May 012015
 

I have one more dress to show you from my Florida photoshoots, but first a word about Me-Made May.  Like I said last year:  nope.  I really don’t get Me-Made May as a concept that’s designed to encourage you to wear the stuff you’ve made.  I constantly wear the stuff I’ve made.  I wouldn’t keep making it if I didn’t.  I do own some RTW, though, and I don’t care for the idea of discouraging myself from wearing it.  I like it a lot, which is why I bought it.  I don’t buy a lot of RTW these days, so if it’s in my closet, it’s because I really liked it.  Plus there are some days where I don’t even leave the house – such is the life of a grad student.  Other days, I only go to the library, and I don’t get all gussied up for those days.  I usually end up wearing one of three super comfy knit dresses I own on those days, and one of them is RTW.  So for these many reasons, I give a hearty whatevs to MMM.

vlisco-made-by-rae-washi-front-1

This picture was taken on the only day of our trip that we were able to go to the beach.  It was still quite windy, as you can see – so windy that I think I’m gesticulating and barking at my mom to wait to take the picture until I can get situated.  I like how it looks like I’m doing a sort of stilted dance, though, so I decided to include the picture!vlisco-made-by-rae-washi-front-3The beach was really busy that day, which was crazy because it was a Monday, but I think it was the beginning of spring break for a lot of people.  This theory was bolstered by the massive group of bros that we unfortunately set up in front of.  Bros of the world:  feel free to keep on bro-ing, but could you try to be a bit quieter about it?  I don’t want to listen to your every inane conversation while at the beach, or as was the case last week, while at the library.vlisco-made-by-rae-washi-front-2But that’s enough about bros – what kind of dress is this?  This is the Washi Dress pattern from Rae Hoekstra.  One of the first things I ever made was the Made by Rae Buttercup Bag in a class at the shop where I learned to sew, The Needle Shop.  When Rae made a dress pattern, I snapped it up, having had a better experience with her bag pattern than a lot of others I tried.  I’ve made two other Washis, two of the first dresses I ever made.  I really love this dress because it has shirring on the back, which gives it an almost custom fit.  At the time that I made my first one, I was amazed at how easy it was to fit, especially after having struggled with a Simplicity pattern for what seemed like forever only to be foiled by poor fabric choice in the end.  The Washi is designed for quilting cottons and other similar fabrics, so it was perfect for me at the time because I had a lot of those in my stash.  I still wear those two Washis, one made of a gorgeous Echino fabric, and the other in a Valori Wells quilting cotton.  In the photo below you can see that the dress can sometimes have a little bit of a baby bump illusion effect, which is annoying.  My other two don’t have this and the bodice seems longer on them as well, so I think I may have lengthened the bodice but didn’t mark it on the flat pattern.  I think the longer bodice eliminates the empire silhouette, which is what gives me the pregnant look.  I’ll make note of this for future versions.  vlisco-made-by-rae-washi-sideThe fabric is another Vlisco pick ordered with Charlotte.  When it arrived, I knew I wanted to make a maxi with it because of the large print arranged vertically.  I wanted the fabric to go the other way around so that the longer lines were pointing down, but I accidentally cut it wrong and had no extra fabric to recut.  I was quite irritated by this, but I’m over it now.  I think it looks a wee bit obscene with those finger-like lines pointing up, but Ben said he didn’t know what I was talking about, so maybe I’m crazy.  vlisco-made-by-rae-washi-backYou can see in the picture above that there’s also some funky swayback issues happening on the back, which I’ll also correct in future versions.  I think I want to make another Washi with another Vlisco print Charlotte and I ordered, but I’ll probably keep that one knee-length.  When I make it, in addition to fixing the swayback and lengthening the waist, I’ll take a wedge out of the center front because I have some gaping at the neckline.  I guess I was a lot more forgiving of fit issues like these when I made the first two dresses!vlisco-made-by-rae-washi-detail-printHere’s a closeup of the print, in which you can see that it isn’t actually green, as it appears in the photos above.  It’s yellow with dark navy crosshatching.  I love the green look, so I prefer that everyone stand at least a few feet away from me when I wear this!vlisco-made-by-rae-washi-detail-selvage-center-backThe Washi isn’t supposed to have a center back seam, but I had to use one because I was cramming this maxi onto three yards of 45 inch fabric.  I used the selvedge as my fabric edge because it’s neato.  vlisco-made-by-rae-washi-detail-shirringThere’s my shirring, which is always so much fun to do.  For those unschooled in shirring, you just use elastic thread in the bobbin and the longest stitch length your machine with do (6mm in my case).  MAKE SURE you wind your bobbin the right way around!  The first time I tried to do shirring, I wound my bobbin backwards and thought my machine was broken when it made a terrible noise and refused to stitch.  Internets to the rescue:  if you google something like “shirring problems” there are tons of people giving you the sage advice above.  Very important.  The funnest part of shirring is blasting it with steam once you’ve sewn all the lines.  The first line doesn’t look very gathered at all, but as you continue to sew more lines, they begin to look slightly gathered.  When you blast them all with steam, though, they shrink up a ton and it’s nifty to watch happen.  vlisco-made-by-rae-washi-detail-bias-binderOver a year ago I bought this bias binder attachment for my sewing machine and never used it.  I was making this dress at the same time that I was making my silk Grainline Alder and since I was having trouble with my bias-bound armholes, I thought I’d test this thing out to see if it would make my life easier.  Um, NO THANKS.  It was hard enough to manage with a stable cotton like Vlisco – no way was I going to attempt it on silk!  As you can see more clearly below, the binding you end up with is very narrow.  I actually like the way it looks (and it looks this way on both sides because the foot works by wrapping the binding around the edge), but it’s so narrow that there’s no margin of error, so my fabric kept slipping out of the reach of the binding/stitching.  In a few cases, it looked like the binding had caught the edge of the fabric, but I discovered when I attempted to press it that it had only caught the very edge and any pressure made it come undone.  Those spots were annoying to fix.

Aside:  I know you’re jealous of my stack of theory books!  It’s actually not just a stack of books – it’s a stupid form-over-function bookshelf that makes it look like your books are just stacked, but without the risk of them falling over and crushing your feet or small animals.  It looks really cool, but it has a big footprint because it needs a large, heavy base to keep from tipping over, and you could definitely fit a regular bookshelf that would hold more books in the same amount of space.  Not recommended.  vlisco-made-by-rae-washi-detail-bindingBack to bias binding:  as you can see below, trying to finish off the edge is way messier looking than regular bias binding.  Blergh.  I’m going to sell this thing on Ebay, methinks.  vlisco-made-by-rae-washi-detail-binding-join

That’s it for this Vlisco Washi!  I finished a pair of Ginger jeans last week, but after wearing them for a day, I discovered several problems with them and have demoted them to wearable muslin status.  I’m not going to blog about them until I fix the problems because I want to make sure I know how to fix them.  Among the problems:  excessive front crotch length (and thus begins the discussion of crotches on my blog, ushering in a new era of spam, I’m sure); gapping at the back waistband despite my corrections after muslining; misplaced pockets despite MANY rounds of moving them up, down, and all around; too much ease at the back thigh; and overcorrection for my hyperextended calves.  I’m also not in love with the stretch denim I used, but I think I’ll make the next pair out of the same denim because it was cheap at Vogue ($5.99/yard).  Once I get all the fit stuff down, I’m going to try to get my hands on some better stretch denim.

Apr 172015
 

Hi kids!  Today I have a Deer and Doe Belladone to show you, plus I have some thoughts on purchasing Vlisco fabric, which is what this dress is made of.

Vlisco-Deer-and-Doe-Belladone-front-1
First, the dress.  This is the Deer and Doe Belladone, which I’ve made twice before.  You are seeing it photographed in my grandma’s backyard on one of the many days when it was too cold to visit the beach while we were in Florida.  But I’m next to a palm tree, so it’s better scenery than is usually offered on this blog!Vlisco-Deer-and-Doe-Belladone-back
Also good scenery:  a puppy!  He’s not really a puppy, but I’ve taken to calling all dogs puppies.  That’s Bentley, my grandma’s dog.  He’s is actually not at all a spring chicken; he’s advanced in years for a miniature Doberman Pinscher, and as a result he has diabetes and poor vision.  Which is very sad, but also adorable when he tries to jump up on the couch to sit on your lap and has the grace of a baby giraffe trying to find its legs.  Re: the dress, there’s a little wrinkling on the back that I’ll try to take care of in future versions, though I’m not sure I’ll use the cutout back again.  It’s a bit too distinctive for me to want to have five of them.  I’ve decided I’m okay with a closet full of Archers and McCall’s 6696s, but I draw the line at cutout backed Belladones!

Vlisco-Deer-and-Doe-Belladone-side-2

My lovely photographer, my mother, decided to get artistic, which made me laugh.  But I do like how this photo turned out!

Vlisco-Deer-and-Doe-Belladone-side-1

As we were taking this picture, Bentley decided to photobomb me while taking care of his business.  I 1. find this hilarious, and 2. like the way the wind is blowing my skirt, so the photo gets posted.

Vlisco-Deer-and-Doe-Belladone-front-2

Another through-the-palm-tree shot with bonus puppy.  You can see here that I scooped out the neckline a bit.  That Belladone neckline is really high!Vlisco-Deer-and-Doe-Belladone-detail-waistband

Here you can see my waistband seam matching, which is excellent except for the fact that the side on the right is a little bit shorter than the side on the left.  Boo, but I was very pleased with my invisible zip seam matching.  I didn’t attempt any pattern matching because I just barely had enough fabric to eke out this dress, plus I can’t even discern a repeat in this pattern.  The fabric, as I mentioned above, is Vlisco.  This one is their voile, which seems exactly like their Wax, Java, and Super-wax (I’m pretty sure I have them all in my collection) to me, so I’m not sure what the difference is supposed to be.  This one did seem more shiny when it arrived, but they all look and feel like quilting cotton once they’ve been washed.Vlisco-Deer-and-Doe-Belladone-detail-pink-serging

I used pink thread for my serging!Vlisco-Deer-and-Doe-Belladone-detail-binding

And pink bias tape!Vlisco-Deer-and-Doe-Belladone-detail-pocketAnd pink pocket lining!  I actually didn’t intend to use pink pocket lining, but I had to cut my pocket linings on a single layer because I was squeezing this out of 2 yards, and I accidentally cut them both on the same side.  I always do this when I’m cutting on a single layer!  Ugh.  But I like my pink lining, so it’s all good.

So what am I talking about when I mention liking problematic things?  Well, for background, you can read this: How to Like Problematic Things*.  After buying my Vlisco fabric, I realized I didn’t really know anything about it.  People call it African wax, but in what precise way is it African if it’s made in Holland?  So not at all like the good consumer I would like to be, I looked up information about this stuff after purchasing it.  I found a couple sites explaining the history of the type of prints Vlisco sells: What is Ankara? and The Origin of Ankara.  I learned that these types of prints are the result of the Dutch appropriating Batik fabric-making techniques from Indonesia in order to sell fabric in Indonesia for cheaper than local producers could.  Hmm, I don’t like that.  Colonizing, mass manufacturing a good made by the people you colonized, then selling it back to them for profit?  Not cool, Dutch (but then we all knew the Dutch were no paragons of virtue when it came to colonization, right?).  The fabric ended up not being very popular in Indonesia (good for the Indonesians!), but was popular among people in West Africa.  Which is why we call these prints African wax prints or Ankara today; they’re just most closely associated with West Africa because that’s where the most people wear them.  So the fabric seemed kind of problematic to me because of its history, but I also found this article: The History of Dutch Wax Prints. That author raises concerns about the way these fabrics dominate the textile market in West Africa such that people don’t buy as many locally-produced fabrics because they’re not considered high fashion the way something like Vlisco is.  This, to me, seems to be the more pressing concern.

Finally, I also have some concerns about the appropriative aspect of wearing fabrics associated with cultures that are not my own.  I’m still working through those concerns.  When I went to India years and years ago, I wore saris and salwar kameezes, but I would never do that today.  But would I wear something I sewed out of a sari?  I’m not sure how I feel about that yet.  I’m certainly trying to avoid being appropriative, but intentions don’t really matter in this debate.

Anyway, those are my thoughts, and those are the reasons why I feel some unease about Vlisco.  I’ve already bought another piece after my first order, so it’s not like I’m boycotting the stuff.  I have no willpower in the face of a gorgeous print, and I’m not always the noble consumer I would hope to be.  But I do think it’s worth recognizing the problematic aspects of the things we like.

 

*That article is talking about liking problematic texts, which is different than liking problematic products.  If I buy Scott Pilgrim comics, which is the example from the article, I’m giving money to an individual who has some problematic views.  If I buy fabrics, I’m supporting an industry.  My “support” is not likely to make or break either the individual or the company, but I like to be intentional about what I give money to.  This is less an issue of boycotting for a particular effect and more an issue of avoiding cognitive dissonance.