The Big Purple One

At this time of year I find I have a yearning for a special dress: something a little bit out of the ordinary; modern yet suitable for festive occasions. I should have learned my lesson from last year’s experience with my birthday dress….

This year I came across this Cynthia Rowley for Simplicity 2406 and thought it would be perfect. The pattern had a nice gathered neckline, with the option of sleeveless, short sleeves or three-quarter length sleeves. I really liked the raglan sleeves and the idea of an elegant opening on the back, balanced with a sash around the waist.
I have a historic nervousness of commercial pattern companies due to the vagaries of sizing. I’ve only made a couple of garments from the Big 4, and every one has had issues with ease and has been far too big, despite paying attention to the finished garment measurements. I really don’t understand where I go wrong, but I have read of people going down several sizes to offset the generous amounts of design ease. Foolishly, I graded up a size at the hips based upon mine and the finished garment measurements.

A somewhat wrinkled back view, fresh from the suitcase!

So, having consulted my measurements, I plunged right in. I had high hopes of a cute, almost-cocktail style dress and decided to make the first one from a lovely rich purple viscose. If all went well, I might even have used some of my precious Shanghai Tang silk for the ‘real one’. Herein lay the first problem. I hadn’t spotted that the fabric requirement only covered the dress itself and the amount required for the sash was not included. I dashed back to the shop to find that the fabric was no longer in stock.

So no matching sash. My next revelation was that, once stitched up, my ‘almost-cocktail’ dress resembled something more akin to a cassock, or, as I now like to think of it, a giant Quality Street chocolate – the Big Purple One in fact.

Unsure whether to salvage it or not, I ended up taking around 4 inches from the underarm side-seam down to the hips to give it some shape as you can see in this photo. Despite it being nothing like I envisaged, I do rather like the raglan sleeves and the gathered neckline. So much so, that here I am wearing it on Christmas Day.

There’s probably more to be removed from the sides if I’m really to salvage it. What do you think? Is it worth it?

Oh, and pardon the facial expressions. My small people were running riot at the buffet breakfast while we tried to get some quick snaps!

Tokyo: Possibly the best fabric shopping in the world!

In between narrowly missing a bidet facial (courtesy of my youngest who can’t resist pressing buttons on the Japanese toilets), spending my life savings in Tokyo’s toy shops and my fave shop ever, Tokyu Hands, and stroking hedgehogs and bunnies in a pet cafe, I managed a few hours’ respite in Tokyo’s fabric district, Nippori.

I’ve been to Japan a couple of times before and had only found expensive Liberty lawn in the main department stores. Since finding the online sewing community I’ve been able to track down some of Asia’s finest fabric emporiums. For my trip to Tokyo I consulted Cashmerette’s fantastic account of fabric and yarn shopping in Japan.  Her top tip that I share with you is: bring cash. Most stores don’t take plastic. Here I am, pictured above, on the starting blocks, and in the footsteps of many illustrious sewing bloggers (who’ve also posted the same photo)!   

There’s a whole street of fabric shops in Nippori, the largest being Tomato (which has several stores in a short stretch). Being a fool, I decided not to head straight for the 5-storey main Tomato but work up to it slowly, savouring the anticipation. I made a couple of purchases en route: some red French terry for a Bluegingerdoll Bonnie and some black cotton/viscose for a second Colette Wren (assuming the toile and the first go to plan).  What I discovered when I made it to Tomato was that this was surely the best stocked fabric store I have ever been inside! (n.b. I haven’t yet been to Mood NYC, but one day…).

Check out these gorgeous plaids! I stupidly didn’t buy any despite visiting them three times and now I’m consumed with shopper’s remorse. What was I thinking?? I even thought about going back for a second visit but I ran out of time! I’m on the verge of purchasing some online from the UK to make up for it. I am obsessing over Fancy Tiger Crafts’ Grainline Alder/Archer shirt dress for next winter!  

I saw these gorgeous Japanese sewing patterns. Why does everything look so much more stylish in Japanese?  

I love a stripe, but even I was dumbfounded by the selection in Tomato. These were just the cotton jersey fabrics. I succumbed to a black and white version to make my Christmas pressie Tilly Agnes. I had made a list of projects and requirements before I went just in case the selection sent me into choice-overload. I’m pleased to report that I stuck to it. I didn’t buy any cutesy Japanese prints that I probably wouldn’t wear, and I did buy mainly knits which I find really hard to come by.

 So here are the spoils: some French Terry in red and jade for some seasonal Bluegingerdoll Bonnies, black cotton/viscose, a tartan plaid for a Christmas Anna for next year, and some Sevenberry blue dotty cotton. The last two were from the 100¥ wall at Tomato, so a whopping 55p per metre! If I could only shop at Tomato once every couple of years I’d never need to go elsewhere. Ah, Japan. When can I return?  

A Festive Belcarra

Happy almost-Christmas, people! I did make a festive dress for myself from a lovely rich purple viscose. It was the Cynthia Rowley Simplicity 2406 pattern and should have been a cute little party dress. Instead it turned out like a cassock and henceforth shall be known as ‘The Big Purple One’ in honour of everyone’s favourite Quality Street! I don’t have a lot of luck with ‘special event’ dresses – for evidence of last year’s see my birthday Donna Karan number!   

So a quick and satisfying make was in order!  I had bought this glorious Japanese cotton lawn on a lunchtime visit toSpotlight, the Australian craft superstore. Irrespective of what’s on my shopping list, Spotlight always comes up with the goods.   

With such a bold print, I wanted a simple shape, so dug out my trusty Sewaholic Belcarra pattern. It’s got lovely raglan sleeves with cuffs, and a nice hourglass shape. I get a lot of wear out of my Liberty version. As with earlier versions I needed to grade the side seams down a couple of inches from the waist to the hem. Sewaholic produce patterns for pear-shaped ladies and there was a bit of excess I needed to remove. I’m really pleased with this version. It will get a lot of wear, particularly to work with my culottes.

 I’m determined to get the Big Purple One photographed, if only for my Top 5 Misses of 2015. It’s not that bad now it’s been altered, but still makes me feel like a choir boy! Happy Christmas. X


A Moto Jacket by SBCC Patterns

I made a jacket!! It’s not the most seasonally appropriate item I’ve made, and it came hot on the heels of my Linden sweatshirt. You could conclude that I’m yearning for some chilly Christmas weather! The malls of KL have been full of amazing Christmas decorations since mid-November. This must have triggered some Northern European subliminal behaviour in me.

I first saw this jacket made up by Heather Lou of Closet Case Files. It was absolutely love at first sight. If the truth be told, I still visit her blog to look longingly at it even now!  So I had to console myself by making my own.

The pattern is the Moto Chic Jacket by Skinny Bitch Curvy Chic Patterns (SBCC), who specialise in petite and petite plus-sizing. I’m not petite in any dimension, so after consulting SBCC’s Betsy for advice I added 1″ to the length of the bodice and cut a size medium. The adjustment was sufficient and resulted in a perfectly fitting jacket all over, but particularly across the bust and back. I can only conclude that the drafting of this pattern is exceptional. It’s exciting to find a pattern company that uses dimensions similar to mine.

This jacket has been a labour of love, and I’ve taken my time over every single step. Unusually for me, I’ve made several items whilst this jacket has been under construction. I guess the tropical temperatures meant that I wasn’t desperate to wear it immediately. I also had the urge for a few quick-fix projects such as the Linden sweatshirt and Hemlock tee. Finally, the shaming of my unfinished Anna dress as part of the #Sewvember photo hop caused me to complete that too.

There’s a few new techniques in here for me: an outer jacket zip, two-part sleeves, and a bagged lining. I used a dark navy cotton drill for the outer, and a bright pink African wax cotton from my stash for the lining. I’d used this cherry print for a pair of Sew Over It Ultimate Trousers, so I guess that presents the option of matching my trousers to my jacket! I love the design features on this jacket. The peplum is really flattering and hits the waist at just the right place. When zipped up, the jacket gives a really nice fitted look.

I even went as far as adding pink bias binding to the visible seams! That’s got to be the point of handmade clothes, right? I’m wearing it here with my favourite H&M striped Tee dress; one of the few items I’ve bought this year. It does feel strange to wear shop-bought when the majority of my wardrobe is handmade, but you can’t help what you fall in love with!