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?

TNT Trench Odyssey: Part 2a Fitting detour to Shoulder Pad Land

No sooner have we started than we make the first scenic detour. This one is to Shoulder Pad Land.

I’ve been told that fitting needs to be done with the relevant shoulder pad in place – if I plan on keeping the shoulder pads that is. And although I’m no fan of footballer shoulders (that’s American football, not the World Cup variety), I thought maybe a sliver might give the jacket a more professional tailored look.

So to buy or to make. Well, as I had already cut out batting for the shoulder pads ages ago I thought I’d go down the homemade route. Isn’t it sign of better tailored garments anyway? She says snootily.

The only problem though…I’m not sure these homemade ones would be washable. Now my RTW trench‘s shoulder pads, while low-quality looking, is at least washable. And I hate garments that are dry-clean only. That was one reason I bought that particular RTW trench – it is machine washable. On the other hand, I’m not sure I’ll be able to find ready-made ones that are thin enough for my taste. So maybe I will make these detachable rather than sewn in.

v8817I’m using OOP Vogue 8817 for these shoulder pads. But as usual, I’m deviating from the pattern instruction to try out some fancy-schmancy instruction from my sewing books. This time it’s from Cabrera Meyers’ Classic Tailoring Techniques: Men’s Wear.

The V8817 instruction looked like it would have produced a hefty pad even for the thinnest, supposedly 1/4″ version.


So I…

  • Removed one of the two layers of the smallest piece.
  • Strip all the batting of the thin non-woven cover layers. (Did I use the right type of batting I wonder. These cover layers make it impossible to have smoothly transitioned layers.)
  • Half each layer again.
  • Feathered the layer edges for a smoother transition between the different sized layers.


The result looks more like the photo in the tailoring book.

Per that book I also replaced the hair canvas top and bottom layers with muslin – seems like it would feel nicer as canvas can be a bit scratchy to wear. And for pad stitching I ran these parallel to the concave shoulder edge like in the book rather than perpendicular like instructed by V8817.

Here’s how the finished pad compare with the foam pad from my dissected RTW trench:


And that concludes our detour to Shoulder Pad Land. You can wake up now!

Me Made Holiday

So, how was your Me Made May 2013? I was very tempted to join in. But I simply don’t have enough projects that I can still wear to even do 1 Me Made a day, never mind outfits of Me Mades only for a whole big month. But I think I might just manage a Me Made Holiday.

I hereby promise to wear at least one Me Made garment a day during my 14 day visit to the US of A. Repeats allowed – I am hoping to have room for new fabric acquisitions after all! But I will try to at least wear them in different outfit combinations.

So promise made. Now time to panic. What should I pack? Should I rush a few more pieces through – like I did for my dream trip to the Maldives last year?

I thought maybe I could whip up a few more simple knit tops. You know, build on my recent Fitted T-shirt Block experiment. Two Steps Forward One Step Back instead of the usual One Step Forward Two Steps Back (thanks to flitting between different types of projects without really mastering any).

And I did get as far as drafting patterns and cutting out fabrics for

But in the end, after checking the holiday weather forecast – HOT – I decided to pack mostly previous summery makes. They were rather impractical for chilly London. So this would be the perfect opportunity to justify their existence.

I did have to fix a couple of them though.

  • v1159_4s2_6.jpgVogue 1159 Donna Karan Draped Front Dress needed the Vilene Bias Tape (stabilizing interface) removed from the armholes. I think I was mistaken to think that armholes need stabilizing to the same extent as necklines. There’s no big head to fit over, so theoretically they shouldn’t stretch out of shape as much. I think I was confused by previous Burda instructions for raglan sleeve T-shirts. Anyone know the correct rules when it comes to interfacing knit garment edges?
  • heidi-skirt-frontHeidi Skirt (not blogged yet)…relic from my NYC days which I’ve refashioned numerous times for an ever expanding waistline. Well it’s that time again :-( . And this time I had to resort to butted waist band ends with hooks & eyes too :-( . Time to seriously hit the gym. But not until after my holiday of course!

I also ended up sewing the Wrap Cardi, but ran out of time to finish the hemming. So it’s basted and packed with a mini-sewing kit, ready to be hand finished during the trip.


What about you? Do you panic sew your holiday wardrobe too?

Close but no cigar (aka Heavenly Burda 2012-09-123 part 4)

I could have shown you my finished Burda 2012-09-123 T-shirt. Except I couldn’t finish it. Because I had to send Saffy the sewing machine back to the hospital.

She came back last Saturday. Her unbalanced tension seemed to have been fixed. But oh no, what’s this, Needle Down setting no longer works! And I can’t live without the Needle Down setting. I don’t know about you, but whatever I sew, the feed doesn’t stay straight. I constantly have to readjust the seam allowance to keep the sewing on the stitching line. Stopping with the needle down and presser foot slightly up has saved many a sewing project here. Plus there are all those corner turning where it comes in handy too. So back to the sewing machine repair shop Saffy went today.

I’ve actually sewn up most of the T-shirt already. I just need to finish the stretch hemming on Saffy’s return. In the meanwhile I can show you the embellishment step.

You may recall from Part 1 that my take on this T-shirt is inspired by Dolce & Gabbana’s Fall / Winter 2013 Byzantine Princess collection

Photo credit: Style.com

2-embellish-f-1smallSo for the front, I went back to my art history lesson and pulled up this mosaic image of Byzantine Empress Theodora (who turned out to be pretty cool, an early feminist you might say).

  • First I turned the image into grayscale and fiddled with the contrast in a photo editing software.
  • Then I printed it out, scaling to the size I need, and traced the key outlines onto tracing paper.
  • Next using dressmaking carbon and a blunt plastic needle (used for sewing up hand knitting) I transferred the design onto the fabric which had the pattern pieces already marked out.
  • Finally I used 3 different metallic paints to fill in the outlines: Jacquard Lumiere 561 Metallic Gold for white areas, Jacquard Lumiere 552 Bright Gold for mid-tone areas, and Jacquard Lumiere 565 Metallic Bronze for dark areas. Then heat set with iron set at temperature for my fabric.

For the back I used the Urban Threads wings embroidery design as planned. I was good though. Rather than ripping the artist off, I paid for easily affordable $1 hand embroidery design.

  • I printed this out directly on tracing paper with the design scaled down to 90%.
  • Then this was again transferred to the back fabric piece with dressmaking carbon and an old dried out ball-point pen.
  • The lines were then traced with the Jacquard Lumiere 561 Metallic Gold and Jacquard Lumiere 552 Bright Gold fabric paint, and again heat set with iron.

Those of you with eagle eyes (and mind) would have noticed I committed a big sin in the process: Marking the fabric with carbon paper like there’s no tomorrow. And worse, pressing over the said markings without washing them out first. Yeah, I’m a rebel. So sue me! ;-) Bred in NYC I like my Edginess. So I don’t mind if the carbon marking won’t wash out. If you’re of posher or more conservative taste, then do find some other way of transferring your markings and designs.

Anyway, I’m off to find some other project I can work on with just Bernie the overlocker and handsewing.

Stayed tune for the conclusion to this Heavenly T-shirt project coming in a week or two!

Improv Tote: WIP 2

Lucky you! An update within a week of my last post! ;-) Yes, a bit more progress was made on the tote. So, where were we?

The Handles Of Course


So I went with the D-Ring option in the end. I also removed the stiff woven interfacing from the cording – it was too stiff – and instead went with naked cording inside double layer of faux suede.

The part below the D-Ring ended up being a layer of vinyl leather over faux suede – for that fake leather thickness. I went for a Vivienne Westwoodish diamond shape cut out with the aid of a cardboard template. WIP-06

As you can see, plenty of double-sided tape was used in the process to hold the pieces in place. May not be what the professionals use, but it does the trick. And this bag is totally an exercise in using up the stash – decades old double-sided tape included!

So here are the finished handles. Don’t look too closely though. The sewing is all a bit wonky. But hey, for once it’s “Good Enough”!


Next up I sew in the zipper opening before attaching the handles to the bag.


As you can see, it goes from middle of one side panel to middle of the other side panel. I plan to finish it off with two vinyl leather tabs like the ubiquitous Longchamp Le Pliage tote bags.

WIP-09 WIP-10

And the handles were “baste” in place again with double-sided tape before being edge-stitched. BTW, the Teflon Feet comes in really handy for these faux suede and leather! But it’s a bit wide, so luckily my machine can swing the needle either way up to 3.5mm.

Where the handles are attached I reinforced the bag panels with the stiff woven interfacing. Because I’m paranoid about handle failure, especially with those heavy bottles of Coke Zero that my Other Half have me buy for him from time to time.

Bottom Up!

Next up is attaching the bottom. I did the two long sides first, then clip the corners (reinforced with Dritz Fray Check wherever I clipped), and finally sew the two shorter sides.


Now the Lining & Inside Pockets

Again in a stash-busting move I used whatever was in my stash no matter how inappropriate it might be. So standard dress lining it is then. Something tougher would have been better. But I’m being disciplined.

As a compromise, I fused the stiff woven interface to the lining instead of the bag fabric. I was going to use the stiff one on the faux suede and another lighter one on the lining. But extra layers means extra weight, however imperceptible it may seem while the bag is empty. Fusing the stiff interfacing also forced me to use up decades old Aleene’s Original Iron On Fusible Web.


The pockets are double layer lining interfaced with decades old Pellon Soft Shape interfacing. On one side I experimented with pleated pockets sewn into  the side and bottom seams. On the other side are flat edge-stitched pockets. We shall see which gets used more often!

WIP-15Rest of the lining construction is like the outer layer. With the addition of the stiff interfacing the bag stands up all by itself! I’m very proud.

And here’s a shot of the inside pockets. No zips inside. I don’t like too many hurdles to get to my junks.


Stayed tuned for the next episode, where the Bag and the Lining get hitched!

Improv Tote: WIP 1

Happy New Year all! Hope you all had a lovely Christmas and maybe even managed to get a fair bit of sewing done.

Sadly over here, hardly anything was achieved sewing-wise. Apart from over-eating induced coma I suffered a bout of Perfectionism. Hence the lack of activity here – it was just too depressing to write about!

But as the Sewing Princess reminded me, there’s a wonderfully supportive sewing community online, and I need not wallow in my fitting woes alone. So I’ll take some pictures of my Whack-a-Mole fitting problems on a sunnier day and maybe you’d join in with my Name That Fitting Gremlin Game. But not today. Today I want to talk about my first bag making attempt.

inspiration_originalA while back when I was traveling a bit, I wanted a replacement carry-on bag. The one I had was getting tatty in places and was a bit heavy once laden with all the modern-day gadgets. So I started cutting out fabrics for a replacement.  But when I measured the weight, my fabric pieces was working out heavier than the original bag. Some sewn products are best left to the professionals, who have access to special material that better meet the practical needs which we can’t easily get hold of in consumer fabric stores. Sigh.


So, what to do with the cut out fabric pieces? As they were originally destined for a rectangular bag, I decided to make a tote a bit like this £114(!!!) Vivienne Westwood tote bag:

Vivienne Westwood Battersea Print Bag Khaki

As my fabric is a polyester faux suede, I’m not sure how easy it would be to transfer printed images onto it. So I had to look for alternative ways of adding visual interests.

Hot Patterns Queen Of Hearts Bowling Bag & Hand Bag PatternI’ve always like corner patches like on Hot Patterns’ Queen of Heart Bowling Bag Pattern. So I thought I’d use some of scrap vinyl I have in my stash for this.

As you can see I don’t have a proper pattern and instruction to guide me. So I’m improvising as I go along.

One tutorial I am using bits & pieces of is this tutorial for a mini-bowling bag by Qazicat:

Qazicat Leopard Bowling Bag Tutorial …Like its instruction for the corded handle. Or how to stiffen the bag sides and bottom. Or order of construction. Useful stuff and clear instruction.

Love the leopard print example Qazicat shown as well. Would be perfect for Pretty GrievancesJungle January too (which I chickened out from – my slopers not being ready and all)!

Work In Progress

First off, attaching the vinyl patches to the bottom parts of the bag. As both vinyl and polyester don’t like high heat – and I’ve lost the instruction for the various interfaces and adhesive webs I have – I decided to just use standard double-sided tape in my stash. I’ll edge-stitch them as well just in case the adhesive tape lose its sticking power with age.

Here are all the patches – entire bag bottom, small strips on lower edges of the sides, and rounded bottom corners on the main pieces of the bag:

I’m using up decades-old stiff fusible woven interfacing on the back of the faux suede. I think they were for shirt collars and the likes. But again, heat issue with faux suede, so they’ll probably just be sewn in rather than fused.

I’ve also started on the handles. Here are thick piping cord wrapped in the same stiff fusible woven interfacing. The outer layer will probably be the faux suede. But I’m still pondering on whether to beef it up a bit with an extra layer. Or maybe even use thicker piping cord. At the moment it looks a bit wimpy compared to the size of the bag.

inspiration_handleAnd I’m also debating whether to attached the handles directly to the sides or to attach them via a D-ring so that they can hang down when not in use for more compact storage.

That’s it for now. For apart from fretting over fitting, I’ve also been busy stressing over our bathroom renovation, making endless plans and drawings to try to whip the builders in line.

New Bathroom

And of course now the builders have taken over a huge chunk of our apartment with inevitable dust everywhere, any sewing would have to proceed at a tortoise pace.

Hopefully it won’t be weeks for the next installment of this!

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!