Taking a Greyhound on the Hudson River Line …

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I love Manhattan. I have a very complicated relationship with the city that goes back many years. You see … I met my ex-husband in New York City, in the aftermath of a huge airport closing snowstorm.  It was my very first time Stateside and I was in total shock and awe mode from the moment I left the airport. The whole city was perfectly iced in swirls of irridescent white snow and the arctic February temperatures were not the only thing to take my breath away. Everything was bigger and brighter and bolder than I anticipated and to suddenly find myself in the midst of yellow taxi cabs, sidewalks with grates puffing out steam fountains into the chilly air and looming skyscrapers in every direction was, well, utterly intoxicating. It was like starring in my own movie.

I suppose I am something of a country mouse at heart, despite living neatly between London and Oxford and visiting both cities regularly for business and pleasure, I had never really seen myself as a city kind of girl … well, not until I met Manhattan. I gawked at every new sight, sound and sensation that assaulted me in those first few days. This is no small thing from someone who grew up in England you know. Gawking of any description is not encouraged because, well, it’s just not very British (stiff upper lip and all that).

It was love at first sight with the city. I marvelled at almost everything … slices of paper thin pizza as big as your head which oozed down your fingers as you ate them, dark little all night jazz clubs in the basements of Greenwich Village bedecked with gas lights, and people, all kinds of people, just everywhere. On top of this heady mix I was in the midst of a whirlwind romance … we went skating on the ice rink in Central Park amid the snow capped buildings (even my thermal long johns did not deaden the romance of that experience), we ate in tucked away little restaurants surrounded by the locals, and drank cocktails in Manhattan’s coolest piano bars. Less than a year later we were married.

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Over the next few years I became better acquainted with the city. I discovered the delights of the 18 miles of secondhand books at the legendary Strand Bookstore, and would frequent it just to stand besides the shelves and inhale all those words waiting to be discovered. I shared the ups and downs of the different neighbourhoods, unearthing new favourite places in each. My trips became longer and I felt more and more at home.

When my relationship suddenly ended, I feared my dalliance with the city was over too. How would I feel walking through the park, watching the people, grabbing some cheescake from our favourite deli, when almost every block and street corner had a memory attached? It took me more than two years to decide I could face going back … and I have to admit, there were some tough bits on my first return. To this day I can’t visit the ice rink in Central Park, but mostly, it was fine. And better yet, I still loved the city. Each time I return it is easier, with new memories overlapping the old.

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So, you can imagine how delighted I was when I first saw this crazy digital print pop up on the myfabrics.co.uk website. The perfect antedote to those “I miss NYC” moments it featured a beautifully graphic photo montage of some of NYC’s finest architecture. Even its autumnal palette of purples, aquas and golden yellows (a world apart my normal tonal range) wasn’t going to disuade me from purchasing a few yards. This soft viscose and spandex jersey did not disappoint when it arrived, it was the perfect mix of bold and bright, with New York, New York typography splashed over the print with abandon. It just had to be a dress.

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Now remember, this was a couple of weeks ago, before I discovered the uncomplicated beauty of the Colette Moneta (if that pattern had been published, who knows what this dress would have been!) so I instead turned to my ultimate TNT dress pattern … the Lady Skater. (Also note that these photos were taken pre my latest hair cut.. Every time I get close to a birthday I have my hair cut a bit shorter as I see it as an antedote to ageing … heaven knows what this means I’ll be sporting when I’m a pensioner, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to make people stare.)

Back to the Lady Skater dress … because of the very large elements of the print (gigantic arched windows and huge skyscrapers) I was very, very cautious how I cut it out. I did not want to risk an arched window frame over each breast, or worst still, an error in the centre front skirt that would give Gateway to Manhattan an unforgettable new meaning. This pattern has hit the sewing table so many times I could practically sew it while I’m asleep, so after my shennanigans with fabric placement, from start to finish the dress took just two hours. I made my usual adjustment for a short bodice, sewed the neck facing band in one piece rather than around and then shoulder seam (I just prefer the neater finish this gives) and added a little extra width to the skirt for swooshiness. Other than that is was an easy sew … in fact I made it in the morning and wore it to a family birthday dinner in the evening. Sewing doesn’t get better than that!

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Anyway, here it is … my New York State of Mind Dress, a patchwork of old memories and new ones.

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Colour mad designer rampages gleefully through the world of plus size sewing! Oh, and there may be shoes … and cats.

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