HoJo’s Tablecloth Shirt

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Oh, this shirt.

My intentions were so good. I started with Colette’s Negroni pattern and dug through my abundant plaid fabric collection for this blue and cream colorway. I believe it was from Drygoods many moons ago.

It was supposed to be a birthday shirt for M, then July whisked by.

I told myself no problem, it’s simply a late birthday present, and then August sped away.

Then, with our 11th wedding anniversary careening towards us, I finally completed it on September 3rd, our actual anniversary date.

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He claims to love it, but here are the statements that he’s made so far: “Did you raid a Howard Johnson’s supply closet and steal a tablecloth? Or maybe it was a curtain?” And “I’ve never worn such a heavy shirt, putting it on is like a workout.” And “Very innovative of you to make a winter shirt with short sleeves.” It’s a good thing I have an excellent sense of humor.

And it’s true, the mid-weight cotton was a poor choice for this pattern, given all the facings and interfacings.

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Now, it’s been a couple of months since I started making it, and almost a month since I’ve completed it, so I can’t say that I remember much of the details. I omitted the collar loop (a mid-century style detail, apparently) but otherwise, followed the instructions to the letter. I do remember not enjoying the process even though the instructions were superb and I was killing it in the print-matching department.

The lack of enjoyment was probably because I could tell that the shirt was going to weigh a ton and was most likely going to be too big for M (I cut an XL, which is his usual size, but he lost a lot of weight over the summer). Yet, I couldn’t quit on it.

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The fit isn’t too bad, actually. He’s somewhere between a large and XL, and too big is better than too small, no? I’ve washed it a few times hoping to shrink it, but that’s some serious high quality cotton and it hasn’t budged in size.

But done is done, and undaunted, I’m looking to try a different pattern for the next shirt. Maybe McCall’s 6044Morgan‘s made a bajillion versions for her husband and she’s a thoroughly trusted source.

“Can I choose the fabric next time?” M asked. I don’t know, do you get the sense that maybe he doesn’t love the shirt?

But he loves taking pix with K! In actuality, he may make endless fun of it, but M wears the shirt all the time — my sweet guy.
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P.S. The winner of the giveaway is Norah, congrats!

Happy Friday + Randomness

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Happy Friday! Hmmmm, so it looks like the best I’m able to manage is a once-a-week posting while juggling other projects. I still have a number of completed sewing I want to document here, and I’m starting with this little gift package I made weeks and weeks ago. Unless I record them here, they will be forgotten forever given my spotty memory. In fact, they had completely slipped my mind until I happened to see the photos as I was looking for pictures of another sewing project.

Anyhow, every day I count my lucky stars that I have the most wonderful editors. They shower me with encouragement and gifts and general good vibes, and naturally, I want very much to return the favor. As a thank you for the many, many generous presents that my editor Tegan continues to surprise me with, I made her some tea towels from this pretty striped linen from Drygoods. I love this toweling fabric so much that I made myself some tea towels as well.

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I also embroidered a Little Kunoichi coaster. Little K is upside down there, fyi. The next book in the series is almost complete! I have to turn in cover concepts soon — actually, I’m supposed to be turning it in now (yikes), and I’m super excited about it. Like the first book, I feel like I’ve given it my all and the outcome doesn’t matter to me all that much. Coming your way Fall 2017!! Isn’t it crazy how long book publishing takes? Time for me to get back to cover concepts!

I will see you all again some time next week; have a fabulous weekend!

What will I sew next?
It’s a unicorn costume*
Not sure how to yet…

*Halloween is coming up and K wants to manifest her spirit animal…if anyone has any recommendations or suggestions on how to sew a unicorn costume, I would be eternally grateful!

Happy Friday + Giveaway! [CLOSED]

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Great Scott! I’m not usually one to go around exclaiming “Great Scott!” but I feel like the occasion warrants it. I did it, my friends! I finished all the interior illustrations for my third book, and though I still have to wrap up the cover, for all intents and purposes, I’m done with the hardest part. I’m not supposed to talk much about it right now, but wow, it feels great to cross that off of my list. As you may have noticed, I put everything else on hold to get the illustrations done in time — yesterday was my deadline and at about 8:30pm, I did a little celebratory jig of completion.

So I am going to have a restorative weekend, and in the meantime, I wanted to do a little giveaway. The book you see above is not the one I just completed, but one that I translated from Japanese many months ago.

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It’s a beginner-friendly quilting book, focused on totes, bags, purses and pouches called Patchwork Quilted Bags by Reiko Washizawa, published by the lovely Tuttle folks.

I’m not much of a quilter myself, so this was a very educational project for me. I’m discovering how much I love learning through translating. It uses a very different part of my brain and in some ways, I seem to absorb information better by trying to figure out how to convert the words from Japanese to English.

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This book was text-heavier than the other ones I’ve worked on, and I really enjoyed learning more about the author and her career trajectory. Although she discovered quilting in her late twenties, she didn’t truly launch her career until her late thirties, and she’s still going strong in her seventies. Very, very inspiring. She even taught her husband how to quilt! These are her favorite quilts that she’s created to date:

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The book contains adorable, small-scale projects that are very accessible while incorporating traditional quilting methods in refreshing ways. These were the ones that immediately caught my attention, but there are about 20 projects total to tackle (I’m especially smitten with the strawberry pouches):

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I have an extra copy for one lucky reader, and to enter the giveaway, please leave any comment. If you’re stumped for what to write and are a quilter, perhaps you could recommend a blog or website or even a book with quilting resources, techniques or inspiration?

I’ll leave the giveaway open until next Friday, September 23rd, and will announce the winner the following Monday. International entries are always welcome, of course!

OK! Time to catch up on some housework, return some emails, pay attention to my family and friends…then it’s back to deadline mode because guess what? I’m translating another book. This one’s a good one too!

Sewing for a Fifth Grader!!

5thgrade-bagoutfit1Holy moly, what is going on with time?? I used to crow about my time management skills, but I’ve got nothing to crow about now. So summer is officially over, and K is a fifth grader! In the Seattle public school system, the new year begins the Wednesday after Labor Day (except for kindergartners — they start a few days later). K’s been nervous.

About a month ago, she asked me to make her a school bag. This caused me to do a double-take because she doesn’t ask me to make her stuff anymore. When asked why, she said, “Last year all my friends kept asking me if you made my backpack and I didn’t like saying no. I love your bags, and my friends were so impressed with the ones you’ve made.” Well. I thought the backpack we purchased from Fred Meyer was lovely, but if peer pressure is the key to feeling handmade pride, I suppose I’ll have to take it. So I made her a bag.

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Actually, I made three bags. What you see is the main messenger bag on the left, and a lunch bag on the right.

5thgrade-bagoutfit14I also made a “binder case” as she calls it because…I’m still a little unclear on the reasoning, but she insisted and it wasn’t too difficult, so a binder case materialized. I just made up the pattern as I went along, making sure that it would fit the binder and also still slip into the messenger bag. She’s demonstrating the magnetic snaps of the case up there.

For the main messenger bag, I used A Happy Stitch’s excellent pattern. Melissa, you are a genius! It’s the perfect size and easily accommodates her binder case and a hot pink pencil pouch (not handmade).

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I used a laminated cotton (or an oil cloth? What are these things? Why do I not save the selvage??) for the outer fabric which K chose herself, and the lining is quilting cotton I’ve had for an eternity, which I also used as binding for the lunch bag raw edges.

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And then there is the lunch bag. I added fusible fleece for a little bit of insulation, and again, I made this pattern up based on the height of that purple unicorn water bottle that’s peeking out up there. I referenced the instructions for the travel case in Anna‘s book, Handmade Style, and added the straps. It was tricky using the slippery fabric for the lining as well as the outer fabric, but in the end, it all worked out.

So she can carry her multiple bags like this:

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Or like this:

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There’s a happy bag lady on the premises. Whew, that was well worth the effort. The one off-putting part of the process was when I discovered this:

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Can you see it? That curlicue thing? It’s a piece of hair stuck between the laminate and fabric. I thought it was thread at first, but no. It adds a decidedly human element to the textile. Ew, was my first reaction, but then I thought, you know what? Someone worked hard at laminating this. Good try! K said, “I’m glad you didn’t accidentally use that part for the lunch bag.” Just in case that makes it sounds as though I used it for the other bags, I did not use that section of the fabric at all.

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And before you ask, I didn’t make a first day of school outfit. For the first time ever, K picked out an ensemble from a store. Her dream retail destination? Target. In fact, she’s wearing Target from head-to-toe.

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She was over the moon excited. It’s funny, she’s never really asked whether she can get store-bought clothes because I think she assumed I wouldn’t let her. Since I’m in the throes of finishing up book #3, I stopped kidding myself and gave up on trying to make her clothes in time for the first day of school. It was never my intention to make all her clothes for the rest of her life and I don’t have a fervent anti-fast-fashion mission. The goal was to see if I could make all her clothes for a year, and without my realizing it, it had stretched out to four years. Sure, I support the values that come with making things by hand, but I also appreciate a good retail sale. It struck me that by not allowing K to choose her own clothes, I might be causing some weird complex in her.

I found it interesting that when presented with racks and racks of tween clothing, she didn’t go crazy and pick out a zillion options, but was quite decisive and economical. The rule: one outfit, which meant either a top, bottom and outerwear or a dress and outerwear. She knew she most likely wanted skinny jeans, but beelined for a dress just to try (it was a white, lacy number that surprised me). For the top, she selected three options. The white one she ultimately chose, a black sweatshirt with “Girl Power” stenciled on it, and a purple t-shirt. For the jacket, she plucked the knit denim zip-up that you see and a grey one that was similar in style. She also bought the headband with her own money.

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It was a very satisfying shopping trip. Afterwards, she sighed happily, hugged and thanked me about a million times, and then…we moved on. Soon the white shirt will get stained. She’ll outgrow the skinny jeans. But I think it was an eye-opening exercise for her. She had fun perusing the available options, but she didn’t actually like as many of the clothes as she thought she would.

Anyway. Fifth grade!!! I wonder what it will be like? Fingers crossed that her first day of school (today) is a good one.

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Alright, I’m still in the midst of deadlines, but will be back sometime next week. I have more sewing to share from weeks and weeks ago!

A quick pop-in and a change of heart towards knitting

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Hello! I didn’t mean to stay away for 3 weeks, but life has a way of creating a vortex of activities that then turn into more activities…but enough with the excuses.

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I am, in fact, still in retreat mode and haven’t really been online much. Instead, I’ve been spending more time making things and it’s been restorative. I have to say: knitters, I finally get it. After years and years of balking at the craft, citing inane things such as “I can’t seem to count!” or “I just don’t have the patience,” I thoroughly and utterly fell in love with it these past few weeks.

What am I making? I have no idea. I’m just knitting and purling and seeing where the stitches take me, but I find the process so profoundly meditative and calming (and so portable!), I keep reaching for this little project of mine whenever I have a few moments to spare. One of the surprising parts of publishing Sewing Happiness was meeting many women who came to my readings or emailed me telling me how familiar my story was, how they found healing through making things too. Most of them, I noticed, were knitters and so I became curious. I dug out two skeins of Debbie Bliss baby cashmerino in slate — yarn that I’ve been hoarding for roughly 8 years for a “special project someday”.

The actual project I’m working on is unremarkable, but I’m glad I finally used the yarn, and when I ran out, I added some cream-colored wool I got from Seattle Recreative, the craft thrift store and art center I’ve mentioned before. Knitting has been lovely and so very soothing, just what I’ve been needing.

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My mom is in town right now, and it’s always such a treat. I don’t cook at all while she’s here because she whips up things like this in a nanosecond:

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Yes, that’s a lot of sashimi. She makes every day a party.

I hope we don’t die of mercury poisoning, but oh, the sushi rolls we inhaled were divine.

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Summer is ending and K starts fifth grade next week. I have some fun sewing to share soon, but as I said, I’m still in cocoon mode and can’t guarantee regular posting for some time yet. We are going away for a few days to one of the small islands nearby this afternoon, and I hope it’s rejuvenating. More soon. I miss you, but this time away has done me wonders.

P.S. Furoku members, #18 will be heading your way by the end of the week!