Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The Tropical Dilemma

It always happens around this time of the year.

Northern hemisphere winter = coats, coats, coats!
Every magazine and every style/shopping website is stuffed to the gills with delicious wools! nubbly tweeds! fluffy cashmeres! ooh!


But living in Singapore = no need for coats. Permanent summer, 'winter' temperature (Nov-Jan, around now) of 26 degC (80 degF)!

Augh. What is a girl to do?

Improvise, that’s what :)

I tried sewing up this coat pattern in summer-weight fabric. It was by far the most complicated garment I’ve tried. The ‘Easy’ label on the package is completely misleading - such a lot of pattern pieces, and a completely un-skippable lining! Hello Vogue patternists! What on earth were you thinking??

I originally intended for this chocolate broadcloth to be a muslin, but was too lazy to sew it up again so happy with how it turned out, that I thought this would be IT. Since I was hardworking and lined my muslin and all.

So I added blue top-stitching and rick-rack. I adore rick-rack! Although I've found precious few occasions to use it without looking juvenile.

Plus I dug out my precious baby-blue vintage buttons...which mysteriously faded in the sun/washing machine, after just one wash. Grr.

I could do with the brown being just a touch darker, and swingier, and drapier (i.e. generally a lot woollier), but eh... it didn’t turn out all that bad. I do rather like that back pleat :)

Shortened the sleeves and hem by an inch, as usual. No round-tummy adjustment needed on this one.

Brown broadcloth and some thickish black acetate/polyesterish thing for the lining (it was $1.50/metre from a garment boutique, and the shop girl gave me a giant blank look when I asked her about the composition).

Monday, 28 November 2011

Matching birthday dresses!

I live in a country with a vibrant throw-away culture. To the Chinese, handmade objects are not valued, and vintage is a foreign concept to all but a few. The old is deemed useless, second-hand is for beggars. If I showed a local something I made yourself, ten times out of eleven he would sneer, tell me it won't last, and ask why I didn't do something more 'productive' with my time.

Here, art is a hobby - never a profession, and never to be taken seriously. People would choose a mass-produced product over a similar handmade one every time, even if the two were the same price.

It's a lifestyle I unthinkingly imbibed until my university days, when Internet usage became prevalent. My online eyes were opened to the beautiful, quirky world of handmade objects - where imperfection was appreciated, variation was a boon, patina was valued. These were hugely foreign concepts to me!

It took me some years to fully embrace the ideals of handmade. But when I understood the kind of control one could have over things they made with their hands, I was inspired to do the same. One jewellery line and one felt doll line later, here I am at the doors of the sewing world.

Since I befriended my machine, I've had a strong compulsion to sew special objects for my special people on their special days. I'm extremely introverted in real life, so it isn't a tall order at all - my immediate family, children, and less than a handful of really special friends. I'm lucky that these few people are able to appreciate the effort that goes into handmade gifts, and how important that is to me!

This is what I made for my little bub's first birthday. I wanted something age appropriate and really special, so I settled on a dress-and-doll set.

I drafted the dress pattern from one of her existing dresses, adding 1cm all around so she could 'grow into it'. Not really the way you grade patterns, right? Though it did work...sorta!

The doll pattern is from the lovely Alison Berry (here).

This was my first children's garment, and I'm so glad I did the bub's dress before the doll's! There were so many tiny turns and corners on her dress that I couldn't handle on my machine. It was much worse with the teeny-tiny doll's! I ended up completing much of that by hand.

She did look nice in the dress, if I say so myself :)

Unfortunately, apart from strong de-frocking and de-shoeing urges, the little bub hasn't taken to the new doll. It's been sitting shoeless at a corner of her cot looking balefully at us since.

Bub's and doll's dress are quilting cotton - Hideaway glade in Berry, by Lauren and Jessi Jung. 1 yard was enough for both :)
Dress trim and shoes were mustard polka-dotted quilting cotton.
Doll's body was made from a silky cotton blend, stuffed with polyester fill.

Saturday, 26 November 2011 191 Shirtbluse

Blouse: DIY. Trousers: Victoria's Secret (eBay). Heels: Forni (Payless Shoes). Handbag: vintage (eBay)

I was glancing through the website and, in a fit of madness, downloaded some of their patterns.

Why not? They were FREE.

Of course I happily glossed over one small detail. The instructions were in GERMAN. And to all intents and purposes I don't read German, in spite of 2 years of German foreign-language class during my secondary school days.

Well. Google translate should make things better.

So not. Look at this:

"At the corner section the front part 1cm long cut. Einfassstreifen for half lengthwise Fold and iron the fabric right side out. strip again lay flat apart. One longitudinal edge of the strip to the bracket break iron and strike. The other edge of the strip from the inside stuck to the cut edge and 1cm wide to stitch, thereby spread the incision."


I basically ended up winging the whole thing. Thankfully it was an easy pattern.

I did have a ton of trouble with the V-dip at the neckline. Mangled the first piece I cut, mangled the second try too, looked at the fraying edge of the front body piece with a sinking heart, and gave up. I am such a novice. Hooray for bias tape.

I only realised AFTER everything was over, that a very similar pattern is available on the english Burdastyle site. It's free, too. Aargh.

I cut size 36 on top, blending to 38 at the bottom to accomodate my huge belly. Brought up the neckline 1 inch for modesty (not that you can tell), and was over-enthusiastic about shortening the hem and sleeve length. It'll be better next time.

Rayon georgette in houndstooth! <3<3<3  :)
It's a little crisp and the batwing part doesn't drape nearly as well as I would like. But it does flow nicely over my tummy without clinging, as long as I don't stuff my face at lunch.
Dotted quilting cotton for the cuffs.

(download pattern at your own peril here)

Friday, 25 November 2011

Yes, I Sew

So I thought, since this sewing thing looks like it's more or less here to stay, that I might as well blog about it.

Just to scratch that Look-At-Meeee! itch that comes up once in a while, you know.

No, seriously.

I started keeping my portfolio at (here) and discovered that while it's a great community to be on, it's a little bit lacking in the friend-making department. I made a couple of friends on there and it's mighty difficult to be communicating just through comments.

So this blog gives me the freedom to interact with people, and to ask for much-needed advice.

First things first.

Here is my machine. It's an old Brother work-horse that my mum bought about 10 years ago, for my 21st birthday, after so! much! pleading (she thought it was another of my 'fads').

Like most other sewists I started out with simple garment alterations, and the occasional tote/pouch. Along the way I hated my machine a great deal, and got intimately acquainted with my seam ripper.

I suppose I haven't progressed all that much these 10 years, since this rather basic machine still serves me pretty well!

Hopefully that'll change soon :)