Posted in sewing

Pucci-like Panel Print Tunic: Burda 5-2010-104

I never really know what to do with panel prints. I think they would make great boxy tops. But, then I look like a billboard of fabric without some darts and waist definition in my life.  Enter, a remake of Burda 5-2010-104. I made this a good three months ago, but just never got a chance to take photos.
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Look, I know I complained about this looking maternity when I made it last summer, but I wore it a TON. So much in fact that I’ve worn it out. Still, I decided to sew it again using a stretch silk charmeuse panel print I purchased in China five years ago. I purchased three panels while there for about $15 total. I LOVE the colors of this top. It’s so summery and the blue is calming. That said, I think silk makes me sweat. Is that possible? Shouldn’t it breathe beautifully?

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I did a few things a little differently with this version.

  • I made a much bigger FBA adding another 1/2 inch in width and length for a total of 1.5 inches. Last time, I didn’t think my bust fit fully in the right spot.
  • I added a few more inches in length to the hem. Not enough to make a dress (I don’t really want a thin, white silk dress). But, long enough that it’s a little more flattering to my legs and still wearable with skinny jeans.
  • Took up the v-neck an inch or so. The bridge of my bra was always showing. I kind of didn’t care. But, fully recognize it’s tacky and I should care a *little* more.

I’m happy to report that the drapier charmeuse seems to have less of the maternity vibe too. I mean, as ‘less’ as a flowey, empire waist, ruched top can look…

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Now, I tried my best to match prints with this tunic. But, for the love of all that’s good, I just didn’t have enough fabric to do it well. Hard to explain without photos, but the circles aren’t balanced. So, I could get half of everything matched but not the other half.

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Plus, I managed to put two scoops right on my butt. I worked so hard to avoid this look on my bewbs that I managed to put two cheeks on my cheeks.

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Oh well!

I’m pretty pleased with this silky beauty. In large part because reading about my shopping in China brought back such good memories! Imagine, someone I’ve never met offers to take me shopping in a foreign country. That experience wouldn’t have been as great without them.

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I’m totally casual at work these days. And, I’m starting to like wearing jeans daily. But, I want to look a step above basic tees whenever possible. These jeans though. They are the PITS. You can see how worn they are at the inner thigh and knee. These are barely a year old. It’s okay. I’m still working on my jeans muslin. And, once I get it right, I’m going to make One Million Pairs.

Finally, remember a few months ago I was my friend’s photo assistant at a wedding in the Catskills? Well, the wedding photos are now up on her blog. Please have a look! I had an amazing time and bawled my eyes out multiple times during the ceremony. And, Jen was kind enough to include a couple of pictures I took too.  Jen and I were journalism students together in college. She was a brilliant reporter and now an incredible photographer.

Posted in sewing, Travel

China Lace Dresses

I had a stack of China related posts ready to write while I was there. But, then things got c-r-a-z-y.  One thing I wanted to talk about were the custom clothes I had made in China. I had two suits, four shirts made, but I was really excited about these lace dresses.

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As you may recall, I spotted these laces while in China at the Silk Bund Spinning Market. I paid about$15 usd a yard for them and was feeling a little taken to the cleaners. But, I felt better after spotting the same lace in white in Xiamen and they were asking double the price before negotiating. I felt especially good after coming back from China and finding these laces at A Fabric Place for $85 to $110 a yard.

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Anywhoo, I decided I wanted to have dresses made rather than sew them myself when I got home. I went online and picked these two styles for inspiration.

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Dolce and Gabbana ($3,500)

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Second view of DG dress

I’ve never really sewn with lace before and wasn’t all that amped to try anytime soon. So, going to a tailor to have them made in China would also be part of the experience. I also decided to wait until Xiamen instead of Shanghai because of the prices. I knew the labor costs would be half since Xiamen isn’t saturated with Westerners having clothes made.

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In Xiamen one of our guides, found a brother, sister and mom  who worked out of their home. I showed them the dresses on my iPad and from the September editions of Vogue magazine. They took my measurements and got to work.

Essentially, there is no pattern. They marked my hip, waist and bust measurements right on the fabric.

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From there, they draft, again, on the fabric.

If you can imagine, they had appliqued the neckline lace. Something, I just would not have the patience to do.

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I went in for about two fittings on the three dresses and here are the results. I had the cream and purple made into the Valentino cap sleeve style. I asked for a side zipper because I didn’t want to ruin the lines of the lace.

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I always knew I wanted to wear the cream dress for our rehearsal / welcome dinner. And, Liz looked so cute in the purple version, that she wore it that night too.

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Now, on me the cream lace dress is about four inches too long. It would be better just above my knee. The purple proportions are fine.

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I’m not tall (or thin) enough to get away with this middy look.

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I thought about hacking some off the bottom and reapplying the lace. But, I’m not going to do that.

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And, I think it looks prettier with the lace detail (unlike above where it’s turned under). I’m also not going to cut it at the waist, shorten from there, and sew it back. It’s just not in me.

Anywho, Liz wore the purple version that night and looked smashing.

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I haven’t gotten to wear the red one yet. Man, red takes terrible pictures.  We just finalized details for a post-wedding party his parents are hosting. I thought about wearing it then, but it seems a little fancy for a Sunday afternoon gig.

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Overall, I am thrilled with the dresses. They are really beautifully made and I wouldn’t have gotten around to sewing them any time soon. Plus, it was an experience having someone else interpret your idea of a dress. I think being a sewist myself made me super patient with the process. I also knew I needed to give them photos of what I wanted and NOT deviate. Between the language barrier and time, not having a photo is the way to get what you don’t want.

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My interpreter this year, Ashley (below)  was fascinated by the whole process. But, she too could not understand why I would want to get dresses made when there are H&M and other stores all over China. I also got to bore her pants of with wedding details. Weddings are BIG business in China. Since I was always online ordering stuff for the wedding, she was my one woman focus group.

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What is different this year, is she didn’t think I paid too much. Three years ago, my interpreters thought my custom clothes were expensive. But, the economy in China has changed since then and this didn’t seem too high to her.

I’ll post about the suits and shirts another time, I think this post is long enough!

Posted in sewing, Travel

Back From China

Hello Everyone!

First, thank you for all the congratulations on my recent engagement!!! We ended up taking a las minute trip over the Labor Day holiday weekend to see my parents in Florida.

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Pass A Grille Beach in St. Pete, FL

Sitting on the lanai, (thank you Debbie Cooke, I had no idea what that thing was called) by the pool, we read every single comment out loud. There was a lot of squealing of delight on my part 🙂 It was so fun to hear from long time internet friends, real life friends and from those of you who delurked.  I am sincerely overwhelmed and touched by your outpouring of congratulations. Jordan, for sure, knows there is a whole community rooting for us!

Two weeks week ago (the Tuesday after Labor Day), I left for a two-week business trip to Shanghai and Xiamen in China. My colleagues and I were incredibly busy with work meetings and work meals.

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But, I had to get back to the South Bund Spinning Market while in Shanghai.

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Long time readers may remember that the market is mostly for buying custom made clothing.

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For instance, this dress is a knock off of a dress worn by Kate Middleton. Their price, pre-bargining, custom fit, $100.

This Burberry copy was $80

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But, I was focused on buying laces. My plan was to buy fabric in Shanghai and have it sewn in Xiamen. Prior experience told me construction prices would be half.

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These guipere laces are stunning at stall no 398. They are similar to Prada and Versace. And, after bargaining, $15 a yard. I may have overpaid. But, you lose perspective!

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They’ve been turned into three lace dresses (cream, red, and purple), one of which I will wear for my rehearsal dinner.

Here is the cream lace mid construction

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If I lived in China, I would have everything custom made. Period.

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I also bought several meters of each of these laces to make my wedding veil. For 20 yards I spent about $20. I want a finger tip, one layer veil edged in lace. I saw them going for $300 US. That, is bananas. I’ll use the savings for my shoes. The first and last are my top contenders. I will use the second and third to practice.

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I am now back home after 40 hours of travel from Xiamen to Shanghai, Shanghai to Detroit and Detroit to Baltimore and, incredibly jet lagged (hence my 4:00 a.m. posting)

I’ll get the four shirts, two suits and three dresses I had made on the dressform and post some about that process and the food I ate. Oh, China has changed since I went three years ago and I’ll bore you with my thoughts on that too!

Posted in Travel

Magical Thinking and Big in China

Well. Not *really* big. There were plenty of women taller than me or the same height. But, buildwise? I am HUGE. I went from a medium here at home to an Extra Large in China.

As mentioned, I only took one pair of shoes with me to China. Good, comfortable walking shoes purchased days before I left.

They started coming apart at the Baltimore aiport. By Day Four, I was seriously worried about them lasting me until the end especially because we had a trip planned to the Great Wall (never made it). I managed to get a quick repair on the street for 8 RMB (a little over a $1 US). Please don’t think I found this guy on my own! I showed my shoes to the concierge and he walked me outside and up the street to this man.

He operated out of a cart and hand stitched the sole back to the upper leather shoe.

I loved his sewing machine complete with a stool for customers to sit on.

And, since I had a new traditional Chinese dress, I thought newer shoes were mandated. Especially because our college-age interpreters made a face when I told them I was going to wear my red shoes.

I bought these in a European size 40 (about an 8.5 to 9 in US sizes). I had to visit two stores before I found one that even carried my size! And even then, the sales clerk looked really doubtful. These shoes are beautiful. But, cotton. I’m almost afraid to wear them! They were $10 US on sale.

Elizabeth accidetnally left her suit behind in Shanghai and needed a new dress in Xiamen. They had her size. In an Extra Large. Some dresses we looked at and before we could ask for our size, the poor sales clerk would just shake her head ‘no’.

I also indulged after falling in love with this shift dress. Also, an Extra Large. An XL with unmatched plaid. I have got to pay more attention in the store.

Cute, no?

Part of our tour in Beijing included a stop at a traditional Chinese medicine doctor.

For 20 RMB (about $3 US) you can get a 10 minute massage.

This doctor’s specialty is reading pulses. They say they can diagnose anything through your pulse.

He felt my pulse and told me through the interpreter that I had bad circulation which was impacting my sleep and aggravating my tendinitis. I asked for a little something to help with weight loss. I mean, if we’re engaging in magical thinking, I’ll take a pill that helps me lose 10 pounds. He told me I didn’t need to lose any weight but I needed to take a two $90 a month supplements of 20 pills at each meal to help my blood circulate better.

$180 a month for some ground up roots and seeds. I passed.

Well, this post generally concludes my travel blogging for China. Overall, it was a pretty amazing trip. And, it truly came at the right time for me. I welcomed the distraction. I left home in the middle of summer and now it’s cooling off and feels like fall. Time to start thinking and blogging about sewing again, eh? Thanks for following along this series and all of your comments of support. I’m always a little conscious of blogging ‘off topic’ and I’m glad you let me turn this blog into my travel journal.

Posted in sewing, Travel

Other Random China Bits

Helen and Queenie

** Unless I have some crazy revelations, this should be my next to last travel post about China. I tended to write outlines up each night while I was gone (have to do something with all the jetlag and no access to sewing blogs!) and revised and organized on my 14 hour flight back into the US. I probably should have strung my posts out through the week. But, I’m an instant bloggerfacation kind of girl.

One of my surprises about Xiamen is that they too have a fabric ‘mall’. Unfortunately, I know neither the name nor the address. When we got to Xiamen we were assigned interpreters from the local college. They were the cutest things. Sweet and helpful. My first day there I let them know I needed to have my qipao altered, Liz needed a dress made and I needed some garments copied for my boss. We found this mall on the second go round. They were shocked that I made my own clothes. Not that they had stuff made. They just shopped at the mall. Typical teenagers, right?

Again, similar set up as in Shanghai. But, the fabric choices were limited. More suitings and shirtings than fine silks and fun prints. There were also several dressmakers and tailors who operated seperately from thier fabric.

On the basement level I was in search of the quipa pattern book I spotted in one of the shops. Unfortunately I couldn’t find one.

But, I saw this woman making strings of beads and beading fabric in another room. Watching her made my eyes hurt.

This woman was sewing all of the little jewelry bags that we get pieces in.

I did find someone sewing uniforms and was puzzled. I kept thinking, ‘why don’t they just order uniforms?’ But, then I realized that this *i*s where our uniforms come from! It was eye opening.

But, I did stumble upon several supply stores and stocked up.

Zippers were half a yuan each (don’t hate me) about 8 cents each. Yes. 8 cents. I bought two dozen in black and took their assorted package. Oh. Definitely wishing I had bought more of the assorted zipper packs. These are all 22 inches long.

Buttons were also 10 cents each in Xiamen. I exercised great  control I think and bought these plus a gross of plain white shirt buttons. The gross was about $5 US.

And, the things I got which made my heart soar took true trans Pacific cooperation. While shopping in the supply store I saw they had industrial serger feet. Now, we all know that Gigi has been sewing it up in Florida binding any and everything. I  know I want to buy an industrial machine within the next year or two. So, I asked how much the feet were. $4 each. Say *what*?

Apparently, ‘Great Knives’ are made in Taiwan — visible from Xiamen’s shore.

I emailed Gigi that night (her morning) asking her what feet I would want to buy so I could stock up there. To the rescue, she sent me a list of feet to look for and for the binders, she even saved me the mental (well cell phone) calculations and listed the widths in metric! In *metric*

Since I bought so many feet, they sold the binders to me at $2 a each. $2. And the regular sewing feet for the industrial? 50 cents each.

I also bought sewing machine needles for $1.50 for a pack of 10. And, they say ‘Shanghai Shaggong Sewing Machine Company’. I would have bought them for that alone. Not pictured, two of the biggest rolls of elastic you’ve ever seen for little and nothing.

It was also on this trip that I experienced my first squat toilet. My mom warned me. Katharine in Brussels warned me (omg K. Thank you for telling me about the spitting before I got there). But, it’s something to behold the first time. If you think you won’t use one. Then, you just just don’t have to go badly enough. To be honest, in a skirt, it’s far more sanitary that a sit down toilet. But, I was not coordinated enough to work it out with pants.

BTW, it was hotter than hell in Xiamen

The only makeup I wore for ten days was Neutorgena sunblock. Which, sadly, dried white in my eyebrows and no one told me. I only realized it when I started uploading my photos, LOL.