Category Archives: 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

The Think Zebras Dress

There is a saying, when you hear hoofbeats think horses not zebras. It’s a saying I’ve heard a few times on medical dramas, so I have to assume it’s a doctor thing. I’ve always heard it in the context of looking at symptoms of a disease and thinking of the common options, not immediately jumping to flesh-eating bacteria (although….OH MY GOD THERE ARE FLESH EATING BACTERIA OUT THERE , makes me almost glad what’s-his-face and I never had a honeymoon despite being married literally millions (three) times, because if that’s what happens when you have a honeymoon, I’m out).   Essentially it’s a restatement of Occam’s razor , that the simplest answer is often the correct one.I’m sure that works well for doctors, although it never seemed to be the case on House, but for those of us in more creative less human-mortality based fields, I don’t know if it’s as useful. I mean, why not think zebras? Sure, you might be signing yourself up for a lifetime of disappointment, especially if you live in a horse-rich region, but hey, isn’t the possibility of zebras an exciting one? Surely we all deserve to live in hope, the most dangerous of all human emotions.  Sure, most of the world is horses, unless you life in a zebra-rich region, but maybe it could be zebras, every once in a while. Or giraffes! You never know.

For example, I now live in a city where I frequently see wild green parakeets (thanks, Ronnie, who corrected me when I thought they were parrots) chattering  on telephone wires, and massive brown and gold kites hunt for food and rest on palm trees. God help me if Cadfael gets a look at the kites, he’s dumb enough to think he can take them, the coward. I think this is an amazing, while What’s-his-face just rolls his eyes when I point out monkeys in the trees and kingfishers perching on government buildings. Certainly it’s a high-energy life, noticing everything all the time, refusing to let things be familiar. But I would rather be excited about hoofbeats, and hope for zebras. Maybe someday, that’s what it will be!

And while I’m waiting, I can at least prepare sartorially. On  my fabric-buying trip with Liz this past May, we paid a visit to the Rangotri fabric printing studio in Jaipur, which was magnificent and extremely informative. Moreover, I got a chance to pick up some lengths of fabric from their small but wonderful “overstock” or factory discard section. I scored this piece that I loved, in the continuing white-and-blue theme that is owning my life right now. I used part of it to make our living room curtains, but I had a nice amount left, and much like Maria Von Trapp, I’m cool with wearing curtains. So…

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Although she never WEARS the curtains, come to think of it….

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But I did! Actually, the original fabric had the stripes above the zebras, but I wanted the zebras on the bust, so I cut the fabric along the zebra line, and stitched it back on, before cutting out this lengthened Grainline Archer shirt-dress. I’m thinking more and more about trying the Alder out, especially after seeing this adorable one by Dixie DIY. Thoughts?

But for now, I have this. This is, by the way, also in my current attempts to sew outside my comfort zone, like my recent crop-top situation. I don’t usually go for something so shapeless, something without a waist. I’m not going to lie, I have worn this dress like ten times now and some part of me still winces when I see myself in the mirror, at least a little bit. HOWEVER. I also have worn this dress like TEN TIMES which should tell you something about how comfortable this dress is and how much the loose shape and airy fabric really feel great in the tropics. I wear a self-made slip (an altered grainline tiny pocket tank, alas, discontinued)  under it, because it is indeed quite lightweight, but even with that (the slip is cotton) I feel fabulously cool on steamy days.

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For example, these photos were taken in Singapore, which is humid and sticky year-round, and I was more than comfortable, I was blissful. Of course, the iced coffee also helps.

Here is the thing about Singapore that through What’s-his-face and his friends I have truly come to appreciate. The food. Well, also, frankly, living in India, Singapore is a wonderful place to visit because it is clean and well-organized and more Western than the West, easy to navigate, safe, I don’t see people urinating in corners at every turn…the list goes on. Obviously these are most of the things you just….kind of expect in life, but I live in India now, and boy have my expectations changed. So while I did not appreciate Singapore fully before I had lived in Mumbai, assuming it would be boring (well, fair, it is) with little to recommend it culturally (also true), I did not realize how strongly it holds up in COMPARISON to India. I never thought I would say this, but I love Singapore. It’s awesome.

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Really, it is.

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Both because it is just too Western for words but with some Eastern accents, and because the food is amazing. It’s quite an expensive place, to be sure, but the food hawker stands have all been moved into complexes and they are cheap, readily available, and consistently some of the best meals I’ve had.

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When I first went to Singapore this past January I bought iced coffee in coffee shops for scandalous prices, but then we realized we could also buy that in hawker markets for two Singapore dollars, and once we figured out how to ask for regular milk and not condensed (because then it’s just coffee flavored candy) we were golden.

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So here I am in one of our favorite hawker centers, Tiong Bahru, posing with my iced coffee in my shirt dress after a hearty meal of roasted duck over noodles. I think you can see the seam well in this shot.

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If you aren’t a coffee person, may I recommend a fresh lime juice when strolling Singapore? Super refreshing, despite looking a little toxic…

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What else can one ask for in life? I’ve taken a detail shot of my curtains so  you can see the zebras and the stripes a little bit more clearly, albeit in their original position:

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To alter the pattern, I simply lengthened the hem of the non-peplum back variation, and eliminated the curve in the hem. I made a sleeveless version, altering the back yoke as suggested by Jen on her blog for this variation. It makes a tiny subtle difference to me, but it’s nice. I widened the hem slightly to make the dress as loose and tent-like as the amount of fabric I had would allow. That’s about it, variation-wise. I’ve made this pattern so many times, I swear, but hey, if it ain’t broke…

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I used the striped part of the fabric for the yoke, as a contrast, and used the zebras for the collar. There is a little bit of lower-back pooling, because I didn’t do any kind of swayback adjustment, ah well. I can live with that.

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Don’t you love that Peacock mural photobombing my photos? That mural is like, elephants, zebras, where is the peacock love, lady? All in good time, friend. The animal fabrics, despite what’s-his-face’s judgment, aren’t going away anytime soon! Bahahahahah!

It’s strangely scary sometimes to try a new shape, especially when you have a set idea of what makes you look good, but I’m happy I’m trying some new things this year. The benefits of this looseness in this climate cannot be overstated, and I tend to get compliments on this dress whenever I wear it, regardless of my own self-judgments.

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. So hey, I’m happy to think zebras. Why not, right?

 

 

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Filed under Grainline Patterns, Sewing, Travel

The Proud To Be Paisley Dress

This year, fabric-buying-wise, has been all about white fabric with blue motifs. I don’t know why, how, or who influenced me in this, but somehow this theme has sunk its way into my consciousness. Maybe it’s my way of attempting to stay cool and collected in Mumbai’s oppressive year-round humidity, and these attempts, I should tell you, fail miserably. I usually show up everywhere sweating profusely, hair frenzied and breaking free of whatever weak excuse for a hair tie is trying to keep it in check, cheeks red, body thrumming with heat. It’s a very attractive sight, I gotta tell you.

One of the strangest things for me is how many women here wear full length shirts and pants and skirts and sometimes even sweaters and seem totally comfortable, nary a drop of sweat clinging to their noses, while in my lightweight cotton skirts and tops I’m a maelstrom of discomfort. My mother in law primly informed me that women here cover up to avoid getting darker in the sun, with the superior tone Northerners so often use in these commentaries. That is probably true for some, I suppose, but a lot of people I know just say they are more comfortable that way. Most of me thinks “THAT’S A DAMN LIE PASS ME THE WATER!” but some part of me wonders if that might be true. I doubt very much I will ever feel that way. When What’s-his-face donned a flannel on the crisp (ha!) evenings of 75 degrees during Bombay’s two-week winter the past January, and shivered as we waited for a rickshaw to take us to the movie theater, my mocking cackle rang out into the night.

I grew up going to San Juan regularly, and the same was true there, in the “winter” people shivered in jeans and sweaters while I gleefully played on empty beaches, ran around in shorts, and proclaimed to all and sundry how warm the weather was compared to winter in Philadelphia. Someone I know who has been living in Mumbai for the last nine years or so told me recently they tend to reach for long sleeves and pants as a matter of course now, but I doubt I will ever get to that point (and besides, I’m not willing to stay nine years to find out…). So I suppose I will just keep having to aspire to coolness in my clothing. I have recently (i.e. last night) picked up two lengths of a lightweight textured cotton to make wide-legged culottes hacking a la this tutorial, so maybe that’s my concession to pants right now. That’s as far as I think I can currently go. If I’m sweating right now, in a t-shirt and knee-length skirt, I don’t even want to know what I would be like in MORE clothing.

Anyway effective or no, the white and blue fabrics, most of which were purchased on my trip to Rajasthan and Delhi, are at least visually soothing. The one I used to make the dress I’m about to display, however, was purchased right here in Bombay, just down the road from my apartment in Santacruz West at Sew In Style, proving that cool fabrics are to be found everywhere, if only you look for them.

On a related but unrelated note, I have never really liked paisley, probably because my mother has never liked paisley and that’s one of the taste things we share. For her, it’s probably a reaction to the 1970’s, a decade she lived through in all its paisley horror. That being said, I’m actually very excited for this show, is anyone else? But when I showed her this dress, she said, and I quote, nice paisley! I hadn’t really thought it WAS paisley, but even if it is, I like it! So I’m proud. Maybe the Mughal tinge off-sets the 70’s curse…

img_20160911_161525So the pattern is my bodice block, but this time I added 1.5 inches to the side seams and lengthened the bodice by 3 inches. I wanted it to be looser and less fitted than normal, because again, so hot… the less fitted thing takes getting used to, because I usually think it makes me look bigger than I am, but the comfort is great, so I’m trying to get into it.

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I self-lined the bodice but didn’t line the skirt, and I wear a slip I made under it because the skirt is a little transparent and homie don’t play that in India. These photos were actually taken in Delhi, where I went from hotel to cab to restaurant to cab to hotel, you get the picture. Turns out you can wear whatever you want in Delhi as long as…no one sees you.

The one thing about self-lining the bodice is that the motif sort of shows through. Ah, well. I can live with that.

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I put in pockets! Duh.

Not only does it have pockets BUT my phone upon which these photos were taken, does this animation thing so the photo above is slightly animated! It’s slow, though, at least it is on my browser, so you can really spend time with some of my more attractive faces.

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The skirt is one I draped, with a large central pleat and smaller ones on each side.

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A little back view for you.

And a little close up!

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See it’s a bit of a paisley but it’s also sort of something else, I don’t know, I like it, though! It looks historic and interesting not, you know, cheap and polyester…So that’s a plus!

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So there you go. For once, proud to be paisley! And generally hoping to stay cool. Welcome to my life.

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Big buns and pockets. The India story. In my quest to try out new things, new shapes, like my crop top and pants (by the way, thanks for your lovely words and thoughts and concerns, wonderful Internet friends!) sometimes I look at the photos and think, oy to the no. But, hey, try it, right? I can get used to this looser shape, and this really isn’t that loose. Wait and see what I’ve got coming up next….

 

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Filed under Self Drafted, Sewing

The Resting in Rajasthan Robe (and nightgown!)

The East has long been associated with luxury, a luxury that makes one soft, weak, effeminate. From the ancient Greeks, who viewed their Persian neighbors (and frequent enemies) with suspension for their trousers, soft pillows, and luxury oriented ways, to the British, who justified their growing expansion and imperial conquest of India as a government-run colony, rather than a vassal of the East India Company  in the 19th century the “effeminate oriental” and the association of luxury as A. Eastern and B. decadent, therefore weakening. If a concept of  virtue in the west after the Protestant reformation comes from deprivation, from austerity, from self-denial, than the grandeur and majesty of eastern monarchs, with their ceremonies, formalities, intricacies of rank and service, translated to a bewildered and derogatory image of the east as a place of weak and inefficient dilettante. You can read a lot about this here, or a little about Edward Gibbon’s many references to this in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire here, or you can just giggle at the thought of scandalized physically uncomfortable European ambassadors being all jealous and casting shade.

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PS: If you aren’t following Fly Art in some way shape or form at this point, you probably should look at your life, look at your choices.

I am 100% sure that given the European desire for Eastern goods, the roots of this was a certain amount of envy. But whatever the cause, between the silk and the tea, the diamonds and the spices, the East was where virtue went to die and decadence when to thrive. It’s telling, then that the word for pillow in Spanish (almohada) comes from Arabic, the idea of slippers emerged out of the Ottoman empire, and every dish you’ve ever seen incorporating gold foil probably made its way to you via India. This is a culture whose rulers traditionally wore glorified pajamas.

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It’s very hot here. Who can blame anyone for wanting to be comfortable? The British. That’s who. Here is what Gibbon  had to say about men wearing silk:

“Two hundred years after the age of Pliny, the use of pure, or even of mixed silks, was confined to the female sex, till the opulent citizens of Rome and the provinces were insensibly familiarized with the example of Elagabalus, the first who, by this effeminate habit, had sullied the dignity of an emperor and a man…”

What. Is. Your. Deal. Men can’t feel a little fancy? I hope Gibbon wore sackcloth his whole life. Put your hair shirt away, Thomas Beckett, and get on the comfort train!

I, personally, have always wanted a bathrobe. In fact, I’ve owned a few, but I’ve never really used them. I don’t know what it is, maybe I never got the right one for me, but something about them always seemed a little unnecessary, silly, dare I say it, decadent? I would throw one on, feel like I was a character in a movie from the 1950’s, and take it off again. Robes seemed like something that television characters can’t live without and real people don’t live with. What is the use of a garment that you wear for what, an hour at most? In that brief window between pajama time and real clothing time on days when that window is more than, say, seven minutes? The allure of the robe was strong, but the practicality of it seemed lacking.

However, on a recent trip to Rajasthan, I stayed in an amazing place (seriously. Stay here when in Jaipur. Do not pass go, do not collect 100 dollars. Just stay here) where they gave us these gorgeous block printed cloth robes and something about being there with the beautiful robes made lounging around in them just heavenly and I thought, why can’t every day be like this?

So I decided to make a robe. Screw it. I live in a land of fabric, I can buy yards and yards of the stuff and make it into a robe and lounge about it for five minutes a day and feel amazing. And frankly, if I can feel truly glamorous and decadent and amazing for a full five minutes a day (and sometimes longer on weekends!), is that really a waste? Is that, in fact, what the Europeans did not get about the concept of luxury? That in small doses it can be just enough, and make all that virtue all little easier to swallow.

So, without further ado, my Resting in Rajasthan Robe!

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Oh, that style. Isn’t it just too chic for words? I love the kimono elements, the self-attached tie (isn’t that the thing that is always getting lost?) the sleeves, the sleeves! I could bask in them.

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I cut a Large, which was a bit large, but I wanted it big, frankly. I recently made a medium for a friend and frankly, that would have been just fine, but I’m not taking this thing in, what’s the point? A robe should be loose and make you feel embraced by soft softness.

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The fabric is a heavenly buttery sheerish white cotton stamped with a highly traditional Rajasthani motif that I picked up while fabric touring in the North with Liz. The large motif meant it didn’t scream garment to me, but I knew I wanted to do something with it. And this robe really fit the bill.

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I lengthened it about five inches, which I think works. I can’t imagine it shorter, that’s for sure! Well, it actually only looks really short in this photo, it’s pretty perfect in real life.

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The one thing I would change (and did when making this for a friend) is the back seam. I just don’t really know why you need that, if you have a fabric that is wide enough. Of course, if you don’t, it makes the sense, but for a fabric wider than 45 inches, go nuts!

I used french seams throughout and some self-made bias tape to finish the front edges. All in all, it truly is as Seamwork promises a quick project. Maybe 3 hours, from cutting to (machine) hemming!

I also wanted to show it to you while open. And you can see the nightgown underneath!

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It’s a Deer and Doe Plantain. I don’t really make other knit tops these days, I’ve realized…..This one I just lengthened to dress length for a night-gown. I rarely wear them but when I do, the glamour is way up. So why no combine it with a robe? (Side note, I never look this put together when I sleep. IT’S ALL AN ILLUSION.)

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THOSE SLEEVES. Sigh.

I realize, I’ve actually made a bunch of Seamwork patterns and documented….zero of them. Guys, how great is Seamwork? I love it!

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That’s right! I used a prop! Trying to step my photo game up a bit! That being said, you can totally see Cadfael’s food area at the bottom of this photo soooooo….win some, lose some.

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Ahhhh, luxury. Whatever, Western morality, I’ll take this any day of the week. For about five minutes. And then I have to get dressed and go to work.

 

 

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Filed under Clothing, Colette Patterns, Deer and Doe, seamwork, Sewing