V8827: Hydrangea Dress

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what best to sew for the momentous occasion that is both my husband’s 40th, AND the first weekend away without our daughter since she reluctantly allowed herself to be dragged into this world (at 42+1 weeks, I might add).

I definitely feel like my style has changed since then – certainly, I have changed – although I’d no better be able to describe what my style is now than before.

Lately I’ve been feeling adventurous – in my imagination at least – and there is definitely an itch building to try a new to me style, to make a new-to-me silhouette work. I suspect this has originated with the wide leg pants thing going on, this new style having long since entrenched itself in mainstream fashions (goodness knows I’m no early adopter in this space). Or perhaps it’s a newfound and not-at-all-unpleasant insouciant mindset towards my body.

The Named Pattern’s Keilo wrap dress I just made was a tentative dip in those waters, and one I’m really very pleased with. Another very recent moment was trying on Sarah’s Ogden Cami, a pattern that I had completed written off due to the expectation that those lines would just look ridiculous on me. But, I found myself REALLY liking it.

Problem is…

Back when Trent and I first started dating, we did one of those whirlwind trips away – last minute plane tickets with Tiger Air to Alice Springs, picking up two spots from cancellations in a cheep-n-cheerful backpacker-style tour that involved sleeping in swags under the stars, allowing us to take in the sights of the Red Centre (Uluru, Kata Tjuta, Kings Canyon) over three days, a trip which overall probably costed less than the fabric used to sew this dress. There are some pretty spectacular Aboriginal artworks up the Top End of the Northern Territory, but in the Red Centre, not so much. Our very passionate and knowledgeable tour guide (worth their weight in gold!) asked us to think about why that was so… It was a simple matter of resources. Food was plentiful and easy to come by up north so they were able to devote time to developing the creative and story-telling culture – expressed also via art. Not so much out in the desert.

Basically, I’m somewhat akin to a southern Aboriginal person in this sense – there isn’t enough resources (time, in my case) to really explore this to the extend I would like to do. And there are still so many gaps in my wardrobe that I would like to fill with me-made, before I get to the real creative freedom part.

So I’m making do with a small incremental change instead.

Enter, Vogue 8827:

I’ve always been drawn to fitted dresses, so this flowing and loose style is different but definitely low-risk. I’ll admit mostly this was inspired by the silk robe I made for our wedding – I wear this on the regular and feel amazing in it, so the thought of making something similar and outside-the-house appropriate was a very attractive concept! Not to mention it’s high credentials for being able to eat an epic banquet and still feel comfortable ;)

It is definitely in the secret pyjamas category – this dress is essentially a bathrobe with daywear appropriate sleeves.

PATTERN
It’s an amorphous kind of style, made even more so by the slippery charmeuse I made it from. A very simple pattern to pull together – the hardest part really is wrangling those blasted giant tissue paper pieces to get the darned thing traced out. And then dealing with long pieces of slippery fabric., Vogue’s size 14 always seems to fit across my shoulders and bust decently well, so that’s the size I went with. There isn’t really much to fit, considering it is just a shapeless rectangular wrap dress with a belt tie to hold it together and give it some form.

I did make a few minor changes though….

Like turning the gathering at the centre back into an inverted box pleat. Oh, and shortening it by 13cm.

The dress itself is held together with not much more than the tie at your waist. It has an ok-enough overlap between the front two pieces, and includes in the instructions a 1/4″ ribbon tie to secure the underlapping front piece to the opposite side seam.

Instead of using the suggested ribbon treatment for ties – I made some spaghetti straps out of some bias strips from the leftovers – the same as those I made for my bias cami (any opportunity to practice a new skill!) – and added in a loop at the waist on one side (worked into the French seam on the second pass), and corresponding two ties on the other side. This is hidden when wearing it as it’s underneath the overlapping front piece.

Thinking about how to attache the ties…

… I ended up deciding on sewing a little window, and pulling the ties through it to hide the ends.

And then I’ve topstitched in place (view from the back side)

And view from the front.

And to secure the overlapping front piece – I was originally thinking to include a lightweight snap, sewn in at the very edge of the facing, but didn’t get time to source one, and in the end – I prefer letting it fall where it may. It seems to suit the dress better, rather than trying to cajole and control.

Even to the extent that the inner ties need to be tied loosely, else they distort how the dress hangs.

The hem is the usual treatment I seem to use these days – fold over, press and hand sew to the underlining. This is for both the hem of the dress, and the sleeves. The facings have also been slip stitched down to the underlining. In order to make the underlining ‘work’ – I did take the long route of taking off the patterns 1.5cm seam allowance from each piece, and taking the time to threadbaste the underlining and the main fabric together as one.

I’ve used the short sleeve option here (there is a mid and full length sleeve option also) to keep it feeling summery-, and I think it helps balances out with the length of the dress too.

FABRIC
It’s the kind of pattern that can work for day and night, depending on your fabric choice – my favourites on the interwebs are by Heather Lou and Leisa. I think especially you can see on Heather’s beautiful dress how a lighter fabric works for this (ie – wonderfully!), especially on that front flounce, which I believe benefits from a lighterweight fabric the most. I also am going to say that the slippery fabric I used does impact the ability of the tie to hold everything together – and that a grip-ier fabric like crepe de chin would be better for this.

But, I’d honestly had my eye on this fabric – a floral silk charmeuse from Mendel Goldberg – for nearly 6 months. I kept putting off buying it, sort of hoping that someone else would snap it up and I would be lifted of the decision burden by default. And when I realised 2 months ago that I actually had an event to sew something lovely for and checked to see if it was still there… well!

It’s a stretch silk, with 2% spandex.

I’ve underlined it with my usual white crepe de chine, which obviously does negate the stretch factor. It also adds a lovely weight to the fabric which I love the feel of when wearing.

The print colours have incredible depth on this fabric… it’s almost 3D.

I do suspect that I may have screwed up the grainlines on the back a bit (or perhaps it is just a result from two different fabrics behaving differently under their own weight?), as when it came time to hemming, I hung up the dress to double check everything and noticed that the underlining was bulging at the thread-traced hem line:

But only at the back, not on the front pieces. I un-did the thread-tracing, re-pinned and re-thread-traced, and got on my way.

Of course, the weather decided to turn to winter over night – it was 13 degrees when we took these pics – but thanks to a handy thought from my mum, I was wearing icebreakers underneath and was really surprisingly warm. Spot the wool underneath!

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V1220: June’s Meadow Shirt Dress

Continuing on from 2017 being the year of the shirt, perhaps 2018 will be the year of the shirt dress?

There’s always been a gap in my wardrobe for a work appropriate dress suitable for really hot days. This gap has now been filled, and very much in the nick of time too – as it’s been a warm summer.

PATTERN
I cut a size 14 to muslin, just over a year ago. But I couldn’t get the front button plackets to even meet across the front (let along overlap!) – quick was the realisation that I’d need to wait until I finished breastfeeding before I tackled this… Seriously, boobage volume whilst breastfeeding is insane. Sure enough when I tried my year old muslin on just before Christmas in 2017, it fit.

Well, sort of.

My muslin showed I needed to drop the waist a good 5cm and the skirt length raised about 2 cm.  It does appear to be very short-torso in the bodice. And if I was really honest – it possibly needed a full bust adjustment. Enough significant changes to warrant a second muslin, rather than just tweaking with the fit on this one.

Except when I went back to look at the pattern pieces – it actually has the waist marked 4cm below the waist seam – so this high waist was intentional, and I left that change off, just altering the hem length accordingly (although since wearing it a few times, I now wish I hadn’t messed with the hem length!).

I ended up not doing an FBA (even after partially making my way through the instructions by Cennetta from Mahogany Stylist, which are excellent – btw – especially as I find such fitting alterations to be beyond my mental capacity since becoming a parent, so having her pictures was pure gold). After spending a few hours wearing my muslin around the house, I decided it would do. It obviously doesn’t have the ease across the bust that is evident in other people’s makes, but I can live with it.

I love the hidden button placket – my buttons are from Buttonmania. Another-post-them-in-a-sample-of-fabric-to-match-buttons too job. I’m really pleased with the match, even though they’re for the main part hidden from view!

The buttons perfectly match the print’s background blue-grey, although every photo I took makes them look like a completely different shade!

That neckline is a lovely detail, with pleats emanating from the centre back seam, and sitting around the front of your neck in a similar fashion to a shawl collar. I found that the bit of fabric folded under really needed to be tacked down to the underside as far up as you can possible go, to maintain a nice shape at the front. The three pleats are tricky to seam match – I figured 2 out of 3 was perfectly reasonable!

FABRIC
I had originally intended on sewing this up with a Liberty cotton tana lawn in the yellow floral Claire-Aude ‘D’ print. Coming from a revolving wardrobe palette of blues and greys, this felt risky, and not in a good way. I justified the risk by wanting to use up a stash fabric and this was the only thing both suitable and lengthy enough for this pattern. Which takes up some 3 meters of fabric!

I rather wish I had had the ‘C’ variation of this in my stash instead – this is far more in my comfort zone than the yellow. I reckon I pull off the yellow ok-ish, but it’s not amazing. And certainly when it comes to getting photos – the light has to be perfect to actually convey that. Otherwise it does have the tendancy to wash me out a wee bit.

But just before cutting, nerves got the better of me, and I ditched the yellow, and bought a different Liberty – June’s Meadow, in the grey colourway. Which was frustrating because it meant having to wait for it to arrive in the post! I at least managed to start on a muslin for my next project…. This fabric is far more in the comfort zone, and highly unlikely to make me look washed out.

Funny thing with this fabric – IRL I don’t see the pattern repeat of it, but every time I see it in a photo, the repeat really jumps out at me! Funny how photos can change what our eyes are immediately drawn to.

The tana lawn has been underlined with organza, because I think this is a pattern that really benefits from a fabric with body to really highlight the shaping – hence why I suppose the recommended fabrics are broadcloth and linen. Organza underlining obviously delivers that in spades.

Interestingly, Susan mentioned to me during January’s-just-past-class that Australian organza is really smooth – too smooth – which isn’t ideal for underlining as it’s not ‘grippy’ enough. Since then I’ve worked with both types and I’d agreed – but it sure does work well for underlining if you’re not planning to line your garment – and no way was I intending to bother with that for this. I’d also just gone halvies in a bolt of organza with Sarah, so I’ll be using it up regardless!

The pattern lists only 150cm wide fabric as the option (requiring a 2.7m length), presumably so you can cut the belt in a continuous piece. Liberty is around the 136cm mark, and I managed this pattern with bang on 3m. My belt is cut in 3 pieces – intentionally, so that the two seams in the belt line up with the side seams of the dress, keeping the illusion of a continuous length. Probably not something that really matters in a busy print such as this, but in my mind’s eye whilst I was dreaming it up, it mattered. It’s a huuuuuge belt though… and in my mind definitely requires’ wrapping it around 1.5 times (which is how you see it on me in this post) – the mid-point of the tie is lined up with my centre front.

The belt is 2.4m long – so thank goodness it’s wide enough to fit your hand in to turn it around!

The location of the pockets in this dress are just fabulous – bang on – but the pocket bag definitely needed additional room so I could have my whole hand in there. Even after adding additional length, I wish I had also added additional width. But, I do love that they just melt into the shape of the dress without detracting from the silhouette. And their angling makes it super easy to get your hands in.

Which is the main reason I’ve had this pattern floating around the top of my to-sew list for several years now – it achieves great shape, without being form fitting. There’s plenty of room to move, but it’s not a sack dress.

I also just LOVE the hem facing. Such a lovely way to finish things off. And that the hem is ever-so slightly curved into a hi-lo, but not that you’d notice when it’s on.

Two problems with the design though – it 100% needs to be worn with a skirt slip. I wear it with the last two buttons undone (because I like to stride – and quickly! – and this means it doesn’t strain much when I’m sitting, as the skirt is pegged) – but it means everyone is going to get a significant view of your underwear when you sit. So after wearing it once, I also made a slip skirt (that sounds a little more modern and less fuddy-duddy than a petticoat, doesn’t it?) in a pale grey silk. One Problem solved.

The other problem – I suspect I ballsed the instructions for the sleeve – the way I read them, it had you fold the sleeve cuffs over, meaning the wrong side of your fabric is on display…. no thanks! But no other review mentions this so perhaps I just messed up interpreting the instructions. So I sort of did a wierd origami thing to make that not the case. If I had my time over again, I’d sew separate cuffs I think.

Otherwise, I’m well pleased with it :) And even better, I wore it first to a 2nd round job interview on a scorching hot day – and I totally got the new job :D

V7975: Octopus’ Garden French Jacket

You may recognise this fabric – it’s been the banner feature of this little web space since I started blogging, and was also the subject of one of the first jackets I wrote about, which was made to wear to my best friends wedding.

After the first jacket I had a scant 1.4m of 130mm wide fabric plus two large scraps, and there is quite literally nothing of it left now! I almost had to piece together the last pocket to make it work.

This jacket obviously marks a great leap forward in sewing skill since way back then…

Typically, if I want to get a compliment out of my beloved, it’s not enough to go fishing for one – I have to go in there with a speargun (obviously by which point any nice words extracted are null and void). So when hubby did both a physical double take on me in this jacket – then blurted out how much more amaazinger it was than Octopus the First, well – it was nothing if not completely satisfying!

We’ve hit that time of year where the light is just constantly harsh and glare-y. It doesn’t do justice to the colours in this weave – but you’ve got my blog banner to see how they look IRL :)

In other, completely unrelated news – I’ve finally found a hair dresser I LOVE. I’ve never worn my hair down so much before in my life – and I’ve always judged a hairdresser by how good the cut looks after you’ve washed all the styling out. This is it air-dryed and zero-product – zero maintenance. True to form, I’ll probably keep having it cut like this for the next 35 years.

The pattern is trusty Vogue 7975, with the sleeve from Marfy 9814 – a 3/4 delight with a little flounce on the end. This sleeve piece screams Chanel to me, as it’s very reminiscent of the styling I’ve been seeing in their recent collections. It’s also, I think, ridiculously flattering. Paired with the classic bodice of Vogue 7975 – becomes a 1 + 1 = 3 kind of synergy.

The fabric is a silk boucle, lined in turquoise charmuese (from Stitches to Style). The trim is a chartruese grosgrain ribbon from Jimmy’s Buttons which has been painstakingly cut down to the width I wanted (I could only get it in a wider width) – paired with a vintage Chanel trim Susan Khalje bought in Paris then lugged all the way to Melbourne as a potential option for her students to buy in her 2017 Tour of Australia. It was a particularly long length, and I get super excited when I spot the other ladies who bought some – sisterhood of the trim! Sewing it on made my hands smell like a hessian bag.

The grosgrain was a nightmare to deal with – not nearly as well behaved as lovely petersham. In the end, having it split in two was a godsend come the time to sew it in curving around the neckline – there ended up being a good 2cm difference in length of the inner to the outer ribbon just around that section.

Cut in half, basted back together at the right width, then sewn on with tiny stitches in a matching thread.

I still haven’t found buttons for this yet, and I’ll probably just not bother. I very nearly almost didn’t even put pockets on… then went the whole hog with 4 because I figured the fabric was busy enough, why not just keep with that.

There’s nothing new or groundbreaking here that I haven’t covered in the copious posts I did on my first French Jacket back in 2013.

Oh, except maybe that the sleeve flounce is on the bias – I did elongate the flounce by an extra 1.5cm (at Susan’s recommendation, and thus shortened the sleeve by this amount also to maintain the length) to ensure that I could get enough of the grid repeat of the fabric shown off. I quilted this on the bias as well – along with some extra underlining in the way of silk organza, this really helped the flounce to hold its gentle conical shape whilst being worn.

I recall recording the amount of time I spent sewing my first French Jacket – around the 150 hour mark? Well if I had to guesstimate, this one took a little less – maybe closer to 120 hours all up. This includes making the muslin, the 5 full days I had whilst on the French Jacket course (I couldn’t make it to the whole 7 days), plus a half day prior for fitting and cutting out, plus time spent post-class sewing on trim and pockets. I’ll admit not having a 3 piece sleeve and vents reduced the total time, as well.

I’ve been wearing this a bucket – and am absolutely loving it. You can 100% guarantee there will be more French Jackets in my sewing future.  (I’m still miffed I haven’t yet made one with printed silk in the lining…)

A Third French Jacket in the making

I’ll admit to wanting a more everyday version of the French Jacket I made in Baltimore ever since I took photos of it for this blog.

And it just so happens that I have enough of the Octopus’ Garden boucle to squeeze a jacket out of – I recall when I first started sewing that I’d always buy an extra meter of fabric over what the pattern called for, you know – just in case. I absolutely love this fabric so I’m really excited to be working with it again.

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So I’m back for another week and another French Jacket! I recall this time last time I was already absolutely sewing fatigued, but this time around I’m incredibly invigorated to keep on sewing. I’m unable to attend the entire 7 days of the class due to a certain little person needing to be looked after, so I was grateful to be able to be fitted on Day 6 of the Couture Sewing School last week. I spent the last afternoon of that week’s class arranging my pattern pieces to make sure I could get the repeat in the right places.

Like my last French Jacket, I’m also underlining this one because once again I’ve picked a lightweight boucle that is see through! This is untypical though. I’m working with a cream cotton voile underneath (last time it was a white batiste).

I’m working with Vogue 7975, but I’ve stolen the sleeve from Marfy 9814. Partly because I really love it, partly because I don’t actually have enough fabric for a full length sleeve! It’s going to be tight….

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Day 1 is a bit of a get to know you again, a fabric show off, pattern fitting by Susan and fabric shopping for those amongst us who have yet to acquire some boucle and lining. We went to Stitches to Style – they have a great range of boucles! (and a huge sale on at the very moment – 50% off lots of cottons, linens and silks from their summer range).

Here are a few pictures of the gorgeous fabric choices by my other classmates:

Margie picked up a really striking red based Boucle from Tessuti, with a matching printed silk charmeuse from Mendel Goldberg. I think if I ever make a fourth jacket - I'm going to start by picking the lining first so I too can work with a printed silk!

Margie picked up a really striking orange and black based Boucle from Tessuti, with a matching printed silk charmeuse from Mendel Goldberg. I think if I ever make a fourth jacket – I’m going to start by picking the lining first so I too can work with a printed silk!

Danielle has a really textured black boucle with a black and coloured floral printed silk, which is just so gorgeous.

Danielle has a really textured black boucle from Linton Tweed (that was more than challenging to quilt due to all of the different fibres), and is pairing it with a floral on black background printed silk, which is just so gorgeous.

Melissa is what I have dubbed the classic Melbournian - her jacket is black boucle, with a black charmeuse lining. She scored an amazing beaded trim from Jimmy's Buttons - black of course!

Melissa is what I have dubbed the classic Melbournian – her jacket is black boucle bought from Stitches to Style, with a black charmeuse lining. She scored an amazing beaded trim from Jimmy’s Buttons – black of course!

Carol has an amazing textured boucle in Navy and grey from Linton Tweed, plus a really stunning watercolour printed silk she picked up from her local in Perth. I've laid claim to her silk scraps!

Carol has an amazing textured boucle in Navy and grey from Linton Tweed (this photo just doesn’t do it justice), plus a really stunning watercolour printed silk she picked up from her local in Perth. I’ve laid claim to her silk scraps!

Ros is sewing with a really fascinating fabric in an olive green that has Navy and copper highlights. She's also having a bias panel down the sides of her jacket - which entails an epic amount of quilting! Ros is two sizes different across her hips to her upper torso, and this additional bias panel does beautiful justice to her curves. Check out her smile here!

Ros is sewing with a really fascinating fabric in an olive green that has Navy and copper highlights. She’s also having a bias panel down the sides of her jacket – which entails an epic amount of quilting! Ros is two sizes different across her hips to her upper torso, and this additional bias panel does beautiful justice to her curves. Check out the effect and her smile here!

Marion bought a really stunning boucle from down the road at Stitches to Style, with the most amazing duck-egg blue coloured charmuese to match. It's fraying like a b----, but so totally going to be worth it.

Marion bought a really stunning boucle from down the road at Stitches to Style, with the most amazing duck-egg blue coloured charmuese to match. It’s fraying like a b—-, but so totally going to be worth it.

Day 1 saw me finish of my pattern thread tracing, and begin cutting out my lining.

By the end of Day 2 I had quilted all of my jacket pieces and sewn up the sides ready for a quick fit check and adjustment.

Day 3 I cut out my sleeves and got to work quilting them. On Susan’s recommendation I put the cuff on my sleeves on the bias – only just having enough fabric to squeeze this out. This meant also the quilting was in a grid – which gave it really lovely structure. We also put some silk organza underneath the boucle before the batiste underlining for a bit of extra structure.

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Bias quilting = a lot of knot tying

In the afternoon everyone took a field trip to Jimmy’s Buttons in Fitzroy for trim and buttons – what an absolute GOLDMINE! I can’t believe I’d never been here before. SO many options for trim, my mind was blown!

Day 4 at around lunchtime I was having my sleeves hung by Susan! I spent the afternoon playing with trim options, after a morning visit to Jimmy’s Buttons again after musing on samples overnight, I ended up with some chartreuse green petersham ribbon to go as backing to some vintage Chanel braid that Susan brought from Paris (she hauled a few different selections of braided trim she’s picked up in her travels).

Day 7 – I’ll be popping back in to the class on the Sunday to get a length of chain and have my pockets marked out.

So I’ve still got a fair way to go – sewing on the hooks and eyes, sewing on trim, chain, pockets and then closing up the lining. It’s looking amazing so far!

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Water water everywhere, but not a drop to drink

I’m back. Sort of!

Limited amounts of time have begun popping up in which I can start enjoying sewing again (limited being the key word, there is currently a tiny person bouncing up and down against my leg as I type this opening) and I’ve been sewing muslins like I’ve got Attention Deficit Disorder.

Starting with Marfy 9814. One of the very first Marfy patterns I ever bought! It’s fecking gorgeous – the standup collar is divine, and even the 3/4 length sleeves look good (and I’ve always found these to make my proportions look very out of balance. Clearly I just needed something better drafted than a RTW jacket to make it look right on me).

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Marfy 9814 – “This youthful jacket has a high neck and a tight fitting closure”. Suggested fabrics are matellas or faille.

I have no idea what catalogue/year it’s from, as I bought it from the McCalls website some 5 years ago. I had that new found hobby ‘fever’ and spent glorious hours trawling pattern websites for things I wanted to buy, when I discovered this page on the McCalls site.  This was back before Marfy had relaunched their website and ordering from them seemed too hard, so it was easy to justify paying a premium to bypass the difficulty.

Anyway – the jacket is divine. However my usual size 46 just doesn’t quite cut it at the moment (read – whilst I’m still breastfeeding). It’s a very close fit!

So it’s on temporary production hold, sad face.

I’m pretty gutted because this was my #1 choice for Susan’s couture sewing school next week…

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Secondly and completely unrelated to muslining for Susan, I’ve sewn up a muslin of the OOP Vogue 1220. Same problem. Too much boob. I never even bothered with the front closure, as clearly this is another muslin that will need to wait until bubs is completely weaned. Shame because I really wanted a shirt dress for work – this one is really fabulous. I’m going to look forward to sewing it up somepoint in the future. In fact, I love all the Donna Karen/Vogue collabs, I was rather sad to see that is no longer continuing.

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As far as muslins go, I thought perhap I’d be relegated to the bottom half of my body as an option then.

So I muslined Style Arc’s Darcy Pants. The only adjustment I made was to replace the crotch curve with that one from Style Arc’s Flat Bottom Flo pants (what a winner of a crotch curve for the pancake butted peeps like me!).

I didn’t like the elasticated waist look on me – so I pinned it out in the photo here. It’s too tight around my sizeable calves, but the crotch curve!!!!! You’ll have to believe me that it looked just as good from the back as getting a photo of that was way to difficult.

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Except my brain forgot to process that an elasticated waistband doesn’t really align with the whole couture thing?

Hmm.

So I thought perhaps I’d try and meld together the top of another pattern that has a waistband and slanted side pockets (two features I wanted this to have). Lets just say that I’m procrastinating against doing that by writing this blog post. Which is a bit of an issue because I’ve got 4 days until I need to have a finished muslin for Susan’s class, and a first birthday party to navigate in between now and then.

Oh, and I nearly forgot – one more muslin has been made. I’m also doing another French Jacket class with Susan whilst she’s in Melbourne – Vogue 7975 of course, but with the sleeves from Marfy 9814 because I love them so.

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I’m really excited about this one, and pretty confident that I won’t finish it in the week, so the plan is to leave the front princess seams ‘undone’ so I can adjust once the whole breastfeeding jag is up…

I’ve shortened this version (and not very well – the bottom hem lines don’t match up…) compared to my previous French Jacket, and in an everyday wearable fabric (which I already have and am super excited about!)

Wish me luck!