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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The Book of Ruth Dress

The biblical story of Ruth…has nothing to do with this dress. I don’t know, guys, sometimes it’s hard to make a catchy title!

That said, the story of Ruth and Naomi is very interesting,  because it’s about these two women who are related to each other in a way that is often seen as contentious, that is, they are daughter and mother-in-law, and yet their closeness was a big part of their survival. This is actually sort of close to the theme of my new novel, more on that in the months to come, so I don’t mind naming this dress which I love so much after that story, even if it has nothing to do with it!

That said, when was the last time you met someone named Ruth? It’s a name that I feel has gone out of fashion, although that probably means it will be soon in fashion again and there will be four Ruths in every kindergarten class. Isn’t it funny how names come in waves? When I was growing up I knew, like, 10 Sarahs. I have met many a Priya my age here in Mumbai, so obviously that had its moment. The Bachelor franchise is a great indicator for this, actually, whatever names (and made up names, I’m looking at you, people named Wes and Ames and Kalon and whatever the hell) were popular like 30 to 23 (shudder) years ago make their way onto those hallowed halls of ugly crying and right reasons.

At any rate, Seamwork toils hard monthly to give us new patterns with new names, and in January, that meant we got the Ruth Dress and the Sky Jumpsuit, so one named by Upper West Side Jews and one named by West Village hippies, both in 1965. As you know, I made Sky recently. But did you know I made Ruth, as well?

Well, NOW you do! And my friend DP took the photos, working hard to find a good background, thank you, DP! And they were on his phone in google photos and the powerful and might google made a GIF! It actually made two, but I will save the next one for the end. I don’t know why it does that, but I kind of love it? Maybe? I don’t know!

I really like this dress. I love the design, honestly. Sometimes I like Seamwork, sometimes I’m meh with Seamwork, and sometimes I straight up fall in love. This is one of those times. It combines many things I love and struggle to find the perfect version of. A woven wrap dress that doesn’t look like my breasts are going to explode out of it? A shirt-dress feel without buttons? A notched collar that doesn’t look like garbage? Check, check, and CHECK!

This was another print out that I realized had printed out of scale, so I cut out a twelve, but it is still a little big. I’ve just cut out another while slimming down the bodice and the waist. Who even knows what size that is? I sure don’t! Eh, whatever works.

The print is from Thakur, of course, obviously, always, and it’s sort of polka dots but it has a sort of floral or seed formation look, I don’t know, I like it! I feel like I wear a lot of bright colors these days, after all, pink is the navy blue of India, so it was kind of nice/odd to walk about in black and white. I did feel quite sophisticated, though! Something about this design just feels very put together (the dreaded phrase) to me, which I love, there is a polish but also a little bit of sexiness, what do you think?

I also love a blousy kimono sleeve.

The tie is subtle, which is nice, I don’t know, as I said, when Seamwork works, it really works for me! Which I guess is the point of constantly releasing new patterns, that you are going to appeal to different people every month and that diversifies your fan base.

It was quite windy when we took these photos! That said, it’s a good way to see that the two halves of the front skirt really do overlap completely, which is good, if you like that sort of thing, which I do!

Speaking of a wrap dress and boobs, I did add two snaps to the spot where the two sides of the dress cross to avoid wardrobe malfunctions aka showing the world which bra I’m wearing. Just a little insurance!

I am so into this dress, I can’t wait to make it all over again! What Seamwork patterns do you love? All? Some? None?

Happy dress dance!

 

 

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The Fruit Market Romper

You know how sometimes you ask other people for their opinions as a way to confirm your own, but you don’t really know that that is what is happening until you hear said opinions? Well, sometimes I think I might be like that with fabric.

On a trip to Vietnam with some friends (hi, Travis, Ben and Jill!) I obviously took advantage of being in the region, and my friendships, to seek out a fabric market in Hanoi and get my hands on some material. I bet it was kind of Hanoi-ing, right, guys? (I made that joke a thousand times on our trip. I am surprised we are all still friends.) They were wonderful sports about it, and even helped me pick out a few choice pieces, like this one:

Not only did I love it, I mean, come on, it’s got me written all over it, whimsy, check, fun colors, check, fruits I enjoy eating, well, I go back and forth on papaya but generally, check! I was into it. And so was Rubens!

I knew I loved this print, but what to do with it? Sometimes we buy for a project, but sometimes, the fabric, she calls to us, she wants to be with us, and we must take her home, although we know not what she will become. So I did that, thinking, okay, I mean, you are 31 years old, so, I guess, pajamas? That’s the sensible thing to do, right, pajamas? With a print like this?

Right?

But the fabric, she did not want that. She wanted to be seen, by people other than my husband, various delivery people, and Rubens! She wanted to feel the sun ripening her fruits, like the fruit markets of this region, bursting with life!

No, I thought, no, be sensible, be adult. Find something in a pinstripe, that’s what grown ups wear. Ask the internet said the fabric, consolingly. The internet will tell you that I am meant for greater things.  Well, I did that, absolutely, but the internet, sigh, she can be a fickle beast, and an Instagram poll had beloved viewers (aka like 7 people) split between keeping this fabric as an indoor only situation, and letting it roam free, like the many cows walking the streets of Mumbai.

But something interesting happened, something I imagine the fabric had planned all along, the fruity little vixen. The more people telling me that this fabric was only suitable for lounge attire, the less inclined I was to make a pair of pajamas out of it. My brain, my heart, rebelled. I rebelled against the idea that a 31-year-old, or anyone, at any age, shouldn’t wear fruit-covered clothing and feel good about it. I rebelled at the idea that there is inside and outside fabric. I rebelled at the idea that my beautiful slices of dragon fruit and watermelon and rather ripe bananas, and yes, even the papaya about which I feel no small amount of ambivalence, should be banished from the world, that the precious cloth I had brought with me over land and sea from Vietnam to Kolkata to Mumbai would not have it’s day in the sun.

Reader, I made a romper out of it. And I regret nothing.

Specifically, I made the Seamwork Sky romper.

As my past history may have taught you, I’m not much of a romper person. You have to take them off entirely to go to the bathroom which is a bummer, because you are essentially stripping down in public and I don’t want to do that unless someone pays me, thank you very much. But this design is SO cute, with the obi style belt and the loose bodice and v neck, I was into it. And I like the dress hack Seamwork presented too, so I figured, try it out!

This pattern, however, like the Rachel I recently made, I didn’t print to scale. (I printed like, three patterns at once not to scale, I don’t know how this happened. ) But this time I saw it coming, and sized down to a ten in the waist, and a twelve in the hips and bust. It is still…generous, in sizing, But I like that. I actually think one of the big romper issues across the board is girth, so this was pretty nice!

I would size down or maybe re-print the bodice, though, for another iteration, because the back is so blousy.

Oh, I also made it shorts because…I live in Mumbai, so…..

It’s a little lower cut than I thought it might be. that might be because of this scale thing, or because my cleavage meter is totally different here in India than it is outside of India.

I love that this has pockets. Obviously. The belt, by the way, is a little longer in the original pattern but I shortened it because…I was running out of fabric. WHATCHA GONNA DO.

This is pretty easy to sew up, although it’s construction was very interesting and kind of a cool challenge, one I recommend to others, it’s good to make your brain do new things!

I included the facings, which is rare for me, I usually go bias tape, but I hand stitched them down on the inside because I hate facing flap.

So here it is. My fruit fabric got its day in the sun, and I got a reminder that I get to decide what is and isn’t outdoor fabric. Spoiler alert? It’s all outdoor fabric. All of it.

 

 

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