A farewell and an apron for a tractorgirl

Sarah and I have been friends for over 20 years. We met in the canteen at school aged 13, in 1995. The news had got around that my parents were taking me to Glastonbury that summer, the Stone Roses due to headline the Saturday night. ‘You b*tch’ or something similar were her first words to me. Luckily for our friendship, John Squire broke his collarbone and Oasis took their place as headliners. Sarah and I have been friends ever since.

 

Now she is leaving London for her spiritual birthplace, Ipswich. A devoted Ipswich Town supporter for her whole life, she has met a local dude who has charmed her away to the wilds of Suffolk. And I’m going to miss her.

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So what do sewists do when their hearts hurt – they sew something right? The idea for this little number bubbled up a few months ago when she announced her plans to move. It was scribbled out on a work pad almost exactly as it ended up.

I drafted my own pattern based heavily on the apron in my own kitchen. I did buy a pattern from Simplicity but the options were all very frou-frou and I wanted something more like the chefs wear on Great British Menu – serviceable and functional.

I traced the general shape and then added some width to the top half as mine was a bit slight up top. I divided the pattern in half where I wanted to join the blue bit to the white bit and added on seam allowances and enough for quite a deep hem at top and bottom.

Next I made the bias binding – my first attempt at this! I went quite thick with it as I wanted the binding to resemble the trim on the Ipswich kit.

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I just cut out a whole tonne of it and stitched it together – in the end it was more than I needed.

The fabric is a cotton drill from Amazon, a real find. It’s super cheap, very sturdy and heavy and the blue was almost a perfect match for the current ITFC kit.

Construction was a matter of sewing the blue top to the white bottom, sewing white bias binding to the top half with long bits hanging at each end for the ties and a loop at the top for the head. I then sewed the blue bias binding onto the bottom sides, again leaving loose ends. I then stitched together the loose ends along the length to make a super sturdy tie. It’s a bit wonky at this point as essentially the bias binding is twisting at the waist, but when tied up it looks ok.

Ipswich Town fan trigger warning: If you don’t want to know how I got the badge, look away now.

I bought an ITFC shirt from the 2006 season off ebay and simply cut out the badge. I had thought about embroidering one but it’s way beyond my skill levels. I set the zig-zag stitch width low on my machine and attached the badge to the apron front around the edge.

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The pocket is a patch pocket with blue bias binding inserted on each side.

The final flourish was the shorts – a suggestion from Mr Pixington – which were again achieved with a narrow zig-zag (is this satin stitch??). I just sketched on the lines with chalk and went for it, came out a charm!

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So good luck to Sarah and Matt and good luck to the Tractorboys. I’ll miss you Boo! xxx

A farewell and an apron for a tractorgirl

Overlocker détente and Happy Birthday to Mum

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A short post today. I’ve been busy making presents for people recently. The first is detailed here, the second is still a surprise so I won’t reveal it until the giftee has been well and truly gifted.

My dearest Mater, known locally as Mum, was desirous of some new cushion covers for her birthday on the 22nd November. She’s been using plain blue boucle numbers for a while that just weren’t setting the sofa alight. So I decided to give home furnishings a go for the first time since my first ever sewing attempt – these curtains – almost 1 year ago today:

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I picked up a fabric at Fabric World in Croydon. I don’t go there very often as the dressmaking fabrics are thin on the ground, but they have an enormous selection of home furnishing fabrics. I have a feeling that what I selected was probably meant more for proper upholstery jobs as it was an extremely coarse weave that just wanted to unravel into nothingness as soon as I touched it.

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But I felt it was the modern Habitat-y vibe I was looking for and the colours will be a nice pop against mum’s brown leather sofas.

The pattern was self-drafted using instructions found here: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/apr/12/how-to-make-simple-cushion-cover

I sewed the covers exactly the same size as the cushion pad with no seam allowances – that way you get a nice plump cushion – but do beware – if you lop off too much with the overlocker (as I almost did), you end up with a cushion cover that’s way too small for your cushion pad.

I did all the construction with my overlocker and only used the sewing machine for hemming the two flaps. Even with the overlocker, I had to go over with a needle and thread afterwards to secure some of the seams due to the super unravelly fabric. The confetti of shredded velvet that rained down upon my living room carpet was apocalyptic. It took a clear 90 minutes to vacuum up all those bits of fluff that got into the deep-pile rug. But, I think the effort was worth it – these look pretty nifty, mum loved them and I feel the overlocker and I have moved a step closer to harmonious co-existence.

Here they are in situ complete with Sandy, the ultimate scrog-dog.

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Overlocker détente and Happy Birthday to Mum

A new toy and a new dress: Cashmerette’s Appleton dress

I needed a smart dress snappy. An impending meal at a posh restaurant and a series of meetings and presentations in the next few weeks are showing up the gaps in my wardrobe. My daily uniform is denim skirt, top, cardi and Converse, I struggle to serve executive realness at the best of times.

So enter Cashmerette and the Appleton wrap dress.

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Can we pause here a moment to thank the maker for this line of patterns? I’ll explain more later, but basically this is the first of a range of patterns designed for those of us with non-Euclidian bodies. The genius is, you pick your cup size and work from there i.e. NO FULL-BUST ADJUSTMENT. I knew this had to be worth a look.

Picking a size was straightforward, you measure bust, waist and hips – see which of the three cup-size options you are (I was E-F cup) and what size you are (I was 14-16 and graded accordingly). I cut,taped and cut again (sucker for PDF patterns) and went for a 16 for tummy and skirt but graded to a 14 for the chest/neck/sleeves.  I also took off about 12cm from the length as I prefer a shorter silhouette and I have short legs.

I had just taken up Lidl on their overlocker for £129 offer so that got dragged out for experimentation too. Early attempts were too awful for words or images, suffice it to say I went to bed with a headache on Friday night having pulled birds nests of threads out from under the needleplate that could have been re-purposed as a wig for a Paul Stanley Halloween costume.

But I persevered and the finish is just so much better than I could get with a sewing machine. I did still sew the seams with the trusty lightning bolt stitch before overlocking to finish though – still not fully confident that I wont chop off way too much of the seam allowance.

I am overlocker, destroyer of fabrics
I am overlocker, destroyer of fabrics

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Overlocked seams
Overlocked seams

So, construction was a breeze. Cut out the bits, pin, sew. Bit of stretching for the neck band. That’s it. It was a really great pattern for growing in confidence using knits. The instructions were perfect, clear and full of tips to make the  more fiddly bits understandable. If you need more detail, there’s also a sewalong (the video on assembling the neckband was really useful).

The fabric was a fairly heavy jersey from Abakhan – its just made the 50% stretch required for the dress and it’s not excessively drapey. It’s more rust coloured than the pics make it look.

So without further delay, here is the finished item. We shot outside the restaurant before lunch (Corrigans Mayfair dontchaknow) while there was still some decent light.

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So the verdict is: I love the dress and I love the overlocker – and lookee here, I practically have an atelier now!

Singer, Janome and Amstel - reliable brands for home sewing
Singer, Janome and Amstel – reliable brands for home sewing

The fit is great, it’s booby (which I do favour in a garment) but not obscene. I could wear it to work no worries. I made it in a day and will be making several more to bolster up smarter end of the wardrobe.

So here’s me grinning with a miniature pumpkin saying ciao for now.

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A new toy and a new dress: Cashmerette’s Appleton dress

Waffle Patterns’ Cookie Blouson – sewing level up!

Over the last three weeks I’ve been working on this little number:

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I.  Love. This. Jacket. The moment our eyes met I knew we were meant to be. It’s the Cookie Blouson from Waffle Patterns. It’s my perfect jacket – short, casual, faintly reminiscent of a Harrington. I came across Yuki’s gorgeous collection when they were featured as part of Sewing Indie month. I didn’t have time to get the project finished in time for that particular event, but immediately bought and downloaded the pattern and moved it right up the queue.

I’ve been wearing a shoddy old leather jacket for the last 4 winters and it’s now held together with safety pins. Since I resolved to buy no RTW this year (except for tights which I can’t make!) and autumn was setting in, the need to get this stitched was becoming urgent.

The Fabric:

This is a grey plaid suiting fabric that I picked up in Cologne while visiting for a festival. The festival was ok but the fabric shopping was just perfection. I strode into one of the Stoffhausen and confidently asked for ‘dreimal meter bitte’ only to discover that due to an almost invisible flaw in the fabric I was given vier for the price of drei. Nicht schlecht!

I made a bit of an error when I bunged this on a 40 degree wash though…see these streaks? Ah well, in the end I decided I didn’t mind as it gave it a ‘distressed’ look (punk sewing strikes again).

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The lining is a cotton lawn that was on offer on Abakhan and lends the jacket a business on the outside/party on the inside vibe. It rather puts me in mind of the Croatian flag meets a jockey’s outfit from the Palio di Siena.

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The rib is just a ribbed jersey from Amazon – it’s got very little stretch to be honest and I think I’d go for a stretchier rib if doing this again.

The Pattern

As I said, this is from Waffle Patterns. I have all sorts of plans to make some of the other patterns on this site, but this is the one that spoke to me. I used to have a Harrington jacket that I was utterly in love with and this just reminded me of it

The pattern itself is just the pieces for the jacket with the high collar. But you can download for free the pattern pieces and instructions for the hooded version – which I did. For instructions on adding the lining, you can follow the instructions on Yuki’s blog. There’s no extra pieces, rather instructions on using the shell pieces to cut your lining.

The PDF pattern is layered which is simply ingenious. I printed the size I thought I wanted plus one larger and one smaller meaning that only three sets of lines appeared on my pattern. This made cutting, tracing and adjusting so easy.

I experimented a lot with the fit of this, and ended up making three toiles. The first was an ill-advised size 44 which didn’t need sleeves to tell me it was too small across the bust. The second was a size 46 with one shortened sleeve and one really shortened sleeve. The bodice fit was perfect, but the sleeves were an issue. As a general rule, I, like Jerry Seinfeld, detest puffy sleeves.

I figured that a big part of the issue causing excess shoulder puffation was the fact that the yoke was too wide across the shoulder. So, I graded to a 44 for all sections effecting the armscye and the sleeve, sewed up another toile and was finally satisfied with the puff levels. However, if anyone has ideas on how to completely take out sleeve cap gathers in favour of a basic set-in sleeve, please let me know.

I left the bodice length the same and ended up only taking out 4” to bring up the elbow line as the full length sleeve was off the ends of my hands.

Cutting

This took me 2 days. There were 27 pieces not including the interfacing. I wanted to get it right and pattern match where possible, but I’m still not sure how it managed to take me this long.

Assembly

OK so in terms of the instructions the ones that came with the purchased pattern were great. They are full colour with clearly labelled drawings. Where this got complex was having to juggle two sets of printed instructions (one for the jacket shell and one for the hood) and online instructions for making and attaching the lining. I had to go back and forth a lot to make sure I was doing each step in the right order. It would be really great if at some point Waffle are able to make a single set of instructions for at least the jacket plus lining. There are some quirky uses of English throughout the instructions but this wasn’t an issue especially as the pics were very clear. Sewists who have made lined jackets before would have no problems I suspect.

This was a real step up for me in terms of technique. I would have described myself as low-intermediate beforehand, but tackling pockets, hoods, linings, zips, sleeves and the like has really stretched me. There were some  classic head scratching moments especially when piecing the lining together. The lining pieces (as would be obvious to someone more experienced than I) need to have the facings subtracted from them. I struggled with this and many other concepts throughout assembly, becoming especially confused as right side and wrong side have a completely different meaning when talking about a lining!

I did drop a few clangers too:

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This happened constantly
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Unintentional pleat
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Yet another failure to line up edges

I seemed to struggle endlessly to ease the curved pieces together – and they were ALL curved – which meant a lot of unpicking and struggling with an unresistant fabric. I’m thinking this was a combo of poor technique, incorrect tension and perhaps the wrong machine foot too?

The error to end them all however was the amazing MC Escher Moebius Strip jacket. I somehow twisted the lining on the arms when attaching the zip. I spent late Saturday night endlessly turning the jacket and the lining inside and out to try and untwist them before giving in and unpicking my work.

There were upsides however, like this not half bad pattern matching!

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The final outcome

So here she is. Forgive the assortment of locations. The clocks went back on Sunday and London is dark even at 5pm. We took to the streets to find decent light levels making use of the Fish ‘n’ Chip shop and a halogen security lamp.

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Reflections

What really struck me about this jacket was, as soon as it was finished it was just ‘my jacket’. It went straight onto the coat hook as if I had owned it forever. Somehow in the process of cutting, sewing, pressing, fitting, unpicking and resewing it I had already worn it in. One of the things I most love about making my own clothes is how nothing needs to be worn in, it already fits to my proportions, the fabric is already softened by being handled through the process.

This was a challenge but nonetheless a delight. Seeing my husband’s impressed face when I pulled it on for the first time was a real treat – I think it means I have come a long way from dirndl skirts and jersey tops! I think I levelled up on this one 🙂

So thank you Yuki for this fabulous pattern, thank you Cologne for the fabric, thank you John for being the ever patient photographer and thank you Frydays for the delicious chips!

Waffle Patterns’ Cookie Blouson – sewing level up!

Punk Sewing: A pair of jersey tops

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Today I bring you a pair of tops, one is a wearable toile (a sizing test that I liked enough to keep), the other is the so-called Dead Kennedys top.

The pattern was a freebie from Simply Sewing mag, the first I have used of theirs. For my views on the pattern and instructions, keep reading.

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For the toile, I used some black jersey I had in the stash. This was bought from amazon a long time ago so I’m no longer sure of the composition, but I’m fairly sure it was a viscose elastane. Very, very drapey and super comfortable to wear. The circle skirt I made with it was a disaster as you can imagine as the hem ended up being horribly uneven.

I cut a straight size 18 with no adjustments (I mean it’s jersey, who could be bothered?) and sewed it up in a couple of hours. I’d been painstakingly sewing the Mimi blouse at the same time and just wanted to finish something quick. The recovery is awful and I suspect it will be in the bin in 3 months time, but my goodness if it isn’t the most comfortable, practically pajamas work top I’ve ever had. Despite being tent-like in proportions, I think it’s also somewhat flattering too.

'scuse pic quality
‘scuse pic quality

So, onto the second iteration, what I’m referring to as my Dead Kennedys top. Check out the print – check it out perfectly lining up with my copy of Fresh Fruits for Rotting Vegetables. Check it out also blending beautifully with Stations of the Crass. This fabric is punk, it belongs here!

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There’s nothing quite as punk as stitching up a sensible stretchy top to wear to the office *cough*. Anyway…this time I opted for a 16 as the waistband on the 18 was very baggy. I was fully prepared for a different finish here as the black and white fabric is significantly less drapey with a much better recovery. I have no idea what the composition is, but it’s 4 way stretch  and much thicker than the viscose. This was a remnant purchased off ebay.

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I had no issues putting it together except that I have a horrible feeling that the needle that was put back in the ballpoint needles box was not in fact ballpoint. I had to re-thread the machine about 30 times as the thread shredded itself to pieces, still making do is kinda punk right? I’m not some corporate monkey, using the correct needle for the fabric is for crypto-fascist warmongers, me and Jello Biafra refuse to follow your rules! You don’t see the Subhumans pressing all their seams, Penny Rimbaud scoffs at those who pre-wash their fabric!

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Reflections

These were easy as pie to make but I should note that the instructions were a bit sparse. I know it’s obvious that you need to sew, but the instructions went from: ‘pin X and Y together’ to ‘give it all a final press’. It also didn’t mention anywhere the need to stretch your neck band, waistband and sleeve bands to fit the bodice – it’s obvious if you’ve worked with jersey before but if you hadn’t you might be thinking you’d cut the wrong size pieces by a significant margin.

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I in fact forgot about the stretching rules at one point and have ended up with a gape on one side – don’t tell anyone k?

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As much as I’d like to imagine myself as an anarcho-syndicalist living on a commune with Crass, I do in fact work for the ‘man’ (or woman in fact), so in that vein I’d highly recommend following the rules of engagement for knits here: use a ballpoint needle, don’t struggle through for heaven’s sake like I did. And I really, really should have done a few tests to get the tension right first rather than arsing about with a seam ripper for half the night. Oh yeah, and it really isn’t punk to finish the seam allowances on jersey, so why did I waste my time doing that?

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All in all though, I’m pretty chuffed, they are comfy, the maternity vibe is not so strong here, and anyone who knows me knows that I can;t resist a boat neck – so I’m happy. One visible bra strap good, 2 visible bra straps better.

Final word:

Q. How many anarchists does it take to change a light bulb?

A. We don’t want to change it we want to smash it!

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Punk Sewing: A pair of jersey tops

Tilly & the Buttons Mimi Blouse

This weekend I finally finished a project that has been hanging around in the pile of shame for a loooong time. I’ve been working on this Mimi blouse (from Tilly’s book, Love at First Stitch) for several months.

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There are several reasons why this has taken so long. Firstly, fitting. I always make toiles as a rule, this blouse needed 3. I cut a straight size 7 overall fist time round. While this was fine on the waist, it was way too tight on the bust. Next I tried an 8 tapering to a 7 – still too tight. So I needed to attempt a full bust adjustment. I’m afraid the reasons are lost in the mists of time, but I couldn’t (or wouldn’t?) use a slash technique for this and instead used a slidey-pivoty technique as explained here: Maria Denmark

3 toiles down and I was finally happy – although I was so focused on getting the front right that I missed a vital fitting issue on the back as you will see later.

The only other adjustment I made was to shorten the bodice as I wanted this to hit just below the waistband of my jeans/skirts, I don’t do tucking-in.

The second reason for my tardiness was the fabric. It’s a Liberty Tana lawn and at the time of purchase was the most expensive fabric in my stash. I even prevaricated over pre-washing it in case I wrecked it.

Close up of Liberty Tana Lawn - Gallymoggers!
Close up of Liberty Tana Lawn – known as Gallymoggers!

The print is a gorgeous Alice in Wonderland pattern as you can see. I only bought 2 metres which caused even more delay. I realised that there was no way to get all the pattern pieces out of this fabric and a contrast yoke and facings would be necessary. Cue a 2 week wait while a hastily picked selection of plain dye lawns made their way over from India via ebay.

I lumped for the black in end, thinking it would make a nice Rockabilly/bowling shirt effect – the 3 blues that came weren’t quite right.

So, on to cutting, finally. This was nerve-wracking as I was determined to make sure each piece was the right way up! Simple you would think but I have done dafter things. I only have a tiny table for cutting so have to do things a piece at a time.

Construction then took another 6 weeks. In the time this was hanging next to the machine I churned out endless jersey tops, skirts and a dress but Mimi just hung there, folorn. First it was a lack of decent black thread. Then not having enough buttons. Then deciding I hated the sleeves (we made up in the end).

This was one of those makes that really didn’t look like it was going anywhere until it was finally done.

Finally, late Monday night I took the plunge and used my machine’s automatic buttonhole setting for the first time. I liked it so much I went a bit daft and put not 8, not 10 but 9 buttonholes on the blouse where I’m sure 6 or 7 would have done fine. Ah well. They are lovely black glittery buttons again from ebay.

And here she is:

cheerfully posing on the balcony
cheerfully posing on the balcony

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The only other major design change I made was to insert black piping in the collar. I wanted more black accents to match the yoke and realised too late that I could have just cut the collar facing a bit larger and rolled the seam to the outside – ho-um, I think this looks pretty natty.

Reflections: It took an age and I lost faith many times but overall I’m really pleased with this, It’s good for work and looks lovely layered with a cardigan (I’m almost never without a cardigan).

See, great with a cardi, as are we all
See, great with a cardi, as are we all

In terms of fitting, I think the front of the blouse has come out really well. The back however…I know this is meant to be ‘blousey’ but there’s just too much excess back there.

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Look at that excess fabric on the back! No don’t look, I can’t bear it

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I’d never come across the word ‘swayback’ before I started sewing and never thought for a second I’d need to make such adjustments, but the acres of spare fabric back there are telling a different story. Under a cardi it’s not such a big deal, but I may consider adding darts for next summer.

I may also swap out the sleeve facings for black to complete the accents, not sure yet!

Tilly & the Buttons Mimi Blouse

Saying goodbye

Today I said goodbye to an old friend. Meet ‘My First Sewing Machine’:

'MFSM'
‘MFSM’

MFSM* was part of a treasure trove of sewing accoutrements I received upon the death of my Auntie Florrie just over a year ago. Flo was a home-dressmaker for most of her 94 years and this machine was bought to replace a gorgeous Frister and Rossman machine that had finally given up after 40 odd years of service.

Auntie Flo
Auntie Flo

Having learned to sew** on MFSM and made several garments I decided to invest in a Janome CXL301 in order to have access to a wider range of stitches and also to spare my poor neighbours from the ungodly noise of me zigzagging seam allowances on MFSM at 11 at night.

So MFSM  is now going to be someone else’s First. The delightful Jasmin, a friend of excellent vintage – we’ve known each other since we were 4! – is taking on MFSM to create beautiful things of her own.

I’ll miss you MFSM, I’ll miss how noisy you were, and how you only had two speeds: off and 100mph. I’ll miss the excitement of doing 4  step buttonholes and praying that i could at least get two the same. I’ll miss how narked you seemed when I forgot to remove pins and you wailed in irritation and exploded needles all over me.

Imagine now that it’s that special time at the Oscars where we say goodbye to Hollywood types who passed this year. Barbara Streisand has just sung ‘The Way we Were’*** as we look back at some special moments from MFSW history.

Memories…

Tulle skirt for a wedding
Tulle skirt for a wedding

…like the corners of my mind

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Princess Leia dress for husband

Misty water coloured memories…

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Huipil top, was part of a Frida Kahlo costume

of the way we were.

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Dirdnl skirt with Delft pattern cotton

Scattered pictures…

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Collete patterns bloomers

of the smiles we left behind

Baby bibs
Baby bibs

Smiles we gave to one another…

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T&TB Delphine A-line skirt

For the way we were.

Bye bye MFSW, be good for Jasmin and try to stay threaded please.

*I should probably be honest here and admit that I was the recipient some years earlier of the Frister and Rossman antique. It was a beautiful thing in it’s own piece of furniture and drawers full of crumbling notions. I tried several times to get my head around it before passing it on via Freecycle to a young couple expecting their first child. I couldn’t even be trusted to dust it and I think it’s in a better place now.

**I did in fact ‘learn’ to sew at school in a unique kind of torture known as Textiles. The bully (read: teacher) had 0 patience and I think in two years I only managed to learn how to thread a machine. I received an E grade of which I am exceptionally proud.

***You can substitute Bette Middler and ‘Wind Beneath my Wings’ or Celine Dion with any old rubbish

Saying goodbye