SEWN: 1950’s style Blue Floral Cheongsam (Simplicity 8244)

If there’s one type of dress that I need more of in my wardrobe, it has to be cheongsams. Also known as qipaos, cheongsams are traditional Chinese dresses that were once the national dress of Republic of China in the 1920s.

I have a couple of cheongsams custom-made during my vacation in Shanghai many years back (like this one), but I have always wanted to make one myself. It’s always better when you make it yourself, isn’t it? When I came across the Simplicity 8244, which is a reproduction of a 1950’s vintage cheongsam pattern (Simplicity 1018), I knew it is the perfect pattern for me to begin my cheongsam-making journey.

What I love

There are so many things that I love about this pattern. The kimono sleeves offer more freedom in movement and the illusion of a fuller bust, while the double waist darts provide the illusion of a slimmer waist. More importantly, the design options offered me the chance to give the pattern a go without the pressure of failing in perfecting the mandarin collar and the placement of the frog closures!

To be honest, I really enjoyed every part of the process in making this dress. The bias tape finishing is such a nice touch and I loved the meditative act of hand sewing it on.

What I loathe

If I must say, the trickiest part of the pattern would be sewing the side vents. I struggled with understanding the instructions when reading it at first but figured it all out at the end. My experience in sewing the vent for my Christmas Kitty pencil skirt definitely helped.

Also, I made a boo-boo when cutting the back and front of the dress. I cut the fold line of both front and back pieces by accident and ended up having to mend the cut with some interface and zig-zag stitches. The thread and fabric matched up so well, it’s hard to see it from far. It’s not perfect but I am okay with it. Really, can you even see it from far?

 The fabric and other notions

This navy floral polycotton has been sitting in my stash for many years. I bought them from Spotlight while I was still living in Sydney. That means that it has been sitting in my stash for at least 5 years. FIVE LONG YEARS. I definitely did not think that I would make a cheongsam when I bought this fabric, but this fabric stood out amongst everything else I have in my stash. I knew it would look outstanding with red bias tape as a contrasting design point.

To make sure that I have the exact same red for the buttons, I made self-covered buttons using the bias tape.

The fit

While the pattern did not state the kind of fit that the final dress gives, I found the ease in the bust to be a lot more generous than the ease in the waist. Being petite and having a modest 32″ bust with my best bra, I ended up taking in an extra 1cm on each side of the side seams for the top half of the dress (i.e. bust/bodice) after sewing everything up. This is despite grading down from size 6 to size 4 in the pattern before cutting into the fabric!

And of course, as usual, I modified the length of the dress for my height. I am 5’2″ (157cm) and I can safely say that ALL Big 4 patterns require modifications in length for my height.

Zig-zag machine mend on the centre back. You can also still see my fabric chalk marking on the fabric. Oopsey!

Take a close look and spot the zig-zag mending on centre front

Absolutely love the bias tape finishing!

The side vent

The future

What do you think about the dress? I definitely have plans to make a version with the mandarin collar and frog closures. True to my history of fabric pattern obsession, I have about a yard or so of this SAME design but in white, and I am wondering if I should make a cheongsam top with it, or sell it in my efforts to destash and simplify.

At a glance…

Pattern: Simplicity 8244, view B
Fabric: Navy floral from Spotlight
Size made: Graded from size 6 to size 4
Modifications: Took in additional 1 cm on each side of upper body (i.e. upwards from waist), shortened the length

 

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Me Made May 2018: Round-up and reflection

Hello June! The month of May had come and gone in the blink of an eye and I hope everyone had fun taking part in Me Made May organised by Zoe from ‘So, Zo…’. I know I definitely had fun going through my handmade wardrobe and discovering other like-minded makers on Instagram!

My pledge for Me Made May this year is to spend time reflecting on my makes and to get a clearer idea of where I want to go in my handmade journey. Since I rarely wear my me-mades to work on the weekdays (because my work involves getting rice cereal, blue dye and drool on what I wear on a regular basis), I thought it would make more sense to just do a round-up and reflection at the end of the month.

So here’s a round-up of all the key pieces I wore on the weekends (and public holidays) for the month of May 2018. They don’t look like a lot because sometimes I repeat the outfit and accessorise differently, and  sometimes I stay home and just wear my me-made pyjamas (this and this).

With just one look, I think it is easy to tell that I love prints. I started the month with a couple of fruity prints, progressed to floral prints (based what people picked via an IG story poll), and then ended with classic gingham. There is a mixture of very old makes from way back in 2012 (which is the year I started sewing more seriously), and more recent makes from earlier this year in 2018.

And here’s a breakdown of all the things I love and loathe about these me-mades:

  1. 1950’s style Retro Rockabilly Cherry Dress

    Year made: 2012
    Pattern: New Look 6020 (View D)
    Thing(s) I love: I mean, just look at that sweetheart neckline!
    Thing(s) I loathe: I still think this dress is pretty cute. But the combination of fabric just seems a little too cute-sy for me now and the skirt length just isn’t what I am into right now.
    Future plans/things to note:
    It’s gonna break my heart but I will have to take this dress apart and transform it into something that I still want to wear and feel great in. I still have some of that cherry print fabric so maybe I will make a set of 1940’s inspired sun top and bottom. Also, I think I should always make sure that my 1950’s style skirts are always below the knee in the future.

  2. 1950’s style Lemon Drop Dress

    Year made: 2017
    Pattern: Vintage Reproduction Circa 1952 Vogue 2902
    Thing(s) I love: That built-in petticoat made with inspiration from Gertie’s Ultimate Dress book! Took more time to complete the dress but definitely worth the trouble.
    Thing(s) I loathe: You can’t tell in the photo because of the belt, but the bodice is about half an inch shorter than I would like it to be
    Future plans: I definitely should continue to take time to ensure that the wrong side of the dress looks as well-made as the right side of the dress… and work towards maybe making a dress with a built-in dress like Christian Dior’s! Also, I need to pay more attention to getting the right body measurements.

  3. 1950’s inspired Blue Country Garden Skirt

    Year made: 2018
    Pattern: self-drafted
    Thing(s) I love: The classic floral print!
    Thing(s) I loathe: It’s really a pretty decent piece of work! There’s nothing that I dislike about it.
    Future plans: I am kinda getting sick of making flared skirts (i.e., circle or gathered). Time to move on to exploring making pencil skirts, gored skirts etc! But I definitely need to slowly expand on my country garden collection. For example, I love how my knitted sweater (No. 4) goes so well with this skirt!

  4. 1950’s style Beauty School Top

    Year made: 2018
    Pattern: Amy Appel’s (aka Poison Grrls) Beauty School Top
    Thing(s) I love: Amy did such a great job with the pattern for the sleeves. They fit LIKE A DREAM.
    Thing(s) I loathe: Just a tad not a fan of the neck opening. It might just be me being tight with my stitches but it takes a bit of effort to get through the neck opening.
    Future plans: I already have plans to make another one in blue for my best friend!

  5. 1940’s style Retro Rosie Floral Dress (Pink version with sleeves)

    Year made: 2014
    Pattern: Vintage Reproduction Circa 1947 Butterick 5209 (View B)
    Thing(s) I love: I am absolutely in love with this dreamy shade of dusty rose pink!
    Thing(s) I loathe: I think in 2014 I was still figuring out ease and my body measurement. Or maybe I lost some weight? At this point I can’t remember. But I don’t like how this dress is kinda loose on me. Wearing cinched me-made 1950’s style clothes has made me used to having clothes extremely close to my body.
    Future plans: Part of me wants to sell this dress. It would look SO MUCH BETTER on someone else with the right measurements. Part of me wants to save it for when I gain weight in 10-20 years’ time. But for now, I have no real plans for this dress, except to wear it again when the mood calls for it.

    1940's style Retro Rose Floral Dress (Purple version without sleeves)
  6. 1940’s style Retro Rosie Floral Dress (Purple version without sleeves)

    Year made: 2014
    Pattern: Vintage Reproduction Circa 1947 Butterick 5209 (View A)
    Thing(s) I love: Definitely in love with the Monroe vibes over here! This is also the first piece that I made with bra pads sewn in by hand. I have also since learnt to plan ahead and sew the bra pads in between the main fabric and the lining (like my 1950’s gingham sun top listed as No. 9)!
    Thing(s) I loathe: The initial final product was so loose on me I had to sew some elastic along the upper edge of the back and take in an inch where the straps join behind the neck. On the other hand, this unfortunate outcome gave me the opportunity to learn to use shirring elastic!
    Future plans: So if you have been following me on my Instagram via @gwenstellamade, you will know that I have been talking about making my wedding dress. My original muslin for my wedding dress failed so now I will be hacking the pattern for this bodice to make my wedding dress. I am getting married in 2 months so it MUST and WILL be done by then!

    1950's Pullover Sunday Picnic Dress

  7. 1950’s style Sunday Picnic Dress

    Year made: 2018
    Pattern: Vintage Reproduction Circa 1952 Retro Butterick 6212
    Thing(s) I love: The stark contrast of red gingham skirt with a white bodice. Also, I like anything in gingham, really.
    Thing(s) I loathe: The questionable fit of the armhole, demonstrated in my Youtube video here
    Future plans: MAYBE (as in like, HUGE MAYBE) modify the pattern and improve the bodice/armhole situation… and just continue wearing this as a regular dress..

  8. 1970’s style Baby Blue Gingham Prairie Dress

    Year made: 2012
    Pattern: Vintage 1970’s Butterick 6124 (View A)
    Thing(s) I love: Those puffy sleeves and the dual ways of wearing the dress (i.e. shoulders on or off)
    Thing(s) I loathe: A tad too girlish for me
    Future plans: Make more peasant style tops! Perhaps consider making my own pattern by hacking into this vintage Butterick pattern or purchasing Gertie’s Rita Blouse (via Charm Patterns by Gertie). Maybe stop wearing this when I turn 40 and feel too old for this.

  9. 1950’s style Gingham Bra Top and matching skirt

    Year made: 2017
    Pattern: Top = Simplicity 1426 (View A), Bottom = self-drafted basic gathered skirt
    Thing(s) I love: Definitely the classic gingham print and this shade of green!
    Thing(s) I loathe: Naive increase in the length bottom band of the bra top to make a top without any regard for the shape of my waist
    Future plans: Continue making Simplicity 1426 but put in more thought into modifying the pattern into proper tops and perhaps even a bodice for a dress. That means darts and maybe an elasticised back!

I know it’s only June but I really feel like the year is whizzing by so quickly! I can’t wait to see what other sewing adventures I will go on for the rest of the year (and all the years after). But I know that in the short term, these are the 5 things I want to work on:

  • Make more pencil skirts
  • Use more solids to build a versatile me-made wardrobe
  • Hack previously-used and loved patterns
  • Get the right fit with commercial and self-drafted patterns
  • Write crochet patterns
  • Reflect and re-invent

What are some of the things you learnt about yourself and your own sewing through Me-Made May? I’d love to hear your thoughts about them! By the way, which one of these makes is your favourite? xx

More details of the above me-mades:
1950's style Retro Rockabilly Cherry Dress (here)
1950's style Lemon Drop Dress (here)
1950's inspired Blue Country Garden Skirt (here)
1940's style Retro Rosie Floral Dress (Pink version) (here)
1940's style Retro Rosie Floral Dress (Purple version) (here)
1950's style Sunday Picnic Dress (here)
1970's style Baby Blue Gingham Prairie Dress (here)
1950's style Gingham Bra Top and matching skirt (here)

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SEWN: Pineapple of my Eye (1950’s inspired weekend wardrobe)

Gwenstella Made Vintage Style 1950s Pineapple Holiday Wardrobe

Gwenstella Made Vintage Style 1950s Pineapple Holiday Wardrobe

Two weeks ago, I was in Sri Lanka for a short week-long vacation and finally got the chance to bust out my Gwenstella Made retro 1950’s style pineapple holiday set! Making and owning a vintage inspired weekend wardrobe has always been a dream of mine, and it’s finally happened after many months of planning and sewing. Creating weekend wardrobes is the real reason why I often buy a generous amount of yardage for a specific fabric I really like, or why I buy fabric from the same design series. Remember the Country Garden Dress and the Country Garden Skirt? I just love being able to coordinate and mix-and-match all the pieces in my wardrobe!

If you follow me on Instagram (@gwenstellamade), you will know that I have been working on this set since 2017. Yes, it took me the whole of 2017 to complete the set, but I enjoyed every part of the process.

This weekend wardrobe set is pretty basic. It consists of a full circle skirt, a pair of high-waisted shorts, and a classic bra top, and here are the details of each item:

Convertible Bra Top:

Pattern: Simplicity 1426, View C
Details:

  • with bra pads sewn into lining
  • with bias strip sewn along top of lining to conceal white lining that was peeking out from the front
  • white organic cotton lining

1 top, 2 straps, 3 different styles!

This is the second bra top I have made using Simplicity 1426. The first one was the green gingham version. This version is much trickier than the green gingham one I made. Hot tip: Don’t use a white lining. The pattern stated “lining”, but really, I think I should have just used the same fabric as the rest of the top. The white lining was peeking out from the top middle portion of the top and I had to hand-sew a self-made bias tape along the inside of the upper edge of the lining to conceal the white lining. This was what killed my motivation a little and got this entire set placed on hiatus mode initially.

Bias tape hand-sewn along the upper edge to conceal the white lining, and bra pads sewing between the main fabric and lining

Regardless, I pulled myself together and completed the top in good time. This classic mid-century design is definitely a must-have in any mid-century style fashionista’s wardrobe. The BEST thing about this top is the removable straps. I can make 3 different looks by placing the straps in different ways and removing it all together!

 

High-waisted Shorts:

Pattern: Self-drafted
Details:

  • 1 inch waist band
  • Lapped zipper on left side seam
  • Button closure, with 2 buttons for waist adjustment
  • with bright yellow pom pom trimming
  • white organic cotton lining

Of course, a pair of high-waisted shorts is another staple for a 1950’s style summer wardrobe. To make the shorts stand out and to make sewing them a little more challenging/fun, I decided to add little pom pom trimmings around the hem. Pom poms always makes anything 100 times more fun!

Full Circle Skirt:

Pattern: Self-drafted
Details:

  • 1 inch waist band
  • 26 inches in length (just grazing my knee)
  • Hook closure
  • with plastic horsehair braid sewn into the hem

Plastic horsehair braid sewn following the steps in Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book

This pineapple print fabric screams “summer!” and I thought that making a full circle skirt for a fun and flirty look was absolutely compulsory. I also wanted this holiday set to be something that could be worn comfortably at the beach, so I decided to use a horsehair braid around to hem so that the skirt will have a nice structure even when I am not wearing a petticoat underneath. I mean, it would be too hot to wear a petticoat to the beach right?

Peek-a-boo!

After making a skirt, a pair of shorts and the Simplicity 1426 top with removable straps, I still have sufficient yardage to make a simple top. But I’m thinking maybe that’s enough orange pineapple fabric for now. Ummm, I also still have another one of this same fabric but in sky blue.

Well, if you like pineapples as much as I do, stay tuned for more posts on some SWEET pineapple goodness on the blog in the next month or so!

xxx

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Vintage 1950’s Red Cluster Earrings and Moonglow Necklace

VINTAGE OF THE MONTH

Sharing a vintage a month, since September 2017!

It’s the time of the month again! Yes, it’s time for me to share a piece of vintage item from my very own collection. Instead of sharing a clothing item like I had for the last 4 posts, I have decided to share some accessories this time. In fact, instead of just sharing an item, I am sharing a set of 2 items!

If you are into vintage style like me, you will probably get my love for having things in a set. This means having clothes as a set, having matching shoes and bags, and even jewellery. Basically, having a well-coordinated outfit is important, and this is achieved by wearing things that come in a set.

Owning one or more demi-parures, semi-parures or full parures of vintage mid-century jewellery has always been (and is still) a dream of mine. However, finding a set of vintage jewellery in the style and colour that I love is challenging, and often costly. As a result, I have now resorted to working within the constraints of my budget and using my creativity – I find matching pieces in identical colour to pass off as part of a set.

Here I am, introducing my first faux demi-parure in one of my favourite colours – red. How can any 1950’s-loving gal not have set of red mid-century accessories in her collection? The earrings in this set is a pair of clip-on cluster earrings made up of faux pearl beads, while the necklace is made up of crescent-shaped red thermoset lucite. How classic is this shade of red?

Cluster earrings are very popular in the 50’s and 60’s. These vintage earrings are usually clip-ons, and can have the names of the brands stamped on the back. Some of the popular brands are Coro, Lisner, and Monet, etc. However, my favourite signed earrings to buy are usually the ones signed simply with the word “Japan”. I don’t know why, but perhaps because I don’t care for brand names in jewellery, or perhaps because they evoke a certain sense of mystery – no brands, just the name of a country.  These ones are signed “Japan”.

Thermoset lucite jewellery is another type of vintage jewellery I am always on the look-out for. These plastic jewellery have a special lustre and are also described as “moon glow”. How romantic is that? The half-moon design seems to be particularly popular for thermoset lucite jewellery. But thermoset lucite jewellery can also be set in a variety of shapes like leave, circle, square, rectangle, and even heart-shape. They also come in a range of colours. Some of the colours I have seen are baby pink, coral, orange, forest green, and midnight blue!

I am slowly working on having different sets of jewellery in different colours. That way, I will always have a set of vintage jewellery to put on with any kind of colour I am wearing! This may take my whole lifetime, but hey, a girl can always dream…

Do you also love wearing a jewellery sets? What is your favourite kind of vintage jewellery?

SEWN: 1950’s style Sunday Picnic Pullover Dress (Butterick 6212)

Butterick 6212 Gwenstella MadeI have always been a fan of the 1950’s walk-away dress ever since it was featured on The Great British Sewing Bee. When Butterick reproduced the pattern as B4790, I was disappointed to find that the smallest size offered by the pattern was size 8. I’m usually somewhere between sizes 4-6, and having to grade an unusual pattern like the walk-away dress would require more thinking than I would like.

The Walkaway Dress. Left: The re-issue. Right: The original (via Butterick site and Vintage Patterns Wikia)

The Saturday Morning Dress. Left: The re-issue. Right: The original (via Butterick site and Vintage Patterns Wikia)

So, when I found the B6212, a pullover back-wrap dress which is also another re-issue of a vintage 1950’s sewing pattern by Butterick, I knew I had to get it. Some sites and posts describe it as the “Popover Dress” or the “Saturday Morning” dress. I like both names, but it’s giving me more of a “Sunday Picnic” vibe. I was smittened by the white and red gingham version on the envelope of the pattern, and while I haven’t gone for a real picnic in years, I decided that it would be the perfect colour scheme for Chinese New Year.

Of course, as with all Big 4 sewing patterns (and the sad fact that I have almost non-existent boobs), I had to make some minor adjustments to the pattern before cutting the fabric pieces out. Most of the grading of the pattern involved the bodice. I didn’t make any adjustments to the width of the waist, because I thought I could always change the positions of the buttons to make a tighter fit if I wanted.

For the bodice of the dress, I used a white linen fabric I bought in Thailand some years back, and for the skirt portion, I used a polycotton in a red/white gingham pattern. For the buttons, I decided to make my own fabric-covered buttons using the same linen fabric I used for the bodice, to create contrast in the final look.

Unfortunately, the bodice was somehow still too baggy when I tried the dress on after sewing it together. There was too much room in front of the bust! I had to take in some fabric at the front of the bodice by making some fake vertical darts (ie folding the excess fabric inwards and then topstitching it in place).

There’s also some extra room in the underarm area which I could do nothing about. It’s a little annoying, but generally tolerable as I would be wearing a slip under the dress anyway. I think this is probably one of the biggest design flaw of the dress. I can’t imagine if having bigger or smaller bust will make this problem worse. On the bright side, at least my dress looks better than the one on the McCall site!

(via)

Despite the flaws in the design of the sewing pattern, I must say that this is a very easy pattern to sew. I love how it gives the illusion of a circle skirt without the usual yardage that is needed, since the back part of the dress is more like a shift dress. It could also probably be modified easily for an A-line skirt design!

Top: Front view. Bottom: Back view.

Making vertical faux darts on the front of the bodice

For anyone who is making this, I would strongly recommend adding the back-ties, because that allows the waist to be adjusted more easily. You know, sometimes the waist expands by an inch or so depending on how full or bloated you are!

Also, if you REALLY are thinking about making this dress, do a search and find out what others are saying about this dress. Some people really had issues with the underarms for this dress. Do your research and make an informed decision!

Have you made the Walkaway dress or this Saturday Morning dress? Are you a believer or a hater? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

And now for the million-dollar question – who wore it better? The Butterick illustrated model or me?

SEWN: 1950’s inspired Blue Country Garden Skirt

Country Garden 1950s Inspired Skirt

In the second half of 2017, I shared a 1950’s style dress I made using a lovely blue floral fabric from the “Country Garden” series from Spotlight. Unsurprisingly, considering the not-so-secret obsession I have with having things in similar themes and style, I have a few different fabrics from this series and I intend to slowly let them creep into my wardrobe and bloom like morning glory.

This is a simple gathered skirt made with just 3 yards of fabric. The construction was simple. I basically used the skirt pattern from the Vogue 8789 pattern (but just 3 of the rectangles instead of the 4 that the pattern asked for), and added a 1.5 inch band on the top.

Country Garden 1950s Inspired Skirt

Just 3 rectangles

Country Garden 1950s Inspired Skirt

Country Garden 1950s Inspired Skirt

In my previous Country Garden dress made using the Vogue 8789 pattern, I also only used 3 rectangales instead of 4, but only because of insufficient yardage. I subsequently read some reviews on Facebook where some sewists commented that using 4 rectangles resulted in too much bulk in the waist. Since I wanted this to be a casual day skirt, I decided to just go with just 3 rectangles for the body of the skirt.

Country Garden 1950s Inspired Skirt

Country Garden 1950s Inspired Skirt

I like including the selvedge in my sewing. I usually include in the side seams, but in this project, it’s used in the hem. This way, I also get to avoid folding in the raw edge before sewing the bottom hem!

Of course, I used a side-lapped zipper, just like the way our grandmothers used to sew.

Country Garden 1950s Inspired Skirt

Country Garden 1950s Inspired Skirt

Having 3 rectangles for the body of the skirt means that there will be 3 seams for the skirt. I decided to wear the skirt with the zipper (and seam) at the back, so the other 2 seams are closer to the sides (even though they are located on the front. Regardless, the skirt is quite voluminous with the yardage involved and you can’t really catch the seams with the fluff and busy floral print.

Country Garden 1950s Inspired Skirt

Country Garden 1950s Inspired Skirt

Wearing: Secondhand white bustier, Gwenstella Made skirt, very old high street heels

I’m wearing a thrifted Betsey Johnson petticoat underneath my skirt in these photos. Despite it being a gathered skirt and not a classic circle skirt, it still has a good volume and looks good with a petticoat worn under. Can you see the seams in the photo easily?

Tell me what you think about my Country Garden series with a comment below! I love hearing from everyone. xx

MADE: 1950’s Bardot-inspired Bright Red Sweater

Bardot Inspired Knitted Red Sweater
Bardot Inspired Knitted Red Sweater

(via)

The inspiration behind the sweater

Brigitte Bardot has always been my muse. I love her iconic woke-up-like-this hair and sense of style. When I am in need of some cute and flirty 1950’s vintage style inspirations, I always turn to Pinterest and enter “Brigitte Bardot style” in the search bar.

This picture of Bardot with her wide bambi eyes, alluring lips, unbrushed look and bright red sweater is something that caught my eye a while back. I have always wanted to have a red sweater like that.

Obviously, with a design that simple, I could always just find a similar one from a high-street store. But why would I want to do that when I know that I could make my own?

Finding the pattern

When I came across the Knitting It Old School book in a secondhand bookstore in San Francisco in 2016 and saw the pattern “Swing Time” by Kirsten Kapur, I knew I had found the right pattern. It has just the right design details: round neckline, ribbing in the body, short sleeves.

Unfortunately (and rather unsurprisingly), the smallest size offered by the pattern is for a 32″ bust. I *could* have a 32″ bust if I wore a good bra and kept my chest out all the time. But ain’t nobody’s got time for that.

I have always wanted to try grading a knitting pattern. I have graded many sewing patterns but grading knitting patterns just seems like swimming in dark waters to me. Unpicking sewing stitches is less painful than frogging a whole knitted sweater!

After reading this article from the archives of the online Knitty magazine, I decided to jump in and take a swim. Moreover, I have a ton of vintage knitting patterns that I would LOVE to knit but aren’t my size. I just have to try grading a pattern at some point.

Bardot Inspired Knitted Red Sweater
Bardot Inspired Knitted Red SweaterFinding the yarn

The next problem I faced was finding the right yarn for the project. I have knitted a fair share of projects using cheap acrylic yarn that I have bought and hoarded over the years from the time I was a poor university student. As I am starting to become more concerned about the amount of plastic amassing in landfills and floating in the ocean on planet Earth, I wanted to make the switch to using natural fibres. Living in the tropical island of Singapore where summer happens ALL YEAR ROUND makes using cotton the obvious choice. I bought my cotton yarn via a shop on Taobao.com (which is basically Chinese Amazon). The name of this stunning shade of red is, believe it or not, called “China Red” (when directly translated from Chinese).

I absolutely love this yarn! It’s a cotton blend that consists of 60% cotton and 40% milk fibre. It’s soft and easy to knit with. I have worn the sweater a couple of times and it seems to be holding up pretty well so far. Well, you can ask me again in a few months’ time!

Grading the pattern

So, for anyone who is interested, here’s how I graded my pattern:

I made a gauge and studied the different sizes of the pattern. This pattern is written for S (M, L etc) – 32 (36, 40 etc)” chest. I wanted a 30″ chest (so kinda like an XS). That means that it is 2″ smaller than the smallest size.

The difference between XS and S is 2″, while the difference between S and M is 4″.

So, when the pattern asked to CO 98 (110, 122 etc), I decided to CO 92 for my XS sweater.

110 (size M) – 98 (size S) = 12

Difference between XS and S = 0.5 x difference between S and M = 0.5 x 12 = 6

Number of stitches to CO for size XS = size S – 6sts = 98 – 6 = 92

I applied the same concept throughout for the number of stitches required and the length of certain parts that were stated.

Bardot Inspired Knitted Red Sweater
Bardot Inspired Knitted Red Sweater

Details: Gold-tone buttons saved from a vintage dress I changed the buttons for

The end result

I guess… it worked? The only other modification I made is reducing the length of ribbing for the sleeves so I won’t have the weird thick sleeve cuffs folded over and it would look more like the sweater that Bardot has. My sweater has a snug fit, which is what I want and need for the vintage look. Can you imagine what it would have looked like if I hadn’t graded the pattern!?

The original pattern describes the sweater to be a 1940’s style design. For some reason, knitting it in red made it look more like a 1950’s style highschool cheerleader sweater of some sort. Don’t you think so?

Bardot Inspired Knitted Red Sweater

Showing you the seams under the pits!

Bardot Inspired Knitted Red Sweater

A video of how I did my hair is also available on my Instagram. Photo edited with A Colour Story Stardust filter pack by Keiko Lynn.

Summary:

Pattern: Swing Time by Kirsten Kapur (from Knitting It Old School)

Yarn: Basic cotton red yarn from TaoBao.com

Modifications: Reduced length of ribbing for sleeve cuffs, graded pattern to fit XS

SEWN: Meowy Kitschmas Pencil Skirt (self-drafted pattern)

meowy christmas gwenstella made sewing

meowy kitschmas gwenstellamade Happy holidays everyone! We only have less than a week to go before 2018 hits the town!

I hope everyone is having a great time this holiday season with your loved ones. My partner and I spent Christmas day together in Singapore for the first time this year. We had a low-key lunch date together at P.S. Cafe at One Fullerton, and I finally had the chance to wear my “Meowy Kitschmas” pencil skirt. Yes, you heard me right. Meowy Kitschmas.

meowy kitschmas gwenstellamade

meowy kitschmas gwenstellamade This project has been brewing at the back of my mind for at least a year. I bought the fabric in 2016 and didn’t get to start on a project in time for Christmas then. Naturally, I had to wait a year for Christmas season to come around again before I could start working on a project with it.

I originally intended to make a simple gathered skirt with a fitted waist, but by the time it was November, I had made so many flared skirts and dresses that I was pretty much sick of making flared skirts. I wanted a project that I could learn something from, and a project that is different from all the other sewing projects I have embarked on and completed this year. And so, it was obvious that I had to make a pencil skirt with a self-drafted pattern (with the help of my Bunka Fashion Series book). Of course, it was also helpful to know that many of you who checked out my Instagram story voted for a pencil skirt. 😉

meowy kitschmas gwenstellamade

meowy kitschmas gwenstellamade Being the person that I am, I couldn’t settle for REALLY just a BASIC pencil skirt. I wanted something different with a bit of retro 1950’s inspired rockabilly vibe.

These are the key design points to this basic pencil skirt:

  • Wide waistband with a higher front than back
  • Exposed metallic zipper
  • Organic cotton lining
  • Slightly exaggerated tapered bottom

meowy kitschmas gwenstellamade

meowy kitschmas gwenstellamade

To be honest, the use of an exposed metallic zipper kind of happened out of necessity. Somehow I made some wrong measurements when drafting the skirt and ended up with a smaller waistline than I intended. I had to reduce the width of the seam allowance where I was going to insert the zipper to make sure that I could still insert a zipper. The zipper insertion was successful, but upon trying the skirt on for the first time, I realised that the zipper was faulty and I had to force myself out of the skirt with a stuck zipper. It was not a pretty sight.

When I finally tore myself out of the skirt, I decided to use an exposed zipper so that:

a) I could add some bling to the skirt
b) I could have a wider seam allowance for inserting the zipper
c) I could learn something new

meowy kitschmas gwenstellamade It was one of my best decisions ever! The exposed metallic zipper worked perfectly… and feels way stronger than a regular invisible zipper too.

I love the way the skirt looks and feels on me. The organic cotton lining is soft on the skin and the tapered design gives me the rockabilly wiggle when I walk – it’s everything that I have dreamed of and more!

You know what else makes this skirt special?

Proudly “Gwenstella Made”

This pencil skirt, is the very *first* item in my sewing history to bear the bold label of “Gwenstella Made”. Can you believe it!?

I am so glad that the Dutch Label Shop came forward to offer me some labels to use for my sewing projects. I created my labels easily and quickly on their site itself – no fancy designer software or knowledge needed! You can choose from a wide range of colours and generic symbols. I chose black, grey, and pink with a sewing machine, ball of yarn, and heart respectively. Aren’t they lovely? I am soooo looking forward to using them for my personal sewing, knitting/crochet projects and other handmade gifts in 2018! I will be sharing a discount code for anyone who is interested in getting some labels made too. Keep your eyes peeled!

One Fullerton PS Cafe Singapore Christmas

With my partner Steven, taken in PS Cafe at One Fullerton

What do you think about my first Christmas sewing project? Do you have the tradition of making a new thing for Christmas or any other holiday(s) like Hanukkah or Kwanzaa that you celebrate each year?

UPDATE (10 Jan 2018): Get 15% off your purchase from the Dutch Label Shop when you enter the code “gwenstellamade15” before you check out! xxx

Vintage 80’s does 50’s Pink Candy Cane Swing Dress

VINTAGE OF THE MONTH

Sharing a vintage a month, since September 2017!
Gwenstellamade VOTM 80s does 50s pink swing dress

Wearing: Vintage 80’s does 50’s swing dress, Sunjellies basket and sandals

Hi everyone, I am back with my VOTM post for the month of October! In my last VOTM post, I shared a beautiful 90’s does 30’s Betsey Johnson dress and talked about how fashion keeps going in cycle. This month, I am sharing another dress in my favourite colour – pink!

This sweet pink number is an 80’s does 50’s swing dress I purchased a couple of years back. I may have purchased it from Hong Kong or from a seller based in Singapore – I honestly can’t remember.

This dress is made of polyester fabric with diagonal pink & white pinstripes. The bodice isn’t lined so I had to wear a white tank top with the dress. The skirt, on the other hand, is lined. It has a comfortable elasticised waist and a roomy, boxy bodice. The sleeves, despite being considered “short sleeves” were still too long for me and I decided that wearing the dress with the sleeves folded up made it look better.

Gwenstellamade VOTM 80s does 50s pink swing dress

Details: Elasticised waist, boxy bodice, full circle skirt

My favourite thing about the dress is the fun, full circle skirt. Who doesn’t love twirling in a circle skirt?

While this dress has a silhouette that is reminiscent of the 1950’s New Look style, everything else about the dress which I have described about is a dead giveaway that it is not from the 1950’s. I guess people in the 1980’s valued comfort over fit, which explains the elasticised waist and unfitted bodice. Also, fashion in the 1980’s was big on the large underarm ease! And of course, mass production came into place and polyester is a cheap fabric option. For anyone who is new to vintage and slowly building a vintage wardrobe, an 80’s does 50’s dress is definitely a good place to start, as they are usually cheaper and easier to find than true vintage pieces from the 1950’s.

Gwenstellamade VOTM 80s does 50s pink swing dressThese photos were snapped on the day that I last wore this dress. I sold the dress a few months back as I am slowly culling my wardrobe to make more space for #gwenstellamade pieces and mid-century pieces that hold a special place in my heart. If I can’t even remember when and where I bought this dress, then it’s obvious that this dress has to go.

Gwenstellamade VOTM 80s does 50s pink swing dress

Details: Centre-back buttons, #Gwenstellamade hair tie (tutorial here), vintage 60’s hoops

Stay tuned for next month’s VOTM post! Judging from the progression so far, I have a feeling that next month I will be sharing something from the 70’s… xx Gwen

 

SEWN: 1950’s style Blue Country Garden Dress (Vogue 8789)

Gwenstella Made Vogue 8789 Country Garden

Sewing Gwenstella Made Vogue 8789 Country Garden
Is it just me or is the year flying by at the speed of light? I can’t believe that it is already October and this is only my SECOND dress of the year. Only 2 dresses so far!?

Surprisingly, I actually made this in record time of less than a month. The queen of procrastination is procrastinating no more! At this rate, I am hoping to complete at least 1 more dress, 1 pair of shorts, 1 bra top, and 1 skirt before 2017 draws to an end. *insert strong arm emoji*

Sewing Gwenstella Made Vogue 8789 Country Garden

Sewing Gwenstella Made Vogue 8789 Country Garden
This dress was made using Vogue 8789, a reproduced vintage pattern from 1957. I made adjustments to the bust and waist, as usual, to fit my under-developed bust and very average waistline. Grading this pattern down to my size was super easy with its simple design.

The fabric I used for this project is a beautiful floral fabric from a collection called “Country Garden #11”, something I purchased from Spotlight many years ago. I have a couple of other designs from this series and I can’t wait to sew other things with them.

Sewing Gwenstella Made Vogue 8789 Country Garden

Inside out.

Topstitching around the seam between the bodice and the skirt. There was so much fluff underneath because of the gathered fabric for the skirt!

Invisible side zipper

The pattern asks for 4.75 yds of 45″ wide fabric for size 6, but I only had 3.5 yards of this 45″ wide fabric. So, instead of cutting 4 rectangular pieces to make up the skirt, I only cut 3 pieces. In spite of that, I actually still managed to get a rather decent body to the skirt with a petticoat underneath. I wonder what it would look like with the full volume as stated in the pattern!

Hem of the skirt finished with a rolled hem foot on the sewing machine to save yardage! Also, I’m a fan of leaving the selvedge of a fabric in the finished product so I can always remember what the the fabric is called.

Centre front seam – perfect match!

I am absolutely in love with the simplicity of the pattern. It was easy to sew and the style is such a classic 1950’s look. If I made the dress again, I’d definitely want to add a lining to the bodice, and use the same fabric for the armhole facing rather than a plain white fabric like I did for this dress. Finishing the armhole facing with bias tape wasn’t something that the instruction asked for, but I thought it would make my dress look more “finished” on the inside. I’d do it again for the next time I make a dress with this pattern, perhaps even with a fancier bias tape just to make things more interesting.

Sewing Gwenstella Made Vogue 8789 Country Garden


Do you have this pattern sitting in your stash? My recommendation is to dig it out and start sewing! xx G