Monday, January 31, 2011

What a difference a day makes...

The day before yesterday

I do have some more thoughts on fashion in Japan to talk about here, plus I enjoyed meeting another sewing and blogging friend in Oregon; just let me sort through about a thousand photos first... not to mention excavating through and washing about two thousand items of clothing and restocking the fridge etc...
Back to reality.

Cold weather gear; Mountain Designs
Beanie; my own design, charcoal wool
Snow boots; Big KMart from the US
Gloves; ?
Sunnies; RayBan
Dress; Burda 8511 with fitting variations, white synthetic stuff with printed border
Sandals; Vincenzo from Soletta shoes
Bag; Gucci
Sunnies; RayBan

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Fabric shopping in Tokyo

Now this was something I was really looking forward to...  
Fabric shopping in Tokyo with Yoshimi and Novita.  We were meeting for the first time in reality, although we had met and knew each other virtually before this time.  Isn't the internet amazing?  Still blows my mind a bit...  I'm so grateful for this wonderful online sewing community that just over a year ago I never even knew existed.
We met in the morning and took the train together to scope out of their favourite fabric shops, took a break for lunch, followed by just a little more fabric shopping, and still later met up with a friend of Yoshimi's for a special Japanese tea ceremony with very interesting green tea on the menu that I had never had before.  It was great fun!  I'm enormously grateful to Yoshimi and to Novita for coming out to see me, and for their help and guidance.  Tokyo is BIG, around ten times bigger than Perth easily!  Also the fabric selection there is also on a grander scale than I'm used to.
Down to specifics...
Helpfully, Tokyo has concentrated a lot of its fabric trading down into one area, one street even.  The Nippori district is so famous for fabric shopping it even has its own official website where you can find a bigger version of this very useful map to download.  We alighted at Nippori train station and took the very short and straightforward walk to the main street where multitudes of fabric Aladdin's caves await.  To make matters even easier the pavement twixt station and destination are marked clearly "Fabric District" and the main street itself likewise marked "Fabric Street" on the footpath.  Or was it possibly Textile District/Street?  Whatever, still pretty handy, right?  Kudos to Tokyo for superior organisation and efficiency.
We certainly did not go into all of these shops, partly because that would have taken days for dedicated fabric enthusiasts such as ourselves.  But there's no doubt you can find an amazing selection of fabrics, all the way from cheap and cheerful cottons up to beautiful and very expensive wools and silks.  I decided, after a bit of indecision re some very tempting and price-y Italian wools, to limit myself just to Japanese fabrics.  After all, when in Japan...?
We spent most of our time and money in Iden (, actually two shops next door to each other, numbers 75 and 76 on the map) and Nagato (ph. 03-3806-3637, number 35 on the map).   From these stores I have five new beautiful lengths of fabric; three winter-weight wool/silk blends, for a skirt, a dress and a jacket respectively, some lightweight apricot cotton denim/gabardine and a length of summery printed cotton.
Also worth a mention is Tomato, a big discount store with several outlets along the street.  I think the one we went into was Tomato Notion, number 46 on the map.  Visit-worthy for haberdashery and all extras remotely related to sewing, sort of like our Spotlight.  A simply gorgeous selection of buttons... I could not resist these cute little things.
Something to keep in mind for the Westerner shopping in Tokyo is that streets are not actually marked in the same way that we are used to.  I kept checking out the, well, what I thought were street signs, so that I could jot down addresses for later reference, but actually were not.  If you do not have much Japanese the street signs can be a little confusing, and one is better working from a map like the one above with landmark buildings and train stations to guide you, rather than relying on finding a street name that is possibly indistinguishable from all the other various signs that will be around it.

An internet tip I found to be true... bring cash, as credit cards are not always accepted.  Another handy tip?...  7Elevens have ATMs.

Thank you so much Yoshimi for organising a wonderful day out!
oh, and for permission to use her photograph of us, above...!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Snowfield chic, Japanese style

If, like me, you hail from a sunny snow-less place and are planning a skiing holiday, then chances are the snow gear on offer in your hometown will be of a limited range.  And most probably in drab neutral tones, which may be tres chic colour choices for the city streets but somehow look uninspired and a wee bit boring when you sally forth onto the slopes.  Particularly when one becomes surrounded by extremely eye-catching Japanese boarders and skiers, who employ clashing colours and patterns to really gorgeous effect.
My favourite Japanese fashion inspiration has always come from designers such as Yohji Yamamoto, Rei Kawakubo and Issey Miyake; who built careers on clothing that is not necessarily colourful but derives interest from the folding and manipulation of solid colour fabric to create sculptural shapes and form through texture.  An artistic extension of origami, itself a Japanese tradition.
However the outfits worn by snowbound Japanese are a completely different but equally inspiring story.
Snow-sporters here dress in the most vivid and exciting colour and pattern combinations, which of course look amazing set against the pure white of snowy slopes. 
Other bonuses?  As well as looking fabulous, such individual looks are a great aid to helping you spot your friends from half a mountain away.  
Need a less shallow impetus to go brights?  The inbuilt safety aspects of brights are another plus.  "Inmate orange" really stands out in the snow and means one is less likely to blend into one's surroundings and be bowled over by an out-of-control newbie.

Speaking of, Japanese ski schools have a kind of weird and slightly embarrassing dress code for adult, yes, these are adult, learner skiers...
I think I would just bow out of the class gracefully in this situation...
This is just a tiny sample of the great outfits I spied out on the slopes, unfortunately getting one's camera out is a bit of a business when skiing, and what's more some of the coolest people out on the slopes are the young snowboarders who are fast and are out of sight as soon as spotted.
Plus I didn't want to be obviously in people's face, taking photos, but was trying to be discreet about it here and not photograph people's faces...  but you can get the idea.  I like the fact that Japanese young men are unafraid to wear shocking pink, lurid purple plaid, neon stripes or to have miniature puppy-dog toys hanging off their backpacks.  Pompoms and furry animal costumes are not considered a threat to one's manhood here.
I admire this.  The girls' ensembles are equally fun.  Hmmmm, perhaps should have left the ski purchasing until we got here... now I want to trade in my boring white pants for, say, something in neon green plaid... 
But at least Sam bought some really cool gloves!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Australia Day

It's been pretty difficult to post, what with available computer time being taken up with the superior demands of teenage Facebook time, not to mention some essential out-of-office business maintenance.  My blog has taken very much a back seat.
However today is special, being Australia Day and all.  I was mean and muscled everyone out to get on here...!
No doubt Aussies at home will be wearing a much more summery ensemble today, so I wish you a wonderful day as you sit around the pool with your refreshing cocktail, and/or frolic in the surf at the beach.  Enjoy!  We will be celebrating later with a much more wintery concoction of mulled plum wine.
Looking very Aussie here on the streets of Hirafu, on Mount Niseko-Annupuri in Hokkaido, Japan.

Jeans; Burda 7863, greige corduroy
Shirt; Burda 7767, check flannelette
Beanie; my own design, charcoal wool
Gloves; ??
Snow boots; from Big KMart, in the US.  I've had these for about 10 years.  Big KMart is similar to our KMart in Australia, except about three times as big.  No, I'm not exaggerating...!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Gratuitous skiing shot with no element of handmade-ness

I apologise in advance for this photo.  I have no excuse for the inclusion of this picture here, which has absolutely nothing to do with sewing, knitting, nor, I fear, even looking one's best, as I surely look less than gainly or graceful when zooming down the slopes.  Well, I am still a bit proud of this one, since here is the proof.  That I can actually get myself from the top of a snowy slope to the bottom in a reasonably respectable manner.  Upright, at a respectable speed, and without breaking any extremities.  I reckon not too shabby for a committed beachcomber.
Actually, there is an unseen relevance here.  Hand-knitted socks do figure somewhere in this ensemble.
These are the slopes of Mount Bachelor, near Bend in central Oregon, USA.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A short break...

I'm just letting you know that I am going to be away from regular blogging for a short while.
We are travelling overseas; visiting friends and going skiing.  I am a very bad skier, which is hardly surprising given that we have lived almost our whole lives 2000 miles away from anywhere that ever sees snow, but I still enjoy skiing nonetheless!  I should mention my family are much better than me... er, so maybe it's just that I'm kinda uncoordinated.
We are also spending some time in Tokyo.  It's no secret that I find Japanese fashion incredibly inspiring, so I'm looking forward to seeing some for real and check out people in the streetz and going window shopping.  Real shopping?  Maybe.  I think my no-shopping pledge can be stretched just a little bit when it comes to souvenirs...  I love to have wearable souvenirs from our holidays.
Of course, fabric is totally allowed...  ;)
Without a doubt the highlight of my time in Tokyo will be meeting up with some fellow seamstresses and bloggers whilst I am there, Yoshimi and Novita.  I can hardly wait to meet them and chat about self-fashioning and stuff...!  So exciting!

So, later, dudes!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Tim's quilt

I'm a bit embarrassed putting a picture of this up here now, because it's quite old and worn now and has really seen better days, but that is the nature of quilts, right?  That they are supposed to age gracefully and naturally, like fine wine (and women) and take on a character and story all of their own with each little rip and patch?
And I did set out to document as much as I could, even things that have had a rough life...
This was my first effort at a full bed-sized quilt.  I hadn't really done any quilting prior to this, apart from a little baby floor quilt which was done totally on my machine, posted here.  
So,  in my usual way, I rocked up to Calico House (as it was called then, now Calico and Ivy), just bought a selection of boy-ish type of fabrics and went home to nut it out for myself.  I can recall the ladies in the store were a bit scandalised that I wasn't going to take any lessons, or even buy a book.   How hard could it be, I reasoned?  Patchwork and quilting is hardly rocket science.  Me being a bit gung-ho, I inwardly scoffed at the idea of needing instructions...  I just did up a rough mud map of what I wanted and then made some measurements of numbers of squares times dimensions, added all up, to work out how much fabric I would need.  The backing is a single sized navy blue flat sheet.
It's a very simple design.  The edging is very amateurish, I turned under the edges and overstitched by hand all around the edge.  I only quilted around the edges of the quilt; both in the ditch and a few stars, moons, suns and swirls in the border by hand, the middle part of the quilt is knotted at the corners of each square with surgeon's knots.  Right now I will confess that this is an inferior method to traditional quilting; it looked nice but did not make for a robust quilt.  As a toddler Tim used to love to sit on the side of his bed and slide himself along with the quilt on to the floor... yeah... Activities like this, coupled with the flimsy knotting do make for a short life-span... and as you can tell, some of the fabrics in the middle have worn and ripped with use and been patched with other fabrics.  
And, early in its life I used to carefully handwash in the bath tub, but nowadays I just toss it in the washing machine.
C'est la vie.  I'm a big one for believing things should be used and loved on a daily basis and not tucked away preciously for special occasions, and this quilt has definitely been much loved and used, and still is to this day.  That's all that counts for me.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Sandwich Bag dress

I finished a new dress...
I love this new little thing; we are expecting more really hot weather around here and I wanted some more really cool floaty things that can waft around my body, if not picking up any actual real breezes then possibly the swishing about of fabric just might create flurries of pseudo-breezes to cool me off...  I know, could be hopeless wishful thinking but in a heatwave one is willing to try anything.
You're probably wondering about the strange and seemingly random name I've given to this quite romantic little number... well remember this?
The very very sweet but fabric-clueless young man who cut, cut? nay, hacked off this piece of silk for me in the Alannah Hill outlet store in Melbourne then packaged it for me by stuffing it (and by "stuffing" I'm not speaking figuratively but quite literally) into a little sandwich bag, painstakingly sealed closed, and presented thus for me to carry out of the store...  Funny!  I was so entertained by this cavalier treatment of fine, high quality silk that the image just became firmly wedged in my head never to be dislodged...  the Sandwich Bag dress was always going to be its name after that.  
A positive, at a pinch I know I can always fit this dress in a teensy little sandwich bag if an emergency packing situation arises...
I've had this Vogue pattern for about a year, and finally have used it.  I had always looked at it a bit sideways and wondered if was a very silly purchase that wasn't me at all, but I'm over that now.  I've decided all those extravagant ruffles that before had me balking are really quite flattering for my figure.  So it does pay to try new things and to stretch oneself out of one's comfort zone every once in a while.  And fortuitously I had just exactly the right amount of fabric, lucky or what??  That young man with his jaggedy cuts did it just right!
The dress is completely lined with navy blue acetate lining, and all the ruffles and raw edges are finished with a rolled hem using two shades of red overlocking thread, just using threads I had already.  The lining hem is finished in the traditional way.  The buttons are these perfect dark mauve discs found at Fabulous Fabrics.  Aaand, I added pockets... ! (self high five)
Below is the pattern review I submitted, in case you're interested...

Pattern Description:
Lined dresses A, B, fitted through bust area have princess seams, contrast neck and lower flounce, straps and loop closure, sash with threaded loops.
Pattern Sizing:
Overall 6-20, I bought the AA option with sizes 6-12 and sewed a straight size 10.
Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you had finished sewing it?
yes, except that I used self fabric for the ruffles, not a contrasting fabric
Were the instructions easy to follow?
What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
It is a loose fitting dress, so precision fitting is not an issue here, simplifying things.
I wasn't sure about the look of all those ruffles at first and so put off making up this one for about a year.  Now I love them and feel they are very flattering to my figure.  However those same extravagant ruffles are what contributes to the difficulty of getting a good finish, particularly in the neckline/shoulder strap area, sewing dress to lining and turning right side out in step 24.  In this part I fully appreciated how essential thin lightweight fabric is for this pattern to work at all, so you can scrunch up those ruffles up tight enough to be contained with those thin little shoulder areas when sewing.
Understitching around these areas and the button loop area was quite fiddly.  The button loop area was quite fiddly full stop, but I put this down to the delicate and slippery silk I chose to make the dress up in, and not the fault of the pattern.
Fabric used:
Thin silk charmeuse
Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
I added in-seam pockets in the side seams of the dress.
I used the rolled hem function on my overlocker to finish all raw edges of the ruffles and the sash, rather than the narrow hem method described in step 4 and 5 of the instructions.  So much easier!  Plus instead of double stitching all the seam allowances as described I finished raw edges on the inside by overlocking.
Would you sew it again?  Would you recommend it?
I won't sew this again in the near future, as it is such an eye-catching thing one of these is enough in my wardrobe.  But when this one bites the dust I might.
I recommend this pattern as a lovely romantic little dress, perfect for summer days.  It is actually simpler than it looks, my only proviso is to be certain to only attempt this with very thin fabric.
I'm a little surprised myself at how much I love the "adorableness" of this dress, not a style I usually go for.  I feel so feminine in it, plus on a practical note it'll to be very cool to wear on very hot summer days.

Below: I almost didn't include this picture, but decided the wind had co-operated by showing off the lining, which I hadn't photographed otherwise...
Below at left; threaded sash loops, at right; yup, pockets!

Friday, January 7, 2011

A walk in the park

A day of colourlessness (ness, ness) is often followed by a more colourful day, in my world.
And today is a bad hair day, sorry.  Thus the pony.  I am getting my hair cut this afternoon, and I am so sorely tempted to wait until I am salon-coiffured all fabulously before taking a photo... but I am just too busy later on today.  So a dog-walking photo with messy hair it had to be.
In sewing news, I am nearly finished another little floral floaty summer dress, and just needed some lining fabric so headed up to my favourite fabric shop.  And they were having a massive pattern sale!  So I just had to...  Fired up with enthusiasm and a misguided optimism about my own time-management abilities, I bought three new dress patterns, below.  I've got so many new patterns to try out...   I'd better get cracking.

Dress; partly based on McCalls 4453, partly my own design, red/pink polyester chiffon, to see this dress styled in 6 different ways go here
Ballet top; Metalicus, found secondhand
Sandals; Vincenzo, from Soletta shoes
Sunnies; RayBan
Nail varnish; BYS Mint Condition

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The two things together

I'm not sure if this outfit is too severe.  Perhaps.  But this is the thing; I wanted to see these two pieces both together as they were designed to go with each other.  Both being from the same designer.  Japanese designed clothing can often be very architectural and pared back.  And I love this sharp, slightly futuristic minimalism that Japanese designers offer.  And it's a look that I think is very indefinably now.
So, yeah, here's me trying to be all super fashionable...
Yet other times I'm romantically lacy and floral, and other times a bit sporty; thus the schizophrenic nature of my sartorial tastes... these very different styles are constantly clashing together in my wardrobe, sometimes meeting in a mishmash of an outfit for a day, sometimes donned in a pure distillation of a recognised style.  
Perhaps it's just that I like to experiment in both my sewing and with my "look".
Today I am purely Japanese.
Oh, except for the raggedy old hat (romantic)... and the tennis shoes (sporty)...
So I guess, not so purely Japanese after all! 

About the other pictures; I snapped these samples of the local wildlife floating past the jetty this morning.  Black swans, natch, our state fauna and emblem, and after which this river is named.
And the jellyfish... relax, these ones are harmless.  I learnt to swim in this river, as did my kids, and one soon learnt to gently swoosh them aside during swimming lessons!

Top; top "b" from Unique Clothes Any Way You Like, by Natsuno Hiraiwa, white cotton, first posted here
Skirt; skirt "d" from Unique Clothes Any Way You Like, by Natsuno Hiraiwa, silver crepe first posted here, I styled this skirt styled in 6 different ways here
Hat and shoes; Country Road

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Canary yellow suit-y thing

Digging into the archives...
This is a photo of a suit-y sort of a thing that I made to wear to my brother's wedding, twenty years ago...  actually I still have this outfit and it still fits like a dream although obviously I never wear it anymore.  I still have these shoes too, because they were my own wedding shoes, so obviously I'm never letting those go either..!  
I've kept this ensemble all these years because at the time I made it up so super carefully, and sorta poured my heart and soul into making it perfect.  One of the first outfits where I went to a big effort to finish the inside as nicely as I could.  Contrast this with my previous attitude; oh no one is ever going to see the inside, who cares how it looks?  Man, how I've moved on...  So this outfit was a sewing turning point for me.
It is from a quite stiff-bodied linen mix, and the pattern was a Burda pattern, which is long gone so I can't give the number, sorry.  I do recall it had no seam allowances, so back in those days...  It's probably hard to see in this photo; but the little jacket has a lovely button band at the front, the top three quarters of which has one of those extra button tab thingies underneath to hide the buttons underneath, so only the top button and the two bottom buttons are left visible and on display at the waistline.  And those little puffy sleeves folded closed with buttons.  And a waist tie at the back to nip in the waist.  And that big three-quarter length pleated skirt.  It's a very 90's look, no?   Although I've just realised now that this look is very similar to and so most probably has its roots in the new Dior look, which hearkens back from the 40's.  Which just goes to show.  Everything old is new again.