Handmade and Fabulous

Handmade and Fabulous: The Nehru Shirt

I had a white cotton shirt that I wore to death. It was a loose-fitting shirt with Nehru collar, two front pockets, and buttons running – though not all the way- down the front. I loved it because it exuded a relaxed vibe that transforms into sexy with just a flick of a few buttons. As it got more and more yellowish, I often wished I could clone it. But I knew that the only way to do that was to de-construct it down to its parts and figure out exactly how it was made. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to it yet, so I kept it alive.

And then, Marvel happened. Last Saturday, my husband, son, and I went to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I normally don’t gush over Marvel movies but this one was brilliant. It was action-packed, fast-paced, and had generous helpings of Chris Evans’ impossibly taut chest. But for all the action and suspense and despite lashings of Chris Evans‘ impossibly taut chest, only one scene made the most impression on me. It was the one in which Agent Alexander Pierce (played by Robert Redford) said to Captain America: “Captain, to build a better world sometimes means turning the old one down…and that makes enemies”.

When I got home that night, I took out my beloved shirt and started picking on the seams with a seam ripper, all the while muttering ” To build a better world sometimes means turning the old one down” under my breath, over and over again. A couple of hours later, I finally reduced it to its parts.

pattern (1 of 1)
Anatomy of my beloved shirt

I made the patterns out of kraft paper by tracing around the fabric pieces with 1/4 seam allowance throughout.  I then set out cloning my favourite shirt.

Here are the first two clones I made this week: one in blue-and-white floral, the other in plain black with red buttonholes.

pattern1 (3 of 4)
Blue-and-white Floral cotton shirt with Nehru collar and white buttons sewn in with contrasting tan thread
A close-up of the shirt front
The black version with contrasting red buttonholes
The black version with contrasting red buttonholes
A close-up of the covered buttons and red buttonholes
The black version, all buttoned up.
And here, ‘sexily’ undone 🙂
The cotton fabric I used was so thin I had to double it up on the front and back panels. But I left the sleeves sheer.

Fancy sewing your own shirt? Do come back in a few days for a tutorial!


Handmade and Fabulous: Nautical Dolman Top

Well, I guess it’s time to accept reality – my arms will never be as slim as they were 12 years ago. Especially when a certain 12-year-old treats them like pendulums every chance he gets. I used to do the same with my lola’s arms when I was little. It was funny when I was doing the playing, not so much when mine are being played with.

Thank goodness, then, for dolman sleeves. Dolman sleeves, better known as batwing sleeves, mimic the shape of a bat’s wing- loose at the armhole, tapered at the wrist. They are very forgiving, not just to the arms, but also to the tummy. Loose armholes mean looser bodice means fewer hold-your-breath-and-suck-your-stomach-in episodes. Dolman-sleeved tops are very chic and can be subtly sexy, too. They go well skinnies, wide-legged trousers AND shorts, depending on their length. And the best thing about these dolman tops? They’re very easy to whip up.

Here is one I made in an afternoon. The fabric is red-and-white stripes spandex with medium stretch. To introduce a nautical spin, I used navy blue linen as neckline piping and cuffs.

Nautical-inspired top with dolman sleeves,  banded hem, navy blue linen neckline piping, and cuffs
Side View
Linen piping
Linen cuffs

Here it is paired with wide-legged trousers made using this tutorial.

And here is a peek at the batwing-like sleeve.

This top is quite long but the thick band at the hem hugs the waist tightly, preventing the top from riding down my hips. But, if I so wish, I can let it ride down my hips and wear it as a dress- albeit a very short one.

If batwing is your thing, do come back in a few days for the tutorial.


Here are two more dolman tops to inspire you. Yes, I’ve gone dolman-mad 🙂

Solid Dolman top in Salmon. The plain colour is a perfect backdrop for chunky accessories.
Solid Dolman top in Salmon. The plain colour is a perfect backdrop for chunky accessories.
Here's a two-toned, short-sleeved version. Gray front...
Here’s a two-toned, short-sleeved version. Gray front…
…and canary yellow back.

How will you make yours?


Bags of Hope

In the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda, hope dimmed and flickered for the Filipinos. Most of us lost something; some of us, everything. But slowly, through little acts of kindness and magnanimity from fellow Filipinos and the global community, the embers of hope are reigniting. This inspired me to create ‘Bags of Hope’, a collection of limited edition bucket bags and messenger bags made of sturdy Irish linen, indigenous Ifugao weave, and canvas.

Each bucket bag features an artwork that I stencilled and hand-painted to the fabric shell. The artwork is my rendition of the word ‘HOPE’, using scripts from Alibata, the ancient- and forgotten- Filipino alphabet. Profit from sale of these bags went to my high school batch’s fundraising drive for Isla Naburot, a community of fisher-folks near my home town, whose  bancas (fishing boats) were destroyed by Typhoon Yolanda. The goal is to donate 2 or 3 bancas so they can start fishing again and rebuild their lives.

These are my ‘Buckets of Hope’.

Bucket of Hope in Yellow
Bucket of Hope in Green
Bucket of Hope in Blue
Bucket of Hope in Red
Bucket of Hope in Orange


The messenger bag features the same ‘HOPE’ artwork, but this time in cut-out suede. These are my ‘Messengers of Hope’.

Messenger of Hope in Yellow
Messenger of Hope in Red


We all do what we can to help, to keep hope alive.



What She Left Behind

She came, expected.

Even before she made landfall, we knew her by name. She is Yolanda, forecasted to be the strongest cyclone to hit the country this year. Days before she arrived, we braced ourselves for impact – nine areas in the Visayas were immediately placed under signal no. 4, classes were suspended, forced evacuations enforced . Three C130s, 32 airplanes and helicopters from the Air Force and 20 Philippine Navy vessels were on stand by. Philippine Red Cross was on high alert and has started packing relief goods for 15,000 families expected to be affected by the typhoon. Rescue equipment, rubber boats, generator sets, fuel, and vehicles were at the ready for possible operation or deployment. On November 7, President Aquino issued a statement aired on national television, emphasizing the seriousness of Yolanda and urging the people not to take chances. He asked for cooperation from everyone and called on that age-old Filipino tradition of ‘bayanihan’ saying: “Alam nating walang bagyong maaaring magpaluhod sa Pilipino kung tayo’y magbabayanihan,” (No storm can bring the Filipino to his knees as long as we help each other.)

Had those words been uttered by another leader in another country, they would have sounded more ominous and would have carried more weight. But this is the Philippines, where we eat typhoons for breakfast and drink floodwater for tea. Each year, we are host to an average of nine tropical storms on land, with ten more entering our waters. In 1993 alone, a record of 19 cyclones battered our coastlines. We have survived Ruping (1990), Uring (1991), Frank (2008), Ondoy (2009), Juan (2010), Sendong (2011), and Pablo (2012). And through it all, we manage to smile. We wave at the cameras from the top of our roofs while the rest of our house is submerged in water. We flash the ‘OK’ sign even as we are waist-deep in flood. We have, dare I say, acquired an almost charming cockiness towards typhoons. Signal no. 4, you say, Yolanda? Bring it on!

Yolanda made initial landfall on Eastern Samar on November 8, 2013 at 4:40am and did she bring it on. Sustained winds of 315 kph (195 mph) and gusts as strong as 380 kph (235 mph) made it the strongest recorded cyclone in the history of the world. The aftermath was heartbreaking: thousands, nay, ten thousands feared dead or missing, millions displaced, millions more left without a means of livelihood. Children snatched from their parents’ arms, coastal towns erased from the face of the earth, cities trampled to pieces like blocks of Lego. A government crippled, a people in despair. By the time Yolanda finished with us, we were on our knees, weeping.

In the face of such calamity, we expressed grief in different ways. Some organised relief operations in silence, others harnessed – perhaps a little too enthusiastically – the power of social media to spur people to action. Some donated under the cloak of anonymity, others announced every donation and solicitation for the world to hear. Some raised funds, others volunteered precious time and effort. And then, there are those who ranted.

They ranted when Korina Sanchez dared to contradict CNN’s Anderson Cooper’s reportage on the apparent lack of government presence in Tacloban five days after Yolanda hit (a statement he later denied making). They criticised the government’s perceived unpreparedness for the typhoon and complained about its slow response to the crisis. They ranted some more about Korina Sanchez’ Rated K slippers, Jejomar Binay’s marked relief goods bags, politicians advancing their own political agendas in the guise of helping others. They ranted against news of imported relief goods allegedly being switched to local ones before distribution to the needy. But most of all, they ranted about President Aquino, his perceived ineptness, insensitivity, and weakness. Oh, how they ranted and complained and criticised. How they raged.

In different circumstances, I would have raged with the best of them. Some of these, after all, are important issues that have plagued our country for so long. But in the aftermath of Yolanda, in the midst of such horrific destruction, I just couldn’t. I couldn’t muster an ounce of anger towards these self-serving politicians, our corruption-ridden government, our perceived incompetent President. I couldn’t even care less about Korina’s slippers or Jejomar Binay’s conspicuous relief goods bags. To me, it seemed inconsiderate- selfish, even- to indulge one’s ire when so many lives have been lost, when so many are suffering, when the whole world is mourning.

And so, I decided to seek out the positive and uplifting- quite unusual for a realist like me. I watched as the the world opened its arms and cradled our ravaged country in its embrace. I listened to stories of hope from my friends who had the privilege of physically helping our kasimanwas in the battered towns of Batad, Balasan, Ajuy, Estancia, and Capiz. I laughed at anecdotes that exemplify our resilience and humor, such as the lady who coyly asks a volunteer:’Ma’am kon pwede tani, tama na nga sardinas? Luncheon meat naman…’ (‘Ma’am, can we have a break from sardines? Maybe luncheon meat next time?). I chuckled when I saw plackards with the words “We need house and lot and car and swimming pool” replace those with the more desperate “We need food and water”. I knew then that somehow, in some way, we will rise above this tragedy. Somehow, the Filipino people will come through. And for the first time, I feel a patriotic tingle course down my spine- quite unusual for an avowed expatriot like me.

And this, I believe, is what Typhoon Yolanda really left behind, more than the destruction and grief, the suffering and mourning. She left a nation in tatters and its people in despair. But she also left them stronger, more resilient, with a clearer awareness of who they are as a nation. I fervently hope that such new-found knowledge and strength would one day push them to reach for something they so deserve – a transparent government that exists for all and not just the chosen few.

Handmade and Fabulous: The Basic Maxi Dress

I recently acquired a stash of jersey knit fabrics from Taytay, Rizal. Taytay is the fabric capital of Manila where bodegas (warehouses) that hold hundreds, nay, thousands of fabrics crowd each other out, where fabrics are sold by the kilo and not by yardage. Truly a seamstress’ version of heaven!

My loot included this really soft jersey in royal blue. As soon as I touched it, I knew I wanted to make something flowy and easy out of it, something I can whip out in a couple of hours. So here is a basic version of one of my favourite clothing items, the maxi dress.


and Back

Tutorial follows soon so stay tuned!


No-Sew Project: Recycled Wedges

We all have one: a pair of shoes so comfortable and versatile we wear it with anything and everything. Mine was a very simple pair of dark brown leather wedges with beige raffia-covered heels. They fit my rather curvy feet perfectly and although it is sling-back, I never felt like I had to walk a certain way to keep them on (yeah, you know what I mean). I wore them with everything: short dresses, long dresses, short shorts, longish shorts, wide-legged trousers, skinny jeans. I wore them when it’s sunny, I wore them in the rain. I got a good few months out of them before I noticed the raffia heels looking a little worse for wear. I’m actually being kind. Here’s one of them.


They looked really tatty and I know I can’t wear them again without looking unkempt, but the thought of binning them filled me with a certain sadness. And so I put them away for a while, hoping they’d grow new heels in the closet.  Well, today, I finally took them out of hiding and did what I should have done months ago: rip the offending raffia off the wedge heels.


I panicked a bit when I saw the naked wedge- I didn’t realise how ugly they are underneath that dirty raffia covering. I just wanted to cover them up as quickly as possible. Two options: braided leather or jute cords. Braided leather would have added a luxe feel to the shoes but would have entailed too much work. And truth be told, I wasn’t up to doing too much work these past few weeks. So jute cords it is.

Armed with the mother of super glue and a roll of jute cords, I set out to breathe new life into these rather sad-looking pair of wedges.



A couple of hours and two glue-hardened thumbs later,


I think the pair is good for another 6 months. I must remember to skip puddles.

Till next time!