Monthly Archives: May 2013

Thank you……

I have a couple of things to say thank you for, and I should have done it sooner.  I’m sorry, May is probably my busiest time at work and I’ve been neglecting everything else.  Bad blogger.  Anyway, check this out:

IMG_1948How adorable is this?!  The picture really doesn’t do it justice.  It reads – Sewing fills my days. Not to mention the living room, bedroom and closets.  I think the message is something we can all relate to, (my husband just nodded his head sadly when I showed him),  and it has taken pride of place above my sewing table. It came courtesy of Cindy at Cation Designs and Emily at EmSewCrazy.  I have been taking part in their Stashbusting Sewalong.  Each month we get a theme to sew along to using items from out stash, and April’s was ‘vibrant colour‘.  Then at the end of the month we upload a picture of what we managed to make. Last month we also got to vote for our favourite.  I used fabric from my stash to make my Goldfish Laurel and I won!  They wrote a really lovely message on the back:

IMG_1949So sweet! And they also included this ribbon, below:IMG_1950Again the picture doesn’t come close to showing how lovely it is, or the vibrant colours. Expect to see it incorporated into one of my makes soon.   And do head over to their blogs, have a look and join in, it’s really got me motivated to tackle my seemingly ever growing stash.

I also need to thank Emmie at My Oh Sew Vintage Life, who has nominated me for a Liebster award. Her blog is fantastic and I am so happy and flattered to be nominated by her- someone out there reads my drivel!  Emmie is also an excellent shopping companion, we teamed up on the London Meet up to raid Goldhawk road, and she has made some gorgeous dresses – I love her Scottie Dog Elisalex.   She says it is just a tester!

I have nicked her explanation of what the Liebster Award is as she does it so well –  It is an award for blogger with less than 200 followers that enables them to get to know other bloggers, as well as promote their blog to get more followers.
To accept the award there are a few rules to follow:
Each blogger should answer the 11 questions the tagger has set for you.

  • Choose 11 new bloggers (with less than 200 followers) to pass the award on to and link them in your post.
  • Create 11 new questions for the chosen bloggers.
  • Comment on their page to tell them about the award.
  • Each blogger should post eleven random facts about themselves.
  • No Tag Backs!!!

As I received this award last month from Katy at Sleek Silhouette I am going to cheat a little bit and refer back to my post I did at the time, here, and the bloggers I nominated then. I know this is a bit lazy but pretty much all my favourite bloggers have either received this award recently or have way too many followers.

Emmie asked some fabulous questions, so here they are with my answers:

  • Whats your most favouritest thing you’ve ever made?   It changes all the time, but at the moment it is the dress that I have nearly finished, using fabric I got in the Brighton swap. All will be revealed soon.
  • Favourite chocolate?  Difficult one. Actually I’m more of a savory snacker. If you’d said favourite crisps I would really have struggled. Or favourite takeaway.  I used to have a bad Mint Aero habit and I love Green and Blacks dark spiced chilli chocolate. However I think my all time favourite would be Thornton’s Viennese Truffles.
  • What super-power would you possess? An amazing multi-faceted power that would enable me to cure cancer, bring about world peace and then when I’d done the important stuff I’d also have the ability to stop time until I had finished what I needed to do, then restart it. There are just not enough hours in the day.
  • What item of clothing is forever sitting at the bottom of your wash basket?  Socks. I never have enough socks. Not very glamorous, sorry.
  • Favourite Perfume?  I used to wear Armani Code until about a year ago, when I bought a bottle of Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Mandarine Basilic in the Duty Free by accident.  Now I wear it all the time and panic if I am running low.
  • If you won the Lottery, what would be the first thing you would do? Actually I won the lottery the other day. Ten pounds. I bought two pints of lager and a bag of bacon fries. If I won the biggie though ….Scream. Then head to the estate agents and get them to find me a big house on the beach with a guest wing, a couple of studies and a huge sewing room. I dream of having a sewing room.
  • Favourite Skirt Length? Either just below the knee or maxi, depending on my mood and whether I’ve shaved my legs.
  • Favourite shoes? I have a great pair of mustard coloured suede Mary Janes from Clarks, with quite a high heel (for me) in a wide fit so I can wear them all day. And a lovely pair of red patent heels with little bows that I got from Primark about five years ago and are still going strong.  And I loved the leopard print heels I wore the day I got married but I must have been too high to notice how tight they were because the next time I wore them I ended up walking home in agony in bare feet.  I think I am still searching for my perfect shoes. However good they make me look, if they’re not comfortable I won’t wear them.
  • What is your dream job? I still want to set up a gin distillery making my own brand of Seamstress Gin. I would also love to make a living writing crime fiction.  Pre-children I probably read a novel a day and wrote loads. Last year I completed NaNoWriMo and now have a completed first draft of a novel.  That’s the easy bit. It needs redrafting, probably about fifteen times before it will be ready to send out. Writing, more than anything else I have done is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.  I did get to the stage a few years ago where I was getting helpful comments and encouragement from publishers and agents rather than just straight rejection letters, for a previous novel that I wrote. Then I got promoted at work and realised I was going to have to spend a bit more time on the job that paid the bills rather than the one that was unlikely ever to, so it all got put on hold.  One day though….
  • What would be your dream day? I am going to sound awful for saying this, but it involves time to myself. Husband and children would all go off happily to do something away from the house. I know some people may raise their eyebrows at that but I get so little time to myself and sometimes I physically crave a few hours away from everyone.  I would have pancakes for breakfast, then spend the morning sewing or writing or even reading. Then lunch at Birdies,  followed more sewing or writing or reading. The family then comes home for a family dinner, after which I’ll put the girls in the bath, read them stories then put them to bed. I’ll have a long soak in the bath and get ready while my husband lets the babysitter in then we can both head out to a pub with decent live music and proper Mojitos.  Of course if I had longer than a day I would be heading off somewhere on a plane.

And finally eleven random facts about me:

  • I have excellent navigational skills and even managed to find my way around Texas without GPS.  However I can’t find the remote to the dvd player or the cup of tea that I put down two minutes ago.
  • I wear coloured contact lenses. I need them to see and coloured ones are easier to find when I drop them, but I am also vain.
  • I have size three feet.
  • I used to have a six pack.
  • I also used to do competitive (ish) kick-boxing, hence the six pack. After having two children I don’t think I will ever see my stomach muscles again, but I can still do a roundhouse after a couple of drinks.
  • My husband says that my most annoying habit is balancing knives on things in the kitchen
  • I am very good at clay pigeon shooting.
  • I have two pet tarantulas – a Mexican red knee called Juanita and and Chilean Rose called Dave.
  • In one of my former careers I spent quite a lot of time dissecting brains.
  • My husband and I got engaged six weeks after meeting. We then took ten years to get married, and didn’t tell anyone until after we’d done it.
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Deckchair Elisalex – Stripe matching and an uncharacteristic attack of perfectionism.

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I’ve been meaning to write about my third Elisalex, the dress I wore for the London meet up, for ages.  I wasn’t going to make a new dress for the day. I was exhausted, recovering from flu and nursing a very spotty grumpy child through chicken pox. I think I was on autopilot when I took this deckchair striped fabric, originally intended for new kitchen curtains, from my stash and began to cut. A few hours later, sewing in twenty minute bursts while the youngest dozed in front of Dora the Explorer and Doc McStuffins and it was all done bar the hemming and stitching the lining down.  I hung it on my wardrobe door before I went to bed.
Job done.

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Only it wasn’t.  I failed to match the darts in the bodice with the pleats in the skirt, but that didn’t bother me too much. Also, as you can see I didn’t quite get the stripes matching on the princess seams. IMG_1386

Of course I didn’t, the stripes are straight and it is a curved seam. But who was going to notice a little thing like that? However lying awake after being woken up several times by the screamy itchy child all I could see was those stripes not matching.  Usually I would ignore it. It was good enough and who was going to be staring that closely anyway? However in my sleep deprived irritable state I just couldn’t let it go. So I hatched a plan.

I decided to recut the side panels from some fabric I had left over. However there was no way I was going to unpick the top stitching, lining and side panels of a virtually finished dress. Now with hindsight I realise that this would have actually been the easier option. Anyway, I got the original photocopied pattern pieces that I used and marked the position where I wanted the stripes to be on to them. Using this as a guide I then cut the front side pieces.

As I had already found out, you can’t get straight stripes to match up on a princess seam. Or if you can then I haven’t figured out how.  However when I held them up to the dress I realised that all I needed to do was make a tiny dart in each one, maybe 3mm, making sure it was at the edge of a stripe so it wouldn’t show as much.
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I did this with each piece then attacked them with a steamy iron until they were flat. Held them up against the dress and Huzzaah! Matching stripes!

Now this is the point where I should have just unpicked the lining and the original front side pieces and put in my new pieces. But no, where is the fun in that.  I decided to hand sew my new matching pieces on top.
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I have no idea if I have done this properly. I’m ashamed to admit that I wouldn’t know a slip stitch from a whip stitch, but it seemed to go okay and the stitches don’t show. I’m pretty sure I was delusional with tiredness by this point, but the action of stitching the pieces on was kind of hypnotic, and before long I had finished the dress and was able to snatch a couple of hours of much needed sleep.  So here it is – front:
IMG_1499Back:

IMG_1506I promise the zip doesn’t look that dodgy in real life, I think it’s my hands on my hips pulling on it.

IMG_1514Checking my shoes. Realising I need to hoover. Or get the husband to do it.

IMG_1520And some leaning. You need leaning in photos for that authentic early 90s Grattan catalogue look.

I don’t know whether it was worth the hassle or not. I’ve received loads of compliments for this dress. Whether I would have if I hadn’t fixed the dodgy stripes – I don’t know?  I do love it though and have worn it several times since London.  It is formal enough for work as long as I wear a jacket or a cardigan, and can also be dressed down for weekends. Now I just need to remember to always hand wash it in cold water. Stupidly I also forgot to pre-wash it and I know that this fabric shrinks loads when machine washed. Duh…

Escape to civilization- more meet up awesomeness.

This weekend we went camping. I like the outdoors. I love nature. However I also like my home comforts. Central heating, a hot bath, decent gin and tonic and I’m happy.  But it does do us good to rough it every once in a while and get back to nature, connect with the real world away from TV, phones, internet (do I sound convincing yet?).

I admit it took me a while to get into the swing of it. It’d been a hellish week at work and I had things to sew. Out in the woods I had no sewing machine, no access to my fabric. Plus no internet or phone due to crappy iphone battery life. I am obviously a sad technology addict because at first this made me jumpy.  And I chose this weekend to wean myself off my secret cigarette habit and back on to the nicotine gum.  However it’s pretty hard not to relax when you are surrounded by scenes like this:

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IMG_1871It was lovely walking through the woods in the late evening sun and the look on my girl’s faces when two badgers crossed the path about two metres in front of us made me realise that we had done the right thing in getting away for a few days.  A few Desperados and a couple of cans of Kronenburg around the camp fire after they went to bed and I did start to get into it.

Freezing my arse off all night in the thinnest sleeping bag ever took the shine off the whole experience a little bit.  However I soon perked up.  The sun was shining and I’d had a large coffee, and by an amazing coincidence our campsite was just up the road from Brighton, where on that very day another sewing meet up was planned! And I just so happened to have with me a bag of fabric and patterns to swap.

We drove into Brighton where I ditched the family and walked up to the station to meet Claire, (Sew, incidentally) our amazing and highly efficient organiser, and Zora (Read all about it).

IMG_1875I think this is the only decent photo I got, Zora and Claire and the Brighton Pavillion.

We were a bit early so got a chance to browse some of the stalls and fabric shops on the way to All Bar One where we met up with Zoe , Stevie,  Jo and Rehanon. (Which reminds me – isn’t this  the hottest she hulk ever?)  This was a much smaller group than my first meet up in London, but while I loved being part of our massive mob in London it was also really nice to be able to sit with a smaller group and chat.  And once again I was totally blown away by how lovely, interesting and totally inspirational sewists are.  We had a delicious lunch then on to the swap. I have shamelessly stolen the picture below from Zora because I was chatting so much I forgot to take any,  so do head over to her blog here to see her other great pics.

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I am ashamed to say that once again I left with way more than I brought.

IMG_1881Clockwise from top left: blue, pink and red cotton(?) from Zoe – after seeing Marie’s gorgeous floral Miette I’m wondering if there is enough here for one?
Floral cotton from Zora – Belladone? or I’ve just downloaded the new Billie Jean dress from Blue Ginger Doll? The purple, green black and white knit was also from Zora, and has been snapped up by my oldest daughter. Purple and green are her favourite colours and I think we’re going to make her a dress together.
Oldest child has also bagsied the purple knit which came from Stevie,  It didn’t originally grab me but it’s grown on me and now I’m thinking that I may want to use it myself so I may end up being evil mummy and keeping it. Or maybe we can both use it, there’s quite a lot there.
The pink and cream polka dot also came from Stevie, and again it’s a grower. I have a few ideas for this. It may end up as a Mathilde.
There are 4 metres of the dark blue that I got from Claire! It is sort of cottonish and shiney and I’m thinking this may be the perfect opportunity to try one of my vintage patterns that calls for way more fabric than I usually have.
Finally the black, also from Claire is woolly woven, slightly rough to the feel and will be perfect for work – a skirt or maybe another laurel.
I also got a little chalk marker thing with all sorts of extra features from Claire that I haven’t even had a chance to look at properly.

And I didn’t even make it to the shops! The family had spent all their money on the Pier and were itching to get back to nature so I said goodbye and headed back. Despite that I feel totally spoilt by my haul.  A big thank you to Claire for organising and to everyone for your amazing company.  I already have my train ticket for the Birmingham meet up.   Come along!

Deer and Doe Reglisse – More sunshine and happy thoughts…

There has been a spate of yellow on sewing blogs recently. It’s not a colour I am usually drawn to.  Maybe the lack of anything resembling Spring for more than a couple of days has made me crave sunshine because looking at these gorgeous creations just makes me feel happy. Check out Jane and Marie’s Miette skirts, Lauren’s pencil skirt with a twist, and I am absolutely in love with this skirt by A Charm of Magpies. Yellow, Dragonflies, stars, what more do you need?

I realised that I need yellow in my life. A yellow dress. Luckily I already had the fabric, a cotton polka dot, and the perfect pattern – Deer and Doe’s Reglisse. I fell in love with this pattern when I saw it on Ginger Makes . That Sonja is a bad influence, before I even realised what I was doing I was clicking ‘Buy’ on the Deer and Doe website.  Then I saw these:-  Alison’s version here,   this on Les petites envies de Mag here, and especially this gorgeous dress on Jolies Bobines  here.  Oh to have half the style sense of these French ladies. (you have to look at the other stuff she’s done too, it’s fantastic) I then knew I would have to bump Reglisse to the top of my sewing queue. (Interesting fact – Reglisse is French for Liquorice.)

I was lucky I chose such a happy colour because I decided to attack this project while my oldest daughter was having her belated birthday sleepover. Her party was cancelled because her sister had chicken pox so I was guilt tripped into allowing her to have three friends over to stay. So four eight year olds. ‘They’ll be okay,’ I told myself.  ‘A few games in the garden, DVD, popcorn. They’ll be so worn out they’ll be asleep by nine.’

I had already cut out the dress- 36 at the shoulders, then 38 everywhere else- so it was just a case of putting it together. I was always put off Deer and Doe patterns in the past because my French is a bit rusty, but the new English translations are fabulous. At no point did I have to sit back and wonder WTF was I doing, which is rare for me. Just as well.

Eight thirty rolls around. Two of them are not talking.  One is crying. The DVD player has stopped working. I can handle this.  I am in a state of zen-like calm.  I have completed the bodice. It fits perfectly.  I fix the DVD player. Give them popcorn.  Job done, back to the sewing. And look at my yoke:

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Nine O’clock. Another quick check as I can hear strange noises. There is popcorn trampled into the sitting room carpet. The cats are hiding outside in a state of trauma. I won’t get stressed. It’s her birthday party.  DVD is finished so I herd them up to bed. We can clean up in the morning.  And look, I bound my seams. Very relaxing. Why don’t I do that on everything I make.

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Ten o’clock. Hysterical giggling and shrieking. One of them storms out and asks to go home.  I can hear the three year old waking up. Keep calm. Deep breaths. Look, pressing every seam as I go.  Bias binding on the hem. Look at my uncharacteristic attention to detail. Check out the finishing….

Eleven o’clock.  Oh for F***’s sake please Everyone Shut The F*** Up Or I’m Calling Your Parents!!!*

*before anyone calls Social Services I love my children more than can be put into words and I don’t really swear at them or anyone else’s children. But we all think it sometimes, don’t we?

Anyway, I finished. The sun was shining the next morning when I was woken by the same hysterical giggling at six o’clock so I headed outside to take pictures in the garden:

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Then headed back inside quickly when the wind picked up. My traumatised elderly neighbour will confirm that this is not the best dress to wear in a breeze. At least make sure you are wearing your best underwear if you do.

You can see the details better inside anyway:

P1210301Yes, I know the shoes don’t go, but they looked okay when I wore it with my denim jacket as well.

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Shoes off. Flamingo pose.

P1210307Shoes on. Lovely flouncy skirt. Very big feet, tiny head.

P1210335Shoes off again. Twirling. (When do I ever twirl in real life? Maybe that’s why I do it so much in photos.)

P1210336 Twirling is fun. At least until you lose your balance and smash your elbow into the door handle.

P1210306And shoes on again. I really love the way this dress looks at the back. I didn’t want a fully elasticated waistband all the way round so I just put elastic in the back waistband and left it out at the front. I think it works.

P1210321Shoes off. I take all this so very seriously. Even when I’m at 45 degrees.

Some notes on the pattern. The instructions were great and there were absolutely no problems with the construction. I ended up using a really narrow seam allowance in the side seams. It fitted before but I felt it needed a little more ease so next time I may go up a size.  As I said before I only used elastic in the back waistband and I finished all my seams with bias binding. I was in ‘the zone’ when I was doing this so I’m not sure how much extra time it added to the project but I think it was well worth it.
A word of warning if, like me, your knees are not your best asset. The skirt on this is way short. I am five two and I bias bound the hem to avoid losing any length, and it is still a bit shorter than I am used to. When I make it again (and I already have the perfect fabric lined up) I will add a couple of inches.
I was a bit worried that the bow at the front would make me look like I’d stolen the dress from a small Victorian child, but actually I like it.  And the little cap sleeves have grown on me.  I did consider taking them off again but now I like them. I absolutely love how there are no fastenings, this is a big plus in my book. And it really does make me feel happy when I’m wearing it. I think  it’s a definite win. I just can’t wait until the wind dies down so I can risk it in public.

Me Made May, and Sunshine!!!!

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This is a long overdue post. I have decided to put all my Me Made May pictures on a separate page – here – because it made more sense to me. I will try and post a picture for each day with comments on the outfits and/or thoughts and observations. So far, well some days it has been tough. However, on Monday, sitting on the beach with my girls in the glorious sunshine people watching and feeling a bit smug that I live here but they all have to drive home I realised that not only was I wearing clothes that I had made but so were my girls!

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Youngest child is telling the man sharing our table that he smells of ham. Oldest child is having a diva like strop because I brought the wrong swimming costume.

This does not happen often. The clothes thing, I mean – My oldest has always very dramatic (but we love her) and my youngest often tells people they smell of ham. Or peanuts.  Nothing to do with me, I usually pretend she’s not mine when she’s doing it.  Anyway I mostly sew for myself but my original plan when I bought my first sewing machine was to make clothes for the family, to try and save cash and go a bit green. The yellow dress the little one is wearing was made for my oldest when I first started sewing two years ago, from a free Burdastyle pattern that I can no longer find on their site. It has unfinished seams and very dodgy top stitching and does look a bit crap on close inspection but they both love it. The skirt my oldest is wearing was made on one of the rare occasions when I gave in to emotional blackmail and sewed with her. It is just a rectangle with elastic through the top but she chooses to wear it so she must like it.

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I was wearing my ‘last days of summer’ maxi dress for the second time in three days.  Which brings me to what I have learned so far from doing Me Made May.

1. I need more me-made knit maxi dresses. They are the most practical item of clothing for the beach when it is warm.  No flashing your pants (knickers) when it’s a bit breezy or you are bending down to pick stuff up, make sandcastles and play with the kids (although the next one I make will hopefully show a little less boobage). You can pull a knit maxi over your swimming costume or get changed into and out of one without exposing yourself too much (I’m seeing a common theme here). And it’s even better if it’s made from a nasty synthetic fabric because it will dry in the sun in minutes. I have quite a few maxi dresses but only one me-made. I need more.
2. I  also need more T-Shirts and vest tops/ tanks. Preferably knit, I have already downloaded Dixi DIY’s summer concert tee  so I need to sit down and figure out what is going on with my overlocker.  Although I have also got my eye on some patterns for wovens – the Grainline scout woven tee, and the new Megan Nielsen Eucalypt tank for example. And Victory patterns Simone. And the Salme gathered top.
3. I really do need some better fitting bras. This feels like an eternal quest,  so I may just bite the bullet and try and make them myself.
4. I look like crap after a full day at work. I know it’s all about the clothes, not me, but still… I need to get up earlier and use my auto timer rather than bribing my daughter to snap a quick pic on my i phone when I get in.

So that’s it – ten days in I have managed something me-made or refashioned every day and learned a few things already. My pledge was six days a week so I’m pretty chuffed. Let’s just see if I can keep it up….

Nautical Cambie, and feeling a twunt in public

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The sun was shining, it is Me Made May and today was just screaming out for something girlie.  Something nautical. Something that was still sitting in my UFO pile waiting for a zip and a hem.

No worries, I don’t work Fridays and as my body clock hasn’t quite caught on to this I was up at five thirty hand picking a lapped zip before the school run. I machined a narrow hem as I was running out of time and annoyingly ‘Sorry, I had to finish making my clothes before I could leave the house’ is not considered an acceptable excuse for lateness at my daughter’s school.

I started this dress before I went away at Easter,  Cambie, by Sewaholic, of course. My first. I got the fabric on sale at Minerva Crafts and I think I got the last of it. Anyway I nearly finished but ran out of time and I’m afraid I can’t remember what size I traced but I did my usual small at the shoulders, going up a size at the bust and up another for the waist and hips.  Hundreds have said it before but this pattern is an absolute breeze to sew. And I love it!  The only adjustments I did were to lower the back, because I like a low back. If I was to make this again I would probably make the straps a little shorter. Oh, and I didn’t use the pattern pieces for the full skirt, I just cut rectangles.

Buoyed by my success in completing it and realising that I love love love this dress more than I can put into words I decided it was time to bite the bullet and take it outside for some pictures. I stuffed my gorillapod and my camera into a bag and headed for the beach.

I had a conversation with Katy of a Sleek Silhouette about photography at the meet up. We were both wondering a) how other bloggers manage to get decent pictures of themselves with no one else to take them?  b) how to do it without looking like some weird self obsessed freak? and c) how you manage to do it without feeling like a complete arse?  I notice that Katy has clearly managed to overcome at least some of those problems as she has done a great photo shoot outside for her latest stunning make.

As you can see from my efforts I have succeeded in overcoming exactly….none of those problems.  I gave it a shot though:

P1210183 - CopyCamera, what camera? No, I’m just walking on the beach (and waiting for you all to feck off and stop staring) …
P1210186 - CopyOh, that camera. Who put that there?
P1210180 - CopyIf I stand here and put the camera really close then maybe no-one will notice me…
P1210191 - CopyRight, they’ve gone, quick! Smile….
P1210202Nautical – that means boats. Look, a boat! I’ll stand by it. Please don’t look at me like that Mr Dog Walker, you’re making this really difficult….
P1210206And the back….
P1210207And the side….Can I go now?

To say that I wasn’t very comfortable with this photography lark is an understatement. It did get easier though. I will persevere. I also took a couple of shots indoors as the sun was so bright it is quite hard to see the actual dress in some of those pics. Note how by this point most of my make up has slid off and I am looking decidedly windswept. I have also stopped caring.

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The zip doesn’t actually show when I am standing normally but it looks crap here, especially at the waistband. I think my hands on my hips made it pull apart. And I had no idea my feet were that grubby – sorry.

Oh well, No Fear No Shame – I have felt a Twunt and done it anyway. That deserves a treat or two.

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