Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Winter Sewing Woes

Greetings!!! It's been so long between posts, but I am still here! 

I don't know what to blame for my absence in blogland and Twitterverse (Twittersphere?) during the last few weeks... the gloomy Melbourne winter - it gets dark at 5pm...!... SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and sad about the finale of Gossip Girl, Desperate Housewives, REVENGE (that was the best cliffhanger EVER!!!!), plain laziness... but I have still been there lurking and loitering. 

I am still stalking all my favorite blogs, but I haven't been able to comment because of poor internet reception on the train (where I do most of my blog reading), CAPTCHAS and worst of all - iPhone autocorrecting my captchas.

I haven't blogged about a finished project in three weeks... because I haven't completed any sewing project. Wah. The dress in sewing class is almost finished, promise, just need to finish the cummerband. All handsewing is done!

I haven't been motivated lately, the last two Saturdays I was suppose to go fabric shopping (at the nicer fabric stores), but I spent the day sleeping. Zz. I love my sleep. During winter I am like a bear. 

I did manage to go to Spotty the other night and picked up about 4m of fabric for $7. Yep, $7. End of the bolt, scanner didn't work, cashier was ceebs so she gave it to me for seven bucks. Win. today I went back to get lining and zipper.

What did I buy? Cotton sateen. Surprised?? Haha. I was actually after black fabric to make skirt for work, but black and white anything sell out as soon as they are in stock. I give up, I think I'll just buy some Target skirts for work. 

So here's what I have planned for this weekend (was actually planning to sew a mock up tonight, but TV and got in the way).

I want this dress to fit well so I am trying something I read on Gertie's blog re sizing. 

I have taken my measurements and will sew up the size that have the "finished measurements" that match my measurements.

Bad news, my waist measurement has increased by 3cms. But of course, my bust measurement is the same. All my weight goes to my waist. Wahhhhh! 

If I went with the sizing recommendation on the envelope, I should be cutting:
  • Bust 8
  • Waist 14 (what?!?!)
  • Hip 10
Instead, I am going to cut:
  • Bust 4 (finished measurement 32 1/2" - already know this will be huge like my vintage dress, my bust is 30")
  • Waist 8  (finished measurement 27 1/2")
  • Hip 8  (finished measurement 37" - little bigger than my hip measurement, but better bigger than too small)

I think that is reasonable. My main concern is my butt fitting into an 8 skirt. I want to dress to skim my body. Not tight, not baggy. This project is all about the fit!! I don't want a wrinkly butt.

If I can work out the perfect fit for this dress I will be so happy! I'd love to have it fit me like this one

It's a very simple pattern, one front piece, one back piece, sleeves. Fully lined. Darts. 

Wish me luck!

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Saturday, 19 May 2012

The belated Mothers' Day post.

A very belated Mothers' Day post. I have been wanting to dedicate a post to mummy dearest but have been so busy this week that I have barely had time to clean my room! I am sleeping amongst stacks of folded laundry in my bed.

I took up a night class in business budgeting and am busy with that, plus sewing, and Gossip Girl and Desperate Housewives season finale... there's not been much free time this week to visit my mum and get baby photos that I wanted for my post. 

I logged back on to dreaded "Fakebook" tonight to find photos for work. I have been asked to submit a photo of myself for the company website, and I am struggling to find a good photo. Every single photo I can find of myself I am eating, holding a glass of alcohol (or 2), or planting kisses on peoples' cheeks. I don't want our clients seeing those photos, haha. I did find photos of my mum and I from the 90s in my Facebook albums so I can finally write a post about my mum!

If you have read my profile, you will know that the reason I took up sewing was because my mum encouraged me to. Most people from Asian backgrounds know how to sew. In Vietnam, I think sewing is one of the main subjects in the curriculum. Not only does my mum know how to sew, she also knits and can make animal toys. She is a very talented lady!

My dog/bear toy in 1988...

My dog/bear toy in 2012! Missing eyes, but all good.

My mum made me that dog/bear toy when she was pregnant with me. I think she crocheted it using wool. It had little eyes that moved and pom poms around it's neck. I carried him everywhere. 

Twenty five years later, he's lost his eyes and pom poms and is a little dirty, but I still keep him around. He's priceless. I don't think I ever named him.


That is a photo of me on my 2nd Birthday in New Zealand. My parents were boat people from Vietnam and I was born in the Phillipines at a refugee camp. We were then sponsored and moved to New Zealand to live. 

I don't remember much about my 2nd birthday, but I know I was wearing lipstick and eyeshadow! What the!

Sometime in the 90s.

In the photo above, I am wearing a beanie my mum made for me. I love this photo, mum and I look so happy, hehehe. 

My dad used to take us around Auckland, New Zealand and take photos. They were so much more precious back then, a roll of 24 photos would last us one year. Now I take photos for MMM and I take about 30 photos per outfit. 

I really like my mum's outfit, those stocking look so pretty!


In 1992, my family came to Australia for a holiday. We went to Melbourne because that's where my mum's sister lived. We liked it so much in Australia that 3 years later we moved here.

In the photo above, I am wearing a hand-made dress, made of some sort of shiny polyester... satin with a tulle underneath. Such cute lace details.

Below is me in another hand-made outfit. I went with my parents to a wedding and in this photo I was showing off my red shoes. I had such dorky home hair cuts and I was a very chubby toddler.

The reason the photo has that gold frame around it is because my dad got the photo enlarged and framed. Embarrassment.

Hand-made top and skirt by mummy.

My mum was a machinist by trade. In NZ she worked at a lingerie factory. I admire that she worked with lace and slippery materials, I now appreciate how much skill and patience that takes, I can barely control polyester. She also worked at a manchester and linen company and sewed bed linen and towels. I remember we used to have very good linen and fluffy towels at our house, given to us because they were faulty or what not.

When we moved to Australia, my mum got a job as a machinist at a factory that made suit jackets and pants for very well known brands. She worked there for years until they moved the factory off shore. Since she was made redundant from the job, she has changed industries.

She still sews at home for fun. Occasionally she makes quilt covers, cushions (sometimes in the background of my photos, you will see an "aubergine" cushion) and she crochets baby mittens, socks and beanies.

She also enjoys re-fashioning RTW clothes. Every time I see her, she shows me her latest re-fashioned piece. On Mothers' Day, she was wearing this adorable velvet sleeveless vest. She got it on sale but it was not her size so she ripped it apart (lining and all!!) and took the seams in. Such talent.

I have so much hand-made stuff from my mum, and I used to take it for granted because I didn't know the effort involved with hand-making garments. I could go on and on about all the garments that I remember she made for me, but we will be here forever.


Above is a photo of mum and I from last year around Lunar New Year. I've grown a little bit taller and I'm now mum's height. 

Last year in July was when I enrolled in my dressmaking class after mum suggested it to me. I don't even know how the topic came up in conversation, but I acted on impulse and ordered a Brother LS_2125 from eBay. I guess I didn't have any hobbies apart from obsessively collecting eBay feedback, so I took mum's advice.

I remember when I was 9 years old, my dad bragged to his friend that I was very smart because I learnt how to thread a needle all by myself and was handsewing/mending my doll's clothes. 

In high school, I did textiles (home ec?) and made a pair of boxer shorts with polyester. My sister still wears them, can't believe how tough they are. I made them 10 years ago! 

Mum has been very supportive of my hobby, I don't think she regularly reads my blog (I'd rather her not because like most bloggers, I am shy about sharing my blog with family and friends) but she always gives encouraging comments about my hand-mades. 

I made a skirt for sister last year and the insides are atrocious - messy zig-zagged edges and wiggly understitching, but mum still said the most loveliest things about it. My sister and I giggled about it the other day when we found the skirt. 

My sister is also a big supporter of my hobby, always 'liking' my photos on Instagram and Twitter :) 

Dad too is a big fan, when I was featured in the newspaper, he laminated the article and showed every body he knew. He was very proud.

If it wasn't for my mum, I don't think I would ever have taken a sewing class and I wouldn't have been exposed to this wonderful online community of sewists and bloggers or have a wardrobe full of unique hand-made dresses.

So I'd like to say a big thank you to my mummy and I love you!!!

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Thursday, 17 May 2012

Finished Project: A view of 'D' Hot Pink Toile Skirt.

This hot pink skirt was made with the purpose of being a wearable muslin/toile. I cut View D for the muslin, but ended up cutting View A for the actual skirt

First impressions of this finished skirt, I thought it was too plain. I left it on the sewing table for weeks, waiting for inspiration. A few people suggested buttons on the button, but ohmygosh buttons are expensive! $3/button??!?!?! I have to start going op-shop shopping for buttons.

I was going to sew little ruffles on the back of the skirt, but I wasn't inspired enough (aka lazy because it is winter in Melbourne).

This skirt took about 3-4 hours to complete. I used my overlocker to finish the raw edges and hand sewed the hem. I didn't underline the skirt as per pattern (lazy) but I did make facings and interfaced them.

Hot pink facings.
Forgot to overlock the raw centre seams before inserting zip! Doh.
Overlocked and understitched.


Pattern: V8603, View D
Size: Size 8, but I took it in a little at the back seams (I think??)
Fabric: 1m stretch poplin (poly/spandex)
Notions: Invisible zipper 10" (royal blue), Gutermann thread (733),  0.5m whisperweft interfacing.
    • unlined, un-underlined
    • shortened skirt by heaps,
    • 5cm hem,
Time: 4 hours.
Cost: $0 - fabric, zip, pattern, interfacing all from my stash.

Final thoughts: For what it is - a wearable mock up skirt - it is great. If I ever find those buttons, I'll sew them on. I want six buttons. 

The fabric is not the best, it wrinkles and a tad too shiny, but overall it's good enough for casual or club wear. I don't go to clubs that much these days, but my little sister does and I'm happy for her to take this mini out on the town.

Weekly dressmaking class: My floral vintage Simplicity 3222 is almost complete! 
Sway back has been adjusted. Next up is inserting the invisible zipper, finishing the hem and arm holes and making the cummerband. Can't wait! I am getting so many compliments at class for my fabric and dress. Love that $3/m fabric (on sale!) I've been able to make two dresses out of it, hehe.

Hopefully this Saturday I can go browsing for fabrics for my next project, the McCall's 5850. I want the dress to be dressy but not formal. 

Suggestions for fabrics and colors welcome! Please!! 
I really need some help with this next pattern :)

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Thursday, 10 May 2012

Finished Project: V8469 hacked!.

Remember this fabric? I finally found the perfect dress to make with it. 

You may not have seen this dress before, but I have made it twice, back when I only had one follower (my supportive little guy cousin) so it's most likely no one has seen this dress.

It's the V8469 bodice, hacked, into a v at the back. Here is V1.0 (Christmas 2011 party dress) and V2.0 (LBD). I made these two dresses back when I didn't know how to bag a bodice properly and when I was oblivious to how a garment should fit. I am starting to be nit picky about "fit" now.

I decided to make this dress again with my "galaxy" fabric after wearing V2.0 for MMM. I remembered how much I loved low-v-backs. The flaw with V2.0 is the skirt doesn't sit properly - prob too small, or I should have sewed darts instead of pleats, and the poplin is light weight, clings to my legs. Annoying, even more annoying when worn with stockings, kept riding up when I was walking :(

I don't know if anyone has blogged about the stages beginner sewist go through, but I'm at the stage where I am paying more attention to how my clothes fit my body, which I think is a good thing.

I made this dress today because I didn't go to work. I didn't go to work because some *effin c* smashed in my car window last night... So I had to stay home to wait for the police to drop by to dust for fingerprints, and wait for Mr Windscreen Repair dude to come and replace the window. Nothing was stolen because I am wise enough not to leave anything valuable in my car but they made a huge mess and it was such an inconvenience to take the day off work and stay home, waiting around. Grr!!!!!! Mighty annoyed at the whole situation and the fact that I had to spend hundreds on fixing damage that someone else did... GRRRRRRRR!!!!

Since I had to stay up to wait for the police and windscreen man, I started sewing to pass some time and to distract me from the what had happened. I had enough fabric for the dress (1.5m) and 0.5m Sunsilky lining for the bodice (left over from my V8511) and black invisible zippers.

By the time Mr Windscreen fixed my window I had finished my lined bodice. I left the house to go clean out all the shattered safety glass from my car then went to get more lining (for the skirt).

When I got to Spotty, there was no sale... and I didn't want to spend $10 on a metre of lining... so I grabbed a jean zipper and went back home. I decided to not line the skirt and swapped the invisible zipper for an exposed zipper (second one this week). The cotton sateen is thick enough to get away unlined I think.

I made a full gathered skirt (2.4m!) Having made a "smaller" gathered skirt (1.1m), I have to say that I prefer the fuller skirt. 

I made a few adjustments to the bodice at the shoulder seams (1" SA) and I sewed the side seams less than the regular SA. 

I also cut about 1" off the back midriff panel, at the centre back... I don't know if it's the pattern or my swayback (?) but the back centre waist sits weirdly (sits lower than the front waist). You can see it on my peter pan dress.

I made the effort to stay stitch every curve on the bodice and understitched every where possible... but I forgot to put interfacing on the midriff panel - whoops! 

Finished hem on the machine using twin needles.
No way was I prepared to hand sew 2.4m!
Exposed zipper.
Skirt gathering. I always sew three gathering stitches.
Only semi-lined! I can deal with it.
Pattern: V8469 hacked bodice, replaced skirt with full gathered skirt.
Size: Size 6
Fabric: 1.5m cotton sateen (galaxy), 0.5m lining (black).
Notions: Jean Zipper (black) 8", Gutermann thread (000).
Skirt deets: 
    • full gathered skirt (2.4m wide), cut 48cm length (SA and 3cm hem incl),
Time: about 7 hours.
Cost: $10 (fabric, zip), pattern, thread, lining from my stash.

The color of this fabric is so gorgeous, the photos don't do it justice. 

I miscalculated and cut the skirt a teeny bit too short. I wanted it the same length as my Floralicious dress (finished length 45cm), but somehow this one is shorter, must be because it's fuller. I am glad that when I sit down the skirt covers my thighs so I don't indecently exposing myself.

Apart from my shitty Thursday, this week has been alright. MMM12 has been fun, I have only worn one Me-Made this week. I was dressed in a Me-Made this morning for work... but then stayed home in leggings. 

My dress at sewing class is coming along very nicely! No photo yet. Bodice is so lovely and I have sewn the skirt up. I anticipate to finish it in 2-3 classes. Teacher says I have a sway back so I will learn how to do a sway back adjustment. 

Till next time, have a wonderful and safe weekend and Happy Mothers' Day to all the mums for this Sunday!

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Saturday, 5 May 2012

Finished Project & Pattern Review: Vogue 8603 Pencil Skirt with Side Gathering, View A.

Vogue 8603, View A.

Don't you just love that print?

I was lucky enough to spot this fabric on the clearance table today, it's cotton drill which was exactly what I was on the hunt for.

I got my BMV order the other day and was keen to make a skirt right away. I was torn between making a black skirt for work or a skirt for fun times.

I didn't want to spend more than $10-$15 on materials and notions for the skirt since I can easily buy a RTW black skirt for $15-$20. Reason I wanted to make it with cotton drill is that lining won't be needed. Lining alone costs me $10. Cotton drill is usually for reserved for work clothes and uniforms, according to my Reader's Digest Sewing Guide.

Yesterday I went to buy black cotton drill, but it was $15/m... and I needed 1.2m for to make a skirt, so I left empty handed.

Today I went to a different store and I found awesome fabrics on the clearance table! I bought the birdy print (above) and a rhino-camo print as well. Also bought interfacing and two zippers. Total spend was $17!

This is the Vogue 8603, View A: "Lined, straight skirts, have princess seams, back zipper and waistline facing, gathered side front, side back and lower back"

I omitted the lower back gather and tapered it in to a pencil skirt.

Princess seams are my new best friends.
A lot of overlocking! 
Took skirt in at the side seams to give the skirt a 'pencil' shape rather than 'straight'.
View A, front.
I heart the side gathers. 
View A, back.
I opted for an exposed zipper.
The exposed metal teeth balances out the birdies. 
Pattern Review: V8603, View A with Side Gathering/Ruching

Size: Size 6
Fabric: 1.2m cotton drill
Notions: Jean zipper (black) 8", Gutermann thread (000),  0.5m whisperweft interfacing.
    • omitted the lower back gather,
    • unlined,
    • shortened skirt by 9cm,
    • 5cm hem,
    • tapered side seams in to create a pencil silhouette,
    • exposed zipper.
Time: 5 hours.
Cost: $7 (fabric, zip, pattern). $7!!!!! Fabric was on special, pattern was on special. 
This is a special skirt <3

Directional fabric again.
Hope I've chosen right direction to cut the skirt!
To my eyes, the birds are mostly flying upwards....
What do you see?

The V8603 was easy to make, I didn't even need the instructions. I cut a (wearable) muslin yesterday using my rotary cutter and it turned out horrible, I was cutting millimeters off my pattern pieces, luckily the muslin came together well. 

It's View D. It's finished, hand stitched hem and all but the skirt looks unfinished. It needs something more... lace or buttons or something. This skirt really could have used a waist band. This view is so plain :/

Vogue 8603, view D.
Wearable muslin.

Once again, Vogue sizing fails me. If I went by the pattern envelope, I have a size 12 waist and size 10 hips.

For the muslin I cut a size 8 because I remember when I made a size 6 skirt for the V8511, it appeared to be small in the butt area. For this pattern, size 8 was big. Surprise, surprise. SMH at the big 4.

I'm not sure what sort of fit the Vogue designers want for the skirt, but I like my "fitted" skirts to be fitted. If it's "high waisted" it should sit on my waist, not on my belly button - that's just an awkward look on me.

As usual, the photo on the pattern envelope was not enticing at all. So plain, I only bought the pattern because I found this review by Tales of a Wannabe Seamstress and the skirt Rebecca made looks gorgeous on her.

I used to think that the models on the patterns looked daggy because the patterns were old, that the photos were taken in the 90s.. but I saw the new Vogue patterns the other day, and the latest photos look just as dated. Thank goodness for the internet and sewing blogs otherwise I don't think I would buy any of these patterns, based on the photos Vogue provide.

Vogue 8603, View A. Size 6.
Omitted lower back gathering piece.

V8603, View A line art.
Don't like the lower back gathering... maybe on a mini skirt it will look good.

The "sewing" of this skirt didn't take long at all. I think the longest part was all the overlocking. I found it a bit tedious overlocking 16 sections of raw edges, but I'm very happy with the end result!

Overall, I have to say I am pleased with this pattern. I am so glad I bought this pattern (and for $1 I might add!). 

I had to make some mods to the pattern pieces to give them a pencil shape. I love the side gathers, the princess seams, and the fact that there are no darts is a bonus! I really enjoyed making this skirt.

Phew! I'm all sewed out for this weekend, two skirts in one weekend is a record for me. I will be staying away from the sewing machine until my class this week. Speaking of, I have been receiving heaps of emails from fellow Melburnians asking where they can find sewing classes. The class I take is at my local community centre but here is a list of places I know run sewing classes in Melbourne:
  • Spotlight
  • Tessuti
  • Statewide Sewing Centres
  • CAE (Centre for Adult Education)
  • Local community centres (some local council run them)
... There's probably more but these are the only ones I know of :)

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Wednesday, 2 May 2012

WIP: Vintage Simplicity 3222 Bodice & Facings.

Ta-da!  My bodice looks like a bat.

I did some catch up sewing on Sunday and finished off all the darts. Now you know why I line my dresses... look at how ugly my darts are! I should start tying them off like "the book" says to do, but I do dodgy back stitching. Can't wait till I upgrade to a fancier machine that does that tie off stitch, a girl can dream.

At my weekly sewing class, I stitched the raglan sleeves on to the bodice, then sewed the front and back together at the shoulders. I had my teacher's help with the neck facing.

When I put the neck facing on my hot pink version, it didn't "fit" and as a result, there were little bumps and folds on the neck.

To sew the facing onto the neck, I had to pin and sew the two sides first, then pin the centre, then sew. Teacher pinned it for me. She's a champ. Those instructions make no sense to me. I did my best to sew it. Because the neckline has that cute step on either side of the front, it made things tricky...

I trimmed my seam allowance and clipped the curves. Next week will be the big unveiling... when we turn the facings out to the right side! Nervously looking forward to it!

So far, there has already been great improvements on this dress - the skirt was shortened correctly so it will actually be a pencil skirt! And the facing and neck matched up well, no lumps or bumps.

I wonder how we will take in the bodice at the back. I had to take the pink dress in about 2 inches at the back/shoulders. I have small bust, small back and the pattern is a size too big at the bust.

I don't think I will make this bodice again, too much screwing around... can't wait to finish this one though, if I finish it in May, I can wear it for MMM'12!

Speaking of, it's day 2 of May in Australia, and I have worn hand mades on both days to work.

I have tweeted my photos on Twitter with the hashtag #MMM12 .. hrm it seems MMM12 also stands for "May Mainframe Madness 2012" - what is that?! Hahaha!

You can just follow me on Twitter then :)

Till next post... <3 Neeno

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