Thursday, 25 December 2014

Skirt sloper or how I started my skirt collection.

Merry Christmas everyone!

A few months ago, I went back to school, to the National Tailoring Academy here in Dublin. During the 30-week course we are supposed to learn how to draft and sew a ladies jacket. This course has awoken my dormant drafting skills which had been hibernating since my move from Japan back to Europe, and I realized how cool it is to draft your own patterns! So I decided to experiment with my basic slopers.

What is a sloper? According to the dictionary, a sloper is “a basic pattern without seam allowances used as a tool to create other patterns”. When I lived in Tokyo, I took pattern-making classes with Ayumi-sensei, and she helped me develop my bodice and skirt slopers. Despite the fact that it took us ages, I ended up with both a bodice and skirt which fit me like a second skin.

As I looked at the sloper, tons of skirt designs started flickering in front of my eyes and I began to jump around the room. Of course, I immediately brooded over the idea of reducing my fabric stash and creating a mini autumn/winter skirt collection. How does that sound?

My all time favourite Andy coat!
Today, I’ll show you a skirt made from the sloper, with no modifications whatsoever. But first, the sloper! Did you notice that there are two back darts?

Usually multiple darts are drafted in areas where the difference between the waist and hips circumferences is very big. For example, if you have a protruding tummy you may want to add two darts to the front for better shaping. In my case, due to the 30-centimetre difference between my waist and hips, my swayback is too prominent; therefore I drafted two darts in order to make the transition from the waist of the skirt look smoother.

And here is the skirt! I could not help using some of the zillion metres of NiniIro fabric which I brought from Japan. As ridiculous as this may sound, I underlined it with silk organza. If you haven’t ever used NaniIro double-gauze before, you may not know that it wrinkles quite easily. And tell me, who likes to iron? Ok, I do, but maybe not every day ;) Besides, silk organza helps create a sharp and crisp look.

So, this is the basic of my collection. The next skirt will be inspired by one of the skirts from  this Pinterest board.

Have you been drafting lately?

Friday, 21 November 2014

Elves hijacked my sewing mojo!

For the last two months my life has been quite intense, emotional and full on events. I went on a two-week trip to Tokyo, a few friends came to stay with me in Dublin, another friend got pregnant and I am trying to spend more time before she becomes mum, my parents got married for the second time after being divorced for 19 years, and last but not least, news from Ukraine has not always been good! Due to all this, I have not had any significant progress in sewing.

Before my sewing enthusiasm left me, my latest achievement on the fabric battlefield was this shirt-dress with hip yoke which, due to a lack of fabric, turned into an asymmetric shirt.

The inspiration for the shirt came from the Talent’s sister blog. Not only is Nadia an amazing seamstress, she also has a great eye when it comes to working with colours and, when I saw her shirt-dress, I totally wanted one myself.

I chose to work with this delightful NaniIro fabric from my stash. The pattern required 2.25 metres of 140-centimetre-wide fabric. However, the two-metre cut I wanted to use measured only 106 centimetres across. (Do you follow me? ;O) It took me a while to play with placement of the pattern pieces, but in the end, I managed to save on the length of the garment, the sleeves and the collar.

Despite the fact that I used the fabric in the most efficient way, I don’t like this shirt and, objectively, it does not look good on me. I don’t like the yoke, nor do I like the asymmetric back. The worst part of it was that the day after the photoshoot my sewing mojo disappeared.

I’ve never felt so miserable sewing-wise before! In the course of the last two months, I attempted to work with three different patterns but none of them were what I wanted. I cut one in the fabric and, while sewing, realized that it was not my style. The other two patterns remain at the muslin stage and need some modification but I feel hesitant about the alteration process. I wish I knew why...

This weekend, when I took the time to reflect on it, I came to the conclusion that sometimes you need to step back from something you feel passionate about in order to move forward. So I decided to stop sewing and think about sewing, read sewing blogs or look at my patterns for a few days to bring my motivation back. Instead, I’ll try to start doing something which I don’t do well, like cooking. Hopefully, this will help!

What do you usually do when your sewing motivation disappears?

Monday, 22 September 2014

Hop to my blog!

The blog hopping wave came to me all the way from Italy. The lovely Silvia a.k.a. Sewing Princess, asked me to write about me and myself : ) I like reading about personal stuff on other blogs, so I hope you enjoy it.

* Why do I write?

I started writing because I wanted to keep track of my trials and errors, successes and failures in sewing. I started blogging at the same time as I began pattern-making evening courses at ESMOD Tokyo. This blog was like a thread connecting me to the “Western world” and the sewing community while I felt foreign and lonely in Japan. At the time I started the blog, I had not made many friends in Japan let alone know anybody interesting in sewing. This blog to me was like a breath of fresh air: being able to talk about my passion and meeting people with similar interests was so nice! I ended up connecting with so many amazing people around the globe! Even though I’ve never met many of you in real life, I feel like we became friends and it is such a great feeling!

I drafted and sewed this shirt during my first year at ESMOD Japan

I also write this blog to maintain my English. Although I work in a multinational company, 80% of my work colleagues are non-native English speakers. And even though we use English as our communication language, there are very few people who master English. By putting my thoughts together on the pages of this blog, I try to improve my linguistic skills and progress in writing. I really have fun telling stories about my sewing and - why not - consider blogging as a possible source of income in the future.

* What am I working on?

I have almost finished a skirt from the French sewing book Grains de couture, “Perle de Nacre”. It was the first time for me to work with a French pattern. I promise to write about my experience shortly.

Three weeks ago, I started the Bespoke Jacket making class at the Dublin Tailoring Academy. If you follow me on Instagram, you have probably seen many tricky lines coming along. At present, we are finishing drafting sleeves.

Becoming a sewing student again pushed me to revisit my pattern-drafting skills. I took out my slopers and started playing around with them. One of my autumn blog projects is to share with you how to modify a basic skirt sloper. I am thinking about 4-5 variations. Stay tuned!

Since winter is around the corner, one of my projects is to make two coats, using the Ingrid coat pattern by Style Arc and a BurdaStyle pattern.

* How does it differ from others of its genre?

I combine an interest in couture techniques and wearable every-day clothes. I have not made many fancy dresses (in fact, only one!). On the other hand, I apply couture techniques - which I learnt from Susan Khalje, online and in person - to almost every project in order to create good-looking and durable garments. It’s not always a great success but our failures keep us going!

But sometimes my sewing pays off: this year, my Louis Vuitton dress was featured in the German BurdaStyle magazine! I almost collapsed when I received the magazine ;)

* How does my writing process work?

In most cases, I write when I have a garment to show or a topic I would like to discuss with the broader community. Usually, I write posts in one go after reviewing my photos.  The photos help me put my ideas into words and also help me to come up with topics.

* Who’s next?

Next, I would like to hear more from a blogger who keeps on inspiring me for years, Marina from Frabjous Couture.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

How to make office wear look less boring

Before I begin I'd like to note that I was neither paid nor influenced to write this post. All opinions are my own!

This is me at work :) 
I've wanted to discuss this topic for a while but one thing always stopped me: none of the companies I've ever worked for have had a dress code. I consider myself lucky because during the 10+ years of my professional life I have never been confronted by anybody because of the way I dress. Depending on my mood, the weather or you name it, I wear a jeans/T-shirt combo, or a fancy dress or a quirky outfit: nobody cares how I look. The same goes for client meetings: I don't always dress smartly for those. Having said that, I do not envy people who work in an environment with a strict dress policy, such as some of my friends from the financial sector or other "serious" industries. When I lived in Japan, I was particularly shocked by the monotonous mass of people working in corporations (salaryman, as they are usually called) on public transport, dressed in super boring and similar-looking outfits, Seriously, they all looked like clones!

I decided to share my thoughts on the subject and hear what you have to say. If we are lucky, we can create our own wardrobe and add a lot of special elements which make us stand out more! In saying that, I am sure, many of you are confined by rigid company dress policies.

So if I worked for a company with a dress code I would...

Sew my office wear from more expensive fabrics. 

In Japan, my company was located in the same tower as Barclays Bank and Samsung Ericsson. Every day as I approached the elevators, I could clearly identify who works where. Although people from both companies wore suits, skirts and shirts, they quality of the fabric their clothes were made from was not the same. I am sure that investing a little bit more into a higher quality fabric would resolve two issues: a smarter garment look and its longevity.

 Add colour to the strict office look!

If I had to sew my office wear, I'd use a lot of structured fabrics, materials with contrasting threads or simply more colours in contract to a black and white office palette.

On a business trip to our office in India. I fell in love with their daily outfits!

Use modern patterns to create a classic look. 

In my personal opinions, Style Arc does it better than anybody else. I may be wrong but Chloe, the designer behind the brand, spots all the newest fashion trends and immediately translates them into dashing patterns! I also like the way she pairs her patterns, based on celebrities' styles, to create an accomplished look and to give outfit suggestions.


Bring an element of surprise!

Buttons, a little embroidery or a contrasting lining can please even the most conservative boss!

One of my favourite "surprise" garments out there is Marina's godet skirt! The little bit of colour she used for the lining puts a smile on my face. Speaking of which, last year, I also sewed a garment with burst of colour, a classic black French jacket.


Whenever I seek an idea for accessorising, I often turn my eye to Erika B., a sewing and fashion blogger from the US. While her style is not really the same as mine, this woman know how to dress up!

Now, I'd like to ask you, especially those of you who do have to follow the office rules: if you sew you office wear, do you have any tricks to share? What do you do in order to stand out and make your outfit look less office-like?

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Mad for stripes!

Just as there are "cat" and "dog" people, I believe there are "dots" and "stripes" people, and I am the latter. Although I do occasionally wear clothed with polka dots, stripes occupy a special place in my heart. Slightly more than a metre of stripy fabric and an ultra simple pattern transformed into a super cozy and comfortable dress.

This project start from a Burda pattern. When I first saw the pattern in the magazine, Idid not pay too much attention to it because I was interested in more sophisticated designs. Now the situation has changed slightly; because I am cycling everywhere, I want to combine and elegant look but at the same time feel comfortable. The other day I was leafing through a pile of Burda magazines hunting for a "comfy glamorous cyclist look. And there it is!

The Chill Dres is a V-neck drew which features only two pattern pieces: front and back. I was drawn to the pattern because it curves at the waist and flows along my body without being too tight or baggy. I sewed a size 38 without any changes.

Having read reviews by other seamstresses who had made the same dress, I noticed they expressed frustration with the sleeves. They pointed out that the side seams finish below the bust line, thus causing the wearer to show some skin than they might have intended to! Well, it did not put me off cutting the pattern without modifying the side seam. When I wear this dress, I put a simple skin colour tube top underneath and it resolves the issue. Also, it creates amazing ventilation when I cycle and sweat does not leave any stains on it. And besides, if someone wants to look at my armpits, good luck to them! Who cares!?

I like this dress so much that I have decided to make more versions of it. A couple of cuts of knit fabric from my stash will be happy!

While writing this post, I realized that Heather from Closet Case Files recently came up with a similar look but with the Coco dress. As they say, great minds think alike :) 

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Why do we buy so many patterns?

Every time my non-sewing friends come to my apartment and see my pattern collection, they ask: “Why do you have so many? Will you ever have time to use them all?” My answer is no and, in all honesty, I don’t even know why I have so many sewing patterns. I realized the real price of my hobby when, during the move from Japan, at least three of the moving boxes were full of patterns.

When I had just started sewing, I felt overwhelmed by what the pattern world had to offer: Burda Style, Vogue patterns, vintage patterns, and independent pattern designers, which had only started to emerge! The options and possibilities were endless!  So my natural reaction was to buy a little bit of this, and a little bit of that. I did not know back then that each pattern designer, whether industrial or independent, uses different sizing and body standards. Take, for example, Tasia, a designer behind Sewaholic patterns, who clearly states that her patterns are for pear shaped girls. The “Big 4” patterns include big seam allowance and ease while BurdaStyle does not. As a matter of fact, many of these patterns have never ended up on my sewing table and probably never will!

In Japan, I discovered a whole new world of Japanese sewing patterns and books. I would spend hours in book shops leafing through the pages of numerous sewing books and, of course, many of the books followed me home, until one day, I realized that the designs were 95% repeats. I kept on buying Japanese sewing books for their aesthetics and cuteness.

It is very difficult to resist buying a new pattern from an indie designer, especially when, literally, every month a new brand appears on the horizon. New modern designs, very detailed sewing instructions with step-by-step technical drawing, sexy packaging: what’s not to like! I felt equally good giving my money to a small business rather than to an established house.

You can’t neglect the fact that when you see your favourite blogger post about a cute dress or skirt you instantly want to buy the same pattern. Seeing a garment made by a talented blogger immediately makes me cover their pattern. As a result of such compulsive buying, some of the patterns turned out quite nicely while others did. This happened because I did not take into account my body shape and proportions while admiring a finished garment.

Personally, I am a big fan of PDF patterns. Do I have to say more? If a pattern designer offers PDF patterns, the chance that I will buy more than one is super high. The amount of them I use after remains a mystery though.

With this in mind, a few months back, I put myself on a pattern-buying diet. Before buying a pattern or a sewing magazine, I try to answer a number of questions. If the answer is ‘no’ to most of them, I avoid buying. Here they are:

  • Do I like the pattern?
  • Do I want the pattern?
  • Do I need the pattern?
  • If I buy the pattern and spend little time adjusting and modifying it, will I still enjoy working with this pattern?
  • When it comes to buying a magazines: do I like more than 5 patterns from it?
  • Does this pattern suits my body type?
  • Is it a good use of my money?
  • Now, do I really need this pattern?

Then I think about my existing pattern library and try to remember whether I have similar pattern. Maybe, I can modify a pattern instead of buying a new one? Can I combine different elements of patterns to make it look like this pattern? Would I be able to draft this pattern myself?

This little exercise has worked pretty well for me. Since I started being more pattern-conscious, I have spared my apartment from new wave of pattern hoarding and I’ve saved a couple hundred euros.   

Quite often I go back to my BurdaStyle collection (I own approximately 20 issues) and I find a lot of inspiration there. I think about the possibilities of combining different patterns, mixing and matching various elements of different designs to make it work for my body or drafting my own patterns. Since leaving Japan, I have not been drafting patterns due to the lack of space, but this is something I’d like to change.

Let to tell you why I decided to write this post. The straw that broke the camel’s back was this flounce top by Salme patterns which I purchased on a whim, mainly because it’s a PDF pattern. Once the top was ready and I put it on, I looked absolutely hideous in it.

Have you ever felt like this?

When a peasant dress pattern meets Ruby Star Spring by Melody Miller

Since mid-spring I have been trying to sew using only my fabric stash. Sometimes I get a clear idea of what I want to sew just by looking at fabric, as in the case of the Dotty blouse. It took me much longer to decide what to do with this beautiful fabric, Ruby Star Spring, designed by Melody Miller.

I bought this cut ages ago -  in December 2011, to be more precise - in Miss Matatabi's Etsy shop.    Made from 85% of cotton and 15% of linen, Ruby Star Spring feels nice against the body and doesn't wrinkle so fast as 100% linen. 

I fell in love with the print but could not decide how to use the fabric in order to showcase it, until one evening, I had an epiphany: Nani Iro sewing book! The Nani Iro book was released with the exact purpose I had in my mind for my Ruby Star Spring: to show off the fabric! therefore, as you might expect, most of the designs in the book are large and baggy. Do yo think this dress looks more like a tablecloth or a bag?

By the way, you can read the full review of this book on

The pattern I decided on is a peasant-looking dress with a gathered front and back yokes. The yokes are sewn to the right side of the garment exposing the raw edges. 

I sewed a size L and added 30 cm to the skirt and 10cm to sleeves. The book suggest to line the dress but I did not.  The only difficulty I experienced while sewing was with the neckline. I tried my best to be as neat as possible!

On the inside, all of the seam allowance are bound with self-fabric bias tape. 

I am not quite sure whether this dress suits me or not but I have to say that I feel very comfortable in it and with another 6 metres of Melody Miller Kokka fabric in my stash, expect more baggy garments from the Nani Iro sewing book! 

Monday, 11 August 2014

Red Dotty Blouse

At long last, here is the Dotty Blouse. It took me more than three weeks to finis it but, hey, I am a busy girl.

What I liked most about the blouse is its front. It consists of only one piece of fabric, creating an illusion of a wrap top tucked in; I think it kind of suits me.

Style Arc suggests to sew the Dotty from any light weight and drapey fabric. The only requirement your fabric needs to fulfill is to be two sided because of the way the front pattern piece is drafted. I used some crêpe-de-Chine from Mood bought two years ago. Do I have to tell you how much I love to wear silks? The only downfall of this gorgeous fabric is its ability to wrinkle in a matter of seconds.

After I'd dolled myself up for a photo shoot, it started to rain. Following the amazing summer that we had this year in Ireland, the rain felt almost like an insult. But I absolutely wanted to show the Dotty off! I took some pics on my balcony; not very glamorous though.

I paired the blouse with my favorite pair of the Jamie Jeans
But, as often happens in Ireland, the rain stopped as suddenly as it had began and a few minutes later I went to the park in front of my building.

Half of the blouse is hand stitched. As I explained in the previous post, I chose to hand stitched the hem. The back collar and the cuffs were also sewn by hand. I'd say that hand-stitching silk is my #1 sewing-related activity. If you have done it at least once, you know what I am talking about.

While researching whether other bloggers made the same blouse, I came across a cool Pinterest board featuring RTW clothes which could be sewn with Style Arc patterns. Worth having a look for inspiration!

Would I sew this blouse again? Yes! But I'd like to work on other projects from my endless sewing list before ^.^

Monday, 28 July 2014

The Soma is hot this summer!

I've  decided to sew a swimsuit because:
  • all the swimwear I like costs more than I am ready to pay;
  • there is a poor swimsuit selection where I live;
  • I hate the process of trying swimwear on in fitting rooms; 
  • my old one-piece swimsuit has just celebrated its 7th anniversary;
  • I wanted to sew a cool swimsuit!

My doubts about purchasing this pattern disappeared when a friend said:"Hurry up! The summer will end in no time!".  

The pattern is the Soma swimsuit by Papercut Patterns: the sexiest and the trendiest swimwear pattern out there at the moment! If you know anything cuter, more flattering and easy to sew, give me a shout.

When it comes to the sizing, I find that Papercut Pattern adds a rather generous ease. With this in mind, I cut a size XXS for both top and bottom, although according to their size chart my upper body measurements corresponds to a S and the lower part would be a M. As the result, the swimsuit fits well enough.

Both the lycra and the lining come from the Okadaya, one of my favourite craft shops in Tokyo, where I bought it last summer. Due to the fabric's thickness and one additional layer of lining, I could feel the bulk in some areas, particularly around the waist. I wish I knew some tips to eliminate the bulkiness. Anyone?

When I started researching online sources for the fold-over elastic (FOE) and bra strapping, it turned out that I would be better off making my own than having them shipped to Ireland. Most US websites' estimated shipping added up to $50 and UK sites offered a mere £20! Instead of making tons of silly purchases to justify spending $50 on shipping, it took me less than one hour and some self fabric to produce 3 metres of straps!

I used this tutorial, Method 1, for the straps. As for the FOE, I cut a 3cm wide strip of fabric on the crosswise grain and sewed together folding in two, as if I had made a wide spaghetti strap.

I really like the high rise bottom part and how it hugs my body. Last weekend I have baptized it in the Irish Sea! Good news though, the swimsuit did not fall off in the sea!

By the way, the Papercut Collective girls are in the midst of running a Soma tutorial. So hurry up and buy your fabric and supplies because it may ran out: everybody needs a Soma!