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.

Teen Sewing Bonanza

Hello, my friends! How are you doing? Are you still sheltering in place? Or has your area reopened and have you cautiously stepped out into the wild world?

K and I are still in full self-quarantine mode and we’re heading into day 80. M — the most extroverted of us all in desperate need of contact with other humans — has been venturing out a little more while remaining diligent about safety. At this point of lengthy cocooning, I’m not sure if I’m capable of having normal (i.e. coherent) conversations with people and I’m a little nervous about inserting myself into society when Seattle finally reopens.

Anyway! What with my books getting reshuffled schedule-wise and the necessary cancellations of many of my in-person events, I have found a treasure trove of abundant time. And for the first time in years, I’ve been inspired to sew for K. I may have had a poor showing for Me-Made-May, but I kept my sewing machine revved all month.

It’s been a long time since I’ve sewn for K at this pace. I might have overdone it, however, because after sewing up the ruffle top that failed, my mojo skittered to a halt this week.

I self-drafted all of the garments and I’m really proud of this fact. It’s always been my goal to be able to do this, and after 10 years of sewing, I’ve finally arrived. I’m sure it would take most people far less time but I’m a slow learner, especially when it comes to skills that have spatial and 3-dimensional elements.

So how did I decide what to make for K? She and I have a shared Pinterest board and she added all the clothes she fancied, and I used those pins as a springboard to come up with designs. So here they are:

PAJAMAS – she wanted lots and lots of pajamas. I’m happy to report that she loves them all and wears them constantly.

 

SHORTS – Nothing too special about these French terry knit shorts other than its off-the-charts comfort level. I created two separate casings for the waist band because I ran out of 3/4″ elastic and thought two rows of 3/8″ elastic would work (I did the same for the pink gingham pajama pants above). It did. Notice the fancy label. “Koom Koom” is her toddlerhood nickname and I had these labels made 10 years ago.

TOPS – she favors fitted and slightly cropped tops, I’ve noticed. I was trying to make the ones I sewed a little looser than the images I saw on our shared Pinterest board, but I miscalculated the stretch of this grey fabric and it turned out very snug:

She loves it and wears this top frequently. I’m quite pleased with how the lettuce edge hem turned out and you can see the original H & M top that I modeled it after. The stripey H & M top was a hand-me-down from a neighbor and it’s probably one of the most worn items in K’s wardrobe.

This tie-front top was fun to make. I’ve stopped worrying about finishing raw edges with most of the knit projects and K doesn’t seem to mind.

And finally…the failed ruffle top:

The idea behind this top is that it can be worn over or off the shoulder. Unfortunately, the fabric is too sheer, the armholes too deep and I sewed on the ruffle crookedly. I can easily fix the armholes and the ruffle, and I can probably add a lining, but I really, really dislike ripping the seams of knit fabric. We’ll see how I feel after a couple of days.

I’ve featured some of these on Instagram already, which was a lucky thing because quite a few of my photos mysteriously disappeared from my hard drive. Yay for cloud technology — though it tends to be hit-or-miss for me, this time it was a hit and I found the IG images stored on the cloud.

Alright, I’m off to figure out what else I can sew for K. Or maybe I’ll just veg out for a while. However you’re choosing to spend your time, I hope you’re staying safe and healthy!

Kid-friendly masks

Hello, hello! You saw this coming, right? If you’ve got a freshly published animal-themed book, it stands to reason that animal-themed kid masks would be the next logical step.

Sweet, don’t you think?

I even created templates and a tutorial! I know there are a zillion mask patterns out there and the main reason I designed these masks this way was to allow for ease of adding the cute details. As far as I’m concerned, we all could use some cuteness right now.

There are two sizes: child and youth (which technically fits adults too). Even with the addition of animal elements and embroidery, these are quick and easy to sew up. Once I got a rhythm going, I whipped out three in an hour.

K is modeling the bear-esque one — as you can see, the sizing is quite generous but keep in mind that K is rather petite with a small face. I positioned the nose a little higher in this one, fyi.

It was even faster to stitch up the youth/adult size since I omitted the animal elements:

These adorable prints have been lounging in my stash for a looong time (unfortunately, the animal fabrics are no longer available, but there is a dizzying array of equally if not more darling fabrics at Miss Matatabi, where I ordered them from). They are from front to back:

Cheers to a light-hearted take on a helpful item during these confusing times. Without further ado, here’s the tutorial!

KID-FRIENDLY MASK

Child size fits approximately 3-8 years

Youth/Adult size fits approximately 9+

 

MATERIALS (per mask)

10″ x 10″ for outer fabric – I recommend cotton or linen/cotton blend

10″ x 10″ for lining fabric – tightly woven cotton fabric is best

Scrap piece of felt – wool is nicer but the readily available polyester kind is fine, naturally

2 pieces of 1/4″ elastic, 10″ in length each

Marking tool – I like to use Chacopen

Safety pin or bodkin

Optional: Embroidery floss and embroidery needle

Click here or the image above for templates (comes with 2 nose options)

 

CONSTRUCTION STEPS

Step 1 Print out templates (link is above) and trace onto fabrics. Cut out 1 outer piece, 1 lining piece, 2 elastic casings and one nose. To avoid confusion later, it’s a good idea to make a marking or create a notch to mark which side is the top of the mask for both the outer and lining pieces.

Step 2 On the right side of outer mask, attach nose in the center about 1/2″ below the tip of the “v”. I like to use a wide zig zag machine stitch (4mm), but you could also hand stitch it on with a whip or slip stitch. If you prefer the nose to be positioned higher, go to step 4 before attaching the nose. You can see that I tried different nose positions, and it’s definitely easier to sew on the nose while the fabric piece is still flat.

Step 3 Optional: embroider details such as mouth, whiskers, snout outline, etc. using a backstitch (if you prefer, you can embroider after step 4). Don’t worry too much about symmetry and such. I love wonky, imperfect embroidery. So charming.

Step 4 With right sides facing, sew the top and bottom “V”s of the outer mask with 1/4” seam allowance. It’s like sewing darts. Press seam open. Repeat for the mask lining piece. Attach nose and stitch embroidery details to outer mask at this point if you did not do it earlier.

Step 5 Prep elastic casings: fold shorter edges towards wrong side by 1/4″ and press. Stitch close to raw edge of both ends. Then fold shorter side in half with wrong sides facing and press.

Step 6 Attach elastic casings: Align the raw edges of the casing to the side edge of the outer mask (I like to fold the edges and casings to create a center crease to align) and baste 1/8″ from edge. Repeat for other side.

Step 7 With right sides facing, sew outer mask and lining together with a 1/4″ seam allowance, leaving an opening of about 2″ at the bottom. Clip corners (careful not to cut into the seam!).

 

Step 8 Turn right side out, tuck in the seam allowance at the opening and press. Edgestitch all around.

Step 9 Using a safety pin or bodkin, thread the elastic pieces through the casings. Tie the elastic ends into a knot and adjust the fit if necessary. If desired, shift the knotted end into the casing — it looks nicer and will be more comfy for little ears.

All done! So cute!

Let me know if you give these a try and if you find any errors or have suggestions for improvement.

Greetings from Japan!

Takeshita-Dori at Harajuku, Tokyo. We ate a ton of sweets here.
Ginza, Tokyo. I liked the “San-ai Dream Center” sign because it reminded me of my name and the way I pronounce it, which is actually different from the Japanese traditional pronunciation.
On weekends, the main street in Ginza is closed off and is pedestrian only. K is lounging at one of the tables in the heart of the shopping district.
The theme of the trip was animals. We went to the amazing Yokohama Sea Paradise aquarium where it felt like we could practically touch the dolphins.

Hello, hello! K and I have spent a glorious time in Japan for the last 11 days, and we’re having a hard time leaving. I have so many thoughts and emotions right now and though I’m unable to organize them in a coherent way at the moment, I wanted to pop in to say hello.

I also wanted to talk about Ogden camis. For this trip, I somehow made four Ogden Camis by True Bias Patterns in two days before embarking on the plane to Narita. I originally purchased the PDF pattern and then printed it out via PDF Plotting. This turned out to be a brilliant move because I probably would have never gotten around to sewing these great little tops if I had to tape loads of sheets together.

I started with the size 12 based on the finished size dimensions, but the top was much too large and also too short for my liking. Undaunted, I traced the size 10 and the fit was much better, though I think I could go down a half size. I experimented with lengthening, ranging from 1″ to 3″ — 2″ feels like the right amount for me.

Size 12 in a Japanese fabric I received as a gift from Frances of Miss Matatabi

 

 

Version two in size 10 using a double-gauze.
Here’s the back
Version three in my favorite indigo cotton with subtle vertical stripes. I lengthened this one by 3 inches.

Here’s the sad part though: I brought three of the four camis with me to Japan and I only wore one. The breezy top is perfect for the muggy weather in Japan, but I felt very exposed and a bit scandalous showing so much skin in the thronging areas amid women covered from head to toe in layers of fabric. The Japanese as a whole are a modest people and there seems to be an unspoken rule to cover your shoulders.

This fourth version was made from 1 yard of GORGEOUS linen I got on major sale from the no longer open District Fabrics in Fremont. I love how Katara stays close to me and you can see what the photo area situation is actually like here…

I wore this stripey linen version to a cat cafe in Atagawa — where my parents now live — and I felt all the Japanese cat lovers surreptitiously staring at my torso. Luckily, the kitties were incredibly adorable so the stares were short-lived. The cat cafe was one of the highlights of our trip. K and I were missing Katara and it was an unplanned way to get a dose of feline fun. I was pleased with how well-cared for the 28 (!!) cats were at the small facility. For the price of roughly $10 an hour, we played with incredibly friendly cats, fed them snacks and enjoyed a beverage ourselves (the snacks and drinks were included).

K at the cat cafe, having the time of her life.

Well, it’s time for me to wake up K so we can have our last breakfast in Japan. I want to absorb all that we’ve seen and done here in the land of the rising sun and will be updating my Patreon lovelies with all the nitty gritty behind-the-scenes stuff as I always do. I hope you’re all doing well, and I’ll be back with more sewing with some fabric goodies I got in Ginza soon!

A whole new world (no more PDF taping!)

Hello, my friends! How are you? I’m getting ready to travel to Indiana to visit relatives this weekend, and despite my best efforts, I was unable to fully execute my glorious vacation wardrobe sewing plan I had in mind. However, in the process of attempting said sewing plan, I’ve discovered a life-changing thing: PDF Plotting.

I found out about PDF Plotting through a very thorough and super helpful blog post on Sew Liberated. I bet most of you sewing mavens are already familiar with this alternative to the daunting task of printing/cutting out/taping PDF patterns, and though I’d vaguely noticed the online community mentioning copy shop printing of patterns, my hard-wired brain was slow to pick up on this amazing time saving and relatively economical option.

It’s so easy! The one thing I would advise is to double-check the dimensions of the file size in Acrobat (you hover over the lower left corner to get the file size dimensions once it’s opened in the Acrobat Reader). I made a mistake when I entered the sizing info, but the folks at PDF Plotting were very kind about pointing out my errors, and I had beautifully printed patterns on large format paper in a matter of two days from the moment I submitted the order. Magic!

I plan to order more from PDF Plotting when I get back from my midwestern vacation, and in the meantime, I’m going to see if I can crank out at least an Ogden Cami or Kate Bias Top by Sunday. The Persephone Pants will have to wait, though I really want a pair NOW.

Have you tried getting PDF patterns printed? How has your experience been?

Alright, it’s time for me to get going on some sewing! Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!