Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fabric shopping in Manila

I’m often asked where to find good fabrics in Manila, and usually tell people to go where there are the most fabrics stores in one place so you have the most choice in one trip. This is either the basement of Megamall or the top floor of Glorietta 5. However, if you are in the Greenhills area (buying pearls or fake handbags!), do stop by a small fabric store in Virra Mall called Designer Prints. 

They are opposite McDonalds (which is now being either demolished or rebuilt – I wasn’t sure which one when I was there last week!) and Krispy Kreme. They have a small window facing the street with a few bolts of fabrics in them so you can find them quite easily. The shop is in the same alley as Fabric Warehouse but about 5 or 6 stores further down. Designer Prints carry a very nice range of fabrics all imported from the US. It’s an excellent place for cotton piques as well as cotton twills. Not necessarily the cheapest place in town, but a slightly different collection makes them well worth the visit! Like most fabric stores in Manila, they have much more stock in their shop than they really have room for, but the staff and owners are very friendly and are happy to dig out rolls from the back of the pile for you! This time, I saw a beautiful cotton border print pique, some very nice printed cotton jerseys (have to go back for the aqua striped one which was still on the boat from the US!), even some solid real silk chiffon ( and real silk is not that easy to find in Manila!) as well as solid linen and some beautiful evening dress fabrics. I restrained myself once again and only came home with a yard of this printed cotton stretch twill 60" wide for P390 / US$9.20 / Euro 6.39 for a skirt.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Second version of Burda 04-2011 115

My first version first version of this pattern was so comfortable, I made a second one. I stumbled across this fabric at Fabric Warehouse in Megamall. Stumbled is probably not the right word, as this store is so over crowded you can't move enough to be able to stumble over anything! You have to stand your ground somewhere and dig your way through rolls of fabrics. I only saw this rayon jersey because I am tall and could look over the other rolls of 60" fabric and see this one all the way at the back. At P190 (US$ 4.48/ Euro3.11) per yard it was a pretty good buy. I only used 1.5 yds but probably should have gotten a little more so that the print at the back would have been centered rather than draped over one shoulder. This time, I didn't use any facings but some left over black cotton jersey and bound the neck and the armholes.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Fabric shopping In Shanghai

I knew that Shanghai was a great place to shop for fabrics, but I totally underestimated how much they actually have. Once again I was with a group, none of whom were remotely interested in fabrics so was trying to find some time when I could wander off alone. Luckily someone kindly offered to baby-sit my daughter for me for one afternoon (she thought that going through the "fake" markets was much more interesting than hunting fabrics with her mother). Although I had the address of quite a few fabric markets in Shanghai, I started with South Bund Soft Spinning Material Market  which seemed to be the most popular (and therefore probably the most expensive) among foreign tourists and expats. The market covers 3 floors of an old rather dark building but is jam packed with fabrics as well as tailors where you can have whatever you like made in 4 days! They had wool and cashmere for suits and coats, tons (literally tons!) of lightweight printed silks, linen in all sorts of weights, assorted jerseys, including cotton, cotton silk blends etc etc etc. All in all it was really quite overwhelming and after a while it just became so hard to make any decision on what to buy or what not to buy! Luckily I ran out of cash or I might still be there! Prices were about the same as Manila (between 40 and 60 Yuan / P230 to P400) but they had so much more choice of fabrics in natural fibers than we have here. I ended up coming home with these fabrics:

cotton silk border print

cotton stretch twill

cotton jersey with some lycra
I also bought some solid light weight linen for shirts but as the photos are not particularly interesting, I'll wait to post them until they are actually made into something. Of course I now regret not buying some silk...... I wonder if I could get a tour group together to go back to Shanghai again......

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Burda 07-2011 105 floppy front blouse - pattern review

Pattern Description:
sleeveless top with asymmetrical draped front pieces

Pattern Sizing:
European 36 to 44. I used a size 38 and just widened at the hips to a size 40, although this turned out not to be necessary and I reduced the width once I had fitted the top.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
yes, taking into consideration the changes I made

Were the instructions easy to follow?
I downloaded the instructions  from the German website and these were pretty clear.  I couldn’t follow them as I added a lining but there was another review saying the English instructions were useless. I can’t comment on that as I couldn’t find the instructions in English on-line as this pattern does not seem to be sold on  the US Burda website for some strange reason.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I liked the unusual draped front pieces. The pattern actually did go together well and fitted once I made my usually alterations. After wearing for a few days, I find that I really dislike the fact that every time I bend over, people can see all the way down the front of my shirt to whatever I happen to be wearing on the bottom! It’s pretty typical for this type of style and the only real solution is to wear a camisole underneath. Living in the Philippines where it is always hot and sticky, I really dislike having to wear two layers of anything ( there are some days where I would even like to forgo underwear but I am definitely too old for that! ) so I would love to find a another solution! Any suggestions?

Fabric Used:
A thin cotton or rayon woven fabric, which I think I bought at some market in Holland . It’s been in my stash for at least 15 years. I originally wondered if it would be suitable for the pattern as Burda made the top in a silk chiffon, but my fabric was very supple I decided to try. As it is a floral print, I had to line the front pieces so that the draped flaps, which would normally show the inside of the fabric, would look good on both sides.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
I made plenty! I carefully read the great review by The Slapdash Sewist and at Home Made Couture before starting so benefitted from their comments! I generally put a dart in the back ( see photo 1) as well as add to the back length at the shoulder point to correct for my protruding shoulder blades and generally bad posture.
( armhole line still has to be smoothed out)

I omitted the band at the bottom as I felt there was no point in it as I wasn’t going to use a contrast fabric, so I lengthened the blouse by 6cm and made a deep double hem at the back to give the garment some weight and help it hang better. I also felt that the seam that holds the 2 front pieces together was too close to the armpit, so moved it 1.5cm closer to the centre front and trimmed the same amount off the edge of the flounce so that it wouldn’t be too wide.

I used the same fabric to line both front pieces edge to edge, so that the inside of the printed fabric would not show on the collar flounces. This was a good decision as I could encase all the raw edges on the flounces as well as at the bottom and at the armholes. On the back I used self bias binding to finish armholes and neck line after having added some interfacing to stabilize. The original left front pattern reaches the centre front at the top and then curves away to the stitching line holding the front pieces together. (if you look at the pattern pieces here, you will see what I mean) I felt that this was a bit weird (especially if your fabric is a bit transparent), so made it a straight line to the hem.

The 2 previous reviews had mentioned that the triangular flounce on the left side hung a bit weirdly. I thought about taking it off, but decided it would be better to anchor the 2 front togther i at the centre front so it could not drop away, but would roll over like a small collar. I tacked them on the centre front at the same height as the stitching line which holds the 2 fronts together. (on the pattern pieces above the new lines are drawn in red)

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
Yes I would! If you don’t cut on the bias (as the instructions tell you), and use a reasonably stable fabric, it is not that difficult.  But if you line it edge to edge like I did, you should be an experienced sewer as it fiddly.  I would also shorten the strap and tack both fronts together higher at centre front as it is a bit too open at the neckline for my comfort.

I want to make this pattern again in a solid fabric without the lining and with contrast topstitching as well as a contrast strap folding up the flounce. This would also be cute as an evening top in a crepe, if you add some beads to that little strap as well! I was even thinking about lengthening it and using it for a dress made out of a heavier knit so I can leave all the edges unfinished!. The fabric doesn’t have to be that thin, it just needs to drape well, so should be suitable for most jerseys.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Downloading Patterns

One of the big barriers to more people sewing their own clothes here in the Philippines has always been the fact that you couldn't buy patterns here. Fortunately nowadays there are many that you can download from the internet. I've been wanting to make a simple dress for the hot weather we are currently having and found one I liked on Burdastyle.

Burda is a large German magazine conglomerate who has been publishing magazines with traceable sewing patterns for decades. They also have regular patterns sold in envelopes which you can also order at various websites online. And now you can also download a selection of their patterns from their different language websites. I speak German so went straight to the German website. Strangely enough the German site has many more patterns available than the english language site and the particular dress I choose (115 from magazine 4/2011 ) is not available on the english language site (yet). Downloading and sticking all the pieces together were pretty easy for this dress, as there were only 2 main pattern pieces and a few facings.

This is my review of the pattern which is also posted at Sewing Pattern Review. There is another review for this dress in a completely different fabric which shows how versatile it is. Funnily enough this reviewer is from Singapore so it shows that this is a particularly good dress for the tropics!

Pattern Description: 
This is a simple straight dress with gathers at front and back in the neckline and elastic dropped waist. The magazine has a blouse and a couple of dresses ( pattern numbers 112 to 115) which use the same pattern.

Pattern Sizing:
I used size 38 which I always wear in European sizing. I just added a bit of width around the hips as I didn’t want the dress too clingy.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?

Were the instructions easy to follow?
I rarely use instructions for easy patterns but I glanced through them ( the german language one) and they seemed pretty easy to follow.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
The only problem I had was with the neck facings, which kept popping out despite being under-stitched and tacked down at the shoulders. This is mainly due to the gathering at the necklines so the body of the dress is much looser than the facing. I ended up trimming it down to about half an inch and sewing it down with small stitched between the gathers so that they wouldn’t be flattened. The next time I would use a wider facing (more like a small yoke on the inside) so that I can tack it down on to the sleeve facings as well. A one-piece facing including the armhole and neck facings would be better.

Fabric Used:
I used a thin cotton jersey.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
As above. Personally I don’t like side seam pockets as I find they bulge whenever you put something in and make funny bumps on the hips so I did not make them in this case. I also dislike necklines, which are too high as I feel they are strangling me, so I lowered this around 1/2inch in front. Next time, I would probably lower it a bit more, maybe down to 1 inch. I also made the skirt slightly wider at the hem so that I would be ble to walk more easily and have no need for slits.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
Yes I would. I live in the Philippines so I am always looking for loose dresses which are comfortable in the heat, but don’t look like a sack!

A nice simple dress with good details, which keep it from being boring.

Saturday, April 9, 2011


Although this is really a blog about sewing, I also love to knit and have taught some friends. Again the challenge in Manila is to find knitting needles and yarn. The only yarn locally available is a cheap and nasty acrylic and a thin cotton mainly used for crochet. I have knitted and crocheted bags and blankets out of the cotton but used it double so I can use bigger needles. Some of the yarn in this (still) unfinished Babette blanket is the local  Monaco or Canon yarn.

It works well on a European 3.5mm crochet hook or knitting needles and by taking 2 different colors, you can get quite nice variegated effects. I once knitted pot holders using up all my leftovers and 6 strands (but that is a post yet to come)!

I usually teach the continental way of knitting where you hold the yarn in your left hand as it is easier and faster. I can across this video at Love Affair With My Brother And My Janome And My Bernina And My Singer (and I would love to have all those machine...sigh!), so in case any of my students  forget once they get home, either call me or look at this video!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

First post!

This is the first post of my new blog which is intended for anyone who loves to sew or who would like to learn to sew and lives in Manila.  I am Dutch, married to a Filipino and have been living in the Philippines for 23 years now. I have sewn ever since I was 10 years old and, as certified seamstress, I have taught classes to both children and adults.

So if you have any interest in learning to sew, need help adjusting patterns, finishing projects, or just with fitting, or maybe would like some company whilst sewing, maybe I can help!

Classes are completely flexible and for any level of sewing. You can start any time and work on a project of your choice whether it’s clothing for your children, curtains for a new house or an evening dress for yourself! Patterns are impossible to find in Manila (other than in Japanese pattern books), but more and more are becoming available as downloads from the internet. I also have a library of European pattern magazines you can use and for the more advanced, I teach pattern making as well. If you can sew already but just need a second pair of eyes and hands to help fit or mark your hems, I can help you there too.

I’ll also be posting photos of projects my students have made as well sharing some of my 20 years experience of sewing in Manila! You will also be able to find a list of where you can get various sewing supplies here . Should you have discovered any good addresses yourself, please let me know and I will add them.

If you have children, please also take a look at our sister blog ILoveCrafts which shows projects we make during our craft classes for kids

Do get in touch for further details or if you have any questions/suggestions, would like to share your own experiences sewing in Manila or need any sewing related advice! I look forward to hearing from you!