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.

Monday Outfit: Henry Dress in Gradients of Grey


Good morning! We’re still recovering from the Fourth of July party, the heat and technical blips, but I have a new garment to share today, and that’s always an energy booster for me.

A few months ago, I had fun sewing up the Franklin dress + tunic (in fact, K wore the tunic when we went to see the fireworks on Saturday). The lovely Erin of Brooklyn Pattern Co. contacted me again recently to see if I’d be interested in giving the Henry dress a try. But of course!



I had a hard time deciding on the fabric. The combination of the feminine pleated puffed sleeves and the more geometric angled pockets (which I absolutely love) had me scratching my head a bit. I wanted a sort of gradient look and have this fabulous pink linen that I wanted to use, but I only had one yard of it. So I burrowed into my endless fabric supply, pulling out gingham checks, my default navy-and-white stripes, a madras seersucker, a couple of knits with bright prints… None of them felt right.


I struck gold when I found this gradient striped fabric at the bottom of one of my bins. I think it’s a cotton poplin, and I’m all about the various shades of grey. The one stickler was that the stripes run parallel to the selvage, so I had to cut the patterns cross grain. This made it tricky for K to get the dress on since the fabric couldn’t stretch much width-wise and there are no closures.


For the neck and pocket facings, I used the thinnest cotton lawn in a refreshing mint color. My neck facing didn’t like staying in place despite my understitching; if you look closely enough, you’ll see the neck facing scooching up and revealing itself in small tufts. But check out my stripes-matching — I’m quite proud. I might have to start thinking about dipping my toe into quilting.


The instructions are superb, but I did a few things slightly differently, just because:

1. To make finishing the sleeve edge easier, I double-folded and pressed the sleeve edge before sewing the underarm portion of the sleeve together. It’s always harder for me to press sleeve edges in the round, and with the added bulk of the pleats, this turned out to be a good move.

2. I raised the skirt hem by about 2.5inches. It looked too long to me when K tried it on.

3. I basted the pockets on each side before assembling the front of the dress. The instructions guide you to simply pin the sides. By basting each side of the pocket to the side panel, the pockets are nicely attached and makes the next step easier.

On a side note, I think a sleeveless version of this dress would look wonderful.


The verdict? Thumbs up from both me and K! I cut out the largest size, which is 8, and the fit is perfect. I really like how modern it looks (though maybe she appears to be heading to a corporate board room and just needs to locate her Manolo Blahniks?) and K asked if she could keep it on after the photo shoot. The ultimate sign of sewing success! She even volunteered to add some modeling oomph with her prop of choice:

henrydress-gradientgrey9 henrydress-gradientgrey10

Thank you for the pattern, Erin! I thoroughly enjoyed making the Henry dress, and K is a happy camper. Make sure to check out the other blog tour participants and Erin is offering a coupon code for you! Readers receive 20% any pattern in the shop with the code: SUMMERFUN15. The code runs from 12:01 am on July 6through 11:59 pm on July 15.


Happy Friday + Randomness


Happy Friday! It’s been a long time since I’ve had technical issues. My laptop seems to be under the weather, and I can’t get it to snap out of its sluggish, sickly mode, so I’m going to go back up everything lest I lose my prized files.

Have you seen Frida Clements‘ work? Last weekend, when I participated in the Urban Craft Uprising (for a Little Kunoichi signing), I had the honor of meeting this über talented illustrator, albeit briefly. Frida has a fun book (aptly titled “Have a Little Pun“) coming out this August, and I want a copy! Frida has a sweet presence and her booth was rocking it at UCU. In fact, she had a pre-order copy at the table where I was signing, and I’m sure that her book is going to sell gazillions, judging from the number of people that stopped to admire the book. Her detailed charming illustrations winningly combines with her folksy handlettering, and I couldn’t resist buying prints. My favorite is the “Oh Whale” up there, but I also got “Honey Bee Yourself,” and had I known about it, I would have gotten “Don’t be Koi”.



Off to address technical snafus! Have a wonderful weekend, and for those in the US, I hope your Fourth of July celebrations are full of grilled goodness and sparklers!

O Fourth of July
Ping pong games and slip ‘n’ slide
We’ll have a par-tay*

*My neighbor organizes a rip-roaring party for the Fourth every year, and there’s always an amazing feast. My stomach is growling just thinking about it…



Yes. I made K a “bralette”. Or, as it is known in preadolescent female circles, the training bra.

She almost exploded from happiness. I self-drafted the pattern (it’s just a cropped tank top after all) and as soon as I tied off the last knot, she whisked it from my hands and hasn’t taken it off for the last 48 hours. M recommended that I make her a few more versions or the beautiful white Anna Sui knit (also used for the puff-sleeved tee) may end up some unspeakable hue.

We’re prudes here, so I didn’t want to post an image with her wearing it, but she’s declared the bralette “ah-mazing”. That bashful and secretive smile! I remember when I was about K’s age, I desperately wanted a training bra too — what was the allure? Some romanticizing of womanhood, certainly, but maybe it gave me a new and exciting sense of belonging, even though on a practical level there was absolutely no need for one? A little like dress-up, tween version.



I’ll put together a tutorial at some point if anyone is interested. I like the one I created because it’s so sweet and innocent-looking and met with K’s approval. She will want, of course, an animal print bralette, but that won’t be happening…

It’s an unexpected milestone! My little girl is growing up too fast.

Monthly Income + Furoku Update


I’m in a bit of a quandary.

In putting together the monthly income report, I scrutinized the number and a self-conscious part of me thought it might be better not to announce what may seem like a piddling sum, though this sum represents so much goodness to me.

The goal, if you recall, is to see if I can generate an income of at least $20,000 a year doing what I love. It doesn’t seem like an improbable financial goal, does it? I mean, if I became a Dick’s Drive-In employee (purportedly Bill Gates’ favorite fast food establishment here in Seattle), I could earn that amount working part-time. With paid insurance to boot. I would, I hope, be earning the shift manager wage of $16/hr as opposed to the base wage of $11/hr because I did go to graduate school — it’s the least that degree can do for me since all it’s done to date was increase my debt. Then again, that debt and getting out of it was a tremendous lesson. Anyway, it’s sobering to realize that I could make more money flipping burgers approximately 20 hours a week; so far, pouring my heart and soul into writing, painting, sewing and taking photos a minimum of 8 hours a day, 7 days a week is generating $491.57 per month, at least for May. That brings us up to $1,356.01 from March. So in the image below, the tree=$20,000, the sapling=$1356.01, and the seedling=$491.57.


Many of those hours are spent creating a book that won’t see the light of day until next spring. I’m also diligently promoting a book that’s been on the market for less than two months and though Little Kunoichi is doing pretty well from what I can tell — I have no access to exact sales information until August — I still have to earn back enough royalties to cover the advance payment of $5,000 first. Who knows how high my books may soar? (or plummet, but we won’t focus on that)

A few folks have commented on how there seems to be an all or nothing mentality with these targets instead of letting things grow organically. I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to explain it well, but I’m all for organic growth and would love nothing more than a slow and steady upward trend in skills, opportunities and financial solvency. It’s the best way to grow and patience is a virtue and in many ways I’ve been on the tortoise path; yet I also know myself and am perfectly capable of languishing without any forward momentum, just mulling, mulling, mulling.

I do well with specificity and deadlines and structure. I started this blog with a self-imposed deadline of posting every weekday — I wasn’t going to punish myself for missed days, but the clearcut schedule was great for me and I had plenty of time back then. For the first two years, I created a post every weekday with very few exceptions. At a certain point, book projects picked up steam, so I scaled back to three days a week, which I didn’t like at first, but after a brief adjustment period, I started to enjoy the consistency and achievability of the new pace. When M proposed the deadline and dollar amount to see if I can make a go at this new, rather vague career in making things, I was game. I like measurable, tangible progress. And I was intensely curious to find out if I could actually make an income on my own terms. In my arrogance I thought, “How hard can it be?” Three years seemed like a long time, and though I knew that the book process would take a while, it seemed doable.

It’s turned out to be much harder than I expected, especially when I can’t pull all-nighters or work myself to the bones anymore with my persnickety health situation. I won’t bore you with the details, but I have clearly overestimated myself. I thought I could finish and promote one book, complete the second book, start some sort of “creative” business, and handily meet my goal. Hmmmmmm. All those business podcasts make it sound so easy.

M has been watching me flounder as I try to juggle the blog, the books, the Furoku membership, and general home and childcare duties. “Flummoxed” is a good word to describe my mental state. “Let’s forget the goal,” he says, “we’ll make it work somehow, and you’ll eventually get there”. But now I have this weird attachment to the idea of hitting the $20,000, if only to prove to myself that I can do it. I’m also partly abashed that I made such a dramatic declaration of stopping the blog, etc. etc. if I don’t meet these objectives by the end of the year. Those stipulations weren’t mine per se, but still, I agreed to them. When I look at how events have unfolded in the last three years, I’m convinced that I’m on the right course, but my rickety, uncertain ride is painfully slow. Quandary. Or maybe there is no quandary since I don’t know what will happen by the end of the year, and no matter what happens, it doesn’t change the fact that I’ve had these incredible life-changing opportunities. Ugh, I’m going in circles.


And oh, the Furoku membership. This, too, has been a quandary. I’m not entirely sure what the Furoku is. I know that I’m still lacking direction and though I carve out time each month to think long and hard about how I can best add value to this small but mighty group that is propping me up with their support, I feel a little lost and out of my element. I was so excited and scared (in a good, stretching-my-limits kind of way) about the whole venture. I made plans, sketched out ideas, talked to a developer (hi Steph!), consulted the stars of the sewing world, got a business license, even! I was bubbling with enthusiasm until I received direct criticism via email for the first time. I remember M asking me a long time ago, “What are you going to do when people criticize you?” When you put your words and images out there for public consumption in any way, criticism is inevitable, particularly when money gets involved. And it’s finally happened. As I suspected, I was completely unprepared. In the three-plus years I’ve been blogging, I’ve had only supportive and encouraging feedback, which has made me even more thin-skinned, like a Japanese paper balloon. The criticism immediately deflated me, and I began strategizing on how to shut everything down, cancel the second book (which is intensely personal), disappear somehow — Should I change my name? I wondered. That’s silly, naturally, especially since so many people have offered up kind words about both the blog and membership, so I’ve tried my best to move beyond the temptation to hide away…but I would be lying to say I wasn’t affected. I have heard repeatedly that feedback is a reflection of the person giving the feedback, and not the recipient. I agree with this, but it still doesn’t lessen the impact.

I’m going to continue the Furoku. I’m glad I started it, and I’m grateful that members have stuck with me as I keep experimenting (there have been discounts to great online shops, original illustration downloads, an exclusive interview with the fabulous Miss Matatabi, sewing patterns, and more). In lieu of monthly sign-ups, I’m going to put up a button on the sidebar where it will live, but for anyone interested in signing up, please know that this is still in its fledgling stages. Not only do the fees help me run this blog, enable me to work on book #2, but they also give me that gentle mental cushion that allows me to explore and exercise my creative brain in a way that is difficult to do when I’m panicked about having zero income. And the best part is assembling a special digital gift each month, which I still love doing. Hence, my $400 to $500-ish a month income may not sound like a lot, but it’s amazing how huge the psychological benefit is on multiple levels. And even though it’s incremental, my monthly income is increasing.

I sense that I’m not inspiring a lot of confidence in what I’m doing with these rambling posts, but one of the things I promised myself was to be honest about the entire process. Sure, I could gloss over the financial aspects, I could pretend that I know what I’m doing, but really, I’m just making it all up as I go. And if that doesn’t fly with you, I can live with that. And hey, if it comes down to it, I don’t look so bad in orange (the burger joint’s uniform color — Orange is the New Black, right?), and I bet I’d be a rockstar deep fryer operator.


P.S. Furoku #4 will be going out soon!


Nani IRO Month!


It’s that time of the year when Frances of Miss Matatabi stocks her shop with the dreamiest, newest season of the Nani Iro fabric line designed by the one and only Naomi Ito. If you haven’t already, do check out the interview Frances posted with Naomi’s thoughtful and inspiring responses.


It’s my second year participating in Nani Iro Month, and the 2015 designs may be my favorite. I selected two to showcase, and the first one is called Free Way – hitoiki. Hitoiki, means a single breath, or taking a quick breather. A rather appropriate name for this billowy top I made that feels like a summery respite.

The pattern is from this book, which was yet another generous gift from lovely Karen F. (she of the bestower of the cute French beads).


Although I thought the sheer black of pattern G was lovely, with the temperatures skyrocketing these days, I decided to omit the sleeves. I cut out the size 9, which is supposed to be the equivalent of a small, but it’s so roomy, I could have easily gone down one more size.


Double gauze feels like clouds against my skin. So luscious.


Feeling that one top that makes me look preggo isn’t sufficient, I proceeded to fashion another maternity top out of the gorgeous Jewel Song Metallic Pocho Yozora (Yozora means “night sky”). Miss Matatabi appears to be out of this colorway, but I also have the fabric in a refreshing minty-aqua, and I’m still pondering what to make. In actuality, I’d purchased the indigo prior to Nani Iro Month and received the minty-aqua for free from Frances, but I felt strongly that the top looked better in a darker color. Sorry for the switch-a-roo, Frances! I should let you know that some fabrics that have been featured as part of Nani Iro month may be out of stock at this time as they sell like hotcakes, but Frances is diligently re-ordering so they will be back in the shop!

nim-jewelsong-pocho-yozora2 nim-jewelsong-pocho-yozora3

The pattern is from this book, and the only change I made was to shorten the length by about 7 inches because I didn’t have enough fabric. I love the tie-back feature, and this too is a great summer top, especially for the Fourth of July barbecue that’s coming up — I always eat way too much.


I now have two solidly wearable and comfortable tops that will get sleepily tugged on many, many mornings. Awesome sauce, as K would say.


So! There’s also a fantastic giveaway going on — it’s a must-enter! The giveaway is 20m of fabric, 6 x bias tapes, two books signed by Naomi, and two sewing patterns. Also, Naomi has generously offered to contribute a personal gift from her. As Frances wrote, “I don’t know what it is yet but I’m sure it will be lovely!” Here’s the Rafflecopter for ya:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And I believe I’m the last stop of the blog tour before the grand Miss Matatabi finale, so make sure to check out all the lovelies:

Straightgrain   ∆   noodlehead   ∆   Ute

verykerryberry   ∆   Make It Perfect   ∆   Groovy Baby and Mama

A Little Goodness   ∆   SKIRT AS TOP   ∆   Cashmerette

Sew Little   ∆   imagine gnats   ∆   you & mie

SANAE ISHIDA   ∆   Miss Matatabi

Happy weekend, everyone!

Nani IRO month
Is the best time of year
as far as I know

P.S. I almost forgot! I’ll be at Urban Craft Uprising from 12-1 tomorrow, June 27th. If you’re local, would love to see you!






These Japanese candies are called kompeito, little constellations of pure sugar. They taste like rock candy with perhaps a slight flowery undertone. I have quite a lot left over from the Little K launch party (they didn’t fit in the piñata), and I’m not sure what to do with them, but they take me back to my childhood. My mom didn’t buy very many sweet treats when I was a kid. She made almost everything from scratch, and the ones I requested over and over were sliced, candied sweet potatoes fried to a crisp called karinto, and oshiruko, which is essentially a sugary azuki bean soup with small floating mochi balls. Because we ate mostly whole, unprocessed foods and dessert wasn’t a regular offering, I savored the homemade confections my mom would energetically whip up on special occasions.

I’ve noticed that when my schedule gets frenetic, the first thing that goes is nutrition. Overwhelmed by one thing or another, I’ll quickly assent to eating out or will resort to serving my family Mac n Cheese (the blue box which is not the kind found in the “Natural Foods” section that’s supposedly healthier). On some occasions, I forget to eat altogether. Worse, I’ll toss together a salad but because I’m tired and want to avoid the food-related skirmishes, I’ll douse K’s plate with cheese and let her dip everything in ketchup.

I want to return to my roots of whole, unprocessed eating. Every June, I buy a stack of reading materials as a birthday present to myself and this year, I focused on books about food. I’m really excited about these four:


Dinner: The Playbook: A 30-Day Plan for Mastering the Art of the Family Meal

By Jenny Rosenstrach of Dinner: A Love Story (blog and book). It looks like a considered, wholesome meal plan for the entire family designed to encourage kids to eat better.

Full Plate: Nourishing Your Family’s Whole Health in a Busy World

By Sarah Kolman. Well, the title says it all, doesn’t it? The author is a nurse and takes a food-centric approach to health, which I absolutely advocate.

Super Natural Every Day: Well-Loved Recipes from My Natural Foods Kitchen

By Heidi Swanson. With her award-winning blog 101 Cookbooks, Heidi Swanson is the grand dame of food blogging, and I’ve listened to and read rave reviews about her cookbooks for years. I saw the paperback version at the bookstore and immediately snagged it.

The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook: Over 300 Delicious Whole Foods Recipes, Including Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Soy-Free, and Egg-Free Dishes
The title of the book does beg the question, “What exactly can you eat?” I’ve already almost completely eliminated dairy from my diet, and I’ve seen some remarkable improvements with my skin and premenstrual bloating. Inspired by this, I’ve been toying with the idea of going gluten-free. There’s a lot of material out there about how thyroid conditions are exacerbated by gluten, and though my carb-loving body is rebelling at the thought, it might be worth an experiment. Also, one of my very good friends who is also a magician in the kitchen told me that the recipes are superb, and her endorsement is enough for me.

Do you have cookbooks to recommend? I love me a good cookbook!

Monday Outfit: A New Favorite Outfit


Good morning! Although I make K a lot of clothes, there’s really only a small subset that she’ll wear over and over. This outfit I completed this weekend is destined to be in that small subset.

whitefloral-naniiroshorts7 whitefloral-naniiroshorts9

The top is puff-sleeve top 2.0 (the actual tee version of this dress I made a couple of weeks ago). I got this amazing embossed-looking floral Anna Sui cotton/nylon blend knit at Nancy’s Sewing Basket a year ago, and I’ve been on the hunt for the right pattern. I think I nailed it, if I do say so myself, because K looooooooves this top. The knit is sturdier and holds the puff sleeve shape nicely and textured fabrics in general buoy me. It wasn’t the cheapest option so I only purchased about a yard and that was plenty to make this top. The pattern is from this book.


And the shorts! When K slipped these on, she sighed, “Ooooh, these are comfy….” She wore them two days in a row. It’s a Nani Iro Painted Herringbone double-knit from about a year ago as well, and at first I was satisfied with how they turned out, even though I couldn’t match up the sides perfectly.

Then she turned around…

whitefloral-naniiroshorts4 whitefloral-naniiroshorts5

Hmmmmmm. Not loving the angle — looks a bit like underwear, no?


Ah well. Who am I to critique a pair of shorts she so adores? The shorts are from this excellent book. Please ignore the uneven folds at the hem — I hand-stitched them in place, and I don’t know why they’re so mismatched.


Did you notice the pretty necklace that K is wearing? It was a gift from the ever kindly reader Karen F., and she included a few other darling beads that can be somehow attached to clothing. I’m intrigued by the idea and am trying to figure out how to work them in. They are made by Les Pois Plume, a French company. Super cute. I’m so appreciative of these generous acts of kindness that would never happen if it weren’t for this online space. Thank you, Karen!

lepoisplumes1 lepoisplumes2

How was Father’s Day for you? We celebrated M with yet another impromptu trip up to Bellingham, because K is obsessed with the Comfort Inn up there (living large, that’s what we do — to be fair, it’s a very nice one that happens to have won an award). We roamed around Western Washington, which is picturesque, and caught a showing of the movie Inside Out. I thought it was so, so good and I probably don’t have to tell you that I was bawling like a baby, mostly from relating so much with the movie. I tell you, someone needs to remove my tear ducts. At any rate, a happy weekend was had by all.

P.S. The winner of the Linen, Wool, Cotton Kids giveaway is Laura. Congrats!


Happy Friday + Randomness


Ah, summer vacation…it’s finally here. We’ve flitted from one end-of-the-school-year party to another these past few days, and we have consumed frightening amounts of ice cream and watermelon, sometimes together. I’m in full anticipation mode for the upcoming aimless, schedule-less moments until the camps kick in. I was pretty on the ball this year and have K signed up for a number of half-day camps, and I’m particularly excited about coding (yes, computer programming) camp that she specifically requested. How are your summers looking so far?


I have much sewing and photo-taking to do, and am keeping it short for today. Have a wonderful weekend, all!

An outing with friends
Tea parties and starfish*:
a winning combo

*K and I went to one of the prettiest parks in Seattle called Carkeek with friends yesterday. It’s a vast recreational area with open fields, a play area (which includes a salmon-shaped slide) and a beach. The plan was to have a tea party for our girls and to then let them roam around and splash about on the beach; I was not expecting my friend to be so prepared — she brought a small table and an impressive array of afternoon tea paraphernalia. We plunked the table down in the middle of the field and had a proper tea party rivaling the one from Alice in Wonderland. The kids then zoomed off and found dozens of starfish in the tide pools. It feels like summer.

Upper Limit Problem


“Earth laughs in flowers,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson — the earth is guffawing uncontrollably around town and I can’t stop taking photos of the blooms during my daily walks. I find the pink varieties particularly arresting, but I’ll always pause to capture an image of white flowers too. I’ve also been wandering down memory lane and contemplating, as I’m wont to do when I celebrate a birthday. The actual celebration was quiet and understated with my favorite people, just the way I like it. I don’t enjoy big parties and I prefer not to be the center of attention.

I’m solidly in the middle-age zone, though I feel younger than when I was in my teens, more playful. Part of it may have to do with having a child, and part of it might be because I had to grow up so quickly with immigrant parents who needed a lot of language assistance and now that I no longer carry that weight of responsibility, maybe I’m making up for lost youth? Mostly, as I grow older, I don’t care about how I should act as much. A few weeks ago, I was at a cafe as usual, and got up to get a cup of water. Something felt odd, but I couldn’t quite put a finger on it. As I adjusted my skirt to sit back down, I realized that part of the skirt hem was tucked into the waist of my tights — an unsightly view to be sure of my exposed derriere for the people sitting behind me as I poured myself water. Note to self: double-check after going to the bathroom. Oddly, I wasn’t all that embarrassed and even chortled to myself. The tights were opaque, but I’m now well aware that no one pays any attention to me. When I was younger, I would have packed my bags and immediately rushed out of there, completely mortified. Aging is a liberating thing.


A while back, I mentioned my genius brother, and for a very long time, I cared greatly about how I should act and noticed how — for all of my life, really — I’ve been surrounded by insanely high achievers and elite performers. My high school friends went to Good Schools. A disproportionate number attended Ivy leagues, and at every turn, I seem to loiter into groups that appear to have an unstated pre-requisite of extreme accomplishment and pedigrees.

I played the overachiever game for many years. I’m Asian after all, and that’s what we’re programmed to do. The problem with the overachiever game is that the competition is ulcerously fierce and the need to disguise any effort to achieve is even fiercer. The Mt. Olympus climb to attain God-like, societally defined success is taxing enough, yet you’re supposed to get there without breaking a sweat. The internet has, of course, magnified this age old problem to the umpteenth degree. I’m making my stoic Japanese ancestors weep in their graves and am terrible at hiding my efforts, and it was only through undignified and blatantly obvious sweat, blood and tears that I’ve garnered whatever I was able to. It’s funny, when I had the book presentation at K’s school, she later came up to me and said, “Mama, you were so sweaty! You turned bright red and tried to hide behind your book every time you wiped your forehead.” Case in point. I’m no smooth operator and I found 100 kids to be nerve-wracking.


I cockily thought that with all my lifestyle changes and life lessons borne out of severe illness, I left all of that overachiever nonsense behind me, blowing on my nails in a symbolic gesture of “whateverrrrr,” as K would say in a tween-y, bored voice. Not so. No, not at all.

I’ve been experiencing mixed emotions with the Little Kunoichi launch and can sense my old dual neuroses of overachievement and sabotaging tendencies furiously straining to come out, like a two-headed dog ready to tear everything in sight to pieces. On the one hand, I want my books to do well. Really well. Slight problem: I hate promoting. Just hate it. But spurred by my inner straight-A-student and a compelling need to make a living, my business un-savvy brain has been trying to come up with ways to market it, imploring bookstores around the city to carry copies, asking people to leave Amazon reviews, reaching out to online media and other publications, attempting to get martial arts studios interested (quite a few fails on all counts). These things are incredibly hard for me. At the same time, I paradoxically get scared that my hackneyed promotions might pay off and that the book might actually exceed expectations. I’ve heard this latter fear called the upper limit problem. I Googled “Fear of success.” Then I felt so presumptuous and silly, I quickly closed the browser.


The unfortunate side effect of constant comparison with a genius brother is that I assumed that I wasn’t as smart or talented or [insert desirable quality here] as my sibling, so my default is to always assume I’m lesser in every situation. In recent years, however, in my introspective, psychobabble way, I’ve been suspecting that it wouldn’t have mattered if my brother hadn’t been Einsteinian. I would probably still find a way to create false upper limits by comparing myself to someone else. Some people get motivated by upward comparison, and I, too, become motivated, but I also convince myself that I could never reach such exalted heights. Yet it doesn’t stop me from trying, all the while feeling like it’s a fruitless attempt. Confusing? Why, yes.


The solution is, of course, to stop with the comparison and to not think of the end result at all and enjoy the journey as all the platitudes assure me. And then there’s the whole business of defining success. I was actually doing great on this enjoy-the-journey front and ambling toward my own definition of success until the book launched. When this amorphous and previously unlikely concept of becoming a published author/illustrator turned into reality, words like “New York Times Bestseller” and “Caldecott” started whispering in my ear, teasing me and seducing me with the status boost they would give me. The overachiever in me pants with delight. This is embarrassing to admit, but I stood in front of the Bestseller shelf at Barnes & Noble the other day and considered moving the copies of Little Kunoichi next to Dragons Love Tacos, just to see how it would look. To pretend, you know? What’s interesting is that I would never move it to the #1 slot — maybe somewhere around #8 or #9. What does that mean? That I’m deluded, surely, but also that I can’t imagine myself at the top for even a purely hypothetical exercise. I’ll allow myself to dream of hitting the bestseller list, but I won’t allow myself to dream too big. That’s just way too scary. My saboteur will then come up with five trillion highly logical reasons I will be humiliated for even voicing this dream. It’s an upper limit problem that is also a spectacularly first world problem.

It’s difficult to talk about this with people, and I’m having a bear of a time figuring out this deluge of conflicting, jumbled emotions. I’m happy, yet terrified. I’m humbled, yet yearning for validation. I’m buoyed by confidence, yet painfully vulnerable. As we used to say when K was a toddler, I’m having big feelings. I think I need to go eat chocolate. A hedgehog-shaped chocolate, to be specific.


What about you? Do you ever find yourself creating arbitrary upper limits, thinking “I can’t possibly do that“?

Linen, Wool, Cotton Kids Giveaway [CLOSED]


Good morning! I thoroughly enjoyed a low-key weekend and I hope you had a great one too.

I didn’t do much other than eat, it seems. I grazed from one meal to the next, and the best part was that I didn’t cook at all and felt very pampered indeed. Although I squeezed in a tiny little bit of sewing, the weekend was all about hanging out.

My UFO pile seems to be shrinking a tad and my plan is to show you a finished item or two next week, but I acquired the English version of one of my favorite Japanese Sewing books and wanted to do a little giveaway for today. This book is particularly meaningful to me because it’s the one that launched my handmade wardrobe craziness three summers ago. I made this dress, and the sweat-inducing difficulty and the simultaneous exhilaration are still visceral.

Ooh La La Dress

And I kept making things from this book.

Same pattern, different fabric:

pinkdress_1A brown and silver combo:

A starry indigo top:

starryblouse6The Bubble Dress:


Jodhpur pants:


Sashiko Pullover:


Patch-sleeve Jacket:



Capelet 1:



Capelet 2:


Coat Dress


Fluttery Top:


Wow, I’ve never compiled all the outfits I’ve made from a single book before. I obviously had a lot more time back then. I remember how I loved the creative freedom I used to feel, and I can see that I really tried a lot out in the spirit of experimentation. Even though I’ve scaled back on the styling and propping (and the sewing), I do think my photography has improved with time, and it’s nice to see progress.

Anyway. If you’d like to enter the giveaway for this oh-so-special book, please leave a……hmmm, it’s getting harder to come up with questions. I just had a memory flash of a dinner with friends a while ago, and the topic of color therapy came up. Have you heard of it? It’s the utilization of light and colors to restore desired “balance”, be it physical, mental, emotional, etc. It sounds like it’s considered pseudo science, bordering on woo-woo. I admit that I don’t really understand it, but the conversation turned to how the diagnosis part of color therapy is as follows: you are given a multitude of colored papers to choose from (it makes me think of paint chips) and are asked to select the colors you’re drawn to the most and arrange them on a larger sheet of paper. My friends and I discussed which colors we would gravitate towards and that was fun and very enlightening. Whether color therapy works or not, I’m a big believer in the power of colors and their effect on my moods and general state of being. For my colors, I chose grey, blue, white, cream, and dusty, chalky hues you would see in French countryside homes like the bluish-greenish-greys and muted pinks. So my question is this: which colors are you most naturally drawn to?

The giveaway will stay open until this Friday, June 19th, and I’ll announce the winner the following Monday. Entries from around the world are more than welcome. Good luck!

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