Tag Archives: Ikat

Rainy Day Ikat Dress

One of the many things I’ve fallen deeply in love with from a textile perspective since I’ve started spending time in India has been ikat. Of course, I did love ikat before, and a search through my blog archives might reveal a post or two in praise of this weaving technique. But being so close to so many wonderful ikats has only nurtured my affection. It’s like, before, it was an interest, right? Like we were flirting, we’d say hi at the gym or whatever, I’d creep on ikat a little at the farmer’s market, try to think of cute weaving puns, google ikat and pretend I hadn’t, But you know, it was just a passing thing, one of the many fabrics I might potentially see a future with. Now, though, it’s a little more serious. I mean, it’s not marriage or anything, but we might be dating on the regular, you know? Obviously I’m not a one-fabric woman, gotta keep it fresh, but ikat might be moving into a regular part of the rotation.

So when I spent last Sunday with my friend Sarah who is visiting from the States going from Chor Bazaar, an antique/flea market in Mumbai which shares space with countless electronics second-hand stores and auto parts resellers, so that you end up pondering priceless antiques from all over India in the shade of twelve car body frames stacked high, to the CSMVS Museum, I decided that all that moving around deserved my crush-turned-casual dating fabric, ikat. Specifically this recent make:

Sarah graciously agreed to take photos of me after our whirlwind day scouring through antique stores to score her the perfect souvenirs to take home with her. While many like the handicrafts or the bangles, Sarah was looking for someone unique, so we evaluated brass door handles, wooden shutters and clay figures trying to find her the perfect gifts to others, and herself. Chor Bazaar is one of my favorite places in Mumbai to take visitors, but it’s not for the faint of heart or stomach, and it’s a ways away from my own neighborhood, so I don’t end up going all that often. South Bombay is like Manhattan when you live in Brooklyn, if you don’t HAVE to go it’s like, ugh, why bother. But it’s of course actually quite excellent and trekking down has many rewards.

Here I am, in front of the museum, which used to be the Prince of Wales Museum, but, like so many things in Bombay, has had its name changed to reflect an Indian future, rather than a colonial past. It’s now the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, say that five times fast, but if you ask a cab driver to take you to the Prince of Wales Museum, they know where to go. In many ways the museum itself, one of India’s finest, reflected the antique market we had just come from, jumbled items with few explanations, an assortment of bewildering goods that have no relationship to each other, in a fascinating place. Sigh.

But at least I looked cute! This fabric came from Kolkata, and when I got back from my last trip there I quickly whipped up this dress, which I’ve worn more than once before I conned Sarah into photographing it.The pattern is my bodice block, to which I added sleeves from the Grainline Studio Scout Tee, a genius move if I do say so myself, they fit perfectly and are great. I made this one a little bigger to give it a loose fit, although I usually belt it so you can’t really tell here. It’s deeply comfortable, and just the thing for rainy Bombay days, of which there are many right now, in the monsoon. My shoes here are legit made of rubber.

I gathered the skirt and of course I have pockets. This was deeply simple to put together, but I appreciate the celebration of ikat!

 

I cut the bodice on the cross-grain to have some fun with the ikat’s stripe pattern.

This dress was very motivational as we went from this:

To this:

And regardless of the rain, my dress was up to the task. Sarah declared Chor Bazaar to be one of her favorite things in Bombay too, so victory all around! More monsoon outfits to follow, I promise. They might be a bit damp, but I’m still making them!

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Filed under Clothing, Self Drafted, Sewing

The How the Tables Have Turned Skirt

Before I jump into talking about this outfit (I’ve named this post after the skirt but I also made the top and don’t think I ever talked about it before…strange), I want to say that the title of this post reminds me both of the phrase “how the tables have turned” because it’s right there in the title, and also this season of Orange is the New Black which had this episode called “Turn Table Turn” and it was great. AS WAS THE ENTIRE SEASON. Ugh, you wait so long for things, like Mad Men (RIP) or Game of Thrones or Orange is the New Black (OITNB as the kids call is) and you wait and wait and wait and it’s like:

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And then it comes and I’m just like:

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And then it’s over and it’s like:

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And then you meet people who DON’T watch what you watch and you are just like:

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If I knew how GIFs work, I would have these here instead, but I don’t, so you just need to deal with that in your own time.

This was a standout season of the show, I personally believe, in so many ways, and I just loved it. See, what I love about the show, beyond the many many many amazing women who fill up my screen in each episode, is the way the containment of the prison forces scenes and interactions to move in a more play-scene way, allowing for reactions to be long and to play out in surprising and emotionally resonant ways. The fast pace of television is sometimes halted in its tracks by the situation of the prison, so that emotions need to have their time and space and relationships have to turn and evolve in a contained space. I love it. I think it’s brilliant, and all the more so for recognizing that Piper is often the least interesting person on-screen and wisely moving to the many other amazing characters. And now I have to wait another damn year for it. I guess I’ll go watch Marco Polo or something now, I mean, Jesus, what else am I supposed to do with my time? Another white guy talking about his life-altering trip to Asia. Puh-lease.

ANYway, speaking of tables turning, let’s talk about how I used to never make maxi dresses and now I make maxi-things all the damn time to the point that What’s-his-face was like, Leah, no more maxis. How many maxis can you own? Now, this is a very Indian way to say things, and sadly What’s-his-face doesn’t recognize that what THAT sounds like is a challenge to which I must respond CHALLENGE ACCEPTED! And have a thousand.

Or five. Or whatever. It’s become such an epidemic in our home that I even made a Maxi shirt! I’ve actually made two, but one is too simple to be worth blogging, so I’m just focusing on this one. To be fair, a maxi skirt or dress is just so flipping useful here, it really is, so regardless of the judgement from SOME people, I’m just going to be like:

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and probably keep making them. This is maxi-length land. When in India….

So I got this fabric on my fabric buying trip with Liz (hi, Liz!). In our efforts to find ikats we….found a lot of ikats. That’s what happens here. It’s nice. But this one was really something special, and I thought it would look good in pleats. Check it out! (GET IT?)

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I drafted the skirt myself, if you can call it that, it was really just messing around with pleats honestly, and a waistband, and pockets. So it’s that’s drafting then yes, I drafted it.

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Pockets! Love em. Big enough for my phone, for my keys, for my hopes and dreams…

The top is a Grainline Studios tiny pocket tank, which I made over a year ago with the remnants of some fabric I had used to make a shirt for what’s-his-face. That was the second I made for him, and now, some ten shirts later, you will still never see one on this blog because what’s-his-face is shy. So you will just have to trust me, they are out there, they exist.

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Ugh, I look like I have a double chin here, sigh.

It’s a cute top, the fabric is great, but I think we all know who the fabric star is here….it’s the ikat. Have you ever seen one like this before? I hadn’t, I love it! The colors, the checks, the texture, I just think it’s stunning. I thought pleats would suit it and I’m happy I was correct. It gives me a warm pleasant feeling to be RIGHT. God, I want to ride that high forever.

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This is a little blurry, sorry, but the waistband has a button in the back, stone buttons which are vintage and I have a bunch of them. It also has a vintage zipper, which is just peeking out there, it’s a magenta color to match the raspberry of the checks.

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You can just see the pleats, there, they meet in the center of the skirt. It’s subtle, but I like the effect.

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I hand-stitched the hem, and you can see the fabric a little better here.

The pockets are a contrast, which is subtle but fun! I didn’t have enough of the ikat, though, so that’s also why. Contrasts can do many things…

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It’s a fairly simple make, but it’s so useful. Maxi-length isn’t going anywhere for as long as we are here, sigh, and while it may make me look short, at least it works all over the place.

Now, to mourn the coming and going of new seasons of shows, and sigh.

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There you go! Any show recommendations, anyone? Bueller?

 

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Filed under Grainline Patterns

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:

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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 Ikat Lover Dress

As my friend and former co-worker (oh, I’m done at the costume shop! So sad, I will miss it so much) Martin once said to me, you’re, like, a cat lady but not, like, a sad one. Like, you just have one cat. And you love it, but not in a creepy way….little does he know! IL8.jpgMy love for my cat is deeply creepy. Deeply. This animal contributes nothing to my finances or my professional life and yet I prioritize him above most things. I wake up early to feed him because he screams at me. I order special food for him because he’s enormous and therefore on a grain-free diet (which is the closest either of us will ever get to Paleo). He has never read any of my writing, or been supportive of my internal struggles, and yet I assume he knows me deeply. Don’t you think that’s just a little creepy? In fact, don’t you think that animals, all of the ones we keep in our homes, have the better end of the deal on this domestication business? I personally think they all get together and have meetings and toast with catnip and dog treats and whatever it is that rabbits enjoy, to their long con deceiving and manipulating their human slaves. And whenever we start catching on they just become cuddly and loving and lure us in with their stupid wonderfulness! Damn them!

IL7.jpgSo I’m sorry, Martin, but clearly I AM that creepy person you assumed I wasn’t. Sigh. What can I do? I love my cat. I also love Ikat! (I know, I know, its that smooth transition you’ve come to expect from this here writer). I a m a big Ikat fan. Maybe because it has the word cat in it, sort of. Maybe because it’s just a beautiful fabric printing technique and it’s literally everywhere right now. Maybe because it makes me feel like I’m in a Bedouin tent but without the scorpions and lack of water. I don’t know. But I’m into it.

And so when what’s-his-face brought me fabric from India this winter, and one of the pieces was a sort of batik-Ikat hybid, I was understandably excited. I am not, by nature, all that into batik on me, though I admire the process and love it on other people, but this was a kind of tribute to both techniques, or looked that way to me,without the color gradiation of traditional batik. It’s actually one of my favorite pieces of fabric that I’ve been given, and usually that would me that I stare at it for years and lovingly stroke it and never actually do anything with it. (That is a true story, I have lots of fabric I bought years ago that I just take out and look at and then return to the box, unsure what to do with something I love so much.) But this time I decided to be brave, and jump, or cut, right in. And I have to say, I’m very pleased with the results, though I don’t think these photos make it look as nice as I think it is. Oh, well, what can you do? So check it out:

IL5.jpgSee what I mean about the fabric? Pretty gorgeous, right? A friend recently said it reminded her of the sea. And I do so adore the ocean…

IL4.jpgFor the pattern, I used a very altered vintage Simplicity 5355. The original pattern calls for gathers instead of darts at the waist, but I wanted darts, so I converted them to darts, and re-drafted the neckline to be a square. I also skipped the pencil skirt and made it a full pleated skirt. As you can see, I cut the skirt cross-grain, which I really love the look of, even if it’s unconventional. I used the sleeve pattern from the original pattern and pleated the shoulders very slightly to make them fit without gathering. This was a very anti-gathering process, I realize.

IL1.jpgI’m a big fan of the square neckline, I realize. The bodice looks more form-fitting in person, but in general it’s a comfortable and not-over-tailored bodice. I lined just the bodice,but let the skirt go unlined, because summer in New York isn’t a good time for linings.

IK6.jpgI hand-picked the zipper, and I didn’t hem the sleeves or skirt, because both were cut on the selvage! Sneaky sneaky seamstress…

IL3.jpgOh, my camera caught a little swish there! I took this by myself in my living room with my tripod, so there was a lot of setting the timer and running for the shot.

IL2.jpgSo there we go, a summer dress in a fabric I adore, an Ikat overlaid with a sort of batiking thing (I’m pretty sure that’s the technical textile term). I know I’m going to get a lot of wear out of this one, it’s comfortable, flattering (well, I think so! And Cadfael, my cat….is sleeping. He doesn’t care. Sob.) and easy to wear. I love summer and summer dresses but I hate anything that I have to adjust all the time. This fits the bill! So maybe I’m creepy, but at least I’m well dressed.

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Filed under Fabric, Sewing, Simplicity Patterns, Vintage