Three be the things I shall never attain: envy, content, and sufficient Champagne.‏

How do you like my dress?

 IMG_5145I am as yet undecided. Not because of the overall look of it – I love the fit (although it could do with a few tweaks), the shape, the material – and the way it looks (and makes me feel – like a classy bird, for once). But because there are several places where I bodged this dress, and this dress does not deserve a bodging. It deserves careful handling and perfect execution.

But let’s start from the beginning. This was a challenge set by my Sewing Bee several months ago – we decided we would all make a classy cocktail dress in time to go out for pre-Christmas cocktails together, which was such a lovely idea I couldn’t resist.

It took me ages to decide what dress to make – I ummed and ahhed about what made a dress a cocktail dress (not helped by the fact that my usual cocktail attire is not unlike my usual attire – i.e. holey jeans and New Balance), before remembering I’d bought Burda  6043 – a vintage style shift vintage reissue a while back which fit the bill perfectly. I love the early 60s silhouette and the way the ladies on the front could have walked off the set of Mad Men with a cigarette in one hand and a martini in the other.

The next decision was fabric. It needed to live up to the elegance of the dress, but also comfortable enough to move in. As we all know, one too many cocktails can often lead to dancing. Shameful behaviour.

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When I saw this “Annalotte” dress from Kathryn at Yes I Like That, made in the self-lined Prada stretch crepe from Minerva Crafts, I thought that this was the one. I was originally going to go with black for the LBD, but something about the modest cut of the dress made me worry it would look a bit funereal, so I went for the purple “Aubergine” colour. I rather riskily bought it sight-unseen, and didn’t bother with a sample, as the reviews I’d seen convinced me it would be ok – and luckily it was! The fabric was £11.99 a metre. I bought 2.5m (am still beginner enough to plan for major balls-up in my cutting), but I think used less than 2 in the end.

The fabric is gorgeous, as you might expect from something with Prada in the title. It’s matt on one side, with a silky lining. I decided to use the silky side for the bodice, and the matt for the skirt section of the pattern, which makes for a lovely contrast.

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Totally derpy pic – for some reason I was hiding my phone behind my back.

 I pretty much followed the pattern as is – cutting out a size 14 I think (this was before Christmas, and my memory is not so good after the “Christmas Cheer”). I shortened it by about 4 inches, as it says it’s drafted for a 5’6’’ tall woman. I am not that woman. I ended up with a very small hem, but I like the length on me. I only lined the bodice, as I didn’t think it needed a lining in the skirt, especially with my fancy-ass self-lined fabric. The fabric is also quite thick, so I thought two layers in the skirt would be too much.

 

IMG_5146 So about that bodging. Here’s a little list.

  • The little point in the bodice won’t sit smoothly – despite me resewing it several times –  I can’t work out how I would fix this in the future, but perhaps it was just inaccurate cutting from the start.
  • I don’t like finishing the armholes with a bias binding, but I’d already sewn in the lining and zip so had left it too late to finish them another way (this is why you should always read a pattern from start to finish before you start wielding the scissors I guess!)
  • The back bodice doesn’t line up properly at the back ­and I don’t know why!!! I ended up having to hand sew this to fix it. It’s still not perfect but it’s not so bad that anyone else would notice unless they were intently watching me walk away.
  • I used some bad bad interfacing. It’s probably not the interfacing’s fault, but more that I need to learn about interfacing and what kind to use, as the stuff I’ve got is so stiff it’s like paper. This doesn’t actually bother me when I’ve got the dress on, luckily, as I can’t really tell. It’s more that I know that it’s there.
  • I could do with pinching a bit of fabric out of the front bodice as it has the tendency to gape a little (one of these days I will probably make a toile. But not today). It wouldn’t need a huge amount taking out, and again, no one else would probably notice – I just found myself fiddling with it a little while I was out. Until the third cocktail, and then I didn’t give a cr*p.

But at the end of the day (or the start of the next), none of the bodging really mattered – we all had a great time at the Hide Bar in Borough, which has some of the most interesting cocktails I’ve come across in my long history of cocktailing.

So I guess the moral of the story is, if you have something you’ve made you’re not sure about, get drunk and wear it anyway.

Although technically this post is all about the cocktails, not the bubbly, I couldn’t resist this quote from Dorothy Parker from her poem Inventory.

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Stars will blossom in the darkness, Violets bloom beneath the snow.

Hello everyone, hope you’re having a super Thursday! I have managed to fight off a threatening cold by excessive echinacea consumption and a massive duvet-sofa session, and I’ve also just chased a massive cat that was scaring Maeby, so I am feeling pretty superhuman right now.

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I’ve also made a blouse! Well, I finished it on Monday, but am just sharing it with you now because, eh, timings.

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It’s the Violet blouse from Colette, which I picked up for the bargainous price of 2 pounds 50 off my friend Caroline who was selling off some of her stash. Bargain, right? I loved the pattern – I’d been wanting to make a blouse for a while, partly to fill a hole in my wardrobe (I say hole, I mean very small tiny little gap in my overstuffed wardrobe, but whatever) and partly just because I hadn’t made one yet. For the learnin’, see?

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Anyway, I bought this fabric from John Lewis (shocker) – it’s 100% cotton, and I can’t remember what kind of fabric it is. Sorry. Whatever it is, it is drapey as f**k. It has All The Drape. And the pattern is great.

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I may or may not have been inspired by my handbag. Ahem.

I cut out the pieces shortly after getting the fabric, and then didn’t get around to sewing it up for ages – I hate cutting out pattern pieces so much that I need to have a break before the actual sewing. But when I did get around to it, it was quick to put together – I think I did it in an afternoon, apart from the buttons and buttonholes which I did the next day when I had a random day off. And thank god I have a one-step buttonhole step on my machine cause this baby has 10 buttons. TEN. I got these buttons from the market in Bath, don’t they go perfectly?

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Buttons buttons buttons.

I’m pretty happy with how this looks – it’s very (very) loose fitting, and I think the collar is slightly (very) skewiff, but tucked into a pencil skirt it looks great, and the loose fit looks great over jeans. And no one but me will notice the collar, a benefit of the noisy print. Bonus.

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What on earth is up with my face. Derp.

I think I will make this up again because I think a few of these would be great for work – I might try grading it down at the waist and see how that works out, but otherwise I’m pretty happy with it. I’ve seen a few pics online of other people’s Violet’s where the collar meets in the middle, so I assume that there’s a longer pattern piece out there somewhere, because I think they look super cute.

And I’ll end with a picture of Maeby – this is her way of saying thank you for saving her life from the mean boy cat who invaded her garden. Close – but not TOO close.

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Today’s quote is from Julia C.R. Dorr

Do not plan for ventures before finishing what is at hand.

So turns out this Euripides fella knows what he’s talking about, and I probably should take heed. Because this is my current list of Unfinished Objects (UFOs). They will be finished, I promise. The when is the issue. The when is always the issue. I thought I’d share them with you!

1. The Elisalex dress by ByHandLondon

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Am so close with this one – just the lining and the hem to do. So why haven’t I done it? I literally am unable to answer that question.

2. Socks.

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I can 100% tell you why these haven’t been finished. Am 98% sure that these will fit precisely 0% of people. Maths.

3. The Violet blouse by Collette

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All cut out and ready to go – I just need a good stretch of time to get on with it. I think it will be a quick sew. You know, once I start to actually sew.

4. Finlay Fox.

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Is he even called Finlay? He looks like a Finlay. Well he will, when he’s stuffed. And has eyes. And isn’t in pieces on my coffee table.

Poor Finlay.

5. Sweater.

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To be fair, I have only just started this. Which means it might be ready by – I dunno – next Winter? I probs won’t even like teal then.

So what’s on your unfinished pile? And are yours strewn all over your flat like mine?

Today’s quote is from Euripides.

Properly practiced, knitting soothes the troubled spirit, and it doesn’t hurt the untroubled spirit either.

Yesterday afternoon I went to my first ever Knitting and Stitching Show, in Alexandra Palace.

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Wowsers was this a big event. I thought I would share a few tips if you’re planning to go, either to Ally Pally or at one of the other events around the country.

1. Book in advance.

I only really decided to go a couple of days ahead of time, so I missed out on any special offers or coupons or money off offers that were going around. As I could go on the Thursday afternoon (Thursdays are open late, till 7 – all other days, they close at 5pm), I got a cheaper “late entry” ticket at 8 pounds, which is half of the usual entry fee, and totally worth it. I had a good couple of hours of wandering around, and it was quieter than it would be on the weekend (Saturday tickets sold out at some point last week I think – so I can’t imagine how busy that would be!)

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How cute is this little blue-tit?

2. Book workshops if you can.

I didn’t – as I said, I wasn’t organised enough and so didn’t book into any workshops. This is a real shame, as I think that’s where the real value of the event lies. Next year I will definitely get myself organised and get a couple of workshops in the diary.

3. Wear flat shoes.

A lot of walking. A lot. Trainers are a must.

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Knitted love-birds, guys. KNITTED LOVE-BIRDS.

4. Wear layers!

Because of our crappy weather I was wearing a massive raincoat (to be honest, I love my big yellow raincoat, so I have been wearing it even when the sun is shining, but I digress), and by the end of my visit I was sweltering. Yes, I could have taken it off, but I am a bear of small brain. Also – HYDRATE. Poor yarn decisions are made when under-watered. It’s a well known fact.

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Ok so this may be one too many pictures of knitted birds.

5. Plan ahead, and know what you want to buy

I tried to do this, I really did. I had notes and everything, on what I needed, and how much. But when I got there, it kind of all went a bit wrong and – ooh shiny!

I didn’t buy anything I don’t have a plan for, so I wasn’t too bad – but there’s still a list of things I need, and it just means my to-do list is only getting bigger.

6. Get a map

Yeah, yeah like anybody needs telling to get a map. Turns out I do. I told you I was a bear of small brain, right? The list of London exhibitors is here, if you want to be really smart.

Anyway. Don’t make the same mistakes I made – but even if you do, you’ll have a great time.

So, you want to know what I bought, right? Prepare yourself for some poorly lit photos (it was a long day). Ready? Ready.

First off: 3 magazines for a tenner from the Practical Publishing stall – two sewing (with patterns) and one knitting. Have already made a start on the cute little fox that came with Knit Now.

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Oh you like your blog photos blurry AND badly lit? Well you’ve come to the right place my friend – take a seat, rest your feet.

Bargain, right? I think so.

Then I focused on getting my yarn supplies. I first hunted down the huge piles of yarn from the Black Sheep Wool stall – I’ve bought from them online a couple of times, and it’s a great range and a very speedy service. Although I do think you need to squeeze a few balls before you commit to buying, amirite ladies.

I bought 10 balls of this lovely lovely Sirdar Click yarn for £16 instead of RRP £32. The only plan I have for this is to get nekkid and wrap myself up in it’s soft squeezy loveliness  make unidentified (as yet) Christmas presents*.

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This is possibly the most sinister photograph of a ball of yarn ever taken.

You can’t really see the detail of the colour in that photo, so lucky for you…

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…I took an even worse photo! I assume the colour is discontinued, and that’s why it was so cheap. It’s a lovely soft grey with speckles and will make a great scarf. Did I mention that it’s lovely? It’s totally lovely, guys.

I should stop there before I embarrass myself further, but I’m kind of committed to this now, so.

Next stop on the yarn trail was a pattern and two (massive) balls of Rustic Aran yarn from James C. Brett. This cardigan is going to be SNUGGLY. Pity it’ll be mid-summer by the time I finish it. Together this all came to £21, and I have no idea whether this is reasonable or not because I forgot to hydrate.

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I then bought three fabrics. A lovely spotty cotton poplin from Abakhan (£4.99/m) and then a cotton lawn (£6/m) and some grey wool (£9/m) from M. Rosenberg & Son.

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I can only apologise for these photos.

The poplin and lawn will be blouses/shirts, and the wool is going to be a shift dress (I have a new job and gleefully declared that I would make myself a dress to celebrate. I may have been drunk. Or dehydrated. Possibly both)

So there you have it! That’s my take-home from the 2014 Knitting and Stitching Show. Main lesson learned – I need to take better photos of my stash.

How did you find it, and what did you buy?

Today’s quote is from Elizabeth Zimmerman, knitter-extraordinaire.

A bear, however hard he tries, gets tubby without exercise.

I am getting so behind on my sewing updates, and have decided just to go out of order until I can get all the photos taken and uploaded.

I found this project whilst looking for free sewing patterns (always a northerner at heart!) – it’s the City Gym shorts by PurlBee. I wanted to try it as it looked like it might be a quick sew, and one that I’ll get a lot of use out of. Also, I still have a fair amount of Liberty Lawn left over from the camisole I made a little while back, and I thought it would go perfectly with some chambray I’d picked up from John Lewis.

The pattern comes in a several different sizes, based on hip measurements. I sewed up the 41-43in ones, but I think I could do with going a size down. I didn’t want to risk shorts splitting mid-lunge though, so I played it safe (and baggy) with the sizes.

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Not looking my best. But avoid the just-got-out-of-bed-and-into-sports-clothes look, and focus on the shorts.

Don’t think it matters though – they look fine, and the bigger size means lots of room for squats (unfortunately).

They were really straightforward to make – the instructions were clear and suitable for beginners, and a satisfyingly quick make. I started them off on Friday night accompanied by a glass of red wine and the Paris Sewing Room Spotify playlist from Workplace Social (check it out, it really is the perfect soundtrack for a sewing session), but had a friend coming to stay that evening so had to finish them off the next morning. I actually finished them off the next morning just minutes before I left to go to my kettlebells class but I was too chicken to give them the first run in front of others in case of splittage or a falling down incident… I guess I need a few more makes before I completely trust my sewing skills!

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Grrgh. Arrrgh. And other weights-related noises.

Thought I’d share a couple of action shots of them – proof that they are being used for their intended purpose! This is at the local outdoor gym which is just round the corner from our flat. It’s a great spot for the local community to use, really well kept and has a few different machines for keeping in shape. You can find your local one here.

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I am woman. Hear me roar.

Today’s quote is from Winnie-the-Pooh, by A.A. Milne.em>

I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.

I still haven’t been able to get out in the garden to take photos of the clothes I’ve been making. A combination of holiday and constant rain has been getting in my way… However, I’ve quickly knocked up a couple of cushions – one for my be-hind, to keep my ass comfortable when I’m sewing, and one for outside in the garden.

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Home sewing is easy. Or so they say.

After my first attempt at an envelope cushion (for my spoilt cat’s bed, I could count the number of times she’s used it on one hand) which wasn’t so much an envelope, more a rectangle with a flap, I decided to actually follow some instructions this time.

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Here she sits. Here. Not on my lovingly made cushion though. Oh no.

I found a straightforward tutorial on A Beautiful Mess – and now I’ve done it once, I can see how easy it is. Will definitely be making more. I do love a cushion. Through this tutorial, I also discovered the existence of waterproofing spray – which is perfect for my outside cushions. I don’t think I’ll be testing it by leaving it out in the kind of downpours we’ve been having this past week, but they should survive the odd shower when I’ve forgotten to bring them inside.

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I love the fabric I’ve used for this – isn’t the one for the sewing cushion (on the left) just perfect? Both patterns are by Alexander Henry. I got them both from fabricyard.com, with only a pound delivery charge and I got them just a day and a half after I ordered them. Fantastic service – will definitely use them again!

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Cushions in situ. Grim weather outlook model’s own.

I’m particularly proud of the pattern matching I did on the sewing cushion. It was perfect – until I put the cushion pad in. Ah well. I couldn’t pattern match on the outside cushion as I didn’t have enough fabric – I did eke out two covers for 50×50 cushion pads out of one metre of fabric, which makes me very happy.

Pattern matching? Nailed it.

Pattern matching? Nailed it.

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Pattern matching. How I miss you so.

 

Now we just need some sunshine!

Today’s quote is by Henry David Thoreau

I don’t know why, but the meals we have on picnics always taste so much nicer than the ones we have indoors.‏

…And finally from my world-cup induced sewing extravaganza (and from this rather embarrassing “photo-shoot” was Tilly’s Picnic Blanket skirt.

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You may recall that this has been on my to-do list since the end of time. I first started making this with some vintage fabric from The Shop, however this was before I knew a thing about fabric and stretch and weight etc (I still know next to nothing, so just imagine how little I knew a year ago), and not only was the fabric an absolute b*tch to work with and cut out, it absolutely refused to gather – instead defiantly causing me to snap thread on a minute-by-minute basis.

Needless to say it soon went to the Great Basket of Unfinished Objects in the Sky (the GBUFOS for short), but the guilt of never finishing that first project remained.

So, with this new burst of sewing enthusiasm that the football inspired, I decided to revisit this pattern, this time with a far more suitable fabric. I have no idea what the fabric is  – I got it for the grand total of 20p at a craft stall that my WI ladies were manning. It’s a lovely pink colour, fairly heavy weight (but not upholstery or curtain heavy – a key point!) – and if you look really closely, every 30cm or so there’s a gold coloured R embossed on the fabric, which I only noticed after I’d bought it… You have to really want to see it though, so I’m not that bothered. At the very least it will make a good talking point.

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Now I had a more suitable fabric, this pattern came together like a breeze – even the gathering was fun to do – nothing like the headachey clusterf*ck of last time. I changed nothing, apart from to sew the button holes parallel with the length of the dress (rather than parallel with the waist, as suggested by Tilly) – this was mainly to stop me having to do more maths to work out where to place them. And me, a maths graduate. I should be ashamed.

I think I still need to do something about the top button though, it’s sitting kinda funny. To sort out later…

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Because the dress has a folky theme, and I liked the contrast of the white thread against the pink fabric, I hemmed all the way around in this lovely decorative stitch on my new machine.

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Pretty but slow.

Why did no-one tell me decorative stitches take approximately 3 years to sew?

Anyway, I think it was just about worth it in the end – apart from the fact I think this is a little short, no? Could do with about an inch longer – it kinds of risks all sorts of flashing, and given that this is a picnic blanket skirt, made to be worn at picnics, sat on a blanket, it might not leave much to the imagination. I’ve left enough in the hem for me to sort this out, but right now (if ever) I can’t bear the thought of unpicking all that lovely stitch and re-doing it. We shall see! 

Today’s quote was said by George in Enid Blyton’s Five Go Off in a Caravan

(I found a nsfw quote from Christopher Hitchens about picnics, but decided I was too ladylike to choose it. Feel free to look it up at your leisure…)

 

 

If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live.

After the camisole, I decided to try a new pattern that I’d heard a lot about on other blogs – the Afternoon Blouse from Jennifer Lauren Vintage. Being a sewing newbie, I don’t have much confidence about knowing what fabrics will work well with what patterns – but after seeing other versions on the web in Liberty lawns, I knew I’d found my next project.

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Props are not as random as it looks – I’m using them in my show and thought I’d give em a whirl.

I decided to go with the white and blue fabric, because I thought it had a Hokusai feel to it which worked well with the Kimono sleeves. What with this, and my starring turn* in The Mikado, I’m coming over all Japanese.

This was another pdf pattern, but Jennifer has brilliantly arranged them so you only have to print out the bits you need, and they are on separate taped together sheets – so much easier to handle.

The make itself was really straightforward – any mistakes are completely my own, and because I was a bit hamfisted around the interfaced neckline. However, it’s turned out alright in the end – it’s really simple and easy to wear, and fits really nicely – how she’s managed this with no darts, I have no idea.

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This was my first attempt at grading a pattern – I was a 12 in the bust measurement, and a 10 at the waist. I don’t know if I did it right (just drew a sloping diagonal line to join the two lines at an arbitrary point, and then matched up the traced pattern to make sure it was the same on front and back), but I think it’s worked out ok.

Must have a fan in every shot.

Must have a fan in every shot.

The only thing I’m not happy with is the button. I was in such a rush to finish this up, I chose one of the buttons I already had, rather than wait till I could get out to a shop. This is easily changed though, and at least I can wear this in the mean time until the right button comes along!

Today’s quote is from Lin Yutang.

*as a chorus member

Liberty is the chosen resort of the artistic shopper.

So you may have guessed from my earlier posts that I have a problem with expensive fabric and luxury haberdasheries? Well, helloooo Liberty sale. 

Oops.

Oops.

But look how beautiful they all are! All in a soft drapey lawn.

So after my bank manager had had a stern word, I then set about working out how to use them – top/blouse patterns for a metre of fabric anyone? Well, you’d think it was an impossible ask, but when, during a visit to the guys at the fantastic Crescent Trading off Brick Lane with my Shoreditch Sisters, they let out the secret that fabric requirements on patterns should be taken with a pinch of salt, I began to wonder…

My First Liberty Lawn make (I feel this deserves a fanfare) was the camisole from the GBSB book. I omitted the frilly placket (is that the right word) and buttons, and decided not to make my own bias binding (I couldn’t bear the risk that I would mess it up, as I’ve never made it before, and think of all that lovely Liberty lawn all forlorn and unusable if I did), but happily I already had some in my stash which matched perfectly.

Totally need a better mirror for my selfies.

Totally need a better mirror for my selfies.

This was a really simple and quick sew (if you don’t include the time it takes to print out the pattern and tape the thing together. Maeby helped with this), and it was really satisfying to be able to cut this out and make it up in less time than it took for one team to do ball sportsing better than another team done did kick ball sportsing. Or something*.

It fits pretty well – I didn’t want to end up with a tent a la the tunic from the same book, so tried this on when it was pnned together to make sure that it wouldn’t result in any wardrobe malfunctions, and the only thing I would say is that you probably need an extra pair of hands to help you pin the cross-over straps in the right place. (I was pretty bossy and insisted they aligned properly and were symmetrical. Poor boyfriend. But that’s the price you pay for world cup addiction).

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I can see myself wearing this for lazy days in the garden, soaking up the sun. It’s a perfect little quick stashbuster, so I can see myself making a few more of these for some instant gratification.

Today’s quote is from Oscar Wilde.

*I feel like I need to clarify here that I actually do like watching football. But one game every so often is sufficient. By the time we’re halfway through the group stages in the World Cup I thought my brain was going to come out of my earholes every time I heard that “Brazilllll BRAZIIILLLL” theme tune that ITV thought was so catchy and not at all annoying.

If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content.

After the shorts, came the dress. There was no stopping me now. After seeing so many fantastic versions of this online, I decided that my first dress would be the Anna dress from By Hand London. There’s not much I can add to the plethora of things that have already been said about this dress, other than to say that I love it. And I especially love the compliments I get when I’m wearing the dress. And the look on people’s faces when I say that I made it! Delightful.

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Lookin’ awkward…

I used a purple cotton lawn from (you guessed it) John Lewis for this – it was on sale, and as I’d used this exact fabric before (for a Collette Sorbetto top), I knew what I was getting. I was so nervous about making a dress, I didn’t want to make any mistakes using a fabric that I was in love with, so thought this would make a good first attempt. Safety first.

If in doubt, ham it up.

If in doubt, ham it up.

Turns out, I love this dress as it is. I think it could do with a brooch or something to liven it up (perhaps a noughties-revival corsage, Carrie-style?), but it’s a nice simple dress, which is perfect for this summer weather we’re finally having. I made this up in a size 14, as the measurements completely matched mine, and it fits just perfectly. And no mistakes in this one too – not even in the invisible zipper, which is actually invisible for once! The instructions on the pattern were so easy to follow and, without meaning to sound too corny, it does feel like you have a friend sitting next to you telling you what to do next. I can’t wait to make this dress again, once I’ve found the perfect fabric (anyone fancy a trip to Walthamstow?), and I’m looking forward to making something else from these guys.

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Today’s quote is from Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy.