Tag Archives: scout tee

The Swing By The Northeast Shirt

A philosophical question for stitchers of the ages. At what point does a pattern hack become…something beyond that? As in, at what point do you change so many things about a pattern that it is suddenly something else? The shirt I’m going to be showing you today is totally based on something but then I…basically changed almost everything about it. So I guess it’s still somehow sort of a grainline studio scout tee, but I doubt anyone would recognize it as such…

Let me backtrack here for a moment. When recently planning a trip with my friends Victoria and Joe (hi, Victoria and Joe!) who so graciously decided to visit me in India, they decided that while most tourists make a beeline for the camels , elephants and palaces, they wanted a different approach, and chose the Northeast of India, specifically the state of Sikkim, as their primary destination. And I’m lucky enough to have been invited to tag along with them to their stopover in Darjeeling and their journey to Gangtok, the capital of the state tucked neatly in the Himalayan mountain range. This is a different India than I had experience before, with Darjeeling, the colonial getaway steeped in tea and history, and Gangtok, rife with monasteries and momos (dumplings), clean and pristine in the clear mountain air, a city of wretchedly steep hills (I swear, despite missing the gym for a week, I think I got better workouts most days…). The mountain roads are terrifying but fascinating, and the weather is cool with clear days and chilly nights.

In steamy humid pre-monsoon Mumbai, the weather was one of the things I was most eagerly anticipating, but as I looked at my wardrobe, I realized that I had a serious dearth of cool-weather clothing. Given that I’m spending a lot of time in a warm place right now, I haven’t been making as much cold-appropriate stuff, and suddenly I realized that I really should be making stuff every once in a while for chilly situations. After all, it’s not like I’m never in them! So I have decided that I will make the rare warm piece, for chilly days and chilly places. Of course, it’s easy to only think about the things that you need right then and there, but hey, a little forward thinking never hurt anyone.

And I must say, this shirt was SO wonderfully cosy in Darjeeling, which, because of its high elevation, was actually colder than Gangtok, which is further north. I wouldn’t say it was freezing, more like in the 50’s and 40’s (farenheit) but the lack of heating in Indian homes meant this wonderful make kept me warm. Of course, it was a little incongruous at our cozy afternoon tea in the fancy Windamere Hotel, but I can live with that.

So here you go! An EXTREMELY modified Scout Tee:

Now, you’re thinking right about now, um, Leah,the Scout Tee is a t-shirt. This is…something else entirely. So what did I change? The better question is probably, what DIDN’T I change?

So, I lengthened the body pieces by about five inches in the front and seven inches in the back for that hi-low situation, and widened them into a swing shape. I also lengthened the sleeves, as you can see, to full length, and cut the front on the selvage, adding two inches for the placket. I also divided the back into a yoke, which I cut two of, one of which was on the bias, and a back piece, which I further widened to have room for a vent.

Yeah. As far from Scout as could be.

I totally did all this on the fabric, by the way, living dangerously, because I’m a rebel, Dottie, a loner, and man if I don’t LOVE the result!

 

The fabric is a flannel I got at my new favorite place in Mumbai, Thakur. It is cozy as hell, and I love it.

I had enough of it to match up the plaids at the side, although one side ended up better than the other. I guess that’s a thing?

Here’s my casual leaning look. I feel like with the flannel and the plaid it’s like a little 1990’s, which I loathe, but WHATEVER. I choose to not see that. I choose my reality, dammit!

There I am, in front of the hotel’s immaculate gates. Can’t you just see a Lord Something-or-other condescending himself right through these?

So that’s my shirt, a total hack, and one I might just have to replicate.

Oh, and those mountains? Fairly magnificent, for reals:

RIGHT?

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Filed under Grainline Patterns, Sewing

The Trying It Out Outfit

The internet is a strange and scary place sometimes, with its anonimity serving as a kind of cloak for bad behavior, for hatred to pour out unchecked, for bigotry and disgust to make its way out there, and for humanity to be ignored in the face of that all-powerful deity, The Opinion. The fact that it’s easy, it’s impersonal, you don’t have to see the target of said Opinion makes it easy for people to forget that their words, sprayed out into the digital universe, have a real-life effect. And opinions become insults so quickly, because you can’t see someone’s face, you can’t try to meet them halfway, you can’t really interact with them as a human, so “I think you are wrong because…” quickly quickly becomes “You are a fat stupid loser….” or much worse. We all know this, and I’m sure we also all know the way women specifically are targeted, insulted, demeaned sexually and physically and trolled, for want of a better word. I think it’s a shame that trolls get such a bad rap but that’s what they get, hiding under bridges and stealing goats, I suppose. The Guardian evaluates it’s comments before posting them, and honestly, reading this article, it’s not hard to see why. Leslie Jones recently quit Twitter because of the massive outpouring of hate following the release of the new Ghostbusters film, although thank the powers that be she did return to help us all appreciate the Olympics.

Sometimes I think about the internet, this amazing tool we all have at our disposal, and I shake my head. Maybe we don’t deserve this kind of communication, this instant feedback loop, if we are just going to use it to be awful. Of course, who am I to say what we do or don’t deserve, but when I contemplate the swirling mass of humanity or glance at a YouTube comments section or read articles like this, I feel, on the fluttering edges of my otherwise upbeat nature, a rare shadow of despair.

That being said, I can also say that sewing, making things, writing, as also uncovered what for me personally is the best part of the internet, the community that can be formed around mutual passion, respect and interest, that can create educational loops of information, that can answer questions, that can make us feel close to and aware of people and events and things so far away from us. We can learn about people in need, people in conflict, people like us, people not like us at all. It can expand us and remind us of our humanity. I don’t know that I need to go on. You know how the internet works, after all. You’re reading a blog.

I find this comfort in small ways, with the writing I put out there and the responses I get back. In the way I learn about people’s relationships to their bodies, to their sense of self, to the empowerment within learning something and enjoying it, connecting to it, connecting to others through it. Clothing, fashion, fabric, the politics behind these, the way they impact gender, identity, economics, labor, the way the knowledge of these things has changed my own sense of my body, the world, and what I make, I appreciate it. In a recent instagram conversation, because we live in a world where such things can exist, I talked with a fellow blogger about how I would try things through sewing that I would never ever buy, never even consider buying. Sewing is a space of experimentation, as evidenced by my growing love of maxi-length, my recent attempts at a romper (more on that in another post), my unblogged search for the perfect pair of loose-fitting cotton pants (I believe the pants I’m about to show you are as close as I’ve currently gotten) my explorations of tighter shapes, looser shapes, new shapes. Sewing feels like a space where I can try things out, where I want to try new things and the labor involved makes it worth it, even if I don’t end up loving the result. I like the process.

If nothing else, sewing is teaching me that, the value of the process. And that’s a hard thing to communicate digitally, in our content and product driven age. But I’m hoping you, who read this, get it.

So, without further pontificating, I give you my latest outfit, an attempt to try some new things, in shapes I find woefully unflattering, but with a comfort that I cannot help but adore:

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I feel like I look like a genie who doesn’t try very hard. NO MATTER!

So yes, a lot of things being tried out over here, hence the name of the post. Number one, is, of course, the elephant in the room, other than Cadfael, who is my very own baby elephant:

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But other than him, we know what I’m talking about, right?

The crop top. CROP. TOP. What is this, Saved by the Bell?

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Sidenote, 90’s fashion is so in here in India, to a troubling trouble extent. At dinner the other day I counted 4 chokers. Sigh.

BUT. regardless of my feelings that I might be just simply having a Bayside High moment, I decided, after length and extensive conversations with my friend Liz, who is ALL about the loose-fitting woven crop top with a high-waisted bottom, to try it out. I had a little bit of fabric from our fabric trip that I had split with Liz. She got most of it, and I took a meter, thinking I could just get a top out of it, and get I did! Of the crop variety!

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The fabric is super cool, with multiple colors woven together to make a not-quite-pattern weave. Lightweight and airy, I decided I could alter my ever-faithful Grainline Scout Tee to make a crop top by shortening it and extending it to a tent shape. I made the sleeves a little tent-like too, so the whole thing has a kind of cow-bell shape.

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So on the body it sort of has a very subtle hi-low thing. The hem is a little wrinkled in this photo, so it’s making a weird shape. The fabric is a little crisp, but as it wears and is washed it will soften, I know from experience with Indian hand-looms that this is the case.

You can just see a sliver of skin there, right? Well, I’m not usually a big fan of that sort of thing, but I think exposure to Indian fashion, which is fairly crop-top focused, maybe because a crop top is a hop skip and a jump away from the traditional choli blouse?

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Whatever it is, I thought I would try it out. The verdict? Honestly, I’m just not sure. Every time I wear it, I feel sort of silly and self-conscious, but thus far I’ve yet to get any judgmental looks or been stopped on the street and yelled at for how bad I look. I think it would potentially be cute with a pencil skirt, or high-waisted shorts, anything, really, that sits at the waist. Thoughts?

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Now, to the pants! Wrinkles abound.

This is, believe it or not, a much altered Simplicity 1887, the third I’ve made but the first that is blog-worthy. Oh, this pattern, what wasted dreams have lived and died on its behalf! I loved the idea of a half-elastic waist, of the pleats, of a loose pant, of pockets. But the reality of that half-elastic waistband was just not working, neither in construction or in appearance. Then, revelation! What if I just made it a regular pair of pants with a zipper? On the side? Of course, I had to take it in a bit at the waist, but that’s okay, a dart here, a trim here, and boom! In earlier incarnations I cut out a 16, but I found it a little snug in the posterior, which looked cute, but wasn’t in accordance with my vision, so I added about two and a half inches in the hips, because I really wanted a baggy loose comfortable pant here. Attractiveness be damned!

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The fabric is a cotton I got at my new favorite Mumbai fabric destination, Thakur, which is quite close to where I live. This is…dangerous.

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Ah, the slight pouf of the pleats. Speaking of feeling good about myself…it’s a real uphill battle sometimes, I tell you. But you know, I like these pants, I do. I have made and will make more flattering garments, but I am willing myself to like this style, to try something new.

I don’t know if more crop tops are in my future, but they might be. Let’s see if this one grows on me. I do like it, I do, but new things take time to adjust to and enjoy. Nevertheless, making one, putting it out there, trying it out, that gives me joy.

Now, troll away, internet. I will be focusing on the good. And also, this, which has made everything a thousand times better. Read it. Right now. A stranger on the internet told you to.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Grainline Patterns, Life, Sewing, Simplicity 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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The Accidental Patriot Outfit

While I generally feel positive about the country of my birth, I rarely feel the need to coat myself in its colors head to toe. Funny story, though, recently I was at a wedding which included a Western Style ceremony (you know, girl wears white to symbolize purity because of antiquated archaic notions of inheritance anxiety and the social need to police female chastity, guy wears a suit, rings exchanged, embarrassing speeches made by drunk exes/siblings, the usual) in addition to the normal Hindu thing (you know, wear a bunch of red and gold, invite thousands of strangers you’ve never met, find flower petals and glitter on your body in the shower DAYS later, the usual) and this girl, inspired, no doubt, by the theme, wore a dress made of an American flag. This delighted whats-his-face and I so much so that we sort of stalked her around the wedding (which would have been really creepy if it was just whats-his-face, come to think of it, yet another reason to get married, to save curious men from scaring strangers). That was a truly amazing moment in life. One wonders if she wears Indian flags to Indian weddings….

So recently, when visiting a museum with a friend in the middle of the week (let’s talk about working from home and how awesome it is sometime, when I’m not so busy working from home and thinking about how awesome it is), I realized that I was accidentally decked out in colors that showed my American-ness as clearly as my accent does. Could it have been a subconscious longing for the United States? My desires dictating my clothing without my knowledge? Or just a strange coincidence? Maybe the colors you absorb around you somehow work their way into your mind, affecting your clothing choices. My friend Becca (hi, Becca!) and her mother Mary (hi, Mary!) have this issue as art conservators, especially Mary, who realized that she was accidentally dressing to match paintings she was restoring.

Whatever the cause, I look like an American flag a little bit here, fair warning.

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Sun blasted photographs aside (hey, man, I live in India…) I like this outfit a lot! I’ve realized I really need to make more solid tops and bottoms, and this skirt, a self-drafted situation, was an awesome start. I wear it so very often, and I am grateful to my past self every single time.

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It’s a little deceitful here, because it looks like it had side gathers, but it actually has two large box pleats which because of the drapey nature of the fabric are a little crumpled here. But you can clearly see I put in pockets which is vitally important!

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That’s a little better, the rare situation in which an indoor shot is better than an outdoor one. AND you can see this lovely museum, an equally rare thing, a museum in India that looks really nice and is well maintained! Of course, the collection…makes zero sense. But hey, man, that’s Indian museums for you, at least, in my experience. But the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum is, at least, a lovely place.

The shirt is a Grainline Scout Tee. Man, I love that pattern. I just make it all the time and can’t stop. A woven tee-shirt. Who knew it would be such a wardrobe staple?

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I had most of these photos taken in a space the museum made for statues that people have been defacing after the end of British rule in India, like a sad little garden of damaged colonial statues. I love it.

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I don’t know what they had against that elephant, though. The blouse is a little billowy, but honestly, in the Mumbai heat and humidity, I will take comfort that comes with looking a little fuller through fabric drape any day. You can see the box pleat nicely in this shot, though, and even a tiny hint of the white pocket fabric I used.

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How cool is the button? Man, I love that button. I always opt for the waistband button because its a great way to use buttons and it’s fun. Excuse the stray threads!

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I love the fabric, too. Mangaldas Market strikes again! If you are ever in Mumbai, get on it.

Want evidence that this museum is super weird? Don’t worry. I took photos! Things that are in this museum include vases, urns, pottery, ancient playing cards:

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And….dioramas! A LOT OF THEM:

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That says “Rear livestock of good breeds”. It’s like the Met, I’m telling you.

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This is a case that shows all the incarnations of Vishnu.

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It’s honestly worth going just for the Museum alone.

And I think I made it very clear in there that I was an American tourist. So I really paved the way for my people. You’re WELCOME!

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