Tuesday, August 26, 2014

First Day Of School Dress!

This week, the kids started school at their new international school here in Tokyo.  I wanted to make some back-to-school clothes, but The Boy will be wearing uniforms this year, so I only had to worry about Little Sister's wardrobe.

It's been a little tough to do any fabric shopping in the last few weeks, with family visiting and kids out of school--I don't think they'd have much patience for a trek across town on the trains to visit a fabric store--so I had to make do with what I had.  I brought one box of fabrics from the states, and I have some scraps from my fabric shopping earlier in the summer while the kids were in summer school, so lucky for me, Little Sister likes having matching outfits with mom!  Her back-to-school dress was made with a piece of knit fabric I brought from home and the leftovers from my deer-print Sorbetto tank.

My starting point for this dress was the raglan tee tutorial from Craftiness is not Optional.  Since I left all of the old pattern pieces I had drawn up for the kids back in Portland, I drew a new raglan tee pattern using one of Little Sister's t-shirts.  Then I adapted the sleeve pattern by adding extra height and flaring up the opening a little so that I could use a woven fabric for the sleeve, and I wanted to get a little flutter in there too.   When I sewed the sleeve in place, I followed the directions just like I would have for a knit sleeve, but I reeeally stretched the neck binding all the way across the top of the woven sleeve fabric to create a slight gather.

The striped piece of knit fabric that I had was only about 15" long (it came from a box of quarter-yard cuts I had ordered from Girl Charlee a while back), so I just cut the bodice of the dress as long as I could while still lining up the stripes.  Luckily I didn't need to hem the bottom since I was attaching the skirt, so it didn't matter that I didn't have enough fabric to make a full-length shirt.  I cut the neckline binding from a pink stripe using the rest of the width of the fabric.

Check out that side-seam stripe matching!

The skirt is just a rectangle, again cut as large as I could make it from the scraps I had left over!  I cut one big panel, about 30" by 12", and put the seam in the center back.  I used the selvage edge for the bottom, so I didn't have to hem it.  I just gathered the top until it was a few inches bigger than the bottom of the shirt, then lined up the raw edges (slightly stretching the shirt to make it all fit) and sewed them together!  On the inside, I ironed the raw knit edge down over the raw woven ruffled top of the skirt fabric and added a top seam to tuck those loose ends inside.  I just can't get enough of this fabric, and I'm so excited that I had enough of it to make this dress for Little Sister.

I think the scale works so well, with the wide stripe and the dainty print, and the colors matched up perfectly.  Plus it was a quick sew!

Bonus?  Little Sister loved it so much that her dad let her wear it on the second day of school too!  Pretty sure you can only get away with that when you're four.

She didn't even get any popsicle on it!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Mother-Daughter Matching!

I have to admit, I think it's fun to make matching clothes.  Whether it's coordinating outfits for the kids or in this case mommy/daughter dresses from different patterns with the same fabrics, I just get a kick out of it.  ESPECIALLY in this case, because Little Sister specifically requested a dress like mine--or as she puts it, "Let's be matchers!"  How could I refuse?  Especially when it's a way for me to get her to wear something that isn't pink or purple.

The Ruby Dress from Made by Rae and The Cupcake Dress from Baste and Gather

Sis has a couple of halter-style tops that she has been wanting to wear almost every day, so when I saw that Baste and Gather was offering a free printable halter dress pattern, I knew I wanted to make it for Little Sister.  I asked her to choose her fabric from the small stash I have here in Tokyo, which was when she found the leftovers from my Ruby Dress.  That fabric is PERFECT for this pattern--a floaty cotton that somehow isn't see-through at all.  This would be the most comfortable thing to wear on a steamy Tokyo August day.

However, Little Sister refuses to wear a dress without pants underneath it these days, for some reason.  AND she always wants to wear socks, and won't wear any of her sandals.  She is a total crazy person.  When we took theses pictures at the park, she was so sweaty, but wouldn't take the pants off.

It's HOT out here!

Definitely having a bath tonight.

Anyway, I made a few alterations to this pattern, the most obvious being the elastic halter strap.  I love the look and adjustability of the tie straps in the original pattern, but we are working on Little Sister's independence, particularly in our morning routine, and the elastic puts the dress into the "I can do it myself" category.  It was a little tricky to get the length just right--long enough to easily stretch over her head while still keeping the bodice up high enough.  The elastic in the back portion of the bodice helps with that too.  I keep debating whether to go in and shorten the neck elastic a little bit more--it does tend to sag when she's been running around, as you can see above.

Another alteration was that since I was using scraps of fabric from my dress project, I wanted to just use what I had.  My skirt pieces were about 6 inches wider than what the pattern calls for, and a couple of inches longer.  I just went ahead and used it all, rather than having useless scraps.  Little sister would never complain about another foot of fullness or a little extra length!  I'm really happy with the way the skirt turned out.

How do YOU feel about it?

I did have to cut off a couple of inches of elastic in my back panel--I cut out a size 4, and Little Sister is still on the small side so tightening up the elastic really helped with the fit.  I probably could have cut off even more, but I kind of like the way the lower back makes the skirt into a bit of a high-low skirt.

As soon as the dress was finished, Little Sister wanted to wear it to the park, and she insisted that I change into my matching dress.  I agreed, with the stipulation that she would have to pose for a few pictures with me to show off our twin outfits!

This fabric was a find at my local Walmart in Portland that made the cut for traveling to Tokyo with me.  I had two yards that I had bought at $4/yard, so I'm pretty excited that I was able to get two dresses out of it!   And now I have used every last scrap of it up!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Couple of Summer Sorbettos

Colette Patterns has a great reputation, and I've had the free pattern for their Sorbetto Tank Top saved for AAAAAAGES, but never made one until now.  My main reason for putting it off was that, well, I guess I just didn't like it that much!  So why make it now?  I guess I'm finally confident enough in my sewing and fitting skills that I knew I could take the basic shape of the pattern, which is really well-written and clear, and I could adjust it to make it into something that is more my style.

The main problem, for me, with the original pattern, is that the shape is pretty boxy.  And I just can't do boxy--I never like the way that style looks on me, no matter how cute I might think it is on other people.   Also, I wasn't sure about the center pleat--it seemed to add to the boxiness somehow.  I saw a blog post where someone made the tank with an inverted pleat, and I liked that both for the subtlety and the shaping--it gave the tank a slight a-line, since the fabric isn't sewn in the middle all the way down, only at the top.

I also added quite a bit of length, based on comments I saw on other blogs.  I think I added about 4 inches, plus I made a sort-of curved hem, just for the fun of it.

I just COULD NOT get a good picture of how the side hem curved up and down with my remote!  You'll have to imagine.
I messed with the neckline a bit too--narrowing the straps and widening the neckline, and deepening it a little bit.  What can I say, I like an open neckline!

I like it best with a pencil skirt--this one is denim, so it's still a casual look.  It works well with a slim bermuda short, and I imagine skinny jeans would be good too, but I cannot FATHOM putting jeans on with the heat and humidity here in Tokyo in August!  Maybe I'll try that outfit in a few months.  

The best part of this top is this fabric.  I found it at Okadaya, a 5-story fabric store in Shinjuku, and I LOVE IT.  I can't remember what I paid, but I remember thinking it was surprisingly affordable--I'm thinking between $6-$8 a meter?  I bought 1.5 meters and used most of it, but I probably have enough left to make a fun bodice on a dress for Little Sister.  It's a really lightweight soft cotton--not quite a voile, but definitely lighter and drapier than a quilting cotton.  And with the breezy shape you get using the inverted pleat, it is SO nice for the hot weather.  It barely touches your body!  But check out this print--I love it so much!

Oh deer!
For my second top, I made a few more adjustments--I really like how the first one turned out, but it did still seem a little too big in the bust, and my straps came out a little wider than I like (it's a little tricky to keep my bra straps hidden).  So I cut a new pattern, slightly different than the first, but the style is closer to the original Sorbetto top.  

Thanks to The Boy for taking this picture while we were playing at the park--no official photo shoot for this top!

I thought I'd try the pleat after all, and what do you know--I actually like it!  I made the matching bias tape as well, and I think that looks great too, even though making the tape is a bit of a pain.  This fabric is one I brought with me from the states, and I used up every last scrap of it making this top!

And this photo credit goes to Little Sister.  Don't worry Sis, we didn't need to see my head.  
This pattern does have a wider, deeper neckline (and therefore narrower straps) from the original pattern.  I also added length here--about 4 inches again--and I cut the bust at a size 2 but widened out to a size 6 at the hip to get the a-line shape I like.  

And here it is in the wild--this was on our family visit to the Odawara Castle.

I made one more that I haven't managed to get pictures of yet--I omitted the pleat altogether due to the print on the fabric I was using, and I added an elastic waist and a skirt (with pockets) because basically all I want to wear in this weather is dresses.  So I'm happy to have another sundress in the closet too!  After spending my life in the Pacific Northwest, it turns out that the hot-humid-summer-weather portion of my wardrobe is woefully lacking.  And now that summer's almost over, I've just about got that situation rectified!

I've got another one laid out to cut now that I feel like I have my pattern just right.  I want to try this overlapping back technique--looks like a good way to keep it cool!  I also want to try another one with some smocking in the back to bring the top in a little more--I'm going to play around with some ideas I have about that.  Then when fall rolls around, maybe I'll try making one with a peter pan collar and some sleeves!  What's so great about this pattern is that since it is such a basic piece, with great directions, it's easy to mix it up and get lots of different effects.  So that it doesn't look like you're basically wearing the same shirt every day.  That's what I'm telling myself, anyway!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Ruby Dress and Top

It's here.  I've finally reached the point in sewing my own wardrobe where I have decided I am willing to pay for a few patterns.  So far, it's all been freebies and making my own patterns based on things I already own.  I don't know why, but moving overseas was the change I needed to finally decide that it was worth it to pay money for a few versatile patterns that I could print out at home and make over and over again.

The first one I bought was the Ruby Dress and Top by Made by Rae.  I have been ogling versions of this pattern online for a while, and thought I could make dress and top versions (duh), plus I liked some of the versions I'd seen with sleeves added on to make it a more year-round pattern.

And here's my Ruby Dress!

I actually made a Ruby Top first, just a very basic version.

Here it is, belted.

Based on my measurements I cut out a size 6 with extra length to make it more tunic-y, and I felt like it came out a little big so I made a smaller one for the dress.  I knew with the dress I wanted to line the bodice, and Rae's tutorial on doing that mentioned that it would be good to try out the pattern without a lining first since it's easier to adjust the fit that way, so I was glad I had done the top first to give me a better idea of my bodice sizing.

As you can see, I made a few adjustments to the pattern:

I have been getting eaten alive by the mosquitos in Tokyo!

I added piping to the seam where the yoke and the rest of the dress join up.

I really like the way it looks, but since I did a lined bodice it made it a little difficult to join everything up nicely.  I would recommend saving the piping for when you are not making a lined bodice.

I continued the piping on the back as well.
I made these fun pockets to mimic the design of the top, with the white and the piping:

You can also see them in the photo at the top of the post.

I followed the tutorial for these pockets from anu*miki --I have made them with knit binding before on a dress for The Girl, which is easier, but it works with piping too as long as you are sure to make your opening big enough, since it's not going to stretch.

And I tried the dress on without the elastic waist, and just like the tunic, it's just not flattering to my body type that way.

Gotta have the belt!

For the tunic, I like belting it, and I have the option of tucking it in, so I didn't need to add the elastic waist, but I like having the waist in place permanently on the dress so I don't have to use a belt if I don't want to.

I left plenty of length on the bottom of the dress, since I knew I'd need it if I added the elastic waist, so I decided to have the dress hit just at my knee instead of the mini-length of the pattern, which works better if you can pull off that no-waist mod-shift-mini look!

This dress is perfect for lounging at my tea house in my peaceful Japanese garden, like I do.

Just kidding!  This was taken at the Inokashira Zoo.

I'm excited to make a dress and top with sleeves for fall--that will bring my price per piece on the pattern down to just $4. I can live with that!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Japanese Jinbei-Inspired Pajamas

Thanks to the blog Tomatoes and Jasmine, I have found some wonderful places in Tokyo to buy fabric.  I still haven't made my way out to Fabric Town, but it's been fun exploring the options in central Tokyo.  The fabric I used for these pajamas came from Odakaya in Shinjuku.

It's been warm and humid here (surprise, surprise!), so when I found this breezy cotton seersucker in prints that I loved for a reasonable price, I thought it would be fun to make the kids some pajamas.

Little foxes and bunnies on the left, fugu (blowfish) and traditional Japanese pattern blocks on the right.

I had bought them some adorable jinbei (Japanese pajamas), but I guessed on their sizes, and both sets are a tiny bit on the small side--they fit ok now, but they won't for long.

These cotton jinbei are so great for summer sleeping!

They are SO CUTE!  I thought about buying a jinbei pattern and making them some more in a  larger size.  But, the wrap tops require strings to be tied on the inside and outside, meaning I need to help the kids get their jammies on.  They are 4 and 6 now--I am OVER putting their pajamas on them.  So I thought I'd make a similar style but without the wrap so that they could get into their pj's all by themselves.

For the shorts, I used the free printable Oliver and S's Sunny Day Shorts pattern in a  size 7 for the boy and a size 4 for the girl.  There are simpler shorts patterns out there (this one has different sized front and back pieces, as well as a separate waistband), but I think that the few extra steps for these shorts make a much nicer fit than some of the more basic ones I have tried.

For the tops, I planned on using the same pattern for both again--the Scrubby Jams free top pattern from Sewing Mama RaeAnna.  But I decided to feminize the girl's top by adding flutter sleeves instead of the regular short sleeves in the Scrubby Jams pattern.   I used the flutter sleeve pattern from the free reversible wrap top pattern from Craftiness Is Not Optional--a top I had all printed out to make later on!

For the girl's top, I mostly followed the Scrubby Jams top directions.  The two differences were the flutter sleeves, and that I used a wider front bottom bodice panel and gathered it a bit in the center (I cut out a size 4 top bodice front and size 4 back, but used a size 6 bottom bodice front).  To do the flutter sleeve instead of the traditional short sleeve, I cut out four flutter sleeve pieces using the CINO pattern--two main fabric, and two lining.  I sewed one lining and one main fabric together along the curved edge (right sides together), then turned them right side out and pressed flat.  I then basted along the open straight edge and pulled to make a slight gather.  For inserting the flutter sleeve, I laid the sleeve on the shoulder of the top (main fabrics together) with the raw edge of the sleeve lined up with the top of the armhole.  I sewed it on, trimmed the seam allowance, then I attached single-fold bias tape all the way around to finish the armhole.  I was really happy with the way it came out.

The boy's top was more straightforward--he is slim and tall, so I cut out the size 6 top but added a couple of inches of length, and I curved the hemline on both the front and back, just because I like it that way.

I took back view pics too:

I'm pretty sure Little Sister has her shorts on backwards, and how about that bedhead?  I always think it's more authentic if I take pajamas pictures when they first wake up, before they've had a chance to spill their breakfast on them.  But this often means I haven't combed anybody's hair yet either!

I really liked these patterns, and I think they make a great pair of summer pajamas!  It seemed like most of the summer pajama pattern sets I could find were intended for knits, which are great, but I wanted to use these lightweight wovens and these patterns did the trick.  Hope it helps!

Thursday, July 10, 2014


This was one of the last sewing projects I finished before we left for Tokyo.  Somehow I felt better about bringing two bathrobes with us than I would have with packing 4 yards of absorbent fabric!

The striped fabric was a micro-terrycloth that I picked up at Joann's at least a year ago, when they were having a 50%off sale on all of their red-tag fabrics.  I'm pretty sure that made it $2 a yard, so I got 2 yards of each color, with the idea of making bathrobes for the kids.  Then I just never got around to it.  But in Japan, baths are a pretty big deal.  And our apartment has an awesome Japanese-style bath, where you shower before getting into the tub, and we have been using it all the time.  The kids love it, and are both totally used to getting cleaned up in the shower before they just get to play and relax in the tub.  And their robes are getting tons of use!

Trial run in our Portland shower

Even with two yards of each color, the terry cloth alone wasn't enough to make the robes for both kids.  In my stash, I had some knits that I had gotten during a sale from Girl Charlee that coordinated with the stripes--just one yard of each, which was enough to make the exterior of Little Sister's robe, but not quite enough for The Boy's, since he is ginormous.  Luckily I had enough stripe to do a contrast sleeve and a little extension for the hem!  His belt got a little shorted though--it's just enough to keep it tied, but no double knot! 

I love these robes.  Other than the placement of the loop for hanging and the belt loops, they are totally reversible, but we've kept the terry on the inside for post-bath drying off.  They are cozy, they are cute, and they were simple to make.  I used a tutorial I found here, making a pattern from things in the kids' closets.

I found a few more projects in my photo files that I managed to take pictures of but never posted before we left, so I'll share those soon!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Lunch Mats

Whoa, has it really been a month and a half since I last posted here?!  That's the longest I've gone since starting this blog almost 4 years ago.  The last time I posted, I was ready to depart for our two-year expat assignment in Tokyo, Japan.  Well, we've been here for just over 6 weeks now, and I have started sewing again!

I bought a new machine here in Tokyo, since mine is old and somewhat sentimental--it was my grandma's, and so I would need a converter to use it here, but I would also be worried about getting it fixed if something went wrong.  So I have a machine--it's a Janome Marietta--I tried to find the one with the simplest controls since I can't understand the manual!

You know you wanted to see her.  She's pink!

Luckily all important Japanese instructions are accompanied by helpful illustrations.

So far, it's been fine.  I'm sure it's got some tricks up its sleeve that I don't know about, but I'll figure it out!

My very first sewing project was these lunch mats.  There was a mass email from the kids' summer school program that starting TOMORROW all kids needed to bring some sort of small mat to use when they were eating their lunch in the gym.  It would have been nice to have some notice, but I happened to be out running errands with a friend that day, and we happened to discover a fabric store while we were out (Yuzawaya, if you're curious).  They had pre-cuts of 100x50cm of these cute quilted Japanese prints, and even though I wasn't sure if the mats were for sitting on or for putting your food on, I thought these would work.  I picked up some bias tape too because I couldn't remember what kinds of trims and notions I had packed--I hadn't sorted out my sewing box yet!

This was the perfect project for trying out my new machine.  I just had to sew four straight lines around the edge of a pre-quilted, two-sided piece of fabric!  All went well.

And it's funny--I asked the kids what they would be using the mats for, and Little Sister told me it was for putting their food on.  But The Boy said that it was definitely for sitting on!

And now that they have been bringing them for the last two weeks, it turns out that they were both right--the PreK class puts their food on their mats, and the bigger kids sit on the mats.  But they might as well fight about it anyway, right?

And guess what else?  I have totally gotten into making bento lunches.  It started because of the cute bento lunch boxes that are available everywhere here.  I haven't gotten too fancy with cutting shapes or anything (okay, I have used a heart-shaped cutter for slices of cheese), but the dividers alone make everything look better.  The kids go to an international school where most kids just bring the same kind of lunch bags we were using at home, but they both tell me they like the bentos better, and Little Sister brings home an empty lunchbox WAY more frequently than she did at home, so the cuteness factor seems to be working.

I've also gotten a few colorful silicone cups that work well for little things like blueberries or raisins, and some fun toothpicks for cheese cubes or pieces of deli meat.  The school is nut-free, so I've had to figure out what Little Sister will eat for lunch now that our standard PB&J is off the table.

Anyway, I'm excited to be back into sewing!  I've already made covers for some throw pillows on our couch and some awesome pajamas for the kids using Japanese fabrics.  I think it will be my turn next!