A place for sewing, writing, yoga, photography, and living abroad.


Unhealthy Obsession

I have never used a pattern before. I've yet to construct a dress. So why can't I stop browsing etsy for these fantastic vintage dress patterns? I click on one little link, and before I know it, I've got 20 tabs open and I've lost an hour of my life daydreaming about strolling through Casablanca in cap sleeves. This has got to stop.

It looks like a real vintage 1940s or 50s pattern in decent condition can cost anywhere between $7 (etsy and ebay) and $150 (boutique internet shops). I'm serious. $150 for a pattern, not a constructed dress or even the materials. Cray-zee. Most on etsy are from someone's (lovely!) grandmother's attic, and are around $25.

As a side note, vintage sizes run smaller, so your truly has to bite the bullet and shop plus size. Pattern sizes can be altered through geometric rips in the space-time continuum with something called a "french curve", but I didn't take physics in high school, so I'm going to hold off on that particularly tortuous experiment.

Just look at those sleeves!!

project 3 - Earthquake Pillows

Everyone knows that there was a big earthquake in these parts last March. Everyone also knows that some people stayed here in Iwate, while some people had to go home. (Love you guys!) What everyone doesn't know is that those of us who stayed... well, we made out like bandits!

In cleaning out a couple of my friends' apartments after they left, I had the opportunity to acquire foreign peanut butter, teas, crackers, cough medicine, dish soap, an ironing board, futons, blankets, pillows, tupperware dishes, chopsticks and utensils. The list goes on. Since I only really needed a few of those things, I donated or threw out the rest.

That's the story behind these pillowcases. The pillows were a slightly unusual size(38x60cm) and the pillowcases that were on them had seen a lot of love, so I decided to just make new ones. It was my first venture into the "sale" rack at Maruichi, Morioka's largest fabric shop, and I haven't looked back since!

Japanese pillowcases are usually more fitted than American ones, so I used buttons and a cutout-corner design to reduce bulk. I didn't foresee the buttons popping off randomly while I slept. It happened anyway.

Procedure highlights:
  • bidding farewell to the noble broken machine, and greeting the lovely new price-cut machine. (A Janome 610)
  • tapering the hem at the cutout corners.
  • BUTTONHOLES! (aka-Learning that the buttonhole setting actually has varying stitch thickness levels. Entering a time-warped mindfreak universe where nothing makes sense anymore.)
  • taking pictures of the boyfriend enjoying the pillowcases.

Fabric: 300 yen/meter
(Circa April 2011)

project 2 - Matryoshka Curtains

Living in Japan will do things to you. After a while, you find yourself humming the Totoro theme song as you walk down Main Street. Or spending 30 minutes wrapping a bento lunch that you'll eat in an hour. Or choosing chopsticks instead of a fork to eat your salad with. Or bowing to the invisible person the the other end of the telephone. Or wearing pink socks with any outfit.

Or thinking that it's acceptable to have curtains like these.

Just kidding! I swear, I was not kawaii before I came here, but now I am completely on the bandwagon. I mean, look at those cute little outfits! And their wee little faces! Awwwww.

Procedure highlights:

  • Learning that sewing is not actually cheaper than buying already-made (in China by children) stuff.
  • Learning that I will always underestimate the amount of fabric needed. (Only 3/4 of my windows are covered by these curtains.)
  • Curtains are boring. After that reinventing-the-wheel experience of creating/making a skirt, the whole iron+hem+sew+repeat process was mind-numbing.
  • Pins are your friends.
  • Straight lines are doable.

(Circa April 2011)

project 1 - The Pink Skirt

This week, my thoughts are on sewing. I set up a swanky new blog, and I now I think I'll try to document all of my sewing projects thus far.

Number 1 is.... The pink skirt!

I don't understand the phrase "baby steps." So, for my first foray into the world of pins and needles, I chose to make a fully-lined, elastic waist skirt with pockets free-handed (using no pattern). Needless to say, it doesn't get a lot of wear--the crooked seams and awkwardly-fitting waistband don't help matters. But as an added bonus, you get a fistful of lint when you put your hand in the pockets!
See, I didn't really understand how to finish the edges before I sewed the thing together, so it's like a mysterious mini-forest of loose threads and frayed edges in the pockets. Adventure in a creamy coral disguise!

I used this tutorial from Freshly Picked, and essentially changed everything.

Procedure highlights:
  • measure twice, measure twice again, look at it in horror, then measure three times. Then cut once. Then take a little off the seam allowance. Then trim a little more off the especially uneven parts. (In all seriousness, I should have made clearer, straighter lines with the marking chalk, and folded it in half to cut, ensuring evenness. The edges hardly lined up when I went to sew the seams.)
  • taking my own measurements.
  • slinky fabric frays easily (zigzag seams were still a thing of the future for me)
  • my sewing machine was busted the whole time, I just didn't know any better. (High tension in the bobbin that caused the thread to snap every few minutes.)
  • I like sewing.

Fabric: 1 meter @ 600yen/m

(Circa March 2011)

The bag

Cute bag! Simple design.

My latest rendition includes Thai batik fabric and a lousy first attempt at zippers (not pictured, for ego's sake.) But these button-closure ones are nice, aren't they?

The orange was a gift for my mom's birthday.

This one followed me to Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Aomori, and Bangkok.

Think they'd sell? :)