La mia Boutique Nov 2012

For a while now I’ve been keeping an eye on Italian sewing pattern magazine La mia Boutique. I’ve learnt about it from Fehr Trade, who generously shared pictures from her numerous international sewing pattern magazine subscriptions. Unfortunately some of the other ones that she blogs about like Spanish Patrones or Brazilian Manequim are impossible to find in London. Actually, the only place I’ve seen La mia Boutique is in Selfridges department store on Oxford Street, London (in the Ground floor magazine section, Italian / international magazines shelves). You would have think London being so close to Europe and such a cosmopolitan and international city, that it would be easy. But no such luck. Anyway, one (besides the ubiquitous Burda) is better than none.

So La mia Boutique. The occasional issues I’ve seen weren’t really my cup of tea. But the other day I came across the November 2012 issue and it was right up my alley. So I’m now proud owner of one issue 🙂

In case your taste differs and you want to know if it’s worth getting this issue, here are pictures of all of the patterns.

Classy yet Interesting…


The jacket was what caught my eyes. It’s got some funky details, but the end result is a very wearable classy 60ish silhouette. Looks expensive. I like!

And the dress, so simple yet elegant, made even more desirable by the gorgeous print.


I’m less crazy about these two. The sleeveless one on the left might work if you pick the right fabric with a bit of drape. Otherwise the length and volume would make it too bulky and unflattering. (See Paunnet’s review of this issue for another less flattering photo of this top.)


I like this coat too. I know, it doesn’t look like anything special. But this silhouette is actually the closest to my Top Shop Spring coat that I need to replace. So Yes! Result!


This shapely yellow coat with detachable fur collar looks quite interesting too. But I’m not sure the skimpy fur collar quite work. I think the recent Burda version (2012-08-103) would work better.

The dress again is another one with interesting details but a classy silhouette.


Ditto with this dress. Paunnet was lamenting the fact that the fabric choice doesn’t show off the interesting details. You can certainly highlight them with contrasting fabrics. But actually, I quite like the subtly of this execution. Different strokes right? Hence the importance of showing all so you can judge for yourself! 🙂


The tech drawings (see below) for this jacket and the one just above are again quite interesting. But the results don’t do much for me. The one above is weirder – I probably wouldn’t ever make that one. But this one look classy enough that I may eventually make one a fabric that showcase the details better.


These are less interesting details-wise. But with the right fabric and styling choices, they’d make nice basics.

LaMiaBoutique_2012-11_13A few more that aren’t as interesting for me. But maybe they’ll be right up your alley.


And for you Curvy Lovelies…


And not forgetting the Little Ones…


Tech Drawings for those who
don’t trust leggy models…

And if it doesn’t come in exactly your size …

…There’s grading instruction / tips in the introduction section of the pattern instructions.

…which Google Translate turns into this…

Development of sizes

A method to increase or decrease the size of the pattern chosen

  1. Return on sheets of paper the various pieces of the pattern in the size closest to your own.
  2. To obtain its size by a model size immediately above or below, follow the variations suggested in the diagrams of this page.
  3. The figures below show the transition from one size to another with the relative displacement in centimeters. In our diagrams the solid line indicates the size detected by the pattern, the short dashed the smaller size, the hatch on the next size up.
  4. For other sizes, vary the displacement measurements indicated in diagrams of a single measurement for each size, but are advised to avoid overpasses to two sizes as not to alter the model line.
  5. If you really want to develop some sizes of difference, before cutting the fabric, you should wrap the head in a slight sliver of tailors and try it exactly. [Huh???]
  6. To shorten a model: Drill a horizontal fold on the tissue, to the extent necessary, to about half of the bodice and skirt.
    To extend a model: Cut the tissue in the same position explained above and place a piece of tissue paper, the required length (see page 38).
  7. For the grading of the rectangles follow the instructions given in the text (see Model).

The actual instruction for the patterns are brief like in Burda Style magazines. But there is an intro section with illustrated summary of some common sewing techniques / steps. Unfortunately it’s all in Italian of course. So probably best for sewers with a bit of experience who can decipher patterns and sew without detailed instruction. Otherwise there’ll be a lot of typing into Google Translate and a lot of Huh? and laughs!

LA Shopping Spree…Part 2

Next up on my shopping list are books. London used to have a bookshop aimed at fashion students with hard to find text books etc. But it seem to have closed down. Last time I was in LA, I come across one such book store in the Fashion District. So this time I decided to stock up on unusual finds to keep me busy on that sleepless flight back home.

An Eye-Opening Education

First up is the Fashion Book Store in California Market Center building on E 9th St between S Main St & S Los Angeles St. Here I took the plunge and got a couple of specialist books. They cost an arm and a couple of legs. But I figured that I can’t get the same info easily elsewhere. Plus they’ll last me a lifetime (or what’s left of it anyway). Besides, someone took the trouble to collect, collate, and share all these insights (rather than regurgitate what others have already written loads about). And they deserved to earn some money for their effort.

The Bra-Maker Manual, vol 1 & 2

By Beverly Johnson. It’s not just a book about sewing bras. It actually has lots of discussion and pattern diagrams for different types of bras. Some shows the different grainlines required for different pieces. There are also info on pattern alterations for different bra fitting problems. Very interesting.

Designing and Patternmaking For Stretch Fabrics

By Keith Richardson. This one is very timely for me. I’ve been compulsively shopping a bunch of stretch knits at Tia Knight’s Tissu online fabric store, and trying to devise a basic knit pattern block.

This book has just what I need: Instructions for creating slopers for different types of stretch fabrics. It also has a stretch terms and jargon buster, and simple flat pattern design instructions for stretch garments.

It even has the answer to a question that has been bugging me for ages: What does bias on knit do? The answer: Not a whole lot. It says “bias garments are never created with knit fabrics. Knit bias does not have any of the stretch and drape characteristics that woven bias would impart to garments.”

v1282-layoutWhich begs the question: Why does the cutting instruction for V1282 top recommends a bias layout. For 2-way stretch fabrics no less!!!???

Speaking of 2-way vs 4-way stretch – another question that has been bugging me for a while – this book again has the answer: 4-way stretch is essentially 2-way stretch with spandex added to help with recovery. Stretch outward sideways and up & down without spandex = ‘2-way stretch’. Without the spandex this eventually sags or stretch out of shape. With  spandex added to aid recovery, it becomes ‘4-way stretch’. Presumably the additional ‘2-way’ refer to the fabric ‘stretching’ back into shape – ie inward sideways and up & down.

(I just checked the Amazon reviews for this book. I was surprised to see the low score. This seems to be because of numerous typos in the book. But considering the scarcity of pattern drafting books for knits, I still think the book is worth it. As Kathleen Fasanella aka the Fashion Incubator says in her review of the book: “no book is perfect”. I will just keep an eye out for those typos.)

I almost got “Professional Sewing Techniques for Designers” as well. But I decided it was too similar to other sewing technique books. And I already have too many of those and not enough room to store them. Besides, the tips for working with difficult fabrics don’t cover the type of temperamental fabrics I’m currently wrestling with – stretch fabrics.

I also visited Kinokuniya the Japanese book store in Weller Court, Little Tokyo. Surprisingly it also has a good selection of fashion and sewing books. I was a bit tempted by the Pattern Magic & Drape Drape series and others like them. But my days of weird boxy Japanese garment aesthetics is really behind me. There was a time decades ago when I was a big fan of COMME des GARÇONS. But now I’m making the most of what figure I still have. Maybe one day I’ll get back into hiding the body again! For now I got this:

Fundamentals of Garment Design

By Bunka Fashion College in Japan. This is the first in a series of textbooks. Thankfully they have all been translated into English. I only got this one because the other focus on specific types of garments like dresses and jackets, and again, they’re a bit too boxy for my liking.

Unlike western fashion textbooks, this intro book covers a wider range of topics. The bits I find particularly interesting are the overview of how anatomy, different body proportions, and movements affect garment design; measurements insights; Bunka-style sloper instruction; and examples of sloper fitting adjustments shown on Asian women, some with combinations of fitting issues.

Then there’s the answer to my other pestering question: What happens to that back shoulder dart in designs without a dart in that area? It seems like the dart is pivoted to the armhole and/or neckline as eased volume (presumably held in check by sleeves and collars). But it’s never pivoted to the waist dart. So that’s this sloper axed then!


There’s also a curious mention of a “Half Bias Tape”. The photo illustration shows a tape with grainline that doesn’t look like true bias grainline. But there’s no mention of “Bias Tape” at all!!!??? It’s described as having “moderated stretch and to some degree controls stretching. Front edges, shoulders, necklines, etc.” So I’m assuming it’s used instead of true bias tape. But why?

Last but not least are a series of Fabric Dictionary & Swatch Books I ordered directly from Rain City Publishing:


Thanks La Karibane for suggesting this series. It’s great to have nice fabric samples illustrating the different types of fabrics. Descriptions alone are no good as most are so generic as to be pointless for identifying fabrics.

And that was it…Or was it?

Well, not quite. There are always those bits and pieces that are  invisible in the results, but absolutely essential in the making. Like…

patternsA bunch of Vogue, McCall, Butterick patterns bought during the recent online sale.

interfacingA bunch of highly recommended interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply of Pam’s Off-The-Cuff sewing blog.

threadsFrom Wawak, formerly Atlantic Thread Supply, more MaxiLock overlocker threads than I have storage space for.

Plus a small velvet pressing board at the cheapest price I can find. Everywhere else I looked it’s over $100. It’s pictured here with my sleeve board for size comparison.

zippersI also got a bunch of zippers to catch up with the wilder color fabrics I started collecting. These are from Mood Fabrics and B. Black & Sons. Zip Up Zippers has a wider selection of zippers and notions.
But it was too chaotic to find what I want and I can’t just help myself. I don’t like getting a sales person involved unless I’m desperate. I always feel too much pressure to buy.

rulersFinally, there are these C-thru rulers which I got from Golden Cutting & Sewing Supplies. You can also get them at art stores like Pearl Paint. I’ve tried lots of different rulers, but always come back to these. They’re thin, so don’t cast shadows that make it hard to align the ruler edge with lines. I’m a imperial measure girl, and I like the handy 1/8” grid which make pattern work easy.

Unfortunately the # 1 item on my wishlist was nowhere to be found in LA. It’s loose sheets of large 26” x 19.5” dressmaker’s carbon paper that I used to get from Steinlauf & Stoller in NYC. (It’s not listed on their site, but I swear they carry it. Or used to anyway.) All I can find in Downtown LA were pre-packaged small sheets. I guess I will just have to stick to Burda Carbon Paper for now. Or plan a trip to NYC soon!

As you can imagine, it was a bit of a struggle fitting all these into my luggage. In the end it was like 13 lb overweight. And at $200 surcharge you bet I was frantically transferring stuff into my carry-on’s at the airport check-in desk.

Now I better get back down my rabbit hole and churn out some more garments, so I don’t feel so guilty for spending a small fortune and taking over so much space in our tinsy winsy London apartment!

In which I contribute to Her Majesty’s Coffer

So the patterns arrived. Unfortunately I always forget about import charges – a whopping £11 on goods worth only £15.30. Actually most of it is Royal Mail’s handling charges.

The guy at the post office told me I had just missed the threshold for free import by 30p. Turns out that on goods worth less than £15 there is no charge. So one less pattern and I would have saved some money. Bummer.

In the end these patterns worked out to be £6.04 per pattern. How I wish I still live in the States sometimes.

So what do rest of you UK folks do? Where do you get dirt cheap Big 4 patterns from? Or do you stick to Burda magazines for affordable patterns?

What do you do when you can’t sew?

Why go shopping of course!

This time it’s patterns, not fabrics. I had seen this Donna Karan Vogue Pattern for a cowl neck top (v1282) and lusted after it. But not at $19.20.

So I waited. And waited. And waited for that spam mail about $4.99 sale. But nothing came. I must have been blacklisted. Or my spam filter gotten too diligent.

As luck would have it, while investigating the problem I checked the Vogue Pattern site a couple of days ago and it was…wait for it…$3.99 a pop! And McCalls Patterns at $1.99 a pop. OK, add on international shipping and it’s no longer dirt cheap, but it’s still the cheapest I’ve ever paid for Vogue Patterns. So I popped for 7 – the cut off point at which shipping cost jumps a whopping 120%.

V1282 I hope will work for this non-spandex cotton knit I have in a lovely turquoise leopard print.

I think I’ll also make one with the gold fabric I salvaged from this Victoria Secrets convertible dress that’s just too tarty for my taste. As you see though, it drapes quite nicely, so should be a good fit for this pattern.

So apart from v1282, I also got:

Vogue Pattern 1258

The pattern photo actually doesn’t do much for me. I got this on account of Erika B’s and Allison C’s versions. It’s good to know that models don’t always wear it better! Hurrah for real women.

Having said that, the Vena Cava – Fall 2010 original does look quite good on the model.

Vogue Pattern 1233

because it’s just too cute…and…

Vogue Pattern 8774

because I haven’t got any jeans pattern and this one doesn’t look not too momsy.

Vogue Pattern 8701

Again the photos don’t do much for me. But the drawings reveal a jacket with potential, and a raglan dress that can be a classic block.

Maybe the jacket in a gray denim? Tailored denim – I like that: Somewhat unexpected combinations. Just like a jean made from a more formal fabric that I saw in agnès b homme ages ago

McCall Pattern 2718

Yes, another fitting pattern – I seem to be forever fiddling with fitting! I’m already on my second Vogue fitting pattern. The first one was when I was size 8 too many decades ago. The second a fatter size 12.

But having read Palmer/Pletsch’s Fit For Real People book, I’m persuaded that I had gotten the wrong size based on full bust measurement as instructed by Vogue Pattern instead of high bust measurement recommended in the book.

If I was going to get a new fitting pattern I might as well get Palmer/Pletsch’s latest – McCall’s version. They had designed the original Vogue version in 1975, but have since refined the technique. This new McCall version supposedly has more fitting guidance built in. We shall see if anything come out of this nth fitting attempt!

McCall Pattern 6464

While I was at it, I thought I might as well try one of Palmer/Pletsch’s patterns for McCall and see if they are easier to fit properly.

This shift dress, while nothing special, does look rather elegant with an empire waist in the front dropping to natural waist in the back. Another classic block me thinks.

Now I just need to finish painting my sewing room without fainting or getting too high from the fumes!


Vogue Men’s Patterns Give-Away

OMG, I finished a top! But the sun has gone down now. So too late to show & tell. Another day then.

Between the craziness of a new job and redecorating at home, I haven’t made much progress on the sewing front. But I have gone through my pattern collection recently, and earmarked a couple for a Give Away.

Don’t get too excited yet. These are men’s patterns. Sorry, I’m hanging on to most of the women’s ones, even if many are a couple sizes too small now. Hoarder’s finger grip is strong. You can pry those other patterns off my hand over my dead body! 😉

So here they are:

Give-Away 1: Vogue 1928 Men’s Jacket, Pants & Shorts, chest sizes 32-34-36, uncut.

Loose-fitting, partially interfaced, lined, below hip jacket has shoulder pads, side panels, no side seams & long, 2-piece sleeves with mock vent & button trim.

A: collar, flaps, & pockets. A,B: welt. C: button/loop closing. B,C: side front pockets.

Shorts, above mid-knee or tapered pants have waistband, carriers, side front/back pockets & mock fly zipper.

D: stitched hems. F: cuffs.

Give-Away 2: Vogue 8918 Men’s Pants, waist sizes 26-28-30, cut to 30.

Tapered pants have front button wasitband, carriers & fly zipper closing.

A: side front welt pockets. B: shaped, side front pockets & back pockets. C: side pockets. A,C: back button welt pockets.

Both are not in the pattern envelopes anymore. But neither have been used. My other half has gotten a bit too well fed for these to be useful to me. So in the spirit of freecycle, I’m passing these on to those who can make better use of them.

How to get these:

It’ll be on a first come first serve basis. I’ve been a bit negligent in updating this blog, so I don’t expect there’ll be enough instant traffic for a proper prize draw.

So just leave a comment with your email address and I’ll get in touch to get postal address.