My Big WIP (or why I’ve been MIA)

baby announcement

The short story: This may not come as much of a surprise, given all the other adulting I’ve been doing recently (like getting married and buying a house), but the latest installment in the wow-I-guess-I-really-am-a-grownup life events is that I’m pregnant! While the pregnancy itself wasn’t a surprise, how profoundly it affected my ability to do, well, anything during my first trimester was a surprise. Fortunately, I’m returning to functional and am so excited to start sewing, blogging, and working again! The long story, for those that might be interested: I had a truly miserable first trimester where I was so sick I couldn’t do anything other than lay on the couch. (As Adam was saying to folks “I can tell she’s miserably sick since she’s not even knitting while she sits on the couch.) I’m blessed by the fact I live on the same island as one set of …


Fabric Shopping in Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An fabric store  Hùng Vương 2

The final stop in my attempt to fabric-shop my way across SE Asia – Hoi An, Vietnam. Hoi An is known as the tailoring capitol of Vietnam (more on that coming soon!) so one would think that I should have been able to go on one last fabric binge, right? The obvious place to look would be the building in town called the “cloth market”, right? The cloth market is a market in a building on the east side of the main part of Hoi An. It’s full of stalls of fabric, as one might expect from the name. Unfortunately, each stall had pretty much the same selection as the others around it and the touts were very, very aggressive. The fabric is really being sold as part of getting something custom tailored, and it usually took me a bit to get a price for a meter of fabric as …


Packing for 4 Months in SE Asia


About 2 weeks before we left for 4 months in SE Asia, I started frantically googling “packing list 4 months SE Asia” or “packing list 3 months SE Asia” or “packing list 4 months around the world” or any other similar variation I could think of. Lots of people have written plenty of posts about their packing list, but I’ve been asked about mine, so I thought I would share. I didn’t find anyone else’s list that I followed exactly for various reasons – mostly because we brought really small bags and my minimalist husband harped on me to keep what I brought to a minimum (because he knew that I would be filling my bag with fabric to bring back!). What follows is what I brought and a few suggestions about what I would do differently next time. 3 tank tops 2 button down shirts skirt linen pants 2 dresses tee …


Vietnamese Dress

Hmong Hoa Vietnamese Dress 2008

Vietnam has 54 ethnic groups and a correspondingly rich assortment of traditional dress. I wanted to share a small selection of different traditional women’s dress from across Vietnam for I have found the amazing assortment of color, shape, and construction to be a true inspiration. I hope you find them inspiring as well! Cotton is historically the most popular fabric with silk being used on applique and for festive costumes although synthetic fibers and chemical dyes are becoming prevalent, even in traditional dress. There are a wide variety of techniques used across the ethnic groups that include embroidery, appliqué, batik, ikat, and woven patterns. The Yao (also known as Dao or Zao or Mien) are originally from southern and southwestern China. This Yao Do outfit is from Cao Bang and made in 1957. It’s hand-woven cotton dyed with indigo and decorated with embroidery and appliqué. It includes two turbans, a …


The Last Wool Mill in New Zealand

Bruce Woolen Mill Milton New Zealand winding

In a nondescript town (called Milton) on a quiet highway, we found the last wool mill in the south island of New Zealand. The brick buildings line the road and, were it not for the modern cars, I could almost imagine I was in Dickensian London. The Bruce Woolen Mill was built in 1897 and at its peak, employed over 500 workers, although there aren’t nearly so many employees now. In fact, a fair portion of mill space is actually rented to a fiberglass company for storage. They no longer offer tours, but if you show up first thing in the morning and happen to tell a certain friendly employee that you actually spent 2 nights in the town of Milton (because you arrived on a Sunday and they were closed for a public holiday on the Monday) and you came all the way from the United States and you are …


Sop Jam Weaving Village, Laos

Sop Jam Laos woven scarves

Sop Jam is a small village in northern Laos. On the bank of the Nam Ou river and surrounded by limestone cliffs, the scenery couldn’t be more beautiful. Of course the only thing that could make such a setting even better in my eyes is textiles and that you will find aplenty in Sop Jam. Sop Jam is a weaving village with just about every home having a weaving loom in the front and a selection of hand woven textiles (mostly scarves) that the women of the household have woven for sale. To get to Sop Jam, we took a boat up the Nam Ou river from Nong Khiaw, a quiet town in northern Laos that we really liked that is a 3-4 hour bus ride north of Luang Prabang. The bus ride wasn’t very pleasant (though it certainly could have been worse) but it was certainly worth it to be …


Thirty, Flirty and Thriving!

Lake Mahinerangi New Zealand

I’m pretty stoked to say that today I am 30 years old! Yes, the big 3-0. And I am so very happy to be turning 30. I think that a lot of your 20’s is about finding yourself. And I’ve done a lot of soul searching over the last decade, and I’ve done a lot of exploring about who I am, what makes me happy (hint: making things is a big part :), and what is my place in the world. I’ve hurdled seemingly insurmountable obstacles. I’ve met and married the love of my life. I’m proud of what I’ve figured out, where I am, and who I am. And I’m ready for the next phase. So why do I say 30, Flirty, and Thriving? I borrowed the phrase from one of my favorite put-a-smile-on-my-face movies. And I kinda like that Adam rolls his eyes every time I say the phrase :) …


Hmong Hemp and Indigo Textile Art

hmong blanket

The Hmong are an ethnic group from China, Vietnam, Thailand, and Laos. Before our travels to SE Asia, the Hmong were one of the few SE Asian ethnic groups with which I was already familiar as there are many Hmong refugees in the United States (and other western countries like France and Germany). The Hmong were recruited by the American government to fight during the Vietnam War and have faced much persecution in several SE Asian countries since. (You may have heard of the Hmong from a 1998 book called The Spirit Catches You And You Fall Down which recounted the story of a young Hmong girl with epilepsy in California and the cultural gap between her family and her doctors, both of whom were doing their best to help the girl, often to counter purposes.) Traditionally, every Hmong household would produce its own textiles with girls learning to embroider, appliqué, indigo dye, and batik …


Natural Dying and Weaving Silk in Luang Prabang, Laos

weaving silk scarf in Laos

Laos is a country with a rich textile heritage. With almost 50 main ethnicities and over 150 ethnic groups, there are many different traditional styles of weaving and methods of textile production. Ock Pop Tok is an organization based in Luang Prabang, Laos, that is working to empower women through their traditional skills and to preserve and promote Laotian textiles. I had the immense pleasure of taking their day-long workshop on dying silk using natural traditional dyes and learning how to weave. While Ock Pop Tok trains women across Laos in their traditional weaving techniques and buys textiles from all around the country to sell in their store in Luang Prabang, they also hire a group of local women to weave at their weaving center in Luang Prabang. So, before I got started on my own project, I got to watch professional weavers in action. I was mesmerized. I could …


Silk Weaving in Siem Reap, Cambodia

weaving silk in cambodia

Although Siem Reap, Cambodia, is almost exclusively known for Angkor Wat temples, there is certainly plenty else worth exploring. Since I’m a textile junky, we toured a silk factory outside Siem Reap. The factory was built as a part of project aimed at “providing professional skills for communities with limited educational opportunities” as well as reviving Khmer cultural heritage. The women who work there make a good living wage and they don’t have to move away from their home towns to a city for a paying job, so the positions are sought after. The factory has a training program that every woman must go through for 6 months wherein they learn the entire silk making process, from worm to weaving. After completing their training, they can decide which job they prefer to be hired for. Silk worms only eat mulberry leaves so next to the factory there is a big …


Fabric Shopping in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

fabric store ubud batik

We only had a few days in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia, (our other time in Indonesia was spent sitting on a beach in the middle of nowhere on Lombok) but of course I had to buy some Indonesian fabric. We got dropped off in the heart of Ubud at the palace and ambled our way down Kajeng road (on the way to Threads of Life, more on that below) and one of the first stores I noticed was a little sarong store and sarongs = fabric! There was a beautiful assortment of different sarongs in a variety of quality of fabrics printed to look like batik, some real batiks, and some ikat. Since everything is sold as sarongs, it means that the fabric comes as ~2 yards. I talked to a driver that we had about traditional clothing in Bali and he told me that both men and women wear sarongs, although they are tied differently …


Fabric Shopping in Chiang Mai: My Haul

thai ikat mudmee fabric

Hopefully you enjoyed reading about my experience fabric shopping in Chiang Mai. I’m sure what you really care about is my spoils, so here they are! I started my Chiang Mai fabric shopping with something shiny and pink (not a big surprise to anyone, I’m sure). It was stacked outside the store with many other bolts of eye-catching fabric, much like the stores I used to frequent on my trips to the L.A. fashion district (I’m a sucker for shiny no matter where in the world I am, I guess). It’s synthetic, but decent quality, albeit a bit scratchy on the wrong side, so whatever it becomes will need to be lined/underlined. The other synthetic fabric that I bought (yes, it was labeled “Thai silk”. no, it is not actually silk. trust me) had a lustrous gold and silver peacock design woven into a border print. Like the pink fabric …


Fabric Shopping in Chiang Mai: The Experience

mudmee thai cottons

I can’t actually describe my fabric shopping trip in Chiang Mai without first raving about my new friend Gaye of Notionally Better. She drove into Chiang Mai from nearby Lampang to spend the day taking me shopping. I guess it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that two sewists could instantly become friends, because sewing people are great people, but, after only one day of hanging out, I adore this woman! I had a brilliantly fun day fabric shopping and much of it was due to Gaye’s wit, friendliness, energy, and enthusiasm! So many thanks to Gaye for taking the day to play with me! All of the fabric stores that we went to were around the Warorot market, a daytime market that is centered around two multi-story buildings but extends out into the streets and lanes nearby. All of the fabric shops that we went to were on …


Four Months in SE Asia


Coming up soon, Adam and I are taking a four month honeymoon. I am so excited (and a little bit terrified, not only because I will be 4 months without a sewing machine!). I’ve been dreaming about such a trip for a very long time, and as I struggled through the end of graduate school, Adam told me to start making plans for it to actually happen. And now it’s happening! From September through December we are going to be traveling around SE Asia (and Australia and New Zealand). We have a really rough outline of where we are going, but plan on filling in a lot of the details as we go. Can you help me? – Do you live anywhere we are going and want to meet up? – Do you have recommendations for things to do or places to go? – Do you have any awesome travel …


Tiny Santa Barbara Courthouse Wedding

exchanging rings

I’m terrible at keeping secrets. Actually, I can keep other people’s secrets without a problem. I can’t keep any of my own, so I’m going to have to spill the beans. Adam and I popped down to Santa Barbara last week and got married! We tied the knot in front of the fountain at the Santa Barbara courthouse, the same place that he first told me he loved me and later asked me to marry him! The wedding was a tiny affair – just me and Adam, his parents, his grandmother, and one set of my parents (my mom and step-dad). We are keeping it pretty quiet since we are considering the big wedding we have coming up next month to be our actual wedding and the anniversary that we will celebrate. But Nanny Sheila, Adam’s grandmother, has been a very important part of his life and she is 94 …


My Summer Sewing Space

summer sewing space

It may not look like much, but this quirky little sewing space already feels like home to me. We’ve been in our summer cottage for a week now and it’s starting to settle into a routine. Adam is off on a business trip, I’m home sewing for the wedding. It’s taken a bit longer to get to routine than I thought it would – at first there was unpacking, and then time catching up with all the to-do’s that got dropped in the rush of the move (turns out you still have to pay your bills, even if you’re busy), and then a couple days spent on my butt on the couch decompressing (at least that’s what I’m calling a couple days of the blahs). I picked the sun room, what was probably a sleeping porch when the house was built in the 1800’s, as my sewing space. There’s a …


Rest in Peace Mr. T

zen kitty

The best cat ever passed this week – Tall, Dark, and Handsome a.k.a. Mr. T. Also known as snugglepants and muffins, he was my constant and faithful companion for almost 10 years, since I rescued him and his sister Adelaide from a shelter when I was in college. Mr. T always wanted to cuddle and was constantly purring. It was impossible for him to be upset about anything. He was preceded in death by his littermate and sister and companion of 12 years, Adelaide. He is survived by his friend Tig, playmate of the last 2 years. I know that everyone says that their pet is the best ever, but in this case it was true. I have had many people tell me “objectively, your cat is the best I’ve ever met.” My friend Mike was convinced that he must be a dog in disguise because he didn’t like cats …


More Glasses Fails

glasses collage 2

I appreciate all the feedback you awesome folks gave on my last round of glasses (in which I desperately search for the perfect glasses to wear to my wedding). Although your votes were pretty dead even between the first and second pairs, I was getting pretty convinced that the second pair (the cat-eyes with gold frames) were the best choice. Until I read one comment that they covered too much of my eyebrows. And I just couldn’t see past that!! Since none of them really truly felt perfect, I decided to order a round of try-at-home glasses from three different companies! The conclusion after all these glasses? I still don’t know what I want to do for glasses for my wedding! I tried a set of purple glasses since Adam will be wearing purple, but they were all too dark since everything else I’ll be wearing is pale. A couple …


Help Me Pick Glasses?


I need a little help from my friends. That means you guys! Obviously, I wear glasses. And, if you haven’t noticed, I like to match my glasses to my outfit. I have many pairs in different colors. What I don’t have, is the perfect pair of glasses to wear at my wedding. I’ll be wearing a blush colored wedding dress so I wanted to find a pair of glasses to match. I found two pairs of blush colored glasses as well as two slightly cat-eye glasses that seemed subtle and light enough to fit with the slightly retro aesthetic. And now I need your help. Which glasses do you like best? Any of them? None of them? I tried asking Adam, but he doesn’t like change, so he wasn’t much help. Are any of these keepers, or should I keep looking!?!


The Fantastical Metal Beasts of Ricardo Breceda

ricardo breceda serpent dragon head

In the desert, near a small town, nestled up next to vast tracts of a state park, there are creatures. Giant metal creatures spattered across the desert land. Some are extinct. Some are fantastical. Some are exotic. All are awe inspiring. These sculptures are the product of Ricardo Breceda. He started sculpting with a large metal dinosaur, inspired by his daughter’s dinosaur obsession after watching Jurassic Park III. He has since made an amazing collection of metal creatures ranging from everyday animals to fantastical beasts. The largest collection of his creations is on Galleta Meadows Estate in Borrego Springs, a southern California desert town next to Anza Borrego State Park. I had a grand time driving around Anza Borrego, pulling off the road to the left and right to chase down glimpses of these impressive sculptures. Breceda’s ability to communicate life and movement in his sculptures on such a large …


Why I Just Bought a Pink Wedding Dress

wedding dress excitement

and cry every time I listen to Katy Perry’s song “Roar”: I use to be even more bold, even more outrageous, even more flamboyant. I used to delight in always wearing  ridiculous dresses completely unsuited for the occasion – camping in space princess dresses and hiking in ballgowns made from parachutes. I loved being the center of attention, the belle of the ball. I was always silly and flirty and fun. And I don’t feel that that’s me any more, and that has been making me sad. As I prepare for so many big life milestones this coming year – finishing grad school, moving to a different state, getting married, and turning 30 – I’m realizing that I don’t like all of what I’ve grown into. I’ve grown shy, learned to constantly doubt myself, and worry about what others think of me. This is not who I want to be. …


Sewing Summit 2013

New Friends from Sewing Summit 2013

Sewing Summit 2013 I miss you already! I’m still riding on a high from how wonderful the weekend was, how informative the classes, how delightful the other attendees. I stayed up until 1am sewing on brand new Bernina sewing machines (two nights in a row! I may or may not have had to call my mom and tell her to talk me out of buying a new sewing machine on the spot!), laughing, chatting, and getting to know so many friendly, inspiring, and welcoming sewists. Before going to the summit I was admittedly quite nervous, but the nerves were all for nought. Every. Single. Person. I met was open and welcoming and creative and inspiring. Not only was it a blast to meet such fun folks, I think attending the summit was also a great career move for me. I don’t talk about it much on my blog since it …

Living Old Mission Santa Barbara

embroidered vestements

A couple of weekends ago I went down to Santa Barbara. I had an inspiring tour through an inspiring place with two very inspiring women. My mom, Adam’s mom, and I toured the museum and gardens of the Santa Barbara Mission. It was built in 1786 but is still a site of education, reflection, and worship. It’s a Franciscan mission. Although I am not religious, and certainly not Catholic, I have always like Saint Francis of Asissi for being the patron saint of animals and the environment.

Christmas Camel

camel head

I got to see a Christmas Camel today!!! A local Seattle nursery, Swanson’s, brings in reindeer and a camel every year for Christmas.

Handmade Souvenirs from Baja

Handmade Mango Wood Bowl from Baja

When we travel, I like to come home with a souvenir or two that was handmade in the place we just visited. I brought home three things from our trip to Baja last week.


Our Trip to Los Barriles over Thanksgiving

Los Barriles beach kiteboarders

Adam and I spent our Thanksgiving this year in Los Barriles, South Baja, Mexico. We hosted Thanksgiving dinner for our families last year. This year, we decided that our priorities for the holiday were low stress and time together. So we escaped to Mexico!

Handmade Czech Easter Eggs

Engraved Floral Czech Easter Eggs

Adam travels a lot for work. He just got back from Prague and brought me the most lovely handmade Czech Easter eggs as a souvenir. He bought them at a store called Manufaktura that says “We established our company with the aim to preserve and present Czech and Moravian craft which is in danger of disappearing nowadays. Gradually, we managed to join together more than 250 small craftsmen, former masters of folk production.” They  had a lot of information about the history and tradition of the Czech Easter eggs. “Traditional Czech products are made of easily accessible natural materials – clay, wood, withe [twig], straw, linen…By old cult view, the egg as a symbol of life and its role was to provide for life-giving fertility and wealth. Egg decoration then intensified its symbolic and magic impressiveness in human perception. Hardly anywhere in the world, decoration of Easter eggs has developed in such …

Brooklyn Botanic Gardens


Last week I was sent to the east coast to visit collaborators for work.  I decided I would fly out a day early so that I could visit friends in New York. While there, I spent hours wandering through the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens with a friend. The Japanese garden was lovely and tranquil. I enjoyed watching the turtles and koi in the murky green water. I was taken by this bright red flower. So bold, so bright, so cheery. I believe it was from the onion/garlic family, which I found surprising as I think of those blossoms as being puff balls, not striking individual petals like this one. Inside of the building hosting the different world climates, there was an atrium that had flower sculptures hanging from each of the roof windows. I loved this one, not just because it was bright pink, but because of how bold it was …


Handmade Alaska Souvenirs

scrimshaw mammoth tuxk necklace alaska

While in Homer, Alaska, last week, I bought myself a couple of souvenirs handmade by local artists. The bracelet is carved from birch. It was made by artist George Overpeck. He spends his summers commercial fishing in Bristol Bay and kitesurfing on Kachemak Bay. His winters are occupied with woodturning in Homer. Most of his work is done with the Betula kenaica, a variety of white birch that is unique to the Kenai peninsula. The bracelet is amazingly light and I love how clear the patterning in the wood is. The necklace is scrimshawed by artist Brian Burns on a piece of ancient mammoth tusk. Scrimshaw is a type of etching in a which a line is scratched onto the piece then filled by pigment. Brian Burns practices his art and works on boats in Homer, Alaska. He is an avid hiker and explorer and collects many of the materials …

A Trip to Alaska

alaska byron glacier

I spent last week in Alaska on family vacation. My brother has lived in Anchorage for 7 years and this is the first time I’ve been up here to visit. I’m sorry that it has taken me so long because it’s absolutely beautiful, even though the weather has been pretty darn crummy. We went for a float down the Kenai river to go fishing (my brother’s most favorite activity in the entire world). Unfortunately, it was very cold and raining so, instead of camping and continuing the float for a second day, we had to cut it to a single day. The banks of the Kenai river were lined with dead fish. The salmon come up the streams to spawn and after spawning, they die. We stopped by my brother’s work to drop off some of the gear he borrowed for our float trip and ended up playing on the …