The ever festering dress

I’m on route to my brother’s graduation with nothing to do on the flight. So finally, some time to catch you up on the gazillion projects I always seem to be working on (if not finish).

First off, a lemon.

It started life as a RTW dress from Camden Market. As expected of the Camden aesthetic it’s a bit Lolita Goth. It’s an interesting combination of a thin stretchy knit that clings for the long sleeve top and a floaty soft muslin for the A-line gore skirt. Inside the skirt at each vertical seam there’s a twill tape that allows you to draw up the skirt to form irregular bubble hem.


I liked the dress well enough, but that knit top was never going to keep its shape with a full skirt dragging it down. So I decided to multiply my investment and turn each section into a separate garment.

First off, the skirt. I thought I’d keep to the Victorian Undergarment feel and keep it light and airy in thin China Silk and as a pull on with no zip, no closures. After much agonizing I settled on a spaghetti strap camisole top with empire waist in the front slopping to a natural waist in the back. I didn’t have the right shade of matching off-white, so I went for what seems like a complementary shade light mocha, along with a lovely organdy ribbon with gold scroll print for a border.

camden-dress2-dsgn camden-dress2-detail-3

For pattern, I base it on my most recent bodice sloper result. camden-dress2-patternThe bust darts have been pivoted into one single French dart, and bodice cropped at under-bust in the front. The back waist darts have been pivoted out, resulting in a continuous curved back piece. But I then had to pivot the dart back in to make the waist big enough to slip the dress on. OK, no big deal I thought and continued my merry way finishing the damn slippery top and attached it to the skirt.

Boy was I wrong. The result was less than stellar. The combination of the color and silhouette just does not work for me. Especially in the back where the unflattering puffy band of the back bodice cuts my body into unflattering proportions.


The angle of the straps also look a bit weird. But I had to shift them so close to the CB to prevent the straps from falling off my sloping shoulder / muscular neck.

I tried my best to style it to no avail. So it’s a case of “Sounds Good In Theory…”


But fear not. The dress isn’t going to be binned. camden-dress2-detail-2

The doubled spaghetti straps with matching bows are too pretty to bin. I’m just going to dissect and multiply the dress again and turn this lemon into a lemon meringue. Stayed tuned to find out what becomes of 1 that became 2 that then became 3 dresses.


Byzantine dreams

OMG, I can’t believe I’ve just finished not 1, but 2 sewing projects! Granted, both left a bit to be desired in the fitting department. But still, it’s unheard of. Almost.

London weather being dull as ever, no evidence of my minor achievements just yet. Instead you’ll have to make do with part 2 of my Gigli coat quest. Nope, you haven’t heard the end of it yet! :o)

While Gigli attempt no. 1 was hibernating, I stumbled across Folkwear 503 Poiret Cocoon Coat pattern. It’s vaguely Gigliesque. So I thought I’d try a store-bought pattern for a change as my attempts at copying designer garbs have been a bit of the luck of the draw.

The example on the pattern envelope is a bit ugly to be honest. But I thought with a classier fabric it might look glam enough. So I plucked for a gorgeous brown cut velvet with silver-gray satiny lining.

And here’s the result…

Well, the almost-finished result anyway. You see, the trouble is once it’s mostly made up I lost heart. It felt more like a dressing gown for Ladies who Lunch than a Byzantine Princess Coat. So I never put the finishing touch on it. Instead it’s been languishing for years in the TBA pile.

A real shame as I  even added some nicely finished welt pockets with almost perfectly matched pattern. And extra double-welt pockets in the lining as well!

(Why anyone would want to laden such delicate coat with dead weight is beyond me now, but I vaguely recall being obsessed about lack of pocket practicalities in women’s clothing back then.)

Here’s the not so graceful back view. The drapes just look wrong so low down. It reminds me of an oversized diaper: Squarish. Bottom heavy. Not very flattering no matter what shape you are.

Here’s a Poiret illustration for comparison.

And it gets weirder. Here’s the batwing. I feel like a flying squirrel. Or is it the sleeve equivalent of a Hammer pants? ;-)

If I were to do it again, I’d go for something a bit more like this:

But given my lack of success with the Gigli coat attempts, I doubt I’ll try this style of coat again. Especially with the advance of middle age spread where my already small frame subcomb to gravity and grow sideways!

Instead I think I’ll look to my old favorite Comme des Garçons for inspiration on refashioning this lovely cut velvet coat.

Comme des Garçons Fall 1996

Probably not another coat though.

Maybe a top like this sketch I drew of a lady in a CdG top at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I love the contrast between the austere muslin and the sumptuous cut velvet.

So maybe I’m not cut out to be a Byzantine Princess. But a Byzantine Peasant wouldn’t be too much to ask for innit?

The Chinese Knitting Machines

This morning I saw a lady knitting on the Tube (London subway). It’s quite rare to find people knitting in public here in London. I was doing it myself just this past year when I tried to learn how to knit.

It’s rather a useful skill to have as you generally can’t sew on the go, but knitting is much more portable. The only problem is, if I find home sewing pattern frequently rather dowdy, home knitting seem much worse. I like knit clothing that you’d buy in stores, so it’s not like I don’t like knits. But my own knitting projects so far have turned out 2 Oops (sweaters / jumpers) and 1 oops-but-still-good-enough (boyfriend scarf). And ones knitted presumably by experts and featured in knitting pattern books don’t seem much better style-wise.

Oops # 1: big chunky short sleeve sweater

My second knitting project, this one is destined for the Frogging Pile despite looking OKish in the end. I had already frogged it once, the original pattern being one size smaller yet still too big. Thankfully the Rowan Drift yarn was very fast to knit – I almost finished half of it on one 6 hour flights to the States – and easy to frog.

But call me frigid if you will, if I go chunky I need everything covered. Chunky + short-sleeve is knitting oxymoron. Chunky is actually also rather uncomfy under the arm. Maybe I’m just a princess with her pea. Anyway, Plan B is a puncho. I’m waiting to see if the August Burda have any skinny retro pants or skirt to go with it. Not the Poodle Pants that Channel No. 6 had already poo-poo’ed though!

Oops # 2: bat wing sweater

Project # 3 turned out more Michelin Man than chic. I’m terribly disappointed. Again I had already went one size too small and further. But it’s still a balloon. (Is it that I’m just too short for all these Western patterns, sewing and knitting?)

Style it right and captured from the right angle I might just be able to get away with it in photos. But in full motion life it’s going to the Stay At Home Pile – the Rowan Kidsilk Aura being too hairy to frog…Unless I can somehow alter it by sewing, basically treating it as a knit fabric. A real shame anyway, as I managed to knit it in the round so there’s practically no bulky seams at all.

oops-BSGE: boyfriend scarf

k-boyfriend-scarfGlenn’s Scarf by Katherine BuckspanGlenn's Scarf from Ravelry by Katherine Buckspan This was the beginning. And probably most successful despite minor oops. I mean, you can’t really go wrong with a scarf can you?

The oops is in the pattern. I read the instruction wrong, so the first 3 rows of repeats are not reversible. No biggy though, I just turn the last 3 rows into the same and make it look intentional.

But the whole point of this post is to…

…Point out how fast the Chinese knit. The lady on the Tube presumably is knitting the English way. Many different finger movements were involved which seems to slow things down. I tried to learn from an UK book, but my Mom then showed me the way she learnt, which supposedly is the Japanese way. It’s a bit more efficient, but still nothing compared with the way a Chinese lady showed me when  I was knitting while waiting in a shop. Her fingers were like a knitting machine. Up down up down, the loops spilling out in no time at all. What took me weeks to knit she claimed would have been done in one day in China.

chinese knitting video (see 4:55)

chinese knitting video (see 17:58)

Those Chinese, tough & capable as … I’ll leave you with this inspiring image then.

Let’s hope prosperity won’t turn them soft! ;-)

A risqué 122 & her french pretender twin 112

Burda Style Feb 2010 issue’s patterns 122 and 112 that is…

Burda Style 2010-02 Style 122

Burda Style 2010-02-122

Burda Style 2010-02 Style 112

Burda Style 2010-02-112

These I’m quite proud of even though the fit left something to be desired. For once I used up a piece of fabric within 3 months of purchase. That’s unheard of! Usually it’s years, if not decades. Or ever.

It’s cotton jersey, probably not of the best quality as 112 has started pilling a bit. But I managed to get 2 tops and a convertible headband out of 1.75 yards x 60″ wide. The hand is quite pleasant to work with. Matching stretchy stripes not so much.

And like almost everyone else who’ve attempted 122, mine refuse to stay on my shoulders. Granted I didn’t help things by lowering the back neckline. I also made the booboo of not altering the pattern for my “mature” boobs. I went for the skinniest size – dowdy-phobia again – but forgot to lower the underbust seam. It’s not end of the world though it does look like I borrowed some teenager’s top. The off-shoulder number I do need to fix though. I’m just not sure how yet. So another one for the TBA pile.

112 came out better. Hence the pilling from wearing it once too often. I lowered the neckline and shorten to 3/4 sleeves. And went for the skinniest size again of course.

So here is me striking a pose in it with a jersey tube skirt and a cashmere beret I made earlier. No, I wouldn’t go out in the full regalia. Or maybe I would! :0) You can get away with a lot more crazy dressing in a big cosmopolitan city.

And the headband is typically me – commitment-phobe. At least when it comes to sewing.

Without Bow
With Bow

How it works

The loop covering the joint is closed by hooks. There are two sets of loops for the hooks to latch on to, one set of which are thread bars. This is to accommodate the bow: with bow the loop needs to be looser, without it needs to be tighter.

Now if only my head isn’t so flat so the headband would stay put instead of slipping off the back of my head…

And as if that wasn’t enough, the tiny scrap leftover is going to MBP. That’s “My Blythe Pile”…

Lucky Girl

I must have been Scottish in my past life. Or blighted by rationing. The MBP is overflowing as well.

Hmm…yet another no-breathing skirt

I’m very good at these: No breathing clothes.

Normally it’s a case of not knowing where to add the absolutely bare minimum of ease so that it doesn’t come out dowdy. But this time I was simply in denial. I absolutely refused to believe I’d go beyond 27″. I mean, even 27″ seems like a lot. Middle age spread? No way! Not yet!

Actually, the mistake is probably in going with a thick waistband. At my waist I may be less than 27, but go a bit further up and all bets are off. The rib cage refuse to be reined in. (Though all those recent treats for extra hours at work probably didn’t help.)

And the boobs are definitely heading south. So unless it’s empire waist, the top of the waistband should never venture too close to my underbust. Now I know.

So style it all I can, this one I just don’t love. Even though the color combination I do like.

Will have to sleep on it. Maybe add it to the TBA (To Be Altered) pile (AGAIN! See previous post) so that I can at least breath in it.

Failing that a bit of nip tuck to shave off a few inches of flesh maybe? :-)