Oh where can I buy one / make one?

Vivienne Westwood designs for Virgin Atlantic

I’m not a good flyer. It’s always too cramped. I can never sleep. Food taste blah. Entertainment lacked full box-sets. My bony bum hurts after 30 minutes.

But the new Virgin Atlantic uniform perked me up en route to NYC & back. What interesting asymmetrical neck flounce you have! What chic yet saucy jacket is that! Oh can I have your handbag?

As I exit the plane I had to compliment & ask. Vivienne Westwood of course. I should have known. I want one!

The coat, which I didn’t see onboard, also very yum.

Vivienne Westwood designs for Virgin Atlantic

The fashion crowd can poo-poo all they want. Me & my sewing geek will take Westwood’s saucy cut & interesting details over their blink-and-you’ll-miss-it minimalism all day any day.

Christmas came early! More books…

Look what came in the post today: These lovelies to keep me motivated on finishing Q, my new home-made dress form.


I haven’t read them in-depth yet. So no review. Just first impressions / why I bought them.

I already own Draping for Fashion Design, so don’t really need another draping book. But come on, who can resist all those luscious photos. Drool.

The art of draping

This one is quite different from the usual draping text books. It does not cover all the basics. Rather, the author, who worked for the Parisian couturiers Patou and Pierre Cardin, focused on six kinds of draping that he feels demonstrate the art of draping. There’s a sample dress design for each and step-by-step photos of the draping process…

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Not every design is my cup of tea, but they’re look more high fashion than in a lot of draping and pattern-drafting books. Well, most of these books don’t even have photo illustrations. So no competition there.

There are also plenty of other high fashion runway photos illustration the application of these different draping methods. These aren’t illustrated with step-by-step draping guide. But I don’t feel cheated like I do with some of the other books. The sample designs that he does go through in details make me feel that he knows what he’s talking about and those runway photos aren’t just to lend an air of authority to an otherwise unexceptional book.


So not really your starter draping book, but certainly compliments those more basic books. I really like it because I’m mostly inspired by fashion photos & clippings I collect, and the draping projects in this book look much more inspiring than the mundane examples in most other draping books. You almost feel like you’ll be able to create one of those fabulous couture dresses one of these days. Now the only problem is where to wear it to!

A word of caution though. The book is in English & French. I find it a bit jarring to spot the English instructions amongst the French.

Draping: The Complete Course

I’ve wanted this one ever since Peter of Male Pattern Boldness reviewed it, but couldn’t justify it without a working dress form.

This one is more like the standard draping books. It does the some basics, but isn’t as comprehensive in the variations of designs covered as my Draping for Fashion Design. But it most definitely is more inspiring. I mean, it even has a recreation of a Vivienne Westwood dress. Yum!


Celebrity junkie are you? How about recreating the train of Kate Middleton’s Alexander McQueen wedding dress…


Or the Oscar de la Renta dress that Gwyneth Paltrow wore the year she won the Oscar!


More inspired by history? There’s this Grecian dress and this corset with Georgian shape for you…


Want classy & smart? Can’t beat a well-shaped trench!


OK, maybe it’s just me. But this home sewer just can’t mentally stretch from illustrations of your typical draping book to fabulous garments of the fashion mags. This coffee table style book hits the sweet spot and get my dough. Let’s just hope it won’t feel be horribly dated in a decade or two!

And last but not least, and not a draping book…

Vintage Couture Tailoring

I saw this in a brick & mortar bookstore and was hooked by these photos:


I mean what the… LOL. I’ve never seen back pad & bust pad mentioned in any other tailoring books.

OK, if it was just this it wouldn’t justify the purchase. But the book is full of lots of step-by-step photo-illustrations. And you know I like my photo illustrations!

tailoring-bk-4 Granted, it’s just one jacket all the way through. And it doesn’t cover fitting.

But I’m sure I’ll learn something new. Something in addition to the padding in weird places, which I may very well make use of now I know how lopsided I am. I mean, just look at the innards of that jacket…


I feel like if I practice these techniques for long enough, they may let me through the back door of Savile Row!

And again, attractive example of the author’s handiwork really help sells the book to me. Here’s a remake of a 1951 Balmain suit he made…


The only complaint I have is that like other reviewers, I also find the text very difficult to read because the text colors weren’t dark enough. A magnifying glass helps though.

OK, better get back to that dress form so I can justify these purchases…

Yippie! More Fabrics for Me!

So, while no fabric was bought during the NYC Meet Up, my suitcase was already half full with fabrics: I had ordered some from B&J Fabrics online a while back and had them sent to my brother’s in Ohio.

It was ostensibly for more of that fabulous turquoise leopard print knit, which I had thought was extinct, but in fact is still lurking in the aisles at B&J. Since shipping was free, I also ordered some Boucl√©s & Tweed. I have to say though I was a bit disappointed when I finally saw these fabrics. The colors weren’t as vibrant as the online pictures…


I guess that’s the peril of internet shopping, and one should at least get samples first before ordering anything expensive. It remains to be seen whether I’ll learn this lesson!

The yellow one I might use for Burdastyle 2013-03-102 Boucle Jacket. I’ve wanted the outfit since I bought the magazine. I also tried to look for similar floral fabric for the pants during this trip – but no luck.

Not sure yellow would look as good on me as on the model given my complexion. Maybe I’ll get away with it if I add trims or wear something underneath that’s in a more flattering color.

NYC proper…

With limited baggage allowance I couldn’t shop freely. Hence the indecision during the meet up. And spending the whole of Monday on reconnaissance mission. What could earn a space in my preciously rationed haul?

My main criteria was that it has to be something difficult to find in London. So while there are lots of great shops with affordable fabrics in the Garment District, I ended up in my old favorites: B&J, Mood, and NY Elegant Fabrics. All huge stores (compared with London offerings). All a bit on the pricier side I’m afraid. What can I say, I got an expensive habit! ūüėČ Limited time and torrential rain on Monday also put me off checking out the other stores.

Unchartered Territory of Print Galore

I’m a print-phobe. But I’m trying to change. And my stash is full of plain fabrics already. So I forced myself to look at prints. First off, a couple of classic prints…

2013-us-fabrics-7Silk Charmeuse & Wool Challis from B&J. These were expensive! So I’ve didn’t buy much.

I’m thinking a simple kimono sleeve top or dress for the charmeuse.

For the challis maybe a back-pleated skirt like my Heidi skirt, or a more deconstructed version à la Vivienne Westwood.


Next some au courant crazy pot-luck mix of snake print & everything else …

2013-us-fabrics-8Silk Charmeuse from Mood. This reminded me a bit of Burdastyle 2013-02-113 Dress which I love.

I thought I was being generous with 3 yards. But that’s still not enough for this dress. Then again a shorter dress might get more wear. So I may still use this pattern yet.

2013-us-fabrics-9Wool Blend Jersey from NY Elegant. No clear ideas yet. It feels vaguely Vivienne Westwoodish with a whiff of Christopher Columbus – all that damask type prints in faded cartography colors and a flash of jungle snake!

Probably a dress and maybe even a top with a bit of cowl here and there.

So what do you think? Brave enough for first forays into prints?

These were meant to be sweater knits…

I was quite chaffed to get so much wear out of my cowl neck sweater and wrap cardi (write up coming soon) in NYC. So I decided to get more sweater knits despite it being summer in NYC. Luckily fashion people work months ahead and therefore stores that supply them too. Both NY Elegant Fabrics & Mood have a wide range in stock. But in the end, none of the proper sweater knits appeal to me as much as these pseudo knits.

2013-us-fabrics-3Wool Acrylic Print Novelty Knit from Mood & Mohair Blend Novelty Knit from NY Elegant.

Clio would recognize the teal one from Mood. It feels a bit like sweatshirt knit. I was on the fence with this one as I don’t wear boxy sweatshirt type garments at all. Is it too sporty for me? Can I carry it off? The other one feels so lush but is also a bit spongy. So again on the fence.

In the end, what convinced me was recent examples of biker style jackets in non-traditional fabrics.

00250mLike Burdastyle 2013-03-135 Biker Jacket. Or even the pastel croc of Louis Vuitton S/S 2012.

I think I’ll use the Burda pattern for the teal fabric, as it has seaming details that can showcase both sides of the fabric. I’ll have to search around for a pattern for the orange fabric. I’d like a version with more traditional overlapping front and off-center zip, but probably in a cinched waist silhouette again. I don’t think I’m tall enough to carry off a short and boxy style.

I’m hoping to make matching pencil skirts with exposed zipper details in darts and/or walking vents.

This next one looks like a sweater knit, but isn’t.

2013-us-fabrics-4Mohair Gauze from Mood. I’m calling this gauze because of the loose open weave. I have no idea what the professionals call it. Anyway it’s a real shame it’s not a knit, for it would have made a great sweater top. Maybe another cowl neck like the one I just made? I don’t think I can have enough of that slightly 60ish mod looking sweater.

Cotton Lace from NY Elegant which is reserved for a skirt just like this Burdastyle 2013-03-109 Lace Skirt.

I was telling Clio how I find lace a hard fabric to carry off. It’s too easy to look like a Streetwalker, a Mother of the Bride, or a Granny Doily in lace. Then I go buying an expensive cut! This one is definitely in the Doily camp. All for the love of this outfit.

If there’s any leftover I might use it for either this Burdastyle 2012-05-109 Top or this designer dress (sorry, forgot who it’s by)…


And the rest…

2013-us-fabrics-6Sunback Lining from B&J for some coat that I will eventually make. Because being a tropical baby even cashmere won’t keep me warm in the bone-chilling damp British winters. And I can’t find these flannel-backed lining anywhere else. BTW it’s also known as Kasha Lining by some.

Ultrasuede from NY Elegant because this one is buttery soft! I love the feel of suede and soft leather. But I can’t handle any fabric requiring expensive specialist cleaning. This you can throw into the washing machine. Most ultrasuede aren’t this soft though. So I just have to have this one. I’m hoping it’s soft & drapy enough for a pants, or dress, or top.

2013-us-fabrics-5And two TNT old friends: Bamboo Spandex Striped Jersey & Micro-Spandex Leopard Print Jersey from B&J.

I wear my marini√®re tops so much that I just have to have more. It’s my slob out outfit of choice. Although I did get some red stripe knit from Tissu Fabrics in London, it’s not as soft as this bamboo one. Yummmm.

And I got more of the turquoise leopard jersey so I can finally make a wrap dress, probably Burdastyle Magazine Blumarine 2011-06-139 Wrap Dress (like Assorted Notions’ version). Leftover might be sacrificed to my niece, who’s just at the age to start yearning for crazy fashion, but isn’t allowed to own any yet.

Speaking of whom…there’s actually 3 more cuts of fabric from Jo-Ann bought just for her. But that will have to be another post. Because sewing for Tweens opens up a whole can of worms!

Finally, a bit of Fabric Store Gossip

I was chatting to the guy helping me with the fabrics at Mood about how active Mood is in the online sewing community compared to other fabric stores. He told me that’s because the owner’s son took over a few years ago and really gets modern marketing. Supposedly another store had been approached by Project Runway first, but turned them down. So now the tour buses stop at Mood instead and business is booming.

So much so that they are considering opening a branch in London! (Also because a daughter of the owner lives in London or have some good friend in London – can’t remember which.) That will be great news (for me!) – IF they keep similar format to the US stores that is. I’ve always been a bit miffed that Whole Foods Market in London doesn’t sell half the stuff you’d get in the US. What’s the point of shopping at an American store if it sells the same stuff as British stores. File this one under #homesick!

Improv Tote: Finished!

OMG! I finished something! And it’s made purely from stuff in my stash! What’s more is that although it’s not perfect, I’m OK with it! Miracle. So, picking up where we left off…

Tarting It Up for the Big Day

As you recall, this Vivienne Westwood tote bag was sort of what I was aiming for. And I briefly flirted with the idea of finding a similarly graphic print and image transfer using one of those printable transfer paper or image transfer medium.

But it seemed way too much hassle. Especially with the fabric being faux suede, I wasn’t sure that (a) the image would transfer well, and (b) the fabric could handle the heat required. So I resorted to my tried and tested Jacquard Lumiere 561 Metallic Gold Fabric PaintJacquard Lumiere Fabric Paint.

Next question is what design.

Derwentwater Golden Hearts Blackwork Embroidery KitI wanted something stylized, and thought this Derwentwater Blackwork Embroidery design would look great. Boy was I over ambitious or what. On the faux suede I just couldn’t get fine enough a line to attempt anything so complicated. (I do love these Elizabethan looking blackwork embroidery kits though – I have 6 of the 7 Derwentwater kits. One of these days I will find a way to incorporate them into my fashion sewing. Just you wait!)


Ambition hampered, I went back to variations of the royal orbs. I ended up with this slightly wonky VW style orb.  I threw in a few more flourishes inspired by the real deals to compensate for the lack of fancy branding.

What do you think? Chav enough for you?

Coming Altogether Now

Next up, sewing the bag and lining bottoms together.

WIP-17Zipper foot came in handy for getting as close to the seam line as possible without being hampered by the bulk of the bag and lining.

I sewn three sides first, then inserted a piece of 7-count plastic canvas to stiffen the bag bottom. I got this tip from U Handbag’s great bag-making tutorial blog.

The last side is then sewn up, and the bag flipped right-side-out over the lining.


The top of the lining is then sewn to the underside of the zipper. (I slip-stitched it by hand for better control, then edge stitched again for reinforcement.)


I stitched across both ends of the zipper before covering the ends with faux leather tabs like Longchamp Le Pliage tote bags.

Now the tabs, what a pain they turned out to be!


With faux leather on both sides and a bit of bulk in-between, they were rather difficult to sew on the machine, even with tissue paper underneath to help the feed dog feed properly.

In the end I resorted to hand sewing. So thank God for my thimble and hand-sewing needle grabber.Hand sewing needle grabber

I would have had blood spilled on my lovely new bag otherwise trying to cajole the needle through the bulk – and the gunk from the double-sided tape!

WIP-22The resulting tabs aren’t brilliant. With my thin and somewhat stretchy faux leather you can see the zipper bulk striking through clearly. Longchamp Le Pliage tote bags tabs also shows a bit of bulk, but with proper leather and professional stitching they stick out much less like a sore thumb.

But you know what, who in real life is going to get close enough to notice this little blemish? So for once I’m declaring this project Plenty Good Enough!

So here you go, the finished result:

Done-01 Done-03 Done-04

What do you think? Good enough for a Gym & Grocery Bag? ūüôā

Improv Tote: WIP 1

Happy New Year all! Hope you all had a lovely Christmas and maybe even managed to get a fair bit of sewing done.

Sadly over here, hardly anything was achieved sewing-wise. Apart from over-eating induced coma I suffered a bout of Perfectionism. Hence the lack of activity here – it was just too depressing to write about!

But as the Sewing Princess reminded me, there’s a wonderfully supportive sewing community online, and I need not wallow in my fitting woes alone. So I’ll take some pictures of my Whack-a-Mole fitting problems on a sunnier day and maybe you’d join in with my Name That Fitting Gremlin Game. But not today. Today I want to talk about my first bag making attempt.

inspiration_originalA while back when I was traveling a bit, I wanted a replacement carry-on bag. The one I had was getting tatty in places and was a bit heavy once laden with all the modern-day gadgets. So I started cutting out fabrics for a replacement.¬† But when I measured the weight, my fabric pieces was working out heavier than the original bag. Some sewn products are best left to the professionals, who have access to special material that better meet the practical needs which we can’t easily get hold of in consumer fabric stores. Sigh.


So, what to do with the cut out fabric pieces? As they were originally destined for a rectangular bag, I decided to make a tote a bit like this £114(!!!) Vivienne Westwood tote bag:

Vivienne Westwood Battersea Print Bag Khaki

As my fabric is a polyester faux suede, I’m not sure how easy it would be to transfer printed images onto it. So I had to look for alternative ways of adding visual interests.

Hot Patterns Queen Of Hearts Bowling Bag & Hand Bag PatternI’ve always like corner patches like on Hot Patterns’ Queen of Heart Bowling Bag Pattern. So I thought I’d use some of scrap vinyl I have in my stash for this.

As you can see I don’t have a proper pattern and instruction to guide me. So I’m improvising as I go along.

One tutorial I am using bits & pieces of is this tutorial for a mini-bowling bag by Qazicat:

Qazicat Leopard Bowling Bag Tutorial …Like its instruction for the corded handle. Or how to stiffen the bag sides and bottom. Or order of construction. Useful stuff and clear instruction.

Love the leopard print example Qazicat shown as well. Would be perfect for Pretty GrievancesJungle January too (which I chickened out from – my slopers not being ready and all)!

Work In Progress

First off, attaching the vinyl patches to the bottom parts of the bag. As both vinyl and polyester don’t like high heat – and I’ve lost the instruction for the various interfaces and adhesive webs I have – I decided to just use standard double-sided tape in my stash. I’ll edge-stitch them as well just in case the adhesive tape lose its sticking power with age.

Here are all the patches – entire bag bottom, small strips on lower edges of the sides, and rounded bottom corners on the main pieces of the bag:

I’m using up decades-old stiff fusible woven interfacing on the back of the faux suede. I think they were for shirt collars and the likes. But again, heat issue with faux suede, so they’ll probably just be sewn in rather than fused.

I’ve also started on the handles. Here are thick piping cord wrapped in the same stiff fusible woven interfacing. The outer layer will probably be the faux suede. But I’m still pondering on whether to beef it up a bit with an extra layer. Or maybe even use thicker piping cord. At the moment it looks a bit wimpy compared to the size of the bag.

inspiration_handleAnd I’m also debating whether to attached the handles directly to the sides or to attach them via a D-ring so that they can hang down when not in use for more compact storage.

That’s it for now. For apart from fretting over fitting, I’ve also been busy stressing over our bathroom renovation, making endless plans and drawings to try to whip the builders in line.

New Bathroom

And of course now the builders have taken over a huge chunk of our apartment with inevitable dust everywhere, any sewing would have to proceed at a tortoise pace.

Hopefully it won’t be weeks for the next installment of this!