Monday Outfit: A New Favorite Outfit

whitefloral-naniiroshorts1

Good morning! Although I make K a lot of clothes, there’s really only a small subset that she’ll wear over and over. This outfit I completed this weekend is destined to be in that small subset.

whitefloral-naniiroshorts7 whitefloral-naniiroshorts9

The top is puff-sleeve top 2.0 (the actual tee version of this dress I made a couple of weeks ago). I got this amazing embossed-looking floral Anna Sui cotton/nylon blend knit at Nancy’s Sewing Basket a year ago, and I’ve been on the hunt for the right pattern. I think I nailed it, if I do say so myself, because K looooooooves this top. The knit is sturdier and holds the puff sleeve shape nicely and textured fabrics in general buoy me. It wasn’t the cheapest option so I only purchased about a yard and that was plenty to make this top. The pattern is from this book.

whitefloral-naniiroshorts6

And the shorts! When K slipped these on, she sighed, “Ooooh, these are comfy….” She wore them two days in a row. It’s a Nani Iro Painted Herringbone double-knit from about a year ago as well, and at first I was satisfied with how they turned out, even though I couldn’t match up the sides perfectly.

Then she turned around…

whitefloral-naniiroshorts4 whitefloral-naniiroshorts5

Hmmmmmm. Not loving the angle — looks a bit like underwear, no?

whitefloral-naniiroshorts2

Ah well. Who am I to critique a pair of shorts she so adores? The shorts are from this excellent book. Please ignore the uneven folds at the hem — I hand-stitched them in place, and I don’t know why they’re so mismatched.

whitefloral-naniiroshorts8

Did you notice the pretty necklace that K is wearing? It was a gift from the ever kindly reader Karen F., and she included a few other darling beads that can be somehow attached to clothing. I’m intrigued by the idea and am trying to figure out how to work them in. They are made by Les Pois Plume, a French company. Super cute. I’m so appreciative of these generous acts of kindness that would never happen if it weren’t for this online space. Thank you, Karen!

lepoisplumes1 lepoisplumes2

How was Father’s Day for you? We celebrated M with yet another impromptu trip up to Bellingham, because K is obsessed with the Comfort Inn up there (living large, that’s what we do — to be fair, it’s a very nice one that happens to have won an award). We roamed around Western Washington, which is picturesque, and caught a showing of the movie Inside Out. I thought it was so, so good and I probably don’t have to tell you that I was bawling like a baby, mostly from relating so much with the movie. I tell you, someone needs to remove my tear ducts. At any rate, a happy weekend was had by all.

P.S. The winner of the Linen, Wool, Cotton Kids giveaway is Laura. Congrats!

whitefloral-naniiroshorts8

Happy Friday + Randomness

lots-o-watermelons

Ah, summer vacation…it’s finally here. We’ve flitted from one end-of-the-school-year party to another these past few days, and we have consumed frightening amounts of ice cream and watermelon, sometimes together. I’m in full anticipation mode for the upcoming aimless, schedule-less moments until the camps kick in. I was pretty on the ball this year and have K signed up for a number of half-day camps, and I’m particularly excited about coding (yes, computer programming) camp that she specifically requested. How are your summers looking so far?

****************************************

I have much sewing and photo-taking to do, and am keeping it short for today. Have a wonderful weekend, all!

An outing with friends
Tea parties and starfish*:
a winning combo

*K and I went to one of the prettiest parks in Seattle called Carkeek with friends yesterday. It’s a vast recreational area with open fields, a play area (which includes a salmon-shaped slide) and a beach. The plan was to have a tea party for our girls and to then let them roam around and splash about on the beach; I was not expecting my friend to be so prepared — she brought a small table and an impressive array of afternoon tea paraphernalia. We plunked the table down in the middle of the field and had a proper tea party rivaling the one from Alice in Wonderland. The kids then zoomed off and found dozens of starfish in the tide pools. It feels like summer.

Upper Limit Problem

june-flora4

“Earth laughs in flowers,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson — the earth is guffawing uncontrollably around town and I can’t stop taking photos of the blooms during my daily walks. I find the pink varieties particularly arresting, but I’ll always pause to capture an image of white flowers too. I’ve also been wandering down memory lane and contemplating, as I’m wont to do when I celebrate a birthday. The actual celebration was quiet and understated with my favorite people, just the way I like it. I don’t enjoy big parties and I prefer not to be the center of attention.

I’m solidly in the middle-age zone, though I feel younger than when I was in my teens, more playful. Part of it may have to do with having a child, and part of it might be because I had to grow up so quickly with immigrant parents who needed a lot of language assistance and now that I no longer carry that weight of responsibility, maybe I’m making up for lost youth? Mostly, as I grow older, I don’t care about how I should act as much. A few weeks ago, I was at a cafe as usual, and got up to get a cup of water. Something felt odd, but I couldn’t quite put a finger on it. As I adjusted my skirt to sit back down, I realized that part of the skirt hem was tucked into the waist of my tights — an unsightly view to be sure of my exposed derriere for the people sitting behind me as I poured myself water. Note to self: double-check after going to the bathroom. Oddly, I wasn’t all that embarrassed and even chortled to myself. The tights were opaque, but I’m now well aware that no one pays any attention to me. When I was younger, I would have packed my bags and immediately rushed out of there, completely mortified. Aging is a liberating thing.

june-flora

A while back, I mentioned my genius brother, and for a very long time, I cared greatly about how I should act and noticed how — for all of my life, really — I’ve been surrounded by insanely high achievers and elite performers. My high school friends went to Good Schools. A disproportionate number attended Ivy leagues, and at every turn, I seem to loiter into groups that appear to have an unstated pre-requisite of extreme accomplishment and pedigrees.

I played the overachiever game for many years. I’m Asian after all, and that’s what we’re programmed to do. The problem with the overachiever game is that the competition is ulcerously fierce and the need to disguise any effort to achieve is even fiercer. The Mt. Olympus climb to attain God-like, societally defined success is taxing enough, yet you’re supposed to get there without breaking a sweat. The internet has, of course, magnified this age old problem to the umpteenth degree. I’m making my stoic Japanese ancestors weep in their graves and am terrible at hiding my efforts, and it was only through undignified and blatantly obvious sweat, blood and tears that I’ve garnered whatever I was able to. It’s funny, when I had the book presentation at K’s school, she later came up to me and said, “Mama, you were so sweaty! You turned bright red and tried to hide behind your book every time you wiped your forehead.” Case in point. I’m no smooth operator and I found 100 kids to be nerve-wracking.

june-flora2

I cockily thought that with all my lifestyle changes and life lessons borne out of severe illness, I left all of that overachiever nonsense behind me, blowing on my nails in a symbolic gesture of “whateverrrrr,” as K would say in a tween-y, bored voice. Not so. No, not at all.

I’ve been experiencing mixed emotions with the Little Kunoichi launch and can sense my old dual neuroses of overachievement and sabotaging tendencies furiously straining to come out, like a two-headed dog ready to tear everything in sight to pieces. On the one hand, I want my books to do well. Really well. Slight problem: I hate promoting. Just hate it. But spurred by my inner straight-A-student and a compelling need to make a living, my business un-savvy brain has been trying to come up with ways to market it, imploring bookstores around the city to carry copies, asking people to leave Amazon reviews, reaching out to online media and other publications, attempting to get martial arts studios interested (quite a few fails on all counts). These things are incredibly hard for me. At the same time, I paradoxically get scared that my hackneyed promotions might pay off and that the book might actually exceed expectations. I’ve heard this latter fear called the upper limit problem. I Googled “Fear of success.” Then I felt so presumptuous and silly, I quickly closed the browser.

june-flora5

The unfortunate side effect of constant comparison with a genius brother is that I assumed that I wasn’t as smart or talented or [insert desirable quality here] as my sibling, so my default is to always assume I’m lesser in every situation. In recent years, however, in my introspective, psychobabble way, I’ve been suspecting that it wouldn’t have mattered if my brother hadn’t been Einsteinian. I would probably still find a way to create false upper limits by comparing myself to someone else. Some people get motivated by upward comparison, and I, too, become motivated, but I also convince myself that I could never reach such exalted heights. Yet it doesn’t stop me from trying, all the while feeling like it’s a fruitless attempt. Confusing? Why, yes.

june-flora3

The solution is, of course, to stop with the comparison and to not think of the end result at all and enjoy the journey as all the platitudes assure me. And then there’s the whole business of defining success. I was actually doing great on this enjoy-the-journey front and ambling toward my own definition of success until the book launched. When this amorphous and previously unlikely concept of becoming a published author/illustrator turned into reality, words like “New York Times Bestseller” and “Caldecott” started whispering in my ear, teasing me and seducing me with the status boost they would give me. The overachiever in me pants with delight. This is embarrassing to admit, but I stood in front of the Bestseller shelf at Barnes & Noble the other day and considered moving the copies of Little Kunoichi next to Dragons Love Tacos, just to see how it would look. To pretend, you know? What’s interesting is that I would never move it to the #1 slot — maybe somewhere around #8 or #9. What does that mean? That I’m deluded, surely, but also that I can’t imagine myself at the top for even a purely hypothetical exercise. I’ll allow myself to dream of hitting the bestseller list, but I won’t allow myself to dream too big. That’s just way too scary. My saboteur will then come up with five trillion highly logical reasons I will be humiliated for even voicing this dream. It’s an upper limit problem that is also a spectacularly first world problem.

It’s difficult to talk about this with people, and I’m having a bear of a time figuring out this deluge of conflicting, jumbled emotions. I’m happy, yet terrified. I’m humbled, yet yearning for validation. I’m buoyed by confidence, yet painfully vulnerable. As we used to say when K was a toddler, I’m having big feelings. I think I need to go eat chocolate. A hedgehog-shaped chocolate, to be specific.

hedgehog-choco

What about you? Do you ever find yourself creating arbitrary upper limits, thinking “I can’t possibly do that“?

Linen, Wool, Cotton Kids Giveaway [CLOSED]

giveaway-linencottonwoolkids

Good morning! I thoroughly enjoyed a low-key weekend and I hope you had a great one too.

I didn’t do much other than eat, it seems. I grazed from one meal to the next, and the best part was that I didn’t cook at all and felt very pampered indeed. Although I squeezed in a tiny little bit of sewing, the weekend was all about hanging out.

My UFO pile seems to be shrinking a tad and my plan is to show you a finished item or two next week, but I acquired the English version of one of my favorite Japanese Sewing books and wanted to do a little giveaway for today. This book is particularly meaningful to me because it’s the one that launched my handmade wardrobe craziness three summers ago. I made this dress, and the sweat-inducing difficulty and the simultaneous exhilaration are still visceral.

Ooh La La Dress

And I kept making things from this book.

Same pattern, different fabric:

pinkdress_1A brown and silver combo:

brownandsilver_outfit
A starry indigo top:

starryblouse6The Bubble Dress:

bubbledress3

Jodhpur pants:

jodhpurpants_stripeyshirt4

Sashiko Pullover:

sashiko-sailor-jacket-lucky-culotte2

Patch-sleeve Jacket:

office-girl-in-noir4

 

Capelet 1:

hooded-capelet-grey-almost-skinnies1

 

Capelet 2:

purple-riding-hood8

Coat Dress

boucle-coat-dress7

Fluttery Top:

fluttery-top-2-shorts1

Wow, I’ve never compiled all the outfits I’ve made from a single book before. I obviously had a lot more time back then. I remember how I loved the creative freedom I used to feel, and I can see that I really tried a lot out in the spirit of experimentation. Even though I’ve scaled back on the styling and propping (and the sewing), I do think my photography has improved with time, and it’s nice to see progress.

Anyway. If you’d like to enter the giveaway for this oh-so-special book, please leave a……hmmm, it’s getting harder to come up with questions. I just had a memory flash of a dinner with friends a while ago, and the topic of color therapy came up. Have you heard of it? It’s the utilization of light and colors to restore desired “balance”, be it physical, mental, emotional, etc. It sounds like it’s considered pseudo science, bordering on woo-woo. I admit that I don’t really understand it, but the conversation turned to how the diagnosis part of color therapy is as follows: you are given a multitude of colored papers to choose from (it makes me think of paint chips) and are asked to select the colors you’re drawn to the most and arrange them on a larger sheet of paper. My friends and I discussed which colors we would gravitate towards and that was fun and very enlightening. Whether color therapy works or not, I’m a big believer in the power of colors and their effect on my moods and general state of being. For my colors, I chose grey, blue, white, cream, and dusty, chalky hues you would see in French countryside homes like the bluish-greenish-greys and muted pinks. So my question is this: which colors are you most naturally drawn to?

The giveaway will stay open until this Friday, June 19th, and I’ll announce the winner the following Monday. Entries from around the world are more than welcome. Good luck!

Happy Friday + Randomness

samurai-hat-origami

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.

*************************************************************

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.

coloring-sheet-origami-web

*************************************************************

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

nani-IRO-rakuen-dress1

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.

nani-IRO-rakuen-dress2

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

non-recital-dress6

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.

non-recital-dress3 non-recital-dress4

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.

non-recital-dress9 non-recital-dress8

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.

non-recital-dress2

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!

non-recital-dress10 non-recital-dress5

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…

non-recital-dress7

Happy Friday + Randomness

test-dolman

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.

***************************************************

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.

***************************************************

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

lk-dolls4

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:

LK-dolls

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).

lk-dolls2

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

lk-dolls3

 

 

 

Monday Outfit: A Nod to Nautical

maritime-y-dress4

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.

maritime-y-dress3

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:

maritime-y-dress6

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.

maritime-y-dress1 maritime-y-dress2

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

maritime-y-dress7

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.

maritime-y-dress5 maritime-y-dress8

 

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.