V7975: Sherbert Bomb Chanel

And it is completed – Couture baby, woooooo!!

I enjoyed working on this garment so much more than I ever thought I would. The 8 other ladies I took Susan Khalje’s Classic French Jacket class with were an absolutely delight to work with, and I’m so looking forward to seeing theirs completed (come on girls!! I want pictures!!). Thank you guys so much for such a wonderful week!

But enough talk – here it is:

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Despite the seriously close fit in an unrelenting woven fabric, there's plenty of room for a hair flick.

Despite the seriously close fit in an unrelenting woven fabric, there’s plenty of movement available for a hair flick.

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The total time spent? 153 hours, including preparation of the muslin which I had to bring along to class. The only parts stitched with a machine on this was the quilting lines, the vertical seams on both the bodice and sleeves, the shoulder seams and the stay stitching around the neckline. The rest is entirely hand stitched…. I’m clearly a slow sewist.

Taking this class was absolutely enthralling – and I now truly understand why this garment has held so much fascination to sewers over the years – it really is a subset of couture in its own right. Virtually everything about the construction of this garment was new to me, and I was riveted the whole way. Nothing is wasted, even though it seemed awfully extravagant to cut out such massive seam allowances. I think what amazed me the most is how those seam allowances were utilised throughout the garment, like at the armscye – simultaneously providing the role of a sleeve head and a light shoulder pad at the same time, as well as in the princess seams to provide strength and stability to the body of the jacket. I’m tempted to call it a cardigan more than a jacket – because that’s how it feels (and how it should feel, too). It’s so much less of a jacket than I originally thought it would be. And yet, just look at the shape – nary a shoulder pad in sight – gorgeous.

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The fabric is a loosely woven Chanel boucle, bought from Mendel Goldberg – and the reason I figure I can get away calling this post what I have. It’s lined in a lilac silk charmeuse from B&J fabrics, and my trim – bling-y buttons and a silvery grey beaded thing was from M&J Trimming, all from New York. I was originally planning on having two rows of trim with potentially some orange velvet ribbon in the middle, but when it came to pinning it on the jacket, it just looked too much and the orange of the ribbon too harsh. Thanks to all the girls from Social Sewing for their general consensus advice on this matter of crucial importance! So, one row of trim it was.

Some closeups:

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My first (half lousy, half good) and second attempt at sewing on the hardware. Such a shame the pretty stitches are then covered up by the lining! Click to Enlarge.

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And the fit? Well, it’s probably the best fitting thing I’ll ever own, assuming I don’t put on or lose weight. The jacket is definitely snug, but super comfortable at the same time.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing however. One of my favourite anedote of Susan’s from my time in Baltimore was hearing her voice her disappointment when she got her white-gloved hands on some historical couture pieces from this and last century whilst at a museum in France (I forget which one) because not only did the pieces have little quirks - they had flaws. I think that’s a prudent reminder that even at the top tier, garments sewn with the utmost of skill can be imperfect. The pursuit of perfection is soul killing? Either way, she said that anything sewn by a person is going to have human aspects to it – those little imperfections that make us what we are. Now, my jacket has a few imperfections, for sure. But these are learning experiences, and the next one I make will be that much better for it. Like – if you have a non-symmetric trim, it would probably be a good idea to make sure you get it the right way up all the time. Unfortunately for me, I only realised this after sewing the trim on #3 of my four pockets. It would have potentially ruined the fabric and the trim to unpick it, so… eh.

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I ended up quilting my pockets as well – with the lining fell stitched to the pockets, then fell stitched onto the jacket. It was a mission not to let any of the stitches show through on the lining. But! These are entirely functional pockets, woo!

And somehow in the fitting process I missed that Susan pinned my sleeves a lot shorter than I would ideally like. The 2 inch seam allowance came to the rescue, however I would have preferred even more than this. It meant my quilting lines (the support to the fabric) are a long way back from where they probably should be:

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So there’s the little imperfections we can live with, and the ones we can’t… like how I got within inches of finishing sewing on my chain, only to line it up and realise that I hadn’t been pulling the blasted thing taught – the links were all squished up next to each other and as a result I was 2 inches short from having the chain meet the other side of the jacket.

So totally NOT FUNNY.

So totally NOT FUNNY.

I downed tools at that point and went off to kill some demons in Diablo III to vent my frustration. I came back later to unpick and resew, but also managed to work out a much faster and more even way to sew the chain the second time around! Ah, the good ol’ learning curve.

Regardless, I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed sewing a garment more than I have this. Am I hooked on sewing these? Definitely. I’ve already bought a gorgeous blue boucle as I’d really like to make one of these for my mum. Let’s just add that to the post-wedding-dress sewing queue, alrighty?

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The Stats:
153:00 hours

Fabric Utilisation = 6.2m (Shell fabric, underlining and lining)

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F2940: Venus in Leo

Ah, the annual birthday dress! This is fast becoming something I really look forward to sewing and this year it was all about sequins – a) because I love them, b) it’s my birthday and c) Frocktails was on Saturday night just past, meaning I needed something a bit flashy and fun to wear! It was an epic night – 28 other sewing bloggers rocked out in some gorgeous dresses, with ladies as far as the ACT, Tasmania, AND Queensland all hitting Melbourne for the weekend. A delicious dinner and many many cocktails were enjoyed by all, not to mention the serious sewing skills on display! More on that a little later…

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But first, the dress! It’s a navy blue matt sequin fabric, which in the main – sewed very easily. The underside of the fabric is kinda scratchy (and see through!) so I lined it all in a navy blue viscose knit – both fabrics from Tessuti.

The pattern is Marfy 2940 – I actually have two more versions of this dress mid-way through construction right now (including that red version I mentioned a while back). The only reason this one is finished over the others is because, well – I put a deadline on it! In comparison to the other versions which I hope to be able to show you soon, this is a slightly modified take on the design lines provided by Marfy. The two contrast panels at the waist in the dress sketch below are actually overlays to the dress pattern and not ‘structural’- the pattern is effectively a simple sheath dress with darts emanating from the waistline for shaping and a zip up the centre back. In order to minimise mixing seams and sequins, I took out the centre-back seam (and zip) and the horizontal waist seam, cutting the dress out in four pieces (front, back and sleeves) and leaving the stretchiness of the mesh backing the sequins to take the hit for fit.

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I had no idea how the sequins were going to handle the ‘draping’ at the front, so to test before cutting I thread traced then hand sewed them all together. It came up really nicely (albiet being seriously upstaged by the sequins) so I decided to push ahead with the rest! I liked how neatly the pleats came together with hand sewing as opposed to machine sewing, so the darts were also sewn by hand. Yeah… this dress took a long time to sew.

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Thank you all for your tips and hints on sewing with sequins – I took them all on board and it worked a treat for me:

- Sewing with the biggest, fattest machine needle for knits I could easily get my hands on (a 90/14 jersey needle from Schmetz) and on a low speed so the sequins could be gently ‘pushed’ out of the way rather than broken through. I still went back over the seams to check from sharp/damaged sequins but found none.
- Cutting out with regular (but sharp) paper scissors so as not to ruin my good shears.
- Using a fabric facing to hem the dress so as not to catch sequins on stockings should I decide to wear them.

To that list, I will add my own recommendation. If you’re not wearing safety goggles/glasses whilst cutting, then make sure you cut with the sequins facing down. I initially didn’t and had quite a few of those micro sequins flick up in my face (and everywhere else) but didn’t think much of it. An hour or so later and my eye started tickling. I had a hunch on the reason why… and look what I found!! Yes, a half-cut sequin, happily lodged in my eye. Thinking about what may have happened there had I not got it out before it slipped into my eye socket gets my heart rate up a little!!! Thanks to a steady hand and some tweezers that sucker was removed, sans injury.
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I would recommend this pattern for stable knits (like ponte) to minimise issues with fit as I barely made a single change to the ponte version I have half complete of this, whereas the weight of the sequins changed the location of the waistline and darts by dragging it down. I had to take it in quite a bit, too. To keep everything in place, I stab-stitched the sequin mesh and lining together around the neckline and sleeves.

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This dress is a definitely not a shrinking violet, and I certainly can’t see it getting as much wear as last years birthday dress… but hey. Sparkly!!

Time for some gratuitous pictures from Frocktails!!

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Bel from Bella’s Collectanea, Rachel from My Messings, and Kat (organiser extraordinaire) from All the Whimsical Things

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Helen from Funkbunny, Amanda from Bimble and Pimble, Nicole from DreamingDashie, Kat from Petticoats and Peplums and from Jenny from Rennous Oh Glennus

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Renae from The Long and Winding Bobbin and Rachel from Boo Dog and Me

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Liz from Sew Busy Lizzy and Amanda from Bimble and Pimble

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Kat from Petticoats and Peplums, and Rachel from My Messings

So much fun! All photos from the night have been uploaded to my Flickr stream, so if you’re keen to have a look, pop on over there.

Oh, and one more super exciting thing…. Mr poppykettle proposed – we’re getting married!!!!

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The Stats:
00:00 Pattern Preparation
00:00 Toile (cutting/sewing/fitting)
03:55 Fabric Preparation (thread tracing/cutting/basting/interfacing)
14:45 Sewing
18:40 hours

Fabric Utilisation = 3.6m (none from the stash, sadly!)
Stash total remains = 79.9m (Goal = 50m)

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NL6735: Lavender Lace Tops

I wear my latte and lace top a LOT. So when Helen unexpectedly dropped a whole stack of really gorgeous lace offcuts from her pink linen and lace dress into my lap at social sewing in April – I knew exactly what it had to turn into.

Another lace yoke tee, using my TNT New Look 6735 pattern of course! Sadly, my first go around the merry-go-round with the lace produced a result I’m really not keen on. Mix in lousy weather and a killer hangover and you get this…

IMG_5863This knit fabric is an oyster-coloured ponti from Clegs – I had to modify my pattern a bit by allowing for a bit of extra breathing room as this ponti doesn’t have the stretch a normal knit does, so I needed less negative ease! Problem is, there’s ponti, and then there’s ponti. This ponti is really, really stiff. I’m actually a little sad at how this creation turned out… it feels very straight-jacket-y to wear. This is yet another lesson in the importance of correct fabric selection, it would seem.

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Rather than staying with the triangular design of my original Latte and Lace top and pulling my hair out with all those pinpoint turns, I decided this time I would simply baste the lace – this would be a top for winter with 3/4 length sleeves, so I didn’t really want somewhere for the wind to blow through! With some matching silk thread, I pinned the lace where I wanted it, basted it down, then cut out some of the lace at the front to get some shape to it before then prick-stitching the edges in place. I rather like lace that continues around the sleeves as well, so to get it perfectly matching:

I pin the sleeve into the armscye first

I pin the sleeve into the armscye first, marking where the lace meets the seam

Then place the lace so it matches at the front and back

Then place the lace so it matches at the front and back

Lying the sleeve flat you can strategically baste it in place

Lying the sleeve flat you can strategically ‘prick-stitch’ it in place

Followed by basting along the selvedge so it doesn't stick out.

Followed by basting along the selvedge so it doesn’t stick out.

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The sleeves and hem are finished with a twin needle, but I used some hot pink store bought bias binding to finish the neckline. Due to the ponti being seriously thick and unrelenting, I had to prick-stitch all around the neckline to help hold the seam fold in place.

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Unsatisfied with this latest creation, I actually went back to Tessuti and bought some more of the creamy-latte coloured knit (a viscose/spandex poly blend) I used to sew the original Latte and Lace top.

So you know what? I ended up tearing my hair out again over a few pin-point turns anyway:

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I reinforced the shoulder seam and finished the neckline with bias strips of silk organza, all other seams were left ‘unfinished’.

Unfortunately I stretched out the neckline a bit when sewing the organza binding on… to the extent that even a serious steaming couldn’t save it. I ended up running a hand-basted gathering stitch on the inside of the organza which I pulled until the bubble lay flat, then secured with a knot. Not that you’d ever know it now. Phew!

Organza binding hand gathered to pull the neckline back into shape.

Organza binding hand gathered to pull the neckline back into shape.

No more sagging neckline!

No more sagging neckline!

I do love a happy ending!

The Stats: Ponti Lace Top
00:00  Pattern Preparation
00:00  Toile (cutting/sewing/fitting)
00:25  Fabric Preparation (cutting/basting/interfacing)
07:15  Sewing
07:40  hours

The Stats: Triangle Lace Top
00:00  Pattern Preparation
00:00  Toile (cutting/sewing/fitting)
00:40  Fabric Preparation (cutting/basting/interfacing)
03:15  Sewing
03:55  hours

Fabric Utilisation = 1.0m, due to both gifted and bought fabric.
Stash total remains = 79.9m (Goal = 50m)

P1003 & P1004: Plenty of Papercuts

After an extremely challenging start to this year and having nurtured some pretty bad habits as a means of dealing with it all, I’ve found myself a victim of mid-section blow-out and general blergh-ness (If you only click one link in this post, make it that one. Hilarious!). What better way to get back to being better than with some new exercise gear?

Unfortunately, photographing exercise gear is not exactly glamourous. Weather and minimal daylight hours have conspired against me at every opportunity for photos… I’ve been running and weight training in this outfit for nearly a month already! Count yourselves lucky it’s still mid-winter here so sweat is kept to a minimum…

Enter the Ooh La Leggings:

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And they are awesome.

As with any new pattern, I started with some recon over at Pattern Review. Kbenco has written one of the most informative reviews I’ve ever read, Katherine wrote fabulously about them too and of course, Melissa has sewn so many of these I can hardly cry for lack of inspiration.

Lucky me - I exactly matched the waist and hip measurements for the Size S. So I traced it off, cut it out, then machine basted it all together to see what was going on. This pattern has zero info on the amount of stretch your fabric of choice should have – and recommends a merino knit. Hmm. The basting was to test size, fit and fabric appropriateness. The second I pulled them on – a triumphant ‘YES!!!!’. They fit me fabulously*. Long legged peoples, Rejoice! This is a pattern for you! Sadly, I will not be rejoicing:

This is what a pair of leggings look like when they are 21cm too long for you.

This is what a pair of leggings look like when they are 21cm too long for you.

But hey, this is a standard adjustment for me. About the only time I don’t have to take pants up is if they began life as pedal pushers. I chose to use Melissa’s way of sewing in an elastic waistband – the pattern instructions do the old-fashioned ‘make a casing and thread your elastic through’ way. Yeah – no thanks, that never looks good!

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At first I made the elastic waaaaay too tight (like, bayonet tight!) so after unpicking that and making it a little bigger, I was good to go. Also, somewhere between the basting for fit and the actual sewing, I added in a turquoise band at the curved seam at the hips. Once finished, I quite literally pulled them on and went for a run.

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I will absolutely be making more of these in the future! Not being in possession of a coverstitch machine or an overlocker, I was worried about the seams being either irritating or uncomfortable. I’ve been exercising in these 4+ times a week for nearly a month now (yeah, I’m that far behind documenting finished makes!), and no dramas so far – but the fabric I used is really quite lightweight, and hey – it’s not exactly like I’m training for a marathon or anything.

Completely unintentionally, I sewed the side panels in reverse, and as the black fabric was shiny on one side and matt on the other, it created an effect I rather like. Here are some daring shots up close:

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I also made the Undercover Hood, the version of which you see here is my first attempt – very definitely a wearble muslin made with a double-sided wool/nylon blend (from New Zealand Merino and Fabrics). I cut the straight M as it was bang on my bust measurement, and was pleasantly surprised as how quickly it came together. But wow – its long! Usually I have to lengthen bodices, but this time I’ll be shortening it a bit and grading down to an S at the waist and hips (the S matches those bottom two measurements for me). The sleeves are also very long… I actually ended up leaving the cuffs off on this because a) The sleeve would have gone past my finger tips in that case and b) I sewed the cuffs on-grain by accident leaving them with no stretch for me to ease the sleeve into. Unpicking lightning stitch on knits is NOT fun! So I finished it with a twin needle. The result is a half-fitted, half-baggy rather long sweat top great for wearing to/from the gym and running in the chill evening air:

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Silly me cut the pocket out in two pieces, rather than on the fold. Oops! Next time I’ll be taking it up the length of the waistband, to get this length:

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It’s comfortable, warm and lightweight – but if I wanted to convert this from being sloppy-at-home-wear-only to something I could do the supermarket shop in, merino knit wouldn’t be my first choice. A terry-towling/sweatshirt fleece would be great for this, like what Zo made hers from. Additionally, the instructions call for the front pockets to be just top-stitched on – making it a little flimsy. I’d be tempted to at least understitch the topside first to anchor it down. Minor construction quibbles for what is an entirely practical top, really.

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*  bar some standard adjustments, naturally.

The Ooh La Leggings Stats:
00:30  Pattern Preparation
00:00  Toile (cutting/sewing/fitting)
00:30  Fabric Preparation (cutting/basting/interfacing)
02:20  Sewing
03:20  hours
Fabric Utilisation = 1.0m (only because I committed the cardinal sin of not laying pattern pieces out directionally)

The Undercover Hood Stats:
00:30  Pattern Preparation
02:55  Toile (cutting/sewing/fitting)
00:00  Fabric Preparation (cutting/basting/interfacing)
00:00  Sewing
03:25  hours

Fabric Utilisation = 1.8m
Stash total remains = 80.9m (Goal = 50m)

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M5929: The Blue Blotch Blouse

I’m calling it – 2013 is officially the year of the shirt. It certainly seems that everyone is either sewing or has sewn a button-up shirt this year – silk, crisp cotton, fitted or flowing. And if you’ve done neither, then I’d hazard a guess to say you’ve at least daydreamed about sewing one up after seeing so many gadding about the blogosphere? Mentally sewing is just as good as actually sewing, you know.

As for this little shirt that could, I’d like to say a big thank you for your wonderfully helpful comments on my first attempt at fixing a problem I thought was a sway back. As it turns out, I completely misdiagnosed the problem and that fabric pooling was actually generated by me overlooking that fact that my shirt was indeed, too small… oops.

So I added that additional ease in at the side seams of my original pattern, and whaddyaknow? No fabric bunching at my back waist. In fact, all I needed was a bit more shaping in the back darts and some fairly major changes to the location of the armscye seam (by raising it under my arm and taking out some of the fullness around my shoulder). I swear, getting the shape of the armscye ‘right’ will forever be my fitting nemesis.

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All up, I’m really quite happy with it. I really do think it fits me better than the made-to-measure one I bought a few years back – I’ve got a good range of arm movement and it’s not at all tight across my upper back. Comfortable to wear and no unintentional bra-flashing occurrences either! For a shirty-first timer, I’d count that as a win.

The fabric is a Cynthia Steffe silk/cotton voile from EmmaOneSock, and I love the random splotchy pattern of it. It may look like a voile, but it behaved like a rebellious silk whenever I brought it within a meter radius of my sewing machine or iron. In other news, I was flabbergasted at exactly how much fabric a fitted shirt chews through. I thought I’d have yardage to spare! Nope. This puppy chewed through a whole 2.6m. Sheesh. I blame those bias cut ruffles!

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I had wanted to do flat felled seams, but that didn’t seam right against this uber-lightweight, floaty fabric. So I French’ed then topstitched ‘em down. Likewise, ‘proper’ cuffs didn’t seem like a good match either, so I stuck with the pattern’s very lightly gathered cuff option. Simple, but entirely lovely.

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The pattern instructions are actually pretty good – I glanced over them mostly unless it was for something more detailed (like the placket). The only technical change I made was to face the ruffles – I preferred the idea of having the seams enclosed here, it also gives a bit more structure to the ruffle. If you didn’t want to face your ruffle, you’d want a fabric that doesn’t have an obvious right and wrong side. I also changed the collar design to account for turn of cloth – by 2mm.

Can you spot the collar seam along the edge? Nope, neither can I!

Can you spot the collar seam along the edge?

Nope, no collar seam here either. Thank you, Turn of Cloth.

Nope, no collar seam along the edge here either. Thank you, Turn of Cloth.

Interfacing is pretty important when it comes to shirts. I didn’t want anything too heavy backing onto the voile however, so I interfaced the placket, collar and cuffs with my favourite lightweight fusible, then included a silk organza ‘underlining’. This worked well and gave the collar a bit of bounce where it might have otherwise flopped, and worked wonderfully to stabilise where the buttonholes went whilst still keeping a soft, un-starched look about it. Seriously that stuff is the closest thing to a miracle worker. If it were a wrinkle cream, it would actually deliver the results the ads always promise you (when really they’re just lying through their teeth). The more I use it, the more I want too!

And – great news for us Aussies – Sew Squirrel is now stocking silk organza in her online store. This stuff can be hard to come by in Australia, and I’ve yet to see it cost less than $25/m in store (in some places I’ve seen it at $40/m – whaaaaaat!!!) – which is why up until now I’ve been ordering it from the States. No longer will I have to pay outrageous postage costs to get my fix! A sure fire win :)

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During the making of this I watched portions of Pam Howards ‘The Classic Tailored ShirtCraftsy course – there were some seriously golden tips in there, especially about sewing on buttons. Only ‘portions’ because I’m impatient and Pam is a slooow speaker. Her southern drawl is gorgeous, don’t get me wrong. I just like my information delivery to be faster than slow. So I think that means I can officially say I’ve ‘done’ one of my five Craftsy courses!

General conclusion? Making fitted shirts is totally achievable and the finished result is really very acceptable. It’s kinda totally cool that being unlined, there is not a single exposed seam in this garment. I have three other stash fabrics just crying out to get sewn up as shirts now…

The Stats:
02:00  Pattern Preparation
02:10  Toile (cutting/sewing/fitting)
04:35  Fabric Preparation (cutting/basting/interfacing)
13:35  Sewing
22:20  hours

Fabric Utilisation = 2.6m
Stash total remains = 83.7m (Goal = 50m)