2023 Advent Calendar – The Final One

This is it, my friends. The final Advent Calendar for my not-so-little girl. Next year around this time, she’ll be somewhere on a college campus, taking exams or grabbing food from the dorm cafeteria on her way to a class. The daunting phrase is looming above me all the time lately: empty nester. I have a plethora of thoughts on that. But I won’t go into them right now.

For 11 straight years, I’ve handcrafted a different advent calendar during the month of November to set it up by the last day of the month. I can’t believe we’ve come to this point.

Mushrooms. And acorns. K has an abiding love of shrooms (strictly decorative, mind you — at least as far as I know). Since greens and browns and neutral hues are her faves, I used those as the color palette guide for these sweet wool felt “ornaments.” And yes, I embroidered each one by hand, though I machine-stitched the actual mushroom/acorn shapes. As per usual, I added a touch of gold by painting a sheet of watercolor paper and punching out little circles.

It’s a similar concept to last year’s in that each day she’ll transfer a mushroom or an acorn to the Christmas tree as part of the countdown. I used these Merchant and Mills French safety pins, which I’ve had tucked away in my sewing desk. Cute, right? They work perfectly for this set-up because the clasp part grips nicely to the twine and she can easily remove each ornament. I could have gone blingier and bigger and way over the top for the grand finale, but this simple and homespun advent calendar feels just right.

I am quite emotional right now. K and I have been working on her college applications these past few months, and she’s nearly done (only two more schools to go!). So many changes afoot, so many amazing developments.

There are a billion other things going on, but for today I just wanted to share this assortment of fungi and oaknuts. Also! I included a couple of other store-bought advent calendars with chocolates and teas to add to the fun:

Incidentally, I hand-dyed the silk fabric under the advent calendars with red onion skins — I spent a delightful day with my awesome friend Rachel, who taught me many, many ways to dye with plants. We even did some indigo dyeing! More on that later!
At any rate, for some nostalgia, here are all the advent calendars from the past:











Alright, it’s time for me to design some stuff. I’ll be back in the next couple of weeks with the annual holiday tags and other downloadable goodies!

Creativebug: The Hanten Coat

Hello my friends! I know, I know, it seems like I am constantly updating you on Creativebug classes. I’ve had the enormous pleasure and honor of filming approximately 20 classes with them, so there’s a lot to talk about. My latest class on how to draft and sew a Hanten Coat just launched and I love, love, love this coat. It’s an enthusiastic nod to the traditional Japanese quilted short jacket by the same name.

You can also check out a fun little styling reel I created with the Creativebug team here. I know I’m biased, but I think it’s a very versatile coat, and it’s surprisingly easy to construct.

I’m a firm believer that everyone learns differently, and I’m delighted to be able to offer the Hanten Coat not only in book form (check out Sewing Love!), but in video format as well.

I actually just returned from filming even more classes with the lovely folks at Creativebug, and a plethora of craftiness that I designed will be available on their site early next year. If you browse through the vast class options on Creativebug, there’s no doubt that you’ll be fully inspired to crank out one beautiful project after another — many of my personal heroes are part of the roster of instructors.

To see all the classes I’ve taught to date on Creativebug, click here. Those cute li’l baby slippers might be just the finishing touch needed for your babe’s Halloween costume (okay, it might be a bit late for this year, but maybe next year?).

This is off topic, but I’ve heard from those in the know that blogs are back. Is that true for you? Are you reading more blogs lately? If so, please share some of your favorites!

Well, it’s time for me to wrap up a few more deadlines (October is always my most hectic time of year), but I will be back with pre-holiday goodness next month! 

Photo credit: Creativebug


Summer of Sewing + Destashival in full swing

Hello, hello!

Whew, what a summer it’s been. We’ve been traveling here and there, often in the form of short road trips. Senior year of high school starts for K in less than a week and I’m feeling that surge of energy that comes with September and the beginning of the academic year. I’ve been looking forward to this.

It’s been a great few months, though. As you can see, I’ve sewn a lot. In fact, that image above isn’t everything. I stitched up a grand total of 22 items. 

I lost steam after taking all those photos and decided that the pajama sets and shorts really didn’t need to be modeled. Unless you want to see them on a human form? I’ll take photos with me wearing them if I get comments requesting to do so. I also have to fess up that I didn’t actually sew the dress with the bold graphic print this summer, but sewed the plain, cream-colored one to wear as a lining because the geometric print linen is very sheer. I think I sewed the outer dress three years ago?

Do you remember my sewing plan sketches?

Although I didn’t sew a linen hoodie, hats or more wide-legged pants (YET), I did complete multiples of everything else. Okay, so the dresses don’t have spaghetti straps, but they’re twirly and I’m happy with them. Fist pump!

My de-stashing of fabrics has officially begun, and I gave myself a couple of rules to overcome the usual angst that is part and parcel of cutting into fabric:

  1. No fabric is too precious. I’ve decided to have complete amnesia when it comes to how much I paid for a particular piece of fabric or where it came from. I tend to want to save the fabric for an extra awesome pattern if I consider it special in some way. And then I’m struck by decision paralysis.
  2. It’s more than okay if the garment/sewing project doesn’t turn out the way I want it to. I put a lot of pressure on myself to LOVE everything I make, but the reality is that the Pareto Rule is very applicable: I truly adore only about 20% of what I make. Lately that percentage has been inching upwards, but most of the things I make aren’t outright winners. Case in point: out of the 22 things I sewed, I love love love the jumpsuits, the black dress, and my lilac-y, purple-y skirt. I like the other clothes just fine, but my feelings are cooler towards them.

I also kept my word and drafted everything from my slopers. In a future post I’ll show you how I drafted the clothes based off of my slopers, but for the interim, here are some Sewing Love photos taken by Manuela Insiexiengmay and styled by Rachel Grunig.

Here are my slopers as muslins:

How can I possibly describe the sense of power that fills me when I can create clothes that I’ve designed myself for my own unique physique? I remember all those years of trying on one thing after another in poorly lit fitting rooms with unflattering mirrors. Nothing ever fit quite right. Sure, it might take me a few sewing tweaks to get the optimal fit that I want, but they’re minor quibbles. It’s not like the too tight waist and too baggy bum and too long hem happening all at once whenever I tried on pants. It’s been over 11 years since I stopped buying ready-to-wear clothes, and I may experience a kind of PTSD if I stepped into a fitting room.

I was overwhelmed by all that was going on in the last few years so I’ve been remiss about appreciating the high points. I’m so proud of my book Sewing Love, and I hope it’s giving folks the same sense of mightiness. And did you know that I did a whole slopers series with Creativebug?

Click here for the Lower Body Sloper & Muslin Class.

Click here for the Torso Sloper & Muslin Class.

Click here for the Sleeve Sloper & Muslin Class.

If you’d like to see all the classes I’ve taught to date, click here

It’s been a blast teaching through Creativebug, and I have more classes in the works. I’ll be flying out to California in just under two months to do more filming. Fun, fun, fun!

How was your summer (or winter if you’re in other parts of the world)? Are you ready for September? Stay tuned for even more sewing and other crafty stuff. I’m raring to go!!

Creativebug Cuteness!

The end of July is full of festivities in our family: birthdays, trips and reunions, and just an overall celebration of summer.

As you read this, I’ll be in the Midwest on the tail end of exploring college campuses and connecting with extended family. Can you believe that K is a senior in high school!!?? We are relishing this summer before things heat up with academics and college applications.

Anyhow, I’m just bopping in and scheduling this little post before I head out on my trip. July has also been a month of Creativebug class launches! I taught a number of classes based on my book Animal Friends to Sew, and three of them are now available.


The Baby Slippers:

I mean…don’t these wee animal slip-ons just elicit an automatic, “awwwwwww”?? I designed my own baby slippers after attempting a baby shoes pattern that discombobulated my brain so much that I vowed to come up with a much easier style/method. Though the small pieces can get a bit fiddly, the slippers themselves are simple to construct. Fun fact: the baby on the right is the son of Sasquatch Books’ art director. I’m so appreciative that she allowed us to conduct a photoshoot in her gorgeous home and included her baby to boot!

Click here for the Baby Slippers class.


The Whale Teether/Rattle:

The model for the whale teether/rattle was a natural and hammed it up. Without any prompting, she chomped on the teether ring, and we had so many lovely photos from which to choose. Animal Friends to Sew also includes instructions for a bird teether and a bunny ears one too!

Click here for the Whale Teether/Rattle class.


The Animal Placemat:

Minimal. Quick and easy to make. Functional and fun. Plus, it’s reversible— you can use different fabrics for the front and back and switch up the vibe! These placemats might be my favorite project from Animal Friends to Sew. The pocket was a last-minute addition when I was thinking about how M would write secret notes for little K whenever we went to a restaurant. He would hide the note under her napkin when she wasn’t looking and claim that it magically appeared just for K. The pocket is also a handy utensil holder. And see the bear in a dress? I made that for K when she was about 5. It’s held up well over the years, and she has a partner — you can see the cute couple here. And yes, I made the sushi for the photoshoot.

Click here for the Animal Placemats class.


So cute, right?? There are also quite a few other Creativebug classes that I’ve taught here.

Happy sewing! I’ll be visiting the discussions page for each class regularly and I can’t wait to see all the creations!

I’ll be back in August — have a spectacular summer (or winter, depending on where you are), my friends!!

Photo credit: Amy Johnson

Styling Credit: Rachel Grunig

Special thanks to the adorable models!!


From my book SUMO COLORS – I was thinking of my parents when painting Mt. Fuji, which is in the Shizuoka prefecture where they live

A while ago I had mentioned that if all goes well, I will be traveling to Japan this summer. Unfortunately, all has not gone well and the trip won’t be happening. The reasons are innumerable, and I won’t bore you with the details. I’m disappointed, but we’re tentatively looking into going during winter break. Has anyone traveled to Japan during the holiday season? Will it be too cold for a wimpy west coaster like me? My parents live in a village at the tippy top of a mountain in Shizuoka (not on Mount Fuji) and the single lane road sounds like it might be icy and treacherous in December. Sigh…we’ll figure something out.

I have a summer ahead of me with virtually no deadlines. I worked diligently during spring and I can see the finish line for my next book (out in April of 2024!). Any changes to the book should be minimal at this point. Plus, I submitted all the preparations required for Creativebug for the time being (I’ll have some fun updates on that front next month! If you want to try out Creativebug for 2 free months and get 50% off for life, click here). Furthermore, I’m in limbo for some other projects and don’t have to think about them until the fall.

It feels weird.

But also marvelous. I’ve been intentional about creating a lighter workload for summers and winters and even though it’s difficult, I decline a lot of opportunities to avoid over-scheduling myself. I’m plagued by FOMO, but it’s worth it because I feel like I’m taking care of my future self. Slowly, slowly and with much experimentation (and mistakes) over the years, I’ve managed to structure my deadlines in a way that feels sane. I have only one more year left with K before she goes off to college and I’m making the most of it. I don’t want to look back and lament that I was too busy to spend time with my beloveds.

With all this extra time, in addition to bonding with K, I plan on reading copiously. Book recommendations would be much appreciated! I’m an omnivorous reader and no genre is off-limits. I do tend to gravitate toward books described as “big-hearted” and “charming,” but I can get down with the grittiest of murder mysteries, the cringiest of self-help, the densest of sci-fi/fantasy tomes, the loftiest of literary fiction. Even kids’ books, graphic novels and mangas are fair game; we’re huge fans of Spy x Family in this household. Do tell if you’ve read a book that captivated you.

I’ve also decided that this is the summer when I finally make a significant dent in my fabric stash. I called it “Destashival” back in 2019 and I’m going to make good on it, my friends. Things went a little off-the-rails during COVID and two sewing books (Animal Friends to Sew and Sewing Love) turned out to be insufficient in terms of reducing the mountainous textiles that I own. In fact, I went a little crazy and added to the fabric supply as I progressed on the books…no bueno. Muy no bueno. Let’s not harp on past transgressions, however, and here are some sketches of things I’d like to stitch up:

I’m going to self-draft all of these:

– I sewed a jumpsuit a couple of years ago and though it’s somewhat see-through and wonky, I love it. In warmer months, I wear it all the time and want to fine-tune my pattern

– I really, really want a flirty, twirly summer dress with thin straps

– I adore hoodies and thought, why not make one in linen? After all, so much of what I wear is made from linen

– All of my wide-legged pants are tired-looking these days, so I need to replace them

– I’ve been resorting to wearing M’s t-shirts as nightwear, but want cute PJs with a matching top and bottom

– I’m going to focus on interesting details for tank tops

– Protecting my skin is a must! I wear hats every day and though I liked the Lotta Jansdotter ones I made, I’m going to tweak the pattern more.

Ever since I started sewing, my goal has been to be able to sew anything. I’m fairly confident that I can make most things, but there are still a giant number of techniques and things I haven’t tried or have only attempted once or twice. Maybe I’ll give zero-waste sewing a shot — is zero waste sewing even possible? 

You know, there’s a side benefit to developing this skill: should the apocalypse that my prepper husband has been predicting ever come to pass, I’ll be ready. Sewing can come in handy in so many ways when the world is melting down, don’t you think? In a pinch I could whip up a backpack for survival items or a tent or some other apocalypse-friendly paraphernalia. Of course, there’s the conundrum of how I would lug my sewing machine and supplies if we have to scamper through the wilderness to escape zombies or what-have-you. I suppose I’ll have to whittle a needle out of wood and use my hair or vines to stitch…leaves?


I’m continuing to practice digital painting. Check out the flowers below — pretty much indistinguishable, right? Digital painting tools have come a long way since the first Photoshop brushes I sampled over 10 years ago. Procreate, in particular, is incredible and I’m having so much fun trying a myriad of brushes and making my own! Love, love, love.

Basically, I’m doing all the things I normally do, but for pure FUN. Summer is for play, and play I will! 

Until next month take good care, my friends!

P.S. Happy Fourth of July to those in the U.S.!