Back to life, back to reality

Some days ago, we returned from spectacular two-week trip to Japan. I’ve talked a little bit about my background in this post, but part of my family came from Japan several generations ago. I’d wanted to go since I was a kid, but somehow this was my first trip. I’m not sure I can adequately express my excitement and my expectations before going, or the mix of familiarity and strangeness of a culture my family came from many decades ago. | Roscoe Dress

What made the trip feel less overwhelming and the country more accessible was information and welcoming from sewing friends. I reached out to Gillian, Inna and Sanae with newbie questions about what to do, where to stay and how to get around, and they did a better job of getting me oriented and even more excited about the trip than any guidebook. | Kyoto

And as luck would have it, Inna and I overlapped by one day in Kyoto, during which she took me on an amazing whirlwind tour of the sewing shops near the indoor markets. Our menfolk met up afterwards for a fun little dinner. The very next day, we left for Tokyo by train and I got to meet Yoshimi, Novita, and Chie for tea! Talk about spoiled. (And I apparently managed to miss Amy by some minutes in Nippori Fabric Town!) | Nippori Fabric Town

For the past few years, I’ve intermittently asked myself if I want to continue blogging and why. It does require an investment of time, and I am purely a hobby blogger. The online sewing world is growing exponentially and becoming more commercial, and I wonder if I’m short-sighted for meandering along without any particular goal beyond sewing and writing/reading about it.

And then something like this trip happens, where I’m nearly 5,000 miles from my home and I have sewing friends to meet up with. And they’re just like they are on their blogs, only more interesting! | Tokyo bloggers

The trip revealed my infrequently-seen maximalist side. We walked over 10 miles a day for two weeks, pushing ourselves to see a tiny fraction of what was beautiful and strange in Japan, consoling ourselves with thoughts of a return trip. But now I’m back, adjusting to my regular life and have had some time to reflect on how grateful I am to all the sewing folks who made our trip wonderful.

Now, to make some time to sew up the fabrics I bought in Japan…


And for the gentleman

There’s something about preparing for a vacation that inspires me to take on extra projects. Years ago, I would stay up all night baking bread or cookies that I just had to bring on a camping trip. Now, of course, I dream up extra sewing projects.

This time, my last-minute project was on the selfless side. Three days before leaving for Kauai, I decided Nathan could really use some nice lightweight shorts to round out his travel wardrobe. I really, really considered making a dress for myself, but good sense prevailed; between the two of us, he’s the one who could use a few more pieces in his wardrobe.

Kwik Sew 3504 |

I used Kwik Sew 3504, a jeans pattern I bought after seeing Sunni’s post. I probably wouldn’t have bought it if not for her post, because the cover art looks dated in a way that would have made me wonder if the fit was, you know, “relaxed” or the rise unpleasantly high. All went well, however – the shorts looked modern and fit perfectly without a single change. NOT  A SINGLE CHANGE. Now, men’s pants are most likely less fitted than women’s, but it still seems highly unlikely that a pants pattern would fit anybody straight out of the envelope!

Kwik Sew 3504 |

I guess I’m just jealous. Anyway. I really liked working with this pattern. All the pieces were included – fly extensions, fly shield, belt loops, coin pocket. One feature I also really liked was that they gave measurements instead of markings for wear to place belt loops and bar tacks. For example, the instructions say to place the front belt loops 1″ from the front pockets, and the middle belt loops half-way between the front and back belt loops. I liked this quite a bit more than using tailor’s tacks and hoping they stay put while I constructed the rest of the shorts.

Kwik Sew 3504 |

I used the same olive drab linen as my Mini-ru, from Our Fabric Stash, which was sturdy enough for shorts but lighter weight than a denim. Since these shorts were really a trial run for the jeans I’d like to make Nathan some day soon, I was happy to use a not-too-precious-but-still-appropriate stash fabric.

The zipper fly insertion method similar to my favorite tutorial from Debbie Cook, so I referred to both of them because I still find her pictures really helpful.

Kwik Sew 3504 |

I used my favorite method for finishing the inside of a waistband.

Kwik Sew 3504 |

One of the nicest things about sewing for Nathan is how regularly he wears the things I make for him. It took me awhile to attain the certain sets of skills it takes to make respectable-looking dude clothing, but I’m feeling better equipped and my last three projects for him have all been in high rotation. Along with jeans, I’d still like to tackle making a long-sleeve buttoned shirt with the dreaded tower placket. I’ve been meaning to since I made him a birthday shirt last year.

Kwik Sew 3504 |

We got back from Kauai a couple of days ago, so the shorts will be most likely tucked away until summer. I was delighted, however, to see some radish sprouts in the garden I’d hurriedly sewn before we left! (Yet another last-minute project!) Softens the blow of coming back from a tropical paradise.


Yokes and gathers, part II

Aloha! I’m warming my bones and porcelain skin in beautiful Kauai this week, and the conditions were perfect for a second installation of Yokes & Gathers. This pattern is Vogue 1387, a new-ish Rebecca Taylor design, and I just love the design lines. | Vogue 1387

I have the front pinned right now, and plan to stitch it once I find exactly the right spot. I think it’s a bit high in the photos. My bust point is pretty low, and the bodice still gapes too far. I love the wrap look, but am considering another version with a v-neck instead. | Vogue 1387

I found this lovely (second-hand!) floral rayon at – where else? – Our Fabric Stash when Cindy came to town last month. It was my second blogger meetup (the first being coffee with the delightful Sanae) and it was loads of fun! Cindy was as funny and cool as you might expect from her blog, and it was great to meet new Seattlite, Amy from Sew Well, who had Baby Brynn with her and is one of the most laid-back new moms I’ve ever witnessed. Meris (who I already knew was awesome because we went to college together) joined in for brunch. I really enjoyed how our conversations meandered from fabric to science to costumes and corsets. | Vogue 1387

Anyway – I’d like to say a couple more things about this (very un-corset-like) garment. First of all, if you too are influenced by the siren song of yokes and gathers to make this pattern, pick your size based on your bust measurement – the waist and hips are voluminous. I made a wearable muslin first based on my waist and hip measurements, and it was very large through the bust and even the shoulders. I went down a size for this version, and it’s perfect.

Second, I’m pretty sure there’s an error in the instructions. Vogue says to make buttonholes only on the right side of the wrap and make a drawstring casing by folding up the waist seam allowance. I’ve gone over this in my head more times than I care to admit, and I’m almost positive the drawstring would shoot out the side of the wrap as you tried to pull it through. I doubted myself on the wearable muslin, so I tried it Vogue’s way on this version and I just can’t imagine a way it would work.  Next time, I’ll make the buttonholes through both wrap pieces after I’ve basted them together.

Lastly, after hearing Erica B. had lengthened the bodice of her version by 1″, I followed suit and the waist hits in the right spot. (Whenever I read that someone else lengthened a bodice, I just do it without question. I’m 5’8″, but I have the legs of someone who’s 5’5″. Does that give me the torso of someone who’s 5’11”?) | Vogue 1387

It’s been utterly luxurious to field-test this top in a suitable climate. There are some aspects of home that I miss, however; on the top of my list is definitely being able to dispose of food waste properly. It’s been driving me crazy to put kale stems and banana peels straight into the trash! I know Seattle is in a bit of a bubble when it comes to recycling and composting food waste. It’s such an easy way to reduce waste going into landfills. I’m spoiled! (Also, I miss Orson, our kitty.) But I’ll be back in Seattle before I know it, composting my food scraps, hanging out with Orson, and wishing I were still in Kauai!

Portland / Thrifting Heaven

I’ll say it: I love Portland.

As I mentioned in my Renfrew post, we took a trip there the weekend before last. I’ve generally managed to wean myself off of shopping for funsies (with the notable exception of sewing patterns), but Portland’s plethora of second-hand shopping options afforded me the opportunity to go on a spree. Nathan willingly accompanied me under the condition that our last stop was Powell’s City of Books (which sells a mix of new and used books). Fair enough!

Our first stop was SCRAP, which is a non-profit creative re-use center. It’s amazing! They had sewing, crafting and art supplies, all from donations at extremely reasonable prices.
Fabric at SCRAP
Zipper bin at SCRAP
Vintage patterns at SCRAP

I walked away with two pieces of cotton fabric (7 yards for $12.50) and four vintage patterns at about $1 apiece. They also had a big bin of leather scraps that I’m wishing I’d raided. Why isn’t there something like this in Seattle? Is there, and I don’t know about it?

In the streamlining spirit of the Stashbusting Challenge (even though I didn’t take the no-fabric pledge, I think I’m secretly holding myself to it), I ended up donating two non-fabric things that have been rattling around in my car trunk for longer than I care to admit. Hopefully someone in Portland will enjoy a vintage suitcase and some handmade paper! They seem to belong together.
Photo by Nathan

After SCRAP and a big brunch, Nathan and I hit up an antique mall we discovered on our last trip to Portland. It’s chock full of furniture, clothes, textiles, dishes, and oddities. It’s called Stars Antique Mall, and they’ve managed to fully occupy two city-block sized buildings on either side of their street. It’s fancy thrifting, but the prices are still low compared to Seattle. We walked about of there with a framed chalkboard and a vintage cribbage board.

I’m kicking myself for not buying a bit of this trim!

Ah yes, here’s one of the oddities I mentioned; an as-is legless baby doll!


I was completely exhausted after all that thrifting, so we took a nap before getting some dinner and heading to Powell’s. I got to watch Nathan go into a book frenzy while I puttered around in the sewing and art books. All in all, it was a very fruitful trip. Thanks, Portland!

Quick Stashbusting Challenge update: if you haven’t already joined, there’s a new reason to do so!  Seamstress Erin has started a spin-off flickr group for those of us interested in swapping fabric, notions, etc. How cool is that?

California trip in pictures, thoughts on sustainable travel

Here are some of my favorite photos from the road trip portion of our California trip. The first three are from the Getty Museum, because it’s impossible to take a bad photo there! We hadn’t planned to stop, but instinct took over. I did an internship organized through the Getty in one summer in college and absolutely fell in love with the place.

The magic of the Getty is really the buildings and the grounds. The art is always high-quality but nothing beats planting one’s feet on Italian travertine marble whilst enjoying an elevated, panoramic view of LA.

Nathan walking around the Getty.

crab&bee Getty

This statue was amazing, and I love the juxtaposition of the three men on the walkway behind it.

crab&bee Getty

Facing Los Angeles; I think this would be a perfect photo for the cover of a Murakami novel.

crab&bee Getty

The coast off of San Simeon. We saw a sea lion, an abundance of hawks and a freakin’ buzzard.

crab&bee San Simeon

Beautiful and weird flowers(?) outside of our bed-and-breakfast in Carmel.

crab&bee Carmel

Our friend Elizabeth and me in Ukiah. Part of our dinner was corn from those very stalks! It was so good to see her. We waited for the temperature to drop before going to sleep and ended up playing cards at the late-night doughnut shop after dinner.

crab&bee Ukiah

It’s hard to believe how much ground we covered on our trip. We flew into in Fullerton (Orange County), picked up our rental car and drove into Ukiah 72 hours later. Since we here at crab&bee have a focus on sustainability, here are some of my trip musings on the topic:

  • A versatile, durable travel cup and/or mug is a necessity for avoiding waste; I bought a double-walled stainless steel cup when I got back that should serve me well for both hot and cold drinks.
  • The Pacific Northwest/San Francisco are kind of an anomaly when it comes to composting food waste. At least recycling is at least pretty standard on the entire west coast.
  • On the flip side, nothing is wasted on a farm! Food scraps in Ukiah (mostly locally-raised food) were placed in a bucket and dumped back into the yard compost pile.
  • We upgraded to a fuel efficient rental car, which meant getting about 25 miles/gallon. It’s crazy that my ’98 Honda Civic gets significantly better mileage than a brand-new “fuel efficient” car!

Travel can be inherently high-impact (transportation fuel, meals out, hotel rooms that launder bedding and towels daily, packaged food), but I think it’s a fun mental challenge to reduce your waste while on vacation. Anybody have any good sustainable travel pointers?


I’ve just returned from a week-long trip to fantastic week-long trip in Maui. The reason for the trip was for a family wedding (more on that later!) but Bee and our guys had a lot of time to explore Maui, eat good food and relax.

I also had some time to document recently-completed sewing projects; Nathan obligingly took pictures of me on an early morning beach walk near where we stayed in Kihei.
I used the same pattern as my flannel shirt, McCall’s 6436. I used a cotton voile, which is probably closer to the silky fabric the pattern recommends. It was SO EASY to work with, like paper. It did exactly what I wanted it to.

Like before, I skipped the back darts. I also raised the hem of the side seams but left the front and back long, since the shirt looked a bit billowy.

There’s something so life-affirming about such a vibrant shade, don’t you think?

Portland, aka Thrifting Heaven

Wherever you go in Portland,
there’s likely to be a photobooth.

Nathan and I spent a fantastic weekend in Portland, leaving after work on Friday and squinting all the way home on Sunday through the sleet and snow.

I’ll be honest, I was in the mood to get down to some serious second-hand shopping. Our hotel was blocks from both Powell’s and Buffalo Exchange, which are somehow across the street from each other. It’s as if someone said, “well, if Nathan’s spending a bunch of cash on used books, we’ve got to give Morgan a fighting chance at matching his dollars in thrifted clothing purchases!” So after Saturday am brunch at Kenny & Zukes, which made me feel like I was in Brooklyn in a good way, we split up.

I took a quick browse through Powell’s, which never disappoints (I do love books as much as the next guy, just so long as that guy isn’t Nathan). I was a little underwhelmed by the Buff’s offerings, however. I found a cotton Adidas workout sweatshirt and called it good after trying on 15 other disappointing garments, but managed to find two shirts and a great pair of jeans for Nathan.

The rest of the afternoon/evening was all drinking, eating and relaxing, but after brunch on Sunday at Petite Provence in the Alberta district we decided to do some antiquing and stumbled upon the Stars Antique Mall on our way to Sellwood.


It was the best, highest quality thrifting I’ve ever done. Light on clothes, but heavy on amazing furniture, textiles, housewares and books. I would have taken more pictures but I was too busy scouring. Nathan took some great photos of things he’s interested in, such as:

Creepy figurines and marionettes

vintage dice

and, “dolls.”

We ended up leaving with a great 2′ x 3.5′ bookshelf, an old wooden box I’m going to use as a monitor lift at work, and a khaki green wool button-down that I’m sure will make it into a fashion shoot here soon. Prices were so reasonable.

I’m savoring memories of our fun trip now that we’re home, but I’m still a little wistful for the things we never would have been able to fit in our 2-door car. Because I would have loved to have indulged in dining chairs, a 1940s artist desk, the set of coordinated but slightly different Herman Miller chairs… maybe next time we’ll drive down in a big car and with a big budget for furniture and the fuel to haul it back north.