Tag Archives: New York

The Russian Goodbye Dress

Having just moved, I can assure you, there were many things that were hard about leaving New York. The most important thing about any place is, for me, the people who are in it. I realize of course that this is not a revolutionary statement, but sometimes the hallmark clichés come true, and you can deny it or you can suck it up and deal. Places are their people. They are their spaces and their streets too, of course, their trees and their paths, but they are their people. And the people I have in New York were hard to leave.

For me, New York was a new and sometimes difficult change, leaving my beloved Philadelphia, going to graduate school, altering the landscape of my life to include new things and new balances, new stresses and new needs. Left to my own devices I might be a bit of  hermit, curling up with my cat and my television and a bottle or five of wine, but New York did not permit that from me. Quite simply, there were too many people I love there, too much to do, too many things I had to be a part of, that I was forced by the magnificence of my community there to become a better version of myself. So many of these people helped me celebrate my homemade garments, photographing them, complimenting them, making fun of them when they weren’t quite right, mostly in kind ways, but sometimes the truth hurts. My friends in New York also benefited from my craftiness, they must admit, receiving homemade gifts and sometimes even posing for this blog.

Leaving New York doesn’t mean losing these people. But it does mark a new chapter in my life, just as coming to New York did. In Brooklyn I found new levels of independence in the new ways I understood myself. I became a better writer, through training, through experience and through contact with others. I met new people and deepened my relationships with known entities. I fell in love. I wrote plays, screenplays, television scripts, a novel. I surprised myself, I disappointed myself, I thrilled myself. I had late nights and early mornings, drunken revelries and sober contemplations. I explored neighborhoods alone, sometimes relishing my solitude, sometimes painfully lonely in the midst of crowds and bodies. I learned to love and hate the subway, becoming an expert in stations and exits, across-platform transfers, avenues and winding streets. I crossed bridges over and over again, in and out of different territories.

I stayed close to home, linked by buses and trains and time zones, able to sit in the house my mother designed at the merest suggestion of homesickness. I became bound up in my life, content with the complications, confusions and cat hair that Brooklyn apartments afforded me. I knew what things meant, not just their literal meanings but their significance, what it meant to live in Astoria, in Williamsburg, to work in publishing, to be in finance.

There were also a thousand things I didn’t know, and still don’t. The best bike route to Greenwood Cemetery, or the best restaurants on the Upper West Side, or the vast mysteries of the Bronx. There were so many things I didn’t do, things I wanted and things I resisted, things that a seasoned New Yorker would scoff at and a tourist would mock. I never went to the top of the Empire State Building, in fact, I think I only passed by the building once. I’ve never had a bagel from Zabars, or a knish from Katz’s. I’ve never ridden a subway line from end to end, or been to the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens.

If I think of the things I did versus the things I missed, the people I spent my time with versus the distance between us now, physically, my life starts to feel both full and empty at the same time, but I can only content myself with the fact that life is long, and being in India doesn’t mean never going back to New York (or more importantly, Philadelphia) again. It’s not an exclusion, it’s just opening up my circle, making my world bigger. I haven’t lost things, I’ve gained them. I hadn’t lost people, we just have to communicate in different ways, spend time together in different senses.  Still. Even if it’s just for a bit, it’s hard to say goodbye.

My love for Brighton Beach is well documented, and so when I was up in New York for a last time in a while, and my friend Becca (hi, Becca!) asked me what I wanted to do, Brighton Beach was on the list. Becca, lifelong New Yorker that she is, had never been. So that was it. We trudged out to the world of Russians and lost ourselves for a few hours. All I could think about was the first time I came to Brooklyn, and how I had forced my friend Emily to come to a play with me all the way in Manhattan Beach, which is even more remote than Brighton. We had walked through the neighborhood together and stopped for pelmeni before the show.

I am a big believe in symmetry. I wore a homemade outfit then, and I wore one this last time too. As Becca, ever obliging, snapped my photos, I realized that the dress I was wearing was born of some of my friends, a handful of the people I love in New York. Becca photographed it, Emily bought me the fabric as a Hanukkah gift, and my friend Victoria’s mother sent the buttons along in a box of sewing supplies the previous winter. I had made each girl a dress when they were the bridesmaids at my recent (second) wedding. It only seemed fair that they, in a way, had made me one, too.

I suppose I should move on from the sentimentality into the stitching. If I talked about all the feelings I had leaving my friends in New York I would be here forever. And this isn’t even touching on all the emotions I felt and feel leaving my family in Philadelphia. But leaving is perhaps the wrong word for what happens when life changes. Here in India a popular world to use for moving is shifting, as in, I shifted to my new apartment, I’ll shift to that chair, can you shift this fellow for me (the last being my brother-in-law’s response to Cadfael’s communal space mentality). So I did not leave, I shifted, just a slight adjustment, relative to the infinity of time and space. After all, leaving feels so very permanent, but shifting? Shifting happens all the time.


To the dress:


RG 1


This little beauty (if I do say so myself) is McCalls 6696, a shirtdress upon which to build a dream. This pattern is all over the internets, and I have made it once before after being wildly inspired by Dolly Clackett and Idle Fancy . This time I wanted to try the slimmer skirted option, both for the sake of variety and because I only had 2 yards of this glorious Liberty Lawn. The 60 inch width meant that I could still get this whole shirt dress out of it, though, such is the wonder of Liberty. Thank you, Emily, a thousand times.

RG 3

I stitched up a size 14 (28 inch waist) with the choose your own cup size in a D. The fit, as previously, was good, and I like the style a lot, although I’m not sure if the pockets are cute or emphasize my not-insubstantial hips.

RG 4I made one alteration to the pattern, which was on the back piece under the yoke. Dissatisfied with the puffy nature of my last attempt, I took 2 inches out of the back in a wedge, and turned the gathers into a pleat. I prefer it, although part of me misses that vintage touch. Oh, well, next time I will see if I can take out a little gathering but still maintain the idea of the gather. Conceptual clothing, people.

RG 2


See, with my arms down the pockets lie beautifully flat but when I’m moving or speaking or breathing, they sort of poke out. So I guess I have to…not do any of those things.

I do love these pick-your-cup-size patterns, they just make sense. Women run the gamut of bust sizes, shouldn’t our patterns do so too?

RG 5

My lovely collar got a little wind-swept but I assure you, it came out well. And look at that fabric! And the buttons! And the photographs!

RG 6

Sewing is a solitary habit, just like writing. But I know that wherever I go, or shift, I can look at the things I’ve made and see the people who made them possible, through gifts and photos and just telling me I look nice in them. And that, at least, is something I never have to leave behind. Thank you, to everyone who reads and gives and helps and puts up with my sewing related chatter. I love you all, and I’m taking you with me as I shift around.

So now I’m learning Mumbai, and you can expect Indian hellos to follow this Russian Goodbye. Fewer fur hats, more goats. Both cities have a beach, though, at least there is that…


Filed under Life, McCalls Patterns, Sewing, Travel

Annnnnnnd we’re back

What’s sad is that, in the list of things I forgot to pack, I didn’t take Cadfael’s beloved scratch lounge! I’m the WORST.

Moving. Is. The. Literal. Worst. Though, honestly,I shouldn’t be complaining, my magnificent family made my move a delight (or at least a bearable experience), and now I’m mostly settled in in Brooklyn, Prospect Heights, for all those interested in stalking me, and trying to get myself back on track, you know, life wise. Cadfael is great, too, by the way, for those playing along at home, he seems to have taken to Brooklyn like, well, a hipster….

But the most important thing is, DID I BRING MY SEWING MACHINE? Is that some sort of sick joke? Of COURSE I did. Honestly that was the most important thing I brought, along with all my other sewing stuff. Did I bring all the fabric? Bahahaha, no. There isn’t enough room in this whole city for all that. And frankly, it’s quite a shock to the system to become aware of just how little storage space there is here on this ridiculous island. Or a I on a peninsula now? I honestly have no idea. Please don’t tell me. I don’t care.

At any rate, my soviet propaganda posters are all hung, my diploma is there looking smug as ever, my books sit calmly in their bookcase all literary and everything, so there you are. And I’ve even made an item! I can’t show it to you right now, but rest assured, I already impressed QUITE a few hipsters in Williamsberg (which was surprisingly devoid of colonial information) with my homemaid goodness. Take THAT, greasy people!

At any rate, I’m back in business, baby, and ready to sew. Anyone else a sewer in New York? Want to hang out? I promise I’m halfway decent!


Filed under Life

OWOP 3: The Tourist

Circumstances conspired to send me to New York today, and as it happened I ended up doing a lot of walking. A LOT of walking. I even happened to wander about the fabric district, sneaking into Mood and Parons, but I walked out empty handed. I know, I know, my willpower, it’s astounding. Seriously, I actually went to Mood TWICE, and I still managed to resist a silky cotton voile and several delicious knits. Give this girl a prize.

It was actually rather brisk today in Manhatten, despite the sun, and I found myself bundling up against the cold and more then a little relieved to board my Bolt Bus home. But before I was able to dash back to Philadelphia, I had time to grab a quick coffee and a snack with my friend Victoria, who helpfully snapped this photo. We ended up at Tick Tock Diner, a hilariously touristy diner which we picked because it was just a stone’s through away from my Bolt Bus Stop. Location location location.

So here is me, taking a classic New York Tourist shot, in my Denim Clovers:

PS: I also made that shirt. It’s a much modified Sorbetto and I need to iron the ties but let’s get real here, I don’t iron things once they are finished. That’s just not how I roll.

Approximately ten million people walked by while Victoria was trying to take my photo. That may or may not be an exaggeration.

But I got my touristy New York shot! Ha! Take that, natives, I exercised my right to take smiling photos in front of innocuous locations. Bam. Now point me towards Times Square, I want to go see Cats and spend 100 dollars for a bad meal.


Filed under Challenge, Colette Patterns

What? You don’t pay 150 dollars a yard for fabric? Darling, you haven’t LIVED

I was having a conversation with some ladyfriends recently and we were discussing shopping, and the holidays, and what we pay for things. Or more, what we would be willing to pay for things. Since I’ve started sewing, which none of my friends do, really, I don’t actually buy much clothing anymore. I buy jersey tops, jeans, underwear and shoes. And the rare sweater, but I tend to get most of those at thrift stores or vintage shops. Still, I browse enough websites and window shop enough to be kept abreast of what is out there and what it all costs. And of course, I turn to many a shop for inspiration/blatant copy-catting. ANYway, we were discussing buying stuff and what seems reasonable to us and we all came to the conclusion that this is completely relative.

For example, say you love a top. And this top is typically 100 dollars, it’s from Anthropologie or what have you and it’s lovely and out of your price range. Then the top goes on sale. Awesome. But the sale price is 40 dollars. Now, on one level, this is a 60% discount, I mean, that’s amazing. But on another level, that’s still 40 dollars, not exactly a deal. Or is it? Because of course that all depends on your budget and your salary and your socio-economic background and what you grew up with and what, really, when you say reasonable, you really mean.

But what does any of this have to do with sewing and crafting, you might be asking yourself. Well, the question I really want to ask is, how much would you pay for fabric? What seems reasonable to you? What seems cheap? And what, if anything, is too much to pay?

This is a question I’ve been considering for a long time, and it’s one that finally came to head this past weekend when I sojourned up to New York to shop in the Garment District with my friend Michael, and see Punchdrunk’s mind-blowing performance piece Sleep No More (which I will soon be blogging about over here, so jump  over in the next few days, if you are interested). I should at this point mention that when it comes to fabric, I love nothing so much as a bargain. I tend to do most of my shopping here, in Philadelphia, scouring Jomar and Fabric Row, poking around dusty little shops and annoying surly fabric cutters with my questions. That’s just how I roll. I enjoy the hunt, the search for something special and inexpensive among all the rubble. So I don’t spend a whole lot of time in the garment district, in fact, this was my first ever trip to buy fabric.

I met up with Michael,

who works at a little brand called Theory, at the famous big button that has become the icon of the New York Garment District.

May I just point out that this button would be useless? It has five holes. That’s foolish.

Our first stop, after a catch up session, was at the notorious B and J Fabrics. Which is magnificent. And, like most things in New York, so expensive that you feel like you might actually have to pay to breathe.

However, the selection is magnificent. MAGNIFICENT.

Look at that. 85 a yard. Like you do.

Wools you ache to touch.

Silk jersey for a mere 53 a yard. It’s practically a bargain!

I also got to see Liberty of London fabrics in person for the very first time. And I have to say, they may be made of cotton, but they FEEL like they are made of clouds. And sunshine. And happiness. Sigh.

But for all this, I didn’t buy a damn thing at B and J. Why? Well, frankly, I just can’t justify that to myself. Can you?

But I did treat myself to this silk darling at Mood. Which is also awesome. And a hell of a lot friendlier.

Oh, this thing is luscious. It’s a panel, and it’s awesome, and I think I know what I want to do with it (blouse, duh). And, now that I think of it, at 14 dollars a yard it’s the most I’ve ever paid per yard in my life. What? I told you I was cheap!

I also picked up so other treasures, mostly at Paron’s, whose sale Annex is my new best friend, but you will just have to wait around to see those. But you CAN see how happy I was (am) with my big bag of fabric:

Or maybe it was just the Old Fashioned I enjoyed.

In total I purchased about 12 yards of fabric (BAD Leah) for, on average, 7 dollars a yard (GOOD Leah). And for me, that’s rather high. So what would you pay for fabric? Do you have expensive tastes, or are you all about the thrift store finds and vintage sheets? Do you see fabric as an investment? What do you consider to be a good deal? I’m honestly curious, here, no judgement! As long as you don’t begrudge me my cheap thrills I promise not to make fun of your criminally expensive 4 ply-silk fetish. To each their own…


Filed under Fabric, Inspiration