I’ve been learning to sew on-and-off for close to 2 years now, and it never fails to give me a sense of pride and achievement every time I create something new. They may be far from perfect, but to get there with just guts and give it your best to try, has always been an exhilarating experience. I think this is one of the reasons why DIY masters and home couture sewers never stop doing what they love. The experience, while time-consuming at times, is so addicting.
I have no teachers except that my mother taught me how to do several hand stitches when I was little (I hated sewing back then). I learn machine sewing and fabric treating all from the machine’s manuals and sewing books. But this way of learning isn’t for everyone. Some of us prefer to have guidance on how to start and making sense of sewing. There’s why you should check out workshop.
This 800 sq.ft. of creative space host one-time and series classes of affordable DIY. From sewing basics, alterations, quilting, screen printing, there’s no shortage of classes to get your creative blood boiling. Checkout their website and attend a class or two, and you’ll be sewing (and more) in no time.
Fast forward several months. Let’s say you’re so on a roll, make a few garment pieces, and then one day….you decide that you want to create your own fashion line. Well, well, well….then go over to The Factory. This collaborative space that supports local emerging designers and specializes in high-designs can get you moving. Exciting, right?
Too much too soon? But want to keep pushing the boundary of high designs past basic pieces? I thing I always recommend is getting a Japanese pattern book or two (one of my favorites is Koko Yamase’s Kakkoii Couture Remake). The pictures are basically the instructions, so you won’t have to worry about your Japanese language capability. Plus, some of them are now translated in English, like this Tomoko Nakamichi’s Pattern Magic series. You can also hone your sewing quality by reading books like Claire Shaeffer’s Couture Sewing Techniques.
And last but not least, download these free patterns from the likes of Alexander McQueen, Yohji Yamamoto, and John Galliano. When I visited one of the high-end boutiques at Fillmore neighborhood, the store salesperson asked me if I’m a designer after seeing me observing a Yohji Yamamoto piece’s construction. So thank you, lady, for referring me to this SHOWStudio site! I’m so excited to do these pieces soon :)
Have fun sewing,
I love wearing ties. Exhibit number one is here. When I wear a tie normally, it gives a special edge of confidence and invincibility that stay with me throughout the day. I love it.
But when Koko Yamase suggests this alternate way of wearing a tie, I was excited. There’s some playful but still stylish vibe coming off from this sweater. You can wear it edgy with some black jegging and motorcycle boots, or schoolgirl girly with circle skirt, socks, and oxford shoes or mary-janes.
This is actually a reconstructed sweater (I got this XXL men’s sweater and yellow Armani tie at Community Thrift Store in Valencia St.). And actually, it really is pretty easy to make.
What I did is just shorten the sleeves for the sweater in the beginning. Then I take the tie and literally cut it off in the middle. Then mark the two points on the sweater’s right and left shoulders’ stitch lines where I want the tie to “appear” from.
When you have those two points (wear the sweater and check the points in front of the mirror one more time to make sure), sew the two parts of the tie on their respective point along the stitch line. Make sure it’s secure and you’re done.
Contrasting colors work great, and I love to see the yellow pops up, hugging the grey. A bonus point is that since it’s a finely knitted wool sweater, it is breezy enough to wear until early spring. Definitely one of my favorite pieces right now.
Try it out,
Earlier this month, I was thinking about transitional pieces that I can make before Spring 2011 comes and decided to do some easy-to-make top pieces using my two favorite books, Koko Yamase’s Kakkoii Couture Remake (the one I used to create Three New Additions to My Wardrobe) and Tomoko Nakamichi’s Pattern Magic Vol. 3. Using those awesome books’ guidance, I finished three tops.
This one, the convertible top, is the easiest to make. You just need about 3 yards of stretch fabric (depending on your torso length, you may get away with 2.5 yards) length-wise. The width depends on your hip’s diameter. For me, the fabric length is roughly 2.7 x 0.5 yard for a long piece of bias-cut, striped-pattern, blue nylon fabric.
Fold the fabric in half, wrong sides facing together, and sew together the long sides of the fabric (0.5 inch seam allowance), starting from the edges (not from the folded corners) for about 15 inches long. Seam the bottom part (the 0.5 yard in my case) and you’re done!
The 15-inch-diameter “tube” part is for your hips, and the rest is free for you to form on your upper body. Oh, and it’s backless :) You may want to use stretch fabric that has some friction on it so you don’t have to adjust your convertible top every so often. Otherwise, using safety pins in invisible places is totally handy.
I love this top, the bias cut is awesome, and it’s great for casual weekend shopping dates or work outfit (throw some black pencil skirt and tuck in the tube part of the top), some kitten heels and beige trench coat will do the trick). You can layer it with a lace shirt (preferably black) on the inside too.
Try it out,
Once again, thank you Koko Yamase for pushing me into reconstructing these men’s sweaters and dress shirts even though I’m lazy :)
It’s my first time doing sewing projects like this, so of course the results are not perfect. Nevertheless, I’m so happy when each of them came out as I expected. The feeling of glee when I held them up for final inspection is really something to remember.
All of the men’s sweaters (brown and black) and men’s dress shirt are from thrift stores, and I’m so thrilled to make these happened. Now I’m in the process of making (at least) 2 more using guides from the very same book!
I’m telling you: get one. Especially if you’re curious about fashion but much lazier than full-time fashion designers :)
Have a great weekend,
August 2011 Update: It’s been a while, but one day I found the time to do one of the projects, specifically the one on the book cover. So fun, pretty painless (it took several hours to complete it, but it’s mostly because I don’t have a dress form and had to go back and forth to the mirror to check myself…I meant, the alignment of the pieces :) ).
It’s not perfect, but I’m pleased with the result. Combining a nude-colored cotton tank top and a men’s XL crew-neck cotton T-shirt (both from Target) yielded this comfortable, easy-to-wear-in-hot-days casual dress that I really love. Next summer, I will totally wear this again!
A month ago I went to SF Japan Town’s Kinokuniya book store and found “Kakkoii Couture Remake” by Koko Yamase. If you’re into DIY clothing, I highly recommend you to buy it at Kinokuniya nearest you. Yamase-dono brings Matriochka (yes, the site is beautiful) to the fashion world, and this book is so inpirational even for non-Japanese speaking people with limited sewing skills.
But wait! Now you don’t have to stress over your lack of Japanese language knowledge :) Now the translated-to-English “Cut-Up Couture: Edgy Upcycled Garments to Sew” is available! There’s no excuse for you DIY fashion lovers not to have this book.
It encourages you to cut and reshape men’s sweatshirts, T-shirts, and dress shirts into beautiful, fashionable couture. Carly Cais of Chic Steals shares her step-by-step tutorial, directly adapted from Kakkoii Couture Remake, of my favorite piece in the book: convertible blouson tunic. Seriously, you will seriously consider buying a sewing machine if you don’t have one already.
You’ve been warned. Have fun,