Changing tack

Is it March already? Blogging mojo obviously hasn’t returned. Life’s been too overwhelming – I’ve given in to the middle age slump. The only way to get things going is to take my perfectionism down a notch.

It’s a bit silly I know – this self-imposed blogging perfectionism. But I don’t think I’m the only one who finds it hard to let down the readers – however few or many there are – once the initial blogging enthusiasm fades. I tried to include in my posts details that I would find useful and inspiring if I were the reader. The hardest bits are the illustrations. I’m not brilliant with the camera. I can never get clear photos of patterns and alterations without resorting to drawing programs. My day job requires a lot of mouse work as well, so I’m beginning to get RSI wrist pains. This makes it harder to keep up the pattern & alteration illustrations. The mug shots and style shots also take a bit of effort and I haven’t mustered the enthusiasm to dress up lately. Perhaps they’re not as useful to other people as they are to me. Still, once you set up a standard it can be hard to let go.

But lowering the standard I must if I’m to get anything done. I may go back & update project posts when the enthusiasm returns. And if there are any particular projects you’d like more details of, please leave a request via the post comments & I’ll prioritise updating those posts.

Finally, thanks for stopping by & reading my blog. I’m not very social by nature, so haven’t been expressive of my gratitude. But I do really appreciate your continuing readership!

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Janus Post 2-for-1! (2016 & 2017)

First thing first:
Festive cheers to you all!
Hope you all enjoyed your year-end holidays
whatever festive occasion you were celebrating!

Now getting back to business…Oops. Don’t know what happened there. I tried. I really tried. But my blogging mojo went completely MIA. Sewing mojo wasn’t as bad, though I did run out of steam towards the end of the years. And I don’t know whether I was just feeling blah in general, but most of my makes these last two years feel like misses in one way or another judging by the fact that I haven’t been wearing most of them.

And now I might have to ditch some of them altogether because came my birthday this year Muffin Top / Swimming Ring move in. I was on the road at the time and all the skirts & pants I had with me suddenly became too tight at the waist. Not sure whether to admit defeat & start sewing for my new figure or fight it with better food habit & exercise. I’m pessimistic because I am approaching menopausal age and that’s when my Mom filled out too. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the fuller figure that bothers me (as long as I still feel healthy & pain-free), it’s the change…and all the wasted effort to perfect the fit these past few years. I’m not good with changes. I’ll be crying over the favourite pieces that I can no longer wear.

Looking (Way) Back at 2016

2016 Total: 14 makes
Garment types
2 Accessories
1 Jackets
2 Pants
3 Skirts
1 Sweaters
5 Tops
Pattern brands
9 Self-drafted/-draped
3 Burda
1 Style Arc
1 Vogue

2016 was a year of endings and new beginnings as I paid tribute to my Mom in Jungle January and got married in India-inspired bling by end of the year. I also dip my toe into pants/trousers-making and made more of an effort to shop my Stash. Sadly I only managed to use up 2…out of my 375+ pieces.

The winners of 2016 …

Based purely on wear count I would have to say the winners were the Stripey Tops and the Orange Fluff Sweater & Jacket. Can’t beat the stretch comfort of knitwear with just enough design twists.

And the 2016 misses…

  • Burda Trousers. Because it’s too uptight & the fit is still not quite right. The front crotch bubble makes me blush. The waist had no breathing room even back then before I got my new midriff insulation. And it’s hemmed for heels – too dressy & torturous for these couple of comfort-seeking years.
  • Choli Blouses. Mostly because of limited sleeve mobility & comfort. What’s a choli blouse if I can’t dance (badly) in it right? It’s a real shame I didn’t perfect the fit before I made these two choli blouses with beautiful embellishments – one of which took me ages to embroider myself.

Looking Back at 2017

2017 Total: 19 makes
Garment types
2 Accessories
1 Jackets/Dresses
6 Pants
2 Skirts
8 Tops
Pattern brands
16 Self-drafted
1 Burda
2 Closet Case

2017 was a year of the pants/trousers blocks. And refinement of my knit and choli top blocks. There were more muslins than I can remember. Many weren’t so wearable because of design or fit failures. Hence the lack of motivation to finish the blog drafts I started about these.

Blogging UFOs

2017 was also the year of the wraps. I took my own medicine & tried out the wrap approach to moulage-making. It started with the leg wraps and eventually a torso wrap as well. Shame my body decided to change shape afterwards, so how useful they will be I do not know any more.

The winners of 2017 …

Again based on wear count the winners have to be the Ginger Jeans – this despite of hardware failures (buttons & rivet that came undone). I will most definitely have to make more as my RTW jeans are all suffering from too much love. But I may have to alter for my new bigger middle.

The Bag & Wallet trial run also got plenty of wear. But the construction needs much improvement and my experiment with fabric lamination didn’t quite hold up as well as I’d like.

The Shawl Neckline T actually turned out better than I initially thought when I finished it. It’s such a classic & flattering silhouette that it got plenty of wear despite the less-than-perfect fit. I kind of regret getting rid of the pattern now.

And the 2017 misses…

Most of the other tops felt like misses as I couldn’t find inspiring ways to style them. The Burda top was my foray into loose boxy clothing. I thought I better start planning for menopause-wears. You know, for when hot flashes attack and the paddings pile on! But this top wasn’t it. I couldn’t rock it despite sizing down. Even after pulling back a bit on the boxiness with pleats I’m still not feeling this top.

But my biggest misses in 2017 have to be the ‘wearable’ muslins for the Slim-Pants block because of imperfect fit. The gingham ones I wear at home where no one will see the rumpled back thighs. The dark brown ones I will have to alter somehow – I went overboard with back crotch adjustments, so they actually don’t feel comfortable at all.

Looking Forward to 2018

I think I have the Slim-Pants and Choli Blouse blocks sorted. Kind of. Or as good as they’re going to get if still not perfect. And that’s assuming my figure doesn’t change much more and it won’t be too difficult to accommodate my new midriff padding. I should really make another wearable muslin for both.

But I have more pressing clothing needs to sew for. A lot of my RTWs need replacing, like coats & jeans. And I should really also start sewing in earnest for menopause. So more volume and layering, preferably in cool & breathable fabrics. Shame I have way too few plant-based fabrics in my humongous Stash. I promised DH not to feed my Stash, but…

And I probably should also finish all those blogging UFOs. We shall see if I can even remember enough details to finish.

What about you? What sewing promises will you be making (and maybe not keeping) for the New Year? xxx 😛

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A bunch of Ts

Not much interesting sewing happening here lately. I still feel exhausted & low from last two years’ craziness. To keep Meaning-Of-Life questions at bay, I tried to keep myself distracted by replacing boring basics in the wardrobe & made a bunch of easy-ish T-shirts that refine my stretch blocks.

Dartless 0-ease Knit Block designs:

Dartless 0-ease Knit Block (+Set-In Sleeve)

1. Envelope neckline T with set-in sleeves

This is a straight replacement for a couple of RTW Ts that I wore to death. The pattern is essentially my Camden Town Kids Wannabe top minus the puff over-sleeves & the funky hem. I also tighten up a bit at the side seams since the cotton (+lycra?) knit I used for this version moulds to the body better, so can take on a body-con shape without draglines – unlike the totally artificial fibre fabric I used for the previous top.

2. Shawl neckline T with set-in sleeves

This is a wearable muslin for a T that was planned for Fall-Winter 2014 SWAP. Yes, 2+ year late. But it’s a classic silhouette. So who cares right? I could have reused the altered Vogue 2980 which I made back in 2012. But I was hoping to improve the fit at the bust & the back neckline by using my own Blocks.

For the shawl collar I used V2980 as a guide to shaping the pattern using my own Blocks. I cut the collar as an extension to the back piece rather than a separate piece – my fabric stinginess won the day again! But I ended up having to stabilise (with bias tape) & stitch down the facing side of the collar extension along what would have been the shoulder-neckline seam. 6 vs half-dozen blah blah [roll eyes].

As for the shawl pleating at the side seams, I tried to minimise bulk by pleating only the top layer (ie not the facing layer).

Like my take on V2980 I again added a shelf bra (this time with double layer of stretch net), with elastics at both the bottom of the shelf bra &  its seam with the front neckline.

The initial result was a bit disappointing. The main problem was a gapping front neckline: I didn’t account for hollow at the chest that affects the fit of a lowered neckline. I also ended the shawl pleating too high up at the side seams. This resulted in the pleating being barely visible & the shawl not overlapping the front neckline enough, thus exacerbating the wide gapping neckline problem. To fix this I tried redoing the armscye – side seam: I narrowed the front neckline (cross-front width) slightly at the armhole, and reduced the depths of the pleats a bit so the shawl can end lower at the side seams (bustline now). It’s a bit better now. But I’m still not 100% sure I’ve cracked this silhouette.

3. Strappy T

This – along with a matching skirt – was actually an afterthought tagged on while making T #6 below. But as it’s based on the set-in sleeve block let’s talk about it first. It started with liking the fabric swatch combination. Unfortunately the result didn’t turn out like my doodle promised. The contrast band end up more wrinkly than planned. And my short straight figure just doesn’t do my doodle any justice. Last but not least, my attempt at built-in bust support with a darted shelf bra (as suggested by defunct Pattern School instruction for a Tankini) left an unsightly visible seaming bump. So a bit meh.

Raglan Dartless 0-ease Knit Block designs:

Raglan Dartless 0-ease Knit Block

4. Raglan short-sleeve T

This 2-bird 1-stone T attempted to use up the last scrap of cotton (+lycra?) knit from 1 above & retest my tweaked Raglan Dartless Knit Block at the same time (Test 3 in my previous Raglan Knit Block post). I had problem with the armholes feeling too tight – riding up against the armpit – despite the Block being derived from a set-in sleeve version which fitted fine. So I tried simply lowering the armpit a little bit. It’s been a while since I made the tweak, so I wanted to test the fit again in this forgiving cotton knit. No luck. Wearable, but the armpit is still a tad too close for comfort & the bodice still rides up slightly. The neckline is also a bit smaller – sit higher than I thought it would.

It’s good enough to wear, but not successful enough to make again.

5. Tweaked again Raglan T muslin 1

This time I tried adding length to both the raglan bodice & sleeve about mid-way up the armscye. This does seem to work better comfort-wise. But as the fabric I’ve used for this one – thin cotton jersey & lightweight power mesh – are both quite stretchy anyway, I won’t call this tweak a success just yet.

The design was inspired by Clio & Phineas’ cool cat V8670 Raglan T made with Alexander McQueen pima cotton jersey. I really lusted after one of my own. Then I was gifted the gothic looking black & red print by Giselle of London Dressmaker Meet-up Group. When shopping my stash for muslin victim I thought this might just about capture the spirit of Clio’s cool cat Raglan T. And I’m quite chaffed with the result, even though I haven’t got anything to wear it with.

6. Tweaked again Raglan T muslin 2

Exact same pattern as T #5 above. Wanted to test the pattern on a different knit. This time a less malleable artificial fibre knit. The very same fabric I’ve made a raglan T in before – Burda 2010-02-112. I got way too much of this fabric that was on sale, & that older raglan T is getting a bit tatty. Just the chance to replace & test my tweaked Raglan Block at the same time. Gosh I love my 2-4-1s!!!

To jazz this up I again turned to gold stamping/painting Queen B on the back, swarm of worker bees on the front, & barcodes at the wrists. Unfortunately my initial attempt resulted in a poorly positioned worker bee on the front bodice. For a moment I thought I’d just own it like a proper feminist should. But I chickened out & invited more bees to disguised the mistake. I don’t like the resulting mess of a print as much, but hopefully it’ll make the T more wearable.

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Even More Indian fabrics

I’m sorry. I really just couldn’t help it…even though I have 0 chance of ever wearing such fanciful garments. I blame it on depressing world events.

From Indiwear.com

From Rachelboutique.com

For most of these I think I will make the Indian blouse as intended, but adapt the skirt & shawl to more wearable western style garments. It seems such a shame not to make them up as designed, but ultimately Function trumps Form for me.

And to store my ever expanding Asian lovelies I ended up making a dozen storage bags. I was going to buy readymade saree/lehenga storage bags. But most are made with clear plastic, and various online articles advise storing these away from light. So I pressed some unloved non-woven interfacing & horticultural fleece from the Stash into service.

Nakkashi 4053 Half & Half Saree
unstitched choli blouse + seamed saree (skirt-shawl) + under-skirt fabric

available at Indiwear.com

These “Half & Half Sarees” are skirt & shawl fabrics joined together to create a 2-colour saree. They’re worn like sarees & are different from “Half Sarees” which seems like another name for lehenga outfit with separate skirt & shawl.

I’m thinkning of keeping this one as designed. The presumably polyester chiffon skirt-shawl without stiff interfacing makes it more casual & wearable. 

Nakkashi 4068 Half & Half Saree
unstitched choli blouse + seamed saree (skirt-shawl)

available at Indiwear.com

Another 2-fabric saree. I think I will separate the fabrics & just use as fancy fabrics for western designs.

Nakkashi 5063 Lehenga Choli
unstitched choli blouse + part-stitched lehenga skirt + finished dupatta shawl

available at Indiwear.com

First of 3 lehenga skirt outfits, these will be harder to adapt as the skirts are panelled & partly sewn. The skirt hems all have stiff interfacing making them impractical for normal wear. But at least the fabrics are neutral enough to work in western style garments. 

Nakkashi 5061 Lehenga Choli
unstitched choli blouse + part-stitched lehenga skirt + finished dupatta shawl

The colour of this one is least like in the designer photos. But it’s still my favourite of the bunch because the emellishment can also pass for fancy European embroidery.

Nakkashi 5068 Lehenga Choli
unstitched choli blouse + part-stitched lehenga skirt + finished dupatta shawl

Like the pink one above I chose this one because the fabrics are neutral enough to work in western style & the combination of fabric & trims work well together (rather than look randomly thrown together like in some other designs).

I better stop buying more of these fancy Indian outfits until I figure out what to do with these…AND sew some up! DH is threatening to get me on one of those Hoarder TV programmes! 

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Link

Intimate apparel & swimwear industry articles (updated)

UPDATED 2017-05-26 – changes highlighted in red text…

While searching for a replacement for the defunct (Stretch) Pattern School today, I came across an intimate apparel industry publication website that offers some interesting intimate apparel & swimwear technical articles at US$19.90 a pop. The site is based in Hong Kong, but with international contributors.

The article that lead me to this site initially is “Introduction to Swimwear Pattern Cutting Principles” by British Intimate Apparel Technical Designer David Morris, who seems to have worked for well-known companies & taught at university level. He also offers a remote learning course on “Swimwear Pattern Cutting & Grading” at £250 a pop.

For bras there are obviously a few other home sewing resources available already – eg Bevely Johnson’s books & Craftsy classes. Nonetheless some of the other technical articles still look interesting & unique, like…

  • Introduction to Swimwear Pattern Cutting Principles: Not so fast! Learn the basic rules of stretch pattern cutting before you venture into drafting or adapting basic swimwear blocks. Being able to understand and apply these rules should…18pgs, a handful of insights, but not in-depth enough for me
  • Grading Swimwear: Do you grade stretch fabric garments differently than rigid garments? The simple answer is no … with a few exceptions. David Morris take us through another insightful design course from the world of swimwear.
  • Long Fit Swimwear: Read how, due to the increase in the average women’s height over the years, customers are complaining about being “cut in half” and how brands are scrambling to create variation in sizes to counter the problem. Enter the long fit.
  • Prima Donna Swim: Check out IAJ’s technical piece on drafting and grading two versions of the Prima Donna bikini.
  • M&S Sport Bra Draft & Grade: Wired sports bras still account for a large share of the market. David Morris walks us through the drafting of the cup and the cradle and shows the option of replacing the steel wire with a polymer version.
  • Triumph Shape Sensation Bra Draft: Follow along as David Morris drafts the Triumph Shape Sensation bra style with Comfort wire, which was developed with innovative cushioned ends that adjust to the body’s every move.
  • Playtex Soft Cup Retro Bra: Who hasn’t heard of Playtex? IAJ brings you a detailed profile on the famous “cross your heart” bra, a retro design that never seems to go out of style.
  • Bra Wire Technology: To the untrained eye, it’s just a piece of wire, but to the experienced designer this wire is the make or break component to any successful wire bra design. Find out what makes this simple piece of metal so important to the fashion world…6pgs, interesting insights, but may be covered by specialist books on bra pattern-drafting / sewing books (See Bra-Making Blog’s book & pattern reviews).
  • Fit Evaluation- How Your Model’s Breast Size Changes: Finding a model is hard enough and it doesn’t help when her measurements change. Check out this article that explores the reasons behind the difficulty in achieving that perfect fit. Hormones play a major role…3pgs, 1 superficial insight, not really worth the price.
  • The Perfect Pants: What constitutes the right fit when it comes to pants? David Morris investigates and reveals his findings relating to ethnicity, pelvic shape, size and age. There’s much to learn from this informative article…9pgs, interesting insights, but no drafting solutions to the problems identified.
  • How Hip & Pelvic Shape Affects Knicker Shape: IAJ sets out to investigate, based on online feedback, the many ways different ethnicities and body shapes affect proper fitting. Major lingerie brands are in search of an answer. Did we find it?
  • Men’s Underwear: For those designers out there, IAJ has another technical article on drafting. The subject this time? Men’s underwear. The article’s author Kimberly Hamiliton includes a brief history of this fascinating garment.
  • Leggings: This technical article takes us through the pattern drafting of “bifurcated” garments, garments with “legs,” i.e., Sports Running Tights or leggings.
  • Bodycon: The word Bodycon is slang in the fashion world for the “Body Confidence” trick. This article looks at shapewear garments, in particular focusing on pattern drafting using Negative Ease, testing fabrics, styling, construction and pattern ideas from foundation garments…25pgs, a bit more in depth with good tips on principles, but drafting instruction is a bit generic & light on details
  • Developing the Control Slip: The brands, the trends, the designs, the technical requirements. It’s all here in our fully-loaded and insightful article on shapewear.

So I bought 5 of the articles. I still need to read them more carefully, but here’s my first impression… In general I’d say these are more updates & top-up learning than foundation education for those going into the swimwear & intimate wear industry. They are not very in-depth, but do offer some unique & more recent research & trends. Also keep in mind that because they are geared towards RTW professionals, the information may not be so useful for those of us creating custom patterns or targeting niche sizing. Number of pages varies, but the pricing is uniform. So not all articles are good value for money.

I’ve ordered a couple more pattern drafting books for stretch fabric/ knitwear:

I will review these when I get a chance.

In general I’d say the info on the defunct Pattern School site is probably quite unique – covering principles & catering for both custom & RTW pattern drafting. Real shame that the author has run out of generosity – it’s not like we fans don’t want to pay for his insights or expect professional level book production. I think most of us would have been happy to pay for a PDF of exactly the content he had on that defunct website. I’m going to put it down to giving fatigue & general fashion industry cattiness!

I’m sure there are other experts out there who can provide the equivalent education – in courses if not in book form or free online info. The problem is of course distinguishing the worthy courses from the rubbish one without having to fork out big bucks to try out every course!

And we need more people like Bevely Johnson who when faced with the bra industry’s reluctance to share knowledge went about doing her own research & experimentations, wrote a couple of books on custom bra patternmaking & sewing, and now share her knowledge through Craftsy classes as well. A woman for the modern knowledge sharing economy!

BTW, for those of you making proper sports swimwear,Debbie Iles of Lily Sage & Co has an interesting blog post swimwear technology. She sews for herself & her family, and she was an Australian competitive swimmer in the 90s, so has some interesting insights on swimwear for proper swimming!

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