Snowbirds

The consensus in New York is that people are done with winter. Over it. Fini. Every time I hear someone mention this, I respond with my best empathetic nod. “Hmm. Yes, I totally understand. It is so awful.” But really, I’m not over it. I, dare I say, like winter.

I missed the snow while we were in Japan (though they are getting record amounts this year!). I love it when snow falls. I love big flakes that stick to your hair and the kind of snow you can brush off your coat and even the icy mix that crunches under boots. When I wake up to snow falling, I still get excited. My days are not affected by school closures or weather in general, but that feeling of snowy morning glee is hard to shake.

Now, I realize that snow in New York is very different from snow in other places. With temps here hitting the 40s, the snow is packed down into wet, slick ice. Mixed with gray skies, exhaust fumes, soggy dog poo, and garbage that hasn’t been picked up in weeks (garbage trucks are too busy plowing), the snow is not a pretty sight. But it doesn’t bother me.

WInter color and an Archer shirt, via Saké PuppetsI’ve found other ways to combat the gray. I started sewing this shirt, oh, five months ago, so it carries a warm-weather vibe. I bought the fabric for 100 yen a meter in the Nippori fabric district in Tokyo and thought it would be ideal for a wearable practice Archer. And boy did it deliver.

Finding winter color, via Saké PuppetsI have made two button-up shirts before, so I had some confidence going into this project. Collar stand, cuffs, button holes = no problem. Some of my top stitching is a little wonky and my seams are finished with a plain ol’ zig-zag stitch, so it definitely feels like a practice shirt, but the fabric is light with nice drape so I think I’ll get a lot of wear out of it this summer.

Back it on up, Archer. Via Saké PuppetsI made View B with the gathered lower back, though it is hard to see in these photos. I really like the gathered detail, and I think it would look great with even thinner fabric, like maybe these flamingos? I wanted to make View A in flannel and snaps, but at the rate I’m sewing this year, I wouldn’t get it done before the snow melts. Guess I’ll have to check out the Garment District for more Archer fabric. Darn! ;)

Grainline Archer by Saké PuppetsYou can take the girl out of Minnesota, but it is much harder to get her out of her boots. Flurries in the forecast today, folks!

Summer of Skirts Part 3: Roller Skating Wrap Skirt

Roller skate wrap skirt by Saké PuppetsWhat better way to wear a roller skate skirt than to take it for a spin on your own set!

I started roller derby this year and love it. I’d wear my skates to bed if my Japanese apartment didn’t require I remove all footwear at the door. I’ve caught myself hip-checking strangers on the subway and my gear bag now contributes most of the bad smells in our house.

So when I saw Melody Miller’s Ruby Star Sparkle Roller Skates Ring A Ling, I wanted it immediately. Sewing + roller skates = mind blown.

Melody Miller's Roller Skates Ring A Ling skirt by Saké PuppetsThe fabric is a mid-weight cotton-linen blend, perfect for a summer play skirt. And I’ve hardly worn anything else all summer. If you’ve met me for lunch or a play date in the past 2 months, odds are I was wearing this skirt. After my roller skates, it’s my new best friend.

This skirt encourages wigglingMaybe my photographer is jealous, because I was scolded for moving around too much during this photo shoot. But it couldn’t be helped. I was wearing my two besties and they got along splendidly.

The pattern for this skirt is Tilly’s Miette wrap skirt. Two friends and I decided to make this together as a mini sewalong, because we all wanted a project to do together and I couldn’t be bothered to read something for a book group. We all live in different parts of the world, so we posted our sewing updates and questions on a secret Facebook group. I think our sewalong experiment worked pretty well, and I’m not sure about them but I’d do it again. Especially if it means I can avoid another book group.

I did have one big issue with this project. I was so mesmerized by the metallic details and roller skates with pom poms that I didn’t notice the print had diagonal stripes. Which meant that I should have cut my skirt on the bias, but didn’t. Oops.

oops. stripes.Because the print is quite busy, I decided to just make it busier by adding the pockets.

Busy body printI actually like the way it turned out. Pockets in skirts are a wonderful thing anyways, so it was sort of a win-win. A demonstration shot:

Cell phone goes here! Magic!I’m ignoring the fact that on a recent episode of Project Runway Michael Kors called these “pleasure pockets.” Eew, gross, you orange old man!

Peek!A final action show. Peek!

That wraps up my trio of summer play skirts! It felt great to make a whole season’s worth of wearable, durable clothing, so now I’m looking to autumn. What are you making, friends?

Summer of Skirts Part 2: Zebra Forest Skirt

Summer play skirt by Saké PuppetsI’m quite proud of this next summer skirt because, it’s self-drafted!! I started with a square of fabric and nothing else, and then poof! made a skirt from my mind.

Confession: I actually created a pattern from a skirt that I bought at Anthropologie 4 years ago. I stared at the beloved garment for about an hour and was able to draft a pattern without taking my darling apart. I worked out the measurements and then constructed an exact replica. Except with zebras.

zebras on my skirt, by Saké PuppetsI purchased the fabric at Tomato in Nippori during our Tokyo fabric shopping meetup last month. Inna, Chie, Frances and I challenged each other to make garments using fabric we normally wouldn’t buy or wear. I resist pretty much anything with an animal print so this fabric definitely fit the criteria for me. Though, I love this fabric. It is a beautiful soft cotton and I think zebras in the forest are hilarious.

The waistband and hem are topstitched and I like the way they toughen up the skirt. It feels quite durable, suitable for a zebra frolic. I also included slash pockets, a hand-picked zipper, and lining.

a top stitched hemline

play skirt out on the town! by Saké Puppetsplay skirt out on the town! by Saké PuppetsThis has been a great play skirt for the summer. The cotton is soft but tough, the skirt is breezy and cool, and the pattern is crazy which encourages summer hijinks. I’m also quite proud of myself for constructing something wearable from almost no pattern. Hooray for new skills! (^O^)/

Maybe I’m still riding the zebra high, but I committed to joining Inna’s couture Little French Jacket sewalong. I’m not sure I’ll keep up with the big girls, but it will be fun to see what happens. Whaddya say, want to join us?!

Shift Work

Shifty, a Colette Laurel shift dress by Saké PuppetsBecause I’ve been eating so many macarons, I needed a dress with a little ease. I’m only half joking.

I was given a wool shift dress last year and love it. The boxy shape isn’t one I would have selected for myself, but it turns out a simple shift is flattering if done right. I decided to make a summer version using the Colette Laurel pattern. But I’m not sure I did it right.

stripey marshmallow?I made a muslin and thought I was happy, and then finished the final garment in stripes and am solidly on the fence about it. I feel like a stripey marshmallow. Or like I’m wearing jail pajamas. Or, from far away, that I look sort of naked.Naked jail pajamasIn hindsight, selecting fabric the same color as your skin tone is not a great idea, regardless of how much you love stripes.

There were a few wins with this project, however. It was my first time installing an invisible zipper, and my first time matching stripes. Victory is mine!Matched stripes and an invisible zipper win!I used self-made bias and lined the dress in really soft natural cotton lawn. The lining was more expensive than the striped linen. Maybe I should wear the dress inside out?shifts, by Saké PuppetsI think some of my ambivalence about the dress comes from the extra fabric in the back. It doesn’t hang the way a shift dress ought to hang. This pattern is for a dress with sleeves, and I thought I could simply leave the sleeves off and voila — sleeveless! Perhaps I was wrong. Maybe I could take it in a bit more at the back darts? Anyone have advice? I don’t own a serger and dislike raw edges, so I finished the sides with a flat felled seam and taking the sides in is not an easy option.

I think I’ll wear the dress again, maybe with tights and heels and a cardigan and a trench coat. If anything, this project was a good exercise in fabric selection and learning to really examine the fit of a muslin before forging ahead. I think learning to sew your own clothing takes a lot of experience gained from trial-and-error. Maybe this dress is just meant to help me log those hours.

Anyone else ever feel this way?

Nippori Fabric Party

I have been to Tokyo’s fabric district many times, but like a trail horse I always go to the same shops. Recently I’ve been feeling brave enough to start sewing garments with fabrics other than cotton or linen, but I have little idea about where or how to start. Sewing bloggers to the rescue!

Nippori meet up


Photo courtesy of Chie. We are all wearing clothing we made. :)

I met Chie of Vivat Veritas, Inna Thewallinna, and Frances of Miss Matatabi (hiding) for a day of shopping and fabric education in Nippori. It was fantastically fun. We showed each other our favorite shops, they answered my questions about synthetic and drapey materials, and we challenged (dared?) each other to make something wearable out of bright prints.

Nippori fabric haulI bought some knit jersey and flamingos wearing high heels from Tomato, the largest and most popular shop in Nippori. We also popped into Zak Zak where everything was 100 yen per meter. We were in and out of a few other shops along the way and ended with lunch at a Persian all-you-can-eat restaurant where the owner tickles customers, insists you eat with your hands and ride his camel.camelPhoto courtesy of Inna. I am frightened.

Thanks for the fabric education and great day, ladies! We’re planning another trip later this summer, so let us know if you’d like to come along!

The Rainy Season Sweat Wicking Dress

Tsuyu, I love you and I hate you.

Rainy season wrap dress, by Saké PuppetsAccording to the Japan Times the rainy season began 10 days early. I have a love/hate relationship with this time of year. The bad: damp tissues, moldy sinks, towels that never dry, and the smell of damp feet. The good: I love love love waking up to the sound of rain in the morning. And any excuse to linger in cafes or drink tea all day while sewing or go to movies mid-afternoon. I don’t even mind the crazy curly hairdos. The temperature isn’t too hot or too cold, and the rain is rarely heavy enough to require more than a large clear umbrella.

The absolute worst part of rainy season? The fact that when it is over, it is summer. Hot, humid, and wet but in a different, nastier way. To prepare I am making dresses, and Japanese fabric is perfectly suited for Japanese summers. How convenient.

Rainy season wrap dress, by Saké Puppets. PS, my neighbors have pretty hydrangeas. This wrap dress is made with nani IRO woodblock pocho in gray/green double gauze cotton using Vogue 8646, the first Vogue pattern I’ve tried. It was just OK. I skipped a muslin because it’s a wrap dress (read: easy to fit), and made the size 10 with an extra 1″ in length in the bodice. I could have used another inch, I think. And the bodice feels too big. I hand-stitched the hem around the neckline which gives a nice finish and removed some bulk from the front. I am thinking about adding long ties, to actually wrap this sucker around my body and tighten it up a bit. But for a rainy-season-turned-sweaty-summer dress, it’ll do just fine. Japanese double gauze is like wearing a ShamWow. Sweat-wicking at its finest, my friends.

Rainy season wrap dress, by Saké PuppetsI bribed my husband into taking my picture with the promise of buying him lunch. And then this happened. Whooeee!

whooeee! by Saké PuppetsWe both ordered omurice like 5-year olds, because what else do you do on a rainy day?

Orange Dress

arijit in orange

On March 22nd I lost my dear friend Arijit. He battled colon cancer for two years in a very public, very honorable fight.

He was 32 and a PhD candidate at the School of Sustainability at ASU. He was feisty and passionate about the environment, food, and music. He liked to challenge me to think about why I do the things I do. I taught him about hotdish and we talked about our feelings and swore like sailors during rowdy impromptu dinner parties. The world is definitely lonelier without him.

Ari’s favorite color was orange and when we gathered with friends to celebrate his life, I wanted to be blazing in it. I made another Elisalex in linen, and dedicated the time I spent sewing my orange dress to reflecting on Ari, our friendship, and his life’s journey. Spending a few days alone with my sewing machine was the best way for me to honor him and to grieve the way I needed to. My heart was full and my hands were busy.

orange dressSo the blog takes a somber tone today to match the somber mood I have been feeling these past few months. I wanted to share about Ari because he constantly reminded us of how beautiful and interesting the world is and I am working to focus on those things rather than the sadness. But also because Ari loved thoughtful handmade things and making a dress or a cake or a hat, or whatever it is we make, are all ways to show our love for one another. It is a testament to how close you can feel to someone so far away. So I’ll keep making his tomato chickpea recipe, hand-stitched neckties for my husband, embroidered wedding gifts, and strive to show people how much I care about them.

Ari’s photo courtesy poopstrong.org.

Spring Circle Scarf

While visiting the Kawaii Nunohaku craft fair last month I bought two small pieces of fabric from a Kamakura-based shop owner. The fabric was a beautiful pairing and I knew right away that I wanted to use them in a scarf.

A beautiful pairing.I know nothing about these fabrics except that the colorful one is incredibly soft and light, is screen or maybe woodblock printed, and the other is linen. It might be hand-printed, too. I decided to make a circle scarf like the one I saw on Miss Matatabi’s site. I cut each piece into two 12″ by 30″ rectangles and sewed the short ends together. Following the directions here, I sewed the two fabrics together along their long edges then turned the scarf right-side-out, hiding the seams and pressing it crisp. I joined the remaining short ends and finished it with hand-stitching.

A spring circle scarf. I’m really pleased.