My latest Minerva blog

My latest Minerva blog is live now and it’s all about their beautiful printed velour. I was attracted to the gorgeous mixture of teal colours with a splash of pink thrown in for good measure. Initially I was going to make a pleated skirt with it but eventually I decided that wouldn’t be flattering on me so I settled on the River dress by Megan Nielsen with my own adaptations instead.

I lengthened the short sleeves and added elastic to make cuffs, I increased the length of the dress overall too and left a side split and finally I put wide elastic under the bust to create an Empire line.

This is a very simple pattern to sew and has the novelty of two necklines-a scoop and a V-and because of its raglan sleeves you can have either in the front, I generally wear it with the V in the front.

As always, you can find the full details of the fabric and my sewing tips on adapting the pattern with a lot more photos on the Minerva Crafts website, thank you to them for providing me with the fabric, in return for an honest review.

Sewing makes of 2018

I think this is a fairly comprehensive album of my makes in 2018, most of them have been worn a good number of times although not all were for me.

When I look back like this I realise what a busy sewing year 2018 was ( and a bit of knitting too!). Also, there seem to be a LOT of dresses and tops but very few skirts and trousers! I think this is definitely as a result of me gaining weight in the last two years and feeling self-conscious so, with the exception of my Megan Nielsen Ash jeans from autumn 2017, I really haven’t wanted to make close-fitting clothes.

I’m addressing this now, with some success so far, but the other truth is that I like wearing looser-fitting clothes anyway, although hopefully I can go down a size or two when I make them in future…time will tell.

Some of the garments you see here have been worn loads since I made them whilst others were less successful. Sometimes this was bad fabric choices, sometimes they didn’t suit me after all, also the weather became so hot that I didn’t wear the heavier items as much as I expected at the time.

I tend not to set myself up for ‘sewnine’ or other year-long initiatives because I’d rather see what takes my fancy as time passes, or whatever gap I feel needs filling. I’ve really enjoyed making a few jackets and coats this year and they have all had a good amount of wear, they aren’t something I’d done much previously. I’ll be making a couple of posh frocks soon because we’re going on a cruise in March which will need a few fancy threads in the evenings, I’ll be taking old favourites like the Maker’s Atelier Holiday Shirt and New Look 6351 trousers, and Papercut Moana to keep cool in during the day though.

Have you got sewing plans already for 2019 or are you more like me and just see what takes your fancy? We’ve got the new series of the Great British Sewing Bee to look forward to very soon and I’m sure that will inspire even more people to take up this brilliant activity with us! Dressmaking is an activity anyone can try fairly easily these days and there is so much inspiration, help and encouragement out there too, in a way it never was when I was first sewing.

I can’t wait to see the two blockbuster exhibitions at the V&A next year, Dior: Designer of Dreams opens in February and Mary Quant in April so there’s lots to look forward to there. It’s well worth considering membership this year I’d say, I’ve had excellent value-for-money from mine these past four years. [alternatively, Art Fund is also worth considering if you don’t live near London because that gives you reductions to lots of galleries and museums all over the UK, including the V&A)

I’m also looking forward to seeing a lot more SewOver50 activity from all over the world too, have you joined yet?

Maybe our paths will cross in 2019 and we can talk sewing together in real life?

Until then, happy sewing

Sue

Rounding off Me Made May

Did you take part in Me Made May? At the outset I pledged to try and wear at least one self-made garment every day during May and, by and large I achieved that. I say ‘by and large’ because although I definitely wore a me-made item of clothing every day there was the odd occasion when I failed-or couldn’t be bothered-to take a decent photo!

The first few I managed by balancing my phone on top of a loudspeaker and setting it on a 3 second timer. This proved imperfect and the novelty quickly wore off when it fell to the floor for the umpteenth time!

Anyway, here goes…

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May 1st was a mash-up pattern, bodice of one, skirt of another, in Queue for the Zoo Liberty Tana lawn worn with a Jigsaw sparkly cardigan.

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Day 2 was a Burdastyle magazine top made in a floral scuba fabric and the back in crepe-back satin. I made it at least 2 years ago but haven’t worn it much as the cuffs were a bit flappy.  By the time I wore it to the first London Stitchers meet up that evening I’d taken them in considerably and I was a lot happier with the fit of the sleeves. The jeans are the Ash pattern from Megan Nielsen which I’d had the pleasure of testing and I’m a huge fan of them.

Day 3 is the first newly made garment and it’s the Farrow dress from Grainline which I wrote a review for in Sew Now magazine 18 months ago. I made this version in navy and burgundy linen with short sleeves.

 

Neither of the next garments were new either, the red broderie anglaise was amongst some fabric I was gifted and was already cut out, I just sewed it together. The blue and white was self-drafted 2 or 3 years ago in a cotton/linen mix fabric and it’s a summer favourite of mine.

 

The georgette kaftan is new and was the try-out version of my most recent Simple Sew make for their blog.

The stripes is also the same Burdastyle top but in a striped jersey and with short sleeves. I’d didn’t like it much as a regular T-shirt but it’s been great as exercise wear!

 

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Dragon dirndl, no pattern just pleated into a narrow waistband.

Awesome dragon pattern-matching and zip insertion even if I do say so myself! Bias binding and hand-sewn hem too.

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Colette patterns Moneta in striped jersey with a dodgy waist (should have put a belt over that!)

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One of my favourite tops, Imogen by Sew Me Something and the trousers are Butterick 6461 which I reviewed in Love Sewing magazine last autumn.

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Striped Camber Set from Merchant & Mills worn with a refashioned skirt that used to be jeans.

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More refashioning with a silk top made from a vintage dressing gown and a hoodie using a vintage 60’s pattern in jersey and cotton fabric harvested from a charity shop dress.

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A blouse made using a vintage 70’s dress pattern in ‘Gallymoggers’, an Alice in Wonderland Liberty Tana lawn. This is a couple of years old too.

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Surprised this one still fitted me! Cotton poplin from Ditto fabrics, Butterick 6026 Katharine Tilton pattern and vintage buttons. Refashioned denim skirt again.

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One of my favourites, African waxed cotton with crazy diagonal stripes Simplicity Project Runway pattern 2444, all fully lined.

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Love the button on the back of the neck too, it was a single one of this design in a Sewing Weekender goody bag.

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Packing for our trip to Assisi, all self-made except the cardigan.

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With my new car! Trusty Holiday shirt from The Maker’s Atelier in Swiss Dot and newly made checked linen trousers New Look 6351-I’m so pleased with these, they’re perfect in warm weather if your legs are still pasty like mine. (Awesome pattern-matching too but you can’t see that)

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The new Farrow got to go to Italy.

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Linen trousers again and the Holiday shirt in Liberty cotton voile, outside Santa Chiara, Assisi. Loving my holiday chapeau too, from Monsoon

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Camber Set hack in beautiful Roberto Cavalli cotton lawn and new for the Assisi trip(RTW trousers this time)

This top was drafted from a RTW one and I extended the shoulders to form sleeves. It’s sheer georgette with a slightly sparkly stripe which I get from a market and worn with a RTW camisole underneath. I made it 3 years ago but it’s been a real favourite.

The next ‘make’ is a big old cheat because it’s the etchings I made not the clothes! I loved my visit to Sudbourne Printmakers in Suffolk, and the sewing connection was meeting Chrissy Norman the tutor at the first Sewing Weekender two years ago. take a look at her work, it’s beautiful.

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One of my finished prints…I’m rather proud of it…

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Linen Imogen again with a jacket refashioned from 2 pairs of Mr Y’s trousers!

 

This is only half new-I made a top from this lovely broderie Anglais I bought at Walthamstow market last year but I hadn’t bought enough and it was too snug around the hips. Luckily I managed to get a bit more so I unpicked and started again. This time I used the top half of my favourite Holiday shirt and used wide elastic in a casing under the bust to give it some shape. There was just enough for sleeves this time. I used a ‘daisy’ bias-binding to finish the neck edge and opening.

Not everything I’ve made has been an unqualified success and this teal blue dress is definitely one of the disappointments! It looked lovely on the packet but the back is ridiculous because the zip bulged out giving me a strange hump so I took it out again and inserted it in the side seam instead. Frankly it’s not much better. The top is far too wide and the V neck flaps about undecided whether it’s a V or a fold-back revere. The fabric was super-cheap from Walthamstow again but it’s the amount of time I spent which makes me grumpy. I might turn it into a skirt…

And so to the last outfit of the month…

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The top for my last outfit of the month was originally a dress but, even though I’d made one previously for winter, this version just wasn’t right. The length wasn’t flattering and the sleeves, which had decorative darts, were too tight. After a bit of a refashion which removed most of the skirt, put short splits in the side seams at the hem and took the darts out of the sleeves making them a bit more floaty it was much more wearable. There were pockets in the side seams which I wanted to keep so this governed the length overall. I wore it with my trusty Ash jeans which I’ve absolutely loved since making them last autumn.

So to sum up, Me Made May encouraged me to really look in my wardrobe and get out some of the things which get worn less often, as well as the favourites. The weather has ranged from freezing cold to boiling hot and I realised that my summery dresses are rather lacking when it’s warm, and cooler plain bottom halves are needed to go with my many patterned tops. I know I’ve been prolific in the last 3 years or so compared to a long fallow period for years before that and that makes me very happy. Looking through the clothes I’ve worn during May the vast percentage are things that were made more than a year ago, a lot are more than 2 years old and some older than that. Even when I used to buy more clothes if there was a garment I really liked I kept it for a long time, I think probably because if I’d taken the time to choose it then I wanted good use from it-££ per wear and all that. The same is now true of my makes, I’ve invested my own time into making them so I want to enjoy wearing them (although it’s frustrating when they aren’t a success, but I’ll often refashion them if I can)

Did you join in with Me Made May and did it encourage you to to make more use of your self-made clothes?

Happy Sewing

Sue

Ash jeans, a brand new pattern from Megan Nielsen

Last year I pattern-tested the Karri dress by Megan Nielsen (or at least I did but a bit after the event) I enjoyed the process because I just love and am fascinated by garment construction so the chance to be in at the beginning of a pattern coming to market is great. When I got an email last autumn requesting testers for a new jeans pattern from Megan Nielsen I was really keen to give them a go because I haven’t made jeans before and, this time round, the timing worked for me because I’d finished all my major bridal alterations for the summer and could concentrate on my own projects.

Initially there was a slight delay due to some technical issues before the pattern was released to testers so in the interim I’d bought a quantity of black stretch denim from Backstitch near Cambridge which I hoped would be enough-I guesstimated at 2m based on other jeans patterns I’d seen.

When the pattern arrived it had even more options than we were told it would have originally-there were skinny, slim, flared and wide-leg options. The instructions are nice and clear about exactly which pages you need to print off for the options you want so that you don’t print more pages than needed. Also these days I don’t print off the making instructions, I just keep them on the laptop and read them directly off the screen, I actually find that a little easier to ‘comprehend’ them that way too, maybe it’s because the instructions and illustrations are that much larger than in print? If you have difficulty with making sense of instructions why not try this method with PDFs to see if it works for you.

After initially thinking I‘d go for the slim leg I eventually printed off the wide legged ones-I was concerned that they might be too tight on my legs (vanity) more on this later. 

Ok, so I printed off the wide-leg version but they looked way too wide-I’m only average height and dumpier than I’d like to be so I didn’t want to look like Pop Eye in  his matelot trousers! Rather than reprint the slim leg (stingy) I eventually folded out some of the width at hem level, fading it into nothing by the mid-thigh. One of my observations in the feedback was that the lines became quite indistinct between sizes on the waistband-I feel that they would be better ‘nested’ into groups so that there could be bigger gaps between them, it will be interesting to see if this happens. There’s a wide range of waist sizes included in the Ash so most people are quite likely to be able to use it.

The pattern was very straightforward to piece together, either I’m getting better at this process because I’ve done it a few times now or maybe the first PDFs I did were more complex anyway, this one was simple. Cue cutting, sticking and more cutting. Fortunately for me the quantity of fabric I’d bought was just enough, obviously there’s no nap to worry about on denim so the pieces can interlock well although the curved waistband is all in one piece so it just squeaked in {if it hadn’t fitted in one piece I would have cut it into two at the CB like mens trousers have, this enables a better fit and can be useful on women’s trousers too if you’re having difficulty getting a good fit into the small of your back}

Construction starts with the zip fly. Part of the reason I wanted to try jeans is because it’s been absolutely years since I made trousers with a zip fly and I don’t remember them being a huge success!

I found the instructions very clear and meticulous with helpful diagrams, as I said earlier I followed them on the laptop so I could scroll up and down as much as I needed to so that I knew exactly what to do at each step. Ok, so this is going to sound like bragging but it really isn’t….I didn’t make a single error whilst doing this stage and I give full credit to the quality of the instructions. You could argue that’s because I know roughly what I should be doing but I don’t think that’s all it is, credit where it’s due to the writer.

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although it looks like the top of the zip is going up too high because it’s a bit long this isn’t a problem. There are very thorough instructions for the zip insertion, including how to sew over a metal zip-something I would normally never recommend.

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It doesn’t look level but that’s just the camera angle. I’m pretty happy with the two rows of stitching-I deliberately chose matching thread in case my parallel lines wobbled!!

After the zip is in you make the front pockets-I lined mine with a contrast fabric-and that was very straightforward. Much as I love my trusty Elna 7000 it’s getting on a bit now and really doesn’t much like topstitching thread so doing the topstitching proved frustrating and problematic. (I’ve bought a new Pfaff Quilt Ambition 2.0 since making these and I’m delighted with it) I fiddled with the tension a bit and eventually I got a decent quality stitch but it isn’t perfect on the underside. Incidentally I used a denim/jeans needle throughout (it’s just occurred to me that there are top stitch needles too so maybe I should try that next time)

Next the patch pockets go on the back. I chose not to do any fancy stitching designs or topstitching (partly because my machine was struggling so much with the thread) and just kept it simple.

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certainly not faultless (the top edges peeping out annoy me slightly but they’re at the back so I can’t see them anyway!)

I’ve made a second pair of Ash more recently and I slightly altered the way I did the top of the pocket.

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Instead of rolling the top of over twice as per the instructions I folded it like this so that the first fold is WS together and then the second fold is RS together meaning the raw edge is still showing at this point. I stitched it down just inside the seam allowance to hold the fold in position.

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Next I turned the folded corner out like this so that it’s nice and neat. I then sewed the patch pockets on in the same way as the denim pair but now there’s no annoying sticky-up bits showing.

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the waistband sewn in position, along with the belt loops

After trying the jeans on again I was still not happy with the width of the leg that I’d cut so, because the inner leg seams are double top-stitched, I skimmed in some more from the outer leg seams (this is becoming a habit, see my Love Sewing trouser pattern review here

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Very indecisive!

Eventually I got to a leg-width that I was happy with and after that it was just a case of hemming them. You might look at the finished photos and think “well they don’t fit that well” but frankly I don’t care because I’ve struggled at times in my life to feel comfortable and confident wearing jeans at all because there are so many idealised images out there of what a woman ‘ought’ to look like in them, they should be tighter here, they shouldn’t wrinkle there etc etc blah blah blah….I’m comfortable and happy in these as they are, it’s my body shape that would have to change drastically and it isn’t going to any time soon. Rant over…

Finally the waistband needs a jeans button and a buttonhole. The instructions helpfully pointed out that the buttonhole should be round-ended (not something I’d ever paid much attention to on RTW jeans) and making such a buttonhole on a domestic machine is usually very tricky because of the thickness of fabric involved. Megan suggests doing it ‘freehand’ with a zigzag stitch so I had a few practices at this. Eventually I felt brave enough to do it on the actual waistband and it turned out passably well. My new machine seems much better at buttonholes-it should do, it cost me enough!

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A little bit scruffy but it’s behind a button anyway…

The jeans button is the sort with a rivet or stud behind it so it’s a case of banging them together through the fabric with a hammer! Don’t do it on your best table, put it on the bread board or a towel folded several times.

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Ta dah!

I’d been trying on the jeans periodically as I went along and they felt great. Personally I’m delighted with how well Ash fit me! They are snug and comfortable around my waist and hips and I’m really really happy with them.fullsizeoutput_1f79IMG_0037

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Sorry about the butt-shots but I’m so pleased with how well Ash jeans fit, particularly in the back waist.

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impatient with the photographer face!

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still a bit cheesed off but it’s all about the jeans folks…

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Teamed with my Refashioners 2017 McQueen-inspired jacket

By the time you’re reading this the Ash jeans will have been released into the wild so you’ll be seeing lots of different versions of them all over the place. I’ve since bought some stretch cord and made another pair, I left the legs a bit longer and a bit wider this time. I’ve worn the denim pair constantly because they’re so comfy, the denim has just the right amount of stretch.

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Compare these photos with the previous newly-minted jeans and you’ll see just how much I’ve lived in them!!

I liked the fit of the legs (eventually!) and because the pattern provides 4 leg shapes there’s bound to be one that you’ll like, I like the on-the-waist fit too.

If you’re looking for a new sewing challenge then jeans might be just the ticket, there was a lot of jeans-sewing going on during February and March so there is plenty of inspiration out there. They are definitely a slow-sew which you might need to break down into bite-size chunks, they need concentration at times, and a certain degree of sewing ‘comprehension’ because they aren’t for complete beginners. I felt the quality of the written instructions and diagrams was excellent and there will be online tutorials available eventually too. It’s also worth mentioning that I found 1 reel of topstitching thread isn’t quite sufficient because there’s only 30m on a regular-sized reel of Gutermann, which is what I used.

I was provided with the pattern at no cost but I bought my own fabric and received no payment for testing the Ash jeans, and as such all the opinions expressed are unbiased and entirely my own. I’ve just bought some more blue denim to make a cropped length next!

Happy sewing,

Sue

 

 

Testing Karri, a new Megan Nielsen pattern

Ages ago I volunteered (via her website) to be a pattern tester for Megan Nielsen, an independent pattern designer based in Australia, for those of you not familiar with her.

I’d forgotten all about it when in early June I got an email inviting me to participate with testing the next new release…so exciting!! Then, disappointment…because the timing was terrible for me. The pattern was due to be sent out at the end of June with late July as the expected date for feedback. Why was this disappointing? Because I was going on holiday on July 1st for two weeks and when I returned I’d have no time to get the dress made because of bridal alteration commitments-sad times.

I emailed to let them know (because basically it would be rude not to do it when they’d invited me to help!) I had a lovely reply to say they’d still send the PDF and if I could get it done then great but if not, then never mind.

I’d never actually made a PDF pattern before this so I downloaded it but that’s as far as I got before going on holiday. I naively thought that if you printed it out on bigger paper then the fewer sheets it took so I gaily asked my daughter (an intelligent girl…usually) to print it for me while I was away because I was still optimistic that I might get it done. She printed it off on A3 paper but oh dear…all that happens is it prints it out bigger so the sizing is totally wrong!! [some of you will be laughing by now at my rookie error but I’m hoping that others will be thinking “Oh, I didn’t know that either” in which case this is a public service announcement!] 

All this meant that when I got back and had to hit the ground running with my other commitments I had no chance of completing it by the feedback deadline. It languished for weeks before I finally could get sticking. In truth I’m not sure I’m wild about PDF patterns yet but I can see that they have advantages-they are cheaper than a paper version of an indie pattern, you can reprint them as often as you want and you can print them on regular paper which is sturdier than tissue. The disadvantage is they can take ages to put together and they can be confusing at times to find the matching parts, not to mention possibly running out of ink and/or paper halfway through.

Anyway, once I’d got Karri all put together I could set to work. Included with the printouts are a helpfully clear list and pictures of the various pattern pieces needed (there are quite a few because the front bodice has several sections and the lining is different to the outer shell) I found this useful once I’d got the pieces largely put together so I knew I hadn’t missed anything out. There’s also line drawing which you can label or colour in if that helps with your design choices-the suggestion being that you could use up lots of scraps of fabric to create Karri.

I had a sample length of some navy fabric woven with dots which I’d bought ages ago at Hitchin market so I decided to use that. I’d also bought some navy of the lovely quality Italian lining at the K&S show at the same time as the red/green shot that went under my recent party frock so I was all set.

I was very impressed with the quality of the pattern in the sense that it appeared to have already been ‘trued’. I didn’t find any notches or markings missing, there were no strange wonky angles or un-matching seam lengths. It felt like a human had drawn and created it, not a computer program. My only observation (had I been in time to make them) would be to make the grain lines much longer on every piece, this is a real bugbear of mine as they’re almost always too short so are neither use nor ornament. TOP TIP-if the grain line is ever too short draw it on for yourself across the full length of the pattern piece, you’ll be able to get the placement along the grain much more accurate. I also decided that I’d move the grain line to run equidistant through the middle of the centre front and centre back panels, instead of following the CF and CB edges. Why? because if they’re on the same grain as the side front and side back panels then all  the panels will fall or drape in the same way. This also doesn’t make a lot of difference to the amount of fabric the dress takes, in fact I found it didn’t affect the lay plan significantly at all. One other minor change I made was to lengthen the sleeves slightly as I’m not mad about my upper arms.

Sewing the dress up was very straightforward, even though the front style-lines look complex. I slightly altered the order and method of making up and inserting the lining purely because I wanted a more streamlined finish to the inside and I knew a different way of achieving this.

The skirt is a nice length and I’m pleased I moved the grain line for the centre front and backs because they have a nice flow to them. The pockets are a useful addition but you could easily leave them out if fabric or time is tight.

The one significant thing I changed was the width of the shoulders, they were quite a bit too wide for me and I don’t think I’m particularly narrow across the shoulder. They extended too far over the ends of my shoulders and didn’t look good. I discovered this a bit too late because I’d already put the sleeves in and they just looked all wrong. I unpicked the sleeve heads (not the whole sleeves) moved them by about 1.2cms  and restitched them back in. They are aren’t my neatest job as result but they’ll do.

Also, because the dress fully lined, there aren’t any neck facings to contend with.img_0109

I’m not sure how much I like the deep V back as well but that’s probably an age-related issue not a style one and I can easily raise it up when I make it again.

Overall I was pleased with the accuracy of the fit (shoulders aside)-it was true to the measurements I took, I was slightly between sizes.

I finished the hem by hand because I didn’t want the hem spoilt by being machine-sewn.

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Herringbone stitch on the hem.

 

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My finished Karri

Overall I like the Karri pattern and I’m sure it will be popular. It could be made up in a variety of fabrics from wool crepe or tweed to georgette for the more adventurous amongst you to make it totally individual-my version looks quite business-like but it would also look good in denim or a feminine printed cotton. The front shoulder sections and sleeves would look pretty in lace too. Have a look at Megan‘s own site for more inspirational ideas from other bloggers.

As always, all opinions expressed are my own and I’ve received no payment or sponsorship  for them. I’ll definitely be making another Karri at some point, possibly with a longer sleeve for winter, or sleeveless for the summer. I’d happily pattern-test again too, hopefully the timing would be better then, because I love any excuse to sew and it’s lovely to feel involved in the whole business of helping to create someone’s vision. I’ve had such a breadth of experience over the years that I really hope and believe I can assist and offer good advice (often based on my own mistakes!)

Happy Sewing

Sue xx