Tag Archives: khadi

The Khadi Body Dress

My love of khadi, the Indian handloom cloth popularized by Gandhi as the icon of the Swadeshi movement, knows no bounds, but most of my experience with the cloth has been crafting shirts for what’s-his-face, which you will never se because he is very not into being featured on the internet in any form. What’s-his-face is firmly of the opinion that the internet is for him to learn about the world, not for the world to learn about him, which I respect. But that means that the many lovely khadi shirts I have made him to help battle the intense humidity of Mumbai (and this summer, New York, more on that later!) remain undocumented. Sigh. C’est la vie. I have made some khadi stuff for myself, although not as much as I would like to, and this dress, made for our friends’ wedding, is a good start towards a khadi filled life.

I found this fabric on a trip to Kolkata, because the one thing that Mumbai DOESN’T have is khadi. I really don’t know why! But the lightweight wonder is absent from those Marathi shores. So it’s something I look forward to whenever I go to Kolkata because I get a chance to really go nuts and indulge. As opposed to my regular life in which I….buy a lot of fabric regardless.

The big revelation I had recently was that khadi can be silk as well as cotton. Point of fact it can be wool, too, I read, but most of my life isn’t super wool-friendly right now, so I’m sticking with silk and cotton for the moment. I snagged this truly excellent silk khadi with my mother-in-law about 8 months ago, and I knew, I just knew, it would be ideal for the wedding. And sure enough, it was!

It’s my new favorite, McCalls 7503, which I have now made four times!

Although….it also turned out super super duper low cut, which…I don’t really understand? Because I’ve made this pattern a bunch of times now? But somehow, I don’t know, in the cutting or stitching I must have lowered the neckline or something because this is…a lot of decolletage! A not-India-appropriate level of decolletage. Which is fine! Because the wedding was in America! But oh boy, India has totally changed the way I feel about parts of my body being out in the public gaze….oy. Something else to talk to my therapist about!

The fabric, it’s the star here, seriously.

I mean, look at it! And it’s khadi, and it’s silk, and oh boy, that’s a lot of my chest out there. But the fabric!

The design lines totally get lost in the busy print but I am fine with that. Maybe I should make it in stripes or something, something to highlight that.

I drafted the skirt, aka pleated it in a way that I thought looked nice, and the sleeves, and underlined and lined the bodice, and underlined the skirt, because this silk is so lightweight I knew it needed some structure.

 

Sideview!

 

This is what happens when I wear heels! Not a ton of balance, here….

And there you go! A khadi dress, for a khadi lover, so now I have a khadi body!

 

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The Edwardian Prison Guard Dress

Sometimes you love something no one else seems to love. I’m sure you’ve had this experience, right? You go to a museum (if you don’t go to museums, imagine you are someone who goes to museums. Also, if you don’t go to museums, out of curiosity, why do you read this blog? I’m one Rembrandt reference away from being a full on Rijksmuseum fan-girl page. Anyway, thanks for reading, hope you aren’t super bored every time I go Van Gogh over here). So, you go to a museum, and you see a painting. Maybe it’s a Vermeer. Maybe it’s a Velasquez. Maybe it’s a Renoir because you hate yourself. I don’t know! But you stand in front of a painting and you feel some way about it. Maybe you love it, because it’s Velasquez, and it’s amazing, and it dazzles your soul, and you read this book a lot as a kid and seeing this painting is a dream come true. I’m obviously talking about this one:

las-meninasAnyway, this painting, it works for you. You love it. And then your friend comes up because they are bored and you’re taking too long and it’s Madrid and they want to party, and they are like, huh, lame painting man. Now, you could slaughter this friend, obviously, and that would probably be legal because, COME ON, seriously? But you are a kind and gracious person and you don’t, you simply accept that people are into different things. You love this, and your lame friend who you need to friend break up with is more into this nonsense:

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I’m not the only person who feels this way about Renoir, by the way, and if you want to meet more like-minded freedom fighters, you can find out about them here. Anyway, in the end, you like what you like, which is the point here, and sometimes after you’ve spent hours explaining why Las Meninas is amazing or why Renoir isn’t, you still wont have changed your friend’s mind, because there is something at the center of interest or attraction that is undefinable, untranslatable, personal.

So that’s probably why when I went fabric shopping with my friend Liz in Delhi we looked at the same fabric and I thought, I want to go to there, and she thought, mattress ticking.

Khadi is one of my favorite Indian fabrics. In its essence, its a rough woven cotton cloth, but Gandhi’s embracing of the cloth as a symbol of Indian self-rule and self sustainability as part of the Independence movement glorified the humble cotton and brought it into the national arena as a symbol of patriotism. Now khadi is all over India, and the lightweight loose weave is a godsend on hot days, of which India has many. The thing I love about it is the way the texture of the cloth is varied and interesting, so that as you sew with it its variety and many inconsistencies or flaws reveal themselves to you. It’s a rather stiff cloth, but it softens with wear, and it’s often woven in threads of two colors, giving the cloth a “change in the light” quality. I bet some language, Japanese maybe, has a word for that. While khadi might not be the best known fabric abroad, as it’s a personal favorite I wanted Liz to check it out when she was here, and we both went home to Mumbai with more than one piece. Now, Liz might have thought I picked up something more appropriate for a mattress than a dress, but I know regardless she will support my sewing choice, as she’s cool that way. That being said, while I love love love the result, I have to say, it might have gone right past mattress and into Edwardian Prison guard territory…

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Ah, well, you know how it is, some days you start out making a charming shirt dress and end up in incarcerated in 1910.e5d26f882abea11a6789a472abc3de36

Maybe I’m not even a guard. Maybe I’m an inmate….

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I guess a show about this wouldn’t be Orange is the New Black so much as it would be something like Tetanus is the New Scurvy.

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See the resemblance? Ah, well. It shows I’m tough, with a degree from the school of hard knocks. I bet that’s going to earn me a lot of street cred here in Mumbai. Or cause colonial flashbacks….

ED 3WHATEVER. I love my dress! Mattress, guard, inmate, see, it’s versatile! This is a version of McCalls M6696, which I have made several times before, here and here and one unblogged version. I love this pattern, but I’ve always had a little bit of chest gape between the buttons which I’ve fixed with safety pins. This time, I just cut the bodice with about 2.5 extra inches of ease, which fixed the issue and gave the bodice a looser fit, which is just fine with me, in Mumbai’s pre-monsoon heat (during which these photos were taken, now the monsoon has come in earnest and as I type this sheets of water pour down) I wanted everything looser and baggier and just not touching my body as much as possible.

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I made this version sleeveless, and I opted to drape my own skirt, aka throw some pleats in that fabric and call it a day. Otherwise I didn’t make any changes other than loosening up the bodice for gaping purposes. I played around with directions of the stripes a little on the waistband and then on the yoke:

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Oh, and I changed the gather to a pleat and took a little bit, maybe 1.5 inches, out of the back in a slight wedge shape to account for the change. That way I get that blousey 1940’s feeling without feeling like I could fit my cat in my back bodice. Side note, I had been walking around for all of ten minutes when we took these photos and you can ALREADY see perspiration on my back. THAT IS WHAT IT IS LIKE HERE ALL THE TIME.

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I finished the armholes with bias tape, as one does. I also french seamed it throughout whenever there was a seam that needed such a thing.

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I’ve taken to hemming things a few inches below the knee, which might not be the most flattering length for me ever, but it is pretty useful in Mumbai and India in general. It’s funny, for a Saturday night at a bar or restaurant I will see, and wear, things much shorter than this, but during the day walking around seeing someone in a dress or skirt is rare in and of itself, and when in doubt, tea-length does work well even if it shortens me. Sigh. Like I need something to shorten me….

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A little close up so you can see the cool wooden buttons, purchased at my local market here in Santacruz (our neighborhood), and the fabric. Ha, one of the buttons is slipping out, I just realized that! Oy. I always like the way darts look in stripes, is that weird?

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So there you go. Maybe it’s a little Edwardian Prison, guard or inmate, but I’ll take it. Besides, most people wont get the reference here, anyway, so I think I’m pretty safe. Although, a lot of people DO like Downton Abbey here, so….well, let’s hope they think guard and not inmate!

Coming soon, dressing for the monsoon! I…don’t know how to do it…

 

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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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