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!).
It’s been a while since I added a new bag design to my shop. Not that I didn’t have any new ideas, but I’ve been so busy fulfilling orders, I had no time to play with new designs. This is the real shortcoming of having a do-everything-yourself business – that when your shop is busy, you just can’t get around to developing new products or write patterns… But I’m not complaining! There are many wonderful benefits to having a (mostly) one-person business as well, so really, I’m okay with it.
This week though, I’m happy to show you a new bag design finally! Well, it’s more like a “variation on the theme” of bucket bags that are already in my shops, rather than a radical new design. Still, I’m patting myself on shoulder for sewing up something different for a change.
It’s a nice size for a handbag, except it has an adjustable shoulder strap. It resembles my bucket diaper bags, but there are no outside pockets. It’s also longer in shape than it is wider. It looks more grownup that way. It’s for women of all ages – not just mothers of little ones.
And the fabric! It’s this fabric that inspired me to make this bag. It’s a new “Echino” line of designer fabric by Etsuko Furuya, called “Den.” How I love the tiny specks of silver triangles like sparkling snowflakes. And the shade of steel grey background and the large-scale dots. And of course those cheeky little foxes in silver. I have loved Echino fabrics for ages, but this one is one of my favorites.
This bag is now available in my Etsy shop. I can’t wait to make more stuff this gorgeous fabric!
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!
Thank you very much to those of you who came by my Facebook market last weekend. This market featured a brand new, original fabric collection by the fabulous designer and friend Amy from Gloriousmess! Amy has designed my “Piggy” logo, banners, medical ID card, and other packaging materials in the past. It’s fair to say I’m a huge fan of pretty much everything Amy designs. I have been hoping for a long time that she would one day design fabrics. Then my dream came true!
Here are some of the products I made with Amy’s fabric for the Facebook market.
Insulated lunch bags and matching insulated snack sleeves. Can lunch time get any happier with these fabrics?
These are small-sized wet bags. The designs are printed on a very sturdy, cotton linen blend canvas – perfect for all kinds of bags.
The most popular items at the Facebook market were these coloring pencil cases – black and white fabrics with gorgeous detailed drawings that children (or grownups even) can color in with permanent or washable market pens. There are three designs – sushi, “under the sea” and space. All are fantastic, but being Japanese and all, sushi is by far my favorite! I love that these designs would appeal to both boys and girls, so I used gender-neutral colors for the zipper and lining.
Here are mini activity tote bags that children can decorate themselves.
Amy’s fabrics also came in 100% certified organic jersey – which is super soft yet sturdy. For the market, I made simple wash towels with certified organic terry towel backing.
Most of these items were sold out in a matter of hours. But if you missed out, please don’t despair. You’ll probably see more items in my shops soon – now we know how popular they are.
It was such a privilege and joy to have worked with Amy to introduce her first-ever fabric collection. Thank you so much, Amy! And if you like her fabric designs, please visit her shop (website or Etsy) for other gorgeous designs in greeting cards, packaging items, and art prints.
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.
It’s a happy day when new fabrics arrive at my doorstep – particularly if they’ve taken six long weeks to arrive. Here’s are the latest additions to my sewing room.
As Piggledee continues to grow, I am now buying more fabric in bolts, rather than a couple of meters at a time. Bolts of fabric are heavy, so they get shipped by the least costly option – surface mail. I have to say, it’s worth the wait.
There is always an element of surprise when I first “meet” a new fabric in person. For example, the scale of the cactus print was bigger than I imagined (print scale is really hard to tell from photos). These cacti are huge! But that’s okay, I love them all the same. While they may not be suitable as smaller pouches, they’ll look stunning as bigger items, like tote bags.
This boyish fabric also had an element of surprise – I didn’t care for it too much when I ordered it (I ordered it for boys and men), but as soon as I saw it in person, I fell in love. It’s totally cool – for women as well as men. It’s the first fabric I wanted to play with – making a glasses case and a mini wet bag. I added faux leather zipper pulls to add more manliness.
This leaf fabric was gifted to me by my mother a few months ago, so I already knew I’d love it. Here’s an extra-large insulated lunch bag I made with it before.
My absolute favorite fabric in this shipment though, is the other leaf print.
This one is 100% linen, and linen feels oh-so-wonderful against your skin. It also has amazing colors and drape. At nearly twice the cost of other fabrics here though, having a whole 13-meter bolt feels like having a precious treasure. I just want to cuddle the whole bolt!
I hope you like these fabrics as much as I do. I can’t wait to make more things with them.
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.