Monthly Archives: December 2016

The Twice In A Year Shirt

The title of this post is less reflective of the item I sewed than it is of the place where I had the photos taken. Because when you get a chance to see one of the seven new wonders of the world TWICE in a year, you….well, you sort of just do it because even though Agra is a total bitch of a sad one horse, one million cow town, and you really don’t need to fight through a thousand beggars, children trying to send you pens decorated with mirrors, and literal goats twice in your lifetime, when your mom wants to see the Taj, dammit, you lady-up and SEE THE TAJ. Twice. In one year. Ooo-pah!

Having guests in India is wonderful, especially when it’s my parents, but it’s also stressful, because you want to give people the best possible experience but there is a lot out of your control, and everyone’s tolerance for and understanding of the developing world is different. I’ve had guests eager to engage with India, and guests uncomfortable with the realities of India, and honestly, most of the time those are the EXACT SAME GUESTS, just in different moments in time. India is not for the faint of heart, and while I’m happy living in Mumbai, I’m not really the Indian tourism board over here, and I don’t feel any kind of need to convince others to like the country. Even the most luxorious trip to the sub-continent exposes travelers to the realities of the polarization of wealth, the divisions in culture, class and way of life, and the fact that day to day existence can be a real struggle, no matter how much money you can throw at the problem. Navigating India can be exhausting, hilarious, magnificent and strange, so when I have people come, I want to bear the brunt of that for them, with some (a ton of) help from what’s-his-face, but that sometimes means running a long monologue that goes like “okaywe’regoingtogodownthisstreetintothiscabdon’tfeedthatmonkeyIdon’tknowwhythatthingislikethathereissomebottledwateryesthat’sacownothat’sabuffaloyesthat’ssadokaylet’sgetoutofthecaryesit’scooltakeaphotookaylet’sgobackintothecar”. And so on.

Having been to the Taj Mahal twice now, traveling two separate ways at different price points, I can say with some confidence that getting to Agra is arduous, but possible, and however you do it, you are going to end the day sweaty, dusty, annoyed and exhultant, because not only did you see something awesome, YOU MADE IT BACK. Don’t discount either as victories. This time we took a car, true luxury indeed, and stuffed like sardines being jolted over every speedbump and pothole on the road, being driven by a man who knows that road like the back of his hand and deserves a medal for the kind of patience he displays driving in India, I guess 35 years working for the Delhi Board of Tourism will do that for you, we, like the Mughals who came before us, stared in wonder at the marble tomb of Shah Jahan’s favorite wife. We had to compete with thousands to do so, of course, but still. Worth it.

And while my parents marveled at the inlay and the carvings and the sheer gorgeousness of it all, I got what’s-his-face to snap some photos. What? You’re mad I didn’t fight through to see the actual tomb part once again? I’ve BEEN before, jeez….

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I know, I know, how are you supposed to care about the shirt with that background? My top, an Itch To Stitch Mila shirt, didn’t take nearly as long to make, I’ll be honest. But it was also a labor of love, does that count?

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Well I say labor, but it’s pretty easy. The placket instructions are excellent, and this is the second time I’ve made it, but never blogged the first. I lengthened it, and would even do a little more next time, frankly.

I got the fabric at my new favorite fabric place in Mumbai, Thakur Fabrics on Hill road for any locals. This shirt is dusty and wrinkled from the day exploring Fatephur Sikri (Akbar’s capital, built and then abandoned) and Agra, but you get the idea. The strain at the buttons is I think a by-product of the long day, because it fits quite well. I think I stitched up a 14 with the D Cup size, which is super comfortable, and I’m happy this shirt had cup sizes, I rarely see that in independent patterns! Well done, Itch To Stitch! It’s seriously a lovely pattern company, and I’m excited to explore other designs.

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I omitted the collar this time, but did one for my first version, and found it to be well drafted, etc. I guess I don’t have much to say about this shirt, the tricky thing is the placket at the front but it’s worth it, and this one is well designed and explained, so it’s easy to do well. I like the popover look! It’s cute, and while I thought it would make my already large chest look insane, it DOESN’T. So there you go, me and Shah Jahan, getting stuff DONE.

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I made the long sleeved version, although I had the sleeves rolled up for most of the day because although it’s chilly in the evenings in Delhi during the winter, climbing around monuments is hot during the day! I did some stripe playing, as you can see, with the cuffs and the placket.

ty-7And the collar, although I don’t know if you can really see that here….

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Little side view for you. It’s a very dramatic curve at the side seam, which is also why I would lengthen this even more next time. I think I did two inches this time, but I wouldn’t mind a little more, really…

Otherwise, love this shirt! Love this fabric, love this pattern, love all around!

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Obviously you needed a little Taj selfie. I mean, come on, if you don’t take a selfie at the Taj did you even really GO? Not according to the internet! I tried to get my parents on board but that means explaining what a selfie even IS and that’s just, that’s the kind of labor that would go into making a second Taj. Who’s got that kind of time?

 

So there you go! One last post for 2016. I hope you all have had a magnificent year, as painful as some parts of it have been, and for the love of god, let’s hope 2017 is better. Maybe I’ll go to the Taj like five more times. That’ll help, right?

 

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The Cuando Estas En El Caribe Romper

Guys, guys, I don’t know why I keep doing this to myself, but I think I might have become a sewing hypocrite. The things I say I’m never going to do become my NEXT THING TO SEW. The looks I judge, the things I disdain, end up on my sewing machine sooner or later, and I live in a combined cycle of excitement and shame. Maxi dresses, crop tops, wide-legged pants, I just keep on contradicting myself! It must be exhausting for you guys, or entertaining, I’m not sure which one. But as my clothing backlog grows, and grows, and grows, I have decided to pick the most interesting things I’ve been making to share, which of course end up being the most different ones, because if I share every plantain, archer, tiny pocket tank, scout tee and pleated skirt I made I would….never stop sharing them.

Does this happen to any of you? I’ve been blogging for a while now, sewing for over five years, and a lot of the stuff I make, while useful and fantastic and I’m happy to have it, doesn’t really seem all that, I don’t know, blog worthy. I am sure that sounds insanely silly, the idea of some things being blog worthy and some things not being blog worthy but I guess I feel like some of the things I make work out well, so I make them over and over again, and some of them turn out just okay, so I wear them or give them away, and not everything therefore makes the blog-cut. I know, the curation here is epic, it’s basically a Soho gallery it’s so specialized…

So here we are, in this strange new world where everything is awful, and I’ve made a romper. So I might be contributing to the negativity of the world, I don’t know. I DON’T EVEN KNOW ANYMORE. At what point did the romper normalize for me? I’ve been dismissive of it from the start, disdainful even, sure I would never don something so silly, let alone sew it. Although, I have realized that I’m far more adventurous when I’m making something, rather than in the days when I used to buy things. I guess sewing feels like an experiment of sorts, which is why in a blog post soon I will totally be displaying a pair of wide-legged culottes as part of my trying-new-things-that-probably-look-terrible-on-me series.

But before I show you this, let’s investigate why, perhaps, I’ve always been so anti-romper. I mean, what’s the problem, really? Part of my prejudice might have come from my association with the romper, as a garment I was first aware of in the 1980’s and 90’s. These were, I believe, dark times for the romper, or jumpsuit, whichever you prefer. Don’t believe me? See for yourself:

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OH boy. Am I right? If this is what you grew up thinking when you thought romper, wouldn’t you hate them too?

I would much prefer to have a vintage understanding of the romper, in fact, I would rather just call it a playsuit. Although maybe that’s the problem right there, really, beyond horrors of the 80’s and 90’s. A romper doesn’t really feel like a mature person’s garment. Oh, I know it is, that they can be formal now, I totally get that, but some part of me has always resisted the idea of the romper as anything more than imitating a child. So really, I suppose my disdain was my own headache, and nothing to do with the garment itself. It’s like how no matter how many times I see them, or no matter how many magazines tell me it’s a thing, I don’t ACTUALLY believe in the idea of “formal shorts”.

But childlike or not, I decided to make a romper. In fact, I’ve made two now, one as a wearable muslin I made for my birthday celebration, and this one, which fits better, so that’s the one you will get to see.

I have also, through this blog post, come to a revelation about By Hand London patterns. I love the idea of By Hand London, and maybe I’m not the right body type or who they draft for, but I have in fact never been fully satisfied by any of the four patterns I’ve made from the company. I really like them, I do, but I have had consistent fit issues with their patterns, which I always chalked up to my own errors as a seamstress, because the designs are so cute, and everyone loves them so much, myself included. But with the Holly Jumpsuit, the basis for this romper, I think I finally came to the realization that maybe this drafting isn’t for me. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s bad, but maybe just not for my body type. That being said, it’s an awful cute pattern, and if it turned the tide of the jumpsuit/romper/playsuit/whatever you want to call it in my mind, that’s probably worth the price of the pattern, right?

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So here you go, my very tropical romper! You might recognize the fabric from my Sleeping in the Tropics Pajamas, and I have a dress out of the same fabric too, so you can see I’m pretty into it.

img_20161127_124221So, this pattern. Sigh. It’s super super cute in theory, it really is. In practice, I found a few things that didn’t quite add up to the ideal romper of my dreams, something that I didn’t even know existed, but OH well. First of all, the girth of the pattern, that is, the measurement around the body from crotch to shoulder, (thank you costume shop for teaching me about this measurement!) is off, at least, for me. This might be because the rise of the crotch is too high, so there is that oh-so-comfortable feeling of fabric rising up your posterior. Fun. It’s mostly fine, but keeping the fabric from bunching means there is a lot of bosom on display here, as you can see, and there are still some crotch wrinkles that show you it’s not 100% magnificent, fit-wise.

Then there is the bodice. I cut a US size 14/UK Size 18, tapering down to a US 10/UK 14 in the waist. It’s a bit big all around the waist and back, and yet somehow also snug right along the bust line, I don’t know. I can’t imagine how big the waist would have felt if I hadn’t tapered it down, and yet the shorts on the first version, which I cut at the largest side, a US 16, were snug the first time around, so I added two inches all around. The pattern shows them to be wide legged, but the first time I made them the legs were a slimmish fit. I will say that By Hand London’s sizing is NOT great for my ego or sense of self, but that’s okay, if sewing teaches us anything it’s that sizing is totally arbitrary, although I’m kind of amazed that their’s is so off from other pattern companies. Now that I think about it, I’ve had similar issues with the Elisalex dress and the Anna dress in terms of bodice sizing being off and weird, soooooo, cool. I guess I will blame it on my boobs? Sure. Let’s go with that.

Man, that show is just the literal best.

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The tropical setting of these photos (taken on a recent trip to Puerto Rico while I was in the US last month, this outfit is NOT really India friendly, I will say….) reminds me of the kind of outfit I was sort of basing this romper on. I was vaguely inspired by the Esther Williams movie, On An Island With You, which features her, dreamy Peter Lawford, dreamy Ricardo Montalban, and amazing Cyd Charisse with much lighter hair than usual.

 

July 1947, Florida, USA --- Original caption: Esther Williams, movie actress, at Biscayne Key, south of Miami, Fla., while on location. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Man, she looked good in every damn thing under the sun, didn’t she? I love Esther Williams. Her movies are always dumb on some essential level but I would watch them forever. In this one she’s a movie star who entertained troops during the war, and this pilot she had met long ago, Peter Lawford and has forgotten is helping out with her latest movie but he’s in love with her, and he totally kidnaps her but it’s supposed to be charming, not a crime, and this is 100% #rapeculture but the dancing is great. And the costumes. Mmmmmmm.

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How is her hair always so great? Love all this 1940’s tropical print! Kind of channeling it here, right?

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….without the perfect hair. You can see the pulling at the crotch in this photo, sigh.

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I think it’s okay from the back, although again, I do tend to feel it riding up. I suppose I could lower the crotch seam next time, if I wanted to make this again, or maybe just as a pair of pants, but I don’t know if it’s worth it. I have a lot of pants patterns, I feel like maybe I should try one of those out…but I don’t know. I don’t love giving up on things, and this pattern is so cute in theory! Check out the line drawing:

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Ah, well. We are all imperfect, I suppose, and it got me over my romper-block, so here we are, in this brave new world. that has such clothing in it.

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It fits the landscape, at least! Before you ask, I’ve left this in San Juan, for the next time I’m down there. Hey, I said I had tried a romper, I didn’t say I’m going to make a habit of them or anything….

 

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Filed under By Hand London, Clothing, Sewing