In Feb. of 2009 I took a little side trip to Nepal. It is breathtaking and so not like India in so many ways. There is an interesting fusion of cultures in this small nation at the top of the world.
The atmosphere at higher elevations is so peaceful. There are hardly any roads for motorized things in the high hills, just quiet meandering stone steps and paths over the hillsides.
The women are always carrying fodder, water, sometimes rocks around in large baskets hanging from a head strap. Life in the hills is rugged and cold and the people wear beautiful traditional clothes that suit their way of life. The women wear a very tightly fitting jacket made from wildly geometric patterned cloth. At some time this traditional cloth must have been made of natural fibers, now sadly almost everything you see is poly / cotton blend.
I had some tailor women make two blouses for me in Pokhara. The Nepali’s have a very unique way of draping their sarees, most of it is bundled up around the waist and always worn with a shawl. The traditional sarees of the Newari people are red with black borders or vice versa. I tried the bundled sari look while I was there and it is really nice and warm.
When I brought them home to Portland I just kept wearing them They are so flattering with a tunic top and especially with skirts. The fit is interesting, and is made from surprisingly simple pattern pieces that render a a very form fitting silhouette. Underarm gussets let you lift your arms up and back and the jacket stays put. Very practical when you are constantly lifting things up and carrying them on your head, or riding a bicycle.
This spring I took a trip through California with my Brompton folding bike. It was nice to stop in a few places and visit friends and have my own wheels with me. The cholo was the perfect cover for cooler mornings and evenings and I wore it every day for two weeks. I looked forward to putting it on and got compliments every day on the jacket. The Nepalese fabric has a crazy ability to fit with anything of any color or pattern. I have to get my hands on some of this cloth to offer in the sarishop at some time.
The Nepali Cholo pattern really intrigued me so I have spent the last month drafiting it from the originals and sizing it for small medium and large. I made a bunch of sample jackets to test the patterns. I really tried to stay as true to the originals as possible. The jacket design is fabulous with a sari, the tricky side slits allow the pallu to flow up nicely from the waist to the shoulder and the length skims the hips and flares out from the side vents in the most flattering and flattening way at the waist. The fit of the jacket gently lifts it up at hips and it seems to float over the pleats.
In Nepal you see many blouses made out of heavy flannel also, and mostly in pinks and reds, the favorite color of Nepali women it seems. I would love to have everyone own a few of these so that you can stay warm in your sarees and still look elegant.
The lovable scoundrel Mr. Bawa has supplied me with a large lot of damaged silks and I used some beautiful silk sarees to test out the patterns. I’d like to share the images with you, there are about a dozen jackets made so far. They have silk linings as well, all made from vintage Varanasi and Kanchipuram silks.
The Art of Sewing with Saris
Sewing with saris has some special challenges, but what comes from it is so incredible. I have been having so much fun making these blouses. They each have their own personality. You have to pay very much attention to the layout of the ornament to try to balance it on the garment when you cut the pattern pieces out. The gusset – an ingenious addition is also a fully bias cut triangle that tends to shimmy itself into different sizes. You have to proceed gently as they silks are delicate and very slippery. Much pinning is required. Some of these sarees were not really damaged, just grungy so I threw them in my front loading washer on the delicate cycle and they came out nice and fresh. A few were not color fast but most of the ones I tried washed up very nicely. I ironed them while they were still fully wet so they iron smoothly. Even the brocade pieces turn into buttery loveliness after washing. The lose their preciousness through washing and become something much more wearable and easy going.
For a few blouses I have used the pallu for the front and backs of the jacket, which looks absolutely stunning.
In the next few weeks I’ll be putting the whole collection of blouses on line as well as the patterns for sale so you can make your own! thanks for reading.