Month: January 2013

I couldn’t resist

I made a trip to Fabric Depot last week to get some notions (static-resistant lining fabric for some stashbusting skirts) and saw this.


I could NOT resist buying some.  I mean, it’s Nancy Drew!  How many adventures did I go on with Bess, George, and Nancy as a kid and teen?  Too many to count.  I really wanted to buy enough to make a skirt or dress, but I’m both too old and too young (and not eccentric enough) to carry that off.  So, I settled for .5 yard, enough to make a great bag for the spring/summer.

(It’s Moda fabric, by the way; other colorways and patterns available in the collection.)

Stashbusting challenge

The delightful Cation Designs and EmSewCrazy have started a stashbusting challenge for 2013.  Although not a strict challenge, it is a fun way to motivate sewists to use their stashes this year. Each month they are having optional themed challenges, too.

Since stashbusting is one of my major goals this year, I thought, “Why not join in the fun?” So here I go…

I, Gretchen, commit to using at least 16 pieces of stash fabric for my sewing projects in 2013. I also commit to using 4 pieces of stash fabric for every 1 new piece I may not be able to resist buying.

First off, my stash.  It’s much less than it used to be, but as my sewing room is also the guest room, I do have to keep it contained.  Thus, I allow myself four bins for fabric.  Top left is cotton/wovens; top right is knits, flannels, and wools; bottom left is overflow wovens and home dec fabrics (including sheet sets that might make interesting garments); the bottom right is my scrap bin.

And here are the stash fabrics that I would like to use up this year:


From top to bottom (amount of fabric, fabric type; in stash since; potential make)

  • 2 meters of twill london/text print from Tokyo; 2012; Sewaholic Crescent skirt?
  • ~1 yard black pin-striped cotton scrap; c. 2005; skirt (cut out)
  • 2 yards grey/brown floral cotton; 2012; Alma blouse
  • ~3 meters brown chiffon; 2008 Tokyo; ???
  • ~1 meter brown wool; 2009 Tokyo; pencil skirt
  • ~1 meter black/grey/silver wool; 2008 Tokyo; pencil skirt
  • ~3 yards brown/black plaid wool; c. 2006; lined Thurlow trousers
  • 1.7 meters navy & cream striped sweater knit; 2012 Tokyo; Renfrew sweater
  • 2 meters grey, white, blue striped knit; 2012 Tokyo; casual knit dress and/or Renfrew tops

IMG_3082And from left to right:

  • ~3 meters of brown linen; 2009 Tokyo; button-front summer dress?
  • ~3 yards blue polka-dot synthetic something; c.2007; dress of some sort
  • 2x .5 meter pieces beige and cream polka-dot double gauze; Tokyo 2012; Sorbetto or something similar for summer
  • ~1.5 yards flannel backed satiny purple Hello Kitty fabric; c. 2006; elastic-waist lounging pants for (Portland’s) summer
  • ~2 meters of oil refinery border print cotton; 2012 Tokyo; a maxi skirt or dress, something to show off the fabulous border print
  • ~2 meters Nani Iro multi-colored on white double gauze; 2012 Tokyo; Sewaholic’s Hollyburn skirt?

January’s optional themed challenge was itty bitty bits, a make from less than .5 yard scraps.  And I unintentionally participated, as the day before I was set to fly out with my hubby to Austin, Texas, I decided that I needed to make a bag.  I thought I would take it with me as my in-flight entertainment bag, but it turned out to be too large for that, so I left it at home.  It was made with several scraps: .5 yard of Japanese fabric I had purchased from my friend’s Etsy store, interlined with some remnants of white twill leftover after shortening some IKEA curtains, lined with remnants of yellow cotton left over after making a Ginger skirt, and pocket out of a denim remnant in my stash.  Oh, and the handle is webbing that was originally a belt from something I had purchased many years ago.  I knew I would never wear a cream webbed belt, so I stuck it in my notions stash.

IMG_3091 IMG_3093 IMG_3094


I’m currently in Austin, Texas, enjoying the weather, but itching to do some sewing.  I visited my friend’s office yesterday (or as I call it, Fabric Wonderland) and picked up a few new pieces, which I will blog about later.  (So much for my stashbusting resolutions!) It’s hard to resist when confronted with shelf upon shelf of imported Japanese fabrics, though.  *sigh*


The stash busting begins

As one of my goals this year is to stash bust both fabrics and patterns, I got busy last week.  I love sewing garments and usually dread the tracing of the patterns, tracing the patterns to the fabric, etc.  All the prep work.  Mise en place for sewing, as it were.   However, I have discovered that if I’m in a somewhat sewing-ish mood, I can go in and trace several patterns, cut the fabric for these patterns, transfer the markings, and have everything ready to go for these patterns.  That’s what I did a couple of weekends ago. The added plus with this method is having several things waiting to sew when I do get into the sewing mood; I just grab and sew.

I had four Sewaholic patterns I wanted to make toiles for and two makes I wanted to whip up using the very last scraps of fabric I had used on other projects.  These last two were also to try out some patterns that had been sitting in my stash for at least 6 years.  I figured if I didn’t like the makes, the patterns can go.  For the Sewaholic toiles, I ended up using a cheap sheet set I found at a local thrift store.  I got four toiles (two skirts and two tops) out one of sheet set!  With plenty left over.  That’s a much better deal than buying muslin.


Here’s the finished NewLook 6415 knit top.  Yes, I was lazy and didn’t change out my serger cones, so that’s tan thread on the inside.  I wasn’t expecting this to work and/or like it, so I really wasn’t too concerned about how it looked on the inside.  (Am I alone in this thinking?)  Anyway, I love this top!  And I love the color of the fabric.  But I hate the fabric itself.  It’s a 100% cotton knit; one of those that comes in a tube.  It’s super comfy, thicker (and warmer) than most, but the recovery is crap.  I made a long-sleeved Renfrew out of the majority of this fabric, and the neckline stretches like crazy.  I fear this will be the same.  Still, it’s comfy, it fits, and is a great color on me.  Perfect around the house shirt for when the warm weather returns, though probably with a tank underneath.


And here’s the Butterick 4737, eked out of the remnants of the Japanese sweater knit I bought this fall.  I realllllllly didn’t have much fabric to work with here, so the pattern matching is awful.  It doesn’t look so bad here, but the side matching is about as off as you can get.  It’s comfy and the fit’s fine, but the mismatched side patterns make it seem so amateurish.  *sigh*  I will probably wear it, but I will be overly-conscious of it’s flaws as I do.


The stash busting has begun.  Two bits of fabric gone.  Two unknown patterns tested and approved.


While I’m still trying to catch up with the fall trip posts, I do want to get a sewing post up.  Everyone in the sewing blogosphere seems to be doing a review of 2012 and plans for 2013.  While I won’t (this year), I have been thinking back and looking forward.

2012 was so busy for me, that I really didn’t get much sewing done until fall.  I am proud of how far my sewing has come this last year, with its mix of utter failures and smashing successes.  I count a make as successful if I wear it often.  I found that this summer, while studying in Tokyo, three of my favorite tops were ones that I had made.  And this winter, my favorites have been the Renfrew tops that I made after returning from Japan this fall.  The failures are only failures in that I won’t wear them.  They are not failures in that they taught me important lessons about fitting; especially fitting in progress.

Interestingly enough, my successes were tops and my failures were dresses.  I’m not much of a dress girl, so perhaps making a dress isn’t what I should focus on?  However, I think that with the right dresses, I could become a dress girl.  🙂  I definitely like skirts now more than I did when I lived in Texas, so I know my tastes do change.  Still, though, separates are where I want to concentrate my sewing efforts this year.

My goals for this upcoming year are primarily fit related.  (I do want to get a bit more fit myself and am working towards that goal.)  I am revisiting some patterns that I had made before but never really wore, in order to perfect the fit.  I found that with the Renfrew top, once I got the fit just right, the finished piece quickly entered my wearing rotation.

My biggest goal this year is pants.  I have Sewaholic’s Thurlow trousers pattern just waiting for me to make the time.  No matter how long it takes, I want learn the skills to properly fit and sew pants of my own.  I have noticed that my desire to buy clothes is almost non-existent now that I have time to sew.  While tops, skirts, and dresses are relatively easy to make, pants are just difficult.  I want to… scratch that, I will conquer pants this year!

In December, I made a bunch of Renfrew knit tops.  I even altered the pattern to make a crew neck, so that I could use one of the sweater knits I picked up in Japan to make a winter sweater.

(Another goal this year is to find a place to photograph me in the clothes, as they are very uninteresting hanging on a hanger against a door.)

My December makes, all Renfrews.


A soft cotton blend knit I purchased in Fabric Town, Tokyo.  With the cowl neck, it’s my new favorite winter shirt.


A double-sided heavier weight cotton knit purchased at Fabric Depot here in Portland.


Enough left of the two previous makes to make one more.  A little too short, but very comfortable.

IMG_3049And my new winter sweater, from a cotton sweater knit purchased in Tokyo.  I modified the pattern to a crew neck for warmth.  It reads a little grandpa in the photo; I like to think it looks less so on me.  (I hope?)

And on January 2nd, I finished my first make of 2013, a wearable muslin of a skirt from a New Look pattern I’ve had for years and never sewn.


Another goal is to stash bust this year; not only fabric, but patterns as well. (Wow, I didn’t realized I had quite so many sewing goals.) I have a lot of patterns (lots of dress patterns… hmm) that I purchased a long time ago and have yet to make.  Rather than letting them collect dust (and take up precious space!) for another five or ten years, I’m going to make something from each of them and let that decide whether they are kept or not.  The New Look was the first on the pile.  For the fabric I used a navy cotton twill remnant from some IKEA curtains I had shortened for one of our rooms.  The pattern is a simple and quick A-line with front and rear darts.  While it’s not much to look at on the hanger, I gave it a test wear with tights the other day while sewing and LOVED it!  I wasn’t expecting to like it (it’s shorter than I usually wear), so I didn’t line it.  Now I need to retrofit a lining, so it doesn’t stick to my tights.  (My short slip is obviously just a little too short.)  Anyway, this excites me, as the pattern requires not much fabric and I have a few small pieces of wool purchased in Japan that I would love to transform.

But this is what’s on the sewing table now: two tops (one of which I finished today) and four muslins.  More to come!


J2K12: Takayama & Furukawa

One of the draws for us in Takayama is the morning market (朝市場) held by the river every morning until noon.  Lots of little stalls selling produce, handicrafts, and local food to snack on for breakfast.  We headed out from our ryokan under grey skies.  It’s fun walking around the old portions of Takayama just to see the architecture.  And being there mid-week in early November meant the streets were practically devoid of tourist traffic.  Which also meant that quite a few shops were closed except on weekends.  Quite a difference from bustling fall leaf-peeping season.


Shop entrance detail on the way to the morning market.


We stopped into a couple of locations we remembered from previous visits: the dango vendor who also sells local Hida coffee milk and the egg square guy.  Egg squares… how to explain them?  They’re basically little sake-sweetened meringue cubes, grilled.  Sooooo delicious!  Well, they had been the previous two times.  This time, however, they seemed to have gained more publicity and the quality was, well, not as good.  That did save us several hundred yen, though, as we didn’t have to buy several boxes to hoard.

This cute little guy can be found along the river where the morning market is held.


Building detail along the river near the morning market; I liked the contrast of the traditional plaster and wood structure with the modern corrugated metal siding.


The market on the day we visited was very sparse.  Again, mid-week and no longer tourist season.  After we had grabbed a few yummies from the vendors, we headed to Takayama Station to catch the local to Furukawa, just up the valley a little ways.  I had read that it was a less touristy, quieter version of Takayama and wanted to give it a look.

Sign spotted on the way to Takayama Station.  An Italian what?


We arrived in Furukawa, which is definitely off of the gaijin tourist radar.  And being mid-week in early November, it seemed pretty dead.  We decided to wander around a bit and just enjoy the quiet.  We were all prepared (so we thought) in our waterproof raincoats, so the light mist that began to fall wasn’t a worry.  It also made for some beautiful shots of the surrounding valley.


At the point when I took this photo above, it had started to rain more heavily (notice the water draining from the bank into the river).  We ducked under the cover of a garage and waited a bit.  And waited.  I was getting cold and hungry, so I wanted to press on.  The rain let up a tiny bit, so we decided to head down a few more streets to try to find someplace to eat.  Luckily, Furukawa does have quite nice tourist map available at their tourist office in the train station.  After wandering down one street of residential buildings, we decided to head to a more promising “touristy” area in search of food.  And that, my friends, is when the heavens opened up.  It was like being back in Texas during a gully washer, except this one was in ~40F weather.  Unamused, we found shelter under a pavilion in a park in the middle of town.  And found this…


Yes, the robot from Laputa.  There may have been a little plaque explaining why it was there in (middle of nowhere) Furukawa, but I don’t remember.  We were cold, wet, hungry and trying to be amused with the situation.

Eventually the rain let up the tiniest little bit and I decided to head out in search of umbrellas.  I found them half a block away in a little shop… at twice the price they would have cost us at the 7-11 in Takayama.  仕方がない、ねえ。 Unwilling to spend the rest of the day dodging rain showers, we bought them and immediately continued the search for food.  We eventually found a nice place where we got Hida 牛丼 beef bowls.  Not as tasty as the beef we had eaten the previous day, but satisfying after a cold, rainy start.

The heavy rains kept away for the rest of the time we were there, so we wandered and enjoyed the town.  We kept seeing persimmons strung up outside houses and wondered why.  We didn’t learn the answer until we stayed in Yamagata.  There we learned that there are different types (their names escape me now), and the ones we had seen hanging were not as sweet as the fuyu type.  Thus, people string them up and let them sweeten up before eating.  Interesting.


Manhole covers in Furukawa, representing a festival of some sort.


A tiny canal in Furukawa, filled with carp.

IMG_1007 More persimmons.


Self-portrait in Furukawa.


On the way back to the station, we noticed (and chuckled over) this bit of advertising.  🙂


All in all, Furukawa was quite lovely.  I purchased my favorite souvenir of the trip there: a tiny, hand-carved (from yew) fox charm on a phone strap.  (I am actually using it now, and it reminds me of this day when I look at it.)  I would absolutely go back for another visit, hopefully when the rain isn’t pouring quite as much and also when fewer shops are closed for the season.  If you’re in the Takayama area, it’s worth a half-day trip on the train to explore.

Back (warm and dry) in our ryokan in Takayama, a view of the sunset beneath the heavy rain clouds.IMG_1031

That night we had reserved dinner at the inn.  And like dummies, we didn’t bring a camera to record it.  I highly recommend their traditional Japanese dinner.  There were three of us eating, and barely enough room on the table for all of the dishes that kept arriving.  So tasty, too.  And cheap!  Less than 2000 yen per person and made by local ladies at the inn every night.  Yum.  I was amused to notice that when the large covered bowl of rice was brought in by the helpers, it was placed at my side.  The side of me not next to my husband.  Dishing out the rice is still the woman’s job in Japan.  🙂

We relaxed a bit after dinner, then enjoyed the baths one last time.  The next day (Election Day in the US) we were headed from Takayama to Matsue.