Author Archives: Sanae

I make things. I like to call my work space a "crafty little atelier in a grey city". Grey is my favorite color.

Happy Friday + Randomness


I did not make my deadline. This was a colossal bummer since I’d told everyone and their pets that I would be officially fini with all book brouhaha by October 5th (even the barista at my regular coffee shop haunt greeted me with a high five on The Day). I was technically done — of course, I’m using the words “technically done” very loosely here — on Monday, but then I kept finding mistake after mistake. It killed me, but I asked for an extension. Again. I used to pride myself on keeping my word and meeting deadlines, but them’s bygone days it seems…Each time I don’t hit a deadline, a little part of me withers, but I’m very lucky that the lovely folks at my publisher are wonderfully accommodating. So I am still, still hunkered down, painting and illustrating. It’s the last big hurdle of the book process for me and for reasons beyond my understanding, I keep complicating things by trying to get fancy when simple is always best.

Some of what you see above may end up as decorative elements, we’ll see.

Alright. Even my mom has stopped reading my blog, so I’m quite certain I’m yammering on to an audience of about 3 people at this point — no matter. It’s funny how I noticed that I’d been feeling jittery and as though something was sorely lacking, and then I realized I’d let yet another week go without updating here. As soon as I snapped a photo and started typing, I felt a curious release of tension, a decompression. Relief. That’s what it was. I suppose there are worse things to be addicted to than blogging.

I’m so looking forward to getting back into the swing of things. Soon, soon!

My haiku brain’s stalled
Just coming up with this one
felt herculean

Have a wonderful weekend!



Happy Friday + Randomness


Happy Friday! I was going through some of my old photos, and I found this image I’d snapped of a cardboard sign someone had tacked up near a construction site. It’s an iphone shot, so it’s not stellar in quality but the message more than makes up for it, don’t you think? I had an interesting conversation with a couple of friends the other day about how the internet’s anonymity seems to breed meanness. I wonder what kind of world it would be if the philosophy above was widespread on and offline? Now that’s where I want to live.

It looks like it’ll be one more week of posting just once, but then, THEN, I’m back to regularly scheduled programming! I’m beside myself with anticipation.

So I’m keeping it brief to give me maximum work time, and I’ll be back with so much to say soon-ish!!

Hello October
Fancy seeing you so soon
Need costumes pronto

P.S. Furoku members, #7 has been sent! Please check your promotions or spam folders if you don’t see it.


Happy Friday + Randomness


It’s been quiet around here, which means things are bustling in the background. I have much to share, but one of the highlights of last week was a Little Kunoichi event. It was my last scheduled event and was held at a beautiful Japanese gift shop/gallery called KOBO. There may be some more events in the future, but that particular book reading capped what I considered the launch season. My book has been out for almost five months, can you believe it? I just found out that someone’s seen it in Madagascar!!! What??

At any rate, I’ve learned some notable tidbits from doing these events:

1. I am the worst promoter ever – I actually ran into some friends right before the event and didn’t even invite them because I was so timid about it. I’ve been tsk-tsking myself for days.

2. And when you don’t promote your own events, not many people show up (average number of attendees: 5, not including my own family members). Cozy and intimate events, these are. I was all gung ho and invited everyone and their distant second cousins to the launch party back in May, and about 100 people showed up for that event — just goes to show you that I can do it if I set my mind to it.

3. And when not many people show up, you don’t sell very many books.

I’m going to have to work on this. I’m much more comfortable in front of people now, which has been a lovely side bonus from the series of book readings I’ve done, and I’ve really beefed up my illustrating-on-the-fly skills (I offered custom illos for some of the events). I can whip up a watercolor dolphin in five minutes flat. I really love creating little paintings, especially for kids.

I’ve also been including a fun presentation about how the book came to fruition, and the part that seems to make people perk up is the cover options we went through. I’ve collaged together the versions that I presented up there, and the one of the lower left corner was the winner, but with a caveat: the colors needed to be brighter. The background and ninja uniform then went through various hue iterations, and it was fascinating to see the business side of developing a cover. It is, despite the general pleas to never judge a book by its cover, the most important element. Everyone took it very seriously. Which is pretty funny when talking about ninja girls and pet bunnies.

Alright, must go focus on the elusive sorcery that is book-making. Will be back some time next week!!

How do these weeks zoom?
Could’ve sworn it was Monday
but no, weekend time…

Happy Friday, and happy weekend to all!


Friday Outfit + Randomness


Happy Friday! The teachers’ strike finally ended on Wednesday of this week, and it’s funny how almost every parent I ran into on the first day of school commented how looooooong this summer vacation was. All told, the start of school was delayed for six days, but when you don’t know what’s happening each day, every passing moment can feel like an eternity, you know?


Anyway. K thoroughly enjoyed the extra days of lounging about with friends, and despite my best efforts, I wasn’t as successful as I’d like to have been on the work front. I did, however, sew yet another animal print dress.


Sadly, K rejected it as a first day of school outfit because…well, I’m not sure why. She said that it’s more of a second day of school dress without providing much in the way of illuminating information. Hmmmm….


I used this book, from which I should sew more. I love that it has patterns for both girls and women, and I’ve been eyeing a few items to whip up for myself. This particular dress pattern is technically meant for wovens, but since K won’t wear anything that’s not stretchy, I gave it a shot with this cheetah (?) knit jersey from here. It’s super soft. The contrasting dark grey is the same scrap knit I keep using for details.


So there you have it, the second day of school dress. Be still my heart — could I interpret this to mean that the animal print phase is almost over??

OK! Back to editing/illustrating! I hope to post at least once next week too. I wish you all a wonderful, wonderful weekend!

First day back at school
K was filled with nervousness
But it was awesome*

*She loves her teachers and most of her closest friends are in her class. Huzzah!


Happy Friday + Randomness


Happy Friday! Lately, I’ve been spending a few minutes every morning with my watercolors, painting whatever comes to mind. As a way to chronicle my daily paintbrush musings, I’ve been posting them on instagram, and it fills me with tiny bubbles of joy to have this little ritual (don’t roll your eyes!). There’s really no rhyme or reason to what I paint and I don’t know how long I’ll continue this.

As I’m wont to do, I’ve been thinking a lot about this whole “follower” culture that’s the norm these days. On Wednesday, I had to block an IG follower with a provocative profile image of a male appendage front and center, and then realized that a slew of my so-called followers are spammers of similar ilk. It’s sad.

Not because I don’t have as many followers as I’d initially thought — that doesn’t bother me in the least, but because it taints my experience of something I was genuinely enjoying. On Pinterest, I have over 20,000 followers, but I’m sure most of them are in the business involving handcuffs and poles and disco lighting. And then there’s the whole insecurity-inducing aspect of the popularity contest…yet we can’t forget the astronomical benefits of the connectivity and access social media promotes. I wonder what the next phase is? Curiouser and curiouser.

“It takes more courage to be nice and happy,” M told me the other day. Do you think that’s true? Is human nature really prone to baseness and gloom? Perhaps. I recently heard a Buddhist reference, which went something along the lines of how our minds are naturally pure and radiant but are frequently visited by unpleasant and unwanted thoughts and emotions like greed, jealousy, anger, hate…I like to think that we’re all basically good, and I definitely prefer the Buddhist outlook. Then again, in my world, bears ride bikes while sporting grins, so I may not be a trusted source.


I am truly and earnestly burrowing into the final, final phase of book #2, and I want to give it the fullest attention that I can. As such, I’m going to cut myself some slack again and post less frequently here over the next three weeks. Once a week, that’s my aim…Have a wonderful weekend, all!


Good to shake things up
Quality trumps quantity
That’s what I say, yo*

*K likes to make up raps and I’m easily influenced.

Wednesday Outfit: Ottobre Marja Top



As you know, I’m devoted to my Japanese sewing books, but K is starting to outgrow the 130cm size which is usually the largest size offered. Luckily, I happened to be organizing all of my sewing books and patterns and discovered that I’d purchased quite a few Ottobre issues back when I’d first caught the DIY bug. Look, the sizing goes up to 170cm!

I decided to try the simple Marja knit tunic in 134cm from the Spring 2009 issue. This was my first experience with Ottobre patterns, and I have mixed feelings. Ottobre Design hails from Finland and it’s a mystery why the magazine name is in Italian (it means October). At any rate, branching out to this Scandinavian publication confirmed a few things about myself.

ottobre-marja9 ottobre-marja6

First of all, I am an entirely visual learner when it comes to sewing. The instructions were sparse for this pattern and there were no illustrations or photos accompanying the constructions steps. None!! After reading through the instructions twice, I gave up trying to process the words and sewed it the way I normally would. It’s a good thing I’ve made dozens of tops like this and it’s no wonder that I love Japanese sewing books with their superb illustrations. I’ve always known that I’m a visual learner, but I didn’t know how utterly dependent I am on images to follow instructions.

ottobre-marja3 ottobre-marja7

Second, I used to be convinced that my perfectionism was unparalleled, but this top proves that I’ve become much more laissez faire. Or maybe just plain lazy. I initially missed cutting out the front bottom piece and seeing as to how I only had 3/4 yard of this lovely 95% cotton/5% spandex knit, I had to do away with the gathering and reduce the width of the bottom pieces to squeeze out the needed piece. I actually shrugged to myself and muttered, “oh well.” Believe me, a few years ago I would have scrapped the whole project at this point.


This top would have been much cuter with the gathers, but you know what? K likes it a bunch. I realize that her smiles up there look more like sneers, but she was actually singing the whole time I was snapping away with my camera, and singing always means thumb’s up.


Related to the easing of my perfectionism, but not exactly the same thing: I’ve relinquished all control of trying to style K’s outfits. That purple tiered skirt and the animal print headband would not have been my first choice (I had visions of pairing the tunic with grey leggings and a cute neutral scarf), but hey, the combo makes her dance — another good sign. She happily wore the top for the day and now it’s in the black hole we call the laundry basket. Who knows when we’ll see it again.


M tells me I’m uptight (in a way that’s not annoying, he adds. What??), but I beg to differ and feel that I’m practically Rastafarian these days. Case in point: I haven’t even bothered to make her a first day of school outfit mainly because I have no idea when the first day of school is. It was supposed to be today, but negotiations for salary increases and other amenities are underway and teachers are on the brink of going on strike as of this writing. Maybe when this post goes up, it’ll be resolved. I hope so.


Alright, the cafe where I’m typing this is closing so it’s a wrap.  I leave you with this image — don’t the pocket edges look like closed eyes? I suppose this tunic would also make an excellent pajama top…

Minimalist Sewing for K


After receiving even more new-to-K clothes from our neighbor last week, we went through K’s entire closet and all of her dresser drawers to take stock of her clothing situation. It is, in a word, crazytown.

I know there’s a whole lot of capsule wardrobe talk going around the interwebs, and I so admire the concept, but as we sorted through hundreds of items that I’ve made for K, it was time to admit that we’ve crossed over into the opposite of capsule: hoarder territory.

“We have to get rid of this, I made this three years ago!” I beseeched, holding up a wrinkled floral dress. K shook her head resolutely. And the thing is, most of the clothes I made when I first started sewing regularly for her still fit. I switched tactics and taught her the Marie Kondo method and asked her to only keep the garment if it sparked joy. She said “thank you and good-bye” to 15 things. On the one hand, this is ego-boosting on my part, but on the other hand, it doesn’t solve our problem. An excessively sentimental mother-daughter duo trying to eliminate handmade clothes is a recipe for disaster.

I keep revisiting my internal conflict of wanting to continue practicing my sewing vs. the guilt I grapple with as I generate more clothing than my daughter could possibly need. I love love love sewing for her. As we sat amid a literal mountain of clothes, we figured out that she could wear something different every day for a year. Every. Single. Day. This is ridiculous.

Yes, the obvious answer is to stop sewing for her. But I’m not quite ready for that so instead I’m going to adopt a minimal sewing plan for this autumn/winter. I’ll focus on clothes that she will actually wear regularly like knit tunics/dresses and skinny jeans and jeggings (or plain leggings). And for some reason, she loves zip-up vests and cardigans. I’m going to have to deploy some sneaky methods to reduce her gargantuan wardrobe. I know I’ll fall off the wagon and whip up some impractical, sure-to-be-ignored linen outfit here and there, but right now, I feel like I can get all minimalist and capsule-y with my sewing. I’ve got this.

P.S. A knit tunic coming up on Wednesday – I tried something new!

P.P.S. Happy Labor Day to all those in the US!! I forgot all about it since all the days have been blending into each other. The tail end of summer is always that way for me…

Happy Friday + Randomness


Happy Friday! There’s been a lot of painting going on lately, and I’m also raring to dive into sewing — five more days until K is back in school, and I will have gloriously large swaths of time to devote to personal projects. Can’t wait!! I’ve been wading through my massive stash, trying not to get overcome by the vast number of choices.

For now, I’m savoring the last moments of summer and am hosting a lot of playdates.


M and I celebrated our 10-year anniversary yesterday. We are on a strict, strict budget right now, so we opted to hold off on anything that smacks even remotely of opulence, so we had a simple, unglamorous outing involving cheap food and a movie. Time to chat, reflect on a decades’ worth of memories, and marvel at how the years melt away. I painted a little card for him. It’s the “10 years” illo up there and I put it in a frame. He’s the “1” (get it?) and I’m the zero (not in the negative sense, of course — maybe we’ll interpret it as me being the circle of life).


My favorite K quote of the week: “Mama, you smell like puffy white clouds.” Apparently, the scent is a mixture of airy, clean and pretty.


Have a wonderful weekend, friends! Are you as happy as I am that it’s almost Fall?

The air is crisper
Back-to-school around the bend
Reset, refresh, go!

P.S. The giveaway winner is Jill, congrats!

Tutorial: Happy Homemade Vol 5 Pants Hack

Earlier this week, I showed you the animal print pants I modified slightly, and I’m recording the changes I made here so I won’t forget. I used pattern c for the pants, but didn’t like the front patch pockets. Switching up the pockets for the “slim pants” was super easy because I simply frankensteined the skirt pockets from pattern w of the same book. Seamless! I also slimmed down the legs by my usual hyper accurate method of eyeballing, and added an extra 1cm to the length, but for this post, I’ll focus on the pockets.


Here’s what I did (I’m showing the process for only one pant leg, but you would obviously repeat the process for the other pant leg):

1. All I needed from pattern w were the pocket facing and the pocket bag. In the image below, the top piece is the pocket bag, and the bottom piece is the pocket facing.


2. For the pocket opening, I simply traced the curve of the pocket facing onto the front pant pattern piece and cut out the corner.

pants-hack4 pants-hack5

3. With right sides facing, I sewed the facing to the corresponding front pant leg.


4. Make sure to clip the curves so the fabric will flatten nicely. I usually trim the seam allowance down to about 1/2cm but I didn’t bother in this case.


5. Flip the facing to the other side and press.


6. Topstitch along the curve of the pocket opening.


7. Align pocket bag so that the right side of the pocket bag is facing the wrong side of the front pant leg. You want to make sure the pocket bag matches up with the pocket facing. Pin and baste in place at the top of the pant leg (where the waistband will be attached) and the at the side of the pant leg.


8. Sew the pocket bag to the pocket facing, following the curve (indicated by the aqua line below). Zig zag stitch or overlock raw edges together.


And that’s it! Easy peasy. I followed the instructions from the book to construct the rest of the pants and now K can enjoy her rockstar pants for at least a year!

rockstar-pants3 rockstar-pants2


Monday Outfit: Rockstar Pants


Good morning! Everyone knows about K’s love of animal prints. And most people know that I make all her clothes, so of course, she received two yards of animal print fabric for her birthday.

“Pants!” she said without an iota of hesitation when I asked her what she’d like me to make with her special fabric. Pants it is.


I used the “slim pants” pattern from this great book, but made a few mods in addition to lengthening the pant legs by 1cm. I changed the front pockets (the original design has front patch pockets) and skinnified the legs, which were easy modifications — I’ll show you what I did in more detail on Wednesday!

rockstar-pants3K is very, very happy with these. Her one complaint was that she wanted them to be skin tight, but despite having a little bit of stretch, making them any tighter would not have allowed her to have the range of movement she so loves.


Rockstar pants, don’t you think? The shirt is a hand-me-down from her slightly older neighbor friend, and K inherited a huge bag full of bright and colorful clothes. It almost made me toss out my plans to sew school clothes for K. Almost, but not quite. Sewing back-to-school clothes is a ritual I consider sacred.

We tried the pants with the black stripey tee for a different look. That tee gets worn a ton.


I’ve been meaning to make these pants for years but the zip fly had me cowed, as many zipper projects tend to do. I took the plunge, though, and I’m glad I did because it really wasn’t all that bad. I also had it in my head that it would be incredibly challenging to add one of those adjustable elastic waistbands, which turned out not to be painful in the least.

rockstar-pants4 rockstar-pants5

The one snafu I ran into was the shortage of waistband width, and rather than cutting out a new waistband, I got creative and folded the fly guard instead. It worked! So much so that I wondered if maybe that’s what I was supposed to do and the instructions just didn’t include it…who knows?


At any rate, these pants resulted in much jubilation! I would like to try the Peekaboo pattern next. [I originally wrote Small Fry, but I’ve already made a pair back in November. See what I mean about my memory? Thank goodness for this blog!]


rockstar-pants6Look at all these fun denim colors I have — K is going to love them!

What about you? Any fall sewing plans?



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