Watch out! Psychedelic Leopards on the loose!

This one is dedicated to the MC of Junglist Massive,
a Ms Anne of Pretty Grievances.

I’m not convinced the 3 Psychedelic Leopard cubs want to play nicely together, nor with other regular leopards either. But seeing as I’m terribly late for Jungle January, I thought the least I can do is to herd all of them into the same room for some OTT Jungle Fever photo ops. So here goes…

First off:
Vogue Donna Karan 1282 Cowl-Neck Top
& Burdastyle 2012-05-113 Skirt,
with well-worn Joan & David Circa lizard skin  pumps.

Next up:
Modified McCall 6078c Cowl Neck Top,
Skirt restyled from old H&M Dress,
Mini-Beret restyled from old scarf (never blogged),
with threadbare Anne Klein leopard print pumps.

No birds were killed during the making of these pictures. Well, not by me anyway. I blame the friend who gave me the feathers.

V1159 Donna Karan twist front dress

This one was a tortoise. I made the first muslin like a year ago. Maldives was what it took to push through with a proper make. Or sort of proper. You see, part of the delay was due to my attempt to alter this no-alteration pattern. There was a fair bit of “I feel lucky” going on.

The Pattern

It’s a lovely feminine pattern. All of the makes on Pattern Review have been gorgeous, even if many complained about the low cut armhole and front gap-ahoy.

Style Shots & Mug Shots


Fabric & Notions Used

Size Used

My first muslin was a 10 based on high bust measurement. For this one I used am 8 with alterations.

First Muslin

For my first I followed the instruction closely. Or so I thought.

Like others, I noticed that front drape crisscrossed in the opposite direction to the pattern photo and tech drawing.

It wasn’t until I took apart the muslin and tried to trace my alteration guidelines that I noticed I didn’t pay enough attention to the cutting layout instruction: I had the wrong side facing up instead of the right side when I cut my fabric. It’s an easy mistake to make since most of the time you’re cutting folded fabric with wrong sides on the outside, facing up.

I thought it turned out alright though. The drape plus the stretchy fabric make it a rather forgiving pattern. It does have the minor flaws noted by others, though non-matching notches wasn’t a problem in size 10 and 8.

Heeding their warnings I had raised the armholes by about 1-1/2”, but they were still a bit low and gappy. The front was fine if I stand up straight, but immodest if I lean forward – like to get up from a chair. So I decided that I’d attempt alteration for my next make.

BTW, the profile looks horrible, especially the skirt, only because the fabric I chose wasn’t really appropriate. It felt more like sweatshirt material. So too stiff to drape gracefully. I learnt my lesson and chose a more drapy fabric for this make.

Changes Made


  • Narrowed lower back.
  • Sway-back adjustment.
  • Full-bust adjustment and pivoted FBA dart to shoulder pleats and waist / skirt drapes. Interestingly, I think this might have made the shoulder more like the slight cap sleeve in the pattern photo.
  • Shorten front fold to get rid of gaps.
  • Lower left shoulder adjustment.
  • Raised armhole. I think I might have overdone this a bit. Together with the FBA, the armhole has become a bit too small / binding. The Vilene Bias Tape I use to stabilize the armhole probably doesn’t help either. When I get home I might unpick this, get rid of the bias tape, re-stitch with stretch stitch, and pray that the natural give of the fabric will remedy the over-zealous armhole reduction!
  • Changed skirt seam to CB seam (to make it easier to diagnose skirt fitting problems).
  • Omit skirt lining. Extended bottom edge of the “Upper Back” pattern to meet at CF. Added interfaced facing to make this extension sturdy enough to support the weight of the front draped skirt.

Verdict on the Instruction

It is convoluted. This is one pattern where I had to follow the instruction faithfully. At least for the first muslin. The illustrations helped tremendously because the verbal instruction is a jumble due to the poor pattern area naming. How are you suppose to make sense of “shoulder pleats in FRONT AND BACK (1)”??? In fact, when I mapped it out, all pattern pieces cover the front and the back, just different parts of them. This is because they all warp around your body.

To help others who want to make this dress, here’s my rough mapping of pattern areas and numbered matching seams in a somewhat Burda style. Who knows, maybe some of you may also be brave enough to attempt alteration! 🙂

And here are some details of my muslin, especially the inside, to help you figure out what’s going on with the pattern areas.


For this make, I tried to stabilize edges that I thought might stretch out of shape:

  • Vilene Bias Tape on back neckline, armholes, and front drape crossing hems. I might omit it from the front armholes in future make or enlarge my altered armholes slightly.
  • Clear elastic on shoulder seams, waist seams, under-bust seams in the front.

v1159_2D_5I also tacked the folds of the top front drape in place. That’s the only way the folds will stay gracefully small and Grecian. Otherwise it’d morph into an unflatteringly wide Beauty Pageant Sash look.

Would I sew it again

Probably. Once I work out the kinks. I think it’s a wardrobe classic. I might even alter the armhole area to take sleeves. It’d be a lovely LBD with 3/4 sleeves!

Vogue Patterns 2686, a fitting guinea pig


Having worked out my SVPD (Standard Vogue Patterns Deviations), I set to try out FFRP tissue fit and fit-as-you-sew approachon a proper fashion pattern.

I combed through my Vogue Patterns collection looking for one as similar to the bodice fitting pattern as possible, and preferably without bottom / skirt nor sleeves. Because I’m that timid. Baby steps dear, baby steps.

Unbelievably I had only one candidate. Almost all others were princess seams of one type or another, or complicated seaming, or too loose. So the top from out-of-print V2686 by Tom and Linda Platt it is then.


I must confess I didn’t obey FFRP’s instruction to try on the tissue without alteration first. I went ahead and compare the patterns to my SVPD slopers and dived in for the kill. Which is just as well since the bust point on the pattern is weirdly low. Don’t know if it’s printing mistake or drafting mistake. In any case, my boobs may be maturing, but they haven’t head that far south just yet. To get into the Pattern Reviews habit, here’s my write up in roughly the standard PR format…

Size Used:

8, per my SVPD fitting trials and tribulation. I would have otherwise used a 10 if I go by FFRP / chest measurement, or even a 12 if I had went for the size that’s closest to my bust measurement.

Changes Made:

Fitting Alterations I initially made:

  • Forward Shoulder
  • Wide Shoulder
  • Narrow Back at Under Arm / Bust level
  • Repositioned Back Waist Darts towards CB
  • Sway-Back
  • Full Bust (B to C cup)

After reading reviews on Pattern Reviews site, I also made minor Style Alterations:

  • Added an extra row of neckline top-stitching at the neck edge so the neckline isn’t so wide that the shoulders won’t stay put.
  • Added another row of neckline top-stitching at the outer / shoulder edge and extended the shoulder seam so the outer rows of top-stitching aren’t cut off by the armhole. What’s the point of having this lovely details if it’s flimsily insubstantial I say!

v2686-top_0_pat-alt Final pattern: Black lines are tracing of the original pattern. Blue bits are additions. Red and Green lines are various iterations of my changes.

And here is the initial tissue fitting:


To my untrained eyes it looks darn good to me. Apart from the slight gap in the back arm hole. I’m not surprised by that, but I’m not sure what to do to fix it. My SVPD back sloper shows that I needed a deeper shoulder dart. In fact, it’s twice the width of the fitting shell shoulder dart. FFRP call this Slightly Rounded Upper Back. In my other fitting book it’s closest to a Prominent Shoulder Blade. Regardless, I needed shaping for curvature there. But this fashion pattern doesn’t have dart there. Nor do many other. So what do you do?

I decide to go ahead with fashion fabric pin fitting and see how bad the gap is in fabric.

Here is my first fabric fitting:


A bit baggy here and there I’d say. And the back armhole gap is definitely there. Even the front armhole gap a little. Here’s what I ended up doing:

  • Increase front side bust darts to get rid of front armhole gap.
  • Extend back darts upward closer to my blade points to get rid of mid back bagginess.
  • Made back shoulder slightly more sloped and extended it towards neck and armhole a little bit for dart-wannabe that will be converted into ease when sewing. Any further gap I’d stay-stitch and ease into a slightly shorter back armhole binding.

Here’s my second fabric fitting:


And here’s the finished result:


Hmm, where did all those back wrinkles come from?!?!?! Is this a fail? Or can I blame it on the fabric? Speaking of the devil…

Fabric & Notions Used

v2686-top_3_det-03The weird pale blue-cream two-tone silk dupioni that I got 11 yards of for some unfathomable reason ages ago. I figure I wouldn’t cry if it didn’t work out – I’d still have yards and yard of it, even if the fabric wasn’t cheap. It’s Twilight Como Silk from Wolf Home (formerly Silk Trading Co. in the basement of ABC Carpets) in NYC.

Contrasting Guterman topstitching thread in a lovely orange. I think recent sewing room makeover color scheme is really getting into my head. I can’t get away from orange-turquoise combinations!

Lovely plastic button with irregular clear and milky stripes in a pale green that matches the two-tone dupioni perfectly!

Cotton sew-in interfacing.

Verdict on the Instructions

I did read through it. But I also took advice from Pattern Review and sew the top-stitching after joining the shoulder seams. Because frankly my dear, my seam matching and parallel straight-stitching skills aren’t up to par. (Glad I’m not a Quilter.)

I also deviated from the instruction on how to finish the facing edges. I was concerned about bulkiness showing through my light weight dupioni. I did tests with the layers that the instruction would have landed me with, as well as 2-thread overlocked edges with both overlock thread and woolly nylon. All too heavy for my taste.

So I resorted to that hallmark of home sewing – pinking, reinforced with a straight-stitch 1/8” from the edge. This I used to finish all the seam edges as well.

v2686-top_3_det-07Whatever rock your boat I say. I mean it’s not like I’m going to take the top off to show you the pinked innards!

I wouldn’t dare telling professionals using specialised machinery to make things my way, but when it comes to my own sewing, my own machine’s quarks, my own skill shortfalls…Anything goes as long as it works – better than it would have if I had followed instructions to the T that is.

Would I sew it again

As a Basic Block, yes. I’ve invested in all that fitting effort after all. But probably only as a Block. Or if this one wears out.


Back buttoning isn’t exactly easy. I can just about reach the buttons right now. But you know what they say about age and flexibility. And oops, I missed one button in my photo shoot. Point proven.

Zipper would be easier.

v2686-top_3_det-back-zip-1v2686-top_3_det-back-zip-2I’ve done a couple of above hip length fitted tops before with back zipper that zip down instead of up so that I can get through the fitted waist. The zipper stops about shoulder blade level and I find that manageable to get into.

So that’s probably what’ll happen to this V2686 top in future incarnations. It’ll also avoid interrupting the top-stitching line with button and button hole. A happy win-win then.

FFRP Odyssey: Bodice Part N (as in eNd)

Bloggers who do illustrated tutorials have my full admiration. Because it’s bloody hard to do well!

I started out with the best of intentions to make my FFRP Odyssey a tutorial of sort. But I ran out of patience. Sewing is supposed to be fun. This bodice fitting is turning out to be a chore. So I’m going to wrap this up and park further fidgeting with fitting for the future, when my patience returns. Brace yourself for a long post though.

Hurdle Squared: 1 step forward & 2 steps back

I must admit I haven’t been exactly faithful to FFRP when it comes to the actual alteration. Some of the diagrams just don’t add up to me. So I turned to my Fitting & Pattern Alteration book at times (eg initial back width & high round back alterations), and resorted to smooshing and transfering à la Kenneth King at other times (more back width alteration).


This is the closest I got to what looks like a good fit, in tissue anyway:

So imagine my dismay when the first gingham try-out turns out like this:

It felt a bit too loose around the bust and in the back. Pinning out the looseness I arrived at this:

Hmm, over-fitted. Again.

The bust points are now a little bit too high. This together with the horizontal wrinkles in the lower back make me think I might have pinned out too much length in the front. I had deepen the side bust darts and took a horizontal tuck between bust points to follow what I thought was the contour of my bust. I probably should have made the side bust darts more shallow instead. Just one of those paradoxes of fitting that gets you.

After correcting this mistake and experimented with different back side seam angles and side seam height alignments, I arrived at this:

The slight tug under the bust I think is just due to the curved under-bust darts not being properly clipped to the curves.

The front armscyes look a bit too scooped out. But they feel more comfortable this way, especially when I reach my arms forward and the whole shoulder areas seem to move with my arms, creating those vertical wrinkles next to the armscyes.

There’s an interesting discussion on Pattern Review about this which I can’t seem to find anymore. Someone had claimed that for comfortable arm movement the front armpit to armpit width (at about the notch level) should have zero ease, but the same width in the back should have about 3/4″ ease (or 3/8″ per side). The only problem for me is that when my arms are by my sides, they tilt backward a bit, so extra fabric at the back armscye notches binds. So my armscye now look a bit like a tear drop shape. Weird.

The back I just can’t seem to get right. It doesn’t help that I don’t have a fitting buddy for this hard to reach (and see) area. I ended up shifting the dart points inward closer to my blade apexes, pinning a horizontal tuck between the blades at blade level, vertical tucks at the darts and deeper bottom darts, and horizontal tucks in lower side backs to pin out excess lengths at the back side seam.

By this point, I have so many markings on this gingham that I can’t see what’s what anymore. So I transferred the latest alterations back to the tissues. Then I traced off a copy that removed any extra vertical and horizontal tucks and darts by pivoting and sliding.

After truing things off I made a fresh gingham off the new altered patterns:

Apart from needing to lengthen it slightly all around, I’m declaring it Good Enough for now. Well, good enough for a Hold-Your-Breath Bodice anyway. There really isn’t enough ease to breath easily in this. I’m speculating this won’t be a problem for stretch woven, but will be a problem for standard woven fabrics.

I’ve made one garment too many like this. All the ones based on my old Big Bertha sloper were like this. They really were fit only for a Dummy that doesn’t need to breathe. Or sit. Or move in general.

So the Billion Dollar Question is: Where to add that wearing ease. Seems like I wasn’t the only one asking the question. Someone had already asked on  Pattern Review about where to add ease when creating a sloper. There doesn’t seem to be a straight answer with clear explanation of why. The closest was Don McCunn’s reply “Ease is almost always added to the side seam because that is where the maximum amount of movement occurs as you move in a garment.” So that’s what I intend to try.

Maybe I should also try out Kenneth King’s Moulage class / CD book. Because what I’ve got is essentially a second-skin moulage without all the measuring nightmare. But I still need to learn how to turn the moulage into sloper and blocks.

The scenic route back

Out of curiosity I compared this final (for now) version of the bodice with Vogue 1004 Fitting Shell size 10 and size 8. And guess what, I’m back to a size 8! (I was a size 8 in my twenties. Then I got married and too well fed.)

Here’s the front comparison with a size 8 C-cup.

I needed a bit more width in the bust area and waist, but the bust darts all seem to be the same size as the size 8 C-cup front.

Here’s the back comparison.

Again the dart in the lower half seems to be the same size. Interesting how the width added to the lower front is taken away in the back, resulting in a net gain of zero. But then again I have still have to add a bit more ease.

I did have to make adjustments for rounded upper back,  prominent shoulder blades, forward shoulder joint, and forward head. These along with the bigger cup size all point to one thing: Aging 🙁

But at least my frame is still size 8. All those expensive Designer Vogue Patterns I bought ages ago and cut out to size 8 have not been wasted after all! 🙂

So off I go with more fun summer sewing. I’ll sort out the sleeve fitting when autumn / winter comes again.

Fabricholic Confession: Stash Count Update

I need to catch up on blogging about the progress of my FFRR bodice fitting. But allow me to take a quick digression. I mean, surely you must be as bored with my slow fitting progress as I am!

So on to more exciting stuff for a few minutes. Or in my case a whole weekend: Recounting my fabric stash!

What prompted this recount is the arrival of yet another goodie package. We’re planning on a beach holiday soon and I got nothing to wear. I thought a proper make of Vogue Pattern V1159 would make a nice holiday dress.

I will write about V1159 once I’ve finished a proper make. Suffice it to say for now that thick sweatshirt like material does not a drapy dress make. See…

But it was the only 2-way stretch material I had for this muslin fitting. (Or “4-way stretch” in British parlance. I would never know why they call it “4-way stretch”. As if it’s possible to stretch to the right without stretching to the left, or up without stretching down. Weird Brits! 😉

And of course if that was the only 2-way stretch material I have, I would have to order more to do a proper make! Step in Tissu Fabrics, aka Tia Knight on eBay. I got 6 cut of fabrics from them, with about 16 more on my wish list. I’ve read good things about the store and they didn’t disappoint. Quality seems on par with RTW garments. Shipping was next day. And as I ordered from the website instead of eBay, I got the free shipping for the over £50 orders.

I had previously compiled little swatch books of my stash. But I have failed to keep them up to date because I didn’t want to swatch new arrivals for fear of not having enough when it comes to frugal pattern layouts. The swatch books are also becoming too bulky to carry around when, erm, doing more fabric shopping.

I also lost track of which fabric I’ve pre-shrunk. So in yet another effort to get on top of an unruly stash, I started a spreadsheet this past weekend.

And this is what I found:

  1. I wish I have a fabric dictionary with sample swatches. It’s awfully hard to figure out what to call each fabric.
  2. I wish I have a color dictionary with sample color chips. It’s also awfully hard to figure out what to call each fabric color.
  3. I have 11 yards of this dupioni / shantung in a weird very pale blue-cream color that doesn’t even flatter my skin tone. What was I thinking of???!!!
  4. I’ve been forbidden to complain about my other half’s occasional trips down to the poker club because I recently dragged him all the way to Walthamstow Market for gingham, then discovered I already had some leftover in my stash.
  5. My stash count is now up to 220 cuts of fabrics. Or about 590 yards. See, your stash isn’t so bad after all!