Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Gearing up for something new

Hi all!

I have been neglecting this blog lately, because I've been hard at work on a new project.  For years, I have been sewing portable art kits for kids that I call Coloring Wallets.  After getting fresh inspiration from the fabrics I found in Japan, I decided that the time is right to find out what it takes to turn this into a business.

However, I don't know anything about running a business!  My degrees are in English, Theater, and Education!  So since our return to Portland, I have been taking a series of business classes focused on the apparel and accessories industry, and gradually I am gathering some of the skills I need to feel comfortable investing in my coloring wallets as a real business venture.

My long-term plan is to create a model where I design the art kits and find the fun fabrics I want to feature, but my job is running the business, not doing the actual sewing.  But until that happens, which could be years away, I will probably have less time to sew for myself (or at least less time to blog about it!)

In the meantime, if anyone reading this has any advice for me about starting your own business, I would love to hear it!  If the advice has anything to do with the fashion/textile industry, or the Portland, Oregon area specifically, even better!

So be on the lookout for information about my new venture, which will be called Chiku Chiku.  It's a Japanese phrase about sewing, referring to the sound a needle makes when it makes tiny stitches.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Bicycle Print Natalie Top

I took a risk and ordered some of the "peach skin" fabric from Girl Charlee the last time they had a big sale, not really knowing what it was other than that it was 100% polyester, and this description from the website:  "Peach skin fabric has a soft brushed finish, does not wrinkle, and is perfect for dresses, top, and more!"

I loved the bicycle print, and I had been wanting to try a dressier top from a silky fabric.  The Natalie Top pattern from Liola Patterns looked like a perfect addition to my wardrobe, and I can't wait to sew it up again!

The fabric does have a nice drape and a cool finish, but it's honestly not my favorite.  It doesn't breathe very well (it is polyester, after all) and it's sometimes a little too clingy--like it feels like it's sticking to me.  But it doesn't wrinkle easily, which is nice, and it was easier to sew than I had feared it might be.

I had a little bit of trouble getting the pleat in front to lay down exactly right, but I love having the open neckline with the pleat rather than a button placket--I get so nervous doing buttons, which was one of the reasons this was the blouse pattern I chose. 

I can handle two little buttons that don't need to line up, however--I think the sleeve tabs are such a nice detail on this top!  And a fun way to incorporate a little more of a contrast fabric.  I used a scrap of painted silk that I had been holding on to from my husband's grandmother's stash, and I love how it plays off of the navy of the top.

I made the sleeves a smidge too tight, something I will correct
when I make this top again.
I added some length in the form of a curved hem on this pattern. I didn't think about it until I was ready to hem it, but that meant that for the hem to lay flat, I needed to do a bias hem facing rather than just the typical folded under hem.  

Luckily I had just enough of the scrap of silk to piece together a strip to go around the hemline.  It was touch-and-go, but I squeezed it out!

I'm planning to make another one of these tops out of some lovely silk that I picked up last week when I visited the Pendleton Woolen Mill store.  I can't believe I used to drive by that place every day on my way home from work and never went in there!  I also got some amazing wool to make a few pillow covers for our living room--they are going to be so luxurious!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Upcycled T-Shirt

I got a new serger this weekend, which is so exciting!  It has gotten me in the mood to sew knits, so I went digging through my "to upcycle" box and found a mens t-shirt with a fun red stripe woven into it.

The Boy's turn for something new for school!

I found the original shirt in a free box in my neighborhood ages ago, and I didn't get around to making it into anything before we moved to Tokyo.  Now that we are back, I was ready to cut it up!

The Boy just learned to whistle.  Can't stop won't stop.

I wish I had taken a picture of the shirt before I sewed it into it's new form.  The side seams were SO crooked!  If I had owned that shirt it would have driven me crazy. I had planned on just folding the shirt front and back in half, lining up the side seams, and cutting out my new pieces, but lining up the side seams proved impossible so I cut the original shirt into pieces along all of the seams.

Turned out, because of the steep angle of the side seams, I wasn't able to fit my pattern pieces onto the fabric.  But I didn't give up!  I pulled another old t-shirt out of my upcycle bin and cut some black pieces to fill in the gaps.  I was using the existing hem on the red shirt, but since I had to hem the black patch at the bottom, I decided to use contrasting red thread in my double needle just for fun.

The patches could still use a pressing though!

I also used the ribbed neckband from the black t-shirt to create a new neckband for this shirt, bringing  more of the black into the look.

I think the angled blocks add a fun element to the shirt!  My son said the triangles are cool, so that's all the endorsement I need.

He's so sweet--he wore the shirt to school the next day since I made it for him.  I used one of his existing t-shirts to make the pattern--he's so long and lean in the torso, so I love being able to make shirts that fit right!  Seems like a lot of RTW shirts are too wide and short.

He's wishing he never taught Little Sister about the art of the photobomb.
I'm really looking forward to my shipment of fabric arriving from Japan--there are so many awesome knits in there along with everything else, and now that I've got an awesome serger I am so excited to start turning them into things!  

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Strawberry Newborn Set

You guys, it is so fun to be an auntie!  And it is so great to sew newborn things without having a newborn of my own!

We were so lucky to have my husband's sister and her husband and new baby in town when we returned to Portland from Tokyo--they live in San Francisco, so we weren't sure when we would get to meet the baby.  But they were here!  And we even got to take a trip to the beach with them!

This outfit starts with a sad story though--I actually sewed the outfit pictured above in June, and mailed it to Baby Cousin from Tokyo.  I also searched high and low for an infant sized jinbei, which I finally found and mailed along with the strawberry outfit.  But boo hoo hooo--the package never arrived!

Luckily I had enough fabric to start over again, so I dusted off my Portland machine when we arrived and gave it a try.  The old girl could use a tune-up probably, but she performed admirably!

Here's how the set turned out on the second go-round:

I was just going through the pictures of the original outfit, and I had almost forgotten that I made a second hat that was also lost--unfortunately I'll have to wait for our shipment to arrive from Tokyo to remake that one, since I didn't bring any of that fabric with me.

The main difference between the original set and the new one is that the first time around I made the hat reversible.

I didn't have enough fabric to do that this time, but it's still cute even with only one option!

The hats are the free baby hat from Zaaberry's pattern and tutorial.  To make mine reversible, I used the pattern for the knot-top hat, but instead of cutting a separate band for the bottom, I added 1/2 the length of the band to the main part of the hat pattern and cut out two from each fabric (so four pieces total).  I then sewed the two striped pieces together and the two strawberry pieces together, like I was making two separate hats.  BUT, I left an opening towards the top of the striped pieces, where the knot would be tied eventually, so I would be able to turn the whole thing right side out.

Once I had the two hats sewn, I turned one inside out, and slid the right-side out hat inside the wrong-side out one, lined up the raw edges at the bottom of the hat, and used a zig-zag (or serger) to sew around the opening.

Then I could pull the whole thing right-side out through the hole in the top of the striped hat.  I hand-sewed the opening closed, tucked one side inside the other and tied the knot, and flipped the brim up! Tada!  You do have to untie the knot to reverse the hat.

The shirt is the Tiny Tunic free pattern from iCandy Handmade.  She also has another version with a contrast peplum.  So cute and easy!

And last but not least, the pants are the Just Hatched leggings from Made by Rae, another free pattern!

I love how these patterns all go together, and how easy it is to combine different prints.  I fell in love with this strawberry print knit in Tokyo, and I'm wishing I bought more than 3 meters--it was only 200 yen (about $1.70) per meter!

Also, check it out--all three items fit Baby Cousin at the same time!

I'm pretty much dying from cuteness.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

A new dress for my kindergartener!

I planned ahead this year, and made a dress just for Little Sister's first day of kindergarten.  And lucky me, September's Project Run and Play theme turned out to be Back to School clothes, so I can link this up!

I may have overplayed that point (wanted to make sure she actually agreed to wear it on the first day!), because now she thinks she will ONLY wear that dress on the first day of kindergarten--I really hope that doesn't turn out to be the case!

The fabric is a fun take on traditional Japanese prints--she loves the bunnies!

This is the second time I've sewn a Desert Rose dress from the pattern by Caila Made.  I just love the proportions of this dress!  The first one that I made (from naniIRO double gauze) fit Little Sister perfectly, but this time I sized up anyway so that it would last longer--it's really a summer dress, but I thought that with the extra room she could wear a shirt under it, and it will definitely still fit next summer.

And pockets, of course!

Also, this time I made the straight skirt instead of the angled one.  It is a bit less twirly but still plenty full!  She loves the big skirt on this dress.  Which reminds me--I did add extra length to the skirt.  It's a size 5 width but the size 8 length.  I feel like I could go even longer and Little Sister would be happy.

Taking it for a twirl
One issue that I had this time around is that I used a pretty heavy fabric for the skirt, and since the bodice fabric was lighter, the seam where the skirt is gathered looks kind of bulky.  I would advise sticking to the same weight of fabric for the bodice and skirt (or a lighter one for the skirt) to avoid this.

We found a new fun mural for taking pics by our house--but I had to be careful about which parts of the mural I used!

Don't look now...but there might be a big wolf right behind you!

We couldn't get a babysitter for the photoshoot so Little Sister had to bring her little ones with her...

They didn't get too fussy.
 And here's the actual first day of school look!  The weather cooled down enough to require a little sweater, her choice instead of layering a shirt underneath.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Sashiko Embroidered Double Gauze Shirts

Oh, I am so excited about this post!

This month's Project Run and Play theme was handwork, something I typically don't do.  BUT one of the last things I did before leaving Tokyo was to sign up for a sashiko embroidery class.  It was such a fun experience--a friend and I did it together, and it really felt like sitting in on a sewing circle with several Japanese ladies.  Most of the people in the class were repeat customers, bringing their ongoing projects back to work on them with some company.  I started a great embroidered panel (that I've since finished; not sure what I'm going to do with it yet!) while getting tips on the technique from the woman teaching the class.

Just getting started!

Making progress--a great project for sitting on the patio with a  friend!

Those of you in Tokyo, I recommend it--the class is on the first Thursday of the month at the Blue and White Store in Azabu-Juban!

In any case, my new sashiko skills were fresh in my mind when the ladies behind Frances Suzanne posted their challenge for Project Run and Play this month.  So while a couple of months ago I probably would have passed on this one, I actually had some excellent inspiration.

Unfortunately, the timing was a little difficult--on August 9th, we left Tokyo after living there for 15 months, so I sold my machine and packed up all of my fabric and kissed it goodbye until our shipment arrives in Portland in October.  But I held out a special piece of double gauze from Kokka--it's called Ihme Chamber, and when I visited the Kokka showroom in Tokyo I got to see the original watercolor for this print hanging on the wall!

So cool!

The display of the different colorways

I thought it would be perfect with my sashiko accents to make a really special item for returning to school this fall.  I was planning on making a top for The Boy, but Little Sister really wanted to get in on the action too, and so I made one for her as well.

Little Sister's top is the Norah Dress/Tunic pattern from Mouse House Creations, and
The Boy has the Prepster Pullover from Blank Slate Patterns.
I apologize in advance, but this is going to be a pretty long post since I used new patterns for both The Boy and Little Sister's tops, and I want to tell you about how they went together.  The pictures are really cute though--you should scroll through just for those! ;)

Both tops have the same sashiko embroidery detail on the pockets and the back yoke.

The Boy's shirt is the Prepster Pullover from Blank Slate Patterns in size 8, with some extra length (instead of doing a standard folded under hem, I just did a bias facing so I didn't lose any length from the cut pattern piece).  Otherwise I made the pattern exactly as written, and I really liked it!  I was nervous about doing the placket (I've never done one before), but it came out perfectly and the method was ingenious and very simple!  It made me want to start putting plackets on all the things.

About to start 2nd grade!
My only complaint is that size 8 is the largest size, and I just bought the pattern--I wish there were more sizes so that it would last me longer!  My guy is 7 and a half and slim, and the size 8 fits really well in the body but I did add length as I mentioned--but he is tall for his age (and long of torso, which he gets from me).  I have to say, it was nice to start with the short sleeved version since the long sleeves do involve a lot more steps--although I wonder if the long sleeves will need extra length for him too?  The size chart doesn't give a shoulder-to-wrist measurement, just chest, waist, and hip, so you have to kind of guess on lengths.

I got the free printable sashiko embroidery pattern from the tutorial posted by Jo of Dotta on Imagine Gnats.  There are lots to choose from--I'm excited to try more of them!  I printed the pattern out at 100% and it was a perfect fit on my pocket pattern piece for the Prepster Pullover.

I can't remember now where I found this tip, but it worked so well--I traced the sashiko pattern on to a piece of the thinnest fusible interfacing I could find, then ironed it to the backside of my fabric.  Then I had the design right there on the back!

I love all the little characters in this print--there's a cow, a swan, a fox, a frowny bird,
and of course the little guy poking his head out of a garbage can...

The embroidery on the back yoke was kind of an afterthought--as I was putting it together I thought that some extra detail would look nice there, but I had already partially sewn things together and didn't want to attach interfacing.  So I just traced the pattern with an air erasable marker and worked quickly!  I'm so glad I added it back there--I think it makes a huge difference.

I had originally planned to make a dress for Little Sister.  I just bought the Norah pattern when it was a Friday Fiver (yay!) and showed all of the cute options for collars and sleeves to Little Sister.  She chose short sleeves, and she adamantly did NOT want any kind of collar.   I made a mental plan to make the short sleeved dress with a  center panel of sashiko embroidery down the front, and had my fabrics all cut and prepped for that, but...

Starting Kindergarten!

She really wanted a shirt, not a dress, since she wanted hers to be a close match to her brother's.  She also vetoed the center panel (thankfully I hadn't started embroidering yet, or she would have been out of luck) in favor of a pocket like Big Brother's.  I re-cut the front to put that big tree front and center for the tunic length with no embroidered center panel.  Then she wanted a button placket too, but I didn't have enough fabric to cut another front panel out and I wasn't going to chop the focal point tree in half, so we compromised on the red bias tape neckline instead of the clean neckline with lining.  Honestly, even though I would have loved to do a few things differently design-wise on this dress, it's so worth it to listen to her input because then we end up with a garment that she will actually wear.  It's not worth it to make a dress my way that sits in the closet because I ignored what she wanted!

Turns out the pocket placement is PERFECT--she keeps putting things in there!
I used the same pocket pattern from the Prepster Pullover pattern.
 I did line the back yoke using the same method as in the Prepster Pullover, so it's nice and clean on the inside.  And of course she got the back yoke embroidery as well!

I love the fit on this top--I was worried that the sleeves might be too full, but they are just right.  I did french seams since I was using double gauze, so that did take the side seams in a tiny bit more.  My kids are opposites in sizing--the 7-year-old is almost too big for the size 8, and the 5-year-old is almost too small for the size 4!

Oh, and speaking of fit, since I added the embroidery, I shortened the opening in the back of the tunic.  But I shortened it too much--oops!  I had to widen the neckline slightly so that Little Sister's head could fit through.  But all's well that ends well!

Back to school
There was something so soothing about doing the embroidery.  First of all, the project was so portable!  We have been enjoying being back in our Portland house with a big front porch where we watch the neighbors go by, and it felt pretty idyllic to watch the kids eat ice cream on the porch swing while I sat and embroidered and drank craft beer.  It's also a great thing to do while watching a movie (although you may miss some key visual effects while you're looking at your stitching).  The longer I sew, the further down the path of special details and nice finishes I go--I'm working on being less slapdash and instant-gratification oriented, and this handwork inspiration project was really very enjoyable, and I love the results.

Can you tell we enjoyed our photo shoot today?