Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Fabric Shopping in Tokyo

Ladies and gents,

If ever there were a time for one to lose their cool, it would be on the wrong side of the world with fabric money to burn. I'm so disinterested in the bright lights (and loud noises) of Tokyo that I'd only really really meticulously researched a couple of tap classes and a whole day of self-indulgent fabric shopping. Honestly, not much else. I also chose my hostel based on its proximity to Nippori fabric town. One track mind, you know?

Somehow my visit also collided perfectly with some sort of festival in Nippori where every shop was offering 10% off!

I'd arrived with the hope of finding some good jacket and trouser-weight fabrics (British summers, eh?) but had low expectations after feeling how sunny and muggy it was during my stay (late May, early June). I even spotted a few unlined suit jackets around the city. Let me tell you one thing, the Japanese LOVE stripes, I didn't realise how prevalent they were on the streets until after I'd seen so much for sale in Nippori. Then I couldn't unsee it on almost every other person in the city!

I saw a salaryman on the metro who had a plain white shirt on but the CF buttons changed colour as you moved down the placket - an idea I may copy in the near future. A wink of novelty detail.

Anyway. Fabric town. Fabric town in the rain with a sale on.

I prodded almost everything on that street! I needn't have checked my map when I arrived shortly after 10am as the first shop I saw (Momo) had a gaggle of women fawning over its remnants and bolts. Must be sale time. This shop had beautiful stock, some of which was imported from across the world. It wasn't the cheapest and I was sad to leave a beautiful green linen on the shelf because it was 1,500 JPY/m but only 100cm wide.

Summery linen fabric
Pinstripe linen fabric (baseball vibe? Maybe I was thinking about baseball)
I went a bit loopy in the first 3 shops I visited, picking up some of the obscenely cheap stuff in bundles, and (hopefully) some better quality stuff too. A couple of times I had to warn myself to stay away from anything I could pick up in England for similar value. I mean, if you go to Japan and only buy European imports, you're kinda missing the point.

Cotton with diamond-shaped tiling pattern
Turquoise cotton. I'm obsessed with tiling patterns at the moment.

Lining Fabric
Teal/Turquoise lining from a bargain bundle. I also got an ivory one but forgot to photo it

Cotton fabric with colourful dot pattern
Cotton with a slubby/greyish background and wonderful colourful thumbprints.

There were a few cosplay shops, a few leather shops and some speciality knit stores too. The knits were mostly loose (like Girl Charlee's hacci sweater knit) so I wasn't too interested, but there was a lot of great sweatshirting around. I came away with some for another Nike hoodie.

Leafy sweater knit
Crinkle-effect floral sweater jersey. Navy/taupe colours.

Then there was Tomato. It was chaos! It took me  a while to figure out the system (bring a buddy, one waits in the cutting line while the other gathers bolts for cutting). Don't ask me how the floors/shops are split up. I have no clue.

soft fluffy herringbone fabric
Double-sided herringbone print stuff. It's really soft and quite fluffy, maybe somewhere between microfibre and brushed finish. Very strokeable.

Quilting cotton with paper crane motif
Paper crane print quilting cotton. Probably for pockets.

Waterproof nylon fabric
Waterproof nylon. For that time I decided I wanted to make an umbrella.

Silk habotai scraps
White silk habotai. I got 5 metres because the price was good, but this is all that's left!

Oh for the love of novelty prints! You need a novelty print cotton for a very specific theme/item? Of course they'll have 3 for you to choose from here!

Quilting cotton featuring cartoon dinosaurs
Dinosaur quilting cotton. Because why not?

To be honest, I had a better time in the smaller shops, I got pretty grumpy in Tomato pretty quickly. But I did find some good linings - one of which I have fawned over in Cloth House before.

I was expecting to find a bit more in the way of nice linings that I've coveted in Cloth House actually, but there were surprisingly few. This probably means more pining in Cloth House in my future...

After Nippori I headed to Shinjuku to visit Sekaido (art supply store - no real sewing stuff except for an infinite number of Frixion pens) and Bunka Fashion School. I missed their open day and show by a few days but was mostly there for the shop. After wandering around the campus trying to find it myself (looking like a complete yutz) I finally resorted to asking the security guard (using a system of mime, grunts and overly gracious thank yous). The keyword was koubai and it's in the basement level (main building, take a lift down, it's on the left of the cafe). I picked up some tools, cheap leathers and embroidery thread. I also prodded almost everything in this shop.

This is what's left of the leathers, they were used in  the patches on my merch bags 

After Shinjuku, next was Shibuya and Tokyu Hands flagship store. I was told to be prepared for "everything you can think of", which captures its spirit very well! Again, I wasn't prepared for it to be this massive! Sewing-wise I picked up some webbing and some elastics. Its sewing floor isn't particularly extensive, but the amazing thing about this shop is that it stocks almost everything else (except books). Peripherally I also got some tiny coathangers/buldog clips to hang patterns.

After this in one day I was pretty exhausted. One day of massively indulgent fabric shopping. Oh the greed. And as always I think I came away with nothing I'd planned on, while still ticking off a huge proportion of my list!

Keeping it all wrapped up for 6 days until coming back to the UK was excruciating, but loading it into my poor broken suitcase and dragging it home was brutal!

One shredded suitcase wheel
Wheel #1

A second shredded suitcase wheel
Wheel #2

Removing wheels of a suitcase with a drill
Repair in progress (shamefully still in progress)

One single day planned, done and dusted. Was this the best bit of trip? No, but I could enjoy the rest of my 2 weeks undistracted by textiles. Except for one very important pilgrimage...to the Nani Iro atelier.

Perhaps I didn't show enough decorum in its hallowed halls. Perhaps I should have looked a little more closely at the other shops in this arcade. Nope. Atelier Nani Iro was the destination and the staff were very polite when dealing with a sweaty, overexcited foreigner. I left with a beautiful haul and a very light wallet. It was good.

Five Senses print (see in the online store)

Shine Many Ways print (see in the online store)

SAAA SAAA Rondo print (see in the online store)

Poppy Trip print (see in the online store)

Bed Grass Cozy print (see in the online store)

Lei Nani - For Beautiful Corolla - Sea Hawaii print (see in online shop)

So that's it, what should I do with it all?


Internet resources used to plan fabric shopping

Cashmerette's day out in Tokyo
Tilly's trip to Japan
Japanesesewingbooks directions to Nani Iro
Daphnesensei's post about Bunka

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Unsung workhorses

These 2 pairs of trousers have been in almost constant use since I finished them nearly a year ago. So quick was the transition from presser foot to my actual legs, I don't think they got any construction shots at all.

The fabrics came from Ditto (grey brushed cotton) and Misan's Clearance Basement of Wonder (navy synthetic - it's breathable and slightly hydrophobic). All the facings and pockets were scraps and stash. I may have scrounged a hook and bar off B. It's hard to remember.

Anyway, it's some pairs of trousers. We've done trousers up to the eyeballs now. What's new?

Well there was no pattern. They're a RTW copy. The original was a worn out pair of linen trousers I got when I started trying to get my first jobs and internships. The Christmas sale at Next, or something like that. I was so attached to the originals (both affection and necessity because I couldn't afford anything else) that I patched the knee when I fell and ripped it open on a train platform, coloured in bleach stains with a sharpie and only gave up when the bum cheeks wore through.

The fit was good though. The lovely, fat, interfaced waistband meant that it wasn't going anywhere. Good pockets and ready-made hanger appeal.

To copy, I followed some of the things I'd learned in Kenneth King's Jeanius course, but also cut the trousers into flat pieces. This helped with copying the sneaky darts at the back which are hiding above the welt pockets.

I rarely practice a technique before attempting it on the actual garment. It's a bad habit that I should try to break. These aren't the best welts I've ever done (my money is on this pair) and they could look a lot better. My hope is that no one is actually looking.

Otherwise, I love these trousers. Look at the fit, look at the wonderful facings and pockets. I'm really pleased with how they have become unremarkable workhorses, it's one of the best things about making stuff.




K x

Monday, 14 November 2016

Slashed pillow and other scrappy ideas

I'm still wrestling with my scraps to get them under control. My scrap lace dress used up every bit of delicate, slinky, silky stuff I had going - and this pillow got practically all of the my knits sent away.

Cushion cover with 3d textured effect using slashed fabric

I'm trying to explore fabric manipulation/textile art as a means of using up scraps. It seems likethe kind of thing that is easier to try out if you have a stock of suitable stuff all ready to go and that no bit is really too small to shove into a project. This pillow uses the fabric slashing technique and a piece of optical illusion fabric from Ikea for the style lines (originally destined for a Matthew Bourne style set of PJs).

Layering fabric to produce 3d effect

One large sandwich of fabrics, waiting to become a cushion cover

I layered far too much fabric in this sandwich, it  really wants only a couple of bits in there so it has a consistent look. In a way this was a proof of concept - testing the fabric slashing technique for other projects in the future. I'm somewhat unconvinced but it's a useful reference. Also, it nearly broke my poor workhorse Janome 7025 - it was like a mattress!

But the knit scraps have gone!

The cushion is becoming a bit more colourful with wear. Two unexpected (but unsurprising) side effects are that the cushion cover is grippier than a flat cushion and that it's quite warm.

So all that remains is my immense "generic" wovens scraps piles. I have 400+ squares for a quilt (started cutting in 2012 or 2013) which has fallen out of favour, plus 2 unallocated bags of scraps and a small sub-section of specificallys elected scras for some sort of loose leaf file or laptop sleeve (using the water soluble stabiliser again). My thoughts turn to weaving too, but any ideas are gratefully received.

K x

Friday, 4 November 2016

Curiouser & Curiouser - Dumb projects for winter

These are a not so recent pair of trousers. I must admit that they are a completely dumb project to be showing off in the middle of winter. In my defence, I had this idea in Feb 2015, when Liberty was having an online sale and triple points offer on their fabric (which would have actually made them an ideal summer project).

The outer is their classic Tana Lawn in the Curiouser & Curiouser print. I think it was part of the Alice in Wonderland series. Perfect for warm weather. Except that I made these in November 2015 and wore them to the office Christmas party.

The inspiration for these trousers was to develop my own spin on the bright, floral print trousers that seem to be on the streets these days. I bought the fabric first with the intention of making trousers, but hit a roadblock when trying to decide how they would look. I wanted to steer clear of cigarette, palazzo and hareem/hippy styles so a fairly standard suit trouser would work well. With trousers like these you can't really play with cut/style etc before they become very outlandish. The lawn doesn't have any stretch so I also needed to choose a style would let me move while wearing them (i.e. not skin tight). The pattern is Burda 04/2013 #103 Pleated Pants, which is actually the trouser complement to a jacket I made a while ago (version 1, version 2).

Unexpectedly, these have become a hit because they fit well under motorbike trousers, take up close to zero luggage space, are super comfy and can be thrown on over leggings after tap class. Like joggers/trackies. Except they're multicoloured. And they're actually dress trousers in disguise.

They're lined with a yellow cotton muslin (originally destined for another project) from Cloth House, The pocket lining is black/fuschia remnants from Misan Textiles. The fusible interfacing is from MacCulloch & Wallis. It's a veritable Soho party!

I dithered about making these for a long time because the fabric was expensive and it was so tough to see a a good result in my head. I was also wary of adornments and extras. It was important to strike the right balance of formality (darts not yokes, welt pockets not patch pockets, zip fly but with discreet buttons)  and flair, but the whole thing became quite daunting.

(Advance warning: I'm about to wax lyrical about tap again)

Sometimes daunting is a good thing, you need to stare the fear in the eye and make tiny steps towards the finishing line. Gradually it'll subside and you have will have won a battle. Sometimes you throw up your hands and say "not today", come back in 6 months. I've done that plenty of times in sewing - some things have gone well and some ended up as duds, but they were done and I was proud (or just relieved). I threw my hands up a couple of times on this project too, which is why they were finished in November and not March.

One of the most important parts of this kind of process - making, learning, challenging yourself and trying things - is to stop and say "wouldn't it be awesome if...". Or have someone to do it for you, who will make you do it anyway. I think these trousers are a means of paying respect to all the people - especially in the tap world - who are teachers, motivators, coaches, artists, athletes, enthusiasts and role models. They are major inspirations for me and for fellow sufferers of "Royally Screwing It Up 95% Of The Time" Syndrome. Without them saying things like "Next we're gonna do X, and you know what? It's gonna be awesome!" every 3 minutes in class, we wouldn't keep trying.

I'm working on it though, I try to wear these trousers as a reminder - the work you do between walking away from a challenge, and coming back to it 6 months later is important, don't forget it.

K x

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Please don't leave me, tiny radish

I didn't sew this radish, I merely stitched on a pin back so that I could wear it as a brooch. It is the most recent thing I've sewn - finished over 10 weeks ago. Up until this week I didn't believe I'd lost my sew-jo, merely that many other (important) things had gotten in the way of sewing. That I couldn't wait to get back to the machine. But recently I've been feeling a dread and trepidation and actually a bit of distaste for whatever I'm thinking of creating. Not just sewn, though it is a large part of my thinking, - but everything I might create - word-wise, food-wise, gift-wise, music-wise, (nascent) woodwork and anything in between.

I realise 2016 should have been The Year of The Outfit, but I've had very little success on the actual outfits. I feel I look a fool.

So maybe I hope for better and unpack my tools

Maybe I just restart, because it's easier to carry on than it is to overcome a mental barrier before you can even begin.

Radish Brooch


Friday, 23 September 2016

A Collection of Sorts

Recently I got the chance to put together a merch stall for a fringe-style show. This was real theatre made from tiny benches, stripped back black boxes and volunteer labour. Here's what I came up with: 


Screwdrivers (aren't they amazing!)

Shoe Bags

Shoe bags in 2 designs. Generic and branded. I sewed a few dozen bags in a fairly simplistic design - even though I did make an odd decision to make welts in all the bags for the handles. I also got to laser etch the leather patches  though. How cool is that!

I had a plan for some cool pin badges but various things went wrong and they didn't happen.

I need more laser time to practice and get some cool projects under my (admittedly also laser etched) belt. 


Thursday, 11 August 2016

Scrap Lace Dress

What story should I tell you about this dress? Do you want to know the provenance of all the scraps? Do you want to know all of the adjustments I made to V8766 to make this? Do you want to know where all of the mistakes are hiding? Should I draw a crazy parallel between making this dress and pagan/voodoo rituals (all pins and quadragrams taped to the floor)?

a dress and bolero made from silk scraps
Full scrap lace outfit
I bet you'd love to hear all about my dorky Oona impressions, drunk on a mix of design genius and Thatchers cider.

No? No takers?

My photos tell a more cohesive story about this dress than my words did at first. Now that the scraps have settled, it's a little easier to put together.

The original motivation for this prioject was to find a creative way of using up my silk/fancy scraps; to create a pretty dress and to try something a bit challenging from a technical perspective. Threads ran this article on scrap lace a few years ago and I had the issue tucked away in my bookcase. I've seen some scrap lace projects for kids clothing, but never for adults so it seemed like a good idea to give it a try.

My design originally was for a sleeveless cowl neck (big surprise) and quite a blousy bodice with a scrap lace skirt. The original plan was a half-circle skirt, but B talked me into making a full circle.

The next step was to make 2x 60" sheets of water soluble stabiliser. If you've ever used it, you'll know that it's mostly designed for small scale freestanding embroidery. I sewed strips together to make a large sheet.

This was punctuated by running out of stabiliser (because, duh, I only ordered enough for a half-circle skirt) and having to wait for a new delivery (thanks Jaycotts!)

One of my housemates remarked that someone had once given her edible underwear made from a similar material. Apparently the taste wasn't great.

Then I got 6 years of silk scraps and dumped it out onto the plastic. I laid the other layer on top, pinned like Billy-o, drew some guidelines and then look it to the machine.

After solving the issue of how to get it under the pressure foot, I spent about 2 weeks quilting it in all directions. Lots of spirals were used as well as grids. Any loose bits that fell out of this giant sandwich just got sewed back on top again.

The anticipation was too much for some people at this point. B complained that he couldn't say if he liked it because it was covered in plastic, and my housemate volunteered to be angry on my behalf if it turned out looking like crap. People can be so kind.

Finally I got to give it a shower!

"It looks like peeling sunburn"
"It looks like the girl from The Ring when she went through her hippie phase"
Again, people can be so kind.

Instead of wringing it, I rolled it up in some towels and walked on it a bit, then left it to dry

Bear in mind that's not the whole dress! It's only the outer fabric for the skirt! I modified the V8766 bodice to fit my design and sewed it up pretty quickly.

Then I decided I hated the full circle skirt. Cue the unpicker and the scissors.

The half circle skirt worked much better. And I had enough left to make a cardi/shrug/bolero. This is just a basic raglan, cut to minimise waste.

I think this is an outfit I never knew I needed! It was perfect for some friends' rainbow-themed wedding ("very City & Guilds!", Mother of the Bride) and STF's Rocky Horror Theme Party!