Well, that was a long while between posts. To be perfectly honest, I kind of forgot I had started a blog. Then I felt bad for neglecting it. Then I got busy and forgot again.
It’s well and truly winter now, and I am in a much happier frame of mind. Sure, I’ll have a wee moan about being cold, but I really love to pile on the mittens, hats, scarves and coat. And I have an extensive cardigan collection, as befits a librarian. I have a bit of sewing to celebrate the colder weather. I just finished a cute swing coat in cashmere wool (so, so soft and warm) but I don’t have a good picture of it yet due to it’s inky navy colour. I plan to do several sewing posts when I can get some decent pictures.
I am on winter break from next week and I am really looking forward to having a sewing bonanza. I plan to go back to the nice looking fabric shop I spied in Nakano Broadway, which reminded me of an old fashioned store like the one I used to work in: small, but good range of material from cheap and cheerful to luxury silk and sequins. And best of all, a good haberdashery range for a small shop. New Zealand doesn’t really have stores like that anymore, you always end up visiting two or three shops to get all the ‘bits’ you need.
I have a new frypan, and I love it so! Not only is it an excellent piece of cookware, it is beautiful too: a pale lemon colour and an amazing engraved pattern on the base. Where you can’t see it most of the time. I love Japanese attention to aesthetic detail. Look how pretty:
It’s a heavy, wide, shallow pan with a vented pyrex lid. Gloriously non-stick and distributes the heat evenly! I realised I had been avoiding cooking anything that needed a frypan to cook (so, basically I cooked a lot of noodles and soup) due to the unsatisfactory and flimsy offerings in the cupboards of our sharehouse. Now, I am thinking I will try and make a cake in it, it’s that awesome.
I started this blog during the summer holidays. Then it got too hot to do anything other than lie in front of a fan and drink cooling beverages. Then I had to go back to work, unpacking boxes of books into our new school library. So, I am terribly sorry, there has been very little in the way of sewing or of blogging done recently. What I have been doing is collecting fabric for the time it will be cool enough to turn on the iron (I don’t dew without pressing,everything comes out blah). I found a wonderful junk shop in Saitama, which seemed to have endless boxes of fabrics, but all were wintery types. Despite it being in the mid-30s, I lugged home a beautiful piece of flecked tweed in denim blues tones, some cheery red cordoroy and a good sized piece of black silk velvet. Skirt, skirt, and I don’t know what but it was only 300yen and I should be able to do something with it. On Saturday between sudden downpours I dashed out to the nearby Salvation Army Bazaar and acquired some navy cotton drill, green check cotton, spotty cream cotton, some folksy Ikea cotton, and a 1.5m piece of what I think is good quality iron-on woven interfacing. If it’s not, then it’s poor quality shirting with a pattern of flaking plastic dots on it. I also got a lovely dress which almost fits me. It looks to be from the 80s, but in the 50s style, with a modest neckline, cap sleeves, full skirt and large scale floral pattern. I took it in at the waist and shortened it slightly, and it’s perfectly cheerful to wear to work. Thankfully I have now got the library into some sort of order and the kids can enjoy it. I keep forgetting to photograph the stacks of fabric during the day when the light is good, so here is a picture of me being handy with a screwdriver and putting a book display together. At least I’m being crafty at work!
I made a pair of jeans. I have previously had quite a bit of trouble with sewing (ladies) trousers. They pouch, they bag, there is always something that just doesn’t go quite right. They look homemade, and not always in a charming way. Even doing a fashion design course, which included tailoring and patterndrafting, hasn’t really improved my hit rate when it comes to pants. Everything else- skirts, dresses, coats, blouses, I can make easily and to a standard I’m happy with wearing. I buy good jeans, and avoid trousers because trying on ten pairs which don’t fit gives me rage. But since I included a classic trouser pattern in my little stash I brought with me to Japan, I thought I may as well have another go. The pattern is Vogue ‘basic design’ 2532, shorts and trousers in varying lengths. I made the short shorts previously, but I used a linen that ended up being scratchy feeling so I never really wore them. Although I can draft a pattern from scratch, I tend to be too lazy to unless I’m making something special, but I can alter commercial patterns easily, and I know Vogue ones are a really good fit for me.
I found some suitable fabric at Tomato 100 in Nippori, for 200yen a metre due to a series of bad flaws running through it. Never being one to sniff at a bargain, I bought 3m knowing I would be able to work around the pulls. It did end up being quite annoying to cut out- I cut right side up, single layer so it took way longer and I had to keep my markings as subtle as possible. As for the pattern, I dropped the waist line 5cm, lengthened the leg by 3cm (even though I wasn’t using the cuff, I know from past experience it’s better to have to cut some off than have to skimp on the hem). I drafted some patch pockets myself, because I recall the side pockets spoiling the fit of the side seam last time I made this style, resulting in me removing them entirely.
I was thinking of adding some braid to the patch pockets, I have a pretty navy one with embroidered red and green flowers which I’ve been itching to add to something. But I was a bit concerned about overdoing things and ending up with total hippy pants instead of casual jeans. I played around with the embroidery settings on the sewing machine, and ended up adding a row of little star flowers to the pockets in navy thread. It came out pretty, and way more subtle than using braid.
The jeans came together pretty easily, except for the fly. Ever since I learned how to do a proper tailored fly, I refuse to put a ‘mock fly’. I think to myself “I know how to do a real one, it will be more professional this way”. Except I always forget the order in which I put it in, jump right in, and winding up having to unpick it. This time I unpicked it three times, before I conceded defeat and checked how it should be done, tacked it in carefully and tried them on.
Luckily the fit was good and I was able to complete this step which probably took as long as all the other sewing steps combined. I finished the jeans with double topstitching for strength, added a button from the button jar, and hemmed them wide. I popped them on with a stripy top and straw hat, and strode off to Shin-Okubo in search of cheap lunch and curry ingredients, feeling quite stylish. It poured down about half and hour after I left the house, and I was reminded why I ended up buying skinny jeans in the first place: wide-legged jeans are no good in the rain. The soggy hems collected all sorts of grub from the street and dyed my legs blue. Sigh. Into the wash, and it’s been too hot to wear anything other than flimsy cotton frocks for the past week.
I have been a bit sickly this week, with a lovely summer cold that caused me to completely lose my voice at one point. Being unable to keep up my usual chatter meant that my interior monologue has gone into overdrive. Perhaps this is why I started a blog? It really isn’t cool that I’m sick during my summer vacation, but I hadn’t planned to do a lot this week anyway so it ended up being kind of nice to be housebound for a couple of days.
To keep myself amused, I took up embroidery again. I was really into it around the ages of nine to twelve years old (I had books and everything!), and then pretty much dropped it except for occasional random stitching, usually left half-finished. I need a new purse, as my favoured vinyl one has begun to shed little pieces of black coating everywhere. It usually ends up on my face. So, after hitting the nearby 100yen Plaza for supplies, I measured up the purse and got stitching a random pattern, using satin stitch. I had in mind a vintage floral feel and despite my wobbly stitching I think it came out ok. However, I am missing twelve year old me’s large stash of quality threads in the garage at my parent’s in NZ. 100 yen for seven colours was always going to be a bit crap, but I didn’t realise how frustratingly knotty and tangly they would be to work with. I think next time I feel like embroidering I might plan a bit better and go to a decent craft store to find some DMC ones like I used to use. Here’s a picture of the work in progress so far:
You can see my stitches improving as I get further across, or at least I like to think so. I stabilised the back, but the denim is awfully loose weave and stretchy which worried me as I had already half finished a pair of flared jeans in this stuff.
Which brings me to the jeans. It has been so hot here in Tokyo, and due to luggage restrictions I only brought skinny jeans with me from NZ. Ever put on tight, dark coloured, high waisted jeans when it’s 36 degrees? I don’t recommend it at all. We had to return home after walking for twenty minutes as my legs were so unhappy. What I really wanted was some proper ‘blue jeans’ coloured, summery 70s style flares in a soft light denim. I am very tall, with a long waist, so finding jeans in my home country isn’t usually an easy task, and in Japan… despite being considered small in most western sizing, I am like the Hulk when I try to get into Japanese sized clothes. My frame is just the wrong shape. I have had some success with purchasing bigger size shoes online, but anything trouser-like really needs to be tried on. My beloved skinny ones are Workshop, a NZ brand which, as far as I can tell, don’t have an online shop. This is a shame because their sizing is pretty much perfect for me.
Good thing I inherited a sewing machine from the previous housemate in our share house, or I would have be limited to the meager amount of clothing I brought with me and what I could find that would sort of fit here. It’s not actually that I couldn’t find clothes that fit me here, it’s just that the ones that do are very expensive. Being a thrifty sort of gal, I have been sewing and ‘op-shopping’ (opportunity shops=thrift stores) my way to a fancier wardrobe since I was a teenager, and living in the most expensive city in the world certainly hasn’t changed that. I might do a post on being thrifty in Tokyo at some stage, but I might have to find out the actual names of all the places I go first- somehow “that junk shop near the bridge that used to sell liquor but now has lots of handbags and shoes in the window” probably isn’t going to help anyone else.
Anyway, I digress… tomorrow I will tell the story of the jeans I made, including pictures of me actually wearing them, outside of the house! Here is a picture of the fly and pocket:
Oh hello there, welcome to my shiny new blog! I’m planning to use this space to document my sewing and craft projects, but it will probably end up containing rambling on delicious things I make and eat, and anything else that I think might be interesting. Enjoy.