Flowery and Romantic; A Departure

Lol, this blog title. I was struggling so I just went over the top.

There is little in life these days that allows for spontaneity, and I’m a rule follower by nature- I’m an avid mask wearer when in public or in spaces shared with others, I rarely leave the house except to go to the grocery store/drugstore/ post office, and I DON’T eat out al fresco or otherwise because I am unconvinced that it’s safe (I have gotten some fries from the McDonald’s drive thru a couple of times though, lol). All that is to offer an explanation of why I made this dress, which is sooooo far outside my normal wardrobe style. It’s frilly, it’s ruffly, it’s got sleeve drama, and it’s off the shoulder.

 

It would be rare for me to choose any one of those details for a make, much less all of them in the same one! But alas, desperate quarantines call for desperate measures, and every time I saw this pattern pop up in my feed or across my computer screen, I thought, “this would be such a fun dress to wear”. I think it just reminds me of those carefree pre-pandemic days when I would get dressed up and meet friends for brunch or head out for a stroll in a new neighborhood with Claire, totally overdressed and feeling like a million bucks. A dress like this feels so over the top when all you’re doing is driving to pick up your groceries curbside at Sprout’s, but there are so few opportunities to feel (safely and smartly) frivolous these days, so I bit the bullet and made something totally out of the norm for my taste and style. Although I don’t plan on making this a habit, I think it came out great and I really enjoyed sewing it!

Although I have issues with how the pattern was styled on the pattern envelope (I love a casual shoe with a more dressed-up kind of outfit, but to me, the chunky sneakers just don’t look right with the proportions of the dress), I was drawn to how overly romantic and flowy McCalls 8108 looked without going into maxi dress territory. Of course The Fabric Store had the most perfect floral fabric for this pattern, a crepe viscose (which I was gifted) that I also think would be a perfect match for a 90’s inspired Shelby romper. The tiny flowers are pink and white on a green background, so I figured I could get away with it color palette-wise, and the drape is certainly ideal for this pattern. It’s flowy and lightweight so it doesn’t make the ruffle on the bottom look too heavy for the breeziness of the garment (which is another issue I had with the way they styled the garment on the pattern envelope- the textile they chose looks stiff and a bit voluminous, which could certainly be an intentional decision, but I’m not into it so much- I much prefer it in a less crisp, flowy fabric).

This garment came together fairly quickly and I didn’t need to make any size adjustments to it, probably because it was mostly like making a bustier without the bells and whistles. I sized down to an 8 as per usual with Big 4 patterns, and lined my bodice with a dupioni silk from my stash to give it a bit more stability and weight. I also used steel boning at the seams because on it’s own, the bodice seemed a little…flimsy. I don’t have big boobs, but something about the view I chose, the one with the detached sleeves that just kind of connect under the arms, coupled with the weight of that ruffle, made me think I should include as much support as possible. And this is a note to anyone thinking of making this pattern- I would consider a muslin or at least a double-check of the measurements against your body to make sure the bodice isn’t too short/shallow for your tastes- if I made this again I think I might add just the teeniest amount of additional length…this one works fine on me, but I wouldn’t go to the club in this and attempt dancing very hard, lol.

I could probably get away with wearing this without the boning but I would be constantly worried the dress was going to slip down. Since the bodice is so short (it ends right under the bust), I can’t really rely on  waist shaping to help hold it up, which is how I usually have success with strapless garments, so taking the extra time to sew channels for boning was well worth it, and also reminds me that I have a strapless, boned bodice jumpsuit in my roster of imaginary makes that I might as well get around to soon- I love a well-fitted strapless sweetheart bodice!

I kind of stopped paying attention to the instructions for this dress early on because I have made enough paneled strapless bodices to know my preferred way of construction. But because of this, I’m not entirely sure that I put the sleeves on in the right place, or attached them the proper way. I just used a double strand of thread to hand tack the sleeves to the bodice under the arm where I felt like it would allow me the most movement, and it seems to work well. My biggest issue with this dress is that I don’t particularly like elastic wrapped around my bicep- it feels very restrictive even if it isn’t technically too tight (but you kind of need it to be relatively firm so that the sleeves don’t look limp around your arm- the fitted elastic also helps to hold the bodice up just a bit).

The ruffle at the bottom was pieced together in three parts. Unfortunately did not have enough room to cut them from my fabric in the proper direction, but because the flowers are so small I don’t think it’s very noticeable…and if it is, it can be a considered a style choice, right? Right!

Pretty straightforward make in these very UN-straightforward times, but I’m making it work as best I can. I hope all of you are taking good care of yourself, staying as safe as you possibly can, and keeping optimistic whenever possible; we won’t come out the other side of this if we aren’t staying both vigilant and hopeful! I’m sending you all love and well wishes for good health, good thoughts, and good making!

P.S. Shoes are memade slides I completed a couple years ago I think? Time seems to have lost all meaning these day, maybe I made them last year! I love them but the leather is looking so dingy! I’m crazy about the shape of the peep toe looks on these so I’ll probably try and recreate it in another pair of flat slides soon as soon as I get some shoe-making mojo back! Thanks for the photos, Claire!

 

 

 

Life these days…

It just occurred to me while I was writing another post that I have been pretty bad at updating this blog with anything else I do aside from sewing, which is a terrible misstep for me- this blog is about being TryCurious and trying all kinds of different things in the realm of making, which I absolutely do on a regular basis, but I just forget to share it here! Although to be fair, I do a GREAT job of sharing all my different interests on my instagram account. So this post will just be a little catch up of some other things I have been spending my days immersed in during quarantine.

Of course, work is pretty much at a standstill for me since not many auditions are happening due to the fact that very few projects are currently in production. Every time a new production gets started, they have to shut it down because people start immediately getting sick. So I have been able to sink my teeth into some other interests over the past few months, mainly selling prints of my illustrations in my etsy shop and getting back into ceramics.

I felt inspired months ago to start drawing illustrations that depicted different aspects of a maker’s life. I got to thinking about how so many of us makers create beautiful, often functional artwork which gets lumped under the heading of “craft” (I have no problem being considered a crafter but I think we should also consider getting comfortable also naming ourselves as artists), and how so many of us live in homes with walls adorned with all kinds of lovely artwork and photographs and paintings that depict our aesthetic, but don’t necessarily depict us, the work we do, the art we create.

“Stockinette” illustration available at the LA yarn store The Little Knittery

With this jolt of inspiration I have been focused on creating an ongoing series of maker-inspired artwork, which I have printed on 11×17 poster paper and started selling in my etsy shop. Initially I only had two prints available and they sold out in about 3 days, which was a wonderful surprise!

I have since been selling these prints to fabric and yarn shops across north america and I even have a couple shops in the UK carrying them! Thanks to the following shops for supporting this black indie artist!

I sent out my last wholesale orders a couple of days ago, so will be ready to sell again in my own etsy shop within the next couple of weeks! If you’re interested in purchasing now, the stores above are carrying “Stockinette”, “Machine Dream”, “Sew Good” and “Sew Close” (some of the shops are offering the illustrations for purchase online). When I do open up my etsy shop again I will be making available a new piece called “Patron Saint”! You can have a look at the Maker Illustrations below:

Stockinette

Machine Dream

 

Sew Close

Sew Good

and the most recent addition, a personal fav…

Patron Saint

This last one was inspired by an instagram post I made recently where Claire called me the “Patron Saint of Pants Down”, to which I was tickled and honored to no end. Most of us who have sewn dresses or skirts for ourselves know the habit of dropping trou and shuffling to the mirror to assess how the fit of something is coming along, so it feels like an almost universal experience for a particular kind of sewist. I wish I had this on a candle!

https://www.instagram.com/p/CDIHjfOnNip/

You can find my etsy shop here, and since I have a tendency to sell out quickly I would suggest favoriting the shop so you’ll know when there are more items available. You can also follow me on instagram if you don’t already- I keep it updated regularly and always share when new items come into the shop!

As you can see from my last several posts, I’m still enjoying sewing, but I’ve decreased my output a lot during the last couple months of quarantine. I started having little glimpses of an existential crisis when I spent as much time on sewing projects as I normally did. Namely I just kept thinking “why? what is it all for?” It feels a bit more difficult to get lost in a sewing project these days when I start wondering when I will actually ever have an opportunity to wear the garments I’ve made (if the projected advice from medical professionals is any indication, it won’t be ’til several months into 2021). I’ve definitely been more interested in making casual and comfortable clothing that I can wear around the house and feel cute in as I am not a ‘PJs all day’ kind of person, but I also don’t have a lot of wardrobe needs to meet, so the sewing is just…slower. I’m excited to make a couple of those Elizabeth Suzann patterns that were made available recently to the sewing community, and I also promised my dad some masks that say “Good Trouble” on them (I finally broke down and got a used Cricut Joy to cut out the letters, lol), so although I’m not as busy with sewing as I normally am, I’m still inspired! I am actually not mad about the decrease in sewing at at all, because it’s given me so much room for my newfound obsession…CERAMICS!!!!

tiny cup with wax resist and speckled glaze

Anyone following this blog for several years might remember the post I made when I took my first pottery classes with Claire a few years ago and joined a local pottery studio. My time there was spent pretty much exclusively throwing on the wheel, which I took to fairly quickly. I loved the teacher at the studio and had a really great time familiarizing myself with the process- every single one of my christmas gifts that year was a not-always-functional but made-with-lots-of-love piece of pottery that I made, hahaha. But eventually I started working again and ended my time at that studio. Some days I missed it, but I always had sewing to fill in the gaps so I didn’t spend much time reminiscing about it. Then at the beginning of quarantine in March of this year, my sweet and extremely generous friend Stephanie asked me if I wanted to take her potter’s wheel off her hands. She had gotten into pottery for a while but had moved on to other hobbies and didn’t want the equipment taking up space in her storage area. I hadn’t really considered getting back into pottery, but I was happy to take the wheel- I figured that quarantine would give me plenty of time to get back into the groove if and when I felt inspired to dive back in.

When I went to Stephanie’s house to pick it up (all of us donning masks, even at that early stage!), I was thrilled to see that not only was she gifting me her wheel, but also a chair designed especially for wheel-throwing, a bunch of plastic bats, bags of clay, trimming and modeling tools, small ware boards, banding wheels- literally everything you would need to get started in building up a tiny but efficient home ceramics studio. I suddenly felt super excited to get back into this hobby, and I set everything up in the storage room beneath our garage, which has actually been a usable space the entire time we’ve lived here but we haven’t really known what to do with it.

perfect sized cup for a margarita, turns out. Wax resist and speckled glazes.

In the months since receiving all of Stephanie’s old pottery equipment and tools, I have carved out yet another making space in our home that brings me more delight than I ever imagined (much like my craft room where I do all of my sewing and shoemaking). And I have discovered something so important about my making process- turns out, I FLOURISH in an environment created and curated for my own needs! I’m always excited to take a class and learn from an experienced and knowledgeable teacher, and I think there is a lot of good that comes from sharing a space with other students who are also learning a process at the same pace that you are…but I see now that I am able to tap into my most inspired, most imaginative, most productive self when I am alone in my own space. Spoken like the true introvert that I am, hahaha!

After a few months of learning and experimenting and reacquainting myself with the craft of pottery, I have noticed such a marked difference between my experiences making ceramics at my local pottery studio and making them in the quiet safety of my own home. I was proud of the pieces that I created while a member of the studio, because learning something puts you in a state of vulnerability; to effectively create anything when you feel exposed to the opinions and criticisms of others is an absolute feat. But looking back, I did feel a bit disconnected from the pieces I made. I was pleased with the technical aspects of what I had done but…they just didn’t feel like me. They weren’t pieces that I would have been drawn to if I saw them on a shelf in a gift shop. They weren’t pieces that looked like I had made them. After years of making clothes and drawing illustrations and cooking meals and writing stories, I can easily recognize my own style, and I get so much joy when others recognize it, too. But the pottery I made in the studio didn’t seem to be imbued with my style at all, and maybe that’s why I never kept up the practice- I was struggling to find myself in it.

Part of that comes from the fact that I hate unsolicited advice and criticism, whether online or in person. A lot of people assume it’s because I am uncomfortable with criticism and just get defensive. But I have been acting professionally since my late teens. I went to college for theatre, art, music and dance. My career requires that I regularly perform in front of strangers and then wait for them to tell me whether they think I am good enough to get paid for it; I am all too familiar with the criticism and evaluation that comes from others weighing in on my work. And that’s why making has become such a nurturing, safe space for me! Creating art, the kind of art that is for ourselves, for our own self care, for our own enjoyment– that should never be tainted by the opinions of others (unless of course you are asking for it, which is the difference between solicited and unsolicited advice).

an attempt at creating a watercolor effect with glaze on a small tumblr

The advent of social media has only perpetuated the tendency for strangers to weigh in on the work of others, and it happens ALL THE TIME with sewing- someone shares a beautiful garment that they have worked hard on in an instagram post and comments pour in from virtual strangers along the lines of “are you gonna fix the hem?” or “this looks so much better than the last thing you made!” or “you should work on getting a better fit in the shoulders” or “I think this would have looked better in linen”, and so on and so on. Are these strangers’ opinions valid? Absolutely! But do they need to be shared with anyone else? HELL. TO. THE. NO. I have gotten pretty good at setting boundaries on my instagram- anyone leaving a comment or sending me a DM that criticizes, offers advice I never asked for, or otherwise projects their negative personal perspectives into my space (this includes anti-fat or sexually objectifying comments) gets an immediate “you don’t get to say this to me, and this is why…” response. Most people are receptive to it, but every once in a while people get defensive, and then I just block them. The joys of social media are few and far between some days, but being able to block assholes is one of the most pleasurable things it has brought me. I only wish I could block people like that in real life!

unglazed pieces ready to be fired

Unfortunately we live in a white supremacist world ruled by patriarchy norms, so I get mansplained and whitesplained all the time. I am not always able to defend myself against it in everyday situations, like at work, so I will be damned if I let it fly in my curated spaces on social media. I remember once when I was at the pottery studio working on something, a man who was a member of the studio came to up to me (we had never spoken before) and told me that I was “doing it wrong”. I was enraged but didn’t say anything because I don’t like trying to have conversations with men who so boldly interfere with other’s personal space (and yes, I consider art that I am creating my “personal space”). I don’t remember specifically what I was working on, but I know I was experimenting with a new technique and trying out something weird and interesting. I was attempting to see if the technique would work, which is generally how I learn best- I don’t like to be told a million rules that might reflect on the teacher’s preferences and process rather than the craft itself. I prefer to learn by trial and error. I get a better understanding of why something won’t work by doing it myself and understanding the consequences rather than someone just telling me “don’t do it this way” and offering no context. I am able to find so much more nuance and space for experimentation by understanding firsthand the why’s of a situation rather just having them told to me, but unfortunately classroom settings are not always the most inclusive, supportive spaces for experimentation, especially if you are sensitive to the prying eyes of others (raises hand).

To be clear, I love talking about process and method and approach with others whose work I admire- it’s just another way for me to learn! But telling someone they are “doing it wrong” does not leave space for conversation or even education. It does not invite a dialogue. It does not create a safe space for people to explore in their making process. You know what does invite dialogue? Curiosity. Questions. Inquisitiveness. “Oh, what do you plan to make with that?” or “How are you gonna do this part?” or simply “what are you working on?” are all ways to start a conversation and share information that are much more preferable to a statement like “you shouldn’t do it that way”.

progress of an inauthentic mishima-type process, where you cover a leather hard project in wax, carve out a design in the piece, then cover the lines in underglaze. The wax keeps the underglaze from adhering to anything but the raw clay, and then, once it is bisque-fired, the wax will burn off, leaving colored indented lines. You can then glaze the piece like normal and give it a final fire.

All this is to say that being able to create in my own time has allowed my imagination to prosper! The things I am creating are strange and beautiful, but most importantly, they feel like me! I’m still in a process of learning the do’s and don’t of ceramics (because there are a lot of technical elements to account for after a piece of clay has been manipulated, as well as safety precautions, which I take very seriously). But the growth of my own ability, style, and methodology seems to be keeping pace with my learning curve, and I am having so much fun! I want to be clear that I don’t think there is one specific way that everyone will thrive in. We all have different preferences and tastes and all our brains work and respond to things differently- there is no such thing as a “right way”. But I do think that figuring out your own ideal set up is important in the life of a maker. Maybe you are the most inspired when it’s noisy and busy and music is playing and people are all around you working on the same thing. Maybe you like to be in a quiet room at the end of the day with a little fan whirring and a work lamp lighting your space. Maybe you like to have an on-going stream of true crime shows squeaking out of your laptop with a glass of wine close by and a baby napping in the corner. You might not be able to replicate this ideal space every time you are able to make. But knowing what to strive for makes a big difference, and allows you to anticipate what you might be able to accomplish when you have all or none of your preferred parameters in place.

As for my own ceramics practice, I’ve effectively created an ideal space to work in (although Claire is growing plants on the other side of the room, which is a visual distraction for me whenever I walk in- thankfully my work spaces are turned away from that area, haha). I’m bordering on obsessed, where I’m devouring books about handbuilding and wheel throwing and going to sleep dreaming about projects I want to try and waking up excited to put my visions into practice. I felt like this when I came back to sewing 7 years ago, thinking about it all the time, consumed by everything I wanted to learn and do and try; it feels a little like falling in love. I don’t have this same relationship to sewing any more, which isn’t a complaint. Falling in love isn’t a sustainable place for my creative mind to exist in long term, and after years of learning about sewing and fit adjustments and fabric and patterns and color palettes and curating my closet, I’m experienced enough that I don’t consider myself to be falling anymore- I’ve landed! And I LOVE being on solid ground with my sewing practice! I’m still inspired and motivated and I still find challenges in the craft, but I feel secure, encouraged, confident with it all these years later.

small thrown dish with handbuilt flower

I would love to get to that place with my ceramics, but I have to say, I am truly thrilled by the journey of falling. I’m sure there are lots of factors involved that have set the stage for this inspired time in my life (can’t work professionally, can’t socialize in the ways I’m used to, can’t safely leave the house, can’t go on trips- I feel like I’m on sabbatical in my own home) but so far I have been able to utilize the parameters I have been given to my own benefit, and I feel EXTREMELY GRATEFUL. Everyone’s experience of this pandemic is different, and there are lots of people out there who aren’t finding any “joy” in our current circumstances, which is completely understandable. My own moods and motivation have a tendency to swing all over the place, so I just try and meet myself wherever I’m at with patience and compassion. Sometimes it’s really hard, and other times it’s easy. Life in a nutshell.

I’m thinking of doing a more detailed series here about my ceramics journey because, even though I do love wheel throwing, I have found so much delight in handbuilding, which I have been learning about from books and online classes that I have been taking from a local pottery studio called POT LA. This is not the studio I belonged to before, and I wonder how different my experiences would have been learning in an environment curated by the WOC owners of POT LA, a studio that is working to educate, support and amplify the queer and POC community, but I digress. One of the many great things about POT LA is that, with their doors closed for the pandemic, they have been offering paid online courses that anyone anywhere can take. So even if you don’t live in LA, if you can supply your own clay tools (which are fairly easy to find or repurpose), you can learn and create from the comfort of your own home. Lots of local studios will allow you to fire and glaze pieces in their kiln for a small fee, so you can probably do a little research and learn more about what’s available to you in your own city.

I that feel that handbuilding is more accessible to more people, and I think the stunning pieces that you can create just with your hands often get overlooked by the glamour of working on a wheel. In the handbuilding book I am reading right now, each section is divided into projects that build upon the previous techniques shared, so I think I might go through and work on making all of them, to both build up my own skillset and share how vast the world of handbuilding can be, and how your hands can create something that looks just as professional and elegant as what you can make on a wheel.

And piggy-backing on my earlier mention of kilns- as you can probably tell by this post, I have two! My first one, I called it Baby Kiln  because it’s so small, is maybe 6 inches across and 6 inches deep. It’s a used dental kiln, meant for making dentures and veneers out of porcelain, and Claire surprised me with it for my birthday in April because I was getting so deep into pottery and feeling frustrated by the prospect of having to rely on someone else’s kiln to finish my pieces. It took me like, almost two months to finally use it because I wanted to educate myself and learn as much as I could about the process. Once I finally got comfortable with it and had success with firing , I realized quickly that if I ever wanted to try and do some small batch productions of ceramic pieces, the tiny kiln would be far too limiting for my needs. It could hold one mug or one medium sized bowl at a time- anything larger than that was a no-go. So I scoured online classified for weeks and finally found an affordable used CRESS kiln on craigslist that has about triple the space of Baby Kiln. I call this one Mother Kiln and I have had two successful firings in her so far! Thanks to my instagram friend Bob who generously donated his knowledge from his experience as a ceramicist and gave me loads of information to help me be successful in my first firings!

This post has been more musing than anything else, but it felt overdue. I love talking about making here! Thanks for reading, and following along on all the different paths our maker journeys can take us down!

 

 

Jasika Blazer

Alas! I have finally, finally, FINALLY made the Jasika Blazer by Closet Core Patterns, the sewing pattern that Heather Lou so generously named after me! Spoiler alert: I LOVE ITTTTTT! SO DEEEEEEPLY!!!!!!! Now you might be saying to yourself, wow, this pattern came out about a year ago-ish, why did it take so long for her to make it? And that is an EXCELLENT question! Readers, buckle up, this is a long blog post lol!

I was so stoked when the pattern was finally released that I bought my fabric for it before I even had an actual copy of the pattern in my hands. Even though I don’t normally shop at Mood (and don’t plan on doing so ever again after their appropriation of Masai culture for their most recent fabric print release), I knew they would probably have the best selection of wool fabrics suitable for this project, so I scoured their website and narrowed down all the options til I came up with something I loved- a sky blue and white windowpane check wool suiting. It was expensive (having a pattern named after you seems like a great time to splurge on a beautiful fabric!) and clean and crispy and springtime-y , perfect for the season, and I ordered enough to make myself a pair of matching pants. When it arrived in the mail shortly afterwards, it was just as stunning in person, but it had a much looser weave than I anticipated and I immediately wondered if it would be the right kind of weight for a tailored jacket…but I put the doubt out of my mind and waited for the pattern and additional blazer materials kit (which Heather sells in her shop) to arrive.

Life got busy and I found myself putting the blazer off because I wanted to give it my full attention, not squeeze it in between a bunch of other projects I was trying to get done. And then my work life changed dramatically when I found out I was going to be spending much of my next year in Vancouver, so the blazer got pushed back indefinitely. On one of my weekends back in LA, I pulled out the pattern and cut out all the pattern pieces (heads up, folks, there are a LOT of them!), gathered my fabric and notions and carted everything back to Vancouver with me so I could work on the project in my apartment up there, but I quickly realized this was not the smartest decision. The Jasika Blazer is a beautiful tailored jacket with lots of pressing and tweaking and special techniques required in the construction process, so sewing it away from home without all my special tools handy made no sense (I didn’t bring my tailor’s ham or clapper with me to Vancouver cause they were too cumbersome and weren’t necessary for most of my projects, but it would have been a grave mistake to try and make the blazer without them).

All of this is to say that the blue windowpane fabric sat untouched in a closet in my vancouver apartment for about nine months til I moved back down to LA. By this time it was February and I had just come out of my Curated Closet/Palette Color stupor. By the time I pulled out that beautiful windowpane fabric again, finally ready to tackle the project, I realized….oh my god, I didn’t want to use the fabric anymore! I still thought it was beautiful of course, but I had learned that baby blue is just not in my color palette and doesn’t make me shine the way so many other colors, like oranges, browns, yellows and greens do. That’s not to say I won’t ever wear the color- I can totally make blue work when it is used as an accent for my seasonal colors, but I just didn’t feel excited about sewing a complicated, time-consuming garment in something that wasn’t smack dab in the middle of my palette, something I could get tons of wear out of with everything in my wardrobe. So the project went on hiatus yet again…

Sometime in early February of 2020, before all the proverbial shit hit the fan, I found myself in Michael Levine’s (the only LA fabric store I frequented in the past few years which has had to permanently shut it’s doors thanks to coronavirus, RIP!) looking for a specific type of fabric for some project or another, and I came across the most remarkable tweed I had seen in recent memory. It was a remnant bolt from some designer’s collection, and it immediately caught my eye because it was so stunning.

It is mostly golden yellow and dark brown, but there are tiny flecks of pretty much every other color in there as well- reds, blues, blacks, grays, greens. It’s so brilliant that it’s almost hard to decide what the main color is- in certain lights it looks green, in others it looks like a muted gold. Whatever it is, it’s very obviously in my color palette so I brought a yard and a half home with me, thinking it would make a great pair of wide legged trousers. A couple of weeks later I was hit by a bolt of sewing inspo and I ran to my craft room to see if there was enough of this fabric to make the Jasika blazer with- I had suddenly realized that it was the most perfect, plushy wool for the blazer, and thankfully I had enough fabric to make it happen!

The beginning of my blazer making timed out pretty perfectly with the coronavirus quarantine so I suddenly had LOTS of time to dedicate to this project. Even so, I decided to take my time with it, to divide it up into little bite sized chunks so I wouldn’t get overwhelmed by working on the same project for such a long time. I gave myself little palette cleansers in between some of the bigger steps, for example, I cut my muslin out first and made some small fit adjustments to the paper pattern pieces, then I worked on pottery for a couple days. Next I cut out all the main pieces out of my fabric and attached the interfacings, then I worked on a less complicated sewing pattern. It was fun to divide it up this way, as it gave me something to look forward to while ensuring that I didn’t get bored or saturated by the project (which only became important because of the weird atmosphere of staying at home for so many weeks months seasons?? in a row).

I love sewalongs for complicated or new-to-me projects so was SUPER excited to be able to have my hand held through each step of the blazer process by watching the class that accompanies the Blazer pattern. Heather Lou and her team put together a BEAUTIFUL, professional class series that guides you through each step of the construction process, from discussions about what fabric to use to the differences between interfacings to why we need sleeve heads. But I want to ensure you that the class isn’t necessary to make the blazer. As always, Close Core Patterns has excellent instructions with very clear images and descriptions of each step, and I relied mostly on them to get through the blazer, but I liked having additional visuals to ensure I was doing everything correctly. I also learned a lot just by listening to Heather talk about the process and share interesting tidbits of information along the way. I got in the habit of watching the next lesson over breakfast or lunch before I went downstairs to sew, and then implementing what I learned in my work that day (although occasionally the laptop had to come downstairs with me so I could watch it in time with what I was doing). In short, the class isn’t necessary to make the jacket, but it takes out any guesswork you might have about certain steps that might be unfamiliar to you, and if you generally like to follow sewalongs, the video is definitely going to add a lot of ease to your experience of making the blazer.

As far as fitting goes, I graded the hips out to a size larger (I think I made a 4 in the bust/waist and went up to a 6 in the hip) but once I made my muslin, I realized I had miscalculated the ease somehow. I’m not entirely sure how this happened since the pattern clearly states the finished measurements on the envelope, but I guess I wasn’t paying enough attention or just misjudged how much hip ease I would need. Either way, the muslin fit like a dream through the shoulders, bust and waist, and viewing from the front, the hips looked like they fit great, too, but the back told a different story; the vent was splayed open about a 1 1/4″. I evenly distributed that 1 1/4″ across the hip areas of the front, side and back on my pattern pieces and then transferred that additional width to the lining pieces as well. I shortened the sleeves about an inch or so (customary adjustment for me) but didn’t need to take any length out of the body- CCP tends to be proportional on me in this arena.

The adjustments I made were all great but I could probably use a teeny tiny bit of extra room in the underarms. I had no issues at all with my muslin, but of course my muslin didn’t have the sleeve heads, horsehair, interfacing and lining attached, and it wasn’t made out of thick wool. I did use my shoulder pads in the muslin fitting, but it still wasn’t a great approximation for how the arms would ultimately fit. The shoulders are perfect on me, I just wish there was a little more room for my arm to move around and feel comfortable in the underarm area, but I think it’s just a matter of personal preference for me personally because…ummm….well, I like to do impromptu dances and kicks at a moment’s notice, lol. The fit is definitely wearable and most importantly it doesn’t cut into my underarms at all, it’s just something I will probably make a tiny change to the next time I make it. After an in-prpgress try-on, I went inside the jacket and trimmed off the teeniest bit more from the seam allowance (you’re instructed to trim no less than 3/8″ in this area), and it seems to be a little bit looser now that I have worn it a couple times.

I chose a fairly bold leather for the elbow patches on this jacket, which I love- it’s a vintage-y 70’s green that looked out of place in my wardrobe before my closet curation and now matches everything. Ironically, this is where I got snagged the most while making this jacket- I have no idea how, and I am embarrassed to admit this (I blame Covid-19), but I sewed the sleeves on backwards, ugggggghhhh!!!!! Obviously this has happened to all of us at some point in our sewing career, but these sleeves are actually drafted to be slightly curved to follow the natural line of the elbow and arm as it moves towards the front of the body, so I feel like I should have known better. Regardless, when I first tried the jacket on to see how the sleeves fit, the elbow patches were on the fronts of my forearms (LOL) and my immediate assumption was that I had accidentally put the patches on in the wrong place. It wasn’t until I had unpicked them, sewn them onto the proper sides of the sleeves and tried the jacket on again that I realized the entire sleeve was set in backwards, and I hadn’t needed to take the patches off at all. UGGGGGHHHH again. So I unpicked the sleeves from the armholes and opened the inside seam of the sleeve so that I could lay the sleeve flat to re-sew the elbow patch on again. Re-sewed the sleeves right ways, tried it on again. Claire was visiting me in the craft room and said “those elbow patches look kind of low”. I gave her a foul look but she was right, somehow I had sewn them on so low that they looked almost like wrist patches, UGGGHHHHHH for the third time! So off they came again, and this time I trimmed them down a little on all sides because 1. I thought they were a little big proportionally on my jacket (the patch is drafted to be one size fits all), and 2. they had holes from my sewing machine needle on the edges from sewing them so many times. Although I think I could probably have sewn them a little more towards the center of where my elbow rests, you can imagine how uninterested I was in sewing them a 4th time so we are going to act like they are perfectly and exquisitely placed now, lol!

After the elbow patches the rest of the jacket came together quickly…or, wait, that’s not true. I got stuck and stumped a couple more times, again, through no fault of the pattern, but because my brain needed more breaks than I was giving it. I sewed the lining together and took it out twice because I thought I had put it together wrong; the lining of course has different right and left sides to match up with the different sides of the back vent, and I kept convincing myself it was incorrect. It wasn’t.  LE SIIIIGHHHHH. Eventually (after a long break!) I got my shit together, sewed my correctly pieced lining to the outer jacket, and birthed it. Ahhhh, sweet satisfaction! A lot of people feel squeamish about sharing their coat birthing videos with the public but I personally LOVE it, and I was very excited to share the experience of bringing my beautiful new blazer into the world on instagram! (will make this a highlight on my instagram cause yall just LOVE coat birthing videos! lol)

This wool was absolutely MADE for this pattern- it’s so thick and plush and the stitching just sinks into the surface of the fabric. I truly think that one of the reasons this jacket looks so stunning is because it’s such a good match of fabric and pattern. Like, I’m a decent seamstress, but this thing looks damn near PERFECT- any flaws or wonky stitch work is totally covered up by the thick wool fabric, and I am NOT mad about it! And now that this jacket is done, I can see what a pain my thin, slightly airy window pane check wool suiting would have been to make in this pattern. Initially I was disappointed in how long it took me to finish this blazer (it’s such an honor to have a pattern named after you, who in their right mind would wait so long??) but now I am ridiculously happy that I didn’t push myself into the project before I was ready because I know I wouldn’t have come out with such a pristine, stunning garment. Whether it was the sewing gods intervening, my own sixth sense being stimulated, or just a coincidence of the universe, this blazer wanted to be born into the world in a perfectly suitable textile that was in my color palette, created at a time when I had plenty of physical and mental energy to give to it. I am so thankful! Failures are an important part of the creative process, but I don’t think I would have been able to handle a big loss like this blazer during quarantine, so I feel very lucky to have it turn out such a success!

As you can see, there are several more memade garments included in this blog post, and I am just going to briefly chat about them since I don’t want this blog post to turn into a whole novel.

The Jenny Shorts are another CCP make that I sewed in some stunning bull denim from Blackbird Fabrics. I have made the Jenny Overalls before and used the bottoms from the pattern to hack onto other bodices, but this was my first time making the shorts and I absolutely LOVE them. Great coverage, comfortable, interesting details I love the warm color and the weight and feel of the denim was so fun to sew- very stable and substantial for bottomweight but not super stiff and rough like a lot of woven denim tends to be.

The button up shirting fabric is gifted from The Fabric Store – I made this garment from Butterick 5526 a while ago but was never happy with the photos I took of it. Lladybird raved about this pattern on her blog forever ago which is why I bought the pattern (I wouldn’t have thought twice about it if it weren’t for her) and she is right- it’s a terrific design! The version I made has princess seams and 3/4 sleeves and it fits like a dream- I made no mods and was able to make the size I actually fit into and it’s so lovely. It fits my petite frame so nicely but doesn’t feel too tight anywhere, and I absolutely plan on making more, as soon as I feel inspired to make dress up clothes again. I have worn regular clothes pretty much every day of quarantine (yes, even bras! What can I say, I have comfortable soft bras that I love wearing!) but have kept it quite casual- I can’t remember the last time I dressed up for anything other than blog photos or putting myself on tape for an audition. Anyways, white is not in my color palette, but I think this shirt works if I’m wearing with other colors from my palette, and I can definitely get away with it in summer time when my skin is a deeper shade of brown.

Next we have the yellow Alphonse Trousers seen in the photos towards the beginning of the post which has been my favorite pattern discovery of the past several months. I am a huge fan of the high waist, loose fit in the hips and thighs, and tapered ankles of the pattern, and it’s relatively quick make since they fit me right out of the envelope. I made them in silk velvet here and in a stunning drapey tweed here and these yellow ones are made of a super soft. almost velvety cotton from The Fabric Store.

Lastly are the green slides seen in the top photos which I made from the same leather as my elbow patches, because again, IT’S IN MY PALETTE! They were a super simple make, but when I tell you that I wear them about 5 days out of the week because they go with EVERYTHIIIIING! I actually plan on making another pair of slides in an orange color to fully round out my summer slides game, and then I should be set (and hopefully wont wear the green ones into the ground any time soon)!

Whew that is a LOT of makes! Thanks for the pictures, Claire!

And thank you again Heather Lou for including me in your illustrious line-up of makers to name your patterns after. I truly could not be more honored by the recognition, or more impressed by the pattern! Your team continues to push the sewing community to challenge themselves and tackle exciting projects like these, and my personal sewing skills have grown so much thanks to your designs! Sending fist bumps and shimmies to you all in Montreal!

Colorblocked Kalle

Colorblocked Kalle

FYI: This post is about the Kalle Shirt/Shirtdress by the artist formerly known as Closet Case Patterns- they have now had a name change and can be found at Closet Core Patterns! Same great patterns, cool designs and inspiring and informative blog, but with a new name! You can check out their blog to learn a little bit more on the why’s of the name change. As a massive fan of this brand of patterns I have made just about everything they have released, so I plan to go through all my old blog posts to find where I have tagged their company so I can change it to their new name.

Colorblocked Kalle

I stumbled upon the idea for this colorblocked Kalle by accident. In my stash were two cuts of raw, nubby silk that I had purchased from different fabric stores, and I bought them with no idea whatsoever of what I planned to make with them, I just really like this kind of raw silk and I snag it up whenever I have a chance. I had saved both pieces when I did my fabric palette color cull at the beginning of the year, even though one was only marginally in my deep autumn palette.

The sunny, bright yellow was an obvious yes, but the salmon was debatable. Warm, orangey peaches definitely work within my palette, but this salmon-y color is more cool than warm, and I could even tell when I held it up to my skin that it made me look pretty grey. But I kept it anyways because I’m the boss! Although I love having parameters to work with in my makes, I don’t ever want to feel like the PALETTE is in total control, and I like experimenting and seeing how I can involve other pieces outside of my normal style/color scheme. I wondered if the yellow might be lively enough to bring up the kind of dull mood the salmon silk was conveying, and the Kalle shirt seemed like a brilliant pattern to test out my theory on.

 

I’ve made the Kalle a bunch of times, both for myself and for Claire, and it’s a real TNT for me. It’s so easy to wear and it’s a very straightforward make, but it also has lots of room for playing around with the design. I’ve made the kalle shirtdress in a silk that I sandwashed in my washing machine and one of my fav versions is in a striped grey and white linen that I changed directions on so that one side was vertical and the other horizontal (never made it to the blog but it’s been on my IG feed a bunch):

https://www.instagram.com/p/CAoDEDxn68V/

The construction was very straightforward- again, I am familiar with this pattern because I have made it about 5 or 6 times now, so I don’t have much more to say about the make itself that I haven’t mentioned in my other blog posts (here is my first make of this pattern)! I decided to french all the inside seams since I knew you would get glimpses of the innards while I was wearing it and I wanted it to look nice and clean.

Fiddling around with the color blocking for this project wasn’t too tricky either, it just required some thoughtfulness of where I needed to add seam allowances (if I was splitting one pattern piece into two) and which sides needed to be a certain color. I will admit that I had to go slow with the collar pieces, lol. My brain gets easily confused with this sort of stuff but it doesn’t help me to plan it out by writing it down in advance- I have to see the fabric and the pattern pieces all laid out for them to make sense to me. I decided to do the collar all in one color to add just a tiny bit of visual interest to the garment, and since yellow is the warmer of the two hues, I wanted to have as much of it close to my face as possible (the inside of the collar is colorblocked the opposite way of the outer shirt, which I guess is just a little something for me to enjoy when I put the shirt on, haha.

Josephine’s Dry Goods kindly provided THE MOST PERFECT buttons for this top, and we did it all through instagram DMs which I am very impressed by; the color is spot on!

Oh, one other huge thing I did with this top besides colorblock it was to lengthen the back piece, haha- can’t believe I didn’t start this post with that information. I see these pics and forget that this isn’t exactly how the pattern was drafted!

 

I got the idea for this dramatic high-lo hem from, you guessed it- pinterest!

…and the bravery to try the yellow and salmon together from this image. My color choices aren’t quite the same, but the spirit is there!

My kalle is obviously a much more wearable version of the first image above but I do love the idea of a shirt as kind of a cape (I’ve been going around calling this top my “butt cape” lol), and I’m really happy with how this ended up! It’s fun and its interesting and I got to use two fabrics from my stash that, until this point, I couldn’t figure out how to utilize! Altering the back piece was super easy, I just added a lengthen line on the pattern piece and added several inches, but you can’t forget to transfer that same length to the hem facing. One of my favorite details about this pattern is the hefty hem facing that gives the garment a bit of visual and physical weight- I loooove that curve at the sides, and the dramatic drop on the back is so nice!

My only issue is that I am not entirely sure how to style it. I threw it on with some persephone pants for the purposes of this photo shoot, but truth be told, I had taken photos of like, 7 other garments already before we photographed the Kalle shirt and I was too tired to work on putting together a nice outfit- I just wanted to get it done. So I’m not sold on this outfit (I personally prefer this top with more slim-fitting bottoms), but I am curious to see what it would look like with a couple other items from my wardrobe- namely these hot pink pants (also made in raw nubby silk!) or these baby blue Peaches Trousers that might tell a beautiful color story. I’ll probably share some more ideas on what to style this with on IG stories or something at some point in the future, so if you follow me there, stay tuned!

Espadrilles: me made

Persephone Pants: me made

Kalle shirt: me made

Thanks for the photos, Claire!

 

Ombre Dress

 

I got this fabric for either Christmas or my birthday several years ago, I can’t remember which. It’s an ombre silk charmeuse from Mood and there were several colorways to choose from- I’m also not sure who this gift was from (I think it was Claire?) but I am SO HAPPY they chose this golden and deep brown version because, even though I hadn’t curated my closet and gotten into my colors when I put this fabric on my wishlist, it’s smack in the middle of my palette and looks really nice with my skintone.

I fell deeply in love with this silk as soon as I held it in my hands but I had NO idea what I wanted to make with it- I didn’t even have an idea when I saw it on the Mood website, I just knew that I wanted to have it. So it has sat in my fabric drawer, unused, for about 3 or 4 years. It wasn’t one of those “this fabric is too nice and expensive for me to use it on anything” pieces, I just kept getting stumped on what pattern would best match it’s qualities. I wanted something that would allow the full measure of the ombre to stand out, which was tricky because the color gradation of the silk occurs from one selvedge edge to the other, as opposed to having the ombre spread out in measured panels lengthwise. This meant that I had to be smart about which pattern I chose and I had to make sure that my layout would work within the confines of my yardage (I think I got three yards), but since I had to follow the rules of working with a directional print, it meant there was much less space to play around with and I would be squeezing as much as I possibly could out of the fabric.

I don’t think I realized when I bought the SashaMcCalls 8036 pattern that it might be a good match for this fabric- it actually took me a few weeks of the pattern hanging out in my craft room to make the connection! I was just casually going through my smaller-than-before stash one day and I pulled out this silk, as I had done a million times before to no avail. I glimpsed this pattern  out of the corner of my eye and poured over the pattern details to see if I would have enough fabric for it. It seemed like a good match because 1. it has a waistline, which meant I would have a little wiggle room in matching the ombre from top to bottom, 2. the skirt was full and swingy, which was important to me so that the beautiful soft drape of the fabric could take centerstage, and 3. it had some interesting design details, like those dramatic sleeves!

Although I love the version with the buttons down the side, I thought this fabric would work best in the most simple, uninterrupted silhouette possible- putting buttonholes in charmeuse felt like it would have been the biggest mistake ever- I personally like to mess with this type of fabric as LITTLE as possible. It wasn’t terrible to sew with, but the tiniest little threads in the fabric wanted to snag every once in a while, even with brand new microtex needles inserted into my machine, so the less I had to handle it, the better.

I was smart enough with this project to make sure that I made a muslin before cutting into my precious silk, and I only made some minor, customary (for me) adjustments on the pattern pieces, like grading between sizes at the waist and hips. I usually shorten the bodice on big 4 patterns but I think this one didn’t require it, which was a nice surprise. I was on the fence about the sleeves at first, worried that they would not look very proportionate on me because of all the drama they are drafted with, but turns out they are my favorite part of the dress!

Once my muslin was finished and I was happy with the fit, I laid out the pattern pieces so that the brighter yellow gold at one end of the ombre would be closest to my face and the deeper brown would fade to the bottom of the skirt. I’m sure it would have looked really nice the other way, too, but since golden yellow is one of my favorite colors, I wanted that to be the part that got the most action. I ombre matched the bodice and skirt so that the fade of the colors would look uninterrupted from top to bottom by overlapping the placement of the pattern pieces by the width of the seam allowance along the same lengthwise line of the fabric, and it worked out well. I just barely got my sleeves in on the same line of the fabric, though to be honest, one of them had to be cut slightly off the parallel line of ombre because I had do little fabric to work with. I figured it wouldn’t be obvious since the sleeves would be separated by my torso and therefore any discrepancies would not easily be seen, and I was right- I can’t tell where on the sleeve there is the slightly color variation!

The construction of the dress is pretty simple, the only trick for me was being gentle with my delicate fabric and making sure the pleats of my sleeves were aligned properly. This charmeuse doesn’t recover well from holes made by machine or hand sewing needles, but I couldn’t easily get around them when constructing the sleeves- since the fabric is slippery, I had to baste the pleats down as per the instructions (I was worried that sticky tape would have left gunk and stained the fabric) and the price I paid for this is that you can see several faint 2 inch long trails of needle holes at the heads of the sleeves where the pleats are. Small price to pay as you have to really be looking hard for them, but still annoying. While I love the overall look of this dress and am so happy I made it, charmeuse is just not my favorite fabric to work with- believe it or not, I would take silk velvet any day of the week! Ha!

Besides the slipperiness of the fabric and extra care I had to take to sew it every step of the way, it’s just not particularly easy to wear. It likes to wrinkle A LOT, but ironing it is tricky because it loves to soak up the imprint of whatever is underneath it (seam lines and edges and folds) and steaming was difficult because the fabric just LOVED to pick up water stains. After completing this dress I actually found it so hard to do a final press that I took it to the dry cleaners. It came out looking great, but just in the transition from cleaners to car to closet it picked up wrinkles again, lol. And what’s more, when I wear it, the fabric is so slippery that it doesn’t really want to stay closed at the front bodice wrap- just in the process of taking these pictures I found myself constantly looking down to make sure my bra wasn’t showing. The fabric is much too delicate to sew in a snap at the front, which I normally do on wrapped garments that like to loosen up over wear, so I will have to see if fabric tape will do the trick. This is of course not even mentioning the fact that one mediocre gust of wind is enough to blow this floaty fabric up and away from my entire body, a la Marilyn Monroe over the subway grate, so wardrobe malfunctions are high on my list of worries when wearing this thing, lol.

So I’ve barely worn this dress and I already have some limitations on how, when and where I can get away with wearing this dress: preferably inside, possibly outside with a coat/jacket worn on top, with plenty of fashion tape in my purse, and ideally with a very plain slip underneath! But oddly, I’m still happy I made it! Each of my makes is an opportunity to learn a little bit more about the marriage of fabric and pattern, about new techniques and classic ones, and about my own preferences when it comes to construction and taste. I hope I get an opportunity to wear this dress to the perfect event sometime in the near-ish future (seems like it’s mostly zoom calls these days, but a girl can dream!) and I am also excited to make this pattern again in a more appropriate, easy-to-wear fabric, like a lightweight linen or cotton. See you next time, Sasha!

Photos by Claire Savage, maker necklace from Closet Case Files, RTW shoes.

 

Mustard Linen Jumpsuit and Windowpane Check Duster

Before I begin this post, I just want to take a moment to make my position very clear- I am a staunch proponent of #blacklivesmatter #blacktranslivesmatter #disabledtranslivesmatter and #defundingthegoddamnpolice. I am so worn out by the last couple weeks and I have tried to use my social media platforms as much as I can to share information on anti-racism, dispel harmful myths about blackness, shine light on the effects of white supremacy, and uplift the voices of my black, queer community. At this point I am exhausted from having these dialogues and dealing with the ignorance that is par for the course when we start talking about why black lives matter, so I don’t have much energy to write anything very eloquent here right now (other than this blog post that I wrote weeks ago and am only now getting around to posting, haha). My website will not be a space for debate or “conversation” with white people on why black lives need to be protected and police brutality needs to finally, FINALLY, end. You are either on our side, or you are in the way. I expect that I will write more on this at some point in the future, but ’til then, if you are not an actively anti-racist person, please feel free to begin the journey of defunding your own personal white supremacy/anti-blackness and seeking out information to enlighten your mind, your heart, and your spirit…anywhere but in the comments of my post 🙂

My inspiration for this jumpsuit came directly from themindfulsewist, who used FibreMood’s Carmella Jumpsuit as a starting off point and ended up with this beautiful thing!

https://www.instagram.com/p/B58fVDaAroa/

My jumpsuit has a slightly different fit than hers (which makes me want to give hers another go at some point) but I still love how mine came out. I already had so many similar jumpsuit patterns in my stash that I couldn’t bear cutting a new one out and figuring out all the alterations, so I combined 3 or 4 patterns to end up where I did, with a slightly loose-fitting, cropped legged jumpsuit. I started out with the pants of the Intrepid Boilersuit Pattern from Alice & Co that I tested a while back, then I added the Leah Jumpsuit pattern from FibreMood (I hadn’t made this pattern before but liked the collar and boxy but not-too-loose bodice). Next I used the popover button placket from the Kalle shirtdress to create that beautiful front button band, and I think there was a little taste of a McCalls jumpsuit pattern in there…but I can’t remember exactly where- maybe in the crotch curve of the pants? lol)

Anyways, it was a real Franken-sperience putting it all together, and I didn’t quite nail it. Aesthetically it’s great, but fit-wise I really don’t like the bodice. The arm holes are too low and I hate that webbed underarm look in garments where it seems like your arm and torso are connected. It’s not uncomfortable, but I like the fit of the arms on the Intrepid Boilersuit much better. Additionally, I’m not super pleased with the crotch depth- it’s just a teeny bit too short and has a tendency to ride up when I first put it on (versus once the linen has relaxed a bit). That part is all my fault- I usually leave like, a whole inch in the seam allowance of the waistband so that I can adjust the fit as necessary, but because of the order in which I sewed the button placket in relation to the rest of the garment, I had to make a decision on length before I was able to fully try it on, and I cut myself a little short.

The popover placket is one of the things that really drew me to themindfulsewist’s jumpsuit- it looks so finished and modern with it, much more interesting than the standard button bands I usually tack onto the front. And I always hate figuring out how to finish the bottom of the normal placket where it attaches to the crotch seam. Mine just never seem to turn out very clean. But this one looks great! Unfortunately, because I was hacking so many different patterns together and wasn’t following any one set of instructions, I painted myself into a bunch of weird corners in the process of sewing this. I got myself out of every single one of them, thankfully, but watching me figure all the details out in real time was quite the sight!

 

This was mainly because I really liked the popover button placket technique for the Kalle shirtdress and didn’t want to draft a new one for the jumpsuit; I essentially just took the popover pattern piece, lengthened it to fit all the way from the neckline to the crotch, then followed the instructions as written. Since the popover placket gets sewn onto a flat, uncut bodice front (you cut the placket open during construction after it’s been sewn and stabilized to the front piece), this meant that I needed to sew the waistband before I sewed the placket, but sewing the waistband on first meant I also couldn’t try it on for fit adjustments (it’s a woven garment, so a closed front meant I couldn’t try it on until after I had already made the placket). I solved this by doing some very weird clothing yoga where only half the waistband was sewn so I wouldn’t have to unpick the WHOLE thing in case the fit was off, and then I just kind of held the bodice up to my body with my legs in the pants and eyeballed where the shoulders hit, lol. It was bizarre! And inexact! As I said earlier in the post, I could have given myself a tiny bit more room at the waist to create more room in the crotch and more of a bloused effect, but it’s not uncomfortable so I am not stressing too much about it. Again, the garment is made of linen, so it softens and stretches out quite a bit after some wear.

Speaking of the fabric, WOWZA, amirite? This is a stunning vintage washed linen from The Fabric Store in the most beautiful blend of green, brown and yellow I could imagine. Mustard is in my color palette (obviously!) and I think it’s brilliant, one of those colors that doesn’t say much when by itself, but when worn against brown skin, it just sizzles.

So you may be asking, what the hell is going on with those pockets, lol. I loved the pockets from the inspo make- extra big patch pockets that took up practically the whole thigh. I waited to draft the pockets until after the majority of the jumpsuit was constructed so I could make sure I got the proportions correct, but once I got to that point, I realized I had very little fabric left and I still needed to draft a belt. At some point I was standing in the mirror with a pocket pinned to one leg and a scrap of fabric held around my waist for the belt, just trying to visualize the proper placement. The top of the pocket and bottom of the belt were hitting at the same place on me, and when I lifted the pocket just a touch to be even with the belt, I got this interesting apron effect with it. I wondered if I had enough fabric to make this apron idea an actual design feature, and after a little puzzling around with my tiny scraps, I figured it out.

I would have loved to have even more fabric so I could make the pockets bigger and wrap the apron/belt tie around my waist more than once, but I am totally satisfied with how this came out and I think it looks so rad. I can’t explain why it works, it just does, and honestly those are some of my favorite moments in making clothes. I have only a basic understanding of color theory and would consider myself only an intermediate sewist, but when things click into place for me without any rationalizing, when I’m just overwhelmed by a moment of “THIS LOOKS SO RIGHT!”, I feel rejuvenated! Because there isn’t really a science of style- we all have different tastes and we like what we like, and when I put these pink memade mules on with this brownish yellow ensemble, I can’t explain to anyone why it works, I just know that it makes my heart beat fast when I see it. And I really want to hold on to that, hold onto being motivated by my own tastes instead of what I think I am supposed to like, or what advertisers and marketers assume I will like based on my demographic.

So yeah, here I am inspired by a jumpsuit that I didn’t quite end up with myself, but one that I love nonetheless. And truth be told, I will probably give my inspo jumpsuit another try in the very near future- after having hacked about 3 jumpsuits from different pieces of different patterns, I am ready for a regular old run of the mill pattern that will need much less work. My guess is that the new Closet Case Patterns Bianca Flight Suit is gonna work out well for me since all their other patterns do, and Heather always does a fine job of sharing smart ways to correct fitting issues along the way! So far, jackets and jumpsuits have been my sewing mainstays (did you know that I will have made SIX JACKETS in the past 6 months?!?!) and I don’t want to ruin a good thing. Speaking of jackets…

 

There isn’t a whole lot to say about this one- making it was a last minute decision because I had acquired the pattern (Simplicity R10013) on my hunt for a different coat project which I ended up not using it for. It is a very simple and quick pattern to put together, no real shaping, no lining (although I ended up adding one), and no special techniques required. It’s a great pattern for a newbie but doesn’t offer much in terms of style- it’s baggy and boxy even in the XS I made. I think the only reason I like it is because the fabric is so dynamic. The fabric is actually the wool suiting that I planned to make my Jasika Blazer out of, which, FYI, is on it’s way to the blog, I just need better photos of the jacket first. Once that post is up, you can read all about why I discarded the fabric in favor of something more stable and thick, but thankfully I figured out another way to use it. It’s actually pretty terrific as a warm weather jacket- the wool suiting is so light that it’s almost floaty, which is why I decided to line it with white dupioni silk from my stash- it needed a little more heft to ground it. Again, it’s not the most interesting jacket in the world, but it’s gonna be a dream to layer over things when the weather gets cool again; thankfully the window pane check gives it all the drama it needs.

You might recognize that this icy blue color is not in my autumn palette (one of the other reasons I decided not to make a blazer out of it!) but it pairs beautifully with this mustard yellow and also with other oranges and browns in my palette, so although I haven’t had many opportunities to wear it yet, I think it will be a nice addition to the outerwear portion of my closet.

FYI, shoes are memade suede mules that you can read more about here. Thanks as always to Claire for the pretty pics, and thanks to you all for continuing to show support and love for me and my black community!

Spotted Shelby Romper

I LOVE THIS MAKE, I LOVE THIS MAKE, I LOVE THIS MAKE!!!

This is one of those garments that worked for me right from the very start- directly out the envelope and every step of the way. Such garments can be pretty few and far between for me, I usually need to make some sort of adjustment along the way, even if it’s just taking length out of the body or the sleeves, but nope, this one was solid the whole way through. What a joy to make!

I have been a fan of True Bias patterns for a while now, but for some strange reason it took me a long time to appreciate the full beauty and simplicity of this design. The Shelby Romper/Dress pattern came out a couple years ago I think, and…I dunno- it just didn’t jump out at me at the time. But that’s ok- better late than never, right? This design has a firmly 90’s vibe and I think that might have been one of the reasons I didn’t connect to it initially- I was in middle and high school in the 90’s and that decade isn’t cemented in my head as a particularly wonderful time in my life.

It was typical teenage angst stuff- hormones, crushes on all the wrong boys, managing the pros and cons of newfound independence- but with the addition of recognizing a sexuality I thought I needed to repress, dealing with racism every day while not always knowing how to defend myself against it, and confronting blatant misogyny and patriarchal standards of beauty. Although I probably fared better than a lot of people, I still connect those years with massive feelings of insecurity, loneliness, and confusion. Today when I see 90’s styles, I don’t always have a positive association with them- I only remember the feelings of inadequacy, the urge to pretend to be the confident, carefree girl that I so desperately wished I was.

But this is the beauty of adulthood, right? If we are lucky, we get to struggle through the tumultuous years of wanting to fit in and be liked by everyone and eventually settle down in the land of I’m Proud Of Who I Am, If You Don’t Like It, Feel Free To Get Lost. I’ve been living in this place for quite a while now, and wow, it’s so freeing! And it gives me the opportunity to reaquaint myself with pieces of my past in a new way. Like Doc Martens! I never wore them when I was a teenager because the fear of being seen as a “poser” was so terrifying to me- I wasn’t brave enough to explore my identity outside of what was expected of me, and I didn’t know of any black or brown cheerleaders who did show choir, excelled in English class, and wore Doc Martens.

While so many of my peers were trying to experiment with how they presented themselves to the rest of the world, I was exactly the opposite. So many things about my identity were ambiguous to others, so all I wanted was to be stuck in a box, to have a category, to feel known. Thankfully I don’t give myself those kinds of limitations anymore- I feel much more comfortable asserting my identity to others instead of trying to meet their expectations, and as a result, me and my Doc Martens have been living a pretty beautiful life together, trying out different styles, exploring our connection to fashion and queerness and identity on our own terms.

Enter: The Shelby Romper. My high school was mostly preppy, but I did see this style occasionally when I was out and about, usually as a dress (the romper option provided with this design has absolutely elevated the whole look for me). They were often made with Liberty-style floral prints on a black background, polyester or a rayon blend, and only the cool girls with really good taste in music wore them. They paired them with chokers and shit-kicking boots and fishnets tights, and while I feel pretty solid that I am *never* gonna be on the black velvet choker train again, I love the idea of taking such a defining style from the past and framing it with my own sensibilities. Black is one of my least favorite colors to wear (I appreciate it on others but it makes me feel invisible!), so marrying it with this bright, polka dot rayon from Emma One Sock in a shade smack in the middle of my Deep Autumn palette feels like a match made in Jasika heaven. The fabric is really light and flowy which matches the movement of the garment perfectly- although it’s a romper, it’s got the ease of a loose-fitting dress, so lightweight, floaty fabrics show it off so nicely.

Because there is so much ease in the romper, I didn’t grade between the waist and hips like I normally do and I made a straight size 2- there are like, 17 inches or so of extra ease in the hips so I knew that it would be plenty for me to still feel swishy in. There is no waistline seam in this pattern, as this style is traditionally made with princess seams that flow easily over the body, but there is a waist tie at the back to cinch in some of that volume. I think I forgot to mark the tie position on my back pattern pieces so I just kind of eyeballed it when it was time to attach them, and I think I made them a tiny bit too low- I would prefer they be maybe two inches higher, which is a quick and easy thing to fix on this garment, but alas I haven’t actually done it yet, lol.

I used french seams on the side and back seams of the garment but used regular ones with a serged finish for the front seams so that I could clip the curves and have them lay properly over the bust. Other than that, construction was an absolute cinch- very straight forward with smart techniques and clear illustrations, as I have come to expect from True Bias patterns. I really cannot rave about this make enough. I love every single thing about it- the sleeves are comfortable and proportionate to the rest of the garment. With the right textile, all that ease around the body lays down around my figure beautifully and doesn’t make me feel frumpy or like I am laden with extra fabric. The fabric itself is an absolute dream- cool to the touch and breezy, and striking with it’s simple, irregularly spotted print. It almost looks like animal print to me, but much more subtle. And the dynamic orange color gives me the perfect opportunity to play around with the color combos in my curated palette, essentially setting the stage for me to get away with the cool-toned robin’s egg blue of my boots, which is not in my palette, but successful because it is not worn right next to my face and plays off the heavy warmth of the orange romper.

I LOVE the length of this romper, too- I didn’t have to shorten it at all, and it gives me lots of coverage while still feeling very flirty and cute. I didn’t think when I first bought this pattern that I would ever make the long version, but seeing how in love I am with the short one, I would be remiss to not give it a try. I just saw someone’s version of the longer length Shelby on IG in a cotton double gauze and OH MY LORD it looks absolutely perfect! If I can get my hands on a richly-colored cotton gauze in my palette, you better believe this pattern is gonna make it to my sewing queue again, and I will 100% be wearing it with my Docs. Circle complete 🙂

(I Can’t Believe I Made) Silk Velvet Pants + Adrienne Blouse

I want to start out by saying that these pants are very imperfect, and I know it. I don’t say that to denigrate my skillset or self aggrandize or anything, but rather to serve as proof for any other sewists out there that things don’t have to be perfect for us to enjoy them, for us to be proud of them, for us to get good use out of them! I know where every single flaw is in this garment and yet when I look at it, all I think about is how fluid the gorgeous fabric is, how perfectly it fits into my autumnal palette with it’s deep golden brown, plush texture. I am too proud of creating a wearable garment out of this tricky-to-sew silk velvet from The Fabric Store to be concerned about it’s imperfections…

But that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to talk about them! Ha! A quick reminder- not all velvets are created the same. Velvet is generally trickier than say, a quilting cotton, but some are waaaay easier to sew with. Stabler velvets, like the kind you might make a blazer out of, or the kinds with a backing that is used for upholstery fabric, haven’t been that difficult to work with at all (other than not being able to iron it like normal fabric), and stretch velvets seem to be much more forgiving, too. But slippery woven velvets, especially the kind made of silk like these brown pants? My god, the journey is arduous! But totally worth it, because the fabric is just SO stunning.

RACHEL ANTONOFF BEA SUIT PANT (JADE) - RachelAntonoff.com

Pinterest Inspo Image

I last worked with this velvet about a year ago when I made this jacket (which just so happens to be the color of my inspo pants above!), and once I was done I swore I would never work with it again, as much as I loved wearing the fabric. It’s just so delicate and finicky! But eventually I stumbled across the above image of a pair of bright green velvet cropped pants and I couldn’t get them out of my head. I had actually tried my hand at a pair of silk velvet pants last year but the pattern was not a good fit for the fabric at all- they had pockets on the fronts which I tried lining with silk so that they wouldn’t be too bulky and would lay down nicely, but they refused. The pockets gathered and pulled on my body and were such a sore sight for me to look at when I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I also didn’t like the leg shape on me that much- so I moved on to another project and figured my velvet pants dream was dashed: I just didn’t have it in me!

But of course, after a few months away from the idea, I started dreaming of them again and challenged myself to try once more, but with a different pattern. In some ways this pattern, the Alphonse trousers, was even more complicated than the first one I had tried, because it has a zip fly (and if anything says FIDDLY AND FRUSTRATING, its a zip fly made in silk velvet). But I told myself I could go very slowly, take my time, pull out all the stops, and triumph in the end. I knew that once I got the zip fly looking good, the rest would be a relative breeze, because the Alphonse Trousers are a TNT for me and they look good in just about every fabric I have paired them with. They have pleats at the front waist which creates a beautiful drape in this fabric, and is also a bit more forgiving with fit in the hip area.

Sewing the zip fly was really tough, and I had to carefully take the stitches out more than once to make sure everything was laying right and looking good. This velvet shows every single mark you make on it, from the needle holes to the actual tracks of the foot of your sewing machine, so I had to make sure that my top stitching on the right side of the garment was as close to perfect as I could get it the first time around. I did pretty good, but it took twice as long to complete as a zip fly normally takes me, and I definitely smashed the nap around the zip fly more than once while trying to press it. I don’t have a needle board to use for ironing velvet, so I tried using all sorts of other things to gently press it when needed. Nothing worked as well as placing a big scrap of velvet upholstery fabric on top of my silk velvet and carefully pressing it from the wrong side, but I learned this a little too late and had a couple of shiny spots on my velvet where the heat of the iron and smashed down the nap.

doesnt my butt like it’s from a Ren and Stimpy cartoon??? WTH! LOL

I was able to revive the nap in these places by wetting it lightly with water and using a really soft nail scrub brush to fluff up the nap. By the end of making these pants I finally caved in and invested in a “velvet” brush, which has stiff but delicate bristles that help fluff up the velvet and revive it to its original plushiness.

My zip fly was imperfect, but it looked pretty darn good to my naked eye so I moved onto the rest of the pants construction. I have used fabric sprays to adhere velvet, I have used tape, I have sewn with paper in between the pieces of fabric, I have used a walking fo0t, you name it- most of these techniques were either too messy or too complicated to work well for me on this silk velvet (although they have worked to varying degrees on other types of velvet). So far my favorite trick to sew super shifty velvet has been to hand baste all my seams together before running them through the machine with a straight stitch, then I serge the raw edges (which gives me no trouble at all- if I could just serge the whole thing I would be in great shape but serging doesn’t allow for me to do any fitting adjustments during construction). Hand basting (I prefer inside the seam allowance, not directly on it) takes a bit more time but is so worth it in the end- my raw edges don’t shift around as much under the presser foot when I have hand basted the pieces already and I get mostly even lines of stitching. I also prefer to increase my stitch length when I sew velvet at the machine because the plushy fabric tends to drown the stitches in it’s surface and it’s really difficult to unpick any errant stitching without ruining the fabric.

Of the three or four pairs of Alphonse trousers I have made, I haven’t put side pockets on any of them- the pattern is drafted with in-seam side pockets which don’t well for me at all on most any patterns, and because of the placement of the pleats I haven’t been interested in trying a different kind of pocket on the fronts for fear of interfering with the way the pants will lay. I did put welt pockets on one of the pairs of alphonse trousers I made but decided to forgo them for this velvet- the less challenging the pattern, the better!

Once the seams of the pants were all put together, I moved on to the waistband. I interfaced a piece of raw, stable silk from my stash and used it for the inside of my waistband since I wasn’t remotely interested in trying to interface this silk velvet. I underlined the waistband pieces so the silk wouldn’t peak out the top of the waistband and it worked well enough. The belt loops were extra fiddly of course, but I managed to get them all on, and the only thing I need to fix now is the waistband closure. I have completely run out of the large hook and eye notions that you use for pants so I decided to use snaps instead. Unfortunately they pop open every time I sit down, so once my local sewing shops are open again and it feels safe, I will grab some and redo this closure. I didn’t want to do a regular button hole on this silk because I was afraid it would garble up the fabric and make it look messy.

And I guess that’s that! I think my grain was off when I cut these out of the fabric because one of the inside leg seams drifts towards the front of my body, hahaha. It’s ok though- I am really, really happy with how these pants came out because at the beginning of the project I was convinced they would end up a total fail, and I proved myself wrong! What a happy surprise!

Last, but certainly not least, is this beautiful little Adrienne Blouse I made from Friday Pattern Company. It’s the first pattern I made from this popular indie pattern company, and what a gem it is! I had seen various versions of it going around the sewing blogosphere but I was always on the fence about it. I’m not usually one for dramatic sleeves in casual wear- maybe because I’m always futzing about and doing stuff with my hands and I was nervous these billowy sleeves would get in my way – I hate in-the-way sleeves lol!. I also saw a lot of versions that used thicker, heavier weight knit fabrics that made the garment look dense and burdensome which turned me off- we are already in the thick of summer weather here in LA so I didn’t want to make anything that would trap in heat and be uncomfortable.

Thankfully I kept the pattern in the back of my head and then remembered it when I came across this stunning turmeric linen knit from Blackbird Fabrics. I’d worked with linen knits before and figured this would be a dream fabric and pattern pairing- it’s very lightweight and breezy, with a looser weave than some cotton knits, and it gets softer after washing. The pattern was very straight forward and simple to put together, and I love how they suggest you use bra elastic in the neckline and sleeves because its stronger- I never thought about that before but it’s true, and it worked beautifully in this garment. I didn’t make any adjustments other than shortening the sleeves just an inch or two, and I made a straight XS which seems to work great on me. I was worried about where the neckline and sleeves would hit on my body in terms of my bra straps- I didn’t want them laying completely outside the line of the blouse but I also knew this fabric would be too sheer for me to feel comfortable wearing it without a bra. Good news, the ruching of the gathered sleeves is tight enough that it kind of holds my bra strap down around my shoulder and it doesn’t peak out much at all. Of course it will lay differently on different bodies, but I wanted to share how it works on mine.

I love the shape and style of this shirt, it’s such a nice change from a plain tee shirt or boxy top style which seems to be the default for knit tops sewing patterns these days. I tried the blouse on before I put in the bottom elastic for the sleeve hems and was absolutely delighted by how fun and easy it felt to wear it with full billowing sleeves. I thought I would hate it, but they were beautiful! Maybe it’s because the sleeve (which I shortened slightly) hit around my elbow, so it didn’t get in the way at all and felt very loose and flowy and romantic, but not cumbersome. Ultimately I decided to finish the top as designed with the hem elastic, but I plan on making another one and leaving the sleeves loose as soon as I come across another beautiful, lightweight knit!

In case you couldn’t tell, the golden yellow of the linen knit and the buttery brown of the velvet are right in my palette and I feel glorious wearing them together. My IG feed is becoming the kind where all the colors match my palette and I am just so thrilled to keep benefiting from this color theory!

Bare Mag and The Matthew Aaron Show

I did an interview for Bare Magazine and made them a quarantine diary with Claire’s help! I’m not practiced at all in the art of producing or editing videos, but this ended up being a pretty fun project, and perhaps even more importantly, sucking up a whopping 6 hours of my time! I am thankful for any and everything that makes these days go by more quickly, lol. You can read the interview HERE, and you can watch my quarantine diary below!

I also got to guest on the Matthew Aaron show recently and it was great- doing interviews over the phone isn’t my favorite, but Matthew is terrific at his job and we had a great time chatting! You can check that interview out on apple podcasts HERE or online HERE!

 

Grace

Hi all! I meant to publish this on my birthday last week but I totally forgot, lol! This essay was originally published on the Welcome To What We Are blog and now I’m sharing here for my own followers. Thanks so much for reading!

Grace

I was 9 years old when *Anna Finch, arguably the most popular girl in my grade who occasionally gave me the opportunity to be friends with her, told me I didn’t “look black”. As the child of a white mother and black father growing up in Alabama, I immediately knew she intended this to be a compliment, which made me feel sick, but my 4th grade brain wasn’t quite capable of articulating the offense. I knew I couldn’t take it as flattery, but Anna’s saccharine smile let me know that she didn’t particularly care. I bit my lip. I think I probably responded with uneasy silence, a staple of our relationship by that point, and we continued playing on our school’s playground. When I was a kid and I didn’t have the right words to stand up for myself, or if I got overwhelmed by my own emotions, I just shut down. I told no one, kept it packed deep inside some space underneath my muscles, buried in the blood, and I carried on.

Years later, I found myself navigating these same brackish waters when I came out to my friends and began to hear “wow, really?? You don’t look queer!”, sung from the mouth’s of smiling faces, eyes bright and proud at the “praise” they were bestowing upon me. I was old enough now to know that there was a good reason I felt stung, a good reason I was never sure exactly how to respond; I grew up in the south, so I was used to people cradling me softly with one hand while pinching me with the other. But I had moved to NYC by this point and had started to find my community as I was finding myself, started to feel the real power of that blood splashing over my bones. I smiled tightly, changed the subject.

Now as a professional working actor in television, film, and stage with decades of work under my belt, I am more and more frequently confronted with the newest version of “Let Me Tell You Why Your Shame Doesn’t Make Me Uncomfortable”. It initially manifested itself as “You still look like you’re in college!”, followed in quick succession by “You don’t look 34 at all!”, “38?! You’re kidding!” and “OMG YOU’RE 39?!? THERE IS NO WAY YOU’RE 39!” Of course, they mean it as a compliment, every single time. They always have. But I stopped taking these unsolicited remarks at face value long ago.

These days when I share my stories with other people, describe the pain of all the tiny invisible nicks that cover the surface of my skin (which I now know to call microaggressions), their faces fall into the expected folds of disgust about Anna’s blatant racism, about my friends’ unacknowledged homophobia. But they get stuck when I talk about the damage it does to listen to people tell me I don’t “look” my age. They wrinkle their eyebrows in forced sympathy, but most of them don’t truly recognize how harmful it is- they still consider it a compliment. Yes, looking younger than you actually are is considered a privilege across many cultures; it’s called ageism, and I call bullshit.

What I understand now at almost 40 that I couldn’t vocalize in the 4th grade is that when Anna told me I didn’t look black, she wasn’t insulting me, she was exposing herself for the racist her parents and community had raised her to be (she eventually confessed that she didn’t want to invite our classmate Shauntay to her birthday party because Shauntay was black and actually looked it”. I paused, and stared at her, confused, until she explained that “black people steal” so she “didn’t want one” in her house). I also understand now that when my friends looked at me with pride in their eyes while congratulating me on the fact that I didn’t look queer, what they were actually saying is that queerness is something that clings to you, shameful, dark, and heavy, and that no one should purposefully want to be associated with that kind of indignity. They were telling me it was okay that I was queer, as long as it wasn’t an identity that was obvious enough for unassuming straight people to recognize.

I’m sure you are reading this and thinking how awful, how horrible, how obviously devastating it would have been to have someone tell you that the parts of yourself you had learned to take pride in held no value, that these cornerstones of your identity were shameful. Clearly blackness is nothing to be pitied, clearly queerness is something to celebrate! Yet here I am, trying to understand how age is any different. What is so despicable about looking 37? 38? 39? Why wouldn’t I want to look 50 if that’s how old I am? We spend so much of our lives eating foods to nourish our bodies and working out to keep ourselves strong and reading books to keep our minds agile and going to therapy to make sure we have long, mutually beneficial relationships so that we can enjoy living on this earth for as long as we can, yet as our age climbs higher, we feel more and more embarrassed about it. Who started this? Who told us we could have both? We can’t. We don’t get to work towards living our healthiest, most sustainable lives while also condemning the fact that we are getting older; one begets the other. So why do we waste so much of our energy fighting against and hiding from and disparaging the fact that we are aging?

Oh right, the patriarchy.

Our obsession with youth is a direct result of the patriarchal standards that have defined our culture for centuries, and aside from the fact that it inequitably impacts women and femmes, the standards are also patently false and impossible to live up to. When we comment on an older woman’s beauty, we often say that she is “aging gracefully”, but this, too is an untruth, because what we usually mean is that she looks young. We mean that she doesn’t seem like she is aging much at all. We mean that she makes us feel more comfortable about how many years she has been on earth. We mean, ‘maybe there is a chance that we can get older and not feel bad about it’. But we will. We will always be fed the false narrative that perfection is just within arm’s reach, that once we buy that serum or take that class or read that book or hire that life coach, we can elevate ourselves to our most youthful, attractive, energetic selves. But understand that there is no end to that reach. Behind that bottle of serum is another, more expensive bottle. The class never actually ends. The book is just one in a long series.

Most of us know that traditional standards of beauty are directly related to their proximity to European whiteness, but I am realizing more and more that they are also directly related to youth, and the further women get away from looking like 20 year olds, the less attractive most of society deems them. We are told that as we get older, our “grace” has nothing to do with the impact we have had on our communities, our art, our families, our relationships, our contributions to the world at large or our worlds at small. As a man gets older we treat the shiny salt in his beard as if he earned it steering ships through thunderous seas, the deepening furrow of his brow as if it made its’ appearance after years of battling international spies. Sometimes it seems like all a man has to do to “age gracefully” in our society is keep his hair trimmed and not wear velcro sandals. But women, on the other hand? Our gray hair and crow’s feet are proof that we have “let ourselves go”, our age spots remind everyone that yes, we will all die someday, our plump bodies serve as a manifestation of how asexual the world insists we have become.

Does it matter if we started writing poetry in our 60’s and found out we were actually good at it? If we helped save someone’s life, quietly and humbly? If we continued to show up for ourselves after years of timidity and finally achieved a level of peace that we had only dreamed of? Unfortunately, none of these accomplishments is more powerful in the eyes of the patriarchy than our breasts continuing to sit as pert as possible, even after bringing children into the world. I’m not a mom, but I imagine “can you believe they had 5 kids?! They look so good!” is another backhanded compliment that makes the rounds pretty frequently. Why have we internalized the idea that being an actual vessel for life is something to be embarrassed about? Why can’t we celebrate the map of our lives painted across our bodies for all to see?

I am still struggling with how to respond to these comments that frame being 40 as some dreadful, secreted fact that shouldn’t be spoken about in more than a whisper. In my industry, youth is currency, and I acknowledge it as a privilege, just like my light skin, my able body, my cisgender, my neurotypical brain. But it’s not lost on me that so much of what is considered valuable in our culture are things we are completely powerless over. No one can help how they are born, what their genes look like, who their parents are. And we shouldn’t. Our ability to age gracefully should rely less on our closeness to conventional attractiveness, less on our closeness to youth, and more on what we have done with all the years we were lucky enough to accumulate on this earth.

Anna Finch wrote me on facebook several years ago, before I deleted my account. She started with something along the lines of “You probably don’t remember me, but we went to elementary school together…”. Amazing how one person’s forgotten memories can be another person’s linchpin. Anna was the first person to express to me in words her disdain for my identity, a contempt I had felt from strangers often, my skin burning from the stares that disgusted white people beamed at me and my family as we walked down the streets of Birmingham. But I had never heard it articulated to my face by someone I knew, someone I wanted to be close to, someone I was so desperate to be seen by. Anna had written to tell me how proud she was of me and my career. I promptly replied with the most scathing, angry words I could form into complete sentences, years of fury and hurt and bitterness raining out of my fingertips and onto my keyboard. And then I deleted it and closed my computer. I know that people, especially children, have the capacity to change for the better, and my hope is that Anna found her way down a path that brought her to a place of less hate and more peace, more compassion, more love. But it’s not my job to be her welcoming committee.

I am black, I am queer, and I am turning 40 on April 10th. I am proud of all of these parts of my identity, and I will be celebrating not how I look, nor how other people think I look, but how I feel. I met my partner 13 years ago and in our time together we have created the type of healthy, loving relationship that was never demonstrated for me as a kid. That is grace. I turned a childhood rooted in anxiety and fear into an adulthood where I learned to channel my energy into making, creating art that has inspired and empowered me to no end. That is grace. I have always been guarded, suspicious, apprehensive of opening my personal world to more than a few people at a time, but I am consciously working to change that, to fight against the fear of being vulnerable to the most important people in my life. That is grace.

Aging gracefully doesn’t look like anything, it’s not young or old or ugly or pretty, male or female; it’s not on any binary. It’s just a sense, an awareness that we are striving to be better than we were yesterday and the yesterday before that. An acknowledgement that we can’t be where we are right now without all the years that came before it. A connection with the blood that has been racing through us from the moment we took our first breath up to this very day. A promise that we won’t ever disparage ourselves for being exactly who we are, where we are, when we are. Because we deserve nothing less. Happy birthday, y’all.

*name has been changed to protect this girl from my mom