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Stretch and Scuba

The stretch and scuba knit stash is really starting to pile up. Since it does not get that cold in my neck of the woods, I can wear synthetic stretch knits instead of a thin sweater, (not to mention the erratic thermostat at work: hot, cold, hot, cold).

This first piece is a peplum pattern from Vogue V9056 (out of print). If you use scuba knit like I did, you could easily sew it up in one evening. I made a matching A-line skirt (Kwik Sew), but I’m not going to wear the two pieces together. It’s a little busy for my taste, but I have hung them both on the dress form so you can see what I mean.

I also made a pair of shorts with the leftovers, but have not finished adjusting the crotch or finished the hem yet. I might post that later. The scuba is from Gorgeous Fabrics, and last I checked, they still have some in stock at a great price. I really, really like the print and the feel of this fabric.

Just a quick note about the pattern…some issues with the bodice gussets under the armholes. I found them completely unnecessary, and made the top too wide. I ripped everything out and re-sewed sans the gusset. I feel like this was a pattern error. I recommend you check Pattern Review and see what folks are saying over there.

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I picked up a few Style Arc patterns on sale at Amazon last month. They use nice thick white pattern paper–making them extremely durable with minimal wrinkles. Cutting fabric is a breeze. The new patterns I received from Amazon are multi-sized, and as much as I love having options, I don’t like the super-narrow grade lines.

Here is my version of the Mila Dress not made in contrast like the pattern suggests. I chose a ponte fuchsia also from Gorgeous Fabrics. The pattern is pretty easy to sew, and there’s lots of design flexibility. If I sew it again, I will need to shorten the bodice at the shoulders, and insert pockets. You can see from the back, how floppy it looks. I have also considered shoulder pads, but it looks mostly fine. (Sorry, I should have pressed it a bit better before the photo.) The fabric looks more coral, but it’s really a very lovely fuchsia!

 

Spring Ahead Sewing

My last two ducklings left their nest last Summer, and to fill the void, I moved my sewing studio into my son’s old room. My old sewing studio was starting to fall apart with water leaks, electrical, and insulation problems. But it were the critters that used my space (and fabrics) for nesting that really had me at my wit’s end.

My attempt at shrinking my stash lead to more productive sewing the last few weeks. But I realized last night that my whole-hearted desire to reduce stash always results in getting more. I come across patterns I want to make, and voila, not the right fabric to be found in the stash. How does that ever happen? I have yards of fabric–enough to run a small cottage business. I’m that woman with a closet full of fabric and nothing suitable for my next pattern.

Before I ran out of ideas–I was enamored with my growing collection of Japanese cotton and double gauze. I am no quilter, but going through each piece has made me want to quilt something in the very near future. (Unfortunately, quilts don’t really use up that much fabric.) Here’s a couple of completed gauze pieces I made last month.

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This is a big dress, and will magically add a few extra pounds to my body. But the double gauze drape is forgiving, and if you hem it above the knee, it will compensate for the fullness.

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Pattern by Cynthia Rowley Simplicity 8124, View A. Fabric is double gauze from Harts Fabric.

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Burda Style Pattern 123A top. This was a downloaded pattern that also has a dress version.

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Armholes are a bit strange, but very full and comfortable. I found the pattern itself uneven. The sleeves measurements were off. I had to true the pattern again for my next sew.

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The front neckline is very wide. My bra strap showed. I ended up creating an inverted pleat (sorry no picture) at the center front neckline to pull it tighter. I also adjusted the pattern front bodice piece down a good two inches. If you have an hour-glass body, I don’t really recommend this pattern as is. The hips will be tight because it’s a tree trunk design.

I have about five yards of the triple gauze, and it is wider than the Nani Iro or other Kokka double gauze fabric available in the states. This piece also cost me about $5.00 a meter. That’s right…not a typo on the price. The pattern is so-so, and obviously meant for kiddie things. But I think it looks okay and because it’s thicker, I can wear it now and through early Spring.

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Here is the same pattern with 100% cotton. I have owned this fabric for ten years. I originally purchased it at Stonemountain and Daughter. I also have it in a reverse black background. The sleeves still ended up off grain, even after truing the sleeves. I don’t know if I would sew this pattern a third time.

Humming In My New Office

I had this humming feeling in my belly at the end of last year. Whenever I get this feeling, I know that shifts are about to happen in my life.

The new year began with a chaotic move into a new work space. I had left my first office after one year and four months. This first space was generously offered at a time when no one really believed in me, not even me. I left for a custom two-room facility with a full front staff and support of a lovely doctor. I thought it was perfect.

Clinic Room Back

The vertical blinds are sheer enough to see through in the evening. To add more privacy for my patients, I hung up a long piece of Japanese hand-dyed Shiburi fabric. I have not figured out a way to create a more permanent cover. But this seems to work for now.

But this old adage is true: “Be careful what you wish for.” I got exactly what I had hoped for, and nothing I really wanted. After 30 days, that humming in my belly grew exceedingly strong. I left the doctor’s office in a flurry, and landed in my new office…fully independent, and finally my own boss. Yes, it’s still a shared office space, but my room is all mine 24/7. I also get interaction with colleagues, and congenial referrals. I could not have asked for more. All my patients happily returned, and within a couple of months, my practice doubled in size.

Insert a SIGH right here.

Did I land here by accident or did I will it to happen? As soon as I stopped listening to others and worrying about the “what ifs” I just made one decision to leave, and the rest manifested. Another old adage is also true: “Listen to your gut” or in my case, it was my belly.

Side note: I was able to divide the room in half using a 16 pocket shelf from IKEA. I installed openings on both sides, so I can use the shelf on either side of the room. My room is feminine with masculine colors. Yin and Yang! My chairs are from Pier 1, and my desk and lamps were a steal from Homegoods.

 

Sew Rayon

I have not been very inspired lately. I almost shelled out a bunch of cash for a new Bernina this weekend, thinking that would have solved my sewing gloom. But thank God the sales people at the store were mostly unhelpful. I never throw good money away without a decent sales presentation.

With Summer finally in full swing, I thought some comfy and cool rayon would be fun to sew. This paisley print is another stash piece from Gorgeous Fabrics and the pattern is by Rebecca Taylor from Vogue Patterns 1395.

This dress is pretty easy to sew, and there’s even a lining behind the skirt. I have already tried to give this to my daughter, because this dress makes me look short and frumpy. A shoulder adjustment might make it look less bulky from the top. But it certainly has some dress form appeal right? The fabric is incredibly comfortable. Here’s the dress on the model in the next photo. Lovely right? If one is tall, thin, and relatively small busted. But do give it a go. At the very least, it’s a pretty fun pattern to sew.

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I would like to bury at the bottom of this blog, a pattern that I really disliked in every way: the Mizoni dress from Vogue. The pattern gave me the worst sewing instructions for the shoulder. It is scrunchy in the bodice, and the whole design feels like one of those Project Runway desperate “design-in-an-hour dresses.” Unflattering with no promise of redemption. I did want some “shape” and decided to use a polyester from Joann’s Fabrics. I think a part of me knew it would be ugly…out it went.

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Mizoni V1410

With the scare of an impending move at the end of July, I freaked out about moving to a smaller home and losing my sewing studio. It was a real probability. Then last minute our landlord decided to keep our rent the same for another year. This is after he threatened to raise our rent again after increasing it by $500 a month last year. It’s really hard staying here, but it’s worse moving when we’re not ready to go.

But this whole scenario could repeat itself in a year’s time. So I decided that I really needed to work through my stash a little faster. I’m also going to do a lot better with fitting as I go. I had not sewn with Simplicity Patterns in a while, and realized they cut a lot smaller in the bust than Vogue Patterns. Luckily, I’ve been using cheaper fabrics I picked up on sale to test a couple of pieces in advance. I know making a muslin before the final is a great idea for fitting. But it’s not going to make much of a dent in my fabric stash.

Giddy with Vogue 8724

Vogue 8724 Animal Print Front

Fabric is a mixed jersey print from Gorgeous Fabrics. (It was a windy day when this photo was taken).

Do animal prints make you look ten pounds heavier? I have always thought so…which is why these prints are scarce in my closet. But the truth is, if I could have every single coat lined in this stuff, I would be in heaven.

I decided to forego my vanity and carry on with this sewing project. I wanted something comfortable, stylish, and machine washable. Enter Vogue pattern 8724, made in a fabric that feels just like ponte. This was a breeze to sew, and much more manageable than the jersey wools I’ve been tackling lately (more about the jersey in my next post). I didn’t even bother with a muslin. I felt reckless and lucky at the same time. An ideal combination only if everything fits on the first try. Mine did! The capped sleeves were built into the bodice…no sleeve sewing! Jackpot!

One thing I might point out though…fit the bodice to your bust line first, and hand stitch it in place. THEN re-center the pleats on the skirt. Even with the “CustomFit” option built into the pattern, you are not going to get it right without fitting before sewing. I wish I made mine a bit more snug. I still had to sew the base of the neckline to keep it from flying open (which is NEVER ever convenient).

Here is the best thing of all…you can finish this dress in one afternoon. Vogue graded this as “EASY” and they weren’t lying for once. The California weather is going to let me wear this dress all season…gold sandals in the Spring and Summer; boots in the Fall and Winter. Dressed down with a jean’s jacket in the Spring, and dressed up with a wool blazer in the Fall…the possibilities! Happy living!

 

The Best 2015 Sewing Pattern

I wanted to show you some really wonderful pieces I made during the fourth quarter of 2015. I was on a wardrobe-refresh quest. I had some success, but an equal number of failures. Let’s keep things positive shall we? My favorite pattern of 2015, hands down was this little number designed by Marcy Tilton: Vogue 9112 .

This dress is not only easy to make, it’s also stylish, a perfect A-line cut for any shape, has fun pockets, and has a mock turtleneck that hides those 50+ year-old necklines. It’s an age-marcia tilden favorite dress patternappropriate dress with a modern Japanese influenced design. This is my kind of go-to everyday dress.

It’s not a perfect pattern, and I had issues with the armhole coming out in different sizes. The unbalanced arm hole goes unnoticed once worn. Also the design quality lends to an uneven hem line, which could be easily rectified by trimming off the excess. I loved this dress so much I made it into different fabrics. The first in a Japanese polyester double cloth. (Yup, you heard that right…double cloth and polyester mixed together.) Top cloth is black, and the undercloth is cream, giving it a nice iridescent feel. There’s no warmth or cooling nature to this fabric, so it’s perfect for Spring and Fall. Because it is stiff by nature, the textile highlighted the dress’ design detail beautifully.

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Vogue 9112 sewing pattern. Fabric is a Japanese polyester double cloth from Gorgeou Fabrics.

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This is the uneven hem I mentioned.

The second version came out even better. I had this cotton seersucker striped fabric in my stash for a couple of seasons. I knew I loved it, but needed the right pattern. Changing the stripe directions brought the dress’ interest level to new heights. It did not have the stiffness of the black dress, but it certainly had the feminine nautical look. I wore this dress almost daily during our August heatwave and received tons of compliments.

What else do I have in store? I have a large polka dot tropical wool piece I bought in Tokyo two years ago that I’m dying to cut into. It will be my Winter version, and all I need is one more and I’ll have a four-season collection.

This pattern would also be great with other double cloth textiles like Noro Iro, but its 35-inch width won’t make the cut. I recommend something at least 58-inches wide. I purchased both pieces of fabric from Gorgeous Fabrics. No, they did not give me this fabric in exchange for this blog (I wish).

Happy living my lovelies!

Heirloom Tomato Fried Rice Recipe

When I start craving a particular food, I wonder if my body is telling me something. August was primarily a month for tomato eating and perhaps I was in need of some lycopene? I had a patient who gifted me a bag of fresh tomatoes from his garden one day. It might have been one of the best gifts all year. Give me garden fresh flowers and vegetables, and I am essentially yours.

My gift of tomatoes.

My gift of tomatoes.

Besides making several caprese salads, I also discovered that adding fresh tomatoes into an egg fried rice could be equally delectable. This is a great vegetarian dish, and vegan if one omits the eggs entirely. But I hope not, because fried rice is not fried rice without the egg. You do not need to have meat…but the egg is pretty much a given. Okay…you can argue with me about it. But I am from Hong Kong, and that is pretty much the way we eat.

My Fried Rice
The only way to make proper fried rice is to use leftover white rice. Some people have used brown rice, but it does not absorb the flavors as well. The listed ingredients are rough measurements. It will vary based on individual tastes. This is the basic starter fried rice, and can be changed with other fresh ingredients like cooked meat, bean sprouts, and peas. I don’t recommend leafy veggies, but diced carrots are nice!

Ingredients
2 organic, free-range eggs (I have used more, but the ratio is about one cup of cooked rice to an egg.)
1-2 Tbsp of filtered water (you will increase the water proportionately with the number of eggs)
Olive oil
Leftover rice
Soy  or Tamari sauce for taste (I use an organic gluten-free Tamari)
Celtic Sea Salt for taste
2 scallions, diced
1 Tbsp of grated fresh ginger (optional, but delicious if you like ginger)
1-2 large cloves of crushed garlic
1 or 2 Organic Heirloom tomatoes, chopped into large pieces

Instructions – Please read instructions beforehand.
1. Scramble the eggs in a small bowl with the water, and add salt gently for flavor.
2. Make sure you break up the clumps of the leftover rice using your hands, so the grains are separated. Set aside near your skillet.
3. Heat up a skillet to medium high, add some olive oil, and immediately pour in the scrambled eggs. Immediately turn down the flame, and stir the eggs until it looks partially cooked, and still very runny. The eggs should look half raw. Remove the eggs from the pan, and put it back in the bowl you used to scramble the eggs.
4. Clean the skillet, or use another clean skillet. Just make sure it is large enough to actually stir-fry the ingredients.
5. Heat the clean, dry skillet to medium high again, and add a more generous amount of olive oil (if you are afraid of oil, this is the time to man up), and immediately add the ginger and garlic, and the broken up leftover rice, and stir quickly to coat the grains with olive oil.
6. Add salt for taste, and then slowly add dashes of tamari sauce. Try not to over do this. About 3 or 4 teaspoons. Taste the rice, and see if it’s salty enough. Add more as needed.
7. Stir until the rice looks slightly crispy, and is warm.
8. Add the scrambled eggs back in, stir a few seconds to break up the eggs into smaller pieces using your spatula.
9. Add the green onions, and stir again.
10. Add the chopped tomatoes, and stir gently…more like “folding” in the tomatoes.
11. Taste the rice to make sure it is salty enough for you. You can add more salt at this time.
12. Serve and enjoy. This should serve about three people as a side dish, or two hearty eaters as a main with a salad or more veggies.