Category Archives: Crafts

2015 Advent Calendar


Sometimes I think to myself, “Good God, woman. Don’t you have other, more pressing and practical things to do??” And the answer is yes, I do. However, I’ve never claimed to be practical and when my child is waiting with bated breath for this now annual tradition, I rise up and deliver.


Admittedly, I did scale back quite a bit from my original “vision”. I wanted to add garlands and branches and berries — basically, a massive wonderland-on-a-wall. It started with curiosity: what would happen if I painted Swedish tracing paper? After all, I have a ton of the stuff, and it had just the right texture, pliability and sheerness I was after.


I was very, very pleased with the painting experiment. Then I dug around my basement and found some white paper-wrapped floral wire and had just enough to produce 24 stems. 25 would have been nice, but the last day is all about the presents under the tree time spent with family and not about the Advent Calendar, so I proceeded with the 24 stems. I cut out dozens and dozens of Swedish tracing paper petals, gave my glue gun an excellent workout, and I sighed at how the pretty these looked:


Notice the bit in the center? I inexplicably started creating loops at the top of the stems with a vague idea of using the loop to hang each flower. A flash of inspiration prompted me to make them holders of little rolled slips of paper. More on the paper later.

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I simply wrote the date number on a leaf for each flower, and using glittery washi tape, stuck them on the wall. I like the way the look upside down, though K suggested that I turn them right side up. What do you think?


So the slips of paper, as per usual, have instructions. On odd days, she must hunt down a book, using clues from the paper. On even days, she gets a small “treat” (aka sugar) and a directive for some sort of family or giving activity. Things like, “craft day with Mama,” or “donate old toys”. 12 books and 12 activities and a little bit of sweets — I think it’s a good combo.

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Yesterday, she got a book (I met the most voracious pre-teen reader at the author event last weekend and he gave me so many stellar recommendations. The number of books he’s read was mind-blowing). She’s already deeply lost in it and Christmas 2015 is off to a running start.

Although I question my sanity a bit every year as I giddily assemble a new calendar, I can’t deny that it’s one of the most rewarding projects for me.


I have a feeling this holiday season’s going to be extra special.


Party Success!


Good morning! [Insert wildly uncoordinated victory dancing here] The hotel-themed 9th birthday party was a major success!! As predicted, I wasn’t on the ball with photo-taking, but I did grab a snap here and there as the festivities progressed.

We started with a little “check-in center” (a vintage typewriter table covered with white burlap I found in my stash). K cleverly set up my ipad with a sketching app so the girls could sign their names. Alas, the homemade cookies a la Comfort Inn was a bust, but those store-bought buttery ones were delicious.


Each girl received a “keycard” (thin wooden tags I got from Impress years ago for no particular reason other than the fact that they’re fun – the metal tins are the same ones I used for the Advent Calendar last year):


I spent two full days cleaning our house and this amounted to shoving a whole bunch of detritus into the basement, where M and I ended up sleeping while the girls took over the upstairs suites. I forgot to get photos of the “suites”, but they looked unrecognizably pristine. The flowers I added everywhere was a professional touch.

The evening started with spa treatments, followed by room service. This involved the girls using my ipad to text to M’s phone, which worked pretty well. M took on the delivery duties, but was repeatedly reprimanded by the girls for getting the order wrong. We focused on kid-friendly and un-nutritious fare: mini pizzas, mac ‘n’ cheese, chicken hot dogs, etc. I did up my game a little and make mini rice balls, which the girls oohed and aahed over.

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As nails dried and food was consumed, M set up a rather, uh, colorful disco ball he purchased and “DJ Fat Daddy” took over the house — check out his handmade sign. Obviously, we have very different aesthetic styles. The sign sent the girls into peals of laughter and abundant singing and dancing ensued.


K blew out her birthday candles (I did not make the cake; totally dialed it in on the food front), and they watched a movie into the wee hours of the night, complete with butter popcorn and Ramune, a distinctively Japanese soda that comes with a marble as a stopper.

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The star of the party, however, was this label maker. The girls went wild for this cool contraption I got at Kinokuniya on sale, and it elevated the goody bag content manifold:

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There are quite a few different tape designs that you can get for the label maker, and the tapes themselves are more like washi but not quite as sticky — you can see them starting to peel off from the keycard and wooden tags above. I believe the girls made about a thousand labels, including one for “DJ Fat Daddy”. M was a humongous hit at the party. I keep finding labels stuck everywhere in the house.


There were five girls total for the sleepover and I thought that was just the right number. The ladies conducted a survey amongst themselves and the consensus was that the party was a 10 out of 10 (well, one girl gave it a 9 out of 10, but hey, close enough).

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh. The sweet sensation of checking off another biggie from my to-do list!! Alright, I’m ready to get cracking on some sewing for pure fun…I’ve missed it so so much.

P.S. The winner of the giveaway is Erica, congrats!

P.P.P.S. Our neighbor, who is like a second daughter to me, was an indispensable helper — the key to a killer party is to basically have a savvy 10-year-old run the show.



LK Dolls


Have you seen the latest issue of STYLO yet? So, so good. And did you happen to see the ninja, samurai and bunny dolls? Yep, I whipped them up and submitted a tutorial and pattern that can be downloaded from STYLO. I drew the characters in Adobe Illustrator and then created pattern pieces by pulling apart my drawing below:


They’re quite small and a lot of fun to make and several kiddos in my life have been especially coveting the pet bunny doll (one girl tried to sneak off with it).


Okay! Just wanted to share, and back to work…but wait, I can’t resist one more shot:





Happy Monday + Easter Bunny T-Dress


Good morning! Today, I have more of a craft project to share with you since the garment itself is simply an elongated t-shirt (using the same pattern as here). I added roughly 10 inches to the length.


The frogtastic tee is so beloved (and now that I think about it, I used the same pattern for that tee too), I wanted to give freezer paper stenciling another go. I even created a visual step-by-step!


I used the ubiquitous, standard freezer paper like this one, and the fabric paint is this brand. I forgot to heat set it since K was so eager to get the dress on, but that’s a good thing to remember. As you can see from the image above and from about sixteen thousand tutorials online, the freezer paper stenciling process is very straightforward.

1. Using a regular pen, I sketched out the general design on the non-coated side of the freezer paper. The plastic coated side is what will stick to the fabric when you iron it on, so keep this in mind.

2. Then, with an Exacto knife, I cut out the shape, and since I knew I wanted an outline of the bunny, I also cut the bunny out from the other side of the outline.

3. Iron the freezer paper on to your fabric. Remember to put the coating side down. I used my wool setting without steam, and though it got a teensy bit puckered, it wasn’t too bad and didn’t affect the results.

4. To ensure that the fabric paint doesn’t bleed through and stick to the back of the tee, place a piece of cardboard or several sheets of thick paper inside the tee, between the front and back layers.

5. I have the small set of these Jacquard textile paints. They seem to work well and the paint is flexible even after it’s dry.

6. Using a brush that’s not precious (I have a lot of watercolor brushes I don’t let K use), paint the open areas of the stencil. K did an excellent job.

7. We did two coats, waiting just a few minutes between each coat (like 5 minutes).  We could have done one more, probably, and should have waited for the paint to dry between coats, but we were impatient.

8. Without waiting for the paint to dry, peel off the freezer paper. This is my favorite part – love to see those crisp lines! I didn’t cut out the eyes or nose for the stencil because I thought K would want to freestyle to her liking, but then she asked me to do it, so I directly painted the eyes and nose/mouth.

9. And we can’t forget some kind of animal print element, can we? The leopard print ribbon is from here.

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K gave the t-shirt dress an enthusiastic thumb’s up! She ran out the door, all ready to be an Easter Egg Huntress.


We worked on the stenciling on Saturday afternoon and it was so easy and quick – ahhhhh, satisfaction. The part that excited her most, of course, was the animal print bow and she deliberated over where the exact placement should be for a very long time. I’m of the opinion that she chose the best spot. I hope you all had a wonderful Easter weekend!


Happy Friday + Advent Randomness


Happy Friday! Even though I’m sharing it today, I did, in fact, finish this Advent Calendar in the nick of time on November 30th, much to my relief. Compared to the last couple of years, it’s a more understated calendar, but I put a lot of thought into it. This year, I had some very specific rules for myself:

1. Construct the advent calendar out of what I already have on hand (the exception was the little gifts that are part of the calendar)

2. No candy or sweets

3. Include lots of books, because books are K’s favorite thing in the world

4. Must have an element of giving and not be just about receiving


I had all these left over metal tins from a misguided idea to sell magnets many, many years ago and they’ve been sitting in our basement forever. I thought I was being all eco and brilliantly repurposing (and the tins can still be reused!), but M pointed out that it looks like the attack of Altoids.


I printed numbers onto some copper paper from my infinite stash of pretty papers and used my circle punch and some twine and voila! Aided by the magic that is mounted foam tabs like these, we have a quick and dirty DIY Advent Calendar (okay, some of the tins have been falling off the wall and required reinforcement, but the initial effect was quite lovely). What makes this extra fun is that each tin contains a little note. On odd-numbered days, I included clues that lead K to a hidden little gift — a scavenger hunt! On even-numbered days, K is assigned a “giving” task (e.g. gather clothes to donate to her school’s Uganda program or make a video to send to Grandma and Grandpa), and she gets to choose a book from the “Advent basket”. The books are a combination of thrifted, bargain sales and a few new releases that I know she’ll flip over.


Although I spent some serious time thinking up the whole project, the execution took about an hour (mostly because I haven’t wrapped all the little presents yet since I wait until the night before to hide them). The verdict: “Mama, I can tell you worked so hard on this. You’re so so awesome!!” She practically squeezed the life out of me and I nearly cried the ugly cry — she said it in such a heartfelt, appreciative way.



The winner of the Sew Sweet Giveaway is Haylee, congrats! I always enjoy reading all the giveaway comments and now I’m hankering to learn multiple languages, take up woodworking, try my hand at spinning yarn!


Countdown has begun
but the anticipation
is the best part, no?

Wishing you all a lovely weekend! K has her first ever piano recital tomorrow – very, very excited!



DIY Shelf + Tolerations Update


A couple of summers ago, I found myself with a lot of time and an ever-shrinking budget. I was on a huge home improvement kick, and one of my goals was to corral the explosion of books everywhere in the house. I’ve always been a bookworm, and as much as I love the library, I love buying books even more. These days I’ve been really good about not purchasing any, but I still have way too many and I used to have enough to completely fill a room (oh, I dream of having a room I can call a “library”, I do). I actually shipped three boxes of books to Japan when I moved there to teach English back in the day. Then I shipped five boxes of totally different books back when I returned to the US. I have issues.

There’s this little dead space in our basement at the bottom of the stairs where I had a couple of small bookshelves M and I bought at Goodwill when we first moved in together. The bookshelves are shell pink and don’t hold much. They fit perfectly in the space so I was okay with the set-up.

While my DIY spirit was high though, I decided that the solution would be to build a custom floor-to-ceiling bookshelf in that dead space. I measured the length of the space, went to home depot and pestered two separate guys to cut six plywood boards to size. Then I got cheap brackets and some wood stain. I was inspired by this post by Manhattan Nest and got to work.

The staining went well, and K and a couple of her friends pitched in some. As a result, the staining is a bit uneven, but I knew it wouldn’t show. Then my ineptitude really revealed itself when I tried to drill the screws into the brackets railing thing and walls. I had to enlist my handy neighbor’s help when the shelves started to collapse. He gently chided me that I completely ignored the studs, and redid everything for me.


I love it! It fits almost all of M’s and my books (K has her own bookshelves), and I call it my mini-library. My photography skills aren’t good enough yet to get a decent photo given the position of the shelves and less than ideal lighting situation, but you get the idea. My rule of thumb for photos that are suck-o: desaturate.

Fast forward a year and a half, and the shelves started to take on a forgotten, dusty air. The books became disorganized, hastily piled near and around the bookshelves but not necessarily on them. Broken toys, spare change, fabric scraps started to fill the shelf edges and all in all, it was a mess.

Which is where the tolerations update comes in. My momentum stalled a bit in February, but I tackled one of the biggest projects: the basement. I started with the bookshelf and then cleared out the massive build-up of cardboard boxes, craft supplies, and general junk that had completely filled the basement. It’s not done yet and I still need to dive into making things look pretty and the bookshelf could use better organization, but you can actually walk through the room without limboing under towers of detritus.

It feels good. I’m becoming a tracking fiend, and I love seeing my list shrink. I started out with 108 items and was down to 93 by the end of January. Now my list is down to 75 items. Almost all the items were subitems of cleaning the basement, and there were a lot of subitems like “recycle cardboard boxes”, “reduce magazine collection to fit existing magazine boxes”, and “consolidate craft supplies by likeness (stamp supplies, ribbons/twine, fancy papers, etc.). At this rate, I might complete my list by the end of the year!

P.S. Sewing for myself didn’t happen this week and probably won’t happen next week as I’m in the throes of getting my book interior sketches done, but I have other fun sewing projects in the works!

Valentine’s Word Search


For some reason, K’s school hasn’t allowed Valentine’s exchanges in past years. This has been hugely disappointing for me because I LOVE making Valentine’s. As with any holiday involving cards and sweets, I get completely jazzed while K looks on with a jaded expression, resigning herself to yet another craft project gone bonkers.


This year, still inexplicably, her school is allowing its first ever Valentine’s exchange. I am beyond excited. I created this word search card, thinking it would be perfect for second graders. K nixed it, unfortunately, saying that it’s too easy. Perhaps you’d like it for your less opinionated kiddos? There are four per page with fourteen words to be hunted down. Initially I wanted to include vintage-looking pencils (something similar to those tiny pencils you get at IKEA, but cuter) but I couldn’t find any locally. These small markers were $2 per 10-pack, making them easy on the wallet. That’s gold washi tape, but I should use something with a little more pizzaz/pattern.

Here’s what they look like on the sheet, and there’s a convenient download button below.


So I’m back to square one. K loves the bookmarks, but wants them to be less lovey-dovey. We’ll probably just end up stamping a bunch. I don’t have time for it this year, but next time I may just revisit the scratch-off idea. That was fun! We also did some potato stamping a long time ago, and that was fantastic too:


How about you? Are you getting V-day cards ready?



Juggling Balls


So much for not posting daily. I was trying to cut myself some slack, but when I spent time thinking about this past year, I realized that one of my favorite parts of it was blogging. M told me the other day that for the last 18 months or so, I’ve been happier than he’s ever seen me. We’ve been together nearly fifteen years, so that’s saying a lot. There’s something about this medium of visual and textual storytelling and community interchange that fits my temperament.

This morning, I was thinking about a dinner party I thoroughly enjoyed on Sunday evening. During the meal, we casually took turns voicing our 2014 resolutions and one of my friends said that he wanted to simply enjoy each day. Such an understated yet good resolution. If I were the type to make resolutions (I usually try to avoid them), I would piggyback on my friend’s goal to savor each day and would add trying things outside of my comfort zone. Instead of overarching resolutions, I have a frightfully long to-do list of the mundane sort, and I am on the opposite spectrum of being zen at the moment.

But I crossed off quite a few things from my list. I drew that satisfying line through a project on which I was dragging my feet: juggling balls from Oliver + S’ Little Things to Sew book. As fun as these are to make, my grinchy attitude about sewing the same thing over and over threatened to hijack the fun.


I made four sets and okay, I also promised to make a set for K that I haven’t delivered upon, but I high-fived myself for the ones that got done. In the interest of time, I didn’t make the matching bag from the book and just banged out a much quicker drawstring version without a lining. The balls aren’t perfect – they’re not completely round and some of the pointy ends don’t match up neatly as that is what happens when you sew until 2am the night before you’re meant to give these out. I briefly noted to myself that I would be a terrible quilter and then moved on. If there’s one thing I’ve gotten good at this year, it’s accepting and fully embracing imperfection.

I started to add a mini beanbag with plastic pellets to weight them (a la Froo and Boo, whose juggling balls are a thing of beauty), but then I had visions of my uneven stitching bursting open and making a right mess everywhere, so I stuck with polyfill only.


They were a massive hit, though no juggling happened. We had fabric balls flying everywhere with kids squealing and laughing, while adults became unwitting target practice. I’m not sure that the parents appreciated them, but those kids sure loved ’em. The fabrics are all bits and bobs of scraps I dug out, and my favorites are the Nani Iro, pastel-toned ones. I’m sure I could blather on about the metaphor of juggling and life, but I’ll spare you.


Another thing I want to cross off the list before the end of the day is underwear for K. Yes, underwear! When I was a little girl, my mom always got me new underpinnings for New Year’s Eve. It was this weird tradition in our family that you start off the year with brand new undies, and though I haven’t kept up the tradition too faithfully, it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do with K. Because everyone needs odd traditions in their lives. So I got this pattern, and I’m off to stitch up one more set of juggling balls and some cute undies!

Happy Friday + Randomness


Happy Friday! We had a superb Christmas filled with friends and family. K raked in some squeal-inducing gifts (the expression when she saw the gigantic Yamaha keyboard box with her name spelled out with red camo duct tape was pure gold: “Mommy! There’s a present for me that’s bigger than our couch!!”).


One of the things I really enjoyed on Christmas Eve was making miniature gingerbread houses that perch on the edge of mugs. I used Not Martha’s template and recipe recommendations, and though they were time-consuming all around, I was totally into it. I need to re-examine my priorities, as it was actually a little disconcerting how zealous I was about this. Also, I’ve said I don’t like to make the same thing over and over, but I realized that only applies to sewing. I could have made dozens of these (I ended up with 6 that didn’t fall apart). K jumped in to help too, wielding the icing bag recklessly. The icing got smudged in parts and I obviously need some training in the decorating department (K was far more expert than I was), but they are almost painfully adorable, no? We went to a fabulous Christmas gathering at our neighbors’ and the kids enjoyed the handmade peppermint cocoa with the mini gingerbread houses. Talk about a sugar rush.



And as I suspected, with all this celebrating and baking and gift-wrapping and giving, I had zero time or focus for sewing for myself. My poor dress is still lounging about in a semi-done state. I usually barrel through projects until completion, but despite the subtly shimmery fabric, this dress was starting to emit a stodgy uniform vibe, and my motivation flagged. It’s Vogue 8511 (I’m sewing the sleeveless version), and I’m shooting to get it done in the next couple of days.

So, I have quite a few things brewing behind the scenes over the next few weeks, and there’s a mighty good chance that postings will be on the haphazard side for a while. I love to post every weekday, so we’ll see. I will definitely be back on a regular schedule by about mid-to-late January, but in the meantime, I’ll most likely be popping around with what I hope to be fun posts every few days.


A friend showed me this linguistic quiz that determines your home city, and it’s uncanny how accurate it is. It’s US-based, but a world-wide version would be so fun!


M and I are going away for the weekend! We’re driving up to a little town about an hour outside of Seattle, and we’ll be staying in a charming little B&B. It’s our first ever overnight trip away from K, and it just shows what big softies we are that we’ve waited until she was seven-and-a-half for something like this. My intrepid mom will shoulder the responsibility of our coddled child, and I’m sure she’ll be peppered with the question, “When are they coming baaaaaaaaaaack??” every two minutes. And what’s even more embarrassing? We’re only going away for one night…

One more week this year
twenty-thirteen has zipped by
Twelve months of awesome*

*And you, my dear readers, made it extra awesome! Thank you, thank you, thank you. Have a wonderful weekend, all!

Joyeux Noel


One of the holiday projects we worked on included these clay ornament tags. I’ve been using them as decorative touches to gifts as well as gifts themselves. K, my mom and I spent an evening cutting them out using cookie cutters and then painted them a couple of days later when the clay pieces had thoroughly dried.


We used this brand of air dry clay, and initially it looks dull, like dirty snow. But as it dries, the clay turns bright white, just the way I like them. One of the things I hadn’t expected was that the clay would curl a bit as it dried, so many of them don’t lay totally flat. Ah well, it adds that homemade charm, I say.


I used whatever paint I had on hand. The Dala horse was done with copper gouache, and the others are a mixture of acrylic, watercolor, gouache and calligraphy ink. K added beads (which actually fell out after it dried, so we had to glue them on later). A fun and easy project perfect for kids!


I love these clay ornament tags so much, I may make other non-holiday themed shapes for future gifting use.


I’m signing off for Christmas for some merry-making, and will be away from here for a couple of days. I  hope you and all your loved ones have a peaceful and joyous day, my lovely friends. Happy Holidays!

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