In my world of constant to-dos, always moving from one task into the next without much time to just sit back and have fun, I love the 100 Day Project because it makes me slow down and take time for a fun project every single day. This year I am focusing on #100daysoftokodots lettering. I have a lot of ideas and a lot of different techniques/tools I want to try so it won't get boring! The hardest part for me is just deciding what to write. Do you have any requests? Comment below if you have something you'd like to see lettered in my posts and if I do it and use it as an inspiration for something in my etsy shop, I'll send you a special surprise!
Give your favorite high school grad a reason to get excited about checking their mailbox when they get to school! I'm happy to finally share my Care Package Gift Certificate graduation card on sale for the class of 2017 and onwards!
This is the perfect card and gift for that student who is graduating and getting ready to move away from home for the first time. The beauty of this card is it does not have to be accompanied by any gift at the time of graduation. Instead, you give them this card when they graduate, and then have all summer and into the start of the fall to collect care package goodies. If you have a gaggle of graduates this year, it's a great way to spread the gift giving over the fall and also ensure that your picks will not be compared side-by-side but enjoyed individually when they land at their respective colleges.
how does it work?
Before giving this graduation card (a flat, 8x10 graduation card that features a small A1 card inset in the bottom right of the design), you need to write your own name and address on the smaller envelope and add a stamp so that the certificate can easily be returned to you for redemption. Then when your recipient gets to college and is ready to get a package of goodies from you in the mail, they fill in their mailing address and send you the card.
What should I include in my care package?
This is the fun part! You can totally customize each package to the recipient and send something that you know they will love (even if you have to do a bit of sleuthing among family and friends). Reliable favorites include, but are not limited to: homebaked goodies, regional specialties, seasonal items or dorm room decorations, notecards and stamps, a fun mug with tea or hot chocolate, nuts, gift cards (for iTunes, Amazon, etc.), or even some cold, hard cash! Personal additions like a box of their favorite cereal or an inside joke, are always welcome, too. Keep on the lookout for fun items, especially if you travel, and stockpile small goodies before you get that card in the mail requesting a package so that you don't have to race around looking for much at the last minute. Ultimately, most college kids would be happy to get some fresh cookies with an encouraging note, so you don't have to set the bar too high.
Congratulations to this year's graduates! Care Package Gift Certificates are for sale here on Etsy.
I follow a lot of quilters on Instagram because I can't resist a good quilt, so imagine my delight when Cindy Wiens of Live a Colorful Life reached out to me about my cards. After several emails and a lot of ideas exchanged, I finished a set of notecards this spring based on her beautiful Delta Breeze design that are now for sale in my Etsy shop. Working together with Cindy was truly a breath of fresh air!
The hardest thing for me about designing my own paper goods is working alone from start to finish, with most of my design and proofing process on the computer screen. I am always second-guessing myself, hoping that the final product is actually as vibrant and fun as the original image that I started with in my head. But designing these cards with some back and forth with Cindy was a real pleasure. I waited eagerly to hear her feedback when I sent her the final printed cards and was relieved when she was even more excited and happy with them I had hoped.
Doesn't everyone love air travel at the holidays? Since having a baby a year and a half ago, I've done my fair share of airplane travel and have had a lot of friends ask for my advice. Read on if you’re interested in learning what has worked for us. Traveling with a baby or toddler takes a lot more preparation and energy than traveling alone, but it is actually a lot of fun. Whether you enjoy traveling or not, pointing out all the new things at the airport and watching your little one take it in for the first time is great! Just leave yourself extra time at the airport so you can go at a toddler’s pace and enjoy it.
Choosing your gear
Each time I’ve traveled, I’ve brought a different configuration of bags and baby gear, really depending on what T was up to at that stage in his life and where we were going. It seems that most major airlines let you have a carry-on, personal item AND diaper bag on the plane (if you dare) and will usually let you gate-check a compact stroller and car seat as well (check with your airline in advance to be sure of size/measurements). I have always brought a car seat with us when we traveled (Chicco KeyFit when he was small enough and a Cosco Scenera, our lightweight travel seat, once he got bigger). The KeyFit snapped into our stroller so it was a no-brainer, but even the bigger convertible car seat fits nicely in the seat of our stroller (the Chicco Liteway Plus). See my photo above—I use a luggage strap to fix the larger carseat onto the stroller so it can’t be accidentally pulled off by little hands. I put my carry-on bag in the seat when I’m pushing it around the airport, but just remember that it is not safe to let your little one ride this way.
When T was 6 months and we traveled to Europe, I took him in a baby carrier on the airplane, gate checked his carseat and stroller, and had two carry-on bags. One to keep at my feet with all the things I needed during the flight, and one with extra items that I thought I might need (extra changes of clothes for him and for me, blankets, extra toys, snacks, etc). It sounds like a lot, but we had three flights and I wanted to be prepared for spending long hours delayed in an airport, just in case.
Now that he is bigger and heavier, I will only take one carry-on on the airplane if I am traveling alone (a lightweight backpack so both hands are free for carrying a very squirmy guy). But if it were a particularly long flight, a carry-on suitcase on spinners with a smaller bag affixed to the top of the suitcase would work too. If you are trying to pack food and diapers for a 12+ hour journey plus extra for potential delays, it is definitely easier to roll a heavy bag around than to haul it around on your shoulder while you’re running around the airport. One advantage of a rolling suitcase is that T now enjoys helping to push it around the airport too, and you can usually find a flight attendant or a friendly passenger to help you get it into the overhead compartment if you have your hands full.
Using a laundry basket to pack
Long before I leave on our trip, I start to make a list of the things I will need to pack as I mentally go through our daily routines, and when it gets to be the last day or two before the trip, I pull out a laundry basket that I carry around the house and fill it up as much as I can before packing. If I put a suitcase out too soon before leaving, T will do anything to get his hands on it and everything inside, but a laundry basket on the bed or counter doesn’t draw a single glance.
Pouches, pouches, pouches!
I’ve found that it’s worth organizing my carry-on bag so that it’s easiest for me to maneuver through security and the flight. I compartmentalize most things into pouches 1) regular travel liquids (lotion, chapstick, hand sanitizer, etc.), 2) meal items (bibs, utensils, wipes, bottles/sippy cups if necessary), 3) kid toys/entertainment, 4) kid snacks, 5) spare clothes… and whatever other items you’re planning to bring on the plane. This helps so that if your curious little one gets a look inside your bag they don’t see the treasure trove of applesauce and shiny new toys that you’ve packed for them, and just a bunch of zippered pouches instead.
I also like to have one flat pouch that I can slip into the seatback pocket the moment I get on the airplane in case I don’t have a free moment during the flight to reach into my bag. I usually put my phone, wet ones (for wiping down parts of the seat/tray when T was in a lick-everything phase), a granola bar or snack for me, a pen, and anything else I might want during the flight. This is less important if your little one has their own seat, but very helpful if they’re just sitting on your lap and you want to be able to grab your phone or a kindle while they’re snoozing in your arms.
Keeping them entertained
I try to find a variety of small, lightweight items to bring on the plane, some that are slightly more advanced than what he’s playing with at home. These items have been a hit on the airplane for him at various ages:
- Slinky jr.
- Retractable fabric measuring tape
- Lacing card (like these)
- Indestructibles baby word books like Baby Babble or Baby Night Night (Just be aware that many in this series don't have words. We prefer the ones that do!)
- Small cars or trucks
- Real metal keys
- Short videos of his friends and family that we preloaded onto our phones
Food and drink
Check with the TSA website, but you should be able to bring as much liquid for your baby to drink/eat as they need, regardless of other travel restrictions. I put all of this into one small paper shopping bag so that it is easy to pull out and show at security, although I have never been asked to. Beyond that, I split the food into smaller paper bags as well (4 pouches of applesauce and a pouch of fruit snacks to a lunch bag, for example), so that I can just pull one smaller packet out when T needs something to eat and not let him see the whole selection of what we have for the trip. This may not be an issue for most kids, but T is the type to see it all and then WANT IT ALL and that is just not a situation that I want to address in front of everyone at the airport or on the plane.
If you are looking for snacks or treats for your little one too, T would heartily recommend Plum Organics Teensy Fruits. They are tiny fruit snacks made for little ones that, while expensive, have been gold for us when we travel. I just recommend doling them out one at a time. I let T hold the whole pack once and he was done in seconds, whereas passing them to him one by one gives us at least 5-10 minutes of contemplative snack time and usually a refreshed mood when they’re done.
Bringing a carseat on the airplane
T has always been a lap child, so I usually check in in person to ask if there are any extra seats and if one can be allocated next to me. Sometimes this can be arranged at check-in, but you can check with the gate agent too. If there’s no hope of an extra seat, I check T’s car seat here so I don’t have to carry it around the airport. But if there’s a chance we’ll have an extra seat, I always try to bring the carseat on the airplane to strap him in next to me. This may or may not work for every baby—T doesn’t mind riding in the car and this has been easier for me than trying to wrestle him in my arms for the whole flight. You know what’s right for you.
Asking for help when you’re traveling alone
In my experience, people want to help you if they see you traveling alone with a baby. TSA agents may automatically help you load things onto the conveyor belt at security but if not, just ask. When you get to your gate, look for someone with a friendly face who might be the right age to have a grandchild around your son or daughter’s age. Strangers like this are lifesavers that will smile and talk to your little one while you reorganize your bag or text your husband to let him know that you arrived at your gate.
Don’t let the turkeys get you down
Most importantly, don’t let a jerk ruin your trip. If you are unlucky enough to run across a Grinch who makes a rude comment or gives you a dirty look because your toddler is crying about his seat belt or screaming his head off for hours during a long-haul flight, just know that we’ve all been there. I have at least! Just think about all the good you are doing your little person by teaching them to get out there and see the world outside their neighborhood. It helps to remember what you’re going to do when you get to your destination. I’ll have a glass (or 20) of egg nog with my feet up in just a few weeks. How about you?
Today is the last day of the 100 day project and I can't say enough good things about the experience this year. If you don't know it, the premise of this project is the question "What could you do with 100 days of making?" The possibilities are truly endless! I focused on crochet this year, in spite of the fact that it has never been my go-to project of choice. Through our house move this spring, various house guests and my recent push to prepare for my first pop-up shop last week, I didn't always have as much time as I wanted to dedicate to the project. But I found that I definitely can make time to do something fun and creative every day, which was the most valuable lesson for me.
The highlights of the project for me were learning to read crochet patterns, making an amigurumi stuffed toy and coming very close to finishing my granny square blanket that I started when I lived in the Japanese inaka NINE YEARS AGO. My ravelry notes on the project from when I first started ("This is my first crochet project. It's fun!") make me laugh--it is fun! I look forward to actually finishing it one day in the very near future.
Thanks to everyone who has followed along. I'll still document my crochet and other colorful creations on instagram, so stay tuned!
I've been surprised at how much time I actually do have to knit, sew, cook and clean with a baby in tow, but the one thing I can't really do when he's not sleeping is work at a computer. He's watched me so intensely even from a small age that I haven't been able to justify setting the example for him that sitting in front of a computer for long stretches is ok. Showing him how to sew, making dinner, talking about the difference between knit and purl stitches, washing dishes.. these are all skills I don't mind getting him used to early, so I do still get a lot done offline!
This is why it feels like a particular accomplishment to finally get a new product into my Etsy shop. I'm excited to finally offer quilt prints!
(For 10% off your order through Friday 11/20, use coupon code JINGLEBASH).
Ever since finding out we were having a baby, I debated about what kind of quilt to make. I'd whipped up several fun baby quilts for friends in the past, but this is a quilt I would be living with for a long time, so it was harder to come up with a plan. As we decided not to find out if we were having a boy or a girl, I wasted even more time trying to find an appropriately unisex design. In the end I settled on a simple, colorful design using some favorite Japanese fabrics I had been saving and some new additions as well. I loved it!... until I didn't anymore.
The problem arose only when I started collecting fabrics for a dear friend who is also expecting this summer. As I pulled together fabrics that were very *her,* I started to like the new fabrics and quilt design even better (zig-zags inspired by Sujata's book--a must read if you want easy quilt inspiration)! Could I really give away this beautiful quilt? I asked myself, how many quilts does one baby really need? I couldn't really keep both especially knowing that he probably has another on the way from Nana soon too.
In the end, the first quilt was finished on my due date, and surprise, it was a boy! (Although Teddy wasn't born until 12 days later). Once I met him, it was clear that the first quilt was perfect for him. Mother's intuition, perhaps? I finished up the binding on the zigzag quilt as Teddy napped. As much as I loved the second quilt, it gave me more joy to package it up and send it off to my good friend and Teddy's new friend, arriving soon.
Teddy's quilt was my first large-scale machine quilting project on my small Janome and it worked out well enough that I went for zigzag quilting on the second one. All in all, it was easier than I expected and a lot of fun to whip these up so quickly. I might be going back to knitted baby blankets for a while but as soon as we get on a regular napping schedule here, I am pulling out the machine again. In the meantime, I'll be busy deciding what to make next.
I don't know why, but I'm always moving FOs from place to place in my apartment with the tails hanging for ages before I ever get around to weaving in the last ends and blocking. I used to blame limited space and humid weather in my apartment in Japan but I don't have that for an excuse anymore. After showing off some long finished projects to my mom in March, I finally bit the bullet and got pinning. Who knew how easy it could be with a spacious guest room and a dry climate! I forgot how much better these lace projects look after blocking! Hopefully this is the end of piling finished projects on the back of the couch for so long that I forget they are even there.
Everything came together like clockwork on this robe, which is not usually the case when I sew clothing. I found the perfect fabric in Anna Marie Horner's Field Study line that is the just the right combination of colorful pattern and bright polka dots to make a lightweight copy of a favorite flannel robe. My mom just happened to find the McCall's M5248 pattern that I used in high school fashion class, which had an unused robe pattern that was almost an exact replica of the robe I wanted to duplicate.
I meant to edit the pattern a bit more to make as faithful a copy of my winter J. Crew robe, but I used the pattern pieces pretty faithfully. I did crop the sleeves for warmer weather, and added a bit of extra fabric in the back panel to accommodate my expanding waistline. I also added the pocket and piping around the collar and cuffs, which added some finicky finishing work but was totally worth it.
If I make the pattern again, I would be more careful not to stretch the bias tape especially as I am sewing it along the shawl collar, to avoid too much extra seam ripping. I would also add a few inches to the length of the main sections and add any extra width to the front panels instead of the back. That said, this is probably the happiest I've ever been with an article of clothing I've made for myself. Bring on the maternity ward!
On an unexpected trip to a shop called Spotlight while we were in Sydney over the holidays, I was drawn like a moth to the flame to the section of Prints Charming fabric. I just loved this oversized cheater print and stocked up so I could use it for the backing of some upcoming baby quilts I'm planning. But once I got it home and spread it out on the kitchen table, I realized that it would make the perfect colorful binding for some flannel receiving blankets that I've had on my mind for a while.
I was loathe to cut into my brand new fabric for anything but its intended purpose, but it made the perfect bias tape (I used this tutorial) and I'm really happy with the way the blankets turned out. The only killer is that the dotty flannel I picked up at Joann's seems to have a bit of shadowy misprinted dot imperfections, although they were impossible to capture on camera. If I decide they are not "nice" enough for baby gifts, I can always just keep them for home use, as I'm expecting my first baby this May. We aren't going to find out if it's a boy or a girl, but in my book, this binding works for either. In the meantime, I'm taking good flannel recommendations for my next batch.
We're only halfway through January but I'm making good on my goal to get new projects started beyond the thinking/planning phase while I still have my new year momentum going strong. I happily repurposed the Debbie Bliss Cashmerino from a failed vest knitting attempt and am now working away on a new Umaro blanket that will hopefully be large enough to add to my baby gift stash. I'm also trying to get in the habit of using my sewing machine (and growing fabric stash) more regularly. I don't have a sewing room and having all my supplies packed away in the guest room closet has always made it a bit of a chore to get everything out and then put it all away before dinner. But not this year! Have you heard of the Scrappy Log Cabin Quilt-a-long on Instagram? I'm using it to dig into my many bags of scraps and work on a mini quilt that's been on my mind for a while. It's been great motivation, thanks Ginny!
One other new project was updating my blog comments to a new system this week. Hopefully this will make it easier for commenters to leave a quick note and also for me to have an email address from commenters that I can actually reply to. I'm looking forward to hearing from you!
What have you been working on this year?
I'm happy to announce that my new holiday card designs are finally available in my shop, together with a few other new designs. I may post other shop updates here from time to time, but please follow my new tokodots Facebook page in the meantime if you are interested in other updates.
I'm still figuring out the best way to reply to comments since there is no way to reply by email in Squarespace. I appreciate the kind comments I've gotten from everyone but haven't been able to respond without an email address. If you are wondering why I don't respond, and want to be in touch with me, please use my contact page for now to send me a quick email so that I have you in my address book. Pardon the inconvenience!
It's hard to believe, but it was one year ago today that we boarded our flight at Narita and left Tokyo for Dallas. I long had my eye on "Tokyo Sampo," and illustrated memoir of French author Florent Chavouet's time in Tokyo. The timing couldn't have been more perfect when I spotted the English version at the airport bookstore before heading through security. It was the perfect airplane reading as I took off for the States after 9 years in Japan.
For anyone who has enjoyed a trip to Japan or is just planning a trip for "someday," this book is a wonderful peek into different neighborhoods and details of daily life in Japan. For a map-lover like me, I can pore over these illustrations for hours.
Our old neighborhood in Tokyo wasn't featured specifically in the book, but there are many vignettes that could have been drawn just down the street from where we lived. Just looking back on these drawings and re-reading my favorite sections has me ready to book a trip back to visit! One of these days...
If you're interested in seeing more of Florent Chavouet's work, I recommend taking a peek at his blog (bonus French practice for Francophiles like me!). Otherwise, just go ahead and pick up a copy of this book for yourself! You won't regret it.
I've been busy this last week but I still found some time each day to add a few squares to my growing trip around the world. I had so much fun this week working on the panda round, as I'd been saving this Aronzi Aronzo fabric for something special for years. This project is turning out to be a showcase of some of my most favorite prints that I never would have imagined putting together. I love it!
Most of my time this week was dedicated to figuring out a Squarespace, which I'm using for this site. So far I'm happy with the option to "like" a post without leaving a comment. I often want to let a blogger know I'm reading and enjoying their posts without necessarily leaving a comment each time. I hope you won't hesitate to do the same! Don't forget to update your RSS feeds if you were following the old blog. I'll be here to stay for a while now!
I've been using the cheap felt pincushion on the left for almost ten years, when I bought it thinking it would hold me over until I could make something better. Years and years later, I am so sick of using that thing! I've been constantly reminded of how much I dislike it while doing lots of handwork for the Trip Around the World Challenge, and despite falling a bit behind on the challenge, I just had to whip out a new one before I could sew another stitch.
I'm quite pleased with the way the chevron pattern worked out, and hey! now I can use those colorful straight pins I had been saving for no good reason. This weekend it's down to work!
I was talking with my mom a few weeks ago when she told me about
's Trip Around the World Challenge Facebook group. Although I do have a few projects in progress, I'm always keen to start something new and this challenge gives me enough external motivation to stick with it. We hung up the phone and I was already pulling fabrics out of my stash. Despite bringing quite a lot of fabric back from Japan, I have a lot of small quantities so it wasn't easy to decide what to use. I spread out all of my favorites and played around with them for hours. I was about to give up when I decided just to take the top fabrics off the pile.
I wasn't convinced that I had picked the best fabrics but I am enjoying how they all come together. The piece grew steadily at first and after finishing row 5, I was on a roll! As I have gotten further through the rounds though, I've gotten busier and seem to have less and less time to dedicate to my project each evening.
I've got 8 rows down now and I'm just itching to pick out the fabrics for the next assignment, rows 10-18. We have a bit less time to finish these first assignments than I was counting on, but I'm still optimistic. It's obviously called a challenge for a reason.
Then and now
I started my first blog ten years ago, and I was a dedicated blogger for the first six years I lived Japan. It all started as a way to share my adventures overseas with my friends and family at home, and get my mom's input on my knitting projects. I never expected that people who didn't already know me would be interested in what I was writing, but I was surprised to make many new friends through my blogs in addition to everyone I knew at home.
After moving to Tokyo for a new job, I traveled a lot and what little free time I had was spent exploring new hobbies rather than posting to my blogs. As my posts were slowing to a trickle, I missed a notice from my blog hosting domain and my blog disappeared into an online poof of smoke. Just like that! All my years of goofy posts were gone in a flash.
I was so upset! The content of my blog posts was intact in html form, but I didn't have the time or energy to reconstruct my blog online, so I took it as a sign. I wished for a way to get in touch with my readers about my site's untimely end, but just reached out with a few personal emails and moved on. Luckily, I could stay in touch with many friends over the years and have recently been reunited with others through social media these past few years as well.
Looking at the photos above, it doesn't seem like a whole lot has changed. I can't believe how much time has passed since my first post in 2004, but I'm happy to be back online again for a lot of the same reasons I started blogging in the first place.
a few weeks ago when I was in need of a new lace project. I've been picking up and putting down my granny square project for years now, but it can't seem to keep my interest beyond a few squares. This is the perfect lace project to keep my attention, and started with some yarn from my stash, too. I was about to post how this is my favorite part of a triangular shawl project. Just far enough in that I have memorized the lace pattern, but not so close to the end that the rows are pushing 300 stitches.
You might notice that there are no needles in this photo though. Even worse than interminable rows at the end of these projects are those moments when you realize you messed up some increases a while back. At least I found it before making it much further! I spent a bit of this rainy afternoon carefully making my way back to the problem area, and now I'm all set to enjoy the project again. The details are on
As it's gotten warmer here, I've spent less and less time beneath my quilt and more and more time working on a whole new line of projects on the computer. I've enjoyed making my own stationery and holiday cards for the last few years, so I decided to start an Etsy shop with some new card designs this spring. It's still a work in progress but I've finally gotten my shop up and running. Let me know what you think!
Ever since finishing my Echo Flower Shawl I haven't been focused enough to do the casting on for a completely new project so I've just been cranking out these handy ballband dishcloths from
. I've made so many that I don't have to count rows, check needle size or any of the other project prep that keeps me from starting all those other patterns in my queue. The only problem is I'm running low on Sugar'n Cream so it won't be on deck as my permanent standby project much longer.
Currently accepting suggestions for mindless spring knitting.