Books! Books! Books! Pre-Order Time!

Hello, my friends! It’s a crazy thing, but I have three books launching in a few weeks. All three are available for pre-orders now, and I am beyond excited to share the covers with you today! Snag your copies early! 

First up is the one above: Sewing Love: Handmade Clothes for Any Body. My editor called it my “magnum opus,” which is high praise though I suspect she’s being too kind, as she generally is. I was delighted by the review in Publishers Weekly that called the book “uplifting” and assessed that “[t]his guide to garment sewing is a must-read for crafters of all levels.” My friends, this book of almost 300 pages has been delayed multiple times and the pandemic added all sorts of unexpected challenges. We had to postpone photoshoots repeatedly and ended up doing fittings via Zoom on many occasions. If it weren’t for the stellar team of amazing folks including Rachel, Manny, Amy, Karen, Kaija, 8 gorgeous models and 120+ testers — not to mention everyone at Sasquatch Books — who all remained upbeat and accommodating, I don’t think we could have pulled this off. I am proud of this collaborative, inclusive, personally very meaningful book. It is about sewing, yes, but it is also about celebrating our female bodies and learning how to create clothes that fit our unique selves.

There are personal essays just like Sewing Happiness, my first sewing book. Sewing Happiness came out in 2016, and I still get messages that the book resonates, that it provides inspiration, solace, a sense of calm. Such kind words! And my new book Sewing Love was, for me, a must-create type of book. I’ve not seen anything like it in the market, and I’m pleased as punch to have had this chance to make it come to life. Side note: I wasn’t expecting my full face to show up on the cover, and I am feeling trepidations about this. I had assumed that I would be a lot more incognito and even asked the publishers to consider mimicking the cover from Sewing Happiness, but no go. Obviously, I’m gonna roll with it, though let the record show that I advocated for something less…less…I don’t even know.

If you’d like a signed copy and a pre-order goody (handmade by me!), please order through Queen Anne Book Company. You can include information about personalization/inscription in the Order Comments section when you check out.

Next up: SUMO COLORS and SUMO SHAPES, two new additions to the Little Sumo board book series. These little guys were far easier to work on compared to Sewing Love. There are no photoshoots or sample sewing involved, only 30 pages per book, and just a handful of words. The most time-consuming part is the illustrations, and I love love love painting the sumos. The three books kept me fully occupied during the pandemic, and for that I’m extra grateful. If you’d like a signed copy of these cute baby books, please order through Queen Anne Book Company as well!

Okay, that’s it for today. I’ll have more interior sneak peeks and behind-the-scenes fun tidbits in the coming weeks. Thank you in advance for your pre-orders! It really, really makes a positive and huge impact on getting the book promoted across various channels. More soon!!

Life Goals: 13,000 Books

Hello, hello, my friends! How are you?

I’m doing well. I have a birthday coming up soon, so I’ve been reflecting on life more than usual. I’ve been thinking a lot about what inspires me. One recent and great inspiration is the author Alan Bradley and about a month ago I finished reading his Flavia de Luce series. I read all 10 books over several weeks, one right after another, transported to the 1950s and soaking in the mysteries. Flavia, a brilliant 11-year-old amateur scientist and sleuth, is growing up quite unsupervised in a ramshackle manor in a quaint English village (for the most part — there’s a short-lived stint at a Canadian boarding school for one of the books). I can’t imagine anyone not being smitten with this indomitable, spunky tween. Spending time with Flavia, the eccentric cast of characters, and the smart plot twists became a comforting nighttime ritual. I was bereft when I completed the last book. To prolong the magic of the Alan Bradley world, I even read the stand alone short story and his memoir

Mr. Bradley published the first Flavia de Luce novel when he was 70-years-old in 2009. He’s now in his early 80s, and after a rigorous publishing schedule of at least one book a year that lasted over a decade, he seems to be taking a bit of a break right now. His books are so clever and wise and witty! I’ve watched quite a few interviews with him, and he’s as charming as his books– there’s so much I love about him. I mean, how cool is it that he published his first novel at 70??? It’s never too late. I made that little sketch up there while thinking about Flavia — I should have included a test tube and a piece of bread toasting over a laboratory bunsen burner. Or her trusty bicycle, Gladys.

In his interviews, he mentions that his inner 11-year-old is alive and well in the here and now — I feel the same way. A staggering factoid he dropped during one interview was that he has roughly 13,000 books in his library. 13,000! He didn’t say that he actually read all of them, but I suspect he’s read a mind-blowing number of books since it sounds like he was a very early and insatiable reader. Having a sizable home library has been a life goal of mine ever since I visited a friend back when I was in my twenties. My friend was subletting a house from a professor on sabbatical leave, and my jaw dropped when I saw the beautiful library with floor to ceiling bookshelves. The requisite comfy leather armchair and reading lamp nestled in the corner of the room. I could just picture myself sitting in that chair, lost in one of the hundreds of books. Right then and there, I decided that one day I would have a home library just like it. The dream hasn’t materialized yet, but I know it’s happening.

I don’t think I’ve ever shared on the ole blog here that a few years ago, I started tracking the number of books I read. For the last three years I’ve read at least 100 books per year, though you’ll have to take this number with a grain of salt since I do include picture books in the total tally. Picture books totally count in my opinion! So far I’ve read 65 books in 2022 (of which about 10 are picture books). I would say that the average page count per novel or non-fiction book is about 275 pages. It’s been enormously enriching to be reading a lot again. Reading has always been, and remains, my favorite activity in the world. I feel so lucky that I get to make books as well.

Mr. Bradley appears to be enjoying his life as an author immensely. As someone who can easily get angsty, that inspires me to no end. I have a tendency to obsessively research authors after I read their books and out of all the writers I’ve “studied” (aka stalked), Alan Bradley seems far and away the most delighted and delightful, at least to me. I admire his humility and his wit and I absolutely love that he dedicates every one of his books to his wife, Shirley, whom he clearly adores. Plus, his book acknowledgements are so sweet and interestingly specific, often with shoutouts to booksellers.

I too have rigorously published an average of 1 book a year for the last 7 years, though my book sales are quite modest compared to Mr. Bradley’s mega-hits. Still, I’m honored that this is my career and hey, I’m only 50 (almost 51!). There’s plenty of time for honing my craft(s). I have three more books coming out in August, which I’ll talk a lot more about next month. And I may have some other exciting news to share soon too! Fingers crossed.

Alright, that’s it for now. I’m looking forward to quiet celebrations, lots of reading, writing, painting, sewing and the like. The usual. I’ll be back next month with fun stuff!

 

Creativebug Classes!

Hello my lovely friends! A while back, I mentioned that I filmed some classes for Creativebug, and hooray hooray! A couple of them are now up and available on the site. More will be added over the next few months.

The newly added is class is from my first sewing book, Sewing Happiness, featuring the Triangle Eco Bag. I’m going to daringly say that this would be an excellent Mother’s Day gift — I have a bunch of these Triangle bags around the house and use them for various purposes. They’re quite versatile!

Back in December of 2021, my Quiet Adventure Book class launched on Creativebug, a project from Animal Friends to Sew:

It’s so simple to make, and I’m extra proud of the secret pocket element. Plus, cutting out all those felt shapes is SO FUN.

I’m so appreciative of the many lovely comments and reviews that the classes have already received. I love that these projects that I poured my heart and soul into are offered up in different iterations. I’ve been teaching more and more and I’m getting into it. Part of the reason I’ve become more comfortable with teaching is because I’ve done it so much by now and don’t feel quite as imposter-y as I used to. 

For example, this past weekend I taught a watercolor class for Camp Thundercraft and I had a blast. I was amazed that I knew so much about various tools and techniques. It will probably elicit a “duh!” response given that I’ve been painting with watercolors for over 10 years now, but for some reason I kept thinking of myself as an amateur and not good enough to teach the medium until very recently.

There are some other exciting teaching events coming up and I will share them with you in the near future. If you know of a class that you think might be a good fit for me to teach, hit me up! I’m always looking for ways to communicate and instruct in better ways.

I hope April has been a good month for you. It’s been productive, good and hard for me. Such is life. I won’t update the blog until the end of May, but if you’re subscribed to my email list (see my sidebar), I’ll send you a little digital goody that will come in handy for Mother’s Day! Until next time, take care my friends!

Photo credits: 1st and 3rd images by Creativebug, 2nd image by George Barberis Styled by Rachel Grunig

Coffee date + The gifts of a decade

Hello. How are you? I really want to know. As I sat down to type this month’s blog post, I wasn’t sure if I had anything of interest to offer up. Not that I do normally, but I’ve rarely let that stop me from prattling about. This morning I was thinking about how I started this blog 10 years ago, and for the last decade it’s been a rather one-sided conversation, hasn’t it? I wish that we could have a chat. Let’s imagine that we’re meeting up at one of my favorite coffee shops and we’ve settled in with our beverage of choice, masks temporarily set aside as we sip our drinks.

We can start our social jaunt by talking about the every day things: how’s the family, what are your spring break/summer plans, what’s up with the new or old job, have you heard from so-and-so. What books have you read? Watched any good shows lately? Are you crafting anything?

And perhaps we’ll meander into the not-so-ordinary vistas: the plan to leave life as you know it and embark on a new adventure, the BIG birthday celebration, a strange and wonderful serendipitous event.

We may even quietly enter the dark alleys: the worries, the disappointments, the heartaches. A tear or two may escape from the corner of our eyes as we confide about an unwell family member, a financial burden, a failed project that cost our pride and more.

And then we’ll somberly take some more sips, see that our cups are empty and our time together is nearly up.

We can’t leave on a low note, so we’ll dash to the open fields of possibilities and share dreams and tentative yet sparkly goals. Something to look forward to, something to cherish.

We’ll hug and promise to do this again, then go our merry ways. 

This is pretty much how all of my coffee dates are. I love them. 

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As I said, it’s been 10 years of blogging and in the early days I was very ill. I don’t talk about it very often, but I have Graves disease and in March 2012 I was in the thick of it. According to my endocrinologist, my hormones were so out of whack that I could have easily died. Luckily, by July of that same year when I actually launched my first post, I had recovered a good bit. I would type up a blog post, but then would have to curl up to sleep for the umpteenth time of the day. I had so little energy, caught every cold and flu floating in the air and lived with constant anxiety. The most confounding part was that as my hormone levels spiked I aged at an alarming rate and looked at least twenty years older in a matter of weeks. It’s disorienting to suddenly go from a youthful 40 to a haggard senior citizen clearly on her deathbed.

A decade later, I can say that I’m healthy as a horse — well, most days, anyway. Somehow, the aging has reversed itself too, so I appear the actual chronological age that I am (perhaps even slightly younger, given my Asian genes). I made many, many changes to improve my health, but my immune system seems to be permanently compromised so I do have to be extra careful about stress and lifestyle choices. 

What an enormous boon to have had these extra years! I’ve done my best not to waste them and have done a lot. Lots of time with loved ones, lots of books (both the reading and the making of), lots of sewing, lots of writing and painting. Long walks and yoga, too. I have loved my life to the fullest and will continue to do so. We are never guaranteed another moment. Sure, I forget this truism all the time, but when things get difficult, I remember those hazy days of malaise and appreciate the extraordinariness of being here, now. Have I told you? I don’t fear death. I’ve been given so much, especially in the last few years and though I’d like to stick around until I’m a doddering octogenarian (beyond that I may be too much of a burden to K), I’m open to whatever happens. I have an inkling that death isn’t the end of everything. Be that as it may, I hope that I’ll be around next month for the aimless April blog missive, and in the meantime maybe I’ll have some actual coffee dates with some of you!

Obsessively designing

Hello, hello! How are you all doing? What a crazy time…I have no adequate words for what seems like ceaseless global upheaval. 

I find solace in making things when the world seems to be churning, and lately I’ve been having a love affair with designing patterns for wallpaper, stationery and fabric. I celebrated a dear friend’s birthday this weekend, and let me tell you — wrapping the presents with my own designs is incredibly gratifying. I’m getting more and more comfortable with what’s called “seamless repeats” and am challenging myself to more complicated patterns. I am drawn to simple designs too, though.

I’ve been diligently adding to my Spoonflower shop with new designs every week. I’ll be adding more items to my online shop this upcoming week as well and I’ve also been experimenting with making my own “mock-ups.” Mock-ups are easy ways to visualize what a design would look like on a product without actually sewing/producing said products. It’s all done digitally. For example, I created a mock-up of my Reversible Eco Bag pattern. You can see the same apricots pattern on the Eco Bag here:

And here are a few other versions I played with:

Fun, right? I designed the eco bag to accommodate different fabric combinations, but I often just like to simplify and cut the outer bag from a single piece of fabric as shown in the first three bag examples. I have so many strewn around my house and use them all the time.

The floral pattern shown in the first couple of images is my faborite so far and will be available soon. After I printed it out for the wrapping paper, I realized that I need to make a few more tweaks.

Anyway, today I just wanted to share this heightened devotion to puzzling out seamless patterns. It’s a good way to use my brain so I don’t worry so much about everything, you know?

I hope you are all staying safe and cozy and peaceful. Much love!