Hot! The “Channelling my Anger” Tunic


The Facts:

  • Fabric: Madras cotton from thrift store = $2
  • Pattern: Cynthia Rowley / Simplicity 2586 = $1
  • Notions: thread, pre-made bias tape from stash
  • Year: 2009
  • Time to complete: ~2 hours; mostly struggling with the neckline.
  • First worn: September 2nd for photos; probably September 3rd to work.
  • Wear again? Yes
  • Total Cost: $3
  • Challenge:  Back to school with plaid

I work at a university, so this time of year always makes me reflect on my school days:  the cool mornings, the spring in everyone’s step, the brand new school outfits chosen to impress the potential hottie classmates….although as I’m sure I’ve mentioned here before, I started university studying engineering.  This was back in the ’80s, and although the male:female ratio back then was heavily in my favour (about 70:1), the pickings were still pretty slim.  I could have shown up my first day of class in a sack, and as long as it was clean, I would have been head and shoulders above those guys fashionwise.

I never went to a private school, so I was never subjected to the plaid uniform skirt (although I did wear a lot of them with black tights and Doc Martins back in the day).  I wasn’t really into making a plaid skirt for this challenge, and I actually didn’t have any plaid in my stash, but luckily I found this beautifully coloured madras cotton at my local thrift store.  The plaid is not symmetrical, so I had to choose my pattern carefully:  something without too many pieces and easy to fit onto the 1.5m of fabric.

I cut a size 14 based on my measurements, but there is tremendous ease built into this pattern and probably should have cut a 10 or 12 on top.  I had to add a tiny box pleat to the back neckline because I needed a bit of shaping back there to prevent it from gaping.  I lengthened it because that pattern image looked a bit too short for me, and I’m glad I did because the length is perfect now.  I also didn’t have enough fabric to make self bias, so I had to use inferior premade poly-cotton tape.  Hmm…I give it a B+.

As for the title of this project, after the fury I expressed in last week’s post started to die back, I began thinking about how I could channel my anger into something positive.  I can’t vote in the USA, and I can’t change neanderthal minds, although I certainly try my best.  Maybe I can help a woman who wasn’t as lucky as I was to be born in a time and place that allowed me to choose….well….almost anything I want.  I’ve been a loaner to for many years, loaning and being paid back my original investment of $200 thirty-three times already.  I also loan as part of the Colette Patterns lending group, so I decided to use the money I would have spent if I had paid full price for the fabric and pattern, and microloan it to a young businesswoman.  I found the following compelling story that ties in women’s rights, sewing and education.  Here is the link to the client on, but I’ve taken some quotes from her story and underlined the factors that made me choose her:


“…Mariela is a weaver. She uses the ancient back-strap loom method, learned from her mother from a young age, to hand-weave a variety of products. She sells her pieces on the side of a road in a market that is about 20 minutes from her home. Despite her young age, Mariela believes that she has overcome many challenges in her life. Although she was an outstanding student, family circumstances forced her to drop out of school in the sixth grade. She remains very positive and is focusing her energy and passion on building her business.

Mariela is so excited to have found Friendship Bridge. This will be her first loan cycle with the organization and her first experience with a microloan. With her new loan, she plans to buy a sewing machine to start a new garment business. Mariela says, “I am so happy to receive this loan, since it will ignite my dream.”  Along with Mariela, eight additional women make up the Trust Bank Corazon (heart). These ladies meet once a month with Friendship Bridge staff to receive a participatory non-formal education, which will help to reinforce their knowledge in important aspects in daily life, such as women’s health, self-esteem, hygiene, loan and business management and administration, among others…”

I can’t tell you how much I admire the Grameen bank (microcredit) model and its founder, Muhammad Yunus.  I read his book, Banker to the Poor, last year and recommend it to many people.  Buy it here, read it, microlend and then pass it on.  Remember what I said last week?  Watch all of us change the world –  If only for one young woman who lost the chance to get the kind of education we all take for granted.  (and if you’d like to get involved in lending through Kiva, message me and I’ll send you an invite that will allow you to try out a $25 loan for free and get you hooked on microlending.  C’mon!  All the cool kids are doing it!  And it’ll do more good than knocking Santorum and Akin’s heads together, which I’ve been futilely wishing someone would do.)



Vicki used to sew when she was young and free, but then raising young'uns and bringing home (some of) the bacon took up all her time. Now her closet is full of skinny clothes, maternity clothes and post-partum clothes, none of which fit properly. Maybe that's why she started sewing again in 2010.


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  1. looks fabulous! and thank you spreading the microloan love!

  2. I also tend to support weavers, seamstresses, and generally fiber arts, or arts related loans via Kiva. I didn’t know Colette had organized a group there. I’ve now joined it. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I thought the picture of the Corazon Group looked familiar, quick google search and I’ve been 20 minutes away from that village! A lot of the construction, clothing (the huipils they are wearing are fascinating up close) is similar in the region. I did my field research in Momostenango and we drove through S.F. El Alto (town with the market) several times. It’s a wonderful thing that they are getting education through this- the women all look to be Maya rather than Ladino so they likely to be worse off than the relatively wealthier Ladinos and education in the region is difficult to come by.

    • That’s awesome! What kind of work were you doing? Medical, cultural, engineering? I’d love to hear about it.

      I often loan to places I’ve never been and probably won’t get a chance to visit anytime soon (NW Pakistan, Afganistan, Palestine), but I always hope I’ll get the chance to see some of the businesses I’ve helped.

      • I was there for ethnographic/cultural anthropology field school. We split our time looking at our professors’ research (practice of Maya religion in current culture, and impact of globalization on the Maya) and meeting their friends in the community, and doing our own small-group (1-3 people) research. My Spanish is pretty rough so I looked at the reception of the LDS church by the Maya community- they had a group of American missionaries in town who were more than happy to translate for part of the time. It was interesting to see how it appealed to a community that overall was seeking to be more ‘American’, and how it was received by groups in the area who wanted to return to a more ‘native’ culture.

  4. I think this is one of my fave posts of yours. I love the chalkboard stuff. :) And I really like this pattern.

    • I was trying to get photos, but it was the first week of classes and people kept poking their heads in the door and making me embarassed! That’s why I look like I’m trying not to laugh in the photos.

      It’s a good basic pattern with variations, but watch the ease.

  5. Vicki, I really like your dress, and think you have fitted it well despite all the ease in the pattern. But really, I just want to tell you that these last few weeks, you are becoming more and more my hero. I always thought, growing up, that we really could change the world, make it a better place. I feel like so many of us have given up on that dream, but you inspire me to keep hoping, and continue fighting in my own small ways. I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes, and a “right on sister” and go check on my own microloans.
    “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
    Margaret Mead

    • *blush*
      I know it’s easy to get “disaster fatigue” and wonder if it is even worth trying to help people in desperate situations, because another disaster just seems to come along. But then I realized that just because I can’t solve a whole problem, it doesn’t mean I can’t solve a very small part of it. I’ve been to a lot of developing countries, and despite what people think, I most often see people hustling their small businesses, and rarely begging (unless they are severely handicapped, like the land mind vicitims in Cambodia or Laos)

  6. I like your dress and appreciate your imparting of information without feeling like I’m being lectured. Thank you for the great suggestion of the Kiva organisation. Hand-ups are much better than handouts.

    • Exactly! If you’re interested in developing economics, Dambisa Moyo wrote a wonderful book called “Dead Aid”, about her work with bilateral / multilateral aid in developing countries and how she now believes it can do as much harm as good. (this is quite separate from emergency aid, which she urges should never come into question) As I said above, I more often see people hustling their small businesses than begging, and I never hesitate to buy lots of goods and services when I’m backpacking. It just means I have drawers full of woven straw bracelets and take moto-taxis everywhere when I could just as easily walk! ;)

  7. I really like this dress – very pretty colors and it’s something I might have chosen myself (and I am not into plaid at all). The photos are so much fun. I also like your contribution to the book challenge. (I am terribly behind with reading all the Sew Weekly posts and didn’t read yours until I saw the link to it in this one…) I may be late saying this but: You’re 120% right and I have been really angry about that idiot politician – I live in Germany but I am married to an American and we ALMOST decided to live in America – so I am quite involved in current American affairs…George Takei wrote a very interesting blog article about the Republican party about a weeks ago – his point was that traditionally, the Republican party is a party that tries to keep the government out of people’s lives as much as possible. So why do they try so hard to regulate people’s personal life (i.e. abortion, gay/lesbian marriage)? It seems to be quite a paradox…
    PS: I am also a lender on Kiva – it’s a great organization.

    • Thanks Djamila. I’m kind of glad that I have a border between me and that political mess right now too. I’ve been watching all the speeches from the Democratic Convention, and they’ve been really interesting / inspiring. I know I should be watching the speeches from the Republican Convention too so that I get a well-rounded view of the political climate in the US, but I’ve been having a really tough week at work and home, and I just don’t have the stamina now to expose myself to the rhetoric that I know will just make me furious all over again. My load will lighten after today, so I think I’ll steel myself and start watching them tomorrow. If only everyone would do the same: brush up on both sides of the debate and do some critical analysis!

  8. Such and interesting post this time! Thank you for the link to Kiva. I will definitely check that out. Your dress is very cute and you did an amazing job working with the print of the fabric. I love your classroom shots! It’s nice to see a fellow teacher use the workplace as a setting. My students got a real kick out of helping me with my photos.

    • I loved your photos! I don’t think I would have the guts to take photos during a lecture, so I used an empty classroom. (although during Me Made May, I took a lot of photos in my lab and at another university where I was teaching, and I didn’t have any embarassment asking people to help me with those…)

  9. You’re fantastic Vicki! I love that you are letting your hair down a little here – posting ‘pose-y’ photos where you smile and do silly shots, and more importantly, speaking about things you care about. You remind me so much of my parents and all of their friends (only a lot younger than most of them) – really active and aware.

    I really, really love your dress, and I really, really love the things you are talking about.