corecouture

Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane


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Sewing the 70s

When the 1970s started I was seven; when they finished I was 17. The world was going to hell in a handcart (not much changed there then) but they were the very best years of my life (so far)…..

I began the decade as a child and left it as a teenager on the cusp of adulthood. These were my formative years – personality, temperament, style, likes and dislikes were all set in concrete during the ’70s. – which might explain a lot……  My happiest and lasting memories were formed and the trials and tribulations of the world did nothing to dissuade my youthful, energetic optimism for the future. Years and years later, my optimism is still not dampened although it’s not so youthful nor energetic these days. God bless all of you who marched for Women’s Rights this weekend! Thank you. I think we will be marching a lot over the next four years…..

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Recently I watched Divorce (HBO) on TV. The storyline is not the most addictive aspect of the series, however, Sarah Jessica Parker’s clothes are. I watched every episode just to see her wardrobe. Apparently, they bought genuine vintage 1970 dresses, ripped them apart and remade to fit SJP with slight style updates for 2016.

This is also a Sucker for Sales post – Craftsy had a January sale and usually I ignore all offers from America because of the import tax. There was a time about six years ago when I started sewing seriously again that I, and I alone, managed to sustain the UK economy with my fabric purchases from USA. Every. Single. Time. All my packages were caught at customs and wouldn’t be released until I paid the import duty. Then I found some UK and EU fabric sites and used these instead. This time next year I might have to leave off the EU sites as there will now probably be import duty applied to all purchases from Europe – thanks everyone who voted Out!

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Anyway, I got 3m (sorry, yards) of three rayons for a song and reckoned that if I had to pay the tax, it would still be a good deal. From a great distance I psychically draped a tax-invisibility cloak around the Craftsy box and it worked! No tax, no import duty, just delivered virgin-like to my home.

Way to start 2017!

I might be a wee bit stupid here but can we get rayon in the UK?

This fabric is fab. Drapey, robust, opaque with deep printed colours, presses well, slight fraying but nothing excessive – I love it.

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This one today is an Italian crepe in green with a blue border print. Just had to put that border print to good use….

If you’re still with me at this point, here is the actual sewing inspiration in a nutshelldscn6856:

1. 1970s

2. Sale fabric

3. Wardrobe from Divorce

Not having a genuine 1970 dress pattern at hand I hacked one together. There are certain characteristics that define The Dress and I tried to incorporate these into my (first) Sewing The 70s frock. Based upon extensive Internet research these are the essentials for an authentic 1970 frock –

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  1. Patterned fabric – no solid colours
  2. Flared A-line skirt – tending towards half-circle, although gathered/pleated skirt is also acceptable
  3. Neckline detail – collar/tie/lace
  4. Defined waist – two-piece dress in other words
  5. Belt – covers the waist seam and helps 4
  6. Sleeves, preferably gathered/puffed – full

I took Kwik Sew 3782 imgres-1for the top and a four gore skirt using the border print at centre front and just stuck them together literally with the sewing machine. Had to shorten the top and used the skirt waistline as a guide.DSCN6852.jpg

I also used the border print at sleeve hems for a bit of continuity and at centre back on the button belt. The neck tie is cut from the blue border too. I also added a few other things.

Single welt front pockets, with inside stays to stop them from flopping around inside the dress. Secured at side seams and across the centre front.

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Can you see the pockets?

Changed the length; because I like this midi length, it suits my legs and the 1970s either had very high or very low, so a little bit of of the 21st century added.

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More 21st century with an invisible side zip closure.

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Additionally I made a button belt to cover the bodice/skirt seam. Just completes the dress somehow although a purchased belt would also serve the purpose just as well.

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Finally, I just had to have new shoes that reflect the 1970s aesthetic and match my new dress.

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1117035Clarks Cass Pop in bottle green and I really do hope they are named after Mama Cass – a V&A 1970 inspiration style and, of course, bought in the January sales.

Oh and green tights to match….

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The first of my Sewing the ’70s. What’s that you say? Are there more……?

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Shall we start a sewing challenge Sewing the ’70s? (motivation/inspiration)

 

 


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It was 50 Years ago today……

…. I was three years old and a flower girl at my Auntie Jean and Uncle Lewis’s wedding. My mummy made me a blue velvet dress to wear and someone lent me a white fur stole with matching muff. I wore white knee socks like a big girl (and scowled like one too!) accessorised with my beautiful Sunday best black patent shoes with buckles (not shown). I wore Chanel No 5. Only joking.

dscn6768Standing directly behind me is my daddy who was Best Man and on my left, my eldest cousin and idol in a red coat- see, she has knee socks. Beside her and behind a gate post is my second eldest cousin, also my childhood and continuing idol. On my right is the bride and groom; totally in love and eyes for no one other than each other. 50 years on from that day, Jean and Lewis are still together, still devoted to each other and because of that I got another two cousins! Auntie Jean is the youngest of six siblings, my mother’s youngest sister. A family of three boys and three girls – all the boys are dead but the girls are showing no signs of giving up just yet! And they are either in or heading towards their 80s, but Jean’s the baby.

The photograph is therefore 50 years old and the version you see here is a photograph of a print of the original photo – hence the quality, but you get the idea.

To celebrate their Golden Wedding Anniversary, my Uncle Lewis has invited the whole family to the Slieve Donard hotel for dinner – and bed and breakfast!slieve-donard-resort-spa-newcastle-ireland_010720140930446342

The hotel resides beneath the Mourne Mountains in Newcastle and is right beside the shore – what could be a better location?

view-of-slieve-donard-co-down-northern-irelandMy lovely Auntie Jean spends most of her time these days in a wheelchair because she has MS (Multiple Sclerosis). My own bridesmaid suffered the same disease from the tender age of 22 and is now dead. She was tall, beautiful, elegant and stylish and actually put me in the shade, even on my wedding day, but I could never resent a single moment we spent together. She stood totally unaided beside me as my witness and best friend. Julie is the one in blue. Isn’t she gorgeous?dscn6769The 50th wedding celebration is not only in honour of the golden couple but also to raise money for MS. It is a devastating disease that seems to be common ( in that I know of loads of people with a diagnosis) in Northern Ireland. Auntie Jean’s son, Ian, my youngest cousin 46, has also been stuck with this incapacitating illness: he is an award winning press photographer, who was also our wedding photographer – his first private commission. And what memorable images he took that day and how unaware we all were to what the future held. These are photos of the photos, if you know what I mean? Relaxed, genuine captures in time of each special moment.

Ian is a husband and a father to a gorgeous and clever daughter but he now lives in residential care. Ian cannot eat, drink or swallow; cannot dance or walk, not even stand; cannot read because he can’t turn the page; cannot scratch an itch; and can no longer take photographs because he can’t even press the shutter and yet everytime I visit him, we have a laugh and reminisce good times and make fun of our family traits.

Julie was the same; never complained, never moaned, just had a very optimistic view of life and relished every moment with a smile.

If you feel so inclined, you can make a small donation to MS through Just Giving

This is a sewing blog, so let’s get to the sewing……..

What better way to celebrate a Golden Wedding Anniversary than to re-create what I wore 50 years ago as a flower girl?  I made a grown up version of my blue velvet dress. Looks like a sack on the hanger …..

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The pattern is from Bootstrap – asymmetrical off-shoulder dress and custom fitted to me. 44849mainThis really is the way to go – type in your measurements and you get a pattern that’s perfect – no adjusting, alterations etc, just cut and sew.

As the wedding was in the mid 1960s, I wanted to link to that era and this design seemed to fit the brief as it had a slightly vintage look. It probably fits better into the late 1950s but we are always 10 years behind the rest of the world in Northern Ireland. I also used Google images for inspiration of the fashion of the time.

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The fabric is from Croftmill and is described as the richest possible dark navy blue – perfect – not black but nearly, it’s still blue and because it’s velvet it has every shade in between. This is a cotton velvet because it is so much more stable and resilient than the silk version. If you read advice about sewing with velvet, you’ll be told not to press, use a walking foot, use a million pins, sew once and don’t rip out, etc etc etc – it’s enough to put you off sewing with velvet at all. Look, just buy the stuff and make a dress – it really doesn’t have to be a big deal. Just make sure the nap (pile) all smoothes down the same direction when you place your pattern pieces, so you will need more fabric than usual, at least 1/2 metre.

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Yes, I’ve made mistakes but we all know that only another sewer will notice the errors. I pressed, I ripped out, I used the normal amount of pins and I did not use a walking foot. If you do nothing else, you MUST use a a velvet pressing cloth. This is just a scrap of the same fabric and when pressing seams flat place velvet to velvet and gently, gently steam press. Be wary of pressing hems and sleeves. I do know that once pressed, the velvet pile will never recover. Go on, ask me how I know that??

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Because this is a party dress, I moved the centre back zipper to the left-hand side – I mean who wants to spin round and round at 2am in the morning trying to pull a zip down that you can’t reach to get out of the dress. Mind you, I suppose you could always sleep in it.

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When I make a dress I like long panels, from shoulder to hem, in other words no waist seam that cuts the dress in half. This dress has a waist seam at the front only. I disguised it with a half belt, sewn into the sides and blinged up with a pearl and diamond cabochon. (DH has advised to remove the pearl – opinions please.)

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I sewed the back split closed – there was no need to fiddle around with lining as I can walk just fine without it.

dscn6790The dress is fully lined and if I could take back time, I would underline it actually – but I didn’t, so just move on. The hem is very narrow deliberately. I like this length, so I sewed a wide band of lace to the very edge and slip stitched this up.

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The sleeves were lengthened to 3/4 length, this is December after all, but they looked a little clumsy and heavy. I sewed three little tucks so that they became slightly gathered above the elbows and reflect the gathers in the front bodice. It creates an uneven sleeve hem so the lining needs to be tucked inside to mirror the shape.

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Off the shoulder dresses may be sexy and dramatic but create a whole new category of underwear problems. A bog-standard bra ain’t gonna work. Do you bdscn6789uy special undergarments, do you adapt existing bras? The number of YouTube videos I watched on how to insert cups into dresses reached record breaking numbers and in the end I opted for the easiest, and possibly the best solution, hand sew a couple of bra strap tabs with poppers and then wear my favourite bra. Job done.

 

 

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No-one has lent me a white fur stole to wear this time round and I think I’ll leave the big girl white knee socks off too…….

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I know we all have extra expense at this particular time of year but, you know what, we can walk, talk, dance and we can relish in our pure physical ability, however clumsily, to enjoy life – even if it’s just to thread and use a needle. Don’t forget, if you’d like to contribute to support MS click here. I’d ask you to NOT buy those two metres/yards  to sit forlornly in your stash but instead give the £/$ 12-15 to MS instead.

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Many, many thanks. My Auntie Jean, cousin Ian, bridesmaid Julie’s legacy and countless others will benefit from your generosity and kindness.

 

 

 

 

 


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Back to the Future

Kate – wait ’til you see what I found!

Like many of you I learned to sew at my mother’s feet. In those days the choice of fabric and patterns was very limited. I don’t even know if Vogue had made it as 4b0b84485c8d81fc7ad906927far as Northern Ireland in the 1960s – Simplicity was about the height of it. All, or at least a large part, of my childhood wardrobe was ‘home-made’ on a Singer treadle machine and my father often remarked that my mother was married to her sewing machine and not him!

Growing into my teenage years I realised the benefits of having a mother who could sew: while I loved to go shopping with my friends and my wardrobe became increasingly RTW, I also had the advantage of owning unique items. I clearly remember a green striped jumpsuit, a brown pinafore maxi dress , peasant skirts by the bucket load – it was the 70s and I thought I was IT!

What I failed to acknowledge at the time was that my mother was also making clothes for herself. I vaguely remember that these were ‘party clothes’ and I was mightily impressed by a certain ombre pink polyester halter neck maxi dress with really long ties, similar to the pattern below.

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Nowadays, my mother doesn’t sew so much but has passed the beacon to me. Now, it is me that she comes to for alterations and fixing instead of the other way around. Recently I have narrowed two pair of trousers legs for her.

At the weekend I entered (voluntarily) the blackhole of my parents’ attic. A treasure trove of memories, useless items, old school books and projects, suitcases and pictures, and racks and racks of clothes. There, the whole history of the late 20th century hanging in garment form resides. I headed straight to an old battered brown leather suitcase and unearthed exactly what I was looking for……..this is the only garment that my mother has kept all those years that she made for herself.

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Made in silk dupion, of the richest peacock blue, a tunic and trousers, it completely encapsulates the late 60s/early 70s style. There’s not one sequin missing from the trim and the creases and wrinkles are 50 years old.

Nehru collar, bell-shaped sleeves, hip length tunic with little side splits and trimmed with sequinned braid. The tunic has a long centre back zip, metal of course. Princess seams with additional bust darts for extra shaping. The main body is lined but the sleeves are not and all seams are pinked.

What makes this even more special is the story in the seams – the tunic had to be taken in at the sides for a better fit and the first row of stitches is still visible.

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The trousers are narrow legged with a side zip opening. Unlined and with a grosgrain waist. Four darts both front and back.

I’d love to model this outfit for you but the waist measures a tiny 26″ and mine doesn’t.

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We looked for the original pattern in the attic but regrettably it remained elusive – we did however uncover hoards of McCalls and Simplicity children’s patterns from 1960-1970: and then the Vogues from 1980 through my teenage years. I can even remember the fabrics that were used for most of them. A quick look through Google images produced the following, which are close to the tunic outfit but not the same.

My father suggested that if we looked through 50 years of photographs we might be able to uncover the original photo of my mother wearing this – I’d love to see the shoes. But time is not what it used to be and 21st century pressures demanded my efforts to be spent elsewhere.

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If you know the pattern, please let me know – perhaps a 21st century version (in a larger size) is just what my wardrobe needs.

 

 


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Culottes and Tops and etc

I have not been idle – I’ve been sewing.

To make up for a week or two lack of blogging here’s a basement bargain post with not one, not two, not even three, but many things! Everything piled on top of one another, so get ready for a strip-tease. I would have put that in this post’s title but just knew I would garner unwelcome visitors – and on that subject but not quite – many welcomes to all new followers and supporters’ club members – hopefully you might get an idea or two that you can use in your own sewing…. and that obviously extends also to my long-term readers and dedicated followers: without whom this entry in my sewing diary would not have been possible.

Let’s start at the top: StyleaArc Mason coat in navy 2X2 acrylic rib; edged with sparkly denim cording and closed with a homemade contraption using two buttons and a bit of string. Scarf made with leftovers [see below].

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The buttons look brown but they’re not – they’re blue/black. Just sew a bit of coordinating string onto one side and make a loop for the other button to “loop” through.

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Underneath, same fabric as cardigan made using Vogue 7876 (OOP) but not as a wrap shirt but as a jumper with sides sewn closed and asymmetrical front hem.

 

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Underneath the jumper, Namedclothing Fran shirt, cut without front button closure, so front piece all-in-one cut on the fold; scooped neckline with three cowl necks. Fabric is a printed panel from myfabrics – fine cotton voile in navy and white print with yellow border.

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The pattern pieces were placed carefully to position the border print on the hem and sleeves.

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Cut rectangles of fabric to fit neckline, fold and sew together. Treat as one piece.

Underneath that, Merchant and Mills Bantam vest; made in same fabric from a second panel but longer than Fran and so creates a double border hem look. Hemline was squared off and side splits added. Hand rolled hems.

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Below waist, the actual star of the show – the Vogue 2807 Montana culottes – without your help would probably never have been made.

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My original problem was the vintage pattern was a size 10 and I wear a size 14. Kim and Natasha came to the rescue big time including providing me with actual measurements from the original size 14 pattern and detailed instructions about re-sizing patterns. In the end, it wasn’t as difficult or as laboursome as I’d thought it would be – add a cm or so to the pattern edges and reduce the pleats by a bit. I know this is not precise or scientific but hey, look! I got a pair of culottes that are sort of in my size range.

Fabric is from The Cloth House, London [see previous post]. With legs together, ladylike, the culottes look like a skirt from the front. The pleats on centre front and back act as distractors from the crotch.

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However, in these I can ride a bike, straddle a horse and sit in the most unlady-like fashion should I so desire.

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These are very low slung…they sit way below the natural waist, although my resizing attempt may have had an undue influence in that. But they do have fab side pockets with a single welt and no side seams! The pockets are created between two darts…..bit scary all that sewing and slashin and reinforcing corners etc.

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These culottes aren’t full or cumbersome around the legs and I’m pleasantly surprised with the pleats both front and back in that they don’t add that much extra width to the widest part of my body. Of course, you may see things from a different perspective and I appreciate that. The pleats are sewn down about 5″ which keeps them in place; the remainder pressed with a damp press cloth to retain the creases.

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The culottes aren’t lined, so underneath them is this little trouser petticoat – Vogue 8888 –  French knickers cut long and whipped up onimgres the overlocker with elasticated waist until it threw a tantrum and I threw it out the window!

I kept them narrow so that I can wear them under other unlined winter wool trousers.

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To identify front from back – add a little bit of ribbon or tape when you sew.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And underneath the trousers’ petticoat….

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nah! only joking!

 

 


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Falling Leaves

Just in time for autumn, although right now the sky is blue, the sun is shining and temperatures are hotter now than in August, my penultimate Alabama Chanin outfit from the flurry of needles and thread that started in the summer. I feel a wee bit daft wearing all this black and autumnal colours when it’s still practically summer.

This is especially for all those sewing bloggers who have decided to retire – this outfit is for you……(oh! and me too!). I miss you.

A knee length skirt with leaf applique, a coat embellished with black bugle glass beads with a reverse applique collar to mirror the skirt (the T-shirt is shop bought). Hand sewn in black and brown, it is supposed to straddle the navy/black outfit and the brown/pink outfit.

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The coat is the fabulous vintage Vogue 8875: fitted and flared, cut on sleeves, princess darts, detachable collar, tie belt and I added two patch pockets. I shortened it quite considerably as I wanted the co-ordinating skirt to hang below. This is a double layer – black on the outside and brown on the inside, both mid-weight cotton jersey.

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Quite honestly, the coat could be made out of sack-cloth and still look good. It is such a good shape. Mine is more like a cardigan because it’s made from cotton jersey but still retains an element of formality when paired with a skirt and hopefully will work just as hard well with a pair of jeans.

 Details

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Two strips of cotton jersey around the hem held in place with a catchstitch and a running stitch, embellished with glass beads. And adds a good weight to the hem

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Additional patch pockets made with a double layer of black and brown: more glass beads along the top and matching beading on the sleeve hems.

 

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Detachable collar with one row of glass beads along the edge

The Vogue pattern instructs you to slip stitch the detachable collar in place but in my eyes that’s not detachable, so I sewed a few snaps to the back neckline and waist. Now it’s truly detachable and I might just make a navy/black version if I have enough fabric left over to perfectly match the navy/black skirt and tunic.

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Detachable collar detached in an instant and last week’s brown bolero sleeves worn long under the bracelet length coat sleeves.

 

DSCN4536 And onto the skirt….

Pattern from Alabama Studio Style book; mid weight black cotton with light weight earth brown leaves. Knots left on the outside.

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The stencil pattern was downloaded for free from AC website and printed out full size. I used a piece of heavy weight interfacing to make the stencil, although it wasn’t large enough for the whole stencil, so I just used part of it.

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I’ve given up with dying and fabric painting techniques and now just trace the shapes with felt-tip pens directly onto the skirt pieces.

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Then a fast and large running stitch around each shape. I’ve also abandoned the buttonhole thread – this skirt was made entirely (seams and all) with embroidery floss – a single strand doubled over. And it hasn’t fallen apart yet!

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Once a reasonable area is stitched then I cut the uppermost brown layer away, leaving the leaves (ha ha)

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Four panels later; the centre and side seams are stitched and felled, a bit of elastic stitched to the waist, a wash and press and Bob’s your uncle – a skirt!

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My original intention was to embellish the coat the same as the skirt but it really would have been tooooo much, so I’m happy with the plainness and a bit of decoration on the collar only. Anyway, I’ll be able to wear with coat with more things.

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The skirt also goes with the brown bolero from the pink/brown set – a real mix ‘n’ match ensemble.

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Anyway, I’ve somehow acquired a steadily growing pile of wovens – wool and tweed and cotton and viscose and rayon and corduroy – Oh my! so I suppose I ought to cut into it and get the sewing machine cranked up again.

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A last glance at a hand sewn outfit (for a little while anyway….) And let’s hope autumn comes soon so I can wear it!

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For £62.82, some thread, a few packs of needles and some beads I’ve now got – three skirts, a tunic, two boleros, a T-shirt, a coat and a scarf  and a dress (unfinished) – about £8 each!