Tag Archives: shirtdress

The Work In Progress Dress

Ah, it’s that time again, Me Made May! At this point, to be fair, my life is a me made life, with the rare RTW item surfacing, usually around workouts, or as undergarments, or recently with swimwear and jeans (I know, I KNOW I can make my own, and have made my own active wear and swimwear, as well as denim items that are not technically jeans, but my machine here in India hates most knit fabrics, sigh, and I’m afraid of the hardware, and I will eventually sew both jeans and swimsuits again, but for right NOW this is where I’m at).  But I like participating in Me Made May, to show off stuff that doesn’t seem worth a blog post, i.e. one of a thousand Scout Tees and Plantain Tees and other things that just don’t make it on here, but that pepper my wardrobe nonetheless. Additionally, this year I’m going to be traveling for half of May, so I’m eager to challenge myself with a me-made travel wardrobe and, hopefully, not bore us all. I’m documenting my Me Made May 2017 journey on Instagram, so follow me @lfstruggle for images and updates!

Me Made May also forces me TO document for the blog some of the projects that I’ve been behind on photographing. This, however, is not one of them. No, I made this project, The Kalle Shirtdress, extremely recently, over the course of about a day, because honestly, despite the fact that it is a shirtdress, with buttons, and a popover placket, I have to say, it was just so easy to make! I am sure I am not alone in my gratitude for Closet Case Patterns, for this wonderful pattern. I remember the day I saw Heather’s blog post on the self-drafted shirtdress that started it all, and I thought, damn, not only is that a much better version of the Archer Hack I made, but how wonderful would that pattern been in Mumbai all year round and during the summer anywhere? So when Heather actually released the pattern, it was one of those rare for me moments when I actually bought something immediately. I’m a planner, and I like to “visit” purchases, consider them, do I really need them, and when it comes to patterns, will I make this again? Do I have an occasion for this? But with this pattern, none of those questions could be answered by anything other than a resounding YES so click, buy, print, assemble, make, done. Honestly, if I wasn’t writing one novel, editing another, and, you know, working at a job job, I probably would have just sat down and made it the day I bought it, but alas, life sometimes gets in the way of sewing, who knows why.

 

Of course, when I wore this dress to work and convinced my co-workers to photograph me, we managed to find a primo spot in the open construction site that literally IS Mumbai, and the nearby sign really spoke to me as a human (ugh, I deplore that phrase but watcha gonna do). Who among us does not feel like a work in progress? Who feels done, over, sorted? I don’t know to know people like that. I don’t want to bother with complacency. In fact, it is one of the most interesting and frustrating things to me about spending time in India, the way that culture and ground realities of Indian life have conspired in so many to create a language and vocabulary about inherent and intrinsic qualities, the repetition of the phrase “but they are just like that”, or, “that is just how things are”. If I felt I could not be constantly working and striving to improve the world around me, starting with myself, I don’t know how I would find motivation to try or accomplish anything. And in some ways sewing is a wonderful microcosm for me in my ability to learn, and to keep learning. Much as I envy lifelong stitchers, the fact that I have learned this skill fairly recently, almost 8 years ago, I suppose, now, wow, scary thought, and the fact that it has led to other skills and crafts and interests, speaks to me of the elasticity of the human mind, and the way learning and growing is not only possible but essential.

Anyway, enough of that. For more ruminations on India, you are welcome to check out this other blog.

For my first of many, I decided to try the dress option with the pleat back and a popover placket.

I wouldn’t say I got any truly fantastic photos of the back of this dress, but here you can see the pleat and a little of the fun I had with the yoke, cutting it cross-grain for some contrast.

I love a popover, I really do, finicky as it is. This attempt might not be the plutonic form of popover but I’m okay with it, and that’s what really matters, right?

I cut a size 14, because I have found in the past that Closet Case Patterns run small, or at least, that’s my perspective. I wanted to make sure this fit in the bust, that was the most important thing. Heather is running a sew-along for the pattern with a full bust adjustment post, which I plan to read, but for this time around, I just cut the size with my full bust measurement and figured the rest would be fine, it’s a looser-fitting style, anyway. In fact, a co-worker commented that this dress didn’t have my usual waist-hugging style. Beyond being flattered that someone had noticed my style, I had to agree with her. But I will say, I love the way this is drafted so that it glances off the body but still feels, dare I say it, sexy, flattering, body-skimming.

For the fabric, I picked this cotton from Thakur, my serious forever new favorite. I would say I’m financing someone’s country home or something there but it’s so cheap, in fact, that’s part of why I love it. This fabric, which was 60″ wide, was 190 rupees a meter, which is about 3 dollars. RIGHT? RIGHT? Yes.

Stitching this up was really easy, in fact, as I said, I did it in one day. The kimono sleeves mean there is nothing to set it, which is nice, and the collar method Heather has in her instructions is fantastic, seriously, unconventional as she describes it but made for one of the cleanest collars I’ve ever stitched. I didn’t mind finishing the hem with bias tape, yes it’s finicky but it makes for a clean curve which is lovely.

One thing I would say, though, about this pattern, is that I added a good 4.5 inches to the hem, because it seemed awfully short to me. Part of this, I know, is what being in India has done to my understanding of hemlines, because I have seriously warped vision about short, too-short, etc, not because Mumbai is so restrictive, it really isn’t, but because women’s legs are just not as visible here, and the few exceptions I see on a Saturday night, women in fancy bars with body-con dresses and micro-mini shorts, don’t make up for the overwhelming numbers of legs covered by leggings, pants, jeans and saris, even on the hottest of days.

 

That being said, this dress is short, even by my pre-India standards, and I don’t regret lengthening the hem. I’d do it again in an instant!

As a side note, I really did think my hair looked okay and then I saw these photos and I was like, oh dear god, the horror. Le sigh. Thanks, never-ending humidity!

This tree is just outside of my office building, and you can always have a little Ganesh sesh when you need to, I guess. I have no idea. The longer I’m here, the less Hinduism makes sense to me. But you do you, Ganesh! You do you.

 

And I’m going to do me. Painful smile, messy hair, wonderful dress, a classic combo.

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Filed under Closet Case Patterns, Clothing, Sewing

The Fishing For Compliments Dress

Sometimes a fabric is so appealing to you that when you come across it a second time, you have to buy it, come hell or high water. I think I have demonstrated my proclivity towards this sort of thing with this dress, but just to remind you, I am totally the kind of person whose taste tends to run the same way year after year and who, when encountering a print she loved, will jump on that thing like its a damn trampoline. So I guess I shouldn’t have been so surprised when I presented my latest creation to what’s-his-face and he screwed up said face and said, “Haven’t I seen that before?”. Well, yes, I patiently explained, in a way you have, but as a shirt. This is a dress. The difference was not immediately clear to him, proving that men do not understand how clothing works on fundamental levels. Ah well, at least he’s pretty…

So yes, I found a fabric I had enjoyed before, and I purchased it, and made something else with it. And I have to say, I’m so thrilled with the results that I legitimately do not care if people think I made all my clothing out of one fabric. Of course, how much attention is anyone actually paying to my wardrobe anyway? If what’s-his-face doesn’t even notice, I think I’m probably good, right?

Okay, so check out my latest incarnation of McCalls 7351, the shirtdress sweeping the nation, or at least the blog universe:

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We found a wedding happening in our building complex (of COURSE we did, its India, it would have been that or a guru visiting, I swear), and what’s-his-face decided this would be a great background for this dress. We totally delayed a couple for this wedding by hogging the entrance. I would feel guilty, if I hadn’t been delayed by a thousand Indian selfies on various occasions myself.

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Using the pattern as a base, with a cut size 14, I altered it just like I did the last time I made this dress, taking in the waist a bit by adding front waist darts, but this time I made slightly smaller darts, taking in about 3.5 inches off the waist so that it’s well-defined and doesn’t require a belt. I also lengthened the sleeves a tiny bit, and chanced the skirt to a box-pleat rather than the knife pleated or circle skirt option. I do want to make this with a circle skirt, maybe in a plaid? I really like this pattern! I mean, it’s a simple shirtdress but it’s cute and comfortable and I like the look. I made the sleeves a little bigger to accommodate my muscles, but I think I need to make them even bigger next time. Ah, well, that’s the price of strength I guess…

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Now, of late I’ve been pretty into white, or stuff printed on white, which is objectively dumb because there is nothing I own that I haven’t spilled something on, multiple times, but whatever, sometimes you sew aspirationally, I guess! But the problem with such materials is a tendency towards transparency, so I also made a slip to go underneath this and other dresses of its type. I grabbed a white cotton with a nice texture at my new favorite place, Thakur, which is also where I got this fish fabric, by the way, and I made a Seamwork Savannah camisole which I lengthened to become a bias-cut slip. I trimmed it with a cotton eyelet lace, and used that as straps, but I don’t have photos of that, sorry. You’ll just have to trust me that this exists and is under this dress.

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I had some fun playing with the direction of the fish, making the bodice vertical and the skirt and bodice yoke and sleeves horizontal. I mean, these fish are pretty fun by themselves, but why not add to the party?

There is a Bengali folktale called the marriage of the fishes, in which a group of fish in a pound have a wedding, but they don’t want to invite the biggest fish in the pound because he will eat all the food. Of course, the unfortunate consequence of this is that he comes and eats all the FISH. But so far, my fish seem pretty content with each other. Let’s hope that lasts…

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Enjoying this charming wedding entrance. How nice that they did this just for my photos, right?

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Oh, and I used green shell buttons, you can sort of see them here. I also used green thread for a lot of the construction/topstitching, which was new for me, I don’t usually do a contrasting topstitch, but I like it! And so do the fish, I feel.

I mean, they haven’t said anything, but you know, they feel happy.

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And so am I!

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Cadfael, on the other hand, misses the days this dress was a floor covering he could enjoy in comfort and peace. Ah, well, you can’t please everyone…

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Filed under Clothing, Colette Patterns, McCalls Patterns, seamwork

The Think Zebras Dress

There is a saying, when you hear hoofbeats think horses not zebras. It’s a saying I’ve heard a few times on medical dramas, so I have to assume it’s a doctor thing. I’ve always heard it in the context of looking at symptoms of a disease and thinking of the common options, not immediately jumping to flesh-eating bacteria (although….OH MY GOD THERE ARE FLESH EATING BACTERIA OUT THERE , makes me almost glad what’s-his-face and I never had a honeymoon despite being married literally millions (three) times, because if that’s what happens when you have a honeymoon, I’m out).   Essentially it’s a restatement of Occam’s razor , that the simplest answer is often the correct one.I’m sure that works well for doctors, although it never seemed to be the case on House, but for those of us in more creative less human-mortality based fields, I don’t know if it’s as useful. I mean, why not think zebras? Sure, you might be signing yourself up for a lifetime of disappointment, especially if you live in a horse-rich region, but hey, isn’t the possibility of zebras an exciting one? Surely we all deserve to live in hope, the most dangerous of all human emotions.  Sure, most of the world is horses, unless you life in a zebra-rich region, but maybe it could be zebras, every once in a while. Or giraffes! You never know.

For example, I now live in a city where I frequently see wild green parakeets (thanks, Ronnie, who corrected me when I thought they were parrots) chattering  on telephone wires, and massive brown and gold kites hunt for food and rest on palm trees. God help me if Cadfael gets a look at the kites, he’s dumb enough to think he can take them, the coward. I think this is an amazing, while What’s-his-face just rolls his eyes when I point out monkeys in the trees and kingfishers perching on government buildings. Certainly it’s a high-energy life, noticing everything all the time, refusing to let things be familiar. But I would rather be excited about hoofbeats, and hope for zebras. Maybe someday, that’s what it will be!

And while I’m waiting, I can at least prepare sartorially. On  my fabric-buying trip with Liz this past May, we paid a visit to the Rangotri fabric printing studio in Jaipur, which was magnificent and extremely informative. Moreover, I got a chance to pick up some lengths of fabric from their small but wonderful “overstock” or factory discard section. I scored this piece that I loved, in the continuing white-and-blue theme that is owning my life right now. I used part of it to make our living room curtains, but I had a nice amount left, and much like Maria Von Trapp, I’m cool with wearing curtains. So…

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Although she never WEARS the curtains, come to think of it….

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But I did! Actually, the original fabric had the stripes above the zebras, but I wanted the zebras on the bust, so I cut the fabric along the zebra line, and stitched it back on, before cutting out this lengthened Grainline Archer shirt-dress. I’m thinking more and more about trying the Alder out, especially after seeing this adorable one by Dixie DIY. Thoughts?

But for now, I have this. This is, by the way, also in my current attempts to sew outside my comfort zone, like my recent crop-top situation. I don’t usually go for something so shapeless, something without a waist. I’m not going to lie, I have worn this dress like ten times now and some part of me still winces when I see myself in the mirror, at least a little bit. HOWEVER. I also have worn this dress like TEN TIMES which should tell you something about how comfortable this dress is and how much the loose shape and airy fabric really feel great in the tropics. I wear a self-made slip (an altered grainline tiny pocket tank, alas, discontinued)  under it, because it is indeed quite lightweight, but even with that (the slip is cotton) I feel fabulously cool on steamy days.

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For example, these photos were taken in Singapore, which is humid and sticky year-round, and I was more than comfortable, I was blissful. Of course, the iced coffee also helps.

Here is the thing about Singapore that through What’s-his-face and his friends I have truly come to appreciate. The food. Well, also, frankly, living in India, Singapore is a wonderful place to visit because it is clean and well-organized and more Western than the West, easy to navigate, safe, I don’t see people urinating in corners at every turn…the list goes on. Obviously these are most of the things you just….kind of expect in life, but I live in India now, and boy have my expectations changed. So while I did not appreciate Singapore fully before I had lived in Mumbai, assuming it would be boring (well, fair, it is) with little to recommend it culturally (also true), I did not realize how strongly it holds up in COMPARISON to India. I never thought I would say this, but I love Singapore. It’s awesome.

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Really, it is.

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Both because it is just too Western for words but with some Eastern accents, and because the food is amazing. It’s quite an expensive place, to be sure, but the food hawker stands have all been moved into complexes and they are cheap, readily available, and consistently some of the best meals I’ve had.

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When I first went to Singapore this past January I bought iced coffee in coffee shops for scandalous prices, but then we realized we could also buy that in hawker markets for two Singapore dollars, and once we figured out how to ask for regular milk and not condensed (because then it’s just coffee flavored candy) we were golden.

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So here I am in one of our favorite hawker centers, Tiong Bahru, posing with my iced coffee in my shirt dress after a hearty meal of roasted duck over noodles. I think you can see the seam well in this shot.

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If you aren’t a coffee person, may I recommend a fresh lime juice when strolling Singapore? Super refreshing, despite looking a little toxic…

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What else can one ask for in life? I’ve taken a detail shot of my curtains so  you can see the zebras and the stripes a little bit more clearly, albeit in their original position:

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To alter the pattern, I simply lengthened the hem of the non-peplum back variation, and eliminated the curve in the hem. I made a sleeveless version, altering the back yoke as suggested by Jen on her blog for this variation. It makes a tiny subtle difference to me, but it’s nice. I widened the hem slightly to make the dress as loose and tent-like as the amount of fabric I had would allow. That’s about it, variation-wise. I’ve made this pattern so many times, I swear, but hey, if it ain’t broke…

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I used the striped part of the fabric for the yoke, as a contrast, and used the zebras for the collar. There is a little bit of lower-back pooling, because I didn’t do any kind of swayback adjustment, ah well. I can live with that.

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Don’t you love that Peacock mural photobombing my photos? That mural is like, elephants, zebras, where is the peacock love, lady? All in good time, friend. The animal fabrics, despite what’s-his-face’s judgment, aren’t going away anytime soon! Bahahahahah!

It’s strangely scary sometimes to try a new shape, especially when you have a set idea of what makes you look good, but I’m happy I’m trying some new things this year. The benefits of this looseness in this climate cannot be overstated, and I tend to get compliments on this dress whenever I wear it, regardless of my own self-judgments.

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. So hey, I’m happy to think zebras. Why not, right?

 

 

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Filed under Grainline Patterns, Sewing, Travel

The Annual Elephants Dress

I’m a big fan of traditions, as long as they are positive. For example, an institutional tradition of not hiring women? Not a fan. A Russian tradition of long and elaborate toasts? Love it! And so on. I especially like forging traditions, with friends, with family, with myself. As long as traditions can be fluid, as long as they can be explained, they work for me. If you can elucidate the tradition, it becomes exclusive, rather than inclusive, it doesn’t bring people in, it shuts people out.

The most infuriating thing about India (among the thousand and one infuriating things about India) is the way people are comfortable explaining their behavior with the phrase “this is what we have always done”. The positive of this is of course a link with history, that is, “people have been doing this for hundreds of years, isn’t that great?”. The negative is when it comes as a way to block innovation, or when you are trying to understand what’s going on and you are met with a firm “just because”. After all, as Ralph Waldo Emerson reminds us, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds”. Tradition can represent stagnation, inertia, a dogmatic mentality that values sameness over new evolving needs. But it can also be a sign of valuing what has come before, appreciating that while many things change, what we hold dear doesn’t always have to. Traditions are ours to make, and maintain,

All this is to say, I made another dress with elephants on it, and I think this is now my newest best tradition. As you may or may not recall, I made a dress with elephants on it two years ago (and if you want to see a bunch of adorable elephant videos I advise you click that link and see them on my post). One of the BEST things about India is the elephants. Gentler than their African cousins (who are also amazing), the Indian elephant is less aggressive in its adulthood, which means that elephants are used in farming and as transportation. This is not always great, in fact, it’s rarely great at all, despite being a centuries old Indian tradition (there it is again). But there are places that pack elephants are rescued, taken care of and loved, and there are many places where elephants roam wild, following the paths bisecting the subcontinent that their mothers and mother’s mother’s forged before them (elephants themselves enjoy traditions, hence the saying “elephants never forget”). They color the national imagination of India making their way into images from every age and kingdom. In Rajasthan they adorn every palace, in Maharashtra you seem them in the ancient Buddhist site Elephanta (it’s right there in the name!), along with the tiger they sit proudly rupee notes, so you can have elephants with you everywhere you go.

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They even make elephants out of women here! It’s an amazing place.

We got to visit Elephantastic in December, a place where you can hang out with rescue elephants and be really happy. My family collectively kvelled and what’s-his-face did not understand why we were so happy. I’m telling you, elephants are wasted on this country. People here are too used to them. It’s like, huh, right, an elephant, just like always. When do traditions just become commonplace things? How do you get to see this all the time and not be in a constant state of joy?

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We even got to paint the elephants with non-toxic safe-for-elephants paint. My brother did this one. Miniature Matisse, am I right? What’s-his-face just played with his phone.

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I know, right? WHAAAAAT? How you gonna play on your phone when there are elephants around!

I love elephants. There are many foundations where you can contribute to their preservation and care and I would if I were you (and do, because I am me.) So I think my new yearly elephant dress tradition is going to be a positive tradition for me. And I’m not doing it because this is what I’ve always done, despite being in India, a place where that is a thing. I’m doing it because why not?

and I didn't want to invite the comparison.

Well. I guess that could be a reason….

Well, never mind. To the dress!

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This was my first iteration of McCall’s 7351, the one I made pretty much straight from the packet (and realized I needed to take in the waist for future makes, hence the belt). Or at least, the bodice is unaltered. The skirt is just a pleated skirt all the way around, making it fuller than the original pattern version(s).

I have actually already blogged version number 2, so I’m all out-of-order with this thing.

There is a certain amount of irony in the fact that the dress with elephants on it that I made in the US two years ago looks so Indian, but the fabric was sourced in Philadelphia, and this dress, whose fabric I bought here in Mumbai, looks so…not.

The fabric reminds me of this J Crew fabric I saw years ago in a pair of shorts:

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And yet I bought it at Mangaldas Market, a supremely Indian place. Whatcha gonna do?

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Here I am with my own little elephant-like creature. People here cannot get over how large Cadfael is. I really hope he doesn’t feel they are body shaming him. It’s really hard being a cat-parent these days…

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Come to think of it, that belt might actually BE from J Crew….wow. The details of the dress might be a little obscured by elephants but…who cares. Elephants.

I did cut the front placket thing against the grain to give it a little variety, as you can see, elephants are climbing up and down my body even as they walk side to side. The buttons are a white shell button I bought here, and that’s it for notions, I think. I used white thread for contrast and machine stitched the hem because sometimes that’s how life works.

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A little side view. The pockets are invisible between being in-seam and being all elephant inundated so that’s fun. This pocket is, I will say, much better than the pockets of my trusty McCalls 6696, and by better I mean deeper and more smartphone friendly. So yeah. Better. I would very much do a full bicep adjustment next time (thanks, lovely people who responded to my last post on this pattern!) so the sleeves fit a little better, but otherwise I think it’s a nice fit.

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A little back view for you. That sure…looks like my back. You can’t really see the little pleat at the back but it’s there, I tell you!

I had put waist darts in my second version, which I like, but the loose comfort of this one is nice, and as you can see, I can always belt it!

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I love my elephants. I would wear them forever. And now I can! Not just every summer! Yes, this seems like the start of a beautiful tradition.

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Annual Elephants for all!

 

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Filed under Clothing, McCalls Patterns, Uncategorized

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

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…

ED 5

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.

EG 6

 

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:

ED 2

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.

EP1

 

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….

EG 8

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?

ED 4

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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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…

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Filed under Life, McCalls Patterns, Sewing, Travel