Sewing for a Fifth Grader!!

5thgrade-bagoutfit1Holy moly, what is going on with time?? I used to crow about my time management skills, but I’ve got nothing to crow about now. So summer is officially over, and K is a fifth grader! In the Seattle public school system, the new year begins the Wednesday after Labor Day (except for kindergartners — they start a few days later). K’s been nervous.

About a month ago, she asked me to make her a school bag. This caused me to do a double-take because she doesn’t ask me to make her stuff anymore. When asked why, she said, “Last year all my friends kept asking me if you made my backpack and I didn’t like saying no. I love your bags, and my friends were so impressed with the ones you’ve made.” Well. I thought the backpack we purchased from Fred Meyer was lovely, but if peer pressure is the key to feeling handmade pride, I suppose I’ll have to take it. So I made her a bag.


Actually, I made three bags. What you see is the main messenger bag on the left, and a lunch bag on the right.

5thgrade-bagoutfit14I also made a “binder case” as she calls it because…I’m still a little unclear on the reasoning, but she insisted and it wasn’t too difficult, so a binder case materialized. I just made up the pattern as I went along, making sure that it would fit the binder and also still slip into the messenger bag. She’s demonstrating the magnetic snaps of the case up there.

For the main messenger bag, I used A Happy Stitch’s excellent pattern. Melissa, you are a genius! It’s the perfect size and easily accommodates her binder case and a hot pink pencil pouch (not handmade).


I used a laminated cotton (or an oil cloth? What are these things? Why do I not save the selvage??) for the outer fabric which K chose herself, and the lining is quilting cotton I’ve had for an eternity, which I also used as binding for the lunch bag raw edges.


And then there is the lunch bag. I added fusible fleece for a little bit of insulation, and again, I made this pattern up based on the height of that purple unicorn water bottle that’s peeking out up there. I referenced the instructions for the travel case in Anna‘s book, Handmade Style, and added the straps. It was tricky using the slippery fabric for the lining as well as the outer fabric, but in the end, it all worked out.

So she can carry her multiple bags like this:


Or like this:


There’s a happy bag lady on the premises. Whew, that was well worth the effort. The one off-putting part of the process was when I discovered this:


Can you see it? That curlicue thing? It’s a piece of hair stuck between the laminate and fabric. I thought it was thread at first, but no. It adds a decidedly human element to the textile. Ew, was my first reaction, but then I thought, you know what? Someone worked hard at laminating this. Good try! K said, “I’m glad you didn’t accidentally use that part for the lunch bag.” Just in case that makes it sounds as though I used it for the other bags, I did not use that section of the fabric at all.


And before you ask, I didn’t make a first day of school outfit. For the first time ever, K picked out an ensemble from a store. Her dream retail destination? Target. In fact, she’s wearing Target from head-to-toe.


She was over the moon excited. It’s funny, she’s never really asked whether she can get store-bought clothes because I think she assumed I wouldn’t let her. Since I’m in the throes of finishing up book #3, I stopped kidding myself and gave up on trying to make her clothes in time for the first day of school. It was never my intention to make all her clothes for the rest of her life and I don’t have a fervent anti-fast-fashion mission. The goal was to see if I could make all her clothes for a year, and without my realizing it, it had stretched out to four years. Sure, I support the values that come with making things by hand, but I also appreciate a good retail sale. It struck me that by not allowing K to choose her own clothes, I might be causing some weird complex in her.

I found it interesting that when presented with racks and racks of tween clothing, she didn’t go crazy and pick out a zillion options, but was quite decisive and economical. The rule: one outfit, which meant either a top, bottom and outerwear or a dress and outerwear. She knew she most likely wanted skinny jeans, but beelined for a dress just to try (it was a white, lacy number that surprised me). For the top, she selected three options. The white one she ultimately chose, a black sweatshirt with “Girl Power” stenciled on it, and a purple t-shirt. For the jacket, she plucked the knit denim zip-up that you see and a grey one that was similar in style. She also bought the headband with her own money.


It was a very satisfying shopping trip. Afterwards, she sighed happily, hugged and thanked me about a million times, and then…we moved on. Soon the white shirt will get stained. She’ll outgrow the skinny jeans. But I think it was an eye-opening exercise for her. She had fun perusing the available options, but she didn’t actually like as many of the clothes as she thought she would.

Anyway. Fifth grade!!! I wonder what it will be like? Fingers crossed that her first day of school (today) is a good one.


Alright, I’m still in the midst of deadlines, but will be back sometime next week. I have more sewing to share from weeks and weeks ago!

A quick pop-in and a change of heart towards knitting


Hello! I didn’t mean to stay away for 3 weeks, but life has a way of creating a vortex of activities that then turn into more activities…but enough with the excuses.


I am, in fact, still in retreat mode and haven’t really been online much. Instead, I’ve been spending more time making things and it’s been restorative. I have to say: knitters, I finally get it. After years and years of balking at the craft, citing inane things such as “I can’t seem to count!” or “I just don’t have the patience,” I thoroughly and utterly fell in love with it these past few weeks.

What am I making? I have no idea. I’m just knitting and purling and seeing where the stitches take me, but I find the process so profoundly meditative and calming (and so portable!), I keep reaching for this little project of mine whenever I have a few moments to spare. One of the surprising parts of publishing Sewing Happiness was meeting many women who came to my readings or emailed me telling me how familiar my story was, how they found healing through making things too. Most of them, I noticed, were knitters and so I became curious. I dug out two skeins of Debbie Bliss baby cashmerino in slate — yarn that I’ve been hoarding for roughly 8 years for a “special project someday”.

The actual project I’m working on is unremarkable, but I’m glad I finally used the yarn, and when I ran out, I added some cream-colored wool I got from Seattle Recreative, the craft thrift store and art center I’ve mentioned before. Knitting has been lovely and so very soothing, just what I’ve been needing.


My mom is in town right now, and it’s always such a treat. I don’t cook at all while she’s here because she whips up things like this in a nanosecond:


Yes, that’s a lot of sashimi. She makes every day a party.

I hope we don’t die of mercury poisoning, but oh, the sushi rolls we inhaled were divine.


Summer is ending and K starts fifth grade next week. I have some fun sewing to share soon, but as I said, I’m still in cocoon mode and can’t guarantee regular posting for some time yet. We are going away for a few days to one of the small islands nearby this afternoon, and I hope it’s rejuvenating. More soon. I miss you, but this time away has done me wonders.

P.S. Furoku members, #18 will be heading your way by the end of the week!


Gone on Vacation


Good morning! I am actually still here. In Seattle. Or rather, as I write this we are preparing for an overnight “trip” to a suburb for the last of K’s birthday celebration. We will stay in the new-ish McMenamins Anderson School, which should be quite the experience. It’s possible that we’ve gone a tad bonkers for our only child’s 10th birthday, but…well, I don’t feel too bad about it. We only live once and who cares what other people think, right? I have a feeling she’s going to remember her 10th bday with great fondness.

So the vacation is more of a mental one and I’m taking the next week or so off from this space to rejigger my noggin. I have to admit full defeat, my friends, because the hard life stuff has been like one of those trick birthday candles. I keep blowing and blowing, expecting the flame to extinguish, but no. There it is, popping right up again. Now that I’ve crossed off the last big thing for the summer with this final birthday celebration, I am a listless, amoeba-like mass, floating in a tide pool of exhaustion.

I must rest.

Have a wonderful week (or so), and see you back here in a few! xo

P.S. The image above is one I took when we went on a real deal vacation to Michigan. We roasted hot dogs and s’mores on the beach and the placid waters made for a lovely backdrop. Later, the sunset was gasp-inducingly gorgeous!

Happy Friday + Randomness


Happy Friday! Keeping it super duper short today since we’re attempting to get out of town this weekend. Above is one of the projects I worked on recently for the Seattle Japanese Garden that I believe is already printed by now. I had a wonderful time painting this, and it will be part of their self walking tour brochure. Fun! I hope to work on more maps in the future. I recently saw this book and this book in a store, and deliberated long and hard about purchasing them, but in the end, I left them on the shelf. I heart maps.

What are you up to,
this fine August end o’ week?
Hope it’s full of joy!

P.S. The winner of the embroidery book giveaway is Janice, congrats!

Health Food Experiments: Kombucha and Spiralizer


Yesterday, K and I had an epic playdate with some friends (gotta keep the kiddos entertained), and I was introduced to homemade kombucha. Have you ever had kombucha? The fermented tea can be easily made at home if you have a starter SCOBY, which is an acronym for “symbiotic ‘colony’ of bacteria and yeast”. My friend has been brewing up a batch regularly and kindly sent me home with my own jug to ferment. I had a sampling to taste, and it has the tang of apple cider vinegar with more sweetness. I really liked it and am curious to see if it’ll help with gut health. It seems to be the big new thing with the microbiome rage that’s going on. The SCOBY (shown below) I received isn’t the prettiest thing, but my friend assured me that in a couple of weeks, this black tea concoction will transform into kombucha.


In the spirit of healthy food experimentation, I also remembered that I purchased a spiralizer recently. It had been sitting in the box all but forgotten, but I gave it a test run after we got home from the playdate.


So pretty! The spiralizer is a small one but it comes with three blades, and is very easy to operate and clean. Though I’d seen similar contraptions online, I’d been mystified by how they actually work — now I know that it’s actually a lot of fun! I happened to come upon this model at my local store, but this one looks even easier to clean.


Basically, you stick a vegetable cut to about 2″ in height on the “post” which looks like the end of a small metal pipe sticking up, and a pronged surface holds the veggie in place while you crank the handle for slicing. What you see above is the ribbon blade in action. This is what the noodle looks like (you can also see how the cucumber “core” remains — it’s mimicking the apple coring concept):


The third option, “coily cut”, is slightly thicker than the noodle and would be great for curly fries. Alas, my coily cut cucumber didn’t turn out so photogenic so I don’t have a visual to share. Here’s another shot of the ribbon cucumber though — I just love the way it looks.  I’m going to be making a lot of ribbon cucumber salad, I can already tell.

kombucha-spiralizer4 kombucha-spiralizer5

I bought a bunch of zucchini and plan on making zucchini “pasta” tomorrow and will be utilizing that left blade up there. I’m so excited! And I am so going to make sweet potato curly fries. Yum.


As for the black tea kombucha, I’ll have to wait until August 16th to see if it fermented properly. Since my friend did all the prep work, I don’t know exactly how to make it (yet), but if I can manage to keep the SCOBY alive, a green tea kombucha would be lovely for the next round.

Have any of you tried kombucha-making or spiralizing? You know that I’m always looking for recipe recommendations. Which reminds me, thank you for all the light and summer-y recipe tips here!

P.S. Furoku members, #17 is headed your way in a couple of days!