Friday, December 23, 2011

nobby nobheads

For some reason hats keep getting lost, so a couple of months ago I whipped up a couple more. Basically the construction was the same as last time, but the materials were a little different. The bands are made with powerstretch. Since powerstretch is...stretchy...I made use of this facet, and made the bands a bit shorter, and so the hats grip the heads gently. The aim of James' hat was warmth so the top is made of sturdy non-stretch windbloc hard face, with shearling inner. I already have a nice warm hat given to me by my sister in law so I made a lighter weight hat for cycling and running, and the top is just a single layer of powerstretch. It has taken a while to take the photos as it has only recently become cold enough for James to start wearing his hat. I have been wearing mine regularly for a couple of months, but don't know how long I will be able to not loose such a black hat. 

Friday, September 30, 2011


Not quite my usual sort of thing this...

On a rainy day in autumn it gets a little cool at work in the afternoons. I thought an unconstraining flowing kind of garment might be nice to throw on at these times. I chose Jalie 2919, but then had much trouble getting my sticky little hands on the pattern. The shipping is too expensive at patternreview and (IIRC) it was out of stock at Jalie, so I purchased it at sewing, a store I have used successfully in the past. The postage was certainly cheap, but several weeks later it still hadn't arrived! I complained and they said they'd send it again. Eventually, about 3 weeks later I got an email saying it had just been shipped and it duly arrived in Japan within the normal 2 weeks that airmail from the US takes. I'm guessing it was actually also out of stock at sewing

The fabric is a 2 way stretch lightweight hot pink silk knit that I impulse bought online from the USA. Such impulse purchases are not as uncommon as you might hope. When I am making a sensible fabric purchase online for a planned project, the postage is so expensive for a single purchase that I typically add in a few extra things to make it feel like less of a rip off. Thus my pile of fabric continues to grow, sometimes with rather curious pieces. I could see from the pattern that it wasn't going to fit my shape with the bulging hips and one-piece back, but I thought it possible that the drape of the fabric or tightness of the design might counteract these potential issues, and thus did not adjust the pattern. When it was made up I did decide it would benefit from refining closer to my shape. Since the design had a pleated front but no design features on the back or side, rather than just take in the seams, I sewed the new seam lines just down to the waist so that they appear to be pleats giving a vaguely similar design to the front. I did this for the back, and both sides. I don't have a photo which clearly shows these features - the wind blew too hard when James took the photo of the back of the garment.

As you can see the arms are quite long. I thought that was no bad thing for the intended use, but I still shortened the arms by 2cm with respect to the pattern. How much one may need to do this will depend on the stretch and drape of the fabric.

I am not sure that my legs are long or straight enough to pull this design off, but I do like the colour, and since I will mostly wear it sitting at my desk and generally skulking around work in the afternoons perhaps the leg issue won't matter too much. How will it look with my pinky Marfy trews?

Now, what to wear for the very cold winter days at work? During that season some people basically wear rugs while at their desks.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Simple Sack

The Yokohama walking shop, Kamoshika, gives out a couple of bags to those who join their loyalty scheme. Then, rather than hand over a card at the cash desk you wave a bag and they take n% off the purchases as they put them in the bag. One of the bags is perhaps the most simple rucksack there is. Basically it's a drawstring nylon bag, but the strings are webbing and attached to rings in the bottom corners, so it can carried on the back.

When we went to volunteer in Ishinomaki, we couldn't carry that much stuff so James took this extremely lightweight rucksack and it worked out well, so I decided to make one for me. I also added an insert to both bags to allow a Platypus water carrier to be carried a little separately from the other things in the bag. The pattern for the main body is pretty simple - just a rectangle with some folds in. The metal rings came from the make your own handbag section of Swany, in Kamakura. The seams in the original and the copy are bound with tough binding so that the binding takes some strain off the fabric. I made the bag out of left over trench coat fabric, and the Platypus holders are made of Pertex.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

More cool bizz

The faux suede shorts wore through and James requested more. I found I still had enough tencel left to make another pair, just like the last ones. In fact I had just enough fabric for 2 pairs, although there was one flaw in the fabric which appears on the arse of one pair. I also managed to cut a waistband out wrong (not straight enough on grain) and then didn't have enough to cut another one long enough, so one of the waistbands has side seams. Due to the small overlap at the front, I fastened them with a snap rather than a button and the waistband was interfaced with Pro-Weft Fusible

After they were finished James told me that he always wants rear pockets in trousers, even shorts. This pattern doesn't have a rear pocket and I'd assumed since he'd been wearing both previous pairs happily for years that an exact remake of the pattern would be desired. Oh well.

Here's a recycled photo from 2006, but it's not that inappropriate as the shirt is still being worn too. The shoes are relegated to gardening only, but the model has only become more handsome. 

Lovely James

Monday, July 25, 2011


About a year ago, instead of using the used tea leaves to grow mould in the sink trap, I made James dry and save and store them all in tins. It was really the mother-in-law's idea as she had remarked that old tea leaves make good stuffing for pin cushions and the like.

The question was, which stuffed toy should we make. We pondered various options, but suddenly realised that we needed a hippo in order that the one of us being the most hypocritical at the time, could be given the hippo. 
For the first time I made a purchase on a website called Etsy. I bought a pattern called Heather Hippo, by FunkyFriendsFactory. The pattern arrives as a PDF file a few days after the order is placed, and then it can be printed out. Wanting a slightly smaller hippo, I printed out the pattern at 75%. The pattern is very well made and the pieces fit together very well indeed. The instructions were also comprehensive. 

I found enough red fur for about 600¥ in the bits bin at Yuzawaya in Kamata, used fake suede for the contrast and sewed Hippo up my hand. The tea gives her almost a bean-bag feel, and she smells very nice, but I should have made a lining out of a closely woven fabric, as little bits of tea are going to escape through the somewhat loose weave of the slightly stretchy red fur fabric.

Friday, July 22, 2011


Last week we went volunteering in Ishinomaki, one of the the tsunami hit cities of north Japan. See here for the story and here for some videos and photos. Shelter was the campsite at the local university so I took the opportunity of upgrading my leaky thermarest to the fabulously expensive super-light NeoAir Thermarest. This piece of equipment is so expensive that the stuff sack is sold separately (here it is on Amazon). Bugger that, thought I, and swiftly stitched up my own version with some Pertex that I had from when I made cycling tops and bottoms for James. The NeoAir, although a bit noisy, certainly was comfortable, and we had such a good time volunteering that we intend to go again, only this time we hope to take our bike, so James will not be able to bring his air bed. Thus, a longer NeoAir has been duly purchase, and a slightly larger stuff sack knocked up.

The stuff sack consists of a rectangle, sewn with a single seam to make a pipe, stitched onto a circle on one end and with a hem on the other through which a string is threaded. One sentence! 15USD on Amazon!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Marfy trews #4

I made another pair of Marfy 0680, this time in a fairly heavyweight (at least so it seems from here in the middle of the Japanese summer), striped stretch fabric from Gorgeous Things. I made jeans style pockets on this pair, and added patch pockets to the back. With the stretch, they seemed looser, and I took them in a fair amount (making about 2cm extra seam allowance) on the outside seams. They have come out feeling a little long from waist to crotch. In theory I could I suppose take off the waistband and move it down a centimeter or so, but probably I won't get a round tuit.

So, I haven't actually worn these yet, except a little round the house just after they were finished and very quickly just now to take the photo, because, just as I finished them, summer suddenly arrived. Stretch trousers are really comfortable on aeroplanes so I hope these they may be an alternative to these flower trews which are now rather faded.

Friday, June 03, 2011

J's Trenchcoat

At last, many years after I made a trenchcoat for myself, someone (Vogue patterns) brought out a pattern for a men's trench coat! This is V8720. I'd considered making a coat for James - we even went snoop shopping in San Francisco last year to consider styles - but I had been very put off by the available patterns. On the verge of adjusting my trenchcoat pattern for James, luckily this pattern came out just in time to save me all the work. 

The search for fabric was taxing. The idea was to make a coat with a softer drape, unlike the typical tight fitting straight-jacket style worn by the prim young salarymen in Tokyo (James is not prim!). I ordered swatches from Rockywoods and Gorgeous things, and eventually we chose some shiny and slightly crinkly dark brown slippery stuff. It isn't waterproof, but is hopefully showerproof,  and it cost quite a lot. I tested pretreating the fabric in various ways. Washing it seemed to shrink it a little, but more importantly it lost significant water repellency. So instead I ironed the whole yardage with a cool iron to preshrink it a bit so that it could be washed in the future if required, and also so that it would not shrink as I ironed it during construction. Getting the interfacing to stick down with the cool iron was a challenge, but I think it is all stitched down by all the edge and topstitching so it should be OK. It is rather softly interfaced (with pro-weft), and tacking down a fusible interfacing with the iron seemed preferable to sewing in interfacing, which would have made additional holes in the fabric!  

I had plans to line the coat, but the pattern is deliberately designed to be unlined, with carefully finished seams and large front facings. Since this version is meant for use in rainy season in Japan, when it is warm and wet, we decided to go with the unlined version. My feeling is that this will not aid the performance in wet weather as when it gets wet it will probably stick to the clothes underneath. The fabric is, however, very slippery so perhaps it will be OK. Time will tell. I finished the coat several weeks ago, and it has been quite wet in Japan ever since - but we have been away in a very dry part of the USA instead - so it had yet to be thoroughly tested. 

I happily used up some accidentally purchased (otherwise known as "what was I thinking?") cotton to make a test garment for fitting, adding several inches to the length of body and arms. I cut size 40 for the test, but ended up increasing the width across the back and shoulders, somewhat and fitted the size 42 collar pieces to the adjusted body. The resulting coat is perhaps a bit loose across the chest. The main mistake in construction (apart from sewing one pocket on upside-down and the other inside out, which I managed to recover from by sewing a new pocket bag onto the wrong way up one) was not altering the position of the lowest button after lengthening the garment. I think this button is too low, and will sometimes have to be released so that it does not restrict motion. The buttons are deliberately size 30mm rather than 25mm - I thought the over-sized buttons added a little something to the intended looser styling. Other changes from the pattern were to add a pertex lining (purple!) to the back flap piece, and also to stitch down the centre of the flap. The belt loops were fitted according to taste of the wearer, somewhat below his true waist. Otherwise I basically followed the instructions. I intend to include a belt buckle, but have yet to travel in to Yokohama to get one.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Thermo-nuclear gloves

Found some Polartec Windbloc at Rockywoods and made lobster cycling gloves for him and her. The fabric description says - "Brown Nylon Canvas face and Cream Shearling back. This fabric would make a nice jacket, vest, hat, mittens and other outerwear". The fabric is pretty stiff and thick, so these were put together slightly differently to the previous pair. I trimmed the fleece from the edges before stitching, overlapped most of the seams, handstitching where required, and made the gusset between the pincers from the more pliant windstopper fabric used for the last pair. The photos show one hand from each pair. James' pair came out too tight, because I stupidly used the same pattern as before even though this time the fleece was on the inside, rather than outside. Some surgery has fixed this; cutting them open and adding a windstopper gusset down the thumb. As well as giving the required room, this gusset does make the fit look better. I suspect that fitting a similar gusset down the index finger would further improve the fit. Some of my gloves do include such a thing, although it is clear from looking at all our pairs of gloves that there are many acceptable ways of constructing a pair of gloves.

Of course now it is warming up here a bit, so these wont get properly tested until next year, however, mine did keep my hands warm and dry in a relatively cold and rainy day recently. James' have only just been finished so are not tested yet.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

World's best Mini MacbookAir case

World's best because it seems to be the world's only. Can't find any cases designed to fit the thinking woman's iPad, and so now have to face the fact that the only things in the MacStore that we haven't bought yet are the things that haven't been invented. Not that the thinking woman's iPad necessarily requires a case, but it would be a shame to pull it out of my rucksack and find it had a big scratch across the top.

This case is made from leftover denim lined with leftover wool, fastened  with two little magnetic fasteners. Total cost: 200¥ (1.66 UKP) plus a few hours hard labour. It being denim, I had to include a patch pocket, so I made it to fit an ipod, as I often carry both items around together at work.  

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

carpet trousers

As the winter wore on, James begged for another pair of what have become known as carpet trousers - winter-weight baggies. These ones are not cotton, but wool, quite thick with a very coarse weave. Like the thick cotton baggies, I finished the edges of the fabric first, to stop it all unravelling. The fabric caused the thread to wear thin and snap periodically. I am not sure why this was - but guess that parts of the thick weave are very dense.

Monday, February 14, 2011

woolly hoody

A remake of my version of the hoody from Burda 8291 last made in 2006. 

The first version, linked to above, has been so well worn and complimented that I'd thought it was time I made another. Then, in December, visiting Britex fabrics, located conveniently near the Moscone Center in San Francisco (where I was attending a conference) I found an expensive sheer loopy woolly knit, and bought 2 yards of purple and two of blue with the bold idea of making a reversible hoody.

Since this is for cold weather I added 10cm to the length.  I machine washed one of the pieces and then decided it had been a bad idea and washed the other piece in the bath. Handwashing only for this jumper then. I did manage to steam the first piece back into shape before cutting out. 

This is a delicate fabric as it catches and pulls on any rough surface. When this happens it is possible to repair it, but my conclusion is that this is best worn indoors, for example, at work. Another reason it is good for indoors is of course that despite being warm and fluffy and cosy when there is no breeze, the wind goes straight through it. Luckily it is frequently cold inside Japanese buildings, including work, so I expect to wear it quite enough to wear it out. 

Surprisingly the machine handled the fabric, a wool and acrylic mix, quite well. I interfaced the shoulders, neck, cuffs and hem. I wondered how to join the two colours together but in the end I just made a blue hoody and a purple hoody and then top stitched and edge-sticthed the two together at the hood edge, cuffs and hem.

The inevitable mistake. My house is rather dark inside and it is sometimes difficult to recognise the difference between fabric face and back. I really thought this fabric was the same on both sides (I'd checked this in Britex too, and the shop assistant had thought likewise), but the moment I joined the two hoodies together I realised that the body of the blue one is inside out! Oh well!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Gloves Galore

In autumn I lost one of my favourite cold weather cycling gloves. I think I left it on a bus. The pair not only fitted like gloves, but were the best I had for both bicycling, every day, and mountain climbing. What a sad loss...

So I bought some kevlar and some Gore-windstopper from Rockywoods, and started to learn how gloves are constructed. I looked at all our pairs of gloves. They are all rather differently constructed. It seems there is no right way to make a pair of gloves. I drew around my hand and also James', and made some mockups and then some wearable mockups out of some leftover lightweight windpro. Now my friends are fascinated that my gloves match my jacket! These gloves are OK for autumn or spring but not warm enough for winter cycling. They also are not good for cycling as they have no padding on the palms.   

Somewhere along the way, my lovely idea of a pair of all-round winter gloves for me got transformed into a pair of lobster-claw cycling gloves for James. I'm not sure how... partly because I am soft, but also because I can put a pair of lightweight fleece gloves inside the windpro ones and have a result warm enough for cold days and mountains, and I do also have a pair of winter cycling gloves that are not quite as warm as the one I lost, but could do with being worn out of my closet. 

The big leap of understanding in the hiatus between the construction of the windpro gloves and the lobster claws was the realisation that we don't walk around with our fingers straight, but with them curled towards the palm. Thus, flat gloves work their way off the hand in use. The lobster claw pattern has shorter fingers on the palm side, and the gusset between the middle two fingers is also interestingly shaped. 

I am told that the results are nice and warm but it turns out that this particular Gore windstopper is not the best for gloves because it has a fleecy outer and a smooth lining. For gloves you want a hard outer and fleecy inner! You'd think I could just turn it round, but the lining has a kind of loopy stitch that would catch on any rough edge. So I've sent off for some more bits from Rockwoods - then perhaps I will be able to start work on my all-round winter gloves...?

Some stitchers measure their progress on their fabric stash in terms of yardage in and yardage out. Be warned that spending a month making gloves is disastrous when seen in these terms!! I have worked through barely a metre, and bought several metres for future projects in the meantime...!

[Note for jules - have adjusted the finger lengths on the gloves pattern, but need to re-design the gussets]

Found some scraps of blue Polartec Powerdry of just the right size, and lined the gloves. James seems happy, but now, of course the weather has warmed up...

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Boxers #2

Last year, before we went to the UK, I made 2 pairs of boxer shorts for James.

One pair were a remake of these also made from some leftover silk. I did take a picture but can't seem to find it now. Being "airy" they go very well with the man blouse for summer lounge-wear.

The second pair were more complex, being a copy of James' favourite but fallen apart boxer shorts. Since they had already fallen apart I just fully cut them up to copy the pattern. The pattern was more contoured than the very simple design of the Jalie 2326 used for the other pair. I made them up in leftover black Polartec Powerdry. The idea was to make some boxers that may be good for mountaineering. To me they look quite bulky, but James says they are very comfortable. No photo of these as yet. These seem to be a superior pattern to the Jalie for actual use as underwear, and are good for using up leftover fabric, but probably wont be used again for a while, as James seems to very well supplied with underwear...