Author Archives: Sanae

I make things. I like to call my work space a "crafty little atelier in a grey city". Grey is my favorite color.

My Little Sewing Space

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This might be the longest I’ve gone without sewing anything for myself since I started to make my own clothes. I miss it, but I’m time poor at the moment, and when given the chance, I tend to choose sewing for K or tidying for the sake of mental sanity. In a little while, however, I’ll be able to get back to some grown-up sewing…I’ve got my denim washed, pattern pieces cut out, jeans hardware at the ready and if I don’t get started on these skinny jeans soon, there’s a risk that it’ll never happen. (and yes, I’m working on my secret valentine project too!)

I organized my sewing table. Have I told you that I sew in my bedroom? I know it’s sacrilege to have a workspace where you sleep, yada yada yada, but I moved my so-called “atelier” when K was in kindergarten three years ago because she would get scared at night and pad two floors down all the way to the basement where I would be toiling at my Bernina into the wee hours. Our bedrooms are next to each other, and I figured that if she could hear the hum of the machines, she would know that I’m close by and feel assured. So far it’s been working.

Plus, if a sewing table in the corner of a bedroom is good enough for Flossie Teacakes, it’s good enough for me. Mark Bittman cooks in a pint-sized kitchen (I half-heartedly tried to see if he’s upgraded since 2008 but I didn’t find anything), and though he doesn’t love it just as I don’t totally love my ad hoc craft station, it gets the job done and sometimes, magic happens. Of course, I drool over capacious and stylish studios on Pinterest, and though I sigh at the dreaminess of it all, I’m quite content with the functionality of the current set-up. I have humongous thoughts on the benefits of limitations, but that’ll have to wait for another day.

One of the things I did was to go through my drawers and trash all the junk. Now I am delighted every time I open my drawer of commonly used threads (I don’t like to keep them out because they get so dusty):

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This is sort of a part one since the winter light in the Pacific Northwest makes photography a race against time and it was getting too dark for decent shots. I’ll show you more close-ups of how I arrange all my stuff because I get geeky about organization and love to see how other people keep their materials corralled. More soon!

 

Monday Outfit: More Perri Pullovers

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Good morning, friends! I should just call this the month of tees and be done with it. It’s all K seems to wear and they’re so easy to whip up that I default to sewing one form of knits-based top or another.

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These two tops are sewn from the Cali Faye Perri Pullover pattern. I’ve used this once before in an impractical metallic faux leather combo, which of course has never been worn since last May. I actually made the burgundy one back in September of last year and completely forgot about it. I must have thought it was too plain jane and not blog-worthy at the time, but I’ve clearly gotten over that hang-up since all I seem to share with you are these types of garments now.

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To give the all-white version some oomph, I tried to add piping. “Tried” being the operative word here since I’m incapable of proper piping insertion. Shallow depth of field photography is awesome because a lot of mistakes can be artfully blurred out. If you look very closely, you’ll see there’s some puckering at the neckline because my serger ate into the seam too far, and when I undid the offending stitches, it left indentations and a teeny tiny hole.

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These minor blunders don’t bother me much, but what does bother me is how lazy I am when it comes to certain things. I haven’t added piping in a long time, and I couldn’t really remember how to deal with the two ends that meet. Did I look it up, which would have taken five minutes? No.

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So the back is funky with the cord sort of showing, and the sleeve pipings don’t match up evenly. Oh well. Isn’t that a cool glittery lizard tattoo? We are going through a huge reptilian phase, if you haven’t noticed. I’m sort of on the fence about this white top. Does it say “mormon temple clothing” or “insane asylum patient” to you? Not that there’s anything wrong with either, but there’s a vaguely pious or medical feel to it, don’t you think? K is also uncertain about this one, made out of the same sweatshirt knit as the much beloved tennis dress.

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On the other hand, the burgundy one in your standard knit jersey doesn’t evoke any unexpected associations. The color looks great on K, and it’s nice and casual with just enough interesting details like the asymmetrical hem and in-seam pockets.

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I have to give special thanks to K for modeling because she’s been under the weather. A bit sniffly and sore-throat-y, she was in bed for most of Sunday morning, then cheerfully agreed to take photos in the Perri Pullovers in the afternoon – I think she was bored out of her mind just flopping around.

Before she consented to shimmying into the tops, I was just going to show this:

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But then you would have missed out on this money shot:

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I’m sure I’ll be paying for a lot of therapy in a few years for forced child labor.

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Way off topic, but on Saturday, I stepped out of my comfort zone and went to a fascinating party filled with authors, filmmakers (plus an actor from the movie “Wild“, though I didn’t meet him), illustrators and all manners of making types over the weekend. I noted with interest that my impostor syndrome is alive and kicking, and very robust indeed. I enjoyed the eclectic group and met quite a few lovely folks – my favorite was a photographer whose father worked for the CIA so he grew up around the world. It was heartwarming to see such camaraderie and a spirit of helpfulness all around. I found that people were encouraging about my children’s book, but as soon as I mentioned that I like to sew, eyes started to glaze over….I might have been imagining it. Then again, when you’re sewing up t-shirt after t-shirt like I am, I suppose sewing doesn’t seem all that alluring.

Anyway. Perri Pullovers. It’s a good pattern, but I think I just haven’t nailed the right fabric for it. I could have gone with my first instincts and chosen a striped jersey, but sometimes I like to try something I’m not sure of just to see. Back to the drawing board!

Happy Friday + Randomness

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Happy Friday! To all our lovely SVE participants, how’s your planning going? I’m currently trying to get a few other projects wrapped up, but am looking forward to diving in to gift-making and have outsized ambitions to ship a package out before the end of next week. Will it happen? We shall see…

One of the projects I finally checked off was tidying our monstrous paperwork. It was a bear, I tell you, but oh-so-necessary since I had to hunt down info for health insurance and found the state of our paperwork woefully inadequate. I shredded and shredded copious amounts of documents and old statements that are no longer relevant, and I filled our huge recycling bin to the brim. The relief I feel is HUGE. Plus I found old 401K accounts that we’d completely forgotten about. Not much in there, sadly, but it was like discovering a tiny bit of treasure. Joy.

Slowly but surely, my mind is getting a little less cluttered as I clear away the physical detritus.

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I made K a little hair accessory that she tried on yesterday. She turned to me and said, “Is it chic or so last week?”

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Have a delightful weekend, everyone! I’m delving into non-bloggable sewing and major book stuff (I know I don’t talk about it much mainly because I feel awkward about it, but I’ve been quietly working on my second book behind the scenes and deadlines are nipping at my feet). I may have to be extremely sparse for the next few weeks, but you know how I like to stick to my schedule so I’m playing it by ear.

I’m purging away
Finding sparks of joy each day
Odd, but rewarding*

*I keep running into more and more people who have read and loved The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying — I’m totally drinking the Kool-Aid, so fun!

Giveaway! Sock and Glove Charmingness

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Is there anything cuter than sock puppets? Probably, but Miyako Kanamori has taken the heart-melting factor up a notch with her book Sock and Glove: Creating Charming Softy Friends from Cast-Off Socks and Gloves.

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I am continuing with my life-changing tidying among other things, and as much as I love this book, I’ve had it since 2007 when it first came out and I’ve looked at it twice, if that. The photography, the projects, the sweet story-telling element of it — they all make me smile, but honestly, I’m just not the sock or glove puppet making type. My slightly OCD nature balks at the thought of using previously worn socks, though I suppose I could use new socks or even knit fabric to construct these endearing animals. However, deep reflection (well, as deep as thinking about sock puppets can get) forced me to admit that it’s time to let it go.

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I could donate this to Goodwill or try to resell it, but I wanted to offer it up as a giveaway in case anyone was interested? It comes with instructions for thirteen softies, and possibly the loveliest little clothes:

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I mean, c’mon:

giveaway-sockandglove5These are some of my faves:

giveaway-sockandglove6 giveaway-sockandglove7 giveaway-sockandglove8Irresistible, right?

To enter the giveaway, since I went on and on about K’s little frogs earlier and since this book features animals, I’ve got pets on the mind — please leave a comment telling me about your favorite childhood pet. Or, if you didn’t have a pet (I didn’t), maybe your favorite softy/stuffed animal from days of yore. I had a white little bunny that my mom made me when I was just a wee lass, and I still have it to this day. I can’t believe this li’l doll has survived all these decades — I called her “usagi-chan”.

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The giveaway will be open until next Thursday, January 29th and I’ll announce the winner the next day. International entries, of course, are more than welcome. Good luck!

P.S. I finally got all the custom illustration requests all organized. Please check your email junk or spam folder if you haven’t received an email from me and you commented on that post. I have some major book deadlines coming up so my progress on them might be on the slow side, but I’m on it! 

 

 

 

Monday Outfit: Frogtastic

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Happy MLK Jr. Day to those of you in the US! K has the day off so I’m quickly rattling off today’s rather crafty garment.

Post-Christmas, K became the proud Mama of two fire-bellied toads. Meet Camouflage (or maybe this one’s Muddy, we can’t tell):

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Here’s K pretending to be amphibious:

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The frog craze has set in, and K is all about these little green critters. Speaking of critters, no one warned me that they eat crickets. This has made me very unhappy, particularly when we had a dramatic cricket mass exodus (okay, it was only three of them innocently chirping on K’s many strewn books on the floor, but still). Crickets on the loose. I didn’t handle it well, I’m afraid. Below is where the frogs live. Notice K’s demanding warnings.

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Anyway. She’s been a fabulous froggy mama, and has been taking very good care of them, emptying out the water dish regularly and carefully scooping out the frog eggs with a spoon to preserve them (yes, we ended up with a boy and a girl and there’s a lot of impassioned croaking going on every evening). We have yet to see a tadpole, but she has high hopes. I read that fire-bellied toads lay up to 200 eggs. Again, not happy about this.

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I keep getting sidetracked, but K asked me for a frog t-shirt. She had, as always, very precise instructions, so this called for busting out the fabric paint.

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I used freezer paper stenciling for the “I” and the heart and the general shape of the frog. I hand-painted the details on the frog – pretty cute, no?

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K adores it.

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The tee pattern is my go-to pattern these days, and is the same one I used for the black stripey and floral here. Those t-shirts get worn every week, and I know that she’ll reach for this froggy one frequently too.

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But I actually had a different version in mind, so I carved a little stamp. I did, in fact, sew another t-shirt in black and had grand plans to try to stamp the frog in gold, but I used a weird fabric that didn’t stretch much, and K said it was too tight. You win some, you lose some. I’ll show you a stamped version if I get around to it. (I should point out that this frog design was inspired by something similar I saw in a Japanese stamp carving book – mine is not nearly as darling as the one in the book).

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Sigh. I think these guys are growing on me. Sort of.

 

Happy Friday + Randomness

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K made me a ring. She glued one of those aquarium glass beads to a broken metal band that she scrounged up from somewhere. Then she tucked it inside a clasping shell container and wrote a note.

k-ring2Because this came in the mail:

advance-littlek1I probably don’t have to tell you that I became quite emotional. I had a moment of terror before I opened the box. “What if I hate it? What if I feel disappointed?”

I don’t, I wasn’t. No, not even close. There are too many things I love about it to list them here. The compact square size. The gorgeously textured cover with a slightly vintage feel. The matte paper. The fact that something that was a molecule of an idea turned into a real, tangible, tactile book. I am so overwhelmed.

I had to run an errand at a bookstore yesterday, and I found myself sitting at one of the little round tables in the kids’ section. I stared at the display of books by local authors and thought to myself in disbelief, “My book is gong to be there.” I think the employees were a little worried about the crazy lady squeezed in the kiddy chair crying like a baby.

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Just a little sneak peak for today — I’ll show more in the coming weeks along with some behind-the-scenes posts, and I am making plans for a giveaway since I have these lovely advance copies (though most are already spoken for). Perhaps you’d like to pre-order if you haven’t already? I hope so…The month of May seems far away, but I have a feeling it’ll be here in no time.

Also, thank you to everyone who sent me well-wishes and comments on Instagram (I’m not very good about keeping up there. It’s something I’d like to work on because I enjoy it).

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SVE update! Final tally has us at 99 participants (Ute and I are big softies and weren’t exactly strict about our deadline)!!!! Nearly 100 folks from 20 countries — mind boggling. All the partner info have gone out and this is incredibly exciting, friends! Please make sure to let us know if you’ve received your partner info at secret.valentine.exchange@gmail.com if you haven’t already, and don’t hesitate to contact us there if you have any questions.

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Happy Friday and Happy Weekend, everyone!

What? Dreams do come true?
It’s been on my bucket list:
A book of my own*

*Until I laid my hand on the cover of my book, I realized that I didn’t for a second believe that this was actually happening. The mind, it works in strange ways. P.S. Thank you also for the kind comments earlier this week. The lows are not so bad — part of life, right?

 

Arrows

many-arrows

 

sometimes. life shoots arrows

that pierce blindly

the released air

sounds

like sighs of sadness

or

hiccups of laughter

or maybe

gasps of wonder*

*I am having a week in which the highs and lows are engaged in a major tug-of-war. So for today, this is all.

Monday Outfit: Seeking the Comfy-Stylish Factor

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Good morning! It feels like it’s been a very long time since I’ve sewn for K. There are many things I need to sew for her: more pants, warm cardis, hats, mittens. But I wanted to set the tone for the new year with this first garment — something that blended comfort with style. Or so I hoped.

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With that in mind, I sketched out some ideas, and decided on a half knit, half woven tunic. Which somehow turned into a dress.

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This little raglan dress is entirely self-drafted, using one of her tees as a base. It’s probably not very noticeable but I curved the front bodice and ended up with a sort of baby doll (or baby mama) look. I just realized that the Elsa’s Frozen dress has this same design element. Funny how those things sneak into your brain when the karaoke version of “Let It Go” continues to blast in the background (K is still very much enamored with her Christmas present).

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The lovely floral is from here, and it feels like a gauze. I’m usually not a huge proponent of flowery prints, but this one I like. It’s fairly sheer, and I toyed with the idea of leaving it as is, but I happened to find a thrifted women’s size sheath with a lining that worked perfectly, so a little snip and a little cinching and presto, a quick skirt lining. The navy knit jersey is a remnant from this post, I’m pretty certain.

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Total time spent from initial drafting to completion: 2.5 hours. I messed up when serging the raw edges of the back piece to the skirt, then the skirt hems were uneven, and the neckband stretched out a lot more than I expected. Despite the errors and seam ripping and adjusting, I had such a good time making this dress. So fun to go from this:

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What do you think? Did I manage the comfy-stylish combo?

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P.S. 96 participants for SVE!!!!! Ute and I are blown away!

Happy Friday + Randomness

city-waterfallI dated a Zen monk-in-training for a brief period when I lived in San Francisco. He was brilliant, hilarious, foul-mouthed yet eloquent and used phrases like “we are copacetic,” and I would tell him to knock it off with the pretension (and then I asked him what copacetic meant. It means “excellent”, in case you didn’t know either). We didn’t mesh as a couple, but I treasured the friendship, and I greatly admired his commitment to meditation. Like yoga, meditation is something I’ve tried and tried to do with little to no success. I remember how he rested his palm on my head once. “This brain,” he said, “it broods so much.”

I love to brood. Actually, no. If I were to get nit-picky, I love to mull since brood feels a little too negative to me. I use the end of the year and the beginning of the year and pretty much any time of the year as an excuse to ponder my life in all its glorious weirdness. My own kind of meditation involving a lot of writing, I suppose. I make list after list with all-caps titles like “LIFE GOALS” or “INTENTIONS FOR THIS YEAR” or “MONSTER TO-DO”. Take, for example, last year’s 2014 List. I had a grand old time thinking about that list. Executing it? Didn’t exactly nail it.

Out of a list of 14 so-called goals, I accomplished 3. Maybe 4 if I want to be generous. They were good ones though:

  • Met with at least one friend a week
  • Exercised at least 30 minutes every day
  • Did something creative for at least 30 minutes every day

And I’m bummed that I technically can’t include “didn’t buy any clothes for me or K for the entire year” because of those darn t-shirts and capri pants that I keep mentioning. But I still feel like it deserves an honorable mention.

I want to do a whole separate post about these three things I did accomplish because they truly revolutionized my life — and I don’t use the word revolutionized lightly. In fact, it’s made me realize how vital it is to prioritize relationships, health and creating. Even though focusing on them is common sense, I’m always tempted to cast them aside for other, less important factors. I’m well aware that I’m prone to hyperbole, but I kid you not, the quality of my life improved a millionfold in 2014.

And so I’m going to focus on those three categories this year. No specific list. No bullet points or excessive analysis of the how and why. Just: relationships, health and creating. I can already feel the need to expound bubbling up, so I’m going to stop here for today…

By the way, I took the photos of the waterfall a couple of weeks ago. It’s this little known hidden park in the gritty/urban Pioneer Square neighborhood in Seattle. Built on the site that used to house the first ever UPS headquarters, from the outside, it’s a concrete structure that looks unsexy and governmental. Once inside, you’re suddenly surrounded by foliage and engulfed by the roar of water cascading mightily down the rocky walls. Magical and completely unexpected.

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A couple of housekeeping notes:

1. Thank you for all the illustration requests from the Debt-Free Life giveaway! I am slowly organizing them all so I don’t end up sending the wrong illustrations out (e.g. there are multiple people with the same first name) and I am realizing that this may be a much longer-term project. I’m really looking forward to working on them and I appreciate your patience in advance!

2. We have had such an enthusiastic response to our second annual Secret Valentine Exchange! Excited emails have been zooming between Ute and me as the count keeps going up (60 and counting so far). It was such a delightful, non-traditional way of celebrating this holiday, we’re happy to be hosting it again!

It’s not too late yet
Join us for the SVE
Sign-ups end tonite

Have a wonderful weekend, friends!

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2014 Retrospective: Sewing for Me

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Before I put this collage together (thank you Rachel, for the Mosaic Maker recommendation — it saved me about a zillion hours!), I had it in my mind that I didn’t sew much for myself last year. And compared to 2013 which clocked in at 37 garments, I definitely sewed less at 36 garments for 2014, especially since I didn’t start sewing for myself until May in 2013.

So overall, my sewing output has been decreasing, but 36 items of clothing is still a pretty decent number, and what was significant about 2014 was that my first ever participation in Me-Made-May radically changed my attitude toward my handmade clothes. Up to that point, I was more of an abstract sewing enthusiast. You know, I loved the idea of creating custom clothing for myself and I was learning a ton, but there was still some niggling part of me resistant to actually wearing them. Everything I made looked great on K, but grown-up curves are trickier to navigate. I was a little embarrassed that my stitches weren’t perfect, that the fit was off. Even though I knew the clothes looked fine for the most part, I couldn’t help but feel like I had “HOMEMADE” stamped on my back when I sashayed about town in my me-made clothes. And not in a good way.

But after 31 straight days of pulling out my handcrafted apparel to clothe my body and spend the day in said apparel, I noticed that I became more and more fond of my less-than-perfect wardrobe. Make no mistake, certain items were undoubtedly fails and I quietly stashed them in the back of my closet once I determined they just didn’t work (though my recent tidying frenzy finally motivated me to say heartfelt thanks and I let them go). Maybe it was because I’d spent so much time on them, but the garments I made felt…familiar and friendly. That probably sounds weird, but even the clothes that didn’t look all that hot on me added a little pep to my day. And I have to say, I’ve never gotten so many compliments as that month in May — I’m certain it was because I learned to appreciate and felt happier in my friendly clothes. Through the Me-Made-May exercise, I discovered a love of dresses and my knits became hardcore wardrobe workhorses. Nowadays, it’s rare for me not to be wearing something handmade. The craziest part is that except for an extremely dire situation necessitating two t-shirts and a pair of capris, I still haven’t purchased any clothes for me or K. It’s been two-and-a-half years!!

How do I want to proceed for 2015? I really really want to focus on quality over quantity. I want to sew wardrobe staples made out of beautiful fabric that will last a long, long time. I want to take my time making things and savor the process rather than continue my default mode of whipping out easy projects for a quick fix (though those will happen too, I’m sure). What are your thoughts on sewing for this year?

Below is a list of the sewing posts in chronological order…that’s a lot of links! Oh, and on a side note, I’m over the moon that we already have more participants for the 2015 Secret Valentine Exchange compared to last year!! If you haven’t joined in the fun already, sign-ups end this Friday, January 9th!

JANUARY
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Vogue 8511 Grey Dress
Simple Style Dress Khaki Linen
Yellow Silk Tunic

FEBRUARY
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Simple Style Dress Blue Chambray

The Sumo Wrestler Top

MARCH

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Summer Concert Tee
Lady Skater Dress
The Easiest Top (aqua)

APRIL

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Really, More Grey?
Sew Chic Moss Green Linen Jacket

MAY

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Simplicity 1463 Purple Batwing Top
Wiksten Tanks

JUNE

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Staple Dresses
Simplicity 0403 aka 2147 (A Very Japanese Top)
Burda 7659 Grey Dress
Nani Iro Mountain View Dress
Nani Iro Water Window Wiksten
Basic Black Top + Maxi Skirt

JULY

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McCall’s 6751 Pinafore Tank
Coastal Breeze Dress
IKEA Blouse

AUGUST

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Summer Salvation aka Tent Dress
Darling Ranges Dress
FrankenIkat Tank

SEPTEMBER

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Skippy in Abstract Indigo

OCTOBER

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Wool Zip-Up Vest
Julia Cardigans
Striped Renfrew + Hudson Pants

NOVEMBER

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Grey Dotted Button Down
Simplicity 1538 Plaid Shirt

DECEMBER

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Bronte Top

 

 

 

 

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