correspondances estivales

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Some months ago, Isabelle of Lathelize invited me to be part of an utterly charming annual project of hers. She calls it “correspondances estivales”, which Google Translate mangled into “summer match”. Basically, it’s a handmade postcard exchange. Over an eight week period starting in early July, we are each assigned a different person for whom we create and mail out a postcard. The one you see above  I received from lovely Isabelle (a different Isabelle from the organizer, I’ve been informed, but no less lovely). Délicieux, no?

I don’t know about you, but I lament the decline of handwritten missives. I recently found a box of saved letters from my youth and was instantly transported to the past, emotions running high. One particular card from a dear, dear friend — the card was a Valentine’s Day one with a primitive illustration of two stick figure friends talking — lurched me into a state of unstoppable tears. She sent me the card while I was living in Japan, teaching English to high school students. She and I were roommates just before I left for my teaching position; we were actually roommates for almost six years. We’d met our Freshman year in the college dorms and immediately knew we were kindred spirits. People talk about chemistry in romantic situations all the time, but friendships have definitive chemistry too. We became good friends with two other girls and for the next three years the four of us lived together in various apartments. After graduation, she and I continued to live together in Los Angeles when the other girls moved on to other parts of the country. Our last shared apartment was ramshackle and disturbingly close to a strip club, but it was all we could afford at the time and oh, the adventures we had!

The card was filled with her signature hilarious escapades, but the words were tinged with sadness. I remembered how I sat in my little Japanese living quarters in the middle of a rice field reading her card from L.A., how viscerally I missed her and that rare kind of friendship in which you know you can be completely and unabashedly open with each other. As I get older, I find that it’s harder to find and keep those friendships, caught up as we are with marriage or raising kids or work or all of the above.

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All this to say, I’m so glad Isabelle is hosting this wonderful exchange of old timey communication. I sent a quick watercolor postcard to France (above), and I’m preparing to send my next one out:

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Thank you for including me, Isabelle! I think it would be fantastic if everyone spent a few minutes sending out a handwritten note to someone, anyone every once in a while. I love to see how people shape their letters, the quirks of their penmanship, the crossed out words. It connects us in a deeper way than any text or email or facebook comment, I believe. And connection…well, nothing quite measures up to authentic connection.

 

 

Down Memory Lane: Ba-chan Made

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Good morning! I’m here in Indianapolis enjoying my family vacation, and I wish I could say I have a new Monday outfit to share, but I didn’t get a chance to sew much last week (no surprise). However, my mom is coming to visit us in Seattle as soon as we get back from Indy, and I was thinking about all the little outfits she used to make K. I’ve posted the crazy story of my mother’s enthusiastic sewing turning into an art show before and you’ve seen the wizardry of her doll-clothes-making, but there were so many other clothes that never got the limelight it deserved.

Now, my mom and I have very different tastes. When K was a baby and even before I got into sewing, I used to clothe her in simple, understated garb like so:

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Occasionally I would get wild with a pretty print — I apologize that it looks like she’s flipping the bird here:

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But for my mom, there’s no such thing as too many embellishments:

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And no color or pattern is too bold (can you tell that she likes to add lace detailing?):

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She also knit sweaters and hats for K like the world was freezing over any second (and yes, she made that doll):

bachan-made10bachan-made12bachan-made11It was, of course, this grey number that I loved most (my mom complained bitterly about how boring it was, but she did it for me):

bachan-made13My mom tried her hand at making costumes too:

bachan-made14Friends, this is only just a teeny tiny representation of what she whipped up those early years….these photos are pre-DSLR from when K was 3 months to about 6 months, and I’m confident that she had the most abundant wardrobe known to man already at that point.

I’m excited to see what my mom will come up with while she’s in town. She always concocts something brazen and unexpected. Amazing, right?

 

 

Happy Friday + Randomness

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Adieu Seattle, for a week! Hello Indianapolis! Must rush to get about a jillion things done, so just a short haiku today:

Have a great weekend,
I’ll be out of town next week
Spotty postings, yes?

I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to post next week. I did, of course, have plans to schedule posts in advance, but the best laid plans…well, they weren’t laid out so well. At any rate, I’ll try!

And whoa, look who got a sleek bob:

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She’s looking very chic, especially with her new sandals that we found on sale:

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Bring on the Midwest humidity!

Sewing for Me: Camouflaged Coastal Breeze Dress + Giveaway! [CLOSED]

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Hey, it’s my turn for the Make It Perfect tour! Toni designs comfortable and good-lookin’ styles, and I was so excited to try out her patterns. She sent me the paper version of the Coastal Breeze dress, and oh, I love not having to piece together PDF sheets. I seem to always screw up when aligning PDF patterns and various sheets wind up completely off-kilter. Does that ever happen to you?

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Anyway, I’m a fan of Toni and Make It Perfect! This dress is fantastic. Really, I’m already planning on making several more because this is exactly the kind of dress I reach for time and time again. You just can’t go wrong with knit (this is a cotton/spandex blend from here), and the deeper scoop neck, wider waist band and subtle pleating and gathering makes this a very flattering silhouette, I’m of the opinion.

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So the thing about this fabric is that I had no idea it would look like camouflage. This, despite the fact that it said “camo” on the bolt. I just thought they were cool, variegated stripes.

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But I love it! I think the camo effect is unexpected and slightly edgy.

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Full disclosure: I didn’t follow the instructions. I did glance at them, and they looked straightforward enough, but I decided to use my now go-to method of attaching neckbands flat (so much nicer), and because I was serging the edges, I opted to baste together the waistband pieces wrong-side together and treated them as one piece. I did make a quick muslin vaguely following Toni’s instructions and decided my methods would be faster and the end result looks good.

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This came together quickly, though it didn’t feel like it in my 100-degree sewing room. It doesn’t normally get this hot in Seattle so early in July, and it makes sewing in an upstairs room challenging. Still, through oceans of sweat, I did my usual “Oh!!!!! It’s SO cuuuute!!!” proclamations to no one in particular. The only change I would make is to sew a small next time. This thin knit in a medium is a little too loose on me, but better loose than straitjacket, I say.

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So lucky you, my dear readers, Toni is offering a free giveaway of a Make It Perfect PDF pattern of your choice! To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment with…hmmmm….how about your summer uniform? Are you a strictly tank top and shorts person? A flirty maxi dress gal? A cardi and jeans down-under sort? I myself am all about the knit dress…I will leave the giveaway open until next Friday, July 18th and will contact the winner that weekend. Good luck!

And don’t forget to peruse the other gorgeous makes below. Thanks for letting me take part in the tour, Toni!

UPDATE: Congrats to Sandra, the winner!

 

The Make It Perfect Pattern Parade Virtual Catwalk introduces…

Travel Essentials

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I’m an overpacker. Always have been. When we went yurt camping last year, M derided me for insisting on bringing a rice cooker, but we totally used it, and I won’t apologize for my over-preparedness. Of course, I managed to not pack blankets or pillows, but only because the yurt website said that bedding was included (they were not. We had to make a jaunt to Walmart in the middle of our yurt trip so we wouldn’t freeze our buns off – glamping was never less glamorous).

We’re heading out to the Midwest this Saturday, so I’m starting to gather the necessities, and the urge to stuff our suitcases beyond capacity is niggling at me. As costs of air travel rise and amenities lessen, though, I’ve been reevaluating the way I pack. Normally, I would include several extra outfits, just in case. I’ve been known to haul seven pairs of shoes for a week-long vacay. Ditto for K. M tends to manage with very little.

I’m trying something new this time and paring down to the bare bones essentials. We’ll have access to a washing machine and dryer and in a pinch, strip malls and Target are only a stone’s throw away. As long as I have my extra eyewear, enough underwear, my non-negotiable gadgets (ipad, laptop, camera), a few key pieces of clothing and comfy shoes, I’m good to go. Oh, and a good book is critical.

What about you? Are you an expert packer? Any good tips on traveling light would be much appreciated!

Grit

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K is not in love with tennis camp. At least not in the way she was with skateboard camp. See that up there? That’s from this past weekend, and when she first started skateboarding about a couple of months ago, she could barely get a few inches up that ramp. Now she’ll glide all the way up and swivel turn down. She wants to go to the skate park whenever possible, and I might be biased, but I think she’s a natural. I wish I knew how to do stop motion with all my photos because she’s improved by leaps and bounds and can do tricks I couldn’t have even imagined.

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We kitted her out with her very own board and accoutrements, and she’s looking legit. She even wants to cut her hair short so it’s easier to skate (she says her longer hair distracts her). As an overprotective mother, I wish she’d chosen something less heart-stopping to fall in love with. Things like this make me want to swaddle her in bubble wrap and to scatter foam blocks all over the place:

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She tumbles over and over and over and over. Sometimes she’ll cry, but mostly she’ll sit it out for a while, contemplating how to do it better.

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It’s called grit. And perseverance.

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Falling is part of the game, and if you can get up and past it (safely, unbroken, please please please), you can reach higher and farther and better than you thought possible.

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I learn so much from my little girl. I, for one, could use some grit.

P.S. She’s decided that the matcha shorts are cool, and now she has five handmade things she’s willing to wear. That green knit top is in serious heavy rotation.

Monday Outfit: Tennis (or Badminton) Whites

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Good morning! Despite the rain, we powered through with our Fourth of July barbecue, and it was a jolly good time. We pitched in with the neighbors for a community ping pong table, which was a big hit at the party as expected.

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So today, I’m sharing an entirely self-drafted tennis dress I’ve been plotting for a while. K is starting tennis camp this week, and it seemed imperative that I make an appropriate outfit. Tennis holds a very special spot in my heart; about five billion years ago as a high schooler, I remember inexplicably wanting to join the tennis team the summer after my sophomore year. It didn’t matter that I’d never played the sport before — when I set my mind to do something, I don’t give up easily. One of my best friends had just made it onto the boys’ varsity tennis team, so I talked him into practicing with me. Almost every day, in the sweltering, smog-filled summer air of Los Angeles, he volleyed with me, patiently teaching me how to serve, how to slice the ball with my backhand, how to strategize. Thanks entirely to him, I aced the tryouts and made it onto the girls’ varsity team.

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I loved tennis. But my serves were so forceful and erratic that my doubles partner would step off to the side of the court so as not to get hit by the balls that were so frequently off-the-mark. I’ve pummeled many a partner in the hindquarters, which as you can imagine didn’t make me a very popular partner.

Propelled by my obsession with the sport, my first long-term job in high school was at a tennis store near my school, where the unconventional owner decided that a sixteen-year-old should be the manager of the clothing department (that would be me). It was there that I expressed a surprising rebellion. The store uniform was to wear classic white tennis skirts — you know, the super short kind. That was not okay with me, though it had less to do with feminism and more with self-consciousness. Part of the job entailed climbing frighteningly high, rickety ladders to access tennis shoes stored at the topmost area near the ceiling, and I didn’t want people (especially the cute guys stringing the rackets) ogling up my skirt. I refused to wear the skirt but conceded to wear denim Agassi shorts like the boys. No other female employee had ever refused, so I was quite pleased with my trailblazing ways.

There was also that time when the owner tasked me with depositing a boatload of cash and told me to take his jeep. I’d only just gotten my driver’s permit and didn’t know exactly how to drive a stick shift, but I figured, “How hard can it be?” It was a nightmare, and I still shake my head in disbelief that the owner let me take his car without adult supervision and that I somehow managed to drive the thing like a bucking horse to the bank and back. But I digress.

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The point is that in addition to the dress, I had to make matching shorts to wear underneath. These were self-drafted as well. I wanted K to use her actual tennis racket as a prop, but it was so huge that it threw off the proportions of things too much, so I switched it out with the daintier badminton racket.

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The fabric is a french terry from here (it doesn’t seem to be available online), and I didn’t realize that the fabric was in a tube until I started drafting my pattern. I used a 7-inch yellow zipper and the binding is more of the denim knit that I used for last week’s top. I had cut up a bunch of bias tapes for future use, and I’m glad I did.

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K likes it a lot, though she was puzzled by the zipper in the front. She insisted that it should be in the back:

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For an extra clean and neat finish, I hand-stitched the bias binding, and I think the accent color really pops. It took forever, but I stitched while watching Orphan Black– a reader suggestion and now I’m completely hooked (thank you Deana!) — so time went quickly. The show is so so good! Unlike K, I’m loving the sporty look of the exposed zipper in the front, and you’d think that by now, I would have this whole exposed zipper action down. I’d promised Asmita a tutorial, and surprise surprise, I discovered that I’m doing it all wrong, so I’m including a couple of video tutorials done right here and here. These two excellent tutorials will yield a much more professional-looking finish than my method, which is slapdash at best. To speed things up, you could do away with the interfacing, since I haven’t used interfacing and the zippers have been fine on the sturdier fabrics.

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So happy. This dress came out exactly the way I envisioned it, and that doesn’t happen as often as I’d like. Hooray! K’s now all ready for tennis camp, and she’s pumped!

Happy Friday + Randomness

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Happy Fourth of July! We’re celebrating with our neighbors as is our annual tradition and I can’t wait to watch the fireworks. The city closes down certain streets in our neighborhood for fireworks-viewing and throngs of people spread blankets on the road and settle in to watch the sky show held above the lake. That exciting, mildly illicit feeling of getting away with something courses through us when we sit smack dab in the middle of the street.

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Random.org tells me that the Skirt Book Giveaway winner is Ginger, congrats! Lots of introverts with a sprinkling of extroverts, it turns out.

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It’s been an eventful week. I’m always a little torn when writing about encounters with blogging friends and readers I’ve gotten to know through this blog space…it ends up feeling a little gloat-y, but at the same time, I can’t stop marveling at how genuine friendships have developed with people from around the globe. Not a lot of folks understand this obsession with sewing and crafting, so when I have the chance to gab about seam allowances and indie patterns and stitching tips and tricks, well — it’s pretty magnificent. This week, I was delighted to meet the awesome Lucinda (lucky duck, she just won the Japanese hoodie sew-along hosted by Elsie Marley and You and Mie), who is enormously talented and has been a bedrock of encouragement and support from almost the very beginning of my blogging shenanigans. She happened to be in Seattle for a family reunion, and just as I imagined, it was as though we’ve known each other for years when we found ourselves face-to-face (or at least it was that way for me). That gorgeous plant cozy is her handiwork, naturally, and she is unfailingly generous. She even brought a gift for K! Thank you, Lucinda – I had so much fun!!

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K on body hair:

Mama, it’s not fair. I wish I looked more like you and was less hairy. Man, Daddy DNA strikes again*.

*Poor M, he’s such a good sport and able to laugh at himself that he’s often the brunt of jokes. Anytime anything goes wrong or is weird, we have a habit of yelling out “Daddy DNA!”

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Wishing you a lovely, lovely weekend, friends!

Fireworks tonite
The sky will glow wondrously
Punctuates summer

Sewing for Me: McCall’s 6751

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Ikat. Something happens to me when the temperature rises, and I long to wear ikat. That’s a pretty nifty back, right? Can I just tell you that I continuously bias bound the entire top portion all the way around the neckline and the cross over straps and arm holes, and I believe that bias tape was at least 6 feet long?  It was taller than me, at any rate (I’m 5’4″).

From the front, it looks like a plain ole tank, made in a lovely chevron-patterned ikat that I got from here ages ago:

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I’m pretty keen on the back, a rather modern take on the pinafore:

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This is McCall’s 6751. I’m not sure why it looks so fitted on the model because this is definitely a loose tank top. I cut the size M and it has plenty of ease. Also, the instructions offer up the option to just fold over the edges all around instead of using bias binding, and that might account for why the straps are so much thinner and the keyhole much bigger in the envelope image. I’m glad my keyhole is tiny since it makes for an undergarment-friendly top. Well, when I say undergarment-friendly, I mean strapless-bra-friendly.

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This pattern requires only two pieces (and endless amounts of bias tape), so it was a pretty quick project. I decided to be smart and added three inches to the hem because I always forget to account for my lengthy torso. But I only did that for the front bodice piece and completely forgot about the back (so much for being smart). Not to worry, I just rounded out the edges of the front bodice so now it’s even more reminiscent of the Wiksten:

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It actually worked out great, and I love the length of the front piece. The back length isn’t too shabby either. Lo-Hi! This style will spread like wild fire, I’m sure. Overall, I like this top very much, but I’ll admit to being in a hurry to finish it since I had to get K from camp and thought I could whip it out in the scant two hours I had available. That bias tape killed me. Clip and grade your curved seams, my friends, as our wise maven of excellent sewing tutorials tells us. Otherwise, you end up with a neckline that doesn’t lay flat like mine and it outs you as a sloppy home sewer. Fortunately, it’s not too noticeable, but the other lesson in this is never to rush your sewing projects. Still, I’ll chalk this one up as a semi-success, and I think I might give this top a go in a jersey knit next time. What do you think?

Sewing Plans for K

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Now that both K’s and my wardrobes are entirely DIY’d (incidentally, am I the only one who has trouble saying DIY aloud? I always want to pronounce it “Dee-Ee-Why”), I find myself sketching a lot of potential sewing projects. I deviate from my plans more often than not, especially with K’s stuff, but it’s helpful to consider the holes in her wardrobe so that I’m not spending time on yet another linen dress that will never see the light of day.

What she needs are shorts, and lots of them. All the ones I made last year are beyond risque at this point, and Hooters will be dropping off an application for her at any moment. She also needs a mountain of knit clothing, but I might throw in some cotton too (preferably white eyelet). By the end of summer, I might be a knit expert. We’ll see. Almost everything in the image up there I plan to make in stretchy substrate; some are from Japanese sewing books, others I intend to draft myself. I hope to post them (and a few others I have in the works but didn’t sketch) in the coming weeks. I’m extra motivated to sew like a madwoman to have an easy-to-pack set of clothes for our upcoming Indiana trip. Wovens, as beautiful as they can be, are a pain to travel with.

While we’re on the topic of self-drafted clothes, K has officially put in her request for this year’s birthday dress (it’s coming up at the end of the month! How????). Last year, I wasn’t able to carry out my mission because I just couldn’t risk messing up a perfectly lovely all-white dress. Here’s her sketch for this year:

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She explained that it’s to be an all-black dress with fireworks and moons and stars. She wants it to be a Macgyver dress with sleeves that can be long, medium or short, adjustable via a piece of thread attached to the sleeve edge (?). And then there’s some doohicky that makes a cape appear out of nowhere. It sounds complicated and a touch beyond my skill level.

Shall we place bets on how many I’ll actually get done (not including the bday dress)? I’m guesstimating five things between now and July 12th, when we set foot on the plane.

P.S. Surprisingly, I’m sticking pretty faithfully to my own sewing plans!