Friday, October 25, 2013

Black and white can be fun!

Needed a black and white evening dress for a black and white gala event.
Don't like black and white.....
Found black and white/cream skull print.
Thought that was fun!

Pattern - self drafted, 4 panel skirt, tight fitting top with little sleeves and a U neck in the back. Darts moved so that they end in the centre at the waist, to line up with the seam in the skirt.
Fabric - crinkle chiffon, polyester?, black piping which I had in my stash, sequin ribbon from Carolina's for belt with bow.
Underlined with thin cotton as I can't stand the feel of geena ( fabric sold locally as lining) on my skin. As the chiffon is quite transparent, the color of the lining changes the color of the fabric. I choose a creamy white over a pure white as I found it more flattering. I underlined (basted the lining to the individual outer fabric pieces and then treated them as one) the dress as opposed to lining it for the following reasons:

  1. Underlining hides all the seam allowances - as the fabric is transparent, I didn't want all the seam allowances visible from the outside
  2. Underlining gave more body to the fabric than just lining it would
  3. The fabric was very unstable and I wanted to make sure the rows of skulls stayed straight accross the dress and didn't start wandering off at funny angles. Basting them to the much more stable cotton lining kept the skulls exactly where I wanted them! This also helped make it possible to match up the pattern across the skirt seams, and even though I say so myself, I think I did a pretty good job matching up the little black faces!

And as I bought all the fabric they had in stock, I though my husband needed a black and white Barong (transparent shirt men traditionally wear in the Philippines) ! More on that once I finish it!

Tip: don't forget to pre-wash and iron fabric/lining and trim before you sew or have it sewn up. The last thing you want is to put a lot of hard work into your dress and find that the dress or the lining shrinks after the first wash! 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

V8858: nothing left over!

Update on evening skirt V8858 (first post here)
  1. Fitted muslin - everything was OK.
  2. Adjusted all the flounces for changes in skirt length. This is fiddly as you are sewing the inner edges of the "donuts" to your skirt seams. Measure these curves carefully, you have some allowance to play with, but if this is not enough, you will need to make the diameter of these donuts slightly bigger ( and this is why we should all have paid more attention in school geometry classes!) and adjust the diameter if necessary. The bigger the diameter the longer the seam.
  3. Laid out all pattern pieces on fabric and slept over it one night as I had zero room for any mistakes! 
  4. Cut the next morning and this little pile of fabric cuttings on the left is all I have left over!

V8858 Vogue evening skirt

Monday, October 21, 2013

Not enough fabric? V8858 is a fabric hog!

HAVE: Vogue V8858 for a long evening skirt (only finished versions online seem to be here and here)
HAVE: 5 1/2 yds green embroidered taffeta from Carolinas CM Recto, bought about 4-5 years ago.
NEED: 6 5/8 yds
NEED: to lengthen skirt by 3" in front (skirt has longer back sweep)

PROBLEM: not enough fabric! I was missing over a yard of fabric.

  1. Reduce width of skirt. I took out about 1.5" at all seams except centre front and back. This enabled me to cut the front and back out of one length of fabric each, with enough left over for the long back ruffles at the side.
  2. Make a muslin so you can reduce seam and hem allowances to a bare minimum!
  3. Shorten the back so that it is the same length as the front.
  4. Ditch any though of cutting in one direction. Even though this fabric has a one way / un-symmetrical embroidered design,  it won't matter on this pattern, as the skirt body will be covered by the flounces, and the flounces themselves will hang in all directions anyway. The hip portion is the only part you need to be careful with if you are cutting any patterned fabric.
  5. Cut single layer.  Explanation: normally home sewers cut from a double layer of fabric, so you cut both left and right side from the same pattern piece at one time. Factories have a separate pattern piece for each and every part needed to make up the garment, so there is a separate left/right front, top/bottom collar etc.  These are laid out on a single layer of fabric, and lead to a much more efficient fabric consumption. So, I duplicated all the pattern pieces,( the brown are the originals and the white the duplicates on tissue paper) so I had a piece of paper for every piece I needed for the garment, and laid this out. 
HURRAY! It all fitted !

BUT after a discussion with a designer friend, I decided that I really want the back to be longer as this makes up quite a bit of the appeal of the skirt. She suggested cutting the flounces ( the donut shaped pieces on the photos below - there are 9 of them - not all are visible on the photo below) in half to gain 12" or so of fabric, so that the back skirt could remain longer than the front. So I cut up some flounces (don't forget adding seam allowances if you do this) and laid everything out on the fabric again!

INTERIM RESULT : I have gained about 10" for the back skirt length (the strip of empty fabric between the 2 rows of skirt pieces. I will now go an make up a muslin before I cut the actual fabric out!

Tip: if you ever make up this skirt, baste the skirt body together first so you can check the length. Any adjustments to the length will result in you having to adjust the length of the flounces. shortening is easy, but depending on how much longer you made the skirt, you may have to rethink the diameter of your donut flounces, so that they fit the new length.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Buying sewing machines in Manila

Obviously, if you want to learn to sew, you need a sewing machine.

There isn't a huge choice of brands for home sewing machines here in the Philippines. For home sewing you need one machine which will do pretty much everything for you: stitch seams, make buttonholes and finish everything off with a zig zag. These are the minimum requirements and they should at least come with a regular sewing foot, zipper foot and buttonhole foot. I also like machine which can do a 3 step zig-zag as that is useful for sewing on elastics.

If you buy industrial machines (which are widely available here), you would need one machine for each of those functions and it would cost you a heck of a lot more! That said, if you are sewing professionally, industrial machines do a much better job than household machines.

If you want to buy a new household machine, your only choice here in the Philippines is Brother or Singer. Brother usually carries 3 to 4 basic machines of varying price levels starting at P9,000. The cheaper ones come with standard stitches.  I usually recommend you get the one where you can adjust stitch width and stitch length manually, so you can adjust your zig-zag to whatever you are sewing, which is especially important if you want to start sewing jersey fabrics. They also carry a home serger/overlocker which is great for making anything out of jersey as well as finishing off seams in one go (they overlock and trim the edges at the same time) but at over P20,000 you have to do  a lot of sewing to make it work while. Brother has the advantage that they are available in most Automatic Centers, although if you have a particular model in mind, then call them first! Brother's Service centre is in The Fort which makes it easy if you live anywhere around there.

Singer has a website showing a wider choice of sewing machines, but I have never seen them sold retail except at their own outlets. You can call the importer MONTEVERDE SEWING MACHINE INC  tel 362.0712 or go down to the depths of Manila (somewhere behind Divisoria) to see the machines. Although their website says that they have an outlet in Makati now as well. I have not yet been there, so can't vouch for what is available there.

I don’t have a particular preference for either brand as I own both. It just depends on your budget and what you want the machine to be able to do. I never recommend you buy a machine from abroad, as chances are that they won’t be able to find the spare parts here. If you do, buy a basic machine and not an electronic one with all the bells and whistles as you definitely won't find spare parts or anyone to repair it if something goes wrong.

If you are on a budget, you can buy a machine in the second hand market down in Manila ( the Port Area, 13th Street off Anda Circle, opposite The Philippine Star). These machines sell for around P3000. They are usually from Japan and 100V so you will need a transformer and they rarely come with a manual! Again, I recommend staying away from any of the digital ones, as if something goes wrong, local mechanics won’t be able to fix them. And unless you do a lot of children’s clothes, you’ll never use all those fancy stitches anyway!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

We Love Sewing on Pinterest

We love sewing is now on Pinterest. Follow us to stay updated with pictures of anything sewing related around Metro Manila as well as what is in inspiring us at the moment!

We have a board for sewing stores in Manila so if you have suggestions, send us a picture and your comment to and we will add to our board.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

More fabric shopping in Manila

Many people in the Philippines have their clothes made by the local sewing lady/gentleman, so there are still many fabric stores located all around the city. Most malls have at least one or two stores carrying a wide range of fabrics, from chiffons for evening wear to (man-made) wool for men’s suits. So whether you sew yourself, or plan to have your clothes made, there is plenty of choice. That said, you will find higher end fabrics such as pure silk, wool, cashmere etc. harder to find.

Unfortunately, the staff in most fabric stores are not very well trained, so will really have no idea what they are selling. Fabric content is rarely marked on the rolls. For instance, if you are looking for silk, the staff may show you a lot of fabric which may look like silk but is actually polyester or some other man-made fabric. So be slightly skeptical about what you are buying: if it doesn’t feel like silk, it probably isn’t. It doesn’t help to argue with the staff about it, as they generally won’t have a clue what you are talking about! Some stores have abysmal customer service anyway and too few staff for the busy hours. Carolina’s and Fabric Warehouse are probably the most guilty of this, so if I can’t find what I want elsewhere, I try and go early during the day, when they are not so busy. It also helps to actually talk to sales staff and ask (and remember!) their first name, so that next time you come, they will also actually remember you! Stores in malls are normally fixed price, but if you are buying alot of fabric and the owner is around, strike up a conversation with him or her, and you may get a few pesos off. In Divisoria, Taytay and Kamuning, you can try to haggle a bit as they sometimes raise their prices if they see someone they perceive to be rich (i.e. a "foreigner"!). But the discounts won't be that big unless you are really buying a substantial amount. 

These are the places I shop the most:

SM Megamall, Ortigas 
The basement on the Shangri-La side has 5 or 6  fabric stores in a row next to each other so it is one of the most convenient places to go for fabric! There is also a Carolinas (one of the only shops outside of Divisoria where you can get sewing notions such as lace, ribbons, buttons, zips, threads etc as well as mainly evening wear fabric) on the second floor. You can also get some sewing notions in the SM department store next to the lingerie department.

Shangri-La Plaza, Ortigas
2 quite nice fabric stores: Bloomingdales and Expressions. They both also have branches in other malls and seem to be part of the same "family" as you sometimes find the same fabrics in both stores. Bloomingdales is the only store in town (that I know off) which sells special knitted wicking fabric for rash guards and sportswear, as well as waterproof/repellant raincoat fabric.

Market Market, Taguig /Fort
Cotton Touch, (a sister company of Cotton Depot) which sell the biggest selection of printed cottons in town: a huge range of florals, but also a lot of fabrics suitable for children's wear including car prints etc for boys and good for quilts as well). A small Carolina's and a couple of smaller fabric stalls including one which sells some pure silks.Metro Department Store also has a very nice fabric department on the top floor and a good selection of sewing notions.  

Glorietta, Makati
Quite a few fabric stores, including a big Carolina's, a huge Fabric Warehouse and a big Cotton Depot (Parttimehomemaker posted some photos here). They used to all be on the top floor of Glorietta 5 but now many have moved to the new Glorietta building, so I'm not 100% sure where they all are yet. The Cotton Depot seems to have stayed on the top floor of Glorietta 5. 

Greenbelt 1, Makati
Fanbi is the only fabric store in this mall but well worth a visit! They have some really nice fabrics as well as a good selection of men's shirts and suit/pants fabrics. There prices are higher than some of the other stores, but some of their more uncommon fabrics are also worth it.

Carolina's in Dian Street, Makati
This store is not air-conditioned but is less full than the other Carolina's stores, so I always drop by if I am in the neighborhood. There is parking right in front of the store which is also good to know!

Greenhills, San Juan
There is a Fabric Warehouse here as well as Designer Prints which although a bit more expensive than other stores, has a really good selection and is well worth a visit.

Fabric Warehouse Libis / along E. Rodriguez opposite Eastwood
Fabric Warehouse has quite a few stores all over Metro Manila, but it can be incredibly hard, if not impossible to find anything, just because the stores are too full. The name "warehouse" actually sells it all! The biggest Fabric Warehouse is along E.Rodriguez in Libis (although the new one in Glorietta is also large) but parking can be difficult as the few lots in front get filled up quickly. They do have a huge selection of all sorts of fabrics and as they have more space than their stores in Megamall or Greenhills, it's a little easier to find what you are looking for. Haute Fashionista posted a photo of the store here.

Mall of Asia, Pasay
The only fabric store I know of here, is a small Cotton Depot selling mainly cotton fabrics. It's above the Nido Science Museum.

Where do I start? Divisoria merits a post all to its self! Tutuban Mall has fabric stores if you want to shop in air-conditioning! Otherwise there are hundreds of small stalls in Divine Market, the building between Ilaya and Tabora ( enter behind the stalls which line the streets). You'll also find a lot of fabric sold on Ilaya street (literally on the street as the rolls are all just piled up on the ground!) along Ilaya. These stalls often sell misprinted fabric as well as dirty (no wonder!!) fabric so check when they measure and maybe buy a little extra. The fabric is so cheap here, that it won't hurt much to buy a few yards more. There is another building on the north side of CM Recto with a lot of fabric stalls too, including some which sell cut lengths of washed denim. 

I've never actually been here, but I am told its a good place to shop for fabric. There are even tailors here where you can have men's suits made. Bespoke Man documents his experience on his blog. My lawyer also told me she has her business suits made in Kamuning, so I think I need to take a trip there too some time.

Update: In the mean time I have been here. There is not a huge fabric section and I did not really find anything which would interest me. However I did see some interesting and reasonable curtain fabric, and it also seems to be a good source for men's shirtings as well as suitings although the fabric was not high end. There were a lot of tailors around, so its probably a reasonable place to have something sewn.

I am sure that I have missed other places with good fabric stores, and if you have any recommendations, or favorite fabric stores, please let me know in a comment. I always love to discover new places to shop!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Marking fabrics

When sewing, there are always pattern markings you need to transfer to your fabric. I grew up using dressmaker's carbon paper, tailor's tacks or chalk but since working in the garment industry where they used pens with disappearing ink, I became converted and ever since used special pens sold for quilters such as this one. Needless to say, they are not available in the Philippines, so I always had to buy them abroad.

One day, it occurred to me to test the washable markers sold for children's art. I bought 3 packs at National Bookstore, draw some lines on a piece of white fabric I had lying around, ironed it (heat sets some dyes making them more difficult if not impossible to wash out)  and threw it in the washing machine. I was really happy to find that all the marks washed out! 

Now, not only do I save quite a bit of money as I don't have to buy expensive quilter's pens from abroad, but I also have a selection of different colors. This can be really useful if you are having many fitting challenges, and aren't sure which was the latest change. I use a different color every time I have to mark a new sewing line so always know which was the latest adjustment! 

WARNING: Even though I have been using washable markers on all sorts of fabrics for some time now, I still test every new pack I buy and would highly recommend you do the same before drawing all over your beautiful fabric with them. You never know if a manufacturer may change their ink recipe, or if an ink reacts to the heat from an iron differently on some fabrics. I also keep my pens separate from my daughter's art supplies and mark them with some colored tape, so I don't accidentally use one of her permanent markers!