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Sew Expo Recap 2015

March 4, 2015

Sew Well at the Sew Expo

It’s been quite a month. I’ve had two family members in the Intensive Care Unit at the hospital for different issues and an incredibly stressful science paper deadline that was compounded by lots of drama from my co-authors. Couple that with an amazing baby girl who just found her legs, and my days have been more than full! I haven’t turned on my sewing machine since my last post, which marks my longest dry spell since starting to sew back in 2010. Any hope that I might have been able to pull together an AlterSWAP (alternative Sewing with a Plan challenge) on the Stitcher’s Guild site is long since gone. Even the two projects on my sewing table – my husband’s plaid shirt and my silk/wool jacket – have just been collecting dust.

What my sewing needed was a boost! And, thankfully, this year’s Sewing and Stitchery Expo couldn’t have come at a better time!

Back before things got crazy, I’d looked into the classes at this year’s Expo. Last year I had a lot of fun going to a full day’s worth of classes, but I felt like I missed out on some of the social aspects of the Expo since I couldn’t join Helena of Gray All Day and Leah of Away I Sew! when they were exploring the vendor tables since I only had a few minutes break between each class.  But, I still thought a class or two would be fun. Unfortunately, when I went to sign up on the first morning online registration was open, the class I really wanted to take – Collars and Lapels with Pamela Leggett – was already sold out! I hadn’t prepared a plan B, so I ended up not signing up for anything.

In the weeks leading up to the Expo, I’d heard from a number of other friends that they were also going to be there on Saturday, so my loose plan for the day was to start at the “Vogue, Butterick, McCall’s & Kwik Sew Patterns 2015 Wear Now Fashion & Palmer/Pletsch Sewing and Styling Tips by Melissa Watson” free fashion show and then see where that took me.

The fashion show was interesting. I liked seeing all of the garments made up and being worn by real people, but I wasn’t sure how to best take advantage of the show. Perhaps if I’d brought a pen I could have written down my flashes of inspiration or some of the sewing tips being shared by Melissa Watson? Since I hadn’t, I just sat back and enjoyed the show.

Afterwards, I briefly ran into Suzanne, who I met last year at the meet up I hosted at my house, and Missy of Missy’s Craft Journal, who I met last summer at a fitting meet up and who was also at the meet up I hosted at my house.

Then I saw a huge group of familiar faces all sitting together…

…Carolyn of Diary of a Sewing Fanatic (read her recap of the day here and here), who had flown all the way from the east coast and who I’ve wanted to meet ever since we were a part of the Mood Sewing Network together;

…gMarie of gMarie Sews, who I also met last year at the meet up I hosted at my house;

…MaLora of Bird and Bicycle, who I would have sworn I’d met before (even though I hadn’t!) because we’d been talking about getting together ever since I moved to Seattle;

…Melizza of Pincushion Treats, who I’ve been following since before she moved to the Bay Area (sadly, around the time I left), and I was ever so happy when she announced she was moving to the Seattle area;

…and Niema of Wearable Muslin, who I had briefly met back at the great sewing giveaway.

As we were chatting, J of Toile and Trouble joined our group. Another Seattle sewing blogger I’d been hoping to meet!

The seven of us headed off together to explore the vendors.  One of our first stops was the  Marcy Tilton booth, where we ran into Gertie of Gertie’s Blog for Better Sewing.

Then, while we were shopping for fabric at Vogue, we ran into Shams of Communing with Fabric, who I hadn’t seen in person since I left the Bay Area.

We met quite a number of other people as well, but since I didn’t think to bring a pen, I wasn’t able to write down any of their names.  If you were there and said hello, let me know in the comments!

While we were shopping, I was keeping my eye out for Helena of Gray All Day, Maris of Sew Maris, and my friend Yvonne, but our path’s didn’t cross. I later learned that Helena wasn’t even there that day and that I’d somehow missed Maris at the Vogue show earlier that morning. As for Yvonne, I just have to hope that she had so much fun that she’ll want to come back next year (nudge, nudge!).

Being around other people who love sewing was so inspirational.  My day at the Sew Expo motivated me to move sewing and blogging back up my list of priorities.  In the past few days, I’ve cleaned my sewing area and dusted off my current sewing projects, and now I’m writing my first blog post in over a month. At this rate I might even have a finished project here soon!

Jenny’s back, and she’s better than ever!

January 29, 2015

I still have my eye on the AlterSWAP (alternative Sewing with a Plan challenge) on the Stitcher’s Guild site.  According to this year’s traditional SWAP rules, one of the items should be something refashioned.  When I was looking through my closet trying to decide if I had anything that would make for a good refashion, I realized the obvious choice was my technicolor lace skirt.  I loved the idea of it, but I’d only ever worn it once.  So, with an MSN deadline looming and a plaid shirt still getting me down, I set aside my Tuesdays with Claire mini-goal for this week and got to unpicking the lace, zipper, and the waistband. And, I found that I got happier and happier with each little stitch that I unpicked.  I just couldn’t wait to put this solid teal skirt back together again. I’d forgotten how much I liked the color! Since the wool got barely a mention in my first post, I figured it deserved a chance to finally “shine” over at MSN! I love it, but there’s always a lesson to learn with even the simplest of garments. 

Sew Well - BurdaStyle Jenny Skirt in double-faced wool from #MoodFabrics

I seem to be in the mood for pencil skirts lately. I don’t quite understand my draw to them right now since they’re not ideal daily wear for someone who currently spends most of their time sitting on the floor reading books and playing blocks with toddlers.  Maybe it’s my subconscious mind’s way of telling me that I could stand to spend more time with adults?!

Sew Well - BurdaStyle Jenny Skirt in double-faced wool from #MoodFabrics

This particular pencil skirt is the BurdaStyle Jenny basic skirt with a shortened waist and an added kick pleat, and it’s made using Mood Fabric’s double-faced wool.  The wool is thick and spongy and would make a beautiful unlined coat since being double-faced means it’s equally gorgeous on both sides.  But, with only a yard and with pencil skirts on the brain, a skirt it was! It was lovely to cut and sew – a nice, well-behaved fabric with no slippery edges and no crazy patterns to match.

Sew Well - BurdaStyle Jenny Skirt in double-faced wool from #MoodFabrics

The thickness of the fabric made it easy to hide the hand-picked zipper and hem stitches.  I didn’t even have to go through the entire fabric to feel like I had a secure hold.  But, the thickness also made it a pain to press.  I used a press cloth that I’d made out of a large square of silk organza so that the iron would come in as little contact with the wool as possible. I also tried to hover the iron over the wool and take advantage of my iron’s steam function as much as I could.  Even still, where there were multiple layers of the thick fabric – at the seams, darts, and hem, all of which I’m also in the habit of making sure are nice and pressed while sewing – the fabric still picked up a bit of that shine wool can get from the iron.  If it weren’t for this small amount of shine, I bet the hem would be completely invisible! Next time I’ll try to be even more careful with how I press a nice wool like this one.

Sew Well - BurdaStyle Jenny Skirt in double-faced wool from #MoodFabrics

Though this wool is one of the softest I’ve ever used, I still lined the skirt with one of Mood’s silk crepe de chines.  I always figure a skirt like this deserves that extra something that a lining provides.

Sew Well - BurdaStyle Jenny Skirt in double-faced wool from #MoodFabrics

Have you ever worked with a double-faced wool? What did you make? Any good tips on how to get a good press?

This post can also be found on Mood Sewing Network.

Tuesdays with Claire: Remember Vogue 8333?

January 20, 2015

Sew Well - Tuesdays with Claire

Thanks for all of your feedback on my husband’s plaid shirt.  It got me thinking about ways to overcome little dips like that in the future, and one way I came up with was to have a slow sewing project going on in the background.  The obvious project for me to pick back up was Vogue 8333.  It’s crazy to think that I’ve been sewing long enough to have an unfinished project that’s two and a half years old.  But, I do.

If you’ve been reading this blog for long enough, you might remember I used to do a lot of weekly series.  It all started when I took my first Craftsy class:  Gertie’s Sew Retro – Perfect Bombshell Dresses.  I found that I liked watching and completing the steps from a single video lesson in a week, and “Tuesdays with Gertie” was born.  I imagined continuing the series with Gertie’s second Craftsy class, the one on jacket construction that has long since disappeared from their site, and then her books.  But, I just couldn’t get her jacket to work for me (and I never ended up buying her books) and eventually switched my focus to Claire Shaeffer’s Custom Couture Collection Vogue 8333.  Tuesdays then became “Tuesdays with Claire“.

I got as far as cutting out the exquisite silk and wool blend fabric that I’d picked up from when life got hectic.  Plus, I’d also gotten more involved with the Bay Area sewing community and had begun dreaming of using the jacket as an excuse to study with Beth of Sunnygal Studio.

I never found the time.

Or, more precisely, I never made the time.

The cut jacket pieces have been patiently waiting for me to choose to make the time… for the last two and a half years.

Honestly, I still don’t have the time.  But, like the idea of having a backup project whenever my main project is getting me down.  Plus, I’m tired of seeing that beautiful fabric sitting in a basket in my sewing area waiting for me to magically find the time.  So, I’ve decided to try to get back into the habit of doing one thing a week on the jacket.  Or, maybe just one thing whenever I need the boost? I won’t ask you to hold me to it, but here’s to fostering good habits!

Sewing in a World of Wrinkle-Free Shirts

January 15, 2015

Sew Well - Mismatched plaid

I haven’t squeezed in much time in front of the sewing machine recently.  To be honest, I got a little discouraged after spending so long before the holidays meticulously cutting out my husband’s plaid shirt only to realize as I was sewing it together that one of the side seams doesn’t match. All of the other vertical seams do match, including the all-important front center seam across the button placket, which I should have taken as a small triumph.  But, their matchy-matchiness proves that, despite all of my care, I managed to cut out the shirt so that there’s a subtle spiral to the horizontal plaid line that starts and finishes at that one poor unmatched seam.

And, the bias yoke looks a bit off kilter.

Somehow I must have had my grain line ever so slightly off.

My husband won’t notice or care, but it hurts that I won’t be able to give him a perfect shirt.  Plus, I’m supposed to be learning to sew well, right?

When I first realized what had happened, there was a moment when I wondered why I even sew, why I even fuss with making him nice shirts when he has a closet full of fancy wrinkle-free shirts already.

That thought led me to wonder what exactly made his wrinkle-free shirts wrinkle free…

That thought led me to this New York Times article.

In a nutshell, to keep fabric from wrinkling when it’s washed, it’s first bathed in a resin that locks its fibers in place (yay chemistry!). The downside is that that resin also happens to release a not-so-friendly compound called formaldehyde (boo chemistry).

Have you heard of formaldehyde? It’s a simple compound made up of two hydrogens bound to a carbon that’s double-bonded to an oxygen. Even if you haven’t taken any chemistry or have chosen to forget all of the chemistry you have taken, I’m sure you’ve heard of hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen. According to wiki, formaldehyde is used to embalm and is also often found in nail hardeners and nail polish.  It acts as an adhesive in plywood and carpet.  It gives paper products such as tissues, napkins, and paper towels their resiliency to tearing when wet.  And, it’s a known human carcinogen.

If you’re a fan of wrinkle-free shirts, the internet just seems to suggest that you wash brand-new shirts before wearing them.  But, according to this fact sheet, if you notice irritation in your eyes or nose or a rash on your skin when you’re wearing wrinkle-free garments, then perhaps you might be more sensitive to formaldehyde or you might have ended up with an article of clothing that’s giving off a bit more formaldehyde than it should.

Maybe I am glad that I sew?!

Sewing Gifts for the Holidays: To Infinity and Beyond!

January 8, 2015

Sew Well - Infinity Scarves

I kept Christmas present sewing to a minimum this year.  I made some infinity scarves for my sisters-in-law and a half of a shirt (with the other half promised as soon as possible!) for my husband.  Today you get the scarves.

The red is made from a beautiful drapey knit that was part of the stash giveaway from Susan.  The teal is a ribbed sweater knit that I picked up at FabMo ages ago.

Sew Well - Infinity Scarves

I imagined them being worn as a single layer, like my sister-in-law is here (with a tiny peek at her new baby, my new niece!):

Sew Well - Infinity Scarves

Or, doubled up as on my dress form below.

Sew Well - Infinity Scarves

These scarves were really easy.  For the red I began by cutting off one yard of the several yards I had on hand.  I then folded it in half, right sides together, matching the selvedges.  Then, I sewed along the selvedges to form a loop of fabric.  I trimmed off the selvedge ends and used my walking foot to flat-fell the seam for a nice finish.

Sew Well - Infinity Scarves

Would you believe this is my first ever flat-felled seam?!  For some reason I thought it was going to be a lot trickier than it really was.  It was so easy it motivated me to flat-fell the seams for my husband’s Christmas shirt!

When I picked up the teal from Fabmo, it came as one long knit tube.  Does anyone know why it would come like that or what it was meant for originally?  I never could figure it out, but it seemed perfect for an infinity scarf since all I had to do was cut it to size.

Sew Well - Infinity Scarves

A no-sew scarf!  Now, what’s the fun of that?!

Okay, now it’s your turn!  Did you craft for the holidays?  If so, did you go all out or did you take a minimalist approach, like me?  What are your favorite things to sew for others?

Here’s to 2015!

January 1, 2015

Happy New Year, everyone! I love that January 1st brings with it the feeling of a fresh start.  I can’t even tell you how excited I am for 2015. Though 2014 was crazy, I think 2015 is going to be even crazier – in all the best ways!

Lots of life stuff happened this year. The biggest, of course, happened early on when my husband and I welcomed a daughter into the world.  Over the past year, she’s gone from being a tiny infant that needed to be held constantly to a crazy fast crawler who loves books and cats.  I can only imagine what 2015 will bring for her and our little family!


We also bought a house – a house we’d fallen in love with months earlier, before it was even on the market and before we realized that it didn’t have a functional kitchen or updated systems. But, we jumped in head first, figuring we had a lot of energy and decent amount of know how.  We tore out the heating system and the kitchen right away and have been slowly, ever so slowly, putting everything back together again.  2015 better be the year we get our heat back and finish our kitchen! Hahaha!

This year I also continued working on the project I left unfinished at my last job when I moved from San Francisco to Seattle for my husband’s job.  October and November were a blur of science writing.  Every moment Baby Girl was asleep had me in front of my computer trying to find the right words to tell this particular science story.  There’s a lot of negativity associated with this project for numerous reasons that I won’t go into, but I’m determined to finish it up.  I’m hopeful 2015 will mark the end of this project and the beginning of me moving on and exploring whatever might be the right next step for me science-wise here in Seattle.

Finally, this past year showed me that wrangling a baby, working on home construction projects, and writing up this particular science project really stretch my time management skills.  My hobbies and personal outlets – sewing, blogging, reading, running, and outdoorsy adventures – really took a back seat.  I’m determined to make sure this doesn’t happen again in 2015 since all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!


I began last year with a list of my New Year’s sewing resolutions, or “resewlutions” as I called them.  Number one was to keep sewing once the little one arrives.  Now, as I mentioned above, I wasn’t able to make sewing a high priority this year, but my sewing machine did see a little bit of activity.  With the exception of a few Christmas projects that I haven’t blogged yet, these projects are the extent of my 2014 creativity:

Sew Well - Draped BurdaStyle Tee in Silk-Cotton Jersey from #MoodFabrics pinkskirt10 Sew Well Halloween - Black Kitten - Oliver + S Bubble Dress made from #MoodFabrics Sew Well - Ottoman reupholstery project with Mood Fabrics
BurdaStyle Wrap Top  Vogue V1093 Oliver + S Bubble Dress Ottoman
Sew Well - StyleArc Dotty in #MoodFabrics silk crepe de chine Polly Tops made with Mood Fabrics silk - Sew Well Sew Well Nina Cardigan and Saltspring Dress Sew Well Nina Cardigan and Saltspring Dress
Style Arc Dotty By Hand London Polly Tops Sewaholic Saltspring StyleArc Nina
Sew Well - Watercolor Yaletown Dress Sew Well Mariska Skirt Sew Well Belcarra Blouse
Cotton Ginny’s Animal Blanket Sewaholic Yaletown Kate & Rose Mariska Sewaholic Belcarra
Sew Well - Bunny Love: Sew Fun Book Review and Giveaway pillow1 Sew Well - Dragon Baby Blanket Sew Well - Knit Newborn Hat
Sew Fun Little Smiles Bunnies Pillow Cotton Ginny’s Animal Blanket MIH Pixy Newborn Hat

I’m proud of myself for making at least a little time to sew, but you aren’t going to get a list of top five hits or anything since there are barely five things there!  Thinking about my 2015 sewing, I’d like to try to get back to my original intentions for this blog – a place for my reflections as I try to learn how to sew well.  This past year I used pattern testing, book reviews, and MSN deadlines to help me keep my sewing and blogging alive.  Without them, I’m not sure I would have made the time to sew and blog at all.  But, even with them, I didn’t make the time that I needed in order to really grow in my knowledge and skill as a seamstress.

Number two was to be more conscious of sewing with fabrics and patterns that flatter and fit my lifestyle.  I actually really thought a lot about this one with every garment I made.  Yet, I’m not sure I made much forward progress.  My goal is to have a really functional wardrobe that feels great on, and I’m definitely not there yet, so I’m keeping this resewlution on my list for 2015 as well.  I’m actually really excited about the AlterSWAP (alternative Sewing with a Plan challenge) on the Stitcher’s Guild site.  I’d love to do the official SWAP since I had so much fun with it back in 2012, but I’m not crazy enough to think I’ll miraculously find the time for that kind of sewing in the next few months.  The AlterSWAP encourages you put together an 11-piece wardrobe that meets the SWAP’s guidelines, but you only need to sew one new piece. You can sew more if you want to, of course, but you don’t need to sew the entire set.  Also, the AlterSWAP’s discussion board pointed me in the direction of The Vivienne Files (this post in particular), and I am having fun trying on some of her ideas right now.

Number three was to move to my own dot com.  I knocked that one out early!

Finally, number four was to get better connected with the Seattle sewing community.  I started by creating a Seattle Sewing page on my blog, which you can find here.  Then, I attended the Sew Expo, met up for food and shopping with some of my favorite sewing bloggers, hosted a gathering for local sewing enthusiasts, and attended a giant sewing giveaway.  I’d like to keep the momentum going and am looking into places that might be big enough for people to bring their sewing machines and projects.  I have a lead right now on one location, so watch this space Seattleites.

So, that means in 2015 I’m planning on raising a toddler, building a kitchen, publishing a paper, getting back to my sewing blogging roots, designing a wardrobe, and continuing to connect with Seattle sewing community, as well as making the time to run, read, and get outdoors again.  Hahaha!  Wish me luck!!!

Now it’s your turn – what are your resolutions for 2015?

Burda Burda Burda!

December 17, 2014

Sew Well - BurdaStyle Modern Sewing Wardrobe Essentials

Yesterday I showed off the new top I made (and have been wearing constantly!) from the BurdaStyle 11/2011 Knit Wrap Top #114A pattern, which I got from the new book BurdaStyle Modern Sewing: Wardrobe Essentials.  I’m back today with a little more about the book since it was sent to me by Interweave/F+W for review.  Bonus:  it retails for $29.99, but last I checked it was on sale through the link above for $15.00!  (And, that link is not an affiliate link, so if you’re not a fan of affiliate links but would like to take advantage of the sale, click away!)

Sew Well - BurdaStyle Modern Sewing Wardrobe Essentials

But, before you buy, maybe you want to see a little more of the book?

I’ve always been a big fan of BurdaStyle.  Once upon a time, I was even one of their regular bloggers!  But, these days I find it hard enough to make time to keep up with my own blog, so I’ve given up even thinking about posting my finished projects to social sewing sites like BurdaStyle.  I definitely miss being up to date with everything going on over there though, and it was so nice to get a peek at their new book!  The book is essentially a select collection of previously published patterns.  And, to my enjoyment, I recognized many of the patterns in the book from my days working with BurdaStyle!  In fact, back in my BurdaStyle heyday, I even made one of the patterns that they decided to include in this book!

Sew Well - BurdaStyle Modern Sewing Wardrobe Essentials

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you might recognize the stripey swing dress that I made from the Swing Dress 08/2012 #133 pattern.  I liked the style lines of the top so much, I also used this pattern to make my Gridlock dress.  For both of my swing dress versions, I used the online PDF pattern since there was no book at the time, but you could now just as easily use the pattern included in this book.  And, if you go the book route, you don’t have to print and then tape together endless sheets of paper!  The book includes full-sized versions of all of the patterns, but they are printed on thick paper and all nested in a crazy web like typical Burda magazine patterns.  Tracing is required.  The book also includes a lot more instructions than what I remember came with the online PDF version, so there’s also that.

Every individual pattern in this book can be downloaded from for $5.99.  To help you out, I’ve linked to all the major patterns here.  Many of the book patterns are also associated with an additional variation, but I haven’t shown or linked to those for the sake of space.  If you like a pattern and are curious what other variations might be included with it, click on any of the links I’ve included (again, not affiliate links) and look in the description where it says, “This is the same pattern PDF as…”.  Those options should give you an idea of what else you can do with the patterns in this book.

Anyway, all this rambling is to stay – if you only like one or two of the patterns included in the book and if you’re comfortable using an online BurdaStyle pattern, you’re better off going the individual online PDF route.  Or, if you already have every BurdaStyle pattern ever made, then you already have every pattern offered in this book since it doesn’t include any new, made-just-for-the-book patterns.  But, if you find yourself taken with several of these patterns or if you like more detailed instructions and extra information on sewing technique, then this book is definitely worth it.

Sew Well - BurdaStyle Modern Sewing Wardrobe Essentials

The only other dress included in the book is the Cowl dress 10/2012 #118A. I remember when this pattern came out, and I think it was one of their best sellers for awhile.

The bottom row includes the Mini Skirt 08/2012 #135, a classic skirt shape with carry-everything pockets, and the Belted Coat 12/2012 #117.  The coat has really interesting style lines that hide pockets, and it reminds me of the robe-like coats I’ve been seeing this fall.

Sew Well - BurdaStyle Modern Sewing Wardrobe Essentials

The book includes lots of sets.  My favorite is the red Long Sleeve Blazer 08/2013 #106 and Editorial Pants 08/2013 #118C combo.  I’ve heard good things about BurdaStyle trouser patterns, and I’ve always wanted to try a pair.  There are two trouser patterns included in the book, but I like this one better because it’s not pleated.  But, if you’re more of a pleats person, the next pattern set is for you!

The middle row includes the Hip Length Blazer 04/2013 #101 and the Pleated Pants 04/2013 #103 trouser suit and the Boxy Jacket 09/2012 #101 and Pleated Mini-skirt 09/2012 #116A combo. I think the pink jacket and skirt combo looks particularly cute on their model (who’s holding a cake!?) in the fabrics they chose.

The bottom row includes the plaid Draped Tank 04/2013 #112B and Flared Skirt 04/2013 #118 and the cover garments, the Folded Yoke Blouse 10/2012 #122 and the Pocket Skirt 10/2012 #121B.  I find these last two intriguing.  I really want to know how the folded yoke and the kangaroo pocket would look in real life!

Sew Well - BurdaStyle Modern Sewing Wardrobe Essentials

Finally, the bulk of the book is made up of tops.  I’ve already shown you the one I made and the two in the sets, but there’s still five more!  The styling for the Three Quarter Blouse 06/2013 #119 was just too good not to make it the main photo for this collage.  To me it says:  make this shirt, and a man in a robe will appear on your bed.

The middle row includes the Gathered Blouse 07/2012 #116 and the Rouched Top 10/2012 #114A.

And, finally, the bottom row includes the Carmen Blouse 01/2013 #117 and the Inverse Pleat Blouse 09/2013 #118B.

So, by my count there’s 20 patterns in total, many of with included variations that I haven’t shown here. The book says there’s 21 patterns in total, but I think that’s because they’ve counted the cowl-neck top, a variation on the cowl dress, as its own separate pattern.  Regardless of how you make the count, it’s a lot of patterns.

One final thing worth noting that Jenny of Cashmerette pointed out:  this book does not include a large range of pattern sizes.  In the “BurdaStyle Patterns 101″ section of the book, it looks like the patterns should go to size 60 (66 1/4″ bust), but both the knit top and swing dress I made actually only go up to a 42 (37 3/4″ bust).  Other patterns go up to 44 (39 1/2″ bust).  But, none of the patterns in their book appear to cover the top half of their size range.  Beth of Sunnygal Studio just raved about one of BurdaStyle’s plus patterns, so perhaps BurdaStyle should consider reaching out to their curvy customers with yet another book?!  With the backing of the Curvy Sewing Collective, that could be another hit BurdaStyle book!

Interweave/F+W sent me BurdaStyle Modern Sewing – Wardrobe Essentials for review.  All opinions are my own.


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