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?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Catch-up Time--a fun elastic-waist skirt!

Wow, moving from one country to another does not go well with blogging!  I have been out of it for a couple of weeks, what with getting ready to move back to our home in the US and then working through the settling-in process, and now I think I'm about ready to start catching up on blogging some of the projects I've finished in the last few months!

I'm taking baby steps--this first post will be a quick one on a simple elastic waist skirt I made.

Rainy day photo shoot!

I used the same proportions as when I made this double-gauze skirt, but I only had wide white elastic, and I didn't like the way it looked with the more muted color palette of this lovely Melody Miller print.  So I decided to make an easy encased elastic waistband this time, and I think it's a great look!

I bought everything they had at Tomato in Nippori when I found this
Melody Miller print for about $3.25 a yard!  I think I've got about 8 yards of it left.

The waistband gives the skirt a little bit more professionally finished look, I think, than the exposed elastic waistband, although I think those have their place as well!  Rather than just folding the fabric over to make a waistband, I cut one that was about 1.5 inches longer than my hip measurement.  This reduces bulk at the waist while still allowing me to make an easy pull-on skirt.  To figure the width, I just doubled the width of my elastic and added about an inch for seam allowances.

My classic pose!
I attached the waistband to the inside first, then topstitched it to the outside of the skirt so that there would be no raw edges on the inside.  I also did french seams on the sides, so everything is enclosed! These are the little things that I appreciate now as my sewing skills increase--my older garments with raw, fraying edges on the inside just aren't holding up as well as I'd like, plus they feel much more "homemade" rather than hand-crafted when the inside doesn't look nice!

When I wear this skirt, I usually push the gathers to the back so that I get a flatter front and more poof in the back.  Just personal preference!  And I also like the way it looks with an untucked top, although I definitely only wear full skirts with fitted tops, unlike many of the Japanese women I see walking around!  They can pull off head-to-toe loose garments, but they just look like sacks on me.

I had to finish this shoot quick, since I was really starting to get wet!

The people walking down this street thought I was crazy!

I've got a few more things to show you, hopefully soon!  I was pretty busy sewing things up before we left Tokyo since I knew it would be a few months before I saw all of my pretty fabric again.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Double Gauze Desert Rose Dress

I love this new dress I made for Little Sister so much!

I don't have a lot of time left for sewing projects while I'm here in Tokyo (we move back to the US in less than 2 weeks!), but I knew I wanted to get this one done so that she could wear it in this hot, humid summer climate.

This dress is the Desert Rose pattern from Caila Made, and I just loved it from the first time I saw the pattern.  Of course, I am a cheapskate, so I just admired the pattern without buying it.  In this case though, it paid off, because eventually this pattern was featured as a Friday Fiver, and I was able to snap it up for just $5!  However, this was months ago, and although I printed the pattern out right away, it still took me ages to get going on it.

The main fabric for the skirt is a beautiful double gauze by Nani Iro (called Fuccra).  When I lucked into finding a 2-meter cut for less than $10 because of a small print error, I knew it was perfect for my Desert Rose dress.

See that little white stripe?  That was the only error in the whole 2 meter cut!
And I had a lovely lightweight coral batiste that matched perfectly that I could use for the bodice--I wanted the whole thing to be floaty and light and comfortable for the humid heat of a Tokyo summer.

The breeze really does pick it up--it's a good twirler too!
I wanted to make sure the bodice didn't gape, so I made a size 3 bodice based on Little Sister's measurements (her chest measurement matched the size 3 exactly on the chart, even though she's 5 years old) and it fits perfectly.  Since my bodice fabric was so lightweight (semi-sheer, actually, so it's nice that it's lined, and I used the same fabric for the lining), I interfaced the button placket on both sides and it feels secure.

I thought I would be clever on the skirt--I used the angled tunic skirt with a size 3 at the top but a size 8 in length, thinking that would get me to dress length without printing the dress skirt pattern pages, but I wasn't thinking about the fact that the size 3 bodice is shorter than the size 5.  So my dress was shorter than I wanted.   Next time I'll go ahead and assemble the skirt pattern pages to make sure I get the length I want!

However, I was able to cut it perfectly to avoid the print error!
Fortunately, I really like the look of the 4" panel of the bodice fabric at the hem.

How pretty is that Nani Iro fabric!?
 I really liked the way this pattern came together.  It all looks so professional inside!  I used french seams on the skirt since double gauze frays pretty easily, so there are no raw edges on the inside anywhere.  AND no hand-sewing on the bodice lining, since you topstitch the outside of the bodice instead!  I loved that.

Also, this pattern has pockets--I can't believe I forgot to take a picture of them, since pockets are usually my favorite feature.  I guess it speaks to how much I love this dress overall that the pockets are practically an afterthought, although they came in handy yesterday when my daughter had some drawings she wanted to carry around!

Now I've got to see if I can squeak a top for myself out of the remaining meter of that Nani Iro Fuccra double gauze!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Skirting the Issue 2015: My contribution

Hi!  This is a quick post to show you a couple of quick skirts that I made and tell you about a really cool project going on this month, Skirting the Issue.  Simple Simon and Company host this event in order to inspire sewists to donate skirts to kids in foster care, just in time for the start of the new school year, and they are collaborating with several sewing bloggers this month to provide lots of free skirt patterns and tutorials.  The goal is to collect 1000 skirts this year, and if you'd like to participate the details are in the link I provided above--the basics are that you sew a skirt (or several) by August 15th and donate it to an organization in your area that provides clothing to foster kids.  Then you let the ladies at Simple Simon know how many skirts you made so that they can keep track.

I made this simple elastic-waist full skirt from some fun Melody Miller Rubystar fabric:

size 3T

And this knit a-line skirt with a yoga waistband, using this tutorial from Craftiness is not Optional:

this one is a size 5, but was totally too big for my skinny 5-year-old!
I'll be mailing my skirts to With Love Oregon, an awesome organization that helps set up foster parents with great quality clothing and other supplies they need to help them successfully bring a foster child into their family.  I'd be happy to provide you with a mailing address for your donations if you'd like to participate!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Summer Outfit from Free Patterns!

I have been struggling with getting decent pictures lately, which makes me less motivated to get new things up on my blog.  For some reason, I just could NOT get the photos of this outfit in focus.  My least favorite thing about doing this blog is getting photos of myself--sometimes, using the remote is easy, but more often than not I just can't get the focus or exposure right when I don't have anything to focus on.  As I was going through these photos, I can see my facial expression getting more and more strained as I failed to get the shots I wanted, and of course I feel weird whenever people walk by.

BUT!  I will still share the outfit, because these are good patterns and you should try them out.

You get the idea.
First, the skirt.  This is the free Simple Summer Pleated Skirt pattern from Sew So Easy, and here are my thoughts about it.

1.  The pattern goes together easily and looks really professional.  Here's my back zip!  I really liked putting it together.

Pattern matching WHAT!
2.  The pattern suggests using a lightweight drapey fabric, and I concur.  I used a stiffer Japanese linen/cotton blend, and I'm not in love with the way it falls.  This pattern is not meant for a structured skirt.  You could, however, use a more structured fabric for the waistband but something with drape for the skirt.  I was thinking the structured fabric would give the skirt more of a pencil look, but it doesn't.  I'm thinking of trying Delia's pleated pencil skirt to get the effect I was going for here.

3.  The pattern runs big.  I cut out the appropriate waistband based on my measurements, and had to cut out over 3 inches altogether.  Be sure to test your waistband size before you attach it to the skirt.

4.  There are POCKETS!  Yay.

The top is the free Perfect Cap Sleeve Tee from iCandy Homemade.  I have made this top a few times before, and I love its simplicity.  The free pattern is a size medium, and it works well for a loose top on me.  This time though, I was going for a more fitted look, so I tried cutting this one smaller just by placing the pattern off the fold a little bit.  That was not the best way to do the fit adjustment because now I don't like the neckline quite as much and the sleeves fit a little weird (I added the sleeve bands, but that's not the problem), but it's still baggier than I want in the torso.  I will have to play around with resizing this pattern differently to get the fit I want.

This fabric is a slub knit from Girl Charlee.  It's almost see through but not quite--I can get away with it if I wear a nude bra.  Anyway, I like this outfit better with the shirt tucked in (NOT my usual M.O. but in this case...)

Anyway, there's an outfit I made lately and am moderately happy with but not excited.  It can't all be perfect!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Sleeveless Out and About Dress

Another dress--my favorite thing to make!

This dress is a sleeveless version of the Out and About Dress from Sew Caroline.  I sewed up a 3/4 sleeve one from a thick knit a few months back, and knew I would need a sleeveless one for summer. When I found this lightweight knit for 100 yen per meter, it was time to give it a try!

I struggled a little bit with the sizing on this dress--as a matter of fact, it was an issue the last time I made it as well, but in that case I was using a more unfamiliar fabric and thought that was where the problems came from.  According to my measurements, I am between a medium and large for this pattern, leaning to the large.  I cut out the medium but used slightly smaller seam allowances than the 1/2 inch the pattern calls for...and it was really too big. 
First I thought I would try adding elastic to the waistline on the inside, maybe giving the top a loose, blousy look.  But it didn't really work; the whole bodice just seemed to pull to the back.

well hello there, munchkin.
I actually wore it out like this, with a belt, but decided by the end of the day that it was a no-go.

In the end, I had to remove the elastic and re-sew the side seams an inch further in on both sides (so removing almost 4 full inches from the bodice!)  Also (and this actually made the biggest difference, I think), I shortened the bodice by about 2 inches.  

That's better!
This was a problem I had the last time I made this dress too--the bodice just looks too long on me!  It doesn't look that way in the pattern photos, so I don't know why mine keeps coming out wrong.  It's also strange because I have a long torso--I am typically lengthening things, not shortening them, but I guess when it comes to a bodice seam line I just like mine a little north of the natural waist.  Looks like it's time to slice the bottom of off my bodice pattern pieces!

Other modifications: surprise surprise, I made the neckline a little bigger, as usual.  I also made the skirt panels about 3" narrower so that I could just use the whole width of my fabric.  The pattern calls for the skirt panels to be 30" wide, but my fabric was 54" wide so I just cut two 27" panels.

All that said, I really do like this dress and this pattern.  Now that I THINK I've got the fit dialed in, this dress should go together really quickly.  It's comfy and it's got great pockets and lots of sleeve and length options, so I'm glad it's a pattern that's in my repertoire.  

Oh, I also wanted to show you a close up of this fabric.  It's really light and soft, with a neat diagonal texture to it, and I like the way it looks on the neck and arm binding:

I'm sure that part of my fit problem was because the fabric is verrrrry stretchy, so I should have cut it smaller to account for that.  Ah well, you live, you learn!  It's pretty great to be able to buy fabric so cheaply so I'm not afraid to just mess around and try new patterns--if it didn't work out, I would only have been out about $2!  Plus my time, of course.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Nani Iro Pajama Shorts

I have to admit, I am not much of a shorts person.  But after seeing Shorts on the Line, hosted by Rachael at Imagine Gnats for the last few years, I've been thinking it might be fun to try making some.

Now, these are pj's, so it's still baby steps--I'm not ready to try making shorts to be worn in public yet.  But as pajamas go, these are maybe the best I've ever had.  As a matter of fact, I made two pairs--one to try out the pattern before cutting into my Nani Iro double gauze (it's Pocho Adzuki Bean, a dark eggplant color--love it!)

The first pair is made from double gauze printed in Japan.  I love this fun print and I have bought it in several different colors!

I used the free Bias Trim Shorts pattern from Melly Sews, and since I was using a woven instead of a knit, I followed her instructions from this tutorial, where she makes a pair out of a satiny fabric.  Basically I slit the pattern pieces in the middle and added another half-inch of width to both pieces.  She says to add a quarter of an inch, but I'm slightly larger than the measurements she gives for the pattern so I bumped it up a little extra.  I also added about .75 inch to the length just for the heck of it.

Just what you want to see, right? A couple of pictures of my butt.
Maybe this is the real reason why I don't sew more pants...

I made both pairs exactly the same way--I was so pleased with how the first pair came out that I didn't change a thing for the Nani Iro pair!

In addition to changing the sizing slightly, I also used single fold bias tape instead of double fold.  This was mostly for practical reasons--the bias tape I wanted to use just happened to be single fold!  For the first pair, I had a package of vintage bias tape in exactly the right color, and it was a little bit silky, not a basic cotton kind.  Nice for pajamas, right?

And for the second pair, I knew I wanted to use the bias tape I found at my local 100 yen store, made from traditional Japanese print fabric.  Unfortunately, it only came in 1 meter packs, and I couldn't find more than 2 packs of any one print.  The pattern calls for 3 meters, but after making the first pair I thought I might be able to fudge it, since some of the bias tape ends up hidden on the inside when you sew the side seams together.

This worked great--I used exactly one meter on each side of the shorts, and was able to hide the unfinished edges on the inside.  As a matter of fact, I cut the back pattern pieces so that the exposed edge was on the selvage, so there weren't any raw edges to speak of.

Here is the front and back pieces for one side, sewn together and with bias tape attached.
You can see the white selvage edge where I ran out of bias tape.

Here's how the inside looks when you use single fold bias tape instead of double.

The Nani Iro double gauze I used was a great deal--I found two .6 meter cuts of it for 360 yen each (about $3) since there was a little bit of a print error.  I don't know if you can tell, but some of the dots have a tiny dot of the background color on them.  I think it looks fine!

Pre-sewing it all together
And I still have enough left to make a pair of shorts for Little Sister (although I'll have to find a different bias tape to use on hers.)  I'm actually hoping more of this bias tape will turn up, because I'd love to make a bias-trimmed tank top to go with these.

One final shot, to show how they look proportionally.  It felt weird to have a whole post with no pictures of my face!