corecouture

Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane


55 Comments

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!

 


41 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……


26 Comments

Patternless Skirt

As part of our sewing day away the ladies all brought fabric, patterns and notions for the donate-swap table. As I don’t have much of a stash, I had to dive deep into the blanket box to see what lengths and leftovers were lurking there. I came up with a few serviceable pieces, one of them being this, which actually stayed home with me.

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Navy distressed wool pinstripe from The Cloth House, London; the bulk of the fabric having been used to make culottes a few years back.

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Enough to make a pencil skirt, roughly 50″ X 25″ (127 x 64cm). So the fabric was wrapped around Doris while I went off to locate a suitable pattern. However, I looked at the draping on the mannequin and thought – that looks interesting as it is – let’s make a skirt without a pattern. I mean it’s only leftover fabric anyway that had been long forgotten, nothing to lose.

Here’s how to make a skirt without a pattern. It helps if you have a mannequin but if you don’t then just use yourself and get a little help from someone with the pinning for darts.

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This will be a lined wrap skirt with an asymmetrical hemline.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pin the fabric to the mannequin, overlapping the fronts at an angle. Pinch out the excess at the back to make two darts and do the same at the sides. Four small darts for shaping.

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Cut a waistband facing (I used another fabric) the same width of the ‘skirt’ and sew to the top edge. Cut the lining a little smaller than the skirt’s width and sew to the facing and the two sides, leaving the hem open.

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Turn to the right side and press well, especially down the short edges. As the lining is smaller the edges should turn under neatly.

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Fold up the raw edge of the hem lining a little higher than the skirt hem and sew.

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The lining is not edge to edge therefore and should not be seen from the outside. You may have to make a few folds/pleats in the lining to make it fit within the confines of the skirt.

Make a buttonhole on the right hand side at hip and sew a button to the left side. This will hold the skirt up.

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Recently I bought a few zips from Minerva and there was this brilliant deal for £1 – a bag full of assorted zips. Most are open ended chunky plastic type zips. I took a black one of these and sewed it to the wrap edge of the skirt.

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No attempt to hide the zip was made because it’s a design feature! This keeps the wrap wrapped.

When you look at a piece of fabric and think it’s not worth keeping – think again.

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8 Comments

Do Ya like Dawgs?

There’s sewing for yourself, which is the best: there’s sewing for others, which is nice: then there’s sewing for dogs!

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Brad Pitt in Snatch: “Do ya like dawgs?”

Now, I’m not a dog-person; I like the things well enough but having never owned one, I suppose I don’t truly appreciate the two-way love, affection, friendship and inter-dependability that goes along with ownership. However, I do understand the bond between owner and animal.

 

 

A few lengths of polar poly fleece (machine washable!) and some fat quarters of Kaffe Fassett quilting cotton and  you too can make the dog-lover in your life very happy – not to mention the dog!

Four dogs and a cat…..

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A dog lover recently told me that dog blankets should coordinate with the colour of the dog so that cast hairs are not so obvious. And that they get dirty easily, so that machine washable requirement is a necessity.

These are really useful items to protect your sofa, other people’s sofas if you’re visiting, car seats and a soft, comfy base for any basket, carpet or fireside mat.

Here’s Luna’s –

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Luna is not actually blue and magenta but her’s was the prototype and made with fleece that was already in the house.

Then Pedro – a golden labrador and while only a pup right now will grow much larger, so this is the biggest at about 75cm X 100cm.

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Then a double dog blanket for Bella and Lulu, in natural colours.

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And because I have a cat – one for Eddie

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Take some quilting cotton, cut into 5″ squares and draw the letters for the dog’s name. Cut around the letters with pinking shears; place upon one layer of fleece about 3″ from the edges and zig-zag in place. Personally I like my random mix of capital and small letters and the somewhat wonky placement. You could always take more care if you wish.

Cut another layer of fleece same size as the first; right sides together, stitch around three sides. Turn right side out, fold in the raw edges of the fourth edge and sew closed. Job done!

You could always add some large hand made blanket stitches around the edges for that extra finishing touch. Even add a layer of batting for extra comfort but be sure to catch the batting in the side seams to hold it in place.

DSCN7469And don’t ever forget your label because although the dog may have a personalised, couture and unique blanket – you made it!

Orders taken…………..name and make of dog, size and colour. POA.

 


48 Comments

Peasant Blouse (Burda)

Good grief, that’s such a not-inspired title…. So let’s cut to the chase and get on with the sewing.

I actually, really and truly, bought a peasant blouse top from a real live shop and loved its gathers, floatiness and ease of wearing. I decided that I definitely needed another one in another colour. I searched for a similar pattern on the Big 4, Bootstrap and all the other indies without success.  I ended up flicking through my old Burda magazines and settled on  01-2012 number 426B.

downloadGood old tracing methodology employed in achieving this pattern – understanding, reading and following the maze of interconnecting coloured lines and sizes on Sheet A, B or C – anyways, I got a workable paper pattern in the end. This can be a tunic as well as a blouse: follow the directions below for the blouse.

This magazine is Burda Plus, for larger sizes. I traced size 44 when I would usually wear a 42 but didn’t worry much as it’s a loose top with not too much fitting necessary.

The original pattern is for a tunic so I just ‘lost’ the piece below the waist. There was still a bit of fiddling to do but it was the closest pattern I could find to meet my original idea.45feb6e2a271dad08607fd37690f2881--xl

Raglan sleeves, elasticated neckline with working ties; gathered and elasticated hem finish;  same for the sleeve hems.  The very fine fabric I used is slightly transparent and I would like a lining, so, a double layer at front and back saves the day!

The fabric came from Sherwoods. A beautifully soft cotton/silk crepe in a range of colours.

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I used Kiwi, second from top of the pile.

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The RTW version I have has a lining and this lining is cut slightly shorter than the outside layer. I tried to replicate this to achieve the blouson effect and to add that extra layer for opaqueness. The sleeves are single layer.

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Now, bear with me on my rather clumsy explanation of how to achieve this….I forgot to take photographs along the way – apologies. Usual construction is that you start at the top of any garment and work your way down to finish at the bottom, in this method the hem is the first thing you do.

Cut 2 fronts and 2 backs. Shorten 1 of the fronts and 1 of the backs by about 1 – 1.5″ (3cm-5cm).

Right sides together, sew around the hem – front to front, back to back.

Measure some picot or thin knicker elastic around yourself where the sewn hem will sit. Zig-zag this to the seam allowances of the hems, stretching evenly as you go. Trim off the excess seam allowance to keep things neat and reduce bulk.

Flip the fronts and backs back wrong side together and hold in place with some pins. The hem is now enclosed but remember it is ‘inside’  and not at the edge. Continue to construct as normal using French seaming on the sides and raglan sleeves.

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For the neckline I cut a bias strip and added this as a casing, hand slip stitching it over the raw edges. Elastic was then inserted with the good old safety pin method, pull it a little tight depending on how low or high you’d like to wear the blouse and secure the ends of the elastic with some machine stitching.

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Make a cross grain strip which will become the ties at the front, so determine what length you want these – short or long. Mine are medium. Cut the strip in two and sew to the ends of the neckline. Turn under any raw edges or insert the ends of the ties into the ends of the casing.

Finally, add a bit of flair by threading some beads to the ties. Use knots to hold the beads in place and knot the ties at the ends, as these will fray over time.

This inside hem creates a lovely gathered look without the elastic showing on the outside – almost looking like it’s ‘tucked in’ .

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The sleeve hems are simply turned under and more picot zig-zagged in place.

Must use more Burda patterns……

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Bonus

I had a little green silk/cotton left over fabric and it just happened to match a striped jersey in stash. I saw a girl on the bus the other day and she was wearing an indigo T-shirt with a wrap over front and ruffle trim. I somewhat copied it.

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Take a bog standard T-shirt pattern and cut an extra front. Cut the extra front in a shape that pleases you. Sew the extra front into the right hand side seam and finish the edges with a narrow hem. I sewed a few pearl buttons along the ‘wrap’.

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To make the ruffle, cut strips about 2.5″, fold lengthwise, press and gather with a large machine stitch along the fold line. Stitch to the edges of your T-shirt, press down and let fray at will.

Hello to Lyn, Kim,  segerskog@webspeed.dkLinda BaldwinMary Ann HugueleMary Ann Huguele, and anyone else who thought this sewing diary might be worthwhile spending your precious time reading. Thank you and please join in with critical comments and personal opinions – there are no boundaries here and I hope you find something useful. Rxx