Thursday, December 31, 2015

Year End New Swimsuit

We have moved house and C's in the middle of school holidays. Is it enough to explain my radio silence? Maybe not. Up till yesterday we had no internet connection. Even if I could take my laptop to a coffee shop, I don't suppose they'd allow me to bring my sewing machine too. I know, I'm loaded with excuses. On the other hand,  I'm thoroughly enjoying this break with my family than worrying about garment making, which is somehow a healthy attitude towards festival seasons.(?)

Speaking of the move, M loves renting out our house during the season time and I detest it. It's more than just having to pack up most of our belongings. One year we ended up in a broken-down house ourselves, in a one-horse town, two hours away from Cape Town. That year was a disaster.

This December we've moved to the sunny side of the city, in our own flat. C was born here and spent her first 3 years in this place. So many happy memories rushed in as we unpacked our stuff that we stored away. Yes, it's a small flat, but there're many other factors that matter more to me than the size of the living space itself.

This swimsuit was sewn about a week ago during my first hour of spare time, after days of unpacking. The contruction took about 20 ninutes. I don't have a sewing space now. Our dinning table has also shrunk size and currently it's mostly C's arts and crafts space.  My sewing machine lives in my closet and I take it out whenever I need it, like the other day I used it to bind a few pages together because I forgot where I had packed the stapler...How did I survive all those years without a sewing machine?

It was three months ago when I discovered Sun N' Fun Swimsuit and Leotard pattern. The Snow Leopard swimsuit I sewed up has been in a serious usage, so much so that the bottom part has started to pill a lot from sitting on various rough surfaces. I used some stronger elastic this time around, which made the swimsuit very tight. Sigh... Also the pattern itself doesn't come with the lengthen of the elastic that you should use. Usually I'm the type that gives up completely on that pattern, but C is in need of a spare swimsuit for the summer beach days. Since I'm not surrendering to the store-bought version yet, I will need to practice more to get a higher success rate. It's such a quick make, I shouldn't have any excuses, really.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Balloon Party Dress

Continuing escaping reality, I made C a dress that shouts summer. I know, I know that we're moving next week, and there are plenty things to sort out, but also because of these moving related house chores, I know it's going to be a while before I plug in my sewing machine again. I had to give an end-of-the-year push.  Besides the mess we are living in right now, we are thoroughly enjoying this school holiday so far. Our days are filled with activities, most of the time a friend is involved.  The other day, C was "kidnapped" by a mom friend at the shopping mall. It's funny how only-child parents are on the hunt all the time looking for play mates for their children.

So anyway, I went through my fabric boxes, to see if there's anything I should get rid of. I'm not a hoarder, but when it comes to fabric, I save even the smallest scraps. What if I could use it one day to make a zipper pouch? Or pocket bias tape? I have a whole box full of scraps that I haven't touched for a year, but I still keep them. Sigh....

I spotted this beautiful cheerful fabric while doing the spring cleaning, and immediately I had the dress in my head already. I have still quite a few brand new fabric from our March/April Tokyo/Shanghai trip and I've been saving them for summer sewing. The pattern is from Mano Akiko's Oshare ga Suki na Onnanoko no Fuku. It's one of the top three books that I intend to sew everything from.

The dress reminds C of birthday parties so we found one last balloon in the house and she drew a picture of bear shaped balloons. In fact, she went to a birthday party that afternoon in this dress. Couldn't've been more appropriate.

Before the sewing days, I'd always buy kids' clothes a little bigger so they'd last longer. I still did that when I just began to sew, choosing a size bigger. But now I sew from the right size, because I don't think she'll ever run out of clothes to wear, as long as I keep on making. Yesterday we went through her clothes and she picked out a few clothes to give to her cousin. She's kept all the ones I've made for her and chosen the store bought ones to give away, some of which are still brand new. I was very touched knowing that she treasures what I've made for her.

Ok I will be entering a packing and unpacking with full force.
See you next week.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Freezer Paper Tee + Peplum Shorts Combo

Hello friends, the school holidays have started, again....I've got non-stop play dates to cover my daily schedule and save my sanity. So far, I'm rocking it. As I'm typing this, we are entering week two of granny and grandpa's visit. It feels like there's a silent transition happening. My sewing stuff is slowly invading the dinning table and I'm learning to ignore grandpa's requests. "Jing, can you put the watermelon in the blender, so I can drink the juice?" "Jing, have you removed the stain on my trousers?" After my ice cream tub is licked and a few chocolates taken from C's advent calendar, I still put on a happy face but to be honest, that inner fire is burning, and I needed sewing therapy.

Remember my stamp carving failure? I was still hooked to the 3D shapes regardless so this dumb-proof freezer paper stenciling happened. The whole outfit looks 10 years younger than me. We've had some scorching days and during those days, all I wanted was to grab a pair of shorts. You know, I haven't even taken out my summer clothes from storage this season. I am trying to foolishly survive with what I've made in the closet. This tee shirt is Deer and Doe's Plantain Tee. I've gone a size bigger, because 1; the last one I made was tiny bit tight. 2; this white knit fabric isn't very stretchy.
The shorts pattern is from I Love Pants. I used the leftover chambray from C's pants

Because it's my blog and I have to be honest to myself, I'm going say this whole looks somewhat homemade and I don't think I'm happy to wear it outside my living room. But I'm sure I will reach for it plenty times during the hot days when lounging at home.

We are doing some major garden renovations. As a result, our house is covered in sawdust for 3 weeks. We've rent out our house on Airbnb. C and I are really looking forward to moving to the other side of the mountain, which is happening next week already. At the mean time, I'm multi-tasking with in-laws, packing and unpacking, in my new outfit.
Till next time.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Stamp Carving

For those of you who do know and don't know, my sewing room is currently on the dinning table. It usually gets spread out to the whole table, but these two weeks, my in-laws are in town for a visit, which means my sewing space is compromised, since you know, we cannot possibly cram 5 people at the coffee table --- our usual meal spot.

I am submerged in interacting with the family these day. Our weekend was relaxed with nice food. It felt like just as I was finishing cleaning up after lunch, dinner service was ready to go. This isn't something I experience often, because 355 days a year, we are a small family on our own. from time to time, I do enjoy having extra people in the house. My 6-year-old is having a ball right now.

Having said that, I get antsy when I cannot sew, or get my hands on something besides house chores and meal services. It's funny at the beginning stage of this blog, I was into cooking and sewing equally. Now I'd do anything to make meals simple and fast. The cooking part is slipping away while my other interests take over.

Stamp carving is something I've been wanting to get into for a while. I've got a pinterest board of stamps. We don't have any Speedball products in South Africa, and since majority of the things on Amazon don't ship to the country, I had to find an alternative. I ended up with lino from Deckle Edge. Their lino is soft and easy to carve. The thing is I find it too smooth and thus the paint doesn't stick very well to it.  I think it's probably because I haven't found a correct way to use it, as I see other people using lino stamps very successfully.

The result became even with worse after I had stuck them onto wood blocks. If the pattern on the images was consistent, I'd have no complaints. It's anything but... Well, it's a practice. There's still so much I have to figure out, like how to use a brayer properly, so the paint is smooth on the board to start with.

I will continue to have small space and small amount of time for crafting to bring sanity to my mind for the following 10 days or so, and I shall explore more alternatives besides sewing. In a way, it's almost exciting.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Not-So-Sportive-Sports-Day Outfit Year Two

Two days ago, a big gap appeared in C's mouth, as her first top tooth fell out. It's almost like a celebration of some sort. Do I need to mention the anticipation waiting for tooth fairy's visit?

C: Are tooth fairies real? Because other fairies might not be. Do adults put money under kids' pillow?
Me: Of course they're real, because I will be too deep in the dream world to put any coins under your pillow...

Is it considered a lie? I don't know how much longer I will be doing errands for various fairies and Santa, but I do hope she'll keep on believing and not lose her innocence anytime soon.

Last year I made a green sports day outfit. It didn't look sportive at all, but at least it matched the team color. This year's color is red. You wouldn't think red is a hard color to source. I went to my trusty fabric shops but none of them had red knit fabric. Knit is related to sportswear, no? Anyway, instead of coming home empty-handed. I came home with red woven fabric. I had a vision of what I wanted to make, and the vision had nothing to do with being sporty, again.

The blouse is from the same pattern that I've used before, here, and the bubbly shorts are from this book. Both books are from "A Sunny Spot" series. Their style is simple, cheerful and everyday clothes made girly, but not too girly.

Before she put on the shorts, C asked me if these are for sure girls' shorts. I assured her by saying that boys' shorts usually aren't so bubbly, which is true. Plus, having pockets inserted definitely wins her heart.

The sleeves offer enough sun coverage, in my Asian perspective. The shorts color is the same tone as the school's uniform, and they allow and encourage plenty movements.

I was told they would run in dads' or moms' flip flops, and try run while holding a ball in between their legs. It's going to be an entertaining Friday.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Old-Me-New-Me Blouse and Trusty Sarouel Pants Combo

The past week had involved so much planning, on paper, that I almost felt unnatural not hearing the chuka-chuka-chukas from my sewing machine. So when a friend asked if I wanted to grab a cup of coffe on Friday morning, I had to turn it down as I was assembling this blouse.

How do you feel about coffee mornings? I feel guilty on two accounts. One hand, the coffee dates usually last two hours given or taken, and some days C's only at school for 4-5 hours. These coffee dates completely throw out my daily productivity. On the other hand, I really feel bad always having to decline an invite. The thing is, I'm trying to build up something to be financially independant or partially independent next year and I need the very little time I have every morning to focus on working, not chit chatting. I mean I do like seeing friends over coffees, but for now, I'll have to leave that SAHM benefit behind. To be realistic, I am still open to coffee once every two weeks.
I am a very self-displined person. Once I've set a goal for myself, I achieve it 99% of the time. The last 1% is left in fate's hands. I've been thinking a lot lately, of my current universally under-appreciated SAHM situation. I've poured every bit of heart and soul into nurturing a child and a family, to the point that I sometimes unfairly think I've traded in my life and my own happiness. The ultimate happiness comes from seeing a happy child. There's no doubt about that. But at what price? Is it worth it when you are treated with little respect according to the money-making status? Should respect come with money, in a marriage, I wonder?

How to evolve from a show-and-tell kind of blog to a career that's flexible enough to suit my other title "mom" is what I have to figure out. I went to two castings in the past week. Modeling isn't something that I'm quite comfortable doing, but in the sake of some potential income, I dived. You know, during my teen years, I almost dropped out of school to pursue a sought after modeling career. Like most teenage girls at my time, I wanted to be a supermodel. I have the height I was the last thing related to obesity, which seemed were the only two facts that mattered at the modeling school I was enrolled in. Three years in, I strongly voted against it. Whether I liked it or not was not important, I lacked the charisma. But you know what else happened, I still went back to do modeling jobs here and there to see through my university years. To follow passion and start a career is no easy task, I will need whatever support jobs I can find. And here I am, more than 10 years later, I'm saying yes to modeling again.

I think it's about time we changed a subject and talked about this outfit I made and am deeply in love with. The blouse is a one-size fits all pattern from Simple Chic. I'm very grateful of my run-of-the-mill Asian "model" body, it fits me so nicely.

The pants are my tried and true Sarouel Pants from Sew Chic. This time I had enough leftover hand dyed linen from a shirt I made for a birthday boy. As you can see, I don't even stray from the neutral colorway, whether it's for a child, or for myself.

This outfit is one hundred percent me. I'd be happy to wear variations of this type of casuel clothes every day. As a matter of a fact, I threw on a hemp jacket and went to the last casting as is.

Whatever the future holds, I'm ready and I can almost see the light already.
Till next time.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


These past few days have been a roller coaster, going only downwards. There has been a series of failure in different levels, which did make me question my ability.
Remember the tank top that I drafted and got so excited for myself? Over the weekend I couldn't wait to share it, so I looked up a few videos/tutorials on how to digitize it. It turned out digitizing a pattern is time consuming work, if you get right. But in my case, it didn't work out at all. I ended up spending the whole Sunday afternoon trying to figure out how to do it, or  rather how to fail it. In the end of the day, I was frustrated. Lots of time were invested without any outcome. It happened to me once before when I tried to add social media buttons onto this blog. Googled a few tutorials, but none of them worked.  The tech and I are not getting along well at the moment. To this day, I still don't have the buttons on, and I do intend to move this whole space to a customized domain in the future, but there's no way I'm fiddling with it myself again.
After the pattern digitizing failure, I thought I'd sew a few basic tanks, on different fabric, just to see how it behaves. I cut out three kinds of fabric --- two thicknesses of rib and one plain cotton knit --- and sewed up all three of them, but only the plain cotton knit that doesn't stretch a lot turned out nicely. I was having a hard time getting the neckline right, thanks to the stretchiness of rib. These tanks top take very little time to construct. If it was anything more complicated, I'd probably have had a meltdown already. Right now, I'm just glad I wasn't able to share it online to cause anyone else's misery. Sometimes things happen for a reason, right?

The thing is I am not ready. I am eager, but not ready. I am all self-taught, still fresh and new, and yet I want to go out there already and try do what takes other professional pattern makers years to achieve. OK maybe not years to draft a tank top, but still. There's so much potential fail and error involved to get a perfect fit. I was lucky enough to get it right for the one top I made by winging it. That saying "practice makes perfect" never gets old. I'm happy to start from the basics and practise until my neckline is not rippled anymore.

As for the rest of the week, I will be doing lots of pattern tracing and woven fabric cutting. I am going to get back on the horse with my reliable Japanese sewing books. Talking about destressing....
 Till next time.

Friday, November 13, 2015

A Post Halloween Owl Costume

C went to school today dressed up like an owl. They got to dress to whatever they like, no fine print this time. Since the kids are restricted to school uniform daily, this day is like letting animals out of the zoo, or getting starved for 3 days then being led to a eat-as-much-as-you-can buffet (?). OK the metaphors might not sound right here. What I'm trying to say is they're all pretty excited and mine certainly was.
C: Mom, I think I'm going to a baker. I will need a chef's hat.
Me: (Out of all the possibilities, you chose to be a baker? You are not even into baking.) Sure, but is it something you really want to dress up to? You can be anything.
C: Well, I'd like to be an owl, and bring Oreo (they have to bring some snack that begins with the same letter of their outfit), but I don't have an owl costume.
Me: I can make you one.
C: ............ REALLY?! I want to be an owl. I want to be an owl. I want to be an owl. (repeat 10 more times)
If I had to give one good reason to why I've chosen to sew, I guess this is it. To know that I'm probably capable of making any costume (to a kid's standard), and to see the joys on her face, are pretty priceless. They are the best rewards one can ask for.
Maybe it's because that Mavy Wavy costume I made for Halloween was easy peasy. I was really happy to be assigned to the owl costume task. The most time consuming part was cutting out the felt feathers. I didn't count but there must be hundreds of them. I actually used that Mavy Wavy dress as a base (bye bye vampire dress), because what's faster than making up a new tee shirt dress is not making one. Remember I lost 3 days to the feverish combat. For the wings, I used a cape pattern from this book. I added two loops on the inside of the cape where her wrists are so the cape wouldn't shift around. The rest was "pin and sew", "pin and sew"...repeat.

The school's got some other upcoming events all jammed up at the end of the year that have dress codes in specific colors. How the school always picks out the colors that C doesn't own any outfit in is beyond me.

To that, I can only say SQUAWK SQUAWK SQUAWK. 
Something purple, something red, something white, until next time.

The Sick Days

Once or twice or year C is invaded by some virus from a more-than-mild group. It usually involves (a lot of) stay-at-home days. Her first and longest sick-leave from school was just over a year ago, when she had a tummy bug, with an ongoing fever for 4 days, followed by a slow recovery of tummy and appetite. Her very recent one was two days ago, from almost a reason unknown. Hoever, I suspect it's from the vaccination she had two weeks before that. Possible?
Talking about the sick days, I'm almost too scared to admit that I enjoy them. Of course it's not on acount of her being unwell, but rather the open policies on those days. Besides sleeping, there really isn't much she can do, due to the physical state. Generally, I am not too happy with the amount of time she spends on electronic devices. I am too shamed to admit the hours even to my best friend.  But during the sick days, if she wants to play or watch things on the iPad, she gets it, limitless. I think all she did for 3 days was, sleep + iPad. I had to picture her  on an aeroplane to a faraway place, with entertainment/space/energy limitations.
There is another plus side. Whenever she's sick, I automatically become bedridden too. It's the constant attention seeking that she's not grown out of. During the 3 sick days, I managed to finish reading a book, deleted 5000+ junk emails from my laptop, and kind of set a goal with actual plans for the coming year. The bed transformed into a functional office... I always worry and try plan out healthy meals for my fussy eater and whole family, but because she's lost all the appetite and I was needed there 24/7, I wasn't on cooking duty, which was a nice break for me too.
As always, breaks don't last forever, I'm happy she's fully recovered and has gone to school. The golden rules for TV and iPad are reapplied. I'm back on cooking duty. Farewell cereal diet.*
Until next year.....
* When I don't cook, no one cooks.
P.S. picture credit goes to C. She's started to write. I love the pattern on the birds body. That "Cocadudoldu" is my favorite.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Summer Necessity Tank Top + Shorts Combo

This tank top took me 20 minutes to sew. If I had used elastic instead of bias binding to finish off the neckline and arm holes, it would've dropped to 10 minutes. But why is it kind of special is not because of the time I spent sewing it up but the pattern drafting part.

When it comes to pattern drafting, I'm a lazy person at heart. I am too happy to use an existing tested pattern than to take on the drafting part myself. But this time I searched high and low on the internet and didn't end up with a basic girls' tank top pattern, to my liking. There are two versions here and here available online though. I even went to Fabric City to look for a basic pattern and came home empty handed. The tank top pattern they've got from Burda has very wide shoulder straps. It looks like a sleeveless tee. I have a very decent tee shirt pattern available, why bother getting another one without the sleeve pieces? I gave up.

From left to right, I tried to do a gathered version first but found it way too baggy. Then I adapted from a basic tee, curving the armholes and narrowing the shoulder straps. I could lower the front neckline a little more, but I was happy with the depth. From the second version to the third, I cropped a little more near the armholes and eventually made it more fitted, but not too tight. I had two meters of this not too stretchy knits to play with, and I achieved the final result without using up all the fabric.

I've learnt most of the techniques from the internet and I very much intend to digitize this basic tank top pattern and share it, once I've figured out how to draw pattern on Illustrator. I hope it doesn't too long.

These shorts were a quick sew and I can see they're going to become wardrobe staples. I made myself a pair of "granny pants" two weeks back and C's been nagging to get a same pair. I think this look most certainly accomplished her request.

We went to a Grade 1 preparation talk for parents at school last week and one speaker was saying how easily distracted a child at this age could be. She was talking about encouraging the kids to dress themselves in the morning. It's very possible in the middle of the dressing, they'd go to their Lego and start building, with sleeves hanging. I can so relate to that. If I have to wait and force C to dress herself every morning, I will need to set the alarm o'clock at least half an hour earlier. Look at her in the picture above, in the mere five-minute shoot, she had played with masking tape, grabbed a monkey mask and doodled on some unimportant school paper.

C's stayed at home today due to some potential tummy bug. My sewing plan for the week is blown up, but hey here's a little peek for the next project.
Hope to see you soon.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Men's Windbreaker Jacket

Hi, I've survived a week's dosage of butter and sugar. After C's birthday on Wednesday, she was the baker lady at school on Friday, which only meant more baking. The idea of baker man/lady is to involve kids in the baking process, but this time C was way too busy with some Lego she got for her birthday. It turned out to be a good thing, because she didn't accidently swallow half of the chocolate chips that were supposed to go into the biscuits this time.

Two nights last week I fell asleep at 8 p.m. and woke up at midnight coming to the dinning room table to cut some fabric. I am considering sewing and blogging my work and I'm taking it quite seriously. Maybe too seriously. Most C's friends' moms are stay-at-home moms, and the ones that do have some kind of day job/ part-time job are mostly rediscovery new careers after having kids. Often the hours are rather flexible, to accommodate the kids' schedule. I haven't brought any bread to the table for 6 years and I know everytime we have a financial argument, the arrows are always pointing at me. I could go and get a day job, but then we would have to hire people to take C out of school and look after her from the early afternoons and definitely a baby-sitter during the school holidays. Besides the fact that a big chunk of my salary might go straight to the baby-sitter and dinner take-aways, my passion is not sitting in an office and counting the hours any more. Yes, sometimes I do picture myself in an office, dealing with orders and numbers and more logical grown-ups. When it gets hard keeping C entertained, I feel the need to go out there and spend a month vacation working in an office. But I'm glad I stayed at home and now I've discovered this passion that has woken up the creativity inside me and I feel I should stick with it and see where it takes me. I know posting these garments I've sewn won't help with any financial situations, but I'm investing the time in me. My goal for next year is to cover at least C's extra mural fees (sounds realistic?), even if it means I have to have a little production line in the house to sell some of the garments.

A few months ago, I ordered this book called Men's Basic Styles. But the pattern sheets didn't arrive with the book. I emailed them immediately and the lovely people at CDJapan had the sheets sent to me within a week. Amazon often don't ship to South Africa. I'm very glad I found this alternative Japanese website. Although these books are all in Japanese language, the website itself is in English.
It wasn't my initial attemp to clothes my whole family, but I've been interested in men's wear for a while. I know they usually involve a lot more pattern pieces than women's wear, with a lot more details that are easily unnoticed by a non-sewer. Like this jacket, for example, almost there's a top stitch on the right side of every single seam. This waterproofing material is quite difficult to press, so I love the top stitching part to hold the seams neat. Bias tapes are applied on the hood and neckline seams. They definitely make a garment look more finished and professional. The pockets themselves have some interesting details too.

I did spent some extra time putting this jacket together and admiring it. It was really fun. Overall, it's a really cool jacket, except....
It's teeny weeny small on M, even though I've measured and chosen the biggest size already. To make it again, I'll have to grade one or two sizes up myself, for the arms and chest area. Certain movements are restrained like stretching your arms to drive, or tying shoe laces. I know that kind of feeling. It would make me  very irritated. But M insists on hanging the jacket in the wardrobe. I don't know when he'll actually wear it due to the size issue, but I appreciate for him to accept it.
 A closer look of the jacket.
I say he is a natural in front of the camera. C strongly suggests my sewing rotation include daddy now as well. I'm not so sure about that just yet. But it definitely opens a new door to me. Sewing for men isn't that scary after all.