Happy Friday + Faux Fur Pillows


Happy Friday! Earlier this year when I did a little giveaway, I was poo-pooing the whole concept of faux fur pillows. So naturally, I decided to make them 9 months later.


I’m not sure why. In fact, I rarely have a rational explanation for why I make things. I guess I might be classified as an intuitive sewing enthusiast who is completely guided by my whims. If something stops feeling good or right, I tend to quickly abandon projects these days (unless it’s a shirt for M). Life is too short to be wasted on subpar activities, I say.


Not that sewing faux fur is a stellar activity, mind you. Especially when I thought I was being all clever and made it a removable cover with an invisible zipper for easy washing. Did you know that the fur gets ceaselessly caught in the zipper teeth, which has the potential of devolving into a sort of push-pull nightmare? Now I know. Strangely, despite the many factors that could have made this an unpleasant project, I really enjoyed it.

The more textured grey-and-black fake fur is from JoAnn’s and it’s incredibly soft — it feels like you’re caressing a bunny, though come to think of it, I’ve never caressed a bunny. Maybe they’re not that snuggly? The lighter grey pillow cover is actually more bristly, and the backing is also much thicker. My mom brought it for K when she visited Seattle in August, and I’m assuming it was thrifted from somewhere in Los Angeles. I found it tucked in one of my fabric baskets after she’d left. Very sneaky, Mama! I had asked her not to bring me any more fabric because…well, if you saw my fabric stash you would see why. It’s been pre-washed a few times, just to be on the safe side. Who knows what creepy crawlies can be in new-to-us fabric, right?

I used 20″ pillow inserts and cut the faux fur to 20.5″ squares. Looks like that worked out well. The key with faux fur, I’ve discovered, is to move at a snail’s pace. Cut slowly but steadily. Carry the pieces like they are made of the finest, most delicate china. Keep your foot light on the sewing machine pedal. Overlocking all the edges before assembling the pieces also helped. I felt richly rewarded because there were virtually no scattered bits of fur after I finished sewing.


They are, of course, for K. And yes, she loves them. So much so that she sleeps surrounded by them every night and when I see her clutching the pillows while deep in slumber, I realize this is why I sew. To bring joy, to feel joy. It’s awesome. Faux-fur-tastic, even.

Have a delightful weekend, my friends! What are you making these days?

Unicorn costume*
is feeling sort of daunting
But I’m ready now

*I have all the supplies for the costume and will start sewing this weekend!

HoJo’s Tablecloth Shirt


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

Happy Friday + Randomness


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.


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!

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.


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).


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.


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:


Or like this:


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:


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!

The “Unicorn” Pillow


Remember all the hullabaloo about which top I should make with the pink ponies silk for K’s birthday? Well, when 11pm rolled around the night before her 10th b-day and the fabric hadn’t even been ironed, I knew that I was in trouble.

And then I remembered that Shelley had left a brilliant comment about embroidering a unicorn horn, an idea with which I became obsessed. She also suggested wings, but that was beyond my mental and embroidery capabilities at the literal 11th hour. So I came up with plan B and foraged for some silver embroidery thread because I knew I was out of gold and went to work.


When I gave her the 14″ x 14″ pillow the next morning, I hinted that a special unicorn was hiding amid the pink ponies and it actually took her a lot longer than I expected to find it. Then again, it was fairly dark in the room. The pillow required all of 15 minutes to sew including embroidering the horn. I broke all manners of sewing rules and didn’t care one whit that the edges weren’t totally straight and didn’t even consider creating French seams. It almost felt sacrilegious to overlock the raw edges of the fine fabric, but I’d say the time saved was well worth the sacrilege. I always make pillow covers with an envelope closure, so K can freely drool on it if she so chooses and freshness is just a washing machine away.


Can you find the unicorn? The most rewarding part is that she LOVES loves loves the pillow. I actually think that making something that she won’t outgrow was the smarter choice here, and the unicorn horn made all the difference in elevating this simple project into a magical one. Thank you, Shelley!! You’re a genius.

And oh, her birthday was awesome — filled with swimming, her favorite restaurant (the xiao long dumplings are to die for) and a sleepover. Ten-years-old!!!! I can’t believe it. I almost forgot! She also got a curling iron for her birthday with strict instructions of never using it on her own, and she loves it even more than the pillow. We’d been using a makeshift wooden spoon + flat iron Macgyvering maneuver to occasionally curl her hair, but it was…not fun. Behold my curls-bedecked tween:

k-curlsP.S. That’s a garage sale dress that a friend gave her a while ago and is not handmade. She was practically hyperventilating from happiness on her birthday. So so sweet.