I have not been blogging for the past few weeks, but I have a number of reasons to be very very busy. Chinese New Year is in a week’s time and I’ve been busy spring cleaning and sewing. It is customary for everyone to be dressed in new clothes for the New Year, and since we usually go visiting grandparents and relatives on the first two days, I will have to prepare 2 new outfits (per child) and that means this year I have 6 outfits to sew! At this time last year I was heavily pregnant and due to pop anytime, so I too tired to sew and I just made do with store bought clothes. This year I made sure I started early, but I’m still cutting it close. I’m only done with 4 out of 6 and I still have to make two matching bags, all before this Sunday. So this post will be short, and it will be just to share with you what I have been busy making for the past few weeks.
For this year, I decided to make them all with a little modern twist, and instead of a straight/fitting shape, I made them more fit and flare. I couldn’t decide on a particular design so I made 3 variations.
The first dress was inspired by the fabric. The fabric is a gorgeous November Books fabric featuring the story of the Ugly Duckling. I fell in love with the colors of the fabric and I just had to buy it. The panel print along the border meant that I could not actually cut a flare skirt pattern from it, so I had to settle for box pleats instead.
The dress opening is actually at the back, which makes it easier to sew, since the front is sewn shut. Don’t you love the diagonal bias tape? I had these lying around since I took part in the Mailbox Surprise Series in 2014, and when I placed it over the fabric, it just looked so perfect.
I added some cap sleeves this time for a variation. See the bias facing in the lower armhole? I learnt this technique from a Japanese sewing book, it makes the armhole look really neat, since cap sleeves end halfway around the armholes.
Moving on to Dress #2. The photos can’t do justice to the beauty of this dress. I had some problems with the white balance and as I also had to take photos on different days, so the color looks different in the different photos but I don’t have time to adjust it further. The design of this dress was inspired by a modern cheongsam for ladies that I saw some time ago on the internet. I think it was my cousin who showed it to me, when she asked if I could make a similar dress for her wedding. Back then I had yet to venture into making these dresses for my kids, so I did not have the confidence to take on the project, but the design stuck in my head. I loved how it looks so simple on the outside, but when the dress is in motion, you can catch glimpses of the cute matryoshka dolls hidden within the box pleats.
I could cut the skirt into a flare shape this time as the fabric was plain in color, so it will not mess up the flow of the prints. You can see how the skirt spreads out because of the flare pattern, which is different from the first dress where the skirts are made from rectangular pieces of fabric.
The fabric is a lovely light blue sateen that was leftover from my tiffany blue dress and the matryoshka doll fabric was from Japan.
And finally, this must be my favourite dress of all.
The designs of the first two dresses were quite quickly finalized, and I was going to make two similar dresses from the November books fabric, so that accounted for 3 out of 4 dresses that I had to make. However, I did not have enough fabric leftover to make a second dress #2, and needed to go fabric shopping for the last dress. I brought my eldest along to Chinatown, in search of the perfect fabric, and we found it! It is a Japanese fabric produced by Junko Matsuda for Daiwabo-tex, and it has the most beautiful gradient effect I have ever seen. The fabric itself is also silky to the touch, has a sheen on the right side, and drapes wonderfully. The color? Spot on. There is another color in a beautful bluish purple, which I am leaving for another day. I can’t bear to use up all of it at once!
The gradation of the colors meant that cutting the pieces for the dress had to be done really precisely and carefully. This dress really brought out the perfectionist in me. I actually made a mistake when cutting out the top pieces, and the color did not match at the waistline. I could not stop thinking about it, whether to go ahead and sew or to waste the pieces and cut all over again. I cut them out all over again, which explains why it took so long for me to sew three dresses.
I used the simplest Chinese knot buttons. Going with the mantra – Less is more.
See the beautiful drape of the skirt? The draping called for a flare skirt pattern definitely. It took me a while to cut this piece out as I was afraid that since the gradation of colors is running horizontal, cutting a flare pattern instead of using a horizontal rectangular shape will destroy the flow of the color blending. Thankfully it is not that obvious and the fabric still looks heavenly. 🙂
Just one more picture to share. This is a little boy’s shirt that I made for my soon-to-be one year old. Oh how time flies! I basically made it using a standard shirt pattern, but lowered the necklines so that the standup collars won’t actually be too bothersome or hot. You know how fussy one year olds are with their clothing. ;P I added some yellow trim and bias just to make it look more festive.
For those of you interested in making your own cheongsams/qipao, you can follow my free tutorial here -> http://www.japanesesewingbooks.com/2014/01/13/free-girls-qi-pao-chinese-dress-pattern-and-sew-along/ There are free patterns and also a link to a video tutorial on youtube.
Are you sewing/have you sewn your Cheongsam for the new year? If you have sewn a dress using my free pattern, do post it on my Facebook page. I would love to see it and share it with everyone!