Stitchy discoveries

As I have been separated from my beloved sewing machine for the festive period, I’ve been taking some time to catch up with some sewing reading and social media! As a result I’ve found a couple of lovely things that I’d like to share – I’m sure some of you will know them well already as I get the feeling I might have been missing out for a while! 

The first one is the Seamwork online magazine! Funnily enough I got the first issue of Seamwork when it first came out (over a year ago – where does the time go?!) but never really got round to reading it. Since then there have been 13 issues! I ordered the Seamwork annual as a little Christmas treat to myself and I enjoyed reading it so much I thought maybe I would be keen for a subscription after all! I love the mix of crafty cosmetics, garment industry history, patterns and techniques! 

 For those of you who haven’t heard of Seamwork, the subscription is $6 per month – you receive the magazine to your tablet/phone or PC and you also get two credits to download 2 patterns of your choice! I was amazed to discover that I have access to use those credits on any of the patterns from the extensive library and if you don’t use the credits they just roll over to next month! I was also happy to discover that I could download all 13 previous issues so I have been merrily reading those! 

The hardest part is choosing what to spend my credits on – so far I want to make all of the patterns! Seamwork promise that all patterns take 3 hours from cutting to finished garment so they are perfect for weekend projects! My particular favourites are the Brooklyn skirt and the Camden cape, so I know what my first two credits are going on! Expect to see some Seamwork garments on the blog in the new year … 

The other discovery I have made (facilitated by reading Seamwork) is a world of stitchy podcasts! I suspect I’m quite behind the rest of the craft world in discovering these, but they are such fun to listen to! My new favourites are Seamwork radio, Modern Sewciety and Thread Cult. They’ve inspired me to do a bit more research in to finding new favourites for when I’m traveling! When I’ve compiled my ultimate playlist, I’ll be sure to share it with you! 

How about you? Are there any other crafty discoveries I’ve missed? Do you like listening to podcasts and have any recommendations for me? 

I hope everyone is enjoying the festive period! 

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My New Toy

Today I thought I would introduce you to someone special – my new toy – Serge! Serge is a Toyota SLR4D Overlocker (serger) and I feel like the luckiest girl in the world to have been gifted it for my birthday by the lovely PB! Here’s a shot of me when I’d just opened the box – you can see that I was one happy lady!

One happy lady!

I’d been considering purchasing an overlocker for the last few months. With making pretty much all of my clothes now, it seemed like a sound investment, and you can’t argue with the professional finish it gives to seams. However, I didn’t really feel justified in biting the bullet, what with saving up for our new house, so I really did feel extra lucky to receive one as a gift. I’d been looking at a couple of models, however the ones with the best reviews in my price range had really only been the Toyota and the ever popular Brother 1034D. PB had cheekily asked me one night to show him what I was looking at (little did I know he was scoping me out for gifts!) and I happened to see that the Toyota was on flash sale … I still couldn’t justify the price though and spent the next few weeks telling PB what a great purchase it would have been. Little did I know he had sneakily gone and bought it for me!

Serge fresh from the box

Serge and I are still very much getting to know each other. I’d used an overlocker before at my sewing class – and I am so glad I had at least had a few tips to get started. I had heard real horror stories of 3 hours + to learn to thread it so I was quite worried. Although mine had come pre-threaded, something had gotten tangled, so I had to start from scratch. Although not easy, I would say the threading wasn’t too bad. Maybe 45 minutes for the first go? I learnt one key thing: it’s the order you do the threading that counts.

  1. Lower Looper
  2. Upper Looper
  3. Right Needle
  4. Left Needle

Amazingly this makes all the difference! Feeling triumphant that I had threaded the serger, I thought I’d dive in to a project. This was a huge mistake – I think I picked a bit of a tough fabric with a lot of stretch and I just could not get the tension right. After that I packed Serge away again (not in a huff, honest!) until I had some more time to fiddle with the dials … it is all in the thread tension and understanding which thread on your fabric comes from which cone of thread. To help me with this, I found some great online resources which I wanted to share with you:

SewMcCool’s The Anatomy of Perfect Serger Tension has some fantastic colour coded photographs which help you identify which thread is which – I’ve referred back to this one a lot already!

Sew Quick and Easy’s Youtube video on Basic Serging:Tips and Tricks is also great. All I can say is I wish I’d listened to Susan and spent time making a fabric chart of all my thread tensions. It would have saved me lots of trouble!

Serge and I are getting along much better now, although I certainly still don’t feel confident with him. I did some quilting on my beloved Pfaff today and felt so comfortable and at home. I just have to remind myself that once upon a time I used to feel nervous with my sewing machine too! It’s all just a learning curve! This evening I re-threaded Serge in some navy blue thread – I have three Navy projects to work on in the future so it seemed well worth it. Project one involves sweatshirt fabric, project two a low stretch navy woven and project three a crepe georgette. All of them will offer some good opportunities for Serge and I to cement our friendship! I will let you know how it goes!

Serge in Blue

Reversible Baby Skirt

If you’ve been reading my blog for a bit, you will know that I love fat quarters! I love their prints and how cute they are – the colours and the different patterns. I love the cute animals and the comical ones – basically all the ones you buy when you have no idea what exactly you are going to make with them! I’ve been having a bit of a tidy up of my craft stash of late (trying to make space for my new serger on my tiny Ikea table!) and I realised that I really do need to do something about my fat quarter stash!

I saw a little Ra Ra skirt recently to purchase for soon-to-be-here niece and thought they are a great choice for new babies, but you had to be able to sew them yourself in some cute prints. Luckily this amazing free pattern and tutorial for a reversible baby skirt crossed my path and answered my baby ra-ra-skirt and fat quarter stash dreams. I loved how simple it is and the different effects you can get by combining prints and decided I had to give it a go!

While tidying out my stash, I picked out these two cute prints along with some contrast bias binding I had been gifted and had waited to find the right project for. This project seemed just the one!

I purchased the fat quarters during Tschibo craft week and have been super positively surprised by the quality of the cotton. I love the contrasting prints! So perfect for a newborn baby girl gift! Hearts and polka dots, what’s not to love?

This pattern is ridiculously simple – I didn’t even print the free pattern as it was a bit of a spontaneous make this evening, so I just improvised by drawing round a plate to get a good curve on the waist. You pin the two donuts of fabric right sides together and stitch the inner circle and you are already on your way to skirt cuteness!

After that you turn them the right way out and sew around the circle again to create a channel for the elastic. Once the elastic is in, all you have left to do is bind. The binding is a little fiddly and seems to go on forever (but aren’t all circle skirt hems that way?!) However, it was good practice for me on using bias tape, so that was good. I was proud that I just worked out by myself how to attach it.

Overall I am delighted with my finished make. There is nothing on it I would change for once! I can’t believe it only took me an hour from start to finish – such a great project for when you have an itch to stitch but you don’t want to start anything major. Now I am ready to make a whole package of these to gift to friends and relatives. I can picture a matching set of three in a little gift box tied with a cute ribbon. What do you think? What a great way to use a fat quarter!

Oh also, I forgot to mention the best bit, the skirt is reversible! Two skirts for the price of one!

Unfortunately I don’t have a baby to help me model this skirt in all its cuteness, so I called in a friend to help …. meet Dave, our friendly household Minion!

Dave and I wish you a great rest of the week filled with stitching and crafting!

Winter Patterns and Projects

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I’m not quite sure how it happened, but I woke up this morning suddenly aware that winter is coming! This year I am planning on doing a couple of handmade gifts for Christmas, as well as sewing much more of my winter wardrobe, and I’ve realised that I’m going to need to get a wriggle on and do some planning! Looking back at my Autumn Sewing Plans post, I’ve managed to make quite a few of the things I was planning for, as well as a lot of extras I didn’t plan for! My particular favourites have been the Tilly and the Buttons Bettine Dress (of which I have made many) as well as the Tilly and the Buttons Coco. However, I am yet to make Mathilde or the ByHandLondon Charlotte Skirt, both of which are now rolling on over in to my winter sewing agenda!

In addition to those, I have added the following to my sewing agenda for the next few weeks:

wren dress

The Colette Patterns Wren Dress has been taking the sewing community by storm since its release a couple of weeks back. I loved making the Colette Patterns Moneta, so I have high hopes for the Wren Dress. It’s a style which I think will be very flattering on my figure if I can get the fit right, so I am planning to whip one up in one of the jersey fabrics that I bought at Stoffmarktholland. I think maybe a jewel tone purple could be great for a Christmas dress with a nice blingy necklace?!

mccalls 6886

The McCall’s 6886 dress is also on my list – it looks like a great staple basic to make for work! I’ve seen a couple of people on Instagram post great photos of these – the shape of the pattern looks really versatile for many different fabric colours. The sleeveless version might also make a great dress for my Cambodian holiday!

In addition to that I’m also planning a second Grainline Studios Morris Blazer in Navy (post coming soon on the first one!)

As if that wasn’t enough, I couldn’t help but be tempted by Sew Magazine’s Chris Moose.

chris moose

How cute does he look? I’ve got to find time to squeeze him in!

So that’s going to be me busy stitching for the next few weeks! I’m also going to be learning to use my new overlocker which the PB bought me for my birthday (and the best ever boyfriend award goes to …. *drum roll*), so watch out for more news on that soon as I learn to thread the blighter! Fingers crossed it’s not as scary as people would have you believe! Wish me luck!

Cuddly Cushions

My Sunday sewing challenge this week came courtesy of one of my lovely girl friends, who was looking for me to whizz up some new cushion covers for her pillows. We agreed she’d bring them round and I’d see what I could do while we had a bit of a natter.

My friend added some extra fun to the challenge by choosing some lovely wool stretch knits to cover the cushions in! I’d never done cushions in stretch before, but thought I would give it a go. These are the fabrics that my friend brought round:

The following two are actually the same fabric, just the right side and the wrong side. What I love about this fabric is the little sparkly bits that shine through. Subtle but still a touch of glamour!
  

I actually love these fabrics so much, I kind of wish I had found them for a clothing project. I might head over to Karstadt and get some to make a jacket or a dress, they are just so lovely!

We weren’t really making covers for the pillows as much as covering them permanently, so the technique was nice and easy. Essentially I cut the fabric on the fold, about one centimetre smaller on each side to account for the stretch (there’s nothing worse than a saggy cushion cover!) I then sewed up on both long sides in a normal running stitch. This then left us with a tube which we stuffed the pillow in – it was a bit like pulling on a pair of tights! Then I left my lovely friend to hand sew the final short end opening closed while I got on with the next one. In the end we had a nice little assembly line going!

I’m always a bit nervous to sew up things for other people, especially when they have paid for fabric. I never want the final result to look dodgy and they feel disappointed. In the end though the pillows turned out great – I wish I’d made them for my couch! The best thing about them is that they are nice and soft and cuddly on account of the wool. They’re also nice and plump due to the covers being stretched over the pillows. I love them and I think they look quite chic!

Here’s a before and after:

Before …

… and After …

I hope my friend enjoys cuddling them as much as I did! What a great job she did on choosing the fabric, don’t you agree? How about you? Do you sew things up for friends? Have you ever used jersey knit for pillows? I’d love to hear about it!

Bettine Dress in Bird Print

If you have been following my blog for a while, you will already know that I have a small obsession with Tilly and the Button’s Bettine Dress pattern. Since buying the pattern, I have already made two of these, one in chambray and one in floral jersey. Today I want to share my third with you!

This Bettine  is made of a rather expensive jersey in the most adorable bird print! I cut my usual size – 7 on top and 5 on the bottom and it came together quite nicely. I’m starting to wonder if I could go to 6 on the top and 5 on the bottom though to take some fullness out around the width of my back. As usual I also took out the tulip style skirt – for some reason this just isn’t flattering for my figure and also doesn’t seem to work so well in jersey. I normally sew up as normal and then just take the extra curve out by taking in about 1.5cm at the deepest part of the curve, which has been working for me quite well.


In terms of the construction of this dress, I could have kicked myself a little with the neckband. I’ve ended up with a bit of a pucker on one side. On reflection now I really wish I’d unpicked it and done it again as it bugs me knowing it is there. I don’t think you’d really notice unless I point it out but it annoys me anyway! Funny how you can make a dress three times and still get it wrong on the third go when the other two went just fine!

The other special thing about this dress is that the fabric rolls up on itself all the time! It is so frustrating and no amount of ironing seems to help! As a result the bottom hem seems to be a bit dodgy … Any top tips for that people? To me it just proves my argument that I really do need an overlocker! Apart from that complaint though this fabric is a real treat. It’s so comfortable to wear and I love the fun print.

I thought this might be a good time to introduce you all to Maud – my new dressmaker’s dummy. I was very fortunate to acquire her for a mere 25 euros from a lady who was clearing out her sewing studio. She wasn’t quite as busty as me on top so at the moment she is wearing some rather funky sock padded undergarments. As a result she must remain fully clothed at all times. The undergarments really seem to do the trick though! Maud is mainly here for me to take blog photos, pin hems and display my work, so it’s ok that she’s not quite my size. Right now the PB and I are just getting used to having her around in our lounge! You may be seeing more of her soon!

So here is Maud in my finished Bettine:

Do any of you have a dressmaker’s dummy? How did you get her to suit your shape? Any tips on working with rolly knits? I’d love to hear from you!

Fabric Market Haul

Last Sunday I was thrilled to have my long awaited trip to fabric market! As I missed the last fabric market due to being on holiday, I’d waited a whole six months for this one, and needless to say I was a touch excited! It turned out to be a beautifully sunny and crisp autumn day – perfect for rummaging through stalls and fondling fabric! Filled with excitement, I set off with my IKEA bag and shopping list!

The first couple of stalls are a real treasure trove and mix of fabric! Everything is 5 euros per meter, so it’s certainly worth a rummage! For me the prints were a bit wild for the pieces on my list, and as I’d promised I’d only buy fabric with a project in mind, I stepped away! My first stop was one of the many stalls selling notions – I got 3 meters of interfacing for a bargain 4 euros, as well as a couple of 400m spools of thread in black, white and grey, some new chalk and a bargain button packet of pearly buttons for a euro. I also got a package of ribbed knitting for cuffs and sweatshirt hems which was really great! I was also very proud that I’d kept my promise to myself not to buy any zips or fat quarters in cute prints, despite how attractively priced they are!

I proceeded with my haul in tow to do a good couple of rounds of the stalls. My main stash expansion need was jersey as I am really loving sewing all things jersey right now. I found a great jersey stall where all jersey was 5 euros per meter and came away with these lovely fabrics:


Believe it or not I have plans for all of these already – the grey and black light jerseys are to become either MIY Brightside Shrugs or MIY T-Shirts for Cambodia. The stripy jersey is also for my Cambodia wardrobe and should also become a t-shirt, potentially with funky contrast sleeves. The pink jersey is actually more of a jewel tone purple in real life – it’s destined to become another Moneta. As for the red and white spotty – that was my impulse by – I’m planning on that becoming a Sew Over It Wrap Dress or maybe another jersey Bettine (yes I am considering a 4th Bettine Dress!)

In addition to these beauties, I was also on the look out for sweatshirt fabric to make another Burda sweater for my Dad. I came across an amazing stall that just sold sweatshirt fabric – they had so many designs and colours. I thought it was amazing and such a treat as many of the shops here have a really limited selection. Unfortunately I couldn’t go too wild – at the end of the day I want to make a sweatshirt my Dad will wear, so settled on this sensible navy! I love how fleecy the inside is!

Following all of those purchases I was starting to run out of cash, but I was still missing a couple of key fabrics. I was searching for the perfect stable knit to make a Coco Dress and came across this gorgeous charcoal grey, along with this funky faux leather remnant:

If you’d like to see if these picks were a Coco Match Made in Heaven, check out my Coco Dress post to see the finished result!

My final purchase was a stable stretch knit with a shimmer … I was on the hunt for some jersey to make the Grainline Studios Morris Blazer and to be honest this wasn’t the colour I’d had in mind, but when I saw this fabric it sent my imagination running! I’m not sure it’s going to have enough drape for the blazer so I’m still contemplating whether or not to use it for that, but I shall see how the mood takes me and keep you updated!


So here’s my final haul! I had such an amazing day out – spent lots of money of course, but I can safely say I am now well stocked with fabric until at least Christmas! And all of this fabric was bought at a considerably lower price than it would have been had I bought it in store, which makes me feel a bit better! I can’t wait to get sewing and to show you how my projects turn out!

Oo La La Coco Dress!

Tilly and the Buttons’ Coco Dress has been on my sewing list for a while, so I was delighted to get some time to give it a go today! I’d ordered the pattern a while back and it had unfortunately been out of stock, so when my pattern packet arrived I was all the more excited.

  

Coco is a really versatile pattern, offering long sleeve t-shirt, dress, cuff and cowl neck options. I’d bought the pattern as I had plans for a cowl neck dress, so to be honest I see the other options as a bonus! I’ll definitely return to make a couple of the top versions as it is so easy and fun to sew! 

Fabric for a Coco was on my Stoffmarktholland shopping list. The pattern calls for knit fabric with not too much stretch, and I was delighted to find this charcoal grey knit at the fabric market. I had initially planned to make a black version for work, but there is something about sewing with black that I find kind of boring, so charcoal grey seemed a great option. This fabric had a really lovely weighty feel to it, so I knew it would hold the shape of the dress well. It was also attractively priced whilst still feeling good quality. 

  
I decided I wanted to add contrasting pockets to this dress to stop it being too ‘grey’. I found a remnant of this faux leather at the market which the stall holder gave me at a significantly reduced price as it was the end of the roll. I thought it would be great for the pockets as it adds a bit of glam! It was also a good opportunity for me to continue to develop my love for leather, all be it fake! 

  
There aren’t many pattern pieces to Coco which makes it a great pattern to trace and sew in one day. I cut a size 6 all over, which was good for accommodating my bust. At the moment my fitting technique is to go off the bust measurement and take in everywhere else – particularly with this style of dress which is quite loose fitting and comfortable. I ended up taking in a centimeter on the sleeves and about 3cm on the waist. I decided to leave the flared skirt with the extra width on the hips as I thought it helps to balance out my figure. I also hemmed the sleeves to four centimeters. Tilly suggests two centimeters but seemed a bit long to me – who knows, maybe I have short arms?!

In terms of construction this dress came together really easily. Seeing as I do a lot of sewing with knits, I felt like my sewing machine and I had really found our groove. I also got to use the experience I gained at my sewing class with setting in sleeves which was great. I think otherwise I would have been genuinely perplexed as to how those two seams should come together! In the end, pins were my best friend and I got a great result. Not a single pucker – I was so proud! 

  
The other thing I was proud of with this make is that I finally took the time to learn how to thread the twin needle on my machine. What can I say apart from I wish I’d bothered to look this up in my manual earlier?! It really wasn’t hard at all and has made such a difference to the hem and cuffs. I love the finish – it just looks so professional! 

  

The patch pockets on this dress were a little fiddly as the faux leather didn’t press well. I was scared the whole time I was going to melt it so didn’t want to get the iron too hot! We got there in the end though! I was a bit nervous I was going to sew them on wonky as well as I was home alone and pinning them to myself while wearing the dress (where was the PB when I needed him?!) They seem to have turned out ok in the end though and I love the touch of glam that they bring to the dress!    

  

So here it is – my finished dress! I’m afraid the weather is not lending itself to light bright photos at the moment but such is life! 

  

Here’s a close up of my pocket placement … Not too wonky after all which is a relief! 
  

Overall I love this dress and its little pockets! I can’t wait to wear it out and about – it’s both comfortable and stylish! Another great pattern from Tilly – you can’t help but love the way she has thought of all the small but important things for home sewers, such as making her pattern sheets small enough to fit on a normal dining table. Always a pleasure to sew with Tilly – I’ll definitely be coming back for more of these. Maybe I’ll get round to making that black one after all?! 

 

Baby Gift Parcel

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Back at the beginning of the summer a friend of mine brought these two gorgeous flannel charm packs back from America for me. The blue and yellow pack became a comfy padded baby quilt for my brother and sister-in-law. When I later found out that their baby was going to be a girl, I couldn’t help but decide I had to make something with the pink one for them too!

As the flannel charm packs are super soft, I thought I’d make a patchwork cosy comforter for the baby. The front is a normal square patchwork and the back is some lovely white fleece. Due to the pre-cut charms, the top came together really quickly and easily. I then basted it together with the fleece and “quilted” diagonal half square triangles through both layers to give a nice pattern on the back of the white fleece. I then bound the blanket with some “bias binding strips” of fleece. On reflection, this was a really bad idea, as the fleece did not make nice mitred corners at all due to being much too thick, but hey, you live and learn! I hand sewed the binding down to the back of the quilt and I was so pleased, my hand sewing is coming on a treat! Here’s the finished blanket! Apologies about the photos – it’s so tough to get good photos with less and less daylight every day!

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I also decided that it wouldn’t be fair if all of my friends’ babies received an Ernest the Elephant and my own niece didn’t, so I set about making one of those too. I used some chambray scraps from my Bettine Dress for the body of the elephant. I can’t believe that the 2m of chambray I bought have now made a dress, espadrilles and an elephant and I still have some left! I love making things with scraps as I really hate waste! I also had a fat quarter of faux-suede in brown in my stash that I got free with a sewing magazine, and thought that a couple of pieces of that would make lovely snuggle soft ears. I love the Birch Fabrics free template for this pattern – it’s such a nice shape and the little knotted tail is such a cute detail! So here he is – my finished elephant! The jury is out as to whether he should be known as Edna or Egbert – I guess in the end we will let our niece decide when she’s here!

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Edna-Egbert was the first project where I got to use one of my new Make Amy Make labels! I loved being able to add a little label – it makes it feel more finished somehow!

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Both gifts went off in the post to England and are now in the nursery waiting for our arrival. Not long to go! How about you – do you like making gifts for friends and relatives? Have you made anything out of scraps recently that you’re proud of?

Make Your Own Espadrilles!

Hello Espadrilles!

In about six weeks, I am heading off to Cambodia in South East Asia for my holiday. Holidays have felt a bit of a long time coming this year, but it’s great to be excited and still have a trip to look forward to in November. As a result, my sewing is going to get distinctly summery around here for the next few weeks, as I try and pull together my first me made holiday wardrobe. Having been to Cambodia before, I’ve learnt that function is more important than fashion, so I will be focusing on some nice breezy T-shirts, as well as some cool and comfy trousers and maybe some kind of pull on dress for the pool/beach.  As most of my Cambodian outfits feature denim shorts, I thought a great option would be to make some super fun and comfortable espadrilles to pair with them!

So many fabric options …

You can buy the pattern and espadrille soles direct from Prym or any number of stockists in the UK, America and Germany. I was quite surprised to discover that they really aren’t difficult to get hold of. The box includes one pair of soles and a paper pattern. The pattern does not include seam allowances so you need to remember to add them on! (I will still never understand why pattern companies do this, ho hum). You then just need to pick out a fabric for your espadrilles and the fun can begin. Choosing the fabric was quite difficult for me – there were so many options I could have used in my stash and espadrilles are a great scrap buster project. In the end I settled for some left over scraps from my Chambray Bettine and a cute white and blue floral fat quarter as contrast which has been hanging around waiting for the right project for a while. Really though you could make these in practically any fabric and they would look great – you can really let your creativity run wild. I also decided to interface my fabric pieces, just to give the shoes more shape and stability.

After cutting and sewing the fabric pieces together with a sewing machine, you just turn them out and pin them on the shoe. This can be a bit fiddly, but is fine once you get going. You need to pin at an angle so that the pins just glide in to the sole and don’t pierce the rubber bottom.

Espadrille Porcupine

As you can see from the photo, my initial plan was to go fully denim. I had a last minute change of heart though and decided to go all out with the contrast on the outside. What’s the point of making your own shoes if you can’t be a bit wild right?! Once everything is pinned in place, it’s just a case of sewing the cotton uppers to the soles. You do this using a blanket stitch, which is probably the trickiest bit to get right. Once you get going though, it’s really easy. I found this YouTube video from The Makery really really useful. The video guides you through the whole process of making the espadrilles from start to finish and has some really handy hints for hiding the knots in the soles, changing threads, and keeping your tension right in blanket stitch. If you plan to make your own espadrilles, don’t start without watching the video first!

So here they are – the finished espadrilles!

I’m really pleased with them. I decided to use quite a chunky white thread and make a bit of a feature of the stitching and I really like the effect. The jury is out and there are many opinions on how to finish the side stitching of the uppers. I just went with running stitch, as per the Makery Video, but blanket stitch is also an option!

Here’s the finished product on my feet! I love wearing them, they are surprisingly comfortable. I can’t wait to wear them in Cambodia! I have a sneaking feeling next spring I might be making another pair of these – it’s like wearing your slippers outside! All in all a great make and something a bit different! A good opportunity to practice my normally terrible hand sewing too!