Simple

Hello, my friends. How are you? How different the world is since I last posted here.

Nothing like a pandemic to stop you in your tracks, to take stock of all that is.

It’s very odd. I was experiencing a sense of deja vu as events unfolded, and I kept trying to figure out why that would be. It finally occurred to me that I had felt this very same sense of foreboding and out-of-control-ness and unmooring when my health was at its worst, back in 2012.

I was homebound for the most part back then too, and I felt constrained in every way because my body was incapable of functioning how I wanted it to. But as the restricted days turned into weeks and then into months, I found a rhythm that started to make more sense. The slowing down became normal, appreciated, even. I slept a lot, took longer and longer walks as my strength increased, ate mountains of vegetables and read an astounding number of books. I filled one notebook after another as I examined my life from every angle and discovered unsettling and buoying aspects in equal measure.

I simplified. From the outside looking in, my early days of rehabilitation probably appeared nondescript, boring. Ironically, it was anything but. It was one of the most creative, richest times for me. All that time of quietude and percolating thoughts led to sewing with vigor again, picking up a paintbrush to teach myself watercolors and gouache, launching this little blog. And then crazy things kept happening and dreams came true.

My days are simple again. I get up early in the morning to walk around the neighborhood. I come home, make myself a cup of coffee and write for hours. I feed my family (including my cat) brunch. We’ve done away with breakfast and brunch is always more fun. I work on book projects at a leisurely pace. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is rushed. I paint little sketches. I like to paint flowers. Some days I sew. I do some laundry. A little bit of tidying up happens here and there. I start on dinner around 5:30, and chop many, many vegetables. We eat our evening meal, and K has started a new tradition: we must report three good things that happened that day. I read a chapter or two from one of the books among the towering stack beside my bed before drifting off to asleep. And then I repeat the whole thing the next day.

This doesn’t mean there’s no fear or anxiety. My brain feels foggier for sure. I am more emotional. I miss my regular routines; I miss getting together with people. But the simplicity helps. Simple feels good.

P.S. My 2021 sewing book, as expected, has been postponed since we couldn’t proceed with the photoshoot, but the good news is that my ANIMAL FRIENDS TO SEW book will be on sale earlier than expected. I will have more updates on that soon.

This one’s figured out the whole lockdown thing.

 

Almost done with the testing phase…

Hello, my friends! How are you?

It’s a bright, blue-skied day here in Seattle as I write this. I have been running around town to make progress on the current book I’m working on, feeling more like a project manager than a writer/illustrator. The testing phase for the garment sewing book is coming to a close (if you signed up, remember that responses are due by February 29th if you haven’t completed the form yet). It’s been unreal. Amazing. I’ve been reading all the feedback that’s been popping up, and I keep getting more and more excited. This is going to be one well-tested book! Of course I love all of my books, but this one feels extra special because the kismet level has been off-the-charts.

I wish I could share more, and I will as soon as I can.

What I’m trying to say is that there’s quite a bit going on and when I misread my calendar and took K to her viola lesson at the wrong time this week, I knew I had to step back. Take it easy. I actually got sick for the first time in almost a year on Saturday (husband expressed concerns about coronavirus; it wasn’t). I recovered lightning fast, but it was my body giving me a stern talking-to. I’m going to listen to it.

I’ll be back with a short blog update next month, but I’m going to take an extended Instagram break and focus on getting my book wrapped up. I’ve been intrigued by Cal Newport’s philosophy that he calls “Digital Minimalism” and he seems like someone who knows what he’s talking about. I have a bit of a crush on him, if I’m honest. That there is a brilliant man — I think my husband is a little jealous because I keep mentioning Cal (See? We’re already on first name basis). I also read his other books, So Good They Can’t Ignore You and Deep Work, both of which are thought-provoking and excellent.

I’m off to go sew up more sample garments for my book! That image above is one of my trial garments. I seem to have an abundant supply of the indigo chambray and have been making everything in that fabric. Love it.

It feels like spring is just around the corner, and it’s so refreshing after what seemed like endless rain and grey. Wherever you are, I hope you’re having a day full of vibrant promise and forthcoming blooms. xo

 

 

 

Seeking pattern testers for my next book!

[UPDATE #2: All testing materials have been sent out! If you don’t see an email in your inbox, please check your promotions tab or junk folder. Let me know if you have any questions and I’m so excited to see all the feedback!]

[UPDATE: I’m so astounded by the number of and grateful for all the people who signed up!! THANK YOU. I’ll be sending confirmation emails soon! Sign-ups are now closed.]

Hello, my friends!

As you may or may not know, I’ve been tucked away in my atelier (read: my bedroom that doubles as a sewing space) and have been diligently working on my next book that’s due out in 2021. It’s all about garment sewing for women and for me, the content that I’ve created for this book has been a game changer. I hope the same will be true for many, many folks!

I’m getting extremely close to having all the patterns ready for testing. So this is where YOU come in. Are you an aficionado of clothes-sewing or would like to be? Do you have an eagle eye and an uncanny ability to spot errors in instructions? Can you spare a weekend or several hours to stitch up a garment or sloper? Does the idea of drafting your own simple patterns intrigue and energize you?

If it’s a big ole yes for all of the above, please fill out the Google form below. My publisher, Sasquatch Books, has generously offered to provide a free copy of this secret squirrel book as thanks for testing help (I’ll also be adding an extra treat). This means that you will need to be based here in the U.S. since international shipping gets a little hairy.

I will keep sign-ups open until February 6th and will send out the PDFs and info by February 10th. All feedback will be due by February 26th. Questions? Leave me a comment or DM me @sanaeishida on Instagram, where I’ll also post the call for testers.

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

Aaaand, here’s the form (if you can’t see it in the screen, click here):

 

P.S. I photographed the image above during the photo shoot for my upcoming book, Animal Friends to Sew (May 2020). The awesome Amy Johnson shot a much better version of it for the book. Styling credit: Rachel Grunig.

Another Year of Magical Thinking

Hello, my friends! Here it is, my last post of the year, squeaking in at the very last minute. Overall, 2019 was a profound year for me. I changed a lot, accomplished so many goals. I failed and failed and failed, too.

One of the biggest changes of all: I am no longer afraid of public speaking. In fact, I might even go as far to say that I enjoy it now. That’s not to say that I’m any good at it, but I’ve stopped caring that I’m not. Just last month, I stood in front of two hundred elementary school students and all their teachers and gave one of my book presentations. Not a muscle spasm to be seen on my face, not a single drop of sweat glistened on my brow. At one point when I opened the floor for questions and answers, one of the students raised his hand.

“Yes?” I pointed the microphone towards him.

“Why did you stand in front of the projector and screen the whole time? We couldn’t see anything!”

Now, a couple of years ago I would have been mortified. This time, I laughed and laughed. I apologized, naturally, but it was so funny to me that of course I would block the view!

Herein lies the most massive change I’ve seen in myself: I’ve stopped beating myself about things that — in the grand scheme of things — matter so little.

Despite the many successes I’ve enjoyed this year, my financial goals remain unmet. This continues to be a source of contention in my family and there’s a lot of talk about how I need to go get a “real job.” Several weeks ago my well-intentioned yet destitution-fearing husband made me aware of my “magical thinking,” and how problematic this is. My daughter, lovely K, calls it “Moo Moo Cha Cha.”

I gave this some serious, weighty thought. Magical thinking…..hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. I think they’re right.

And because of my magical thinking, here’s a partial list of what has happened in the last 6 years. I’ve:

  • Pitched and sold 10 book ideas without an agent. TEN BOOKS. I got four book deals this year (Thank you Sasquatch Books and Little Bigfoot, I love you).
  • Improved my health so much that I no longer have any Graves Disease symptoms, with which I was diagnosed in 2011.
  • Lost nearly 20 pounds without dieting.
  • Manifested illustration clients, magazine work, paid events and other opportunities that I couldn’t have even imagined six years ago. I modeled for a magazine, y’all. At age 48. With hyper-pigmentation and wrinkles and gray-streaked hair.
  • Sewn literally hundreds of garments and projects. I can make perfectly fitting jeans. This, more than anything, seems to blow people’s minds.
  • Become comfortable in my own skin. Most importantly, I now truly love my life and love myself. Exactly as I am, full of flaws and full of light.

Call me crazy, but magical thinking seems awesome, wouldn’t you agree?

I decided that in 2020, I’m going to keep going with the Moo Moo Cha Cha (I so love that term K coined). I’m going to experiment and try anything and everything that I’m curious about that people keep telling me are unrealistic. It’s amazing how many people tell me that I’m unrealistic — sometimes complete strangers!

I’m willing to experience discomfort on a grand scale, my friends. I’m starting now, by offering up for sale a little booklet I wrote with my thoughts on magical thinking because — why not? If it helps even one person get closer to a long-held dream or improve his or her health or aid in feeling just a little bit more okay in this chaotic world, I’m delighted. I put so much of myself in this little digital booklet, and it’s quite embarrassing in some ways. This e-book started out as a post that I shared with my Patreon group (they’re the best! I share all of the in-depth behind-the-scenes stuff with them) — I received such encouraging feedback that I wondered if it might benefit more people.

I truly believe that ANYONE can accomplish the things I’ve listed above. For six years, I’ve diligently focused on what I wanted my life to look like and lo! By changing the way I think and taking steady actions, I’m astounded by the results. This year, I’m turning laser-focused attention to the money aspect for obvious reasons — and I want to do it in a way that is with integrity, from a place of uplifting and helping others. For the e-book, I’ve added more to my original raw post and drew up some illustrations too. Included are actual, unvarnished thought processes, the struggles, and information about how much I actually earn as an author/illustrator. It’s my first iteration and I’ll be creating more products along this line over the course of 2020.

Here’s to experimentation and Moo Moo Cha Cha! If you’d like to purchase this wee digital book, click here

2020!!!! This moment at the cusp of a new year is the most thrilling for me. The potentiality is gigantic and shiny and sparkly, and I’m shaking off the difficult bits and bobs from the past twelve months. I’ve learned a lot from them and I’m ready to move on. Onwards and upwards!!

2019 Advent Calendar + Even more holiday tags!

“I wonder when this Advent Calendar tradition will end?” As K grows older, this is the question that pops into my brain every time I embark on yet another design for the holiday season. She’ll be starting high school next year and I don’t know if she’ll enjoy it quite as much.

This was a fun one, my friends. The idea first came to me when I was — as per usual — shopping at Trader Joe’s. I saw the garland with the felted balls ($8.99! What a steal!), and I immediately knew that it would be part of the Advent Calendar.

And so, a couple of weeks before December 1st, I got cracking. I wanted to include little origami-type envelopes to hang from the garland, that much I knew. What to put inside of the envelopes, though?

I started by doodling cat elves and I don’t know…the thought of painting 25 cat elves lost its luster instantaneously. It was just going to take too long, given my penchant for wanting to add lots and lots of details. Luckily, I repurposed them as downloadable tags here, if you’re interested.

Hmmmm….cats, I mulled. I hit the watercolors again and just started pumping out little cat portraits and suddenly, I had it: cats in hats. In my typical let’s-totally-overdo-it style, I also planned to paint dogs in clogs, but…well, I barely finished the cats. The kitties by themselves seemed too plain, so I managed to squeeze in painting tiny wreath frames. SO FUN.

 

The wreaths also became stickers to secure the envelopes closed AND serve double-duty as the day of the month.

I was struck with a lightning bolt of genius that magicked itself out of nowhere: using a notcher to fold the square pieces of papers into envelopes. This way the flaps overlap nicely. In case you don’t know, a notcher is a tool for garment pattern drafting. Very handy. I was manually measuring and cutting out notches at first, so remembering that I had this tool was a big time-saver.

The stickers, I have to say, were not awesome. Their adhesive power was disappointingly wimpy and the textured washi envelopes started to open up as they hung from the garland. I quickly had to reinforce all the envelopes with clear packing tape. We just happened to have some printable sticker paper on hand and I hadn’t used them yet, so it was worth a try. Note to future self: don’t use these stickers on anything other than flat, smooth surfaces.

It was, however, easy to print on the clear sticker paper and the yellow backing slipped right off. I really enjoy peeling sticker backings off. So, so satisfying!

I had just enough washi paper left from a previous Advent Calendar for the envelopes and I seriously adore the nubby surface. I punched holes in the corner for the strings that I looped and tucked in-between the felted balls of the garland. Simple.

Visually, this calendar deviates from my normal neutral color palette, but I’m pleased with how it turned out. I was able to check off all of my personal requirements:

  • Use as much materials that I already own (the garland was the only thing I purchased for the actual calendar)
  • Easy to make
  • Include a balance of giving and receiving (as usual I included giving/contemplative activities as part of the calendar).
  • A new design
  • Low maintenance for me, delightful for K

I’m happy to report the K loves it. Mainly, though, I think it’s because of this other brilliant thing I picked up from Trader Joe’s:

It has little flaps that you can open for the first 12 days of December. Each day contains a different beauty product, a mini version of existing TJ items like lotions, bath gels, sunscreen, etc. Perfect for a thirteen-year-old! She’s a little bummed that she won’t have any more to open for the 13th day and beyond, but that’s okay.

All in all, this was a good one. I always have such a lovely time planning these calendars and all the parts that go with it. Here it is in full:

So! Because I painted so many kitty cats in hats, I thought I would offer up a few of my favorites as downloadable free tags. There are some plain wreaths as well, for those of you that may not be as caught up in cat mania as I am. Simply click on the image to download — I hope they’re useful!

And here she is, the inspiration for all this feline craziness, sniffing our Christmas tree (sorry about the image quality — it’s getting dark so early these days):

It’s amazing to me that I’ve been doing this for so many years. Below are links to all the advent calendars I’ve made to date:

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

Alright my friends, I’m sending you warmest, coziest wishes for the holiday season! I may be able to write one more blog post before the year is out, but we shall see! Happy Holidays!! xoxo