Little One-Yard Wonders contributor Jo Ebisujima lives and works in Japan, where she has easy access to fabulous fabrics for her fun and functional designs.

Jo Ebisujima spends a lot of time helping busy mamas organize their homes and kids so that they can have more time for the fun stuff. She can also be found crafting and designing sewing patterns inspired by the Montessori philosophy. We love her worldly and functional perspective when it comes to crafting. — Rebecca Yaker and Patricia Hoskins, co-authors

Jo Ebisujima

Jo Ebisujima

Tell us about the inspiration behind your projects in Little One-Yard Wonders.
I’m passionate about helping children fall in love with learning and I have a background in Montessori so both of my projects in the book drew from that.

I live in Japan, which is notorious for small homes, and I know how difficult it is to keep all the kids things tidy in such a small space. I also love the idea that, when a child’s study area is set up properly, he or she can keep it organized by themselves, which leads them to be more independent (and means one less job for mom!). The idea for the seat pocket came from that, and the cushion that goes with it was because my boy always complains that the hard wooden chair hurts his bum! The seat cushion in the book is a copy of the one he uses.

Seat Cushion and Pocket Jo Episujima

Seat Cushion and Pocket, designed by Jo Ebisujima. Photo © Julie Toy, excerpted from Little One-Yard Wonders.

The story cushion was also inspired by my life in Japan. I used to take my son to a small community center when he was a toddler and one sensei there had an apron with numerous pockets. She would put it on for story and song time, and pull little characters out of the pockets as she told stories. The kids loved it, and since they also love little toys, I thought it would be fun to have something that both child and parent could use for telling stories (or just for keeping special treasure safe).

Story Cushion Jo Ebisujima

Story Cushion, designed by Jo Ebisujima. Photo © Julie Toy, excerpted from Little One-Yard Wonders.

How did you learn to sew? Do you have a favorite sewing memory?
My grandmother and great gran were amazing embroiderers, so embroidery was the first kind of sewing I learned to do. My great gran always used to say that you shouldn’t be able to tell the front from the back when it came to embroidery. I’m afraid I’m not quite there yet, but I aspire to be!

I have very fond memories of sewing at university, even though I was doing a degree in Electronic Imaging. Every month the uni put on a big 70s-themed disco. For the Valentine’s night, my best friend decided she wanted to wear a fun pink fur dress and asked if I could make one. I said “sure” despite the fact that I had never made a dress before. I had to sew it all by hand, but it turned out great.

The guy who ran the event spotted it and invited me to make outfits for the dancers every month. He would give me a budget early Saturday morning and I would go to the big Indian fabric store next to the uni, which had some amazing fabric. Then I would sew up 5 – 8 outfits for that night and get paid at the end with VIP tickets and a bottle of tequila. It was a great job! It does make me laugh that I pulled it off each time because I didn’t have any formal sewing skills, and each time I totally winged it.

pink fur dress disco outfits Jo Ebisujima

(Left): Jo’s pink fur dress; (Right) 70s disco outfits

What’s your favorite thing about sewing for children? How do you engage them in the process?
I think the appreciation you get from kids when you make something special just for them is worth every stitch: the big smile, the hug, and the thank you make it worth the effort.

yoda jo ebisujima

Jo’s son with the Yoda he made

My son is very hands-on and loves to pick out the fabric and gives his honest (and often blunt) opinion about whatever I’m making. He also likes to sew himself. We started with some simple embroidery and then he was given a Star Wars craft book, and he made himself a Yoda. He has since bought his own craft books with sewing projects in them. I think finding something a child is interested in (such as Star Wars) and combining that interest with a sewing project is a great way to help them learn a new skill.

There are so many amazing fabrics available. Which are the must-haves for your own personal stash?
For kids’ fabrics, the local Japanese stores win, hands down. I usually head into Nippori in Tokyo when my stash is depleted. There are so many cute designs! I love pretty much everything Kokka puts out, especially their linens.

When making things for myself, I love Echino’s designs, which I can get here without a problem. Non-Japanese fabrics tend to be expensive here or the shipping is outrageous, so I drool over them on the Internet, but rarely buy them.

What projects (sewing or otherwise) will be keeping you busy this summer?
I won’t be getting any sewing in this summer. My son gets 6 weeks off school, and we will have a week here so he can plow through his homework (yep, Japanese kids get summer homework!), before we head back to the UK where we’ll be visiting friends and family.

I’ll still be working to a degree, preparing for the next round of My Organized Chaos and blogging. And of course, I’ll be eating all the food I miss from home (cheese!) and shopping for clothes and other things I find hard to get hold of here.

Thank you, Jo!
You can find more from Jo on:

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