Sewing Happiness origami pillows + giveaway

Please note this giveaway has been closed; thank you! | origami pillows from Sewing Happiness by Sanae Ishida

Just under three years ago, when I must’ve been feeling exceptionally bold and sociable, I cold-emailed the writer of a new-to-me sewing blog I’d been enjoying. Her posts had inspired me to look at her About Me page and I was struck by our nearly identical work histories. (No small feat, considering I’d worked six completely distinct jobs and fields in my career at that point.) We also shared Japanese heritage and I really wanted to meet this person who could empathize with my wandering career and my bicultural upbringing.

The blogger in question was Sanae. After some small talk and sewing talk, we started digging into what has been an on-going conversation during our friendship: how to work and live well. How to do meaningful work, and do it in such a way that you can remain healthy and joyous. In one of our early get-togethers, Sanae confided that her dream and plan was to build her living by creating books, and I’m so proud to share that her second book, Sewing Happiness, has been released this month. | origami pillows from Sewing Happiness by Sanae Ishida

Sewing Happiness begins with essays that delve into Sanae’s personal journey to physical and emotional health and the role that sewing played. The second half of the book is instructions for projects. None of the projects require patterns. I so wish I’d had this book when I started sewing. I had such an urge to understand how measurements and flat shapes related to the finished 3D projects and a book like this would have helped guide me through my fumbling! Now that I have more experience under my belt, I’m inspired by the beautiful styling and thoughtful, simple projects. Many of the projects would make great gifts.

I made a pair of the origami pillows, which I’d been eyeing ever since Sanae sent me an early draft of her book. The fabric I used is metallic linen provided by Miss Matatabi. The instructions suggest measuring the pillows and adding 1″ height and width for seam allowance. “But what about the space taken up by the pintucks?” I wondered to myself. I tried to figure out exactly how much extra I’d need for 1/8″ pintucks and cut accordingly. I’m terrible at cutting rectangular shapes, however, and one side was longer than the other. Then I kept reading, and the instructions said that the case will end up a little smaller than the pillows, but that makes them extra fluffy. I cut the other side down and stopped worrying. And Sanae was right, my pillows were extra fluffy. | origami pillows from Sewing Happiness by Sanae Ishida

Speaking of fluffy, Puffy, one of two giant cats we adopted in February, graciously curled up in front of the pillows right before the photoshoot. He’s so obliging.

And in the interest of keeping it real, here’s what was happening outside of the frame. I’d tossed a throw blanket and a sweatshirt off the couch to shoot these photos. I think Spencer, our other giant kitty, was feeling left out and parked himself on the discard pile, staring reproachfully at me while Puffy had his closeup. Cats!


Giveaway: I have a copy of Sewing Happiness and a $45 gift card to Miss Matatabi’s fabric shop for one U.S. reader. Please let me know in the comments if you’d like to be included in the giveaway and an email address where you can be contacted! Giveaway will close on May 23, 2016 at midnight PST.


Tunic times

It’s not all velvetine suits chez Crab & Bee. Last fall, I made a workhorse addition to my handmade wardrobe’s tunic section: a cotton/hemp/lycra knit tunic I made when I was recovering from being sick. I was craving sewing but wanted a simple, wearable project. It was also around the time I was putting together this post where I took stock of my past and future sewing ambitions, so the pattern (Simplicity 2472) was on my mind. I’d tried it in a magenta poly-cotton thrift-store sheet, and it looked stiff and wrinkly. | Simplicity 2472

(Any PDXers recognize this wall? When the universe offers you a graphic background against which to photograph your charcoal-grey tunic, you accept.)

I used my walking foot and a mild zig-zag stitch, and then serged the seam allowances. I haven’t really put any of these stitches to the test as the garment is wildly unfitted, but none of them have blown out.

I also used the knit binding technique from Pattern Scissors Cloth.

I also added a bottom hem band, which is my favorite way to hem knits. The walking foot eliminated most of the waviness of my seams, although there’s a bit at the hem band due to the thickness of the three layers of fabric. It was a supremely simple project, but it’s a perfect backdrop to leggings, boots and scarves. It also served me well during my figure drawing class – I could wipe my charcoal-covered hands on it without repercussion.


In other news, thank you for your incredible responses to the Pollen & Wax interview and giveaway! I couldn’t help myself – I made a pie chart of the beauty disasters from the comment section. As you can see, the vast majority of them were hair-related! Eyebrows had a surprisingly good showing for being such a small area – was it because some of us were trying to look good in the 90s?

Beauty disasters by type:


Within the hair category, there was a surprising amount of variety, although amateur dye jobs comprised 11 of the 36 total hair disasters.

Hair disasters by type:


Some of my favorite hair disasters in the “other” category were Andrea’s failed dreadlocks and Candace’s clandestine haircut.

Pollen & Wax

Without further ado, the winner of the collection and pouch is Joanne from Zoe Livana. Congratulations, Joanne! Bee and I also decided to pick a second prize – Miss Allie Mass wins a cleanser and toner of her choice. Winners, please contact me at crabandbee [at] gmail [dot] com within the week and let me know where you would like your gift sent!

Finally, for those interested in learning more about cleaning up their beauty routine, I highly recommend the Environmental Working Group’s site. It’s a database that allows you to look up beauty products and see what kind of health impact the ingredients in your products may have, as well as search for replacements. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty extensive (and very eye-opening!)

Interview with Pollen & Wax + giveaway

When I was a teenager, I was content with using the Costco shampoo and Ivory soap provided by my parents. My sister, on the other hand, was blowing her allowance on $20 bottles of conditioner. I think she bought her first Dr. Hauschka product at the tender age of 14. She’s always been on a quest for the best beauty products.

For more recent readers, my sister was also the original “Bee” of Crab & Bee – we started this blog together in 2011 before realizing that our interests (sewing for me, and clean beauty and living for her) easily deserved their own sites. She’s been been immersing herself in the health and safety issues in the beauty industry, as well as learning how to make what she wants with clean ingredients. She started her company, Pollen & Wax, last year and has been busily adding to her line ever since.

(Also, her product design and photography is insane!)

Pollen & Wax Satellite

Pollen & Wax Hothouse toner

I’m so excited that the Bee is back for an interview and a giveaway!

What has been the biggest change you’ve noticed since changing to a clean beauty routine?

Bee: Consistently good skin without unhealthy dependencies – before, if I didn’t wash my face for a day, it became a Serious Problem.  That’s what I love most about clean products – they don’t throw your system into imbalance by their absence, since the best ones work with and support your body’s natural processes.

How did you educate yourself on making products that were both safe and effective?

Bee: Gosh. It all started so gradually, it’s hard to pin down! One moment you’re a tween buying bargain makeup at the drugstore, and the next you’ve got your face buried in an organic chemistry text book and PubMed research articles. Mentors, teachers and a support network is a must, and if you have an experimental spirit and love reading, there’s very little in the way of instructional knowledge that’s out of reach! Dreaming big is just as important – you’re bound to fail at a few things, but it’s the “why not?” that really creates change.

Do you have any suggestions for people who are interested in removing toxins from their beauty routine but don’t know where to start?

Bee: I’m a huge fan of No More Dirty Looks – their book and blog changed my life by educating me on the perils of a cheap, industrially-produced beauty fix and helped me look for (and then make) clean products that worked (naturally, I gravitated toward the Good Stuff!). It can feel a little scary walking away from a trusted panel of products you’ve spent years cultivating for particular or fussy skin, and I totally understand!

No More Dirty Looks
Siobhan O’Connor & Alexandra Spunt of No More Dirty Looks

Luckily, there are more green beauty bloggers happily digging in to every shade of product than you can imagine – and truthfully, I owe much of my present success to their kind words and enthusiasm for green products, so it’s really wonderful to experience how green entrepreneurs can support each other.  After you dig into to some inspiring blogs and books, take a page from the NMDL ladies and go at a pace you find comfortable. If you want to throw everything out and start over, or if you’d rather replace things as they run out, do that. (And give some consideration to first swapping out the products that cover the largest surface area – body oils, lotions, washes.)

One easy green fix is to avoid anything with “fragrance” listed as an ingredient – usually that means a chemical cocktail protected by proprietary license notoriously riddled with hormone disruptors and other toxins.

What are some easy or free things people can do to improve their skin without using a new product?

Bee: Oh, I love this question! The most important free thing you can do for your health and skin is educate yourself on the products you use and understand how they influence your health.

Everyone knows the usual mantra for good skin (sleep, hydration, stress management and diet) but there are tons of very affordable remedies very accessible to just about everyone. Grapeseed oil is a fantastically light oil just packed with antioxidants – it’s shelf stable and very affordable for its virtues, and I would venture to say suitable for just about any skin type that needed some light moisture. Shea butter is terrific for more intensive moisturizer and is great for hands, feet and night treatments.

Lavender essential oil is, in my mind, the most important essential oil I would single out for a beginner. It’s very safe and gentle – lavender is remarkable on burns, zits and other skin maladies.  It tones and heals with remarkable strength and support a healthy cellular structure. There really is such a remarkable wealth of knowledge on the net, I encourage anyone interested in natural healing to dive right in!

Pollen & Wax Fresh Deodorant

Also, I have to say – though I make a very fine deodorant myself, I feel so strongly that people need to walk away from the drugstore stuff that I’d like to share a DIY recipe with you. Three ingredients from the cupboard, plus any essential oils you like will make a killer deodorant, and very effective.  (P.S. I did not care for the grapefruit essential oil she suggested in that recipe – I smelled like a pina colada – so my personal taste would be a pleasant combo of lavender and tea tree, or whatever floats your boat!)

I love a good disaster story. My biggest beauty foible was trimming the baby hairs around my forehead and having them grow back in a thick line. That, or my penchant for poorly-applied Wet-n-Wild brick-red lipstick – I think I wore that stuff to bed. What’s yours?


Bee: It’s hard to pick just one…was it the time I tried to recreate an editorially glossy aqua eye and nearly blinded myself?  Or greasy middle-school bangs?  Or obliterating my eyebrows into two almost non-existent yet perpetually surprised commas? No…I think it was the time that I decided a heavy, oily pomade was an appropriate choice for my hair. My long hair. My long, very fine hair. Needless to say, I looked like something that had been fished out of the drain.

I was actually jealous of those eyebrows… Thanks again for stopping by and sharing your thoughts on clean beauty, sister!

Bee: Thanks for having me!

Pollen & Wax
Bee is offering one of her four skincare collections to any Crab & Bee reader, along with a makeup bag made by yours truly! To enter the giveaway, leave a comment saying which collection you would like to win. (Check out P & W’s Typology feature to figure out which collection would work best for your skin.) Also, please feel free to also share your best beauty disaster story (because I love them so freaking much), ask Bee a question, or share your favorite clean beauty trick.
We’ll close the giveaway by Tuesday March 4th at 2pm PST and announce the winner shortly after!

Giveaway winners
Me and my birthday crisp!

I was back to work this week after my luxurious week off at home. The concluding event was a tea party I threw to celebrate with my family. I finally had a second occasion to wear my flower girl dress! It had a lot to talk about with our tablecloth.

And, thanks to everyone who commented on the birthday giveaway! I’m excited to announce the winners of the shibori giveaway!

Peach habotai scarf: Shivani

Magenta charmeuse yardage: *WISHER*

Blue/coral charmeuse yardage: Gingermakes

Congratulations to the winners! Please email me at morganelle [at] gmail [dot] com with your mailing information and I will send out the shibori!

On another topic, I’m getting pretty excited about Me-Made-May 2013. I’m having fun thinking about Zoe’s “Points to consider” section, about how Me-Made-May is supposed to take you out of your comfort zone in a creative way. I’m not quite sure what that means for me yet; I’ve done it twice now and both times it’s been truly challenging to wear stuff I’ve made every day without too many repeats. I donate clothes that don’t get worn so even after 3-4 years of sewing my self-made wardrobe isn’t huge. Once I figure out the direction I want to talk (which could end up being the same as previous years), I will post it here.

For those of you who plan on participating, are you thinking about mixing it up this year?

Gifts and a giveaway

Thank you for all your lovely birthday wishes! I’ve been enjoying my Introvert’s Birthday week immensely. I’ve been doing all the things I never make enough time for, like yoga, talking to friends and family that live far away and cooking, while still enjoying the things I’m addicted to and couldn’t stop doing if I tried (ahem, sewing).
Oh, hello.

Another activity I crave but don’t make enough time for is reading. I’ve been slowly picking my way through Lewis Hyde’s book The Gift (not to be confused with The Secret!) and got to spend a little more time with it this week. Hyde looks at artistic creativity in the historical context of gift-giving in a way that is both highly academic and passionate.

My birthday week seemed like the right time to reflect on what I’ve read so far, that a sense of abundance and connection grows in a community when gifts are given freely. This was something I needed to hear, as I’ve tended to focus on the more negative aspects of gifts that I see – gifts of obligation, consumerism taken to absurd heights, wasteful packaging. When I think about it, though, gifts given from a sense of obligation or with expectations of receiving something in return aren’t real gifts. They’re transactions, or attempts at a transaction. Gifts don’t always need wrapping and sometimes they aren’t even objects. They don’t even need to come from other people; the ability to create is a gift. The products of our creativity can be gifts, too. The online sewing community shares so much knowledge and encouragement, which I find to be a gift in itself.

Having said all that, I’m really excited to have my first giveaway, which will be of the tangible sort! I’m sharing three pieces of silk that I dyed using a couple of shibori methods.

The first is a square piece of habotai that I hand roll-hemmed into a scarf. I folded the fabric many times in a diamond shape, dipping it in brown dye before submerging it into the peach dye.
31″ square scarf

The second and third pieces are charmeuse silk. The magenta/red piece was created by bunching areas and tying them tightly with string to resist the dye, while the blue pattern was created by pleating the silk and then binding it with string. I can’t remember when the pink dye came in to play – sometimes I go into a shibori trance and my memory blurs!
45″ x 32″ piece of shibori charmeuse
45″ x 28″ piece of shibori charmeuse

If you would like one of these pieces, please let me know which one in a comment below by next Friday 4/11 at 11:59pm PST! I’m happy to ship anywhere. Feel free to share a memorable gift (given or received) from your past.

Edit: the giveaway is now closed. Thank you!