time for tea

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This summer has been unusually glorious in Seattle. We’ve had maybe a total of five rainy days, the rest being gorgeous and sunny and warm.

Taken in moderation, those rainy days are extremely pleasant.

It’s gray and misty outside like we live near the ocean, and I make tea.

There’s a ritual.

Put the kettle on to boil, and put the teabag in the teapot.

Once it boils, brew the tea.

While it’s brewing, get the accoutrements ready.

Teacup and saucer. The cup and saucer should be thin, so that when you set the cup in the saucer it makes a delicate clinking sound.

Teaspoon in saucer.

Honey and creamer.

Heavy whipping cream is the best, I’ll tell you why in a sec.

Put the honey in your teacup.

Pour the brewed tea over the honey.

Stir the honey five times clockwise, five times counterclockwise. I realize I am sounding VERY OCD right now. Like I said, It’s A Ritual.

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 Watch the steam swirl and rise for a little while.

Then comes my favorite part.

Pour in the heavy cream, and watch it swirl around in the tea, thick at first, then dissipating until the tea takes on a uniform beige, then stir five more times clockwise, five times counter.

Then let the tea sit for five minutes to cool down. Continue to watch the steam rise, or read a book. Preferably with a blanket on your lap.

Then sip the tea. This should be done rather noisily when you’re in private, because it’s fun, and because those first few hot sips get cooled down when you slurp in some air along with the tea. The air cools it down.

Now if you’re feeling disgusted by my slurping, I’ll throw in a little story about somebody else who grossed out his friends trying to cool down his tea.

His name was Thomas “TJ” Jefferson,
and his friend was George “Horse Teeth” Washington.

Thomas Jefferson had a habit of cooling down his tea by pouring it from the teacup into the saucer. More surface area.

Now You Know.

iron-on transfers: a little bit harder than i thought they would be

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 The problems started right away. The Martha iron-on template, I realized, was meant for small girls’ t-shirts, not a grown-ass woman who wants to dress like a girl. So I cut the pieces apart and experimented and manipulated them until they looked the way they ought.

Much trickery was required.

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I got the first few pieces on (left collar, right collar, first piece of placket), when I accidentally touched the iron to a piece that had already been ironed on, thus smudging the design and then transferring the black ink smudge onto a different part of the shirt.

I actually muttered, “What have I done?”

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Right away I grabbed a towel and started lifting some of the black smudge, but it was hardened onto the fabric, so I grabbed some tweezers and spent quite awhile plucking little tiny black smudge bits off the t-shirt being careful not to also pluck any fibers or snag any threads.

If you find yourself plucking your sewing project late at night, friends,
you’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere.

If you look closely you can see where it happened, but nobody will be looking too closely at my chest.

I hope.

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While placing and ironing the next piece on, I think I got overzealous about making sure it stuck, and scorched the piece a little bit, so that it’s discolored a little more yellow than the rest of the pieces.

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Aaaaand after all my trickery and careful placement of the pieces, there were still some small gaps in the design.

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So off I went to Blick Art Supplies
(a very dangerous place to go, I get sucked in and want to buy
ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING),
to get some fabric markers.

I covered up the leftover smudge bits with white marker, and filled in the gaps of the design with black marker.

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What’s good is, after all my little fixes, the top looks good. Not perfect, but good.

I think it’s the curse of any person who creates things, that they feel their creations are full of mistakes. At some point, we just have to let it go, right? I try to strike a balance between being a total perfectionist and being a total slob. I don’t want to produce low-quality stuff, but I also don’t want to stress out about tiny details that nobody else will notice or care about.

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When do you know when it’s time to stop a project? How do you know when it’s good enough?

I have some perfectionist kids in my class who get pretty worked up about projects and don’t know when to put them down.

I tell them, “Good is good enough.”

But it’s much easier to give advice than to take it.

tips for modelling: part 2, how to pose your face and body

 Hi, everybody.Today I hope to share some helpful tips with you for how to model the lovely garments you make. If you’ve spent a lot of time making your own apparel, it’s a shame not to show it off in its best light, by modelling it on a real person. Your garment deserves better than to be photographed on that dress form–even if it is a really cute dress form. Show your garment in its element.

Some of you might have the same attitude I had about modelling:
“I can’t model. I’m not tall/pretty/skinny/[fill in blanks] enough.”
But who better to model your wonderful self-made clothing than…YOU.
If we always held back from doing things we’re not experts at,
none of us would have ever gotten into sewing in the first place.

Alright. Climbing down from soap box.

First of all, if you didn’t check out Part 1 on how to style your photo shoots, please check it out.

For Part 2 today, I’ll be sharing some tips I’ve learned about how to do poses that “read” well on camera. Again, thank you to the ever-so-talented stylists and photographers at Zulily, who taught me all summer.

I’ll structure this post by showing a photo and then pointing out a couple things I did “right” in them.
(I’m also making a lot of mistakes in these photos, but we’ll ignore those, shan’t we?)

Let’s jump in.

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If you’re holding a handbag as a prop, face the palm of your hand toward the camera and relax your fingers. You can experiment away from this by looking in the mirror and trying different hand positions. This might sound silly–it sounded silly to me until recently. Yes, you can look in a mirror for an extended amount of time and god forbid, admire yourself. But still it might be embarrassing if hubby walks in, he just laughs at me. Oh well.

Look toward the light source, not away from it, or else your face will be cast in shadows. In general, shadows aren’t good (unless they’re all-over, even). Even on a gray day or in a shady spot (like we talked about yesterday), putting your eyes toward the light source makes your pupils small, which makes your eyes look big. Studies have shown that 99% of us, given a choice between two otherwise identical photos of a person, will pick the photo where the person’s pupils are dilated. (Don’t ask me why, it’s sorta gross, but take the advice.)

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Don’t forget to smile. It’s just about the last thing I think about when I’m feeling self-conscious, but it’s nice to smile for at least some shots. And even when you’re not smiling big, try to still smile with your eyes (as Tyra Banks advises) or have just a small smile with relaxed facial muscles.

Also, in general try not to cover up the garment with lots of arms-in-front poses. However, it’s nice to do a couple poses with hands together, or an elbow propped lightly on a hand.

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Assymetry is nice in your body. Try rocking back and forth, shifting your weight from heel to heel. Also, relax your hands. Most people have some anxiety about taking pictures, and they show it by clenching their hands. I did a lot of hand-clenching my first few times.

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In general, keep your toes pointing towards the camera, and your knees close together. The exception is when you want to rock a power stance.

One hand on a hip is enough (not both). Relax the other hand and let it hang. Have fun squaring your shoulders toward the camera and moving your shoulders at different angles.

Also, when you have a hand on your hip, keep it lightly on the hip. You don’t want to wrinkle the beautiful clothing you’re trying to show off.

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Touch your hair or neck sometimes, but in general keep your elbow in close to your body.

Rock back and forth to show off the movement of a skirt.

Feel free to look down at the ground sometimes. You don’t want to look straight down at your toes because you might give yourself a double chin (or is that just me?). However, you can look down at the ground a few feet away and it’ll look the same.

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I’m not a fan of this shot overall, but I did a good job fake-walking. You can achieve a natural “walking” pose by shift your weight back and forth in a rocking motion from the foot behind to the foot in front. Give your arms a little movement too.

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If your garment has pockets, use ‘em. Leave thumbs out, or sometimes you can put your thumbs in the pockets and leave the rest of your hand out. Do this lightly, you don’t have to dig in.

If you’ve got collars, pop ‘em. Do some with the collar down, some up.

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Play with the garment. Touch it. Caress it…yes, that’s right ladies, I said caress it, settle down.

Hands on lapels and plackets looks nice.

You can see here, my weight is shifted so that one hip will stick out and my knees come together. Again, assymetry is nice.

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If you’ve got hoods, do some photos with it on, some off.

Also, try looking in all directions: straight at the camera, at the light source, towards the ground, above the camera, all around.

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Walking: You get some really nice movement, especially for drapey garments, if you walk diagonally towards the camera. Swing your arms a little exaggerated, and take slow strides.

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Here’s another one where I was shifting my weight back and forth. In real life I was moving, but on camera it looks like just a nice still shot.

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Eyes on the ground toward the light source, hand lightly on hip, weight shifted, power stance with toes towards camera.

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Okay. If you can get a blank look in your eyes and get to the point where you feel somewhat at ease, it’ll show really nicely on your face. Relax. (Nobody dies in modelling.) And if that’s too hard, there’s the trick I learned from one of the photographers: turn away from the camera, then look back quickly and instantaneously take the picture (if you’ve got a remote clicker). If you have a self-timer, set it and then look away right before it starts taking pictures.

That look in your eyes, of you still searching for the camera, is a much more natural, caught-by-surprise, candid look than your slightly nervous smile.

Smiles generally look great (at least for me) when I look proud in the photo,
like, “I f***ing made this garment.”

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A leg crossed behind the other leg is a nice easy pose.

Also, this feels really silly, but the photographers ask me to giggle. It gives a more natural smile on camera, and nice relaxed eyes too.

Can’t giggle on cue? That’s okay, just take a friend with you for your photo shoot, someone who makes you laugh. Be silly in front of the camera, or have your friend be silly off-camera, and your shots will capture you in the very best way–the way your loved ones see you.

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If it’s a skirt, feel free to swish it sometimes. Lift it, and then drop it. Your arm being out and the garment gently falling will look spontaneous.

Give your skirt a sense of movement by turning away from the camera, then with one foot, turn around and take one step towards the camera. Then, bring the other foot along.

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Tilt your face sometimes when you’re looking at the camera. It’s less direct/scary-eyes than looking straight at the camera, and it makes you look like you’ve got some secret going on.

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Also, lips parted is a nice look. You can go really sexy with lips parted and bottom eyelids slightly squinched.

If you’re turned diagonal to the camera (which is a really nice thing to do), even though your body is diagonal turn your shoulders both toward the camera. Your back arm can partly be behind your back, but don’t let it hide completely.

CONCLUSION
or
ONE FOR THE ROAD

I find it’s very easy to be horribly self-critical, even more with photographs than with what I see in the mirror. I’ve heard lots of you say critical things too, about your own blog photos–either for the quality of your photograph, the mistakes in your garment, or how ugly you think you look on camera.

Ladies, we need to STOP THAT.

Don’t be hard on yourself when you see something you don’t like. I spent the first couple Zulily shoots embarrassed about my smile, to which the stylists and photographers replied, “What? I love that smile, It looks real.” What you think looks silly might be something others really like about you. We are our own worst critics, not the least because we’re not always accurate about ourselves. I can’t count the number of times I’ve said to my husband, “Ugh, I really hate my [feature],” and he says “I love that [feature].” We are NOT THE BEST JUDGE OF OURSELVES.

Hubby shared a great quote with me yesterday.
“We compare our own behind-the-scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel.”
Any time you see a gorgeous model, what you don’t see is all the tons of prep and “trickery” and effort from an entire team of specialists, the binder clips making her clothes look perfectly fitted, the eye makeup and brow makeup that looks great in the photo but totally garish for everyday life; the leaf blower making her skirt and hair billow; the post-production photo editing. Don’t have ridiculous expectations that every picture you take of yourself will look great. The Delete button is your best friend.

The photographers take probably 300 pictures of me, just to get one good one. That means there were 299 that weren’t good enough.
You can’t take that personally.
Keep taking pics and over time you’ll start to recognize your best features, your best side, your best angle, your best lighting…

We all have a million things we don’t like about our appearance
(double chin, lopsided grin, short eyelashes, whatevs),
but don’t let that hold you back from acting as if

YOU OWN THE WORLD.

tips for modelling: part 1, styling a photo shoot

Recently, Amy over at Sew Well suggested I share some modelling tips from my amateur summer-time stint as a Zulily model. I think it’s a great idea, because many of us who sew our own garments want to show them off with nice blog photos. (And for those of you who don’t sew, it’s still fun to take a good selfie from time to time.)

Today I’m going to share Part 1, which is all about styling a cohesive look for your photo shoot. Tomorrow I’ll share Part 2, tips for modelling.

PREPARATION

First off, before I go in for a shoot, I make sure to wear nude-colored underwear and a strapless nude bra, so that you don’t have any wardrobe malfunctions like a black bra showing under your lovely Nettie.

I also sometimes wear Spanks, or the stylists give me a tight-fitting slip just to contain any lumps I don’t want people to notice. It also has the added benefit of hiding your panty-line.

Before I even go into the studio, the stylists have already decided what should be the “look” for the outfit. Is it an outfit someone would wear to the farmer’s market on a casual Saturday? Date night? Work? Wedding?

Decide what your garment is meant for (where you will typically wear it, on what occasion), and then think about how best you can show that.

BACKDROPS

After they’ve decided what the “event” will be for the garment, they decide on what backdrop to use (in the studio with a plain colored background? or outside?). Say it’s for “date night.” They might want to shoot outside on a curb, with the model looking like she’s waiting for a taxi.

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If you’re indoors, you have a couple options. You could go all out and drape a piece of fabric behind you, such as a sheet or a quilt. Don’t worry if it’s wrinkly, that can add some visual interest.

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Or maybe you just want to take a picture in front of a bookcase in your home.
Use what you have.

We shot the picture below on an apartment stoop. Colorful backdrops are lovely, but don’t pick something too busy unless your garment is very simple. If there’s a painted wall that’s empty, use it. And start walking around your neighborhood with new eyes for the best backgrounds to take photos. I consider myself somewhat of a connoisseur of brick alleyways in my neighborhood.

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If you’re not too embarrassed to shoot publicly, use a sidewalk in front of a nice building, like the one pictured below. You’ll just have to be patient as people walk in and out of your shot. They’ve got somewhere to be and you’re using their public property–for dazzling beauty, yes, but public property nonethless.

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Other suitable backdrops: a stable (if you happen to have one just lying around); a park; a forest; a field; the waterside; a lovely house (especially the ones with chipped paint and nails sticking out, I don’t know why I love those but I do); a brick wall; a rusted piece of metal; I don’t know, maybe even tractors. Use what you have. Take a walk around your neighborhood, and view it through a photographer’s eyes. (Take your camera with you and actually line shots up with your viewfinder–“scouting locations”.) May I recommend a lovely Saturday morning, possibly with a good friend or hubby. Your own hubby, though, not mine. He’s taken already, and I really like him.

LIGHTING

Of course, your lighting options are going to be much more limited than a photographer who has their own studio and tons of expensive gear. However, a few things are in your control: if it’s a shady or gray day, the lighting will be much more even, and the colors will pop. That’s a trick I learned from our professional wedding photographer, and it works beautifully. If you can’t have a gray day like we the privileged few who live in Seattle, you can fake it in a forest or alleyway, even standing against a wall that faces away from the sun. If you want to know more, Amy at Sew Well has done a fabulous job explaining how to find good lighting for your photo shoot. Also, she just last week put up another post about gear, which I know some of you have been wanting to learn more about.

PROPS

The stylists also decide what props to use (if any). Let’s say it’s a garment you’ll wear out and about, running errands. Maybe you can carry a handbag or cute shopping bag or basket. For “date night,” you might hold a small clutch. Use what you have. Let’s say it’s a work garment. You might take your pictures in front of your dining room table, and make it look like a desk by adding a cup of pens and some file folders.

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Girlfriends, hanging out at the football game (I always look exactly that cute when I go to a football game).

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Sometimes you can even just use one prop that adds architectural interest, like a chair that you rest your hand on or lean on. Standing in front of or nearby looks nice, and you can interact with the prop too. Other ideas for architectural objects you can interact with are: columns, pillars, posts (lamp posts, mail posts, whatever), fences, gates, mailboxes, counters, doors, staircase railings, tables. You can sit on structural items, lean on them, rest an elbow on them, rest your hand on them, put one foot on it behind you…

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A coffee table in the background works, too.

ACCESSORIES

The stylists also decide which accessories to style the outfit with. Be wary of over-accessorizing, since then you’ll distract from the garment itself–and you want your handmade garment to be the center of attention!

However, if you have 1-3 accessories that help convey the style of your garment, you add visual interest and make your garment look more “complete.” For a drapey garment you might want to do a long drapey necklace, or a few loose bangle bracelets. You don’t have to have the world’s most amazing collection of accessories. Use what you have. A piece of straw in your mouth, standing in a field, is a good accessory, if you look happy chewing on it.

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Scarves are a great accessory, and can replace a necklace if you don’t have long necklaces. Other ideas for long necklaces (most of which I’ve seen in Martha Stewart): a pasta necklace; a simple elastic string of beads (my neighbor’s son made me one when he was two–I wear that thing all the time and get compliments on it all the time); a cheap string of saltwater pearls from the craft store. Esther from the Sticks (the queen of DIY photo styling) even made her own pair of sunglasses once, out of cardboard. Hats, purses, a cute shopping/tote bag, your dog’s colorful leash binder-clipped in the back to look like a belt. (Nobody needs to know, ladies.) A ribbon as a choker, belt, or bracelet. You’re sewing-type people, make a Peter Pan collar! Blanket draped over your shoulders. Wearing your cat like a fur collar. Okay, actually, I’ve tried that and I didn’t come out the winner in that fight.

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Hats can often be used as a prop (holding it in your hand, touching the brim). Cover your face with a hat if you don’t want to show your face on the internets.

Also, you must decide on the all-important shoes. If you don’t have great shoes to go with the outfit, you can always crop your feet out of your photos. Even so, you might want to wear heels, which give legs a nice toned look, even if the shoes themselves won’t be in the photo. (Or do as Gertie does: she uses a completed outfit as an excuse to buy new shoes!) Obviously don’t wear heels if you’re doing a photo shoot in a golden field and you’re showing off your new pair of self-made overalls. Or maybe do, if you can rock that kind of look. (I cannot.)

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My legs are cropped, but you can still tell I’m wearing heels. And crushing the skulls of my opponents. (With my fierceness.)

HAIR AND MAKEUP

Okay, so you’ve decided where you’ll take your photos (indoors or outside), what backdrop you’ll use (or more than one), how to style the outfit, and what props (if any) to use.

Now it’s time to decide on your makeup and hair.

Every shoot starts with makeup and hair. Typically the stylist gives the makeup people some direction on what they want for the shoot. Sometimes it might be “playful, fun, summer-time makeup for the farmer’s market,” or “smoky eyes for a date.” There are LOTS of tutorials out there who will do a much better job than me on this topic.

You don’t have to be an expert with makeup though. It can be used lightly, just enough to make your eyes or lips pop a little bit, and to smooth your skin. Foundation and concealer, a little bit of mascara, a touch of blush, and some lip gloss are enough sometimes. Again, you don’t want the makeup to be a distraction from your beautiful garment.

Usually the way my hair is styled is what the stylists stick with. The big exception was in the photo below. The stylist had an image she had pulled from a magazine, so she had the makeup artists slick my hair back.

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Hair slicked back for a sexy look, contoured cheekbones, killer pointy heels and sharp earrings.
Man-Eater!

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Smoothed-down, Audrey Hepburn hair, paired with a retro, classic silhouette.

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Slightly spiky, messed-up hair for a “wild” animal-type print.

 You don’t have to have some fancy hair-do, just clean hair that looks the way you would want it to look if you were out and about. Typically the stylists give models with longer hair a simple topknot, or curl it loosely around their face. Nobody needs to know if you didn’t curl it in the back, since you don’t have to turn away from the camera (unless you like to–you ladies know who you are).

Sometimes, a brighter “pop” of lipstick is fun, as in the picture below.

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If you’ve got sleeves, try some pictures with the sleeves down, some with the sleeves rolled up.

Alright, that’s what I’ve got for styling, all of which I learned from the wonderfully talented stylists at Zulily. They made my summer truly enjoyable, gave me something interesting to do with my time, boosted my self-confidence, and made me feel almost like I worked there.

Tomorrow I’ll share with you the tips I’ve learned about how to stand, pose, and look natural in front of a camera, so that your best look shines through and “reads” well on camera. Please come back and check it out, I’d also love to hear your comments on this or tomorrow’s post, if you have any tips or suggestions yourself. I know a lot of you are experts at these things and have lots to share.

i’m so fancy

 I used snaps!

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I learned how to hammer them on! After a few snaps falling off, I really got the technique down and now they’re all in there nice and snug.

I feel so fancy when I try a new technique. I remember my mom using snaps when I was little. Pretty much every time I start wondering if I’m becoming a really good stitcher, I realize I’m still not as advanced as my mom was.

 I sorta botched the entire snap crotch lining bizness, but I’ve carefully chosen a photograph that hides that, so that we can stay focused on how great I am.

 Next step: Now that I’m done with the bodysuit, it’s time to purchase iron-on transfer paper and put on the collar and placket.

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i’m feeling pretty good about nettie

 

I am moving right along on the Nettie bodysuit!

The instructions are thorough, and the project is surprisingly easy.

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I made quarter marks along the leg openings…

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…then stitched the leg binding on.

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I swear I am not making a onesie for myself.

Once the binding was one, I folded it over to the wrong side and top-stitched using my new twin needle.

Yep, still excited about my new twin needle.

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That looks pretty darn snazzy if I do say so myself!

I am getting very close to a finished product here. Next stop: snap crotch!

my first EVER short sleeves

I’m working on my Nettie sleeves!

Sleeves still feel new and special and a little scary and advanced for me. I feel pretty good about myself when I do sleeves!

I decided to do short sleeves, because it’s summer. I constantly go back and forth debating whether I should make clothes ahead of time for the next season? Or make clothes that I want to wear right now.

You know which one wins: the choice that is most instantly gratifying, to make things I get to wear right now.

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Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got one eye (and a whole lotta Pinterest pins) on autumn, a season I absolutely love.

Follow Rebecca’s board Autumn Fashion on Pinterest.

But!

It’s 93 degrees in Seattle right now and you just. Gotta. CELEBRATE that!

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So.

I top-stitched the sleeve hems.

Actually, first I top-stitched the wrong side (is that called bottom-stitching?), then picked my stitches out all the while muttering under my breath. 

THEN I top-stitched the sleeves!

I do love that twin needle, it looks profesh!

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 So they turned out a tad wonky. I don’t feel like I’m a broad-shouldered person, but the yoke feels teeny-tiny. Next time I make the pattern I’ll modify the shoulders so they’re a little wider. Not too much, they feel about a half-inch too small. 

On my dressform it kinda looks like a baby onesie, doesn’t it?
Geez, that’s kind of embarrassing…