Thursday, 24 December 2009


I'm just popping my head in to wish everyone very happy holidays wherever you are and safe travels in these snowy times. (no white Christmas for me in Hong Kong obviously!)

I have been sewing but not blogging as, fool that I am, have been making two dresses for a friend who has a BIG birthday at the end of the year. We are all off to Bali for New Year to celebrate along with her Aussie family. The dresses are supposed to be a surprise to her friends and family and while I doubt that any of them would see this blog I'd hate to be the one who lets the cat out of the bag. So pictures of those to come in 2010.

Assuming I finish them of course......will still be hemming with one hand and eating turkey with the other at this rate.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Back in the sewing room

But sadly only to type. My visitors have left so I can now reclaim the sewing room, hooray! However, today my apartment is being photographed for a local interiors magazine and when I start sewing I seem to create mess everywhere so I have to wait.

However, it is amazing what a few well placed props, especially fresh flowers, can do and I am learning a lot from the stylist on simple things to improve the look of my flat. The magazine will come out in January but I sneaked a few pictures of my own in the meantime so allow me to indulge in a non-sewing post. Sewing starts tomorrow!

Gerberas in plain glass votives to match my cushions

Bathroom bamboo

White amaryllis

Purple orchids and plump pillows

Saturday, 14 November 2009

A Little Break from Dresses

My father and stepmother are coming to visit for 2 weeks and while I am looking forward to their visit the downside is that I lose my sewing room for that whole time. So I didn't want to start a new dress pattern only to have to abandon it for 2 weeks, but I did want to sew something. A knit top seemed like the perfect thing so I pulled out a recently purchased Simplicity Project Runway pattern, 2733 and some bright blue rayon jersey and got to work.

I would probably buy more Simplicity patterns in this range if I could see what the heck was going on, you have to open up the patterns to get all the line drawings. I confess I really only bought this one for the gathered sleeve. [Oh, I take it all back, the Simplicity website has undergone a major revamp, you can see the line drawings and zoom in on the pattern envelopes. Good for Simplicity (bad for my bank balance and pattern stash!).]

I made a couple of changes to this version, leaving off the pockets and changing the gathered front to a flat front. I think the top as photographed on the pattern is very cute but I fear on me I would look very pregnant and I wasn't in the mood for experimenting!

The alteration was quite straightforward, first I attached the pocket and front piece together to make a single pattern piece and then folded out the excess originally added for gathers at the centre front and another fold in the middle of the pattern piece, then added a bit back at the side seam so that it would still be wide enough at the hips. Probably not the professional way to do it, but it worked and was easy to do.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Dress 3 of 7 - Vogue 1117 Michael Kors

This is the Michael Kors pattern everyone got excited about when it was released, followed by disappointment that the pattern photo just didn't look as good as the runway shots of this $2000 dress. I've ploughed ahead anyway, someone do tell me (gently) if I look a frump in it!

As I mentioned in my last post, although this pattern is rated average it is a bit fiddly and time consuming. However it is drafted really well and the instructions do give you a nice finish. When I cut the lining I really could not see how it was all going to fit together properly, but almost miraculously it just did!

The bodice fit is not as perfect as I would like - it sits off my shoulders a little bit and I had to wrap it a little tighter to eliminate any gaping at the front. The fabric is a grey lightweight wool, with silk satin lining - it feels really luxurious on, maybe not worth $2000 but not bad!

Finished dress with as yet unpressed hem, as Barney the cat is trying to remind me.

Close up of bodice - to get the top to fit me without gaping I needed to pull it in tighter so the pleats in the front bodice have almost disappeared into the side front seam.

I added a faced hem because I wanted a bit of extra length to wear this with boots in the fall, but still wanted a hem finish with a bit of weight to it. I understitched it and then hand sewed it invisibly to the dress.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Vogue 1117 by Michael Kors - part 1

Thank you all for the comments on the green Cynthia Rowley dress, I wasn't sure about the style for me before I made it so I definitely recommend giving it a try.

Next up for me is the Michael Kors dress 1117, this is a very early progress report so not the most interesting post I'm afraid.

The pattern is rated "average" which I think is a bit optimistic. It has an interesting cut with side front and back inserts which are not easy to sew. With the caveat that I am not much of a teacher or photographer and there may be better ways of doing these steps ( I'm certain it wasn't done this way in factory production! ), here is how I inserted the side fronts and backs - steps 7, 13, 20. For sure the pattern instructions are somewhat lacking, but the illustration does show you what you are trying to end up with.

The photos below illustrate step 13 - the left front bodice, but the basic technique is the same for all - essentially don't try and stitch to the side and underarm in one pass, instead stitch them separately stopping at the pivot point.

Here I have stitched just the side seam, stopping at the pivot point. (the line of stitching nearest the cut edge is the staystitching from the previous step). It's easiest to see where to stop if the bodice front is on top. Pin first and check from the right side just to make sure that the square piece of fabric required for reinforcement hasn't got caught in the seam. Edited to add; Told you I was hopeless at tutorials, I was so carried away with taking photos I didn't read the instructions! This left bodice seam should be left open below the dart.

Next pin the curved seam that follows the underarm, again with the bodice front on top - you can just see the pivot point from the previous line of stitching.

Flip it over to check before sewing the seam.

Stitch in place (you can see I used two rows of stitching to get it right (I finished too short of the pivot point the first time), so you might want to baste in place first!). Press and trim the seam allowances, grading them to minimise showthrough on the right side.

The finished upper front piece (oops just realised this final photo is actually the right front!).

Step 13, the bodice back, is a little trickier in that you have 3 sides to stitch - I did it in the same way - first the side seam, then the underarm seam and lastly the seam joining to the lower dress. Looking ahead in the instructions I see that the lining is constructed similarly so there is plenty of opportunity for practice!

I hope these photos help pad out the instructions a bit. Ok, back to work on the dress.....

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Dress 2 of 7 - Simplicity 2497

A reminder of the pattern, a Cynthia Rowley design;

I made View C, the version made up on the envelope, except I left off the pockets as I can't quite get my head around pockets in cocktail / evening dresses.

Learning my lesson from last time I did make a quick muslin, more to check the style on me than anything and liked it enough to go ahead and cut my emerald silk dupioni. I wish I had checked the fabric more closely before cutting as there is a very prominent stripe on both the bodice and the skirt, but I can live with it. I had washed this fabric once in the machine to soften it a bit, and I also added a lining to the skirt section. It is an easy pattern to make and goes together quickly.

This is a fun little dress and I will definitely be making the scoop neck version in a more casual fabric

Some more detailed photos;

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Dress 1 of 7 - Vogue 8594

Well as you can probably tell by the big gap between my posts this was not as quick a project as I had hoped, despite Vogue's "easy" rating. Technically the sewing is easy, but what is not obvious from the line drawings is that the diagonal seam on the skirt front needs to meet up with the side back seam. This means there is no room for any fitting adjustments on the side seams - if you make this dress a muslin is absolutely essential. When seams meet in a chevron you can get away with fine tuning the fit as you go, but when they are diagonal it's impossible.

Of course I did not do a muslin and discovered too late that the dress was too big on the hips (surely a first!?). I didn't have enough fabric to recut the skirt pieces so I ended up redrafting new front triangle pieces so that the seamlines would meet where I needed them to. Very fiddly and very boring, - I was glad to get this one finished I can tell you. That said I am really happy with the finished dress and it gives me a good excuse to wear these purple shoes - a bit matchy-matchy, but I don't care!

Click to enlarge (or maybe not, please don't look too closely at the seam matching!)

Next I am making Simplicity 2497, the Cynthia Rowley dress. I'm working on view C, in an emerald green silk dupioni which I washed to soften it up a bit. This pattern really is easy (so far...).

I also really want to thank the ever stylish Cennetta over at The Mahogany Stylist for giving me a Kreative Blogger award. I truly appreciate the time and effort that goes into all the sewing blogs I read - thank you for the inspiration and motivation.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

The Mad Dress Project - Seven dresses, one lunatic

Here are the 7 dress patterns that I am planning to sew after my recent pattern buying splurge. It's clear to see that some of them have similar details and I probably should not have bought them all, but it will be interesting to compare the finished garments.

Vogue 1108 Bellville Sassoon
Vogue 1117 Michael Kors
Vogue 1118 Tracy Reese
Vogue 1123 Anne Klein
Simplicity 2497 Cynthia Rowley
Butterick 6582 Retro 60's

I think I'm going to start with the dress with the easiest rating, Vogue 8594. I'm planning on making the scoop neck version in an aubergine cotton and will probably leave it unlined so it will be more casual and a good transitional dress just in case summer really never ends here.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Last of the summer sewing

Thank you for the encouraging comments on the loud dress, I've worn it a couple of times and people haven't run away screaming so I feel braver about it now. The photos are taken on my roof - my vertical yard if you like, it's scorching hot at the moment so I dash up there and take the photos as quick as I can, I'm sure my neighbours think I am crazy.

So I am back from a great trip to California and somewhat embarrassed to report here that I did not even step into a fabric store! But I did get 6 rolls of tracing paper so that should keep me going for a bit.

I did manage to knock out a couple of quick items before I went on holiday - both are duplicates of items I have made recently so were fast and easy.

Patrones Shirt Issue 269 #1 from a taupe/cream embroidered voile (click to enlarge)

BWOF Skirt 09/08-120 from a black cotton with an embroidered border (no hemming required!).

I thought HK would have cooled down a bit by the time I returned but it's still really hot and I am ready to move on from summer clothes onto a new project that I can really get my teeth into. I thought about the PR wardrobe contest, but having bought lots of dress patterns recently I have decided to attempt to use every single one of them (6 in total). More on the Mad Dress Project in the next post.

Finally a huge thank you to Trudy for giving me a Kreative Blogger award. If you haven't already, check out her blog and see if any of the other award winners are new blogs to you as I discovered a couple of new ones there.

Oh dear, the postman just came...make that 7 dresses in the Mad Dress Project!

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

McCall's 5752 Knit Dress - The Sequel

Thank you all for the tips and good wishes for my vacation. I had totally forgotten that there was a PR weekend to LA so lots of good info on there. Does anyone else like to make new things to take on holiday? I have been trying to knock out a couple of simple things and to make things easy on myself I have remade a couple of patterns, starting with this McCall's that I only posted about last time.

Dim your monitors and grab your sunglasses folks, this is a loud dress!

This is one of the fabrics I bought when I went fabric shopping with Trena when she visited Hong Kong. It's a very large print and at the time we thought it would be perfect for a maxi dress, but the reality is I will not have many occasions to wear one so instead it became a shorter knit dress.

Since some of you are thinking of making this pattern here is a little more information before I get around to doing a full review on PR (I am way behind!);

- Take note of the seam allowances, they are 2.5cm on the side seams, this is to allow you to fit as you go.

- I changed the order of construction so I sewed the side seams last. The instructions have you make the bodice and skirt and attach at the lower bodice seam. Either way works, I just prefer to fit my side seams in one go.

- I eliminated the midriff lining. The pattern for the midriff has the ruched outer part, a stay and a self lining piece (cut from the stay). I decided this was more layers than I needed so my stay also functions as lining.

- I fiddled about with the crossover and gathering on the front bodice to make sure there was no gaping, this is easy to do, just baste them to the front midriff section until you are happy with the positioning. Otherwise this was a straight size 12 from the envelope.

OK got your sunnies? Here goes....

Sunday, 6 September 2009

McCall's 5752 Knit Dress

Here is my finished version of the so called "perfect knit dress". I made view B, the short sleeve version without a tie belt. While it's probably not absolutely perfect, I am pretty happy with it and in fact have another one in progress. This is a Palmer/Pletsch pattern and the instructions are more like a sewing lesson than the usual ones with a whole section on fitting and tips scattered throughout. The pattern pieces also come with adjustment lines printed on them for common fitting adjustments. Not that I really used the instructions, this is a very simple dress to sew.  

In other news my husband has a business trip to LA so we are making a trip out of it and will spend a few days in LA, Santa Barbara and Palm Springs, we leave on Friday and I'm really looking forward to it. If anyone has any must do travel tips please share! Also I know it sounds insane but does anyone know where I might be able to buy a roll of tracing paper while I am there? I can only get it in sheets here and it's sometimes more expensive than my fabric!

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Anyone for camping?

Yes my friends I have made a tent!

A Burda 07/09 - 108 tent to be precise.  I know this is a pretty wacky pattern, but I had envisaged a nice tunic with floaty see through sleeves.  I don't know how this ended up so big everywhere, I am swimming in it and I wonder if I managed to cut the wrong size.

Is this what I planned?  No.
Did I have to spend ages working on it to get it to a trying-on state? Yes
Am I happy?  No.
Is it salvageable?  I doubt it.

Here is the sorry mess, I can't face taking a photo of me in it, you wouldn't see much of me under there anyway!

Oh well, moving right along I am now working on McCall's 5752, the Palmer/Pletsch perfect knit dress.  A bold claim if ever there was one but I am pleased to say it is looking pretty good so far and should be finished soon so fingers crossed for a happier post next time!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Back to blogging

Sorry for the long summer break, unfortunately not due to any fabulous, or even unfabulous vacations, but an unplanned trip back home to the UK for my grandmother's funeral. She was 93 so although it was of course a sad occasion there is no doubt that she had a full life and it was nice to catch up with my family again.

So I have finally got over my jetlag and finished washing and ironing some things to show you.

Just before I left I met up with the lovely Trena from Slapdash Sewist, who unlike me, seems to be immune to jetlag! We spent an evening at dinner and then pretty much an entire day shopping and sightseeing, I had such a good time. Since I foolishly didn't take any photos you can read about the trip on Trena's blog here.

You can see that my bag of fabric from the textile market in Sham Shui Po is about twice the size of Trena's, I don't know how that happened - I'm sure she must have sneaked some of her stuff in there. Here's what I got;

Mega size jersey print, bit crazy but I loved the colours.

Cobalt blue knit, dusky pink embellished sheer.

Close up of the sheer, this will be a very simple unstructured top I think.

I also bought a black wool blend to make a dress for the funeral and made yet another version of my Burda 02/09-124 dress but with a more modest neckline. I plan to embellish the neckline with some crystals to turn it from a funeral dress to an LBD. I think my nan would approve.

On the sewing front, I made 2 more separates. Another black shirt from the leftovers of the cutaway shoulder shirt in my last post. This one is Patrones issue 269, #1, although I left off the collar and belt. I'm a bit of a novice at Patrones and I'm only brave enough to attempt patterns I think I can figure out without instructions, but this turned out well so I am encouraged to try more.

The skirt is a very loud print and as such I wanted a simple pattern.

I used Burda 09/08 - 120, a basic pencil skirt. I liked that the cut was such that it is quite narrow, but has no back slit or any other details other than waist darts. There is still enough walking ease, but I must remember not to wear this skirt if I want to climb onto the bus! 

The fabric is a lightweight cotton so I lined it with china silk. I found it to be a little shorter than I wanted so I added a hem facing from a strip of fabric so I could take a minimum depth of hem but still get the benefit of a little bit of extra fabric weight there, it definitely helps it to hang better.

Friday, 31 July 2009

Back to Basics

I realised the other day that the black shirt I was wearing was well past it's best so I purchased 4 yards of black stretch cotton to make a couple of replacements.  

I still wanted to try something a bit different rather than remake the same pattern though so flicked through my Burda index file for inspiration.  I picked this simple shirt with cutaway shoulders from 03/2006 - 104.

It was easy to make and I am really happy with how it turned out - the only change I made to the pattern was to do my own thing with the button placement.  Of course you need to wear a strapless or halter bra with it. Definitely worth a try if you have this issue taking up space somewhere, I will probably make this again.  

This is the best I can do with photos of a black garment...

If you have already read Slapdash Sewist's blog you will know she is en route to Hong Kong right now!  We are meeting for dinner tonight and for shopping tomorrow, it's really exciting.  I will try and do something about my hair before I go to meet her.......

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

One miss, one hit

Ok lets just get this posted and out of the way - the miss. Not quite a wadder, just not what I had planned in my head. This is the pattern I used - Burda 06/2008 103, a mock wrap skirt with topstitching detail.

There is nothing wrong with the pattern, but in my eagerness to make it I pulled some blue denim from the stash (or collection if you prefer!) which was a great match colourwise for the art nouveau fabric from my last post (thank you Katharine for the perfect description!). The weight of the denim is all wrong for this pattern and the style with a tie waist is all wrong for the longer length tops I wanted to wear it with, it just adds bulk. I'll hang onto it till the winter and see if it works with a tucked in sweater and boots.
Moving swiftly on - a new dress, this one from Burda 05/2008 116, a square neck sheath dress. I made this in a print cotton I picked up in that ramshackle market I posted about recently. It's black with a silver chain print on it. It also has some printed discs with the name "Todd Smith" on it.  

I had no clue who Todd Smith was and thought I had better investigate before cutting into this fabric.  I discovered this is a clothing line designed by LL Cool J. No disrespect to Mr Cool J but he is not reknowned for his design abilities as far as I know (which is not far admittedly). Never mind, no one has pointed and laughed at me yet and I like how my dress turned out. 

It's probably a bit blingy for daytime but ideal for evenings out. The pattern was very easy, the only change I made was to leave off the belt and topstitching as there was enough going on in my print.  The only downside is that you have to watch what you wear under the dress as the square neckline is pretty wide.