TECHTALKS: Understanding SEO

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Heather just wrote a wonderful post on Editing and Formatting Photography for Blogs and over at Cashmerette, some great tips for better photography were had. I love seeing informative posts pop up for sewing bloggers, and felt that it was time to jump on the bandwagon and pay forward my online geek knowledge of web development and marketing.

The bottom line is, that when you have a blog numbers and keywords matter. Or at least it’s interesting to look at even though it’s not always something that’s simple to understand. When you write on the internet, especially about things that a fairly large group is writing about, you want to be seen and not lost at see on page 80 of a Google search. Working directly with SEO and SEM, I always come across the same question.

What’s the difference between SEO and SEM. Are they the same? They sound the same. Their acronyms are closely related by but one letter.

It’s actually simple. SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is using organic (or unpaid methods) to affect the visibility of your website and content. It’s putting your site’s best foot forward in order to be found based on relevant information to your site.

There a lot of best practices that can translate on to different blog platforms, but since I use wordpress, my examples will be wordpress based. One of the easiest methods is to always rename your images according to your post. For example all of my images on this post will be renamed accordingly to what they are starting with the name of my site, which is the format I usually use. So Love-Lola-understanding-seo-1.jpg.

One of my favorite plug-ins, is All in One SEO Plug-in that you can download for free via the plug-ins link on the dashboard and looks like this in case you are wondering.

(for the purpose of this post, all images are clickable so that you can see the tiny tiny letters)

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Now the reason that I use a plugin is because WordPress and well as other blogging platforms make it a little difficult to tweak the meta information unless you’re a developer capable of knowing which database wordpress uses in your hosting solution to save Post information.

So here’s how the plugin looks in the wild once activated.

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It should be underneath the text area where you write your posts, or a few options under, depending on whatever else you have installed or your theme carries. In case you can’t see it, head on over to the top and un-hide your screen option settings, select the SEO pack and your set.

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Your title should be revelant to your post, but you obviously knew this. So for example I’ve chosen : TECHTALKS: Understanding SEO to illustrate my post. I’ve added it to both my wordpress regular title as well to the SEO plugin title information.

As a description you’d want it to be an excerpt or post summarization. Kind of like twitter there is a 160 character max. Basically your description is picked up by Google and displayed in the following format on the search engine. I’ve ran a search for one of my posts which was the drop waist dress I blogged about earlier.

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Now for the most important part. KEYWORDS!! Here is where the most relevant part of SEO comes in. The keywords that you use on your post are what will have your post show up on google searches. For example if your post is related to a dress you just made out of a grainline studio pattern, using chambray, your keywords might look like this: grainline studio pattern, grainline studio pattern chambray dress, me made chambray dress, etc. Remember to keep your keywords relevant to your post. Nothing is more annoying than searching for something and not finding what you need quickly because someone decided to hog all the keywords.

Plus, the end goal is that every time someone does a search for a keyword, your post comes up and it’s clicked, that keyword will help your rankings and bring you up towards the top of the page where organic and not paid advertisements are displayed.

Lastly, to understand how your keywords are working and generating traffic to your site, use Google Analytics or Webmasters Tool to see the data. I’ll get more in depth in another post, but if you have Google Analytics setup, head on over to Acquisitions -> Search Engine Optimization – > Queries to take a look of some of your keywords that have come up in searches.

 

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It’s broken down by impressions, which is the number of times your site has appeared when that specific keyword has been entered, and clicks, which obviously is the number of times someone has clicked on your link when searching for the keyword.

Next up I’ll talk more about Google Analytics and WebMasters tools and how to get the most out of them. Hope this post has been helpful and stay tuned for the next installment in a few weeks.

 

 

The Never Ending Skirt

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Perusing through the pattern books at PJ Fabrics I came across the Mc Calls’s skater dress pattern and decided I absolutely needed to do this because 1) I’ve been dying for a skater dress pattern and 2) the alternative are peplum tops which I also love.

I got a fantastic deal on a lightweight cotton seersucker fabric which in my opinion would go quite lovely with the pattern. So I got home and of course it’s when I’m home I realize that the pattern is for fabrics with 2 way stretch and my cotton had no give. I’ve read about pattern alterations but this was actually the first time I had to sit down and think this through. Lucky for me the back panels were not cut on fold so inserting a zipper actually turned out to be a lot easier. Since the dress was form-fitting (AKA no ease) I figured I would size up and be on the safe side.

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Obviously this pattern turned out to have a lot of complications for me.. lining up pinstripes is not my forte and took me about 4 tries before being able to accomplish it.  I realized that even though the pattern called for stretch, I should’ve stuck with my original sizing, which made me upset that I had wasted all this fabric. In the end I had to take in about 3 inches from each side, but on the other hand I was more than happy with the way my dress was coming out.

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To make the sewing process even more difficult, I decided that the dress would look better if I added these blue bias strips that I had bought a while ago. So there I was, trying to line up the strips on the curve of the armholes and neck. It was probably more time consuming that cutting out the patterns and sewing them together.

The dress took about all thursday night, and most of saturday morning. I was able to wear it sunday to bike to the Williamsburg flea market and all over Brooklyn. The length was perfect as it kept my lady parts from showing while biking. However I was too lazy to hem the full skirt so I created a nice effect with the pinking shears in order to avoid fraying later on after washing. Obviously all I want to do is twirl in this skirt. Lucky for my camera that the action shot setting works for my rapid twirls.. I’m also making a valiant effort to take better photos. As someone who took photography classes in college I should be ashamed that my blog has such crappy indoor photos and horrible lighting.

Black Velvet Nettie Dress Hack

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If there was is one fabric that screams make me into a Nettie, of course it should be stretch velvet. PS Fabrics down in chinatown had some cheap stretch velvet that I couldn’t pass up, so I got myself a yard. In hindsight, 2 would’ve been better. If there is anything I learned with velvet is that you should really cut all the pieces in the same direction, otherwise it’s quite noticeable. Regardless, this will be considered my wearable muslin, or only wear at night when no one can really tell the slight off black in the back. Other than that, sewing velvet is fantastic, mostly because the nap kind of sticks together so nothing is shifting around.

 

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The total time for this was probably around 3 hours or so. With all the customizable options on the Nettie, I had to print out and tape a new pattern sheet. There’s already about 3 in my pattern storage file. You’d think by now I’d learn my lesson and start to trace instead of printing out and wasting so much paper. I went with the scoop neck and mid back since I didn’t want to risk the low back being too low for my crop top. Nothing fancy was really done here. I used the second lengthened here line to end my crop top and start the skirt pattern. A slight sliver was tapered down on the side seams of the top so that the fit would be snug sans bra since no elastic was going to be added. In the future, clear elastic could be a good choice.

The skirt does have a band, that was attached at the top using my serger, flipped down and then hemmed by hand since I didn’t want a visible stitch line for the waist. Again, I tapered down the skirt for some leg hugging body con realness. Perhaps RuPaul has been playing way too much on my TV while I sew, because I kept telling myself I had enough Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve, and Talent to finish this in one sitting. Well I mean, have you seen these ladies get down sewing their ensembles? Practically front runners for Project Runway I tell you!

My favorite thing about the Nettie is that it fits perfectly without having to do any alteration at all. As long as the stretch is consistent, I’m a straight size 6 pre-correction pdf, and my favorite part of all is that the waist line actually hits my actual waist. I couldn’t help feeling like Yara Sofia after I was all done and ready for my close-up.

Echa Pa Lante!

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Drop (waist) it like it’s hot

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Taking the time to catch up on your work in progresses is actually a lot harder than anticipated. I guess, when so much is going on between regular 9-5, freelance web development, and also a regimented fitness program, sewing seems to have taken a seat towards the back burner. A little while before the Malvarosa dress made it’s debut, I’ve been craving a drop waisted dress of my own. You’d think that with the release of the Malvarosa, I’d get on it quickly and whip it up.

This dress has been sitting on my work in progress pile since the beginning of summer. It’s basically a modified version of the Jamie shift dress by Burdastyle. I think the Jamie dress is a great block pattern. It’s so simple that it makes making it up into different styles so easy.

The bust darts are kept, and like my previous version taught me, I had no need to add seam allowance. I’m going to have to guess and say that this is either cotton gauze or voile. I’m leaning towards voile (but I’m so bad at figuring fabric out).

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Keeping up with the theme of modifications, The neckline was heavy modified. The front was dropped and the back even more. I kind of winged it and hoped I didn’t fail.

My first attempt at dropwaisting this dress, I actually miscalculated and ended up with the drop waist way to down south. I think after that I was too lazy to fix it so it ended up tossed aside for a few weeks. When inspiration finally hit to make another attempt at this dress, I took the waist line up a few inches. The back actually drops a little and I really can’t recall if it was meant to be this way or just a fluke in the system. I’m going to say I made it that way :)

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True to form, all of my projects can be recognized because they are not hemmed and instead are a fraying mess. Since this is supposed to be a sort of casual easy breezy dress, the option of not hemming kind of suited it. My friend took one look at it and cringed. Whatever..

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I really love this dress. I’m definitely making another version of it. This time I might move the waistline a few more centimeters up, but who knows…

The Bombshell Payload

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The term bombshell is a forerunner to the term “sex symbol” and originally used to describe popular female sex icons. Modern usage refers to a bombshell as an extremely sexually attractive woman. The Online Etymology Dictionary by Douglas Harper attests the usage of the term in this general meaning since 1942.

A bomb is any of a range of explosive weapons that only rely on the exothermic reaction of an explosive material to provide an extremely sudden and violent release of energy (an explosive device).

A shell is a payload-carrying projectile which, as opposed to shot, contains an explosive or other filling.

No wonder one would combine the words bomb and shell to get an explosive sensual, woman. If the Closet Case Files Bombshell bathing suit were a woman, it would without hesitation, be an explosive, sensual woman. Having won second prize in the Nettie Sew-a-long, one of the prizes was the swimsuit pattern. This past weekend seemed to be a perfect opportunity to sit down and make my first bathing suit, with the hopes that I would finish it in time to sun bathe. Having time on friday, a trip to Pacific Trimmings and Spandex House seemed like a must. Overwhelmed with the choices of lycra at this place should have been the omen that this wasn’t going to go well. Determined as usual, I spent a good 30 minutes roaming the square footage of Spandex House, until I channeled my bombshell spirit animal, Sophia Loren. She led me to a cherry print on black lycra. Picking the lining was a bit tricky, because I alway forego lining on everything (even though I shouldn’t). So I grabbed what I thought would worked and left.

With my best friend yapping about apartments and decorating, I took to assembling the PDF pattern, which took a little longer than expected because of course we started drinking champagne. I was able to finish it off before going to bed and then opted to finish everything off on saturday. View C, which is just the bottom, seemed to appeal to me so I went with that. Cutting lining is a bitch and my rotary blade got fucked up a while ago. Attaching lining to lycra is a bitch. My serger and sewing machine were not having it. Usually, things like these start giving me panic attacks and urges to cry, but I fought through it and made it werk.

Tim Gunn was spiritual guide, giving me gems of encouragement to see this project through.

After cursing out my serger and what seemed an unlimited amount of sighing, some progress was made. I kinda shortcutted the ruching process by pinning the lining to the shell and adjusting the ruching accordingly so I could get an accurate fit.photo 1photo 4

 

The instructions of course are very detailed and helpful. I thought I was going to fuck up adding the front part. Tim Gunn made sure that didn’t happen. Now let’s talk about rubber elastic. IT IS THE DEVIL. It’s pure evil and my machine wanted to make my life a living nightmare by not wanting to zig-zag it properly. Tension was tightened and loosened, zig zag settings were changed, but still this nonsense was giving me nothing but skipped stitch realness.

 

me too, Tim

Turning to the internet, some folks wrote how a walking foot remedied the skipped stitches, and so I changed my pressure foot to walking foot. While it did help, there were still some skipped stitches in there. And thank god the foot was changed, my sewing machine almost revolted and slapped me after trying to sew all that sandwiched fabric.

For the top, the same halter pattern pieces were used and a strip was added to support the halter. Although I’m not entirely sure I think it works. After having it all done, I’m not too thrilled about it being a 2 piece. Since the bottoms go way past my belly button, I’m thinking of seam ripping the halter and just adding it to that. IMG_0281 IMG_0275 IMG_0270  IMG_0267   IMG_0249

Of course, my landlord was in the backyard so I couldn’t go for the outdoor photoshoot. It took me longer than I anticipated to finish this, but after I was done a pat on the back was in order and Tim Gunn was proud.

7/11 Weekend Updates

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Things I don’t enjoy: Being called up last minute to bartend and the dress code is something I don’t own. Ok well it’s not really that serious; I got called up today asking to bartend as a favor for a birthday party over the weekend. The theme is Mets, so obviously something blue and orange is a must. Since I do not particularly like the Mets, or the specific intensity of the colors, this gave me an excuse to check out Trumart on 7th ave. A 15 minute walk from work, and I’m inside this tiny little store filled up to the ceiling with bolts. So cheap too!! I only recently discovered this jem was by my job after reading about Oona’s bombshell bathing suit. I went in looking for orange lycra to make myself yet another Nettie bodysuit. As with most seamstresses out there, being in a fabric store is like opening the door to Narnia. Do you know how hard it is to walk in there and only get one fabric?!!! Obviously you do!

To the entrance was this fabulous selection of fabrics for $2.50 a yard. I scooped up the last 5 yards of this beautiful red poly silk blend that’s perfect for an Archer and perhaps a maxi that I’ve been dreaming up. Some chambray also made it in my basket, again for an Archer. By the looks of it, this will be my summer of Archers. That is, if I don’t get lazy which tends to happen more than I care for. Remembering I left my only pair of high waisted levi shorts at the BF’s house, I quickly googled to see if there were any thrift stores nearby. Quick search put me at 2 blocks from Beacon’s Closet. NO IDEA, by the way they had one on the west side of Manhattan.

Something told me I was going to get really lucky here. And I did.. not with shorts but SHOES!!! Like a mad woman I scouted the 8.5/9 section like a ravenous beast. I couldn’t pass up a pair of DVF espadrilles and some Steve Madden sandals that I had eyed last year but then never got around to buying them. Then out of the corner of my eyes, I notice these very simple black suede sandals, which turned out to be a pair of really nice, really cheap Prada shoes. So there I am, with all these shoes in my hand and all I can think of is the name of that episode where Carrie’s new silver Manolos were stolen at the baby shower

A WOMAN’S RIGHT TO SHOES

If anything..out of all the Carrie things out there I’m pretty sure this applies to my tiny apartment anyways. No closets and the shoes and fabric just keep on piling up

I left feeling satisfied and here’s a picture of all my loot. Can’t wait to start sewing!

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A Year Without Clothes – part II

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It takes 10, 855 liters of water to make a pair of jeans.

Last year when I had planned out my goal of not buying clothing for a year, the reasons were a bit more selfish than anything else. It was my intention or motivation to not be lazy and get in front of my sewing machine more often instead of making quick unpremeditated purchases; always ending up with too many ill fitted garments that never saw the light of day or the tags being removed. Months before, working a day job and a bartending job, the luxury of not having to think about swiping my debit card at chain retailers was detouring me from my intentions when I first thought about learning to sew. The beauty of being able to comprehend your sewing machine, to decipher patterns, and to piece together garments pieces like a puzzle and the satisfaction of seeing it come together and being able to gleefully exclaim “I made that” was what had me go from thinking about wanting to sew to actually signing up for classes. I took intensive courses, spent sleepless nights on my floor, and divulged in books and tutorials until I was able to make things I never thought was possible. But when you have quite a bit of a disposable income and a disposition to sit around rather than be proactive, I saw my dream of stitching things up casually being put in the back burner.

A year without clothing was my own personal ultimatum (without a bartending job) to be more conscious about my spending and to take the time to put more dedication in perfecting my craft and learning things that I had thought I couldn’t possibly do. (Weft pockets, I’m looking at you). The more months passed, the more I realized that my pledge was also about making ethical and conscious choices. 10, 855 liters of water was the equivalent of filling up my bathtub (approx 150 liters) 72 times! That’s roughly 2.4 months.  Last year in June, the collapse in the Bangladesh clothing factory shed more light on working conditions of third world slave workers. More than 3,000 people died who were only making approximately 38 EUR, the total yearly amount being more or less the income of a financial officer for a fast fashion house. 3 days ago, a third shopper in the UK found a tag in her garment which described in a sentence the horrible conditions of working in sweatshop conditions.

While everyone, or mostly everyone, is aware of sweatshop conditions, low little they pay, and how poorly they are treated we look the other way because our capitalistic tendencies are to acquire more and more clothing, and we are lead to believe in a subconscious level that a closet full of clothing will make us feel better (RETAIL THERAPY!). Being a seamstress is not only about our personal satisfaction in creating wearable art, but we are contributing to buying less fast fashion items that were made by people in less than sub par conditions. Which brings me to another point which is fabric. While we may not know the origin of our fabrics and how they were made, we can be a little bit more meticulous as to where and whom we buy from. Although made in america does come at a costly price there is some reassurance that it was made in a place with reasonable wages.

This year marks another year without clothes for me and hopefully it will be the first of many for others as well.

Tap That

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Surely enough you’ve heard about the release of the Tap Shorts by Katy and Laney. If you haven’t then you’re definitely in for a treat. Being cautious on the arrival of new indy patterns, I usually wait about a month after hearing enough reviews before purchasing. This time however my hand went to town clicking and downloading this beautiful pattern. How could you resist! Tap shorts, perfect for summer heat, and those pleats. Love at first sight, indeed. Purchasing them, the day after the release, the website had a mini-meltdown and woocommerce apparently didn’t register my purchase, although having it gone through Paypal. I ended up buying them again, and this time I got the automated download email. Katy was more than helpful and wonderful, going above and beyond to keep me up to date about the website being down and even refunding my first purchase. Talk about customer service.

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Friday nights are my sewing til 4 in the morning nights. You’d think I’d be out and about having a blast, but I much prefer staying in with a bottle of wine or cheap champagne in this case. I made a case of going to PS fabrics where I found a beautiful Poly satin/crepe in blush that was intended to quickly make my costume for the Jazz Lawn Age festival; sadly the tickets were sold out. Next best thing? Using them for my tap shorts. I totally think that tap shorts in satin are a must, and will probably make these in soft buttery leather next. Kind of like the American Apparel ones I used to own but were 2 sizes two big. Looking at the size chart I went with a 2 instead of a 0 so I could have some wiggle room in the tummy area. My only regret was not making a muslin and realizing a little too late that I should’ve lengthen the shorts a little, since my torso is on the long side and the crotch of the pants basically hit my crotch. TMI? Probably. Also, the darts may have ended up a little too tight because even afterwards they kind of felt snug. Still wearing them anyways! Maybe a few more crunches and less biscuits will get them to fit better.

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I followed the instructions, which were actually pretty clear and well done. The crotch part was the only thing that had me do a double take, but that’s mostly because I had forgotten how to sew up pants for a minute. I also didn’t fold up the inside of the waistband because every time I do that, it just ends up wonky and sad. Instead I serged the seams and then did what I think is called an apron seam? Ugh, can’t remember. It  was something my FIT teacher taught us but I can’t remember the name of that finish.

I have never been so in love with something I’ve sewn. There are plans in the near future to make more versions of these shorts to last me all summer into Fall.      IMG_0182

Sloppy Lola

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When Papercut Patterns released a PDF version of Sloppy Josephine it was a no brainer that I needed it. Having coveted the pattern for more than 6 months I was glad that a more affordable version was out, even though it meant I had to put it together. Here’s a little secret: I actually enjoy PDF patterns a lot more than tissue paper ones. The thickness of the paper and tape make it much easier to pin and cut the fabric.
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Last night was date night. Boyfriend and I headed out to Madiba, a Ft. Greene restaurant serving up South African goodness. The experience was absolutely wonderful, from the decor to our waiter, a handsome and witty man that made our night even more incredible. A few hours later we were relaxing back at my place with another bottle of wine. While BF was catching up with too many episodes of New Girl I sat down with my machine to put together my Sloppy Josephine Tee. A few months ago, I bought what seems to be a blend of rayon and cotton at PS Fabrics. It’s actually a really slinky knit and I thought I’d be in for so much trouble trying to put it together. Joke’s on me though, because this particular knit worked like a midsummer’s dream! For starters it didn’t roll once cut, which made not only cutting so much easier but also basting. It did feel as thought it stretched out a bit when basting the neck binding. None of the seams are serged because I was too lazy to switch up the black threads, but they are zig-zagged really tight and it leaves a kind of cool pattern/texture to it. This time I went ahead and topstitched the neck binding. At first I was horrified because the top stitching seemed to have wonked out the fabric, but it was nothing a good ironing couldn’t shrink back up.

I have to say, not only was this one of the easiest tee’s to sew up, but the fit is fantastic. I think next time I’ll go down a size. Perhaps the XXS will fit a tiny bit better. But let’s be honest.. seeing XXS as a size is a little intimidating. Want to live in this tee forever and ever.

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Ombre Nettie

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When Heather Lou said the Nettie was quick and easy to sew up, she really wasn’t exaggerating. I’m sure that by now everyone has tons of Netties or at least heard of the fantastic pattern that is sweeping the blogasphere at the moment.

The Nettie is a quick and easy to make wardrobe staple. Close fitting with high cut arms, she can be made into a knit dress OR a bodysuit. This pattern is infinitely customizable with a choice of 3 sleeve lengths, 2 neckline and 3 back variations.

Everyone has been making the loveliest Netties, from the eponymous Nettie’s in Black, White, and Ivory, Madalynne’s Racy Lacey number, and Sewing Tidbit’s Lace Bodycon Nettie. It should only be fitting, that I jump on that bandwagon, and start making my own. The reviews have been nothing but praises so I knew this should be an easy feat.

For a while now I had lycra ombre pink yardage in my stash. For the longest I knew I wanted to either do leggings or a bodysuit. The Nettie took the guess work of having to draft up my own. Really wanting to match up the ombre on both sides, I carefully placed my patterns pieces and made sure they lined up before cutting. It was more luck than careful planning I have to say, but low and behold, they actually did line up at the seams. I was worried I was going to end up with some wonky mismatching.

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I cut up a size 4, from the pre-correction pattern. Ironically, I had purchased it the d    ay before the corrected version was released. The directions have you construct the pattern in the round. Being a fan of doing everything on my serger, I opted to put the pattern pieces together flat. One thing I did this time, was baste the neck and leg bands, so that when they stretched out, the serger wouldn’t end up eating more fabric than it should. Not entirely sure if this happens to everyone; sure does happen to me. WAH!

My only problem with the bodysuit and coincidentally Kitschy Koo’s Skater Dress, is that the arm width was actually pretty tight. I had to hike up the sleeves to get in there all the way. My arms felt like stuff sausages. I’m not entirely sure if my biceps have gotten a little bigger from constantly working out, but I’ve always had really skinny lanky arms. Next time I think grading the bicep area to the biggest size should do the trick. Perhaps short sleeves might also be of better fit next time. Lastly, being a rebel.. I forewent the topstitching all over. Mostly because it felt too tedious to replace the bobbin and thread from black to white. I intended to add thumb holes, but after I made the cuffs it seemed to bulky so they were omitted.

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Nothing Like a Nettie to practice inversions and yoga poses.