Sunday, 28 July 2013

Louis or not Louis?

 Louis Vuitton Spring RTW 2013 collection did not leave me indifferent to its subtle geometric shapes and bursts of color. But for me, the yellow stands out more than any other color.




So when I saw this cute yellow & white check fabric in Fabrics&Fabrics in NY last April, I did not hesitate to purchase 1.5 metres.! The sales assistant claimed that the fabric was genuine Luis Vuitton but I did not know whether to believe him or not. The only thing I knew was that I badly wanted to make a simple shift dress from it!

If you follow me on Instagram, you have probably seen my attempt to immortalize this dress for the future generations ;)

The inspiration came from a Burda Style vintage pattern: B71113. Although I tried to use the pattern and later alter it, after the third muslin I still  could not achieve a perfect fit on the back, I gave up and drafted the same pattern using my own dimensions.

Let me explain to you a little bit more about the problem with my back... or rather problems, because there are two. Besides being cursed with prominent sway back, the top part of my back is round. My profile looks like this:

If you try to imagine a tubular piece of fabric put on this figure type, the bottom pulls it away from the body on the lower back and, instead of nicely flowing down, the fabric would gather on the bum. If I had bigger bust, it would pull the fabric to the front upper area. This tube would be all wrinkled and shapeless. Same happens with a garment with no seams or only back seams.

A person with swayback and rounded shoulders requires several alterations to the back. On my humble opinion, the easiest alteration is to add the center back zipper and adjust the CB curve according to your body measurements. But if a person has a round back like mine, the pattern needs more tweaking to make the back look nice.

FYI, more detailed explanations of different types of sway back alterations are described by Sherry.

The problem with a round back is that the fabric on the shoulder area tends to pucker because of my popped-out shoulder blades, which I call "wings". (I like the idea of giving positive names to unfavoured body parts). After brainstorming with my teacher on how to make the same design work for my back, we decided to integrate a seam cutting the back into two parts and mirroring the front panel (the new seam is marked in red on the technical drawing below). This tiny modification allowed me to adapt the top back part to my rounded shoulders without distorting the bottom.

Fit-wise, the result is quite satisfactory. The top part of the dress fits tightly to the shoulder area and my "wings" don't look too obvious. You can see on the photo that the fabric hugs nicely around the shoulder blades.

Skill-wise, I still have some way to go. While I managed to match checks along the zipper line on the top piece, the bottom could have been done much better.  I got so carried away with my little victory in matching the other seams that I failed with the bottom back part, which I sewed last ﴾͡๏̯͡๏﴿. Nobody's perfect, said my inner voice. Mental note: next time stay focused and double check the matching!

What I am proud of are the matched curve and front darts. I've got a long way to go to learn all the tricks in this area and you can clearly see that not all the checks on the front match. Besides, I did not do enough pressing on the front curve and that's why the seam jumps out at you.

Also, more could have been done to the side seams matching but it's not a complete disaster, after all ;) 

Design-wise, the dress is fully lined with white polyester which I sewed entirely by hand. To reinforce the armscye and neckline areas I sewed in strips of silk organza. At this point, I add them automatically. The hand-sewn lapped zipper is another design detail which I am absolutely in love with. I would add them to any garment! The final touch to the dress construction was understitching the neckline to prevent the lining from popping out.

What would be different next time? The fabric! 

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Notes from the past

Previously I told you that I am lucky enough to take pattern-making lessons from the most talented teacher I've ever met. She draws like the faster laser in the world, seriously! Ayumi-sensei confessed that she does not like sewing as much as drafting patterns! You should see her work! If within a year I can do at least 5% of what she shows me at the moment, I will be the luckiest kid on the block.

A few weeks ago Ayumi-sensei brought me two big notebooks. She explained that there were her mother's notes from the times she studied to become a pattern-maker, something like 50 years ago. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I am excited to share with you several notes from the two notebooks.

Interestingly, some of the design details are no more used in modern RTW garments, such as elbow darts...

... or this side dart

I felt honored to have caught a glimpse at the past of my teacher's history and wanted to share it with you tool

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Tokyo blogger's meet-up

My friend Angela had in idea for a Tokyo blogger's meet-up, as there had never been one before.  And so yesterday we met: Angela from Sake Puppets, Frances from Miss Matatabi, Chie from Vivat Veritas and me.

We organized the meet-up at Nippori textile town, which is vaguely reminiscent of NY fabric districts. The great thing about Nippori is that you can find lots of gorgeous Japanese cottons and linens. Like LOADS! Some of the bigger shops have a section with old collections where a metre of fabric can cost  as little ¥100 (approximately $1)!!!

In this picture, you can see Angela raving about her brand new cut of Korean cotton. I like the fact that it matches her bag
We shopped at lot in Tomato, one of the biggest shop in the district. Our interest was sparked by this section with photo prints, bright and eye catching, but non of us would usually wear something like this. Then somebody came with an idea of a challenge: buy a piece of fabric which put us out of our comfort zone, and make a garment by our next meet-up. And so we did ;-) Stay tuned, my friends!

For once, I brought a shopping list and solemnly promised to the group not to buy anything extra. But do you think they believed me? They did not! Needles to say that my eyes are bigger than my stomach (or in this particular case, my eyes were bigger than my bag)...

The shop policy "No Photo" was violated many times by our group. We pretended to be tourists ^.^

No meet-ups or fabric shoppings trips can conclude without a nice meal. Chie showed us an amazing Middle Eastern restaurant which looked like a Bedouin tent.  We opted for the "All you can eat" option and the generous owner was bringing more and more dishes until we could not eat anymore.

We had such a great time!

This post also seems like a good opportunity to mention the digital book that Angela and Frances recently released: Tokyo Craft Guide.

If you travel to Tokyo and are crazy about crafting, this is exactly what you need! This personalized guide explores six areas which are off the beaten tracks.  Even I, having lived in Tokyo for a while and considered myself a "local", have discovered many new addresses from this book! The information contained in the book is unique and you won't find it anywhere but in Tokyo Craft guide.

The book incorporates lots of external links, both to official websites of shops and also to Google Maps, showing the exact location of each place. Isn't it cool? If you walk in the area with a tablet or phone, you can quickly find the shop you are interested in!

After you're done shopping it's time to get some rest. Tokyo Craft guide lists recommendations for restaurants and coffee shops as well.

The book also contains tips and trick of craft shopping in Japan and a useful Japanese dictionary!

Are you up to the next Tokyo meet-up?

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Bikini yellow as summer

Which colour do you associate with summer? For me, it's yellow! Like the sun or sand, sunflowers and daisies. Therefore, I did not think twice when selecting a piece of lycra/spandex mix fabric for my very first bikini.

During the last few weeks,  I've had had plenty of reasons to be down which I will skip for now, so I ranted about my troubles to a friend who lives in Kuala Lumpur. Being a very optimistic and always positive person, he said, Why won't you come over and forget about your problems for a while?

He didn't have to ask me twice - without a second's hesitation I purchased tickets! Ten days spent enjoying crazy KL, historical Melaka  and a remote tropical resort on Langkawi island added some sweetness to my bitter situation...

... as well as champaign brunches!

Hang on, I am loosing the main topic of my post - the bikini!

I started by drafting a pattern from an old bikinis. I made two muslins,  adding some design modification, but the prototype did not turn out successfully and I had only one night left before the flight. My mission was clear: I could not leave my apartment without a new bikini.

Since there is always an easier solution to a problem I combined the BurdaStyle bustier #127 01/2012 and a copy of a my older bikini bottoms.

The top is fully lined with self fabric and added cups, but I should have skipped them because even as small as they are, they make the whole top part look HUGE and unrealistic ;-)

So, the bottoms are a copy of my old bikini and it took me no time to clone and sew them. It consists of three parts: front, back and le crotch. The front and the crotch were lined, then attached to the back part.

Next, I cut a 4cm strip of fabric and attached along the edges with a double zig zag.

The final step was to sew both sides together and add a waistband, consisting of a 7cm piece folded in two. I attached it as I would do a regular waistband, sewing one end of the band to the wrong side of the garment and stitching in the ditch from the right side.

I am happy with the new bikini but I would make some changes for the next version such as removing cups and adding a hook to the bra. Since the current top piece is in the shape of bandeau, I had troubles taking it off when it was wet

Working with four-way stretch fabric was new and challenging but I would like to sew more with it. After I finish my self-drafted bikini, I am tempted to make a pair of leggigns. Now, when I live all by myself (because my wonderful creature has already moved to London) my evenings are 100% dedicated to sewing. Luckily, we have not shipped our stuff yet!

I guess you all made a bikini or a swimsuit this summer?

Monday, 1 July 2013

Meet Yi Farn: Behing

Last month, I ran a giveaway of five Japanese sewing books together with Yi Farn, a Singapore based mom, seamstress, crafter and blogger from Japanese sewing books. If you are into Japanese sewing or crafting books, you can find a lot of useful information on her blog like how to understand Japanese patterns or dictionary of Japanese sewing terms. From time to time, Yi Farn also fulfills translation request and translates some patterns into English.

I though that I would be nice to get to know a bit more about Yi Farn  and asked her some questions...
 * * *

  • Tell us a little bit about yourself
    I am a work from home mother of 2 girls. I used to work as a freelance web designer + programmer, but after kids it was rather hard to attend meetings out of the home. So now I am only working for a couple of regular clients as they understand my "inflexible" hours. This is great as it gives me time to both be at home for the kids in the day, but also work and blog/sew at the same time.
  • Is there a big sewing/crafting community in Singapore?
    I wouldn't call it big at the moment, but I am definitely seeing a renewed interest in sewing/crafting. I often get emails from fellow Singaporeans who follow my blog and tell me they sew too. Most people tend to pick it up as a hobby after having kids, but there are also some young people who are into crafting and trying to turn it into a career/business. 
    • When and why did you become interested in Japanese sewing books? 
      I remember my first sewing pattern that I bought. I can't remember which brand it was but it comes in a paper envelope for one girls' party dress + 4 variations. The pattern paper was flimsy and the instructions were really hard to understand especially for a beginner. I remember improvising (a lot!) Then I bought some sewing books in English, the quality of the patterns were a lot better, and most of the time not much tracing was required which was great, but the books were really expensive and the instructions were also hard to understand. Out of ten steps there might be one diagram, and most of the time I had to have very good imagination or visualization skills. I still have those books but I have not actually made anything from them for a long time.

      The biggest and my favourite bookstore has always been Kinokuniya. And since the brand originated from Japan, needless to say they are very well stocked in Japanese sewing books. I bought one to try and despite not knowing any Japanese then, I was able to follow the diagrams. It did help that there are lots of kanji (chinese characters) that I can read, and that helped alot with the basic orientation like front and back, inside and outside. As well as key garment parts like sleeve, neckline, sides etc. Other than that the diagrams were also easy to follow. 

    The prices were also at least 20% cheaper than the english books, so it was really a no brainer. After my first few books, my collection just grew and I decided to learn hiragana and katakana to be able to read it better. It was also through this method, that I realize it is not necessary to be entirely fluent in Japanese to read the books, and that with some help, lots of Japanese sewing books fans can also learn sew from them.

    • Have you been to Japan?
      My first trip was in 2007 and since then it's been at least one trip a year. So that's like 6 times at least? The past two years we've been addicted to Hokkaido and we went 3 times in a row! It's a really lovely place both in winter and also summer. It is also not as crowded as Tokyo and very easy to get around on the subway and trains. The food there is also really good.
    • What types of books do you collect and how many books are in your collection?
      Mainly girls dresses, bags, zakka and recently, lots of adult clothes (for myself). I have about 70 books at the moment, and that's not including the magazines. 
    • What are your favorite items to make using Japanese sewing books?
      Girls dresses and bags! 

    • I know that you have a YouTube channel which I find great. Will you continue expanding your video tutorials?
      Yes. My aim is to produce at least one tutorial a month. I wish I could do more but it is rather time consuming to shoot and edit videos, hopefully when I get better at it I will be able to produce more.
    • What would your advice be to someone who does not read Japanese but is interested to try a Japanese sewing book?
      There are a couple of English translated book options that I have compiled on my blog ( Those are a good way to start familiarizing with the use of Japanese patterns, where the units are in cm and the seam allowances are not included in the patterns. The diagrams in the translated versions are also similar to the original Japanese ones. The books are also not very expensive.
      If you want to try a sewing book in Japanese, I would start with one of the magazines. Firstly it is cheaper to purchase compared to a book, and it is usually packed with a variety of projects, not just focused on a certain type of garment. These usually include a number of projects where they show you step by step photographs and that eliminates the need for translation.

      A good choice will be Cotton Friend. It includes both adult and kids wear, accessories, bags, zakka etc. For adult ladies wear and accessories, a personal favorite is the Female magazine, I find the looks in the book more updated and wearable than some of the other adult sewing magazines