Floral top and Shorts

Hello all! This month I have a double whammy for you. This is the outfit that I've been dreaming of all summer, and it's such a shame that I've only just found the time to sew it together. Luckily it'll be ready and waiting for me when summer appears next year. All of the details are over at the Minerva Crafts blog here.

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Thanks so much for reading and to Minerva Crafts for providing the fabrics for this post!


Lauren xx

Floral Blouse

Hello all! This months Minerva project has had thousands of iterations in my head, and it took the deadline being less than 24 hours away for me to decide what I wanted this fabric to become. In the end I settled for a simple V neck blouse with slightly flared sleeves and the lovely pearl-like buttons going down the centre front. You can read all about the making process over on the Minerva Crafts blog here.

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Thanks for reading and to Minerva Crafts for providing the supplies for this project!

Lauren xx

Black Trousers

Hello all! Today’s Minerva Make is really quite boring, but has been a real workhorse throughout this summer. At work I need to wear black clothes, and as the weather has gotten hotter and hotter wearing full length trousers has been increasingly sticky. So, for this months project I choose rayon, a notoriously light fabric, to try and keep me as cool as possible. You can read all about the making process on the Minerva Crafts blog here.

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Thank you for reading and to Minerva Crafts for providing the materials for this project!

Lauren xx

A Swimsuit for Sicily

Hello all! I’ve just returned from a beautiful holiday in Sicily and today I’m going to tell you all about the swimsuit I made for the trip. Swimming is something I do once in a blue moon, and it normally involves the sand and sea, but every couple of years I like to make something fresh. I’ve always plumped for bikinis before but this year I decided that I was in the mood for a onepiece.

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I used the same leotard pattern that I used as a base for my phoenix costume, squaring off the front neckline, and creating a low scoop in the back. The lycra I bought from Mood Fabrics when I was in New York a couple months ago. I love the vibrant print and I was quite happy to stick with a simple design to show it off with.

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After sewing up the side seams and trying it on, the back was quite gapey so I pinched about 10cm out of the back neckline and recut the back piece of the swimsuit. In hindsight 10cm was a bit much, and 6 would probably have been better as I forgot to account for the elastic drawing the fabric in for a closer fit as well.

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The swimsuit was fully lined with nude swim lining picked up from Spandex House (also in New York). I sandwiched another piece of swim lining between the lining and the outer fabric where the gusset would normally be, just for another layer in that area. I also sewed some cups into the lining for a bit more shape and coverage in that area.

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I used rubber swim elastic to finish all of the edges, with a 3 step zigzag to topstitch. The side and crotch seams were overlocked. Evaluation wise, the whole swimsuit is really quite tight. I know that negative ease is fine, but I think just adding a cm or two would make it much less of a pain to squeeze in and out of. Next time I’d also pinch just a little out of the centre front of the neckline and/or stretch the elastic a little tighter in that area because it’s a little bit gapey. All in all though, I love it. It’s just so much fun! I’d quite like a red baywatch style one now.

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Thank you very much for reading!

Lauren xx

Purple Summer Dress

Hello all! Today I have my new favourite summer dress to share with you for this months Minerva make. I’ve been looking for the right broderie anglaise fabric for ages, and I when I saw this tie dye cotton I knew that it was the one. I then chose a fairly light cotton to back it with. You can read all about the making process on the Minerva Crafts blog here.

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Thank you for reading and to Minerva Crafts for providing the materials for this project!

Lauren xx

My Hippy Dress of Dreams

Hello all! For this particular project we’ll need to rewind all the way back to February 2019. I was a little blue because I’d just had a lot of fun creating my fringe dress and phoenix costume and there was nothing on the horizon to make another costume for. Luckily, my friend Rachel saved the day by throwing a hippy themed birthday party. Of course I had many an item in my wardrobe that would have fit the theme perfectly, but that’s no fun for a maker now, is it? So I cracked on with my hippy themed pinterest board, I gathered some ideas and figured out what I wanted. I’ll be honest, watching the musical ‘Hair’ was pretty much the extent of my 70s research. Don’t laugh, but I wanted to make something that would be a nod to the hippy culture in the 70s, but also in the interest of making something to wear more than once I wanted it to be wearable in day to day life as well. And to be fair, I have worn this dress in day to day life, but it is arguably more of a costume than day wear.

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It was either the flares and crop top route or the dress route, and obviously you can see that I chose the dress route. I went for the flared sleeves, a fairly deep V neckline and a ruffled gathered skirt. I thought briefly about a maxi skirt but a) fabric is money and b) I felt that a maxi skirt would seriously decrease the everyday wearability factor. I knew straight away that the Cloth Shop in Soho would be the perfect dress to get the fabric from. I chose this beautiful slightly slubbed striped cotton and this vintage trim which I think really makes the dress. It did become quite pricey quite quickly, but I was really quite invested in the project at this project and decided that this was exactly the circumstances that disposable income was designed for. The cotton was quite narrow so I bought 4m (and used up pretty much all of it) for I think around £12 per metre. The trim was I think £6.50 a metre and I must have bought at least 4m of that too. So, pretty pricey, but as dresses go, I think it’s bloody brilliant and would say that it was 100% worth it.

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Now the fabric has been bought, lets get down to the making process. Here’s a little fun fact for you: I drafted my own bodice block at least five years ago, but I never in the five years following had summoned up the courage to draft a corresponding sleeve, because as we all know, sleeves are hard. Seeing as I’ve now done a degree in costume and have been working professionally in the field for almost a year now it was time to stop being silly, get a grip and just see what happened.

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In the end I ended up making at least 5 mock ups of the bodice with the sleeve. I really wanted a good range of movement so added in an inbuilt underarm gusset. I looked a lot at sleeve cap height. I’m still not quite convinced about it, but it’s definitely getting there. The cotton has quite a lot of give to it so once I made the bodice out of the final fabric, it got taken in at the side seams and centre back because I did want quite a close fit.

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Once the bodice was sorted it was time for the skirt! This was where the maths started. I worked out what I wanted the final length of the skirt to be and decided that I wanted two thirds skirt and one third ruffle. I also wanted to play with the stripes here and have them running horizontally across the ruffle in contrast to the vertical stripes on the rest of the garment. I cut the ruffle first which was 4 metres long and then cut four panels the width of the fabric that was left to gather for the skirt. I do wish that I’d made the ruffle fuller, but you live and you learn. The last thing I did was to hand sew all of the trim on, which I think really completes the dress.

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The finale to the ensemble obviously had to be a flower crown. This I made super quickly with a wide piece of black crin. I started off with gluing the flowers on but it got very messy very quickly so I ended up sewing them on instead. This was gripped into my hair and it stayed all night without even a hint of slipping!

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So to recap, I learnt a lot making this dress. I had a lot of fun wearing it to the party that required its creation and I had the most fun wearing it on a trip to Yorkshire with my friends last Sunday. Someone please throw another fancy dress party soon please.

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Thank you for reading!!

Lauren xx

Blue Summer Dress

Hello all! Something I’ve been yearning for in my wardrobe for a couple of years now is just a simple button front dress with a fitted bodice and gathered skirt, and for this months Minerva Make I made it happen! You can read all about the process on the Minerva Crafts blog here.

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Thank you to Minerva Crafts for providing the materials for this project and to Harvey for taking the photos!

Lauren xx

Fringe Murder Mystery Dress

Hello all! I’ve got a fun one to share with you today. This dress was made all the way back in December for a new years party, and it’s ridiculous that I’m only now getting round to writing it up. So the theme of this murder mystery party that I was going to was 1920s. From that I theme I took fringe, and then went decidedly non-1920s for the silhouette.

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The colour scheme of this dress was entirely dictated by the shoes that I wanted to wear. So I picked up fringe in blue, and then a two tone fringe going from purple to white. I also went a bit wild with potential options for accessories as you can see below.

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As always, time was tight so I was lucky to have a base dress to work with already in my wardrobe. I made this dress all the way back in 2013 and whilst it’s definitely a bit snugger since I was 16 when I last wore it, the zip did up, which was the main thing. The first thing I did was to cut the straps off and re shape the neckline. I also hemmed it a tad shorter. The neckline was then finished with bias tape and it was time to figure out the fringe.

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I quickly decided that I was going to have to split my two tone fringe into the two colours, so I laid it all out on the floor, stuck masking tape down the middle and used that to stick the fringe strands together whilst cutting. Then I bound the edge of the purple strands with bias tape to make my third set of fringe.

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Then it was time to do the maths. I had 3 colours to evenly space out, whilst also taking into consideration that I only had 4 metres each of the white and purple. I think it worked out that I spaced each layer maybe an inch apart? I drew each sewing line onto the outside of the dress as there was going to be fringe covering the markings anyway. Then I started at the bottom and just worked my way up! In the picture below you can kinda see all of the rows. If I’d had more fringe I would have done more rows spaced closer together to try and prevent that.

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So that’s my fringe dress for you! I’ll be honest, I’m not convinced about the colour scheme, but the dress does co-ordinate with the shoes perfectly. Next time I’d like to go for a darker toned, more sultry look. Ooh, maybe even with some beads!

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I do really love how this dress fits, and how it moves. It’s definitely one of those pieces of clothing that puts a strut in your stride.

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Thank you so much for reading at to Sam Chapman for the beautiful pictures!

Lauren

Sloth Shorts!

Hello all! I was in dire need of some lounge shorts just to throw on to wear around the house so that’s what I decided my next Minerva Make would be. I love using fun prints in my loungewear, dinos and polar bears to name a few. This time I decided that sloths could have a turn. I chose the pink colourway and actually really really love it. It’s a cotton jersey and has a good weight and a lovely soft feel to it.

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You can read about the making process at the Minerva Crafts Blog here.

Thanks very much to Minerva Crafts for providing the supplies for this make and to Ryan for taking photos!

Lauren

Velvet Two-Piece Refashion

Hello all! This ensemble was conceived in August 2018, inspired by the Refashioners challenge hosted by Portia. However, the months passed and so did the challenge, but finally the work Christmas party provided me with enough motivation to hunker down and get the job done.

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The image below was my starting point. Inherited from my Grandma, this burgundy velvet two piece ensemble consisted of a wide necked top with a dropped waist, grown on sleeves and a hem band that tied into a bow. The trousers were wide legged, with a waistband and an invisible zip down the side seam. My original plan was to leave the top half fairly undisrupted but an unfortunate Christmas tree applique (for a christmas jumper day, now removed) had left a lovely Christmas tree shaped outline bang in the centre front of the top. Either I could embrace the tree or avoid it. I chose to avoid it. This drastically reduced the fabric I had to work with, which meant that I ended up with a much tighter garment than I had initially anticipated.

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The neckline is a design detail that I’ve been playing with for a while now. I love the definition the gathering gives as the fabric is twisted around the throat. I unpicked the ties from the hem of the top and that long rectangle gave me the base for my twist. Unfortunately it is not the most practical of necklines, giving that I kept the twist in one piece. I essentially popped a square of velvet in the middle to fill in the gap and pinned the twist to the insert until I had the triangular shape that I wanted. This was all then hand sewn together.

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The top just fastens in a knot in the centre back, which I don’t like too much because a) it causes bulk and b) if anyone is feeling particuarly cheeky, one tug will reveal everything to the masses. If I wear this top again I’ll get rid of the ties and replace with hooks and bars for a smoother back line.

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This two piece set was originally going to be a jumpsuit, but I think keeping them separate did give me slightly more freedom of movement. The trousers were less fun than the top because the velvet was very very shifty. I used my trouser block as a base but took them in again and again for a more fitted look. I wish I’d cropped them just a couple inches shorter as well. I ended off leaving the waistband but maybe it would have looked better with slightly less tummy on show.

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All in all, it’s always good fun to be limited by making something from an already existing garment (or two). It forces you to be creative in ways that you might not be otherwise. I can’t quite decide how I feel about this outfit. I think perhaps the top would look better with a gold toned full skirt. I don’t know. Anyway, it all got worn to the Christmas party and who knows, maybe at least one of these two pieces will see the light of day again, although paired with what I cannot say.

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Thank you so much for reading and to Sam Chapman for the photos!

Lauren xx

Phoenix Costume

Hello all! I’ve got a special one to share with you today. It’s become a tradition in my house that we hold a fancy dress party to celebrate everyone’s birthdays in December and January. You have to come dressed as something beginning with the first letters of each of our names, so for us this was M, K, P, J, R or L (for me). I decided that I wanted to be a phoenix mostly because I loved the metaphor of rising from the ashes into a new year.

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The base of this costume is a leotard in two halves. For the top half (waist and above) I used a nude illusion tulle because I wanted it to be as invisible as possible. For the bottom half I used a nude powermesh which was more substantial and had more stretch to it. I chose to use yellow, orange and red feathers to make a fun gradient. Two metres of feather trim in each colour formed the ‘skirt’ and I had 20 feathers of each colour to form the bodice. I did also buy gems in fiery colours but ended up deciding that I liked the costume without.

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I wanted to minimise how much of the illusion mesh was on my torso (and I also needed to be able to get in and out of the thing) so I made the bodice a backless halterneck. I did want it to be dartless but because there wasn’t so much stretch in the tulle I had to put bust darts in to fix the gapey sides. It didn’t matter too much in the end because that party was covered by feathers anyway. For practical reasons I put snaps on the crotch which was a lifesaver in an alcohol fueled party situation.

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So, I had six metres worth of feather trim to attach to the bottom half of my leotard. The biggest issue was that the fabric needed to stretch, but the feather trim did not. I dealt with this by getting my friend MK to pin on each layer of feathers at the centre front, side seams and centre back and then zigzagging 3/4 of the way around the circumference of the leotard. The 1/4 of the lycra that was left free then had enough give for me to wriggle in and out of it. The 1/4 of feather trim was that not sewn down was then poppered to meet the beginning of the trim at the centre back. Zig-zagging the feather trim on got quite sticky and my machine needle got quite gunked up so that needed cleaning regularly.

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Then it was time to sort the bodice feathers out. I first tried sewing them on, but it just looked absolutely rubbish so I ripped them all off and decided that glue was the answer. I didn’t have a mannequin and so I improvised by wrapping myself in clingfilm, putting the leotard on and gluing the feathers directly to me. When I was done, I got my housemates to cut me out of the clingfilm and I gently eased it off the back of the illusion tulle.

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Now let’s talk about the crown! I made it with a strip of crin which was pinned to a headblock where I wanted it. I glued some stiffer feathers to the crin first which gave the floppier ones in front something to stick on to. I wasn’t too happy with the spread of the crown when I first tried it on so I slashed and spread the crin at intervals about 3/4 down the width of the crin just to give more of a halo effect. This was then just bobby pinned into my hair.

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And that’s it! I had the best time figuring out this project, and the best time at the party. Many thanks to Sam Chapman for the photos.

Lauren xx

Charlie Caftan: Corduroy Edition

Hello all!

This dress is directly inspired by the one that Heather Lou made in her tutorial here. I liked the concept of a winter style smock dress, however I’m not quite sure that it’s working for me. You can read all about the sewing process over on the Minerva Crafts blog.

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Thanks very much for reading, to Drew for taking the photos and to Minerva Crafts for the kit to make this dress with!

Lauren xx

Teal Lingerie Set

Hello all!

Today I’ve got some lingerie to show you that I made eons ago, but never managed to get photos of til now. Better late than never, eh? Patternwise I used the Madalynne X Simplicity 8228 halterneck bralette as a base for the bra and hacked a pattern I’d previously made of a well fitting existing pair of pants for the bottom half of the set.

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I decided to change the halterneck of the pattern because I don’t like the pressure that halternecks put on the back of the neck. A younger and more naive me decided that if I just added straps from the shoulders down to the back band of the bra it would be fine. However, it was not quite that simple, because if you move a strap that’s supposed to be at your neck to the mid shoulder it will tighten the centre front line and create gaping at the side boob area exactly where you don’t want this. At the time I fixed this issue by just ripping out the elastic and re-doing it, stretching very tightly as I sewed. In the photo below you can see the ripples in the fabric where the elastic has almost gathered the lace.

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Fabric wise I got the lace, powermesh and all of the matching notions from Sewing Chest which is a UK based lingerie supply company. I just checked and they actually still have this exact lace in stock. For the main pant fabric I used a silk jersey that I bought from the Man outside Sainsburys in Walthamstow.

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Pants-wise I just extended the back pattern piece over to the front a bit for a cute little crossover. I did use jersey under the lace at the back because I couldn’t quite get my head around using just lace.

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Shape-wise the bra doesn’t do a whole lot, but that’s not it’s purpose. Its purpose is just to be pretty. I do love a good scalloped edging and teal is one of my favourite colours in the world.

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Construction wise I think was very straightforward and didn’t take too long at all.

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Next I think that I want to experiment more with wired bras, looking more at lift and shape.

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Thank you so much for reading!

Lauren xx

Autumn Dress

Hello all! Today I have a new dress to share with you. I saw this viscose on the Minerva Crafts Instagram and instantly fell in love with the colour scheme, which screams autumn to me. It is a viscose crepe, and I normally avoid crepe fabrics like the plague, but the print was enough to persuade me to give the fabric the benefit of the doubt. You can read all about the making process at the Minerva Crafts blog here.

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Thank you very much for reading, and to Minerva Crafts for providing the supplies for this project!

Lauren xx

Black Velvet Skirt

Hello all! For this months Minerva project continuing the party theme I chose another special occasion fabric; velvet. I haven’t worked with velvet for years and it was good to have a play with it again. I knew exactly what I wanted to make with the fabric. A black velvet mini skirt would be a perfect piece to add to my evening wardrobe. Black making it versatile, and velvet giving it that slight edge to take it into evening, although I’m actually really enjoying wearing this skirt during the day as well. You can read all of the details over on the Minerva blog here.

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Thanks to Minerva Crafts for providing the supplies for this make and to Gemma for taking the photos for me!

Lauren xx

My winter coat!

Hello all! My family and I went on a trip of a lifetime to New Zealand this summer and I was informed that it was going to be pretty cold. I’ve had the same bright pink winter coat for as long as I can remember. It was irredeemably grubby and definitely due an update. After a couple of coat shopping trips I just couldn’t find what I wanted, which was something warm, roomy enough to fit a fair few layers underneath and with a good hood. The obvious solution, was of course to make my own winter coat.

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This was obviously quite an involved project. It involved technical fabric that had to be worked with in a very specific way, a lot of pattern pieces and a couple of new to me techniques that I had not tried before. Of course I procrastinated to my hearts content, leaving it until 2 days before the flight to get cracking. It wasn’t an easy project. There were tears and a couple of minor strops, but I’ve worn this coat pretty much every day since it got cold here, plus it was invaluable when we were in New Zealand so I’d say that it was worth the aggro.

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Given the time frame that I was under, and how much I loved the fit of my old coat I decided that the best port of call was to cut up the old coat and use that as a pattern for my new one. I saved the quilted lining and the zips from the old coat because they were still perfectly usable, which saved me a fair bit of money and time. The fabric for the outer is a Cordura I found at Extreme Textiles for 25 euros a metre. I think I ordered 2m and just had enough? It’s waterproof and windproof whilst still being breathable which seemed like pretty ideal qualities for a waterproof coat. I also ordered some waterproofing tape from them so I could tape all of the seams after they were sewn. Black is a bit boring, but it’s nothing if not versatile. If I’d been able to source some different colours it would have been a great opportunity for colour blocking, but alas, not this time.

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The first task was to look at my existing coat and note all of the design lines. I then drew a very rough sketch of the coat and numbered what would become each individual pattern piece. These numbers were then written onto the actual coat that I was cutting up so I could keep track of what was what. You can see below that excluding the hood and the lining there were already 20 pattern pieces.

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When my old coat was unpicked down to each individual piece these were then traced onto card, which I then used as a template to cut out my new coat. Then it was time for the actual sewing to begin! The first step was actually the most intimidating part, which was the zippered welt pockets in the front of the coat. I wish I had sampled these first because I’d never tried this technique before and had to redo them a couple of times to get them right. Then it was just putting all of the pieces together and topstitching all of the seams down.

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Another technique that I copied from my old coat was the elasticated cuffs with a velcro tag so you can adjust the width of the cuffs depending on how bulky a jumper you are wearing. Well worth the extra time.

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Other notable features include the hood which is super cosy, but I wish that I’d made it just a bit bigger.

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All of the seams were waterproofed with an iron on seam tape which took a fair while to do, but considering that time, effort and money that had gone into the make I wanted to do it properly. I used a press cloth when ironing and used a low heat.

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So that’s my new coat! It’s honestly the biggest workhorse in my wardrobe. It’s definitely got its wobbly bits, but I can confirm that it’s waterproof, so really what more can you ask of it. I think that the seam details that I spent so long on do get a little lost due to the large expanse of black but at least it makes the large expanse of black that little bit more interesting.

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Thanks very much for reading and to Edward for the photos!

Lauren xx

Sequin Top

Hello all! Today I have something to share with you that is without a doubt the sparkliest thing I have ever made. Sequins have never really called out to me until I saw this beauty at Minerva Crafts and I thought it was high time that I tried out a new to me fabric. You can read all about the making process on the Minerva Crafts blog here.

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Thanks so much for reading and to Minerva Crafts for supplying the all of the components for this make!

Lauren xx

The Refashioners 2018: Linen Buttondown Dress

Hello all! The theme for The Refashioners this year is ‘inspired by’ and I took a dress donated to me by Grandpa which was much too big for me and made it into the button down dress I’ve been lusting after all summer. You can see the inspiration image on pinterest here.

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You can see a picture of what I started with below. It was much too big in the bodice and the waist so I decided to remove the bodice, take it apart completely, cut out a new one, take in the skirt so it fit at the waist and then reattach skirt to the bodice. Easy! A few years ago I would have instantly chopped a fair bit of length off the skirt but I love the length of the skirt as it is now.

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I had just enough to cut out a strapless princess seam bodice from my existing front and back pattern pieces, then it was put together. I tried it on and made a few tweaks so that the fit was as good as I could get it. Then it was time to tackle the skirt.

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The skirt was a bit more complicated to alter than it could have been because the pockets got in the way a bit. I ended up having to take them out so I could take the skirt in properly and heavily debated putting them back in, but it was well worth the extra time. I do wish that I’d made the pockets a bit bigger though because fitting my phone in them is a bit of a squeeze.

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The only problem with the length of the skirt is that there’s quite a lot of fabric in it, which in turn makes it quite heavy. The weight of the skirt then dragged down the bodice, making the waist seam uneven. To battle that I added in a ribbon waist stay to stabilize the waist seam, anchoring the ribbon at each seam, fastening with a couple of hooks and eyes in the centre front.

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The insides were all overlocked and the top edge bound. I think that there’s possibly too much fullness in the centre back of the skirt but I’m not worried enough about it to change it. I wonder what would have happened if I had pleated out the excess in the skirt instead of removing it at the side seams. It would have meant that I wouldn’t have had to take the pockets out and then put them back in. Oh, the gift of hindsight!

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This dress premiered for a concert at the Royal Albert Hall and it was just perfect for the occasion. It’s one of those pieces of clothing that motivates me to walk a little taller and dare I say, even strut a little. The power of clothing eh!

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Thanks very much for reading and to Portia for hosting the refashioners again this year!

Lauren xx