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

SEWN: 1950’s style Gingham Blouse and Skirt (Simplicity 1426)

Wow, I can’t believe that this is already the second “Sewn” post for the year. This has been an incredible year of sewing for me so far (and it’s only March), and I am so excited to share this recent make with everyone! This green gingham fabric has been in my stash for a long long time. I remember purchasing it because it was cheap (which is a bad choice in retrospect) and putting it away with the rest of my stash while waiting for the “right pattern” to come around. When I purchased the Simplicity 1426 pattern late last year, I knew I wanted to use this fabric to create a cute 50’s inspired look with any of the bra tops in the pattern, complete with a matching skirt. It seemed easy when I planned it out in my head…

Back when I bought the fabric, I was a young and naive sewist. I didn’t know matching pattern was a thing. Watching The Great British Sewing Bee taught me a lot of things. For one, it taught me that pattern matching could either make or break a finished garment. As I began to plan the placement of pattern pieces for this project, my feelings towards this chirpy green fabric turned from that of happiness and hope to a kind of fear and resentment.

Alas, the fear of matching large gingham pattern got the better of me. I decided to shelf this project for a while (and later moved on to cutting and sewing my first handmade PJs set).

Somewhere in November, I finally mustered enough courage to start sewing the pieces together. Everything came together surprisingly well! It’s not perfect in all the spots, but I think it’s pretty darn good for someone who is doing pattern matching for the first time.

Sewing Simplicity 1426 Retro Vintage 1950s 1960s gwenstellamade

Fairly well-matched pattern

For the top, I made view A in size 4 which fitted me very well at all the important spots. As I wanted something that would look more like a top and less like a bra, I lengthened my bottom band to around 3.25″ wide. I also added some bra cups between the gingham fabric and the lining so that this could truly be a bra top and not worn with anything else underneath. More importantly, the bra cups help to fill up the top more than my boobies can!

I made the skirt without any pattern. It’s basically a long rectangular piece of fabric sewn at the ends to make a loop, then gathered at the top and sewn to a sturdy waistband. Working with limited yardage (as usual), I could not make a full circle skirt.

The first button: For days of multiple feasts

The second button: For more adventurous days

Both the bra top and the skirt have button closures. The top, in particular, has the cutest green flower buttons I found in my stash.

Have I mentioned anything about the buttonholes? Another thing that the GBSB taught me was the magic of a buttonhole foot. Every single button hole on the back of the top is of equal size. Every. Single. One.

In case you’re wondering, I wore my top over the band of my skirt

Wearing: Gwenstellamade top and skirt, thrifted wedges, vintage clutch

Moving ahead, I’m already in the midst of cutting up view C for another project. I also have this same gingham print in red and blue (in different yardage). Maybe I will be working on them soon in the next few months. If you like what I have been making so far this year, don’t forget to subscribe to my blog and follow me on Instagram (@gwenstellamade) to join me in all of my adventures!

SEWN: My first handmade PJs set

Sewing Retro Blue Floral Pyjamas

Sewing Retro Blue Floral PyjamasGrowing up, I never owned any PJs. What  I usually wore to bed were a ratty tee and a pair of ugly, loose shorts. These were usually the same T-shirt and shorts that I wore to bum around at home and sometimes, for a quick run to the stores. It was not the classiest ensemble, but it was very comfy.

I always thought that PJs was a bourgeois practice. Why a different set of clothes was needed for going to bed was something I never understood.

But oh, how the times have changed.

Sewing Retro Blue Floral Pyjamas

Sewing Retro Blue Floral PyjamasI no longer wear any ratty t-shirts when heading out for a quick trip to the store, and I’ve grown fond of the idea of putting on something sweet and delicate after my shower in the evening. Yes, I’m turning towards the life of the bourgeois.

I’ve had this royal blue rose garden print flannel fabric in my stash forever. I think I found it in a fabric remnant bin and bought it for less than $10. I always thought I would make something Cath Kidston-inspired with it, like a purse or a hat. But I never got around doing that, and when the idea of making a pyjamas set came to me, it was clear that this was the perfect fabric for the project.

As I only had a short yardage to work with, I decided to make a simple sleeveless blouse and a pair of shorts – nothing too stuffy for bed in Singapore!

Sewing Retro Blue Floral Pyjamas

Front and back

Sewing Retro Blue Floral Pyjamas

Buttons

For the blouse, I drafted my own simple button-front top with waist darts on the front and back. The armholes were finished with bias tape. This is my favourite method for finishing sleeveless armholes.

Sewing Retro Blue Floral Pyjamas

Sewing Retro Blue Floral PyjamasFor the shorts, I used New Look 6055 (option E). In order to work with the limited yardage I had, I eliminated the pockets. I also created a curved hem and added ruffles along the hem of the shorts to make it look cuter than the regular pair of pyjamas shorts. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough fabric to make some ruffles for the blouse too.

Sewing Retro Blue Floral Pyjamas

Sewing Retro Blue Floral PyjamasNevertheless, I’m really happy with how this pyjamas set has turned out. The fact that the print reminds of Cath Kidston’s designs is an absolute bonus.

SEWN: 1950’s inspired Bateau Neckline Blouse

Dancing Couples 1950's Vintage Style Blouse Bateau Sewing

Wearing: Matching boat-neck blouse and skirt, and pom pom headband (all me-made)

Dancing Couples 1950's Vintage Style Blouse Bateau SewingI’m a real sucker for matching sportswear. They have endless outfit possibilities and let me pretend that I have created a collection for my own pretend fashion label for Fashion Week.

Ideally, I want to complete my matching sportswear within a month of making each item of clothing. But very often, that is not possible because of my general disregard for time. (I’m slowly getting better at this, I swear.)

I wrote about the “Dancing Couples Flared Skirt” back in January 2015, but only managed to make this matching bateau neckline top several months later, in October 2015. And for some reason, after completing it, I put it back in my closet and only wore it out for the first time in May this year for Me Made May. (What is wrong with me???)

All right, let’s get over the embarrassing timeline and focus on the subject of the post. The bateau aka boat-neck design was a very popular cut in the 50’s. Using pictures of vintage 1950’s sewing patterns I have found online as inspirations, I drafted my own pattern for a fitted blouse with a bateau neckline and cut-in armholes.

Front view

Front view


Dancing Couples 1950's Vintage Style Blouse Bateau Sewing

Back view

The construction of the blouse was easy. I didn’t even make a muslin for this. The trickiest thing was actually deciding the kind of fastening I wanted for the top. As the blouse has a pretty fitted waist, I needed something with an opening that was large enough for my arms, shoulders, head, and (non-existent) boobs. I didn’t have any separating zippers (and didn’t want to buy one), so I simply made do with an invisible zipper that I had.

Centre-back zipper fastening

Centre-back zipper fastening and contrast thread


Armhole finishes with bias tape

Armhole finishes with bias tape

I somehow managed to find a balance where I could *just* fit the blouse over my head. (Thank you, non-existent boobies.) But in hindsight, I probably should look into doing some research on vintage dressmaking techniques and doing a proper vintage fastening, like having the bottom fastened with buttons so I won’t have to do the wiggle every time I put this blouse on.

Dancing Couples 1950's Vintage Style Blouse Bateau Sewing

Dancing Couples 1950's Vintage Style Blouse Bateau SewingWell, live and you learn.

I still have maybe a quarter yard of this fabric available. I should look into making an accessory with the rest of the fabric, like a hat, a belt or a little purse. We’ll see!

Dancing Couples 1950's Vintage Style Blouse Bateau Sewing

Dancing Couples 1950's Vintage Style Blouse Bateau Sewing

Check out my post on the Dancing Couples flared skirt here.

SEWN: 1960’s style Plaid Shift Dress

vintage 1960s inspired plaid shift dress sewing dressmaking

*wipes the cobwebs off this blog*

Ah! How time has flown once again. I have been so busy with moving and everything else that I haven’t had the time to write a blog post. Now that wifi is set up in my new home, I am excited to be back and sharing something again!

In my previous post, I shared with everyone a shift dress I made a few years ago using a fabric with a Mondrian inspired print. That sleeveless dress was made using a New Look pattern, so this time I thought I oughta challenge myself by putting my amateur pattern-making skills to test and draft a shift dress with sleeves.

I thought it would be easy but I was wrong.

vintage 1960s inspired plaid shift dress sewing dressmaking

Wearing: 1960s inspired plaid shift dress (handmade), black glitter thigh high socks (ASOS), cat eye glasses (ASOS), black purse (won in a giveaway eons ago), vintage white clip-ons (thrifted)

vintage 1960s inspired plaid shift dress sewing dressmakingI know it looks fine in the photos but there are so many things I am unhappy about. First of all, the collar is a little too high *chokes*. Next, the darts don’t lie flat despite my best sewing attempt. Finally, the sleeves took 2 drafts to finally fit (and when I mean fit, I mean I can just barely move my arms in the dress).

Good thing I was cheap and I only used the expensive plaid fabric on the front of the dress in the attempt to create contrasting accents for the dress. If I had to make the plaids match front and back too, I would have died on the sewing table.

 

vintage 1960s inspired plaid shift dress sewing dressmaking IMG_5780But you know what, I am actually rather pleased with how the contrasting patch pockets turned out! They are a wee tiny but I think I have done a good job at sewing them on.

vintage 1960s inspired plaid shift dress sewing dressmaking As of now, I have worn the dress about twice as part of my current weekend capsule wardrobe. I am still not happy with the way the sleeves are making me use my arms like a T-Rex, and I am seriously thinking about either taking the sleeves off completely, or…. *cue horror music* try drafting the sleeves again for the third time.

We’ll see!

SEWN: Red Hot Batik Summer 1950’s inspired fitted playsuit

Red Hot Batik Summer 1950s inspired playsuit

Red Hot Batik Summer 1950s inspired playsuit

The Internet has helped me to realise that there are tons of vintage mid-century Alfred Shaheen playsuits out there. But unfortunately, it’s hard for me to find one with a print that truly speaks to me. Besides, it’s also hard to find an affordable one in my size. Aye, I expect vintage Alfred Shaheen to be expensive, but I am not sure if I am ready to spend that kind of money…yet.

McCall 3919 Playsuit and Skirt Sewing Pattern

McCall’s 3919 Playsuit and Skirt Sewing Pattern (via)

And then I came across this picture of a vintage McCall’s 3919 Instant Playsuit and Skirt pattern (circa 1956). My heart spoke and I did what it said; I drafted a pattern based on this picture, and took a cheap batik tablecloth out of my fabric stash.

Alfred Shaheen was known for using unique fabric designs inspired by the Hawaiian islands. On the other hand, batik fabric is a type of fabric design that is symbolic to and very popular in the Indonesian culture. Batik designs are also seen and used in many countries in Southeast Asia. The uniform worn by the Singapore Girls of Singapore Airlines is one classic example of batik design. These 2 designs come from 2 different corners of the world, but their styles are highly similar, and they evoke the same mood to me. Two words – exotic summer.

Red Hot Batik Summer 1950s inspired playsuit

Wearing: Handmade vintage inspired playsuit, rattan basket bag from Vietnam, laced up ballet flats

Red Hot Batik Summer 1950s inspired playsuit

I was really apprehensive about starting the project because it was my first time drafting a pattern myself after attending a series of Italian dressmaking classes last year. What if I failed!?!?!?!!

Fortunately, I didn’t. Well, I guess it wasn’t a very difficult pattern. I had to take the playsuit in a little bit more at the end, but that was it. The bust area fit fine, the facings match the main body, the armholes look tidy, and the centre-back button entry is right at the centre!

Red Hot Batik Summer 1950s inspired playsuit

Detail: Up close

Armholes

Detail: Armhole with bias tape sewn

Fabric logo

Detail: Unfortunate placement

Red Hot Batik Summer 1950s inspired playsuit

Back details: Centre-back button entry and one gold motif on each half of the back

The other challenge was cutting the fabric pieces according to the design of the fabric. I cut it in a way such that the front has a vertical design down the centre, while the back has a different motif in each half. I had so much fun figuring this out! And everything turned out rather well. The only thing I would pick on… would be the unfortunate placement of the logo of the fabric at the crotch. But I had no choice, the fabric was only a little more than a metre and I was trying to work with the design of the fabric. Good thing it’s not too noticeable.

Red Hot Batik Summer 1950s inspired playsuit

Front details: Vertical design down the centre and a round neckline

I guess the only difference between the original pattern and mine is that I have a regular neckline at the back instead of a lowered neckline. Looking back, the latter would have been a better idea because I can’t reach some of the buttons too easily – getting in and out of the bathroom takes a while!

Other than that, I’m super glad with how everything has turned out. This is definitely something I will keep forever. I am thinking that making clothes using batik fabric to emulate the popular vintage tiki designs might be an addictive business… xoxo G

 

SEWN: Take A Holiday Gathered & Flared Skirt

Take A Holiday 50s Inspired Gathered & Flared Skirt

Oh hello March!

I think I am starting to get the hang of sewing skirts. This gathered and flared skirt was really easy to assemble. Best of all, I cut the pieces myself without any sewing pattern involved! This is the first time I have sewn a clothing item without the help of a paper pattern. True, a skirt is super easy. But at least this is a start!

Take A Holiday 50s Inspired Gathered & Flared Skirt
Take A Holiday 50s Inspired Gathered & Flared Skirt

This skirt was made with just 1 yard of fabric. I think I have just made up my mind that skirts are the best fabric stash buster.

I bought this dreamy fabric from Spotlight just a few months ago. The houses and trees remind me of the streets I used to walk along in Sydney.. Ah… those long sunny days and hazy summer dreams…

Yes, novelty prints are the best. And why yes, this project was inspired by all the novelty print skirts and dresses from the 1950s. Here are some more to spark some inspiration!

1950s novelty print skirts

(via)

 

1950s novelty print skirts

From left to right: here, here, here

 

Only 2 more weeks to my next holiday! Woohoo! xoxo G

SEWN: Mid-century inspired gingham pants

Sears Catalog, Spring/Summer 1958

I have always wanted a pair of mid-century pants. I have several poofy mid-century style dresses, circle skirts, and super tight rockabilly high-waisted shorts. Those are great, but I have always wanted something more casual for a lazy weekend. Of course, buying true vintage or reproduction is out of question because of cost and fit. I can’t even find a pair of modern denim jeans that fit me properly because my hips are a size bigger than my waist.

And then my chance came with the Italian pattern making class. I can now draft my own pattern for a pair of pants that fits me nicely!

1.5 years on and most of what I wear is still handmade and/or from Sydney...

1.5 years on and most of what I wear is still handmade and/or from Sydney…

Pattern: My very own
Fabric: Black and white gingham seersucker

And also, this is the first time that I sewed a front fly zip! I have been avoiding doing this for the longest time because my mother told me it would be challenging. I should have known better – it was NOT too difficulty. I am not kidding. If you are scared of front fly zipper, don’t be. It’s not that difficult. There’s Youtube. There’s blogs. There’s the Internet.

photo 4-3

Do you get the implication of this? Do you get it at all? This means that I can now make a zillion pairs of peddle pushers, shorts, pants in various prints – floral, polka dot, paisley… Ok perhaps a zillion is just an overstatement. But you get me.

So much happiness from simple a pair of gingham pants. x

SEWN: Hawaiian Boat Neck Top

 

SEWN: Hawaiian Boat Neck Top

SEWN: Hawaiian Boat Neck Top

Wearing: Handmade Hawaiian Boat Neck top, ASOS high-waisted bikini bottom

Wearing: Handmade Hawaiian Boat Neck top, ASOS high-waisted bikini bottom, ASOS platform shoes

I recently attended a course on the Italian method of pattern-making and one of the things we went through in class was the drafting of kimono sleeves. And when we were asked to make a top with kimono sleeves (and any kind of neckline), I decided to make a boat neck top to match my Hawaiian shorts.

First things first, I am not a fan of kimono sleeves/bat wing sleeves. Sure, they are common in the 50s, but that doesn’t mean I am obliged to like them. I don’t understand the concept of having excess fabric under the pits. Is it supposed to help with air circulation? And how is it suppose to drape!?!?!

Despite the general contempt with kimono sleeves as well as the confusion with drafting a pattern with kimono sleeves, I went ahead to cut the fabric anyway.

If I had a 2014 Resort collection, this would be part of it.

If I had a Gwenstella Resort 2015 collection, this would be part of it.

I am embarrassed to admit that my first attempt at boat neck was abysmal at best. In other words, there was no boat, but a mess of fabric on my chest. Thankfully, the problem was fixed easily with some darts. My boat now stays afloat!

My kimono sleeves also didn’t turn out too great.  I am guessing that they are supposed to be rounder and lower. 😦

All in all, disasters were averted with my alterations after putting everything together. I probably need to review that awful draft I drew again.

IMG_6407_fotor

IMG_6409_fotor

SEWN: Dare to Pear Dress

Dare to Pear Dress - 1

Groovy, baby

Dare to Pear Dress - 2

I bought a yard or so of this lovely knitted fabric with repeated pear print in Sydney AGES ago. As the fabric itself is kinda quirky and attention-grabbing, I decided to make a simple shift dress with it, using a long knitted dress I have as a base (i.e. no paper pattern involved). I have never worked with knitted fabric prior to this and boy was I in for a ride. I finished the neckline and the sleeve openings using bias tape I made with the same fabric and.. all I can say it that it needed a lot of patience..

And then I decided to get a little creative and do a curved hem for the dress. That was the worst decision I made in the process of making this dress. The dress turned out a little too short to be a real dress but still a little too long to be a tank top. It’s still really cute in my opinion but I am just finding it hard to reconcile with the ultra mini length.

Maybe all I need is a pair of white plastic hoop earrings and white go-go boots, then I’ll be good to go. Swinging sixties look, of course.