Using Scrap Fabric – Making Beeswax Wraps

Clearing out a large, overflowing box of scrap fabric earlier this week, I decided enough was enough.  Wasn’t this the box that I’d swore to empty by Christmas??  Yeah right!  All I’ve managed to do since coming home from holiday in May is to carry on filling it!  This box will never empty itself – I need to commit!  Soooooo

I started with a few things, mentioned in the last post, like making bunting and some sort of patchwork piece.  I still am not sure of what direction that’s going to take, but I’ll get there.  I also unearthed a load of pretty cottons that would make perfect beeswax wraps.  So I decided to get on with it and stop procrastinating.  Down they went to the sewing room and I cut a load of 30x30cm squares (perfect for sandwiches) 20x20cm squares (perfect for covering bowls or halved avos or the cheesy part of an Edam cheese), and a couple of 40x40cm squares which is the perfect size for wrapping my bread made in the breadmaker.  Then I went looking for the beeswax – and found it wrapped in 20 or more pre-cut pretty cotton squares – of different sizes!  Oh dear!!

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Different sized cotton squares and beeswax bars from the local beekeeper’s association

I decided to start with some of those.  Now, there are loads of tutorials for beeswax wraps online, you just need to pick the one that you think will work for you, and the same here.  I’ll show you how I make mine, and it’s up to you to give this method a try and see if it works and you’re happy.  I’ll be honest and say I tweak the “recipe” each time, still looking for the “perfect” result.  The fabric needs to be 100% cotton, and please pre-wash it, the wax will not penetrate the fibres properly otherwise.

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Sandwiches wrapped up and in the bamboo lunchbox!

 

Now, where to get the stuff, and what stuff to get?!  I use beeswax and coconut oil.  Some say to use pine resin, but all I find that stuff does is leave a sticky, gungy plug at the bottom of the tin, and it’s nasty.  It doesn’t seem to mix in with the wax and oil.  It’s supposed to help make the wrap slightly sticky so it sticks to itself or the edge of bowls, but I can’t say it’s worked for me so far.  My current recipe is to use 100g of wax and about 2 tablespoons of coconut oil.  The coconut oil is easy to get hold of, I use the one from Aldi, it’s cheap and comes in a glass jar.  Beeswax you can get online, Amazon do a roaring trade, you can also get from The Soap Kitchen, who also do a vegan substitute.  They will send everything out wrapped in nice big thick plastic bags, so if that’s not your thing, you might want to go elsewhere.  They do, however, have the largest stock I’ve seen.  I am now buying the wax bars from the local beekeeper’s association, I like that it’s local and supporting local people and trades/hobbies!  You can find your local beekeepers on this site, UK only.  The normal beeswax will make white areas of fabric go a yellow shade, so if you want to keep the fabric white, look for the white wax pellets.

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My little double boiler system, small saucepan and old tomato tin

Right, you’ve got your stuff, now you need to melt it.  The double boiler system is needed.  I use an old tomato tin (because it gets all waxy and gungy) for the wax and oil, and a small saucepan with about 3-4 cm of water in it.  Get the water in the saucepan and start the water boiling.  Meanwhile, measure out the wax and put that in the tin, followed by the coconut oil, or the other way around.  It takes a while for the wax to melt, it has a high melting point, so if you’re using pellets, bonus, this will go quickly.  If you have the bars, get a large chopping knife and a chopping board and make those bars smaller!  Then put the kettle on, have a cuppa and get the rest of the stuff ready.  (DO NOT BE TEMPTED MELT THE WAX IN THE MICROWAVE!)

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Wax is ready!!

You’ll need two large-ish baking trays and at least three pieces of BAKING PARCHMENT – works way better that greaseproof paper, the paper needs to be bigger than the trays.  You don’t want the wax getting on your baking trays.  You’ll also need an old paintbrush that will only ever be used for this purpose from now on, or a silicone pastry brush, the wide flat ones are better.  I also have a wooden kebab stick that I use to poke the wax and stir the goo in the tin.  Also grab a pair of tongs, a clothes horse or trouser coathangers – the kind you get from the dry-cleaners, and a cooling tray.  And the fabric.

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Large baking tray with baking paper and fabric square

Once the wax has melted you can begin.  Put the oven on to 100C, place a piece of paper onto a tray and grab a square of fabric.  Pop the brush into the tin and start spreading the melted wax onto the fabric.  It will not go far at first.  The fabric will soak it up, and the wax will start to set as soon as it’s removed from the heat so work quickly.  You’ll find as you make more that it gets easier to spread.  That’s because the paper will have residue wax on it from previous squares, the tray is still hot, and you’ve got used to how it all works!  So, spread quickly, but don’t stress if every millimetre of fabric isn’t covered.  Now put the brush in the tin and put the tray with fabric into the oven for 1 minute.

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This is my first square of the day, the wax cooled quickly on the cool fabric and tray, and the fabric is the quilting cotton kind.
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You can see the wax cooling & setting before I’ve got a chance to spread it too far

Remove from the oven and place on the cooling tray, check to see if the wax has spread over all the fabric.  This is when you can to a little top up with the brush if you need to.  Then, with the tongs, lift the square of fabric and drape over the clothes horse, or clothes hanger to dry.  Then make your next square.  I start the next one as soon as I get one in the oven, it won’t kill anything if they’re in the oven for more than a minute, promise.  The quicker you can work, the more get done and you can move away from the hot stove and hob!  You’ll find that thinner cotton fabric like lawn doesn’t need as much wax and oil as the thicker quilting cottons do.  So if you have a pile of quilting cotton squares waiting, the 100g of wax might only do 10 or so squares.

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Lift the slightly cooled square with the tongs and place on the hangers or clotheshorse to cool and set

If you’re making a wrap with a piece of fabric that’s bigger than your baking tray, brush wax on about half of the piece, then fold the fabric in half, or quarters, and brush the unwaxed areas with a bit more wax.  Pop it in the oven, and when you take it out, cover with a piece of baking parchment and get your oven gloves on.  Rub over the paper, pushing down on the waxwrap to encourage the wax to get absorbed through the layers.  Open it all up and check that the wax has gone everywhere.  Any areas that are still dry can quickly be filled in with your brush.

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This is a large, 40x40cm square, folded in quarters before placing in the oven

Once on the clotheshorse, or hangers, the wax wraps dry and set quickly, so you don’t need loads of space.  They can be removed as soon as they’re set and cool, making room for more.  If you’ve been heavy handed with the wax, don’t stress.  Wait for the squares to cool, then heat up an iron, place a piece of paper, either greaseproof or baking parchment on the ironing board, then the overly waxed square on top, and put an un-waxed piece of fabric on top of that, covering with another layer of paper.  Heat the iron to high and iron the layers.  The excess wax will penetrate the unwaxed fabric, and you might get two for the price of one!  Or you might need to repeat the process with another overly waxed square.  The point is, you can’t make that much of a boob here, too much wax can be used on another square, a square with too little wax can be topped up in the same way.

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All the pretty wraps, cooling on my old clotheshorse.

You can use these wraps to cover just about any food, but not on meat, raw fish or chicken, etc.  Washing is easy, put some cool-cold water and a little dish washing soap in the sink and wash them as you would a plate, rinse with cold water and drape on the drying rack to drip dry.  Don’t leave the wraps folded up in lunch boxes or on the side of the sink to wash up, this becomes a breeding ground for mould.  Open them up, dust out crumbs and wash as soon as you can.

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Today’s 120g of wax and 3 tablespoons of coconut oil made 9 20x20cm squares, one large 40×40, 4 30×30 sandwich wraps and 3 25×25 squares.

 

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Folded up and ready to use. I sense a theme with today’s effort…

The wraps can be topped-up by placing them in a 100C oven for a minute or two, or sandwiching between two layers of baking parchment and heating with a hot iron.  If you have managed to grow mould on your wraps, pop them into your council green waste bin, and they’ll decompose in the heat of the council composting process.

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I wrap my baby courgettes in the beeswax wraps to keep them fresh longer if the fridge
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Also good for storing allotment grown lettuce!

 

Striped Zadie Jumpsuit

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I knew I wanted another Zadie Jumpsuit, pattern by Paper Theory, the minute I finished and tried on the first one!  I’ve loved wearing my blue linen Zadie, and just needed to find the time to make another.  I chose a piece of linen that I bought in South Africa, grey with white stripes.  The stripes run perpendicular to the grainline, but as there is no movement in either direction, I figured there’d be no problems in turning that 90 degrees. I wanted the stripes to run vertical on the trousers, and horizintal on the bodice.  The stripes were pinned togetther to make sure they stayed in line with each other.

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Zadie Jumpsuit by Paper Theory
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Using the phone to remostely activate the camera again. Doesn’t make for the most relaxed of photographs!

I changed the size a bit, leaving the bodice at size 16, going to the 14 on the trousers.  I found the previous pair got a little too baggy in the bum, so these will be better.  I hope!  It’s certainly as comfortable to wear as the first one, but softer and drapey.  This linen is not starchy like the blue, but has a lovely soft handle.  It’s also relatively thin – because the weave is more open.  This makes it nice and cool to wear.  That’s something I’m really looking forward to for this week when the temperatures are set to hit the 30s.

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There’s not much left of that fabric now, I started with two metres and was pretty chuffed to get the pattern out of that!  I might see if I can add the left overs to some white and black linen of similar weight and made a patchwork item, I’ve been inspired by what Lauren at Elbe Textiles has been making with all her scraps.  This week I’ve made bunting for my new allotment shed with some of the more cheerful orange and blue scraps, looked out the remains of some blue and rust linen to make a nice cover for a cushion, also for the allotment shed, made beeswax wraps with different sized squares of cotton, used up some of the plain coloured linens and two patterned cotton pieces to make  –   something

I know, I was originally thinking I’d make shopping totes, but when I’d patched all the pieces together they looked so nice, so I kept going and now I have something that resembles a small quilt or throw – without the back.  I don’t think it’s something I could wear, but I don’t want to chop it up and make bags now.  Sooo now I have to find a big enough piece of fabric to back it with.  Or – cut more squares out of something else in the scrap box and make a reversible throw!  Oh dear, I’ll see you guys later, if I ever resurface from that scrap box, Pinterest and all the ideas.

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Summer Wardrobe

Daughter No2 has a list of things for me to make her.  (This is the time to warn you that this post is photo heavy!) It’s updated and renewed every couple of months as she adds things from new Burda magazines and changes her mind depending on the current weather (season).  I’ve done fairly well, but I’ll never get them all done, mostly because we don’t have suitable fabric in the stash.  ( And the length of the list!)  So, I can get started on the projects for which we have fabric, but the others are either shelved or put on hold while we look, and don’t find exactly what she’s got in mind.  At a price we’re prepared to pay! 🙂

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Burda skirt 117 A 02/2017

However, there was a skirt on her list from last autumn (!) that’s been on the list constantly, and a couple of weeks ago she decided it would be the perfect summer skirt.  I’d already traced it out, so I set to work making a toile.  I traced the 36 and the 38, going with the 36 around the waist, grading out to the 38 over the hips.  This is when I realised that the skirt had no pockets!!!  The pattern is 117A from February Burda 2017.  This has been a very productive magazine, with lots of useful patterns.  The style lines are rather nice, and it looks like it has pockets with flaps, yes?  Nope!  Just the flaps, inserted into the seam.

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So I changed that!  I altered the shape of the side panel to include a facing, added pocket bags and now we have pockets, with decorative flaps!  Much more practical.  The toile was approved, even the length!  I was sure she’d ask for it to be made 3-5cm longer, but she was comfortable with it as it was.  Now to allocate fabric…  In the stash, she identified 6 possibilities.  One in dusty pink floral fabric please, one in pale blue Hawiian print fabric please, one in black embroidered linen fabric please, one in leaf print canvas please, one in rust coloured stretch denim please, and, finally – one in vintage floral fabric.  Please.  *take a deep breath*  OK…  this in addition to a couple of dresses, tops, shirts, etc.

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So I told her to get her machine out and help!  There’s no way I can get all that done on my own, with the other things I need to do!  I did the cutting, she did the overlocking and started to sew.  We started with the pink cotton with floral circles.  Without the addition of the pockets, this is a quick and easy pattern to run up, although I have also changed the exposed zip in the back to a normal one.  We felt it wouldn’t look right on a cotton fabric.

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I like this little number, and she’s right, it will look good in all the fabrics she’s chosen, and will be a very useful addition to her wardrobe, summer and winter!  There’s not really much to say about the pattern, or the fabric really.  The cotton print has been in the stash for rather a long time, so I’m very glad to be using it, although this didn’t take very much!  Although the blue Hawaiian print fabric was made into another skirt before she jetted off to Italy for a week, I hadn’t managed to get photos of it on, so that’ll wait till the next post.  Be prepared to see this skirt often…

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The little sleeveless blouse was another item on the list, but it wasn’t originally!  When I came back from South Africa in May, I decided to finally use up some of the smaller stash pieces that had been hanging around for a while.  I had a piece of pale sage green cotton poplin (no idea when or why I bought it) that I paired up with a vintage Style pattern  (1958), and used that fabric to make a wearable toile.  Daughter No1 liked it, but it didn’t fit her well at all, and really didn’t suit her.  Enter Daughter No2, on whom it looked just right!  So she got the toile and I found another small bit of fabric (left over from the wavy back top) to use up.  This time, she did the making, and the cutting!  The pattern is vintage Style 544, dated 1956.

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The pattern consists of a front, back, and two facing pieces.  The dart tucks at the waist give it a great shape, and eliminate bulk when tucking into skirts and trousers.  The high neck looks fabulous and really suits someone with a longer neck.  (that’s me out!)  She managed to make the blouse fairly quickly, only running out of time to choose buttons and finish that part off, before heading back home.  So I found a selection & sent her photos to choose from.  The vintage covered buttons were duly chosen and I made the buttonholes and sewed on the buttons.  This is another of those patterns I can see being used a number of times, especially as it needs so little fabric!  I love those.

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Vintage covered buttons

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Another quick make for the summer is a cami.  In this case, it was a couple of Ogden Camis – and the fabric came from the scrap box.  The first up is a pale blue soft linen.  There wasn’t quite enough for the full facing, and really, I should have shaped it or cut it higher (I still might do this) because it sits at an akward height and you can see it though the outer layer.  Honestly, if you couldn’t see it, I probably wouldn’t change it.  I love how quickly the pattern comes together, and I love that I managed to make something useful out of a small,odd shaped piece of left over fabric.

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As you can see, all three of these tops go pretty well with the pink skirt!  I think this means this skirt is going to be well worn this summer, not just one of those summer flings.

Pheobe the Second

Good things come in twos, yes?  Or maybe more than two, but let’s start somewhere, shall we?  I really liked wearing the Phoebe dungarees I made a couple of weeks ago, they’ve been absolutely perfect of the allotment, so I knew I’d need another pair!  Instead of soft, buttery linen, this time I picked out some denim – also lightweight – from the pile of South African purchased fabrics.  I think this is a blend of fibres, the fabric has a sheen that pure cotton denim wouldn’t have.  I had thought I’d make a summer version of the Tea House Dress, or the Assembly Line’s V Nick Dress with it, but I now have better plans.  I want another pair of Phoebe Dungarees.

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Phoebe Bib & Tucker from Pattern Union

This time I wanted a shorter trouser length.  The brown linen ones are the perfect length for long trousers, not long enough for me to stand on the hems and get them all muddy!  But, for a lightweight pair that will be worn in the summer, I thought it would be a good idea to have a cropped length this time.  I took 20cm off the length, and in hindsight could have done more!  I drew a rectangular pocket to put on the back and re-used the Zadie jumpsuit front pockets.  Other adjustments – I moved the waist seam on the trouser piece to halfway between the low and high waist, but kept the bib on the high waist line.  These feel more comfy than the first pair, but I still feel the waistline needs to come up.  If I take it up any further though, I’ll need to reduce the amount I took out of the crotch depth.

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New pocket details

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Buttons are from the deep stash, bought three years ago in South Africa, just waiting for the right project. I realised after I’d already sewn – and cut – the buttonholes that they really go the wrong way!  Usually, with buttonholes, they go in the direction of stress.  So really, on these bibs, the buttonholes should run perpendicular to the top of the bib.  That would mean no pulling and gapping and trying of the button to escape (see the above photo). So, that’s for the next pair! 🙂

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I am happy overall with this pair, the back pockets are a perfect addition.  I’ve worn them both on and off the allotment and they seem to be most practical for all jobs.  Perhaps a denim or twill pair for the cooler weather should be on my list for Autumn.

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White Waves

I’ve finally been able to photograph a number of items I’d made for Daughter No2 this year.  I’ll try not to do it all in one go!  This first project is a top I made back in March, she’d marked it as interesting back in 2018 – February, to be precise.  The pattern is the Layered Back Blouse 111 from Burda February 2018.  She bought the fabric, an off white cotton with white spots, from Croft Mill Fabrics.  They’ve since sold out of that fabric, but it’s the right sort of weight, it has some body but is lightweight enough to cope with lots of layers.  This is a petite pattern, but we decided to make it up without any adjustment, having taken a finished back measurement and pronouncing it a suitable length.

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Blouse 111 Burda 02/2018

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The pattern is relatively easy to make, the magazine has detailed instructions for this blouse, so it’s easy for a non-experienced sewist to construct the front placket.  We eliminated the piping and I sewed the sleeve bands on the inside, rather than on the outside.

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That pretty, wavy back

The back, while looking tricky is ok if you make sure you have marked the stitching line on the back carefully.  I trimmed the seam allowance of the flounce piece to 7mm and overlocked the raw edge, before folding it over to align with the stitching line.  I then pinned (with the pins in the stitch line) the flounce onto the stitching line, making sure the matching points were lined up.  I think that’s the only tricky part – stitching slowly and slightly stretching the fabric to get around the corners and not get any tucks.

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Daughter No2’s favourite part is not just one.  She loves the wide sleeves, the wavy back – naturally, and the front placket.  The fabric is cool and light and being white, she can – and does – wear it with everything!  She’s had a few compliments while out and about in it, and has therefore decided she’d like another, and has earmarked a piece of black broiderie anglaise we bought while in South Africa.  But – she also wants a pair of shorts with that fabric, so I’ll be cutting the two out together just to be sure there’s enough fabric!  Fingers crossed…

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Going Places

I am so glad I have started to use the fabric I brought back from South Africa this year.  I have a sneaky suspicion some of the stuff I ought the last time I was there (3 years ago now) might still be lurking in the stash somewhere.  Not so this stuff!  So far I’ve used a piece of linen for my striped Kabuki Tee, and today I’m going to show off a top made from a piece of African Wax fabric.  The ground is a dark periwinkle-ish blue, with white spirals outlined in black, like snail shells.  It’s not as brilliantly coloured as a lot of other wax fabrics, but it spoke to me in the fabric shop.  As I had rather a lot of fabric rolls to get though that morning, I only bought 2 metres of the stuff.  I now ask myself – WHY???  It would have made the most perfect Zadie Jumpsuit!

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Merchant & Mills Heron Wrap Top

However, 2m of 110cm wide cotton it was/is.  I thought I’d make a pair of trousers with it, but wasn’t sure what on earth I’d pair it with on top – then inspiration hit.  I’d re-discovered my grey linen Merchant & Mills Heron this spring….  Quickly unburying the pattern from storage, I checked to see it it would all fit onto the fabric, the front pattern piece is a monster.  A change of grain direction, cross instead of parallel, and we were in business!  I didn’t stop to think twice, just pin and cut!  Although, while I was finishing off the cutting out, I did have a slight niggly thought that Hubby would pronounce this garment a “pyjama top“.  Just like he still calls my lovely Tea House Dress a nightgown.  Hhmmpfmen, what do they know!?

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I’ve learnt how to take photos with my new toy linked to my phone. Now to make it look “normal”…

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Anyways, I remembered that the last time the ties were hilariously too short, so I doubled the right tie – that’s the one which has to go round the back, and cut the left tie the same length as the right tie should have been.  With me so far?  Turns out that was the right decision, I can now get the right tie round the back to the front and have enough to tie a knot – or a bow, if I so desire.  Other than that, I made no adjustments.  Having originally cut the 18, I knew it was still the right size, only now it fits better than it did 4 years ago when I made the first one!

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Close-ups of the wrap and ties

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The insides are all overlocked, seams topstitched and that’s all really, it’s not a difficult pattern to make, the only thing to be careful with is the shawl collar, make sure you have interfaced the area where you’re snipping and cut less and often, rather than chopping all the way and go too far!!  I love how the finished top looks, this will be great with jeans, all my black linen trousers (and a pair of black Landers I have lined up, fingers crossed) and the white ones too!  I think this means I might make another sooner rather than later, it’s rather nice to wear now.  And I like that I’ve made it from a rather mad (for me and the paired down Merchant and Mills vibe) fabric!  Remember, if you’re looking for the size chart for M & M, there isn’t one in the book, but you can download the PDF here.

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Work in Progress Wednesday 6/19

It’s been a while since we had a work in progress post!  Although this is now going out on Thursday instead of Wednesday!  I might have run completely out of energy to finish this post in time!  I have a couple of projects I really want to get done quickly, so I decided to have a day inspired by @birdy_sew_obsessed.  She gets so much done on her weekends, so I thought I’d channel a bit of her energy today.  I cut out 4 projects yesterday, & sew the two that needed blue thread first.

First I started with my second pair of Pattern Union Phoebe dungarees, the Bib & Tucker version of the jumpsuit.  The fabric is a lightweight denim chambray that I bought on my South African trip this year.  I don’t want those fabrics to hang around long enough to be called proper stash, even though they have already found their way into a box.  There are just too many to be allowed to sit in a pile on my cutting table!

Adjustments made to this version are:  shortening the leg by 20cm to make them cropped, raise the waistline on the trousers by 1.5cm, change the crotch curve slightly and add 2 back pockets.  The Zadie Jumpsuit pockets found their way onto the front again and that was it!  Click on the individual photographs to see them in more detail.  I managed, with many distractions, to get them finished by 3pm, apart from chosing buttons for the straps.  That’ll be done asap, and I’ll have a new pair of dungarees to wear on the allotment!

After a bite to eat and a quick run round of other jobs that needed to be done, I got cracking with the next project.  This is a piece of African Wax fabric – from the same holiday this year – in the most beautiful blue, almost periwinkle, but with more ooompfh.  The fabric is narrow and I only got 2m (why???) so I had to change the direction of the grain if the pattern was going to have any chance of fitting onto the fabric.  As there is no definite print direction, and no movement on the cross grain, I felt confident it would work.  The pattern is the Heron Wrap Top from the Merchant and Mills Workbook, I’ve only used the pattern once before!

It sews up quickly, only a few simple pieces, but boy it’s big!  Thankfully, once it’s wrapped around you, it loses a lot of that bulk!

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Topstitching the armhole hems and side seams

Stay tuned for the finished garments!!