DIY, Fabric Design, Journal

Shibori & Indigo Dyeing

Indigo is amongst the oldest dyes for textiles and printing, it’s synonymous blue tones can be spotted across the globe and seen throughout ancient history. Much of the indigo used today is synthetic and most commonly used in denim. The more I learnt about the production of clothes and the dyeing process of fabrics, the more I became increasingly interested in natural dyeing. My interest was primarily for selfish reasons, I don’t want to expose my skin to chemicals, but secondly from an environmental perspective it just makes sense to use natural dye.

I welcomed the chance to give this ancient technique a try at the  Shibori Natural Dyeing Workshop at Stitched Up Co-operative . The process is messy and complicated if you don’t know what you’re doing, so I was pleased to have my hand held through it with the help of the lovely Claire from Stitched Up. Claire had already prepared the Dye vat, maintaining an Indigo Dye Vat is a labour of love, it required regular feeding of fructose and needs to be kept at a certain temperature, it requires the same commitment as a sourdough starter. So I’m glad I didn’t just embark on this project in the garage at home.

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I was introduced to Shibori for the first time, it’s a Japanese method of folding, binding and bunching fabric before it is exposed to the dye, leaving behind the negative space. There are endless possibilities of patterns depending on how you fold your fabric or what you use to create the relief. Here are a few examples to give you an idea.

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To begin the dyeing process you start by folding and binding your fabric. This examples below shows how the fabric is first folder and pegged together to create the relief.

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Next you submerge your fabric into boiled water, this allows the fabric to be fully porous and removes any oxygen from the dye, which can spoil the chemical balance in the dye vat.

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Then you’re ready to dye, indigo can stain your nails and hands so it’s best to wear rubber gloves. Carefully submerge your fabric into the dye without causing too many bubbles, again as the oxygen can alter the PH of the vat. Gently massage the fabric, especially near the edges of your binding to ensure the dye seeps right to the edges. Leave the fabric in the vat for three minutes, before removing carefully, again avoiding any drips or bubbles. You’ll be surprised as when you remove your fabric it is a yellow-green colour, the magic happens during the washing process.

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Then to start the washing process, in cold water move the fabric vigorously, this time you want to create as many bubbles as possible, this process helps sets the dye so ensure you are thorough with the washing process, otherwise your dye won’t be fixed and the colour will disappear in the washing machine. We washed the fabric in three buckets of fresh water, moving from one bucket to the next, from just dyed to nearly ready, ensured the water stayed as clean as possible. The fresh water buckets were changed regularly to avoid cross contamination.

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Once washed the fabric will be blue, depending on the depth of blue you requires, determines how many times you need to repeat the ‘dye/wash’ process. The example below has just been dyed once.

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After the demonstration, we had a go ourselves, the best way to determine what works is  simply to get stuck in. I started by clamping these circles, then I used pegs and then I wrapped thread round my fabric to create a water effect.

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I really enjoyed the process and found it instantly satisfying. I love the tones that indigo produces and find it very calming. We just experimented with small squares of fabric, but still I wanted to use them in some way, so I managed to make a cushion cover and used fabric scraps to fill it. I also decided to frame a piece of indigo to put in our bedroom. Indigo is an aesthetic that I really love and I can definetely get behind the natural dyeing process. There seem to be a few brands across the globe doing interesting things with Indigo.

Indigo Cushion

Indigo Frame

Stitched Up are running another Natural Dyeing Shibori Workshop next month and there was talk of a ‘Vat-urday’ event where you could drop in and use the Vat and dye your own cloth on a drop-in basis, i’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for that. In my sketchbook I recorded the process in a hope to cement the new information. Who knows perhaps next summer I’ll get a pet vat of my own on the go.

Dye Workshop Sketchbook Page

All for now.

Claire & co.

XO

 

 

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Dressmaking, Handmade Wardrobe, Journal, Sewing

Sewing A ‘Knock Out’ Dress

When I came across Tilly and The Buttons patterns the Etta Dress jumped out at me, the lemon print on the sample and the elegant cut of the pattern truly make this dress, as the title of the online class suggests,  ‘a knock out’.    Like most beginner sewists, I was pretty set on making myself an occasion dress for my wardrobe, even though I wouldn’t get that much wear out of it day to day, I think wearing a dress that you’ve made yourself, that you know is fitted to your body, brings a whole new level of confidence for a special occasion.

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As reward for teaching myself  to sew and for graduating from the Love at First Stitch Book, i bought this pattern and some coral stretch cotton fabric from Sew Over It to make a knock out dress to wear for a family wedding. It was going to be putting my newly acquired skills to good use as the pattern said ‘for a confident beginner’…eep!

Coral is not a colour I wear often, but last summer I picked up a linen coral dress on holiday and often get complimented on it. I had also tried to buy a Coral Bardot Dress in the Sale from Wallis last year, for another wedding, but it was out of stock in my size when it came to processing my order ( heartbreaking ) So I was pretty pleased that the end result was going to be a dress i’d been dreaming up for over a year (without the cold shoulders..win..win!)

 

Wallis Dress

 

I opted to make the capped sleeve version, with a a collar and without the pockets. It was the first time I made an official toille, I made it from some Calico I picked up in the sale at Abakhan and on the surface the  process sometimes seems labour intensive, I was really glad I did, because I needed to add some length to the body and the skirt, so it would fit perfectly on the bottom of the knee. The Calico didn’t have any stretch and when I pinned the back to wear I was a bit worried I wouldn’t be able to eat…or dance to much in the dress. But determined in my plans I set to cutting into the fabric…!

 

Constructing the bodice and the skirt was plain sailing, but I hit a road block trying to add the collar. I got cocky and skimmed through the instructions, because I felt I remembered what I was doing.,because I’d made a toille.,such a rookie error. So I attached the collar without the faced piece so had to go back and unpick it. I also had to unpick the zip because I didn’t have the interfacing for the back seams when I was making it, yes on a Friday night…so i just skipped that stage, but when I went to wear the dress..the invisible zip was visible, I think it was because of the stretch in the cotton. So I spent quite a bit of time unpicking, then interfaced and put the zip in again. I used an invisible zip foot, it was better, but still not great…so I sewed over the zip tape again with a normal zip foot. I made bias binding tape for the sleeves a first for me, with some help by watching Lauren from Gurthie & Ghani’s YouTube Tutorials.

Bias Binding

Honestly, I love it. I feel great in it and better still I am confident knowing no one else will be rocking up in the same frock as me, as I made it myself. When I tried it on I never wanted to take it off. I reckon it will be posh frocks and wellies when i’m out walking the dog.

I had bought some champagne coloured lining fabric to line the whole dress, but because of the heatwave I didn’t want to add a synthetic lining to a cotton dress on what could potentially be a very hot day in July.  The stretch in the cotton made this dress really comfortable to wear, even though it is fitted. The zip is still not perfect and because I didn’t have a coral zip, or couldn’t source one locally you can’t really hide any mistakes, but I had to let go of my perfectionism and remember firstly it was my first proper wearable dress and secondly no one else would give two hoots about my zip.

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I plan on making this dress again, I want to try the long sleeved version, without the collar in a puppy tooth for winter, I think without the collar and dress it down for everyday. I also like the idea of an emerald green one, which would feel very Joan from Mad Men. If I was working in an office i’d probably make several versions of this dress and wear them on rotation because it’s smart, sophisticated and feminine.

Joan Mad Men

Thanks to Tilly and The Buttons for this knock out dress, I’m sure I will always hold a special place in my heart for Etta. Especially as I got a shout on Tilly and the Buttons instagram stories of a photo of me wearing this dress at a wedding.

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All for now.

Claire & Co.

XO

 

 

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Drawing, Journal

Why I Keep A Daily Sketchbook & Why I Think You Should Too.

In the age of Gratitude Journals, Line A Day Diary’s and Happiness Planner’s it seems the humble blank sketchbook has been pushed aside. Increasingly there are more artists and designers sharing there ‘page a day’ online and the benefits are not exclusive to full-time artists. So I want to encourage to keep a daily sketchbook.

The queen of a ‘page per day’ has to be Samantha Dion Baker  whose feed is enough to stop your scrolling in your tracks. Her detailed pages combine sketches, hand drawn type and diary entries that share her day to day life in New York as a designer. Don’t get put off by her beautifully hand crafted pages, as her account has been going for over three years.

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I started my page a day sketchbook at a moment of needs must, endless boredom, frustration and a need to feel productive whilst off work sick on the sofa. Little did I know that the thoughtfulness of composition, consistency of honing my skills and mindfulness of not staring at the screen would become my healthiest creative habit to date.

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Here is one of my first pages from an early sketchbook, which does really go to show that Malcolm Gladwell was on to something when he was barking on about 10,000 hours. Practise, practise really does pay off.

1st Sketchbook page

Sketchbook pages can document days out, forcing you to pay attention to what’s around you and really notice your surroundings.

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It’s easy when you’re on holiday or travelling to keep up a page a day, not so easy when seemingly nothing is happening, but when you pay attention to boredom it becomes unbelievably interesting. For me, this is where the magic happens.

Suddenly keeping a daily sketchbook becomes more than just sitting down with a pencil, it starts to seep into all aspects of the day, suddenly you wake up, your eyes are open and you begin to notice the little things, looking for something that will make the cut and feature in your page.

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Keeping a record helps to track the days that might have go by without a blink of an eye.

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The thing about keeping a sketchbook is that the magic happens when you tend to your practise and by ensuring you make time for it. I know that if I can’t manage to carve out 30 minutes for drawing my day, somewhere amidst the noise and haste,  life is really off balance.

Sharing your sketchbook online helps you stay accountable and forces you to keep up the habit. Like all creative endeavours not every page will be a success, but done is better than perfect. You have to be prepared to accept some days will be a drag and you’ll question if your dog drew those lines on page. But other days all things will come together and your work will start to flourish.

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Keeping a daily sketchbook is a commitment, but it forces you to wake up to what’s around you, gives you a sense of accomplishment and allows you to share your creativity with a supportive community.

Now go and channel your inner Samuel Peeps and start your own ‘page per day’ sketchbook.

Claire & co.

XO

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Dressmaking, Sewing

British Heart Foundation The Big Stitch Campaign

The British Heart Foundation’s Big Stitch Campaign encourages style savvy shoppers to put their sewing skills to good use and personalise an item found in one of their shops. To take part in the competition you need to post a photo of the refashioned make during the 1st-15th July, giving you a chance of win return flights to Paris or Milan, a Janome 2200XT sewing machine from Sew Essential or a £50 voucher towards a dressmaking class with Sew Over It.

Motivated by the slightest possible chance of coiffing on aperetivo by the Navagali. I had my first crack at refashioning. I picked up a linen dress from Ann Harvey in our local BHF Store, I was drawn to the quantity of quality fabric for a fraction of the price, the print bordering on the fashion from Hawaii 5-0, but I think because it’s black and white I can just about manage to get away with it.

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I knew I wanted to turn the dress into a jump suit after being inspired by the Tilly and the Buttons Marigold Jumpsuit and the subsequent hacks. I am love with this hack from Self Assembly Required.

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Like the start of all good projects,  I set about making a Pinterest board for some Pinspiration. I started out looking at jumpsuits, co-ord loose tops, trousers and then just anything printed. I really liked the tie twist on the front of this Linen Jumpsuit from Anthroplogie  The back was fitted with elastic, in order to achieve the more tailored front. I wasn’t sure on the wide leg, I thought it would make me look wider.

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I love the cut of this tailored jumpsuit, again which I found on Pinterest, especially the cigarrette peg trousers.

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In the end I used a Simplicity pattern, a loose, tied cropped trouser pattern from Sew Creative, my local sewing class. It was a bit more of a challenge trying to cut the pattern from the fabric, even through there was a lot of fabric, when I braved it and cut the dress open, I noticed all the seams and shaping for the dress that I would have to incorporate into my design.  So the trousers have a seam down the leg and back leg. I made a cropped version, which meant I just had enough fabric to make a top. I made some patch pockets from the sleeves and pieced together the scraps to make drawstring for the waistband.

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After much deliberation over whether to make separates or a jumpsuit, I realised I didn’t have enough fabric to make a top that would be long enough to cover the waistband of the trousers, so the decision was made for me. I roughly followed the Ogden Cami pattern for the top, but it was a bit short and I didn’t have quite enough fabric for the facing, so I just turned over a 0.5cm hem, hopefully the structure of the linen will save it from gaping too much over time. I experimented trying to add a bow to the front, but because the shape of the cami is unstructured, it hung in a really strange way, so I scrapped it. I attached the bottom of the top to the waistband and the drawstring of the trousers gave some shape to the waist.

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Overall, I was pleased with it as a first attempt of hacking a pattern and refashioning. It taught me to be less precious about cutting fabric and I had to leave some perfectionism behind, simply because I didn’t have enough fabric, but still the end result turned out fine. I had enough fabric for a headband which ties everything together. Quite a bold outfit for Altrincham high street, but it would be a great grab and go outfit for a day at the beach in the summer. Looking back I would probably brave a wider leg on the trousers. I thought they might make me look wider, but they would probably balance the loose and unstructured fit of the garment.

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This make has certainly planted a seed for a jumpsuit obsession, I have a jersey jumpsuit in my wardrobe, that this make has inspired me to dig out and wear a bit more, I am also tempted to try a tailored jumpsuit, either the Vogue 9075 or the Named Ailakki Cross Front Jumpsuit 

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Fingers crossed, I think the winners are announced at the start of August, so hopefully i’ll be wearing this outfit swanning around Milan or Paris or better still spending those Sew Over vouchers on a Coat Class. There is some stiff competition when I followed the hashtag, so hopefully whatever the outcome it will encourage more refashioning and recycling from second hand charity shops.

All for now.

Claire & co.

XO

 

 

 

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Dressmaking, Journal

Learning to Sew

There are few books that you read inside out and back to front, all in the space of six weeks, but as soon as I picked up Tilly and The Buttons, ‘Love at First Stitch’ I was hooked. At the beginning of 2018 I had pledged to myself to learn to sew clothes…but it wasn’t until I saw my friend Verity had made a Cleo that it gave me the confidence to give it a go. I had always had the misconception that sewing your own cloths lead you down one of  two paths; you either looked like an art teacher or you look like a 50’s pin up girl. As my style doesn’t even land anywhere on this scale I never thought it was for me. I was surprised and delighted when I was introduced to the Tilly and the Buttons sewing patterns, all of which look current, wearable with a slight nod to their vintage roots.

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The book, ‘Love At First Stitch’ takes you from sewing in straight lines, to lining a dress and even crafting a button down blouse.  As I was a total beginner, I started from page 1 and worked my way through each project. Each project builds on the skills you learnt as you go along, so even through some of the patterns were not my style, I committed to trying them out simply to pick up skills like French seams and perfecting pleats.

Love at First Stitch Front Cover

The fabric I used for all the projects, was either donated or reclaimed. Although all my makes are toiles,  I didn’t need to worry if I made a mistake on fabric I’d spent money on. Tilly does provide detailed instructions on what fabric to use for each project. Personally for me, I think learning to navigate fabric shops, knowing what materials to order, deciding on print design and sourcing of fabric can feel pretty overwhelming, so using fabric that I’d found or reclaimed left me able to concentrate on construction of the garments.

Honestly, these makes are probably my biggest textiles achievement to date. In Year 12 I joined an all-girls school with a brilliant textiles department and I studied textiles at AS Level. I was really excited, but I was miles behind my class mates who had all received outstanding tuition from Year 7. I was battling with with my bobbin trying to thread my machine, whilst other girls in my class were making fitted dresses. I somehow managed to pass the year with an A, with as little sewing as possible. I glued where possible, making my own felt and paper, but I decided not to carry on with the A Level and focused on Art. In hindsight it’s a shame because I probably would have loved to study Fashion and Textiles at University, but all decisions lead me to this opportunity to learn to sew with the help of YouTube, plenty of time on my hands and a newly acquired patience of a saint.

Brigette Scarf 

The first project is relatively straight forward, as you learn to sew in straight lines, learn the concept of ‘right sides together’ and finish off with top stitching. I actually already own a headscarf in the same style in a polka dot fabric, I wear it often to get my hair off my face and to prevent any damage using hair elastics. I’ll definetely be making more of these and this is a great project for any leftover fabric.

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Margot Pyjamas 

If you are a complete beginner like I was this, this project really takes your sewing to the next level as you learn to read a pattern, finish seams and construct a garment. You are eased in gently if you mess up and your hem is not totally straight, you’re safe, as they never leave the comfort of your own home. That being said, I have never felt so proud in my couture pyjamas!

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I added the pockets from the Clémence Skirt as all my ready to wear pyjamas have pockets, (reflecting on this I’m not entirely sure the purpose of these pockets) but I find myself with one hand in my pockets with a coffee in the other hand most mornings. I made the waist tie from a sheet, but there is option to tie them with a ribbon. I think the ribbon is actually prettier, but the purpose of all these makes was learn new skills. My pyjamas are made from the underside of an old duvet colour. As a lover of all things yellow, these are probably the happiest pyjamas I have owned and I was so proud to wear them.

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Delphine Skirt 

The Delphine introduces you to invisible zips and waist bands. At this point I didn’t know the reputation that the invisible zip carries in the sewing world. but I agree with Tilly if you start with invisible zips they don’t seem so intimidating and you can only get better at fitting them. Practise makes perfect after all.

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I generally only wear separates in winter with thick tights and knitted jumpers and have never owned or worn an a-line skirt, as a pear shaped person I always felt that would accentuate the wrong areas on me, but it turns out I found the shape flattering and plan to make this in a honey coloured suede and navy blue wool for winter. This sample is made from upholstery fabric, which is why the skirt is so structured.

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Megan Dress 

I loved this dress. If I worked in an office, I would probably make five in different colours and wear one every day of the week. It works well with bare legs and could easily transition to winter with black tights and a black cashmere cardigan. I’m planning to make it in a cotton linen blend geometric print.  I had a real ‘ah ha’ moment after making this, as I got so many compliments on how well it fitted me and I realised that makes such a difference. The dress is simple in design, but with a good fit the most simple dress turns into a talking point.

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Building on the skills from the Delphine, Megan requires an invisible zip, you will notice how much better your second attempt is. This pattern also helps you learn to fit sleeves. I made my version in upholstery fabric again with this large floral design. The fabric is beautiful, but I don’t feel such a bold floral print is my style anymore. I wrote a little about how I fell out of love with florals on my experimentation with print design. 

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Clémence Skirt 

This skirt helps you channel your inner French woman as it is constructed with French seams, which is a construction technique that makes your seams remain hidden. This skirt is probably the furthest away from what I wear on a day to day basis, but I wanted to learn to make gathers. I made it from an old duvet cover and yes the pattern is more Mary Poppins than Mademoiselle Channel.

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At first I never thought i’d make this again, as it is so far from my style. However, I think that if I made the waist band thinner and paired the gathered skirt with a matching camisole top it could be a very practical (it has pockets) occasion outfit and versatile separates.  I spotted a similar idea over on Lizzie B’s blog in a beautiful Swan print fabric here. 

Clemence Skirt

Mimi Blouse 

The Mimi blouse is introduced as the project that will take you beyond the status of a beginner. This by far was the most challenging project for me, and I found the collar tricky and my machine decided to eat my fabric when I attempted to make button holes for the first time. I picked up the fabric for £1 for the lot from the yard at Stitched Up. I didn’t come with a label, but it’s defiantly synthetic as it was very hot to wear and slippy to work with.

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The fabric stretched when I was adding the collar so there was a bit of creativity involved in attaching the collar and facing. I made the pleated sleeve, again picking up a new skill, and headed back to Hobby Craft where my machine came from for one of the Sunday Sewing Surgeries. During the session I got help with making button holes.

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As I knew I wasn’t going to wear the Mimi Blouse I didn’t spend the time to cover the buttons or add the pipping, but the detailed instructions takes you through all these steps.  I plan to make this again in a cotton lawn so it’s more breathable on a hot day and adjust the sleeves so they are a bit longer and finish further down my arm, rather than where they currently sit at the widest point of my arm, not so flattering. Not the most well made garment, but not bad considering only five weeks ago I was working out how to make a seam.

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Lilou Dress 

The final project is a lined dress with an option scalloped neckline, I opted for the pleated skirt, again to pick up a new skill. I was short on patterned fabric so I made the executive decision to make a plain bodice from calico and used the patterned fabric to make the skirt. I lined the bodice with an old bed sheet.

Lilou Dress

I actually forgot to add the bust darts and only realised when I tried it on at the end of the project, had I been planning to wear this dress I would have had to do a lot of unpicking, thankfully I just let it slide, but you can spot a bit of extra fabric across the bust under the arms where the darts would have added more shape.

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The end result is a little short, I have quite a long body and long legs so would need to add an extra two inches so it would fit better, at a guess Tilly is 5’5” and as i’m 5’7” it makes sense to add a little extra length in the bodice and on to the skirt. I got plenty of compliments on the design choice of two fabrics in one dress and I love the busy skirt, it does make it feel more dressed up, so I plan to make it in a teal coloured linen-cotton blend with a cotton popplin lining for next summer.

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I loved this book, I read the instructions a hundred times and would re-read them in bed to be sure I knew what I was doing on my next project. I rave about this to anyone and would urge anyone to start here, even if the styles aren’t exactly to your taste, these patterns are a great place to start as a jumping off point, I have already been conjuring up some hacks for my wardrobe.

Believe me, if I can do it, so can you. Now go start your love story with sewing with Love at First Stitch. 

Claire & co.

XO

 

 

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