Wednesday, December 23, 2009

T-shirts extravaganza

It may not look like much of an extravaganza, but there are more. I made six in total. Hence the long time time my last blog post.

I decided I needed some simple tops to wear as a base layer during the winter months, which are rather cold here in Eastern Japan due to the buildings being poorly heated.

I used my T-shirt pattern, lengthened it a bit and adjusted the armhole slightly as I went along to try and get better fit. I also drafted the long sleeve by lengthening the 3/4 sleeve pattern I already had. I think I have a reasonable pattern now, assuming I can keep track of all the pieces next time I bring it out.

No photos of me wearing these - it is too cold both inside or outside to wear them with nothing over them, but the longsleeves in particular have been getting continuous wear.

So - the extravaganza:
1. 1 black longsleeve with turtle neck. Nice drape, slightly shiny knit.
2. 1 black shortsleeve (same fabric as 1) with jewel neckline (not shown).
3. 1 green longsleeve with roll-neck, in a less shiny and more cuddly fabric.
4. 1 blue longsleeve (same sort of fabric as 3, and similar tone but blue) with roll-neck (not shown - but being worn to write this post!).
5. 1 red t-shirt. I bought a men's L size T-shirt in Yellowstone, boldly cut it up and re-made it in my size. Really this adventure deserves a blog post in itself, but will have to wait until it is warm enough to photograph. Used original neckline. Made in your standard US thick t-shirt cotton knit.
6. 1 green t-shirt with jewel neckline. Heavier weight than 1; quite a stable fabric.

One thing I learned is that how long to make the neck piece depends on the amount of give in the knit, so I found that rather than apply a rule precisely (like 3/4 neckline length for a turtle neck), it was best to cut it a couple of cm extra and then adjust later.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Striped shirt

One day, sitting in church gazing at someone in front of me, I realised he was wearing a nice casual style shirt and then realised that such a shirt could go well with the black jeans I recently made for James and that the fabric (from Emma One sock) I had already bought some years ago to make the long-sleeve version of James' evolving shirt pattern could be just the right thing.

It turned out that the required adjustments had, for once, been made to the pattern before it was put away last time, although since last time was a short sleeved shirt I still had to adjust the arms compared to the original version. I ended up leaving the arm width the same but adding some inches to the arm length, and I took the placket pattern and instructions from David Coffin's shirt making book. I also used the book for instructions on how to construct the shirt. I think that the only major problem remaining with the pattern is that the collar is a bit long in circumference, meaning that were the top button to be fastened there is not really enough room, causing the collar to not look right. Luckily, this shirt is unlikely to be worn with that button fastened, but this would need changing for a more formal shirt. The other issue is that the collar pattern requires a 1.5cm seam allowance on the edge that attaches to the collar stand. I only have 0.5cm, which really made things a bit tricky.

Oh yes - I almost forgot my terrible blunder. I cut out the pattern. Then a day or so later I was again gazing - this time at striped shirt a friend of mine was wearing. ...and noticing with dawning horror that the fabric should match at the centre front not the front edge of body pieces. Of course. Obvious. But I had done it wrong. I also did not have sufficient fabric to cut new front pieces (or even one new body piece). That is until James told me that having a seam across the front is really not a big deal if it is tucked into the trousers. He even suggested that he'd had a shirt like this previously! So I cut new fronts each made from 2 pieces and I lined up the striped pattern on the seam as closely as I could. ...and yes, indeed it worked - so well that I almost forgot to write about it...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

More  Black Jeans

This month's large project was stitching a pair of jeans for James. The first time I made James some jeans
I made the pattern from an old pair of Wrangler jeans. That time, I used moderately lightweight "soft" denim. At the time James said he'd like a pair in thicker "proper" denim. So here they are.

They are creased because I washed them after finishing them, and James has yet to wear them for a day as it is far too hot as yet. They should be good for winter! It is so hot that it was difficult getting James to try these on for even 2 minutes in fading evening light, so if the James looks cross and the photos blurred, that's why. However, his mood did seem to improve a bit as I photographed him so it is possible that the jeans are not uncomfortable. The idea is that these will replace his relatively ill-fitting black Levi 501s, which have a seam-up-the-bum while still being to wide problem (ie too short back crotch seam and too wide hips). Finding really black thick denim was hard work. Eventually I found some in one of the larger fabric shops in the Nippori fabric district in Tokyo (for those who know the area it was the 2F of a shop more or less opposite the famous shop, "Tomato". I think it is called something like "Kawamura". I bought the denim more than a year ago, and I can't see the shop on the latest Nippori map. There was a sample on the wall and I walked round the floor looking for the denim, and then in frustration asked an assistant who escorted me what was almost a separate room, stuffed full of what looked like fantastic denim. Certainly this stuff was great to sew with, thick yet supple, and it even smells properly like real new jeans.) .

I used the same method as last time to make the jeans. A few cm were added to the pattern before putting it away last time, so this time there was enough fabric to make a double hem. In fact I ended up cutting a bit of extra fabric off, and the finished items look quite long too. I decided it was better to leave them long and then adjust them later if required. Perhaps they will decrease in length a bit in wearing and washing.

Constructing these was a lot of fun. I have realised that jeans are all about obvious seams and maximising bulk; on several occasions I was sewing through 8 layers of denim. This is a refreshing change from most sewing which tends to involve things like grading seams to make them as invisible as possible.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Scrappy Snappy update

Felt tip pen is one of the deadly enemies of vinyl dolls. I can't help that think that Scrappy Snappy would just love to indulge in a little graffiti. So I carefully introduced Mary and Scrappy on neutral territory well away from all stationery. So far so good...

If there were any regular readers of this blog they might recognise the style of Mary's jacket. Yes, I used up some leftover fabric from the Jalie jacket, and made a sasha-sized version. I am not sure such a complex pattern adds much to doll-sized clothing. As sasha aficionados tend to suggest, perhaps "simple lines" suit them best.

Scrappy Snappy

A few months ago a teddy bear maker and doll enthusiast by the name of Ted Menton made a kit for a sasha-sized teddy bear (ie a bear scaled for sashas), and offered to post the construction instructions on line. At the time he started the project, there was plenty of faux fur available in the shops so I elected to use locally available supplies rather than buy the kit from the US. So many people did order the kit, however, that the project got delayed as Ted completed the orders, and by the time the lessons were posted online (Ted kindly emailed me the pattern for free) at "Ted's Teddy Talk", I could find no fur in the Kamakura shops, it being a winter fabric... I guess people in Kamakura mostly wear faux fur rather than make furry animals out of it.

I opened up my numerous bags of fabric scraps and used some faux suede. Very little fabric is needed to make this bear, who Ted named Snappy (because his joints are made with press studs, "snaps" to Americans). The faux suede does have some give so I fused some non-stretch interfacing to the back to make sure that Snappy would maintain a good shape. I stuffed him using the insides of our couch which our little furry friends have made plentifully available. He did look rather naked when finished so I decided to sew him a hairstyle out of some blonde silk yarn I had lying around. This addition does seem to have given him quite a lot of ... character. James says he looks like Johnny Rotten... Consequently I have not yet dared introduce Scrappy Snappy to the comparatively genteel Sashas for fear he will corrupt them.

P.S. That's my marvelous new 15" MacBookPro in the photo!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

red and green - Marfy waistcoat and skirt

I made the waistcoat first. It is Marfy 1468 from catalogue FallWinter2007/08. The outer layer is a faux suede, made of some synthetic fibre. It is easy to work with as it does not fray. The lining is made with silk dupioni in a rather unpleasant pale green with pink cross threads. I underlined (or interfaced) the front pieces of the lining with silk organza. Otherwise I just made the front and the lining and stitched them together as one might a sleeveless dress. I under-stitched the armholes and fronts to keep the lining under control. A few months ago, through PatternReview, I took an online class by Sarah Veblen about buttons and buttonholes. It sounds like a trivial thing to take lessons in, but it was great to learn some correct techniques which come rather close to guaranteeing the desired results. So after having mostly added the lining I decided that not only would this look better with bound button-holes, but that the non-fray feature of the fabric meant this was a really good opportunity to try them out. Since I had already sewn the lining at this point I hand-stitched the buttonholes, which actually was a relaxing way to learn how to make them. I made one practice and then the real things. For fitting I cut 2cm seam allowances, basted together the lining, tried it on, added a bit to the bust and took a bit off the hip, and marked corrected stitching lines on both the lining and outer layer. For the side seams I sewed the outer layer and lining in a single action. I basted this first, tried the waistcoat on and slightly took in the waist before finally stiitching these seams.

The skirt is Marfy 023. It is mentioned but not highlighted in catalogue FallWinter2007/08 which generally means this pattern first appeared in an earlier catalogue, but I do not know when this would have been since I have no earlier catalogues, and I also could not find the pattern on the VoguePatterns site. Anyway, this is a really easy pattern to make so if you are scared by the no instructions of Marfy patterns this would be a good one to start with. I think it should have 4 pattern pieces: 2 waistband pieces, a front and a back. When I came to use my pattern it was missing one waistband piece, but I cannot blame Marfy since we have a small furry pet who just loves to steal bits of paper of this size. So I'm not sure what Marfy had in mind for the waistband but the remaining (back) piece was a simple rectangle so I just drafted a straight 1 piece waist band. I'm not sure I really like waistbands that go firmly round the waist so if I make this again I might just make a narrow binding at the top, and let it sit slightly lower. The skirt has a rear slit and a back zipper. Size 42 fits me almost perfectly (I just took 1cm off the length and slightly straightened the wait to hip profile). I made it out of the same fabric I used to make the green frock. This made things easy since it is a relatively robust fabric but does not need lining, so it is a fairly robust skirt that can still be worn in the hot Japanese summer.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Another frock meets another royal

This one, a simple handshake with Princess Takamado, at Cambridge University's 800th birthday party in Tokyo, was rather less close to an international incident than the last time. This time the green silk frock did the honours.

The week before James rashly decided he wanted a bowtie to match my frock. There was barely enough fabric to complete both sides of the bowtie with the leftover green fabric, but James assured me that the way a bowtie is tied, means that each side can be different.

So I went ahead and made one side out of the green silk burnout underlined with red georgette, as used in the frock, and the otherside of shiny black silk charmeuse, which was leftover scraps from the lining of the pin-stripe skirt. I traced the pattern from James' favourite silk bowtie, and tried to match the feel, which required rather robust interfacing which I fused to the fashion fabric.

So it all worked out, and then James tried to tie it and discovered that both sides do show!!! Some quick googling found the way to tie a two sided bowtie - you put a single twist at the back of the neck. See photo and it should all become clear. James made the most of it, reversing the bowtie halfway through the meal, to show black bows and a green centre.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Wind and thunder

The third part of the James' trews trilogy. These ones are made in Fujin and Raijin fabric, purchased at a large fabric store in Kyoto called Nomura Tailor. Fujin and Raijin are Shinto gods of wind and thunder, and, strangely, opposite Nomura Tailor which is located in one of the main shopping streets in Kyoto, there is a building which has huge images of these two gods on it. The pair also adorn a huge wall at our workplace, where we study climate change.

It rained continuously while I was making these trousers, which, unfortunately for the rest of Japan, was during the Golden Week national holiday. The fabric is reasonably thick so quite good for rainy season which is a slightly cooler period during the Japanese summer, typically lasting most fo June. These trews sport another zipped back pocket, using up an old zipper taken of some disposed of garment. This time (and last time) the pocket is slightly larger than for the dragon trews, for those oversized hands

In addition, Simon and his new friend Garfunkel are now equipped for summer, with cotton kimono in dramatic fabrics! Lining up all the seams so that the patterns match is quite wasteful of fabric, so I managed to cut up all the larger pieces leftover from making the trews. This is a good thing since I now feel I've done my bit and can in good conscience throw out the small scraps.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Triangle trews

From time to time I impulsively buy 3.5m of cotton print to make into trews for James, so having made one pair I thought I'd carry on. and work through the stash Fabric for these was bought a couple of years ago at Yuzawaya in Kamata. It is rather lightweight cotton, so possibly not very heardwearing but they should be good for summer. Oh and I also corrected the pattern a bit to make the seams line up better, before cutting these out.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Some mid-weight dragon-baggies for James. These are a repeat of the old pattern used right at the start of this blog, although now I have done more stitching I realise that really the pattern could do with a bit of improvement to make the seam-lines match better! The fabric is a mid-weight slightly textured cotton in a Japanesie dragon print bought from "Tomato" in Nippori, Tokyo . Good for Kamakura as it is a town full of dragons, and not just ones like me, but real ones too! I added a rear zip-pocket to these, which is preferred over a non-zipped one, but apparently I made it a bit too small. My excuse is that James has unimaginably wide steak-like hands, and I was using up an old zipper from an ex-garment...

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Jalie Jacket in grown-up size

Last year I made the Jalie 2795 hooded jacket for my niece. I always intended to make one for me too. Jalie patterns seem to often include all sizes both child and adult in the same envelope. The differences between the sizes also seem small. This does make it a little difficult tracing the pattern sometimes, particularly in the region of the little triangles that mark the line-up points on the pattern pieces. I actually made mistakes in two of my pattern pieces, although I managed to use the pieces since I hadn't cut off the stitching line, and was using a completely un-ravelly fabric.

This jacket is made in a "lightweight" windpro bought from Mill Direct Textiles. It is a bit hit and miss buying from them - the website descriptions within each fabric type are opaque and the colours decidely approximate. However the quality is generally good, and the fabric type very clearly described making it a good shop for fabric meant for technical wear. Windpro is fleece that is wind resistant. It is not windproof, but cuts out a lot more wind than standard fleece. This makes it much more suitable for an outlayer such as this hoody. This particular version has a hard outer and fleecy inner, a fact that was not apparent to me from the description on the website, however, this makes it even more suitable for an outer layer. The fabric did indeed feel quite lightweight before the jacket was made, and I was concerned it would be too thin, but it is fine now it is sewn up. I envisage this is a spring/autumn weight jacket. In fact I have already started wearing it as an outer layer and so far it has been very successful, if the fact that James keeps asking "aren't you cold?" when we're standing on breezy railway platforms is anything to go by.

Construction was identical to the fleece made for my niece. On the whole I think I did a better job - easier second time around, but I did make one mistake, which was sewing the collar piece on upside down, sewing the shorter rather than longer edge onto the neckline. It was too late to rip by the time I realised, so I trimmed the sides of the piece so that it fitted onto the hood properly. However, by sewing the shorter piece to the neckline I had of course stretched it, which is, I think why there are draglines in the collar.

I am not so sure that the design at the front with the chest-level seam is particularly flattering, but the pockets, created by the seam, are certainly useful.

In Jalie sizes, my chest measurement places me two to three sizes above my waist and hip measurements. But in this case I didn't think I wanted the jacket to be waist or hip-hugging so I cut the correct size for my chest. I basted all the body seams together and tried it on and then decided to sew about 1mm outside the stitching line for the chest area and about 1mm inside for waist-hip. With all the seams on this garment that's at least 6mm reduction in total. I suppose I could have taken more off the waist-hip area, but the finished garment feels OK. Judging from the pattern pictrures, the pattern is designed to have rather long sleeves with cuffs down to the thumb joint. I reduced the length by sewing a bigger seam allowance at the cuff, so that they came down to this point on me. This long sleeve length makes the jacket excellent for cycling.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

pajama party

Last but certainly not least (cos they are for me) is the pajamas. These are made from a cool Jalie pattern 2686 in cotton flannel. These have more details than basic pajamas like those James gets :-) . For example, the jacket has piping detail which was fun to make (from cotton broadcloth strips cut on the bias with cord inside) and install. The waist band of the trousers has an elasticated back and a cord tie at the front. These took a long time to cut out because I squeezed in an extra pair of trousers, since they seem to wear out so much more quickly than the jackets, and I ended up cutting out mostly on a single layer of fabric. I lined up some bits properly with the fabric stripes, but failed to realise quite how the cuffs worked so they are not lined up at all.

After 2 pairs of trousers and a jacket there was about 30cm left plus other scraps. Just enough to make full pajamas plus dressing gown for Simon . These patterns were traced off some original sasha doll PJs, that came on wee James, a 1969 Sasha I found for sale on the web. Oh no - a vintage dolly addiction! I am a pensioner before my time! Anyway, I added a fun detail to these, using some of the selvage to make a fringe applied in a similar way to the piping in the Jalie pattern, using it to finish the fronts of the dressing down and also on the pockets and the cuffs of the pajama jacket.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

James in winter

James has always had a pair of winter walking breeches. Very nice they are too, in tweed. Of course they are supposed to be plus 2s (meaning 2" spare in length), but on James they were minus 2s. Apart from that, though they were great, so there was no need to make some new ones until they started to get rather thin.

I made these new plus 2s without destroying the originals, by pinning tracing paper onto the originals and drawing on the stitching lines. I then made a mock up in some super cheap corduroy, and then adjusted the pattern, and made sure that the pattern pieces lined up with each other. At least that was the idea. I forgot to transfer one of the adjustments (taking some extra out of the back crotch curve) to the pattern before cutting it out again. It is quite irritating, since it causes the trousers to "pooch out" at the back in most positions. It is not so bad in these picture,s where James has things in his pockets and is striding up the hill. What I should have done is double check by tacking together the final version after it was cut out - then I could easily have adjusted it. But in the overall complexity of all the different parts of the construction I forgot to do this. Major surgery would be required to adjust it now, so I wont bother, especially since James says the comfort is good.

These are made from Polartec PowerShield (from Malden Mills Direct). This is a stretch fabric, 1 layer with a hopefully very hardwearing outer and fleece inner, whereas the originals and my mock up fabric are both non stretch woven. The back pocket is very clever. It creates a double thickness seat which is good for durability and warmth sitting on rocks and sliding down moutains and the like. The belt loops are about 10cm long, and they fold into the waistband, which meant dealing with enormous thicknesses of fabric at the waistband. There are all sorts of clever willy guards inside the fly, while the bottom of the legs are finished with a little gusset and velcro tabs.

As you can see from the photos, there was not much snow around when we went for a little walk the other week, so these have not been tested in real winter conditions yet. But it was the first time on any winter walk that the bottom of the legs of James' breeches have not come undone nor his socks fallen down!

Penny Frocks

My nice niece (called Penny) has her birthday on Christmas Day. A year ago I bought her toys, but the shops were all so segregated into boys things (fun, interactive) and girls things (domestic-ish, pink, useless) that I warned my brother well in advance that next time I would make things, and got measurements of niecey in about October. So, having planned well in advance I managed to fit in making two things even though the wimmin's conference organising was getting a bit of an obsession by then.

First of all the Penny frock. It was a choice between a Simplicity pattern and a New Look Project Runway pattern. I actually bought both patterns and then dithered about which to choose. The Project Runway patterns don't look that appealing to me. Maybe it is because the pictures are always so small on the pattern cover, and they look weirdly "trendy", and unpractical. I decided on the Simplicity and even traced the pattern. Then I compared it to the New Look P.R. pattern and realised that it had a huge amount of ease (about 6") so was going to look rather style-less on a four year old, and that the Project Runway pattern was a lot cuter! So I switched. It turned out to be a lot of fun. These P.R. patterns have lots of optional extras, that are quite easy to add. I made the frock as a sleeveless version from a rather thin cotton, and lined it with a red silk (both from my stash), and then made a silk sash for the waist. I don't know how hard it will wear, but kids clothes only need to last a year, right? I haven't seen a picture of her wearing it yet, but I understand she has done so, so perhaps it fits.

To encourage the inner tomboy in Penny-niece, I also made her a hoodie. The was made from left over sweatshirt fabric. So that's 3 hoodies this piece of fabric has made - one for James, one for Simon and one for Penny! This is the Jalie hooded jacket pattern. I also intend to make this one for myself and I have already bought some windpro fleece from Malden Mills. The pattern was great. It was easy to make (no easing - just stitching pieces together and top stitching), but with lots of pieces and top stitching it looks quite cool (I think). I haven't had any feedback on whether the jacket fits or not (or whether niecey is allowed to be a hoodie-girl!).

A week after posting it all off, I was thinking about how impoverished a present of stuff stitched from spare fabric was, when I spotted a local shop that sells moderately nice kiddiwink clothes. I couldn't believe how expensive they were, for things not as nice (IMO) and certainly in less nice fabric. Kiddies clothes are also fun to make. Not quite as fast as dolly clothes but things like cutting out are much easier, and the clothes come together quite quickly.