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First Completed Project of 2018: Niizocraft Sunny Day Bag Kit (and a Bonus Ogden Cami!)

Niizocraft wrote me a few months ago asking if I would be interested in a free bag kit to review for her etsy shop where she sells bag patterns and kits that are complete with all the materials you need to make her designs. I was honored by the request but my initial response was to say no- I don’t really do many sponsored posts, and at the time my schedule was too hectic with work and Christmas gift making to commit myself to a project with a deadline. However, I changed my mind after I went to the Niizocraft site and saw the patterns and bag kits that she sells. The designs are GLORIOUS, and I immediately saw three designs that I really wanted to make at some point in the future.

I loved the color collections that she put together for the kits- they were combos that I probably would never have chosen for myself, but they looked great together, and she had a nice range of canvas colors to select for the main fabric. I was intrigued by taking a more passive position behind the maker’s wheel and letting someone else do the work of fabric selection and material sourcing for once. So I changed my no to a yes (Niizocraft graciously allowed me to make the bag in my own time instead of giving me a deadline for the Christmas holidays) and I received the bag kit in a matter of days. I chose the mauve colored kit in the Sunny Day Canvas Bag design because I wanted something a little more chic and put together than the bags that I usually sub for purses on a daily basis. I, like most shoppers in metropolitan cities trying to do what they can to eliminate waste, have no less than 30 cloth shopping bags that I keep in the trunk of my car and various places around my house so that I don’t have to use paper or plastic in the check out line, and even though they are all stained and smell faintly of old vegetables, they are easy to grab when I’m running errands or heading off to appointments. Those cloth shopping bags get the job done but they aren’t very stylish, and the Sunny Day bag seemed like the perfect answer to my everyday bag needs. I love that it doesn’t have long handles where the bag part is constantly banging my waist- instead it’s designed to be worn high and close to the body. It’s also super roomy with LOT’s of pockets so I can put headshots, sides, books, my bullet journal AND my water bottle inside without losing track of where they are and having all the small items sink to the bottom (those large, deep pockets on either end of the inside of the bag fit my 32 ounce Nalgene water bottle with room to spare!)

I must say that I was super tickled to open the box from Niizocraft and see the all the contents so painstakingly organized, labeled and packaged. It even came with a little card that said “birth certificate” on it! Come on, that’s the freaking cutest thing ever! It reminds me of Cabbage Patch dolls! When choosing the kit I wanted, Niizocraft asked what I would like to be stamped on the leather tag that is sewn on the outside of the bag. I made a little squeal when I saw the stamped leather piece in the kit, complete with two leather needles and waxed nylon thread to sew onto the canvas. Also included were two zippers, belting, a brass hook, and enough canvas, batting, and nylon lining to complete the project, each with a label stuck onto it so you would know exactly what you needed to be working with: she includes every single thing you need to make her bags except the sewing machine.

As this was my first sewing project of the new year and I had not sewn anything for weeks thanks to the Christmas holidays, I was excited to have a simple project to ease me back into my groove, and this bag didn’t disappoint. I printed out my pattern pieces, loaded the instructions onto my iPad and went to work.

All in all I started and finished the bag in a little over a day. The instructions were mostly clear, but I had to rely on the photos a few times when I got stumped, and there were a couple of small typos I found, mostly in the measurements- if you have any experience sewing at all, these things would barely register as a blip on your radar. One things that was a little tricky for me were the seam allowances. Most of the seams of this bag are sewn at either 3/8″ (pretty standard) or 3/16″ (not as standard) so I had to pay close attention to when they allowances changed to make sure that I was actually sewing 3/16″ instead of 1/4″ since the former measurement is not marked on my machine. There are some construction techniques included in the instructions that I had never seen before- they were really fun to do, but they slowed me down a bit just because I was unfamiliar with them. This bag has a difficulty level of 4 out of 5 stars, which seemed accurate to me, but there are many bags on her site with varying levels, so a beginning sewist would probably do well so start out with a design that was a bit simpler (although it is certainly possible for a beginning sewist to complete this bag with no problem!)

I made one mistake with a couple of the pocket pieces that I didn’t realize til I had already sewn it to the bag, and then when I tried to unpick the seam with my seam ripper, I sliced open the canvas in a very obvious place! Thankfully I had juuuuust enough canvas left over to re-cut the pocket piece in the right size (two of the main fabric pocket pieces look the same but one is a little bit longer and I had used the wrong ones in the wrong areas). I reattached the correct sized piece to the bag and it looks terrific. This is one of my favorite parts of the bag- the outside piece of the outside pocket is folded up and sewn so that it conceals the zipper behind it. Very clever design element and it looks very sleek on the outside.

The bag is crowning!!!!

A post shared by Jasika Nicole (@jasikaistrycurious) on

I am incredibly happy with how my Sunny Day Bag turned out and I am so glad that I added it to my roster of makes. As you can see, the Niizocraft designs are pretty fantastic, and I appreciate that you can buy them without having to get a whole kit if that’s not how you like to make things. BUT! I can also say that, as someone who prefers to choose her own fabrics and buy her own materials, it was such a treat to have everything done for me and just concentrate on the making. Obviously this is a great gift to give to a new sewist who might not have all the odds and ends in their arsenal needed to complete a bag of this caliber, but I think seasoned sewists would get just as much joy from a kit like this, too.

Now, for a short Part II of this blog post, I finallyyyyyyy made a True Bias Ogden Cami! It’s been on my list for the longest, I even drew it out in my fashion sketchbook, but it took me a really long time to finally make it. It’s an incredibly popular pattern (and now that I have made it I see why!) because it’s generally quick to make, it doesn’t take up a lot of yardage, and the results are beautiful and satisfying- it is flattering and pretty on every single person I have seen wearing it. Because it’s such a simple make I don’t have too much to say about it- the instructions were great and it came together in a few hours, AFTER I realized that I CUT THE BACK PIECE OUT IN A SIZE 12?!?! Hahahaha, y’all, I have NO IDEA what happened! I was just putting my pattern pieces away and I realized that my lining piece for the back was a way different size than the actual back piece. I laid it over the PDF of the pattern and yes indeed, the pattern piece was 4 sizes larger. The craziest thing about this is that the lining still fit! When I was lining up the pieces of the lining to the shell, I did notice that the side seams were not matching up at all, but I didn’t think much about it, I just eased some of the fabric on one side and gently stretched it on the other side, and the pieces fit together- you totally can’t tell from the outside! I must have been in a big hurry because the pattern lines are clear and the sizes aren’t confusing at all. So the back of my cami is a little wider than it would be if I had cut out a size 4 (I could have gone with a 2 but I didn’t want the bottom to hug my hips so I went with a 4 and shaved off a tiny bit of fabric under the armholes on each pattern piece).

All in all I am in LOVE with this cami! When visiting Seattle recently, my friends took me to a fabric store that had a bolt of sandwashed silk, which I hardly ever come across in person, so I got 1 yard, more of a souvenir than anything else. Of course I realized later that the Ogden would be perfect to use up that tiny cut of fabric, but I had to be VERY strategic in how I cut out my pattern pieces- it just barely fit onto the silk, and now I know why…because I was squeezing 4 additional sizes into one of the pattern pieces, lol! But I made it work, and the cami feels both dressy and casual at the same time.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BeowMJ7AFUB/?taken-by=jasikaistrycurious

I read somewhere, maybe in my comments on IG, that a lot of people found that the lining inside wasn’t long enough (it hits me just at the bottom of my boob), but since I didn’t have much fabric to work with I cut the pattern out as is, and so far I am happy with it. I am able to go braless with this tank because I am a card wielding member of the Itty Bitty Titty Committee, but maybe someone with bigger tatas might need more coverage with the lining to feel comfortable. The lining doesn’t offer any actual support, but it does provide an extra layer of fabric which feels a little more stable, like you aren’t wearing something that’s gonna blow away in the tiniest breeze. Since half of my tank is cut out in the wrong size, I feel like I can’t really speak to how the actual garment is supposed to fit, but I love how it billows and floats around my body without feeling like I am too exposed, and I love the slightly deeper curve of the back hem. The slight v of the neckline in the back and the straps hitting at the perfect place in the front are lovely, too- they make this garment look and feel both a little effortless and a little glam at the same time. Beautiful drafting and I can see myself wearing this garment all over this spring and summer…and fall, because, well, this is LA! (Ogden Cami is pictured with my latest pair of Ginger Jeans…will never tire of this pattern!)

 

The #notmypresident Kelly Anorak!

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What a week, y’all. What a world.

Making has saved my sense of peace during this presidential campaign, but the day after the election I felt so depressed that I wasn’t even inspired to work on the project I had been happily plugging away at for days. I didn’t want to listen to music. I didn’t want to watch Netflix. I didn’t want to listen to an audiobook, or be around other people. But I also didn’t want to sit and stare at a wall while fuming. So I tentatively made my way to the makeshift sewing table in my apartment. I pushed some tools around, tidied up the area, threw away some fabric scraps and thread that had collected on the edges of the table. I didn’t feel better. But I felt calmer. I don’t know, maybe those feelings are synonymous sometimes. I liked having something to do with my hands. So I decided to install one ring snap and see how I felt. Again, I wasn’t better, but I had something to focus on, and I figured that was good enough. I installed the snap on the other pocket, and then I began the slow, new-to-me process of installing the coat zipper, which seemed really daunting to me at first glance.

Making didn’t take my mind off of my worries- it has never had that kind of effect on me- but it was therapeutic; it gave me space to process my thoughts without the sharpness of my emotions sending me reeling into teary-eyed territory. I cry hard and often, and I think that fully experiencing our emotions is super important to our mental health. But sometimes angry tears don’t make me feel any better at all, and I couldn’t imagine how I would stop them once they came.

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By the time I finished installing the zipper and facings and placket of this jacket, I stood both in awe, of both the task I had completed and my mood. I remember looking at the photo on the pattern and thinking to myself, how in the world is this supposed to come together?? because sometimes getting from point A to point B seems like an act of magic; even though I can see all the steps laid out in the instructions, it’s hard for me to fully envision the end product of a thing unless I am in the middle of creating it. But I found some solace in this. Because I also had no idea exactly what I needed to do to fix the current state of our country (how in the world are we supposed to come together??) and I realize now that it doesn’t matter- all I need to do is start at step one: to show up. To be willing to learn, to use my voice, to act when I am called upon. Somehow, in the creation of a coat zipper, I had acquired a new resolve- I felt emboldened, full of love, optimistic that my community would, as it has for hundreds of years, continue to fight for the rights and well being of the disenfranchised. I am anxious and scared about the struggles that we will face on our path, but I have faith that we will come out on top, and I am excited to be on the right side of the history that we will make together.

POWER TO THE PEOPLE, Y’ALL.

And with that, some details about this absolutely beautiful coat that miraculously served to both inspire and heal…

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This jacket is made from the much anticipated Kelly Anorak coat designed by Closet Case Files. When Heather sent a sneak peak of the coat through her newsletter a day or two before the official launch, I squealed audibly and sent Claire lots of photos of the coat that had been included in the email, since she is the only person I know who would be as excited about it as I was (she’s a generally supportive and enthusiastic human I am #blessed). I purchased the physical pattern instead of the PDF because it’s harder for me to print patterns while I am in Savannah, and I also immediately ordered a hardware kit that Closet Case was offering for sale in their online shop. I buy all of their kits when offered- the tools and materials are so well sourced and they just make sewing new, seemingly complicated garments a tad bit easier.

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Initially I envisioned a light gray twill Anorak for myself, so I went to my local fabric store in Savannah and found the exact fabric I was looking for, but unfortunately they didn’t have the full yardage that I needed. So I decided I would supplement the missing gray twill with this really beautiful soft navy suiting I found in the shop. I went home, spent a couple of hours thoughtfully placing and cutting out the hundreds of pattern pieces (ok, there aren’t that many, but it sure feels like it when you’re on the floor with a spasming back and tracing them all onto the fabric), and I started sewing the pieces together.

requisite Forsyth Park shot!

requisite Forsyth Park shot!

I had a really tough time finding the right color of topstitching thread for the light gray twill. First I tried using a darker gray thread, but it looked too blue against the fabric, so I took all that out and used a white thread instead. This didn’t end up looking much better, but I figured that I would like it more as I continued piecing the jacket together. I also was worried about the weight of my jacket- the twill seemed a bit more flimsy than I wanted for this jackets, so I considered putting a lining into the coat, but I had never made a coat before and I felt a little overwhelmed at having to figure out so many new things at once. I got all the way up to the step where I needed to install the grommets on the jacket for the cord to slide through, and I suddenly started second guessing the whole project. I only had enough hardware for one jacket, and I realized that I wasn’t enough in love with the way mine was looking to waste my beautiful new snaps and grommets on it.

I am not one to walk away from a project so quickly after starting it, but I am so glad that I trusted my instincts; I rolled up the unfinished jacket and remaining pieces and set them aside. The next day while reading the Fabric Store’s blog, I saw some photos of a new shipment they had just gotten at the LA store and was immediately taken by a plush, pale pink bonded suiting fabric they were highlighting.

It looked soft and warm, and the color was perfect for me since I love lighter shades of pinks and peaches. I called the store and they sent me a couple of yards of the fabric (although not all of their LA fabrics are sold in the online store, you can always call them directly and ask for swatches or cuts of the stock they put up on their blog)! I kept my fingers crossed that this fabric would work for the jacket, and I was elated when it arrived a few days later and it looked and felt just as striking in person as I had hoped!

Since my first gray version was ultimately a muslin, I was able to make a few more adjustments on my pink version. I had already shortened the length of the coat about an inch and a half to better accommodate my petite frame, but I also kept the pockets in the same place, and I realized on the first coat that the placement felt awkward because they were now a bit too high. So on my pink version I moved them down about an inch or so and they are now perfectly placed. I sewed a size 4 and didn’t grade up in the hips on the first gray version of this jacket, even though my measurements suggested I do so, and when I sewed up the side seams, it definitely felt less roomy in the hips than I preferred. I extended the allowances at the hips on my pink jacket about an extra 3/8 inch on both sides to accommodate grading to a bigger size and it now fits beautifully. Other than these changes, I sewed the jacket as instructed, but I still made a bunch of random mistakes throughout (all of which are my fault!)

 

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The most obvious mistake was sewing the front yokes in different directions on each side; thanks to Closet Case Files’ quick and easy tutorial, I used flat felled seams for the first time ever, which was super fun (also, it’s so weird that I had not used them before, because French seams are pretty much a staple for my makes nowadays). But I accidentally sewed the yoke seam towards the top on one side of the coat and towards the bottom on the other side of the coat, so they look visibly uneven on the outside. Of course I didn’t realize my mistake until the entire coat had been sewn together already and I was NOT about to undo all my work for something that didn’t bother me all that much. Also, because my pink fabric is so thick and doesn’t iron very well, it was very hard to get the seams completely flat and sewn down evenly on the inside, so there are also a few wonky flat fell seams that you can only see when looking on the wrong side of the jacket- again, I am so glad I am not a perfectionist because I would never get ANYTHING done!

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Another goofy mistake I made was with the zipper placement- when installing then, I cut them a tiny bit too short and as a result, the top ends of the zipper aren’t enclosed in a seam, which means that the zipper pull would totally fly off the top if  I zipped it up without stopping before the teeth ran out. I was stumped as to how to fix that little snafu for a while, but when I hand sewed the seam of the hood to the inside of the jacket, I realized I could insert a few stitches just below the topmost tooth on each side of the zipper and it would serve as a stop to keep the zipper pull from zipping off of it.

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Inserting the snaps and grommets was a cinch after reading Heather’s tutorial on her blog, and my only other suggestion on how to install them is to remind you to work verrrrrry carefully when you are placing the snap pieces along the jacket- I almost missed my mark a few times because of not being patient enough to make sure the snaps lined up perfectly. Removing a spring snap that has already been set is VERY hard to do without ruining your fabric, and yes, of course I say this from experience (insert rolling eye here).

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The trickiest issue I experienced with this fabric was the fact that it was very thick and cushiony, which was only a problem a few times when I had to topstitch through several layers, like on the cuffs of the sleeves. Otherwise it behaved very well. sidenote: one of the cool design features I love about this Kelly Anorak is the topstitching all over it, and at first I was bummed that you couldn’t see the topstitching on my pink fabric very well because it’s so thick, but the technique still creates a little groove along the topstitched lines, and now that it’s complete I love the overall effect. I also appreciate that this fabric isn’t very wrinkly, and now after wearing it around on one of the coolest days I have experienced in Savannah thus far, I can attest that she is also perfectly warm! Much warmer than the twill cotton jacket I first started making would have been, but not as thick and bulky as a full on winter coat- essentially the perfect jacket to get me through an LA fall and winter.

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As for the pattern? Sigh. It’s fantastic just like all of Heather’s work! The fit for me is wonderful: one easy adjustment for the length, which is made even easier thanks to markings on all the pattern pieces that are affected by lengthening/shortening, but even more importantly, the coat is ROOMY in the shoulders and arms and hood (Lord, how I hate a tight hood that smooshes all my hair down). This is the sort of jacket you can wear comfortably with sweatshirts and layers, and the sleeves on my size 4 Kelly don’t feel too tight or bulky with even my thickest sweater worn underneath. The instructions for this jacket are easy to follow, and it handles complicated techniques and steps succinctly. Again, I had to go slowly through the instructions for the zipper facings and placket because it was all new to me and there are so many pieces, but I didn’t make any mistakes and the result is beautiful. Additionally, Heather provides a few tutorials for tricky steps on her blog- I had already started working on my zipper and button placket before she posted a tutorial on how to do do that part, but I figured it out on my own just fine, so I think that the average sewist will find the instructions easy to follow, too!

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My manager and his husband Bob are in town for the weekend and I was able to finish my coat before they left, which means I got to get some photos of it while we were out and about! My favorite place we visited today was the SCAD museum of art, which has work and installations by current students and alumni. The museum is small (read: MANAGEABLE for someone like me who can only handle beautiful art in shorts spurts of time) and varied and I absolutely loved every inch of it- you should definitely go visit if you have the chance!

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jeans are the Ginger Skinny Jeans and cowl is handknitted from a pattern by Miss Babs!

 

 

 

 

 

Sandal Making with Rachel Sees Snail Shoes

I have been absent a while on the blog (but not on the instaaagram!) because I have been working on getting a good set-up for my picture taking. I happen to be married to a talented photographer, but I hate having to rely on her to get pictures of all my makes. First it requires us to coordinate schedules and settle on a date, and then we have to plan where the shoot will take place and at what time of day, and then I have to figure out what I want to get pictures of, and usually there are so many things on the list that there is no way we can get them all in at one time so I have to prioritize, and then I have to wait on her to process all my photos, and then I have to deal with the guilt of asking her to spend several hours of her weekend helping me find my best angle (which, it turns out, does not even exist). She, of course, says she is happy to do it, which I appreciate, but I would love to have a way to do it all myself so I can work within my own time frame and schedule, etc.

A few months ago Claire taught me how to use her nice Nikon more efficiently, so I got a remote and a simple gray backdrop, set the camera up on it’s tripod and got to work snapping photos. It took a while to get the camera focused (I taped a headshot onto my dressform) but once I got the hang of it, the pictures came out pretty well. The only drawback were our selection of lenses- we needed a wider angle lens to get better images of me from head-to-toe, an expense that didn’t seem quite justified for my every-once-in-a-while blogging habit. But then I filmed an interview for my friend’s show, In Bed With Kristin, and her camera set-up involved a regular tripod with a little connector that allowed her to put her iPhone on top of it. I am sure all of you know of this ingenious little device already, but for me this was a revelation- I could use my iPhone, which takes perfectly good photos, in tandem with a remote control which would allow me to be in charge of all my photo taking needs without having to worry about focus or lights or using my dress form with a headshot taped to it as a stand-in! It’s a simple solution that I am hoping will make my blogging a bit more manageable than it has been, so wish me luck!

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In the meantime, I wanted to write about my latest foray into shoe making! The success of my last pair of flats has left me satisfied with my skill level but also excited to learn different techniques that other DIY shoemakers have adapted over the years, so when I saw that Poketo was offering a sandal making workshop in LA the day before my birthday, I couldn’t sign up fast enough- it seemed like the perfect thing to gift myself…and it was 🙂

The workshop was taught by Portland-based Rachel Corry of Rachel Sees Snail Shoes and the whole experience was fantastic- I highly recommend taking her classes if she comes to your neck of the woods. It probably helps that I came into the class with a fair amount of experience in DIY shoe making, so a lot of the steps were familiar to me, but I still learned a lot about how to make a shoe without a last, and I though Rachel was incredibly gracious, patient, and skilled. Every single shoe that came out of the class looked wonderful and wearable, and all my peers seemed very happy with what they had created.

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Rachel brought several pairs of shoes that she has made over the years, so we got to see a sizable range of designs that we could utilize in the short period of time that we had in the workshop. Normally I am ambitious in workshops and I try to challenge my skills and my creativity, but I decided to try something different this time around and choose a simple design so that I could focus on the process better. Now that I know what a good teacher Rachel is, I probably could have pushed myself a bit further and come up with something of my own design, but I was so inspired by the class and my final shoes that I know I will continue creating sandals based on her technique, and I couldn’t really ask for more than that, you know?

my inspiration shoe from Rachel’s handmade collection

The main things I learned in what I will call The Rachel Process was how to cut out slits in the insoles to allow your upper sandal straps to slide through, and how to then fit the pieces to your foot, which was a lot like fitting a garment on a body in the midst of sewing it. Since we were not using a last for these shoes (and didn’t need to since the toe was uncovered), we used a shoe anvil in tandem with wooden mallets and hammers to work on the bottom of the shoe. I used shoe nails for the first time, cleverly designed little brass tacks that, when hammered against metal, flattened into a nice little pucker on the inside of the shoe so that it wouldn’t poke your feet but would hold the bulky pieces of your straps together. I loved being able to take the shoe off and on again to check for fit, something that using a last doesn’t allow you to do, and it also gives you more freedom in adjusting the sizes.

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slit cutouts on the insole

 

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I LOVE HOLE PUNCHING LEATHER!

Rachel brought lots of pattern pieces for us to choose from to design our own shoes, and after I picked mine out, I decided to trace others so that I could take them home with me for future use. Of COURSE I realized as I was typing this blog post that I left all the patterns at her class when I left on Saturday, so I am feeling foolish for that oversight, but I feel confident that I can recreate some, if not all, of those looks through a little trial and error. The pair I chose to make has a medium sized strap over the toe and a single piece of leather cut out out into an elongated “H” which comes around the front of the ankle and then ties to close the shoe. In addition to the upper leather and the insole, we used foam rubber soling for the bottom of the shoe which is another new technique I learned about in The Rachel Process. All my previous shoes have been made with soling leather on the bottom, but I love how the rubber foam gives you a cushion-y bed underneath your feet and a little bit of height. SO cute and comfortable!

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deconstructed sandals- upper straps, inner soles, and foam rubber soles

The process of putting everything together was familiar except for using the nails; skiving, Barge’s glue, hammering thick parts flat, etc. were all a part of the process, but once the shoe has been put together, you have to trim off the excess foam rubber (which is cut larger than the sole to accommodate any extra room you might need) with a utility knife, and this takes a lot of practice to get right. I was trying to shave a little extra room off the back of my leather soles at the same time as trimming the foam, which proved to be too tricky for my untrained hands, so the heel edge of my shoe was pretty jaggedy. We didn’t have a sander in class so I worried that my shoes were just destined to look really unprofessional if you looked too closely at them, but when I got home I used my Drimmel on the edges and it shaved and smoothed down all the wonky looking areas really well. Next time I will make sure to have my sole trimmed to the exact size and shape I want so that all I have to do in the last step is cut the foam rubber, which trims away like butter.

you can see how jagged the edges were in the back before I took my Drimmel to it.

you can see how jagged the edges were at the heel before I used my Drimmel

I wish that I had used a buckle or a rivet on my shoe so that I could have some experience with those components in the workshop, but I did get to use leather stamps which I COMPLETELY fell in love with. I could stamp leather all day! So fun, so effective, so satisfying! As far as the buckles and rivets, they seem to be pretty easy to use with the right tools, so I will add them to my list of (additional) shoe supplies I need, which isn’t super long- it’s mostly leather tools that I haven’t needed before but that I would love to use in the future. I am planning a trip to a shop called Saderma here in LA that is supposed to be an excellent place to find shoe components, findings, and leather.

fitting the upper straps and marking placement before it gets glued down

fitting the upper straps and marking placement before it gets glued down

 

how the pieces will eventually come together

loose idea of the final shoe

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I am so very happy with how these shoes came out and I am beyond excited to make more using The Rachel Process. Her instagram is filled with her own beautiful makes and those of her talented students, so there is plenty of inspiration to be found there. Here are a few of my favorite photos that she posted to her account- I am dying to replicate them!

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Happy shoe-wearing, friends!