We Like to Boogie

Flared jeans, I’m never taking them off!

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Jeans.  The staple of just about everyone’s wardrobe since the 70s.  They come in various guises, colours and lengths but we cannot get enough of them.  Since their introduction as basic workwear they have undergone dramatic transformations in style, detail and of course, the fabric they’re made of.  The quest for the perfect pair of jeans is rather like the Quest for the Holy Grail.  We’d do anything to find them, including shelling out large amouts of money on designer jeans.  But us sewists are the lucky ones, we can make our own!

I’ve made jeans for the girls before, but never made a “proper” pair for myself.  I bought a couple of Hot Patterns jeans, came very short with the one and gave up on the idea.  Then the Closet Case Gingers came along & I bought the PDF immediately.  I even bought fabric, but when it came to the crunch I chickened out of actually making them.  I just wasn’t convinced about the styling and fitting – that they’d look good on me. I’d already justified the purchase of the pattern, I was going to use the skinny version for the girls, of course…

In the intervening months I bought more stretch denim, black, caramel & beautiful blue.  They liked my stash, too happy there to ever come out & be used.

The style is always the thing I get stuck on.  I like a straight leg, but you just cannot beat a bootcut or flare to make your legs look longer, or to balance out a larger body/hip.  I buy bootcut jeans whenever I can and love a flare.  My ordinary trousers can attest to that!  Then in December I started seeing flared jeans aplenty on the internet.  Sewists were making flared jeans!  Where is that pattern!  I NEEDED it!

I bought the Baste + Gather Birkin Flared Jeans on my birthday at the end of December (getting Mr W to print the pattern on A0 at the office, ssshhhh).  I had the fabric, I had the pattern.  Just to make it up…  Now Daughter No1 is safely wandering around Thailand with a rucksack of handmade goodies to wear, I can turn my attention to sewing for myself again, and JEANS are on the top of the list!

I started tracing the pattern last week, finishing on Monday this week and finally making a half toile.  I really wanted to check the fit around the top half, the length wasn’t a big worry.  I made the size 35, based on my waist measurement.  Apparently the hip should have been a size lower, but I have a bum & tum to fit into that space and with 3inches (7.5cm) negative ease, I wasn’t taking any chances!! After the toile I decided to add a little (5mm) to the inseam on both legs to accommodate wide thighs and curved out a little extra on the CB seat seam.  I also wanted to change the opening of the fly from the right to the left.  All of my trousers are left hand opening, & I can’t explain how confused I was trying to open and close the toile with my right hand!  Silly, yes??  The rest seemed ok & I couldn’t wait to start!

I chose a dark charcoal denim with 2% lycra from the stash.  I’d bought it from Croft Mill Fabrics around this time last year!  It has a fabulous handle, soft on the underside, and a slight sheen to it.  I thought it would be perfect as a slightly dressier look than “normal” coloured denim.  Threads, zip & button were all from the stash.

I really like the instructions for this pattern.  All are well written and illustrated and you really cannot go wrong with them.  I think quite a few pairs of jeans were taken apart to provide the exact level of detail that has gone into this pattern.  It’s the best way to learn to make things – take something apart and see how it was put together in the first place!  I used white pocketing for the pockets and instead of simply sewing the bottom seam and overlocking, I make some quick French seams.  Hopefully this should be stronger, depending on what I decide to jam into my pockets!

Collage fly zip front pockets
French seamed pockets, a vintage button and more topstitching details.

The fly is inserted in a way that not many sewists will be used to, it’s a method used mostly in industry for men’s wear.  But it’s well described and goes together well.  The only thing I’d say is, if you have the right length zip (I had 5″) you will not have to cut off anything, pliers will be unnecessary and you will skim past the bottom end of the zip with your topstitching.

Collage fly topstitch detail
Zip details & topstitching

Topstitching……  I don’t use topstitching thread most of the time but for jeans you need that thicker thread for a more authentic look.  I have in my needle box a twin denim needle, perfect for accurate double lines of topstitching on the perfect jeans.  Except my Bernina didn’t like it at all.  It allowed me the satisfaction of neatly stitched pocket top edges and then stopped.  Any more attempts resulted in a hissy fit and a nice lump of thread under the fabric.  Similar effects happened when trying to use a single row of topstitching.  I have to add here that I didn’t use a topstitching needle.  That’s one thing I didn’t have to hand and the local haberdashery didn’t stock so exotic an item.  The stitching looks ok from the top, but when you turn the fabric over there’s a lovely collection of loops of topstitch thread and the bobbin thread is ineffective.  I tried tightening the bobbin tension but nothing worked.  Just to show how perverse my fabulous Bernina is, it was perfectly happy for me to use the jeans twin needle with normal thread in one needle and topstitch thread in the other.  Machines! *throws hands in the air*

Collage topstitching pockets
Adventures in topstitching, using the twin denim needle only lasted the top of the pockets. No decorated back pockets this time, I was far too impatient!
Collage twin needle topstitching
Various attempts at topstitching, bottom left you can see the loops of topstitch thread on the underside, right you can see the compromise, twin needle with 1 topstitch & 1 ordinary thread.

There is even a little trick to make sure the centre back seam still looks like it’s in the centre, topstitching and all.  You place one back leg piece 1cm away from the other, then stitch at the normal 1.5cm seam, once you iron the seams in one direction and turn it over to the right side, you’ve (hopefully) got a matching yoke seam and what appears to be an even placement of the pockets.  Topstitching can seriously throw the symmetry off, even if it all measures the same, visually it’s tricky!

Collage back seam detail
Centering the CB seam

But seriously folks, my misbehaving machine was the only issue I had with the construction of these jeans.  That and my over-enthusiastic estimation of the length of my legs!  I measured the inseam of 34inches (84cm) with my boots on and determined it was a good length for me…  Erm, nope!  I chopped off 8cm and turned up 2.5 for the hem!  I didn’t have to worry about loosing too much of the flare (there’s plenty!) thank goodness.  I have now used the shortening lines to take out 2cm in the mid-thigh and another 2 mid-calf.  The remainder will come off the bottom, it’ll be fine! ;)

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Never taking these off…

Once on, the jeans are so good!  The high waist, and it is high, ensures no muffin top, HURRAY!  In photos of other versions of the jeans the waistand doesn’t to be as high as it is on me, but the lower edge of the waistband sits on the top of my hip bones, so it cannot go any lower if it is to be a high or natural waist.  But I likes it!  I didn’t think I’d be going back to waistlines on the natural waist ever, but I might be persuaded now.

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By the way, that’s a new tee!  Made last night after a day of gallivanting, I needed to do something productive.  Luckily it was already cut out the night before so all it needed was a little Vilene bias tape for the shoulder seams and it was good to go!  The pattern is a self drafted one.  I shortened the sleeve from the original version which I wore to the dreaded wedding in December.  The fabric is the most beautiful viscose jersey from Ditto Fabrics, the drape is fabulous and it’s so soft!!  It’s my second make for the summer (who said I was wishing the year away??)

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Happy in my new jeans, just need a bit of healthy eating to remove that tummy sticking out there!

Mr W likes these jeans, says the fit is really good, so I must have done something right! :)  Apparently there will be an “add-on” for this pattern which involved making the legs into skinnies.  Could be interesting.  I’d prefer a straight leg myself, and with a fit around the top as good as this one, playing with the legs to make millions of pairs of jeans will be so much more fun!

ps, this is my just-in-time sumbission for Jeans in January!

 

A Head Full of Dreams

A hit or a miss?

Dreams of winter coats… Now maybe in a colder, snowier climate, white and cream are fine for outerwear, but it’s not the most obvious choice for a coat in the UK.  It’s far to wet and muddy here in the winter.  So why make a white coat you ask?  Because I had the fabric, is my answer!

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Burda Jacket/coat 117 September 2015 9 (a little longer IRL!)

I spotted this “coat” number 117 in the September 2015 issue of Burdastyle magazine and rather liked it.  Not altogether my style, but something about it kept me coming back to look at it.  Then I remembered I had 3m of off white/cream basketweave English wool in my stash.  I’d bought it from Arkwright’s Mill in Derbyshire in 2012 for a song, £6/m!!  Originally I had intended to dye it, even on a good day that amount of cream/white does nothing for me.  But how do you dye a 3m x1.5m length of fairly heavyweight wool?  I certainly didn’t have the facilities.  So it sat in the stash.

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Cream English wool coat and dark grey herringbone tape for the edges

I thought, if I made the coat in the wool and it didin’t turn out quite right I wouldn’t have lost anything, beause the fabric wasn’t doing anything anyway.  I thought I’d make it a little better for me by buying an awful lot of dark grey herringbone cotton tape for all the edges. Of course, having mis-read the amounts, I bought 20cm too little and had to get another whole metre to rectify it, but that’s all done.

The pattern pieces are huge!  I suddenly wasn’t sure I had enough for the whole thing,but managed to fit all the pieces on the fabric by opening it out and cutting in a single layer.  The belt had to be pieced but I don’t think it’s noticable.  The tape was sewn on by hand – all of it!  I ironed the tape in half, lengthwise (of course) and pinned like mad.  I sewed one side, then the other, in sections and mitered all the corners.  That’s a shedload of hand stitching folks.

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Coat with pinned grey herringbone tape, awaiting handstitching…

So, the pattern itself.  It’s a big, chunky style, narrower at the hem.  I used the overlocker for everything as the insides are easily seen and the coat is not lined.  There are no hems or facings, the edges are bound with bias or seam tape. The belt goes through a slit in the right front/side to wrap around the body, but apart from that slit, there’s nothing holding the belt in place, so you have to wear it tied up constantly, or leave it off.  I added a chunky belt carrier to the centre back to there’d be more support for the belt, but in actual fact, now I am wearing the coat I prefer it unbelted.

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I stil wasn’t sure whether or not it was “me”.  Wrapped over and tied up I felt like a bag of potatoes.  There was too much cream, too much bulk.  I’d made the 44, but wonder if, with the size of everything, that a smaller size wouldn’t have been better.  Possibly it just doesn’t suit my body shape.  Those big flappy “lapels” all in white over my front just seem to enlarge everything from where I look – down.

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Can I just say that while I’m not sold on the bulk, I love the huge turn-ups on the sleeves, and the decent size in-seam pockets!

After making it in plenty of time for the cold winter the coat languished in my wardrobe.  It was never cold enough to wear!  Until last week, finally proper winter temperatures, frost on the ground and the car.  Cold enough for a heavy, warm wrap around coat.  I make sure to wear it with dark coloured clothes and scarf, and never, ever tie it shut!  It looks better draping down and the dark scarf and trousers underneath at least give a hint that there might be a shape under all that bulk!  Saying that, the cream is still the least practical colour I could ever have chosen to buy!  I must remember that although dying fabrics is a great idea, I need to actually be able to do it.

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So for now, I wear the coat.  I don’t love it and I don’t think it’s amazing, but it is at least being worn.  You never know, I might cut it up and make something else out of it for next winter!  Or send it to a charity shop, which would be a shame….

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These photos were all taken after I’d finished the coat back in October, sadly thankfully I have no-one to take a pic of the coat belted, seriously, you really wouldn’t want to see it anyway.  I am working on a pair of Birkin Flared Jeans by Baste & Gather at the moment, looking forward to seeing them with this coat! :)

 

 

 

 

A Hot Weather Dress

My sewing machine has been working overtime during the last week and a bit, quickly trying to make the last few things for Daughter No 1.  The departure for her planned travel to Asia, Australia & America has finally come.  Amongst the things I made for her (which I will cover in another post) was this dress.  She wanted something that would just hang, not cling, and be cool to wear in the tropical humidity of Thailand, something suitable for cocktails on the beach in Fiji & totally wearable when exploring Rodeo Drive.  It needed to have fullness, but not be a tent.  She didn’t want extra fullness in the front, hanging from the bust.  She drew me a sketch of what she had in mind, then left me to it.

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A sketch of the dress Daughter No1 wanted for her travels

I started with her close fitting bodice block, drawing a one piece dress block and then converting it to the lingerie block.  This involves reducing ease and doubling the size of the bust dart.  For the dress pattern the bust dart was moved to the underarm position.  I added a section to the side, from the waist to make the fullness.  The double darts in front and back were eliminated, but the back dart was effectively transferred into the centre back, making the back shaped and fitted.  I also needed a swayback adjustment of about 2cm.  I intended to use an invisible zip in the centre back, French seams throughout and self bias for the top edges and straps.

Collage Handkerchief Dress Toile
The toile in cotton. The swayback adjustment hadn’t been done.

The toile revealed that I needed a swayback adjustment, and that I needed to alter the fit of the top.  Daughter No1 wanted it a little looser.   I was concerned about the hang of the handkerchief section, but hoped that in the silk that we’d chosen that it would look a lot better.

Collage handerchief dress
Dress in progress, silk definitely drapes better than cotton! And the swayback adjustment worked a treat.

The silk was given to me by a friend, it’s got the most beautiful sheen and drape, but for me, it was just a little too bold.  However, Daughter No1 loved it!  The bands are a red and white hatched pattern, while the blue is actually purple and black.  I only had two metres and it was pretty narrow but we had just enough to squeeze the dress out.  I was worried that there wouldn’t be enough for the bias strips.  Thankfully that wasn’t the case in the end, I didn’t really need that much bias.  But please remind me that working with narrow bias in silk really isn’t easy, and tries the patience of anyone, especially when you’re up against the clock.

Collage zip
Putting an invisible zip into a french seam, reinforcing the area with fine interfacing.

I made the pattern on Saturday night, toiled it midday Sunday, made the adjustments and got cracking immediately.  It had to be finished by 11am on Monday morning!!  Needless to say I was still handstitching bias at 11am so we left a little late for the airport, but all was good, she loved the dress and stuffed it into the rucksack straight away!  I am hoping to see photos of it in far of exotic places on Instagram soon!  Here it is on Betty, my vintage mannequin.

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I love the drape at the sides, and the slight drop of the handkerchief hem.  I really do hope it sees lots of wear in the next 6 months!

Like Mother, Like Daughter

Wendy Ward Longley Cardi
Wendy Ward Longley Cardi

Here we go with the first of the “proper” post of 2016!  I really like waterfall cardigans, floaty, drapey and mostly in jersey or fine knit fabrics.  So when Wendy Ward released the Longley Cardi I was keen to make one up.  I wanted the right fabric though.  This entailed online fabric searches, fabric store rummaging and general procrastination.  Then I found something…  A fine silvery sweater knit at Croft Mill Fabrics.  At just £4.50 a metre it wasn’t going to be a train smash if it didn’t work!  I loved the fabric when it came, silver & sparkly & drapey!

DSC00238I traced the largest size (honestly my measurements were a tad bigger) and thought I’d just wing it…  The cardi is really quick to make, once the pieces are cut out and pinned together (making sure the neckline and shoulders are reinforced with Vilene bias tape) the overlocker makes short work of it.  Making took me 2 hours flat.  The instructions are simple, easy to follow and pretty obvious really.  The “booklet” is a ribbon bound couple of pages that keeps everything short and sweet, unlike some indies who think you need 4 pages of fabric layouts….

DSC00239DSC00243Originally I was making the cardi just as it comes, there are long cuffs to add to the end of the sleeves, but once it was done and I’d put it on I realised they had to go!  In a different, sturdier, fabric they’d probably be fine, but the sleeve is the perfect length for me without the deep cuff.  In the fine sweater knit they just drooped and slip off over my hand.  I hadn’t worn jumpers in that way (pulled over my hand) since high school!! :)  So I cut them off and tapering the sleeve towards the end slightly, just turned up a 1.5cm hem and used the twin needle to stitch it in place.  Works perfectly!

Longley Cardi with the long cuffs
Longley Cardi with the long cuffs

I’ve worn this cardi loads!!  It works brilliantly to dress up jeans & with pretty much every top in my wardrobe, it’s silver, the perfect colour!!  Now I am on the look out for a good ponte to make another – for me.  Because I’ve already made another for Daughter no2.

Blue marle Longley Cardi
Blue marle Longley Cardi

There were admiring glances cast in the direction of my silver cardi on one of her weekends home from uni, so I offered to make her one of her own (before mine disappeared) in another fine knit I had in the stash.  I’d got it from FabricLand in Reading back in August and had used a bit of it, but having bought 3m still had plenty left.

DSC00214Again, an easy and very quick make, and again, I omitted the cuffs.  Then I wrapped it up and popped it into ther Christmas present pile!  Since getting it I think she’s worn it constantly!  I made the smallest size for her and no alterations at all.  Now I just need to make one for daughter no1…

I love the way the back flows softly down the the front points
https://bellemegan.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=2451&action=edit I love the way the back flows softly down the the front points

So if you’re thinking of a drapey cardi that you can throw on over – or under, anything, this one is great!  Really quick to make, easy to put together and looks pretty darned good to boot!

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Welcome 2016, any chance you saw what happened to 2015?

Well, there it is then, a new year.  A fresh twelve months in which to attempt to clear the stash, sort the piles of wobbly fabrics begging to be made and rifle through pages of Burda patterns, PDFs and pattern cutting books.

2015 passed in a bit of a blur for me, it’s wasn’t my most sucessful year!  So here’s to a new beginning, although I am certainly not going to write any resolutions or that sort of stuff.  I find if I make those things too definite, they never get done! (weird I know)

I’d like to start by welcoming followers, new and old to my little world of sewing and fabric buying.  There will be posts (intermittent) and purchases (frequent), and in my head I would have written a dozen blog posts a month – definitely not per week.  So if you can possibly stand the non-regularity with which I run my life, it’ll be good to see you all on the other side.

I am at present looking at a whole stack of things I have made in the last few months, but apart from a little peak on Instagram, haven’t shown anyone.  Not sure whether to correct this by running up a pile of posts or cramming the makes into just a few round-up posts.  I might let you guys decide.

In the meantime, enjoy munching the last few slices of Christmas cake, putting away the remains of the decorations and thinking of gym memberships.  I will start working on actually showing you all what I’ve been making, what I thought of it and whether it’s worth making again!

Happy New Year everyone!

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Wearing handmade to a winter wedding

Best laid plans & all that

Sooo…  Sewing an Autumn/Winter wardrobe.  Sort of going ok, but a little sidetracked!  A wedding invitation has scuppered my sewing plans a little.  Admittedly, we did receive the invitation some time ago, definitely way before I made my sewing plans, but like all things I dread, I’d pushed it to the back of my mind.

The dreaded invitation...
The dreaded invitation…

Initially I thought of chanelling a bit of a 70’s vibe, maybe some flared trousers, a crossover top with bishop sleeves, that sort of thing.  But then I reconsidered, I didn’t want to be looking like I was supposed to be attending a themed Christmas party and got lost.  The wedding is on the 19th December and we’re invited to the whole shebang, not just the dancing and snacks afterwards, so I wanted something that would look good from 1pm to 1am!

Some outfit ideas - no 70s vibes!
Some outfit ideas – no 70s vibes!

Now I’m a daywear sort of person, sure I like the idea of dressing up, but we just don’t go out much – blame Mr (not) Compulsive, he works too much.  So I have nothing I could just whip out and wear, not that I’d do that anyway, who needs an excuse to make another outfit??

Here's an idea...
Here’s an idea…

After much deliberation, head scratching and hair pulling I had a brainwave.  Plain simple black trousers (there was a nice pattern in a BurdaStyle magazine last year) with a silvery coloured top, drapey (cue the timely launch of Colette Patterns Wren crossover dress) and something to keep me warm, I liked the Longley Cardigan by Wendy Ward.

So I bought said Wren PDF pattern with bonus sleeve pack (why don’t they just sell it with one longsleeve, marked for short, elbow and 3/4 length??), thinking I’d chop it at hip length and make a peplum sort of thing, I already had coming in the post a silvery-grey slubby jersey from Clothspot. I’d been eyeing it for a while and when I discovered it has suddenly moved into the remnants section I realised I could put off buying it no longer!  It seemed perfect, crossover top with peplum in silver-grey slubby jersey, the black trouser fabric was on its way from Croft Mill Fabrics and all I needed to find was the perfect colour boiled wool for the cardi.

Wren toile
Wren toile

But I didn’t like the Wren-as-top.  I’d made some pre-toile alterations, widening the ridiculously narrow sleeve, making it 3/4 length instead of elbow, doing a FBA and lengthening the bodice slightly.  Turns out I needed to lengthen dramatically and choose a different size to FBA.  I decided I couldn’t be bothered right now.  I wanted to make all the other fabric taking up room on the cutting table too!!

Unimpressed face
Unimpressed face

I reverted to a favourite shape, a drape cowl.  Using my tee-shirt block developed earlier in the year I had a little play with cowl depth and drape and made 3 versions, the last was the happy choice.

Making the cowl drape front pattern
Making the cowl drape front pattern
Testing the drape and cowl depth on vintage Betty
Testing the drape and cowl depth on vintage Betty, this is version two.

So quick to make up and the silver-grey jersey is perfect in it!  I didn’t go straight to the silver stuff though.  To make sure I was perfectly happy with it all I used a sort of denim blue-grey jersey from Fancy Silk Store and made the pattern up.  I’ve worn that tee soo much!  (Really needs its own post)

A very wearable, and much worn already, first version of the cowl drape tee.
A very wearable, and much worn already, first version of the cowl drape tee.

The wedding version was cut & made in a couple of hours using the overlocker and twin needle on my sewing machine.  One down, two to go! You’ll see good, proper pictures when the whole outfit is done..

Almost done just needing hems.
Almost done just needing hems.
Trying it out for the first time, I like it!!
Trying it out for the first time, I like it!!

I hae toiled the Burdastyle trousers I thought I wanted.  Turns out they weren’t quite what was in my mind, so I’ve drafted a pair from my own block, toiled and fiddled and am ready to cut the main fabric – today!! Fingers crossed…

ps.  I still haven’t given any thought the the “fancy headgear” referred to in the invitation.  Help…?

Contrast Birgitte

Maria Denmark Birgitte contrast tee
Maria Denmark Birgitte contrast tee

One of the items in my huge pile of goodies to make this season was an idea to use up some of the smaller, left over pieces of jersey from my original Birgitte and the Tessuti Mandy top.  I had in mind a sort of double layer tee, with bits of the under layer peeking out from the upper, but an investigation of the remaining bits of fabric showed there wasn’t enough for my plan.  So I thought of something with a “yoke” instead.

Making sure seams stay lined up while overlocking is such a pain!  I knew I should have done more to ensure these areas stayed put!
Making sure seams stay lined up while overlocking is such a pain! I knew I should have done more to ensure these areas stayed put!

I was really happy with the fit of the Maria Denmark Birgitte, so decided to use that as a basis for my fiddling.  I went with the scoop neck nee this time, lifting the neckline by 5cm in order to create the yoke area.  I had to keep in mind there wasn’t much of the ivory jersey left, so couldn’t go too deep.  I ran the line across the sleeves and back, keeping it all straight.  It does mean that actually, when worn, the line on the sleeves angles upwards, but I’m good with that.  I paired the ivory jersey with the remaining stripe – I obviously forgot what that tiny stripe does to my eyes!!  It has a lovely drape so I thought I’d use that in this tee.  I flared the tee out at the sides by 5cm at the hem, creating a slight Plantain silhouette.

The flare works well with this fabric
The flare works well with this fabric

For the sleeves, I used the long sleeve from the Birgitte, but then shortened it to the 3/4 length.  The reason why I ddn’t just use the 3/4 sleeve is the shape – the given pattern has a slight trumpet shape which I didn’t want this time.  Just straight sleeves for this version.

P1130482-1P1130486-1I’m pretty happy with the result.  I think I’ll take the sides of the scoop in more next time, possibly raise the back neckline by a couple of centimetres too, but these are not earth shattering alterations. I’ve worn this tee loads already and it’s really fitted in well with my current wardrobe.  I have quite a few other tops to show off, somehow the sewing has completely taken over the reporting of the sewing!  There are some tops I made back in September in a rush, fearing I wouldn’t be able to touch a sewing machine for ages after my wrist operation, like the last time.  Thankfully a different surgeon has meant a totally different experience and I was back to sewing within a week!!  Miracle!  So stay tuned, there are more tops coming this way…

Hidden under that voluminous jacket, somethiing else still waiting to be shown off...
Contrast Birgitte hidden under that voluminous jacket, something else still waiting to be shown off…