More Japan Zines

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Given the chance, I would buy every Japan-related zine I find, but here are some of my recent purchases.

TOKYO: A very brief introduction
If you don’t own any Herb Lester guides then you are really missing out! They’re little foldout maps with themed suggestions of interesting places to visit. There are loads of them and this Tokyo edition is a collaboration with The City Reporter. Tokyo is obviously massive so this guide has four walking tours, of Omotesando, Ginza, Sendagi and Shibuya, packed with cafes, shops and galleries to visit. There are also some travel tips, all illustrated with pen and watercolour. Definitely worth picking up if you have a trip planned, but so nice you should just get it anyway.
BUY IT: £4 from Herb Lester Associates.

Big in Japan
Often comic book travel zines end up being a bit short on content, but Moogs has packed tons and tons of details about her two weeks in Tokyo into 40 pages. She visits lots of places and tries out everything from onsen to okonomiyaki so it’s a great overview of fun things to do in Japan. I love her drawing style too – a mix of detailed pencil drawings and short comic strips. If you’ve ever visited Japan I’m sure you’ll enjoy this as much as I did – it’s full of all the little things that make Japan amazing. Extra point for being from Glasgow too!
BUY IT: £3.50 from Etsy (if out of stock, just message Moogs)

Nic & Craig go to Japan
Another comic book, this time by Nic Lawson in Australia (who put some amazing Australian railway station stamps on my parcel). This is a shorter read with a selection of one page comics about the most fun/interesting things that happened. I still really enjoyed it, especially the Kyoto and Nara pages and all the fun cafes they visited.
BUY IT: $4 (about £2) from Etsy

Thrifty Times #20 – The Tokyo Issue
I wasn’t familiar with the Thrifty Times, but it’s a long-running zine all about thrifting with shop reviews, favourite finds, tips etc. This issue is all about thrifting in Tokyo, with a review of the Chicago Thrift Store in Harajuku, tips on buying secondhand yukata, book, music and game reviews, recipes and more! It’s a great mix of content and I wish I’d bought one of the  bundles now! I’ve never done any secondhand shopping in Japan, but I’m definitely going to give it a go next time.
BUY IT: $1.50 (about 90p) from Thrifty Times.

If that’s not enough, check out my Japan Zines Etsy treasury for more zines, or buy some of mine!

Free Eco Canvas Swatch Day

eco canvas

Spoonflower are being very generous this year! We’ve already had free swatches of faux suede and silky faille, and now you can get your hands on some eco canvas. As the name suggests, its 45% recycled and heavyweight for upholstery, bags and other hardwearing projects.

I was on a train yesterday and my phone was constantly pinging with fabric sale notifications so thanks everyone who already picked my designs for their free swatch! You’ve still got five hours left so get to it! You could try out one of my new designs, or pick a cut and sew pattern. Make sure to show me if you make something with my designs!

spoonflower cut and sew

PS. Don’t forget to enter my fabric giveaway.

August Holiday Discount

august holiday

Just a reminder that I’m still having a break and won’t be shipping any orders until next Thursday. If you have your eye on something, and don’t mind waiting, you can get 10% off any order with the code AUGUSTHOLIDAY. Includes sale items and digital files so go nuts!

Sewing Notions Fabric Giveaway

fabric giveaway

Since you were all so nice about my Sewing Notions Co-ordinates fabrics, I ordered some to give away! The top prize is all four designs printed full size on one yard of the basic quilting cotton. It’s pretty big, look!

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The patterns are quite large because that’s the only way to get votes in a contest – anything smaller and people won’t notice it! Usually, I would reduce the print size after but because these were designed to fit on a yard I can’t do that easily. There are lots of details though, especially on the buttons and trim designs, so you can still use some for smaller projects.

I’ll also pick a runner-up, who will get some swatches in different colours.

To enter, use the Rafflecopter widget below and you’ll find lots of entry options. Giveaway is open worldwide and closes on 31st August at 6pm BST. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Finished Tapestry Cushion

bargello cushion

Look, I have a cushion! Turning my finished tapestry into a cushion turned out to be quite a process so I am really glad to have it finished.

Since this was my first time doing anything to a stitched piece other than framing, I took a lot of steps. I first pinned the tapestry and cushion back together with a ton of pins and then I basted it too with bright purple thread so I’d be able to stitch right between the outer two lines of stitching. I then attempted to machine stitch it as suggested by the instructions and that went surprisingly well for an entire side, As soon as I turned the corner though, my needle snapped, as did the replacement needle. I even moved over to another side of the cushion thinking it might be that specific spot, but nope, the third needle snapped too!

bargello cushion

I ended up hand-sewing the other three sides, which was pretty dull. I used backstitch with a double thickness of thread for strength, so it felt like forever, but it was only a few hours really. The cushion didn’t quite fill out the cushion case either, but it’s fine and I’m really happy overall. I’m not sure I want to make another one any time soon though.

Vervaco Bargello long stitch cushion kit | 16″ cushion back | 16″ cushion insert

Blog Hop

Today's #ctmonthinthelife photo. My branding is based around my kawaii characters, particularly Cakeify, who gets to be part of the logo.

I was tagged by Jules at The Awkward Niche to take part in a blog hop about how we create. I’ve got a few questions to answer and then I’ll tag some creative folks I’d like to answer them too.

1. What am I working on?

Far too many things! I really need to make a list of everything I am doing, and am supposed to be doing, so I can prioritise. But here’s what I’m actually working on (plus client stuff):

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 10.33.26

Asking For Trouble shop redesign
I did promise this in a week or two, about six weeks ago, but I still have stuff to do. I wasted a lot of time fixing page content rather than slightly more important things like putting the cart and search back in…

Today's #ctmonthinthelife photo. I'm currently working on some new SCK friends for Bunny. How about a koala?

Super Cute Kawaii site redesign
I’m relaunching Super Cute Kawaii in September so I’ve been coming up with some new animal characters and updates to the site design. I need to stop working on this though, until I finish more urgent things.

Finished bargello long stitch

Bargello Longstitch Cushion
I finished the stitching, but I’m still working on sewing the cushion cover together. (Update – I have actually just finished this – pics soon!)

Just ordered a test of next year's 5 Year Diary! No prizes for guessing the theme.

Next Year’s 5 Year Diary
Thanks to all your nagging, it’s going to be a space design! I have actually finished the main diary and sent off for a test copy, but I still need to do the spiral bound version. You can sign up to hear when they’re ready.

This choice of colours may not be making my next tapestry project look very exciting , but it will be!

Another Tapestry
I shouldn’t really be working on this, when I still have things on my Crafts Amnesty list, but I needed something to stitch while watching the Commonwealth Games. I’m not saying any more, but it’s Zelda related.

Designs for a new on-demand partner
You’re going to like this one when I get to tell you about it.

An exciting new product!
Is it stickers? It might be stickers. (it’s stickers!)

seasonal

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I think about this a lot. I think what sets me apart is that I only draw and write about things that mean something to me and fit with my style. That means Japan and food and astronomy and ghosts and snowmen. Maybe I could make more money drawing cats and dogs or designing products for kids, but that’s not me. Another way is that most of my characters originate as actual drawings, which gives them a certain quirk that you can’t get from purely digital work. My use of colour is another one – it’s often commented on. I also think my work as a web and graphic designer affects my artistic background in an interesting way, and vice versa.

say hello to the solar system

3. Why do I write/create what I do?

Honest answer: because I need the money! My RSI means I can’t work in an office full time so I have to make this work in order to pay my bills. Luckily, I’m also doing something I love, and that I would be trying to fit in if I had a more normal job too. I think because I create happy characters, it feels like they have a life of their own and seeing them cut out of wood or decorating dog beds or gallivanting around the globe on a stranger’s lapel makes me happy every day. As for writing and blogging, I do those partly because I like to share all the cool stuff I discover, but mostly as a record for myself. It’s so amazing being able to look back on about 15 years worth of blog posts and photos and remember what I was doing. You think you’ll always remember certain moments and events but it’s all too easy to forget.

on-demand

Some of my favourite licensed products

4. How does your writing/creating process work?

I do a lot of it in my head first. I have hundreds of ideas floating around at any time, mostly from things I read in books and blogs, see in shops and in real life, or that just come out of nowhere. I take notes sometimes and bookmark/pin useful links and inspirations, but I mostly keep them in the back of my mind until it’s the right time for them. That can be discovering a new supplier, a style of craft or technique, an email from the perfect collaborator, or just having some spare time or cash. If it’s a design or character, I’ll doodle in my sketchbook or draw directly in Illustrator. If it’s something brand new to me, I might do some googling or read up on the options. Depending on how it goes, I can finish the whole process in a day or still be working on it a year later. Similarly with writing, I have tons of drafts of blog posts and zine ideas and I revisit those occasionally until I get inspired to finish them off.

sketchbook

Some of my sketchbook doodles that turned into characters – who do you recognise?

Who I’m Tagging

Claire, who just retired from her stitchy life as The Bellwether, and soon as my SCK panda chum, but still has her own blog. I’m tagging her because she never really writes about why or how she creates and I would be really interested to hear!

Laura, who blogs at Dropstitch and sometimes sells things on Etsy. She is always introducing me to interesting things, whether it’s places she’s visited, Etsy shops or the stories behind her gocco prints. I’ve been hearing the odd hint that she’s working on new things and I’d like to hear more about it!

Go check out their blogs and look out for their answers in the next week or so.

Weekend Wrap Up

I've been pickling all the vegetables today. They already taste amazing.

It’s almost time for my annual Summer holiday so this Monday is my last shipping day until the 25th. I’ll be away Up North for a few days but mostly I will be taking some time to catch up on projects and start adjusting my thoughts towards Autumn and (gulp) Christmas. I won’t be completely deserting though as I’ll have a few blog posts up, including a giveaway! I will also be doing more pickling after making the above last week and discovering it is both super easy and incredibly delicious. I ate all those pickled cucumbers in two days. I used Smitten Kitchen’s Pickled Vegetable Sandwich Slaw recipe as a starting point, but there’s also Easiest Fridge Dill Pickles if you just want to pickle some cucumber. Do it!

Links I Loved

- Lucy Knisley’s sketchbook diary of San Diego Comic Con is amazing.
- More comics from Kate Beaton’s trip home. I love these so much.
- I am a well-known Kickstarter hater, but this comic book by a Japan-based Texan girl looks fun.
- I did not want to know that Brownie ice cream sandwiches were an option in life.

News, Offers and Reminders

- Free shipping worldwide at my Society6 shop through Monday with that link only.
- Zazzle have a new coupons page, so check that before buying from my store!
- My new fabric designs are now available at Spoonflower.
- We’re looking for some new writers at Super Cute Kawaii!

Say hello to my new paper cutter

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Say hello to my paper cutting machine! I got it months ago, but it’s been a bit of a learning curve so I’m still a bit away from saleable products. I shared a couple of things on Instagram and thought I should blog about it too. If you don’t know how a paper cutting machine works – watch my little video! (warning: it has sound)

Basically it’s like a printer, except it has a little knife and can cut out any shape you send it. The one I bought is a Silhouette Portrait. I had some end of tax year money left after my laser printer turned out to be cheaper than I expected. I had been looking at the cheap brands for something fun to try out but it turns out that almost all die cutting machines and paper cutters don’t let you use your own designs, instead selling you cartridges or downloads with their own designs. The designs are actually pretty cool, with everything from fancy text to foldable gift boxes, but the whole point was to cut out my own characters.

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That basically left me with the Silhouette brand, and the Portrait was the most affordable one for me. Even then, it comes with its own basic design software that is only really good for text and simple shapes, and doesn’t import your standard vector files like .ai and .eps. Luckily, some awesome people on the internet have figured out some workarounds so I was able to use my own designs. It also came with a gift card for downloads so I will probably try out some of their files too.

The other downside of the Portrait is the size of paper it takes, which is A4. You can buy a bigger machine, but I couldn’t really justify the cost. A4 should be fine for now. It’s also really noisy! You can hear it in the video, and if  you’re old enough to remember dial-up modems and dot matrix printers you know exactly how noisy. If you were running it for hours a day, you might go a bit mad.

Hi there! These paper cuts will be available later in the year but the prototype is cheering up my hall!

Anyway, I’ve been playing with it on and off and here’s one of my prototype products, which now hangs right by my front door for maximum welcoming! It’s actually really fun figuring out the best way to layer the colours – eg. the black letters are cut out of the green, rather than cut from black and placed on top, which would be very fiddly. I really like how the finished pieces look and sometime soon I will be offering both finished pieces and custom orders, which you can add your own text to! My first task though, is to buy some brown card, which was pretty much the only colour missing from my gigantic multi-colour card purchase.

Today's #ctmonthinthelife photo. A huge pile of coloured card that will one day be cute characters.

If you’re thinking of buying a paper cutting machine or die cutter, all I can say is do your research thoroughly and know what you want to do with it. Mine is fine for card and paper and vinyl and other thin materials, but it can’t do felt (booo!) or fabric. If you don’t need to cut your own designs, or are mostly using text and simple shapes, you’ll have many more options and brands open to you.

Watch this space for further developments, and feel free to ask any questions in the comments.

Some News!

Today's #ctmonthinthelife photo. I'm currently working on some new SCK friends for Bunny. How about a koala?

There’s a bunch of stuff piling up that I haven’t had a chance to mention, so here you go.

Koalas!
I have a real aversion to sharing things before they are ready, but the #CTMonthInTheLife photo project has been coaxing me into it, and it’s kind of fun! Above is a new koala friend for Super Cute Kawaii, which is getting a redesign soon. If you fancy some more sneak peeks, check my Instagram. I even posted a video today for the first time!

Craft Markets!
I’m now a member of the Helensburgh & Lomond Artisans Association so I’ll be taking part in their regular craft markets. I realise very few of you live nearby but there’s a direct train through Glasgow and Edinburgh so why not come for a day trip sometime! I’ll add the dates to my much-neglected events page once I know which ones I’m doing.

Mobile Theme!
If you’re reading this on your phone, you may have noticed things look a bit different! I installed a mobile theme so it’s easier to read my posts. I personally hate it when sites don’t have a mobile view so I figured I should fix that. I still have a full RSS feed though, so you can continue reading via Feedly or Bloglovin’ too. As a web designer, I find it all very interesting how little it matters what your site looks like now. It’s not putting me out of a job though – it’s just that designs are now simple, clean, easy to use and with some strong recognisable branding that people will remember.

Holidays!
I’ll be taking my regular August holiday very soon so get your orders in before I take a break from shipping. I think it will just be two weeks this year as moving house was a big drain on my bank account. Hopefully this year I don’t end up in the hospital…

A Giveaway!
I may have ordered something from Spoonflower for all you nice people who read this blog. I’ll run it while I’m on my hols so check back for that!