Me Made Maldives – Dresses edition

I say “dresses” but these really aren’t suitable for wearing solo…unless you don’t mind flashing strangers. One has slit up to the waist, the other is a tad short. But both are so perfect as beach cover-ups. Just make sure that you have some swimwears that aren’t too diva-ish to share the limelight. I made that mistake. Most of mine had something – hardware, neckline, tie, whatever – that clashed with these. So I end up not getting to wear these as much as cover-ups.


 

 

Burda 2013-07-125
Mult-style Beach Cover-up Wrap Dress


This is the more flattering of the rectangle-as-cover-up concept. In the same issue of Burda there was another one that looks like a lot of the commercial versions I’ve seen but seem a bit shapeless to me. Plus you can’t argue with multi-styling option when it comes to travel pieces can you? I only got to wear style A v1 during the holiday though due to the aforementioned diva swimwear issue. If you want to try the other two styling variations, be warned that A v2 may be a bit low cut. I find the slit does still stretch – even when reinforced with a bit of elastic like I did. Or maybe I just don’t have the boobs to prop it up? But as a swimwear cover-up it shouldn’t be a problem.

Size made: 34

Fabric: Silk Touch 95 polyester/ 5 lycra jersey from Tia Knight

Changes made:

  • Skipped the centre seam. Seems a bit pointless to me if your fabric is wide enough. It may be necessary for larger sizes though.
  • Instruction for the slit elastic was really confusing – the materials list mentioned 3/8″-wide elastic, but instruction then talk about 1/8″-wide elastic!?! I ended up using 1/4″ clear elastic. Initially I did the whole slit, but that made the narrow shoulder strap part a bit restrictive, so I had to remove the portion along the strap side of the slit. Maybe it is meant to be 1/8″ finisthed elastic width after you “trim away remainder” of the 3/8″ elastic?
  • Even with the stretchy fabric, I couldn’t manage the turn & stitch slit hem without pleats forming at the slit ends. So I ended up using a separate binding.

Self-drafted Halter-tie-neck Bias Dress

I’ve been putting off using this lovely fabric my Mom gave me because there’s not a lot of it & I was worried I’d waste it on the wrong design. But as I regret not taking my Mom to the Maldives while she was still alive, I decided to take the plunge this time & have her with me in spirit via her fabric.

I had no idea what the fabric is made of, but it felt like a silk scarf. So I had been inclined towards a halter neck-tie top. But I was unsure whether   neckline gather (for some of the bust dart allowance) would work or would you need fabric with more drape for this to look elegant. Also, what length – top or dress. In the end the meager amount of fabric (1-3/8 yd x 39″) dictated the design. I had to plot the pieces in a drawing program to figure out what I can get, which is bias bodice with no pleats in the neckline, and a short dress length – dress when I’m feeling brave, top on other days.

Maybe the silhouette is a bit too tent-like. But I love the feel of this dress / top flapping in the wind. And so glad to have memory of my Mom with me in heavenly Maldives❣️

Me Made Maldives of March in May

…hope that’s enough Mmmmm for you, as my brain’s a bit too fried to manage Me Made May this year!

Ok I’m ready!

So, as I was saying, panic holiday sewing… One of the things that the millenials I worked with inspired me to do was to travel more. Or at least focus more on expansive experiences rather than burdensome accumulation of stuff. With that in mind, we decided to treat ourselves to another Maldivian holiday. This time for me it wasn’t just to relax properly, but also to overcome my fear & resistence to try new things. One of these was swimming. I never had a chance to learn as a kid, & as an adult, psychological barriers had put me off learning before. So this was not only to acqure a practical physical skill but also self-psychotherapy. It took up a lot of time & energy. Despite quitting my job a couple of months early, I didn’t start sewing for this holiday until a few weeks before. I could have just taken old me-mades, but a gorgeous exotic location like the Maldives that may disappear with rising sea level deserves better. Plus I can finally put my Stretch Pattern School Block to good use & motivate myself with custom swimwear.

I managed to make 9 quite different items in the end. That’s a record for me, especially since some required muslins as well & others I just had to roll with the punches when new approaches didn’t go according to plan. They don’t quite work as a travel capsule wardorbe – I was churning out whatever that came to mind when I think of beach. But I’m not sweating it. As I said, trying to get looser with my sewing as well. I’ll go into a bit more details about the new makes in future posts, but for now please indulge me in re-living those Mmmm glory days! It’s so rare to have such a beautiful background to parade my me-mades in…

New makes for MMM 2019

  1. Burda 2013-07-125 Mult-style Beach Cover-up Wrap Dress
  2. Self-drafted Dries Van Noten Wannabe Bandeau Tunic Top
  3. Self-drafted Dries Van Noten Wannabe Slim Elasticated Trousers
  4. Franken V1390 Gigli Wannabe Wrap Top
  5. Self-drafted Cover-up Panel Skirt
  6. Self-drafted Halter-tie-neck Bias Dress
  7. Self-drafted VS replacement Bandeau Bikini Top
  8. Self-drafted Asymmetrical 1-piece Swimsuit
  9. Closet Case Ginger Jeans Shorts – Mid Rise

Old makes that also made it to Maldives…

  1. Burda 2012-04-128a Snake Print Cowl Neck Flounce Dress
  2. V1159 Donna Karan Twist Front Dress
  3. Self-drafted Favorite Oops Tent Dress
  4. Burda 2016-08-125 Stripy T with front neckline ties
  5. Altered RTW HiLo Skirt

… & scenery eye-candies …

 

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Midlife crisis sewing

My, how time flies. Sorry, I’m in the midst of midlife crisis, so haven’t had much time, energy, or motivation to sew or blog. It’s gotten so bad that I’ve even considered Kondoing my fabric Stash – never mind new purchases. Can you believe that? Me of try-prying-my-stash-from-my-dead-hands persuasion, thinking of donating / recycling unused yardages – not even scraps, but whole yardages.

Recent years of losses + meeting new people with different perspectives on life had me questioning my clinging on to things & fear of taking risks. Like a house of cards, once a chunk is chipped away from the foundation the rest came tumbling down. Taking a look at the debris, I realised I had boxed myself into a particular narrative of who I am. And what were once invigorating expressions of that identity are now insipid habits & stashes of unrealised dreams, dead weights & devoid of life.

So yeah, much more time have been spent reflecting, figuring out what to do, how to change, & dealing with the emotional roller-coaster of actually trying to change – rather than just fantasising about some rosy future when this is all over. “Yes please!” to less acquisition-fueled fantasies and to more doing / making. I’m also taking baby steps to face my fears, take a chance & try something new. And to be open-minded, curious, & non-judgemental. I didn’t think I was a judgemental person, but I do in fact layer stories of the past onto what’s happening right now, instead of just observing what is & exploring what could happen next if I try this or that. All this is of course easier said than done. Everything takes so much time! But I’m trying to learn to appreciate the Journey.

The only sewing I’ve managed to do in the last few months were…

  1. more cross-body strap bags to replace the knackered prototype,
  2. a mini-skirt waiting for a partner to complete the look,
  3. a failed mohair sweater frosting that would have been the partner,
  4. and a bunch of panic holiday sewing.

1 & 2 were made when I was just beginning to sense something was amiss. So both tried to revive former glories with the tried & tested. 3 was the first attempt to be looser with my sewing, but I fell flat on my face. 4 I’ll write about in separate posts. Suffice it to say it’s my tortoise version of the Great British Sewing Bee: so much to make + so little time = rolling with the punches & a crash course in the new way.

1 Self-drafted Bags with Cross-body Strap

These are replacements for the prototype I made in 2017. I had already cut out rest of the fabrics when I first made the prototype, so this was a production line to make 3 just before Xmas. A friend at work was leaving her safe job to take a punt in acting. When I first joined the team she was THE welcoming committee & had asked about my prototype bag, even wanting to buy one. So I finally made her one as leaving present.

The only things I did differently this time are:

  • Protective clear PVC layer instead of laminating the print. The original RTW bag I modelled after used a clear PVC layer. The laminated prototype was wearing out in places & looking very grubby. So I was hoping PVC would fare better. Now that I’ve used these replacements for a while, I think the problem is the change in dimension – I made my version bigger than the RTW original. So the bag bends around my body & even the PVC will wear out at the point of the bend. But I’ll worry about a fix when it’s time to replace – hopefully not for another couple of years since I kept 2 for myself.
  • Rivets to reinforce strap attachments… because another point of failure on my prototype was strap attachment stitching, and one of these bags will be a gift so I wanted it to hold together a bit longer. I used a hand press kit & bag rivets I got in Asia. Went on like a treat. No more waking up the neighbours with hammer banging in the middle fo the night!

2 Self-drafted A-line Mini Skirt

A case of mutton dressing as a lamb, this is recreation of a mini-skirt I made over a decade ago. The original died accidentally in the tumble dryer – I’m rubbish with laundry. Made with leftover of the same decade old fabric to go with the same cheer-me-up impulse buy 2004 Stella McCartney vegan thigh-high boots. Talk about midlife crisis eh 🙂

2019 mug shotsI had to redraft the pattern using my current A-line Skirt Block. It’s lined & has contoured facing instead of waistband. While the skirt came out alright, I haven’t dared wear it out yet. TBH it’s been too cold & I’m out of practice with heels. Plus the sweater knit I was going to wear this with turned out a total disaster. So the skirt now has no partner in crime against ageist fashion police.

3 RIP NG Self-drafted Mohair Sweater

This was meant to complement & tone-down the mutton-lamb skirt above, but it was an unmitigated disaster. I had no particular design in mind when I bought this sweater knit from Mood NYC a while ago. As usual I was simply seduced – this one by its heavenly caress Purrrrrr.

plan A

plan B

Trawling for ideas in Pinterest, I thought a cowl-neck sweater dress like the one Gigi Hadid wore may go well with the mini-skirt & thigh-high boots. Had such high hope for this frosting. But it was NG – I felt like a pink Big Bird. So I thought maybe I can salvage this by going tighter – like a ballet-style wrap cardi. Unfortunately there really wasn’t enough fabric in the tent sweater. I tried piecing, but it didn’t work with the delicate sweater knit. Worst part is the shedding. You could have sworn I have like 10 cats in the house. Achoo!

So into the scrap recycling bag this went. Sorry Earth, there’s only so much I can handle. Will shop more carefully in the future.

Cross-body bag & wallet

OK one last blog catch-up before I go back down the rabbit hole….I made this bag & wallet set last year. Now while I can’t recall all the details for you, I can at least update you on how they held up…or not!

I don’t know about you, but I’m one of those people who love things to death. This just-big-enough & reassuringly-secure-crossbody RTW bag I bought on holiday a few years ago is a case in point. It’s probably made from plastic leather, so the strap had started to crack and in danger of literally hanging by the threads. Plus one of the metal strap clips have broken. Super-glue & electrical tape tide me over for a while. But it was time to make my own replacement, not least because I would like it to be just a little bit more personalised to my needs: While it’s my favourite amongst my RTW bags, it just a tad too small and with too few inner pockets. The wallet bought from the same shop also can be improved by having a separate coin pockets and be more accommodating of different size notes – especially the yucky plasticky new £5 & £10 notes that don’t fold well.

The Design & Pattern

So here are the originals by zzzz2005: compared to my replacements:

 

Design changes:

Bag

  • Bigger bag body (2″ wider & deeper)
  • More inside pockets: 2-tier pockets for cards & keys + extra pockets for pen, phone, misc.
  • Simple non-detachable strap attachment. The original bag used swivel clips & the straps would get all twisted over time. Plus clips just seem less secure, easier to break.
  • Custom print for the flap. I do actually like the original print a lot, so could have cannibalise the original bag to reuse the print. But I decided to fix & keep the original bag as well for those times when the smaller size would do.

Wallet

This is a love-child of the one I got from the same shop & the Paul Smith wallet I got for DH, peppered with Make Supply’s tips on making leather wallet.

  • Base design is modeled after the Paul Smith folded wallet construction
  • Sizing-wise I changed it to match my wallet when folded as that dimension fits my smaller hand better
  • Changed one side’s card pockets to a zipped coin pocket
  • Followed Make Supply’s approach to card pockets even though I’m using thinner fabric instead of leather for these inner pockets
  • Added custom prints for one side of wallet outside & coin pocket

For the custom prints…

I ended up using Printfab UK‘s fabric printing service. I looked into the high street photo printing services, but they mostly offer printing onto finished goods – cushions, wall canvas artworks – which means higher prices and more work to recover the fabric for sewing. In addition to per metre pricing, Printfab also offers metric Fat Quarter size (printable area 70cm x 50cm with 0.5cm unprinted border, rather than the smaller imperial FQ size of 8″ x 22″/ 46cm x 56cm). Their fabric choices are all cotton apart from one linen-cotton mix & range from lightweight Cotton Muslin (66gsm) to heavier Cotton Hopsack (398gsm). I went for mid-weight Cotton Half Panama (230gsm) to minimise bulk, especially as I’m adding a protective clear plastic layer on top of the print like the original bag & wallet. The Fat Quarter size is enough for me to decorate 4 bags & 4 wallets. Mine cost £12.78 including VAT & UK domestic shipping and arrived more quickly than I expected – ordered late Saturday night & it arrived on Wednesday.

For the prints, I had trouble sourcing the same vintage Chinese ad poster print, or similar ones that I like as much. So I initially went with some Tang Dynasty scroll paintings with a fabric / sewing theme (“Fang Lady With Servants” by Tang Dynasty painter Zhou Fang and “Court Ladies Preparing Newly Woven Silk” by Tang Dynasty painter Zhang Xuan). It took a fair bit of image hacking to cajole these into the shapes & sizes I needed. But there was enough scenes to compose a couple of matching sets. After finding out that the Fat Quarter was bigger than I expected, I decided to make the effort and recreate a similar old Chinese ad poster design as the original bag. I didn’t bother with matching wallets for this design, instead cobbled together a couple of design meaningful to me, one a fabricholic quote that maybe some of you can relate to too! 🙂

I was originally going to use clear PVC fabric to protect the print – like in the original bag & wallet. But the one I bought from Aamzon had that nasty toxic smell. I hung it outside to air & I think it flew away. Oops. So I ended up laminating the print instead.

Fabric & Notions Used

Construction Notes

As always, step documentation of my self-drafts are sparse on the ground. Here’s what I can reconstruct interrogating the finished bag & wallet…

Bag

  1. Sew Pocket top hems
  2. Fold Pocket sides SAs
  3. Fold Front Pocket at double layer foldline
  4. Fold Pocket bottom SAs
  5. Sew Pocket to Lining – sides, bottom, divider – except the Back Pocket side that goes across the bag left side
  6. Sew velcro to Shell Front & Flap Lining
  7. Fold Bag Shell & Lining in half lengthwise & sew side seams, sew bottom triangles to form bottom side seams
  8. Sew Back Pocket final side & bottom that go across bag left side
  9. Baste Flap Shell & Lining together along all edges, Bag Shell & Lining together at top edge
  10. Tape binding to Flap side & bottom edges, topstitch
  11. Baste Flap to Bag at top edge
  12. Tape binding to top edge, topstitch
  13. Glue strap layers together, topstitch
  14. Thread strap through buckle & rectangle-rings, fold back ends & hand sew in place
  15. Thread strap tabs through rectangle-rings, fold in half, hand sew to bag side seams

Wallet

This one was even more hairy. I resorted to a paper prototype to work out how to pull it together. But even this + the finished wallet don’t yield up a clear picture of the order of construction. So below is again my best guess.

  1. Sew Outer Print & FLeather RS-together, topstitch seam
  2. Trim FLeather SA, Fold Print SA & Outer Lining SA to wrong sides
  3. Fuse Outer Lining to Outer Print-FLeather, Fuse Coated Linen facing to Lining top edge
  4. Fuse interfacing to Inner Lining wrong side
  5. Sew Bridge to Coin Pocket left edge RS-together, Press SA towards Coin Pocket
  6. Sew Zipper to Coin Pocket-Bridge & Inner Lining top edges
  7. Sew Coin Pocket-Bridge & Inner Lining right & bottom edges r-s-together, Turn right side out
  8. Edge-stitch Bridge to Inner Lining (closing off the Coin Pocket in the process), Fold Inner Lining remaining SA to wrong side
  9. Hem all Car Pockets top edges (in my case, turn & fuse with iron)
  10. Sew stacked Card Pockets & Receipts Pocket right edge WS-to-RS, Fold SA inside Receipts Pocket, Topstitch/Fuse SA in place
  11. Working from top Card Pockets down, sew each Card Pocket lower edge to Receipts Pocket WS-to-RS
  12. Fold Card+Receipts Pockets top, left, bottom SA to wrong side, Top-stitch to Inner Lining WS-together
  13. Top-stitch Bridge bottom edge & corresponding Outer bottom edge separately
  14. Align Inner & Outer bottom edges, Top-stitching the layers together starting from Coin Pocket left edge across its bottom edge, up right edge, top edge of Outer only, down Card-Receipt Pockets left edge, across its bottom edge, ending at its right edge.

The Verdict

Six of one half-dozen of the other.

  • While the RTW bag fell apart in the material, my me-made fell apart at the seams. Maybe I should give rivets a go to reinforce the strap tabs attachment,
  • The Shell fabric I used may also be a bit too soft to hold up the goodies in the pockets – the Front top edge keep folding inward from the weight.
  • The laminated prints also did not hold up well. They look rather grubby with daily love. Combined with the softer Shell, there’s now a tear in the laminate where the bag bent naturally around my hip. May have to go back to the stinky PVC idea. But unfortunately I laminated all the remaining prints. Not sure adding an extra layer of PVC would be enough to prevent laminate tear & grubbiness or whether I should attempt to detach the laminate…or maybe even order replacement prints.

On the plus side, one girl in the office loves the bag enough to want to buy one-off me. Of course I said no. At least not until I sort out quality assurance issues. Then again Gen Z & Fast Fashion go hand-in-hand. Maybe she wouldn’t subject one to the daily abuse mine goes through.

The wallet is holding up much better, though again the laminates look a bit grubby from the get-go. Practicality-wise it’s an A.

Sets 2-4 are already cut. One of these days I’ll get around to them. For now shabby chic will do!

Vietnamese Ao Dai robe top

This one is a straight replacement for an authentic Vietnamese Ao Dai robe that a friend gave me when it no longer fitted her.

The original is made of a silk-rayon mix and is absolutely heavenly to the touch. Originally I was a bit disappointed to learn that it wasn’t 100% silk. But then I learnt that rayon is not only more comfortable for hot humid weather, it may also be partly responsible for the superb softness of the Vietnamese jacquard, which none of the other Asian silks have. Sadly it’s impossible to find this variety of jacquard in the Western fabric shops. I would have just kept wearing this original, except the moths loved it as much as I did. And now it’s shredded in places.

The fabric I end up using I got by chance. It doesn’t have the same softness & drape, but is the closest I can get in the West.

Style Shots & Mug Shots

WORN WITH: 1-2 high-rise Ginger Jeans 2018;

The Pattern

Block Used: Fitted Top Block

Design Changes Made

  • Change to raglan sleeve by loosely following the instruction in Designing Apparel Through The Flat Pattern. My personalised Block is too irregular to follow these standard drafting instructions to the T.
  • Disregard front waist dart
  • Marked side splits to end 1″ above waistline
  • For lengths & bodice hem widths, follow the rough measurements of the shifty original
  • For neck opening under-flap draw styleline on front neckline as guide & copy with side bust dart closed.
  • For mandarin collar, started with a rectangle the length of the jewel neckline circumference, then slashed & lapped the top edge to make it fit closer to Q my custom dressform’s neck.

Fabric & Notions Used

  • Fabric: Cotton/Rayon ? Jacquard from Minerva Crafts UK
  • Notions: Linen interfacing from the stash for madarin collar. So Sheer interfacing for neck opening binding/facing. 7-mm snaps x 10. Size-2 hook x 1.

Construction Notes

  • I mostly followed the original’s approach to seaming & hemming. So seams pressed open with overlock finishing. Double folded hand blind stitched hems.

The Verdict

Not bad. But the stiffer fabric does make it look more boxy. Next time I think I’ll start the side splits at the waistline instead to for a bit more shaping if I can’t get hold of a softer jacquard.

It’s not a top with many styling option, but oh the romance of the panels flapping in the wind – it’s a sensual pleasure I can’t resist. So there definitely will be a next time!