Tuesday, August 9, 2016

BCSF Workshop with Momoko Komori

The jacket is reversible.
This is the jacket taught in the class.
Jacket back. (Photo Credit: Momoko Komori)

or what I learned from Momoko -san on one magical day...

It was my honor to host a workshop with Sensei Momoko Komori, as a breakout event of BlytheCon San Francisco.  I want to give a big shout out to Quilt Works in South San Francisco, a non-profit who so generously let us use their facility at a very reasonable rate.  They played a big part in making this event possible.

It has long been a dream of mine to attend a sewing class with Momoko.  I watch all of her posts wistfully, dreaming of a day.  I don’t keep a Bucket List, but if I did, this would be at the top.  

For those who may not know her, Momoko is very kind and quiet, patient and focused.  She openly shares her secrets.  And it is clear here and in demos as well, which I have been lucky enough to attend several, that she is very methodical, nothing is random.  Each little clip in the collar is placed just so, the exact length, in the exactly perfect spot, every time. When sewing, the length of the seam is exact, not ever one stitch too many.  She said, “Once stitch is 1.8mm too much!”  

All of this is clear when you look at her miniature garments, in their perfection.  It is why they are so highly prized and sought after, never coming back up on the resale market.  And, wow! What a change for me, coming from a background in theatrical costume design, where details are important but no one is looking up close.

I want to thank Kathleen Stevens for letting me use her photos for this post. I was so focused on the lessons that I took almost no photos.  All of the photos in this post are hers unless otherwise credited.  Frankly, I felt a bit torn between wanting to take the class and needing to host the event.  And on top of it all, I was operating on a level of extreme exhaustion.
Kathleen's doll with the jacket in progress during the class.
Kathleen's doll in the completed jacket.

 We made these lovely miniature letterman jackets, fully lined and reversible.  Momoko provided kits, with the fabric already cut and fray checked in the tiny pieces.  And she had pre-sewn all of the lining pieces together to help speed the process!  Nonetheless the class ran over by about an hour.  Momoko was kind enough to stay longer to help everyone get to a finishing point.  This class was a much larger class than her other classes.  She usually teaches 8 students.  And we were a group of 14!  And we were English speakers on top of the class size, too!




Here are some things I learned (or was reminded of their importance):

  • I LOVE that Juki TL-2010Q sewing machine. I can’t stress this enough. What an awesome machine!  Juki USA was kind enough to lend a machine for the BCSF demo and workshop.  Thank you Juki!
  • No matter what machine (and tools) you have, familiarity really helps.  We develop a relationship with our equipment that makes the work easier to be exact.
  • Be exact.  One stitch is one stitch too many in seaming, even with tiny stitch length.  This is so important when working in miniature. Put the snip exactly where the ease is needed, don’t just put a random line of snips around the collar edge.
  • Fray Check the edges of pieces.  I think that she does this before cutting.  The pattern pieces were made of cardboard.  She traced the pieces (in something that does not run with fray check like pencil) then fray checked the line.  Then cut.  At BCNYC, she said to open the Fray Check and put a piece of hose (like stockings) between the bottle top and cap to help it come out more smoothly and precisely.
  • 5mm seams
  • Leave 3mm open and the beginning of the neck/shoulder seams for ease then less clipping at the neckline is required.
  • Leave 5mm open at the armpit seam for ease, then no clip is required in that area.
  • The pocket area is reinforced with fusible interfacing on the wrong side of the fabric, as a first step.
  • Mark spots and important seams.  Get some good marking tools and mark, mark, mark.  The cardboard pieces had pin holes in them to stick a pen in and place the dot on the pattern piece just so.
  • Use tracing paper as a stabilizer for delicate seams and top-stitching.
  • For the Chiffon Dress pattern: do not put the darts in the back pieces.  It can make the waistline too tight.
  • To make a perfect knot at the end of your thread: grasp end of thread in same hand as needle and wrap around needle then slide down to end.  Voila!  Perfect tiny knot every time.  No more sloppy wet finger knots for me.  Thank you to John Baens for pointing it out during the demo.
  • Help others and share your secret tips and techniques.  That way our knowledge as a community can continue to grow.
  • Have patience and don’t give up.  Momoko could fix just about any mistake we made with just a few little perfectly placed stitches or snips.
  • Be more calm and quiet.  This might be a more personal thing for me.  I tend to be louder and chatty when I get nervous or have social anxiety.
  • Japanese notions and sewing tools rock! But I have to say, check out the awls at beading stores.  They are used for pearl knotting and are very sharp and have curved points.  It helps to grab and position the fabric while sewing, especially helpful with gathers.

    Christine Kennison's jacket and my jacket from the workshop. (My photo)

    If you ever have the opportunity to take a class from Sensei Momoko, I highly recommend it.  And I hope that I may have the opportunity to take another class some day.  Until then, we can all study at home with her patterns.  Shop for her patterns here!  They are instant downloads.  The little jacket featured in this workshop is available there, as well as the Chiffon Dress pattern from the BCSF demo.  I am excited to try all of her patterns!  I have fabric for a couple more jackets and the Cotton Lawn Dress pattern, too.  They make such cute perfect little miniature outfits! 

    Sensei Momoko Komori and I (Photo credit: Momoko)

    This is my second jacket, completed the day after the workshop.  Doll customized by Greta Wade of Shepuppy dolls. (My photo)


      I want to thank everyone who attended this event.  

    Your support made this event possible!



  1. Thank you for sharing, the jacket is lovely!

  2. Thank you for this, all your tips and hints are really helpful!