Red Chambray Kelly Skirt

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Evening folks! Forgive the slight summer hiatus. It was unplanned. There were multiple (very welcome) guests and an exam to prepare for and a few other real life-y things. Anyhoo, I hope your Julys and Augusts have been superdooper.

This pattern has been in my pile for a looooong time (cough *September 2013* cough) but I finally got round to it last month. It’s Megan Nielsen’s Kelly skirt and it’s a lovely quick make. In the interests of blogger integrity I’ll admit that mine took a couple of weeks, BUT that is only because I was snatching 30 mins here and there. If you were more focused than I, this would be real quick I promise – 1 day max.

I used the red chambray I got with my Fabric Rehab voucher. It’s a deliciously soft cotton and is extremely wide – check out the layout below!! I ordered two meters and there’s plenty left for a t-shirt or something.

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Despite being a really straightforward sew, the Kelly has a couple of fantastic details: striking box pleats front and back, and these realllly pretty pockets. I’ve never put pockets in this way before but they add such a lovely detail. I lined them with scraps of contrast print and topstitched them with a double line of white.

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I was worried at first that the chambray would be a little too soft for the pattern but in the end I think it works pretty well. I did strengthen both sides of the placket (bit where the buttons/buttonholes go) and the waistband with some pretty serious medium-weight interfacing though, which feels nice and strong. The only thing I would say about this fabric is that it’s preeeeetty crease-enthusiastic so by the end of a working day (i.e. lots of sitting) she doesn’t look nearly so crisp and lovely. Clearly she’s meant for long strolls by the lake rather than office time – fair play.

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(mmmm wrinkly!!)

I found some pretty little multi-coloured wooden buttons which go really well with the chambray (M actually spotted them… and as such takes full credit for how well this whole project turned out). I faffed around practicing the buttonholes for a while before committing them to the skirt and decided to go with a thread that matches the fabric, rather than the white I used for the topstitching.

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There are a couple of fit issues I noticed on my first wear, both of which have also been noted by other bloggers. Firstly the waistband is a little gapey. It fit’s along the bottom edge but not along the top, if that makes sense. I think this is because it’s a single straight piece and I’m, well, not. If I make this skirt again I think I will try and shape the waistband to account for this. I think I can live with it on this one. Taking the waistband off would be such a faff!! Secondly, like other bloggers, I get a little bagging going on between the waistband and the first button underneath. I’m hoping this will be much easier to fix, by adding a little popper /snap fastener to keep things straight.

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On the positive side, I’m really happy with the finish I achieved on this one. It’s one of my neatest makes to date, pretty inside and out, which is supercool (in a nerdy seamstress kinda way). And, if I manage to address the two points above, it’s definitely a shape I can see myself wearing a lot. All it needs is a Nettie to play with. She is definitely nearing the top of my to-sew list!

Lastly, check out the mural!! It’s the same wall around the corner from our flat that I’ve used before, but someone has done this amazing paint job on it. However, I thought it would make a supercool background but am now thinking maybe it’s a bit… busy and insane?? What do you think? Love it? Or does it give you a headache? Be truthful now!

Siobhan xx

Glasto Girl Scout

This weekend I was lucky enough to be at Glastonbury and it was brilliant.

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As ever, the ginormous site was a buzzing wonderland of art and performance with music of every flavour. I was particularly aware this year of how many fantastic female musicians there were, rocking their stuff, which was awesome.

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Wonderwomen- St Vincent, (Rodrigo &) Gabriela, Haim, Dolly Parton (photos – BBC)

The incredible thought, effort and creativity that goes in to transforming every inch of the farm is breathtaking. It is this beautiful, magical land that appears once a year for no time at all and then disappears, leaving just the happy memories behind.

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Now, dressing for a music festival in the UK is tricky stuff, due to the highly unpredictable weather. It can be baking hot, freezing cold, soaking wet, and is usually a mixture of all three. Festivals also bring out the sartorially creative/crazy spark in everyone. Fancy dress, customised clothing, ballgowns, bikinis, it’s all there and I love it.

This year I decided to sew up a new t-shirt to add to my festival wardrobe. I used a cheery rose-print cotton from my stash and the Scout Tee pattern from Grainline studios. It’s a simple pattern – front, back, 2 sleeves and a neck binding – but I took my time to make it as perfect as possible. I finished all the seams with French seams (yup even the sleeves, see this awesome tutorial) so the inside is as pretty as the outside. I also adjusted the hem slightly to exaggerate the high-low effect (just by eyeballing/pinning it when it was on).

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Sadly I only managed to get a couple of selfies of my Scout in action:

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So once I got back I took a couple more of the same outfit (well-washed and without wellies) on our tiny balcony:

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Am I happy with it? Yes… ish. The shoulders need raising about 1-2cm, but this comes as no surprise really as it’s an adjustment my Granny has been doing on me for years, I should have factored it in.

I have a bigger issue however, which is the baggy factor, and that’s not just about this particular tee. Slouchy, breezy, easy-fitting – call it what you will, there’s a lot of it around, both on the highstreet and in sewingpatternland. I’m trying hard to be open-minded and embrace these less fitted styles but I’m yet to be won over. There’s no denying the comfy factor, but my issue is this: whilst on my athletic-figured sewist sisters a Scout-type make looks effortlessly stylish, the perfect day-to-night staple, on me I feel it hangs in a slightly unflattering tent-like manner and adds volume where it’s not wanted. Does anyone else feel that way? Or do I just need to get used to how these shapes look on my, er, shape?

IMG_4333     IMG_4335It did occur to me (after considerable time spent stalking other Scouts on other blogs) that perhaps the solution is to pair this type of baggy tophalf with a less-baggy bottom – skinny jeans or the like. But then I’ve never been thoroughly sold on those either. Hrmph. Perhaps comfy-fit and I just need some apart time. For my next make I’ll pick something with princess seams/multiple darts, so we can each have a think about our future together.

A last word on Glastonbury (to end on a cheerful note) – I spent a very happy rainy morning learning how to needlefelt in the craft field and this is what I made:

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I’m not entirely sure what it is. It was supposed to be a brooch but is far too big so I might just find a frame for it and stick it on the wall.

Siobhan xx

Points mean…


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Yessir, I entered a few competitions recently and have been lucky enough to win some amazing prizes!!

For my Brigitte headscarf, I won £50 from Tilly to spend at Fabric Rehab. I agonised for a long time over how to spend this as there are just soooo many lovely choices. In the end I went with a sensible (but gorgeous) red Scandiavian cotton and a not-so-sensible (but awesome) Michael Miller bird print.

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For my Zinnia skirt, I won two Janome feet and four Colette patterns from The Stitchery. This was another hard choice, with several rounds of shortlisting on my part. In the end, having read lots of other sewist advice on feet, I went with the clearview quilting foot and the ultraguide foot. The clearview quilting foot has handy 1/8″ and 1/4″ markings, useful for sewing accurate seams. The ultraglide foot meanwhile is made from a special teflon-like resin that helps you glide over fabrics that would normally get stuck. I’ve found this to be a particular issue when trying to insert waterproof linings, or sewing with leather/faux leather, so I’m excited to see the difference the foot makes. For my four Colette patterns I went with Hawthorne, Juniper, Clover and Negroni. That’s right readers, TWO trouser patterns and a MAN PATTERN!! Those are some a scary new challenges right there.

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Lastly, for my Peplum top, I won a bundle of prizes in the Sewing Indie Month pattern hacking challenge. This one was particularly exciting as there were so many excellent entries. A huge thank you to everyone who voted!! The prizes are brilliant: a 1 year subscription to Sew News magazine; a Craftsy class of my choice; a £20 voucher for Minerva Crafts; a transfer pack from Kate & Rose; and pack of patterns from Seamster Sewing PatternsSinbad & Sailor, Dixie DIY and Skinny Bitch Curvy Chick – ahhhhhh!!

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As incredible as all of these prizes are (believe me there has been much whooping and dancing around), by far the nicest part is feeling like a legitimate part of this crazy talented online community. Big big smiles all round.

Siobhan xx

Dotted Out and About Dress

A couple of weeks ago summer arrived in Geneva in a big way. It was suddenly super hot and sticky – the kind of weather where you just want to lie in the shade and eat icecream all day. As such, planned projects with sleeves and/or structure got unceremoniously shoved to one side in favour of something light and cool and comfy.

Enter the “Out and About” dress from Sew Caroline, a simple knit dress with a gathered skirt, paired with a lovely soft cotton jersey from Grünemeter – light grey with multicoloured irregular dots that look like they’ve been splodged on by hand. YUM.

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Construction-wise there were definitely some good moments with this project – I discovered that my machine has a “stretch stitch” (the one that looks like a lightening bolt), which was exciting. I used this with my walking foot for all the seams, and it worked well. The seams stretch but feel strong at the same time. I also used clear elastic for the first time to stabilise my shoulder and waist seams. This was easier to insert than I was expecting, is nice and thin and gives a reassuring firmness to the seams, I’ll definitely use that again.

BUT this was only my second ever attempt at working with knit fabric and I would be lying if I said I didn’t struggle a bit. Gathering the skirt was frankly a bit of a nightmare. For some reason Lady Janome just did not want to play with the jersey on a long straight stitch. I tried re-threading, I tried changing needle, I tried fiddling with the tension, but it just kept jamming… low point, paused for watermelon… I finally found through trial and error that if, when it jammed, I lifted the foot and gently tugged the fabric out/loosened everything back up, I could continue sewing (without cutting the thread) and still pull up the gathers at the end. Small victories.

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The pattern is deliberately loose-fitting so I deviated from the construction notes, checking the fit on the bodice before attaching the skirt. I took the waist in by 1cm at this point, lowered the neckline and added a couple of darts to better accommodate the girls / eliminate armhole gaping. However, once I attached the skirt I felt the bodice was still too loose and so took another 2cm off each side at the waist. I also followed Caroline’s additional tutorial to make the dress sleeveless, binding the arms with self fabric and topstitching with a double needle. M came in at this point and said – “hey it looks just like my tshirt”, which I’m chalking up as a win.

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Ultimately I’m happy with how the dress turned out. I’m not sure that the shape is as flattering as the fit-and-flare silhouettes I’m used too, but for a breezy weekend dress I think it does just fine. And it is COMFY – like secretly wearing your pajamas to the supermarket comfy. And when the weather is this hot, that’s a huge plus.

Siobhan xx

Geneva notes – Dressing up the neighbourhood

Paquis is my neighbourhood. Aside from a brief flirtation in Ferney, it is the only Geneva I have ever known. And it gets mixed reviews. It is the red light district, there is a bustling trade in narcotics, it’s where the drunks come to chill etc. On the other hand, it has great restaurants, it’s right by the lake and it generally feels a little more vibrant and a little more creative than some other Geneva neighbourhoods.

Today’s note is a case in point – a community project called Les Pâquis se rhabillent (Paquis gets dressed). Since October last year a group of urban knitters of all ages have been meeting, knitting and plotting to re-dress our neighbourhood.

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About two weeks ago we started to see signs of what they had been working on. Handrails, bollards, trees, benches – slowly and as if by magic, everyday objects were transformed by colour and texture into pieces of art.

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Saturday marked the official inauguration. We ran down to the square when we heard them coming. A parade of young and old, led by a band of jester-musicians, danced around the sites that had been decorated.

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It was raucous and joyous and wonderful.

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Siobhan xx

Geneva notes

I am going to put this out there (deep breath) – I like Geneva.

For anyone who doesn’t know, this is a controversial statement. By far the most common expat conversation you have/overhear in this town goes like this – omg Geneva is sooooo dull, sooooo boring, nothing eeeeever happens, it’s got nooooo soul. I am soooo flying to x this weekend, because really who’d want to be stuck here??

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I am guilty of having indulged in these conversations myself. Particularly when I first arrived. Because compared to London, Paris, Barcelona, Rome etc. yeah it feels kind of small, parochial even. We don’t get too many big names here. The MAMCO collection rotates pretty slowly. Geneva is not a popular stop for headline musicians. Gourmet burgers just arrived last year as the new big food movement and it is still hard to find a good vegan meal anywhere (apart from this place, which is awesome, and I’m not even vegan).

BUT – I think what I’ve learned in the years that I’ve lived here is that you’ve got to stop comparing Geneva to everywhere else, and just embrace the things it’s good at. Like the lake. Where in Paris can you float the afternoon away in a pristine lake and watch cloud animals chase each other over the alps? Nowhere, that’s where.

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I’m not saying it’s my favourite town on earth. I’m definitely not saying I want to live here forever. I’m just saying Geneva, I like you. And to switch things up a bit I thought I’d try some new posts, focusing on creative happenings of all shapes and sizes here in G-town (and the surrounding area). I’m calling them Geneva notes. Let’s see how we get on.

Siobhan xx

Eeeeeep – I’m a Sewing Indie Month Finalist!!

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I entered my peplum top into the Sewing Indie Month competition, under the “Pattern Hack” challenge and I’m delighted to have made it to the finals (there is some seriously impressive competition).

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If you’d like to vote for me, and help me win all kinds of exciting sewing goodies, you can do so by clicking here, and selecting the second number 12 entry. There was a bit of a muddle with the poll, so it’s not actually listed as my name, but hey, these things happen. If you scroll down you can see lovely Rhonda’s correction/explanation in red.

Voting ends Friday 13th June 2014.

Thanks so much

Siobhan xx

Maybroidery Update

As you might have guessed, I am a liiiiittle behind with my Maybroidery challenge. This is partially due to getting far too carried away on certain motifs – not compatible with a tight deadline, especially for a slow stitcher. It’s also partially due to other simultaneous crafting efforts and, well, life and stuff.

Anyhoo, I have made some progress. I’ve done 16 motifs so I’m half way there. Despite being slow I’ve really enjoyed the process and I definitely intend to do the rest. Here’s a little Instasnap of some of my progress so far:

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As you can see, I’ve stitched some far more densely than others. This wasn’t really a conscious decision, but I like that variation. I think they’ll look pretty all together.

I’ve also been making a conscious effort to try and learn some new stitches along the way. The stamen of the bottom middle flower are sewn with a “Pistel Stitch”, a fancy variation of the french knot. There’s a great tutorial for the pistil stitch (and a million others) over at Sarah’s Hand Embroidery.

Siobhan xx

Peplum Top

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The month of May 2014 was decreed by the sewing blogosphere (or a good part thereof) to be “Sewing Indie Month” – a month-long celebration of some of the fantastic independent pattern designers out there.

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What is it that makes these trailblazers so awesome? Let me count the ways:

  1. Firstly, the style of indie patterns tends to be fresh, modern and clean. The same cannot always be said for the big 4 (Vogue, McCalls, Butterick and Simplicity), whose patterns can sometimes feel a little fussy and dated. Side note – if you want a giggle, check out Lladybird’s reviews each time Vogue release a new line. Honestly, on a grey day, posts like this and this are all I need.
  2. Secondly, indie patterns tend to be written in a friendly, jargon-free, accessible way. They don’t assume you have 10 years of experience, they just want you to be able to make something you will wear and love. This makes them ideal for newbs.
  3. Thirdly, in addition to the patterns themselves, a lot of indie designers post blog tutorials and host sewalongs to give you even more support and encouragement. This not only makes things easier, it also connects you to a community of sewists who are all working on the same thing, which I love.

I could go on but let’s get back to Indie Sewing Month. As part of the celebration there were a number of challenges set, one of which was “pattern hacking” – taking a pattern and modifying or customizing it in some way. I’d never really done this (unless you count sticking a gathered skirt on the Elisalex pattern, but that is super simples) so I thought I’d give it a go and try to create a peplum top.

Now, I have to admit, this is a trend that had largely passed me by until the oh-so-stylish peplum-queen Chinelo Bally landed on my tellybox in GBSB II.

p01wjpxdWas anyone else totally mesmerised by everything Chinelo wore/made? And that freehand cutting business?? Actual magic. I heard a rumour that she’s started teaching classes too – UK sewing friends, get on it!!

Having decided on the pattern, the fabric choice was easy – the geeky glasses/blue chevron Echino linen/cotton I picked up in Japan. Yellow on the bodice, chevron on the peplum – I could see it in my mind’s eye and it was good!

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I chose BHL’s Anna dress as my base bodice, since I thought the slash neck and kimono sleeves would give the large print plenty of room to play with. This also gave me an opportunity to revisit the pattern and address the fit issues I noticed on my first attempt. I made toiles people – two of em. I used Ginger’s awesome cut-and-pivot method on the front and back to take out the bagginess on the neckline. I tacked in an invisible zip (instead of guessing and pinning). It was a proper job, and the result was a much better fit… I should probably accept that these things go hand-in-hand!

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Stashbusting toile

When it came to the peplum, toil-ing it up was super straightforward. I used the calculations for a standard circle skirt, estimated the length (20cm), tried it on with the bodice to work out where the waist seam should be, and then tacked it on. I loved the look and got very excited at this point. I then got out my “proper” fabric and my heart sank a little. The strip of blue chevron was faaaaar too thin to do the peplum I wanted – wah! I decided to carefully sew strips of the chevron together until I got a piece that was wide enough. Even with 3 m worth of pieces there still wasn’t quite enough for my full circle, but we’ll come back to that later.

To avoid having an(other) seam down the front, I cut out one half circle and two quarter circles, adding an additional seam allowance to the quarter circles (for the zip). This also gave me a chance to pattern-match all the seams.

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I tried to be careful with my pattern placement on the bodice too, making sure to pattern match across the back as best I could, and positioning the glasses so they sat nice and whole under the neckline. Things get a little funky around the darts but I don’t think that can be helped… TBH I also totally forgot about the shoulders so it’s a bit of a mess up there. Moving on.

This was my first experience using an invisible zip foot and it went surprisingly smoothly – at first. That was until I noticed that the waistline didn’t exactly match up. Bouyed by the apparent easiness of the whole invisible zip lark, I unpicked the area around the zip, re-pinned and went again. THIS WAS AN ERROR. I ended up having two goes and still the zip is undeniably less invisible around the waistline. Excessive ironing helped but didn’t totally fix the problem. Lesson learned – do not mess with a well-inserted invisible zip.

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Lastly I cut some wide strips of bias binding from the yellow to finish the edge of the peplum and disguise the areas where the pattern runs out. As I said, I’m pretty delighted with the finished item. I love the dramatic silhouette.

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So that’s my hack. This challenge is being hosted by Rhonda over at Rhonda’s Creative Life. Head over to see all the impressive hacks other folks have come up with. Including another superdooper peplum top, using the Elisalex as a base. Must put that on my to do list…

Siobhan xx

 

My First Knitadventure – Coco

I recently came across an online sewing community called The Monthly Stitch. The brainchild of sewist bloggers Kat, Mel and Juliet, TMS sets monthly challenges which are then blogged through a shared WordPress platform. As I’ve said before, I’m a fan of anything community-oriented and, whilst the general standard is perhaps a little higher than mine, I thought it’d be a great way to set goals and learn from more experienced makers. So I signed right up.

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The challenge for this month is called “Sew Stretchy” and the idea is to put aside the wovens and create items with knit fabrics instead. This came at a good time for me, as there was one particular item on my “to-sew” pile that had been eyeing me for a while – Tilly and the Buttons’ Coco.

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Like many others at the less experienced end of the sewing spectrum, I’ve always been wary of knits. They are, for anyone who doesn’t know, the stretchy fabric family. Think t-shirts, leggings and other comfy clothing. The idea of being able to make those items myself (rather than relying on H&M) was always undeniably attractive. But knits are preeeeetty high maintenance compared to wovens. Their stretchiness means they can be more easily pulled out of shape, and they are far more wont to wiggle around whilst cutting/pinning/sewing. You also need to sew them with a special needle that won’t snag (it pushes the fibres to the side rather than piercing them) and you need to use a stitch that will stretch with the fabric slightly. Sounds like a lot to take on board no? That’s why I’d never tried.

BUT I am delighted to report that it all went pretty smoothly. Admittedly this was largely thanks to Tilly’s awesome instruction booklet that comes with the pattern (there is also a sewalong on her website with even more pointers). I held the fabric carefully as I cut, used the special needle, zigzagged my seams, went slowly on the pedal and it was all good. I even used a double needle to do the topstitching. This was another first but I am in love, it gives such a fancy-looking finish.

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I went for the funnel neck and cuff variation, which I also love. Being on the curvier end of the scale I usually avoid anything approaching a roll-neck, but this is a whole different ballgame – comfy, flattering, lovely. Fit-wise I’m pretty happy, although I now realise the shoulders could maybe have done with a bit of a lift. As suggested, I tried it on with the side seams pinned and took it in a bit at the waist to make it slightly more fitted. The length is a little shorter than I’m used to, but then again (as the Mr astutely observed) that’s the look isn’t it?

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The fabric is Charley Harper Twigs in Mineral, a gorgeously soft cotton interlock I ordered from Grünemeter. I wanted to make a real feature of the patch pockets, so I went for pale grey leather from my stash (Swiss sewing buddies, Manor often has bags of leather scraps on sale) which I think makes a great contrast. I wasn’t entirely sure which needle I should be using at this point (leather AND stretch??) but I stuck with the stretch one and it worked out fine. As I couldn’t pin the pockets on (holes in leather last forever) I resorted to masking tape, which worked out fine. Although, for anyone thinking of testing this method, avoid double-layering at the corners, it makes it hard to rip off afterwards!!

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All round, I really enjoyed this one. The end result is a comfy, stylish weekend dress I’m sure I’m going to get a lot of wear out of. And I’m so glad to have finally addressed my (unnecessary) fear of knits. Next stop – tshirt town.

Siobhan xx