Monthly Archives: February 2013

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Japanese Pattern Books – Part 1

So, I have a lot of Japanese pattern books. A lot. Today, I thought it might be fun to show you my library of beloved kids’ pattern books (I also have a lot of pattern books for grown-ups…an intervention may be in order). 

I’ve gotten quite a few requests for recommendations, and though I can’t claim to be any sort of expert, I have sewn a fair amount from most of these and have my faves (which I’ve shared with you at the very bottom).

I plan on doing a more elaborate review that includes what I hope to be helpful information about each book as well as all the items I’ve sewn per book all laid out in a pretty way, but for now, just a simple listing because it’s already novel-length as it is…

Girly Style Wardrobe by Yoshiko Tsukiori
Publisher: Bunka

Onnanoko no Fuku, Tezukuri no Fuku (Clothes for Girls, Handmade) by Yoshiko Tsukiori
Publisher: Bunka

Happy Homemade vol.2 Kids no Fudangi (Every Day Clothes for Kids) by Ruriko Yamada
Publisher: Bunka

Happy Homemade vol.5 Kids no Genki na Fudangi (Fun/Active Every Day Clothes for Kids) by Ruriko Yamada – (I have not yet sewn anything from this book yet – that will change soon!)
Publisher: Bunka

Sunao de Kawaii Onnanoko no Fuku (Innocent and Cute Girl’s Clothes) by Akiko Man0
Publisher: Bunka

Oshare ga Sukina Onnanoko no Fuku (Clothes for Stylish Girls) by Akiko Mano
Publisher: Bunka

Heart Warming Life Series: Oshama na Onnanoko no Oyofuku (Fancy Girl Clothes)* by Yuki Araki
Publisher: Nihon Vogue

*This one is not available on the Kinokuniya site but I found it on the Japanese Amazon site.

Heart Warming Life Series: Mainich Kiru Onnanoko Fuku (Daily Wear for Girls) by Yuuki Katagai
Publisher: Nihon Vogue

Onnanoko no Oshare Fuku (Stylish Clothes for Girls) by Yuki Araki
Publisher: Nihon Vogue

Heart Warming Life Series: Onnanoko no Odekake Fuku (Girls’ Clothes for Special Occasions or the literal translation is Girl’s Clothes for Outings) by Yuki Araki
Publisher: Nihon Vogue

Heart Warming Life Series: Chiisana Onnanoko no Oyafuku (Clothes for Little Girls) by Yuki Araki – This book focuses on knits and I haven’t made anything from it yet.
Publisher: Nihon Vogue

Heart Warming Life Series: Honnori Sweet Onnanoko no Fuku (Girl’s Clothes with a touch of sweet) by Yuki Araki
Publisher: Nihon Vogue

A Sunny Spot: Oshare de Kawaii Onnanoko no Fuku (Stylish and Cute Girl’s Clothes) by Mayuko Murata
Publisher: Nihon Vogue

Kantan Sukkiri Onnanoko Fuku Otokonoko Fuku (Quick and Easy Girls’ and Boys’ Clothes) by Polka Drops
Publisher: Nihon Vogue



1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

These are my favorite ones – I love them all, but I’m drawn to the patterns in these books the most. They’re all simple designs, but I like that many of them have subtle unexpected details like angled pockets on a tunic or a knit top with ruched sides seams. Ultimately most of the books have at least a few patterns that are so similar to ones in other books as to be interchangeable, but I get these books for styling inspiration as well, so I don’t mind the duplication.

I get all my books from Kinokuniya here in Seattle. I find that the Nihon Vogue books by Yuki Araki have more advanced techniques compared to others, which I am liking more and more. For a beginner testing out the waters of Japanese patterns, I think the first four listed (in the beginning of the post, at the top) have the easiest patterns.

By the way, the English translations in the parentheses are approximations that I came up with and I included the phonetic representation of the Japanese titles because isn’t it fun to know what they’re supposed to sound like? No?

Goodness, this turned out much longer than I meant it to be! Are you as addicted to Japanese pattern books as I am? Let’s commiserate…


Sewing Inspiration


I get inspiration for the clothes I sew for K all over the place: my Pinterest boards are out of control, I look through my Japanese pattern books all the time, and I seem to get about a dozen catalogs in the mail every week (Anthropologie, Mini Boden and JCrew get the most attention). And don’t get me started on all the blogs!

But I am most inspired by people I see in passing. I can barely remember what I cooked for dinner the night before, but I rarely forget outfits. I’ve always been this way. Recently I saw a posh woman, sliding into her car, wearing mile-high black heels and a short dark brown coat with a mini, poufy skirt. It was cinched at her waist just so, and looked oh so fancy and not at all trashy. It made me so curious: where would you wear something like that at 10am on a Tuesday, bare-legged in the cold, February morning? I loved it though.

And then I saw a young woman at a cafe, sporting the perfect grey knitted scarf with a sweater of a very similar hue, and there was the poufy mini skirt again. I adored the super long knee-high socks she wore and stored the outfit away in the back of my mind. And so ideas start percolating and I look through my patterns and fabric to create the silhouette I have mentally designed. Often, I get sidetracked by one fabric or another and begin to imagine other possibilities, tucking that original idea away for another time. My plans for a poufy mini turned into the suspender skirt, for example.

What inspires you to sew? Is it usually a pattern? A certain fabric? A particularly stylish girl you see in a magazine? I’m inspired by them all!

In other sewing news, I took the advice I received from a few of you and got the Wiksten Tova pattern – I’m taking the plunge to sew for myself after a three year hiatus! I have some Essex linen prepped and I just might have something to show you soon….


Quinoa Salad

This past weekend I had a rare girl’s night out and had an opportunity to sample the amazing food at Poppy, where they serve all their meals in “thali” form. The word means “plate” in Hindi, and is a style in which a variety of dishes are served at once, kind of like tapas. I got the vegetarian version, and the tiny ceramic plates and bowls made me coo with happiness because I’m all about mini things.

Four hours and thirty delicious miniature dishes later (we each had 10), my friends and I were still jabbering away, so the hostess had to practically man-handle us to the bar area to seat other paying customers. She was supremely gracious about it, and we ended up scoring free dessert. I hardly ever go out at night (or go to fancy restaurants) and just hang out with friends without kids screaming bloody murder in the background, so this was a special treat on every level indeed.

Anyway, one of the topics that came up during the dinner was the horrific effects of sugar. My friends are awesomely health-conscious and in fantastic shape. Me? Not so much. I LOVE sugar. I crave it, worship it, go the extra mile to include it at all times. Toss in some butter with the sweetness, and I’m aces. But after some chilling facts of the poisonous properties of sugar, I almost, almost passed on the free dessert.

Later, I thought about sugar some more and found that my enthusiasm for the sweet stuff was waning just a tad. Not completely, mind you, but I do want to be healthier. Which finally brings me to the point of this post. Hounded by the guilt of saccharide over-consumption, I made quinoa salad. Tons of it.

It’s quite delicious. I like using Trader Joe’s quinoa (the tri-color is especially tasty, but I used plain here). I also added some leftover Israeli couscous aka ptitim that I just discovered is considered children’s food in Israel – no wonder I like it so much. But I think I prefer this salad without the couscous.

I hesitate to even call it a recipe but here’s what I did:

1. First  you make some quinoa. The method I like for making quinoa is here. The key is in the water to quinoa ratio – the packaging always recommends too much. 1.5 cups of water to 1 cup of rinsed quinoa is perfect. Place fluffy quinoa in a big bowl.

2. Then drizzle in a touch of olive oil. I used about a tablespoon for 1 cup of cooked quinoa.

3. Open a can of black beans, rinse and pour into bowl.

4. Add chopped vegetables/fruit. I used half a cucumber, a handful of frozen peas and corn, tomatoes, avocado and a couple cloves of garlic.

5. Sprinkle in some salt and pepper.

Voila! You will feel sated but not laden with heaviness after a nice (big) bowl. And because it’s so healthy, I might be able to get away with one small piece of chocolate. Or ten.

Monday Outfit: Red Knit Henley + Wool Suspender Skirt

Good morning, friends! Did you watch the Oscars? I didn’t, though I was rooting for Lincoln, which happens to be the only nominated movie that I’ve seen this past year. In a former life, I actually got paid to create “best-of” celebrity photo galleries for various award ceremonies (crazy, right?). The Teen’s Choice Awards were always good for some eyebrow-raising outfits and the Oscars were eternally glamorous, but the Grammys were the best, especially when Lady Gaga was involved.

I had hoped I could tie in this Monday outfit with some red carpet theme, but the closest I got is that I used the crimson color. My screen is making this top look dark pink, but in actuality it’s a deep red with subtle stripes.

Do you remember this post with 2-year-old K? I used the same suspender skirt pattern from this book, though instead of the 90cm, I cut out the 120cm this go around. I also used this fabulously luxe striped wool. Looking at the older images, I see that I totally reversed the buttons (they are supposed to be on the straps and not the yoke). My skills were woefully elementary back then and I remember being thoroughly confused by the instructions.

I love suspender skirts and their old-timeyness. This one is a little too loose, but I beg you to take a look at the perfect matching of the stripes on the side. I never get that part right. It’s perfect on the other side too. Huzzah.

Now, the red knit henley top. I got this slinky, beaut of a knit (polyester and rayon, but feels like silk) and thought I would use it for myself. Then I accidentally tossed the fabric on top of the grey wool with red stripes while trying to get my stash organized and had an a-ha moment. Given its slipperiness, it isn’t the easiest stuff to sew, though it was surprisingly cooperative in the cutting stage.

Don’t look too closely because the neckline is kind of embarrassing with the uneven stitching and the placket…well, I did something weird there and I still have no idea what I did. But from a distance and hidden under that super cute scarf, it looks completely passable. The pattern is from this book.

The Honeycrisp apples (my favorite) are gigantic this time of year. They are clearly not organic and are most likely injected with steroids.

I love this vintage look, and it took some cajoling, but K came around to liking it too.

I am busy busy busy this week! Some ceramics to teach, some art commissions to complete, some fun sewing projects in the works…very excited! I’ve also promised you some tutorials, and I’m shooting to get at least one of them done this week.

Happy Friday + Bouquets for you

Happy Friday! I know they’re silly, but I like writing haikus so they will be my little Friday ritual…you know how I cherish routines.

I saw the white anemones at the grocery store (!) and they were so pretty I couldn’t resist. These black-centered anemones are apparently popular wedding flowers, and I can see why. I am a big fan of chic and minimal.

I noticed that I had an unwitting theme of multiple versions going on this week: two tunics and half-leggings, a cupcake-off, different versions of tights and leggings designs, photos of various writing utensils…and to wrap up the week, here are some flowers I made using supplies I had lying around.

I think I may like them almost as much as the real deal anemones. The white and purple flowers are made from air dry clay which has the most pleasing consistency. Airy, light, stretchy and wonderfully pliable. True to their claim, the clay didn’t stick to my hands at all but adhered to other clay pieces like glue. I used the Amaco brand that came with white, purple, orange and yellow. You can blend them, but with these color palettes, your blending options are pretty limited. The clay takes 24 hours to dry and though it does harden a bit, it maintains an almost spongy quality. The pink and bluish teal flowers are made of crepe paper.

I didn’t follow any tutorials; just made ’em up one afternoon when I had a few extra minutes. So easy. I want to make much more elaborate flowers – maybe next week!

What do you think? Not so faux-looking when combined with the anemones, right? Like  so:

OK, the teal mini-broom looking blossom definitely doesn’t pass muster, but I like the color.

Tonight, K will be performing during Japan Night at her school and I can’t wait! It sounds like she’ll be singing and dancing to what could be considered a “hillbilly” Japanese song; this should be interesting. Have a wonderful weekend, friends – hope it’s an extra good one!


Creative Writing

I have a confession to make: I don’t love drawing. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy it a lot, it’s an integral part of who I am, and it’s something that’s been second nature to me all my life. A by-product, if you will, of coming from a family full of visual artists. While most families played board games or had meaningful conversations, we drew and painted. It’s a little like sleeping – I do it without thinking about it, but I don’t miss it until it’s unavailable. A necessity, but not a consciously loved activity.

Along the same lines, reading books is like oxygen for me, and I would most certainly die without it. Sewing and photography are rapidly making it up the ranks of things Highly Important. But what I am truly, madly, hopelessly, actively in love with is writing.

I’ve always loved it, but rarely told anyone. As a kid, I secretly wrote stories in my Hello Kitty journal, only to abandon them halfway because I knew they were terrible.

In my junior year of high school, I wanted to get into Honors English more than anything. I had heard rumors from reliable sources that the teacher was excellent and that she focused on creative writing. She was also known for supplying awesome college recommendations and being an easy grader. I was a dork of the highest order so I actually tried to practice for the essay test required for Honors English admittance. I remember standing in front of the classroom door, staring at the posted list of accepted students. My name wasn’t on it. Nada. Zip. Most of my friends had gotten in, so I stood there mortified, with a frozen smile.

I was a bit bitter in my Not-Honors-But-Advanced English class, feeling like a second rate student (I am Asian and over-achievement was relentlessly hammered into my psyche from toddlerhood; anything less than top grade was akin to failure). What I refused to acknowledge was that there was an incredible amount of creative writing happening and that I was learning so much. My teacher, the amazing Mrs. Serrano, pulled me aside one day and told me earnestly that I had a “voice” – my pimply sixteen-year-old self stared at her blankly, not comprehending. All I kept thinking was that I didn’t get into Honors English and my future was doomed (oh adolescent melodrama, how I do not miss thee).

In college, my favorite class was Russian literature. I gobbled up the sordid, often depressing yet oddly humorous works of Pushkin, Gogol, Dostoevsky. I wrote my papers with unbridled enthusiasm but they kept coming back with the professor’s hastily scrawled critiques of “your writing is very pretty and flowery but lacks substance”. I became paranoid that my writing made me sound like an airhead…

Whenever I felt lost, I would bury myself in my journal and write for hours and naturally I was secretive about my furious scribblings. There was a period in my twenties when I lived in San Francisco and felt particularly lost — I remembered Mrs. Serrano’s words and thought I’d give creative writing a try beyond my journaling. Time to finally flex this “voice” she kept telling me about. I signed up for a writing workshop (motivated no doubt by the picture of the instructor who was very easy on the eyes).

The instructor turned out to be even better-looking in person but was also very married so I focused on the lessons. We went through many writing exercises and the only person who had anything nice to say about my stories was a sweet Chinese man who stood at least four inches shorter and surely weighed twenty-five pounds less than me. I was always afraid I might crush him whenever I bumped into him in the cramped room. He kept offering me a ride home. I’m going to go out on a limb here, but I think he may have had ulterior motives.

There was also a disastrous poetry-reading I participated in…suffice it to say, I was not invited back.

Over and over, I have been snubbed in the arena of writing. Yet it’s been the only thing I’ve done regularly and consistently in my patchworked life (If you recall, I’ve had 25 jobs…). I’ve realized that it’s largely because of Mrs. Serrano’s encouraging words that I’ve persisted. For all I know, she told all her students that they have a “voice”, but that small effort she made gave me a kind of inner compass, a grounding.

Do you have anything like that? Something you’ve felt compelled to do despite evidence that you might not be very good at it? Or had someone utterly believe in you even though you had a hard time believing in yourself?

So given my track record, it’s always a little unnerving for me to hit “publish” (even though you have all been so so kind to me), but hey, I figure I can’t get better at this craft I love so wholeheartedly without practicing. In the practicing spirit, I think I will include regular “essay” types of posts that might be a little longer, which is probably a blogging no-no.

All the writing books say “write what you know” so I will keep a-going in my myopic, self-absorbed way of talking about myself until I discover that I’m an expert in something other than navel-gazing…speaking of books on writing, my favorite that I should re-read is Bird by Bird, by Anne Lammott. And one of my daily reads just posted some helpful writing resources, and I’ll definitely be checking those out!

Textile Design-ish

Several people have recently asked if I’ve ever considered textile design, and the answer is of course a resounding ‘yes!’ – and then I remembered that I did have one illustration project several years ago that involved a little bit of textile design, namely designing tights and leggings for girls.

I don’t actually know how far the project ended up in the manufacturing process, but I was hired to illustrate the designs to certain specifications. I own the rights to these illustrations so I thought I would show you some of them today. Here are the detail images of the tights/leggings above:


It was really fun working on these, but since I basically just drew what the designer had in mind, I don’t really consider it textile designing in the truest sense (she did give me ample liberty to modify things if I saw fit though – so that was nice). I created about 30 designs and I believe 5 or 6 went into production mode.

The designer sent me a sample of one of the designs, and K wore these tights a lot:

Please excuse the pilling…I tried to get that depth of field thing going to hide the extreme pilling, but oh well. These were well-loved.

I think it’s time I looked into the Spoonflower rage that’s been going on. How fun would it be to sew something with fabric that I designed myself???


Gluten-free Cupcake-Off

For one of my friend’s birthday, I made some cupcakes this weekend. She recently overhauled her diet to eliminate gluten, soy, dairy and refined sugar and it was a cooking challenge I gladly took on. I’ve never tried gluten-free baking before and it seemed like a worthy experiment. And come on, what’s a birthday without chocolate goodness? I should preface all this with the fact that I am as un-gluten-free as you can get – I am sure that my grave will mention something about my carb-overload tendencies, so I was wading into truly uncharted territories.

I had no idea what I was in for. There are so many gluten-free cupcake recipes!! I spent several hours researching, and finally decided to try out two: Elana’s Paleo Chocolate Cupcakes and a modified version of Love and Lemon’s Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes.

The Paleo cupcakes required coconut flour, coconut oil, baking soda, celtic salt, and a lot of eggs (my friend can eat eggs), and I made them mini:

For the vegan chocolate cupcakes, I used gluten-free flour instead of spelt and omitted the cinnamon and apple cider vinegar.

Whenever sweetener was called for, I used agave. Aren’t these cupcake liners pretty? They look like flowers when fully opened and you can find them here.

Armed with two sets of cupcakes, I hauled them to the birthday gathering for a cupcake-off. The winner? By a landslide majority, Love and Lemon’s vegan cupcakes. They were both good, but the vegan ones were fluffier and lighter and had a more intense chocolate flavor. I personally think it was all about the chocolate frosting, made from avocado (also from Love and Lemon in that same post). Imparting incredible creaminess and absolutely no taste of avocado, the frosting was delicious.

What I liked about both versions was that I didn’t feel weighed down or treacly after eating them. Because the frosting was mostly avocado, I even felt somewhat virtuous. I have a lot of gluten-free baking supplies now, so I think some more experimentation is in order!

Monday Outfit: Kokka Tunics + Half-leggings

Good morning! How was your weekend? Yesterday, despite our lingering sniffles, we braved the rain and went to see the most adorable lion cubs at the zoo. The four cubs are only three months old, and I swear they purposely put the warthogs next to the lions so that Hakuna Matata would inevitably pop into our heads.

Today I present you my all-time favorite color combo: grey and mustard. I love everything about this Kokka Echino fabric – the denseness of the cotton, the over-sized polka dots, the gorgeous color. The pattern is from this delightful book, and was a very quick sew.

There’s actually a “half-leggings” pattern in this book as well, but I made the version from this book instead with the vague notion that I might add some embellishments like the one the model is wearing, but that part didn’t happen. I used an amazing dark grey knit I found in my stash, and I wish I knew where it’s from and what the content is because it feels like it might be some pricey and highly sought after stuff as far as knits go.

I made this one on Friday, and K was so excited when she saw the tunic hanging in her room first thing Saturday morning. I didn’t even have to bribe her (I mean, gently encourage her) to take pictures and she wanted to make sure we included the gigantic Valentine’s balloon from Daddy (it’s bee shaped and has a red heart with “Bee Mine” on it):

Because it was so quick to sew, and the pattern was just sitting there, I remembered that K had picked out a Kokka fabric a while ago and thought it would look darling as a tunic as well. Again, there was much squealing of happiness when she saw it hanging in her room Sunday morning.

I didn’t have quite enough fabric and debated whether to use contrasting fabric but ultimately, I nixed the pockets. She decided to wear the dress backwards, so that ended up being a wise move on my part. I didn’t even realize that the edge of her skirt was flipped up until I posted the photos just now.

This time, we had fun with some washi wall art. The artist hard at work:

I also made another pair of half leggings in a blue knit, but my discerning mini-stylist rejected them in favor of key lime green footless tights. I’m liking her vision.

That origami paper doohickey is an umbrella because those diagonal stripey bits are supposed to be rain. The abandoned half-leggings:

I’m especially pleased with this week’s creations; K usually likes what I make but these tunics, she adores fully and completely. What more could you ask for as a sewing mama?

current guest series

Oh, and I am so so so excited to be part of An’s Belgian Style series! If you missed Kristin’s fabulous pastoral dress last week, it’s a must-see! And next*, the always awesome Venus of Suburbia Soup is up. My own interpretation of Belgian Style won’t be up until May, but until then I’ll be soaking up the hip and fun Belgian mini fashion via the other guest bloggers here!

*correction! Venus is up next week – can’t wait!

Happy Friday + Sewing for my man haiku + Career Day

Poor M rarely gets
Any kind of sewing love
Enter boxer shorts

Alas they’re too small
But at least was made with heart
K likes to wear them


Happy Friday! I’ve had this Odyssea by Momo fabric for several years and thought it was finally time to let it shine as boxers. My gallant effort of sewing for my man started with using the “Foxy Boxers” pattern from this book. Then I couldn’t believe how enormous they looked once cut out (especially compared to existing pairs), so I kept sizing down, and now they look like ones I used to wear as pajamas in college. K genuinely thought they were for her, put them on and asked me if she could wear them to school even though it has a hole in the front.

I have a ways to go before I master sewing for adults. I’ve sewn exactly one shirt for M that was a birthday gift about four years ago, and whenever he wears it (hardly ever) he always looks puzzled at how it hangs unevenly and how the facing is all “floppy”.

I think I will blame this oncoming cold that I thought I had dodged a few weeks ago for my many craft misses these last few days (there are so many that I didn’t show you). M is not feeling so hot either and K is definitely sick and making strange burpy noises, and with mid-winter break upon us, it looks like we may have to lay low for a few days.

I did have a fantastic time speaking at K’s school for career day yesterday, however. The coordinator had told me they didn’t have any artists, but it turned out there was one, and a very cool one at that. In fact, I wish I could have sat in on all the classrooms to hear the various talks because there were some seriously impressive careers represented. There was a travel writer/television/radio personality, fully prepared with huge foam-core boards of travel articles he’d written; a professional dog walker (the kids loved her and the two pups she brought); a documentary filmmaker currently exploring a Filipino gangster turned mayor; the ever popular “pizza guy” as the kids call him, who comes every year – he owns a highly-regarded pizzeria here in Seattle. The woman who brought the house down was the coast guard pilot, decked out in her uniform with helmet under her arm. She had us all at “I fly helicopters to save people.” The cheering lasted forever when she was introduced. A very large part of me wanted to be in elementary school again to see the endless possibilities of the future.

My own talk was very short, and I brought a little Valentine’s craft project for the kids that involved making paper hearts into envelopes (like these) and stuffing them with plantable mini hearts. The kids seemed to really like it, and several girls came up to hug me at the end of my talk, so I chalked it up as a success.

OK, I think it’s time for me to brew up some tea and have some quiet time with K. Have a wonderful weekend everyone! I hope to be back Monday fully recovered!


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