Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Giveaway #1

I must be the only blogger alive who's never done any giveaways but now I have a perfect reason: I am clearing my shelves before a big move to London in a couple of months' time. Yes, it's scary, yes, it's exciting, yes, it's sad and yes, it's full of uncertainty. I am not sure whether I'll like London, not sure whether I'll stay with my company, not sure where I can buy a new sewing machine (because the old one will have to find a new owner).

But this post is not about that: it's all about the giveaway. My shelves are full of Japanese sewing and craft books, but I won't be taking some of them with me. Hopefully, five of you will be lucky and end up with one of the sewing books! This giveaway will be running between my blog and Japanese Sewing Books, whose owner Yi Farn kindly agreed to share it. If you already own a Japanese sewing book, you can find a lot of useful information on her blog, for example, how to understand Japanese patterns or dictionary of Japanese sewing terms.

NOTE: some of the books are brand new but some have been used to draw patterns!

The conditions are simple: just leave a comment about anything that crosses your mind - the state of international affairs, the book you are currently reading, today's weather forecast or your current sewing project. At the end of each giveaway period (there will be five, schedule included at the very end of this post), Yi Farn and I will draw one winner from those who have commented on either blog (maximum two entries per person, for leaving a comment on each blog).

Giveaway #1 offers this Happy Homemade vol.3., brand new book. For more pictures you are welcome to visit Amazon and check the preview. I've also just found this Flickr photostream, please check it out.

The giveaway will close on Friday May 3rd, at 23:59 Japanese time. The winner and the next book to be given away will be announced on Saturday, May 4th.

Good luck!

Giveaway schedule:

May 1, We
May 4, Fri,
May 7, Tue
May 10, Fri
May13, Mon

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Tokyo Hobby Show

I went to the Tokyo Hobby Show yesterday! Thanks to Tokyo Craft Guide, I did not pay for the tickets because I won them in a giveaway! It was the first time in my life I actually won anything. So double YAY!

I took my friend's mum and guess which of us was more excited? Anyone who's into crafts would lose their head there! I Instagrammed lots about it yesterday. BIG SIGHT, the place where the show took place, is a huge location in Odaiba, in the south of Tokyo. Instead of just writing, let me show you some pictures.

Japanese handmade decorations
Silk sewing thread
I wanted to buy this cuteness but it was pricey: approximately $42

Another piece of cuteness

Emperor's coats, made of paper and silk

I saw two stands selling recycled toys

Would Lady Gaga wear this Harajuku-inspired dress made of can lids?

This crafter used pieces of wood and old branches to create these wonderful fake bonsai!
A Tokyo Hobby Show would not be complete without Japanese sewing books!

A couple of stands were offering to teach the art of flower arranging.

I saw some absolutely useless but beautiful craft stands. How about a fake orange cake (made of plastic)?

Or a felted cake?

Felted French pastries!
Tartes aux fruits! Yummy!

Gorgeous felted bags!

Some rare crafts were also represented: locker hooking.

Lots and lots of gorgeous lace!

World-renowned French embroidery thread by DMC.

Pre-cut bias strips

A showcase of industrial embroidery machines. 

People were welcome to try to sew with world famous sewing machine brands!

One of the very first Singer sewing machines ;) The body is pure steel!

If not for my friend's mum, I would have bought half of the things at the show. Without going totally crazy, I still ended up with a few goodies:

These cuties are used to make traditional Japanese hanging ornaments for different holidays: from New Year's Eve to Girl's Day, to Full Moon Festival etc.

Because one can never have enough pom-pom trims, washi masking tape and buttons, I bought these. I am still not sure when and how I'll use them, but you never know!


I am not a big wearer of hair accessories but this time I not resist these beautiful tsumami kanzashi. Maybe from now on my head will look prettier?

Last but not least, I got this sample book from my absolute favorite thread producer, FUJIX. Nobody can beat their quality! When I ran out of thread in Baltimore and bought some Gutterman thread, I could not believe that people actually sew with this thread - it's so thick and stiff! I also discussed with them the possibility of reselling their thread on my Etsy shop. Doing business is Japan can be very, very slow, but hopefully in a few months something will happen!

Most of my machine thread is FUJIX.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

What is the real secret of Chanel jackets?

On the first evening after the classic French jacket class, I did a little research on the use and mis-use of the term "Chanel jacket". The first thing I came across was this document. It turns out that Chanel runs ads in Women's Wear Daily to protect its trademark.

"Although our style is justly famous, a jacket is not ‘a Chanel jacket’ unless it is ours, and somebody else’s cardigans are not ‘Chanel for now.’ And even if we are flattered by such tributes to our fame as ‘Chanel-issime, Chaneled, Chanels, and Chanel-ized,’ PLEASE DON’T. "; the advertisement states.

Fair enough, they want to prevent their brand name from becoming a generic term. But perhaps they are also trying to maintain a certain veil of exclusivity around their brand, and especially their famous jackets. If you want to know the full story about how Coco made her jacket legendary, go browse on the Internet and you'll find multiple resources. I'll only summarize it.

She was the first one who popularized a piece of clothing suitable for an active lifestyle and yet also glamorous and fashionable. Thus the distinguishing features of the jacket are:
  • a bodice with multiple panels (back and front princess seams) to nicely hug the silhouette; 
  • three-piece sleeves to fit comfortably and reveal the vent and buttons; 
  • 3/4-length sleeves to expose jewellery and shirt cuffs;
  • a chain to counterbalance the heavy buttons at the front and avoid puckering at the back;
  • a vibrant silk lining; originally, the jackets were often sold with a matching shirt;
  • fancy trims and buttons to embellish simple fabric (in the past, the patterns of tweed used to make jackets were more limited than nowadays).
Well, Coco was a smart woman and she combined many practical elements of sewing and embellishments to create something comfortable and elegant.

There is no great secret to the construction, but you can find some interesting articles on it nonetheless. If you read Claire Shaeffer's book, she has almost four pages dedicated to "Chanelism" and the various couture techniques which can be used to produce such a jacket. There are also a couple of wonderful pieces in the Threads Magazine online, available for paying subscribers, where you can dig out lots of interesting info. 

As I have described before, I found the sewing process relatively easy. The jacket does not have an underlining. The silk lining is quilted directly to the fashion fabric before the seams are sewn together. Quilting helps the jacket keep its shape better, and at the same time prevents the fabric from becoming loose or distorted. Since the thread has to match the fabric, I wound green thread on my bobbin and used yellow for the top. And voilà!

When the quilting is over, all you need to do is to pull the thread between the layers and knot it. Again, no big secrets here, since quilting existed many many years before Chanel.

So what is the real secret, if any, to the Chanel jacket? Why are Chanel so strongly defending the use of the term? Is it the unique fabric woven exclusively for the shows and private clients? The handmade trims and embroidery? Or the special designs by Karl? What do you think?

Some of the secrets of the Little Black Jacket are revealed in this little video. By the way, have you noticed they use Chakoner chalk (0:57min)? I've just stocked my Etsy shop with it!

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Discovering NUNO

A few weeks ago a friend, who is a knit designer and a fabric lover herself, introduced me to a mecca of experimental fabric. If I'd have known about NUNO (布, literally meaning "cloth") and the fact that it is located only a ten-minute walk from my office before, I'd have spent all my lunch breaks (and probably my salary) there!

A mixture of tradition and modern technology inspired NUNO. Their fabrics go through various thermic conditions to become almost architectural structures. They also use metallic threads, feathers, banana fibres... even cow's blood to weave and print, creating unusual textiles.

Washi paper 

This polyester and cotton mix is screaming, sew something beautiful from me!

Cotton and tulle stretch

Another cotton mix

Wooligami: thermoplastic polyester, pleated with heat and cut with a laser

Origami pleats: this fabric is woven this way

Feathers woven between two layers of organdy

When I asked their manager why they don't sell fabric online he smiled and said, we want people to come here not for the fabric, but for the experience. And it's true: every textile is a story, you have to touch it and discover how it's made.

NUNO also sells clothes and zakka stuff: cushions, scarfs, bags, pouches etc.

After spending over an hour in the shop I left empty-handed. Working with such unique textiles require some preparation. Next time I'll come to NUNO with a project in mind; I can't wait!

Sunday, 14 April 2013

More jackets

All of the students in the sewing seminar with Susan Khalje were asked to work with one pattern: V7975. I'll spare you my ranting about Vogue Patterns. Instead, I'll share some more varieties of jackets and fabrics which others used for this project. It's incredible how differently each of us interpreted the idea of a classic French jacket!

I loved this royal blue! Unfortunately, I did not take the photo of her lining, it was so McQueenesque!

This student used the same fabric as the lady in royal blue. I loved the combination of pastels in this one.

Crazy Cavalli silk charmeuse. 

A very classical take on a jacket. Won't it go with all possible colors?

Everybody in the class was jealous of his ombre charmeuse. My camera did not reproduce the exact colors: it went from fuchsia to pale mustard.

Classic fabric and great execution!

The girl with Cavalli lining was brave enough to challenge herself to copy this fabulous jacket not one but two times: one in navy and one in bright red. I know that she's still working on them but I am sure her jackets are going to be terrific!

I'll leave you with these images on and will be back with more details on the jackets.