Monthly Archives: July 2015

The History Repeating Dress

This is a tale of facts and fabric, a story woven by the bard and a weaving company somewhere. Sing, oh muse, of the desire of Leah, whose need did not waver although the chasm of time and space, whose taste did not change despite the rotations of sun and moon, despite journeys to and fro, round and about. ‘Tis a tale of fabric revisited, plucked from the obscurity of the past and christened anew in the bright and punishing light of the present.

Basically I found a fabric I had loved and bought and used for something years before and I bought it again because that’s just how I roll. But before I get to that, let’s talk about ancient empires and how I would rate them in terms of competition. I had a recently moment with a close friend of mine, Emily, in which we realized that we are on very different sides of the whole ancient empire debate. You don’t debate about which ancient empire was best? You’re living a half-life! No, but seriously, this is actually something I think about a lot, and Emily does too, and she was shocked and, I must say, a little repulsed that I am pro-Roman. But what can I say? I admire people who can steal wholesale the innovations of others and introduce logistical security for such a large area of the world. Philosophy is great, but so are roads, am I right? Emily, though, is very into Egypt, which makes sense, as the book she wrote on the subject is currently available for pre-sale (buy one today!) and because the Egypt she likes is the Ptolemaic kind, she is, by default, into Greece. GREECE. I mean, sure, art, poetry, music, theater, democracy, philosophy, wine, pottery, sculpture, a million other things, but other than THAT, what did Ancient Greece really do? Am I right? I like the Romans with their aqueducts and their bread and circuses and their totalitarian government. That’s an ancient empire you can TRUST. All roads do lead to Rome, in my HEART. Emily was not amused….

But of course all this is to say, I like ancient history, in general. I’ve rarely met a river-valley civilization I didn’t like. Archeological museums are some of my favorite museums (in addition to…most other museums…) I appreciate modernity with it’s running water (which the Romans had) and modern heating (which the Romans also had) and rights for women (which the Romans, nope, no one ever has that) but sometimes I think I would have been better suited to another age. Or at least would like to visit on a field trip. Why does that technology not exist yet? Where is that funding stream? Am I right? But I digress.

So when I see a fabric that reminds me of something historical, it’s like crack. It’s really hard to get off crack, I hear, and it’s really hard for me not to buy this fabric. Four years ago, I encountered a fabric by Cloud 9 in Philadelphia that reminded me of Greece or Rome, or maybe Rome copying Greece, and I bought it, and I made a skirt and took it with me on a trip to Israel. You can read all about that here. I loved that fabric, but it came to me at a different point in my sewing life, a point at which my skills, while developing, where not what they are now. I still have that skirt, and I wear it, mostly for the fabric. So imagine my surprise and delight when I encountered that same fabric here in New York! Years later, different cities, the same fabric. I looked at it for a long time. I visited. I stopped by to say hello. I told myself I didn’t need more fabric, which is and was true. And then it went on sale. What’s a girl to do?

I bought it. And I made myself a shirt dress. And guys? I flipping love it.

HR 1I have wanted a shirt dress for a long time. I have wanted a good shirt dress PATTERN for a long time. After reading many reviews and admiring the many incarnations over at Dolly Clackett, I decided to break down and buy McCalls 6696, a classic shirt dress with two skirt options. This time, I opted for the full skirt, and boy, I do mean THIS time because I’m making this puppy again. What can I say? I love it.

HR 4As you can see, the fabric is amazing. It’s covered in little pots decorated in what at least to me looks like it’s the archaic style. The construction of the dress isn’t all that difficult, if a little finicky the way a collared shirt is finicky, lots of steps and little pieces. I’ve made enough collared shirts to get the construction, though, so that was easy enough. I love the way the pattern has a waistband piece, I think that’s very flattering.

HR 3Now, there is a slight amount of bust gaping, which, hey, my chest would make a pirate happy with its bounty, so I get that, but I would just adjust my button placement next time to account for that. Otherwise the bodice fits quite well.

HR 6UGH how cute is this fabric? LOOK AT IT! I want all my clothing to look like it’s a copy of a mural from Pompeii or something. Who doesn’t, am I right? (most people?).

The other thing that I find strange, not that the bust thing is strange, that’s pretty normal for me, is the pockets. They are strangely shallow. Who wants a shallow pocket? I would re-draft those for next time.

HR 5Annnnnnd the back. So. There is a lot of fabric in the back. Which is part of the design, but I don’t know, it might just be a smidge too much for me. I like it, in theory, but I think I would just like a little less of it. Thoughts?

HR 2But generally, this dress, I love it. I feel like I got a second chance with a fabric I can’t stop loving, and you know what? Nailed it. NAILED IT! I am happy to repeat history if it turns out this well. In a world of failure, victory is sweet. I learned that from the Romans. Thanks, guys! Watch out for those Huns. They’re a coming.

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Filed under Clothing, McCalls Patterns, Sewing

The Welcome Spring Outfit

(Please note, because of life events like weddings etc. some of these posts were intended to be up months ago and are only going up now. This is a phenomenon known as the “life gets away from your syndrome” and it is very common with all the people who are me. Sue me. Please don’t. I can’t afford it.)
Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems.

-Rainer Maria Rilke
Just what you want in a sewing blog, right? Rilke quotes? I know. You’ve been waiting forever. You’re welcome, Internet. Rilke. He’s back.
It is obviously quite ironic for me to be discussing Spring now that it is now officially and completely summer, but given how mercurial and cool the weather has been in New York I feel I can comfortably get away with this. Of course, these photographs were taken in Portland….but you get the idea. Seriously, I only know it’s summer because the calendar told me so. Although one thing I will say is, the spring flowers were out of control gorgeous in New York this spring. My friend Ben (hi, Ben!) told me that because we had a rough and snowy winter with the ground being frozen for so long we were due for magnificent flowers because the ground got so much water. And as he so often is, Ben was correct! Well done, Ben. But the flowers on the East Coast could not have prepared me for Portland.
Portland is my new favorite place. It reminded me of Philadelphia, one of my other favorite places, and they both have P names so there you go, I have a type. Mid-size cities on the rise, with lots of greenery and excellent food who are paced on the slower side. Why do I live in New York, again? (And by the way I’m MOVING to an even crazier city,, more on that later!) Mr. Struggle and I visited Portland in April (good lord, APRIL, has it been that long? Guys. My life. Work, my novel,  our second wedding,I can’t even.) and we decided this is our new dream city. First of all, the food. We had radishes with smoked butter at Ned Ludd and Dulce de Leche ice cream at Salt and Straw and divine wines (for me) and beers (for Mr. Struggle) all over the place and holy god, it was amazing. Mr. Struggle almost passed out from the intensely good Singaporean style of chicken he had at Nong’s Khao Man Gai that transported him back to Singapore and the many years he spent working hard to decimating its chicken population. Are there things other than food in Portland? Probably. Who knows. Mostly we were just trying to get from food to food, stopping for food in the middle.
And obviously if you are going to indulge in a food tour you need and outfit to match. Something comfortable but still cute, as one must maintain one’s standards of dressing even when visiting the casual wilds of the West Coast. One must keep up appearances, mustn’t one? Here is what I came up with:
WS 1My second attempt at Deer and Doe’s Chardon skirt with the correct pleats this time! Boom. LEARNING things. Like a boss. This is in fact another all Deer and Doe outfit, because the top is my beloved Plantain. I know that everyone’s ideal t-shirt is different, but I must say, this free pattern (!) came as a godsend to me, because this is mine. The only change I ever make, and I have made this thing innumerable times now, is to lengthen it.
WS 3
The fabric for this skirt is really something special. My friend Becca (hi, Becca!), like most of us, has a mother. Her mother, Mary (hi, Mary!) is also wonderful, just like Becca, and she has consistently given me amazing random gifts of fabric. This is a Liberty of London print from I don’t know when, in what feels like a lightweight upolstery fabric. Oh, how I love to dress like a sofa! A sofa with pockets!
WS 4
The shirt is a cotton jersey from Girl Charlee. Basic like a pumpkin spice latte.
WS 5I think it’s a little hard to see the pleats on this print, but in real life they are adorable! You’ll just have to trust me on that.
WS 6The ever popular jump shot! The people of Portland, bless them, didn’t bat an eye.
Oh, man, I have so many more posts to catch up on, including all the things I made for our second wedding (second of three, kill me now) and all the things I’ve been making to try and get rid of my fabric collection! Why would I do that? Am I quitting sewing? OF COURSE NOT. But I am moving! To Mumbai! Which is in India! And bringing fabric to India is like bringing sand to the beach. Don’t worry, I will still be blogging there, hopefully more frequently, as one of the many benefits of moving is committing more time to writing, both my dramatic and prose work, and my blogging. The move happens in September, so stay tuned for an outpouring of sewing for myself and others to diminish my stash in between novel revision, web series continuation, and the rehearsals for my new play, with sewing themes, coming to New York in August! You know. Lazy summer.

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Filed under Clothing, Deer and Doe, Friends, Life, Sewing, Travel