Tag Archives: cotton

The Colony to Colony Dress

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!

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The Book of Ruth Dress

The biblical story of Ruth…has nothing to do with this dress. I don’t know, guys, sometimes it’s hard to make a catchy title!

That said, the story of Ruth and Naomi is very interesting,  because it’s about these two women who are related to each other in a way that is often seen as contentious, that is, they are daughter and mother-in-law, and yet their closeness was a big part of their survival. This is actually sort of close to the theme of my new novel, more on that in the months to come, so I don’t mind naming this dress which I love so much after that story, even if it has nothing to do with it!

That said, when was the last time you met someone named Ruth? It’s a name that I feel has gone out of fashion, although that probably means it will be soon in fashion again and there will be four Ruths in every kindergarten class. Isn’t it funny how names come in waves? When I was growing up I knew, like, 10 Sarahs. I have met many a Priya my age here in Mumbai, so obviously that had its moment. The Bachelor franchise is a great indicator for this, actually, whatever names (and made up names, I’m looking at you, people named Wes and Ames and Kalon and whatever the hell) were popular like 30 to 23 (shudder) years ago make their way onto those hallowed halls of ugly crying and right reasons.

At any rate, Seamwork toils hard monthly to give us new patterns with new names, and in January, that meant we got the Ruth Dress and the Sky Jumpsuit, so one named by Upper West Side Jews and one named by West Village hippies, both in 1965. As you know, I made Sky recently. But did you know I made Ruth, as well?

Well, NOW you do! And my friend DP took the photos, working hard to find a good background, thank you, DP! And they were on his phone in google photos and the powerful and might google made a GIF! It actually made two, but I will save the next one for the end. I don’t know why it does that, but I kind of love it? Maybe? I don’t know!

I really like this dress. I love the design, honestly. Sometimes I like Seamwork, sometimes I’m meh with Seamwork, and sometimes I straight up fall in love. This is one of those times. It combines many things I love and struggle to find the perfect version of. A woven wrap dress that doesn’t look like my breasts are going to explode out of it? A shirt-dress feel without buttons? A notched collar that doesn’t look like garbage? Check, check, and CHECK!

This was another print out that I realized had printed out of scale, so I cut out a twelve, but it is still a little big. I’ve just cut out another while slimming down the bodice and the waist. Who even knows what size that is? I sure don’t! Eh, whatever works.

The print is from Thakur, of course, obviously, always, and it’s sort of polka dots but it has a sort of floral or seed formation look, I don’t know, I like it! I feel like I wear a lot of bright colors these days, after all, pink is the navy blue of India, so it was kind of nice/odd to walk about in black and white. I did feel quite sophisticated, though! Something about this design just feels very put together (the dreaded phrase) to me, which I love, there is a polish but also a little bit of sexiness, what do you think?

I also love a blousy kimono sleeve.

The tie is subtle, which is nice, I don’t know, as I said, when Seamwork works, it really works for me! Which I guess is the point of constantly releasing new patterns, that you are going to appeal to different people every month and that diversifies your fan base.

It was quite windy when we took these photos! That said, it’s a good way to see that the two halves of the front skirt really do overlap completely, which is good, if you like that sort of thing, which I do!

Speaking of a wrap dress and boobs, I did add two snaps to the spot where the two sides of the dress cross to avoid wardrobe malfunctions aka showing the world which bra I’m wearing. Just a little insurance!

I am so into this dress, I can’t wait to make it all over again! What Seamwork patterns do you love? All? Some? None?

Happy dress dance!

 

 

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The Charming in Chittorgarh Shirt

This shirt and its fit are a direct product of my computer printing this pattern at the wrong scale and me straight up not noticing because I trust machines and how are we in a reality in which it is possible to TRUST machines? The fears we have long dismissed are true! The robots are talking over, and it starts with blowing up the scale of my sewing patterns!

Or maybe not.

But as you know from this post, I really enjoyed the Seamwork patterns Rachel Shirt, although I found it curiously big (WELL NOW I KNOW WHY, you know what, maybe it’s not the robots, maybe I was just being totally out to lunch…) Of course, I cut two things from the pattern without testing the fit so that tells you something about how being in a land of endless fabric has really spoiled me. I stitched this shirt up in a hurry so I could take it with me on a trip to Udaipur, with visiting friends, because I knew that pairing this light pseudo-Japanese fabric (I have no idea if it is from Japan or just copied to give out that vibe, ah, India, you are a delight), with long sleeves, would make it perfect for Rajasthan in the winter, whose days are sunny and bright but quickly turn chilly.

And indeed I did! I was able to complete it on time and bring it with me to Udaipur, where I took it even further out to Chittorgarh, a gorgeous Medieval Indian fort with a mixed (aka grim) history. It’s withstood many a siege, and seen many a suicide, and it was the setting for a recent movie with a lot of controversy around it called Padmaavat, which is based on this epic poem but which some people think is real, which is all part of the whole damn thing. It’s complicated. If you are curious, you can read about the mythical figure of Rani Padmini, and here are some interesting (very feminist) takes on the movie.

At any rate, it’s a gorgeous place, and I hope my shirt did it justice!

It really turned out as more of a tunic, but that’s big in India, so no matter! The construction was simple and the size is meaningless because the scale is so off, but it’s light and comfortable and I’m into it! Sometimes accidents make for good garments.

It has sleeves! See, I proved it.

I just did a pleat in the back instead of the full longer tuck, which frankly, this garment could have used. Ah, well.

It’s very blousy and billowy, but I’m okay with that. It feels a little hip art teacher, which I always enjoy.

Here I am by one of the old fort entrances.

It’s it beautiful? But what was even more amazing was that I saw Tiya Sircar, aka Vicky from The Good Place, and told her how talented she is. So it was a pretty good day, I gotta say.

That’s about it on this shirt! It was easy, useful, and I’m into it. Regardless of the robots.

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The Give Me The Gingham Dress

First of all, I just want to let all of you know that hey, my novel, America for Beginners, is 100% out there in the world! You can buy it in the US! You can buy it in the United Kingdom! You can buy it in India! You can buy it all over the place! Please do! And then tell me what you think!

This dress that I am going to show you actually looks excellent with my novel, which is great because this is what I wore to my book launch party at Powerhouse Arena, which is a wonderful bookstore and a fantastic space, a place that frequently hosts authors in conversation. New York friends or people in the area, check it out!

Now, to the sewing. Those of you who read my blog regularly, aka my mom, will know that I am not a person who wears a ton of green. It’s not that I don’t like green, I do! I really do. I just don’t gravitate towards it the way I do some other colors. But every once in a while, you see something that just breaks you patterns, you know? I bought this fabric in Kolkata, which is great because one of the characters in my novel, Pival, is from Kolkata, so that all worked out rather nicely, didn’t it? I saw it in New Market, a market I never go to, and I wanted it immediately, despite the fact that it’s a color I never wear, yet despite all that, something about this reached out and grabbed me, and I’m thinking, well, I think it might have been the fact that it is gingham. People, I love a gingham. Love it.

Lots of people love it! I mean, Brigette Bardot wore it as her wedding dress!

There is a rumor that this actually created such demand for the fabric that it caused a fabric shortage in France! But that could totally be a myth. Still, it’s pretty fun to think about french girls rioting over gingham.

At any rate, I love a gingham like a french girl in the 1960’s. And so, despite all the things around this fabric, it had to be mine. When it comes down to it, I’m pretty much always going to be like, GIVE ME THE GINGHAM!

And so! Another iteration of McCalls 7351, which I have adjusted with two 1.5 inch bust darts, slimming the waist and giving the bodice a little more shaping. In a large-scale green gingham that I absolutely adore.

In celebration of my super green dress, I made my friend Victoria take these photos in a super green place! So while visiting her up at the Berkshires we snagged this lovely spot in picturesque Stockbridge, and went nuts. I think I blend right in…

It’s a super cute place. This adorable building has become…a Yankee Candle. SIGH.

Still, everything was brilliantly in bloom, which was magnificent!

And I went to a store that had knitted dinners!

Instead of using one of the skirts from the pattern, I wanted to capitalize on the gingham and figured box pleats would do the trick.

I cut the yoke on the bias, which I always love with a checked or plaid print. It’s just fun!

And I suppose that’s about it. I’ve made a lot of shirt dresses at this point and I could make something else, but…I love a shirtdress! So I’m probably going to keep on keeping on in that direction. Although I do want to try some new patterns in the coming months. Ah, conflicting desires!

A little close up of the bodice for you. Why did I use white buttons? Because that is what I had in my stash! Sometimes you just do what you need to do. I don’t think it’s clear in any of the photos, but the sleeve cuffs are also cut on the bias. Just a little detail only I know about, I guess!

I also put in pockets. Obviously. As one does.

Well, there it is. An unusual choice for me, but still, very much on brand. The point is, gingham is great, try colors you don’t usually wear sometimes, and buy America for Beginners!  Then you, too, can match my dress.

 

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The If You’re Gonna Go, Go Goa Dress

As you may have gleaned from my previous blog post, I was recently traveling once again, as I seem to do so very often.

Actually, wait, you know what, before any of that stuff, so sorry but my publishing company, well, the publishing company publishing my book, its not MINE per se in terms of ownership, has finalized my US cover and I just have to share it with all of you amazing people because…come on!

Oh, and the UK cover ain’t half bad either, AKA it’s equally gorgeous!

And it’s available for pre-order! So go ahead, buy it today! Or tomorrow! I don’t know how your day is laid out.

ANYway. Back to the reason you come here, handmade clothing, quirky commentary.

So as I’ve mentioned, my friend Ben and I, (hi, Ben!) made a sojourn to Goa, Hampi, and then Goa again! Goa is actually a state in India, but it’s quite small, by Indian standards. Nevertheless, we realized we had to split up the trip to visit the multiple things we wanted to see. If you want to soak up sun and enjoy pristine beaches, South Goa is the place to be. If you want to revel in Portuguese-Indian fusion and enjoy the colonial hangover along with a nice glass or five of feni, cashew liquor, you go to Old Goa. If you want to party with Russian oligarchs and risk a staff infection, check out the beaches of North Goa! We only wanted to do two out of these three things, so….we went to Old Goa as the final stop on our trip. And on our day exploring Velha, or Old, Goa, the remains of the once great Portuguese empire in India, I wore this dress I had recently made:

You know when you sew something for a trip and you save it and save it for the perfect day that fits your outfit? No? That’s…not a thing other people do? Yeah, no, me neither. Except of course YES that is a thing I do and this dress fit THIS day of exploration with its 1950’s flare and literal flare, because circle skirt, baby!

So this dress is pretty basic in construction etc, I made it from my bodice block which, I need to buy my friend Liz like, a case of wine or something for this, because I use that ALL THE TIME and it has changed my life. Thank you Liz! She helped me draft it, because she is a boss.

And then I just added a circle skirt. It has pockets!

It’s unlined and the neckline is finished with bias tape. I used french seams throughout, etc. I don’t know what else to tell you. Machine hem! I know, I know, the worst, but like…also sometimes you just can’t. Hand picked zipper, sooooooo, cancels out?

A little twisty twirl!

This was a nice spot for photos because we avoided a large group of European tourists, but it was a little dark, so I don’t know if you see the true color of the fabric.

The fabric is from my beloved Thakur, and those circles have little hearts in them! It’s sort of pseudo Japanese, and it’s so cute I can’t stand it.

This is a bit blurry, sorry!

This is a bit truer to color! Here I am, posing in the ruins of the church of St. Augustine, which fell to pieces some 100 years ago or so, and now sits as an archeological site, perfect for picturesque photos. Please note, there are signs everywhere saying no video cameras, so you know that at multiple points people have tried to stage their own romantic Bollywood video tributes there. Ben and I did not choose to try to do this. What can we say, we were too busy pretending to be 15th century missionaries. To each their own!

So there you go! In Goa! But I would say, for all the stereotypes around visiting Goa, which has long been the destination of choice for Russian millionaires, drugged out hippies, Israeli backpackers and Indian honeymooners, it does kind of live up to the hype. I mean, if you plan on visiting India, and you are self-aware enough to build in a break from all the…India of it all, if that is indeed something you might need, I would say, throw a day or two in Goa on the itinerary. I mean, it’s calm, it’s stunning, it’s fairly clean, relatively, and the laid back attitude is the best version of a mix between Southern European and South Indian culture. I say, if you’re going to go, go Goa. 

And that’s about it for me on this dress. It’s totally one of those projects I easily could have not shared because I’ve made many like it, but then it turned out so well and it’s so cute and I just, I wanted to feel pretty, YOU KNOW? You know. You get it.

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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 Pre-Wine Tunic

I’m working with a serious backlog here, so despite the fact that I’ve already moved to Mumbai, you’re going to see some US posts for a bit, sorry, guys. In the mean time, feel free to check out my new “living in India” blog here!

So you know what I love? Wine. Super a lot. A whole bunch of it. I know, you’re shocked, you’re amazed, you feel betrayed and horrified. I’m sorry. But the person who taught me how to love wine was my mom, who is the best. And we love wine together. So this summer, in anticipation of both of our birthdays, which fall in July, and my upcoming move, my glorious wine-goddess mother and my wine snob brother and I went west, to Napa, in a long anticipated wine tasting trip. I, of course, am an indiscriminate wine lover, so I will drink most things as long as they are on the dry side and not the last harvest sugar rush that some people call Riesling. But this was magnificent wine, in a magnificent setting, and I was so happy to be there. And so I figured I should make something cool to wear, to celebrate.

Now, here is the thing about Northern California, right, you just never know how the weather is going to be. You can go from warm to cold to warm again within hours, so packing for a weekend trip includes more clothing than you might bring for a weeks journey somewhere else. So in trying to make something that worked, I had to figure into account the weather, as one does. I also had to figure in the wine, and how when you start tasting wine you are like la la yes notes of sage and melon and concrete, but by the end you are like, this wine tastes red and I like red do you have more wine that is red or more wine that exists? So in the end, I decided this tunic would be best for a jaunt to Berkeley for a splendid meal at the illustrious and magnificent Chez Panisse during which the wine would be white and the sloppiness factor mitigated by decorum. And I will say, I planned this perfectly. This was a great shirt for pre-wine times. See why?

PW 4

Ugh, that face. It’s saying, why am I standing in this corpse of trees like I didn’t ASK FOR THIS MY OWN DAMN SELF. But that shirt though, right?

So it’s the Everyday Elegance Top from Patterns for Pirates, which I raved about the last time I went to the West Coast. I guess I feel like this is a really West Coast look, I don’t know, things are horribly causal out there, what can I say?

PW 3

The fabric was something I bought at Parons Fabrics years ago, some of which I made into a dress for my friend Betsy’s wedding, and some of which became this tunic. And extra scraps became a baby dress for a friend’s niece, so there you go, circle of fabric. It’s a linen-cotton blend and immensely cool and breathable.

The tunic is super straightforward to stitch up, and I made it all with french seams to counter the fray-leaning fabric and because I like them, what can I say.

PW 5

I did a little playing with stripes on the back, just a little, mind, for fun. I love it!

PW 2

I just realized none of these photos capture the collar, which is a shame, because it’s pretty cute. You will just have to believe me on this, I guess.

PW 1

And there you have it. A tunic that worked before wine, during wine of the white variety, and even after wine. I’m just kidding, There was no after wine that weekend….

PW 7

Otherworldly plants abound out there in California.

PW 6

And of course, tall tall trees. I think they liked my tunic too.

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