March Round-up

Hello, my friends! March zigged and zagged at a furious pace, and here we are. I’m juggling quite a few projects, making the passage of time extra speedy — at the moment, my baby board books are at the press (coming out this fall! more on that soon!), and I’m finalizing my next sewing book which will launch in spring of 2022. The photoshoot is coming up in May and in preparation, I’m sewing like I’m on fire and have also enlisted the expertise of Karen, who is wonderful. In fact, my whole team and everyone involved are phenomenal, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the sewing book elements all come together. I’m also starting on my next books…you know, I sometimes just stand stock still and marvel that this is my life.

I feel like it all started 30 years ago when I began a daily journal habit. I wrote and doodled diligently every single day. Sometimes I only had 10 minutes to spare, sometimes I had hours. I didn’t know where it would lead me, but I decided to believe that if I showed up consistently like I was a writer and illustrator, one day “reality” might catch up. I did the same thing with sewing. I wanted to become someone who could make clothes from scratch, and though my stitches were wonky and embarrassing for a very long time, I kept at it. I don’t take any of my current situation for granted and I do everything that I can to fuel my creative energy.

Some of you have been reading this little blog since the early days when I secretly dreamt of creating books, and I can’t thank you enough for your constant companionship during some very lonely and discouraging periods. I’m convinced that if you don’t give up, even seemingly far-fetched dreams will come true. I think we each have particular desires and dreams because we’re meant to actualize them. I mean, I’ve never wanted to become a professional athlete or an avant-garde performance artist or a politician. My focus inexorably veered towards books and clothes and illustrations.

Moving on! I would be the first to admit that I don’t know how I’m sewing for myself on a weekly basis on top of the other commitments I have going on behind-the-scenes. I have noticed that I’ve become decent at managing my schedule so I don’t ever feel rushed, but even I’m baffled by the amount of stuff coming out of my sewing machine. Granted, I’m not making anything complicated and perhaps that’s the key.

Above are my March makes (clockwise):
Esme Top from Lotta Jansdotter Everyday Style (size L) in cotton
StyleArc Shirley Shrug (size 10) in corduroy knit
Fancy Tiger Crafts Fen Top (size 8) in black with white polka dots rayon/cotton and white windowpane checks linen
Skirt from this Japanese book (one size) – it’s the one on the cover and it can convert to sarouel pants in striped seersucker

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I keep falling more and more in love with watercolors. Here are some of my practice pattern designs from this month (the off-white flowers were originally painted with watercolors, then I digitized them in Adobe Illustrator):

That last image of the moon with a four-leaf clover garland is actually a gif. That was fun to make. I’ve included more info about the patterns and other tidbits on Instagram, if you’d like to check that out (did you know that you don’t actually need the app to view the content on Instagram?).

I didn’t think it could be possible, but April is going to be even more robust schedule-wise. Can I keep up my weekly sewing? We shall see! I’m amazed that I’ve been going strong for three full months. Last week, I recognized that little “click” that I feel when something has become a habit, when it’s harder not to do it than to carve out time to get it done. Weekly sewing has definitely become a habit!

Alright my friends, I’ll catch up with you at the end of April. Until then, have a lovely, lovely month!

 

 

February Round-Up

Hello, my friends! Brief snow storms and budding allergies (ah-choo!) and book deadlines sum up this month for me. I’m in the midst of wrapping up a very big deadline for the next sewing book, so I’m doing a rapid-fire, bare-bones update today. Fingers crossed that there are no late nights ahead of me!

Here are the things I created for this sweet, short month (you can see more images on Instagram here):

WEEKLY SEWING

A gingham cross-over button-down shirt from Simply Sewn: Clothes for Every Season by Michiyo Ito:

The Cali Faye Gardenia Dress pattern in tunic length (wow, I’m looking tired):

Self-drafted snow pants for K – an emergency sewing project when the snow storm hit a couple of weekends ago:

Waxed canvas sun hats from Lotta Jansdotter’s Simple Sewing book. The first one I made was way too big for me, so I shortened the crown by 1.25″ and I really like it!

SURFACE PATTERN DESIGNS

As always, lots of cuteness and animals…

I Photoshopped faux patterns onto the covers of the Quiet Adventure Books from my latest book, ANIMAL FRIENDS TO SEW:

Some vintage-inspired potholder designs:

Silly and adorable totes:

Floral gift tags/cards that I made into free printables here:

I hope the tags come in handy!

That’s it for this month! So, so amazed that I’ve managed to sew and design stuff for two months in a row! I hope to update you in a more leisurely fashion next time…

 

January Round-Up

Hello, hello! This is my first post of 2021, though it’s already the end of the month. How’s 2021 going for you so far?

I’ve been trying something new over on Instagram. I’ve never been on much of a schedule with IG in the past, but I thought it might be fun to stick to a twice-a-week posting regimen to see how long I can keep it up. My aim is to practice surface pattern designs and to establish a weekly sewing habit (i.e. sewing for myself — sewing for K when she was little was much, much easier). I like to do this sort of thing. Routines + skills-and-habit-building is my jam.

I’ve done pretty well for January. Since I know that social media isn’t everyone’s thing, I’m going to do monthly round-ups of my Instagram posts right here on the blog.

SURFACE PATTERN DESIGNS

At first, I was going to just share a pattern which is what I did the first week, but then I came across a tutorial on how to make surface pattern design mock-ups/prototypes and in my usual manner, I got obsessed. How cool is it to see a product with the design?? Here are the designs and mock-ups from January:

WEEKLY SEWING

I was a little nervous about starting a weekly sewing habit. I’d attempted this several times in years past, and always failed. However, I’ve been sewing so much in preparation for my next book that I’m pretty darn speedy now, which gave me the boost to try once again. A big part of the incentive to sew for myself is not only to continually improve my skills but also to finally make a significant dent in my fabric stash. The enormity of my stash has been weighing heavily on me physically and conscience-wise for what seems like an eternity. I’m using a good chunk of fabric from my stash for the book, but there’s so much that just won’t fit with the book aesthetic or that I don’t have enough yardage of, so that’s where personal sewing comes in. I may sew some for K too, but it’s been about 50/50 in terms of meeting her approval since her standards are WAY higher than mine when it comes to quality control.

So far, I’ve been able to create something every week. I’m getting into the groove, my friends! I can’t help but notice that no matter how many hours and days and weeks and months and years of practice I have under my belt, I rarely have an error-free sewing project. I misread instructions or sew the wrong parts together or cut out incorrect pattern pieces. 99% of the time, the sewn items come out just fine in the end. Or maybe my standards are really low, so they seem fine to me. Whatever the case, the mistakes are less and less frustrating.

Anyhow, here are the things I sewed for the month of January:

Vogue 9275 View C in French Terry + Self-drafted leggings in performance knit

Japanese-style apron from this book (size L) in herringbone linen.

 

Style Arc Brooklyn Knit Top (size 10) in sherpa knit + Anna Allen Persephone Pants (size 10) in lightweight denim

Merchant and Mills Landgate Jacket (size M) in a thick-ish, nylon raincoat material…I think. I’ve had this fabric in my stash for at least six or seven years and can’t even remember where I got it from. I also made a pair of self-drafted slim-fitting corduroy pants.

Okay! That’s it for this month, and I’m excited to see what I end up creating for February!

P.S. I’ve gotten a few inquiries about the Secret Valentine Exchange and sadly, it won’t be happening this year again. I can’t take care of all the administrative tasks by myself, I’ve realized, especially with my current book deadlines. I’ll continue to rack my brain to make it happen for next year (fingers crossed!)

Tyra Tee by Just Patterns

Hello, my friends! Now here’s a rare sighting of me in a handmade outfit…it’s been a while, hasn’t it? Excuse the crazy escapee hair strands — my bun skillz are haphazard at best.

Let me tell you a little bit about this sweet li’l top I’m wearing. It’s called the Tyra Tee by Just Patterns, and it’s an effortless pattern to sew up. Perfect for beginners as well as more experienced folks looking for a quick, refreshing project that’s certain to become a comforting, gotta-reach-for-it garb.

My friend Delphine is at the helm of Just Patterns, and as you would expect from her lovely French heritage, she’s stylish in that oh-so-Parisian-chic way. That in and of itself is inspiring, but she’s also gorgeous, incredibly kind, brilliant and has a rather hush-hush career in an extremely exciting field outside of sewing like a boss. She’s the kind of person that would normally foster envy, but she’s so darn charming and generous that you can’t help but celebrate her polymath-ness. She’s building her business with gusto and I love the care and thoughtfulness that Delphine puts into her patterns, infusing them with her 20+ years of sewing expertise.

But onto the Tyra Tee. So easy. So fast to sew. So, so comfy.

If you’ve been around here for any length of time, you know that oversized tees are my jam. Given the French roots of the pattern, as it were, I decided to channel Coco Chanel and selected a striped knit. The fabric actually has a nice amount of body despite its drapey quality, and I believe I’ve landed on the ideal pairing with the Tyra. The pattern recommends going down a size for knits of this type, and I agree. According to the size chart, I would have been a 42, but I cut out size 40 (the sizing is European) and the fit feels spot on. Roomy, but not swimmingly so.

My years of sewing for K has made me lazy when it comes to knit sewing and despite helpful instructions about finishing the raw edges, I didn’t bother. I also didn’t bust out my serger/overlocker or cover stitch machine and used a zig zag stitch with my regular machine to sew and hem this baby. Worked just fine.

I love this top. Incidentally and totally un-relatedly, can you spot the difference between the two photos above? Hint: it’s not about the outfit. Sometimes little things bother me for no reason, and I have to make tweaks.

 

The final analysis: thumb’s way up! Today is the launch day for Tyra Tee, and my shiny forehead and I highly recommend it! Just Patterns shop is here.

P.S. Delphine obviously gifted the pattern to me, but all opinions are solidly my own.

P.P.S. If you’re wondering, I self-drafted the linen pants and they may or may not be part of my next book. Still trying to decide…

Nuanced Not Faded

Hello, my friends! I received this luscious bouquet from a dear friend a couple of weeks ago, on my birthday. We did a social-distanced hand-off of the flowers, which was quite funny.

As I gazed at these blooms the phrase that came to mind was, “faded beauty.” It’s what everyone says, right? The faded beauty of dying roses. Although these roses are no longer in the full blush of its blossoming floral youth, I don’t think their beauty has faded at all. If anything, it’s deepened and is more nuanced.

Of course, as someone who is now 49-years-old, perhaps I’m justifying the passage of time and what might be perceived as the dimming of what K calls my “sparkle.” Here’s what she said to me as she flipped through some old photos, “You had so much sparkle when you were in your twenties, Mama!” My almost 14-year-old K is so full of sparkle and it’s true, I definitely feel more muted. But nuanced!

One is prone to contemplation around the time of a birthday, and I’m a professional contemplator as it is. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my forties and I’m unabashedly excited about embarking on my fifties next year. If I’ve learned anything in my four decades, it’s that if I allow it, life gets better and better. Does that mean the world is better or that everything is perfect? No. That doesn’t seem to be the case at all. In fact, if the news broadcasts are to be believed, the world has gone to hell. But I don’t believe the news (not entirely, anyway). And I don’t believe in suffering because other people are suffering. I tried that for many, many years, and all that happened was a lot of extra suffering. This is probably not a popular stance given current events, but I stand by it 100%.

What I want to do for this 49th year and beyond is to genuinely enjoy each day and — if I may use the quote from my ginger teabag tag today — “plant love and watch it grow”. To just be myself. Who knows how many days I have left? My mom has been an excellent role model in this regard. She used to talk about death all the time, and how she wanted to squeeze goodness out of each moment before she passed on. When I was younger I thought that was macabre and rather depressing, but now I see that it’s the opposite. She’s 71 now and hasn’t changed much. Every time I chat with her on the phone, she tells me of all the joys she finds in her new home and surrounding area and wonders when she’ll die, practically in the same breath — she seems so content to have returned to Japan after 50 years in California, but then again she was content in Los Angeles too. Now there is a woman who knows how to have a good time and is unafraid of the grim reaper.

I’d like to be like that.

I’ve been enjoying many things lately. M spoiled me with books and art supplies for my birthday and I got this amazing set of colored pencils. I’m obsessed with colored pencils and have tried pretty much every brand on the market. According to all the reviews I’ve read most colored pencil artists love soft, smooth, oil-based pencils, but I prefer harder, wax-based leads. What drew me in particular to this set is that like myself, the colors in this Derwent Artists set are quite muted (and nuanced!):

As you can see, I’ve tested a jillion brands to see figure out my preferences. K calls them my broccoli girls.

More experimenting. The Lightfast pencils are spectacular as well, but I still prefer the Artists…

I used to have a phobia about using my “nice” stuff and kept saving them for a day when I would feel somehow more worthy of the high quality items. No more. I dove right into using my gorgeous pencils and I’ve been cutting into my prized fabrics as well. I made this little self-drafted tank for myself this week. It’s made with Nani Iro fabric I bought at Yuzawaya last year in Japan. Again, who knows how many days I have left, right? Might as well use everything up.

Using things up has been a big theme during quarantine for me. I get this huge sense of satisfaction from finishing the toothpaste tube, cooking up all of the vegetables in the fridge, etc., etc. There’s the awesomeness of reducing waste, of course, but it’s that glee of completion that I love more than anything else.

I hope you’re all faring well in spite of the global chaos. Here’s another role model for enjoying each moment (I know that I keep posting similar photos of Katara, but she’s so darn cute and I’m such a cat lady now, I can’t help it):

I’m working on three books starting this week, so my schedule will be full for a while. It’ll be a nice change from my dawdling, doodling days — I like having the balance of the two. In a few months, I’ll be able to go back to aimless coloring and contemplating, which will be lovely.

P.S. K graduated from middle school last week and is now officially a high schooler!! Wow, I don’t think I ever imagined myself as a Mama to a high school kid and so far, it’s awesome.