Snow is Falling

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I still find it hard to believe that many of our friends both locally and out of state have NOT received snow this winter. We have a lovely abundance of the softest glistening snow, eager birds at our feeders, and the most beautiful assortment of watercolor snowflakes adorning our “big window.”

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We did a bunch of snow play last week, but this week we’ve slowed with sickness in our house. Ava has really just wanted to be snuggled and wrapped up in blankets. It’s such a rarity with her to not want to just “go go go” so I really have savored this slow time of drinking tea together and creating inside. I must say the results of it have been gorgeous.

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These snowflakes are a very fun, easy and beautiful project for little ones. We bought a 100 ct package of coffee filters from our local grocer for $1.59. Then simply laid out a place mat, taped one down and let Ava get to it with her watercolors. We have the cheap cake palette watercolors that you can get at the dollar store.

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Then you simply hang them to dry. This takes less than an hour.

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Once they are dry, you gently fold them in half and then again and again until you have a small cone shape.

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Then just cut small shapes into the edges as your heart desires, just as you would for the paper snowflakes. We taped ours to the window. You could probably also iron them in wax paper to hold their shape and make a garland. We may send some as winter valentines to our family and friends. The possibilities are endless!

I love watercolors so much. They blend perfectly and their colors are smooth and gentle. We hope you get snow if that is your winter wish. If your wish is to be without shoveling this year, I hope you have no snow but enjoy these simple decorations in winter celebration!

Stay warm.

Cynthia

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Winter Wonderland

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A while back when I was making Ava’s birthday dress, I mentioned that the buttons for that dress came from an old felted wool sweater. I also mentioned that the rest of that sweater was destined to become wool mittens. A set of upcycled mittens is a fairly quick and easy sewing project on a budget. These mittens were a 100% wool Lord Chesterfield sweater that I found at a local thrift store a while back, for a couple bucks. I wore it a lot, but it was only a matter of time before one of us accidentally threw it in the wash.

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This easy accident makes for a very nice pair or pairs of mittens for wee ones. The pattern I use is from the book Oliver + S Little Things to Sew. This is the second winter that I’ve made these. The first time, I forgot to reverse the pattern and ended up with two right hands! Ava didn’t mind; they are very warm regardless. But alas, this winter, she has a pair that fits both left and right hands.

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The design of these is really great for little ones. The way the thumb is constructed just works for little hands much better than most mittens out there. The accent fabric is a designer fabric I picked up at JoAnn’s a very long time ago. I honestly can’t remember the name of it. You could easily use scrap fabric for this part and put together a pair of these for the cost of a small amount of elastic for the wrist gatherings.

We are really soaking up all the winter happiness to be had today. Sledding, snow girl aheem… I mean flying “Giston,” the super snow girl making, and one very very excited puppy who loves digging her face under inches upon inches of this glistening snow. “I like being cold, mom.” We are true Northerners at heart it seems.

Happy snow days!

Cynthia

 

Christmas Magic

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It’s been a gift factory at my house for some weeks now. Sewing, crochet and knitting. It hardly seems like Christmas without snow on the ground, but I’ve been a little elf nonetheless. The brief snow we had last week was perfectly timed with our scheduled visit to Country Lights Festival. I think we may have been some of the only visitors whose carriage ride included snowy landscapes. It was pretty magical and heart warming.

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This year, Ava decided to build a sparkly “Dory” fish. Last year she made a sweet little rocking horse. It is always so fun to watch her take pride in her elf work. She naturally takes to creative work like bees to honey. We tried a new tree farm this year and they had exactly ONE tree for us to choose from. Luckily, I was in LOVE. I’m pretty sure we found the world’s most perfectly plump white pine. I’ve got a gaping grin just thinking of it. I couldn’t stop giggling as the dignified tree farm guy prepared it to ride home with us.

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It is SO plump in fact, that we are going to have to get more lights this year and perhaps some garland to do it up. I’m thinking I will add a bunch on Christmas Eve around the house. We are going to take Ava’s doorknob cover off and tell her she can wake us in the morning to see if Santa came. She told me she wants to sleep on the couch. She REALLY wants to open the presents under the tree.

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It helps that now she knows that we can’t open gifts until the morning she wakes up with her Christmas pajamas on.

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For this set, I used Oliver + S’s Sleepover Pajama pattern. I am so happy with how these turned out! There is something magical about Oliver + S patterns. Stitching and turning out the accent pieces on the garment is sort of like watching a butterfly emerge from a cocoon. When it begins to look like a finished outfit and the hems are impeccably clean,  you really start to feel the magic of creation.

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I highly recommend buying the paper pattern if you are interested in making these pajamas. I purchased a digital copy and I have to say that printing and assembling 8.5 x11 pattern pieces is quite an undertaking. This project had so many pieces.  Not quite the 16 for the Penguin Backpack, but 10 is still a lot to cut out. Once that is done, the pants come together fairly quickly. The top is a bit more involved, but the instructions are SO detailed and easy to execute. The way that the facing on the neck/button placket and the pockets is finished is absolutely brilliant.

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Ava is generally off the charts for her age and wears a 5T in most things these days. I made these pjs in 5T and the pattern appears to be sized very generously. Not a bad thing for pajamas, I happen to think. The cuff on the pants is also designed to accommodate vertical growth. Right now, these pants are about an inch long on Ava and next year I will be able to just snip the tacking stitches on the cuffs and add an extra 2 inches. That makes these a very worthwhile investment of my time and money. Cozy PJs  that will last thru 2 winters? Yes yes! Further, these pajamas are so well made that they will be handed down at least 1 or 2 more times to another sweet little one.

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The main fabric for these is a snuggle flannel from JoAnn’s. I used a polka dot calico cotton for the accents and finished it with some white suspender buttons. As I was stitching them yesterday, I was thinking about potentially sneaking in and putting little mini candy canes in those sweet little polka dotty pockets some day. Ava still loves loves loves pockets. Convenient, fun, and very good at toting Abominable Snowmen around in winter

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I added a little Christmas tree “15” tag to the pants, folded and tied them with a little bow of ribbon to place them under the tree, where they will await little hands on Thursday night. My heart sings every time I look under there and spot these polka puppies.

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All in all, these were very straightforward and really fun to see come together over the course of several late nights watching Christmas movies. I’ve expressed my affection for Oliver + S patterns so many times, but I have to say that the instructions for the Sleepover Pajamas are perfectly and expertly written. There’s so many added tips and pieces of advice to go along with the basic instructions. I surely appreciated  Liesl’s expertise around 3 am a few times this week when my judgement was getting a little foggy and I really needed some hand holding thru the details :). I’m hoping these become an annual tradition – the pajamas, not the late nights!

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We sure wish you a Merry Christmas. Or as Ava says, have a “hungry, jolly Christmas. It’s the best time of the year.”

Christmas with a 3 year old. Sigh. Truly magical.  Friday is undoubtedly going to be one of my favorite days in life. A day I will wish to last forever.

 

Third Year

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This week we celebrated A’s third year with us. I don’t think we could have packed much more into 2. She mastered her balance bike, learned to swim, started gymnastics and was introduced to soccer. She became independent at the playground and barely needs help with the monkey bars. We pitched a tent and camped for the first time. We ran a couple 5ks. Learned how to use a knife to make a sandwich, to brush one’s teeth and do all other bathroom things. You know, sort of learned how to survive. It was challenging, astonishing, and so very overflowing with love.

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A’s birthday banner was a great sewing project pre-birthday. It was fun and, of course, had a very special end product. The pattern is from a book called Stitched in Time by Alicia Paulson of Posie Gets Cozy. I fell in love with the idea she mentions in the book of taking a picture of A every year with her birthday banner and watching her grow beside it. This book is a little treasure chest of thoughtful and timeless gifts. I highly recommend it.

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The fabrics for the banner are a collection of quilting cottons from JoAnn’s. I used a number of polka dots and florals and added in  Rainfall from Cloud 9 Organic’s “Sparkle in the Rain” line. I just love those raindrops and gold sparkles. I originally thought the floral prints were too busy but they really added a nice variability to the banner. I used quilt binding in navy for the line and although the book calls for 3 yards, in order to have 18 inches for the ties on either end, I had to add a little extra to my first 3 yard package. Keep that in mind, especially if your child has a long name!

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The weekend before her birthday, as I’m tucking her in one night, A tells me she wants a birthday crown. OOPS! I have made her one for the last two years but somehow forgot to add that to my list of pre-birthday projects! Thank goodness for her incredible memory. As in the past, I used the pattern from Heidi & Finn, which is free and easy. Just be sure to measure your kid’s head and make sure you size it appropriately in elastic length. I used some pink and grey felt from my stash for this and trimmed it with some lace left over from a blouse from long ago. Easy peasy.

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It’s pretty cold in these parts already, and I wasn’t feeling quite adventurous enough to self-draft sleeves for A’s party dress. Instead, I decided to make it big enough to wear with a shirt underneath. This year’s  birthday dress is a modified Geranium. I have made so many tops and dresses with this pattern over the years and Rae just never lets me down.

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This time, I did modify it slightly because I was interested in a high-low version. I have seen this style before and really like it for little girls who are playing on their hands and knees a lot. This dress falls perfectly so that A doesn’t kneel on it when she is playing. I hemmed it in a strange envelope fashion to accommodate the length change. It seems to work with the geometric style of the triangles fabric. Anyone who knows where to find a tutorial on hi-low styles please let me know!

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Both fabrics are from the quilter’s showcase at JoAnn’s.  As soon as I saw these I knew exactly what I was doing with them. I used three mother of pearl buttons for the closure that I repurposed from an old felted wool sweater. The rest of that sweater is becoming mittens, by the way.  I will be posting those very soon! All in all, this dress was fast, cheap and very pretty. I can say without a doubt that we are both happy with it.

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I think a month ago my mama heart was pretty torn up over this milestone of turning 3, but now I’m just excited for all that 3 can be. Greetings from our newest family member, Bartholomew Bear. Happy holidays!!

 

-Cynthia

 

 

Falling Leaves Swingset

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As promised, here is A’s skirt that I completed for the Oliver +S Swingset Sew-Along. Recently, O+S reissued their Swingset Skirt pattern as separate from the tunic and added a wider range of sizes. It really is a staple for a little girl’s wardrobe, so I’m glad to hear I can count on it for many more years to come!

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We started this photoshoot in a fall jacket, but the temperatures around these parts have dropped substantially overnight and we decided the wind alone warranted a winter coat and hood.

A was so patient and tolerant with me. I am not the best photographer. A lot of my photos end up dark because I haven’t thought about the direction of the sun or which way shadows are falling. Honestly, most of the time when I shoot for these posts I am too preoccupied thinking about how cute my kid is and what new curious thing she’s up to. I can mostly make up for my lack of skills with taking an abundance of candid photos. Eventually there’s at least one keeper in the bunch!

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I hadn’t planned on sewing for this event per se, but came across it when I was checking the fabric requirements for another O+S pattern on their website. Lucky for me, I was looking for something to do with this falling leaves corduroy before Thanksgiving et voila! A match made in autumn.

I don’t think I’ve ever sewn with corduroy before, but it is perfectly heavy for fall and much less wrinkly than all the quilting cottons that I normally use. I think that this was a JoAnn’s purchase, but it’s been so long that I don’t know for sure.

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The lining is a Kona cotton from JoAnn’s. I still really love the weight and opacity of Kona cotton. Many of the solid cottons in their selection are pretty transparent, but Kona never disappoints. I followed the pattern for the most part, except for the lining.

I cut the lining about an inch and a half longer than the pattern calls for, and I also hemmed it toward the inside instead of toward the main fabric. The corduroy was so heavy and saturated in color that I wanted the lining to be a light accent that brightened it up and outlined the flow of the skirt.

The selling point of this skirt to little girls is how the skirt is cut in such a shape that facilitates exuberant twirling. To this day, I have no idea how or when A developed an affinity for  spinning , but the behavior is apparently coded somewhere on the second X chromosome and kicks in around the 2nd year of life.

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I chose a muted yellow satin ribbon for the drawstring and had this idea after I finished the skirt to make some leaves for the ends of it. We were playing in the backyard oak leaves (Oh my how many leaves can one tree have?!) when I started noticing all these little perfectly domed encapsulations on the leaves and little trails from critters past. My leaves are cut from felt in speckled brown and magenta. I had some tiny gold discs in my stash from making doll bracelets that I sewed on with French knots. The little critter trails are made with some pink embroidery floss also from my stash.

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I am planning to pair this skirt with the green top (above) and this knitted heartwarmer that I’ve been working on for A to wear on Thanksgiving. The pattern is the Bless Your Heartwarmer pattern from Sweet K.M.. I was a little bummed that I didn’t finish it (or even come close!) before having to take photos for the sew-along, but I did just teach myself how to knit this week, after all. This seems like a very good beginner pattern if you are interested in starting to knit. It’s very simple and repetitive. I am not usually a pink person, but this deep raspberry color is just warm and yummy, isn’t it? I can’t wait to see the whole thing!

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The falling leaves skirt is actually the second time that I’ve made the Swingset pattern. This one was the first skirt and it has become a favorite of A’s. I loved the one Gail made a long time ago for Lila and decided to order some Arrows in Navy by Cotton + Steel to make my own. It is almost an exact replica of Gail’s so I’m not entering it in the sew-along. I followed the pattern to the letter for this first Swingset and (no surprise) it turned out perfect! Gail likes to add a contrasting waistband to hers, which looks very nice and adds another component to the skirt to break up the one-noted nature of the pattern or integrate another color into an outfit. You can see hers here.

Since the frigid conditions this morning didn’t really inspire much twirling, we shot the photos for the arrows skirt indoors and caught the magic of the Swingset Skirt in action.

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In fact, even Ellie, our pup, joined in on the fun. “Spin” is (of course) A’s favorite command that Ellie knows and she was falling over with giggles as Ellie spun next to her. Now that it’s A’s job to feed Ellie breakfast and dinner, commands spoken by her are now on Ellie’s radar. And, of course, A is pretty thrilled to have a minion to give orders to.

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Eventually minion had had enough and it was time for a break.

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The work is hard but the benefits are pretty great.

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And even while you break, your boss just keeps on moving along without you. This maneuver here is actually part of the “stretching” she does at the start of every gymnastics class. A few months ago her balancing muscles wouldn’t have had the stamina for all that twirling!

I can’t really say enough about the Oliver + S patterns. They are without a doubt what has taken my sewing to a higher level of professionalism, but what’s more, is that they’ve given me confidence. I’m now starting to feel comfortable straying from a pattern and going with my creativity. I’m starting to actually think about creating “looks” or “outfits” instead of just focusing on completing a project. I’m also starting to really fall in love with the rhythm of creating, doing and telling my story here. So in the coming months, you’ll hopefully be seeing some changes to the blog format and design as well as an increase in the frequency of posts.

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Next in line are some Sleepover Pajamas because somebody is turning 3 in less than 2 weeks!! I’m starting to feel excited about 3. 2 was definitely a challenge, but 3 seems to be ushered in with a whole new level of wonder and magic. This little curly girl is quickly becoming a vast personality of beautiful attributes and cast iron integrity.

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Oh and I just realized that my last post was lite on sewing details. The kitty pillow for A’s room is from a book called Storybook Toys by Jill Hamor of ByBido. I haven’t sewn any of the other patterns but this one was super easy, quick, and adorable.

The blue dots fabric is a quilting cotton from JoAnn’s. The eyes and nose are made from felt. Most patterns I’ve come across for little things seem to call for wool felt blend or 100% wool felt. Wool felt is awesome, but expensive. I haven’t had any problems using the cheap EcoFelt from JoAnn’s for this project or A’s penguin hat. The best part is that they wash in the machine and dryer and come out like new!

The kitty pillow is just a cover and you can take the round pillow insert out to wash the fabric cover. Convenient!

I will be making more (accessories, not kitties) for A’s room in the coming weeks. Painting over those pink walls from the previous tenant was quite the undertaking, but we are well on our way to a lovely little girls room!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

-Cynthia

Autumn

Oh this Autumn! I don’t know about you, but these last two months have felt like the exhale we all needed. Summer just seemed like we were constantly trying to do everything, see everything, and experience all that the sunshine had to offer. Since our vacation in September, everything seems to have settled with the falling leaves and we find ourselves, more often than not, spending our days relishing the little things at home. The other day A said “Mama, maybe the trees are letting go of their leaves because they were too hot.” Swoon. I love the things this child comes up with. She has the best of ideas and word mixups. What do you think of the little mosaic of pictures? It’s the first time I’ve used this feature, but it works nicely for this post since there’s so much catching up to do!

This year marked my favorite Halloween of my life so far. A decided on our little penguin fleet concept and the costumes came together without any major problems. She grasped the idea of “trick or treat” and tried candy for the first time. It (no surprise here) was a hit, but she says she still prefers decadent pastries and ice cream to candy.  My parents came over and took A door to door with us. She told me for days that she “really enjoyed Grandma and Grandpa coming to her house.” I got my dear father to carve a pumpkin for the first time in probably 30 years. That tugged at my heart strings a little.

I also managed to cook an entire “from scratch” meal and serve it pretty close to on time. That is a real accomplishment for me. Andrew has generally done the majority of the cooking around here since he has a culinary background (read: he has a very established palate and I generally made vegan food out of boxes before I met him). I themed the meal as a comfort food gathering from Fall harvest. It felt like a mini-Thanksgiving. We were all stuffed. Applesauce (crockpot), macaroni and cheese (here), pork tenderloin (here), roasted corn on the cob (A’s choice), smashed sweet potatoes (here), and apple pie (here) a la mode. If you look at these links and are wondering… yes, I entrust my rare cooking spurts to one chef and one chef only — the lovely Ina Garten. She never steers me wrong! Everything turned out great and my heart was glowing from the shared feeling of harvest celebration taking place in my home.

We’ve made applesauce a second time since Halloween and I think we will make another batch before our apple stash is emptied. I brought home a GIANT bag of our favorite variety – Gold Rush apples and from that day to this, A has eaten 2 -3 apples every single day. I keep a bowl of washed ones within her reach and she just takes as she pleases, eats to the core, and puts the remnant in the dog’s bowl. It appears to be better than a dental bone for sweet Ellie’s teeth.

Out of our art supply stash, A has really taken to watercolors. She’s pretty adept at them too. She has the <water cup – color – paper – water cup> cycle down and makes beautiful strokes in a variety of shapes. As much as our days have seemed to slow down, A’s schedule has actually picked up. She’s taken pretty naturally to both sports and her balance bike.

She  is such a joy to watch at soccer. Even in the back yard, she just can’t contain her excitement. Anytime the ball is moving, she is giggling. She’s just tickled by movement in general. Gymnastics has been so great for her both socially and physically. In many ways gymnastics is being integrated into our daily life. Every curb is a balance beam to her, every stair a jumping platform.

Aside from all the festivities and cooking in this season, it has been the absolute best hiking yet again. The temperature is perfect for you to get exercise but not really sweat, the sun shines through the trees and there isn’t a bug in sight… at least not the biting kind. I also love this time of year for hiking because all the parks are less populated and dear Ellie runs her herding circles without fear (on my part) of offending anyone. I so love watching her being “wild.” We’re spirit sisters that sweet pup and I.

A is always picking flowers for Ellie and putting them in her collar (first mosaic), which in general is a futile effort since they almost instantaneously fall out, but it is also the most adorable offering from someone who only has found treasures to gift. I try to keep an open mind with whatever A decides to “gift” me, no matter how dirty or unbecoming. The fact that she feels like sharing all that she has with me is the most rewarding feeling as a mother.

Speaking of rewarding feelings as a mom, it’s always nice when you feel like one of the teeny bits of “wisdom” you share with your child is actually put into action. The other day one of A’s friends was tugging and tugging on her and she finally had had enough. She looked at her and said “Can you please stop pulling on my arm? I don’t like that.” I praised the heck out of that one!

We had our first Children’s Theater show this past month and it was so incredibly beautiful. The show is called Airplay. I’d say it was equally as whimsical and captivating as an adult as it was for A. She absolutely loved it and the fun of dressing up with her little friend who sits in our row. I think it will be a hard performance to top! It’s fun to see this huge jump in both gross and fine motor skills at this age. A is doing great with chopsticks, thanks in large part to the “Sushi Wednesdays” that our local grocers are doing and of course the encouragement from the Little Travelers – Japan .

We made cinnamon rolls together thanks to a recipe shared by a favorite blogger – Alicia. Thanks Alicia! They turned out absolutely delicious and were pretty quick to make. I showed A a Shirley Temple movie that I used to watch as a child, called “Heidi” (1937).  She enjoyed it very much and especially enjoyed saying “She has curls like me!!” every few scenes. So far my favorite 2-3 year old appropriate movie is not an oldie, but a new one  called “Maya the Bee” (2015). It’s currently on Prime and it is seriously one of MY favorite movies in addition to being A’s. My dear friend Johanna told me that it’s actually adapted from a German storyline that her mother used to read to her as a child. A is already telling me that she  wants to be Maya for Halloween next year! I think I may try to find an English translation of the stories.

This has become a crazy long post. I will wrap up with a bit of sewing. I am working on a number of textiles for A’s bedroom, but this little Kitten Pillow was the first to be completed. I’m really happy with how it turned out and A loves sleeping with it every night.

Last is a preview of a coming blog post for later this week. Oliver + S did a sew-along this past week for their newly updated Swingset Skirt pattern. I had been trying to figure out a project for this leaf fabric that I’m pretty sure I’ve had since before A was born. Perfect timing! Details to come in a future post – one I promise to be substantially shorter than this one!

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Happy Autumn!

-Cynthia