Journal

Inspiration - noun
  1. 1.the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, esp. to do something creative.




August 14, 2015

I remember many, many years ago, I changed my hair color from mahogany to more of a orange red...kinda like a dark brick color. Okay...not my best hair days. When I did that nothing looked good on me. All my clothes colors were off, and especially my makeup. It amazed me how something so small as hair color could screw my wardrobe so much. After a couple of months, I went back to my old color, and all was right again in the world. But colors of my life are changing once again.

About eight years ago, I switched to a natural hair dye, five years of using the natural hair dye, I realized it was not all that natural after all.Then I investigated henna, and learned that much of the henna dyes contain processing agents which are the toxic chemicals. THEN...I learned about what processing the hair really meant, and it really was a whole process prior to treating hair.

Two years ago, I let my gray grow out a good six inches. I looked bad. But I was in limbo. I later found some pure, chemical-free and tested henna hair dye in a lovely mahogany, and the rest is history. Sure, it's a long a tedious process. I guess if I really want healthy hair color, I was going to have to work for it. The quick and easy method was too good to be true...isn't most things in life this way? But this week, upon placing another order, they stopped carrying mahogany, only Auburn. OMG. What will this mean? I bought three boxes...and I'll let you know how it goes.

August 12, 2015

So...I was having a lunchtime conversation with my crafty sister-in-crime, and asked about which vintage Singer machine I still wanted to acquire. The answer is: none, and all of them at the same time. Well...shame on her for tempting me with another machine! Anyway...I grew up sewing on my Godmother's old Singer, and well...I fell in love with that darn machine and have wanted one since. Maybe it's one of those childhood memories that seem a lot nicer than it really is. Maybe I'll get one and suddenly be disappointed. Could it happen? I suspect this is the machine I remember using:

Photo from this blogger HERE.
This is the Singer Auto Reel 600 or the Touch and Sew. According to this blogger HERE, it's one and the same machine. What I love about it is its mechanical metal parts, and the zig zag stitch. It was a breeze to sew on...at least I remember it as such. But maybe not anymore huh? I wouldn't mind fooling around with one.


August 11, 2015

I worked for most of the day Saturday, which means my weekend was cut in half. I'm usually exhausted by the time I get home from work so sewing and other stuff gets put on the back burner.

I am really unhappy with my sewing studio lately because the lighting fixture above the cutting table broke. The barn where the studio is housed has had electrical issues since day one. Half the lights in the barn do not work, and with the studio light going kaputz, I am wondering what is next. Sewing in the evenings now is pretty much out of the question. I am seriously thinking about where I am going to move my sewing paraphernalia after the second light goes out. I know you're all thinking, why don't I just repair the darn thing? I would except, I don't own the building...and the landlord is a bit of a slumlord when it comes to fixing up things in the barn. So far, half the lights in the barn are out, the garage door is broken, the bathrooms are all broken, and now the studio light. It's a sign people!!!! A sign that we have to move soon.

On another note, have you noticed how crappy my project photos look? Maybe not...I guess I have been trolling other beautifully designed websites these days, and wondering why mine does not look like theirs. When I started this blog, I thought, blogging would be a fun way to keep writing about topics that I love. To me, a blog should be a raw, uncensored place, far from the grips of a stylebook. In college, I had memorized the AP Stylebook, and then became fanatical about style errors in print. Blogging frees me of the compulsive red pen. But I suppose poor grammar and spelling are still a no-no for the most part. I don't mean to jar my readers with poor English. Well...English is not my first spoken language, but it is my first written one. There. I admitted it. I have no excuse to write poorly. I could be poorly designed, poorly photographed, but never misspelled. (Please don't take me literally. This last sentence is completely false.)

August 8, 2015

I've been busy working on my other website. Yes, the professional one. I decided to add a link to my other health blog even though it hasn't been updated since December of last year. Don't judge! I've been busy sewing for Pete's sake. I swear, I'm going to write about something interesting or nutritious very soon. Look for the MHH Blog link and check it out.

More on the sewing organization front. I went to IKEA today...not an easy place to shop alone. I did pick up a couple more storage boxes for my patterns. As of last month, I ran out of pattern space in the boxes designated for dresses and top patterns. Last week, I started buying craft patterns from Simplicity instead of clothes. Obviously, I had run out of things to purchase. OMG!!!

The good news is...FALL is around the corner people! If I start now, I may have a couple of holiday pieces done, and if I'm lucky, even a new coat! Okay...maybe not a coat. How about a warm vest instead? I avoided buying more fabric recently. It's not like that was a big deal at all. I'm just saying...I stopped binging. Mostly because I've been sorta busy with my regular work. But at least I've kept my sewing room really tidy between projects. This weekend I'll be doing more organizing...and improving the functionality of my sewing studio yet again! Stay tuned alright?

July 28, 2015

I can't tell you how grateful I am to have my little air conditioner in the sewing studio. It got me through last month's strange humidity, and this week, there's been a spike in temperature. I've been sleeping with the windows wide open all night, which is something I rarely do. I fear catching a cold...but no cold yet.

There has not been much luck on the pattern testing front for my Guipure lace project. I have another Simplicity pattern (non-vintage) that I think the cut will work better. I just finished a white Chemise dress made with cotton crochet lace fabric. I'll be posting about it later this week. It feels like an eternity...but I think my sewing has finally improved.

July 23, 2015

I went from vowing not to sew fancy dresses to buying party dress fabric this month. It could have been the fact that I've been going out to dinner concerts at a local cafe that's inspired me to wear some heels.

July 21, 2015

The whole sewing hiatus sort of happened. I forgot about my birthday, and my family made all kinds of efforts to give me a "ME" day. But all I wanted to do was sketch, sew, or go fabric shopping!!!! Well, I did end up at Joanns Fabrics on my birthday, and my favorite pattern company, Simplicity was on sale for $1.99 each. I went back twice, and accumulated about 30-ish patterns. Like I need more right? Of course I do! I've been accumulating stash all wrong! I should be storing patterns and only purchasing supplies once I've selected a pattern. Doing the reverse is well, inefficient. Besides, patterns take up a lot less space. With that said, I am still in a conundrum. I have lots of fabric that does not match up to patterns. I am hoping that the perfect pattern will pop up one day...or I just need to get off my butt and make my own patterns right? Right. Until then, I've been quickly hoarding patterns. I equate to finding the right pattern for fabric to my need for the right size purse...or for Pete's sake any accessory.

So this week, I started on a vintage dress by Butterick. I have forgotten how cumbersome fitted dresses can be. I thought I would save myself from dart adjustment grief by making a halter bodice. No such luck. It's been hellish to say the least, but if I do it right, it might just fit like a glove. BTW, clothes have been fitting tight. I've gained some substantial weight and I narrowed it down to at least three things that's causing it. My addiction to Thai flavored cashew nuts, and macadamia nuts certainly didn't help. Sigh.

It's been super hot here...but temps are falling fast. But during the scorching spell, I rummaged through my closet for cool cottons. Guess what? I don't have many. I have this pair of very light cotton pajamas that I used to take with me to Asia during Summer month travels. I swear it was the only thing I could wear and sleep in at night...even with the air conditioning on. I learned that woven cotton (not t-shirt material or anything with stretch) kept me cool. It was also super easy to launder in a hotel sink and hung to dry overnight. Brilliant. I reminded my sister Alice of this concept when she emailed me asking advice on how to stay cool on hot, humid days. Wear woven cotton, avoid strenuous exercise, drink cucumber juice, and eat watermelon sparingling. See...there's an upside to heat and humidity after all!

July 8, 2015

I decided that I would take advantage of the sudden dip in temperature to do a little exercising. My little gym is in the adjacent space to my sewing studio, and on my way out, I saw this mess on my cutting table. (See messy table picture on right.) Believe it or not, cleaning my space is probably one of the most therapeutic tasks. It's amazing how many missing things surface. However, my number seven French curve is still MIA, and I need it. Where is it? Since it's clear plastic, it's probably right in front of me and I cannot even see it.

July 6, 2015

After leisurely sewing my 2015 Frida Tribute...I feel a sewing lull coming. It's not as if the just finished black linen dress wore me out or anything...I'm just a bit bored with the idea of cutting into another pattern. With THAT said, I still ran out to Joanns' this weekend twice to pick up patterns, and some hemming lace to finish my dress. $65 of new Vogue patterns later, I am overcome by the amount sitting on my cutting table. I know...I say this all the time but seriously, my boxes are now beyond full. Even if I were sewing full-time, I might be able to use one pattern every couple of days. I have enough to last me the rest of my life.

I have a Chinese dress muslin cut out in a vintage polyester, that might even look cute to wear if I get around to making it. It's been sitting on the stool, and now back of the storage table for a couple of months now. Since cutting the muslin pieces, I have probably made about four or five things. Clearly, I am not that interested in the dress. A part of me already knows it isn't going to look good on, so why bother. Right?

I am proud of one thing though...and that is finally cutting into my Hong Kong stash, even if it's only one piece. More cutting is coming! I swear! Before the Summer is up, and once I get out of my sewing lull...I am digging into the blue and white fish printed cotton. I am going to make a copy or sort of a copy of the Geoffrey Beene smock-esque dress I saw at the High Style exhibit. To prove it, I even own a red silk flower pin! But don't hold me to it folks. I am really fickle when it comes to sewing, and easily bored. I have been known to get distracted while walking from one room to the next, and forgetting all about my original task.

July 4, 2015

Happy Independence Day! It's slow over here with all the kids gone...they are all traveling and having vacations. I'm left at home, by choice mind you. I spent all week doing paperwork, and catching up on my mail. Yes...I get reprimanded now and then by my husband (can you believe it?) so after a few weeks, I must open and sort. What does everyone do with all those credit card offers? All my kids get them too, and it's grown into a giant pile in my office, waiting to be shredded. It's a two-hour job at least.

I started working on my Frida tribute the week my sister was here, and it's nearly done. There were many fitting glitches. I still cannot measure the pattern pieces accurately against my own body. I am happy to discover that I am smaller than I believe I am. I'm one of those women that look at a pattern and think I need to adjust it two sizes bigger. The truth is, my bottom is unnoticeably small, my bust cup is actually smaller than what the industry claims. The oddness in my body...and I don't mean "odd" in a negative way. I just mean as compared to a nondescript dressform...because we are more than descript as people, are we not?

My problem areas are my belly, a curved shoulder, no bottom, and fleshy upper, upper arms. It's not that bad. But it's still a lot of work to adjust a pattern. Enter my logical sister: "Why don't you just make your own pattern?" Brilliant idea...if I had a sloper. But the truth is, I don't like making patterns out of slopers. I never did when I was in school. I preferred draping all my designs. I was also better at draping. My conundrum is my propensity for draping, but without a dressform in my size. I could just use my standard form, make the pattern, turn it into paper, and then adjust the heck out of it...of which I think I would be back to square one. Sigh.

The dress itself is still coming along, despite the fitting mishaps. It is my second wearable project made of linen...(not counting the upcycled linen curtain bag). But I did have to take back IN the bust, and the whole back of the dress because it was swimmingly big. Hooray! (I think.) I am also using linen...an added challenge. The stronger and tighter the weave, the easier to sew intricate patterns. The opposite is true for looser weaves.

June 29, 2015

After trying to promote a Frida Kahlo sewing tribute for the last two years with little success...I decided to still continue my personal tribute nevertheless. I enjoy the idea of sewing with Frida in mind. Last week, I fell in love with a newly acquired Vogue pattern that had Frida written all over it. Rather than using bright florals, I have decided to cut into a lovely black linen from my Hong Kong stash. I also decided to add a bit "more" to this project. After watching several couture sewing videos on Craftsy, I've developed some patience to include organza interlining, and another layer of silk lining to help decrease linen wrinkles. Wish me luck.

June 14, 2015


$1390
Viscous, wool, beading
If you read my latest blog post, you'll know that I have been delighted with my latest Vogue Pattern project. What could make me happier? How about finding a similar version to my completed blouse at Bergdorf Goodman's online shop? This blouse is part of Marni's new Fall 2015 collection, and is another version of a white blouse of the same designer for the past Spring 2015.  You can see the blouse HERE.
$12
All cotton

Now, look at my blouse here on the right. Thoughts? Similar? Well, the Marni back peplum does not ruffle all around. But if you look closely, you will see that the peplum consists of two panels, and it is also a high-low style, except a bit more pronounced.

I think I could convert my Vogue pattern into a Marni top by creating an underskirt for the peplum. I could try to imitate it completely by using similar fabric, beading, etc... I won't have the chance of actually looking at it physically. Not sure if I want to go through the trouble, but it is a interesting idea, no? Yes? No? YEEEESSSSS!!!


June 13, 2015

I was still hankering for some soft, fuzzy warm fleece tops up until about two weeks ago, and then Summer pounded us H-A-R-D here in Northern California. I suddenly did not have enough cool clothes to wear at home (near-naked worked) or at work (where near-naked never works well).

My sister is coming next week, and we plan on doing more crafting...but with this kind of weather, we won't last past 1pm in the studio. With maximum heat hitting the 80s by noon, it only gets muggier and warmer through early evening. So...I got industrious and made my way to Home Depot for a window air-conditioner. I had asked my husband about installing one for me the night before. He looked unamused.

If I could pull my gender card here, I want to say that installing equipment like this should be left to the opposite sex. Not because I'm not smart enough, but because these things are heavy. But after I schlepped the machine home, I decided that letting it sit until hubby could muster the energy to do it...might take a while. (He does not barbecue either.)

Ta da.... Summer sewing here I come!



June 3, 2015

We have a 2,000 square foot storage barn. Having more space usually means we find a way to fill it. In the last four years, it's become a bit of a dumping ground for our hobbies. I've taken about one quarter of the space with the sewing room, and other boxes of things I have not gotten around to donating, selling, or unpacking. People say that moving often helps one reduce clutter. I think there is a bit of that, but we also carry those unpacked boxes from home to home, ultimately forgetting what are in there. I have more than ten boxes like that. They aren't all mine, which makes it that much worse for sorting. My adult children also accumulate. My husband thinks all the clutter is mine. Lies! Lies! Lies! Much of mine is contained and mostly...you guessed it, sewing stuff.


May 30, 2015

There is this fellow sewist I met that puts aside time every evening for sewing...even on the weekdays. How wonderful is that? I wish I could do this, but unfortunately, the lighting in my sewing room is really bad. Then I thought about relocating my sewing studio from the barn to inside my tiny office. The office is designed to do all my regular work duties, but the internet does not work in there, so I spend most of my time working in the family room anyway. It is currently a room that is used to dry hand washables (due to it being adjacent to the laundry room), and storing my reference books, supplies, and files. If I am clever enough, I might be able to convert it into a sewing space if I double duty the cutting and ironing space. I also like the idea of working in an air conditioned space for the Summer months instead of sweating it out in my current studio.

April 28, 2015

I just want to say that running a business is not easy. At some point in my life, I would have had the perfect personality and stamina for it. But I've changed...thankfully. It is not difficult, just relentless.

So I look forward to the few hours I have these days to whip up a project. I prefer the two-hour kind, but they are less challenging. I have on my sewing to-do list that men's shirt, a necktie, and now a wireless bra from Cloth Habit. If she didn't design it first, I might have gone ahead and copied the one I bought a couple of years ago that looks exactly like it. I have been a bit dismayed at the thought of buying bra-specific shoulder straps. But I have a few bras that I don't wear anymore. I might recycle those for the muslin.

It was almost 90 degrees yesterday. I need to start thinking about an air conditioner for my sewing room. The heat gets pretty bad in there.

April 26, 2015

Lately, I have been slowly working on clearing out bags of old clothing from the whole family, and whittling down more things to donate from my drawers and closet. It's time. I don't remember the last time I did a major purge. Clearing clutter is a very popular topic during this time of year. I guess Spring Cleaning came from somewhere. As I've been cheering my sister on about clearing out her craft room so she could have enough space to really work on her larger projects, I felt like it has been really "me" who needed to create more space.

I did realize one thing about organization...and that is to not have any shelves in a room. If there is one piece of furniture designed to add clutter to my life, that is a book shelf. Any book shelf. Things get tossed, shoved, and saved into those open spaces, only to grow into a monstrosity of junk. How do I know this? I no longer have shelves in the family room. I have not had any in there for years now. The room is often messy, but has managed to dodge the truly cluttered feel and look. I didn't do it on purpose. I just couldn't find an empty wall for our stand-alone shelves. It was accidental decluttering.

How about that for an A-Ha moment?

April 21, 2015

For the past month, I have been making weekly trips to the Goodwill Donation Center. This is a part of my decluttering goal for 2015. My barn space has been overrun by my husband's band, and the once organized, and clean area is now a complete disaster. Part music-man cave, and part storage, the barn is pretty much unusable. Every corner is now crammed with stuff to make room for the band. I see close to a 100 boxes in there...things we never unpacked since we moved here. Does this sound familiar? I fear for our next move, and the idea of carrying things I don't use to our next home is frightening. No one is going to tackle this decluttering job...except me. Sigh.

This week, I decided to start emptying my own closet of clothes that I do not feel comfortable wearing. Then I abruptly stopped...why? Because I don't feel comfortable in most of my RTW clothes. Is this a terrible realization or what? Eighty percent of my closet is pretty useless. I also pulled out many hand-sewn pieces from my first year of "return sewing." They are mostly ugly and ill-fitted pieces that I was so proud to share my closet with. B-bye!

April 17, 2015

I have been in a bit of a sewing lull. I think and dream about it a lot, but I have not been physically inside my studio doing actual work. I wonder if it's because I've tidied it up so well recently that I subconsciously don't want to disorganize things again. Naw...it can't be that. As much as I complain about having to clean, I am really a fan of organizing. The cleaning part that happens after organizing is just icing on the cake.

I did manage a couple of hours of sewing last Sunday. I'm working on the gym shorts pattern from PurlBee. Did I mention how much I love this website? The online store is called Purl SOHO, and you guessed it, based in New York. I have not bought a single thing from them yet...but I feel like I will be as soon as I find another knitting project I want to tackle. They also have a wonderful selection fabrics...all their things are of high quality and thoughtfully sourced, which equates to: you get what you pay for. I have never regretted purchasing a more expensive but quality fabric or finding. It's getting myself to actually give it up, and use it in a project that kills me. But here's the good news...using quality supplies makes me sew better, and gives that completed project a longer lifespan. There's nothing wrong with keeping buttons on clothes we love, or recycling the fabric into small accessories. Which btw, is exactly what I did for my soon-to-be completed gym shorts. Stay tuned.

April 2, 2015

My sister and her husband spent four days visiting us last week.  My sister was fun to have around because she's a big crafter. But we craft different things. She draws and paints, and I sew more. She likes little DIY handcrafts, and I just like looking at them (hee hee). We both knit, but I think she's much better.

We spent one of our days sharing my sewing studio and crafting. She had brought up several oil cloths to make coin purses and wallets. I tried to sew the bias binding around her wallet, and my new Juki F600 went through the binding, and three layers of oil cloth, but not without some serious hesitation. Then I went back to my Juki TL98Q, and it went in without the similar struggle. I guess that answered any questions about how the TL98Q compares to the F600 in regards to strength. I don't think it compares. Would I sew multiple layers of jeans on the F600? Nope. I still love that amazing TL98Q. There's a reason why it's still sitting front and center on my sewing table. If it had a zig-zag stitch, my world would really be complete.


March 16, 2015

I went through a gingham stage. I started loving all things checked and plaid. After cutting out another square graphic patterned fabric for a men's shirt, I've decided that I don't like them anymore. I also want to comment that when I'm trying to match things up carefully, they rarely turn out. Then when I say, screw that...then it matches up fine. But I never know when the sewing fairy might be drunk again, and decides to throw all checks, lines, and patterns off while I'm not looking. So I'm often careful than careless.


March 13, 2015

Tackling menswear... Let's be honest. I struggle with it. I think primarily it's because I don't like to sew fly fronts on pants, cuffs and plackets, buttonholes, welt pockets, belt loops, French seams, and collars with stands. I think that about covers every piece of menswear out there with the exception of maybe t-shirts. (Which I don't mind sewing.) How on Earth did I survive sewing while ignoring these techniques? I remember when I was taking my industrial sewing class during fashion design school...one of my classmates sewed the hell out of every part of the shirt, down to the perfectly pointed and turned collar. Clearly, I was green with envy. I must have decided then and there, that I would never focus on menswear. But let's read over that list of things I don't like to sew. Hmmmm...they are all pretty basic skills that every sewist should have in their arsenal.

I made my husband a vest for the Edwardian Ball...two if you count the first one that got messed up. Then a few weeks ago, I made a short-sleeved men's shirt which ended up being too tight around the waist. I hated that Vogue Pattern. It was supposed to give me four inches of ease, and the collar stand was an inch too big for the neckline. This is what irks me about big box patterns: quality control. I fixed the collar stand myself, and although the shirt is too small, I think my son might fit it. For now, it's hanging on the back of my sewing room door waiting for some attention. (Right next to the ruined vest that I also plan to repair one day.)

I made a self promise this year. (I call promises that I make to myself in secret self promises.) I would be less selfish with my sewing. I realize now that I can't keep that commitment without tackling that long list of menswear skills. Stay tuned...

March 9, 2015

There's been this push for making your own bras as of late. One blogger, Madelynn who also hosted a workshop on that online sewing event last November is really big on it. I like the concept of making lingerie. But I'm looking for something better...the braless bra. I stopped wearing underwire bras a couple of years ago. It really took some getting used to at first. On the rare occasion, I need to wear a wire bra, and it's like getting into a cage with my girls. Tight bras, especially underwires are probably not all that healthy for the breast. Think of all those lymph nodes that are being compressed by elastic and binding wire. I mostly wear cotton or silk wireless bras that have very little support. I wear pretty loose tops, so I'm okay most days. I suggest to female friends to go braless as soon as they get home, and on the weekends. I have yet to convince anyone. Got chronic back, neck, and shoulder issues? Look at the fit of your bra. It could be the culprit. Get a new bra, a better bra, or go on a bra diet instead of taking advil for the pain.

March 2, 2015

Since acquiring my new Juki machine, I've been really looking forward to sewing. There's a few things that I've learned about computerized machines, and I'm starting to wonder if there's a real lack of precision. This might be specific to my Juki machine since I don't have much to compare to. So one thing I've noticed is how the backstitch is not so precise, and functions relatively slow. When I press the backstitch button, there's a pause before it performs. Sometimes it doesn't even backstitch at all. I'm starting to wonder if this is a glitch. Also, if I use the auto thread snipper, the next new stitches will invariable develop a small nest when I do a lock stitch at the beginning. The workaround for these two quirks are: 1. slow down the lockstitch mode, and 2. don't use the auto thread clip, or don't lock stitch too closely to the first two stitches if using the auto clip from a previous end stitch. Sigh.

With that said...I'm not too freaked out about it. My back stitch on my Bernina didn't work well either. In fact, it worked less often than my new Juki. The only consistent backstitch function that works solid is my straight stitch Juki TL98. Nothing computerized, all metal machine. Why can't I have it all?

I also hoped that a bobbin sensor was really available in my Juki F600, because the previous HLZ Juki models had a bobbin sensor light that would turn yellow for low bobbin thread. But as I approached an empty bobbin, no sensor went off...not one that I could see anyway. I plan to keep looking...yeah...yeah...bobbin dreams.

The Juki quirks have NOT slowed down my sewing...I've made a couple of ARC Pattern muslins...a pant pattern that I'm still tweaking. It's just too short, and tight around the waist right now. When I figure it out...I'll post it. Then I reworked a raglan sweatshirt that I'll post about once I get my awaited velour bias binding I ordered from England. I hope it gets here before it gets too warm to wear. I finished a lovely tunic that I'll be posting tomorrow, with some hints and a tutorial on sewing snaps. On my cutting table is another ARC pattern sweatshirt dress that I've incorporated three different fabrics, (four if you count the organza lining). I can't wait until that's done!

Winter is such a great time for sewing...and layering all those pretty pieces.


September 19, 2014

I spoke too soon about the heat.  I think all of California was on pins and needles yesterday waiting for sprinkles. We were lucky if a little mist landed near us. I thought I saw our grounds damp yesterday morning, but it could have been my imagination. So obsessed am I with rain that I've been wondering about rain dances, and other ancient rituals.


February 11, 2015

I used to put down Joanns Fabrics for having low-quality merchandise, but I think I'll eat my hat this year on that old opinion. I've been pleasantly surprised by some of the things I've found there recently. Did they just hire a new buyer to step up the game? I now find strolling down the fabric isles very relaxing.Today, I picked up a creamy polyester that looked like a silk wool. There was only 1.5 yards left on the bolt, but it was 60% off, so no complaint there. I was also tempted with the gold lame. Two seasons ago, I was really into gold lame, and then it became a holiday hit. (I believe I have forecasting ESP.) Back then, I couldn't find any lame except on eBay. I might just go back there tomorrow and get a couple of yards for the heck of it. I could make a pencil skirt...and even a matching bag. :-)

I made a shirt for my husband from a Vogue pattern. It turned out okay, but it ended up being too tight even though I cut what looked like the right size. Also, the freaking collar stand did not fit. It was about 3/4 inches off on each side. This was a pain to fix. I want to believe it's me, but lately, I have not had much luck with Vogue patterns fitting right. I feel like a lot of their patterns are not trued properly...this is something pattern makers do to make sure all the pieces will match. I sewed a McCall's pattern vest for hubby, which fit perfectly. Then another Simplicity pattern for my steampunk outfit, and all the pattern pieces were FINE. Many of the new Indie patterns are cut perfectly. My favorite are ARC Patterns right now. Love, love, love them.

September 8, 2014

I've been reading some of the sewing blogs that I follow, and everyone is talking about how Summer just zipped by. It's still warm and sunny here, but I think the bulk of the heat is now gone...even in Northern California.  Our mornings are coated with a thick layer of cloud now. And even though it burns off by late morning, the Fall breeze is ever present throughout the day and into the evenings. I am praying for rain, and the earliest drop won't arrive until the end of September, and that's being very hopeful.

I have gotten back into knitting my Wimberry vest, and it's coming along now with minimal errors. I've only had to rip apart two rows since I started building in my lifelines. Maybe if I'm lucky, I'll be done with the sweater by the end of September.

There wasn't much sewing this weekend because I'm still tired after completing my Donna Karan dress. I got to wear it to dim sum brunch this past Sunday, and I still found it needed a strap adjustment. I'm going to finish that this week, and try to wear it a couple more times before the temperature drops.

I've been tidying and organizing my sewing space. Nothing motivates me more than a clean workroom.  My stash is out-of-hand enough that I'll need to start sorting my fabric by type, season, and color. I think this is the only way I'll be able to keep track of what I have so I don't buy things twice. I've noticed that I'm really low on fusible interfacing, and due for a reorder from Fashion Sewing Supplies.

I didn't get around to using much of the beautiful cottons I collected over the Summer. I haven't cut into a single piece from Japan or Hong Kong yet. But I'm sure I'll get to it. Some of those pieces could be carried over into the Fall and Autumn. After sorting through my patterns, I'm ready to try some new things. There's the Style Arc jumpsuit, and short jacket that looks really enticing. But I think my next project will be a pair of skinny overalls in two different fabrics. Stay tuned.

August 28, 2014

After messing around with the neckline on my DKNY dress pattern, I've decided to actually cut a size larger so I can raise the shoulder straps up. I feel like this is a much easier alternative, but not exactly sure if it will work. After completing the muslin, I found the back to be a tad on the tight side, thus the increase in size. I have also been undecided about the final fabric choice. It has to be light, or it won't "puff" correctly. I bought this very light linen from Mood a few weeks back, but it has a striped jacquard print background to the existing flower print. It's adorable, but I hope the stripey-ness of this fabric doesn't distort the drape. Oh well...this is an adventure.


July 28, 2014

I've been thinking about my closets lately. I have a shoe and coat closet in the entryway where the family shares the space. But you know it's mostly my stuff in there. Then there's my closet that I let my husband have a bit of...you know how that goes. At my age, I still go into my closet and can't find a thing to wear. I guess this is something I'm never going to outgrow. I have to hang Summer clothes on the tie rack so I can remember to wear them before it turns into Winter. Good thing my husband doesn't wear ties, or I'd be in trouble. I think 70% of my closet is filled with my old work clothes, and special occasion stuff that really, I won't be wearing anytime soon, because who wants to wear an outdated dress to a special occasion? I am holding on to my suits because I think I might go out on an interview one day. But let's get real. I love looking at suits, and I love looking at other people in suits, but honestly, I hate wearing them myself. It's the most constrictive piece of clothing. But it did serve its purpose back in the day when I was a high-strung, sales executive that needed to assert my authority. All my suits are dark. I'm looking at my closet(s) now like someone I've fallen out of love with, and what comes to mind? "No...it's not you...it's me."

July 21, 2014

Kristiann Boos over at Victory Patterns sent me a "love, love, love" reply to my Frida tribute using her Satsuki dress pattern. I just realized after looking at the blog again that I probably should have included some work-in-progress photos. Generally speaking though, the pattern is pretty easy, and there's enough sewing instructions that come with the pattern that makes it nearly foolproof. If I make it again, which I think I will as part of my Fall projects, I'll post an update. Until then...sewing projects are going to slow down until the end of August except for the in-progress things. I've got hemming and waist ties to do for those Japanese vests...they are a pain now! I foolishly started on a new dress using a Vogue out-of-print pattern that I've had in my pattern stash for a while. I've got summer cotton slated for this project, and I hope I actually get it done before the summer is over. Fall just sneaks up on me every year, and before I know it, it's Christmas.


July 10, 2014

My sister is in Hong Kong right now, and she plans on doing some fabric shopping too. I hope she discovers some new places that I didn't so I can go there on my next trip. We're both interested in metal purse frames. I wasn't able to find a shop that carried any on my trip. I found plenty of other purse making parts, but not the frames. I am certain that I did not look hard enough. I'll update my Hong Kong shopping post if I get more juicy news from my sister. She's my craft partner-in-crime. 

I also completed my Craftsy first sweater, and although it fit, it just doesn't look smooth. To not beat myself up over my first sweater...it's got that rustic-made-on-the-farm look. You'll see what I mean when I get my next post together. Until I sew some buttons on this little number, I won't be able to call it finished. I'm doing a UFO post. You know...all those projects waiting to be hemmed, for buttons, hooks and eyes, etc... 

Today, JCrew is having one of those killer additional 50% off sales. It's insane and good deals to be had. Luckily, I did not commit to no store bought clothes this year...hee hee...I almost did though. JCrew has great textiles, and simple lines. It is the kind of retailer that's right down my alley. Also, their clothes are very well made. This is hard to come by, but their price points are ten times higher than stores like GAP or BR, but it's a different market entirely. But what sets JCrew a part ultimately is they've developed their own sense of style that other RTW companies emanate. Unfortunately, they also make clothes for tall, narrow-framed girls. Not me I'm sorry to say. But every once in a while I can pick up a couple of things from them. One day, when my schedule frees up, I might do a JCrew challenge. 

Speaking of challenges...where did all my Frida challenge peeps go? I know it was a small group, but only two others ended up posting. Oh well...I'm grateful to those two (Angela and Adi), but I think these Frida challenges are only going to be my thing. No worries. I got enough on my plate to paint. 

Now...off to get some buttons.


July 7, 2014

With the Frida Kahlo birthday tribute completed, I'm excited about what's in store next. I'm hosting a local Meetup this week focused on fitting so I've got to make my decision quick and start cutting out the muslin...or two. Inspired by the idea of sewing Kaftan dresses, I drew a little sketch of how I could turn a couple of silk panels I'm considering buying at Mood into a dress with minimal cutting. The print on the silk panels are just too beautiful to cut. I get like this with a lot of fabric, and I've got to just get over it. Becoming a better sewist helps. If I know it's going to turn out well and I'll make good use of it by actually wearing it, then it makes me feel better. Another bad habit I have is buying fabrics that is really meant for special occasion dressing. Well...for me at least, a dinner out is a special occasion because I don't go out much these days in general. But I've either got to turn these beautiful yards into wearable designs, or I need to stop buying them. I wonder if other people have the same problem.

July 5, 2014

I managed to finish my Frida Kahlo a day ahead of schedule...yeah! I'm glad I finished, and I can't wait to post the finished results on Monday. I also can't wait to see everyone's finish projects. Hopefully, we'll all do this again next year, and then some...There's still time if you're lightning fast!  BTW, poking around on the internet, I saw someone actually use my exact idea, and not link back to my site. Really? Just because it's a foreign language? Maybe a coincidence.

July 4, 2014

Happy 4th of July! No big barbecue for us today...laying low and keeping cool. My family does enjoy fireworks. We plan on hiking up a hill to see a show from a distance that charges $30 a head. I just think it's weird to pay unless it's included in a concert or something. I'm sure we'll be in good company with others doing the same thing tonight. Hey...my four-hour sewing fest has just got cancelled. Hmmm...some independence.

Great fireworks show yesterday...



July 2, 2014

Where did my time go? I'm finally done with the first Frida tribute. That's right...I plan on making two. I was able to use the Victory Pattern after all as long as I cut the pattern on the cross grain. I'm making two versions from the same pattern, and fabric. One end of the Sari fabric is completely different from the rest so I had wiggle room for change.  Lucky for me, the Sari fabric is pretty stable. I think the fact that it's thin also helps. So far, it's been a joy to work with. I've now scheduled Fridays to be my official sewing and me day. Since I have to post my completed project by next Monday, it's going to be a tight squeeze.

June 22, 2014

Argh! A wrench in my knitting bag. So I'm matching up the sleeve with the back bodice of my cardigan, and what should happen? The left side is two inches too long. How did that happen? Only to me that's how. I actually knitted both sleeves at the same time to make sure they matched, and only now, two weeks later, do I see the error. I'm bad at math, but this is ridiculous.

June 16, 2014

I can't tell you how tired I am. Well, I guess I am telling you how tired I am and how mine and my husband's sleeping patterns have really gone off kilter since 9PM sun downs. I love Summer, don't get me wrong.  All this extra light time makes me believe that I can still start and accomplish projects late into the evening, and the next thing I know, it's 1AM. Phooey! I did finish knitting all the pieces of my sweater yesterday. I just need to iron and piece it together, then finish the neckline and button placket. I feel like it's never going to end.


June 14, 2014

In case you're wondering what I'm doing. I've been squeezing in some knitting time. I joined the My First Sweater Craftsy class, and it's been driving me nuts. There were some hiccoughs (my nice way of saying a couple of pattern errors). I'm such a weak knitter that they really threw me off. Sigh. I did get some new steel knitting needles that bit the dust of my old bamboo Clover needles. I'm knitting 50% faster now. It's freaking amazing. I just went and bought a whole collection of them so I can start on all my other projects. I should show you the box of yarn that I have in the family room waiting to be knitted. Just look to the right. This box seems to be growing too. The purple ones on top are the new babies.


June 9, 2014

Frida challenge update...  My Satsuki Victory pattern dress idea has been crushed by the fact that the pattern needs 60-inch wide fabric requirements. It's really hard to find nice flowy fashion fabrics in that yardage without resorting to home decor or suitings. Hard to find, and I'm basically running out of time. Sigh...my back-up plan includes finding something unique in my existing pattern collection and using all the beautiful stash I already own. All is not lost.

June 6, 2014

You know what happens when I type really fast, and proof read even faster? Typos. "That's all I have to say about that." (Forest Gump)

June 5, 2014

You know what? It's been over a year since I started this blog.  Happy anniversary to me! The year went by in lightening speed...seriously. I have about 35 posts under my belt, and managed to probably change the layout of this blog a dozen times. Maybe I'm going to be around longer than I thought. This is me speaking...a person that used to run around a mile-a-minute. With that said, just last night I'm thinking wouldn't it be great to have a space where I can put everything I want in it? Like my own little virtual magazine for my own amusement, and if others like it too, well...all the better? I started coming up with new names for "my" space. My hubby said, "What? Another blog?" I said, "Maybe...I feel like I'm outgrowing my current space."

I had not thought it all through carefully. I started Sewing On My Kitchen on a whim...almost a dare because my hubby was hounding me to move my social media activities off of FB. Just to pipe him down, I did, and SOMKT was born. But my life is more about sewing...most sewist's lives are. Did you know I studied Chinese medicine too? I cook a lot and am really into nutrition? I don't blog much about that part of my professional life and I probably won't...but I might. Then I'm thinking...why couldn't SOMKT be that self-indulgent, lifestyle's virtual magazine? It's the title...and people think it's just sewing...but all us sewists know that it's so much more than that. The actual sewing is only one part of what makes us sewists. We sew because we love working with our hands and we chose this medium as an extension.  We sew because we love history, culture, nature, colors, shapes, and most importantly we love to turn our dreams into something tangible. We get inspired by places we visit, foods we eat, people we meet, and besides fabric shopping, we are inclined to stop in awe of something as simple as a butterfly landing on a leaf.

What an amazing future we've arrived into...where we could write our dreams down without cutting down a tree and our words could travel through space and time...maybe forever.


June 4, 2014

Yesterday was a great "mail" day. I got my order from Gorgeous Fabrics...the most beautiful pieces that I've gotten thus far, and that says a lot considering that I've loved most everything from them.  Pictures are on its way.

Then I received all my hard copies of Interweave's 2013 collection of Stitch magazines I purchased on a whim last month during their Memorial Day sale...including the Downton Abbey Sews from the UK. Hooray!!! I know...I gotta take some photos of the insides so my lovelies can drool alongside with me. BUT! Don't run and get the tissues yet...I don't think there will be anything to whet your whistle.

The magazines are all "okay." There's one or two star projects in each issue, even though it's crammed with information. All these magazines are just so...well..fluffy. (High calorie, low nutrition is how I describe such things.) I bought all the digital past issues too from 2008 through 20012. I think the old issues had more meat. They also switched editors part of the way...and maybe that has something to do with it. I think Interweave offers some of the most beautiful craft books out there. But Stitch does not compare to the Japanese Zakka style patterns. Also, there were some projects in the Downton Abbey zine that made me laugh.  There was a head wrap accessory project that looked ridiculous. But some of the dresses were nice though.

I also picked up a couple of digital copies of Knit Wear, which I think is an exquisitely beautiful zine. The editor is Eunny Jang from Interweave Knit magazine, and that's probably why. The knitting projects are modern and look very Japanese or may I say, with Asian-influenced aesthetics...simple and elegant. I was so excited about one of the patterns in the Spring issue that I ordered my Rowan yarn from the UK right away. When a design lights that kind of fire inside me...then I know it's good.  I mean look at all this loveliness...



Then I get the Anthropolgie June catalogue, and what should I find? A skirt that looked like it was made by Jessica McClintock back in the 80s. Remember that San Francisco designer who made cool gauze dresses? I can't say that her design aesthetics or quality lingered past the 90s. But I loved her dresses when I was in high school. This skirt reminded me of a light blue dress I had with similar lace inserts. I found some nice cotton lace on Amazon that's four inches wide, but I have been hesitant to buy it because I didn't have a project in mind. But now I do!

 





June 3, 2014

Finally uploaded my new fancy Title/Logo...designed by my eldest son. It was originally meant for my Meetup website, which I have not uploaded yet. Blogger did something weird while uploading it and right flushed the image. (Blogger makes me nuts...I think I'm ready for my own website.)  Anyway...hubby had to fix the HTML. How would I survive without these wonderful men? Sigh... Let me know what you think.


June 2, 2014

I thought it was going to take three months before I receive my first Bunka Fashion Design book from Japan. I got the first series this week...and I have to say that I'm pretty disappointed. There's hardly any information on pattern drafting...only a few pages on the sloper. But there are a few pages of helpful alterations based on body types and how to adjust your sloper around a real person and not just a dressform.  All the rest of the information was more of a "how-to" learn basic sewing.  I'll post pictures on my next entry along with an indepth outline.

A little Spring cleaning...

My husband is turning our barn into a music studio, which meant that he had to clean it up for the first time since we moved in.  I've cleaned the barn about three or four times, but never very well. I needed muscle to move some of the big things around. So it was great to see him sorting through boxes of electronics and wires that we don't need anymore. My adult children have used the barn as a dumping ground for their gear, Goodwill donations that never happened, and hobbies. The clutter was really getting out of control. I've had a couple of sewing Meetups in the barn, and it required much prep work...mostly cleaning and vacuuming up the spiderwebs that seem to appear overnight.  I think with the new organization, I'll start having sewing meetups again this Fall.  Happy days!


May 29, 2014

I have been changing my blog about every six months or so because I'm not happy with my template. I think I finally have it down to an acceptable layout. I've essentially stripped everything, so that the words and photos can take center stage. When I studied journalism...I was taught that words looked best behind a white background. The more "white" space a magazine had...the more expensive their ads were going to be. It all boiled down to quality. I am wondering if there's even journalism schools still around and what they're teaching now. When I was in school, we didn't even have the internet. Everything can be applied digitally. I'm all for saving trees, but a big part of me will never give up the tactile things I love. Paper happens to be one of them. I can't imagine going through life touching man made plastic all day. Can you? As we become lighter, faster, and more synthetic, there is a large undercurrent of people who are going back to our roots in the name of sustainability. It's running under everything we do in life. Fast food versus slow food, and the list goes on and on. Have we forgotten how to use our hands? Do children learn to type and use an electric mouse before they know how to write cursive? Can children tell time using a long and short hand clock? Do we still have beautiful handwriting anymore? I wrote a check to our piano tuner yesterday...a rare occasion...and I decided instead of scrawling out the words...I would write it in my most beautiful cursive.

I just stepped down from my soapbox.  Here's a little segue back to crafting...I have been collecting old craft books, particularly quilting and knitting books from the used book listings on Amazon. If you find a book you think you want, check to see if a used version is available. I have bought books from one cent to six dollars plus shipping and handling. I have saved from ten to twenty dollars per book.  That my friends is a lot of dinero...and a good way to save some trees. It's not like we're cutting down new ones to make new books.


May 25, 2014

Before I get my Memorial Day BBQ started, I just want to mention that after uploading my latest blog...I remain perplexed at how rudimentary Blogger templates and layouts really are. I suppose for an out-of-the-box tool, it's sufficient.  Let me repeat "sufficient." But shouldn't there be better? I'm seriously thinking of purchasing a template from a third-party so I can eliminate the layout problems. I hate that I don't have a template option to merge several pictures together or place them where I want...and the list goes on.

How about a cup of tea instead of griping about layout? I can't stop gazing into my tea. Here's my chrysanthemums in full bloom:


Great for cooling the body in the heat and strengthening the eyes.

May 23, 2014

I thought today would be a short sewing day...a 30-minute-er...it turned into two hours. That's the problem with sewing at the beginning of the day instead of toward the end. There was lots of progress though. The current pattern is a challenge. It's one of those unconventional but typical-for-Japanese-standards-kind-of-design. You'll see what I mean once you see the pictures. I pinned the front piece upside down, and kept scratching my head because the arm holes looked wrong until I turned it around...ever have one of those days? I had a little laugh at myself. But I think a lot of people would have done the same...not laugh at me...had the pattern piece at six o'clock instead of twelve.

When I said I wouldn't do it...I did it anyway.  What you ask? I bought some more fabric but I had a really good reason: it was on sale, and they are a better fit for upcoming Japanese patterns.  Yeah...yeah...don't tell my husband. Well...I did get them at Gorgeous Fabrics, so I can forgive myself a little. I got some really scrumptious pieces that I plan on turning into simple works of art. Photos forthcoming once UPS makes the drop off.

Happy Memorial Day Weekend by the way!

May 21, 2014

I snuck out to the studio yesterday, and drafted out the top I wanted to sew from one of the Japanese pattern books. Well...this book is my favorite, but I thought it was going to be a disaster after I opened the pattern page earlier this month to find the lines really difficult to copy. After trying to figure out the pattern lines for an hour, I decided that I could come back to it on a day I was less tired and frustrated.  That day was yesterday, and being less tired helped me figure out a new way to transfer these patterns without error. More prep time, but faster transfer time. I'll be posting the pictures on my next blog entry. I don't think it's a new way to do it...but I haven't seen it demonstrated online anywhere. Unfortunately, since I was testing the method...I failed to take pictures. It was so successful, I didn't need to go back for a redo of the copying.  Yah!

After digging through my stash for the right fabric for my next project, I realized that I did not do a very good job buying coordinated prints and colors. I like so many different things that trying to develop a cohesive wardrobe is impossible without accumulating MORE stuff. I have not used a color scheme since 2012 when purchasing new pieces.  This is partially because I've been binge buying, and buying unique pieces regardless of color. I've ended up with a mish-mash of beautiful pieces. The only practical piece I bought in Hong Kong was six yards of black linen, It washed and dried out beautifully. Surprising, I saw some very nice drapey linen at Joann's this week.  I thought of buying it to make a pair of paints for the summer. It can also be a pair of shorts for my hubby to wear around the house. He's been complaining about the heat lately and wanting to dress cooler. I think linen is my new crush.

So...Gorgeous Fabrics is having a sale this weekend, and here's a chance for me to pick up a lot of neutrals. They've got quite a few pieces that I saw in the light wools and silks that I thought would make great additions to my newfound love for Japanese pattern designs. Most of my existing fabric either doesn't have the right drape for the simple designs, or isn't the right color. I'm also playing with combining different textiles in my head. After I finish the muslin on the next top, I plan to mix linen with silk organza to create the final piece, and then another one using the recommended summer wool. I think I've got some navy blue summer wool in my stash for that one.  I hope to have it finished sometime next week. Meanwhile, to thwart anymore binge buying, I'm putting stickies on patterns that I plan to make, and work on matching the right fabric in my stash before buying more. I don't know about others...I tend to buy too much of certain fabric because I have this "just-in-case-I-make-a-mistake" fear. If I'm better prepared, I should be able to get the yardage that I need, and have nothing to waste. Right? Right. We'll see how long this plan lasts.


May 19, 2014

I forgot to post the inside of my new rice cooker, and images of the first batch of rice. Since my purchase last Friday, I've made rice three times, and all three came out perfect. The rice pot itself has been easy to clean. Last night I was able to use a sponge and hot soapy water without any mild scouring (no metal scouring pads allowed anyway). I did notice how hard my water was after all of it evaporated with each steamed batch. The sides of the pot was really powdery. It's easy enough to clean off...but it does worry me.

There a neat little hooking system for the lid
that is attached to the outside of the pot.
Perfectly cooked rice.
Look how it barely sticks to the bottom of the pot.
Some bittersweet news about my sewing room: I'm going to have to move it soon into the main barn, or into the guest room in the house. The guest room I don't mind, but I don't think the main barn is a place I can sew for long hours of the day given the fact that the lighting is bad, and the electrical system is ready to go kaputz. Why move the sewing room you say? Well...I'm going to eventually turn it into a treatment room for my future acupuncture clinic. I've been dragging my feet I know, but it's a lot of work to pack up, disassemble, and reassemble. The guest room in the house is about half the size of my current sewing room, so I don't know if I'll be able to fit everything in there.  Sigh.  Well, I can still enjoy it while I can.

I was able to pick up one of the Japanese pattern books at Joann's using my coupon. It did save me a couple of dollars, even with tax. I decided to also purchase the Spring issue of Burda Magazine. I was disappointed to see that every pattern looked like a rehash of what was on the online Burda website. I'm thinking of subscribing to the magazine, but I'm not sure if I'll actually use it. I've purchased a very small handful of Burda patterns online, and taping them all up is a big deterrent, but not as bad as transferring them from a sheet (yes, yes, just like the Japanese patterns), but who wants more work really on patterns that just aren't jumping out at me...not this last issue anyway.




May 16, 2014

I've been in denial about the fact that it's already May. I think April sort of went by when my back was turned. After logging back here, I realized my last entry was dated: April 12th...although I just updated it to May, I thought it was weird that I still HAD to check the calendar to make sure it's really May. I know I was traveling...but I was home by April 20th...and then the rest was just a blur I guess.

I bought a new rice cooker/steamer today.  I'm really excited about using it, and ditching my tried and true Zojirushi (which I still love, and has been a workhorse for the past ten years). I am equally surprised that I found this rice cooker online, and then at my local Taiwanese grocery store. Here's my new Tatung rice steamer:


It is an indirect heat cooker, which means it's a steamer rather than the traditional rice cooker which sits right on top of the heating element. The bowl sits water (which you add). Here's a Youtube video for the cooker HERE. Notice how tall the lid is? It actually floats up naturally to let out steam.  The cool thing is, you can put a little rack inside the rice bowl, and steam other things at the same time, and there's plenty of space on top for the steam to get to everything.  If anyone is looking for an alternative to teflon rice cookers, try these. It's been around Taiwan for several decades, so it's not a new invention, but new to me. I'll let you know how my rice turns out and all the other stuff I plan on making with this new toy.

I've been thinking of finally making one of those patchwork purses from the Craftsy class I bought last year. I'm really not much of a patchwork kinda girl, but since going to Japan, they've started to really grow on me. I have gone as far as buying a fat quarter set, and some backing fabric. Let's see how far I get with that project before it gets stored in my bottomless stash collection. Here's the an example of a completed bag from Red Pepper Quilt:
Cute huh?
One of the things I noticed at Joann's recently was the Burda pattern magazine, and several of the other Thread's sewing magazines. I never thought much about Joann's carrying reading material...but they've got a decent selection. The book department even had a few Japanese quilt and sewing books. I was really surprised. I'm going to see if I can buy their books using my coupons. I know I can't use them for magazines...but why not books? I just got an email from Burda mentioning that the Summer edition is out. I'm gonna have to subscribe to that magazine...seriously.

May 12, 2014

It has been a pretty crazy first quarter of the year.  March was the month I spent in Japan and Hong Kong.  You'll know that from my latest post.  Two countries with two different weather patterns, and making for very difficult packing.  I did a lot of layering, but on some days I really wasn't warm enough in Japan, and not cool enough in Hong Kong.  All the prep work and packing brought back memories of my years of being a roadwarrior, where fluctuating weather was an everyday occurrence.  I never enjoyed it then, and even after retiring from that profession for three years now, I still don't like it.  Maybe I haven't recovered from doing it full-time for 15 years.  I'm curious to know if others have felt the same way.  My MIL is more than 70 years old, and travels almost full-time. She lives in England, travels twice a year to Arizona, and then takes four or more additional trips during the rest of the year.  This is more than 12 flights per year.  Too much for me.  I used to travel weekly, so 8-14 flights per month.  Nuts.

I've decided to invest in the new BUNKA Fashion Design books this month. I'm placing my order for book one today. Bunka is the fashion design school in Tokyo, and created the industry-standard size including dress forms for design houses in Japan. Since I collected so many pattern books from Japan, I thought maybe I should make a sloper using the Bunka method.

For Mother's Day, my husband took me to Kinokuniya bookstore so I can peruse their craft books. It was nice looking at all these books I've seen on Amazon and checking out the patterns beforehand. It's just unfortunate that their prices were 25% higher than what I could get from Amazon.  If I were them, I would offer all their English-language books at a 25% discount just to compete.  People would buy it if they were already there and it was close to the same price. I know I would.  I wanted to, but I could not forego saving $20+ from Amazon. Sad, I know.

I pestered the salespeople at the bookstore a lot. I had them look up the Bunka books and their pricing, and then asked whether they had back issues of Mrs. Style magazine. The older woman who worked there was so annoyed by all the questions I had, she actually dismissed me in line after I made my purchase and shooed me to the side before I could ask more questions. It was my first time there, and the first time I purchased a Mrs. Style magazine, and since I didn't speak or read Japanese, I needed a little bit of help...like how often do these magazines get published so I can come back and buy MORE. I asked about back issues, and was willing to buy them all if they had any.  I also decided not to order my Bunka books from them which are $45 each, and there are five of them. Not because they would be more expensive, but because I didn't like that woman.

I digress. (I guess I'm still irked by her.)

I really wanted to talk about the Mrs. Style magazine I picked up. Kinokuniya has their own conversion price chart and my magazine turned out to be $13.54, which is actually cheaper than the one I saw someone selling on Etsy or was it Ebay? I forget. Anyway...this is a pattern drafting magazine, and pretty unbelievable because it assumes that you already have a sloper, and that you can do pattern drafting. They give you basic instructions on drafting, but since everything is in Japanese...it's going to be difficult.  BUT, with that said, I think it's incredible that Japanese housewives (who this magazine is produced for) know how to do this. They have women's wear, and limited accessories, kids, and men's wear. I feel like every married woman in Japan goes to some finishing school or is taught by their mother on how to make hand-crafted items.

Every issue of Mrs. Style has one included pattern and step-by-step sewing instructions. It's like their "skill building" sections. The issue I have which is April, has a shirt pattern for men, women, and kids. There is thorough, step-by-step on how to sew and attach the collar, cuff, and the rest of the shirt. You just gotta love this. Imagine how much money they would make if they translated all this into English? I wonder if there would be a market for the translated instructions if someone did them. Would you buy the translated instructions for say $15 AND have to still pay for the magazine? I know I would.

I also found many quilting magazines at the bookstore...so quilters out there, there's a whole new technique to learn and many patchwork-type quilt craft ideas. Pretty much endless. I found so many cute ideas that I might end up taking up quilting just to produce some of them. Sure...mine will be in form of wearables...but it's still quilting right?

In my next post, I will upload some pictures from the magazine so folks can see what kinds of styles are there. It's pretty classic. For example, there's a trench coat pattern in my issue. Imagine drafting a trench coat on my first try? That day will come...I know it will. Until then, I'm still slowly plugging away at deciphering the crazy overlapping patterns in my current Japanese books and making many simple tops. I'll include all those finished and unfinished projects on my next post, so please stay tuned.

I finished two knitted lace table runners so far. One I gave away to a friend in Japan, and the second is another scheduled gift to a Japanese friend here in the US. Handmade gifts are just the bomb...I get a lot of them from my husband's overseas Japanese buddies. Best gift this year is an authentic lacquer box.  I'm not sure what to put in it...maybe chocolate...only because it feels deserving of chocolate. I've also been poking around Amazon and eyeing a lot of the Zakka (means home furnishings or something like that in Japanese) craft books.  Check them out if you have time...some are really cute and many are patchwork quilt related.

I'm working on a cardigan knitted sweater from one of the Craftsy classes. I recently found an error on the sleeves. I figure if I can discover the error, then it's pretty bad, seeing how I'm not a very strong knitter. I also realized after poking around my Craftsy site that the instructions didn't get updated either...only stuffed somewhere in their "discussions" within the class. It's a bit disappointing...I don't think they understand how crucial corrections are to the success of a project. I wonder if these corporate techies really understand us crafters.  I have not watched all my classes yet...like most of us...we just buy, buy, buy the classes and sock them away until we get around to watching them.  I decided to stop doing that for a while. It's a little like having too much stash. Speaking of stash, I had to get two extra bins this week to fill up with my stash. I still have enough stash sitting out to fill three more boxes. I think I'm going to go over to my studio and do that right now and may be do a little sewing before I lose my momentum.

November 20, 2013

This month is flying by. I didn't realize Thanksgiving is next week. In the nick-of-time, I rushed to order my free-range organic turkey, and pasture-raised ham. It's going to be a small Thanksgiving with two of my children away. My eldest is spending it with his father, and my youngest daughter AC will be touring France (lucky her).  She'll have a frozen Thanksgiving dinner waiting for her when she gets back though.

It's been hectic getting AC ready for her first trip abroad. We don't expect her to be able to buy much by way of clothing in Europe since everything runs pretty small.  But that's okay right? She doesn't really need more clothes.  Ten years ago, I took a month off and travelled through Italy, and made excursions to Paris and London. I had one suitcase, and one small backpack. I came home with a small totebag full of souvenirs, mostly scarves I picked up around Italy, small leather goods, two bottles of wine from a special vineyard in Tuscany, and some jewelry from Capri. It was a relief to have only quality souvenirs, and not break my back (and bank) acquiring them.

My daughter is using all my international travel gear, and I told her to only buy things that she really thought were special...rather than the token gifts to family that end up at Goodwill Stores or landfills.  During the season of gift giving, we forget that all that wrapping paper, ribbon, and cards have to go somewhere.  All those trees are chopped down prematurely to adorn our homes, and the extra kilowatts of electricity required to light them are really brought to us by the expense of Mother Nature and possibly our posterity. I want to thank her this year for putting up with us another year, and forgiving us for not knowing how to bring cheer into our lives without polluting her.

We have not had a Christmas tree or wreath on our doors for years. We have never put up lights on our house. With the exception of Christmas stockings hanging on our mantle, and an occasional poinsettia, one would never know we even celebrated the holidays. All of our presents are only wrapped in brown paper bags, and we are encouraged to paint or color the paper with our own designs. Our living room often looks like there's garbage to throw out on Christmas morning instead of presents to unwrap.  I will be the first to admit that all this has made our holidays pretty boring.

This year I wanted to do a little more...be more creative and compensate for some of the potential wastage by limiting our present wrapping to a single item. I might make reusable gift bags. I'm looking for a smallish tree that still sits in a pot and can be replanted after use. I'd like to create a "festive" space without too much excess this year. I just feel like it's time to enjoy a little more and worry a lot less.

How many years do I have left really with my family? I almost died this year...yup, and having a close call like that makes us really appreciate what we have, and work harder at creating a special space where souls can be showered with love and a birth place for more treasured memories.  In the end...these are the two things that do last in the minds and hearts of the ones still living, and I believe in the souls of those of us who have passed.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone...and may we all take a moment to show our gratitude for not just the bounty in our bellies but for all that encompass and enrich us.

November 7, 2013

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays...well, it's not really a holiday. It's a great day for sewists who like to make costumes because we wear them with pride. On a whim one year (maybe five years ago), I made a modern-goth-like witch costume. I even made a bustle to attach to the back. I bought a smoke machine, filled up a basket with onions, garlic, and candied eyeballs, and sat on my porch playing my cello. I made my husband wear a hunchback costume with a demon head attached to the shoulder. Toddlers cried as they walked up to me, while their parents chuckled behind them. (Parents can be really mean sometimes.) But I was out to scare a few kiddies, and I did.  Every Summer since then, I dream about updating the costume to something more maniacal but I haven't been able to come up with any new ideas.  Now we live on a small hill off the street, and not a single kid climbs it to get to us. It looks creepy in the dark. Purrrrfect ambience for fear. May be next year, I'll deck it out, and force my adult children to help me scare the pants of the kids in my neighborhood.

October 26, 2013

Fall has come knocking...and today, I wore my first sweater. I skimmed through a couple of knitting books last night, and I'm romancing the idea of a new project. I have a small stash of yarn that needs to get used, but not entirely sure what I can make out of it. I don't buy a lot of yarn without an intended project and pattern in hand. I don't know how to  adjust patterns to different yarn types...well, let's just say, I've never bothered to learn. I am a self-taught knitter. (Thank you Internet for giving me knitting.) I'm not ashamed to admit that I might have a small file box full of skeins of yarn. That's it.

We had a brief power outage on Sunday, which prompted our first wood-burning fire of the season. This weekend it's supposed to drop down to the 40's. That's pretty cold for Northern California. (I was just wearing sandles last week.) That's how quickly our seasons shift. Makes me want to stop working on my bathing suit, and start on a wool coat.

I've been secretly sewing when no one is home watching me.  I like doing all kinds of productive things around the house when no one is around, and then surprise the family when they get home. This is probably why I enjoy being left alone.

I ordered my first two reproduced vintage patterns from Eva Dress: a 1950's Kimono blouse, and a 1929 Evening Frock dress that I hope to wear to the formal holiday party. The blouse is about three sizes too small. I spent most of my evening yesterday adjusting the size up. The pattern uses markings that I'm not familiar with, so I'm relying on my sewing experience to get me through it.  The muslin looks okay, but there are strange cuts to the sleeve and waist that doesn't look like it belongs in the pattern. Since these patterns are used, I think the original owner made style changes. The blouse pattern is a single piece...that's it. You cut two and sew it together. The most complicated thing is the underarm gusset and figuring out where the waist and bust darts should go. The closest thing to a gusset that I've made is a yoke in a skirt...which BTW, never turns out. I've attempted less than six yoked anything in my lifetime, and every one of them have puckered at the point.  It's time to perfect this technique.

I've scored some silk fabric from a woman that's been clearing her sewing stash on eBay. Sound familiar? I know that I said I wasn't going to buy any more fabric, but I felt like these deals were too good to pass up. Plus Michele (the Seller) has good taste in silk. By the time I'm done shopping on eBay, I will have accumulated anywhere from 10-15 more yards of silk fabric. I still need five yards of charmeuse for the 1929 Evening Frock. I think I'll be making it in black charmeuse. Best deal in town for black and white silks is at Dharma Trading. I've been trolling the website recently and getting pretty close to setting up a fabric dyeing center inside my barn. Won't my husband be thrilled?


October 16, 2013

Believe it or not, I am having a moratorium on sewing. It's a sad day, but before I go into full mourning...I want to take a moment to discuss my holiday shoes.  I picked the pair up on a whim from Zulilly for $29. (I don't like that Zulilly charges shipping, and it does take a full two weeks from the time I ordered to get my shoes.  It's not Amazon.)

These peep-toes are an answer to a much needed holiday ensemble.  I like these shoes so much, I might wear them throughout my holiday season festivities. The outfit hasn't been made yet, but now I feel like I've got some inspiration.  I wanted retro, gold, relatively comfortable (the more the better of course), and affordable. I don't know about the comfort part yet, it met my needs in color and affordability.  After trying them on, I decided that gold is really more of my color than silver. It's my new metal of choice. I don't know what I was thinking wearing silver, and various grays all my life. I look horrible in them (plus gray general makes me look ten pounds heavier).  I must of have just liked the steel, coldness I felt in those shades.

My grandmother had a pair of peep-toe shoes that looked like
these, except they were in black. 

Back to the warmer, sparkly sunny days of gold. 
Okay...I'm not going to give up sewing entirely. I'm just going to limit the number of days I fool around and do nothing with my time.  Those "empty" minutes are going to be my sewing minutes, except for the minutes I'm writing my blog...which I consider sewing minutes anyway.  With the exception of the final episode of Project Runway and What Not To Wear, I shouldn't be watching too much tellie going forward anyway.

Things to report soon will include my first draft of the Bombshell bathing suit, which is starting to look very tiny. I followed the measurements, but I don't think I'm really a size 12, but more of a 14. But I adjusted the waist up to a 14, and kept everything 12. Lately, all my clothes have been too big in the bust, and hips, but perfect in the waist. Now, I'm going to do the reverse. Measure for hip and bust, and then fill out the waist more.  I live and learn.  I hope to get through a second Bombshell in a different fabric before the end of the month...AND finish my corset, which is sitting in first draft mode. I'm short lace, grommet lace, and a busk. I have to order all those things before I can complete my final piece.

This week, I had two sewing intensives in my barn.  One on Sunday, and another on Tuesday. It was sort of my farewell-to-my-sewing-cohorts kind of event. They all know that the curtain is half down for the next four months until I get through my board exam. Yikes...just thinking about taking the exam makes my palms sweat.  I plan on still being productive in the sewing room now that I have to be more efficient with my time.  I recently bought an academic print calendar to track my study time, but I'm also going to make it into my "to-do" lists in general...my goodness, I need to build everything in. I had it in me once when I was that strong, executive, road-warrior, sales manager from a galaxy far, far away... What happened to me?  Let's just say in corsetry world...I just loosened my laces and I'm taking happy deep breaths.

October 9, 2013

Last year I watched this Hong Kong flick called In the Mood for Love. It was set in the 1960s and the historical set designs were superb, down to every detail. I remember admiring a lunch pail used by one of the actors, it was the old-fashioned one with glass insulation. I would love one of those right now.  But it was really the costumes in the film that were the major highlights.  Think of Mad Men, Cantonese style. The Cheongsams on the ladies were gorgeous. About half an hour into the film, I couldn't stop staring at the dress details.

I'm not the only sewist interested in those dresses. There's a bit of a following and gossip about the drool-factor. It helps that the actresses all looked luscious in them too.

Of course I want to make a dress of my own. The movie really inspired me to think outside of the box and try some new textiles. The dresses you get in Chinatown or on the internet are the standard synthetic brocade dresses that remind me of waitresses at a touristy restaurant. Yuck!  

If you don't know what a Cheongsam is, I've created an inspirational board on Pinterest HERE.

I've found some pretty spectacular prints on EBay from sellers out in China. I have not purchased anything yet, because I'm not sure about the quality, and although the prices are definitely reasonable, they're not cheap enough to throw away my money and shipping for the wrong buy. See some examples HERE. I might take the plunge next year after I've worked down my stash. My goal is to free at least one shelf from my stash cupboard. I've also got a local silk fabric store not far from me that I might take a look-see sometime soon.

I'm in the search-mode for the right pattern, and I might decide to change a shift dress into a Cheongsam pattern. It shouldn't be too difficult...but nothing really is if you know what you're doing I suppose. I'm not there yet. I found some vintage patterns on EBay, but they want a pretty price for them and I don't feel like spending the money.  I just don't know if it's worth it. 

I bought some hand-dyed Shibori cotton from EBay earlier this summer, designated to make a quilted Chanel jacket. I might have enough left over to sew a blouse version of the Cheongsam, which I think will look pretty darn cute. The fabric is fresh out of the dryer and ready for pressing and cutting!

October 8, 2013

There was a time when I used to purchase a lot of designer accessories and clothes. This was during the peak of my corporate career, which also meant a period where looking my best was critical and having no time to waste on my wardrobe. Everything had to be a sure thing. I also travelled to Asia for work, and keeping up with appearances was EVERYTHING.  I found myself being drawn into the whole process and it was stressful. The other day, I told the ladies in my sewing group how I shopped for designer goods at international airports. It was an efficient way to spend my airport time, and get some duty-free shopping benefits. My favorite airports for shopping were Heathrow, SFO, and Hong Kong.

Those shopping days are over. I don't have that high-stress, high-visibility job anymore. I thought I might miss that lifestyle, but surprisingly, I don't.  There's nothing fun about spending 50 percent of your nights in hotel rooms, away from home. It was also an awkward period of my life, regardless of my professional success...I just didn't feel like it was well, "me." (Sigh of relief right here.)

I still like shopping...for fabric and notions, food and health products for me and my family. I'm more of the farmer's market gal, that loves a street or craft fair especially if there's interesting food booths involved. I don't need to wear a suit to enjoy those things, and I'm saving a bundle on dry-cleaning bills. My only regret is that the beaches by my home aren't as warm.  A small price to pay I suppose. Happy me!

October 7, 2013 - Sewing Gift

I am not near the finish line...not even close.  My stash still feels as big as ever. The good new is, I've got a lot to choose from, bad news is, every project always requires something more. I just finished the first fitting of my corset project, and completed the cutting for the exterior pieces. I haven't decided what kind of lining I'm going to use. I have an old piece of white linen, and I'm thinking of washing and using that since it's sort of yellowed in some areas. One of my friends in the sewing group suggested that I try to make the first draft as close to my final piece as possible by adding a cheaper version of the boning, busk (or zipper), and the grommets in the back to test the fit laced up. I have some cheap plastic boning I could use on this first draft, a nine inch metal zipper for the front, but no grommets. How many sewists are frequently plagued by the lack of the correct notions when starting a project?  I can't be the only one.

I try not to over buy things, but I feel like stocking up on notions when they are on sale might be more important than the fabric stash.  It's easy to accumulate fabric, but not always easy to plan in advance with notions. I don't think it's a problem I can actually fix. I always have some interfacing and various thread on hand. I might even have the occasional zipper. I'm thinking about creating a notion stash inventory list just to make sure I have at least some standard supplies.  Things like 7' zippers in two primary colors are always handy. There's also binding tape, hemming tape, stitch witchery hemming tape, and I don't know about you but I can always find occasions for ric rack. Who doesn't like those that fun shape? It might be just me.

Today, I finished making a pair of stretch pants with a front zip placket. I haven't inserted a front placket zipper in years. I've been primarily using side zips because they're easier. I fell into a deep obsession with them yesterday and watched a few videos and read tutorials online until I found the right method that was both simple to do and easy to understand. Who should come to my rescue? Sandra Betzina of course...my mentor and the first person besides the instructor at my Bernina dealer that taught me how to really sew well and easily. These two things usually don't fall into the same sentence, but that's where Sandra Betzina really shines...making things easy and lovely is her forte.  I own all her early sewing guides BTW, but I suspect her videos are probably even more valuable now.

This weekend I hosted a sewing intensive in my barn, and a handful of ladies came out to stitch with me. I reminisced about all my great instructors who really gifted me this craft. There was my seventh grade home economics teacher who taught me how to sew a curved stitch while making a frog bean bag. Then it was my older sister Lilian, who helped me with a couple of projects and introduced me to Bernina sewing machines. My high school home economics teacher taught me the best hand stitch for putting in linings...a technique I still use today!

Until I bought my Bernina at the tender age of 24, I really didn't know how to sew very well.  Sure, I copied and made some makeshift costumes for out dance group in high school, but it was more about tenacity than sewing skills.  Here's a great big thanks to Alison at Mr. B's Sewing, who helped me master my machine, which can be 50 percent of any sewing challenge. More gratitude to Sandra Betzina's Power Sewing book which really shed light on many techniques. Shortly after my Bernina acquisition, my new love for sewing resulted in my enrolling in fashion design school at College of Alameda.  It was at this time that I gained the core of my stitching education.  Two instructors that significantly elevated my skill set were: Mr. Lopez and Mr. O'Hare...where ever you two are...know how much you've gifted me!


October 2, 2013 - In the Beginning

Life just caught up with me and pushed any notion of sewing off my radar. Fifteen years and two 20-year-old sewing machines later, I found space in my to be creative again. Being creative is so vital to my "well" living now, that I don't think I could ever go back. It's not a terrible addiction to have.  All I can say to my own children is, explore your artistic genius self...it's always ready to run with you.

When my kids were younger, the month of October was when I began my Holiday Rush-Hour. Beginning with Halloween sewing, and then followed by the rest of the standard festivities. It was also the beginning of their Birthday Rush. I have a baby born November 29, December 12, December 27, and January 14. If you do the math, they're almost two weeks apart, give or take a few days. I was the kind of young mom that didn't want any of my kids to feel chided on their birthdays.  Especially my youngest who was born two days after Christmas. It's easy to clump up their birthdays into one big party. I only did that once, and it was after the birth of my fourth child. I threw a combined "Carnival" themed party and borrowed the space from my local church. It was insanely fun and a lot of work. What I wanted to do was make it easier for me...but what I couldn't help myself was the amount of scaling "up" I did with activities. I don't want to go into too much detail, but it was big.