Monthly Archives: June 2014

The Platanos Shirt

Spoiler alert, this is a t-shirt. I know. I know.  A whole blog post for a t-shirt? Scraping the bottom of the barrel, am I? But listen, I’m proud of this t-shirt, for a variety of reasons, and also, it’s my damn blog and I’ll post whatever I want to post! You’re not the boss of me!

While I might revel in vintage dress patterns and elaborate makes, the reality is that my ever-growing self-made knit shirt collection, courtesy of several amazing designers and their generosity in offering free and reasonably priced knit-top options (like Sewaholic’s Renfrew, Cation Designs Dolman Sleeve Top, Grainline’s Hemlock Shirt and Deer and Doe’s Plantain), is the place where I can see most clearly that sewing has made my life easier and better. I didn’t start sewing because of the political, socioeconomic or environmental issues surrounding clothing production and fast fashion, but the more I’ve learned and understood, the less comfortable I am participating in an unsustainable and human-rights-violating system. I do still buy, on occasion, ready-to-wear, from places I know I shouldn’t, because I’m not perfect and I really like J. Crew and I get lazy and it’s cheap. Especially shoes. New York eats shoes. But the more I know about clothing and the fashion industry, the more I’m inspired to take myself as a consumer more seriously, and be careful and thoughtful about the things I buy and use. Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about my workout wear and if I’m brave enough to try to make more than yoga pants. But that’s a conversation for another day. The point is, being able to make a t-shirt, or 10, that fits well and gets that so elusive compliment, “that looks store-bought!”, means that I never have to run to Forever 21 again for a handful of crap that falls apart in a week. It means that my sewing can extend beyond the world of the glamorous (because I’m SO glamorous) and into the practicalities of my every day life. That honestly fills me with a great deal of satisfaction that I really can’t explain. Sewing the basics, while maybe boring for some, actually really excites me, well, maybe not in the act of doing it, but in the end result. It means that I can wear something I made easily every day. While the price might end up being around the same, or more, because  4 dollar t-shirt from H and M is hard to beat, somehow it’s worth it to me. A t-shirt can be a step on the road to freedom from consumerism. And this one? This one is pretty cute:

IMG_2445Please note, my hair is up in these photos because my lovely and wonderful mother, who took these, refused to photograph me with my hair down because, “It’s making me overheated just to look at you”. June in San Juan did not please my mother in terms of it’s humidity.

IMG_2460The pattern is Deer and Doe’s Plantain, but in San Juan I figure it’s a Platanos. It’s a very simple make that I’ve made, what, maybe 10 times now? I also made a new one for my mom which she wore down with her, a longer tunicy style that looks fabulous, if I do say so myself. I love this pattern. It’s just a seriously flattering t-shirt. I love the neckline, I love the fit, the only thing I ever do is length it a bit.

IMG_2446I got the fabric for this from fabric.com, and it was on sale for 1.95 a yard. And I bought a yard. So in this case I suppose I DID beat Forever 21. Ha! And I think the pattern of the stripes even has shades of J. Crew. So there you go. Oh! And I matched the stripes!

IMG_2457I get very excited about doing this basic thing correctly. I also made the shorts, which I only wear in San Juan because, well, they are bright yellow linen shorts. So. I guess that just feels right to me. Because no matter how many of my own t-shirts I make, I will never really be a hipster. I’ll never achieve that level of cool, or facial hair.

Our green roof is a little bit of a jungle right now, but it’s still pretty!

IMG_2443So maybe yes, it’s just a t-shirt. But I love it, I love that I made it, and I love that I can, and will, make a bunch more. Why not? It sure beats shopping…

IMG_2454What do you think? Do you sew basics or do you buy them? Do you get a sense of satisfaction from making stuff like this, or does it seem like a waste of time?

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Filed under Clothing, Deer and Doe, Sewing, Travel

The Gracias Griffin Dress

You know that thing they tell you in kindergarten, that it’s the effort that counts? I feel like that might be a giant lie. I mean, it’s true in kindergarten, certainly, where the stakes are low and the negative consequences consist of a time out or a loss of cookies. But in life, while trying is important, say, trying to get a job, or trying to make it across the street before a fleet of New York City cab drivers mows you down, it is also important TO get a job. Or to survive said mob of yellow car-monsters. No one at your funeral or your bankruptcy hearing is going to point out that you tried really hard, and that’s what matters. And if they do, well, call this guy, especially for that second one:

For example, with this, my recent dress project, I honestly did try to make something perfect, I had lots of hopes for this dress and dreams for it, I made an effort, and yet, I don’t know. I just don’t know. It’s not quite what I had in mind. And a lot that, honestly, comes down to fit. You see, I was very excited to make Colette Patterns Hazel Dress. Leah, where have you BEEN, you ask? Because that pattern was released years ago and you are only just making it now? I know. I KNOW. I’m still looking with love at the Lily, I bought fabric for it two years ago, and, and…I don’t know. I just don’t know! I really wanted to try the Hazel in anticipation of several border print fabrics that what’s-his-face brought me back from India. And I think I still will, but I really need to figure out this bodice better. Because right now? I just don’t know.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

GG1.jpgEven though I’m unsure about the dress, it’s hard for me NOT to smile in San Juan!

So, I have only really myself to blame for the things I don’t like about this dress. First of all, it’s too big. Which I brought on myself, by cutting the bodice two sizes bigger then my own size to try and compensate for my opposite-of-diminutive frontal attributes. But obviously this dress did not need my “I don’t want to do a full bust adjustment so I will cheat and fail” alteration, I’m pretty sure it would have fit fine as drafted. This is why we make muslins. This is why I should have made a damn muslin. Alright, alright. So the bodice is a little big, and the waist is too, and as a result, this does not fit my waist and torso the way I like things too. That being said, it’s super comfortable! But I’m really used to things fitting right to my waist, and I prefer it, because I think I look a little wide otherwise.

GG2.jpgI could, in fact, belt this, and I probably will, for the future, as well as taking it in at the waist through the sides of the bodice. It also hits just below the waist, so next time I would totally shorten the bodice an inch, or use more seam allowance.

GG3.jpgOy, you can see that I got a lot of sun. Despite many applications of sunscreen, (I may be half-Latina but I’m not stupid) I still got burned on my first day in Puerto Rico and enjoyed that pain for the rest of the trip. Ah, well. It was the effort that counted.

GG6.jpgUgh, my face. Still, I really do love this stripey thing happening here, I think it’s different and interesting and fun. And I love love love this fabric. Hence the name of the dress. Because my friend Griffin picked some of this up for a school project, and when I saw him constructing and elegant 17th century gown from it, I was like, this would make a great strappy thing! And so he bought me some of the fabric when he picked up more for himself. GRIFFIN. You are magnificent. Gracias, my friend, for your love of languages, and for this fabric, and for San Juan.

GG4.jpgI knew this fabric would work well when playing with stripes. And despite my reservations about the overall fit of this, it does!

GG5.jpgOh, yeah. And there are pockets. God, I love pockets. Life without pockets is sad indeed.

GG8.jpgOh, yeah, this is another struggle. I personally loathe when my bra straps show. It really makes me uncomfortable because I spend so much time adjusting everything. This dress is a bra-showing nightmare. When I attempt this next time, and oh, I will, because now it’s a challenge and I can’t back down from a sewing dare, I will probably make the straps bigger. Because this? Is a struggle.

GG7.jpgAh, well. What can you do. In theory, this is very cute, and I can probably make this work a little bit better to keep wearing it, because I really do like the fabric and the idea of the dress, but the end result leaves me a little meh. Still, it actually felt good to wear it in the San Juan sun, as my mom and I fed stray cats and read mystery novels. So maybe the effort was worth it after all!

A few photos, just for fun:

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So there you go. A dress I’m unsure about in a place I love. Hello, summer. I hope this isn’t going to be a pattern….

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Filed under Clothing, Colette Patterns, Sewing, Travel

The Brighton Beach Bunny Skirt

Call me crazy, but I love Russia. I love it. It’s a weird place and it’s super strange and scarred and currently a human rights disaster, and I’m not a political fan, but culturally, I just love it. This is not, I understand, something many other people feel. After all, Russia has a reputation for being a cold and bitter place filled with pain and sorrow. But that’s what makes it so much fun! It’s dramatic! It feels things deeply! It lives on vodka and emotions! What’s not to love?

Real talk, I’m predisposed to love Russia, honestly. My mother’s family is Russian, I grew up hearing Russian (though I can say maybe four things myself), eating Russian food, reading Pushkin fairy tales and thinking about how I could get a duel going. When I was in college I studied abroad in Moscow. I want to work in theater, for goodness sakes, and after Greece and England Russia really has the market on that one cornered. (Don’t talk to me about France, okay? Just don’t. Bunch of cheese eating surrender monkeys who don’t use half of the letters they could be pronouncing because, what, that’s too much effort? Writing plays about Greek myths and corrupt clergymen and defecating kings? Whatever.  Call me when Godot comes. Jeez.) And after my time living in Russia, well, there was no going back. I was a whole-hearted convert, a lover of the Russian doucha (that’s soul, come on, be cool) and bitter sad grimness on each crumbled little Slavic face. It’s adorable!

But I no longer have family in Russia, and plane tickets don’t come cheap to the land of eternal winter (See, Game of Thrones should shoot the North of the Wall stuff THERE), so the next best thing for this current New Yorker is Brighton Beach. Oh, Brighton Beach, my love, my life, my youth, my orchard!

Ahem. Just a casual Cherry Orchard reference. Like you do. For those who do not know, Brighton Beach is a Russian neighborhood in Brooklyn, right near Coney Island. For just under a century it’s been an enclave of Russian life in New York. In the 1860’s the area was developed as a resort town with its own racetrack. The area wasn’t technically a part of Brooklyn until 1894, after which it became a residential area with its own amusement park. With the Depression and the Second World War, floods of Jewish immigrants, primarily from Odessa, but also from other Eastern European nations, poured into the area, making it a Russian neighborhood.

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In the last few decades, increased immigration from former Soviet states, including those with stronger Asian influences, have added more kinds of food and more accents of Russian to the area. Getting out of the train you might not hear a word of English spoken in any direction for blocks and blocks.

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Bright plentiful produce spills out from every store, women in heels and sparkles chatter and bicker, every sign points the way to Russian pastries, watches, oil, pelmeni and perfume.

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Headscarves mix with peroxided blonde locks, and everyone finds themselves scattered over the boardwalk, especially in the summer.

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I love going there, and I don’t go nearly enough. In fact, I hadn’t been once since I moved to New York almost two years ago. Given that I live in Southern Brooklyn, this is a crime I plan to rectify with frequent trips in the future. For for now, I went with what’s-his-face this past Sunday and could hardly contain my excitement.

We had read about this place last summer and always wanted to go there for lunch, so we finally did it. Totally worth the trip, even if I wasn’t wild about Brighton Beach. I heartily recommend it to anyone.

And obviously I had to wear something new. I mean, what am I, a savage? Luckily in my post-graduate school free time between working and my frequent existential crises, I’ve made a lot of new things. Some of them were for my roommate Emily’s trip, which she leaves on today for a month. Photos for those will be delayed for obvious reasons, but hopefully feature exotic locals! And some things are for my own trip with my parents to San Juan which I am taking tomorrow. Again, stay tuned. But this seemed like a good occasion to bust out something special, and so I present to you my Brighton Beach Bunny Skirt!

BBB 2.jpgThe pattern ought to be a familiar one to anyone who reads this, because it’s Simplicity 4529 and I’ve made it so many times and I have no plans to stop any time soon. Look, I’m all for making new patterns and trying new things. But honestly, I’ve been sewing long enough at this point, and also DRESSING myself long enough, to know is something is just not going to work for me, and to appreciate the things that really make me look and feel good. It’s a grown-up uniform, sure, but what’s wrong with that? I’ve said it before and I will say it again, if it ain’t broke…

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Actually, this is pretty funny, I was worried that it WAS broke, I had this strange anxiety that this time it wouldn’t fit. I was so worried and convinced that somehow my Puerto Rican caboose wouldn’t be able to squeeze into this that I added fabric in the back, two strips adding up to about 3 inches.

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Real talk? This totally would have fit. It’s my loosest make of this skirt to date. But it’s also supremely comfortable and I don’t mind at all. So either I miscalculated or my tush got smaller over night. Could it be the second one, please?

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This skirt is unbearably simple for me at this point. I made so many over the winter and one last summer, I’ve got this. But I love how it looks, and this fabric was just too perfect. I love it, I can’t deal with how much I love it. I kept pointing out images to what’s-his-face.

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I can hardly decide which is my favorite. The Elephant reading the newspaper? The monkeys in the band? The juggling guy? The frogs? It’s a party! Just the sort of thing to wear in Brighton Beach. This way I’m something to look at, too!
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Of course, if you are in Brighton Beach already, you might as well stop by Coney Island.

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Though I can’t decide which is more thrilling, amusement park rides or sullen Russians who continuously reference the Gulags? I’m just kidding. It’s obviously the Russians. Sorry, Coney! Better luck next time.

BBB 3.jpgHappy Summer, people! I’m off to San Juan, more posts with Tropical outfits to follow!

 

 

 

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Filed under Clothing, Sewing, Simplicity Patterns

The Ikat Lover Dress

As my friend and former co-worker (oh, I’m done at the costume shop! So sad, I will miss it so much) Martin once said to me, you’re, like, a cat lady but not, like, a sad one. Like, you just have one cat. And you love it, but not in a creepy way….little does he know! IL8.jpgMy love for my cat is deeply creepy. Deeply. This animal contributes nothing to my finances or my professional life and yet I prioritize him above most things. I wake up early to feed him because he screams at me. I order special food for him because he’s enormous and therefore on a grain-free diet (which is the closest either of us will ever get to Paleo). He has never read any of my writing, or been supportive of my internal struggles, and yet I assume he knows me deeply. Don’t you think that’s just a little creepy? In fact, don’t you think that animals, all of the ones we keep in our homes, have the better end of the deal on this domestication business? I personally think they all get together and have meetings and toast with catnip and dog treats and whatever it is that rabbits enjoy, to their long con deceiving and manipulating their human slaves. And whenever we start catching on they just become cuddly and loving and lure us in with their stupid wonderfulness! Damn them!

IL7.jpgSo I’m sorry, Martin, but clearly I AM that creepy person you assumed I wasn’t. Sigh. What can I do? I love my cat. I also love Ikat! (I know, I know, its that smooth transition you’ve come to expect from this here writer). I a m a big Ikat fan. Maybe because it has the word cat in it, sort of. Maybe because it’s just a beautiful fabric printing technique and it’s literally everywhere right now. Maybe because it makes me feel like I’m in a Bedouin tent but without the scorpions and lack of water. I don’t know. But I’m into it.

And so when what’s-his-face brought me fabric from India this winter, and one of the pieces was a sort of batik-Ikat hybid, I was understandably excited. I am not, by nature, all that into batik on me, though I admire the process and love it on other people, but this was a kind of tribute to both techniques, or looked that way to me,without the color gradiation of traditional batik. It’s actually one of my favorite pieces of fabric that I’ve been given, and usually that would me that I stare at it for years and lovingly stroke it and never actually do anything with it. (That is a true story, I have lots of fabric I bought years ago that I just take out and look at and then return to the box, unsure what to do with something I love so much.) But this time I decided to be brave, and jump, or cut, right in. And I have to say, I’m very pleased with the results, though I don’t think these photos make it look as nice as I think it is. Oh, well, what can you do? So check it out:

IL5.jpgSee what I mean about the fabric? Pretty gorgeous, right? A friend recently said it reminded her of the sea. And I do so adore the ocean…

IL4.jpgFor the pattern, I used a very altered vintage Simplicity 5355. The original pattern calls for gathers instead of darts at the waist, but I wanted darts, so I converted them to darts, and re-drafted the neckline to be a square. I also skipped the pencil skirt and made it a full pleated skirt. As you can see, I cut the skirt cross-grain, which I really love the look of, even if it’s unconventional. I used the sleeve pattern from the original pattern and pleated the shoulders very slightly to make them fit without gathering. This was a very anti-gathering process, I realize.

IL1.jpgI’m a big fan of the square neckline, I realize. The bodice looks more form-fitting in person, but in general it’s a comfortable and not-over-tailored bodice. I lined just the bodice,but let the skirt go unlined, because summer in New York isn’t a good time for linings.

IK6.jpgI hand-picked the zipper, and I didn’t hem the sleeves or skirt, because both were cut on the selvage! Sneaky sneaky seamstress…

IL3.jpgOh, my camera caught a little swish there! I took this by myself in my living room with my tripod, so there was a lot of setting the timer and running for the shot.

IL2.jpgSo there we go, a summer dress in a fabric I adore, an Ikat overlaid with a sort of batiking thing (I’m pretty sure that’s the technical textile term). I know I’m going to get a lot of wear out of this one, it’s comfortable, flattering (well, I think so! And Cadfael, my cat….is sleeping. He doesn’t care. Sob.) and easy to wear. I love summer and summer dresses but I hate anything that I have to adjust all the time. This fits the bill! So maybe I’m creepy, but at least I’m well dressed.

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Filed under Fabric, Sewing, Simplicity Patterns, Vintage