D&G Wannabe Python cardi

This one did make it to the party. It almost didn’t. I was still sewing the buttonholes at the eleventh hour. And this isn’t even like the Great British Sewing Bee. I had a whole month, not a meager couple of days for 3 projects. Again this should have been an easy make. But things didn’t go according to plan as I was trying new techniques that didn’t quite pan out.

Style Shots & Mug Shots

WORN WITH: 1 Burda 2011-08-121 skirt; 2 Burda 2012-05-113 skirt; 3 Altered Victoria Secret dress; 4 TopShop Martha jeans; 5 Modified Burda 2012-04-128 camisoleSelf-drafted skirt.

The Design & Pattern

Dolce & Gabbana cardi featured in Vogue US This one is a double agent: It’s a wearable muslin for all the cardis I planned to sew. But I’ve also wanted to make a feature panel cardi ever since I clipped this inspiration photo from Vogue US. Didn’t realized at the time that it’s a Dolce & Gabbana design. So it’s only incidentally a designer wannabe.

Block Used:

Stable Knit Fitted Top Block (Bodice & Sleeve)
Drafted using Stretch Pattern School’s One-Piece Swimwear + Tankini + Sleeve  instructions using 0% negative ease. Note that the Tankini instruction does add a little bit of ease to the waist and hip. So this block does already have positive ease there.

Design Changes Made


  • Added extra ease to CF & CB, side seam, sleeve seam because this is suppose to go over other tops so can’t be too tight.
  • Lowered underarm slightly for the same reason.
  • Lopped off necklines & CF where I’m going to use binding for neck band & button placket.
  • Lopped off lower portions of bodices & sleeve where I’m going to use cuff ribbing.
  • Neck band & button plackets are rectangular binding pieces. They’re double layered with the fold at the neck / CF edge. The neck band length is length of the folded neck edge stretched at the seamed edge to match the bodice necklines to ensure that it’ll lie flat & smooth.
  • Bodice & sleeve cuff ribbing were originally going to be rectangular pieces as well. But I didn’t have matching ribbing fabric and my experiment with mock ribbing (see below) didn’t work. So I had to draft shaped bands instead. They’re also double layered with the fold at the bottom edge. I reduced the width a little bit to simulate the snug fit of real ribbing.

Things I’d do differently next time

  • I went waist length with the feature panel instead of the longer length in the inspiration because I thought blouson lower down wouldn’t work with my shortness & short-waistness. But as my mock ribbing idea didn’t work I think I might have gotten a better result if I had abandoned the blouson cardi idea and just made a fitted cardi top with the bottom band as a design feature.
  • 2-sew-details-3For this make I kept the bust dart. The font bodice is a layer of the thinner / drapier / stretchier New World Snake over a layer of the thicker / stiffer / less stretch Snake Bite Bandage. I was worried that the top layer might sag over time. So I sandwiched the dart seam allowances between the layers and tacked along the dart leg as extra insurance against downward migration of the New World Snake. Although my recent experiment with dartless stretch block didn’t work I might try again and see if I can get a dartless block for the other cardis.
  • I might also add more ease to the bodice & sleeve where they join the cuff ribbing for a more visible blouson effect. Otherwise the seam allowance shows through and the seam just look like a cutting mistake – like I cut them too short and had to patch with a band.

Fabric & Notions Used

Construction Notes

  • 2-sew-details-1I had hoped the mock ribbing technique that the Sewing Diva tried and described in details in Threads issue #64 Apr-May 1996 would work for me too. So that I can make sweaters & cardis from more variety of fabrics without having to find matching ribbing. But mine came out really stiff. Too stiff even to use single layer, which I wouldn’t want to anyway as it’s made with parallel rows of twin-needle stitches, so the back side has threads that could easily be snagged. It also curls up if left single layer. Maybe my fabric which is mid-weight like ponte is too thick for this technique. Maybe it would work for thinner, drapier knits. In any case, I had to switch to plain bands. And I think I will have to abandon the cardi idea for my SWAP blue sweater knit because it’s again a bit thick and stiff already. And I don’t have a matching ribbing.
  • I’ll have to rethink the construction order as well. A couple of areas were made more difficult to stitch because I went on auto-pilot:
    • I couldn’t figure out how to top-stitch the cuff seam allowance to the sleeve after the sleeve has been sewn together. The Walking Foot that I rely on to make sewing knit easier is really bulky, so can’t handle the claustrophobic narrow sleeve. So I didn’t top-stitch any of the cuffs & bindings. Hopefully the seam allowances won’t flip the wrong way and create unsightly ridges.
    • 2-sew-details-2I couldn’t use my machine’s one-step buttonhole this time because once the placket/binding was sewn to the front bodice & the seam allowance hidden in the placket, it became too uneven layer-wise for the one-step buttonholer to feel its way around where to start & stop. I had to resort to manual buttonholing with zig-zag stitches. The result wasn’t pretty.
  • The button spacing on this one wasn’t ideal because I was one button short. If this snake didn’t have a party to catch I would have waited until I can find another set of suitable buttons. As it is, the CF gap a little at crucial points like bust & waist, especially when I move.

The Verdict

Despite the warts I still quite like the result. Definitely worth making again with tweaks.

Jungle Snake Pit The Origin

OK, this is what I would have brought to the Jungle January party if I had been more organized.


Yeah, it’s all fake. You would never find me near a real snake in this life time – too slimy looking. Damn you Pretty Grievances for enabling me to squander weeks on Jungle Makes & days on Photoshop Element Photomerge Compose instead of job hunting. I guess it’ll be pot noodles for the foreseeable future.

But I’m glad they’re all done now and The Stash is down 2 and a bit. I’m loving my Inner Scot and her mini-collection approach. I could never have squeezed 6 items out of these if I hadn’t done them as a batch to optimize cutting layout. I will go into more details about each later. But since they all use the same fabrics and the fabrics were the starting point for this lot let’s cover that off in one go shall we.

The Star: New World Python

cropped-2013-us-fabrics-93.jpgBefore I subscribed to Pretty Grievance’s blog I would not have had the courage for this mad print with a bit of everything: floral, damask, toile, paisley, and animal. But by her guiding light I now see how the craziest of prints can look great while having all the fun. So I took the plunge.

This mix reminds me of the Age of Discovery. All that heavy floral baroque prints, the conquistadors & their ladies. The Amazonian pythons sneaking up on them.

I got it thinking I’d make something like this Vivienne Westwood jersey dress I saw in the store.

c0e71f1a9d6c56c02259f36166b9709dI liked the asymmetric drape & sleeves (one side has drop shoulder with wider bodice). The fabric had similar drape & hand. But this catalog photo looks so unappealing that I was put off the idea. In any case I was too chicken to commit to a whole dress in this busy print. So I ended up using it mostly as feature panels. Plus one whole top as a compromise. Baby steps.

The fabric from NY Elegant is a wool / polyester / spandex mix according to my illegible notes (the NYC fabric stores aren’t so good with detailed descriptions). It has a really lovely hand similar to challis, and is warm & soft with not a bit of scratchiness. It stretches about 40% width- & length-wise, but sews easily with the aid of a walking foot. It does curl a little bit, so I also spray startched it before cutting & sewing. I bought this back in 9/2012, but it was still on display when I visited again in 10/2014.

Supporting Cast: Snake Bite Bandages

Now this light stone rayon/spandex “Morgan Crepe” from Tissu Fabrics was a bit of a disappointment when it arrived. I hadn’t intended to order yards of bandages. But that’s exactly what it looks & feels like. I was at a loss what to do with it.

So when I saw the Reiss bandage dress that Duchess of Cambridge wore to greet the Obamas I thought that was the answer. But being a more complicated pattern to draft it didn’t happen.

Then by chance it met the New World Python during one of my Get the Stash Out & Play Dress Up sessions. And it was opposites attract love at first sight.

vogue-floral-2 The cupid was this Dolce & Gabbana cardigan from a Vogue US clipping. Just the combination to tame the print while jazzing up the bandage. From there on the rest of the feature panel designs came tumbling out.

BTW, despite the humble look of the Snake Bite Bandages, like the New World Python it’s a pleasure to sew and wear. Equally soft, it’s heavier in weight, has the hand of ponte knit, and stretches about 30% width- & length-wise. And quite cheap too. I don’t think I will get any more, but I’m glad I managed to make something decent out of it.

So there you have it, the origin of this mini-collection of Jungle Snake Pit.

Heavenly Burda 2012-09-123 wrap up!

Finally! The write up about my Dolce & Gabbana inspired embellished Burdastyle 2012-09-123 T-shirt. I was debating whether to hold off until I make a matching gold A-line skirt to do style shots with. But that’ll take too long and I’ll have forgotten all my construction details. So here goes…

The Pattern

I chose this because I wanted a T-Shirt sloper from Burda to gauge the fit of Burda knit tops. This one is perfect because if you join the front yoke to the front bodice, it’s a very basic T-shirt. The neckline is high enough to be jewel neckline that you’d expect of a sloper. The style is fitted enough. The fitted long sleeve again makes it a good baseline to gauge design variation.

The only thing I’m not sure about is the ease in the sleeve cap. Is that really necessary in a T-shirt made from stretchy material?

The Embellishment Inspiration

Style Shots & Mug Shots

Worn here with my Bird & Blossom Taffeta Skirt.
3-mug2-1F 3-mug2-4SR 3-mug2-3B2

4-bs201209123-style2-1 4-bs201209123-style2-9


4-bs201209123-style2-19 4-bs201209123-style3-1

4-bs201209123-style4-3 4-bs201209123-style4-5


This last one is with fabric for the matching gold A-line skirt
that I hope to make some day soon!

Fabric & Notions Used

Size Used

Size 34. Going by sizing chart instruction I would be a 38. Going by FFRP‘s instruction (chest/high-bust used as bust & choosing smaller size when in between) I’d be a 34.

Changes Made

Fitting changes = T-Shirt Block
  • Removed 3/4″ from front & back shoulder seam. (1/4″ of the front amount was done at the front yoke seam to preserve neckline curve. The armscye curve no longer match the original, but matches the curve adjustment below quite well.)
  • Sloping Shoulder Adjustment: removed additional 3/8″ from front & 3/4″ from back shoulders at armscye end. Lowered armscye 1/2″.
  • Wide Shoulder Adjustment: extended shoulder by 1/8″
  • Protruding Shoulder Blade /Rounded Upper Back Adjustments: extended back shoulder additional 1/4″. But in retrospect I think I’ve overdone these. The difference between front & back was a whopping 3/4″. Even with the stretchiness of the fabric, I got a little bit of puckering in the back shoulder. Oops.
  • Narrow Back Adjustment: removed 3/8″-1/2″ from back side seam.
  • Wide Arm Joint Adjustment: scooped out a bit from lower part of armscyes – 3/8″ front, 1/2″ back. Extended side seams at underarm out by 1/4″. (So back underarm end up with a net change of -1/8″.)
  • Adjusted side seam curve for shorter torso – curve back out to hip higher up than in original pattern. (This was basically copied from my previous Cowl-Neck T-Shirt Block based on McCall 6078.)
  • Lowered neckline at center back 3/8″.
  • Thin Arm Adjustment: removing 5/8″ from both sides, but tapered to 3/8″ at underarm to match Wide Arm Joint Adjustment on bodice.
  • Reduced the cap height by 1/2″ & adjusted the armscye curve. This pretty much removed all of the extra ease in the sleeve cap that I was complaining about further up.
  • Shortened the sleeve by 1″.
Design changes
  • Redrew the front yoke seam line so that it’s more slanted. I’ve removed quite a bit from the front shoulder, so I was a bit worried that a short almost horizontal yoke might emphasize my relatively broad shoulder.
  • Lowered the neckline 1/2″ all around.
  • Shorten hem 2-1/8″ in the back &  2-5/8 in the front for a more flattering & versatile length between high hip and full hip.
  • Replaced original facing & back neck opening with stretchy self-fabric tape facing – I want to say bias tape, but for most knit the stretchiest grain would be crossgrain rather than bias.
  • I used the two sides of the same fabric for the contrasting pieces, and matched the sleeves to the front yokes for a pseudo-raglan look on the front.

Verdict on the Instruction

I didn’t really follow the instruction as I’ve made a few changes. Plus I wanted to work out a more efficient way to sew up a T-shirt and try out some of the techniques mentioned in my Singer Sewing with Knits book.

Here’s how I constructed this one:

  • Before I start, I spray starched and ironed the fabric edges because this one LOOOOOOOOVEs to curl. I also spray starched the edges of the pieces after tracing out the patterns.
  • Next I embellished with fabric paint on the uncut pieces. Embellishment details in my earlier post.
  1. Sewing-wise, I started with the front yoke like in the pattern instruction, but pressed the seam allowance down (to de-emphasize a broad shoulder). I also sewed one shoulder seam at the same time (stablized with clear elastic & pressed towards the back), and overlocked the bodice and sleeves hem edges.
  2. Next is attaching neck tape facing to the neckline. Because the neckline hasn’t been sewn closed at the other shoulder seam, this is essentially a straight line rather than a circle.  So the short ends of the facing are lined up with either ends of the straight line – ie at front and back neck edges of the other shoulder seam. Facing is then understitched – seam allowance pressed towards facing, edge stitching on the facing close to neckline seam.
  3. The other shoulder seam is then stitched along with the short edges of the facing – effectively an extension of the shoulder seam on the neck side. The facing is then turned under twice – like typical hems – and stitched in place from the right side of the bodice.
  4. Sleeves are attached to the bodice next.
  5. Then sleeve and side seams as one continuous seam line.
  6. Finally sleeve and bodice hemming.

The usual Walking Foot and stretch stitch on sewing machine advice applies. This time I tried to do as much on Bernie the serger as possible as Saffy the sewing machine was still unwell at the time.

My serger skill is still a bit dodgy. I tried step 1 without pins or basting and the ends didn’t line up. Urgh. Thankfully I discovered how easy it is to unpick the 3-thread overlock seam. Hmmm, should I be worried about the strength of these seams? Anyway, I ended up hand-basting most seams. It was still quicker than unpicking seams multiple times. Hopefully with more practice my serging skill will pass Great British Sewing Bee judging standards! LOL

Would I sew it again / Would I recommend it to others

You bet! Or at least the T-Shirt block I derived from it. Every girl needs a TNT  T-Shirt pattern. This will be mine.

And I’m just drooling over the possible design variations this opens up!

I love how this T-shirt turned out. The neutral color goes well with so many other garments. And the shinier pseudo raglan sleeves reminds me of a suit of armor. Together with the Byzantine icon on the front and wings on the back it makes me feel like a foot soldier angel in God’s Army!

If you missed the previous posts, here’s the full thread of on my Burda 2012-09-123 adventure.

Close but no cigar (aka Heavenly Burda 2012-09-123 part 4)

I could have shown you my finished Burda 2012-09-123 T-shirt. Except I couldn’t finish it. Because I had to send Saffy the sewing machine back to the hospital.

She came back last Saturday. Her unbalanced tension seemed to have been fixed. But oh no, what’s this, Needle Down setting no longer works! And I can’t live without the Needle Down setting. I don’t know about you, but whatever I sew, the feed doesn’t stay straight. I constantly have to readjust the seam allowance to keep the sewing on the stitching line. Stopping with the needle down and presser foot slightly up has saved many a sewing project here. Plus there are all those corner turning where it comes in handy too. So back to the sewing machine repair shop Saffy went today.

I’ve actually sewn up most of the T-shirt already. I just need to finish the stretch hemming on Saffy’s return. In the meanwhile I can show you the embellishment step.

You may recall from Part 1 that my take on this T-shirt is inspired by Dolce & Gabbana’s Fall / Winter 2013 Byzantine Princess collection

Photo credit: Style.com

2-embellish-f-1smallSo for the front, I went back to my art history lesson and pulled up this mosaic image of Byzantine Empress Theodora (who turned out to be pretty cool, an early feminist you might say).

  • First I turned the image into grayscale and fiddled with the contrast in a photo editing software.
  • Then I printed it out, scaling to the size I need, and traced the key outlines onto tracing paper.
  • Next using dressmaking carbon and a blunt plastic needle (used for sewing up hand knitting) I transferred the design onto the fabric which had the pattern pieces already marked out.
  • Finally I used 3 different metallic paints to fill in the outlines: Jacquard Lumiere 561 Metallic Gold for white areas, Jacquard Lumiere 552 Bright Gold for mid-tone areas, and Jacquard Lumiere 565 Metallic Bronze for dark areas. Then heat set with iron set at temperature for my fabric.

For the back I used the Urban Threads wings embroidery design as planned. I was good though. Rather than ripping the artist off, I paid for easily affordable $1 hand embroidery design.

  • I printed this out directly on tracing paper with the design scaled down to 90%.
  • Then this was again transferred to the back fabric piece with dressmaking carbon and an old dried out ball-point pen.
  • The lines were then traced with the Jacquard Lumiere 561 Metallic Gold and Jacquard Lumiere 552 Bright Gold fabric paint, and again heat set with iron.

Those of you with eagle eyes (and mind) would have noticed I committed a big sin in the process: Marking the fabric with carbon paper like there’s no tomorrow. And worse, pressing over the said markings without washing them out first. Yeah, I’m a rebel. So sue me! 😉 Bred in NYC I like my Edginess. So I don’t mind if the carbon marking won’t wash out. If you’re of posher or more conservative taste, then do find some other way of transferring your markings and designs.

Anyway, I’m off to find some other project I can work on with just Bernie the overlocker and handsewing.

Stayed tune for the conclusion to this Heavenly T-shirt project coming in a week or two!

T-shirt Block. Again. (aka Burda 2012-09-123 part 1)

So while Saffy’s at the sewing machine hospital, I decided to tackle fitting for my upcoming projects…By way of a detour of course!

I needed to get to grip with Burda sizing. So I’m using Burda 2012-09-123 as a basic T-shirt block.

bs-2012-09-123_tech   fabric-gold-lycra-wrongfabric-gold-lycra-right

The plan was originally to use the muted gold lycra from Tissu Fabrics / Tia Knight as muslin. But I’ve since fallen in love with it. Especially after seeing Dolce & Gabbana’s Fall / Winter 2013 collection

Photo credit: Style.com

I loved Byzantine art when I took art history in college. All that old muted gold. Yum.

So the new plan is to make a proper version of Burda 2012-09-123. After much deliberation, I’ve decided to use the shinier side for the shoulder detail pieces and the darker, more muted side for rest of the body. I want to avoid my trunk from appearing thicker than it is.

Then play with the different tones of gold fabric paint to create mosaic design or Byzantine icon of some sort on the front. Hopefully one of the gold fabric paint will match the shade of the fabric’s shinier side. I might also add a line painting of something like this on the back!

(Machine embroidery design from Urban Threads.)

If I only had an embroidery machine…Though it still wouldn’t help on a stretch fabric like this!

Next up fitting alteration & muslining…