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!

Quilty weekend

This weekend was project heaven for me! Saturday was quilting project, film project with friends, wedding project, quilting. Sunday was quilting, friend brunch, wedding, quilting… and then a game of Catan!

As you can see, I changed my original design idea. It just seemed like too much white, considering it has a white background. Squares of color seemed like a good solution, so I did a bunch more math to figure out how to make it work. I also added in some brighter fabric, notably the olive greens, oranges and teals, and then laid all the squares out in the order I wanted them.

Guess who can’t resist squares of fabric on the ground?

Orson is not only interested in what you are focusing your attention on, he also loves natural fiber and pretty much anything on the floor. I had to rescue my carefully laid-out design several times.

After sewing the squares, I put an off-white frame around it. So the quilt top is done and ready to be bound to the batting and back! And I think I’m going to secure it all with yarn rather than stitching, which will look great with the square layout.

I plan on finishing it this week, but I want the final piece to be a surprise!  So look for pictures in a couple of weekends.

Project update!

(Could that title sound any more corporate and like work?) Anyway, I suppose it’s mostly utilitarian title; just wanted to let you guys know what I’ve been up to, sewing-wise! I’ve officially shelved the slipcover project for bigger, more urgent projects. Projects with deadlines. But super fun projects, not at all like work!

The first project is a baby quilt for my soon-to-arrive nephew. My crafty wheels started spinning approximately one hour after we heard the news that my future sis and bro in law were having a baby, and I volunteered to make the quilt. Fast-forward a few months, and it’s time to start! (Note: I am a completely novice quilter.)

I did the most waffling on blanket size. I went back and forth between matching the crib size and making something a little larger that will last longer. I went with larger – the finished size will be 42″ x 60″ instead of the 38″ x 50″ blanket that you can buy with the crib.

To the right is my rough design. I’m envisioning a white frame with pieces of fabric of all different sizes and colors in the center strips.

Next, I bought fabric! I raided the Goodwill’s pillowcase section because I wanted a good variety of colors without buying too much fabric. And also because I firmly feel that the quilting tradition came from crafty people using what they had. However, on my trip to Joann’s to pick up batting, my resolution wavered and I fell in love with a monkey print (!!!) that I decided to make the quilt back.

Done with my shopping, I came home and “processed” (read: washed on hot) my thrifted fabric. Then I pinned the backing fabric to the batting to see what dimensions I was really working with and neatened the edges. All in all, a very satisfying start to Mr. Nephew’s quilt!

Ok, my other project: making my own wedding dress. I’ll admit I’d been putting this off. I’m not sure why, probably just afraid it would never look good enough. But I started a muslin and even in a cotton sheet, the dress looked great! Mr. C. Vincent adjusted the muslin for fit, and next week, we’re going to sip whisky and soda and make new pattern pieces. Not in that order.

Inside-out dress muslin, mmm….

I won’t be showing too many revealing photos of the dress before the wedding – gotta save some things to (hopefully) wow the guests with – but I’ll try to document the process the best I can!

Happy sewing!