Thursday, July 26, 2012

Japanese Sewing, part 二 ("ni", aka 2)

I have been admiring this Japanese pattern book called Stylish Dress Book for a long, long time.

I have had it for two years, but could never get up the guts to make anything from it.  I was mostly worried about not having any written instructions I could understand and having to rely on drawings alone.  But recently I made a bunch of things from a Japanese children's pattern magazine called Cucito; and that went so well, it bolstered my confidence.  You can see my post about the Cucito patterns here.

The Pattern Stash Contest on Pattern Review gave me the little extra push I needed to finally leap.  So, I decided to make the dress that is on the cover because it is just so cute and looks so comfy, especially for how hot it is here in Angola.  I decided to use a lovely and soft quilting cotton by Kaffe Fassett for it because it reminded me of two vintage light blue cotton dresses I used to wear all the time in the 1990s.  I did a full bust adjustment on this pattern, my first, and that seemed to turn out just fine.  The rest of the fit, however, was a bit of a nightmare.....

Don't I look sad?  I am very disappointed.....

It turns out if you're not all svelte, then you look like you are wearing a tent!  I tried it with a belt too, but then it was too short on the sides.  What a let down!  I have received a few suggestions on how to fix it, perhaps by lowering the neckline and shortening it to tunic length.  I may try something like that.

I decided to try one more, this time a top. and in a drapey knit fabric to reduce the tent probability.  I used a smaller size (because the dress was too wide and I had to reduce the width of that) and did the FBA again.  With this one I actually think some translation of the instructions might have made a difference.  I didn't study the drawings well enough, I guess, and I sewed the pintucks on the outside (as they usually are done); but they were meant to be on the inside!  So, I just made the inside the outside and vice versa.  I used a soft bamboo jersey for this top, and that stuff is not easy to sew!

Great.  And this one makes me look pregnant......

Alas, this ended up too wide also, even with a bunch more pintucks to try to decrease the width of that panel a bit more.  So, I had to do a weird tuck thing on each side, and then I decided to add some flowers.  At first, I added them in accidentally obscene places (pasties anyone?), so I relocated two of them and ended up with a semi-tent-like jersey top.  I am coming to the conclusion that these patterns just won't work for me because they are designed for a different body shape.  Such a pity!  I wonder if all Japanese pattern books would be equally unsuitable.  Probably.  What a bummer!  I was thinking of getting one of these next:

On left: Sweet Dress Book by Yoshiko Tsukiori (same author as Stylish Dress Book)                      On right: I Love to Make Now DRESS and TUNIC

Or maybe I should just stick with Japanese children's patterns..................

* You know, now that I look at the pics together, if I just lower the neckline a bit and shorten that blue dress, I would approximate the top on the cover of the book here on the left, wouldn't I?  The sleeves are a bit shorter and looser, but I don't know if I could change that.  Maybe there is hope for a wearable item yet.....

** And, you should ask me if I finally remembered to add seam allowances before cutting these out of fabric....... I DID!  So, perhaps, lesson learned?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Pattern Stash Sleepwear

I am still very busy working on items for the Pattern Stash Contest!  I am making all sorts of things, clothing for the kids, things for around the house, clothing for me, and maybe one or two things for my husband even. 

Our washing machine has been broken for like 2 weeks now, and it is getting to be a real problem.  We are supposed to buy a new (better) one this week, so I am trying to hold out and not have to do any hand washing.  We are really running out of clean clothes and towels....... so, what did I do instead of getting my hands dirty?  I made some new stuff instead!

I made my son this robe, and he is totally in love with it!  It´s a thin, cotton woven on the outside and French terry on the inside.
He said he is never taking it off, and he has remained fairly true to his word.  The other night,  his dad took it off of him after he had fallen asleep, and when he woke up, the first thing he said was "Hey!  Where´s my robe?".  This pattern is from the book Sewing for Boys by Patterns by Figgy´s, and it is another great pattern!  There is, however, one error of omission in the instructions.  You must tape together the two pieces that make up the front of the robe before you cut out your fabric!  Sadly, I did not realize this and had to work hard to match dinosaur heads and such.... still, excellent pattern, and I´m sure my daughter will be getting one soon too.

Instead, she got a new nightgown:
This sort of looks like a 70s maxi dress to me!  To her, it´s another princess dress (as almost everything is), and I think she looks pretty cute in it!

I also made my son another pair of boxer briefs (from my own pattern).  I decided to use white and let him decorate them with fabric paint.  I could only find black.
I thought they looked really cute when he had only drawn the face...... and then he went a little nuts.  And the little sister decided to paint herself and the table cloth as well..... *sigh*  I have a feeling I am going to need to make him a few more pairs before our new washing machine is ready, but I think I´ll choose prints instead of paint next time.

Now, the power is on at the moment, so I better get back to it before it goes out again.  Wish me luck!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Long Awaited Farbenmix Tasche Isabella Bag

Some time last year, I bought the pdf pattern for Farbenmix´s Tasche Isabella bag.  I just fell in love with the messenger bag version after seeing a few made up.  Look at all the beautiful versions that Natalie made:

Check out more of Natalie´s beautiful creations by visiting her blog (it´s in German).

You might remember that I posted a pic of another of these bags that Natalie made.  This one is my favorite. 

Isn´t it just so........

So, last year when I bought this pattern, I didn´t have any of my stash, only the African wax fabrics.  And I just didn´t think those were quite right for this.  So, I waited.  And I am so glad I did.  Here is what I made:

The two middle pics here are interior pockets.

I am really happy with how it turned out.  The big red flower on the front is a  pocket, which is closed by the fabric "clasp".  And I have had that flower button for many, many years!  It might have been my grandma´s.  There is also a cell phone pocket on the strap which is the perfect size for my cell phone (I will have to forever use this size cell phone now). 

As for the pattern, there are English instructions and it was surprisingly easy to follow, except for them missing out one instruction entirely.  You see those little gathers on either side of the round, flower pocket?  Well the pattern never tells you how or when to do those!  That is actually just one piece of fabric, not two sewn together like it looks.  You have to cut into the pattern piece several inches from the sides in toward the center, gather up the bottom bit and re-attach it to the upper bit.  I don´t know if I ever would have figured this out without the help of the ladies over at  They were a HUGE help!

Also, this pattern does not include seam allowances.  Ask me if I remembered to add them.  I did not.  Luckily this pattern doesn´t need to actually fit anybody, so I decided to go ahead and sew it.  To be honest, that was a happy accident because now the bag is not way too big for an everyday purse!  All in all, I am delighted with this new bag.  And this pattern was so much easier than I expected and way more fun too.  It took me a few days to make this, so it wasn´t good strategy for the Pattern Stash Contest, but it was definitely in keeping with the spirit of that contest since this was a pattern I have been wanting to make for a long time.

Pretend I put in a cool, German idiom here, something like "Long live the handbag!"  Sadly, my one semester of German in college did not leave me with any long-lasting vocabulary I do remember how to say Wie geht es Ihnen?, rouladen, bier, and liebfraumilch......

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Japanese Sewing, Part 1

Two years ago I bought a Japanese sewing pattern book and magazine off of Etsy.  I was terribly intrigued, but also terrified.  So, I looked at them, planned projects, but never actually started anything.  Fast forward to now and the Pattern Stash contest.  I finally did it!  I decided to start with a children´s pattern from the Cucito magazine.  I chose a pattern; but then I could never actually find those pattern pieces on any of the pattern sheets, so then I chose another.  I found the relevant lines, traced the pattern pieces, and cut the fabric.  And then I realized I forgot to add seam allowances!  I always forget to add seam allowances. --Let me just say right now that I think it sucks to have to add seam allowances!  I mean, I can see overlapping the patterns to save paper and make pattern books and mags less bulky and less expensive.  But come on!  You can at least add a standard seam allowance.  And then if someone wants to change it, they can.  It´s not just a second tracing that is required to add seam allowances, but a decision on every single line of the pattern about what kind of seam to sew.  It sucks!  And if I ever sell patterns, I will do more of the work to make it easier on the sewist.-- Okay, rant over.  So, I forgot the seam allowances, and I had to decide whether to re-cut it or to go ahead and sew it.  I was torn about whether to do a size 90 or 100 for my daughter (she is 90 cm tall), and I went with size 100, so I decided it might be okay to sew it without added seam allowances.  To double check, I basted together the pattern pieces and tried them on my daughter.

Left: magazine cover and the pattern I selected; middle top: the pattern sheet; middle bottom: the instructions; right: dd wearing Swedish tracing paper.

I found that locating and tracing the relevant pattern pieces was the hardest part of this whole process.  Even though I don´t read Japanese, the instructions have very good drawings that show you the order to put the pieces together.  They even tell you what seam allowances you should add (*cough, not good enough*).  So, it was pretty easy, apart from a few hiccups with the facings.  Here is the result:

I was very encouraged by this result, so I decided to go for another pattern from this magazine (the Pattern Stash contest allows 4 patterns from each book/mag).  I decided on a pair of pants that roll up and button into shorts for my son.  I have been promising him a pair of pants like this for some time and have a Farbenmix pattern for such a pair (Klein Juist Cargohose), but I am feeling hesitant to go for another German one right now.  Then I saw a similar pair that looked easier in Cucito.  Now, OF COURSE, I forgot to add seam allowances AGAIN!  Can you believe how slow I am to learn this lesson?  I decided to go ahead and sew them because he is really skinny.  They do fit, but they are quite slim:

He has decorated himself to be a zebra and chosen this pajama shirt to go with the plaid pants.....

I was really on a roll now.  And my daughter wanted a pair of pants like these too!  I made my husband a pair of sleep shorts with this same fabric, and now her brother had some, and she was feeling left out.  And Cucito had a cute cropped pair that looked simple enough.  So, I whipped these up:

So, they were all matchy matchy and it was the 4th of July!  They might wear these to the Marines´ Independence Day party this weekend here in Luanda (but maybe not.  I might feel like a dork).

But that was only three, so I had to do one more.  So, I did this flower, just to see if I liked it.


And then..... I found out that you can do four items from a pattern book or mag only if they are distinct types of items.  So I would only be able to enter one pair of pants in the contest.  Therefore, I decided to sew a dress/nightgown for my daughter.  She is sorely lacking in sleep clothes.  Here it is:

Vintage buttons (might have been my Grandma´s).

This particular pattern was a lot harder to follow than the others.  I think a little translation would have made a big difference.  Unfortunately, I just tried to wing it and ended up with a pieced skirt.  But, she likes it, and that´s all that matters, really.

And now I will put this magazine aside for a little, until the contest is over.  But I think the patterns are great!  There are several more things I want to make.  Here are some of them:

So, the conclusion is- everyone who said Japanese pattern books and magazines are actually pretty easy to sew from were telling the truth!  I should not have waited so long or been so intimidated.  Ah well, live and learn.  Now, I´m off to make something Japanese for myself!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Pattern Stash Part 1 ...................................................

Pattern Stash 2012
I am off to a great start with the Pattern Stash Contest on Pattern Review!  In the first 3 days, I made three things:

I made this chocolate brown French terry tank top, which is very comfortable (but a little low cut).  What a quick and easy pattern!  I will definitely be making more of these.  I love the side ruching.

Then I made my daughter this swirling twirl skirt:
This is an unusual pattern!  It seems complicated at first, but once you really get into it, it´s pretty simple.  She loves it!

And then my son got another new pair of cargo shorts:
I didn´t care too much for this pattern.  The sizes are enormous (this is a 2T!) and the instructions are totally indecipherable.  I just winged it.  They turned out pretty cute though.  And they should fit him for several years.....

I have many more patterns planned, but the elements seem to be against me.  The power has been off most of the time the past few days.  Although we figured out how to make the water pump and the lights to my fabric & notions room work on the generator, I cannot iron or wash anything.  The washing machine broke like a week ago, and we can´t figure out what is wrong or find anyone to fix it.  (And you might remember from a previous post that I HATE hand washing, at least more than one or two things at a time).  I have also just discovered that I cannot iron when we are on generator power, not even if I turn off the water pump and extra light circuits.  I don´t understand it.  I used to be able to iron with the generator.... *sigh*

I have some exciting things on deck, including my first attempt at some Japanese sewing patterns!  Wish me electricity and an appliance fairy. *fingers crossed*

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Fabric arts around the house

     Sometimes I like to sew things other than clothing.  The other day, I sewed what was supposed to be a solution to our paper napkin problem (I feel like they need a home).  Side note- I really like to use cloth napkins, but the vagaries of the utilities here make that not so nice.  So I made this little cube without a top, but it turned out a little bigger than I expected and a lot more girlie.  And then I thought..... I know something else that is about this size....

So now my smaller size patterns have a home, but my napkins still don´t. And I had used up the entire package of peltex or whatever that stiff stuff is that I put in the sides and bottom.....  So, I have picked out what I hope is better fabric for the dining room, but I haven´t found anything to use to stiffen up the sides and bottom yet.  I have also decided to add a lid (attached at one side) to keep the dust off.  If anyone has any suggestions of everyday things I might use that are waterproof and stiff, please let me know.

     I have made a few other things for around our house since we received our container of belongings and moved into our new house.  Here is some fabric wall art (no sewing, just gluing) the kids and I made for our living room wall:

I got the idea for this from seeing this on Pinterest.
I couldn´t just run down to Michael´s and buy a canvas, so I took 4 pieces of wood that were laying around from one of my husband´s carpentry projects, nailed them together and stretched some muslin over them.  Then the kids and I used a tiny bit of white glue to put the leaves/petals in place.  And lastly, we painted on a coat of watered down white glue.  Et voilá!

     I also made a maharaja mosquito net topper for my son.  I had brought a really cool mosquito net with us for our daughter (that I got from someone on Freecycle!), and then we bought a green one here.  But, alas, no cute thingie on top.  So, I made one, and now they both have them!

I also have some robots from that panel of fabric where I got those round thingamajigs for the teal net topper.  I plan to make those into 4 pictures for the kids´ wall.  And I have some family silhouettes I have been meaning to make for our (other) living room wall.  Just as soon as I feel like breaking out the glue again..... I ran out of steam after searching, in vain, for more white glue FOR WEEKS!  Can you imagine not being able to find any white glue anywhere to buy?

     As for now, I am gearing up for the Pattern Stash Contest on Pattern Review that runs all of July.  I have so many things planned.  Hopefully I can try out a bunch of patterns that I have been hoarding for years now...... Wish me luck!

Pattern Stash 2012