Sew & Tell: Winter Party Skirts

Our whole house has been sick for over a week, but I think we’re finally getting better.  At least Yuki is better and that makes things waaay easier.  I’m trying to get back into a blogging schedule and this week I have at least two projects to share with you.

This year for my sister’s birthday, I told her I’d make her a skirt as her present.  So we found this tutorial from Creative Spaces for a party skirt and went fabric shopping.  I took her to my favorite fabric store in the city, Peapod Fabrics, and she picked out this gorgeous Japanese fabric that just screamed AUTUMN.  It was perfect.

I like to call this color burnt butterscotch.  It’s such a rich warm color.

It took me forever to actually make, so instead of being an autumn skirt, it ended up being a winter skirt.  But I finally finished it and decided to make Yuki a little matching number with leftover fabric.  Yuki’s has a flat front, elastic waist in the back and ties for a bow that can be tied in the front OR back.  My sister’s has a zipper in the back and a removable sash that can be tied in the front, back or taken off completely.  The only thing I forgot to add is pockets!!  It would have been a great addition.

These pictures are of the kid’s version of the skirt.

Here’s some pictures from our Auntie-Niece photoshoot!

Happy Belated Birthday to my sister, Julie.  Isn’t she beautiful?  I swear, she got the beauty, the brains, and the heart.  She’s absolutely amazing.  Best sister and fantastic aunt to Yuki.  AND she lives close to us.  We’re so lucky!

In shop news, I’m really starting to feel the pressure as holiday shopping season officially has begun.  I think I’m abandoning my “grand opening” idea and planning on just opening the shop with one or two items and adding more as I have them.  I’ll keep you all updated, but here’s a secret – the kid’s version of this skirt (with pockets) will be available in the shop!


Sew & Tell: Totoro Costume

See the full Totoro Costume Tutorial HERE!

**I do not make Totoro Costumes for sale. **   *UPDATE: Since this post has been getting a lot of views, I figure I should at least add one photo of the finished hood.  This post was published with photos from her first fitting and after these were taken, I decided to add the whiskers and the leaf.  You can read more about that in this tutorial.  Hope you like it!* This year, I really wanted to make Yuki’s costume, but we could not decide for a long time what she should be.  We threw around some ideas, but none of them really excited me.  I’ve had this idea of dressing Yuki up as Totoro for a long time (since she was born?), but was worried that no one would know what she was.  But since I couldn’t think of anything better, I decided to go for it.  So what if I would have to explain a hundred times who she was supposed to be!  At least she would be adorable and original . . . right? Well, I finished most of the costume EARLY this year (meaning not the night before or morning of) and I’m a little unsure of how I feel about it.  It came out better than I expected in some ways and not as cute as I imagined in other ways.  In terms of the construction, I’m pleased.  I’d never made a full body suit before.  I’d never done an outfit with sleeves.  Or made a hood.  I just kinda made it up as I went along and it surprisingly worked out alright.  Actually, better than alright, it came out looking pretty damn clean.  On the other hand, it doesn’t look like Totoro to me.  I think there is something wrong with the shape.  Or the face.  Or the proportions.  I’m not quite sure and I might have to do a little more fiddling around (eek, that means I’m not actually done yet!), so maybe you can give me some feedback. I’m actually so impressed that I was able to get these pics of Yuki.  She does NOT like hoods or hats.  She generally rips them off the second we put them on.  I’d tried to get this hat on her a few times while sewing to see if it fit and she hated it.  She wouldn’t even let me get near her with it towards the end.  But I realized that if you keep her really really distracted, she won’t notice it for quite awhile. So in case you don’t know who Totoro is, he is a character from a Japanese animated movie, となりのトトロ or My Neighbor Totoro.  Although it’s a foreign film, there are quite a few people in the states that have seen it.  Here he is! So cute, right?!  Ok ok, so here’s our little Totoro . . .

Something about this costume reminds me of Max from Where the Wild Things Are.  It’s well suited for making mischief!

I’m actually hoping that it’ll be cold on Halloween because this costume is made out of fleece and SUPER warm!  I need to make some adjustments, but here are some of the basic details of the costume.  Overall, it’s a pretty simple design that I based off of Yuki’s pajamas.

I zig zag stitched the chevrons on the chest and the white tummy to the rest of the suit.  This was the first part of the costume I sewed, and the first thing I sewed on my brand new machine.  It was dreamy 🙂

Instead of a zipper and snap in the front, I moved it to the back.

I also added elastic to the wrists and ankles and snaps to the legs for easy diaper changes.

For the hood, I used a hooded jacket to trace the shape.  I cut two pieces and sewed them together, then made the snap collar thing with a long rectangle.  I made ears (and the tail) with scraps of fleece and stuffed it with poly-fil.  Then I hand sewed the ears and face on.

I want to add whiskers to the costume.  Any ideas for what I can use??  I want to use something smaller and not as sharp as pipe cleaners.  Maybe some yarn with fabric stiffener?  I’m taking suggestions.

Now I gotta work on my costume.  It’s going to be super simple this year.  What are you going to be for Halloween??

Sew & Tell: Halloween Costume History

I love Halloween costumes.  For the last few years, I’ve really been into making them for myself, Hideko and even a few friends.  I probably picked it up from my mom who would always help us put together great costumes or sew awesome creations for us.  Look at me and my siblings back in the day!

I was a princess and my mom made this outfit out of some old dress, I think.  My sister is a bunny and I’m fairly certain my mom made that entire costume.  In the back is Mike and he is a Ghostbuster, using a Members Only jacket with a homemade patch, proton pack and ghost trap (you can’t see it in this picture).  I’m not sure about Rob’s army fatigue.  That may have been store bought.

Anyways, now it’s my turn to make costumes, and since I work at a school, I still have to dress up too (or maybe it’s just a good excuse to get dressed up :))!  Here are some of the costumes I’ve made in the past.

I think it all started with this one in 2004.  I was living in Japan and we were throwing a Halloween celebration for the kids in the city (it’s not traditionally celebrated there) and I thought this would be an awesome character, since it’s from a Japanese movie.  Unfortunately, most people thought I was a Native American!  I was not, I assure you.  Do you know who I am??

(I’m the one on the right :)) This is the only picture I have, it’s too bad you can’t see the rest of the costume.  I didn’t have a sewing machine or any real crafting tools.  But I had a lot of fun scouring the 100 yen store (like a 99 cent store), the second hand store and any other place to find pieces I could use for the costume.  Here’s a pic of the actual character.

It’s Princess Mononoke.  She’s pretty bad-ass huh?

I picked up the sewing bug again in 2008 when I made this bat costume.  I remember coming up with the idea the night before Halloween, running to a couple of stores for the supplies and staying up late to finish it by morning.  I didn’t have a sewing machine, so everything was just hand stitched together.

I really loved how warm, comfortable, simple and convenient this costume was.  It was a hooded sweatshirt with stuff attached to it.  I got to wear sweats to work!  Could it be any better?  So sweatshirt animals has been my thing, pretty much every year since.

I’ve made a cat (2009)

A dog (2009)

And an owl (2009)

Last year was Yuki’s first halloween.  For her, Hideko wanted a lamb costume.

Yes, she slept pretty much the whole time she was in the costume.

For us, I went with sweatshirt animals again.  A cow and a chicken to complete the family farm 🙂 (2010)

One of my favorite costumes to date was NOT a sweatshirt animal.  Hideko decided to be Russell from UP.  I LOVE this movie.  Russell is so damn cute and funny.  I thought this costume would be awesome to recreate.  It was also very very time consuming.

Here’s Russell from UP . . .

Haha, I can’t get enough of him!  And here’s our Russell (2009) . . .

Not bad, eh?  That’s the only picture I have of her in the costume, but you should have seen her backpack!  She actually borrowed rope and a trumpet and hung lanyards and carabiners from her backpack AND attached a bunch of colorful balloons!!

My absolute favorite part is the sash.  Russell is an over eager Wilderness Explorer.  He has earned all this badges except one, the Assisting the Elderly badge.  You can see that he has a space for the missing badge.  The badges are made from felt.  I cut them out based on actual badges from the movie that I found in pictures online and in a book.

Yes, it took A LOOONG time to do all of them, but I really REALLY enjoyed making them.  Does that make me weird??  I could not be bothered with sewing them all on, so these were just glued on.  After being worn a few times and then stored in a bag for a couple of years, they are still looking pretty good.  I wouldn’t dare put the sash through the wash though.

I made more felt patches for the shirt, the hat and a felt flag.  I made the neckerchief out of some orange cotton and used a wooden napkin ring, foam and some paint for the slide (I had to look up what the terms were for both of those things).  The other pin thing was made with more foam and some painted beads and twine.

We bought the shirt and hat from the thrift store.  The shorts were mine and the shoes we borrowed from a friend.  The only things we bought that were new (besides some materials) were the orange shoelaces!  We had a lot of fun with that costume – when we walked around you could here all these people calling out, “Hey!  It’s the guy from Up!”

Anyways, those were some of our costumes from the last few years.  This year I’m busier than ever so while Yuki is getting a new handmade costume, Hideko is reusing one of our old costumes (with a twist) and I haven’t decided what I’m doing yet.  I was thinking about bringing Russell back (I mean, all that work and you only get to wear it for one day!?).  But we’ll see.  Yuki’s costume is done and the post is coming up soon!  Here is the sneak peek – do you know who this is?

Sew & Tell: Yuki’s Dresses

For some of you who have been following my sewing adventures for awhile, this post may be old news.  But in an effort to archive some of my older projects, I’m going to post it anyways.  Over the summer, I got on a dress sewing kick.  I suddenly had ideas for simple dresses and wanted to see if I could make them for my daughter, Yuki.  I based them off of dresses I’d seen, or something similar that Yuki already owned, but I didn’t use a pattern so it was really trial and error sewing.  I learned A LOT from each of these projects.  So here they are and some of the lessons I’ve learned.

Dress #1: Earl Grey Summer Dress (Hideko named this one!)

I had actually bought this fabric to make my friends M&M some cloth napkins for their home.

I had some left over, so I decided to use it for a simple (and a little sophisticated) dress for Yuki.  (I love how little fabric you need to make baby clothes!!)

Lesson #1: Make sure armholes are big enough.  I had to squeeze her arms through from even the first time she tried it on, so she didn’t get to wear it very much.

Dress #2: Sailing Dress

I based this dress off of the popular elastic waist skirts and dresses I’ve seen around.  I topped it with a stretchy striped knit.

Lesson #2: Be sure to measure your model before you cut and sew.  The first time I put together the skirt part of the dress it was WAAAAAAY too big for Yuki.  Instead of taking it apart to fix it, I decided to just sew it up in the back.  But this meant having 3 seams instead of 2 or even 1.  And the side seams were not even on the side anymore, they were pulled towards the back.  Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy.  Luckily, you can only tell if you look real close.

Lesson #3:  Knits are great if you know how to sew them.  If you sew regular stitches on a stretchy material, it will either look bad, lose all of it’s stretchiness, or both.  I had originally made this dress with a normal neckline in front and back, thinking it would just stretch over her head.  But it did not stretch after I had sewn it.  So it would not fit over her head.  So I had to cut the back open and do more sloppy stitching and add a button.

Dress #3: Neapolitan Wrap Dress

Yuki had another wrap dress that we loved her in, so I thought I’d try and make her another one.  The colors on this fabric remind me of neapolitan ice cream.  Yummm!

Lesson #4:  I don’t actually know what the lesson is here.  All I know if that the dress doesn’t fit her too well on the top.  I guess I just need to try things on Yuki as I sew instead of finishing the dress and then realizing that it doesn’t fit.  The problem is, I only sew when she is asleep.

Dress #4: Birthday Dress

I wanted to make Yuki a special dress for her birthday.  When I went to the fabric store I saw this beautiful material with the most precious print and soft feel.  The shop owner told me it was double gauze from Japan.  When I came home I read all about it here.  It. is. dreamy.  It’s really the only word I can think of to describe it.  When I washed and dried it, it had gotten even softer!

Anyways, I’m not really one to dress my daughter in pink dresses with a bow, but I could not help it.  I used a style very similar to the Earl Grey Summer Dress, but used a zipper in the back instead of buttons and added a waistband (that ended up being covered by the ribbon) AND made sure there was more room in the bodice to put the dress on easily (no more too small armholes)!

Lesson #5: Every time you make a mistake, make sure you learn how to avoid it next time.

This 4th dress was by far the easiest and least mistake ridden dress.  I’m happy to say that I have learned so much about sewing and dress making from these projects and I’m very excited to make more!  And I have some lovely polka dot double gauze waiting to be sewn up!

Sew & Tell: Seersucker Tie Front Pants

What kid doesn’t need a pair of seersucker pants??  These are your standard pants with an elastic waist.  I added a tie with two belt loops to add a little extra touch of character.

These are our new favorite lightweight pants for Yuki to go running around and exploring in.  They are nice and roomy in the legs so she can move freely.

Does your kid need a pair?

Sew & Tell: Repurposed Tank Top Turned Girl’s Halter

This was a fun project because I got to take something old that I wasn’t quite ready to part with and turn it into something new for Yuki!  I’ve had this top for years and it was one of my favorite summer tank tops.  It just screams “let’s hang out at Golden Gate Park on a sunny day!”  But unfortunately, I grew out of it (literally).  Here it is before:

And you can see that it’s already too small for me 😦

And one year later!

Looks the same, huh?

This was an extremely easy project because I kept almost everything the same.  I didn’t touch the front and I kept the back the same except I tightened the elastic a bit.  I removed the straps and moved them closer together.  The original straps criss-crossed in the back and were attached with buttons.  I decided to skip all that and just tie them like a halter.  Then I sewed up the sides and cut and hem the bottom and I was done!  Easiest top I ever made!

This project has really inspired me to start looking at things differently.  There is so much old clothes (and bedding, towels, etc.) that I just toss or donate, even if it has just a tiny hole or stain.  Now I look at old things and try to imagine what I can make with the fabric to turn it into something fresh and new!  It’s good for me, good for Yuki, and good for the environment!  The only one who loses out of this deal is my sister, who, as an adult, has come to embrace the hand-me-downs. 🙂

Sew & Tell: Hideko’s Wallet

Last week was Hideko’s birthday and I had no idea what to get her.  We also are trying to save money so I think we said “no gifts” but I figured if I made her something small and it was inexpensive it wouldn’t really count.

A year or two ago we were at a craft fair and we saw these cool wallets made from old ties and suits.  She really liked them, but didn’t want to buy one for herself.  I totally should have bought one for her then and there, but I didn’t and it’s been floating in my head since then.

Then recently when we were shopping for fabric for Tucker’s suit, we came across some great suit-like fabrics that Hideko really liked.  The idea to make a wallet didn’t really come to me then, but all the pieces were starting to come together.

Finally, the day before Hideko’s birthday, I realized that I had no gift (unfortunately, this happens quite often).  That’s when the fabric wallet idea came to me!  I picked up some fabric at Fabrix that I knew Hideko liked because she had pointed it out during our last visit and whipped up this wallet.  It was surprisingly easy!  I didn’t use a pattern, I just modeled it after other fabric wallets out there and used cash and credit cards to get the right size.  And it requires such a small amount of fabric that you could easily make this with scraps in your stash OR repurposing old fabric you have laying around, pants, ties, shirts, whatever.  All you need is coordinating fabric for the outside and inside and some interfacing to give add some thickness and stiffness so it holds its shape.  Maybe one day I’ll do a tutorial on this one.

Now with all the leftover fabric I’m dying to make Yuki a casual reversible vest.  Another project to add to the list!

Anyways, Happy Birthday to my beautiful and loving partner, Hideko!  I hope you like your wallet!

Sew & Tell: Tucker’s Suit

Friends of ours are taking their 8 month old son to a couple of weddings on the East Coast in October and they wanted a baby friendly “suit” for him.  I’d never made anything like this before, but I love trying new things.  Here is the finished outfit!

I made the vest from a pattern I purchased on etsy and the pants using this tutorial from made.  The part I had the most difficulty with was finding the fabric.  I wanted something that looked suit-like, but was machine washable and dryable – incredibly important for anything coming within a couple feet of a baby!  This is a MUST for most of my projects and ruled out any wool or wool blend fabrics.  I also didn’t want it to be too thick or stiff so lil Tucker, who is starting to crawl, would be free to move.  Lastly, I didn’t want it to look too old for a youthful guy like Tuck.

What I ended up getting was a polyester fabric from Fabrix in the Inner Richmond.  This place can be great.  It’s like shopping at Ross or a thrift store.  You have to dig and dig for something amazing, but when you find exactly what you want, it’s like striking gold.  And generally it’s very very inexpensive.  Most of the time I walk out empty handed, especially when I’m looking for something very specific.  But if you are just looking for some fun and cheap fabric, I highly recommend it.  I found a bunch of great suit-like fabrics that are all polyester (machine washable) and I’ve already made a wallet for Hideko and I can’t wait to make some vests for Yuki!

The best thing about this project is that it forced me to make buttonholes.  Up until now, I’ve avoided them completely by using zippers, snaps, and button loops.  But for a vest, it was unavoidable.  I found the buttonhole foot, read the instruction manual for the sewing machine and . . . I could not figure it out.  For the life of me.  I could not get it to work.  So after trying about a hundred times, I gave up and just made the buttonholes with the zig zag stitch.  It’s essentially the same thing.  Maybe I’ll figure it out someday, but for now, this will suffice.

But wait, there’s a surprise bonus . . .

A necktie!  I haven’t talked to Tucker’s moms about this, but I couldn’t resist adding this little accessory.  I don’t even know if he’ll wear it with the suit, but that’s ok!  He can pair this tie with any outfit, even just a t-shirt and jeans, to add a little character.  I used this tutorial from Very Homemade.

Hopefully we can get a picture of Tucker looking dapper in his new outfit.  I’m afraid he’s going to steal all the attention at these weddings – he is one of the cutest babies I’ve ever seen!

Well, as you can see, I’m still a beginner and I use other people’s patterns to make a lot of my stuff.  As I gain more experience, I hope to come up with my own projects and patterns to share with you guys.  Until then, I’m so grateful for the wonders of the internet and all the generous people who share their stuff with the world.  Thank you!