Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Secret Santa gifts unveiled

Last night my knitting group had our holiday gift swap. I ended up taking on two people because we ended up with an odd number of participants. 

For one partner I made another knitting yarn holder from McCalls 6256, and then altered a quilt  table runner pattern from online for the other gift. I've been teaching myself how to free motion quilt and loved practicing on these projects. I don't know why I didn't actually get more into this whole quilting business before; I love using the sewing machine more than the cutting and piecing aspects so machine quilting works out perfectly.

I am very happy with the button Stephanie and I found at Gwangjang last weekend, it was 800W and a perfect match for the yarn holder.

My second partner received a quilted yoga mat bag, an Amy Butler freebie. I also quilted the main panel, another excuse to practice my free motion work. Partner two also received a canister of Godiva Dark Hot Chocolate.

I received a pair of cabled fingerless mittens from my Secret Santa, it came at a great time because I've been losing steam working on my mitten. It was a really fun evening but I'm glad those projects are done and over with because I still have quite a bit on my sewing plate for December.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Internal spending cap

Lately I've been un-interested in adding more fabric to my stash... I see really cute stuff but it's taking a lot more to push me to open the wallet and actually buy it. Prompted by a recent thread on Pattern Review asking what everyone has spent on fabric in 2010, I went into our extensive budget spreadsheets to do a tally.



That's even excluding other sewing items such as notions, patterns, magazines, books, and machines this year.

Do I feel guilty? No, not really.

Why? I don't have other luxuries and we live a relatively simple life without big extraneous expenses. We don't have debt and are financially responsible. Sewing is a productive and creative hobby and I really don't expect to be in the same spending arena once we return to the US. Guess I'm grabbing life by the reins and taking advantage of what's available to me here.

Have I mentioned lately how much I was going to miss Dong Dae Mun?

I am truly grateful to be able to live such a lucky life where I don't have to worry all the time about money. We're not well-off by any means, but being responsible with your money sure offers a lot of peace of mind and opportunities.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fabric and notions from Tokyo!

We spent Thanksgiving in Tokyo this year and had a really great time. I had a sewing supply buying agenda, as usual, and went out to Shinjuku's Kinokuniya bookstore right after we had dropped off our luggage in the hotel. 

Book 1 of 5
I had been eyeing Bunka College's English translated textbooks for a couple of years now and what better place to pick up the series than in Tokyo at the Kinokuniya's flagship store... If they had it. A really sweet girl named Imee helped us out for about 20 minutes trying to locate these books. They had a few at another location in Japan but it would take a week for transit. That wouldn't work.

In the end we headed to Bunka College on Thursday and found the entire series in their bookstore. I picked up some other stuff too, including pressing hams and blocks, drafting tools, ironing pads, and some other knick knacks for my sewing use.

Hand sewing needles, bobbin holder, Chacoliner refills, pressing and pattern tools

Pressing hams and pads, drafting rulers, fabric from Nippori's Textile town

We made our way to Nippori to check out Textile town, it was easy to find after getting off the subway thanks to the English signs. Shopping wise, Jim spent money on fabric for pocket squares before I found something I really liked. That's the second time my husband has purchased material before I have... this monster is my own doing so I can't complain.

I was pretty disappointed at the selection they had there. Don't get me wrong, it's still a fabulous place to find stuff. I've just been spoiled by the selection, amount, and prices available at DDM. 

Speaking of prices, WOW. Overall we expected Tokyo to be pricey but to actually see the price tag of some things really made me do a double take. Let's just say my shopping spree at Bunka ended up costing a little more than my ticket to Japan, and we upgraded to business class on the way there. EEK. But if we apply shopper's math, I *saved* at least $90 on the books alone than if I had to order them from Kinokuniya online.

Checkout at Bunka College bookstore (my books are on that stand to the right!)
There were a few leather stores along the main street in Textile town. I saw some beautiful pieces of hide that made me want to start sewing purses. I reminded myself I was there to primarily pick up notions and I really didn't want to hoard just to have it sit in stash for years. I don't know price ranges for leather but what I did see felt reasonable.

Beautiful leather pieces big and small

One of the Tomato stores on the main strip
I did buy a few yards of fabric with traditional Japanese motifs, they will eventually become a quilt to commemorate our first trip there. While there were lots of natural fiber fabrics (cottons and linens), there wasn't much that really appealed to my garment sewing interests. Not a big deal, I'm no where near lacking in textiles for my projects.

For those who are visiting the area, the biggest fabric and notions stores in the area are the "Tomato" stores. I remember seeing at least two. One building was two stories (pic above) where they had linens and cottons geared towards garment sewing, and the other store was five stories with a couple of floors for quilting fabrics, a couple for sewing home decor/bags, and one for silks, wools, fancy fabrics for garment sewing. The first floor of the larger Tomato store had a 200 Yen/meter (about $2.40USD at the time) section. Much (if not all) of the bolts were cotton quilting fabric, which could be used for clothing, but the weave on some of these were not as fine as the more expensive stuff. Average prices were $4-15/meter for cottons, depending on the weave. The silks were around $20/meter and wool fabrics averaged $10-$20/meter. The whimsical Japanese printed cotton fabrics started at about $10/meter, most of which were a broadcloth or canvas weight, suitable for making bags and the like.

I looked at some of the notion prices on the fifth floor, Clover brand supplies cost just a little less than online or at DDM, so I skipped on stocking up.

Today is the first day of December, my mega sewing month. I also need to prep a lot of my sewing room to be shipped back to the US. I don't want to deal with packing headaches when I return from my Asia trip. And yes, I will be visiting fabric markets all across the continent starting in January.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Fabric shopping in Seoul at Dong Dae Mun, Part I

Seoul is any shopper's paradise for retail goods. Fortunately for me, it's also a place to find raw materials for my crafting hobbies. Dong Dae Mun (a.k.a. DDM) shopping area is where wholesalers go to buy their ready-to-wear merchandise. These malls and markets are also open to the general public and the area is most famous for its night markets (open until 4 am for the hardcore consumer).

My favorite area at Dong Dae Mun is the fabric market. If you want to go by the name on the buildings, it's Dong Dae Mun Shopping Complex. Here's how to get there by subway- you can Google for a full picture of the Seoul Metro system map. I've never driven there and only took the bus once so traveling underground is my usual MO:

Subway Line 4 (light blue)
Dong Dae Mun stop, Exit 9

Do not get off at the Dong Dae Mun History and Cultural Park stop. If you do, exit 13 will be the closest one to DDM and you will need to walk about 5 minutes. Refer to the picture (click to enlarge) for the general direction of where that stop will spit you out in the area.

Once you've arrived:
Coming up the stairs of exit 9, you will find building C of the shopping complex to the left of you after you pass a small newspaper stand and the edge of the surface parking lot of DDM. You can enter from a "main" entrance right next to the information booth, or find one of many other entrances along the buildings.

Navigating the 4 interconnected buildings with floors for shopping:
Building A- basement to 5th floor

Building B- basement to 5th floor

Building C- basement to 5th floor
The only 2 elevators in the market are in this building, the 5th floor of C does not have vendors, follow the signs when you get off the elevators to get to the 5th floor of Building A and B. I think this building goes higher but they are all offices beyond the 5th floor.

Building D- 1st to 4th floor (I'm pretty sure this building doesn't have a basement, at least I haven't been to the basement of D if it exists)

These 4 buildings are interconnected either by a "bridge" or with open walls to each other. If you aren't paying attention you will go from one building to the next without realizing the change. Each vendor has a sign over their stall that includes the shop's name, their phone number, and their identifying stall information. This is the format: the building letter, the floor they are on, and the actual vendor stand. In the picture below you can find this vendor in D-3-1811: building D, floor 3, area 1811 (all on the top left hand corner of the blue sign- click picture to enlarge).

Most of the time these stalls are in numerical order, but not always. As long as you have a general idea of where you are you shouldn't have to walk too far to find where you need to be. In the main aisles of each floor there are usually signs hanging from the ceiling to point to where 2 other buildings are in relation to you. Most of the time they are accurate but in my earlier trips I ran into a few that took me to no man's land. If you can mentally map out the layout of the 4 buildings you shouldn't have a problem hopping from building to building.

There are stairs in the middle of each building, some of the buildings have escalators too.

Operating hours during the week: 9 am -5 pm, 9 am -3 pm on Saturdays, closed on Sundays. On Saturdays the 5th floor vendors stay later than 3 (maybe up to 5 pm?) but most people on the lower floors start packing up around 2:30 pm. 

Things to be aware of when shopping:
-Old men (ajishis) carrying wooden racks filled with bolts of fabric on their back. Steer clear of the way when they are moving up and down the stairs or in the aisles, they will push you if need be. I can't blame them, bolts of fabric are heavy!!
-Space is tight and it's always busy. Bring a backpack if need be and I would wear it in the front for easier manipulation when moving/turning around tight corners.
-Any floor above the 1st floor will be quite warm in the winter. Wearing layers is essential to staying comfortable. The buildings are air conditioned in the summer but it can get warm too. 
-Restrooms are readily available by the stairs on each floor but most are squat style for the ladies, BYOTP- bring your own toilet paper.
-Filtered water from coolers is free on all floors, also usually found by the staircases
-The elevator button pushing ladies have *gorgeous* uniforms!!! I personally would kill myself if I had a job that involved pushing buttons all day long, maybe the cute clothes are supposed to help make it bearable. (I found this picture on Google)

With this information you should be able to get to the fabric market. How to find anything there will be covered in an upcoming entry, along with a quick run down of places to grab some food before you shop. I also want to tell you about the fabric shopping at Gwang Jang market, a great place to find cheaper remnants from DDM.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The final days of my love affair

With Dong Dae Mun and Gwang Jang fabric markets that is.

Just found out this morning we're moving back to the US in May... Damn. Seeing how I don't easily embarrass in public, I'm considering making a spectacle of myself when it's time to leave. I can fake cry on demand if need be, but the tears sliding down my face are going to be the real thing in a few months. Le sigh. I don't want to leave Korea/Asia!!!!!!

Just got back from a shopping trip to DDM this weekend. I met up with some old and new friends and we all had a fun time doing DDM and then going to the lantern festival (I think that was less fun than fabric shopping though). I walked away from DDM with a box of 75/11 home machine sewing needles (100 needles for about $11), and I picked up the last issue of the current Mrs. Stylebook from my vendor in GJ. I was on a self imposed fabric diet so I walked away without any yardages but with the recent news of our impending move that will change, no doubt about it.

I'll be posting a long entry on navigating these two markets soon, along with pictures and diagrams because it can get tricky to explain in words.

On the crafting home front, I started and finished *one* child-size mitten. I'll be knitting its mate very soon, this was essentially a practice run for my own mittens. I know my perfectionist self well enough to know I need to practice my techniques first before starting on the real project. I have been known to un-do knitting/sewing projects in an angry fit when something wasn't right. Even if it took me hours of labor, I'm willing to sabotage it in an instant. I'm not always irrational, I just want my hand-made items to be the best I can create.

No pictures today to upload today but be prepare for a visual feast soon on fabric shopping in Seoul.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Here's to a productive November!

A new month, some new projects! Last week was hectic, we had my birthday party (Iron Chef style!) at a friend's house, which meant I dragged some of my kitchen pantry over to her place for a few days. I am still cat sitting for another friend for three more weeks so I had my sewing stuff at her home. It's hard having daily essentials in three different places. I have my usual sewing set up again back home and expect to pump out some gifts for the holidays and maybe a mini-wardrobe for our trip to Tokyo later this month.

In the mean time, here is Sprout with his quilt! The quilting fabrics have cars/traffic signs on them, the backing is also from the same co-ordinating series but it's a flannel. I only have white cotton quilting thread so the bias binding is ugly- I chose to attach the binding with a machine instead of hand-sewing an invisible stitch. Aren't kitties color blind anyway? I won't tell if you won't.

I like to roll the quilt into a sleeping bag for him

I can piece but I definitely can't quilt to save my life

Monday, October 25, 2010

My blogging drought is over!

I've been bad with regular postings on here, haven't I? Don't worry, you haven't missed much... I completed some projects shortly before I went to China back in September. I pumped out a dress, a skirt, and 3 shirts in 3 days before I left- I work extremely well under pressure.

I even managed to make a baby-size quilt for Sprout! I accidentally stepped on his tail and felt so guilty that I had to give him a gift. My friend Mary calls it Sprout's Guilt-Quilt. I quilted it myself on the 1600P- my quilting skills are nothing to gloat about that's for sure. But it is done, and he seems to like it.

I'm currently working on a modified version of McCall's 4728, the crochet needle holder. This project is a part of my Secre Santa gift to my exchange partner in our knitting group.  I won't post pictures of the items now in the spirit of secrecy, but I think the fabrics I chose suit her very well.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Iron woes

Last week I made two shirts (Jalie 2804), and then somehow left my gravity feed iron on top of its water hose. I can only assume it was when I was shutting down everything in my sewing room and the iron wasn't fully heated. It really doesn't matter because the hose melted shut and I'm totally screwed. The solenoid was giving me issues and now this. I'm about to rip my hair out because of all the walls I'm hitting lately. Add on my lack of progress in finding a place that sells replacement hoses, I really am SOL.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Temporary setbacks

I've been dog-sitting for a friend and haven't had much time in the sewing room. Today I went to iron out some linen in preparation for a Cynthia Rowley jacket pattern when my gravity feed iron quit steaming. I don't know if the solenoid is clogged or if it might be something else- it still heats up, just no steam. I'm soooo over my equipment not working when I need/want it to. So, off I went to Cleaner's Supply and ordered the Naomoto iron I've been lusting after for awhile, as well as a Jiffy garment steamer for DH's jackets. My sister is going to have to forward the stuff or bring it with her when she visits this summer but eventually all of my tools will be here. The dogs go home tomorrow and I'm off to DDM/Seoul this weekend. I expect lots of sewing updates next week because I don't have much else going on to keep me away from my projects.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Janome Threadbanger TB-30 review

I am heading into month 2 with my Janome TB-30 and recently wrote a review on Pattern Review on this machine. My dress form arrived yesterday, still awaiting the other toy... along with the cutting mat and some new patterns. I plan to be very productive this summer, with Korean heat and humidity combo, I am essentially locking myself in the apartment in a few weeks.

What I like about this machine

This is my first computerized machine and it took a couple of weeks for me to get used to another brain thinking for me when I sew. I am a garment sewer and purchased this machine after lots of research online/on the PR forum threads.

I went with this machine because it offered adjustable presser foot pressure as well as 6 different one-step buttonholes. I have a friend who is purchasing another Janome with similar features except her model does not offer the adjustable presser foot pressure. I have yet to use this feature on my TB-30 so I hope the feature is worth the extra money.

I have tried a couple different styles of buttonholes on scrap fabric and found that the stitch density isn't as close together as I can get with my previous White Jeans Denim machine (only one style of buttonhole vs. the six styles on the TB-30). The density issue is probably more personal preference than function though, the buttonholes I have made so far are quite nice and professional looking.

I haven't sewn on difficult fabric yet (velvet, slippery silks, heavy denim, etc) with this machine, most of my projects have been quilting cottons. I did repair a nylon back pack strap the other night and the layers slid through the machine without a hiccup.

The machine is quiet and has a nice hum. This is my first full size Janome (I have a Janome Sew-Mini) and it feels like the machine and I are off to a nice start.

This is a low shank machine and comes with a few snap on presser feet out of the box. I have access to cheap low shank metal presser feet and will work on expanding my collection. It's nice to have interchangeable feet with this machine and my White.

You can control the stitch speed at various settings, I had a hard time at the fastest setting when I first started (always used to full control using the pedal) but I'm used to the feel of the machine now. The automatic needle up/down feature is very convenient.

What I do not like about this machine
I did have some bobbin tension issues when I first started working on this machine that have since been fixed. I was having the hardest time tightening up the bobbin tension, even when the needle pressure dial was at "0" my bottom thread was still poking through at the end/beginning of the top thread. I played around with all the possible settings such as presser foot pressure, needle pressure and higher-end thread. When none of these showed significant changes, I was

This was my first machine with a horizontal bobbin and it finally occurred to me last week to take the cover plate off to tighten the bobbin casing. I don't know why I didn't make the connection to tighten the casing to fix the tension issues, I guess if I don't actually see and hold the bobbin casing in my hand like I do with my horizontal bobbin machines, in my mind it didn't seem "real" (if that makes sense). My straight stitches are now evenly looped on the top and the bottom.

The quality of the straight stitch is still not what I consider perfection but they are even and nice looking. Maybe with some more tweaking it will look a little better, this is probably an issue specific to my particular machine. I played around with some of the decorative stitches and nothing really impressed me. The star/asterisk stitch didn't look very polished and the functions where it did a satin stitch (continuous half moons and diamonds) weren't all that tight. I do want to note that these stitches were tested when I was having the straight stitch tension problems and I'll need to re-test them. Truthfully I don't have a lot of confidence that it will be significantly improved, but these decorative stitches are pretty useless to me as a garment sewer. I suppose if I want fancier machine stitching I can get an embroidery machine.

I've had the machine beep at me for doing a couple of "off limit" things by accident, guess I have to get used to these computerized warnings.

I unplug the 220V/110V transformer from the outlet every time I am finished using this machine (I live in Asia and have a regular 110V machine). I am pretty sure just the act of shutting down the machine re-sets the settings (i.e. straight stitch length goes back to a default 2.2 while I usually set it to 3) and I thought I read online that we can set our own defaults on this machine, but I don't remember seeing it in the manual. This is perhaps the most annoying thing after the tension crisis, and it is very minor in the grand scheme of things since it's easy to set the stitch length.

Overall now that my tension issues are fixed, I am starting to work more in harmony with my new toy. I think this machine would be a nice beginner to advanced sewing machine for someone who does primarily garment sewing. The additional 30 stitch variations are functional, but I really plan to use the straight stitch, zig zag, and buttonhole stitches for my sewing needs.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

It's time to learn Korean....

I've been away from this blog partly because other things have been coming up these past few weeks, and partly because I kept getting the Korean version of Blogspot every time I tried coming back to update. I finally did some clicking around and found myself miraculously at the English version. Better take this opportunity for a brief update.

The recent McCall's shirt was, shall we say, a wadder. I haven't had the chance to write a PR review, but I will attribute this flop more to outside factors than problems with the pattern itself.

My Threadbanger TB-30 was giving me tension problems and it wasn't until 3 days ago it dawned on me to open the bobbin case and adjust the screw. I had been changing needle tension and presser foot pressure trying to achieve a balanced stitch but even when needle tension was at 0 (auto is about 4) I still had a loose lower bobbin thread/stitch. With the recent tightening I seem to have fixed my previous problems with very uneven stitches.

Sadly my moment of clarity came as I had already sunk in about 90% of work into the shirt for DH. Oh well. Into the scrap pile it goes.

My other mistake was using the wrong interfacing for the CF. Instead of my nicer woven interfacing from Pam at Fashion Sewing Supply, I wanted to use up some fusible hair canvas interfacing I purchased at a local fabric shop. This is the stuff the most of the local tailors use in their suits (read: crap) and I don't know what possessed me to convince myself it'll be okay on this linen fabric. Stupid is as stupid does.

In short, I will attempt this pattern again, despite the lack of of a yoke. Today I received the Islander men's shirt patterns and DVDs I recently ordered, as well as some patterns from PR. I'm trying to do all of my online shopping for supplies before it gets really hot this summer- I am hiding away once we get to 85F and humidity is 100%.

On a happier note, I wanted to post some pictures of the fabric I found for Arielle in Haiti. She lost a lot of sewing things due to the earthquake earlier this year and in the spirit of sewing and charitable giving, I found out the kinds of fabrics/prints she likes and went on a shopping spree! I was at DDM (Dong Dae Mun) fabric market shopping for about 4 hours two weeks ago, the most time I have spent at that place and boy I was tired at the end! The box went out last week to Cidell who will be packing all the contributions from the sewing community into one box for Arielle's courier. I had so much fun shopping for her and I really hope she likes the choices I made!!!

80% rayon and 20% cotton knits

100% cotton eyelet

100% silk crepe de chine and stretch silk charmeuse

100% cotton shirting

100% cotton lawn and cotton knit

Cidell had commented on my first Blog post that I should do a write up on DDM. I have a couple of posts on PR about the fabric market but those were when I was still exploring. I have a pretty good grasp of the area now and will definitely do another write up soon. In the mean time, let's hope I can find my way back to the English version of Blogspot soon so I can post more about my sewing projects!

Monday, April 19, 2010

I'm finally a blogger!


I'm going to try this whole blogging thing out. I've stayed away because I didn't want to waste time typing and taking pictures when I could be at my sewing machine, but maybe someone out there can benefit from what I have to share. This blog will be devoted to sewing with an occasional post about food (I am a total foodie and love to cook/eat!!).

So... here we go!

I am starting to work on some shirts for DH this week, using McCalls 6044- the short sleeve version. I have a piece of 100% linen (Pantone 16-5533 is the closest match) from Vogue Fabrics that has been sitting in stash for about a year.

Pattern Review has their sewing for men contest next month; if this pattern goes well I will make some more shirts to enter into the competition in a couple of weeks. If I get my act together I might be able to make some casual slacks as well.

I have to compare a few more measurements on the pattern piece to a previous shirt I made for DH, but I think the medium size will work. I might have to do some length adjustments in the sleeves (for the long sleeve version) and the bodice, but overall DH is fairly easy to fit. Men and their lack of curves....

I'm waiting on a new cutting mat in the mail, it's a 36" x 60" Salem mat from Hancock Fabrics. It will fit well on a dining room table I've claimed as my sewing table. I recently switched from rotary cutters to tailor shears in the cutting process, still on the fence about which I like better. My big mistake was getting a pair of shears that are too big for my teeny hands- I can only get about half of the blades open. Oops. Lesson learned for next time.