Category Archives: Watercolor

Happy Friday + Randomness

blue-heron

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

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

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

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

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

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

She’s awfully bright, our little one.

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

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

 

correspondances estivales

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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.

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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:

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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.

 

 

Happy Friday + Randomness

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Happy Fourth of July! We’re celebrating with our neighbors as is our annual tradition and I can’t wait to watch the fireworks. The city closes down certain streets in our neighborhood for fireworks-viewing and throngs of people spread blankets on the road and settle in to watch the sky show held above the lake. That exciting, mildly illicit feeling of getting away with something courses through us when we sit smack dab in the middle of the street.

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Random.org tells me that the Skirt Book Giveaway winner is Ginger, congrats! Lots of introverts with a sprinkling of extroverts, it turns out.

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It’s been an eventful week. I’m always a little torn when writing about encounters with blogging friends and readers I’ve gotten to know through this blog space…it ends up feeling a little gloat-y, but at the same time, I can’t stop marveling at how genuine friendships have developed with people from around the globe. Not a lot of folks understand this obsession with sewing and crafting, so when I have the chance to gab about seam allowances and indie patterns and stitching tips and tricks, well — it’s pretty magnificent. This week, I was delighted to meet the awesome Lucinda (lucky duck, she just won the Japanese hoodie sew-along hosted by Elsie Marley and You and Mie), who is enormously talented and has been a bedrock of encouragement and support from almost the very beginning of my blogging shenanigans. She happened to be in Seattle for a family reunion, and just as I imagined, it was as though we’ve known each other for years when we found ourselves face-to-face (or at least it was that way for me). That gorgeous plant cozy is her handiwork, naturally, and she is unfailingly generous. She even brought a gift for K! Thank you, Lucinda – I had so much fun!!

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K on body hair:

Mama, it’s not fair. I wish I looked more like you and was less hairy. Man, Daddy DNA strikes again*.

*Poor M, he’s such a good sport and able to laugh at himself that he’s often the brunt of jokes. Anytime anything goes wrong or is weird, we have a habit of yelling out “Daddy DNA!”

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Wishing you a lovely, lovely weekend, friends!

Fireworks tonite
The sky will glow wondrously
Punctuates summer

Happy Friday + Randomness

summer-wonderings

Happy Friday! Today is the first day of summer vacation, and I thought this illustration I painted evoked that sense of anticipation. I can’t believe it — second grade is done!

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K: “You know what my gift is, Mommy?”
Me: “What?”
K: “I can sense guilt – I can always tell when you’re lying.”
Me: “Me?? I never lie!”
K: “Oh yes you do…your eyes twinkle when you’re lying and your face looks puffy when you feel guilty.”

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K: “Mama, you know what my other gift is?”
Me: “Hmmm?”
K: “Boys don’t usually like to tell me things, but I can make them laugh and then they SPILL THE BEANS.”

Huh. You learn something new every day. I think she might have a future as a killer detective.

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Have a wonderful weekend, friends!

Summer vacation!
Family fun time galore
Heading out of town*

*We’re going on a mini road trip this weekend – excited!

 

Street Style Sketches

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Keepin’ it snappy today as K just informed me that I’m supposed to be making her an outfit for her and a friend for “twin day”. I guess it’s part of spirit week at her school and it strikes me as an odd theme (I worry that some kids will be excluded), but it is what it is. I have exactly one hour to do this, and I’m racking my brains for the easiest possible pattern.

Anyway, as an incorrigible creature of habit, I frequent coffee shops daily to write in my journal. One of my favorite things to do is surreptitiously sketch people wearing outfits that catch my fancy. I have notebooks and notebooks of them, and yesterday, I took a few moments to render a couple in watercolor when I got home.

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I noticed a trend of perfectly matching accessories yesterday. One woman I saw was wearing a navy shirt with white anchors (love), and in her hand she held her phone that sported a dark blue case with white anchors. Another stylish woman sashayed by me in a long cardigan with a geometric pattern, and she carried a tote with near-identical geometric motifs. I loved her ankle boots and floppy hat too.

Do you notice other people’s outfits? It’s something I’ve always done since I was a little girl: mentally storing different color and clothing combinations, then drawing and jotting them down later — I guess it’s not surprising that I’m obsessed with sewing clothes now! Speaking of which, I better get moving on those twin outfits…

[Update: the twin outfits were a hit! Obviously the fabric wasn't my choice, but these dresses literally took 15 minutes each since I didn't hem them at all. I went to K's school for an end-of-the-year performance today, and folks had no idea they were handmade and asked me where I got them. Sorry that the photo is icky -- how dare the school not have better lighting, don't they know I have important things to post online?]:

twin-outfits

Overwhelm

overwhelm4

I’m not sleeping much. I lay awake at night, wondering how I’m going to make a dent in my eternally long to-do list, how to keep the many people in my life from getting too upset with me, how to keep perspective.

I drift off to sleep around 3 or 4am, none the wiser.

For two years since I’ve started this blog, it’s probably been obvious I’ve been on a kind of quest. A seeking of a better self? A digging and clawing from the depths of an unhealthy lifestyle to one that resembles normalcy? Even better than normalcy to something that could be (lord help me) like self-actualization?

I think I’ve done pretty well, all things considered. I eat vegetables now, I exercise regularly, I am carrying out days that probably seem — from the outside — idyllic. I get to write and draw and sew every day. I’m publishing a book! These are all unquestionably amazing.

You see, I’m terrified.

Grateful, but scared out of my wits. And I had a little meltdown last week, the kind K gets when she’s had too much sugar and too little sleep.

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A few weeks prior, I had lunch with a friend that I hadn’t seen in months. Technically, she was my old boss from my most recent corporate job. You know, the one I got fired from. Ironically, she asked me if I would consider coming back. Not on a full-time basis or anything, but short-term. The money would be fantastic. The project, she assured me, would be easy. This was actually the second time they’ve asked me. The first outreach was about a year ago and back then I couldn’t say no fast enough. This time, I hesitated to decline, even though I knew that the project would turn out to be crazy-making and time-sucking and soul-draining.

I get to do what I love every day. But in exchange, I open myself up in uncomfortable ways, and I risk face-planting in a big pile of humiliation. My blog isn’t hugely popular, and that’s fine with me because I realized early on that professional blogging is clearly not my cup of tea. I’m quirky and what I have to offer is not for everyone, and I spend hours crafting these posts because I find it fulfilling. I can’t claim that what I’m currently doing is considered a career — books are notoriously hard to sell. I don’t have a lot of illustration clients. I make less money than an average textile worker in Bangladesh (book advances don’t amount to much when you’re an unknown first-time writer/illustrator). And I probably work about the same hours as the Bangladeshi though my working conditions are luxe in comparison. We’re not rolling around in mountains of dollar bills (we often joke that we hope to be hundredaires one day, because we’ll never get a shot at becoming millionaires), and M’s job situation is one of instability.

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I worry that I’m being selfish by not getting a “real” job. I know that I want K to see that it’s possible and more than okay to strive for meaningful work that lights you up, regardless of what others say. But as I’ve been pondering lately, I don’t want her to feel entitled and unrealistic either. I know that I’m beyond fortunate to have this time to pursue what feels right. Then the practical side of living rears itself toward me. Bills, food, shelter, fabric. The essentials, obviously.

Two years ago, when I found myself with no job and too much time, I made a list. On it I wrote down everything I wanted to do, things I thought I might enjoy as a “career” — no one was going to see it, so I went all out, tossing reality out the window. I found the list a couple of months ago, and had forgotten all about it. The main items on my list included the following:

- Start a blog
- Write and illustrate a children’s book
- Contribute to magazines
- Teach a sewing workshop
- Have an art show
- Get illustration clients
- Design clothes

I’ve accomplished almost everything on my list in 24 months. I’ve learned so so much. The positives have far outweighed any negatives, but here’s the thing: some aspects are heart-breaking and hard, no matter how many goals I achieve. I’ve been surprised by people who became resentful or competitive or distant; disappointed by the disproportionately meager monetary rewards; embarrassed about feeling like I’m bragging when I’m just so shocked and delighted that my list is materializing; wondering about getting paid to do what I love — would I start feeling like it’s drudgery? And I’ve been side-swiped by the crushing self-doubt and emotions of fraudulence. That’s probably the biggest one…that feeling of “who do I think I am to publish a book? to cast out my ramblings in a public realm like a blog?” I get sad that we have crappy health insurance and that M and I have the same anxious money discussions over and over and over. That job offer was so tempting — maybe I can do the project while maintaining everything else, I thought. But I know myself, and I would get immersed in the corporate world again, become unhappy and unhealthy and push out all the wonderful things I’ve painstakingly and slowly built these last two years.

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So I’m a little overwhelmed these days. Maybe it was that lunch that reminded me of the bad days. Or maybe it’s because I’ve crossed off one more thing from my list, which I’ll share soon and I fear I may have bitten off more than I can chew and there will be even more uncertainty. Or, and this is probably the best explanation, maybe it’s because I’m not sleeping. I always have to remember that I have a health condition that responds in toxic ways to excessive stress. I’ve kept it in check for quite some time now, and I try to be diligent about taking care of myself, but sleep has never come easily to me.

After giving it a lot of thought, I decided not to accept the job offer even though it might make things easier (or not, who knows). It’s funny, one of M’s favorite books is The 50th Law. Whenever I get discouraged and tell M that maybe I should just go and get a regular job, he vehemently tells me, “No, you gotta go for it, this is definitely your thing. You’re the 50 Cent of the sewing world — you have to see it through.” I’m not sure that the drug-lord-turned-rapper analogy works, but I’ll take it. I’ll continue to figure out edible dishes from canned tuna, and I’ll hold onto the supportive people and ride out the discomforts of change and the evolution that comes with it, and I will see if I can continue to show K that yes, this whole making-dreams-come-true business is possible. It’s not easy, it’s messy, and a lot of sacrifices may be required. And often, it doesn’t feel exactly the way I thought it would. But it feels real. Like I’m being the most genuine version of myself. And for me, that is worth everything.

Father’s Day Free Printable

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Just a quick printable for you today — can you believe it’s almost Father’s Day? K and I are plotting to make this an extra special one for M, though we tend to be better at planning than executing…

My own dad will be receiving one of these lovelies that I whipped up in the mail (maybe the hipster one — my dad’s pretty on-trend). I tend to make stuff for my own purposes and then share them here in the off chance others can get some use out of them.

I kept things simple and graphic for these little Dad’s day printables. Use them as tags, cards, paper airplanes, whatever. Click here to download, and enjoy!

 

22 Months and 3 Weeks

handmtank

I purchased this tank top from H & M the second week of July in 2012. I remember this because I was frantically scouring the mall for clothes to take with me to a family vacation. That’s what I always did for vacations; a profoundly unhealthy habit of accruing a whole new wardrobe just for a short trip. Cheap clothes that fell apart in minutes.

I haven’t bought a single ready-to-wear clothing item since. Almost two years for both me and K! Okay, I’ve gotten some socks and underwear for K, but aside from that, nuthin’.

A more logical person would have waited until the two-year mark to talk about this since “22 months and 3 weeks” is rather awkward and underwhelming to say. However, M was having a rapidly depleting underwear crisis and because of his refusal to wear handmade boxers, I went to The Gap two days ago. That stirred up an eddy of emotions for which I was unprepared, and I wanted to jot them down before I forgot. This could also be considered a long-winded precursor to my thoughts on Me-Made-May that I’ve been trying to organize in my head (which will be much shorter, I promise).

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So here are the sentiments…

Emotion #1: Surprise
It’s not as though I haven’t been in any retail stores in the last couple of years, but I haven’t spent any extended time looking at RTW clothes up close in a long time. I was surprised about a couple of things. First, how simple all the clothes seemed to be. “I could make any of this,” I thought. Not in an I’m-all-that-and-a-bag-of-chips way or anything, but with genuine astonishment. I kept mentally deconstructing all the clothes that caught my attention, and filed through my brain archives of patterns I had at home. For most of the garments, I didn’t even need a pattern.

The other surprise was K’s behavior. She was with me and was helping me pick out M’s underwear (yes, I know that’s weird, but she loved it and instantly gravitated toward the brightest pinks). What I couldn’t get over was how she completely ignored the kid’s clothes. Not even a glance at the sparkly tees. She was obsessed with the flip flops because I’d been promising those for a while, but it was as though she knew instinctively that I wouldn’t buy her any clothes or maybe she has too many already so she’s not interested. Either way, I was agog the whole time.

Emotion #2: Peace
Apparel stores have always been minefields for me. It was a constant struggle to find clothes that fit or looked half-way decent on my abnormally long torso, too big chest, short legs and non-existent waist, and it was hard to tell what would set me off into a very unhappy place. It could be mild exasperation at the way a top emphasized a bulge, or it could be a mental tirade at myself for not sticking to my diet when a pair of jeans shortened me to troll-like proportions with elephantine legs. In extreme cases, I held back tears of frustration (oh so embarrassing and oh so true) because the clothes and mirrors reflected a vision that was so far from what I’d hoped. The clothes all seemed to be meant for statuesque or skeletal frames — all wrong, that’s how I felt.

Once in a blue moon, though, I would find something flattering, and for those rare moments, I shopped constantly, like Juan de Leon Ponce searching for the Fountain of Youth (which is allegedly a myth, by the way). Maybe this store or this season will have clothes to make me look normal, to make me feel pretty, I would think. I was horrified on a cerebral level that I was so caught up in the superficiality, but I still partook regularly in the emotionally charged ritual. Trying on clothes was like having the mother of all PMS attacks. Imagine when I actually had PMS!

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In The Gap with K a couple of days ago, I didn’t feel even a glimmer of an urge to buy anything. Sure, we got the flip flops and I tossed in some socks for K along with the underwear. But this was all pragmatic and easy and there was no desperate sensation attached. I wasn’t trying to fill a void in that clichéd way through material goods. Part of the reason I went on a fabric fast is because I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t continuing the same cycle with fabric. I’m happy to report that I’ve been mostly successful on the fabric front too (there were some necessary purchases but they were minor).

Through sewing and making my own clothes, I finally feel….unemotional about my uniquely shaped body. That it is what it is, and it’s a good, strong, functional body. Peace.

Emotion #3: Triumph
And that realization was a triumphant one. I felt like I’d conquered a shameful secret, or perhaps let it out into the wild to roam elsewhere far away from me. And with triumph comes…

Emotion #4: Freedom
I have so much to say about the media and the imposed ideals and trends and negativity, but I will spare you. On a sunny afternoon in a shop at the local mall, the overarching emotion I experienced was freedom. “I don’t need any of this,” is a powerfully freeing thought. “I can make something better that I love,” is an even more powerfully freeing thought.

We left the shop, I took K’s hand and that was that. Oh, and she wore her new flip flops all the way back home:

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2014 Summer Sewing Plans

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It’s another installment of unrealistic sewing planning — one of my favorite activities!

Over the last year or so of sewing for myself, I’ve become enamored with dresses. I just love the ease of slipping a dress on, ready for the day in an instant. And now that I’ve survived looking through thousands of images of myself and have become truly and deeply okay with my “giant squash legs” as K likes to call them, I’m intent on adding a lot more frocks to my wardrobe. I lean toward simple lines and loose silhouettes, but I also want to try some waist-cinching styles in the coming weeks. I also can’t have enough tops, and if I’m feeling adventurous, I might give a pair of shorts and pants a go.

It’s always so fun to sketch clothes, and I get such a kick out of the possibilities of sewing for myself. If I can make even half of what I plan, I’ll consider it an excellent yield. How about you? If you dabble in sewing, do you have summer stitching plans? Or maybe you’re like me and make a boatload of plans but actually wait for inspiration to strike in the moment?

[UPDATED] Since a few of you asked for specific pattern information, here they are from approximately left to right by garment type:

DRESSES

Butterick 5886: Hi Low Dress
April Rhodes: The Staple Dress
Simplicity 2443: Cynthia Rowley Knit Tank Dress
Simplicity 2550: Cynthia Rowley Spaghetti Strap Dress (modify for knit)
Sew Chic: Dress with Front Tuck (Pattern C)
Vogue 1225: Knit Gathered Dress
Butterick 5612: Long-Sleeved Dress
Simplicity 0403: Yoke Dress
Simplicity 2246: Lisette Traveler Dress (without sleeves)

TOPS

Modified Tova
Wiksten Tank
Japanese Sewing Book Tank with Tucks (Style 26)
Vogue 1357 Tank
Butterick 5610: Pleated Top
McCall’s 6510: Flutter Sleeve Caftan Top
Simplicity 1463: Dolman Sleeves Top

SHORTS/PANTS

McCall’s 5663: Shorts
French Style Book Loose Pants

Also, I didn’t sketch this, but I just found this tunic pattern and love it! Must buy!

Happy Friday + Randomness

coral

Happy Friday! A little watercolor painting of a coral today — I really enjoy drawing sea life and I’ve been doing a lot of it lately. Speaking of enjoying things, last week while driving into downtown to run an errand early on a Saturday morning, I saw a man swaying his arms to and fro in exaggerated movements as he walked. The traffic light turned red, and I had the chance to observe this youngish man who looked decidedly un-homeless. Medium-build, glasses, sweatshirt and jeans. And massive, fancy headphones. Ah, he’s conducting, I realized. Then the light turned green and as I eased past him, I noticed that he was smiling. I’ve been reading about the state of “flow” in which you feel so thoroughly engaged in an activity that you forget yourself. That man was clearly in a flow state and I could practically see him envisioning himself at the helm of a symphony. As I sped away, I was smiling too.

conductordude

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K and M often joke how obsessed I am with sewing. K was doubled over with guffaws when M said to her:

Mommy’s last words are going to be “It’s sooooooooo cuuuuuuuuuuuuuuute!!!!!” and then she’ll flop over and die while clutching a pinafore.

Is that macabre? I thought it was pretty accurate.

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For Americans
Monday is a holiday
One of remembrance

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend, friends, and if you’re in the US, may you have an excellent Memorial Day! Summer is about to officially start!

 

 

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