India is a heaven for fabric lovers, not just today, but for the last 500 years. India’s fabric production has always been stellar, and the abundance of materials and labor here have created a long history of spectacular cloth. There have been mentions in sources dating back to the 12th Century discussing printed cloth from India, and textile trade went first east, to Malaysia and China,and then, with the growth of European overseas trade, west, to France, England, Holland and Portugal. The magnificent printing and dyeing techniques, Indian innovations, made the cloth from India endlessly valuable and exploded into the European mentality, exciting tailors and customers alike. Textile trade changed the world, and that’s not an overstatement. Interwoven Globe was a fantastic show at the Met about it two years ago, if anyone got a chance to check it out, and it described these global trade networks and their significant beautifully.
The more time I spend in India, the more amazing fabrics I see and learn about. There are so many varieties, methods of creation, techniques and options that it’s wildly overwhelming sometimes, int he best possible way. But I would say that one fabric which most people think of when they think about Indian fabric is block printed cloth, and with good reason. It’s beautiful, it’s interesting, and it screams “Indian fabric”, especially if they’ve put an elephant on it.
Block printing emerged as a popular method in Northern India, specifically Rajasthan, in Medieval India. Soon Surat in Gujarat became the center of fabric trade in India, with painted and printed fabric prized for its colors and complicated dying techniques.
I recently had an opportunity to visit the Anoki Museum of Hand Printing in Jaipur, and I have to say it was a fantastic experience. I would recommend it for all fabric lovers who visit India. So I’m sharing some of my photos with you to entice you into visiting! It’s really an awesome place in a restored Haveli filled with so much wonderful information and fabric and you can buy locally printed stuff in the shop and the cafe is excellent. Seriously, it’s fantastic! I learned so much about block printing, and I’m so happy to know more about this fascinating process which has so many iterations and significance.
This is quite a complicated method which is now cheaper imitated, but the real thing was prized by emperors and kings.
The black on white is a very traditional motif.
Men in Rajasthan are big on turbans, with different styles for different communities and even for different jobs.
Textile is so important in this area, and there was a whole codification of fabric, who could wear which cloth, etc. There were fabrics for widows, unmarried women, married women, craftsmen of different kinds, nobility, royalty, etc.
See? It’s crazy! Beautiful and uncomfortably restrictive. That’s India for you in a nutshell.
Not so traditional outfits made by modern designers using block prints.
There are demonstrations of the craft, which is amazing. Four blocks make up one small design and this man moves SO fast. He asked me if I wanted to try, but I just wanted to watch him work.
This amazing man is a block maker. Too. Cool.
Blocks are made from wood and metal
Here are a few of the MANY tools that go into make a block
Here are the blocks for the tie-dye method.
This shows the stages of the dying process. That’s 15 stages for one design!
Kind of amazing, right, what block printing can do? It’s not just elephants on flowy pants for tourists…
I’ve made a lot of things so far here, and then the old problem of documenting them begins again. But my New Year’s resolution is to post at least once a week, so let’s see if I can keep that, shall we?
I almost named this dress the Mangladas Market dress, but I didn’t, for reasons which will soon become abundantly clear.
Guys, you’ve probably never hear this before but India is an amazing place for fabric. I KNOW. I KNOW. It’s madness. I’m blowing your mind here. The thing is, before I moved here I had a very limited idea of what Indian fabric really looked like. We get a certain idea of a certain kind of fabric in the States, but that’s actually just a small fraction of the options. My Indian fabric education has only just begun.
Before I moved to India, I had a very specific idea of what fabric from India looked like. Once I moved here, I realized that I wasn’t wrong, per se, but I was limited. India is a land of major fabric production, and there is no one way to make fabric here, there are a thousand, and that’s just in one city. From North to South, East to West, the range of how fabric looks is wildly divergent. There are, of course, similarities, the material base is limited, mostly cottons and silks with wools in the far North, but the history of weaving in India dates back thousands of years, older than most other world civilizations. The Indus River Valley excavations show evidence of woven cloth and even some proof there was trade between China, India and the Middle East over 5000 years ago, which is fairly nuts, if you think about the fact that even today, Indian cotton production creates the most sought after products in the world.
Since I’ve been here, I’ve had a chance to visit the block printing museum in Amber (post to follow) and learned more about the printing techniques of the Northwest, which make up a lot of what I once thought Indian fabric looked like. The prints from Rajasthan come in many colors and shapes, but they are what I once believed the majority of Indian fabrics were, and I still have a huge adoration for them, despite all the others I’ve discovered. Recently, on a trip to Kolkata, I visited Dakshinapan Market, which I would recommend for any visitors to the city. It’s a huge government emporium, which means the prices are subsidized, and you can see goods and fabrics from all over the country. It was in Dakshinapan where I realized what came from where, what fabrics came from which part of the country. Although I gloried over the Bengali muslins, their high (and well deserved) price points made me sorrowfully put them aside in favor of other, cheaper, cloth. And luckily for me, I found some gems.
I wore this dress for the first time fabric shopping with my friend Natasha (hi, Natasha!) In Mangaldas Market, which is where I would recommend anyone go fabric shopping if the come to Mumbai. Hence the name. From one market to another, the fabric works.
Mangaldas is a little bonkers, but it’s fun, and filled with magnificent finds and amazing prices.
My favorite fabric store is Rinkoo Fabrics.
They are the damn best, with amazing options and tons of cool Japanese prints, which I can’t find otherwise.
Stores are divided between mens shirtings and suitings and womens stuff, but you can find amazing things at both.
I felt super cool wearing the fabric from one market at another. I made this out of my bodice block, with a gathered skirt and pockets. I cut the border off the side and added it to the bottom (side note, I do not understand the border printing on a lot of Rajasthani fabrics.)
A little back view for you.
This is what happens when you try to take photos in Mumbai. It’s a fun place to live.
I may fall in love with a lot of Indian fabrics. I sort of already have. But I don’t think I will ever stop loving these Rajasthani prints. How could I? How could anyone?
Happy New Year, everyone! All my best for the year ahead!
I would not say I am one for crazy pants. We live these days in a crazy pants world, and I think that’s wonderful, but crazy printed pants have never drawn me into their brightly becoming arms (legs?), probably because I’m already a prints person with closet full of printed tops and despite what the runways and Pretty Little Liars seem to want me to believe, pattern mixing is not my thing. So I need SOMETHING to be plain, or at least, matchable, and that is usually the job of pants, to my mind. Not that I wear pants much, to be fair, but when I do I tend to want something basic. Pants are sort of like giving up for me, if I’m being honest. Pants are something I wear when I can’t figure out something cute, and I just throw up my hands and think well, I guess it’s PANTS today, way to let yourself DOWN, Leah, way to let the TEAM down. I don’t know what team this is supposed to be, but in my head those sad mornings it’s quite clear.
I know that this isn’t everyone’s philosophy. In fact, I think most people I know prefer pants to anything else. Especially jeans. I own two pairs of jeans. I rarely wear either. It’s a good thing I’m moving from the States because I believe this is grounds for treason here, not wearing jeans much. At the least, it’s deeply unpatriotic. Although since denim became popular in India it might even rival our own devotion, check out these sad 90’s monstrosities:
Or this more modern negative situation: This actress’ name is Kangana Ranuat and she is very talented and she is better than this.
Yeah. So maybe I will be even stranger to the general public once I’m there, but I have to be what I am and live my life, and that’s a life with minimal pants. That all being said, I did recently make a pair of pants that I could not be more into, and not only are they not plain, they are insanely printed. And yet? I love them. I love them so much that they give me ants in my pants and I need to dance.
Yes! See? CAN’T STOP THE DANCING. Could barely stop to take these photos! These began as a love affair with fabric. I saw this fabric on GirlCharlee.com (yes they have wovens now I don’t know what to do with myself).
See? Look at that face. That is the face of someone dancing on the inside.
The pattern is the Colette Patterns Clover. I gotta made a different pants pattern, guys. I’ve made this so many times. I need something new. I HAVE many other patterns. I should made some of them! I’m going to make these next. Maybe this is why I’m not as into pants? No. Probably not. ANYway. The Clover pattern ain’t broke so yeah….
This fabric is just, I can’t stop loving it. It reverses everything I’ve ever felt about printed pants, on myself, and on others.
The Clover is something I can kind of make in my sleep at this point, and I always make a size 6, and that’s what this is. I did, as I always do, flat felled seams on the inner thighs and crotch, and french seams on wide side-seam.
A little rear view for those on the internet who would like to see that. YOU’RE WELCOME, creepy guys googling 90’s Bollywood images! Take that!
I also made the shirt! It’s a plantain. Boy, this outfit is like a double tried and true combo.
And because it’s a typical outfit, I have to do a typical jump shot!
BOOM. Pants I love and don’t even feel bad when I’ve chosen to wear them. Pants that don’t make me feel like I’m giving up! Boom.
Do check out my Etsy Shop for new (old) vintage pattern listings! I gotta unload these before I move, people, I can’t take ever pattern I own to India, I think the Indian Government will suspect a new and entirely inefficient form of colonization.
Hey, party people! You readers have always struck me as an amazing, funny, wonderful crowd of very tolerant people (as evidenced by your enjoyment of/bearing with my blog….) and I want to share with you something I made recently. Basically, about a year and a half ago I wrote a web series. Just a short few sketches, basically, something to pass the time while I probably should have been writing something else. I passed these little scripts over to my friend Victoria, who thought they could be more than just little scripts, and despite my feelings that she was just being nice, she persisted with her belief to the point that we got a filmmaker involved whose name was (and still is) Joe. And Joe also enjoyed these scripts, and I was like, okay, that’s neat, shut up guys, don’t be weird. But they WERE weird and they wanted to make them and I was like, well, if you insist…. and so we did! And apparently people actually LIKE them because we ran a kickstarter campaign that was totally fully funded and in fact over-funded, and we’ve gotten rave reviews (aka friends being like, this isn’t terrible!) You can check out the series here, or watch the episodes right now!
And just so you know, I didn’t just write this thing, I did all the costumes! Which was a ton of fun, actually.
Some of them were simple alterations, like for Ella and Char:
Don’t they look so very Disney goes to prom? You can, by the way, have a Disney themed prom dress. And a Disney themed wedding. I know this as for some reason I’m now on an email list for Disney weddings. The internets is creepy.
Some of the costumes were more of a styling job, like for Aurora and Phillip.
Our Phillip, who is featured on the new show Younger, brought his costume, and our Aurora got our most hipster interpretation possible. Like you do.
And some, like Aladdin and Jasmine got full re-make treatment. Aladdin got tailoring and alteration for his pants and lavender shirt, but I completely re-made a Zara bubble-top to make our Jasmine’s flowy hi-lo crop top, and I hacked apart this crazy Florida-retiree elastic waist trousers into some cuffed Jasmine harem pants.
It was insanely fun, actually, to come up with these ideas for modern interpretations of Disney costumes for the show!
Because of our successful kickstarter, e’ve got more episodes coming up with more home-made costumes, so stay tuned! And if you enjoy these, people, pass them on!
Now to my own clothing efforts. Enough of this sewing for others nonsense.
I have a new disease that I’m going to coin a term for called pattern fatigue. Basically this occurs when you have used a pattern too often and you are sick of it, but unable to find anything else you keep making it until the sight of it makes you sad. Now, I’m not a doctor, but I do feel that I could diagnose this in others, as I have in myself. Basically, I’m just over this one tunic pattern that I have and I really need a new one but I don’t have another that I love (well, actually, I DO now, post to follow! But when I made this top I didn’t so let’s operate under that mentality, shall we? ) so I made another tunic with the same damn pattern I always use and while the fabric is great, I’m just, like, SO over it.
Eh. It’s fine. It’s a tunic. It’s Butterick 5548. It pulls at the neck when I raise my arm. I’ve made it a couple of times before.
That look on my face says it all. Doesn’t it? It’s easy to make but I need something new, with a better fit in the bust and more shape. As I mentioned, I totally have a new and better thing now but AT THE TIME I didn’t!
It’s a lovely material, though, despite these terrible indoor-on-a-dark-day photos. Mr. Struggle got it for me in India.
Meh. Whatever. Total pattern fatigue, guys. Never mind that, though, CHECK OUT MY WEBSERIES!!!!
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:
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:
Yay! Another GrainlineArcher! 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.
I 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.
For 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!
Here 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?
There you go! Istanbul-inspired in more ways than one. I should go back there, I can blend in with the landscape now…
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! So 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…. The 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! A little side view for you. Enjoy. That’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. Oh, I was out of matching zippers so I had to use a maroon one which you can JUST see in this photo. Enjoy that. A 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! Ah, the view from our roof. See why I love it here? Yes 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? The “green” aspect of the green roof, complete with my father’s many solar lights. So 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.
One night thing about sewing is that you can always make yourself a new outfit for an occasion. This is also a very dangerous thing about sewing, because you can just make new things all the time, so your wardrobe can become populated with dresses themed to specific events and therefore limited in their use, and also, if people know you sew, because you’re like me and you proudly declare it to every damn person that you meet who doesn’t really care about your weird hobby but is just trying to buy some coffee so great, thanks, bye, then people start asking you if what you are wearing is a new outfit and then you feel some kind of compulsion to make something new for every occasion and then even more stuff finds its way into your closet but your life in New York, a land where closets are an endangered species, so you end up getting rid of a lot of stuff all the time which is why you might someday see a homeless person wearing a dress I made. And thus, the cycle of life continues.
As discussed in posts from previous years, I really love my birthday. But this year, I suppose, my birthday and I hit a bit of a rough patch. We’re dealing with it, we’re talking it out, we’re getting to a good place, I have every hope for the future, but honestly, this year? My birthday was basically cancelled. I had big plans to make a new dress, have drinks with all my friends, enjoy the evening in the company of people I love and wine that loves me back, and yet, it was not to be. I caught an awful and debilitating summer cold, which arrived in my chest and spent several days there, before deciding it wanted to see more of the world and traveling up to my head. This cold, a sociable fellow, called it’s business associate, a fever, over for tea, and the two of them kept me company instead of all my friends. It’s always nice to meet new people, but this was outside of enough. When the two finally departed and I was back to feeling like my normal, unoccupied by illness self, I had already cancelled my birthday plans and honestly, it just seemed silly and after-the-fact to try to do anything else. So there you go. No birthday for me. I didn’t even get to finish my birthday dress! The biggest tragedy of all.
But, on the upside, I was lucky enough to have another event on the horizon that was dress-friendly and worth something special, and that was my friend Becca’s bachelorette extravaganza. So I figured, no one had to know that this was a birthday dress, right? Except…all of you. Who I am telling right now. Oh, well…
As the day included a variety of activities, from mimosas and wine-glass decorating to trivia games to dinner to 80’s tribute dance party, the dress had to include comfort, style, and pockets. And you know what? I think it does!
And, happy bonus, elephants. And of the many things Becca and I both love, elephants are very much among them. Elephants are amazing, the most precious and perfect of pachyderm. Sorry, rhinos and hippos! Rhinos, you are basically dinosaurs, and hippos, you look really cute but you are mean. Elephants are gorgeous creatures and so astounding. Their trunks have over 40,000 separate muscles, and that’s just the beginning of the amazingness of their trunks along. Find out more here. And their babies? Are the damn cutest. Look. Look at this. Come on:
and look at this:
They are wonderful animals and yet they are abused and slaughtered all over the world. There are many amazing charities to support elephants, and I like this one a lot, if you are interested.
At any rate, the elephants on my dress enjoyed adventures in Manhattan to celebrate the end of Becca’s non-married life. But before all that, I had a chance to force my friend Jenny, who was in town for the event, to snap some photos. The best part was that the last time I got to see Jenny was her OWN wedding, where she and Becca and our friend Lisa and I enjoyed the event and the chance to have a reunion. Seeing all these amazing women in the same room again for the first time in two years made me happier than an elephant in a mud pit.
Which is really very happy. I can assure you.
This fabric, while appearing Indian in nature, is actually faux-Indian, or Findian, which is a new word I’ve recently invented and feel I might be using a lot in my life. (Mr. Struggle is Indian, for those who hadn’t picked up on the clues.) I actually bought this fabric three years ago at the Pennsylvania Fabric Outlet, aka one of my favorite places on earth. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it, but I loved it, and I bought it, and I buried it in boxes and storage containers over several moves and cycles of warm weather, loving it, taking it out and touching it, thinking about it, and then putting it away again, unused. But this year, I was ready, and I think I used it well, if I do say so myself.
I used my trusty bodice block. God, that thing. I cannot thank my friend Liz, who drafted it with me, enough for this. It had changed my life. I altered the bodice to be a square lower neckline and sheared a little off the back bodice pieces at the neck to make it almost a boatneck on the back.
You can’t really see that here. Sorry. But I loved this photo, Jenny kept making me cry with laughter as she directed me like a fashion photographer and told me to pop the leg. Vogue should hire her. It’s a shame she wants to be a doctor, sigh, she’s really missing her calling.
The skirt was just a gathered rectangle. Or rather, three gathered rectangles, as there had to be seams to accommodate the pockets. I used a vintage metal zipper I had in my stash, in a nice teal color. I hand-picked the zipper and hand-stitched the hem. Otherwise this was very simple to put together. Other than the 16 darts in the bodice, 8 in the elephant fabric, 8 in the lining, it all goes very fast. Or it would, if I hadn’t gotten that cold in the middle. Sigh. Clearly this dress wanted to be used for a higher purpose then my birthday.
Pockets like these are really good for holding your phone during 80’s night and having it handy for quick photo opportunities of the bride-to-be in all her drunk dancing glory.
A little close up of the fabric for you. How cute are those elephants? Another friend there, Kira, wore elephant earrings. Clearly it was an elephant kind of day.
I can assure you that this dress, of the many I’ve made, is guaranteed to be a frequent flyer in my wardrobe. The elephants would protest, otherwise. And they would be correct in doing so. They deserve to see the world, don’t they?
As my friend and former co-worker (oh, I’m done at the costume shop! So sad, I will miss it so much) Martin once said to me, you’re, like, a cat lady but not, like, a sad one. Like, you just have one cat. And you love it, but not in a creepy way….little does he know! My love for my cat is deeply creepy. Deeply. This animal contributes nothing to my finances or my professional life and yet I prioritize him above most things. I wake up early to feed him because he screams at me. I order special food for him because he’s enormous and therefore on a grain-free diet (which is the closest either of us will ever get to Paleo). He has never read any of my writing, or been supportive of my internal struggles, and yet I assume he knows me deeply. Don’t you think that’s just a little creepy? In fact, don’t you think that animals, all of the ones we keep in our homes, have the better end of the deal on this domestication business? I personally think they all get together and have meetings and toast with catnip and dog treats and whatever it is that rabbits enjoy, to their long con deceiving and manipulating their human slaves. And whenever we start catching on they just become cuddly and loving and lure us in with their stupid wonderfulness! Damn them!
So I’m sorry, Martin, but clearly I AM that creepy person you assumed I wasn’t. Sigh. What can I do? I love my cat. I also love Ikat! (I know, I know, its that smooth transition you’ve come to expect from this here writer). I a m a big Ikat fan. Maybe because it has the word cat in it, sort of. Maybe because it’s just a beautiful fabric printing technique and it’s literally everywhere right now. Maybe because it makes me feel like I’m in a Bedouin tent but without the scorpions and lack of water. I don’t know. But I’m into it.
And so when what’s-his-face brought me fabric from India this winter, and one of the pieces was a sort of batik-Ikat hybid, I was understandably excited. I am not, by nature, all that into batik on me, though I admire the process and love it on other people, but this was a kind of tribute to both techniques, or looked that way to me,without the color gradiation of traditional batik. It’s actually one of my favorite pieces of fabric that I’ve been given, and usually that would me that I stare at it for years and lovingly stroke it and never actually do anything with it. (That is a true story, I have lots of fabric I bought years ago that I just take out and look at and then return to the box, unsure what to do with something I love so much.) But this time I decided to be brave, and jump, or cut, right in. And I have to say, I’m very pleased with the results, though I don’t think these photos make it look as nice as I think it is. Oh, well, what can you do? So check it out:
See what I mean about the fabric? Pretty gorgeous, right? A friend recently said it reminded her of the sea. And I do so adore the ocean…
For the pattern, I used a very altered vintage Simplicity 5355. The original pattern calls for gathers instead of darts at the waist, but I wanted darts, so I converted them to darts, and re-drafted the neckline to be a square. I also skipped the pencil skirt and made it a full pleated skirt. As you can see, I cut the skirt cross-grain, which I really love the look of, even if it’s unconventional. I used the sleeve pattern from the original pattern and pleated the shoulders very slightly to make them fit without gathering. This was a very anti-gathering process, I realize.
I’m a big fan of the square neckline, I realize. The bodice looks more form-fitting in person, but in general it’s a comfortable and not-over-tailored bodice. I lined just the bodice,but let the skirt go unlined, because summer in New York isn’t a good time for linings.
I hand-picked the zipper, and I didn’t hem the sleeves or skirt, because both were cut on the selvage! Sneaky sneaky seamstress…
Oh, my camera caught a little swish there! I took this by myself in my living room with my tripod, so there was a lot of setting the timer and running for the shot.
So there we go, a summer dress in a fabric I adore, an Ikat overlaid with a sort of batiking thing (I’m pretty sure that’s the technical textile term). I know I’m going to get a lot of wear out of this one, it’s comfortable, flattering (well, I think so! And Cadfael, my cat….is sleeping. He doesn’t care. Sob.) and easy to wear. I love summer and summer dresses but I hate anything that I have to adjust all the time. This fits the bill! So maybe I’m creepy, but at least I’m well dressed.
I’m not the most political dresser there is, in fact, I’m not even sure I know what that would mean. I guess if I was more anxious about it I wouldn’t sew from vintage patterns, because that’s totally buying into a gendered way of dressing reviving a system of the past and embracing with nostalgia the notion of “vintage” without investigating its deeper historical and social connotations. More on that here. But as it is, I don’t really care so much if other people don’t think about this stuff, or think about it a lot, or if they have a political view I don’t, although I will say, I admire sewing bloggers the world over, but I tend to read regularly the writers who aren’t all that far from me, as far as I can tell, in terms of social politics. I mean, I don’t know how comfortable I would be regularly reading people who make amazing things but consider homosexuality to be degenerate. And I’m sure there are people out there who like my makes but are offended by my words. It happens. I want to dress sometimes like a 1950’s housewife, but I sure as hell have no interest in ever acting like one.
Of course, all of this gets into clothing and what you wear and what it says about you and how much you want it to say about you. When I was young I went to a Quaker School from 3rd grade to senior year of high school (please don’t make an oatmeal joke, don’t be that guy, everyone hates that guy) , and some of the Quaker doctrine of non-violence had to have stuck with me, because we couldn’t wear any cameo (…not that I wanted to.) or anything with curse words on it (which is good, I think, school isn’t a Limp Bizket concert, unless your school was wildly different then mine…), or anything with any symbol of violence on it. And I’m not a big fan of guns, in general, like, I wouldn’t want to personally own one, or live in a house with one, or be near one on any kind of regular basis. I know not everyone feels that way, and I understand that completely, but that’s just me. So recently when I was home in Philadelphia over my winter break, I picked up a few yards of this ultra-cheap (1.99 a yard, whaaaaaat?) jersey from Pennsylvania Fabric Outlet, aka my Mecca, mostly because I really really love the color. But the thing is, it’s a Betsey Johnson print, and I’m not wild about her prints in general, and this one, well, it’s covered with guns.
And hearts, to be fair. but, I don’t know, I just couldn’t really get around it. I thought I would be fine with it, but the more I considered it, the more the influence of those damn Quakers pervaded me, and I knew I wouldn’t be comfortable covered in guns. So, I did something a little radical. Can you figure out what it is?
I used the wrong side of the fabric! WHAT? I know. I KNOW. Such things are not DONE. Such boundaries are not CROSSED. Well, just call me Lenin because I am a revolutionary! Waaa waaaaaaaa.
Ah the smug look of a history joke. These indoor photos are a little yellow, by no fault of my amazing photographer, my boss, Sam, who balanced a camera and a womb filled with a child, because she is amazing. The color is a little more cool than these photos would indicate, but I think you can see how nice and orchid purple it is.
The pattern is Dixie DIY’s Ballet Dress, with three inches added to the length of the bodice, and cut to a trimmed small, with full length sleeves and a half circle skirt. I have made it many times with many alterations and adjustments, and it was a piece of cake, and remains one of my top favorite patterns ever.
Knit dresses. They are the best. They are comfortable and they look nice and they don’t wrinkle. What more can you ask for?
I topstitched the neck binding and did the hems in black. This took me no time at all to make. It took me way more time to deliberate about my whole “using the wrong side” decision then to actually construct this. Sewing. It’s 90% agonizing, 10% doing.
But I think it works, and honestly, if I had used the right side, I don’t think I would have ever worn it. As it is, I can see myself wearing this thing often during what is clearly an everlasting winter. This is what Winterfell must feel like ALL THE TIME. Death must come as a relief to the Starks… too soon?
HAHAHA JUST KIDDING EVERYONE SURVIVES GAME OF THRONES OBVIOUSLY IT’S MORE LIKE YOU WIN OR GET COOL PRIZES FOR TRYING!
No. No it’s not. But that being said, this leaves Robb Stark time to CALL ME. I already have a dress for our date/engagement/lifelong love. I think he’ll like the guns inside. Don’t you? If you don’t get any of this, don’t worry, neither would I have just over a year ago.
The point is, sometimes the wrong side is the right side for you! Too cheesy? Whatever. I like this dress a lot, and I’m glad it worked out. The rest of the fabric I gave to my boss for baby clothing. That baby’s going to be way more bad-ass than I am. Fact.
I would be the first to admit that I can be a bit behind trends. Or maybe I wouldn’t be first, because I would behind the trend of knowing that I was behind the trend. I think part of this comes down to the fact that I get most of my pop culture news from my friend Ben, hi, Ben! And Ben only sends me things that have to do with Game of Thrones or cat ladies dying alone, I guess because he feels like those are my two major interests. And, hey, he’s not wrong, per se, but it does mean that I saw the Rebecca Black Friday video way later than everyone I’ve ever met. And I still haven’t seen any of the Miley Cyrus stuff, or the Gangnam Style Video. But that might be a conscious choice on my part, I’m okay with my existence as it is. I HAVE seen this video with kittens doing the Lion King, so, you know, I think I’m doing pretty well. Though if those people would do kitten Shakespeare I would seriously lose my mind with happiness. Meow is the winter of my discontent made glorious summer, AM I RIGHT?
Ahem. As you enjoy that splendid joke in all it’s glory and admire my brilliance, let me tell you about my latest dress, which I have named after a new internet Meme (well, not THAT new, as I explained) that my friend Ranjit introduced me to (THANK YOU, Ranjit. Ben, step up.) Basically it’s this video. And it’s weird. And scientifically inaccurate.
Foxes actually sound like this. Except in England where they probably sound like “STOP HUNTING ME FOR SPORT YOU COMPLETE AND UTTER TOOLISH PRAT!” It’s England, they say prat there. But the point is, that video is super weird and I can’t get the song out of my head. Also, there is an awesome SNL parody of this with the incomparable Kerry Washington who I would love to be my best friend and we could drink copious amounts of wine and talk about how pretty and talented she is. I feel that this could happen. If you see her, do let her know about this plan, I’m sure she’d be on board.
So, this song implanted itself in my consciousness, which is probably another reason I let youtube video trends pass me by, because I get WAY too into them and influenced by them, and I went ahead and bought some fox themed fabric. Like you do.
And I made a dress! Please enjoy my face filled with laughter and delightful closed-eye photo. The pattern is the Hope Wrap dress which I have now made 4 times. When I like something….This time I made it a faux-wrap by stitching the whole thing together. I have to say, I love this style, I know a wrap isn’t for everyone and I respect that, but it really works for me.
This is me, thinking seriously about what the fox says. The foxes on MY dress just tell me I’m pretty.
My boss took these for me at work and I got lots of posing advice from her and my co-worker, Martin. This three-quarter turn with the Miss America arms is all them. Can’t you just see me telling everyone what I want is World Peace? Cue the “cupping a bird” wave.
The fit of this is pretty nice, I think. I mean, knits make all that so easy, and this jersey shrank a tiny bit in the wash but also softened a bit, becoming a little heathery, and the stretch is nice but not too drapey, so it holds the shape well. I should just tack the wrap part at the bust, I have it kept together with a safety-pin now like the class act I am.
These indoor photos make the color look duller then it is, it’s actually a deeper blue and a truer brick red. I got the fabric from Girl Charlee, duh, and while you can’t find the dark blue there anymore, they have the same pattern in a lighter blue, if you want to go foxy as well.
These foxes are so cute. I love them. I love wearing this dress! Seriously, this pattern is great and so easy, I would recommend it heartily to anyone, especially someone new to knits, because it’s simple and flattering and quick and looks good on everyone I’ve seen make it. There are tons of wrap dress patterns out there but this one is FREE.
You are never lonely if your clothing is covered in friends! Fantastic foxy friends. So I’m pretty sure what the fox REALLY says is, awesome dress, Leah!
Also, in holy cuteness news, Foxes apparently wag their tails when they are happy. AND IT’S AWESOME.