2021 Advent Calendar + Free Printables!

Hello, hello my friends!

If you’re in the US, I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving weekend to kick off the holiday season. Mine was quiet and very low-key, which is exactly how I like my my celebrations, especially celebrations about gratitude.

One of the things I’ve been working on over the long weekend is the annual Advent Calendar. It’s going to go on top of the piano, and this tradition is a much beloved one in our family. As I was cutting and assembling, I realized that this will be my 10th Advent Calendar. 10 years!! Isn’t that mind-boggling? As always, I’ve listed all the calendars I’ve made to date at the bottom. 

 

It’s always a challenge to come up with a different concept, and this year I designed a bunch of patterns, then I folded them into triangular boxes (I followed the tutorial from here, but made my own template of quatrefoil shapes). Aren’t the patterns cute? Can you find the boba tea and volleyball ones? You can tell that I had a lot of fun trying to make them holiday-esque! I created about 30 designs total but obviously only used 25, and tried to include a few motifs that represent K’s favorite things. I had a “doh!” moment, however, when I noticed that I forgot to include a music-related pattern. Music is at the top of her favorite things list! That and true crime podcasts, which I also didn’t include. What would I have drawn? Knives and blood and dead people? Crime tape?

So I started by cutting out the shape…

Then folded in the “petal” edges…

Then folded each triangle inward to create the square base…

Added the filling and punched a hole in each petal tip…

Threaded a cord through and attached a little circular label (for the countdown numbers 1-25)….

And voila!

I was especially proud of the idea of including a puzzle piece every day. I got one of those DIY puzzles from an art store and painted it with watercolors. I love that she’ll be able to slowly put together the puzzle throughout the month.

 

 

Fun, right?

Here they are…adorable triangular gift boxes, ready to be opened (sorry for the image quality — I was rapidly losing natural light):

 

Every year I like to offer up some free printable holiday tags for YOU, and realized that I could simply reduce the size of the quatrefoil shapes into sweet little tags. You know how much I love tags! If you’d like to download some tags from years past, scroll down after the list of Advent Calendars.

For this year I selected 12 of the designs that felt more generally appropriate (you probably don’t want a volleyball themed tag, right?) and arranged them onto one sheet as tags. Click on the image or here to download the file. I recommend printing them on card stock or textured paper like my go-to Inkjet paper for best results. 

I’m so excited for K to see the calendar tomorrow morning (December 1st)! That’s the most thrilling moment for me: when she wakes up and beholds the whole shabang.

By the way, if you’re subscribed to receive blog posts by email, I’ve switched email services and will be sending the blog posts from a different email address (sanae[at]sanaeishida.com), so you may find the blog updates in your promotions tab or in your spam folder. Please have a look there if you notice that you haven’t been getting updates from me. Thank you!!!

Oh, and here are the past Advent Calendars:

2020

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

 

And here are tags from years past for your convenience if you’d like more options:

2020 Tags

 

Cat Wreath Tags

More Cat Tags

Bleu Tags

 

 

Animal Tags

 

 

SUMO COUNTING + SUMO OPPOSITES!

Wow, August just vaporized and I’m reeling from the fact that September will be upon us in a matter of hours. How are you, my friends?

I’m doing a quick check-in today for a couple of reasons:

  1. I wanted to say hello – August has been somewhat rough for me and my monthly ritual of updating my blog has a helpful, grounding effect. Though I’ve been pretty overwhelmed especially in the last week, there’s a chance that life will calm down very soon. Whew. My favorite autumnal season is just around the corner, and I’m excited to savor it. Things are starting to look up!
  2. I have new books coming out:

Oh my goodness, aren’t they CUTE?????? SUMO COUNTING follows a typical day of sumo wrestlers with little rhyming couplets. SUMO OPPOSITES is just that — opposite words, plain and simple. I did try to incorporate lots of Japanese cultural elements in the  illustrations for the OPPOSITES book too, though. Plus, there are Japanese words accompanying the numerals and English terms. I always love it when board books are informative and interesting for adults as well as for the littles, and I kept that in mind as I created these.

The official release date is next Tuesday, September 7th! They are available wherever books are sold (you can click on the book images on my sidebar or click here), and pre-orders are always awesome!

I am particularly in love with this spread from SUMO COUNTING (the most elaborate one):

The Japanese garden I painted is a mash-up of three local gardens: The Seattle Japanese Garden, Kubota Garden and Bloedel Reserve. All three are incredibly beautiful and it was such a delight to incorporate various aspects of the three gardens.

This is the opener for the SUMO OPPOSITES book:

I loved trying to balance the minimal and complex illustrations for the series.

So! I like to include fun extras whenever possible, and to celebrate the forthcoming launch of my adorable sumo guys, I designed a little repeat pattern, which can be used as gift wrap for small presents. Click here to download the printable PDF file.

I taped two sheets of the sumo paper to wrap both books. As you can tell, I’m very into blues and greens lately.

Here’s what’s even more thrilling: there are TWO more Sumo books in the pipeline! Like all of my kids’ books, the next two will be published through Little Bigfoot/Sasquatch Books. The entire set will be a great addition to any library, and these make excellent baby gifts. The best way to describe how I felt making these books is “joyful,” which was much appreciated since I was working on these during the height of the pandemic lockdown last year. I’m so grateful to have had these sumo books to keep me company during these uncertain times.

Yay! Please order these joy-boosting books for every baby/toddler you know :-)!!!

 

2020 Free Holiday Printables

Hello, hello!

I am, as ever, a creature of habit: the annual Advent calendar (this year’s is my absolute favorite to date, by the way), the monthly blog posts, and all the other various habits I’ve cultivated over the years that I uphold with a Pit Bull determination. For the month of December, I created some cute holiday tags and print-at-home goodness for my Patreon members and then remembered that I normally offer up free printables here on the blog during this season.

So I started to play around with a more simplified set of tags and wrapping paper designs and things got a little out of hand.

I created 16 tags:

…and 10 wrapping paper designs (ideal for wrapping very small gifts):

The tags and wrapping paper can be easily printed on 8 x 11.5″ (or A4) paper. I always recommend thicker paper for the tags like this one. I’ve finally figured out how to make seamless repeat patterns, which has been a major learning curve for me. Surface pattern design is SO fun. Most of these were created using Photoshop, but some were done in Adobe Illustrator. I’ve also learned how to use Procreate to make patterns, but I’ve had the best luck with Photoshop so far, especially since I like to use my watercolor illustrations which often don’t vectorize nicely in Illustrator

I hope these come in handy! I may dip my toes into printing some Spoonflower fabrics with a few of my designs in 2021. My mind is now spinning with ideas!

Anyway, since combining all the files into one PDF created a giant document, I had to split them up. Please click on the images below to download the PDF files:

 


 


 

 


 

Let me know if you have any issues!

Alright my friends, I’m wishing you all a festive end of the year! I’m looking forward to posting in January — a fresh new start is exactly what I need. I don’t want to put too much pressure on 2021, but I’ve got high hopes! Cheers!

 

2019 Advent Calendar + Even more holiday tags!

“I wonder when this Advent Calendar tradition will end?” As K grows older, this is the question that pops into my brain every time I embark on yet another design for the holiday season. She’ll be starting high school next year and I don’t know if she’ll enjoy it quite as much.

This was a fun one, my friends. The idea first came to me when I was — as per usual — shopping at Trader Joe’s. I saw the garland with the felted balls ($8.99! What a steal!), and I immediately knew that it would be part of the Advent Calendar.

And so, a couple of weeks before December 1st, I got cracking. I wanted to include little origami-type envelopes to hang from the garland, that much I knew. What to put inside of the envelopes, though?

I started by doodling cat elves and I don’t know…the thought of painting 25 cat elves lost its luster instantaneously. It was just going to take too long, given my penchant for wanting to add lots and lots of details. Luckily, I repurposed them as downloadable tags here, if you’re interested.

Hmmmm….cats, I mulled. I hit the watercolors again and just started pumping out little cat portraits and suddenly, I had it: cats in hats. In my typical let’s-totally-overdo-it style, I also planned to paint dogs in clogs, but…well, I barely finished the cats. The kitties by themselves seemed too plain, so I managed to squeeze in painting tiny wreath frames. SO FUN.

 

The wreaths also became stickers to secure the envelopes closed AND serve double-duty as the day of the month.

I was struck with a lightning bolt of genius that magicked itself out of nowhere: using a notcher to fold the square pieces of papers into envelopes. This way the flaps overlap nicely. In case you don’t know, a notcher is a tool for garment pattern drafting. Very handy. I was manually measuring and cutting out notches at first, so remembering that I had this tool was a big time-saver.

The stickers, I have to say, were not awesome. Their adhesive power was disappointingly wimpy and the textured washi envelopes started to open up as they hung from the garland. I quickly had to reinforce all the envelopes with clear packing tape. We just happened to have some printable sticker paper on hand and I hadn’t used them yet, so it was worth a try. Note to future self: don’t use these stickers on anything other than flat, smooth surfaces.

It was, however, easy to print on the clear sticker paper and the yellow backing slipped right off. I really enjoy peeling sticker backings off. So, so satisfying!

I had just enough washi paper left from a previous Advent Calendar for the envelopes and I seriously adore the nubby surface. I punched holes in the corner for the strings that I looped and tucked in-between the felted balls of the garland. Simple.

Visually, this calendar deviates from my normal neutral color palette, but I’m pleased with how it turned out. I was able to check off all of my personal requirements:

  • Use as much materials that I already own (the garland was the only thing I purchased for the actual calendar)
  • Easy to make
  • Include a balance of giving and receiving (as usual I included giving/contemplative activities as part of the calendar).
  • A new design
  • Low maintenance for me, delightful for K

I’m happy to report the K loves it. Mainly, though, I think it’s because of this other brilliant thing I picked up from Trader Joe’s:

It has little flaps that you can open for the first 12 days of December. Each day contains a different beauty product, a mini version of existing TJ items like lotions, bath gels, sunscreen, etc. Perfect for a thirteen-year-old! She’s a little bummed that she won’t have any more to open for the 13th day and beyond, but that’s okay.

All in all, this was a good one. I always have such a lovely time planning these calendars and all the parts that go with it. Here it is in full:

So! Because I painted so many kitty cats in hats, I thought I would offer up a few of my favorites as downloadable free tags. There are some plain wreaths as well, for those of you that may not be as caught up in cat mania as I am. Simply click on the image to download — I hope they’re useful!

And here she is, the inspiration for all this feline craziness, sniffing our Christmas tree (sorry about the image quality — it’s getting dark so early these days):

It’s amazing to me that I’ve been doing this for so many years. Below are links to all the advent calendars I’ve made to date:

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

Alright my friends, I’m sending you warmest, coziest wishes for the holiday season! I may be able to write one more blog post before the year is out, but we shall see! Happy Holidays!! xoxo

Happy Thanksgiving + Free downloadable holiday tags

Happy T-day to all my US friends!! Just a quick little hello today since I’m still working on K’s Advent Calendar and tying up a few other fun projects. Today, K and I had a leisurely Thanksgiving brunch, strolled around Greenlake, and now we’re getting ready to go out for our annual Taiwanese family dinner at this delicious restaurant. I have given up trying to be “normal” in any way, shape or form and love love love how stress-free our holidays have been these past few years.

Also! I doodled some cute kitty elves that I originally considered including in K’s Advent Calendar. I’ve decided against it but I thought folks might find them useful as holiday tags? I also threw in a couple of wreaths that I am going to use for the calendar. If all goes well, I hope to show you what I ended up creating fairly soon.

Click on the image below or here to download the tags. As always, I recommend printing the designs on slightly thicker paper or this textured inkjet paper, which is what I use. Download, print, cut them out (make sure to add a little extra bit at the top if you want to punch a hole) and write a little message on the back and/or use it to decorate a gift!

Enjoy!