A Review of 2016

As it’s New Year’s Eve, I thought I’d have a look back at the sewing I’ve managed to complete this year. Some of it hasn’t made it to the blog yet, but this year I have made:

(non-clothes)
2 Quiet Books
1 Appliqued Cushion
1 Internet Meme Cushion (which was my favourite non-garment I’ve made this year)

Internet Meme cushion

(clothes)
3 Shirts (2 Archers [1,2] and a Melilot)
6 Tops (3 Cocos [1,2,3], a Plantain, an Astoria and a Hemlock)
2 Jackets (both made with dresses, for a Christening and a Wedding)
1 Skirt
2 Pairs of Pyjamas
6 Dresses (1 from a Vintage Pattern, a Rushcutter, a Drapey Knit Dress, a Lace Emery/Elisalex mash-up, an Alix Dress and a not-yet-blogged Jersey Dress)
I’ve also made 3 skirts for my sister and am making a 4th and possibly 5th in the next week or so, so I make that 23 garments in total! That’s definitely the most things I’ve made in any year since I started sewing clothes in 2013! To compare I made 14 things in 2013, 13 in 2014 and 11 in 2015. It definitely helped to take a couple of months off work this year!

I’m going to round-up my favourite and most-worn makes of the year in a bit more detail.

My Rushcutter by In The Folds was one of my most worn garments this year – and definitely my most-worn dress. I love the loose fit, but it feels flattering at the same time. And I’ve discovered it’s perfect for layering with a long-sleeved top underneath when it’s cold. I think I need to make this pattern again in the new year!

Navy Spotty Rushcutter DressMy other most-worn dress was my #SewDots Drapey Knit Dress (from the 3rd GBSB book). This could have beaten out my Rushcutter if I’d made it earlier in the year! Again, I think I need one or two more of these in my wardrobe – but probably made from a more stretchy jersey as the sleeves on this one are a bit snug. It’s another good one for layering, too.

#SewDots GBSB Drapey Knit DressMy 2 Cocos (1,2) with funnel necks were pretty successful makes from this year, though I haven’t worn them since the weather has really got cold. They are probably the things I get the most compliments on too, which is nice!

Turquoise Coco Top with Funnel neckI’ve definitely got quite a lot of wear out of the 3 shirts I’ve made this year. For some reason I feel like my blue spotty Archer isn’t smart enough for work, so I tend to wear that more at weekends, but the other Archer and my Melilot are perfect for work, so I think it would be good to make some more shirts in 2017.

Blue Spotty Archer Button UpMy 2 probably favourite makes are the 2 party dresses I made, though of course, I haven’t worn them very much – but we all need a couple of occasion dresses, don’t we? The lace frankenpattern dress I made for a wedding in May was my most liked make on Instagram and I do love it so! I need more parties to go to so I can wear this again……

Wedding-Outfit-11And my most recently blogged make, my By Hand London Alix Dress, is my other favourite. It’s a bit of a different style for me – more 70s than 60s as I’m normally drawn to – but I do love it! Again, it’s not really the kind of thing I can wear down to Tescos…….

Bright Pink Viscose Alix Maxi Dress - By Hand LondonAnd now onto my couple of unsuccessful makes…..(quite proud there are only a couple!)

By the time I’d finished my 2 sets of Lakeside pyjamas, and we’d moved into a very cold flat, the weather was definitely NOT warm enough to wear these. Boo! Hopefully we’ll have a warm Summer in 2017 so I can break these babies out!

Teal Lakeside PajamasMustard Lakeside Pajamas

The other thing(s) I made which have only got one wear is my Vintage Pledge outfit I made for a Christening in April. I didn’t really feel comfortable in it on the day beacuse the fit of the dress is pretty off. I made it with no fitting changes, knowing the pattern was probably a size too big for me. Also I made it in a probably too stiff fabric, so it looks even worse fitting – if it had been a more drapey fabric, perhaps it would have been more forgiving?

Vintage Pledge Christening Outfit - 1960s Vintage Dress and Coat

I thought I might have got some wear out of the coat in the spring, but it didn’t happen. Maybe Spring 2017? Now I work in a fairly smart office, maybe I wouldn’t look so overdressed in a long jacket?

Vintage Pledge Christening Outfit - 1960s Vintage Dress and CoatOn a side-note, I failed in my Vintage Pledge to make 3 garments/outfits from my vintage patterns. I made these 2 and then I think I lost heart because they didn’t fit well. Next year I will have another go, but I’ll treat them like any other pattern, I’ll trace it and make a toile and make sure I end up with something wearable.

On a personal note 2016 has been ………interesting.

It was definitely a year of change:

  • The Boyfriend and I quit our jobs in London in January and packed up our flat to move across the country to Cirencester to live with his parents – thank god they let us stay with them! I have no idea how people move to different areas of the country if they don’t have someone they can stay with.
  • I spent a couple of months (from March to June) not working, which was nice in one way – I got lots of sewing done – but the stress of not being able to find work slightly ruined this period. Also I pretty much spent all the money I’d saved to move with.
  • I got a permanent job and started on August 1st – I’d forgotten what it’s like to be the new person at work and it took a couple of months to settle in. It’s also weird when you don’t have other friends as work friends seem more important and then when you don’t know them yet it feels a bit crap!
  • The Boyfriend and I got our own little flat (though it’s bigger than our one in London was!) and we moved in a week after I started my job! It’s definitely feeling like home, though I have a couple of things I’d like to sort out. I might post some photos on here one day, once I like everything……so probably never!

This year is the first year I’ve made some IRL sewing friends! Yay! I went to the #SewBrizzle meet up back in the Summer and there were a couple of us from more my neck of the woods, so we have met up for dinner twice so far. It’s sooooo nice to talk to people about sewing who know what you’re talking about! It’s lovely to get compliments on things I’ve made from non-sewers, but there aren’t many people with whom I can have an in-depth conversation, or even say the name of the pattern and have them know what I’m talking about!

I feel like the elephant in the room of my run-down of my 2016 is what has happened to my sister. For those of you that didn’t read my post about it, in August my sister got a DVT in her leg, which was very very swolen and purple. She went to the local hospital, who sent her away with blood thinners. 3 days later when she went back for her check up, they rushed her by ambulance to Addenbrookes hospital because it was clear the circulation had been cut off in her leg. The doctors spent 2 days trying to get the circulation going again – it turns out they were really trying to save her knee as when circulation has been cut off for more than about 4 hours, they’re fighting a losing battle. So on 25th August she had her left leg amputated above her knee. They spent the next couple of weeks while she was in hospital trying to work out why she had all these clots and it turned out it was lung cancer, which is the most common kind of cancer. It had spread to 3 of her lymph nodes which means it can’t be removed surgically, but she is having chemotherapy – via tablets! Who knew what was a thing!? She had a scan check-up thingy in November and the tumour had shrunk, which is brilliant news obviously.

She now has a prosthetic leg, which is the swishiest one you get if you’re not a paralympian (that’s the only kind better than the one she has) and she’s already (after only just over a month) walking with only one crutch. And she was practicing walking with no crutches over Christmas so she should be able to walk and get about so no-one can tell that she has only one leg. This is her the day she got it:

phoebes-leg
And this is her favourite Christmas jumper:

phoebes-jumper

A morbid sense of humour is definitely a must when faced with this kind of crap!

And to add crapness to crapness, my sister is not the only member of my family currently with lung cancer 😦 A couple of years ago my Dad had one of his kidneys removed (4 days before Christmas!) because he had a tumour in it. For 2 years he went for his scans and got the all clear. But he had another scan – and got his results on the same day as my sister got her good news – and it turns out the cancer he had in his kidney has reappeared, but this time in his lung. He has been living with a rare degenerative brain disease called Corticobasal Degeneration (or CBD) for a number of years (I’ve lost track of exactly when he was diagnosed as he had clearly been suffering with it for a long time before they worked out what it was) and is now in a home as my mum is no longer able to look after him at home as his mobility is so reduced now. (If you want to read about CBD and the related condition Progressive Supranuclear Palsy or PSP, you can visit the PSP Association.) It might sound harsh, but I think it’s almost kinder that he might die quicker of cancer instead of the slow death from his brain disease, which will cause him to eventually be unable to swallow or communicate. He probably only had 2-5 years left anyway, so the cancer diagnosis may not make too much of a difference. He’s not strong enough for agressive treatment, so it remains to be seen what treatment he does have.

So, yeah, that’s my 2016. The first half of the year was okay, then everything seemed to go a little wrong, starting with Brexit. I won’t go into politics on here, but it feels like the world is shifting and we need to pay attention to the people who feel left behind or forgotten or ignored. My answer is to do what I enjoy doing and be nice to people. I think that’s all we can do in our little lives, really. Try to spread love and joy and happiness and hope that if enough of us do this, 2017 will be a better year.

Thank you to everyone who reads my blog and comments on it, I hope you get a bit of joy from my makes and posts. I hope to get more into a regular schedule of posting next year as I really like connecting with like-minded people online, and IRL.

 

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Designer Inspiration: Mary Quant

My latest designer inspiration is Mary Quant – I thought I’d continue the 60s theme from my last fashion history post as I love it so! I also love her famous Vidal Sassoon haircut. Should I copy it do you think?

Mary Quant Hairstyle - Vidal Sassoon

Born in London in 1934, Mary Quant opened her first boutique (they always seems to be called boutiques and not shops!), Bazaar, in 1955 on the King’s Road in Chelsea. It was from the very beginning that the mini skirt idea started to take off – this is something new to me, I always thought this was definitively a 60s phenomenon! The jury is out about who actually invented the mini skirt (which includes very short dresses) – it could have been Quant, it could have been Andres Courreges, or John Bates. She herself said “It was the girls on the King’s Road who invented the mini. I was making easy, youthful, simple clothes, in which you could move, in which you could run and jump and we would make them the length the customer wanted. I wore them very short and the customers would say, ‘Shorter, shorter.'”1 What is true is that Mary Quant named it, after her favourite car – The Mini (obvs).

 

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Quant is also credited (by some) with inventing the coloured and patterned tights that were so often worn with the new shorter skirts and dresses. It could have been Balenciaga who showed harlequin tights in 1962. It basically seems like several people were having similar ideas in fashion at the same time – but Mary Quant seems to have been the one associated with inventing/ popularising the most innovations.

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Another of these innovations was hot pants. Here is Quant and Grace Coddington (of Creative Director of US Vogue and giant red hair fame – she used to be a model, and she features quite a bit in The September Issue, which I would recommend) modelling hot pants underneath dresses – I assume this was a thing?!

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“Ernestine Carter, an authoritative and influential fashion journalist of the 1950s/60s, wrote: “It is given to a fortunate few to be born at the right time, in the right place, with the right talents. In recent fashion there are three: Chanel, Dior, and Mary Quant.””2

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After opening a second Bazaar store in 1957, Quant started to design more and more of the items she was selling, instead of merely ordering them in. “For a while in the late 1950s and very early 1960s, Quant was one of only two London-based high-end designers consistently offering youthful clothes for young people. The other was Kiki Byrne, who opened her boutique on the King’s Road in direct competition with Quant.”3

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From the 70s onwards, she moved away from designing clothes and concentrated on homeware and cosmetics – which she says are a part of fashion. According to her Wikipedia article, she claims to have invented the duvet – though a quick google tells me that Terence Conran was the first person to sell the modern duvet, or continental quilt, in Britain, having got the idea from Sweden.

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She was particularly known for monochrome colour-blocking.

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She also seemed to have embraced bright colours, like these dresses, in orange, mustard and red. I particularly like the mustard one, and I like the contrast collar, cuffs, hem and pocket on this one.

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Like so many designers from the 50s, 60s and 70s, Mary  Quant produced sewing patterns – I think it’s so cool how they all accepted people wanted to copy their styles so made patterns. I guess it probably wasn’t the same people who would buy the clothes and would make the clothes.

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I like the pose in the photos of this one!

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Not sure about this one to be honest!

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I like this one with the high collar and the pleated skirt. Not sure how flattering it would be on me – the drawing looks better than the photo.

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In 1966 she was made an OBE and in 2015 she was made a Dame. Not bad for someone who never studied fashion! Although she moved away from fashion design, for me – and I’m sure for many other people – the thing I will most associate her with is her mod designs of the 60s. I’m definitely going to look out for any of her patterns so I can recreate some of her looks!

 

 

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Fashion History - Early 1960s Designer Inspiration - Chester Weinberg Style Crush - Jean Seberg

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My #VintagePledge

“#VintagePledge

I’m sure if you follow sewing blogs – and like vintage style/ sewing patterns – then I’m sure you’ve heard of A Stitching Odyssey’s Vintage Pledge. If not, it started in 2014 as a way to encourage people to make things from the vintage patterns I’m sure many of us collect/ hoard. It’s running throughout the whole of 2016, with a focus of activity and prizes in July. I’ve followed the activity for the last 2 years and this time I finally decided to join in.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know I have some mostly 60s and 70s patterns from my Grandma and some from a friend of a friend who was clearing out her mum’s things.

I have already made one of my Grandma’s patterns, with limited success for Spring for Cotton – it did end up really a bit short, but I’m sure when the weather warms up I’ll be pulling it out of my closet with glee!

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I, Amelia of thriftmakesew,wordpress.com pledge to make 3 outfits/ garments from my vintage pattern stash, at least one of which will be from an older, unprinted pattern.

Since I’m making this pledge, I thought I’d have a look through my pattern stash and see what I might want to make.

From the beginning, this pattern was probably my favourite one from my Grandma. I have a Christening for my niece and nephew coming up in April so I might make the matching dress and coat combo for that.

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I kind of fancy making an old school 70s-style shirt dress. It would be good for when the weather warms up, and I could layer it with tights and a jumper/cardigan when it’s not so warm (i.e. 80% of the time in England!)
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Sometimes I feel like going full-on 60s all the time in my clothing but other times I feel like I don’t want to stand out that much! But on the days when I do feel like going full-on retro, I may need an authentic 1960s blouse…..

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Out of my other stash of vintage patterns, I think this one might be my favourite. Not sure when I’d have occasion to wear a full-length coat, though!

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I managed to pick up this Simplicity pattern from a now local second-hand bookshop – I could definitely love a place where the bookshops have patterns! There are also several vintage shops, which I’ve noticed also have vintage patterns quite often. Fingers crossed I can find one of the Chester Weinberg ones! I really like the little double-breasted jacket, so I might give it a go. I like the square collar on the dress too, and I don’t think I’ve got any other dress patterns like that (though I’d have to check to be sure!).

Simplicity 2841 from Inprint

And finally, I feel like I need to make the 80s-tastic hooded top from the middle pattern! These three were given to me by one of my friends from my job I just left, so I feel like I should make at least one of them! I may not wear it out of the house, but it would be good for lolz!

80s-tastic patterns

Have you made a #VintagePledge? What patterns are you planning to make? Are you as scared as I am that they will be way harder to make then modern patterns!?

Designer Inspiration: Chester Weinberg

The other day I was scrolling through instagram, which is one of my favourite pastimes if I have 10 minutes to kill, and I came across this sewing pattern (I’m sorry but I can’t remember whose feed it was on):

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I immediately thought this was a fab 60s dress! (The photo might be slightly less fabulous, however!). I had never heard of Chester Weinberg so I did some googling, and it turns out he was quite a famous fashion designer in the 60s and 70s – he was up there with Oscar de la Renta! “With his daring yet elegant clothes and outsize personality, Weinberg was the undisputed darling of the fashion press, and he was equally beloved by the industry, winning a Coty Award in 1970—the fashion equivalent of an Oscar. He worked with a who’s-who of models, photographers, and editors, and dressed socialites and celebrities including Barbra Streisand, Dionne Warwick, and Nancy Reagan. As an instructor at Parsons School of Design, he mentored the likes of Donna Karan, Isaac Mizrahi, and Marc Jacobs.”1

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“Despite all this, his name today is familiar only to a handful of museum curators and vintage fashion aficionados. This is largely because, on April 24, 1985, Weinberg became the first fashion designer to succumb to AIDS. The tragedy of his premature demise—he was 54—was compounded by its terrible timing. Although he’d been working steadily, Weinberg was no longer famous, and his passing went unremarked by the public. Within the industry, his death was willfully ignored.”1

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I love these 2 coats – the green of the one above is just amazing and the blue below seems like one of those typically 60s colours. And look at the collar! I think I need a 60s coat in my future…..

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This might be my favourite of all the Chester Weinberg clothes I found. I’m trying to think of ways to recreate it. Any ideas of patterns I could use as a starting point?

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“The look of a Weinberg is familiar even to those who have never heard of him, for his designs were some of the defining looks of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Black-scarfed models in swirling, long black dresses topped by smock jackets in Jackson Pollock-like yellow silk or apple green mohair, a vivid wool gabardine suit with an empire waist, cinched by a wide contrasting belt, a gray geometric print dress, all are images of “mod.” At the same time, Weinberg’s designs were classically simple and elegant, with details like ribbons, princess seams, inverted pleating, and his signature ruffles. From a navy blue, silk dress with an empire waist to a wool crêpe chemise dress with black lace over a lining of light cocoa, vintage Weinberg is still fashionable.”1

You can see examples of the prints he used below.

I actually really like this fabric – and the style of the dress. I like the detail of the piping around the waist seam, so cute!

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This print is definitely right up my street! I like the high neckline and the high waistline.

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I can’t decide if I like this coat or think it’s awful……. I think I like the style but the fabric is….not my taste.

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“After his company folded, Weinberg designed dresses and sportswear for a company backed by Jones Apparel Group, cashmere sweaters for Ballantyne of Scotland, furs, costumes for the Twyla Tharp ballet As Time Goes By, and patterns for Vogue and Butterick.”1

Obviously I realised he designed sewing patterns, since that’s where I heard of his first, but I still think it’s awesome that a major fashion designed of the time make sewing patterns so people could make his fashions themselves at home. Maybe this is because it was way more common for people to still be sewing all their own clothes in the 60s than it is now. Are there any designers of a similar fame lever doing the same now?

Here is a selection of my favourites of his patterns – all the ones I found were Vogue, so I’d be interested to see any Butterick ones if you know of any. I think I may have to collect all of these – and then go full-on 60s with my clothes!

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This coat pattern might be my favourite – I’m clearly in a coat mood at the moment! If you need me I’ll be on ebay…….

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Spring For Cotton Dress (a bit late!)

As you know if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, I’m not very good at joining in with sew-alongs or sewing challenges – I tried to do the Emery Dress sew-along but finished about a month (or more) late! I did join in with the Yellow Skirt gang and only finished that in time because the deadline was extended. So it will come as no surprise to learn that I didn’t finish my Spring For Cotton dress on time! If you haven’t heard of Spring For Cotton, it’s a challenge run by Lucky Lucille where you have to sew a pattern that is either vintage or inspired by vintage style, entirely in cotton. The video of everyone’s finished makes got published yesterday – so I really was too late! You can see the full parade here.

As you will also know if you’ve read my blog for a while, I have a growing stash of vintage patterns (some from my Grandma and some from a house clearance). I decided to go with one I got from my Grandma for my first foray into sewing with a vintage pattern. I was torn between two (both 60s style, as it’s definitely mt favourite decade for fashion):

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI finally decided on the second one, and decided to make view D, on the far right. I wasn’t sure I liked it when I was making it, until it was completely finished. I loved the fabric when I first saw it in Rolls and Rems.

Spring for Cotton fabricBut as I was making the dress, I was worried it would look a bit costumey. It also looked like an ugly overall for quite a while, but taking up the hem definitely helped reduce the frump factor.

Spring-for-Cotton-Dress-1I had already removed 16cm from the hem when I cut it out as it would have reached to my calves almost! Little tip: when making a cut vintage pattern – check the pattern pieces for any alterations the previous owner (my Grandma) made to the pattern pieces! I carefully cut out my pattern pieces – the back had already been used but the front piece hadn’t ( there are different front pieces for each of the views for the trim markings). My Grandma had already shortened the back piece, by about 16cm, so then when I removed another 16cm, it didn’t even cover my bum. So I re-cut the back piece – luckily I had just about enough fabric. I made no attempt at pattern matching, also because I initially stupidly had the front piece laid out upside down, so the flowers would have faced down on the front and up on the back. So the cutting stage was not my finest hour!

I do wish I had properly centered the flowers on the front of the dress, so that the trim lined up.

Spring-for-Cotton-Dress-2I used some bias tape , folded in half for the white trim and bought some buttons to match the darker coral shade on the flowers. It was the trim that made me feel like it would look a bit costumey, but I actually like it, now the dress is finished.

Spring-for-Cotton-Dress-7I did make a couple of fitting adjustments as I went along – I knew the dress would be too big as the pattern is a size larger than my size. I added 2 darts to the back, which are 3 inches from the centre seam and are 1 inch deep at the waist. Looking at the picture below, I should have ironed the darts as they look a bit crap.

Spring-for-Cotton-Dress-3I made the effort not to over-fit the dress as it’s not meant to be figure-hugging. I did, however, take in the side seams a bit, by 2cm at the waist, tapering out at the armpit and hip. I wonder now what it would have looked like if I had hemmed it before making the fit alterations – it might have looked a bit over-sized, but in a good way. Oh well, I’ll learn for next time! I cut another 10cm off the bottom and then did a hem of 1.5cm twice (total 3cm), which tells you how long the dress would have been if I hadn’t taken it up! Spring-for-Cotton-Dress-4The dress was meant to have a 22in invisible zip, but I had this short one in my stash and knew from my 2 Laurel dresses, where I did the same thing, that I would be able to get in and out of the dress with a shorter zip – it just has to go over my head instead of being able to step into it!

I’m pleased with how the facings turned out – it’s nice to work with a fabric that irons so nicely, so the facings stayed on the inside, without poking out – i did understitch them too. Then I slip-stitched them on the inside as it was kind of a pain in the arse having to tuck the facings in every time I put the dress on!

Spring-for-Cotton-Dress-8 I’ll leave you with this kind of goofy picture! (and yet again it’s blurry – I don’t know why, it’s so annoying! Any advice gratefully received. I’m thinking more light would help – so maybe I’ll move outside from now on!) Spring-for-Cotton-Dress-6 Did you join in with Spring for Cotton (and finish in time!)? Have you sewn with a vintage pattern. I found it wasn’t as tricky as I feared, but I think that’s because my pattern was late enough to have all the same markings as modern patterns. The other pattern I considered (above) is unmarked, and I might give that a go next time – I like the idea of a matching dress and coat!