The 2014/15 Janus Post

Hello everyone. I hope you all had a most wonderful Xmas & festive New Year! Or at least a relaxing holiday!

Mine was a bit stressful: First time catering solo for 7 (we don’t usually celebrate). Plus having to finish up cleaning & home decorating that I’ve been avoiding for ages. But none of that compared with losing my beloved Sewing Room to a visiting teenage boy (sob). I didn’t realize how attached I’ve became to my sanctuary from male messiness. For close to 4 weeks the door was literally shut. The few times I sneaked in to retrieve something or other, I found the room messy, stuffy, & festering with leftover food. I was in shock. The head knew it would happen, but the heart wasn’t prepared to witness it actually happening. I guess it’s just something that those with children get used to. Gradually. Anyway, I hope day or two of airing and cleaning once I get the room back will make it decent & welcoming again. At least no wild party took place in it I suppose. (Respect to all you parents of teenagers out there.)

OK, rant over. Let’s get back to year end review.

Looking Backward

I wasn’t planning on do a round up originally. It’s just too depressing how few projects I finished in 2014. I actually regressed, achieving 2 less than the year before…

2014 Total: 13 makes
Garment types
1 Dress
3 Tops
4 Skirts
3 Sweaters (not blogged yet)
1 Jacket
1 Bag
Pattern brands
9 Self drafted
4 Burda

Oh how optimistic I was back in Feb when I thought I could “easily whip up my New Year Resolution list of…3 pencil skirts, 3 straight skirts, 3 A-line skirts, 3 long sleeve woven tops, 3 short sleeve woven tops, 3 long sleeve knit tops, 3 short sleeve knit tops, 3 dresses, 3 jackets.” That’ll teach me to make NY Resolutions.

Could I at least claim quality if not quantity? While I’m proud of most of my 2014 makes design-wise, I can’t say they’re all that successful in terms of frequency of wear, which is my main criteria of success.

So the winners of 2014 are…

  1. Once again the Self-drafted Tote v2 took the top honor. Finished late in the year it still manage to get more use than all the others combined.
  2. Runner up has to be Franken BS 2013-11-117 Reversible Moto Jacket, despite it’s unwieldy floppy big collar. It has shape without the constricting innards, making it a comfy top-up for never-too-hot London.
  3. And my Self-Drafted Martin Margiela SS 1997 Wannabe Top / Jacket just about made it into the winners circle. Despite being a bit tight, I nonetheless insisted on wearing it (relatively) often. Because it’s neutral-ish, kinda of classy and kinda of edgy. Just my cup of tea.

And the 2014 misses…

The ones I’ve had time to stew on anyway…

  • While I do like how my Self-Drafted Flocked Denim Pencil Skirt looks, it was a mistake not to line this one. When I wear it with tights the front hem hitch up & get caught between my legs in the most unflattering way while walking. I’m not entirely sure why. My unlined RTW wool pencil skirt doesn’t do that. I haven’t checked if it also happens with the Self-Drafted Reversible Pencil Skirt. It doesn’t happen when I go bare legs. I could wear it with a half-slip. But I don’t own one & it’s a fussy solution. I rather just line the damn skirt & forget about it.
  • Franken BS 2012-04-128 Camisole‘s wart was always there. I’ve already talked about it & made peace with it in the write up. The new year hopefully will bring more successful heirs to the Camisole Saga.

2014 in closing

  • I think I’ve laid some good foundation for self-drafted patterns. So while they haven’t panned out into much wearable clothing this year, fingers crossed they’ll make 2015 makes more interesting.
  • I mentioned earlier this year about it being Year of the Skirt. And while I didn’t make 3 of everything, the skirts did win out by a miserly 1. So there, kept my word.
  • I still owe you 3 write-ups for 2014. These are the sweaters I managed to squeeze in just in time. Two are from my F/A Swap Plan. The other is the Michelin Man remade as promised. I’m just waiting to get my Sewing Room / Photo Studio back from teenage boy messiness first.
  • You can see rest of my 2014 makes in my new Finished Projects by Year page (minus the 3 yet to be blogged of course).

Looking Forward

Yeah, I’m not tempting Fate again by making resolutions. Yes I still have my F/W SWAP Plan. But I shall treat it like a menu to keep me from the paralysis of limitless choices & infinite possibilities. Maybe I will add S/S SWAP designs to the menu. Then however the weather changes and whatever mood I’m in I’ll still have a beacon guiding me down the road of …dare I say it…many many makes!

Next on my plate to make I think shall be knit block redux. I’m hoping to get a cardi block sorted so I can whip out 7 in a batch: 5 eminently useful but boring browns & blacks, 1 SWAP, and maybe even 1 rather tame entry for Jungle January. Wouldn’t that be great? Buys me time for half the year just in case productivity fall way down again.


I’ve already drafted & muslined the defunct Stretch Pattern School’s One-Piece Block (with 12% horizontal & 0% vertical negative ease) as a starting point. Once I figure out whether their instruction works for me or not I will derive a 0-ease stretch block, then derive my cardi block from that.

And next on my plate to blog shall be my Tunic Block which one of the SWAP sweater is based on. Wish me luck that it’ll take no time to clean out, freshen up, & reclaim my Sewing Sanctuary!

2013 Round Up

I wish I could join in with all the Top 5s you gals are posting. But this very first year-end-round-up of mine has turned out to be rather disappointing. I felt like I’ve been sewing a lot more this year. But really I only average just 1.25 finished project a month.Not really enough to have various Top 5s. Oh bother!

Garment types
1   Dress
7   Tops
2   Skirts
2   Sweaters
1   Jacket
1   Coat
1   Bag
15   Total
Pattern brands
9   Burda
3   McCall
2   Self drafted
1   Vogue

Do moulage, slopers, and dress form count?

Not that these would up my average much. But fingers crossed now that these have been sorted next year I’ll be much more productive. I’m hoping I’ll have enough to join in Me Made May 2014!

So which project has been the winner of 2013? There is no contest it’s this bag I finished in January. I use it almost every day. It even went on two holidays with me.

Self-drafted Tote

Runner up has to be the wrap sweater I finished while on holiday in the States. It goes with so many outfits so got a fair bit of wear as well. It too went on both of my holidays.

Franken BS 2011-06-139 Wrap Cardigans

Knit tops certainly was popular around here this year. That’s mostly thanks to my two tentative knit blocks. Two sleeveless cowl at the beginning of the year were based on version 1 developed from McCall last year.

The remaining 5 were based on version 2 developed from Burda this year.

This was the first year I’ve tried sweater knit. And although this mock turtle / cowl neck sweater hasn’t had a lot of wear yet, I like it well enough to make more in the future.

Franken BS 2013-02-121 Sweater

This is also the first time in decades that I’ve made clothing for someone else, and the first time ever that I’ve made children’s clothing.

M6501 A+E Dress for Tweeny NieceB9547 B Jacket for Tweeny Niece
Self-drafted Tiered Skirt for Tweeny Nieceneice-2neice-1

Hmm, that jacket is already looking wee bit tight. Then again, the pattern envelope shows it worn buttoned only at the top. Maybe it’s designed to be worn that way. Fingers crossed she’ll get a few more wears out them before she blossom into a lady.

Moving on…It’s a good thing I have some skirt blocks sorted now. I was most nproductive on the skirt front in 2013, yielding a meager one skirt at the beginning of the year. It was a good skirt though.

BS 2012-05-113 Draped Leopard Skirt

And the big production of the year – apart from the mouage and dress form – must be this wearable trench muslin. It was finished just in time as my RTW trench got a bit too stained and threadbare to be presentable.

M5525 D+E Trench

There’s still a few days left to the year. But I think I will not rush to whip up anything more. Instead I might try to get my slopers together over the non-working holidays. Then hopefully next year will be much more productive, even when I’m back at work. Pencil skirt sloper is almost there. I could always do a straight and an A-line one too. Then 2014 can be the year of the Skirts.

What about you? Any last minute sewing for the New Year’s Day partying? Already planning your 2014 sewing? I look forward to reading all about them on your blogs! (Or discussion forums if they’re your literary outlet of choice.)

Older But Not Wiser

Decades ago, when I was a relative sewing novice, I was much more adventurous with my sewing.

Slapdash Pattern Happy!

I thought nothing of my poor techniques, and happily dabbled with making my own patterns. Like this dress…

Apology for the blurry photos. My Mom wasn’t exactly ace with the camera and this was in the days before digital cameras. So you had to wait for the films to be developed to find out that you got some dud photos!

Note the stiff exposed back zipper. The collar probably wasn’t properly interfaced either. But it was my own design, probably inspired by some magazine photos. And then there’s this one…

What was I thinking of? LOL. My head was in the cloud back then. I don’t even remember making this one. (You know I must love you to share such unflattering photos of myself with you! ;-)

Designer Love Love Love!!

Many were the attempts at copying designer clothing I liked but couldn’t afford. There was the Romeo Gigli coat wannabe I wrote about a while back. But my main love back then was the Japanese design house COMME des GARÇONS.

Here’s an example, modeled after a skirt from COMME des GARÇONS Spring Summer 1988 collection…

With the twinkly sequins and sparkling tear drop crystals, the lace skirt was like the widowed Scarlett O’Hara on a crisp rainy day. Rain in its romantic glory of course, not London gloomy.

And another inspired by COMME des GARÇONS Autumn Winter 1988-89 collection…

A red flannel pleated skirt with crochet lace embellishment and self-fabric belt.

I love that folklore inspired collection! There were many more ideas that I didn’t get around to try out.

From the next collection – COMME des GARÇONS Spring Summer 1989 – there were at least two more…

A gathered skirt with one panel folded back up at the hem and hand drawn Renaissance style Pierrot characters.

The blouse pattern was rather interesting. The sleeves were cut as one with the bodice, not separate pieces. They were like bat-wings extending up beyond the shoulder seam. Halfway up the armholes they separate from the upper armhole of the bodice, then were gathered and reattached to the upper armhole. You know those Japanese designers, they like their origami! And yes, those are pom-pom faux buttons.

Sometimes I’d take the liberty to “improve” on the original. Like with this Marc Jacobs dress. I made my version reversible.

Bring On Them Tailoring Challenges!!!

I also wasn’t afraid to tackle tailoring. Here’s my first Vogue suits – Vogue Pattern 9199…

The result is a bit conservative for me at the time, so I didn’t wear it much and have no idea what happened to it.

But then under the lens of the right photographer – my university friend in this case – even a plain old suits can look fashionable!

That suits though didn’t make use of proper tailoring. But this Vogue Pattern 1224 one did… Apology about the lack of mug shots. I guess I used to take sewing for granted so didn’t think to document my projects. Anyway, this one had the pad stitching, the hair canvas, the roll line tape  and everything.

Jolly Old Midlife Crisis!?!?!

So what happened? Well this for example:

Note all the drag lines. Fitting has never been my forte. Nor was picking the right proportion and silhouette. The V1224 suit above for example had wide lapels and extended shoulder that doesn’t really flatter my short-waisted figure. I also didn’t think to lower the waist band slightly to create the illusion of a longer torso. I mean a waist goes where your waist naturally is or where the pattern designer intended it to go, right? So naive I was. I simply took instruction and the pattern at face value. I didn’t think to customize it to suit my own figure quarks.

The other thing that happened was aging. Although I wasn’t great at fitting, stuff I made before didn’t look too bad. The T-Shirt above is actually a recent make. Shock Horror – my figure has changed. And in exactly the ways described in Fit For Real People! The rounded upper back, forward shoulder, fuller bust front and narrower back, fuller tummy, sway back and droopy behinds. You name it, I got it. Makes fitting so much more difficult.

Hence my current obsession with making slopers instead of lovely clothing from the Big 4 patterns  and Burda magazines I’ve collected.

What about you? Have you grown wiser with age and sewing experience? Have you ever hit a sewing midlife crisis like me & got over it? Please, please tell me there’s light at the end of the tunnel! ;-)

It must be Karma…dress

Plan B has veered off course as well. I’m feeling very run down and stressed out at work. So I’ve given myself permission to take the tortoise route to the Draft Along.

In the meanwhile, to keep you entertained, may I present…

my Karma Gingham Dress?

Karma because it keeps on coming back. I’m on version 3 now. Version 1 was about 2 decades ago. (I can’t believe I’m that old now!) I think I’ll probably still be remaking and revising this pattern until I’m pruny.

Today I’ll just showcase the dress, version 1 & 3. (I have no photos of version 2. It was during my Lost Years.) Please indulge me my pony show: If I keep on making this same dress, you know it must be LOVE…Then again, it can simply be Bad Fitting Skill karma.

Here’s the inspiration:

Another photo from NY Times Sunday fashion magazine
from long long time ago, in a land far far away.

Update: I stand corrected. It was actually a Frency magazine. Might have been Maire Claire bis. And probably S/S 87 or 88. The original dress is by Michel Klein.
Iconic isn’t it?

Version 1…

This must have been early 90’s. Youth and a pattern size 8 made it easier to carry off the shorter bodice and shorter hem without looking too street-walkerish.

About 13 years later, I attempted v2 with the same pattern, but in purple gingham. Maybe it’s the color, maybe it’s my body going south, something just wasn’t right. I felt stocky and exposed wearing v2.

So when it came to v3 I made some changes to the pattern and went back to good old B&W.

Version 3…

It’s as close as I’m going to get to the original inspiration without turning caucasian and taking up smoking and boat rowing. OK, maybe it’s more Bonnie & Clyde than Parisian Chic.

Anyway, I’m generally happy with the modified silhouette. The lowered waistline I think makes the waist look less thick. There isn’t a horizontal line  stretching the waist width-wise, which would have been further aggravated by puffy gathering. Instead this width emphasis is shifted down to my anemic hip, giving me more of a hour-glass shape than I normally have. The lowered hem also help lengthens the silhouette. Overall, more lady-like and befitting a woman of my age.

The Mug Shots

The fit still needs a bit of tweaking. Especially the back skirt silhouette. It makes my bum look droopy (which I’m sure it is, but there’s no need to shout about it).

It was even more twee originally when I had the skirt seams running straight from hip downward. It was bell-shaped and not slimming, I’ll tell you that. I tried narrowing the skirt below the bum. It now looks alright from the front. But the back is obviously still not  right. And now it’s also strangely constricting when I sit down despite the extra ease of the gathering.

So you can be sure there will be Karma Gingham Dress: The Next Generation. And when I finally get the fit right, I’ll be in Nirvana. That is if my shape doesn’t change so much that no amount of fitting will make the dress flattering anymore.

Stayed tuned for next installment: The Innards & The Oops.

I might even try to throw in some simple instructions on how you can draft your own version, that is if you already have a sloper and aren’t afraid of pencil, rulers, scissors, and a bit of cellotape.

Maybe one day I’ll figure out how to draft pattern on the computer and create downloadable patterns to save you the pattern-drafting hassle!

Pies in the Sky

And while I’m waiting for the sun to get out of  bed, here’s the original Idea Doodles for the embroidered silk I’m now using for the Draft Along (the ones at the bottom, obviously):

I used to sketch better, having taken both art classes and fashion design classes. Nowadays though, my drawing skills are a bit rusty. But not as rusty as my self-taught almost non-existent pattern-drafting skills. Here are more Idea Doodles, almost all of which I haven’t managed to turn into reality yet.

But I’m getting better. If I can pull off the Draft Along I’ll be one step closer to rehabilitation. And maybe one day soon it’ll rain pies from the sky, and I’ll be able to show you me (or Big Bertha) wearing some of these designs!

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?

Taking the scenic route with Gigli wannabe coat

Unlike the Selfish Seamstress and her recent finished-in-less-than-a-day dress, I take the scenic routes with my sewing projects.

V 1159 is simmering along nicely. It only took me like 2-3 weeks to research, trace out & adjust the pattern, order & prep the fabrics, and finally cutting out the pieces. Still need to transfer the markings. And sewing up, that’ll probably take another week or two at 2-3 seams per day. All relatively rabbit-fast to the tortoise that is my Romeo Gigli wannabe coat from ages ago.

Here’s the inspiration…

At $4000+ back in 1989, there was no way I could have bought it. So I vowed to make a copy. Fortunately I was able to examine one in a store (though how good I was in analysing and recreating is a totally different matter). Here’s my rough pattern sketches from back then.

Even more fortunate was a runway report from Paper magazine which had this close up of the embroidery. I was able to trace and enlarge the pattern on a copier. It saved me from having to recreate it freehand.

So the flurry of activity started in 1989. But it took me another 13 years to finish the coat, partly because I got bored of all the hand applique and embroidery, partly because I moved across the pond so the project had to go into hibernation like forever.

Here’s the end result.

Unfortunately, it turn out to be a massive oops.
(That unlucky 13!)

Oop no.1: As usual, I didn’t check the scale and silhouette first. The coat swamped my frame. I eventually gave it to a friend who is taller and fuller than me. Her vivacious personality and socially active lifestyle really brought the coat to life. In my hand, it just languished in the closet. She wore it out, even for grocery shopping, and got compliments after compliments. Once she was in Harvey Nicols (a very posh London department store) and a gentleman asked where she got it. He wanted to get one for his wife. The other time she was at the opera in NYC and another lady also complimented the coat. Made all that effort so worthwhile, even if it wasn’t me wearing it.

Oops no.2: Cotton velvet wasn’t the best choice of fabric. It wasn’t as drapy as rayon or silk velvet, so looked bulky and too big on me. And although the coat looked like it should be quite cozy, it was actually not very warm. Again probably the cotton to blame. (Didn’t help that I’m a girl of the Tropics either.)

Oops no.3: I didn’t think through the button-hole choices and went for hand sewn ones. Turned out a bit wonky. Luckily I had some stretch brown cords which I was able to fashion into fancy loops that pretty much covered up the wonky button holes.

Not an Oops: The embroidery I’m quite proud of. The applique was made with China Silk, outlined with green embroidery cords. The embroidered parts were backed by wadding to give the collar and cuffs a bit of body, maybe a tad too much. Here are some close-ups.

Here’s what it looks like inside.

A fittingly Tragic Romantic Ending…

Sadly the coat was too delicate to withstand the fast paced lifestyle of my friend. Buttoned up the bottom is rather narrow. So one day one of the buttons came off, not being able to cope with her grand strides. It tore the fabric where it was attached to. I tried to repair it clumsily with fusible. Of course that didn’t work with velvet. So now you see the outline of the fusible patch where the tear was. My friend decided not to take it back as she felt guilty about the tear.

So like a faded grand dame it has retired back into my closet. But I’m glad it had gotten a good leash on life. Better to have lived and be torn than to be pristine in a sterile ivory tower!