Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Gemma Sleeveless Top


The decorations hung above my head are a sign Chinese New Year is coming soon.

This year I did not make any sewing plans. As a result, I felt a bit lost. I don't really want to work on any UFO since my last few projects were UFOs. So I'm not entering my store room for a while. After successfully tidying up my store room in 2019, I've once again reverted to throwing stuff inside the store room so opening the door could mean stuff falling on my head.  I do have some in-progress bag patterns I've been working on and off on. But I haven't resolved the issue of photo taking. I'm thinking of doing indoor shoots instead of relying on sunlight since I can no longer go to the stairwell to do my shoots. (dog issue) So what's holding me back is my lack of lights. Until I purchase them, my patterns are on hold. Also the space where I keep (dump) my fabric is a big mess. I'm by nature a messy person, so no matter how often I tidy a space up, it gets messed up again. (by me) Anyway, I was looking at the piles of fabric when I spotted this blue white Moroccan trellis fabric print leftover from a blouse I'd made for my daughter.

My daughter hasn't worn the blouse at all. Her reason? It doesn't go with anything. (she has a ton of bottoms) There was enough fabric left to make myself a simple blouse. I chose to make Gemma made by Rae. I've sewn a few Cleo skirts also by Rae so I was confident the top will turn out ok. So no muslin at all. It is a sleeveless blouse which a few years back would be a no-no for me because horror, to expose my bare shoulders/upper arm to the public is unthinkable. When did the no sleeveless blouse rule come about? When I was younger, I loved to wear singlets and sleeveless blouses. I was super thin then. I think after I had given birth, twice, my arms got flabby and I really hated to have them exposed to the point of extreme embarrassment. Recently, my arms became less flabby, by accident because I know I did nothing to make it happen. So yeah, I'm exposing my bare arms. It's no big deal. The sky won't fall down. Right?

As you can see, it's a simple sew. No sleeves, just bias binding (ugh) around the neck and armhole. Except it took me an exceptionally long time to make this blouse. Not because of anything related to the pattern. It was my serger who decided to be a crybaby. I accidentally got the upper looper thread snagged on something and it broke. Of course rethreading the looper thread shouldn't be so hard right? I only need to watch a youtube video a few hundred times. I watched the video in slow motion. I used my iphone torchlight to make sure I inserted the thread in all the right places in the right order. And the stupid machine would not serge. I threaded and rethreaded over and over for 5 freaking hours. Finally, close to midnight, I told myself I would do it one last time and if it doesn't serge anymore, I'm really going to throw the machine away. And of course my threat worked. The machine gave in and serged beautifully. I still can't figure out what I did wrong/right. Right after it worked, I went to google for a better Janome serger and would you believe there's actually one that threads itself??? It's Janome Airthread 2000D and costs $1,499 in Singapore. It's a bit pricey for me and I can't justify buying one unless I sew a lot of garments. Anyway I thinks it's wiser to be friends with my current serger.

Below are a few photos of me modelling the blouse. I paired the blouse with my favourite $12 Decathlon pants.
Overall, I like the fit of the blouse. It's not super fitted because this is woven fabric, not knit. It's comfortable and most importantly, my underarm flab does not get exposed. I don't really like that the blouse gives me a slight pear shape. I have a small hip so I can't imagine what it does to women with larger hips. Maybe if I make the blouse shorter?

I do have one big dislike of Gemma. The curvy bottom. It was a big pain sewing the hem. In the end, I did it by hand and I still couldn't get it to lie perfectly flat.
screen grab from made by rae

Gemma can be cropped as a crop top, have a ruffled bottom, or made into a dress. I'm most excited about making Gemma into a dress and am already auditioning fabric. I'm least excited about the ruffled bottom because um, I don't know any woman who would look good with a bunch of ruffles around the hip which make the hip look 10X bigger. Maybe someone stick thin?

Pattern details: I sewed size M (A/B cup size) but I used size L for length because I have a long body. The PDF comes with cup C/D size for the Front Bodice as well so it's actually a good idea to look at the layout and print only the pieces you need.

See ya!

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

A Polar Bear In The Sun

It's been raining on and off, sometimes continuously for over a day, for weeks and as a result, it is extremely cold in Singapore. When I say extremely cold, I mean cold to a person more accustomed to living in 30 deg C kind of temperature. Last night it was around 23 deg C when we went to bed. My daughter wore a hoodie over a T-shirt, lounge pants, SOCKS and covered herself with 2 quilts, one of which is king size and super thick. Hubs wore a long sleeved shirt to bed which is unprecedented. As for me, I'm the one who's most afraid of the cold and since December, I've been going to sleep wearing a sweater and covering myself with a quilt and 1 blanket. I don't wear long pants at home tho' because I like my legs to feel cool. My son is a walking furnace so he doesn't feel cold.

Last week I finished this quilt which I started in 2018. It is a reverse applique of Inuka, a Singapore born polar bear. He was the world's only tropical polar bear and obviously it sounds very wrong. If you're interested, you can read about Inuka here

In the beginning, I wanted to keep the quilt minimalist. I started with the fur of the bear. I didn't want the embroidery to stand out so I used white sashiko thread. I would have preferred the thread to be as close to the colour of the calico as possible but white is all I have. The effect I was going for was texture, texture and more texture. I used nearly the same embroidery stitches as the ones employed for my cat quilt. During the period I was embroidering the body of the bear, I just had issues with my aging left eye - floaters, blurriness and I wanted to take my mind off my stupid dem eye. It worked!

This kind of freestyle embroidery is just right for less than perfect eyesight because you don't need any patterns, just stitch and fill up the spaces. How do I decide which stitch to use? Well, what I do is I sew the big motifs first and place them scattered around. Then I work on the vine, running, etc stitches to fill up the empty spaces. When I can't think of an appropriate stitch, I just use running stitches. You could say it's my go-to stitch.

I avoided putting anything in the blue sky because remember, minimalist? So just running stitches using sashiko thread. Well, just so you know, I had considered hanging a banner of fishes across the sky. 

I don't know what happened but one day I thought it was weird the bear was lying on a dark blue fabric. I wanted to depict ice. Next thing I knew, I was going through my sequins stash (everyone has one, right?) and found the perfect sequin. I had no choice but to try out a few sequins just to see. I anchored the sequin down with a small white matte bead. It was smaller than what I had in mind but I couldn't allow myself to run down to Chinatown to buy more beads. So I made do. I sewed the sequins between end of last year and the first 2 days of 2021. So while folks were ringing in the new year, there I was sewing sequin, bead, knot, sequin, bead, knot. Around 30ish sequins in, I massively regretted the idea of sparkling ice but it was too late to back out because I did not want to do any unpicking. So I soldiered on, sequin, bead, knot... Grr. Why do my "brilliant" ideas often end up very tedious to implement? 

I added the sun because I wanted to call the quilt "A Polar Bear In The Sun" and also, Janet Bolton. I did exercise great restraint and did not add in any sun rays.

There were a number of issues with the quilt, partly because I had no idea what 2018 Jane was thinking but some parts of the quilt were single layer and the rest double layer. The polar bear was on a single layer of calico and while I was embroidering, I neglected to put another layer of fabric to stabilize it.  As a result, there was a bit of puckering. I semi solved it by sewing tiny running stitches on the puckered fabric. Another issue is using calico as the layer underneath is not a good idea for a larger quilt as there's a lot of puckering in the sky so it looks untidy. 

For the backing, I used a gingham fabric I had bought to sew binding on one of my daughter's blouse and I have so much of it left. For the binding, I used some scrap my mother had given me ages ago. I don't know where my mother gets her scraps but her fabric is always tightly woven and quite hard to sew through. 

Overall, I'm happy with this quilt. I wanted a quilt that says texture and this quilt pretty much screams TEXTURE. I've managed to keep it simple despite the sequins. I enjoy looking at this quilt a lot even though it's soooo hard to photograph. And it's such a great feeling to finally finish this quilt. My first finished item in 2021!

Monday, January 4, 2021

2020 Round Up

Despite everything in 2020, I crafted a lot.

My biggest leap in skills was in knitting. It went up at least one notch. I started the year finishing 2 lace scarves. I don't think I like knitting projects which take years to finish. My thang now is knitted toys which are not only fun but fast to knit up. My only fear is I'll injure my hands. Anyway, I won't be able to do any knitting until my left shoulder heals completely. I cannot wait to knit more toys.

I had planned on making lots of garments but that did not happen because hubs had to work from home and took my sewing table as his work table. My daughter worked from home for a number of months and she was very strict about noise so I gave up using the sewing machine for many months. My son too had to study online and there were also group calls and twice a week, he worked as a student advisor on a couple of modules. So more silence required. It was very stressful being cooped up at home and remembering to be quiet. I've never been shushed so many times in my life. (I'm pretty noisy)

I am very happy to report that when my daughter took on a temporary holiday job teaching kids coding and had to wear working clothes, she wore the 2 polka dot A line flare skirts a lot. She wore the yellow/orange blouse a few times but the white/blue blouse, she did not wear a single time. Of course, she bought a ton of clothes as well. I am certain she has more clothes than Imelda Marcos.

Last year I worried a lot about my kids. I know they're young adults already but I never stop worrying about them. My son struggled quite a bit in the last semester. His journey to university has been a very long and difficult one. I was naïve to think the struggle is over once he entered university. Thankfully, he managed to pass all his modules. As for my daughter, she had to do her internship which is a pass/fail module. I know she suffered a lot. The worse part is me and hubs couldn't do anything to help her. I'm just glad she found the strength to overcome her difficulties and managed to pass her internship. I look forward to the day when I stop worrying about the kids. I must ask my mother who has 9 kids how she did it. COVID-19 killed my daughter's dream of studying one semester in Canada. I don't know about my son's overseas summer immersion program yet. It's probably not going to happen either. It's bad news for the kids but good news for the parents. We save a lot of money.

I didn't think I had the ability to produce any bag patterns as it became clear I had to take all my photos indoors instead of in the stairwell as I usually do. In one of my bedrooms, I discovered a golden hour period when I could take photos by the window. So using that golden hour period, standing on the bed, bouncing a little trying to balance and also trying my best not to fall to my death out of the window, I managed to take all the photos I needed to publish 2 patterns. Maybe in the future, I should consider buying proper lights and take my photos at home instead of using natural light.

I don't have big plans for 2021. Just going to spend the year quietly, mind my own business, keep fit, lose some weight, stay alive and try not to lose any organs. Of course I'll be knitting, sewing and baking every now and then. 

Saturday, January 2, 2021


I was going to keep very still in December hoping nothing bad happens to me while I sneak into 2021. No such luck. The Universe is screwing with me!

Mid December, I woke up one morning and realised there was something wrong with my left eye. It was seeing sparks, masses of floating thingies and there was a translucent thing covering my vision. I'm a bit puzzled why these symptoms did not set off alarm bells. Instead I waited to see if they were temporary. So unusually calm of me, right? At lunchtime, I started to go into panic mode. By then, hubs had returned home and together we went to see a GP who said I had to go to the emergency department at a hospital to get my eyes checked immediately. So we went to the nearest hospital, really dreading the long wait. Sadly, due to the COVID-19 situation, hubs was not allowed to accompany me in the emergency room. I think he was rather relieved to go home and take a nap. By the time I had my eyes diagnosed and discharged, I had spent a total of 6 hours there. The eye doctor said what was happening to my left eye is a natural aging process. (my ass!) I was experiencing a rather acute version tho' probably made worse by a small bleeding in the eye. The important thing is my retina is unharmed and I wasn't going blind. The bleeding is very small so the eye will heal itself. The bad news is there is no fix for the floaters or translucent thing blurring my vision. The sparks or flashing light had stopped by the time I saw the doctor which is good because I was told that's a bad thing to happen to your eye. Over time, the blurriness could get better on its own or not. The floaters are permanent. The good news is the brain can be trained to not see the floaters. What kind of good news is that? Since then, I've gone back for another check-up and my retina is still fine. So yay, not going blind. As if to console me, the eye doctor said she sees floaters as well. Now how does that help me? Also, the same shit may happen to my other eye as well. Thank you doctor, I needed that info!

It's been a little over 2 weeks since the floaters came and the doctor is right. Over time, I've been able to ignore the floating critters especially when I'm focused on something. Once my mind wanders, I see the floaters again. The blurriness has lessened quite a bit. The thing is the eye-aging-process is still on-going, taking its own sweet time. It hasn't quite stabilized yet. Recently, in the morning when I open my eyes, first thing I see is a million black dots. They look like black dots but I think they aren't actual black dots. I see them from both eyes. They last from a few minutes to a couple of hours. Then they either disappear or my eyes stop seeing them. It's very weird and irritating. But I think it's not time to worry about them yet. The eye doctor said to run back to them if I see flashing lights continually, my eyesight gets blocked or a new mass of floaters appear. 

So I didn't manage to exit 2020 gracefully. I wanted to enter 2021 like a boss but it's more like I stumbled in. Damn! Despite all the shit 2020 has thrown me, I'm not depressed and am feeling rather optimistic about the future. After all, I'm still alive and in one piece. I survived 2020!  

Believe it or not, I was quite productive, craft-wise in December. I decided to focus on finishing my UFOs because I didn't want to carry them forward another year.  

I had this piece of white cotton canvas I had painted on which I started to rescue in 2019. I slapped on 3 birds and a sun and I call it "I thought it was Gingham Friday." Anyone get the humour? I laughed my head off when I came up with it. Are you sick of my bird, sky, sun quilts? This won't be the last one...

This quilt can be viewed from 4 different directions. (in case you didn't figure that out)

Next, this cat cut-out from a previous 2019 project, I had left under a table forever. I removed all the dust, washed it and forced something out of it. 

I decided to focus on the cat and sewed my favourite stitches to cover up the whole cat. The idea was to have a heavily embroidered cat wearing the embroideries like tattoos. There were a few stitches I wasn't entirely happy with but YOLO.  The title of this quilt is "Cat On A High". Not clever but I couldn't think of anything suitable. (the fish/balloon is a hallucination)

I added the fish because I view my quilt as a single-panel "comic strip" so a little humour is always attempted. My humour is heavily influenced by Gary Larson, the creator of The Far Side. Is it obvious?

I had some regrets about the choice of fabric for the backing. (the method a la Janet Bolton) I wished I had a light blue polka dot because I thought it would go better with the front but I wanted to strictly keep to using my scraps and not BUY MORE FABRIC!

This heart themed embroidery thingy I started in early 2018 but lost complete interest in. I had zero inspiration so I made it into a cushion.

Since this is a use up my scrap project, I crazy patched the back of the cushion. And of course, crazily, I liked the back more. I call this "Crazy Heart". I worked on one more UFO art quilt and it's almost finished. I'll show it once the binding is in. 

On December 28, Singapore bravely (or crazily) went into phase 3 of reopening. Yup, just as cases are exploding around the world, we're relaxing our measures. Masks are still mandatory but we can dine out in a group of 8, previously only 5 allowed. There are other relaxation on the capacity limits of premises, live performances, congregational and worship services. Only time will tell if going into phase 3 is a mistake. Vaccination against COVID-19 has begun, starting with high risk health workers. Elderly, 70 and above will get vaccinated from February. As I am not a health, frontline worker or elderly, I will have to wait for my turn but it will happen sometime this year. The vaccination is free and voluntary. Interestingly, the government does not want pregnant women and anyone under 16 to get the vaccination until more data is available. I wonder what percentage of eligible people will reject the vaccination? SEE you soon in my next post. 
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