Category Archives: Friends

The Welcome Spring Outfit

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

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

The El Farolito Dress

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

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

The Make It Work Dress

As surprising as it seems, I have never seen Project Runway. Yes, I know, its about sewing. Yes, I know I sew. No, I don’t care. I’ve never seen The Wire, either. I’ve also never seen The Real World or The Jersey Shore. We’ve all got our stuff, okay? Have you seen every episode of Pushing Daisies? Or been to China? No? I’ve done both of those things. So shut up. The point is, even though I’ve never seen the show, I’m aware of it, and of Tim Gunn’s famous phrase, “make it work”, which, given that I have no context for it, I assume is in reference to people making something work. In terms of clothing. That’s logical, right?

So recently I was in a situation where, in fact, I couldn’t make what I was making work. Now, normally, who cares, right? It’s a bummer but life, she goes on. But this particular dress was for my friend Becca’s wedding. Now, I understand realistically no one cares what I’m wearing to this wedding, because I am not the person in white, but nevertheless, I love Becca, I didn’t want to look terrible, and besides, I have a reputation to uphold! People expect things of me and my sewing machine! I had to make it work!

So, despite the late hour and an early morning of teaching 9 year olds how to sew the next day, I cut and stitched a new dress. Because being exhausted is a great way to deal with 8 small girls and their incessant and well-considered questions that I have no idea how to answer, despite knowing how to sew. (This is interesting, how is it that you can do something but have real trouble explaining how things work to a beginner? I will be honest, I have totally resorted to, it just works, okay? when getting a hard question about stitching.) But I simply had to make it work. The wedding demanded a new dress! (Literally no one demanded this. I did all of this to myself.) And you know what? For something that I threw together, I completely love this dress!

MIW 1Turned out nice, right? I grabbed my bodice block, gathered the skirt, lined the bodice in a blue silk taffeta I got for free from a dressmaker looking to unload her stock. (THANK YOU!). The fabric comes from India via Mr. Struggle, and it has a lovely sheen to it, which I thought might make this appropriate for this black-tie-optional affair. The fabric is actually quite quite lovely, and I got scores of compliments on this dress to prove it. Well done, Mr. Struggle!

MIW 2Yes, I had to admit that he did something well. Yes, it hurt.

MIW 4I joke, I joke, he’s wonderful. The neckline of the dress turned out to be an excellent frame for the truly gorgeous necklace my new in-laws gave me to celebrate our marriage. It was a very India-centric outfit, as it turns out, which was of course totally appropriate for a Brooklyn wedding. The ceremony was truly lovely, and the girl in the white dress looked insanely gorgeous, not to mention happy. Hmmm, I wonder why?

MIW 6I didn’t get any amazing back shots but that’s okay, life goes on.

MIW 5 Oh, those shoes. So cute. So painful at the end of the night. How do women wear stilettos? These are thick chunky 1940’s style pumps and they still made my feet bleed. Thank goodness I picked a profession when I spend most of my time in my pajamas writing barefoot on the couch.

MIW 7After the disaster that was the first attempt to make something for this wedding (slippery silk did not participate or play well with others) this was super fast and basic, I’ve made this pattern many times before and there are no surprises, just lots of darts. I altered the neckline a bit but otherwise, boom. Nothing crazy. The only crazy part was ME.

MIW 3Jenny, my friend who took these lovely photos after the ceremony (so I’m smiling really hard to hide the fact that I’ve just been sobbing, weddings are emotional!) taught me this pageant pose which makes your waist look tiny. Thank you, Jenny! I will forever be grateful.

It was just a lovely wedding, and I was so happy to be there, to celebrate with my friends, and, of course, have a new dress, the most important part. Sometimes, regardless of your desire for sleep, you just need to make it work. Becca likes Project Runway, so I knew she would approve. Congratulations to an amazing couple, and stay tuned for an upcoming post on the dress I made to ANOTHER wedding of another amazing pair! I promise I will stop making party dresses, guys, for real. After all, it’s fall soon, right? Back to wools and heavy knits and pants! But first, a little more icing, cool? Get excited.

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Filed under Friends, Life, Sewing

Can’t Hardly Wait

…is not that great of a movie. AND I WILL STAND BY THAT STATEMENT FOREVER!

But I CAN hardly wait for tomorrow, because tomorrow I’m flying to Chicago!  (And boy will my arms be tired, yuk yuk yuk.) Seriously, tomorrow marks the first day of a multi-tier multi-event wedding weekend which I could not be more excited about if it included some sort of reunion of some of my favorite people ever. HAHAHAH IT TOTALLY DOES! WHAT? Yes. My friend Jenny, i.e. one of the best people I know, is getting married on Sunday. And many of the people who are the other best people I know are going to be in Chicago together, celebrating this wonderful event together. Its going to be epic. Get excited.

And it’s not just going to be amazing for ME, with all the dancing and drinking and wild celebrations, it’s going to be great for YOU! How, you say, could such a thing be possible? Well, I have a whole BUNCH of stuff that I’m going to force my friends to photograph, ruining all those relationships in the process, but ensuring a slew of new items to display to the world. In brand new locations! Capturing the wind of the windy city! And I’ve got new shoes, too! So there is no way this isn’t going to be amazing!

Well, except Cadfael isn’t coming. It’s weird if you bring a cat as a plus one, right? That was my instinct.

Um, you aren’t taking me? (says Cadfael). LAME.(But check out some sneak peeks of new stuff on the bed…)

Sorry, buddy.

At any rate, I will see you all when I get back on Monday!

However, if you really miss me, check out the guest post I’m doing at Dixie DIY this Friday! Remember that scrap tutorial I promised you during Me Made May? Well, I made it, alright, but I gave it to Dixie! Aren’t I just the best? Seriously, though, check out her blog, it’s lovely and amazing, just like the author, and the guest posts she’s got going on for her vacation are also fantastic!

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Filed under Clothing, Friends, Travel