Monday, December 31, 2012

J jeans

First he wanted a button fly. Copied it from some Levi 501s. Then he wanted back pockets with lids on so that his bulging wallet stays safe. So I did those too. Then (admittedly, after he realised the fabric was stretchy) he wanted them tight, like in his youth. So - I think I'll just call them trend setting. :-)

As I recall, the fabric is from Gorgeous Things. Unlike all the other black denim I have seen for sale, this, like the black denim used in RTW jeans, is actually black right they way through the fabric (the reverse and right sides are both black). It is quite soft feeling, and I think it has a slight nap, so I cut it so that it is smoothest when you slide your hand down a thigh. For the tightness part, I tacked them together and adjusted. Took in the back crotch seam about 0.5cm, and the side and inseams both about 1.5cm. The base pattern is the same as this one. James says the jeans are very comfortable. I guess the stretch is making them easier to wear.
I'd always bought the hardware for jeans locally (Kamkaura or Yokohama), but the range is very limited, and this time I wanted smaller buttons for the fly. We found them on Ebay, and subsequently I've also bought some rivets from Ebay. They are the same make as those found here (Prym), but I could get both silver and copper coloured. These only just arrived so haven't yet been installed - but will be soon - probably silver ones this time. James does that part, as he is the one who is more trustworthy with a hammer in is hand.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

stripey trews fix

Last year I made a pair of Marfy 0680 trousers in a stripey stretch fabric. At the time they seemed a bit long in the body, and James did tell me I should have made them tighter. I'd thought the less than skin-tight fit was OK. Maybe it was OK, but the stretch fabric doesn't have as much recovery as one might have hoped, and they got baggy quite quickly after each washing, and got sufficiently bad that the trews became distinctly un-smart. I pondered what to do and decided that the first thing to try was to sew a new seam 1cm inside the present stitching line all around the inseam. This would make the legs tighter and bring up the crotch seam, making the body part shorter. To keep the grain (keep the stripes vertical at centre front and back) I also took 1cm off the outside seam below the hip/pocket/crotch. I'd thought I would probably have to take the waistband off and move it lower but, magically the whole fit was much improved. They were too tight in the thigh so I tapered the new seamline above the knee. Here is the result - still not radically tight - but I am hoping they will not bag out much more. I guess I can try the same trick again if they do... The photo is taken after one day of wear.

The lesson is that Marfy 0680 isn't that good a pattern for stretch fabrics. The extra ease feels right in non-stretch fabrics, although I might experiment with taking the crotch junction up an additional cm or so next time I sew it.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Mountain jumper

I have an ageing North Face fleece that I always take with me to the mountains, and often on other trips too. It is also a favourite for weekends in winter. It is over a decade old and so thin that it isn't very warm any more! It was time for a replacement. 

The short story: Starting from a Wookie... guesstimate a new pattern, make a few nips and tucks and, voila! - a technical mountain fleece!! 

The long story: My version has the same basic design features of the original, but is improved with shaped side seams and bust shaping. The fabric is Polartec 200 with Powerstretch inserts in the side and arms, all from Malden Mills online store. I started with my hoody pattern - the woolly hoody pattern was the base - but Polartec 200 is quite thick, so I took account of the differences between that and the Wookie pattern, and more or less guessed the rest. I measured the old top and drafted a revised neckline, collar, zipper and pocket.  As well as the neckline, I altered the side seam shape and moved the underarm in a bit (and adjusted the sleeve cap) to make the armhole more vertical, and adjusted the length. I had enough fleece to make the jumper twice so I just cut out back, front and one arm with a view to making pattern changes. It seemed surprisingly good, so I cut out all the pieces and fit the garment as I went along. The back neckline seemed slightly too wide so I curved the shoulder seams, to shift the shoulder line towards the back a little. The neckline was probably a bit wide all round, or maybe the collar was just too long. I tapered the collar to make it fit a little more snugly. I had drafted 1.5cm seam allowances, but sewed 1cm for the shoulders and side seams. This left the sides and armhole OK, but the arms themselves a little baggy, so I took them in. I think I effectively sewed 2cm seam allowances from a couple of inches below the armhole. The body length was just about OK (could have been a little longer for peace of mind during this fit-as-you-sew project), but the arms were too long by an inch or more. 

It wasn't until I was about to attach the collar that I noticed the flat seams on my North Face sweater. It was too late to apply this to the shoulder seams but it seemed worth copying for the sake of reducing bulk in the seams. I took a deep breath, trimmed the seam allowances to about 3mm, overlapped the pieces, tacked along the stitching line, and then sewed with one of the fancy wide stitches on my machine. I used this method for the collar and to attach the arms, and I really like how it looks. 

I am happy with how well it seems to have turned out, but with temperatures here above 30C, I've not worn it for many minutes! Perhaps I will be able to test it out at some sunrise photo excursions during our upcoming trip to the USA.

Note to self: Only the shoulder seam alteration has been added to the pattern.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Purple Panic

Oh no! It doesn't fit! And it's 28C in the shade. I wore this for about 10 seconds. Not only was I broiling, but photographer James was being eaten alive by mosquitoes (they find him almost as attractive as I do). 

But no need to panic really. This isn't for me, but for my friend Rob, who saw my fluffy hoodies on the interweb, and recklessly asked for a purple one. Serendipitously, a couple of weeks after his request we visited a new branch of a fabric store (new to me anyway) - Yuzawaya in Kichijoji (part of Tokyo) - and there were all the colours of the same fabric used for the other fuzzy hoodies. Mind you, there were no dark colours, which I expect Rob would prefer when being less reckless. Well, there was brown, and black but they would be no fun at all. And after finding the purple, there was no going back... 

Well now it is done. I went from measurements and am surprised that Rob is just 1 inch thinner than the extra large size in Kwik Sew patterns. I sewed the extra large with no alteration, as the fuzzy fabric takes up some of the ease. I was surprised by this sizing because Kwik Sew are American patterns and I would say that the majority of American adult men are bigger (at least in girth) than Rob is. Aren't fatties allowed to sew their own clothes too?! It seems mean to me.

I am hoping I have erred on the large side with this, and will take my needle and thread with me when I hand-deliver it to Rob later in the year. I sewed the pocket on a little high so that the hem can be turned up if necessary, and of course the same can be done with the arms. The side seam can also be taken in. Just hope it's not too tight! 

T-shirt alterations

No pictures here, since the t-shirts are now all at different stages of laundry and cupboard, but I altered 3 of my t-shirts to make them more wearable. Typically a commemorative t-shirt has some attractive picture on it, and reminds me of some cool event, but the un-contoured fit makes me rarely wear them, except in bed. All I did was contour the side-seams, including the arm holes. Now I have 2 extra t-shirts I can gladly wear to work. The 3rd t-shirt is a sports fabric, gained after running a 10K, but was so boxy I couldn't run in it. Now it fits well and can even be tucked into shorts if required. 

Quickest way of increasing my wearable wardrobe, ever! 

Of course the alternative, which I did with a Yellowstone t-shirt is to buy a Large or Extra Large men's T-shirt and totally remake the t-shirt with a pattern. That takes longer, but the final result does fit a bit better. The only trick with that method is to bit careful with the purchase, so as to make sure the neck is not too large.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Shutting the Stable Door...

Last Sunday the forecast was for cloud turning to rain in late afternoon, so we set off confidently hatless for a cycle to Yokohama and back. Forecast was wrong and the sun soon got hot, and hotter. James head somehow got burned through his thick mop of lustrous hair. So, in the afternoon I made him a hatlet, out of a cotton print. The criteria are that it has to be as lightweight as possible, absorptive of sweat, and at least partly sunproof. The lack of a peak is not optimal for avoiding nose-burn but it must be better than nothing for the head. We have baseball hats, but he doesn't wear them. James wouldn't want to develop the skill of knotting a scarf round his head each time he got on a bike, so I hand stitched the knots and bits into place. So far he has been wearing it at least... and it's so super fashionable! :-)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Wookie Too

Well, I'd bought too much red fluff so... !

This is my evolving hoody pattern. James' red fluffy number turned out to be a little more snug than expected. I think this is due to the thickness of the fabric. So for my version I left the hips the same as the woolly hoody but increased the size a bit above hips, reducing the shaping on the side seams and increasing the upper arm width a little. The result was still snug, so I sewed 0.5cm seam allowances on the underarm and side rather than the 1.5cm on the pattern.

You might be relived to hear that I did run out of fabric this time. I had to cut the hood from 4 rather than 2 pieces, but this does not show at all, through the furrr. I also added a pocket on the front. 

It is basically too hot to wear this now, but tonight after a cycle ride in the rain it feels great. 

Notes on stitchin' furrrr: I learned a bit about how to sew fur by taking a class by Kenneth King on I pinned all the seams at about 2cm intervals, tucking in the fur. This would not feed through the sewing machine due to the thickness of the fabric sending the pins into the innards of the machine. So I then basted the seams and finally sewed on the machine. The fabric has 2-way stretch so the stretch stitch was a good idea, but no mistakes are allowed, as it is unpickable on this fabric. All the hems are done by hand, as is the pocket. So, all in all it is quite labour intensive. The flip side is that the stitching can be as untidy as you like, as nothing shows through the furrrr.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Camera Case

The Canon S100 is a small camera but unlike my Sony TX10 it is not quite small enough to fit in a pocket. It is also not waterproof or dustproof, so a case seemed in order. I made a test with the fabric from James' trench coat and then made the real one in Goretex (left over from James' waterproof trousers). The case is lined with fleece (left over from my blue hoody jacket) and the closure is velcro. It is basically just a rectangle with a lid. The lid has little gussets on the side for extra water protection. It hasn't yet been up in the mountains but I found the case very convenient, and the S100 really became a take everywhere camera as a result.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Wookie Hug

I am not sure what possessed me, but it wasn't all my fault. As anyone who lives in the Kanto plain knows, our houses are very cold in winter. James had himself said how nice a Hippo-crit jumper would be. Then one day, as we cycled past Keitoya in Kamakura, I saw rolls of it in their outside display. I was so pleased to have correctly identified it at speed that I walked back later to make the purchase. The pattern is Kwik Sew 3045 which I made made for James twice before. I am not sure if James plans to wear this just at home and in bed or also for venturing out on the town of an evening or to the local furry convention. The inlaws tried to readjust their video when he wore it to Skype them, but that's just Western conservatism. In Japan, James may detect no difference as everyone already stares at him.

In some ways fur takes more attention to sew. Each seam was pinned, tucking in the fur, basted and then sewn on the machine with a zigzag stitch. The hems and rim of the hood were interfaced and then sewn by hand. The buttonholes, through which the cord (not yet obtained) round the bottom goes were sewn with the fabric back uppermost and with paper between the fabric and machine, so that fur did not get caught in the workings. On the other hand, with fur, you can sew any old how, as none of the stitches show! Now the question is, do I have enough fabric left over to cobble together a version for me?

Monday, April 02, 2012

longsleeve T shirt for J

See here, here and here for previous attempts at this pattern, KS2561. Version 1, made in 2006(!) is getting tatty, version 2 is never worn because it is "horrible" and a bit skimpy (and unfortunately yellow doesn't suit me at all, or I'd wear it), while version 3 remains very popular. This new version is a golden brown rather cheap knit from Tomato in Nippori, Tokyo. I used a gold thread (bought in Swany's Yokohama branch one Sunday morning) which stands out quite well so had to top stitch carefully, which was probably good discipline. I added an inch to the arm pattern piece - I have a feeling I added the inch last time then failed to mark it on the pattern. Anyway, the result is not too long, although it may get a bit longer in time. How much the collar stretches effects the effective length of the arms and body, and since the collar is made from the fashion fabric this is not, a priori, a well controlled variable (since different fabrics have different Young's modulus, and different weight). Please excuse the physics, but it means that you can't tell whether the arms and body will be long enough just from looking at the pattern.

The top seems like it is a good colour, fitting effortlessly into the brownish side of James' wardrobe.

Click on the picture to get an indistinct impression of the not quite as messy as usual top-stitching round the collar.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


In 2006 I sewed 2 pairs of fuzzy cycling legs, one for me and one for James. In 2010 I sewed another pair for James, while I still wear a RTW pair as my second pair. It is the seats that wear out first, and they are really quite worn on all pairs apart from James newer pair. I thought that the only sensible way of repairing them would be to sew in a whole new seat area.

Here are the pattern pieces I came up with, the top one for me and the lower for James:

For my first pair I just cut out the original seat and sewed in the replacement piece to occupy the same place in the original. I cycled in the fixed pair for a week. They are a bit tight. It seems to me to be not a good idea to have the fabric under strain as the new strong cloth may cause the weaker cloth to stretch further. So for the other two pairs I adopted a slightly different strategy, pinning the replacement piece onto the garment while they were being worn and making sure that the original fabric was not being pulled out of shape. This means that the replacement piece is fitting in a smaller space than would be expected from the pattern. Nevertheless it seems to work. We wore them today and they are comfortable. Time will tell if these fixes will really work. If not, I already have sufficient Powerstretch in the cupboard to make more.

This is, of course, in the back of my mind:
Mark 9:16 "No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse."

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

waffle baffle saga parts 3 and 4 or is it 5...

The backstory of the attempt to copy one of James' tops can be found here. I thought that was the end but no, in September 2010, James managed to leave the jumper I had lovingly made at South Mimms service station, somewhere in middle England. Not being Japan, the lovely jumper was never seen again! It wasn't until the end of last year when I found some waffly baffly type fabric in Swany, Kamakura. Like the original this is a low stretch knit of mid-weight with a thicker yarn adding texture to the finely knitted backing. I asked Rockywoods and they told me the original was a kind of berber fleece. This fabric is perhaps a distant relative. Anyway, I adjusted the pattern (originally adapted from KS 2439 View B) so that the neck opening was actually on the centre front (!) and the fabric sewed up nicely. The new waffle baffle is all ready for when the weather gets a bit warmer. 

But then I wondered whether it would get lost again, so when I saw some wool in a nice James-blue on a trip to Nippori fabric town in Tokyo, I bought it. This is much thicker and so I remade the pattern with 1cm seam allowances so make it easier to work with under the sewing machine foot. It was straightforward enough to make, but i must remember to hand wash it so as to not get the shrinkage debacle of the waffle baffle before the one before last.

 So now there are two wafflebaffles! The blue one is heavier and is presently being worn at work.

[sewn in January and February 2012 - here is the thicker blue wool version. The photos of the lighter weight beige version will have to wait until spring]
And here's the lighter weight version:

Saturday, February 18, 2012

recorder case

My new alto recorder arrived in a plush hard case, but it is quite large so not very convenient for putting in a rucksack and carrying around. Last Saturday afternoon I made a soft case to carry the new recorder and the smaller descant. The fabric is a windproof hard face fleece that has previously been used for gloves and hats. It has a very tough face but is actually not as warm as it might be and the remnant is quite bulky so it was nice to use some of it up on this project. I just cut a large enough rectangle, marked the seams on the wrong side with felt-tip pen and set to work. I fitted an old zipper across the top, as I'd seen a case with such a zipper in a brochure. Later I added some elastic straps to hold the cleaning rod. The case ties up with a piece of ribbon which is stitched to one edge.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sasha stitching - pinafore and blouse

I haven't blogged for a while, but I have still been stitchin' most days!

After conferring with my brother I decided to send my niece, Penelope, a stitching project for her Sasha doll (for her birthday, which is on Christmas Day!). So I sent her Ted Menten's pinafore pattern  (available as a file from Ted). Felt seems the simplest fabric to use as it does not fray, so I sent various colours of felt, buttons and thread, with the pattern adjusted to remove unnecessary seam allowances. I also made an example pinafore out of an old pillowcase - I always find it easier to make something if I already have a sample to copy so I thought perhaps it may work for my niece too. The pinafore is a bit bare up top so I made a blouse to go underneath it. For this I used patterns from "The Doll's Dressmaker" by Venus A Dodge, which I bought second hand online. This book contains pattern pieces for various sized dolls. I only tried the shirt pieces, but they were a fairly snug fit. There was also what I would consider a mistake in that there was no overlap at the front to permit buttons to be in their proper place. Anyway, I made a couple of muslins from the pillowcase fabric, and adjusted the pattern a bit, fitted cuffs and a round collar. There isn't much in the way of instruction in the book - it is more about opening one's mind to the possibilities. I enjoy making things without detailed instructions as it feels like the pieces get fitted together naturally rather than being forced together according a set of rules, and the whole process flows more pleasantly, even if it does take longer working out how to make it work. The final blouse was made of some nice cotton, a remnant from the frock I made for my niece a few years ago. I haven't heard whether Penelope has attempted the project yet - I'm not sure - maybe she is still a bit young for it. Maybe it is more of a project for her Mum! :o