Seattle children’s book author, illustrator and mother Sanae Ishida decided to add one more thing to her harmonious plate: sewing.
Through a year of threading and hemming, Ishida produced all her daughter’s (ridiculously fashionable) clothes, some garments for herself as well as household crafts. In her new book, Sewing Happiness (Sasquatch Books, $22.95), she stitches together a memoir, a delightful medley of sewing projects and a strong lesson in wabi-sabi, the concept of finding beauty in imperfection.
How did you endure such a labor-intensive project?
It’s funny, it never felt like I had to “endure” sewing—although learning how to sew clothes for my daughter (and eventually for myself) was challenging without a doubt, it was also incredibly fun and rewarding. I was (and still am) a huge fan of Project Runway, and I would pretend that I was a contestant and that kept me motivated to sew every week. I want very much to meet Tim Gunn one day.
Did any situations arise that made you want to put down the sewing kit and run over to a department store for clothes?
I’m pretty stubborn and a huge creature of habit. Once I got the weekly sewing routine going, it was actually a point of pride for me that I wasn’t buying any ready-to-wear items. There were certain times that I probably should have caved and purchased clothes. For example, in the winter, when it would have been a very good idea to sew a couple of warm jackets for my daughter...I instead found myself making linen dresses because they were more fun to sew. I eventually made a wool coat for her, but it took awhile.
If your readers embark on a sewing journey of their own, what do you think they will discover?
I firmly believe that sewing is a life-changing craft. When I started sewing, I realized that I didn’t really have my own sense of style nor did I know what I truly preferred in terms of colors, textures, fabrics and cuts, because my options were limited to what I saw in stores or online. I did have some existential moments of “Who am I?”—all the choices can be initially overwhelming as you step into making mode, and true, you’re still limited by the fabric and patterns available, but there is a whole new level of exploration at your fingertips. As you plug away at it, you start to learn so much about yourself. The benefits of slowing down, giving ample thought to every aspect of the project and singlehandedly creating something that you find beautiful are a millionfold.