Thursday, March 19, 2015

Did you see? My featured post on Imagine Gnats!

In case you missed it, I want to point you in the direction of my first-ever guest post on another blog. Rachael from Imagine Gnats asked me to participate in this Spring's Selfish Sewing Week as a featured stitcher, meaning I got the celebrity treatment with my choice of pattern by a participating independent designer (I chose the lovely Giselle Dress from Kate & Rose Patterns), my choice of a fabric (I went with the Aves Chatter Dim in voile by Bonnie Christine for Art Gallery fabrics, but it was seriously SO HARD to choose from all the gorgeous options)!

Here's a sneak peek at the dress:

You can see the finished version HERE at Imagine Gnats!

I just want to thank Rachael so much for inviting me to participate.  She was so helpful and complimentary, and I just really felt special and appreciated for what I do.  I'm not going to lie--it feels good to have someone you only know from the internets reach out and say, "I see you!  And I like what you are doing!"  Rachael has some great patterns for women and children (I just got the Bess Top and Alder Skirt women's patterns--guess I'm not done selfish sewing just yet!  I'm planning to make this mash-up version found on her blog using some amazing Nani Iro Pierre Pocho Fountain Stones double gauze in Forest Green--here's what it looks like--that I just brought home from Nippori) as well as amazing fabrics that I'm sure I won't be able to resist once I'm back in the states!  She carries a lot of the Japanese fabrics I have been falling in love with over the last year, and it's a relief to know that I will be able to get them from her once I leave Tokyo.  Plus her blog has great tutorials as well as showing off the projects that Rachael is working on herself.

I love Selfish Sewing Week (I sewed along for the first time last fall) and look forward to planning for each upcoming session to come!  Not that I really need an excuse, but having a week to dedicate to sewing for myself really helps me justify it :)

Friday, March 13, 2015

My Giselle Wearable Muslin

As a featured stitcher for Selfish Sewing Week at Imagine Gnats, I got to choose a pattern from a talented independent designer and fabric from Art Gallery Fabrics to make my garment.  You guys, I felt like such a VIP, perusing the pattern choices and pages of beautiful fabrics to decide what I would make for myself!  I settled on the Giselle Dress from Kate & Rose Patterns, which I will tell you more about in my post on Imagine Gnats on Sunday, 3/15, but first I thought I'd show you my trial run of this pattern.

Making a muslin means trying out the pattern to check for fit before cutting into your "real" fabric, but a wearable muslin means you hope it turns out well enough to actually be worn!  This worked out for me in this case--after making this dress, there were adjustments that I wanted to make before cutting into my Art Gallery fabric, but I will still definitely wear this version!

This fabric was a risk for me.  It is a voile, so it was a good choice for the muslin since I would be working with a voile in the real version, but the print is kind of wacky:

It's little bundled-up people, maybe ice skating or something?  And the gray/peach/olive/light blue color is not my usual either.  But when I saw it at the fabric store I couldn't stop thinking about it, and it was only 100 yen per meter, so I brought it home, not knowing if I would ever use it.  I was able to get this whole dress out of just 2 meters (just barely), so if it didn't work out at least it wasn't a big investment!

Anyway, if I'm feeling shy about the print, I can always wear a cardigan:

The dress ties in the back:

But you guys--do NOT skip the recommended stay-stitching on the neckline!


For my final version, I adjusted the bodice so that the seams sit lower on my chest, which I like better.  I do love the sleeves in this pattern, which was one of the main reasons I chose it--I have been adding sleeves to everything to get me through the winter, and it seems like most of the patterns I had on hand had pretty blousy sleeves, which didn't look flattering with some of the looser tunic shapes I was trying to add them to.  These have plenty of room for movement but a nice slim silhouette, and I really like the banding at the bottom.

In the book I'm currently reading, the main character referred to 3/4 sleeves as "the least flattering sleeve," but I beg to differ!  I love 3/4 sleeves!

So, until my featured post on Imagine Gnats on Sunday, this will be my final Selfish Sewing post of Spring 2015!  I managed to finish 3 dresses and a top--not bad!  Here's a preview of the fabric I chose--it's called Aves Chatter Dim from Bonnie Christine's Winged line for Art Gallery Fabrics:

Spoiler alert--it came out SO GOOD!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Sunny Swing Plantain Mashup!

I have been looking for ways to incorporate all of the awesome woven print fabrics I find here in Tokyo into the comfy knit tops that comprise most of my wardrobe, and when I saw the FREE pattern and tutorial for the cute Sunny Swing Top from The Sara Project I wanted to try it right away!

The only problem with this top for me was that I like a lower neckline.  I already had the (also free) Plantain Tee pattern from Deer and Doe, so I just printed out Sara's cute cap sleeve pattern and followed her directions for making this great top that incorporates knits and woven fabrics, using the bodice from the Plantain Tee that I had already adjusted to make it just the way I like it!

The woven that I used is a Japanese double gauze from Kokka.  I got a one yard remnant for about $3!  And the knit was another Nippori bargain find at 100 yen per meter (although I have no idea about the fabric content since I can't read the bolts!  It doesn't feel synthetic though.)  I bought a ton of this soft knit and have used it for pajamas for my kids as well as a t-shirt for my husband and another top for myself that I don't think I ever blogged about.  I think I'm finally running out of it!

I did french seams to join the woven to the knit, since the double gauze can fray at the raw edges.  I think that I over-compensated on adding in my seam allowance--I bet if I'd just used Sara's pattern I wouldn't have had that problem!  So it's a little extra swingy, but definitely comfy and perfect for Spring!

Hey!  I think I've got my 4th-of-July outfit ready!

Remind me to check that my sleeves are straightened out next time!
CHECK!  Another Selfish Sewing Week/Spring 2015 off the cutting table!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Selfish Sewing Week Spring 2015 is Here!

I have been looking forward to this year's Spring Selfish Sewing Week (there's an awesome giveaway happening at this link) ever since last fall, when I first participated.  Then I got even MORE excited about it when Rachael from Imagine Gnats, who organizes the whole event, contacted me to see if I would be a featured stitcher!  Are you kidding?  I was thrilled!  My featured post will be on Imagine Gnats on Sunday, March 15th, but I thought I'd share some of the other selfish projects I have finished in the meantime.

First up is this Out and About Dress from Sew Caroline's pattern.  I bought the pattern a while back when it was a Friday Fiver (such a screamin' deal!) but hadn't made it yet--Selfish Sewing Week gave me the perfect excuse!

I had been holding on to this double-sided thick knit fabric that I found for 100 yen/meter in Nippori, Tokyo's Fabric Town, and knew this was the perfect project for it.  I used the darker side of the fabric (which has a ponte-type feel but I have no idea as to the fabric content since I STILL can't read Japanese) for the body of the dress, and the lighter side for the binding and cuffs.

I loved the design on the lighter side, but thought it was too close to my skin tone to work for the whole dress.  I love the color--it's a soft, peachy orange that is pretty flattering, although I did already make myself another knit dress in almost exactly this color!  Oh well, that one is for summer, and this one is more fall/spring with the thickness of the knit and longer sleeves.

I made a size Medium based on my measurements, and since this fabric is thick and not tooooo stretchy I didn't want to risk sizing down, but I would say that I will probably make a small next time.  It works for this one, although I did end up shortening the bodice just a tad, but it's not so big that I feel like I need to make other alterations.

I love the big deep pockets!

The back, of course
It goes perfectly with my double-gauze infinity scarf that I made from this cute Japanese maneki-neko (lucky cat) print!

I wore this outfit to my first craft show since moving to Japan--the cat is supposed to bring in customers, money and good fortune :).  You see them in lots of shops here, welcoming the customers in!

I would say my little maneki-neko did the trick--I sold almost 3/4s of my merchandise, and picked up several custom orders as well!  You can see the products I have available on my Sewbaby Crafts page (I just added that tab on this blog to keep things simple).

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Liebster Awards--Thanks, Inspinration!

Wow, my autocorrect did not like that post title at all--it came out Lobster awards, and Inspiration the first time around!  But I'm talking about the Liebster Award, described by Miranda who writes the blog Inspinration as "originally a German invention with the goal of promoting smaller blogs by getting to know the person behind the blog a bit more. The rules of the game have changed a bit over time (for example small used to be less than 3000 followers and now 200)."

Anyway, so flattering that Miranda chose me to nominate!  She is Dutch--pretty crazy that you can connect with people all around the world with similar hobbies.  That's the main reason I've been keeping this blog up! I love her style--definitely take a look through her archives!  And check out this great tutorial for a faux-bolero jacket added into any knit dress pattern--so smart! 

So how this works is that Miranda provided a list of 11 questions for her nominees to answer--you can see her answers as well as her list of nominees here!  I found some fun new bloggers looking at her list.

Once I get through my answers, I'll nominate some bloggers of my own and provide a new list of questions, and we'll pass on the award throughout blogland!

1. Which of your own blog posts (the project related to it) are you most proud of?

I made the Caroline Party Dress from The Mouse House Creations. I piped the collar and waistline, included a lining, invisible zip, and pockets, and I used some lovely Liberty of London fabric--my first time using some!   I drafted a little reversible knit cardigan to go on top, too.   Another favorite was the Rapunzel dress I made from a thrifted sheet for Halloween a few years ago--it still gets worn all the time for dress-up!

2. What sewing technique secretly still frightens you (a bit)?

I still am TERRIBLE at button plackets.  Making the holes even is probably the worst part but really every aspect of it makes me nervous.  So I avoid buttons whenever possible.  I just saw this product though--it might be just what I need to get over my apprehension!

3. What is your guilty pleasure?

Oh boy, I have a few, but probably the most embarrassing is that I have watched every single season (they actually call it a cycle, since there are two of them a year--do they still do it that often?) of America's Next Top Model since its inception.

4. What blog should we read which you couldn't  nominate due to too many followers?

I have been a fan of Craftiness is Not Optional for years now--I just love Jess's style, her daughters are adorable, her patterns are great, she offers wonderful tutorials (many of which I have followed) and I just always have fun seeing what she is working on.  Also, her oldest is in the same grade as my oldest so I like that I was sewing for kindergarten at the same time, etc.  

5. What is the story behind the fabric that has been in your closet the longest?

My stash is all relatively new right now--I didn't bring much with me when we moved to Tokyo in May of 2014, but I have been making up for it by buying all I can carry every time I visit Nippori, Tokyo's Fabric Town.  One special piece I brought with me is this amazing yard of Anna Maria Horner velveteen that I found at Goodwill a few years ago and have been planning to make into a coat for Little Sister.  

I'm thinking I'd better get on it soon, while she's still small enough for a coat made from the limited yardage!

6. What is your favorite tv show?  

I tend to get fixated on one show at a time, so currently I have been doing a Great British Sewing Bee Marathon (update--I can't find any more episodes on YouTube so I have been left hanging for both seasons 1 and 3!)  I love Game of Thrones, but I watch that one with my husband so we save it for the weekends (we're pacing it out--we don't have HBO so we're just now watching Season 4!)  Also, I am anxiously awaiting the new seasons of Orphan Black and Orange is the New Black.   

7. What would you buy yourself now, immediately if money was not an issue?

Ohhh, probably a fancy, reliable serger.  I have an old one that was my grandma's that was nice to have for finishing seams but is not very consistent--I left it in Portland when we moved to Tokyo, so I've got nothing now.  And I keep thinking I should probably upgrade it anyway!  It would be pretty amazing to be able to just get something top of the line!  But even if money weren't an issue, it would make the most sense to wait until we get back to the states so I can read the manual...

8. What frustrates the hell out of you?

Well, I really would like to be a better blogger.  It's frustrating, because it's hard enough to carve out time to sew, but if you want to build your blog you also have to take great pictures, upload them, edit them, write about them, and then promote them on social media, all while keeping up on other people's blogs and commenting in order to stay involved in the community!  There are so many projects I haven't shared here because I just can't get through that whole list.  I have folders dedicated to items I have photographed but just can't get the posts done!

9. What is your most happy memory?

Wow, that is really a big category!  I have lots of happy memories pertaining to my family--you know, wedding, birth of children, that sort of thing, but it seems more fun to list a sewing memory.  When I was a kid, after my grandma and mom taught me to sew and embellish felt into clothes for my troll dolls, I made an entire wardrobe of felt clothes for my best friend's trolls for Christmas, complete with snap closures, sequins, beads, and ribbons.   I was so proud of making that gift myself!  I must have been...I don't know, 9 or 10?  We played with those crazy things so much, and we did love dressing them in the outfits we had.  

Yup, these guys.  I also had several vintage ones that had been my mom's!

For the record, we did play Barbies too--we weren't total weirdos.

10. What kind of new hobby would you like to learn?

I don't know if it's considered a hobby, but living in another country has made me feel like it would be really great if I could speak another language.  I'm not sure Japanese is the one for me--I keep getting overwhelmed in my studies, but if I started working on a European language that I am more familiar with in the first place, I might be able to make better headway!  I'd also love to devote more time to practicing photography and web design--probably more practical skills in the long run!

11. What is your favorite app?

Google Maps!  There is no way I could find my way around Tokyo without it.  And I also love the Earworms Musical Brain Trainer for learning some survival Japanese--I plug in my earphones while I'm sewing and learn how to ask how much something costs and "do you speak English?" in Japanese.  And Toca Hair Salon Me is an app that we have for our daughter, but it is mesmerizing--you can take a photo and then style the hair, and the face moves and reacts when you wash, blow-dry, color, etc.  It's SO weird--I love it!

OKAY!  I made it through the list!  Now it's my turn to nominate a few bloggers I have been keeping up with:

1.  Peaches and Bees:  I discovered this blog through past seasons of Project Run and Play.  She is always making beautiful things for her girl, and I'd better hope that my daughter never discovers her blog or I will have tons of work to do!  Every time I see a post, I think, ohhhhh, Little Sister would love that!

2.  XOXOGrandma:  This is another blogger who is always sewing along with Project Run and Play, among other things.  She makes the sweetest outfits and gifts for her grandchildren, always with a great attention to detail and thoughtful elements to make the pieces really special.

3.  Fake It While You Make It:  I love the name of this blog--I actually found it because I wanted to use it for MY blog so I was googling to see if it was available!  She is a Pacific NW mama like me, and I'm so glad I found her because her techniques are inspiring--she tries things I am way too afraid to attempt!

4.  Tomatoes and Jasmine:  This blog has been a HUGE resource for me since moving to Tokyo.  I refer back to her "Sewing/Fabric Shops in Tokyo" post frequently, and I love looking at the beautiful tailored garments she makes.  She also reviews patterns in current Japanese sewing magazines, which is fun to see.

5.  Modern Handmade:  I actually don't really know how many followers April has--I first saw her blog last year during Selfish Sewing Week, and I really loved her style for both her own clothes and clothes for her children.  Her print and color combinations are exactly the kind of thing I am drawn to, so it's always fun to see what she's making!

If you ladies are up for it, here are my 11 questions for you!  Please let me know if you participate, I'd love to see your answers!

1.  Do you have a favorite thing to sew?  Like, a specific kind of fabric you love to use, or a particular garment you keep going back to?

2.  What got you into sewing, and what keeps you going with it?

3.  Who do you sew for the most?

4.  What project has been your biggest splurge?

5.  As a blogger or sewist, what is something that you struggle with?

6.  What was the first thing you remember sewing?

7.  What is your guilty pleasure?

8.  How did your blog get its name?

9.  Is sewing a hobby for you, or something more?  How do you balance sewing with the other parts of your life?  (Ok, so that's a pretty big question, I know--no pressure!)

10.  What is the best book you read in the last year (or best movie you saw, if you prefer)?

11. Where are you from originally, and how did you get where you are now?  (As a current expat, this is a question that comes up in pretty much every conversation!)

So for my nominees, if you choose to pass this on here is how it works:

The rules of the game:
1. Thank the person who nominated you and put a link to her/his blog in your post
2. Answer the 11 questions that you got from the one that nominated you
3. Nominate 5 to 11 other bloggers with less than 200 followers (this is not an exact science, just focus on blogs that could benefit from this extra promotion).
4. Create 11 interesting questions for your nominees to answer.
5. Do not nominate back the blog that nominated you.  

I'm excited to learn more about this great online sewing community!  Thanks again for the nomination, Miranda from Inspinration!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Field Trip Day Pack!

At our international school, the Pre-K class's big field trip of the year is during their transportation unit.  For this trip, the 24 students (with about 12 adults supervising, myself included) rode the school bus to a train station, where we boarded the busy Yamanote Line train, then after a few stops switched to the Tokyo Monorail, which delivered us to Odaiba, a man-made island across the Rainbow Bridge from Central Tokyo.  From there we walked a few blocks to the beach, where we had a picnic lunch and some playtime, after which we walked to the ferry dock and rode back to our bus parking by boat.  The school bus then brought us back to school.

It was a fun and exhausting day!  And knowing that the kids would be toting their lunches/water/snacks through all of these different modes of transportation inspired me to make a backpack for Little Sister that was more manageable for her to carry around all day than her usual big school backpack, which has to be larger to accommodate her school work and such.  This is what I came up with:

Overlooking the Rainbow Bridge in Odaiba

It's the perfect size to fit her lunch box and water bottle (or when it's a family day, her coloring wallet, kids kindle fire, some snacks, and sunglasses), and I just couldn't love this fabric any more than I do.

It's from the Melody Miller RubyStar line, and it has so many different prints mixed into one cut of fabric so it's perfect for a pieced project like this--I can give each element a different print!

The front flap has the iconic Viewmaster print--I definitely wanted to show that off.  I added some piping around the outside, and the lining fabric is all the same double-sided quilted stuff I used to make Little Sister's Tinkerbell jacket for Halloween.  It was nice for giving the back some padding and stability without having to add interfacing.  It's impossible to tell in these photos, but I also quilted around some of the Viewmaster circles for a. some added interest/texture and b. some quilting practice.

I also love the print that's on the main front panel of the bag.  It's a dark purple, and I love that it has personality of its own while still letting the viewmasters stand out.  In this shot you can also see that I used the pink and aqua stripes (with gold dots!) to make the straps, and it's a bit hard to tell but the top of the bag (where the purple hanging loop is inserted) has a cool arrow going across it!

She loves that the straps are different :)  Recognize that Bimaa dress?

I forgot to take pics of the back but you can sort of see it here, along with the floral side panels.

And here it is in action on the field trip-

Riding the monorail

Picnic Lunch time!

Stuffed into the Yamanote Line!

I made up the pattern for this bag, but if you want to make one, I followed some basic messenger bag instructions like these but added backpack straps between the flap and the body of the bag instead of putting a shoulder strap on the sides.  The important thing for keeping the backpack from sliding off the shoulders is to get the straps as close together as possible at the top.  I cut my straps 18" long, and ended up trimming off just a bit when I attached them, making sure they were still even.

I actually started by making another backpack, which was adorable but too small to hold Little Sister's lunch box and water bottle:

My favorite part are the arrows on the straps!
This one was from this great tutorial (with free pattern!) from Indietutes, except that I scaled the whole thing a little bigger since the tutorial is for a two year old and my girl is almost five.  Also, I added a little elastic to the inside of the top front of the back to keep it closed.  So when I made the bigger bag, I had these proportions to go on, but I also decided that the flap would keep things more contained while still being easy enough for Little Sister to handle on her own.