Monday, May 18, 2015

on high school graduation from the bleachers

today i went to the high school graduation of the daughter of some congolese friends. i expected the usual to-do: flower toting parents, rent-a-cops confiscating bubble stuff and beach balls, school administration stumbling over graduate's names. 
what i found instead was an auditorium full of immigrants sharing in the joy of their children, many of whom had to work twice as hard as your average american to learn subject matter and english simultaneously to make it to this day; entire communities of people cheering on their graduates, including ululating sub-saharan africans and a gaggle of starry eyed nepali teens; kids translating for their parents as parents welled with pride. i saw an administration and staff that must really feel as though the odds are stacked against them and the hurdles to overcome are insurmountable, and yet, here they all were. i saw students in headscarves under their mortarboards, with saris poking out under their green gowns. i saw an auditorium full of people who put their hopes and dreams into this group of young people on stage, and a group of young people looking a mix of nervous and excited to walk out those doors and take on the world.

at one point i thought maybe i had sat unintentionally in the refugee section, as i was surrounded by somali and sudanese women in hijab and nepali grandmas in saris. then, looking around, i realized with a smile that the entire auditorium was the refugee and immigrant section. what a different, bigger, more beautifully diverse world than the one i grew up in. 
towards the presentation of diplomas, a congolese client of mine in a suit, wax print tie and hat wandered by and took a seat next to me. we don't share much language, but when a beautiful girl with a huge smile walked across the stage as her name was announced, he beamed and repeated her name while bringing his hands to his heart. i gathered this was his daughter, and helped him find her name printed in the program. he pulled out his glasses and pointed to her name four or five times throughout the remainder of the ceremony, repeating it several times as he did so, and always with a smile. sometimes you don't need words to understand someone's joy.
i don't know why somali moms ululating as their sons and daughters receive diplomas or listening to a commencement speaker tell a graduating class of students from disadvantaged backgrounds not to blame their circumstances and to rise above them makes me choke up, but they do. and i'm not sure why being part of a diverse community makes my heart so happy, but it definitely does. i'm grateful to these friends for opening their homes and hearts to me, and though i'm no longer working directly with them, i hope to be part of the same community far into the future. 

and thanks, aurora central high school class of 2015, for allowing me to sit in the bleachers and share in your joy, too.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

quilt: for keeps

i made this.

 the colors in the photographs are wonky, the quilt is a mix of white and off white, my lines still aren't straight even after all this time, but this has been 3 years in the making and I DON'T CARE. i love it anyway and this one's for keeps.
i let this quilt sit unfinished in the closet literally for years while i sewed for everyone else in my life (and a small one for me, i can't lie). after finishing my latest sari bari quilt, i decided it was time to get a move on. 

when i put it away, i thought i had purchased enough of the white "background" fabric to finish the top, but as i am notoriously bad at math i came up short. i took a scrap of fabric to the store, matched (they looked the same in the quilt shop, i promise) and bought what i needed, only to get home, sew the whole top together and then realize that the newer fabric was pure, bright white and i had used off white previously. TOO LATE. definitely not taking this guy apart.
why dost i protest too much? i tried my hand at a quilt-as-you-go method floating around the interwebs, thinking the final product would look much more detailed than my typical MO of 'how few lines can i sew through these layers to keep everything attached but not have my fabric bunching up/ folding over?' i do love how each individual square looks, but quilting this way is so.much.more.work. not to mention the corners of my kitchen table pulled out some of the stitching as i sewed the front to the back, and the seams got extra bulky. (can anyone out there help me not have the bunchy back fabric problem? please?)
 i keep telling myself that the white/ off white bit isn't nearly as noticeable when it's on the foot of our bed, and after attaching the squares to the batting, then the batting to the other squares, i'm not sure i'd ever have found the motivation to finish this had i tried to correct my color match mistake.

i was ready to sew the top to a plain back and call it good. hubs said i should add a few squares from the front into the back, and i'm glad i did. i always appreciate the effort of this added touch after the fact. 

i'm looking forward to tossing this guy in the (high efficiency, front loading, no agitator as i will forever have quilt washing PTSD) washing machine this weekend and seeing what it looks like as a final product.

at any rate, i made this, and it's for keeps. and, i finished it before our 5 year anniversary.  hashtaggoals.

stitch fix: box 8, review 4 :: bad photos and a good breakup

you've seen my posts. you know of my love- hate relationship with stitch fix: i love the idea of someone helping fashion backwards me pick out clothes. i hate the fact that many of the things i get are ill fitting, expensive and weird. i hate losing my $20 styling fee, and i equally hate feeling obligated to purchase something from a box of things i don't love, or even sometimes like. 

so, i have a public announcement to make: stitch fix, i'm breaking up with you. and you know what? i feel great about it. no more giddy anticipation of a box of goodies and then disappointment when nothing works, or it's all too expensive. no more frustration at feeling like i'm doing best to voice my opinions and you don't really hear them. no more feeling badly for being honest about how i dislike what came in my box, so as to not hurt the feelings of the person who set out to style me. and, no more strain on my budget. 

for the last time ever, i present to you, internets, a series of ill lit photos of myself in stitch fix items. for this batch, i didn't even bother to wash my hair or put on mascara. you're welcome!
number one: collective concepts cynthia graphic print mixed material top: $58. 

first, let's talk the positives because it's not my natural tendency and 9 years after a college friend called me "so damn fatalistic," i'm finally starting to believe it's true.

the print. i LOVE this print. in fact, i just bought a mod cloth dress in basically the same print, though there they called it delft (do they ever know how to hook this dutch girl's heart?!) and, i like that it's sleeveless but has substantial shoulder material (read: isn't a spagetti strap sort of thing). i feel like it would work well under a cardigan, with a skirt or skinny pants or a number of things. the fabric is soft and the colors are 100% me.
now, let's talk what doesn't work. i feel like maybe i'm blue in the face from saying this so many times: shirts that are not fitted do not work on people who are small framed and busty. they add 20 lbs. for all stitch fix talks about valuing feedback, i'm still getting tops that don't work for my frame. after reaching out to customer service about last month's total failure, i was assured by a senior stylist that she would personally pick things for me this month that would fit my frame as i have repeatedly requested. i'm not sure what happened here, and i could chalk it up to an attempt if i hadn't received two shirts in the same style in the very next box.

even so, i debated about keeping this top because if i could ever find a simple, high waisted pencil skirt, this might look rather cute tucked in. however, at $58 and having worked my final day at the refugee agency yesterday, i couldn't swallow it. 
horray! a magical shirt that makes you look significantly larger than you are!
i also liked the button detail, but as you can see (don't worry, mom, i'm wearing a beige tank top underneath this), the little placket behind the buttons flops open and, in an instant, this is no longer very work appropriate.

verdict: returned.
number two: market and spruce austin polka dot and striped mixed material shirt $44. 

i have kept one market and spruce item in the past, which was also polka dots and stripes and navy blue (all my favorite things!) however, the difference between that cardigan and this shirt? fit.

as you can see, here's another large, boxy shirt that does not work on my frame. the back is actually quite cute.

the return of the tent effect.
i did really like how long this shirt was in the back. so, there's that.
also, the fabric is SUPER sheer.

verdict: returned.
number three: pixley hanneli polka dot swing skirt: $54. 
navy blue, giant white polka dots, soft, drapey fabric and a great length.  i could even dress up a t shirt (as i honestly don't have much else to wear during the summer!) with this skirt. out of the box, this one was my initial keeper.

but, then i zipped it up and it was uncomfortable. i like to wear my skirts a little bigger so i can wear them lower, and this one did not fit that bill. to wear it comfortably, i'd have to leave the top inch unzipped. nope.
verdict: returned. but how cute are these polka dots?
number four: kensie kammi embroidered dress: $98. 

i was hopeful about this dress when i saw it coming, and it looked cute and like a perfect summery dress on the amazon.com model. what's more, i had asked for a dress or two as they tend to be my summer 'uniform' and most of the others i own are made out of vintage, thrifted sheets. when i opened the box, i wasn't immediately crazy about the embroidery but as per usual, i tried it on to give it a chance.
my first reaction after putting it on was, yay! pockets! whenever i sew myself a long skirt or a dress, i always include pockets because who wants to awkwardly carry keys, a phone and a credit card/ ID, or a whole bag for just those things?

but then i noticed that the combination of material + darts + pockets underneath those darts = super awkward fit around my hips. 
not convinced by the above photo? here's a better one.
 um, what? no, thank you!

 also, why the giant gold zipper?

 plus, after taking this photo i decided the embroidery plus color combination made this look a little bit like a 1970s upholstered couch. brady bunch, anyone?
verdict: returned.

 number five: octavia birds on a branch scarf $28

i've seen this scarf all over the stitch fix blogging world, and i thought this might be a keeper too, before i opened it and saw that it was a shade of rather bright pink. an internet friend recently sent me a coral pink infinity scarf a few weeks ago, and really, how much does a recovering pink hater (ask my mom about how much i despised this color as an adolescent!) really need two scarves in the same shade in a closet which she plans to pare down as much as possible in the next few weeks? 

not to mention that modcloth sells this scarf in various colors for $20 and currently has an adorable mint one on sale for $14.

yes, i know that stitch fix charges a little extra, and part of that goes to pay for the service: their stylists, for postage and return postage, etc, etc. i'm ok with paying a little extra however, an extra $8 on a scarf? not to mention the 25% discount you get when you buy all 5 items. these things together lead me to believe that instead of paying a little more, we're paying a lot more. if you can swing the extra, great. but i can't, and i feel just fine saying as much. 

verdict: kept to not lose $20 styling fee. giving to a friend who has had an equally rocky experience with stitch fix, but who liked this scarf and regretted returning it.

so, there you have it. 8 months, 8 boxes and thank you, but i'll continue to thrift second hand items and troll ebay and i'll be much happier for it. 

goodbye, stitch fix. it's been emotional.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

stitch fix: box 7, review 3:: boo, hiss.

as i said in my previous stitch fix reviews, it's safe to say i will never, ever be a fashion blogger. or, you know, someone who takes decent selfies. this fact really only bothers me when i'm blogging about stitch fix. round three of awkward, poorly lit, dirty mirror selfies!

once again: stitch fix is a clothing subscription service. you fill out a style profile, specify what you like and aren't interested in receiving and set budget limits. then, they pair you with a stylist, mail you 5 things as often as you want, pay for what you keep and mail back what you don't want. if you keep everything, they give you a discount.

there's a $20 styling fee for each box that, if you buy something, you can use towards that item. this styling fee is my struggle with stitch fix. if i'm going to spend a substantial sum of money on something, i really want it to fit well and really love it. but i also don't want to lose my $20 per box styling fee. i often find myself trying to justify keeping what came in spite of fit or prices that are higher than i'd pay otherwise because it feels like i'm throwing away the little spending money i have each month.

i've had mixed success with stitch fix, and this month was particularly 
frustrating. at this point, i haven't decided if i'll go another month or not. everyone says that the magical thing about the service is that it gets better with time, and sadly that hasn't been my experience.



if you sign up with my referral link, i get a small credit towards my fixes (that i would, of course, appreciate.) but, this is all paid for with my hard earned dollars, and my opinions are my own. it seems silly to say that, especially as my reviews aren't all sunshine and rainbows, but there it is.

number one: moon collection amy embroidered skirt $78. 
this skirt is not something i'd have picked off the rack. the length, color, fabric and pattern are things that i know i'd have a hard time with if i brought this skirt home and tried to put together a whole ensemble. having said that, i was fairly pleasantly surprised when i put it on. the embroidery is cute and if i could find a shirt to pair with it (my summer go-to is a solid color v-neck t-shirt, which wouldn't work with this), i might have bit the expensive bullet and kept it. after all, it's almost my birthday.
but i don't have a good shirt, and the top/ waistband did this weird thing that made me look... bubbly? i'm not sure how else to put it. see the weird little bubble and then indentation where my finger is pointing? i don't normally look like that in, well, any of the clothes i own. but that made it easier for me to not have to justify the price tag. 
verdict: returned.

number two: kut from the kloth dayna skinny jeans $88.
never in my life have i paid this much money for a pair of jeans. even for designer jeans, this felt steep. 
the fabric had a nice stretch, and it was really soft. these were far more comfortable than my current pair of thrifted jbrand skinny jeans, and though the hem is rather long, i don't mind.  but when i sat down in these once and then got up off the couch, they were already too baggy in the bum. for $88 they need fit like a glove, not just for 5 minutes outside of the box (/ dryer.)
verdict: returned.

number three: skies are blue zade roll top tab $54.
this was, i think, an attempt to make up for the tie-front shirt in my last fix. however, i've said again and again that i want things that i can wear to work and that are well-fitting. this, being translucent and super boxy, fits neither of those specifications. i like the idea of this fabric- lightweight, interesting texture, white- but it had a lot of threads hanging off it in addition to how see-through it was. no, thanks.

my stylist suggested this would be great for work or the weekend. i think we have different ideas of what's a good thing to wear to work.
i did like the little split back detail. 
i call this "the tent effect." actually, my mom coined that phrase when we were traveling in india and trying to find well-fitting kurtas. finding kurtas, or shirts made from anything other than stretchy fabric, that fit across both mu bust and torso can be a challenge. unless well tailored, a shirt that fits my bust has a good 5-6 inches extra around my torso. this shirt isn't doing me any favors in that department. subtitle: how i gained fifteen pounds when i put on this shirt!
verdict: returned without a second thought.

number four: collective concepts esten button-up sleeveless blouse $54.
i was hopeful for this one when i pulled it out of the box. i like navy blue, and i know how to wear it. plus, this top looked like it would be a good spring to summer sort of thing, and the fabric is definitely dressy enough to wear from 9-5. 
 then, i put it on. this is my best disappointed face.
there's room for one more of me in here.
dry clean only. whomp, whomp. even if it fit, i'd have sent it back for this reason. i can't manage to do  normal adult things like bring checks to the bank, or remember to get stamps. there's no way, ever, that i'd manage to bring things to the dry cleaners and then pick them up again. 
verdict: returned.

number five: bancroft cambridge metal cuff bracelet $28.

i'm not sure how i left 'bracelet' as an option i'd like to receive on my style profile. (i've opted not to receive bags, earrings and necklaces as well as things made from leather or pleather). when i received my first fix ever and it had a huge, bauble necklace that i'd never wear and never pay the price tag for, i went in and edited my preferences to say that i'd rather five items of clothing instead of jewelry. i tend to wear simple, classic things and rarely change from my standard silver hoops or pearl earrings, simple silver necklace or coin pearl. (i have one exception: my jones market beaded necklace). i had a photo but can't find it now, and my package is sealed up with all of my returns, so you'll have to do without. i didn't like it anyway- it looked like a belt, and the clasp was a belt buckle.
verdict: returned.

this month, stitch fix was 0/5. i'm a little disappointed as i've asked them not to send anything that is dry clean only, and have had them send ill fitting shirts on several occasions, each sent back with a note about how the fit does not work at all for my body type. the jury is out as to whether i'll do this again next month. i really like the idea of someone helping me figure out what to wear and when, but this feels like a struggle. 

anyway, enough of my pouting. my next post will be entirely devoid of whining, i promise.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

phul bazaar: sari bari quilt year three


i just finished my third sari quilt for auction on sunday and put it in the mail on monday. (i really do need to start working on quilts that, when finished, remain in my possession!)

this quilt, along with i'm guessing close to 30 others, will be auctioned off as part of a fundraiser for an organization called sari bari. sari bari works with women in the red light districts of calcutta to provide them with quilt, bag and blanket making as an alternative to prostitution as a means to earn a living. we were fortunate enough to visit sari bari in the fall of 2011, and let me tell you- these are some sweet, talented, funny ladies!

i still harbor a not-so-secret desire to move back to india and, if possible, find some way to work with sari bari. as that's not an option probably ever right now, i love being able to participate with other quilters across the US in this fundraiser!  funds raised from this year's quilt auction will be used to help women with school fees for their children, to bring more women onboard with sari bari and other initiatives. (you can read more here.) the auction will be on ebay the first week of may.

this year's quilt reminded me very much of my first walk through a flower market in chennai, tamil nadu. the red and yellows are marigolds, the whites and light greens jasmine flowers, and the bright blues are stacks of pigment for the festival of holi, welcoming spring and celebrating the triumph of good over evil. i finished this one with two days to spare, and am happy to report that unlike last year the washing machine did not eat this quilt!




my previous quilts for sari bari are here:
happy holi! quilt, year two

and one more sari quilt i made for a friend here:

Monday, March 9, 2015

stitch fix: box 6, review 2 :: return of "i am not a fashion blogger"

as i said in my previous stitch fix review, it's safe to say i will never, ever be a fashion blogger. or hell, even someone who takes and shares halfway decent selfies.

so, anyway, here we go again: stitch fix is a clothing subscription service. you fill out a style profile, specify what you like and aren't interested in receiving and set budget limits. then, they pair you with a stylist, mail you 5 things as often as you want, pay for what you keep and mail back what you don't want. if you keep everything, they give you a discount.

there's a $20 styling fee for each box that, if you buy something, you can use towards that item. i don't have an extra $20 just floating around each month to spend on nothing, so this part, especially when i don't like the items in my box for reasons i said upfront i knew (pants length, fit of particular items, patterns), makes it a bit of a struggle sometimes.

as i said before, i've had mixed success with stitch fix, but i do like it enough to keep trying. i don't think i'll ever get the magic box (where you keep everything), but that's ok. i like the things i've kept and do wear them often.

if you sign up with my referral link, i get a small credit towards my fixes (that i would definitely appreciate!) but, this is all paid for with my hard earned dollars, and my opinions are my own. it seems silly to say that, but there it is.

here's what i got in my box today. initial reaction in order of how things are stacked: hate it, hate it, might like it but why is it crooked?, love it, hope it fits.

and now, in very different orders:

number one: dear john marson wide leg denim trouser ($78)
i'm not sure why stitch fix feels the need to send me denim in every box but so far we're at 0/6. some people pull their pants out of the box and they fit like a glove. though that has not been my experience at all, i remain optimistic.

wash was perfect. they're boot cut, almost flare (my favorite). they were a little long, but i can hem. but the rise is several inches higher than i like, and girlfriend won't do high waisted jeans. they make me uncomfortable. i was, however, impressed that these fit well everywhere that counts. 

bad photo, yes? verdict: returned.

number two: olive and oak jessenia tie front top ($48). 
when i saw this coming, i hated it immediately. i even got a little mad that they'd waste space in my box with something i would never, ever wear.

then, i tried it on. the fabric was pretty great- soft and light. tab sleeves were surprisingly nice. the colors and the pattern are something i'd definitely wear. however, a tie front shirt? NOPE. even the idea of it makes me feel like a farmer or like i should be sitting at a 1950s soda fountain counter.

but, stitch fix, you do get mad props for, on your first attempt at a button down shirt, winning in fit. i have a very hard time finding shirts that get the shoulder/ bust/ body ratio right. either it fits everywhere up to my bust and then strains at the buttons, or fits my bust and is rather tent-like elsewhere. (the life of a small but curvy person. can i get an amen?) i can't find shirts in regular stores that fit this well. (it may not fit quite as well in the front now that i look at the photos, but still. props.)
this was a little bit of a bummer to receive because there's no way i'd ever try and wear this to work and my style profile says i'm mostly interested in work + things that can do double time (work and home).

i already walk the line often between 'is she going camping, or is she going to work?' and, well, this wouldn't be doing me any favors in the 'trying to look like an adult' department. 
verdict: returned.

number three: market & spruce margerie dot & stripe open cardigan ($68). 
 heart eyes for days. y'all, this is a fitted open cardigan. FITTED, i tell you. i don't look like i'm swimming, it has enough structure that i could dress it up and it has stripes AND polka dots. i haven't taken it off since it arrived.

the price is, yes, a little steep. however, i had some credit from a friend that signed up using my link, so with my style credit it brings it down to a price i'd pay for a knit cardigan.
verdict: keep keep keep.

number four: 41Hawthorn harriet houndstooth print dress ($64). 
when i saw this coming, i basically made up my mind not to like it. sneaky stitch fix and this 'try everything on' business. i was about 95% send it back until, again, i tried it on. hubs said he liked it, too, so now i'm about 60/40.

i had asked for a dress or two to try for our final mad men party in april. this wouldn't work so much as i couldn't fit a crinoline underneath it, but it's rather cute. the fabric is soft, the dress is lined (!), and it would be perfect with pockets. the fit is pretty great- it turns out fit and flare dresses work much better on me than shift dresses. the top front is a little plain, but the back is fun. i don't even mind the contrasting zipper. the only thing that annoys me is that the houndstooth is on a slant. 

so why can't i decide? i feel like there's not much to it for the price. i don't know. the jury is still out on it.
 i can't decide if i'll keep this, but if i do, here's how i'll wear it.
verdict: unsure. 

and, number five: collective concepts maisy geo print dress ($88).  
i liked the fit of this dress quite a bit (another fit and flare, i believe), and thought the style was fun without being boring or over the top. this was another dress i might could wear for our mad men party, but at $88 there's no way i like it nearly enough to justify spending that much money on it, even if i had liked the pattern.

the shoulders were a little poofy, the sleeve hem was gathered a bit and with the pattern it felt a little... grandmotherly. definitely mad men, but less glamorous 1950s betty draper mad men and more megan does weird things in LA with aspiring film stars mad men.
verdict: returned.

so, there you have it. another round of poorly lit iPhone photos taken in a full length mirror of me posing awkwardly in clothes sent to me in the mail. ha.

will i do it again? yes. i'm already looking forward to what comes next month. 

and here's my link again to sign up should you feel inspired to do so.
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