Happy Friday! Mid-winter break is about to end, and K and I have been having a grand old time. It’s been a great blend of relaxed lounging around, quite a few impromptu playdates, tons of arts and crafts, and a couple of bike rides thrown in. I tend to dread these school breaks without any structured activities planned because I’m type A like that, but this time, it was no problemo. Because I had to do a lot of painting, it was a handy excuse to keep K occupied with assorted art supplies. I’ve been playing around with gouache so I can mimic the textures in digital format — I’m thinking that some of these would make some sweet fabric designs. What do you think? I’ve also been pondering trying my hand at more fashion-y illustrations…
While I was cleaning the basement, K found my unused dress form (it’s one of those cheapie ones that I could never get adjusted to the right size) and asked to use it. It’s the cutest thing; K and her friends love to drape fabric and sew up “party dresses”. Two days ago, this happened:
K: Mama! We made a dress for you. It’s SO fancy. You have to model it!
K’s friend: It’s so cool, you’ll love it.
[I squeezed myself into a sarong type garment with a ribbon sash, accidentally pulling free a few stitches]
K: Come down here, Mama!! Do the runway!
[I sashay down the length of the living room, the dress starting to unfurl. K is snapping away on her toy camera]
K’s friend: [on a pretend microphone] ladies and gentlemen, we have here a beautiful dress, made out of….fabric. Yes, fabric. Oh…no….uh, K’s mom? Your, um…back….
[Let's just say our budding fashion designers could use a few pointers in basic construction. It turned out to be a very sexy dress]
We are off to get four of K’s teeth pulled. Yikes. I’m to give her a valium tablet an hour before the extraction, so this is going to be very interesting…I plan on having a lot of soft foods at the ready. Wishing you all a happy and pain-free weekend!
Four teeth seem a lot Ever the pragmatic girl K expects moolah*
*K is very excited to collect some serious dough from the tooth fairy
I had such high hopes for this top. It’s from this book, and you can see how stylish it looks when professionally photographed below – I’ve shared this image before, and it got pinned like crazy. It’s clearly a cute garment, but I’m guessing you can’t have curves to pull off this look. The curves, oh the curves. They are accentuated in a way that I can’t say is flattering. Hence the name of the post.
So let’s talk details: the fabric I used is a shot cotton, I believe. I’ve had it for many years, and this blue is high up on my list of favorite colors. The fabric has variegated threads that give it a gorgeous iridescence. It makes me think of peacocks, mediterranean seas, rare pockets of smog-free Los Angeles skies. I thought the sheerness and the drape would work well with this pattern; I was overly optimistic, it seems. I cut the size 11, which is the medium (there are only three size options: 9, 11, 13), but I think I should have gone down one size due to its billowy nature.
It looks like such a simple top, but it has a lot of cool little details: angled pleats/pintucks that converge at the base, ties at the side, gathered sleeves, etc.
Can you believe I took photos outside? I’ve been pretty phobic about it because I knew I’d get self-conscious if any of the neighbors saw me. But I finished the top yesterday while K was playing with a friend (yes, I was procrastinating. Again) — there’s only one pattern piece to trace since the front and back are the same, and I figured it would be a quick project. It wasn’t as quick as I’d hoped with all the pleating, binding, and ties creating. By the time I finished, I was scrambling to catch the last of the light and this meant venturing out to the sadly ignored community garden in the back of our house. What you see is me at my most au naturale: no make-up and hair in my usual state of disarray.
Of course, I’ve selected the least offending photos, but look:
Sumo wrestler. 95% of the photos look like this (and there were tons of photos). Also, I realized that compared to the photo from the book, my neckline is much wider. I like it! Upon further reflection, maybe this makes me look like a Smurf. And here I am, trying to prove that really, there’s nothing underneath:
Despite the exaggerated rolls this top gives me and despite its clinginess, I haven’t given up on it. The solution might be in some sort of anti-static cami to wear underneath.
The dolman sleeves! I love that part. Can’t beat the comfort, and maybe if I try it in a rayon challis…but that’s so slippery…okay, procrastination time over and back to painting!
In total, we had 39 participants including me and my indispensable co-organizer Ute – amazing! There were ladies from the U.S., Germany, Canada, Australia, Singapore, India, France, Spain, Ireland and Italy. So international, right? I’m overwhelmed that these are all — in some capacity — readers of this little blog. One of my favorite aspects of this project was that I got to know the various folks that stop by here a little better. Blabbering to the great interwebs can sometimes leave me feeling slightly ridiculous, like I’m that demented lady talking to herself again. But through this exchange, I got a better glimpse of the wonderful women behind the comments and visits. I loved reading all the questionnaires and getting acquainted with all the blogs and checking out the Pinterest boards and browsing through the flickr accounts.
Of course, the best part was the making and receiving and celebrating an untraditional Valentine’s! Before I launch into what I made and what I received, I thought I should briefly go over how the partners were selected. It was an ad hoc method involving K, a lot of little pieces of paper, and a good dose of bribery (K got tired of selecting the names after the fourth one. Chocolate is a powerful motivator). I created little pre-sorted piles roughly by location so that shipping wouldn’t take too long. I’m not sure that we were completely successful, but we tried.
I was assigned Asmita, who authors the lovely Elephant in the Study blog. What a thrill to ship all the way to India! Great procrastinator that I am, I worried that I wouldn’t finish in time but luck was on my side and I was at the post office two weeks before Valentine’s Day. Unheard of. Then I ran into a snafu when the post office guy told me that customs can cause all kinds of problems, and I needed to get a phone number. So I had to email Asmita pretending that I wasn’t her secret valentine. Sneaky, sneaky. Fortunately, Asmita responded right away so I skedaddled back to the post office and happily shipped off the gifts. What I made: a little fabric pouch/organizer with hearts-emblazoned fabric (I tossed in some sewing goodies there), a house-shaped hot pad (or potholder? it’s made with wool batting), and two small colorful cotton zipper pouches (one stuffed with bookmarks). Asmita’s favorite colors are red, orange and yellow, so I tried to incorporate the colors and also kept in mind that she’s a bibliophile and loves to bake. I was filled with relief when I received an email from Asmita confirming receipt just before the big day. And what an email – I got a little teary-eyed by the sweet note.
And the teariness continued when I opened the door to find a package for me. Sonya of Fashion Fragile drew my name, and as much as I loved the gifts (a beautiful cowl/neck warmer in my fave color, a brooch made out of what looks like kimono fabric, handmade cards), it was the handwritten note that got me all choked up. The considered care that goes into handmade gift-giving has powerfully uplifting qualities. Another participant, Gita, included a quote as part of one of her photos that perfectly encapsulates what I’m trying to say.
“The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh
Thank you, again, Sonya, for the thoughtful gifts. I will treasure them!
The talent factor of everyone involved is enormous, and I was in fact a little cowed by the projects that started popping up in the Flickr pool. Which you can see just below. I embedded a Flickr slideshow for easy perusal, and friends, you know this is embarking into extreme high tech territory for me, so I hope this works. Let me know if it doesn’t.
The variety and creativity are so very inspiring! I also saw some trends: buntings, lots of pouches, and hearts, naturally. Below, I’m including the list of awesome participants; some have blogs and where available, I included fun links to their blog posts about Secret Valentine Exchange (look for the “SVE blog post” links). Please give me a holler if I missed any posts, blogs or any other info!
Ute and I are already plotting for next year – what do you think? Would you be in?
Thank you to everyone who joined in the exchange! We hope it made Valentine’s Day and winter a little extra special.
As I down coffee after coffee and scurry about with watercolor pans and digital painting tools in the background, I deigned it high time I finally cross off an item from my “must-write posts list” (lists breed like bunnies in my notebooks).
One of the distinctions of Japanese patterns is that seam allowances need to be added. I know that this is often a turn-off for many folks, but I happen to love it. There’s something about adding that extra 1 to 3 centimeters to the traced pattern pieces that I find very soothing. I’m probably weird, though.
So a few months ago, the always knowledgeable June pointed me in the direction of the SA Curve Ruler. Before I had a chance to check out the link, however, the owner of the company contacted me to see if I would like to test them out. I said yes, of course, because c’mon — a ruler that would make adding seam allowances a piece of cake? No brainer.
I received the 3/8 inch mini and pattern drafter (3/8 inch = 1 cm, and most Japanese pattern seam allowances are 1 cm). I think the concept is genius and I really wanted to fall in love with them. In all frankness, they haven’t revolutionized my life, but I like them a whole lot. I’ve been using them for some weeks now, and there are many obvious benefits. The idea is that you can slide the the ruler along the pattern edges for a quickie seam allowance addition, rather than the connect-the-dot system I usually use. With both the mini and pattern drafter, you’re pretty much covered for all curves and straight lines.
The main problem for me, though, is that I have chubby fingers. The 3/8 inch ruler is…well, only 3/8 inch wide, and I found it challenging to hold the rulers down properly. My fingers keep getting in the way. Also, it was a little cumbersome to have to switch between rulers and there wasn’t an easy way to create certain seam allowances larger than 1cm (1.5cm, say) since I didn’t have the metric version. An easily solvable situation. I do find it very helpful for straight sides and use them often for that. And I see a lot of potential for pattern drafting. The curves are still a little tricky for me, but like with anything, with practice it becomes easier to use. I like the design, the way the rulers are clear, and the concept itself is fantastic. I bet the 5/8 inch would be perfect for Burda patterns.
I did let Claire, the owner, know that it would take me a while to post about the rulers, but now I’m very sad that I took this long to talk about them. She seems to have decided to shut down her company, though she is still selling her rulers through a few venues. I did promise to review them, so I wanted very much to honor that. I really do think the rulers are great products with multiple uses. I am so appreciative of and impressed with women taking risks and forging ahead with businesses. I hope another venture is in the works since she’s very ingenious and talented!
It started with a vague excitement for my very small but very pretty faux fur stash. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be so unnecessarily sophisticated and chic to make a fur-trimmed wool coat for K?” I’m all about unnecessarily sophisticated and chic.
Alas, faux fur is NO FUN to work with. As soon as I came within an inch of it, it started to shed all over the place. In my crazy deadline-ridden state of being and due to my slightly OCD personality, I just couldn’t hack it. So I resorted to an un-fur-trimmed coat dress like so:
Do you like her butterfly tattoo on the cheek? I realize it’s hard to see, but it’s super cute.
This coat dress may look familiar if you’ve been stopping by here since the beginning of time. I made a bouclé version eons ago in blog years, which, like the fur, was a shedding nightmare. I had powered through, and interestingly, that coat dress is probably the single most complimented sewn garment. It’s from this book. I seem to be repeating every aspect of this week’s outfit, and had used the same beautiful wool houndstooth fabric for this little jacket. Those pleather elbow patches held up surprisingly well.
But I was still stuck on the idea of a fur trim. “We’ll fake it!” I instructed K, ”Wrap it around your neck like a scarf, honey”.
She offered up a belt option and a hood. I gave up. Oh, my little babushka.
Can you see the flurry of furriness taking over? Also, blurry photos are what you get when the photoshoot lasts precisely two minutes and ten seconds. We almost made it through the “Let it Go” song from the movie Frozen, but then she shot off to go play with her friend (warning: the song will start to play – we’ve listened to this song non-stop for the last couple of weeks. She’s obsessed).
I did make some minor changes with this coat dress. Okay, one change: I fully lined it. However, I tried to cut out a lining without the pleats (the pleats, by the way, look much better with the wool vs. the bouclé) but my pattern adjustments didn’t work out so well for some reason so I just sewed up an identical version for the lining. The lining fabric is some thin polyester from my thrifted pile, and it’s a refreshing mint polka dot.
Even though the fur trim didn’t pan out, I still love the coat dress. So does K. For a truly impressive feat with fur trim, check out Kristin’s gorgeous coat. Girl has serious skillz.
P.S. In case you’re wondering why in the world I would be sewing if I’m so overwhelmed with deadlines (you’re probably not wondering, but I’m the type of person who would wonder), the answer is simple. I love to sew. It helps me relax, and I’ve found that when I’m stuck creatively with drawing/painting, it helps me think through the problems. Sigh. Sewing rocks.
Happy Valentine’s Day!! My goodness, with the way I kept going on and on, you’d think it’s the only holiday that matters to me. Case in point: I can’t seem to stop making bookmarks, though my excuse is that I’m practicing my digital painting. So these are the ones we ended up assembling for K’s class (K helped punch holes, though she quickly lost interest; she did, however, write out all her classmates’ names for each bookmark bundle).
K said that the animals looked too girly and was afraid all the hearts would make the boys in her class think that she’s in love with them so I whipped up the dinosaurs. I’m pretty smitten with these dinos. I found these little glassine bags in our kitchen drawer and they’re perfect. Each classmate got four bookmarks and a handwritten note from K, and done and done! We’re all set. If you are a last-minuter or if you might want to use these for future v-day cards, feel free to download below! (I didn’t include a download for the “i heart books” tags though -sorry).
So today is the day!! Ute and I hope that the Secret Valentine Exchange gifts have arrived safely and soundly around the globe. If you’ve received your gift, it would be lovely if you have time to upload photos of them in the Flickr pool in the next few days, if you haven’t already. Or, if you don’t have an account, feel free to email photos to the secret valentine email and we’ll post the photos for you! I’m planning on doing a big wrap-up post next Wednesday and would love to include as many photos as I can on the blog. If you haven’t received your gift yet, please kindly let us know by emailing us at secret.valentine[at]gmail.com. So far it seems like the majority of you have had a successful exchange!
I literally just received my gift from the very sweet Sonya, and I am incredibly touched by the care and consideration that went into the gifts. Thank you!! I need to take some photos, but it will all be part of the wrap-up next week.
In the meantime, in addition to my SV parcel, I opened the door to another unexpected package this past week. My partner in crime, Ute, delivered the most gorgeous scarf wrapped in an equally gorgeous handmade pouch. Friends, this exchange would not have happened without Ute. She did ALL the heavy-lifting while I squawked away on this space. All those emails signed “Sanae and Ute”? Almost all of them from the kind and generous Ute, making it all work smoothly and effortlessly. Three cheers for my wonderful friend!
I loved that we got to celebrate creativity and the joy of handmade among like-minded women for Valentine’s Day. I had the most delightful time, and I hope you did too! I am forever talking about how amazing this community is, but it keeps getting reinforced. Thank you.
It’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow and I have love on the mind. Let me start by saying that I’ve always been a late bloomer. I didn’t have my first kiss or boyfriend until I was seventeen (I somehow managed to miss out on the requisite pre-adolescent spin-the-bottle games). The other stuff came much, much, much later.
I was angst-y in my twenties, and I’m certain that I emitted a “stay away from me” vibe for most of that decade. It was terribly confusing to me that I sailed through my prime dating years without anything resembling a real boyfriend. My friends were befuddled as well and tried to set me up with their male buddies. I adamantly refused, citing extreme pickiness. Of course, I had a short-term relationship or two, but they were of the forced variety and I found true amor elusive.
Then one day, as my twenties were coming to a close, I had a revelation. I discovered that I had this soundtrack in my mind that kept repeating, “no one is ever going to love me.” It was so ingrained, I hadn’t noticed it nor had I realized how I was making it come true. I don’t know how it started, but it was there all right. How uncomfortable to see self-fulfilling prophecies in action. How sad. So I did something that was radical for me: I decided to throw away my impossible criteria for a mate, and just be open. If someone was foolish enough to ask me out with all my baggage and crazy self-talks, I would go out with him, dammit. I figured that at the very least, I’ll have a good yarn to spin.
And you know what? It was nuts. I clearly had a neon, blinking sign announcing “available” on my forehead, and guys started to ask me out on dates non-stop. One man actually ran after me in the streets of San Francisco, panting out a request for a get together. I said yes. And I finally agreed to be set up by those well-meaning friends (disaster, disaster-er, and disaster-est). I even took the plunge and initiated the asking on a few occasions. There was the investment banker, the lawyer, the writer, the sous chef (a fabulous tale I’ll have to share some time). The New Yorker illustrator, several businessmen, the co-worker, the academic, the buddhist who decided he was gay after dating me — my resolve faltered a bit after that one. There was a particularly sweet, much younger engineer who was so romantic and effusive in his sentiments for me. I thought he might be the ONE. Even a woman invited me out to a non-platonic rendezvous, and I considered it, but I decided that would be misleading since I’m decidedly heterosexual.
It’s a phase I think of as my “Rom Com period gone wrong”. The comedy of errors kept my friends in stitches during the recaps. I spent one date riding the bus aimlessly with an artist even angst-ier than I was. Think Before Sunrise with less attractive people and really boring, totally unphilosophical conversations. Another man kept telling me I had beautiful ankles.
These men were far more than their job titles, of course, but it was the way I thought of them. In most cases, I went out on only one date with each man. Chemistry is a pretty obvious thing, and not a lot of sparks happened. Over a period of about one year, I sampled amazing food at various restaurants and went to more bars and movies than I had in all the prior years combined, and though these dates were often uncomfortable, they were also undoubtedly fun. I suppose I should have been more cautious — given my uninhibited free-wheeling policy, one or more of them could have turned out to be a murderer. That would not have been fun.
In the midst of my harem-building, I met M. It’s one of my favorite stories. I was at my regular coffee shop haunt in San Francisco, writing in my journal as usual. It was a bustling and busy Sunday at the cafe, and I sat cozily next to a young-ish couple. After about an hour so, the woman asked if I would be around for awhile. “This guy,” she said, “he asked us to watch his laptop while he made some phone calls, but he’s been gone forever. Would you mind watching it?” I agreed, and they left. The laptop sat unattended for several minutes longer, and then the guy came back. He slid into the seat next to me looking annoyed that the couple was gone. Clad in a bright red floral hawaiian shirt over a yellow Che Guevera t-shirt, he was a muscular, good-looking man. Ken doll on steroids. I immediately dismissed him as batting for the other team; besides, I favored skinny, awkward, Jewish men in general, so I went back to my journal after informing him that I had been guarding his laptop. My suspicions were confirmed when one of the baristas, a friend of mine who happened to also be gay, solicitously started to wipe Hawaiian Shirt’s table, hitting on him in an oh-so-obvious way.
As it goes in coffee shops, Hawaiian Shirt and I began to talk, and I found out that he was an art major turned graphic designer turned start-up business owner opening up a new office in S.F., expanding his Seattle-based operations. This was during the dot-com era and everyone was opening offices everywhere. He was funny, but in a sarcastic way I wasn’t accustomed to. He talked ceaselessly of his business partner, who I assumed to be his boyfriend. So when he asked me for my phone number, my first thought was, “oh hooray, we’ll go shopping together.” I shopped a lot with my gay BFFs, and this being San Francisco, I had many. Imagine my surprise when we had our coffee date a week later. The rest, as they say, is history.
This is — in a rather convoluted way — a love letter to my husband. Who knows if our encounter was destiny or some star-crossed affair? Most likely not. All I know is that if I hadn’t decided to recklessly accept all incoming invitations at that very specific time in my life, I wouldn’t have learned what it feels like to unconditionally love and be loved. To see beyond the assumptions, to leap! Because that’s the life we’ve created together: one based on jumping into the unknown and trusting that we’ll turn out all right.
I hope you, too, have someone like that. It doesn’t have to be a spouse, but it could be a friend, a child (whether biological or adopted), a mentor. It doesn’t even have to be one person. I’m lucky to have several unbelievably kind people in my day-to-day that fill me up with goodness. Because love comes in all shapes and sizes, doesn’t it?
P.S. I’m liking my quick and dirty illustrations of constellations (practicing away at my digital painting!). Obviously, the love one is made up…
P.P.S Sewing is slow-going these days. I hope to have fun projects to share next week!
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:
Today, I’m guest-posting over at the KCW blog. I made a pretty poor showing with only a few items (technically one item) during this esteemed week dedicated to sewing, but I had a great time perusing all of the winter KCW projects, and rounded up some popular patterns. Hope you can check it out!
I’ll try to be back tomorrow with some fun Valentine’s stuff…(it’s starting to get a teensy bit overwhelming behind the scenes)
Greetings from snowy Seattle. Snow!! It’s been a winter wonderland for the past day or so, and this is highly unusual. The city stops dead in its tracks, uncertain of what to do with all this white stuff. K and M went sledding down a nearby hill yesterday, then returned almost immediately due to claims of “frostbite”. I stayed indoors (I hail from Los Angeles, need I say more?); basically we’re all wimps. And really, I should have been sewing puffy parkas and not a lightweight dress with bicycles plastered all over.
But that’s what we have for this Monday outfit, and I’m loving it. Doesn’t it feel fresh and, I don’t know, energizing? It almost makes me want to hop on a charming vintage bicycle for leisurely ride around the neighborhood. Almost. The little tie and keyhole opening add a sweet touch. It’s probably tricky to see but there are gathers on each side of the keyhole and in the center back. Small details that make the dress extra special, and the reason why I love Japanese patterns so much. The only changes I made were lengthening the skirt portion a touch, and ignoring the sleeve cuff snaps. The cuff snaps seemed unnecessary and K would end up fussing about snapping them (they had getting-dressed-for-school-meltdown written all over them).
I’m still confused about sizing though. This here is 120cm. I added a couple of centimeters to the hem as I usually do for this size, but it seems gargantuan. I know that it’s meant to be loose and generous in proportion, but I think K will be able to wear this till she’s fifteen.
The pattern is from this lovely book, and the fabric is a Michael Miller quilting cotton. The bicycle print is a nod to M, who is a die hard cyclist. He has one of those fancy schmancy bikes, and he can be found pedaling about all over town daily.
I threw in the chalkboard into the shoot for variety’s sake, but did you know that it’s virtually impossible to get a shot of the entire outfit when your child decides she actually wants to use the prop?
It’s very difficult. Although I couldn’t get a clear shot of the dress, this was one of the more painless photoshoots since she was enjoying herself thoroughly. She even asked me how to spell some words so she could write out a message for you:
She was quite proud of that one. She even signed it “K” without writing her entire name out. Without any prompting! That’s my girl…internet safety, baby.