A toasty sweater

Well, winter has arrived a month early in New Zealand! There’s snow on the hills around Wellington, and a savage southerly is whipping through the city. Time to sew some of my stashed merino!

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I really wanted to make the Toaster Sweater pattern from Sew House Seven after seeing so many versions made up during the northern hemisphere winter, I love the split hem with its mitred corners and the funnel neck of version 2. I know I’m in the minority when it comes to the online sewing community, but I really hate turtle necks. I just hate having anything snug around my neck, even tightly wrapped scarves make me feel like I’m suffocating. I thought the funnel neck on this pattern would be wide enough not to freak me out though, and I was right!

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I used some merino interlock from The Fabric Store, and it is the softest, cuddliest merino I’ve ever sewn with. It has a bit more heft than most merino jersey I’ve sewn (obviously, as it’s a double knit), so I thought it might have enough body to keep the shape of the neckline but still drape nicely. I think I was mostly right, the funnel neck does sag a bit in the centre front, but I think if I had interfaced it it might have ended up too stiff.

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I cut it out in a single layer so that I could match the stripes, which was pretty successful. The merino is so soft and stretchy that it was pretty forgiving, but it was a bit tricky to keep it square as I was cutting it out. It also wanted to grow and shift as I sewed it, so I used about 15 times as many pins as I usually would when sewing a knit!

That mitred hem is possibly my favourite part. It was simple enough to sew, but looks so nice and clean! I think I’ll definitely be borrowing that part of the pattern for other tops, it will be easy enough to graft onto another hem.

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So there were a few things about this pattern which I found a bit odd. I had never heard of a double stitch before, which is the method recommended for constructing this top, but it’s when you sew a row of straight stitches and then a row of zigzags next to it. I’m sure it probably works (otherwise it wouldn’t be in the instructions, right?), but I was weirded out by it enough that I just used a narrow zigzag stitch to sew the shoulders and neckline, and then overlocked the side seams and sleeves. the hems are all top-stitched with a twin needle, as usual. I also thought it was weird that the neck facing which folds under to give the funnel shape didn’t extend to the shoulder seams, it means that it’s a bit messy around the shoulders on the inside. Its also super short! I’m really short waisted, and this is the shortest length I would want it to be. Tall sewers beware!

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If I make another Toaster Sweater 2, I think I’ll extend the facing piece so that I can catch it in the shoulder seams when I sew in the sleeves, just to keep it neat and hold down the facing a bit more securely. I think I might go down a size as well. This is the Medium, which is where my measurements put me, but I wonder if it would be a better fit in a Small. In this drapey knit I think the slightly oversized look is fine, but I have a more structured cream wool tentatively earmarked which I think would be a bit tent-like in the bigger size!

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I do like the slightly 1960’s beatnik vibe this top has, especially with my Safran Jeans and some flats. I just need to find a poetry slam or something (I wish I could find a poetry slam, does Wellington have such a thing? I so desperately wanted to see Kate Tempest in September, but she’s only doing one show while we’re in the UK and its the day before the only other thing we have tickets for. Such a bummer!) Zelda also gives it the cat-fur seal of approval, so it must be good. A few more snuggly wool tops, and the southerly can come at me!

Double Denim

At the end of last year, Emma from Emma’s Atelier organised a sewing challenge for the Wellington Sewing Bloggers. We were going to finally stop procrastinating and sew jeans! Now, I got my jeans finished by the end-of-challenge date in March, but the date was pushed back a few times to accommodate others who were still sewing. Eventually the 6th of May was decided on, so I decided to sew up something else for the challenge as I had already blogged my jeans

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I was going to have a crack at some Ginger Jeans, but I didn’t get organised in time. Instead I decided to use the rest of the stretch denim I had left over from my Safran Jeans to make another version of the skirt from v1247. I really liked my first version of this skirt, but it is pretty short, and the fit is all a bit squiffy because I was more worried about pattern matching than the trifling matter of accurate seam allowances…

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This version does fit much better, I don’t have the odd bubbling above the pockets like I did with my first version. Guess those seam allowances do matter huh? I added 3” to the hem of this one, and I prefer the longer length. I also added an exposed zipper up the back (I thought sewing denim and using a metal zip made this skirt enough like jeans to qualify for the challenge!). I used Megan Nielsen’s tutorial for the zip, and it worked fairly smoothly. It isn’t as neat inside as I would like, due to the way the seam allowance gets clipped, but I can live with it! I bound all of the internal seams with Hug Snug, to keep the bulk down (and because I couldn’t be bothered making bias tape). It looks a bit dodgy up close, but if you aren’t looking too closely it looks pretty good!

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I’ve been wearing this skirt heaps since I finished it, I didn’t realise I needed a denim skirt but it has obviously filled a gap in my autumn wardrobe!

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I’ve also made a long sleeved version of the Deer & Doe Melilot Shirt, in a Robert Kaufman chambray from fabric.com (I think it’s this one, but I’m not 100% sure). I love my short sleeved one, so I thought a long sleeved version would go well in my wardrobe, and I was right! I really love this shirt. I’ve seen some mixed reviews of the Kaufman chambray around, but it’s really hard to find lightweight chambray in store in Wellington, so I thought I’d give it a go. It’s really nice and soft, and it pressed and sewed up nicely. Hopefully it’ll wash well, because I’d like this shirt to last.

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This is the first time I’ve sewn tower plackets, and I’m pretty pleased with how they turned out. There was a little bit of head scratching as I tried to get everything to fold correctly, but it all suddenly fell into place and looked like what I was expecting! I put a bar tack right across the top of the split to reinforce it, as I’ll be wearing these sleeves rolled up most of the time, but next time I think I’ll use a shorter vertical bar tack to strengthen that area. The long bar tack is just a bit clumsy looking! I am happy with the way the cuffs turned out, the curves on the cuffs, collar and pockets look really nice together.

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I hemmed this one with some grey bias tape, as I’ve never been happy with the turn and stitch hem treatment on my first shirt. Bias tape just sits so much flatter around those sharp curves at the side seams. The buttons are my favourite mother of pearl shirt buttons from Made Marion Crafts in Wellington.

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I’m not entirely sure what the deal is with those big wrinkles above the pockets on this shirt, I wonder if that just happens with dropped shoulder seams? Any suggestions? I have so many versions of this planned now, I’ve got some rayon for another long sleeved version, and some more cotton for a long sleeved dress hack, and some linen for another short sleeved summer version… I need a job with a smart/casual dress code so I can wear them all!

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In the end, only Emma and I had finished items for the challenge reveal, so here we are in matching denim (she used the same stuff for her Safran Jeans), and with our matching Ida Clutches, before we had delicious chips and soda at Six Barrel Soda Co!

Finally, does chambray count as denim? Is this outfit double denim? I really like both pieces, so I’ve decided not to be to bothered about wearing them together. Double denim is in now anyway, right? I’ve seen the hipsters wearing it for years! Either way, down with fashion rules…

 

Unselfish Knitting

It’s a bit weird, I absolutely hate sewing for other people, but I rather like unselfish knitting. Maybe it’s because I know that there are only so many hand knitted things I need for myself, but I really like the process of knitting, so knitting gifts gets around that problem. I also find that people really appreciate hand knitted gifts (or maybe I only knit for people I know will appreciate it), which is always nice. I decided I was going to knit a scarf for Hamish for his birthday…last year. I got it done on time too, but it’s taken me just over a year to get photographs of it! Such a bad blogger.

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This is another Brooklyn Tweed pattern, the Guilder Scarf by Jared Flood. It was the first thing I made in Zealana Heron, and it definitely made me want to knit my Bronwyn Sweater in it! I picked the Bottle Green colourway, I thought it would be more interesting than grey or black (which is mostly what he wears in the winter), and I like the way it looks on him.

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This was an ambitious pattern for me to pick a year ago, the cable pattern is pretty dense and it took me a lot longer to knit than I expected! To be honest, I was wildly optimistic and decided I was going to knit this a month out from his birthday, so any pattern was going to be a stretch. I must have worked on it every spare minute of that month, trying to keep it hidden from him was a nightmare! This pattern taught me a bunch of new techniques, it was the first time I had done a tubular cast on and tubular cast off, and the first time I tried knitting an I-cord. The I-cord edging is a really nice feature of this pattern, it looks so tidy and I love how it matches the rounded edge created by the tubular cast on/off.

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I did manage to get it finished in time, though I was sewing the Kitchener stitch for the bind off on my way home from work on his birthday! I think it was only wrapped up for about 20 minutes between me finishing it and me giving it to him over his birthday dinner. Consequently, it’s unblocked. I meant to block it after giving it to him, but unsurprisingly I’ve never got around to it. It’s actually pretty even, and doesn’t look like it desperately needs it! He wore it lots last winter, and when I realised that he’d taken it away with us at Easter, I took my chance to get some photos at last.

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I also took my chance to get some photos of one of the merino tee shirts I made him for Christmas. The pattern is the Men’s Classic Tee Shirt pattern from the Great British Sewing Bee Fashion with Fabric book. It’s a slightly drop shouldered tee pattern with sleeve cuffs, which I have just hemmed like usual because they kept unfolding and were driving him nuts. I’ve made him three tee shirts from this pattern now, they fit him pretty well and he wears them all the time. This one looks too tight and wrinkly in these pictures, but I think it’s just a bit twisted because he took his jumper off just before I took these photos! It is a slim fitting tee-shirt, which he likes. This one and the first one I made are sewn up in merino jersey from The Fabric Store, and the third is made in a really lightweight merino loop-backed sweatshirting. I sewed them all up on the overlocker, and used a twin needle for hemming and top stitching the neckbands.

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I’m really glad he likes both the scarf and the tee shirts, it’s nice to see him wearing things I’ve made. He wanted to know how I wanted him to wear the scarf for his “photo shoot”, and I told him to just wear it like he usually did. Then I looked up from fiddling with the camera to find him like this, so naturally I took a photo and told him I was putting it on the internet. At least his ears/nose won’t be getting cold this winter! I also told him he didn’t need to put his jumper on for these photos (it was pretty warm), and he told me that he’d look ridiculous, as he’d never wear a scarf with bare arms. So that was me told! I’ll need to get him to style my photo shoots sometimes…

My Bronwyn Pullover (or, how I knit all the cables ever.)

Happy Easter/ long weekend everyone! We made our annual trip out to the boonies to spend the long weekend dancing Balboa and eating excelent food in a rural lodge overlooking the sea, which is always a nice relaxing time. It’s also a gorgeous environment to take photos (away from the teal wall), so I took advantage of the scenery and of my friend Lauren’s willingness to be photographer to get some pictures of my recently finished Bronwyn Pullover.


I loved this pattern as soon as I saw it on the Brooklyn Tweed Instagram page! It’s by Melissa Wehrle, and was released in May last year as part of the BT Wool People 10 collection. I had been planning to knit another cabled Brooklyn Tweed pattern as part of my #makenine2016 plans, but I switched patterns once I saw this one. Ravelry says I started knitting this in July last year, so I was apparently a bit ambitious thinking I would have it done by the end of the year… To be honest I could have knitted it faster, but I got distracted by a couple of other projects and then the idea of knitting it over summer wasn’t so appealing, so it’s taken me about 7 months to complete! 


The wool is Zealana Heron, a 10 ply merino/possum blend. This is actually the second thing I’ve knitted in Heron (the first has been finished for over a year, but only got photos last weekend, whoops), and it is so lovely. The yarn is almost felted together, so it just looks like a single fuzzy, lofty strand rather than two or three strands twisted together. I’m sure there’s a technical term for that, but hopefully you know what I mean! The 20% brushtail possum fur gives the jumper a lovely soft halo, and makes it super warm. As well as feeling amazing, I also just like the idea of wearing something knitted out of NZ wool and which directly aides in the conservation of New Zealand native bush by using possum. I know possums are considered cute fluffy little critters in a lot of the world (Australia, looking at you), but they’re a conservation disaster in New Zealand. They eat the eggs of our native birds (which need all the help they can get, given that a lot of them can’t fly and so nest on the ground), and are massively destructive to our native flora as well. So there are plenty of reasons for me to keep knitting with Zealana Yarns!


I’m looking a bit awkward in these pictures, there were about 12 people watching! I’m not a natural in front of the camera, let alone in front of an audience. The jumper looks good though, so just focus on that…

This pattern has you knit the jumper in several stages. The front and back hem ribbing sections are knit separately, then are joined in the round and the body is knitted up to the armpits, where the front stitches are put on hold while the back is shaped for raglan sleeves, then the front is picked up and finished in the same way.

Both sleeves are knitted the same from the cuff up in the round, until the raglan sleeve cap, which is different on each sleeve of course. Then the whole lot is seamed together, and the neckband is picked up and knitted. I like knitting in the round, but I also like that the sleeves were knitted separately, as there is a lot of jumper to cart around by that point! This method kept things manageable, but also minimised the seaming (which I’m a fan of!).


This was a really fun project to work on, once I got going. The cables were easy enough to keep track of after a few repititions, and there was enough variety to keep it interesting to knit! I used to hate doing a tubular cast on, even though I love the result, because it’s so fiddly and always seems like it’s going to collapse when I take out the waste yarn (I’m still not too sure why it doesn’t, must be witchcraft), but after doing a tubular cast on for the front and back and both sleeves, I might have got over my dislike. I do really love the split high/low hem, it’s such a nice touch. In fact, I enjoyed all of this jumper, except for the Kitchener stitch bind off for the neckband! I don’t think I’ll ever get over my dislike of Kitchener stitch, I just can’t get my head around the pattern of knit/purl/slip movements to make with the tapestry needle, I’m constantly referring to the tutorial on The Purl Bee. It’s bearable when it’s 12 stitches for the toe of a sock, but the 114 stitches around this neckband were a mission. I couldn’t bear to have the neckband not to match the cast on edges though, so I just sucked it up and did it!


I think this will be my last jumper for a little while, for this winter at least! I’ve got five hand knit jumpers in rotation now, so I’m going to try to focus more on accessories for the rest of the year. I’ve already finished a hat, and I have a scarf cast on, as well as a few pairs of socks planned. That should keep me busy for a wee bit…

Rocky Bottoms

I often buy patterns that take my fancy as soon as I see them, but I don’t often bump them up to the top of my sewing queue. The Named Minttu Swing Top was one example of a pattern I bought and made immediately, and apparently the Megan Nielsen Flint Pants are another!

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I have to admit, these trousers are pretty far outside my usual comfort zone! I tend to go for close fitting garments on my bottom half, skinny jeans and pegged trousers are my standard fare. Cropped wide leg trousers are definitely an anomaly in my wardrobe, I still think they’re probably too fashionable and “cool girl” for me! I loved the samples and the line drawings though, and then I found this slate grey crepe for $3 p/m at The Fabric Warehouse sale and thought I should push myself and give them a go (also, slate+flint=rocky bottoms! Terrible pun, but I’m not deleting it…).

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The pattern sewed up really quickly and easily, the lack of zipper or complicated closure definitely helped to speed things up! Instead, the waistband opens at the left pocket, with the pocket itself acting as a kind of gusset to let you in and out of the trousers, and is held closed by two buttons (or by really cute ties, which I am definitely going to try when I make the shorts version next summer!). I made up a straight size small, and I think the fit is really good. I did have to take an inch off the bottom, and I used a 2 inch hem allowance, but I’m only 158cm tall (5’2″ ish), so that’s to be expected. I considered taking a bit more off the hem, but I couldn’t decide if they looked funny shorter or not. What do you think of the length?

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This crepe fabric was a pretty good pick for these trousers I think! Its lovely and heavy and swishy, which I think helps them not look too overwhelming or clownish. It’s pretty thick, so I did have to grade the seams at the waistband pretty enthusiastically, especially around the pleats and pockets. It’s also polyester (I know, I know, but it’s so drapey and nice, and it was so cheap!), so it doesn’t crease or press very well, so the front pleats aren’t exactly crisp, but that’s ok. it also means they won’t wrinkle with wear, which is a win!

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As usual, I didn’t exactly make things easy for myself. I somehow managed to snip a hole right in the middle of the right front piece as I was cutting it out. I don’t know how I managed it, I must have been waving my scissors around like a maniac, but it was instant panic stations because I definitely didn’t have enough fabric to cut out another leg! In the end, I fused a scrap of interfacing to the hole, and then hand mended it. Thank god it’s mostly hidden in the pleat, because it’s far from an invisible mend! Hopefully most people shouldn’t be looking too closely at my pleats…

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Realistically this is probably how I’ll be wearing my Flint Trousers most of the time, with a tee shirt and flats (the tee shirt is a long sleeved Lark Tee, in a lovely cotton/lycra from Tessuti. I’ve made a few Larks which haven’t made it to the blog yet, I’ll try to sneak them into other posts!), but I think they look nice dressed up with heels and a cami or other fancy top too. Once I have a job which requires grown up clothing rather than pyjamas scrubs, I think they’d be a good addition to a work wardrobe! I think I’ll make another Nettie Bodysuit to wear with these, anything to stop my top wrinkling up underneath them.

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Apologies for these pictures being a bit dark, it’s so gloomy today! The clocks went back for winter in New Zealand overnight, so while I was pleased to get a bonus hour, I’m also bummed that now its going to be getting dark by 5.30-6pm! I need to get a brighter lightbulb for the lamp in my sewing room so that I can do stuff in the evenings…

Minttu Swing Top

Just a quick wee post today to show off my latest finished garment, the Minttu Swing Top from the new Named collection. 


I love Named patterns, I always look forward to their pattern releases, and their SS17 collection Playground didn’t disappoint! Even though I’m in the wrong hemisphere for them to be seasonally appropriate, I still immediately bought both the Minttu and the Ansa butterfly sleeve dress patterns. We’re having a late burst of summer weather in Wellington at the moment, so I thought I might as well squeeze in another sleeveless top!


I have to admit, I didn’t really read the fine print on this one before hitting buy, I didn’t realise it was meant for knits until I was reading the instructions! I swapped out the woven rayon I was planning to use for this rayon/wool knit, I thought it might be better to try the pattern as intended before branching out (though now that I’ve made it, I’m sure it would work in a lightweight woven. I’ll need to size up and adjust the neckline so I can get my head though it though…) This knit is super soft and very drapey, so I think it works pretty well. I made a Scout tee shirt out of it last winter and have worn it heaps, but it is quite thick and weirdly heavy, so it tends to stretch out all over the place.


The combination of weighty knit and lots of stretch and drape means that the hem of this top often looks uneven, but it’s just because I’ve tugged it down unevenly or it’s got caught up on my jeans pocket or something, it goes back to sitting evenly once I settle everything back to where it should be! I do like how this swingy silhouette looks with the drape of this fabric, so I’m not too fussed with having to readjust it occasionally.


The pattern calls for interfaced facings, which has definitely helped to stabilise the neckline and armholes. The main fabric is quite thick, so I used a much thinner, less stretchy knit and a knit interfacing for the facings and I think it has worked well. It’s definitely helped to retain the slightly angular shape of the armscye. I’m not going to lie though, the instructions for attaching the facings at the armscye did my head in! I managed it in the end, but it took me ages to get the pinch and turn-through method that they described right. It looks lovely and clean inside now though! 


It’s really hard to see the seam details in this knit, but there are no side seams, just two side panels which form the shape of the armscye when they intersect with the front and back pieces. I love the cut away armscye, though it isn’t terribly bra-friendly. I need to get one of those clips to turn my bras into racer backs!

I think this is a great pattern, and I’m going to use some of my precious striped rayon knit to make another one. I think the panels offer a good opportunity to play with stripe direction or pattern placement! I think it could be lengthened into a really cute dress as well, but that might have to wait until next summer…

Willow Grove

 

I have to admit, I was a little disappointed when I first saw the Willow Tank/dress pattern from  Grainline Studios. I thought it was a bit boring, but once it started to warm up a bit I realised that woven tanks would be a really good addition to my wardrobe. I was loving my Ogden Camisoles, but I also really like to be able to wear normal (not strapless) bras, so Willow started to look more appealing!

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I’ve made three so far this summer, its a nice quick little project to sew, and doesn’t use too much fabric so is good for some of the precious lengths I have stashed! All three are cotton (perfect for warm weather), but I’d like to have a go at making one out of a fabric with more drape, maybe rayon or silk. It could also be fun in velvet or sequins…

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The first version I made is a cotton from The Fabric Store, I love the water colour gingham print. I’m always really attracted to gingham, but I always worry that it can look a bit childlike. I think the washed out paint-like quality of this one makes it look more adult! I made a straight size 6 (my standard Grainline size), but I drafted an all in one facing for the neckline and armholes. This marks a fairly abrupt change in my feelings about facings, in the past I would always opt for bias tape to finish my edges over facings! I’ve come to really appreciate the clean look facings can give though, even if they can be a bit more of a fiddle.

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I sewed these facings using the instructions that come with the Deer and Doe Datura blouse for sewing an all in one facing with no CB opening. It’s a bit fiddly, and I remember it totally doing my head in when I sewed up my first Datura blouse, but it works really well. I’ve just tried to describe what I did, but it was utterly incomprehensible, so here is a sew-along post for the Datura which describes it instead! For my next two Willow tanks I made my life a bit easier and added a CB seam…

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Not that you can tell there is a centre back seam in this Liberty tana lawn! This is probably my favourite ever Liberty print (I find a lot of Liberty really pretty, but its not something I often want to wear). This is my favourite version of the pattern so far, the lawn is so soft and light to wear, and I think the deep hem helps it hang nicely. Its definitely had a lot of wear so far! I do wish it wasn’t so wrinkly across my back, I didn’t realise how bad it was until I saw these pictures. I’m not sure if I need a sway back fix, or if I need to widen the hem slightly.

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The final version is a cropped version with a faux button placket up the back, because I can’t help myself sometimes. It’s made out of a lovely Japanese cotton seersucker which I bought at Tessuti when I was over in Australia, and have been hoarding. I only had a metre, and being Japanese it was only about 112cm wide, so it was perfect for a cropped version. I took 4 inches off the bottom of the pattern, following the tutorial on the Grainline blog. I was very careful and cut it out in a single layer so that I could match all the stripes, but of course this meant that I cut out two left backs, instead of a pair. I should never try to do anything that requires thinking after 9pm! I didn’t have enough fabric to cut another back half out, so I had to do some careful patching. Luckily, stripes make invisible piecing reasonably simple, and I think I’ve managed ok.

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If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you might be thinking this combination of buttons and stripes looks familiar, and that’s because they’re the same buttons I used up the back of my striped Scout tee a while ago. I’m a bit predictable!

I made this version specifically to go with my Safran Jeans, I’ve been loving the cropped boxy top trend recently, but I’m not keen to be flashing any tummy! This length with my super high waisted jeans is perfect. There is only one problem with it…

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It swings way out in the front! I think this means that I need an FBA, but I’m not sure why it’s doing it here but not on the longer ones. Unless its just because the seersucker is just stiffer than the lightweight cotton of the other two, and that combined with the shorter length is making it look like a cow catcher on the front of a train (thanks to Hamish for that bit of imagery). At least it’ll ensure that there’s plenty of fresh air circulating around my torso when it’s hot! I’ll need to do a bit of experimentation if I want to make another cropped version.

I’m talking about warm weather like it isn’t currently 12 degrees and pissing with rain, but I’m hopeful that we’ll get some more summer before autumn closes in! If not, I’ll need to pack them for our September trip to the UK, in the hope that we’ll get some good weather then…