Tag Archives: block print

The Pair of Parrots Dress

I’m sorry for the radio silence around here recently. My very beloved cat, the love of my life, Brother Cadfael, has passed away after a series of tough weeks immediately after I returned to India from the United States. Whats his face was a great caretaker and upon my return we worked hard to make his final days comfortable, and this past Saturday we had to say goodbye and put him out of his pain. He leaves behind two loving cat-carers who miss him dearly, and a host of admirers who will feel his absence in their hearts. A fan of supporting my sewing by sitting on any available project until the end, here he is just days before his passing, cozy and comfortable on a work-in-progress:

Restare en pacem, my love, my friend. It’s been really hard without him, and despite the fact that I’ve still been sewing (because, doing things is therapy. As is actual therapy. I’m a big advocate of both), it just has felt weird to be blogging, putting up photos of myself and focusing on “look at this seam” and “hey this pattern” when all I can think about and have been thinking about is my amazing cat, and how much I love him, and how much I will miss him, and how much I need him, the way he is the thing I brought with me from America when I started spending long periods of my year in India, and how he was my comfort, my piece of home, my piece of my life not just in New York but before, he is and was a piece of me. So yeah, posts about sewing have just been hard to come by around my parts these days.

But here is a dress I made. I find it a little weird to look at these photos because I took them when I thought Cadfael would be fine and now he’s gone, but there is nothing I can do about that.

This is another incarnation of M7351, which I made from a fabric my friend Rakhee gave me, a large-scale Rajasthani block print. I wanted it to be looser, which I like, but it doesn’t have the waist definition I find most flattering, ah, well. It’s super wearable!

The slip under it is a Seamwork patterns Savannah lengthened. That’s all I have to say about that.

 

I wore this tasting wine in Portland with my mom, which was fantastic. Also all I have to say about that.

I tried to cut carefully, but I could only get three meters of this (Rakhee asked me what I wanted before she bought it for me because she’s a true friend and the print is big, so I just had to do my best with placement. As long as I didn’t get full-on nipple-flowers, I figured this was a win.

It’s a win! Stems work! I’ll take it!

The cotton is lovely and cool, and I’ve worn it in many places with success all around. Do I drip stuff on it as soon as I don it? I SURE DO! But hey, man. I gotta be me.

And there it is. A dress I made. I could say that Cadfael loved it, but he was a cat, and he didn’t care about it, or anything I made or wore. But I like to think that he liked having so much fabric around, and that was a good thing. So anyway. Another shirtdress, another day.

Hope you guys are all doing okay. I’m participating on House of Pinheiro’s #sewphotohop  as a distraction from my sadness, so catch me on the gram, if you’re into that sort of thing.

 

 

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Filed under Colette Patterns, McCalls Patterns, Sewing

The Summer of the Shirtdress Dress

My name is Leah, and I believe I might be a shirtdress addict.

I know. I know. This is really difficult to admit, and I really appreciate your support and your encouragement at this time.

Of course, knowing the sewing community as I do, I know you are more likely to praise this addiction than try and help me heal it. And that’s okay, because frankly, I don’t want a shirtdress-centric rehab with shift dresses appreciation courses, anti-button conversations and healing collar deprivation based work outs. As addictions go, while this one might take up more room than my serious coffee problem, I think all things considered it’s pretty manageable.

Now, you probably having picked up on this addition because I only have three shirt dresses featured on this blog.But in the past month I have made THREE count em THREE additional shirt dresses, and in a recent trip to Kolkata I picked up a stunning khadi fabric to make another one, so I’m sort of on a roll here with this. The dress I’m featuring today is actually my second version of McCalls 7351, although by no means my last, and I’ve got a full shirted version which was make #1, and a modified Grainline Archer which I’ve lengthened into a dress, all of which I still need to photograph and post about. But instead I…just keep making shirt-dresses.

I don’t know what it is about them that makes them so addictive. It can’t be the construction, which is frankly a little onerous, with the collar and collar stand and all the many button holes and buttons. It can’t be the scant yardage, because these things can be fabric monsters, especially if you make the full-skirted variety. So it’s gotta be the look, because a shirtdress is dope. It just is. They look clean and pulled together but also fun and summery and classic, probably because they ARE classic, they evolved as a wartime staple, a woman’s riff on utility dresses during the Depression and the Second World War, and then they were elevated by Dior’s new look to the cinched waist full-skirted notched collar beauties of the 1950’s. Now you see them in all versions, slim fit, shift style, maxi, it’s an epidemic. Sooner or later a film called “Shirtdress Madness”  will no doubt be releasing to scare the youth of America into walking the straight and narrow line of a pair of jeans, but for me? I’ll stay an addict, at least this summer. I’ll tell YOU when I’ve had enough…

My friend Liz, who accompanied me on our fabric tour of the North, and I don’t always have the same taste in fabric. But standing in a Rajasthani state emporium in Delhi, we had that rare moment of simultaneous want for a pretty block printed cotton. This could have ended our friendship right there, but luckily there was enough that we could both score two and a half meters. Crisis AVERTED. And we both ended up making shirtdresses, which, just goes to show we are friends for a reason. Of course, Liz’s is much cooler than mine, but still, I will make do. So without further explanation, the evidence of my continued shirtdress problem:

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Okay! So this is the slimer-skirted version of this pattern, although I would love love love to try the circle skirt (maybe it’s a half or a 3/4, not sure) option from the pattern, I have yet to have quite enough fabric to do so.

I do like this skirt option, which I lengthened a little because that’s always a little better for India, I feel. But I have to say, I think the pockets make the hips look bulky and weird. Thoughts?

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I’m wearing a self-drafted slip under this because the fabric is a little translucent, by the by. See, you can see the pockets sort of popping at the hips. Hmmm.

I tried something different with the sleeves which didn’t really work, honestly. I wanted a visible cuff, but the sleeves, despite an attempted alteration, are still too tight. I blame kickboxing which while getting me in great shape has sort of bulked up my arms. Any thoughts on how to make these sleeves bigger?

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The hem is still curved, which I like, although it probably looks better at the original hem length. Ah, well. Still a nice detail.

I cut a straight size 16 with a cup size D, but I found in my last round that the pattern was a bit large in the waist. So for this version I took about 4 inches out of the waist in front darts, and I’m pretty happy with that. Otherwise I think the fit works, except, as mentioned, the arms.

 

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See, you can see some pulling across the upper back which all roots to the tightness of the sleeves, I believe.

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Still, sleeve woes aside, its super cute, which is, of course, why the shirtdress is so addictive. They just look good. They look pulled together, something I never ever feel, and they scream “daytime elegance”, which I love.

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I think you can see the print a little bit better in this photo. It’s a blue on white, and it’s awfully lovely, I must say. You should see Liz’s version, it’s tops!

The big difference between this one and the ever popular M6696 is the waistband, the shirt options (which, real talk, you could self draft) and the fit of the back. But I’m glad I have both now in my collection! I scored this on a pattern sale and what’s-his-face brought it back from the US after his last visit. I think my next pattern int his addiction might be a vintage style. Let’s see how it goes. I’m not getting off this train any time soon. And frankly, I say SUMMER of the shirtdress but it’s basically summer all the time here, so….

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What are you addicted to, clothing/sewing-wise? Do you see your construction as destructive or productive?

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Filed under McCalls Patterns, Sewing

In Search of Fabric or Forest for Trees

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

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

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

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

CIRC.30-1958

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

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

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

Check out our bounty:

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Block pints and ikats!

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check it out!

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

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

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A block and the dye.

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

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

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Prepping a piece for printing.

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

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The “true” final color of the print above.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

The Somewhere Columbus is Happy and Doesn’t Know Why Dress

I am sure you, like most people who went to kindergarten, know, that the whole Indians-Native Americans thing exists and is such a damn mess because of Spanish explorers like Christopher Columbus and Portuguese explorers whose names no one remembers after that 11th grade final history exam. Geographically challenged explorers trying to get their hands on some pepper just assumed that the people they met in the New World must be Indians, despite the fact that I’m sure those guys tried to explain that these were NOT THE SAME PEPPERS, IDIOTS. Ugh. Translation issues, am I right? Tower of Babel indeed.

Peter Bruegel the Elder's Tower of Babel. Where all the trouble began....

Peter Bruegel the Elder’s Tower of Babel. Where all the trouble began….

Sidenote, how boring must food have been before the spice trade kicked in? My friend Ben and I (hi, Ben!) were wandering the Brooklyn Museum the other day in the Egyptian wing (I recently visited the States, more on that in a moment, GOD I’ve missed museums, like, really good museums, come on, Indian museums, step it up!)  and we were talking about pre-sugar societies. I think I could do a pre-sugar society, but pre-salt, no way to the Jose. What is life without salt? I’ve read the Grimm tale but it turns out it’s a universal one, check out this Punjabi story on the same theme.  But pre-spice society also sounds fairly lame. No wonder hundreds of Portuguese guys killed themselves trying to navigate the Cape of Good Hope trying to get to that Indian pepper, that ginger, the cardamom, those cloves. In medieval Europe spice stores were locked up and specially opened for feasts. Princesses came to their new households with dowry boxes full of spices as well as gold and silks. Spices changed the world, and if you don’t believe me, you can read about it in this, one of my favorite books on the subject.

So it’s not so surprising that the early Europeans who came to a place like Puerto Rico would have wanted it to be India, because, duh, spices, but it is sort of surprising that when they discovered it WASN’T India they didn’t, I don’t know, find another name for the natives. Oh, well, I guess they didn’t care because they were too depressed about the lack of pepper or too amazed by the taste of peppers. One of those two. So the word in Spanish, indio, still means native person, for no reason anyone can tell, and the West Indies are still a thing, despite the fact that literally the entire New World could be characterized as West of India.

So, end of the day, the Spanish didn’t get to bring any Indian stuff back from Puerto Rico. But I did get to BRING some Indian stuff to Puerto Rico this past March, when I got a chance to stop by San Juan during my trip back to the United States. So, there you go. It’s the circle of life. I really should have gotten some peppercorns to sprinkle around, like you do with malt liquor when a fellow gang-member dies. Instead, I just brought a pretty (if I do say so myself) block printed dress. Ah, well. Close enough, right? If those guys couldn’t figure out that Latin America isn’t India, they probably would buy that this dress was an exotic kind of pepper…

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So, I used my handy bodice block for this one, and I have to say, I think the darts actually did something really cool with these lines of darts on this fabric, I love it! Totally unintentional, but I’m going to pretend it was my idea all along. Natch.

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See? It warps the lines of printing around my (not unsubstantial) bosom, giving it a cool look. I tried to do a split neck thing here but it instead keeps flapping open, grrrrrr. The lining I used, which the smiling men at the fabric stall not too far from my apartment in Mumbai ASSURED me was 100% cotton and is probably like, 10% cotton 80% polyester 10 % LIES, is really light and drapy, so I probably should have interfaced around that slit. Oh WELL. I can live with it. Sigh.

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I drafted the skirt, in that I cut large rectangles and pleated them in large box pleats. Does that count as drafting? I’m going to say no, it’s too fancy a word for what is essentially some fabric folding.

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Yeah, I put in pockets. #Stayingonbrand.

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A little back view for you.

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The fabric is a block print from Rajasthan which I bought in Kolkata. That might sound confusing to you, but go with it. India has large government emporiums where they sell goods from each state at prices subsidized by the government so they are cheap and amazing, and a lot of those goods are, shall we say, of the textile variety? So this fabric came from one of those markets in Kolkata, but it is a Rajasthani bock print, nonetheless. It’s fairly different from the more traditional prints, which is what attracted me to it. That and the color. I should just live my life in this color, I’m telling you.

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Ug, that neck split. WHATEVER. I’m moving on with my life! I’m not going to dwell like the Spanish Empire did! If there is one thing I promised my self I wouldn’t do with my life, it was become like the Spanish Empire.

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A little hand stitching on the hem. I also hand-picked the zipper. I’m back to doing that. After a brief foray with the machine stitching, I’ve returned to my one true love, the hand stitched zipper.

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Neck split aside, I love this dress. It’s colorful, cheerful, and it mentions India without screaming it out. Much as the Spanish probably did when they saw Puerto Rico. Idiotas!

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Here’s to you, Cristobal. Sorry about the pepper. Enjoy the peppers. I will be enjoying this:

 

 

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Filed under Sewing, Travel

The Market to Market Dress

I’ve made a lot of things so far here, and then the old problem of documenting them begins again.  But my New Year’s resolution is to post at least once a week, so let’s see if I can keep that, shall we?

I almost named this dress the Mangladas Market dress, but I didn’t, for reasons which will soon become abundantly clear.

Guys, you’ve probably never hear this before but India is an amazing place for fabric. I KNOW. I KNOW. It’s madness. I’m blowing your mind here. The thing is, before I moved here I had a very limited idea of what Indian fabric really looked like. We get a certain idea of a certain kind of fabric in the States, but that’s actually just a small fraction of the options. My Indian fabric education has only just begun.

Before I moved to India, I had a very specific idea of what fabric from India looked like. Once I moved here, I realized that I wasn’t wrong, per se, but I was limited. India is a land of major fabric production, and there is no one way to make fabric here, there are a thousand, and that’s just in one city. From North to South, East to West, the range of how fabric looks is wildly divergent. There are, of course, similarities, the material base is limited, mostly cottons and silks with wools in the far North, but the history of weaving in India dates back thousands of years, older than most other world civilizations. The Indus River Valley excavations show evidence of woven cloth and even some proof there was trade between China, India and the Middle East over 5000 years ago, which is fairly nuts, if you think about the fact that even today, Indian cotton production creates the most sought after products in the world.

Since I’ve been here, I’ve had a chance to visit the block printing museum in Amber (post to follow) and learned more about the printing techniques of the Northwest, which make up a lot of what I once thought Indian fabric looked like. The prints from Rajasthan come in many colors and shapes, but they are what I once believed the majority of Indian fabrics were, and I still have a huge adoration for them, despite all the others I’ve discovered. Recently, on a trip to Kolkata, I visited Dakshinapan Market, which I would recommend for any visitors to the city. It’s a huge government emporium, which means the prices are subsidized, and you can see goods and fabrics from all over the country. It was in Dakshinapan where I realized what came from where, what fabrics came from which part of the country. Although I gloried over the Bengali muslins, their high (and well deserved) price points made me sorrowfully put them aside in favor of other, cheaper, cloth. And luckily for me, I found some gems.

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I wore this dress for the first time fabric shopping with my friend Natasha (hi, Natasha!) In Mangaldas Market, which is where I would recommend anyone go fabric shopping if the come to Mumbai. Hence the name. From one market to another, the fabric works.

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Mangaldas is a little bonkers, but it’s fun, and filled with magnificent finds and amazing prices.

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My favorite fabric store is Rinkoo Fabrics.

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They are the damn best, with amazing options and tons of cool Japanese prints, which I can’t find otherwise.MTM8

Stores are divided between mens shirtings and suitings and womens stuff, but you can find amazing things at both.

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I felt super cool wearing the fabric from one market at another. I made this out of my bodice block, with a gathered skirt and pockets. I cut the border off the side and added it to the bottom (side note, I do not understand the border printing on a lot of Rajasthani fabrics.)

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A little back view for you.

MTM4This is what happens when you try to take photos in Mumbai. It’s a fun place to live.

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I may fall in love with a lot of Indian fabrics. I sort of already have. But I don’t think I will ever stop loving these Rajasthani prints. How could I? How could anyone?

Happy New Year, everyone! All my best for the year ahead!

Thanks for the photos, Natasha!

 

 

 

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Filed under Fabric, Travel