Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Last year I had the privilege of working with a great group of students for after-school art. I had ten students total. It was a mixture of 6th, 7th and 8th graders. We spent the first couple of weeks experimenting with different ways to create pattern on cloth. We did some good old hippy tie dye, some itajime (folding and clamping), marbling, rubbings with paintstiks, thickened dye, potato dextrin resist, and sponge painting. It was messy and fun! What to do with all these samples? A pojagi banner seemed a great solution.

We were able to buy some books on pojagi from Amazon Japan.

We followed the great illustrations to figure out the steps for creating our pojagi banner even though the text was in Japanese. We did do our stitching with a sewing machine instead of by hand however as we were rushed by a deadline to finish. The students had a hard time with making straight seams, but who says it had to be perfect? It has lots of character and the students can look at it and they know which pieces of fabric are theirs and which parts they sewed together. Originally we wanted to hang it where it would be lit from behind, but as with most schools there was no money in the budget for anything like that.

I am hoping to get a grant to go to Japan on a fiber tour and maybe will find a shop that has some of the fabric they traditionally use for Pojagi. Pojagi is actually a Korean technique but seems to be gaining some popularity with Japanese crafters.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Stitch Magazine is out!

Quilting Arts Stitch Magazine is out and my hints and tips for sewing with Japanese pattern books is in it! I hope sewing enthusiasts find it helpful and lose some fear over using foreign patterns. The world is full of great designers and with the internet they are available for all of us to enjoy.
It was really great working with the people at Stitch. Elaine Lipson wrote the feature I {heart} Japan and I got to know her by e-mails back and forth and a few phone calls. Elaine has a great blog, Red Thread Studio. Which brings me to my next subject as I found out about it by following her blog now.

Have you seen I hadn't, but I have been reading Elaine's blog and checking out the great links she keeps posting. I am quite the fiber junkie, and I think Spoonflower may be addictive! I sat and made design after design the other night. Check out one of my faves based on an old brain diagram here. You can play with different tile/repeat options, scale your design to different sizes, change around the colors and more. It really is fun. I have ordered a test swatch (only $5 plus another $1 for shipping) to see how the colors turn out and find out the feel of the printed fabric. I am going to go back and just explore the other great work on there and find some faves to follow. I even took a sample of my shibori and uploaded it to play around with here.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Japanese Hat Pattern Book part II

Continuing from my previous post, (link), this Japanese hat pattern book also has a chart showing some of the variations possible by combining different brim and crown styles. I decided to work with #14 which uses brim "A" and crown "B."

For a hat, you need a top crown, side crown and brim pattern. I have a big head (maybe it is all that hair?) and according to the measurements the size L would barely fit. I did not bother altering this pattern as I was not making the hat for me. It is important to remember to add a little for ease when measuring for your hat. Put a finger under the tape measure when checking your size to allow for a little fitting ease. Don't confuse the ease added to the pattern for seam allowances being included in the pattern. After finishing my hat, I found that although I could get it on my head, it was not a comfortable fit. I really need it to be about a 1/2 inch bigger. Making smaller seams will make the crown bigger around but not the brim opening. It is better to alter the pattern to change the size than to try playing with seam allowances. If you are not sure about it, use some cheap muslin for your first attempt. Making mistakes and figuring them out is a great way to learn.

Seam Tracers I ordered from Clotilde. They come in 1/4 inch and 5/8 inch. I use these where it is easiest to, but sometimes there is no substitute for using a ruler and marking the seam allowances.

My first step in preparing my pattern is to trace the pieces I need onto tracing paper. If you have a lightbox or sunny window it will be helpful. I trace them exactly as they are and translate the markings as I go. You will need to recognize symbols for front, back, center, on the fold, side, grain of fabric, and names of the parts. If you have problems with this, do an online search for Japanese sewing terms.

The above pic shows a pattern piece in progress.

The side crown and brim on this hat call for some changes to the basic pattern. The side crown is split and the brim is added onto in the front and tapered in the back. Following the charts for each hat is important to achieve the looks in the book. Once you have gone through this process, you will get ideas for your own variations. I make the changes on the tracing paper, taping on more paper as needed. A ruler and tape measure with centimeters on them are a big help with this part. If you have a flexible curve, it can also come in handy.

Using the Seam Tracer can take some practice. If you angle it too much, you will not have a true 5/8 inch seam allowance. I prefer to use tagboard for my patterns (call it a quirk), but you can use tissue paper, freezer paper, or paper made especially for patterns.

If something looks wonky, I check it with my ruler and correct it in red (school teacher in me has to come out sometimes.) I also trace over all of my lines with a Sharpie. Yes, yet another step but when I get done making my pattern I know it. I also like to go ahead and make any pieces it calls for cutting on the fold into full size pieces. I feel this makes it easier to make the best use of your fabric.

After getting all the pieces marked, I cut them out and mark them with post it notes. I like to put them on each pattern piece to label what needs to be cut from what and how many. As each is cut, the post it note comes off.

Below are my fabric choices for hat #14. I found I had enough fabric for two hats so I decided to
switch the fabrics around for two different looks. And it is almost as easy to make two as one!

After cutting the pattern out of the fashion fabric, the parts need to be interfaced. Depending on the weight and drape of the fabric, it may be better to use two layers of fusible interfacing instead of one. A really heavy interfacing may be too stiff and create wrinkles in my experience.

Colorway #1


Sewing in progress, clipping curves, grading seams, and don't forget to press. A pressing ham and or a seam roll make this easier. It allows you to shape the curves of the hat as you press.

Gros-grain ribbon sewn on the inside helps hide the seam for attaching the brim and gives the hat a more finished appearance.

And these hats are packable! I think that is a big plus over other hats. The brim can be worn up or down, you can topstitch or not, add some ribbon trim, some buttons---whatever suits your fancy. I like to add pins to hats so I can change the look around. Making fabric flowers is a great way to use up those little bits of leftover fabric.

When my styrofoam head got to looking ratty, I tore up some wrapping paper into pieces and used some acrylic gel medium to cover it. I think it may be time to cover the other one!

Hat #14 finished in two variations. You can see how the drape of the fabric also changes the look of the hat.

I just found a link for a free hat pattern from Simplicity. It is a similar style if you want to try your hand at hatmaking without investing anything more than some fabric. Happy hatmaking!