Monday, February 1, 2016

Strawberry Tap Dance Togs

You guys, Project Run and Play is back!  I get so inspired by sewing with a group of people and seeing everyone's take on a theme, and frankly having a specific project that I know will end up in front of more than my average number of eyeballs is very motivational to me.

When I saw that the theme of the first week was knitwear, I knew immediately what I wanted to make.  Little Sister just started a fun tap dance class at a community center, and although there is nothing strict about it, we did notice that there was a dress code sign hanging up that specified tights and a leotard.  Well, Little Sister didn't have a leotard but I thought it would be fun to make one.  My first try was an awkward fit in pale pink stripes that gave me enough information to draw a new pattern and start designing a full knitwear look for Project Run and Play.

I'm getting down to the last bit of the awesome realistic strawberry print knit that I bought in Japan for less than $2/yard (I made this newborn set using it, and this tee for myself), and I instantly knew it would be a perfect leotard.  I could picture black and white accents for a graphic pop, and once I got started I couldn't stop!

The leotard was the no-brainer (I started with the free 24 month pattern from Shwin and Shwin and adapted it--added sleeves, and made it fit an almost-6-year-old), and I wanted to make a cardigan inspired by ballet wrap tops to go over it, but with a bit funkier vibe.

I love the black and white stripes against the strawberries--so fun!  Actually, all of the fabrics I used except for the black ponte knit in the cardi came from the fantastic Knits floor of Tomato fabrics in Nippori (Fabric Town in Tokyo).  I decided to add a little accent on the waistband (well, rib-cage band, I guess, since it's well above her waist!)--a bit of the black stripe gathering the band up a bit.

Sorry for the washed-out photo--it's hard to get the details to show up in black knit!
But the strawberry leotard is definitely the star of this look.  The fabric is a 4-way stretch, and the legs and neck are bound with foldover elastic.

The back of the leotard dips down a bit, and I cut the legs pretty low to avoid that awkward underwear-under-the-tights bunching.  And then of course we needed leg warmers--essential for dance class!

And while I was at it-- a headband too!  Why not?  I mean, when you start with that strawberry fabric, you go big or you go home.

This hairstyle cracks me up.
Next I added a pull-on french terry skirt to throw on after class.  The pattern is free, from Craftiness is not Optional--wonder where I got the idea to use this fabric?

Is it a bit much when you put everything together?  I don't know...I just can't get enough of it!

Little Sister prefers to wear just a few of the pieces at a time, but so far she has been excited about mixing and matching them.

I love all of the options!  And now I want to go eat a strawberry!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

New Website is Live!

Oh boy, I am seriously having doubts about publishing this here!  But I figure if I keep trying to get it just right before I move forward, I will end up going in circles for a long time.  So here goes:  I published a website for my new business!  I'm not ready to sell things yet, but at least now I have a web presence!  Here it is!

It is completely a work-in-progress--first up is replacing the photos with the newer version of my product--but I'd love to hear from you about which things should stay, what I need to add, and what stuff can go!  Eventually there will be a shop page where I plan to sell the product in limited edition prints, and a "where to buy" page once I have retailers.

By the way, this is my product--a portable art kit featuring the fabrics I fell in love with while living in Japan last year.

We used these things non-stop in Tokyo, while trying to keep my gaijin children in line without handing them the phone or iPad!  On the train, in a restaurant, the doctor's waiting room...seriously, they were a lifesaver!  But maybe my favorite part is that I just had to grab one item on my way out the door and I knew my kids would be entertained wherever we ended up.   Seriously, getting out the door takes long enough--I don't need one more thing to think about!

I'm taking a branding class right now, and many of the students are the same women who were in my marketing class last term.  At last night's class, a couple of these awesome ladies called me out, asking me why the heck I was sitting around asking questions when I should be out selling my product.  Their confidence in me and what I have to offer really woke me up--I know I have been dragging my feet because I don't feel like I know what to do as far as running a business goes, but the fact is I won't know what all is involved until I'm doing it.  So rather than stick in the safe zone of sewing more sample product,  I am trying to take their advice and jump in--I sent an inquiry to a manufacturer today, and published my website--two huge steps!

I'll post progress over here when it seems relevant, and oh, I guess I should put a link to my new site in my sidebar!

By the way, if you're wondering where the name Chiku Chiku came from, you can find the whole story on the "My Story" page of my new website!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Another Natalie Top!

I decided I wanted to make myself something special for my birthday.  I had a piece of naniIro double gauze Mountain Views fabric that I got for about $6 a yard due to a small printing error, and I had been saving it for myself, so this seemed like just the thing!

I pulled the "it's my birthday" card and got my husband to take a break from work (he works from home) to snap some photos for me--unfortunately my camera battery AND backup battery were both dead!  So iPhone pics it is.

I love how subtle this print is.  From a distance, it looks like a basic off-white...

 but up close there are all of these lovely rolling shapes.

I played on the soft metallics in the print and used an antique gold for the button tabs, as well as the bias trim inside the collar and around the hem.  

I feel like the touches of gold dress it up just a bit, although the fabric and style is definitely casual.  I love the feel of double-gauze--it seems warm somehow in the winter, despite how airy it feels in the summer.  How does it do that?

Well, maybe not warm ENOUGH.
This pattern is the Natalie Top again, from Liola Patterns. I made a silky one before (which was just featured in this month's KnitPicks since the fabric was from Girl Charlee!), and just like that one I lengthened and curved the hem, so I needed the bias tape to finish the bottom.  This time I decided to leave out the front pleat, and I love the way the topstitching looks instead!  I was worried that the pleat would never lay flat in the double gauze.

I also adjusted the fit on the sleeves slightly--I needed to narrow them a bit between the armpit and elbow, but the bottom where they roll up was just right as long as I followed appropriate seam allowance guidelines!  Last time I made the rolled-up part just a bit too tight.

So, happy birthday to me!  I love wearing this top.  Now, back to work on the business--I've been ordering stuff wholesale willy-nilly, and working on the website, and I made business cards, and I even got my woven labels, so I'm ready to start making samples before I go check out manufacturers!  I'll try to post updates here as I make progress :)

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.