Monday, July 13, 2015

Starting a New Venture

I haven't been a very consistent blogger these days -- I can't believe my last post was in May! Well, the reason for my absence is that I've been focused on a new venture.

I've launched a fashion business -- Jean Kaori -- a womenswear line designed for women with shorter proportions. All of the pieces are classic yet interesting enough to add something special to an every day outfit. My first collection for Fall/Winter 2015 is composed of outerwear pieces -- some of which you may recognize! -- made in beautiful fabrics with details such as topstitching, curved seams and flounces.

Here are some shots from the photo shoot!

It has been a process, a very intense learning process. I felt like I had to pull everything I've learned over the years -- not just sewing-related, but skills I acquired in the corporate world -- to get this started. I still have a lot to do, but I'm excited to be on this path!

Unfortunately, I don't think I'll be able to keep up this blog, as I honestly haven't done much sewing other than making muslins as well as samples upon samples of my designs. I will likely make this one private for a time, but perhaps I'll be able to come back and share some sewing projects. In the meantime, I still hope to keep up with your blogs as well -- I may not comment as much, but I definitely want to stay informed of what you are up to.

Thank you for taking the time to read my posts over the years and for taking an interest in my projects. I've really enjoyed being a part of this community and am so thankful for all of the support and friendship.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A Little Top from Burda's May 2015 Issue

This past weekend, I was seduced into making this top (style #102) from the May 2015 issue of Burda. I'm not really sure why I gravitated to a style that is perfect in print chiffon, when that is one of the fabrics I never wear! Well, I went for it and made it up using some leftover silk -- crepe de chine and lightweight charmeuse -- because I don't have any chiffon in my stash.

Image from here.

In hindsight, it wasn't a great idea. It kind of reminded me of how I get inspired to sew a maxi skirt/dress around this time every year, and end up never wearing them because they just aren't truly my style. It turned out fine and was pretty simple to make, but it is a different look for me.

I used a silk crepe de chine for the main body and side panels, with a lightweight silk charmeuse for the "wings". The neckline and armholes are finished with bias binding. There is an invisible zipper in the side panel along the back seam line. At first I thought it might not be necessary, but the body is close-fitting enough to where it is good to have.

Excuse the wrinkles -- I didn't press that area very well.

I cut out a 34 (I usually cut a 36 in Burda) because I thought it might be loose and big. It was a good choice, except the low hip was a bit tight, so there is some blousing that occurs. I think it is ok -- adds to the look.

I made a small change at the shoulder. I accidentally sewed the "wings" so the nice satin side of the charmeuse ended up on the inside. I wanted that side to be more prominent, so I folded up and tacked the "wings" a bit at the shoulder so the natural folds expose the satin side.

Here's the technical sketch.

Image from here.

If you decide to make this, here are some thoughts:

1. Check where the bust darts fall -- they seem a tad high, so it would be worthwhile to confirm their placement.

2. Confirm the low hip measurement to make sure it will fit the way you want. I like the blouson effect but I think the original pattern is meant to hang straight down.

3. Even though it was easy to slip the top over my head with the wide neckline, I needed the invisible zip opening along the side back panel. It seems overkill to have a zipper for a little summer top though -- maybe a larger size would have been wide enough to eliminate it. It might be worth exploring.

4. The instructions call for folding the outer edges of the "wings", zig zagging them and trimming the extra allowance. Instead, I chose to use a very fine zig zag stitch along the stitch line and just trimmed close to it. I like how it turned out -- very light and drapey.

5. The instructions also specify bias binding folded to the wrong side and stitched down as the method to use to finish the neckline and armholes. This worked well.

Overall, it was a quick project using some stash fabrics. The design is interesting in a boho sort of way -- so we'll see if I can muster the courage to wear it one of these days!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

A Very Creative Hand-Crafted Bag

When I met my friend Kristin for coffee yesterday, she brought a very unique handbag with her, one that she recently made and took with her to Pattern Review (PR) Weekend in Los Angeles. It is so incredibly creative and beautifully made -- I just had to blog about it.

Isn't this clever? It is inspired by the pin cushions that can be found in San Francisco's Chinatown area, like this one.

Image from here.

She sewed yellow leather to red leather panels to create the seamed look. Each of the little figures are individually sewn using cotton fabric and batting, and of course the inside is meticulously finished. She thought of every detail, including the faces on each of the little figures! To finish, she secured "feet" on the bottom and sewed a narrow strap for the top handle.

Her interpretation is fantastic in so many ways -- clever, creative, beautifully constructed -- and is a true statement piece. Just stunning. I can't wait to see what she creates next!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Couple of Knitting Projects

Time keeps passing by, and I realized that I haven't blogged in about a month. I had hoped to have my Crop Moto Jacket in white leather as my next blog post -- but unfortunately, it still isn't done yet. No excuses -- it just isn't done -- but I will finish it!

I do have a couple of knitting projects to share. One is the Chunky Sleeveless Turtleneck, which I was inspired to make after seeing all of the wonderful variations in the Fall 2015 runway shows. I was a huge fan of sleeveless turtlenecks back in the day -- I had a gorgeous cobalt blue cashmere version with a soft cowl neck that I especially loved -- so I was excited to see that the style has come back for Fall.

I used a wonderful yarn by Plymouth called DeAire, which is a chunky 100% merino wool yarn that is so lofty and light -- a pleasure to knit. I used #11 needles, which is smaller than what is called for on the label, and mixed a couple of different stitches. The main body is knit in stockinette stitch; the collar is a 1x1 rib stitch; and the hem bands are a textured stitch that alternates rows of 1x1 rib on the right side and P stitch on the wrong side. The armholes and hems are finished using single crochet.

I knit the front and back separately from the bottom up, and then sewed the shoulders and side seams. Then I picked up the neckline stitches and worked a simple 1x1 rib. To give it a bit of a modern look, I chose to do a high-low hem.

I really love this yarn -- even though it is chunky, it is really light and results in a lofty fabric that feels wonderful. If I had used a larger needle, I think it would have been less structured and more drapey, which wasn't the look I was going for with this design. I definitely want to order more of this yarn!

My second project is a Textured Sweater Coat knit in Tahki Zara 14, a bulky 100% fine merino wool yarn. Again, this is a fabulous yarn that yields great stitch definition. It isn't as lofty and light as the DeAire, but it has a wonderful feel to it.

The color is a silver gray, which is one of my faves. The design is simple -- just a straight style worked in the same textured stitch I used for the turtleneck (above); 1x1 ribbing for the collar; and single crochet edging to finish it off. I encountered one problem, though.

Can you see the color difference in the photo above? Well, all of the skeins were the same color, but -- I didn't notice this at first -- there were two different dye lots. I ended up with about 10 skeins of the lighter shade and 7 skeins of the darker one. I was lucky that I noticed it as I was knitting -- I mean, how can you not, given how obvious it is! -- so I was able to undo it and work out a way to make it a design feature. Lesson learned here -- always check the dye lot numbers before starting a project!

Well, it isn't quite finished yet, as I haven't added any closures. I'm thinking of simple snaps -- hopefully I'll get to it before summer arrives.

Now back to that white leather!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Quick Knit: Cabled Boot Cuffs

I had one lone skein of yarn -- Beaverslide Dry Goods 3-ply heavy fisherman weight merino wool -- and a couple of hours of free time between wrapping Christmas gifts and writing out last-minute cards, so I thought it might be fun to make a pair of boot cuffs. Yes, I know, I'm about a year late in jumping on the boot cuff bandwagon, but better late than never, right?

The yarn is a wonderful 100% merino wool in the Winter Rosehip color way. Beaverslide Dry Goods is a family-owned and -run business based in Montana, where they raise their sheep on 3000 acres of land. The yarn is really wonderful to work with and the color is more beautiful in person. There was some splitting here and there in within the skein, but it wasn't a huge deal.

Each cuff is 6" in length and 12" around. I knit the cuffs flat and then seamed them into a tube, but they can be knit in the round using small-diameter circular needles or double points. The pattern is just a simple cable rib (2 purl stitches alternating with 4 cable stitches). I used size 9 needles, so it was pretty quick to knit -- probably just a couple of hours from cast on to bind off!

Here's the pattern:

1. Using size 9 circular needles, cast on 44 stitches. This includes 1 selvage stitch at both ends of each row. The selvage will be worked in stockinette.

2. (WS) P1 (selvage). *K2, P4.** Repeat from * to ** across, ending with P1 (selvage).

3. (RS) K1 (selvage). *K4, P2.** Repeat from * to ** across, ending with K1 (selvage).

4. Repeat #2.

5. (RS) K1 (selvage). Place 2 stitches on cable holder and hold to front. K2. K2 from cable holder. P2. Place 2 stitches on cable holder and hold to back. K2. K2 from cable holder. P2. Repeat across, ending with K1 (selvage).

6. (WS) P1 (selvage). *K2, P4.** Repeat from * to ** across, ending with P1 (selvage).

7. (RS) K1 (selvage). *K4, P2.** Repeat from * to ** across, ending with K1 (selvage).

8. Repeat #6 and #7 once. Repeat #6 one additional time.

9. (RS) Repeat #5.

10. Repeat #6 -- #9 two additional times.

11. Repeat #6 and #7 four times.

12. Bind off all stitches, leaving a long tail to seam the cuff into a tube.

13. Seam each cuff into a tube and tie off ends.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Design Detail: Channel Stitching

I've been obsessed with channel stitching for quite a while now. I just love all those nice, neat, parallel rows of stitching!

My go-to reference for this technique is Lynda Maynard's book, The Dressmaker's Handbook of Couture Sewing Techniques. Sew Maris also gives a nice review of this technique in her Craftsy blog post.

As in many things related to sewing, testing is so important. The type of fabric; weight of interfacing; adding additional fabric to give a quilted effect; thread color and weight; and stitch length are all considerations that need to be tested before moving on to fashion fabric.

For my Sailor Collar Moto Jacket, I used channel stitching to accent the peplum, cuffs and collar. The peplum is stitched using my regular cotton thread, while the stitching on the collar (faux leather) is done with a heavy topstitching thread.

The jacket is a stretch denim fabric and the collar/cuffs are faux leather. All of the facings are stretch denim interfaced with a lightweight fusible. I could have added a layer of flannel on the inside to add further dimension for a more "quilted" look, but I opted for a flat effect.

What is cool about channel stitching is that it can create a new texture -- the peplum piece has much more structure and a defined shape due to the rows of stitching. The down side of this is that, depending on the amount of stitching you add, you need to take shrinkage into account, as all those rows of stitching will "shrink" the piece. Again, testing is key!

Stitching around corners is tricky, and I have to admit the above isn't perfect. However, it helps to decrease the stitch length around the corners and, while I didn't do this, it might help to chalk-mark the corner distances so each row is even. I was lazy, so I just eye-balled the distances and hoped for the best!

Here's a project I'm currently working on that uses channel stitching on the collar and front flap piece. The fabric is a silk/wool blend that is interfaced with a lightweight fusible and the facing is a china silk lining fabric.

In this case, the stitching practically melts into the fabric -- it is very subtle and, because I limited the rows of stitching, it doesn't really add much structure or shape. This is a wearable muslin, so I think for the final garment, I'll choose a thicker topstitching thread in a slightly more contrasting color to make the stitching stand out a bit more.

Some thoughts on channel stitching:

1. Test the fabric, interfacing and thread combination you plan to use to make sure the effect is what you originally envisioned. This is also a good time to test the stitch length you like; the spacing between rows (I like 1/4 inch); and whether you need to worry about shrinkage.

2. Take shrinkage into account. If you have a lot of rows of stitching, the piece will shrink slightly, depending on the fabric, thread and stitch length you are using.

3. A walking foot helps to keep the layers of fabric from shifting too much, especially if you choose to add a layer of flannel or other fabric for a more "quilted" effect.

4. Some people mark their rows of stitching with chalk or other marking method. I just measure off 1/4 inch from the edge for the first row and use my stitch guide/machine foot to maintain an even distance between rows. It is difficult to keep the rows evenly spaced and straight, so I end up sewing each row very slowly.

5. I start and stop each row of stitching by decreasing the stitch length -- I do not backstitch, as I think the smaller stitches give a cleaner finish.

While this technique is time-consuming to do, it is a beautiful design detail. I hope you have the chance to try it!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Refashioning a Kimono: Ideas

Thank you all for your lovely ideas for refashioning my mom's kimono. I was really surprised to see all of the different and creative ways people have re-imagined the kimono into something new and, most importantly, wearable today.

These pieces by Ann Williamson are just works of art. She has taken kimono fabrics and used different techniques such as piecing, beading and mixed media (combining the kimono fabrics with other silks) to truly transform the original garment. Wow!

Images from here.

Anne Namba is a Hawaii-based designer who started out refashioning vintage kimono. While her current line extends beyond that (including wedding dresses), some of her more stunning pieces still feature kimono fabrics.

Image from here.

Image from here.

Yoshi Jones is an Australia-based designer who creates limited edition garments using vintage silk kimono. Her garments are definitely more wearable for every day. I love the way she takes advantage of the print placement in her pieces.

Images from here.

So inspiring! But I've still been hesitant to cut the kimono apart. Luckily for me, when I got together with a group of sewing folks yesterday, they came up with a great solution -- test out ideas on another, less precious (read: emotionally charged!) kimono (my grandmother has a large stash that I can raid) and see where that leads. Such a simple and practical solution -- thank you, ladies!