Tag Archives: monsoon

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 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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Filed under McCalls Patterns, Sewing

The Sleeping In The Tropics Pajamas

In a recent skype conversation my friend Victoria as me if there was a time she could visit India when it WOULDN’T be extremely hot.

Weeeeeeeelllllllllllllllll………..

Look, not all of India is hot, honestly. It’s a huge country, they got all types of weather here. You can hike the Himalayan foothills in multiple states, you can go from forest to desert to jungle, you have options, really. In the North, you can even experience winter, magic thing that it is. Kolkata will get slightly chilly to my senses, although its native denizens walk around in sweaters and coats like it’s Moscow, and I have heard that other regions experience the ups and downs of weather that I was so used to (and loved) in the States.

But here in Mumbai, it’s always fairly hot. It’s the tropics, you see, and there is no getting around that. Some days are hotter than others,we had a brief “winter” like period in which I actually wore pants voluntarily and Mr. Struggle pulled out a flannel shirt claiming to be “chilled” because he is a delicate Indian flower, but generally it’s pretty much hot, hotter, hottest around here. October is notoriously sweltering, in the post-monsoon haze, and now, pre-monsoon or just on the very verge of it, Mumbai is a venerable hot-air balloon of humidity. Apart from messing with my skin (is that a thing, does anyone know?) and frizzing my hair (I haven’t worn it down for any signficant period of time other than sleeping for weeks) it’s made walking around an amazing experience in which I go from normal to sweating buckets within minutes. And the worst part is, people around me DON’T SEEM TO SWEAT.

I walk to the train station about two days a week on average for the voice over work I’m doing for a television show which is being dubbed from Croatian to English. It’s….amazing, it’s this soap opera from Croatia and it’s a constant source of wonder and hilarity for me. So far, plot points have included Somalian pirates, an escaped abused Yemeni bride, desert island desertion, heroin, unplanned pregnancy, a gypsy who sees the future, a coma, a beauty pageant, and so much more in between. And I’m not even halfway through dubbing it! I voice multiple characters, and sometimes I have long conversations in the show between me and me and it’s crazy. ANYway, more on that in other posts, but the point is, it’s a fifteen minute walk from our apartment to the Santacruz West Railway Station and in that brief window I become so coated with sweat that my clothing turns new darker colors from my exertions. Then I go to the studio, which is air-conditioned, freeze for a few hours, the color of my shirt returns to normal, and then I head out to repeat the whole process all over again. Upside? My wardrobe appears far bigger than it is! Downside? So. Sweaty. All. The. Time.

I know there are people out there who don’t sweat. Good for them, I say! But I sure do, and my life in Mumbai so far has been perpetually shiny with it. Now, at least in Mumbai you can pretty much wear whatever you want, unlike other Indian cities where you might want to be more covered up because the culture is a staring oriented one (see this post I did on India’s capital for reference), although of course even here it sort of depends where you live and where your day takes you, geographically. But given that I work from home, and my home is on the edge of Bandra, arguably one of the more liberal centers of this mammoth city, I am usually as comfortable as humanly possible. Even though, however, can wilt in the face of the heavy pre-monsoon humidity that makes the city feel like a greenhouse for tropical plants. Well, to be fair, it rather IS, isn’t it? Certainly the plants here love it….

But transplants like me, we need to figure out ways to cope, especially when it comes  to sleepwear. There is nothing quite so horrible as waking up because you are physically too hot and sweaty to keep sleeping. Luckily, the lightweight cottons also produced here are pretty good with that sort of thing, and I’ve made a few Carolyn pajamas which, after fiddling with the fit a bit, have kept me fairly cool, but this time I wanted something even breezier, even more open, even BETTER. Luckily, I had just the idea, and the fabric to make it happen:

 

SIT 1

Oh yes, the hair, she is up. Get used to that in photos for the next few posts! My mother has commented she doesn’t know why I don’t just cut it all off. Deborah is, as always, correct, but I’m keeping it for now, so enjoy this series of posts whose subtitle shall be, “updos have I known”.

So! This is a modified Tiny Pocket Tank which I adapted using this stellar tutorial (I have actually done this sort of thing before, way back over a year ago for a sojourn to Austin. That pajama now lives in San Juan, its natural habitat). I did my usual size in this pattern, 14, to accommodate the full bust I possess. I suppose I could grade down for the waist and hips, but, like, how much do I care how form-fitting this billowing tank is? Besides, honestly, with the aforementioned heat I’ve been in a trend of making stuff that stands as far away from my body as possible, moderating my Tiny Pocket Tank and Scout Tee patterns to make them tents, trapezes, circles, whatever, something that stays away from my skin.

I usually lengthen this top, but for the pajama version I just kept the length as is, which makes it a cute swingy little top.

SIT 7

Full disclosure: I pinned the back in place for the purposes of this photo shoot. #tricksofthetrade

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The shorts are the Purl Bee City Gym Shorts, a free pattern (free pattern!) which are perfect for pajama shorts. These shorts are fairly easy to construct, it’s just the miles of bias tape you need to finish all the visible exterior seams that can be…daunting. But, hey, its super cute, so we do it anyway…I’ve made these shorts a few times, and I have found that they are cut a little slim, presumably to be more flattering, but I like them loose and baggy, especially for sleep. I don’t really get this idea of slim fitting pajamas…..I’m really okay not looking my most fashionable self as I sleep.

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Although I do think these are pretty cute!

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The construction was fairly simple. The interiors of both pieces include french seams throughout, and the neck and armholes are finished with the same bias tape that you can see on the shorts. Easy peasy. I sat down with this after finishing THREE shirts for Mr. Struggle (because I am the best. wife. ever.) yesterday afternoon, and wore it to bed last night.

The fabric comes from Mangaldas Market, my favorite Mumbai fabric destination. I love this fabric, I actually made a dress out of it, which I need to photograph and post, and then was in the market again and saw more of the fabric and I bought it all right there because how often does that even happen? Once before for me. That’s it! Isn’t it great? I still have some left! What to do, what to do…

SIT 4

Modeling “sleepy” poses or prepping for a jump shot?

SIT 8

You know me well if you guessed jump shot.

SIT 9

Sharing a moment with Cadfael. Man, if I think it’s hot, can you imagine how HE feels? We will wait for the rains together, and now I have a decent pajama to mark the tropical occasion.

Come on, monsoons, get a move on!

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Filed under Clothing, Grainline Patterns, Purl Soho, Sewing