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!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Going Global, so to speak...

This is it--the week we leave for our 2-year expat adventure in Tokyo!  We depart on Friday, so this week is full of packing, sorting, and dumping all kinds of stuff.  Sewing isn't really on the agenda, so luckily I finished this dress a couple of weeks ago but haven't posted it yet.

Tokyo summers get really hot and humid, so I knew I wanted to use this breezy fabric to make a blousy casual sundress (with pockets, of course) that I could wear once we moved.  This week is a"Going Global" theme over at Project Sewn, the women's online sewing contest I have participated in before, so I thought I could make this dress work, if I could just get some photos and squeeze in a blog post before we depart!  Bonus points for a fabric that makes me think of an Indonesian Ikat, although this print from Joann's is certainly not authentically global.

So here it is--a dress I made to wear when I "go global!"

I loved the border on the fabric, so I used it for the bottom of the skirt, and turned the fabric the other way to repeat the effect at the shoulders.

I drafted the pattern based on a dress I own, and wanted to try it out before I make it again with some lovely fabric I bought at Britex Fabrics in San Francisco last year.  I love the way the pattern came out--flattering and comfortable, and can be dressed up or down based on fabric choice!  This "ikat" is a nice light drapey rayon blend, and the stuff I bought at Britex is a thickish printed chiffon (so I'll need to make a slip/lining for it) that will look dressier.

You can vote for my global dress here starting this Friday, if you are so inclined!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Mommy/Daughter Day

I bought this cute corduroy dress for Little Sister at a thrift store for $2, but she refused to wear it because it had cute 3/4 length sleeves, and she does NOT like sleeves that don't come all the way to her wrist (who knew?)  I wasn't ready to abandon the dress completely, so I cut off the dress's sleeves past the shoulder (so I didn't have to deal with setting in a new sleeve), found a few scraps of a cute knit print (not big enough to make a whole new sleeve anyway!) and made some tubes that I attached to turn it into a long sleeve, and voila, now she loves it!

Plus, I couldn't resist putting on my matching shirt (that's where the scraps came from in the first place).  I can't do full head-to-toe matching, but sharing a fabric in our outfits is pretty fun.

Little Sister had fun playing along with me taking some photos, but they were a little too hard to tell that the print actually matched.

Hey, are we wearing matching outfits?!

Later today, we will be getting all dolled up to go see Fancy Nancy at the local children's theater--Little Sister has had her outfit and accessories laid out for days, and she has definite opinions about my outfit as well.  Jeans are definitely not allowed, and high heels will be involved.  Can't wait to see what I'll be wearing!

Edited--how could I leave you hanging like that?  Here we are, ready for our theatrical outing:

Little Sister is wearing her Easter dress, which...I'm pretty sure I haven't blogged that yet, right?

Monday, May 5, 2014

Upcycled Twirly Dress!

I've just finished what will be my last sewing project before we move to Tokyo!  Well, probably.  Most likely.  Maybe some last-minute alterations or repairs.  But I have packed up my fabric, and there just isn't any more time!  I have several other projects that I have finished but not blogged about, so you may see a few more posts before we leave in a few weeks, but I will not be sewing anything new now that this dress is done.

Little Sister wore this dress three days in a row after I completed it, so I would say she likes it.  And that's saying a lot these days, because girlfriend is PICKY.  I had a feeling, though, that she would be a sucker for this full twirly skirt.  I mean, who wouldn't be?

I have been wanting to make her something like this for a while, but I can't bring myself to buy enough fabric to make a skirt this full.  Especially in a  nice drapey knit like this--that would be so expensive!  But as I've been sorting and packing for our move, I came across this dress in my closet.  I think I shrunk it, because it's way shorter on me than I am comfortable with but I am certain this was not always the case.  I used to LOVE this dress, which is why I still have it--I couldn't bear to part with it.

The last time I wore it--at a VERY fun party for a VERY dear friend
But cutting it down for Little Sister--now I could live with that.

I kept all of the fullness in the skirt--the knit is lightweight, so it's not too heavy even with all that fabric.  I cut the skirt right at the top of the existing pockets (this was the first dress I owned with side-seam pockets--what a game-changer!) so that Sis could have pockets in her dress too.

Back view, with pockets deployed

Then I made the necessary modifications to bodice, straps, etc, added elastic to the waistband on the inside, and voila--twirly fancy little girl heaven!

I love that it's long enough so that she doesn't risk exposing herself when she twirls, but short enough that she doesn't trip over it.  And I think the sizing is forgiving enough that it should last her a while!  Should be a winner.

Monday, April 7, 2014

DIY Elsa and Anna Barbie Clothes

Try not to be too jealous--I actually got my hands on an Elsa doll, at a reasonable price, and in time for my daughter's 4th birthday!  After a few weeks of calling the Disney store and checking Amazon, this just happened to be on the shelf at Target for $25:

Luckily we didn't have an Anna doll yet either.

Problem signature sparkly Elsa dress.  But this presented a fun challenge for me!  Because I KNEW that the outfit would be an issue, I would have to make a dress for this doll myself.  And while I was at it, I might as well make Anna's outfit more like the movie too, right?

And what do you know--as soon as she opened her present, she asked if Elsa had another dress.  And then, lo and behold, she pulled the handmade one out of the bag and oohed and aaahed!  So satisfying.

Craftiness is not Optional has a great tutorial for a fancy Barbie dress that I was able to modify into Elsa's look pretty easily.  I had a too-small Cinderella dress-up costume that I could cut up (so the color isn't exactly right, but close enough) so I didn't have to buy any fabrics!
This is the exact dress--couldn't find any pictures of it out of the box!  But I used the darker blue with sparkly swirls for the bodice, and the light blue for the skirt.  One sleeve was enough for the band at the top and sleeves, and I needed both of the sheer "poofs" from the hips of the dress to make Elsa's cape.  

The modifications that I made to the tutorial are pretty simple (and obvious):

1.  When attaching the band at the shoulders, I pulled it down in the center to create the sweetheart neckline.  Then I just folded the blue fabric and stitched it down on the wrong side so that it didn't show.

2.  I made two small rectangles for sleeves.  I sewed the top of the sleeves right on to the shoulder band, then sewed them closed and turned them right side out.

3.  I made the cape in two pieces.  It's serged then sewn directly to the dress--I attached it under the arms (on the blue fabric--it doesn't actually touch the sleeves) and across to the velcro closure.

Then I sewed it down on each side of the velcro, and underneath the closure I sewed the two sides of the cape together.  I didn't have to finish the edges since I cut it from the existing Cinderella costume.

Anna's cape was really fun and SUPER easy!  Sorry I didn't take any pictures--I was in a hurry to get this all done for the girl's birthday present.  All the photos below are of the finished product.  I made it from a piece of knit jersey I had in my stash.  

1.  I cut an oval shape out of a piece of printer paper for my pattern, then pinned it to my fabric and cut it out using pinking shears (to give it some detail--the knit won't fray even if you use regular scissors).

2.  I decided where I wanted my cape to fold over; about 2" from the top of the oval, and marked both sides with pins.

3.  Using a double needle and two colors of top thread, I sewed a scalloped design around first the top part of the cape, then flipped it over and sewed the rest of the way around.  This is not necessary but it mimics the design on Anna's cape in the movie in a really easy way.

4.  Cut a piece of thin elastic so that it will reach across the top of your cape (where you marked with pins) when stretched all the way out.  Mine was about 4" long.

5.  Sew the piece of elastic on the cape so that it will be hidden by the collar when you fold it over (so, if you're looking at the right side of the cape that will hang down on Anna's back, your elastic should be on the same side as your decorative stitching that goes around the bottom of the cape.)

6.  Flip the top part of the cape so that it hides the elastic.  Stitch the cape together in the front and add a button.  It's super easy for little ones to pull the cape off and on over the doll's head without Mommy's help!

This was my first foray into Barbie dresses, and I have to say it was pretty fun.  I loved dressing my dolls up in the dresses my grandmother made, and I hope Little Sister enjoys it too!

I also have a small vent about the Disney Princess dolls.  Little Sister likes the princess dolls better than regular Barbies, since she knows their stories from the movies (I like that too.)  And while I appreciate Disney trying to make the dolls individuals, it's a little maddening that their bodies are shaped so differently.  A huge part of the fun of these dolls is dressing them up, and when the dresses don't fit all of the dolls it's frustrating for both of us!  She likes to switch their dresses and have the dolls play dress-up, but our Merida dress is totally ripped from squeezing Tiana into it.  Why can't they all be the same size?!  At least everyone can trade shoes.