Behind the seams: The Mystery Solved dress

In conjunction with Mothers’ Day celebrations, we are drawing on an old photo of our mothers’ or grandmothers’ for inspiration. Yes, this is the week we are honoring our mother’s style and fashion influence. To find out why I named my project this week The Mystery Solved dress, please read my TSW post here.

The Photo Inspiration

My hubby and I were browsing through old photo albums at my mum’s during the lunar new year celebrations in February when we saw this photograph of my parents and hubby said I should make a dress like mum’s since I love the vintage look. There were surprisingly quite a number of copies of this particular photo and so I kept a one for myself.  So, when this theme came up, I knew this would be the photo to inspire my creation. This was a welcomed change after those weeks of having too many choices to consider.

The Gallery

I absolutely do not have the guts to wear a narrow horizontal stripes dress like mum did in the photo. Instead, I used my favorite home decor fabric- Alexander Henry’s Sofia in Gold , which in my opinion adds a 70s vintage vibe to the outfit with its yellow/orange/brown floral print.

I even wore a hairband and backcombed my hair, a little addition to the 70s flavor.

The Pattern Review

I’ve raved about the Japanese Sewing Book, Retrospective is Stylish many times and never thought I would be sewing this 70s pattern as my first project from the book. I mean, this is a great pattern but it was the 1950s dresses that really made me covet the book in the first place.

I used the pattern from Project 7 of the book. (The green dress pictured below)

I’ve sewed quite a number of garments from Japanese sewing books and usually it’s pretty intuitive and the illustration helps a lot. This time, I was stuck because I couldn’t find what I thought were two missing skirt pattern pieces. Googling didn’t help either as no one seem to have attempted this particular dress from the book. So, I’ve documented how it is done, after spending hours pondering about it and going through the overlapping pattern sheet countless times. I’ll illustrate using the back skirt pieces, the same technique applies to the front.

As you can see, the back of the skirt is formed by what seemed to be 3 pattern pieces.

Trace the back (and front) skirt piece (you will only find one pattern piece each for front and back) and identify a line running down the piece with the wordings below (something with 14cm). Trace the line onto the pattern piece of the skirt you have traced.

Cut the pattern piece at the line so one pattern piece becomes two.

Between the two pattern pieces, measure 14cm between them and add seam allowance of 0.5cm (Please note that you are cutting on the fold).

That is your back (or front) skirt pattern piece.

I hope this will be helpful to someone attempting this pattern.

The other thing I wanted to mention is sizing. Typically, I find that there is quite a lot of ease in Japanese sewing patterns and this was the case with this dress. The pattern came in size 7, 9, 11 and 13.  I’m in between sizes for this book (I’m size 12) so after measuring myself I opted to go with size 13. As a result, it did looked one size too big on all areas except the shoulders and bust area so I took in the sides from below the arm downwards.

Other than these, the dress is very easy to put together and a delight to wear. It has a true vintage feel to it and mum even gave her approval saying that the style is very authentic 70s. Yay!

Have you tried sewing garment with home decor fabrics? I am currently very intrigued with sewing with different fabrics and am in the process of experimenting with new ones whenever I can.

My thoughts on using home decor fabrics on garments:

They are great for circle skirts, love the extra sway that comes with it. See Casey’s lovely version in Ikea fabric. I think they can look pretty neat on a pencil skirt too. See the cupcake goddess’ version in Anna Maria Horner’s home decor fabric

They are a good alternative for a spring coat. I made my Lady Grey in an Ikea fabric.

They are not suitable for garments that requires gathering or shirring or smocking. You need light weight fabric for those.

They are as easy to sew, like cotton, but you will need to use a thicker needle.

That’s all folks and I’ll be coming back soon with the next giveaway and announcement of the winners. Have a great week my sewing comrades!

Behind the Seams: That 70s Frilly Dress and the drape wrap skirt

Going through my old photos, taking to mum about them and thinking about my childhood made me quite hopelessly nostalgic this week.  I ended up making a dress and a skirt. For The Sew Weekly Challenge, I’ve chosen to sew my interpretation of a 70s frilly dress made by mum as it was one of my most memorable dresses and was the last dress mum made me as a kid. To find out why, check out my TSW post here.

At the same time, I remembered that I loved wearing those batik wrap around skirts my parents bought from Malaysia all the time. They were the only skirts I wore but I was never photographed in one so that doesn’t qualify it for this week’s theme but that does not stop me from recreating my own interpretation of it. There are some quick photos of it below and I’m working on the tutorial so anyone interested can recreate this drape wrap easy to wear version I came up with. I’m totally in love with it!

But, first let’s see the types of dresses mum made me wear as a kid.

Mini Me in Dresses

Shirred dress. I must have loved that dress, I looked happy in it. I absolutely can’t remember LOL

The shirtdress. My cousin and I at grandma’s. I remembered liking that one cos it was in green, my fave color and had little orange/ white embroidered flowers on it.

Ruffle Sleeves dress. Grandma and I. No recollection of that dress at all. I was starting to cruise.

Puffy Sleeves Dress. Cheeky me and cousin at grandma’s again. I remembered loving to overfeed granddad’s singing birds with worms and giving them bath time a lil too often cos I just enjoyed seeing them hopping into the bathing cage.

Pom Pom Dress. I can’t get over this one. It’s a mini Taiwanese tribal costume I think. Cousin and I at grandma’s.

Lined Sheer Dress with Lace at my birthday party. This was the dress made by mum for my seventh birthday which I have chosen to recreate for TSW this week.

The Pattern

This 1970s boho hippie dress pattern tucked in my stash reminded me of mum’s creation with its small bell sleeves and lace trims.

The pattern was really straight forward and come with only six pieces and must have been the fastest dress I’ve finished for the Sew Weekly Challenge. I used a stretch lace fabric for the yoke/sleeves and lined cotton voile for the rest of the dress. The seams are finished with french seams. The dress did turn out shorter than I have hoped for as the sash has a tendency to pull up the skirt which I totally didn’t factor in.

I was browsing through Modcloth today and saw three other dresses which could be made from this pattern. Not bad for another questionable pattern cover.

The Gallery

The Drape Wrap Skirt

Here’s my interpretation the wrap skirts I loved wearing as a kid and the first skirt I have worn in a really long time.

I made the skirt in Chiffon and lined it with voile. I’m wearing it over my Mademoiselle Dress for these pictures as my red knit top is being washed. Do give me a few days to put together the tutorial. I hope someone will find it useful. Like the Kaftan tute, this will be for both kid’s and adult’s sizes.

Have a blessed week!

Behind the Seams: “A letter to St Patrick” Dress

We are celebrating St. Patrick’s Day on The Sew Weekly Challenge and everyone is making something in green! Green has been my favorite color like forever, I even chose to go to a primary school which had the word green (in Mandarin) in it when I was six and my mum was crazy enough to agree to it!

I have never sewn a green dress and since I had just a few green fabrics in my stash I thought it would be an easy straight forward decision this week. How wrong can I be? I spent almost half the week deciding and through all that change of heart, I ended up washing all the green fabrics I have. ALL! That’s how fickle I was this week! At the end of it all, I even started on one project and ended up finishing another! Without further ado, here are the combinations of patterns/ green fabrics which got my brains working overtime!

The crazy combos

I wanted to sew the sundress in lime green with the floral fabric for the yoke and the blouse from the other pattern in lime green too. They could be worn together or as separates. However, I realized after studying the dress pattern closely that the seams for the front yoke and at the back didn’t meet and that spoilt the fun for the florals.

A knit dress in an animal/ paisley print was also considered but I was motivated to create more casual dresses as my son has requested that I pick him up from school in dresses. LOL! My lil man!

A dress with tie neckline using a chiffon with splatter of colors. This one troubled me a little intermittently as I felt there wasn’t enough green on the fabric.Okay, I used this Echino print on the project I started on but didn’t finish. I have actually completed the bottom but have not started on the top so I will continue with it later.  Eventually, I started on a sage green/ choco mint dress and that was when the drama really started. Read my letter to St Patrick here to find out when happened!

Pattern Review

I used the bodice from Simplicity 6327 and created my own skirt for the dress without a pattern. The bodice pattern was well designed with gentle cowl neckline with I adore. I decided to sew a different skirt as I wasn’t a fan of drawstring versions. The instructions were easy to comprehend and follow. The cowl neckline was created by sewing what I could describe as a combination of darts and pleats which I found pretty interesting since it is the first of such that I have sewn. The Take Manhattan tunic required an additional piece of fabric to create the neckline. I love the hairstyles and shoes featured on the cover of this pattern:)

Off course, I created a challenge for myself when I accidentally ripped bits of the bodice fabric near the back zipper. I hyperventilated even more when my seam ripper went missing (It is still missing!). I had to cut away the ripped area and zipper to savage the dress. Strips of the skirt fabric were cut to create two interfaced panels for the buttons and buttonholes in place of the zipper. I gave myself a lot more work on an otherwise easy to make dress.

The Gallery

The Photography Session

The location is Emerald Hill, a few blocks of conservation architecture tugged amongst shopping malls along Orchard Road. I have almost forgotten about the place though I have walked past it numerous times. The entrance to the lane is blocked by a pub so it’s not that visible from the main road. There are a few commercial establishments near the entrance but as I walked down the lane, most are private residences of the super rich.

It’s funny but a scout from St Patrick’s School (Yes, St Pat’s can you believe it!) actually asked if he could help me with any task for a small donation and he ended up taking these three photos for me.

Thank God for him as those were the only shots I had with the balloons which I thought added to the atmosphere of a St Patrick’s Day Parade. They flew away while I was busy setting up tripod for some barrel shots at a pub nearby. *Sigh*

The marvelous thing about Emerald Hill is so few people live there so there were hardly anyone who walked by while I was taking pictures and even when they see you doing so they are used to it. Many tourists drop up just to take photos of the place as do couples having their wedding photos taken. The buildings are just gorgeous!

Nice finishing for facings

Thanks to the brilliant Tanit-Isis, I now know a more efficient method of finishing the facings and I took photos of them too! I hope I understood the method correctly:) No more zig zag stitching on the facings for those of us who are serger-less!

Step 1: Pin the wrong side of the interfacing (non iron on) to the right side of the facings

Step 2: Stitch together

Step 3: Trim, clip and notch the seam allowance

Step 4: Turn the fabric right side out and press. When you press, the iron-on side of the interfacing will attach itself to the wrong side of the fabric.

It is now ready to be attached to the neckline:)

I was too stressed to take photos of the button panels but if anyone is interested, I will try to document it next time I do button closures:)

Eva Dress Contest: Do some voting!

Last but not least, I’ve submitted my Abandoned Hangar Dress for the Eva Dress Contest and all the entries are now up!  There are so many amazing works!!!  Go to Facebook and friend ‘Eva Dress’ and you can vote for your favorite entry (one only per category). Winners get vouchers for even more yummy patterns.

Enjoy your loved ones and your family. Have a safe week my sewing comrades!

Behind the Seams: The “Abandoned Hangar” Dress

Its the Oscar Inspiration Week! This week for TSW Challenge, we are to pick an inspiration from the best costume winners of the past and create an interpretation of them that we can wear outside of a movie set in 2011.

My movie of choice is The Aviator (2004), a biopic depicting the early years of legendary director and aviator Howard Hughes’ career, from the late 1920s to the mid-1940s. The film was directed by Martin Scorsese and starred Leo Dicaprio (Hughes), Cate Blanchett (Katherine Hepburn) and Kate Beckinsale (Ava Gardner). I watched the DVD of this film around a month ago and loved the costumes! My TSW post can be found here.

Off course I was tossed between Kate and Ava! But, in the end I chose to do an interpretation of the mustard gown Kate wore to a movie premiere. Here are the shots I took from my TV screen so please excuse the resolution.

Pattern Review

Eva dress pattern 1939 Evening gown



I used this 1939 Evening Gown sewing pattern from Eva dress which is a reproduction of McCall’s 9906 but instead of doing the long sleeves gown version, I sewed the short sleeves version and shortened the skirt length to make it more wearable.

The pattern and instruction are very much notch driven (so if you are using this pattern, remember to mark all of them) and the diagrams are helpful. The only part I found confusing was with reference to the yardage required for each variation as I realized later that there were three variations to the dress though the cover only showed two. A long gown with long sleeves, a dress with short sleeves and a dress with scalloped sleeves. I used around 2.5 to 3 yards of fabric for version B which is the scalloped sleeves version. This is not a difficult dress to make and can be completed quite quickly.

The fabric is exquisite. It’s a Hugo Boss crinkle jacquard in bronze & cream from emmaonesock. When cutting, I had to ensure that I cut all pieces in one direction.

Photography Adventure

I’m very tripod dependent but once in a while hubby is at home to lend a hand. Yay! Since the movie that inspired the dress is about Hughes and his love for aviation, I wanted to have the photos taken at Singapore’s first airport, the Kallang airport. Opened in 1937 (coincidentally, just two years before my dress pattern!), most of the airport has since been demolished or put to other uses, the distinctive terminal building was used as the headquarters of a statutory board until April 2009. It is currently unoccupied.

When I reach the location, however, there was major renovation taking place and the security guard did not allow us in.

Nonetheless, hubby and I didn’t give up and we soon discovered that outside the main gate were some historical walls and structures we could still use as background for the shoot. A structure that looked very much like an abandoned airplane hangar, the old colonial gates/ entrance to the airport and an old, partly demolished wall as you will find in the photos below. These structures made quite an impression on me as forgotten pieces of history and while I wasn’t allowed into the main terminal building, I sure hope the renovation will put it back to good use once again.

The Gallery

I love how this dress turned out!  We went shopping after the photos were taken and I felt fab in it. Love the movement of the skirt, the super-duper flattering and yet very classy fit. I even loved the bronze colored fabric which I initially thought might be a little aging to wear but it turned out delightful! Here are the close ups shots.

A special thanks to hubby for these photos and enduring mosquito bites with me that afternoon:) My sewing machine is finally home today! I miss it so much! Gotta get the next project going!

Have a wonderful week everyone!

Behind the Seams: Valentine’s Day, 40s Sweetheart Dress and a Poll

I hope you had a splendid Valentine’s day! (If you are from neighboring Malaysia, I’m so surprised and sorry to learn recently that celebrating Valentine’s day is banned over there).

After a lovely lunch date, hubby took me fabric shopping in Chinatown and bought me a surprise present! I said surprise because  I’ve already received my presents- two pairs of Irregular Choice shoes. Yay!  Before I reveal our surprise find, check out my new shoes! The first is a super cute pair in bright red, blue stitches, floral ribbon and orange lace and faux fur on the back.

The other pair is very tame in comparison, a simple black with ribbon and ribbed heel. Rather vintage looking.

Okay, back to the surprise. Hubby and I have been searching for a reasonably priced dress form locally for quite a while now and besides the adjustable one selling at Spotlight for almost US$425 (*faint*), there seemed to be no other options besides buying online and getting it shipped here. On Valentine’s Day, we found a fabric dress form mannequin exactly my size at US$100 in a Chinatown notions store! While it isn’t adjustable, I’m thrilled to finally have a body double to sew with. I have to not put on weight though. LOL. Here’s the beauty. Yay!!!

So, what did I get for darling hubby? He has been a pencil enthusiast since I got to know him eighteen years ago. Last month, we watched a Korean drama series called ‘Coffee House’. The protagonist-a novelist by profession, had a perfect wooden holder for all his immaculately hand sharpened pencils and my hubby commented how nice it was. Here’s a very similar handcrafted one I got him from this etsy seller for Valentines’ Day.

In conjunction with this lovey dovey day, the gals at TSW created our own versions of the valentine’s day dress. I love love love all the girls’ gorgeous creations so do check them out here.

The gallery

The bathroom close ups…

Back view without belt

Pattern Review

I used a vintage 1942 sewing pattern by Du Barry (5357). To be honest, I’ve never heard of Du Barry so I did a search to learn more about them. These patterns were manufactured by Simplicity Pattern Company in 1931 for selling exclusively at Woolworth Company Stores (Are these the equivalent of Woolworth supermarkets?). The latest date on patterns found is 1947 so it is possible that the brand was only around for 17 years.  I did a search on Vintage Pattern Wiki and realized it does not have an image of this pattern so I uploaded one, my very first photo contribution:)

I chose this pattern for Valentines Day as the sweetheart neckline and the inverted sweetheart seam below the waist reminded me of two joined hearts on a dress. And, what made it truly attractive, I have never sewed from an unprinted original 1940s sewing pattern!

Du Barry 5357 (1942)



Despite them being cramped on one page, the instructions were easy to follow and diagrams were of great help in enhancing my understanding of the steps. There was however no instruction on how the self fabric belt was made though it provided an estimated dimension for the fabric requirement for the belt.

Yay to my first completed project for ‘Sewing through the Decades‘. One down and nine to go:)

Photography Session

The fabric I used is the silk/cotton blend bought during our December trip to Phuket Thailand. I have never sewed with silk or silk blend and having used this material, I have to say that this is a completely different ball game. The fabric is the toughest that I have cut so far because it is so slippery. The good thing is, after I underlined it with poly lining, stitching it was not as difficult as I had imagined. Nonetheless, I took much longer than expected to complete the dress and when that finally happened I was excited (can’t wait to snap away) and exhausted (didn’t want to leave the house) at the same time so I decided to just have the photos taken in my living room. I am also deterred by the hot weather these days. Yes, we are officially back to the days of  sunny (or rather scorching) 34 degrees Celsius and I would have probably melted even before I set up the tripod if I were to venture outdoors. I kept the fan blasting in my living room the entire time and now I remember the reasons I depended on the white walls all the time!

Not to worry though cos’ hubby was around to take some photos for my next project… and yes, outdoors! Sure beats setting up the tripod anytime! Gotta get my lil prince better trained with the camera:)

Easy to make fabric belt

Note: I used this method as I purchased a belt interfacing which I realized is very much thicker and tougher than normal interfacing. Hence, turning the interfacing out with the right side of the belt didn’t seem possible. Unlike, ordinary interfacing, the belt interfacing comes with a standard width which usually fits perfectly into belt buckles.

Step 1: Loop the belt interfacing (BI) around your waist and ensure there are some excess for looping through the belt buckle.

Step 2: Pin the BI on the fabric fold and add seam allowance to the unfolded sides and at both ends of the BI. Cut fabric.

Step 3: With right sides facing, stitch close to the BI width down the full length of the fabric, leaving a 0.2cm allowance

Step 4: Trim allowance and clip edges before turning fabric right side out.

Step 5: Attach a safety pin to the end of the BI and pull the BI through the fabric tube.

Step 6: Turn the seam allowances at the edges into the wrong side of the fabric at both ends. Top stitch fabric to BI if you wish.

Step 7: Loop ends into belt buckles on both sides and pin. Ensure that the belt buckles meet. Try the belt on to ascertain fit. Trim BI as necessary.

Step 8: Stitch ends of belt close to back of buckle. You can use a zipper foot to get  closer or you can hand-stitch like I did. All done!

Phew! That was another long post! Are you sewing for Spring already? I’m sending my sewing machine in for servicing today as it has been rather cranky recently so I’ll be taking a sewing break till next Wednesday. I am gonna take my time and enjoy some fabric cutting before its return.
Before I end this post, could you do me a big favor by doing the poll and letting me know which of these two sewing patterns has a more hideous cover. I’m having a hard time deciding and its for a future project. Thanks a lot!

1980s dress

1950s dress

Enjoy your weekends everyone!

Sewing Plans Updates

You may notice that there are some new buttons on my blog. Yes, I’m participating in Made Me March 2011, the Craft Book Challenge and Sewing Through the Decades. Whenever I can, I will definitely try my best to fit these into TSW themes.

Made Me March 2011

Wow, how time flies! Self-Stitched September was more than four months ago and how that has changed my life! I’m in self stitched outfits every weekend, I am wearing dresses very frequently, I wore at least one self stitched garment a day throughout my Shanghai and Phuket vacations, for the lunar new year period and am looking at incorporating these pieces I’ve made into my weekdays wardrobe while playing chauffeur to my lil prince and princess. Here’s  my Made-Me March 2011 commitment:

I, Adey, The Sew Convert, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-March ’11. I endeavour to wear
at least one handmade piece of clothing each day for the duration of March 2011′

I still don’t feel absolutely ready to commit to entire outfits daily yet. Hopefully, I’ll be ready by SSS 2011.

I am seriously lagging behind the Pendrell sewalong! I’ve only just settled on the fabrics, both knits. The red pear knit is the muslin fabric I will be using and which I am hoping will become a wearable one. Hopefully, these will become my wardrobe staples this March and beyond 🙂

Pendrell blouses in Red pears and leopard print knits

Sewing through the Decades

This is a fantastic initiative to create garments from patterns through the decades. My target is to sew two outfits per decade from 1930s-1970s. I’ve shortlisted the patterns below but am leaving some options open for the second garment from 1940s-70s.


Eva dress pattern 1939 Evening gown

Eva dress 1935 Afternoon frock


Du Barry 1940s dress


Vogue 4882 1950s dress


Simplicity 8278 1960s


Kwik Sew 407 1970s Jeans

The Craft Book Challenge

Last but not least, the craft book challenge. The aim of this challenge is to make the most of the craft books sitting on the shelves. My original target was to complete a piece a month from craft books and magazines I already have before buying more. However, I realized that I might sew a few a month and none the other depending on TSW themes so I am going to be more lenient to myself. My revised target is to sew 12 items from craft books and magazines this year before further purchases.

Last year, I categorized Made Me items according to garment types. This year, I will be categorizing them based on these 4 challenges under the Made Me 2011 page. Think I’ve got myself fully committed for the year! What about you? Have you signed up for any sewing challenges this year?

Have a super-duper cosy valentines’ my friends and do stay tuned for my valentines’ dress which will be posted Friday PST!