The New Year and another Esme

Happy New Year to you!  I hope your holidays were merry and peaceful.

I’ve been missing this space but have had my head down this fall, getting through four birthdays in my immediate family, three in my extended family and four holidays, all in only eight weeks.  It’s kind of crazy for my calm, simple-loving head.  Pretty much anything non-essential doesn’t get done from Halloween through the New Year.  One thing that I always relearn during this time is the art of saying “No”.  I say no a lot during November and December and it feels good.  The January ‘Real Simple Magazine’ featured a great article called “Say Yes to Saying No”.  It came at a perfect time (mid-December).  I love that magazine!

Although I have been saying No (a lot) and not blogging much, there has certainly been a lot of crafting going on in this house.  There have been many long walks in the woods too.  I’m getting to know the forest that borders our property and we’ve been getting out for walks to the amazing beaver dams nearby.

We have spent much time playing on the ice, looking for beavers and exploring.  During the busyness of the holidays, I found myself pulling the family and dog outside for several beaver visits.  There was one walk where certain children fought the whole way (and I was very close to losing it) but when we got to our destination, everything melted away and we enjoyed ourselves.  Nature has this great habit of pulling us out of a funk and giving us a new perspective.

As for the crafting, my children were very excited about giving gifts to others this holiday season.  Each child got to pick out a gift for their sibling and they both made Christmas gifts for their special friends  (a stuffed lion named Lioney and Kit Kitterdge, an American girl doll).  They both worked hard on making each friend a small book.  My son’s had pictures and letters written inside (he is starting to write letters now) and my daughter cut hers out of a magazine.  Each were wrapped and put under the tree.  I think I will keep these little books forever!

We’ve also worked on sewing a pair of pj’s for Lioney and my son just finished a little book on all of the different types of boats. My daughter got a sewing machine for Christmas and we’ve made a couple of beds for various stuffed critters.  Kit Kitteredge also got herself a little sewing machine which I think is extremely cute!

During all this crafting, I’ve been doing a bit of sewing and cutting out lots of patterns.  I even had time to complete another Esme dress.  The first one I sewed is here.

 

The material is a dark purple cotton with orange plaid.  I can’t remember where I got the fabric, it might have been Marden’s in Maine.  I sewed the pockets with the plaid horizontal to give it a little bit of contrast.  I cut a size medium and this time trimmed the dress down to a small on the sides from right below the bust down to the bottom.  I love the fit.  I’ve been wearing it a lot with leggings and although this seems to be a quilting weight cotton, the fabric doesn’t bunch up with leggings underneath.

It seems we are settling into winter, going sledding when there’s snow and enjoying some post-holiday quiet time.  I wish you a wonderful weekend!

Posted in Home, Life, Ramblings, Sewing, Women's Clothing | 6 Comments

Beck

I love fair isle sweaters.  I think about them a lot.  Is that weird?  Perhaps.  I have always wanted to knit one.  Many years ago my mother in law gave me the most beautiful lavender fair-isle sweater with gorgeous colors in the yoke (from LL Bean) and it was worn every winter.  You could say it was lived in.  Then my frugal self decided to hand wash it (in the washing machine—NOT smart) and of course it felted.  I tried wearing it once after that and felt like I was wearing elf clothing.  Then I thought I would cut it and sew a beautiful hat from it but I couldn’t bear to cut into such beauty.  So I passed it on.  And I have missed it.  I thought I would try to make a sweater but being very cautious (after a very wild youth-I am now cautious in all things including knitting- isn’t that funny?  🙂 ) I found the Beck Sweater by Dani Sunshine and thought it would be a gentle way for me to learn to add a different color into what I was knitting.  I started this sweater last January and although it took some serious time, it’s done!!

The yarn I used is Humdrum by Dream in Color.  For the darker color in the yoke, I used Madeline Tosh DK in the color Amber Trinket.  I bought these yarns at a wonderful shop called Yarns In the Farms.  They have a great selection of yarns.  The women that work there are so incredibly helpful as I often have lots of questions for them.  I wasn’t sure what size to knit but they helped me figure it out.

The sweater did sit for quite a while with one arm mostly knit and the other arm left to do. After being cold and needing a cozy sweater, I jumped in and started knitting again.  On the couch at night, sometimes in bed, in the parent pick-up line at school, at Karate lessons–in the car in front of the YMCA (why work out when you can just knit in the parking lot?)…the knitting took over.  Then there was blocking, which I have honestly never done before.  After ordering some knitting wires from Pintuck and Purl and lots of google, I am happy to say that it is DONE and I do love it.  It’s very cozy.  I love the rusty fall colors!

It’s a good thing it’s done too, because I saw this gorgeousness at Pintuck and Purl and I’m pretty sure you can guess what’s next on my knitting list….

Posted in Knitting, Women's Clothing | 2 Comments

Lemonade

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Monday after school we made a mad dash for the beach.  It is unseasonably warm this week and although everyone was tired it was unanimously voted that a beach run was in order.  I feel very blessed to live in an ocean town and may be a bit biased, but this is one of the prettiest beaches around.

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We had another reason for going to the beach and that was to walk our dog.  Last week there was a shelter visit and we came home with a sweet 4 month old puppy named Millie. It was love at first sight for us but the clincher was her name.  That was my grandmothers name too.  We took care of the paperwork and brought her home and although it’s been less than a week, it feels like she’s been with us a lot longer.

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Speaking of Millie (the Grandmother) she used to tell me when I was disappointed about something, to make lemonade out of my lemons.  I remember hearing this as a teen and I’m sure an eye roll ensued.  Although, this saying has stayed with me.  I’m sure there are much worse lemons than this one but I had a SEWING FAIL recently.  Back in May I started working on the fitted dress from the Alabama Studio + Design book (see here).  This dress didn’t get completely finished; it went in the bottomless pit of ‘projects to work on’.  It recently resurfaced and I thought it would be great to add sleeves and wear it this fall and winter.  When I added the sleeves I realized that the front and back neck lines were far to low and the shoulder pieces were thin and nothing was going to hold those sleeves up.  After I tried it on a few times, I realized that I looked like Elsa from Frozen, you know…when she transforms into the shoulder dress wearing ‘sexy’ Elsa.  Yeah, not a look for me.  Basically there was nothing holding the shoulders up where they should be on this dress.  I decided to cut the whole thing down to the skirt pattern from the book.  I bought 1″ fold over black elastic on Etsy, for the waist.  Then I pulled out my embroidery stitches and re-embroidered used black embroidery floss, to match the elastic.  It’s a simple and basic skirt now and I’ve worn it a ton.  There’s my lemonade.

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Posted in Sewing, Women's Clothing | 2 Comments

A feminist top?

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Simplicity Pattern S0918

A couple of weeks ago, I bought this lovely rayon fabric at Pintuck and Pearl (a local-ish shop in NH…see here).  I had seen it before at this store and kept thinking about it, so I went back to buy it.  I decided to make Simplicity S0918, with long sleeves and a wide bow.  A Pussy-bow, to be exact.  A while back on a shopping excursion with a friend, I mentioned loving big bows on women’s tops and she told me that was in fact called a ‘Pussy Bow’.  I kind of think that’s hilarious, so I decided to do a little research before writing this post.

Wikipedia mentions that in the 1940’s the Gibson Girl look was popular (a curvy athletic type of woman) and that style inspired the bow (see here).  Also, apparently Margaret Thatcher was a big fan.  In the PBS documentary: Makers, Women who make America, it is mentioned that in the 1970’s and 1980’s, when more women were entering the workforce, they wanted to fit into a male-dominated world and this was their version of the neck tie (see here).  In another article I found, titled: ‘The Female History Behind Your Floppy Bow Blouse’ on the Jezebel website,  it is the author’s opinion that these bows are named after female genitalia (see here).  Hmm.  Should I be wearing this with pride?  Is it some sort of feminist top?  Maybe.  I don’t know.  But I still like big bows.  I love to hear where names and various fashions emerge, so I hope you enjoyed this brief history lesson.  Getting back to the top…..

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After washing the fabric, I got to cutting and sewing.  The fabric is ‘Snack Time rayon in blue’ by Sarah Watts for Cotton & Steel.  It was wonderful fabric to work with.  I have enough leftover that a certain girl in my house might be getting a top too.  The pattern, Simplicity S0918, was very straight forward and the fit was spot on.  I cut a size 16 and needed to make no adjustments.  The shirt is boxy but I like it.  I think I could take the sides in a bit but am going to sit with it for a while.  The husband gave it two thumbs up and my daughter (and photographer) thought it was great too.  There is light ruching on the front where the shoulder seams are (they are lowered a bit to right below the collarbone) and a tiny bit of ruching on the sleeves.

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In other news, my almost 8-year-old daughter made these delicious pumpkin muffins (and bread) last night.  She is loving baking.  The only thing I did last night to help her, was to put it in the oven.  I’m finding it a nice way for us to connect and what a great way to introduce fractions!  We couldn’t find my teaspoon and only had a 1/2 teaspoon available and my girl figured it out on her own that she needed to double many of the spices.  Proud Mama!

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Pumpkin Muffins & Bread–fresh from the oven and two were already gobbled up.

Posted in Sewing, Women's Clothing | 2 Comments

Last tank of the summer…

My sewing room is a mess (messy sewer here) and I’ve been working on reorganizing my sewing space.  There’s something about the change of seasons that makes one want to clean, reorganize and get rid of the old.  In my case, that is getting rid of things I no longer use and going through my fabric to make room for…..fall and winter fabric!!! (I know the excitement is killing you.)  It feels so good to get back into a sewing routine.

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In one last defiant act of summer sewing (it IS technically still summer), I made the Gemma tank, by Rae Hoekstra (Made-by-Rae blog).  This tank is one of Rae’s clever Presto Patterns.  It took me an hour to make this top, literally, Presto!  As all of her patterns, it is well written and flattering on.  There are two options for the neckline; a regular neck and a high neck.  I made the higher neck and the C/D cup size.  I didn’t need to modify the pattern for sizing at all.  The bias tape for the neckline and arms is from my vintage stash.  The red plaid gives the top a little pop of color.

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The fabric I’ve had for a while and was excited to finally have something perfect to use it for.  It’s by Lotta Jansdotter and called ‘Etapp in Midnight Navy’.  One of the great things about this pattern is that it will work with a lot of different types of fabric.   I’m pretty sure this pattern will become a staple in my wardrobe.

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Fall seems to be such a great time to get cozy with a good book.  Have you read anything great lately?  I’m always looking for suggestions for a great book.  We are making a couple changes with our routine, as a family.  One of the changes is implementing ‘No TV’ during the week (and limiting TV on the weekends to a movie or two for the whole family).  I know this doesn’t work for everyone, but for this family, it has been a positive change.  As a result, we are reading and crafting more.  I picked up a great book to read with our children, ‘PAX’ by Sara Pennypacker.  I heard about it on NPR.

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I’ve also been invited to join a book discussion for this book:  ‘American Girls, Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers’ by Nancy Jo Sales.  No- I don’t have a teenager yet but after reading just the preface of this book, I realized that I didn’t want to stay blissfully ignorant.  🙂  THIS BOOK IS SCARY.

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Last in my pile, is ‘Me Before You’ by Jojo Moyes.  My dear Mother-in-Law brought this over and although I don’t know much about it, I’ve seen lots of people reading it.  What’s in your reading pile?

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Posted in books, Sewing, Women's Clothing | 2 Comments

Transitions

This month marks a transition for many people.  Summer is still hanging on but coming to an end.  Most kids are back in school.  Some nights it is pretty cool here in New England and many of our thoughts move to the cooler months ahead.  I’ve found myself in a funk the last couple of weeks.  As a family, summer after summer we seem to hit our stride in August.  July feels busy and in August we slow down.  We have a lot of family time and the kids and I find our rhythm with them being out of school.  Then school starts.  This August my husband and I discussed home schooling (which is basically: how can we keep this summer feeling going?).  Although that isn’t a path we think our family should take at this time – we don’t rule it out for the future.  I seem to find myself a little lost after my kids start school and that’s where I am right now.

This morning I met a dear friend for a walk in the woods, which was exactly what I needed. This is my mama-lady (see here) and walking in the woods with her is so calming.  We used to do it a lot more when I was younger.  I don’t think I have ever met anyone who gets me like she does. It might be because we are alike in a lot of ways.  It also helps that she has raised four children and to me she is the “Sage Mother”, the wise word of counsel.  Our conversations ended on a note of how important creativity is and making sure we get that creative time to balance ourselves.  These conversations and the connection with her made me think about where I’ve been this summer and where I’m headed.

Although I didn’t get as much sewing time as I’d like this summer (which would be ALL day EVERY day),  we did do a lot of creating.  We crafted to our hearts content!

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Over the summer I pattern tested the Nehalem Pants pattern by Indie designer Sew House Seven.  These pants are very similar to thai fisherman pants that wrap around.  They are very stylish!  I’m about to buy some Ikat fabric to make another pair.  Have you ever sewn with Sew House Seven patterns?  Peggy, the designer, has a great sense of style.  I’ve made the Mississippi Ave dress (see here) and have worn it a lot.  I’m also preparing to make the Tea House Dress and am on a hunt for the right fabric.

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Nehalem Pants. Front fold over.

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Back view with seam detail.

Did you know that September is National Sewing Month?  Woot Woot…Let’s hear it for sewers everywhere!!!  To celebrate National Sewing Month, Maggie from Pintuck & Purl (a wonderful fabric/yarn shop in Exeter NH) is doing a series of Q&A from various bloggers and designers and yours truly got to answer a few….if you’d like to read further, please click here and here–or just read the whole series!  I feel so inspired upon entering Pintuck & Purl.  The design and layout of the store draws you in and the fabric is pretty great too.  There are classes and also a regular ‘Sip and Stitch’ on various Friday nights that is a great time to do a little shopping, work on some handwork and connect with other creative people.

Below is what I have cut out and several new patterns that have made their way into my stash.

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Two Esme Tunics waiting to be sewn.

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Grainline Studio: Archer Button Up; Simplicity S0918; Simplicity S0898 by Dottie Angel; Sew House Seven Tea House Dress.

 

What have you made lately?  I’d love to hear what you are working on.

Posted in Life, Sewing, Women's Clothing | 6 Comments

Women’s Tunic/Dress from Handmade Style

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I’ve been slowly (very slowly) working on the Women’s Tunic from Anna Graham’s book ‘Handmade Style’ over the summer.  I bought this beautiful rayon last year and wasn’t exactly sure what to make with it.  When we went to Martha’s Vineyard this summer (see here) I saw a skirt in a boutique window made up with this exact fabric.  It was beautiful and simple and I knew I needed to get sewing with it.  In July, Anna featured a sew-along on her blog Noodlehead, giving detailed instructions with photos, for making this tunic.  I am a visual person and figured this sew-along would be very helpful if I got stuck on anything with the pattern.  To my delight, the pattern was very well written and I didn’t have any problems.   It was great to be able to refer her website when I was working on the placket, to make sure I had it right.  I love when pattern designers do sew-alongs.  It is incredibly helpful to us ‘visual’ people.

 

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I made this tunic into a dress by adding about 3 inches to the bottom of the pattern.  I cut a size Medium.  The fabric I used is by Anna Maria Horner called ‘Pretty Potent Rayon Challis’; the color is Eucalyptus Lime.

Truthfully, I wasn’t sure how I would like dolman sleeves and I didn’t know if it would be flattering on me.  I have to tell you, I have only taken this dress off to wash it.  Seriously-I love it!  I’ve worn it at home, to the beach, a trip to Ikea, grocery store…etc.  You get the picture.  The drawstring waist is very flattering and I do love the sleeve style.  It is the PERFECT hot weather dress, made up with a flowy rayon.  I fully intend to be wearing this right on into the fall with leggings.

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Posted in Women's Clothing | 4 Comments

This dress

Last month my kids were in a day camp and I had a little time to sew.  It was thrilling as not much sewing has been happening this summer.  My creativity tends to shift when my kids are home on summer break and we do more crafting together.  Also, after long summer days there isn’t always a lot of energy leftover to sew.  That’s ok, I know I will have more time in the fall and I want to enjoy the days with my kids.  I’m a little stingy with their free time and although we see friends, I love to whisk them away on a beach adventure or a museum or even the local pool, just them and me.  It won’t always be this way and so I love to be with them as much as possible.

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Washi dress by Rae Hoekstra of MadeByRae

As for the sewing, I decided to make a Washi dress.  I have not had a great relationship with this dress in the past.  It had seemed that the Washi dress looked good on EVERYONE but me.  The various versions I’d made in the last two years just didn’t look right.  The pattern is very well written and I love the cute little cap sleeves and the neckline but the bodice always seemed to end right below my bust and I looked pregnant.  And I was not pregnant.  I figured out that I should lengthen the bodice front piece (duh) and did that but the fit still wasn’t right.  Then someone mentioned to me that I also needed to lengthen the back in the same place where I lengthened the front.  I hadn’t thought of that and I decided this is the last time I would try.  In my stash I found some lightweight linen, called Telio Umbria Linen in blue stripe, that I purchased at Fabric.com a little while ago.  Being crazy like I am, I took a risk and did NOT sew a muslin and just went for it.  I’m so glad I did.

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Guess what?  I love this Washi dress!  The fit is perfect and the gathers are much lower and around my waist.  I cut a size large in the top front piece and a large back piece and a medium for the front skirt.  I moved the back elastic ruching down about 1.5″.  The fabric is lightweight and I am quite happy with how it turned out.  I also made a little flower tag for the back neckline.

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On another exciting note, I recently tested a not-yet-released pattern for SewHouse7.  I love Peggy’s style and am excited for this pattern to be released.  (Then I can show you!) Have you ever sewn with these patterns?  I have made the Mississippi Avenue dress (see here, photo 7) and really liked it.

Did you know that September is National Sewing Month?  I’m already starting to think of fall clothing.  I’ve just cut out some beautiful rayon for the Women’s Tunic from Anna Graham’s book ‘Handmade Style’.  She has a wonderful sew-along on the Noodlehead blog for this pattern.  I’ve also got my eye on the Archer pattern by Grainline Studio and I recently picked up McCall’s pattern 7380.  I love View B.  Have you sewn or created anything new?  Tell me what you’ve made, I’d love to hear about it!

Posted in Sewing, Women's Clothing | 2 Comments

August

Last night my girl had her first ‘official’ sleepover at our house.  It was thrilling for her and her dear little friend.  I don’t know what I was expecting but it was very easy and they had a blast.  There was pizza involved and nail painting (of course!), a movie in bed with popcorn and some late night chatter which was so sweet to hear.  I could sense they were feeling proud as they have made a small step toward growing up.  This morning as they played and graciously included a little brother (who was dying to be welcomed into the fold) I sat and colored at the table.  There was so much I needed to do (laundry, laundry, oh did I mention laundry?) but this month I am choosing to slow way down.

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July was a very busy, fun month.  We went on a camping trip with three other families.  It was so much fun!  One family are seasoned campers.  They really know what they are doing.  I learn a lot from them whenever we go camping.  Their camping kitchen is so impressive, it could be in a magazine.  Another family makes the best coffee, and this year I got to sit at their campsite in my pj’s (until noon, folks!!!) knitting and drinking their wonderful coffee and chatting with them.  I always go out and buy the same coffee when I get home but sadly it never tastes as good as when I am sitting at their campfire.  The third family was new to camping but after seeing their tent site, you would never know.  It was so nice to get to know them more.  We all shared meals together at night, swam in the Saco river, rode bikes and relaxed.  It was fabulous!

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Our very best family photo

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Campfire knitting–working on a Honey Cowl

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July ended with an unexpected call from a very dear friend, an important mother figure to me.  She called to offer us her house on Martha’s Vineyard for five days.  Without hesitation we said “Yes!”.  It was so lovely and perfect.  My husband was able to work from home for a couple of days (on the Vineyard) and we went and completely relaxed.  Did I mention that there was a small private beach?  Oooh yes.  This woman, my friend, has had a very strong influence on me.  She came into my life at a time when I really needed a mom.  She was there when my own mother passed away and has always gently guided me toward the right things.  Never judgmental and always kind, I have watched her (and her husband) raise four children who are now all adults.  Her children have grown into kind, creative and loving people.  I only wish for the same for my children and hope that we are raising them to be that way.  She is a photographer and artist that paints, makes jewelry and handmade books and her house that we went to was like a calm haven where I drew lots of inspiration.  I have come home feeling blessed, clear and full of fresh creative ideas.  If you would like to check out her beautiful art, you can find her here:  http://barbarazparker.com.

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I hope your July has been wonderful and that you are finding bliss in the moments of summer.

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Posted in Home, Knitting, Life | 2 Comments

Josephine tops

Going through my closet last month in preparation for hot weather, I started looking at what I needed for summer clothing.  One thing I have a lot of is shorts.  It’s kind of funny because I never used to regularly wear shorts until having children.  It was always skirts and dresses for me.  Now I run around on playgrounds and mostly dress for ease and comfort.  I decided that I needed a few new tops but something that could fit into the ‘ease and comfort’ category.  I have owned the Josephine pattern from Made by Rae for a while but have never made it.  The pattern has wonderful reviews and so I decided to make two sleeveless versions to go with my abundant supply of shorts.

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Josephine top pattern by Rae Hoekstra of the Made by Rae blog.

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In green chambray.

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Front neckline with homemade bias tape.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fabric that I used was from Hawthorne Threads and it is “Chambray in Bluegrass” by Andover.  It’s very pretty and has yellow and blue threads in it.  I also made my own bias tape to finish the neckline and armholes using leftover chambray by Kaufman in Union Worn Indigo.  This pattern has a great fit and it comes in A/B and C/D cup sizes.  I went with the C/D cup size and cut out a size large but right under the bottom dart line I sloped back in and cut the body in a medium.  I love that this pattern comes in two different bust sizes.

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Dot chambray in indigo.

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Yellow bias around neckline.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For my second sleeveless Josephine top I used “Dot Chambray in Indigo” by Kaufman.  I used a bright yellow bias tape from my stash to finish the neckline and armholes as I thought it would give it a cute little pop of color.  This fabric was also from Hawthorne Threads and has been in my stash for a while now.  The fabric is very lightweight and feels a bit bigger than the green one, probably because the green chambray is thicker.  I love both tops and have been wearing them quite regularly!  If you haven’t tried the Josephine pattern, it is wonderful and I would definitely recommend it.  The directions are easy to follow.

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The Last Telegram by Liz Trenow.

As summer progresses, I hope you are having many lazy, relaxing days and getting to read lots of lovely books.  I’ve just finished The Last Telegram by Liz Trenow.  It’s another WWII historical fiction book.  What is it with me and WWII novels?  I.just.can’t.get.enough.  I am not alone in this.  One of my girlfriends reads them all the time too.  We are always sharing new titles and discovering more.  Anyway, I couldn’t put this one down.  It’s about a woman working at her family’s silk mill, she falls in love, people die, its tragic but uplifting and, well, I read it late into the night.  If you are into this type of historical fiction, check it out here.  Have you read anything great lately?

Posted in books, Sewing, Women's Clothing | 2 Comments