Simple

Hello, my friends. How are you? How different the world is since I last posted here.

Nothing like a pandemic to stop you in your tracks, to take stock of all that is.

It’s very odd. I was experiencing a sense of deja vu as events unfolded, and I kept trying to figure out why that would be. It finally occurred to me that I had felt this very same sense of foreboding and out-of-control-ness and unmooring when my health was at its worst, back in 2012.

I was homebound for the most part back then too, and I felt constrained in every way because my body was incapable of functioning how I wanted it to. But as the restricted days turned into weeks and then into months, I found a rhythm that started to make more sense. The slowing down became normal, appreciated, even. I slept a lot, took longer and longer walks as my strength increased, ate mountains of vegetables and read an astounding number of books. I filled one notebook after another as I examined my life from every angle and discovered unsettling and buoying aspects in equal measure.

I simplified. From the outside looking in, my early days of rehabilitation probably appeared nondescript, boring. Ironically, it was anything but. It was one of the most creative, richest times for me. All that time of quietude and percolating thoughts led to sewing with vigor again, picking up a paintbrush to teach myself watercolors and gouache, launching this little blog. And then crazy things kept happening and dreams came true.

My days are simple again. I get up early in the morning to walk around the neighborhood. I come home, make myself a cup of coffee and write for hours. I feed my family (including my cat) brunch. We’ve done away with breakfast and brunch is always more fun. I work on book projects at a leisurely pace. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is rushed. I paint little sketches. I like to paint flowers. Some days I sew. I do some laundry. A little bit of tidying up happens here and there. I start on dinner around 5:30, and chop many, many vegetables. We eat our evening meal, and K has started a new tradition: we must report three good things that happened that day. I read a chapter or two from one of the books among the towering stack beside my bed before drifting off to asleep. And then I repeat the whole thing the next day.

This doesn’t mean there’s no fear or anxiety. My brain feels foggier for sure. I am more emotional. I miss my regular routines; I miss getting together with people. But the simplicity helps. Simple feels good.

P.S. My 2021 sewing book, as expected, has been postponed since we couldn’t proceed with the photoshoot, but the good news is that my ANIMAL FRIENDS TO SEW book will be on sale earlier than expected. I will have more updates on that soon.

This one’s figured out the whole lockdown thing.

 

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!

Happy Friday + A Flower Shower

Happy Friday! I’ve been painting a lot lately, experimenting with the many, many watercolor and gouache paints that I have. I’m in between big deadlines right now so I gave myself a break for the entire month of March to basically goof off. These illos aren’t for any particular project and it’s lovely to just aimlessly sketch.

The plan was to simply read and sort of putz around for a month, but then – as per usual — I found myself making a massive to-do list of sewing, home improvement and other DIY projects. I get twitchy unless I’m working on something. But what I ended up gravitating towards most was my paints. It’s been very relaxing.

I’ve been giving this blog a lot of thought too. I had ambitious blog ideas on my big to-do list, and clearly they didn’t happen. I’m relishing the ease of Instagram right now, and I promised myself not to feel pressured to post on a regimented schedule anywhere online. Super liberating. And I noticed that when I let myself just putter about physically and mentally, I feel more energy and want to make things. This break has done me good!

I’m off to start my weekend and I hope you have a terrific one! I will leave you with this little girl having a conversation with a flower…

Girl: Tell me, pretty flower — what is this luminous shower?

Flower: I am a light tower, a giver of infinite power.

Girl: Oh, tell me more about this power!

Flower: It makes you an allower, a magnificent here-and-now-er!

Girl: …will it take more than an hour? If so, I might get sour and dour.

Flower: Ah, just relax under my bower and enjoy the flower shower…

 

 

Happy Friday + Making LINES

Photo by Carrie Hoge

Happy Friday! Have you seen the latest Making issue, LINES? What a beaut! Carrie and team continue to slam dunk with gorgeous content, and I’m so honored that I was a contributor! Many things have changed in my life these last five years, and one of the most glorious changes is that I now get to collaborate and work with the loveliest, most amazing people all the time. I’m sad to say that wasn’t usually the case for the 25+ jobs I’ve had in the past, though of course there were always a gem or two.

Today I thought I’d do a sort of behind-the-scenes of my projects in LINES, since that’s always fun for me.

Photo by Carrie Hoge

Project one was the nesting fabric buckets. I realize I’m not scoring any points for originality here, though I did add flourish on the canvas fabric with fabric paint, which turned out to not only be enjoyable, but I was also very happy with the results. Quick and easy, that’s how I roll.

Here’s another pretty outtake of the buckets that Carrie shot:

Photo by Carrie Hoge

I can’t remember exactly whether I offered or if Carrie asked me if I wanted to contribute to the kids’ section as well. At any rate, I was planning on creating an animal nesting version and made these samples:

Then I found out that there was a distinct and totally coincidental cat theme going on in the kids’ section so Carrie wondered if I would be able to make a cat version. But of course!

Photo by Carrie Hoge

So cute, right?? As I’m prone to doing, I squealed with delight when I finished the kitty basket.

Plus, it worked out well because the bear and owl buckets ended up as gifts for friends and K fell in love with the bunny.

What you may or may not have noticed if you’ve browsed through the issue is that I did a number of illustrations, which was a dream assignment. I’ve always wanted to have my illustrations in a beautiful print magazine, and I can now check that off my bucket list. Thank you, Carrie!

The middle illustration was based on the supremely adorable cat made by Erika Barratt (her instagram AND Making‘s feed are must-sees — so much inspiration!).

The entire issue is a visual feast full of thoughtful projects and stories. I hope you check it out!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

I’m out of practice
Haven’t created haikus
in a long, long while

P.S. Furoku members! The next edition is scheduled to go out tonight…I think. I hope. Probably!