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.