Raindrops on Roses

DSC_0006Isn’t this a gorgeous photo – raindrops on roses! Yes, it rained today!!!  I didn’t even grumble when I got wet taking these photos for Monday’s Meander Round the Garden, I was even humming the song from The Sound of Music…I am writing this to the sound of rain beating down on the roof and thunder and lightening rumbling round, and it sounds wonderful!

Over the weekend I finally got round to painting the summerhouse. It was well overdue as it was starting to have more of a shed feel than a summerhouse, a bit cobwebby and flaky paint! My OH cleaned all the algae of the bottom last weekend with a power washer, I just needed to crack on and paint it. I was also concerned that I would prevaricate for too long and the good weather would break. I’ve stuck to the same sort of colour, it’s called Willow, basically a soft green. I used a different make this time and it went on beautifully. The outside has had one coat, I still need to paint the inside and then give the outside a second coat with whatever is left. The inside is going to be Elderflower colour. I even cleaned the windows! I’m well chuffed with how the summerhouse looks now, we bought it as a wedding present to ourselves back in 2007 so it’s eleven years old, but it doesn’t look it now, well it won’t once I finish the inside, then we’ll have the great unveiling!DSC_0009

The big red crocosmias (Lucifers) next to the pond are just starting to flower, they’re starting to get a bit thuggish, but once things have died down in the winter when I’d like to move them I can never work out what’s crocosmia and what is iris! The huge inulas behind the summerhouse are getting bigger, having cleared a way through for my OH a week before, I had to tie everything back to get in to paint!DSC_0010

This orange crocosmia is one I bought at Harrogate Show a couple of years back, it seems more restrained that most and it has gorgeous big orange flowers, well big for a crocosmia! At the moment it’s down by the patio as I missed it when I was moving everything back up to the AA garden…another job for the autumn.DSC_0007

We’ve had lots of self seeded poppies this year, lovely shades of pink and purple. Just look at all the seed heads!DSC_0012 (2)

We’ve a beautiful golden smoke bush in the front garden, (Cotinus Coggygria) it’s ‘smoky’ plumes are just starting to appear. The purple version is fairly common, we’ve got two ourselves including a lovely one next to the summerhouse. I think the golden one deserves to be grown a lot more, it’s beautiful for three seasons out of four, so it certainly earns its keep.DSC_0015 (2)

I think tomorrow, after this lovely rain,I’ll be planting out all the plants I’ve been trying to keep alive during this dry spell, get them in quick whilst I can!DSC_0003 (2)



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I’m Going Down the Rabbit Hole!

It’s been three weeks since I last shared some hand quilting for our  HAQL, I had just finished a little practise piece called Spring.

I have finally started quilting  my Down the Rabbit Hole quilt. This was a monthly quilt-a-long by Sarah Fielke last year which I finished in spring. As there was so much hand sewing anyway and it was a medallion quilt, I rather rashly decided to hand quilt it! It’s big!! Like 96″ square big!

I finally managed to get a decent photo of the whole quilt too!DSC_0021 (2)

I’ve had the quilt machine basted by a local long-arm quilter called Christine Marriage, she’s quilted quilts for me before so I was very happy to see she offered a basting service. I have no where big enough to lay out the quilt flat to sandwich it, she has basically quilted lines of very large stitches all over the quilt. She suggested that I unpick them as I go along, rather than waiting to the end.

The backing is a double width quilting cotton in a soft purple sort of floral design, it coordinates beautifully, which was lucky as I bought it off the internet! The disadvantage I have discovered (or it may be an advantage!) is that it’s quite busy so the quilting doesn’t show up much on the back.DSC_0001

I’ve set up a corner on the landing to be my designated quilting corner, I’ve got my comfy purple chair I reupholstered a few years ago, a decent light, a big window just above for natural light…and a dog at my feet!DSC_0008 (2)

I started in the middle as I understand you’re meant to do and I must admit to getting a bit disillusioned at first. It’s a heavily pieced Dresden circle in the middle so despite cutting away fabric behind there is still a lot of thicknesses in places. I decided to do a daisy design with lines going up the centre of the plain wedges and circling over the top of the pieced wedge.

I quilted in the ditch around the edge of the circle first and then started the daisy. I chose a thread which co-ordinates nicely, in fact it co-ordinates so well I struggled to see where I’ve stitched the first evening. It looked better in daylight, but when I turned it over there were more  stitches missing than I would have liked.DSC_0009

There was then a few days hiatus whilst I mulled it over, not helped by the fact that my thread has gone missing!!

I realised I was starting at what is probably one of the harder areas due to the thickness of fabric. So, I’ve moved out to the next border, the flowers on stalks, whilst I get the hang of man-handling this quilt and stitching it.

I started quilting next to the ditch round the circles, I’ve then stitched another row about half an inch out with the idea that I’ll do ‘echo’ quilting up to the edge of this border. It’s going much better, most stitches are coming through and I’m getting better at feeling them underneath.

I’ve just used a very light purple / silvery grey variegated thread for this area. I toyed with the idea of using darker threads to make a feature in themselves, but I decided the quilt is busy enough as it is without adding extra colour.DSC_0010

Hopefully in three weeks time you will see a bit more progress, but at least I’ve made a start!

This Hand Quilt Along is an opportunity for hand quilters and piecers to share and motivate one another. We post every three weeks, to show our progress and encourage one another.  If you have a hand quilting project and would like to join our group contact Kathy at the link below.

KathyLoriMargaretKerryEmmaTracyDebConnieSusan,  NanetteSassy , Edith, and Sharon

I’m also linking up with Kathy’s quilts for Slow Stitching Sunday, please follow the link to see more hand-stitching.

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Balancing the Splendid Sampler 2

I’ve just finished another two blocks for my Splendid Sampler 2 quilt, the patterns are being released every Thursday on Pat Sloan’s web site, I’d only just finished stitching last weeks on Thursday afternoon so I carry straight on and pieced this weeks pattern too. I’d sashed and quilted them both by this afternoon.

Last weeks block is a cutie, it’s by Wenche Wolff Hatling, it’s called Balance and it’s all about finding balance in your life; ‘balance between time for others and time for yourself…it’s time to breathe – and let your feet find safe ground’DSC_0002 (2)

Isn’t it sweet!! It’s a vintage style elephant, I managed to needle-turn applique both the elephant and the stand, although the stand was meant to be in two colours with a zig-zag design, I know my limitations and there is no way I would get such acute triangles neat enough. I decided to do one colour block for the stand and embroider the zig-zag on it. As the details on the elephant are also embroidered it didn’t look too out of place.

Having sashed it in blue I decided to quilt it with a meandering clover design. I just used cream this time (all the others I quilted with a variegated light grey) as I didn’t want it to detract from the elephant. I stitched in the ditch around the elephant which just lifts it nicely.DSC_0005 (2)

This weeks block is a straight forward pieced one, so it didn’t take too long. Though I did learn the hard way that it’s blocks that you think are easier that you make mistakes on, probably because I wasn’t concentrating as much!!

This block is by Susan Ache, it’s called ‘Points Taken’, I love the idea that we spend ages as quilters worrying about our points, trying to get perfect points. This star deliberately has them all missed off!DSC_0004 (2)

I’d forgotten just how small some of the squares are with the SS quilts, cutting 1.25″ squares, I need to get some more Best Press to help control them! I made the centre blocks first, I was just about to sew them together when I realised I’d done one the wrong way, so I now have a spare!DSC_0001 (2)

I like this block, and my points worked out pretty well!

My original thought was to quilt this one in the ditch, but I decided to be brave with my fmq again. I quilted the star with a flame shape going up into each corner. I got a bit carried away when I thought I’d nearly finished and stitched one that filled an area for two, so I squeezed another smaller one in next to it!DSC_0006 (2)

Five blocks complete, 95 to go!!

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Friday Photo Challenge

I think this weeks photo challenge  from Postcard from Gibraltar is quite tricky, the word for today is favourite.

It sounds so easy, but favourites are so relative depending on what your doing at the time, even something simple like what’s my favourite seat in the garden,well if it’s hot and sunny I love to sit in the shade of my arbour, if it’s a bit cool in the spring , or a bit of a breeze then the summerhouse would be my choice…but on a warm summers evening, with a glass of Pinot Grigio, the AA garden is perfect.

So, with a bit of a pinch of salt, here’s some favourites…

The view from Catbells over Derwentwater towards Keswick with Skiddaw to the left and Blencathra in the middle.

My favourite blondes 🙂 A photo came up on facebook from 6 years ago of Helen sitting with Rosie on the arbour, she decided she wanted an update, Rosie’s too athritic to climb onto the arbour now so they sat on the steps instead.

My favourite rose at the moment, I just love the tangerine colour, it smells divine too, it’s called Lady Emma Hamilton.
Lady Emma Hamilton

Zachs favourite place when it’s cold, he often lies on the hearth with his paws tucked under the stove, one hot dog!!

My favourite place to spend a few hours, this photo is from when it was first set up, I don’t think it’s been so tidy since!

Of course I couldn’t have a list of favourites without my favourite photo of me and my OH Ken…we spotted the bench on the Leeds Liverpool canal so we had to have a photo. It was our first canal boat holiday.

So, what would you list as your favourites?

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A Phoenix in Flight

It’s my Embroiderers Guild meeting on Monday so I thought I’s better get cracking with my entry for this months Travelling Sketchbook.

With the Travelling Sketchbooks we each start an A5 sketchbook, covering it, choosing a theme, write and introduction and put in a couple of embroideries to start it. We then swop books within a little circuit so everyone stitches a little piece for each book. It’s certainly pushed me in creative embroidery as I just have to think what and how I’m going to create something.

Some themes are easier than others, last months was ‘Down the Microscope’ which I found really tricky, I bent the theme slightly with my image of Carto, a computer generated image we use in the Cardiac Catheter Labs at work.Carto embroidery

This month wasn’t much easier, particularly as I couldn’t find many little embroideries on Pinterest to give me ideas! The theme this time is Mythical Beasts! Dragons had already been stitched so I couldn’t do those! I don’t know many mythological beasts, unicorns, pegasus…

Then I came across a picture of a phoenix, the bird that dies in a show of flames and then is reborn from the ashes. Most of the pictures of a phoenix were actually tattoos, but it gave me ideas for shapes etc. I sketched a quick shape of a bird flying up with a long floaty tail. That was the basis of my design.DSC_0001 (1)

In my stash I found some taffeta-type fabric that was pink on the warp and bright yellow on the weft. It was a bit fiddly but I cut out a tiny birds body out of bondaweb, ironed it on the taffetta and then trimmed it so I still had the fabric attached for tail and wings. I then frayed the fabric back so i had gold threads fanning out for the tail and wings. I ironed it on to some grey marbled cotton and I was quite impressed with myself at this point! Quite arty-farty for me 🙂

A little bit of me was tempted to leave it at that, as I actually think it looks quite effective, but I decided I really ought to do some embroidery over it! To start with I just did some feather stitch over it to help stabilise the threads.DSC_0002 (2)

I then started adding embroidered plumes, I started off with a simple stem stitch, but that would have taken for ever and ever to get any effect, I couched some thread and then tried couching some woven ribbon twisting it and stitching it down with beads. Basically my threads and fibres were getting thicker and thicker as I tried to fill the space! I added straight stitches and fly stitches too in various threads too.

For the wings I mainly used chain-stitch with feather stitch in between. I added some chain stitch to the tail to help bring it all together. DSC_0006

At this point I had very little embroidery on the body, just a few straight stitches. I used a variegated DMC thread to embroider fly stitches overlapping on his body, which did look to be just enough. I added a french knot for his eye and a fly stitch for his beak and my phoenix was ready to fly!

As an embroidery I’ve had to completely think up myself, I’m pretty pleased with this one! He’s pretty bright and a bit gaudy, but so is a fire! He reminds me of those Rio carnival dancers!Phoenix Embroidery


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Summer Sewing Plans

I’ve a few sewing dates in my diary which I’m pretty excited about…

Festival of Quilts; 9th – 12th August at NEC

I’ve wanted to go to the Festival of Quilts for a couple of years but it’s always clashed with another date or I’ve not been able to get time off work. This year I’m going!! For the first time ever at a big show I’ve also booked a two day ticket and a couple of workshops!!! The show is held in Birmingham (where my daughter is at Uni) so I’m getting the early morning train down on the Thursday so I’ll be at the NEC for 10am when it opens. I can wander round the show in the morning, then in the afternoon I’ve booked two 1.5 hour workshops, both as it happens leaning more towards embroidery than quilting.

It’s tiring going round shows, so my theory is that by having three hours sat down I’ll then be rejuvenated to carry on wandering round! I’m staying in an Air B&B a couple of miles away for the night, so I can then return on the Friday for another wander round before Helen picks me up after lunch to drive home! I’ve even got a project to buy for as I’ve promised my niece a quilt!

If anyone fancies meeting up for coffee, let me know 🙂

Butterfly Brooch; 25th August at Fabbadashery in Halifax

This workshop is by Emma Frith, it’s to embroider a beautiful butterfly brooch. My plan is not to use it as a brooch, but to make another three and mount them like a tradition butterfly display. Lets see how the first one goes before I make too many plans!

Great Northern Quilt Show; 31st August to 2nd September at Great Yorkshire Show Ground

This is a much smaller show but there’s still plenty of stalls and an excellent exhibition of quilts. I’m not sure what day I’m going yet but I’ve promised my mum I’ll take her again, though this time I might take a wheelchair for her.

Raggedy Ruff BOM from September

I like to do Block of the Months to learn something, whether it’s basic piecing like the first couple of Pat Sloan ones I made, or lots of new techniques like with the Splendid Sampler quilts. Sometimes I choose a BOM to learn a specific technique (and because I love the design!) so I did the Down the Rabbit Hole to learn to do applique properly.

Over the last couple of months I’ve noticed an absolutely beautiful quilt on one of the facebook pages, it has British wildlife and flowers all around the quilt, it’s just gorgeous, when it was finished the maker mentioned that she would be offering it as a BOM, I was signed up within half an hour! She uses raw edge applique with machine embroidery, I’ve never done machine embroidery before, so that was a good reason to sign up. On her website (Raggedy Ruff Designs) she has some beautiful free designs, so I’m hoping to have chance to try one before I start the actual quilt. This free swallow pattern gives you an idea of what the quilt is like.

Sew Up North; September 29th in Leeds

This is a bloggers meetup, going round the fabric shops in Leeds, the organisers Becca and Sally have had to make it ticket only as the final venue is limited to 150, tickets are free but you do need to register. Whilst I’m local to Leeds so the shops are my usual haunts it’s great to meet up with everyone and chat sewing all day! Becca and Sally also work really hard to get lots of sponsors, so there’s a great raffle at the end and lots of money is raised for Yorkshire Air Ambulance. There’s always a swops table to, piled high with fabric and patterns!

There’s so much happening in the next three months, it’s pretty exciting 🙂

Posted in embroidery, Fabric shops, Quilt-a-long, Serendipity | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Bertie the Blackbird

I have finally made enough progress on Bertie the Blackbird to show you. I started him in May at a three day Embroiderers Guild workshop with Nicola Jarvis who is the designer of this beautiful bird. By the end of the three days I had started and more or less mastered each section, I just had to finish it…

This is where I was last time I showed you…Blackbird by Nicola Jarvis

I had just finished the twirly shapes across his shoulders and the tiny seeding stitches in between.

I’m working my way through the instruction booklet now, checking I stitch everything in the right order. I couched some silver thread around the large black leaf shapes together with a fine silver line along the vein. I love the effect of the couching.

The next area to be tackled was the black tear drops and the little dots. These were stitched in satin stitch. I remembered this time to edge the shape with split stitch first as it does make a better shape with the satin stitch.

This bit did seem to take a long time, once they were all stitched I used a light grey DMC thread to make tiny seeding stitches around the tear drops and the dots.DSC_0008

‘All’ I’ve got to do now is the large grey leaves with their silk shading, I say ‘all’ as it might be the trickiest bit. I’ve a little more couching too and then Bertie will be finished. I’ve a few ripples in the unstitched area which I’m hoping will merge with the stitching, if not I think I may be stretching it by hand before I take it to the framers, maybe with a bit of padding underneath!DSC_0009

Hopefully not too long before Snoopy can do a happy dance again!

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Walking along the Ribble

I’m still paying catch up with my blog posts, not helped by a few finishes along the way!

Ribble-WayTwo or three weeks ago I went with my friends to walk part of the Ribble Way, 73 miles from Preston in Lancashire along the route of the River Ribble to it’s source above Horton in Ribblesdale. Kathy is walking all of it over the summer, with various friends keeping her company along the way. We decided to do the Settle to Horton-in-Ribblesdale bit. It was sold to me as a nice gentle riverside walk of about 7.5 miles…hmm

It started off a lovely sunny day, we stopped in Settle for some supplies from The Naked Man Cafe, the couple next to me were laughing as I bought a sausage roll, a ham salad sandwich, a curd tart and a sticky bun, they seemed to think that was quite a lot! We went over the road to get some fruit off the market afterwards! We started our walk with one of our traditions, a sausage roll break, sitting on a bench by the river.DSC_0001

We walked along the riverside to start with, looking at the weir next to the old mill. You can just see Ingleborough, one of the Yorkshire Three Peaks, in the distance.

We enjoyed a bit of Yorkshire humour, there was no shadow so the sun had clearly gone in by then!DSC_0006

It was very pleasant walking along the fields near the river, it was very tempting to sit for a while by the old packhorse bridge at Stainforth. The limestone pavement you can see in the foregound is typical of the area.DSC_0025

We passed through the pretty villages of Langcliffe and Stainforth before we found the path going up a great big hill…so much for a riverside walk!DSC_0033 (2)

The plus of walking up is always the view, and with a steep hill we take lots of opportunities to admire the view! Looking back down the valley towards Settle we could just make out Pendle Hill (in Lancashire) in the distance.DSC_0043 (2)

I love seeing the field patterns with the old dry stone wall, the fields were still looking pretty green then.DSC_0041

Once we were over the very big hill (which had lots of false summits!) we came back down to the River Ribble, looking very calm and peaceful.


I was very pleased to see the old bridge at Horton and not surprised to see our fitbits reckoned we walked nearly 9 miles, not the 7.5 the guide book suggested! It’s all good practise for St Cuthberts Way in September!

I may have mumbled and grumbled a bit, but it was a lovely walk with great company!DSC_0060


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A Proud Peacock

I mentioned last week that I wanted to get a few finishes under my belt, well it’s time for a little happy dance again!

Ages ago (like sometime last year!) I bought a class on Craftsy by Leah Day called Free Motion Quilting a Sampler. I wanted to learn how to do free motion quilting properly, rather than the way I’ve just made up myself as I go along. I’d heard good reports about Craftsy classes so I thought I’d give one a go. One thing I do like with Craftsy is that once you buy something (a class or a pattern for example) it is in your library for ever, you can go back and watch it again several years down the line, as often as you want. So if you don’t get round to watching it for 18 months it doesn’t mater!

I was amazed just how long the class is, it must be about 8 hours long, over about 12 classes. Leah starts right at the beginning with sandwiching a quilt before moving on to all the techniques you need to know to fmq. She quilts a sampler quilt which you can make or buy preprinted, then you can do exactly as she does…if you like the quilt! I’d already decided to use a peacock panel which was a complete impulse buy after I saw one on facebook.

I didn’t follow Leah’s instructions to the letter, but I did learn an awful lot. I couldn’t quite bring myself to doctor my fmq foot so that it hovers, rather than going up and down with each step. I did however finally twig how to bring my threads up at the beginning and end and how to finish them, I think this is the first quilt I’ve made that hasn’t got little thread nests at the back…OK, it’s got one, but that’s a huge improvement!

Leah starts off with quilting straight lines – with a fmq foot! I must admit I’m converted to this one, I would always have used my walking foot before with all the quilt turning that involves, it’s so much easier with a fmq foot as you can go in any direction! My initial plan was to watch a lesson and then use that stitch on my peacock, so I started by quilting straight lines following the pattern on the neck.

There was then a bit of a hiatus as I was a bit disappointed with the effect on the neck and also the next stitch was stippling which I wanted to do round the bird, not in the middle. In the end I watched all the classes, making notes on the pattern and then included as many as I could on this panel!

I decided the neck needed a bit more quilting, I also changed the thread to one which blended a bit more, rather than standing out. I stitched a chain of pearls along each area on the neck, it worked brilliantly, it may not be perfectly executed but I liked the effect.DSC_0004

I then made the decision to quilt with the feeling of the bird, rather than sticking rigidly to the design, that was a bit of a game changer for me as it was so much easier not to be trying to fit the quilting in with the picture, instead I just let the quilting add to the picture.

His tail was a lovely area to try different patterns on. I started off with a snake paisley (or a flame as I call it), followed by some long spirals, this is one bit when I think I should have done either some smaller ones in between or echoed them as there’s not quite as much quilting here.DSC_0005

Below the spirals I stitched some paisleys, roughley around the eyes of the feathers. I merged these into feather fans which I quite enjoyed stiotching. I then tried ‘desert sand’ which didn’t fit in quite as well so I finished off with a few more spirals.

I used a sort of echo shell on the bottom border and a spiral chain on the top border.

All that was left was the background and the flowers. Again once I decided not to follow the picture rigidly it was much easier. I stitched a sort of flame design on the big flowers and I used a meandering clover over the little flowers, adding extra petals where needed.DSC_0004

The rest of the background was stitched with stippling, or a meander as I call it, sometimes better than other times, but definitely better than before I took the class.

I’m really pleased with my peacock, especially when I look at the back, as you can clearly see the bird in the quilting.DSC_0005 (2)

I’m sure it will make me a bit more adventurous when I’m quilting my Splendid Sampler blocks, in fact they will be a useful revision. Using a panel to practise on also worked well, as I have something I like at the end, but I didn’t invest any time in making  the panel so I was happy to experiment.

Another first for me, I machine stitched my binding on! I usually hand-stitch it as I prefer the neat finish, but I decided now was a good time to try machine stitching it down. I was quite pleased with the result, it’s certainly a whole lot faster and I only had to go back to hand-stitch one little area that had missed…but I still prefer hand-stitching for any quilt I’ve spent time on! I’m going to hang my peacock in my sewing room as I already have a peacock theme with my storage boxes!Quilted Peacock

Posted in Quilting, Serendipity | Tagged , , | 25 Comments

Liberty Summer Dress


In the recent hot weather I’ve found the outfits I feel most comfortable in are my long  cotton dresses, especially the teal one I made in February for our holiday and a Liberty one I made last year, both just simple sleeveless dresses. I decided I needed another one…

A couple of years ago on a trip to Goldhawk Road in London I bought 3m of a beautiful blue Liberty tana lawn.  Tana lawn is so soft and smooth it almost feels like wearing silk, it’s lovely to wear, perfect for a summer dress. This one is a gorgeous shade of blue (cobalt??) with a very delicate design on it, I love it!

I looked through my dress patterns, that’s when I realised how many of them take nearer 4m! Eventually I found Simplicity  2917 which reckoned with 60″ wide fabric you only need 2.70m. It’s a princess line dress with a full-ish skirt, a nice shaped neck-line and a sleeveless option. Bingo, I thought! Only tana lawn is only 54″ wide and sometimes 6″ makes all the difference!I wasn’t anywhere near being able to get it out of 3m.

Then I had a brainwave! I cut the side back and the side front pattern pieces along the ‘cut here for the top’ line, I left the front and back full length, reasoning that I’m sure I’ve got patterns with such a design feature! Without the full length of the two side pieces there was now plenty of fabric, in fact I even cut the skirt an extra 4″ long as I do like my skirts pretty long! I even remembered to add extra seam allowances (most of the time!)DSC_0024

The first thing I did was to stitch the side front and backs to their respective skirts and then just made the dress up as usual. As it’s such a busy print the seams don’t show anyway, but even if they did it I think would look fine.

I also removed the centre front seam from the pattern, cutting it on the fold instead. The neckline and arms have facings on the pattern, I stitched a neckline facing as per pattern, but I didn’t fancy an armhole one, so I bound it like a quilt instead with a strip of bias-cut lawn. The zipper was hand-stitched in as I find that easier and neater than fiddling round with the machine and the hem was stitched on the machine with the blind hemming stitch. The only thing I would add with hind-sight, is pockets.DSC_0026

I wore my dress to work today, it was cool and comfortable and I think it looks really pretty. I love the way it twirls!DSC_0027


Posted in Dressmaking, Serendipity | Tagged , , , | 22 Comments