My Sew Over It Heather Dress

I’d had my eye on the Sew Over It Heather dress since it was released.  Knit dresses are definitely the most worn things in my wardrobe and the Heather was quite different from the ones I already had.  It also had enormous pockets which is a big plus in my book.

Here’s the blurb:

If you live in knits, the Heather Dress sewing pattern is for you!

Versatile and super comfy, the Heather Dress is sure to be a wardrobe staple. A gorgeously chic jersey dress, Heather can be smart as well as casual and will keep you looking put-together and fab wherever you are; at work, for dinner out or just at home.

The Heather Dress has cleverly concealed in-seam pockets (always a winner!) and a panelled bodice which makes fitting a dream. With opportunities for colour blocking you can really make Heather your own. Stay subtle in a solid fabric, go jazzy in a print, or go bold and mix the two to make a feature of the lines. There are three sleeve options to suit the seasons – choose from a short capped sleeve, 3/4 length or full length.

I made a concerted effort to get out of my blue comfort zone and opted for a green and black floral Ponte from the Textile Centre’s eBay store.

The pattern has a good range of sizes from an 8 (33-26-36) to a 20 (45-38-48)

I cut a size 16 (41-34-44) which was the closest to my own measurements.  The finished measurements for a size 16 are 41-40-46.5.

The dress came together quickly and easily, I used my overlocker throughout but it would be equally easy to use a standard machine.  I had a bit of a problem with the fabric stretching out on the side seam near the pocket and along the hem.  I overlocked the hem before turning up and finishing with a twin needle, I think it was the overlocking which stretched it out and caused the subsequent rippling.

Although the dress fitted well through the shoulders and bust it came up very large through the waist and hips.  I took a good inch off each side which slimmed it down a bit.  Next time I’ll grade down at least two sizes through the waist and hips.

Overall I’m pleased with the finished dress, it’s perfect for pottering about the house and garden and I love the big pockets.  I’ve already bought more fabric to make another one, it’s a heather Ponte so it will be a heather Heather dress!

My day out at Love Sewing Magazine wearing Butterick 5488

A couple of months ago Amy, the editor of Love Sewing Magazine, got in touch to see if I’d like to review one of the upcoming free patterns.  I was happy to give it a go as I’d been in the sewing doldrums and hoped a bit of a challenge would bring me out of it.  I was a little concerned about getting a half decent picture when Amy asked if I would like to go and do a proper photo shoot; hair, make up and everything!  They wanted to showcase readers makes but also show them on real bodies.  I must admit to being a little apprehensive, it’s one thing taking a few photos in the back garden to put on a blog but being in a national magazine (the UK’s No 1 sewing mag) took it to another level.  But my family encouraged me to do it, saying I’d never done anything like it before and may never get the chance to do it again!

So one bright morning in February I ventured across the Derbyshire Peaks to their studio in Stockport.  Amy was first up modelling her Vogue eve appeal dress which looked stunning.  Meanwhile, Nina did my hair and makeup. I’d worn black tights and taken my blue wedding shoes to wear but Denise the shoot director persuaded me that blue tights and blue suede heels would look better in the pictures (I was worried I’d look like a Smurf but looking at the photos she was so right, I could really do with her restyling me every morning before I leave the house!) Then it was my turn in front of Renata’s camera.

Who knew modelling could be so difficult? I quickly exhausted my blog photo poses (hands by side, hand on hip, I couldn’t do the usual hands in pockets as I didn’t have any!) I was at a bit of a loss what to do so went to my default setting of giggling and messing around.  The problem was I screwed my eyes up when I laughed so I had to try and master smiling with my eyes open.  I was a bit worried they wouldn’t get a single shot of me with a straight face but after taking umpty nine photos (along with some of me and Amy giggling) they were satisfied with what they had.  (Renata also took a couple of head shots which now grace all my online profiles, I only wish I could use it for my driving license!)    

Anyway, here’s the review and loads of photos.  (I’ll post the full text of the review afterwards in case the snapshot is unreadable) 

 

 

I’d just like to say a big thanks to Amy, Nina, Denise and Renata for making me feel so comfortable and making it a day I’ll never forget!    

Here’s the review:

I think it’s sometimes easy to be put off a pattern due to the way it’s been styled on the front of the envelope.  Bearing this in mind I wouldn’t have initially been drawn to this pattern but going by the line drawing I could see that it had potential.

The fabric I used was a midnight blue animal print Crepe de Chine from the Fabric Godmother. Very lightweight and floaty with a lovely drape to it.  After a test sew I decided to use a size 70 needle and a slightly shorter stitch length to minimise the risk of puckering, which is one of the pitfalls of sewing with fine fabrics.

Although my measurements (42-34-42) put me at size 20 I know from experience that Butterick patterns come up large on me so decided to size down to an 18.

I made a quick muslin before cutting into the good stuff and although the fit was fine around the yoke and bust there was a lot of ease in the dress and it came up very large.  There’s no shaping to the dress so it’s straight up and down.  The pleats at the back also produced a lot of volume which is a place where it isn’t necessarily needed.  I decided to tweak it a little and add a bit of shaping. I graded right down to a 12 at the waist and then graded out to a 26 towards the hem to give it a bit of flare around the bottom.

As the fabric was very lightweight I used Vilene superfine interfacing on both the yoke and yoke facing which gave it an extra bit of stability.  I used French seams throughout and it came together very quickly.  The most time-consuming part was sewing the yoke.

The grading between sizes seems to have worked quite well and I am much happier with how the dress falls now.  It has also pulled in the back a little across the waist but there is still a lot of volume above.  I think pinching out a couple of the pleats at the back might help reduce this.

Advantages: quick and easy to make, no fastenings so easy to throw on.

Disadvantages: a lot of extra ease and unnecessary volume at the back (but these can be fixed with a bit of tweaking).

It’s quite a difficult dress to fit as you go along, it’s impossible to try it on until the yoke is attached (by which time the dress is essentially finished)  One option would be to only sew the top few inches of the side and back seams and then add the yoke.  This gives the opportunity to tweak the fit of the dress before finishing the seams.

It’s an ideal dress for summer, the loose fit is perfect for hot days when you don’t want to be restricted by anything fitted.  There’s also the option to shorten the dress into a top, which is what I plan to do with the muslin I made.  I think fabric choice is key to making this pattern work, it really needs to be fairly lightweight with plenty of drape, anything with a bit of body could have the potential to look bulky. I would add in seam pockets next time, one of the best things about sewing your own clothes is the opportunity to add pockets to everything!

My Named Talvikki Sweater

Sewing dresses is all well and good but I’m in desperate need of some basics.  It’s been a while since I made any tops, and the T-shirts and sweatshirts in my wardrobe are looking a little well worn.  Bearing this in mind, and needing something warm and cosy to layer up, I embarked on making a Named Talvikki Sweater.  It was seeing Shauni’s at the last SewBrum meet up that led me to add it to my ‘to sew’ list. Here’s the blurb:

·       Oversized and cuddly sweater

·       Turtleneck with darts on the neckline

·       Dropped shoulder and extra long sleeves

·       Deep vents at the sides, and an uneven hemline

·       Pick a medium-weight to heavy stretch fabric with at least 30 % stretch. For example sweatshirt jersey, cable knit, knit fleece or a boiled wool.

My fabric is a heather Ponte from the Fabworks Mill shop which I bought at the Sew Down Dewsbury meet up.  As with other Named patterns there’s a good size range, from a UK 4 (30-23-33) up to a 22 (46-39-48) I cut a size 16/18 but shortened the body and sleeves by two inches.   

It was impossible to use chalk or frixion to mark the darts so I used tailors tacks instead.  It’s critical to sew the darts perfectly to form the structure of the turtleneck.  I sewed the shoulder seams and attached the sleeves with my overlocker, then finished the sleeve and side seams by overlocking down each side before using my normal machine to stitch them together.  I reduced the length of the back hem by an inch just to get it in proportion to my height, and used a slightly long straight stitch to finish the hem and sleeves.  The neckline is finished with a facing which is easily kept in place by tacking it to each dart and shoulder seam.

Looking at the pictures I really should have given it a press beforehand but I was a bit eager to wear it (the hem ripples have straightened with a good press since).  I was a little worried that it was too ‘oversized’ but after putting it on realised that the ‘cuddly’ description was very true and the fabric lends itself perfectly to the pattern.  There’s a lot of volume in the sleeves which I was initially not sure about, but after wearing it a couple of times it doesn’t seem to be an issue.    

 

 I intended to only buy knit fabric at the Dewsbury meet up.  I did very well but a couple of woven pieces sneaked in, a navy version of the floral I used to make my Bruyere and I couldn’t resist the bees. 

I’m going to try and focus on practical sewing for the time being, Spring is here and I really need some more T-shirts. I’m thinking of trying something different from my TNT Plantain, Hemlock and Kirsten (all free to download, all excellent patterns) I’ve just got one more dress to finish off before I can get started! 

My Named Tuuli dress

My first project of the new year was the Named Tuuli V-neck jersey dress.  I love knit dresses, I can simultaneously look fairly pulled together whilst feeling happily comfortable (like wearing secret pyjamas) I’ve made a few knit dresses over the past few years but the V-neck and pleated skirt offered something new and appealing.  As with a number of Named patterns it includes a second pattern which with the Tuuli is a bodysuit.

The fabric is Liberty Dufour Viscose jersey I bought from ebay.  I’ve done a bit of sleuthing into this and found that it’s probably over stock from a ‘special edition liberty’ ready to wear dress.  From experience, Liberty jersey is worth paying that bit extra.  It washes and wears incredibly well and is a delight to work with.  The Dufour is a viscose knit which has a fair bit of weight to it and lots of drape.  I’ve also used the Clarendon, a cotton knit which has a bit more body about it.   

The fabric requirements for the dress give 260cm but with a bit of careful cutting (and shortening the sleeves by 5 inches and the hem by 3 inches) I managed to fit it all on.  One thing to note is that due to the skirt width it really needs a wide fabric, at least 130 cm.

I received a copy of the paper pattern for Christmas.  The bodice and sleeves were easy to trace, the skirt piece however looked a bit daunting.  The pattern piece is overlapped but also off set so you need to trace the first half, rejig your paper and join on the second half.  There’s a lot of markings for the pleats, which are different for each size so it looks a bit like a particularly involved Burda magazine pattern.  Instead of marking all the pleat lines on the fabric I took a gamble and did small snips and bigger snips.  I just had to remember that the small snip needed to be folded to meet a big snip (not sure if that makes sense) One really important thing to remember is that each front and back skirt piece needs cutting separately and not on two layers, if It is cut with folded fabric the pleats won’t work properly (they need to go in the same direction all the way around)

I cut a size 46 which was nearest to my measurements.  There’s quite a good size range going from a 32 (30-24-33) to a 50 (46-40-49).  There’s a bit of negative ease in the pattern, around four inches over the bust and a couple of inches at the waist.

There’s a good reason for the skirt pattern piece needing to be overlapped, it is HUGE, there’s 2.5 metres of fabric in the skirt which all needs to be pleated.

The front of the bodice is cut in two pieces which are joined at the centre front below the neckline.  The neckline is finished with a facing which extends down to the waist.  The facing is then secured by topstitching which adds quite a neat design detail, this would be much more noticeable if sewn in a plain fabric, as mine is so busy you can’t really see it.  The instructions call for using knit interfacing on the facing.  As I didn’t have any and my local haberdashery didn’t know where I could get some I experimented with what I had.  I found that when cut on the bias Vilene Superlight interfacing had a bit of stretch so I went with that.  As it is there’s not really that much stress around the neckline to worry too much about this.  The opening is big enough to get your head through without stretching it out and as the facing is stitched down there isn’t going to be much stretching there. 

I was a little apprehensive about all the pleating but after taking my time, and using lots of pins, it all lined up perfectly without the need to do any fudging.  I basted the pleats in place but also kept them pinned below to make it easier to work with.  I added in seam pockets to the skirt, which wasn’t in the instructions but I have a mission to put pockets in everything.  This time however I don’t think it worked out.  The pockets are hidden in the pleats but the bulk of them affects the fall of the pleats.  They also don’t fall on the sides, one is a few inches towards the front and the other a few inches towards the back so they are quite difficult to find when you are wearing it!   

There was a lot of weight in the skirt and I doubted the bodices ability to hold it up so I stabalised the waist with some clear elastic.  I stretched out a length three quarters the size of my waist. This made a world of difference as it sits well without any pulling.   Attaching the bodice was straightforward, I finished the waist seam with my overlocker but because of the pleats it was a little bulky (there’s four layers of fabric in there) I don’t think there’s a way to overcome this though.  Finally, I finished the hem and sleeves with a twin needle. 

I am incredibly pleased with the finished dress.  The fabric works perfectly, the weight really makes the pleats hang lovely (although in the pictures I’d been wearing it all day so there is a bit of crumpling going on)  I enjoyed making it, the pattern is incredibly well drafted and everything fits together perfectly.  I’ve come to realise this is a very important criteria when choosing patterns, sewing time is so precious that I really don’t need the hassle and headache of fudging a pattern which doesn’t quite meet up as it should. 

The only change I will make next time is cutting a larger size for my bust, I think four inches of negative ease is too much for me and it does seem to pull a little from the armscye.  Other than that, I wouldn’t change a thing, it’s great to have another TNT knit dress pattern to add to my collection.  I really need to make more knits as on reflection they are the things that get the most wear.  I have consequently banned myself from buying any more woven fabric, I can only really justify jersey as there is surprisingly little in my stash.  (I’ve just given myself an excuse to go fabric shopping!)    

 

My Grainline Farrow Dress

Well it’s been a while.  I had such great plans for all the things I wanted to make over the winter months but somewhere along the way I lost a substantial part of my SewJo.  The main problem’s been the lack of light.  By the time I’ve managed to sit down to sew it’s been dark outside and although strategically placed lamps are helpful they’re no substitute for natural daylight.  I’ve still been pottering away on a few easy projects but again the lack of light seems to have thwarted getting out and taking blog photos.  Hopefully the worst is over, the nights are getting lighter and its March on Wednesday.  The promise of Spring seems to have woken my hibernating SewJo and I’m looking forward to warmer days and some serious time with my machine.

Anyway this is one of the projects I completed over the winter.  Here’s the blurb:

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The Farrow features an elegant A-line shape with flattering diagonal seaming concealing inseam pockets, and a jewel neckline. Imagine wearing View A during the balmy days of summer. View B features bracelet sleeves and is the perfect option for cooler temperatures in the spring and autumn. Layer it with tights and a Driftless Cardigan for the snowy days of winter. Dress it up with heels and dress it down with boots.’

I bought the pattern as soon as it was released (around November?)  It seemed like a good loose fitting dress to layer up over a long sleeved tee and under a cardigan, it also had really big pockets.  I was a little unsure about the hi lo hem but decided to just go with it.

The suggested fabrics are:

Light to medium weight fabrics ranging from linen, linen blends, cotton, lightweight wool and wool blends, silk charmeuse, and silk twill

I used a medium weight grey/blue Chambray from my stash.  It had a little more body than most of the suggested fabrics but I was going for the utilitarian look.

OK, so here’s the problem, I made it so long ago that I can’t remember much about it.  The sizing goes from 0 (32-25-35) to an 18 (44-37-47) I cut a 14 which is my usual Grainline size (one size smaller than my measurements suggest) and I shortened it by 3 inches. I don’t remember any problems along the way, it was quick and straightforward to sew.

The neckline and armholes are finished with facings.  Although they are tacked to the shoulder and side seams they do have a tendency to flap out.  It might be an idea to draft an all in one facing or even better line the whole dress.

As the back hem of the dress is visible due to it being lower than the front I bound the hem with satin bias binding so it looks neat and tidy if ever it gets flashed.

Well that’s about it, here’s some pictures:

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 The dress turned out just as I’d imagined.  The fit is fine (the only crucial part is the shoulders and bust) but I could maybe do with just a tad more room across the bust.  Looking at the recommended fabrics I think it would work better with a lighter fabric and a bit more drape.  One of the sample garments was made up in a Liberty tana lawn and as I have ‘the odd bit’ of it in my stash I might try that next.  I’ll also try the sleeved version which will get rid of the flappy armhole facings and maybe straighten out the hem, I’m really not convinced about this hi-lo thing.

I’m still trying to sew spontaneously rather than working to a strict list.  I’m currently working on an aubergine Deer and Doe Auberpine (made purely so I can say Aubergine Auberpine) I also made a muslin of the Named Talvikki sweater which turned out well so there’s two of those on the way and while I’m being practical I really need a couple more Plantains.  So, that’s my plans for the short term, you’ll be surprised to hear not a single one of them is blue! (well, one might be bluey purple)

Anyone else out there started sewing for Spring?

My Named Kielo Dresses, one woven, one knit

Although I’ve never sewn one of their patterns I’ve always been intrigued by Named. I like that they release collections bi-annually rather than just one pattern here and there. I’ve never actually sewn one up though. I think (like other pattern companies and the fashion world in general) tall models makes me subconsciously rule things out for my short stature. I seem to have developed a deeply ingrained view of what suits my (lack of) height. Magazine articles always state the law of shift dresses with matching tights and shoes to keep ‘the proportions right’ and ‘elongate the silhouette’. I have spent the past thirty years avoiding maxi dresses just so my proportions are in proportion!   Their Kielo dress was released this Spring and since then I’ve seen quite a few versions popping up around the t’internet. Just the uniqueness of the design made me want to give it a go. My initial fear was that the maxi length could drown me and the ties could create unwanted bulk around my middle, but I decided to throw caution to the wind and just jump in.

The Kielo is a maxi wrap dress with waist ties and a vent at the back. It has slightly angled fish eye darts at the back and diagonal bust darts. The description mentions it’s ‘interesting shape’ opened up it looks just like a Manta Ray!

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The pattern calls for a light fabric with good drape and between 20% -60% of stretch. I was a bit stuck when looking for something in the stash, I had a length of lightweight poly which didn’t have any stretch whatsoever. On the other end of the scale there was a length of knit, plenty of stretch but medium weight. I didn’t want to commit to buying anything especially for it and risk it being wasted if it didn’t work out (I’m also on a serious stash diet!) After a few days pondering I wondered what would happen if I used the fabric I had. Would the pattern work on a non-stretch woven? I decided to experiment.

I’d bought the poly fabric last year, cream with a ditsy black floral and very slightly sheer. I liked the print but as with all poly fabric, didn’t really care for the feel of it. It only cost £2 a metre so I was willing to sacrifice it.

My bust measurement put me into the largest size (UK 18 for a 41inch bust) so that’s what I cut. The pattern pieces were actually taller than me so after a bit of measuring I shortened the bodice by 3 inches and the skirt by 4 inches.

I sewed it up on my main machine and it came together really quickly. Before finishing the neckline and armholes I tried it on and found that I couldn’t quite fit my head through! I trimmed an extra 1cm from both neckline and armholes, tried it again and I was in. I’d made a big supply of single fold bias tape during the summer so used some of this to finish the openings. Unfortunately I stretched the neckline out a bit during sewing but it’s not that bad.

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I could have done with a little bit more room across my high bust but other than that I was really pleased with the finished dress. The fabric has just enough body to emphasise the shape of the dress without sticking out too much. So my advice for making up the Kielo in a woven fabric:

Go up a size or two through the shoulders and bust.

Use a fabric that has a little bit of give on the bias.

Try it on before finishing the neckline and armholes!

Buoyed on by my first version I was curious to see what it was like made up in a knit.

For my knit version I used some equally cheap medium weight jersey which has around 60% stretch. To compensate for the extra stretch I sized down to a 16 (39 ¼ inch bust) and sa 14 at the sides where the ties were. Again I used my main machine to sew it up but added my walking foot and a ballpoint needle and used a narrow zig zag

This time the dress fitted easily over my head. I finished the hem, armholes and neckline with the same narrow zig zag as I was feeling too lazy to get out the twin needle. I just turned and stitched rather than using knit bias tape given in the supplies.

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The knit version worked really well, although I could have maybe sized down a bit more at the waist as there’s a bit of overlap where the ties meet (It can be tied at the front or back but I prefer the front)

Although the knit version worked much better with regards to fit, I think I prefer the woven version, just having that bit of body emphasises the shape and design whereas the knit is a little too droopy and the detail is lost in the busy print. Next time I’ll maybe try it in a viscose, maybe a solid or small print so you can see the detail of the wrap.

The Kielo would make a perfect (and quick) evening dress in something silky of slinky . There’s also a free sleeve pattern available to download, pictures of a sleeved shortened version have been added to the site so I might just make another knit version to get me through the winter months.

I think my worries about the length and bulk have been dispelled, along with my pre-disposition about what ‘suits’ me. The experience has had a positive effect and challenged me to move out of my comfort zone and be a bit more adventurous. There’s a couple more Named patterns I really want to try but as I’m on a pattern and fabric stash diet at the moment I’ve added them to my Christmas list, with links, to make it easier for Santa to find them!

 

My Deer and Doe Belladone Dress

I’m playing catch up with my blog posts again, this is one I made way back at the beginning of July. I’d been making an effort to get on with projects that have been left on the back burner for one reason or another. Top of the list was a Deer and Doe Belladone dress. I made a wearable muslin in January last year which turned out to be unwearable. The main problem was cutting a post-Christmas dress using my pre-Christmas measurements resulting in a general all round tightness (I chopped the bodice off the dress and got a wearable skirt out of it so all was not lost)

Luckily I’d had the foresight to make a list of what changes I needed to make (thank you past Helen!) I really love the design, the cut out back is unusual and it’s got a great silhouette. The skirt is slightly A-line with diagonal pockets and a couple of little pleats (basically my favourite type of skirt)

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The fabric is a cotton poplin, yet more from my Fabworks bundle win. One of the great things I remembered about the Belladone was being able to squeeze it out of a metre and a half of fabric.

My current measurements are 42-35-42 which is an inch or two above the biggest size (41-33-43) I’ll just list what I did to make it easier to read:

  • Cut a size 44 through the shoulders and back grading up to a 46 through the bust, waist and hips (I usually cut a size smaller as I have a relatively narrow back and shoulders in relation to my bust)
  • Did a 2 inch full bust adjustment
  • Shortened the bodice by an inch
  • Added two inches to the waist
  • Pinched out a 1 cm wedge from both of the back cut out pieces (there was a bit of a gape before, pinching this bit out helped it lay flat)
  • Brought the shoulders in by an inch (not a fitting issue, just personal preference)
  • I think I may have cut the smallest size along the hem, just a lazy way of shortening the skirt!

This time I made a muslin of the bodice before cutting into the good stuff and all my tweaks seemed to have worked.  I cheated a bit and cut the whole dress out with my scalloped pinking shears (from eBay, search ‘scalloped pinking scissors’) Finishing the seams before sewing saves so much time!

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I had planned on using a contrast navy binding, I had two metres which seemed like enough but after pinning it on I realised I’d run out halfway through the second armhole so resorted to plan B and used a less contrasting china blue instead (my plan for contrast piping on the waistband also went out the window, need to remember next time that I need three times as much binding)  I omitted the hem facing and used some ‘rainbow’ blue bias binding instead (also from eBay)

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As with all Deer and Doe patterns the dress came together surprisingly quickly. I must admit to being a bit of a Deer and Doe fangirl, their patterns have some lovely design features and the drafting is very good. I’ve never had a bad experience and they are always a dream to sew.

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I’m incredibly pleased with the finished dress, the fit is very nearly there. I think for my next one I could add an extra inch to the full bust adjustment. There’s also some pulling on the back so I’ll try cutting a 46 next. I really love the skirt though, it’s very similar to the tweaked Peony I have used before, technically an A-line but not so sticky outy as some patterns. I also love the little pleats at the waist and would like to use that part of the pattern for some Autumn skirts.

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Speaking of Autumn I can’t believe it’s September already! I should be able to get more wear out of the Belladone as I can wear it with tights and a cardigan (and possible a long sleeved top underneath for extra warmth) I’ve got a very autumny length of fabric in the stash that I bought specifically to make a cold weather Belladone (it’s a sort of bronzey brown with dark red flowers on it) hopefully I can fit it in while it’s still seasonally appropriate!

I’m actually looking forward to getting back into the old routine, I haven’t had as much time to sew as I’d have liked over the summer. The nights drawing in doesn’t seem so bad when I get a bit more time to sew in the evenings. The prospect of having to put all my summer clothes away ‘til next year is a bit sad, but then getting the winter ones out is quite exciting as there’s always things I’d forgotten I had! I’ve also just got a stash of winter fabric down from the loft, again there were things I’d forgotten about so it was like going fabric shopping for free! While we’re on the topic of fabric shopping I’m off to SewBrum again on the 24th September, this time I’m going to make a concerted effort to restrain myself and focus on finding things I need (yeah right!) I’ll be taking a couple of extra bags though, just in case I ‘need’ more than I think I do!