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.

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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.