MN1008: ‘Erin’ – Ruched Maternity Skirt

There was a point where all of a sudden I had nothing that fit. I procrastinated about sewing knits by concentrating on working that Marfy Jacket – which came to a screeching halt when I realised I’d cut, sewn and prepped TWO RIGHT SLEEVES. Time to procrastinate no more.

My first Megan Neilsen Ruched Maternity Skirt was from an off-white ponti knit fabric from The Fabric Store, labelled as a DKNY fabric. It’s lovely – soft, incredibly stretchy (50% by my calculation) with good recovery, and would provide a great base for my intended maternity wardrobe.

Apart from being a little anxious about sewing with knits (you can’t exactly muslin it… where’s the control over how the fabric behaves?!?!), I was wondering how it would fit/look.

As a thicker knit, I had read that the ruching would be less obvious due to the fabric, and that was true (that was fine by me) – but the end result was great:

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I knew I was onto a good thing when I sewed that Marfy Safari Blouse!

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I cut the Medium, which matched my pre-pregbot body measurements almost spot on. At the time of cutting this out, I was still the exact same hip measurement, but there was an additional 12cm where my waist used to be. Being so unused to knits – I was quite concerned about how the end result would fit. The PR review by Clio & Phineas is one of the more useful in this regard. She used a super super stretchy knit, and it was very close fitting. Being less further along in my pregnancy, and happy to have a well-fitting skirt in a thicker fabric that would at least see me through until it starts to get warm (not to mention I got the fabric at 50% off so I wasn’t too precious about it) – I took the risk of sticking with the Size M instead of sizing up.

The skirt comes with 3 variations – knee length, midi length and with an optional ruffle (similar to the By Hand London Charlotte skirt).

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I may not have finished the jacket I wanted to wear with this in time for a particular work trip, but my trusty Vogue 8333 certainly was a great backup plan :)

I may not have finished the jacket I wanted to wear with this skirt in time for a particular work trip, but my trusty Vogue 8333 certainly was a great backup plan :)

As for construction, well this is a pretty simple beast. For me to be able to say I cut AND sewed it up over the course of a day (in between life distractions) totally feels like an anomaly.

Elastic? Drama. I bought three types – the only purveyors of such notions I know of are Spotlight and Lincraft, both of whose selections are incredibly lousy. One Lincraft I went to had rubber elastic – this turned out to be the best option and worked really quite well with the heavy ponte knit. (The other heavy-fabric suited elastic I bought didn’t have enough stretch in it). I’ll be going back for many more meters of this. I found it easier to cut the length longer than specified in the instructions, then mark within that the length required – giving you space to hold the elastic taught between the notches on the skirt- you get a more even tension that way. Then just cut off the ends afterwards.

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Heavier duty elastic for thicker fabrics, lightweight elastic for thinner fabrics.

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The high curved front of the skirt to fit over the expanding mid section

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Instead of making casing like the instruction said, I sewed the elastic down to the inside, then turned it down and used a twin needle and wooly nylon to finish it off.

When I put the pattern piece against my body – the Midi length nearly hit my ankle. I nearly shortened it right there and then until I remembered the whole thing about ruching!!!! #babybrain

So I cut the midi length to see where it would sit on me once ruched – about 2/3 down my calf. I played around with lengths, and eventually decided on one that is quite long – below my knees and almost exactly halfway between the knee and midi length on the pattern. In future I’ll probably cut at midi length, then adjust because I suspect fabric type (namely, how well it ruches!) will affect this.

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Hem of the ponte knit skirt on the left, hem of the stretch silk charmuese slip on the right.

I left an inch for the hem, then used a twin needle (with wooly nylon in the bobbin) to finish it off.

Even though this was a substantial ponte – it was still slightly see through. My memory alerted me to the fact that aaaaages ago, I bought a 0.7m length of stretch silk charmuese (from D’Italia). So I made a short slip from the same pattern pieces as well. Bingo!

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Frenched side seams and a miniature hem at the bottom – makes me feel slightly less lousy about the nasty finishing on the ponte version!

Except that this slip will probably only last me for a week – the stretch charmuese only has about 10% stretch, so even though I cut the Large for it, I will most likely outgrow it in a fortnight, if not before. It will still work really well for use under skirts when I’m not pregnant, so not a total loss – but I will need to find an alternative if I want to keep wearing the ponte skirt (which I do).

Verdict? I really like this pattern. It came together in a timeframe I never dreamed possible to finish a garment in (is this why everyone sews with knits??). The only thing that irks my about my handiwork is the lack of nice finishing on the inside, the only thing that irks me about the pattern is that the side seams don’t match at the top. The Medium works well for now in this fabric – lets see how the 50% stretch works out over the duration of this pregnancy, because I can see that I’ll be wearing this A LOT.

A Sunday afternoon sewing win.

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V1247: Romance Is Born… & Frocktails!

My goodness, the weather has been completely against me ever getting photos of this new wardrobe addition. But with Frocktails on Saturday – I really had no excuse. I was going to wear this dastardly silk top out for the first time, dammit!

I’m not usually one for floaty, formless garments, but this Rachel Comey one has been on the radar for a loooong time. There are just too many amazing versions out there on the interwebs not to be sucked in. What better time to try a completely new-to-me garment style than the here and now?

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Actually, I lie. I decided to try my hand at a shapeless, flowy garment because I’m currently halfway through being pregnant, and it seemed like an appropriate time to try a new form… Obviously when I made it there wasn’t anything sticking out, but I had rather intended to be able to wear it once the warmer weather decided to show up!

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Pretty unimpressive for a 20 week bump, really. My jeans are held together with a hair tie but.

I bought this pattern a loooong time ago… well before I realised from PR reviews that you really do need to size down at least 2 sizes. I understand that it’s supposed to be a baggy top, but really? There is good baggy and then there is bag baggy. I am usually a Vogue 14-ish, so ideally needed the 10. I had to cut the 12 though due to the size range on the pattern I had.

After I made a muslin – in which I made a fair few changes – giving shape to the straight centre back seam, taking in the side seams to mirror the waist curve I had at the time, and lengthened the hem slightly – I was really quite pleased with the result. I was definitely tempted to overhaul it to make it more form fitting, but I managed to resist. I’m not sure if it’s because of the interesting seaming, or because it still looks like it holds some shape, but I have a real affinity for this top – even though I’m moderately ambivalent about how it looks on me.

I do love that it’s the perfect opportunity to bust out the lightweight silks, which I am so easily tempted into buying but never really have a ‘practical’ outlet for.

I deliberated for a loooong time over whether or not to use the fabric that you see here. I had originally bought it with a dress in mind (I even have a matching chiffon) and breaking from that mindset was hard. Definitely the right decision though, as this top will get infinitely more worn and appreciated than had I sewed a dress for a formal occasion.

It’s a silk charmeuse with the kind of soft, painterly pattern that I never fail to fall hard for.

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Whilst I sewed the muslin in the ‘normal’ way (1.5cm seam allowances) – I just don’t think you can get the best result when sewing with silk in this fashion. Especially on those bias seams. Especially not on my base level Janome, which loves nothing more than making a dog’s breakfast out of lightweight silks. So for the real thing I did ‘my normal’ of what I guess is often called couture methods – seam lines marked and no specific seam allowance. It’s also underlined in white silk crepe de chine, which carried the seam line and pattern markings, but which also has the dual function of ensuring this top is utterly opaque. You’d never know if I was wearing a fluoro bra underneath this puppy. And as I love brightly coloured underthings, this works well for me.

The crepe de chine underlining does probably make it slightly less flowy that many other makes I see on PR and Burdastyle (especially the chiffon ones!), but I don’t mind it as it is. If anything, I feel a bit more ‘secure’ in it!

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Otherwise, I mostly followed the instructions for this pattern – they’re really quite adequate. Except I handstitched the neckline facing down to the crepe de chine underneath (another genius reason for underlining – avoiding topstitching on tricky fabrics!).

Also – I sewed this top together in 2.5 days straight (I did all the cutting and thread basting prep work before hand – you know I’m uber slow, right?) at a 4 day sewing getaway with a bunch of fabulous sewists I go to social sewing with. Turns out my patience for french seams and slow sewing has a very finite limit, which is clearly visible here:

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Usually I sew in spurts and chunks – 15min and a seam here and there. But locked away at a ‘quilting retreat‘ with no life interruptions for four days straight tested my fancy seam-finished resolve. With access to overlocker, I caved.

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In other sewing news, I finished my second French Jacket (for mum) in late July which has been sent off to Queensland. Plus I’m nearing completion of that Marfy Jacket I showed you the muslin of – and I’m loving it to bits. Then I’m really going to have to get stuck into some maternity sewing!

I’ll leave you with some (sadly, rather over-exposed) photos from Frocktails – so much self-sewn fabulousness! 51 ladies from Australia’s east coast AND New Zealand joined in the fun – we had a private function space at Collins Quarter and a signature cocktail which was named the ‘Seam Ripper’ (Gin based, of course. I was devastated to not be able to partake!). It was an amazing night and I’m already looking forward to the next one!

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F3453: Back to Basics Dress

I had forgotten how quickly a simple 5 pattern piece garment can come together…. and is there anything more frivolously fun than sewing a dress for a special occasion? I savoured making this dress, as this wedding I wore it too is probably the last I’ll get to attend for a very long time.

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The dress is Marfy 3453 – a fairly simple fit and flare sleeveless dress. The bodice has two darts, a v-neckline at the rear, centreback zip and evenly spaced pleats in the skirt. I think what I love most about simple patterns is that they really allow your fabric to shine.

I had wholly intended on sewing this dress ‘as it is’, but I quickly discovered that a 2 dart bodice on me just looks not-nice. Perhaps its the ratio between my bust and my waist? So I converted it to a four dart bodice. This was the only fit adjustment I made.

Also, I had wanted to use the lace border detail on my fabric around the hem, which meant I replaced the pleated A-line skirt with a simple dirndl. I was a little sad about this as the A-line looked great in my muslin, if a little long. I don’t have the amazonian length pins Marfy designs for!

Although… I’m very close to a tipping point for preferring a pencil skirt over a voluminous skirt. I’m not there yet, but can see it looming on the horizon. I can see myself wearing this particular dress in my later years as a fitted sheath style, which would be quite easy to achieve.

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I decided to prewash the fabric, so I could launder the dress myself instead of having it dry cleaned. As soon as I dipped it in water – it STANK. Thanks to an instagram conversation, I was informed that sometimes silk does stink, and it has to do with a gum residue the silk worms leave behind called ‘sericin’. The less processed the silk is, the more likely it to smell, apparently. I was then informed by a google search that you can just keep washing it until it comes out, which it did. Thank goodness.

The fabric is an incredibly pale pink, very slubby raw silk – not a fabric type I’ve worked with before. It also had floral embroidered circular cutouts as a border detail in a 1.1m long repeat. The fibres that came off the cut edges of the fabric are wonderfully fuzzy, thick and incredibly soft:

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The dress is underlined (organza) to give the fabric some more body, and lined at the bodice in a matching but slightly darker silk charmuese that was also used as the contrast trim around the neckline and waist. This was a stash fabric that just happened to look rather lovely against the raw silk.

Whilst sewing I kept the seam allowances large – I want it to be a wearable option for many years to come, so I look at those seam allowances like an insurance policy. You don’t intend on using it of course, but it’s there just in case it’s needed.

I wanted to try and work in a bit of the embroidery into the bodice, so I appliqued a small lace circle in. Cutting into the bodice fabric to do this was a moment of terror; not having appliqued before! I treated it a bit like a welt pocket – sewing a scrap of organza onto the front with my machine’s smallest stitch, cutting into the circle then turning the organza to the wrong side and ironing flat. Getting the circle to be the right size was the hardest part – it took me two goes. After that I hand sewed the lace circle in with a fell stitch and pressed again. Pretty happy with how it looks!

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The skirt is one single piece of fabric, gathered. I was basing the length of the skirt off one of my most favourite dresses – and realised that the height of the cutouts would potentially make my underwear visible… so I added in an additional layer of organza. If you looked really close and really hard, and if I had fluoro underwear on, you’d probably be able to see it. Eh.

I had a first attempt at lace matching down the back centre seam, and am very happy with the results. The main challenge was that the circles were not perfectly circular.

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For the hem, I folded it over, sewed it down to itself, then catch stitched that to the underlining. The result is a soft hem that has a tendency to crease in on itself, but I don’t mind the effect so much. Even with the underlining, the raw silk isn’t really interested in being pressed – it will hold the shape, but it won’t be crisp.

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Due to wanting this dress to be easily adjustable, I machine sewed the lining to the neckline, but hand sewed the arms, down the sides and around the waist. I like hand sewing, and it’ll be really easy to unpick. I also just love the loft of silk charmeuse, and hand sewn seams seem to bring that out.

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Look at that loft...

Look at that loft… The most accurate representation of the two colours together. And you get a really good eye of the texture of the raw silk! Delicious stuff.

I included a hook and eye at the top of the centre back seam, to get a nice closure. At the wedding I wore this dress to, I counted 6 women wearing dresses that the centre back zip was coming down on because there was no hardware to help provide that stability at the back. Funnily enough, they all were on either rounded or V-shaped dress backs. I pointed out so many to my beau that even he started to point them out and was tut-tutting along with me.

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Basically a happily ever after.

And on that note, I will be leaving a radio silence until we have moved and made our new home slightly more liveable than what it currently is. My sewing stuff is already packed away in boxes, and I’m feeling quite sad knowing it will be a while before it sees daylight again. I will be looking forward to finishing and then sharing with you all the two jackets I have in mid-progress from winter last year!

F3093: Safari Blouse

Merry Christmas Eve, all!

May I present to you, another green Marfy blouse.

This may not seem like much to some, but this is the first thing I’ve ever sewn that I didn’t initially muslin to test for fit. It was a little exhilarating, not knowing whether or not I would like it! I need to get out more.

I think I do now understand a little better why some sewists are dead set against muslining. I’ve been super time poor these last few months, but still wanted to have a wearable outcome from my sewing efforts. I compared the pattern pieces for this against my last Marfy blouse at the shoulder and bust, and my Blue Blotch Blouse (a McCalls pattern) through my mid-section. It was pretty much on par, I ranked it low risk, and so away I went.

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Yeah, there are probably a few things I would alter had this been my actual muslin. You can see from the Marfy sketch below that the shoulder seams are not quite dropped – but still gently off the shoulder. I brought them back in by 0.5cm (because I was so thrilled with the shoulder seam location of my last Marfy blouse, which I used to copy the alignment of) but actually I regret this now and would stick to the original design if I were to make it again.

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In fact, I would say the sleeves of this blouse are my favourites, ever. No ease – it fit into the armscye perfectly, slim-fitting but still with enough space for movement, and I love the button down tabs to roll up the cuff. They aren’t full length when unrolled – more midi.

There are no darts for shaping in the bodice here, unless you count the centreback seam. Not normally one for loose fitting clothing around the mid-section, I figured the CDC would billow enough to compensate for any sack-style leanings.

I like the front side pleats more than I would have thought, and the only thing I didn’t think about until I put it on for the first time (at the 80% completed mark) – is that it’s awfully low cut. I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable without a singlet for weekend wear, let me put it that way.

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On the inside, this blouse is not my best work. I french seamed where possible, overlocked the armscye seam (thanks to Helen bringing along her machine to social sewing!), and top stitched over folded seam allowances everywhere else. I tossed up whether to interface the collar and facing, but ditched it in favour of keeping with the drapey look of the blouse. I did use a few scraps of organza to help stabilise the four pivot corners (front and back) of the collar, which worked like a charm.

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The fabric? Silk CDC, from Mood. If you recognise it, it’s one of the two fabrics I used to sew my bridesmaid’s dresses. I had enough left over to squeeze this out of. Actually, I was really surprised I had so much left over – especially as I had nothing left from the other dress. Turns out I had extra because there was a fault – which of course I didn’t realise until I’d cut everything out, with nothing to spare.

Thankfully the flaw was half covered by one of the front pockets – and due to sewing ‘couture’ (marking the seam lines and having large seam allowances) I was able to shift the entire pattern piece across by the 1.5cm required to get that flaw entirely hidden by the pocket. Not too shabby an effort, if I do say so!

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I’ll admit this blouse was partially inspired by both Reana and Sallie. CDC is just a wonderful mix of opaque and floaty, and feels just lovely and cool on the skin to boot.

It is incredibly low cut – and I’ll probably be wearing it as a beach cover up when I’m chilling out in Byron Bay this summer, or unbuttoned with a singlet underneath.

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IMPENDING DOMESTIC BLISS
If I thought my sewing time couldn’t get any less right now, I thought wrong. We bought a house! We’ve got a week holiday booked in at the end of January, and we move in after that. At which point we will be waging a war of attrition on asbestos, sinking foundations, decrepit shag-pile carpet, shiny olive-green drapes, and original 1960’s textured wallpaper. The first major aim will be to get a toilet actually plumbed on the inside of the house so we don’t have to spend next winter going outside to go to the loo. No joke. At least I’m having fun putting together the epic spreadsheet that we’ll use to project manage the whole thing! It’s going to be such a long and ongoing project that I’m actually fighting the urge to start a renovating diary blog. So far my sensibilities are winning on that front!!

So from February onwards I’ll still be squeezing some sewing in where ever I can of course – but there will be a bit of radio silence for the first few months whilst we tackle a few bigger projects. I’ve got an exciting project to work on prior to then though – a wedding guest dress!

Have a wonderful Christmas and holiday period everyone – and a safe and happy new year!!

Much Love to you all xx

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F3449: Stitches to Style Blouse

What to do when you adore the picture/line drawing of a pattern, only to sew up a muslin and find you look utterly ridiculous?

The pattern is Marfy 3449, which I’ve adored since laying my eyes on it. According to the Marfy catalogue it’s “A flowing, collarless shirt with a ruffle down the centre at the front, satin trim at the side, and sleeves gathered at the wrists and slightly at the shoulders.”

Marfy 3449 from the 2014-15 Catalogue

Marfy 3449 from the 2014-15 Catalogue

My ridiculous muslin was sewn up in a specially bought hot pink polyester because it was virtually identical in weight and drape to the fabric I envisaged this being made up in. Had I been invited to a dress up party where I would have like to have gone as Joan Collins, a pirate or someone from Days of our Lives, this would have been utterly fabulous.

Alas, that was not my intention. It did however, fit me perfectly through the shoulders and the bust. What this muslin doesn’t show is the gathered cuff – I recall feeling more OTT that this WIP instagram snap would imply!

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I figured if I toned down the sleeve cap height (I’ll admit – this effect was enhanced by the body of my chosen fabric, and the fact that I’d pushed all the ease up to the top of the sleeve cap), slimmed down and removed the bell cuff on the sleeve (which once elasticated looks exactly on me as it does in the sketch) and raised the level of the front split by 5cm (warning – this one is very low cut – right down to below the root of my bust) then I could probably handle it.

Once I adjusted the fit of the bodice by my normal Marfy adjustments (taking it in below the bust to account for me being two different torso sizes) I compared it to one of my all time favourite and regularly worn make – the Blue Blotch Blouse. Many times fitting issues with woven clothing only become apparent after a bit of wear, and it was clear to me that whilst that blouse is a very comfortable garment, it did need some more width across the shoulders (I’m broad). This Marfy pattern had that, which was great.

I hesitated on my ridiculous adjusted muslin for nearly two weeks on whether or not I would proceed with the real thing, and I’m SO glad I did. I really love the end result! The flounce makes me smile every time I look down or catch it moving as I walk.

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Everytime I take a photo that has me smiling with my lips together, it just looks like I’m oddly pouting. Usually those photos get instantly deleted, but the weather/lighting was doing weird things on this particular afternoon, so the fact that it was the best colour match to the real deal won through.

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The fabric is one I’ve been wanting to sew with for over a year. It’s a pretty substantial silk twill fabric, chartreuse with off-white polka dots – cool to the touch and with a subtle matt texture. I scored this at one of the fabulous End-Of-Financial-Year-Sale’s at Stitches to Style a few years back.

The hem of this shirt (which you can’t see from the sketch) is straight, split at the sides and the front is slightly shorter than the back. I altered this to be curved and with more of a pronounced ‘hi-lo’ hem.

The ruffle – a challenge to finish because of the weight and thickness of my fabric – I chose to sew a hand-rolled hem on. I used this youtube video to get me started – it’s a really simple and (if you like hand sewing) enjoyable thing to do. I haven’t quite yet mastered my rolled hem foot on my machine on straight edges – so no way was I going to risk it on a shaped edge!

How well the ruffle sits depends solely on how you clip the seam allowance (Anne from Clothing Engineer has a wonderful post on how clipping can affect your flounce/ruffle here). I clipped every 7mm or so along the length of each ruffle – and it really does sit wonderfully.

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The sleeves I copied from another Marfy blouse pattern instead of adjusting the sleeve cap, because they were also a lot wider than what I felt comfortable in. The original sleeves recommend finishing the cuff with elastic (to enhance the bell shaped cuff – a feature I really like in principal but not so much on me in reality), I drafted a simply slim cuff that I can pull over my hand easily.

Otherwise this blouse is finished with French seams except for the front seam – a challenge because I knew it would be visible. I’ve bound each side to enclose the heavily clipped seam allowance. A bit heavy, but effective.

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For the neckline I initially thought bias binding, but drafted a thin, curved collar so it would sit flat. I suspect that I am missing a pattern piece for the neckline, as the back bodice pattern piece has a notch around the neckline indicating that something should be matched to it – and I only had pattern pieces for the front, back, sleeve and ruffle.

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Probably should have steamed those pin holes out first...

Probably should have steamed those pin holes out first…

Also – the ‘satin trim’ down the side is not a pattern piece, but rather a DIY addition. I left it out.

Another work horse blouse, complete – I’ve already worn this to work a few times and I love it both tucked into skirts and untucked over pants. The silk does crush easily, so it’s not a travel-suitable blouse – but it’s so substantial that it feels like it could withstand a LOT of wear, much more so than the delicate silk/cotton voile I made the Blue Blotch Blouse in. Much to my devastation, I think that blouse will only last another year… massive sad face!