January Round-Up

Hello, hello! This is my first post of 2021, though it’s already the end of the month. How’s 2021 going for you so far?

I’ve been trying something new over on Instagram. I’ve never been on much of a schedule with IG in the past, but I thought it might be fun to stick to a twice-a-week posting regimen to see how long I can keep it up. My aim is to practice surface pattern designs and to establish a weekly sewing habit (i.e. sewing for myself — sewing for K when she was little was much, much easier). I like to do this sort of thing. Routines + skills-and-habit-building is my jam.

I’ve done pretty well for January. Since I know that social media isn’t everyone’s thing, I’m going to do monthly round-ups of my Instagram posts right here on the blog.

SURFACE PATTERN DESIGNS

At first, I was going to just share a pattern which is what I did the first week, but then I came across a tutorial on how to make surface pattern design mock-ups/prototypes and in my usual manner, I got obsessed. How cool is it to see a product with the design?? Here are the designs and mock-ups from January:

WEEKLY SEWING

I was a little nervous about starting a weekly sewing habit. I’d attempted this several times in years past, and always failed. However, I’ve been sewing so much in preparation for my next book that I’m pretty darn speedy now, which gave me the boost to try once again. A big part of the incentive to sew for myself is not only to continually improve my skills but also to finally make a significant dent in my fabric stash. The enormity of my stash has been weighing heavily on me physically and conscience-wise for what seems like an eternity. I’m using a good chunk of fabric from my stash for the book, but there’s so much that just won’t fit with the book aesthetic or that I don’t have enough yardage of, so that’s where personal sewing comes in. I may sew some for K too, but it’s been about 50/50 in terms of meeting her approval since her standards are WAY higher than mine when it comes to quality control.

So far, I’ve been able to create something every week. I’m getting into the groove, my friends! I can’t help but notice that no matter how many hours and days and weeks and months and years of practice I have under my belt, I rarely have an error-free sewing project. I misread instructions or sew the wrong parts together or cut out incorrect pattern pieces. 99% of the time, the sewn items come out just fine in the end. Or maybe my standards are really low, so they seem fine to me. Whatever the case, the mistakes are less and less frustrating.

Anyhow, here are the things I sewed for the month of January:

Vogue 9275 View C in French Terry + Self-drafted leggings in performance knit

Japanese-style apron from this book (size L) in herringbone linen.

 

Style Arc Brooklyn Knit Top (size 10) in sherpa knit + Anna Allen Persephone Pants (size 10) in lightweight denim

Merchant and Mills Landgate Jacket (size M) in a thick-ish, nylon raincoat material…I think. I’ve had this fabric in my stash for at least six or seven years and can’t even remember where I got it from. I also made a pair of self-drafted slim-fitting corduroy pants.

Okay! That’s it for this month, and I’m excited to see what I end up creating for February!

P.S. I’ve gotten a few inquiries about the Secret Valentine Exchange and sadly, it won’t be happening this year again. I can’t take care of all the administrative tasks by myself, I’ve realized, especially with my current book deadlines. I’ll continue to rack my brain to make it happen for next year (fingers crossed!)

Tyra Tee by Just Patterns

Hello, my friends! Now here’s a rare sighting of me in a handmade outfit…it’s been a while, hasn’t it? Excuse the crazy escapee hair strands — my bun skillz are haphazard at best.

Let me tell you a little bit about this sweet li’l top I’m wearing. It’s called the Tyra Tee by Just Patterns, and it’s an effortless pattern to sew up. Perfect for beginners as well as more experienced folks looking for a quick, refreshing project that’s certain to become a comforting, gotta-reach-for-it garb.

My friend Delphine is at the helm of Just Patterns, and as you would expect from her lovely French heritage, she’s stylish in that oh-so-Parisian-chic way. That in and of itself is inspiring, but she’s also gorgeous, incredibly kind, brilliant and has a rather hush-hush career in an extremely exciting field outside of sewing like a boss. She’s the kind of person that would normally foster envy, but she’s so darn charming and generous that you can’t help but celebrate her polymath-ness. She’s building her business with gusto and I love the care and thoughtfulness that Delphine puts into her patterns, infusing them with her 20+ years of sewing expertise.

But onto the Tyra Tee. So easy. So fast to sew. So, so comfy.

If you’ve been around here for any length of time, you know that oversized tees are my jam. Given the French roots of the pattern, as it were, I decided to channel Coco Chanel and selected a striped knit. The fabric actually has a nice amount of body despite its drapey quality, and I believe I’ve landed on the ideal pairing with the Tyra. The pattern recommends going down a size for knits of this type, and I agree. According to the size chart, I would have been a 42, but I cut out size 40 (the sizing is European) and the fit feels spot on. Roomy, but not swimmingly so.

My years of sewing for K has made me lazy when it comes to knit sewing and despite helpful instructions about finishing the raw edges, I didn’t bother. I also didn’t bust out my serger/overlocker or cover stitch machine and used a zig zag stitch with my regular machine to sew and hem this baby. Worked just fine.

I love this top. Incidentally and totally un-relatedly, can you spot the difference between the two photos above? Hint: it’s not about the outfit. Sometimes little things bother me for no reason, and I have to make tweaks.

 

The final analysis: thumb’s way up! Today is the launch day for Tyra Tee, and my shiny forehead and I highly recommend it! Just Patterns shop is here.

P.S. Delphine obviously gifted the pattern to me, but all opinions are solidly my own.

P.P.S. If you’re wondering, I self-drafted the linen pants and they may or may not be part of my next book. Still trying to decide…

Nuanced Not Faded

Hello, my friends! I received this luscious bouquet from a dear friend a couple of weeks ago, on my birthday. We did a social-distanced hand-off of the flowers, which was quite funny.

As I gazed at these blooms the phrase that came to mind was, “faded beauty.” It’s what everyone says, right? The faded beauty of dying roses. Although these roses are no longer in the full blush of its blossoming floral youth, I don’t think their beauty has faded at all. If anything, it’s deepened and is more nuanced.

Of course, as someone who is now 49-years-old, perhaps I’m justifying the passage of time and what might be perceived as the dimming of what K calls my “sparkle.” Here’s what she said to me as she flipped through some old photos, “You had so much sparkle when you were in your twenties, Mama!” My almost 14-year-old K is so full of sparkle and it’s true, I definitely feel more muted. But nuanced!

One is prone to contemplation around the time of a birthday, and I’m a professional contemplator as it is. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my forties and I’m unabashedly excited about embarking on my fifties next year. If I’ve learned anything in my four decades, it’s that if I allow it, life gets better and better. Does that mean the world is better or that everything is perfect? No. That doesn’t seem to be the case at all. In fact, if the news broadcasts are to be believed, the world has gone to hell. But I don’t believe the news (not entirely, anyway). And I don’t believe in suffering because other people are suffering. I tried that for many, many years, and all that happened was a lot of extra suffering. This is probably not a popular stance given current events, but I stand by it 100%.

What I want to do for this 49th year and beyond is to genuinely enjoy each day and — if I may use the quote from my ginger teabag tag today — “plant love and watch it grow”. To just be myself. Who knows how many days I have left? My mom has been an excellent role model in this regard. She used to talk about death all the time, and how she wanted to squeeze goodness out of each moment before she passed on. When I was younger I thought that was macabre and rather depressing, but now I see that it’s the opposite. She’s 71 now and hasn’t changed much. Every time I chat with her on the phone, she tells me of all the joys she finds in her new home and surrounding area and wonders when she’ll die, practically in the same breath — she seems so content to have returned to Japan after 50 years in California, but then again she was content in Los Angeles too. Now there is a woman who knows how to have a good time and is unafraid of the grim reaper.

I’d like to be like that.

I’ve been enjoying many things lately. M spoiled me with books and art supplies for my birthday and I got this amazing set of colored pencils. I’m obsessed with colored pencils and have tried pretty much every brand on the market. According to all the reviews I’ve read most colored pencil artists love soft, smooth, oil-based pencils, but I prefer harder, wax-based leads. What drew me in particular to this set is that like myself, the colors in this Derwent Artists set are quite muted (and nuanced!):

As you can see, I’ve tested a jillion brands to see figure out my preferences. K calls them my broccoli girls.

More experimenting. The Lightfast pencils are spectacular as well, but I still prefer the Artists…

I used to have a phobia about using my “nice” stuff and kept saving them for a day when I would feel somehow more worthy of the high quality items. No more. I dove right into using my gorgeous pencils and I’ve been cutting into my prized fabrics as well. I made this little self-drafted tank for myself this week. It’s made with Nani Iro fabric I bought at Yuzawaya last year in Japan. Again, who knows how many days I have left, right? Might as well use everything up.

Using things up has been a big theme during quarantine for me. I get this huge sense of satisfaction from finishing the toothpaste tube, cooking up all of the vegetables in the fridge, etc., etc. There’s the awesomeness of reducing waste, of course, but it’s that glee of completion that I love more than anything else.

I hope you’re all faring well in spite of the global chaos. Here’s another role model for enjoying each moment (I know that I keep posting similar photos of Katara, but she’s so darn cute and I’m such a cat lady now, I can’t help it):

I’m working on three books starting this week, so my schedule will be full for a while. It’ll be a nice change from my dawdling, doodling days — I like having the balance of the two. In a few months, I’ll be able to go back to aimless coloring and contemplating, which will be lovely.

P.S. K graduated from middle school last week and is now officially a high schooler!! Wow, I don’t think I ever imagined myself as a Mama to a high school kid and so far, it’s awesome.

Greetings from Japan!

Takeshita-Dori at Harajuku, Tokyo. We ate a ton of sweets here.
Ginza, Tokyo. I liked the “San-ai Dream Center” sign because it reminded me of my name and the way I pronounce it, which is actually different from the Japanese traditional pronunciation.
On weekends, the main street in Ginza is closed off and is pedestrian only. K is lounging at one of the tables in the heart of the shopping district.
The theme of the trip was animals. We went to the amazing Yokohama Sea Paradise aquarium where it felt like we could practically touch the dolphins.

Hello, hello! K and I have spent a glorious time in Japan for the last 11 days, and we’re having a hard time leaving. I have so many thoughts and emotions right now and though I’m unable to organize them in a coherent way at the moment, I wanted to pop in to say hello.

I also wanted to talk about Ogden camis. For this trip, I somehow made four Ogden Camis by True Bias Patterns in two days before embarking on the plane to Narita. I originally purchased the PDF pattern and then printed it out via PDF Plotting. This turned out to be a brilliant move because I probably would have never gotten around to sewing these great little tops if I had to tape loads of sheets together.

I started with the size 12 based on the finished size dimensions, but the top was much too large and also too short for my liking. Undaunted, I traced the size 10 and the fit was much better, though I think I could go down a half size. I experimented with lengthening, ranging from 1″ to 3″ — 2″ feels like the right amount for me.

Size 12 in a Japanese fabric I received as a gift from Frances of Miss Matatabi

 

 

Version two in size 10 using a double-gauze.
Here’s the back
Version three in my favorite indigo cotton with subtle vertical stripes. I lengthened this one by 3 inches.

Here’s the sad part though: I brought three of the four camis with me to Japan and I only wore one. The breezy top is perfect for the muggy weather in Japan, but I felt very exposed and a bit scandalous showing so much skin in the thronging areas amid women covered from head to toe in layers of fabric. The Japanese as a whole are a modest people and there seems to be an unspoken rule to cover your shoulders.

This fourth version was made from 1 yard of GORGEOUS linen I got on major sale from the no longer open District Fabrics in Fremont. I love how Katara stays close to me and you can see what the photo area situation is actually like here…

I wore this stripey linen version to a cat cafe in Atagawa — where my parents now live — and I felt all the Japanese cat lovers surreptitiously staring at my torso. Luckily, the kitties were incredibly adorable so the stares were short-lived. The cat cafe was one of the highlights of our trip. K and I were missing Katara and it was an unplanned way to get a dose of feline fun. I was pleased with how well-cared for the 28 (!!) cats were at the small facility. For the price of roughly $10 an hour, we played with incredibly friendly cats, fed them snacks and enjoyed a beverage ourselves (the snacks and drinks were included).

K at the cat cafe, having the time of her life.

Well, it’s time for me to wake up K so we can have our last breakfast in Japan. I want to absorb all that we’ve seen and done here in the land of the rising sun and will be updating my Patreon lovelies with all the nitty gritty behind-the-scenes stuff as I always do. I hope you’re all doing well, and I’ll be back with more sewing with some fabric goodies I got in Ginza soon!

A whole new world (no more PDF taping!)

Hello, my friends! How are you? I’m getting ready to travel to Indiana to visit relatives this weekend, and despite my best efforts, I was unable to fully execute my glorious vacation wardrobe sewing plan I had in mind. However, in the process of attempting said sewing plan, I’ve discovered a life-changing thing: PDF Plotting.

I found out about PDF Plotting through a very thorough and super helpful blog post on Sew Liberated. I bet most of you sewing mavens are already familiar with this alternative to the daunting task of printing/cutting out/taping PDF patterns, and though I’d vaguely noticed the online community mentioning copy shop printing of patterns, my hard-wired brain was slow to pick up on this amazing time saving and relatively economical option.

It’s so easy! The one thing I would advise is to double-check the dimensions of the file size in Acrobat (you hover over the lower left corner to get the file size dimensions once it’s opened in the Acrobat Reader). I made a mistake when I entered the sizing info, but the folks at PDF Plotting were very kind about pointing out my errors, and I had beautifully printed patterns on large format paper in a matter of two days from the moment I submitted the order. Magic!

I plan to order more from PDF Plotting when I get back from my midwestern vacation, and in the meantime, I’m going to see if I can crank out at least an Ogden Cami or Kate Bias Top by Sunday. The Persephone Pants will have to wait, though I really want a pair NOW.

Have you tried getting PDF patterns printed? How has your experience been?

Alright, it’s time for me to get going on some sewing! Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!