Children’s Book Process (My Version) + Time Off

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This is a portion of one of the cover options for my children’s book that’s coming out next April. Things are still getting tweaked and finalized so I’ll wait a while to reveal more of the actual book — it’s funny, it takes such a long time for a book to get published, many of the aspects start to get hazy for me. The final cover ended up looking very different from what you see above, but this was my favorite concept I presented. Although I was gung ho about this design, I do love how the final version turned out.

At this point, I’ve submitted pretty much all of my illustrations and today, I thought I would share the process I went through from the beginning to now. Mostly it’s because I’m already forgetting details (I had to refer back to a lot of documents and correspondences for this post) and it would be a helpful reference for me. I should point out that my experience may not be typical; I don’t have an agent and I worked on both the story and illustrations, something that is not de rigueur in the children’s book publishing world from what I understand. I assume the structure and sequence of events are a little different with every book, and the one I’m working on now is proving to be a completely different process.

The progression from a seedling idea to completed manuscript/art was incredibly enjoyable throughout. My editor is so sweet, and I particularly appreciated that she sent me a little care package filled with teas and chocolates for extra fortification during one of the deadline periods. I love small gestures of considerateness like that.

It’s rather text heavy today – I tried to create illustrations on the train back to Seattle, but the swaying resulted in motion sickness so I had to stop. So here’s how it’s been shaking out for me, for the children’s book:

Step 1: August + September 2013 // Brainstorm of ideas

I mentioned my serendipitous encounter with my editor before, and after a brief initial meeting with her, I took some time and came up with about fifteen book concepts with a short description for each idea. It turned out that my top choice was also her top choice, so that part was easy.

Step 2: October + November 2013 // The Storyboard + Proposal

Since this would be my first book, my editor encouraged me to create a storyboard to give the publisher a better sense of the storyline/flow of images. I was provided the layout and number of pages for the storyboard, so it was essentially drawing and writing out the entire book in miniature form. Once I completed the storyboard along with color illustration examples, my editor took it to her team to pitch the book.

Step 3: December 2013 // The Book Deal

Fortuitously, the book proposal was quickly accepted and I then negotiated terms, which included the advance payment amount, royalty percentages, the deadlines (how long it would take me to complete the book and milestone dates), and design elements such as size of book, whether I wanted a dust jacket, type of paper, etc. I agreed to complete the book in six months and it was just the right amount of time. This is the part that an agent would usually handle.

The contract was drafted and sent to me. Once a contract is signed though, it takes a while for the check to be issued. It was about a month after signing the contract that I received the first half of the advance. The second half is issued upon completion of the book.

Step 4: February + March 2014 // Cover Art Sketches + Detailed Sketches + Manuscript

I designed six different cover options for review. These went through a round of revisions, and I believe I ended up creating about 10 cover versions total. Since the cover gets included in catalogs for book buyers, it needs to be dealt with upfront. It isn’t set in stone at this stage, and ultimately we changed the cover a lot.

I also needed to provide detailed sketches of the rest of the book in full size for approval. The first couple of months are usually spent on developing the storyboard and the detailed sketches, but since I’d already done the storyboard — which was approved with little changes — this step was pretty effortless. I leisurely worked on the sketches over a two-week period. I also finalized the text with my editor, though we continued to fiddle with it for months.

Step 5: May + June 2014 // Final Art

Based on the detailed sketches that were approved, it was now time for me to work on the final art. I had created all my sketches digitally, but I hand-painted the final illustrations. I LOVED this part. It was so gratifying to watch the images come to life from the greyscale sketches. This portion took me about three weeks. Because my book is quite small, the illustration phase was pretty quick. Had the book been larger in dimension, I would have needed to spend more time on the art.

Step 6: July + August 2014 // Revisions/Updates/Miscellaneous illustrations

This is the phase I’m currently in. Everything has been submitted except for the back cover art, but I’m waiting on specifications for that. I’ve received the final cover mock-up from the design department (with my name in the lower right corner!! So exciting!) and am waiting for the rest of the book with text formatted from the design department so I can go over it with a fine tooth comb. I’ve also painted illustrations for endpapers (the section that is glued to the inner part of the cover), title page, and dedication segment.

Step 7: September 2014 // Book Goes to Print!

Hooray!

Step 8: April 2015 // Available for Sale

I’m a little fuzzy on what happens between printing the book and making it available for sale, but these are the dates in the calendar for now.

Wow. 19 months from idea to public release. For someone used to hitting a button for instant publishing, it sounds inconceivably long. But almost there!! Sort of. Thrilling nonetheless.

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I’m in the throes of book #2, and although I’ve done my level best to keep up with everything going on and sort of managing, I’ve had to sit myself down and (yet again) give myself a stern talking to about my tendency to go overboard. Did you know that I was trying to launch an etsy shop too? I thought it would be cute to open it on K’s birthday, July 30th. Yep, that’s tomorrow. Let’s all laugh together about that one. I’m starting to feel familiar symptoms of my illness again, and it’s entirely my fault. In order to remain on schedule for the book and to keep excessive stress at bay, I’m so bummed but I’m going to have to take some time off from this here blog that I love to work on so much. My attention feels too divided and I need all the focus I can get…I’m letting go of a lot of stuff. For example, we’ll be celebrating K’s 8th birthday tomorrow but there may be no Macgyver dress (super sad face here) and the cupcakes will be store-bought (secretly happy face here since my handmade cupcakes aren’t always winners). I hope to be back Monday, August 11th with a fun post — maybe, just maybe, if I make some serious headway this week, I’ll be back next Monday. Either way, I’ll miss you!

 

 

Stitched Together for Rachel: Boat + Sheep-ish

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Good morning — greetings from Portland! At the last minute, my mom, K and I decided to make a whirlwind trip to the City of Roses. I was lucky enough to finally meet up with a bevy of the sweetest sewing blog friends, and it was a grand treat and much too short. More on that later, because today, I have a special project to share.

A few weeks ago, Victoria of As It Seams reached out to me with a sweet idea: the lovely Rachel who creates the most beautiful clothes and takes some of the most stunning photos in blogland is ready to welcome her fifth child — how about if we each made her a small sewn item that would then be part of a baby mobile? I adore Rachel, and loved the idea, so of course I was in.

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Sadly, my first attempt looked nothing like what I sketched out. I call it my mutant ninja sheep, though it resembles a turtle, so I suppose I could keep the original moniker. K thought it was a dog with a pillow on top of it. I do like its closed eyes…

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Attempt number two is a fabric origami boat. It took a few tries for me to get the hang of folding the fabric, but I refused to let it beat me. I sewed two nani IRO scraps together to make it double-sided, and it was sort of like wrangling a temperamental fabric coaster. Again, K inserted her opinions and said it looked more like a hat. That works too. Incidentally, one side of the boat is a lighter colorway than the other side, though they’re both the same print. The sheep is made from the lighter colorway as well, and the head and legs are felt.

Victoria was inspired by a similar handmade mobile she received from her friends when she had her son, then her daughter. It’s such a personal and thoughtful gift — I think it’s brilliant! I remember receiving so many baby goods when I was pregnant with K, and I appreciated them all, but the handmade ones always pulled extra hard at my heart strings.

Dear Rachel,

Though not perfect, these little mobile pieces are crafted with the best of intentions — not unlike what motherhood feels like on a daily basis. Wishing you a smooth and joyous transition from a family of six to seven! You are super mama!!

xo,

s

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These awesome gals also created additions for the mobile — Rachel is much adored!
Suz at Sewpony
Kristen at Skirt as Top
And of course, Victoria of As It Seams, who also made a great mobile frame hoop:

Happy Friday + Randomness

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Happy Friday! First, thank you so much for all the kind comments last week, I’ve read them all multiple times!! I was delighted by how many people liked things as they are, and I also appreciated the suggestions. I will work hard on incorporating them! The four randomly chosen Drygoods gift certificate winners are: Dottie, Jing, Beccy and Grace. Congrats!!!

Second, the photoshoot was a blast! Keli generously allowed us to use her Drygoods Design studio (did you hear that they’re moving to a new gorgeous space?), and we were productive and tried a variety of ideas and time just flew — like that random bird illustration I have up there. Can you tell that I’m scrounging to come up with a relevant reason for that image? I just liked it.

Michelle (the photog) and Tristan (the stylist) deserve accolades of the highest order. In fact, they’re both exceptional at both photography and styling and organizing, and I found myself taking a lot of mental notes to improve my own skills. I really really love working with them. It made the photoshoot feel even more legit and lively having the editor and art director and an intern there as well. I learned so much. Tristan did a fun post on part of the cover shoot prep process and you can get some sneak peeks, though we’re all very careful about not revealing what the cover will look like. Day two at the light and airy Studio 207 today!

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K: Mama, when can I get my own ipad?

Me: When we think you’re ready, sweetie.

K: Aw man, that means, “never, and don’t even think about it”*…

She’s awfully bright, our little one.

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Happy, happy weekend! I have something a bit unscheduled for you on Monday and will push out the usual K outfit to Wednesday, when K turns – holy cow – eight!!!!!

We’re taking the train
Portland, we’re headed your way
Fun plans in the works!

 

Sewing for Me: IKEA blouse

ikea-linen-blouse1Sometimes you just need a simple, white linen blouse. It’s been drizzly and bordering on frigid ever since we got back to Seattle, and I welcomed the idea of sewing a long-sleeve top.

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I’ve been saving a breathtakingly beautiful and expensive white linen for years, but I couldn’t cut into it for this project. I knew I wanted white, and it most definitely had to be linen, but I was afraid I might make an irreparable mistake and I wasn’t sure if I could handle that in my current frazzled state. I am nothing if not resourceful, and out of the corner of my eye, I spotted our little closet that houses bedsheets and toiletries. I remembered that I had an IKEA linen duvet that always drove me nuts because the ties never stayed in the designated holes. It was satisfying to snip apart the duvet, and it turned out to be the perfect choice because the duvet’s been washed so often the linen is lusciously soft and drape-y. I have enough to make at least two more tops, or maybe even a dress for K.

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The pattern is from this book, and I made a few modifications, mainly to speed things up. I cut the size 11 (roughly equivalent to a medium) and here’s what I changed:

- Ignored the bust dart. The position looked all wrong for me, and I didn’t really want any shaping.

- Also ignored the side slits. According to the pattern pieces, they went up almost up to my belly button, and due to the sheerness of the top, I figured I’d want to wear a cami tank underneath which would have looked odd with the side slits/vents.

- I didn’t set in the sleeve, but used my cheater method of attaching the sleeves before sewing up the side seams of the bodice. Like this.

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Because of these changes, from initial tracing to completed top took me about an hour and a half. I love me a quick project! The hardest part was attaching the very thin ties. My regular foot needs more fabric width to keep things moving, so I’ve recently acquired an extremely handy teflon foot that’s meant for “sticky” fabrics like leather and laminated textiles, but I’m finding it pretty useful for knits and thin bias tapes too. I’m still experimenting with it, so I’ll let you know if I change my mind about its usefulness.

Today and tomorrow, I’m shooting the cover of my sewing book (and yes, I needed this top for the photo shoot)! I have the most incredible photo team — I’ll talk about them more in-depth later — and they’ve made the whole shebang so organized! Still, I always manage to make things harder for myself so it’s crazy town here in my house at this moment. Next week, I hope to be less scattered. Thank goodness for K hugs…they always make me feel less chaotic.

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P.S. M’s birthday was awesome.

Birthday Boy

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July always seems to be the busiest month for us. Some sort of travel is usually involved, and the birthdays! It’s one celebration after another and today, it’s M’s turn to blow out the candles.

“Why did you marry Daddy and not someone else?” K asks me a lot. Partly to tease M, but also (I suspect), because she wants to hear about M’s best qualities over and over. The first answer that pops out is, “Because he made me laugh more than anyone else.” M has a very particular brand of humor and to be honest, I didn’t get it at first. He can deliver the funniest lines completely deadpan, and there’s a lot of sarcasm involved (I’m not too sharp when it comes to sarcasm — too earnest, he tells me). He’s on the raucous side and peppers his quick wit with sharp social observations. Whenever my mom visits, she comments on how we’re always laughing together, and that’s how I know I’ve married the right guy.

In so many ways, we’re polar opposites. I like neutrals and minimalistic designs; he loves bold colors and a mashup of aesthetics. He’s an outdoorsy guy who would defy logic and sleep on his bike in the wild if he could; I can barely manage glamping and truly adore civilization and orderliness. I’m obsessed with planning and have a to-do list at the ready at any given moment; he’s…well, he subscribes to the fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants school of thought. He’s addicted to books and shows about finance and economics, and nothing sounds less appealing to me. Despite our many, many differences, we work. I remember when I was still very young — teens, maybe — someone told me that I should make sure that I enjoy talking to my significant other. That it’ll be the saving grace and the key to a successful marriage. M is almost unfailingly interesting and entertaining (the exception is when he talks about finance. Even he can’t make the topic riveting for me), and thank goodness I listened to that wise person so long ago.

Happy Birthday, Honey. You still make me laugh more than anyone else — I actually think you get funnier with age!

*That’s K’s handiwork up there. I love that she calls his lids “eye curls”. M does have some nice eye curls.

Spools, spools everywhere

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Ba-chan made it in one piece to Seattle yesterday, and already she and K are thick as thieves. One of the benefits of having a mother who collects everything is that I can ask, “Hey, do you have any vintage-y thread on wooden spools in assorted colors?” And she brings me this:

spools2(one errant plastic one snuck in there, I see). I love the faded, peeling, cracked labels, the silk threads with saturated colors. Sometimes, multiple hues are wound onto one spool, and I can envision someone carefully saving every bit of thread decades ago. Back in the day, thread cost pennies. Nowadays, though, I find thread to be on the expensive side at close to five dollars a pop at some places, and that’s not even the nice stuff. She also brought me a bag full of empty wooden spools, and they are as charming as can be.

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The silver “anything thread” and the icy blues and greys are my faves, naturally:

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As always, she also brought me some lovely vintage fabric, but they’re in the wash now so I’ll have to show you another time. When I was little, I would ask my mom for impossible things like a very specific velvet hat or spindle and wheel (after reading Rumpelstiltskin) and always, always, she would produce my requested item somehow. Some things just never change, and my mama’s still working her magic…

 

 

Monday Outfit: Nautical Knit Halter

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Good morning! It’s so good to be back. We had a fantastic vacation, but there’s nothing quite like home. I’m still suspended somewhere between west coast and east coast time zones, and am feeling a bit foggy, but I’m eager to get into productivity mode.

So did you know that it’s KCW week this week? I didn’t. At least not until late last night. That’s how out of touch I’m becoming with the general sewing interwebs. What with frenetic book deadlines and all, I’m barely keeping up with regular life. Luckily, I happened to make something for K this weekend, so I can pretend that I’m participating in the Kids Clothes Week fun.

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Realistically, this tiered knit halter is probably all I’m going to be able to manage this week. Our time in Indiana made me realize that K needs more summery clothes and I’ve been on the lookout for quick ones to sew up. This top requires only four rectangles and 6 pieces of elastic so I was immediately sold. The pattern is from this book. You know how I love easy peasy patterns and I was sure that this wouldn’t take more than an hour…wrong.

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It’s cute, right? I love anchors and am a die hard polka dot fan, so when you put the two together, you just can’t go wrong. I got this fun cotton knit from here, and I only had a yard of this so I had to shorten the length by about 4 inches. It’s still plenty long, and I also preserved precious inches by not bothering to hem the bottom. I actually like the way it looks un-hemmed.

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It’s cleverly constructed: the bottom tier is sewn right side out on top of the upper tier (also with right side out), with the straps sandwiched in-between. Once sewn, you flip the bottom tier inwards to encase the raw edges, and then you can sew casings for the elastic by sewing through both the upper and lower tiers. That probably sounded like gobbledygook, but what I’m trying to say is that I got confused and messed up, and there are few things I hate more than seam-ripping knit zigzag stitches. I always end up with holes and can’t find the stitches.

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So this easy peasy top that should have taken no more than an hour took me closer to three, and to my horror, K complained that the shirred part was too itchy and started walking around with it pulled way down, looking very indecent.

She got used to it pretty quickly though, thank goodness, and agreed to keep her “boopies” covered up. Whew.

The shorts, by the way, I made a while back…it doesn’t get a lot of wear because it’s in the dreaded shorts-that-look-like-skirts category, but I convinced her that it was the only pair I could find to match the top:

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Doesn’t she look like she’s being tossed at sea in the image above? The basket was K’s idea and she meant it to be a boat to go with the nautical theme. This, of course, was the grand finale to the photo shoot:

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I’m pretty sure she has the genetic marker for a flying squirrel…Anyway, that’s all for today!

 

Happy Friday + Randomness

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As you’re reading this, we are most likely flying over several US states and rapidly approaching home. Family vacations can sometimes yield stories that become eyebrow-raising legends passed from one generation to the next, but aside from a couple of mosquito bites, ours was entirely painless. Not boring or forgettable, no, but solidly good. You know that feeling of slipping into a comfortable bed with freshly laundered linens and settling down with an engrossing book? Our holiday in the Midwest felt like that. M’s family spoiled us rotten.

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Towards the end of the week, we spent a couple of days at M’s family cabin in the southern part of Indiana, where we had no internet access. It was at once refreshing and unsettling because we’re such online junkies. They have a pretty lake on their expansive, woods-filled property and M and the kids had uproarious fun together in the water while my sister-in-law and I snapped photos (can you see M’s tiny head bobbing in the distance? Isn’t it oddly red?). We had a picnic by the lake; hot dogs were roasted, s’mores assembled.

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My father-in-law and I caught a blue gill fish using milk jugs instead of fishing poles, and the kids terrorized the frogs and crawdads (and making me squirm). My 11-year-old niece loved driving the all-terrain vehicle they’ve dubbed “The Gator”, and K pretended to drive it too.

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As far as vacations go, it was pretty perfect.

Usually I would have a quote or conversational exchange to include here, but I barely saw K for the whole week, busy as she was playing with her cousins and getting attention from her grandparents.

Wherever you are, I hope you’re having a solidly good time too. I might be a big jet-lagged, but I’ll see you back here on Monday!

Back to Seattle
Vacations go fast
Now it’s Ba-chan time….

Indy Menagerie

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It’s a bit of a departure from my usual topics (though do I really have a set of usual topics?), but we spent a lot of time at the Indianapolis zoo a couple of days ago, and I have to say, I loved it and went crazy with my camera. I’ve gone to the Seattle zoo a fair number of times, but I’ve never been able to get decent photos of the animals. I think they might be introverted.

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Not so at the Indy zoo. I felt up close and personal with so many creatures, sometimes it was disconcerting. For example, you can touch dog sharks in the aquarium section:

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“Do NOT touch their fins or mouths or you will get bitten!” the booming speakers warned. The penguins were fabulous and though my photos may not be National Geographic contenders, they turned out way better than I expected:

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And I love this shot of the polar bear:

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And then there was the other kind of bear that spent a good deal of time sniffing its own excrement, and I had to patiently wait for a picturesque moment:

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I tried to coax the meercats to pose in a group, but they ignored me:

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The snakes gave me the heebie jeebies, but I was enamored with their textures:

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On the other hand, I thought the iguanas were super cool:

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Who knew that rhinos were cuddly?

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And oh, that baby elephant stole my heart:

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The flamingos were feisty, and this was the first time I was able to look at their eyes up close:

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A swimming turtle! So darling.

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The big draw was a new orangutan facility. Check out how high it’s climbing! Apparently, it knows how to make coffee (at least that’s what my nephew swore up and down, but so far I’m coming up empty in my attempts to verify this claim):

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But the wildest ones were K and her cousins:

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Have you been to the zoo lately? Sometimes I feel sad for the animals, but mostly, I find them fascinating and beautiful (except for the bats. I don’t like bats).

 

2 years + News + Giveaway! [CLOSED]

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Twenty-four months is how long I’ve been blogging and you know, if I didn’t have an archive of all the posts, I wouldn’t believe it. My life has changed dramatically since I started this little online notebook of mine where I collect and share ideas and experiments.

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I’ve talked about this before, but I began this blog with the intention of building an illustration portfolio. I’d been through the ringer with my last corporate job, and the concept of leisurely working with pens and paints and papers appealed greatly to me. I also wanted to explore other things that I thought would add more joie de vivre to my every day because things were bleak. So bleak. Eradicating the bleakness was at the forefront of my mind.

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And so I started to draw. And to take pictures. And to write (though I’ve always written, just not so publicly). In doing so, I’ve been fortunate enough to check off that long-time dream of writing and illustrating a children’s book. Which I’ve not been very good about highlighting here, but you’ll see why soon.

2years-4And then the sewing started. I think the sewing — more than anything — catapulted this blog into something far beyond anything I could have ever expected (admittedly, I had zero expectations since my old, now defunct blog had no readers. It would have taken very little to far exceed my previous attempts at blogging). I hate to sound like a broken record with how grateful I am that you stop by and read my ramblings and view my images, but it’s true. I’m amazed every time someone leaves a comment or asks me to participate in a blog tour, or to write a guest post or to get more information about a technique — as if I know what I’m doing.

I’m a one-woman show, making do with whatever I have on hand. Whenever you see that light wood surface, I’ve cleared off the console in the corner of our living room to take the photos. There’s a window right next to it and the light is lovely:

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And all those selfies? On the opposite side of the living room, I’ve scooted my “work table” to the wall and use a remote to take a gazillion shots of myself so I can get maybe five passable ones (normally my laptop and an explosion of art supplies and books live on top of that table). K will often heckle me or will want to use the remote:

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Over the course of time, we transitioned from K’s cramped room to my slightly less cramped room to take photos of K’s handmade clothes. We have the photoshoot process down to about five minutes now — any more than that and tantrums threaten to erupt.

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This blog has been a game-changer on so many levels. A children’s book deal. Opportunities to collaborate with many, many talented women in the sewing sphere and beyond. Friendships. More than anything, it’s a place that’s all mine, to play and explore and create and muse and be myself. The learning process has been phenomenal. I’ve even contributed to a craft book that’s coming out in a few months — you can see one of the prototypes below (the final project is a little different). I’ll tell you more about it when it’s closer to the publication date.

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But that’s not my big news. Friends, while working on my children’s book, I’ve also started a second book. I’m publishing two books next year (!!!!), and it’s nuts-o, I know. I still can’t say much about it, but it’s all official-like so I’ve been told it’s okay to mention it. It’s a sewing book! And I need to have everything done by December, which is not a lot of time. I’m thrilled and overwhelmed and pretty much in a state of permanent disbelief.

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I have to give a shout out to my closest and dearest M and K. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to spend all this time on what started out as a whim and a hobby. M keeps the food on the table and tries really hard not to complain too much about the mess and my lack of income and all the hours I devote to my projects, and K has turned out to be a knockout model and indispensable partner in crime.

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Another person who has been nothing but pure awesomeness is Keli of Drygoods. She’s like my sewing fairy godmother. She was one of the first people I ever revealed my blog to, and not only did she commission me for an illustration, she also invited me to be part of the Ballard Artwalk, gave me the chance to teach workshops, and continues to be the most supportive and wonderful friend. Those cool vintage wooden spools in the very first image above are, in fact, Keli’s and may be a prop in the new book. I love her shop, and she has an impeccable eye for textiles.

As part of my 2-year celebration of blogging (and still loving it!), I have a fun giveaway: FOUR $25 Drygoods gift certificates which is redeemable online as well. The four winners will have a field day trying to choose from the beautiful fabric and product selections. I wish I could give every one of you a gift card, but this is the best I can do at this time… Perhaps I’ll be able to in the future!

I’ve been thinking about how to make this a better space for you to visit, my dear readers. Of course, I create my posts primarily for myself, but I’ve come to learn and appreciate that a two-way street is going on here. To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment with any suggestions for improvement and/or what you’d like to see more of. More kids’ sewing? Adult sewing? Tutorials? Behind-the-scenes info about the books I’m working on? Something else entirely? I’m looking forward to reading the comments! I’ll keep the giveaway open until Thursday, July 24th, and will announce the winner the next day. International entries are no problemo. Good luck!!

 

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