It’s that time of year again – my psuedo-annual trip to Japan for a karate seminar, with a generous helping of fabric shops along the way!

Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo.

My trip started with a single night in a capsule hotel in Shinjuku, Tokyo. If you haven’t tried a capsule hotel they are excellent value for a single night, and a fun experience (in my opinion, anyway!) Japanese hotels are scrupulously clean and this one was no exception.

I was up early the next morning and on the bullet train to Nikko where there are several beautiful temples and shrines in and around the town of Nikko. I’m going to gush about the ryokan I stayed at there – I wish I’d had more than one night! It was a sweet little Japanese-style inn called the Turtle Inn. (The Discworld approves!) My room was furnished with a futon and low table and a washbasin with running water. The fact that the bathrooms were shared was entirely made up for by the fact that both single bathrooms had onsen – ie, a private hot tub!! After a long day travelling and looking around temples, a long hot soak was just what the doctor ordered.

After two days wandering around shrines, temples and underground caverns, it was time to head back to Tokyo and my hotel in Kamata. By happy accident, the hotel I stay at for the seminar is only a few hundred metres away from a big fabric store, Yuzawaya – so that was my first stop!

Yuzawaya (Kamata, Tokyo)

The first time I visited this store – my first visit to Kamata, two years ago – I didn’t have time to really appreciate the size of the store or the volume of products available. This time I made sure I had time for a really good wander, even though I wasn’t intending to buy too many things (I needed to keep plenty of room in my suitcase for shopping in Osaka!)

With three shop fronts and several floors to each shopfront, there’s plenty to look at in Yuzawaya! I was very disctracted by the fabulous range of denims right at the front of the store – and I did end up buying 2m of a really nice dark stretch demin for Y580/m – amazing value!!

But what I was really looking for here was scissors. I had promised myself a pair of Shozaburo scissors on this trip, and Shozaburo scissors I did get! For Y11000 I purchased a pair of 26cm shears which are an absolute dream to use. I have been using them since I came home and seriously they are like magic!! It’s almost as if I can just wave them at the fabric and the pieces cut themselves 🙂

I couldn’t resist that teeny pair of snips with the beaded handles, either. too cute!

Toroya (Namba, Osaka)

I ended up hitting Toraya twice! Overkill? Nah. On my first trip, there was one fabric I couldn’t decide if I REALLY needed it, so I didn’t buy it. But I decided to go back on my last day to have a second look at their denims, and decided I would get it after all!

At the bottom of the pile is 2m of midweight rigid denim. The purple/green print is a drapy twill knit, probably polyester. The whacky chair print is a light knit fabric. The 80’s denim-look squiggle print is a woven cotton, as is the big floral, although the big floral is a heavier weight.

I got some bag hardware here, and some red velcro – they had sooo many colours of velcro! And the little cat-face things are iron-on felt patches. Kawaii-desu!!!!

Otsukaya (Umeda, Osaka)

I was so silly and didn’t check the opening times of this shop, and turned up on a Wednesday – the only day they are closed!! Luckily my schedule was pretty flexible and I ended up going back there the next day. Boy, was it worth it – this shop is so gorgeous!! (There’s a follow-up post in the works with more about the shops themselves, so you’ll be able to appreciate it!)

See how beautifully packaged they are? Each floor was wrapped separately. On the left is some heavy cotton tape destined for a bag project – probably not the bag pattern shown here though!

Fabrics left to right: upholstery cotton in a deco fish print; two-way denim; Nightmare Before Christmas cotton craft print; floral loopback sweater knit; purple geometric athletic jersey; multicoloured athletic jersey.

No, I didn’t just stop at fabric. There were dozens of cute bag patterns, but I really fell for this simple school bag. Why I bought pins, I’m really not sure – seemed like a good idea at the time. The brass ring is actually a thread cutter you can wear – genius! Can’t wait to try that out. I got some more bag hardware here, too – those turtle magnetic snaps were not being left behind!!!

After that it was time for a brief stop in Dotonbori for some okonomiyaki – yum!

Nippon Chuko (Hommachi, Osaka)

When I first walked in here, I was pretty overwhelmed – I don’t do a lot of bagmaking, but there was soooo much hardware it was hard to not be inspired. When I spotted this wood-panel print I exclaimed out loud – it is EXACTLY what I was looking for, for a project that has been percolating in my head for several months. So of course I ended up finding nearly all the other hardware I needed as well!

 

The white zig-zag piping and red linen strapping were actually from Toraya – I got my bags of goodies confused when I was photographing everything!

A red/brown chunky zipper, which will go in the same project bag as the woodpanel print, as will the other brass hardware here. The dragonfly print is a kimono cotton, destined for a gift; the dark green textured kimono cotton is for me. I grabbed some coloured elastic too because I couldn’t resist, and a pre-made bag strap which may work with the bag pattern I got at Otsukaya. The fabric pens caught my eye early on – I’ve been playing with fabric decoration lately, and they seemed like good prices, so I selected a few colours.

Atelier to Nani Iro (Osaka)

This shop was gorgeous, but not as cheap as Toraya! I did buy a piece of fabric which I probably don’t need, but this one is most definitely for the ‘collection’. I don’t own many designer pieces so this was a bit special for me. I was tempted by the pattern book as well but decided I own too many patterns already!

I purchased 1.5m of this green spot double gauze. It’s so soft and lovely! It came with a little lookbook of the latest fabric range, which is a symphony in black and white.

I rounded out my trip with a visit to the stunning Osaka Castle. I found it ironic that this castle is contained within a fortress (complete with moat) that was built to withstand an army; and yet today an army walks through the castle gates every day!

I must also mention a very cool spot in Osaka, for the cool people. One of my Discworld friends recommended to me an establishment called The Hearth Cafe, in Osaka in the Namba area. It’s a gaming cafe, and while I don’t game (although LARPing is still on my bucket list), they do a seriously good cheesecake! I was pretty happy sitting at the bar with these guys:

I’ll be following up this post with one detailing more about the shops I went to, and how to get there should you ever get to go fabric shopping in Osaka! If you have been there and shopped your heart out, leave me a comment – I’d love to hear about it!

Also, I’ve been doing youtube videos over the last year or so (could explain the lack of blog posts…. ) so pop over and say hi:

There’ll be a video coming up where I show off this fabric haul in all it’s glory, so don’t forget to subscribe!

 

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Cashew Nut Bliss Balls

Easter is just around the corner, along with all the temptation that goes with it! Weather you are partial to bunnies or eggs or hot cross buns, it can be tough to say no to all the sugary treats we’ll be faced with!

Why not curb your cravings with these delicious Cashew Nut Bliss Balls? With freshly-toasted cashews, vanilla and cacao nibs, these little guys will soon be your favourite Easter treat!

To whip these up, I made my own cashew nut butter! Yep, it’s really pretty easy. I don’t have one of those really serious blender machines, either – I used my coffee bean grinder. It’s perfect for doing small batches! All you need is a little bit of patience.

Although I roasted this batch of cashews myself, you could easily use purchased roasted nuts (and I’ve totally done that in the past!). If you do, grab the unsalted ones – the salted kind will make your butter too salty.

To roast your nuts, preheat your oven to about 160C (a bit less if you’re fan-forced). Chuck your nuts on a baking tray (make sure they’re not too crowded)– and let them toast for 10 – 15 minutes. If you have a timer, use it – you don’t want them to get too dark – just a light golden colour is perfect. Take them out and let them cool completely before grinding.

Fill your grinder about three-quarters full and fasten the lid. Power on!

You’ll first get to the ‘flour’ stage, which looks like this:

Hang on though, you’re not done yet!

Add a dash of salt at this stage  – only a dash, mind.

Keep grinding until the oils start to release and the mix becomes creamy. You might need to stop and loosen the mix with a spatula a couple of times. I found pulsing the blades to be an effective technique at this stage.

If your nut butter is stiff or your blender doesn’t seem to want to get to the creamy stage, you can add a little oil (almond oil or peanut oil if you can handle peanuts). Just remember to use something with a very mild flavour.

And your nut butter is done! Bliss balls await!

Ha. Looks like icecream!

You could use a purchased nut or seed butter but these often have sneaky added sugars – remember to check the label! The Macro brand Cashew Spread has no additives – 100% cashews.

I only make small batches of these, so I use a mini-processor most of the time.

Cashew Nut Bliss Balls

¼ – ⅓ cup Cashew Nut Butter

½ cup Dried Dates

⅓ cup Regular rolled oats

¼ tsp Vanilla Extract or paste

1 tsp Rice Malt Syrup (optional)

1-2 tbsp Cacao Nibs

Throw your dates in the food processor in the food processor with the nut butter and oats, and whizz until it starts to come together in a paste.

Add the vanilla and rice malt syrup, if using. Give it another whizz to get everything nice and combined. Lastly add the cacao nibs and pulse once or twice just to distribute the nibs.

Roll teaspoonfulls into small balls. You could sprinkle the balls with some more cacao nibs if you wanted.

Now put them on your prettiest plate and – enjoy!!

Well my friends, it is high time I shared some pictures of the fabric haul I brought back from my trip to Japan!

This is going to be a pic-heavy post!!

Firstly, I went to Nippori in Tokyo – twice! I went back a second time because I only had about 2 hours on each trip. And for a place like Nippori, even if you’ve been there before, two hours is barely enough.

On the first trip I mostly just hit the secondhand kimono stores. I picked up a few of those, but I’ll save them for a future post.

On the second trip I went back to my favourite store, Nagato, where I picked up three pieces of fabric. The first was a remnant from the bin in front of the store for ¥800. This is a slightly fuzzy jersey, perfect for a winter pullover or cardigan.

The next was an animal-print interlock which was ¥1600/m.

And then while I was in the queue for the counter, I spotted these amazing panel prints – this is a jersey as well, probably a cotton-lycra blend. I got two panels for ¥2400.

After Nagato I wandered into the button store which I missed on my last trip. It was bonkers. So much kawaii!! I managed to restrain myself and came away with a couple of packs of buttons, and these pieces of cat print cotton.

You can never have too much cat print, that’s what I say. I particularly love the skeleton candy skull print. It has skeleton fish.

Then I ventured into one of the Tomato stores – there’s about 3 shop fronts but it’s all the same shop. I’d missed this section last time, too; that time, there was a massive queue out the front of the store so I  gave it a miss. Well, this time I got in there and it was pretty hard to make any decisions, there being so much cool stuff available. But in the end I settled on this heavy cotton pineapple print, which I’m intending on making into a bag of some sort.

And this adorable polar bear cotton canvas. Both of these  were ¥2820.

But I wasn’t done with Nippori yet! I also managed to pick up some laminated fabric for the bargain price of ¥650 each for pieces 50cm wide by 110cm long.

And finally I hit the shop that only does pre-cut 2m pieces of cotton fabric – each of these was around ¥1000.

The Fuji-san print is a bit full-on, but the navy and gold print I think will make a nice button-down shirt.

Now, where I was staying in Tokyo was Kamata, and Kamata boasts a 5-storey Yuzawaya:

Okay, so I couldn’t read the sign either, but basically it is five levels and three shopfronts of crafter’s heaven. It has an amazing leather and bagmaking section which I was drooling over:

Those aren’t reels of ribbon – they are leather cords and webbing for belts and bag handles. But, knowing that I just don’t make as many bags as I would really like to, I held back. I did buy this cute piece of quilting cotton, I think it was ¥600 or thereabouts.

On the advice of another blogger’s post about their adventures in Japan, I went looking for the Bunka Fashion College and the alleged shop they have at the college. I found the college but after 40 minutes of wandering around the college campus I gave up looking for the shop. I did find a cool display of the work of the fashion students, though.

Some really interesting and diverse pieces on display!

I had a couple of days in Kyoto, and although I wanted to do some sightseeing as well, I managed to fit in a visit to Nomura Tailor.

Unfortunately, due to a day of sightseeing, and a flat battery on my phone, I only found the shop about 40 minutes before they closed, so I didn’t have a lot of time to peruse the fabulous array of goods they had on display. I did manage to bring home a gorgeous piece of navy blue heavy linen, but I can’t remember how much it was because the tax desk at the airport took my receipt 🙂

As well as that I grabbed a remnant of what I think might be a Liberty print – they had a massive counter of remnants and I wish I’d had more time to have a proper rummage.

And the other thing I grabbed while there is an issue of “Cotton Friend” – a Japanese pattern magazine.

It has a pile of great, simple yet elegant clothing patterns and several bag patterns as well. Yes, it is all in Japanese characters which I can’t read, but the diagrams are very clear and as most of the pieces are quite simple I’m sure I’ll be able to figure it out.

But this wouldn’t be a post about Japan in spring if I didn’t give you some sakura!* This picture was taken on Miyajima Island, near Hiroshima.

I’m not the world’s best photographer, but it’s pretty hard to take a bad picture of cherry blossom trees. The one below was taken near Nanzenji Shrine in Kyoto.

I hope you enjoyed my little fabric holiday. I would love to know about other textile-related holiday destinations – where have you been that had interesting fabric or craft-related areas?

 

*Cherry Blossoms. At this time of year, in Japan everything is sakura-themed. 

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Hello everyone! Thanks for stopping by.

I’ve finally come up with my #makenine2017!

makenine2017

I know a lot of the #makenine2017’s out there have chosen nine sewing patterns, but  I decided to broaden my focus a little bit and include fabrics and projects as well.

Let’s unpack this, shall we? In no particular order:

vintage-pattern

I’ve got all these gorgeous vintage and retro patterns and pattern magazines, but I’ve only made maybe two or three items. So one of my goals for this year is to actually get in there and make at least one. I have even ‘projectised’ a couple of patterns with the fabric I want to use, so I’ve got no excuses!! To see more of the patterns in my library, check out my flikr album.

ufos

The story of sewists everywhere, right? Lately I have been pretty committed and have managed to finish 90% of the projects I’ve started in the last couple of months. (I am a slow sewist, so it’s not a UFO until at least 6 months after commencement, heh heh.) But, seriously, there are a couple of projects hiding out that were started years (or possibly decades) ago. So my aim is to either finish them, recycle the fabric or CHUCK THEM OUT!!

 

maxi-skirt


As I was trawling through my stash the other day, I came across this incredible piece of fabric. So big I had to photograph it hanging on a clothesline! You know the stash is out of control when you find fabric you had forgotten about. Anyway, after racking my brain, I remembered I bought this fabric in  Thailand, on a trip about 3 years ago. It’s a dreamy lightweight silk that feels like, well, really lightweight silk. It’s doubled over in this photo and you can see the print on the other side, so you get the idea. Anyway, there’s quite a bit of it and it’s obvious it needs to be either a maxi skirt or dress. I definitely want to maximise the print, so I’m going to be looking for a pattern with the fewest amount of pieces. I was thinking of the Gabriola Skirt by Sewaholic, but it does have a lot of seamlines in the skirt, so I might have to shop around. If you have any ideas for a pattern that might work, do let me know!

activewear

Okay, if you’ve read any of my blog posts before you will know that I have a deep and abiding passion bit of a thing for sewing activewear. I’m not particularly good at it, but the aim is to improve! I want to try a couple of new patterns and hack some old ones. I have tried making FehrTrade’s PBJam leggings previously, but they were an unmitigated disaster so I definitely need to have another go. If you buy Burdastyle Magazine you’ll know the January 2017 edition had a focus on activewear, so I’m looking forward to getting my hands on that. (It can take a while for Burdastyle to hit Australia, unfortunately!) The Kwik Sew pattern is already on the table – pieces cut for the shorts and top so I can test for fit! And of course the Greenstyle Creations Endurance Bra: while I’m not a fan of zipup bras I want to give this a try, as it looks amazingly supportive.

Which is a nice segue to….

bras

As you know I’ve already had success making bras, so I really want to get into more of it this year. I’ve made the Watson and the BOO3 (from Booby Traps), as well as the Gail which is not pictured here. I also have the Booby Traps Dart Bra and Seamwork’s Florence Bra which haven’t had an outing yet. I’m keen to replace most of my bras with me-made.

moto-jacket

The Evergreen Jacket from Hey June is one I’ve actually had my eye on for quite some time. When I brought that black camo fabric back from my Japan trip last year, I knew exactly what I wanted to make with it! It’s a heavy stretch fabric, somewhere between scuba and ponte. (I’ve no idea what I want to make with the blue camo, though!)

sweater

A patternmaker I’ve been following for a while is the gorgeous Sally from Capital Chic. I started following her blog years ago when she was doing a lot of refashioning, although I don’t think her old blog is available anymore 😦

Her patterns are glamorous, classy and impeccably drafted.  I’ve always had a hankering for the White Russian Sweatshirt. It comes with a cute fox or lion design to quilt onto the front of the sweater. I got this sweet pony fleece on sale sometime last year, and it’s been languishing in my stash ever since. Match made in heaven? I think so!

refashion

OMG you guys. This is my refashion wardrobe. It is literally busting at the seams. I went through a phase a few years ago where 90% of my sewing was refashioning. Some of them were pretty good, too! I bought a lot of garments that I thought had ‘potential’, but sadly I did not have the potential myself to see it through on a lot of them! Of course, there are a couple that I’ve just never been able to bring myself to cut into (did you see the flocked-polka-dot-taffeta dress on my instagram??)

Again we have a neat segue…

blanket-project

See that blanket? I made that. It’s made from recycled suits and skirts, all made of wool. It’s backed with a preloved flannelette sheet (green and white striped, forsooth) and the quilt filler is another flannelette sheet. So it’s not super-thick, but it is totally warm and cosy!

 

That blanket I made for a friend, and let me tell you it turned out so well it was pretty hard to give up. Ever since then I’ve been intending to make one for myself, and have collected a bunch of wool-fabric trousers and skirts from various op shops. On top of that, I have a collection of woolly half-felted jumpers to make into a rug of some kind, plus yet another quilt I want to make for another friend (this one from preloved band t-shirts).  I don’t know that I’ll get all three of them done this year, but I’d like to try for one!!

And, because I want to stay focused, I did this on my sewing room wall:

Yes, my sewing workbench is always this tidy.*

Yes, my sewing room workbench is always this tidy. *

 

And that’s it, folks! My #makenine2017. Have you come up with a makenine list  for 2017? Do you have a different way of planning your sewing for the year? I’d love to hear from you!

 

*Disclaimer: No it’s not, that’s a total lie.

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I haven’t been posting much lately as I’ve been handicapped with knee surgery and the rehab which inevitably follows, which kind of curtailed my sewing a bit, but I’ve also been having fun making videos for my new sewing vlog! I’ve only got like 3 subscribers so far so feel free to pop over for a visit 🙂

I managed to meet the Monthly Stitch Challenge for December which was party dresses, and I’ve got two December-made party dresses to talk about in this post (in addition to the #littlereddressproject dress described in my last post). I was invited to a birthday party and the invite said ‘semi-formal’. So of course I took that as a sewing challenge!! I had a couple of ideas and as I couldn’t choose, I decided to do both, just in case one didn’t work!

My choices were Lisette 2209 and Burdastyle Magazine 1/2012 Dress #118B.

Dress One: Lisette 2209

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Why this pattern? I’ve made this dress before, in a light cotton floral, as a sundress, so no muslin required.

What about the fabric? The bodice is made from a remnant of silver-gray silk I picked up on a trip to Thailand about two years ago (can you say stashbust?). The skirt is made from a recycled silk skirt. I also used the original skirt lining for the skirt, and some lining fabric from my stash for the bodice. Invisible zip also from the stash, reclaimed from a refashion.

And the pattern? As I’d made it once already (albeit a couple of years ago) it was pretty straightforward. The bodice darting is actually quite simple although it does create a little bulk at the front waist seam.

Any added extras? Yes, I added pockets using the last few scraps of the bodice material – I think it looks cute. I also had to make the skirt less full as I had to work within the fabric I had, so it is more an A-line than the fuller skirt in the pattern. Invisible zip at the side rather than the back, and eliminated the centre back seam. I used the ‘burrito method’ to line the bodice.

Did I love it? YES! In photos I notice the bodice pleats come to a rather unflattering point on the bust, I think this is to do with the stiffness of the fabric. Don’t care though 🙂

silverdresscollage1

I talked about this dress on my vlog!

Dress Two: Burdastyle Magazine 1/2012 Dress #118B

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Why this pattern? Basically I was just flipping through my pattern magazines and I thought this one looked simple, and I knew I had some fabric that would work.

What about the fabric? The printed satin has been in my stash for about two years, I think I got it on sale at Spotlight. The lining fabric is slightly stretchy and was bought at my ‘local’, Jack Textiles in Marrickville.

And the pattern? This dress has no shaping and I was initially worried it would just look like a shiny floral tent on me, but au contraire, it’s totally flattering!

Any added extras? I deviated quite significantly from the pattern instructions (although as we all know with Burdastyle, the instructions can be next to useless!) So the pattern used the same fabric, a crepe-backed satin, with the crepe side as the feature of the dropped lining. My floral satin wasn’t really going to work so I used the coral satin as a contrast instead. I lined the front flappy bit on one side with the coral as well to provide some interest. This made the neckline join more than a bit complicated but a few clips and some understitching got it sitting flat. It also made the centre front seam a little different; I wanted a nice finish though so I did a faux-felled seam (folded under the raw edge) and topstitched with some metallic thread.

To make the lining show shiny-side-out at the hem meant I had to install it ‘inside-out’ which did my head in a little bit!! I also skipped the inseam pockets – I was doing french seams all the way and that just seemed too hard. No sleeves either – I tried it on prior to adding the sleeves, pinned one sleeve on and went ‘nope!’ The armholes were finished using bias strips from the floral satin offcuts.

Did I love it?  I certainly love the look of it. I haven’t worn it to any occasions yet though!

I talked about this dress on my vlog, too!

partydresscollage2

I did end up wearing the silver-grey dress to the party, even though I had finished both in time.

silver party dress cropped

I hope everyone had a lovely New Year and I look forward to sharing lots more cool stuff with you all through 2017!!

 

Sewing From The Stash

What do you mean, you haven’t heard of The Little Red Dress Project??

This was a fantastic challenge masterminded by the lovely Renata over at Runningnstyle.  The challenge was to create a red dress for the holiday season (as opposed to the ubiquitous Little Black Dress) with a few guidelines to make the challenge interested.

It was a challenge that took the online sewing community by storm! I made a playlist of all the ‘reveal’ vlogs I could find – go and have a look!

Meanwhile on Instagram the hashtag #littlereddressproject will find you  a bunch of awesome frocks to be envious of too!

Now, back in late September when the tag was announced, I immediately started mentally searching the stash for something red I could whip up. I remembered I had a piece of red stretch fabric, that had been in my stash for over five years. Yes, you…

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Although I finished this in time for TMS’s June ‘Spots & Stripes’ challenge, I was planning on wearing it for Jeans for Genes Day which fell on the 5th August, so I didn’t actually take any photos before then!

I used a couple of 1970’s Simplicity patterns:

simp5803+7078

I loved the cute, curved underbust seam on #5803, but I wasn’t loving the pouffy sleeves; also I wanted a collared shirt. Enter #7078, with a basic sleeve and a nifty one-piece notched collar. I also used the curved hem from #7078.

On the other hand, #7078 had a weird, ugly cuff placket on the sleeve, which I replaced with a standard placket, researched from this handy book (thanks, Kylie, who picked it up at Vinnie’s only a few weeks ago and gave it to me!)

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As you can see, I didn’t have quite enough fabric to line the cuffs, and I didn’t have enough blue buttons to do the cuffs as well as the blouse front. The sleeves were pretty puffy, and I decided to pleat them at the cuffs rather than gather, just for a neater look. If I remake this top – and I think I might – I would narrow the sleeves slightly.

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You can also see in the above pic, my Jeans For Genes Day badge. I even have a pair of denim sneakers, but didn’t manage to take a decent picture of them.

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Drafting the frankenpattern involved a little bit of faffing around, and as usual I couldn’t be bothered to make a muslin, just cut straight into the printed tencel. I’m so pleased with the result! I ended up taking the waist darts out of the blouse back; they were in the wrong position for my short-waisted self, but in any case I prefer a looser-fit shirt. I kept the back neck darts, though.

I nearly blew it when redrafting the faux yoke, forgetting to add the extra ease for the gathers at the front, but I managed to shimmy it around when sewing the pieces together.

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I love this shirt!! I took me about two weeks to make, from pattern-drafting to finished product. Although I don’t mind handsewing, I really don’t like sewing buttons on, so the shirt was ‘finished’ for several days before I got around to adding the buttons. The fabric is lovely and soft, even if it does need ironing every two minutes.

 

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