Fabric scraps and the art of omiyage

Vacation is a time to relax and break out of habits, but that doesn’t mean its time to put down my needle and thread. I find it extremely soothing to have a hand sewing project that I can enjoy while sipping on my morning coffee. Its a bit challenging in the winter months when there isn’t enough daylight but as soon as spring comes along I notice I pick right back up on this morning ritual of mine. We were in Barcelona this year as the clocks sprung us forward officially into spring and I was sure to plan ahead and pack supplies into my already busting-at-the-seams case.

But there is more to this story, so perhaps I should explain that I very much believe in the tradition of omiyage. The Japanese custom of gift-giving resonates with me deeply. The idea of presenting a small gift when traveling to or from friends and loved ones is an important part of etiquette and there is a lot to learn from the highly complex tradition in Japan. The ideal omiyage is something transient, perishable, and thus food goods rein supreme at the top of the charts. This way you are not burdening someone with something unnecessary that they need to take care of or commit space to in their home. Now the thing is, Japan has a support structure for this, but when it comes to the US nothing really stands out as an ideal, iconic small gift. Maybe I am missing something obvious. What really represents New York and isn’t a bad tourist trinket? I just don’t feel we have an equivalent to the dainty, well packaged, perfect box of treats that other countries have.

plush bunny faces made using leftover fabric and lace scraps

As cooking or baking is simply out of the question for me the next logical answer to the gift-giving conundrum is craft. Admittedly this breaks the rule of being perishable, but it allows the gift to be sincere and from the heart. (And I will not be offended if anyone discards their gift, it is theirs to do with as they please.) Equally important in this approach is that the item share something of both the giver and the recipient. And that brings us back to a freshly brewed cup of coffee, breathtaking sunrises from a rooftop flat in Barcelona, and a mish-mash collection of fabric scraps, lace, beads and satin flowers.

Literally in the last moments before our flight the idea came to be to make plush bunny badges. The item needed to be sewn by hand while away, so I squeezed in a few quick stitches to shape the face and the ears before dashing to the airport. What I particularly like about this project is that it uses up little pieces of lace and fabric that normally would be discarded. Waste is waste and now I feel justified with my basket of odds and ends I have held on to for so long. Given the frenetic pace at which the materials were packed its very fortunate that in the end they worked well to make cohesive pieces. All-in-all I am pleased with the outcome and hope that the recipients enjoy them as much as I enjoyed making them.

 

 

Lifestyle Lolita – a casual approach

lifestyle lolita challenge for 2017

As far as goals go for 2017, I am trying very hard to make this the year where I can say I am more of a lifestyle lolita. Given how much I invest in the fashion I want it to be something I am comfortable with even without the safety of a meet. From what I’ve read online there are a lot of definitions of what it means to be “lifestyle”. My interpretation leans more towards a loose definition. Meaning, I don’t plan on wearing full out, tip-to-toe, coordinates everyday. Rather that my wardrobe will have a flavor of lolita mixed throughout. And with anything, I believe you have to be true to yourself, which in my case means a very relaxed and comfortable stye. So if your definition of lifestyle lolita requires the perfect cupcake petticoat in every coordinate than that is where we will differ in opinion. For example, the term “otome kei” is a Western creation. When you inquire of the Japanese they refer to it as Casual Lolita. This is the group I think I best fall into. (more…)

Decora, neon and monsters… oh my

There are 2 ways to experience the Monster Cafe in Harajuku. During lunchtime on a weekday we pretty much had the place to ourselves. The night crowd, based on other posts I have seen, is another story altogether. On previous trips we focused on more traditional Japanese food adventures. But this last trip we squeezed in a couple themed restaurants. While the food itself is nothing to write home about, the experience is. Sebastian doesn’t let you down when it comes to being fully immersed in his colorful world when you set foot in the Monster Cafe. You are truly transported to another realm of existence.

the carousel dance party at monster cafe in harajuku

We dined in a booth between the Bar area and the Mel-Tea Room. Its hard to pick a favorite space as they are all so colorful and unique. I liked that I had a dripping ice cream cone above me and could see the lip wall in the background. We don’t eat meat, only seafood, so ordered the few choices the menu had. Some shrimp, french fries and the sushi roll. Like I said, nothing fantastic but simple food. Everything was served with color palettes of dips which was adorable

monster cafe lunch with view of mell-tea room

Looking back, I was originally drawn to decora before I fell head-over-heels into lolita. That would be thanks to Fruits magazine and an online search for alternative uses for traditional kimono that somehow spiraled into alternative Japanese street fashion. I am grateful for the detour. My sewing was so blah back then, there was no spark, no muse. Now, I am not about to start jumping genres on you, but I do like to mix things up and play with elements of different street styles. So here is my homage to Monster Cafe and Sebastian Masuda. (more…)

Sweet lolita with sprinkles on top

Back in February, the very last day of our stay in Tokyo coincided with the Baked Sweets Parade release by Angelic Pretty. I remember being so disappointed finding out the JSK didn’t have full shirring. Shame on you AP, shame on you. The La Foret AP had been closed during our trip for renovations so I stopped in on that last day to see what the new space looked like. Adorable of course. What to my surprise did I find? That they had a special set with full shirring! Ayyyee!

la foret for the angelic pretty baked sweets parade release

I totally want to make one of those candy pops by the way. But that is not what this post is about today. I do have plenty of sugar in store for you though. How about a sprinkles cutsew? Hu hu hu. (more…)

Nothing to wear… whip up a coordinate

otome kei and sweet lolita whip cream designs

Life is not without irony. I am addicted to prints and accessories that include fluffy little whips of cream. In the real world however I am no fan. I like my hot cocoa naked please. But a heavy dollop is more than welcome on any coordinate. Q-pot is top of the charts when it comes to all things whip and, if I could manage, I would gobble up every single piece from the cherry sundae collection. That isn’t in the cards, but I scored something equally darling. I got my hands on a few yards of official Emily Temple cute whip and cherry fabric!!! (more…)

Inspiration: Etsuna Otsuka Workshop

etsuna otsuka in her tokyo studio

Sometimes in life things just magically fall into place. Back in the spring some of that magic came my way when a trip to Tokyo fortunately coincided with one of Etsuna Otsuka’s workshops. The moment I saw the posting on her site I immediately reserved a spot. I received a very dear email as well to confirm that it wasn’t a mistake and, with some broken Japanese, confirmed I would indeed be able to attend and was coming from New York.

Her blend of vintage made fresh is very feminine and modern. Formerly loved but discarded lingerie is given a new lease on life in a very positive departure from today’s fast-fashion scene. There is a charm to her work that blends fairytale with classy sophistication. I can think of so many adjectives to describe both her art and her personality: charming, romantic, sweet, endearing, stylish — the list goes on. In short, I am a huge fan!

Inside The Atelier

Approaching the shop address you are greeted with a typical Tokyo building, giving no real indication of what you will discover inside. Once the door opens on the second floor however you are transported to a delicate world woven of fluffy pastel knits, vintage peignoir accents, fine lace, and exquisite embroidery. (more…)

Handmade: Macaron Patisserie Jumperskirt

I wore my Victorian Doll JSK for ILD as planned despite it not, strictly speaking, being Lolita (to hell with a petticoat.) Can not even begin to describe how good it felt to have something that fit like a glove. It honestly made me so much more relaxed as I was comfortable and could just have a good time with out the whole suffering for fashion nonsense that comes with squeezing into too small brand.

jumperskirt made from japanese yuwa macaron fabric

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Handmade: Victorian Doll Maxi JSK

Taking a little gamble for this year’s Winter ILD and going with a handmade maxi dress for my coord. The moment I saw this “make your own” Victorian doll fabric it spoke to me. There is a hint of Jane Marple or Emily Temple cute about it that I couldn’t resist. However, I had no intention of making the actual dolls as the manufacturer intended, instead to use the panels as an unusual take on a border print.

maxi length otome kei dress made from victorian paper doll fabric

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Handmade: Plush Panda Rosette

old school lolita inspired panda bear rosette

Growing up I never had a penpal. Although my BFF moved to another state during middle school, our attempts at keeping in touch via mail fell apart. For me, I admit I am lazy and put it off but also that my medium is not words. I like to speak in pictures and through craft.

Recently, one post lead to another and a long distance Facebook friend and I decided to go for it and put snail mail to the test once again. I knew right away that I wanted to make something handmade (duh) but admit I was stumped as to where to begin. What was clear from her Facebook wall is that my buddy is a total sucker for cute animals. I quizzed her a little on her likes and Black and White popped up as colors. Put two and two together and bam – Panda!!

handmade panda bear with lace and ribbons

Old School Lolita styles have been on my mind lately. Baby, the Stars Shine Bright’s Classic Collection release made such an impression on me it inspired the concept. Instead of just making a flat round face I found some patterns online for making teddy bears. Made a few alterations to get something that I could use in a rosette format. Its my second time making a plush style accessory and I’ll certainly try it again when the chance arises. Working with the faux fur was a new experience that came with a challenges. So while there are several imperfections from the learning process I think the end result turned out OK.

Now the big question is what on earth am I going to do for the next exchange?!?…

Project Complete: Summer ILD Sailor Cutsew

pastel lolita marine style sailor cutsew

The past weekend was International Lolita Day. I was very fortunate to attend a meet with some of the most badass Lolita’s of the East Coast. The theme for this year’s get together was “a day at the beach.” Well, you know me, theme-time!! Except I have nothing that wold pass for beach, mermaid or marine in my wardrobe. Was time to get cracking.

Work shipped me off to Singapore for meetings before the event, and how can you complain. Can you say S-i-n-g-a-p-o-r-e?!?! {It was amazing by the way.} That didn’t stop me. The minute I landed back home I was at my sewing machine. To hell with jetlag we need something, anything, that says beach.

coordinating hand made accessories with Sugar Baby Icing Cookie

The solution was to make a sailor cutsew blouse. It had to be something simple that could be knocked out in a day… because that was all I had. So I pulled out one of my previous patterns and a few of the Otome no Sew mooks to find a sailor collar. After franken-patterning them together we were on to something. There was just enough of this really nice sky blue jersey lurking in my fabric stash.

Originally I was going to trim it with white braid and lace making it more traditional sailor style. However when pulling out trims this pink braid landed on top of the fabric and it was love at first site. Pink trim is really hard to find in NY, really hard. When I do find some I save it as if it is treasure. If you sew, do you ever have that feeling, telling yourself to hold on to something for the just right project? That’s how I was but forced myself to say that perfect project is right now.

My last haul included Kumya chan’s Sugar Baby Icing Cookie in a sunny yellow. Sea and sun, check. For one extra pop of color and marine touch I converted a keychain into a necklace. During the Singapore trip I found this adorable charm featuring the Merlion. And the best part is that it glows in the dark!!

As for everyone’s coords… check out this awesome video that was on the New York Daily News!!

Hope you had a blast on ILD in your neck of the woods :3

P.S. When editing the photos for this project I was really inspired by a spread in the June edition of Kera. Was getting bored with doing basically the same layout for all my posts and thought playing around and trying something new would be fun.
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