Tag Archives: liz

The Luxe Life Shirtdress

One of the greatest things about other people is the things they introduce to your life. I am, of course, enough of a Sartre fan to feel deeply that hell is, in fact, other people, and I wanted to put that on my yearbook page my senior year, but my mother told me it would be too negative. Deborah was probably 100% right, and she herself had a cynical senior yearbook page and knew of what she spoke, so I trusted her, but I’ve always been one of those people who was like, ohhh, man, PEOPLE, am I right? The worst! And yet, I also need and crave them, which is why when I find MY people, I’m a stage five clinger, and let go for nothing. I sing their praises to the world like troubadours of old, and I go to them for the wisdom of the ages. And I am forever grateful for the things they introduce me to, the books they recommend, the television shows they adore, the life hacks they tell me about (I would…not know what a lifehack was without my friends. For reals.) and all they bring. So today, I will celebrate Liz, my friend who introduced me to the joy that is going nuts over luxury hotels.

When Liz visited me in India, we traveled North together in May, a time when most people I know told me I was literally out of my mind because of the ground-baking heat. I maintain, however, that this was the best time to visit Delhi and Jaipur, specifically Jaipur, because yes, it was a daily desert, BUT, there were no other tourists! In India, I will take bad weather over crowds ANY DAY OF THE WEEK (please refer to the earlier statement about Sartre, kay, thanks) AND all the prices were slashed because it was the low point of tourist season. So we spent five nights at the Royal Heritage Haveli, which is seriously one of the best hotels I’ve even been in, a renovated Maharaja’s hunting lodge in Jaipur and just an amazing place to stay. I had stayed with my parents previously, but in the May scorching heat, Liz convinced me to spend a day lounging at the fabulous pool and soaking in the stunning Rajput inspired renovation. It was so wonderful, and I had never before spent a day during a trip not….doing anything. It was a revelation, and while I’m still a very active tourist wherever I go, hunting down historic sights and museums with the single-minded focus of a falcon hunting for mice, I do value lounging at a nice hotel and even taking some downtime, once I’ve exhausted my list of activities, that is.

Luckily, in Singapore, I’ve done most of the things that interest me from a tourist perspective, several times, so when Liz stopped by between traveling with her mother in China and being stuffed full of delights by her family in Hong Kong, we could focus on eating, hanging out by the pool, and squealing about our hotel.

Obviously, it’s clear to me that my life as a writer will mean millions and millions of dollars, fame, a-list events, and celebrity friendships. I mean, that’s really why I got into it in the first place, all those stereotypes about how easy it is, the glitz, the glamour. I obviously joke, but I hope that even if I do achieve modest success, and end up staying in a series of nice hotels, I still have the same feeling of joy and delight that I do now when I stay somewhere sleek and shiny and pretty. Or somewhere charming and historic and pretty. Basically, I just never want to take nice stuff for granted. Nice stuff is nice, and it’s a privilege to get to spend a night or two or however many in a lovely place like the Pan Pacific Singapore. If anyone in my life ever hears me being like, well, it’s nice, but it’s no Ritz, please, shoot me. Shoot me immediately. It’s fun to read Crazy Rich Asians, but I think it would be hell to live it.

So here is my latest Kalle Shirtdress, the third I’ve made, with the third button placket style, photographed in my most glamorous style possible with my expert photographer/partner in hotel adoration, Liz:

I have a lot of wonderful people in my life who take my photos, but I will say, Liz, with her eye for clothing and fashion, given that she sews herself and is a costume historian, really knows how to photograph my makes. She gets into it! Which is good, because 99% of the time, I feel like an idiot getting my photo taken. But here? I knew and know, I was super cool.

This is my third Kelle shirtdress, and this time I stitched up a 12, while my two previous incarnations had been a 14. It’s a roomy pattern, and I knew going down a size wouldn’t do much.

I made my usual adjustment of adding five inches at the hem, and that’s about it. Oh, I also did the inverted V rather than the pleat.

These photos were taken on our hotel room balcony. OUR HOTEL ROOM HAD A BALCONY! That was awesome.

The fabric is from my newly beloved Thakur, and this time I did the concealed placket. It’s a little more work, but it’s a cool effect, so I didn’t mind.

 

Liz was like, grab your sunglasses! She needs to add “shoot styling” to her resume.

Ahhh, enjoying the steamy humid Singaporean sunshine.

I have made three of these dresses, but I don’t know if I’m interested in stopping any time soon. They are so comfortable and airy in the clinging Mumbai heat, or, in these photos, in the Singapore stickiness, that I feel like I could just make them forever. Kalle shirtdress for life!

Meanwhile, I’m currently listening to this song and making this soup and talking with my co-worker about Joan’s style evolution on Elementary. What are you guys up to?

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Filed under Closet Case Patterns, Clothing, 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 It’s A Jungle Out Here Dress

Ah, well, so much for my resolution to dress more like a grown up….

This dress can be subtitled, “The Puerto Rican Hipster Dress”. Because let me tell you something. Hipster has come to Puerto Rico with a vengeance. And, well, look, I don’t want anyone to take this the wrong way, because Lord knows I love Puerto Rico deeply, but, well, the island isn’t exactly hip to modern trends. Which is kind of what is great about it, about Latin America and about islands, their isolation, their traditions, their ways. But it’s also really nice that San Juan has started, oh, I don’t know, recycling. Making salads. Brewing local coffee. And lo and behold, now they ARE! It’s pretty awesome. Recently, at a crafts fair, there was a stall serving artisanal empanadas, complete with a Thai curry coconut chicken. I mean, if that’s not hip, what IS?

So this dress, well, it couldn’t BE more hipster. I mean, I bought the fabric at the Brooklyn Flea, so….

IAJOH 1I know. I KNOW. It’s covered in animals. It’s gathered at the waist. It’s just, it’s so damn hipster I can’t even deal with it. BUT ALSO I LOVE IT AHHHHHHHH!

IAJOH 2Okay, so I did not have a lot of this fabric, and I had to be a bit creative with the cutting of it, so the skirt goes one way and the bodice the other. I like it, personally, but then, I’m a rebel, Dottie, a loner.

IAJOT 3The pattern? Ah, there we go. Okay, so, my amazing AMAZING friend Liz (hi, Liz!) was a pattern maker for a while, and we met working at the costume shop. She offered, out of the blue, to help me make a bodice and skirt block, if I wanted. IF I WANTED? Oh, yeah, no, that sounds horrible, I super didn’t want anyone to ever help me make a bodice and skirt block to my exact measurements ever even one time. But, you know, she twisted my arm, so…….

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Anyway, a lot of thanking and groveling later, plus some wine and Mexican food, I got myself some blocks, and Liz got a website of Beyonce Lyrics to Art History Images. You can decide who go the better end of that deal….

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And so I made this dress! I did actually muslin the pattern, I’m not that dumb, and it had to be the best fitting thing I’ve ever put on, except that the bodice was a touch short. So I added two inches to the length of it, and called it a day. Expect to see a lot more of this block in the future, I may or may not be in love….

IAJOH 5I love the way the back fits, it’s the first time in forever in which I haven’t seen back wrinkling in the back bodice….

So I just gathered and went with the skirt, and added pockets, DUH, because they are the best.

IAJOH 7Seriously, how well does this bodice fit? I need to press the neckline, and I would alter it again (and WILL) next time), but seriously, I don’t think I’ve every made anything that worked with my body this well. I adore you, Liz!

IAJOH 8Look at that! That’s some nice fit there. Hand picked zipper, like I do.

IAJOH 9Annnnnnnnnnnd this is the fabric. Whatever, whatever, whatever, for adulthood because I love this. I LOVE THIS. Shut up!

IAJOH 10As Becca, who took these photos, turned out, the upside-down tigers are particularly awkwardly placed….screw it. I love this dress. It’s going to be a hit in New York this summer, I can just tell. But that’s nothing compared to how hip I felt in Puerto Rico….

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Filed under Clothing, Sewing