Pocket Apron Skirt with a Touch of “Kawaii”

Okay, I might have lied a little in my last post – that I wouldn’t wear “kawaii” fabric as a garment. Because this week I made this for myself, and I’m in love.

Pocket apron skirt by Piggledee

Is it an apron? Is it a skirt? Is it a tool belt? Or… could it be a combination of all three? Yes it could! I’m not sure if it’s a “garment” per se, but I wear this all day long, so it feels like a garment.

Pocket apron skirt by Piggledee

The grey elephant border is actually pockets, divided into 6 sections. Six pockets, woohoo! Because, as a work-at-home woman with a tendency for forgetfulness and disorganisation, pockets are essential. You can say I’m totally lost without pockets. And do you know how many commercial garments come with no pockets at all? Like yoga pants. Or pyjama pants. Not to mention dresses. Without pockets, I’m constantly looking for things – my phone, pens, paper, scissors… Very frustrating.

So when I saw a naturopath / massage therapist friend wearing a short wrap-around apron with lots of pockets (handmade in Indonesia, with all the patchwork loveliness), I knew that was it! I had to have all.those.pockets. She graciously lent me her apron so I could examine it closely – and shamelessly copy the design.

Well, with a couple of minor changes. First, I wanted Piggledee cuteness of course, so used this classic grey elephant fabric remnant. The rest of the apron is 100% linen grey fabric that was chopped off from an IKEA curtain because it was too long for my windows. Recycle and reuse in action, my friends. Besides, I love the look, feel, and drape of pure linen, wrinkle and all.

Second, I made the apron wider than my friend’s, so it would look more like a wrap skirt. This way, I could leave the house and not look like I forgot to remove a kitchen apron. Here’s my friend modelling my skirt apron. It’d look more skirt-like if you wear the apron under your shirt or sweater.

Pocket apron skirt by Piggledee

Pocket apron skirt by Piggledee

Does it make sense to have pockets at the back though? Oh yes it does. The apron/skirt look so much cuter with elephants marching all over you, don’t you think? Plus this way, you can wrap the apron around you any which way you like, and still have pockets in the right spots. Except… you may not want to put your phone or scissors in the back pocket – in case you might want to sit down (yes, I did sit on my phone to learn this valuable lesson – but fortunately it didn’t crack).

I haven’t decided whether to make these for my shop. If I do though, wouldn’t it be great to use natural plain linen with some gorgeous Echino prints? I might have to make myself another one at least, just so I can wash one while using the other.

 

 

It has to be kawaii! Keepcup drawstring bag

The last Facebook market was so much fun. Thank you to everyone who came to browse and purchase. It’s always wonderful to connect with my regular customers, and make new(ish) things with them in mind.

One of my favorite creations for the market were these reusable shopping bag sets. Another favourite is the wristlet wet bag pouch, which I made specifically for a keepcup (reusable coffee cup) with a few utensils. I was also pleasantly surprised that my reusable sandwich wraps were popular, even with grownup fabrics.

After the market ended, I just wanted to keep making more stuff. So I made something for myself: A keepcup pouch!keepcup drawstring bag by piggledeeSquirrels in blue. So, so kawaii! (can you hear me squeal like a school girl?) I did ask myself: is it a tiny bit age-inappropriate for me to use this kiddy fabric for myself, being a 40-something grown woman and all? And the answer is, of course not! Okay, I might hesitate wearing this fabric as a garment. But for a pouch that would live quietly inside my backpack or handbag, the fabric absolutely has to be kawaii. Otherwise, where’s the joy?

keepcup drawstring bag by piggledee

This drawstring bag is just the right size for an 8-oz keepcup. I can also squeeze in a small reusable handkerchief and a child-sized fork and spoon. I’m pretty pleased how it came out. (Disclaimer: I am in no way associated with or compensated by the keepcup company. I just think they make great sustainable products.)

I also lined the bag with water-resistant nylon fabric, which I happened to have in this blue that matches the Squirrel fabric perfectly.

keepcup drawstring bag by piggledee

Plus I also happened to have this pretty blue cord that I once ordered by mistake – and now put to a good use.

keepcup drawstring bag by piggledee

Maybe I’ll make more of these cuties for my next market.  I can’t wait!

 

Facebook eco market this weekend!

It’s official. After a whopping 9-month break of some hiccups in my life, there will be a Piggledee Facebook market this weekend, from Saturday, September 16 at 9am Sydney time. wristlet keepcup case by piggledee

Sustainability is the theme of this market, with many creaions promoting the “reuse, refuse, and recycle” spirit. Like sandwich wraps and snack bags with water-resistant and food-safe nylon lining.

sandwich wrap by piggledee

sandwich wrap by piggledee

And lightweight drawstring shopping bags that are perfect for shopping at farmer’s market or pack-your-own grocery shops like this one.

drawstring eco bag by piggledee

Do you love coffee? I sure do! And with these wristlet wet bag pouches, you can carry around a reusable coffee cup (there are so many pretty ones out there )and save disposable cups from landfill. While at it, carry your own cutlery as well, so you are not tempted to use disposable ones. Waterproof PUL lining means you don’t have to worry about staining your handbag or diaper bag with drops of leftover coffee.

keepcup eco bag by piggledee

keepcup case by piggledee

Sustainability has been on my mind for a few years now, and in my own quiet, personal way, I have been mindful about how I live – like reducing waste, avoiding plastic shopping bags and packaging, shopping at second-hand shops rather than buying new, and cooking at home instead of ordering takeaways.

Piggledee child's apron
But what about my business? Am I being as sustainable as I can with Piggledee? I mean, I buy brand new fabrics and supplies from overseas (many made in China with who knows how much pollution it caused along the way). I ship my products using brand new packaging that might end up in landfill. What about all the fabric scraps that keep accumulating in my tiny home studio? Am I being a hypocrite? This has been a tough question for me.

In the end, I can’t be perfect. But I can do better. I can, for example: (1) make more (and more enticing) eco-friendly items, like the ones I’ll feature at this online market; (2) reduce waste by using scrap fabrics that I might otherwise throw away; and (3) not buy so much new materials, but use the ones I already have more efficiently.

If I do all of these above, I’ll probably feel better about buying brand new, imported fabrics – so long as they are utterly cute of course. Because for you and me, life should be fun, joyful, and beautiful. Sustainability doesn’t have to mean carrying old, tattered, ugly shopping bags to local grocery shops. Well, plastic supermarket bags are ugly to begin with, aren’t they? So are plastic ziplock bags. What child would be delighted to see another brown paper bag or plastic ziplock bag in her lunch box?

sandwich wrap set by piggledee

But these? Can you hear your little one saying, “yes please, Mom – you are the best!”  See, you can be fashionable and eco-friendly at the same time. It’s a winning combination in my view.

And while we are on this topic, can I also recommend Al Gore’s new movie, “Inconvenient Sequel“? I was afraid it was all doom and gloom this time, but no – it was surprisingly positive and powerful. Also the Slow Home podcast is pretty awesome (and the hosts Brooke and Ben McAlary live in the Blue Mountains, like me!).

Anyway, I hope you can stop by this weekend, even just to say hello. Updates are on my Facebook page!

 

Birthday bucket shoulder bag with outside pockets

I might have said this before, but I love customer feedback. Feedback is invaluable in improving my designs and coming up with new ones. Honest feedbacks are the most helpful, and the most honest customer I have in that department – is my mother.

My mother – who has always been an amazing supporter of my little business, always tells me exactly what she wants. And when she’s not happy with a particular product, I do hear from her!

So when I showed her my small Echino bucket bag to see if she’d like one of these for her birthday this month, she said she loved the Echino fabric, but she wasn’t sold on the bag design. She wished there were outside pockets – like some of the previous bags I made for her. She finds the pockets really useful, and an entire bag with just one fabric showing is a bit boring, she said. See, she’s honest.

I felt deflated for a minute (because I loved the original bag), but then I recovered and started cutting for another bag.

Bucket shoulder bag with outside pockets by Piggledee Bucket shoulder bag with outside pockets by Piggledee

 

Here’s the bag I made for her – small bucket shoulder bag with outside pockets…

Bucket shoulder bag with outside pockets by Piggledee

… and two inside pockets as well – four pockets in total. It does take a fair bit longer to make this bag, but the added feature of large outside pockets does make the stunning Echino fabric stand out more. I still like the original, all-over design, too though… which one do you like better? Here’s the two of them together. Meanwhile, Happy birthday, Midori!
Bucket shoulder bag with outside pockets by Piggledee

 

Autumn – and another Echino bucket tote

It’s getting cold in the Blue Mountains. I love all the seasons here, but autumn is particularly lovely. Here’s a view from my studio right now. What a glorious day!

Autumn in the blue mountains

In Japan, we think of autumn as a season of creativity and reading – a time to resurrect your brain after a mind-numbingly hot and sweaty summer. And even though the summer in the mountains is mild, I feel a surge of fresh creative energy these days!

Bucket shoulder bag by Piggledee

 

So, here’s another Echino bag in the same smaller bucket bag design I showed you last time (that bag, by the way, has sold already and is on its way to a new home in the US as we speak – woohoo!).

Bucket shoulder bag by Piggledee

How cute are these budgies? Well, they are more realistic-looking rather than “cute,” but I love them anyways. Budgies were my childhood pets growing up in a small apartment in Japan.

Echino Bucket shoulder bag by Piggledee

Etsuko Furuya’s designs are often large-scale, so they shine in larger items like this.

The natural colour of linen will go with a lot of different outfits, but I also have this print in hot pink and black.

Echino budgie fabric

It’s available in my Etsy shop now.

Polar Bear Fabric Storage Box

Here’s something super cute that I made for a customer today.

polar bear fabric storage box by Piggledee

 

 

It’s a fabric storage box! How adorable is this polar bear fabric by Japanese designer Mico Ogura? She actually designed a similar polar bear fabric last year, which had sadly sold out quickly.

But miracles do happen, and this year she again came up with this equally-cute polar bear fabric. I love all the colors, but the grey one is particularly beautiful, don’t you think? Paired with natural, off-white lining, its cuteness is subtle enough for a grownup to use.

polar bear fabric storage box by Piggledee

 

Fabric boxes are fantastic to organize things around your house. I’d think of diapers, baby clothing, kids’ toys, etc. But see, books might work well as well!

polar bear fabric storage box by Piggledee

Cook books, kids’ books, that tend to scatter around the house can be neatly piled up in one of these boxes (not that they are neatly organized in my house, unfortunately…).

And if you are wondering if I am ever going to finish that sewing pattern for these boxes, I’m very sorry! Yes I am going to finish it as soon as I have some free time. Thanks for your patience, everyone.

If you are interested in purchasing one of these boxes, they are on my Etsy shop. The polar bear one is not listed, but if you send me a message, I’d be happy to custom make one for you, too (while the fabrics last, that is – the grey one is nearly sold out!).

Potholders for Mother’s Day

My mother, who is gifted at finding amazing fabric from Japan, sent me this bit of unusual fabric this week. Doesn’t this fabric look a bit like a book of postage stamps, or a sticker sheet? A bit festive and Christmassy, too.

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I pondered what I can make with it. I only had about half a meter of it, so larger items were out. The “stickers” were all so pretty, particularly when cut out individually. But the rectangles are too small for a lavender pillows or coasters… Then I thought – applique!

potholders with applique

And what better than applique potholders for Mother’s Day? My mother loves cooking and she loves potholders. These came out so quickly, too. Just like real stickers, I stuck the fabric bits on with fusible web, and then straight stitched around the edges. The checkered binding adds a bit of interest to the otherwise minimalist design.

potholders with applique

I hope these will brighten up my mother’s kitchen. And for me? I have plenty of the lovely fabric left to play with still. Hooray!

leftover patchwork fabric

 

Snow!

It snowed last Friday in the upper Blue Mountains. It wasn’t just a few fluttering snowflakes, either – it was real, pile-up-high kind of snow you rarely see in Australia. Here in the Blue Mountains, snow like this hadn’t happened in decades (or so the locals told me – we’ve only been here for six months).   The snow started late Thursday night, and when we woke up Friday morning, it had piled up to a magical proportion. snow in the blue mountains Our balcony covered in snow. snow in the blue mountains Our front yard transformed. snow in the blue mountains View from my sewing room. washing line in the snow Oops I had forgotten to take in the laundry!

Our kids had never seen snow before. Upon seeing the snow in the morning, they began singing Christmas songs – which I thought was funny. Their excitement doubled when they learned that school was cancelled – not that our car would have made it through the snowy roads anyway.

Mark and I were just as excited. I grew up in Japan with annual ski holidays, but I hadn’t seen snow in 10 years. Needless to say, we didn’t get any work done on Friday or Saturday. snow in blue mountains The snow brought back my childhood memories. I had forgotten just how much fun I had as a kid, on those snowy winter holidays in Hokkaido. Sledding, mini skis on the road, sliding down hills on cardboard boxes, and of course skiing. Our kids had been missing out! We might have to take them on a snow trip to Victorian mountains next winter.

Black and white day

Today I continued to play with the black “boy” fabric.  I really love this fabric. First I made an insulated lunch bag.

insulated lunch bag for men by Piggledee

I realize this lunch bag may not look too manly…. A while back, I asked my Facebook friends if their husbands and boyfriends might go for a tote-style lunch bag if the fabric was sufficiently manly. And their answer was largely – um, no. Men don’t care about a nice lunch bag, and they can’t be trusted to bring it back home safely anyway, they told me. Or men would be too embarrassed to carry a handbag-style lunch bag. Fair enough, I thought. But here I am making a handbag lunch bag anyway! Maybe I am hopelessly optimistic that there are some men (or older boys) out there, who are comfortable wearing this adorable bag to work or school. Or there are women who would like to carry this cool lunch bag. We shall wait and see what the global Etsy community will say about this bag. 

insulated lunch bag for men by Piggledee

 

In that same Facebook conversation, some people suggested that toiletry bags might be the thing to make for men – assuming the fabric is right. So just to be on the safe side, I also made a large wet bag pouch in the same fabric. This would make a nice toiletry bag with the waterproof lining and all.

toiletry bag for men by Piggledee

toiletry bag for men by Piggledee

Speaking of black fabric, I sewed with a few other black (or black and white) fabrics today – quite by coincidence.

black and white lunch bag by Piggledee

This is an extra-large insulated lunch bag in black and white stripe – this fabric is popular. I’ve sold a lot of lunch bags in this zebra-chic fabric.

checkered cat wet bag by Piggledee

 

Here is a medium wet bag in a black and white checkered cat fabric. I also have this fabric in pink, green, and blue, but this black and white version is my favorite. 

drawstring lunch bag by Piggledee

 

This one is a simple drawstring backpack lunch bag. It’s the same “Cocoland” series of cat fabrics as the checkered one. 

The drawstring bag has such a cute shape, don’t you think? I have a tutorial here if you’d like to make one yourself. It would make a great craft project bag, too! Here is the bag with my current craft project inside. It’s going to be a scarf for Mr. Piggledee (because it’s really cold in the Blue Mountains). My knitting needles don’t quite fit in this bag, but if you use circular needles it will fit with no problem. 

Most of these items are now available at my shop

drawstring lunch bag by Piggledee

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Janome Memory Craft 6600P

A few weeks ago I bought a domestic sewing machine – Janome Memory Craft 6600P. I needed a back-up sewing machine in case something happens to my Mitsubishi industrial workhorse. I also wanted a relatively high-end machine so I could do stitches that I can’t do on my straight-stitch industrial machine – like button holes, zig zags, and monograms. Automatic thread cutter was also a “necessity” now that I’m so used to it.

Budget was limited though, so when I found a second-hand Memory Craft 6600 at a reasonable price, I went for it. Having never owned a high-end domestic machine, I was excited! I bought a new sewing table and chair for the Janome and welcomed it to my studio – here it is next to my Brother overlocker.

Janome MC 6600

Sadly, my first impression of the machine was… disappointment. It was a nice machine for sure, and the stitch quality was good. But it felt like a toy compared to my powerful, responsive industrial machine. After a few hours of playing with it, I didn’t go back to it for weeks. It was that frustrating to sew with.

Eventually though, I decided to give the Janome another try. Maybe I judged harshly too soon. Maybe I just needed to get to know it better. It was unfair to expect it to perform like an industrial machine anyway… 

Today was a lazy Sunday. The kids were away at a local market with Mark. I decided to do some light patchwork and quilting with the Janome.

Janome MC 6600 built-in walking foot

Piecing lightweight pieces together went trouble-free. Then I tried the built-in walking foot. It worked very well! Much smoother, quieter, and more effortless than the clanky walking-foot attachment I had for my old Janome machine. It’s great that the walking foot is built-in – no need to attach it with a screwdriver. Finally, I felt a glimmer of hope – maybe even love – towards this machine. 

Here are other things I love about this machine:

(1) The bobbin winder that works with a touch of a button. You don’t have to operate the whole sewing machine to wind up a bobbin, and the process is fast. 

(2) Auto thread cutter works like a charm, at the touch of a button. 

(3) The machine is a little faster than a regular domestic machine – at 1000 stitches per minute, it is of course slow compared to 5000-stitch-per-minute industrial machine, but still fast enough not to feel too frustrated.

(4) The stitch quality is solid and clean. I can definitely use this machine for my professional sewing work (although I haven’t tried out heavy canvas bags yet on this machine).

What I still find frustrating is that the machine is not instantly responsive. I like to start sewing at a fast pace, but the machine starts out slowly for the first few stitches, no matter how hard I step on the foot controller. I get the same sluggish response when I stop and backstitch. 

I am also disappointed in the knee lifter attachment. I had to get a height-adjustable chair just to reach the knee lifter comfortably. However, when I do reach the lifter, I’m sitting way too high to operate the machine ergonomically. I have given up on the knee lifter for the moment.

Still, I quite enjoyed sewing with the Janome today. In just a couple of hours, I made three small placemats, a large pot holder / table runner, and a small potholder for our kitchen. I wouldn’t have made so many things if I hated the machine. That’s right, the Janome and I are finally becoming friends. 

Patchwork placemats for kids by Ppiggledee

Patchwork placemats for kids by Ppiggledee

Patchwork table runner by Piggledee

patchwork creations for the dining table