Basics- boring or beautiful?

I know some people who love to sew, but hate to make basics. They are always constructing something complicated or special occasion. Most of my sewing isn’t like that at all. In the last year I think I have made more plain knit t-shirts for myself or Matt than anything else. Why? Because I love being able to wear the things I make everyday, so that means I need to make everyday things.

My first make of this new year is from my make 9 planning. I have made two pairs of Virginia leggings. These are not my first pairs of Virginia leggings, but they are my first which were sewn to be worn everyday. Last time I made a straight size XS, but this time I graded out at the waist to a size S.

I think my fabric choices this time have been much more successful. These are both jerseys from Girl Charlee. This black is another colour of my favorite solid cotton spandex. It has plenty of stretch and is opaque enough that it works beautifully. This pair have the 1″ elastic as instructed, and I also stitched through the elastic to stop it from moving or twisting.

The second pair are sewn in the softest double brushed polyester spandex. It is just so lovely to stroke! I also really like the space dyed texture. It’s a bit less harsh than a solid colour so I think it will be really practical to wear.

I also used 1.5″ elastic in the waistband by reducing the seam allowance. It’s a bit of a tighter fit into the waistband, so I don’t think it is going to need the topstitching to stop it twisting, but I can always add it later.

I’m so glad that I get to wear things that I have made for myself everyday. It just makes getting dressed a joy.

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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.

Top 5- Hits and Misses 2018

Last year I found it really helpful to think about which of my makes hit the mark, and which were less successful with my hits and misses, so I thought I would have another go this year too.  I think most of my sewing has been fairly successful this year, though I have just done a wardrobe clear out, and a few handmade clothes did get the axe, so its certainly not perfect yet.

So here we go:

Top 5 Hits

Amber tops and Dress

I practically lived in my Amber tops during the last part of my pregnancy when it was hot and my bump was huge.  Even since then, I must wear one at least 2-3 times a week because they are one of my most practical options for feeding in too.  I particularly love my Amber dress because I think it looks fairly stylish and is so easy to just throw on, and my Amber hack layering tee also gets a lot of wear under shirts at the moment.  I think the reason they have been so successful is because they suit my lifestyle as it is right now, not how I might wish it was.  They are also made in good quality cotton jersey, so they have survived lots of washing and grabbing straight back out of the laundry pile!

Oslo Cardigan

This is another item of clothing that regularly gets taken straight from the clean washing pile to be put back on.  When I first made it I wasn’t sure about the style on me and this was really intended as a wearable toile.   However, the oversized nature of it has definitely been growing on me, and I love how easy it is to throw on.  I would love to make another (possibly multiples) as again it fits my lifestyle right now really well.

Modified Toaster Sweater

I made this Toaster sweater right at the start of the year with some very special Atelier Brunette fabric.  I’m pleased that I used this very special fabric in something which is comfortable and practical.  I love that it fits over my Archer shirts, and the crew neck is more practical with a collar.  I’m even really pleased with my decision to go for contrasting gold topstitching.

Ultimate Wrap Dress

This dress is another make that I love because I tweaked the pattern to create what I actually wanted. I hacked the sleeve into a little flutter sleeve, modified the cross-over to be a little higher and added an empire line seam to make it fit over the bump. I have worn it a bit since the arrival of baby too, though I think it might now need re-hemming to take out some of the extra length that I added to the front. I’m looking forward to being able to wear it again next summer.

Ringer Tee

I have made a mountain of these tops for Toby and as gifts, and I’m sure there will be more. I particularly like hacking them to have poppers at the neckline while he is small, but the pattern goes up to ages 5-6, so I’m sure I will make more as he grows. It’s a free pattern too, so what’s not to love!

Hits Conclusion

There were a couple of other patterns that I would have included, but I thought it might be cheating to include patterns that made it onto last year’s successes like the Mens Metro Tee and Grainline Archer because I knew before I got started that I would love them! I also thought that perhaps I couldn’t include the skirt that I am currently sewing, even though I’m pretty sure it will be a hit because I haven’t actually worn it yet! Another that came close was the Dandelion Dungarees because they have seen a lot of wear in the last few months and the popper hack definitely worked there too. I think the things that I have included demonstrate that I’m getting more confident at hacking patterns to get what I actually want from them, not just putting up with the parts that don’t work for me.

Top 5 Misses

Kinder Cardigan

Considering how much I love my Oslo cardigan, it seems a little strange that I’m not such a big fan of the Kinder Cardigan which is pretty similar. I think it is down to a couple of issues, one being that the pattern is possibly even a little more oversized than Oslo. The other being that the Ponte I made it in is definitely more structured so it ‘feels’ bigger. I did like some of the construction methods, and the pockets though, so I’m tempted to adopt some of these for my next Oslo cardigan attempt.

Blossom Dress

Technically this was made in 2017, but I was never really going to wear it until this year. I’m not sure if it is just because it is such a large expanse of single colour, but I didn’t really hit it off with this Blossom dress. I love the fabric, and the Anna Top that I squeezed out of the offcuts, but the dress hardly got worn. It probably doesn’t help that it looked a bit strange before I had a big enough bump, and by the time my bump was bigger the weather was warming up. This hasn’t survived a recent wardrobe clear out because it looks ridiculous again without a baby bump. Perhaps it would have been better as a top.

Lucia Top

A more recent make was this Lucia Top. It was a great way to kickstart sewing again being really simple, but I’m not a massive fan of the fabric. It’s a bit too shiny and ‘polyester’y. It has survive the wardrobe clear out, but only to see if I will wear it during the festive season when red and shiny seems more acceptable. If it doesn’t get worn it might have to go too.

Lily Top

There is nothing actually ‘wrong’ with this Lily Top, it just doesn’t get worn as often as I thought it might. I did wear it while I was pregnant, and I do sometimes wear it now to feed, but I wasn’t 100% pleased with the finishing techniques and there are some areas that I don’t think are going to be all that robust. It’s not a total fail, though I don’t think I would make the pattern again.

Miette Skirt

Again, there is nothing ‘wrong’ with this skirt, but I think it suffers from not suiting my changing body and style. I have been wearing a lot less that sits actually at my waist because I don’t find it that flattering at the moment. Perhaps that will change in the future and I will feel better wearing this skirt though. With hindsight, though the pockets are really useful, they just draw more attention to an area that I feel less confident in at the moment!

Misses Conclusion

I think several of these projects have suffered from the difficulties of guessing what sorts of things I was going to want to wear as my lifestyle and body have changed. Hopefully now that thigs are starting to settle down I can make more informed choices for next year and get more of them right!

More nursing layers

I am enjoying my previous Agnes and Amber pattern mash-up, but I wanted to try another method of getting breastfeeding access with a t-shirt. My previous hack works great, but variety is always nice, and I fancied a long sleeve tee with a neckband because my upper chest/neck keeps getting cold!

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This is based on the Tilly and the Buttons Agnes Top and is a much simpler pattern hack than the previous one because it involves modifying fewer pieces. I would detail the changes, but Zoe from SoZo what do you know already has a great tutorial and I didn’t really do anything different.  I think the overlap would be less obvious if I had found a better thread colour match for the topstitching, but I found this fabric difficult to match and it will probably be hidden under my layers anyway.

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This option is quicker to construct and does give a sleeker silhouette for layering, though I think my other hack is easier to use. I will definitely be using both options, and will probably make some more too. I have some lovely peacock blue cotton spandex which would look great.

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One of the best things about this top is the way it has helped me to reconsider and start wearing a few clothes that had been slightly forgotten. Here it is layered under my Bridgetown Backless Dress as a tunic, and worn with the crossover at the front.

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Slightly different styling from wearing it to the wedding I made it for.

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I also made Matt another Metro tee to match! It doesn’t really deserve its own post as I’m pretty sure I’ve already said all there is to say about making up that pattern. It’s probably one of the best value patterns I own though for the number of times that it has been used (closely followed by the Agnes and Amber patterns too!)

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Breastfeeding Friendly Layering

In the autumn and winter, I usually layer up long sleeved t-shirts, shirts and cardigans, but this year my clothing needs to be feeding friendly.  Currently none of my long sleeved t-shirts really facilitate that, so I’ve needed to come up with a pattern hack solution.  This top is my first attempt at creating a slim fitting layering t-shirt which I can feed in.

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I’ve hacked together the Megan Nielson Amber, with my usual layering top- the Tilly and the Buttons Agnes.  Both of these are tried and true patterns for me, with multiple iterations (For Amber see here and here, Agnes here and here).  I’m using the front bodice piece of the Amber, and the modesty panel, but I’ve raised the centre front on this panel about 5cm to keep me warmer.  Then I’ve attached it to part of the front bodice of the Agnes.

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For the back, I’ve mostly used the Agnes bodice, but tweaked the armscye to fit the Amber sleeve.   The sleeve has been slimmed down a bit too to make it fit under layers more easily.  This is how I’m most likely to we wearing it on an everyday basis- worn with jeans and an Archer Shirt.

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I’m pretty pleased with this as a first try.  I do have another hack in mind to try so hopefully I will be able to show you that one too soon.  Like Matt’s recent Metro tee, this is made with the Girl Charlee solid cotton spandex in Sage Green.

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I’ll be wearing this all winter I’m sure.  I’m really glad to be able to keep warm and cosy in my layers again!

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The joy of Tried and True

Sometimes sewing is about the flashy new patterns or beautiful fabric. Sometime thought it is just about basics that you feel comfortable and yourself in. That is what this post is- filling the gaps in my current wardrobe (which seems to stop fitting me every couple of weeks at the moment) with things that I need.

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Both of these patterns have appeared on the blog before several times. I do love sewing up those tried and true patterns though, that you can cut in batches, knowing that the sizing will be right, and can sew with barely a glance at the instructions.

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These particular TNT’s are the Tilly and the Buttons Maternity Agnes (which I made a couple of t-shirts of at around Christmas, and a dress version more recently), and the Megan Nielson Amber which has featured recently as both a top and a dress too (worn here with my Oslo cardigan).

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Both of these are made in my favorite t-shirt wright jersey too- Girl Charlee’s solid cotton spandex. It has great recovery, sews up beautifully, washes well and comes in loads of colours. I don’t think I will go back to using anything else for my plain t-shirts.

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So I think this really is the perfect recipe- patterns which I know the fit and the drafting, and fabric which behaves just as you expect. Perhaps not the most exciting or revelatory discovery, but I have found lately with my self imposed fabric and pattern buying ban that I am having to return to and rediscover things which before I might have overlooked in favour of the new and sparkly. Sometimes what you really need has been sat there in front of you all along!

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Acacia Undies

Another scrapbusting project this week- underwear! This is the free Acacia underwear pattern from Megan Nielson which you can get if you subscribe to their newsletter. I spent a few days rummaging through all my jersey fabric scraps to see what I could come up with to make a couple of pairs, then set up a production line to start sewing!

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The pattern is particularly planned for people trying to cut these out from scraps by having all the pattern pieces cut on the flat rather than on the fold, which does make it easier to see what you can squeeze in to your funny shaped fabric pieces. I decided to go for the size M because its been a bit tricky working out which size to cut when your waist is clearly not in proportion with your hips. I was hoping that it would give me enough space to be comfortable, but with the option of sewing the elastic a little tighter if they ended up too big.

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I bought a few different types of elastic on eBay because the instructions give instructions for fold-over elastic, flat elastic and decorative picot elastic. I just chose a couple of colours which I liked and thought would co-ordinate with some of the fabrics in my stash.  Deciding how to mix and match has been fun!

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This green pair is the first one that I made up, and I added the elastic on the sewing machine.  It looks ok, but for some of the other pairs I did the first pass with the elastic on the overlocker so that I didn’t end up with raw fabric edges.  Jersey doesn’t fray, but I just thought that it looked neater.

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The pattern does come together very easily. If you have ever used the ‘burrito method’ to enclose the seams on a shirt yoke, the method used to attach the internal and external gusset hiding the seams on the inside is very similar. It is all very clearly explained though, so even if you haven’t come across it before you shouldn’t have any issues.  And if you prefer photographs to the illustrations in the pattern booklet, there is even a full set of instructions on the Megan Nielson Blog.

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I did use all the different elastic finishes, and I think the fold-over elastic is quickest because it is applied in one pass, rather than two.  I do really like the look of the picot edge though.  I definitely got better at applying the elastic as I went on.  It is just a bit fiddly at first stretching the elastic to fit the seam as you sew.

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I’m not going to be modelling these for you, because that seems a little weird, but good news is that they are comfortable, fit pretty well and are effectively totally free underwear if you use scraps that would be too small for any other sewing!

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Best part is, they are also really quick to cut and sew, so when you are lacking a little in inspiration, and just need to sew something, this is a good pattern to pull out of the bag.  Everyone always needs pretty underwear!

Part year review

I figured that we are a good chunk through the year now, and it would be a useful exercise to see how I was getting on with my resolutions for the year, while I still have time to get back on track if it was all going awry. Amazingly, sewing-wise it seems to be going pretty well so far and I’m feeling fairly on track to achieve the things I was hoping to, despite feeling like a whale at the moment and waiting for baby to arrive! This is what my make nine plans looked like at the start of the year:

Make 9

Since then I have decided on, a couple of my wildcard patterns, and have also made up quite a few of these patterns too, some of them several times.

Make 9 (2)

So far I have completed my Lily Top, Oslo Cardigan, a Paxton Sweater for Matt, two Amber Tops and a Dress version, Brindle and Twig baby clothes, and have begun the planning and sewing for my Taylor Trench Coat. I’ve also chosen the Sew Over It Penny Dress to hack into a nursing dress with another of my wildcards. I’m thinking of buying the Thread Theory Jedediah Pants pattern for Matt to make some shorts this summer.

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Another of my plans was to be less impulsive with buying new fabric and patterns, and to use more of what is already in my stash. So far it has been a roaring success! I’ve not bought any new fabric so far this year except for my Trench Coat project, despite being very tempted at a couple of moments by various sales! It means that all the projects that I have been working on so far this year have come from stash fabrics, some of which I had forgotten even existed. I will need to buy some fabric soon for the Penny dress because I don’t have anything suitable stashed away, but I think I’ve done amazingly well to come so far without a single impulse fabric purchase.

Pattern-wise, my only purchases have been the Penny Dress, the Brindle and Twig Patterns, and I did get Tilly and the Button’s new book Stretch when I recently subscribed to Love Sewing again. Again, pretty restrained so far! Turns out I have quite a few patterns in my stash which can be hacked or modified to make some lovely and enjoyable sewing.

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So in terms of what I still have to do this year, it seems to be going ok! 5 of 9 of my make nine completed, one in progress, and another at the planning stage. Still two choices to make, but I’m starting to narrow down what they will be. Fabric and pattern buying under control, and I’m thinking I should do some more sorting out of my stash to give away some of the things which will never see the light of day otherwise. There are definitely some pieces which just don’t inspire me anymore, but might be just the thing for someone else. I would like to narrow down my stash so that it contains just fabric that I can’t wait to sew.

Amber Dress

When I made my previous Amber Top for my holidays, I knew that I was going to want to make the dress version too at some point.  This dress was definitely also what I had I’m mind when I added this pattern to my make 9 list in January, so it feels good to have the plans coming together.

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This fabric was always intended to be a dress, though it has sadly sat in my stash for about two years waiting for something to happen!  I bought it with a Tilly and the Buttons Agnes Dress Hack in mind and I was also clearly inspired by Tilly in the fabric choice too.  Like hers, my fabric is from MyFabrics, and I have always liked how they send fabrics out labelled with a sticker which has all the fabric details on, including length, composition and washing instructions.  They don’t have this fabric any more, but they do have some other similar nautical designs which are really fun.

 

So back to the dress that I did actually make.  I found it much easier to put all the pleats and pieces together than when I made the t-shirt version, and I made sure to baste together some of the key seams with lots to line up so that nothing could get unintentionally caught in the overlocker this time!  The modesty panel is just plain navy cotton spandex from Girl Charlee because I thought it might be a bit much to have the print there as well, and now it just looks like a little vest top underneath.  I think it would be really cute sometime to make a dress or top with a little lace trim along the top edge of that panel too.

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One of my only issues with this dress is that the front waistband does get stretched quite a bit at the moment, now that the bump is getting bigger, and sometimes that does cause the white backing of the printed fabric to show through.  Probably most people wouldn’t notice, but it does annoy me enough to have to rearrange it slightly when I notice it!

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The only change I made from the pattern was to shorten the dress 10cm at the hem once it was finished.  I very rarely wear any dress length other than above the knee so I just knew I was going to be more comfortable with it a bit shorter.

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This dress is going to get lots of wear in the next couple of months I’m sure.  It looks great now with leggings and boots, and I know I’ll be able to wear is as the weather (hopefully) warms up too.  It should be a practical and comfortable post-bump option too.  I’m not sure how the front of the dress will hang without the bump, and I guess I might have to re-hem if the length isn’t quite right any more, but that is easy enough to do.

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It’s not often that Matt and I manage to get a picture of us together, so I thought I’d leave you with one just for fun.  A picture of our ‘growing’ family before it all changes in May!

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Amber Abroad!

This is my first more ‘spring-like’ make of 2018, finished partially in honour of a pre-baby holiday to Lanzarote. It was tricky deciding on my packing for holiday because I didn’t want to buy a whole summer maternity wardrobe, but knew it should be warmer over there than Devon in February! This t-shirt was one of the compromises that I decided upon- it is short sleeved, for warmer weather, but is going to be something I can wear again and again back at home.

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The fabric is some of my favorite Girl Charlee cotton spandex in a grey marl colour. I’ve used the same one before in a t-shirt for Matt, and a bodysuit for me last summer. I just love the way that this fabric washes, wears and feels. The pattern is the Megan Nielson Amber– a top and dress pattern which is probably a bit under appreciated being as it is super versatile (one of the reasons that it made it onto my make 9 for the year). It is designed as a maternity and nursing pattern, but I can definitely see me making it with a few mods just for non-pregnancy wear. The shape is very similar to a much loved ready to wear dress that I’ve had for years!

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Lanzarote was beautiful, though maybe not quite so warm as we had hoped- there was a strong wind most days, but this top was a great comfortable staple. It looks great just with my basic maternity leggings too. I’m definitely going to be making more in a few other colours, and have some fabric waiting in my stash to make at least one dress version too.

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I like that unlike some maternity wear, this top still gives me some shape. I think it’s due to the empire line waistband before it flares out to make space for bump. There is a nifty little panel in the front which both stops the crossover feeling too low, and is designed for easy access when nursing. I haven’t tried that out yet, but I can see it being pretty practical.

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I stabilised all the neckline sections before sewing them with fusible hemming tape because I didn’t want it to stretch out. It seems to have worked well, so I think I’ll do the same on the next one too. I didn’t really feel the need to switch to a twin needle for hemming and just used a zigzag stitch there instead. All the main seams were stitched on my overlocker.

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This top does have just one tiny flaw- when I was stitching the waistband to the wrap over front, and the panel, I did manage to catch the modesty panel under the overlocker knife and took out a tiny piece. Just goes to show that I should have been less lazy and basted it in place on the sewing machine first, but I’ve patched it, and it’s not at all visible because it is under the wrap anyway so I’m not going to fret about it!

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