Thursday, 29 August 2013

Taking self-photos

A couple of times in previous blog posts I've talked (or rather ranted) about the challenge of taking self-photos. In order to learn the best ways of posing, I've read a good deal of articles, talked with friends (photographers) and watched tons of YouTube videos

I certainly don't aspire to become another Coco Rocha, but I would like to tell you how I approach a self-photo.

  • Before I start to take your photos, I try to come up with a character to play during the session. 
  • I generally prefer to take photos outdoors, or at least outside the four walls of my apartment. Very often, a good location can inspire some great pics! I usually take quick snaps with my smartphone and later imagine how I can use this location wisely. 
  • Once I start, I take as many photos as possible, before all of the neighbors or passers-by start asking me for an autograph ;-) On average, I take 50-70 photos out of which only 4 or 5 appear on my blog.
  • I look at my old photos and learn from my past mistakes. One of the things I try to avoid is standing in the very center of the picture. By positioning myself to the side, it looks much more interesting in my opinion. 
  • I like to smile in my photos or, at least, not to look super serious. After all, sewing and bloggins is fun, so why shouldn't taking the pictures be?
  • I draw inspiration from additional elements - some interesting graffiti or architecture, or props like an umbrelala or a flower can become part of the character which I am playing. 
  • Buy a remote! Which I still have not done ;(
Photos are such a big part of our blogs! When I open a blog, the first thing I usually notice is a photo. So it's important to make a good first impression. That does not mean that the content is any less significant, but the visual aspects should go hand-in-hand with the written text. 

Of course, nothing can replace a friend or a partner wich a camera, but when we have no other choice, it's good to learn how to manage the situation by ourselves. 

What are your techniques, tips and tricks for a self-photo session? 

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Miss Chalmers Skirt makes it to Tokyo

In most cases, the inspiration for a garment starts either from a pattern or from some fabric. This skirt started form the fabric. It was a 80cm leftover from this dress from a Japanese pattern book. 80 cm would only suit a skirt pattern and I started looking for a simple one which would show off the beauty of the fabric. My eyes were drawn to the somehow forgotten Home Sewn, a book including 10 patterns by New Zealand designers, one of which is Papercut Patterns.

What is really interesting about this skirt is the glorious curved waistband and front gathers! Don't you think it's such a flattering detail?

The fabric which I used, Nani Iro linen & cotton gauze, tends to wrinkle easily. To avoid this, I fully underlined the skirt with silk organza. But when I wore the skirt later, I realized that even underlined it wrinkles like hell!

But before I go into the sewing details, let me tell you about my photo-shoot experience.

It's been over two months that I've been living without my Mr Creature. Anyway, I am learning ways of taking self-photos: I bought a tripod, I read photo-related articles, I even signed up with a model agency to learn how to pose! But I feel very shy to take my photos on the street in front of other people, even though in Japan people rarely pay attention to what others are doing.

Today was a rainy day and I went downstairs and installed the tripod in front of my building.

After the very first picture, I was rudely bitten my mean mosquitos. After the third photo, the rain intensified. After the fourth photo, two cars drove into the tiny street where I live and while the men were unloading them, their wives where staring at me as if they never saw a foreign girl taking self photos in the middle of the drive! What were they thinking?

My neighborhood is considered very quiet and you don't see many passers-by, so it was Murphy's law that these two cars showed up. And so I quickly ran toward my tripod (captured on the photo below) to return to the apartment.

Four pictures, were not enough to choose from for the post, so  I re-installed the tripod on my doorsteps to take more photos.  Do you see how wrinkled my skirt became? The skirt was ironed 5 - 10 minutes prior to this photo being taken. Grrrrrrr... All I did was to go down from the second floor to the yard, stay there a few minutes and go back up!

I really liked the atmosphere on the staircase and started striking fancy poses when, out of the sudden,  my neighbor from the top floor was going down. Embarrassed, I chose not to take more risks and went inside.

Can you imagine that my neighbor sew me hugging myself on the doorsteps? (⊙.☉)7
Now more about the skirt. According to the size chart, I am a clear M. But to my great surprise, after altering the muslin, I ended up to fit into a XS?? I cannot tell you why - perpaps because of the amount of ease or maybe my hips shrunk? This will probably remain a mystery to me, but what I know for sure is that Papercut Patterns offer free international shipping!


All in all, I enjoyed sewing this skirt. It's one of the projects that came together pretty fast without me having to spend ages altering muslins. It took me three nights to finish it, though, because I did tons of hand-sewing: the zipper, lining and waistband were all attached by hand.

Only when I was in the middle of attaching the zipper did I recall that I'd been intending to create a video tutorial on hand-sewn zipper insertion. I promise I will do it for the next project, because it contains a 60cm-long zipper :) You'll have lots of fun watching in spite of it being silent. Meanwhile, I can only show you a photo of what hides underneath the pretty lining :)

The zipper is attached with a prick-stitch and the end of it is fell-stitched to the seam allowance. 

I am so relieved that the temperature in Tokyo is getting down: from +35C to +31C! I am already in the mood for some autumn sewing and lots of wool is waiting for me in the closet.

Are you ready to start sewing for a new season?

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

New face of my blog

Thanks to a talented friend, Laurie, this blog now has a new face! I also created a FB page for my blog where I will  post sewing/craft related stuff,  inspirational thoughts and pictures. Join in!

I've also officially moved to, so don't forget to bookmark it ;-)

Hope you like it!

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Buttoned-down summer day

I had nurtured the idea of this blouse ever since  I got hold on the April 2012 issue of Burda Style. A very simple blouse was something I needed to add to my wardrobe since I didn't have any.

I generally dislike garments with buttons since I find them impractical. But when I started making my own clothes, the process forced me to reassess my not-so-tender feeling towards buttonholes.

I bought both the fabric (cotton batiste) and bee-shaped buttons three years ago in Nippori Textile Town. For this blouse, I used slightly less than a metre (one yard) of fabric, some fusible interfacing for the collar and front placket, and four buttons. This cotton batiste is so delicate that I decided to finish the garment with French seams.

Depending on the light ,the fabric can appear see-through or opaque. Honestly,  I am not a prudish type; so if somebody wants to stare at my bra, I have no objection. Local girls here usually put one or even two extra layers underneath when wearing a see-through garment. But I don't mind, really.

The pattern in Burda features a very short blouse which would be combined with high-waisted trousers or a skirt. Of course, I wanted to wear it with everything, so I added 7cm to the bodice which, I think, are not enough. When trying to strike fancy poses (like in the very first picture), you can still see my tummy. So I will add 5cm more to the next one (and there will be a few). 

At the same time, I did not judge it necessary to add another alteration for my back as I have started doing for other bodices lately. Since the blouse is not fitted and the fabric is so thin, I though it wouldn't do any harm to let it flow the way it it. 

The entire sewing experience was pretty short and enjoyable. The last touch to the garment, buttonholes,  scared me. Besides my phobia of buttonholes, my sewing machine is not really great for making them. The only way to do so was by hand sewing. Also, don't forget that with very thin fabrics like batiste, machine-sewn buttonholes are a no-no!

First, I cut each buttonhole 0.5mm smaller than the length of my actual  buttons. Then, sewing with waxed silk thread (the one I have in my shop), I went around the buttonhole using a blanket stitch. For my buttonhole, which was 1cm, I needed 25-30cm of thread. As suggested in all sewing books,  I started from the narrow end and sewed clockwise. The process was easy to execute but it took me some time to ensure the consistency of the stitches.

Altogether, I spent an hour testing on scraps and maybe 30min to finish my four buttonholes. The last touch to the buttonholes was stitching tiny rectangles around each one to prevent them from fraying in the future. In my case, it was 7x3 stitches. I think they are pretty neat.

I ended up enjoying hang-sewn buttonholes and I'd like to make more buttoned garments. The Internet did not turn up any results for a name for a phobia of making buttonholes :( Shall I invent my own term and name it  "botonophobia"?

What is your biggest fear in sewing?

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Kyoto craft shopping

I spent last weekend in Kyoto. Despite horrible heat and annoying mosquitos, I was  so happy to soak in the atmosphere of the old capital. Not without guilty feelings towards my credit card, I have to admit that I spent a lot of my time in craft shops. But I did check out some tourist sights too - here is photographic evidence!

Sagano forst in Arashiyama
My first craft related visit was made to a  needle shop, Misuyabari. I wrote about it a while ago explaining how I became a needle geek. They have been successfully making and selling needles since 1651! In the past, I have bought needles several times from their online shop but they don't have the full range of their products online. It was a real needle heaven!

The shop is located in Shinkyogoku shopping arcade, a great place for shopping in Kyoto. Misuyabari shop is so well hidden that even with Google Maps, I had a hard time spotting it. You can either ask surrounding businesses or just look up searching for the sign ;)

The shop is very tiny: five people would have difficulty moving around in it. But the amount of needles and needle accessories is impressive.

Hand made pins!

SOOO cute!

As expected, I sinned and purchased lots of stuff: hand-sewing needles for silk, wool and cotton, a case for my Japanese thread scissors, several pins and a beautiful paulownia box which keeps needles and pins protected from humidity. Currently in Tokyo, we are experiencing some 80-90% humidity.... eeerkkk So the boxe comes in very handy!

One unexpected purchase even for me was a huge piece of leather: 1.5m x 1.3. I bought it with the intention to make a tote bag. The bag of my dream is big and strong enough to carry my laptop, books, tons of bits and pieces!  I am definitely not a clutch person.

I bought leather as well as three cuts of cute Japanese cotton in this shop, Nomura Tailor, which is a must-see fabric shop in Kyoto. I know of two of their boutiques: one  in Shinkyogoku Arcade and another on Shijo Dori, one of the biggest streets in the heart of Kyoto.

When in Kyoto, I could not miss an opportunity to go to Avril, the loveliest yarn shop. Once you've finished all of your shopping in Shinkyogoku Arcade, walk out of there and after a three-minute walk you'll see Sacra building, an old shopping mall. Avril is one of the shops inside this building!

And don't forget to pop in to Idola, a button shop located on the same floor. In any case, the shopping mall is so tiny (like Japanese tiny) that you won't miss Idola ;)

In Avril, I has such a hard time restraining myself and not buying anything! Maybe because of heat, or maybe because my  bags were already heavy with fabric, I left the shop empty-handed. but with the intention to return to its Tokyo sister-shop very soon!

What about you? Have you done any interesting craft shopping lately?

Thursday, 8 August 2013

My Atomic Dress

Even though it has nothing to do with nuclear power, I am calling it Atomic dress, the second version of my LV dress.


I got this fabric during the Tokyo bloggers' meet-up. We stood in front of the row with photo - print fabric and I pulled out the black roll. It turned out to be very bright and colorful from the other side of the roll. While Chie was standing in line to purchase this fabric, I was itching to get some too. When I asked whether she would mind me getting the same print, she said no. Thank you, Chie!

This dress took me five days (or rather, evenings after work) to sew because of the amount of hand-work: the lining and zipper were attached entirely by hand. Sometimes I regret spending so much time sewing but honestly, I think the end results are worth it!

There are a few interesting details about this dress. The dress is un-hemmed because it is finished with the selvage, and so there is a minimum risk of fraying. Interestingly, each panel was printed on crosswise grain and so I cut it this way. Having said that, I have no idea how this dress will behave after a few washes. Fingers crossed, it won't distort.

Oh, and if you want to know what the hell is depicted on the photo, it's the Kawasaki plant! When browsing on the Net I found a couple of really cool photos of the plant. Check out this Flickr account.

Check out my wings as well! Here,  I am preparing to fly!

And here, I am almost flying! Like Mary Poppins!

OK, enough sillyness for today! I think I'll stop making same dress for now, although I really like it!

Now I am curious: Is there a pattern which you have used more than twice?

Thursday, 1 August 2013

I've got mail...

... with 20 samples of Linton fabric, mostly tweed and bouclĂ©. They arrived in four day from Carlisle, UK, to Tokyo! Can you believe? It's price was also unbelievable. I paid something like £6 for samples + delivery! Ladies, hurry up!

While working on my summer sewing projects, I have been daydreaming about another French jacket. Or two! I'd like it to be adapted to my lifestyle but also containing  some element of chic. If you come along some cool designs, please, pretty pretty please, send them to me -) 

What sewing project do you daydream about?