From scratch

Me-Made-May 2016

I was gonna skip participating in this year’s Me-Made-May as I thought I would wait until I have a full wardrobe of me-mades. Then I realized I already have that. The idea this year is to streamline this aforementioned wardrobe and only keep those pieces I actually enjoy wearing at the end of the month. So here is my pledge:

‘I, Etemi, of The Secret Costumier, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’16. I endeavour to only wear clothes that I have made each day for the duration of May 2016, with the exception of jumpers and lingerie.’

Day 1

  • Red trousers: heavily modified Burdastyle pattern
  • Nude bodysuit: self drafted/copied from an existing one
  • Bag: le Barcelona bag, made using scrap leather pieces (current favourite!)

Jumper and scarf store bought.

TheSecretCostumier - The camisolebig
From scratch

Camisole numéro deux

This is the second version of my copycat camisole pattern. This fabric, just like 90% of my stash, was a remnant I got a few months ago. It is probably inspired by that Prada print from 2012 (image source), which I was madly in love with at the time.:)


TheSecretCostumier - The camisole1

I love spaghetti straps and I think camisoles have that pretty sultry, half-lingerie/half-totaly-decent-can-wear-it-outside-the-bedroom look to them. They also don’t use a lot of fabric (although because of the bias cut, there is a relatively large amount of waste), and can be sewn up fairly quickly.

TheSecretCostumier - The camisole5

TheSecretCostumier - The camisole6

I am quite happy to have this particular piece in my wardrobe (although I haven’t worn it yet…), but it needs a bit of tweaking before I can make up the next one:

  • It’s not visible, but the side seam does not run straight down as it’s supposed to. However, when I put it on backwards, it falls just right, so I guess it needs some kind of an adjustment…
  • The whole point of wearing something with spaghetti straps is to show off that tiny piece of fabric against the skin, and bra straps just take away the attention. For decency’s sake it would be nice to have a sort of lining without having to line the whole top. Since it’s bias cut, I am not sure if I can do it without ending up with a longer facing (could be one of the options) all bunching up. I was also thinking of inserting some kind of a built-in bra thing, but knit fabrics and very lightweight wovens are not famous for working well together. Or are they?

Any ideas how to solve this?

TheSecretCostumier - Knitting in progress
From scratch

This knitting thing…

I was going to knit a jumper while on holiday in Japan. At first it went alright, on our 12 hour flight I did knit for about an hour and a half (and was actively trying to force myself to sleep for 10.5…). Then I did knit while my mother and sister dozed off during our train journeys, but surprise-surprise: I did not finish the jumper. I didn’t even finish the back of it.

But it’s okay. I tried to incorporate some colours and textures, but then I also wanted to make something I would be able to wear with most of my existing winter wardrobe. See-through jumpers are not such items I figured. So the last picture of the failed experiment is the one below (the addition of the different yarns is barely visible), just before I dismantled it on our little Airbnb’s balcony with the coolest view of Tokyo in the background.

TheSecretCostumier - Knitting in progress

TheSecretCostumier - Tokyo skyline

Long story short, I now have finished the back of the jumper (top picture), and started knitting the front too. I really want to finish it by the end of this month, but I’m actually writing this post when I was supposed to be knitting, so…it may just not happen.:)

Now I only have one question for those of you who knit regularly:

How long does it actually take to knit a jumper?


TheSecretCostumier - Kyoto12

TheSecretCostumier - Kyoto9

TheSecretCostumier - Kyoto7

TheSecretCostumier - Kyoto11

TheSecretCostumier - Kyoto5

TheSecretCostumier - Kyoto14

TheSecretCostumier - Kyoto16

TheSecretCostumier - Kyoto2

TheSecretCostumier - Osaka1

TheSecretCostumier - Kyoto3

TheSecretCostumier - Kyoto6

TheSecretCostumier - Kyoto7

TheSecretCostumier - Kyoto5

After getting a little acclimatized in Tokyo, this bit of our journey was about taking it all in: the tastes, the scenery, the sudden appearance of maikos in the Gion district, Hiroshima’s dreadful history and the peaceful Itsukushima island with the breathtaking Miyajima shrine… so I’ll let you do the same.:)


Kyoto and beyond

Stash diet/ Scrap revival

The quick godet skirt

TheSecretCostumier -The quick godet skirt

This skirt was done in a few hours–not that it does not look like it was done in a few hours–, but I am mentioning it, because that’s pretty much the only thing I really like about it…

It was made from some fabric remnants that I picked up recently, exactly with some kind of a frilly skirt in mind. Originally I wanted to make a tiered skirt, but that’s really not my style, and I remembered this pattern from Burdastyle that had the best styling in the issue at the time. When I found out that it required over 4 meters of fabric, while I only had three 1 m x 75 cm pieces, I knew I had to do some modifications.

TheSecretCostumier -The quick godet skirt

TheSecretCostumier -The quick godet skirt

The easiest thing to do was to insert less godets into the main pieces, and make them half the required size. You might have already figured out where this story goes, but let me bore everyone else with it anyway: when I decided to make the godets half the size by cutting them at a 45° angle (instead of a 90° angle), I ended up with one side of the godet cut on the straight grain and the other one on bias.

While (without considering the grain) on pattern paper this was supposed to work, in real fabric life one side was a lot longer than the other, so I had to adjust them while sewing, cutting the excess off at the bottom, round section. Which of course made the hem totally uneven, and I found it too long as well, so it got shortened as compared to the first version (above).

TheSecretCostumier -The quick godet skirt

I also tried to omit the dreaded zip insertion by sewing on a wide elastic waistband, but after a 30 minute wrestle, and finding out that it’s impossible to attach almost 2 meters of fabric (no matter how gathered it is) to a 70 cm long elastic band, I ended up putting on a normal waistband with a placket closure with a button. This is not very cool when the difference between your empty and full stomach measurement is huge.:)

TheSecretCostumier -The quick godet skirt

TheSecretCostumier -The quick godet skirt

I have worn it once so far (not with sandals, this is England, after all😉 ), it’s great for twirling (important, right?) and it goes well with my colourful jumpers, but I am just not that excited about it really. Having said that, the feeling of making your stash mountain a little smaller, by turning a piece of fabric that was declared wastage into something wearable (even if you end up with a garment that will not be in too much rotation), is just priceless.

TheSecretCostumier -The quick godet skirt


TheSecret Costumier - Tokyomain2

TheSecretCostumier - Mt Fuji2

TheSecretCostumier - Tokyoday6

TheSecretCostumier- Day 1 Tokyo2

TheSecretCostumier- Day 1 Tokyo4

TheSecretCostumier- Day 1 Tokyo5

TheSecret Costumier - Tokyo23

TheSecret Costumier - Tokyo15

TheSecretCostumier - Tokyoday7

TheSecret Costumier - Tokyo5

TheSecretCostumier - Mt Fuji3

TheSecret Costumier - Tokyo7

TheSecret Costumier - Tokyo11

TheSecret Costumier - Tokyo13

TheSecret Costumier - Tokyo14

TheSecretCostumier - Tokyoday3

TheSecret Costumier - Tokyo17

TheSecret Costumier - Tokyo20

TheSecretCostumier - Mt Fuji1

TheSecretCostumier - Tokyoday1

I used to think I lived in the most exciting city in the world. Then we visited New York… and I still thought London was the real deal. Then we went to Tokyo. Mind blown. There is not enough space and time to explain what and why I liked about it so much without getting lost in the small details (like enjoying the super fast, super punctual trains; the orderly queues everywhere; the amazing food even at the cheapest of places; the nicest people trying to help us out whenever we needed anything at all, etc.), but let’s just say I could really see myself exploring this beautiful country even more in the future. Getting up at 3 in the morning to catch the famous tuna auction at the Tsukiji fish market was worth being tired for days after it; as well as a little trip to the Nippori fabric town (just a piece of advice: leave your travelling companions behind, as you’ll want to have all the time in the world to browse those shops:) ), and looking at Mt Fuji from a hotel’s beautiful garden was one of those rare, unplanned adventures that turn out to be the ones you remember for years to come. Tokyo is an incredible city, but wait until I show you Kyoto…😉


Tokyo, my new love

TheSecretCostumier - Tailored wool coat
From scratch

Dream coat turned…tailored!

About 3 years ago I made a coat. It was my very first attempt to sew outerwear and it was as far from flawless as it gets, but I loved it anyway. At first at least… Then, as my sewing skills developed, I slowly grew out of the “better-than-nothing” attitude, and the weird, sloppy collar; the way too long sleeves; the wonky “piping” and the general ill-fitting started to bother me. Which is why, when I picked up a vintage Harrods blanket to make a tailored camel coat out of it, I decided to take my sad little grey coat apart and practice tailoring methods on it.

TheSecretCostumier - Tailored wool coat

I never quite worked out what went wrong with the collar the first time around, but I think I must have cut out and inserted an extra pattern piece by mistake. With the new coat I meticulously hand sewed the hair canvas onto the undercollar, before steaming it to the shape required. Truth be told, I had to re-cut the undercollar from some leftover wool and while doing the turn of collar adjustment, I managed to cut too much fabric off, so the different fabric it is now showing a little…

The tailoring of the lapels took the longest time, but I must say it was worth it. It’s hard to see on the old photos where I am actually wearing it, but one of the things that bothered me the most about the old coat was how bulky and shapeless the lapels were. On the dressmaker’s dummy it’s a lot more visible (no, that is not a hood, that’s the extra pattern piece sticking out from the neck.:) ), especially when compared to the newly improved version on the right. I used the Singer Sewing Reference Library’s Tailoring Jackets book, which is incredibly well written and due to the many great pictures, very easy to follow. By the way, it is available for pretty much peanuts on Amazon if you are happy to wait 2 or 3 weeks, as it is usually shipped from the US. (If you do live in the US, just buy them all!)

TheSecretCostumier - Tailored wool coat

As for the lining, I actually bought some fabric and made it up, all ready to insert it, but in the last minute I listened to my gut feeling and re-cut the whole thing out of the oldest fabric in my stash. I have been saving this remnant piece (with a wintry forest print on it:) ) for something special, and I thought 3 months of hand-sewing a coat that has already seen a lot of work is special enough.

TheSecretCostumier - Tailored wool coat

TheSecretCostumier - Tailored wool coat

Now, life is anything but simple, so of course after all that hard work, 3 years ago and now, I am still not in love with this coat. There’s something weird going on at the hem, it still feels slightly big, boxy, too grey, too long, and definitely too warm for cycling in London. That being said, when we were taking the photos with a friend of mine, for a few hours I managed to forget everything I hate about it and somehow ended up just enjoying wearing it in all its warm greyness.

TheSecretCostumier - Tailored wool coat