Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Winslow Culottes, Take Two

Don't you just love this whole ensemble?

I was so inspired by Teggy French's outfit, that I ordered the top and set out to make gingham culottes this past summer.  Here is my version:

Although I originally intended to copy Teggy French's look wholesale, my friend Carol suggested that I steer away from the cotton gingham used in Teggy's Vivetta skirt because of its tendency to look "Suzy Homemaker."  We searched the Garment District during Male Pattern Boldness Day back in August and came up with this beautiful houndstooth silk charmeuse.  I got the last of the bolt--2.5 yards.

Helen's Closet recommends 4 yards of 54" fabric for view D.  I barely squeezed the culottes out on 2.5 yards by abutting the straight edges and making a single cut.

I previously made the Winslows in a rayon challis here.  Although I always thought that natural fibers were king, I do prefer the drape of the rayon challis version to this latest silk version.   Plus, the challis is travel friendly because it doesn't need to be ironed.

I interfaced the waistband with muslin and used SewKeyse stay tape to interface the zipper area.  I sewed french seams throughout.

The crotch seams didn't line up perfectly because of my own error (I am sure).  Next time I will baste the pant back all the way from crotch to top back before inserting the zip.  Then I will interface and insert the zip, followed by sewing down the waistband.

The waistband is created by simply folding a rectangle in half.  If I make this again, I'd like to change the waistband to two pieces with the edge stitching on the inside facing piece. True Bias has a great tutorial for the Emerson pants.

I was pretty displeased with the stitch in the ditch on my first pair of Winslows, so I opted for a fell-stitched finish here.  Hand sewing produced a much neater result!

Not sure how much use I will get out of this outfit as it is a bit dressy.  The culottes are the proper length with heels but I was constantly worried I was going to trip over myself...;)

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

"Glamorous and Fabulous" Kaftan in Thailand


The purpose of my February vacation to Thailand (more on that here) was to attend the Indian beach wedding of one of my oldest friends.  A multi-day Indian wedding can be a bit intimidating from a wardrobe perspective, especially if your only previous experience with a saree involved three YouTube videos and ended with running out the door in a skirt/blouse...

The dress code for the opening night party, Sangeet, specified "glamorous and fabulous."   I opted for an east-west fusion look with a vintage kaftan pattern I had been eyeing since seeing Closet Case Pattern's version in linen.


From the 70's, Simplicity 5310, is my first vintage pattern. Purchased on Etsy, the pattern is essentially two rectangles with armholes.

I used a full four yards of purple silk crepe de chine from Paron's in the Garment District.  The kaftan is unlined (I wore a slip), though in retrospect I should have lined it as the silk is not entirely opaque. 

My number one complaint about the instructions is that they did not specify the use of interfacing anywhere. Had I followed the instructions as-is, the folded over neckline with no interfacing would have looked decidedly "home ec."  Inventing my own instructions, I added silk organza to the back of the neckline and topstitched it in place by machine.  The trim covers the stitching. When I make this again, I plan to draft an all-in-one facing for the neckline.

Armholes basted and ready to be sewn

I also interfaced the armholes with silk organza and used a combination of fusible and silk organza along the waistband.


Instead of simple ties in the back interior of the dress, I created a back stay with purple petersham and a metal hook and bar.

I omitted the button hole at the back neck and just sewed it up straight, as there was plenty of room for my head to go through the neck opening.


Sewing by hand, I applied the trim to the waistband and around the neckline.  The trim is from East Coast Trimming in the Garment District and is the result of an impromptu shopping trip with Carol, Carolyn and Grace. (Thanks ladies!)

About the wedding itself?  From fireworks to performances by a troupe of lady boys(!!!) to the groom's arrival on an elephant...it was glamorous, fabulous and completely exhausting.  In the best of ways! Among the four events, I wore RTW to mehendi and the wedding ceremony, the kaftan to Sangeet, and my Asaka Kimono to the other evening event.



The Sunday morning wedding ceremony was Sikh, but the festivities also incorporated traditions from two other dharmic faiths: hindu (groom) and Buddhist (nod to Thailand).

Sikh Wedding Ceremony with incredible "chuppah" of orchids!  
Buddhist blessing by monks

 I loved oggling all of the beautiful sarees, lehenga cholis, kurtis, etc. and the beautiful fabrics, embellishments, and colors worn by many of the female guests.  Most of the men wore embellished linen kurtas (tunics), perfect for the sweltering heat.  I wonder if I can find an Indian fabric store in Jackson Heights??

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

To The Races: Steeplechase Take II

In the data-gathering spirit, Michael and I recently started tracking our gym check-ins against one another.  The loser has to cook the winner a dinner of their choosing AND clean up that night. He beat me by 50% in January with 15 check-ins vs. my 10 and even more in February!

You can probably guess which one of us takes competition NYC-style seriously....;)

This is my second version of Fehr Trade's Steeplechase for inseam-less leggings. First version here. The fabric is a Roberto Cavalli spandex purchased at Elliott Berman.  All seams were sewn on my new Brother 1034D serger. 

Although a simple project, I did do some skill building. I discovered a new favorite way to join elastic in the round courtesy of Nancy Zieman.  Nancy uses a zigzag to join elastic over a piece of woven material here.  This method eliminates the bulk of the overlapping elastic ends, making the join undetectable. 

Sewing the elastic over a woven.  After this I trimmed the woven fabric away

I also topstitched the elastic with small vertical machine stitching at the side seams, front and back.  This prevents the elastic from twisting and is virtually undetectable in the busy print.    

Fabric cost exceeded the Danskin leggings I recently purchased on sale, leading me to question whether I will continue experimenting with me-made activewear.  Cost aside, I am always a little worried that me-mades will split down the center back in the middle of a squat!  Anyone else have this fear???     

Monday, March 13, 2017

Thailand 2017

Since high school, my friend Aneesa--originally from Singapore-- has said she would get married in Thailand.  We only had a week in Thailand inclusive of the wedding, so I focused our pre-wedding itinerary on relaxation. Good thing because I never would have had the stamina to survive the non-stop Indian wedding events otherwise!

We began in Ayutthaya, about one hour north of Bangkok.  Ayutthaya was the capital of Siam until it was toppled by the Burmese in the 18th century.  Located on an island at the confluence of three rivers, including the mighty Chao Praya which flows through Bangkok, Ayutthaya's historic wealth was derived from trade and acted as an important meeting point between the Chinese, Indians, and Europeans.

Taking advantage of jet lag, we set out before sunrise on our bikes

We had the Ayutthaya historical park mostly to ourselves

Wat Mahathat: restored ruin of Buddhist monastery

Our base was the Baan Thai House, a lovely hotel just off the island with charming bungalows around a pond.


Food is one of my favorite aspects of travel!  We tried the Ayutthaya specialties of river prawns as well as roti sai mai.

River prawns--very expensive and not so flavorful.

Roti Sai Mai:  crepes filled with angel hair cotton candy.  I didn't love it.

Next, we traveled five hours south to Sam Roi Yod National Park's Dolphin Bay, just south of Hua Hin on the Gulf of Thailand.  A palm-fringed beach with fishing boats, Dolphin Bay is little more than a single road along the beach bordered by a handful of small independent hotels. It's the perfect jumping off point to visit surrounding national parks like Sam Roi Yod, Petchaburi, and small islands.  The vibe reminded me of the quiet local beaches on the eastern side of Maui close to Hana.  We stayed at the lovely Long Beach Inn, located a short walk from the beach.

Kayaked to this money island where monkeys aren't at all scared of humans!  

Dolphin Bay beach:  I think these fish are drying for fish sauce.  
On our second day, we visited the Phraya Nakhon Cave.  We biked a little over an hour from Dolphin Bay and then proceeded to hike to Laem Sala Beach, which is only accessible by hike or boat.  From Laem Sala it was another 45 minute hike to the cave mouth.

Laem Sala Beach

Descending into the cave

Looking up from the cave

The temple deep in the cave

This trip we befriended an Israeli classical conductor and his consultant wife who have been coming to the Long Beach Inn for over a decade to unwind.  Not only did they introduce us to a simple beachfront Thai restaurant with the most incredible fried fish and delicate prawn dishes, but they also introduced us to their Thai friend Oote.

The restaurant, not much to look at

A lovely masseuse, Oote spoke enough English to establish a nice rapport and took care of us with the most relaxing massages, facials, etc.

Oote's massage parlor
The Dutch owner of the LongBeach Inn accompanied the Israelis, Oote, Michael and me on a day of exploration to Ao Manao beach, a secluded beach on a Royal Thai Air base and afterward to an elephant safari in Kuiburi elephant sanctuary in Kiri Khan National Park.

Ao Manao
I regret that we didn't do the overnight stay in Kuiburi, home to 250+ wild elephants.  Elephants loathe the heat so they only come out when it is relatively cool, past 4pm and in the early morning.

KuiBuri:  we saw a few elephants from a distance
The wedding took place in Hua Hin, a famous beach town an hour north of Sam Roi Yod on the Gulf which has been a longtime retreat for the Thai royal family.  Hua Hin is mostly made up of large international resorts and has that distinct vibe of a SE Asian beach town that has long since been "discovered."

I noticed Khomopastr Fabrics when we were in the well-appointed truck bed (!!) of our our taxi driving into Hua Hin from Dolphin Bay.

In the truck bed taxi for the 1 hour ride to Hua Hin!
In the Khomopastr store where I purchased several yards
Wedding events were nonstop, but I managed to sneak in a quick hour at Khomopastr for some fabric shopping.  Founded in 1948 in Hua Hin by the Royal Prince Bovoradej, Khomopastr' focus is on handmade screen-printing of traditional Thai designs, some from the Royal collection and archives.

Tablecloth. They only had it in 3.5 meters, so I cut it and pieced together for a 2 meter length.
Cotton is believed to have been chosen instead of silk because of the humid climate and more relaxed atmosphere of Hua Hin. The factory is located in Hua Hin and it can be visited by appointment only.  It's still a small operation, with only 70 workers producing about 900 yards per day.

Southeast Asia is a real pain to get to, but I love it more and more with each trip to the region.  Not sure when we will return on vacation, but Myanmar and Laos are high on the list.  Wanderlust....

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Reflections on 2016 and Onward with 2017!

It's a new year and time to reflect on my 2016 sewing! Here's the breakdown of the 14 garments I made in 2016:

I am most proud of my Bombshell bridesmaid dress.

Most disappointed by Vogue 8663, which shrunk from a dress into a top.

The award for most worn garment is a tie between my silk and wool vest and Colette Laurel.

My Asaka Kimono is the least worn.  I chose this pattern to wear as a dress, but never felt comfortable except on vacation.    

Asaka Kimono

2016 projects that I did not blog include a terrible looking hemlock tee, silk pair of winslows and versions 1 and 2 of the Eleonore pants, a cape made from a blanket, and a refashion of a dress into a top.

V2 of the Eleonore pants

Overall I am pleased with my sewing progress in 2016.  I took more care with my projects and achieved measurable progress toward more professional results. While I still find each new project daunting, the beginner pains are easing.

My sewing goals for 2017 are largely the same as 2016, with a few additions at the bottom:

Early 2017 will be devoted to sewing for weddings.  In the queue is a purple silk kaftan ("Glamorous & Fabulous" in February), the 1/2 way finished jungle bombshell (Black Tie in March), and a TBD purple bridesmaid dress (Semi-Formal in April).

1/2 way finished Jungle bombshell 

I'd like to do a better job this year of interspersing easy and difficult projects and doing more non-apparel sewing, especially for gifts. Adult gift giving has historically stressed me out given my aversion to what I not-so-lovingly call "shelf sh*t." Homemade cloth napkins are first on the list.  I successfully made some for my brother for Hannukah this year and it was an easy, quick, and satisfying sew.

Inspired by Sara in Stitches, I created a workbook in Google Sheets to track sewing projects, fabric purchases, RTW purchases and shoe purchases in 2017.  I inputted my 2016 RTW and shoe purchases and was surprised by the number of purchases. I still feel like I have nothing to wear.

Cheers to filling in those wardrobe gaps in 2017!