I was extremely lucky to make a trip to Japan’s Nippori Textile Town about a month before 2020 showed its true colors. The suitcase full of fabric that I brought home fueled months of dreams and adventures in my head, even as I was trapped in my sewing room. Of course, now I’ve barely made a dent in that stash of fabric, and I’m itching to return. What can I say, fabric shopping is the best part of sewing.
And only in Japan would I get so excited about fabric featuring cats.
I’m not a cat person, but I found this fabric and just loved it. The cat is giving the most cat-like, don’t-mess-with-me stare, and it’s fantastic. More than anything, this made me think of Watson, Hannah’s (okay, technically Hannah’s husband’s) black cat. He’s particular, as cats are, but more than anything he loves trying to escape to the outdoors as often as possible. So it seems incredibly likely that he’d end up under a tree, like this cat, staring back at the house like, “What.”
I don’t often sew for other people, I tend to be a selfish sewist (luckily I’m not alone, currently #selfishsewing has almost 95k posts). But when sewing for someone else means I can buy more Japanese fabric… well… I guess that persuades me to become more generous.
This fabric is a mid-weight cotton, thicker than quilting cotton, so it’s great for home dec. I decided it would make a perfect table runner + napkin set. Blue is a good match for Hannah and Adam’s Fiestaware dishes, and they always use placemats because they’re fancy like that. So I figured they’d get good use out of cloth napkins, or maybe they could even use these as placemats.
For the napkins, I used the Purl Soho mitered corner napkins tutorial. Highly recommend! They were simple to make and have such nice, clean edges. There was lots of ironing but that was the only tedious part. For the table runner, I used the remaining long strip of fabric and bound the edges with a coordinating blue bias tape. I’ve mentioned this before, but thanks to good luck at estate sales, I have a collection of bias tape that never fails. This blue was a perfect match and I also managed to use all but about 2 inches of it.
At the edge, I folded back the selvedge to keep it as part of the project. I love that it shows that it was made in Japan, plus it has another tiny little Watson cat. I love selvedge details like that. I added a little loop to the back for hanging, just in case, because it felt like a fun fancy touch.
Napkins are fun to make because they’re a great way to show off fun fabrics, and they’re also a nice palate cleanser in between more involved projects. I have a few more cute Japan fabrics that I bought with the intention of making napkins, and I think that would be a good upcoming project – I haven’t been motivated to sew much lately, and an instant gratification project like this always helps me get back into happy sewing mode.
This was also fun because I got to send Hannah surprise mail! And we all know that surprise mail mid-pandemic was about 1000x more exciting than normal surprise mail (and even normal surprise mail is pretty dang exciting).
The beauty of Me-Made May is sharing those projects that haven’t fully been shared. I’ve worn this dress often since I made it two years ago, and shared it on Instagram, but this is its blog debut!
I found this fabric at Fabric Planet, a delightful fabric store in Venice, CA, just outside Los Angeles. If you’re ever nearby (or looking for something to do near LAX, like we were when my mom and I spotted it the first time), I highly recommend a visit.
For the pattern, I traced a ready-to-wear dress that I own. It’s a comfy dress that I wear often, and I love the elastic waist. The only downside of the RTW dress? No pockets! Of course I added pockets to my pattern.
Lately, a lot of my me-made clothes have started by my tracing a garment that I already love. For me, this is often much more enjoyable than working with a manufactured pattern, because I know the item is likely to fit well immediately, without a lot of fit adjustments.
That was definitely the case with this dress – the bodice fit perfectly! But one change for next time: this first make of the pattern ended up a little shorter than I wanted. The RTW dress is made of a stretch knit, so I think the stretch pulls the fabric a little bit closer to my knees. This fabric, a cotton blend with a slight 2-way stretch, didn’t behave the same way. I didn’t even do a real hem on this dress, I just serged the bottom edge and folded it up once before stitching in place. The fabric is very stable so it’s not a problem (and it was a very easy way to hem!) but next time I make a dress from this pattern I will lengthen the skirt.
I almost always line my dresses, but this fabric isn’t at all see-through so I kept it one layer and therefore more Miami-friendly. I finished the neckhole and shoulders with hot pink bias tape, my favorite detail of this dress! I also applied bias tape at the waist seam to tidy it and make sure the elastic + seam allowance lays flat against my skin.
I love using bias tape in fun colors, and I’ve learned that it’s worth taking the time to finish my edges well. I realized that I see my clothes often even when I’m not wearing them, because they’re in my closet or a drawer, and it makes me happy to see the clean seam finishes and colorful bias tapes.
I wore this dress recently to Mass and got David to snap my Me-Made May photos of the day in front of this amazing mural. The mural is almost finished, and it’s been delightful to see the progress they’ve made! I also love how well my dress matches the giant brain coral.
Speaking of sea turtles… their nests have started to pop up on Miami Beach and it’s the most magical process. I highly recommend learning as much as you can about sea turtles, it’s fascinating!
- Baby Sea Turtles Hatching from their Nest (video) (i love their little flippers so much)
- How Sea Turtles Hatch
- Sea Turtle Species found in Florida (there are 5!) Along the Florida coast, sea turtles annually make between 40,000 and 84,000 nests!
They’re such beautiful, amazing, and important animals. Here are some ways YOU can help sea turtles:
- Refuse Single Use Plastics – 100% of baby sea turtles that are washed back to shore, rather than making it out to the ocean to continue to mature, are found with microplastics in their digestive tract. 🙁 Do everything you can to eliminate single-use plastic in your daily life! Even when we think it’s “recycled” it’s usually either sent to a landfill or burned (locally now, instead of in China, not that that was better), or it ends up in the ocean anyway.
- Fill holes you dig at the beach – Holes left in the sand overnight can get in the way of mama turtles trying to lay eggs, or baby turtles trying to get from the nest to the ocean.
- Reduce your light pollution – For turtles, this is crucial in shoreline communities (but in general, less light pollution is better no matter where you are!). Bright artificial lights can confuse the turtles, who are looking for the light of the moon to guide them toward the ocean. If you live near the ocean, make sure your exterior lighting is sea turtle friendly! And contact your local businesses to encourage them to modify their lighting – I’ve started writing letters to the brightest stores in our area.
It’s time for one of my very favorite blog posts! The sewing room tour. I love peeking into other makers’ studios; it’s always so inspiring to see where and how other people work. I love my creative space so it’s fun to get to show off, especially since I haven’t had any in-person visitors in over a year.
This sewing room is the biggest space I’ve ever had! I took over the master bedroom (thank you David!) and it’s a beautiful room. I love the giant window, the high ceilings, and the amazing floors.
This is also the first home we’ve shared, and it was quite the puzzle to fit all of my beloved furniture into a relatively small house. The sewing room holds all the furniture that doesn’t have a place elsewhere in the house, so it’s a little bit crowded, but my Quarantine Hobby of “rearranging furniture” paid off and I finally created a space that feels both beautiful and functional.
At the entry wall, I hung my vision boards from years past – I can never bear to get rid of these. I love that they serve a splash of inspiration immediately upon entering the room. My most recent vision board hangs more prominently in the middle of the room, but I hadn’t made it yet when I took these pictures.
The wall along the doorway is my “machine wall”. I like to have my serger and my sewing machine close to each other so I can move back and forth during projects. Finally, my third machine is my desktop computer, which is closest to the window in the hope that it will make typing and Illustrator work more fun. 🙂
The dresser in between my machines holds sewing tools, notions, needles, and trims. The mini wooden drawer unit on top holds my most commonly used tools: scissors, snips, seam rippers, chalk pencils, etc. I love that all these tools are within easy reach from either machine!
Having a small drawer for each type of tool has made me much better at cleaning up after (and during) my projects. I used to leave all my tools out until a project was finished, but that was often a long time and led to a big mess. Now my motto is, “since I know where to find it, I can put it away.” Turns out it’s even easier to find my scissors when they’re in the scissors drawer, rather than buried underneath my unfinished projects!
I found the yellow ironing board next to someone’s trash a number of years ago. The legs didn’t work anymore, but I fell in love with the color of it! I’ve used it as a magnet display board in three sewing rooms now and it’s one of my favorite pieces of decor.
My thread rack belonged to my grandma, and it’s a neat piece of innovation – the shelves tilt to allow the thread spools to come out, and each spool is on a peg that can slide so different thread diameters can be accommodated. It’s awesome. The topmost thread rack was my mom’s and I commandeered it when I started sewing… I don’t think she realized that letting me use it at age 12 meant I would bring it with me when I moved out. Mama, if you want that thread rack back I will let you have it! But I do love it. Right now it holds my vintage wooden thread spools on display.
The pendant lamp is mine. I found it at CB2 when they were selling the floor model (which was dusty, but otherwise flawless, because…it’s a lamp). I bought it even though we hadn’t found our house yet, because I loved it so much. And then this room had an unused light box in the ceiling – the perfect home for my gorgeous lamp!
Any sewing room that allows for a full-size cutting table is an absolute gift. I love nothing more than spreading out all my fabric and supplies so having this big flat surface is heavenly.
Underneath my cutting table I store all my extra serger thread, plus fabrics that don’t fold well (leather, vinyl). I also store my yoga bolster and blocks under the table, because the floor space next to my machines is also where I do my daily yoga. The space is a little bit narrow (can’t quite “swan dive” into my forward folds) but it works!
On the other side of the room, opposite from the “machine wall”, is the “storage wall”. Also known as the “furniture I love and crammed into this room” wall. The bookshelf holds all my patterns and notions. The big dresser holds supplies for my narwhal kits, packaging and shipping supplies, and most of my art supplies. The metal drawer unit on top is one of my heaviest and favorite possessions. It holds tools: upholstery staple removers, glass cutters, pliers; computer cables and chargers; and all sorts of other little things, each with a home.
My white magnet board is a table top I found in the Ikea as-is section. I like to be able to rotate through my favorite things and change the display every few months.
And then in the corner, we have my newest piece of beloved furniture (I can quit whenever I want…): an old drafting table I found recently on OfferUp. The shelf drawers slide out, and it’s absolutely amazing for storing unfinished sewing projects, and even laser cuts awaiting sanding. I’ve always wanted to own a flat file and this is like a beautiful version that suits my needs even better!
I tucked my ironing board under the edge of the cutting table. I use it too often to put it away completely, but this allows it to take up a little less space when it’s not in use. When it’s time to iron, I just slide it out and raise the height a little bit.
The tall shelf unit on the window wall holds my most-used art supplies. The little table by the window is my painting table because it gets the best light. That’s also where I usually sand my laser cuts. I love sitting by the window because the big tree out front makes this room feel like a treehouse.
The other best part of stealing the master bedroom for my sewing room? It has the BEST closet.
Mirrored closet doors would not be my choice for a bedroom, but for a sewing room they are perfect. These mirrors were key to my solo wedding dress fitting sessions! The third mirrored door didn’t slide well, so it lives behind my computer desk where it helps more light reflect into the room.
The drawers on the right side of the closet hold packing supplies, envelopes, boxes, hoarded bubble wrap, etc. The wooden dresser holds our off-season and fancy clothes that we don’t wear often. The ceilings in this room are nice and high, so the closet is tall! The topmost shelves (behind the wall with the clock) hold more clothes, blankets, and other general storage things that don’t have a home in our small house.
On top of the dresser is a shoe organizer cubby that I use for unfinished projects. It’s important for me to be able to take a break from projects that get frustrating or stuck, and putting them away is much better than staring at them and not starting anything else. However… a lot of those cubes have been occupied for a long time. I’ll say it now, for accountability: working through a few of those WIPs is going to be my Me-Made May challenge.
On the left side of the closet is FABRICLAND! I use under-bed bins for just about all of my fabric now (these). They hold a surprising amount of fabric, but they’re small enough that they don’t get too heavy and it’s still possible to dig to the bottom. I also love that they’re clear and I can see most of the fabric I’ve stored inside. This system has really allowed me to treasure my fabric and know what I have, and I’m much better at sewing from my stash since I’m always aware of how great my stash is.
I’ve learned a lot from each of my sewing rooms. I like to take advantage of wall space for storage, but I don’t like my walls to be TOO cluttered because I want the current project to have most of my focus. I like to split the room into “zones”, like I’ve done here, especially the small table that I’ve dedicated to painting. And most importantly, I work best when I have as many flat surfaces as possible. I used to have a lot more decorative objects around the room, because I love my cute stuff! But it’s way better to be able to have the top of the bookshelf clear, for example, so I can set my pattern pieces there while I cut everything else out on the big table. This space has become extremely functional – specifically for the way that I work – and I love that.
Thank you for joining me on this tour of my sewing room! It’s constantly evolving – with each project I think of better ways to organize my supplies or accommodate my workflow – so it’s fun to share the room as it is right now, knowing that it only ever gets better. (even if it will never again be this clean!)
My sewing machine is the Juki HZL-F600. I’ve had it for 4 years now (a long overdue upgrade) and I LOVE it.
My serger is a Babylock Evolution and I love it even more.
and p.s. if you’re not familiar with the story of my Independency flag, it’s a fun read.
Other art on display:
I’ve always wanted a fancy pair of PJs. You know, with the collar and the piping and the matching top and bottom. And of course mine wouldn’t be too fancy, I’m not talking about silk or satin pajamas here… they’d be cotton and would probably have some cutesy print all over.
I’ve considered making fancy pajamas on occasion but there are always better things to make, like clothes I will wear outside, in public. But “in public” wasn’t really a thing for most of 2020, so pajama making came back on my radar. Before I could begin, however, I had to make some important concessions to reality.
Fancy Pajamas: Fantasy vs. Reality
- I live in Florida. I don’t want long pajama pants.
- I sleep in t-shirts. There’s no way I could sleep in a cotton top with a collar and buttons. (and see number 1, don’t even think about flannel.)
- All I really need right now are pockets.
I cut out a pair of shorts in this wonderful pencil print and sewed them up as part of my Me-Made May 2020. Mint green has always felt like a great color for pajamas to me, and the pencils are so fun – I love that they’re in stripes. I used Simplicity 3571, cut to size 10. I think I made up the length for shorts, and I added my own pockets. And then I added the Fancy: piping around the cuffs and the pockets.
I’d never thought about it, but the piping at the leg hems is really nice because it helps pull the shorts away from my body a little bit, keeping them from getting clingy or all wrinkled up. And the piping at the pockets feels – yes – fancy.
I had ordered piping feet recently (this 3 pack) to upholster some chair cushions, and man do they make a difference. I had always just used my zipper foot but this really was next level… so easy, so crisp.
I lined the inside of the pocket in pink stripe because mint green pairs so well with pink, and this echoes the color of the erasers. I just love adding pocket linings and other little details that only I get to see… because why not? This is why sewing your own clothes is fun.
These shorts have served me so well during this year of spending so much time at home. I still don’t understand why so many of my store-bought shorts don’t have pockets, and I’m so jealous that David ALWAYS has pockets. But I’m catching up.
I did go all the way outside to take these pictures but this was before the bajillion tourists returned to Florida, so it wasn’t exactly “in public”. Thank goodness I have the cutest blog photographer in the world, and he’s willing to go outside with me when I’m wearing jammie shorts!
Here she is: my finished wedding dress.
A labor of love, crafted over many, many months of work.
But the absolute best part was that I got to wear it for this day.
To close the back of the dress, I added two pearl buttons. I tacked a little piece of ribbon behind the lace when I sewed them on, for extra strength. For the button loops, I used thin corded elastic, tied it into loops, and sewed the loops to the ends of two of the “leaf” lace strands.
These buttons weren’t really bearing any weight, they were just making sure the lace overlapped in the right place.
Even if the buttons had no other purpose besides getting these photos of me and my mama, they’d be worth it. We’re so cute.
Of course, David said he barely NOTICED my dress until after the ceremony, after the family photos, after the bridal party photos – not until it was time for our couple photos. Up until that point, he hadn’t really thought about my dress because he’d been too busy looking at ME. How sweet is that.
And it’s true, the couple pictures were a wonderful time that day because we got to take a moment to breathe, and hug, and be together.
I ended up finishing the dress with a whole week to spare. It wasn’t perfect, but it was exactly what it needed to be. I made myself a matching mask with a little bit of lace detailing. My mom made masks for the bridesmaids and groomsmen, to coordinate with their dresses and suits.
To hem the neckline and sleeves, I simply trimmed the mesh, carefully outlining any motifs. No sewing here. I wanted to maintain the “illusion neckline” and stitches would have been too visible. Plus, this is what the pros do, and if they’re allowed to do it, so am I.
Knowing what I know now, would I still make my dress? Absolutely. Like I said at the beginning, it’s what I do. I’m so glad I was able to wear handmade on my wedding day.
I’m also 100% thrilled I never have to make a wedding dress ever again. I said that to someone who asked, “what about your daughter’s dress?” and I replied, “She can make her own.”
The dress was great for twirling…
And more twirling.
(also how dashing is David in his vest?!)
The dress was also perfect for our backyard wedding reception. I had toyed with the idea of including a train, maybe even something detachable, but that didn’t happen and that’s okay. This dress was perfect for our casual day.
Our wedding day was so different than we had planned it. There were lots of compromises and certainly many people we missed. But we are so glad we went for it on 10/10/2020 and aren’t waiting in engaged limbo anymore! It’s so great to be married to this guy.
Thank you to Anna Liz Photography for these beautiful photos.
This is the fourth and final post in my “I Made My Wedding Dress” series.