I’m finally cutting into my nani iro woodblock pocho double gauze. Translation: I’m sewing a dress.
Photo from Instagram.
I’m finally cutting into my nani iro woodblock pocho double gauze. Translation: I’m sewing a dress.
Photo from Instagram.
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.
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.
I am in love with Kokka’s new fabric Candy Party Tsuzuki. When Miss Matatabi gave me a few chunks I jumped right in and made this tiny punky needle book. Then … I stalled out. I put it on my desk and stared at it. I was dizzy with infatuation. What to do next? Do I cut it up and re-piece it, or do I use the pattern as-is? I thought about making a skirt but decided that is too bold, even for me, even for Tokyo. I considered a clutch, a backpack, more zipper pouches. I wanted something big to show off every combination of patterns I could muster.
A while back Vogue had a sale on all their sewing patterns, so I bought three. This is definitely wishful thinking. I can’t imagine I will find the time to make all of these dresses.
A friend recently bought a real-deal Von Furstenberg and looked great in it, which was the inspiration for 8646. I have no idea what I was thinking about 8825. Those sleeves are sort of hideous. (Though the blue version on their website is much better, and this version rocks.)
The hardest part about sewing is conjuring up an image of the final project — what fabric to use, how it will drape, how I could possibly customize it? I have no idea.
While frolicking in the US last summer I stopped by JoAnn Fabrics and found all their patterns on sale for cheap, like $1 or something ridiculous. I can’t quite remember, it all went a little blurry after the frenzy hit. I had forgotten about them until I went to put my new Vogue numbers away.
I now remember my excitement about Ms. 8727. In 2006 (or 2005?) I bought a dress similar to view B at H&M for $15, and it is one of my favorite dresses. It fits me perfectly, is printed linen with a lined bodice and pockets, and I still wear it all summer. Even though styles in Japan are quite modest and that much semi-cleavage is scandalous. I don’t care, I need pockets! For years I have been dreaming of making one in every color of the rainbow but didn’t actually know how to do that. Until now!
This is quite the lineup, and none of it gets started until after this:
I decided to join another sew-along, this time for the By Hand London’s Elisalex dress. I am making it in Nani iro linen. My excitement can only be adequately described in emoji: ヾ(^O^)ノ
On Friday I went to a local harikuyou 針供養 festival. February 8th is a day to pay respect to your old sewing needles by sticking them in tofu.
The idea is that your needles have worked hard and have served you well, and so deserve a soft place to live our their final days.
My friend who is also a stitcher and I joined women in kimono and men in glimmering robes inside the small temple. We were ushered in and we kneeled on pillows. A box of incense passed our way and we were encouraged to pinch some into the embers and pray. We lined up with everyone and stuck our needles into the tofu. Then the temple ladies handed us sweet amazake. They reminded us it was cold outside, we needed to drink up, and handed us a second cup.
After the ceremony we went outside and noticed women were also dropping pins and needles into a large stone box. We peeked inside and saw it was filled up to the eaves. They told us it has been a resting place for needles for as long as the temple has been there. (I looked at their website, maybe since 1608?)
We strolled around the temple grounds, admiring the ume trees in bloom. It was cold, but a lovely day.
Just before I placed my needle into the tofu I accidentally pricked myself with it, and it drew a little blood. He (yes, he) wouldn’t go without a fight. I felt some remorse about sending him to his end, so I hope I did right by this little needle in finding him a tofu bed.
I bought a good luck charm from the temple to help me while sewing this year. I haven’t pricked myself since.
Ps, I have updated this post so it no longer refers to my friend and myself as sewers. We are indeed people who use needles, not big holes of crap.
A winter skirt, just in time for spring. This lovely wool was given to me years ago and I finally felt confident enough to sew something with it. I used the new Sewaholic Hollyburn skirt pattern, which is designed for hippy ladies such as myself. A nice match, I think.
It reminds me a little of a skirt my mom used to have. Or the one Vera Ellen wears around the fire in White Christmas. You know the one.
I have a teeny confession to make, however. The hem is only basted. I don’t own a full length mirror, I usually reply on shop windows as I walk to the subway station. The barber is used to me adjusting my pants in front of his window, and we are both OK with that. I’m not yet sold on this skirt’s length (I added 2 inches to view A) and wanted help from these photos. So don’t look too closely.
I completed this skirt as part of a Hollyburn sew-along. The pattern was easy to understand, but because it is wool I thought it was necessary to add a lining and it turns out I needed a little hand-holding. Thankfully Rachel at My Messings did a step-by-step guide. This was my first garment with a zipper and a lining so there is definitely room for improvement, but I’m happy with they way it turned out. Well, after it is hemmed, maybe in time for next autumn.
For Christmas I made my husband a shirt. It was a gift, but also a little selfish since I really wanted to hide at home and sew for a few days.
I chose the Colette Negroni pattern because word on the Internet was it is an easy pattern to tackle, which turned out to be true. It was fun to put together. I may have squealed with delight, sitting there alone in my apartment. Or perhaps Tanaka-san heard me and shared in the fun.
It was a risky undertaking since I had never before made something with so much detail — pockets! button holes! cuffs! a collar! — and if the project fell terribly apart, I was left with no backup plan. Thankfully it worked out well, for both us.
This is the practice shirt, which I made out of cheap polyester-something, and it has been worn about a dozen times without washing. I think he likes it. I keep saying he can pick out the fabric for the real shirt but he has to go to Nippori with me to do so. Maybe there is a bit of selfishness in that offer, too.
Yesterday I shared last year’s to-do list and how well I did checking things off. It feels good to keep a list and look back a year later, to see how your year changed from the one you had imagined. I might not have accomplished everything on my list, but keeping an eye on it throughout the year gave a good push to keep trying new things.
I’m stepping into this year tentatively, like I am dipping my toes into water — will it be refreshing? Too hot? Will I turn and run and hide under my towel? We shall see. Here is the list for 2013:
Cook 12 new recipes. I am putting this on the list again, even though last year I failed miserably at it. I want to cook more, and if this list gives me even a little bit of encouragement it will be a positive gain. I’d love to learn more traditional Japanese dishes, so perhaps I’ll even treat myself to a cooking class.
Read 8 books. I’m upping the ante from 5 last year. Recommendations?
Visit 6 new places. This is achievable so I’m sticking with it. If I could go anywhere? The mountains of Chile, Alaska, New Zealand. Where might I go? Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, or a romp through northern Japan. I’d love to find a hike to a secret little outdoor onsen in the mountains.
Sew 6 new garments. My new sewing hobby has me obsessed. I’d like to learn more skills this year, and make a fitted and lined dress, pants, and a jacket or blazer. I vow to not be afraid to cut into expensive fabrics.
Make a gigantic sashiko art piece. A last-minute addition. Why not?!
Publish something. An article or an encyclopedia (dream big!), it doesn’t matter.
2013? Let’s do this.
Happy New Year, my friends.
I am easing into 2013. My season of travels abroad, visits with friends and family, handmade gifts and home cooked meals is coming to a close, and I am settling in. 2013 promises many challenges and I am gathering the strength to face them.
Last year at this time I made a to-do list. I dislike resolutions, but to-do lists I can handle. Looking back, I feel good about the things I checked off the list. It turns out I cook a lot less than I thought I did but sew quite a bit more. I feel OK with a trade-off like that. Here is my list and how I fared:
Cook 12 new recipes, one per month. Not even close. Though, I probably ate 12 new foods, like natto, coffee jelly, and tom yum. I can’t believe I waited so long for tom yum. What was I thinking?
Read 5 books. I remember thinking this was on the low side, that of course I would read more than 5 books in a year. I read 6.
Swamplandia! by Karen Russell, Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart, Ghostwritten by David Mitchell, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, The Pilgrim Hawk: A Love Story by Glenway Wescott, The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg
Visit 6 new places. Cities or countries, it doesn’t matter. And walk around these places without a map.
Make a quilt for myself, for fun. I did, and it was fun. I also spent a lot of time learning to sew clothing. I made 6 new garments and 4 neckties.
Have a conversation with a stranger in Japanese. This really reminds me of how little I could, or would, say before I started my Japanese classes. I was a big chicken. Now I am often faced with having to speak Japanese with strangers, and I’m a little less of a chicken.
2012, I think you did alright by me. I visited lovely new places, I ate a lot and spent quality time with quality people, I learned some things, and even found my face on the Internet (like here and here). Nice work, 2012. Now, can you give 2013 the message?
How did your 2012 to-do lists turn out?
I stop by my neighborhood craft supply shop about once a week, usually to pick up something small like a zipper or to fondle the newly-arrived yarns. Occasionally I talk with the staff ladies because I can’t find something or they need me to pull a box off the high-reaches of the top shelf. The shop is tiny, and if your handbag is too big you’ll inevitably knock all of the knitting needles off the rack. Perhaps I speak from experience.
While on a recent visit, gazing at the dusty top shelf, the secrets of which only I know, I found this — a Clover zippered-pouch template.
Pouch Template Shell: Easily make original pouches! Yes, please.
The kit includes a plastic template and instructions for making various zippered pouches. The tracing wheel reminded me a little bit of Spirograph, but without the ripped paper and 7-year-old-style cursing.
Using the template, you can easily and beautifully draw 7 different patterns.
Drafting difficult curves with the template is easy and fast! Accurately draw a 1 cm sewing allowance.
I feel like I have unlocked the secrets of the pouch-making universe.
Each pattern (A-G) is matched with an appropriate length zipper and template pieces, which you trace around and mark onto your main fabric and lining. The templates include marking points for pinning zippers, pleats, and pockets. The green tracing wheel creates a 1 cm sewing allowance and cutting line.
I started with pattern A for a standard pouch. About an hour later, I had a little zipper bag in adorable Kokka Dutch Door Press fabric from my friend Miss Matatabi.
Admittedly, the lining could use some work. Hopefully by pattern G I’ll be a pro.
On to the next pouch I go!