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!?!).


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!

Lehenga Choli fantasy sewing

I crumbled. I was all psyched up to sew my own wedding lehenga choli (Indian/Asian skirt + cropped top). I even planned in my head how I was going to sew them up:

  • Micheal-Kors-FW2012-ad-1Half-circle lehenga skirt to preserve as large a piece as possible for future refashioning into a Michael Kor style gold lace skirt. Most lehenga seems to be umbrella/panel/gore skirts, but there were some mention of circle skirt variations as well.
  • Skirt hem border built up from skinner trims to help distribute the inevitable easing required to attach straight trims to curved hem. The home-sewn lehenga YouTube videos I saw seem to just pleat in the ease as they sew. If the trim is wide then the difference between top & bottom circumferences needed would be great & the pleating would be more visible. If the trim is narrower, then the difference between top & bottom would be smaller, so it might even be possible to ease the difference rather than pleat it.
  • Sewn on stones/sequins on dupatta shawl made from red silk geogette from the Stash rather than glued on stones. Again, YouTube videos seem to show a lot of gluing. Don’t know if it’s just the DIY crowd who rely on glue or if RTW also rely on glue, but I’d be worried about stones/sequins falling off.
  • Silk shantung or dupioni for skirt lining & as blouse base fabric.
  • Zardozi and stone/sequin embroidery to mimick the original blouse embellishment.

But fabric & trim sourcing tripped me up…because I was too stuck on that one particular design I showed you in the previous post. I found an online shop (Samyakk) that has a very similar design at a reasonable price. They also showed close-up photos of the fabrics & trims they used. I was in love.

I tried Google image search to help me source similar fabric. Google thought the fabric pictures were of dirt! LOL. Anyway, I couldn’t find anything similar online. I’ve even checked Mood and B&J Fabrics. I also took the pictures with me to various London fabric shop areas – Walthamstow, Goldhawk, Wentworth/Bricklane, Green St, even Southall! No one has anything like it. (OK, I didn’t bother with the Berwick Street fancy fabric shops because I knew their prices would be astronomical.) Funny thing is when I asked shop keepers if they have something similar, several said yes then proceeded to show me something that looked nothing like the photos I showed them. I didn’t know whether to be mad or to laugh! Were they simply trying to shift whatever they had in the shop & lying through their teeth? Or did they have a different pair of cultural glasses on & really thought what they showed me is like what I’m looking for?

In any case I’m amazed at how difficult it was to find such simple looking fabrics & trims. So after checking Samyakk’s reputation (looking for any complaints on reviews.co.uk, sitejabber & compalintsboard) & confirming a few details with the shop, I took the plunge. Fingers crossed it’ll turn out well. I feel a bit more reassured by the fact that despite this being an obvious wannabe, the shop showed their version on the website instead of showing you the original then sending you something different. (I do wonder though perhaps in some culture it is common to treat designs as Look Books & get local tailor/seamstress to knock off a copy – sometimes a very different-looking copy!)

lehenga_gold-red_1-2All is not lost in terms of sewing though. I’ve ordered all of my lehenga with unstitched blouses. So I would still have to sew the blouse at least. And I’m still thinking of copying the original Gajiwala Saree blouse design & saving the Samyakk fabric for a more western casual luxe top (if there’s enough fabric). I still need to figure out the details of how to do these embellishment. While it might only be a top that I have to make now, I may still combine some ready-made trims with manual embroidery to save time & preserve my sanity. There are a few good Indian/Asian trim shops in Southall, Walthamstow, and Green St at reasonable prices £1-£4/m. I will need to do more research on Indian embroidery for the bits where ready-made trim just won’t suffice. Here’s a good intro video to Indian/Asian embroidery made by the V&A. Shame I missed their Indian fabrics exhibit

And while it might be overkill to source a big rectangular embroidery frame like in the above video, if I go break one of the dining chairs (!!!) maybe I can make myself one like this…

Maybe with practice I can become as fast as this artisan! 😀


Wedding Bling Plotting

So MR & I have decided to finally tie the knot. Which means an opportunity to make or buy a preeeetty dress.

Traditional white wedding dresses was ruled out because I really would like something I can wear again. Or at least refashion into something more wearable afterward. And as white isn’t my favourite colour, I don’t think I’ll get much mileage out of a white wedding dress. Instead I have fallen for fancy sarees from the Indian subcontinent. Originally I thought I’d just treat the saree I get as fabric & make a more western dress out of it. But the more bridal wear photos I looked at the more I’m tempted to stick to their original designs.

lehenga_red-gold-1What I didn’t realize was that their bridal wear differs depending on the region, with South India favouring the saree (draped fabric skirt/shawl + top + maybe petticoat), and West & East (North?) favouring a top (choli) + skirt (lehenga) + shawl (dupatta) combo. The latter seems to have the more intricate embroidery, but obviously would be harder to refashion. So I’m a bit torn.

The other problem is you set foot in those shops and your eyes glaze over, overwhelmed by the bling & variety. Where to even begin! I’m tempted to shop online, but am worried because most online shops are based in India, and not of that extraction I’m nervous whether cultural barriers might prevent a smooth online purchase. Things like whether what you see on the website will really be what you get – especially since I’ve been told that many items are hand-embellished, so difficult to reproduce exactly. Or how long it’ll take – is it off the shelf or do someone have to make them to order. (I only have about 3 months to sort out my outfit.) And my preference would of course be to just get the fabric & sew up myself to ensure better fit. But of course some of the nicer embellishment has to follow the pattern shape – eg neckline. So I don’t see how that would be possible if I get only the fabric.

It’s all a bit nerve-wrecking. I just ordered two lehenga cholis by Nakkashi online from Haya Creations.com. We shall see if (a) they arrive at all, (b) arrive in time, (c) the quality is acceptable, (d) if they look anything like the photos. (I would have ordered from Nakkashi’s online shop, except the order form doesn’t seem to work for international customers.)

Both of these – if the fabric quality is good enough – should be easily refashionable into casual luxe. They don’t look too OTT for the minuscule registry wedding ceremony we’re going to have.

I’m still debating on what my Plan B should be. One options is to try to get something from a brick & mortar shop, maybe from one of the shops on Green Street near Upton Park East London (- a must see if you like Indian/Asian Bling – apology to other nationals from the region for lumping you all under the “Indian” label for brevity – being another type of Asian myself I still can’t get use to calling you guys “Asians” because that’s what I’m used to calling Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, etc.). It’s an intimidating options due to the sheer number of choices & possibly higher prices or possibly less reliable fit.

Another alternative is to pick a similarly simpler design online & try to source the material to make it myself. Judging by the proliferation of the same photos online + complaints against stores, seems like maybe many shop are selling imitations & not the originals anyway. I think this one might be doable if I can source similar fabric & borders.

There were a couple of fabric / trim shops on Green Street carrying bling fabrics /trims presumably for exactly such purpose. Barbara, a London-based sewing friend, also found some in Walthamstow.

And of course any suggestions from you would be most welcome! As would any advice from any (British) “Asian” / Indian subcontinent readers of course! 🙂

Now if I may leave you with a few more eye-candies…

And I’m totally in awe of these tailors & embellishers’ skills…

Amazing! And nerve-wrecking to watch how the embellisher maneuver the cord back & forth under the high-speed couching machine. Hope no fingers were hurt in its making. It’s easy to criticize poor quality end products. But given the work pressure many of these workers are under, I think they’ve done pretty well. Certainly much better than I could have done under the same pressure.

No news on Stretch Pattern School book :-(

Catching up on emails some of you left via my contact form, I noticed quite a few inquiries about when Stuart Anderson – the author of the now defunct (Stretch) Pattern School website – will be publishing his book on drafting swimwear patterns. Unfortunately I have not received any update from him. And the method I contacted him previously also seems inactive now. Sorry.

It’s a shame that the knowledge may be lost, but I have to respect the man’s right to a peaceful retirement. If he feels it’s too much work & investment to assemble & publish a book sharing his knowledge, then it is too much work & investment. Of course if I do hear back from him I will pass on any news.

Let’s just pray that if it’s not him, then some other stretch pattern expert with proven industry experience will step up to the plate. And let’s appreciate and not take for granted all the wonderful online resources that are still available, many of which are free! Who knows which website will go offline for one reason or another. Access to these info is not a right, it’s a gift from authors & teachers who generously share their knowledge with us. Let’s support them when & where we can. At the very least thank them for sharing!

And I’m certainly grateful to Stuart for sharing his knowledge that enabled me to develop my current set of pattern blocks for stretch fabrics.