Time pressures? What time pressures?

New Year’s Eve is a strange thing; for some people there’s nothing they like more than staying out into the wee small hours, giddy and drunk on the promise of a new year, whilst for others they couldn’t care less and are happily tucked up in bed like on most other nights of the year.

I am not one of the latter people.

And as one of those who like a good party on NYE, I also like to have a fancy dress to wear.

This year (16 into 17) I was thinking about my dress for months. Not on purpose. It was more that I had a vision in my head of the perfect dress that I wanted to make but no opportunity to wear it. A leopard print wiggle dress. Outrageous but, for NYE, just outrageous enough.

I found a pattern, I found some amazing leopard print scuba in Dalston, I was away.

And then, at 4:30pm on New Year’s Eve I actually tried on the dress (I’d not had a chance to before then because of various Christmas crafting projects and Christmas being social projects).

It was a disaster. Not unsalvageable. But certainly not something that could be sorted before heading out to a party.

I had less than two and a half hours before we headed out, and I needed to eat in that time. It would have been madness to try and make something new in that time, right?

Right.

I did it anyway…..


What is it?

A slash neck dress with a three quarter circle skirt.

Is it blue?

No, but it is a turquoisey green which can sometimes count….

What’s the fabric and where’s it from?

A gorgeous African wax print that I bought from the rag market during Sew Brum.

What’s the pattern?

The By Hand London Anna dress with the three quarter circle skirt I drafted for my Christmas dress

What was good about making this?

Erm, getting it done in two hours (allowing for the break for dinner)? I cut the fabric out not really sure if I would actually manage to get it done in time, so getting it all sorted felt pretty good. Plus, in amongst the mild mania of the creation, I managed to get a neat pattern match on the bodice back and I’m really pleased with the pattern placement of the yellow spiral on the bodice.

Would you look at the pattern placement on that….

What was bad about making this?

I did feel pretty rude when our friends turned up for pre-drinks and I went “can’t talk, got to hem!”. They all went and played some weird game about Vikings (so weird, a half hour of googling can’t find it…) with the boy instead. To be honest, based on the sounds of confusion they were making, I’m not sure who got the worst deal there….

SWOOOOOOSH

Would you make it again?

I would. I’m smitten with this dress and have worn it a couple of times already in the last month. It swooshes ever so nicely and is dressy without feeling over the top.

Although next time, I might try to take my time with it.

x

The most ridiculous time of the year

Before we start, yes, it is now February. And yes, this is a blog post about Christmas. Your point…?

SO VERY EXCITED

Ah Christmas. A time for all sorts of ridiculous things, including, for reasons I’m still not entirely sure of, a decision to make matching Christmas outfits for me and the boy, along with a bow for Pickle, and then pose for a “family photo” which got used on all of our Christmas cards….

To avoid us turning into a Buzzfeed listicle about people who love Christmas a bit too much, I’m not going to post either the actual photo or any of the out-takes. If you’re really good, maybe, just maybe, Father Christmas will bring them to you next year / I’ll show the picture to you at some point in the future in a real world setting.

It went into the real world too!
(This is just before I went out for my work’s Christmas do.)

What is it?

For me; a holly print dress with a sweetheart neckline and three-quarters circle skirt. The boy had a waistcoat and bow tie of the same material, whilst Pickle had a bow that was attached to her collar.

Is it blue?

No

What’s the fabric and where’s it from?

I bought several metres of holly print polycotton from Minerva Crafts. I lined my dress with some cream cotton I already had, and the waistcoat with white fabric from the rag market.

Imagine this is being worn by a man with a beard.
Also, note the holly shaped buttons #twee

What’s the pattern?

My dress is a modified Mortmain dress by Gather patterns; the sweetheart is the same one used on the second space dress whilst I drafted the three-quarters circle skirt specifically for this dress. The waistcoat is Simplicity 8023 view A, and I copied the bow tie from a pre-existing bow tie that the boy has. Pickle’s bow was the easiest of all; a square of fabric tied together and attached to a new collar, so no pattern needed!

What was good about making this?

The best thing was probably the fact that it made me laugh every time I thought about what we were doing, and then laugh again every time I have seen the picture since. Or maybe the actual best thing was when the cards started landing and people were telling us how much they had enjoyed the cards. That was pretty nice too.

(and yes, that’s a horrendously corny answer, but if you can’t be corny at when writing about Christmas, when can you be corny?)

Why yes, there is a cat treat out of shot to get her to look up long
enough to show off her fancy bow tie. How did you guess?

What was bad about making this?

There was a fair bit of strategy involved in getting Pickle involved in the photo, which probably counts as part of the making. In the end, we got the collar on her the day before so that she wouldn’t then run away as soon as I tried to pick her up for the photo (she hates having her collar changed).

Would you make it again?

This was a fairly niche make… And whilst I have already had friends ask what our plan for next Christmas is, I’m a bit worried about making a rod for my own back. So for now, let’s say no, but maybe ask me again in December / next February!

x

I cord-n’t stop the awful puns


In the middle of the summer, I got in to my head that the dress I wanted for autumn was a blue needlecord dungaree dress. I didn’t know why, it was just what I wanted.

Time marched on, and I found myself in September, having not bought any corduroy. Tilly & the Buttons had just launched Cleo so suddenly the internet was awash with dungaree dresses.

Still I didn’t pull my finger out.

Then, I went to Hong Kong, and when I came back I knew exactly what the first thing I was going to make was. That dungaree dress I’d had my eye on for months. It took me until the middle of November. It was worth it.

Coupled with my trust Belle and Sebastian brooch

What is it?

A corduroy dungaree dress

Is it blue?

Yes!

What’s the fabric and where is it from?

The fabric is a thickish corduroy which is actually leftover sofa material from the time that I made a sofa cover that I then dyed blue with machine dye. The whole process made me feel like a wizard, which was pretty cool.


What’s the pattern?

It’s a mash up of the Hollyburn skirt and the Cotton & Chalk Sunday Set pattern, which I got free with a copy of Simply sewing magazine. I really liked the dungaree part of the Sunday Set, but wanted a longer skirt, and I also wanted slash pockets in the skirt which the Hollyburn has.

What was good about making it?

The sense of achievement pulling together lots of different patterns to make a dress was pretty cool. I also like the fact that I’ve managed to make something that combines my usual style with something a bit more casual.

On top of this, I got to use my trusty clamp (or whatever it is they’re called; the squeezy plier things) to squeeze the jeans buttons in place, and that’s always fun.

Look how neat it looks!

Finally, the two tone effect that occurred due to the machine dying meant that not only does the fabric have a really interesting variation in it, but the cutting and sewing was a piece of cake as everything was in clear straight lines.

What was bad about making it?

Turning the dungaree straps. Oh man that was a pain. They’re quite long, and quite thing, which, adding in the thickness of the fabric meant it was totally unwieldy to deal with.

Would you make it again?

Probably not. Not because I don’t love it (and indeed, I’ve had a load of wear out of it over the last two months) but, realistically, I don’t think I’d wear another dungaree dress!

x

(Cotton) diamonds are a girl’s best friend

Reader, I have a confession. I have become a bit obsessed by African wax print.

It started out innocently enough; I noticed on Instagram that some bloggers (particularly Roisin and Vicky) were posting up dresses made from super vibrant bold patterned fabric. Something about the vibrancy sparked an affection for the fabric, but it wasn’t something I saw when physically fabric shopping so I watched from afar.

Then I started to see wax cotton on my rounds of the rag market, and realised how well priced it is. The affection strengthened, moving into an attraction. I even bought a piece, relatively subdued in pattern as it was, and used it for my Colette Rue, marvelling at how workable the fabric was.

The attraction morphed further.

Things came to a head towards the end of September. In my day job, I work predominantly from home, but when I’m in London I work out of an office that’s based in Rich Mix.

Which is a ten minute walk from Middlesex Street, one of the hubs of wax print in London.

Which I then discovered having not previously realised it.

Faced with overwhelming choice and a serious heap of desire I caved, and came back two wonderfully joyful outrageous pieces of fabric. The obsession was fixed…

 

What is it?

A strappy summer dress with a princess seam bodice and gathered skirt.

Is it blue?

Some of the panels are blue, as are the lines that connect the little roundels.

My house is on Bank Street. Cue obligatory ridiculous posing….

What’s the fabric and where’s it from?

An amazing piece of African wax cotton from Middlesex Street. I think I bought it in Good Luck Textiles, but, based on the number of stores in the area, you could into any of them and have a blast.

What’s the pattern?

I used the By Hand London Charlie dress, using a gathered skirt rather than a circle skirt, as per the strawberry dress.

What was good about making this?

How truly wonderfully vibrant it is. I did some pattern matching on the bodice that seemed to actually work (a feat for me….), and I also liked the pattern placement that I did with the roundels central on the bodice.
It came together relatively quickly and felt like a fun thing to sew, probably based on the happiness of the pattern.

What was bad about making this?

I spent a while wondering about the skirt length, and, although I ended up going for the shorter length, still wonder if I made the right decision and should have stuck with midi length (although it’s definitely too late for that now….). I also had worries that I wouldn’t actually wear the dress because it’s that bit more vibrant than my usual makes. I shouldn’t have though, as it was amazing to wear and, even if it ends up being mainly a summer holiday dress, it is still wonderful.


Would you make it again?

I do really like the Charlie pattern, so I wouldn’t be surprised if I made another. I also have a lot of fabric left (pretty standard where wax cotton is concerned as it comes in 6 yard chunks) so I may well make a skirt in the same fabric that might, possibly, be a way to wear the print more regularly.

x

#2017usenine


It’s 2017. Goodness. Wherever did 2016 go?

With the approach of a new year, all sorts of resolutions get called, with people declaring that this is the year they’re going to lose weight, find a new job, run a marathon and all sorts of other big achievements that seem like a great idea when you’re fuelled by fizzy wine and it’s ten to midnight and you don’t actually think you want to do any of those things but it feels like a thing you should do.

Sometimes I think there can be a similar drive within the sewing community to commit to making all sorts of things over the course of the coming twelve months. We see the hashtag #2017makenine and all the plans other sewers have and get caught up thinking about our own plans.

For me, this has led to a #2017makenine but also a #2017usenine.

One of the things I am acutely aware of at the moment is that my stash is getting bigger and bigger, and that I keep buying new things with plans to use them, but then a new favourite comes along and pushes it to the side. So, with that in mind, I’m committing to using these nine fabrics in 2017.

These are actually all relatively recent purchases, but part of the plan here is that they don’t become like other parts of my stash where the drive has gone and they linger waiting for a new project (besides which, some of those are covered by my make nine pattern choices). I’m not saying I’ll use all of them, but it will certainly be interesting to see if I have when this time next year rolls around!

How about you? Do you have a #2017usenine alongside your #2017makenine?

(And for those interested, my make nine are: Sew Over It vintage shirt dress; Closet Case Ginger jeans; Simple Sew Trudy dress; Tilly and the Buttons Orla top; Deer & Doe Pavota jacket; Deer & Doe  Datura blouse; the Ripple Wrap Blouse from Rosie Martin’s No Patterns Needed; the Brighton skirt from Wendy Ward’s A Beginners Guide to Skirts; and a desire to finally use my bodice block and draft myself some more dresses)

X

Pearl & Dean have nothing on me

Well my dears, it’s been quite a while since I dropped by here. Some of that is work related, as things have really stepped up a gear over the last couple of weeks, whilst some of it is much fun and sewing related (although, in fairness, my job gets to be pretty fun too sometimes!

I’ll do proper updates on my recent makes over the coming few weeks, along with a few posts about the adventures I’ve had, but, like a series of adverts in the cinema, here’s what’s coming to a screen near you soon:

  • Two day dresses
  • A party frock
  • Possibly the greatest photo I have ever taken
  • Thoughts on meet ups
  • A series of unselfish acts (well, it is the most wonderful time of the year!)
  • Some resolutions for the future

And now, for today’s main feature; Hong Kong fabric shopping!

I was lucky enough to get to go to Hong Kong at the end of October. I went with my mum and dad, and had an absolute blast; we went to the Big Buddha, did a trip around some of the islands, went to the top of Victoria Peak, trawled the markets of Kowloon, rode the Star Ferry about thirty times (not enough times for my liking!) and generally ate and drank our way around a host of amazing places.

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On the cable car up to the Big Buddha

And of course, I managed to sneak in not one but TWO trips for fabric shopping.

The first was an organised trip of the most wonderful serendipity. It turned out that the wonderful Vicky was in Hong Kong at the same time as me, and, probably unsurprisingly, was also interested in a spot of fabric shopping. So, on the Thursday of our trip, along with my mum (and, much to his bemusement, my dad) we found ourselves in Sham Shui Po, probably the best area in Hong Kong for fabric shopping.

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(This is from a fab video Vicky made that you can find here)

Quite a few of the stores were wholesale, with an amazing array of coloured swatches hung up outside for people to take away and consult (I wanted to take the whole rainbow with me, but wasn’t sure what I’d do with one inch square pieces of fabric). Sadly, most of these places required you to order two to three days in advance of delivering the fabric, and coupled with my non-existent Cantonese it just wasn’t to be.

However, we did manage to find a couple of shops that were more like the fabric shops I’m used to. My absolute favourite was an Aladdin’s cave of a shop where Vicky and I were constantly in danger of having the rolls come tumbling on to us (and, indeed, in once case they did….). The shopkeeper added to the appeal, not least when, looking at my poor dad’s confusion about just why three women were going “oooh” at seemingly identical rolls of fabric, she offered him her seat!

I came away with a couple of interesting pieces, none of which have yet been made up, but which will all be revealed in time.

Then, the second trip was another act of serendipity. My dad had decided to get a suit tailored whilst we were in Hong Kong, and we were on our way to go and pick it up from the tailors. We came out of the metro and walked past another tailor. A tailor with a massive bounty; bags and bags of fabric, all neatly packaged up and all 50 HKD each. That’s a fiver. Five pounds. For high quality suiting and dressmaking fabrics.

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An actual treasure trove!

Needless to say, mum and I were on it like a pair of magpies, and I came away with some absolute beauties, including some blue Chinese silk brocade and leopard print sateen. There weren’t any guides as to how big each piece was, but I figured I’d at least get a top out of each piece. In actuality, each piece is at least two metres long meaning there’s some rather fancy dresses in my future.
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All the loveliness!

So there we have it; two really rather successful trips. Indeed, they were so successful that I couldn’t actually fit all the fabric in to my suitcase and had to put them in a second suitcase….. Thank goodness for Emirates’ 30kg luggage allowance!

x

Sofa so good*

27 August 2013.

According to the internet, it’s the day an Australian journalist, a Chinese director and a Welsh golfer died. It’s also the day that I posted this picture on Twitter (yes, Twitter. These were pre-Instagram days as far as I was concerned)

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(Yes, I was blonde then)

I’d just bought (more than) enough fabric to cover the sofa in my flat.

9 October 2016.

I finally did something about it.

What is it?

A sofa cover; more accurately, a cover for a base, and two covers for back cushions.

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So proud of this!

Is it blue?

No, it’s green. This was a conscious decision for a flat two homes ago, but remarkably still works in the place we live in now.

What’s the fabric and where’s it from?

The fabric is green corduroy that I bought from Fancy Silk Store. I’m fairly certain that they couldn’t believe I wanted to buy as much as I did (if memory serves, I predicted I’d need about 7 metres. I didn’t).

What’s the pattern?

It’s a DIY / self-draft, based on a net for the base and two sausage shapes with pillow case closures for the back cushion.

imageBefore and after. The difference is amazing.

What was good about making this?

It has made such a difference to the living room to put a new cover on the sofa, I really underestimated the impact it would have. I’m also amazed at both how quickly it came together (4 hours from measuring out pieces to being finished) and at how little fabric I actually needed (I reckon about 4m in total).

Well, these things, but mainly the fact that the boy will stop nagging me to make the sofa cover now)

What was bad about making this?

That it took me so long to get around to doing something so simple. I could have made one a year and had three different sofa covers in between times if I’d just pulled my finger out.

Would you make it again?

Now I know how easy it is, I think I would, although it’ll be at least a year or two before I do as these things are designed to be long lasting.

As an additional plus, all those extra metres of fabric mean that I might finally get around to making the dungaree dress I’ve been dreaming of all autumn (although, I hasten to add, I’m planning to dye it first so that I don’t disappear when I sit down!)

x

*I’m so sorry for how bad this pun is. It was literally the best I could come up with. If I had a school report for pun writing, right now it would say “must try harder”. Except the teacher would have come up with a punnier way to express that.

You all know which Kaiser Chiefs’ song we should be singing right now*

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I was really excited back in the summer to be invited to take part in the Simple Sew Blogger’s team. This is a fabulously talented group of sewists, each of whom brings their own unique take on the range of patterns that Simple Sew produce.

When it came to be time to make my first pattern, I had my eye on Ruby, and was lucky enough to get to give it a go. You can read my tutorial for sewing Ruby on the Simple Sew blog here, but I thought I’d stick with my usual style for this post (what can I say, I’m a creature of habit!)

What is it?

A boat necked, fitted bodice dress with a circle skirt.

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Is it blue?

No!

What’s the fabric and where’s it from?

The fabric is a heavy weight crepe I bought from the rag market for £1/m. I’d originally planned to make a Sew Over It Betty dress and whilst this pattern is slightly different (mainly down to the shorter skirt), it seemed like a great choice for the Ruby instead.

What’s the pattern?

Ruby by Simple Sew

What was good about making this?

I love how swooshy this dress is, so getting to dance about in the garden was pretty awesome. It was great as a way to help me get over my, not fear, but ambivalence towards circle skirts. I’ve always thought they’re a bit too much hassle than they’re worth, hence my preference for a gathered skirt, but there is something nice about the way this lies that makes me think I should give them another go.

I also really like the fact that, because I made this in a plain fabric (I know! What was I thinking?!) I was able to get away with much less fabric than I expected as pattern matching wasn’t a thing. At all. Which was pretty dreamy in itself.

I tried to get Pickle to pose with me. She was having none of it.

What was bad about making this?

Hmm. So there were a couple of things that I found less fun with this pattern. Slightly strangely (or at least, slightly strange based on the patterns I’ve sewn previously), this pattern didn’t give body measurements, just finished measurements, with no indication of how much ease is given. So I had to guess my size based on what I’d expect based on my experience of similar patterns. I guessed correctly for my stomach, but it turns out that they draft these patterns for women who are slightly more …. well endowed … than I am.

It’s actually kinda funny when you think about it…

Oh sod subtlety. They draft for women with bigger boobs than me, which meant that I had a perfectly fitting dress apart from 6 inches in the middle where the fabric sagged something rotten. I managed to fix it by putting in some super darts that were pretending to be princess seams, but it’s not a fantastic fix.

I also had to put a pleat in the centre front of the skirt as although I staystitched the pieces, the skirt stretched out of shape slightly, so this was the best way to save it.

That v-back in all its glory

Would you make it again?

So I love the v-back to this dress, and the waist fit, and the neckline and the swoosh of the skirt, but that bust has put me off. I know I should just suck it up and learn how to do a small bust allowance, but, well I’m scared. Once I get over myself I think I probably will make it again, but until then, I think this might be one to chalk up to experience.

On the plus side, it does look pretty fabulous with a petticoat underneath, so maybe I’ll change my mind!

x

*and if you don’t, it’s this one

Disclaimer: whilst Simple Sew sent me the Ruby dress pattern for free, I have received no other payment and the views expressed here are my own

Stationery addicts of the world unite!

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I’ve mentioned before how I have a habit of developing long lasting love affairs with particular fabrics, agonising over them, debating, walking back and forth like an expectant parent before finally biting the bullet and buying them.

This is one of those fabrics.

This particular love affair started quite some time ago, certainly the start of the summer (ah! Summer love!) and I knew it was exactly what I wanted. The colours are perfect and the interchanging pencils and sharpenings spoke to every part of my psyche that spent each summer at school agonising over what to buy for the coming year’s pencil case.

Despite this, I just couldn’t quite pluck up the courage to buy it. At least, I couldn’t until Sew Brum, where the positive influence of lots of lovely sewists (but especially Lauren) tipped the balance squarely in its favour!

What is it?

A boat neck fitted bodice dress with a gathered skirt.

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Is it blue?

No, but the lead of one of the pencils is!

What’s the fabric and where’s it from?

The fabric is certainly a Liberty print, but it came from the Liberty Man at the Rag Market for £8/m rather than the standard Liberty £22/m. Coupled with a very slight printing error on one side, this makes me think it might ever so possibly be a misprint rather than the real deal. That said, it is super soft and lightweight which is pretty fabulous.

What’s the pattern?

I used the By Hand London Anna dress for the bodice and matched it with a gathered skirt. I only bought a metre and a half of the fabric (it might be cheap for Liberty but it was still expensive for me!) and was very pleased to find that I could squeeze the dress out of that little; my scraps pile for this project bordered on non-existent!

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What was good about making this?

The speed of sewing was great; I put the fabric in to wash on the Saturday when I got back from town, cut in to it on Sunday afternoon and wore it to work on the Wednesday. It was also a great excuse for buying this sweet as a button pencil sharpener necklace from the Tatty Devine sale. It’s pretty much the perfect partner for this dress.

What was bad about making this?

The only bad thing was discovering the flaw in the fabric. I was pretty heartbroken to begin with, and then I realised that the slightly flecked abstract background of the print overall counteracted this and literally no-one else would notice.

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Would you make it again?

I think so. After the Space Dress I said that I wasn’t too sure, but with the addition of the gathered skirt I’ve found renewed love for this pattern. I’ve also worn it almost ever moment when it’s not been in the wash basket since making it, which is always a good sign!

x

Mother bleeping dinosaurs

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It’s probably no surprise that I’m a bit of a fan of dinosaurs (hi there multiple jumpers, multiple necklaces, and an attraction to line drawings featuring dinosaurs). For quite a while I’ve had a dream of making a dinosaur dress, but finding fabric that wasn’t obviously children’s fabric was pretty difficult. I like the Lizzy House fabric  from a few years ago that a couple of people have used before (with a special shout out to Elle’s fabulous skirt) but I wanted something that was closer to the natural history style drawings in my dinosaur magazine when I was a kid, the thing that was my main introduction to all things dino.

One day, for no reason other than I wanted a five minute procrastination break, I found myself trawling “dinosaur fabric” on etsy. And there it was. The most perfect, naturalistic styled drawings of dinosaurs, all over a 3 yard chunk of fabric.

IMG_5670Needless to say, I bought it as soon as I could, and squealed with delight when it arrived, throwing it straight into the wash. But then it just sat there. A bit like the Nani Iro fabric, I was too darned scared to cut into it.

Roll around September, and this year’s Sew Brum. I knew I wanted a new dress for the day and I knew I wanted it to be something exciting and special. And just like Jurassic Park, it was time to bring dinosaurs back into existence (although with hopefully fewer negative repercussions and people getting eaten by out of control raptors).

What is it?

A mother bleeping dinosaur dress!

10-img_0762Is it blue?

No, but, frankly, in this case, I don’t care

What’s the fabric and where is it from?

DINOSAUR FABRIC! I found it on Etsy back in April, although the seller at the time doesn’t have any left. It’s 1980s cotton, and if you want to try finding it for yourself, the selvedge says “Hollytex” on it.
15-IMG_5671Not that I’m excited, obviously…

What’s the pattern?

The Mortmain, because I wanted something that I knew I could make without worrying and that wouldn’t disrupt the pattern on the front too much. I put a gathered skirt on it this time, and it’s about time too that this happened, it makes it even swooshier than the box pleats on the standard pattern.

What was good about making this?

Getting to work with dinosaur fabric. Once the dinosaur love is out of the way, I’m really pleased with the pattern matching on this one. The side seams are neat as a button, whilst on the back seam I managed to get the T-rex’s tail to match on either side of zip. Plus, at the waistband, I managed to get the pattern to line across the bodice and the waistband across all three bodice pieces. This felt like a real step forwards in the pattern matching stakes.

I finished the neckline and armholes with satin bias binding, and although I’m still not entirely certain it’s the best finishing method, I’ve definitely got neater (tip: slower is better as far as this is concerned!)

Oh, AND pretending to be various dinosaurs whilst the boy was taking my photo (not seen here: diplodocus. That one is DIFFICULT)

What was bad about making this?

I’m not completely convinced about the zip, but that’s more to do with the actual zip being a bit cheap and being two inches too short as I wanted to get it made and ready for this year’s Sew Brum and I only had one day on which to buy a zip. Whether I can be bothered to go about replacing the zip is a different matter…

Would you make it again?

As far as the Mortmain is concerned, never say never!
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