Monthly Archives: November 2014

The You Oughta Be Ottoman Shirt

I can’t think of much I hate more than arguing, so it always strikes me as strange that in many places shopping is tantamount to arguing, if you think about it. The culture of bargaining has long been abandoned by many parts of the West, and I can see why, as arguing with someone over the price of things makes me feel like I’m basically telling them their stuff is worth less than they think it is. Which, in a way, I suppose, is the point, that they price it too high and you come in too low and together you presumably reach a reasonable price but I don’t know why I have to be a part of that process, you know? I don’t feel like I’m qualified to be a part of the pricing process, I’m not a pricing professional, you know! There are people out there who say they like bargaining, and I’m sure that is true, but I am not among them.

This is why a family trip to Istanbul a few years ago, while delightful, was also exhausting. The Turks expect you to bargain, they seem to like it, God knows why, and there is this whole ceremony of buying things that confuses all but the most savvy world traveler. That’s another thing, I hate the idea that buying things has to be a whole THING, I want to feel like a ninja, or a tomb raider, I get in there, I get my stuff, I get out. I don’t want to have tea. I don’t want to see ALL of your carpets. I know you have a lot of carpets. Oh, you have another room of carpets back there? That’s fascinating but that’s infinitely more carpets than I want to see because I literally want zero carpets so…nope, yes, looking at the carpets. Sure, more tea, why not.

And then suddenly you’re paying all the Turkish lira in the world for a carpet you don’t want and can’t fit in your suitcase. And you KNOW you didn’t bargain well because they start throwing in free gifts. When they give you gifts, that’s it, you’ve lost, they are literally giving things away because they pity you, they pity how much they are charging you for what you are buying, and their pity translates to small Evil Eye icons and lamps that look like pomegranates (these are both real things we received with goods we were actually buying).

That being said, I never actually felt CHEATED by anyone in Istanbul, which is not the case with an Ebay purchase I bought several years ago which told me I was buying Liberty of London but instead sent me….not that. Only, I honestly wasn’t sure, because I bought it so early in my sewing adventures that I had never actually seen a Liberty of London print, and once I realized my mistake and that creepy jerk of an Ebay salesman had already made off with me money (not THAT much, it was priced at 20 a yard which really should have been an indicator, looking back….) the fabric languished in my stash, as the proof of my folly and terrible buying abilities. The thing is, I like the print, it actually really reminded me of Turkish Iznik tile, which I had adored on that same trip to Istanbul where I realized that bargaining is the worst. I took many photos of this tile, as you can see:

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Iznik tile and ceramic is very beautiful, at least, to my mind, and it has a long history as an art form and ceramic process. You can read more about that here, and here, if you want to do so.

So as I said, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with this fabric for a long time. I liked it, but I also felt that it was evidence of my foolishness, my bad buying skills, and the fact that I had been taken in and sold a fake Liberty print, like a manufactured artifact in the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul, which I had skillfully avoided buying, only to be cheated now. But eventually I got over that, because you can only hate yourself for a fabric purchase for so long, I mean, how much time is there in a day, really. So finally I decided to embrace my faux-Liberty (which I now would NEVER mistake for a Liberty print) and enjoy my Ottoman Empire inspired cloth. And this is what I made:

OBO4Yay! Another Grainline Archer! I lengthened it a few inches, which no one else seems to have to do, but I feel like it has to be long to compensate for the journey the fabric takes over my chest region, and I like my shirts to hit below my hip if possible.

OBO7I am making a weird face here, like I’m not sure why this Turkish man is trying to get me to buy a carpet so badly, like, do I look like someone who NEEDS a carpet in their lives? I must do.

I also made the pants, which I never blogged, because if I wrote about every pair of Colette Patterns Clover Pants I made this blog would be called The Colette Patterns Clover Pants Blog. And no one would read that except weird internet guys. So there you go.

OBO8For some reason my machine was acting cruel and insane when I made the buttonholes on this, so they are AWFUL, and you can’t see them. I don’t get it, they made the ones for Mr. Struggle’s shirt JUST fine. Sidenote, I do make things for Mr. Struggle but he wont let me photograph him ever so you will never see those, take it up with him if you are mad.

The archer often pulls a little to the left on me, does anyone else have that experience? Nevertheless I adore it, I’ve made several and have no plans to stop, in fact, I recently cut an Archer dress so that’s on the menu coming up. I do want to try Deer and Doe’s new Bruyere shirt, soon, so that might hop the cue too.

This shirt was fine apart from the button-hole debacle, I like the construction a lot and don’t have any trouble with it anymore, honestly, I think it’s well drafted and I love how impressive it feels to make a collared shirt!

OBO11Here is a rather wrinkled shot of the back, but I thought it might make the bright print even clearer for you. Even though this fabric was an imposter, I have to say, I’ve kind of come to love it, having started associating it with Istanbul instead of with my being gullible. After all, even when you get cheated in Turkey, it comes with a little gift and a cup of tea, so really, how bad can it be?

OBO9There you go! Istanbul-inspired in more ways than one. I should go back there, I can blend in with the landscape now…

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Filed under Clothing, Colette Patterns, Fabric, Grainline Patterns, Life, Sewing, Travel

The Knit Wit Outfit

I love a good knit. This may or may not come from my mother. If Megan Trainor is all about that bass, my mother is all about the knits. And who can blame her? A knit is a godsend to all women. Say what you will about Coco Chanel, but that woman made other women more comfortable by her innovative use of knits. Look, I love wovens. Who doesn’t? I would never surrender my love for them. But knits are just so deeply comfortable. They make anything cozier and easier to wear. If the casting off of the corset after the First World War transformed the way women felt in their clothing, then knits have done that once again, embracing curves and angles without darts or fabric geometry, stretching with the human body, moving as they move. They are more forgiving than any Catholic priest ever could be. They don’t mind too much if you have a big lunch, and they also shrink to you when you’ve been good about your running routine. Knits are like a sweet non-judgemental friend you can watch dumb movies with and enjoy large bottles of wine and large bowls of ice cream. Wovens are like that friend that motivates you and makes you feel ambitious and high achieving and professional and adult, but wovens aren’t going to hang out with you on a Sunday night while you watch The John Oliver Show, because wovens are busy, wovens are important, wovens don’t approve of getting their news with a side of comedy, wovens have ALREADY read the New York Times article and seen the BBC report on that issue and have OPINIONS before you even have context. Knits kind of make fun of wovens, as soon as they are out the door, and you smile, and sigh, and say “I’m friends with both of you, okay? But yes. Wovens can be a little uptight.¬† Now. Back to John Oliver. More wine?”

See, I would watch that show. That show with those three characters. It would be great. I wish someone would pay me to make a show where it’s just me talking to my fabric. Wouldn’t you watch that?

NO? Fine. Whatever. I wouldn’t watch your dumb show either.

Ahem. Anyway. Knits also make everything a little less formal, which I generally don’t approve of, as I like to feel fancy like a grown up, but I do think that knits can get there, with a little bit of sophistication and style. Of course, with silk jersey and rayons you can have a drapey slinky 1970’s dream, but what about the in between of this? Isn’t there something between sweatpants and draped halter?

And that’s why I like some of the new knit patterns that have been released by independent companies in the last few years. They have flare and they have fun. They are comfortable but they don’t only look like they are comfortable. You know what I mean?

Take, for example, Tilly and the Buttons Coco. I did:

KW1Oh, and what’s that on the bottom, lurking underneath? Is that a Colette Patterns Mabel? I DO BELIEVE IT IS! How delightful.

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Yes yes! See, it’s all knit there, but I don’t look like I’m wearing a Juicy Couture Sweatsuit, I look like a person who has a job, and ambitions, and dreams.

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I made my friend Liz take these photos when we went to Philadelphia for the day to see the Patrick Kelly show at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I knew nothing about this designer, and the show is excellent, as is his work. Really a fascinating and vivacious man, bursting with talent and innovation, whose appropriation of cultural and racial stigmas and stereotypes richly activated his work. I’m surprised I hadn’t heard of him before, and saddened by the brevity of his amazing life. If you have the chance to see this show, please do, it’s really lovely and worth the trip if you aren’t in the area.

Liz sews too, in fact she works at the Museum at FIT, so she is always a wonderful person to see these shows with, to force to take my photograph, and to enjoy drinks and fries with afterwards. She’s a multi-talented human being.

What can I say about the construction of this. Knits are easy, man, especially the ponte de roma that makes up this top. It’s got structure for days, for a knit, but still moves with your body. Score.

KW9I used the three-quarter length sleeves and the funnel neck, which is as close to turtleneck as I can get without feeling horribly self-conscious about my chest.

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There is also  a little split action on the sides, which I like a lot. You can just see that in the photo above.

KW4Close up! I love the cuffs on this shirt, they are genius. I’ve made this once before, as a dress, actually.

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The skirt is the longest of the Mabels, because I’m not a micro-mini kind of girl. It’s seamed up the front, which is hard to see on this black.

KW6See? Even I can’t see it! This skirt is just the easiest thing I have made in months. It literally took me 40 minutes, from cutting to hemming. That’s the real length of a one hour drama minus the commercials. With breaks. To drink wine.

I got that scarf at a vintage store in Austin, by the way. It has ships all over it. I love it.

KW2See, that is the face of a comfortable YET decently dressed person. Simple, easy, cozy, yet with flare. What else can one ask for as the weather grows cold? Don’t worry that I have abandoned my wovens, I will always be more type A then type K (GET IT? K FOR KNITS? Seriously, this would be a great show), but it’s nice to have the option, isn’t it?

 

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Filed under Colette Patterns, knit, Sewing, Tilly and the Buttons, Uncategorized

The El Farolito Dress

Isn’t it an awfully strange feeling to show someone someplace you love? Maybe everyone doesn’t have the same sense of place as personal, but I do, and I think I probably always have. My mother trained as an architect, and she renovated the house I lived in from the age of three months on, so I can say with honesty that I lived in a house my mom built. Space and its meaning and memory therefore have always had resonance for me. When I meet people who say they don’t care about where they live, I find it difficult to comprehend the words coming out of their mouths. Whatever space I’m in has always affected me deeply. When I was 22 and just out of college I lived in Spain for three months I lived in a tiny room with no windows. That was like a prison, and while Spain might be fun for many people, on some level it was difficult for me to enjoy my time there because the space I inhabited was so unbearable. But when I moved to Brooklyn, I moved into an amazing apartment, a place that felt cozy and comfortable and fit me well, and every day felt like an adventure, with a safe spot to return to at night. It’s not just where I live, though, it’s also places, and what they mean. Despite that apartment, Madrid will always be a place I long to return, because it’s streets are so gorgeous, it’s museums so glorious and bursting with art, it’s buildings so charming and enticing. Philadelphia, my hometown, will always fit me like a soft pair of jeans. And Puerto Rico will always feel like a sigh of relief, coupled with the anticipation of seeing something insane. It’s a rare place, a mix of comfort and crazy. Sharing it with people is wonderful, but also worrisome. What if they don’t like it? What if they don’t get it? It’s another house my mom made. Will they enjoy her, her style, her touch, her details? Will they love it the way I do? Why do they have to? I can’t help but get worried when I bring people. Luckily, Mr. Struggle loved it. Problem, solved. The thing is, though, I am in every way a creature of habit. It’s a difficult thing, I think, because people who I meet who are NOT that way tend to find it a curious quality, rather than a way of life. Especially Mr. Struggle. He is not as into the habits, and so the explanation of “this is what I do and therefore we should do it” doesn’t always, how shall I say, fly? So when we went down together, he wanted to do new things, things I hadn’t done there. This filled me with something like dread. NEW THINGS? DIFFERENT THINGS? What am I supposed to do with that? Well, a lot, as it turns out. Mr. Struggle is a smart guy. So now when we travel, even to a place I’ve been, I try to remember that there is new stuff out there, and I can make a new memory in an old place. This time, when enjoying San Juan, Mr. Struggle found a new bar, which is very much his style, and I have to say, it was an excellent discovery. The bar is called El Farolito, or The Lamplight, like the lantern on a lamppost, and it’s AMAZING. If you ever go to San Juan, go the hell there. Bourbon and Coconut water is a surprisingly stellar combination, and that’s the least of what they do. So this dress is named in honor of that bar, which was a surprise for me, something I usually abhor, but am learning to hate a little less. And this dress was a combination of two familiar patterns grafted together in a new way. So that’s something new too! BH1So the bodice is my self-drafted bodice pattern, and the skirt is my all-time favorite, Simplicity 4529. Can’t stop, wont stop. This dress therefore between the bodice and the skirt has 26 darts. You read that correctly. 26. That’s a real thing. Enjoy that. God knows I didn’t when I made it…. EF2The fabric I actually got for free from a friend and co-worker of my friend Liz, a seamstress and costume historian who was giving away huge amounts of fabric to make space in her apartment. GOD. BLESS. NEW. YORK. These tiny places really work out when you need free fabric! EF3A little side view for you. Enjoy. EF5That’s our green roof! A big thing my mom wanted to include with this property. It’s very cool. I love it a lot. The perfect place for these photo shoots which I force Mr. Struggle to do. EF7Oh, I was out of matching zippers so I had to use a maroon one which you can JUST see in this photo. Enjoy that. EF6A little bodice close up. How lovely is this print? I can’t honestly believe it was free. And so MUCH of it! Liz told me to make something and then give her the remainder, I can’t wait to see what she does! EF8Ah, the view from our roof. See why I love it here? EF10Yes it’s a little non-pristine and maybe slightly odd, but it’s also glorious with the sun and the clouds. Don’t you think? EF11The “green” aspect of the green roof, complete with my father’s many solar lights. EF4So there you are. Something familiar, and something new. All that’s missing is an amazing cocktail. And for that? You’d need to go to El Farolito.

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Filed under Fabric, Friends, Sewing, Simplicity Patterns, Tutorial, Vintage