Tag Archives: Thakur

The Annual Elephant Dress Round Three!

Here we go, my annual elephant dress in its third incarnation! Those who have missed the first two rounds of this tradition can check out year one here, and year two here. And if you are wondering why I like elephants then I would kindly request that you stop reading this blog because you are obviously a heartless monster.

LOOK AT THEM:

I am this baby elephant at all times.

I really am making this thing a tradition, guys. Which makes sense, because there is nothing that is easier to get in India than fabric with elephants printed on it. I mean, it’s a CENTRAL theme, in a big way. Elephants walk across fabric the way they walk across the subcontinent itself, and as a result, I can be a little picky about my elephant fabrics. After all, I don’t want just ANY elephants, and I don’t want to look like my whole body is a white tourist in Thailand.

UGH. THE HUMANITY.

Fun fact, on a recent trip to Sri Lanka, my friend Ben and I decided to count elephant pants, because we are united in many things, not the least of which is our loathing for these pants, and we counted like 10 pairs in one day at one tourist site before I gave up because as some point you are just setting yourself up for failure. Good GOD, just buy a pair of loose-fitting pants in a linen or cotton in your own country BEFORE YOUR TRIP! Note to tourists of South and Southeast Asia, THESE ARE NOT REQUIRED. They WILL let you in the country without them. Alternatives to these monstrosities include ANYTHING ELSE. These will not actually help you on your trip, they will fall apart as soon as you get home, and while you are traveling they are like putting a “please overcharge me for everything” sign on your head. Get a pair of loose-fitting, lightweight and dark pants, and you are DONE. End this madness! It starts with you!

So, I didn’t want THAT. I wanted something more subtle, more interesting, more me, less backpacking-through-Cambodia.(I tugged a WHEELIE bag through Cambodia, thank you VERY much.) So I waited, and watched, keeping an eye out for the right fabric, knowing it would come to me in time, with patience. Much like the elephants themselves, wise great creatures that they are, I picked my moment. And when I found this subtle green fabric with origami elephants on them at my newly beloved Thakur Fabrics, despite the fact that the color might not be exactly my perfect shade of green, I went for it. Because sometimes, you just gotta go with a color you know isn’t in your seasonal palette because dammit, the elephants! And then, once the fabric was secured, which pattern? Well that part was easier, because right now all I want to do is make Kalle dresses. Actually, that’s another thing that I’m on the fence about in terms of it being flattering, but honestly, they are such perfect dresses for hot humid weather which is basically most of my life right now that again, I’m letting that go. I’m letting so much go, and embracing elephants. What a life.

So here we are! My second Kalle, by third Elephant dress, shot in the blinding sun of San Juan, Puerto Rico. This face really reflects the ambiguity I feel about this color coupled with a lack of caring. This shot is the most reflective of the dress’ coloring, fyi.

Once again I lengthened this dress (seriously it’s so short, does any one else feel that way? I am a short person!) by five inches, and this time I put in the band collar which, if I’m honest, I probably wont be doing again soon, not my style, but I like to mix it up!

See, the elephants are very small and subtle here, basically they opposite of the way they are in…life. Elephants, great and small, are all amazing.

I don’t really have much to say about this dress, honestly. It came together fast, it’s comfortable as hell, and I am going down a size to the 12 for my next version (already cut!). That’s…about it.

I mean it’s basically a well-shaped sack pretending not to be. I love it.

The sun was extremely bright, and my grimace game strong, but here you go, me, a street in San Juan, elephants. What else is there to say?

If you too love elephants and want to contribute to their safety and survival, there are many places you can donate, and may I suggest this one for today?

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The Color Blue Dress

There are so very many reasons I’m sad that Mad Men has ended. Number one, I don’t get to look at John Hamm as much as I would like to. I mean, yeah, sure, I can google him, but that’s, like, so much work, and besides he’s not usually in a suit demeaning a woman while concealing his identity and whatnot so what’s even the point? Number two, when people smoke everywhere in my life now, it’s because I am spending time in India, not because it’s charming and the 1960’s. Number three, amazing storytelling, you grow with these characters, fascinating psychological study, blah blah blah, the usual. Number four, serious lack of Christina Henricks in my life! Yes, obviously I watch Another Period and it’s magnificent and amazing and you should totally watch it, it’s Downton Abbey meets The Kardashians and it’s magical.

But is THIS:

Better than THIS?

Again, it’s THIS:

OR THIS:

Once more, with feeling. You can have THIS:

 

OR THIS:

You know which one is superior.

Which brings me to my most sewing-oriented reason for missing Mad Men, and that is, of course, costume porn. Have there been consolations? Of course there have, the world keeps turning. Feud: Bette and Joan, I’ve heard that show Velvet is good, The Crown , although the British are so damn dour, aren’t they? and that reflects in their clothing, lots of great tailoring, but you aren’t going to get anything close to this kind of thing, right:

Sigh. But the saddest thing about the end of Mad Men, other than the fact that we never got to watch Paul Kinesy get hit in the face, or watch Harry Crane get hit in the face, or just a whole list of white dudes get hit in the face, is that the Mad Men Copy Cat Challenge is no more. Sigh.

But if it HAD happened this year, I can assure you, this would have been my entry:

This is my first iteration of the (rather controversial) Rue Pattern from Colette Patterns. It’s really a lovely pattern, at least, I like it, and I appreciate the changes the company made to it after it’s release, allowing the side panels to sit under the bustline. I still found the armsyc a little tight, but that’s probably because of my sick guns, so…

I really love this print, but it totally does obscure the design lines. AH well. So what I did for sizing was not..the best way to do this, but, yeah. I cut a size 16, which was WAY too big everywhere but the bust. I graded down in the waist, but when I ended up trying it on, I think I took out about 5 inches or so out of the waist. I will say that the bust first beautifully, so I can’t really complain, but I think next time I would go to a 10 or 8 at the waist but stick with the 16 in the bust because although Colette patterns drafts for a C cup, I’m a D, and I think going with the fullest bust measurement is always the best way with Colette Patterns. For this skirt option the hip is sort of irrelevant, honestly, so that doesn’t matter.

Let’s talk about the skirt, actually, while we are here. I honestly think this skirt is sort of whatever. I would totally make this again, but honestly, this pattern is worth it for the bodice, not the skirt. Next time, (I have this mint gingham all ready to go!) I’m thinking of changing the skirt to a circle skirt, and it would be great with a pencil too, but the design options included are just okay, in my humble opinion. I mean, I like it fine, large pleats, what’s to dislike? but it’s nothing to write home about.

A little back view for you. I do love the back bodice, that little dip is so nice!

I had to doctor the color of these photos a lot because my friend Rakhee (hi, Rakhee!) took them late in the afternoon and they all ended up sort of blue toned. Ah, well, fits the fabric…

And it fits the title, which is a reference to the Mad Men episode of the same name. How DO we know that the blue I see is the same one that everyone sees? I don’t know, Ms. Farrell, you were like one of the least interesting people Don has ever slept with, SEE ya!

A little bodice close up for you. There is something just so charming about the bust tucks, seriously.

This fabric, a cotton from, of course, my new favorite place, Thakur, was about 1.40 a meter in USD. WHAT? Yes. But that’s actually great because this dress is a real fabric hog. I thought this fabric would be so appropriate for the pattern, and can’t you just see Betty Draper rocking this? Ah, Betty. I think I miss you least of all.

I didn’t line the skirt, but I did line the bodice, and apart from taking in the waist, as mentioned above, I made no changes.

It is a little hard to swan about all 1960’s like in Mumbai, of course, but I made it work. I mean, if Joan can do it….

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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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The Recipe For Disaster Dress

It is excellent advice, in a sea of far too much advice, that Polonious gives to his son, Laertes: To thine own self be true. Of course, it comes with a bunch of other stuff around it that is questionable, I mean, neither borrower nor lender be? I think the banking industry would have some issues with that one. Do not dull thy palm with entertainment/ Of each new-hatch’d, unfledged comrade? That’s basically telling him to never make a new friend. Don’t you want your kid to have FRIENDS, Polonius? Jesus. But the worst one for me is probably: give thy thoughts no tongue, which is just….I mean. That’s pretty much, like, my entire personality and career. So THANKS, Polonious, for that nugget of wisdom. But the last thing he says, the be true to yourself thing, is pretty good, and often quoted by many, and we all like it, right? It’s very new-agey for an Elizabethan writer. You can just imagine the teenagers who went and saw Hamlet at the globe and then came home and were like MOM I’m not GETTING married or getting APPRENTICED or ANYTHING. I’m becoming a LUTE PLAYER because that’s who I really AM. I’m being true to ME. It’s a wonder that play wasn’t banned, I swear.

But the point is, you SHOULD be true to yourself, really, I do believe that, and that starts with knowing yourself. But that said, I do sometimes make things that, despite real and sincere efforts towards self-knowledge as an adult human, have nothing to do with me and my life. I mean, I’m the kind of person who should wear a bib at leas 75% of the time, because I am klutzy in the extreme, prone to spilling, dripping, splattering and dropping anything and everything on myself within mere minutes of donning a light-colored ensemble. And yet, for some reason, my clothing for the past few months has been trending towards a color I should really avoid, purely because I rarely treat it well. Yes, that’s right, I’m talking about white. White, whose pure expanse I ruin with coffee, sauces, dirt, lipstick, you name it, I’ve done it. There isn’t a white I own that I haven’t spilled something on. Truly I, like Laertes, ought to be true to myself, shouldn’t I? I should be true to the me that spills and wear clothing made out of whatever fabric those absorbent Dockers are made of, honestly, because that would probably be the best bet. Or some kind of laminated fabric, raincoat material. Or all black, all the time.

But for whatever reason, it seems that I have had a growing attraction to said color this year. I’ve been flirting with all white dresses this year by making a bunch of things like this, and this, and this, that aren’t all white but are MOSTLY to 50% white. But this time? I went all the way. WHY? Why did I do this? When I put this dress on, what’s-his-face was like, are you sure you want to wear that? We are going to lunch and you….and then he discreetly trailed off. He blamed Indian food, which he said has the propensity to stain. Yeah. Sure. The FOOD is the problem.

I ditched this number for the lunch, but put it back on again for a friend’s birthday, and of course I spilled on it, and life went on. The truth is, I like white, and I spill on everything, and I just have to accept that. Perhaps THAT is being to mine own self true.

Enough with the philosophy! To the dress:

I used my typical bodice block, which I wanted to be a bit loose because I knew it would have to fit over a slip, so I added two inches at the side seams, and I pleated up a skirt. Pockets, natch, self-drafted sleeves that are a bit floofier than I had wanted but they’ve grown on me, and that is about it, honestly.

Love a pocket! Don’t you?

See, a little self-conscious of the floofy sleeves. But the pleats look nice in this one! The fabric is really the star here, I believe:

I love the vertical pattern of the eyelet, I think it makes it less cutesy, although this is still solidly in the cutesy category, and more clean. I got it at Thakur, of course, my new favorite.

I would say, stains aside, white is quite nice in the Mumbai heat.

Side view for ya.

And back!

So there you have it. A dress that would probably be better for someone who isn’t me, but the heart wants what the heart wants. Maybe that’s the real problem with Polonious’ advice, that one’s own self is sometimes a bit of a conundrum, confusing even to the self that one is. Ah, well. For as long as I have this dress and don’t stain it irrevocably, I like it!

 

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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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