Tag Archives: #literarysewingcircle

Gloriously Disgraceful

Calamity Jeans

I love books, and I love sewing, so of course I signed up for Following The Thread‘s Literary Sewing Circle challenge.

You read a book, and sew something inspired by it. Fun. Yes?

Also the book she chose was The New Moon’s Arms by Nalo Hopkinson, a Canadian author I’ve been meaning to read for ages. This novel is somewhere between Magic Realism and Urban Fantasy, set in a Caribbean Island, and with a very complicated protagonist at its centre.

Calamity–the book’s heroine–was fascinating. She has a mix of self-loathing and narcissism that was perfectly engrossing (who names themselves “Calamity”?) and combined a determination to do the right thing (so long as it didn’t inconvenience her too much) with an utter inability, at times, to figure out what the right thing was. And a spectacular gift in getting it wrong, and wounding the people who love her most.

She’s fascinating.

Front-ish, tucked in

It was hard to think of clothes inspired by the novel, as clothing didn’t feature in it largely, except for Calamity’s endless harping on Ife for not dressing sexily enough and her appreciation for what a certain handsome male character wore.  I am not sewing myself a scuba suit, So.

The Back

I went back to the First Date scene, where Calamity was trying to decide what to wear out to dinner. She tried on a dress, a skirt, and finally settled on jeans with a green blouse. Which she originally wore tucked in, but then the partner of her best friend from childhood, who she’d attacked rather viciously in a homophobic rant the day before, told her it looked better untucked.

Tucked or un-tucked?

I do have a long-sleeved green button-up blouse, but it’s August in the GTHA. Way too hot for sleeves. So here we have a blousy green t-shirt with my Calamity Jeans.

The Side, tucked in

I realize it didn’t have to be such a literal interpretation, but I couldn’t think of anything else that would fill a legitimate hole in my wardrobe and also fit in the book. I do have other jeans of course–with low waists–but I wanted one pair of high-waisted snug jeans nice enough to wear to work.

These are the Jalie stretch jeans, based on the regular rise, but raised a further 1-2″ all around. I did add about 1 1/2″ to the crotch extension, which I think may not have been quite enough, and I wish I’d also added about 1″ to the back hip width, where it is a bit snug. Of course it’s stretch denim, so it’ll relax with wear, but I really feel it when I put them on.

And I don’t think jeans that are a smidge on the too-tight side are inappropriate for Calamity, either.

Actual Front, tucked in. Yes, those are rivets. Apologies for the number of photos: if Calamity can’t figure out how to dress for her date, neither can I!

The denim is a heavy-weight 98% cotton 2% spandex blend from European Textiles on Ottawa St N, I believe. It’s been in the stash for a long time, so I’m not 100% sure on its provenance. It has enough stretch to give a bit without so much that it feels like jeggings, and despite the photos is a very dark indigo, not black. I did the topstitching with regular thread as I wanted a good colour match and none of the top-stitching threads were dark enough. The topstitching on the waistband and to attach the back pockets was done with the coverstitch machine on the chainstitch setting, to keep lots of stretch in the fabric.

Innards

For the pocket linings and fly facings, I used this Tula Pink bumblebee print. Not because bees are a feature of the book (I don’t think they come up even once), but because they seemed to me vaguely Bumble-ish, and Calamity’s search for love is very much a theme. So it’s tangential, but I think it works, and it’s also pretty and comfortable. And just to complete the theme, I embroidered a bee on the right back pocket with some metallic embroidery cords.

It’s a Sublime Stitching pattern. From the Big Flowers set, I think.

And just above the bee–though you can’t read it–I stitched Voglio Il Core.

I don’t think Calamity speaks Italian, but I got the phrase from a book on historical English clothing, where apparently a nobleman in the 1500s had the phrase embroidered all over a pair of his underwear. It means “I want the heart” or “I want the core,” and stitched on a pair of intimates it has a certain connotation, doesn’t it?

One of the things I enjoyed about Nalo Hopkinson’s interview for the sewing challenge was this bit:

… I guess one of my main goals was to depict a mature woman being gloriously disgraceful, instead of trying to fade away into invisibility, which is what much of the world still seems to expect of older women.

Calamity certainly didn’t fade away into invisibility, and I loved the line “gloriously disgraceful.” What a commentary it is on society that women are supposed to fade away, become invisible, age ‘gracefully’–which often seems to mean to stop wanting things. Stop wanting attention, stop wanting romance, stop wanting visibility or success. And Calamity has certainly never stopped wanting, especially love. From her daughter and grandson, from her mother and father, from Michael (who loves her, but not romantically), from the little boy she finds on the beach, and from men generally. It’s unclear how much she actually likes the two love interests in the novel, at least at the beginning, or if she is responding to their apparent interest in her. And she wants them to, just as she wants the little boy to think of her as his mother, to love her best, to want to stay.

One of the interesting parts of her very complicated personality is how very much she wants to be loved but how very hard it is for her to be loving, though she can and does turn on the charm when she is interested in someone.

Anyway. So no, I don’t think she understands Italian, and if she did I don’t think she’d write “I want the heart” across her butt, but I do think it fits in with her character, so there it is.

For embroidery nerds: the back side of the pocket is reinforced with fusible stabilizer; the pattern was traced onto freezer paper and then ironed to the denim. I embroidered the bee and the words first, and then cut out the pocket and finished it. The inside is lined with the same bee fabric to protect the ends of the embroidery threads.

You’re probably going to get sick of these jeans, by the way. I took pictures for at least five shirt projects at the same time as I took these ones, so they’ll be showing up again … and again.

Sizing Note

I love Jalie. Their sizing is a thing of beauty. I went by body measurements, Dear Readers, and picked that size, and except for changing the height of the waist, I made no other changes. So this is a size T at the waist, U at the hips, and in retrospect I could have gone to a V at the hips and given myself a bit of room (given that the pattern recommends a denim with 4% spandex and these only have 2%). But! No weird ease issues. I’ve now had the pleasure of sewing up a few of their patterns and so far, going by body measurements is a completely reliable way to choose a size.