Behind the seams: The “Better late than never” dress

If there wasn’t a Sew Weekly Challenge and I wasn’t a contributor, this dress would most likely have ended up as an unfinished project. It was a dress I had wanted to sew and wear for my cousin’s wedding last Saturday. That however didn’t materialize and what you are seeing in the gallery below is the tweaked version. See the original yucky version and find out why this dress is late on my TSW post.

The Gallery

I used a bronze/silvery satin fabric with embroidered scallop edge for the dress. Boy, oh boy, I think satin is really quite a difficult fabric to work with and I really had to handle the delicate fabric with care at all stages- ironing, cutting, sewing and unpicking. It’s really horrors of horrors to unpick and I had to do so much of that to make the dress work.

I have a love-hate relationship with this fabric. On one hand, I didn’t enjoy working the fabric and I think the sheen makes the wearer put on a couple of pounds. But then again, it is the same sheen of the fabric that really brought out the smocking details in a subtle way that is quite lovely.  I have not tried smocking before this but after seeing the very talented Jali’s (Equator Collection) stunning smocked cushions, I was so in awe and absolutely inspired to use the method on garments. See her posts here, here, here and here. I even contacted her smocking instructress but alas, she only has weekend classes (weekday ones were cancelled) which I am not able to attend. My version is really amateurish compared to Jali’s and I’m glad to have tried it 🙂

I’m also clueless what kind of smocking this is since there are so many different stitching methodologies.

The sleeves and the hem patterns were cut on the scallop edge and I love how they turned out.

The Pattern Review

Since I couldn’t attend the smocking classes, I bought myself a vintage dress pattern-Simplicity 4826- with smocking details. The pattern came with simple instructions on how to smock the bodice of the dress. I was surprised that it was actually much easier than I had envisioned.

There was also an iron on dots transfer paper and I was shocked that it still worked after 50 years! However, due to the long periods of time, there were a few extra dots that transfered from other part of the paper onto itself.  The original pattern had 6 rolls of smocking excluding the neckline and area adjacent to the sleeves. When I was done smocking I realized I had 7 rolls on one side of the bodice so I stitched 5 additional smocks to balance it out. The instructions and diagrams were very easy to follow and I really enjoyed the smocking process even though it was time consuming. It was strangely therapeutic!

The Simplicity pattern was an easy 3 piece (excluding facings) pattern with an optional tie belt. I love the smocking details but thought the skirt portion would not be formal enough for the wedding luncheon so I used the skirt pattern from McCall’s 4883. Initially, I used view A despite my intuition asking me to go with B. All because I wanted to make full use of all 3 meters of the fabric I had. Silly me. That resulted in yes, the yucky ‘before’ version. The midriff and skirt sections were really easy to put together and I didn’t have to follow the instructions. The midriff section was however too long so I’ll recommend trying out the length first and if necessary shorten it before sewing. I’m exhausted after working on and tweaking this dress to make it work. Think I need a vacation! I don’t know how Mena from The Sew Weekly did it but she sewed 8 dresses in 6 days! If you have not, check out her Seven in Seven challenge! She’s amazing!

And thank you for everyone who voted for me for the Springtop sewalong. While I didn’t win, I am so thrilled that all three of my submissions got shortlisted. More importantly, I am happy that one of my fave bloggers Novita from Very Purple Person won the judges’ prize. Congratulations and I love Novita’s scalloped hat pattern on Grosgrain’s Free Pattern month! It’s so chic and fun for summer! I’ve a weakness for scallop edges and have already printed the hat pattern out…now to find time to put it together 🙂
I hope you had a better sewing week than me! Blessed week!

Springtop sewalong voting: More good news

Hello all! I think I got too excited and carried away when I saw my  rainbow blouse in the first round of voting post yesterday on Made By Rae. Haha. I just found out through the sewalong flickr group that all three blouses I’ve submitted were shortlisted for the first round of voting. I’m already on cloud 9!

The rainbow blouse was up yesterday while my Explorer Top and Animal Print Pendrell Blouse will be up for voting on Tuesday (today) and Wednesday (tomorrow). I hope you liked these blouses too and if you do, please vote for them on Made-By-Rae 🙂

Merci beaucoup!


NATO Pendrell Blouse

Vote for the Rainbow Blouse :)

Dear sewing comrades

I’m so happy that my rainbow blouse has been shortlisted for Top of the tops voting for Made by Rae’s Spring top sewalong. If you like this blouse, please cast a vote for me:) Even if you don’t, do check out the cute blouses that many talented sewing enthusiasts have sewed for spring and be inspired!  This round of voting ends tomorrow morning at 8:00 AM eastern.

Thank you & blessings!


Behind the Seams: The Rainbow Fish Outfit

An inspiration from a kids’ story book, how whimsical! I love this week’s Sew Weekly Challenge theme! You can find my post on how my book of choice inspired me to create a blouse and jeans outfit here.

The Considerations

There are so many wonderful children’s books which made this a really difficult decision-making week and I was still fickle till the very last minute!

These were the books/ projects I’ve considered besides what I’ve ended up sewing 🙂

All Around Us by Eric Carle, a lovely collection of three books on the world around us- in the sea, on land and in the sky. I had this lovely Laura Gunn fabric for ages and it even matched the theme and colors from the book’s illustration. I imagined sewing a simple vintage sundress with it.

Hide and Seek Ocean, a board book my kids enjoyed was also considered as I had this Odyssea fabric by Momo’s Wonderland. I was thinking of sewing a sunsuit in a red and white striped fabric (inspired by the lighthouse illustration) and using the quilting fabric to sew a wrap skirt as coverup. I really loved this idea so I may actually make one someday:)

Maisy’s rainbow dream was another project I really wanted to attempt ever since I laid eyes on this Kate Spade dress in a fashion magazine!

The major bummer was that I couldn’t find a colorful stripe fabric which I thought was suitable to create a knock off. I shall continue to search for it!

So, with all these potential projects going through my mind, how did I end up with the Rainbow Fish?

I got to let you know that what sealed the deal was first practicality (I needed more separates) and second, the Spring Top Sewalong at Made By Rae! The very first blouse I have ever sewed myself was a free pattern on Sew Mama sew blog by Made By Rae so her annual sewalong event got me really excited to sew a blouse for this week’s challenge. And third, I’m gonna participate in So, Zo’s Made Me June next month and after Made Me March 2011, I knew I needed a simple pair of jeans (Yes, no more lack in this area now! Yay!). And this time, I’m increasing the stakes by one notch. I will be wearing a complete made me outfit (top and bottom) excluding underwear/ socks/ accessories everyday for the entire month! So, it looks like I’ll need to sew up more bottoms for my wardrobe:)

The Gallery

I didn’t manage to convince myself to dive underwater wearing a chiffon blouse and flare legged jeans so here’s the outfit on land.

A braided belt which reminded me of the scales of the Rainbow FishWhat will the Rainbow Fish be without its shiny scales? I hand stitched groups of sequins randomly on the cape section of the blouse.

Close ups of the jeans front zipper section (it’s my very first front zipper and I got lost!). The tute at The Last stitch helped tremendously and I managed to sew a passable front zipper section.  

Fabric selvage for the top of the back pockets and front pockets lined with cotton polka dot remnants.

Pattern Review

The blouse pattern I used was Vogue 2850, an Anna Sui blouse. The pattern is straight forward and easy to sew but after reading through the many reviews at Pattern Review, I made some modifications to the pattern.

1) I lowered the waistband and belt hole to the waist area as the original ends just below the bust (it was more of an empire style blouse though it didn’t seem that way on the model)

2) I lengthen the peplum section by 3 inches as many mentioned that the blouse was a little short.

3) As I hand stitched sequins on the cape section, the entire section is lined with the same fabric. This way, the stitches on the back are hidden and the cape has the same vibrancy on both sides.

4) Instead of a normal waist band, I created a braided chiffon version. (The step by step is below)

Kwik Sew 407 1970s Jeans

The vintage jean pattern I used is from the 1970s, Kwik Sew 407. I’ve always been intimated by front zippers and it took me this long to actually attempt my first. The pattern came with two options-flare legged or straight legged and I chose to sew the former. It is not quite a bell bottom, much closer to a modern-day bootleg jeans. I love the fit of this pair of jean. Very comfortable without being shapeless. The pattern is suitable for both woven and stretch fabrics which is great. It’s easy to sew with clear instructions, though I got really lost at the zipper instructions. I’m sure I will be using this pattern again and I need a lot more practice for the front zipper section. I want to make a really vintage pair in pale blue denim!

Braided Band

The braided waist band idea came to me all of a sudden one evening when I was lamenting over how I could incorporate the three different colored chiffon (most outstanding scale colors of the rainbow fish) into the blouse and yet create a balance with a colorful blouse fabric. I think besides being a good alternative waist bands (but I would only recommend using chiffon or very light weight fabric, otherwise the belt can get bulky and unflattering) and shoulder straps.  Here’s how I created mine:

Step one: I cut chiffon pieces of three different colors using the original waist band pattern. For one of the colors, I doubled the width. Pin one set of cut chiffon piece together right side facing.

Step 2: Sew the pieces together at the seam allowance, leaving a gap for turning over.

Step 3: Clip seam allowance and notch edges

Step 4: Turn fabric over and press. Using a matching colored thread, seal the gap by top stitching. Repeat the same sewing process for the other two colored fabric strips.Step 5: Fold the widest fabric into half at one end and insert all other fabric edges/ ribbons/ piping etc into the edge and stitch across the end to secure all pieces. Step 6: Braid the fabrics (same method as braiding your hair)

Step 7:  At the end of the braid, secure all pieces of fabric by tying a knot and sandwiching them in between the widest fabric (the remaining length is up to your preference). Stitch down the side to secure.

We are done!

Hope you find that useful:)

The drape wrap skirt tutorial is in the works (sorry, it’s taking so long) and should be posted by early next week.

It’s elections week for us here in Singapore and polling day tomorrow. Have a great weekend wherever you are!

More Lady Grey Pix

I woke up to an extremely sunny day (32 degrees Celsius to be exact) and decided that I would brave the heat and put on my Lady Grey. As promised in my previous blog entry on the coat, here are more pictures with a better view of the peplum and some close up shots of the topstitching. I think the coat or rather its peplum goes fabulously with skinny jeans 🙂

I am pretty happy with these photos as they conveyed the color of the coat more accurately. The wonders a good light source does to photography!

The ones that follow, however, are better in showing the topstitching on the coat but the color is rather off as they looked too orange. I didn’t have time to iron the coat this time  round so please excuse the creases ;P

I especially adored the topstitching at the side fronts which leads on to those on the sleeves, which I thought was genius in the design. They give a much more tailored and polished look to the coat.

I forgot to mention that the shoulder pads were handstitched to the shell fabric before the lining was attached. I made sure the stitches were hidden in the ditch of the shoulder seams. The centre back seam was also redone since the first Lady Grey post, as I had to take in quite a fair bit of fabric to enhance the fit at the back and to get rid of the wrinkles. I didn’t sew any belt loops as I am not a fan of these things.

Meanwhile, I’m still working on my resort inspired dress. There has been some issues with bodice length which I am still trying to solve. Hope to update the soonest!

Have a blessed day and in case I don’t get to blog before this weekend (it’s my prince’s school holiday tomorrow so I won’t get to sew), a very happy thanksgiving everyone!

Lady Grey in progress

Finally I got to start work on my Lady Grey. While I wasn’t able to follow the sewalong schedule, I have been following Gertie’s posts on Lady Grey closely. I am definitely going for the bound buttonhole after reading her tutorial on it. I’ve never attempted this before so I am pretty excited. Before I start on that, however, I wanted to ensure the fit was right or at least near it. So, after cutting out the shell pieces yesterday, I sewed the main pieces together this afternoon just to try out the fit. I didn’t have to make any alternations to my macaron dress which was also from Colette pattern so I was hopeful that the fit will be all right. I wasn’t disappointed as I liked what I saw at the end of the afternoon. Love how the front turned out. Please excuse my hand as I have not done the buttons 😛I think a well positioned button instead of my hand pressing down on the coat could remove some of the wrinkles below the lapel.

In particular, I loved the feminine peplum with its natural folds. These help a lot with proportions and definitely added points to how flattering a coat can be. It almost felt like I was wearing a mini dress!The side wasn’t too bad as well. The back had slightly more wrinkles but I thought I should sew on the sleeves tomorrow before deciding if I wanted to insert shoulder pads and make some adjustments to the back centre seam to see if I can get rid of those wrinkles at the waist. If you have any suggestion on how to improve how it looks, please let me know 🙂

I intended to make a light coat rather than one for winter cos’ obviously we have no winter here and a light coat will increase its chances of being worn during either a spring or autumn vacation. My husband and I agreed that we would not be bringing the kids on any winter vacation till they are slightly older and more resilient. The fabric is a home decor weight fabric from ikea which was on sale for US$3 per meter. Some of it went to the creation of my lil prince’s toy bag and I had about 3.5 meters left for this pattern. After laying the pattern tissues on the fabric, I was happy that it was indeed sufficient for the project! I am still toying with the idea of making my own fabric button for the coat and am happy to have found a really cute fabric for the lining which I will show you in later post. Let’s just say this is gonna be a fun Lady!

A Sunny Day Dress

I’ve finally completed my Alexander Dress from Grosgrain’s ‘A Frock By Friday’.  This is not an easy dress to sew so I loved the challenge of tackling it. It’s the first time I learnt I could cut open a dart, gather one side of it, sew it back to create cute sleeves like these. Grosgrain’s detailed and clear sewalong instructions made constructing this easier.

The sewing pattern for the bodice came from burdastyle’s Alexander Blouse.

I normally sew using a size 38 pattern but for this dress, I used a size 36. I elongated the center front seams by 1″ each, dropped the waistline by 2″ and lengthen the peplum by 4″, so it would hit the hips. I also added a fire engine red bias to the waistline before attaching the peplum as I thought that would accentuate the waistline and it would go well with the huge red buttons I used.

I didn’t use the free McCall pattern recommended by Grosgrain but the skirt pattern from a vintage sewing pattern. My overused vintage butterick B5032.

I thought they looked rather similar, but my vintage version might be narrower and I could save some trees 🙂 However, I did shorten the length and change all pleats to darts at the top of the skirt. The skirt is lined as cotton voile is a little sheer.

For the back of the dress, I used an invisible zipper but it does not start from the top but around chest level at the back. The top has a hidden button attachment (Are they called press studs?).

The fabric is from Anna Maria Horner’s collection and is extremely comfortable to wear. My favourite part of it is the front bodice with the pleats and red buttons.

I hope you like it too.

My weekend starts tomorrow as it is a public holiday in Singapore, so happy weekend in advance!

My first muslin

I have been sewing garments for myself on a regular basis for the past three months and it is the first time I have made a muslin. I thought I better make one since there are so many new things I’m learning from this project. So many firsts. It’s the first time I’m playing around with boning and padding while modifying a top pattern.  I used a really inexpensive floral print fabric I got from Chinatown sometime back and took my time.

I took so many photos of the muslin creation process, in fact, every single step so that I won’t forget what I did with it.  It is a brand new experience for me. The process was more enjoyable than I thought. Nonetheless, I still stand by my old ways and belief that muslins are not required for every single project.

This particular muslin, however, is not staying a muslin. I liked it so much that I’ve decided to upgrade its status. It is gonna become part of my wardrobe for two reasons. Firstly, it is important enough- it’s my first muslin 🙂 Second, it doesn’t look that bad so I cut a pair of red shorts and attached it to the top. I didn’t show you the back cos the colour of the zipper I used completely didn’t go with the outfit…it was a muslin after all. I will replace the zipper once I get one in red.

Now that the muslin is completed, I can start on the actual project. I am so excited about it and will definitely share more details with you when I’m done and if you are interested a step-by-step should also be available given the number of photographs I have snapped.

Meanwhile, besides deciding on which pair of jeans to sew for my Holiday Wardrobe Project, I have gotten myself involved in two exciting sewalongs. The first is Grosgrain’s A Frock By Friday (August) happening next week. This time we are creating the Alexander Dress! It’s so pretty, I can’t wait! I’ve chosen the fabric and it is drying as I type this. The second sewalong which is starting late September is Gertie’s Lady Grey sewalong using this gorgeous design from Colette Pattern. We are starting off with a muslin as well. Although it won’t be in time for my October trip, I am hoping to buy the actual coat fabric during the trip.

Join us for the sewalongs, won’t you?