Apologies ~ I wrote this post in, hm, late August, and didn't get a chance to upload photos until now. I hope you don't mind the outdated post, I figured it was better late than never!
Mornings are starting to feel definitively fall like around here! Thought I'd show you my summer makes. For the record, I wrote my last post in June and didn't upload photos until August (oops). Did a major wardrobe purge at the start of summer that felt good for a month and then restrictive after that, so I yanked a couple garments from the "maybe donate " pile and then made myself a couple more things to round out the summer. If you normally don’t think of gray as a summer color – well, I’m with you there, but I’ve been stashbusting, so gray it was.
I took a break from writing this summer. I’m still reading (book recommendations at the bottom here), trying my hand at gardening (really, who kills zucchini??? But as my friend Rachael says, “What – too much drizzle and not enough sun in Portland – HOW are you having THAT problem? Haha), spending time in parks or at farms that host live music events. Went berry picking and canned up some jams with friends, made a trip out to the coast, and I flew back to California 3 times in 5 weekends (UGH). And sewn. I’ve missed sewing. It’s nice to feel competent at my creative hobbies, you know?
I have a massive crush on Victory Patterns. Two years late to the party! Ah well. Funky and modern is something I’ve never really sewn, figuring that if I was going to invest labor and fabric, I should make something timeless and classic. Well, new city, new thoughts on sewing and fashion, apparently. I shamelessly copied Morgan, right down to pairing linen to Satsuki and making the shorter version, and you know what? I have no regrets - that woman is genius (isn’t her version lovely?) and I love this top to death. The linen is from my Korea trip, and while lightweight for a linen, probably too crisp for this pattern. Who cares? It’s so much fun to wear and uber comfortable. I cut the smallest size, figuring that 6” of ease was enough for me, have yet to add the buttonholes (see: comfort, above), shortened the sleeves by an inch and the bottom hem by another couple. I wear this FAST every time it comes out of the wash.
I love Liberty for summer dresses, despite the fact that they’re slightly sheer and really ought to be lined. Home girl ain’t lining that floaty goodness! (OK, unless to make a shift dress, in which case the fabric could use a little more body) The way I see it, I already leave more to the imagination than many. My sole concession to modesty is to go for a darker print. I’ve had this fabric in my stash for several years now, an impulse buy off Purl just waiting for the right pattern inspiration to hit. I do love my Tovas, always feel good wearing them, and this dress is no exception.
Simone number two. (See: Victory Patterns crush, above). When making this dress, I found myself rather torn as to whether or not it was a good idea. The print has such ridiculous potential for “hideous not fabulous”, don’t you think – I mean, it’s just so much, isn’t it? When I bought it off a Chinese merchant on eBay, the print struck me as slightly art deco-ish, but in person it seems rather stained glass-ish, no? Ah, the jewelry, the geometric lines, the colors of 20s art and fashion! I love art deco, and sadly cannot do 20s fashion to save my life. (Somebody’s been watching too many BBC period pieces.)
Because the main fabric is silk crepe, for the yoke I went luxe on myself and picked up some coordinating-ish silk at Mill’s End. Can I just say, that is a dangerous, dangerous place that exists 0.3 miles from my apartment? Sigh. This dress feels amazing on, and it never fails to get comments due to the quality of the fabric, if not the slight eccentricity of the fabric. So does my first Simone. Fabric choices, I tell you.
So. Books. I read on the bus to and from work, occasionally during lunch, in parks in the evenings, and when our 2.5 months of summer melt away, can often be found curled up under a blanket (or better yet, one of my fugly handmade quilts – I can’t believe how ridiculously bad I am at designing quilt tops, I keep thinking I'll get better at it but I don't, so there you go). It’s been really fascinating to read books while keeping a specific personal book project in mind. You become a different reader. I’ve always loved reading for pleasure – the cadence of words, the beauty of imagery, falling in love with a world or its inhabitants. But now I read for inspiration and technique. I read because other authors show me the answers to problems I cannot solve in my own writing.
Sometimes I feel like I’ve had a good amount of beginner’s luck when it comes to writing. I know how to construct a pretty-sounding sentence. I’ve occasionally lucked onto a topic that, for whatever reason, catches a reader’s attention. But do I know what I’m doing? Gosh, the more I read, the more I think: heck NO. Total beginner’s luck. It’s humbling but also exciting. I could spend a lifetime immersed in narratives and feel that there is still so much left to explore, so much more of my craft to develop and hone. That’s pretty cool.
And the more I read, the more I realize how many different ways there are to tell a story. How much art and craft go into shaping events into a story. I just finished Edwidge Danticat’s memoir Brother, I’m Dying. She writes about the two fathers that she had – her uncle, whom she lived with as a child in Haiti while her parents established residency in the US, and her biological father, with whom she was reunited at the age of 11 after seven years apart. She writes about a very specific period in time when her father was dying, she became pregnant, and her uncle died. And then she intersperses the memoir with memories of growing up in Haiti and of her uncle’s relationship with her father.
Just think. There’s so much that she could have written about. She could have written about their childhood together. She could have written about her relationship with her father. She could have written about coming to America, becoming reacquainted with her father, about her many return visits home to Haiti. Why not write about her father’s longing for Haiti, the pain and beauty of assimilation, the heartrending pull that all immigrants feel between the multiple lands that lay purchase to ones heart? The way diaspora can strain families, set them along different trajectories, erect barriers both visible and invisible.
Yet what she chose – death and birth, uncle to father, her childhood with uncle and a little bit of her relationship with her father – is incredibly powerful and moving. How did she know to cut away the rest and focus on this? And how different would the book have been had she chosen a different focal length to fix on the narrative?
It’s incredibly fun to think about. Such a nerd! I love it. Anyways, if you’re looking for a book or two to read this fall, here’s a list of books I’ve read in the past year or so and loved (in no particular order):
Fresh Off The Boat. Eddie Huang.
Colored People: A Memoir. Henry Louis Gates Jr.
That Shining Place. Simone Poirier-Bures.
Truth and Beauty. Ann Patchett.
The Suicide Index. Joan Wickersham.
Trod The Stony Road. Joseph F West.
Meeting Faith. Faith Adiele.
Factory Girls. Leslie T Chang.
River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze. Peter Hessler.
The Lotus Eaters. Tatjana Soli.
Matterhorn. Karl Marlantes.
We The Animals. Justin Torres.
The Brothers K. James K Duncan.
The Paris Wife. Paula McLain.
I hope you enjoy the remaining days of summer! Read any good books recently? Or sewn up anything this summer that you’ve loved (gray or otherwise)?