London Fabric Shopping Map

While I was trying to source material for my wedding outfit I checked out a few fabric shopping areas suggested by you dear Readers. I thought I’d summarise what I found – as reminder to myself as well as for your benefits!

I also started a Google Map to plot the fabric & other sewing related shops in London. It’s based on another Google Map I found which seems a bit out of date by now. I’ve…

  • Removed any that Google Map users have indicated as being permanently closed
  • Added some that I’ve visited recently
  • Grouped the markers into different categories so it’s easier to show/hide home furnishing fabrics which doesn’t interest me as much
  • Changed the listings to Google Places (found via Google Map Search) rather than adding the shop data to this map only. This makes it easier to link to/find shop info that Google Map users and/or shop owners have added. And if you want to add reviews & other info about a shop, you can do so via Google Map to help keep the information up-to-date & helpful to other shoppers.
  • Added a couple of extra data fields to these place markers for shop speciality & price range. Obviously I wasn’t able to fill this in for every shop as I haven’t visited never mind bought anything from all shops on the map. But the fields are there in case anyone wants to add the info.
  • Made the map editable by anyone, so you can add markers (please use the map search to find the existing Google Place marker for the shop), or if a shop has permanently closed its door you can delete or mark it as closed.
  • Added Area Overviews (lines that mark out streets with multiple shops) so it’s easier to find areas of London worth checking out for more focused shopping experience. Hopefully this will help visitors to the city plan their fabric shopping trips better rather than chasing the lone stores scattered across this vast city.

Google Map isn’t easiest to use, but I couldn’t think of any other way we can collectively maintain a map to help feed our fabric addiction habit! For another recent (as in 2016) review of London fabric shops, check out Kate of Fabricated’s London Fabric Shopping blog post here.

Bridezilla Odyssey – part 1 – lehenga shop reviews

Getting back to Bridezilla sewing now…

These goodies arrived 2-3 weeks ago and I’ve been frantically planning my outfit and any sewing that needs to be done. First, some reviews of my shopping experience in case anyone else is interested in ordering from these online Indian shops. Some observations that apply to all shops…

These choli blouse + lehenga skirt + dupatta shawl designs frequently come as unstitched blouse fabric + partially stitched skirt (with one seam left to do so that it can be sewn up to your size) + fully stitched shawl. Some shops offer stitching services for the blouse and the skirt. But of course I prefer to do the sewing myself to ensure a good fit & stitching quality that I’d be happy with. Even for those who don’t sew, I’d recommend have them made up locally so the tailor can ensure a better fit. Us sewers know how the same measurements alone don’t guarantee a good fit as the body shape may be different – eg wide all around at the bust or a big bust on a small frame with narrower than expected back! Plus if you’re employing a local tailor you might be able to see example of their work before committing to their service, so you can be more confident the stitch quality is satisfactory.

The other reason to order unstitched version is that the items may arrive faster. If the shop have to stitch them up for you, not only do you have to factor in stitching time, at busy time of the year there may also be a queue. The seller will of course try to keep you sweet pre-sale, but after your order has been placed, you might have to chase them for status updates if your items is in the queue to be made up.

Having said that, not all designs lend themselves to this option. Sometimes the embellishment is very specific to the shape, size & fit of the garment. The pattern pieces need to be determined before the embellishment can be customised to fit. These probably will be the more expensive designs, like a few hundreds pounds to over £1000. All three that I ordered were just over £100 each.

As for fabric quality, it can be hard to be sure you’re getting real natural fiber like silk. Sometimes the shops will label something as “Art”, short for “artificial” or “faux”. But in general there doesn’t seem to be a clear distinction between type of fabric vs type of fibre used in the fabric. This applies not just to online shops. When I checked out a few brick-n-mortars in London, they also didn’t know there are “silk georgette” vs “polyester georgette”. The ones that make a point of sourcing natural fibre will probably shout about it & reflect that in their site menu categories. But in general, I think it’s best to assume man-made fibre. Then you may be pleasantly surprised if it turns out to be natural fibre if that is important to you! I haven’t done burn tests on the one I got. So I’m assuming man-made, especially with all the affordable bling!

Haya Creations
Indian/Asian outfit online shop

www.hayacreations.com

lehenga_nakkashi-haya-1I fell in love with these two Nakkashi designs and found Haya Creations which seems to sell the originals. Some shops show you photos of the original designs, but don’t mention the designers. So there’s no way to tell if they are selling the originals or copies, and more importantly, if copies whether they’ll look anything like the originals. Haya Creations does mention the brand name & the brand style number. Thankfully what I received also has the brand’s packaging.

Ordering process:

  • Haya Creations doesn’t seem to offer stitching service, which of course is fine by me.
  • I choose PayPal as payment option, but it isn’t entirely integrated into the checkout process. I received an email after placing the order with a link to PayPal to complete the payment. So don’t panic if this happen to you. Just wait for the email.
  • I ordered on a Friday (London time) & package was sent the following Tuesday. I would have received the package on the Thursday, but there was miscommunication about the delivery address. Haya called me long-distance (via WhatsAapp) the following Monday & gave me the tracking number & contact number for the courier (UK Mail). The package was delivered the following day. All in all it took just over a week from India to UK.
  • I was also expecting to have to pay import taxes, but I wasn’t charged any for my total purchase of just over £200.

Nakkashi Indian/Asian outfit designer & manufacturer

Now the Nakkashi designs themselves…I originally wanted to buy directly from Nakkashi’s online shop. But their PayPal payment option wasn’t set up properly. So I couldn’t complete the purchase on their eshop.

I think both lehengas may be relatively “mass-produced” rather than made to order or made as an one-off as some Indian/Asian outfits can be. Maybe that’s why both came with all three elements – blouse material, skirt, shawl – stitched / tacked together (see photos below). Perhaps this ensures each package has all the bits that its suppose to have. It is a bit of a hassle though to have to unpick these temporary seams before I can start sewing. I’d much rather the bits come as a loose kit – like bra kits do. But the designs are fabulous. For me to have to source all the bits & do the embellishment myself would be just as much hassle if not more.

In terms of quality, I’m assuming these are man-made fibers. Thankfully most of the fabrics don’t feel very plasticky. And while the skirt & shawl stitchings are not perfect, they don’t affect how the outfits look. So I’d say the marketing photos are fairly accurate. And given the affordable price I think they’re good value for money.

Nakkashi Royal Prestige 5033
unstitched choli blouse + part-stitched lehenga skirt + finished dupatta shawl

The colour for this one turned out darker than in the photos, a brownish flesh tone rather than antique gold. But it’s still nice. The only complaint I have is that the panel skirt doesn’t have an extra lining to protect the sequin stitching, so one might snag on the sequin threads. The skirt has a layer of soft netting on top of the sequined chiffon fabric. So I’m assuming the top is meant to have the same order of layering. The shaped trims for the front & back neckline is basted to the soft netting, and the straight trims for the hems also basted to the edges of the blouse fabric. The marketing photo doesn’t show the back, but the top has a deep U back that’s not too open. So this one should be OK to wear with normal bras. The shawl is shimmery chiffon. The floral trims on the skirt & shawl are velvet with metallic embroidery. The stitching on this one is OK.

Nakkashi Royal Prestige 5036
unstitched choli blouse + part-stitched lehenga skirt + finished dupatta shawl

The colour on this one is spot on. The panel skirt embellishment is on the top layer soft netting. So the threads in the back is protected by the orange lining / underlay. The shawl is chiffon with sewn on sequins. Both again have velvet trims with floral metallic embroidery. The stitching on this one is slightly twisted in places, but isn’t bad enough to show up in photos. So only perfectionist need to have these fixed! The blouse is dupion with sequin & metallic thread embroidery. Again, the marketing photos didn’t show the back. I scratched my head a bit when I first saw the shape of the embroidery, trying to figure out how it’s suppose to look. I think it’s meant to have a triangular cutout with neckline & below bust centre back closure. The cutout looks fairly large. So it’ll be hard to find a bra to wear with this if one needs proper bust support. Even the normal low-back bra extender won’t help as the top is cropped, so the extender looping at waist level will peep out.

Samyakk
Indian/Asian outfit shop

www.samyakk.com

lehenga_gajiwala-samyakk-1

I fell in love with a Gajiwara design and found Samyakk which sells something similar. Again, unlike other shops which show you designer photos then sell you a copy that may or may not look like the original, Samyakk shows you exactly what you’ll be getting. But you do have to look through all the photos on the product detail page, because sometimes the blouse fabric is not the same as the generic one shown on the mannequin. Where it’s different they do include a photo of the actual blouse fabric. But because the image menu only shows 3 thumbnails at a time, you have to use the arrow links to browse through all the product photos.

Ordering process:

  • Samyakk does offer blouse stitching service, but of course I didn’t opt for this, so can’t really comment on how this work or quality of this service.
  • I choose PayPal as payment option & this went through during check-out as expected.
  • I ordered on a Friday (London time) & package arrived the following Tuesday via DHL. All in all it took less than a week from India to UK. If you requested stitching service it’ll take longer. Presumably how long will depend on how busy it gets – there may be a queue in addition to time required for stitching. So plan ahead!
  • I was again expecting to have to pay import taxes, but I wasn’t charged any for my total purchase of just over £100.

Samyakk GC755
unstitched choli blouse + part-stitched lehenga skirt + finished dupatta shawl

This is similar to Gajiwara GS7384 lehenga choli (the first photo above), but with blouse fabric that’s the same as the skirt rather than a different but coordinating design. Also the Samyakk skirt is a panel skirt that’s fitted through the hip, whereas the Gajiwara skirt looks like it may be variations of the circle skirt, or at least panels that flares out higher up. I had wanted to get the Gajiwara version, but I couldn’t find a shop that can confirm they sell the original. And when I asked Gajiwara on Facebook, their response came too late – after I’ve already placed an order with Samyakk. Also they wanted me to call them long-distance & I felt uncomfortable with that, especially since I’m not sure if they would speak fluent English.

So the Samyakk version…This seems to be an one-off design. It’s no longer available on their eshop. The 3 elements are not stitched / tacked to each other. The stitching is better than the Nakkashi ones. But there are still stray threads, which is understandable on these easily snagged embroidered fabrics. Again I’m assuming man-made fibres. The blouse material is just a piece of metallic embroidered net + two-sided metallic fabric + metallic ribbon trim. The shawl is soft net with glued rhinestones with metallic ribbon & leave pattern trims. Now the skirt, this one is more elaborate than the Nakkashi skirts. At the hem it actually has 4 layers – metallic embroidered net + two-sided metallic fabric + stiff netting + lining. The netting is stitched to the lining which also has wide stiff fused interfacing. The whole thing is quite bulky & heavy! No wonder this outfit came in a big box and a clear zipper storage bag. The skirt also has the metallic ribbon & leave pattern trims. The hem on this & the shawl also have mini metallic ball edgings…which I’ve already stepped on & broke a few! I guess they must be gold painted plastic. Oops. The skirt comes with a waist tie in a lovely loosely knitted metallic cord with gold coloured (possibly plastic) latkan tassles.

The verdicts

I love all three garments / fabrics, despite the possibly man-made fibre content & less than perfect stitching. They’re lovely designs. I did try sourcing material from scratch. But it was so much effort, time, cost, & I couldn’t even find anything that looked similar never mind better quality fabric.

None of them when you break them down into their component fabrics & trims are too fancy to repurpose for less-than-special wear. So for a bit over £300, I’ll definitely get more value out of these than from a white poofy number. And they all feel more special than just a “nice dress” for such a special occasion!

In fact, I’m already tempted to buy more… 😈

Stripy Westwood Wannabe T

Moving swiftly on, here’s my self-drafted Vivienne Westwood Wannabe 3/4-sleeved cowl-neck T made from the same bamboo striped jersey.

Style Shots & Mug Shots

WORN WITH: 1 Burda 2011-08-121 pencil skirt; 2 TopShop mullet skirt; 3 TopShop Martha jeans; 4 Refashioned RTW mullet skirt;

The Inspiration & Pattern

Inspiration:

I had enough of this limp & not-fit-for-a-Breton-T stripe jersey left to make another garment. As I wasn’t inspired, I just went for a long sleeve variation of the same old cowl neck fitted top idea. Figuring out how to add sleeves to Vogue 1282 would be more effort than I want to spend. So I picked another Vivienne Westwood design that looked easily achievable using any fitted Knit Blocks:

Vivinne Westwood stripy T

Vivinne Westwood stripy T

Block Used:

0 ease Fitted Darted0-ease Stable Knits Darted Fitted Top Block (Bodice & Sleeve)

Design Changes Made

1-pat-F

  • Front Cowl:
    • Pivoted side bust dart to shoulder so the dart allowance could be incorporated into the cowl drape.
    • Cut & spread the Front Bodice to create cowl drapes. I chose to do this from underbust up & to split the amount into separate rows of cut-n-spread because I thought this will give me cowl drape while retaining a fitted silhouette.
    • For more exaggerated drapes I added pleats to the shoulder seam & to minimise the risk of boob exposure I tapered the neckline back to a narrower width. For a more natural looking drape, I prefer to cut extra fabric & drape the cowl on Q, my dress form. I don’t like it when such drapes are too even / symmetrical. The extra fabric extends up from shoulder-armscye points, then across a bit above the shoulder-neck points. After draping the pleats I wanted, the excess fabric was trimmed to pleated shoulder seam + seam allowance.
    • Back neckline I was going to lower & maintain the neck curve. But I got lazy & went for straight line with cut on facing…because the Vogue 1282 top I was sewing at the same time had the same back neckline treatment. In retrospect, I should have used a binding like in my Burda 2013-12-119 top. It would have been cleaner & less chance of a facing flipping out on me.
  • Front bottom drape: This is essentially an unstitched dart.
    • After deciding where the bottom of the drape will be on the right side seam (ie the dart point), I folded the paper across to form one leg of the dart, then bring this up to where the top of the drape will be on the left side seam (ie the other leg of the dart). Across because you can see in the original design the fold line is almost parallel to a line of stripe.
    • Then I trace the rest of the Block below the fold.
  • Shorten to desired lengths:
    • Bodice to a couple inches above full hip, Sleeves to 3/4 length.
    • I made the hems straight to make it easier to sew a wider hem. But this meant the hem at the side seam could look weirdly pointy. So I reshaped the back side seams slightly to get closer to a right angle to the hemline. This also helps with the right side steam stripe matching as the unstitched dart modified the angle of the side seam blow the “dart point”.

Fabric & Notions Used

Construction Notes

  • Stripe-matching: See previous post about how I dealt with stripe matching in this PITA wiggly stripe fabric. It wasn’t possible to match the stripes 100% because of my pattern’s uneven front & back side seam heights. So I sacrificed the matching near the armpits – even going as far as letting the sleeve-bodice seam intersections not match. Somehow I managed to get a stripe going from the bodice to the sleeve in one armpit which I thought was rather neat. Too bad the other side was off a little bit. At the bodice hem, the left side seam draped area was never going to match. But on the right side I ended up trimming a bit of width off the hem & got the stripes to match pretty well.
  • Stablisation: Again, the back neckline & the armholes were stablised with fusible interfacing to fight the gravity-compliant tendency of this viscose jersey. As this is long-sleeved, the shoulder seams were also stablised so the extra weight of the sleeves won’t stretch out the shoulder seams over time.
  • Cowl: I’ve used the same technique on another VW inspired top. But this time it wasn’t so successful. The difference was the other top had a fitted lining which controlled the cowl drape. This top is unlined. So the extra width just wanted to spread & droop all over the place & get in the way of my forward arm movement, especially as my armscyes were all stablised & not stretchy. I ended up having to tack the drapes in place to maintain the folds. While the drapes still look a bit messy, at least the armsyces now feel comfortable & unrestrictive.

The Verdict

It’s an OK top. It’s one to slouch in rather than dress up in. It has just enough caffeine kick to keep me awake, but not enough to shout about.

There may be a little bit too much drape. My thin & droopy fabric doesn’t help. So it looks more sloppy than the VW original. I probably should have removed some width from the unstitched dart’s fold  so that it hugs the body there & are less likely to spread open. But I just wasn’t interested enough to want to fix this in the top since it already looks sloppy in the cowl area.

So a caffeinated slouchy top it shall remain. And no doubt get more wear than its dressier siblings!

Westwoodesque Stripy DK V1282

So let’s start with the Vivienne Westwoodesque top inspired by blogger Tia Dia’s vavavoom stripy dress version of Donna Karan Vogue Pattern 1282.

The Pattern

Tia Dia's vavavoom V1282

Tia Dia’s vavavoom V1282

Tia Dia’s decision to stick with the pattern’s grainline instruction while working with her stripes was genius. It’s so simple, yet the result is so much more interesting than even the Donna Karan original.

I also liked her idea of swapping the armhole facing/binding for an extended armhole edging/band/sleeve. I wanted mine even more extended, but wasn’t sure it’d be comfortable with extra fabric in the armpit. So I adapted the armhole band style of another designer Vogue Pattern – Vena Cava V1258 (which seems to have totally disappeared from the Vogue Patterns website!?!).

0-inspiration-v1258line

I actually made V1282 before, but I didn’t like how the result looked on me with my short-waisted inverted triangle shape, gravity compliant boobs, & age-compliant spreading middle. I think DK’s design would look better on the small busted or the hour-glass shape (which Tia Dia has). So this time I went back to the original pattern & made different adjustments to it. (So glad I trace pattern nowadays rather than wantonly chopped them up with the very first make!)

Style Shots & Mug Shots

WORN WITH: 1 Self-drafted mock-wrap pencil skirt; 2 Style Arc Antoinette trousers3 Self-drafted princess pencil skirt; 4 Refashioned A-line skirt5 Self-drafted pleated skirt

vs my previous V1282

Size Used

Size 4 again – instead of the recommended size 12 & my current norm of FBA’ed size 8.

Changes Made

It’s rather hard to figure out how to assess & adjust these non-standard patterns that DK is so fond of. So there was a fair bit of making it up as I go along…

Fitting changes
  1. Forward Shoulder & Neck + Small Arm Joints (???): shortened front at cross-front level, made back shoulder more square (move shoulder-armscye point up/forward).
  2. Tweaked Center Back seam to better fit my shape: caved in at the top for rounded upper back, caved in at lower back, add with at hem for larger (than size 4) hip.
  3. Shorter Torso: shortened at the hem.
Design changes
  1. Removed design ease from Center Front & raised cowl neckline in the process. I initially used the waist width as my guideline – I wanted the top to be fitted here – but ended up removing more at the top (neckline) & less at the hem. I was worried the hem would be too tight, but I didn’t mind removing more from the top because there were so much ease to begin with, plus doing so raised the cowl neckline further to minimise the risk of wardrobe malfunctioning! 🙂
  2. Widen shoulder for a cap sleeve rather than sleeveless look. Added strips of double-layered armhole bands except for about 3″ at the underarm, which was finished with facing/binding per V1282 instruction.

I originally wanted to incorporate some sort of asymmetrical side peplum as well by cutting a wedge off the right back below waist & somehow extending the left back below waist to form a peplum on the right hip. But my brain could not compute the pattern needed for this, especially when factoring in how this might affect the stripes. I was going to wing it during cutting out. And of course I totally forgot WHEN cutting out. Oh well, never mind.

Fabric & Notions Used

Construction Notes

  • See previous post about how I dealt with stripe matching in this PITA wiggly stripe fabric.
  • Worried that this viscose will stretch lengthwise over time like other viscose knit I’ve worked with, I stablised the back neckline & the armholes with fusible interfacing.
  • 2-sew-armhole-finishingFor the armhole, after stitching & turning the bands right-side out, the band was sewn right-sides together to the upper portion of the armhole first, then the facing/binding was sewn right-sides together to the underarm portion of the armhole – overlapping the bands slightly, the band is then pressed out while the facing/binding is pressed to the inside, the whole armhole is then top-stitched to secure the band seam allowance & facing/binding.
  • 2-sew-boneStayI replaced the weight at CF cowl tip with a boning stay that gets tucked into the bra to keep the cowl from gaping if I lean forward. This is just a short piece of plastic boning encased by self-fabric & one end sewn to the CF cowl tip. I read about this trick in Claire Shaeffer’s Couture Sewing Techniques. Some other blogger also used this trick but I can’t remember who it was damnit.

The Verdict

Much MUCH happier with this tweak of V1282! Feel much less dowdy in this version. And I like the mini-wings. Cute top. But still not sold on the B&W stripes as my aesthetic has become much more Crayola with age 🙂

Taming wiggly stripes

…Or not.

While waiting for my packages from India I started a couple of sewing projects from the same stripy fabric. It was not the most joyful sew however. You see, it all started with the iconic Jean-Paul Gaultier version of the Breton T.

I lust myself one but bought the wrong type of stripy knit. An earlier swatch I had would have been perfect. But because I’m not a great fan of B&W stripes much less navy I didn’t commit then. When I subsequently took the plunge I didn’t have that swatch with me. All I could remember was that it was a B&W stripe bamboo+lycra from B&J Fabrics NYC. The only one I found when I went back was this thinner bamboo even stripe. Taking a closer look at the inspiration pictures I discovered shock horror most Breton T called for uneven stripes – ie thinner black/navy & thicker white stripes. I lost all enthusiasm for this fabric, but decided to get it over with asap by sewing something up quickly. Oh no, I ain’t wasting this $19.95/yd fabric by trashing or swapping it.

To motivate myself I hunted the internet for inspirations that don’t look too complicated. Something that’s just interesting enough to keep me going but not so ambitious that I have to drag my feet to finish. You know what, inspiration número uno came from another blogger – Tia Dia’s vavavoom stripy dress version of Donna Karan Vogue Pattern 1282. Her version looks Vivienne Westwoodish. So I followed that clue to find my inspiration número dos, a VW original top. The asymmetry were the hooks. And I know V1282 should be an easy peasy sew & VW top looks just about achievable if I stick to feature on the front only. The original may very well have asymmetrical back as well. But that’s a bit more effort than I’m willing to spent on this fabric miscalculation.

While both designs were relatively straightforward to construct, like the current series of the Great British Sewing Bee, the projects were made hard, Really Hard, by PITA fabrics. This thin & drapy bamboo knit was really unstable. So you can imagine how stripe matching went. The asymmetry of both designs didn’t help. There’s only so much one can do if the two sides of a seam has different number of stripes. Here’s what I tried this time…

Stripe matching: Where the stripes are fairly even & running in the same direction on both sides of the seam I just pin almost every other stripe edge. Where the stripes are uneven in number and/or running in different direction I had to work from the right sides, fold one seam allowance back, align the seam line, and cajole as many stripes to match as possible, aiming for at least matching stripe edges if not colour. Then this alignment is basted with slip-stitches, again from the right side. Lastly turning to the wrong sides, I starch the hell out of the seam line area. Which leads me to…

Homemade starch: My last few knit projects I’ve used commercial spray starch. This time I ran out of the commercial stuff & as I was stuck at home waiting for delivery I had to give homemade starch another try. I tried the proportion of 3 teaspoon corn starch/flour to 1 cup water suggested by someone who sew a lot of jersey knits and this time it worked a treat! Not only did the stitch area becomes stiff & stable as thin cardboards, it tamed the curling edges, and bonus – it acted as temporary glue sticking the two sides of the seam together – great for matching wiggly stripes! One down side is that it took many MANY rinses to get the starch out. But definitely much saner than unpicking stitches multiple times! Will have to test some more. I had tried homemade starch before but abandon that for some reason. May have been clogged spray nozzle. Or maybe trying to use that on water-hating petro-checmical fiber like poly-lycra.

Even with my bag of tricks however, the stripe matching wasn’t perfect. So hats off to the contestants of the Great British Sewing Bee. Presumably they’re not allowed the tricks nor the time to properly tame such beasty fabrics. Hope those viewers who don’t sew appreciate how much skills go into making even their cheap fast fashion & not think that these home-sewers are just not very good.

More about my two stripy projects later. My orders from India have actually arrived by now & I must go shopping for shoes so I can hem the half-made skirts, and maybe make my own embellished blouse from scratch. Yuppie! More fabric shopping!