The Twice In A Year Shirt

The title of this post is less reflective of the item I sewed than it is of the place where I had the photos taken. Because when you get a chance to see one of the seven new wonders of the world TWICE in a year, you….well, you sort of just do it because even though Agra is a total bitch of a sad one horse, one million cow town, and you really don’t need to fight through a thousand beggars, children trying to send you pens decorated with mirrors, and literal goats twice in your lifetime, when your mom wants to see the Taj, dammit, you lady-up and SEE THE TAJ. Twice. In one year. Ooo-pah!

Having guests in India is wonderful, especially when it’s my parents, but it’s also stressful, because you want to give people the best possible experience but there is a lot out of your control, and everyone’s tolerance for and understanding of the developing world is different. I’ve had guests eager to engage with India, and guests uncomfortable with the realities of India, and honestly, most of the time those are the EXACT SAME GUESTS, just in different moments in time. India is not for the faint of heart, and while I’m happy living in Mumbai, I’m not really the Indian tourism board over here, and I don’t feel any kind of need to convince others to like the country. Even the most luxorious trip to the sub-continent exposes travelers to the realities of the polarization of wealth, the divisions in culture, class and way of life, and the fact that day to day existence can be a real struggle, no matter how much money you can throw at the problem. Navigating India can be exhausting, hilarious, magnificent and strange, so when I have people come, I want to bear the brunt of that for them, with some (a ton of) help from what’s-his-face, but that sometimes means running a long monologue that goes like “okaywe’regoingtogodownthisstreetintothiscabdon’tfeedthatmonkeyIdon’tknowwhythatthingislikethathereissomebottledwateryesthat’sacownothat’sabuffaloyesthat’ssadokaylet’sgetoutofthecaryesit’scooltakeaphotookaylet’sgobackintothecar”. And so on.

Having been to the Taj Mahal twice now, traveling two separate ways at different price points, I can say with some confidence that getting to Agra is arduous, but possible, and however you do it, you are going to end the day sweaty, dusty, annoyed and exhultant, because not only did you see something awesome, YOU MADE IT BACK. Don’t discount either as victories. This time we took a car, true luxury indeed, and stuffed like sardines being jolted over every speedbump and pothole on the road, being driven by a man who knows that road like the back of his hand and deserves a medal for the kind of patience he displays driving in India, I guess 35 years working for the Delhi Board of Tourism will do that for you, we, like the Mughals who came before us, stared in wonder at the marble tomb of Shah Jahan’s favorite wife. We had to compete with thousands to do so, of course, but still. Worth it.

And while my parents marveled at the inlay and the carvings and the sheer gorgeousness of it all, I got what’s-his-face to snap some photos. What? You’re mad I didn’t fight through to see the actual tomb part once again? I’ve BEEN before, jeez….

ty-3

I know, I know, how are you supposed to care about the shirt with that background? My top, an Itch To Stitch Mila shirt, didn’t take nearly as long to make, I’ll be honest. But it was also a labor of love, does that count?

ty-4

Well I say labor, but it’s pretty easy. The placket instructions are excellent, and this is the second time I’ve made it, but never blogged the first. I lengthened it, and would even do a little more next time, frankly.

I got the fabric at my new favorite fabric place in Mumbai, Thakur Fabrics on Hill road for any locals. This shirt is dusty and wrinkled from the day exploring Fatephur Sikri (Akbar’s capital, built and then abandoned) and Agra, but you get the idea. The strain at the buttons is I think a by-product of the long day, because it fits quite well. I think I stitched up a 14 with the D Cup size, which is super comfortable, and I’m happy this shirt had cup sizes, I rarely see that in independent patterns! Well done, Itch To Stitch! It’s seriously a lovely pattern company, and I’m excited to explore other designs.

ty-2

I omitted the collar this time, but did one for my first version, and found it to be well drafted, etc. I guess I don’t have much to say about this shirt, the tricky thing is the placket at the front but it’s worth it, and this one is well designed and explained, so it’s easy to do well. I like the popover look! It’s cute, and while I thought it would make my already large chest look insane, it DOESN’T. So there you go, me and Shah Jahan, getting stuff DONE.

ty-5

I made the long sleeved version, although I had the sleeves rolled up for most of the day because although it’s chilly in the evenings in Delhi during the winter, climbing around monuments is hot during the day! I did some stripe playing, as you can see, with the cuffs and the placket.

ty-7And the collar, although I don’t know if you can really see that here….

ty-6

Little side view for you. It’s a very dramatic curve at the side seam, which is also why I would lengthen this even more next time. I think I did two inches this time, but I wouldn’t mind a little more, really…

Otherwise, love this shirt! Love this fabric, love this pattern, love all around!

ty-1

Obviously you needed a little Taj selfie. I mean, come on, if you don’t take a selfie at the Taj did you even really GO? Not according to the internet! I tried to get my parents on board but that means explaining what a selfie even IS and that’s just, that’s the kind of labor that would go into making a second Taj. Who’s got that kind of time?

 

So there you go! One last post for 2016. I hope you all have had a magnificent year, as painful as some parts of it have been, and for the love of god, let’s hope 2017 is better. Maybe I’ll go to the Taj like five more times. That’ll help, right?

 

2 Comments

Filed under Itch To Stitch, 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:

abba ffe9bb3b1a6ac46c0a8be614a8608c78 simplicity_7232_oop

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?

img_20161127_124323

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.

Okay, more photos!img_20161127_124434

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.

url

873815528_c48e791eec_b poster-on-an-island-with-you_08 08a787e9c3e72e2e2975594405a0b76b

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

img_20161127_124346

 

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

img_20161127_124558

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:

tech_v1_1024x1024

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.

img_20161127_124400

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….

 

2 Comments

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…

sound-of-music-curtain ken02

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

tz-2

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.

tz-1

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.

tz-12

Really, it is.

tz-8

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.

tz-10

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.

tz-4

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.

img_20160915_174844

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

tz-9

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:

img_20161008_130757

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…

tz-7

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.

tz-5

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.

tz-3

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

 

 

3 Comments

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.

img_20160911_161515

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.

img_20160911_161525-animation

 

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.

img_20160911_161504

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

img_20160911_161541

A little back view for you.

And a little close up!

close-up

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!

img_20160911_161524

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

img_20160911_161504-animation

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….

 

7 Comments

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.

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 3.24.57 PM

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.

922655df9de31088d9c3744a9d49e266

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!

RIR 4

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.

RIR 3

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.

RIR 2

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.

RIR 5

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.

RIR 6

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!

RIR 1

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.)

RIR 7

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!

RIR 9

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.

RIR 8

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.

 

 

3 Comments

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

The Annual Elephants Dress

I’m a big fan of traditions, as long as they are positive. For example, an institutional tradition of not hiring women? Not a fan. A Russian tradition of long and elaborate toasts? Love it! And so on. I especially like forging traditions, with friends, with family, with myself. As long as traditions can be fluid, as long as they can be explained, they work for me. If you can elucidate the tradition, it becomes exclusive, rather than inclusive, it doesn’t bring people in, it shuts people out.

The most infuriating thing about India (among the thousand and one infuriating things about India) is the way people are comfortable explaining their behavior with the phrase “this is what we have always done”. The positive of this is of course a link with history, that is, “people have been doing this for hundreds of years, isn’t that great?”. The negative is when it comes as a way to block innovation, or when you are trying to understand what’s going on and you are met with a firm “just because”. After all, as Ralph Waldo Emerson reminds us, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds”. Tradition can represent stagnation, inertia, a dogmatic mentality that values sameness over new evolving needs. But it can also be a sign of valuing what has come before, appreciating that while many things change, what we hold dear doesn’t always have to. Traditions are ours to make, and maintain,

All this is to say, I made another dress with elephants on it, and I think this is now my newest best tradition. As you may or may not recall, I made a dress with elephants on it two years ago (and if you want to see a bunch of adorable elephant videos I advise you click that link and see them on my post). One of the BEST things about India is the elephants. Gentler than their African cousins (who are also amazing), the Indian elephant is less aggressive in its adulthood, which means that elephants are used in farming and as transportation. This is not always great, in fact, it’s rarely great at all, despite being a centuries old Indian tradition (there it is again). But there are places that pack elephants are rescued, taken care of and loved, and there are many places where elephants roam wild, following the paths bisecting the subcontinent that their mothers and mother’s mother’s forged before them (elephants themselves enjoy traditions, hence the saying “elephants never forget”). They color the national imagination of India making their way into images from every age and kingdom. In Rajasthan they adorn every palace, in Maharashtra you seem them in the ancient Buddhist site Elephanta (it’s right there in the name!), along with the tiger they sit proudly rupee notes, so you can have elephants with you everywhere you go.

IMG_20151224_163547

They even make elephants out of women here! It’s an amazing place.

We got to visit Elephantastic in December, a place where you can hang out with rescue elephants and be really happy. My family collectively kvelled and what’s-his-face did not understand why we were so happy. I’m telling you, elephants are wasted on this country. People here are too used to them. It’s like, huh, right, an elephant, just like always. When do traditions just become commonplace things? How do you get to see this all the time and not be in a constant state of joy?

IMG_20151223_141432 IMG_20151223_161622

We even got to paint the elephants with non-toxic safe-for-elephants paint. My brother did this one. Miniature Matisse, am I right? What’s-his-face just played with his phone.

IMG_20151223_142810

I know, right? WHAAAAAT? How you gonna play on your phone when there are elephants around!

I love elephants. There are many foundations where you can contribute to their preservation and care and I would if I were you (and do, because I am me.) So I think my new yearly elephant dress tradition is going to be a positive tradition for me. And I’m not doing it because this is what I’ve always done, despite being in India, a place where that is a thing. I’m doing it because why not?

and I didn't want to invite the comparison.

Well. I guess that could be a reason….

Well, never mind. To the dress!

AE 3

This was my first iteration of McCall’s 7351, the one I made pretty much straight from the packet (and realized I needed to take in the waist for future makes, hence the belt). Or at least, the bodice is unaltered. The skirt is just a pleated skirt all the way around, making it fuller than the original pattern version(s).

I have actually already blogged version number 2, so I’m all out-of-order with this thing.

There is a certain amount of irony in the fact that the dress with elephants on it that I made in the US two years ago looks so Indian, but the fabric was sourced in Philadelphia, and this dress, whose fabric I bought here in Mumbai, looks so…not.

The fabric reminds me of this J Crew fabric I saw years ago in a pair of shorts:

s_578d7af0ea3f3661ca0062c3

And yet I bought it at Mangaldas Market, a supremely Indian place. Whatcha gonna do?

AE 1

Here I am with my own little elephant-like creature. People here cannot get over how large Cadfael is. I really hope he doesn’t feel they are body shaming him. It’s really hard being a cat-parent these days…

AE 6

Come to think of it, that belt might actually BE from J Crew….wow. The details of the dress might be a little obscured by elephants but…who cares. Elephants.

I did cut the front placket thing against the grain to give it a little variety, as you can see, elephants are climbing up and down my body even as they walk side to side. The buttons are a white shell button I bought here, and that’s it for notions, I think. I used white thread for contrast and machine stitched the hem because sometimes that’s how life works.

AE 4

A little side view. The pockets are invisible between being in-seam and being all elephant inundated so that’s fun. This pocket is, I will say, much better than the pockets of my trusty McCalls 6696, and by better I mean deeper and more smartphone friendly. So yeah. Better. I would very much do a full bicep adjustment next time (thanks, lovely people who responded to my last post on this pattern!) so the sleeves fit a little better, but otherwise I think it’s a nice fit.

AE 7

A little back view for you. That sure…looks like my back. You can’t really see the little pleat at the back but it’s there, I tell you!

I had put waist darts in my second version, which I like, but the loose comfort of this one is nice, and as you can see, I can always belt it!

AE 2

 

I love my elephants. I would wear them forever. And now I can! Not just every summer! Yes, this seems like the start of a beautiful tradition.

AE 5

Annual Elephants for all!

 

2 Comments

Filed under Clothing, McCalls Patterns, Uncategorized

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:

TIO 2

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:

BE

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

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

main.original.640x0c

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!

TIO 7

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.

TIO1

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?

choli-sari-blouse-blue-brocade-ready-made-saree-blouse-mx-1_12414582

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?

TIO 5

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!

TIO 6

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.

TIO 3

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.

 

 

 

 

7 Comments

Filed under Grainline Patterns, Life, Sewing, Simplicity Patterns