Monday, October 31, 2011

Weekend DIY - Thread holder

No sewing done this weekend, but I did spend a lot of time staring at my fabric stash trying to decide what to do next. I have been on a crazy sleeping pattern since becoming a SAHM - a lot of being awake all night long to sew in my euphoria of being able to (That means a lot of napping with the baby. Which is not so bad, but sometimes the Bean jump up and down on me when he wakes up and I'm still snoozing. Not so good). But I am happy to say that I am getting into a better sleeping pattern. Hopefully this will last.

So I woke up fresh and eager at 5 am yesterday (Sunday), and while my 2 babies sleep on, I worked on making my thread holder. I've wanted and needed one for a long time. But not about to spend $30+ buying brand new. My weekly visit to my favorite thrift shop did not produce any - they do have one but its for display and not for sale. However, on Saturday I saw a thick polystyrene square there selling for $0.25, so that was what I got to finally make me one (inspiration were a mishmash of tutorials online, but i did not follow one per se).

I used:
The polystyrene
cardboard box
upholstery fabric, scrap from cushion project
bamboo sticks

Need at least one more!

Have a great week!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

2 sweater dresses

Ok. I've completed my 2nd sweater dress (refashion project) and it's time to post them both. I am not so thrilled with the end results - they look severe/a little too formal - but I will still be wearing them this winter with chunky belt and boots. And since I can't function when it's cold, you can usually just only see my face under layers of scarves, and extra large down jacket, I suppose it doesn't matter. I am not hating them. Just not loving them.

Sweater dress #1:

The top part of the dress was made from a thrifted merino wool sweater that I bought for my husband. He loved it, wore it once, and then poof! I accidentally shrunken it! Oopsie. The bottom/skirt part is from thrifted XL men's cotton sweater. It's very heavy and warm.

Firstly, I cut off the sleeves, side seams and the bottom band of the merino wool sweater (The sweater was all wonky now that it's shrunken). It was smaller than before of course, but the fit at the shoulder for me was not right too. Hence the reason why I chopped it off. I used probably one of my TNT bodice and sleeves pattern to scale it down and shape the sweater and sew. I cut off the sleeve bands and just left them as they are.

The picture above is of the cotton sweater I used for the bottom/skirt part. Because the sweater is thick and heavy (and because I always wear tights), I chose not to line it. I cut off the neck area straight across and also the sleeves. I made sure to zigzag the areas where I cut into the sweater as they unravels, unlike with the shrunken merino wool top. After that, I stitched the sides to close where the sleeves were chopped off, making sure that it will fit my waist/tummy area.

Then I just sew the top part to the bottom. And thus I have sweater dress #1 done (last week). I wore it once when we went to the mall. Dress, belt, tights, boots, and a black leather jacket. I was a little warm that day in the mall, but perfectly fine when we were walking outside. It is getting colder and colder this week though.

Sweater dress #2:

This project was a lot of work. The "raw materials" are a thrifted plaid wool jacket, a thrifted sweater and a thrifted black cotton knit skirt.

Here is the picture of the plaid wool jacket before I took the seam ripper through it:

It is actually my size, but it was too long so looked a bit dated on me. I did purchase it (and a few others) to be refashioned anyways, so I don't have any qualms about "harvesting" fabric from it. And there was a lot of fabric from this jacket! So I decided to make a tie front top with bust darts. (I've made a tunic with this kind of neckline last month from a thrifted cotton plaid set - i love plaids- of top and skirt from Land's End brand. Initially I thought they were pyjama set, but probably not with the pleated skirt.)

I started this project with the sweater that was to be the skirt of the dress. It is acrylic material, super soft and unravels a lot. I cut off all the seams and sleeves, and used the thrifted cotton black knit skirt as a lining to the skirt (My thought is that it will add structure and warmth). I used an A line skirt I have as a pattern guide to shape the skirt pieces.

I used the sweater's sleeves as the dress' sleeves after adjusting the size a little. I attach the sleeves to the bodice, then attach the front of the skirt piece to the front part of bodice and the back piece of the skirt to the back part of the bodice. Then I just sew straight on from the sleeves to the bodice to the skirt, both sides....

I had to baste and handsew a lot for this project, so it took all week to complete. I work on it when I can - when the baby naps, and when I am not distracted by the internet.... I can't say how long it would have taken me if I work on this straight :) I like this dress better than the first one. I like the color better on me, and it's looser fit too, which I prefer.


I will still be making more sweater dresses in the future I'm sure. With a more casual style that suits my life. I have some ideas, but will have to see if I have all the materials I needed to make them. We'll see.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Vogue 1261 - view B

I'm a slow worker. It took me 5 hours to cut the fabric for this project. Then abandoned this project for 2 days. And then spent the whole afternoon and night of Saturday sewing this. Why it took me this long? Because I decided to work while watching all the episodes and seasons of Say Yes to the Dress that are available on Netflix, and the latest Project Runway on their website (we don't have cable). And got distracted big time. That's why.

But it's all done. And I wore it the next afternoon on Sunday - impromptu picnic with my family at the park.

About the tunic:

Pattern: Vogue 1261 - I made View B (the white tunic with cowl collar).

I decided to just cut the pattern size 16 after adding 3 inches to the length. When I cut the fabric, I added 2 inches to the abdomen area to by sliding and pivoting... I didn't make any muslin this time...

Fabric: Black ponte knit from (Still have at least 8 yards left)

Notions: 2mm twin needle & 2 1/2 yds of black ribbons (i used 5/8" rayon ribbons that was meant for seam/hem finishing from my stash that I got from thrift store). The ribbons to be used for the back seam for decorative purposes like so:------------------------------------>

The black ponte knit I used made the tunic feel nice and warm as it is a little heavier than cotton jersey and such. The tunic does look like the pattern picture even though in black it's difficult to capture the details in photo.

detail on the shoulder-sleeves seam
However, I think I needed a smaller size for my shoulder (and I will alter that part in my future version if I make any), but the chest and so on fits me well. I even like how the sleeves fits me, just not the shoulder. I still need to learn more about fitting obviously. I will also take out the 3 inches that I added to the length. Current length made me look shorter. I didn't mind the 2 extra inches that I added to the abdomen area. But next version I will can leave this out.
Ribbon detailing on the back seam

The cowl collar turned into mini hood! (who knew) Next time I will make this collar deeper, so that I can have the hood covering my whole head. Good for windy days...

Until the next project!

Thursday, October 20, 2011


On last count, I own 109 sewing patterns - 15 of them are bought brand new, and the rest I bought from my favorite thrift store over the few months for between $0.25 to $0.50 each. I probably have used 4 or 5 of these patterns ever, but I've only just begun.... There's no rhyme or reason on how I chose a pattern to take home (once I bought 20 patterns in one outing) initially. Just as long as the design looks good. Then when I start to actually learn to use them, I realized that I kept on going back to the same pattern to be used as my base, and that I don't have enough of them! Nowadays I look for different detailings, hmmm, like princess cut bodice for example, or empire waist and so on.

Don't worry, even though I hoard bought a lot of patterns from the store, there are always some left (very rarely that anyone else but me looking at them even when the store is full of people) and then I think there are always people donating more too (hence why I am able to collect so many over many weekend trips!)

The store usually have a 50% discount on everything once a month (middle of the month), and this month it fell on Monday. I usually go with my husband and baby on Saturday afternoons as our ritual (he likes to check out the antiques and nick-knacks section), but I made an exception this Monday as I really wanted to look at their old/vintage sewing machines (they have lots). I thought that I would get one that would do a straight stitch or/and zig-zag, so that I can use it to sew leather and not mess up my cheap but reliable Brother machine :). Unfortunately, I did not factor in that I have a wiggly baby with me and that meant bye bye to trying out the machines. And to be honest, I was also quite overwhelmed by the idea of threading and maintaining these vintage machines, so I will scratch that for now. I don't need another machine at this stage, even an old cheap one. I have nowhere to put it! But if a treadle type comes by i might be tempted! The memory of my late grandma's Singer :) I wonder where it is now. Long gone i suppose.

The trip was not in vain of course. I hauled back many lovely fabric measuring between 1 yd to 2 yds each for a bargain, and some back issues of Threads magazine. :)

L-R: Brown Faux leather/pleather, a more reddish brown of the same faux leather/pleather, brown satiny fabric, brown, white and sage green jersey-type fabric, a thick cottony knit fabric, 2 plaid fabrics

L-R: The same 2 plaids as above pic, a cottony light blue with white and pink flowers, a stretchy blue denim fabric, blue linen, dark blue thick woven fabric, dark blue and brown knit of some type

L-R: A lovely light rust colored (with some red) woven fabric, a black with some cream and gray woven fabric, 2 yds of lovely pure black wool for $2/yd!! and a black cotton fabric

Back at home, after the baby is asleep and I was sorting out my stash (glee), my husband was so amazed and said that I should have enough fabric now to sew for a long time... hehehe :)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Cape / Cloak / Capelet etc., etc., etc...

Once upon a time, I came across a tutorial to make a shoulder cape from men's shirt and old sweater from One Pearl Button blog. It must have been like a year ago, as it was after my maternity leave and I had to go back to work half-time. Anyways, since then I've always wanted to make one, and been searching on the internet for other tutorials for inspiration. Most were for kids' cape/cloak/capelet, or cater to the renaissance set and such, so the One Pearl Button tutorial fits my need better in general - refashioning an existing garment into it.

While in downtown with my son (and at a consignment store), I found an old smelly suede long coat with a fabulous faux fur collar (my assumption is that it is faux as I wouldn't know if it's real... my husband on the other hand worried that somebody might pour paint over me because of the collar, faux or not. ha!). I got it for $20 if I can recall correctly. It didn't really flatter me even though it fits, but I bought it for the fabulous collar and my cape/cloak/capelet vision. I do not have a "before" picture unfortunately, but just imagine a regular long, rectagular-ish/straight tan colored suede coat. Oh, plus the fabulous collar of course, which you can see in the "after" picture.

A few months after that, I picked up a few men's wool plaid jackets for $0.25 each at my favorite thrift store. One of them ended up to be the lining for my cape/cloak/capelet after much deliberation of what to use: old lining of the suede coat, thrifted silk shirt, and so on.

I only started working on this project sometime in the mid of August - after I became a full-time SAHM. Even though I had a lonnngggg time thinking about making this, I didn't really have a plan on how to construct it down to the last detail. This is a project that needs you to be flexible all the way. You have to when you are dealing with an existing piece of clothing to be reimagined into another. :) Next, please forgive me for wordy instead of pictorial explanation that follows. (This project was pre-blog, and even so, I do have poor documenting skills.)

As was normal for such a situation, I started with taking the seams apart. For this, I ripped the seams of the under-sleeves (but I left the part where the sleeves attach to the bodice's shoulders as they were) and the side seams of the coat.

I also decided on the length that I want to be just about my upper hip, taking into consideration of:
1) the existing seams in the coat design,
2) that I want to retain the existing self-covered buttons and buttonholes,
3) that I do not want slits for my hands that one usually see in some cape/cloat/capelet styles out there so as to keep the manipulating of the suede to a minimum, and
4) the amount of material available)

The ripping up of the coat and subsequently the wool jacket took a long time of course, and this made me bored. So while working on this project, I had to pause a couple of times to do other quickie refashion projects, like a Sorbetto top (posted here on and a pinafore-to-loose-tunic (posted here also on Burdastyle). Oh, and apparently I also made my first from scratch dress from a "vintage" (or retro?) Simplicity 8887 pattern I dubbed the Quirky Princess Dress, all while supposedly getting on with this cape/cloak/capelet hullabaloo.

Since I yet to own a dress form, I used the mirror and did a lot of draping on myself (sometimes I draped on the back of a chair though). So I know that I needed more suede sewn between the ripped-apart under-sleeves (this explanation sucks, sorry) and the ripped-apart seams of the bodice. Perhaps this "after" picture will illustrate better what I am trying to explain:

See the triangles between what was the sleeves and bodice? To connect the sleeves to bodice, I sewn 4 of those triangles - 2 at the front (as you can see) and 2 at the back. The method to figure out how much I needed to add? Sorry, it was down to the draping on self, looking at the mirror and then just winging it. Not helpful? Well, hey, look at the yummy collar instead!

For the lining, I basically ripped out the wool jacket's lining first (that took forever) and the sleeves. Made adjustment on the shoulders to fit me and the by-then-ready cape/cloak/capelet shell from its original men's size and then kinda patchworked the wool jacket to shape like the shell. I retained it's pockets and with some clever placement (ehem) turned them into my inner pockets where I can rest my cold hands! I'm kinda proud of that even if I can't take credit for sewing the welt pockets in the first place, hehehe. Positioning those pockets to the right height I wanted under the cape was essential before I sew the lining onto the outer shell. I bought a leather sewing needles for my machine and some thick threads (for upholstery and so on?) and used it when top stitching some parts.

Here is the inside view of the cape/lovely fabric:

Notice the pocket? I just zig-zagged the pieces together on top of each other and also zig-zagged shut some other unneeded areas and just trimmed down the excess fabric. I kinda like the haphazard look, and this way the lining was not as bulky as it would have been. Last but not least, I reattached the collar back to the cape/cloak/capelet. I hand-stitched only the back portion though instead of the whole collar, so that this collar sit nicely (IMO).

The label shown the jacket as 100% imported wool, but it's a thick but soft type of wool, very much like what a shrunken wool sweater feels like. You know, when you accidentally put that sweater in the dryer when you are not supposed to? Felted wool? Melton wool? I am not sure, but it feels nice and warm under the suede outer.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Completed - DKNY Vogue 1179

me in silly hat

Hello! Here it is, my very first from-scratch knit dress all done, worn (trip to do our groceries and Goodwill - I lead such exciting life, yawn) and laundered.

I actually completed the dress very very early Tuesday morning (which is why the hemming is atrocious, but I can live with that for my very first knit attempt).

The pattern V1179 is very easy to follow, very beginner friendly (and just 3 pattern pieces) and I can see myself making more of this (I do have 10 yds of black ponte knit I bought from recently!) in near future.

I first saw this dress on the Sewing Fanatic blog and thought that it looked great on the author, and subsequently saw a few other equally lovely versions around the blog world. So, when I stumbled across the recent BMV sale (i wasn't a member or anything, so I probably found this out from one of the blogs i read, or saw the ad somewhere) I had to have it (and 11 other patterns :( ) For someone who has only started, i have a huge stash of patterns (i haven't count them though, but believe me, it's a lot, like at least close to 50). Most of them I got for a quarter each at my favorite local thrift store (this is my favorite thing about US: thrift stores! we don't have them back in Malaysia).

Anyways, I think I follow the instructions okay, although I made some judgement call on the order of things. And I also added some stay tape on the neckline. I don't think the pattern ask you to, but i read that some others thought that it needed it and my heavy knit fabric sure does.

The fabric i used for this dress was from my stash. The color is very light yellow with bluish gray swirls, kinda look like lollipop i suppose, but it's not. I can't remember what type of knit it is (probably poly with lycra?) but it has a heavy drape. I did not fancy it as fabric when it arrived (bought this from a year ago along with lots of very very nice quilting cottons) and my thought was to use this as a muslin (since i never sewn knits before) but I like it okay as a finished garment. :D

Eventhough it is now fall and midwest winter is harsh, I can see me wearing it year round. I am all for layering anyways (unfortunately I still manage to feel a bit cold in the summer too!), and winter just means more layers for me.

So there. It took me days to finally put this up - the taking pictures part is my problem. But I did say i want to have a space to "document" my projects. I want to have a blog for a lot of reasons but i don't want people I know in real life to see it. That's silly i guess, what with Facebook and all the other social networking thing we got. But if I can, I'm keeping them separate.

Anyways, thing is, I have a bunch of projects going on in my head at a time, so once I'm done with one thing, I go straight into another. Right now I'm working on what I can consider as my winter staple: sweater dresses. I realise that when I was working, I practically live in the 2 sweater dresses that i had (but since I wore my down jacket even indoors at my desk in my office it didn't matter if i wear them everyweek), I know that this year I definitely have to make some. But that will be for another post.

Till then!

Friday, October 7, 2011

First post

This is my 3rd year as an immigrant in the US (obviously I am still in adjustment period). It's tough being away from everything familiar, and everytime winter comes I turn extra cranky. My dear husband and our little boy keep me sane (usually), but winter #3 is just around the corner...