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!

Ever the Wearable Muslin: aka Burdastyle 2013-02-113

OK, last one in my current batch of 3 to write up.

This one started out as Muslin no. 2 for my Burda 2012-09-123, aka T-Shirt Block. It was a wearable muslin, but with a not very flattering over-stuffed sausage look. So as planned, I cut a new front with more drape, and reused the back and sleeves. Plus old front became the facings.

The Pattern

Cool photo. I was seduced. And the back & sleeve again look basic enough to re-purpose my wearable muslin. The front drape I thought would work much better for this thin and drapy fabric.

Style Shots & Mug Shots

5-style-14-mug-1F 4-mug-4SR 4-mug-3B   5-style-5 5-style-4

Fabric & Notions Used

Size Used

Another one graded down to a size 34, ignoring standard instruction for a 38.

Changes Made

Fitting changes

I’m still experimenting with pattern-to-Block comparison as a quicker way to make fitting changes. So don’t quote me on what I’m doing – I’m fumbling. So far it hasn’t worked out too badly for me yet. But it’s early days. And there are probably better, more logical ways to do this that I have yet to discover.

OK, let’s start with the back since it’s much more straight forward. Sort of.

2-alt-1 2-alt-2 2-alt-3
  1. I took the easiest way out, the least change option by aligning the pattern & Block at the underarm level. The above waist side seam then almost match exactly. So all I had to do was to trace the new shoulder seam and lower part of the armscye.
  2. I then moved the pattern up until the below waist side seam almost match exactly & make a note of how much I had to move up.
  3. That amount is then overlapped at the waist line.

Next the front. Not so easy. In fact it’s all a blur. I’d call it Black Magic, except the result wasn’t exactly magical. This is what I can piece together afterward.

  1. I start with the easy part – the front facing. Again aligning at underarm level and CF. In this case size 36 came closer in width. So I use that as guide & marked out new shoulder seam & side seam.
  2. I think for the actual front I just overlapped the same length at the waist level as on the back.Smoothed the side seam at the waist. Then matched the front & back side seam from the hem up & marked the waist level on the front.
  3. Next compared the front side seam from waist level up against the Block, grading out to size 36 at the underarm level so the CF would align & the front wide enough at bust.
  4. Finally, pivot & slide on the underarm point so the armscye align again with the original pattern & CF is still aligned (wide enough). Marked the new shoulder seam and called it done!
Design changes
  • 2-alt-13I extended the CF drape’s cut on facing a bit because the short stub I see on other people’s versions looks a bit untidy to me.
  • I extended the facing length as well, originally intending to try adding a built-in shelf-bra that I see in a few of my Victoria’s Secret t-shirts / dresses.
    3-sew-exp2-6The shelf-bra didn’t work out because my fabric was too thin, so every bump shows. In retrospect I should have extended the facing all the way down to the waist where the extra drape in the front means a looser fit, so bumps less likely to show through.

Verdict on the Instruction

Appalling. I did read the instruction because of the more complicated design details. And I did eventually made sense of it. But I’d highly recommend you check out these blogs for photo-illustrated instruction: (in French), The Couture Academic, SMF Designs & Friends.

Again, I deviated in places to suit my experiments. So here’s what I did:

  1. Front details prepared per instruction.
  2. I chose not to interface the entire facing. In stead, I stabilized only the shoulder & neckline with Vilene Bias Tape. Sewed shoulder seam. Overlocked hems.
  3. Sewed facing to bodice at neckline per instruction. Almost. See Oops & Improvement A below…
  4. Finish off the front drape per instruction. Almost. See Oops & Improvement B & C below.
  5. Sewed sleeves to bodice with facing handled like underlining.
  6. Sewed sleeves & side seams with facing handled like underlining. See Oops & Improvement D below.
  7. Finished sleeve & bodice hem with stretch seam.
Oops & Improvements
  1. 3-sew-exp2-5I made a boo-boo during cutting and end up with a gash right by the neckline in the shoulder area. As the front takes up a bit of fabric, and I’m still not 100% sold on this color, I decided not to recut a new front. Instead I tried patching the gash with a bit of iron-on interfacing on the wrong side, and top-stitching along the neckline for reinforcement. It’s good enough for yet another “Wearable Muslin”!
  2. 3-sew-exp1 Some of the Pattern Reviewers mentioned that the heavy drape has a tendency to pull the facing to the outside. So I  top-stitch the front bust seam to the facing to prevent the facing from shifting – see photo showing the stitching from the facing side. I think the extended facing and drape fold-over bit also help. I don’t have the same facing flopping out problem in my finished top.
  3. What didn’t work out so well is my attempt to control the hang of the drape.  I wanted the drape to be more dramatic. So I tried stitched down pleats instead of gathering at the fold-line.
    3-sew-exp2-1 3-sew-exp2-2 3-sew-exp2-3
    But the stitching was too visible in the finished result. Plus the way I overlocked the end and folded over the neckline meant the drape wasn’t hanging smoothly. So I had to unpick the pleat stitching. But I did learn from the process that irregular pleats – just bunching things up – gives me a nicer, more natural looking drape than regular pleating or gathering. In fact, I wish I had done the same with the bust gathering. Standard gathering just produce an unflattering big puffy mono-boob look.
  4. 3-sew-exp2-4The shelf-bra Oops. Well, this might not have been an Oops if I had used a more substantial fabric. The shelf bra idea is basically facing that goes down to your underbust with elastic sewn to the bottom edge so it forms a nice extra support for your girls. I had to take the elastic out. But the longer facing that’s sewn into the armscye and side seam does help support or counter-act the weight of the front drape nicely.

Would I sew it again / Would I recommend it to others

After all that I have to say I’m a bit Meh with the result. It’s partly the color. That one styling shown above was about the only combination that I could come up with. Nothing else in my wardrobe want to play nicely with this color and shape.

The mono-boob look also is a bit disturbing. Fine on younger, flatter busts. No so fine on my short-waisted torso with “maturing” girls. Maybe irregular pleats instead of gathering would help. Maybe a lower, deeper V-neckline might also deflate the melons a bit.

So learn from my mistakes. And if you are a perennial jean wearer by all means go for this. There are definitely other makes of this pattern out there that look really flattering on their owners.

In the meanwhile I’ll be wearing this around the house as one of my growing pile of slob-out wearable muslins!

Now back into the rabbit hole for my next batch. I think I should give myself a break from complicated pattern fitting puzzles and whip up a batch of easy T-shirts now that I have a TNT T-shirt Block. What do you think?

T’was a unlucky weekend…

…when no sewing can be done. Because…

Saffy the sewing machine is still sick. And on top of that, my Horn Eclipse Sewing Cabinet‘s lift mechanism had decided to pack in too. Being of superstitious stock I’m blaming it on Mercury Retrograde.

So Saffy has been sent to the local dealer for “Servicing” on Saturday. And with the retrograde ending today and the dealer being closed for Sundays, fingers crossed that when they get around to her it’ll be a simple “Servicing” to fix the whacky tension problem (and not some major operation that’ll take months and cost a fortune).

As for the cabinet, I think the problem might be a tension wire gone off track.

See that black dial with two grooves, one of which is empty? I suspect the wire is suppose to go into that empty groove. I can’t think why else there would be two grooves. Does anyone else have an Eclipse and can check for me where that wire is suppose to go?

We tried disassembling the lift to get the wire back in place. But there’s no clearance above the dial to maneuver the wire back in place. I have absolutely no idea how the wire managed to escape in the first place.

The cabinet is less than a year old as well! I’m hoping Horn Furniture will be nice about it and help me get it fixed. Wish me luck!

The Dog Ate My Homework

Well hello there people. Long time no post. I just started a new job and joined the gym for the very first time in my life. So free time is hard to come by lately.

And how should I spend it? Blogging more excuses why I got no new sewing projects to show OR shut up and get sewing? I decided you might enjoy it better with more action and less talk.

The Good News:


I’ve finished 3 projects, all from the Psychedelic Leopard turquoise knit.

(Hello there Anne aka Pretty Grievances! BTW have you checked out March Burda? There’s a page dedicated to you – even if they’re like 2 months late for Jungle January.)


The Bad News:

I just finished the 3 projects late last night. Or is that early this morning. So you won’t get any Show-N-Tell until next week – what with short London winter days and working 9 to 5 (or 9:30 to 6pm more like).

Suffice it to say for now, I wasn’t able to squeeze a long sleeve wrap top on top of the Donna Karan Vogue Pattern 1282 cowl-neck top and Burdastyle Magazine 2012-05-113 skirt out of the 2+ yard fabric. That was always a bit too ambitious I guess. But I did manage another sleeveless cowl-neck top based on modified McCall 6078 view C. I also have a biggish scrap left which I’m debating on whether to turn into a scarf or not.

And Oops, I seem to have broken my Husqvarna Viking Sapphire 830 sewing machine in the process.


Thankfully with unreasonably high top thread tension (7) and a noise cancelling headphone, I just about managed to finish these 3 projects on the machine.

So here’s a question for you:

If your fancy smancy machine broke out of warrantee, would you bother taking it to a local dealer for fixing / servicing? Or would you take a screw-driver to it and see if you can fix it yourself? (DH not an option as my DOH doesn’t do DIY!)

I’ve read a few horror stories about getting Husqvarna machines fixed, so I don’t know if it’s worth paying the price to get no working machine for weeks and months on end.

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.


I’m a Dummy

The other day I got another cut of fabric. Yes 600+ yards ain’t enough. Not if you don’t have the right color in sufficient quantity. And let me tell you, I’m just in love with this most gorgeous orange silk dupioni!

Anyway, I wanted to serge the ends before I pre-shrink it in the washing machine. Yes, I chuck silk into the wash. I can’t stand any fabric that I can’t wash. I’ll go the stretch and hand wash if necessary, but dry-clean or specialist cleaning only? No thanks. Not even Claire Shaeffer’s Fabric Sewing Guide can convince me otherwise. Besides, I have plenty of dupioni / shantung in my stash, all washed, and I like their soft lived-in look much better than the off-the-loom gleaming look.

Anyway, I wanted to serge the ends because I want to avoid this:

These silk are notorious for raveling. And those whiskers stick to you like cotton candy. Plus at those prices, you don’t want to lose even 1/16 of an inch.

Now it’s been a while since my one and only dalliance with the serger. That was when I first read through the manual like months ago. So when I took it out again, my mind blanked a bit. I didn’t want to re-read the manual again, especially as it’s full of fluffs (extra instructions in different languages cluttering up every single step). I cherry-picked the bit I thought I needed: settings for 2-thread overlock. So I put on the converter cap and off I go. Or not.

I got a ball of mess. The extra threads were still coming out. I thought the converter was supposed to take care of it. Must I really remove the extra threads and needle? With all the doom and gloom I read online about how difficult it is to thread sergers, I didn’t really want to unthread the extra threads.

The manual wasn’t crystal clear on this. I checked my two serger books: Serger Secrets and Ultimate Serger Answer Guide. Unfortunately the For Dummies sections weren’t detailed enough. These books are obviously for the initiated, what with all their serger jargons. I need a Serger For Dummies book instead. I didn’t even know how to describe my problem properly, never mind looking up fixes and progress to creative serging!

So I bite the bullet and unthread the upper looper thread completely, and unthread the left needle thread from the needle only. Yeap, I left the left needle in. I’m that stupid when it comes to sergers. A machine that can take four threads just turn my brain to mush. I’m glad I didn’t go for an even fancier one with even more spools of threads.

And for the ball of mess, it didn’t go away until I finally figured out what I did wrong: I forgot to lower the presser foot.

(In my defense, my current sewing machine doesn’t have a physical presser foot lever. It automatically lowers when I step on the pedal. Alternative I press a button for manual lowering. So I completely forgot that these machines can have a physical presser foot lever that you have to manually lower!)

Cape WIP

No, I haven’t been playing truant. Work’s been rather stressful, so progress is slow with the cape. I’m almost there. Just need to attach the lining, finish the hem, the button holes and buttons. In the meanwhile, here are some WIP pictures. Non-sewers be warned – plenty of boring sewing details to follow!

The fitting tweaks…

So, after my disappointing muslim of Burda Style 2011-08-112, I enlisted the help of Big Bertha, my duct-tape twin (more about her some other day). She made me realise a few truths.

  1. My shoulders are lopsided.
  2. All those massage therapists weren’t lying, I do have shoulders of concrete.
  3. My neck sticks forward like a chicken, which is why all those RTW shirts gape at the back of the neck and choke me in the front.
  4. And finally, all those fitting experts weren’t lying either, if it doesn’t fit at the shoulders it won’t fit right elsewhere.

Here’s the muslim on Big Bertha…Back shoulder seam has been let out at the neck base to accommodate my concrete back shoulder muscle.  Similar amount has been removed from the front shoulder at the neck base…

All of a sudden the whole things hangs much better. Even the weird lumps at the upper arms seem less noticeable and the arm holes less restrictive.

But I decided to smooth out the lumps anyway and move the  arm holes as planned so I can gain some useful pockets.

I also let out a bit at center front for my chicken neck to roam freely.

Here’s the final patterns…

On the left are side-front & front, on the right are back & side-back. The new lines drawn on the old Burda patterns for comparison…

So the shoulder points have been moved inward & upward. I also increased the hem width of the sides by pivoting from the shoulder points to make the cape feel less constrictive.

The double-welt arm-hole and the pockets are my additions too. The arm-holes now align with my arms naturally at my sides. The top of the arm holes are about 2″ above my elbows to accommodate bent arms without bunching up above, and they extend just far enough  so I can comfortably stick my hands in my spanking new in-seam pockets! See…

And of course I can’t possibly commit to just one way of wearing it. So belt holes have been added in the front side seams just above the pockets.

Here they are, tried on with my Topshop trench belt for size & positioning.

So, with the patterns happily settled, the sewing commenced.

All cut out and…Oops!

Here are the fabrics all cut out, and reinforcement interface ironed on. Now for the oops…What is a sewing project without an Oops right?

In the dim light after work I stupidly forgot to check the direction of the nap. This fabric has texture a bit like pony skin with furry nap running downward. I cut the fabric upside down, so the nap runs upward. Great for catching crumbs! At least all of the pieces are in the same direction. Anyway, too late to cry over spilt milk & all that. So soldiering on…

Double-welted arm-hole slits



  • The arm hole slits being on the bias I thought I better interface it to cut down stretching.
  • Bulk was a bit of a worry. I allowed a bit extra width for the welt than I would on thinner fabrics. So 2 welts added up to 5/8″ width. I cut separate fabrics for each welt and staggered the seam allowances so that when finished, they’ll be graded for a gentler slope rather than one hefty 3 layer 1/4″ cliff.
  • Machine basting some guidelines followed by hand-basting kept the seam-rippers at bay. And voilà, here’s the finished welted slits.



And now for some Pocket Magic!

  • The original in-seam slits have been converted into in-seam pockets. They sit just below the waistline and I made sure they’re big enough for my hand. And my Oyster card. And my smart phone. What after my expensive disaster with Lilliputian Topshop trench pockets I was taking no chances.
  • They actually sit just inside the seam. I had cut 3/4″ seam allowance to accommodate the thick fabric. The pockets are sewn to the bodice with 1/4″ seam allowance, leaving about 1/2″ of coat fabric acting as facing. This prevents the lining fabric pockets from poking out, but without the bulk factor of a separate facing.
  • The pockets are actually backed by fitting muslims. I was paranoid that keys & co. will poke holes in my pockets no sooner than I finish the cape. So preventative reinforcement was patched on. OTT I know. Here are some lovely views of the innards….

What do you think? Should I just wear it out like that – yes, inside out? ;-)

The state of the affair…

Look rather dashing don’t you agree? ;-)

Just wait till you see what I have planned for the leftover! Yes, I’ve managed to squeeze enough for a handbag from the scarp. But plan for how to put that together is fuzzy as fuzzy can be.

One thing at a time. First get off this blog and get that old Viking Sapphire cranking!