Friday, October 10, 2014

Needed: Ideas for Refashioning a Kimono

I just returned from visiting my family in sunny southern California. While there, my mom gave me one of her kimono -- a beautiful pale pink one that she had custom-made in Japan before she was married. It is hand-painted silk and is absolutely stunning.

Here are some close-up shots of the flowers.

She wore it before her wedding…

And I had the chance to wear it in high school when I was taking tea ceremony lessons.

Since then, it has remained folded and stored, and now my mom would like it to be refashioned into something wearable so it can be enjoyed again. I have to admit that I'm not really excited about taking it apart -- I guess I like the idea of keeping it as it was meant to be -- but I understand the desire to create something new.

There is quite a bit of yardage and the silk is quite heavy, so my initial thought was to create a long, lined jacket, which would show off the print. A dress would be beautiful, but I don't think it would get much wear given my mom's current lifestyle. Perhaps a tunic-length top? I would appreciate any ideas!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Why I Blog: Blog Hop

This post is soooooooo late -- it was supposed to be posted on September 29! My apologies to dear Silvia from Sewing Princess, who was kind enough to ask me to participate -- and of course I let life get in the way and dropped the ball. If you aren't familiar with her blog, check it out -- she sews and knits beautiful clothes; writes her blog in English and Italian; and always has the best shoes -- the best! -- in her well-styled photos!

A number of bloggers have already participated in this Blog Hop -- sharing their individual stories about why they choose to blog about their sewing. Sometimes our posts are so focused on projects, techniques, fabric love, etc. that details about the person behind the blog -- the writer -- can get lost in the mix, which is why I think this Blog Hop is so cool. Here are some new-to-me blogs that I've found through this Hop!

The Handstitched Files
A Stitching Odyssey
Docksjo Design

Why I Write
I started this blog way back in January 2008. At the time, some of my hand-knit designs were being published in magazines such as Vogue Knitting and Knit Simple, so I thought it would be a good idea to have some sort of web presence. Well, as often happens, things evolve and I found myself more interested in posting about my sewing projects rather than my knitting projects. I also found the sewing blogger community to be so rich with interesting folks that I started to prefer blogging about sewing.

Image from Soho Publishing. The top was my first published knit design.

Now, I write because I want to share what I am working on and pass along any tidbits that I learn during the process. Unfortunately, one of my main obstacles to posting has been photography -- I'm terrible at taking photos while I work, and when I do remember, the quality tends to be iffy. I've found that you can't maintain a sewing blog without good photos!

What Am I Working On Now
For the past year, I have been attending a pattern-making school in San Francisco. It has been a great experience -- I learned a lot of new skills but, most importantly, gained a huge amount of confidence in my work. As part of the program, we were required to complete an 8-piece collection -- pieces that are cohesive and reflect who we are as a designer. We had to turn in the completed garments, the final production-ready patterns and a tech pack of one design -- a "package" of documents that instruct the factory on how to manufacture the garment. I finished the collection and turned it in -- ended up with 12 pieces! -- and am awaiting feedback.

My near-term goal is to build my own small fashion business, so I've been volunteering time with a local clothing design company, which has been a great experience. While there has been no sewing involved, I've met some talented designers; learned a lot about how the fashion industry works; how to communicate with overseas factories; and how challenging it is to run a successful fashion business.

How Does It Differ From Others Of Its Genre
Well, I don't think my blog really differs much from other sewing blogs. Some differences: I don't post tutorials, because I'm not a sewing expert and I leave those technical details to them. I also haven't sewn many indie patterns -- I tend to self-draft or use Burda -- so sometimes I feel out of the loop when it comes to online discussions of those patterns.

Prior to blogging, I knew very few people who were into knitting and sewing, so it has been so wonderful to meet -- both online and in person -- a group of people with similar obsessions.

How Does My Writing Process Work
I don't really have a process. I write when I have something to share (and photos!). I think my years of writing in corporate environments have taken a toll - I tend to focus more on presenting information in a logical and clear manner rather than in a witty or lighthearted way. I guess that's just how I write!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Final Collection and Germany Trip

It has been a busy couple of months! For my pattern making courses, I set a goal of completing my final collection by the beginning of September. As often happens, I ended up scrambling at the end to meet that self-imposed deadline -- and while some of the pieces could have been sewn better (and perhaps benefited from an additional muslin round), I was happy to have finished. Here are some not-so-great shots of the pieces when I presented them to the class. I'll post more about them when I get them back from the school.

This dress ended up being a bear to sew -- 16 parallel darts all around!

My favorite piece is the cape on the left. The color is actually more of a carnation pink rather than the bright pink on the screen. It is a luscious wool + tiny bit of cashmere blend and is lined with a sueded silk charmeuse, which feels great without being too slippery. The outfit on the right is a textured cotton/synthetic blend with strips of leather to highlight the curved seams. The lining + blouse is an amazing silk crepe print that I absolutely adore. 

Here's the Classic French Jacket again, with a matching fit/flare skirt I managed to squeeze out of the remaining yardage. The top is a silk/cotton blend with a pleated collar and tie neckline. I knit a cardi as well, but I think the shade of pink doesn't quite go with the rest of the collection. The asymmetric zip jacket is a fave as well -- it was a last-minute addition because I had enough fabric from the cape and some leather scraps. It needs another muslin to really perfect the fit of the sleeves. The trousers are fully lined with a leather waistband. The top under the jacket is made from extra lining fabric from the cape.

A few days later, I joined my husband on his business trip to Germany. It was my first trip there and, even though I don't speak the language, I had a great time. Here are some photos.

Hike up to the site of Ravensburg's castle. After climbing those steps, I realized I need to work out more!

Views of Ravensburg from the site of the town's original castle. Ravensburg is a well-preserved medieval town with dramatic towers and gates, located in southern Germany near the Swiss border. On a clear day, you can apparently see the Alps, but it was cloudy and rainy the entire time we were there. This was the clearest day we had.

I took a train/ferry to Meersburg, a town on the shores of Lake Constance, which borders Switzerland (one side of the lake is Germany and the other side is Switzerland). Here's a view of the town from the ferry. This town is also a well-preserved medieval town with a castle with sections that apparently date back to the 700s. 

Here's the new castle, which was built right next to the old one. Looks a bit more inviting!

Everyone was eating ice cream, so I couldn't pass it up. Cherry -- tasty!

One of the highlights of being in Ravensburg was their saturday market -- a local tradition since the 1100s or so -- where the main streets are lined with vendors selling produce, cheese, meats, breads, prepared foods, and even yarn.

From Ravensburg, we took the train to Munich to spend a few vacation days there. 

This was ground zero for tourists -- the Neues Rathaus and Glockenspiel in the Marienplatz area. We heard the chimes ring at 5 pm and saw the amazing figurines twirl -- the Glockenspiel is definitely worth navigating the crowds to see.

We walked a lot in Munich and came across random things -- like this shrine to Michael Jackson. 

And this very fancy car that had my husband drooling.

On our way to a museum, we stumbled on a street fair, so we decided to ditch the museum and check out the fair instead. Glad we did -- a lot of fun to see vendors, performers (like this big band playing great music) and people out and about enjoying the festivities, despite the rainy weather.

We took a train to Dachau, which is in the outskirts of Munich, to visit the site of Germany's first concentration camp. It was a sobering experience. History has always been one of my favorite subjects, so I had some knowledge before visiting, but being there at the site was an overwhelming and indescribable experience -- and one that should not be missed. 

We had a wonderful trip -- too short to really experience everything, but hopefully there will be other trips in the future. Here are just some random shots -- I loved seeing the traditional trachten (Bavarian clothing) in the windows and in the stores, as everyone was gearing up for Oktoberfest!

And of course I couldn't leave Germany without taking a photo of Karl Lagerfeld -- he has a twin!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Soutache Capelet Design: Published!

It seems like ages ago when I posted my sneak peek of this project. Finally, after months of waiting, it has been published in a new book, 60 Quick Luxury Knits!

The Soutache Capelet is knit in Venezia Worsted by Cascade Yarns, a wonderfully soft merino wool/silk blend that produces a knit fabric with a wonderful drape. The soutache effect is created by twisting and looping a lot -- I mean, a lot! -- of i-cord.

The design is meant to be one of those "throw over your shoulders" pieces when going out for an evening. In the photograph above, it looks like the editors may have added an extra pin around the bust area to close it up for a more fitted look.

One caution about the yarn -- it tends to grow after blocking, so be sure to knit a good size swatch and wash it before you check gauge.

This was an unexpected design project for me. I had actually designed this a couple of years ago, when I was still actively designing knits for publication. The publisher must have kept it in their files, because I was quite surprised when they contacted me about including it in their upcoming book. I'm glad to be included!

All images from: Soutache Capelet from 60 Quick Luxury Knits, published by Sixth&Spring Books. Photography by Jack Deutsch and text copyright © 2014 by Sixth&Spring Books. Used by permission.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Just a Couple of Summer Dresses for Hawaii

We just returned from a short trip to our fave isle -- the Big Island of Hawaii -- to celebrate my DH's birthday! While I tend to be more of a shorts + tanks + flip flops kind of gal in Hawaii, I thought it would be fun to have a couple of dresses on hand. Luckily for me, I'm a fabric hoarder, so I just went to my stash and found a couple of cool prints I had purchased on prior trips. I'm not sure if you remember this one, but this very bold shell print turned into a dress … yes, a dress!

Here it is! The shell is so prominent that the design had to be super simple. I put some thought into where the shell could go without looking ridiculous -- options were kind of limited, so I kept it along the hem in front and back. The dress is simple -- a cut-away shoulder, drawstring waist and side slit.

I made a deep V-neckline in the back, which made the neckline wide enough so I could get away with no closure.

The neckline and armholes are finished with bias binding that I made with the same fabric. I love this finishing technique for unlined, sleeveless garments. It is clean and neat.

The drawstring has a casing and ties at center front. I considered using elastic instead, but there is a certain ease with a drawstring that I like for warm-weather garments.

The second dress is a really simple baby doll style dress. Again, I used the cut-away shoulder style and the deep V-neckline in back. In keeping with the baby doll style, there is a fitted seam line that runs across the bust, with added fullness below. Sorry the photo is so small -- I lost resolution when I tried to increase the size.

Here, you can see the hemline is lowered in the back and there is a curved pocket at one side seam (I ran out of fabric so the dress only has 1 pocket!).

The hem and pocket top is finished with bias binding. The bodice is faced. This was a quick dress to make and super comfortable to wear.

The fabric for the baby doll dress is from Discount Fabric Warehouse in Kailua-Kona. They have a great selection of batiks, Hawaiian prints and Japanese/Asian prints, so I always try to visit when I'm on the island. This time, I picked up a couple of patterns -- one is a Victoria Jones one for a Hawaiian shirt and the other is for a yukata, a traditional Japanese summer kimono.

Overall, we had a great trip and hope to visit again!


Mauna Kea Sunrise

Peaceful Beach Scene

Creepy Eel

Wine Flight at Merriman's Restaurant

Happy Birthday!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Generating Design Ideas With a Free-Form Project

I recently learned a great way to play with new design ideas -- creating a free-form project. It's the kind of project that encourages you to reach into your imagination and try new things. The concept is to divide a simple bodice or skirt pattern into four quadrants and come up with new techniques, test new ideas, play with color, explore new fabrics, etc. Please excuse the Valentine's Day vibe -- I just grabbed some quilting cotton from my stash!

For my project, I used a sloper and flat pattern techniques, but draping directly on the dress form would work, as well as starting with a simply styled commercial pattern.

In one quadrant, I played around with a vertical curved seam -- kind of serpentine in shape. It wasn't as difficult to sew as I thought -- just needed to stay-stitch and clip along the entire length of the seam. I also converted the bust dart into gathers, which is something I really like. It gives the side seam a softer look while still allowing a nice fit.

On the other side, I drafted a princess seam and curved the CF piece so the middle is wider than the ends. For the side seam piece, I created a flared peplum.

I think it is kind of interesting to have a "partial peplum" and may incorporate this treatment in the future. I'm not too excited about the princess seam shape -- it may be more interesting if there is a way to create a unique shape that spans the entire front.

In the back, I tried to develop a curved "flap" that allows a peek of a contrast color underneath. For this, I drafted the curved piece and added a bit of flare to allow the piece to stand away from the body a bit (will stand away even more in a more structured fabric). I think this could be an interesting detail on a jacket.

I really had fun working on this, and came away with a couple of design ideas that I plan to further develop and use in future projects. I can see how this could be a great project to do regularly, perhaps every month or so -- such a great way to set aside time to play!