The Trying It Out Outfit

The internet is a strange and scary place sometimes, with its anonimity serving as a kind of cloak for bad behavior, for hatred to pour out unchecked, for bigotry and disgust to make its way out there, and for humanity to be ignored in the face of that all-powerful deity, The Opinion. The fact that it’s easy, it’s impersonal, you don’t have to see the target of said Opinion makes it easy for people to forget that their words, sprayed out into the digital universe, have a real-life effect. And opinions become insults so quickly, because you can’t see someone’s face, you can’t try to meet them halfway, you can’t really interact with them as a human, so “I think you are wrong because…” quickly quickly becomes “You are a fat stupid loser….” or much worse. We all know this, and I’m sure we also all know the way women specifically are targeted, insulted, demeaned sexually and physically and trolled, for want of a better word. I think it’s a shame that trolls get such a bad rap but that’s what they get, hiding under bridges and stealing goats, I suppose. The Guardian evaluates it’s comments before posting them, and honestly, reading this article, it’s not hard to see why. Leslie Jones recently quit Twitter because of the massive outpouring of hate following the release of the new Ghostbusters film, although thank the powers that be she did return to help us all appreciate the Olympics.

Sometimes I think about the internet, this amazing tool we all have at our disposal, and I shake my head. Maybe we don’t deserve this kind of communication, this instant feedback loop, if we are just going to use it to be awful. Of course, who am I to say what we do or don’t deserve, but when I contemplate the swirling mass of humanity or glance at a YouTube comments section or read articles like this, I feel, on the fluttering edges of my otherwise upbeat nature, a rare shadow of despair.

That being said, I can also say that sewing, making things, writing, as also uncovered what for me personally is the best part of the internet, the community that can be formed around mutual passion, respect and interest, that can create educational loops of information, that can answer questions, that can make us feel close to and aware of people and events and things so far away from us. We can learn about people in need, people in conflict, people like us, people not like us at all. It can expand us and remind us of our humanity. I don’t know that I need to go on. You know how the internet works, after all. You’re reading a blog.

I find this comfort in small ways, with the writing I put out there and the responses I get back. In the way I learn about people’s relationships to their bodies, to their sense of self, to the empowerment within learning something and enjoying it, connecting to it, connecting to others through it. Clothing, fashion, fabric, the politics behind these, the way they impact gender, identity, economics, labor, the way the knowledge of these things has changed my own sense of my body, the world, and what I make, I appreciate it. In a recent instagram conversation, because we live in a world where such things can exist, I talked with a fellow blogger about how I would try things through sewing that I would never ever buy, never even consider buying. Sewing is a space of experimentation, as evidenced by my growing love of maxi-length, my recent attempts at a romper (more on that in another post), my unblogged search for the perfect pair of loose-fitting cotton pants (I believe the pants I’m about to show you are as close as I’ve currently gotten) my explorations of tighter shapes, looser shapes, new shapes. Sewing feels like a space where I can try things out, where I want to try new things and the labor involved makes it worth it, even if I don’t end up loving the result. I like the process.

If nothing else, sewing is teaching me that, the value of the process. And that’s a hard thing to communicate digitally, in our content and product driven age. But I’m hoping you, who read this, get it.

So, without further pontificating, I give you my latest outfit, an attempt to try some new things, in shapes I find woefully unflattering, but with a comfort that I cannot help but adore:

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I feel like I look like a genie who doesn’t try very hard. NO MATTER!

So yes, a lot of things being tried out over here, hence the name of the post. Number one, is, of course, the elephant in the room, other than Cadfael, who is my very own baby elephant:

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But other than him, we know what I’m talking about, right?

The crop top. CROP. TOP. What is this, Saved by the Bell?

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Sidenote, 90’s fashion is so in here in India, to a troubling trouble extent. At dinner the other day I counted 4 chokers. Sigh.

BUT. regardless of my feelings that I might be just simply having a Bayside High moment, I decided, after length and extensive conversations with my friend Liz, who is ALL about the loose-fitting woven crop top with a high-waisted bottom, to try it out. I had a little bit of fabric from our fabric trip that I had split with Liz. She got most of it, and I took a meter, thinking I could just get a top out of it, and get I did! Of the crop variety!

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The fabric is super cool, with multiple colors woven together to make a not-quite-pattern weave. Lightweight and airy, I decided I could alter my ever-faithful Grainline Scout Tee to make a crop top by shortening it and extending it to a tent shape. I made the sleeves a little tent-like too, so the whole thing has a kind of cow-bell shape.

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So on the body it sort of has a very subtle hi-low thing. The hem is a little wrinkled in this photo, so it’s making a weird shape. The fabric is a little crisp, but as it wears and is washed it will soften, I know from experience with Indian hand-looms that this is the case.

You can just see a sliver of skin there, right? Well, I’m not usually a big fan of that sort of thing, but I think exposure to Indian fashion, which is fairly crop-top focused, maybe because a crop top is a hop skip and a jump away from the traditional choli blouse?

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Whatever it is, I thought I would try it out. The verdict? Honestly, I’m just not sure. Every time I wear it, I feel sort of silly and self-conscious, but thus far I’ve yet to get any judgmental looks or been stopped on the street and yelled at for how bad I look. I think it would potentially be cute with a pencil skirt, or high-waisted shorts, anything, really, that sits at the waist. Thoughts?

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Now, to the pants! Wrinkles abound.

This is, believe it or not, a much altered Simplicity 1887, the third I’ve made but the first that is blog-worthy. Oh, this pattern, what wasted dreams have lived and died on its behalf! I loved the idea of a half-elastic waist, of the pleats, of a loose pant, of pockets. But the reality of that half-elastic waistband was just not working, neither in construction or in appearance. Then, revelation! What if I just made it a regular pair of pants with a zipper? On the side? Of course, I had to take it in a bit at the waist, but that’s okay, a dart here, a trim here, and boom! In earlier incarnations I cut out a 16, but I found it a little snug in the posterior, which looked cute, but wasn’t in accordance with my vision, so I added about two and a half inches in the hips, because I really wanted a baggy loose comfortable pant here. Attractiveness be damned!

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The fabric is a cotton I got at my new favorite Mumbai fabric destination, Thakur, which is quite close to where I live. This is…dangerous.

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Ah, the slight pouf of the pleats. Speaking of feeling good about myself…it’s a real uphill battle sometimes, I tell you. But you know, I like these pants, I do. I have made and will make more flattering garments, but I am willing myself to like this style, to try something new.

I don’t know if more crop tops are in my future, but they might be. Let’s see if this one grows on me. I do like it, I do, but new things take time to adjust to and enjoy. Nevertheless, making one, putting it out there, trying it out, that gives me joy.

Now, troll away, internet. I will be focusing on the good. And also, this, which has made everything a thousand times better. Read it. Right now. A stranger on the internet told you to.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Grainline Patterns, Life, Sewing, Simplicity Patterns

The Summer of the Shirtdress Dress

My name is Leah, and I believe I might be a shirtdress addict.

I know. I know. This is really difficult to admit, and I really appreciate your support and your encouragement at this time.

Of course, knowing the sewing community as I do, I know you are more likely to praise this addiction than try and help me heal it. And that’s okay, because frankly, I don’t want a shirtdress-centric rehab with shift dresses appreciation courses, anti-button conversations and healing collar deprivation based work outs. As addictions go, while this one might take up more room than my serious coffee problem, I think all things considered it’s pretty manageable.

Now, you probably having picked up on this addition because I only have three shirt dresses featured on this blog.But in the past month I have made THREE count em THREE additional shirt dresses, and in a recent trip to Kolkata I picked up a stunning khadi fabric to make another one, so I’m sort of on a roll here with this. The dress I’m featuring today is actually my second version of McCalls 7351, although by no means my last, and I’ve got a full shirted version which was make #1, and a modified Grainline Archer which I’ve lengthened into a dress, all of which I still need to photograph and post about. But instead I…just keep making shirt-dresses.

I don’t know what it is about them that makes them so addictive. It can’t be the construction, which is frankly a little onerous, with the collar and collar stand and all the many button holes and buttons. It can’t be the scant yardage, because these things can be fabric monsters, especially if you make the full-skirted variety. So it’s gotta be the look, because a shirtdress is dope. It just is. They look clean and pulled together but also fun and summery and classic, probably because they ARE classic, they evolved as a wartime staple, a woman’s riff on utility dresses during the Depression and the Second World War, and then they were elevated by Dior’s new look to the cinched waist full-skirted notched collar beauties of the 1950’s. Now you see them in all versions, slim fit, shift style, maxi, it’s an epidemic. Sooner or later a film called “Shirtdress Madness”  will no doubt be releasing to scare the youth of America into walking the straight and narrow line of a pair of jeans, but for me? I’ll stay an addict, at least this summer. I’ll tell YOU when I’ve had enough…

My friend Liz, who accompanied me on our fabric tour of the North, and I don’t always have the same taste in fabric. But standing in a Rajasthani state emporium in Delhi, we had that rare moment of simultaneous want for a pretty block printed cotton. This could have ended our friendship right there, but luckily there was enough that we could both score two and a half meters. Crisis AVERTED. And we both ended up making shirtdresses, which, just goes to show we are friends for a reason. Of course, Liz’s is much cooler than mine, but still, I will make do. So without further explanation, the evidence of my continued shirtdress problem:

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Okay! So this is the slimer-skirted version of this pattern, although I would love love love to try the circle skirt (maybe it’s a half or a 3/4, not sure) option from the pattern, I have yet to have quite enough fabric to do so.

I do like this skirt option, which I lengthened a little because that’s always a little better for India, I feel. But I have to say, I think the pockets make the hips look bulky and weird. Thoughts?

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I’m wearing a self-drafted slip under this because the fabric is a little translucent, by the by. See, you can see the pockets sort of popping at the hips. Hmmm.

I tried something different with the sleeves which didn’t really work, honestly. I wanted a visible cuff, but the sleeves, despite an attempted alteration, are still too tight. I blame kickboxing which while getting me in great shape has sort of bulked up my arms. Any thoughts on how to make these sleeves bigger?

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The hem is still curved, which I like, although it probably looks better at the original hem length. Ah, well. Still a nice detail.

I cut a straight size 16 with a cup size D, but I found in my last round that the pattern was a bit large in the waist. So for this version I took about 4 inches out of the waist in front darts, and I’m pretty happy with that. Otherwise I think the fit works, except, as mentioned, the arms.

 

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See, you can see some pulling across the upper back which all roots to the tightness of the sleeves, I believe.

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Still, sleeve woes aside, its super cute, which is, of course, why the shirtdress is so addictive. They just look good. They look pulled together, something I never ever feel, and they scream “daytime elegance”, which I love.

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I think you can see the print a little bit better in this photo. It’s a blue on white, and it’s awfully lovely, I must say. You should see Liz’s version, it’s tops!

The big difference between this one and the ever popular M6696 is the waistband, the shirt options (which, real talk, you could self draft) and the fit of the back. But I’m glad I have both now in my collection! I scored this on a pattern sale and what’s-his-face brought it back from the US after his last visit. I think my next pattern int his addiction might be a vintage style. Let’s see how it goes. I’m not getting off this train any time soon. And frankly, I say SUMMER of the shirtdress but it’s basically summer all the time here, so….

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What are you addicted to, clothing/sewing-wise? Do you see your construction as destructive or productive?

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Filed under McCalls Patterns, Sewing

The How the Tables Have Turned Skirt

Before I jump into talking about this outfit (I’ve named this post after the skirt but I also made the top and don’t think I ever talked about it before…strange), I want to say that the title of this post reminds me both of the phrase “how the tables have turned” because it’s right there in the title, and also this season of Orange is the New Black which had this episode called “Turn Table Turn” and it was great. AS WAS THE ENTIRE SEASON. Ugh, you wait so long for things, like Mad Men (RIP) or Game of Thrones or Orange is the New Black (OITNB as the kids call is) and you wait and wait and wait and it’s like:

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And then it comes and I’m just like:

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And then it’s over and it’s like:

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And then you meet people who DON’T watch what you watch and you are just like:

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If I knew how GIFs work, I would have these here instead, but I don’t, so you just need to deal with that in your own time.

This was a standout season of the show, I personally believe, in so many ways, and I just loved it. See, what I love about the show, beyond the many many many amazing women who fill up my screen in each episode, is the way the containment of the prison forces scenes and interactions to move in a more play-scene way, allowing for reactions to be long and to play out in surprising and emotionally resonant ways. The fast pace of television is sometimes halted in its tracks by the situation of the prison, so that emotions need to have their time and space and relationships have to turn and evolve in a contained space. I love it. I think it’s brilliant, and all the more so for recognizing that Piper is often the least interesting person on-screen and wisely moving to the many other amazing characters. And now I have to wait another damn year for it. I guess I’ll go watch Marco Polo or something now, I mean, Jesus, what else am I supposed to do with my time? Another white guy talking about his life-altering trip to Asia. Puh-lease.

ANYway, speaking of tables turning, let’s talk about how I used to never make maxi dresses and now I make maxi-things all the damn time to the point that What’s-his-face was like, Leah, no more maxis. How many maxis can you own? Now, this is a very Indian way to say things, and sadly What’s-his-face doesn’t recognize that what THAT sounds like is a challenge to which I must respond CHALLENGE ACCEPTED! And have a thousand.

Or five. Or whatever. It’s become such an epidemic in our home that I even made a Maxi shirt! I’ve actually made two, but one is too simple to be worth blogging, so I’m just focusing on this one. To be fair, a maxi skirt or dress is just so flipping useful here, it really is, so regardless of the judgement from SOME people, I’m just going to be like:

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and probably keep making them. This is maxi-length land. When in India….

So I got this fabric on my fabric buying trip with Liz (hi, Liz!). In our efforts to find ikats we….found a lot of ikats. That’s what happens here. It’s nice. But this one was really something special, and I thought it would look good in pleats. Check it out! (GET IT?)

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I drafted the skirt myself, if you can call it that, it was really just messing around with pleats honestly, and a waistband, and pockets. So it’s that’s drafting then yes, I drafted it.

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Pockets! Love em. Big enough for my phone, for my keys, for my hopes and dreams…

The top is a Grainline Studios tiny pocket tank, which I made over a year ago with the remnants of some fabric I had used to make a shirt for what’s-his-face. That was the second I made for him, and now, some ten shirts later, you will still never see one on this blog because what’s-his-face is shy. So you will just have to trust me, they are out there, they exist.

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Ugh, I look like I have a double chin here, sigh.

It’s a cute top, the fabric is great, but I think we all know who the fabric star is here….it’s the ikat. Have you ever seen one like this before? I hadn’t, I love it! The colors, the checks, the texture, I just think it’s stunning. I thought pleats would suit it and I’m happy I was correct. It gives me a warm pleasant feeling to be RIGHT. God, I want to ride that high forever.

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This is a little blurry, sorry, but the waistband has a button in the back, stone buttons which are vintage and I have a bunch of them. It also has a vintage zipper, which is just peeking out there, it’s a magenta color to match the raspberry of the checks.

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You can just see the pleats, there, they meet in the center of the skirt. It’s subtle, but I like the effect.

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I hand-stitched the hem, and you can see the fabric a little better here.

The pockets are a contrast, which is subtle but fun! I didn’t have enough of the ikat, though, so that’s also why. Contrasts can do many things…

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It’s a fairly simple make, but it’s so useful. Maxi-length isn’t going anywhere for as long as we are here, sigh, and while it may make me look short, at least it works all over the place.

Now, to mourn the coming and going of new seasons of shows, and sigh.

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There you go! Any show recommendations, anyone? Bueller?

 

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The Wakes With The Fishes Shirt

When you have a pattern stash, of any size, and you are trying to limit that pattern stash, or you’ve been FORCED to limit that pattern stash, because of moves to India, or a place like that (I don’t know what else is like that, Bangladesh I guess?) you might find yourself cycling through patterns, creating trends within your own collection. For example, there might be a time when you are making a handful of patterns over and over again and then for no real reason you stop, and move on to something else. But then you come back to the pattern you loved, after a while.  Has anyone else had this experience?

Of course this pre-supposes that you, like myself, make patterns over and over again. It’s a rare pattern I don’t make multiple times, because I’m cheap, and it just seems like a waste not to, especially when a pattern is expensive. It’s actually why I love Colette Patterns Seamwork, because I can try stuff and feel okay only making one of them, because they are reasonable and release regularly. At any rate, I’m not talking about making 10 pleather body suits here, but classics like a woven t-shirt, well-fitting pants, a full skirt, that’s stuff I just keep on making.

It’s kind of like food. When I was a kid my father was the one who got us up in the morning and got us ready for school while my mother slept. We had to wake up stupid early, like 5:30am early every day for the school bus, don’t ask me why, probably because we lived in the city and our school was in the suburbs, like a punishment for living in a better place. WORTH IT. ANYway, to make things simple my father would figure out a meal we liked, for example, eggo waffles, and buy like twenty boxes of them and we would eat them for years. And then we would revolt, we would rise up and say NO to the oppression of eggo waffles! And then he would give us cheerios, which we loved because they weren’t fricking eggo waffles so they tasted like the literal best thing ever and then he would return home from the grocery school with twenty boxes of THOSE and the cycle, she would repeat itself all over again.

And my clothing production…may or may not sometimes work a little like that. Sometimes I get in a groove and then I realize I’ve made five of the same things in a row, and I feel so bored, and then I try something else and do it all over again! Damn you, Papi, and the things you’ve unconsciously taught me! Sigh. Ah, well. I do like a bit of a uniform, so maybe it’s for the best.

Now the rains have come to Mumbai, but just before the monsoon arrived the heat was laden with humidity and as oppressive as a fascist regime. So on days when I knew I wouldn’t have to run an errand, given that I work from home, my uniform became shorts, which I don’t tend to wear out in India, and lightweight shirts. And that’s when I realized, I had just made my third Archer in as many months, in my new favorite shape, selfless, with a back ruffle, and a little long. Boom.

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These shorts are also me made, from FOREVER ago, a vintage pattern from the 1950’s which I no longer have because it was fine but not AMAZING and again, trying to keep that pattern stash in check.

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The fabric comes from Mangaldas Market, and it’s a night lightweight cotton. I can’t get over how much I love these fish. When you have animals on your clothing you can never be lonely, because you always have friends! I DON’T CARE HOW PATHETIC THAT SOUNDS IT’S HOW I FEEL.

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Apart from lengthening the pattern, which has become my standard adjustment for the Archer, I didn’t change anything about the pattern. I used french seams throughout, like I do, and bias tape for the armholes. Otherwise, pretty standard. I mean, when you make a pattern over and over and over and over again you kind of…get the hang of it. 

WWTF3I could probably go a size or two down on this pattern, or bring it in at the side seams, but it’s been so nice in the heat of Mumbai to have stuff that just drifts off my body.

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Man, I love that back ruffle. I never thought I would, but I’m so damn into it!

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What’s-his-face really wanted me to take photos eating a peach. I don’t…really understand why, but hey, what is marriage but doing weird things your partner insists on and being photographed?

And that’s about it! Oh, the name is obviously a joke on mob movies, because I don’t sleep with the fishes, this is a day-time kind of shirt. Although, I wouldn’t mind fish pajamas….new mission? Accepted!

 

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Filed under Grainline Patterns, Sewing, Simplicity Patterns, Vintage

The Edwardian Prison Guard Dress

Sometimes you love something no one else seems to love. I’m sure you’ve had this experience, right? You go to a museum (if you don’t go to museums, imagine you are someone who goes to museums. Also, if you don’t go to museums, out of curiosity, why do you read this blog? I’m one Rembrandt reference away from being a full on Rijksmuseum fan-girl page. Anyway, thanks for reading, hope you aren’t super bored every time I go Van Gogh over here). So, you go to a museum, and you see a painting. Maybe it’s a Vermeer. Maybe it’s a Velasquez. Maybe it’s a Renoir because you hate yourself. I don’t know! But you stand in front of a painting and you feel some way about it. Maybe you love it, because it’s Velasquez, and it’s amazing, and it dazzles your soul, and you read this book a lot as a kid and seeing this painting is a dream come true. I’m obviously talking about this one:

las-meninasAnyway, this painting, it works for you. You love it. And then your friend comes up because they are bored and you’re taking too long and it’s Madrid and they want to party, and they are like, huh, lame painting man. Now, you could slaughter this friend, obviously, and that would probably be legal because, COME ON, seriously? But you are a kind and gracious person and you don’t, you simply accept that people are into different things. You love this, and your lame friend who you need to friend break up with is more into this nonsense:

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I’m not the only person who feels this way about Renoir, by the way, and if you want to meet more like-minded freedom fighters, you can find out about them here. Anyway, in the end, you like what you like, which is the point here, and sometimes after you’ve spent hours explaining why Las Meninas is amazing or why Renoir isn’t, you still wont have changed your friend’s mind, because there is something at the center of interest or attraction that is undefinable, untranslatable, personal.

So that’s probably why when I went fabric shopping with my friend Liz in Delhi we looked at the same fabric and I thought, I want to go to there, and she thought, mattress ticking.

Khadi is one of my favorite Indian fabrics. In its essence, its a rough woven cotton cloth, but Gandhi’s embracing of the cloth as a symbol of Indian self-rule and self sustainability as part of the Independence movement glorified the humble cotton and brought it into the national arena as a symbol of patriotism. Now khadi is all over India, and the lightweight loose weave is a godsend on hot days, of which India has many. The thing I love about it is the way the texture of the cloth is varied and interesting, so that as you sew with it its variety and many inconsistencies or flaws reveal themselves to you. It’s a rather stiff cloth, but it softens with wear, and it’s often woven in threads of two colors, giving the cloth a “change in the light” quality. I bet some language, Japanese maybe, has a word for that. While khadi might not be the best known fabric abroad, as it’s a personal favorite I wanted Liz to check it out when she was here, and we both went home to Mumbai with more than one piece. Now, Liz might have thought I picked up something more appropriate for a mattress than a dress, but I know regardless she will support my sewing choice, as she’s cool that way. That being said, while I love love love the result, I have to say, it might have gone right past mattress and into Edwardian Prison guard territory…

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Ah, well, you know how it is, some days you start out making a charming shirt dress and end up in incarcerated in 1910.e5d26f882abea11a6789a472abc3de36

Maybe I’m not even a guard. Maybe I’m an inmate….

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I guess a show about this wouldn’t be Orange is the New Black so much as it would be something like Tetanus is the New Scurvy.

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See the resemblance? Ah, well. It shows I’m tough, with a degree from the school of hard knocks. I bet that’s going to earn me a lot of street cred here in Mumbai. Or cause colonial flashbacks….

ED 3WHATEVER. I love my dress! Mattress, guard, inmate, see, it’s versatile! This is a version of McCalls M6696, which I have made several times before, here and here and one unblogged version. I love this pattern, but I’ve always had a little bit of chest gape between the buttons which I’ve fixed with safety pins. This time, I just cut the bodice with about 2.5 extra inches of ease, which fixed the issue and gave the bodice a looser fit, which is just fine with me, in Mumbai’s pre-monsoon heat (during which these photos were taken, now the monsoon has come in earnest and as I type this sheets of water pour down) I wanted everything looser and baggier and just not touching my body as much as possible.

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I made this version sleeveless, and I opted to drape my own skirt, aka throw some pleats in that fabric and call it a day. Otherwise I didn’t make any changes other than loosening up the bodice for gaping purposes. I played around with directions of the stripes a little on the waistband and then on the yoke:

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Oh, and I changed the gather to a pleat and took a little bit, maybe 1.5 inches, out of the back in a slight wedge shape to account for the change. That way I get that blousey 1940’s feeling without feeling like I could fit my cat in my back bodice. Side note, I had been walking around for all of ten minutes when we took these photos and you can ALREADY see perspiration on my back. THAT IS WHAT IT IS LIKE HERE ALL THE TIME.

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I finished the armholes with bias tape, as one does. I also french seamed it throughout whenever there was a seam that needed such a thing.

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I’ve taken to hemming things a few inches below the knee, which might not be the most flattering length for me ever, but it is pretty useful in Mumbai and India in general. It’s funny, for a Saturday night at a bar or restaurant I will see, and wear, things much shorter than this, but during the day walking around seeing someone in a dress or skirt is rare in and of itself, and when in doubt, tea-length does work well even if it shortens me. Sigh. Like I need something to shorten me….

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A little close up so you can see the cool wooden buttons, purchased at my local market here in Santacruz (our neighborhood), and the fabric. Ha, one of the buttons is slipping out, I just realized that! Oy. I always like the way darts look in stripes, is that weird?

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So there you go. Maybe it’s a little Edwardian Prison, guard or inmate, but I’ll take it. Besides, most people wont get the reference here, anyway, so I think I’m pretty safe. Although, a lot of people DO like Downton Abbey here, so….well, let’s hope they think guard and not inmate!

Coming soon, dressing for the monsoon! I…don’t know how to do it…

 

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The Sleeping In The Tropics Pajamas

In a recent skype conversation my friend Victoria as me if there was a time she could visit India when it WOULDN’T be extremely hot.

Weeeeeeeelllllllllllllllll………..

Look, not all of India is hot, honestly. It’s a huge country, they got all types of weather here. You can hike the Himalayan foothills in multiple states, you can go from forest to desert to jungle, you have options, really. In the North, you can even experience winter, magic thing that it is. Kolkata will get slightly chilly to my senses, although its native denizens walk around in sweaters and coats like it’s Moscow, and I have heard that other regions experience the ups and downs of weather that I was so used to (and loved) in the States.

But here in Mumbai, it’s always fairly hot. It’s the tropics, you see, and there is no getting around that. Some days are hotter than others,we had a brief “winter” like period in which I actually wore pants voluntarily and Mr. Struggle pulled out a flannel shirt claiming to be “chilled” because he is a delicate Indian flower, but generally it’s pretty much hot, hotter, hottest around here. October is notoriously sweltering, in the post-monsoon haze, and now, pre-monsoon or just on the very verge of it, Mumbai is a venerable hot-air balloon of humidity. Apart from messing with my skin (is that a thing, does anyone know?) and frizzing my hair (I haven’t worn it down for any signficant period of time other than sleeping for weeks) it’s made walking around an amazing experience in which I go from normal to sweating buckets within minutes. And the worst part is, people around me DON’T SEEM TO SWEAT.

I walk to the train station about two days a week on average for the voice over work I’m doing for a television show which is being dubbed from Croatian to English. It’s….amazing, it’s this soap opera from Croatia and it’s a constant source of wonder and hilarity for me. So far, plot points have included Somalian pirates, an escaped abused Yemeni bride, desert island desertion, heroin, unplanned pregnancy, a gypsy who sees the future, a coma, a beauty pageant, and so much more in between. And I’m not even halfway through dubbing it! I voice multiple characters, and sometimes I have long conversations in the show between me and me and it’s crazy. ANYway, more on that in other posts, but the point is, it’s a fifteen minute walk from our apartment to the Santacruz West Railway Station and in that brief window I become so coated with sweat that my clothing turns new darker colors from my exertions. Then I go to the studio, which is air-conditioned, freeze for a few hours, the color of my shirt returns to normal, and then I head out to repeat the whole process all over again. Upside? My wardrobe appears far bigger than it is! Downside? So. Sweaty. All. The. Time.

I know there are people out there who don’t sweat. Good for them, I say! But I sure do, and my life in Mumbai so far has been perpetually shiny with it. Now, at least in Mumbai you can pretty much wear whatever you want, unlike other Indian cities where you might want to be more covered up because the culture is a staring oriented one (see this post I did on India’s capital for reference), although of course even here it sort of depends where you live and where your day takes you, geographically. But given that I work from home, and my home is on the edge of Bandra, arguably one of the more liberal centers of this mammoth city, I am usually as comfortable as humanly possible. Even though, however, can wilt in the face of the heavy pre-monsoon humidity that makes the city feel like a greenhouse for tropical plants. Well, to be fair, it rather IS, isn’t it? Certainly the plants here love it….

But transplants like me, we need to figure out ways to cope, especially when it comes  to sleepwear. There is nothing quite so horrible as waking up because you are physically too hot and sweaty to keep sleeping. Luckily, the lightweight cottons also produced here are pretty good with that sort of thing, and I’ve made a few Carolyn pajamas which, after fiddling with the fit a bit, have kept me fairly cool, but this time I wanted something even breezier, even more open, even BETTER. Luckily, I had just the idea, and the fabric to make it happen:

 

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Oh yes, the hair, she is up. Get used to that in photos for the next few posts! My mother has commented she doesn’t know why I don’t just cut it all off. Deborah is, as always, correct, but I’m keeping it for now, so enjoy this series of posts whose subtitle shall be, “updos have I known”.

So! This is a modified Tiny Pocket Tank which I adapted using this stellar tutorial (I have actually done this sort of thing before, way back over a year ago for a sojourn to Austin. That pajama now lives in San Juan, its natural habitat). I did my usual size in this pattern, 14, to accommodate the full bust I possess. I suppose I could grade down for the waist and hips, but, like, how much do I care how form-fitting this billowing tank is? Besides, honestly, with the aforementioned heat I’ve been in a trend of making stuff that stands as far away from my body as possible, moderating my Tiny Pocket Tank and Scout Tee patterns to make them tents, trapezes, circles, whatever, something that stays away from my skin.

I usually lengthen this top, but for the pajama version I just kept the length as is, which makes it a cute swingy little top.

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Full disclosure: I pinned the back in place for the purposes of this photo shoot. #tricksofthetrade

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The shorts are the Purl Bee City Gym Shorts, a free pattern (free pattern!) which are perfect for pajama shorts. These shorts are fairly easy to construct, it’s just the miles of bias tape you need to finish all the visible exterior seams that can be…daunting. But, hey, its super cute, so we do it anyway…I’ve made these shorts a few times, and I have found that they are cut a little slim, presumably to be more flattering, but I like them loose and baggy, especially for sleep. I don’t really get this idea of slim fitting pajamas…..I’m really okay not looking my most fashionable self as I sleep.

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Although I do think these are pretty cute!

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The construction was fairly simple. The interiors of both pieces include french seams throughout, and the neck and armholes are finished with the same bias tape that you can see on the shorts. Easy peasy. I sat down with this after finishing THREE shirts for Mr. Struggle (because I am the best. wife. ever.) yesterday afternoon, and wore it to bed last night.

The fabric comes from Mangaldas Market, my favorite Mumbai fabric destination. I love this fabric, I actually made a dress out of it, which I need to photograph and post, and then was in the market again and saw more of the fabric and I bought it all right there because how often does that even happen? Once before for me. That’s it! Isn’t it great? I still have some left! What to do, what to do…

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Modeling “sleepy” poses or prepping for a jump shot?

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You know me well if you guessed jump shot.

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Sharing a moment with Cadfael. Man, if I think it’s hot, can you imagine how HE feels? We will wait for the rains together, and now I have a decent pajama to mark the tropical occasion.

Come on, monsoons, get a move on!

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Filed under Clothing, Grainline Patterns, Purl Soho, Sewing

In Search of Fabric or Forest for Trees

Oh my goodness, this past month was a total whirlwind, and my backlog of projects to photograph is bigger and better than ever before, just take my word on that. Travel from city to city and hosting friends in Mumbai was layered with furious working and sewing sessions, none of which has been conducive to blogging, but it has been a blast, I must say.

Projects I’ve completed include, but are not limited to, two pairs of Carolyn Pajamas from Closet Case Files, a bunch of Burda Style Jakob shirts for Mr. Struggle, curtains for our apartment, a bajillion Scout and Tiny Pocket tees, a Mission Maxi Dress, by Christina Hayes, a self-drafted box pleated maxi skirt, two more sleeveless Archer shirts, a Seamwork Adeline dress, at least three plantain tops, a McCalls M6696 shirt dress that I finished last night, oh god, the list goes on and on….

How do you guys do it? How do you get good consistent photos of your projects? This is something that has plagued me since I started blogging, how to get photos, how to make time for that, how to even like the way I LOOK in pictures, how to not feel embarrassed to ask other people. I left my tripod at home in the States, and I will say having one did make it a little easier to get photos of myself, but it’s always been an issue for me, getting photos of my projects. I love my friends, but I don’t always love their photos, and I get uncomfortable trying to get them to do what I want them to and usually give up halfway through and say, it’s fine, it’s fine, and never use the photos because they aren’t what I want. I think the trick is to take a million photos, because then about five of them work, but no matter how many times I assure people “just keep taking photos” or “tell me if I look weird” it is rare that either of those things actually happens. But given the kind of backlog I have, I think I need to find some kind of better solution here, because I have so much unblogged…I have the sewing part down, I like the writing part too, but the photography part, that’s the issue.

At any rate, here is a quick outfit and a lot of photos from my travels to the north. India is a great place for fabric, as you may know, but what you might not know, what I didn’t really know, was the amount of types of fabric that are produced all over the country, and the fact that every region has their specialities, their methods, their materials, their weaving and dying techniques. The floaty fine muslins that inspired such fervor in Regency England come from Bengal, things like this:

CIRC.30-1958

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The thick brocade silk weaves of Benares, now Varanasi, are duplicated all over the world, and they look like this:

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Chintz from the Coromandel Coast inflamed the European imagination, and we can see the influence of these patterns and dye techniques even today:

2012.22.15; wentke

But for many, when they think of Indian fabric, the first thing that pops into their head is hand block printed styles from the great state of Rajasthan, or Land of Kings. A central fabric producing hub since pre-Mughalite India, it wars with nearby Gujarat, the embroidery center and longstanding fabric powerhouse, for dominance of Northern styles, and it’s the place I wanted to take my friend Liz, (hi, Liz!) who was visiting me in India. A magnificent pattern maker and stitcher, although she loathes both (why oh why does the universe give such gifts to those who spur them?) Liz is a costume historian and she works at FIT. Despite her disinterest in sewing she does actually sew, and makes awesome beautifully constructed things I would kill to create, and she was excited to do some textile-based tourism in India. We toured the Anokhi Block Printing Museum (which I had detailed in this post), and even got to visit the amazing Rangotri Fabric Printing Workshop (a must for any Jaipur visitors interested in this form). We also did some damage at Delhi’s government emporiums, which are a fabric education in and of themselves, showing visitors the variety and magnificent quality of Indian textiles.

Check out our bounty:

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Block pints and ikats!

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Khadi forever. There is so much beauty in this simple cloth, I can’t get over it!

 

 

I know, I know, it’s excessive, but to be fair, half of this stuff is Liz’s….

Now, to show you the guts of the Rangotri Fabric Printing Workshop!

Headed by Vikram Joshi, who worked for Anokhi for a long time before heading out on his own, this company is amazing and does gorgeous work. Using traditional techniques and modern aesthetics, Joshi often enlarges a simple shape or design until it becomes something else entirely as a block, or uses older designs with different colors and combinations, to create something that is at once traditional and new. He does custom printing work as well for people, carving blocks and printing designs that look so unlike what you think of as wood block printing, it’s remarkable. With a workshop that includes all levels of production, from block carving to clothing stitching all in one place, the quality control and design is all supervised by Joshi, who was kind enough to give us a tour and set me loose in his overstock room, where I picked up more than one amazing piece of fabric….

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The floral on the left and the zebras and the blue bird are all from Rangotri.

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Cadfael modeling his personal favorite. Some of this has already been turned into a living room curtain but the rest is going to be an outfit so I can match my curtains a la Maria Von Trapp!

He also collects wooden blocks, and has an insane collection of textiles and pieces in his own personal little museum. I hope someday he makes a larger museum, because I would so be there….

Check it out!

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A block printer carving out a simple design or horizontal lines.

A block printer carving out a simple design or horizontal lines.

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A block and the dye.

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The block printing wardrobe. Watching these amazing printers quickly and perfectly place the blocks and print the fabric is insane, both hypnotic and awe-inspiring.

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A little close up for you. Most prints require a minimum of four blocks. Every time you see a color, that’s a block to distribute that color.

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Prepping a piece for printing.

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Once it’s printed, it’s hung, then later washed and dried.

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The “true” final color of the print above.

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Amazing that this is a block print, right? It looks painted, but it’s all coming from a carved piece of wood. Also, you can see what happens to the color after it’s processed, washed and hung. The colors on the bottom are the “true” final colors.

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This guy soaks and beats the cloth. Clearly he doesn’t need a gym membership. I can’t believe no pop-gym has adopted this as a work-out method yet….

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Quality control! Having the whole process in one place means immediate communication about the quality of the objects.

Rangotri produces a lot of home-goods fabrics, in fact, that’s most of what they do, which is sad, because I would buy ALL the fabric from them if it was commercially available. As it is, you have to go there and hope they left you pick up a piece or two. Still, it’s totally worth it!

And now, just because I have to get through this one way or another, a little outfit post for you:

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It’s a Scout Tee from Grainline Studios in a fabric I picked up in Kolkata and a pair of Butterick 5898 Patterns by Gertie pants in a stretchy crappy fabric I grabbed at Mumbai’s Mangaldas Market, which were great for Delhi in summer (it’s already summer here), because it helps to be more covered up in Delhi, a city where men actively stare at you wherever you go, although it’s so painful to be so in the scorching unforgiving sauna that is Delhi. Capris and loose-fitting tops like this help. They don’t ENTIRELY make it great, but they help!

 

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Oh! I also did Me Made May, of course, through my Instagram  but honestly, at this point in my life, I wear me-made every day, so I sort of have a me-made LIFE, really. I always enjoy seeing other people’s stuff, though!

Okay, I’m off to put my life back together post-travel, and try to figure out a way to photograph my excruciating backlog, sigh. Seriously, advice is welcome! Happy June, everyone. What are you sewing this summer?

 

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Filed under Butterick Patterns, Dye, Grainline Patterns, Life, Sewing, Travel