Tag Archives: travel

The Charming in Chittorgarh Shirt

This shirt and its fit are a direct product of my computer printing this pattern at the wrong scale and me straight up not noticing because I trust machines and how are we in a reality in which it is possible to TRUST machines? The fears we have long dismissed are true! The robots are talking over, and it starts with blowing up the scale of my sewing patterns!

Or maybe not.

But as you know from this post, I really enjoyed the Seamwork patterns Rachel Shirt, although I found it curiously big (WELL NOW I KNOW WHY, you know what, maybe it’s not the robots, maybe I was just being totally out to lunch…) Of course, I cut two things from the pattern without testing the fit so that tells you something about how being in a land of endless fabric has really spoiled me. I stitched this shirt up in a hurry so I could take it with me on a trip to Udaipur, with visiting friends, because I knew that pairing this light pseudo-Japanese fabric (I have no idea if it is from Japan or just copied to give out that vibe, ah, India, you are a delight), with long sleeves, would make it perfect for Rajasthan in the winter, whose days are sunny and bright but quickly turn chilly.

And indeed I did! I was able to complete it on time and bring it with me to Udaipur, where I took it even further out to Chittorgarh, a gorgeous Medieval Indian fort with a mixed (aka grim) history. It’s withstood many a siege, and seen many a suicide, and it was the setting for a recent movie with a lot of controversy around it called Padmaavat, which is based on this epic poem but which some people think is real, which is all part of the whole damn thing. It’s complicated. If you are curious, you can read about the mythical figure of Rani Padmini, and here are some interesting (very feminist) takes on the movie.

At any rate, it’s a gorgeous place, and I hope my shirt did it justice!

It really turned out as more of a tunic, but that’s big in India, so no matter! The construction was simple and the size is meaningless because the scale is so off, but it’s light and comfortable and I’m into it! Sometimes accidents make for good garments.

It has sleeves! See, I proved it.

I just did a pleat in the back instead of the full longer tuck, which frankly, this garment could have used. Ah, well.

It’s very blousy and billowy, but I’m okay with that. It feels a little hip art teacher, which I always enjoy.

Here I am by one of the old fort entrances.

It’s it beautiful? But what was even more amazing was that I saw Tiya Sircar, aka Vicky from The Good Place, and told her how talented she is. So it was a pretty good day, I gotta say.

That’s about it on this shirt! It was easy, useful, and I’m into it. Regardless of the robots.

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Filed under Colette Patterns, seamwork, Sewing, Travel

The Hanoi Blues Dress

Another day, another shirtdress, am I right? But there is something about this form that gets me every time, and that is why I have made so many incarnations of the shirtdress, from vintage to modern, and I think I have finally figured out what exactly that thing is that I love so much.

It’s pretty simple, really. Shirtdresses make me feel put together.

See, the thing about that phrase is, and I really believe that, it is something that women with curly hair rather hear in regards to themselves. Growing up, when talking to or about other women, I heard this phrase for some of them over and over again. My friend Presca, in college, who had and still has great style. My friend Betsy, who I studied abroad with, ditto. My friend Becca, also great style. But I have lots of friends with style! I mean, I don’t want to brag or anything, but, um, my friends are great. And they certainly know how to “put themselves together”. I mean, I hardly ever see one of them losing a tooth or a finger or something, ya know, falling apart at the seams. So what separates “put together” with not put together? I would admit that when I was younger, especially before I started sewing, I didn’t have a defined idea of my style. So I get that, up to a point. But in the years since I’ve been sewing, I have certainly found an aesthetic that I think works for me, and given that I, well, put it all together, it surely has some sense of cohesion, of being “together”, doesn’t it?

And yet, I have never heard that phrase directed at me. And I have to say, I think it’s the hair. I think there is an association with straight hair as smooth, cared for, styled, that there is a thought process behind it and therefore it is put together. It makes women look like they have tried. Well, first of all, women have tried in eight million directions outside of hair, people, so that’s something right there, and why do women have to try, at all, god knows it rarely seems like some men do, and then there are the cultural and racial implications of who has “straight” hair and who doesn’t and what that is supposed to mean about us, containing our curls across cultures. And then of course, there is the act of having curly hair at all, which, I can assure you, also takes maintenance, moisture, and money, so the idea that curls springing from one’s head means someone didn’t put the time in is just…all kinds of idiotic.

But whatever the world thinks about my hair, and, screw everyone who DOES feel some kind of way about my hair, by the way, whoever you are, a shirtdress does make me feel put together, no matter that no one has every told me that my thought process is reflected in their own. The coherency of the design, the crisp collar, the extension of the shirt into a skirt, it all works for me, it makes me feel purposeful, assembled, in line with myself. Which is, I believe, all put together should really mean. Regardless of this straight hair conspiracy.

I like to take my shirtdresses with me on the road, and this one accompanied me to Vietnam where I traveled with my friends Ben, Jill, and Travis, who indulged me in a photo shoot at this Buddhist temple.

The fabric is the star here, because it’s this lovely blue that actually shifts in tone, an ombre, hombre. When I saw it I knew I loved it, and I knew I wanted to make a dress that when from lighter blue around my shoulders to deeper blue around the hem. That meant I had to cut it on the crossgrain, and I’m okay with that.

I used McCalls 7351, once again, as the bodice, and added my usual two waist darts at 1.5 inches each on size 16 to get more waist definition. For the skirt, I simple draped it myself AKA it is just some big box pleats. Everything that can be french seamed is french seamed, and I have made this dress many a time, so to quote Bigmouth, NO NOTES!

I enjoyed this temple. First of all, it was pretty, and a fun place to take photos because it gave my friends places to photo bomb me from:

Where is Jill? It’s so mysterious, I have to look off in the distance.

Second of all, it included helpful advice for how to live your life well now to avoid unpleasant karmic consequences in reincarnation:

The use of the lower back tattoo as “too much cleavage” is magnificent.

Apparently becoming a mental illness means playing in a rock band in a mental institution which actually feels like a great movie idea, but what do I know.

It really was quite pretty, though:

And we found some great spots for me to poise against, which is of course the only reason to see anything, right?

So there you go. Don’t I look put together?

 

Well, frankly, it doesn’t really matter what anyone else thinks, right? It matters what I feel.  And in this, or any shirtdress, I feel put together as hell. 

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Filed under McCalls Patterns, Sewing

The Big Hit Dress

I am very clumsy person, it’s true, but the story behind this dress, or more specifically, behind the PHOTOS for this dress is really not my fault. Seriously. SERIOUSLY! I swear!

So after I met my friend and stylist Liz in Singapore, I jetted off to Thailand. Please don’t stop reading because you are like, over me and my champagne lifestyle. First of all, I mostly drink passable but inexpensive local white wine from India’s nascent wine industry and second of all, I KNOW I’m insanely lucky to be in this region where travel is cheap and easy, I know, I really do, I am grateful on a daily basis, I promise. Spending time in this part of the world has its drawbacks, to be sure, but it also has its advantages, and this is certainly one of them. ANYway, what’s-his-face and I sped off to Thailand, first to Bangkok, which we adored, staying as we did in the old city, eating our weight in street food and enjoying the scruffy but cleaner-than-India charm of the city. Phuket, on the other hand, we did NOT like all that much, frankly, because it’s a tourist trap and a half, getting around the island is difficult and expensive, EVERYTHING is expensive, come to think of it, and the beaches are lovely, but is it really worth it? Not for us, I suppose. We did, however, have an enjoyable day in Phuket town, which is rather cute and quant with charmingly maintained Chinese shop houses, which in the past would house a family on the second floor and their business on the first. Phuket town was a bustling port city at one point, bursting with the tin-trade an a favorite for Chinese merchants, so it makes sense that style would linger.

What’s-his-face has spent years and years in Singapore, which has a handful of these buildings as yet un-demolished to make way for shiny new condos, so he’s, like, over le shop house, but I am still enthralled.

I was LESS enthralled, however, by an extraordinarily low-hanging awning, held down by a sturdy pipe, which I walked directly into as I strolled down the street during my explorations. The stunning pain of hitting the pipe with my firm but tender forehead literally knocked me to the ground, and, after peeling myself off the sidewalk, I staggered about, dazed, until I wandered into a food stall where the owner quickly furnished me with some ice. She then, upon hearing my story, took me by the hand and made me lead her back to the offending awning and the shop it belonged to, where she proceeded to yell at the shop owner in Thai to raise her awning, dammit! Which. FAIR. When she asked me where I was from and I told her, she was surprised because Americans are usually angrier about this kind of thing. I didn’t have the energy to inform her that India will scrub the indignation right out of you, while, of course, leaving you with a much deeper seated low-simmering rage. Instead, I continued on my wanderings, holding fast-melting ice up to my forehead and trying to see straight.

Hours later, I asked what’s-his-face to take these photos. Obviously I should have gotten him to do them BEFORE the run in, literally, with the awning, but hindsight is twenty-twenty, now, isn’t it?

Ah well. Do ignore the bump, please. I LOVE this dress, it really IS a big hit, and I also SUSTAINED a big hit, so yeah, double meanings, etc. Score one for social media not being deceptive, I guess?

QUITE a bump. Sigh. But the dress is nice! I altered my bodice block, adding 2 inches on each part of the front bodice piece for the button placket, and extending the shoulder seams to make kimono sleeves.

The skirt is a circle skirt, and lucky for me this fabric, from Thakur, was wide enough for a nice length on the skirt in one piece!

The dress is extremely comfortable, and I keep reaching for it weekly.

See, I’m just smiling through the pain here, seriously.

NICE shot of the bump, there. It has since shrunk away to nothing, thank goodness, but yeah, nothing ruins a vacation picture like a firm blow to the head. Here, though, you can see that the fabric is a very subtle large print gingham/plaid sort of a thing, in shades of blue.

So there we go. I adore this dress, it was easy to make and it’s consistently easy to wear. Easy to explore new places in, easy to walk directly into a low hanging awning while wearing, it’s the grail.

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Filed under Sewing, Travel, Uncategorized

The Khadi Body Pants

Okay, guys, we need to talk about culottes. Culottes. I never thought this day would come. What is this, 18th Century France, am I right? I mean, politically and personally I have always thought of myself as a sans culottes, you know what I mean? That’s a little French Revolution humor for you, for the cheap seats. I’m just kidding, there are no cheap seats at Versailles! Hey-o! Tip your guillotine operator, try the cake.

ANYway. Culottes. This is a thing. This is a thing in the world we live in and I have resisted it, as I do with so many things, until the point that I flip and wholeheartedly embrace it and THAT, my friends, is what is happening right now.

I want to talk to you about Megan Nielsen patterns. I really like Megan Nielsen patterns in that I really like the design. Seriously, lovely design, time and again. But the fit? The fit, my friends, is a situation. When the Flint Pants pattern came out, I was deeply deeply excited. I have been looking for a wide-legged loose fitting pleated pant that I could make in a lightweight fabric that would be good for the heat of Mumbai. I have tried a few options, and generally found myself disappointed. So when the Flint pattern came out, I was like, this is it. Pockets. Pleats. Wide legs. Cute closure options. Loose fit. IT’S THE GRAIL.

But then I tried them. I wanted a loose fit, because, um, isn’t that the point? So although my literal hip is an L, and my waist is a M (ummmmmm, question, why is a woven pattern S-XL?), I decided I would cut an XL to be safe, because the finished garment measurement had no ease, or so it appeared to me. Well, I cut and stitched up a pair of shorts in a turquoise fabric, and, um, I mean, technically they fit I guess, but it was a literal disaster. Puzzled, I measured the hip, and found that the finished shorts were actually the M hip measurement! What the WHAT? I am not a large person. I am never an L, let alone an XL, and now these shorts wont fit? I blame my butt. These CANNOT have been drafted for any junk in the trunk, am I right? Yes, there is an ego issue here, but beyond that, it was bewildering. I fumed. I sighed. I was OVER this, over pants, over everything! But no, NO. I bought the physical paper pattern, not even a PDF. I committed to these pants. I was going to make this WORK if it killed me. I decided to go all out, and I added two inches to each side of each leg pattern piece for a pair of shorts I was making. This…might have been overcorrecting, because I ended up with super loose shorts and I took the waistband at least 6 inches, so it’s back down to the pattern M measurement. But while big, these shorts, which I may photograph later, were much closer to what I had been looking for. Loose flowy comfortable shorts/pants/MAYBE CULOTTES WHAAAAAT?

Yes. Culottes. In the third iteration of my attempts to make the Flint pattern, I think I’ve hit my sweet spot. I added 1.5 inches to each side of each leg piece, so essentially adding a nice 12 inches to the leg pieces, giving me ample room through the hips and posterior, while grading to a M at the waist. I might not love the originally drafting here, but I’m glad I stuck with this pattern and made it work for me. Finally I have the comfortable loose fit of my dreams. Hard work, it pays off, whether you are overthrowing the French Monarchy or just making a pair of pants happen, am I right?

So here you go, without further ado, my Flint Culottes:

When my friend Liz was here, she bought this purple and white khadi that I adored but graciously let her buy because I am an amazing person/hero. However, when I saw this, virtually the SAME FABRIC, in Darjeeling in a Khadi Store, I luckily had no one else around me interested, and I could scoop it all up furtively and get out of there before anyone tried to take it. I had just enough to make these culottes, which, when I cut them, 100% reached my ankles and could have just been straight up pants. That might be another drafting issue, actually… Ah, well, that’s what hemming is for.

The shirt is actually something I bought. WHAT? I KNOW. But it’s a linen t-shirt from J Crew and I have to say, I adore it. Linen. I love you. And as a knit? I want to go to there. I might buy more, guys. I want five of these. I live in a hot place. Linen is amazing.

Here I am, posing by the synagogue in Cochin, a city in Kerala, which I recently visited with my friend Sarah who was in turn visiting ME from the States. I got Jews in different area codes, am I right?

This very sweaty back view is my gift to you from Kerala.

I love love love the waist tie detail. There is a button on the inside, which cleverly keeps the whole pant-system in place. How amazing is this khadi? The texture is so great, and I think it really works with this pattern, much as I’ve adapted it. It makes for loose pleats, but they still have weight and definition.

These pants were, for all their struggle in the making, for all my emotional upheaval around making, and WEARING, culottes, because, you know, the horror, the humanity, but these were seriously magnificent for walking around Cochin. So. Damn. Comfortable, and the pockets? YES. And the loose fit I engineered, knowing it was all I wanted, kept me cool in the heat of Kerala. The khadi did it’s job, of course, and all in all, I have to say, for all the pain these caused me on the way, they were wonderful in their actuality.

Emotionally, mentally, yes, I’m still very much sans culottes. But, when it comes to real culottes? I might be more pro than I thought.

And now, some images from Kerala:

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Filed under Clothing, Megan Nielsen, Sewing

Fashion of Port Cities: Textile and Cultural Exchange at the Asian Civilizations Museum

While there are many who fear the other, I choose not to, and I am happy to be celebrating diversity, historic and current. I am of the opinion that cultural exchange leads to innovation and development, and if you feel otherwise, please go away. I am sure that if you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time you probably knew that about me all ready, but just putting it out there into the universe. If, however, you like me are fascinated with cultural exchange and moments of intersection and the way they give birth to new things, specifically in the textile and clothing space, I think you will enjoy hearing about and seeing some of the objects from a current exhibit on Port Cities at the Asian Civilizations Museum in Singapore!

On my recent trip to Singapore, I had to break my normal Singapore rule. You see, there is nothing really to do in Singapore in my opinion. Now, of course, some people think there is a lot to do in Singapore, so I should really change that statement to there is nothing much for ME to do in Singapore, but semantics. Singapore is great, but I find it rather boring, and What’s-his-face and I realized that we need to ration our Singapore activities, because we visit the country frequently and given that I don’t think there is much to do, if we do it all at once, what will we do NEXT time? If we don’t limit ourselves to one museum a trip, we will be out of museums in no time! But we were with others, and we needed activities, so we had to break our rule and on this trip I saw the botanical gardens, the bird park, the National Museum and the Asian Civilizations Museum. Oy. I’m sorry, future Leah. I screw you a bit.

But at least the Asian Civilizations Museum has temporary exhibits, like this one exploring the many mixed communities of port cities in Southeast Asia. And given that this area is a textile-rich region, you just KNOW that mixture of people created a mixture of clothing styles and fabric options. Now we see people in all forms of dress in cities across the world, but historically ports would have been the only real places where costumes clashed consistently, and that is fascinating, in its fruitful ground for change and influence. Coming across this exhibit was a wonderful surprise because of the amount of textile within it, and I’m excited to share all that with you guys. The descriptions of Singapore itself through history, and cultures that arose in Batavia (now Jakarta, once the capital of the Dutch East Indies), Hong Kong, Malacca, and other ports, in clothing, was fantastic and fascinating. So even though we broke our rule, I gotta say, totally worth it…

So without further ado, to the photos!

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On the left the traditional garments of Peranakans, the mixed community of Chinese-Malay traders and fisherman. In the center, Chinese traditional dress, and on the right, South-Indian lungi.

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A kimono from the Japanese community in Singapore.

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Indian/Malay worker garb on the left, next to European/American female dress in a light gauze for the tropical heat (although God knows those undergarments would cancel THAT out…)

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On the right, Malay/Indonesian/Peranakan female dress with Portuguese lace and Chinese prints/embroidery. On the left, Gujurati cloth for an Indo-western sari.

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European male suit next to a Parsi merchant’s garb.

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Indian sari in the foreground, in the style adopted after the 1890’s with a blouse and petticoat underneath.

I love imagining a city of such vibrant and diverse clothing cultures, and therefore people cultures! I guess on some level Singapore is still like this, like London, New York, and other large and small cities of diverse groups. Spending time in Mumbai, where the clothing culture often feels homogenous in the extreme, I think I appreciate this mix on an even deeper level than I had before.

The exhibit also had some lovely examples of fabrics and their re-use in new clothing shapes. Like Indian chintz, so very popular in European clothing:

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Which then became something like this:

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I totally saw a woman looking at a similar fabric to create a kurta/trouser set in a fabric store in Bandra the other day. True story.

Of course, it wasn’t just Europeans who loved Indian chintz. Check out these Southeast jackets:

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I’m sure people were like, sick kimono, bro. Right? That sounds like a normal 19th century thing to say.

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A mix of Chinese imagery with Indonesian prints for this decorative hanging.

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The many faces of labor and commerce in 19th Century Singapore.

If I think about it, a lot of my own clothing is a mix of Indian fabric with Western shapes, so many in some tiny way I am also a part of a cultural global fabric and costume exchange. Diversity in how people look and how they dress and what they do and act is, to me, the cornerstone of progress and human development. If you never see anyone around you who looks, acts, speaks, eats, or thinks differently than you do, you probably will think that the world is singular. But to my mind it is beautiful in its variety, and I love seeing that in an exhibit like this one. Doesn’t it make you want to go out and pick of a global assortment of fabrics for inspiration and creation? Make a batik ballgown, stitch up some Thai silk cigarette trousers, or try a gingham tunic or a pinstripe kimono! Let’s be a part of a global fashion movement that celebrates diversity as the very fabric of humanity. Onwards, friends! To the sewing machines!

 

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Filed under Clothing, Costume, history, Life

The Twice In A Year Shirt

The title of this post is less reflective of the item I sewed than it is of the place where I had the photos taken. Because when you get a chance to see one of the seven new wonders of the world TWICE in a year, you….well, you sort of just do it because even though Agra is a total bitch of a sad one horse, one million cow town, and you really don’t need to fight through a thousand beggars, children trying to send you pens decorated with mirrors, and literal goats twice in your lifetime, when your mom wants to see the Taj, dammit, you lady-up and SEE THE TAJ. Twice. In one year. Ooo-pah!

Having guests in India is wonderful, especially when it’s my parents, but it’s also stressful, because you want to give people the best possible experience but there is a lot out of your control, and everyone’s tolerance for and understanding of the developing world is different. I’ve had guests eager to engage with India, and guests uncomfortable with the realities of India, and honestly, most of the time those are the EXACT SAME GUESTS, just in different moments in time. India is not for the faint of heart, and while I’m happy living in Mumbai, I’m not really the Indian tourism board over here, and I don’t feel any kind of need to convince others to like the country. Even the most luxorious trip to the sub-continent exposes travelers to the realities of the polarization of wealth, the divisions in culture, class and way of life, and the fact that day to day existence can be a real struggle, no matter how much money you can throw at the problem. Navigating India can be exhausting, hilarious, magnificent and strange, so when I have people come, I want to bear the brunt of that for them, with some (a ton of) help from what’s-his-face, but that sometimes means running a long monologue that goes like “okaywe’regoingtogodownthisstreetintothiscabdon’tfeedthatmonkeyIdon’tknowwhythatthingislikethathereissomebottledwateryesthat’sacownothat’sabuffaloyesthat’ssadokaylet’sgetoutofthecaryesit’scooltakeaphotookaylet’sgobackintothecar”. And so on.

Having been to the Taj Mahal twice now, traveling two separate ways at different price points, I can say with some confidence that getting to Agra is arduous, but possible, and however you do it, you are going to end the day sweaty, dusty, annoyed and exhultant, because not only did you see something awesome, YOU MADE IT BACK. Don’t discount either as victories. This time we took a car, true luxury indeed, and stuffed like sardines being jolted over every speedbump and pothole on the road, being driven by a man who knows that road like the back of his hand and deserves a medal for the kind of patience he displays driving in India, I guess 35 years working for the Delhi Board of Tourism will do that for you, we, like the Mughals who came before us, stared in wonder at the marble tomb of Shah Jahan’s favorite wife. We had to compete with thousands to do so, of course, but still. Worth it.

And while my parents marveled at the inlay and the carvings and the sheer gorgeousness of it all, I got what’s-his-face to snap some photos. What? You’re mad I didn’t fight through to see the actual tomb part once again? I’ve BEEN before, jeez….

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I know, I know, how are you supposed to care about the shirt with that background? My top, an Itch To Stitch Mila shirt, didn’t take nearly as long to make, I’ll be honest. But it was also a labor of love, does that count?

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Well I say labor, but it’s pretty easy. The placket instructions are excellent, and this is the second time I’ve made it, but never blogged the first. I lengthened it, and would even do a little more next time, frankly.

I got the fabric at my new favorite fabric place in Mumbai, Thakur Fabrics on Hill road for any locals. This shirt is dusty and wrinkled from the day exploring Fatephur Sikri (Akbar’s capital, built and then abandoned) and Agra, but you get the idea. The strain at the buttons is I think a by-product of the long day, because it fits quite well. I think I stitched up a 14 with the D Cup size, which is super comfortable, and I’m happy this shirt had cup sizes, I rarely see that in independent patterns! Well done, Itch To Stitch! It’s seriously a lovely pattern company, and I’m excited to explore other designs.

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I omitted the collar this time, but did one for my first version, and found it to be well drafted, etc. I guess I don’t have much to say about this shirt, the tricky thing is the placket at the front but it’s worth it, and this one is well designed and explained, so it’s easy to do well. I like the popover look! It’s cute, and while I thought it would make my already large chest look insane, it DOESN’T. So there you go, me and Shah Jahan, getting stuff DONE.

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I made the long sleeved version, although I had the sleeves rolled up for most of the day because although it’s chilly in the evenings in Delhi during the winter, climbing around monuments is hot during the day! I did some stripe playing, as you can see, with the cuffs and the placket.

ty-7And the collar, although I don’t know if you can really see that here….

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Little side view for you. It’s a very dramatic curve at the side seam, which is also why I would lengthen this even more next time. I think I did two inches this time, but I wouldn’t mind a little more, really…

Otherwise, love this shirt! Love this fabric, love this pattern, love all around!

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Obviously you needed a little Taj selfie. I mean, come on, if you don’t take a selfie at the Taj did you even really GO? Not according to the internet! I tried to get my parents on board but that means explaining what a selfie even IS and that’s just, that’s the kind of labor that would go into making a second Taj. Who’s got that kind of time?

 

So there you go! One last post for 2016. I hope you all have had a magnificent year, as painful as some parts of it have been, and for the love of god, let’s hope 2017 is better. Maybe I’ll go to the Taj like five more times. That’ll help, right?

 

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Filed under Itch To Stitch, Travel

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:

CIRC.30-1958

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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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Filed under Butterick Patterns, Dye, Grainline Patterns, Life, Sewing, Travel