Monthly Archives: September 2009

Found an Injured Stray Kitty…

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…suffering from a broken leg, shock, and dehydration. Picked it up and asked around to find out how I might have helped it, but the advice I got from a vet was “leave it somewhere for someone else to find”. I can’t keep a cat because of apartment rules. What a guy! (Updates in Comments)

Convalescing Feral Kitty- 6 months female. No name yet!

Convalescing Feral Kitty- 6 months female. No name yet!

Finally, a Top for My Linen Pajamas!

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It feels so good to be able to say that!!  I finally got the top made for my pajama design. I now have one set of Small/Medium size pajamas (^^)v.  They are not as see through as I thought- only a little bit.  The next order of business is to decide on a design and create some applique bits, and figure out the best way to attach them.  This portion- the embellishing- will be done completely by hand. That might take awhile. See, up until now, I was taking a little long to get by pajama design out. Now I have it and even though I need to create a Medium/Large pattern, that shouldn’t take nearly as long as me figuring out the design itself. Once I have my patterns ready to go, it’s just a matter of getting a creative rhythm going to assemble. According to my scientific calculations, I should be able to turn out 2 sets of pajamas a week. (Um, maybe I can tout exclusivity and limited quantities- hey, works for Hermes!)

In other news, I spent the last evening on a mini-vacation with Yo. We drove through the countryside in Chiba, and spent the afternoon at Kamogawa Seaworld Aquarium on the Pacific seaside. The aquariums were fabulous- We had the privilege of seeing (and not touching although there was no glass or anything stopping our hands) a dozen baby sea turtles swimming around in a little terrarium set up. There was also a big, ugly, hydrodynamically unlikely fish (“manbo” in Japaneses, “Sunfish” in English) bumping around a rather dull and otherwise empty small tank. We enjoyed a dolphin show and an orca show.  Actually its hard for me to watch these shows the last couple of times I’ve been to an aquarium: I nearly come to tears, because the tanks are so small and made to seem even smaller by the back drop of Pacific Ocean, not even 30 meters away! This is compounded by the YouTube videos I have seen of the way dolphins are captured in the Japanese town of Taiji. Its rather horrifying. Some are sold to aquariums like the ones I have visited, but most are “culled” (killed to keep them from competing with fisherman for fish)- either way, once they are corralled in The Cove, they are done with the sea.

Anyway, after the drizzly afternoon in Kamogawa, we backtracked to Kisarazu on the Tokyo Bay side of Chiba where our ryokan (boutique hotel) was. We found it on the internet, it had some cool looking rooms with private hot spring tubs (not hot tubs) and a great 10 course dinner package. Each course was quite small but nevertheless I thought I would explode by the time we finished. We enjoyed that in a private room as well. Many ryokans serve dinners in the rooms, but this one did not and thats just as well- the table in our room was low to the floor in the traditional Japanese style, and the dining room had fine old high backed chairs at a proper western table. I could never eat so much on the floor.  We enjoyed some of the shared access baths on the roof, but mostly stayed in our suite where a shower room doubled as a window to the patio which held a garden table and chairs next to the spring tub. We soaked in that as it continued to drizzle rain, the garden lit up very nicely.  The whole room was an expert combination of East and West, very Meiji (Japanese Victorian) style.  Just the right mix of old and new too! And the toilet set had automatic everything- lid up when you entered the closet, down when you left, flush, heated seat, bidet with a dryer…  Very wow.  This hotel even had free DVD borrowing- very thematic here! All they had were black and white Hollywood classics! We watched Treasure Island and Roman Holiday.  When we entered the room it has wonderful relaxing classical music already going.  Anyway.  That represents our last vacation until next summer when we hope to go to Hokkaido to see Yo’s family.

Patience is Not My Strongest Point…

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It is now Friday and I haven’t posted on what I have been doing in the way of progress this past week. I have been working on toiles with cotton fabric that I have on hand. It would really be upsetting if I were to slice into my linen and make a stupid mistake I could have made on cheaper cotton.  And I have made soooo many mistakes! Many just understanding what I can and can’t do with my machine, important points on making it work properly, like setting the bobbin so that it unravels one way and not the other, controlling tension, all sorts of silly little things that make a huge difference!  I have made a habit of ALWAYS feeding some scrap into the machine to find these mistakes before feeding it my project. This habit has saved a lot of pain (but many other things have still gotten by).

Anyway, after so many mistakes and corrections, I finally got to the point where I couldn’t take it anymore-  I took a big leap and put scissors to my linen.  Ohh yes.  It was terrifying and satisfying at the same time.  But I did it!  I got as far as to finish the waistband on the pajama pants, but not the legs.  I am still debating on how to treat the legs- I really want a band of color, so I am thinking to do that last, after a little, um, embellishing…  A drawstring was another idea, easy for fitting but not so adorable. I also had the idea to do a button-type cinching but thought it might not be comfortable to sleep in. So maybe just a simple band, wide enough to clear the calf but not so wide as to easily pass the knee.

Not bad if I do say so myself! Legs aren't finished though.

Not bad if I do say so myself! Legs aren't finished though.

Yahoo!!!  So all the mistakes I made so far, I somehow managed to remember them and got a solid pair of pajama pants!  What I don’t have, is a decision on how to make the top…  This first version will be sleeveless of course. Not so great for winter wear for those of us (including myself) who like to bundle up to save on heating costs.  Another thing that I realized is, that this fabric is pretty sheer. Would lining it (or parts of it) be worthwhile? I am thinking of just lining the front of the top. For the pants, I’d rather recommend cute undies (^^). I like the idea, but I don’t know how other people would feel about that! So, right now, my mind is on how to make a good top. Back to toiles I guess.

In other news- on Monday Yo and I decided

Respected and revered by Japanese, the temple and garden at Narita are a place to meditate quietly and reflect on li...  oh no, honey! Back up just a little bit more!!!  Oh darn- missed it by a millimeter...

Respected and revered by Japanese, the temple and garden at Narita are a place to meditate quietly and reflect on li... oh no, honey! Back up just a little bit more!!! Oh darn- missed it by a millimeter...

we needed some exercise- all this sitting at work and staying at home (I have many reasons for sitting at home), I am starting to feel very…  unhealthy.  So, we gave the new car navigation system a whirl and it led us to Narita Mountain Temple.  It’s huge and beautiful, and sadly, although it is very close to the international airport (also called Narita), most visitors to Japan miss this temple and instead head for the small, cheesy and famous one in Tokyo with the huge red lantern.  Anyone who visits me in Japan, definitely gets a stroll at Narita Mountain.  It’s more like a hill, really…

We ran around, I practiced with the macro on the camera, Yo clapped for the koi fish to come up to him (and it worked!), then we went up toward the town and bought some soft cream, fresh milk, raspberry honey, and some pickles!!  I love pickles (^^).  Very nice exercise and a day of rest away from… resting…  Next weekend we have a little overnight trip planned.  I’ll keep working on the photography!!

Story of a Dress

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This morning when I woke up and sat down with my morning tea to ready my Morning Coffee (a Firefox app that brings up all the website I “need” to check first thing), I opened my email and found a response from Jennie of http://www.sensibility.com.  She’s added my photos and dress-making story to her show-and-tell blog (^^).   Please see the link under “Blogroll”. To check out all her amazing patterns of dresses from days gone by, please click the link under My Favorite Shops.  Anyway, she has kindly posted the photos I sent to her to show what I did with her pattern for a Regency (circa 1800’s) style dress.  I made my wedding gown out of it, and wore it this past June.

It took me (and at the end my best friend, Leah) 6 whole months to make this dress.  For six months, I hand stitched the bodice and the skirt, using vintage lace and real silk Duchess satin. I do not recommend using Duchess satin unless you are a very patient, and more experienced seamstress. I don’t know if it would have been easier with a machine, but Duchess satin is very slippery and its very difficult to convince it to keep the shape you mean it to have. I got around this (on the bodice, or, top part of the dress) by basting it to the lace, which was actually easier to handle and kept its shape a lot better! Then I was able to stitch the bits together by hand. Next came the sleeves. I wanted to use the decorative scalloped hem on the lace, only to elbow length, and I didn’t want much puffy-ness on the shoulder seam. So I not only had to figure out how to adjust the pattern for the sleeve, I also had to match the scalloping so the edges would be even.  Finally I had to put a lining in. I was determined to not leave any rough edges anywhere in my dress- this was important to make it easy to wash without sending it to a dry cleaner. Even the rough edges under the lining were bound in some way. Honestly, I can’t remember exactly how I did it. Mostly French seams, I think, but the armholes where the sleeves attached…  I can’t explain how- but it took me a couple of days to pin it just right so the the lining folded around the edges of the bodice lace and Duchess AND the sleeve edges to form a pocket, and each layer of fabric was stitched together that way.

This took me 6 months. I had to put it down a lot- it was tedious work and I got really stressed sometimes. I couldn’t hide the work from Yosuke, we already lived together and our apartment is very small, and we do almost everything together, even hanging out at home. One room has decent temperature control and light. So, he was always aware of my progress and sometimes expressed how worried he was that it would not be finished before wedding time.

At a certain point, I had finished the bodice completely, and the skirt (all three layers- lining, Duchess, and lace overlay) pieces were all constructed but not attached to each other.  I had no idea how to manage that by myself without a dress form.  So I found a way to make a dress from out of a t-shirt and duct tape. A sound principle, and one I tried but ran into two problems: first, convincing Yosuke to help me with it, and to sacrifice one of his t-shirts of which he has way too many (and I, surprisingly few). Patience is NOT his strong point, neither is perfection. All he had to do was wrap me up in duct tape (an opportunity of a lifetime if you ask me!!), which he ultimately did but only after being a brat enough for me to go to sleep angry one night. It was an unbelievably silly spat, which is what angered me the most at the time. I think he just wanted to relax and play video games, although he said he just didn’t know how to do what I was asking…  The second problem was, after I finally got him to wrap me up and the form was made, a place to hang it or a pole/stand to set it on.  Hanging was tried to no avail because it deformed my form, and nothing short of digging through trash would get me a pole, and I just couldn’t bring myself to be the foreigner digging through my neighbors junk.  So, in the end, the homemade dress form idea did not work (and I did not want to buy one of the cheaply made high-priced ones in my local craft store).

I took all the pieces to Utah with me and stayed with Leah, my more experienced seamstress friend whom I have known since high school.  We actually had a lot of work to do, bridesmaids dresses also being a bit behind schedule. Leah took over my dress and had me try the parts on and got the skirt pieces together properly and pinned them to the bodice at the right length and everything. This was the only point where a machine was used. Then the linings were hand blind-stitched (can you blind stitch with a machine at all??) by me while she worked away at the other dresses. I think the sash, while assembled by machine and made of polyester, was also attached by hand across the front. I don’t think I did that.  I can’t remember much after this point- my mind was being ripped in a million directions because every decision that I had tried to make about the entire wedding over email had somehow been marked “decide when you get to Utah”.

I don’t recommend planning a wedding by email. Anyone helping out on the other end might (justifiably) be afraid to get something wrong and upset the bride. Anyway, I regret that when I finally was in my hometown, that I did not go a week earlier, or spend more non-wedding planning time with everybody.  My brain was mush by the time the wedding day arrived, and even mushier afterwords for all the Japanese/English translating I had to do for the “family honeymoon”, a road trip to my favorite place in the world, Zion National Park, with Yosuke’s parents and my father and grandparents. Yosuke is not a chatty person. He could probably translate better than me, he simply didn’t.  It might be best to say that by the time I got on the plane back to Japan, my brain was liquified. Fortunately I at least remembered to organize and take care of thank-you notes immediately after the wedding.

Anyway, the dress- was finished at 2AM the day of the wedding.  Leah finished it while I was at my aunts getting catering and rentals and the DJ and cake set to go. Her mother even helped out, and her older sister Dawn too. They must have been very tired.  I have a collection of photos from when Leah arrived and the dress was hanging. In the photos, she’s giving it such a critical gaze…  I was very happy that it fit and I could wear something that I hand stitched and that my best friend spent so much time to finish up for me. I don’t know if I will ever see it on anyone else (Americans like to keep their wedding dresses if they can, and this being handmade it is definitely staying in the family). Now, I think my grandmother has it or my father does. I didn’t bring it back to Japan, although many of my coworkers and clients wanted to see it.

Its a long story, isn’t it?  Well I did say it took 6 months to make.  The pattern was from Jennie at http://www.sensibility.com, the lace from June at http://www.timelesstrims.com, and the satin and cotton lining from http://www.dharmatrading.com. The sash was Leah’s purchase- from Joann’s fabric I think, as well as the notions.

Pretty Woman…

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… was on television tonight. I hadn’t seen it in years and it turned out differently than I thought I remembered.  I can’t believe Richard Gere was THAT handsome. Geez.

I just had to get that out of my system.  Its Sunday night and I have finished my four-day, 46-hour teaching-eating-sleeping-repeat marathon.  Its exhausting but makes me appreciate the days off even more (^^).  Last night I was up a bit late trying to continue on my practice pajamas…  I shouldn’t sew when I am tired. I had to add more thread to the bobbin, and somehow the thread got caught underneath the bobbin and 5 seconds of high speed wrapping took me 15 minutes to unwind. Then when I finally got the thread reloaded on the bobbing correctly, I must have replaced it in the machine incorrectly because it had no tension and the stitches came out really sloppy.  Looks like my machine is already developing its own personality!  And I am already handling poorly…  but I am trying. I have resolved to always have a decoy fabric to feed him before giving him my precious linen. And, I think I will load bobbins a few at a time- when the machine and I are both having a good day. (photo has been kept blurry for your protection)

My new workstation- off the floor and into the kitchen. Please don't look too closely.

My new workstation- off the floor and into the kitchen. Please don't look too closely.

I feel really behind on my pajama project actually.  I finally finished a doggie jacket that I promised to make for my aunt’s boxer, Kobe.  Actually I must not forget to get that in the mail tomorrow! I have no doggie model, so hopefully my aunt will take some photos and send them to me.  So now that its finished, I can go at the pajamas, guilt free! I need to clean up the original pattern for the small size for the pants, and draw out a top and make toiles for both.  Making patterns is kinda…  tricky. But I get little bits of useful information here and there as I go. I just can’t wait to get it right so I can take some scissors to my linen!!

What Words Cannot Say

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I managed to wake up at 7:30 this morning to see my husband off to work, and more miraculously I STAYED awake! I wanted to get to the coin laundry place to give the white linen a good wash and dry, so it would shrink. I had hand washed the colored linen and it did not soften much but thats okay because I will mostly be using it for trim and applique. So I was shocked by the texture of the white linen when I pulled it out of the dryer. I was sold on linen by the descriptions of it that I had read. I had never had much hands on experience with it. It came out so incredibly soft- like a cloud! A heavenly perfection- no wonder the ancients loved this stuff!