Category Archives: Life

The Red-y For Thirty Dress

Oh boy, thirty years. That just happened. #thirty

I don’t know that I had any special feelings about thirty. I mean, it’s a liminal point in many lives, I suppose, and I certainly viewed its approach with a certain amount of bemused trepidation, trying to figure out if I feared thirty, or just felt like I was supposed to. And had I done enough in my first thirty years on earth? I asked what’s-his-face but he said that I hadn’t done as much as the guys who created Snapchat so probably not. Thanks, guy. Super glad we got married three times. #couplegoals

So I had to, gasp, evaluate my own existence on my own, without aid. Ugh. So I thought about the things I have done, and the things I haven’t done, and all the ways I would like to make the world better, and all the things I’m lucky to have had and experienced, and then the list became too long and my head was spinning and I decided that perhaps, just perhaps, thirty years is just that, all that, and only that. Yes, I did not make snapchat. In fact, I do not actually know how snapchat works even though my friend Ben explained it to me in the Brooklyn Museum one time. #millennials

Here are six other things I didn’t do by my 30th birthday:

  1. I have yet to figure out what to do with my hair. I don’t have a hair dryer. I don’t know how they work. I mean, I understand the mechanics because I get how basic electronics function, but the closest I’ve come is using a rickshaw on the highway as a wind-tunnel cum hair dryer. #class
  2. I have never backpacked through Europe. Or Southeast Asia. Or anywhere. I do not own a large backpack. I own a small one that whats-his-face made me buy and I hate wearing it because I feel like I look like a 7-year-old. #backpack
  3. I have never seen the wire. I am not going to see the wire. Stop telling me I need to see the wire. Oh, and I don’t like Tarantino films, and that’s not because I don’t “get them”, I get them. I don’t like them. That is a fair and legitimate thing to feel. You are allowed to just not like stuff. That’s not a comment on its quality, or my intelligence. #thewire
  4. I have never learned to enjoy grapefruit juice. Or okra. Or tripe. Is there a point when your palette stops evolving? #thebigquestions
  5. I have never understood how to keep my voice down. I just don’t here it. It’s loud. I project. Blame my theater training. #volume
  6. I have not won an Oscar. Or a Tony. Or a Pulitzer. YET. #futureme

Here are six things, however, that I HAVE done already in my life:

  1. I learned to sew, cook, knit, read a map, fold my laundry, figure out basic plumbing and keep plants alive and thriving. I can spatchcock a chicken, I can debone a fish, I can putty a wall, I can help a seed to grow, I can make my own wardrobe, I can build a bench,I can give a cat a home and all the love in my heart. #skills
  2. I have traveled, with a bag that is on wheels, by myself and with other people, to stand in a room with three Vermeer paintings in the Hague, to toast strangers with vodka in St. Petersburg, to dance until 5am in Buenos Aires, to the Great Wall of China and the Taj Mahal. #global
  3. I have seen 30 Rock and Mad Men both from pilot to finale twice. And also like a billion plays, and a bunch of movies, WITH subtitles, and so much television like Fleabag, Glow, The Good Wife, Game of Thrones, Orange is the New Black, Insecure, Blackadder, Yes Minister, Yes Prime Minister, Are You Being Served, Fawlty Towers, Gilmore Girls, Parks and Recreation, Better Off Ted, Arrested Development, Nashville, Hart of Dixie (NO REGRETS), Better Call Saul, Sherlock, Poirot, Miss Marple, Grantchester, Inspector Morse, Inspector Lewis, Doctor Blake, Miss Fisher, Murdoch Mysteries, Death in Paradise, Seinfield, New Girl, Bob’s Burgers, Archer, Law and Order (ALL OF THEM), True Detective (YES REGRETS), Lovesick (formerly scrotal recall), Gavin and Stacey, Claws (IT IS SO GOOD WATCH IT MY FRIEND JEFF WROTE IT ALONG WITH OTHER PEOPLE), The Mick, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia…..  #accomplishments
  4. I have learned to accept gin as a part of life. #colonialism
  5. I have learned to be okay with my voice. And my hair. And my body, like, once a month. Maybe. #selflove
  6. I have sold a novel. And my friends who are amazing produced my play.  And I married my writing partner which is the best thing I could have ever done, because what’s-his-face and I have all sorts of plans. #blessed

And here are some things I want to do:

  1. I want to see more places. #go
  2. I want to learn more things. #do
  3. I want to write more, and do more, and love just as much. #yes

 

And here is a dress I made:

I used my trusty bodice block and obviously modified it for this very-unIndia friendly dress.

I mean, the fabric COMES from India, but the cleavage is basically A Fistful of Dollars it’s so Western. GET IT?

I took the sleeves from the Grainline Scout Tee and draped the skirt myself. The fabric is a subtle ikat from Thakur, and I have already made my feelings clear about Ikat sooooo….

And yes, pockets, obviously, you know the drill. I made what’s his face take these photos in this very cool hotel we stayed in recently in Vieques, Puerto Rico.

POCKETS FOREVER.

I finished the neckline with bias tape and french seamed the other seams. LIKE YOU DO.

And there you go. Red, and Red-y.

So maybe I’m okay at thirty. Maybe I am whatever I could have been. Despite the lack of snapchats to sell.

 

 

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Filed under Life, Sewing

Fashion of Port Cities: Textile and Cultural Exchange at the Asian Civilizations Museum

While there are many who fear the other, I choose not to, and I am happy to be celebrating diversity, historic and current. I am of the opinion that cultural exchange leads to innovation and development, and if you feel otherwise, please go away. I am sure that if you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time you probably knew that about me all ready, but just putting it out there into the universe. If, however, you like me are fascinated with cultural exchange and moments of intersection and the way they give birth to new things, specifically in the textile and clothing space, I think you will enjoy hearing about and seeing some of the objects from a current exhibit on Port Cities at the Asian Civilizations Museum in Singapore!

On my recent trip to Singapore, I had to break my normal Singapore rule. You see, there is nothing really to do in Singapore in my opinion. Now, of course, some people think there is a lot to do in Singapore, so I should really change that statement to there is nothing much for ME to do in Singapore, but semantics. Singapore is great, but I find it rather boring, and What’s-his-face and I realized that we need to ration our Singapore activities, because we visit the country frequently and given that I don’t think there is much to do, if we do it all at once, what will we do NEXT time? If we don’t limit ourselves to one museum a trip, we will be out of museums in no time! But we were with others, and we needed activities, so we had to break our rule and on this trip I saw the botanical gardens, the bird park, the National Museum and the Asian Civilizations Museum. Oy. I’m sorry, future Leah. I screw you a bit.

But at least the Asian Civilizations Museum has temporary exhibits, like this one exploring the many mixed communities of port cities in Southeast Asia. And given that this area is a textile-rich region, you just KNOW that mixture of people created a mixture of clothing styles and fabric options. Now we see people in all forms of dress in cities across the world, but historically ports would have been the only real places where costumes clashed consistently, and that is fascinating, in its fruitful ground for change and influence. Coming across this exhibit was a wonderful surprise because of the amount of textile within it, and I’m excited to share all that with you guys. The descriptions of Singapore itself through history, and cultures that arose in Batavia (now Jakarta, once the capital of the Dutch East Indies), Hong Kong, Malacca, and other ports, in clothing, was fantastic and fascinating. So even though we broke our rule, I gotta say, totally worth it…

So without further ado, to the photos!

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On the left the traditional garments of Peranakans, the mixed community of Chinese-Malay traders and fisherman. In the center, Chinese traditional dress, and on the right, South-Indian lungi.

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A kimono from the Japanese community in Singapore.

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Indian/Malay worker garb on the left, next to European/American female dress in a light gauze for the tropical heat (although God knows those undergarments would cancel THAT out…)

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On the right, Malay/Indonesian/Peranakan female dress with Portuguese lace and Chinese prints/embroidery. On the left, Gujurati cloth for an Indo-western sari.

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European male suit next to a Parsi merchant’s garb.

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Indian sari in the foreground, in the style adopted after the 1890’s with a blouse and petticoat underneath.

I love imagining a city of such vibrant and diverse clothing cultures, and therefore people cultures! I guess on some level Singapore is still like this, like London, New York, and other large and small cities of diverse groups. Spending time in Mumbai, where the clothing culture often feels homogenous in the extreme, I think I appreciate this mix on an even deeper level than I had before.

The exhibit also had some lovely examples of fabrics and their re-use in new clothing shapes. Like Indian chintz, so very popular in European clothing:

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Which then became something like this:

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I totally saw a woman looking at a similar fabric to create a kurta/trouser set in a fabric store in Bandra the other day. True story.

Of course, it wasn’t just Europeans who loved Indian chintz. Check out these Southeast jackets:

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I’m sure people were like, sick kimono, bro. Right? That sounds like a normal 19th century thing to say.

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A mix of Chinese imagery with Indonesian prints for this decorative hanging.

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The many faces of labor and commerce in 19th Century Singapore.

If I think about it, a lot of my own clothing is a mix of Indian fabric with Western shapes, so many in some tiny way I am also a part of a cultural global fabric and costume exchange. Diversity in how people look and how they dress and what they do and act is, to me, the cornerstone of progress and human development. If you never see anyone around you who looks, acts, speaks, eats, or thinks differently than you do, you probably will think that the world is singular. But to my mind it is beautiful in its variety, and I love seeing that in an exhibit like this one. Doesn’t it make you want to go out and pick of a global assortment of fabrics for inspiration and creation? Make a batik ballgown, stitch up some Thai silk cigarette trousers, or try a gingham tunic or a pinstripe kimono! Let’s be a part of a global fashion movement that celebrates diversity as the very fabric of humanity. Onwards, friends! To the sewing machines!

 

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Filed under Clothing, Costume, history, Life

The Trying It Out Outfit

The internet is a strange and scary place sometimes, with its anonimity serving as a kind of cloak for bad behavior, for hatred to pour out unchecked, for bigotry and disgust to make its way out there, and for humanity to be ignored in the face of that all-powerful deity, The Opinion. The fact that it’s easy, it’s impersonal, you don’t have to see the target of said Opinion makes it easy for people to forget that their words, sprayed out into the digital universe, have a real-life effect. And opinions become insults so quickly, because you can’t see someone’s face, you can’t try to meet them halfway, you can’t really interact with them as a human, so “I think you are wrong because…” quickly quickly becomes “You are a fat stupid loser….” or much worse. We all know this, and I’m sure we also all know the way women specifically are targeted, insulted, demeaned sexually and physically and trolled, for want of a better word. I think it’s a shame that trolls get such a bad rap but that’s what they get, hiding under bridges and stealing goats, I suppose. The Guardian evaluates it’s comments before posting them, and honestly, reading this article, it’s not hard to see why. Leslie Jones recently quit Twitter because of the massive outpouring of hate following the release of the new Ghostbusters film, although thank the powers that be she did return to help us all appreciate the Olympics.

Sometimes I think about the internet, this amazing tool we all have at our disposal, and I shake my head. Maybe we don’t deserve this kind of communication, this instant feedback loop, if we are just going to use it to be awful. Of course, who am I to say what we do or don’t deserve, but when I contemplate the swirling mass of humanity or glance at a YouTube comments section or read articles like this, I feel, on the fluttering edges of my otherwise upbeat nature, a rare shadow of despair.

That being said, I can also say that sewing, making things, writing, as also uncovered what for me personally is the best part of the internet, the community that can be formed around mutual passion, respect and interest, that can create educational loops of information, that can answer questions, that can make us feel close to and aware of people and events and things so far away from us. We can learn about people in need, people in conflict, people like us, people not like us at all. It can expand us and remind us of our humanity. I don’t know that I need to go on. You know how the internet works, after all. You’re reading a blog.

I find this comfort in small ways, with the writing I put out there and the responses I get back. In the way I learn about people’s relationships to their bodies, to their sense of self, to the empowerment within learning something and enjoying it, connecting to it, connecting to others through it. Clothing, fashion, fabric, the politics behind these, the way they impact gender, identity, economics, labor, the way the knowledge of these things has changed my own sense of my body, the world, and what I make, I appreciate it. In a recent instagram conversation, because we live in a world where such things can exist, I talked with a fellow blogger about how I would try things through sewing that I would never ever buy, never even consider buying. Sewing is a space of experimentation, as evidenced by my growing love of maxi-length, my recent attempts at a romper (more on that in another post), my unblogged search for the perfect pair of loose-fitting cotton pants (I believe the pants I’m about to show you are as close as I’ve currently gotten) my explorations of tighter shapes, looser shapes, new shapes. Sewing feels like a space where I can try things out, where I want to try new things and the labor involved makes it worth it, even if I don’t end up loving the result. I like the process.

If nothing else, sewing is teaching me that, the value of the process. And that’s a hard thing to communicate digitally, in our content and product driven age. But I’m hoping you, who read this, get it.

So, without further pontificating, I give you my latest outfit, an attempt to try some new things, in shapes I find woefully unflattering, but with a comfort that I cannot help but adore:

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I feel like I look like a genie who doesn’t try very hard. NO MATTER!

So yes, a lot of things being tried out over here, hence the name of the post. Number one, is, of course, the elephant in the room, other than Cadfael, who is my very own baby elephant:

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But other than him, we know what I’m talking about, right?

The crop top. CROP. TOP. What is this, Saved by the Bell?

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Sidenote, 90’s fashion is so in here in India, to a troubling trouble extent. At dinner the other day I counted 4 chokers. Sigh.

BUT. regardless of my feelings that I might be just simply having a Bayside High moment, I decided, after length and extensive conversations with my friend Liz, who is ALL about the loose-fitting woven crop top with a high-waisted bottom, to try it out. I had a little bit of fabric from our fabric trip that I had split with Liz. She got most of it, and I took a meter, thinking I could just get a top out of it, and get I did! Of the crop variety!

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The fabric is super cool, with multiple colors woven together to make a not-quite-pattern weave. Lightweight and airy, I decided I could alter my ever-faithful Grainline Scout Tee to make a crop top by shortening it and extending it to a tent shape. I made the sleeves a little tent-like too, so the whole thing has a kind of cow-bell shape.

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So on the body it sort of has a very subtle hi-low thing. The hem is a little wrinkled in this photo, so it’s making a weird shape. The fabric is a little crisp, but as it wears and is washed it will soften, I know from experience with Indian hand-looms that this is the case.

You can just see a sliver of skin there, right? Well, I’m not usually a big fan of that sort of thing, but I think exposure to Indian fashion, which is fairly crop-top focused, maybe because a crop top is a hop skip and a jump away from the traditional choli blouse?

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Whatever it is, I thought I would try it out. The verdict? Honestly, I’m just not sure. Every time I wear it, I feel sort of silly and self-conscious, but thus far I’ve yet to get any judgmental looks or been stopped on the street and yelled at for how bad I look. I think it would potentially be cute with a pencil skirt, or high-waisted shorts, anything, really, that sits at the waist. Thoughts?

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Now, to the pants! Wrinkles abound.

This is, believe it or not, a much altered Simplicity 1887, the third I’ve made but the first that is blog-worthy. Oh, this pattern, what wasted dreams have lived and died on its behalf! I loved the idea of a half-elastic waist, of the pleats, of a loose pant, of pockets. But the reality of that half-elastic waistband was just not working, neither in construction or in appearance. Then, revelation! What if I just made it a regular pair of pants with a zipper? On the side? Of course, I had to take it in a bit at the waist, but that’s okay, a dart here, a trim here, and boom! In earlier incarnations I cut out a 16, but I found it a little snug in the posterior, which looked cute, but wasn’t in accordance with my vision, so I added about two and a half inches in the hips, because I really wanted a baggy loose comfortable pant here. Attractiveness be damned!

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The fabric is a cotton I got at my new favorite Mumbai fabric destination, Thakur, which is quite close to where I live. This is…dangerous.

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Ah, the slight pouf of the pleats. Speaking of feeling good about myself…it’s a real uphill battle sometimes, I tell you. But you know, I like these pants, I do. I have made and will make more flattering garments, but I am willing myself to like this style, to try something new.

I don’t know if more crop tops are in my future, but they might be. Let’s see if this one grows on me. I do like it, I do, but new things take time to adjust to and enjoy. Nevertheless, making one, putting it out there, trying it out, that gives me joy.

Now, troll away, internet. I will be focusing on the good. And also, this, which has made everything a thousand times better. Read it. Right now. A stranger on the internet told you to.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Grainline Patterns, Life, Sewing, Simplicity Patterns

In Search of Fabric or Forest for Trees

Oh my goodness, this past month was a total whirlwind, and my backlog of projects to photograph is bigger and better than ever before, just take my word on that. Travel from city to city and hosting friends in Mumbai was layered with furious working and sewing sessions, none of which has been conducive to blogging, but it has been a blast, I must say.

Projects I’ve completed include, but are not limited to, two pairs of Carolyn Pajamas from Closet Case Files, a bunch of Burda Style Jakob shirts for Mr. Struggle, curtains for our apartment, a bajillion Scout and Tiny Pocket tees, a Mission Maxi Dress, by Christina Hayes, a self-drafted box pleated maxi skirt, two more sleeveless Archer shirts, a Seamwork Adeline dress, at least three plantain tops, a McCalls M6696 shirt dress that I finished last night, oh god, the list goes on and on….

How do you guys do it? How do you get good consistent photos of your projects? This is something that has plagued me since I started blogging, how to get photos, how to make time for that, how to even like the way I LOOK in pictures, how to not feel embarrassed to ask other people. I left my tripod at home in the States, and I will say having one did make it a little easier to get photos of myself, but it’s always been an issue for me, getting photos of my projects. I love my friends, but I don’t always love their photos, and I get uncomfortable trying to get them to do what I want them to and usually give up halfway through and say, it’s fine, it’s fine, and never use the photos because they aren’t what I want. I think the trick is to take a million photos, because then about five of them work, but no matter how many times I assure people “just keep taking photos” or “tell me if I look weird” it is rare that either of those things actually happens. But given the kind of backlog I have, I think I need to find some kind of better solution here, because I have so much unblogged…I have the sewing part down, I like the writing part too, but the photography part, that’s the issue.

At any rate, here is a quick outfit and a lot of photos from my travels to the north. India is a great place for fabric, as you may know, but what you might not know, what I didn’t really know, was the amount of types of fabric that are produced all over the country, and the fact that every region has their specialities, their methods, their materials, their weaving and dying techniques. The floaty fine muslins that inspired such fervor in Regency England come from Bengal, things like this:

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The thick brocade silk weaves of Benares, now Varanasi, are duplicated all over the world, and they look like this:

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Chintz from the Coromandel Coast inflamed the European imagination, and we can see the influence of these patterns and dye techniques even today:

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But for many, when they think of Indian fabric, the first thing that pops into their head is hand block printed styles from the great state of Rajasthan, or Land of Kings. A central fabric producing hub since pre-Mughalite India, it wars with nearby Gujarat, the embroidery center and longstanding fabric powerhouse, for dominance of Northern styles, and it’s the place I wanted to take my friend Liz, (hi, Liz!) who was visiting me in India. A magnificent pattern maker and stitcher, although she loathes both (why oh why does the universe give such gifts to those who spur them?) Liz is a costume historian and she works at FIT. Despite her disinterest in sewing she does actually sew, and makes awesome beautifully constructed things I would kill to create, and she was excited to do some textile-based tourism in India. We toured the Anokhi Block Printing Museum (which I had detailed in this post), and even got to visit the amazing Rangotri Fabric Printing Workshop (a must for any Jaipur visitors interested in this form). We also did some damage at Delhi’s government emporiums, which are a fabric education in and of themselves, showing visitors the variety and magnificent quality of Indian textiles.

Check out our bounty:

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Block pints and ikats!

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Khadi forever. There is so much beauty in this simple cloth, I can’t get over it!

 

 

I know, I know, it’s excessive, but to be fair, half of this stuff is Liz’s….

Now, to show you the guts of the Rangotri Fabric Printing Workshop!

Headed by Vikram Joshi, who worked for Anokhi for a long time before heading out on his own, this company is amazing and does gorgeous work. Using traditional techniques and modern aesthetics, Joshi often enlarges a simple shape or design until it becomes something else entirely as a block, or uses older designs with different colors and combinations, to create something that is at once traditional and new. He does custom printing work as well for people, carving blocks and printing designs that look so unlike what you think of as wood block printing, it’s remarkable. With a workshop that includes all levels of production, from block carving to clothing stitching all in one place, the quality control and design is all supervised by Joshi, who was kind enough to give us a tour and set me loose in his overstock room, where I picked up more than one amazing piece of fabric….

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The floral on the left and the zebras and the blue bird are all from Rangotri.

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Cadfael modeling his personal favorite. Some of this has already been turned into a living room curtain but the rest is going to be an outfit so I can match my curtains a la Maria Von Trapp!

He also collects wooden blocks, and has an insane collection of textiles and pieces in his own personal little museum. I hope someday he makes a larger museum, because I would so be there….

Check it out!

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A block printer carving out a simple design or horizontal lines.

A block printer carving out a simple design or horizontal lines.

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A block and the dye.

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The block printing wardrobe. Watching these amazing printers quickly and perfectly place the blocks and print the fabric is insane, both hypnotic and awe-inspiring.

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A little close up for you. Most prints require a minimum of four blocks. Every time you see a color, that’s a block to distribute that color.

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Prepping a piece for printing.

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Once it’s printed, it’s hung, then later washed and dried.

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The “true” final color of the print above.

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Amazing that this is a block print, right? It looks painted, but it’s all coming from a carved piece of wood. Also, you can see what happens to the color after it’s processed, washed and hung. The colors on the bottom are the “true” final colors.

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This guy soaks and beats the cloth. Clearly he doesn’t need a gym membership. I can’t believe no pop-gym has adopted this as a work-out method yet….

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Quality control! Having the whole process in one place means immediate communication about the quality of the objects.

Rangotri produces a lot of home-goods fabrics, in fact, that’s most of what they do, which is sad, because I would buy ALL the fabric from them if it was commercially available. As it is, you have to go there and hope they left you pick up a piece or two. Still, it’s totally worth it!

And now, just because I have to get through this one way or another, a little outfit post for you:

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It’s a Scout Tee from Grainline Studios in a fabric I picked up in Kolkata and a pair of Butterick 5898 Patterns by Gertie pants in a stretchy crappy fabric I grabbed at Mumbai’s Mangaldas Market, which were great for Delhi in summer (it’s already summer here), because it helps to be more covered up in Delhi, a city where men actively stare at you wherever you go, although it’s so painful to be so in the scorching unforgiving sauna that is Delhi. Capris and loose-fitting tops like this help. They don’t ENTIRELY make it great, but they help!

 

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Oh! I also did Me Made May, of course, through my Instagram  but honestly, at this point in my life, I wear me-made every day, so I sort of have a me-made LIFE, really. I always enjoy seeing other people’s stuff, though!

Okay, I’m off to put my life back together post-travel, and try to figure out a way to photograph my excruciating backlog, sigh. Seriously, advice is welcome! Happy June, everyone. What are you sewing this summer?

 

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Filed under Butterick Patterns, Dye, Grainline Patterns, Life, Sewing, Travel

The Russian Goodbye Dress

Having just moved, I can assure you, there were many things that were hard about leaving New York. The most important thing about any place is, for me, the people who are in it. I realize of course that this is not a revolutionary statement, but sometimes the hallmark clichés come true, and you can deny it or you can suck it up and deal. Places are their people. They are their spaces and their streets too, of course, their trees and their paths, but they are their people. And the people I have in New York were hard to leave.

For me, New York was a new and sometimes difficult change, leaving my beloved Philadelphia, going to graduate school, altering the landscape of my life to include new things and new balances, new stresses and new needs. Left to my own devices I might be a bit of  hermit, curling up with my cat and my television and a bottle or five of wine, but New York did not permit that from me. Quite simply, there were too many people I love there, too much to do, too many things I had to be a part of, that I was forced by the magnificence of my community there to become a better version of myself. So many of these people helped me celebrate my homemade garments, photographing them, complimenting them, making fun of them when they weren’t quite right, mostly in kind ways, but sometimes the truth hurts. My friends in New York also benefited from my craftiness, they must admit, receiving homemade gifts and sometimes even posing for this blog.

Leaving New York doesn’t mean losing these people. But it does mark a new chapter in my life, just as coming to New York did. In Brooklyn I found new levels of independence in the new ways I understood myself. I became a better writer, through training, through experience and through contact with others. I met new people and deepened my relationships with known entities. I fell in love. I wrote plays, screenplays, television scripts, a novel. I surprised myself, I disappointed myself, I thrilled myself. I had late nights and early mornings, drunken revelries and sober contemplations. I explored neighborhoods alone, sometimes relishing my solitude, sometimes painfully lonely in the midst of crowds and bodies. I learned to love and hate the subway, becoming an expert in stations and exits, across-platform transfers, avenues and winding streets. I crossed bridges over and over again, in and out of different territories.

I stayed close to home, linked by buses and trains and time zones, able to sit in the house my mother designed at the merest suggestion of homesickness. I became bound up in my life, content with the complications, confusions and cat hair that Brooklyn apartments afforded me. I knew what things meant, not just their literal meanings but their significance, what it meant to live in Astoria, in Williamsburg, to work in publishing, to be in finance.

There were also a thousand things I didn’t know, and still don’t. The best bike route to Greenwood Cemetery, or the best restaurants on the Upper West Side, or the vast mysteries of the Bronx. There were so many things I didn’t do, things I wanted and things I resisted, things that a seasoned New Yorker would scoff at and a tourist would mock. I never went to the top of the Empire State Building, in fact, I think I only passed by the building once. I’ve never had a bagel from Zabars, or a knish from Katz’s. I’ve never ridden a subway line from end to end, or been to the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens.

If I think of the things I did versus the things I missed, the people I spent my time with versus the distance between us now, physically, my life starts to feel both full and empty at the same time, but I can only content myself with the fact that life is long, and being in India doesn’t mean never going back to New York (or more importantly, Philadelphia) again. It’s not an exclusion, it’s just opening up my circle, making my world bigger. I haven’t lost things, I’ve gained them. I hadn’t lost people, we just have to communicate in different ways, spend time together in different senses.  Still. Even if it’s just for a bit, it’s hard to say goodbye.

My love for Brighton Beach is well documented, and so when I was up in New York for a last time in a while, and my friend Becca (hi, Becca!) asked me what I wanted to do, Brighton Beach was on the list. Becca, lifelong New Yorker that she is, had never been. So that was it. We trudged out to the world of Russians and lost ourselves for a few hours. All I could think about was the first time I came to Brooklyn, and how I had forced my friend Emily to come to a play with me all the way in Manhattan Beach, which is even more remote than Brighton. We had walked through the neighborhood together and stopped for pelmeni before the show.

I am a big believe in symmetry. I wore a homemade outfit then, and I wore one this last time too. As Becca, ever obliging, snapped my photos, I realized that the dress I was wearing was born of some of my friends, a handful of the people I love in New York. Becca photographed it, Emily bought me the fabric as a Hanukkah gift, and my friend Victoria’s mother sent the buttons along in a box of sewing supplies the previous winter. I had made each girl a dress when they were the bridesmaids at my recent (second) wedding. It only seemed fair that they, in a way, had made me one, too.

I suppose I should move on from the sentimentality into the stitching. If I talked about all the feelings I had leaving my friends in New York I would be here forever. And this isn’t even touching on all the emotions I felt and feel leaving my family in Philadelphia. But leaving is perhaps the wrong word for what happens when life changes. Here in India a popular world to use for moving is shifting, as in, I shifted to my new apartment, I’ll shift to that chair, can you shift this fellow for me (the last being my brother-in-law’s response to Cadfael’s communal space mentality). So I did not leave, I shifted, just a slight adjustment, relative to the infinity of time and space. After all, leaving feels so very permanent, but shifting? Shifting happens all the time.

 

To the dress:

 

RG 1

 

This little beauty (if I do say so myself) is McCalls 6696, a shirtdress upon which to build a dream. This pattern is all over the internets, and I have made it once before after being wildly inspired by Dolly Clackett and Idle Fancy . This time I wanted to try the slimmer skirted option, both for the sake of variety and because I only had 2 yards of this glorious Liberty Lawn. The 60 inch width meant that I could still get this whole shirt dress out of it, though, such is the wonder of Liberty. Thank you, Emily, a thousand times.

RG 3

I stitched up a size 14 (28 inch waist) with the choose your own cup size in a D. The fit, as previously, was good, and I like the style a lot, although I’m not sure if the pockets are cute or emphasize my not-insubstantial hips.

RG 4I made one alteration to the pattern, which was on the back piece under the yoke. Dissatisfied with the puffy nature of my last attempt, I took 2 inches out of the back in a wedge, and turned the gathers into a pleat. I prefer it, although part of me misses that vintage touch. Oh, well, next time I will see if I can take out a little gathering but still maintain the idea of the gather. Conceptual clothing, people.

RG 2

 

See, with my arms down the pockets lie beautifully flat but when I’m moving or speaking or breathing, they sort of poke out. So I guess I have to…not do any of those things.

I do love these pick-your-cup-size patterns, they just make sense. Women run the gamut of bust sizes, shouldn’t our patterns do so too?

RG 5

My lovely collar got a little wind-swept but I assure you, it came out well. And look at that fabric! And the buttons! And the photographs!

RG 6

Sewing is a solitary habit, just like writing. But I know that wherever I go, or shift, I can look at the things I’ve made and see the people who made them possible, through gifts and photos and just telling me I look nice in them. And that, at least, is something I never have to leave behind. Thank you, to everyone who reads and gives and helps and puts up with my sewing related chatter. I love you all, and I’m taking you with me as I shift around.

So now I’m learning Mumbai, and you can expect Indian hellos to follow this Russian Goodbye. Fewer fur hats, more goats. Both cities have a beach, though, at least there is that…

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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 Ask And Ye Shall Receive Tunic

Okay so remember how I was all like I NEED A NEW TUNIC ASAP? Well. You know. I’ve asked for a lot of things in like. I’ve asked for a production of my plays (more on that later). I’ve asked for more wine when the wine was gone. I’ve asked for one thousand cats but then my cat looked at me with disdain and I took it back immediately. I’ve asked for more books to read and they came. So honestly, many things I’ve asked for have come true, all because I asked for them. And then I asked the universe for a new tunic pattern, something I liked better. And you know what? I found one. UNIVERSE. You’ve done it again!

I had been looking for a pattern for my mother-in-law, actually, which sort of proves that getting married was a clutch move for me as its led to positive things like this new pattern (and, like, a life with someone, whatever to that though). She bought a few shirts here when she was visiting the States from India and asked me to make her a shirt, and I had been trying to find something she might like ever since and stumbled upon this pattern on the magnificent GirlCharlee.com which seemed like one she would like. And then I was like, I ALSO like this, a lot….

And so I bought this pattern, the Everyday Elegance Top from Patterns for Pirates, and made it. And fell madly and deeply in love with it. And took it to Portland, which I also loved. And had Mr. Struggle take photos of me in the Japanese Garden which is part of the Forest Park Conservatory and simply stunning. JUST LIKE MY SHIRT!

ANYSR 1I love it. It’s like a little Soviet worker’s uniform. It’s great.

ANYSR 3Couldn’t you just see me in a Russian Propaganda musical? I could! I would love that! I would be so into that! It is, I know, rather wrinkled in these photos because that’s what the rain and being packed in a suitcase can do to a garment. Sorry, but doesn’t the background make up for it?

ANYSR 2The construction was fairly simple. The fabric is a Robert Kauffman chambray from Fabric.com. I made this with french seams throughout, like you do. I lengthened the sleeves and omitted the button tab in this version but I would like to make about ten more of these with different things going on. And then maybe one for my mother-in-law. I owe her.

AAYSR 5

Yes, yes, wrinkle abound. But it’s cute, right?

AAYSR 6A little side curve with a super off facial expression for you!

ANYSR 4Alright, enough of me, let’s look at the gorgeous garden, shall we?

AAYSR 7Apparently they are the second most accurate Japanese gardens outside of Japan. Because that’s a thing, right?

AAYSR 8AAYSR 9It’s so full of Japanese maples! Such gorgeous leaves.

AAYSR 10Just flipping lovely, right?

AAYSR 11

Seriously. Go to Portland because it’s really nice, and when you do, go to this park. So. So. So nice. And when you do, bring this tunic with you! I did, see how well it worked for me!

I love this pattern. I want to make it forever. THANK YOU, UNIVERSE!

See? Don’t ask, don’t get.

 

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Filed under Clothing, Life, Patterns for Pirates, Travel