Lately…

Sometimes I don’t feel like I have much to blog about unless I’ve managed to take photos of something I’ve made, or I’ve been on holiday (more Japan to follow), but looking through my photos from the past month, I realised it wasn’t all dull.

Alfie and I got posing… IMG_2081

…and then he tried out a new comfy sleeping position.IMG_2124

I started working in a really pretty village… IMG_2113

…complete with a nice place to admire the view while I’m studying in my lunch break…IMG_2137

…and I spent much of my first few weeks laughing at this magazine cover in the village shop.IMG_2112

I learnt that I am no longer a country person, after having a terrible reaction to an insect bite and taking my first ever trip to the hospital. The foot still looks a bit weird, but no longer hurts, but I learnt the important lesson to always make sure your toenails are nicely painted.IMG_2119

Ben got a guitar for his birthday, and I took this photo from the shop window while he was choosing.IMG_2105

I tidied up my fabric stash (this is not all of it), and vowed not to buy any more until I found time to sew it! IMG_2127

I took the opportunity to instagram a delicious pulled pork bun from Verano Lounge in Hove. I then hoovered it up in about three seconds. IMG_2139

And finally, our attention was drawn to the presence of a scooter in our street. IMG_2133

Posted in Photography | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Love Sewing: Upcycled Beach Tote

Screen Shot 2014-07-26 at 18.35.25

Hey, remember a while ago when I made a bag for my auntie out of an old curtain? Well, not only did my auntie like it, but the nice lady in her local chemist thought it was lovely and bright, and then Helen, the editor of Love Sewing magazine, got in touch and asked if I’d like to write an article about how to make one!!

I thought about it for about a millisecond, before deciding that yes, that is exactly what I would like to do. I’ve always loved writing, and to have the chance to write something for a magazine which I subscribe to and really enjoy reading is a fantastic opportunity.

Writing the instructions in a way that everyone can follow was an interesting challenge. I’ve been told I’m good at explaining things, but I was worried that would only apply to accountancy. When Ben read through the instructions, he thought he’d manage to make a bag following my instructions as long as I set the machine up for him, so that’s a good sign.

_DSF7130

I’ve been dying to tell people about this for ages, but I wanted to surprise my mum with a copy of the magazine first. She was thrilled, and I am now free to tell the world!!

My article is in issue three of Love Sewing, which is out now. Pleasingly, my contributor shot is this one of Alfie and I hanging out in our jammies.

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

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 , , , , , , , , , | 8 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