Alder Shirtdress

Before Christmas I made a bit of a special purchase for myself. I had always wanted to use Spoonflower to make a shirt for myself because it seemed like a great way to simplify the time consuming cutting out part of the process. With Spoonflower about to shut down the pre-printed pattern part of their business, it gave me the nudge that I needed to commit, and I went for the Alder Shirtdress by Grainline. I’ve already made their Archer Shirt about 5 times before, so I felt fairly confident that I could order the Alder in a size 4 and it would probably fit pretty well.

It did take me a long time to decide on the fabric print. In the end I went for these mountains. I really liked the muted colours, but I didn’t want anything too pale in case it was a bit see through in bright sunlight! Its printed cotton lawn, and while you can still get fabric printed with spoonflower in this pattern (called ‘call of the mountains’ by
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), they don’t seem to use the cotton lawn as a substrate option anymore. It’s a nice weight for this dress though, it is crisp and pressed beautifully, but not so heavy that it doesn’t drape at all.

The season for wearing a sleeveless summer dress, even with a cardigan is pretty short in the UK, so I wanted to be able to wear this more like a tunic to extend it’s useful and wearable season. It was about perfect with a t-shirt and my Virginia leggings underneath on a slightly breezy April morning.

The completely loose silhouette is a slightly new one for me, though I actually quite liked it. It’s nice that I can change it up a bit with a belt too though if I want a bit more of a waist.

Construction wise, it went together very easily. I didn’t really need the instructions because it is much the same as the Archer. Like the Archer, I enclosed the yoke seams using the burrito method which has a video tutorial on the grainline website. I did have a bit of a battle getting the collar on without any little tucks, and its still not perfect, but after about 3 attempts I decided it was good enough!

Because the Alder is sleeveless, there is a bias facing to finish of the sleeve edge. I’m not the biggest fan of bias binding, so I opted to machine sew the first pass, and the under stitching, then hand stitched the binding to the inside. I like that it has given a really clean finish to the armhole, and my hand stitches are almost invisible which is satisfying!

The one disadvantage of using spoonflower is that the notches are already transferred and it is a bit trickier to make fitting alterations. I did pin out the darts and hold the front panels up to me, but the darts have actually ended up a little low. Next time I make an Alder I’m going to need to raise them slightly. The fit is still pretty good though, so it’s nothing that will stop me from wearing this version.

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Winter Moss

Isn’t this just a stunning view? We recently went for a walk around some local reservoirs and all the way around the walk the scenery was beautiful. It seemed like a great opportunity to take some pictures of what was actually my Christmas morning skirt and the culmination of quite a bit of planning.

This is the Grainline moss skirt. I’m so happy with the skirt because it is the final part of an outfit that I’ve had in mind most of the Autumn.  I saw this stunning floral corduroy on Fabric Godmother, and immediately thought that it would pair beautifully with one of my nursing hack Agnes tops and my creamy Archer Shirt.

I made a Moss before a couple of years ago which I still wear all the time so I felt pretty confident that I would be able to follow the construction again.  This time I lengthened the skirt by combining the front and back pattern pieces with the piece for the hem band. It meant that I could enjoy the longer length without breaking up the pattern in the fabric.

I tried it on before hemming, and decided to take a deeper hem, which I think looks good on this kind of skirt anyway. It now sits just above the knee which is a good length for wearing with tights or leggings. I did compare the length to my previous one and I think it is about 3.5 inches longer than the standard shorter length.

I was a little surprised how much I had forgotten about installing a front fly zip, but I did figure it out and I’m pleased with the result. I am planning on making another pair of jeans later this year so I’m counting it as good practice.

I do love the deep pockets in this pattern, and its fun seeing the little bit of contrast lining when I pop my hands in them. This skirt feels a bit bigger than my previous one because the corduroy has quite a bit of stretch. Hopefully it won’t feel too big as time passes.

New year, new plans

I love the new year for having a chance to reflect on where you have come from, and where you hope to get to. Last year I set myself some sewing and blogging related goals so I thought I would see how I measured up.

Sewing

I created myself a make 9 list last January, though it actually started with just 5 patterns on it and room for some wildcard pattern additions. This did really work for me because it gave me room to review during the year and adapt my planning as I went along. By the end of the year, I did have 9 patterns on my list and I completed 8 of them.

The only one which went unfinished was my Taylor Trench (top left) which was definitely the most ambitious project, and while I did lots of the prep work sourcing fabric and notions, I knew long before the end of the year that it wasn’t going to get finished (or even cut out)! I am planning on adding it to my plans for this year, and I think Rebecca Page will be hosting a sew-along so hopefully that will help me to get going on it.

The other patterns were all pretty successful. Continuing clockwise we have- Brindle and Twig baby clothes, Sew Over It Lily, Poppy and Jazz Dandelion Dungarees, Megan Nielson Amber, Grainline Archer, Seamwork Paxton, Sew Over It Penny and a Seamwork Oslo. I like that they represent a range of pattern companies and levels of complexity so I’m aiming for a similar balance again this year.

I also made plans to reduce my sewing consumption. I think it is very tempting to buy more fabric and patterns than are likely to get made, especially as my sewing time has reduced over the last year. I think I did manage to keep both in check, though I definitely bought more in the second part of the year than the first. I think in total I only bought 6 patterns, most of which were for baby clothes and the Penny dress. I think it proves that they were more carefully selected patterns because 4 have already been made up, and I am definitely planning on using the others shortly.

Blogging

My aim was to keep to a similar blogging schedule, posting every Sunday with occasional extras in between. This was pretty successful too, though there was a month or so when Toby was very tiny that I had a break. I have the same asperation this year, and already have a few blog posts in the bank part written so hopefully I will get a bit ahead! Thank you to all my lovely readers who have made it such a fun and worthwhile year.

2019 Plans- Make 9

I have a new make 9 planned out, though there might be a bit of change throughout the year again. Provisionally it looks like this….

First up is that Taylor Trench. I want to get is cut out asap so that I don’t have any more excuses to procrastinate.

Next is the Grainline Alder. I’ve made lots or Archers, and wanted to branch out so I had the Alder printed by Sprout patterns before they stopped trading. It seemed like a great way to save myself some time in the cutting out phase, and I’m hoping to be able to wear it with leggings and a t-shirt underneath, and on it’s own in the summer.

It only seems fair to make Matt something. I’ve made him lots of Metro tees in the last few years so I want to try out something new. This is the Eugene Henley from Seamwork and should be a fun quicker project to break up the more complex ones.

This first Seamwork Oslo was always intended to be a wearable muslin, but I never got to making any more. I want at least one more in my wardrobe and have some grey and black jersey ready to go.

A couple of years ago I made some Virginia Leggings, but they weren’t too successful. I have some grey and black jerseys ready to make some basic everyday pairs.

I made some Ginger jeans a couple of years ago, but they don’t fit my post baby body. I have some red stretch corduroy to make a new wearable muslin, and if it works out well I would like to make some in blue denim too.

I was given this gorgeous book– the fox the bear and the bunny for Christmas. It has some lovely playful clothes inside and I would like to make Toby a coat- possibly the bunny one before he is too old to object!

One of the patterns I bought last year was the Honeydew Hoodie. I haven’t got to make it yet, so I’m making it a priority this year. It should be another quicker make, and is super cute.

Finally, I’ve left myself a wildcard again to let me choose something during the year that takes my fancy. I’m sure there will be other projects too. I would really like to wear some jersey dresses again so it might have to be another amber dress if it’s while I’m still breastfeeding. I have suitable fabrics in my stash for lots of these, so I’m hoping to use those first before buying anything new.

Batch sewing shirts

How do you like to pick our next sewing project?  Do you sew multiples of the same garment or dive straight in to something new?  Do you like to stick to the same colours or fabrics (or same thread in you sewing machine/overlocker) or do you flit about with different colours textures and patterns to keep things exciting?  I tend to do a bit of both.  Sometimes I’m tempted immediately by the lure of the next new thing, or other shiny fabrics, but sometimes I’m a little more pragmatic and choose to sew several things in the same fabric to save changing threads and needles, or make repeats of a pattern so I only need to figure out the instructions once.

 This is one of the times where I’ve decided to let pragmatism and planning win out. I’ve been planning this speckled cream Archer Shirt for over a year, but it fits in beautifully with an outfit I have in my head for Autumn/Winter so it finally made it to the top of the sewing queue.  I’ve made several Archer’s before, so I know what to expect from the fit, and also from the complexity of shirt making, and decided that it would actually be almost as quick to sew two shirts together.  (See my post on sewing with limited time).

Especially once I rediscovered this other brushed cotton in my stash which would work with the same needles and same white thread  It’s actually the same fabric that I used to make my sister an Archer for Christmas last year, but I figured she won’t mind me copying a good idea!

The shirts are actually just the same as all the ones I’ve made before (here and here)- a straight size 4.  I love them to bits though.  The brushed cottons are just perfect for this time of year.  They feel so cosy.

I remembered to sew in my ribbon tags into the back yoke of the shirts which makes me smile every time that I put them on.  I French-seamed the side seams too.

The checked shirt has several details cut on the bias to save on pattern matching, and to add a bit of interest.  I did (mostly) pattern match the side seams and front, though it isn’t perfect.  I decided that I can definitely live with it, and didn’t have the patience for meticulous cutting out!

On the speckled shirt I decided to hem it with bias tape.  It’s not a technique I use very often, so I could probably do with more practice, but I like the neat finish.  It’s not always easy to press up a neat narrow hem when there is a big curve like on the side seam of the Archer.  Its worth spending the extra time on garments which are going to get lots of wear!

I think I probably have enough of these shirts to keep me going for quite a while, so I probably don’t need to make any more for a bit.  Next time I need a shirt though, I can be pretty sure which pattern I’m going to be going straight to.

Repairs- it’s almost like magic!

This is a mini bonus post to tie in with the Monthly Stitch theme for the month ‘Slowvember‘.  Since the arrival of Toby my sewing has naturally had to slow down a little.  Gone are the days where I could spend a whole Saturday sewing.  With that in mind, it’s even more important that my handmade clothes are made to last so that I can get as much value and enjoyment from them as possible.

This Archer shirt is the first one that I made, and has already been repaired once before with some Sashiko stitching.  This time though it is the sleeve plackets which are in need of repair so I took a slightly different approach.

I’ve used some ordinary sewing thread to stitch around the hole to hopefully prevent it from spreading further and the same embroidery thread as before to satin stitch over the damage.  I’ve also fused a little bit of interfacing over it from the wrong side to help prevent any further fraying.

To celebrate an item of clothing which will hopefully now go on to be worn for a couple more years, I’ve added an embroidered flower to commemorate each of the repairs so far.  I think this was inspired by Elisalex from By Hand London who was doing the same to a pair of jeans to create a ‘jeans garden’.  Perhaps I will eventually end up with a whole garden of them celebrating each time that It would have been easy to give up on this shirt and let it go to be recycled or into landfill.

Review two, and Autumn/Winter Plans

My sewing has definitely slowed down a bit since having a baby, but I do have some plans for the autumn.  I need some more long sleeved tops, as does Matt so I’ve gone back to my favorite cotton spandex from Girl Charlee in Sage Green and Dusty Masala.

Dusty Marsala Solid Cotton Spandex Knit FabricSage Green Solid Cotton Spandex Knit Fabric

 

 

 

 

 

 

With regards to my make 9 plans its going pretty well and I’ve decided on a final couple of things to add as my wildcards.  I’m going to sew the Poppy and Jazz Dandelion Dungarees for Toby (and if I get time a co-ordinating Honeydew Hoodie), and I could do with another wintery Archer shirt for which I have a perfect cream speckled brushed cotton from Fabworks last year.   So my make 9 now looks like this:

Make 9 (3)

6 made (some several times), 1 in progress, and 2 yet to start.  I feel like that is not too bad.  The Taylor Trench and Archer shirt are pretty involved makes, though I have made the Archer multiple times before.  The dandelion dungarees should be super easy though.  I have some cute Fabworks elephant fabric which might work.

Z2e5If I get time, I could also do with another Oslo cardigan.  The one that I made at the start of the year is in constant rotation, and I’ve been discovering that cardigans are much more convenient to breastfeed in than jumpers, and its getting too cold to be without layers.

 

Rachel’s Archer

While I was at home of Christmas, my sister decided that it wasn’t fair that she hadn’t been to model on my blog yet, so we had to take some photos of her Christmas present from last year- one of my favourite patterns, and a real TNT for me, the Grainline Archer.

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I have made quite a few of these for myself now (3 of the regular version, and a popover), and still have fabric waiting to become another one.  I just love the fit- a bit oversized, but not too much.  You can wear it over t-shirts, but still fit it under a jumper.

Rachel is actually pretty similar to me in size.  She is may be a little smaller than me, but generally prefers her clothes a little less fitted, so I was pretty sure that making this to the same size that I wear for myself was probably going to fit and be on to a winner.  Does anyone else have that dilemma- you want to make something for someone, but want it to be a surprise and don’t know how to get hold of their measurements?  This year I think I’m going to have to take some sets of standard measurements for all the people in my life that I would like to surprise with handmade!

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I asked Rachel for her view on what it was like to receive something handmade.  I think as makers and sewists we are often too hard on ourselves, seeing all the flaws and pointing out all the tiny mistakes.  I wanted to know if that was how things were received too.  It turns out that we are almost certainly not appreciating ourselves, and the things we make as much as we should.

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Rachel said: “I  loved receiving my very own personal shirt made lovingly by my sister.  I’ve had several people comment on how much they like the shirt, and all astounded that it is homemade and was once not a shirt, but simply a piece of material!  (In fact it has started conversations about my sister’s sewing and has lead friends to be avid readers of the blog, always intrigued as to what the next item could be…)  I love the detail in the shirt, especially the pattern matching, and the pleat in the back.  Also it is a great material, chunky but not too thick, and doesn’t need ironing which is brilliant.  (Especially as a student with no ironing board!)”

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Perhaps we should just relax, enjoy, and realise that sewists and dressmakers are just pretty awesome!

 

Top 5 Hits and Misses of 2017

It’s always good at the turning of the year to review, so I thought I’d go through my makes from this year with the benefit of hindsight and see which had been ultimate successes, and which hadn’t got as much use as I had hoped.  Reviewing makes like this does help to gain an overview of what sorts of projects did or didn’t work in my lifestyle, so I’ll be using that to start making my plans for next year too!

Top 5 Hits

Ginger Jeans

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I think my first attempt at jeans definitely was a highlight this year. They fitted great, the fabric choice was spot on and I felt justifiably proud with the result.  Sadly, because they are fitted and fairly high-waisted, they don’t fit over the bump any more, so I will have to wait a while before I can wear them again, but I have plans to make jeans again in the future and will just have to wait and see if I end up the same shape post baby or need to make some other fit adjustments to the next pair!

Archer Shirts

Maybe this is a cheat, because I actually made two archers, and mended another with some sashiko mending, but I love them all and they have been in regular wardrobe rotation all year.  I think I love most that they are so versatile.  The relaxed fit is spot on, and there is something so satisfying about the precision involved in shirt making.

Kwik Sew Coat

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The slightly oversized fit of this coat has been an unexpected bonus- I think I will fit into it for most of the winter, even as I grow!  That aside, I would change a few things next time I make a coat, but you have to start somewhere, and this project has given me the courage to try some other trickier and more involved sewing projects again in the future.

Flint Shorts

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No longer a weather appropriate option, but these flint shorts were all I wanted to wear on holiday this summer.  I felt put together in the cities, sufficiently cool to belong in Italy and they were comfortable and practical too.  The fabric might be one of my favorite parts of these, and was a lucky charity shop find.  One to make again next summer.

Men’s Metro Tees

Another multi garment pick, but these t-shirts have been a big success.  I don’t make much for anyone other than me, but these were worth the effort because Matt wears them all the time.

Top 5 Misses

Valley Blouse

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This top is one of those projects that just doesn’t quite materialise as you envisioned it.  I quite like all the components- fabric, buttons etc., but the pattern wasn’t the right choice for me.  There is more volume in the sleeves than is really my preference (it makes it really hard to wear with a cardigan), but maybe I can modify them at some point to slim them down and make this more ‘me’.

Pocket Skirt

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My first problem with this skirt is that the sizing from the pattern chart seemed to be a little off, so this skirt was much to big at the waist.  I was able to bring it is with the elastic at the back waistband, but I’m still not really sure about the fit or the length.  It doesn’t really get worn, and I don’t think I will be using the pattern again because there are other patterns which were simpler to construct and more successful for me.

Alex Shirtdress

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I think the problem with this Alex dress is the fabric/pattern combination.  The cotton is a little too stiff, and doesn’t drape well enough for me to feel comfortable in this dress.  It is all just a little too oversized, and the fabric emphasised that.  This one it savable thought I think, when I eventually get around t putting some darts in the back to take out some of the extra volume.

Saunio Cardigan

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There is nothing ‘wrong’ with this Saunio Cardigan exactly, except that it never makes it off the coat rack and out of the door.  I think it is the fact that it just doesn’t quite fit my lifestyle.  3/4 sleeves on a jacket aren’t sufficiently practical on Dartmoor.  If I want or need a coat or jacket, it needs to have full sleeves!

Virginia Leggings

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Not actually a disaster of pattern, or of lifestyle, but unfortunately this lycra couldn’t really stand up to running in these Virginia leggings and so some of the seams have started to split.  I have some other fabric in mind to give this another go at some point though, so definitely not a wasted pattern.

 

Sashiko Mending Archer

This is my first ever Grainline Archer.  I have since shared a few more recent versions, but this first one has always been a favourite.  I meticulously pattern matched the plaid across the front, learned how to attach a collar and install plackets, and even inserted my first snaps.

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Favorite, that is until a hole appeared right where the button placket meets the front piece.

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I deliberated for ages about what to do.  I didn’t want to just throw away something that represented a lot of hard work and some fairly major achievements, but I also didn’t know how to mend it in such a way that I would be happy with the end result.  And I really didn’t want to have to do loads of unpicking to sort it out!

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I have come across Sashiko a few times before, often as a piece of decorative art, or sometimes as a means of mending the knees of worn jeans, but only recently did it occur to me that this might be the way to salvage my much loved shirt!  I did still have some of the fabric from the original shirt left, so this felt like a logical place to begin my mending journey.  I took a large rectangle, overlocked all the edges and pinned it in place behind the hole.

Next I chose a complimentary embroidery thread.  I wanted something that toned in with the colours in the shirt, but I also wanted to embrace the fact that this mending was going to be visible, and I could be proud of that!  This seemed like a good compromise.

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Because the shirt already has such a strong geometric pattern, I decided that there was no need for complex embroidery shapes.  Sticking with the grid of the plaid would help keep my stitches even and straight anyway so no need for guide lines.

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Sashiko mending is designed to reinforce the fabric, anchoring it to a solid base, but I think I may still have to be a little careful when using the poppers that I don’t put unnecessary strain on the fabric.  I think it looks pretty cool, and now I can wear my Archer shirt again with pride, knowing that it is even more unique and special than before.  Embrace the uniqueness and the mending.

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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.