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I need to unpack; restock my kitchen and fridge; have my broken mobile phone repaired; get over jetlag, and brave a mountain of work in my office.
But the burning question that I have to resolve before any of that can be done is:
The yarn: Brooks Farm Mas Acero (Worsted, wool-silk-rayon, approx 1650 yards)
Pamela Wynne’s excellent and wildly popular February Lady Sweater (yes, I am aware I am very late to this party)
The Sidelines Top from Interweave Knits last fall.
Am leaning towards the Top, but the Lady sweater keeps drawing me back, and I am going back and forth.
1) Which one to make with this yarn?
2) Will the Lady sweater require a lot of mods to fit my dimensions, and will it look ok on my frame?
3) Is the Sidelines top worth the change in gauge and the maths required (it’s for DK yarn)?
4) Which one will show off the slightly variegated yarn better, and hold the silk-wool-rayon blend better?
5) I already have a lot of stuff in this colourway, and is reminding me of my Ogee Tunic. Should I be selling or trading in this yarn for something else on Ravelry?
Thank you, thank you, thank you all for the encouragement for my sewing experiment, the tips about machines, books and classes, and the sewing stories and memories. I think I will resist the temptation of buying a machine and an entire fabric store just yet, and tinker around some classes and machines a bit before finalizing one. Watch this space!
Over the last couple of days, instead of sullenly packing and repacking my bags and bitching about having to go back, I completed this lighting-fast project. It has gone a long way in taking the edge of my irritation and despair, because its recipient, a newly-minted niece of mine, is going to show up at the airport to claim it and I cannot *wait* to set eyes on her:
It’s the Little Sister’s Dress, a delightful, clever and quick pattern (and free!). I made the three-month version, but with slightly thicker yarn, so it would run a little large. I love the way it takes the basic top-down seamless pattern and creatively fashions sleeves out of it even as it does away with them. All you do is cast off, and presto: sleeves. My mum knit the last couple of inches at the bottom, adding a small pattern and a slightly ruffled edge. So it’s not as A-lined a frock as it could have been, but it looks just like what we call a zhabla in Marathi.
Yarn: Vardhman Little Angel, Shade 123, just over 4 skeins of 50 grams each (anyone know how many yards a skein of this is?)
Needles: size 4 DPNs
Gauge: Did not bother to check
My mum also knit her favourite booties pattern with the frock, and I knit a little helmet with an antenna. My allergy to baby projects is definitely weakening.
The hat was improvised – I cast on 70 stitches, knit 3 rounds and purled 3 rounds for a couple of inches, and then decreased every other round starting with k5, k2tog all around, then k4, k2tog, etc. When there were only 5 sts remaining, I took them all on one needle and made an I-cord antenna.
This shade of red is very difficult to photograph – worse than black, really, cause it bleeds so much, even in natural light. I realized as I was tinkering with the saturation that I haven’t knit anything non-red or non-crimson in nearly a year. My sampler shawl is also this color, and the BPT cardigan was a similar shade too. I think I need to look at some blues and greens now. Or even redecorate the blog a bit, if I can figure out how to change the header image without my title disappearing. Maybe a visit to Stash or Article Pract will cheer me up when I return, what?
As my sabbatical draws to a close and I prepare to leave home for the US again, I am reflecting on my year of research – libraries I visited, progress I made on my new project, etc. etc. But whatever archival jackpots I may have hit, whatever dead-ends I may have faced in my research (there have been some of both), the singular achievement of this year has to be, without doubt, my conquest of the basic handloom cotton salwar-kurta.
I still cannot believe I have not tried this before! It is enormously exhilarating, and just as much fun as knitting, but in a very different way. Frogging a seam in sewing is somehow worse than undoing a few knitted rows. In knitting you are prepared for the long haul, especially with shawls and sweaters, but here I was unprepared for the instant gratification of the finished product. I loved the whole drafting process, learning about shaping and the maths involved, the thrill of tracing and cutting the fabric and the actual sewing. I have barely scratched the surface, of course, but given that about 95 per cent of my salwar kurta wardrobe is of this basic pattern, it also seems like dramatic progress.
I still haven’t figured out how to photograph myself in it without feeling odd (sweaters are different, somehow), but on the whole, the salwar kameez fits well. There are a hundred errors, some of which I am still in the process of spotting. But the seams were straighter and the fit a tad nicer in these two shorter kurtis I made after that to wear with pants, with some cloth someone had gifted me a while back. I still have to hand-sew the neck bands in. The dark pink one at the back is a bit too bright even for me, but it was freely available for the experiment and landed on the cutting block.
I think, apart from the basic terror of tearing into the cloth, sewing in the sleeves was the hardest. A lot like setting in sleeves in sweaters, no? My teacher is of the Do-It-Recklessly-Without-Pins school, and wanted me to learn how to manipulate the cloth by hand as I pedaled furiously. I was more conservative, however, and some judicious pinning helped avoid that ungainly inch that often gets left over on one side.
Yesterday I had to stop myself from buying a whole shelf-full of cloth pieces to cut up and sew, because I don’t have a machine back in the Bay Area, and all the airlines have drastically cut down the baggage allowance for international flights. But there are classes that I am eyeing. I also took a short peek at some sewing forums, but hesitated, because it seems like a whole world to take on, complete with product reviews, favorite techniques and patterns and designers, debates over plagiarized patterns suppliers and free patterns and celebrity bloggers, and of course, abbreviations. The sewing equivalents of:
*Knitpicks vs. Elann
*”would you copy?”
*VBD & SSK & p7tog
*”oh, I *hate* acrylic”
*Review threads galore on Malabrigo and on Knitpicks Notions needles
*the Yarn Harlot’s book tours
Suddenly I have an idea of how new knitters must feel when they encounter Ravelry and other online knitting worlds and the avalanche of information they let loose, and how quickly one has to learn the vocabulary in order to participate in it in order to use these resources meaningfully. I don’t know if I’m quite ready to take that on in the sewing department just yet, but I am certainly itching to sew a million things all at once.
This simple, shapely and harmless-looking contraption is currently my new love, and my nemesis.
I laughed out loud when I read Swapna’s comment a couple of posts ago about the sewing machine roaring away at the slightest provocation. Mine (or more precisely my cousin’s) is still similarly untamed, which is to say I am still a dunce at using it. There is one little manoeuvre required to get it going: gently rolling the wheel forward with your right hand, and then pedaling with your feet to keep it running in that direction and thereby setting the whole contraption down to the bobbing needle into motion.
Sounds simple, except that the smaller hand-wheel keeps wanting to turn away from you, thereby promptly breaking the thread and requiring continuous
swearing re-threading. If the wheel-pedal coordination is off even slightly, it’s twang-clap-snap-thut. When you see a veteran doing it, it’s very difficult to figure out just what the hell they’re doing to keep it going in the right direction, and of course they can’t really tell you what they’re doing because it’s second nature to them, and they can’t understand why you’re making such a fuss about it. Rather like when you are learning how to drive a stick-shift car, and just can’t get the hang of releasing the clutch just as you press the accelerator, and the car keeps stalling. Or like you thrash about and swallow a lot of water but the correct freestyle action to stay horizontal and swim somehow seems impossible to do. Until one moment you suddenly you can accelerate, or strike through the water, or start sewing in the right direction, and you cross over to the other side. There are setbacks, of course, but then it goes on to become second nature. Right now I’m somewhere between a setback and second nature, as I try to shape the neck of my very first own-sewn kurta.
There is a distinctive sound to the running of the old mechanical sewing machines, especially the ones with the foot-pedal. For me the clickety-clack of the wheel and the needle immediately conjures up two distinct themes. One is the ubiquitous neighbourhood tailor shop. Dyspeptic tailors bent over in a line in the poorly lit back of the shop, the air suffused with a mix of machine oil fumes, the smell of freshly cut fabric and sweat. Little triangular scraps of cloth litter the floor, sari blouses and kurtas line the walls above the bent tailors, and the main tailor-master, standing behind the counter that doubles as shop-front, cutting table and dogeared pattern library, tries to persuade the reluctant auntie customer to break with her regulation U and try a new octagonal neckline.
The other is an image of the ever-suffering and consumptive, but hard-working and morally upright mother in old Hindi films, played with melodramatic gusto by actors like Leela Chitnis, Sulochana and, of course, Nirupa Roy. All these women fought great societal and financial odds to bring up their children singlehandedly in film after film with one important weapon in their struggle for self-reliance and middle-class respectability: the humble sewing machine. It has been part of countless scenes where a) Ma weeps and coughs as she adds yet another seam and worries about the rent; b) Ma chastises wayward younger son for profligacy and truancy even as she has worked her fingers to the bone to pay his college fees; and c) the hero bursts into the room as Ma is working at it, announcing that he has passed his BA or got a job, thereby implying the machine’s impending redundancy.
Hindi film moms in the last decade have shed their widow whites and have become a lot more glamorous and trendy. While their acquiring of colour and joie-de-vivre, even sexuality on occasion, is entirely welcome, I can’t help thinking that the vanishing of the sewing machine from screen is part of the broader evaporation from Hindi cinema of working class and lower-middle-class lives, characters and stories in favour of globalised, consumerist and insanely wealthy settings. Dress-making, though, continues to be a gendered sign of self-reliance and respectability – young heroines in films and TV serials often have their own fashion boutiques as a business. I can’t recall if I’ve ever seen a sewing machine, vintage or electrified or computerised, in any scene, though…
To return to the saga of my own sewing, my seams need some sobering up before they can walk in a straight line:
But hey, that ghostly apparition is my own-sewn, completed and freshly washed salwar, waiting for its kurta to be done so it can be ironed and worn (yes, it fits!):
In a landmark judgment and legal victory for gay rights in India, it is legal, as of today, to be gay. You can read the entire judgment, should you wish, here.
129. The notion of equality in the Indian Constitution flows from the ‘Objective Resolution’ moved by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on December 13, 1946. Nehru, in his speech, moving this Resolution wished that the House should consider the Resolution not in a spirit of narrow legal wording, but rather look at the spirit behind that Resolution. He said, ”Words are magic things often enough, but even the magic of words sometimes cannot convey the magic of the human spirit and of a Nation’s passion…….. (The Resolution) seeks very feebly to tell the world of what we have thought or dreamt of so long, and what we now hope to achieve in the near
130. If there is one constitutional tenet that can be said to be underlying theme of the Indian Constitution, it is that of
‘inclusiveness’. This Court believes that Indian Constitution reflects this value deeply ingrained in Indian society, nurtured over several generations. The inclusiveness that Indian society traditionally displayed, literally in every aspect of life, is manifest in recognising a role in society for everyone. Those perceived by the majority as “deviants’ or ‘different’ are not on that score excluded or ostracised.
131. Where society can display inclusiveness and understanding, such persons can be assured of a life of dignity and non- discrimination. This was the ’spirit behind the Resolution’ of which Nehru spoke so passionately. In our view, Indian
Constitutional law does not permit the statutory criminal law to be held captive by the popular misconceptions of who the
LGBTs are. It cannot be forgotten that discrimination is anti-thesis of equality and that it is the recognition of equality
which will foster the dignity of every individual.
132. We declare that Section 377 IPC, insofar it criminalises consensual sexual acts of adults in private, is violative of Articles 21, 14 and 15 of the Constitution. The provisions of Section 377 IPC will continue to govern non-consensual penile non-vaginal sex and penile non-vaginal sex involving minors….
Of course, this will not end discrimination against LGBT people or suddenly make life easier for them; we have a habit of passing laws and then doing nothing about implementing them, be it traffic, caste or dowry. But still, decriminalizing homosexuality and getting rid of an old colonial-era law is a big step in the right direction – towards ending harassment by cops, allowing more gay people to seek medical help for HIV/AIDS, and most importantly, towards a more genuine sense of the “inclusiveness” the judgment refers to, in families and the public sphere alike.
Not surprisingly, there is opposition from conservative groups. Hysteria about “Indian culture in danger” is no doubt about to reach shrill levels. The newsmedia is predictably playing to all kinds of stereotypes, but it is nevertheless heartening to see the vox pops from around the country that support the ruling.
Congratulations to the Naz Foundation and all the civil rights activists who have worked tirelessly for years to make this happen!
And, it is finally raining in Pune – sweet, sweet rain. Here’s hoping it will stick around for a good three more months!
EDIT: Mel points out below that this Delhi High Court judgment is currently applicable only within this particular court’s jurisdiction. The wider applicability of the judgment has generated much debate in today’s newspapers. This opinion piece suggests that a previous Supreme Court ruling will give legal teeth to the all-India applicability of the judgment.
Also, for a useful discussion of the ruling, see here, especially the comments.