Just a quick post to apologize to everyone who’ve tried to contact me via my About page. The form has gone on strike again & refused to forward you comment to me via email. I only just discovered all your feedbacks today while trying to fix the broken commenting form – Thanks Sasha of Second Piano for bringing this other problem to my attention. Bear with me as I sort out these technical glitches. And I will also go through my Contact Form logs & reply to your feedback soon.
Well, what was suppose to be fun pick-me-ups turned into a marathon slugfest. I must have finished all five of my funky-knit projects at least a couple of weeks ago. But every single one hit a snag. By the time the last one was done I was too sick of them to blog straight away. My subsequent project – another foray into pants/trousers-making – didn’t fare much better. So I have to accept that I’m in a sewing funk. And it would be better to tie up the loose ends with these unsatisfactory projects (by finish blogging them) so that I can start afresh when my sewing mojo returns.
What went wrong…
Some problems are common to all the projects, I’ll tick them off in one go:.
- So much unpicking urgh! To sew more accurately I had the furry sides together. But this caused velvet-like creeping despite every seams being basted first. Tape or glue wouldn’t have work with the furry surface. I had to bite the bullet & redo where it didn’t come out right.
- Mohair is really too itchy for me. They look so seductively soft. But like most (all?) wools, they still have scales. I have no problem so far with faux fur. But every mohair fabric I’ve tried made me twitch.
- My choice of stitches – flatlocked seams & overlocked hem – didn’t work as well on this fabric as it did with the felted Teal + Brown Floral Print Reversible Moto Jacket. Even though this fabric doesn’t really fray much, the cut edges nonetheless have little thread-bits that look untidy. It didn’t help that I chose a less dense stitch setting to so the seams would look more in keeping with the tweedy look of the black side. I can only count my blessing that the untidy edges are somewhat obscured by fuzz on the orange side, & kind of works with the rustic feel of the tweedy black side.
- I made many design miscalculations & construction mistakes which I’ll detail in the project posts.
- Notions that didn’t work out. Machine that conspired. Cack-handed manual sewing. etc etc.
All in all it felt as if Mercury was retrograding. I can’t tell if the Universe was telling me to take a break from sewing or challenging me to persevere. I persevered, as despite these challenges I still feel like sewing is the only thing I’m somewhat good at nowadays.
Tips & lessons learnt…
I didn’t show-n-tell the flatlock seam last time I used it, so here’s a WIP shot showing how it works (for those of you who finds it scary-looking like I did before I tried): Once stitched on the overlocker, gently pull the two fabric layers apart at the seam. If one layer of seam allowance won’t pull flat (folds onto itself), gently tease it flat with a large blunt stick like a plastic sweater knit needle. For these two-sided projects, I flatlocked with the orange sides together (black side out) with orange threads in the needle & lower looper & black thread in the upper looper. Once stitched, the top black side has black stitching & the bottom black side has orange stitching. But once pulled apart, the orange stitching is pulled into the orange side.
Unpicking Flatlock & Overlock stitches
As I had to do a lot of these, thank God there is an easy way to do this. For the 3-thread flatlock seams I clip & pull the lower looper thread which sits at the cut edge of the seam allowance. Then the longer needle & upper looper threads come away easily as continuous threads. For the 3-thread overlock hems I clip & pull the needle thread which is short horizontal stitches away from the cut edge of the seam allowance. Then the upper & lower looper threads come away easily as continuous threads. Sometimes I have to do the clipping at more frequent intervals to be able to pull them out more easily – eg every 2-3″.
Putting a twin-pull zip slider on a nylon coil tape
This goes on more smoothly if you align the slider to the tape correctly. The YKK twin-pull reversible slider (#5043) from Quest Outfitters that I used actually has two different inner sides to the slider – a flat side & a ridged side. I didn’t notice this initially, so tried to put the slider onto the tape any old way & couldn’t pull the slider on. Once I noticed this subtle difference it made sense to match the ridged side of the slider to the right side of the coil tape – ie the side with the protruding visible coil – and the flat side of the slider to the flatter wrong side of the coil tape. And presto, the slider goes on like duck to water!
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 recent stresses 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
- 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
- Notions: Fiberfill padding fabric from Sew Sassy; underwires recycled from old CK bra; Rigilene boning; gold eyes & hooks from eBay.
- Fabric: recycled from the RTW dress.
- Notions: braided elastic.
- 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.
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.
This lot was a bit of a bother. They required lots of unpicking. And lots of PITA unpicking at that (because of the stretch stitch used). Hence the continuation of my Fix it marathon into July. Let’s start with the least troublesome of the lot…
This one just needed taking in at the side seams and shortening. It was a case of:
- Picking the wrong pattern for my short-waisted torso. A loose but not flowy silhouette does nothing for my squarish upper-half. And I did have to wear this tucked in at the waist most of the time because of this second problem…
- Thinking that I can fight gravity. I had to use the stretchiest grainline for the length of the top because I ran out of fabric. It was suppose to be hip length. But it grew & grew, but not enough to pass as a dress.
This one needed the Shar-Pei waistband/tube-bodice
circu… shortened because…
- The yoga-style Shar-Pei waistband look better on a pooch than on me.
- The Mighty Weighty Skirt threatened the Tube Bodice with wardrobe malfunctioning.
I may have shortened it a bit too much. Originally I was still hoping for a Shar-Pei-less yoga-waistband wearing option, as well as a decent cowl/turleneck poncho wearing option. Needless to say that didn’t work.
In the end I had to end the Endlessness of this dress & commit to a proper waistband with elastic inside. I had a hard look at my lifestyle and decided that I’m never going to wear it as a Caped Crusading Poncho, nor as a more impractical version of Hammer Pants – imagine going to the loo in that! It’s still has some shape-shifting ability, but all are variations of skirts & apron skirts.
This one is the diva of the batch. It demanded a piece of flesh from both 1 & 2 above. Even then, parts of it still had to be laid out on the wrong grain.
The Inspiration & Design
Yes, I seem to have a thing for ruched bust. Maybe it’s because despite my psuedo-D-cup, I still manage to look rather flat chested from the front. No push-up bra has ever managed to give me a cleavage. While the bandeau band reinforces my lack of curves, I do like this Victoria Secret ruched bust bandeau bikini top. The cinching at CF adds the illusion of a much needed curve. So I modeled my remake on this, but added a panel below to turn it into a more practical tummy covering top.
- I also added a shelf-bra with clear elastic at top (neckline) & bottom (underbust) as insurance against wardrobe malfunction. I wanted a pull over top, but I don’t trust this fabric to recover from putting on/taking off the top.
- To further prevent sagging I copied the VS inspiration & adding boning to the shelf-bra’s side seams.
- The shelf-bra has vertical bust darts which are suppose to be more supportive, but unfortunately they’re kinda visible through the top layer.
- I wanted to add bust padding for more modesty. But I couldn’t figure out figure out a way to do so without restricting the stretchability.
- I also copied the VS inspiration’s option for detachable strap. But as usual I couldn’t decide and end up with two adjustable length straps to give me more options.
The Mug & Style Shots
- BLOCK: Stretch Pattern School Tankini Block for Stretchy Knits (-12%/0% ease). Since I want this wearable strapless, I thought the -12% ease block based on Stretch Pattern School instruction would be safer. BTW, I just managed to tracked down the author of Stretch Pattern School (patternschool.com). He’s writing a book that will contain all the info from that now defunct site plus more. I’m waiting for info on how to get on the notification list. Will let you know when I find out.)
- Pivot side seam bust dart into CF bust dart. Pivot additional 1cm from neckline to CF bust dart to ensure snug strapless fit (like the Stretch Pattern School instruction for ‘Palette Line Maillot/One-Piece’). CF bust dart will be gathered instead of sewn.
- Establish F&B neckline, hemline, & F underbust styleline.
- Separate F bust bandeau piece at underbust styleline, but extend CF up & down for additional CF gathering. (So both neckline & underbust styline become straight lines.) Remove additional 1/4″ width at CF to increase bustline tension & prevent saggy bust ruching.
- (During fitting, I had tweak the F bottom piece’s underbust styleline because I was getting excess fabric / bagging at CF underbust. I removed the pointy bit – what would be the bridge piece in a bra. The resulting underbust styleline is straight on the F pattern pieces, but curved when sewn up as intended by the design.)
- Drafted shelf-bra per Stretch Pattern School instruction forTankini shelf-bra:
- Using the same Tankini Bloc, pivot the side seam bust dart to waist seam bust dart.
- Establish neckline (this time CF curves down to busline) & hemline (underbust line).
- Rectangles for tab to cover the CF bust gathering / ruching, and for the detachable straps.
Fabric & Notions Used
- Fabrics: All recycled from thebandeau tube + 1 & 2 above.
- 4-way Stretch Viscose Cotton Lycra from Tia Knight/Tissu Fabrics.
- Shelf-bra underlining: Lightweight Power Mesh from Tia Knight/Tissu Fabrics.
- Clear elastic for neckline, shelf-bra bottom, and detachable straps.
- Rigilene boning for shelf-bra side seams.
- Strap notions: Bra hooks & sliders recycled from old VS bra. Hook loops at neckline: 3/8″ Satin Woven Elastic from Pacific Trimmings.
- This is my first time using Rigilene boning. It’s not recommended for corsets with require sturdier construction to keep the soft bits tightly compressed. But for a stretchy top like this I just needed a little bit of shaping, so it seems good enough. Besides, I already had it in the stash.
- To prevent the cut ends from poking I went overboard and used both options mentioned in Linda Sparks’ ‘The Basics of Corset Building’p21:
- I slid the fabric portion down a bit to expose the plastic rods. Their tips are then melted using a tea light candle. The tips didn’t actually touch the flame – they started melting when they got near the flame. I flattened the melted tips a bit while they were still warm, then slid the fabric portion back up.
- I also used scrap fabric to cover the ends after the boning has been sewn to the shelf-bra’s side seams.
- To prevent the shelf-bra from flipping out, I had to tacked its bottom edge to the outer layer at the side seams and the bottom of the CF gathering / ruching tab. The loops for the straps to hook onto are sewn on before this is done so the stitches will be hidden from the outside.
- I didn’t have bra straps in a matching color, so I had to make self-fabric straps. But as the fabric stretches in all direction, I added clear elastics inside to prevent them becoming too loose. I find this tricky as sometimes the elastic doesn’t lay flat & the strap gets a bit wavy. But once it’s on the body & slightly stretched this waviness isn’t so visible.
Was it worth all the trouble unpicking stretch stitches? I hope so. All three are more wearable now. Even the strapy top might be fine under a cardi or jacket for my relatively casual workplaces.
Yes, the fabrics are a bit ratty. But I like the color. And it makes the Environmentalist in me happier. We complain a bit about fast-fashion RTW being bad for the environment. But sometimes I wonder if we’re not just as bad since the process of learning to sew well may involve lots of failed projects and discarded fitting muslins. Plus the scraps from our projects might be harder to recycle especially if we sew with lots of different fibers. You don’t get the quantity of the same fabric that you’d get in RTW production waste. It makes me sad. So where possible I ‘upcycle’ my own makes despite having a huge fabric stash still waiting for their turn in the limelight.
Speaking of recycling…one of the sewing bloggers I follow (sorry, can’t find the post again for proper credit) shared a link to a fascinating documentary about an Indian community recycling our unwanted fast-fashions. It’s a short film by Meghna Gupta called Unravel. Some of these recycling ladies’ comments about the West are rather funny.
Watch it on a tablet or desktop as you’ll need to read the sub-title, but on a smartphone the timeline blocks the sub-title rather than disappear like on YouTube. Very silly.