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.


House warming

Our house is gas-heated and quite drafty, which is an expensive combination. Our solution has been space heaters, which are less costly and allow for targeted heating. Our living room/dining room has two entrances and no doors, however, so it was tough to heat. My solution was to make curtains for the doors.

I briefly considered cutting into a piece of thrifted white linen – it would have been so easy – but started to feel guilty when I caught sight of my scrap heap. Between scraps and fabric harvested from my busted couch cushions, I had enough of that tan linen to piece two 37″ x 80″ door curtains. The brighter pieces are small scraps of white linen and tan cotton voile I added for visual interest. | scrap curtains

I dyed the fabric twice because the yellow I chose initially blended badly with the tan color – baby poo brown, Nathan deemed it. I like the orange a lot – it’s one of my favorite colors – but I’m open to dyeing over it again because it dominates the space. I’m going to let it go for now. | scrap curtains

This project felt like total drudgery – french-seams! long hems! tan for days! – but I’m writing this post in a nice, warm living room, so the effort was worth it. My resistance to this project made me worry that I won’t be able to complete a quilt this winter, but at least the quilt will involve the fun of mixing different fabrics and no French seams. | scrap curtains

And hopefully that smug “I just used scrap fabric” feeling is addictive.

Couch denouement

Anybody remember this couch?

Over two years ago, I attempted to make my own fitted slipcover. I also cavalierly dismissed the services of professional upholsterers. As I’ve mentioned before, this is how I ended up with 16 yards of the uninspiring mid-weight tan linen that has been such abundant shibori fodder.  It turns out, upholstery fabric is different from apparel fabric for a reason: it has to be BURLY. I got as far as making the seat cushions, and then watched them burst open at the seams in a matter of a few weeks.

Discouraged, I procrastinated for about another year. When our recent move was certain, however, I decided to bite the bullet and get the couch reupholstered.

I’m so glad I did. | shibori pillows

The dump was never an option (this was my grandmother’s couch), and I’d proved myself both unworthy and unmotivated to reupholster it or make a nice enough slipcover. I was able to assuage my fears by getting a recommendation from a coworker who’d had vintage furniture reupholstered. It was a huge splurge, but I’m so pleased with how it turned out. It looks great in our new place.

We’ve had our couch back for a couple of months, but I recently decided to fete its new look with some shibori pillows. I used linen pieces that I’d cut out last year with the intention of sewing napkins. It was lovely, thick white linen, and it caught my eye when I was getting ready to dye my romper. I decided to include them in the dye bath with my romper (yep, these were the other projects that prevented me from agitating my dye bath properly!) | shibori pillows

I dyed the pieces before sewing them into pillows. The back of the pillow is, coincidentally, more of that bountiful tan linen – the fabric that just keeps on giving!

(This is a very silly thing to notice, but the couch fabric really sets off Orson’s lovely orangey coat nicely.) | shibori pillows

The question of when to craft came up in my post last week about my experiences crafting for our wedding: do you have to craft everything because you can? A resounding “no!” came from you wise people. I know I could have persevered and probably succeeded at making a slipcover, but it would have taken me a long time and eaten up all of my sewing hours. There undoubtedly would have been tears of frustration. I regard my sewing time as a precious, mind-clearing time and this project wouldn’t have fit the bill. It also wouldn’t have looked as good or been as permanent as reupholstery. There can be relief in paying money and letting an expert take over, especially when that expert is providing a service I whole-heartedly believe in.

If I commit myself to a home dec project again, I’ll start with something smaller. Or, I’ll just stick with throw pillows for now!

Rust-colored cowl

This is the time of year when taking good pictures becomes tough in the Pacific Northwest. Daylight hours dwindle to the point of leaving for and returning home from work in the dark. We’re still in the downward spiral towards those dark days, however, so Nathan was able to snap a few photos of me this morning in my newly finished orange cowl.

I’d mentioned in my last post that I’d inherited this wonderfully thick wool yarn from a friend of a friend who was moving out of town. I wasn’t really sure what else to do with it; there was only one skein, not enough for a scarf, and my knitting skills are best suited to rectangles. Cowl it was (which is a rectangle that meets on two ends!)

My favorite thing about the cowl is the seed stitch. I had no idea how easy it was to do, and I’d been admiring that seed-stitched knits all over Pinterest. That, and I loved the chunkiness of the yarn. It knit up super quickly, what’s not to love about a chunky cowl?

My school program has been taking up most of my time, which is why it’s been a little quiet around Crab & Bee lately. In the last week or so, however, I’ve been trying to achieve a balance of studying and making things. The way I really like to make things is put my sewing blinders on and let the day disappear, but this is not feasible while I’m in school. Nathan, bless him, suggested taking timed crafting breaks. I reacted poorly to the suggestion at first because I didn’t want to think about cutting back on sewing. Still, I gave it a try last week and liked the results. I’m still adjusting, but I’m feeling less tragic about sewing less. Who knows, maybe I’ll sew more effectively with time constraints?

Anyhow, these beauties are the result of last Sunday’s sewing breaks. I’d bought the fabric (Marimekko canvas) a month ago intending to replace the sad cushion covers I’d bought off, and hadn’t gotten around to making them. Since I was looking for gratification, the time was right.

Our cat was a skittish around the bold graphics (does anyone else’s cat get freaked out by intense patterns?), but he’s come around to them.

Happy Friday!

Something for Orson

Any time I’m cutting out fabric, Orson will wander over, check out the situation and plop on top of my project.

He was especially fond of my nephew’s quilt, so I decided to make him something similar: a low-profile cushion that I could stuff with all of the fabric scrap I’d been saving for just such an occasion.

I bought less than a yard of ticking and a zipper, and the project took less than two hours! And Orson has used it pretty regularly.

Update: A day after I took these pictures, Orson got angry at us and micturated upon his new cushion. Le sigh.

Super fun potato print project

My gift-giving philosophy has been skewed ever since my sister and I came to the agreement that we would only give gifts to each other when we felt like it; no Christmas/birthday obligation. Hilariously enough, we understand each others’ tastes so well and generally have so many gift ideas for each other brewing that we don’t take full advantage. But it’s there when we need it.

This is a hard philosophy to extend to others, however, and I am ashamed to say that a wedding present for my cousin Jesse and his wife Emily made a smooth transition into a first anniversary gift. I wanted to make them the perfect hand-printed linen napkins from the get-go, and one year later, they are finished!

I used potato printing, something I haven’t done in a long time, having been so heavily invested in screen-printing. But it sounded super fun!

My setup looked like this: potatoes cut in half with a carved design, a board for rolling silk screen fabric ink on a brayer, and the linen I cut and hemmed.

I rolled the brayer onto the potato design so it would apply evenly to the fabric and then pressed fairly hard.

Then I treated the designs after the ink had dried with a high-heat iron (most silk-screen fabric inks will tell you how long to iron to set the ink.)

Et voila! They were a joy to make, and are now in the hands of their intended owners!

What lurks beneath: couch repair

Since we’ve moved, you’ve probably seen a lot of outfit pics with the shoddily slip-covered couch in the background:

One might never have guessed that a mid-century-style couch with gorgeous lines lurked beneath (as well as distressed upholstery):

Isn’t she beautiful? I inherited her from my grandmother Kiyomi, who had exceptional taste.

So, in a fit of disgust, I cast off the muumuu slipcover this weekend and have replaced it with a less offensive but temporary sheet that at least doesn’t add 50 years and 50 lbs. And then, I hit the internet in hopes of finding a reasonable solution to making my couch look nice.

Option 1: Professional reupholstering
I was interested in using a reupholstering company as a lazy way out. Yes, I was expecting it to cost a lot – $1,000+ – but I wasn’t expecting it to require numerous consultations and an it’s-ready-when-it’s-ready timeline. I was expecting expensive, quick and great, not expensive, slow and potentially ruinous. Also, I fell prey to Yelp’s tendency to attract only starry-eyed and disgruntled reviews and became nervous about how even the highest-rated Seattle reupholsterers had a bunch of 1-star reviews. Next, please.

Option 2: Total amateur reupholstering
I ruled out this option, but only after about an hour of gazing longingly at DIY-upholstery books. Since I’m already (happily) buried in projects, learning how to reupholster will have to wait.

Option 3: “Toss out the couch and get a new one”
While I scoured for DIY upholstery info, the message I came across most frequently on message boards was “Anything you try to do with a new couch is going to be too expensive. Take your old one to the dump and get a new one.” (!!!) My thoughts are this: buying something new has all sorts of hidden costs; the cost of using new resources, use of fossil fuels to transport it, potential dumping fees and landfill space, all sorts of costs that aren’t reflected in the single price at Ikea, for instance. I didn’t entertain this option, but was surprised to see it so widely championed.

Option 4: Making a slipcover
And, our winner: making a well-fitted slipcover! This is the option that makes the best use of my skills: measuring things, sewing things, buying fabric. It struck a good balance of cheapish and time-efficient. I think I’m going to force myself into making a bed-sheet muslin, instead of cutting into nice thick cotton canvas and hoping for the best.

So, expect some slipcover updates here! And I’ll be covering the couch back up with the sheet, because it’s unfair to expect Orson (our cat) to resist all of the delectable strings hanging off the couch in its current state.