Category Archives: Sewing

Monday Outfit: Coral Giraffe Print

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Good morning! This week, I decided to sew up something that I knew K would absolutely love. It’s knit, it’s animal print, and it’s bright. The trifecta of success. This tiered tunic is from this book, and because the largest size goes up to only 125cm and K is squarely a size 130cm now, I added 4cm to the length. I need to try to sew more from this book before K completely outgrows it — so far I’ve sewn this and this and this from it and there are a few more that’s on my sewing docket!

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And why stop at just a tunic when I can make a pair of matching leggings? The effect, admittedly, is pajama-esque and a little overwhelming, but my hunch was right and K loves the whole ensemble. I used the pattern from this book for the leggings, and I actually didn’t have enough fabric, so these are shortened by about 8 inches.

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This very cool giraffe print is from Drygoods and is a rayon/lycra blend – super easy to sew!

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I had a full day to sew on Saturday, so not only did I sew this top and leggings, but also cut out four more pairs of leggings in various colors. The leggings — or “spats” as they’re called in Japanese — situation has been problematic since she’s either outgrown or completely worn through all the ones I’ve made in the past. I gently suggested to her that perhaps she’d like to wear the top and bottom separately, so she styled it with one of the other new leggings I sewed up in some thick, mystery, aubergine knit (these are too long, so we had to roll them up a bit):

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Nice. Much less jammies, no? But who are we kidding? She’ll be wearing the full-on combo out and about next time. The cardigan is the one I made for her first day of third grade – it’s one of her very faves. You can see it up close and personal here.

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My little coral giraffe girl — such a sweetie. She told me last night, “Mama, I try really hard to be a good person. I’m very successful at it most of the time.” Gah. Love her.

Front Placket Dress Tutorial

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Well, here it is (this one’s for you, Lucinda): the tutorial I meant to post on Monday from this awesome, awesome book that has rapidly become my favorite. This tutorial is very long and is purely a reference post, but it could also be an interesting way to see the Japanese text translated. I just hope it’s helpful in some way.

I approached this in a way that seemed most practical to me, but let me know if you have recommendations and suggestions for improvements. I want to do more of these since I get so many questions about whether certain books are available in English, and though translating entire books wouldn’t be feasible (nor legal, I imagine), my aim is to provide tutorials for unique designs or specifically requested items when possible. I broke up each step and directly translated the instructions, but I also did my own sewalong and will show you how I actually sewed the dress. What’s interesting is that I translated the instructions after I made the dress and I realized I missed a bunch of steps!

So let’s try this, shall we? Continue Reading →

Monday Outfit: Front Placket Dress Revisited

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Good morning! I really must do something about my penchant for overestimating my productiveness. I was so excited to share a tutorial for this dress I made, and though I have all the photos snapped, alas, time got away from me so it will have to wait until Wednesday (I think I can get it done by then).

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It’s the same dress I made last week, but this time the placket is more or less in the center. Very spring-like, no? Which is okay since it’s supposed to get up to sixty degrees in Seattle today (!!) – a balminess previously unimaginable in February. In fact, I suspect I might be feeling the onset of allergies…

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Alright, I need to run for now, but will be back in a couple of days with a full tutorial!

Sewing for Me: A Linen Top + Ginger Jeans Muslin

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I almost forgot how to set up the tripod, it’s been so long since I’ve inundated you with selfies.

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So today, I’ve got a double-whammy with a stripey linen top made using this lovely book (it turns out I was misleading on instagram and showed the wrong book) and a quick and dirty muslin of the Ginger Jeans by Closet Case Patterns.

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I can’t help but make these maternity-esque tops – I just love them so and my stomach is free to hang out in its natural state. Comfort is key, and just for fun, I just might say yes next time someone asks me if I’m pregnant. The silhouette is similar to this one, but this Japanese version — I made the one featured on the cover — was slightly easier to construct since it doesn’t have any yokes or gathers. I’m going through a serious blue-and-white-stripes phase right now. I made the SVE gift out of a similar linen, and I just ordered this fabulous fabric from Miss Matatabi.

I don’t have a lot to say about this top since it came together quite easily, particularly since I did away with the extra back ties. The original design is reminiscent of a hospital gown with an open back — this is not a look I can rock. I also had to adjust the pintucks because I poked a hole when I had to undo some wayward stitches. By folding them slightly wider, I was able to hide the hole, so I patted myself on the back for my clever solution.

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I purchased the Ginger Jeans pattern a good while ago, and it’s been staring at me hopefully for weeks. I cut out the size 12 for this muslin that’s simply basted together, and clearly it’s too big. Actually, my calves probably need a little more room, but everywhere else, it’s the I’m-PMSing-and-am-feeling-fat jeans. It’s worth pointing out that I shortened the pants length by three inches. And it’s still too long — I’m shaped like a dachshund. Next step: downsize to 10, try to salvage the pieces I’ve already cut out and shorten another 2 inches.

I opted to attempt view B, that of the high-rise sexiness. This is mainly because all of my denim is on the thin side and the pattern recommends a sturdier denim for the lower-rise view A. I’m planning on documenting the whole process from beginning to end for these skinny jeans, and it may take several weeks. But once I have the adjustments all sorted out, I will have a most useful sloper for a pair of well-fitting skinnies, and that’s worth all the extra time. We’ll see how successful I am…

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You can see how it compares to my favorite pair of skinny jeans above. I got these cropped ones eons ago, and I wear them all the time. So much so, that the fabric is wearing down, and I’ve had to mend them to keep them in rotation.

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I love to mend my jeans. I use the darning program on my Bernina, which I think a lot of machines have? I’m not sure. The function creates a grid of stitches to patch holes and I use grey thread so that it’s not very obvious. Given the position of the holes, it’s not noticeable at all (the inner thigh). Exhibit A from the front:

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Exhibit B from the other side – I could have ironed the patch on better, but it’s still effective. I got the small 2×3 inch patches that I trim down, and I’ve found them to be comfortable. This is easy enough to do manually with a shorter stitch length, but the darning function allows me to set the overall length of the row and then the needle automatically moves back and forth, creating as many rows as you need. Super handy. Ignore the weird zig zag area, that was where I forgot to initially switch to the darning function.

darning-jeans2I like fancy jeans and have had them for a very long time, so I’ve become a pro at mending jeans. The stitches gives the jean a rough-shod, cool texture, resulting in an inadvertently hip, distressed effect.

That’s it for today! A floaty top that will be worn frequently in the Spring, and a slow, but at least concrete start on skinny jeans. That’s good enough for me.

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Monday Outfit: The Persistence Dress

plaid-wool-dress1Good morning! Well, this was a dress that tested my patience.

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It doesn’t look like much, does it? I mean, it’s perfectly fine…it is a very basic dress, after all. Yet, I couldn’t get much right.

First of all, notice that the front placket is decidedly shifted over to the right. I measured and re-measured, and still this happened, so I’m not sure what the deal is here. This is how it’s supposed to be, modeled in the book:

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Second, I intended to make this out of a cotton geometric print fabric, which would have been fresh and anticipatory of Spring, I’m sure, but then K said, “Make it a winter dress, Mama. I need warm clothes.” So I pulled out the only wool fabric with enough yardage (I used it to sew a hooded capelet way back when).

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But wool gets itchy so I decided to underline it with the thinnest cotton voile. It’s the pink peeking out there. When you underline something, you’re basically basting a layer of the lining underneath the pattern pieces and treating them as one. I, being the genius that I am, managed to sew on the lining on the wrong side on almost all the pieces. My seam ripper got a decent workout.

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The only change I made to the pattern was for the neckline. I let a bit of the binding peek out, because I didn’t love the way the neckline hung without that little edge. Oh, I also cut the back yoke on the bias, which I like to do often. Overall, the dress has a bit of a 60s/70s vibe, which I sort of like.

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The other issue I ran into was my inexplicable need to add 15 buttons. Why?? I have no idea, and of course, I don’t have 15 of the same buttons so I found a mish mash that were roughly the same size and vaguely in the same color family (aqua, navy and dark green). Since the buttons are hidden by that accidentally off-center front flap, I didn’t lose any sleep over it.

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It’s not a difficult dress to sew, but I just kept making mistake after mistake, but by jove, I didn’t give up. Even after stabbing my finger (pretty forcefully. ouch) with the seam ripper that was constantly in use, I kept a-going and triumphantly whipped it out of the sewing machine, only to realize that daylight had virtually run out.

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I scooted K outside for the fastest photo shoot ever, and these pics were the only salvageable ones. Thank goodness we’re having a balmy spate these past few days. But she likes the dress, and it’s actually toasty, so let’s chalk this one up as a favorable project.

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!

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.

 

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!

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

 

 

 

 

2014 Retrospective: K’s Outfits (Part 1)

Good morning! Before I get all misty-eyed about K’s outfits from this year, I wanted to let all the folks who entered the giveaway last week that rather than selecting just 10 winners, I’ve decided to paint a free custom illustration to everyone that answered the question. I started to do the random number generator thing and it just didn’t feel quite right for some reason. You should be receiving an email from me shortly if you haven’t already!

Okay, let’s move on to the smaller-sized sewing I did from January to June. I broke it up into two parts since it’s already too long, and what I noticed was that I’ve really cut down on sewing for K. As I’ve mentioned time and time again, she truly has too many outfits, and I’ve been trying to find a way to reconcile my need to practice sewing with the guilt I feel from the resulting glut of clothes — I’m not having a lot of success. I have some thinking to do for 2015 and I’ll do more of a recap with part 2, but for now, here are the projects I pumped out from the first six months of 2014:

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JANUARY
Koi Top + Grey Stretch Pants
Undies
Origami-Inspired Dress
Imagine Gnats Meridian Cardi and Coat + French Sleeve Tunic

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FEBRUARY
Fanfare Jammies
Bicycle Dress
Un-fur Trimmed Coat Dress
Pink Cityscape A-Line Tunic

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MARCH
Geometric Knit Cardi + Improved Khaki Pants
Bleu et Bleu
Oliver + S Hide-and-Seek Dress + underskirt
Oliver + S Garden Party Dress + slip
More undies

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APRIL
“Artist” Blouse + Cargo Half-Pants
Frozen Dress Take 1
Sew Chic Kids Pintuck Dress + Tunic

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MAY
E & E Spring Showers Jacket
Rosy Knits
STYLO Mint Cadette Coat + Pintuck Dress
STYLO Metallic Perri Pullover
Vintage May Dress + Rompers
Robinhood Dress
Willow + Co Aster Cardigan

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JUNE
Frozen Dress Take 2
Refashioned Top + Shorts
Scraps Tank + Matcha Shorts

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I’m not sure whether to count each pair of undies as a single garment, so leaving those out along with the super easy upcycling, I made 36 garments from scratch the first six months of 2014. That’s almost half compared to last year (71 garments) for the same duration. Wow. I didn’t realize I’d sewn so much less! Or maybe I was just out of control last year.

Now I’m curious to see how the second half of 2014 compares to last year…be back Wednesday!

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