corecouture

Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane


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Sources of Inspiration

One of my very bestest friends, K, dresses really well. She has chosen the colours that suit her perfectly and wears them with style and panache. Her ‘to-go’ outfit is a beautifully patterned (and usually expensive) shell top, cardigan (if necessary) and a pair of trousers. It looks effortless.

Once a month I go away for a day to sew with my mates. We bring our machines, fabrics, patterns and chat about sewing, patterns, swap tips, techniques and review gadgets. We also eat a lot of scones and cake and might squeeze a wee bit of sewing in between. Most of these lovely sewing ladies are young – I mean way younger than me.

I mostly use Vogue patterns; they use PDFs and mostly independent pattern companies. Sometimes I feel a little old-fashioned and left out because I’m a Big 4 fan. I know my Vogues and know instinctively what alterations I need to make for a perfect fit.

Anyway, one of “Young People” sewing team’s favourite pattern companies is Sew Over It. After our last day away and listening to all their talk , I went delving and came up with this..

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Beautifully presented in tissue wrapped fabric and a study box – I was overjoyed. I bought this little kit. Silk Cami as a proper paper pattern with printed instructions and 1m of pre-selected cotton. I also added a few other metres of alternative rayons just because.

Sew Over It or SOI if you’re in the know, which just happens to be the title of this post – did you notice? Sources of Inspiration (SOI) – good, huh? also sells fabric – good and bad at the same time. It means you can choose a pattern and then go directly to buy appropriate fabric, or find a gorgeous fabric and then find a suitable pattern.

I did both.

This practical, useful and everyday top can easily be sewn up within a hour without interruption. This weekend I managed three……..

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Fabric 1 is from a newly opened local Belfast shop Hab & Fab. Fabrics 2 and 3 are from SOI. I’v got hummingbirds and roses, flowers and bouquets, lilies and vines. These are rapidly taken photos to match the rapid sewing.

To mix things up a wee bit and add a bit of variation I did three difference seam finishes. The instructions go for French seams but I’m lucky and have an overlocker/serger who is particularly good friends with me at the moment (jinx!).

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Fabric 1 is a scuba with a woven cotton backing and was trimmed and finished with pinking shears. Fabric 2 got the French seam treatment but not as we know it. Fabric 3 was straightforward and simply serged.

And now for the French seam treatment. This is NOT my idea. I got this from Kathleen as I read Ozzyblackbeard’s latest blog. I have to tell you it is genius and like all brilliant things, one wonders why did I not think of that? You do need a serger/overlocker.

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Step1 – Wrong sides together, serge the seam 1/4″ or thereabouts.

Step 2 – Right sides together, sew the serged seam within. This is nice as you can easily feel the serged edge through the fabric.

Step 3 – Press the enclosed seam to one side. Perfection, easy, neat – absolutely brilliant!

My SOI box is now empty but I’m using it to hold the next planned patterns……

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I am gearing up for an epic sew – Vogue 1467 – so this little top was for fun and fast sewing; it is a nod towards K’s distinctive style and the direct influence of my sewing away day friends – no matter what age they are – we can all still learn from each other.

 


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Second Home (Mexico)

Get a cup of tea…..

There are many things I’ve never done in my life so far – I  have never travelled beyond the equator; been to the continents of Africa, Australia, Eurasia; nor even across the Atlantic Ocean. This summer I managed to accomplish one of those nevers: at the ripe old age of middle I managed to cross the Atlantic and for the very first time in my life set foot on USA soil, albeit for a few hours stop over in Atlanta airport on my way to Leon, Mexico.

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Leaving Mexico

I haven’t been beyond UK borders for years. For 10 years or so as a family we took many holidays all over mainland Europe but generally speaking that’s just like being at home except for a different language and warmer weather; travelling to Mexico is culturally unique. I feel a trifle guilty showing you my suitcase because I did not sew everything I packed.

There are occasions in our lives when you have to make decisions and sometimes buying holiday-one-off clothes makes a lot more sense. My suitcase compromised a mix of RTW and sewn. I cannot foresee some of my Mexican wardrobe ever being worn in the very near future – I mean temperatures of 26 degrees and above are relatively unknown in my part of the world – and so I truly wasn’t prepared to spend money, time and effort on sewing things when I could buy them in the summer sales. This one of the reasons that I never signed up for 100% 12 months of sewing my own wardrobe. You never know what life will throw at you, offer you or knock you sideways.

In May this year I was diagnosed with yet another malignant melanoma – good grief, it’s my third! If not identified and cut out, this is a 80% death sentence. Wear the sunscreen people!! A temporary, damaging sun tan is not worth it. Take it from a bottle if it’s that important to you. My gratitude to our British National Health Service cannot be expressed enough. Obviously……

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Proudly displaying my newest “I’m still alive” scar

So when I received an invitation from ReAnn to visit Mexico my first thoughts concerned my life, health, skin, potential sunburn and subsequently the consequences. I have typical Irish, Northern European skin – pale, freckly and my delicious blood is a gourmet meal for every flying insect

 

Decisions to travel were – Yes, then No it’s too risky – life’s short and all that sun is dangerous:  then YES! Life is really and truly too short so take all and every opportunity whenever they present themselves.

Thankfully when the husband was asked if he wanted to come too he gave the right answer – No!

So off I went solo.

 

Packing philosophy

Choose a base/primary colour and add co-ordinating colours to ring the changes.

Slide1My base colour was royal blue, it is surprising how many colours coordinate with this principal colour and the co-ordinating ones were neutrals of white and natural linen. I had a little bit of space left in the case so in went one black and a couple of patterned items.  Mostly my clothes were solid colours but I did add these few patterns for variation.

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I bought two items while I was there – an expensive designer linen step-in skirt (a perfect opportunity for another blog post) and some khaki shorts from the tenguies (market) simply because I didn’t own a pair of shorts.

DSCN7751Merchant and Mills Bantam vest in lime green rib

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I packed two pair of shoes – flip flops for pool and early mornings, one pair of blue flat sandals and I wore the leather lace-up shoes for travelling because I don’t like moving through heavily populated areas such as airports and underground stations with my toes exposed in case of back-stomping and trampling.

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You will excuse me, I’m sure, that I do not model the entire suitcase. Everything that I packed was worn and most pieces at least twice, although I had the advantage of having a washing machine. Some items of clothing are very old and have been blogged before and it was ultimately very beneficial and gratifying that I had already spent the time making them, just waiting for their day in the sun. The olds include:

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Donna Karan wrap dress

See the lotion on my pale Irish legs? (Emm delicious). This photo was taken last year after the Donegal midges attacked. The DK dress was worn at dinner one night and turned out to be a ‘signature’ look – see below….. I had a posh meal out at the Insitutio while a world renowned classical guitarist played and who happened to know I was from Ireland and played a little ditty with Latin influences. God bless him.

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Self drafted T-shirt dress with beading

This self-drafted, beaded neckline dress was  worn for dancing the night away to what else but ‘the blues’. I went dancing with Jan to a Blues night uniquely sung in Spanish with the most adorable lead guitarist. I even got asked to dance.

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Sateen patterned cotton trousers, so old now that I cannot rightly remember when these were made. The new additions were a hybrid Alabama Chanin/ CfPD Bias top in white cotton jersey.

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Location is someone’s exquisite bathroom….

DSCN7752The white cotton CfPD Spiral Top with a little waist tie detail and needs an ironing…..

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My version of Monsoon blue and white striped cotton trousers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A homemade copy of Oska summer linen dress, made in a fine checked natural linen and the base pattern was StyleArc’s Toni.

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Another modification of the Toni was the black muslin over-dress.

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I bought a few plain white T-shirts, a swimsuit, a cover-up. I didn’t pack enough loose tops even though I’d made them, such was the temperature. Lesson learned.

At least now I have stuff that will travel the world with me wherever I go in the future- I have a wardrobe for all seasons and all temperatures.

 

 

 

 

IMG_0694So anyway, poor ReAnn felt a little under the weather one day and I set off to visit Canada de la Virgen (ancient pyramids) all on my own.

On the bus to the archaeological site this couple asked me if I had had dinner at a place the night before and that they remembered me because of my lovely blue dress (the DK). They then ‘looked after’ me for the rest of the day.

See – sewing has many unknown and undocumented advantages!

 

 

 

 

Then one other day as I was sitting by a fountain and waiting for ReAnne who was having her hair cut some American ladies walked by and commented that I should have a photograph taken. I gave them my phone and this is it. We met them again later that day.

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On another day ReAnn and I had a fabulous day tour around Guanajuato.

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I wore my black muslin over-dress with white cotton shift and white linen trousers and she wore a plain black dress too, both of us in total contrast to the colourful houses – we must have looked like two devotees of some religious sect together. Apparently Guanajuato was the backdrop for some Disney animation film recently but my days of watching such genre has become temporarily dormant.

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One evening we went to a really bad fashion show which I would not have missed for all the tea in China or all the Tequila in Mexico – it was so bad it was good!

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On Tuesday morning I shopped at the local market and had the best meal of the entire visit – a whole fried fish, crispy on the outside and creamy white on the inside. We were the only gringos at the long table. Perfect.

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I had tequila. Salt and limes included.

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I helped ReAnn fit and finish her Vogue 1442 dress.

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I advised and assisted Kathy with fitting and understanding the instructions for her very complicated Vogue 1424

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For which she very kindly gifted me the best present ever – a cactus pincushion.

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And within an hour of unpacking, my cactus had fruit, just like the real thing.

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I regularly sent home pictures of Car of The Day from San Miguel.

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There was art, churches, markets, eating, walking, talking, cooking class (thanks to ReAnn for the following photos), characters, sunshine, scenery, mountains,

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When I had 30 mosquito bites, I stopped counting!

I didn’t have altitude sickness (6000ft), I didn’t suffer jet-lag, I didn’t get sunburn, so a few irritating insect bites were a small price to pay.

Believe me, I saturated myself with insect repellent, Avon’s Skin So Soft – you name it, I lathered it on and the wee sh*tes still found the areas that I hadn’t covered – between toes, fingertips, thumb.

Other wildlife included Silence of the Lambs sized butterflies (moths) in the bedroom.

IMG_0760Amazing hummingbirds….honestly, can you ever imagine an Attenborough thingy visiting your garden???

 

 

 

 

I had an absolutely brilliant time in Mexico – a unique lifetime experience for which I wholly and truly have to thank ReAnn and will probably never have ample opportunity to repay ….and of course, sewing which was our initial reason for contact.

I have henceforth decided on a new acronym: AFS = away from sewing machine! What was the first thing I did on my return home??? You guessed it.

Suitcase still packed and I hit the sewing room………there was no time to suffer jet-lag.

Take life’s opportunities NOW.

Do not wait until next year, next week, next month, tomorrow……..and if ever anyone says to you that sewing is a solitary, isolated activity – here’s absolute proof that it is not and if anyone ever offers you anything – take it!

 


42 Comments

Clothes for Camping

Home again, home again, clippity hop!

Thanks so much for all your comments and critiques on my most recent posts.

I’m back home after a fortnight in the depths of Mexico (more to come later) – I have a lot to show and tell but first I’ll cover the Scotland holiday camping trip wardrobe. This camping trip, tent and all, occurred the very first week of July with two girlfriends. We journeyed all the way to Durness and if you get the weather that we had, I would strongly recommend this as a destination. However, if the forecast is four days with gales and pouring rain – I would definitely not suggest you go there. I guess you take your chances with Scottish weather and we got lucky! The sky was really and truly that blue – these photos are not Photoshopped.

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Our half acre camping site: tent, camper van with awning, outdoor kitchen, fairy lights, lanterns, candles, solar lighting, sitting area, wind break and views out to sea – perfect!

Now, I know you’ll be thinking: what on earth do you sew at home for a camping trip iin the most northerly town in the United Kingdom where it never got dark at night and the weather was extraordinary?  This is our beach…..IMG_0391While packing, I was preparing to experience all seasons in one week, as is customary for UK holidays, but ultimately we had Mediterranean weather for the whole week – which was nice and my homemade wardrobe fitted in perfectly. I did purchase some cheap RTW long sleeve T-shirts to add to the rotation and provide some protection from the sun but otherwise this is the packing rundown.

Gather together the following patterns:

Pirate Skirt pencil skirt

Greenstyle Sundance Jacket 

Vogue Paco Peralta 1550 trousers

Marcy Tilton Vogue 8837 pants (OOP) but any legging/jogging bottoms are suitable.

A few tops / T-shirt patterns that in my case incorporated : Merchant and Mills Bantam vest; Centre for Pattern Design bias cut top: Drape Drape 2 asymmetrical top; basic long sleeved T-shirt from whatever pattern you favour.

Slide1Choose co-ordinating fabrics and sew at will. What you can end up with is at least a five day wardrobe……..

I looked at specialist RTW clothing  before I started sewing – outdoor activity sites, camping gear, mountain rescue clothing and the like but everything was in the colour range of black, navy or khaki. I most certainly didn’t want to wear these on holiday. There’s a gap in the market there somewhere…..

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Pencil skirt and white T: eating an ice lolly and carrying a bag of ice for cocktails back at base camp.

My primary colour was the lime green flowery scuba from Fabworks. It has pinks, greys, black and white incorporated, which then became the co-ordinating colours for the extended holiday wardrobe.

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One thing that is of ultimate importance for camping clothing is comfort and flexibility, lack of wrinkling is also a benefit so this wardrobe is wholly comprised of man-made fibres – no I tell a lie, a few items are cotton jersey: all that bending down and stretching and sitting and fixing things and walking, putting things up and taking them down and what have you requires clothes that move with the body but don’t shift. The ability to layer is also useful for evenings when it might become a little chilly.

Mostly I wore trainers during the vacation, in the following photos I wore pink flats.

The photos are taken at home after the holiday but hopefully you’ll get an idea of the interchangeability, co-ordination and range of looks, style and most importantly, wearability of this little wardrobe. And just because you’re sleeping in a tent, doesn’t mean you have to look like you are during waking hours.

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As always, with a little bit of left over fabric, I made a little sling purse and a narrow neck scarf – just in case I felt I wasn’t totally co-ordinated enough.

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Slide2The Greenstyle Sundance jacket proved to be indispensable: I made a full sleeved, hooded, pocketed outer layer in the flowery scuba and then made a sleeveless, non-hooded over/inner layer in heavy pink cotton jersey for layering purposes. This relaxed front zipper closing sports jacket incorporates a drop back hemline, optional hood, zippered side seam pockets for extra security and an additional pattern alternative for a pleated back which I didn’t use. Because I made both a sleeved and a sleeveless version, the two could be worn together, either on top on underneath.

The pattern includes a long cuff with thumb holes for those of you who run on the streets in winter and for those of us who don’t, it’s a little design feature to keep your hands warm should the need arise or else provides you with the style ability to mimic your teenage children by being slouchy with an attitude.

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If you don’t want to look like this on a fabulous, truly memorable camping/outdoor holiday….choose your clothes to reflect the experience.

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Sew your own……….

No, I will never wear the two together but it was fun to show you.

Next time, it’s Mexico……


52 Comments

Zippy

Here’s how another One Thing can lead to another, which can lead to many more…..I just love the trail of thoughts and ideas and discovering where they all end up. Starting points……

Mags sent me to Croftmill for grey ponte at £7.00 p/m: Elaine sent me to Kaliyana for asymmetrical zip jacket and the Anti-Suit: one of the lovely ladies from our Sewing Away Day donated a fine grey spotted cotton jersey: Julie wore a jacket on the same day that had droopy back pockets and was so casually impressive and understated that I want one: Anne showed the most beautiful Chanel suit this week: many, many other blog active sewers have been showing and telling their cropped/wide leg/trousers/culottes. I put in the hours of planning, cutting and sewing.  Armed with a bag of assorted open ended plastic zips, some almost-matching thread, some patterns and a bit of flexible time – this is the result from my too short half-term break.

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Many patterns were gathered, edited and then finally selected to the finalists – Vogue 8641 five easy pieces, Vogue 1550 Paco Peralta, Vogue 8559 Marcy Tilton, self-drafted Three Bears T.

I’ll start with the jacket as it is a wee bit impressive, even if I have say so myself because there’s no one else writing this. We’ll call it an idea in progress.

Start with Marcy Tilton’s 8559 (OOP) cardigan-wrap top; no side seams and cut on the fold, no back seam either. A waterfall front, centre back seamed collar and shoulder seams. Clever pattern placement can easily incorporate selvedge edges too, although using the dark grey ponte fraying isn’t an issue and raw edges are abundantly on view. I added a whopping 9″ to the length, then got to work on adding zips!

Three zips on either side. Hopefully they form some sort of design feature on their own but they are also functional – an infinity jacket? I had to press gang Doris into modelling today because, quite honestly I couldn’t have been bothered. Hopefully you’ll understand why in a just a moment.

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Left open and unzipped, the zips provide a bit of weight to help the fabric drape (ha – I like to believe this is similar to Chanel’s chain on the bottom of a jacket – dream on….).

Zip 1 – short centre fronts. Zip 2 – bottom right edge matching with a right hand side princess seam location. Zip 3 – 45 degrees on right hand side and shoulder width on left.

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All the zips zip into one another; that is, zip 1 will zip into zip 2; zip 2 will zip into zip 3 and so on. This multitude of zips allows for a multitude of closure options; exaggeration of the draped front and hemline, cowl necklines, loose or square body shape.

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Zip 3 zipping into zip 3 pulls and is quite difficult to do up so I might have to rethink the position of these ones. However, I can close zip 1 with zip 2 or zip 3 for yet more variations.

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If zips do not provide enough variations for your taste, then add a sewn brooch to merely clip various points of the jacket closed to suit your mood and the weather conditions.

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But wait, that’s not all. Being very impressed with Julie’s jacket, I added a deep strip of leftover fabric to the back and sides of the jacket matching the raw edges to provide those covetous voluminous back pockets and I also managed to get two at the fronts too. They will be very handy to hold emergency rations such as Kendall Cake and Mars Bars.

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And because this ‘pocket’ band is on a different grain there is a gentle shading that I always find attractive in unique clothes. Other waste selvedge cut offs were added to the sleeves as mock cuffs, adding weight and extra finishing.

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I did experience the dreaded jersey wobble – which could be an acronym from suburban New York for cellulite but I mean the stitching of a zip to stretch fabric. Is there a remedy? I know I could have added interfacing but this is an unlined jacket and visual evidence of reinforcing would be unacceptable. All suggestions welcome for both problems……….DSCN7564

The tunic top was quickly made from the donated cotton jersey in Vogue 1550. There’s nothing fancy or notable about this, apart from the fact that IT IS Paco Peralta. I didn’t add the signature inserts but did manage to do admirable mitred corners on the side drape points.

The pale grey ponte was put into use as a pull on pair of trousers from Vogue 8641 (OOP). Again, not too much to declare about these apart from adding two, shaped patched pockets on the front and cropped, more because of fabric restrictions than trends.

Finally, I just had to make use of the leftovers and cutoffs and managed to sew a Three Bears T (see link above) that became more of a sweatshirt. It has two layers below the bust seam that allows for minor variations of styling. There’s a few raw edge seams to follow the theme, such as cuffs, hems and bust line.

I don’t like the matchy-matchy trousers and top – too much like PJs. It looks much better with a dark grey bottom and believe me, I have many dark grey trousers to wear with this.

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So, there you have it – four pieces that became an outfit and what’s better, they can all be worn with existing wardrobe items that hopefully coincide with Oska and Kaliyana aesthetics.

This has got me thinking of joining SWAP this year although I am late to the party. My primary colours being grey and adding highlights of whatever colour I like because grey is such a neutral. Is there a colour that does not wear well with grey?

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This style of dressing is definitely not form fitting, no pencil skirts or slim-line trousers here but so comfortable, transitional and, dare I say it, unique?

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I mean, how many of your jackets have back pockets?

Now, in which pocket did I put that Mars Bar?


53 Comments

One Thing……

…..leads to another, and possibly another and yet another.

Paco's Skirt - Finished

Once upon a time, long, long ago there was a lady (and I use that term advisedly – those who know her might well chose an alternative nomenclature) who sewed her own clothes.

Quite happily alone she bought fabric and patterns; cut and sewed and wore the things she made. Sometimes when making these things there were techniques and skills which she didn’t know how to do nor understand, so she researched and learned these things the old fashioned way by reading books.

One day, under advisement from her partner, she trawled the Internet to see if there was any information on making welt pockets.  He, apparently, was adept at making scale models of ‘things’ and was already a member of many well known Internet forums who specialised in such details. Not really expecting to uncover anything of much value to home sewing, the lady was overwhelmed by the quantity and quality of sites that seemed to be in existence solely to help her make some pockets. What was most amazing was that many of these sites were written and photographed by people who seemed to be just like her – sewing at home and wearing their makes with the exception that they were freely sharing their experiences and clothes with the rest of the world. The lady obsessively read, devoured and scoured all the blogs and posts she possibly could and learned so much more than just how to make welt pockets.

After a little while, the lady began to feel slightly guilty about all this taking from others and not giving anything back, so she started her own sewing blog on the off-chance it might just help and inspire someone else – just as she had been helped and inspired by others’.

Like life, the more you put in the more you get out and over time other sewers contacted the lady via comments and email. This made her feel vindicated about the earlier guilt and additionally reassured her that she was not alone. Until this happened she erroneously thought she was a sewing Robinson Crusoe, isolated on her island home. She was really happy when a sewing lady from the same island made contact, then another and another.

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This little band of lady sewers and crafters met each other in real life and had occasional outings and cups of coffee together and everything was fine. They went home afterwards and sewed.

One day a New Lady arrived from France via England.  She had magical powers.

 

 

The New Lady was motivated and organised…. for years and years the individual island sewers sewed solitary in their separate dining rooms and kitchens but now they were presented with A New Way.

The New Lady used Instagram (janeinireland) to weave her magic spell.

castle-ward-6The isolated island sewers were enchanted. Under the direction and experience of the Lady Jane they negotiated and discussed and planned and one day, equipped with the special tools of sewing, they gathered together at a Castle by a lough.

 

On the last Saturday in the month of the New Year only six months after she had arrived, Lady Jane arranged for the island sewers to have exclusive use of the stables at the Castle. A large, well heated room with long bench tables for each sewer, lots of power points and a kitchen was made available all day. Tea and coffee, scones and cake, buns and tray bakes magically appeared and just as magically disappeared.castle-ward-county-down

And what did these, until recently, isolated sewers do? They sewed. There was also a lot of talking and laughing; ohhing and ahhing; fondling of other people’s fabric and personal reviewing of patterns but that did not apparently interfere with the main purpose of gathering together.

They made tops and dresses and skirts and coats and home decorations: they cut out and sewed and overlocked and ate and chatted; they swapped unwanted fabrics and patterns with those they desired: everyone went home happy.

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Picture via the courtesy of Jane’s IG

I’d like to tell you that they all lived happily ever after – but. of course, that’s not the end of the story…….

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Armed with fabric from Fabworks and a pattern from Bootstrap, the lady taped and cut in readiness for assembly on the magical sewing day at the Castle. Just before the bewitching hour, about 4.00pm, the only thing left to do was hemming and a bit of hand stitching. A few days later a skirt was complete.

Not content with only one item, the lady had a little spare fabric leftover which was put to very good use by being transformed into a Paco Peralta draped top.

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Worn together, the skirt and top could pass for a dress with a very slight Vivienne Westwood-esque vibe.

The skirt has folds at the wrap. a deep waistband that is practically a yoke and is fully lined, which provided no end of headaches involving mental rotations, inside out flipping and turning, to get right.

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All of this was sewn because the lady’s partner bought her a navy blazer for Christmas….and she had absolutely nothing to wear to the ball….

That’s not end of the story either because the Fabworks fairies sent more fabric but we’ll save that for another day…….

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@ozzyblackbeard, @ailz_, @seasaltstitches, @loridux, @stitchandink, @janeinireland

#castleward, #sewingtogether