Sunday, July 20, 2014

Bits & Bobs...Sweater & Sweets

"My First Sweater" Craftsy Class, knitted three
times. I'm surprised it didn't felt.
There's always a little somethin' somethin' that I'm working on...stealing a few minutes here and there. But there's also projects that just sit in a holding bin, and others practically on life support. My Craftsy sweater went through both stages, and last week, I buckled down and finished the darn thing.

If you're wondering why my cardigan looks a little different, it's because I also knitted some flowers to enhance and hopefully draw one's attention away from my little knitting glitches. But overall, I think it turned out okay for my first sweater. If you're wondering how I knitted the flowers, here's a tutorial I used as a guide, except I changed the pattern ever so slightly for mine. You can find instructions HERE at Julie's Mack and Mabel blog. It's a generous blog that's filled with goodies for knitters and quilters.

The sweater was also the first test subject for my newly constructed photo studio. My daughter and I spent Saturday piecing it together, and she's volunteered to shoot photos for me in her spare time. I'm interested in learning how to improve my photography and playing around with lighting.

The mochi was "almost" too lovely to eat. The Cascade yarn is from the
"Cloud" brand. Bone china cups are the best for tea sipping (IMHO). 
This past Friday was my birthday, and yes, it was a wonderful day.

The kids bought me sweet gifts (for the heart and tooth) that really represented some of my favorite things: new bone china tea cups and handmade mochi. The absolute surprise was my son, who walked into the local yarn store with his sister, and picked out two lovely skeins of Cascade wool and alpaca mixed purple yarn. How apropos? I already have my eye on this free pattern HERE .  Every gift was thoughtful and filled with love.

The double gauze is on the top right corner.
My husband took the day off, and we spent a mostly Bay Area traffic-free day in Santa Cruz for lunch and fabric shopping at Harts. I wanted to get some inspiration from Harts' wide selection of Japanese imports. I do most of my fabric shopping online these days, but it can never compare to physically being inside a fabric store.

Harts also has three or four shelves stuffed full of organic cotton. It's a quilter's dream...but alas, I'm not a quilter, (which is probably a good thing).

I picked up three pieces of Kokka cotton. All the double gauze rolls were pretty thinned out by the time I got to them. I found one pattern I've been eyeing for a while, and couldn't resist a couple of yards. The other two Kokka cottons were waffle weaved, almost like a knit, but no stretch. Both pieces have a good weight and thickness for a top or dress. I think the colors of the two waffle weaved pieces actually coordinate. I found them on the 30% sale table.  Score!

I also picked up my first Decades of Style, 1952 Wrap Blouse pattern. I'm pretty excited to sew the blouse for Fall.  It looks like the sizing is better than the Eva Dress pattern, and I don't have to do too much grading. If it's easy enough, I might have to pick up more. Decades of Style is a local Bay Area pattern company based in my former hometown of Berkeley, California. See all their patterns HERE.
There was pork belly, yellow tail sashimi, fried okra & mochi, salmon sushi,
tonkatsu okonomiyaki style, and ikura and sea urchin rice. Not shown was the 
seared duck, beef tongue, vegetable tempura, wakami salad, (and beer). 

The rest of the day was spent lounging around, and eating lots and lots of yummy food. We tried a new izakaya restaurant (Japanese small plates), and loved all our dishes. Pretty soon, this is going to turn into a food blog too.

Check out all the deliciousness! Oh, and don't forget the strawberry shortcake from the Buttery!

Happy day!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Feliz CumpleaƱos Frida Kahlo 2014!

I literally had this photo taken right after I was done. 
I should have added a few Frida'esque accessories.

"I used to think I was the strangest person in the world, but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it's true, I'm here, and I'm just as strange as you."  ~ Frida Kahlo
  If Frida were alive today, she would be 107 years old. July is a special month, besides it being the month of my birthday, it is also the month of Frida's birth and death. According to Frida's actual birth certificate, she was born on July 6, 1907. But Frida used July 7 as her official birthday.  I decided to hold a sewing tribute on her selected day. But to cover all the basis, I had a little Frida birthday party on the sixth. 
  On the sewing front, I decided to step it up a notch this year by making a full dress. I've been collecting several yards of silk fabric as of late, and it's finally time to cut into some.  It's hard to imagine that I've never sunk my sewing teeth into silk. It's really lovely to wear, and at least for my first project, surprisingly easy to sew.
  Yearning for cool-weather dresses, and in keeping with my Japanese-inspired theme, I settled on the Satsuki dress from Victory Patterns. My idea almost spoiled by the fact that the pattern needed 60-inch-wide fabric. I didn't have any silk wide enough to fit the bill, and buying more was out of the question. 
  I salvaged my plan with some dumb luck because I realized my sari fabric was printed on the cross grain anyway. I used the end section of the sari fabric which was a completely different pattern and color for right side of the final dress. I thought it gave it a completely different look from my muslin below. I know It's a bit quirky.  I also added pockets to this version.

Sari fabric is surprisingly sturdy and easy to sew. I would never thought so by looking at how delicate it draped. If the chance comes up again, I might pick up some more and use it on more projects. For quilters out there, I heard they make great warm-weather quilts.
  After reviewing the Satsuki sewing pattern, I thought it looked relatively foolproof and decided to make the muslin out of the same sari fabric. I paid roughly five dollars a yard for it at the FABMO sale. Although it was more expensive than cotton muslin, I thought it would be worth using if only to see how the dress would ultimately drape. 

  I used the v-neck with shoulder cut outs for the muslin. I took some liberties and played around with the sari selvedge with a lovely gold and navy trim. To slim the silhouette down, I added it to the front center.  I also considered making the sash out of the selvedge, but in the end, I like the dress better without the sash. My muslin ended up being a wearable dress too. Double surprise! I can't decide which two I like more. What do you think?

The sari hanging out to dry before cutting. The blue end is at
the far left of the photograph.
Overall, the pattern and fit worked out great. If you haven't used Victory Patterns before, they run big so at least for me, I don't have to do much upsizing like I do with all my other patterns. I love the whole collection, and I plan to make at least one more dress from Victory Patterns this year. Check them out HERE.

Sizing and pockets
  A couple of technical issues for folks interested in making this dress. Although I added pockets on the final dress, I'm still on the fence about it. The pockets sit a little low.  I'm keeping them for now. When I wore the muslin, my hands kept looking for pockets, which is why I added it to the second version.  I made the dress in a size 10. I would consider making it in a smaller size next time. The thin sari material gave the extra ease a nice drape, but might feel bulky with thicker cloth. 

Neck Facing
  For both the muslin and the final, I found the neck facing slightly off. This could be a cutting issue coupled by a printing issue of the grading marks. I think it would have been better if there were more facing pattern size instead of squishing all the grading marks onto one pattern piece. I had to tweak the neck facings manually to get a good fit. I could have double checked the facing beforehand and balanced out the difference before cutting the fabric. I guess I'll do that next time. I used light fusible interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supplies.  

  The front flounce on the final version was heavy due to the light fabric, and to avoid having the flounce pull on the neckline, I had to secure the facing down more to provide better stability. I was fearful it wouldn't work, but it did.

Cutting on the cross grain
  Even though I recommend cutting on cross grain whenever a pattern could benefit from it, I don't know if I would do it again with another silk fabric. I think I lucked out here with the sari silk pattern wise. I also don't recommend using stretch fabric for the version with the shoulder cut outs. I think it would be difficult to stitch the binding without stretching. The cut outs on my muslin was passable but questionable enough for me to omit it from the final cut. 

Kimono sleeve
  For the Kimono sleeve edges, I followed the pattern instructions for hemming, and didn't think the result made a huge difference especially after you factor the extra hand easing work involved. I double hemmed it on the muslin, and it was okay but thick. On the final, I just did a basic stitch after over-locking the edges. If I were using a thicker fabric, I may need to use the sewing instruction version. I would say this is a trial and error thing depending on your fabric, and what side of the grain you're using.

Other fabric options
  I do think a rayon viscose would look wonderful with this dress. I have some of this fabric, and I'm considering a third version for the fall. A little added weight would definitely create a more sensual look. 

Downloaded pattern
  Unlike my first Victory Pattern (Lola), I downloaded this version from the internet. Although it's more work. I was a bit pressed for time, and wanted to save a few dollars on the pattern. Everything printed up and taped together just fine. I regret not copying the pattern into my size after I finished taping it. But I was a bit burned out from transferring all my other Japanese sewing patterns.  

Happy birthday Frida! I know wherever you are, 
there will always be fresh flowers and vibrant colors. 

Frida Kahlo - July 6 or 7th 1907 - July 13, 1954.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Let the Festivities Begin. This is a Frida Teaser But With Food.

Earl Grey Infused Cream Cake - Satura Bakery, Los Altos
We didn't have a barbecue for Fourth of July.  As much as I love grilled meat, it's just not in our family's diet anymore. I spent the holiday lounging around with my husband, and then we trekked over to Shoreline to watch some spectacular fireworks.

Today...which is Sunday, and technically, Frida Kahlo's birthday, I decided to make some Mexican food. This food stuff is just a teaser for tomorrows Frida Kahlo reveal. There's a handful of sewists participating, so don't forget to checkout the Google Plus Community site HERE.

Back to the food, I don't really know how authentic it all is, but I know that I'm not a big fan of the restaurant cooking here in California. I prefer eating Mexican food inside the home's of friends or my friend's parents. I have been spoiled since childhood I guess.

After a long hiatus from cooking any Mexican food...I drummed up a few dishes today. But before dinner, we decided to have dessert. (See slice of cake above. Yum.)  Hey...didn't you know that the best time to have dessert is before dinner?

Everything homemade and organic. 
Here's what was for dinner...Happy Birthday Frida!

On the menu from the top, clockwise:
- Garlic bok choy (Hey, there are Asians in Mexico too.)
- Tomato, onion, cilantro, and lime salsa
- Chipotle lamb stew (in the center)
- Handmade corn tortillas
- Fresh limes
- Spanish rice
- Refried Beans
- Sadly, the avocados are missing from photo.

Don't forget to check back at midnight, Pacific Time, to see the Frida post!!! Happy eating, sewing, and dreaming of flowers and chocolate!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Creating Sacred Spaces In Unlikely Places

My old chair with all my stuff at arm's reach. 
I have been space-obsessed as of late. It's not the lack of space, but really creating an environment that is conducive to studying, creating, and simply lounging. I found myself moving from room to room, looking for a location to basically be mine. I thought that I created my space when I set up my sewing studio, but after a year of having it, I was still yearning for a quiet corner of my own.

The other side of my room with desk.
I have temporary use of the spare guest room that's been converted to my office. At some point, I'm going to give this to my husband. It's a smallish room, with lovely natural light in every corner. Guests have slept well here, even on an inflatable mattress. It's tucked away at the back of the house, and shares an entry with my laundry room. I've kept half the room empty so we could allow for a guest bed.

But this past Monday, I asked my son to drag down this giant sofa chair that I've had wasting away in the bedroom into my office. It fits perfectly with its matching ottoman against the other window in the room.

I've created a new sitting corner that's within arm's reach of my study materials, craft books, and even my knitting. I drink tea here, meditate, take cat naps, and even watch Netflix, and it's only been a couple of days!

What I see outside my two office windows.
It's just a chair you say...but to me it's really something more. It's been my sacred space all along, but just didn't see it.  One beloved chair; one empty corner; the perfect ingredients for solitude.  What is surprising is how unexpected this was for me. I felt like I had a small self-discovery journey inside my home.

Looking back now...I don't think I arrived at my sacred space overnight. I've been walking around my back yard the last few weeks and rekindled some old love there. I rediscovered many places that could also serve as sacred spaces.

As I moved through my backyard, I kept thinking, wouldn't this be a wonderful place for a bench? I could create some cushions for it, and even decorate a small table here. I began to see areas that I mostly thought were unusable, beautiful again. Here are just some examples:

Then I took this idea further, and began noticing spaces beyond my home. I live across from a small park, and beyond that, another neighborhood that I didn't pay much attention to but decided to explore. Here is a sacred space that someone created in front of their home for strangers to rest. We don't have sidewalks here, so this area was literally the very front of their yard.  I thought it was a mindful and generous gift. I was grateful to have found it.

Our heart and spirit speaks to us in subtle ways, at least mine did. I think I'm trying to convey a bigger message...that sacred spaces can be found anywhere. Many years ago, I read a book recommended by a friend called Creating Sacred Space by Karen Kingston. There's only been a handful of books that have changed my life, and this was one of them. It taught me to purge my belongings and learn to let go of more than just old clothes and shoes. Kingston's message was about clearing out old emotions disguised as our clutter, so we can clear ourselves of its burdens.  Its undercurrent modeled after the Tao. It would be many years later when I would read and study The Tao De Ching, only to hear the message again...have nothing, have everything...empty so we have space to fill. 

Thinking about Kingston's book reminds me that it's about time to start clearing out things I don't use or cannot recycle, and giving it away to others who can. Where's your sacred space? I know many people around the world have them. Once the kids move out, I'll have opportunities to create more (smile). Happy space hunting!

PS: Karen Kingston has her own blog if you're interested in learning more about her HERE. Her book is also available on Amazon.

My latest favorite tea time snack: organic chocolate hazelnut spread with milk tea. 
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