Drab sewing

Nope, Sewing Mojo still not back from holidays yet. So I’ve been making do with drab home-furnishing sewing. Drab because it’s suppose to be dead simple. Just boring straight lines and rectangles. Yet it’s taking more effort than I expected.

See these curtains?

curain for the living room

How long would that take you to make? It’s not lined. So just joining pieces and hemming four sides per panel. The rings are plastic snap-on’s. So not even heavy machinery needed.

taming the curtain...or trying toBut the fabric is heavy. And my sewing space cramped.

Even with a flat sewing surface & the sewing cabinet fully open, I just couldn’t manage a straight line of sewing. The dinky home sewing machine with its dainty little feed dog & foot was just no match for these heifers of a fabric. They move whichever way they please.

You quilters & home decor sewers out there have my full respect now. How do you coax unwieldy pieces to stay in line?

The Not So Impressive Stash

Well this is a bit embarrassing. After all the hoopla about my fabric acquisitions it turns out I have very little of interest to show.

Don’t get me wrong. I have been naughty. Quantity-wise anyway. The load came in at 63+ yards, not 43+ yards as I claimed earlier. But it seems like I’ve been way too good in sticking to my boring shopping list. The bulk of my purchases are dull Dull DULL to show & tell.

So here’s a group shot to spare you too much excruciating details!


From left to right:

  • Sweater pile: Sweater & rib knits from NY Elegant and B&J.
  • Cardigan pile: 5 sets of sweater + rib knits for cardigans from NY Elegant and Mood.
  • Foundation pile: I thought I might tackle foundation wear this coming year. So I got some Powernet & Milliskin from Spandex World, plus foam fused poly lining from B&J which I hope is like the stuff they use for bra pads.
  • SWAP pile: Mostly important but boring supporting casts from B&J, Mood, and NY Elegant for upcoming projects, such as…
  • Just 4 Fun pile: Tame by many of your standards, but as exciting as life gets around here. Mostly from cheap & wacky Spandex World, but a couple from B&J and Mood.
  • Ooh Charmeuse pile: Just because it’s so hard to find Charmeuse in London I got a few more from Mood.

As you can see I got mine from only four stores. It was just too overwhelming otherwise. Especially when I’m shopping with a list and luggage limit. If I were living locally I’d probably shop more from the smaller stores and go with an open mind. But with a list, I find huge stores that have good organizations easier. I can see at a glance whether they have the type of fabric I need in the color I need. It does mean paying more. But my sanity is worth it!

Of the four I go to, I’d say NY Elegant is the most expensive, then B&J, then Mood, and Spandex World is pretty affordable though obviously specialized. NY Elegant & Mood seem to have a better selection of sweater knits. I do like NY Elegant’s system of swatches already attached to many fabric rolls. B&J has lots of fabrics on big sample cards so that it’s easier to browse, see the fiber content, and ask for samples. Some of the Mood fabrics are marked with famous designer names. But as they’re pretty basic looking fabric it seems a bit pointless to name-check. I’d save it for the more unique fabric designs. I mean who cares if your bog standard looking charmeuse is a Ralph Laren, right? ;-)

There were also a bunch of notions. But I’ve already filed them away & can’t recall where they all are now. So just a couple of highlights here:

Pacific Trimmings have these cool mix-n-match buttons where you pick a base and the accent to go in the center. There’s quite a variety of base and accents to choose from, and the base come in different sizes. How cool is that!


I also got a couple of kits for fabric covered buckles from Daytona Trimmings (as well as more of that lovely bobbin lace I got last time). I’ve been looking for these for ages. They are so hard to come by these days. Granted the selection isn’t great – only two sizes, both big. But better than nothing.

I bought a fair few more buttons, including these gold ones from M&J Trimming (where I also got petersham ribbons in a few different colors). And big coat snaps, including gold ones from Pacific Trimmings. The black snap fasteners and the gold button with anchor motif in the striped jersey photo above are also from Pacific Trimming. So too are the bag D-rings, bag feet, and magnetic snaps. And RiRi zippers. And lingerie elastics. And eye & hook tapes. Boy, did they get my business this time or what!

But majority of my zippers are YKK that came from SIL Threads. I also got an Italian Lampo zipper from Botani Trimmings on recommendation from Clios. They’re suppose to be really high quality & expensive (she says Chanel use only Lampo). The ready-made metallic teeth one I got wasn’t too bad price-wise. And the zipper action IS super smooth – essential for a tote! I also got a custom reversible zipper in the smallest size available (#3) from Botani. Now that was expensive. The reversible skirt it’s destined for better be a success!

And that was it. Apart from these four pairs of shoes from Macy’s. I did leave four old pairs behind after all. So surely MR can’t complaint about my shoes stash, right?


Clockwise from top left: Michael Kors boots, Circa Joan & David pump, Circa Joan & David sling back, Alfani ballet flat


Oh where can I buy one / make one?

Vivienne Westwood designs for Virgin Atlantic

I’m not a good flyer. It’s always too cramped. I can never sleep. Food taste blah. Entertainment lacked full box-sets. My bony bum hurts after 30 minutes.

But the new Virgin Atlantic uniform perked me up en route to NYC & back. What interesting asymmetrical neck flounce you have! What chic yet saucy jacket is that! Oh can I have your handbag?

As I exit the plane I had to compliment & ask. Vivienne Westwood of course. I should have known. I want one!

The coat, which I didn’t see onboard, also very yum.

Vivienne Westwood designs for Virgin Atlantic

The fashion crowd can poo-poo all they want. Me & my sewing geek will take Westwood’s saucy cut & interesting details over their blink-and-you’ll-miss-it minimalism all day any day.

Bye bye me mades

No, this isn’t an announcement of retirement from sewing. But I had to say goodbye to a few me-mades (and a few more RTWs) to make room in my luggage for new fabrics from NYC.

I think I ended up with some 46+ yards of fabrics. And that’s after I gave up on a few more swatches collected but couldn’t locate again when I went back to the store! I could have squashed more into the suitcase, but I was already some 20+ kg over the weight limit. And that’s after ditching almost all of my outbound suitcase content. MR had to come to my rescue. So half of my purchases are currently in Dubai on a business trip. I think one is a lurid turquoise & peach snake-print lycra (from Spandex World). Very professional. Hope his boss will be impressed.

So here are the me-made lovelies that sadly I had to say bye bye to…

The Formerly No Toilet Dress

Self-drafted No Toilet Retro Dress This was a self-drafted silk dress that I never blogged. I’m a bit sad to leaver her in NYC because I’m quite proud of her construction: The bodice underlining & interfacing made the top part look smart without undue stiffness in the skirt, & the whole thing is nicely fully lined.

But the pattern fit just wasn’t right. Initially I couldn’t even go to the loo without having to undress. (So that’s a No to jumsuits then.) I did managed to let out a teensy bit from the skirt SA below hip. (Let that be a lesson to you & mostly me: Too much pencils skirt tapering is only passable in a skirt, not a dress. At least not if you don’t like fussing in the toilet & making other ladies – and little ones – wait longer for a stall.) But it’s still a bit hard to sit in & I wear it in fear of wardrobe malfunction. So that’s bye bye wiggle dress.

The Mono-boob Drape Top

5-style-4 This was a wearable muslin originally for a Knit Top Block, then for Burdastyle 2013-02-113.

While the color looked good on film, I said goodbye to her with less tears because I was never fond of her mono-boob look. Maybe the neckline at CF is too high. Maybe it’s just the wrong detail for my boob shape. Maybe the CF rusching wasn’t dramatic enough.

Anyway, I only ever wore it on a can’t-be-bothered day, and only ever with this pair of RTW jeans which is too loose at the waist. So bye bye unibooby one hit wonder top.

The Reverse Prayer Pose Top

V2686 Back Buttoned Sleeveless Sheath Top Another fitting experiment. This one tested FFRP’s tissue fitting and fit-as-you-sew approach on out-of-print V2686 by Tom and Linda Platt. She wasn’t entirely successful – the back still had that dreaded sway-back-ish drag lines.

But that’s not why I let this go. The real reason is that I’m not as flexible as before. The Reverse Prayer yoga pose needed to button this up at CB simply isn’t in my repertoire anymore. So bye bye contorter top.

That’s it for Me-Made Bye Byes. The rest were RTWs. I know where my loyalty lies ;-) All were donated for recycling at Union Square. I hope the me-mades eventually find a good loving home, as two of them are nice silk shantungs. Would be a real shame if they do a reverse Cinderella.

I’ll leave you with some LOL wacky lycras spotted in Spandex House that did not come home with me:

Hmmm, I think I like my food better in my mouth, and cute puppies better on YouTube! But you little ones, you go right ahead & have fun with these!

First conquest in NYC

And I hadn’t even check into the hotel yet! We arrived too early for check-in, so waited at Bryant Park. I stopped by Kinokuniya Japanese book store, where I picked up Ryuichiro Shimazaki’s men’s coats book.

I’ve been tempted ever since Peter of Male Pattern Boldness gave us a peak inside. The pea coat he made from the included pattern looked fabulous & oh so professional. But as it’s men’s coats, and I only really do selfish sewing, I stalled.

Then earlier this year, after seeing my me-made trench, my brother joked about getting me to make him a Burberry Wannabe. So I checked out this book in store to see if it’ll help. The detail shots and the photo styling sold it to me. That and the fact that nothing else in the store was calling my name. (Could be jet-laggedness. Or could be that my taste changed. Or maybe Japanese fashion changed. Or all of the above.)

All I have to do next is to learn to read Japanese and figure out how to do transatlantic fittings. Or so I thought.

Well, it turned out I needn’t have worried my pretty little head. My brother was smart enough to know that he could be waiting a long time to get a trench out of me. So he went ahead and save up for the real McCoy. It was just as well since he’s obviously a Burberry snob, and probably wouldn’t have been gratified by my run of the mill trench without all the neat details that goes into a real Burberry. I manage to get some photos of these details. Some of them are actually shown in the book as well.

Burberry Men’s Trench Details!

Shimazaki’s men’s coats book Pattern No.1 details

Shimazaki-Mens-Coat-book-pattern-1-detailsFascinating innit! Not sure I’d bother with all of them details myself. But the sewing geek in me just can’t resist peaking.

The Burberry trench itself does look quite good on my brother. I’ve read elsewhere some complaints / concerns about them being a bit too big and baggy. But this one has a smart slim fit. Maybe those complaints apply to trenches from the yore years when baggy was in. As for personalized fit, the only alteration the store could offer was sleeve length. That’s where being able to sew a wannabe might come in handy. There is only so much that RTW could cater for. We’ll see. Maybe someday this book will come in handy. If not for my brother, maybe for MR – if I could ever convince him to dress up outside work!

Hop hop & away

OK, now I’m back from epic shopping in NYC, I can finally catch the tail end of the Blog Hopping train. Thanks for the nomination, Chris of Make & Wear! :-) Let’s see if I can keep this short.

1. Why do I write?

For the same reasons that other sewing bloggers write I think:

  • It’s a creative outlet. (Thank you WWW!)
  • And a way to find other people out there like me. (ET phone home!)
  • And to return the favor as I live vicariously through your sewing blogs! (There’s only so many hours in a day. Plus not everything I like looks good on me. Or suit my lifestyle. Or are achievable with my sewing skills / resources. So I’ll just pretend to be you for the glory moments, bypassing all the sewing PITAs on the way!)

2. How does my blog differ from others in its genre?

Hmm, seems more like a question for marketer bloggers who are trying to make a living out of blogging. I don’t think it’s really relevant to be different. Especially for the purpose of finding Life As I Know It out there! So maybe the question is more like “what’s your tribe”, or “what’s the password”, or “sum up your sewing blog in 5 bullet points”. You know, so your fellow ETs can easily identify you and let you into their Speakeasy. So here are my bullet points. Sort of.

  • Style-wise: I guess I’m more contemporary designer RTW with a dash of street and deconstruction. Well, late 80s onward anyway & always a good few seasons behind the curve. I also like vintage, historical costume, and some couture as well. But they don’t fit my lifestyle that well. And I can’t do serious sporty to save my life.
  • Pattern-wise: I’m veering towards draft-my-own. Because most of my inspirations come from RTW. And my current basic blocks aren’t based on commercial fitting patterns. So draft-my-own seems the quickest way to gratification design & fitting-wise. But I do want to eventually make up some of the commercial patterns I own. Haven’t done any Indie patterns yet. Again, fitting alteration being the stumbling block. And the fact that most styles seems fairly basic, so not warrant the trouble of figuring out fitting alterations needed.
  • Sewing approach: You know the RTW vs ‘Couture’ fight. I’m agnostic. I will try different approaches to see which will give me a good balance between effort & reward. Sometimes machine is better because my hand sewing sucks. Sometimes hand sewing is easier because my machine skill sucks. I don’t need anything that’ll last forever after having suffered through figure changes (and just plain old poor design choices and deficient fitting skills). But I do want to do enough to avoid wardrobe malfunctioning!
  • Writing style: Yeah, sorry about all the in jokes and mongrel lingo & cultural checks, and questionable command of grammar & spelling. I did say this is my creative outlet. So you’ll just have to put up with it if you drop by. Work anal retentiveness also spill over. I put information in buckets for a living. So headings & bullet list galore it is then. And I love my mug shots & ‘improvements’ on the Pattern Review format! I wish more people would do the same! :-)
  • Plan for World Domination: None. So no tutorials. No sew-alongs. No pattern releases. None of the wonderfully social things that popular sewing bloggers do! I am an introvert after all.

3. How does my writing  process work?

Painfully! I have tried to write spontaneously sometimes. But most of those languish in the draft queue then dissipate into thin air. What you end up with are mostly project summaries. Which are tedious because I want to be useful. I tend not to write work in progress posts because they seem harder to use as a reference. Too many red herrings and wild goose chases.

4. What am I working on?

Tote Bag v1.0Next up on my sewing To-Dos must be a new tote bag to replace the one I made almost two years ago. I’ve been using it almost nonstop. Must be my most successful project ever! And I would continue to use it if it weren’t for the garment grade dark brown vinyl I used for the accents. That has worn away in many stress points, like the bag bottom corners. This time I think I will try home furnishing grade fake leather. And maybe use that for the handle as well since the fake suede I used in v1.0 fray like crazy. I’m staying away from real leather. Because leather bags always seem to weigh a ton.

But first I need to catch my breath and rest my feet after days of pounding that NYC pavement. And earn some more £££ to feed my sewing habit, what with the damage to my bank account that this NYC trip must have done.

5. Nominations

This is getting tougher as more and more bloggers have already done the hop. And others I follow seem too professional / business-like to participate in this sort of thing. So here are my victims, who I think all share my contemporary (quality) RTW aesthetic…

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…


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 :@)