a fresh start

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It’s that time again. Back to School. For much of my life the end of August/ beginning of September was such an emotionally intense time — a mix of dread, worry, excitement, and rededication. As scary as a new school year (or new school) was, there was also the promise of new books, new teachers, new classmates. A chance to feel like a new person.

Of course, we can all benefit from a clean slate every now and again.  And even though I’m through with school, I still associate this time with beginning a new year, perhaps even more so than January. When Back to School rolls around, some deep-seated feelings emerge that I really ought to be in class.  My response is just to refocus my goals and organize my life for another year. I guess I need to remind myself to keep learning.

Now, I’ve always had a love of school supplies and stationery, and I still get a thrill walking down an aisle of pristine notebooks, rulers, and pens. And don’t get me started on Japanese stationery stores – my idea of heaven! So needless to say, I have plenty of school supplies tucked away to help me get started on my projects and goals for the year.

Still, I felt like making a new patchwork something, and I settled on a quilted book-cover, since my goals always involve a lot of reading. I couldn’t really find a pattern that exactly matched what I was looking for so, I modified one from this book. Basically I just added patchwork and quilting elements to the original pattern. Now having a cozy book cover makes snuggling up to a good book even better.

Here’s to a good year! Time to get to work.

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Getting ready for new things!

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A bouquet of newly-sharpened pencils would be one way to my heart.

quilted bookcover

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second attempt

I didn’t want to let too much time go by before trying another quilt, for fear of forgetting all I’d learned in the process, so I decided to round up some scraps, use the same template, and make a cozy little quilt just for me. As is often the case in my experience, my second try was a bit bumpier than my first. Perhaps I was less careful this time. I tried not to stress the mistakes too much though, since I knew this quilt wasn’t a gift. And even though it’s riddled with errors, I’m pretty happy with it. I like the windowpane effect of the negative space, and love the overall crinkliness it acquired after its first wash. My hopes of not having to buy any fabric for this quilt almost came true –I had to go to the shop for just the backing and the batting, but I am trying to keep costs down.  In any case,  I do believe I’ve got the quilting bug, and am looking forward to choosing my next pattern soon.

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vintage ballet books

It’s no secret I love old books.  Especially books about ballet. They can be a little hard to find, but worth the hunt. A lot of vintage ballet books have simply magical illustrations, and reading the stories of famous ballets can be quite enlightening as well.

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“Tales From The Ballet” by Louis Untermeyer (Editor), Martin Provensen (Illustrator), Alice Provenson (Illustrator)

Utterly gorgeous illustrations.  I sought this book out a few years ago, and am so happy I did. I get lost in the fairy tale world every time I turn the pages.

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“Ballet For You” by Lee Wyndham, Illustrated by Catherine Scholz

A charming illustrated guide for the young dancer.

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“The Royal Book of Ballet” by Shirley Goulden, Illustrated by Maraja

A new book for me. It is quite large, and the pictures have a haunting quality to them. My copy is a bit fragile, so I can tell it was read many, many times.

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“Swan Lake – The Story of Prince Siegfried and the Swan Queen” Illustrations by Ludmilla Jirincova

One of my all-time favorite images. This illustration was inspiration for my Swan Lake Birthday Party. (I also had a Swan Lake bedroom as a girl. Maybe you can guess I love Swan Lake?)

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“The Young Dancer” by Darcey Bussell

I hope this doesn’t yet qualify as “vintage” because I read it a lot as a girl. It is all photographs, but ever so detailed! I still find it fascinating – all the Royal Ballet School tidbits.

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I was feeling a bit bored, and decided to print out a few of my scans, add a bit of glimmer and doily and make a decoration for my bulletin board.

liz lisa inspiration

One of my favorite Japanese clothing brands is Liz Lisa because the designs are so feminine and romantic. But even more than just a brand–Liz Lisa has created an entire world of laciness, florals, and bows that quite match my aesthetic. They also have their own home goods collection called Chambre a Coucher that is so sweet and cozy! Imagine a wonderland dripping with roses and ruffles and even an adorable little pink sheep named Champouf, and you’ll see all there is to love! I’ve been curating my own little collection of Liz Lisa products, as well as using their beautifully styled photos as inspiration for some of my recent sewing projects.

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My recent souvenir from Japan, all packaged up! I must thank my wonderful family for bringing this back for me.

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Here is what was inside. A pink satchel with lace and bows! Even some scallop detail. I never hoped to find a bag that was so “me.” The best part: it can be worn three ways– like a purse, carried by the top handle or with two straps like a backpack.

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I recently got my first Lucky Bag from Liz Lisa. I usually have subscribed to the philosophy that I’d rather spend a bit more, and get things I really, truly want, than get a bargain and be left with items I don’t really love. However, I really thought this floral bag was quite nice, and almost worth the price of the Lucky Bag alone.  It is quite large and sturdy. I think it would make an excellent dance or weekend bag.

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Bits and pieces of my collection. Of course a Llama jumped in the bag!

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Organizing my closet. All pinks and florals for the summertime, I’m afraid.

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My first inspiration piece. A ruffled heart pillow. These seem to be a staple of the Chambre a Coucher collections. I thought I could probably make a similar version (sans the huge embroidery of course).

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My version. It didn’t take very long to make, just gobbled up a bit of fabric for the ruffle. I might try a similar little cushion with a ruffle of lace, or a patchwork one.

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I think these are quite cute, and something I haven’t seen other places. They’re soft cushions shaped like bows! It looks like the official ones are made of something soft and fluffy and lined in lace, but I just used what I happened to have on hand.

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I decided to use this rosy tea time fabric I got from the clearance bin. I think I will definitely make more of these. I have some cozy floral flannel that will make a cuddly little cushion once the temperatures drop. Again, it wasn’t tricky, probably easier than the heart because it is basically a rectangular cushion cinched with a band. For the ruffle I cut 4.5 inch strips of fabric (pressed in half) x twice the perimeter of the pillow.

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Ah the bows! Liz Lisa does favor a bit more charms and fluff in their accessories than I usually go for, but I do admire the amount of detail in each piece.

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My take. Why have one bow, when you can have two? From the original inspiration photo, I decided to make a double bow. I took some white eyelet scraps and bits of floral calico to make these. They remind me of a floral dress with a white pinafore on top.

That is all I’ve done in the last couple of days. I would like to start a larger project soon, but for now I’ll keep busy with my ribbons and bows.

better late than never

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I have a habit in life of wanting to wait until conditions are perfect to start something. I try to put a lot of care and thought into projects, but more often than not, my habit is simply an excuse to put things off.

A good example of this would be the case of some fabric I purchased several (ahem) years ago. It was a charming and whimsical print featuring a knight, a boy, and his friendly dragon. I especially liked the scenes of them reading books and letters together. The fabric reminded me of my older brother, and I thought it would make a nice quilt if he were to have kids of his own some day.

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Well, fast forward a few years and I had nephew. I really wanted to use the fabric for a baby quilt, but that never happened. In my defense, it was hard to find a pattern suited to the size of the print, and I was fairly busy in school. And then I moved away to college and lived in a tiny apartment with no sewing machine, etc, etc, etc.

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In truth I guess I was really waiting until I felt I was competent enough in my sewing to be worthy of the fabric. (I have this feeling a lot). But after getting back into sewing this year, I suddenly didn’t want to wait anymore. And even though I made zero full sized quilts in the years since I purchased the fabric, I decided to forge ahead and do my best to finally make this quilt for nephew’s eighth (eek!) birthday.

It is not perfect. Not at all. But I did get it done in time for his birthday (give or take eight years). I must say, it feels quite nice to have made something, anything, out of this fabric I’d kept forever, neatly folded in the back of a closet.IMG_6134

I realize that my sewing machine is not quite up to the task of machine quilting, and I didn’t have the time to hand quilt it. Still, I am pretty excited about doing another quilt now. Probably a more girly, pastel one for myself. It will be good practice, because I still have a lot to learn!

*Here is a link to the tutorial I used.

tokyo disneyland x alice

Some of my family members recently returned from their annual trip to Japan. I didn’t get to go along this time, but I was happy to live vicariously through their photos and videos.  My brother was even nice enough to bring me back some lovely souvenirs including several from Tokyo Disneyland.

I love Alice in Wonderland, particularly the tea themed things. (go figure) So I was delighted to receive some beautiful Alice boxed tea. The tea bags are the cards!

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A cute mini towel and some memo notebooks.

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A new Alice charm for my new bag.

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I was in such an Alice mood, that I decided to make something out of this Alice fabric that I’ve had for a little while. I like that it is pink and just a bit sparkly. I settled on a new tea cozy using this pattern, adapting it slightly by making it bigger and adding a more finished lining.

After sewing, I baked some matcha tea cookies. (I guess I am still yearning to return to Japan, myself). Here is the recipe. They were quite easy to make and the resulting cookie was delicately sweet.

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