Thursday, July 31, 2014

Oh Snap: How I take my pictures


On my early blog days I didn't invest much on my pictures and used a cheap digital with a gorilla pod. After breaking two digital cameras in two years and feeling frustrated by the limitation of places I could grab the pod, I took the decision of investing in better equipment.  I'm not as good as having any lighting equipment altho I have thought of investing in some in the future. Most of my pictures are either on my sewing room (where you get my bookshelf on the back) or on 'my' trusty wall. Sometimes I get adventurous with a "location" shoot. 

The main advantage of 'my' wall is that it gets the daylight needed in a relative secure location, where I can take a picture even if is raining outside. Doesn't mean secluded. Im overlocked by almost every neighbour window and have to stop for cars to leave the garage. The  main disadvantage is that can be a bit boring, expected and doesn't add to the 'feel of the picture'. I do feel self conscious of my neighbours but at least is less that when shoot on location. Works well for now.

When I'm on location, I never shoot under direct light. I use natural diffuser like standing under a tree, or a building, something that will naturally reflect lights all directions.


Tripod:MKC3-P01
Location: Back wall


Even after having a technical 2 full day photograph course, nothing makes me change from 'Auto'. Yes, I know my pictures can be so much better by even adjusting the white balance. This is an area I do feel I need to improve because so many shoots could be made better either on focus or colours. Sometimes I make some changes on my camera settings and I'm lucky, more often not! Don't get me started in Aperture and light speed.

My biggest issue at the moment is that my camera doesn't like wireless remote and I need to use the timer. 

Timer can make the pictures off focus.That's because I am behind the camera adjusting the picture by the rule of thirds.  I shoot, the cameras locks on what's in front, when I step over it I'm not what the camera thinks is the focus. I have been getting around and always promise myself before the next shoot I will read a little more. ( never happens, maybe one day...)

I avoid using flash as much as I can but when the day is very bright I use my flash to counter balance the light behind me.


You all know my "the rugby player' pose and a few others I play around. I try to be as creative as I can, showing the garment as best as possible. Every time I shoot the camera It takes 4 self portraits.

My advice when shooting with a self timer continuous mode is to do smaller movements changes at every click. Don't try to move the whole body as you are not as fast as the camera. Move your head sideways, your hands grip, raise or lower your shoulders, drop your eyes, smile. Be confident, try a few pictures in front of the mirror and get shooting. 

Having someone to take your pictures is only an advantage is they LIKE doing that, like a creative collaboration.  I am often feel a lot more self conscious when people take my pictures but when I do them myself I am as silly as I can. Do many funny faces, jump, dance.. I like the more serious poses to make the blog however I try to have fun because isn't the most comfortable situation to be in, specially is you are productive.

I often shoot more than one garment or outfit at a time as the weather in the UK is so unpredictable. 

 I use pic monkey to crop and add filters. Gimp is a great tool for more elaborate collages like the one of my Copacabana trousers. I heard illustrator is also fun but I don't have it. My pictures are always set for 650 width. I been thinking to get the rental option for the photoshop/lightroom. Anyone recommends?

My process of taking blog pictures started organic and like my writing, is evolving on style as I explore different ideas.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Its Oonapalooza!

Spunky with a very distinct style, fun to boot and a pleasure to know! How can I not make an outfit in her homage! I looooooove Oona. Man, and I had the honour to compete against her on #projectsewn where we pushed our creativities to the limit.  


With her killing draping skills, floating prints exploding I almost made a Maxi version of the Nettie  Since my fabric would only allow a mini maxi ( is that a thing?)

 A bodysuit, so simple and versatile... don't you think simple patterns always showcase prints like no other?  Are you shocked by long sleeves in plain summer? I made this before a heatwave hit the UK.

Same alterations from previous version. I added a swimsuit elastic across the back after the previous version started to move a little after wearing dancing. The shoulders are already narrow but I make it even more by my favourite method of finishing. 

Sewing an elastic on the wrong side all around, folding and than stitching with the twin needle. I sometimes use interfacing instead of elastic. I know, I need to add extra length but I was reckless! Miss Oona would certainly approve of that!


This version I skipped the poppets. I don't like sewing or wearing them. After buying and wearing two bodysuits without, I was pleased that I made that choice. Now I also know how this would look wearing as a swimsuit. I added cuffs, another favourite thing!


This super fun print was bought in Portugal. Addresses and tips should be in the blog some time in the future. I cannot catch up with the long list of posts I have planned.


Woo Hoo  #sewcialists for planing this fun challenge.

Noteworthy links;
Cutting knits
Using a Twin needle
Threads primer on sewing knits

Friday, July 25, 2014

Designer spotlight: Bad sewing habits and other stories with Lisa Lam.


For those who don't know, Lisa is the creative and successful U-Handbag author/designer. Accordingly with the lady herself, it all started as happy accident. She run a market stall while deciding what to do as a career, had a strong handmade background taught by her mother and a big passion for it. As all creatives, the desire to create and evolve move them to approach their talents in different directions. Today we are having a chit chat about all things new...

HOP:  Hi Lisa, welcome to HOP. 

Your bag expertise and knowledge is widely known and much loved. 

LL: Thanks! 

HOP: You mention previously that Mabel (your adorable daughter) was one of the reasons that turned you a new direction- far too much pink and girly-ness and not much choice for mums... 

How would you describe your design aesthetic? 

LL:My design asthenic…I’d say: it is largely unfussy (I don’t like large doses of frilly frou frou), it is versatile (I’m a painfully pragmatic person so I love most items in my life to perform well in as many situations as possible), I LOVE juxtaposition (I’m ra-ra skirts with chunky boots, or scruffy dungarees with delicate ballet pumps kind of girl.  

If I’m wearing pink I have to team it with charcoal grey.  And I’m never on trend, I don’t how to be on trend and (I think on an unconscious level) I prefer not to be? 

HOP: Many designers discover a niche by personal experience.  what did you learn from this new design experience as a designer and as a mother?  

LL:Very true Rachel, it’s the best way.  I’ve learned loads!  It was great learning experience that has really widened my horizons.  I mean, I have done dressmaking before, but I have never been as motivated to see dressmaking projects to fruition as I have for Mabel.  

Source: Lisa Lam

My experience as a designer (of bags) has given me a very useful problem solving mentality.  If I want to design something that is not immediately forthcoming I will stubbornly think it over and over (and over) until I can find a design solution.  

It was lovely and really interesting designing specifically for someone I love as opposed to an audience of people who may wear one of my bags.  I think a mother designer has to temper her wish to ‘design fabulous’ with the time it will take to create the item she has designed.  I’m sure the older her child/children become the more time she can spend (I hope!) 

Source: Lisa Lam
HOP: Can you tell my readers a little more about the design process? Your process, inspirations, studio day to day etc 

LL: The process usually starts outside of my workroom, I keep a little notebook me that I fill with scribbles and I snap pics.  For the dress patterns I gleaned lots of inspiration from chatting with other mums about what they’d wish was available in the shops. 

I approach most of my design work this way: so I begin the process by asking my customer/readers what they’d wish for. Often, I find that in the reader comments certain themes crop up again and again. So I then take the most recurring themes and use them as a basis on which to design whatever.  At the moment I really don’t have a typical design day.  As many mums will tell you I try to fit work around naps and nursery.  I don’t want to focus as much on my work whilst she is still so young – she is growing up way too fast as it is!  I still call her ‘Baby’. 

 Collage made with pictured from: Lisa Lam

HOP:Your new patterns (Happiness  halter Playsuit and Dance with me dress) look very versatile, allowing the dressmaker to create their own interpretation. What fabrics would you recommend them to try?   

LL: Thanks! Versatility is important.   I think that quilt weight cottons are a great combination of colour, pattern and durability.  Yes, it’s true that quilt weight isn’t the most delicate fabric on their skin, but is softens with washing and it does withstand play dates and nursery! 

Source: Lisa Lam

HOP:Your patterns show a lot of care and attention and I love the colour photographs over the instructions. You don't assume people know stuff, which I think It's great.

Do you think the experience you had designing bags influenced how you wanted this new product line?  

LL:Thanks again!  Yes absolutely. In my bag design I’ve found that provided the bag looks good and is potentially great to use, folks are happier to attempt a (rather involved) pattern if only the instructions are comprehensive.  

And I know that folks love accompanying instruction photos.  This is why I deliberately do not grade my patterns with a level of difficulty. Instead I try to make my instructions as complete as poss and make the photos as helpful as poss. I do this the hope that more folks will try my patterns (by not being deterred by a skill rating).   People are so happy with themselves after they see projects through to the end – and when they tell me how proud of themselves it give me a bit of a (maternal) buzz!  Hehe! 

HOP: I am curious to know what is like being part of the sewing community designer industry?

LL:Well, it’s really nice being asked this question!  It’s wonderful!!! The craft industry is unique in that it is populated by some of the nicest people you could hope to work for and with.   I guess I feel two things: firstly I feel incredibly lucky that folks like what I do.  I love my work and to have a warm, responsive audience for my work is really amazing; secondly, I am slightly uncomfortable with the ‘sewing designer’ title. I think I am ordinary mum person who along with thousands of others enjoys making her own contribution to the craftiverse.   

I’m a bit of wallflower at parties; it’s only at craft meets/book signings etc. I can be a mad party animal.  That said, I am ridiculously passionate about the craft movement, it’s brought so much positivity to my life that it is very much part of my identity – so if my being known as a Sewing Designer’ has the affect of encouraging folks to join the movement  (whilst at the same time keeping me in employment) than great, it’s all good!   

HOP:What’s your secret (or not-so secret) sewing bad habit ?

Errr, the WS of my work often looks like a dogs dinner!  Provided my seams aren’t going to unravel I’m not too worried about looking neat behind the scenes (of course with bags this doesn’t matter so much, with clothes it really does!) 

Editors note: That is great to know... how many of us do that!

HOP: What is next for you  professionally? 

I have to keep it a secret, but I will say it’s scarier than writing books.  But I am going to go for it anyway, I’m always telling my readers to give things a try and not be frightened of making mistakes – so it follows I should be willing to take my own advice!  

Source: Lisa Lam

Thank you so much Lisa, I wish you all the best in your new venture. I will keep you posted on the progress of Izzy's closet. 

Lisa two new patterns booklets: Happiness halter Playsuit and Dance with me dress are out now.  

Editors note: I have recently became a godmother and cannot wait to fill my goddaughter (Izzy) wardrobe. I'm making the happiness halter playsuit- dress version. 


Sewing for kids can be addictive... I have made a few things for my nephews: Fox soft toy, Monster truck pillow, I spy tent and a baby bag.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Hello Mabel


Hello, don't mind me in my pyjamas, would you? Well, you won't see me wearing this to sleep just yet but that's how comfortable my Mabel feels. 

Choose a soft interlock knit and BAM, you are in heaven! Oh and don't think it makes you slack on style... add some cute shoes and get out of the house looking and feeling lovely. I already have another version cut because I cannot have enough of this make.


Basic, yeah.. for my normal sewing standard but I honestly sold. I'm not one to repeat or make basics unless I think the process is fun! 

The Mabel is part of Colette new direction of making patterns for knit fabrics.

I never been a Colette girl, style wise I mean. Their patterns always enchanted me by the quality of instructions, attention to details and customer care but the styling of vintagy/ cutie is so NOT me.  

I did a successful Beignet, ginger (a favourite), Macaroon and not so Zinnia.  The others I own are the Anise and Lady Grey. (UFO muslin stage and uncut respectively.)

When the Walden collection was launched and I bought them all! WOW! I made the girliest of Coppers.  So recently they launched their new beginners knit dresses.  They got my attention!  I'm liking the direction they are growing and I'm eagerly waiting to see & SEW more.


I sewn size M. I feel is a bit on the loose size as I like things body fitted (tight). Next make is a double knit (ponte).

Really impressed by the construction method and lining. I never even thought about lining my knits.


The waistband lining was the left over from my coppelia.

Did you made any alteration? Nope!!!



I should have lengthen the pattern given my amazonian height is out of the norm but sometimes I get lazy, thinking I could get away...  so many patterns are design to be a little longer than what I like wearing anyway. Not the mabel short version. I had to avoid hemming in the risk of becoming too short.  Not a biggy on knits, right.


Sewing tip: When hemming interlock knits, cut a 1/4 inches strip of knit interfacing, interface your hem on the wrong size, press your hem allowance and stitch the right side with a twin needle.


Have you sewn the Mabel? Do you like Colette new patterns? 

Monday, July 21, 2014

My floral boned bustier birthday dress.

Hello darlings

Thank you so much for your feedback and comments on my previous post. I feel a little responsible to make sure we talk about both sides of my journey. I'm a fast prolific sewist because I get organised to sew, but I am also human. I often get told I'm an (sorry I had a typo here) inpirational sewist. I want to be true to myself, grow and evolve.

 So today we finally we got to chat about my birthday dress.


The pattern is the same bustier from my minerva craft evening gown{burdastyle buster 5/2011 #127} with BHL floral skirt. I looove this skirt! My high low flora skirt pattern is almost destroyed. Time to trace and this time interface it.


Sewing tip: Do you know those paper interfacing not very suitable for clothing? (non woven- light weight) Those are perfect to interface patterns. 



Bustiers. I feel they were made for me.  Only took me 2 years -from the time I bought Gertie's class -to find out. It wasn't for the lack of inspiration. I saw so many amazing bombshell dresses out there. The truth: I was scared of steel boning cutting.

I made a muslin following Susan Khalje’s method for thread tracing.



The  bustier pattern fitted me perfectly as is. (I bought a tall version separately from the class pattern) Sewing was so rewarding. To be honest is not hard, the work is sewing those concave curves so many times. Outer fabric, underling, lining, extra cups etc...

I was going to make my dress blue but reconsidered as a lot of my party decoration had a similar print. Used what I previously cut as lining. Love it!


Because of the chita (Brazilian fabric) cheap and cheerful characteristic meant I had to sew 4 layers for the busier. For structure, body and because of the open weave needed reinforcement.


King K enlighten his fail safe method I choose to follow. To improve the structure he underlines both the outer fabric and lining- with cotton flannel and twill respectively. I just used medium weight white cotton for both. Rigeline is a very easy way to start but I wasn't complete trilled by it.  Because it comes curved, after sewn it still have a raised shape. I had to be sure to sew all the same direction and against the body.

Sewing tip: The trick is then press very lightly with iron set on low heat to settle them in place. You can see the boning bowing back in place.


Instead of the sewn in straps from the pattern I opted for making  adjustable ties-in, hand sewing the flower trim on top.

The green invisible zipper is almost invisible....


Forget that, check out the back bodice print placement! High Five, right!


The pattern for the belt is inspired by Lisette bow belt . I didn't have a printer available to print the pattern so I just drafted based the instructions.


Did you notice that the back skirt doesn't have the traditional pleats. I changed to a light gathering at the centre back.


I made my head piece too!


I didn't want a lining hanging separately so I sewn the lining to the outer fabric. No hemming needed!


The dress looks so well crafted. To be honest everyone were so impressed but also thought I was crazy, what! all that work on such a cheap and costum-y fabric. It doesn't matter. I wanted my dress to fit the style of my birthday party theme and  most importantly: I felt beautiful wearing it. ( If you want to know more about my party, check related posts: Festa Junina/ Apron 1/ Apron 2 &3 )


Noteworthy resources:

Birth of a Bustier by Kenneth D. King
Three ways to attach Boning by Threads magazine
Sewing a Boned Bodice With Plastic Boning by Sewaholic 
Boning supplies: Sew Curvy 
Gertie's Time-Saving Trick for a Boned Bodice Muslin

A few burry pictures of me wearing at the party!


Ok, my fellow is totally being good sports on dressing up in crazy Brazilian costume but that face! LOL BTW I made his matching tie and Maria hand sewn his trousers patches.


Our english friend Si actually took pretty well taken to his costume, even took the tie (which I have sewn) home with him.



Dad wasn't impressed to have a bow tie ( yes, I also made that)

Thank you for your feedback about loving my Brazilian posts. It is so lovely to share my culture with you.

Now, Who wants a piece of my birthday cake?