A first attempt at embroidery

This summer, Adam and I were fortunate enough to finally take our honeymoon (about 15 months late!) While we had planned to spend the majority of the time sightseeing and exploring stunning scenery and cities, I knew that I would get the crafting itch if I didn't take a project with me. I needed something small and light. The obvious solution was something I could hand stitch. I pondered taking the half finished cross stitch projects that are tucked away in the study but they didn't appeal. For a start they were quite heavy but I really wanted something that would remind me of our holiday. It was time for me to finally try embroidery. 

Oh Sew Bootiful Cherry Blossom Embroidery hoop.JPG

As a complete embroidery beginner, I wanted a pretty but not too challenging design. After browsing Instagram for inspiration I chose the Cherry Blossom by Oh Sew Bootiful. I was drawn to the clean design and the modern photographic background printed onto cotton - it really helps the colours to pop. The kit contains everything you need to get going: a hoop, the design preprinted onto cotton, padding to sit behind the cotton, two needles, embroidery threads, floss to finish the hoop and a couple of instruction sheets to teach you the four stitches in this design: satin stitch, split stitch, straight stitch, and french knots.

Oh Sew Bootiful Cherry Blossom Embroidery hoop kit.jpg

I followed the order of stitching included in the guide. I completed the flowers first starting with the darker pink as the lighter flowers should look like they are top of the darker ones. I then moved onto the buds before completing the branch. The branch is sewn using the split stitch which I found to be a lot of fun. A wonderful texture is created through the uneven stitch lengths which gives a good imitation of bark. 

Oh Sew Bootiful Cherry Blossom Embroidery kit.jpg

By the end of our break I had completed the main stitching parts leaving the details on the flowers. I had tried french knots before through previous cross stitch projects but I was a little out practice. I soon remembered that I like to wind the thread around the needle a few extra times to get more definition while keeping the knots small. I also find that holding the needle just above where it will be pushed into the fabric and winding the thread there helps to avoid the knot occurring higher up the thread than you want. I tend to use my spare thumb to smooth the path of the thread until a dainty knot is formed. There is a noticeable difference between the earlier knots and the later ones as I got into the swing of them. The process of making many of them in quick succession was rather satisfying. 

Oh Sew Bootiful Cherry Blossom Embroidery.jpg

Stitching this hoop was so much fun. While it took patience to get the stitches into the right place and become familiar with what direction they should go in, the pattern is simple enough that you can quickly see progress. It was very meditative too - distracting me from aching feet from too much walking or the face my suitcase took three days to arrive in Iceland after I did. I've yet to find a spot to hang it but I have started another pattern. It seems that I might have found another hobby to indulge. 

Summer Shift Dress

It's always a sad moment when you realise you will soon need to say goodbye to a well loved and well worn dress. About eight years ago I bought a couple of summer dresses for the office from Oasis. I still have them but only one has been consistently pulled off the rack, week after week throughout the seasons. I love this dress because of the way it makes me feel when wearing it, it's happy bright flowers backed up by a lovely shade of purple and its fit - which is pretty good for ready to wear.

Shift dress copied from ready to wear clothes.jpg

Recently I have been trying to find a replacement for it and have been trying on various takes on the shift dress. I couldn't find any that worked as well. I came to the conclusion that this is because most of the styles don't have much shape at the front. My dress has long French darts on the front with a bust dart. The back also features long French darts but with a small additional diagonal ones which point towards the centre back seam. The closest sewing pattern I have found to this is Tilly's Francoise but it isn't quite right for what I wanted. 

In the end, I traced off the dress and made it from the delightful Boca Raton in purple from Alexander Henry's Rio collection. You can read the further details including the changes I would make to the second version over on the Fabric Fox blog

Koala Lil Critters Pinafore Dress

A couple of weeks ago my brother departed for a break in Australia where he would met his goddaughter for the first time. Packed in his suitcase was a handmade dress for when she is a little older. Sized three months, the dress is rather adorable.

Puperita Lil Critters Pinafore Dress 3 month old baby girl.jpg

After looking at a number of possible options, we selected Pupertia's Lil Critters Pinafore Dress. I was asked to recreate the sample of pale pink with the koala bear lining. Given the climate and warm temperatures throughout the year, the dress needed to be lightweight and cool. I selected a linen like cotton from Minerva Crafts in light pink for the main dress. Its just the right weight and good quality for the price. The surface is slightly textured. The koalas are designed by littlearrowdesigncompany and I purchased it from Fashion Formula on Etsy as a print on demand service. The grey is darker than I anticipated from the photo but it works very well with the pink. The print seems to have set very well and washed without any sign of fading or cracking. 

Puperita Lil Critters Pinafore Dress in pink .jpg

There’s a lot going on in this little pattern. The dress features five pockets: one on the front of the bodice, two in the front skirt and two on the back. You have the option of showing more or less of the lining on the patch pockets. As the pattern pieces were perfectly sized for a full koala head, this pinafore has the larger lining option. The skirt is gently gathered on both sides. The bodice is lined allowing for a neat finish at the waistline. 

Puperita Lil Critters Pinafore Dress 3 months baby girl.jpg

This isn't as quick a make as you might imagine for something so small. While it is straightforward to put together, the number of features means there are quite a few steps. It didn't help that my overlocker got hungry and ate the front bodice as it was finishing the waistline seam leaving a hole about 10cm in length. This led to a lot of unpicking, recutting the bodice, repositioning the pocket and then gathering the skirt with a reduced seam allowance. Sigh. For the finishing touches I added grey top stitching on the pockets and added large silver grey buttons. 

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This pattern is another solid choice for little ones from Puperita. I thrilled with how this dress turned out. I love the koala bears although I'm not sure whether they are smiling or looking a little glum! 

Megan Nielsen River dress

Are you able to name your most worn handmade item(s)? I've no doubt that I've said on many occasions that my latest make either is or will become mine. However, this time I feel confident in saying I have found them. A year ago I had the pleasure of testing the River pattern for Megan Nielsen and I have worn at least one of my two versions every week since finishing. 

Megan Nielsen River reversible dress in scuba.jpg

When the call came out, I was initially drawn to how the pattern is reversible. It seemed great to have a item you could change up just by turning it around. Once I got my hands on the pattern I was impressed at just how versatile it was. Would I make it out of a woven or knit? Would I prefer the round or v neck at the front? Should I mix up the fabrics and choose a contrast for the raglan sleeves or add piping for definition? Do I add pockets or not? And finally, dress or top? So many options! 

After staring at my stash for a long time, I finally pulled out an African wax print which had been waiting to become something fun. I knew then that I would be making the dress version - I wanted to show off the print as much as possible. I went very simple in this version and changed the neckline slightly. The neckband didn't work well with the print so I switched it for a bias finish. The cotton makes for a perfect spring and summer dress. These photos are from our trip to Bruges last year where the Spring weather was stunning and I was apparently tired! 

Megan Nielsen River dress in African Wax Print.jpg
Megan Nielsen River raglan dress in African Wax Print.jpg

When River came out for a second round of testing, we were entering autumn and I had just purchased a floral scuba from Fabworks. This time I followed the instructions for the neckband which went in perfectly to create a nice crisp v neckline. I also appreciated the other changes - the hem became a longer and felt more appropriate for the cooler weather. As with my first version, I chose to keep the make simple. The scuba is fabulous and so comfortable that it feels like I am wearing secret pyjamas during the day. This version can be very casual or dressed up a little for the office with a pair of black winter boots. 

Megan Nielsen RIver dress in scuba.jpg

The pattern has a fair amount of ease in the waist - too much for me to feel comfortable wearing the dress as it is. With both dresses, I style them with a belt which feels a little subtler than the fabric waist tie the pattern suggests. The ease is partly why I haven't yet made the top but I would probably size down for it. I'm a big fan of the depth of the hems, which is the same at the sleeves. It adds a decent amount of weight to cotton and helps it hold it shape. 

Megan Nielsen River Raglan dress in scuba.jpg

Another great feature of this pattern is just how easy it comes together. This is a dress you can whip up in an evening or take very, very slowly over the weekend. This pattern really is a winner and I've had to resist the urge to make a version for every day of the week! 

WIP: a self-drafted coat

Over the past five or so weeks, I've been working on a new longer term project. The sewing course I signed up for allows you to take any project you like and steadily work through it. I chose to draft a coat which will see me through the changing seasons - the time when it's too warm for a full winter coat and too cool for a trench coat. The inspiration came from Ted Baker's Keyla coat which is a short wrap coat made from a cashmere-blend and outside of my budget! The shape is very similar to my current winter coat which I adore. The wrap over centre front combined with the high standing collar keeps out all the draughts. There is little definition in the body and it relies on the belt to provide some shape. It feels amazing to wear so a shorter version entering my wardrobe was almost an inevitability. 

 Original inspiration.  Source

Original inspiration. Source

The pattern was drafted using my standard block and the measurements of my winter coat. As a result, the design is a mix of my winter coat and the Keyla. From the Keyla, we included the darts on the side front panels, the two piece sleeve and a very similar length. The shape of the front flaps and the style of the collar at the back are from my winter coat. The toile fitted perfectly across the shoulders and waist. The length of the coat and the sleeves were also spot on. However, one change was needed at the side front. We added a centimetre or so towards the top to prevent the sleeve from pulling the side front panels therefore stopping any drag lines and allowing fuller movement. 

Self drafted coat outer front.jpg
Self drafted coat outer high neckline.jpg

For the outer fabric, I chose a coating fabric from the new John Lewis in Oxford. It is a polyester-viscose mix which feels lovely to touch and is rather heavy. At the time of buying colour options included navy, dusty pink, light blue and black. In a rare move, I chose the black for a classic look and to ensure it will go with everything in my wardrobe.

Self drafted coat outer collar detail.jpg

This mix slides through my sewing machine with ease. Unfortunately this where its good characteristics for construction ends. It can fray pretty badly so every raw edge will have been through the overlocker. It has a very springy nature which means it needs a lot of attention around the seams to get them to lie flat. This is made worse by the fact that it is an absolute bitch to press - the mere sight of the iron will leaving a lasting mark on it, even through a press cloth. Steaming then finger pressing the seams open wouldn't keep them in place. In the end, I secured them to the body with the help of catch stitching. I'm fond of hand sewing but with the number of seams combined with the colour black I soon began to get a little frustrated. I'm blaming this extra mile for me stitching up and securing the side seams while forgetting there were pockets to add... 

Self drafted coat outer back.jpg

Despite it's aversion to the iron, I was able to add interfacing to the collar stand and to the front flaps. To give the collar more strength to stand upright, I used a study fusible canvas. As the front flaps need to be able to fold effortlessly I opted for a lighter fusible fleece type domette. It works perfectly with the outer fabric and gives just enough support. 

Self drafted coat inside front.jpg

Thankfully, the order of construction has been pretty easy to figure out. Broadly, the front and front sides were pieced together first followed by the back and back sides. They were stitched together at the side seams and at the shoulders. The collar stand was added to the back neckline. To create the flaps, the centre back seam was stitched before being added along the front seams and the back neckline. I carefully marked the pivot point at the back neckline to ensure a smooth line at the point where the stand meets the shoulder line. This point was then carefully clipped to allow the seam allowance to lie flat. I then set the sleeves. The inside flaps were stitched to the front facing before being added to the outer shell of the coat.

Self drafted coat inside shoulder detail.jpg

So far, so good and it fits very well. When trying it on, I realised that the sleeves will need some extra support and I plan to add sleeve heads. I also need to work out how I want to do up the coat before tackling the difficult task of getting all the outer seam lines to lay smooth and flat for top stitching. I'm currently debating between buttons or magnets. Has anyone ever used magnets in a make before? If so, any tips?

I'm now off to start working on the lining. I'm still a little annoyed about missing out the pockets and the thought of unpicking the seams or adding belt loops are not ones that I currently cherish! 


Yoga Mat Bag: a tutorial

How is your weekend going? I'm having a quiet one - I'll be mostly catching up with friends but I have squeezed in some sewing time to work on this scrap buster of a project. 

How to make a yoga mat bag 18.jpg

I mentioned earlier this year that I have started to attend regular weekly yoga classes. I've been enjoying it so much that I have invested in a mat. I knew that I needed a bag as it's been a little tricky carrying just a rolled mat. I almost bought one at the time I purchased the mat but realised that I had all the materials at home to make my own. This has the double win of taking out a little more fabric from the study (which I still haven't summoned the courage to sort out) and is also more sustainable than buying. This bag cost me £2 purely because I ran out of top stitching thread.

I had a few essential needs when designing this bag:

  • Durability: I can be harsh on bags, especially when moving them from place to place, so I wanted something that could withstand this as well protect the mat. I was thinking canvas or similar. 
  • Ease of use: I wanted a bag I could just drop the mat into and go. A draw string closure made more sense than a long zip up the middle of the bag. Given my preference for the outer fabrics and that the mat is "sticky" a smooth lining would be needed to allow the mat to slide into the bag. 

With all this is mind, I selected a turquoise cotton canvas and some left over denim from my Miette skirt for the outer fabrics. They look rather striking together and give the durability I wanted without being too heavy. The lining is made from a black poly satin. To give the bag some more interesting features, I added a denim band to the top and added the finishing touches with some select topstitching. I'm looking forward to a more straightforward journey on Monday! 

How to make a yoga mat bag 20.JPG

I took some photos and thought I would share the my construction process in case you are interested in making your own. 

Materials needed

    1. Two circles to make the base. One in denim and one from the lining: 18cm diameter
    2. A denim rectangle: 58cm x 27cm
    3. A denim strip for the top of the bag: 58cm x 5cm
    4. A cotton canvas rectangle: 58cm x 47cm
    5. The strap in denim: 13cm x 70cm 
    6. A lining rectangle: 58cm x 73cm
    7. Cord for the drawstring

How to make the bag

1. Stitch the denim rectangle to the canvas rectangle to create the main body of the bag. Finish the seam and press down towards the denim. Topstitch into place. 

How to make a yoga mat bag.jpg

2. Stitch the long sides of the body to make a tube. Finish edges and press to one side. 

How to make a yoga mat bag 2.jpg
How to make a yoga mat bag 3.jpg

3. Create two button holes in the denim strip that will go at the top of the bag. As a guide, I left 3-4cm between them. 

How to make a yoga bag mat buttonholes.jpg

4. Finish the lower end of the strip and press up the seam allowance. Pin around the top of the bag (right side of the canvas up) and topstitch the lower seam into place. 

How to make a yoga mat bag 5.jpg

5. To create the strap, fold the piece in half and stitch along the long edge and one short edge. Back stitch in the corner for extra strength. Finish the seam and clip the stitched corner. Turn the strap out to the right side and press flat.

How to make a yoga mat bag 9.jpg

6. Fix the strap in place by positioning the finished end 1.5cm underneath the denim strip. Stitch into place. You may wish to stitch this part twice for added strength. 

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7. Keeping the strap straight, pin the unfinished edge to the bottom of the body.

8. Pin the denim circle base to the main body and stitch into place. You may need to slightly ease the body in to fit the circle. Finish seams.

How to make a yoga mat bag 4.jpg

9. Create the lining by following steps 2 and 8. 

10. Add the cord to the top of the bag. Insert the cord through one button hole and work around the bag keeping the cord close to the bottom between the denim and canvas until you get to the other button hole. 

How to make a yoga mat bag 7.jpg

11. Finish the top seams of the outer bag and the lining. Insert the outer bag into the lining, right sides together. Pin around the top and stitch using a 0.5cm seam allowance. Be sure to leave a 6-10cm gap so you can turn the bag through. 

How to make a yoga mat bag 14.jpg
How to make a yoga mat bag 16.jpg

12. After turning the bag right sides out, push the lining down into the outer bag keeping the top edge smooth. Carefully fold under the seam allowance where the gap is and pin into place. Topstitch along the top to keep the lining in place and seal the gap. Be sure to keep the cord out of the way so you don't catch it. 

How to make a yoga mat bag 17.jpg

13. Give your bag a final press. Add you yoga mat, pull the drawstring to close and finish with a bow. You're now ready to go to class! 

How to make a yoga mat bag 19.JPG

Fabric Fox Creatives: Simplicity 2393

A short while ago the lovely people at The Fabric Fox asked if I would join their team of creatives and I gladly accepted. For my first make I made a cute little coat for my mum' Yorkshire Terrier who has been struggling with the cold recently. Head over to The Fabric Fox's blog for full details. There's also a quick Q&A with me which mainly centres around sewing. 

Simplicity 2393 Dog Coat for Dinky Dogs

Puffin Super Tote

This project has been a long time in the making and was my only handmade Christmas present. In the summer Frances, my Mother-in-Law, asked me to make her a bag for Christmas that could replace her preferred tote bag which was getting rather tired.

Noodlehead super tote.jpg

The brief was simple: a tote of similar size, pockets on the inside and ideally one on the outside to hold a phone, pink polka dots, water proof (if possible) and the strap needed to be a certain length in order to hang just at the right length. I can appreciate this last point - there't nothing more annoying that walking with a bag that sits too high or too low. 

Noodlehead super tote 2.jpg

Feeling a little apprehensive (I don't have much experience making bags) I spent a number of weeks researching fabrics and looking for possible patterns. I drew a blank on water proof fabric. There is plenty of it available but it would either make a bag that felt like a tent or would be an incredibly boring colour. A pink polka dot exterior was not looking likely so I opted for water resistant and searched for matt oil cloth. At Only Oilcloths, I came across these fabulous puffins (Frances loves puffins) and quickly placed an order. I paired it with pink polka dot cotton for the lining purchased from Minerva. While the oil cloth is rather sturdy, I added a layer of interfaced cotton canvas to add extra support. 

Noodlehead super tote 7.jpg

The pattern also took some time to find. Unsurprisingly there are soooo many tote bag patterns out there and many which featured most of the spec for this bag. Eventually I came across the Super Tote by noodlehead on Instagram. Described as an extra roomy tote with a front pocket, recessed zip and interior pockets, this pattern ticked all of the boxes. It seemed you could adapt it slightly and I liked many of the versions I saw. 

Noodlehead super tote 5.jpg

Realising that it would be impossible to cut the oilcloth without chopping a puffin in half, I made pattern matching the front pocket the top priority. The magnetic snap was added very carefully to ensure the puffins lined up as perfectly as possible. To give a sense of symmetry the gussets were cut with the same puffin at the top. Lining these pieces up it became clear that some piping was needed to allow the puffins to stand out. I made a couple of metres of narrow piping in a Robert Kauffman navy linen. I added this to the underside of the strap too. This is one detail I did change from the original pattern. Instead of two straps on the larger sides of the bag, I added a single on to the gussets. 

Noodlehead super tote 4.JPG

Construction was easier than I anticipated. I used wonder clips for the oil cloth and basted most of the layers well into the seam allowance as I wanted to be sure it looked as planned before stitching - a test piece proved that ripped out stitches left a permanent mark in the oil cloth. The curves at the bottom of the bag are very tricky to sew so follow the recommendation to clip the seam allowance before stitching to help it line up. Adding the interior pocket was very easy although I think I may have used a slightly too short piece of elastic as the cotton bunches a lot. It doesn't stop the pockets from being fully functional though. The one area I did struggle with was adding the recessed zip pieces to the zip as I couldn't easily get them to line up. The most scary part was the final stage - adding the top stitching around the top of the bag to keep the lining in place. It's a little off in places as the oil cloth stuck to the foot despite using tissue paper to help glide it through. 

Noodlehead super tote 3.jpg

I'll be giving this bag to Frances next weekend. Why next weekend when it was a Christmas present? A few days before Christmas I was finishing it up and noticed that the front of the bag had a large mark towards the top. On closer examination it appeared that the laminate from the oil cloth had been stripped off. I have no idea how this happened as the piece was fine throughout the making process. I quickly ordered another lot of oil cloth and wrapped an almost finished bag. It came home with me and I started the process of unpicking it in order to replace the front panel. Not an ideal situation and the unpicking took a long time but it was totally worth the effort. 

On missing creativity

Hello everyone. How is your January going? Traditionally my most difficult month of the year, I have been surprised by how well I'm getting through it. Instead of laying under a mountain of duvets with a never ending supply of Earl Grey tea, I've been able to keep up with everything I had planned - which isn't much because overloading when you're potentially going to be feeling a little fragile is a recipe for disaster. I've been maintaining my running routine and have actually been enjoying the cold evening runs home. Another benefit has been starting yoga on a Monday evening immediately after work - such a fabulous way to begin the week. 


The slight downside to anticipating such an awful month is that you become super sensitive to how you are feeling. One aspect that has come into ever sharper focus for me is my ongoing lack of desire to create. Just a year ago you would find me prioritising making a dress or a free motion picture over doing the house work. Ever since finishing up the items for the wedding, I've not reached the third step of the creative ladder, let alone the normal eight or nine that I'm so familiar and much more comfortable with. A missing sewjo is fine - I've been here before and it is inevitable it will happen again but I have been surprised by one particular emotion that has come with all of this. 

Guilt. This is becoming the overwhelming feeling I experience when I think about sewing, when I see fabric, or go on social media and see fabulous makes in progress. This feeling is nuanced. I don't feel that I owe anything to the online sewing community - we can all pick and choose how, and to what extent, we want to interact with others. Instead I feel awful that I am not joining in, not sharing because I am not making. I'm now struggling to sit on the sidelines and cheer you all on because it opens the wound of not making a little wider every time I do. I'm avoiding our study where my sewing supplies are kept. The room is in an absolute mess and needs to be tidied but the stab of guilt of looking at my stash and all my scraps sends me dashing for the sofa and the safety of a fiction book.


Interestingly, it isn't true to say that I'm not making. I've made a number of items for others and myself over the past three months, all which had deadlines. Getting round to making them has been challenging but I've enjoyed the short bursts of stitching - the 30-60 minutes I can muster. Guilt raises it head when I struggle to get going and walk away from the table. It's also present when I think about how I want to share these items with you, to  commit to the web the blog posts that have been circulating in my head for months, and yet even that seems a step too far. 

I have no doubt that this will eventually pass. That I will find myself spending a weekend in the study rolling fabrics and putting patterns away. That I will find myself glued to my machine making all the things because the urge to stitch is overwhelming. In the meantime, I'm trying to keep the pressure off and see if I can nudge myself to a sturdier footing on the third step of the ladder. This post appears to have come from the decision to not force a post. I start a sewing course on Wednesday where the plan is to draft and stitch a jacket that will get me through the changing seasons. There is some gorgeous wool in John Lewis that is calling to be bought with my birthday money and I have some delicious silk from Vietnam that could work for the lining. The plan is there and with the accountability of the course I'm hopeful. Let's see if it works. 

Refashioners 2017: Simplicity 2442

The Refashioners inspire me every year but this is the first time I have actively decided to join in. It can't be that difficult I thought. Just take a suit jacket, add a few well placed darts, perhaps remove the sleeves or alter the collar and suddenly the jacket will be transformed. Not quite. It appears that I have difficulty seeing a completed item, imaging what it will become and then working out how to get there. Taking the jacket completely apart and eeking a pattern out of it in a game of Tetris seemed less hassle and I ended up doing that twice. Today I'm sharing the more complicated make but check back at the weekend for the other (or Instagram tomorrow). 

 I'm slightly freaked by how my hair looks in these photos. In real life it is much more blonde and gold than orange! 

I'm slightly freaked by how my hair looks in these photos. In real life it is much more blonde and gold than orange! 

This item started life as mens size 40R jacket from Next which I picked up for £5.99 in one of the local charity shops. The colour caught my eye - I have nothing against the traditional suit colours but I'm not well know for wearing black, brown, navy or pin stripes. I immediately thought of a waistcoat/jumper to wear over a white shirt during the cold months but it had to have an interesting twist. I turned to Simplicity 2442 - the neckline of which I adore. 

 The original jacket

The original jacket

I won't go into too much construction detail as you can ready about that in my previous posts (here and here) To make the most of the fabric, and for style, I moved the zip to the side and used the original centre back seam of the jacket. The sleeves and front of the bodice also came from the body of the jacket. To give a nod to its origin I included the breast pocket in the front of the left sleeve. The middle band and lower bands came from the sleeves. The bodice is fully lined from the original lining and has a patchwork effect as embracing the navy sleeves and grey body lining. The grey lining is a little delicate and I'm not sure how long it will last. The label says it is 100% polyester and I tend to find ready to wear linings don't last as long as you would hope. 

Refashioners 2017 Simplicity 2442 4.jpg
Refashioners 2017 Simplicity 2442 6.JPG

Overall I'm really pleased with how this top has come out and its construction. The insides are nice and tidy - have you spotted the matching bias binding to finish the sleeves neatly? I had some doubts about how the shaped neckline would work with a collared shirt but I think it works rather well. I can see this working with smarter trousers for a more formal look. The outer fabric is a poly viscose mix and has a much more structured look and feel the poly viscose mix that I imagined but I think that adds to the charm of the style.

Refashioners 2017 Simplicity 2442 3.jpg

I do have one issue with it though, and it is a big one. It seems that I messed up on the drafting of the bottom band and it is very tight - like unable to eat when wearing tight. I cut the bottom band on the cross grain which seemed to have a little more stretch but forgot to shape out the side seams enough to accommodate my curves. You can see how tight it is pulling in the back photo. The fit of the rest of the top is snug but not suffocating like the bottom band. I'm not sure there is a quick fix to this but I would like to find a way to fix it as I would love to wear my new creation as originally intended. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. It would be a shame to let this make just hang about unloved. 

Pomegranate Cowl by Octavia Patterns

Have you heard there's a new pattern company on the scene? The lovely Jodie today launched the first pattern from Octavia Patterns. Octavia focuses on more modern styles and fashionable designs aimed at the workplace or for those wanting something different to the vast range of vintage inspired patterns we see so often. You could say they are more like what you will find in shops and the hope is the designs will be ones that will stick around for years rather than weeks. 

Octavia Patterns Pomegranate 3.jpg

The first pattern is Pomegranate - a fabulous cowl neck blouse with short kimono sleeves. I was fortunate enough to pattern test this little beauty. I'm a sucker for a cowl neck blouse especially when paired a black skirt for the office or a pair of jeans for a night in the local pub. Throw in kimono sleeves, no closures or darts, and the knowledge I can make this in an afternoon and you could safely bet that I would be hooked. 

Octavia Patterns Pomegranate.jpg

Pomegranate is very easy to make but you do need to take care during construction. As you might expect, it is cut on the bias so careful handling is a must to ensure you keep the shape and prevent a stretched neckline. That said, you can still whip this up quickly and if you're not sure about how to sew on the bias check out the blog section of Octavia's website where you will find some handy tips. The back neckline is finished with a bias facing and the cowl by folding the raw edge twice and stitching into place. This is about as fiddly as the construction gets.

Octavia Patterns Pomegranate 4.jpg

For fit, I did make a few changes - namely grading between sizes and also lengthening the waist by 1.5cm as I like my tops to be a little longer. Having worn this top a fair amount there is one more change I would make to my next version which is to add more width to the back - the side seams sit a little further back than normal for me. It doesn't take away from the comfort of the top but it is something I am aware of.

Octavia Patterns Pomegranate 2.jpg

This version is made from some delightful viscose from Sew Over It. It has a close enough weave to give a wonderful drape while keeping the cowl in place. My original version was in a poly satin which has a much looser weave and gave a much deeper cowl as well as some weird drag lines across my bust. The moral of this tale is to think carefully about what fabric you use - the poly satin version is still on my dress form wondering if it will ever be hemmed and worn. I doubt it will be unfortunately. In the meantime I will overwear this version - it works perfectly for the office or with a pair jeans for a lazy weekend or dinner out. 

Octavia Patterns Pomegranate 5.jpg

If you want to make your own version be sure to snap up the pattern this week as you'll get 20% off. I doubt you will regret it.


As a pattern tester, I received the final version of the pattern and I was under no obligation to post. 

Great British Sewing Bee Live

On Friday I had a fabulous day out at the Great British Sewing Bee Live. I went with the intention of trying to see everything, to chat to fellow sewists, and to come home with limited fabric purchases. 


Arriving on time with Hannah, we decided to start with browsing some of the shops. There was everything on offer and I found it a little overwhelming to decide what to buy. All our favourite shops were there as well as some that were new to me. It would have been so easy to drain my bank account and come away with metres and metres of fabric as nearly all the stalls were related to dressmaking unlike many of these big shows. As I haven't been sewing much from my stash, I didn't feel I could justify buying without a plan so focussed on what I didn't have but needed. In the end I limited myself to two purchases. I picked six fat quarters from Fabrics Galore for some Christmas stockings I making for a charity sale.  The other purchase two metres of some absolutely delicious wool blend from Fabworks for a pair of trousers. 


We attended the Super Theatre were it was great to see the alteration challenge live. Refashioning items is not a strength of mine and I found it very impressive to see three shirts transformed into girls dresses in just 45 minutes. I also really enjoyed browsing the Liberty exhibition which featured clothing from across the decades. I spent ages looking at the many details in each piece and seeing how they showed off the fabulous prints. 


One aspect of the event that appealed to me was the workshops and I managed to attend one. The aim was to make a faux suede or leather clutch bag in an hour. I chose this one as I hadn't worked with either of these fabrics before and thought it would be a good introduction. All materials were provided and pre cut to save time and an instruction sheet was also provided. The process for making the bag was simple and quick - fold under the lining seam allowances and place over the leather, stitch along the bottom seam, add the snap, fold up the bottom of the bag and stitch from the bottom of one side all the way around the point to the other side.


While it was a quick make and the instructor was clear and supportive, I felt that the session was too rushed and there was pressure for the participants to keep up at a speed that some clearly weren't comfortable with. I came away with a finished bag but it isn't one that I will be using as it isn't finished very well - my snap is off centre, the lining is peaking out the sides and my stitching is very uneven. However, it was a good introduction to working with faux leather and I learnt some useful tips during the hour. I'm also likely to unpick the bag and use it as a pattern to make another but with a longer time allowance. The size of the bag is very good and could be used for a number of purposes - a night out or holding documents.


As if all this wasn't enough, I managed to catch up with a number of familiar faces over lunch and became a Love Sewing Magazine Cover Star - such a fun addition to their stand. 

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GBSB Live have just announced the dates for the next show - 8-10 June 2018. I've already popped the dates in my diary and started a little savings pot so I can take more advantage of what is on offer! 

New blog makeover

This morning I want to introduce my blog makeover!

For a fair few months (read at least a year), I have longed for a much fresher and more modern looking blog but have struggled to make blogger work in the way I wanted. Then the site started to mess around with my photos for reasons I couldn't work out and I decided the time was right to make a move. So here we are! A new look which is optimised for all devices. 

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While a lot has changed, you'll find everything here that was available in the previous format and I've kept the same fonts and some colours. Many pages have been tidied up and refreshed to have more relevant content. The navigation bar is now at the very top. You'll find the search and archive options in the side bar as well as a sneak peak at my Instagram feed. 

It was a little hard to say goodbye to the turtle that my brother designed a few years ago but I think this new design represents where I've got to now.

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I hope you enjoy having a mooch around and do let me know what you think. This is my first time designing a site from scratch (luckily without needing to know any code!) and reformatting everything so I would also like to know if you encounter any broken links or photos that don't load. I think I have caught them all but you never know when dealing with over 200 posts! 

Itch to Stitch Anza dress

This dress began with a conversation in the kitchen at work over a cup of peppermint tea. My colleague was having a clear out and had rediscovered a suitcase of fabric from Egypt, Pakistan, and Africa that she had bought a number of years before but life had got in the way of her plans. She asked if I wanted the fabric on the condition that I gave away anything I didn't want. Great deal, right? A lot of fabric entered my house and I kept a few items - some Egyptian cotton and a few metres of black Africa cotton.

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While ironing the African cotton after washing, I started to get excited and I knew what this piece was destined to become - the Anza dress by Itch to Stitch. I had been looking for an excuse to purchase this pattern and one had conveniently fallen into my lap. It's a lovely moment when a pattern and fabric find each other with ease. 

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For those unfamiliar with Anza, it is a relaxed, unlined jumpsuit or dress with a cinched waistline featuring both elastic and a drawstring. It has a front buttoned V-neck bodice with pleated breast pockets with buttoned flaps and fairly deep side pockets. It comes in a wide range of sizes including cup sizes. Depending on your fabric choice, it could be made for numerous occasions. 

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The cotton is a rather wonderful. It has a subtle diamond pattern woven throughout which you don't notice until you're up close. It was easy to work with making stitching the dress a mostly smooth experience. It does have a down side though - it attracts everything! Pet hair, threads, general dust etc that I can look completely dishevelled by the end of the day! I chose to underline it with a plain black cotton because it felt a little too transparent. The pattern doesn't call for this and it has made the dress crisper and a little warmer than I had intended. The bodice is finished with plain black buttons which aren't my first choice but they were all I could find in Oxford that were big enough. This pattern does require you to pay more attention than usual to the size of the buttons due to the front facing being topstitched into place giving the illusion of a wide placket. The buttons need to be able to stand up to that and anything smaller than the suggested size might look odd. 

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Based on the finished measurements, and a quick paper fitting, I cut a size 8 at the bust grading to a 10 at the waist and hips. I made no other changes although with hindsight I should have lowered the waistline by a centimetre to achieve a more comfortable fit. The other change I would make is taking up the hem a little - it falls just below my knee which isn't my thing but I can definitely live with it in this version. This was my first time using a pattern that offered cup sizes and I liked that I wouldn't have to think about an FBA. Given the relaxed feel for the dress, the sizing seems to be about right.

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While there are many steps to complete this dress, it is a straightforward make. I did find some areas tricky but this down to my fabric choice and just not really paying attention! The breast pockets took way longer than they should have but I was determined to get them as close to perfect as I could and spent longer pressing these than any other part of the dress. The waistband caused the most frustration though and this is purely down to the thickness of the cotton and its fraying superpower. This part is cleverly designed as the band allows both the elastic and the draw string to be added in the same area with (what should be) minimal fuss. The elastic is added before you fully close up the band and the drawstring is added through two small button holes in the same band. A quick note on hemming - the pattern asks you to hem the skirt pieces separately before you stitch the side seams and I would recommend this. I skipped it and found it difficult to get a smooth neat curve with the fabric bulk and therefore my topstitching is off at either side - not that you can notice in black! 

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There's a lot to like about this pattern. I'm rather fond of it's casual feel, the clean lines on the bodice and the comfort of cinched waistline. Perhaps the best part is the side pockets. They are deep enough to be actually useful. I judge a pocket on whether it can fit my whole hand with my phone. I still have room to spare in these! As ever, I have thoughts of more versions in some brighter colours but as these would be more lightweight versions they may have to wait until next Spring...


After a time of extreme highs, you can't always anticipate how you will be feeling afterwards. I had an inkling that my sewjo would be depleted after finishing my wedding dress in March and, if it happened, I hoped it wouldn't be for too long. Instead of bouncing back, my motivation for making *anything* decided to take a long holiday and vanished completely. I believe this was because I needed a rest both physically and mentally, and because I was having a huge internal battle over my identity (this post sums it up better than I ever could). It is only now that the battle is over (I stuck with my original) and that life is settling down into a more normal routine that I am feeling my sewjo come back. It hasn't yet fully unpacked its bag though and disappears for day trips when I try to force it. 

This complete disappearance was bad news for me. Like many others, I rely fairly heavily on sewing as a form of mindfulness to help me keep my thoughts in check. It rivals exercise for being my most effective tool. Discovering that one of my fool proof techniques for nudging or maintaining my mood could no longer be fully relied upon was slightly alarming and made me realise that I needed to expand my creative arsenal. 

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Doing nothing isn't in my nature which led me to I experiment. Over the past six weeks, I have worked on my English paper piece quilt so it now covers half of our bed. The repetitive nature of hand stitching seemed less intimidating - I could stitch a few hexies and leave it. Before I knew it, the quilt had doubled in size. I love how it is turning out.

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I dabbled with some new free motion embroidery designs. I didn't have any expectation for them - good job as only one turned out ok! However, the mere process of doing this has given me some more ideas for when I can get back to it. 

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I've never considered myself as someone who is able to draw but I have always wanted to. Without any expectation, and partially through desperation, I signed up for an online course to learn the basics of drawing. I'm only experimenting with line drawings at the moment but it's nice to see I might have potential if I keep practising. I'm currently obsessed with vintage pattern envelopes and will be using them as inspiration going forward. 

While none of these have the same effect as sewing, it is great to be learning some more creative skills. They do help in their own way and I am looking forward to continuing with them. Another positive is they have been enough of a distraction to stop me constantly thinking about when I will sew again. I already am and have an almost finished Itch to Stitch Anza dress which I'll be sure to share with you soon. 

GBSB Live Winners plus a Discount Code

This post was updated on 23rd July - see below.

Thanks to everyone who entered this giveaway over the past week. Jumping straight into it with an imaginary drum roll...

The winners of the five pairs of tickets to the Great British Sewing Bee Live, randomly pulled from the box, are:


Congratulations to Rachel, Sabs, Alice's Sewing Adventures, Penguin and Pear, and Batwidow! Please contact me at iwanttobeaturtle[at]gmail with your name which I will pass onto the organisers with your email address. 

UPDATE: I've heard that Batwidow has been super lucky and won two different draws for tickets. Being a lovely soul, she asked me to redraw so the next lucky winner is:

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Congratulations, Jodie - contact me as above to claim your tickets. 

For those you of you were unlucky, or missed entering, I can offer you a discount of £1.50 on regular tickets. You can purchase tickets here - just enter the code BAT into the promo code box. 

I'm counting down the days to this event and I hope to see many of you there. 

Giveaway: Great British Sewing Bee Live

Few words cause more excitement in the sewing community than "Great British Sewing Bee" and there is certainly a buzz building again this year. I'm sure you've all heard that the show is taking on a new format and is going live, yes live, at the ExCel in London on 21st-24th September. 

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The event looks pretty amazing with so much to try and fit in a single visit. A must see is the Super Theatre where Patrick Grant and Esme Young will talk tips for tailoring and dressmaking before a live sewing bee challenge takes place. Fancy trying a new skill and meeting some of the former contestants? Take a workshop! It'll take you time to narrow them down and I suggest reviewing them with a cup of tea. 

Want to add to your stash? You won't be short on choice as there will be over 200 of your favourite suppliers there including Girl Charlee, Guthrie & Ghani, Melissa Fehr, The Foldline and Tilly. A lover of Liberty prints? There's the chance to see some archive pieces from the 1930s through the 1970s. As if that wasn't enough they've also includeddressmaking drop in clinics to help you solve that issue preventing you finishing a piece and a made at home fashion catwalk! Check out the website for further details on all the offerings. 


So hands up - who wants to go?

I thought so. I'm pleased to be able to offer five pairs of tickets valid for a visit on the Thursday or Friday (pick the Friday and we can say hello!) To be in the running, leave a comment below telling me which part of the event you are most keen to attend. This giveaway is open until Thursday 20th July 2017 with the winners announced on Saturday 22nd. 

Handmade wedding stationery

Hi everyone, thanks so much for all the wedding dress love! It was great to share all the details with you and to relive the process. I have one more wedding related post.

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I wanted to share our wedding stationery which were also handmade and a joint effort between us. It was very important to me that the day reflected us as a couple and I had a strong desire to have as large a handmade element to it as possible. I stopped at the dress and the stationery as anything else would have been too much. We knew early on that we wanted the designs of our stationery to compliment each other and ideally to involve fabric - cotton as its easy to work with and also leant itself nicely to the venue. 

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The hardest part was choosing the designs. I was doing a lot of free motion embroidery at the time and realised this technique could give an interesting look. Adam was still intrigued by the Girih tiles we had seen in Lisbon during the summer and shared a few designs. A couple of trial runs later and we chose two designs - one for the Save the Dates and one for the Invitations. We had a very loose teal and purple theme to the wedding and chose a teal and purple polycotton from our local fabric store. These would be paired with metallic silver thread (more on that later). The motifs and words would be framed in a silver card and then mounted onto a A6 white card. 

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You'll see in the photos that a third motif was added at a later stage. We were struggling to come up with a nice name card design. I originally wanted to stitch the names directly onto card but the machine foot left very visible dents. When our caterers provided us with a very detailed menu for all dietary needs, Adam suggested personalised menus for everyone in exactly the same style as the others. I continued to stitch the motifs but added the third partly for speed but also to prevent boredom! While it increased the workload, I really loved being able to add this personal touch and thought they looked great on the tables. I cannot take any credit for the design of any of the insets - Adam took care of those. He managed to match the colours almost perfectly to the fabric. 

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The process of making all the motifs and words was one I both loved and loathed. Tracing the designs took rather a long time - I used carbon paper to ensure I could see the lines in the dark colours while stitching in the winter months. Drawing and cutting the silver squares and rectangles seemed to take too long too. But that was nothing compared to the fights I had with Hemline's silver metallic thread. More often than not, it was a nightmare to work with. It got stuck around the bobbin case or snapped at the needle more times than I care to remember. There were magical times when it worked in harmony with my machine and I stitched and stitched in the deluded hope it would never end. It will be a very long time, if ever, before I chose a thread like that again! 

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I love how all of the cards are the same style and how those of the same design are all unique. This is the part of handmade that pleases me the most - each item has its own personality and quirks. I was delighted to hear that they were well received and one couple pointed out that we had included something for both the seamstress and the engineer. I guess we fulfilled reflecting both us as we had hoped.

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In addition, Adam designed and made our seating plan. We decided to name our tables after some of our favourite places in Europe. Choosing a vintage inspired look, he created polaroids of the places and postcards with the names of the guests before linking them with twine to a map. We used teal pins to help tie it all together. The whole thing was secured to the wonderful architects board that comes with the venue. 

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Thanks for your patience while I shared all of these details. We will be back to more normal sewing activities from next week - tune in for an exciting giveaway! 

Wedding dress - the reveal

Thank you all for sticking with me while I shared the details of how I made my wedding dress. I'm sure this is the post you've been waiting for - how the the dress looked on the day and some wedding photos. Ok, I got carried away and there are lots of photos focussing on the dress. If you want to see more of our day and the venue, visit this post by Gareth, our fabulous photographer who supplied all of the shots below. 

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The first sighting of the dress on that glorious day in early May was when Gareth took it for its own short private photo shoot. I had asked him at the beginning to get some photos of it as I knew I wouldn't have the opportunity and thankfully he was game! He took the dress to the Cotton Quarter where our ceremony took place. 

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This was the first time that the dress had been hung and, without the security of being on me, I was a little worried that the weight of the skirts would cause it to drop. I temporarily added a couple of ribbons to the bodice, secured with safety pins, to give some extra stability while the dress was on the hanger. 

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I couldn't have put the dress on without help and my bridesmaids, Emily and Rachel, came to the rescue. 

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After the waist stay and the top button were closed, we all pulled the bodice tightly towards the back to ease the pressure on the invisible zip at the waistline. Rachel closed the buttons on the back while Emily took charge of ensuring the skirt layers laid flat.

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It was pretty amazing to be finally wearing it! I was completely amazed by how closely and perfectly Kerry, our florist, had been able to match the roses to my dress. I also want to thank Ellie for the make up and performing a small miracle with my hair which didn't want to stay put. 

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Amazingly the dress came through the day unscathed - no tears in the lace and no alcohol stains. Just a few small grass stains from the short walk below. 

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This is an even more impressive achievement when you consider the amount of crazy dancing that happened during the party. 

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We hired an amazing band, Hipster, who kept our guests entertained with a couple of hours of fabulous live music. I ditched my shoes and bounced around for the whole evening! 

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I honestly couldn't be prouder of this make.

Wedding Dress - Skirt and finishing touches

This is the last construction post of my wedding dress! I'll cover creating the skirt, adding the bodice and the finishing touches.

You may remember in the photos of the dress toile the skirt was narrow and the train rather short. I was keen to fix this in the actual dress as it felt limiting (both in style and movement) and I wanted to show off the beautiful fabrics as far as possible. With a limited amount of fabric, the width of the skirt and therefore the length of the train was determined by the width of the silk satin. 

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At 132cm wide, the early indications were that this would be close to what I had originally wanted. At the cutting out session, we took the skirt pattern and sliced it up the middle, laid it on the silk satin and spread it as far as we could. By this time I had my shoes and they demanded an extra 8cm of length to be added at the bottom. We smoothed out the curved hem before cutting out allowing extra wide seam allowances. These would give us greater flexibility in ensuring the silk satin and lace skirts lined up neatly when they were fixed together. 

Cutting out the lace skirt was a little emotional. I wanted the beautiful scalloped edges to skim the floor at the front and be complete all the way round the skirt and ideally for the train to finish in a smooth curve. The lace had other ideas - to achieve the smooth curve I would need to clip the lace and add a large part by hand. This was based on the assumption that we would cut the lace length ways and piece the skirt together using applique seams. Seeing it all laid out and imagining how it would look made me realise that it didn't feel right. 

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While I was cutting out the silk, Chris was laying out the pattern pieces on the lace and experimenting. By placing the pattern on the cross grain it was possible to cut the entire skirt in one very large piece. No side seams, no applique needed! We wrapped the lace around me to check the drape would work and I got very, very excited. Cutting this way would allow the lace to shine as it was intended. There was a compromise though - to keep the full scalloped edge it would have to end in a gentle point rather than a smooth curve. After seeing the drape of the lace, I decided that maintaining that was more important and chose to adapt the train. As an added bonus, it halved my workload!

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As with the bodice, the silk satin was mounted onto silk organza. When testing the fit, we took out quite a bit of excess at my hips (a standard issue for me) to ensure that we got the gradual A line. I finished the seams in both the silk satin and the lining with French seams. Alterations were needed to the lace skirt as well - we had to raise it at the waist by about 8cm and ease it into the waistline while ensuring that the lace matched up along the centre back. The back of the lace skirt was left open. Now came the most complicated part - adding the skirts to the silk satin bodice. 

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I completed the lining first, attaching the skirt at the waistline to the lining of the bodice. I then inserted the invisible zip to the lining and the foundation carefully keeping the silk satin out of the way. Thankfully the zip went in perfectly first time. Following this, the silk satin and lace skirts were basted to the silk satin of the bodice and stitched into place. The centre back seam allowance of the silk bodice and skirt were pressed under and slip stitched along the zip. Keeping the silk from bubbling at the bottom of the zip was the trickiest part and the thread was ripped out a number of times. 

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The lace overlay was added next - hand stitched into place at the side seams and anchored loosely at key points along the waist line. All of a sudden, the dress had come together with only the centre back closing to add. It felt like I was on the home straight although there was still a lot of work to complete and time was slipping away. 

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Completing the centre back required long strips of silk satin cut on the bias - somewhere between 7-8m. To minimise the number of joins, I cut the stripes as long as possible - about 70cm - before they became too distorted. I needed two strips at 3m for each of the centre back seams and enough to create about 130 rouleau loops. Despite sounding a lot, the loops were relatively quick to make as the silk turned out on itself easily and were cut to the exact length needed. 

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To ensure everything lined up, I basted the bias strips onto each of the lace centre back seams. A quick fit revealed that I needed to let out the middle of the lace bodice as it was pulling too tight across my shoulder blades. I finished the left seam first as it was the simplest - the bias strip was stitched into place with the machine and the pressed towards the centre of the dress. The raw edge was folded under before being slip stitched into place. To keep the top and bottom openings clean, the extra silk was folded up/down and before being anchored by the slip stitching. 

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The right side was more intensive as the loops needed to be included. The bias strip was machine stitched into place and pressed towards the centre of the dress. On the wrong side I matched up the loops to the edge of the seam allowance. The loops were added with the following pattern: 1cm between the ends of a single loop, a 0.5cm gap and repeat for the whole length of the dress - 126 loops in total. 

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Each loop was pinned and then basted tightly into place. The raw edge of the binding was folded over and covered the raw edges of the loops and hand stitched into place. To secure the loops, they were hand pressed towards the opening and secured into place with a few tiny hand stitches per loop. Even though I broke up the hand stitching into small chunks and took frequent breaks I developed severe cramps in both my hands. Once recovered slightly, I began the process of stitching the buttons on to the left hand binding. The buttons are covered in the same silk satin and were created by Harlequin based in Essex. They were super quick, returning the buttons a few days after I sent off for them. 

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Adding the binding, loops and buttons took three days in total - the only part of the dress I can actually put a time frame on! While the dress features 126 fully functioning buttons, only the top 50 were used to put the dress on. 

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To fully finish the bodice, I added a rouleau loop and button to the top to help with the strain on the invisible zip. Finally, I was at the hemming stage and went to see Chris for the final time. She kindly measured the hem while I stood in my shoes. The silk satin skirt is hand stitched to the organza using the slip stitch. 

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It is 1cm in depth, double folded and I rolled it back to ensure the hand stitching is completely invisible. The hem was very lightly pressed to remove any remaining pin and basting marks while maintaining the smooth curve of the fold. I did this over a couple of evenings as my hands still hadn't fully recovered from the loops and buttons. The lining was finished in the same way but went through the sewing machine and was fully pressed. A quick review of the dress to ensure all the basting thread had been removed and it was finally finished - five weeks ahead of the wedding. 

Stay tuned for Saturday's post for photos from the big day!