Tokyo: Nippori

After visiting Japan recently, I’ve decided that instead of doing my usual diary style posts about our trip, I’d separate my posts by neighbourhood, rather than day. It’s the sort of thing that I would find really useful if I was going somewhere, so I hope that others might, too. First up, the last place we visited…

Nippori-map-1-723x1024

It’s unusual for me to be able to combine my two big interests (at least blogwise) in one post, but a visit to Nippori Fabric Town allows me to do just that! Luckily, Sally gave me a special dispensation to buy fabric in Japan during the Summer Stashbust, otherwise this would have been a very sad visit.

Ben and I caught the metro to Nishi-nippori (C-16 on the Chiyoda line)and then walked for about ten minutes down to Nippori station (JR Yamanote line), where we met Paul and Jamie. I was conscious that nobody else was very interested in fabric shopping, but I was willing to take advantage of their politeness and make the most of my time in fabric heaven. While we waited for Paul and Jamie, we enjoyed a spot of people watching, including these children and their plants.

_DSF7422

The fabric shops are located on or near Nippori Chuo Dori, which runs directly east from the square outside the station. I found the map at the top really helpful for locating the places I knew I wanted to visit from blog research, although you should note that Japanese maps put the direction you’re facing, and not north at the top of the map. It makes sense after a while. Oh, and you should bring cash, as a lot of the shops don’t take cards.

I wanted to visit Mihama, as I’d heard a lot about their discounted and precut bags of fabric. You can’t open the bags before buying, but people seem to have a lot of luck there. Sadly, I… um… well, I couldn’t work out how to get into the shop. It may have been shut. Tokyo is really confusing, and there were so many other places to visit that I decided to move on, rather than force my way into what could have been somebodies house.

_DSF7424

Fortunately, I was soon cheered by the discovery of the first of five(!!!) Tomato shops. Each shop has a different theme, although I didn’t find this immediately obvious during my visit. There’s Notion (selling notions), Arch (selling sale fabrics, and housing the “1 metre for 100 yen” section), Main Building (with more metres for 100 yen, as well as multiple floors of fabric goodness of all sorts), Interior (selling curtain and home furnishing fabrics), and finally Select (selling some more fancy stuff, including organic cotton).

It always takes me a while to get into the swing of a fabric shopping trip, but by the time we got to the second Tomato shop (the main one, I think), I was ready to start buying! I wasn’t sure whether the language barrier would be an issue, but the shop assistants were polite, helpful, and very efficient, even if we were holding fingers up at each other to signify lengths. I made an early decision to buy three metres of everything, since that would cover most eventualities. I’m not sure if it’s possible to buy half metres, since I didn’t know how to express that with my hands.

_DSF7427_2

A nice light fitting in the nana shop

I think we visited all of the Tomato shops, but I only bought from two of them (the main one and Select). I also browsed in a lot of different shops, buying from one other place (I don’t know which one – it was between Interior and Select). That shop had some nice traditional fabrics (which I didn’t buy) and a lovely old nana working there. I wanted to take her home with me, but apparently she wasn’t for sale.

We also looked into a shop full of buttons (including some awesome sewing, skeleton and cat themes ones), but I struggle to get excited about notions after a nasty childhood encounter with the dragon lady who ran the button stall at our local craft fair. I was accused of muddling the buttons up into the wrong pots, which I so wasn’t doing and it was all very unfair and traumatic for six year old me.

I’m really pleased with the fabrics that I bought. I didn’t want to buy for the sake of it, even if the prices were low. There were some really cute fabrics available, but I only bought things which I could really see myself wearing. Want to see?

380 yen (2 GBP – why has my pound sign stopped working??) per metre from Tomato. I’ve given this to my mum, who is planning to make a dress.

380 yen (2 GBP) per metre from Tomato. Not sure if you can see the second layer of geometric print in this picture. Current plan: dress (maybe a Megan or a Lilou)

Foxy fabric. I can’t remember how much it cost, but it will probably become a blouse. This came from the nana shop.

Reversible spotty chambray (the other side has anchors, but they don't photograph well). 850 yen (5 GBP) from Tomato Select.

Reversible spotty chambray (the other side has anchors, but they don’t photograph well). 850 yen (5 GBP) from Tomato Select. Current plan: 70s style sundress.

Gorgeous stripy cotton voile(?) from Tomato Select for 1500 yen (9 GBP) per metre. Current plan: some kind of top

Gorgeous stripy cotton voile(?) from Tomato Select for 1500 yen (9 GBP) per metre. I don’t have a plan for this yet, but it will become something beautiful.

After finishing up the shopping, we decided to retrace our steps towards Nishi-nippori station in search of a place for lunch. As it wasn’t such a touristy area, it was a challenge to find somewhere with pictures outside (by far the easiest way to know what you’re ordering), but we stumbled across a place with delicious and cheap katsu basically right opposite the station. In most restaurants you get a jug of water on the table, but here we were able to help ourselves to something which tasted like a cold combination of rice tea and coffee. It was strange, but quite nice once you got used to it!

In the area: Heavy rain put us off a walking tour, but Yanaka is just on the other side of the railway track, and I reckon you could make it around both areas in a day. Having survived earthquakes and WWII, Yanaka is more historic than a lot of Tokyo. With a lot of wooden structures and temples, it sounds like a lovely place to spend an afternoon. Our guidebook (Lonely Planet Pocket Tokyo) suggested a walk starting at Yanaka Ginza, before heading in a large semi circle around artists studios, coffee shops, bars and shops. This is on my list of areas to visit when we get the chance to go back to Tokyo. 

Posted in Tokyo | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

1PPW: T-shirt Refashion

Things have been a little quiet around the blog of late, and I am full of excuses! I went to Japan, started a new job, got sick, and got bitten on the foot by some form of monster-insect (leading to my first ever trip to the hospital) all in the space of three weeks. Anyway, enough of the excuses. I’ve got a backlog of posts to catch up on, so I’d better start this one!

IMG_1979Kath from Bernie and I came up with the brilliant 1 project per week sewing challenge a while ago, and I was more than happy to jump on board. I always want to join in with challenges, but this is the first one which has really been vague enough to suit me, while encouraging more order in my erratic sewing style. It has since fallen massively by the wayside, but more on that later.

My first #1ppw is actually a refashion (which is totally allowed – awesome, right?). I bought this t-shirt dress a couple of years ago to wear to a Club Tropicana party, but in the end, I went with something else. You might be surprised to hear that my day to day life doesn’t really call for me to wear neon t-shirt dresses which look like nighties. It did originally have a belt, which made it a bit more flattering, but it was still quite baggy and see through.

Since receiving the sewing machine of my dreams for my birthday, I’ve been really keen to try out new techniques. The idea of sewing knits had previously terrified me, my old machine was erratic and I imagined it might just vomit some thread onto them. My new machine handled things fairly well – the tension seemed to be impossible to adjust, but the stitches looked ok on the underside, which is to say the outside of the garment, so I wasn’t overly concerned about this on my first, and experimental, project. If anyone has any tips, they would be gratefully received. Bear in mind that I have done no research into sewing knits, save the knowledge that I needed to use a zigzag stitch of some kind.

I pinned the t-shirt in half, lined my Maria Denmark Kirsten Kimono Tee pattern (which is free when you sign up to her newsletter) up with the shoulder seams and centre fold, then drew around it. The pattern doesn’t contain seam allowances, which was fine for my purposes as it meant that I could just sew straight along the line that I’d drawn. I then repeated the procedure on the other half of the t-shirt, before checking that they lined up by pinning it in half again along the lines on one side, and then making sure the pins showing through on the other side were at least vaguely close to the lines there.

DSCN0685

I sewed both of the side seams using the stretch stitch on my machine, then tried it on to check that the fit was ok, and that the length I’d marked looked ok. It all looked fine, although I thought the stitches looked a bit odd. After consulting the manual it turned out that I’d used a multi stitch zig zag instead of a stretch stitch, but I didn’t think it really mattered – you can’t really see it from the outside.

I trimmed the side seams down, but didn’t bother finishing them because DON’TYOUTELLMEWHATTODO!

I chopped the end of the t-shirt to about 1cm below the line I’d marked, then folded it up once and pressed it, before turning to the proper stretch stitch and hemming it. I have no idea if this is deemed an acceptable method of hemming a t-shirt, but I’d had enough excitement for one day and wasn’t prepared for the fun of a twin needle.

I’m really pleased with how a fairly simple refashion has made this into such a wearable garment. Not only did I make this into something I actually wear all the time, but I also got a good idea of the changes I will make to the pattern for future incarnations (a few inches longer and size bigger on the hips, if you’re interested!).

I’ve come to the conclusion that this t-shirt just isn’t very photogenic. Or maybe it’s me. One of us is the problem here. After two attempted photoshoots (one abandoned due to a menacing looking seagull), I’ve come to the conclusion that you’re just going to have to live with the one before and after shot.

_DSF7156_2

Aside from this tshirt and my orange dress, I managed to spend a week working on a muslin for my Belladone dress, and another week working on a muslin for my Delphine skirt. Neither of these have resulted in finished projects yet, but I am more inclined to sit down and do some sewing in the short pieces of time that I do have.

Posted in DIY Clothes, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Seattle Part IV

Thursday 8th May

_DSF6700

We met in the morning for brunch at Oddfellows. I went for biscuit and egg, which turned out to be a scone with some scrambled egg and, confusingly, jam.

_DSF6738

After filling ourselves with noms, we headed to the exhibition space in order to set up for the evening. It was hard work, but we managed. We had an extra pair of hands when the lovely Ashley from the International Bipolar Foundation arrived. They were instrumental in helping with this project, so it was nice that she could be there to see the exhibition.

_DSF6782

Ben was lucky and avoided any of the heavy lifting as he was the official photographer for the event (actually the reason we were in Seattle in the first place). He was in charge of taking pictures of us dragging gigantic babies around, holding up boards, drilling and assembling various pieces of complicated hanging equipment.

_DSF6819

The show went really well. There was a great turnout, and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. I got to meet some friends of friends, as well as some strangers, and a man who kept looking at my boobs.

_DSF6969

Ellen Forney came along!

By the end of the night I think we were all glad to have a bit of a sit down after a day on our feet!

_DSF7020

Friday 9th May

_DSF7046

With feet still aching from the exhibition the night before, not to mention the fact that we hadn’t stopped walking since we arrived, we headed for breakfast at Top Pot (classic), before gingerly walking downtown to the aquarium. It began to rain half way, so our feet were glad to stop for another coffee break!

Seattle Aquarium took a little bit of finding. We ended up exploring quite a few levels of Pike Place Market on our way down, but it was worth it. The first section includes a section where you can touch some of the creatures of the deep, but they all looked a bit minging, so I decided to leave well alone. As well as various fish, I spotted a couple of octopi, watched the feeding of the harbour seals, and spent a long time cooing over the sea otters.

DSCN0675

In the evening, we met up with Tom at Dick’s Drive In, where we devoured a couple of burgers each, before heading to Rhino Room for cocktails (for the boys) and wine (for me).   After a couple of drinks, we headed back to the exhibition to see how Missy and Kim were getting on during their second night. Again, it was pretty busy, and they seemed really happy with the turnout. It was a bit chilly in the venue, so Ben, Tom and I decided to head upstairs to chill out with a second dinner, before heading home in a cab.

Saturday 10th May

After packing up, we arrived at Kim’s house in time to help everyone unload the exhibition from the van. We had a spot of lunch before helping out with a shopping trip to buy food for the Eurovision party which they were having later that day. Sadly, our flight time meant that we couldn’t attend the party, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t help out with our knowledge of european food and drink.

Finally, we waved goodbye to our friends at the airport and caught a flight home, looking forward to not walking anywhere for a few weeks!

Posted in Art, Seattle | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

1PPW: Birthday Dress

_DSF7143_2

Yay! I finished my birthday dress! Happy birthday to me! Oh, wait… my birthday was two months ago. I’ll be honest, all I needed to do to get it ready for my birthday was a tiny bit of hand sewing and the hem… Could I be bothered? No. Thank God for the 1PPW challenge!

This is actually my second #1ppw, but the first one is proving impossible to take pictures of. You’ll just have to contain your excitement a little longer!

Still a couple of weeks behind, I have finally got pictures! With accessories! We took the photos at the King Alfred Centre, our local swimming pool, because it looks a bit 70s, although it was built in the 30s – it was used as a training centre for the navy during the war, and went by the name H.M.S. King Alfred. Quite why they gave it a ship’s name, I’m not sure.

_DSF7135_2

I’d initially planned to make a Peony from this fabric last year, but as I am now on my second toile for that pattern, with no real hopes of getting it to fit in the foreseeable future, I’m glad I didn’t. At the time when I bought the pattern I was not a toile maker, so I’m very pleased that I now am, and that I didn’t ruin this beautiful Joel Dewberry Notting Hill cotton.

After looking at the fabric a bit more, I noticed a decidedly 70s vibe (I can find a 70s vibe in most things). I quickly dug out Dressing Chic: Revisite les 70s, and decided that the robe trapeze would be an acceptable choice.

_DSF7136_2After examining the slightly bizarre shapes of the pattern pieces, it turned into a more than acceptable choice – there are awesome little pockets built into the waist seam, and I find them the cleverest thing in the world!

The shape of the finished dress is a classic A line. It’s fitted over the bust and the shaping through the waist and hips means that it’s roomy enough to accommodate a large food baby without issues, and still flattering for someone like me, who needs waist definition like she needs air.

_DSF7139

The pattern is very nearly perfectly matched at the front, and I think the busy pattern helps to disguise it a lot. I sort of wish I’d unpicked the waist seam and corrected it, but I’ll have to live with it now. The back is less successful, and I can’t quite work out where I went wrong. I think I just need more practice to be honest. The zip is also a bit of a mess, but I think I can live with it as it’s not terrible. I do want to get an invisible zip foot at some point, though.

After trying the finished dress on, I noticed that the pattern placement over the boobs is less than ideal, but it’s a lot better than when I originally placed the other bit of the pattern over them. Ben didn’t notice until I mentioned it, so it can’t be that bad.

_DSF7141

The only modification I made to the pattern was to lengthen it by quite a lot. I’m 5’6″, and, per the pattern, this dress is shorter than I would feel comfortable wearing most of the time. At knee length, it’s perfect for most occasions.

The book is in French, and as far as I’m aware there isn’t an English translation. I speak French, so this wasn’t a problem for me, but it’s something to bear in mind if you were interested in it. The instructions are fairly visual, and if you know roughly what you’re doing and don’t mind looking a few words up, I don’t reckon the language barrier would be a problem. The patterns come in five sizes – 36 to 44. I went for a 38 and I’m somewhere around a UK 12 with the big four. 1cm seam allowances are included in the patterns, with a 3cm hem allowance (it could take a non-French speaker a while to locate that information).

_DSF7145

There are 18 patterns in the book, and I would wear at least 10 of them (I am incredibly fussy). The remaining eight aren’t really to my taste, although they’re still stylish and in keeping with the period. Of particular interest to me are a sporty A line wrap skirt, some sailor trousers, and a simple coat.

One of the highlights of the book, but sadly not one that I can see myself making, is the very 70s jumpsuit. The accompanying text reads “with a jumper underneath during the day, and a big necklace in the evening, you can wear this all day long”. Perhaps I should relax my anti-jumpsuit stance in favour of a practical all day wardrobe?

livre-dressing-chic-revisite-les-70-s

The book is really nicely styled, with photos of the outfits at the beginning, then the instruction section at the back. It’s more like flicking through a catalogue than a sewing book. Paper patterns are included in the book, although they require tracing, Burda style. I highlighted the lines I needed to trace beforehand, which made things a lot easier.

And finally, because they make me laugh:

IMG_2038

 

Posted in DIY Clothes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Seattle Part III

Wednesday 7th May

_DSF6682

There was a morning disaster when Top Pot had run out of donuts, but we soldiered on with life and walked down to the Space Needle with empty stomachs. As we were there pretty early there were no queues and we were able to catch the first lift to the top.

_DSF6675

The views were absolutely fantastic, and it was nice to be able to take our time wandering around. Although we took some of the classic tourist shots, it was also fun to take a few more unusual pictures which will probably serve as a better reminder of our trip.

DSCN0638
It was so much less stressful than our trip to the Empire State Building, and you don’t even have to pay for your cheesy tourist picture – they email the derp directly to your inbox!

SpaceNeedle_Seattle-2022406-5320348-852-H

I’d like to think this is among the top ten worst pictures ever taken of Ben and I, but I can’t be completely sure… Here’s the worst one – Empire State strikes back!

Screen Shot 2013-05-18 at 17.23.59

Next up, we headed to EMP, which is a music and sci-fi museum. A slightly strange combination, but they make it work. There were exhibits on Nirvana and Jimi Hendrix, as well as a cool room where you could play with some instruments. We weren’t very good at that and left quite quickly.

DSCN0650

The sci-fi section of the museum was fun. I got to have my picture taken on the Iron Throne, pretend to be a raccoon, and punch a dinosaur in the face!

 

14132188365_6fda68b624_o

That evening, we went for delicious cocktails at Sun Liquor with Missy, Tom, Kim and Kathi, before walking down to Mamnoon for some of the best middle eastern food I’ve tasted. In fact, it was so good that the vegetarians in our party turned meat eater for the night. It was a surprise to find the traditional food served in such a modern setting, but that really added something different to the meal, and we all had a fantastic time sharing the plates we’d ordered (basically the whole menu). Everything was nicely washed down with crémant. I had taken some pictures of the amazing food, but they were drunk and blurry. Use your imagination. It was the perfect celebration in preparation for the exhibition the following night!

_DSF6690

 

Posted in Seattle | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment