Happy Friday + Randomness

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Happy Friday! A little illustration I made for a friend – I FINALLY started making progress on the custom illustrations and will start shipping them out over the next few weeks. Note to self: learn how to under-promise and over-deliver instead of the other way around.

This illo reminded me of how, late last night, our neighbor texted me for help. A bird mysteriously appeared in her house and was flapping wildly around in her bedroom. The odd part is that nothing was open — no doors, no windows, no vents. I sent M over to settle the matter, and though they weren’t able to identify the fowl, it looked a little like a crow (but with brownish-orange markings) and was big! M maneuvered the enigmatic bird out the front door with a broom and all was well.

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Friends, I have to share this adorable Powerpoint that K made (I wanted to keep the voiceover, but the file got too big so screen shots only):

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It may not be riveting content for those of you not passionate about frogs as K is, and I wish you could hear her voice because it really makes the presentation. And that last slide! Killed me. She made the whole thing herself, including figuring out how to do the voiceover. It wasn’t even a school assignment – she did it purely for fun.

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Have a wonderful, wonderful weekend!

February’s done
I better be careful or
the year will fly by*

*What??? It can’t be March already! One of my big goals for 2015 is to be more present (even though it makes me squirmy to type those words — I have weird issues with a lot of words/phrases) and I clearly have my work cut out for me. Speaking of being present, I checked this book out from the library as an afterthought since K wanted to stay longer to read, and I ended up loving it. I finished it last night and parts of it made me cry. I hope to be a wise American one day.

Beauty

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“Barbie (with pearl necklace)” by South African artist Marlene Dumas – 1997

 

There is a beautiful woman I see nearly every morning during my walk. Her hair is the shade of honey-infused lemon and I haven’t been able to discern the color of her eyes, but I’m guessing they’re blue. Slim, with delicate, symmetrical facial features and perfectly shiny, unfrizzy hair (I’m a bit obsessed with shiny, unfrizzy hair, if you haven’t noticed – my own tresses are channeling Einstein’s), she looks like an aristocratic, polished Barbie. I’ve never seen her smile, but I’d bet my mother’s prized costume jewelry collection that her teeth are blindingly white. She’s probably in her mid-twenties, give or take a few and puts a lot of effort into her appearance, you can tell. And she’s good at it. I love the crimson coat she sometimes pairs with her pretty black scuff-less boots — it’s a bold color that suits her. The chilly morning air flatteringly reddens her cheeks to almost match her coat and I can easily imagine her riding a thoroughbred amid some manicured estate with her handsome beau.

Then I catch myself. I assume so much in just the thirty seconds it takes for us to pass each other. I create an entire lifestyle for her, even a past and a future. Most notably, I assume that because she’s beautiful, she must be happy. Maybe she is. After all, there are plenty of research studies to uphold the theory that attractive people are happier. And of course, there are plenty of research studies that confirm the opposite.

It doesn’t really matter either way since this woman has no direct impact on my life, but I’m amused by my tendency to create stories for people, particularly for the ones who fall into the societal definition of gorgeous. It’s a fun pastime as long as it doesn’t become a self-defeating comparison game. There’s always the danger of comparing my insides to others’ outsides, as the saying goes.

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Times have changed. Back when I was a tween, I scoured magazines searching for girls that looked like me. Diversity amounted to including a brunette white girl amid a sea of blondes — the kinds strikingly similar to the woman I see in the morning — and I remember feeling sad about the shape of my eyes, the yellow tint of my skin. In time, a fetishized, “exotic” set of Asian models emerged on the runways, but they were even harder to relate to. All this was pre-internet, though I actually think the spawn of instant access to the glut of information and images might be more harmful for girls these days.

K attends a school where being bi-racial is practically the norm. I’m biased of course, but I think these mixed kids are beautiful on a whole new level, their identities complex and multi-layered. K likes to say she’s half-Japanese, half-Indiana. This is a cool portrait project featuring multi-racial families, created by Sweet Fine Day.

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Last year I read a YA science fiction novel called Uglies that kept me up all night. It was set in the future, naturally, in a time when all children are born “ugly” and they live in anticipation of their sixteenth birthday when they can become “pretty” via massive cosmetic and genetic reconstruction. Their so-called re-birth culminates in cohabitation with all the other pretties across town. Uglies spend vast amounts of time planning their hair color, face shape and other physical attributes. The book made me think of the proliferation of cosmetic surgery in Korea and Brazil and my hometown Los Angeles. Korea, in particular, came to mind where cosmetic surgery is taken to extremes through a popular procedure that involves restructuring the jaw bone. I have to admit that the themes of conformity and the overemphasis on superficiality felt unsettlingly prescient. But it’s also an addictive read with a relatable heroine who bucks the norm.

I’m not sure why I decided to write about that, but I’m clearly avoiding sewing my Ginger skinny jeans. Maybe I’ll make better progress next week. Fingers crossed.

P.S. The image above is actually a postcard/birthday card that was part of a gift I received one year from two friends who also have multi-racial kids. It plopped out of a box I happened to open right after I finished writing this post, and seemed like kismet.

Monday Outfit: Coral Giraffe Print

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Good morning! This week, I decided to sew up something that I knew K would absolutely love. It’s knit, it’s animal print, and it’s bright. The trifecta of success. This tiered tunic is from this book, and because the largest size goes up to only 125cm and K is squarely a size 130cm now, I added 4cm to the length. I need to try to sew more from this book before K completely outgrows it — so far I’ve sewn this and this and this from it and there are a few more that’s on my sewing docket!

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And why stop at just a tunic when I can make a pair of matching leggings? The effect, admittedly, is pajama-esque and a little overwhelming, but my hunch was right and K loves the whole ensemble. I used the pattern from this book for the leggings, and I actually didn’t have enough fabric, so these are shortened by about 8 inches.

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This very cool giraffe print is from Drygoods and is a rayon/lycra blend – super easy to sew!

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I had a full day to sew on Saturday, so not only did I sew this top and leggings, but also cut out four more pairs of leggings in various colors. The leggings — or “spats” as they’re called in Japanese — situation has been problematic since she’s either outgrown or completely worn through all the ones I’ve made in the past. I gently suggested to her that perhaps she’d like to wear the top and bottom separately, so she styled it with one of the other new leggings I sewed up in some thick, mystery, aubergine knit (these are too long, so we had to roll them up a bit):

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Nice. Much less jammies, no? But who are we kidding? She’ll be wearing the full-on combo out and about next time. The cardigan is the one I made for her first day of third grade – it’s one of her very faves. You can see it up close and personal here.

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My little coral giraffe girl — such a sweetie. She told me last night, “Mama, I try really hard to be a good person. I’m very successful at it most of the time.” Gah. Love her.

Happy Friday + Randomness

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Happy Friday! I got this beautiful hellebore plant a little while ago and wanted to capture the lovely transition from creamy white to this gorgeous dusty pink. Since I possess an industrial-strength black thumb, it’s already dying — I love plants so much, but they all immediately wither under my care. I’m a little insecure about this inability of mine to nurture flora, as if it’s some serious character flaw that reflects my ineptitude to nurture all living things (i.e. my daughter).

Speaking of insecurity, I recently had an interaction with someone that left me feeling very icky, for lack of a better descriptor. The topic was benign, and there weren’t any critical words exchanged. But I came away from it markedly slighted and feeling not a little inadequate. I couldn’t figure it out and spent an inordinate amount of time worrying and pondering about this.

I’ve been continuing on my tidying bender, and just filled my car trunk with detritus from our basement. And this reminded me of how I wanted to apply the anchoring tenet of Marie Kondo’s tidying philosophy (“only keep things that spark joy”) to people. The exchange I mentioned above isn’t really the issue. The issue is the time I’ve wasted re-hashing the conversation, trying to analyze the nitty gritty of why I felt so awful afterwards. Yes, I know that communication is mostly non-verbal so there must have been subtle clues that I picked up on. Just a week prior to that ickiness, I hung out with a friend, but this outing was filled with laughter and I left the coffee shop feeling on top of the world. Did I spend hours dissecting that conversation? Nope, not at all.

There will always be people that I rub the wrong way or with whom I might have stilted or unpleasant interchanges, but that I choose to dwell disproportionately on the negative — now that’s the heart of the matter. The ten-minute insecurity-inducing conversation plagued me for days, whereas the two-hour coffee date with the friend got tucked away in the back of my mind like an afterthought, like a book that gave me great pleasure but quickly gets overshadowed by the sensationalized violence on the 6 o’clock news.

I’d like to change this. As fascinated as I am with non-verbal communication and homo sapiens behavior in general, I want to be more attentive to the interactions and people who spark joy and reduce the energy, time and focus I direct to the enervating or disagreeable moments that inevitably happen between humans. I have extremely limited reserves when it comes to energy, focus and time. It’s so easy to take for granted the people who make our days brighter, or maybe that’s just me, and that seems a giant shame. Acknowledging that I do this is a good first step, I think.

Anyway. Those are just some random thoughts I’m having on a Friday.

K, on the other hand, has a much sunnier outlook on the whole (this is the cover of a book she made for me and M yesterday – she photocopied a heart she made and various other objects like nail clippers in the ensuing pages):

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Happy weekend, all!

Secret Valentine
So many amazing gifts
keep on showing up*

The instagram (#2015sve) and Flickr images are so inspiring, and I know some blog posts are popping up here and there. Looking forward to compiling all the info!

Front Placket Dress Tutorial

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Well, here it is (this one’s for you, Lucinda): the tutorial I meant to post on Monday from this awesome, awesome book that has rapidly become my favorite. This tutorial is very long and is purely a reference post, but it could also be an interesting way to see the Japanese text translated. I just hope it’s helpful in some way.

I approached this in a way that seemed most practical to me, but let me know if you have recommendations and suggestions for improvements. I want to do more of these since I get so many questions about whether certain books are available in English, and though translating entire books wouldn’t be feasible (nor legal, I imagine), my aim is to provide tutorials for unique designs or specifically requested items when possible. I broke up each step and directly translated the instructions, but I also did my own sewalong and will show you how I actually sewed the dress. What’s interesting is that I translated the instructions after I made the dress and I realized I missed a bunch of steps!

So let’s try this, shall we? Continue Reading →

Monday Outfit: Front Placket Dress Revisited

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Good morning! I really must do something about my penchant for overestimating my productiveness. I was so excited to share a tutorial for this dress I made, and though I have all the photos snapped, alas, time got away from me so it will have to wait until Wednesday (I think I can get it done by then).

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It’s the same dress I made last week, but this time the placket is more or less in the center. Very spring-like, no? Which is okay since it’s supposed to get up to sixty degrees in Seattle today (!!) – a balminess previously unimaginable in February. In fact, I suspect I might be feeling the onset of allergies…

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Alright, I need to run for now, but will be back in a couple of days with a full tutorial!

Happy Friday + Randomness

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Happy Friday! So tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, and I have no idea how that snuck up on me, given that Ute and I are hosting an exchange for this very day. I just found out that my SVE partner got her gift early (!!) and I’m beyond impressed with Switzerland’s postal system, but then again, I should have expected that from the country that gave us the Swiss watch. I plan on doing more of an extensive recap in a week or two, but check out #2015sve on instagram and our Flickr pool — I’m not ashamed to admit that tears welled up while looking through the thoughtful and beautifully made gifts!

Don’t worry if gifts haven’t arrived yet. We have so many international participants, it would have been shocking if every gift made it on time. Thank you, everyone, for yet another successful and inspiring Secret Valentine Exchange!

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If you’re looking for last minute Valentines to print up, here are a few I’ve created in the past:

Animal + Dino Bookmarks

Sweet Bookmarks

Valentine’s Word Search

For K, I made a stamp with her name (there’s an “i” in her name and it’s dotted with a heart), and we’ll use that along with the froggy and heart stamps to make Valentine’s for her class. Attaching cricket-shaped candy would have been funny and okay, gross — of course, it would have been a huge hit with the third-graders. Sorry about that visual, let’s think about a field of blushing peonies instead.

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Happy weekend, my friends!

What to do for M?
Boxers were a disaster*
He’s sworn off candy**

*My last foray into boxer-making didn’t go so well…

**M’s been trying out the Paleo diet, so sweets are out, which was always my default gift. Hmmmm…I have 24 hours to come up with something….

Sewing for Me: A Linen Top + Ginger Jeans Muslin

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I almost forgot how to set up the tripod, it’s been so long since I’ve inundated you with selfies.

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So today, I’ve got a double-whammy with a stripey linen top made using this lovely book (it turns out I was misleading on instagram and showed the wrong book) and a quick and dirty muslin of the Ginger Jeans by Closet Case Patterns.

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I can’t help but make these maternity-esque tops – I just love them so and my stomach is free to hang out in its natural state. Comfort is key, and just for fun, I just might say yes next time someone asks me if I’m pregnant. The silhouette is similar to this one, but this Japanese version — I made the one featured on the cover — was slightly easier to construct since it doesn’t have any yokes or gathers. I’m going through a serious blue-and-white-stripes phase right now. I made the SVE gift out of a similar linen, and I just ordered this fabulous fabric from Miss Matatabi.

I don’t have a lot to say about this top since it came together quite easily, particularly since I did away with the extra back ties. The original design is reminiscent of a hospital gown with an open back — this is not a look I can rock. I also had to adjust the pintucks because I poked a hole when I had to undo some wayward stitches. By folding them slightly wider, I was able to hide the hole, so I patted myself on the back for my clever solution.

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I purchased the Ginger Jeans pattern a good while ago, and it’s been staring at me hopefully for weeks. I cut out the size 12 for this muslin that’s simply basted together, and clearly it’s too big. Actually, my calves probably need a little more room, but everywhere else, it’s the I’m-PMSing-and-am-feeling-fat jeans. It’s worth pointing out that I shortened the pants length by three inches. And it’s still too long — I’m shaped like a dachshund. Next step: downsize to 10, try to salvage the pieces I’ve already cut out and shorten another 2 inches.

I opted to attempt view B, that of the high-rise sexiness. This is mainly because all of my denim is on the thin side and the pattern recommends a sturdier denim for the lower-rise view A. I’m planning on documenting the whole process from beginning to end for these skinny jeans, and it may take several weeks. But once I have the adjustments all sorted out, I will have a most useful sloper for a pair of well-fitting skinnies, and that’s worth all the extra time. We’ll see how successful I am…

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You can see how it compares to my favorite pair of skinny jeans above. I got these cropped ones eons ago, and I wear them all the time. So much so, that the fabric is wearing down, and I’ve had to mend them to keep them in rotation.

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I love to mend my jeans. I use the darning program on my Bernina, which I think a lot of machines have? I’m not sure. The function creates a grid of stitches to patch holes and I use grey thread so that it’s not very obvious. Given the position of the holes, it’s not noticeable at all (the inner thigh). Exhibit A from the front:

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Exhibit B from the other side – I could have ironed the patch on better, but it’s still effective. I got the small 2×3 inch patches that I trim down, and I’ve found them to be comfortable. This is easy enough to do manually with a shorter stitch length, but the darning function allows me to set the overall length of the row and then the needle automatically moves back and forth, creating as many rows as you need. Super handy. Ignore the weird zig zag area, that was where I forgot to initially switch to the darning function.

darning-jeans2I like fancy jeans and have had them for a very long time, so I’ve become a pro at mending jeans. The stitches gives the jean a rough-shod, cool texture, resulting in an inadvertently hip, distressed effect.

That’s it for today! A floaty top that will be worn frequently in the Spring, and a slow, but at least concrete start on skinny jeans. That’s good enough for me.

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Monday Outfit: The Persistence Dress

plaid-wool-dress1Good morning! Well, this was a dress that tested my patience.

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It doesn’t look like much, does it? I mean, it’s perfectly fine…it is a very basic dress, after all. Yet, I couldn’t get much right.

First of all, notice that the front placket is decidedly shifted over to the right. I measured and re-measured, and still this happened, so I’m not sure what the deal is here. This is how it’s supposed to be, modeled in the book:

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Second, I intended to make this out of a cotton geometric print fabric, which would have been fresh and anticipatory of Spring, I’m sure, but then K said, “Make it a winter dress, Mama. I need warm clothes.” So I pulled out the only wool fabric with enough yardage (I used it to sew a hooded capelet way back when).

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But wool gets itchy so I decided to underline it with the thinnest cotton voile. It’s the pink peeking out there. When you underline something, you’re basically basting a layer of the lining underneath the pattern pieces and treating them as one. I, being the genius that I am, managed to sew on the lining on the wrong side on almost all the pieces. My seam ripper got a decent workout.

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The only change I made to the pattern was for the neckline. I let a bit of the binding peek out, because I didn’t love the way the neckline hung without that little edge. Oh, I also cut the back yoke on the bias, which I like to do often. Overall, the dress has a bit of a 60s/70s vibe, which I sort of like.

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The other issue I ran into was my inexplicable need to add 15 buttons. Why?? I have no idea, and of course, I don’t have 15 of the same buttons so I found a mish mash that were roughly the same size and vaguely in the same color family (aqua, navy and dark green). Since the buttons are hidden by that accidentally off-center front flap, I didn’t lose any sleep over it.

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It’s not a difficult dress to sew, but I just kept making mistake after mistake, but by jove, I didn’t give up. Even after stabbing my finger (pretty forcefully. ouch) with the seam ripper that was constantly in use, I kept a-going and triumphantly whipped it out of the sewing machine, only to realize that daylight had virtually run out.

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I scooted K outside for the fastest photo shoot ever, and these pics were the only salvageable ones. Thank goodness we’re having a balmy spate these past few days. But she likes the dress, and it’s actually toasty, so let’s chalk this one up as a favorable project.

Happy Friday + Randomness

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Whew. I shipped off my SVE gift yesterday and now I’ve got fingers and toes crossed that it’ll get to my partner in time. I loved making the little present(s) and you can see a sneak peek above. How are you intrepid SVE participants doing? All done? Getting ready to dash to the post office as I did?

It occurred to me that I’ve been remiss about extolling the virtues of my partner-in-crime, Ute. Just as she did last year, she took on the bulk of the Secret Valentine Exchange work with her signature cheerfulness and efficiency. If you’re not following Ute on Instagram, you really ought to – she has an impeccable eye for capturing the beauty and the ephemeral in the every day, not to mention her stitching skills that result in awesomely neutral sewing projects which make my heart sing. The internet is an amazing thing. Ute and I haven’t met in person, but I consider her a dear friend. Thank you, J.C.R. Licklider (who went by the somewhat disturbing nickname “Lick”) — he’s often attributed with the conceptualization of the internet. Or at least the direct predecessor that would become the internet.

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The other day, I was at a coffee shop as usual, and I saw a young man with his little baby strapped to his body with one of those fabric wraps — a Moby or Solly or something-y. He had trouble pouring cream into his coffee with the human bulk in front of him, and his valiant efforts made me smile. M always thought of himself as too manly to wear a baby wrap or carrier, but he used to plop K into his sweatshirt and zip it up so that her tiny head would be sticking out. Same concept, slightly more ghetto execution. Ah, memories.

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I’m off to finally make some headway on those custom illustrations — I haven’t forgotten, but I’ve had to stick to a rigid schedule with various deadlines (with more on the horizon so the illustrating will take a ridiculously long time, I fear). Thanks again for your patience everyone!

It’s almost V-day
Must plan to make something good
for my M and K

Happy weekend, my friends. See you on Monday!