Tuesday, 11 December 2012

The little yarn shop

As promised, let me introduce you to my favorite yarn shop in the Tokyo metropolitan area, Avril.

Avril sells Habu yarn. You should have a look at the Habu Textiles website for more information about  the different fibers they sell. Be careful not to stay there too long ;) 

Avril is located in Kichijoji, at the end of the Keio Inokashira line which you catch from Shibuya. I am lucky enough to live close to the shop; it takes me 20 minutes from door to door! So this little yarn haven has a very interesting business model: they sell yarn by weight, with 10g as the minimum purchase. All of the walls in Avril are covered with huge spools of yarn. The labels tell you how many meters are equivalent to 10g of each type of yarn. Once you've selected your fiber, a shop assistant will reel your yarn on a spool.

If you find a great fiber but not in your desired color, you can always buy natural yarn and dye it at home. More interestingly, the shop's staff can help you create your own yarn by combining different fibers together.

For my Autumn cardigan, I chose this super-soft LilyYarn mix of wool and nylon: 150g of melon color and 190g of red. I've probably got only 10 meters of each color leftover. A nice lady in Avril helped me calculate the necessary amount of yarn; the people there are super-duper friendly!

When I returned to Avril last week to buy more yarn for my future jumper, they recognized me and we talked as if we had known each other for ages. If you are interested in buying some yarn from Avril, they do support English-speaking customers and ship internationally. Have a look at their online catalogue and order by email. Avril sells yarn sample catalogues for each type of fiber as well for only 150 yen (approx. $1.80). I am praising this shop so much because, in knitting as in sewing, a great result depends on the quality of the material.

Are you also into knitting?

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Autumn cardigan

Hello everyone! I am alive and kicking again, full of energy for more sewing and knitting!

Yes, I picked up my knitting needles again and nothing can stop me now. In fact, knitting was the first craft I mastered. When I was four or five, my mum showed me how to do basic stitches and subsequently tiny scarfs and blankets filled my dolls' wardrobes.

Before I embarked on my last trip, it was out of the question to take some sewing with me; nobody would let me sew in a hospital :) So knitting seemed a natural alternative and also fitting for the season. I ran to a yarn shop - an amazing place which I am going to dedicate an entire post to - to get some beautiful wool for a very simple cardigan. And look how nicely it matches the autumnal landscape!

The other day I visited a friend who is expecting a baby to transform her regular jeans into maternity ones. She lives near Tokyo University, famous for its gorgeous park; the park is packed every spring for hanami and in autumn for momijigari. Now you can understand why!

Don't you think my new cardigan could be a perfect camouflage if I played "hide & seek"? 

The combination of the warm weather, the smell of autumn leaves and the chai tea which we drank beforehand made me absolutely mad and uncontrollable!

The cardigan, classified as 'easy', is based on Phildar pattern from Catalogue n63. To knit a similar cardigan, you need to know two basic stitches: knit and purl stitches. My knitting style is Continental, as opposed to what is known as English style.

Construction-wise, you cannot find anything easier! The cardigan is made up of two parts, with integrated sleeves represented in the middle of the scheme. Once you've finished both parts, sew them together stopping at the notch. Don't forget to make buttonholes!

I'd especially like to draw your attention to the buttons! I found them in a vintage shop and each button was the price of a meter of fine silk. With my eyes closed, I gave my credit card to the shop assistant and immediately threw away the receipt. But to me, it was worth it. I think they match the colors of the cardigan perfectly! In the end, if we want to justify ourselves we can always find a way, can't we?

As great as sewing is for self-reflection, knitting is good for watching movies - this cardigan equals seven movies and one audio book! Whilst I am working on more knitting, I am also continuing with sewing projects. A couture skirt which I've been working on over a week is only waiting to be lined. I can't wait to show it on here and share a couple of new techniques!

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Nice surprise!

I woke up this morning to discover that Maider from Masustak-eguzkitan nominated me for the One Lovely Blog award!
The rules of the award are:
  • Thank the person who nominated you and link back to her in your blog
  • Share sever facts about yourself
  • Nominate 15 bloggers you admire
  • Contact each of these bloggerss letting them know they've been nominated.
Sever facts about myself are:
  1. I am originally from Ukraine.
  2. I left my country 12 years ago and since then I have lived in five other countries (France, Spain, Ireland, Singapore and Japan). And I hope to live in at least five more!
  3.  I don't like cooking. I often treat my guests to pizza and snacks from the supermarket. 
  4. My favorite food is Thai and Korean.
  5. I love storytelling in its various forms - books, movies, ballet, opera, theatre - but I am a terrible storyteller myself. 
  6. I don't own a TV and am very happy about it.
  7.  I once spent 5 days living in a Buddhist temple with monks in South Korea.
Many bloggers who I wanted to nominated have already received the One Lovely Blog award. So my nominees are  :

Marina from Frabjous Couture
Sonja from Ginger Makes
Gillian from Crafting a Rainbow
Melanie from Poppykettle
Rachel from House of Pinheiro
Lizz from A Good Wardrobe
Lizzy from Sew Busy Lizzy

Hope you all have a wonderful and inspiring day as I do ;) 


Sunday, 18 November 2012

Sewing for babies is fun

Do you also fee like everybody around is having babies? The newest baby in my circle of friends is only six weeks old. Before I left Tokyo, I made this set of baby clothes using two patterns from this Japanese sewing book

When shopping for the necessary materials for the set, I was amazed by the amount of "baby stuff" in a local craft shop - from the super soft baby-knit fabric and knit bias tape, to pre-cut round baby-velcro which does not irritate the skit and simply glues to the fabric!

Thinking how babies grow fast, I've cut the bigger size for the set. But still, it looks so tiny! Sewing this set was like sewing for a fairy or some little creature :) I really enjoyed the process as well as the fast that I was not concerned about the fit. Sewing for kiddies should be more rewarding and less stressful since they don't care about the perfect size, don't you think? 

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Sewing Social Twitter Chat

Hello fellow bloggers and seamstresses!

Do you sometimes feel like you’d like to talk about your passion for sewing outside your blog in real time? For this reason, Tilly from Tilly and the buttons organized a Sewing Social Twitter chat some time ago. Next week, she hosts another one for Europe and the US, and I’ll coordinate the chat for APAC.

Sunday 18th November 2012
2-3pm Tokyo / 12-1am South East Asia / 10.30-11.30am India / 4-5pm Sydney / 6-7pm Auckland

And for the chat for Europe and America hosted by Tilly on the same date:
8-9pm London / 3-4pm New York / 12-1pm LA etc

On Twitter using the hashtag #sewingsocial
My Twitter name is @thewallinna, and you can find Tilly under @TillyVanilly.

Tip: Tweetchat is a really useful platform for following hashtag threads without having to refresh the page

What shall we talk about?
The theme for this Sewing Social is fitting sewing into a busy life. So often I hear people say that they’d love to sew but they’re too busy. In fact, I often say this to myself too! Yeah, we’re all busy – work, children, social lives, life changes, admin, housework, second jobs... But if you really want to do something you can make time for it. There are lots of strategies to help make sewing part of everyday life. What are your top tips for staying motivated and sewing regularly? Let’s discuss on Sunday!

Are you in?

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Not so perfect t-shirt

Since November 1st, Japan is ready for Christmas! Every single shop is displaying Christmas decorations, flower shops sell wreaths and Christmas trees - madness! Yet it is still 20C and people are wearing t-shirts!

My growing interest in knits could not be outshone even by couture sewing. During the week at the seminar, everybody (including Susan) was wearing knits on a daily basis. Nobody can deny that knits are much more comfortable for an active lifestyle; they don't need to be perfectly fitted, they are easy to look after and not difficult to sew. I asked Susan many questions about knits but she does not sew with them much and suggested that I take a Craftsy lesson or read books regarding this subject. When I returned home from New York, I purchased  this wonderful book by Kerstin Martensoon, It's easy to sew knit and stretch fabric.

This book helped to dispel a couple of myths about sewing with knits which I had previously believed, such as the idea that one should only sew knits with specific thread for knits, and that a serger provides a better finish. As a test knit garment, I took on this t-shirt from the HomeSewn book which I previously reviewed here. The design is very simple: one front piece and one back piece with integrated sleeves + bias binding around the neck.

The only two changes I added to the S size was to lengthen sleeves and bodice by 2cm each. I used mainly zigzag and tricot stitches and I finished the hems with a double needle. For the bias binding, I used pre-made band. Only after I started attaching the band did I realize that my t-shirt looked like the American flag, but I hope it's not that bad after all.

Sticker shop in our neighborhood
Only after putting the tee on did I notice multiple flaws. I am not sure whether it's because I did not make the muslin or because something is not quite right with the pattern. Could it be both? 

If I make this t-shirt for a second time, I'd definitely take off some armsye fullness, add a couple of centimeters at the bust and reduce the waist a bit.

P.S. I won't post for the next few weeks. When I came home from the sewing class in Baltimore, I discovered that my mom has breast cancer and that she needs surgery. The six-week sabbatical scheduled for sewing and relaxing is extended until the end of the year, most of which I'll spend at my mom's side. Of course, we never think that something like this will happen to us, but when it does everything changes and life takes a new turn. It's probably a very stupid thing to say, but if you or your mom have not had a mammogram in a long time, please do so! My mom is a doctor yet she had never gone through this procedure before, and now one of her breasts will be removed. 

Hopefully everything will go well and I'll give you an update soon!

Friday, 2 November 2012

Thimble quest

I've been doing a lot of hand sewing lately. In the beginning I refused to use a thimble, stubborn as I am. But after a couple of hours hand-stitching, my finger was not happy. The tip of my finger became irritated and even red (I took this photo the next morning, so you don't see the redness) and the skin came off. I needed to protect my finger from further pain.

These three beautiful thimbles which I brought from Seoul are pretty, but not practical at all. None of them provided the necessary smoothness to feel the needle and thread, and they would not stay on my finger.

By the way, if you would like any of these for decorative purposes, I am more than happy to send them over to you. Leave a comment or email me directly! 
One of the biggest craft shops in Japan, Yuzawaya, offers a wide range of thimbles, including this leather one. The look of this thimble is pretty creepy. Don't you think it looks like a hangman? Spooky! On the positive side, it does the job: the thimble hugs tightly around my finger and its soft texture provides me with a good grip of the needle. It only took me half an hour to get used to it

My new thimble made friends with the threader
I did not stop there. After some Googling, I came across the ThimblePad. Reviews and blogs across the Web stated that this gadget works well for embroiderers and quilters, but don’t say much about sewers. The idea of the thimble pad attracts me so much that I might order it and try it out!

What about you? Do you use a thimble when sewing? What kind of thimble is it? Are you familiar with the ThimblePad? I WANNA KNOW!

Thursday, 25 October 2012

All about corners

This dress by Matthew Williamson has altogether eight corners. As you can see from the technical drawing, the two front corners are the most prominent and require a lot of attention

Please ignore the wrinkles as this dress is still not sewn together!

I had a hard time sewing, ripping and sewing again the two main corners. Here's the corner technique which Susan Khalje showed me.

Step 1:
Especially if you do it for the first time, mark the corners (symbolically) as pieces X and V due to the shapes they create.

Step 2:
Fold both pieces in half to determine the center. Also decide the seam allowance for both pieces: it should be equal! Then staystitch piece X along the seam allowance pivoting at the top center. See, it creates an "X" :)

Do the same with the piece V.  Be very careful at the top to make the needle pivot at the very center.

Step 3:
After you have staystitched piece V, cut into the fabric as close to the stitching as possible. Don't worry, it won't unravel!

Step 4:
Pin both pieces right sides together starting from the corner.

Because you will pivot at the corner, pin your fabric so that it will be easy for you to remove the pins as you sew. See how the pin heads are placed? I start from the bottom left towards the corner, then pivot and go down all the way along the right seam.

Step 5:
Here you go, your corner looks perfect (almost)!

Step 6:
Never underestimate the importance of pressing!

Muslin is an easy-to-handle fabric. Cotton or linen would behave nicely as well. During the couture sewing class, I had my share of trying to handle the corners on two layers of silks: silk satin and crepe-de-chine. It did not go smoothly in the beginning and it took me a while before I could sew some corners of my dress with a bit of confidence.

Have you ever come across difficulties in sewing? What helped you overcome them? 

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Report on Couture Sewing School

Two broken nails and a bad back could only be fixed with a manicure and a one-hour massage. So that’s what I had on Sunday, after one week at the Couture Sewing School!

Where shall I start? How about with the conclusion: the couture sewing course has changed the way I see and want my sewing to be. What I really want now is to dedicate my time to sewing a high-quality wardrobe, regardless of how long it takes. To me, it's like cooking; I can take a $1.50 packet of pasta and add some canned sauce for another $1.50, or I can make the dough and sauce from scratch and elevate my pasta to the level of art. Here's what I am saying: I don't want $1.50 pasta anymore! (Well, maybe only when I am starving hungry!)

If you want to know, my dress is probably only 30% done but the learning experience and the amount of information acquired during one week with Susan Khalje is worth more than a finished dress. What is more, I met the most incredible crowd of couturières: from beginners like me to sewing stalwarts like Marina. We were such a multicultural and multilingual group coming from four corners of the world: the US, Canada,  the Netherlands and me from Japan. Within our group, we spoke four foreign languages and shared our experiences both of sewing and life. We drank wine and ate not-very-healthy food from the hotel's restaurant, we sang, we danced, we went to bed after midnight and were back in the sewing room for 7am (some people even earlier)... All in all, I had an unforgettable week and plan to return to see Susan in March for the French Jacket class.

I overestimated my capabilities for this project; it was not that easy as I thought. By Wednesday, I was still working  on the muslin: after two fittings, I had to make muslin #3. The trickiest part with my dress was its construction. The designer replaced darts with side panels which shape the waistline. Once I’d tweaked one of the sides during the fitting, I needed to change at least two other sides in order to match all of the seams exactly. After the first fitting when Susan said there were not that many fitting issues, I was extremely happy because I wanted to start working with the fabric! But only on Wednesday night did I cut into the fashion fabric.

The biggest area of progress for me was in working with silks and sewing corners. You can see from the design how many bl**dy corners shape the dress! I have to tell you that some of them I ripped and sewed in more than three times. Susan helped me to sew the main bust corners, but she also had a hard time with them. She was kind enough to reassure me that the corners on slippery fabric are tough even for the pros.

I plan to write more detailed posts on the silks and corners and Couture Sewing School soon, but at the moment I have one more week ahead of me in New York city! Hope you understand!

See you next week!

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Jumping into autumn

The summer is almost over with more and more rainy days. Summer, don't go! Yesterday, we were lucky enough to enjoy a hot, sunny day and it was just perfect for the photo shoot.

I finished this jumpsuit almost immediately after receiving the Home Sewn book. The pattern comes in medium size only: bust 95cm, waist: 78cm, hips 106 cm. Suggested fabric: "one-stretch knit fabric that can be left raw". The quantity recommended by the designer is 3m x 150cm. I managed to fit everything into 250x150cm, sacrificing the belt ;( The making of the jumpsuit went smoothly and I enjoyed working with the pattern immensely. My favorite part was inserting the bias tape!

Fabric: 2.5m knit jersey purchased at Jo-Ann during my last trip to the US. I scored it for $4/yard! 
Notions: 1.5m of knit bias tape, 50cm of black elastic band
Cost: $14
Modifications: no changes to the singlet. The pants were a bit big for me so I reduced them by 7cm from each side starting at mid-thigh all the way to the top.  

The original design includes a three-meter tie which I found such a cool detail! When cutting the fabric, I had to be economical. Instead, I inserted a piece of elastic band. 

If I had to use this patten again, I'd play with the width of the pants but also I might try to convert it into a maxi dress! A singlet pattern can also easily be used to create lots of funky tank tops. Working with knits has become my latest obsession and with the abundance of knit fabric in the shops for the colder season, there's lots of room for imagination!

Verdict: I will use this pattern a lot to create various basics. If you have not seen my post where I reviewed the book, I repeat again: Home Sewn contains lots of pretty easy-to-make, yet fresh and modern patterns suitable for a cute everyday wardrobe.

Do you also like sewing with knits?

Friday, 28 September 2012

Taking a break!

Nothing sewing-related to report today (although I've got a couple of finished garments to share). From today, I am officially on a break from my office job until the end of November!!! Instead of going into too many details about how hard the last nine months had been for me work-wise, I'd rather concentrate on the positive side of things. Being off work means that I'll be dedicating all of my free time to what I love the most - sewing, reading, traveling, enjoying life at its fullest!

From my trip to Kyoto last year

Monday, 24 September 2012

When it rains ...

The smell of autumn came with the rain, early yesterday morning. I was looking at the rain from the window and was listening to its whisperings, spellbound. I decided that it was a not-going-out-and-doing-whatever-you-want day. Here's the list of my heroic deeds:
  • Ate pizza for lunch and dinner
  • Read on the couch wrapped in the bath towel. (By the way, if you are a keen reader and want to share your favorite books, please join me on goodreads.com)
  • Sewed a cover for the sewing machine and bin it because I did not like it
  • Skyped with friends while they had breakfast and I, my evening cup of tea
  • Watched a movie
Then I realized that my couture class with Susan Khalje is just around the corner (from October 8th!) and that students are asked to come with a fitted muslin. And, of course, I was not ready!

The pattern I'll be working with is from the September Burda edition

The challenge that I've set for myself during the workshop: learn from a professional how to work with silks. So let's see how it goes!

It's raining again today.... What are your favorite rainy-day activities?

Wednesday, 19 September 2012


This month sees a new arrival to the family of independent pattern designers; welcome Deer&Doe and lovely Eléonor from Paris! Eléonor launched her first patten collection only last Monday and I could not help writing about it.

The collection is made up of five garments, divided into three levels of difficulty - beginner, intermediate & advanced - with the level being denoted by the color of the envelope which the pattern comes in. Don't you find the designs sooo French? :)

My absolute favorites are the unlined spring/autumn jacket, Pavotand the dress, Belladone.

All patterns include detailed explanations with step-by-step construction drawings.

What is more, Deer&Doe is an eco-friendly project! All patterns and instructions are made from recycled paper and the site itself is hosted by an environmentally-engaged company which uses 100% hydropower to generate electricity.

Don'w worry that the blog and patterns are in French. Eléonor is currently working on an English version of her blog and should provide English instructions as well (I am currently double-checking with her and update asap).

Do you like it?

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

A silk dress fit for a princess!

Every girl wants to be a princess sitting in a castle in a beautiful dress and waiting for her prince to come. As I grew up, I came to understand that such fairy-tales were nonsense (look at what happened to Kate Middleton), but a beautiful dress never did anyone any harm! A proper ‘princess dress’ should be made of gorgeous silks and flowing through the air.

Like many of you, silks inspire nothing but fear in me. In October, I’ll attend a week-long workshop with Susan Khalje and my main goal is to become friends with silks. But before the workshop, I intend to work on some garments and get used to these nasty creatures. During one of my recent trips, I acquired this beautiful crepe-de-chine with the idea of transforming it into a princess dress. Also, a friend’s wedding was approaching and so the pieces of my challenge came together. Now I only had to take it on!

This Burda dress was the winner of my ‘princess dress’ contest for many reasons. 1. I had always wanted to own a silk maxi dress. 2. Due to heart surgery in my childhood and a huge scar crossing half of my back, I was scared of dresses with open backs and hardly owned any. 3. Any princess would die for it!

Fabric: 3.5m of crepe-de-chine
Size: 36 for the top and 38 for the skirt
Cost: $18 (yesssss, I scored some great fabric on sale)
Modifications to pattern: none

What I learnt from this project: patience!I Besides spending two weeks to complete the dress, I discovered not only how to tame silks but also myself. But let’s start from the beginning!

Challenge #1: cutting on bias. Silk should not be cut folded in half, but as a single layer of fabric to prevent slippage or distortion. You can see from the technical drawing that the main skirt piece is quite large. None of the tables in my apartment is big enough for cutting, so I had to lay the fabric on the floor. Did I sweat or have cramps? Oh yes, I did! All of the pieces from the fashion fabric and lining were cut on the floor. Holy Moly! How happy I was when it was over!

Challenge #2: thread and needle. Most of the sources that I’d consulted before starting the project suggested using cotton or polyester thread for silks. But for some reason, none of it worked when I tested it on swatches of the fabric beforehand. Silk thread worked much better. The Mircotex needle which I used performed miracles; no complaints!

Challenge #3: assembly. I assembled the dress in two stages: the bust pieces, and the skirt with godet. Once the skirt had been sewn together and the godet attached to it, I let it hang on a mannequin for a day to stretch and adapt to its new shape. In fact, having read Marina’s article since, I should have let the skirt and the godet hang separately before assembling them. I will definitely do so next time.

Challenge #4: zipper. As a result of being lazy and not wanting to attach the zipper by hand,  I had to rip the seams and re-attach it three or four times. Bad idea! In some places, the fabric got stretched and puckered a little bit.

Another issue I faced with the zipper: a piece of fabric in the middle curls over and I have no idea why. I shortened the top of the skirt from both ends of the zipper, but the issue remains! Do you know what could have caused it?

You can see on this photo how the fabric curls over ;(
I picked black batiste as lining, which was one of the materials suggested by the experts. The end of the skirts were serged. I used three threads on my four-thread serger and the lower dial. This technique curled the hem and I achieved the desired ‘princess dress’ effect.  Since I don’t like wearing skirts too long, I made the dress so that it just reaches my ankles.

Lastly, when I tried to play around with the bust pieces, I came up with an alternative way of wearing the dress. Instead of tying the straps behind the neck, I let them go over my shoulders, cross over on the back and tie a knot in front.

New Look :P

Having conquered this challenge (despite a few hiccups along the way), I would say, sew with silks and make yourself princess dresses!

P.S.If you happen to be in New York mid-October and feel like going fabric shopping together, let me know! I could be fun!