Last Day to Sign Up for 2016 SVE!

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Hello! Just a quick note today with one last reminder that today’s the deadline to sign up for the Secret Valentine Exchange. We’ll stop taking sign-ups tonight, around midnight-ish my time (PST). We have nearly 150 participants!! Ute and I can’t wait to pair everyone up – there are over 20 countries represented, making this the most internationally diverse SVE yet!

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I, of course, am planning, planning, planning. Last year, Ute made a stunning constellation mini quilt for Elle (scroll down a bit through all of Ute’s amazing Kollabora projects) and received knitted and sewn loveliness from Monika, and I received gorgeous tea towels and sachets from Mirta of Modern Botanics — much adored and used — and made this. You can see more of the swapped gifts from previous years at our Flickr pool as well (since Flickr isn’t used quite as much, we’ve opted to focus more on IG this year).

I feel remiss without giving Ute major  props for being the most generous and kindhearted partner in this annual collaboration we’ve stumbled into — Ute’s idea, naturally. We are very much a simpatico team, and it’s one of my very favorite things to do every year. We hope you’ll join us in this celebration of intercontinental friendships through handmade goods! Sign up here!

 

 

 

Faux Fur Infinity Scarf + Giveaway [CLOSED]

 

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Well now. Ute and I are simply blown away by the enthusiastic response to the Secret Valentine Exchange!! It’s been so enthusiastic that my server crashed a number of times last week. It’s true that I have a wimpy, tiny server, but still. I also think there’s something problematic about multiple people trying to fill out the form simultaneously, but that’s an uneducated guess on my part. We’re approaching 130 sign-ups!! If you were one of the folks who couldn’t access the form to sign up, please email secret.valentine.exchange@gmail.com and we’ll send you the form directly. Quick reminder: the deadline is this Wednesday, January 13th!

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Today, though, I’m talking more faux fur. There’s a pint-sized fabric store near my house called District Fabrics, and during the holidays they sold these infinity scarf kits. For $10, the kit comes with a 19″ x 30″ faux fur piece, a spool of coordinating thread and instructions. I thought it was a decent deal and a good idea, particularly for a little someone obsessed with all things wild and animalistic in my household. Plus, I’d just seen something similar in Anthropologie, so it was totally on trend (not that we’re ever on trend or ever feel the need to be).

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I didn’t get around to sewing it up in time for Christmas, but I did find a few minutes to bang it out this weekend. So fast! It was done within 15 minutes, and then I realized I didn’t follow the instructions because I’ve made so many infinity scarves. Instead of sewing the ends right sides together, leaving an opening and hand stitching the opening closed, the instructions call for finishing one end of the tube, slipping the other end in and sewing through all four layers with the right side facing out. I guess that part would end up at the nape of the neck so the flattened section won’t show, but I’m glad I did it my way for the overall fluffiness.

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K decided that she would create a special ensemble – a faux-furnanza, if you will —  and I’ve dubbed her “mini sasquatch”. Actually, with the ear muffs she looks like the love child of Princess Leia and Chewbacca (yes, we’ve seen the Star Wars movie that just came out).

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And here she is, playing the part of an infirm Victorian poet with a furry ascot — or is it a cravat?? She’s engrossed in a game of Mancala (an African game with which she’s obsessed).

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There’s a little twist to the front of the scarf, which I like, and because of the thicker material, it’s a simple circle scarf, meaning it doesn’t loop twice like most infinity scarves.

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At any rate, after sewing the vest, the trim on the jacket, and now a scarf, I’m all faux furred out. I have an extra kit, but I can’t bring myself to sew it. Would anyone like it? This one is a lighter shade of brown, sort of chestnutty or squirrel-colored. Even if you don’t end up using it as a scarf, there’s plenty there to make at least one side of a pillow cover, which happens to be all the rage right now — something that mystifies me. Or you could add a fur trim to a garment. So many possibilities.

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It seems like I should ask a New Year’s Resolution type of question, but I’m going to turn it on its head a bit: what worked for you last year that you want to continue? So often it seems like we try to change when we flip the calendar to January 1st. But there are so many things that we already do right and well and I’m a firm believer that those things ought to be acknowledged. Last year I met with at least one friend a week for coffee or some sort of get together, and it was so uplifting and wonderful, it’s something I’m very conscientious about continuing this year. Another funny little thing that worked for me last year was getting rid of the word “busy” from my vocabulary. Whenever people would ask me how I’m doing, my automatic response used to be, “Good, but so busy!” I can’t remember where I heard or read it, but I came across the term “glorification of busy” and how it’s become so normal in our society and is essentially a humble brag or a way to feel important. So I experimented with not saying that I’m busy for the whole year. And you know what? It was awesome! I felt like I was less in default mode and it forced me to pause to think about how I’m really doing and what I’m spending my time on. I’m going to keep up this habit of not saying I’m busy for sure. What about you?

I’ll leave the giveaway open until this Friday, January 15th and will announce the winner on Monday. Entries from around the globe are welcome. I hope someone’s interested – I’ve had enough of faux fur for the time being!

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Happy Friday + Randomness

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Happy Friday! I may have mentioned this before, but in my family we had this sacred tradition: on the morning of New Year’s Day, my mom would plop a few pairs of new underwear on all the kids’ beds, and the three Ishida offspring knew that it was mandatory to don one of them to bed the first night of the year. Just to clarify, the new undergarments are worn on the first evening of the year, and not on New Year’s Eve. I have no idea if this is a traditional Japanese thing, or if it’s some weird ritual my mom came up with. Most likely the latter.

Anyway, I continue to carry on this tradition because I think it’s funny, though M hasn’t gotten fully on board with it. Because I was in the throes of puffer jacket making, I decided it would be okay to buy a few pairs for K and myself instead of sewing them up. So on New Year’s Eve, K and I found ourselves at the mall, sipping hot cocoa at a Starbucks and armed with a fresh package of undies for her (I realized I’d gotten some for myself from Fred Meyer a while back and still had a couple of pairs that were unworn). Since we had some time to kill, I asked her to write down all the things that she liked about 2015.

She did so, and without me prompting her, she also wrote down what she’s looking forward to in 2016. I’m especially smitten with her 2016 list which you see up there. I implored K to give me permission to post it — it’s so dang cute.

You can see that though she has slight reservations about 5th grade, she’s mostly happy about it. A couple of her closest friends have been out of the country for the last few months, and she can’t wait to see them again when they return. And “nengajoe” (I usually spell it nengajou, but I like her spelling better) is a Japanese New Year’s postcard; her school had a special nengajoe art contest that she entered — there’s some trepidation there, I’ve noted. I remember how nervous I used to feel whenever I entered any contest. And how sweet is it that she’s counting down the days for my mom (bachan) to visit? Last year we missed seeing M’s side of the family due to some scheduling issues, so we’re doubly excited about the mini-reunion we’re planning in Michigan this summer.

I’m writing up my own list of Awesome Things That I Hope Happen. There will be book stuff on there. Traveling. Earning a living. Being comfortable in my own skin (I’m getting there). The usual hopes, I guess. What would be on your list?

How is your new year
starting out so far, my friends?
Let’s make it awesome

Happy, happy weekend to you! See you next week!

P.S. Update on 2016 SVE: WOW! We already have almost 90 people signed up and it’s only been a couple of days. Ute and I are over the moon!! Remember, sign ups end January 13th – hope you’ll join the fun if you haven’t signed up already!

2016 Secret Valentine Exchange!!

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It’s happening: the 3rd annual Secret Valentine Exchange!! Ute and I are teaming up as per usual, and we’re thrilled to be hosting this unique and all-around creative event. Based on the Scandinavian Secret Santa tradition called Julklapp, our first SVE brought 40 participants together and last year we had a whopping 100+ participants!

Essentially, you sign up and Ute and I assign Secret Valentines (we’re part of the gift exchange fun too). We’ll send you the info about the person for whom you’ll be making a gift, but you’ll be in the dark in terms of who’ll be sending you a gift.

The key points to keep in mind are:

1. Gifts should be made with materials you already have on hand (we encourage recycling and repurposing). This is not meant to be an expensive project for anyone.

2. You must be willing to ship internationally.

3. The gift should fit into a medium to large envelope to keep shipping costs down. There are no expectations to send more than one gift, but in the past couple of years we’ve noticed that folks love to include multiple small gifts, and that’s wonderful too.

4. Keep it fun and easy! No need to stress about what to make, although I know from personal experience that it could feel a little nerve-wracking to send your handmade creation if it’s not something you do regularly. Trust me, the gift will be received happily as many, many participants will attest. I know that quite a few tears of appreciation have been shed (I’m raising my hand high up here). There’s something magical about opening up a handmade gift, don’t you think?

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Now, things have gone pretty smoothly these past couple of years, but with so many participants in far flung places on the globe, there were some delays with a number of shipments. If you’re sending to a particularly remote place from where you live, it’s a very good idea to build in extra days for shipping. We may try to assign folks in similar regions, but we also want this to have the full international effect.

Please use hashtag #2016sve on IG to get into the spirit of the event and for sneak peeks, but remember, it’s not necessary to have any kind of online presence. The idea was borne out of a desire to connect people in a way that no digital medium can accomplish, and we’ve learned that many friendships emerged from the Secret Valentine Exchanges. This makes Ute and me indescribably happy.

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We’ve selected swans for our Secret Valentine’s graphics this year because Ute’s love of the beautiful creatures is well documented, and we feel they’re a fetching representation of this non-traditional tradition we’ve created. Here are this year’s gift tags (you don’t have to use them, but it’s a nice option I hope – I made them in two sizes), and the process is as easy as can be:

1. To sign up, fill out the questionnaire below by Wednesday, January 13th.

2. We’ll take care of assignments and send out the Secret Valentine info to all participants by Monday, January 18th.

3. Make something fabulous and ship it by February 7 (if you’re shipping internationally, you might want to add a few extra days). The tags are here! And don’t forget the Instagram hashtag #2016sve

4. Receive your Secret Valentine gift!

We can’t wait to see who signs up!! Are you in? Please feel free to contact me or Ute with any questions here in the comments section or at secret.valentine.exchange[at]gmail.com. We’ll also announce the exchange on instagram and you can find us there too (@ute_ig @sanaeishida). Hooray!!

Here’s the form – make sure to scroll all the way down if the form looks cut off :-):

 

UPDATED 1/14/16: Sign ups are closed! Thank you!!

The New Year’s Day Puffer

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Good morning! Over the years we’ve perfected the last-minute micro-vacation, and this past weekend we drove out of Seattle to a small mountain town called Cle Elum. I snagged the last room at the Snowcap Lodge (aka Best Western), and though K declared that it was no Comfort Inn, we thoroughly reveled in the rare experience of snow everywhere.

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It was beautiful up there – frigid but serene.  But I’m not here to regale you about our budget trip just outside of the city. Do you see it?? A puffer jacket?? I did it, friends.

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After browsing through the various options available (thank you for the suggestions!), I ordered the Puperita Tiger Hoodie. I liked the basic shape with a full lining, and the simple zipper insertion seemed entirely manageable. I figured it would be easy enough to make it into a puffer.

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I started by cutting out the size 10, and meant to add several inches to the length, but K said she wanted it “short-ish”. So short-ish it was. Then I proceeded by quilting the water-resistant black fabric layered atop generic poly batting. The front pieces have diagonal lines; the sleeve and back piece have horizontal lines. This step was a piece of cake. The velour/minky-esque aqua lining fabric was a shedding monster, though. It was as though Elsa let loose in a Frozen fury in my sewing area, and I spent far too much time cleaning up the aqua fluff.

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I attached knit ribbing for the sleeve cuffs as per instructions, but made a bunch of other changes: instead of the cool pockets that came with the pattern, I drafted my own and made them inseam. K sighs with happiness every time she slips her hands in the pockets. “So soft…” she murmurs. I also added faux fur trim to the hood, and thankfully the faux fur didn’t shed nearly as much as the lining fabric. As for the hem, I was supposed to fold the outer fabric over to the lining side, but I skipped that extra effort and simply sewed the hem right sides together (I left an opening of course, flipped it around, then topstitched across the entire hem).

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I realized that separating zippers aren’t all that difficult to install — what a revelation! I believe I’ve installed one before, but sewing for me is a constant relearning process. By the way, the shot above was taken in the adjacent town of Roslyn, which we love. How awesome is that mural? I think it’s James Dean, but I could be wrong.

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I spent a good chunk of the first day of 2016 finishing up the jacket. The level of excitement that K displayed when I showed it to her the next day was deafening. It was such a relief to finish it just before we left for our trip…I’m a lot of things, but a non-procrastinator is not one of them. And I’d like to highlight those crazy ear muffs. K bought them with her own moolah (well, money from grandparents for Christmas) and she’s insanely smitten with them.

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Thank goodness that she finally has a warm jacket again. It was 7 degrees Fahrenheit in Cle Elum/Roslyn, and the puffer kept her toasty. And because it’s water resistant (though not entirely waterproof), it’ll be good for the ensuing months of Seattle rain.

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We had so much fun this weekend, and it was well-worth the 2-hour delay we stoically sat through due to icy conditions on the way back. Snow fights! A cozy family movie night, which involved gathering around M as he held his ipad (there was a regular TV in the hotel room, but there was something extra silly and delightful about watching Kung Fu Panda 2 on a tiny screen). A fun dinner at a diner with pull tabs — have you ever heard of them? M calls pull tabs the most boring gambling game ever. The food was surprisingly good and the pie was excellent.

I’ve been pretty sick these last couple of weeks, and this getaway was exactly what I needed. We’re back in Seattle now, refreshed and ready to get this year started!

 

 

Mishmash of Thoughts on 2015 + Happy 2016!

 

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2015 is about to end, and I’m full of nostalgia already. This has been a year of so many magnificent firsts — I’ve mentioned them relentlessly at this point, so I will spare you the replay. Will 2016 top the surreal awesomeness that was this year? I can’t wait to find out.

The rose illustration you see up there is one of my favorites that I’ve done in the last 12 months. It’s a departure from my usual style, with more dimension and a botanical painting vibe. I want to do a whole lot more with the series that I created (there are about 10 flowers in total).

Ah, but that “want”. It’s one of the things I noticed as a recurring theme this year. I publicly announced so many things I hoped to accomplish, and don’t get me wrong, I got a lot done but I left far more than I was comfortable with undone. That was my biggest challenge — to find peace with incompletion, to not beat myself up. I hate hate hate not following through, and I feel like so many of my promises to myself and others fell to the wayside. Things like my grand aspirations to sew up jeans and a stylish grown-up wardrobe, to devote serious energy into an online shop (I’ve sold 2 items to date and have stalled on adding more items), completing the custom illustrations (it’s been over a year, for shame), providing monthly income reports, etc. etc. These are not mission critical tasks by any stretch of the imagination, but few things feel worse for me than letting myself and others down.

It’s made me a lot more cautious about what I declare as goals. And I’ve also learned that I have to be careful about talking about money issues here on the blog. Not everyone on the interwebs is kind as I was sad to discover first-hand, and I need to beef up my emotional armor a bit more should I choose to resume sharing financial information. I’ve been very open and in-depth with the Furoku members about the behind-the-scenes aspects, where it feels like a very safe arena. I think we all need spaces like that. Even though I’m always riddled with self-doubt, I believe that little membership is one of the best things I’ve come up with. It’s pushed me to become more honest, to try new illustration styles (the rose illustration at the top was created for one of the monthly offerings), to get out of my comfort zone and attempt new things. I feel like I’m a slightly better version of myself as a result.

I’m aware, however, that the blog is getting the short shrift since I’ve been pouring so much of myself into the membership and books. I keep hearing that blogs are dying — do you think so? I feel like I’ve asked this before, but at the time it still seemed like blogs were thriving. Because I didn’t want to become too influenced by anyone while I was working on my books, I stopped visiting other blogs for a good year. Now that I’m starting to pick up where I left off, I’ve noticed that many of my favorite bloggers have either stopped or dramatically reduced their content. Or they’ve become much more commercialized. Or just…different. I suppose the same could be said of mine, and really, change could be a good sign.

I very much wanted to give myself a lovely new handmade wardrobe and had pumped myself up that this would be what the blog would focus on for 2015. But I made a total of 7 items. 7! And I’m sort of cheating because I made one of the tops (Renfrew) in 2014 but had never blogged about it. Almost everything I made was blue, and I didn’t count the muslins for my jeans. I suspect there are some psychological reasons I’ve resisted sewing for myself, because I somehow managed to find time to sew for K even when it was sure to result in sleep deprivation. A sure sign of commitment. The good news is that almost every single thing I made for myself has been in heavy rotation — the Nani Iro stripey top in particular (4th from left) is starting to look threadbare from constant wear:

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Linen Top

Renfrew Bamboo Knit Top

Nani Iro Top #1 and Nani Iro Top #2

Romper and Strappy Tank 

Knit Dress with Keyhole back

Anyhow, onto 2016! I don’t have any sweeping or specific goals for this shiny new year. I still love to blog, I still love to write and sew and paint and make stuff in general, and I hope I’ll be able to do all that and more for the foreseeable future. The intrinsic rewards trump any insecurities I may be experiencing and it’s my answer to the ubiquitous Mary Oliver quote I keep bumping into: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” I’m not much of a poetry gal, but I got her latest book, Felicity, and the last line in her poem “Leaves and Blossoms Along the Way” caught my attention recently: “The point is, you’re you, and that’s for keeps.”

So simple, yet so true. Brava, Ms. Oliver! I love how unpretentious and relatable her language is.

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I’m wishing you all a 2016 in which you get to be spectacularly you!

 

P.S. Furoku members! The next edition is aimed to hit your in-boxes at 11:59pm tonight (or, you know, possibly on New Year’s Day).

2015 RECAP: Sewing for K

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Good morning! I hope you all had a restful and celebratory Christmas, and perhaps you too are now looking back upon all the happenings of 2015. It’s been a big year for me: one book launched, another completed. I inadvertently started something that could be considered a side business. My little family of three had highs and lows, but the good times outweighed the bad. I hadn’t been quite prepared for the emotional turbulence that was part of this year, but in hindsight it stretched and pulled me like taffy, loosening me up, adding flexibility.

Given the many life-altering events that happened in the past 12 months, it’s no wonder that my personal sewing took a major hit. But I can’t really blame it all on book activities. The inevitable seems to be happening, and as K grows older, she’s less interested in wearing clothes that I’ve made. She wants to live in t-shirts/knits and leggings, preferably with characters and bright designs on them. “The non-stretchy stuff you make is uncomfortable, Mama,” she tells me.

So it makes sense that I tended to default to stitching up knit clothing, just because that upped the chances of them getting worn. Even so, she’d rather wear the store-bought hand-me-downs from our neighbor — I can understand that.

I’d assumed I made about a dozen things for K this year, but as I looked through my archives, the grand total came out to 27 (if counting each component of her Halloween costume separately). Not too bad! An average of 2+ a month is far more than I thought I could manage.

So here they are by month (surprisingly, the only month I completely skipped was May):

JANUARY

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Raglan Navy + Floral

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Frogtastic Tee

 

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Perri Pullovers

FEBRUARY

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Front Placket Dress (Wool Plaid)

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Front Placket Dress (Geometric)

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Coral Giraffe Print Top + Leggings

MARCH

bow-dress5

Bow Dress

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“Robe Jacket”

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Sailor Dress

APRIL

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Easter Bunny T-Dress

JUNE

maritime-y-dress4

Maritime-y Dress

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Recital Dress That Wasn’t

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White Tee + Nani Iro Knit Shorts

JULY

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Bralette

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Henry Dress in Gradients of Grey

AUGUST

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Bedford in Black and Floral

 

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Rockstar Pants

SEPTEMBER

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Ottobre Marja Top

 

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Second Day of School Dress

OCTOBER

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Superhero K

NOVEMBER

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Faux Fur Vest

DECEMBER

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Gilded Recital Dress

27 items! There were a few pairs of leggings I didn’t post, so it’s probably closer to 30. I’m not sure how to approach 2016 and sewing for K… I’m in the midst of making her a puffy jacket — it probably won’t be done until this Saturday — and I will continue to make her necessary clothes, I’m sure. But it’s different from when I first started this blog and I could make whatever I wanted for her and she happily donned the outfits. She’s no longer my dress-up doll, and we are entering a whole new phase of tweenhood and strong opinions and self-consciousness.

I’ll figure something out, though. Maybe 2016 will be about teaching K how to make her own clothes. Now, wouldn’t that be something?

Happy Holidays!

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Filled with loved ones, I hope it is.

Brimming with inside jokes and outside ones too.

A magical time.

A time for reflection.

Perhaps some wistfulness as well.

Deck those halls, or leave them bare

But most of all, I’m wishing you all

Peace + Joy, Joy + Peace, whatever combination thereof

 

P.S. If you need any last-minute gift tags, you can download them here and here. [UPDATE: I just sent out extra holiday goodies to Furoku members, so check your Promotions/inboxes :-)]

P.P.S. I’ll see you back here in about seven days!

 

Happy Friday + Randomness

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It’s that time of year when I go through all of my photos to assemble a calendar for my extended family (I’m using Artifact Uprising again since I loved their wooden clipboard calendars last year – they delivered within three days even though I chose the 7-10 day option, which was a nice surprise). Wading through my picture archive is no small feat since I take thousands and thousands of photos a year, and because I’m so sentimental, I get caught up in nostalgia. I may have even shed a tear or two from particularly intense memories. I came across the image above from Pike Place Market that I took last December and remember thinking, “I’m so glad I looked up — I never knew there were pigs up there!” I tend to get focused on whatever’s in front of me, so it’s refreshing to notice other perspectives.

It’s getting down to the wire…how are you all doing with holiday preparations? K is out of school for the next couple of weeks, so postings may get spotty as we plan on fully immersing ourselves in the holiday spirit.

Have a wonderful weekend, my friends — I’m off to gather baking supplies for some serious cookie concoctions!

Only a week left
for gift wrapping, sweets-making
‘Tis a good season

Pinafore + Bloomers Pattern on etsy!

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Due to (sort of) popular demand, I’ve listed the digital pinafore and bloomers pattern on my (sort of) new etsy shop. The backstory of the shop: a few years ago, someone was interested in purchasing a print from me, so I quickly created a shop on etsy for that single sale, and then pretty much let it languish, unloved. I get requests for these patterns via email from time to time and have been doing this labor intensive PayPal workaround, and it finally hit me that I might want to make life easier for myself. I am not, as you can tell, very business savvy. [Update: since I’ve received several comments and emails regarding the sizing, it’s listed as 6 months to 18 months, which is a pretty big range, but the top especially is generously proportioned and I’ve had friends whose petite 2-year old could still wear it.]

For the last couple of months, I’ve been researching different online commerce options like Shopify and Squarespace and Woo Commerce, but you know, I figure I (sort of) already have the whole etsy thing set up, so why not roll with it?

Thank you to all the people who have been emailing me about the pinafore and bloomers! I hope you’ll stop on by my little shop — I’ll be adding other digital downloads and prints in the coming weeks!