Category Archives: Colette Patterns

The If One Can Toucan Dress

Ah, the well fitting woven wrap dress, a creature not unlike the Yeti, in that it is often discussed, frequently mythologized, and almost impossible to find, at least, if you have something going on up top.

You see, I love a wrap dress, I’ve said it before and I will say it again. I love it because its fun, it makes you feel like you are going out dancing in the 1970’s, but, thank goodness, you aren’t, not if you don’t want to be doing so. But the downside of the wrap is the neckline, an ever-shifting proposition that highlights slim sternums and reveals generous busts alike. I have made a certain amount of peace with my generous bust, but that doesn’t mean I want everyone to see it all the time, so a woven wrap dress, even more than a knit one, which has that lovely stretching ability, needs to have a neckline that stays in place for me, even as the rest of the skirt gears up for dancing, should dancing occur.

Honestly, on the subject of dancing, and this is just me personally, but I would much rather dance around my living room than in some kind of evening organization. I feel like going out dancing was probably a lot of fun in, like, 1952, and was probably a lot of fun if you like a drug-fueled mess in 1975, but now, going out dancing as a concept makes my head hurt, because I’m thinking about how loud it is. I think I’ve been to approximately 5 clubs in my life, my first at the age of 16 on a trip, and even then I remember thinking wow, this is really truly terrible. It’s just so loud, you can’t talk to anyone, it becomes a swirling mass of bodies, it kind of goes to a Bosch hellscape space for me.

Talk about Saturday night fever, am I right?

I am sure that there are many people who just love love love going out dancing right now, in 2019. I mean, something keeps the clubs in business, right? Here in Mumbai, many bars turn into a club at some point on a weekend evening, at which point What’s-his-face and I usually Irish exit that situation. Obviously for many, these are not Bosch’s hell, but his heaven, where you can dance around inside of blue raspberries and be cool.

Oy. For me, I would rather be dancing by myself, in a woven wrap dress of my choosing. And this is the wrap dress I’ve chosen!

And it’s covered in toucans!

Seriously, the print makes this dress.

The FABRIC makes this dress, actually, it’s light and floaty and excellent, and it feels like a breeze on my skin even on humid Mumbai days, or even hot Goa days! I wore this dress in Goa this weekend, and it was heavenly.

This is, would you believe it, a MUCH altered Seamwork Ruth dress? Well, it is! I removed the collar and finished the neckline in bias tape, and changed out the skirt for a circle skirt. Sliding it over a Seamwork Savannah top lengthened into a slip, it’s basically two Seamwork hacks in one!

I loved the shape of the bodice, the grown-on sleeves, I’m just very into that look right now, I don’t know why! We go through stages, right, of looks we love? Right now, I’m all about the sleeve that just blossoms from the bodice, what can I say?

I also like the blousy back, especially coupled with this floaty fabric.

In order to secure the neckline, I put a snap right at the point I wanted the wrap edges to meet and stay. So far, so good!

See, you get a hint of decolletage, but not, like, the whole sha-bang. The time before the Mumbai bar becomes a club, but not, like, the club time. Get it?

This was a great dress to swish around in while exploring Goa!

I feel like it fit the lovely charm of Colva and its Portuguese roots.

I can see this being a real summer favorite aka always favorite because I live in Mumbai right now and that is a land of endless summer.

I will not be bringing my toucans to any dance clubs any time soon, but I promise, we will be dancing all the same, just in a more on the street, in my apartment, basically anywhere that isn’t a dance club, sort of way. I think that’s what the toucans want, too!

Happy Me Made May, all! Hope it’s going well for you thus far!

 

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The Just Peachy Palazzos with an Escher themed Hoya

I was this close to naming these pants the Coral Palms pants because they are a beautiful shade a bright coral and you know I love me some Brooklyn Nine Nine, right? Oh, you didn’t?

OBVIOUSLY.

And that, in fact is why I could NOT name these pants the Coral Palms Palazzos, even though that is an excellent name, because how could I name my pants after a place where Perelta and Holt had so many miserable moments?

I couldn’t do that to them. They’ve suffered enough. When it comes to Florida, we all have.

So I went with a much less interesting name for a pair of pants that are anything but boring.

Let’s talk about pants, shall we? Specifically wide legged ones. There was a time when I might have shied away from such a style. Modern style tips will tell you that short people and wide legged pants are a recipe for disaster. But that’s not what the 1940’s taught us, now, is it?

Not in the slightest. So where did this come from, the idea that short women couldn’t enjoy their legs encased in miles of fabric just like tall women can? Of course, one might say, well, that’s not what is most flattering. But screw flattering. I get a lot of compliments on these pants, so, I mean, how much more flattered can I be?

A little background on the pants of le wide leg, or as men call them, pants.  These styles became popular in the 1930’s and 40’s, particularly because of a group of Hollywood actresses who wore them regularly as costumes and in real life, prompting trouser lust. In the late 1960’s, the style resurged, in some cases to combat anti-pants bias, because the loose flowy style didn’t have the “figure hugging vulgarity” so disdained at the time for the delicate fairer sex. We’ve seen a wide legged pant move in and out of style, of course, ever since, popping up to duke it out with the legging and the skinny jean more recently for supremacy.

In India, palazzo pants have recently come back in a big way, although here people literally call all non-jean non-legging pants like options palazzos which…is interesting. technically, according to Wikipedia, a palazzo is a pant that flairs out evenly from waist to ankle, although the waist definition often comes through darts or tucks.

As is the case with the Marett pant from Seamwork. Now, it is April here in Mumbai and everywhere else in the world, and while where I come from that means cherry blossoms and cute cardigans for Spring’s changing weather, here that means straight up summer. What fun. Summer in Mumbai is a long swollen season of humid days, sticky nights, and waiting for the rains (which also give you humid days and sticky nights, just wetter). While pants might seem like madness in such a period, wide-legged pants in a lightweight material are actually, I have found, just as comfortable as a skirt, and make for a nice change of pace for my dress/skirt heavy wardrobe. So I decided, it was time for me to go palazzo. While I’ve made wide-legged 1940’s trousers before, and will do so again, the palazzo was new to me, and so, clutching my pearls, hoping for the best, I dove right in.

But then, not to be an underachiever, I thought, why make ONE new thing when you could make TWO? So I also (finally) made a Hoya blouse from Deer and Doe out of the most delicate lightweight Bengali muslin possible, and I have to tell you, it’s a pretty winning combination in Mumbai right now!

Sidenote: Deer and Doe is so great. Their designs are amazing, of course, but also, when my package got lost in the mail on it’s way to India, they sent me a new one, no questions asked! What a wonderful company!

It’s a little hard to see the fabric of the blouse on me, but it’s this Bengali white muslin shot with black thread to make these lovely sort of Escher-esk designs. I bought it at Geeta’s Circle in Kolkata, which is my new favorite Kolkata fabric shop! It’s super light, which is why it’s probably good that the front part of this blouse is lined, which I had to do with a plain white fabric because I didn’t have enough muslin, because otherwise my bra woudl show. I stitched the hem facing and sleeve hems by hand and tacked down the faux-wrap, and while I like this blouse a lot, I wish it was just a little longer, and wider at the hips, sort of a bit swingier? I don’t know. But the shape is great, I will certainly be making it again!

Back to the pants! These are true fabric hogs, but I love it, especially in this bright bright fabric I got at Thakur. The fabric is lightweight but not translucent, and has a nice texture which you totally cannot see in photos.

I love how these pants have pockets. I am sure there are those who would say these are not the most flattered design on my short curved frame, but honestly, who cares? Why does everything have to be the MOST flattering all the time? These are comfortable as hell, they keep me cool, and I love them.

Plus, this color combination says Summer to me in a big way! I cut a size 12 of the palazzos, just to be safe, but ended up taking a lot out of the waist, about 4 inches, and I think I could go down to a 10 or an 8 on these, they are just that big. I wanted them comfy, though, so mission accomplished.

The back zipper is such a classic detail, don’t you think? I hand picked it.

For the Hoya, I think I cut a 48 because I was worried about the bust measurement, and that’s fine, fit wise, roomy but not a sack. I would, as mentioned before, lengthen it and widen out the hem for next time, but that’s just my preference. For wearing it with high waisted stuff, this style is perfect. I french seamed everything I could on both garments, and finished the hems of the pants with seam binding and hand stitching.

So there you have it. Trying new things, wearing the pants, staying one step ahead of the humidity. That’s me, in a nutshell.

 

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The Book of Ruth Dress

The biblical story of Ruth…has nothing to do with this dress. I don’t know, guys, sometimes it’s hard to make a catchy title!

That said, the story of Ruth and Naomi is very interesting,  because it’s about these two women who are related to each other in a way that is often seen as contentious, that is, they are daughter and mother-in-law, and yet their closeness was a big part of their survival. This is actually sort of close to the theme of my new novel, more on that in the months to come, so I don’t mind naming this dress which I love so much after that story, even if it has nothing to do with it!

That said, when was the last time you met someone named Ruth? It’s a name that I feel has gone out of fashion, although that probably means it will be soon in fashion again and there will be four Ruths in every kindergarten class. Isn’t it funny how names come in waves? When I was growing up I knew, like, 10 Sarahs. I have met many a Priya my age here in Mumbai, so obviously that had its moment. The Bachelor franchise is a great indicator for this, actually, whatever names (and made up names, I’m looking at you, people named Wes and Ames and Kalon and whatever the hell) were popular like 30 to 23 (shudder) years ago make their way onto those hallowed halls of ugly crying and right reasons.

At any rate, Seamwork toils hard monthly to give us new patterns with new names, and in January, that meant we got the Ruth Dress and the Sky Jumpsuit, so one named by Upper West Side Jews and one named by West Village hippies, both in 1965. As you know, I made Sky recently. But did you know I made Ruth, as well?

Well, NOW you do! And my friend DP took the photos, working hard to find a good background, thank you, DP! And they were on his phone in google photos and the powerful and might google made a GIF! It actually made two, but I will save the next one for the end. I don’t know why it does that, but I kind of love it? Maybe? I don’t know!

I really like this dress. I love the design, honestly. Sometimes I like Seamwork, sometimes I’m meh with Seamwork, and sometimes I straight up fall in love. This is one of those times. It combines many things I love and struggle to find the perfect version of. A woven wrap dress that doesn’t look like my breasts are going to explode out of it? A shirt-dress feel without buttons? A notched collar that doesn’t look like garbage? Check, check, and CHECK!

This was another print out that I realized had printed out of scale, so I cut out a twelve, but it is still a little big. I’ve just cut out another while slimming down the bodice and the waist. Who even knows what size that is? I sure don’t! Eh, whatever works.

The print is from Thakur, of course, obviously, always, and it’s sort of polka dots but it has a sort of floral or seed formation look, I don’t know, I like it! I feel like I wear a lot of bright colors these days, after all, pink is the navy blue of India, so it was kind of nice/odd to walk about in black and white. I did feel quite sophisticated, though! Something about this design just feels very put together (the dreaded phrase) to me, which I love, there is a polish but also a little bit of sexiness, what do you think?

I also love a blousy kimono sleeve.

The tie is subtle, which is nice, I don’t know, as I said, when Seamwork works, it really works for me! Which I guess is the point of constantly releasing new patterns, that you are going to appeal to different people every month and that diversifies your fan base.

It was quite windy when we took these photos! That said, it’s a good way to see that the two halves of the front skirt really do overlap completely, which is good, if you like that sort of thing, which I do!

Speaking of a wrap dress and boobs, I did add two snaps to the spot where the two sides of the dress cross to avoid wardrobe malfunctions aka showing the world which bra I’m wearing. Just a little insurance!

I am so into this dress, I can’t wait to make it all over again! What Seamwork patterns do you love? All? Some? None?

Happy dress dance!

 

 

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The Fruit Market Romper

You know how sometimes you ask other people for their opinions as a way to confirm your own, but you don’t really know that that is what is happening until you hear said opinions? Well, sometimes I think I might be like that with fabric.

On a trip to Vietnam with some friends (hi, Travis, Ben and Jill!) I obviously took advantage of being in the region, and my friendships, to seek out a fabric market in Hanoi and get my hands on some material. I bet it was kind of Hanoi-ing, right, guys? (I made that joke a thousand times on our trip. I am surprised we are all still friends.) They were wonderful sports about it, and even helped me pick out a few choice pieces, like this one:

Not only did I love it, I mean, come on, it’s got me written all over it, whimsy, check, fun colors, check, fruits I enjoy eating, well, I go back and forth on papaya but generally, check! I was into it. And so was Rubens!

I knew I loved this print, but what to do with it? Sometimes we buy for a project, but sometimes, the fabric, she calls to us, she wants to be with us, and we must take her home, although we know not what she will become. So I did that, thinking, okay, I mean, you are 31 years old, so, I guess, pajamas? That’s the sensible thing to do, right, pajamas? With a print like this?

Right?

But the fabric, she did not want that. She wanted to be seen, by people other than my husband, various delivery people, and Rubens! She wanted to feel the sun ripening her fruits, like the fruit markets of this region, bursting with life!

No, I thought, no, be sensible, be adult. Find something in a pinstripe, that’s what grown ups wear. Ask the internet said the fabric, consolingly. The internet will tell you that I am meant for greater things.  Well, I did that, absolutely, but the internet, sigh, she can be a fickle beast, and an Instagram poll had beloved viewers (aka like 7 people) split between keeping this fabric as an indoor only situation, and letting it roam free, like the many cows walking the streets of Mumbai.

But something interesting happened, something I imagine the fabric had planned all along, the fruity little vixen. The more people telling me that this fabric was only suitable for lounge attire, the less inclined I was to make a pair of pajamas out of it. My brain, my heart, rebelled. I rebelled against the idea that a 31-year-old, or anyone, at any age, shouldn’t wear fruit-covered clothing and feel good about it. I rebelled at the idea that there is inside and outside fabric. I rebelled at the idea that my beautiful slices of dragon fruit and watermelon and rather ripe bananas, and yes, even the papaya about which I feel no small amount of ambivalence, should be banished from the world, that the precious cloth I had brought with me over land and sea from Vietnam to Kolkata to Mumbai would not have it’s day in the sun.

Reader, I made a romper out of it. And I regret nothing.

Specifically, I made the Seamwork Sky romper.

As my past history may have taught you, I’m not much of a romper person. You have to take them off entirely to go to the bathroom which is a bummer, because you are essentially stripping down in public and I don’t want to do that unless someone pays me, thank you very much. But this design is SO cute, with the obi style belt and the loose bodice and v neck, I was into it. And I like the dress hack Seamwork presented too, so I figured, try it out!

This pattern, however, like the Rachel I recently made, I didn’t print to scale. (I printed like, three patterns at once not to scale, I don’t know how this happened. ) But this time I saw it coming, and sized down to a ten in the waist, and a twelve in the hips and bust. It is still…generous, in sizing, But I like that. I actually think one of the big romper issues across the board is girth, so this was pretty nice!

I would size down or maybe re-print the bodice, though, for another iteration, because the back is so blousy.

Oh, I also made it shorts because…I live in Mumbai, so…..

It’s a little lower cut than I thought it might be. that might be because of this scale thing, or because my cleavage meter is totally different here in India than it is outside of India.

I love that this has pockets. Obviously. The belt, by the way, is a little longer in the original pattern but I shortened it because…I was running out of fabric. WHATCHA GONNA DO.

This is pretty easy to sew up, although it’s construction was very interesting and kind of a cool challenge, one I recommend to others, it’s good to make your brain do new things!

I included the facings, which is rare for me, I usually go bias tape, but I hand stitched them down on the inside because I hate facing flap.

So here it is. My fruit fabric got its day in the sun, and I got a reminder that I get to decide what is and isn’t outdoor fabric. Spoiler alert? It’s all outdoor fabric. All of it.

 

 

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The Charming in Chittorgarh Shirt

This shirt and its fit are a direct product of my computer printing this pattern at the wrong scale and me straight up not noticing because I trust machines and how are we in a reality in which it is possible to TRUST machines? The fears we have long dismissed are true! The robots are talking over, and it starts with blowing up the scale of my sewing patterns!

Or maybe not.

But as you know from this post, I really enjoyed the Seamwork patterns Rachel Shirt, although I found it curiously big (WELL NOW I KNOW WHY, you know what, maybe it’s not the robots, maybe I was just being totally out to lunch…) Of course, I cut two things from the pattern without testing the fit so that tells you something about how being in a land of endless fabric has really spoiled me. I stitched this shirt up in a hurry so I could take it with me on a trip to Udaipur, with visiting friends, because I knew that pairing this light pseudo-Japanese fabric (I have no idea if it is from Japan or just copied to give out that vibe, ah, India, you are a delight), with long sleeves, would make it perfect for Rajasthan in the winter, whose days are sunny and bright but quickly turn chilly.

And indeed I did! I was able to complete it on time and bring it with me to Udaipur, where I took it even further out to Chittorgarh, a gorgeous Medieval Indian fort with a mixed (aka grim) history. It’s withstood many a siege, and seen many a suicide, and it was the setting for a recent movie with a lot of controversy around it called Padmaavat, which is based on this epic poem but which some people think is real, which is all part of the whole damn thing. It’s complicated. If you are curious, you can read about the mythical figure of Rani Padmini, and here are some interesting (very feminist) takes on the movie.

At any rate, it’s a gorgeous place, and I hope my shirt did it justice!

It really turned out as more of a tunic, but that’s big in India, so no matter! The construction was simple and the size is meaningless because the scale is so off, but it’s light and comfortable and I’m into it! Sometimes accidents make for good garments.

It has sleeves! See, I proved it.

I just did a pleat in the back instead of the full longer tuck, which frankly, this garment could have used. Ah, well.

It’s very blousy and billowy, but I’m okay with that. It feels a little hip art teacher, which I always enjoy.

Here I am by one of the old fort entrances.

It’s it beautiful? But what was even more amazing was that I saw Tiya Sircar, aka Vicky from The Good Place, and told her how talented she is. So it was a pretty good day, I gotta say.

That’s about it on this shirt! It was easy, useful, and I’m into it. Regardless of the robots.

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The Kill The Tailor Outfit

I recently attended two weddings in a row. Now, contrary to popular belief, not all weddings in India are approached via elephant. This is a sad reality of India, but I have learned to live with it. However, there are many weddings in India, at any given moment, because of course there are many weddings in the world, but now is the high season, and because there are so very many PEOPLE here, the odds that you might have a wedding to attend between the months of October and March are, shall we say, high. And so it came to pass that I had two weddings to attend and nothing to wear to them.

I mean, I had literal clothing, obviously, I don’t walk around naked all day, that would be frowned upon, and in some parts of the world rather chilly. I even had nice clothing, but the dress code to these weddings was Indian wear, and this presents a problem for me. You see, I don’t have a lot of Indian fancy clothing. I don’t have a lot of Indian clothing, period, but this specific region is hard because it is expensive, and rather exclusive to certain events, of which I don’t attend all that many. I have my wedding lengha, which is far too grand for someone else’s wedding, because then I’m like, trying to be the star, and I have two beautiful saris that I don’t know how to pleat, or as they say here, tie, despite the fact that there is almost no tying involved in getting a sari on your body. So short of begging for a neighbor’s help, which I have done, not a great look for me, I wasn’t really sure what to do. I wasn’t all that confident in my abilities to sew something in the fancy Indian space, and buying something of quality is extremely expensive, which just feels like, is this worth it for something I don’t use all that much?

So I decided to have something made, something people do all over the country. It seemed like the perfect solution, ideal, even, and fun! I usually do all the making, but having something made seemed like a fun way to copy something beyond my talents. I met with a tailor in Kolkata, gave him my fabric and my image of a dress to copy which is a flagrant violation of copyright and totally something people do every day, and waiting for my dress.

Except he DIDN’T copy it. He made something else entirely, something bizarre, which was delivered to me a mere 7 days before wedding number 1.

Oh dear.

I was, to put it mildly, displeased. My mother-in-law, who was with me, wisely chose not to translate all of my cursing into Hindi, but did communicate to the tailor that this was not, shall I say, what had been asked for. Apologetic, he assured us that he could fix it in time.

I have yet to receive it.

When people ask me why I make my own clothing, I am going to tell them it is because I don’t trust anyone else in this world. Seriously.

I sprang into action, and dashed (walked at a normal pace) to a fabric shop in Kolkata and threw together an idea. I hauled it all back to Mumbai and sewed like a maniac, grateful my office was closed after the 24th so I could have time to get this done. As my friend sped her way to my apartment, I was handstitching my hem and praying she hit traffic.

She did. It’s Mumbai. Everyone does.

And as she entered my home, I was arranging my dupatta, the sort of scarf you will see in a moment wrapped around my body. I did it, people. I made an Indian wedding outfit. In, like, two days. And that was the last time I went to a tailor, ever.

These photos are MEH but you get the gist.

From wedding number 2!

So what, exactly, did I do? Well, I was like, okay, a lengha is basically a big full skirt with a choli, or blouse, and a dupatta. And a choli is basically a fitted crop top, or a bodice. So, I can make each of those things, right?

Right.

The choli is actually a Colette Patterns Claudia bodice with snaps inserted on the left side, rather than a zipper down the back.

The skirt, I draped. The dupatta? I stitched a border on a piece of net and called it a DAY, people.

BUT IT WORKS! So WHATever, man, I did it.

I was lucky, of course, because really the fabric is aces, and that makes all the difference. The blouse is a cotton-silk blend which makes it super comfortable, and the skirt is a beautifully worked net over that cotton silk over cotton, to give it body and heft.

It’s very subtle with cream, peach, blue and mint. I adore it.

Rubens approved. He fought with the scraps for a bit, and then declared a stalemate to snooze.

So there you have it. Speed sewing, an Indian outfit, and a loathing for the tailor.

Which hopefully didn’t show in my “wedding appropriate” smile.

See? You can hardly see all the rage in there at all! I wore it all out making this outfit.

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The Whale Tale Dress

I write, briefly, in praise of Seamwork. I am sure you know about Seamwork, but just in case you don’t, Seamwork is the digital magazine created by Colette Patterns which releases patterns monthly as part of the magazine. The original idea was that these patterns be ones a sewer could stitch up in less than three hours, although I think that is no longer the case, given the fact that they have released some outerwear and trouser patterns! But I digress. The point is, over the years in which Seamwork has been a thing, they have released scores and scores of patterns, along with fascinating articles and ideas for pattern hacks, for an excruciatingly reasonable price. Sometimes I like the patterns, and sometimes I don’t, but that’s sort of the point, right? Releasing patterns all the time means that people have endless options, and that I can wait for the item that fits my style.

Of course, a psychologist/Don Draper might critisize me for my constant hunger for the new. Seamwork is the Instagram of pattern sources, always offering me something new, eager to present me with options rather than forcing me to evaluate what I already have. But as someone who likes to try new things, but also feels she has to get her money’s worth, I tend to make patterns over and over again, partially because I like them, I’m not insane, but partially because I feel like they need to earn their keep, and that can make my sewing a little, well, boring. New patterns stimulate and challenge me, and I like that I don’t have to feel that I wasted money on something I only made once, or that I have to make something work in multiple iterations if it just doesn’t. Does anyone else out there have this dilemma, that when you spend 20 dollars on a pattern you have to make it over and over again or you will feel guilty? Ah, guilt, my constant companion, welcome home.

And while they might not all be three-hour speed racers, they are all pretty simple, in their way, and yet I do learn from them, which I love. I am constantly impressed by the team at Seamwork for their designs and ideas, and this month was one of those times when I saw the new releases and almost sprained my finger trying to download them as quickly as possible. And then I taped, cut, traced, cut, and went to sewing, throwing everything else to the side, because I was extremely eager to wear Rachel.

The Rachel shirt (and bonus tunic/dress hack), is your straightforward button down, but the thing is, I’ve been looking for one of those! Isn’t it delightful when things come to you right as you decide you need them?

Of course, I have made the Grainline Archer many a time, but while I love it, I don’t know, the fit has never been 100% right. And yet I never tried another button down! I shop around for zucchini, I try three shops for cat food, but I never tried to make a different button down pattern. Maybe I am insane….

So I went ahead and cut two out! Which I maybe shouldn’t have done until I tested the fit but OH well…..A long sleeve shirt version is still on my sewing table, paused because of a weekend in Kolkata from which I have only just returned, ready to complete it, but I knocked out a short-sleeve version of the tunic/dress last week, and harassed What’s-his-face until he took my picture. So here you go, my first iteration of Rachel (can’t quite shake that “make multiple” thing yet) in a fabric I can only describe as magnificent, one in which I am as happy as a clam, as playful as a dolphin, as optimistic as an octopus, because it is covered in whales:

You see, when you wear fabric printed with animals, you can never be truly lonely, because you are never alone!

I adore adore adore this fabric, and I like the way this turned out, eventually, but I gotta say, there were some bumps on the road.

I wanted this to be a dress, rather than a tunic, but I have to say, the (absolutely gorgeous) model they used must have legs for days because I lengthened this a few inches and it was on the way to a maxi, then I cut it back to the original hem length and it’s still at my knees! That’s fine, makes it India appropriate, but jeez, way to make a girl feel short!

 

That’s okay, I can’t stay mad at this dress, look at the whales!

Thinking about my bust measurements alone, I cut a 14,  because I figured the rest would be big but that was fine. But when I tried this on, I was SWIMMING in it. Instead of the slim skirt I admired from the photo, I had a tent. Okay, I thought, this is on me, I wanted a roomy bust and got a roomy everything! But the bust ease was also a lot more than I had planned for, and I ended up taking in the sides over and over again in little degrees, trying to make this less of a tent while maintaining the ability to get into it, because the buttons only go to the waist, so I worried that I would reduce it to the point that I couldn’t, ya know, get into it.

I think I ended up taking out like, 8 inches on each side. Oy. Next time I will just cut a size 10 or 8, and grade out at the bust if I’m nervous. It’s still quite loose fitting, which is of course the design, but while my whales are happy swimming, I don’t want to be!

I kind of like the fact that there is no yoke, although I also love a yoke. Variety, it’s the spice of life!

Of course, I can always belt it, but it’s nice to have it be loose and airy in the Mumbai heat. I love to wear things like this at home when I’m writing, because it is comfortable but I don’t look like I was raised by wolves. That’s the sweet spot, right there.

You can see the waist seam here. The collar is a little smaller than the Archer, which I like. For the sleeves, I used the original sleeve pattern and just shortened it.

I’m so happy with my whales. And my shoes!

Aren’t they cool?

That about wraps up my Rachel. Do you guys like Seamwork? What is your pattern use philosophy?

Oh, and one last thing, if you, like I do, love the ocean, the many animals and plants that live in it, and want to protect, conserve, and help oceans, consider a little year-end donation to Oceana!

 

 

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The Blue in Brera Dress

Recently, I was at this very cool Durer show in Milan, because my life is REALLY THAT GLAMOROUS, with my friend Liz, because she is amazing and we like to meet in delightful places and talk about how delightful we are, and there was a line in the (very extensive, mayhap too extensive?) wall text which described Milan as “the undisputed design capital of Europe”. Which….I feel like there actually might be a few people who WOULD dispute that, I don’t know, Paris, maybe? But sure, why not, let’s give it to Milan, because it really is an unbelievably fabulous city jam packed with stylish people walking past stylish buildings, doors that open to elegant interior courtyards, food that makes me want to drop everything and work in one of these kitchens, and charm to spare.

It was so hard to leave the amazing residency I attended, which was tranquil and calm, tucked into the hillsides of Piemonte. It is a really amazing place, and one you might want to consider when thinking about artists residencies, for any of you artists out there! You can also visit for other purposes, and I would strongly advise you do so. But at any rate, while it was jarring to return to busy streets (to think, I am calling Milan busy, I live in Mumbai!) and the hubbub of human life, it was also delightful because Milan is simply great. Sophisticated but welcoming, sleek but homey, with grand avenues and cute tiny streets both in spades, I enjoyed myself immensely, and so did Liz, oh, and what’s-his-face, who was also there! In fact, I made him take these photos of me after we visited the Pinacoteca di Brera, a lovely museum in the Palazzo Brera, a palace in the heart of Milan’s Brera neighborhood. Once the artistic capital of Milan, now it is a chic area of tons of fancy designer shops and thronged with tourists, but I can’t complain, I was one of them.

As I so often do when I travel, I went to the art museum, not the modern one(s), (Milan is modern as hell), but the historic ones. The Pinacoteca di Brera is a lovely collection of some excellent pieces in a very digestible way, i.e. it’s not extremely overwhelming but it has some top tier stuff, and the building is really pretty. Ah, Italy, full of urban mansions and palazzi, why you gotta be so charming? This is why said tourists do said thronging….

If you are in Milan and into this sort of thing, you should totally check out this museum. It has this stunning Rubens:

And this excellent Caravaggio:

Man, Caravaggio, am I right? What a baller. Actually, it’s funny, the first time I ever saw one of his paintings was also in Italy which…makes sense, and it was this one:

Which is in the many many rooms of art you see on the way to the Sistine Chapel and my mother, to whom I owe so very much, pointed it out to my brother and I. We’ve both been pretty hooked ever since.

After enjoying all this, What’s-his-face and I went to La Latteria San Marco for some spaghetti con limone y peperoncino (spaghetti with lemon and chilies) which was life altering but NOT before I made him take these photos of my new Colette Patterns Claudette Dress!

This is the second version of this dress that I have made, and the first, while cute, had some bodice wonkiness. I mean, I’m still going to WEAR it, already have, at least twice, but it is not for le blog. But this one turned out well, partially because I was more careful making it and partially…nope, that’s it, that’s the only reason.

So without further ado, here you go!

I mean, sure, it’s no Caravaggio, but it’s still pretty cute!

I picked up this fabric at, you guessed it, Thakur, after someone I am teaching to sew snagged some for pillows. So I’m basically wearing her couch. I DON’T CARE! It’s lovely, a nice contemporary ikat-style fabric with a good weight so its sturdy and holds its shape in the sheath.

You can kind of see the lining in this photo, sigh, sorry, I didn’t have an iron with me! AH well, at least you know I lined it, now!

I love this dress. Seriously, I really do. I cut a 12, for the hips, and did a full bust adjustment and then took the waist in about an inch or so I would have some wiggle room (GET IT?) but still have it be fitted. In this iteration I made the version with two large bust darts, rather than the princess seams.

I feel like there is a SMIDGEN of breast-flattening happening here, still, but it’s pretty cute nonetheless.

I’m not NOT proud of my stripe matching, I think given the darts on this sucker this was the best I could do. AND THAT IS GOOD ENOUGH!

And I’ll murder anyone who says differently, got it? But I really am into this make, and I’m so glad it was a lovely day in Milan so I could get this one photographed. The weather turned chilly and rainy soon after, and anyone who has been following my instagram Me Made May stories can probably tell that I’ve been recycling a few outfits over and over and praying for a warmer day. Luckily it’s turned slightly warmer here in Parma, from which I write this post, and looks like it will be nice in Venice, were we end our Italian adventures, and lovely in New York and Philadelphia, to which I will be heading afterwards, so fear not, my Me Made May outfits are sure to improve!

I have no construction notes, this is easy to put together and I french seamed the skirt and the sleeves. I did not, as instructed, hand stitch them. That sounds….exhausting. I got places to be, people! In Milan! Or whatever!

I hope you are having a lovely May, me made or otherwise!

 

 

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#MakingMaisel Pattern Ideas

Happy Monday, all! My gift to you is some pattern inspiration to help you figure out how to make that Maisel costume into the outfit of your dreams. I still haven’t decided what I’M doing yet, although I do know that I’m going to make SOMETHING in a wool, potentially a raspberry or a grey, classic Midge power colors. Know what I mean?

Now, of course there is the option for this one to go vintage pattern, and I may well be taking it, honestly, but thank goodness we live in a world that also gives us the opportunity to buy vintage reproductions, in a multi-size pattern, that we don’t have to worry about scaling or changing or damaging throughout the sewing process, am I right?

So here are some of my thoughts, although I welcome your ideas too!

Obviously, the outerwear is amazing. I don’t know if I can justify this to myself because…when would I wear it, but gosh, I’m tempted, aren’t you? All those gorgeous coats, so impractical with no closures, so amazing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luckily, there are some options for you if this is your deal.

 

 

 

The obvious contender, and it’s already in raspberry! IT’S A SIGN.

Also an option.

Sometimes these dress patterns sneak in a coat pattern. LUCKY FOR US!

The Colette Patterns Lady Grey would also work as a tribute piece!

I feel like if you made that up in a wool it would totally echo that tan coat Midge is sporting above, no?

This is technically not a coat but, I just, I die:

Separates:

The men of Maisel rock a separate, and Susie is all about a jeans and knit top combo, with her leather jacket, natch, but more often than not, Midge and Imogene are in dresses. Rose is all about a suit, very appropriate for her age in that period, and Rose is all ABOUT appropriate, as we know. This would totally be the time to make a suit, if anyone is itching to do that, but for now, I’m going to focus on the more unconventional separates the show gives us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love Midge in pants, so beatnik chic! There are some great options for that flat-front 1950’s look that was so popular, apparently people felt that the zipper front on women was vulgar.

I have been searching for a cute 1950’s blouse pattern for YEARS, any leads? But for the turtleneck, look no further than Seamwork!

Shorten Neelah into a shirt and there you go!

This outfit is a popular one on the internets, maybe because it’s so contemporary looking? I like the color combo, though, so bold! For this one, you might like the combo of Colette patterns Selene with a knit tee in a merino wool. Oooohhh, that would be cute…

 

And of course, who doesn’t love Midge’s work out gear?

 

For the shorts, I think the Weston shorts are a solid option:

 

You could also lengthen these to make Susie’s high waisted pants!

And the Astoria sweater would be too cute for Midge OR Susie! Material is everything.

And for the leotard, I mean, look no further than the Closet Case Nettie…

 

 

Okay, okay, fine, let’s get to the dresses!

I love literally everything each of these women is currently wearing.

 

This simplicity number feels right on the money! Add a bow, it’s there!

 

The top is a little off, but I think you could alter this one to make it work, and I love that back detail! It also reminds me of this number:

And then we have this one:

This one is a little intense, but also excellent. And look at that, a near-perfect pattern match!

Oh, love it all. LOVE IT ALL! Nothing exact here, but some options for an approximation:

 

Colette Patterns Claudette Dress, a classic!

Love those design lines.

And then of course, the party wear:

Now, Gertie said she might be developing something similar in an instagram post, so, ya know, maybe? But this is also not terrible:

And of course, the dress that requires pearls:

Oh, hello, lover. I mean, look, I have no idea if anything will ever be this good in terms of FIT, but in terms of LOOK, I humbly offer a few options:

Siiiigh. I had nothing for the men, honestly, although I’m happy to source that if anything is going there….

What do you guys think? Any other ideas of great patterns to use? Any real vintage favorites?

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Filed under Butterick Patterns, Closet Case Patterns, Clothing, Colette Patterns, McCalls Patterns, seamwork, Sewalong, Sewing, Simplicity Patterns, Vintage

The Orientalist Dress

Thanks for the positive responses on the sew-along, people! The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel won TWO golden globes last night, so now you HAVE to see it, am I right? I will be posting in upcoming weeks with pattern ideas, and some giveaways, but for now, just comment on the original post if you are interested!

The thing about being interested in sewing and textile, once your friends know about it, is sometimes you become, like, that person, you know what I mean? You are someone’s sewing friend. This is often fantastic, because people give you fabric (thank you, friends!) and sewing supplies, and send you cool articles about textile and stuff. Sometimes this is not as fantastic, like when people think you are their new free tailor and bring you broken zippers to mend. And sometimes it can sort of, well, be a little ambivalent when you are moving out of New York and the Met has a huge textile show and everyone suggests it as a fun friend activity and you end up seeing China through the Looking Glass THREE fricking times even though, from a curatorial standpoint, it was worth one.

But, hey, I mean, I got to know this bowler hat really well, soooooooo, win some, lose some.

Whatever my issues with this exhibit, which, while interesting, did not achieve any of the depth or breadth of knowledge OR commentary that, say, Interwoven Globe or Global Fashion Capitals did (am I a museum exhibit snob? OBVIOUSLY. What, this your first time here?) I can’t say it didn’t stick to my consciousness, especially living here in India, the land of fabric, where the idea of clothing and textile exchange has been reflected and refracted and remade and reused and absorbed and rediscovered and rejected. The sari is a political garment, don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t, and the clothing that people, women, really, wear here in India has a moral and social consequence. One could, of course, argue that this is the case everywhere, but I have yet to visit a place where it is so visible, so much a part of daily life, and yet so rarely discussed. Indian women know what to wear in which location, what keeps them safe, of course, nothing really keeps anyone safe, in the end, but perhaps what gives the illusion of safety, of appropriateness, of invisibility, which is of course the only safety any of us can try and bank on, that if we are not seen we will not be hurt. Adding the layer of physical security on top of layers of history only makes textile and clothing here all the heavier, despite the lighter weaves.

There are a thousand and one opinions about appropriation in art, but I would argue that when it comes to clothing, the history of the world can be written in a garment, and often is. Global garments stretch far back into history, and perhaps there are those who see me, in my ikat fit and flair dresses, stitching up block printed fabrics into 1950’s patterns, as an appropriator of the worst kind, but I would say it’s homage, not theft. Of course, Picasso tells us, “Bad artists copy, good artists steal”, but maybe that’s the problem, there, maybe if we acknowledge that we are borrowers, and lenders, the accusation of theft and desecration wont hang so heavy over art and art making. Polonius gave a lot of bad advice as well as good, perhaps we should throw that one away, and make things that proudly say, I borrow from here, I’m using this, but I promise I’m not the only one, you can have it back when I’m done, or better yet, there is more than enough to share. Is culture a finite resource? I hope not. I might be using up too much.

When I saw Colette Pattern’s new pattern release, Prudence, I couldn’t help but think both of China Through the Looking Glass (I mean, see a think THREE TIMES it’s going to live in you, you know what I mean?) as well as much smaller but lovingly curated show at MOCA, Shanghai Glamour. I have always loved the way a qipao, or cheongsam, looks, but have never worn one, partially through a fear that I would be a little appropriative or costumey, and partially because I hadn’t found one that worked with my, er, frame. This show, Shanghai Glamour, in fact demonstrates part of my very point, which is, that the qipao as it exists today is an amalgamation of East and West, it is history in a garment, it represents a traditional shape that has been altered through Western-influenced tailoring to create a unique garment that evolved and changed over time. Take a look at Suzy Wong:

 

Chinese silk, traditional idea, with a bullet bra and darts for days. Nothing we do is new, is it?

Back to Colette. The dress reminded me both of the qipao, hey, we call it a MANDARIN collar for a reason, remember, and also 1940’s Western styles echoing Chinese influence in Western shapes:

 

 

And I knew I had to have it. And I love it, I do, because somehow the confluence of vintage glamour and Asian influence just, sort of, I don’t know, speaks to my life, I guess?

I mean, I also just think it looks great, let’s be real.

I cut a size 12 in Colette, tapering down to a 10 at the waist. The result is slightly loose at the waist, but still a nice amount of definition, for that sweet spot of, I look nice and I can eat. Both vitally important things!

The bust is generous in this pattern because of the shape, so I didn’t have make adjustments, which is always nice.

I made a few changes, most notably moving the zipper to the back, which has resulted in a slightly tighter neck, which puts a bit of a strain on that cute little button there, I must say. This is 100% my bad, I didn’t add any extra seam allowance so…that’s on me. It’s still really lovely and comfortable, but for next time, I’m thinking of going with a shorter flared skirt, I will totally add a little breathing room. I made a thread loop for the fastener, that’s always fun!

All in all, this puppy got a lot of hand sewing, part of my vow to try and take a bit more time with stuff. I stitched down all the facings by hand, as recommended, as well as hand picking the zipper and hand stitching the hem. Otherwise, it’s all french seamed, natch. It’s kind of nice to take the time to hand sew, I guess? I don’t know, I suppose it’s a little soothing. You can see I used a non-matching zipper in this photo, it usually is hidden, ah well.

The fabric, you might note, is also vaguely Chinese influenced, look at that butterfly!, but it’s a rayon I bought at Mangaldas Market. It has a nice drape, and didn’t break the bank, which is good because this dress eats up a nice amount of fabric.

It’s all the skirt, though, and why does the skirt need so many panels, I ask you? It has, like, 6, I did so many french seams, what’s that about? I feel like a straight piece of fabric could have gotten that done, just saying.

Well, I supposed that’s all I’ve got to say about this process. I am a big fan of this dress, and I will make another soon with a shorter skirt.

So I leave you with this photo, which I like:

And this quote from Rushdie, who I love, from the only book he’s written that I really disliked, but the quote is good, so I can let it go:

“Disorientation is loss of the East. Ask any navigator: the east is what you sail by. Lose the east and you lose your bearings, your certainties, your knowledge of what is and what may be, perhaps even your life. Where was that star you followed to the manger? That’s right. The east orients.

That’s the official version. The language says so, and you should never argue with the language.

But let’s just suppose. What if the whole deal – orientation, knowing where you are, and so on – what if it’s all a scam? What if all of it – home, kinship, the whole enchilada – is just the biggest, most truly global, and centuries-oldest piece of brainwashing? Suppose that it’s only when you dare to let go that your real life begins? When you’re whirling free of the mother ship, when you cut your ropes, slip your chain, step off the map, go absent without leave, scram, vamoose, whatever: suppose that it’s then, and only then, that you’re actually free to act! To lead the life nobody tells you how to live, or when, or why. In which nobody orders you to go forth or die for them, or for god, or comes to get you because you broke one of the rules, or because you’re one of those people who are, for reasons which unfortunately you can’t be given, simply not allowed. Suppose you’ve got to go through the feeling of being lost, into the chaos and beyond; you’ve got to accept the loneliness, the wild panic of losing your moorings, the vertiginous terror of the horizon spinning round and round like the edge of a coin tossed in the air.

You won’t do it. Most of you won’t do it. The world’s head laundry is pretty good at washing brains: Don’t jump off that cliff don’t walk through that door don’t step into that waterfall don’t take that chance don’t step across that line don’t ruffle my sensitivities I’m warning you now don’t make me mad you’re doing it you are making me mad. You won’t have a chance you haven’t got a prayer you’re finished you’re history you’re less than nothing, you’re dead to me, dead to your whole family your nation your race, everything you ought to love more than life and listen to like your master’s voice and follow blindly and bow down before and worship and obey; you’re dead, you hear me, forget about it, you stupid bastard, I don’t even know your name.

But just imagine you did it. You stepped off the edge of the earth, or through the fatal waterfall, and there it was: the magic valley at the end of the universe, the blessed kingdom of the air. Great music everywhere. You breathe the music, in and out, it’s your element now. It feels better than “belonging” in your lungs.”

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Filed under Clothing, Colette Patterns, history, Sewing, Vintage