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.


Queen quilt

Holy crap. I finished a queen-sized quilt!

I’ve been thinking about scraps all year long, as many of you know. At this point, I think scraps make up more than half of my stash by volume. When I was going through some of my knit scraps making So, Zo undies I realized that I was keeping scraps for quilting but I don’t quilt that much! | scrap quilt

It was time to justify all that hoarding. I appealed to the mistress of Sewing Dares herself, Gillian, to sign me up for a scrap quilt. Initially I was thinking of a lap quilt size but decided to go all out and make quilt for our bed as our other quilts were looking shabby. I picked all of the blue, white and purple scraps out and started to play around. | scrap quilt

I had trouble starting, and I realized it was because I wanted to maximize my scrap yardage so much that it was preventing me from making any design decisions. I also love the look of irregular quilts, which didn’t help. I finally settled on making horizontal “blocks” that went the width of the quilt, which made it easy for me to measure my progress on the quilt top.

I made all of the strips and then played around with the arrangement. I settled on placing the lighter fabrics towards one corner and the darker ones towards another, with the goal of adding a bit of harmony to the irregular rectangles. | scrap quilt

The look can change completely depending on whether the light or dark side is at the top. | scrap quilt

The quilted lines are 1″ apart. I marked lines every 4″ on the quilt back, which was a solid color. I sewed those first and then used the guides that came with my walking foot to sew every 2″ and then 1″. That’s eighty-eight 108″ lines, and I was definitely counting.

I reorganized my sewing space, mashing my cutting and sewing tables together so the quilt wasn’t falling on the floor. | scrap quilt

I used up some of my favorite scraps, including a shibori linen piece that I dyed. You can also see scraps from two shirts I made Nathan (the gingham and the western shirt), hanging out together! | scrap quilt

I was considering piecing the backing as well but just couldn’t face it. And the fact that I found 110″ wide organic cotton sateen on sale at Organic Cotton Plus was just too tempting – I wouldn’t have to sew a single seam on the backing. I used the Bering Sea color, also seen on Lucky Lucille. I bought 4 yards and had enough to make a 1″ double-fold binding, with some left over.


Just for fun, here’s a picture of the first “quilt” I made in 2009. Wow, have I learned a lot since then! The only thing these two quilts have in common – aside from being scrappy – is the blue and white fabric in the middle.


The only real quilting on this blanket is some random cross-hatched stitching. I wouldn’t mind donating this quilt as I really dislike the colors I chose, but I’m impressed with my beginner-sewing chutzpah for making it! | scrap quilt

Orson hopped on the bed the moment I started documenting the quilt, so here are some gratuitous kitty photos. | scrap quilt

He’s generally interested in any cloth that ends up on the ground, and was a nuisance during many of the construction stages. Given how willingly he modeled for this photo shoot, I’ve forgiven him completely. How could I stay mad at that little face?

My other thank-you is to Nathan, who read one of my favorite books – The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami – aloud to me as I sewed. (Also, Nathan never raced around on the quilt top when I was trying to lay it out.) | scrap quilt

When I finished the quilt, the first words out of my mouth were “I”ll never make a quilt this size again!” Thirty minutes later, I was thinking that a whole-cloth quilt with less quilting lines would be really nice to have. I remember having a similar reaction after I’d run a half-marathon – a feat I have yet to repeat – so we’ll see if I make another one. I will say that I’m really, really excited to get back to sewing garments.

I shall return on Wednesday with the button winners!

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!

My week in photos

Here are my favorite photos of the week! It’s finally been sunny and warm in Seattle.

Nathan and I trade off doing kitty box duties. The changing of the guard is completed by drawing a new kitty-related picture on our kitchen chalkboard. Here is Nathan’s from last week:


Here is the nephew’s birthday bunting in action last weekend! It looks so festive outdoors, don’t you think?


And, because I’m just smitten with our p-patch, here’s another picture. The kale (in front) is doing especially great! I also added some scrap wood in to solidify the access paths.


Back next week with some new sewing projects to share! Happy weekend!