Lessons from MMM’15

I am glad I joined in this year. I have learned a lot. But I don’t think I will officially join in again next year. It was really hard work and disruptive of my sewing routine because like most of you I can’t sew without making a mess. And constantly shuffling the mess around to make room for less embarrassing photos made it impossible to get any sewing done.

Striking a Pose

mmm15-outtakesOver 850 photos were taken just to get the 31 finally shown. And some of the chosen ones were subjected to photo tinkering – like color ‘correction’ / filtering, ‘cloning’ out distracting details like light switch and any mess I forgot to clear out of the frame. I didn’t resort to digital nip-tuck, but the very nature of the camera angle makes the proportion in some photos look nothing like my real figure. Just saying all this so that you know that any good photo I posted didn’t come easily, and with some effort I firmly believe anyone can look good in photos. So I encourage you all to play around with your photos if you have the time. Let’s show the fashion industry that real people can also look artistic & fabulous!

On the positive side photo-wise, I now have a wider range of approaches to play with. Previously my project style shots were staid full-figure tripod set-up which always takes a long time to set up. Now I feel more comfortable playing with informal camera phone that doesn’t take much set up at all.

Also, it was a good exercise in the discipline of editorial selection. When you take so many photos in a session, the temptation is to post a lot of the same thing. From a reading perspective, that’s fine if each reveals some interesting / useful new details. But otherwise it can get a bit boring after the first few photos. So I’m going to try to be more disciplined and at least vary the photo angle / composition / details if I post more than one photo of the same project / outfit.

What I’ve been working on…

I tried my best, but I didn’t manage to wear every single item I made that’s still in my possession. Some of it was due to inappropriate weather. But a few despite looking OK initially turned out to be duds long term. MMMs shone such a brutally honest lights on these. Some of these I’m trying to fix…

Self-drafted Sari Top:

I never blogged this. It was based on an older bodice sloper and suffered from lack of breathing ease and provision for uneven shoulder. So despite the most beautiful metallic border and luscious red silk I’ve only worn it twice. And with difficulty. You saw me working on this in the last week of MMM’15. But I didn’t finish in time. And the result is still not stellar. But at least now I can breath in it. And the border more than justify keeping it. I must source more of these Indian sari top fabrics! Saris are such beautiful outfits.

Emami / Bradbury Endless Dress + Self-drafted Bandeau Tube Top + McCall 6078 Cowl Neck T :

Again beautiful dress but a PITA to wear. The heavy skirt keeps pulling the tube bodice down. But when worn with the separate tube top, there’s too much overlap resulting in a Shar Pei effect, cute on a pooch, not so much on a lady. I’m in the process of redoing the skirt waistband – I think no more than 2″ in height at most since I’m not fond of yoga waistbands. I’m hoping the scrap will be enough to make a strapless top to replace the separate tube top. I will need to figure out the best way to add a shelf bra for such strapless top. Any suggestions?

The hope is that together these remakes will give me a couple of more wearable options and a more streamlined look when they’re worn together. I also need to tighten and shorten the matching McCall 6078 Cowl Neck T. Using the wrong grain for this resulted in a rather shapeless sack over time. Maybe the offcut will come handy for reworking the tube top.

Ditch or Fix?

Ohhh Lulu Betty Retro Hot Pants
I’m debating whether to fix or ditch this attempt at retro hot pants. The leg holes are like tourniquets. After a minute I feel my legs no more. There’s also pooling in my lower back and crotch. I think these problems are all fixable. But MR calls this my Adult Diaper. And the prospect of wearing it outside the house is zilch. Beach holidays where this might be acceptable will become increasingly unlikely. So ditch?

Burda 2011-08-112 Cape
I was really proud of the worksmanship in this one. And I have emotional attachment to the fabric as it’s inherited from my Mom’s youth. But cape just does not work for me. Despite my precautions I still feel like an short squat American Footballer in this. And cold at the same time with the wind whooshing in & out as it pleases. I’d donate to a charity shop, except I don’t think it’d be ‘properly’ appreciated :.( I wish I had made a normal jacket / coat with the fabric. Wonder if it’s still possible…

One thing for sure, I will never jump on the jumpsuit bandwagon. Like capes, sometimes it’s best to just admire the style from the sideline, living vicariously through the Ladies who Can!


The ever festering dress

I’m on route to my brother’s graduation with nothing to do on the flight. So finally, some time to catch you up on the gazillion projects I always seem to be working on (if not finish).

First off, a lemon.

It started life as a RTW dress from Camden Market. As expected of the Camden aesthetic it’s a bit Lolita Goth. It’s an interesting combination of a thin stretchy knit that clings for the long sleeve top and a floaty soft muslin for the A-line gore skirt. Inside the skirt at each vertical seam there’s a twill tape that allows you to draw up the skirt to form irregular bubble hem.


I liked the dress well enough, but that knit top was never going to keep its shape with a full skirt dragging it down. So I decided to multiply my investment and turn each section into a separate garment.

First off, the skirt. I thought I’d keep to the Victorian Undergarment feel and keep it light and airy in thin China Silk and as a pull on with no zip, no closures. After much agonizing I settled on a spaghetti strap camisole top with empire waist in the front slopping to a natural waist in the back. I didn’t have the right shade of matching off-white, so I went for what seems like a complementary shade light mocha, along with a lovely organdy ribbon with gold scroll print for a border.

camden-dress2-dsgn camden-dress2-detail-3

For pattern, I base it on my most recent bodice sloper result. camden-dress2-patternThe bust darts have been pivoted into one single French dart, and bodice cropped at under-bust in the front. The back waist darts have been pivoted out, resulting in a continuous curved back piece. But I then had to pivot the dart back in to make the waist big enough to slip the dress on. OK, no big deal I thought and continued my merry way finishing the damn slippery top and attached it to the skirt.

Boy was I wrong. The result was less than stellar. The combination of the color and silhouette just does not work for me. Especially in the back where the unflattering puffy band of the back bodice cuts my body into unflattering proportions.


The angle of the straps also look a bit weird. But I had to shift them so close to the CB to prevent the straps from falling off my sloping shoulder / muscular neck.

I tried my best to style it to no avail. So it’s a case of “Sounds Good In Theory…”


But fear not. The dress isn’t going to be binned. camden-dress2-detail-2

The doubled spaghetti straps with matching bows are too pretty to bin. I’m just going to dissect and multiply the dress again and turn this lemon into a lemon meringue. Stayed tuned to find out what becomes of 1 that became 2 that then became 3 dresses.


Byzantine dreams

OMG, I can’t believe I’ve just finished not 1, but 2 sewing projects! Granted, both left a bit to be desired in the fitting department. But still, it’s unheard of. Almost.

London weather being dull as ever, no evidence of my minor achievements just yet. Instead you’ll have to make do with part 2 of my Gigli coat quest. Nope, you haven’t heard the end of it yet! :o)

While Gigli attempt no. 1 was hibernating, I stumbled across Folkwear 503 Poiret Cocoon Coat pattern. It’s vaguely Gigliesque. So I thought I’d try a store-bought pattern for a change as my attempts at copying designer garbs have been a bit of the luck of the draw.

The example on the pattern envelope is a bit ugly to be honest. But I thought with a classier fabric it might look glam enough. So I plucked for a gorgeous brown cut velvet with silver-gray satiny lining.

And here’s the result…

Well, the almost-finished result anyway. You see, the trouble is once it’s mostly made up I lost heart. It felt more like a dressing gown for Ladies who Lunch than a Byzantine Princess Coat. So I never put the finishing touch on it. Instead it’s been languishing for years in the TBA pile.

A real shame as I  even added some nicely finished welt pockets with almost perfectly matched pattern. And extra double-welt pockets in the lining as well!

(Why anyone would want to laden such delicate coat with dead weight is beyond me now, but I vaguely recall being obsessed about lack of pocket practicalities in women’s clothing back then.)

Here’s the not so graceful back view. The drapes just look wrong so low down. It reminds me of an oversized diaper: Squarish. Bottom heavy. Not very flattering no matter what shape you are.

Here’s a Poiret illustration for comparison.

And it gets weirder. Here’s the batwing. I feel like a flying squirrel. Or is it the sleeve equivalent of a Hammer pants? 😉

If I were to do it again, I’d go for something a bit more like this:

But given my lack of success with the Gigli coat attempts, I doubt I’ll try this style of coat again. Especially with the advance of middle age spread where my already small frame subcomb to gravity and grow sideways!

Instead I think I’ll look to my old favorite Comme des Garçons for inspiration on refashioning this lovely cut velvet coat.

Comme des Garçons Fall 1996

Probably not another coat though.

Maybe a top like this sketch I drew of a lady in a CdG top at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I love the contrast between the austere muslin and the sumptuous cut velvet.

So maybe I’m not cut out to be a Byzantine Princess. But a Byzantine Peasant wouldn’t be too much to ask for innit?

The Chinese Knitting Machines

This morning I saw a lady knitting on the Tube (London subway). It’s quite rare to find people knitting in public here in London. I was doing it myself just this past year when I tried to learn how to knit.

It’s rather a useful skill to have as you generally can’t sew on the go, but knitting is much more portable. The only problem is, if I find home sewing pattern frequently rather dowdy, home knitting seem much worse. I like knit clothing that you’d buy in stores, so it’s not like I don’t like knits. But my own knitting projects so far have turned out 2 Oops (sweaters / jumpers) and 1 oops-but-still-good-enough (boyfriend scarf). And ones knitted presumably by experts and featured in knitting pattern books don’t seem much better style-wise.

Oops # 1: big chunky short sleeve sweater

My second knitting project, this one is destined for the Frogging Pile despite looking OKish in the end. I had already frogged it once, the original pattern being one size smaller yet still too big. Thankfully the Rowan Drift yarn was very fast to knit – I almost finished half of it on one 6 hour flights to the States – and easy to frog.

But call me frigid if you will, if I go chunky I need everything covered. Chunky + short-sleeve is knitting oxymoron. Chunky is actually also rather uncomfy under the arm. Maybe I’m just a princess with her pea. Anyway, Plan B is a puncho. I’m waiting to see if the August Burda have any skinny retro pants or skirt to go with it. Not the Poodle Pants that Channel No. 6 had already poo-poo’ed though!

Oops # 2: bat wing sweater

Project # 3 turned out more Michelin Man than chic. I’m terribly disappointed. Again I had already went one size too small and further. But it’s still a balloon. (Is it that I’m just too short for all these Western patterns, sewing and knitting?)

Style it right and captured from the right angle I might just be able to get away with it in photos. But in full motion life it’s going to the Stay At Home Pile – the Rowan Kidsilk Aura being too hairy to frog…Unless I can somehow alter it by sewing, basically treating it as a knit fabric. A real shame anyway, as I managed to knit it in the round so there’s practically no bulky seams at all.

oops-BSGE: boyfriend scarf

k-boyfriend-scarfGlenn’s Scarf by Katherine BuckspanGlenn's Scarf from Ravelry by Katherine Buckspan This was the beginning. And probably most successful despite minor oops. I mean, you can’t really go wrong with a scarf can you?

The oops is in the pattern. I read the instruction wrong, so the first 3 rows of repeats are not reversible. No biggy though, I just turn the last 3 rows into the same and make it look intentional.

But the whole point of this post is to…

…Point out how fast the Chinese knit. The lady on the Tube presumably is knitting the English way. Many different finger movements were involved which seems to slow things down. I tried to learn from an UK book, but my Mom then showed me the way she learnt, which supposedly is the Japanese way. It’s a bit more efficient, but still nothing compared with the way a Chinese lady showed me when  I was knitting while waiting in a shop. Her fingers were like a knitting machine. Up down up down, the loops spilling out in no time at all. What took me weeks to knit she claimed would have been done in one day in China.

chinese knitting video (see 4:55)

chinese knitting video (see 17:58)

Those Chinese, tough & capable as … I’ll leave you with this inspiring image then.

Let’s hope prosperity won’t turn them soft! 😉

A risqué 122 & her french pretender twin 112

Burda Style Feb 2010 issue’s patterns 122 and 112 that is…

Burda Style 2010-02 Style 122

Burda Style 2010-02-122

Burda Style 2010-02 Style 112

Burda Style 2010-02-112

These I’m quite proud of even though the fit left something to be desired. For once I used up a piece of fabric within 3 months of purchase. That’s unheard of! Usually it’s years, if not decades. Or ever.

It’s cotton jersey, probably not of the best quality as 112 has started pilling a bit. But I managed to get 2 tops and a convertible headband out of 1.75 yards x 60″ wide. The hand is quite pleasant to work with. Matching stretchy stripes not so much.

And like almost everyone else who’ve attempted 122, mine refuse to stay on my shoulders. Granted I didn’t help things by lowering the back neckline. I also made the booboo of not altering the pattern for my “mature” boobs. I went for the skinniest size – dowdy-phobia again – but forgot to lower the underbust seam. It’s not end of the world though it does look like I borrowed some teenager’s top. The off-shoulder number I do need to fix though. I’m just not sure how yet. So another one for the TBA pile.

112 came out better. Hence the pilling from wearing it once too often. I lowered the neckline and shorten to 3/4 sleeves. And went for the skinniest size again of course.

So here is me striking a pose in it with a jersey tube skirt and a cashmere beret I made earlier. No, I wouldn’t go out in the full regalia. Or maybe I would! :0) You can get away with a lot more crazy dressing in a big cosmopolitan city.

And the headband is typically me – commitment-phobe. At least when it comes to sewing.

Without Bow
With Bow

How it works

The loop covering the joint is closed by hooks. There are two sets of loops for the hooks to latch on to, one set of which are thread bars. This is to accommodate the bow: with bow the loop needs to be looser, without it needs to be tighter.

Now if only my head isn’t so flat so the headband would stay put instead of slipping off the back of my head…

And as if that wasn’t enough, the tiny scrap leftover is going to MBP. That’s “My Blythe Pile”…

Lucky Girl

I must have been Scottish in my past life. Or blighted by rationing. The MBP is overflowing as well.