Happy Friday + Randomness

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Happy Friday! Lately, I’ve been making a concerted effort to make sure I do all of the things that I know put me in a good mood. Aimless painting is one of those things. I grab a piece of paper, and just paint whatever I see or am thinking about.

kaizen3I appear to think about clothes a lot. And flowers.

I have to confess that I’m not loving the Mon-Wed-Fri blog schedule. It’s throwing me off and I don’t know why. I used to get a tingly, energized feeling every day as I pondered, “what will I write/draw/sew/photograph for tomorrow?” The daily schedule (with a little breathing room on the weekends) kept me on my toes, forcing me to think of variety. I thought that by reducing the days, I would focus on quality versus quantity and free up much needed time, but I feel like I’m becoming too predictable and rote. I’m having difficulty describing it — I love routine, and clearly don’t mind doing the same thing over and over, but I don’t like things to feel stale and stuck. Sometimes when I’m writing my posts, I pause and wonder, “Wait, have I written this before?” Is this what a rut is?

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Recently I found out about this Japanese word, kaizen. I must have been listening to a podcast, or maybe I read an article online. It translates to “good change” but is more about incremental improvements. Baby steps. Slow and steady progress. It’s a bit like beginner’s mind but with a sense of purpose to continually improve. I stopped dead in my tracks when I heard the word, and realized that I’ve been standing still mentally — worse, I’ve been a hamster running on an ever-dizzying circular treadmill, going nowhere. Not that it should always be about striving and goal-setting and achievements, but what I thrive on is learning new skills, being okay with mistakes and just plodding along reveling in the process, chortling to myself at my ridiculousness the whole time.

This second book I’m working on is hard for me. Not in the way it’s hard to go to yoga or eat a salad instead of pizza — something you know that if you do it, you’ll be better off. Hard in a Oh-God-I’m-totally-sucking-at-this-and-feel-like-I’m-rehashing-blog-content-and-they’re-going-to-ask-for-my-advance-back-except-I’ve-already-spent-it-on-my-supplies-and-summer-camps-and-maybe-I-should-use-a-pseudonym sort of way. Every time I hint that this whole book business isn’t all kumbaya, I feel horrible and that I ought to be extolling how lucky I am and how great it is. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a dream actualized, but I’ve done and am doing a few things I don’t recommend for anyone else.

For one, I agreed to produce something in a timeframe that I knew was super tight, ignoring that I’m not twenty anymore when I could churn out 50-page papers without sleeping for days. Starting in the summer was also a terrible move – camps aren’t cheap. Then my perfectionist self started to weasel itself into everything I did, and the joy of creating steadily leaked out, leaving an engulfing sense of ennui. I began comparing myself to everyone who’s ever written a book, and let me tell you, that’s a buzz kill in every way. I was riddled with this need to prove myself and then my brain would shut down from feeling inadequate. Basically, I’m taking myself way too seriously. And that’s never a good idea.

Luckily, my editor seems to have telepathic powers and offered me an extension on my first major deadline and a little extra time in general. I was so grateful as I was panicking that I was going to turn in something I wasn’t at all proud of, and that would have sent me over the edge. I glommed onto this gift of time and decided I needed a major shift. I had to get back into my kaizen mode again, which is what made blogging and sewing and everything else so fun and gratifying. The thing is, when I’m disgruntled while making something, I can pretty much guarantee that it’ll be fit for no one.

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So I’ve been enjoying the last days of summer with my family and friends, hanging out in coffee shops writing, painting/drawing, reading, exercising, sewing and organizing. This little reference sheet is something I’ve been yearning to do for months. I cut out the little labels that the watercolor pans come wrapped in, stuck them on cold press paper and added little painted splotches so I can match up the colors with their names. It pleases me that it’s a little wonky and uneven, but it’s functional and (I think) beautiful. The set itself is gorgeous. The watercolor half pans come in a wooden case with a ceramic mixing dish. I feel extra fancy when painting with this set filled with a whopping 70 colors.

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After neglecting my tolerations list for several months, I finally tackled quite a few items this week: fully rearranged and streamlined the master bedroom closet; K and I finished painting the living room trim that I left half-undone 12 months (!!) ago. Ticking these items off of my list makes me breathe easier, inches life forward in small measured improvements.

I’m working on the book too, and not just cavorting in the sunlight or busying myself with freewheeling and unessential projects, but I can tell that pairing the book-making with tried-n-true activities that add a dose of kaizen is helping me slowly but surely regain the enthusiasm that was waning. I heard this quote by Brené  Brown the other day: “Don’t puff up, don’t shrink, just be yourself”. It’s her mantra, and I just might have to steal it. I was trying to puff up in trying to act as though I know what I’m doing with this behemoth book project (or at least it feels that way to me), then I shrunk into a puddle of excessive self-doubt, but all I can do is be myself and hold onto what I know to be worthwhile.

Why is that so hard to remember?

In lieu of a haiku, here’s a poem K wrote for me this week. It just about sums everything up:

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Our minds are as wide as the universe

Our thoughts will come and go. The sun may rise
The wind may whisper but love is deeper than the ocean below.
The song of heaven the angels sing.  good Things
The future will bring. I feel Love. My heart is touched
I have a person Loved.*

*I took the liberty of editing it just a touch.

P.S. I’ll continue with the M-W-F schedule just a little longer, but you just might see me back here daily again soon…

 

 

Sewing for Me: FrankenIkat

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Limitations. I’ve been mulling over the multi-faceted limitations I stumble upon daily. Alright, so that’s kind of an overwrought statement, since I am sharing just a simple tank top today. But this was a simple tank top borne out of limitations.

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It looks like it was designed this way, right? Actually, yes, that cutout is part of the pattern and it’s the reason I wanted to make it. I’m all about interesting back details. M tells me I have a nice back, and it’s important to play up our assets, I believe. And I’m not talking about the booty variety, because the same man who gushes about my back also tells me that it looks like someone shot off my hiney, leveling it to utter flatness. He’s observant like that, and I have to agree. The limitation I’m referring to is the colorblock that I tend to incorporate time and time and time again because I don’t have enough of a particular fabric.

I end up loving the frankensteined versions significantly more than if I’d been able to make the entire top or dress or whatever out of a single fabric which is my de facto sewing style. In this case, the fabric in question is a scrap of ikat my mom brought me when she visited. It might be vintage, it might not, but it begged to be used. It’s quite thick as far as cottons go, so the felled-seam-esque method of sewing the back pieces resulted in serious bulk, and I had to hand-stitch to catch some parts that came loose. The black fabric is some kind of viscose-y, rayon-y substrate, but has enough heft to be paired with the cotton.

frankenikat3I adore this tank top so much. I learned from past mistakes of oversized end products and cut out a size 12 (I usually cut out 14) — this was also motivated by a desire to use as little fabric as possible. A good thing, too, since the fit is terrific. I’m impressed with the design because I’m wearing a regular bra that’s perfectly hidden despite the generous open square in the middle of my back. This rarely happens with ready-to-wear for me. I always have bra straps hanging out all over the place.

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I do think the front armhole curves (arm scythe?) are a little too deep for my taste, as I don’t think that’s a particularly flattering part of my body that should be exposed (it gets a little flubbery there and nope, that’s not a real word. It’s a combo of blubbery and fluffy).

Still, my point is that limitations can be surprisingly liberating and I’m pretty sure it encourages more creativity, as long as whatever is limiting isn’t debilitating. Botched philosophical attempts aside, I’m glad I have a new tank top to see me through the end of summer!

Monday Outfit: A Little on the Wild Side

fn-wildside-outfit8 Good morning! I’m starting off the week with a myriad of bright colors — something you don’t often see here. Fun, no? This is the last batch of fabrics I received from sweet Frances, and what makes these extra special is that K was lucky enough to select them herself.

Do you see a theme? Zebras and tigers (or cheetahs?) and giraffes, oh my! K is a huge fan of animals on her clothing. These two prints are from the Safari Moon collection and without hesitation, K pointed to the two-headed zebras first and then the turquoise menagerie. One thing I noticed about the hand of these fabrics is that they feel more like traditional quilting cotton than the other fabrics I’ve featured here and here.

Anyway, I’m continuing to sew my way through my new favorite Japanese pattern book, and I had an inkling that the zebras would fare nicely in the form of a “French Tuck Blouse”.

My version:

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The book’s version:

tsukutte-tuckfrenchblouseI do love the simplicity of the white cotton used for the model above, but the colorful print is working, I think. I cut the size 130cm, which I’ve officially determined is just right for K, and the only change I made was to add three inches to the length so the top will last longer.

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I wish I’d centered the zebras a bit better on both the front and back, but due to the large pleats, I didn’t want to awkwardly cut off the zebras too much…not too shabby a job, I’d say. K thinks it’s fabulous.

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Moving along to the turquoise sleeveless top:

fn-wildside-outfit6From a distance, it seems as though this print is just your run-of-the-mill floral, but the unexpected addition of the animals really drew both K and me in. The tank has a similar A-line silhouette as the tuck blouse, which is one of my favorite shapes these days. I’m also going through a mini piping phase, and wanted to add a subtle dimension to the neckline with some of the white piping I had in my stash:

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I love it. The back button is one of those blingy-bling faux diamonds, and this just sent K over the moon and she clutched the top to her with shining eyes when I first showed it to her (she chose the button for the zebra top, but lost interest when I asked her about the turquoise one). The pattern comes with a little chest pocket, but I didn’t have quite enough fabric to match up the pocket with the print, and I just couldn’t have a glaringly obvious pocket now, could I?

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I’d like to point out how proud I am of the button loops. Those things always give me such a headache, and I often spend an inordinately long time trying to turn them right side out, but I seem to have finally cottoned on to how to use this tool, and it was a snap.

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For this tank top, you might have noticed that the back slit opening seems quite deep, and you would be right. It’s because I got confused with the way the facings were supposed to be sewn (there was a lot of flipping and turning, and I just tried to figure it out on my own after a while). I actually like the extra long slit — it’s a design element, as I like to call all of my mistakes. You might have also noticed that compared to the book photo, the one I made seems longer, and yes, I added three inches to the hem. Tops that can be worn for years = good.

I was in such a happy groove sewing these tops, and once I finished them, I couldn’t stand that I didn’t have pants or shorts to go with them. It’s a sickness, I tell you. K’s been loving the After School pants I hacked off to death, so I wanted to make her a similar pair.

Various fabrics were tossed this way and that and then I found a basket filled with pants that M decided he doesn’t like. They’re barely worn and I had been thinking I might be able to rejigger them into jeans for myself, but that seemed like a lot of work.

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Why not make a pair of shorts (or “half pants” as they’re called in this book) instead?

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The dark wash denim is lovely for these, and I’m glad I finally made some more versatile shorts. It’s been on my to-do list forever and the guilt was almost unbearable. Note: the jeans you saw are a different pair from the one I ended up using, but the style is the same. For some reason, M bought multiples of these pants he now abhors.

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Speaking of shopping, this past weekend we hit the end-of-summer sales and found these Saltwater sandals and a pair of aqua Converse sneakers for a steal. A very productive weekend, indeed!

Thank you, Frances, for all the wonderful fabric. So, so much fun!

 

Happy Friday + Randomness

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Happy Friday! It can’t possibly less than two weeks until school starts for K. I have no recollection of the last month, and more to the point, I don’t know if I can sew up a new backpack/school bag for K for third grade in the remaining time. When I sat her down and told her that we might have to go BUY one, she was crushed. “But what about last year’s??” she asked. Apparently, the Oliver + S messenger bag I made last year was a huge hit amongst her classmates, and she loved telling everyone that it was handmade. It got pretty beat up and the shape didn’t hold up as well as I’d hoped. And really, that bag was a serious commitment, and I’m not sure I have it in me to make it again.

But never say never, perhaps I’ll surprise myself.

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K on profanity:

“Mama, I love saying the word ‘fox’. It sounds like a bad word, but it’s perfectly okay to say it.”*

*I recently discovered that she knows way more curse words than I thought. Then again, she thinks “darn” is a horrifyingly taboo word, so it’s very endearing.

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Have a lovely, lovely weekend, friends! My haiku is embedded in the illustration above, so instead here’s an illustration of autumnal fruits [shaking my head that summer vacation's practically over].

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Sewing for Me: Frances Newcombe (Part 2) Meets Darling Ranges

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The thousand yard stare….perhaps it looks like I’m contemplating the plight of the impending world financial crisis or maybe it merely looks like I’m making a mental grocery list. In fact, I’m thinking, “What IS that brownish spot on my curtain?”

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A picture is worth a thousand words they say, but this one sums it up in six: “Stay down, poufy stomach, stay down!”

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The theme is ‘thousand’, it seems, and I have thousands upon thousands of these “what’s going on here?” shots of myself from these past couple of years. I was pretty satisfied with the one above, and then I realized that I forgot the middle button. I have roughly 500 shots of me with that middle button unbuttoned. Nice. I could have Photoshopped it in, but we keep it real here, folks.

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There, that’s better. All buttoned up.

So this is the world famous Darling Ranges Dress by Megan Nielsen that’s been around for some time. The sophisticated dark grey abstract print on a cream background was gifted to me by the textile designer herself, Frances Newcombe. It’s called En Route Sable, and I couldn’t settle on this colorway that you see, or the darker En Route Gravel. In retrospect, I feel like the Gravel would have been a better choice, but it’s still a great dress and the fabric was a dream to work with. I’m really digging the Art Gallery cottons.

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Since I only had two yards, I had to do away with the sleeves and there are a few other modifications I’ll need to incorporate if I make this again (and I’d like to. Very much):

1. Lower the dart apex. Currently, they’re floating somewhere high above where they should be, and none of my push-up, underwire bras were up to the task.

2. Cut out the bodice one size up. I tried the medium based on the measurements, but quickly saw that the 5/8-inch seam allowance was going to make it way too small. I used a 3/8-inch seam allowance instead, and the fit isn’t bad, but you can see the gaping happening between the buttons below. Then again, maybe adjusting the darts will fix the problem.

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3. Add a couple of inches to the bodice. Forgot — as I so often do – about my loooong torso.

But these are really pretty minor changes and I think the dress is awesome. It’s casual enough for daily wear, yet pulled together enough that it could be dressed up for fancier occasions or worn to work. And I love dresses with pockets!

I leave you with another slightly awkwardly-posed photo (I think I was in the process of putting my hands back into the pockets), but at least I look happy, which is how this fabric and dress make me feel. And bonus: when K and I swung by the library to get her some more choose-your-own-adventure books, the librarian was oh so complimentary about my dress. Librarian-approved!

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Monday Outfit: Frances Newcombe Fabric Part 1

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Good morning! Did you have a good weekend? I hope so! This weekend I upheld a couple of promises. First, the enormously talented Frances Newcombe had sent me a generous amount of fabrics from her various Art Gallery collections, and who refuses free fabric to sew up into cute clothes? No one in this household, that’s for sure. Especially when beautiful neutrals (perfect for me) and fun, color-infused prints (perfect for K) are involved? I love them, and over the next few weeks, you’ll be seeing quite a few outfits featuring Frances’ textiles.

My second promise to myself was to sew as many things from the book I featured last week. Obviously, I stitched up the same dress as the one on the cover:

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I decided to save the colorful prints for next week and dove into the simple yet whimsical Les Points Powder from the Cherie Bonjour Line (it tickles my inner francophile that all the names are in French). Originally, I intended to make a top for myself, but K saw the fabric in my lap as I browsed through my patterns and asked if I would make a dress for her instead. I’d forgotten how much she likes black and white.

fn-bw-piping-dress2 fn-bw-piping-dress3The drape of the fabric is just lovely. It sort of toes the line between quilting cotton and cotton voile with a gentle fluidity that can be crisply pressed.

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I cut out the largest size of 130cm, and it looked gigantic. And I also didn’t have quite enough fabric. Frances gave me about two yards, and I used it all up but still had to reduce the skirt length by almost 5 inches! I reduced the width by a couple of inches too since I didn’t think it needed to be gathered that much. I lined the bodice with a very sheer batiste cotton and that was a good move since if I’d used the same fabric as lining, the print would have shown through.

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Huh, it’s interesting that K doesn’t look like she’s drowning in the dress; I really couldn’t believe how much fabric was required for this. You can see above that when K spreads out her arms, the bodice is indeed extremely wide, but I guess I just have to face the fact that my little girl is not so little anymore.

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The dress would have been darling as is without any embellishments, but I had a sudden hankering to add piping, and I’m so glad I did. Doesn’t it just take it up a notch? The little green button adds a dash of color that is sweet. Black piping would have probably been better, but all I had was navy, so navy it was.

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Everything came together easily, but I somehow managed to completely skip the inseam pockets. I even had them cut out and ready to go! No biggie, since K hasn’t been all that into pockets these days. She’s crooning some Selena Gomez tune up there: “Who says, who says you’re not worth it, who says you’re not perfect, who says you’re not byuuuuuuuuuteeefulll???”

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“Who says?” I say she’s looking pretty beautiful.

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All in all, a success! You just can’t go wrong with dots and dashes, and I can’t wait to show you more of Frances’ fabrics. She has a great range of styles, and as someone not-so-secretly hoping to get into textile design one day, I want to find out so much about the process and production side of things. I’m hoping Frances will let me pick her brain in the near future, but for now I feel so lucky to have the chance to play with such gorgeous fabric.

P.S. K corrected me when I called that thing her megaphone – it’s a microphone that she made.

Happy Friday + Randomness

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My mom left Tuesday, and we’ve been off kilter  – it’s how we always get after her visits. K’s emotions spiral out of control, I get flummoxed with having to cook again (yes, my mom cooks the entire time she visits. It’s her thing) and after speaking so much Japanese, I tend to get thrown off for some reason. M laments that we can’t have impromptu date nights and is disappointed that I’m back in charge of meals.

This visit was slightly different in that we took a number of little trips and had big events: K’s birthday bonanza full of drama (more on that another time), a 24-hour Portland tour via AmTrak, a day spent at a nearby island. The photo above was taken at KVI Beach on Vashon Island. We loved it. On the ferry over, she challenged K to a fierce arm wrestling match:

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My mom is eccentric and she wears her eccentricity proudly and boldly. Maybe it’s because she’s an artist, but she’s incapable of being anyone but herself, and when I was a kid, this was a source of constant embarrassment for me. Our house was the only one I knew where innumerable completed and in-progress canvases obscured furniture and we literally had to leap over her artwork to get from one room to another. Her daily uniform was (and still is) a paint-splattered t-shirt and polka dot shorts.

She rarely abides by rules, especially when she doesn’t think they make sense. I remember traveling through Europe when I was about eleven, and my mom maddeningly wanted to picnic in off-limits areas. Undaunted by watching eyes, she plunked herself on a grassy field that was clearly closed off and busted out a camp stove to boil water for instant miso soup in the middle of Spain (or at least I think it was Spain, it might have been France. Either way, I was mortified). She did this while munching on rice balls that always seemed to magically appear at picnics.

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As I grew older, I began to appreciate this almost complete disregard for other people’s opinions. I used to think it was because she was an immigrant and didn’t understand the Western cultural subtleties, but no, from the stories she tells me of her youth in Japan, she’s always been this way. Sure, she had her insecurities and probably still does, though she doesn’t show them to me. I believe she possesses a rare sort of self-confidence and comfort with herself.  It’s the reason that I’m drawn to people who are like her: settled in their uniqueness, even oddness – the kind of people who don’t try to hide who they are. Because let’s face it: we’re all weird.

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She has strong opinions. Above she’s imitating my poses when I take photos of my handmade clothes. “Why are you always looking down? Stop standing pigeon-toed!!” She’s not one to mince words, and when I was super sick a couple of years ago, she told me that I looked like death threw up all over me. She was right.

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Though she’s lived in Los Angeles longer than she had in Tokyo at this point, she still retains many distinctly Japanese traits – like covering her mouth when she laughs (not always, but often) and wearing stiff slippers made out of a strange, cardboard-like substance when indoors. She teaches K so much. Not just the Japanese language, but how to live, how to observe the colors and textures and shapes and the very essence of the world. She shows K how to enjoy each day, because no one can celebrate the simple pleasures like my mother.

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My mom has a whopper of a life story, and my hope is that one day she’ll let me tell it in full. Her tale has everything: love and loss and romance and scandal and adventure and rollicking humor. And a lot of instant miso soup and rice balls.

For a woman who barely stands five feet tall, she can leave a gargantuan hole of emptiness when she leaves.

Ba-chan has gone home
Three weeks slipped away too fast
I miss all the laughs

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Happy weekend, everyone!! Thank you for all the stress-relieving ideas; I loved reading every single one and found myself nodding enthusiastically and making mental notes to incorporate many of the suggestions. The winner of the giveaway is Anita. Congrats!!

 

Sewing for Me: The Summer Salvation Dress (aka The Tent Dress) + Quick Tutorial

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Today, I give you the one-hour tent dress. This was a completely unplanned sewing project, and I’m pretty sure that if I saw this on a hanger in a store, I would dismiss it as shapeless and unflattering. Then again, I so often feel like my signature style is the muu muu, and this muu muu has been saving me from the hotter-than-normal days we’ve been having here in the Pacific Northwest. It hit 90 degrees on Monday, which meant that it was about 110 degrees in our un-air-conditioned house. Not fun.

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I needed something that wouldn’t cling incessantly or broil me alive as I tried not to wilt into oblivion, and this trapeze-style dress was the answer. I don’t care if it makes me look like I’m carrying quadruplets; I love love love it.

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There’s really not a whole lot to this self-drafted garment. I grabbed a bodice pattern piece lying around on my cutting table and loosely traced it onto this ribbed heather grey jersey then extended the side into a trapezoidal configuration. I figured the hem would become slightly asymmetrical — I was right, and I like it. I cut three strips (1-inch wide) for the neckline and armholes running parallel to the width of the fabric to get the necessary stretchiness and bam, sixty minutes later, I was lounging in the world’s most comfortable dress. Using a rotary cutter really speeds things up and I didn’t even bother hemming the bottom. If you can tell, exacting measurements weren’t going on here and I relied on a heavy dose of eyeballing. Not bad for a slapdash effort, I’d say.

Okay, if I were to do it over again, I wouldn’t make the neck quite as scooped, but it looks intentional so I’m going with it. I even added a little pocket, mainly to remind which side is the front.

I’m thinking I might need a color-blocked Summer Salvation Dress – what do you think?

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I created a bare bones, loosey goosey tutorial graphic for quick reference on how to construct a similar dress. It still needs to be refined, but it gives you the general idea.

What you’ll need:

- About two yards of knit fabric. Mine is a ribbed cotton jersey with a touch of  spandex. It has a nice drape but isn’t too thin
- Coordinating thread
- Ball point or stretch needle

I own a serger/overlocker which is great for knits, but I actually like to use my sewing machine zig zag stitch (width reduced to about 1.5mm and length increased to 3mm) to sew the seams and then I finish the raw edges with my serger. I do this because I’ve had problems with my overlocked seams unraveling easily in the past. Note: the finishing is optional since knit fabrics won’t fray. If I hadn’t taken the extra step of overlocking the shoulders, sides, neckline and arm holes, this might have been a 30-minute dress….

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For reference on how to attach binding for the neck, this is an excellent tutorial. I used the same method for the armholes.

Viva la tent dress!

 

 

 

Monday Outfit: A Little Lace, A Little Boho + Giveaway! [CLOSED]

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Good morning! Has it really been two weeks? It’s all a muddled blur in my mind now and I’m still racing against the clock to get stuff done, but I’m happy to report that I’ve been working hard behind the scenes, but I’ve been playing hard too (in a boringly wholesome way, I should clarify – no tossing back of jagermeister jello shots or misguided pole dancing involved).

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I have a lot to share, but for today, I’m going to focus on this li’l outfit. It’s from this new book I got as part of my birthday stash:

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I’m officially in love with this book. I want to make every single thing from it, and what with the hubbub of back-to-school ads inundating me at every turn, I may just try to sew exclusively from this book for the next few weeks — my newly minted eight-year-old needs a bunch of Fall clothes. The book has a wide range of adorable woven and knit patterns and some good solid basics along with pure frivolity like a faux fur vest. Who doesn’t love a good fur vest?

But more on the book later. K and I browsed through it together, and I asked her if anything struck her fancy. She immediately stopped me on this page:

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“But can you make the skirt extra long? With that pink fabric from Ba-chan?” she asked. But of course.

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The pink fabric from Ba-chan turned out to be a rather small piece, and I had to make quite a few adjustments, but it was as though this skirt was meant to be made from this bright textile with a distinctly ethnic/boho vibe. Except for a two-inch strip I had to cut to straighten the fabric, I used the entire thing. Here are the changes I made:

- I had to turn the fabric crossgrain to get the length she wanted (i.e. imagine that each of those shapes is a jeweled sweet potato – the “correct” way to use the fabric is to have them line up side by side wider than it is tall, how a potato would naturally rest on a surface; instead, the way I used the fabric makes it look like all the potatoes are magically held upright). I also used the wrong side facing outward because the other side had a lot more flourishes and busy design elements.

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- I kept the more decorative section you see above straight grain and lengthened this section by about an inch too.

- The fabric is quite sheer (a cotton voile, maybe?) so I added a quick poly lining. K loves the extra swishiness the lining gives the skirt. I was displeased by how the elastic kept shifting in the casing, so I ended up zigzag stitching the elastic to the casing at the top to secure it. Not the most elegant solution, but it works.

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As for this charming lace-trimmed top, swiss dot was the obvious choice. I’ve had this pretty white summery-ness for a long time…I have a thing for sheer fabrics, I’ve realized, and to keep the top from immodesty, I underlined the front cross-over pieces with the same swiss dot fabric. Easy. The cotton lace is also from my mom, and wouldn’t you know it, I had just enough for the top. Kismet all over the place.

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K’s super happy with this ensemble and it warranted a dance.

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So. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking these last few days, and I had to make some choices. Working on two books is an honor and a privilege, but I’m no Beyonce, and my 24 hours is sadly inadequate for my to-do list, which I’m sure is about 1/10,000th of Beyonce’s.

But not keeping up the blog space is a little like asking me to stop shaving my legs – smooth legs are not strictly an evolutionary necessity, but it’s part of my non-negotiable routine (and you know how I love my routines) and somehow it makes me feel more put together and better in a general sense. Plus I have the kind of overactive follicles that require strict maintenance, and things tend to spiral out of control quickly. I’m afraid that once I stop, I’ll be so overwhelmed that I’ll just give up and let myself have yeti legs, so the extra effort is totally worth it to me even in the dead of winter. I wish I could have come up with a deeper, classier analogy, but this pretty much represents my state of mind: scattered and a bit off the mark and obsessed with hair. My goal is to test out a Monday-Wednesday-Friday blog schedule for the rest of the year (my final manuscript for the sewing book is due December 15th). Let’s see how this works, shall we?

I almost forgot! The giveaway! See how out of practice I already am? Due to a series of circumstances, I ended up with an extra copy of this lovely book I’m planning to sew a lot from. I don’t need two copies, naturally, so I thought one of you would like it?

To enter the giveaway, please leave me a comment with your best stress-busting tactics. Are you a yogi? A meditator? A cleaning machine? Baking used to be my favorite way to de-stress, but the caloric overload added more stress so I’ve cut way back on it. I still hate to exercise, but I’m slowly incorporating it more regularly.

The giveaway will be open until this Thursday, August 14th and I’ll announce the winner the next day. International participants are welcome, of course! Good luck!

P.S. I’m catching up on comments….thank you for all the loveliness!

Children’s Book Process (My Version) + Time Off

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This is a portion of one of the cover options for my children’s book that’s coming out next April. Things are still getting tweaked and finalized so I’ll wait a while to reveal more of the actual book — it’s funny, it takes such a long time for a book to get published, many of the aspects start to get hazy for me. The final cover ended up looking very different from what you see above, but this was my favorite concept I presented. Although I was gung ho about this design, I do love how the final version turned out.

At this point, I’ve submitted pretty much all of my illustrations and today, I thought I would share the process I went through from the beginning to now. Mostly it’s because I’m already forgetting details (I had to refer back to a lot of documents and correspondences for this post) and it would be a helpful reference for me. I should point out that my experience may not be typical; I don’t have an agent and I worked on both the story and illustrations, something that is not de rigueur in the children’s book publishing world from what I understand. I assume the structure and sequence of events are a little different with every book, and the one I’m working on now is proving to be a completely different process.

The progression from a seedling idea to completed manuscript/art was incredibly enjoyable throughout. My editor is so sweet, and I particularly appreciated that she sent me a little care package filled with teas and chocolates for extra fortification during one of the deadline periods. I love small gestures of considerateness like that.

It’s rather text heavy today – I tried to create illustrations on the train back to Seattle, but the swaying resulted in motion sickness so I had to stop. So here’s how it’s been shaking out for me, for the children’s book:

Step 1: August + September 2013 // Brainstorm of ideas

I mentioned my serendipitous encounter with my editor before, and after a brief initial meeting with her, I took some time and came up with about fifteen book concepts with a short description for each idea. It turned out that my top choice was also her top choice, so that part was easy.

Step 2: October + November 2013 // The Storyboard + Proposal

Since this would be my first book, my editor encouraged me to create a storyboard to give the publisher a better sense of the storyline/flow of images. I was provided the layout and number of pages for the storyboard, so it was essentially drawing and writing out the entire book in miniature form. Once I completed the storyboard along with color illustration examples, my editor took it to her team to pitch the book.

Step 3: December 2013 // The Book Deal

Fortuitously, the book proposal was quickly accepted and I then negotiated terms, which included the advance payment amount, royalty percentages, the deadlines (how long it would take me to complete the book and milestone dates), and design elements such as size of book, whether I wanted a dust jacket, type of paper, etc. I agreed to complete the book in six months and it was just the right amount of time. This is the part that an agent would usually handle.

The contract was drafted and sent to me. Once a contract is signed though, it takes a while for the check to be issued. It was about a month after signing the contract that I received the first half of the advance. The second half is issued upon completion of the book.

Step 4: February + March 2014 // Cover Art Sketches + Detailed Sketches + Manuscript

I designed six different cover options for review. These went through a round of revisions, and I believe I ended up creating about 10 cover versions total. Since the cover gets included in catalogs for book buyers, it needs to be dealt with upfront. It isn’t set in stone at this stage, and ultimately we changed the cover a lot.

I also needed to provide detailed sketches of the rest of the book in full size for approval. The first couple of months are usually spent on developing the storyboard and the detailed sketches, but since I’d already done the storyboard — which was approved with little changes — this step was pretty effortless. I leisurely worked on the sketches over a two-week period. I also finalized the text with my editor, though we continued to fiddle with it for months.

Step 5: May + June 2014 // Final Art

Based on the detailed sketches that were approved, it was now time for me to work on the final art. I had created all my sketches digitally, but I hand-painted the final illustrations. I LOVED this part. It was so gratifying to watch the images come to life from the greyscale sketches. This portion took me about three weeks. Because my book is quite small, the illustration phase was pretty quick. Had the book been larger in dimension, I would have needed to spend more time on the art.

Step 6: July + August 2014 // Revisions/Updates/Miscellaneous illustrations

This is the phase I’m currently in. Everything has been submitted except for the back cover art, but I’m waiting on specifications for that. I’ve received the final cover mock-up from the design department (with my name in the lower right corner!! So exciting!) and am waiting for the rest of the book with text formatted from the design department so I can go over it with a fine tooth comb. I’ve also painted illustrations for endpapers (the section that is glued to the inner part of the cover), title page, and dedication segment.

Step 7: September 2014 // Book Goes to Print!

Hooray!

Step 8: April 2015 // Available for Sale

I’m a little fuzzy on what happens between printing the book and making it available for sale, but these are the dates in the calendar for now.

Wow. 19 months from idea to public release. For someone used to hitting a button for instant publishing, it sounds inconceivably long. But almost there!! Sort of. Thrilling nonetheless.

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I’m in the throes of book #2, and although I’ve done my level best to keep up with everything going on and sort of managing, I’ve had to sit myself down and (yet again) give myself a stern talking to about my tendency to go overboard. Did you know that I was trying to launch an etsy shop too? I thought it would be cute to open it on K’s birthday, July 30th. Yep, that’s tomorrow. Let’s all laugh together about that one. I’m starting to feel familiar symptoms of my illness again, and it’s entirely my fault. In order to remain on schedule for the book and to keep excessive stress at bay, I’m so bummed but I’m going to have to take some time off from this here blog that I love to work on so much. My attention feels too divided and I need all the focus I can get…I’m letting go of a lot of stuff. For example, we’ll be celebrating K’s 8th birthday tomorrow but there may be no Macgyver dress (super sad face here) and the cupcakes will be store-bought (secretly happy face here since my handmade cupcakes aren’t always winners). I hope to be back Monday, August 11th with a fun post — maybe, just maybe, if I make some serious headway this week, I’ll be back next Monday. Either way, I’ll miss you!