Happy Friday + Randomness

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Happy Friday! I had such a lovely time yesterday at the University Book Store storytime. The staff was warm and welcoming, and a sweet group of toddlers and adults gathered around a circular kids’ table as I read aloud Little Kunoichi. We followed up with a simple origami craft (samurai hats!) and I also created a little coloring sheet to go with the origami activity. This whole putting-a-book-out-in-the-world process continues to be surreal, and one of my favorite parts has been the charming, funny, and downright amazing stories people have shared with me. At the reading, a woman named Erin asked if I would sign the Little Kunoichi copies she’d brought from home, and as I scrawled away, she recounted her daughter’s reaction to the book and I was — as per usual — in tears (the daughter’s reaction was positive, thank goodness, and the tears were grateful ones). I was so moved that a real-life little girl struggling with school felt a kinship with the book and was encouraged to keep trying. Erin had serendipitously just written about it here. Thank you, Erin, I am deeply humbled.

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Perhaps you have a little one that might enjoy a coloring sheet? Feel free to download it from here. And if you’re interested in making an origami samurai hat as well, instructions can be found here.

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It’s been quite a week! Between the flurry of school activities that fill the end of the academic year and book shenanigans, I’m zipping to and fro, trying to keep up — I’m looking forward to a calm weekend. I hope yours is calm and fun.

Oh, it’s happening
One year older tomorrow*
I’m a June baby

*Each year seems to go faster and my birthdays are piling up. I can’t help but visualize calendar pages fluttering like a flip book. Lately, I’ve been thinking about the idiom “in the fullness of time.” It used to be a common repartee, the equivalent of “whenever it’s ready”. I’m fond of that phrase. Despite the surface sense of rapidity, I feel like life events have been unfolding in the fullness of time…

Another nani IRO mini-dress

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I wasn’t quite prepared for how drained I would be after turning in my manuscript. I’ve been somewhat functional and have been managing to get chores and the absolute necessities done, but my brain is foggy and I have this odd floaty sensation in my extremities as if they’ll drift away without my permission. On Monday night, K and I went to an ice cream social at her school, and I sat immobilized by the monkey bars, staring out at the popsicle-licking, vanilla-scoop-chomping crowd. My Its-it ice cream sandwich melted in my hand as my glazed eyes took in the bustle of sugar-amped kids, the chatty adults and the DJ working his aural magic with a laptop and compact speakers (my elementary school never had DJs at events – is this a Pacific Northwest, modern-age thing?). I actually took a nap a few days ago, and I haven’t had one of those in at least three years. And before that? I don’t think I’d ever napped. My mom says sleep wasn’t in my repertoire.

What does any of this have to do with the rather gorgeous little dress, you may be wondering? Absolutely nothing. Let’s face it, I just wanted something pretty up on my blog while I kickstart my brain back into gear.

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This was another dress I made for a friend’s daughter, and I love love love this fabric with the complicated name of Nani IRO Kokka Fuccra: rakuen from my beloved Miss Matatabi. It’s double-gauze and lovely in every way. You might recognize the pattern. Different recipient, but same size, same dress style. I know, I’m starting to sew the same pattern over and over, which is unusual for me. At least I get to prove that fabric choice completely changes the look and feel. And hey, I sewed on snaps instead of buttons. Charting new territories, I am.

I feel another uncontrollable need for a nap…More on Friday!

P.S. I’ll be participating in Nani IRO month in a couple of weeks, and I’m drooling over the new line of fabrics at Miss Matatabi…

P.P.S. One last thing: if you’re in the Seattle/Eastside area, I have a story time scheduled at University Book Store Bellevue tomorrow morning. Fun!

Monday Outfit: The Recital Dress That Wasn’t

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Good morning! Instead of the puffed sleeve shirt 2.0, I made a dress for K this past weekend for her piano/voice recital. Except…I didn’t finish it in time for the recital itself. I’m a little out of practice and failed to whip up this very easy dress in the two hours I was able carve out, though I got really, really close. These photos were taken on Sunday, a day after the recital, when I got around to hemming the dress and adding the gold flower button.

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K didn’t mind and happily wore the dress I made for her winter recital. The night before the performance, her nerves jangled and jostled her into a state of agitation, and we almost had to call her teacher to cancel. But she persevered and oh, it was wonderful. She played a jazz piece duet with said teacher and sang “A Whole New World” from the movie Aladdin. I sat agape at how confident she seemed onstage.

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I’m prone to tears anyway, but I held back sobs not only with K’s performance but with all the other ones too. I loved experiencing the unique personality of each performer. From classical to folk to broadway musical, there was a lot of variety. And there’s just something about the earnestness of a recital that always gets me choked up. Sigh. K’s going to be so embarrassed of me as she gets older.

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The pattern is from this book, and I’ve made this same dress in a gorgeous sateen a couple of years ago (she still fits in the dress!). This time I tried it with a slippery, silky, hard to control rayon. It’s a rather chipper print, don’t you think? I had to recut the front bodice because the fabric had shifted too much with my first attempt. I also fully lined it with a beige cotton lawn fabric, and both K and I gave the final result a thumb’s up!

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Alright, I was premature in declaring my manuscript done since my editor promptly sent it back with more text edits, so I’m wrapping it up today. Then it’s on to photos and final illustrations! Here’s K praying that I get everything done in time…

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Happy Friday + Randomness

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Happy Friday! I did it!! I submitted the entire manuscript for book #2 yesterday afternoon, and I am zonked. I’ve been getting up extra early in the mornings in an attempt to capitalize on my brain power (I’ve learned that I can’t function after 4pm anymore…aging, it’s a topic that’s taking up a big chunk of mental space these days. I feel the urge to start talking about Pinochle and I don’t even know what that is). I have to send out a HUGE shout out to all the pattern testers — a personal email is coming your way, but you all did such an amazing, thorough job, I can’t thank you enough! This whole book has been a series of massive collaborations, and I’m so grateful.

What you see above is a project from the book that I had to sadly remove because it wasn’t beginner friendly enough (actually, my instructions weren’t very clear and I decided I could live without it. Pity, since my friend George took some photos with great light like the one above). I love it even though it shows that I should really get better undergarments. This top also happens to be the most worn clothing item during my unofficial Me-Made-May month. I did okay with wearing handmades…I totally forgot about it three days out of the month when I never made it out of my Old Navy T-shirt + yoga pants combo, but otherwise, I was pleasantly surprised that I naturally reach for my self-made clothes.

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I’m certain that K said some deeply profound and witty things, but the question is, what were they? I hope to remember eventually. See earlier comment on aging.

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86 degrees
The weather report predicts
Wha-a-a-a-t?

It’s going to be a sweltering late spring weekend here in Seattle since our house is always at least 10 degrees hotter than it is outside. I better bust out with the fans and some summer clothes. Have a wonderful weekend, all!

LK Dolls

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Have you seen the latest issue of STYLO yet? So, so good. And did you happen to see the ninja, samurai and bunny dolls? Yep, I whipped them up and submitted a tutorial and pattern that can be downloaded from STYLO. I drew the characters in Adobe Illustrator and then created pattern pieces by pulling apart my drawing below:

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They’re quite small and a lot of fun to make and several kiddos in my life have been especially coveting the pet bunny doll (one girl tried to sneak off with it).

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Okay! Just wanted to share, and back to work…but wait, I can’t resist one more shot:

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Monday Outfit: A Nod to Nautical

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Good morning! At long last, I have a K outfit to share…I’ve really missed making things for her, and sewing this maritime-y dress felt like easing into a lively conversation with a long lost friend. It’s been many, many weeks since I’ve stitched up anything for K. Has she been pining for new outfits? Nope, it hasn’t bothered her one whit, and she’s merrily clad herself in animal print from top to bottom daily.

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The big news, however, is that a little someone is now braces-free. Her teeth look fantastic and she can often be found chomping on popcorn and gum and a smidgen of caramel to make up for lost time (not all at once, thank goodness). I’m astonished that it’s already been almost 18 months since the orthodontist first fitted her with the metal brackets. K reverently wears her tiger-themed retainers every night — I’m so proud of her. Here’s a little before and after:

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I believe I only have three more patterns I haven’t tried from this book, now that I’ve tackled the puff-sleeve tee that I turned into a dress by gathering and attaching a couple of rectangles. I meant to make the waist sit higher, but I’m not going to get too nit-picky. Stripey dresses make everything better, as far as I’m concerned. I can’t exactly recall where I got the navy and white striped knit jersey, but it’s not the nicest of quality and there’s already some pilling after the preliminary washing/drying. Oh well. I actually have a straightforward t-shirt version cut out in a super cute and much more luxe knit, but I’ll have to hold off on showing that version until next week.

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She’s got style, my little one – she created a little headband out of the scrap fabric:

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I always know it’s a winner when K keeps asking me if she can wear something as soon as I pull the finished garment from my sewing machine. This one’s a champion.

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Home stretch! My entire manuscript for book #2 (text only) is due by this Thursday so I’m ratcheting up the focus level and will keep the posts short and sweet for the rest of the week.

P.S. Furoku members! You should have received #3 by now; please let me know if you haven’t received it yet. I really, really love this one, and I hope you do too.

Happy Friday + Randomness

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Happy Friday! When I first started reading sewing blogs, I kept running into the acronym “UFO” and puzzled over that. Those of you in the know are aware that it stands for “unfinished object” and has nothing to do with extraterrestrials. Until these last few weeks, I’ve rarely had UFOs. It drives me nuts to have half-done projects lying around so if I get as far as cutting out a pattern, I will do everything I can to finish it within the day.

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However. With multiple exciting events occurring simultaneously, I’ve had not one or two or three…but six UFOs hovering reproachfully in the vicinity. I don’t know why I decided to cut out a bunch of the same patterns assembly line style, and clearly, this is not doing good things for my peace of mind. Luckily, in between various to-do items, I managed to complete this quintessentially Japanese linen dress this week. It’s a size 90cm from this book, and my friend’s little girl is going to look smashing in it. I’m afraid I wasn’t too imaginative and used a striped linen similar to the one in the book, but you can never go wrong with grey stripes, I say.

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One down, five to go. It’s progress, at any rate, and I already feel much, much better!

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I’ve recently discovered that K has been reading this blog (she cried when she read this post and rushed over to give me a soggy hug). I’ve now been instructed that all K quotes must go through a stringent editorial process, and I’m not allowed to post anything without her approval. The editor-in-chief is out of commission on a playdate so we’ll have to skip a quote this week.

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Have a fabulous weekend, friends! It feels like the peak of summer these days here in Seattle, and I’m soaking in all the vitamin D (the doctor tells me I’m deficient, but then again, all Pacific Northwesterners are probably vitamin D deficient).

It’s the end of May
Getting giddy about June
Summer is coming

P.S. The She Wears The Pants Giveaway winners were Claire R. and Pola, congrats!

Serendipity

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I’m a sucker for serendipity. I asked about coincidences for a giveaway a while ago, and delighted in the comments. And to date, this one is still the best serendipitous moment I’ve ever heard.

Anyway, I’m about to go into major photo shoot mode for book #2, and for the past few months, I’ve been doing some prop scouring. I knew I wanted some vintage-looking ephemera — particularly a film camera — so I’ve been casually browsing through thrift stores and flea markets whenever I could.

I wasn’t having much luck in finding what I had in mind, and one day when I was taking a walk around the neighborhood, I noticed that a bookstore near my house was having a close-out sale. Although I’m a huge aficionado of book shops, this one was dedicated to all things nautical (not my particular interest), and always appeared closed so I had never been inside. I’d sort of suspected it was a front for nefarious activities (given the maritime theme, modern-day pirates, perhaps?). Curious about the sale, I walked in.

They’d already cleared out the books and all that remained were shelves upon shelves and odds and ends that seemed out of place. A baby carriage, for example. The shop had been around for more than a decade, apparently, and the owners loved to collect paraphernalia. But now they were moving out of state, and wanted none of it.  And then I saw it: the vintage camera.

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As I beelined for the camera, I also spotted wooden spools and awesomely distressed wooden crates. I was smitten with the “Happy Home Brand” crate and snatched it up without hesitation. It pleases me immensely that the box used to contain figs from Seattle (I like to paint figs. In fact, I happened to be doodling some a couple of days ago, which you can see below). The Schwabacher Brothers were enterprising Bavarian-born Jewish merchants that dabbled in various businesses, and in one of their stores, they “sold everything from a needle to an anchor.” My kind of guys.

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I’m excited to include my new-to-me camera (and the crate and spools) in the upcoming photo shoots. Right now, it’s resting on the most current draft of my book — 230 pages! I need to finish editing (and cutting a lot out) by next week, and when I look at all those pages, it feels a bit daunting. We’ll see if that sewing I had been looking forward to will actually happen.

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But the point is this: you never know where you’ll find the treasures you seek. I certainly didn’t expect to find them in a mysterious bookstore, but that seems appropriate, yes?

 

Limiting Beliefs + Monthly Income Report + Furoku Membership Sign-up

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The husband tells me that I have a Teflon shield of hope and optimism. He says that this is both my greatest strength and my Achilles’ heel. “You’re too optimistic,” he advises, “you need to be more realistic.”

What does that mean, being “realistic”? I’ve been thinking about that a lot. In many ways, it seems to me to be another word for limiting beliefs. Or a way to make sure you hold your hopes in check to avoid disappointment. To remain caged, as it were.

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Over the weekend, I had two presentations for Little Kunoichi. I mentioned the one about the bookstore, but I also had another one the day before at K’s school. The contrast between the two presentations was striking.

Presentation 1 at K’s school: 100+ kids, a slew of teachers, riotous Q & A with endless questions from the audience, a better-than-expected sales, and many lovely words of encouragement up on offer.

Presentation 2 at the bookstore: 2 kids and 2 moms. 7 people, counting the awesome employee Jessie, K and her friend, who sat in the audience to make the space look less empty. Actually, it was really only 1 child and his mom that showed up for the reading, and the other mother-daughter pair was roped in because they happened to be in the store at the time. I messed up reading my own book (accidentally skipped some pages), no questions were asked, and I led a disastrous origami demonstration. One book sold.

I loved both.

I learned a lot from the presentations (never ask 100 kids to look for a hidden bunny in the middle of a reading, and make sure to know how to make the origami project before teaching it). In both cases, I couldn’t believe I was physically sharing a book that was just a blip of an idea two years ago. I told the gaggle of kids during presentation #1, “I’ve wanted to write and illustrate books since I was your age. It took a long time for it to happen, but it did.” Small faces nodded up at me in what felt like solidarity. I told the one kid who was old enough to speak at the bookstore, “Thanks for coming to the reading!” He stared at me for a moment and said, “I’m hungry.”

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Back to being realistic. The odds of “making it” as a book author and/or illustrator are stacked against me. My editor for book #2 told me that the vast majority of authors have day jobs, and I don’t have the courage to research how many books are actually sold on average despite the backing of an established publisher. If I looked at the numbers, I would toss my current manuscript out the window and would never have proceeded with Little Kunoichi. I would go find myself a nice office job in downtown Seattle with a 401K plan and call it a day.

Then I think: If I were realistic, I wouldn’t have gotten married. What would be the point when half of marriages dissolve?

If my mother had been realistic, she wouldn’t have left Japan to go to Germany when she was nineteen — she didn’t speak a lick of Deutsch. Which led her to go to NY, where she met my father. If she hadn’t been so unrealistic, I would not exist. That would make me sad, even though I wouldn’t exist to be sad.

If all people upheld realistic as the universal measure, our human history would be as bland and as uninspired as overcooked rice porridge (something my mother would give me to soothe stomach aches). No inventions. No scientific discoveries. No art or music or literature. No internet. I mean, can you imagine how unrealistic the internet must have sounded fifty years ago? I’m obviously not of the same caliber as the great artists and discoverers, but I’d like to lean more in that direction.

I don’t mind trying things that may not work out. Because how can you know without trying? And even if they don’t work out, I’m annoyingly good at finding lessons in adverse situations. It’s a curse and a gift (it’s a curse because people want me to stop making everything a teaching moment – this reminds me of a Diary of a Wimpy Kid illustration where Greg, the main character, gets scratched by a cat, and his mom is kneeling beside him saying something like, “Okay, spell it with me: C-A-T”.)

I’m prepared to be hugely disappointed or devastated by the failures. The problem begins when I use “being realistic” to stop me from trying what I truly want to do — I’ve become certain of this. The word is often used as a crutch or interchangeably with responsibility and it urges me to focus on a paycheck or some socially acceptable mode of behavior or activity, and this too makes me wary and weary. As I grow older, I see how wise my mother is. I told a friend once that my mom could eke out food from concrete, as resourceful and creative as she is. She defines life with possibility and inventiveness, not with brand names, a business card or a false sense of security.

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I believe there’s a difference between foolhardiness and this so-called shield of hope and optimism that I seem to possess. I can always go get the job with the 401K — of this, I have no doubt — but how often will I get the chance to create books? To blog about things that matter to me? To forge an as-yet-undefined-but-potentially-wonderful community through the Furoku membership? Sure, I could put these things off for later, tomorrow, next year, but when that time comes, will I actually do it? I doubt it. I’ve already spent way too many years putting off things I really want to do.

I have a lot of realistic, limiting beliefs, of course. I’m also starting to get criticism and this only feeds into my natural tendency to doubt myself. The thing is, I’m training myself to turn a deaf ear to them unless it’s helpful somehow. To shore up an underused belief in myself to combat these thoughts. I’ll let you know how it goes. It’s pretty hard.

My book readings may have audiences of zero or bazillions (goodness, I hope not. The stage fright!). My Furoku membership may grow or not. I may not be able to make anything resembling a “real” income doing the things I love, because, as my little painting shows below, my target amount of $20,000 (the moon) is still far, far away and the year is almost half over and blah-blah-blah. Sometimes I have really high moments of “Yes!! I can do this!!” and other times…well, that’s me on the ladder, and to date, my total income is $864.44, of which $486.63 was from last month (thank you, Janome Gnome, for suggesting that I illustrate my income monthly reports).

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But that’s okay. I’m just going to keep trying my best, and maybe, just maybe, it will work. And if I go splat and have to sheepishly admit defeat? Well, I’m always full of optimistic ideas and hey, I still have 7 more months to go.

In the end it doesn’t matter because right now, I feel like I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing in spite of the doubts that try to take over, and that, my friends, trumps being realistic.

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P.S. I’m keeping sign-ups for the membership open until the end of this week, May 31st. Furoku #3 is in development!! If you have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s the full story.


Email address (to get furoku):
Full Name


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P.P.S. The unrealistic bet for Little K to make $100,000 is still on — If I win, M will get a Little Kunoichi tattoo. I loved all of the tattoo placement suggestions! If you feel up for it and truly liked the book, please leave reviews on Amazon or any other bookseller sites – this will help promote Little Kunoichi!

P.P.P.S. I think I will finally be able to share some sewing later this week. I miss sewing for fun!!!!!

P.P.P.P.S. I’ve been remiss and didn’t honor Memorial Day to acknowledge the men and women who serve and have served our country. Many, many thanks.

 

 

Happy Friday + Randomness

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Happy Friday! A couple of days ago, I attended an event called “Young Author’s Day” at K’s school. It’s a big deal — the entire school participates and all the students are shuffled into groups of about 10 kids from various grades. Each student takes a turn reading a story he/she had written, and my favorite part is listening to the “About the Author” section. They all invariably include information about their family, a hobby and a totally random factoid like how they like to eat cereal for dinner or are completely opposed to school uniforms.

K’s group was exceptional. The fifth graders blew me away with their poetry (their haikus made me want to delete all of mine from here), and K recounted how M and I got engaged, which the teacher found hilarious. There was one girl who read a story about finding a lizard in the middle of the street and how she ended up keeping it as a pet (a true story).

The first grader who went last stole my heart, though. I saw how her hands trembled as she clutched her book with the green construction paper cover. Her cheeks blossomed into the color of the brightest of pink peonies, and her voice was so soft, barely a whisper, that all the kids tipped to their sides, cocking their ears to catch the small gasps of quickly strung together words. I remember being that little girl. The one who refused to go until there was no choice, the one who hoped that reading the story super fast would make it less frightening. I couldn’t quite hear the story in its entirety, but I saw her carefully drawn illustrations of a fox and clouds, and a little girl that looked very much like her. She beamed with relief and pride as the group enveloped her in applause and hands shot up to praise her efforts. What a beautiful, beautiful thing.

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Have a delightful weekend, my friends! I am going to RELAX. So, so, so, so excited about this.

At Mockingbird Books
I’ll be doing a reading
I feel like that girl*

I’ll be doing a storytime reading of Little Kunoichi at one of our lovely local bookstore this weekend – there might be a little bit of trembling involved…