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Just Cavalli in Singapore

My current job occasionally gives me fantastic opportunities to travel, too. As you might remember, I have had a chance to visit Zurich and Istanbul before, but this time the destination was Singapore! Although I travel quite often and have been to a few places, this is the farthest I have ever been until now.

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I try to take the most of my trips and this time was no different. I used the time free from the conference I was attending, for some sight-seeing with my colleagues and fabric shopping.

According to my web-research prior to the trip, there are basically 3 main spots for fabrics in Singapore – the Arab Street, Spotlight store at Plaza Singapura and fabric market in Chinatown. I checked out the first two.

Here are some shots from the Arab Street stores:

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The Arab Street was actually a ten minute walk from our hotel, a street lined with nothing but fabric shops. The selection ranges from exotic cottons to cheap polyester prints to fine silk and beaded lace. Of course I felt pressured by the desire to buy some fancy silk, but eventually I decided that I had enough party dresses already and I´d rather get something more casual to be able to get more wear of it.

So I got two different embroidered cottons and a mixed fiber silky dress fabric:

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The embroidered cottons are similar, yet very different in my opinion. I imagine the first one as a pure white, crisp summer dress, probably fitted; the second one is off-white and more girly, with a fluffier skirt.

The silky dress fabric has border print on both sides, my first idea is to use the central monochrome piece for the bodice and the border print for the skirt piece of a dress.

The Spotlight store is a huge shop full of anything you might need for party decorations, but also stuff like bedsheets and home decor products. There is a big selection of notions and fabrics, which seemed to be of the cheaper end in the majority. I didn´t buy anything!

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There was also one strange store named Daiso, where nearly everything comes from Japan and costs 2 Singapore dollars.You can find stuff from tools to dishes and cosmetics there. They also have some sewing related things, so I got a set of cover buttons and eyelet punch tool for 4 dollars!

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I also used the opportunity to photograph one of my latest finished projects, a party dress made of the original Just Cavalli fabric I got from Helsinki two years ago. You might remember this:

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I was very eager to start working on the dress right after I had bought the fabric and used a simple pattern from Patrones, trying to create a copy of the original. But there is something really peculiar about the fabric and how it appears in the photo above – it looks like the model should be no more than 1.5 m tall, because I am 1.7 and I simply cannot use the print in the exact way as shown, the dress would be embarrassingly short. Also, the pattern I had chosen was like a loose rag on me.

After facing these issues, I dumped the dress into the bottom of a drawer and was hurt every time I was looking for something else in there and the dress reminded me of my failure.

That was until I had enough of it and decided that I´d rather give it another try and see if I can make something wearable out of it after all. This is the result:

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I really liked the bright green piping of the side seams on the original dress, but after adding this detail to my version, I couldn´t resist pushing it a bit by adding the same piping to neck and armholes as well.

I did something rather unorthodox in order to achieve a nice fit – knowing that McCall´s 6243 really fits me well (tested two times already, look here and here), but not wanting to disrupt the beautiful print, I just arranged the pattern onto the pieces of the totally dismantled first version of the dress front and back, creating a one-piece front with just two darts. I took into account the fact that the pattern has seam allowances already included and overlapped the front diagonal pieces by approximately 1.5 cm. It worked!

As you can see, I compensated the insufficient length by adding a black ponte panel to the bottom of the dress and joining the fabrics into one by continuing the piping all the way down.

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I think the result is very rewarding. It is such a pleasure to turn a failed project into a beautiful garment that hardly goes unnoticed. I should have done it a long time ago and saved myself a lot of heartache every time I opened that drawer!

Singapore itself is a highly organized and extremely clean metropolis with extravagant architectural pearls. To my surprise, eating out was rather cheap and neither did I have to pay a fortune for the fabrics or public transport. Due to the conference we spent there quite a few days, but I generally think that if the only aim is to do sightseeing, three or maximum four days would be sufficient to explore the highlights of the city.

Here are some photos:

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Colour Clash Top

This spring has been so busy that I failed to post anything in April! But I am happy that one of the reasons why I have been busy, is the sewing hobby itself, not just work!

I actually have several items to show by now, but lets start with a simple top I made in record time of about 24 hours from tracing the patterns to the finished object, including packing and preparing for a 10-day trip in the meanwhile!

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I am not so fond of cowl necklines or gathered details, so I really went through all my pattern stash to make sure that model 130 from Burdastyle September 2012 is the one to go with.

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Surprisingly, I am happy with the result! I think it has mostly to do with the fabric, there is something so happy and summery about those colours!

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I didn´t make any alterations to the pattern, although I was sure I would have to, when I cut the pieces out at first – due to the gathers on the sleeves on one side seam, the pieces are extremely long! Eventually I think it worked out just fine.

I used a 5mm wide elastic tape for the gathers, sewing them under tension onto the seam allowances. Because my fabric is quite elastic, I used a twin needle throughout the project, making sure that every seam that had to be elastic, would be so. For more stable knits, I usually use twin needle only for the hems, but the side seams etc work fine with the regular needle, too.

I don´t know the exact composition of my fabric, but it seems to be prone to pilling. However the random print of the Statue of Liberty and Eiffel Tower in patches of bright colours was appealing and the top was easy to sew, which makes it ok, even if I don´t get that much wear out of it.

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Overall, I think the top is a nice thing to wear during summer evenings, but I already made use of it in the cold conference rooms in Singapore, which is the destination I was packing for while making the top! More about that in the next post!

Spring in Paris – The Yellow Skirt

Hello!

I spent the last week in Paris with my mother, a trip she had long wanted to make. As my employer decided generously to add one extra week of holidays to everyone in 2015, I thought it would be a good chance to use the extra week for the purpose of accompanying her and also discovering Paris for the first time.

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I must say if you ever plan to go to Paris in spring, do it in April-May. Currently it was nastily cold! There is something about the cold in warmer climates – during the years I lived in Cyprus and Greece, I was also always cold in winter, especially indoors and fell ill once every year. This rarely happens to me here up North!

It was also slightly early because the trees were still leafless, which surely had an impact on my visual impression of Paris. It just means another trip has to be planned!

Thankfully, I had just finished a mustardy-yellow skirt to brighten things up.

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The pattern is from BurdaStyle October 2011 issue, model 119A and B mixed together.

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I cut size 38 at the waist and smoothed to size 40 at the hips. The fabric I used is from my trip to Portugal. I don´t know the composition if the fabric, but it is a weird one, dense and heavy and quite elastic lengthwise. I had just enough fabric for the skirt, as the pockets are self-lined and pretty big, requiring a lot of fabric.

Sewing this weird material was a pleasure, although it got tiresome at the waist, where I needed all my strength to press the basting needle through the layers.

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The skirt is unlined and i did not finish the seam allowances, since the fabric doesn´t fray at all and it would only have added extra bulk. The waistband is also hand stitched from the inside.

I really love the shape and extravagant size of the pockets. The buttonholes are only stitched, not cut through and the buttons are sewn onto those.

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Traditionally, I had done some homework on fabric shops in Paris and luckily there is a whole district of fabric shops of all sorts right on the base of the hilltop where the spectacular Sacre Coeur church sits.

Some of these shops are specialized on Halloween and other carnaval fabrics, others are selling everything in coupons of 3 meters, others have a bit of everything. I didn´t see anything too special or too expensive, the prices are rather low.

The most interesting one was perhaps Tissus Reine, a huge store with a large variety of fabrics from Liberty cottons to curtain and furniture fabrics, also a wide range of notions. The ground floor is dedicated to dressmaking fabrics and they have used smaller than human size dummies for decoration, who are dressed up in clothes made of the fabrics that are for sale.

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The other one, Les Coupons de Saint Pierre, is bigger online than in reality. They are selling everything in coupons of 3 meters, including silks. I spotted some beautiful pieces of bright yellow and green silks, but most of this was good fabric waisted for weird prints – like tiny Chinese working on ricefields or strolling with sunshades, However, I managed to find a piece of beautiful silk and paid just 20 euros for the whole 3 meters!

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Here is what I got:

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The first is a microfibre fabric that looks a bit like suede, I am not yet sure whether it will become a jacket or a minimalistic dress one day. The second one is a 3 meter coupon of cotton for a summer dress and the last is the silk fabric coupon.

The notions include shoulder pads, cover buttons and 3 shades (grey, dark blue and black) of jersey bias tape, something I have not seen before.

What I loved about Paris was the remarkable Musee d´Orsay, which will be one of the main reasons for my return and also the cheese and wine :)

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Burda Colourblock Dress II

Ever since finishing the first Burda Colourblock Dress, I have had various colour combinations on my mind for a second or even a third version of this pattern – Burda 02/2012, model 117b.

I have been and still continue to wear the first version very often and it is very likely that the new dress will be one of my favourites as well:

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As the pattern had been tested before, it was even easier and quicker to sew it up this time. The only time-consuming detail is changing the threads – when connecting different colour blocks, I use different colours of upper an lower thread accordingly.

The size I cut is the same as always for Burda patterns – size 38. The material is ponte knit – exactly the same quality and weight of fabric in different colours. I think this is also the most difficult part in colour blocking – finding the same fabric in different shades (and more than 2!) is not always easy.

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Isn´t it amazing how the shoes can change the whole look? I love high heels, but due to my work and lifestyle I cannot wear them as often as I would like to.

In March I will spend a short holiday in Paris with my mother and obviously the sportier look will be my choice. The edgy sneakers are from my trip to Portugal in September.

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I think the pattern contains endless options – in addition to playing with different colours, one could also combine the same colour but different textures or materials – say, black ponte knit and faux leather? This would also be a solution if the same fabric cannot be found in several colours, as I pointed out earlier.

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Still Life Top in Amsterdam

I spent the last few days of 2014 in Amsterdam, which was a totally impulsive decision but I love to take advantage of great flight deals whenever possible.

This short trip was all about wandering around the canal side streets and fabric shops, admiring van Gogh and struggling through the crowds at Rijksmuseum, so all in all, pretty perfect!

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Right before leaving for Amsterdam, I had managed to finish a simple top, which is another version of the Wavy Top I made back in the beginning of 2013, using the pattern from Burda Style September 2012, model 123A.

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Since it is allowed to take photos in Rijksmuseum, I thought the flower pattern of the front side of the top would be cool to get photographed with a still life with flowers in the background, but probably due to the end of the year and increased number of tourists in Amsterdam, the museum was so crowded that we just saw the highlights and taking photos was out of the question.

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The flower fabric is from my holiday trip to Portugal in September and the faux leather pieces on the shoulders are about the last leftovers from a 2-meter piece of wonderful feel and quality faux leather I got from Athens just shortly before leaving Greece in 2012. The rest of the material has been used on a dress, but since I made a mistake while sewing, it seems too much of trouble to start fixing it, so every time I´d rather pick a new project and the dress is currently in a dormant phase.

I actually used the facings on that top, as the pattern calls for. Just skipped the back slit once again, but sewing the neck hole facing with a tight zig-zag stitch gives a lot of extra stretch and more comfort while wearing the top compared to the bias tape method I used on the previous version.

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While in Amsterdam, one of the main attractions for me were the fabric shops, of course. I try to bring some fabric with me from every trip and of course I wanted a piece from Amsterdam as well. Thankfully it seems that most of the fabric shops in this lovable city are gathered at the biggest street market of Holland (as it is advertised), named after the Dutch painter Albert Cuyp – Albert Cuyp Markt.

You can find pretty much everything on that market and the fabric shops have set out only samples of their goods, just to lure you into the shops where the rest can be seen and bought.

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I think I must have been to six or seven fabric shops on that market, some selling also expensive silks and wools and some nothing really noteworthy.

In the end I only shopped at one of the stores, since they offered stretch lining at a very good price, plus I found a gorgeous beige/golden linen with a Giorgio Armani tag on it, for which I think I paid a bargain price.

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The most impressive thing about Amsterdam were the canal-side houses. I´d love to live in any of them, they look so cosy, especially at night. And definitely Amsterdam and Holland in general deserve a longer stay to explore more and deciding by the few days I spent there, I most probably will return. Besides, I didn´t make it to the famous Kantje Boord, which Cidell from Miss Celie´s Pants has written passionately about!

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Ikat Party Dress

I wish you all a very happy 2015, may your hopes and wishes come true!

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I wasn´t able to find a quiet moment in the hectic but nevertheless enjoyable holiday period to blog about some of the recent finished objects, but found the time today, on the first day of the new year.

It has become somewhat of a tradition to make myself a new dress for each holiday season and 2014 was no exception.

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This time I was looking for a suitable pattern for the ikat fabric I got from Istanbul in spring. The problem was that due to the busy pattern of the fabric and the fact that I only had 1,6 m of only 80 cm wide fabric, it had to be really simple. In the end, I decided to try a totally new pattern, from the book Famous Frocks: The Little Black Dress: Patterns for 20 Garments Inspired by Fashion Icons.

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The pattern I used is a variation of Kate Moss inspired dress:

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According to the size chart, I cut size S, but if I decide to use any of the patterns from the book in the future, I will cut a size smaller for sure, it was too wide everywhere. Thankfully the pattern is simple, so it wasn´t a big problem to take in on both sides.

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Although the pattern instructions don´t call for a lining, I added one, because the ikat silk is very thin and delicate. Actually this was the hardest thing about making that dress – trying to tame the extremely fraying material. I used up the last remnant of my favourite lining fabric – the black stretch I got from Poland some time ago. Since it was a remnant, I didn´t get enough length for my lining and I used a piece of beautiful lingerie border lace to finish the lining hem.

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Attaching the black sequins one by one was actually quite enjoyable, although it took me a few evenings during the busiest pre-holiday days at work. As you can see, the last row is double on one side and single on the other, I don´t even know if this happened because of the sequin-placement or if the collar piece is slightly wider on one side. However, it doesn´t bother me since it is nearly impossible to notice unless one is specifically examining the dress. The sequins are only attached to the front part of the collar.

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By the time I write this, I have been wearing the dress on several occasions, since the end of the year has been full of parties and concerts and I have loved wearing it every single time. The only fear I have is that it may not last very long as the fabric is so delicate.

I am also super satisfied with the first pair of comfortable party shoes, they are model Claudia by Dune London:

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This years holidays have been very special and I have enjoyed every moment. I even managed to squeeze in a short city trip to Amsterdam as well, more about this soon!

Hello, Africa!

Hey, everyone!

It has been a while, but I haven´t been idle, as soon as I get some photos taken, I will be able to show you this year’s holiday party dress and there are some other projects on the verge of completion, too!

But what I actually wanted to do today, was to share one interesting blog post with you. It is written by my dear colleague, Kadi (seen here with her Burgundy Wedding Guest Dress made by me) who currently is doing some great volunteer work in Uganda, Africa. Her task is to help the local school for children with special needs to develop some kind of production unit for young people with special needs who are not attending the school anymore but continue living there, so that by selling their goods they would be able to cover the expenses and have an income.

The idea is to produce several hand-made goods for sale and also take orders for sewing services. Of course now you know where I am getting at – fabrics!

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Over our long Skype chat Kadi sent me several photos of some of the most fantastic kitenge prints and I got very enthusiastic about the possibility of her actually bringing something along for me when she returns in January.

Below you can read a copy of her blog post that describes the local fabric shopping/sewing life, that I found very interesting. With her permission, I have only copied the English version of her original Estonian/English text that is available here.

For more details about the whole production unit, the little shop the volunteers have helped to start and of course, more supercool fabrics!, please look here.

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Tailoring business.

Moving around together with the tailors has brought along many interesting activities and discoveries regarding the textile and tailoring industry in Uganda. Firstly, I have learned about many new places for finding good fabrics and the important shops have been written down and memorized. Interestingly the shops are mostly organized so that similar businesses are all located in one place, e g there is the Energy Center for all kinds of eletrical materials, Majestic Plaza is the place for buying beads and pearls and other handicraft things (+ men who do your nails located on the ground floor) and many textile centers are packed tightly around two streets in downtown. From the outside it looks as if there were only a few shops but after entering the building one discoveries that every house is a labyrinth where all salespersons try to convince you to buy their products (hello sister, come and have a look, welcome, do you want some kitenge etc). After shopping there a few times you locate some shops that have good variety, reasonable prices, and friendly salespersons. One of the best experiences was to go fabric shopping together with teacher Winnie from the women’s project. She walked in front on crutches and me and Liina followed her along the lines of shops helping to choose materials and carry the shopping bags. While accompanying her we felt a lot less shouting and unnecessary attention around us. While moving around on your own, it still happens that the usual price of 25 000 – 35 000 for 6 yards of fabric turns suddenly into 60 000 and in that case I have often just left the shop because the bargaining and explaining would take too long. In some ways this kind of asking for a double price is also a bit disrespectful. Especially when I am bargaining in Luganda and state clearly that I know the real price anyway. The fabric shops have also specialized further – there are separate places for buying kitenge, materials for gomezis, for suits and so on. The surroundings of fabric shops are always filled with humming of the sewing machines and tailors with sewing machines have been squeezed into tiniest corners possible.
Besides textiles I also had to learn a lot about the sales and prices of sewing machines. Apparently the sewing machines sold in downtown Kampala are all brought in second hand from Asia. The prices vary between 350 000 and 500 000. The main factors affecting the price being the different stitches (they call it ‘designs’ here) the machine can make and whether it has a table and/or motor included. Only new machines I saw were manual Singer machines that are most probably also manufactured in China. While still searching for sewing machines for the tailors, we came across an easier and cheaper solution – getting four sewing machines from Bluesky. Due to having only solar energy, Bluesky was not using these machines anyway and we could repair four instead of buying one.
Ruth (left) and Night with some of their handicraft.
Handmade tie-dye fabric.
Shopping for fabrics.
Second hand sewing machines from Asia.
Olivia and the great artwork done by me : p
A welcoming light in our shop.
My home-office

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The Sew Convert

This is my blessed life. Family. Sewing. Travel. A simple blog by a sewing convert.

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