A Humble Request + An Experiment

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This idea came to me over the weekend, and it terrified me so much, I knew I had to do it right away or I would lose my nerve. When my instincts pipe up, I listen. And my instincts had lots to say, so be forewarned.

I’ve been thinking about how much I love this blog. Out of the many, many meanderings I’ve taken career-wise — even though relentlessly writing about myself and sharing the things I concoct may not technically be considered a true vocation — it’s what feels most right for me, what brightens my days and keeps me motivated. Creating the content, building a community, improving existing skills and learning new ones. It’s incomparable. I’m convinced it’s a huge reason I became healthy again. Similarly, illustrating and writing books is something I believe I was meant to do. Sewing and photography have been like discovering two children I didn’t know I had. I am surprised by their appearance, it’s still a little awkward, but now I can’t imagine my days without them.

Almost three years ago, I made a pact with M. It was obvious how much I was enjoying this eclectic mix of “hobbies”, and he kept asking me to monetize the blog with ads, sponsors, offering up my services, etc. etc. We are not independently wealthy and his job situation is extremely sporadic as well. His suggestions made me bristle, so we made an agreement that until the end of 2015, I could spend time building my blog and pursuing ways to make a living doing what I love. My way. No ads, no sponsorship for the sake of dollars, no weird SEO or backlinking shenanigans. I don’t have anything against them theoretically, but I don’t like the way the ads look, I’ve only had sponsorship offers from tissue and nail polish companies and I can’t write naturally when thinking about SEO. I was game to offer my services, but then I got stuck on the question, “What kind of services?” At any rate, I wanted to focus on the blog and explore everything that genuinely interested me. I would operate on consistency, quality and trust, I pounded my chest and declared self-righteously. But the crux of the pact was this: If, by the end of 2015, I wasn’t earning a certain amount, I would go find a “real job”. Shortly after we shook on it, I got a book deal, and then the second book deal happened. I was over the moon, and thought I was set.

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But here’s the cold, hard truth: the things I love doing more than anything don’t bring home the bacon. They don’t even bring home bacon bits. At least not yet. I know I’m not very employable in the traditional sense anymore, so I’ve been wracking my brain, trying to think of business ideas, investigating products I could create, learning about textile design, trying to develop a freelance writing/illustration/photography portfolio. All these options require serious time and upfront costs, of which, due to my current commitment to book #2, I am struggling to find. I have every intention of pursuing all these things though.

Uncomfortable details about the cold, hard truth: although publishing two books is an honor beyond anything I could have imagined, would you like to know how much I actually make per book in royalties? A little over $1. I need to sell a tremendous number of books to make a living. And I won’t make a penny until I earn enough to cover the advance payment. For Little Kunoichi, I received $5,000, which is pretty standard for a book advance unless you’re the likes of Stephen King. Not to put too fine a point on it, I received $2500 when I signed the book contract in January 2014, and then received the other half in August of last year two months after I finished everything.

And did you know? To get on the New York Times bestseller list, which then boosts sales, you need to sell roughly 5,000 books in a week (this number is debatable and varies depending on genre, but it’s what I found from my quick research). Though that number is less than I expected, my publisher told me they are hoping that we can sell about 3,000 copies of Little Kunoichi in the first three months. As I understand it, that’s a realistic expectation for my sort of book. I can’t assume that we’ll hit that number, so the bestseller list and covering my advance can feel rather out of reach. As long as I’m being blunt about all of this, I’ve made zero money this year so far. Including all the little odds and ends I did while working on the books, last year I made $9,500. Total. Pre-tax. And almost all of that went right back into book #2 and blog costs. Book #2, by the way, won’t be published until 2016. Plus, if I consider the number of hours I’ve put into the books (and blog), I’m pretty sure I’m clocking in at about 2 cents per hour, if that.

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I don’t want this to be a pity party or come across as woe-is-me, because I wouldn’t trade my current life for anything and I feel so lucky to be doing what I’m doing. I truly think I’m happier and healthier than I’ve ever been. I have the flexibility of spending quality time with my amazing 8-year-old every day and she gets to see a contented mama. If it were up to me, I would willingly continue blogging and creating books for a pittance. I would even pay to do what I’m doing (my husband would point out that I am, in fact, doing just that).

However, I do have a family and responsibilities, and my deadline is approaching. 9 months will fly by. M has been so patient and has been trying his level best not to complain about my inability to make a contribution to the family coffers. I have no aims or even the desire to make gobs of dough and M isn’t expecting that either. We live a very, very simple life. The goal is to at least double last year’s income…perhaps I have a skewed perspective, but it doesn’t seem that outlandish a goal. I have no illusions and know that there has to be trade-offs. As someone who used to make a six-figure salary and ruined my health and damaged relationships as a result, I’m well aware of this. But M’s logic is, “Does it have to be either/or? Make lots of money and be miserable or make no money and be happy? Can’t you find a job that doesn’t stress you out that you like — you don’t have to love your job, right? At what point is living the dream jeopardizing the family?” It’s a fair question, that last one. But I don’t have to answer it yet. I have about 270 days left.

I took inventory of what specifically has kept my interest over the past couple of years and what has drained me:

LOVE AND WANT TO DO
– coming up with ideas
– writing personal stories that I feel will be relevant to others
– creating storytelling packages that include visual elements and words
– variety within structure
– connecting with people in an authentic way, collaborating and creating small but mighty communities
– giving gifts
– learning new skills
– a flexible schedule / being able to work at coffee shops and studios
– being my own boss
– intentional sewing

DON’T LOVE AND DON’T WANT TO DO
– making the same things over and over aka mass production
– putting on airs, pretending to be someone I’m not to impress, gain readers, etc.
– selling and shipping products etsy style
– working alone at home
– doing what everyone else is doing

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Enter the Furoku membership. Furoku is the bonus gift that used to come with the monthly Japanese comic books I devoured when I was a kid. I talked about it in this post, and I waited with bated breath each month because I never knew what kind of furoku would be included.

This was my thought process: what if I offered a sort of subscription? The blog will remain ad-free and I will keep posting regularly, but for $10 a month, members would get a special email with some sort of digital furoku from me once a month. It could be a sewing tutorial/translation I’ve created, or maybe a riotously embarrassing essay from my life that I normally wouldn’t share and would be blackmail-worthy (can you believe I have any left??), or maybe a printable download for holidays — perhaps even a short ebook or some sort of video. So many possibilities! It would be fun for you, fun for me. The hope is that it would start with once a month delivery and potentially increase in frequency or develop into a full-blown site with furoku archives and forums and ways to interact. Maybe we can have virtual sewing sessions! Am I crazy? Have I lost you? I figure it’s worth a shot even if just a handful of people sign up — the one thing I don’t seem to have trouble with is coming up with ideas. But without some sort of financial validation, I can’t justify working on the blog that I hope brings some value or at least a smile to you, no matter how much it affirms my own existence. And the books…well, even a die-hard optimist and arithmetic-challenged bookworm like me can do the math.

I wholeheartedly believe in what I do and make. I might be off my rocker, but I utterly have faith that I can make a go at this blogging/creating/community-building/book-making thing but I’m not sure if I can prove it fiscally to M in the next 9 months. I have no idea how all those big-time blogs have done it, but my readership growth has been modeled after the inchworm. I have the best, smartest, kindest, most talented and loveliest readers, but there’s not a whole lot of you out there from what I can tell. Sometimes this is discouraging when I see the other people’s stats. But I don’t even need to be big-time! If I don’t achieve our agreed upon benchmark by the end of this year (a humble sum of $20,000), I will honor my word and shut down the blog, complete my book and find a reliable “real” job. But I’m not doing that without kicking and screaming and putting forth every ounce of creative energy I have to make this work.

I want to invite you to ride along and be a part of this venture with me. To create a space of giving, of sharing real (and ideally entertaining) information on how to create a sustainable life that feels right, of forming a small but mighty community — all for the price of two lattes per month. Okay, maybe three lattes. I want to make beautiful, functional or at the very least interesting things for you. I also want to transparently show you the dollars and cents as I progress, and I plan on sharing monthly reviews of my income for the rest of the year. I’ve found that I rarely get a true sense of how people in the “creative” field and bloggers are actually earning a living and I want to do something different. I thought of making that info available for members only, but that felt scammy, so it will be here on the blog and I’ll share the behind the scenes stuff with members. It’s still a little vague and will change organically, I know, but the blog will continue to be a recording of my life and sewing in general, and the membership will be based on the monthly digital gifts that I hope are uplifting and useful along with inside scoops and the nitty gritty of figuring out how to make a life worth living on my own terms.

This is an experiment. Maybe it will be a spectacular failure and I’ll slink away from the overwhelming lack of interest, or maybe I will have stumbled upon something triumphant. Even a few members would be a triumph. I want to try this. Will you?

[Updated: I’ve removed the subscription button for now, and will open up membership every month – thank you, thank you!]

I will leave this post up for the rest of the week as I watch with trepidation and excitement from the sidelines and work on the first furoku. Also, I’m flying by the seat of my pants here, so if anything is weird with that subscribe button, please let me know. You can, of course, unsubscribe at any time. Thank you, my friends, from the very depths of my over-sharing heart.

P.S. The winner of the giveaway is Greta, congrats! You should have received an email from me already.

P.P.S The illustration at the very top is the one I used for the dedication page in Little Kunoichi. I dedicated it to M and K, of course.

Happy Friday + Randomness

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Happy Friday! I meant to have a sneak peek of my upcoming children’s book today, but due to some unexpected snafus and technical problems on my part, I was foiled — I’m hoping for better luck next week!

I’m working on the custom illustrations from what is now an embarrassingly long time ago, and as my mother-in-law would say, the whole process is moving “slower than molasses in January.” I just hope I’m still not apologizing this time next year! The horse above is one of the few I’ve been able to finish. My scanner lost quite a bit of the details, but I actually like this version.

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Early in the morning yesterday:

K: Mama! You look so tired! You shouldn’t go outside — you have big fat lines under your eyes…

Me: I do? That’s okay, I don’t really care what I look like.

K: No, I don’t mean that. I’m saying you shouldn’t go outside because I’m worried you might fall asleep and collapse while you’re walking.

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Have a wonderful weekend, my friends! Postings might get a little spotty these next few weeks as I enter the last couple months of working on book #2. I’ll do my best to stay up to date here, though I must ‘fess up that I’ve officially caught the instagram bug and can be found there pretty regularly now (can’t.stop.following.people – so much inspiration! It’s like my first blush of Pinterest obsession all over again). It’s probably the cause of those big fat lines under my eyes…

I’m telling myself
I will not get overwhelmed
Not sure it’s working*

*It would probably help if I’d cut back on the social media. But oh, all the pretty images!

Sewing for Me: Ginger Skinny Jeans Muslin #2

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We’re getting close. In my glacial-paced sewing of the Ginger skinny jeans, we last left off at discovering that the size 12 made me look like I’d sampled Charlie Chaplin’s trousers. Like so:

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So I shaved off a size from the original muslin and dutifully sewed up a size 10 muslin (fabric salvaged!).

At first glance and with a roomy top (the beige-y top is a Renfrew I made in the softest imaginable bamboo knit a while back that I never shared here. I love it to death), it’s looking pretty good up there in the topmost image.

But then, you see that the hip area could use some denim liposuction:

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And holy cow, I truly have no butt, so I need to take a few inches off of the center of the back yokes:

ginger-2ndmuslin5Sorry about all the dust on the floor – I actually swept the floors before taking photos and it makes me question my cleaning abilities.

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Now, I have to confess that it was terribly, terribly exciting that I had to go down two whole sizes (except for my calves. Those are solidly size 12). Then I read that these patterns tend to give you extra wiggle room, so poof went my momentary thrill that my plodding, 16-minutes-per-mile treadmill workouts might actually be having an effect.

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Oh well. At this point I exercise because I love the endorphins, so I’ve made peace with the idea that there may not be a fitness model bod lurking underneath my currrent physique. The important thing is this: I’m seeing the potential for a flattering pair of skinnies on the near horizon. Because I’m deep like that. Though at the rate I’m going, the near horizon is most likely a few months away. Still, I’ve got my snazzy rivets and jean zipper from Thread Theory, and a few tweaks to go. I am wildly optimistic.

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Monday Outfit: Sailor Dress + Giveaway! [CLOSED]

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Good morning! One of the unexpected perks of starting this little online documentation of sewing and whatnot has been the relationship I’ve developed with Tuttle Publishing. Considered the largest publisher of “Asian-interest” books, they’ve recently been adding a slew of translated Japanese sewing books to their catalog. It’s been such a thrill to receive books before they’re let loose into the big world, especially when they’re the type of books I’ve adored and sewn from for years. Like this beauty by Yoshiko Tsukiori, who is one of the top designers of Japanese sewing patterns:

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What makes this book especially appealing to me is that the sizing goes up to 140cm (roughly equivalent to sizes 8-10). For K, this means I could sew outfits from this book for another couple of years (she’s currently a perfect 130cm, and each size seems to last over a year with their generous proportions). I’ve gotten emails asking if I know of any teen-sized Japanese sewing books, and so far I haven’t been very successful in hunting down any. Then again, the smallest size from the women’s Japanese sewing books will probably be up to the task.

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But back to this lovely book. This one takes the approach of offering up eight basic patterns, and each pattern can be modified in several ways (the modified patterns are called “Applied” in the book). I counted 18 variations, but the possibilities are limitless.

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Here are a couple of spreads that I really liked:

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And when I saw the sailor dress, I was all over it. Anything nautical or sailor-themed makes me weak at the knees.

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I had just the fabric, and though it’s described as midweight quilting cotton, it’s actually quite fluid in its drape.

dotted-sailor-dress6This book requires a lot of flipping back and forth to look for the illustrated or photographic step-by-step instructions, but it wasn’t too bad. In fact, the step-by-step photos were excellent, and as a visual learner, I appreciated them immensely. Also included are basic sewing tutorials that are heavily photo-based as well, and overall, this is my kind of book.

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The trickiest bit for this dress was the front placket, and I had to put my full body weight onto the iron to get the bottom of the placket to lay flat because I managed to sew it all puckered. Looks nice and flat now, right?

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As for changes I made to the pattern…I don’t like armhole facings, so I created my own bias tape instead. Appears much cleaner that way to me, and I imagine it’s more comfortable for K.

I love this dress! And I love this book!

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You, my lucky readers, can win your very own copy since Tuttle generously sent me two. And if you don’t want to leave things to chance, the book is available for pre-order now and will be officially launching in a mere two days on March 17th!

If you’d like to enter the giveaway, please leave me a comment with…let’s see…Okay, I have spring break on my mind, so how about a dream spring break location? If you could go anywhere in the world for spring break, where would you like to jet (or sail) to? Italy is sounding really good to me right now. Or perhaps New Zealand, because the season would be completely opposite and that would be fun.

The giveaway will be open until this Friday, March 20th, and I’ll announce the winner on the following Monday. International entries welcome as always! Good luck!

 

 

 

 

Happy Friday + Randomness

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Happy Friday! I’m working on (what I hope will be) a fun sneak peek post for Little Kunoichi next week, and as I was planning it, I thought of my favorite illustrator in the world: Carson Ellis. My own drawings feel like feeble chicken scratches next to her masterful art, but I don’t hold that against her. She just released a new book, Home, and oh…it’s classic Carson Ellis with the luscious details and hidden gems and muted tones that feels so very Pacific Northwest. Like this:

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This is her debut as auther/illustrator though she’s a veteran illustrator; in the past, she’s teamed up with her musician and writer husband to write a runaway bestselling children’s series (I hear the movie rights are in the works) and has illustrated some of my all-time beloved books like this one. It’s one of K’s faves too.

I have every intention of becoming friends with Carson even though she has no earthly idea of who I am. I feel the same way about Molly of Orangette (who is also unaware of my existence). As a trio, I’m certain we can combine cooking, illustrating and sewing into a grand force of good — with some writing thrown in. My hope is that I’ll think back on this post in the near future and chuckle slightly red-cheeked about my creepy stalker-ness as I sip coffee with Carson and Molly at one of the fabulous cafes in the PNW. We need to dream big, people.

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K on getting older:

“Mama, my life as a tween is hard.” 

I sympathized and told her it sounded like a good title for a book. That made her smile. What do you think?

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Off to get my weekend started! Hope you all have a lovely one!

SVE gift’s here
I knew it would be gorgeous
above and beyond*

*My SVE partner was Mirta of Modern Botanics and you can see a glimpse of her gift(s) on instagram. She crafts charming and beautifully handmade/handprinted goods out of her dreamy studio in Italy. Grazi, Mirta! I’ll feature more details later, because the gift deserves a full post!

What I Made for 2015 SVE

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Well, the postal system is still holding hostage my SVE gift, so I thought I might as well show you what I sewed up for my partner Jana. Jana is a multi-talented “Bohemian girl living in Switzerland”, and includes in her CV of eclectic accomplishments: nurse, interior designer, stylist, all-around taste-maker. I love love love her aesthetic and when I saw that her favorites were the color white, linen and leather, I immediately knew what to make.

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Jana and I both seem to lean toward simple, clean designs, and I thought a floaty linen cami would fit the bill. I used one of my prized blue and white linen fabrics (so soft!) and adjusted the cami pattern from this book so that the straps would be adjustable. From the image in the book, I actually thought the straps were designed to be adjustable, but in fact, they’re set in and the ties are sewn in separately:

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I simply created a casing out of the front yoke (which, by the way, could also be worn on the back) and threaded the straps through the openings.

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I’ve been plotting to sew quite a few things from this book, but alas, there just isn’t enough time in the day for the interim, so I’m adding the tunic, apron and my very own cami to my ever-growing to-do list.

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I also wanted to include a small leather element for Jana, so I created this color-block drawstring bag on the fly — also made out of linen — and I’m super pleased with the way it came out. And bonus: the Secret Valentine Exchange tag fit in the upcycled leather pocket perfectly! Do you recognize the leather cord? It’s the same one I used for K’s jacket that I shared on Monday.

I loved sewing these up so much and briefly debated keeping them for myself — I hope Jana liked the combo as much as I did!

It sounds like there are a few of you still waiting for gifts. I apologize that I haven’t been following up as frequently as I would have liked, though we did anticipate some lag given the large number of international participants. We ended up with 100+ participants in over 20 countries! Ute and I have been talking about trying to sort participants more by region next time….from what I’ve seen on the flickr group and instagram hashtag feed for #2015sve, there have been some very happy exchanges though! Ultimately, I think it’s the spirit of giving that matters and the generosity and thoughtfulness have had my head bobbing in amazement. More updates soon!

Monday Outfit: “Robe Jacket”

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Good morning, friends! I started to make K yet another animal print top as per her request this past weekend, but I just couldn’t do it. Instead, I flipped through my favorite Japanese sewing book, and was intrigued by the “Robe Jacket”. It reminded me of a mini version of the jacket I made a while back, and I had a hankering to sew with linen, so Robe Jacket it was. This is what the illustration looks like in the book (you can’t see them, but there are additional ties inside):

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And here’s my version:

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You can see that I didn’t follow instructions to the letter. I knew that K wouldn’t even attempt to tie those multiple, kimono-inspired strands, so I just added two leather cords that could be tied or just left loose.

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I’m deeply in love with this leather cord. I found the spool buried in a sales box at Anthropologie over the holidays and I snatched it up. The fact that it’s on a wooden spool excited me beyond a conventional level.

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This raglan jacket is a super quick sew, or at least it was for me since I didn’t bother with all the topstitching or the extra ties. I cut out the fabric pieces Saturday evening, then started sewing Sunday morning, and I was done within a couple of hours. I just love this Essex yarn-dyed linen. It’s a cotton blend, I believe, and is such an accommodating yet stylish fabric.

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K puckered her lips and said, “It looks weird, Mama.” I beg to disagree – with the neutral outfit she happened to be wearing already (chosen by herself! Be still my happy heart), I think it looks awesome.

 

Here’s the trick: add some funky, pop music in the background, and she’ll dance and sing away, forgetting that she thought the jacket was odd. And then, if you’re lucky, you get a big ole smile:

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I went ice skating over the weekend! K’s classmate had a birthday party, and I was one of the only parents willing to go on the ice — a decision I questioned the whole time. The battered leather rental skates didn’t seem up to the task of supporting my feet, but they clung on. For a split second, I forgot to be scared and glided across the vast frozen expanse…then K nearly tripped me. If you’re in the Seattle area, I highly recommend the Lynnwood Ice Center. It’s huge, and I’m told by those in the know that it doesn’t get very crowded. K loved it so much she wants her own birthday party there, but since she’s turning 9 in the month of July, I feel the need to explore other options…

P.S. The tee is from this post and the suspender skirt from this one (wow, I made that one two years ago and she still fits in it!).

 

 

 

Happy Friday + Randomness

 

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Happy Friday! It’s been a whirlwind of a week, and I have much to report, but I’m keeping it short and sweet today. This just in: for anyone still waiting for SVE gifts, it’s more than likely that your Secret Valentine shipped from a particular region where the postal system has been delayed several weeks. In fact, my very own Secret Valentine is in that region so I’m waiting for my gift with bated breath (I, of course, know who my partner is and know I’m going to receive something amazing). I’m going to wait to do the round-up until I have the present in my hot little hands, but in the meantime, if you participated and still haven’t received your gift, give me and Ute a shout out.

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We have a guinea pig in the house. We’re pet-sitting for K’s friend, and I have to admit that Dorothy — as she’s called — is pretty darn cute with her sparkly eyes and pudgy bod. She’s very well trained and doesn’t like leaving her cage. My kind of pet. We’ll see how I feel after a week with good ole Dorothy.

K is smitten. I can already see the cogs in her mind turning to figure out how to talk me into getting one.

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Have a wonderful weekend, friends! I’m off to go recharge…

Daylight savings time
Tends to throw my schedule off
But it’s worth the change*

*I’m looking forward to longer-lasting daylight!

I Can Do Anything, But I Can’t Do Everything

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Throughout my childhood and beyond, my mom kept telling me that I can do anything that I set my mind to. I believed her wholeheartedly and set my mind to many career paths, and I have accumulated quite an eclectic background in various fields and industries. I jumped from corporate boardrooms to high school classrooms to theater productions to technology groups to the freelance life in writing, sewing, illustrations and photography. I seem to perennially be a Jane of all trades, master of none.

Recently, I realized that I’ve misunderstood my mom all this time. Somehow I was hearing, “You can do everything.” This is a very dangerous and unhealthy mistake, I’m discovering. We have so many roles to play, all of us, and I constantly have a running monologue in my mind in the form of a checklist. A typical list includes:

  • do laundry
  • plan photo shoots
  • develop patterns
  • schedule K’s playdate
  • remind M to fill out tax forms
  • meet with friend for coffee
  • sew skinny jeans
  • write blog post
  • paint custom illustration
  • contact so-and-so to promote Little Kunoichi
  • buy compost bags and zit cream
  • pick-up guinea pig from K’s friend (we’re pet sitting)

…and the list keeps getting longer and longer every day. Like other moms and women, I juggle home-management with some semblance of work, all the while trying to maintain relationships and family commitments.

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Things are falling through the cracks. And the cracks are getting bigger.

A few weeks ago, I had coffee with two delightful and mind-bogglingly talented friends and we talked about the concept of “polymath” – a person with expertise in multiple disciplines. We each have ardent curiosity and enthusiasm for a variety of pursuits including arts and hard sciences and psychology and technology. But because we have so many interests, it’s easy to feel scattered and unfocused. It’s also easy to believe it’s possible to do it all. I mean, just look at all those overnight successes on the internet. Did you hear about the youtube video sensation that garnered millions of hits? A woman unwraps toys from Target. That’s all she does. The seemingly low bar of such stories inserts thoughts in my mind that maybe I too can create some fantastically popular video and rake in gazillions (maybe by folding fabric into origami shapes?) and spend the rest of my days becoming a polymath at a leisurely pace.

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I know that the definition for success is amorphous, and money and youtube viewer numbers are not the best indicators, unless that’s your particular M.O. The other morning as I was dropping off K and her friend at school, the friend asked me what I was going to do for the rest of the day. I prattled off something about editing images and writing and she said, “Wow, your day sounds awesome!” And then she said, “If you become famous, will you buy a new car?” Because you know, we drive a junky old car and clearly famous people would never own such a vehicle. I informed her that the chances of me becoming famous are slim to none and it would be a long, long, long time before I could afford to buy a new car at the rate I was going. She looked disappointed that my “job” wasn’t as glamorous as she’d hoped. Remember how I started trying out the Amazon affiliate links? I earned $18.25 for the month of February. Exciting, but not exactly rolling in the dough.

In all but the financial realm though, I’ve been inching closer to my own personal definition of success. For me, a life well-lived is being able to spend my days on my own terms doing what I love with people who matter to me, and I want to create small ways to add beauty and goodwill around me. I’ve always wanted some version of that, though I’ve been fuzzy about what that actually looks like. For my college admissions essay, I unapologetically wrote, “I want to make the world a better place.” Ah, such an earnest idealist. I don’t hold grandiose aspirations at a global level anymore, but if I can nurture my family, be a good friend, and perhaps provide a space that’s on the positive end of the spectrum here with this blog, I’d be heading in the right direction.

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My point is not that I am a financial failure nor that I’ve achieved some sort of exalted state of following my passion (ugh – yet another word I can’t seem to write without cringing). I think I’m trying to say that I’m getting closer to a way of living that feels right for me via slow and deliberate steps, but I’m also getting greedy about all the things I want to do. I want to be excellent at everything I love, and it’s just not possible, at least not all at once and not in my lifetime, most likely.

This second book I’m working on serves as an example. When I signed the deal, I agreed to do all of the writing, illustrations, pattern development and photography. It was such an honor! I couldn’t believe they thought I could handle this! The publisher told me that they’ve never actually had one person do all of that for a book. I felt my stomach sink a little at that revelation, but it sounded like a hearty challenge. And let’s be real: the publisher was getting more bang for their buck. It was smart on their part.

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At first, I took on every aspect of the book by myself because I have a hard time asking for help. I stayed in my lone wolf comfort zone, writing the words, sewing and illustrating the projects and trying to style and photograph them. It became quickly apparent that my skills were lacking in many of the areas and this bummed me out — I worried about the quality of the book. Eventually, I owned up to where I couldn’t do certain tasks at the level I desired and tentatively reached out for assistance. Sure, I could try to continue bumbling through on my own, but it was uncanny how events unfolded as soon as I accepted my limitations. For example, a few months ago, I admitted to myself that I wasn’t as good a stylist as I wanted to be, then an old friend who’s in the styling biz contacted me out of the blue and after a lovely catch-up session, she connected me to her stylist network here in Seattle.

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This past weekend, with the pro bono help of my long-time friend and a new friend — professional stylists with decades of combined experience under their belts — we had a test photo shoot at my house and it was brilliant. They showed up in front of my house loaded up with bins of props and flowers and produce. So fun, so energizing, so full of inspiration. So very different from my lonely, solitary photo shoots filled with doubt and a sense of misgiving. I did, however, suss out that I had to up my photography game significantly since I couldn’t even set up my tripod properly without aid. And it dawned on me that shooting for print is less forgiving than shooting for the web, so I’m already working on rectifying the situation. I am completely open to suggestions for all you photography experts out there.

By the same token, frustrated by the pattern-drafting process, I talked about it with friends some more, and then got hooked up with a professional pattern drafter/sewing expert. She’s been giving me invaluable advice on construction methods for my patterns and it hit home how inadequate my pattern-making skills are. My eyes filled with grateful tears when she showed me an ingenious zipper insertion technique and wowed me with her ability to look at my sketch and immediately figure out the construction.

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Other friendlies from the sewing sphere have kindly offered their time to test patterns. And on and on and on. I’ve been overwhelmed by the depth and breadth of magnanimity. And I may even ask you, my dear readers, for input and recommendations. What started out as a daunting solo project has morphed into a wonderfully collaborative, stimulating team effort that’s teaching me so much.

With enough time and knowledge and hard work, I can probably do anything, but I certainly can’t do everything. There’s no shame in not being able to do it all; a few years ago, I would have rather asphyxiated myself with a jump rope than type those words. Sometimes things will fall through the ever-present cracks, but that’s part of the whole process, no? A process of letting go, of finding a foothold in my strengths and being honest about my limitations, grasping onto outreached hands for support. And repeating this cycle for myself, for others, for everything — could this be the way to climb unimaginable heights? Maybe it’s not even about climbing heights but marveling at the power of community to move mountains (or molehills in my case)? As usual, I only have questions and few answers.

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P.S. The images are outtakes from this past weekend’s photo shoot with fabulous stylists Allie and Rachel.

Monday Outfit: Bow Dress

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Good morning! I did something hitherto unheard of: I planned ahead. For almost all these Monday outfit posts, I usually start sewing on Saturday afternoon after thinking a few minutes about what wardrobe holes I can fill in K’s closet (this is becoming pretty challenging, as you can imagine). Although she’s growing like a rice plant amped up on Miracle-Gro, sewing for K takes a fraction of the time it takes to sew for myself, so I’m usually done by early evening. After breakfast on Sunday, we have a five-minute photo shoot and by now, these posts take me about an hour, if that, including photo editing time.

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Anyway. Two weekends ago, I decided to spend a little extra time sewing up this bow dress in addition to the Giraffe print outfit, and I snapped photos and got most of the photo editing done last week. This made a huge difference! I felt so much more on top of things since I had all of Saturday and Sunday to check off items from my to-do list this past weekend  — not a feeling I’m familiar with, I’m afraid.

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It was somewhat challenging to infuse enthusiasm in K for modeling this dress since she loved the giraffe print combo and wanted to start with that one instead (but I knew she’d refuse to try on the dress had I gone that route), and above she’s saying “Mamaaaaaaaa, are we done yet??”

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Then she brought out the teddy bear I knitted for her about 7 years ago, and that soothed her. That bear was one of the few successful knitting projects I’ve managed in my un-illustrious knitting career.

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So the dress: it’s from my current fave book, and I’m determined to sew every single thing from it. I think I only have about four or five things left that I haven’t yet tried! The fabric is from this sweet little shop and is a cotton shirting. It reads purple, but you can see that it’s actually red + white + navy, quite patriotic.

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This is a deceptively simple dress to sew. I did have to fudge a little where the ties meet the neckline in a couple of spots, but otherwise, it was a snap to construct. The pleated detail at the back of the neck is a design-y touch, but I have to say, I think this dress would look a lot cuter if the bodice wasn’t just a simple A-line. If I were to make it again, I would trim the width, and make it a low-waist bodice with a gathered skirt. With a different fabric choice, it probably wouldn’t quite so matronly or flight-attendant-esque.

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I like it, though. And K thought choking li’l bear with her ties was hilarious.

Sigh, I wish I had the foresight to sew this past weekend so that I could experience that remarkable sensation of being ahead of schedule, but you know how it goes. It was still a very productive weekend! I hope you had a lovely weekend, friends!