like it fit the lovely charm of Colva and its Portuguese roots.

I can see this being a real summer favorite aka always favorite because I live in Mumbai right now and that is a land of endless summer.

I will not be bringing my toucans to any dance clubs any time soon, but I promise, we will be dancing all the same, just in a more on the street, in my apartment, basically anywhere that isn’t a dance club, sort of way. I think that’s what the toucans want, too!

Happy Me Made May, all! Hope it’s going well for you thus far!

 

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The Walk with the Dinosaurs Shirtdress

I have waxed eloquent in the past about my love of shirtdresses, so I am not going to do that here. Instead, I’m going to wax eloquent about my love of dinosaurs.

I love dinosaurs. Who doesn’t? I mean, could this be the one thing that everyone everywhere could agree on? That dinosaurs are amazing? That they are so cool and so weird and so huge, and there was one that was basically a dragon, and there is this new book about them and my friend Ben read it and said that it was great.

When I was a kid, on vacations, my parents would load my brother and I up with their museum memberships and leave us at a museum for the day. One of those museums was the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, and we would read all about the lives of dinosaurs and marvel at their massive structures, their giant bodies, their fossilized eggs. We would wander the museum in the shadows of giants. Museums are still my happy place. Years later, when I went to the Natural History Museum in New York, I gave the horribly outdated and not a little bit racist anthropology section some side eye, and raced over to the dinosaurs. What marvelous beasts, what magnificent monsters. How can you look at a dinosaur’s skeleton and not be inspired to invent mythical animals? When people first found their fossils, they must have thought they were the craziest things ever. No wonder little children are so into dinosaurs, right? They are just so cool. They are the James Dean of history. Name a cooler group of animals, I dare you. Why else do we keep making Jurassic Park movies? The story is literally a one trick pony but we keep bringing it on back again so we can pretend that dinosaurs could be real. Clever girl…

 

So that’s why when I saw a dinosaur themed fabric at Thakur, I knew I had to get it. In fact, I got a lot, so I could make What’s-his-face a shirt that he will never model and myself a dress. I promised him we would never wear both of these garments at the same time. That reminds me, did you know that in South Korea they have this thing where couples dress alike to show the world they are a couple?  

It’s real. It’s a whole thing.

What’s his face would have ALREADY divorced me if I suggested this.

So you will never see us in our matching dinosaur outfits, but trust me, that would be ADORABLE. And intimidating! Because, dinosaurs!

Dinosaurs! DINOSAURS! It might just be my imagination, but honestly, I think people respect me more when I wear this.

It’s got triceratops, brontosaurus, stegosaurus, and a dinosaur I don’t know the name of.

The pattern is a MUCH modified McCalls 7351 which I edited to include dolman sleeves and a cuff, as well as a circle skirt.

I also put in some waist darts.

I love the way this turned out, really I do. I love the shape, I love the circle skirt, I love built-in sleeves, I love it. I wouldn’t WANT to wear this if What’s-his-face was around, because it might divide the attention of onlookers, and this dress deserves attention.

Oh, I also eliminated the yoke. Told you it was much modified!

So there you go. A dress covered in scaly friends who help me roam the earth with giant confidence. I am so happy to debut this dress during Me Made May 2019 because I love it and there is nothing like  How is your May going, me made or otherwise?

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Me Made May 2019: The Plan

It’s that special time again! I am not talking about the return of The Bold Type, although that is special, or the final season of Game of Thrones and Jane the Virgin, both important in their own way, or even Spring, because I live in a place of no such animal. I’m talking about Me Made May.

Zoe, of So Zo… really does us all a great service in the sewing community, in my humble opinion, in this challenge. It’s open-ended, but with enough guidance to unify all participants. It enforces a great value of makership, that is, thoughtfulness. See, the thing is, I love sewing. I really do. Obviously. But it’s easy for me to get so caught up in that love that I forget that part of why I love sewing is the way it encourages me to think sustainably. Sewing and sewing and sewing, which I am often guilty of, is not really all that much better than consuming fast fashion, right? Sewing one thing after another, concentrating on having more and more and more, it’s a consumer mentality that has displaced the labor onto the consumer, sure, but it’s still there, it’s still about acquiring all the time, in its way. Ultimately, I want to be as conscious as possible, and that’s what I plan to use this challenge for this year.

At this point, 95% of what I wear is me made. So the challenge of wearing one, or two, or five me made garments daily isn’t insane. (Well, five might be, this isn’t a good place for layering.) But what does make sense for me, right now in my craft and thought process, is to use this challenge to evaluate what I really use, and what I don’t, and commit to giving away or remaking the everyday garments in my wardrobe that don’t, well, reach for, everyday. So here is my vow:

I, Leah Franqui, of Struggle Sews a Straight Seam, @leahfranqui, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May 2019. I endeavor to wear my me-made items during May 2019 and seriously consider the holes in my wardrobe, and what I don’t reach for, and vow to let go of the items I do not wear within this period. I will be documenting my outfits on Instagram!

My plan is to document my outfits in a notebook, and analyze the MVPs, the sometimes friends, and the thank you, nexts in the bunch. I will try to share said results with you afterwards. I can’t promise that I won’t also have some new item posts along the way, you know makers gotta make, but I will try to weave them into the challenge.

Who else is participating in Me Made May? What are your plans?

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The Just Peachy Palazzos with an Escher themed Hoya

I was this close to naming these pants the Coral Palms pants because they are a beautiful shade a bright coral and you know I love me some Brooklyn Nine Nine, right? Oh, you didn’t?

OBVIOUSLY.

And that, in fact is why I could NOT name these pants the Coral Palms Palazzos, even though that is an excellent name, because how could I name my pants after a place where Perelta and Holt had so many miserable moments?

I couldn’t do that to them. They’ve suffered enough. When it comes to Florida, we all have.

So I went with a much less interesting name for a pair of pants that are anything but boring.

Let’s talk about pants, shall we? Specifically wide legged ones. There was a time when I might have shied away from such a style. Modern style tips will tell you that short people and wide legged pants are a recipe for disaster. But that’s not what the 1940’s taught us, now, is it?

Not in the slightest. So where did this come from, the idea that short women couldn’t enjoy their legs encased in miles of fabric just like tall women can? Of course, one might say, well, that’s not what is most flattering. But screw flattering. I get a lot of compliments on these pants, so, I mean, how much more flattered can I be?

A little background on the pants of le wide leg, or as men call them, pants.  These styles became popular in the 1930’s and 40’s, particularly because of a group of Hollywood actresses who wore them regularly as costumes and in real life, prompting trouser lust. In the late 1960’s, the style resurged, in some cases to combat anti-pants bias, because the loose flowy style didn’t have the “figure hugging vulgarity” so disdained at the time for the delicate fairer sex. We’ve seen a wide legged pant move in and out of style, of course, ever since, popping up to duke it out with the legging and the skinny jean more recently for supremacy.

In India, palazzo pants have recently come back in a big way, although here people literally call all non-jean non-legging pants like options palazzos which…is interesting. technically, according to Wikipedia, a palazzo is a pant that flairs out evenly from waist to ankle, although the waist definition often comes through darts or tucks.

As is the case with the Marett pant from Seamwork. Now, it is April here in Mumbai and everywhere else in the world, and while where I come from that means cherry blossoms and cute cardigans for Spring’s changing weather, here that means straight up summer. What fun. Summer in Mumbai is a long swollen season of humid days, sticky nights, and waiting for the rains (which also give you humid days and sticky nights, just wetter). While pants might seem like madness in such a period, wide-legged pants in a lightweight material are actually, I have found, just as comfortable as a skirt, and make for a nice change of pace for my dress/skirt heavy wardrobe. So I decided, it was time for me to go palazzo. While I’ve made wide-legged 1940’s trousers before, and will do so again, the palazzo was new to me, and so, clutching my pearls, hoping for the best, I dove right in.

But then, not to be an underachiever, I thought, why make ONE new thing when you could make TWO? So I also (finally) made a Hoya blouse from Deer and Doe out of the most delicate lightweight Bengali muslin possible, and I have to tell you, it’s a pretty winning combination in Mumbai right now!

Sidenote: Deer and Doe is so great. Their designs are amazing, of course, but also, when my package got lost in the mail on it’s way to India, they sent me a new one, no questions asked! What a wonderful company!

It’s a little hard to see the fabric of the blouse on me, but it’s this Bengali white muslin shot with black thread to make these lovely sort of Escher-esk designs. I bought it at Geeta’s Circle in Kolkata, which is my new favorite Kolkata fabric shop! It’s super light, which is why it’s probably good that the front part of this blouse is lined, which I had to do with a plain white fabric because I didn’t have enough muslin, because otherwise my bra woudl show. I stitched the hem facing and sleeve hems by hand and tacked down the faux-wrap, and while I like this blouse a lot, I wish it was just a little longer, and wider at the hips, sort of a bit swingier? I don’t know. But the shape is great, I will certainly be making it again!

Back to the pants! These are true fabric hogs, but I love it, especially in this bright bright fabric I got at Thakur. The fabric is lightweight but not translucent, and has a nice texture which you totally cannot see in photos.

I love how these pants have pockets. I am sure there are those who would say these are not the most flattered design on my short curved frame, but honestly, who cares? Why does everything have to be the MOST flattering all the time? These are comfortable as hell, they keep me cool, and I love them.

Plus, this color combination says Summer to me in a big way! I cut a size 12 of the palazzos, just to be safe, but ended up taking a lot out of the waist, about 4 inches, and I think I could go down to a 10 or an 8 on these, they are just that big. I wanted them comfy, though, so mission accomplished.

The back zipper is such a classic detail, don’t you think? I hand picked it.

For the Hoya, I think I cut a 48 because I was worried about the bust measurement, and that’s fine, fit wise, roomy but not a sack. I would, as mentioned before, lengthen it and widen out the hem for next time, but that’s just my preference. For wearing it with high waisted stuff, this style is perfect. I french seamed everything I could on both garments, and finished the hems of the pants with seam binding and hand stitching.

So there you have it. Trying new things, wearing the pants, staying one step ahead of the humidity. That’s me, in a nutshell.

 

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