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Playing Catch-Up

March 2, 2012 in Life, Refashion, Vintage Patterns

I apologize for the silence lately. I haven’t had a chance to sew since December’s alteration (which I realize I haven’t yet posted about, eek!) along with some health issues that accumulated rather rapidly (which are in the process of being resolved) and also concentrating most of my time working on my other passion: KIMONO!

In the interest of trying to catch up – I’m going to do a large post!

Mandarin Dress Alteration

I’ve had this dress for many years, initially captivated by the gorgeous colour and trim, the dress itself was hot, shapeless mess when worn! I think a potato sack may have been more flattering. In December 2011, I decided I wanted to wear something bright and cheerful for a Christmas party rather than my usual black (but I didn’t want to wear kimono). I didn’t have the time to make something from scratch, so I decided to finally alter this dress!

I removed the sleeves and unpicked the side seams (leaving the neck intact), and used Simplicity 1447 as the base for dart positioning and shoulder alterations:

Before and after pictures (click to see larger image):



19th San Francisco Japantown Kimono Day – January 2012

I finally had an opportunity to wear kimono and to re-introduce my friend to kimono. You can read more about the day on my kimono blog: Naomi no Kimono Asobi


Lily Turned Two!

On the 1st of February, my baby girl turned two! I is hard to believe that two years ago, on my birthday, I was in the throes of labour! Why yes, we do share a birthday! So for our birthday, we went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.


Kimono Stuff

I recently redesigned my kimono blog: Naomi no Kimono Asobi, to reflect my love of Taishō era kimono and fashion.  The Taishō era (1912 to 1926) crossed over the Art Nouveau and Art Deco years, which is often displayed in kimono design, both in the fabrics and also the ensembles put together.

I’ve also been working on updating my collection catalogue.  When I was pregnant, I fell behind in photographing my pieces, so I had many years worth to do!  Thankfully, I’m almost caught up with my kimono and obi, however I still have  a large number of accessories to photograph.  If you’re interested in viewing the pieces:

Naomi no Kimono Asobi – Visual Collection Catalogue

Lastly, I’ve been doing a lot of writing over on Kimono Asobi.  I’m not sure if the posts would be of interest to any of my readers here, but in the case they are:

  • 19th Kimono Day – San Francisco Japantown
  • Kitsuke of Yesteryear #1
  • Kitsuke of Yesteryear #2
  • Kimono Challenge #1 – How did you discover and get into kimono?
  • Kimono Challenge #2 – Your dearest kimono item(s)
  • Kimono Challenge #3 – Your most used kimono item(s) not counting jubans, datejime etc)
  • Phew! I think that’s about it for now!

    Butterick 2553 – Girl’s Variety Dress. A.K.A “The Robot Dress”…

    November 20, 2011 in 1950's, Sewing, Vintage Fashion, Vintage Patterns

    …A.K.A known as the “It’s Time To Dance! Dress”.

    Besides Fraggle Rock, Lily’s other favourite show is Yo Gabba Gabba! She loves dancing to the music and knows nearly all the Dancy Dances off by heart and randomly breaks out into one of them at odd times. Not complaining. It’s a catchy show that makes you wanna dance!

    Anyhow, my husband discovered they were coming our way for a concert and we thought it would be fun to take Lily along. We were either going to have a great time OR Lily was going to insist on us putting Fraggle Rock on instead and get upset.

    I was originally going to make Lily a dress in the style they wear on the show – but after some thought, I just wasn’t feeling it. Then I remembered I had one precious yard of robot fabric in my stash and a lightbulb went off!

    I purchased this fabric from Weelife shortly before Lily was born to make her a dress. I decided I wanted to wait until she was walking and not growing out of her clothing every other day before using it. I also had trouble finding the right dress pattern as I wanted a juxtaposition of a traditional girly dress with unexpected fabric. Finally, inspiration hit me once I started collecting vintage patterns and I felt a 1950′s silhouette would be perfect!

    Out of all my patterns, Butterick 2553 was the most simple base pattern which would allow me to build upon it. I drafted a Peter Pan collar and a bodice inset right off the bat, and before I attached the sleeves, I felt they would benefit with white cuffs to match, so I drafted those as well. It’s been a very long time since I’ve drafted anything – so it’s all a little rusty, but I think it turned out passable. Oh, I also had to draft facing for the neck, as the pattern initially used bias binding for the neck and sleeves.

    I’m not sure how I managed to squeeze this dress out of a yard, but I did! I was literally left with itty bitty scraps at the end. As for the white fabric – it turns out that while I have an embarrassingly huge fabric stash, I have no white cotton. I didn’t even have a white cotton shirt to cut up. Nor did my husband. I resorted to cutting up an old IKEA sheet I purchased years ago to use as a drop-cloth while dressing in kimono. For being a sheet, it was a rather rough and open weave fabric and at first I wasn’t particularly happy with it – but with the dress together as a whole, the texture actually worked really well.

    Initially I was going to go with turquoise for an accent colour on the white, but then I spied the tiny red lights on the robots and decided to go in that direction. Luckily for me, I had a number of vintage red buttons absolutely perfect for the dress – two flower/cog like ones for the front, and then lovely round ones for the sleeves and back. I then used bias binding and the shell tuck stitch to create the trim. I also had the perfect vintage belt buckle to finish off the ensemble!

    While the dress is far from perfect, I have to admit that I’m really proud as it turned out exactly as I envisioned. Most importantly, I finished it with an hour spare, just in time for Lily to wear it to the concert!


    And here’s Lily (with Muno and Plex) showing off her dress after the concert!

    Simplicity 3213 – 1950′s Girl’s Sun Dress and Reversible Bolero

    November 8, 2011 in Sewing, Vintage Patterns

    Oh, Simplicity 3213. How you captured my heart immediately upon sight!

    I purchased this pattern without even a second thought – I adored the scalloped dress and bolero, such a sweet design. “I MUST MAKE THIS NOW!” I said, the moment the pattern arrived in the mail.

    • But, it’s Autumn.
    • And, the pattern is a 3T while Lily is only 21 months old.

    Oh! Such trifling worries! I’m a firm believer that when inspiration hits, especially when you’ve had a massive creativity block, that you do your best to work with it. And so I did.

    I already knew I had the perfect fabric – two lovely 1950′s cottons that I found when I was in Madison last month. The pink gingham appeared to have been used as a table cloth at one point so I had to work around a few small stains. Thankfully, I had –JUST– enough fabric! I had 4.5 yards of the fantastic pink, turquoise, green and white checked fabric, so I had plenty to play around with for the contrasting pieces.

    Enough talk and on with the photos!

    I’ve mentioned before that Lily is a rather, uh, “active” model – so the photos of her wearing them are quite blurry!

    It may not seem like it, but the dress is actually too big (being a 3T and all), but due to the ties, I can tie it relatively tight.  The bolero, however, is huge!  I think by Summer, though, she should ft it better. I do still need to finish the bloomers and bonnet, but I was just so excited with how well the dress turned out that I had to share!

    Japanese Sewing And Pattern Book From Showa 17 (1942) for Yofuku (Western Clothing)

    September 11, 2011 in Books, Sewing, Vintage Patterns, Wonderful Finds

    I collect antique kimono sewing books, ranging from Taisho (1912) all the way through to Early-Mid Showa (1950-1960). While I can barely read Japanese, and most certainly can’t read older Japanese text, I love collecting these books for the illustrations and photographs. They are true snapshots of the fashions at the times. Also, most books – the measurements are in centimetres, so while I may not be able to read the directions, having grown up with metric measurements in Australia, I can understand to a degree what the diagrams are explaining, and therefore sew from them.

    One day while hunting around for more, I stumbled upon a gem of a find – a sewing book from Showa 17 (1942) for yofuku (Western clothing)! I’ve never seen one of these before in my many years of browsing Japanese online auctions, so I was rather excited.

    This book has been sitting on my bookshelf for around 4 years now and I think it’s about time to dust it off, scan it in and let it live a new life inspiring those online.


    Information about the book:

    This book essentially instructs how to create an entire women’s wardrobe, including:

      Undergarments and corsets

    This book is in Japanese, but the really wonderful part is that for each outfit – it shows the pattern pieces that need to be drafted very clearly marked in centimetres and with grain lines showing – and gives sample pattern layouts on fabric. The measurements given are average, I assume, as the beginning of the book shows how to take your measurements and create your own sloper. This means for those experienced seamstress and drafters, you should be able to easily adjust the given measurements to yours.

    If you’ve been sewing for quite some time – especially with vintage patterns and feel very comfortable with drafting, I think you’ll be able to easily work from this book without needing to read Japanese. If you’re a beginner sewer – I certainly don’t want to discourage you from attempting any of these wonderful outfits but I do highly recommend reading and studying sewing literature and pattern instructions from around the same time in English to get a feel for the natural steps of garment construction.

    This book is a large book – 400+ pages and will most likely take me a good week or so find the time to sit down and scan it, so I will share it in installments by uploading the images to a Flickr set. Once I’ve scanned the entire book – I’ll create a PDF of the full book available for download.

    Anyhow – enough typing, let’s look at the illustrations of the outfits! Be sure to click on the images to view a larger size.

    And as a teaser, here’s an example of the pattern drafting and fabric layout (oops, I realize I chose a slightly complicated example!):

    If you make any of the pieces from this book, please let me know about your experience and share photos!

    Likewise – if you’re an experienced pattern drafter/seamstress (Japanese or not)  and would like to work with me on an open source project of converting the pattern pieces to English and providing English instructions and steps, free for all, please do let me know!

    Last, but not least. For those concerned about copyright infringement, Japanese copyright law puts this book in the Public Domain, therefore it’s perfectly fine for me to share the book in its entirety with you. While the scan copyrights are mine, you are more than welcome to share this, repost scans, etc with anyone providing it’s done in a not for profit capacity. All that I ask is that you kindly give credit back to me.