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?



Saturday, July 19, 2014

Ooopps, I bought a dress! Challenges of writing a sewing blog.


Today I wanna have a heart to heart chat!

Yes, let's address the elephant in the room, this is not handmade! I love clothes but don't have unlimited time to make everything I want, or find the right fabric or even have the desire to make something basic because I'm running out of them.

Sewing passion has to come within. I want to make something either because is fun, has a purpose (like class samples) or/and will teach me something new: a challenge! 

After searching ages to find a suitable scuba fabric I liked, factoring the cost of the pattern and my time I decided that it was OK to not have to be a sewing factory and just buy that dress.


Yes, is so easy for me to make! Basic even: I even found a perfect pattern (McCall's 6988)

BUT that is Ok! right? That not everything I wear has been made by me. The pressure of caring the "handmade" baton is wearisome. Now, everyone I know assumes I make everything I wear and when I say I don't, that strange glare on their faces. Disappointment? surprise? confusion?  My face justifying "No, I haven't made that but don't judge me for it: I love sewing!"

I love being creative! I heart making stuff but I am also a child of the capitalism that even tho I am a much better and more educated shopper, I still want to buy cool stuff and wear it with anyone. Even among the sewing community.

Our sewing community represent an excellent support group, a judgement free space to wear our handmade stuff, but there is almost an unspoken rule of what to wear. Creatively that is annoying for me. I wear my handmade clothes almost daily but what happens If I want to wear something else. You know, be a creative rebel!

What I mean to say is that I feel it is ok to have days off. Not to show up wearing everything you made. I often see beginners feeling uncomfortable what they made and the first thing they do is to apologise as their makes don't fit, or they don't like it etc..  Often I say: wear what makes you feel proud and happy, don't wear what makes you feel uncomfortable. I won't judge how well it was made. My first makes are horrendous. I care to be supportive and encouraging.

What I love about wearing handmade is the feeling of my personal accomplishment, not complements that it brings. 

Since raising my hands and talking how stressed I was about overcommitting, I been very careful to what and who I say "yes" to.  I get asked almost daily about a new book, project, pattern, guest blog, link etc. 

I don't want to become a blogger that just keep sharing "the newest whatever' that seems to be the same to every other similar blog. My blog reader (I follow many different types of blogs besides sewing) have became full recently and I'm getting bored...  Can you promise me that if I start getting too promotional/voiceless you will nudge me kindly. I'm not saying that I won't have an occasion promotional post. There are things I want to share that I am honoured to be given the opportunity!

Since my personal blog resolution, I have only have said "yes" to projects already on my sewing plans (either for me or for my friends and family) or I would buy it anyway, because I think it's awesome. That's narrowed it to a few commitments a month. Who doesn't love interesting interviews and/or thoughtful reviews. I already have a few lined up I'm so excited to share.

Buried under my sewing room mess, I realise how much my stash is out of control. Or rather,  I need to stop buying stuff! I buy too many meters of fabric and hoard far too many patterns.  The worst is that for the last year I have been trying to slow my sewing down!  Yes, slow down... be more mindful to what and why I make things. Without success!

So easy to get catch up on  excitement saying "yes" to everything, pressured to have/make the latest stuff, always wearing handmade, and so on!  Be true to my own personal journey is my guideline.

Not often I blog so many personal views at once. I let those discussions for private conversations however how can I be inspiring and encouraging without sharing some downfalls of writing a sewing blog. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Festa Junina:Pokadot aprons and a wedding

Oi Friends,

I have more aprons for you!


My dear aunty Gloria had a beautiful floral dress to wear so she wanted a less fussy apron to complement it. Ps: yes, football on the background before the party starts. If you squint, you can see my uncle Fernando's bow tie.


As she took it home I couldn't take more pictures the day after. Lucky I had a few on the hanger as I mention, the party pictures aren't really clear.

The pattern is a bit different. I Hacked the BHL flora bodice as I wanted the apron to be very flattering as my aunty is a petite plus. 


There are two pleats at the shoulder. The skirt is the same as my mom's apron.


Now to Maria's apron. Maria is even more petit that my aunty.


I used the same bodice shape as mom's apron but with a box pleated detail, contrasting yellow ties, fuxico (yo-yo) waistband. The skirt is the high low flora dress front pattern, size 10.


All the lining of my aprons have a contrasting print. Maria's apron has gingham lining. The fabric again is all Chita with exception of yellow cotton, left over from my Brazilian cushions.

Did I mention a wedding outfit? Thats is the closest thing I will get to sew.


The top is the front pattern piece of the flora 
The skirt is the front pattern piece from the Betty like Mom's and aunty Gloria's apron.

The veil was self drafted. Actually it was the most fun to sew it out of this outfit.