Well, it’s sort of a plan…

I tried. I really did. But I just couldn’t manage a proper SWAP. You know, the type that’s logical & lays the foundation for a capsule wardrobe. And requires too brutal a decisive mind. I simply couldn’t. Too many temptations calling out from the stash.

So here’s what I ended up with…

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Looks really scary doesn’t it? And this is only for fabrics in my stash. I might add something else to the menu after my NYC shopping trip. I certainly need some basic fitted long-sleeve Ts & cardigans in blacks and browns. Plus there’s also Michelin Man waiting for its nip tuck.

Some of these are actually just me trying out different options for the same fabric, either because I can’t decide or I don’t know whether I’ll have enough fabric. So even if I manage all of these there will only be…29 items!?!?

My, that’s still a lot. And why are summery camisoles in the plan? As I told you, there’s no logic to it. Just bunch of fabric sirens calling out to me, whispering what they feel like becoming. I’d be happy if I manage a quarter of these by Spring :@)

What do you do with a knitting wader?

k-eddie-mmRemember my Michelin Man sweater? It was suppose to look this glamorous.

Edie from Precious by Kim Hargreaves

Look so soft & chic doesn’t it? But mine, which is knitted with Rowan Kidsilk Aura – equally soft & cuddly – came out more the hand of a sweatshirt knit. It took so long to knit and the result was so catastrophic that I haven’t try knitting after that. But while I was fooling around on my recent projects photo shoot, I thought of a way to maybe salvage poor Michelin Man.

I was trying to see if Michelin Man would look better shorter. And the shape I ended up with reminds me of these cool looking Alexander Wang sweater / sweatshirt editorials I clipped a while back.

 

I haven’t altered Michelin Man yet. For the photo shoot it was only temporarily altered with safety pins. But what do you think, should I go ahead & permanently alter this to be an Wang Wannabe?

It’s still a difficult shape to wear. Especially without the skyscraper heels that I reserve for photo shoots only. But cool outfits often push the boundary of good taste. Straddling that fine line is probably what makes them so irresistible. Like moth to flame, you’re not sure you can love them but nor can you look away!

If you knit garments, what do you do with a knitting wader? Especially one that can’t be frogged. (I’ve tried. All that mohair fluff won’t part.)

Balmain Wannabe?

So as I was browsing my Burdastyle pile for SWAP inspiration & came across this top. Checking Burdastyle.com for pretty pictures I noticed the image file name mentions Balmain. Isn’t that some fancy schmancy designer?

I googled around but could not find any Balmain that looks exactly like this top. But I did find this Balmain Fall 2102 collection runway photo on Style.com which has similar stylelines. Do you think it’s a Burda designer wannabe?

“The B**** Stole My Look!!!!”

I actually rather like the Burda version. The designer original looks really clunky. I reckon it would look terrible on us plebs. I might make the Burda one with Organza front and back, and Georgette for the sides and sleeves. One to sleep on.

Mwahahaha…I feel a plan hatching

Phew, glad those project write-ups are done. What a Herculean task they were. My arms nearly fell off.

Herculean task for you to read as well I bet! That’s why I break them up with headings and pictures and bullet points: so that it’s easier to skip any bits that are coma-inducing! I apologize for going into tedious details. I hope sharing my rationale, trials & errors, learnings will be useful to some of you. And maybe the experts amongst you might also suggest other / better ways to solve the same problems.

Next up: finish planning my NYC shopping trip. I’m miffed that MR will be going on a business trip as soon as our return flight landed. That means I can’t sequester half his luggage space for fabrics. Poo. So I got to plan really carefully. Hmm, I wonder if I can turn one fabric into a makeshift poncho and wear onboard so I can get them all home…

Anyway, to help me plan, I’m actually trying a SWAP. I sort of did with the Summer sewing. But it was like throwing random stuff onto the moodboard & Pin the Donkey type plan. So many didn’t actually get made. In fact, many didn’t even have a design. Just a fabric swatch & random bunch of inspiration.

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This time I’m going to be more disciplined and try to identify a pattern or at least finalize a design for each swatch. And even visualize them with my croquis. I found the Year of The Skirts sketches quite useful for keeping me somewhat focused. Heather Lou of Closet Case Files recently refer to my blog as “Overwhelming Stash”. I laughed of course. It was clearly a typo, but actually quite spot on. I am getting a bit overwhelmed by my now 300 piece and some 800+ yard stash! If I don’t have a plan I’ll be paralyzed. (Don’t you even dare mention a diet!)

A clearer plan would also help me identify all the missing supporting casts that I might need to get in NYC. Stars don’t like to admit it, but without the rest of the crew the project ain’t going to happen. And it’s not always possible to find the right supporting cast in London. I guess UK is just too small a market for affordable niche suppliers, even for online ones. Thank god more Scots voted against making it even smaller. (Raised an American, of course I’d think UK should go the USA way, with a balance of power between the Regions/States & central/federal government! Devolution for England, Wales, Northern Ireland & Scotland please! But let’s keep the single market so niche-niche tastes have at least a teeny bit of chance to get some needs met.)

The Camisole Hunt…or BS 2012-04-128 was my Mom

When I was making the Georgette lace applique top I agonized over lining the see-through top or not. I’m not fond of the bra + transparent top look. Not so much because it’s risque as much as not liking how the horizontal band of the bra make my already short waisted torso look wider and squatter. Over a bustier or long-line bra would be OK though. But I wasn’t ready to tackle shapewear! So I settled on a more form fitting slip-like camisole that can also be worn on its own.

The Inspirations

My inspiration started out with the blue camisole above that I found on Etsy (can’t find it again). It turns out to be almost the same as a bias camisole that’s demonstrated in Draping: The Complete Course, one of the draping books I own. I tried to follow the draping instruction. But couldn’t get it to be close fitting without horizontal draglines across the front. Maybe I was using the wrong type of muslin. But trying again with the China Silk yielded no better result. And the cowl drape wouldn’t work for a camisole that need to work under other tops as well. So I decided to adapt the pattern I used for the Snake Print Dress I made earlier this year. After all, it was originally designed for chiffon cut on the bias, and is slip like with waist shaping.

Style Shots & Mug Shots

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The Pattern

Size Used

36, the recommended size for me according to the sizing chart.

Changes Made

As I’ve already made fitting changes when I made the dress, I used the altered pattern as a starting point.

Design changes

I recruit Q to help me with this.

  1. First I used style tape (1/4″ black twill tape) on her to figure out the neck edges, hem, and internal seam / style lines I want.
  2. Then I pin fitted the Burdastyle 2012-04-128 lining pattern tissue on Q and pin out the drape on the front neckline. I used the lining pattern because it has less drape than the shell pattern, so less confusing to alter. I marked the alteration, the style line, and other alterations I wanted to make on the pattern tissue.
  3. Next I made the flat pattern alteration by pivoting and tracing onto a fresh tissue paper. The changes are:
    • Transferred the pinned out CF bust dart to the french dart by pivoting on the bust point. Judging from the front armhole gap and comparison to my Fitted Top Block, I might not have pivoted enough. But it was hard to tell with tissue fitting. When I tested this new pattern on Q it was quite snug already. Maybe I should have made a muslin for such close fitting garments that have lowered neck edge since the whole chest-boob area is such a varied landscape.
    • Moved the back dart towards CB to match Q / my Fitted Top Block. I wanted the straps to visually continue the line created by the back dart seam. I also hoped that closer set straps would be less likely to fall off my sloping shoulder.
    • Moved some of the waist ease from the F/B darts to the side seam to create a slightly more nipped in waist look.
    • Reshaped neckline / top edge per style line on Q.
    • Reshaped hem per style line on Q.
  4. Added Georgette band details to the front neckline & the hem. The neckline band pattern is per the style line on Q. The hem band is just bias strips.

Fabric & Notions Used

  • China Silk from B&J Fabrics, NYC. It was a toss up between this & the Charmeuse I used for the lace skirt. But since I’m cheesed off China Silk after a jacket lining made from it became tattered way too quickly, I decided to try to use up my stash of China Silk asap & not get anymore. It feels so smooth & soft, but actually is a bit, erm, bouffant, floaty. So I really struggle to think of designs that would work well in it. Anything requiring voluminous drape probably won’t work. But a slip top might be fine. And this is a nice ivory color that goes well with the Silk Georgette…
  • Silk Georgette from Borovick Fabrics, London for front neckline and hem accent.
  • Notions: Clear elastic; Small snaps
  • Sewing Helpers: Spray starch; Fray Check

Construction Notes

  • China Silk is a bit thin & translucent. So I decided to double it up with a self-fabric lining. That solves my neck edge seam finish in one stroke. No fiddling with facing or binding.
  • The translucency also means you see shadow of the SAs. So I kept most SAs skinny with 3-thread overlock seams. But for the shell layer darts I kept the SA because I like how their vertical wedges create an optical illusion of a slimmer bodice. I had to trim the deeper french dart SAs down to match the other dart SAs so the shadows will look intentional, and not just an oversight.
  • I picked overlocked seams because I thought maybe their stretchiness would grow with the bias seams and avoid puckering. The jury’s still out on whether it worked or not.
  • For hem I left the edges raw. Then sew the bias Georgette strip on the fold line to the shell about 1/2″ from the hem edge. The Georgette is then pressed downward, giving me a nice graduated transition from more see-through hem to relatively opaque bodice. I love the airy effect this creates!
  • Because I will be washing the top, so will need to press out the wrinkles, I decided to keep the lining separate from the shell at the hem. It’s easier to press each layer separately. But for dressing & undressing, it’s easier if the layers function as one. So I added snaps at the side seam hem to keep the layers together but separable.
  • Now the Oops…
    • Oh you d*** straps! Unfortunately setting them closer together in the back still didn’t prevent them from falling off my shoulders. I tried inserting clear elastic in them, having read about this trick on PR. But it only hoist the whole camisole up and the straps slip right off again. Boo. Maybe it’s because my top is so light and not skin tight. Perhaps that trick only works when there’s horizontal tension (like bra band) and/or vertical tension (like swimsuit crotch or weight of a heftier dress) to anchor the bodice and activate the strap elastic tension.
    • Gap-ahoy becomes puckering-ahoy. I really needed that muslin! As I said above, I might not have pivoted enough from CF bust to the french dart. (There actually was a small wedge left. But Q said it was tight enough already.) I only discovered this once the two layers were sewn together at the top edge. My only option was to undo & add another dart from the front armhole, OR add clear elastic to the top edge SA. Both are ugly. One’s a lot less work. Which do you think I went for? Next time I swear.
    • Sharp turn ahead. The Georgette band at front neckline really doesn’t work because of the sharp turn where it joins the China Silk. The style line looked fine on Q. So not a clue. Live & learn I guess.

The Verdict

Well, I like the hem? And the idea of the Georgette neckband too. But the execution is really a fail. Not enough though to make this unwearable. After all, it’s first & primary purpose is to exist underneath other garments. It looks fine under the Georgette lace applique top, and under a jacket or open front shirt. In short with anything that will hide it’s warts. So mission accomplished is all I can say.

But the hunt for the perfect camisole pattern continues…

Lace applique top (BS-2012-05-109)

OMG. I actually followed through with a sewing plan! When I bought the cotton lace a year ago for the white lace straight skirt, I said I was going to use the leftover for this Burdastyle top. And now I really did it. Unheard of! To follow through with my plan. And to use a fabric so SOON after purchase! ;-)

The Pattern

I liked this outfit even before I got the lace. But it was waiting for the right fabric to come along. Yes amongst my overflowing stash there was nothing right for this.

I was also a bit terrified of anything not fitted. Because of my height. Or lack of. Plus the impending middle age spread. So I have tended towards fitted styles in recent years. But I think it’s time to rethink. Because so many edgy kids rock it! So I vow to explore how volume can be incorporated without out looking like the Michelin Man. This is my first baby step towards that direction.

Style Shots & Mug Shots

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Fabric & Notions Used

  • Silk Georgette from Borovick Fabrics, London. I chose limp, drapy, and translucent Georgette to counter the boxier shape. Along with the bias cut I hope it will make this looser fitting top less scary to wear. Plus it makes this top go with the lace skirt I just made should I ever want the coordinated look.
  • Cotton Lace from NY Elegant Fabrics, NYC.
  • Sewing Helpers: Spray starch; Fray Check

Size Used

34. Going by sizing chart I would be 36. But checking the sizes against my Fitted Top Block shows that 34 should have enough ease.

Changes Made

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Fitting changes

OK, alteration of looser fitting garment is a bit of a black art to me. I don’t know how to approach it methodically. So I wing it with lots of trial & errors. Then of course I don’t remember exactly how I get to the end. I think I might have done the following…

  1. Align CB/CF of pattern with my Block, with Neck-Shoulder (NS) point of pattern on the Block shoulder seam. Back is more straight forward – there’s only one place where these meet. I then see where that is on the shoulder seam and try to get the front NS to be on same horizontal level.
  2. Check widths & lengths:
    • I did this simultaneously since the side seam is shaped. So where I shorten will affect the widths at the key levels (underarm, bust, underbust, waist, high hip, hip).
    • Since there’s no guide to how long the top should be, I decided to go hip length. Hem width was just about right for hip length. So I didn’t want to shorten at the hem and mess up the hip width.
    • I needed to shorten different amounts in the front and the back. I also took into account how low the armhole goes and where I want the narrowest part of the top to be. So I ended up shortening in two places:
      • Armhole level just above where the side seam starts. This allows for different amounts for front (1″) and back (5/8″) without affecting the side seam. It also shorten the armhole to reduce risk of indecent exposure.
      • Side seam level at the waist. This is equal amount front & back (both 2″) to avoid mismatched side seam lengths.
    • It may look like the back doesn’t have enough widths in places. But there’s a bit of extra width in the front. Plus the back darts won’t be sewn. Plus there’s already a bit of ease built into the Block I’m checking against. So the back is actually fine pattern-wise. I presume a bias cut would also provide a little bit of needed stretch.
Design changes
  • Added shaped CB seam. Firstly because I didn’t have enough Georgette left. And since I have to add the seam I might as well put it to good use by adding a little bit of waist shaping (3/4″ each side, 1-1/2″ total). It’s yet another one of my Figure Flattery theory. That with looser fitting tops, because of my body shape & posture,  I’d look too tubby from the side view if both front & back hang straight down from the fullest parts (bust / shoulder blade). I know, most people aren’t going to look at me from the side. But the Stylist In Me won’t let it slide. She’s in agreement with Alexander McQueen about going after a “cut and proportion and silhouette that works all the way round the body” by starting with the “worst angle of the body” – ie the side with “all the lumps and bumps, the S-bend of the back, the bum.” But for all that you can hardly see the difference in this top. Bummer!

So that’s the changes I made. Whether it works or not I’m not 100% sure. Especially my attempt to shape and skim my figure. Because this will be cut on the bias. And bias supposedly stretch and droop. Especially on limp drapy fabrics like Georgette. So will my attempt at shaping be totally pointless? Will the pattern’s bust and waist and hip end up lower in the finished garment thanks to gravity pulling on the stretchy bias?

Has anyone found sound advise on evaluating bias garments patterns for fitting adjustments? Do all the shaping like vertical darts needs to be shortened and by how much? The only advise I’ve seen is in Kenneth King’s Moulage CD book where he mentioned a rough rule of thumb of expecting every 6″ of bias length to stretch an extra 1/4″ (ie to 6-1/4″). I presume this is a really rough estimate and different fabrics will stretch different amount, and possibly depending on the bias direction (which direction the grain and cross grain end up).

Construction Notes

  • Burdastyle instruction is of course as cryptic as ever. I wonder if the new BS US edition of the magazine gives better instruction. In this case, because of the drawstring casing, I did read through the instruction to get a sense of what need to be done when. I think a crucial step is missing – the side seams – not mentioned anywhere!!!??? I did mine (and my new CB seam) before step 1 so that I can do french seams on these more easily.
  • I also took advice on sewing on the bias and started with larger SA on vertical seams, thread traced seam & hem, basted and hanged the top for a day, then checked the fit before sewing permanently, hanged again & checked the hem before hemming. And with this Georgette there is definitely different amounts of stretch along the two different bias grainlines. When I cut out I was careful to ensure that the lengthwise grain run from left shoulder to right hip on both front & back. After hanging, one side the hem did grow longer than the other. Sorry, I forgot which side and forgot to take pictures. Anyway, I recut the hem to make it level before hemming. Hopefully it’s not going to grow any further and I won’t end up with an unintentionally lopsided top!
  • Again, I used loads of spray starch while cutting and sewing to make the bias Georgette easier to handle. But neither that, nor the advice to stretch the bias seam as you sew, helped in preventing puckering bias seams. Urgh. I wonder if it is possible to sew on the bias without puckering. Or do I have to resort to the Madeleine Vionnet method (bias garment with diagonal seams on the straight / cross grains)?
  • 2-applique-gather-control The front neckline gathering looked a bit puffy. But I was able to hide all that with the applique lace by not applying it flat to the Georgette (which would have resulted in puffing in the lace as well). Instead I used the lace to pull in the gather so that the lace is relatively flat when worn.
  • The back neckline I tried to stabilize with a strip of selvedge prick stitched by hand. I was never fond of machine stay-stitching. The visible stitch (even if it’s only on the inside) looks ugly to me. Plus on bias in a shifty fabric I was worried that the neckline would stretch as soon as the pattern is off anyway. I’ve read somewhere that for stabilizing bias edges you should stay stitch with the pattern still on – ie sew through both the pattern and the fabric. But still ugly. So I generally use the fusible Vilene Bias Strip that Burda recommends for edge stablization nowadays. I couldn’t use that this time because the fabric is translucent. So self-fabric selvedge cut to the length of the edge line seemed like the best solution.

The Verdict

I’m fairly happy with the top. The construction quality could be better. But I do like the design and my fabric choices. I think it’ll be a good wardrobe builder, a team player with a bit of textural interest, who could swing for both feminine and masculine outfits. Just my cup of tea!

BTW, the top also looked nice before I gathered the front neckline and added the lace. The same pattern is actually also used for a cowl neck top in the magazine (BS 2012-05-110). While I might not make another one immediately (too many other designs to try!) I’d definitely sew this again when this top gets tatty, and then I might also experiment with cowl front neckline with draw string only in the shoulder seams.

BTW, my lace was pieced from scraps in the same way as the matching lace skirt. As I was in hand-sewing purgatory on a roll I thought I might as well let my inner Scottishness shine! Can you spot the seams? ;-)

Skeletal is not a pretty sight

I was just watching a news segment on TV about the rise of social media ‘Thinspiration’ and feel compelled by the images shown to say something:

Skeletal is not a pretty sight.

I know I’m relatively thin, and I complain about the impending threat of middle age spread. But actually the part of my body that I dislike the most is my chest – because the ribs show. Even when I gain weight, the pounds always seem to go to my midriff and never to my chest. I think it may be the reason I don’t wear my Fortuney Wannabe Dress (because it shows my bony chest) but wear my Favourite Oops Tent Dress to death (because it covers my bony chest).

Protruding ribs and bones just reminds me of those horrible Nazi concentration camp photos. Those images were of victims of unspeakable cruelty. Why would anyone want to intentionally look like that?

Many models seems borderline skeletal. Too many designers are still choosing emaciated models for their runways, which I find very counter productive. I end up squirming about the models’ protruding bones instead of admiring the design flair & craftsmanship that went into the garments. But even some fashion editors find those protruding bones unattractive and have them Photoshopped out. Like Numero magazine recently did to a photo of Karlie Kloss.

Now it may be that Karlie’s ribs are like my chest and naturally stays bony even when there’s extra padding elsewhere. People come in all different shapes & sizes naturally. It may not all be down to diet & lifestyle. I’m not a judgmental person in general. But I don’t like to be reminded constantly of the cruelty that our species sometimes inflict on each other. So please, to all the girls & women out there fishing for thinspirations, if you have a choice, I beg you not to starve yourself to look like Holocaust victims.

I know eating disorder isn’t always about a warped sense of fashion & beauty, that frequently it’s about wanting a sense of control over one’s life. But just in case anyone is starving for fashion, here’s one more person who think the emaciated look isn’t a good look.

Whatever your size and shape, I hope you’ll choose healthy above all else.