I might have said this before, but I love customer feedback. Feedback is invaluable in improving my designs and coming up with new ones. Honest feedbacks are the most helpful, and the most honest customer I have in that department – is my mother.
My mother – who has always been an amazing supporter of my little business, always tells me exactly what she wants. And when she’s not happy with a particular product, I do hear from her!
So when I showed her my small Echino bucket bag to see if she’d like one of these for her birthday this month, she said she loved the Echino fabric, but she wasn’t sold on the bag design. She wished there were outside pockets – like some of the previous bags I made for her. She finds the pockets really useful, and an entire bag with just one fabric showing is a bit boring, she said. See, she’s honest.
I felt deflated for a minute (because I loved the original bag), but then I recovered and started cutting for another bag.
Here’s the bag I made for her – small bucket shoulder bag with outside pockets…
… and two inside pockets as well – four pockets in total. It does take a fair bit longer to make this bag, but the added feature of large outside pockets does make the stunning Echino fabric stand out more. I still like the original, all-over design, too though… which one do you like better? Here’s the two of them together. Meanwhile, Happy birthday, Midori!
It’s getting cold in the Blue Mountains. I love all the seasons here, but autumn is particularly lovely. Here’s a view from my studio right now. What a glorious day!
In Japan, we think of autumn as a season of creativity and reading – a time to resurrect your brain after a mind-numbingly hot and sweaty summer. And even though the summer in the mountains is mild, I feel a surge of fresh creative energy these days!
So, here’s another Echino bag in the same smaller bucket bag design I showed you last time (that bag, by the way, has sold already and is on its way to a new home in the US as we speak – woohoo!).
How cute are these budgies? Well, they are more realistic-looking rather than “cute,” but I love them anyways. Budgies were my childhood pets growing up in a small apartment in Japan.
Etsuko Furuya’s designs are often large-scale, so they shine in larger items like this.
The natural colour of linen will go with a lot of different outfits, but I also have this print in hot pink and black.
It’s available in my Etsy shop now.
Here’s something super cute that I made for a customer today.
It’s a fabric storage box! How adorable is this polar bear fabric by Japanese designer Mico Ogura? She actually designed a similar polar bear fabric last year, which had sadly sold out quickly.
But miracles do happen, and this year she again came up with this equally-cute polar bear fabric. I love all the colors, but the grey one is particularly beautiful, don’t you think? Paired with natural, off-white lining, its cuteness is subtle enough for a grownup to use.
Fabric boxes are fantastic to organize things around your house. I’d think of diapers, baby clothing, kids’ toys, etc. But see, books might work well as well!
Cook books, kids’ books, that tend to scatter around the house can be neatly piled up in one of these boxes (not that they are neatly organized in my house, unfortunately…).
And if you are wondering if I am ever going to finish that sewing pattern for these boxes, I’m very sorry! Yes I am going to finish it as soon as I have some free time. Thanks for your patience, everyone.
If you are interested in purchasing one of these boxes, they are on my Etsy shop. The polar bear one is not listed, but if you send me a message, I’d be happy to custom make one for you, too (while the fabrics last, that is – the grey one is nearly sold out!).
My mother, who is gifted at finding amazing fabric from Japan, sent me this bit of unusual fabric this week. Doesn’t this fabric look a bit like a book of postage stamps, or a sticker sheet? A bit festive and Christmassy, too.
I pondered what I can make with it. I only had about half a meter of it, so larger items were out. The “stickers” were all so pretty, particularly when cut out individually. But the rectangles are too small for a lavender pillows or coasters… Then I thought – applique!
And what better than applique potholders for Mother’s Day? My mother loves cooking and she loves potholders. These came out so quickly, too. Just like real stickers, I stuck the fabric bits on with fusible web, and then straight stitched around the edges. The checkered binding adds a bit of interest to the otherwise minimalist design.
I hope these will brighten up my mother’s kitchen. And for me? I have plenty of the lovely fabric left to play with still. Hooray!
It snowed last Friday in the upper Blue Mountains. It wasn’t just a few fluttering snowflakes, either – it was real, pile-up-high kind of snow you rarely see in Australia. Here in the Blue Mountains, snow like this hadn’t happened in decades (or so the locals told me – we’ve only been here for six months). The snow started late Thursday night, and when we woke up Friday morning, it had piled up to a magical proportion. Our balcony covered in snow. Our front yard transformed. View from my sewing room. Oops I had forgotten to take in the laundry!
Our kids had never seen snow before. Upon seeing the snow in the morning, they began singing Christmas songs – which I thought was funny. Their excitement doubled when they learned that school was cancelled – not that our car would have made it through the snowy roads anyway.
Mark and I were just as excited. I grew up in Japan with annual ski holidays, but I hadn’t seen snow in 10 years. Needless to say, we didn’t get any work done on Friday or Saturday. The snow brought back my childhood memories. I had forgotten just how much fun I had as a kid, on those snowy winter holidays in Hokkaido. Sledding, mini skis on the road, sliding down hills on cardboard boxes, and of course skiing. Our kids had been missing out! We might have to take them on a snow trip to Victorian mountains next winter.
Today I continued to play with the black “boy” fabric. I really love this fabric. First I made an insulated lunch bag.
I realize this lunch bag may not look too manly…. A while back, I asked my Facebook friends if their husbands and boyfriends might go for a tote-style lunch bag if the fabric was sufficiently manly. And their answer was largely – um, no. Men don’t care about a nice lunch bag, and they can’t be trusted to bring it back home safely anyway, they told me. Or men would be too embarrassed to carry a handbag-style lunch bag. Fair enough, I thought. But here I am making a handbag lunch bag anyway! Maybe I am hopelessly optimistic that there are some men (or older boys) out there, who are comfortable wearing this adorable bag to work or school. Or there are women who would like to carry this cool lunch bag. We shall wait and see what the global Etsy community will say about this bag.
In that same Facebook conversation, some people suggested that toiletry bags might be the thing to make for men – assuming the fabric is right. So just to be on the safe side, I also made a large wet bag pouch in the same fabric. This would make a nice toiletry bag with the waterproof lining and all.
Speaking of black fabric, I sewed with a few other black (or black and white) fabrics today – quite by coincidence.
This is an extra-large insulated lunch bag in black and white stripe – this fabric is popular. I’ve sold a lot of lunch bags in this zebra-chic fabric.
Here is a medium wet bag in a black and white checkered cat fabric. I also have this fabric in pink, green, and blue, but this black and white version is my favorite.
This one is a simple drawstring backpack lunch bag. It’s the same “Cocoland” series of cat fabrics as the checkered one.
The drawstring bag has such a cute shape, don’t you think? I have a tutorial here if you’d like to make one yourself. It would make a great craft project bag, too! Here is the bag with my current craft project inside. It’s going to be a scarf for Mr. Piggledee (because it’s really cold in the Blue Mountains). My knitting needles don’t quite fit in this bag, but if you use circular needles it will fit with no problem.
Most of these items are now available at my shop.
A few weeks ago I bought a domestic sewing machine – Janome Memory Craft 6600P. I needed a back-up sewing machine in case something happens to my Mitsubishi industrial workhorse. I also wanted a relatively high-end machine so I could do stitches that I can’t do on my straight-stitch industrial machine – like button holes, zig zags, and monograms. Automatic thread cutter was also a “necessity” now that I’m so used to it.
Budget was limited though, so when I found a second-hand Memory Craft 6600 at a reasonable price, I went for it. Having never owned a high-end domestic machine, I was excited! I bought a new sewing table and chair for the Janome and welcomed it to my studio – here it is next to my Brother overlocker.
Sadly, my first impression of the machine was… disappointment. It was a nice machine for sure, and the stitch quality was good. But it felt like a toy compared to my powerful, responsive industrial machine. After a few hours of playing with it, I didn’t go back to it for weeks. It was that frustrating to sew with.
Eventually though, I decided to give the Janome another try. Maybe I judged harshly too soon. Maybe I just needed to get to know it better. It was unfair to expect it to perform like an industrial machine anyway…
Today was a lazy Sunday. The kids were away at a local market with Mark. I decided to do some light patchwork and quilting with the Janome.
Piecing lightweight pieces together went trouble-free. Then I tried the built-in walking foot. It worked very well! Much smoother, quieter, and more effortless than the clanky walking-foot attachment I had for my old Janome machine. It’s great that the walking foot is built-in – no need to attach it with a screwdriver. Finally, I felt a glimmer of hope – maybe even love – towards this machine.
Here are other things I love about this machine:
(1) The bobbin winder that works with a touch of a button. You don’t have to operate the whole sewing machine to wind up a bobbin, and the process is fast.
(2) Auto thread cutter works like a charm, at the touch of a button.
(3) The machine is a little faster than a regular domestic machine – at 1000 stitches per minute, it is of course slow compared to 5000-stitch-per-minute industrial machine, but still fast enough not to feel too frustrated.
(4) The stitch quality is solid and clean. I can definitely use this machine for my professional sewing work (although I haven’t tried out heavy canvas bags yet on this machine).
What I still find frustrating is that the machine is not instantly responsive. I like to start sewing at a fast pace, but the machine starts out slowly for the first few stitches, no matter how hard I step on the foot controller. I get the same sluggish response when I stop and backstitch.
I am also disappointed in the knee lifter attachment. I had to get a height-adjustable chair just to reach the knee lifter comfortably. However, when I do reach the lifter, I’m sitting way too high to operate the machine ergonomically. I have given up on the knee lifter for the moment.
Still, I quite enjoyed sewing with the Janome today. In just a couple of hours, I made three small placemats, a large pot holder / table runner, and a small potholder for our kitchen. I wouldn’t have made so many things if I hated the machine. That’s right, the Janome and I are finally becoming friends.
It’s been years since I wrote pattens for an insulated lunch bag and drawstring gift bag / mini towel. I had lots of fun with them and had plans to do more patterns, but had since been struggling to find the time (I know, excuses, excuses….). Finally though, I’m working on another pattern – this time fabric boxes! Why fabric boxes? Well, everyone loves them. They are not only useful, but they instantly brighten up any space in your house. The boxes are also a snap to make once you get the hang of it, and the satisfaction level when you make one is immense. Trust me. You can’t just make one. Actually I have written a mini tutorial on a fabric box before, but this time I’m using a different construction method, which is quicker to cut, sew, and wastes less fabric. I’ll be offering several size options, but more importantly, I will show you how to draft your own custom-size box. Here are some sneak peak of the pattern-making process. Aren’t these bright fruity fabrics gorgeous? They are my current favorite, by Cloud 9. They are organic cotton corduroy, and they are great for zakka sewing. I’ll write more about them in another blog post. Here are my kids “helping out” with a photo shoot. Can you guess what they were bribed with? Candy, of course! Would you like to know when the pattern is ready for purchase? Please sign up to receive an email notification of my blog post, and/or newsletter! Both signup boxes are at my front page. With the Facebook reach rather dodgy these days, I’d really love to keep in touch with you on this blog. Stay tuned!
Here is a simple tote bag I made this week, using a stunning “Echino” line of fabric designed by Etsuko Furuya.
I love this large-scale faux patchwork print. It’s very colorful and the mix of different patterns could have looked busy, but it doesn’t. The earthy tones of the colors make everything look cohesive instead of chaotic. It’s joyful and delightful.
I designed the bag a while ago actually, and made these for a couple of customers. The first one was a very large one – great size as a diaper bag.
The second one was a little smaller. This week was the second time I made this smaller bag.
When the fabric is this special, simple designs are the best. There is an exposed zipper pocket and a large patch pocket inside. The handles are padded for comfort. There is also a key-holder tab. But that’s about it for features.
After sewing the bag, I was left with a bit of scrap fabric. Normally it would go into this big box of scrap fabrics for use “one day.” But this time I felt too sad to toss this perfectly gorgeous bit of Echino fabric in there. So I made this little… pouch thingy at the end. What is it? Hmm. I’m not sure. It’s too narrow to be a tissue holder and too short to be a pencil case.
Could it be a coin purse? Why, yes, it could! I hope my customer will enjoy this little impromptu gift of a coin purse, along with the bag.
There is just enough of this Echino fabric left for one more bag – and then sadly, that’s it!
It feels good to make a new product for my shop. Yes I know I have so. many. products. already, but there’s always something new brewing in my head. I just can’t help myself. This particular library bag had been brewing in my head for so long, sewing it up was the easiest part.
The bag is a flat tote bag in the “portrait” orientation, that is just large enough for a few books, and other A4-sized documents and folders. It’s lightly padded and I used heavy-duty cotton for the lining, so it is sturdy enough to carry not only heavy books, but your iPad or even a laptop computer. My 13″ MacBook fits in there perfectly.
This one is in the dark blue cat fabric, which I love. It’s not too childish, and a grownup cat-lover would (I hope) carry this to the office as a casual document bag. I know I would totally carry this “briefcase” to court hearings if I were still practicing law. That would make me giggle inside, feeling like a small-time rebel in a world of all-black-and-all-serious environment. Actually the clean lines and sharpness of the bag make it more grown-up friendly, allowing some wiggle room for a playful print.
The tote bag is available now at my shop. I have this gorgeous print in black and red as well, but if you’d like a different fabric, please feel free to request a custom order.
Oh, did you notice the cute felt cat mascot hanging from the bag? That was made by Ina Sudjana, who made a bunch of felt bag tags in collaboration for my popular prints, including the strawberry print. She can even stitch an initial to the back of the charm, which is a great way to personalize your bag. It’s totally adorable.
Here are more bag charms by Ina, and they are available to purchase from my shop, as well as from Ina’s Etsy shop.
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