Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The Making of a Rag Doll

Sometime in early June I became obsessed with the idea of making a rag doll. For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to be a doll maker. I wanted to be a doll maker waay before I could sew two seams together. But it was all talk and thought. Like all things and many of my ambitions, I soon realised I'm no doll maker. I mean, it's a lot of work. Pfft! Plus, I have sensitive noses and the polyfil gets everywhere. So to date, I've made ONE doll which coincidentally was made in June 6 years ago. I still have the same bag of polyfil I used for that doll, for god's sake. I know I'm more comfortable as a doll collector. Wait, let me rethink that. I'm too lazy to even be a doll collector. I just like looking at photos of dolls. There! That's how lazy a human being I am. But it being June and doll making ambitions tend to rear its ugly head so I dived into my fabric stash to bring a doll into being.

I have this book The Making of a Rag Doll by Jess Brown. How many of you had the same thought as me? How deceptively easy to make. Man, I could churn out thousands and make tons of $ like the Jess Brown dolls.

Guess how many Jess Brownish doll I made? ONE. And just barely.

First of all, the pattern that comes in the book is not the same pattern that makes the famous Jess Brown dolls. It's a dumb down version. I'm okay with the dumb down version although the armpits are a sewing nightmare. What? You mean I have to sew a sharp pivot and then turn it right side out? I don't understand. That's sew madness. Also, I don't know what happened with the legs. Mine came out fat. Totally different from the book version. But I couldn't be arsed to find out why.

The patterns include outfits and accessories for the doll which is really the fun part. You get to make a pair of knickers, a newspaper hat, a sundress, a tote bag, an overcoat, a quilt (a doll size), a drawstring dress, a sweater scrap hat and an apron. And I was going to make them all. All. All. All.

The less scary version
Of course I ran out of steam. Firstly, the doll's face just wouldn't happen. My first version - my daughter said made her scared. The eyes were pinched and the mouth was pinched. So I unpicked the embroidery and did a unpinched version. It's less scary but still nothing close to a Jess Brown doll.

The hair was my biggest mistake. The book gave a very vague explanation on how to do it. Like remember the bad old days when you borrow a book on how to make a bag and it shows you every damn detailed step except the most important and crucial step which comes with no photo and a long freaking essay. Well, I did my best to fake it. My mistake was to use a cheap $2 Daiso felt for the hair. Who knew a $2 felt would shed felt dust everywhere. The moral of the story? You buy cheap felt you get felt shit everywhere.

In total I made one dress and one pair of knickers. Much to my horror, there is total disregard for hiding of raw seams. I didn't want to impose my own raw seams snobbishness on a Jess Brown doll so I went with the flow. I've always felt imprisoned by my own inflexibility when it comes to raw seams. Maybe this will teach me something. Or maybe it will kill me...

Anyway, I ended up sick as a dog for 2 weeks and that effectively ended my ambition to make any more dolls or doll clothes. Really, otherwise I would have made all the projects. All. All. All.

So the illness that felled me - I had gone to Chinatown for a supply run. Well, it was literally to buy 2 yards of webbing. While on the way home, I had to transfer train to another train line and entered a train compartment that was incredibly cold never mind that it felt like 40 deg outside. Being thoroughly unprepared for the polar vortex for that 2/3 min train ride, I became incredibly sick, sneezing my head off. By the time I had pulled out my cardigan and covered my head with a hoodie, I had reached the point of no return. Body aches, fever, sore throat the whole nine yards followed for a week.

The doctor said it was sinus infection. No biggie, right? I've had that before. The medication - augmentin (antibiotics) is also something I've taken before. No biggie, right? Except this time, I diarrhead (verb) my head off. Not the little bit of watery shit one gets now and then. The big, unstoppable kind. At first I was just annoyed. Then I got frightened. Because it was coming out of my rear end like tap water. Finally with 1 more day of augmentin to go, I called it quits. Looking back, I wished I had the good sense to stop earlier. I hadn't been eating and was subsisting on apple juice and yakult.

In my browser history, you'll see my most popular searches are How to stop diarrhea and Can you die from diarrhea? As I discovered the hard way, the medicine to stop diarrhea does not work immediately. Nope. It takes its own sweet time.

Eventually it stopped. As hubs said to me when I was in the depth of despair: all things come to pass. Yah, just shaddup. I hate to listen to wise nonsense when I'm "in my mind" one foot in the grave. I want a cure - a magic wand. Not blah blah blah.

And once the diarrhea stopped I had other problems. Getting food down my throat. For a few days I went around wanting to puke at the very thought of eating. Isn't that the worst part? You're better and starving and you. can. not. eat. So back to apple juice.

Today I had one whole bowl of quinoa noodles. So I think I'm on the mend. Once I'm able to run 5km round the canal without collapsing, I'll declare myself fully recovered. And you never know, I might even make another Jess Brown doll. No, I'm kidding. One is enough.

Before my illness completely overtook my every waking moment, I had cobbled together a similar dress and knickers for my tiny doll Neve. I think I made it when I was having a fever and quite possibly hallucinating. Look how careless I was with the seams and all! I've always felt very apologetic towards Neve because she had literally nothing to wear. Ready to do some serious twinning?

p.s. if you don't own the book and wants to attempt the doll, try this version or that version.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

A Moment In Time

Recently, one of my siblings shared a photo of my mother in her teens with her family. It was a family portrait taken in 1940.

I was very excited to see this photo because I've always wondered what my mother looked like when she was young. My mother has zero photos of herself before marriage. Fyi, she's the hot babe top right.

Having a photo taken in those days must have been a big occasion. Note all the girls were wearing lipstick, ear rings, bangles, a big necklace and pendant. These are very likely made of gold and jade. It's a typical "show how rich I am" kind of Chinese thing. Check out the women's outfits - all were dressed in samfu which is a 2-piece outfit comprising of the blouse and pants. I remember my mother wearing these when I was young. Sometimes the samfu was sleeveless. The blouse had a front overlap which was secured either with toggles or snaps. I remember playing with my mother's blouse  because I was fascinated by the closure.

I'm rather surprised by how dressed up Grandpa was. The jacket, the tie and he was wearing some kind of a pin with chain. I mean, dude! All I've ever seen him in were regular garments men of his generation wore. What my grandma wore raised some questions. Her black and white samfu was what Amahs (maids) wore back in the days. My mother said she doesn't remember her mother dressed in black and white. So maybe it was her take photo clothes. Her regular samfu were a blue top with black pants.

Anyway, later it surfaced that my grandma was a "charbohkan". In Cantonese, it's called mui tsai. Essentially a "charborkan" was a young female sold as a domestic servant to a wealthier family usually because her family was too poor to raise her and mostly due to a deep rooted gender bias. This was a custom which originated in China and migrated to Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore. A "charborkan" had no salary, no rights except a lifetime of servitude. When she reached marriageable age, she technically could attain her "freedom" through marriage. Or she may have to marry the son of the family she was sold to which is kinda convenient for everyone - maid with benefits. So my grandma is considered "lucky" to marry her young master? Considering that some mui tsai were sold into prostitution...

According to my mother, grandma lived her life silently. She rarely spoke. She did not play with her numerous children. She did not scold her children. She did not share her opinion. She did not speak her mind. Another thing. She always stayed home. She did not go to the market. Grandpa did the marketing. Grandpa went to the bank. Grandpa took care of stuff. Was it by choice or was it grandpa's way of controlling his wife? She had nine children and no helpers. That alone would tie her to the house. Grandpa did not hire any helpers despite his wealth. Another thing. Grandpa had to do all the ancestor worship stuff himself as well. Haha. This one made me laugh. Methinks grandma was a rebel. She made her husband do all the ancestor worship stuff because it's a freaking amount of endless work. (psst, they weren't her ancestors)

When I was young, I painted this fairy tale that my grandparents were regular Chinese folks who were match made like regular folks back then. They were scary, stern looking people I see once a year during Chinese New Year. The only words they spoke to me were "whose child are you?" I never saw them as real people. When it was suggested that that my grandma was a "charbohkan", I felt quite sick. Because that would mean my grandma was a child slave, a person who had no choice and no voice. My heart breaks a little thinking how hard it must have been for her. How did she find the strength to embrace her fate and live?

My grandpa gave away 2 of his daughters. Mind you, not to wealthier people but very poor folks. I don't know the reason why both daughters were given away but the funny thing is both knew who their real parents were and continued to acknowledge my grandparents as parents. I saw both of these aunts during Chinese New Year. Both continued to have relationships with their siblings. The practice of giving away daughters continued during my parents generation. I asked my mother if she ever considered giving away her daughters since she had 5 daughters and 4 sons herself and lived in poverty. She acknowledged that there was one time when my father raised the option. I won't tell you which of my sisters was targeted. (it wasn't me) My mother said she did the big big cry thing and the idea was aborted. Big win for my mother.

Nowadays you can't sell your children anymore or leave them with random strangers. We have laws. But the gender bias is still around. Boys over girls. For me my first born was a boy and the second a girl. So I was spared the pressure to make a boy baby. I know some people who had to keep popping them out until a boy was produced.

One year my mother was summoned back to her parents home. Her father was about to divi up his fortune and since daughters were excluded from his fortune, he wanted to give his daughters a token. My mother received $1,000 and a long gold chain. She later sold it for over 1k so she got a little over 2k from her miserly father. It is peanuts compared to what her brothers received. I too received a small token - a gold ring which turned rusty later. I joked with my mother to return it. Haha. Anyway, the interesting thing is my grandma quietly slipped her daughters an extra $500 from what little money stash she had. I told you she was a rebel. Thankfully she died waaay before her husband. She did not have to nurse the old man when he turned senile in his old age. Ironically, one of my aunts who was given away took up the challenge to take care of my grandpa. Certainly she was paid a fee but I really marvel at how she could find it in her heart to nurse the person who discarded her. I would be full of vengeful thoughts and plotting some sort of revenge.

The photo was taken in 1940 which was 2 years before the Japanese Occupation. This means that 2 years later in 1942 or possibly late 1941, my mother was match made with my father. She was 13 or maybe 12. The marriage was to "protect" my mother. That's a nice way to put it. In any case, my mother who despite all the crap life threw her managed to live a not too bad life and she is now 90. Or 91 in Chinese age.

In 1932 the Mui Tsai Ordinance was passed to legislate mui tsai in Singapore. Was it successful? I'm not sure. (it probably wasn't) Anyway, the Japanese Occupation changed everything.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Treasure Pouch

I was poking around in the storeroom the other day when I found this: an almost completed embroidered pouch with the embroidery, exterior and casing done. All that was missing was a lining. I was very excited with my find because this was definitely done in 2012 which is 7 freaking years ago! Clearly this was something I sewed for my Treasure Pouch pattern. Usually when I write a bag pattern, I make a few samples for photography. And I usually keep them forever because they're my babies! Unfortunately for a few bag patterns including the Treasure pouch, I either gave away or sold some of them. So finding this forgotten UFO made my day. I examined the UFO carefully to figure out why it was abandoned. It looked perfectly fine. It even smelled nice. Yes, I sniffed it. The only thing that may have bothered 2012 Jane is a crease on the linen cotton fabric. I tried to steam it out but it's a stubborn one.

Now the fun part - completing the pouch. I went through my stash to find something that could match the exterior of the pouch. The fabric for the casing I had unfortunately used up recently. Finally I decided to go with something greenish yellow - a clover print by Patty Young.

What do you think? I think it's perfecto. I felt all these really nice feels while matching the fabric. It's something I haven't felt in a long while.

I love the Clover fabric so much I made the cords as well. I dug out my Clover bias binding tool and you know, did the thingy with the iron to get the bias binding. I can't tell you how much I dislike doing this. I burnt my fingers of course. But look how nice the cords look.

I'm getting waaaay too much pleasure from finishing this UFO.

For old times' sake, I dug out the only remaining Treasure Pouch I have and did a photoshoot.

reunited and it feels so good...

Monday, May 20, 2019

A few things

It's almost the middle of the year and I haven't done half the things I had mapped out. There's been a lot of procrastination as well as lack of motivation. Also, this year I've been feeling somewhat more stressed than usual and have been doing a lot of worrying. Hubs likes to say I always worry about the wrong things. Pray tell me how do I worry about the right things.

My worrying about the wrong things has seeped into my dreams. I often dream I'm running away from danger or trying to hide from danger. Once I hurt my neck because I was running and dodging laser beams in my dreams. No, I couldn't see who was shooting at me. (maybe it was hubs or my children?) I wake up exhausted (because of all the running) and my muscles hurt. Recently I started doing breathing exercises before I sleep and it has helped a little. The dreams are less intense and don't always involve running. Instead now my dreams involve some sort of crafting. Just last night, I was making hundreds of pom poms. It was rather tiring. So I think I should go buy a pom pom kit so that if I dream the pom pom making dream again, at least I have the tools and maybe it won't be so tiring.

I don't know if stress has anything to do with it but I have by some miracle lost lots of fats around my tummy. Usually if I lose any fats, it's around my boobs. Yes, the Universe is mighty cruel flat chested women. I'm feeling f%^&!ing fabulous about my flatter tummy. I'm not saying it's totally flat, just a lot less fleshy. Overall, I haven't lost much weight though. I'm still hovering around 58kg which is not my ideal weight. Ideally, I want to be 55kg but I now accept it's impossible because I simply cannot give up my sweet tea, cakes and biscuits. So I've focused instead on keeping my weight under 60kg and of course keeping fit. My upper body has grown larger permanently, it seems which is not a bad thing. I've dreamed of having a bigger upper body my whole life. Lately I've found it hard to sleep in my Uniqlo T shirts. They feel too small.

I've started sewing quite a bit recently. In the past, sewing has helped me deal with stress and anxiety. I started work on a bag pattern, abandoned it and started another one. I abandoned that one as well and now I'm working on a third bag pattern. This one I'm very likely to publish. When it comes to bag patterns, I have to feel the love or I can't push through. It should be ready in June or July. This year. Haha.

Apart from the bag patterns, I've tried working on other sewing projects. The thing is I keep getting distracted. I jump from project to project. I have to date, abandoned these projects: a bra, a table runner, 2 coasters, a dress with sleeves, another Racerback tee, a bead weaving thing, knitted lace with beads and something with patchwork.

Then one day I remembered I used to enjoy sewing embroideries on plain linen cotton which I turned into drawstring pouches. I still have quite a bit of plain linen cotton lying around and using it up will give me immense pleasure. Finally! A project I could finish. It's true. The embroidery is still enjoyable but it eats up a lot of time! I've completed the drawstring pouch but I'm not loving the drawstring options I have in my stash so a visit to Chinatown will be necessary soon. Does anyone else love making drawstring pouches as much as me? Anyway, I enjoyed making the drawstring pouch so much, I've begun work on a couple more.

I have another one close to finished and this one I just started with the stems. In case you're curious, when I do embroidery, I usually draw freehand with a water soluble pen. I am that kind of lazy.

One day I overcompensated and gave myself the challenge of making a tiny drawstring pouch. Yes, with lining and all and sewn not by hand but with a regular sewing machine. Was it hard? Hmm, hard can't quite describe the terrible, terrible hardship I endured to make this tiny, tiny thing. I don't know what I was trying to prove but I showed them! It took a lot of patience and every swear word I know to get it done. I probably pulled some muscles as well.

Recently, after 3 very long years, my son graduated from a local polytechnic. This guy... it takes a village. My son was good in academics when he was a kid. I thought I had struck the gene lottery when he could read, write and draw at age 2. He was particularly good in Math. I thought he would make an excellent Math teacher. (my dream, not his) Then one day when he was 15, he lost all interest in academics. Lots of not so good stuff happened after that but we managed to survive it all. We took a leap of faith and enrolled him in a polytechnic for a game design diploma. (because he liked to play games so much) As it turned out, it was a good decision. I don't know what the future holds for my son but I hope he makes a lot of money.

My daughter completed one year in university and is currently enjoying an extremely long vacation. (far far too long) Her school has been in the news the past two months. A student, Monica Baey publicized her frustrations with her university for its soft stand against a fellow student who had filmed her in the shower. The school had also failed to provide victim support for her. This thing really blew up and it even got mentioned in parliament. The universities pledged better security and you would think the voyeurs would lay low. But no, another university had 3 cases of peeping tom while the Monica Baey thing was blowing up. Then last week, at the same school Monica Baey attends, a peeping tom was caught filming a student in the shower. Despite knowing the school was putting more cameras and improving security, he still committed the act.Has he been getting away with it for so long, he thought he wouldn't be caught. Well, he's been arrested and I could be wrong but I'll bet he won't get off with a slap on the wrist like what happened to Monica Baey's peeping tom.

Last thing. I've often resisted falling for wellness claims. Wellness is a deep black hole that will suck away all your money. In return for all sorts of unproven claims. The past few months has been hell for my dry eyes condition. I went to the polyclinic and after an eye pressure test, it was established I'm in no danger of going blind. So the doctor gave me 2 bottles of eye lubricants and dismissed me.  The eye drops did help for a while but soon it was back to square one. In desperation, I bought Omega Vision which claims to help dry eyes. One bottle costs a little over a hundred bucks. Yes, one hundred bucks. But I waited for a sale and paid over seventy bucks for this bottle. Does it work? Not at all. Zero improvement. Basically, I got scammed. Anyway, recently, I discovered how to tackle my dry eyes. Dry eyes are very shifty. They get used to the lubricants and start acting up again. So what I do is switch to a different brand when my eyes feel lousy. And it works. I just hope there are enough brands out there for me to keep my eyes going for I dunno, 30 years?

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Racerback Adventure Tank

This afternoon, right before a gigantic thunderstorm, I asked my girl to do a photo shoot. I know. My timing sucks. The sky was dark and all the photos came out dark. No worries - photoshop to the rescue.

Last year I was on a sewing high and I planned to sew a lot of stuff but sadly I ran out of steam. One of the projects I never got to work on was this: I had already printed out and assembled the pattern for Racerback Adventure Tank by Fancy Tiger. This is not a free pattern so you'll have to google for a free one yourself. Recently I got a little sewing mojo back and I decided to once and for all get the Racerback Adventure Tank done. And I have the fabric. I had bought this jersey knit fabric which I found in the bargain bin at Spotlight ages ago. I don't know why I keep going to fish around the bargain bin thinking I'll find some treasure. Honestly, it's just remnants nobody wants. Still I bought this very soft jersey knit - less than 1 meter's worth because it's 50% off and jersey knit is expensive as hell.

What I like about this pattern is you only need the front and back plus 2 arm bands and 1 neck band. I mean how easy is this pattern? The fabric on the other hand is fabric from hell. It is so hard to work with. And it keeps curling. I think for my sanity, I need to buy some stay tape or whatever it's called the next time I work with difficult jersey knit.

The result? It is wearable but I made the biggest mistake. I had cut the wrong size for myself. I don't remember why I cut size S. I checked the sizing instructions, measured my body and yup, I had cut 2 sizes too small. I'm between M and L which makes my size a L. Surely 2018 Jane wasn't that much smaller than 2019 Jane. I'm aware that my upper body has become slightly larger this year because when I wear clothes I had made before, it feels a little tight around the chest. But to have grown 2 sizes larger - I can't accept that. So I'm going to put it down to human error. Maybe I was distracted.

So I gave the Racerback to my girl and it fits her! And she said she'll wear it.

I struggled quite a bit with the band. Firstly, you need to serge it together with the neck/arm. My serging skills are still hit and miss. I couldn't get the seam allowance even. For once, I really hate the grey thread on my serger. Don't even ask me to change thread - I'm that lazy. Yes, I know the easy way to change thread - tie old thread to new thread etc. But 4 cones of thread is too much work.

I don't have a cover stitch machine so I used a twin needle for top stitching. Not a regular twin needle but a stretch twin needle. It works but can you see the tunneling? Around the neck and arm, I think I can get away with tunneling.

When it came to the hem, no matter how I tried, I could not get the top stitch to look nice. The tunneling was awful. So I gave up the twin needle and switched to a stretch zigzag. This seems to work but looking at the curling edges on the wrong side just makes my blood boil. I should have serged the edges!

After I had completed sewing everything, I remembered that I have a stretch stitch balance dial on my sewing machine. I adjusted the dial towards "+" and tried hemming with some scrap jersey and yup, the tunneling is lessened a tiny bit but not completely gone.

I tried on the Racerback and if I hold my breath, I can get away with it. It looks a lot worse in person...

From the back you can see how small it is on me.

Will I make the Racerback again? Actually I might. I'll make size L and lengthen it. This Racerback has a slight flared bottom which I dislike. I hope I'll remember to take out the flare.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Skywalker Knitted Lace Shawl

The Skywalker Shawl is done. I repeat. The Skywalker Shawl is done. How long did it take me? Thousands and thousands of hours. And I may have permanently damaged one of my fingers. It's the finger next to the little finger. Is that one important?

So I learnt to knit Skywalker Shawl from a Craftsy class by Laura Nelkin which I bought during a sale a long long time ago, back when Craftsy and I were friends. It's not a bad class and easy to follow along. I usually don't like to listen to the chit-chat that teachers tend to indulge in... But other than that, not that torturous.

I finished the shawl in February and I even blocked it. Well, when I said I blocked it, I meant I blocked the necessary parts - the top and the bottom. In between, I decided was too much of a hassle. After the shawl had dried, I wore it to show off to my family and my daughter informed me that I looked like an old lady. I forgot what hubs said, probably something similar. So it seems, this thing I had slaved over will make me look a few decades older. Hmm...

The yarn I used is a Anette Eriksson eco cotton 85% recycled cotton 15% polyester. I know it was a dumb move to choose a dark colour but all the other colours available looked horrible.

Did I do a swatch? Nope. I still haven't got into the habit of swatching. I had to repeat some of the patterns to get it human size. Other than that I think I did a pretty good job. At first I relied a lot on lifelines. But the minute I hit 448 stitches on a row, I told myself it's insane to rip back. So I stopped using lifelines and I managed to survive a few dropped stitches here and there.

The pattern is divided into fancy stitches like Star Stitch, Galaxy Stitch, Nebula Stitch and Plasma Stitch. The Plasma Stitch was the worst! Sometimes you have to wrap the yarn twice or thrice over and over again and that's not the hard part. The hard part comes when you purl back and all the yarn gets soooooo tight you can't move them. And so you use all your strength and that's how I damaged my finger. The Plasma Stitch is so stupid to execute but the effect is nice though. The Nova edging is no fun either. It takes forever to knit all the edging and it really took all the fun out of knitting.

But... it's done. All the anger, frustration and hardship is behind me now. Would be nice if I could wear it out. If only I don't look like an old lady.

Here's me modelling the shawl. Sorry if I appear under-dressed (it's my tan line).

I learnt quite a bit about knitting lace working on this shawl. I'm pretty good at reading the charts as well. I feel I can go to the next level of lace knitting - whatever that is. But I still have 2 beginner lace #wip. And I don't want to start a new thing until they're completed. Once the weather gets cooler in April, I'll try to finish them up.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Easy Zipper Handbag Pattern

Some folks asked for a easy zipper bag, particularly for people terrified of sewing with zippers and here it is. I made the size small so you don't need much fabric to get going. My Easy Zipper Hangbag Pattern is now available in my Etsy shop. Click here.

You're probably wondering where in the world I got the gorgeous fabric, right? It's a Ikea fabric. Nope you won't find it in the shop. I bought it years and years ago. I found a small remnant in the storeroom and used it to make the bag. Usually when I make a bag for a pattern, I would make sure I have at least 2 yards of fabric because sometimes you need to retake some photos and you have to make another sample and another sample... So I was living dangerously.

I love the fabric print as it is but I couldn't help adding some embroidery to it. Some knots and running stitch. Can you tell which is the fabric print and which is my embroidery?

If you need more information about the pattern, please go and check it out in my Etsy shop here. Please heart it while you're there. It helps my shop! Thanks.

To buy this pattern directly from me here on my blog (it's an instant download digital PDF), click on "Buy Now" button below but please read my F.A.Q. (if it's your first time) before you do so.

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