how to make your dreams come true

Sometimes I like to imagine that the things I want to write will just come to exist by themselves. But I’m learning the hard way that even my imagination has limitations.

I used to think goal-setting was for nerds, but now I understand why people bother with it. In this post, I’ll break down some of my goals and endeavors over the next few months. I realized the other day that I sew and knit to procrastinate, so my primary objective is to use my time more wisely to develop my writing.

Let me know what you think.

a little bit about sewing stuff

This month I’m taking part in Me Made May. Me Made May is an internet movement created by Zoe from the internet challenging people who make their own clothes to wear the things they make throughout May.

my me made may pledge

I, Justina (@justinaforever), sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’17. I endeavor to wear at least one me-made item of clothing each day for the duration of May 2017.

I try to wear the things that I make every day anyway, but Me Made May makes me realize I need to do a few extra things this month.

things to do for me made may

  1. Turn the dresses that I rarely wear into tops. (I need to stop making tee dresses because they tend to ride up if I wear a backpack. Ugh, inappropriate!) I’ll chop them up, re-hem them into tops, and try to salvage the rest of the fabric into other tops.
  2. Find a really good pattern for shorts. It’s much too hot to wear pants now.
  3. Use up the rest of the fabric I have hiding in my apartment.
alder shirtdress view b in printed pattern
Wearing an Alder Shirtdress I made (pattern by Grainline Studio). Photo taken by my good buddy Billy.

but this post isn’t about making clothes. it’s about writing.

Thing is, what I really should be doing instead of knitting and sewing is working on all the stories I want to write. So here are my goals for all of you to see. I’m declaring them here so you can hold me accountable to them.

writing goals

  1. Publish a blog post each week.
  2. Finish writing my novel for kids, which I’ve been working on since 2010.
  3. Make an outline for the new novel bubbling inside my soullll.
  4. Read lots of CanLit written by women, and make a true effort to read work by women of color.

But how to accomplish these goals? With these here rules:

rules for getting more writing did

  1. Write for at least 25 minutes in the morning before work. (I bought an egg timer for this.)
  2. No knitting or sewing until I have written for at least 25 minutes that day.
  3. I am only allowed to knit while watching TV, on public transportation, and during 5-minute breaks between writing.
  4. Capture ALL my ideas (especially the worst ones) in my handy dandy notebook.

but why

i have dreams u know

advice? insight? feedback?

Am I doing this all wrong? What are your hopes and dreams? Don’t be shy! Let me know in the comments…

DIY Drawstring Backpack Tutorial

This tutorial will show you how to make a simple drawstring backpack. I’ve adapted it from Sam DeRose’s great tutorial in Make: Sew a Durable Drawstring Bag.

This particular drawstring backpack features French seams and grommets for extra durability.

Drawstring backpacks are great for taking stuff to work, hiking, shopping, carrying cleats to games, etc., etc. Continue reading DIY Drawstring Backpack Tutorial

Named Inari Crop Tee #1 & Leini Dress

How cool are all the designs from Named Clothing? Way cool.

Inari Crop Tee #1

Here’s my first Inari Crop Tee by Named. The fabric is some kind of woven that my mom will definitely hate. I got this fabric in Sham Shui Po a couple of weekends ago, where I also got this zigzaggy cotton that reminds me of a Missoni print if it were to fall into the hands of a hardcore brony.

Trying on fabric at the Yen Chow Street Hawker Bazaar.
y/n? Trying on fabric at the Yen Chow Street Hawker Bazaar.

I made this in Size 38/US 6/UK 10. I downloaded and printed the PDF pattern from the Named website, then traced it onto parchment paper. But because I wanted French seams, I added 1/4″ to the seam allowance everywhere except for the facings (neck and sleeves) and anything attached to the facings (the neckhole and cuff openings). I used this great tutorial from Grainline Studio to French all the seams (except for the edges of the facings, which I just zigzag-stitched). This top used about 1 yard of 60″-wide fabric. I love the faux rolled-sleeve look very much.

Inari Crop Tee hanging on a hanger
Inari Crop Tee hanging on a hanger outside my apartment.

I am definitely making this top again. I also want to make the tee-dress version of this pattern in a Gudetama fabric because I really want a yellow dress. Stay tuned.

The pocket skirt I am wearing in this next picture was made from fabric salvaged from my second dress using the Leini pattern. Scroll down for more.

Inari Crop Tee, pattern by Named
So happy, this pic.

I like this skirtbecause it reminds me of an old American Apparel skirt I wore a lot at the end of my undergrad. It also reminds me of this fashion blogger Lena that I used to adore (and still do, actually, now that I’m looking at her Instagram feed) and her outfits from, like, 2008.

Leini Dress #1

I made the Leini dress in Size 38/US 6/UK 10 in a light blue chambray. The lining is some red-and-white stripy fabric that I got for $5 HKD per yard. I think it might have plastic in it because when I ironed it at high heat it hardened and smelled real bad. Like, real bad. I’d tried to read through the instruction booklet beforehand, but these are the kinds of instructions that make no sense until you’re actually trying to execute them.

Don't you hate that fabric dust that gets everywhere when you cut fabric?
Don’t you hate that fabric dust that gets everywhere when you cut fabric? I def do.

The lining was a bit confusing, especially with the arm holes, but I figured it out. And, dude, this skirt is freaking LONG. Or my legs are real short. Or both. I lopped off a couple of inches before hemming the skirt, but I definitely could have lopped off more. The length is very office lady. How apt. Because I work in an office.

The Ultimate Office Lady Dress.
The Ultimate Office Lady Dress.

So, everyone, if you’re looking to sew an office lady dress, this is your pattern.

Leini Dress #2

I thought the bodice of my first dress was a bit big, and the elastic waist too high, so I made a second dress with all these brilliant modifications in mind. This second dress is one size smaller than the first, and I lengthened the bodice by two inches. I skipped the lining and used bias binding instead… but accidentally bias-bound the neckline backwards.

The end result was so fugly I didn’t take a photo of it. But I did wear it to dinner with my parents.

What Happens When You Go to Sham Shui Po on a Whim?

I Died and Came Back to Life

It’s alive! By “it” I mean my blog, along with my creative life, and me. I’m alive. We’re alive. One and a half years later.

Much has changed since I last wrote. I moved to Hong Kong in October 2014, got a real job, got some friends, moved out of my parents’ house into my own apartment, and now I am here, typing up this blog post.

Saturday, in a rare bout of inspiration, I went to the stalls on Ki Lung Street in Sham Shui Po and bought some fabric.

Ki Lung Street fabric stalls in Sham Shui Po
New favorite way to spend Saturday morning: wandering around the fabric stalls in Sham Shui Po.

Treasure from the Stalls of Sham Shui Po

Here’s what I got (prices in HKD):

  • $20 x 3 yards of denim = $60
  • $15 x 2.5 yards of patterned cotton (I think) = $38
  • $1 x 12 brass-colored buttons to go with the denim = $12

I wonder if I should learn to bargain? Nah.

There was a shop selling fabric covered in knockoff Gudetama (bloodstained yolk and all) and other knockoff cartoon characters. I think the fabric was mostly for bedding because they had a lot of pictures of beds and stuff. There was a table with small rolls of fabric that could each be had for $14. Here’s what I got:

  • $14 for like 1.5 yards of polka dotty canvas stuff
  • $14 for like 1.5 yards of canvas stuff with a cute leaf print on it
canvas fabric finds from sham shui po
I got seven placemats out of the polka dot fabric. What to do with the leaves?

To get reacquainted with this sewing machine, I made some VERY SLOPPY placemats with the polka-dot fabric. Next time I will take the time to sew mitered corners. No more cutting corners. *rimshot*

The Day I Got a Sewing Machine

I bet you’re wondering when, why, and how I got a sewing machine. Here’s the story.

A couple months ago—maybe it was September?—Alice and Diana came over for a crepe party.

crepe party food stylists
Diana and Alice, pro food stylists.

It was the best meal I’ve ever eaten in my apartment.

crepe party
Damn, that was a good brunch.

Why is the crepe party relevant to this post? After we made and ate the crepes, they talked me into getting a sewing machine from the Singer sewing machine shop in Sheung Wan. The shop was having a sale to celebrate students returning to school.

I am now the proud owner of a Singer Tradition model 2250. And have been since September.

Singer Tradition model 2250
The Singer Tradition model 2250 at my window.

The machine lay dormant until Halloween, when I sewed up a Batman mask and logo thing out of felt.

My friend Juro took this picture. It took a really long time to get the garbage bag to hover properly in the wind.

Resurrecting the Sewing Machine with New Projects

But I’m happy to have dusted off the sewing machine. I wish I didn’t have to go to work and could just stay at home cutting and sewing stuff all day.

Here’s What I Plan to Make

  • Alder Shirtdress from Grainline Studio, made of denim. I need to find some heavier thread and get some more needles for my machine.
  • The Staple Dress by April Rhodes from the cotton print. Need to find elastic thread somewhere, maybe from the Needlework Shop at lunch time 😉

Grainline Alder Shirtdress, Take 2

I liked my first stab at the Alder Shirtdress so much that I decided to make another one.

grainline alder shirtdress view b
Filed under Photos taken by my ex boyfriends.

Evan was a good sport and helped me take a bunch of pictures during our walk. Maybe too good a sport. He got kind of bossy.

grainline alder shirtdress, view b, size 2
“Move two steps to the left.”

This one is also made of cotton that I got in Sham Shui Po. The fabric looks like when you flick toothbrush bristles to spray paint everywhere. It also makes me think of somebody who’s just thrown up birthday cake. I like it!

grainline alder shirtdress, view b, size 2
The skirt poufs up if it catches the wind, but at least it doesn’t flip right up and expose you.

Sewing Notes

  • Raised the bust darts by about an inch.
  • Instead of trying French seams again, I used the sewing machine’s overedge stitch with the overedge stitch foot.
  • The overedge stitch foot is awesome! It’s great for topstitching.
  • Used this tutorial by Four Square Walls for the collar bit because reading through the Grainline sewalong tutorial still confuzes me. Sigh.
  • Accidentally put the topmost button at the top of the button band rather than on the collar stand… heh heh heh.

Next Time (And There Will Be a Next Time)

  • Raise the pockets by about an inch.
  • Make it in this black/white fabric that Mummy chose. It’ll look totally different, I’m sure.

MAKE IT! The pattern is amazing!

Grainline Alder Shirtdress

This post is about the Grainline Studio’s Alder shirtdress.

So I got really excited to do the Alder Sew-Along. Maybe a tad too excited, because I jumped the gun and made one before Jen finished posting all the tutorial thingies!

alder shirtdress view b
Knitting, biking, and eating junkfood at the park. My kinda day.

I made view B because I thought it might look more flattering than view A.

Alder Shirtdress View B, back view.
Alder Shirtdress View B, back view.


Processed with VSCOcam with m3 preset
Riverdale Park!


  • I made a size 2 because it matched my measurements pretty much to a tee.
  • I tried to do French seams… and ended up having to fudge the bit around the pivot point (where the skirt fronts meet the front) because I had no idea what to do re: the French seams! I am looking forward to seeing suggestions from the sew-along about this.
  • I misread the bit about attaching the collar and nearly messed the whole thing up, but managed to fudge stuff around a bit. I think it looks okay because the fabric is so busy.
  • This is some cotton I got in Sham Shui Po in Hong Kong.
  • These pictures are bad. Maybe I’ll post a better one later.

Simplicity 1880 Faux Wrap Dress

Here’s my first stab at Simplicity 1880. I made style B, the fake-wrap version.

Evan helped me take these pictures.

simplicity 1880 wrap dress
This dress went to Value Village. Hopefully somebody liked it enough to pay 99 cents for it.

I had made a muslin for this dress, which helped me determine that the waist was around 2 inches too high and the front gaped like mad (hooray for flatness). For the ~real~ version of the dress, I lengthened the bodice so the waist actually hit my waist, but I didn’t do a small bust adjustment. I should have!!!

back of simplicity 1880 wrap dress
Back of the wrap dress.

The result? The “wrap” neckline bit gapes quite a bit. I ended up sewing the overlapping pieces together to avoid, um, flashing the universe. But for future renditions of this dress I will definitely figure out how to do an adjustment.

I had done a sloppy job with the invisible zipper because I thought watching a 10-minute tutorial video would be too time-consuming. Ha! Another lesson learned. Feeling productive a couple days later, I unpicked the zipper and re-inserted it and now it looks much better! I mean, I spent so long on the dress anyway, so why was I willing to settle for the ugliness that was the zipper?

Not very flattering in hindsight. PASS.
Not very flattering in hindsight. PASS.

I made this dress out of cotton that I got in Sham Shui Po in Hong Kong. Mummy picked out the fabric for me. Sham Shui Po is fabric HEAVEN!!!! Blocks of streets lined with shops filled with fabric swatches, and roadside stalls with fabric on bolts and rolls. Roadside stalls selling muslins and rows of shops selling buttons, zips, leather, and all kinds of other sewing bits and bobs.

Here are swatches of the other fabrics I got! At 35 HKD a yard (around 5 CAD)… how could I say no?!

Fabric Swatches from Yu Tex Company in Sham Shui Po.
Fabric Swatches from Yu Tex Company in Sham Shui Po.

I’d gone to Sham Shui Po by myself earlier but was not confident in my Cantonese skills to actually try buying anything. That, and I was scared they were all wholesalers. With Mummy’s help, we were able to determine that you have to order a minimum of 3 (or was it 5?) yards of fabric and then return to the shop to pick it up a couple days later.

Oh, and I learned how to slip stitch for the sash. Cool!

Reversible Bag

Saw this bag by Very Purple Person on Pinterest and decided to make one of my own because I don’t have a purse to carry stuff around in. The pattern is clear and very easy to follow!

I didn’t have a good fabric to match it up with so I ended up using the same fabric for the inside and outside. I added a little pocket to the inside for my phone and wallet.

very purple person bag
I don’t know where this bag is any more 🙁

City Gym Shorts

It seems like every sewer (sew-er?) on Instagram is all about these City Gym Shorts from Purl Bee… including me! They are flattering and adorable.

Purl Bee's City Gym Shorts
Purl Bee’s City Gym Shorts

Used the leftover bright floral fabric from my Circle Skirt dress to make these. I got the fabric from King’s Textiles at Queen and Spadina. It might be for quilts. I don’t know. It’s cotton.

Purl Bee's City Gym Shorts
PJs + Birkenstocks = my mother would not approve.

BRB, I’m going to make some more.

Rectangle Dress

This was my first attempt at, um, making up my own design. Basically I cut out two slightly-wider-than-me-sized rectangles, sewed them together (with French seams), bias-bound the neckline and armholes, hemmed the bottom, and made a tie belt. Oh, and I put in a pocket.

The fabric is from a thrifted bedsheet from Value Village.

i'm in ur neighbourhood wearing ur bedsheet
i’m in ur neighbourhood wearing ur bedsheet

After making that, I decided to make my twin sister Jessica and me matching dresses out of blue linen.

asian twins wearing matching dresses
Who wore it better? jk jk don’t answer that.
lion hitched to bicycle with pretty girl
I love this photo of Jess. This lion was hitched to a bicycle outside a dumpling restaurant in Beijing. Also I think she looks really pretty here.


Update: I have since given my dress to Diana because it is a bit too short for me.