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!

It’s that time of year…

Hello, hello my friends! How are you? I’m flooded with relief right now since I’ve just wrapped up some major deadlines and have a few days to prepare for my mom’s visit next week (my parents are in Los Angeles at the moment to take care of some U.S. paperwork but will be returning to Japan again during Thanksgiving week).

K told me what she wanted for her costume and I made this quick sketch in Procreate today, and she said, “So pretty!” This one is looking like a relatively simple costume so I feel like I got off easy this year. Can you guess what it is? It’s K’s favorite drink: Boba (or bubble) tea. We noticed that it was all the rage in Japan too and it’s called “tapioca” there. The original bubble tea was a concoction of milk tea and tapioca balls, but nowadays there’s an infinite number of flavors and chewy bits you can choose from. In Tokyo I tried a soy milk version that was a bit funky, but K loved all the ones she sampled, especially the mango flavor.

I’ve got all the supplies ready for the costume (not pictured: the blue vellum for the extra big straw that will be magically attached to her head and the black felt for the boba):

I’m not sure how the mesh fabric will look on top of the milk-tea-colored fleece, but I’m eager to see how it all turns out. Are you getting ready for Halloween? What’s in store for you? I’ll be working on the costume this weekend and I just might actually get it done early this year. Wonders never cease…

Pre-Order Time: ANIMAL FRIENDS TO SEW!!!!!!

Hello, hello, my friends! What do we have here? It’s my newest book!!!! It’s called ANIMAL FRIENDS TO SEW: Simple Handmade Decor, Toys and Gifts for Kids and will be released May of 2020 through Sasquatch Books.

I’m so in love with this book. SO in love. It’s very much the book I would have wanted when I first began sewing for K and all her itty bitty friends, and it’s a grateful nod to the numerous Japanese craft books that inspired me to teach myself how to sew back in the early days. I remember scratching my sweaty head as I navigated the Japanese instructions, a perplexed expression plastered on my face. How amazing that I’ve been given the chance to produce my own kid-focused craft book in a language in which I have a bit more fluency. Side note: I can speak and comprehend Japanese at near native levels, but my nihongo reading/writing require assistance from Google Translate.

The folks at Sasquatch Books continue to make my book-making dreams all come true and I adore the entire staff there, but I am especially appreciative of my editor Hannah and art director Anna (we even had a photoshoot at Anna’s gorgeous house) for this book! I couldn’t have possibly pulled this project off without the magical expertise of Rachel (photo stylist) and Amy (photographer). “You guys are like unicorns,” Hannah told me and from start to finish, this book really did feel unicorn-y. Can I also mention that we have the CUTEST models in the book? Plus, I’ve got to give a major shout out to all the testers as well — I had nearly 100 testers and they were fabulous. I incorporated their feedback and did my absolute best to make the instructions and illustrations as clear as possible.

So!!! I’ve been wanting to share the cover for awhile, but since we’ve been tweaking the last details I wanted to hold off until it felt pretty much complete. As of this week, I’ve turned in my proofreader edits and we’re finalizing the back cover so it’s feeling super official now.

And hey, how about some behind-the-scenes tidbits? When it came time to figure out the cover, I created four sketches and we photographed a few variations based on the sketches. I always love to see how concept sketches turn into final execution. The ideas go through a number of approval processes (including getting the buy-in from the Penguin Random House team — Sasquatch Books is now part of Penguin Random House). My favorite version was ultimately selected, and I let out huge whoops of joy! I thought it might be fun to share the sketches:

 

 

Isn’t it cool that the final cover is so closely aligned in look and feel with the sketches?

Anyway! Did you know that pre-orders have a dramatic impact on the success of a book? The more pre-orders there are, the more exposure the book will get. Stepping up my marketing game is one of my big, big goals and I’ll be getting out of my comfort zone a ton over the next few months. I’m so excited to share this book with the world and I’ve been working on a fun bonus digital gift that I will send out on publication day for all pre-orders! There are a couple of ways to receive the bonus gift.

1. Let me know that you’ve pre-ordered at sanaeishida13[at]gmail.com

2. DM me via Instagram @sanaeishida

Yay!!!

Thank you with all my heart in advance!!!!! xoxo

Pre-order ANIMAL FRIENDS TO SEW HERE

 

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!