Fabrics from India

picture-086.jpgpicture-087.jpgpicture-088.jpg

I had two days in India before my surgery to power shop for fabric. Unfortunately, I wasn’t getting around too well at that point. We hired a car and driver to cut down on the walking, but it was a bit difficult to communicate with the driver. He took us to places he knew about and I found what I could, though I had hoped to find much more.

I’m an A#1 procrastinator. I freely admit this and I’m always vowing to change. I have gotten a little better as my kids have gotten older and I have more time to myself. E. is unbelievably the polar opposite–he thinks of something that needs doing and he does it. Boom, done, off of his mind.

Usually he leaves me to my demons and doesn’t comment too much about how long it takes me to do things. Packing for travel is another thing. He gets his suitcase out a week ahead of departure and throws things in it as he thinks of them. I’m always thinking about what to take, but fail to make a list or start packing early like he does. He doesn’t like this, I always assure him it’ll be okay.

When we went to Ireland on a cycling vacation, I was at Banana Republic the morning of the flight grabbing clothes to take. This was before we were married and I left my bedroom in a cyclone mess of clothes, shoving things in my suitcase to get to his house by the time the cab to the airport arrived. The outcome: I forgot to pack my cycling shorts. Anyone who rides a road bike knows, you gotta have padded shorts. So, on our first day in Ireland, we were searching for a place to buy cycling shorts instead of cycling. E. took this pretty well. (But, like I said, this was before we were married!)

Our next big vacation was to France for our honeymoon. This time I sewed most of the clothes I took and was pretty smart and packed them as I finished them. This didn’t stop me from running out the morning of the flight to buy an adapter and exchange some dollars for euros. The outcome: the cab was waiting and I couldn’t find the euros (the bedroom was kind of a mess), E. found them at the bottom of a pile of discarded scarves. The cabbie was perturbed because he had to wait while this played out, E. was a little edgy on the way to the airport, but by the time we were flying over the Atlantic Ocean, he was over it.

For India I was perfect! I started putting things in the suitcase a week before departure. I made arrangements for the kitties and the mail, I tied up all my loose ends at work and shut down my computer. I was ready for the cab early! Here’s the glitch, I had surfed the web for fabric stores in Chennai and made a list of names and addresses, which I forgot to print out and bring with me.

So, we were at the driver’s mercy; he was a very nice and patient man.

First he took us to a very fancy store where the merchant laid out his wares, one at a time. We have a large Indian community in Chicago and Devon street is an authentic Indian experience, without the cows mingling around. There are multiple shops that offer sari fabrics and some yard goods, mostly silks. This merchant in Chennai had more or less the same things. Less expensive, to be sure, but still pretty pricey and mostly silks. For example, he had some beautiful printed silk Crepe de Chines for about $16/meter. (Of which I purchased three pieces, pictured above.)

I was hoping to find cottons. The silks are beautiful, but my lifestyle calls for more casual clothes and I’m always disappointed with the cottons I find at the fabric stores here. I know there are cottons in Chennai, it was formerly known a Madras and we know what fabric carries that moniker. I was hoping to find cottons with Ikat prints and large florals and maybe some embellished cottons.

So, the first shop was lovely, and I did purchase the three pieces of silk print and a beautiful scarf for my daughter. But I had a feeling because it was such an elegant store that it might be overpriced, so (I’m still kicking myself for this one), I passed up beautiful pashmina shawls in every color of the rainbow that turned out to be a very fair price. (I never did pick-up any pashmina shawls.)

salwar-kameez.jpg

We asked the driver to take us to a bazaar of street sellers, hoping for more cottons and better prices. I did find some beautiful cotton fabrics that are used to make the Salwar Kameez (pictured above). Some are very sheer, like a batiste, and have 4 yards or so of usable fabric with lots of border print. Some are lovely fine cotton, like a soft pima cotton, with a border print piece of about 2 yards and another plainer piece for pants that’s about 2 yards and a border print scarf. The sheer cottons will have plenty of yardage for dresses, the heavier cottons, probably only enough for a skirt (about 44″ wide). At $12-$20 for each bundle, they were a steal. At one shop I finally found some madras plaid by the meter and purchased 4 meters at a very reasonable price:

picture-078.jpgpicture-080.jpgpicture-082.jpgpicture-083.jpgpicture-084.jpgpicture-085.jpgpicture-089.jpg

For the madras, I have in mind a “farmer’s shirt” for E. (I copied a favorite summer shirt for him a few years ago in a yellow seersucker check and I’ve always teased him and said that all he needs is a pair of white pants and white patented leather shoes and he’d fit right into the farming community where he was raised.) And a pair of Bermuda shorts for me.

The Salwar Kameez fabrics will work themselves into my sewing endeavors. I’m seeing sheer tunics and sundresses and hippy-chic skirts.

As I was unpacking, Willy decided he’s the Maharajah! picture-012.jpg

The kicker is, as we were driving to the Fisherman’s Cove resort after my surgery, we passed a very modern looking two story store called The Cotton House. I drooled as I saw hundreds of rolls of fabric in the windows. I was on crutches and just a few days post surgery and so we couldn’t stop. Maybe on my next visit to India, let’s hope it’s not for another new hip!

Ta-ta for now!

Sew it yourself (from The Thoughtful Dresser)

Here’s an article I’ve been waiting to see, it says that sewing machine sales are way up. You can tell that interest in sewing is increasing just by going to a local JoAnn or Hancock Fabrics. Those stores used to be ghost towns and now they’re buzzing. 

The consensus is that the renewed interest is because of a lack of original boutiques and clothing and for economic reasons. I’ll add to that and say that I think Project Runway has had a big impact on exciting want-to-be sewers. 

Now, to see the reemergence of independently owned fabric stores that offer top quality fabric and knowledgeable staff…

Here’s the article:

courtesy of the Sewing DivasI know some readers will be delighted to hear that there has been a huge jump in home dressmaking,

 

Read more…

Project MyWay #3–Black Cashmere Knit Coat

 picture-052.jpg

picture-041.jpg

I live in the Chicago area and E jokes and says that in June we turn our furnace off and airconditioning on. Unfortunately, most springs are quite chilly and wearing a coat, especially at night is not uncommon. But I’m so sick and tired of my winter coats–I want to have them cleaned and put them away until next winter!

We have 2 good fabric stores in Chicago and Vogue Fabrics has a cashmere knit I’ve been lusting over. It’s a substantial weight (2 ply?) fine gauge knit, like you see on better sweaters. At about $55/yard I let Vogue “keep it” until I came up with a design idea.

I love, love, love this coat! The pictures don’t do it justice. When I get my dressform, I’ll try to take a better picture.

I used Burda 8009 and gave it a asymmetrical front and a stand-up collar and eliminated the front darts by simply folding them together before cutting.  (You can purchase this pattern at The Sewing Place.com) 

burda-8002.jpg

I unerlined the coat with  mid-weight silk twill to stabilize the knit and give it some warmth. I attached the lining to each pattern piece, right sides together and sewed a 1/4″ seam around all sides, leaving an opening to turn. I left the armseye, sleeve and neckline edges raw. When I sewed the seams, I used a scant 1/2″ seam. I was a little worried about how it would look at the hem–lined to the edge and finished before the seams were sewn. But it worked great and was a better hem finish than anything else I could have done. And, wouldn’t you know it, I saw a similar finish on a very expensive designer skirt the other day. It was light weight silk and the hem was narrow hemmed first, then the side seams were sewn. picture-051.jpg

I lined the sleeve in the traditional way,  hand stitching the sleeve cap of the lining to the armseye.

picture-044.jpg

I added 6″ to the front edge of the left front pattern piece to create the asymmetric style. I did not add to the right front, so it does not underlap, it ends at the center front.

picture-046.jpg

I found these great passementerie buttons at M.J. Trim.com . They have lots of unique buttons and trims. The internet has made it so much easier to design clothes exactly the way you envision them instead of having to settle for what can be found in the few good fabric stores.

passimentier-button.jpg

This coat was so much fun to sew beacuse I took some chances and everything worked out very well as I went along. I had to put it aside for a few days to wait for the buttons to arrive and I hung it where I could see it and marveled at it often. Then it came time to make the buttonholes and for some idiotic reason, I made the top bottonhole too close to the edge (about 1/2″ from the edge, should’ve been more like 3/4″ -1″) I literally almost cried, because it was such a stupid thing to do and the rest of the project turned out so perfectly. But I followed my own advice in the Tutorial, “How to fix all small and medium sewing mistakes” and I got over it. It’s not exactly perfect, but close enough.

I’ll try to get a better pictue soon!

 Ta-ta for now!