Category Archives: Sewing

The Khadi Body Pants

Okay, guys, we need to talk about culottes. Culottes. I never thought this day would come. What is this, 18th Century France, am I right? I mean, politically and personally I have always thought of myself as a sans culottes, you know what I mean? That’s a little French Revolution humor for you, for the cheap seats. I’m just kidding, there are no cheap seats at Versailles! Hey-o! Tip your guillotine operator, try the cake.

ANYway. Culottes. This is a thing. This is a thing in the world we live in and I have resisted it, as I do with so many things, until the point that I flip and wholeheartedly embrace it and THAT, my friends, is what is happening right now.

I want to talk to you about Megan Nielsen patterns. I really like Megan Nielsen patterns in that I really like the design. Seriously, lovely design, time and again. But the fit? The fit, my friends, is a situation. When the Flint Pants pattern came out, I was deeply deeply excited. I have been looking for a wide-legged loose fitting pleated pant that I could make in a lightweight fabric that would be good for the heat of Mumbai. I have tried a few options, and generally found myself disappointed. So when the Flint pattern came out, I was like, this is it. Pockets. Pleats. Wide legs. Cute closure options. Loose fit. IT’S THE GRAIL.

But then I tried them. I wanted a loose fit, because, um, isn’t that the point? So although my literal hip is an L, and my waist is a M (ummmmmm, question, why is a woven pattern S-XL?), I decided I would cut an XL to be safe, because the finished garment measurement had no ease, or so it appeared to me. Well, I cut and stitched up a pair of shorts in a turquoise fabric, and, um, I mean, technically they fit I guess, but it was a literal disaster. Puzzled, I measured the hip, and found that the finished shorts were actually the M hip measurement! What the WHAT? I am not a large person. I am never an L, let alone an XL, and now these shorts wont fit? I blame my butt. These CANNOT have been drafted for any junk in the trunk, am I right? Yes, there is an ego issue here, but beyond that, it was bewildering. I fumed. I sighed. I was OVER this, over pants, over everything! But no, NO. I bought the physical paper pattern, not even a PDF. I committed to these pants. I was going to make this WORK if it killed me. I decided to go all out, and I added two inches to each side of each leg pattern piece for a pair of shorts I was making. This…might have been overcorrecting, because I ended up with super loose shorts and I took the waistband at least 6 inches, so it’s back down to the pattern M measurement. But while big, these shorts, which I may photograph later, were much closer to what I had been looking for. Loose flowy comfortable shorts/pants/MAYBE CULOTTES WHAAAAAT?

Yes. Culottes. In the third iteration of my attempts to make the Flint pattern, I think I’ve hit my sweet spot. I added 1.5 inches to each side of each leg piece, so essentially adding a nice 12 inches to the leg pieces, giving me ample room through the hips and posterior, while grading to a M at the waist. I might not love the originally drafting here, but I’m glad I stuck with this pattern and made it work for me. Finally I have the comfortable loose fit of my dreams. Hard work, it pays off, whether you are overthrowing the French Monarchy or just making a pair of pants happen, am I right?

So here you go, without further ado, my Flint Culottes:

When my friend Liz was here, she bought this purple and white khadi that I adored but graciously let her buy because I am an amazing person/hero. However, when I saw this, virtually the SAME FABRIC, in Darjeeling in a Khadi Store, I luckily had no one else around me interested, and I could scoop it all up furtively and get out of there before anyone tried to take it. I had just enough to make these culottes, which, when I cut them, 100% reached my ankles and could have just been straight up pants. That might be another drafting issue, actually… Ah, well, that’s what hemming is for.

The shirt is actually something I bought. WHAT? I KNOW. But it’s a linen t-shirt from J Crew and I have to say, I adore it. Linen. I love you. And as a knit? I want to go to there. I might buy more, guys. I want five of these. I live in a hot place. Linen is amazing.

Here I am, posing by the synagogue in Cochin, a city in Kerala, which I recently visited with my friend Sarah who was in turn visiting ME from the States. I got Jews in different area codes, am I right?

This very sweaty back view is my gift to you from Kerala.

I love love love the waist tie detail. There is a button on the inside, which cleverly keeps the whole pant-system in place. How amazing is this khadi? The texture is so great, and I think it really works with this pattern, much as I’ve adapted it. It makes for loose pleats, but they still have weight and definition.

These pants were, for all their struggle in the making, for all my emotional upheaval around making, and WEARING, culottes, because, you know, the horror, the humanity, but these were seriously magnificent for walking around Cochin. So. Damn. Comfortable, and the pockets? YES. And the loose fit I engineered, knowing it was all I wanted, kept me cool in the heat of Kerala. The khadi did it’s job, of course, and all in all, I have to say, for all the pain these caused me on the way, they were wonderful in their actuality.

Emotionally, mentally, yes, I’m still very much sans culottes. But, when it comes to real culottes? I might be more pro than I thought.

And now, some images from Kerala:

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Filed under Clothing, Megan Nielsen, Sewing

Rainy Day Ikat Dress

One of the many things I’ve fallen deeply in love with from a textile perspective since I’ve started spending time in India has been ikat. Of course, I did love ikat before, and a search through my blog archives might reveal a post or two in praise of this weaving technique. But being so close to so many wonderful ikats has only nurtured my affection. It’s like, before, it was an interest, right? Like we were flirting, we’d say hi at the gym or whatever, I’d creep on ikat a little at the farmer’s market, try to think of cute weaving puns, google ikat and pretend I hadn’t, But you know, it was just a passing thing, one of the many fabrics I might potentially see a future with. Now, though, it’s a little more serious. I mean, it’s not marriage or anything, but we might be dating on the regular, you know? Obviously I’m not a one-fabric woman, gotta keep it fresh, but ikat might be moving into a regular part of the rotation.

So when I spent last Sunday with my friend Sarah who is visiting from the States going from Chor Bazaar, an antique/flea market in Mumbai which shares space with countless electronics second-hand stores and auto parts resellers, so that you end up pondering priceless antiques from all over India in the shade of twelve car body frames stacked high, to the CSMVS Museum, I decided that all that moving around deserved my crush-turned-casual dating fabric, ikat. Specifically this recent make:

Sarah graciously agreed to take photos of me after our whirlwind day scouring through antique stores to score her the perfect souvenirs to take home with her. While many like the handicrafts or the bangles, Sarah was looking for someone unique, so we evaluated brass door handles, wooden shutters and clay figures trying to find her the perfect gifts to others, and herself. Chor Bazaar is one of my favorite places in Mumbai to take visitors, but it’s not for the faint of heart or stomach, and it’s a ways away from my own neighborhood, so I don’t end up going all that often. South Bombay is like Manhattan when you live in Brooklyn, if you don’t HAVE to go it’s like, ugh, why bother. But it’s of course actually quite excellent and trekking down has many rewards.

Here I am, in front of the museum, which used to be the Prince of Wales Museum, but, like so many things in Bombay, has had its name changed to reflect an Indian future, rather than a colonial past. It’s now the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, say that five times fast, but if you ask a cab driver to take you to the Prince of Wales Museum, they know where to go. In many ways the museum itself, one of India’s finest, reflected the antique market we had just come from, jumbled items with few explanations, an assortment of bewildering goods that have no relationship to each other, in a fascinating place. Sigh.

But at least I looked cute! This fabric came from Kolkata, and when I got back from my last trip there I quickly whipped up this dress, which I’ve worn more than once before I conned Sarah into photographing it.The pattern is my bodice block, to which I added sleeves from the Grainline Studio Scout Tee, a genius move if I do say so myself, they fit perfectly and are great. I made this one a little bigger to give it a loose fit, although I usually belt it so you can’t really tell here. It’s deeply comfortable, and just the thing for rainy Bombay days, of which there are many right now, in the monsoon. My shoes here are legit made of rubber.

I gathered the skirt and of course I have pockets. This was deeply simple to put together, but I appreciate the celebration of ikat!

 

I cut the bodice on the cross-grain to have some fun with the ikat’s stripe pattern.

This dress was very motivational as we went from this:

To this:

And regardless of the rain, my dress was up to the task. Sarah declared Chor Bazaar to be one of her favorite things in Bombay too, so victory all around! More monsoon outfits to follow, I promise. They might be a bit damp, but I’m still making them!

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Filed under Clothing, Self Drafted, Sewing

The Work In Progress Dress

Ah, it’s that time again, Me Made May! At this point, to be fair, my life is a me made life, with the rare RTW item surfacing, usually around workouts, or as undergarments, or recently with swimwear and jeans (I know, I KNOW I can make my own, and have made my own active wear and swimwear, as well as denim items that are not technically jeans, but my machine here in India hates most knit fabrics, sigh, and I’m afraid of the hardware, and I will eventually sew both jeans and swimsuits again, but for right NOW this is where I’m at).  But I like participating in Me Made May, to show off stuff that doesn’t seem worth a blog post, i.e. one of a thousand Scout Tees and Plantain Tees and other things that just don’t make it on here, but that pepper my wardrobe nonetheless. Additionally, this year I’m going to be traveling for half of May, so I’m eager to challenge myself with a me-made travel wardrobe and, hopefully, not bore us all. I’m documenting my Me Made May 2017 journey on Instagram, so follow me @lfstruggle for images and updates!

Me Made May also forces me TO document for the blog some of the projects that I’ve been behind on photographing. This, however, is not one of them. No, I made this project, The Kalle Shirtdress, extremely recently, over the course of about a day, because honestly, despite the fact that it is a shirtdress, with buttons, and a popover placket, I have to say, it was just so easy to make! I am sure I am not alone in my gratitude for Closet Case Patterns, for this wonderful pattern. I remember the day I saw Heather’s blog post on the self-drafted shirtdress that started it all, and I thought, damn, not only is that a much better version of the Archer Hack I made, but how wonderful would that pattern been in Mumbai all year round and during the summer anywhere? So when Heather actually released the pattern, it was one of those rare for me moments when I actually bought something immediately. I’m a planner, and I like to “visit” purchases, consider them, do I really need them, and when it comes to patterns, will I make this again? Do I have an occasion for this? But with this pattern, none of those questions could be answered by anything other than a resounding YES so click, buy, print, assemble, make, done. Honestly, if I wasn’t writing one novel, editing another, and, you know, working at a job job, I probably would have just sat down and made it the day I bought it, but alas, life sometimes gets in the way of sewing, who knows why.

 

Of course, when I wore this dress to work and convinced my co-workers to photograph me, we managed to find a primo spot in the open construction site that literally IS Mumbai, and the nearby sign really spoke to me as a human (ugh, I deplore that phrase but watcha gonna do). Who among us does not feel like a work in progress? Who feels done, over, sorted? I don’t know to know people like that. I don’t want to bother with complacency. In fact, it is one of the most interesting and frustrating things to me about spending time in India, the way that culture and ground realities of Indian life have conspired in so many to create a language and vocabulary about inherent and intrinsic qualities, the repetition of the phrase “but they are just like that”, or, “that is just how things are”. If I felt I could not be constantly working and striving to improve the world around me, starting with myself, I don’t know how I would find motivation to try or accomplish anything. And in some ways sewing is a wonderful microcosm for me in my ability to learn, and to keep learning. Much as I envy lifelong stitchers, the fact that I have learned this skill fairly recently, almost 8 years ago, I suppose, now, wow, scary thought, and the fact that it has led to other skills and crafts and interests, speaks to me of the elasticity of the human mind, and the way learning and growing is not only possible but essential.

Anyway, enough of that. For more ruminations on India, you are welcome to check out this other blog.

For my first of many, I decided to try the dress option with the pleat back and a popover placket.

I wouldn’t say I got any truly fantastic photos of the back of this dress, but here you can see the pleat and a little of the fun I had with the yoke, cutting it cross-grain for some contrast.

I love a popover, I really do, finicky as it is. This attempt might not be the plutonic form of popover but I’m okay with it, and that’s what really matters, right?

I cut a size 14, because I have found in the past that Closet Case Patterns run small, or at least, that’s my perspective. I wanted to make sure this fit in the bust, that was the most important thing. Heather is running a sew-along for the pattern with a full bust adjustment post, which I plan to read, but for this time around, I just cut the size with my full bust measurement and figured the rest would be fine, it’s a looser-fitting style, anyway. In fact, a co-worker commented that this dress didn’t have my usual waist-hugging style. Beyond being flattered that someone had noticed my style, I had to agree with her. But I will say, I love the way this is drafted so that it glances off the body but still feels, dare I say it, sexy, flattering, body-skimming.

For the fabric, I picked this cotton from Thakur, my serious forever new favorite. I would say I’m financing someone’s country home or something there but it’s so cheap, in fact, that’s part of why I love it. This fabric, which was 60″ wide, was 190 rupees a meter, which is about 3 dollars. RIGHT? RIGHT? Yes.

Stitching this up was really easy, in fact, as I said, I did it in one day. The kimono sleeves mean there is nothing to set it, which is nice, and the collar method Heather has in her instructions is fantastic, seriously, unconventional as she describes it but made for one of the cleanest collars I’ve ever stitched. I didn’t mind finishing the hem with bias tape, yes it’s finicky but it makes for a clean curve which is lovely.

One thing I would say, though, about this pattern, is that I added a good 4.5 inches to the hem, because it seemed awfully short to me. Part of this, I know, is what being in India has done to my understanding of hemlines, because I have seriously warped vision about short, too-short, etc, not because Mumbai is so restrictive, it really isn’t, but because women’s legs are just not as visible here, and the few exceptions I see on a Saturday night, women in fancy bars with body-con dresses and micro-mini shorts, don’t make up for the overwhelming numbers of legs covered by leggings, pants, jeans and saris, even on the hottest of days.

 

That being said, this dress is short, even by my pre-India standards, and I don’t regret lengthening the hem. I’d do it again in an instant!

As a side note, I really did think my hair looked okay and then I saw these photos and I was like, oh dear god, the horror. Le sigh. Thanks, never-ending humidity!

This tree is just outside of my office building, and you can always have a little Ganesh sesh when you need to, I guess. I have no idea. The longer I’m here, the less Hinduism makes sense to me. But you do you, Ganesh! You do you.

 

And I’m going to do me. Painful smile, messy hair, wonderful dress, a classic combo.

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Filed under Closet Case Patterns, Clothing, Sewing

The Swing By The Northeast Shirt

A philosophical question for stitchers of the ages. At what point does a pattern hack become…something beyond that? As in, at what point do you change so many things about a pattern that it is suddenly something else? The shirt I’m going to be showing you today is totally based on something but then I…basically changed almost everything about it. So I guess it’s still somehow sort of a grainline studio scout tee, but I doubt anyone would recognize it as such…

Let me backtrack here for a moment. When recently planning a trip with my friends Victoria and Joe (hi, Victoria and Joe!) who so graciously decided to visit me in India, they decided that while most tourists make a beeline for the camels , elephants and palaces, they wanted a different approach, and chose the Northeast of India, specifically the state of Sikkim, as their primary destination. And I’m lucky enough to have been invited to tag along with them to their stopover in Darjeeling and their journey to Gangtok, the capital of the state tucked neatly in the Himalayan mountain range. This is a different India than I had experience before, with Darjeeling, the colonial getaway steeped in tea and history, and Gangtok, rife with monasteries and momos (dumplings), clean and pristine in the clear mountain air, a city of wretchedly steep hills (I swear, despite missing the gym for a week, I think I got better workouts most days…). The mountain roads are terrifying but fascinating, and the weather is cool with clear days and chilly nights.

In steamy humid pre-monsoon Mumbai, the weather was one of the things I was most eagerly anticipating, but as I looked at my wardrobe, I realized that I had a serious dearth of cool-weather clothing. Given that I’m spending a lot of time in a warm place right now, I haven’t been making as much cold-appropriate stuff, and suddenly I realized that I really should be making stuff every once in a while for chilly situations. After all, it’s not like I’m never in them! So I have decided that I will make the rare warm piece, for chilly days and chilly places. Of course, it’s easy to only think about the things that you need right then and there, but hey, a little forward thinking never hurt anyone.

And I must say, this shirt was SO wonderfully cosy in Darjeeling, which, because of its high elevation, was actually colder than Gangtok, which is further north. I wouldn’t say it was freezing, more like in the 50’s and 40’s (farenheit) but the lack of heating in Indian homes meant this wonderful make kept me warm. Of course, it was a little incongruous at our cozy afternoon tea in the fancy Windamere Hotel, but I can live with that.

So here you go! An EXTREMELY modified Scout Tee:

Now, you’re thinking right about now, um, Leah,the Scout Tee is a t-shirt. This is…something else entirely. So what did I change? The better question is probably, what DIDN’T I change?

So, I lengthened the body pieces by about five inches in the front and seven inches in the back for that hi-low situation, and widened them into a swing shape. I also lengthened the sleeves, as you can see, to full length, and cut the front on the selvage, adding two inches for the placket. I also divided the back into a yoke, which I cut two of, one of which was on the bias, and a back piece, which I further widened to have room for a vent.

Yeah. As far from Scout as could be.

I totally did all this on the fabric, by the way, living dangerously, because I’m a rebel, Dottie, a loner, and man if I don’t LOVE the result!

 

The fabric is a flannel I got at my new favorite place in Mumbai, Thakur. It is cozy as hell, and I love it.

I had enough of it to match up the plaids at the side, although one side ended up better than the other. I guess that’s a thing?

Here’s my casual leaning look. I feel like with the flannel and the plaid it’s like a little 1990’s, which I loathe, but WHATEVER. I choose to not see that. I choose my reality, dammit!

There I am, in front of the hotel’s immaculate gates. Can’t you just see a Lord Something-or-other condescending himself right through these?

So that’s my shirt, a total hack, and one I might just have to replicate.

Oh, and those mountains? Fairly magnificent, for reals:

RIGHT?

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Filed under Grainline Patterns, Sewing

The Recipe For Disaster Dress

It is excellent advice, in a sea of far too much advice, that Polonious gives to his son, Laertes: To thine own self be true. Of course, it comes with a bunch of other stuff around it that is questionable, I mean, neither borrower nor lender be? I think the banking industry would have some issues with that one. Do not dull thy palm with entertainment/ Of each new-hatch’d, unfledged comrade? That’s basically telling him to never make a new friend. Don’t you want your kid to have FRIENDS, Polonius? Jesus. But the worst one for me is probably: give thy thoughts no tongue, which is just….I mean. That’s pretty much, like, my entire personality and career. So THANKS, Polonious, for that nugget of wisdom. But the last thing he says, the be true to yourself thing, is pretty good, and often quoted by many, and we all like it, right? It’s very new-agey for an Elizabethan writer. You can just imagine the teenagers who went and saw Hamlet at the globe and then came home and were like MOM I’m not GETTING married or getting APPRENTICED or ANYTHING. I’m becoming a LUTE PLAYER because that’s who I really AM. I’m being true to ME. It’s a wonder that play wasn’t banned, I swear.

But the point is, you SHOULD be true to yourself, really, I do believe that, and that starts with knowing yourself. But that said, I do sometimes make things that, despite real and sincere efforts towards self-knowledge as an adult human, have nothing to do with me and my life. I mean, I’m the kind of person who should wear a bib at leas 75% of the time, because I am klutzy in the extreme, prone to spilling, dripping, splattering and dropping anything and everything on myself within mere minutes of donning a light-colored ensemble. And yet, for some reason, my clothing for the past few months has been trending towards a color I should really avoid, purely because I rarely treat it well. Yes, that’s right, I’m talking about white. White, whose pure expanse I ruin with coffee, sauces, dirt, lipstick, you name it, I’ve done it. There isn’t a white I own that I haven’t spilled something on. Truly I, like Laertes, ought to be true to myself, shouldn’t I? I should be true to the me that spills and wear clothing made out of whatever fabric those absorbent Dockers are made of, honestly, because that would probably be the best bet. Or some kind of laminated fabric, raincoat material. Or all black, all the time.

But for whatever reason, it seems that I have had a growing attraction to said color this year. I’ve been flirting with all white dresses this year by making a bunch of things like this, and this, and this, that aren’t all white but are MOSTLY to 50% white. But this time? I went all the way. WHY? Why did I do this? When I put this dress on, what’s-his-face was like, are you sure you want to wear that? We are going to lunch and you….and then he discreetly trailed off. He blamed Indian food, which he said has the propensity to stain. Yeah. Sure. The FOOD is the problem.

I ditched this number for the lunch, but put it back on again for a friend’s birthday, and of course I spilled on it, and life went on. The truth is, I like white, and I spill on everything, and I just have to accept that. Perhaps THAT is being to mine own self true.

Enough with the philosophy! To the dress:

I used my typical bodice block, which I wanted to be a bit loose because I knew it would have to fit over a slip, so I added two inches at the side seams, and I pleated up a skirt. Pockets, natch, self-drafted sleeves that are a bit floofier than I had wanted but they’ve grown on me, and that is about it, honestly.

Love a pocket! Don’t you?

See, a little self-conscious of the floofy sleeves. But the pleats look nice in this one! The fabric is really the star here, I believe:

I love the vertical pattern of the eyelet, I think it makes it less cutesy, although this is still solidly in the cutesy category, and more clean. I got it at Thakur, of course, my new favorite.

I would say, stains aside, white is quite nice in the Mumbai heat.

Side view for ya.

And back!

So there you have it. A dress that would probably be better for someone who isn’t me, but the heart wants what the heart wants. Maybe that’s the real problem with Polonious’ advice, that one’s own self is sometimes a bit of a conundrum, confusing even to the self that one is. Ah, well. For as long as I have this dress and don’t stain it irrevocably, I like it!

 

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Filed under Clothing, Sewing

The Fox Among the Pigeons Skirt

Happy New Year! I celebrated in Singapore hanging out in an apartment, toasting my family and friends with prosecco, and thinking how lucky I am to be able to travel this much and see amazing places with the people I love. Some compensation for living far from most of the people I know, I suppose! I’ll take it. Happy 2017 everyone! Let’s make it a good one by investing in our planet, and each other, in celebrating differences, in focusing on the good and fighting the bad like hell, and in loving this speech. I love this community, and I’m lucky to have it, so thank you for sticking with me and here’s to the new year!

As someone who has been traveling a lot, a lot a lot, and probably will only do it more in 2017, I realized packing for my recent trip to Singapore and Sri Lanka (guys, Sri Lanka is amazing, seriously, my five days there with my friend Ben, hey Ben!, barely scratched the surface of this gorgeous country, I can’t wait to go back….), I was making sure to bring a bunch of things I hadn’t had a chance to photograph in an effort to force my travel companions (of which there were many, my wonderful parents who we dragged from Delhi to Mumbai to Singapore and who took it all with grace and brought us cheese from Neal’s Yard Dairy in London because they are the best, my brother and his girlfriend who joined us from Thailand and brought me two pieces of astounding silk, more on that in a sewing planning post later, my friend Ben, my friend Michael, and of course, what’s-his-face, we rolled DEEP this trip!) to take my picture in one garment or the other. Is this sort of like a sewing blog sneak attack? Yes, yes it is. I make no apologies. Gotta get this stuff photographed, people, by hook or by crook!

In traveling with my parents, I decided that in order to end the trip on a high note, it would be best to go from the least developed to the most developed place, so we saw Delhi, where I was literally attacked by a cow who tried to gore my stomach with her (luckily) developing and small horns outside a national monument, and then Mumbai, where my parents learned of the suffocating traffic and tropical humidity that owns our lives here, and then finally we were off to Singapore, more developed than most of the West, for real for real, a bit sterile, to be sure, but clean, well-organized, and with the kind of food you dream your life away and want to make a Faustian bargain just so you get to eat it one more time. Sigh. But we aren’t going to talk about that right now, we are going to talk about the fact that there is nothing really much to DO in Singapore, and yet we did find things, although I kind of worry that now I’ve literally done all the things and what am I going to do NEXT time I go? Ah, well, one sacrifices for family I suppose.

If you are considering a trip in Asia involving Singapore, and you are coming from the West, I would recommend you go to Singapore last, because I don’t know that you really appreciate it all that much until you see other Asian cities and countries. Singapore is all about comparative adjectives, so you need to give yourself something to compare it to. And if you are comparing it to India, well, it does very well in that exchange….

So this time in our efforts to find activities, we visited the Jurong Bird Park, which, like everything else in Singapore, is beautifully planned, well maintained, and a lovely place to spend some time if you have the money. And so I wore my new skirt there, hoping to throw a fox among all the many birds we found there, including, but not limited to, the Victoria Pigeon. Now, this is no ordinary flying rat, no metropolitan scourge of humanity. This pigeon is, forgive me, FLY.

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Look at that bird. That’s a pigeon who know’s what’s up.

To the garment! Of course the real phrase is “cat among the pigeons”, not fox, but what can I do, I think a fox would be as upsetting to pigeons as a cat, although these guys didn’t seem that bothered, so what do I know?

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So here I am, in my fox-printed pencil skirt (I think I need to take the waist in, although I love home comfortable this is, but the slight stretch across the fabric makes it bag quickly), and a never-blogged plantain because who has that kind of time?

This skirt comes from my block, and while I usually do the bodice block, I’ve been experimenting with the bottom lately!

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Whaaaa? Yes, I have! This is the second time I’ve done this, although I made a super serviceable army green pencil skirt which is a total workhorse and I’ve yet to photograph. I didn’t bring that to Singapore because this one is clearly more fun…

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A little side view for you. It’s a little big, yes, probably again because of the stretch element. But I like it, I’m literally wearing it as I type this, so…

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You can just see the zipper, ah well, its bright pink, which is fun, and then the waistband fastens with two skirt hooks. I machine stitched the hem because sometimes you just can’t, and it has a vent in the back, although I don’t know if you can see it here. I cut this skirt a little long, which made me feel a little dowdy in Singapore, but I think the print saves it from full on matron territory. Right? Let’s hope so….

The shirt fabric is from Girl Charlee, smuggled into India last spring, and the skirt fabric is from my new BFF fabric store, Thakur, in Bandra.

Sidenote, have you guys seen the Poirot “A Cat Among the Pigeons“? Classic.

I don’t know if my skirt had quite the influence on these birds the print implies it might…

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Ah well, I suppose it’s better not to freak out the birds. They can kick you out of Singapore for that…

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Bye bye, birdies! Odds are I will see you again sooner or later, after all, there isn’t much to do in Singapore, except eat your chicken and duck compatriots, that is. Delicious delicious compatriots.

Thanks for the photos, Michael! Thanks for coming to Singapore to be my photographer! That’s why you came, right?

 

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Filed under Clothing, Deer and Doe, Sewing, Travel

The Cuando Estas En El Caribe Romper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Man, that show is just the literal best.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Filed under By Hand London, Clothing, Sewing