Monthly Archives: January 2013

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Felties: Bunny Twins

Our little felt menagerie keeps growing. You’ll remember Bob and Rose; Li’l Fox and Baby Bear followed shortly after. They are now joined by the bunny twins, Kumo (Cloud) and Taiyou (Sun). I was relieved that K came up with such clever Japanese names – perhaps she sensed my imploring look and mental pleadings of “don’t name them bunny 1 and bunny 2 or white bunny and grey bunny”…

I am staying true to my Valentine’s theme and in case you’re wondering, they are bunny-cupid-babies. Or something like that. And apparently, none of the animals in our delightful imaginary urban forest have tails. An evolutionary trait that makes them a species of their own…Did you notice that the twins are one color on the front and another on the back?

Don’t let their practically saccharine cuteness fool you; they are rascals, these two. Always climbing high up into the trees, trying to play tricks on their fellow tail-less animal friends.

Taiyou (the white one) was born a couple of minutes before Kumo, and plays every bit of the older sister part. She hogs all the food they forage and poor Kumo is a little undernourished and smaller as a result. They were born on Valentine’s Day naturally.

I want you to know that I spent an embarrassingly long time trying to get those diapers right. There’s nothing that will make you feel more ridiculous than trying to repeatedly diaper a mini felt bunny. Seeing K’s thrilled face this morning was priceless though. She immediately started playing with them and has been making accessories (baby bottles, purses) and I’ve promised to feature them on this ole blog at some point.

Funnily enough, I’ve been asked by K’s school to speak at their career day as an artist. When they requested my presence, somehow I don’t think they were expecting that I spend my days making little felt animals and gluing beads to toothpicks for mock arrows…they should have asked Patty Grazini. Now, there’s an artist. She makes animals too, but her artistry is beyond anything I can hope to achieve. I saw her work at the fabulous Curtis Steiner store, which is truly a curiosity shoppe filled with unusual treasures. The intricacies of Patty Grazini’s paper sculptures are astounding. I love the themes she’s chosen (Victorian-era criminals represented as animals), and her work has a great sense of humor, an almost obsessive attention to detail and a charming yet haunting quality about them. I really enjoyed this video of her (I have no idea how to embed videos), and if you’re in the area and get the chance, it’s so worth it to see her phenomenal paper sculptures.

Smitten with Deb: Strawberry Heart Scones

Do you remember that movie Julie & Julia? It was based on a blog that became a book about a woman (Julie) who worked her way through Julia Child’s first cookbook. I feel that I too am working through recipes, but from Smitten Kitchen instead of The Art of French Cooking. Maybe they could call the sure-to-be-blockbuster movie Sanae and Deb: a crafty mama tries to bake better. Or Smitten with Deb. Yes, that has a nice ring to it. I demand that Lucy Liu or one of those girls from Ang Lee movies to play me. It could be a cooking/martial arts flick for that unexpected twist.

I’m still going with the “slap a heart on it” theme this week for Valentine’s and made heart-shaped scones. Deb recommends very ripe, farmer’s market strawberries, but those are not available in January, so I threw in somewhat iffy looking Trader Joe’s berries. Even with the sketchy strawberries, these scones are so amazingly good, I can’t even write about it without salivating.

Added bonus: it took 15 minutes to prepare and 15 minutes to bake. Now that’s the kind of recipe I can stand by. They’re a little crumbly on the outside, with pockets of jam-like strawberry goodness inside. I like that they’re not too sweet, yet feel like special treats.

I urge you to try baking these using Deb’s recipe – she calls them “strawberries and cream biscuits” and that’s probably more apt than “scones”. Either way, you’ll love them, I promise! How does she manage to unerringly come up with fabulous food concoctions? I have a gift certificate to a bookstore and need to go out and get her new cookbook asap.

Plantable Valentine’s Arrows

Today, I have a little DIY for you: plantable valentine’s arrows! In some ways, I feel like “Slap a heart on it” ends up summing up Valentine’s Day items, but I am a self-professed lover of hearts. Have you seen my logo up there at the top of this page? It’s actually a stamp that a friend made for me when I lived in Japan. It’s one of my most prized possessions. She carved my name into stone in the style of a traditional Japanese stamp called inkan. I was so excited when she included that heart. Inkans, fyi, are used to stamp official documents in Japan and serve as your signature and is always in Japanese. Artists also use it to sign their work. So making an inkan in English with a heart is sort of a wink-wink-nudge-nudge thing. But I digress.

Anyway, I’ve been enamored with all the sweet and clever Valentine’s ideas floating around, but I wanted to try something a little different.

I got this awesome paper at one of my fave stores, and the idea is that wildflower seeds are embedded in the paper so you can plant the paper and get lovely blooms in a few days or weeks (depending on the weather, of course). Brilliant, right?

K got very jazzed when she saw the arrows; she asked that I also make a bow so that we could shoot the arrows into planters. Not a bad idea…Since we had no bow, we manually planted one of hearts, as a test to see if it would work. It might be too cold still, but we shall see.

And not only are they super cute, they’re very easy to make. You can see the supplies I used up there (minus the glue – Elmer’s just looked too clash-y with the other items). Here’s what you’ll need:

Plantable paper
Skewers (I used 6-inch and 10-inch skewers)
Tissue paper
Tape (I used washi, but you could use any old tape)
Glue
Pens/markers to decorate the hearts (optional)

1. I created a heart template here and printed it onto the paper using an inkjet printer, but you could hand-draw any shape you’d like and customize your message. Decorate your hearts if you’re so inclined – this would be a fun activity with your little one.

2. Cut out heart and attach skewer to the back using tape. Washi is nice because it comes off easily for planting. If you’re concerned about the sharp point of the skewer, it can be snipped off with a pair of scissors.

3. Fold up your tissue paper so that you have several layers, place a skewer on top and draw the shape of the “feathers” to your liking. Cut through all the layers, then cut into the sides to create fringes. You’ll need two per arrow.

4.  I placed a thin line of glue on the back-side of the skewer and placed it one top of one of the feather shapes. Then I added glue to the top of the skewer and gently placed the another feather shape on top, sandwiching the skewer between the two pieces of tissue paper shapes.

And that’s it! Easy-peasy. I’m planning on trying a different design for the grey plantable paper, and wouldn’t these be so cute with some illustrated instructions on how to plant them? Want to see my round-up of Valentine’s inspiration? Check out my Pinterest board!

Monday Outfit: Pink + Grey

Good morning! Thank you so much for all the wonderful comments on the 100 Dresses post — I hope you had a fantastic weekend! I had such a fun-filled one of swimming with M and K, lunch at a friend’s cozy home and a movie night with M. The thought of swimming in January would normally make me shudder, but the pool was heated to something like 90 degrees so it was quite pleasant…

Let’s talk about this week’s Monday outfit, shall we? One of my utmost favorite color combinations is mustard + grey, but pink + grey is high up on the list as well. Much of last week was full of sunshine and clear skies and seemed deceptively spring-like, so maybe that’s why I’ve had a hankering for some floral in my sewing. This pretty Kokka linen/cotton print fit the bill, and I love how it’s feminine yet bold and graphic at the same time. It’s also been a while since I added a scarf to an outfit, and this one had the perfect combination of grey and pink in its dusty rose hue (and I adore that black edge!).

When K saw the dress, she said, “Oooooh, it’s so beautiful!” Now that’s the kind of response I like to hear. She said she feels like a flower in it, and I can see where she’s coming from. She was a bit concerned about wearing it when it actually is spring because “bees might attack the flowers”. Hmmm.

There’s also an architectural element to it with those sleeves – kind of evocative of something from Star Wars or Star Trek too (Yoda ears? Is that what it’s making me think of?)…but maybe I’m over-analyzing things.

The pattern is from the always delightful Happy Homemade Volume 2. It’s the same dress as the blue one on the cover. This one got a little wrinkly in the back…

It may have looked spring-like, but there was a bite in the air last week and I’m finding that K just doesn’t have enough warm clothes. So I made a trench coat out of a nice thick wool (I’m also working on some sweaters for her). The only beef I have with Japanese coat patterns is that they never include a lining. I suppose I could have easily added one for this coat but I wanted it to be roomy enough to accommodate lots of layering underneath. She tends to discard her outerwear quickly, even in sub-zero weather (not that it gets that cold here in Seattle, but it feels like it to wimps like me). Even while trying to take these photos, she kept wanting to take the coat off.

I also made the coat so big because K seems to be going through a major growth spurt and I didn’t want her to outgrow this one too quickly. It’s rather fabulous, don’t you think? I love the tucks and the overall design. And that wool was on ridiculous sale ($10/yd!) so it ended up being fashionable and economical. The pattern is from here.

I should point out that K does most of the styling herself. She was very particular about which tights and socks to wear and spent forever setting up those little suitcases and her scarf. Up there she’s unhappy that I started snapping before she was done making the paper egg on the plate look just right. My little budding stylist…

This week, I have some fun posts planned with Valentine’s Day in mind! This outfit falls within the general theme too, no?

Happy Friday + 100 Dresses

Happy Friday! Last week, I received a lovely request from a reader to feature a post about one of my previous art shows and of course I happily agreed. It was actually a joint show with my mother and happened way back in 2009…I dug through the archives and found some images, but let me start from the beginning. It’s a little long, but I think it’s an interesting story and hope you’ll like it too – plus it’s about sewing!

My mother had almost given up on grandchildren. I had been with M for many, many years without any signs of marriage or babies and my biological clock was ticking away loudly and was near expiration. There were joyous whoops of disbelief when M finally popped the question (a rather funny story that I’ll have to share with you one day). Seven months later, a Buddhist priest married us (neither one of us is Buddhist; another entertaining story) and a year after that we had K. My mom had waited a long time to be a grandma.

My mom has always been a prolific creator. She paints, she knits, she cooks, she gardens. But what she really started doing those early days of K’s infant-hood was sew. As a new grandmother, she was positively smitten and obsessed with baby K. I began receiving ginormous boxes filled with handmade baby dresses from Los Angeles. The dresses were adorable, artistic, and often ridiculously lacy and covered with beads. She had no concept of choking hazards, but we worked with that. They were suffused with love and what made them even cooler was that all the dresses were sewn out of recycled fabrics, refashioned from yard sale finds.

However, we were living in a tiny apartment at the time and I was having trouble finding closet space for all these glorious garments. K was outgrowing them within minutes, and soon, the number sky-rocketed to over 300. Yes, 300 dresses. I was starting to panic, because in my heart of hearts I am a minimalist and I was starting to feel buried under mountains of miniature party dresses. Eventually, I started to offer the dresses to friends who had daughters. Perhaps “begged friends to please please please for the love of all things holy take some dresses” better describes the situation. They were so beautifully made, I just didn’t have the heart to donate them to Goodwill.

It so happened that one of my dearest friends — upon whom I unloaded a large number of dresses — was working at an art gallery. I remember walking around Greenlake together, strollering our daughters, and she said to me, “You know, those dresses are like pieces of art…you should have a show”. I kind of nodded, but didn’t think much of it since I wasn’t quite sure how I would pull that off. My friend went to the gallery owner and lo! the owner loved the idea.

My mom and I decided to select 100 of the best dresses and “100 Dresses: haute couture meets toddler wear” was launched. We also wanted the proceeds to go to a good cause and chose the local Food Bank and Boys and Girls Club. (M has asked me to please stop giving away funds from art shows to charities; “We aren’t rockstars, Honey,” he keeps telling me). We set the whole thing up to be an auction, which was so much fun. Over 100 people came to the opening night to start bidding and K got her 15 minutes of fame on the local news. We had one of our favorites framed but didn’t include it in the auction (shown above – it’s made out of an amazing dupioni silk), so I guess it was technically 101 dresses…and that’s two-year-old K below, the girl who started the craziness.

I curated and coordinated all aspects of the show with the owner and her friend who is a stylist. It was amazing (especially working with a stylist! I wanted to become one!), but it was grueling work putting a show like that together – so many complex components! But when those 100 dresses went up on the wall after hours of steaming and planning configurations late into the wee hours of the night before the show, we all gasped. It was breathtaking. Trust me, these photos don’t do them justice.

The auction lasted a month and we generated $5,000, which went above and beyond our expectations. My mom couldn’t believe that people would pay money for dresses made out of salvaged fabric that she whipped out for her itty bitty grandchild. Every single dress sold. Oh, my mom and I also displayed some paintings, but really, it was all about the dresses. The gallery was called Gather, and it was a fantastic space and I really enjoyed working with the owner, Jen. Unfortunately, they closed a few months after our show — it was the recession after all.

My mom is an artist with a capital A. She is fiercely unique and has taught me by example to be my own person no matter what. She was recycling and re-purposing decades before it became trendy and mainstream and has always incorporated elements of sustainability into her art. You can see some of her art here. Nowadays she knits things for K since I do a lot of sewing, but she’s prolific as ever…

And that is the story of 100 Dresses! As part of the show, I made this poster with all 100 Dresses and each one has a Japanese name. Unfortunately, my original file got corrupted (tragic! It took me forever to digitally cut out all those dresses), so I took a photo but it’s a bit hard to see all the details. The piece-de-resistance are the two kimonos that have zippers in the back. Genius!

 

Thanks for the request, Karina! Hope you made it through the story, and have a fabulous weekend, everyone!

Quiet Day

Wednesday was a quiet day – it might have looked an awful lot like a lazy day. I’m feeling the onset of a cold and am trying to take it easy. Started some knitting. Thank you, Robin, the cowl pattern you recommended is so quick and satisfying. I’m nearly done and getting ready to block it. I think I’ve gotten over the sweater trauma. I’d also like to try this chunky cowl.

Had too many cups of coffee and pieces of toast.

Noticed that the paper white flowers started to bloom. I can’t believe I haven’t killed it with neglect.

K saw me knitting and wanted to start her own version of a scarf. We didn’t get very far.

I am loving this knitting book. The images are so beautiful. This color-block blanket has my name on it and seems very doable. I’m thinking grey and white. Or maybe I’ll be super daring and try grey and cream.

Trying to get my painting mojo back (and thinking of outfits to sew and boots I’d like to wear). Pretty pretty gouache colors, aren’t they?

I like quiet days. Today, I’m learning how to use a kiln – very excited!

Doll + Matching Dress

When K was in a co-op preschool, an auction was held in the winter every year. The initial year we participated in the auction, I made a doll and a matching dress as my contribution item. It was the first time I’d submitted anything hand-sewn anywhere, so I was pretty nervous, but I believe the highest bid was somewhere around $100 for both, which wasn’t too shabby (though I suspect a friend of mine had a hand in inflating the bid).

I was going through my picture archives for what I hope to be a fun post later this week, and found the images for the auction items. I always love finding things I’d made that I had completely forgotten about!

The dress was from this pattern book, and I made up the doll pattern and dress. I think they’re pretty cute together!

Photography Practice

One of my goals for this year is to become better at photography. I’ve worked with photos for a long time – on catalogs (if you got a Pottery Barn catalog between the years 1999-2002, I did the layouts for every single one of them! Best. Job. Ever.), as part of an imaging team at a stock photo agency and as a photo editor. But it’s only recently that I shifted my focus to the taking of photos rather than just the selections or color-processing of them. I’ve discovered that I love it though I have so much to learn.

I still get flummoxed with apertures and f-stops and shutter speeds, but with my trusty manual and lots of practice, I’m starting to get a feel for what kind of images I like and how to work with light a little bit.

Here, I practiced with some pretty pops of blues that I found around the house. I am on the hunt for good online tutorials — I’m very much a visual and tactile learner and find most tutorials with just lots of written instructions challenging. I think it’s why I like Japanese patterns so much: the illustrations are excellent and I hardly need to reference the text. If you know of any good photography tutorials with lots of visual aids, please send them my way!

 

Monday Outfit: Ahoy Audrey!

Hello, hello, I hope you had a relaxing weekend! We are a little sleepy here and are enjoying a lazy day off. Happy MLK Day to those of you here in the States! I went to K’s school for a special assembly on Friday and let me tell you…I was a blubbering mess when the first graders started singing “We Shall Overcome” (accompanied by a parent playing a trumpet, no less). I tried to hide it but felt emboldened when I saw a rugged looking Dad swiping at his eyes.

Anyway, it’s Monday outfit time! I have such a weakness for stripes. Always have. I’ve lost count of the number of striped t-shirts and sweaters and dresses that I own – most of them are in classic blacks/greys/navys with white, but I have pretty much every color combination. One of the neighbor girls actually said to me one time, “My mom looks like you today”, and her mom was wearing a striped knit top, of course (red and white).

So when I saw this knit turtleneck pattern with buttons from this book, I simply had to make it in bold stripes. With grey buttons, naturally. It may possibly be my favorite thing I’ve made to date. Very french, very nautical, very Audrey Hepburn and Tautou (Amélie is my favorite movie – I bet you’re not surprised). LOVE.

And those pants…(happy sigh). I hear that emerald is the it color for 2013, but I’m a mint green kind of gal. This is a significantly modified Oliver + S Sailor Pants pattern. I made it according to the instructions in blue, and it’s fantastic but it wasn’t the silhouette I had envisioned.  I wanted cigarette pants a la Hepburn so chopped up the pattern all over the place and eliminated button holes because they didn’t seem very functional for K. It now looks exactly the way I’d hoped it would from the front, though the back is a bit bunched up like MC Hammer – I can live with that.

And here’s the blue version with amazing vintage yellow buttons. So sassy!

I think these are great too, but K’s in agreement with me and gave a thumb’s up for the stripe top + mint green pants combo. I really like those side vents and like all Oliver + S designs, the pants are very nicely constructed but is it me, or were there a couple of errors in the instructions?

And look how stylin’ that turtleneck looks unbuttoned. Have I mentioned how much I love it? That’s a glow-in-the-dark wand that K has in her mouth.

I’m sure you’re all wondering about those fab shoes. They are Campers for kids and another Ba-chan gift (we got them at a 50% off sale). I really really need a pair in my size.

Here are some close-up shots of the top and mint green pants. By the way, we are transferring my blog to another server since there was a little spike in my traffic it seems and things keep going haywire. As we’re moving things around, it might get wonky around here for a few days…

 

 

Happy Friday + Knitting

Happy Friday! Thank you so much for all the kind comments and emails yesterday! I feel a little bit like the time M’s friends came over unannounced a few days ago. The house was in a state that could only be described as disastrous (cleaning was not a priority during the art show prep and supplies covered every available surface) and though I’ve known these friends a while, I don’t know them that well. I was a bit embarrassed to have them see the messy side of me, but I suddenly felt a lot more comfortable with them. After some furious tidying, my house is almost restored to its former semi-neatness, and now I’m eager to talk about making stuff.

So. Any crafter wanting to prove his or her mettle will usually attempt knitting at some point. That point came for me around 2007. I bought a copy of this book, some knitting needles and wool, and embarked on an epic task of adding/dropping stitches to create a sweater for M.

It took me a year.

The dark forest green wool I used is fantastic. It hardly pills, it’s mind-bogglingly warm, and the color brings out the verdant undertones of his blue-green eyes. The problem was that knitting a sweater for a man requires copious amounts of yarn. Crazy, crazy amounts. I kept running out and at one point had to make do with a similar-but-not-quite-right skein because I had literally purchased all the stock at two stores.

I was cursing that sweater by the time I finally finished it twelve months later. And to add insult to injury, despite my careful hand-washing and efforts of laying it out flat to dry, the darn thing kept shrinking. M adores this sweater because I remind him endlessly of all the sweat and tears that went into it, but I’ve begged him not to wear it — it now looks like a really bad fashion statement from the eighties and is hideously cropped on my man (but the sleeves keep getting longer…how??).

I’m afraid that I do not love knitting. However, I am a crafter out to prove my mettle and feel that the first project I took on was just too challenging for my skill level, and I didn’t give this ancient and highly respectable craft a fair shake. So I am going to try again this winter. My new knitting goal: a cowl. I will let you know how this pans out. Perhaps I will fall in love. I hope so.

Since I got all personal with y’all yesterday, I figured it’s high time I get over my phobia of getting my picture taken. I’ve been preparing to sew clothes for myself and it wouldn’t be any fun if I couldn’t share them with you. I decided to take baby steps and model M’s shrunken sweater. Hard to see here, but the sweater is actually quite roomy on me and makes me look like I have Michelin man arms.

Hi. I’m Sanae. Friends, I wore make-up for you. I rarely wear make-up these days. And my hair doesn’t look like that normally either. It’s always in some bizarre, frayed bun with pieces sticking out all over (I know that top knots are all the rage with the cool kids, but mine looks nothing like that). And because this was my first time with a tripod and remote, I kept cutting off weird parts of my body and face. It felt really odd and awkward taking pictures of myself, I must say. I can’t even go into how mortifying it was perusing them – I had no idea that I have a lazy eye and that my eyebrows are uneven! I didn’t use any Photoshop magic despite the enormous urge to do so.

Anyway, have a wonderful weekend everyone! I’ll be back on Monday with an outfit for K!

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