A little while back, we lived in Asia for a couple of years. Malaysian Borneo, to be precise. For anyone whose geography is as bad as mine, it’s the red splodge on the map below:
For the unfamiliar, Borneo is the third largest island in the world and is divided among three countries – Brunei, Indonesian Borneo and our former home of Malaysian Borneo. It’s hot, it’s tropical, it’s rainforest-y and there are super scary bugs and lizards all over the place.
Out there, clothes-wise, life was simpler – you knew that every day it would be hot. Some days would be classed as ‘pretty warm’, and others would be ‘avoid direct sunlight at all costs if you want to keep your skin’ but on the whole, you could be sure that you would not ever need thick socks, winter coats, or wooly cardigans. Layering was an alien concept. When you remove the changing seasons, your wardrobe all of a sudden becomes dramatically streamlined.
I didn’t get much sewing done while I was out there, mainly curtains for our house (ready-made curtains aren’t really a thing out there, you get them custom-made) and other home-furnishing-type-things. Fabric-shopping wise, there’s a lot of bright colours in synthetic fibres, and it’s cheap and plentiful. Patterns are mostly florals, and there’s a lot of bling and sparkle going on. To give you an idea on prices, the signs you see below are in Malaysian Ringgit and £1 GBP = approx RM6. Yep, those fabrics are about £1-£2 per metre.
Sadly, these prints don’t really fit in with my style, which is why I didn’t do sewing much out there. I’m not really a floaty-fabric kind of girl. I really love autumn/winter sewing, coats especially, which obvs you don’t need in a tropical climate. Had I have made more garments while out there, my skills of working with slippery fabrics and lightweight chiffon would have been totally on point by the end of it.
Now we’re back in the UK and have the joy once again of experiencing the full range of temperatures between -5c and 35c in any one year, my wardrobe contains items made from every different weight of fabric imaginable with varying sleeve and neck lengths, in order to cover the wonderful ever-changing, unpredictable weather we have in the UK.
As I write this post in August in London (also loosely known as “summer”) it’s 12 degrees centigrade, and raining. And grey. And windy. If I wanted heavy rain and high winds I’d live in the middle of the North Sea. Coats and scarves are in full flow wherever you look, and summer sandals have had their time out in the sun and are now once again banished to the back of the wardrobe to await next year’s week of summer. The pictures you see on this post were taken a few weeks back, during some totally glorious sunshine that we had. Even though it’s pretty damn miserable today, you can bet that in a week’s time we will have another day of 30 degrees and everyone will be hauling their summer clothes from the depths of the wardrobe again.
This is probably the reason why I don’t sew too much ‘hot weather’ stuff – I only get to wear it for about two weeks of the year, and to be honest Summer is my least favourite season. It’s hot, it’s sweaty, the London Underground becomes horrific, and the minions of the devil – aka wasps – come out and everyone does the wasp dance.
I am most definitely more of an autumn leaf than a summer flower, but the Ogden Cami caught my attention. I’d seen loads of beautiful versions of it on Instagram, and it’s popularity is definitely justified. It’s flattering on everyone that wears it, it suits pretty much every single body shape, it’s bra friendly, and it’s light and floaty for those sticky days. And – bonus points – it’s quick and simple to make.
The pattern is published by True Bias, and it’s only available as a PDF download (here). Now before you dismiss it because of it’s PDF format, I’ll remind you how much I hate cutting and sticking (A LOT) and I used this pattern and survived. It’s not too many pages so the pain is over quite quickly and doesn’t have too much of a chance to sap your life force. You know how much I hate pdf sewing patterns so for me to say it’s not too bad you know it genuinely isn’t. You can do this ??
The camisole has a facing which covers the chest area, so if the fabric you’re using is ever so slightly sheer then you’ve got a double layer of it to help preserve modesty. Straps are non-adjustable but during the construction process you’re able to pin the straps and then try on the top to check that the length is ok – I made no adjustment to mine and just went with them exactly how they were cut from the pattern.
An overlocker is going to make your life a bit easier with this top, for the side seams of the main body of the facing, but you could always French seam the sides for a more profesh-looking finish. The bottom of the facings have a narrow hem.
I made this top in just a couple of hours – it’s that fast. So it’s perfect for a quick little bit of sewing joy if that’s what you need. It’s also a great project for leftovers – you could easily get this out of a yard of fabric and it doesn’t matter if you don’t have enough for the facings – just cut them from a different (but preferably sort-of-coordinating) fabric. They are on the inside anyway and if you do your understitching properly, no one will see them but you ?
Importantly, the top is bra-friendly, if you like thicker straps on your bra then you could just widen the straps of the cami to match – just remember to either reduce the standard seam allowances on the top of front piece (and the facings!) or increase the width of the approach to where the strap joins.
I’ve made my Ogden in a fern print viscose from Minerva Crafts, but any lightweight, drapey fabric will do. I’m not sure I would make this top from cotton, unless it was a very lightweight voile, as I’m not convinced it would hang properly and the last thing you want is to look like you’re wearing a shapeless potato sack. Well, that’s pretty way down on *my* list anyway.
The length and sizing were all good – I measured and cut the size 34. I’m a 34D and a UK 8 in tops, if that helps anyone work out which size to cut. I’m 5’5 and made no adjustments to the length. I found the ‘v’ on the front and back to be modest enough for my tastes (I’m not really in to flaunting boobage) but if you wanted to make the dip a little shallower then you could easily do this by redrawing the line on the pattern pieces (don’t forget to mirror it on the facing pieces). The back dips slightly lower than the front, but I worked with this and wore one of my me-made bras for a little bit of strap-interest.
This is the first pattern I have used from True Bias and I found the instructions to be very clear and easy to understand – definitely beginner-friendly and a joy to work through – not once did I pull my confused face. I would absolutely use another one of their patterns based on this experience, and I’ll for sure be making a few more of these next year. Depending on fabric choice you could make casual everyday ones, or fancy ones from silk or satin that would look nice under a blazer with a pencil skirt.
But for now, my first-attempt cami has so far had two wears (TWO hot English summer days – aren’t we lucky), so even if it doesn’t get any more this year it’s still winning. I’ll definitely be looking forward to wearing it again next year and making it some Ogden friends, but not as much as I’m looking forward to sewing up some cooler-weather items in my favourite autumn colours ???
Coming up next week on the Wanderstitch blog… the refashion of my New York City of Dreams skirt ? Subscribe below to make sure you don’t miss out on the story of it’s transformation!