Spools, spools everywhere


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.

spools5 spools3

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


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 is something 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:



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:


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


Happy Friday + Randomness


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.


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.

browncountylake3 browncountylake4 browncountylake5 browncountylake6

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.


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


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.


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:


“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:

indy-zoo5 indy-zoo4 indy-zoo6

And I love this shot of the polar bear:


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:


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


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


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


Who knew that rhinos were cuddly?


And oh, that baby elephant stole my heart:

indy-zoo13 indy-zoo14

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

indy-zoo17 indy-zoo16

A swimming turtle! So darling.


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):


But the wildest ones were K and her cousins:


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!


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.


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.


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:


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:


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!!


correspondances estivales


Some months ago, Isabelle of Lathelize invited me to be part of an utterly charming annual project of hers. She calls it “correspondances estivales”, which Google Translate mangled into “summer match”. Basically, it’s a handmade postcard exchange. Over an eight week period starting in early July, we are each assigned a different person for whom we create and mail out a postcard. The one you see above  I received from lovely Isabelle (a different Isabelle from the organizer, I’ve been informed, but no less lovely). Délicieux, no?

I don’t know about you, but I lament the decline of handwritten missives. I recently found a box of saved letters from my youth and was instantly transported to the past, emotions running high. One particular card from a dear, dear friend — the card was a Valentine’s Day one with a primitive illustration of two stick figure friends talking — lurched me into a state of unstoppable tears. She sent me the card while I was living in Japan, teaching English to high school students. She and I were roommates just before I left for my teaching position; we were actually roommates for almost six years. We’d met our Freshman year in the college dorms and immediately knew we were kindred spirits. People talk about chemistry in romantic situations all the time, but friendships have definitive chemistry too. We became good friends with two other girls and for the next three years the four of us lived together in various apartments. After graduation, she and I continued to live together in Los Angeles when the other girls moved on to other parts of the country. Our last shared apartment was ramshackle and disturbingly close to a strip club, but it was all we could afford at the time and oh, the adventures we had!

The card was filled with her signature hilarious escapades, but the words were tinged with sadness. I remembered how I sat in my little Japanese living quarters in the middle of a rice field reading her card from L.A., how viscerally I missed her and that rare kind of friendship in which you know you can be completely and unabashedly open with each other. As I get older, I find that it’s harder to find and keep those friendships, caught up as we are with marriage or raising kids or work or all of the above.


All this to say, I’m so glad Isabelle is hosting this wonderful exchange of old timey communication. I sent a quick watercolor postcard to France (above), and I’m preparing to send my next one out:


Thank you for including me, Isabelle! I think it would be fantastic if everyone spent a few minutes sending out a handwritten note to someone, anyone every once in a while. I love to see how people shape their letters, the quirks of their penmanship, the crossed out words. It connects us in a deeper way than any text or email or facebook comment, I believe. And connection…well, nothing quite measures up to authentic connection.



Down Memory Lane: Ba-chan Made


Good morning! I’m here in Indianapolis enjoying my family vacation, and I wish I could say I have a new Monday outfit to share, but I didn’t get a chance to sew much last week (no surprise). However, my mom is coming to visit us in Seattle as soon as we get back from Indy, and I was thinking about all the little outfits she used to make K. I’ve posted the crazy story of my mother’s enthusiastic sewing turning into an art show before and you’ve seen the wizardry of her doll-clothes-making, but there were so many other clothes that never got the limelight it deserved.

Now, my mom and I have very different tastes. When K was a baby and even before I got into sewing, I used to clothe her in simple, understated garb like so:

bachan-made7 bachan-made8

Occasionally I would get wild with a pretty print — I apologize that it looks like she’s flipping the bird here:


But for my mom, there’s no such thing as too many embellishments:


And no color or pattern is too bold (can you tell that she likes to add lace detailing?):

bachan-made3 bachan-made5 bachan-made6

She also knit sweaters and hats for K like the world was freezing over any second (and yes, she made that doll):

bachan-made10bachan-made12bachan-made11It was, of course, this grey number that I loved most (my mom complained bitterly about how boring it was, but she did it for me):

bachan-made13My mom tried her hand at making costumes too:

bachan-made14Friends, this is only just a teeny tiny representation of what she whipped up those early years….these photos are pre-DSLR from when K was 3 months to about 6 months, and I’m confident that she had the most abundant wardrobe known to man already at that point.

I’m excited to see what my mom will come up with while she’s in town. She always concocts something brazen and unexpected. Amazing, right?



Happy Friday + Randomness


Adieu Seattle, for a week! Hello Indianapolis! Must rush to get about a jillion things done, so just a short haiku today:

Have a great weekend,
I’ll be out of town next week
Spotty postings, yes?

I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to post next week. I did, of course, have plans to schedule posts in advance, but the best laid plans…well, they weren’t laid out so well. At any rate, I’ll try!

And whoa, look who got a sleek bob:


She’s looking very chic, especially with her new sandals that we found on sale:


Bring on the Midwest humidity!

Sewing for Me: Camouflaged Coastal Breeze Dress + Giveaway! [CLOSED]


Hey, it’s my turn for the Make It Perfect tour! Toni designs comfortable and good-lookin’ styles, and I was so excited to try out her patterns. She sent me the paper version of the Coastal Breeze dress, and oh, I love not having to piece together PDF sheets. I seem to always screw up when aligning PDF patterns and various sheets wind up completely off-kilter. Does that ever happen to you?


Anyway, I’m a fan of Toni and Make It Perfect! This dress is fantastic. Really, I’m already planning on making several more because this is exactly the kind of dress I reach for time and time again. You just can’t go wrong with knit (this is a cotton/spandex blend from here), and the deeper scoop neck, wider waist band and subtle pleating and gathering makes this a very flattering silhouette, I’m of the opinion.


So the thing about this fabric is that I had no idea it would look like camouflage. This, despite the fact that it said “camo” on the bolt. I just thought they were cool, variegated stripes.


But I love it! I think the camo effect is unexpected and slightly edgy.


Full disclosure: I didn’t follow the instructions. I did glance at them, and they looked straightforward enough, but I decided to use my now go-to method of attaching neckbands flat (so much nicer), and because I was serging the edges, I opted to baste together the waistband pieces wrong-side together and treated them as one piece. I did make a quick muslin vaguely following Toni’s instructions and decided my methods would be faster and the end result looks good.


This came together quickly, though it didn’t feel like it in my 100-degree sewing room. It doesn’t normally get this hot in Seattle so early in July, and it makes sewing in an upstairs room challenging. Still, through oceans of sweat, I did my usual “Oh!!!!! It’s SO cuuuute!!!” proclamations to no one in particular. The only change I would make is to sew a small next time. This thin knit in a medium is a little too loose on me, but better loose than straitjacket, I say.


So lucky you, my dear readers, Toni is offering a free giveaway of a Make It Perfect PDF pattern of your choice! To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment with…hmmmm….how about your summer uniform? Are you a strictly tank top and shorts person? A flirty maxi dress gal? A cardi and jeans down-under sort? I myself am all about the knit dress…I will leave the giveaway open until next Friday, July 18th and will contact the winner that weekend. Good luck!

And don’t forget to peruse the other gorgeous makes below. Thanks for letting me take part in the tour, Toni!

UPDATE: Congrats to Sandra, the winner!


The Make It Perfect Pattern Parade Virtual Catwalk introduces…

Travel Essentials


I’m an overpacker. Always have been. When we went yurt camping last year, M derided me for insisting on bringing a rice cooker, but we totally used it, and I won’t apologize for my over-preparedness. Of course, I managed to not pack blankets or pillows, but only because the yurt website said that bedding was included (they were not. We had to make a jaunt to Walmart in the middle of our yurt trip so we wouldn’t freeze our buns off – glamping was never less glamorous).

We’re heading out to the Midwest this Saturday, so I’m starting to gather the necessities, and the urge to stuff our suitcases beyond capacity is niggling at me. As costs of air travel rise and amenities lessen, though, I’ve been reevaluating the way I pack. Normally, I would include several extra outfits, just in case. I’ve been known to haul seven pairs of shoes for a week-long vacay. Ditto for K. M tends to manage with very little.

I’m trying something new this time and paring down to the bare bones essentials. We’ll have access to a washing machine and dryer and in a pinch, strip malls and Target are only a stone’s throw away. As long as I have my extra eyewear, enough underwear, my non-negotiable gadgets (ipad, laptop, camera), a few key pieces of clothing and comfy shoes, I’m good to go. Oh, and a good book is critical.

What about you? Are you an expert packer? Any good tips on traveling light would be much appreciated!

Post Navigation