Moments of Reflection on the Path to a Creative Lifestyle

Three years in the making. Three blog posts to reflect on the journey. 

If you missed Monday's blog post, please feel free to stop on over there and take a peek at the face behind these typed words or to get a bit of context for today's blog post.

Scarlet Elfcup began as a way for me to combine my love for knitting, sewing, reading, writing and photography hobbies. It was not begun because I thought I might have enough talent or skills to sustain a living out of making dolls or natural fiber arts. Far from that notion, I thought that I really wouldn't go very far with it all, but that it would be fun to try for it and to learn new things along the, what it takes to run an on-line business, what it takes to bring to life figments of the imagination that will transpire into something tangible and beautiful and that provokes this emotional response on the human soul...the thing we call art.

When I see lifestyle blogs, artist's creations photographed or handmade items posted online, I immediately imagine that the maker, the person behind the scenes is tucked away in a cozy cabin warmed by a hearth of fire, drinking a hot cup of tea or sitting prettily behind a beautiful minimalist workspace, writing or creating away in the peaceful bliss of endless time and space. I envision this magical sight where one can find the peace and clarity to spill one's soul to the world from a place you call your home.

The reality is, this is likely untrue for most creatives. For me, it's been a time-fight between endless loads of laundry, piles of dishes, grocery store runs, meals to plan and make, lunch boxes to pack and clean, my children's activities and school schedules (school performances, piano and violin lessons, swim practice, outdoor hikes for toddlers), a multitude of drop-offs and pick-ups throughout the day, a number of my own activities to keep my body and mind in balance (training for the next mountain, running for fitness, yoga to stretch my body and still my mind), life responsibilities (currently a massive project to rejuvenate and repair an old house of ours in San Francisco), time with extended family and friends and the list goes on. The truth is that some days I can barely keep my head on straight much less have a moment of peace and clarity to truly bring my visions to life.

In the first two years of bringing Scarlet Elfcup to life, my working hours were from 8:00 PM (when children have been tucked in) to 2:00 or 3:00 AM. At the beginning, my children were ages 1 and 3, so the days were designated to them entirely. At night, after they went to bed was when I was most productive, most inspired, most efficient because it was a lengthy span of time when the house was quiet and I can focus without interruption and with clarity to bring to life the endless dreams floating in my head. It was the time when I can see with much clarity how to bring my ideas into something tangible...a new pattern (whether it be doll, creature, doll clothing or knitted item).

For me, working out my ideas did not come so easily. There were countless times when I spent hours sketching, cutting, mocking up a pattern and then scrapping all of it to start from square one again. Endless hours were spent in trial and error until alas those stitch lines would come together to form a body, a limb, a face, a garment that I felt proud and happy to have created. The process of bringing an idea to life, whether it be doll, creature or garment, took a lot of time. When one project was done, the process would repeat itself for the next project because I simply don't enjoy creating the same thing more than once. After two years of working by night and going on 4 hours of sleep a night, I had to adjust my lifestyle to fit in more sleep. After all, the signs from lack of sleep were starting to show in my health, my mind and emotional state. But, I'm "an all or nothing" sort of person. If I've decided to begin something, I have 100% of my best in it. I can't feel happy if I know I haven't put my best foot forward. And working nighttime hours for this duration was the only way I knew how to put my best effort and hard work toward Scarlet Elfcup.

These days, I sleep a full night's rest. After the children go to sleep, dishes cleaned and the next day's lunch boxes are packed and ready to go, I work for maybe an hour or two...that's nighttime rendezvous with Scarlet Elfcup friends have all but vanished. I'm still trying to figure out how to fit in Scarlet Elfcup time in between my busy daytime responsibilities. And truth be told, a creative process isn't one that can be "picked-up and dropped-off"'s a process that takes time, the right mood, the right ambiance, the right moment...that 'ah-ha' moment that doesn't just come magically as we will it to. 

Fitting Scarlet Elfcup into my daytime hours has been a process of adjusting and readjusting my creative time with my children's ever-growing schedules and demands. But, I've learned that this is the essential process of pretty much everything we tackle in life. We tackle something. We re-evaluate. We adjust. And we continue with this process until we reach a place of comfort, control and contentment. But, we make sure not to stay too comfortable because we know that nothing lasts forever and that we must be ready to go through the process of re-evaluating and re-adjusting even when we have felt settled and content.

Below: A few of my favorite projects from the previous years.

As I move through my own journey on the road toward a creative lifestyle, I can now fully appreciate what other artists must go through. No matter how beautiful and enchanting they showcase their life as an artist, the truth is, it's really not that glamorous. It comes with blood (literally...for all those needles and barbed felting tools that jab and poke are quite merciless sometimes), sweat and tears. There have been moments in my making when I simply wanted to break down with tears of the time I had spent nearly 10 hours completing a doll. I am on the homestretch and working to place the wig on the doll (my last step before the oh-so fun bit of making clothes for the doll). In the short span that is equivalent to the blink of an eye, a hangnail from one of my dried up fingers snags at the doll skin holding together a beautiful lip line and lo and behold, I have a beautiful doll smile with a hole next to her lip corner. Truly, the hole was equivalent to one single stitch on that jersey fabric that broke. But, unlike some mistakes that can be repaired (such as a dropped stitch in knitting), this one was not repairable. There have also been moments in my making when I simply had to step away from the project because I was not able to figure out a solution for how to stitch together an idea that I had envisioned. One such project was 'A Boy and His Gypsy Moth'. For this small boy and his gypsy moth, I had all the visions drawn and sketched. I was so ready to bring the project to life. But, after many trials of failed attempts at the gypsy moth that I wanted to create, I decided to set the project aside. Sadly, the project is still sitting untouched, but preserved like a museum piece, in a closet. Such is the life of creativity and making. It often does not go swiftly, efficiently or smoothly as we see in the beautiful online posts of Facebook and Instagram. But, I think we would have it no other way because the end result of our process (struggles and all) far exceed the pains we must hurdle to get there.

Join me on the next blog post. There I will tell you why I'm still in this and why I'm in it for the long run.  

And So The Adventure Began...3 Years in the Making

Today, March 20th, 2017, is Scarlet Elfcup's 3-year anniversary. Things have been very quiet here for a long time. Life has taken it's full course and has demanded more than 100% of my time. But, I'm still here. I assure you.

An anniversary is a time to celebrate, to acknowledge the start of something good and happy and to reflect upon the road by which things have taken it's course. This week, I'd like to celebrate with you by sharing:

1.) a wee bit more about me, the maker. I realize I haven't quite made my face or much of my personal life available. I'm a bit shy around cameras and even more shy around the internet.

2.) my journey, thus far, in the world of handmade fiber arts and the things I've learned along the way.

3.) my heartfelt gratitude to all of you who are here with me now and who have been on this journey all along.

Where to begin?...Perhaps, "Hello." My name is Young. I am the maker behind Scarlet Elfcup. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area with the love of my life and my two little hearts.

It seems that this would be an appropriate time for me to reintroduce myself and Scarlet Elfcup. In line with this, I think it's time I ought to show my mug publicly for the first time in the three years since Scarlet Elfcup came to life. I'd like to preface this with the notion that I am a very private and very camera-shy person. In my personal life, particularly since becoming a mother, I try very hard to leave as little footprints as possible on the internet. I don't own a personal twitter, facebook or instagram account. I think this is in part due to my on-going journey into mindfulness and being 'present'. But, I also think it is in part due to the fact that I am very much an introvert. I am better with up-close-and-personal, one-on-one than I am via the worldwide web or in large group settings.

With that said, you...and I, myself, may wonder, "Why, then, did I start a business which requires a strong social media presence, a business by which all human contact is via the web...intangible, sometimes impersonal. It's a good question and an appropriate one to contemplate on this day.

To begin, let me take a few steps back and give you some background on how I arrived here. After all, I've learned over the last three years of growing with Scarlet Elfcup, that try as I might to separate my personal life from Scarlet Elfcup, it is quite impossible to. Hence, past, present and future, my life ties deeply to the work that I create through Scarlet Elfcup. As a result, it is only appropriate for me to take you back in time a bit and introduce you to my background.

I'd like to introduce you to me before motherhood...the me I still know and understand to the core. Growing up, I always knew I would land in the field of science and math. These were my forte. Never in my life did I ever envision involvement in the arts, in the world of creativity, imagination, sewing, knitting, crafting handmade wonders. These were not my areas of interest nor expertise. I have an undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering and a graduate degree in Math and Physics Education. I worked in both fields for a number of years until a life in the Peace Corps changed my entire perspective on what I would do for the rest of my life.

Peace Corps. "The toughest job you'll ever love." Tis true.

After completing my stint in the Peace Corps serving as a secondary school math and physics teacher in a small village in Kenya, I knew a life of travel, exploring different cultures and being in the great outdoors climbing rocks and mountains are the things that make me happiest, that ground me and inspire in me the highest passion for life. There wasn't much else that mattered more than this...that is...until the love of my life and my children came along.

Climbing..."It is not the mountains we conquer, but ourselves."

"Not all those who wander are lost." Travel is what kept me grounded and happy.

It has been 6 years into the journey of parenthood. I have many days when I still ask who is it that stares back at me from a mirror. After the birth of my first child, I chose to sidestep my career. Since then, I've been on a journey to discover who it is that I've become, what it is that I'm striving for or moving toward next. My passion for travel and climbing has never died. But, the reality of life as a parent keeps me from drifting too far or too high from home. I always knew that if I had children I would want to be at home for them, to always be there for them. I adore my children and I love being home with them. But, I needed an outlet, a balancing act that would keep me on my toes.

Enter the world of handmade baby goods. Being a new mom inspired me to take to a life of less buying and more making. It began with teaching myself how to sew baby blankets. Then, learning how to crochet baby blankets. And then, an exploration into knitting made me fall hard in love with handmade things. From there, I discovered the world of handmade natural fiber dolls. It stemmed from Brandy Fortune's "Just Like Me Knits." I picked up this sweet knit book for it's adorable idea of knitting up cute matching clothes for little ones and their dollies. What I discovered took me far beyond anything I bargained for.

Upon the back pages of the book was a list of resources naming a few independent doll makers. One of these doll makers would become the pivotal influence that would bring Scarlet Elfcup to life. Her name is Fabiola Perez, maker and shaker behind the famous Fig & Me doll production. If you know of Fig & Me, you understand how beautiful Fabiola's creations are. But, do you want to know what I learned from Fabiola? I learned what it meant to have an imagination. I learned what it is like to play with dolls. Through reading her blog posts which contained endless encounters with characters small and big, wild and wondrous, beautiful and charming, naughty and daring, I was caught up in a world of magic and whimsy, a world I never knew existed in childhood nor adulthood. Also, through her blog posts, I was mesmerized by her journey in the world of doll making. Call it spellbinding or whatever it may be named, I was enchanted. I didn't grow up playing with dolls. I'm what you might label as a tomboy. I was never a doll collector and I'm still not a collector. But, oddly enough, I love the idea of creating these woolen souls. And Fabiola's dolls are so filled with life and magic and wonder. I did end up lucky enough to get my hands on one of her earlier works...a sweet little gal by the name of Celia and her itty-bitty hand knitted teddy bear.

Fabiola's work sparked a flame inside me that I never knew existed. And, still to this day, I'll never know what possessed me to pull together enough courage to dive headlong into a project I knew nothing about and have absolutely no experience in. But, forward I went, diving blind into bringing Scarlet Elfcup to life.

Stay tuned...In my next blog post, I'll share my journey thus far and the challenges as well as the joys that have come with it.

Thank you for stopping by and thank you for being here to celebrate 3-years in the making of Scarlet Elfcup.

Good night and sweet dreams. The next anniversary blog post will be up on Wednesday, March 22nd. I hope you come back to read on.

And now let us welcome the new year...

...full of things that have never been.

                                                              - Rainer Maria Rilke

Should Old Acquaintance be forgot,
and never thought upon;
The flames of Love extinguished,
and fully past and gone:
Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold,
that loving Breast of thine;
That thou canst never once reflect
On old long syne.

- Robert Burns, 1788

In traditions old and new, come, let us venture forth into a new year and see where the road goes, whom we meet along it's path and walk until a new year dawns.

In the tradition of Dollectable, FREE giveaways will happen tomorrow, Sunday, January 1, 2017 beginning at 9:00 AM (EST). Come, let us be together to welcome the New Year.

Scarlet Elfcup will be giving away a surprise package...filled with some of my favorite things...wool, cotton, alpaca, butterflies, and lovely Liberty of London. Contents of the package will be revealed to the winner of the drawing on Monday, January 2, 2017 and shipped on Tuesday, January 3, 2017.

Thank you to all who enter. Good luck to you! I am grateful for your continuing support of handmade natural fiber arts, Dollectable and Scarlet Elfcup. Sending you and your families the best of all things in 2017. 



Secret Garden of Lanterns

Amidst the turmoil and restlessness in the world, it is a lovely idea to stow away in a secret garden of celebrate life, to be in the moment with your best loved ones, your sisters, and to make a wish upon a lantern...A wish for peace, harmony and love amongst all peoples of this Earth.

If you read the previous blog about a Wish Upon a Lantern, you'll know that this is a sequel to the story of the three sisters of the Orient.

The creation of sisters, Aki and Rantan, was inspired by so many things. Hence, their existence represents and means a lot. All things Japanese were inspired by one little Japanese girl's birthday and a custom doll created just for her as requested by her sweet grandmother. All things lantern were inspired by Southeast Asia's recent celebration of the Autumn Festival (aka Moon Festival).

In 2016, the Mid-Autumn Festival was on September 15. During the festivals, which is to welcome the Autumn, thousands of lanterns are set ablaze floating upward into the moonlit night sky or downward into the ebb of a moonlit river. Traditionally, lanterns signified wishes for health, harmony or longevity. Lantern festivities are a sight to behold and I do dare to dream that one day, I will travel with my children back to my homeland country of Vietnam and experience this magical event with them.

We live in an interesting age. Amidst these times of chaos and uncertainty in the world, there is always a place for hope that humanity can rise out of the smoldering ruins that are caused by hatred and anger and restore unto itself a place filled...

...not with hate, but with love

...not with greed, but with generosity

...not with power, but with empowerment

...not with fear, but with courage

...not with conflict, but with unity...

...A place where people of all colors, all faiths and all backgrounds can be as one and live in harmony. This is the wish from these sisters...their wish upon a lantern...a wish for the world to be at peace with itself.

This month, Aki and Rantan will join Dollectable to represent the group of multi-nationals to promote harmony and peace for all.


Aki is a 6" Wee-Bee Mini Elfcup. She is made from 100% cotton interlock. Her dark soft locks are made of wefted 100% suri alpaca and can be lightly styled. Her facial structure is lightly sculpted. Her eyes and lips are embroidered with 100% cotton floss. Her cheeks, lips, nose and various body parts are blushed with red beeswax.

Aki comes wearing a wee-tiny kimono made with a beautiful 100% cotton floral fabric and 100% cotton bias at the neckline. The kimono is wrapped at the waist with an obi made from 100% linen and cotton. The obi is secured with two nickel-plated brass snap buttons on the back. Underneath, she wears a set of tiny bloomers matching her kimono. 

On her feet, Aki wears a simple pair of sandals made from a hand-dyed Kakishibu 100% silk yarn crocheted lining and matching fabric straps stitched to soles made of 100% Belgian wool felt.


Rantan is a 6" Wee-Bee Mini Elfcup. She is made from 100% cotton interlock. Her dark soft bobs are made of wefted 100% suri alpaca. Her facial structure is lightly sculpted. Her eyes and lips are embroidered with 100% cotton floss. Her cheeks, lips, nose and various body parts are blushed with red beeswax.

Rantan comes wearing a wee-tiny kimono made with a beautiful 100% cotton floral fabric and 100% cotton bias at the neckline. The kimono is wrapped at the waist with an obi made from 100% cotton. The obi is secured with two nickel-plated brass snap buttons on the back. Underneath, she wears a set of tiny bloomers matching her kimono.

On her feet, Rantan wears a simple pair of sandals made from a hand-dyed Kakishibu 100% silk yarn crocheted lining and matching fabric straps stitched to soles made of 100% Belgian wool felt.

Lastly, and most importantly, both sisters carry a special lantern...for making wishes come true. Their lanterns are made from 100% cotton. Lighting the lanterns from inside is a brand new, tea light wrapped very securely in 100% cotton fabric and 100% Belgian wool felt. A tiny opening is left at the top of the lanterns to switch it on and off. The lanterns' design was inspired by the physalis alkekengi (or Japanese lantern plant) itself. 

Aki and Rantan, two sisters stowing away in a secret garden of lanterns to wish upon the Earth peace and harmony. If you are interested in bringing home the celebration of Autumn, beautiful lantern wishes and a piece of harmony for the world, you can find Aki and Rantan in their secret garden celebrating with all the other friends tonight, October 1, 2016 at 7:00 PM (EST) at Dollectable.