Category Archives: Challenge

Me Made May 2019: The Plan

It’s that special time again! I am not talking about the return of The Bold Type, although that is special, or the final season of Game of Thrones and Jane the Virgin, both important in their own way, or even Spring, because I live in a place of no such animal. I’m talking about Me Made May.

Zoe, of So Zo… really does us all a great service in the sewing community, in my humble opinion, in this challenge. It’s open-ended, but with enough guidance to unify all participants. It enforces a great value of makership, that is, thoughtfulness. See, the thing is, I love sewing. I really do. Obviously. But it’s easy for me to get so caught up in that love that I forget that part of why I love sewing is the way it encourages me to think sustainably. Sewing and sewing and sewing, which I am often guilty of, is not really all that much better than consuming fast fashion, right? Sewing one thing after another, concentrating on having more and more and more, it’s a consumer mentality that has displaced the labor onto the consumer, sure, but it’s still there, it’s still about acquiring all the time, in its way. Ultimately, I want to be as conscious as possible, and that’s what I plan to use this challenge for this year.

At this point, 95% of what I wear is me made. So the challenge of wearing one, or two, or five me made garments daily isn’t insane. (Well, five might be, this isn’t a good place for layering.) But what does make sense for me, right now in my craft and thought process, is to use this challenge to evaluate what I really use, and what I don’t, and commit to giving away or remaking the everyday garments in my wardrobe that don’t, well, reach for, everyday. So here is my vow:

I, Leah Franqui, of Struggle Sews a Straight Seam, @leahfranqui, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May 2019. I endeavor to wear my me-made items during May 2019 and seriously consider the holes in my wardrobe, and what I don’t reach for, and vow to let go of the items I do not wear within this period. I will be documenting my outfits on Instagram!

My plan is to document my outfits in a notebook, and analyze the MVPs, the sometimes friends, and the thank you, nexts in the bunch. I will try to share said results with you afterwards. I can’t promise that I won’t also have some new item posts along the way, you know makers gotta make, but I will try to weave them into the challenge.

Who else is participating in Me Made May? What are your plans?

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The Kill The Tailor Outfit

I recently attended two weddings in a row. Now, contrary to popular belief, not all weddings in India are approached via elephant. This is a sad reality of India, but I have learned to live with it. However, there are many weddings in India, at any given moment, because of course there are many weddings in the world, but now is the high season, and because there are so very many PEOPLE here, the odds that you might have a wedding to attend between the months of October and March are, shall we say, high. And so it came to pass that I had two weddings to attend and nothing to wear to them.

I mean, I had literal clothing, obviously, I don’t walk around naked all day, that would be frowned upon, and in some parts of the world rather chilly. I even had nice clothing, but the dress code to these weddings was Indian wear, and this presents a problem for me. You see, I don’t have a lot of Indian fancy clothing. I don’t have a lot of Indian clothing, period, but this specific region is hard because it is expensive, and rather exclusive to certain events, of which I don’t attend all that many. I have my wedding lengha, which is far too grand for someone else’s wedding, because then I’m like, trying to be the star, and I have two beautiful saris that I don’t know how to pleat, or as they say here, tie, despite the fact that there is almost no tying involved in getting a sari on your body. So short of begging for a neighbor’s help, which I have done, not a great look for me, I wasn’t really sure what to do. I wasn’t all that confident in my abilities to sew something in the fancy Indian space, and buying something of quality is extremely expensive, which just feels like, is this worth it for something I don’t use all that much?

So I decided to have something made, something people do all over the country. It seemed like the perfect solution, ideal, even, and fun! I usually do all the making, but having something made seemed like a fun way to copy something beyond my talents. I met with a tailor in Kolkata, gave him my fabric and my image of a dress to copy which is a flagrant violation of copyright and totally something people do every day, and waiting for my dress.

Except he DIDN’T copy it. He made something else entirely, something bizarre, which was delivered to me a mere 7 days before wedding number 1.

Oh dear.

I was, to put it mildly, displeased. My mother-in-law, who was with me, wisely chose not to translate all of my cursing into Hindi, but did communicate to the tailor that this was not, shall I say, what had been asked for. Apologetic, he assured us that he could fix it in time.

I have yet to receive it.

When people ask me why I make my own clothing, I am going to tell them it is because I don’t trust anyone else in this world. Seriously.

I sprang into action, and dashed (walked at a normal pace) to a fabric shop in Kolkata and threw together an idea. I hauled it all back to Mumbai and sewed like a maniac, grateful my office was closed after the 24th so I could have time to get this done. As my friend sped her way to my apartment, I was handstitching my hem and praying she hit traffic.

She did. It’s Mumbai. Everyone does.

And as she entered my home, I was arranging my dupatta, the sort of scarf you will see in a moment wrapped around my body. I did it, people. I made an Indian wedding outfit. In, like, two days. And that was the last time I went to a tailor, ever.

These photos are MEH but you get the gist.

From wedding number 2!

So what, exactly, did I do? Well, I was like, okay, a lengha is basically a big full skirt with a choli, or blouse, and a dupatta. And a choli is basically a fitted crop top, or a bodice. So, I can make each of those things, right?

Right.

The choli is actually a Colette Patterns Claudia bodice with snaps inserted on the left side, rather than a zipper down the back.

The skirt, I draped. The dupatta? I stitched a border on a piece of net and called it a DAY, people.

BUT IT WORKS! So WHATever, man, I did it.

I was lucky, of course, because really the fabric is aces, and that makes all the difference. The blouse is a cotton-silk blend which makes it super comfortable, and the skirt is a beautifully worked net over that cotton silk over cotton, to give it body and heft.

It’s very subtle with cream, peach, blue and mint. I adore it.

Rubens approved. He fought with the scraps for a bit, and then declared a stalemate to snooze.

So there you have it. Speed sewing, an Indian outfit, and a loathing for the tailor.

Which hopefully didn’t show in my “wedding appropriate” smile.

See? You can hardly see all the rage in there at all! I wore it all out making this outfit.

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The Sleeping In The Past Pajamas (Mad Men Challenge #2!)

I am a big pajamas fan. I know this is a strange thing to love and enjoy, but I do. I love pajamas. I love making them. I love wearing them. I think at this point it’s actually something I have almost entirely replaced in my wardrobe with all self-makes, which I honestly cannot say about any other group of clothing I own. I have actually always really enjoyed pajamas, especially pajama sets, and as a younger person I demanded such things of my parents for Hanukkah year after year, which is how I ended up with a set with cow prints on it that I loved so very much I couldn’t stand it. My mother eventually convinced me to give it up when it had almost fallen to pieces, but that was a sad sad day for me. And for cows, obviously.

I particularly love vintage pajamas, or pajamas that look vintage. Not the little fluffy sets, but the actual full pajamas with collars and cuffs. And when we recently made a pajama set at work for a production of Marisol, I admired the silky seperates, and even felt sad when we had to scuff them and cover them in fake blood (it’s a strange play, go with it). So I thought I would make myself a pair of pajamas as a memorial to those fallen comrades. I picked up a vintage pajama pattern, McCalls 4201:

4201amay250

and got to work, basing my pair vaguely off of these Mad Men duds:

0b843c9c384c57ccfaa113a767606fcd-1I actually have glasses like this but what’s his face hates them so they are rarely worn. Maybe if someone arranges for a home massage for me I will break them out again.

SITP 2.jpgThese are a bit looser then Joan’s, of course, but come on, I just don’t see the point of tailored pajamas. I might make the pants a little slimmer next time, but as it is, I’m very happy in these, and I slept wonderfully in them!

SITP 3.jpg

If you look at the pattern you can see there was originally a dart in these but I just let that go. I really don’t think bust shaping is going to help me sleep better.

The collar is nicely rounded, which makes it easy to turn:

SITP 6.jpgIt’s a little blurry but you get the idea. Also, I don’t did three buttons. PAJAMAS. ARE AWESOME.

SITP 1.jpgThe fabric is a kind of seersucker, which I don’t think you can see in these photos with little flowers on them. I got it from work. This was very much a work-inspired project, as you can see. The fabric is lovely and light-weight, and very comfortable, and I must say, this is extremely silly, but I kind of love feeling fashionably vintage even as I sleep. I swear I had sepia-tinted dreams. A

SITP 4.jpgA little back view. See, the pants are baggy, which, well, they should be, but they could probably slim down a bit. Ah, well, next time. This was an easy and fun pattern, I can see myself making it again. Maybe with short sleeves and shorts for summer? That could be cute…oh, I am just filled with pajama plans!

SITP 5.jpgI know, I’m not Joan. But at least I can sleep like she does now!

 

 

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The Coco Mademoiselle Dress (Mad Men Challenge #1!)

I’m not a big fan of bandwagons. Unless you count the musical, The Bandwagon, because it’s awesome and Cyd Charisse is amazing and because musicals about Broadway musicals are hilarious. Fred Astaire does a dance in an arcade, it’s great. The point is, I’m not a big follower, never really have been. In fact I can be quite contrary, often neglecting to do something because it’s so very popular. I literally just saw Frozen last week. And you know what? It’s a-god-damn-dorable. Seriously that thing is charming as hell. I have no idea what country or time period it’s supposed to be in, but whatever I just want Olaf the snowman to be my best friend. And we could have adventures with Sven the reindeer and sing together and live our lives in utter happiness in some unknown mildly Scandinavian country, oh, it would be so great! But, tragedy of tragedies, I don’t live that life. I guess I have to Let It Go, right?

Anyway, I have been trying to cure myself of this knee-jerk anti-following reaction when it comes to sewing. When it comes to moral decisions and Juicy Couture sweatsuits, I think it’s positive that I make up my own mind about it rather than following others, but when it comes to sewing, well, maybe imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? So when Tilly released her newest pattern, the Coco top/dress, I bought it almost immediately, and assembled it the same day. Only, I had to wait for my fabric to come, because despite my stash of jersey fabrics, this pattern demands a jersey with limited stretch. Honestly, I might try it in a stretchier fabric in the future because minimal stretch jerseys aren’t easy for me to find and also, comfort is essential to all things, because the more stretch int he fabric, the more food I can eat, the happier I will be. But for the first time around I wanted to follow the rules (well, sort of, more on that to come) and use the right fabric. So I waited patiently as Cocos popped up all over the internet, biding my time, telling myself it was worth it to wait and get it right. And you know what? I think it was!

CM 1.jpgOkay, so I mentioned that I stuck with the fabric recommended. What I did not do is leave the hem as it was drafted. First of all, I lengthened it quite a bit, because Tilly, waif that she is, has drafted this dress to be shorter then even my diminutive stature would be comfortable with. And then I realized that the original flare in Tilly’s design wasn’t working for me at this longer length, so I cut off a chunk, slimmed down the skirt, and added the extra fabric back in as a band, neatly finishing the hem and giving it a slimmer silloutte. And I always want the word slim to involved with me, frankly, so I love it!

CM 4.jpgSo this is the first of several, yes, I say, SEVERAL Mad Men Challenge Dresses! I love love love Julia Bobbin’s Mad Men Challenge (huh, maybe I AM a follower!) and I’m always excited to sew tribute dresses for the show that has changed the face of fashion on television. Even now, as we head into late 1960’s hell, I’m going to make it work. That being said, my next copy-cat will probably go a couple of seasons back. Come on. Can you blame me? phontoWhen I saw the Coco, especially Tilly’s mod versions, I thought, I bet there are some Mad Men dresses out there along those lines. And low and behold:

4071fba39e658f13b2b0d51141f9d2a4And then there is this:

2718d06b3097c8045f4bcd908298640e

And also, this:

830e552d5a2071ec6e4aa843f7d7f7d3Coral knit shifts seem to be the uniform for brunettes at Sterling Cooper Draper Price. That and misogyny. AM I RIGHT? So I tried to use elements of all three:

CM 3.jpgIt’s darker than this photo would imply, but not by too much.

CM 8.jpg

What I really like about the design is the funnel neck, which is sort of like a turtleneck but has the added benefit of NOT making me look like the bustiest person who ever lived. Turtlenecks are not my jam, but I do like the way they look, so this offers me a tribute-neckline without the negatives.

CM 6.jpgI cut the back on the selvage and seamed it, and the front on the fold. The sleeves didn’t quite ease correctly so I gave them a little pleat at each shoulder seam. I have to say, the thickness of the fabric is nice because it adds structure and warmth, but it’s still a comfortable dress. I used a Ponte de Roma from GirlCharlee.

I finally had time, given that this is spring break for me, to take daytime photos in my apartment alone with my tripod. Not only is the light good, but it has the added benefit of being able to include a guest star:

CM 9.jpgHe’s ready for his close up:

CM 10.jpgAnd so am I!

CM 7.jpgBoy am I glad I followed the crowd on this one. This dress went from dinner to a show to drinks afterwards and back home again in perfect comfort. It’s a nice spring dress for this brisk New York weather, and it’s just insanely cute for such a simple shape. Thank you, Tilly. I’ll get on your bandwagon any time.

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Filed under Challenge, Clothing, Sewalong, Sewing, Tilly and the Buttons

The Sewing For Small People Sew-along: Links, Tutorials, Patterns and Ideas!

First and foremost, I’m so excited that people are signing up for this sewalong! It is so awesome that people want to join in on this with my co-workers and I, and I’m sure that we will all have a great time and share a lot of cool things together. And look, I figured out how to make a badge!

Grab it and go, it’s all yours.

So here we go, people, a round up of free patterns, tutorials and ideas! We will get to patterns for cost and material ideas in the next post, but for now, let’s look at the many things that can be made on the cheap for the little people in all our lives! This is just a handful of things I really like and have considered making, but there is so much more out there. A simple google search of “diy baby stuff” will literally reveal a world of people and ideas, but here are just a few of my favorites, and I will probably sew something from this list (and by something I mean several somethings, another nice thing about kid’s stuff is it can be fast and easy! Insert that’s what she said joke here). Just click on the photos for the pattern/tutorial.

Unisex Stuff:

kimono_shirt-600-1 baby+hoodie+1  mf_baby_jacket-600-6   bloomerstitle2  baby-tunic-sweater-425baby2pantcover babytightscoverpageaa11

toddler-t-shirt-600-5liberty-bonnet-600-1felt-baby-shoes-4-425

Girl Stuff:

Purl Soho’s Embroidered Jumper:

cotton-embroidered-huipil-600-2 Girlstieredruffledresspattern-1024x889 dress1 summerbabydress

baby-jumper-dress-free-pattern

Boy Stuff:

11frontcardigantitle

Accesory Stuff:

burp_cloths_600-1 hooded-baby-towel-2-425biasedbibs2Dolly+Diaper+Bag+Tutorial diaperbag16 IMG_7865

Sleepy Time!:

148_0913_B_sleeping_bag_large nap-mat-600-3crib quilt2zigzagwhole425 pinwheel-quilt-600-1 vegetable-patch-quilt425 play-mat-overhead-425new_super_easy_baby_blanket600-1

Okay, what am I missing here? I have more clothing patterns that cost a bit, but are adorable and super worth it, (I assume? Again, no small people, only cats here) and I will be posting those later, but am I covering all the bases? Any other ideas? I can include more knitting stuff if people are planning to knit! But hopefully this is a good sampling and should give people ideas as January marches ever closer to us!

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The Sewing For Small People Sew-along!

It is my great pleasure to announce that after years of following other people’s sew-alongs, I will now be hosting one of my own! Yes, that’s right folks, I am throwing my hat in the ring on the sew-along train and mixing metaphors willfully as I do it. And you will note the sew-along theme, right there in the title of this post! But, Leah,you say, why would you want to do such a crazy thing, sew for small humans, and by that I mean people of extreme youth, not just people of specific stature. Most sewers dread sewing for little people, especially those who don’t have a small human themselves. And by the way, I am not expecting a small human any time soon, let’s just eliminate that expectation right now, I promise, my oven is bun-free and happy about that. So what’s the dealio, yo?

Well, my amazing boss at the Costume Shop, Samanthe, recently announced that the reason she’s been asking the rest of us to refill the water cooler isn’t a power trip or a diva moment, she’s actually pregnant! Both Sam and her lovely husband Jason work at NYU-Tisch, so they have a lot of fans among the department, and we are all very excited for them, and for their current small person, Samuel (Yes, it’s Sam and Sam, couldn’t you just die?) to be joined by this new gentleman or lady (we should be learning the sex in about a month. I love how I’m saying we, like this is a communal pregnancy, like we’re on a kibbutz.) And I thought, we all want to give Sam and Jason and the new human in their lives something special, but most of us are students and/or artists, and we can’t just turn to Gwyneth Paltrow’s recommendations for ideas. But we all also SEW. And some of us knit and crochet and bead and embroider and generally make stuff with our hands. So why not make a bunch of things, and why not do it as a sew-along? And then I figured, I bet there are others out there, people with friends who have or are having small people, people with small people themselves, who might like a sewing-for-small-people-sew-along! And thus my brainchild, much like Frankenstein’s monster, was born. Bahahahahaha! They called me mad, mad, but I will show the world!

Ahem. I’m back. Sorry. So, please ignore my mad scientist moment and focus on the Sewing for Small People! Let’s do it!

The details:

This is going to be a four month sew (really make, you could do anything)-along, starting in January. I know that everyone has a lot going on with the holidays so we are going to start January 1st, and there will be bi-weekly sew-along posts with prizes, giveaways, featured projects, inspirational images, all that fun stuff. The sew-along will end on May 1st, and everyone can do a big reveal on their own blogs or in the real world, whatever you’re into, and then I will do a round-up of projects over the course of May. Sam’s baby is due in June, so sometime before then my costume shop compatriots and I will be having a really shower, but we can have a digital shower here, too, for all of you! Assuming anyone joins this. Which would be nice. But if not, I will sew along with myself! Oh, that’s sounds really sad.

Leah, are you going to make a badge and a flicker group, you might be asking me? Well, I have to say, I really am not a fan of flicker, but I will do that if there is desire, and I don’t know how to make a badge, but I will figure that out by January, I promise!

Leah, what are these prizes going to be like? I have no idea. But they will be AMAZING, I promise!

Leah, can anyone join? Of course! The more the merrier!

Leah, I know of a small person who is not a fresh-from-the-oven human, but rather a toddler. Can I sew for them? Duh! In fact, I will be including stuff for kids up to 4 years old, as Samanthe and Jason’s son Sam is almost 3, and I wouldn’t want him to feel left out in all the baby preparations, so we are going to make sure he has some goodies too.

Leah, will you be modeling any of these items on your cat? You know it. Please don’t call PETA.

So I will post some tutorial and pattern ideas later in the month, both free ones and reasonably priced options, along with fabric ideas and tips and sources, knitting resources, crocheting concepts, and whatever the hell else people feel like they need. Let’s do this thing! Sewing For Small People Sewalong! Who is in? Just comment below and let me know that you want to be a part of this and who you are making things for and what you would like along the way!

And now, as an early source of inspiration, some items I recently made for another teacher of mine, who has a small person, and is awesome:

SFSP 1Both of these patterns were free from PurlBee.com. I will be covering that in a tutorial and pattern round up later this month, but for now here are two links, the hat, and the bear.

SFSP 4Putting aside the practicalities of giving a small sticky spilling child Liberty of London anything, HOW CUTE IS THIS?

SFSP 2Kid’s stuff is fun, as I have recently learned, because you can indulge in your most colorful silly impulses. Look at this:

SFSP 3I would NEVER put a pompom on an adult’s hat. But a kid? Yeah, man, more pompoms! Also, this hat took me, like, 45 minutes. Little heads, little hands, little everything, this stuff has the potential to be quite quick!

See, with inspiration like this, who WOULDN’T want to join in? So come on over and pledge your allegiance to the small people in your life or the lives of those around you, it’s going to be a blast!

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The Yellow Rose Of Texas Skirt (Sew Bossy!)

So, Austin might be the liberal stronghold of Texas, but, y’all, it’s still TEXAS, so there are Stensons and cowboy boots and taco stands and friendly faces everywhere. For a northern aggressor like me, it’s VERY disconcerting…and also exciting! I’ve visited the South before, but never ever Texas, and Austin is mighty cool, I must say. We went to a speakeasy that is a converted brothel, we saw Tony Hale speak (it was…emotional), we ran around a beautiful running path with some of the happiest dogs I have EVER seen, I went vintage shopping, it was pretty baller. And pretty PRETTY:

TX 5 TX 4 TX 3 TX 2 TX 1

And so of course I had to make something appropriately Texan to go with the city, don’t you think? So I did, or at least I TRIED to!

Have you guys heard about Sew Bossy? It’s pretty amazing, and I was lucky enough to be contacted by the wonderful Amity of Lolita Patterns (which are SO. CUTE.) and we agreed to an exchange. Which I mostly failed at. As you will see. But that’s not because of Amity, or even Texas! It’s because I am the worst.

So Amity sent me this lovely pattern, Simplicity 1802, a Cynthia Rowley pattern.

il_570xN.405835482_mxkl

Actually, she sent me a lot of amazing AMAZING things, including a lovely purple border-printed eyelet, that I think she wanted me to USE for this pattern. Let’s talk a second about Sew Bossy, because clearly I do not follow instructions well and totally failed at the bossy part. Part of this is clearly is God help the person who tries to tell me what to do when I sew, as I have found, I am not good at that….Amity is a stellar person and she sent me the coolest stuff and then I…turned it all around. TO BE FAIR, the eyelet she sent me, which I love VERY much, wouldn’t have worked on this skirt, in my humble opinion, and I didn’t want to ruin her gorgeous gifts to me! But the yellow rayon she envisioned as a lining, well, that thing and I had some good times with this swishy flippy skirt.

Let’s talk about this pattern, which is the second place I failed to be bossed around. It’s really very lovely, and I like it so much, well made, great details, but I knew the moment I saw it that the bodice wasn’t going to do me any favors. That kind of segmented bodice does wonders for ladies who were made in the willow slight nymphy way. But me? I was not. So this pattern is something I really never would have bought for myself, but you know what, I thought, that’s pretty cool, let’s try something here! But I had to skip the bodice, I just had to, some things you just KNOW aren’t going to work out.

The skirt and I, however, are having a love affair…. so I thought, maybe just make that? And holy hell am I glad I did. Because this skirt couldn’t be more me, and I never would have known such a thing without Amity. THANK YOU AMITY!

YROT 6Look at that! Luscious lemony rayon, swishy swishy skirt, it’s everything I never knew I wanted! I seriously never would have made this pattern if I hadn’t been sent it, I would have taken a look, wrinkled my judgmental little nose and said, how fussy. But, it’s NOT fussy! It’s awesome!

YROT 2

This photo gives a nice view of the scarf I’m wearing too, which I bought at one of Austin’s many many amazing vintage stores. How cute is it? Matches the skirt, too, and the girl at the store loved my dress WHICH I MADE. I had to buy it. It wasn’t an option. Vintage silk for 10 dollars? THANK YOU AUSTIN.

YROT 7Ah, the warm sun of Texas, how I bask in it. I’m really loving my solid t-shirt tan in all these photos, how cute is that?

More skirt information: the segments, especially in a solid, are so fun and actually kind of subtle, and they give me SO much swish. SWISH IS ALL I EVER WANT. That and Vietnamese food. AND WE GOT THAT TOO!

YROT 1Yeah, that’s fried chicken. Vietnamese food with fried chicken. TEXAS FOR THE WIN.

Ahem.

Back to the skirt.

YROT 10Ha, you can see me clutching the lens cap. That’s because on a trip I lost my lens cap riding a camel (BIRTHRIGHT) so now I’m pretty careful about it. The skirt has four segments, one in front, one in the back, and one on each hip. It’s a little tricky to put together, or rather, to pin together, but once I got the hang of it it was smooth sailing. I did everything by machine because I really wanted to get this done before my trip and also I knew that a hand-sewn hem would pucker the fussy wrinkly AWESOME rayon. Seriously, it might be a little temperamental as a fabric and fray like crazy, but I love the way it hangs and the way it LOOKS.

YROT 4The back is a little messy whatever look away look away!

YROT 5Back to the front the front is cute!

YROT 9A little close up for you.

But, Leah, you say, this swish factor, tell me more, tell me more. Well, if you insist:

YROT 3Ha, that lady in the background is totally running away from the crazy impromptu photo-shoot happening at this charming Vietnamese cafe. Sorry, ma’am! (Look, I ma’amed! I’m trying, Texas!). But you must admit, that’s some solid twirling there.

So, in sum, a few things:

Austin is fantastic, and I’m so glad I got to go.

I do not follow instructions well.

I’m so grateful to Amity for trading with me and bringing this awesome skirt into my life!

Now, if you will excuse me, I’m going back to twirling, thanks:

YROT 8If you aren’t twirling, are you really doing it right? Probably not…

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Filed under Challenge, Closet Case Patterns, Sewing, Simplicity Patterns, Travel