Flags are rather funny things, aren’t they? It’s really just a rectangle of fabric, something we stitchers are familiar with, but suddenly, with the wave of a hand, it goes from being fabric to being symbol, from something you can make a t-shirt out of to something you have to salute, or spit on, depending on your side of things.
When I was a kid, I was obsessed with these books about historical figures in United States history when they were young. It was called The Childhood of Famous Americans and we had, like, at least ten of these. I was also very very into the Martha Washington one, so much so that I used my knowledge of her to shame a historical re-enactor on a visit to Colonial Williamsburg. I mean, if you are going to be Martha, BE Martha, you know what I mean? I was ten. Part of me wonders how these books have stood the test of time, part of me doesn’t really want to open that can of worms. Anyway, I really liked the one about Betsy Ross for many reasons. One, I’ve always been into crafts, even before I learned how to use my sewing machine. Two, she is from Philadelphia, and so am I, in fact, her house is a historic landmark, you can visit it. Three, there weren’t that many books about women in the series, again, this thing might not hold up well in 2019, and frankly, I was sick of reading about dudes doing stuff and how they would become presidents and build planes and hit baseballs. And of course, in the United States, our flag comes from Betsy’s flag, just with more stars for more states. But our flag, in the United States, also comes from the Union Jack, which if you think about it is sort of bizarre. Like, you’re this scrappy ragtag group of what are essentially guerilla warfare rebels, freezing to death in Valley Forge, hoping the French pass you some cash so you can survive your extremely powerful overlord’s attack, you’re building a new nation, you’re trying it out, and yet you decide when it comes to your flag to make a version of their flag? Like, did they think the only possible flag colors were red, white, and blue? I guess those are the colors of both the UK and the French flag, but surely they had heard of other nations? Spain has a lovely yellow and red thing going!
Actually, come to think of it, England really spread that stars and stripes and color trio around, didn’t it? I mean, the Australian flag is like, a union jack and more stars, as is the New Zealand flag. Maybe this was the post-independence deal you DON’T hear about, like, okay, fine, you can have your freedom, but you gotta keep our flag as a part of your flag! Take that, former colony! I wonder how Canada got away with omitting blue? Well done, Northern neighbors, well done.
Anyway, I don’t spend all that much time in my native land these days, living, as I do, in India, another country that avoided the red, white, and blue trap, wonder if that was why they gave up the kohinoor, as a bargaining chip for flag freedom, (although, India did take Ireland’s colors in it’s flag so maybe it’s a double screw you to the UK which, well done India), but more often than not, I end up back stateside during the 4th of July. This is not because I have strong feelings about the 4th of July, although I love the classic musical 1776, who doesn’t, but more because my birthday is on the 9th of July and I love to be home for my birthday.
So when I saw this fabric in my new Kolkata main fabric squeeze, Geeta’s Circle, a must if you find yourself in the area, when I was shopping with my friend Liz, hi Liz!, who visited me in India this spring, I knew I had to grab it. I don’t usually go in for a patriotic purchase, but I was enchanted by the fabric, and tickled by the idea of this very sort of US oriented, at least to my mind, cloth on sale in an Indian fabric shop. It’s not just the color, of course, it’s also the print, because as you know, I love a gingham, and there is something about it that just screams USA to me. What do you think?
As American as apple pie! Which is German. But also, probably French, and British, and Austrian, too. Apples in pastry, people, it’s not inventing the wheel, here, a variety of nations have figured it out.
I made this dress using my bodice block, which Liz, by the way, made for me, so that seemed more than appropriate. I hacked the bodice to make it a looser fit, with cut-on sleeves. I added a button placket, cut on the bias, and cuffs, also cut on the bias. The fabric was wide, so I could fit a nice circle skirt.
And pockets, of course, as one does. I liked the idea of a kind of soft portrait neckline.
I finished it with bias tape that I stitched to the wrong side of the bodice, then flipped out so it would be visible. I love how that turned out, it’s one of my favorite parts. I had what’s his face take these photos in San Juan, where my parents and I (and him, duh) spent our Fourth of July.
I enjoy this dress a lot. I was a little worried that I wouldn’t wear it much, I’m loathe to make an item just for one occasion these days, because, well, what a waste, right? I’ve been sewing long enough that I realize no matter how fun the process is, if I don’t wear the garment there is a real sense of guilt and frustration afterwards. But recently I pulled this out and wore it here in Mumbai, and I felt great, not a walking poster child for American patriotism, but just a women in a dress.
It’s got a great swish, I’ll say that for it. Circle skirts might be my favorite skirts. I know, I know, controversial statement, but damnit, I don’t regret it!
So there you go, a dress made with Indian fabric, strongly resonating with United States flag themes, worn in San Juan, Puerto Rico. A regular colony hopper, this one!