Jago and Litefoot visit the Doctor Who Experience

I’m more than happy to admit that I love Jago and Litefoot with all of my little geek heart. For the uninitiated, Mr Henry Gordon Jago, a theatre impresario, and Professor George Litefoot, a police pathologist, are the eponymous Victorian heroes of an audio drama series from Big Finish. They started life as characters in the Talons of Weng-Chiang, a Tom Baker Doctor Who story, and were revived by Big Finish 30 years later.

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“Mammy, why you taking photos of a dress when you could be feeding me my hams?”

I like to literally wear my fandoms but how are you supposed to do this when no appropriate merchandise exists? You just have to make your own, don’t you?

I spent some time mulling over the idea of getting some custom-printed Jago and Litefoot fabric but I couldn’t come up with an appropriate design. Mainly because I can’t actually draw or design. Luckily I came across some fantastic artwork on Instagram by Johanna Jetsonen, a talented artist and a fellow lover of those two intrepid investigators of infernal incidents.I got in touch with Johanna who kindly gave me permission to use one of her creations as the basis for my fabric.

I uploaded the image to Contrado, played with the settings and ordered my fabric. I didn’t find Contrado particularly user-friendly and ended up with less fabric than I’d intended. Next time I think I’ll try another company.

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Jago and Litefoot’s fabric counterparts meet the Ood!

One plus point for Contrado is the huge range of fabric options available. I ordered a bundle of swatches and they’re so much fun to paw through. The colour has faded slightly on the fabric but it has stood up pretty well to quite a few tumbles in the washing machine.

As the fabric was much more expensive than I would normally go for, I had to pair it with Simplicity 2444. I wasn’t going to trust an untried or awkward pattern with my precious! As I ended up with less than 2m of fabric, I also had to get creative. Which is my way of explaining why the back bodice, the binding on the armholes and the random band on the skirt are all in a plain blue fabric.

I think it matches fairly well. It was the best match I could find in my local fabric shop and I was far too impatient to look for something online.

My only complaints with this dress are that, even with the blue band, it’s shorter than I would like and the bodice is also a bit tight. Not sure how I managed that one but I suspect it may have shrunk a tiny bit when washed. I did prewash it but maybe I should have washed a couple of times before cutting.

I made the dress months ago and have wanted to blog about it for ages…I just had my usual problem of needing photographs of it. An opportunity arose last week when my baby brother visited and, as is our yearly tradition, we went to the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff Bay? Where better to get photographs of my Jago and Litefoot dress?

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Jago and Litefoot encounter the TARDIS, not for the first time

One of the excellent things about living in Cardiff is having the Doctor Who Experience practically on your doorstep. Well, not my doorstep. It’s more like a 30-minute walk and a 5-minute train journey from my doorstep. Still counts though. They ask you not to ruin the Experience part for others with spoilers so I won’t say much about it except to say that anything involving Peter Capaldi rocks.

As baby brother insists on going to the Doctor Who Experience when he visits every year, I like that they always update the exhibition part with props, costumes and monsters from the latest series. My favourites of these newest exhibits include the painted TARDIS tribute to Clara, Paternoster Gang costumes, and the Doctor’s punk rock outfit.

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Fabulous steampunk details on Jenny’s costume

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If only recreating this wasn’t completely beyond my skills

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Still swooning at this stunning River Song outfit

 

I’m still waiting for the day when a stranger recognises Jago and Litefoot on my dress. It didn’t happen at the Doctor Who Experience so it may never happen. Oh well. The important thing is that I can leave the house liberally covered in Victorian gentlemen and some Ood. And not many people can claim that. One day my brother will claim it though. He’s now demanded a Jago and Litefoot shirt and I can’t exactly refuse given that he’s the one who introduced me to the gentlemen in the first place.

Supreme sewist of stylish sartorial specimens, that’s me.

Idjits

I’m always so darn proud of myself whenever I manage to get a photograph of a completed sewing project. I know it’s hardly rocket science but it’s my biggest stumbling block when it comes to writing about what I’ve been making. Well, that plus I get distracted far too easily by cats and shiny things.

Check it out though: I made a thing, wore the thing, posed for a photo in the thing, and am now writing about the thing. Totally winning at this sewing blog lark.

And as a bonus: it’s not a Simplicity 2444! The bodice is a princess seam bodice from Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book and the skirt is just some gathered rectangles. This was my first time trying princess seams and I have to say I’m quite taken with them, especially how easy it is to make fitting adjustments. They work quite well with this floral print but I’m not convinced I’d like the seam lines breaking up a more structured print.

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Idjit dress. Yes, by the way. That is a cat on a leash.

This was also my first time trying a Gertie pattern. Partly because I’ve seen mixed reviews online about her drafting, partly because the patterns need to be traced and I’ve been far too lazy for that. I’ve got all her books but mostly just use them for flipping through and swooning.

Tracing patterns is something I’ve always assumed will be a horrendous task and one best avoided. Turns out it’s actually pretty quick and easy…although, to be fair, I was only tracing a handful of straightforward pieces. Once everything was traced and cut out, sewing up the dress didn’t take much time at all.

Overall I’m glad I’ve added Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book to my collection. I’m very taken with her aesthetic and I like the idea of mixing & matching the various bodice and skirt patterns provided. The princess seam bodice is still the only one I’ve tried out though so I can’t testify for any of the others, although I’ll hopefully try out some more in future.

Obviously I need to make several more of this one first though. I’m nothing if not obsessive.

Fabric? I bought the fabric during a John Lewis sale back in January and I have a feeling it’s an Amy Butler print. Whether it is or isn’t, I love the colours and it sewed up really nicely.

Why is there a cat on a leash? My cat is a precious, pampered little madam who isn’t allowed in the big, scary outside world by herself for fear she’ll get run over by a car or bullied by the gang of neighbourhood cats who seem to live in our garden.

giphy-2.gif.gifWhy the Idjits dress? Because I’m a damn idjit, that’s why. I’ve rarely bothered making muslins in the past but am trying to turn over a new leaf and do things properly at the moment. So I did actually make a muslin for this dress and marked up some changes on the pattern pieces once I’d got a fit I was reasonably happy with.

Yet when I came to make this version, it somehow turned out at least a size too big in the bodice. Now I know full well that I haven’t managed to drop a dress size in  the intervening weeks so god only knows what I did wrong. Hence idjit.

Also, I was watching Supernatural when I was making the dress and I love me some Bobby Singer.

Irishing up St Paul de Vence

I was lucky enough to spend last week in the beautiful south of France with my best friend and, along the way, I even managed to get some photos of a recent sewing project. That’s right: I made a thing, wore a thing, and wrote about it.

#totessewingblogger

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Cathleen Ni Houlihan dress – works well with pishachio gelato

Confession time: I have already made dresses in two other colourways of this wax print fabric (red with yellow stars and blue with pink stars) and that should have been enough. But, being the good little Irish colleen that I am, I couldn’t resist this green and orange version. Now I just need a white cardigan to wear with it and complete my sartorial tricolour.

I don’t have much to say about construction (it’s my usual and much-loved Simplicity 2444 pattern with a pleated skirt) so I’ll focus on the location instead.

We stayed in Antibes for the week, which is a really handy base for visiting other towns along the Cote d’Azur, including St Paul de Vence, a medieval walled village perched high between two valleys.

It’s really straightforward to get from Antibes to St Paul de Vence (and vice versa) on public transport. Train or 200 bus to Cagnes-sur-Mer and then the 400 bus to St Paul de Vence. Do not convince yourself that there are other, easier, quicker, smarter options. There aren’t. And I don’t want to talk about why I know that.

Shut up. No, you shut up.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, St Paul de Vence. It’s quite a touristy spot so not the best option if you want to experience the ‘real’ France.Or if you want to avoid American tourists. I know I’m a tourist too, but there’s a hierarchy. I’m Irish and we get to look down on the American ones. Especially the ones standing in the door of the restaurant where we ate lunch, loudly declaring “well, we could grab something here to keep us going until we get to McDonalds.”

If you’re down with that kind of thing though, it really is a lovely spot to visit on a sunny day. Plenty of narrow, winding streets to explore, lots of little galleries and shops, some fantastic gelato, and every so often you get to round a corner and become re-acquainted with the stunning view.

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We found a cafe/restaurant with a small balcony which was ideal for drinking coffee and gawping at the view. I use the word ‘gawping’ carefully because that’s exactly what it feels like. Less ‘taking in the scenery’, more ‘brain unable to deal with the fact that a view like this even exists.’

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It was a lovely day on the whole and a good start to a week of sunshine, coffee, sea, lounging about, and eating my own body weight in bread and cheese. Went far too quickly of course so now I’m adjusting to being back in the real world. The one where I have to actually go to work every day and do chores and generally be responsible…*

 

*It’s Saturday so actually I’ve mainly been reading on the sofa and listening to Postmodern Jukebox all afternoon

 

 

Do as Peggy says

Jess, is this blog post nothing more than a thinly-veiled excuse to look at pictures of Peggy Carter on the internet?

Yes,what’s your point. I stand by my choices. I REGRET NOTHING.

There are so many things to love about Marvel’s Agent Carter TV series that I’m not even going to try and list them all. If you watch the show, you already know the reasons why it’s so fantastic. If you don’t watch the show, then I have nothing more to say to you. GET OFF MY INTERNETZ.

So instead I’ll just focus on one of the many reasons: Peggy’s wardrobe.

Swoon.

Be still my beating heart.

Peggy is my one true lady love and her wardrobe is part of what has cemented her place in my heart. Black Widow may wear a skintight catsuit to beat up the bad guys but Peggy kicks ass and takes names in beautiful post-WW2 dresses and nifty pant suits. Which makes her an extremely popular choice for cosplayers.

Seriously, take ten minutes and look up ‘Peggy Carter cosplay’. Enjoy, then come back and thank me.

And the beauty of Peggy’s costuming is that it can be turned to everyday cosplay. I could get away with wearing it to work whilst secretly channelling Peggy.

Take Peggy’s most iconic look: that beautiful blue suit and red hat from season one.

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It wasn’t hard to find a pattern that could be used to recreate this, especially given that Simplicity have chosen to basically put a blonde Peggy Carter on the pattern envelope for 8050.

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But what of Peggy’s other looks? Her wardrobe winners tend to combine excellent fit with stunning details. Like this dress with triangular cutouts and binding around the neckline. I’ve found a vintage pattern and an out-of-print Butterick pattern featuring this detailing so I may have to do some Ebay and Etsy stalking soon. The Butterick pattern is a shift dress so completely inappropriate but it could be worth adapting the details for a fit & flare bodice.

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Because I particular like these cutouts, I’m also drawn to Deer & Doe’s Datura blouse pattern. Does not in any way fit the ‘become Peggy Carter’ brief but damnit, I like a triangle.

Then there’s Peggy’s navy number with the red bands. I haven’t found an exact pattern match but I think the Colette Dahlia dress replicates the bodice gathering nicely and could look rather cute with red piping on the waistband.

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I can’t look at this nautical dress without swooning. Although, to be fair, Peggy generally has that effect on me. Again, no exact pattern match but some possible hacks. I struggled to find wide lapel collars on modern patterns so an Etsy trawl for vintage patterns is probably a safe bet for this style. It’s impossible to see details on the picture I’ve included but there’s a wing collar option in Gertie Sews Vintage Casual that could also work quite well. The white sailor stripes could be added after construction as an embellishment.

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Season two (aka Peggy Goes to Hollywood) is the season of pants suits. Not a style I’ve ever really been interested in before but if it’s good enough for Peggy…

Not that I can make trousers, of course, but I’m saving some suggestions here in case I ever do feel up to the challenge.

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I definitely approve of high-waisted trousers – anything that keeps my waistline in check gets a ‘yes’ from me – and this pattern from Decades of Style looks like it might fit the bill.

And the top half? This Sewaholic Cordova jacket could be a good call. Especially the collarless style which would allow a classic Peggy wide-lapel shirt to shine. Hey, if you’re going to have huge lapels, you may as well flaunt them. Adding the Colette Juniper trousers as another possibility.

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And here ends my initial round-up of Peggy Carter cosplay options. I’ve already got the Simplicity pattern for her blue suit so if I ever get around to actually making it, maybe I’ll be inspired to try something else. And I’m going to keep hunting for the perfect pattern for this red dress of gloriousness…

Indescribable eldritch horror

I do love me some Lovecraft. Yes, the man was a racist dick but I’m going to go all lit crit on this one and claim Roland Barthes’ death of author as my defence. ‘Ol Howard Phillips did indeed have some nasty points of view but damn did he also write some good stories. So let’s just separate out the two for now and talk about sewing.

That’s right, all I want to do is write about a nice dress that I made. Apparently I need to do this through the prism of horror fiction and French literary theory and that, kids, is why I’ll never make it as a sewing blogger.

It’s all down to this fabulous Cotton & Steel fabric. I know it’s an octopus but anything with tentacles makes my mind go straight to ‘Lovecraftian eldritch horror’ and that, kids, is why I’ll never make it in the real world either.

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Look at those eldritch tentacles and their derpy little faces!

To cut a long story short, I bought 2 metres of the fabric and I made a dress. Not only that but I also took photos of said dress for the purpose of writing about it. Wonders will never cease.

The pattern is my old faithful Simplicity 2444. Fitting is my downfall when it comes to sewing. Construction is easy enough to figure out as you go along but it’s a lot trickier to figure out fitting just from books and online tutorials. I’ve made enough versions of this pattern though that I’m mostly comfortable with how they turn out.

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How is one supposed to stand for these things? And keep one’s eyes open at the same time? It’s impossible.

I thought I was at least. Until I saw these damn photos and that hard-to-miss bodice wrinkle. That has kind of thrown me, to be honest. I can be far too self-critical for my good but it’s easy enough to ignore sewing imperfections when all I’m doing is briefly glancing in the mirror. Photos are a different matter though.

For now I’m going to try not to let this get me down. So it isn’t perfect, screw it. It’s not like I’m competing with anyone. I still took a flat piece of fabric and turned it into a wearable tentacle-covered garment. Hurrah for me.

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The face of a woman who just wants to go back inside and drink tea 

I don’t make many changes to the pattern, other than taking out some fabric on both front and back necklines to prevent them gaping. And I tend to go with a pleated skirt rather than gathered because a) I suspect pleating adds less bulk around my waist and b) I seriously hate gathering fabric.

This dress is all about the fabric though. I do love it so despite the fact that it freaks my mother out. It’s apparently ignited some sort of latent fear of tentacles in her. Note to self: do not take dress to Ireland next month.

I’m going to end with one of my favourite book covers. I already own several Lovecraft volumes but couldn’t resist picking this Penguin deluxe edition up last year purely for the cover.

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Fancy Victorian Cthulhu with his little monocle

 

Atomic Tabbys

First off, I have been sewing. I promise. I’ve just not been blogging about it. Laziness? General ineptitude? Nope. I’d just underestimated how much I HATE having my photo taken. But I’m going to cop on and try to document my backlog of finished items from the past few months. Starting with THE BEST FABRIC. EVER.

I don’t buy a lot of fabric online, mainly because I get overwhelmed by choice. So many fabrics! All so pretty! How can I choose a fabric when I want them all? My stupid brain works on the principle that if I can’t have ALL of the things, then I can’t have any of the things.

Sometimes there are exceptions. Sometimes a fabric comes along that is special enough to make me forget about all the other pretties. Presenting Michael Miller’s Atomic Tabbys.

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Look at it! In all it’s adorable atomicky tabbiness. The swanky orange kitty showing off its behind…that one kitty licking its paw. BEST. FABRIC.EVER.

Unfortunately, the BEST FABRIC EVER comes with a price. £12 p/m to be exact. So having just the one metre to play with, like the cheapskate that I am, I figured a short sleeved top would be in order. Enter New Look 6193, a simple top with some darts, a bit of bias binding and some cute sleeves. I’d already made a couple of sleeveless versions of the pattern so figured it’d be safe to match it with my tabbys. And I was right! I’m not often a fan of my own finished items but I heart this top so much. The cotton wrinkles if you so much as look at it but I’ve still been wearing it weekly since I made it.

The pattern is straightforward and comes together really easily. I did learn some lessons from previous versions though. I think it’s designed to be worn tucked in (as per the envelope styling) so is a bit shorter than I normally like my tops. I lengthened this one so that I could comfortably wear with jeans. I also added some extra width towards the bottom (sorry, not up on all my technical terms yet!) to allow me to comfortably shovel cake down my gullet whilst wearing it.

The neckline is a bit on the high side and there is a bit of excess fabric at the neck but nothing unbearable. Just some issues to bear in mind for future versions. The important thing is LOOK AT ALL THE KITTEHS!

As an added bonus, leftover fabric makes for adorable covered buttons!

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I did try to involve my tabby cat in the photos but she was having none of it. Acted like I was torturing her and stormed off to sulk. So, here she is by herself and (presumably) contemplating why she’s stuck with a crazy kitty mama.

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When good skirts go bad: A cautionary tale

This make had so much potential. Pretty new fabric and a chance to try the Hollyburn skirt pattern from Sewaholic. I had lots of free time over the weekend and assumed I’d be able to get the skirt finished reasonably quickly and with minimal swearing.

I’d clearly forgotten that Jess + sewing confidence usually adds up to a disaster.

Sewing gods throwing a spanner in the works to punish my mortal hubris? Not so much. Most of the blame lies at the fact that I get insanely complacent the second I even suspect that I know what I’m doing.

As this was a beginners pattern and seemed straightforward, I took this as licence to ignore all instructions and just do whatever the hell I felt like.

Here are just some of the things that went wrong:

  • The pattern pieces for the front and back of the skirt did not specify that they needed to be placed on a fold line. I therefore cut out the two front pieces and the two back pieces on unfolded fabric. Now this might not have been too bad, it could have resulted in nothing more than having to spend twice as much time cutting out pieces. But, no. No. It never occurred to me to actually flip the pattern pieces over for the second cut so that I’d end up with two mirrored pieces of fabric. Instead I ended up (both times) with absolutely identical and utterly useless pieces.
  • Discovering this mistake and correcting it by re-cutting meant a struggle to cut the pockets and waistband pieces from the remaining fabric.

    Figuring out my various cutting errors was made even more difficult by someone deciding to plant herself on my fabric

    Figuring out my various cutting errors was made even more difficult by someone deciding to plant herself on my fabric

  • In the course of this struggle, I somehow managed to cut the pockets completely wrong. I still have no idea how this happened. But they were just…wrong. Wrong size, wrong shape, things going the wrong way. You know what, this one is just a bit too weird for me to take all the blame. The sewing gods need to own part of this one.
  • It took me far too long to figure out the problem with the pockets. At least 30 minutes of messing with the incorrect pieces and generally going a bit nuts because I couldn’t figure out how to attach them.
  • Once I accepted the pocket error, I realised that I didn’t have enough fabric left to cut new pieces. I did however have enough left to cut bizarrely shaped fabric lumps to attach to the skirt front pieces to make up for the lack of pockets. Again, much fiddling and generally going nuts.
  • My machine needle snapped in half while I was in the middle of splicing in these pieces. Note that I was not sewing layers of heavy material. I was simply attaching one piece of thin cotton to another. This one is definitely on the sewing gods.
  • Managed to attach the zip relatively neatly (by my standards) and then promptly realised that it’s too low down on the skirt. Humph. Have yet to sort this out.
  • Forgot to interface the waistband.

On the plus side, my cat likes to sit on the skirt and looks remarkably sweet whilst doing so.

"What do you mean this isn't a new kitteh rug?"

“What do you mean this isn’t a new kitteh rug?”

So, yeah. There’s still quite a bit of remedial work to do  on this skirt. It can be salvaged but I’m not sure when I’ll have the motivation for all the necessary unpicking and restitching.

Once enough time has passed, I would like to try this pattern again. Except, you know, I’ll actually pay attention and stuff.

Confession time

I’ve been sewing on and off for about two years but still feel very much like an absolute beginner at times. In an attempt to improve this situation I have decided that I need to start being strict with myself.

However, being strict with myself is not something that comes easily to me. Just like I can’t turn down biscuits or an opportunity to add more unread books to my existing stacks, I will invariably accept chances to cut corners when sewing. This is where my sudden New Year’s urge to start a blog stems from. I’m much more likely to balance out the biscuits with some exercise if I declare to my intentions to somebody else. That way it’s embarrassing later if I try and wriggle out of exercising with a string of tenuous excuses.

Organising my tea press. One of the many things I have been doing when I should have been sewing.

Organising my tea press. One of the many things I have been doing when I should have been sewing.

So I’m putting my sewing intentions on the Internet to hopefully shame me into acting like a well-behaved seamstress should.  Before I can start doing things properly, I feel like I need to confess to the sins that are holding back my sewing. Maybe it’s  an Irish Catholic guilt thing. Who knows? Anyway, here goes:

  • I have an ingrained but entirely unwarranted tendency to believe that I know best. Follow instructions? Pah! That’s for losers who need to be told what to do.
  • Interfacings, linings and the like? Don’t need ’em, won’t use ’em.
  • Press my seams? I struggle to iron the outside of my clothes let alone find time to iron the inner workings.
  • I make terrible fabric choices. Acknowledging my sewing ineptitude, I’m always reluctant to spend a lot of money on fabric for fear that I will make a terrible mistake (or, more likely, a series of terrible mistakes) and end up having to consign it to my rubbish pile. I’m also far too taken with the type of polycottons that are much more suited to crafting projects than dressmaking. They’re just so darn cute and hard to resist though!
  • Procrastinating. I think about sewing, I read countless sewing blogs, I trail around fabric shops, I do just about everything other than actually sewing.
  • I have no idea what my measurements are. Nor do I know how to accurately measure myself. As a result, I tend to guess what size I need to cut and I hope for the best. The best rarely happens.
  • Related to that last bullet point is the fact that, so far, I have absolutely refused point blank to make muslins. I’ve gotten away with this when making skirts but it has resulted in some very bizarre-fitting dresses…although that is admittedly a best case scenario. More often than not, it’s resulted in some very bizarre-fitting heaps of fabric consigned to my guilt-inducing scraps pile.

I’m beginning to accept that I have many problems with my sewing and that I actually cause the majority of these problems myself. So, what’s my next step?

  • LEARN TO BEHAVE MYSELF WHEN SEWING

This pretty much covers all aspects of my sewing behaviour. It means having to pull on my big girl pants and start doing things properly. It means actually reading instructions, checking online for solutions to things I don’t understand instead of just tearing into things, taking my time, paying attention, choosing fabric and patterns carefully, and pressing my goddamn seams.

First up for 2014?

I’m starting off 2014 with my first Renfrew from Sewaholic Patterns. Using a knit fabric means that I can still avoid having to make a muslin or worry about my seams but I’m determined to at least figure out my correct measurements and follow instructions properly. I’m also going to make good use of all the Sewaholic blog posts on sewing Renfrews.

Let’s see how it goes…