Winter is Coming- Time for Agnes!

I love a good remnant!  Even with less than a metre there is usually enough for a top, like in this viscose blend jersey remnant from Fabric Godmother.  I scored 80cm for 2.99 and it was perfect for cutting out a Tilly and the Buttons Agnes Top with just a couple of scraps left over.

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These are not my first Agnes tops, and I am still wearing the ones that I made up last winter.  This is just the basic long sleeved Agnes pattern with no adaptations.  The fabric does all the work.  It doesn’t need anything fancy, but I do think this is a very cute autumn look.

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The same is true of this oversized t-shirt that I found in the charity shop for £1.  I did have to cut pretty creatively for this one, and even then couldn’t quite get full length sleeves, but I love the sparkle!  I even had to cut the neckband in two pieces which is why there is a join at the centre front, but I decided to use the ruched neckline to try and make it look deliberate.

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Tops like this are staples in my winter wardrobe and are so quick to make up.  Less than 2 hours from cutting to wearing makes these a real bargain, and very satisfying make.  Especially with an overlocker to finish and sew the seams at the same time- I do love my Janome 6234XL.

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There will surely be more of these in the months and years to come.

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Another wedding outfit- Ogden and pleats

I spotted this leaf print viscose challis at Minerva Crafts a while ago, and thought it was a bargain at £2.99 a metre. There are a few colour options to choose from, but I really liked the muted colours of the tan colourway, and when it arrived I wasn’t disappointed.  The fabric is so soft and fluid, but surprisingly easy to work with too.  I thought that I would make a lovely wedding outfit given that I had a few more to attend this year and I wasn’t wrong!

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One problem with sewing for weddings is that I rarely need to get dressed up like that in everyday life, and it does seem a waste to make something beautiful only to wear it for special occasions.  With that in mind, I decided to make a coordinating skirt and top so that I would have more opportunities to wear them apart as well as together.  This might have been partially inspired by other bloggers, and in particular Becca from Red W Sews who also used the ogden cami to make a ‘fake dress’.  It was actually this that convinced me to buy the pattern, and I’m glad I did because it is so simple and elegant.

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So with the top decided, I just needed to work out a skirt.  I fancied something midi length, which isn’t a length that I usually go for, but I thought for a wedding and with heels it should look a bit more classy.  The skirt didn’t need to be anything complicated so I decided to draft one myself  (not entirely successfully) from basic measurements.  I did find a couple of blogs that helped me out, most notably sewVeraVenus for drafting the skirt and Andrea at The Butchers Block for working out how I could have both a side seam zip and pockets!

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Somehow, once I had sewn the zip in and tried the skirt on, it was just far too big.  Being the lazy sewist that I am, I didn’t really want to reset the zip, so I decided to take out a full pleat from the opposite side seam.  I just unpicked a little bit of the waistband facing, took the side seam in, and sewed the facing back down.  Amazingly, despite taking a full 10cm out of the waist, it is still a little big so I don’t think much of my maths.  Either that, or the fabric stretched out a lot more than expected while sewing in the pleats.

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Because these box pleats use a lot of fabric (3 times the waist measurement) this is a lovely full and swooshy skirt.  There is enough weight to it for it to flow nicely, and because it is just a big rectangle , I had plenty of fabric to give it a deep hem.  Sadly, though the wedding venue had beautiful grounds it rained all afternoon, so we had to sneak out and find a little shelter to take these photos.

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Having tested it out together at the wedding, it seemed only right to give the top an outing by itself on the way home.  We stopped off at Croome on the way home, a National Trust property with a really interesting mixed history.  It has a massive grounds and parkland, but was also a ‘secret’ RAF base during the 2nd world war and was instrumental in developing RADAR.

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It was a lovely spot for a walk around and a break from motorway driving.  And my Ogden cami was comfortable and stylish for a Sunday afternoon stroll.  I can see it getting plenty of use for a semi-dressed up look this autumn.

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My first Jeans, and another test for Minerva Crafts

It sometimes seems like you are the only person in the blogosphere that hasn’t made a particular pattern, and I did feel a little like that before embarking on these Ginger Jeans.  These have been on my plans list since Closet Case Patterns launched a ‘Sew you dream jeans’ video workshop in February, so it’s been a while coming.  Sometimes though, you just need a little nudge to get started, and when Minerva Crafts gave me the opportunity to try out some of their stretch denim, I knew it was time to get started!

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I am so in love with these Jeans! They look and feel like the real thing, and are probably the best fitting pair that I have ever owned.  I sewed a size 6 with a few adjustments- I shortened them by 2″ because I am a bit shorter than the drafted for 5’6″. I shortened the crotch length by 3/8th” after my baste fit, and recut my waistband with more of a curve at the back to allow for a slight swayback.  Next time I will take a tiny bit more out of the crotch, but I think that is all the changes that I will make.

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The fabric was fantastic to work with- stretch, good recovery, and firm but not too thick.  You can see my full review and more pictures over on the Minerva crafts blog.  I think I might just have to make another pair.

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The perfect elegant top- Ogden Cami

I think that I might be the last person in the sewing world to make one of these Ogden Cami’s this summer! This is a pattern by True Bias, and has been cropping up all over blogs and Instagram over the summer.  I can definitely see why though.  The pattern is so simple, but just beautifully drafted so it fits in a very elegant way.

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This is actually my second of these tops.  I am hopefully wearing the first one as you read this to a wedding, and I will be revealing my full wedding outfit next weekend (hopefully).  This one does have a couple of issues, but I think they are of my own making!

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The fabric is a remnant of premier crepe from Fabric Godmother in the colour beige. I would probably call it something more elegant like blush, but it is a really lovely neutral colour.  The remnant was only 60cm, which meant that I didn’t have quite enough to cut the facings too, so I cut them from a cream acetate lining fabric.

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I think the may be where my small fitting issue came in.  The crepe is drapey and has a lot of movement. The lining is a little stiffer and more rigid, though also lightweight. I think it is the lining which is causing the slight pulling across my bust and underarms.  I don’t seem to have this problem in the other one, and I think this is because the facing moves with the main fabric better.

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The pattern advises that you do something to differentiate the front from the back, so I hand stitched this little button onto the back lining to help me out when getting dressed!

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This is a straight size 4 and I love it.  Being fitted at the bust means that I don’t feel swamped in fabric by the time it flares out over the stomach and hips.  I do have a little bit of a tummy, and this conceals it without looking like I am trying to!  This crepe does have a good bit of drape, and I have so many more plans for these in all the remnants I can get my hands on.  It is certainly economical for fabric and can definitely be got out of 1m.

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I made a coat!

This has to be my procrastination project.  I started this time last year, but was too scared to cut out my outer fabric so never really got started.  When the September Sewmystyle project came around I realised that this was the prefect moment to deviate slightly from the schedule and complete this coat rather than the Named Yona Coat.

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The pattern is Kwik Sew K4015.  The pattern envelope illustrations are perhaps not that inspiring, but I looked past this to see if I could create a relatively simple lined jacket.

I made very few changes to the pattern.  My coat is a straight size small, view B and was inspired by one made by Rosa of Sewn quite a while ago!  This is a size up from my measurements, but I wanted plenty of space to fit winter jumpers underneath.

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I added side seam pockets and a back stay for functionality and longevity.  The back stay should stop the fabric from stretching out at the shoulders and upper back over time, and mine is copied from Gertie’s in a firm cotton and was just machine basted onto the back piece before I began construction.

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The main fabric was bought online from Abakhan and is a wool acrylic. I didn’t want to splurge too much on a first coat when I wasn’t sure whether my skills were up to it, or if I would like it when I was done!  They seem to be out of the Navy colourway now, but still have the same fabric in black, pink or brown if you are interested.  It is quite loosely woven, so I did overlock all my pieces because I was scared that it would slowly unravel and fall apart behind the lining.  The lining/contrast fabric is a Rose and Hubble printed cotton with scissors on from Trago.  I didn’t have quite enough of this fabric for the inseam pockets (didn’t realise when shopping that this was quite a narrow bolt) so I just used some plain cotton calico for these.IMG_0429

The instructions were generally pretty good.  The only place I came unstuck was attaching the sleeve lining to the sleeve.  With hindsight I should have anticipated this problem, but the pattern appears to tell you to just sew the cuff seam while the coat is still inside out, before turning through the hole in the lining.  This resulted in a Mobius strip sleeve which was comical and impossible to wear!  Once I have unpicked my stitching, I turned the coat the right way out and matched the sleeve seam allowances up, before reaching through the hole in the lining to attach them in a more practical way!

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Before I stitched the lining closed I decided to add thread chains between the underarm of the lining and the coat, just to help keep these in place with a little room for movement.

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I was a little scared of putting buttonholes into this coat, especially with the fraying fabric so I decided to go for snaps.  These are Prym Anorak snaps and they have a slightly longer shaft than some of the lighter snaps I have used before.  This meant that they actually went through all the fairly bulky layers and seam allowances without any trouble, and my Vario Pliers were amazingly easy to set them in with.  Now they match the little eyelets for the hood draw cord too which seems fitting.

Once I stopped procrastinating, this was actually a very easy project, and I was so happy with how it came together.  The hood drawstring is functional, though I don’t think I will often need to bring it in.

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I like the contrast fabric on show in the patch pockets and hood.  It makes it feel personal and unique to me.  The sizing seems good.  I had plenty of room with a lighter weight jumper, and I think there will still be space for something thicker later on in the winter. And even in a heavy rain shower I stayed dry which was a definite bonus!

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I will be tempted to make this again. Probably not this winter, but perhaps in a year or so in a thick cotton twill or even waxed cotton or oilcloth.  I think if I did, I would add a channel and some elastic to give a bit more waist definition like Rosa did, but for now I am very happy with my first coat!

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Wise up Wednesdays: Matching fabric to your pattern

Many patterns give suggestions of the types of fabric which might be suitable.  But how do you know if you could substitute something else (perhaps something special from your stash) if it isn’t listed in the suggestions.  There may be times when you can deviate from the pattern suggestions and end up with an even more special garment, personalised to you.

If this is something you are thinking about, here are my thoughts and process for deciding if a fabric will be suitable for the project I have in mind.

  • How similar is your chosen fabric to the suggestions?

If you are substituting one fabric for another similar one then you will probably be fine without making any modifications.  For example, using an upholstery weight cotton for a skirt pattern which suggests denim, cotton twill or corduroy.  Here all the fabrics are all woven and of similar weight and drape, so there will not be any real change to how the pattern fits or is constructed.

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However, if you wanted to make the same skirt in a lightweight cotton lawn, this is significantly lighter than the pattern suggestions.  To get the same effect, you may need to line or interline your fabric, and consider adding interfacing to keep the structure of your garment.

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In making my K4015 coat (which will be revealed on Sunday) the fabric recommendations include double-sided pre-quilted fabrics, laminated fabrics, or water repellent fabrics. I chose to ignore them and made my coat in a wool/acrylic blend with no changes to the pattern, because I was ok with my coat being a little sloucher than the pattern samples.

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What if you want to make bigger changes though?  Keep reading on for my thoughts!

  • Woven or Knit?

What qualities does you pattern require.  One of the first decisions might be about stretch- how much do you need to make the pattern work and how will you get the item on and off if previously it relied on stretch rather than fastenings.  My Rowan bodysuit needed fabric with stretch in both directions to help get it on, off and to fit.  Many jersey or knit patterns need stretch to fit the neckline over your head.  Substituting for something with less stretch may mean you can’t even get your new outfit on, let alone move in it!

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Modifying a jersey pattern to a woven is not terribly common, partially because many jersey or knit patterns rely on negative ease to fit, meaning that the finished measurements are actually smaller than the body measurements.  This is fine when your fabric has stretch, but patterns for woven fabrics need to include ‘ease’ or a bit of extra space for you to move, breathe and take it on and off.  Melly at Melly Sews has a good set of questions and considerations that you may need to think through when changing your fabric from the pattern suggestions.

If you are planning on making a woven pattern in a knit fabric you may need to make a few pattern modifications, such as sizing down, removing fastenings/zips and switching out facings for bands at the neck or sleeves.  It does depend though on what type of knit fabric you use.  A Ponte de Roma or scuba doesn’t usually have a huge amount of stretch, nd is pretty stable so may not need huge modifications. Tilly at Tilly and the Buttons does have two blog posts talking about adapting woven patterns for knits.  One is all about using Ponte and the other talks about modifying a pattern for a lighter weight jersey.  I would say, that for both of these options, the key to success is actually looking at qualities of the pattern you are going to sew, which brings me neatly onto my next consideration.

  • Drape or Structure?

Another consideration is how should the fabric move? Should it be fluid and drapey, or does it need structure and weight to hold the shape of the pattern?  This is something which I do struggle with from time to time.  My basics pocket skirt was made with a linen, but unlike the light linens in the samples, mine was a bit stiff and heavy.  This means that my finished skirt is a bit more structured than it should be. I’m still hoping that as it keeps getting washed it will soften up, but this is an example of not quite matching the requirements to the desired end resultIMG_1787

I now try to think through what is the shape of the garment? Will it be close fitting or will it need to skim over my body? This has helped my more recent projects to meet their intended purpose.  There is no point in dreaming up a flowing evening gown if the fabric that it is constructed in is too stiff to move and drape.

  • Print or Plain?

The other major consideration in my mind is about balancing the desire for lovely printed fabric, with the practicality of solid colours.  When I first stated sewing I was enticed by every cute print going, but they were hard to pair into my wardrobe because they didn’t go with anything.  In the last year, I have been more disciplined in thinking about what do I need.  Do I need another printed skirt, or is a plain t-shirt actually what is missing from my wardrobe.  If you are struggling t=with style considerations like these then perhaps the Colette Wardrobe Architect project posts might be useful in defining your style and what you want to wear and sew.  I am contemplating going through these posts for myself on the blog, so let me know if that is something you would be interested in reading.

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So I hope that has been helpful in considering what fabric to use for your next project.  Feel free to break the ‘rules’ though. Sewing is also about creativity and problem solving so go your own way if that is what you like.  Look back in next week for some thoughts on prewashing fabric ready for sewing.

 

Winslow Culottes

I have been desiring culottes for a while, especially as I have been cycling a bit more, and they are just much more practical than a skirt on a bike!  The best ones look pretty and feminine like a skirt, just a lot less likely to accidentally show off your underwear! Having looked at a few options, I settled on the Winslow Culottes by Helens Closet who is another new to me pattern designer.

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I wanted these culottes to sit a little below my natural waist and to be loose and comfortable for summer so I sized up a little and used the size 8 pieces. I figured that if it was a little larger than I planned, with those big pleats it would be easy to just shorten the waistband and take a little more fabric into the pleat.

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The fabric is a little special.  The only souvenir that I brought home from Italy was this 1.3m remnant of fabric.  The shop that we visited was very close to Milan city centre and was understandably mostly out of my price range.  There were some stunning silks and velvets, but I could only really justify looking though their remnants.

This smallish piece of cotton was my prize though.  It is just lovely to touch. Soft and drapey, and made in Italy, so a very appropriate holiday souvenir.  The yardage was pretty much perfect for these shorter culottes (view B).

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These have been a very quick and efficient sew.  I prewashed the fabric in the morning, then ironed and cut before lunch and spent the afternoon sewing them up.  I would say that this was a pretty beginner friendly pattern.  The trickiest part is probably inserting the invisible zip, but the instructions and illustrations are excellent.

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In terms of fit, I am fairly happy.  The waistband fits a little strangely, because it sits at a slightly strange in-between height. I can live with that though, but next time I will need to contour the waistband slightly so that it sits against my body a little better.  It is just a narrow straight band, so there isn’t any shaping included in the pattern.

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When I hemmed these culottes, I did take quite a bit of length off.  They are designed with a narrow 1/2″ hem, but I ended up with a deep 3 1/2″ hem instead to bring the length up above my knee a little.  That might be partially because the waistband is sitting a little lower than my natural waist.

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The fabric makes these so special for me.  There are a couple of hidden features, like including the selvedge into the pockets as a special holiday reminder.  It was beautiful to work with, and is a great weight, draping really nicely in the finished skirt.  The deep pleats are very flattering, so I think I will be making this pattern up agin next summer.

These pictures do remind me that sadly summer is drawing to a close.  The culottes did perform really well on our ride, along with my Rowan bodysuit, but we did get soaked in a rain shower on the way home!

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Wise up Wednesdays: Collecting fabric and notions

Following on from my post last week, I am planning to elaborate on each of the parts of sewing preparation.  Here is part 1, and the process that I follow.

Have a look through the first part of the pattern.  Usually early on in the instructions there will be a list of notions and fabric required for your project.  Have a read through, and make sure you know what everything is.  Google can be your friend here if you need help!

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Have a look at the sizing too, and check that when you go fabric shopping you buy enough for the size you plan to make.  Many patterns give fabric recommendations, and while you don’t have to follow these, think about the qualities that you want you finished garment to have and try to match this to your fabric choice.  I will cover this in more detail next week.  If you have one, don’t forget to check in your fabric stash too.  You might find that you have the perfect fabric already there for ‘free’.

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If you need to, make sure that your fabric is prewashed, and pressed and we will talk a little more about how to decide and how to prewash fabric in future weeks too.

As mentioned in my pattern storage blog post, I like to store any notions (and fabric which is small enough) with my pattern in plastic popper wallets.  You know then that when you come to sew, everything will be there ready for you with no rummaging around in other boxes or pots.

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On more complicated patterns, I like to tick everything off as I get it together.  There is nothing more frustrating than getting halfway through the sewing and then discovering that you have missed something essential.  Running out to buy extra elastic or thread halfway through does not make for a relaxing sew.

They say that prior preparation prevents poor performance, and setting up right helps the sewing process to be more fun!

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Rowan Bodysuit

I decided that to keep improving as a dressmaker I need to keep trying new things.  When this pattern came out a couple of months ago, I really liked it, and thought it would be a little different to the rest of my wardrobe.  This is the Rowan Bodysuit by Megan Nielson, and is one of a couple of new patterns I have purchased recently.

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I made this in the same heather gray cotton spandex from Girl Charlee as one of Matt’s latest t-shirts.  The pattern calls for a fabric with quite a bit of stretch in both dimensions, and Girl Charlee helpfully list the stretch percentages of most of their fabrics.

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There is a whole range of variations included in this pattern, and also some additional advice and options in a series of tutorial posts on the Megan Nielson website.  I did find the one about sewing the crotch lining and snaps particularly useful.

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I think I might be a bit Megan Nielson obsessed- this summer there have been quite a few of their patterns making their way into my wardrobe, including my Flint Shorts and Darling Ranges Dress.  One of the reasons that I like them so much though is that the instructions and drafting are top notch.  Everything works and is clearly explained.  This was my first attempt at a v-neck, and I’m really happy with how it turned out.

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The advantage of a bodysuit is that when you wear it tucked in, it stays there!  I did take this away to Italy and wore it with shorts and with my Sew Over It Carrie Trousers, but the pictures were taken a bit late at night, and ended up a little grainy.

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Still, I had lost of fun trying to take these pictures- turns out, it is quite tricky to photograph cartwheels!

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I would love a few more of these for layering in the autumn.  There are loads of options included in the pattern, including both sleeve and neckline options.  I think a long sleeved turtle-neck version would be great layered with knitwear or dresses.  I do like the sample shown by Megan Nielson in a lovely deep navy.

 

 

Wise up Wednesdays: How do I start a sewing project?

Have you ever sat down to start a sewing project, turned on your machine, and then discovered that there is no way this is going to work?  You’ve failed to cut out one of the pattern pieces, and there is no more of that fabric? You didn’t check your collection of zips and now you don’t have one of the right length? Or the thread that you thought was sat waiting for you ran out on your last project?

Sound familiar?  The time you spend preparing for a project can save you so much time in the long run.  These are my top tips for preparing to sew.  I’m going to be putting together more in depth posts on each of them in the next few weeks.

  1. Prewash your stash (and your new purchases too)
  2. Read through the fabric and notion requirements (and tick them off when you have them assembled)
  3. Match your fabric choice to your pattern.  Does the pattern need drape or structure, woven or knit?
  4. Cut out your pattern pieces, leave them labelled and tick them off the pattern guide.
  5. Skim through the pattern instructions and make sure you understand any new techniques. Practice if required!