London Trip and Megan Nielsen Crescent Top

London is one of my my favorite cities. We usually spend a long weekend there every year.  There’re so many things one can do in London, the city never sleeps. Our London days and nights are always  filled with a variety of events such as gallery going, shopping, exploring market, drinking cocktails, watching shows etc. Which is great except it leads to one critical question – what to wear?  I want to dress comfortably strolling London streets as well as sitting in nice restaurants/bars without looking like a country mouse. I used to have a vintage (secondhand) Jaeger velvet  jacket which I call the London jacket as I wear it every time I visit London. It’s a bit worn, which is fine, but the lining was completely worn out ( one of these days I am gonna do something about it).

This time I decided to rationalise and bring only one jacket and one pairs of trousers – a faux leather biker jacket from Zara ( it’s no Jaeger but it will do) and my “feel good” Levis jeans. I know I still need a versatile Top to be a key player. I turned to Megan Nielsen breakwater collection and there it is – the Crescent Blouse. What  I live about it is how it is so sweet yet holds the right amount of edge/sassiness which would go well with with the biker jacket.

The construction of the Crescent Blouse was an absolute pleasure. The fitting is almost straight out of the envelope. Megan’s sizing is always very accurate, and I think the boxy shape of this top also helped. Due to the unusual cut-out yokes, if you have a broad or narrow shoulder it will be prudent to make a muslin first to ensure the cut-out sit directly above your shoulders. And you will need a cross-over bra so the stapes will not show. Check your wardrobe before rushing to the shops as you might already have a pair. Any bra can be a cross-over as long as the straps are not sewed to the back but fastened by bra fasteners.

It was a easy enough project but just with the right amount of challenges to keep me on my toes.  As always, Megan’s instructions are so good, and you just have to believe in everything she says even the sequence of joining the seams sometimes do seem a bit odd (that is due to the French seams!). I had doubts in the instruction so I did some mods unfortunately I was wrong and I had to rip my seams off, and still ended up a not-so-fench waist seam.

Apart from French seams, there’re a few other challenges such as using bias tapes as facing, making curved rolled hems, and making self-covered buttons. They were a bit fiddly but I ended up enjoyed doing them ( who I am kidding I loathe self-covered buttons and but the rest parts were true!)

The fabric I used is a gorgeous teal colour silk from Hangzhou Silk market. It is so soft and I want to rub my face all over it. It was sueded so it is fantastically easy to sew,  soft, colourful and easy to sew- you cannot get  any better than this.  I was holding this for a long time for the perfect project and I am glad I did.

During the weekend the top sees a lot of wear – I went to food market in it, sipping beer at the hotel lounge in it, went to Michelin star restaurant in it and I can say that it is a winner! So comfortable yet so effortlessly chic. In all the occasions I never felt under/over dressed and totally at ease. It is now my official London Top! On one desperate Monday Morning, I even tucked it in my pencil skirt and went to a client meeting, with a pair of golden triangle  earrings and oranges shoes (both bought from Spitalfield Market,London). It was a total colour clash, but oddly it worked!

Bottom line: A True Love. And go get yourself a pair of cross-over.ImageImageImage


My Second Anna Dress in Birch Organic Cotton and Tips on Print Matching

My first Anna dress was a firm favorite in my summer wardrobe, it is no surprising that I want to make another one, especially now By hand London is hosting a sew-along, which has become my lunch time read lately.

Since I knew the fitting would be spot on, I wanted to spend more efforts on styling and neat finishing to make this one ultra special. I knew I wanted a V neck and a print this time, since my first one was a plain print with a slash neck. I really liked the practicality of the short length, so this time I am keeping it shorter which means 2 inches chopped off the midi length.
Directional print match was not something crossed my mind originally due to many skirt panels of Anna dress, until I set my eyes on this gorgeous green birch organic cotton in their Elk Grove Collection.   Look how adorable these Stags are!
I ordered 2.5metres from; only realized later that I need much more for directional print matching.

A habit of mine is always cut fabric in such an economical way that there’s hardly any left or a large whole piece was left over for something else. This includes sometime cutting on single layer (like my tirumisu dress) and sometime interesting pattern piece layout. I felt I was up to a challenge this time. 

So 2.5m (2.3m actually, after wash) long  45 inches wide  fabric, was it enough for an Anna? Of course … otherwise I would not like to share a sob story with you. So how did I do it? Read on.

  1. Style changes. There’re seven pieces for the skirt, seven!   I’d gone mad trying to match all of them! For my insanity and to save fabric, the first thing I did was to convert the 7-piece skirt pattern to 3 pieces only. One piece for the front skirt and a pair for the back. In the photo below,  I just overlapped the seam lines of the center front and side front pieces and stick  them together using a low-tact tape.  Easy-peacy. The same goes for the back pieces, except I cut the front piece on the fold but cut a pair of back pieces.
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  2. Decide where to match. It will be pretty awesome to match EVERY SINGLE seam – horizontal or vertical. It is impossible, though, at least for this type of directional print. The pattern pieces are not perfect rectangular, so If I matched the pattern pieces on the shoulder seams then the bodice side seams will not match. The seams that join the bodice and the skirt will not match anyways due to the presence of the pleats and ducts. The most obvious and probably the easiest seams are the centre back seams which were the one I concentrated on.
  3. Lay out the pattern pieces all in once, cut on a single layer of fabric, and match at the seam lines. When I say all, I meant the ones you want to match. I cut my bodice front and skirt front (now one piece) from the fabric first – using the most economical way of course. I then traced another back bodice and back skirt pattern pieces and laid out all of them at once on the remaining fabric, with the fabric right side up. REMEMBER: lay the two identical pattern pieces for the bodice and skirt as mirror images to each other. My fabric has about 30cm pattern repeat, which means some pieces need to be at least that much distance apart. An useful tip:  use a reference point to show the pattern repeat. I used colorful clamps at a reference point (two little birds sitting on a stag, if you must know), to help me visualize the pattern repeat. I then laid my pieces down, shifted them around a few times.  I marked the seam line on the pattern pieces and tied to match the fabric underneath them. My patterns pieces were made out of Swiss tracing paper which is slightly transparent, so I was able to see the fabric underneath the paper quite well.  Once I was content, I pinned the pieces downs and cut them out using a rotary cutter (or scissors, as you prefer) . Remember the old golden rule: measure twice, cut once. In my case I match three times, and cut once.  ALSO, don’t forget to mark the seam lines on the wrong side of the fabric (I used dressmaker’s carbon paper and a teethed tracing wheel). The marked line would guide you in the future. IMG_8485         IMG_8486IMG_8484IMG_8481
  4. Baste first, by hand or by machine. Once you cut the pieces precisely, you are half way there! The first part of the matching stitch started with the invisible zip installation at the bodice central back, which is always tricky.  Note, if the bodices don’t match, the skirts won’t. The best advice I can give you is to baste the zippers by hand before sewing, and zip up to check the fit, if not good enough, baste again till you are happy with the alignment (let the marked seamed line guide you). Don’t get frustrated by ripping the basted line, keep calm and carry on.  I got it right on my second attempt.  I then machine basted the skirt pieces using the longest stitch length, again, guided by the marked seam lines. Check, once happy, sew again with a shorter stitch length this time. If you are really not confident to install a matching central invisible zipper, why not move the zipper to the side instead? My dress has a lining so I have some extra steps to fix the lining to the zipper, no tricks here, and no pattern matching, just try to be careful when hand stitching in case of angry bubble at the zipper end.


For rest of construction I will fast forward, in case you get bored…closed the side seams, finished the sleeves by hand and hem the skirt by blindstitching. Look, perfectly matched back seams. Can you tell the centre seam on the back?

For the lining hem I used one of my fancy stitches came with my vintage Bernina, a scallops hem. It was super easy, I just stitched around the hem line and trimmed off the fabric. I love the effect so I don’t mind the extra effort on trimming with my small pair of scissors. I did it in front of my telly crouching in the sofa and it took me an episode of “Big Bang Theory”.IMG_8623

A few photos for y’all. Sorry about the poor lighting. Since winter approaching, the day is getting greyer and shorter, taking photos is like a battle with the light. Every I adjusted the light the moment I took the shoot it got darker! I added a belt and threw on a pair of heels so it doesn’t look too much like a little girls’ dress.

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With the lining the dress feels quite warm. Although grass green is not an exact fall/winter colour, but somehow it makes me happy and eases my winter blue. I can see a lot of wear out of my second Anna.