2022 Advent Calendar

Happy end of November! Did you have a gratitude-filled holiday weekend? Mine was good and hearty and on the quiet side.

It’s my personal tradition to work on K’s advent calendar around this time of year, and I’m almost done. Because I know that K has zero interest in my blog, it’s safe to share some images here. 

As per usual, I wanted to use what I have on hand. Remember my Swedish tracing paper flower advent calendar? This one is a similar concept, though far less complicated. I am in possession of multiple rolls of Pellon 830 interfacing, which is very similar to STP, and it came in handy for these fluttery “ornaments.” I thought about getting some glow-in-the-dark paint, but ended up experimenting with two different gold watercolors instead. One is more bronze-y than the other.

I didn’t bother with templates or anything. I like the organic quality of the wings and each butterfly is different. With a little double-sided tape magic, it was a breeze to assemble these. Oh, the antenna’s are fake flower stamens left over from past craft projects.

The idea is that K can hang each butterfly on the Christmas tree each day (we’ll be getting our tree some time today). Simple. Fuss-free with a tiny touch of bling. I like it!

Another nice aspect was that I only needed 18 days’ worth since there are some travel plans in the works and there’s no need for a count-down the last week before Christmas.

 

Alright, I’m going to go finish the advent calendar!! My aim is to position them on a wall with the loops hidden — like a flurry of winter flutterbies! Originally I wanted to wrap each butterfly in crepe paper. It would have been cool for K to unfurl each “cocoon” like a surprise ball, but my prototypes looked…not charming and evocative of turds, let’s just say. I’m glad I decided to simplify, though I was digging the whole metamorphosis conceptualization.

If you’re curious, here are all the calendars from the last 10 years:

2021

2020

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

I’ve been painting/designing some free printables for you, but I’m not quite done so I’ll be back in early December with the digital goodies. Take good care, my friends!

Wait, is it already Halloween?

October. Oh, how this month felt like it was kidnapped by pirates, torn asunder and swept away into roiling, thundercloud-studded seas. Okay, that’s a bit dramatic. Basically, I have no idea where the time went. And these pirates that I drew and made into a repeat pattern seem awfully adorable and incapable of any kidnapping.

Year after year, October continues to be the busiest month full of deadlines for me. How’s your October been?

I’m currently smack in the middle of preparing for the next round of Creativebug classes, and that’s been my main focus for the last month. I totally phoned it in with K’s Halloween costume and resorted to a hyper-speed shopping trip at a local thrift store. One plaid pleated skirt, one white button-down shirt and one blue blazer later, the Rory (of Gilmore Girls fame) costume was complete. We have zero spooky decorations, not even a tiny pumpkin in sight. It’s safe to say that I’ve been a Halloween grinch.

We were at one of K’s volleyball games last week, and the sound system blared holiday music. Holiday music!!! Pre-Halloween! I was very confused. I remember the ancient times when fa-la-las could be heard only after Thanksgiving. I’m starting to sound more and more like a crotchety old person, aren’t I? Don’t get me wrong, I love the end-of-the-year festivities, but mid-October seems a tad much to get the holiday spirits jumpstarted. I’m pretty sure that my stress level spiked up as the first notes of Jingle Bells filled the gymnasium.

Anyway. Enough of that. I am going to jump back into Creativebug preparations and will be back next month with some downloadable goodies! Hope you all have a delightful Halloween!

Sumo Colors + Sumo Shapes!

Banzai, banzai!! More darling sumos in the house — or in sumo parlance: more sumos in the heya! “Heya” or “beya” means “room” in Japanese and also refers to the sumo stable, which is sort of like a team.

SUMO COLORS and SUMO SHAPES have officially flown from the printer’s coop and are flapping about in the world. I am deeply, deeply in love with these books (okay, I say that about every one of my books, but it’s always true).

I’m thrilled that School Library Journal gave the latest additions to the Little Sumo series glowing reviews, and Sumo Colors even got a star (stars, I hear, are a very good thing)! My dream is for every school and general library to have a copy of all the sumo books.

Here are the reviews:

SUMO COLORS
PreS-K: A merry troupe of sumo wrestlers traipses through a landscape inspired by the iconography of feudal Japan. Soft washes of color depict a carriage ride past a red shrine, a tea ceremony in a green garden, a boat ride over a blue ocean, and a picnic under a pink sunset. Each page features the English name of a color, as well as its Japanese name, both written in hiragana or katakana characters and transliterated into the Latin alphabet. VERDICT: A treat for the eye and an early primer on Japanese vocabulary. Recommended for all collections.

SUMO SHAPES
PreS-K: An energetic band of sumo wrestlers occupies a series of abstract vignettes highlighting various geometric components of sumo culture. The inspired choices include oval fans, pentagonal houses, and crescent bowls of stew. Each page features the English name of a shape, as well as its Japanese name, both written in hiragana characters and transliterated into the Latin alphabet. VERDICT: An additional purchase offering a delightful early primer on Japanese vocabulary and culture.

Hooray!

From beginning to end, working on these board books has been pure joy. Look at how cute they all are:

SUMO COUNTING | SUMO OPPOSITES | SUMO COLORS | SUMO SHAPES

I love that every book in the Little Sumo series incorporates Japanese words in a rather unexpected, lively way and offers up glimpses into the life of a sumo wrestler. I’m a sucker for fun educational components; I believe that people learn best when they’re entertained and/or engaged with the content.

With the publication of these books, I’ve reached a huge milestone — I’ve produced 10 books in collaboration with Sasquatch Books and Little Big Foot. 10!!!!!! My mind is blown.

These sweet board books make delightful gifts and would be a fantastic addition to a child’s bookcase. Who knew that sumos could be so adorable? Purchase your copies today anywhere books are sold and learn some simple Japanese words and fascinating sumo culture! Interested in a signed copy? Signed copies of all of my books are available at Queen Anne Book Company — if you’d like personalization, please email the bookstore and I’m happy to pop on over to the shop to do so. Thank you!!

P.S. I’ll post a little flip-thru of the newest books on Instagram later today — SO happy with the way they turned out!

Encouragers + Sewing Love Launch Day Giveaway! {CLOSED}

UPDATE: The giveaway is now closed and I will be contacting the winner directly. Congrats Laura!

“Books are a bad idea. You aren’t making any money. You should get a real job.”

That’s what my husband told me when I published my first book and has repeated a variation of these words over the years as I diligently worked on building a career as an author and illustrator, fueled by copious amounts of hope and coffee. I’ve wanted to make books since I was a wee girl. I used to inhale Japanese comic books ever since I could read, and by the time I was 12, I’d checked out and finished every book in the kid’s and “Youth” sections of my tiny local library (YA wasn’t a thing in 1980s Los Angeles). Multiple times. I am always, always reading a book, even if it’s half a paragraph at the end of a long day. Books taught my daughter to read and write and introduced her to a vast universe of imaginary and real wonders. I understand the magic of books. The importance of them. Books have saved my life on more than one occasion.

My husband’s words — uttered from a place of concern and love, to be sure — were a blow, and I did want to give up on many occasions. Even my editors told me how rare it is for authors to make a living, especially if none of the books ever hit the New York Times bestseller chart. I tell you this because I have found that if you have big, audacious dreams, the people closest to you will often discourage you. It’s surprising, but it’s partly to protect everyone involved from too much disappointment and partly because making dreams come true is not actually supposed to happen when you’re “realistic.”

Despite his words, I kept going. I keep going and keep seeking the alchemy that words and images can create in the human soul. Today, on August 23rd, 2022, my wonderful publisher Sasquatch Books is releasing my eighth book, Sewing Love: Handmade Clothes for Any Body.

I have dedicated this book to my dear, dear friend Annelieke, who has continually filled my doubt-ridden brain with words of encouragement.

For every 10 discouraging comments, I have received perhaps one word of support. I don’t rely on other people to hoist me up at all, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit that it’s nice to hear, “You can do this! I believe in you!” What makes Annelieke particularly special is that we’ve never met nor have we spoken to each other. She has quietly and staunchly supported me through many of my side projects, and over the years we’ve exchanged innumerable emails. We are penpals of the modern era and our friendship is proof that genuine connections can be forged through the internet. I love her so much and can’t put into words how much I appreciate her. I have turned to her to share some of my lowest moments and my biggest celebrations, and she has been a font of wisdom and an everlasting encourager. I wish for everyone to have an Annelieke in their life.

I would be remiss not to mention that the husband has given up on me ever getting a “real job.” He now says (with a resigned sigh), “maybe your books will work?” He says that I’m talented and tenacious and that though I’m terrible at making money, I have other wonderful qualities. I’ll take it. On my end, I have no intention of giving up on becoming a book-maker and beautiful-things-creator that also earns what is considered a “real” living (what is that anyway?) — I keep going.

Anyway! To celebrate this book that I am so, so proud to have co-created with many magical folks, let’s do a giveaway, shall we? You will discover that I have subtly woven the theme of not giving up into this book about accepting our amazing bodies as is. Although “self -love” is very much a buzz word these days, I believe it’s at the heart of a well-lived life and is quite possibly the hardest thing to do. Tenacity is required. And I am hoping that through the book, I can be the Annelieke-like figure to encourage you to create slopers and gorgeous clothes that delight you.

As a bonus, I’ve created a measurement form PDF to make the process easier. Worksheets and sections that can be filled in are avoided if possible in books, because libraries don’t like them (borrowers end up marking up pages), which is why this form is not included in the book. You can download the PDF here or in the sidebar. Keep in mind that this is an evolving document and my goal is to keep improving it to make it as effective as possible. 

I will be offering up one copy of Sewing Love for this giveaway and to enter….hmmm. Any comment will do, but I’d love to know if there’s something you’ve not given up on, something that you keep being/doing because it’s important and meaningful to you. International entries are welcome as always, and the giveaway will be open until next Friday, September 2nd! Good luck, good luck!

P.S. I’ll be doing a separate giveaway on Instagram, and you can also see some behind-the-scenes posts there!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet Sixteen

Styling: Rachel Grunig Photo: Manuela Insixiengmay

Happy almost August, everyone! So many big events are happening, the biggest of which is that K is turning sixteen this weekend.  The image above is an outtake from my book Sewing Love, launching on August 23rd. Look how grown-up and beautiful she is! K’s been in every one of my sewing books, and it’s quite emotional for me to see the progression.

I adore this image from Sewing Happiness, when she was a darling seven-year-old:

Styling: Rachel Grunig Photo: George Barberis

She’s wearing the flower crown project, which was one of my favorites. Rachel dyed the background indigo fabric by hand, and it was simply perfect.

And I squeezed this one in at the very back of Animal Friends to Sew, when K was twelve and our cat Katara was just shy of a year:

 

 

Styling: Rachel Grunig Photo: Amy Johnson

We tried to get Katara to wear a beanie with ears too, but she wasn’t exactly cooperative.

There are a lot of photos of K in Sewing Love, and because we had the photoshoot in spring of 2021 she was actually only 14, but we all gasped when Kaija, the hair and make-up artist, completed K’s look — she could easily pass for a college student or older:

Styling: Rachel Grunig Photo: Manuela Insixiengmay

I’m rocking my grey locks, which has actually increased significantly in the last year. There have been some rough moments for us all, yes?

16!! My little girl is not so little anymore (she towers over me), and has blossomed into a brilliant, sensitive, musical beauty. We’ll have a special celebration for this extraordinary young woman. I can’t wait.

I’m off to take care of last minute preparations, so I’ll catch up with you next month! I’ll be doing some fun giveaways for Sewing Love and if you can, it would be wonderful if you could pre-order a copy here!