Block dilemma

Firstly, thanks everyone who left kind messages regarding my Mom. I guess sooner or later all of us have to deal with parents needing care or moving on. It’s sad but a learning experience as well. I will try to stay positive.

My last few days before next care duty and I’m trying to sort out my pattern-making blocks. I want to make those card blocks that are used for tracing out guidelines for pattern designs. But I’m confused about whether to cut the darts out or not. If they’re cut out, the blocks become a bit fragile & flimsy. If they’re not cut out, how do you trace accurate dart lines as guide for designs?

Surprisingly I can’t find any good photo examples of these card blocks in the pattern-making books I own. Perhaps this is something that pattern-making classes would have covered. But it seems rather pointless to take a class just to answer a simple question like this.

Do you design your own patterns & work with card blocks? Or maybe have friends who do? Or even taken a class where you were taught how to create and use these card blocks?

Do you have the answer to my question??? 😮

Finish It…: East & Easter Tunic

Well hello there! Long time no see. Hope you are all well.

I disappeared for a while because my Mom was diagnosed with aggressive late stage stomach cancer :-( Her whole stomach is now removed & she will need chemo going forward. I’ve been & will be on filial duty for a while. Unfortunately she’s on the other side of the world. So not much sewing is going to get done rest of this year. But here is one last project I managed to finish while my siblings take over for a couple of weeks.

This project was part of my Fix/Finish It June-July sewing plan. I had already finished all the machine work by the time I learnt about my Mom’s illness. I did consider taking the hand sewing with me. But it was just as well I didn’t, since trying to understand & speak Chinese all day long left me unfit to do anything else.

The Inspiration & Design

1-bs-2013-02-121_photoTo recap, this started out as the muslin for my self-drafted Tunic Block, which is essentially an experiment in going dartless with my Top Block.

Now the Tunic is another classic that deserves a place in almost everyone’s wardrobe. I like the vaguely ethnic variety. My starting inspiration for turning this muslin into a tunic was Burda 2013-02-121 Flared Tunic. What would you call this – Moroccan?

I also collected a bunch of other examples – both what I don’t like & what I do like. Sometimes it’s useful to compare the two to figure out what makes or breaks a design.

Mine ends up being a mishmash of the Burda original and the swirly soutache designs. The design details were made up as I went along, testing different ribbons & soutache/Russia Braid arrangements.

Style Shots & Mug Shots

The Pattern

  • Block: Self-drafted Tunic Block
  • Design changes:
    • Enlarged neckline: CB 0″ lower – Sides 1″ wider – CF 2″ lower.
    • Lengths used: Bodice bum length, Sleeves wrist length.
    • Widen sleeve hems by 7″ total, tapering to nothing at mid upper arm.
    • Added CF slit: Measured same 2-1/2″ up from my Block’s waistline as on Burda 2013-02-121 for bottom of slit.
    • Added side seam slits: Measured same 7″ up from hem as on Burda 2013-02-121 for top of slits.

Fabric & Notions Used

Construction Notes

  • I mostly followed the instruction for Burda 2013-02-121 with the following key exceptions:
    • 2-sew-closuresMy fabric was too heavy to make spaghetti button loops. So I used the soutache cord for the loops & hand-sewn this along with the flat buttons to the inside of the CF slits after rest of the tunic was done.
    • CF ribbon trims were stitched before the neckline seam so that the ends of the ribbons would be hidden in the neckline seam.
    • Sleeve & bodice hem trims were stitched before the hems were turn inside, again for a tidier inside finish.
    • 2-sew-soutache1The soutache embellishment were sewn by hand. I tried machine-stitching this as shown in this YouTube video, but found mine a bit too skinny, stretchy & otherwise unwieldy. I will try again some day on another project maybe with a wider soutache…

The Verdict

Somehow my tunic ends up also looking vaguely Chinese. I guess there is no escaping my DNA eh? :-)

I’m fairly happy with the result though. Now I just need some bottoms to go with the tunic. Maybe it’s time to venture into trousers/pants making? OK, maybe next year. Mom comes first.

Finish It July: Candy Cane Halter Top

Yes, I’m done with fixing. Or at least I’ve had enough. But I’m still not in the mood for starting totally afresh. So my next project is a finishing project. As in finishing the last scraps of stripy knit I used for the Knit Top Block tests earlier in the year (Dartless Knit Top Block and Semi-fitted+Raglan Knit Top Blocks).

The Inspiration & Design

There wasn’t enough left for a normal T, even a sleeveless one. But there was just about enough for a strapless one, like the Bandeau Ruched Bust Top I just finished recently. My inspiration actually was an outfit from Burda 2013-13. (I already made a similar lace skirt. So now the stripy top. And yes, I’m plotting to eventually make the minty cardi as well!)

The stripy top isn’t available as a Burda pattern, and it looks like it’s a bustier top rather than a knit ruched bust top. But I thought the silhouette would be close enough. And I’m in no mood for drafting anything new & complicated. Being paranoid about tuby top over exposure, I decided to add halter straps as well.  This was partly inspired by 1953’s Butterick 6518 which is featured in Blueprints of Fashion: Home Sewing Patterns of the 1950s. (I plan to one day make something like that too!)

Style Shots & Mug Shots

WORN WITH: 1 & 4 Refashioned RTW pleated skirt; 2 TopShop Martha jeans; 3 Refashioned RTW A-line skirt; 5 Self-drafted lace skirt;

The Pattern

  • Block: Self-drafted Ruched Bust Tube Top
  • Design changes:
    • Added contrasting band at neckline: rectangle measuring neckline length x 3/4″ folded + SA, cut on crossgrain.
    • Added halter straps: rectangles 2″ folded x length required to tie around neck CB, cut on crossgrain. This is positioned from front princess line outward towards the side seam.
    • Added removable bust padding: pattern is based on shelf-bra bust area with the triangular bit at CF underbust removed, and no SA added.
  • Fitting changes:
    • Added back the triangle at CF underbust that I had cut off for the Mustard version. I originally sewn this up without any fitting changes, forgetting that knit fabrics can behave differently. The Mustard fabric had much more stretch both direction & was more susceptible to gravity. So the triangle was surplus to requirement & ballooned unattractively underbust. In this fabric however, it was needed to get rid of unsightly draglines. I was going to live with the defect, but then thought it would be better to test the fix on this wearable scrap muslin make.

Fabric & Notions Used

Construction Notes

  • The construction is mostly the same as the Mustard version, with the following differences:
    • Removable bust padding: Each pad is two layers. Princess seam in each padding layer is sewn separately using butted zig-zag stitches. The two layers for each pad are then overlocked together at the outer edges.
    • Shelf Bra: This time I varied the bust dart position for the Fabric vs Power Mesh layer to avoid a build up of layers that shows through the outer layer. Fabric side seam is sewn at top SA & lower 1″ only, leaving a gap for the removable bust padding to be inserted/removed. The front SA at the gap is top-stitched in place. The back SA at the gap is sandwiched between the F&B SA of the Power Mesh side seam. Rigilene boning is sewn to this Power Mesh side seam SA, so again sandwiched between the two layers of the Shelf Bra.
    • Neckline: The band is stitched to bodice neckline wrong sides together. The knitted elastic short ends are stitched to the CF double layer Power Mesh, then stitched to the seam allowances of the band/bodice neckline. The straps are stitched to the band at the inner SA (long side/upper edge in the photo) & at the fold line. Shelf Bra neckline is then stitched to the band’s inner SA, flipped inside at the fold line, and top-stitched in the band/bodice seam ditch. CF is then gathered / pleated, and the tab folded over the band fold line / top edge & hand stitched inside like with the Mustard version.

The Verdict

I’m pretty happy with the design. Love the visual interest the perpendicular stripes of the neckline band & straps add. It’s a nice variation for Breton stripe. But…

I’m not convinced these variations of strapless tops really suit my short-waisted torso. The proportion isn’t flattering when they are worn tucked in. The ratio of exposed chest vs bodice vs lower half makes the torso look even more squashed. This one is slightly better than the Mustard version because the wide straps breaks up that expanse of exposed chest & make this look less like a strapless.

And my attempt at sweetheart neckline in these ruched bust tops are just not happening. I should have paid more attention to Stretch Pattern School’s lesson on tension line. The elastic at the neckline simply cannot keep the top up and dip in the CF at the same time. I will have to find other ways of keeping the neckline up if I want a sweetheart neckline.

Otherwise a decent effort don’t you think? 😉 A- then!

Fix It July: from Grecian to My Cup of Fugly


the Original dress

Throwing all caution to the wind I took on another less than stellar Make which did feature in MMM’15: My Fortuny Delphos Wannabe dress.

She’s such a Romantic, perfectly in her element on holiday in the Sun & Sea. But seriously, how will I ever afford to take her to such exotic places again with Uncle Sam & HRH dipping into my wallet whenever they want? 😉 Besides, I was never comfortable with her flashing my ribby chest.

So yeah another commitment-phobe city ensemble coming up! And one that MR considers F-U-G-L-Y. But I’m OK with that. What does he know about fashion right? 😉

The Design & Construction Odyssey

odyssey First off this fabric is a royal PITA to work with. Unlike Mario Fortuny’s Grecian Delphos which were made of silk, this is 70s Mary McFadden style polyester mushroom pleats. I don’t know if the Fortuny silk version drapes better, but my polyester version definitely balloons out in the most unflattering places, yet at the same time is highly shifty & unstable. An Utter Diva.

I was at a loss design-wise. Apart from Fortuny, McFadden & Issey Myake are the only designers I know who use this type of fabric as a signature. But neither are my cup of tea.

sari top + Gigli wannabe + Fortuney wannabeodyssey I did like the dress as a skirt in this style shot though. So comes what may out  the Reckless Scissor came!


odyssey Designing by flat patterndrafting would be a nightmare. So again I turned to draping with Q. (The dress was originally draped on her mother Big Bertha.) I started out addressing what I didn’t like about the dress bodice: too much skin at the chest & side boobs…

  • Front neckline was pulled from the V into a square for more coverage.
  • The side seam was pulled closer to remove the underarm portion that had been cut down to the waist level.

odyssey The result however looked a bit twee. Too safe. Which draws attention to the extra volume added by this fabric. I threw on some elastic to see where/how I can control this extra volume, but ended up liking the combination enough to use it in the final design. It’s just my cup of tea – the edgy contrast between utilitarian black elastic vs the fluid femininity of the mushroom pleat. Exposed elastic as a decorative detail is certainly not new to my aesthetic. My former favorite designer Comme des Garçons did it in Spring/Summer ’94. And I have a Jean-Paul Gaultier men’s robe with elastic waist ties from the 90’s that I wear a lot too.

So that’s the Design settled. On Q anyway. It’s a totally different story on me. Because I don’t want pins stuck into me to keep the fabric in place. The temptation to rely on pins is such a pit-fall when one design by draping rather than patterndafting.

odyssey Thank goodness there’s Pattern Magic 2‘s Different Facing Different Looks technique. Too bad I chose a whimpy cotton batiste for the facing/lining. Gravity won. All the more reason to incorporate the elastic into the design. Now it serves both a decorative & a structural purpose.

odyssey The top ended up with the most ridiculously complicated underpinning. See the annotated photos below for all the glorious gory details. That’s what you get with a Band-Aid approach to design! Definitely not a repeatable make. And as if that wasn’t enough, this thing has ZERO hanger appeal. This is definitely an Once Is Enough top.


I could not for the life of me decide on a hem length. After the chop there was definitely no floor length option left, which is just as well since it’s so impractical for modern day life.


It’s Super Skress!!!???

odyssey As the matching top has already given way to exposed elastics, I spared myself the agony of committing to one length. So an exposed elastic waistband done the iCandy Handmade way it is then. One that’s post-feast waist circumference in length so it hangs lower exposing the waist, and can be pull down even lower for a saucier low-rise look, or worn above the bust as a dress.

odyssey Matching detachable elastic shoulder straps & famine waist elastic belt complete the dress look. At a pinch the belt also yield a normal rise skirt. And if I sail to the edge I can also eke out a knee length skirt by doubling over the belt and leaving the built in waistband to hug my behind – not the most comfortable way to wear it, but hey we all have to make sacrifices for fashion right? 😉


And FINALLY…The Mug & Style Shots




Fix It July: Pregger Wench no more

As I’m on a roll with the Fix-It’s…Here’s one that I couldn’t even bring myself to wear during MMM’15:

This was originally a RTW from a Camden Market stall. I actually quite liked the original. But because the bodice is made of stretchy knit without much recovery power, the combination of long skirt + gravity made this indecent to wear.

My first attempt at fixing this was an unmitigated failure. I wanted to keep the dress as a pull-on with no closure. But the China Silk/Habutai I used didn’t have the flattering clinging power of the original knit bodice. The resulting silhouette was F-U-G-L-Y, especially in the back.

My latest attempt at fixing this actually started January this year. I was hoping to finish it in time for a holiday in February. But when I tried it on for fit, the bodice felt too tight for a relaxing holiday. Plus there were too many new-to-me design features that I didn’t know how to sew up. So it went back onto the Fix-It Pile.

Fast forward to Fix-It June & July. I tried on the half-finished bodice again. I don’t know how, but the bodice now feels OK!!!??? Maybe all the stressing over draconian US expat tax policy (still not resolved yet) did what no diet can? 😉 Anyway, I felt ready to resume this Fix-It.

The Inspiration & Design

The funky A-line gore skirt has twill tapes inside on each gore seam which can be used to draw up the skirt into irregular bubble hem. It reminded me of this clipping of a Jean-Paul Gaultier dress from S/S ’91. So my initial design simply replaced the looser pull-on bodice with a corset style bodice.

But I clung to the original dress’ empire waistline, and this was a mistake. I looked like a pregger wench in the resulting dress. To avoid any well meaninged but awkward conversations about when I’m due, I separated the bodice from the skirt. I had just finished the Sari Top Fix-It, so was in a cropped top mood anyway. And you know how I feel about committing to a dress – I much prefer separates that give me more options.

In the same commitment-phobe vain, I made the skirt wearable at waist level and lower down when I’m in a saucy GoT mood! I suppose if I’m ever in a pregger wench mood I can always safety-pin the skirt to the top’s hem… 😉

The Mug & Style Shots


The Pattern


  • BLOCK: Moulage Block (0-ease).
  • As this was meant to be underwired bustier style top, I started out with a skin-tight pattern. This is fine for the stretch lining, but then I got worried that having no ease at all in the outer non-stretch layer would mean another top that I’d never really wear. So I added some ease back in.
  • The cup was shifted towards CF slightly in the hope that it’ll give my wide-set girls the barest hint of a cleavage. (Not understanding how bra cups really work, I’m still holding out the hope that it’s possible to cajole the girls into gravity defying positions & shapes!)
  • The CF bust dart (which isn’t normally sew up) is pivoted to the princess line for closer fit at neckline. The bust point shifted up slightly and tinsy bit shaved off the cup princess seam below bust point all in the hope of helping my girls defy gravity.
  • Not shown: rectangular front closure modesty placket, bias binding for the hem, bias strips for the underwire channels.


No patterns as this is just the RTW skirt with the top edge turned inside to create the casing for the elastic + existing draw-string.

Fabric & Notions Used



Construction Notes


  • This is my first time attempting a bustier / long-line bra top. So many new-to-me details. I really should have tried a commercial patterns first. Doing it on my own meant brain freeze from juggling too many somewhat-relevant-but-not-entirely advices from scatter sources.
  • I roughly followed the instruction in “Create a Foam-Cup Bra” article from Threads 9/2014 (issue 174). The cup padding pattern was drafted without seam allowance, then the pieces butt jointed with zig-zag stitches. The cup assemblage instruction was particular helpful to get a clean finish at neckline and armholes.
  • After I decided to turn the dress into separates, I had to ditch the CF zipper idea. I went for hooks & eyes as it fits the bustier look. But I didn’t have any hooks & eyes tape in the right color. So they had to be sewn individually. And for modesty a placket had to be added beneath the CF opening.
  • Rigilene boning was added to the lining at side seams, underbust princess seams, & CF opening in the hope of further helping the girls defy gravity.
  • The hem was finished with bias binding and stretch stitching to aid breathability while preserving a tight fit. I’ve been using a hybrid of backstitch & slipstitch wherever I need a stretchy binding top-stitch that disappears into the ditch. It’s basically a one-step-backward (right side) -two-steps-forward (hem fold) slipstitch. I haven’t come across this in any of my sewing books, so it’s something I cobbled together for myself. Maybe I’ll do a tutorial on this. I also used it for the Mustard Many-Faced Skirt waistband.


  • Although I could have just used the drawstring for the waistband, I added the elastic in the hope that it’ll help keep the skirt in place whether I wear it at the waist or lower down. I find that if my skirts aren’t fitted from waist to just below high-hip, then they have a tendency to spin around after a few hours’ wear. Since the skirt is A-line, so not fitted in this area, I’m hoping the elastic will grab on to my love-handles and keep the skirt in line.

The Verdict

My cups weren’t particularly successful. Or at least they didn’t do what I wanted them to do. The Fiberfill is too thin for modesty padding. My cup shaping probably isn’t right either as it leaves me with deflated pointy apexes & still droopy old boobs. But the ease I did add in does allow me to wear a proper bra under this tight top. So problem averted this time.

I’m not entirely convinced by my vertical seaming on the cups either. Most bustier tops seem to employ horizontal cup seaming. But this is good enough for now. If only I have a summery pedal pusher to match. And somewhere warmer to wear this in!

The skirt I think will be quite handy. I really should make more fuller skirt. Unless I’m working my day job, pencil skirts are a bit claustrophobic for my unladylike manners, cross-legged sitting style and all.