The Zenki Way is the book I’ve always wanted to write.
It has my heart and soul in it. It has the zenkis.
Zenkis are a whole new kind of softie and this book shows you how to sew zenki-style softies. It teaches you how to think of softies in the zenki way and, hopefully, it will inspire you to create your own original zenki-style softies.
A uniquely simple and endlessly malleable design
I came up with the zenki design several years ago.
I had just published Sew Together Grow Together: Sewing projects for Parents and Children and realised that even though these projects were really simple, and even though I had used them with children in my sewing workshops over many years and knew that my students loved making them, still, I was wondering, could I come up with a really creative fun project that’s even simpler for first-time sewers.
Well, to start with, zenkis are the simplest softies you can sew in the whole entire universe.
They require only two pieces of felt, a running stitch around the torso, and there’s no need to insert and pin arms, legs, wings, etc into place.
And no matter how evolved or advanced your zenkis become, (you might, for example, be making Bella the Lioness or Little Fox or Gwennie Unicorn), your zenki will still never ever lose its absolute simplicity. If there was only one thing I could say about the zenkis in The Zenki Way it would be: they give new meaning to the phrase “simple to sew.” If I could say a second thing, it would be: they give new meaning to the phrase “fun to sew”.
But that’s not all zenkis are. They are also loyal sweet-natured friends. And they are bursting with personality which, in some still unknowable fashion, invariably develops. If you invite a zenki into your home, you’ll find this out for yourself.
Writing my book with the zenkis
In one way, this made The Zenki Way easy to write.
Every zenki has a story that begins in real life. There’s Square Zenki and his Aztec ancestry (authenticated by the Australian Museum), and there’s the long friendship shared by Square, Circle and Triangle Zenki (a friendship that has weathered many storms). Then there’s the Marvins who have travelled all over the world with me (true) and photographed graffiti from Paris to Jerusalem (also true). There’s Betty Bat who was modelled after the fruit bats who visit my mulberry tree and keep me awake with their weird electronic-like chatter, and there’s…well, you get the idea.
I include something of each zenki’s personal story before their project. That may strike you as strange in a book devoted to showing you how to master and use the zenki design to create any softie you might wish to make, but the zenkis were adamant. They would have been very unhappy zenkis if I’d side-stepped their backgrounds. Truth is, I think they were right to insist. And I pepper this book with all sorts of other extraneous interesting things.
Extra-special unusual things
It’s not only the zenkis who I have to thank. I was very fortunate to have a wonderful editor, Sandra Korinchak, whose input was invaluable. She not only helped the zenkis settle into their surroundings while being photographed for the book’s projects in distant Pennsylvania, but she suggested I include a section on Running a Zenki Workshop.
Why didn’t I think of that!
The simplicity of the zenki design makes them perfect, not only for first-time sewers and parents sewing with kids, but also for teachers, librarians and anyone who wants to run a sewing workshop. Zenki design minimizes organisation and maximizes the time you can give to individuals seeking help with their project.
Sandra was also responsible for the inclusion of my recipe for Chocolate Crackles.
I always ended my sewing workshops with a tray of chocolate crackles for the kids. Rule Number One: Sewing has to be fun! There were too many creative suggestions that Sandra contributed to list here, but I’m grateful for all of them.
And while I’m expressing my indebtedness, I should mention, Yiscah, my youngest daughter. She painted the three beautiful watercolours that grace the opening page of each chapter. And she not only painted three wonderfully humorous images, but she captured the The Zenki Way’s central idea: the three simplest zenkis of all – Square, Circle and Triangle Zenki – are the basis of every other zenki you’ll find in this book or anywhere else.
The ever-amazing kid pattern testers
The last of this book’s extra peppery features, and one I’m especially proud of, is the Zenki Pattern Testers. The idea was to send a pattern from the book to a whole bunch of kids to make, photograph, comment on and send back.
I was overwhelmed by their response. 64 kids, aged 3 to 17 years old, from all over the planet, sent back their pictures and comments. I remember well Alyssa from Texas who was completing her final exams and wrote, touchingly, how sewing her zenki helped her relax.
Zenkis can do that. And it just goes to show: making zenkis is great for people of any age.
I guess I could have asked for adult pattern testers too, but you can’t beat kids for enthusiasm, energy and plain old honesty. I really do want to send all the kid pattern testers my heart-felt thanks and say, You have helped make The Zenki Way a unique sewing book with your wonderful zenkis and your comments. Tree Froggy, who knows about such things, thinks you all deserve a big round of applause.
Yes, this is the book I’ve always wanted to write. I hope you like it. The Zenkis are coming!
The Zenki Way: A Guide to Designing and Enjoying Your Own Creative Softies by Trixi Symonds, Schiffer Publishing, comes out on March 28, 2021