Monday, March 18, 2019

Random Threads # 35: pattern names, backstitching and the search for novelty

Time for another Random Threads post as I have a number of things written down in my notebook, and this time I can read them all. I was careful when jotting things down and tried to make my notes legible to myself, mostly succeeding.

Are you ready for spring sewing? I thought that I could fit in another winter item (truth be told a Burda Easy coat that I've been wanting to make for ages, and I actually have wool coating remnants that are just enough to make a nice color blocked version). But the forecast is sun for the next week or so and spring is just about here, so I will have to put the coat idea away until next fall. That means when there is the first hint of frost I will have a project ready and waiting.

Which means I'm ready to sew for spring and summer. Which despite my love of making coats and jackets summer clothes are by far my favorite to wear. Bring on the warm weather, I ordered two pairs of sandals this morning!

New and Novel: I'm always looking for a new detail in sewing patterns. What do you look for in sewing patterns? My main focus for choosing to make a new sewing pattern is whether or not it has a new-to-me detail. Or some interesting combination of features. Sometimes it's the way the pattern pieces go together, like this jacket. Or a silhouette with an interesting funnel collar detail like this coat. Occasionally I force myself to try a new shape or style with wearable results. I think this is the reason I decided to subscribe to Burda Magazine, as I noticed in each issue along with plenty of repeats they had a good amount of really interesting items, and so far I've found something in each issue that was unique and made me want to trace it out. Granted that I have been sewing a long time and consequently crave something challenging, so complex patterns keep my interest and sew-jo going. Here's a look at a Burda jacket I'm currently making, I had to really puzzle to figure out the pocket construction and that was fun - with a little bit of frustration.

Burda jacket pocket

I can't wait to get the Burda April issue as I saw a dress in there that will be jumping to the top of my spring to-do list. I love the combo of ruffle and the twist at the waist. This one will have to be all about the fabric selection as I've made some wrong choices on things with ruffles in the past.

Burda April pattern

The flip side of this is boredom with a lot of pattern releases that I see around. It kind of amazes me how many knit t-shirt patterns get released by new pattern designers. Like any other product category where there are many of the same product but hundreds of brands, starting with a basic item is a way to develop a relationship with the customer and get them comfortable with your product. But how can you attract customers if your item is the same as so many that already exist? It baffles me. (don't get me started on woven tops. every week there is a new pattern that seems indistinguishable from the previous ones). In any event, I think there are lots of pattern designers that target people who are relatively new to sewing. I will give a shout out to Vogue designer patterns, they often have interesting details or else they include my other favorite feature which is more than one item in a pattern, such as a skirt and top, or dress, top and jacket etc. Pattern Value!

Backstitching  - do you do it?

When I'm teaching sewing classes at Hello Stitch we typically have people who are fairly new to sewing. Which means that in addition to learning about garment construction techniques, fabric and fit, they are also getting familiar with using a sewing machine. The machines at the studio are Janome and they default to a 2.4 stitch length, which is quite short and painful to unpick if necessary. Which is most always necessary when you are a beginner, right? So at the beginning of each class I tell them to bump that stitch length up to 2.8 or 3 and no backstitching. And then I prepare myself for the outcry "what?? no backstitching at the beginning and end?"  Nope. Not necessary in my opinion.

Backstitch example

Here are my reasons.
1) on modern machines with the zig-zag throat plate, that opening where the needle goes down is wider and it is so easy to have the fabric edge pulled in just enough to make a knotty mess or get stuck. It takes a while to get the feel of where to place the fabric edge to be able to backstitch without that happening. I think it is probably second nature for an experienced sewer but it takes a bit of practice and it is really frustrating for new sewers.
2) If you make a mistake (inevitable - we all do) then the backstitching at the beginning - especially if done enthusiastically is a nightmare to unpick. And sometimes shreds the fabric and causes all kinds of delay and frustration.
3) Most seams are crossed by another seam, which in effect locks down the stitching. And often the seam allowances where the backstitching took place is trimmed away. So to my mind it really is not needed. If you are reasonable gentle with the pieces you have sewn, as opposed to wildly tossing them around your sewing space, they will remain stitched together ready for the next step. Plus it makes your sewing just that little bit faster which is always rewarding.

Caveat on the whole backstitching issue - YES there are times when I do it. Certain seams on certain fabrics really do need it, I'm thinking on a lot of denim items, hard wearing fabrics, or things like shorts and pants. Bottoms of zippers, center seams with an opening, etc, all those spots definitely need some reinforcement. So it's useful but not needed on every seam.

Pattern names are perfect for the Instagram age: I mean pattern with a name as opposed to a pattern number. I think the combination of using a name which is hash-tag-able works perfectly in the Instagram age, it does make searching and sharing so easy. For example V9357 or Burda 12-2019-107 don't exactly have the same ring as Dawn Jeans (Megan Nielsen) or Magnolia dress (Deer and Doe). I noticed this especially as I'm always looking now for examples of items sewn from the recent issues of Burda, and rarely does anyone mention on IG what the exact pattern is. They might use the hashtag #Burdastyle but often don't mention the month/year. Which I realize is a minor problem in the scheme of things but it is annoying. In fact I see in comments people have asked what is the pattern. So hey there, sewists who post about their Burda items - mention the magazine issue!
Yeah, this is a futile request. And conversely have you found a pattern appealing except for the name? The word might have an association that does not attract you? Certainly naming of products is a whole field of study in marketing, I just read an article about paint colors and how the name can change the sales numbers if pitched at just the right customer segment (or deter sales if not considered interesting). I'm a pragmatist on this issue, pattern numbers are fine with me and pattern names sometimes are a bit annoying. Maybe that's why I drive a car that has a model number but not a name? Nah, I just chose it in the showroom because I loved the color! (don't get me started on car colors - why are they so drab? so...many...silver and grey...

Ties that show the wrong side of the fabric: I find this bothersome - do you have an opinion? And now I can't recall which pattern I saw recently that had this feature but it looks so unfinished. Some patterns have that warning in the find print "Wrong side will show" and I tend to avoid that as it just never looks quite right. This example below doesn't have that, the tie pattern piece is two pieces sewn together so the wrong side of the fabric doesn't show. I wish I could recall....

IMG_4127


Measuring suits:  Yes, KS_Sews, it was the Zozo suit that I was thinking of when I wrote "measuring suits" in my notebook. And she has a post where she used the suit to get her measurements. It seems like a lot of work in order to get measurements that you could get with just your measuring tape - and I wonder how accurate they really are, or how they compare to having another person measure you. Here's a really interesting article on the Economist website, the writer tried the Zozosuit and ordered clothes, which were a bit of a letdown. By the way he brings up the issue of all those photos of people in their zozosuits floating around and all the data you've provided to the company. Very interesting.

What's next on the calendar at Hello Stitch?  This upcoming weekend is my Sew a Wrap Dress class, a couple of spots still available in that. In April we have plenty on the schedule, including the Learn to Sew Level II which is a three Saturdays dressmaking class that includes a module on fitting a bodice. Still a few spots in that one but I'm sure it will fill up so if you are interested register soon. And we have a Lander pants class, a Bondi dress class (with new option for the Tesutti Coni dress that has sleeves) and many more.  All classes can be found here on the Garment Sewing page of the Hello Stitch website. All the classes have been filling up so if you are interested please register while there is still space available. By the way, we're doing the Ash jeans class again, starting June 1. I'm so impressed with that pattern.  I think I'll start a summer pair in the wide leg crop version.

What have I been working on? I'm actually making a Tamarack jacket for my mom, as she liked the sample I sewed for a recent class. That was fun and so much different than things I usually make. The  ones people made in the class were so cute! I just made a muslin for a blouse for Heather, to sew up in one of the silks we bought at Britex last fall. Here's a peek at the muslin, which I made in some mystery fabric I bought at a rummage sale which test sewing in mind. (grey Tamarack hiding in the photo). I added a bust dart which is a feature I taught the other day in my Adjust the Bust class - even if the pattern fits a bust dart is so useful on a full bust as it add the additional 3-dimensionality that is needed so that the front doesn't ride up. This pattern has shoulder gathers which are pretty but they are hiding a bust dart that is probably insufficient for anyone who is more full busted. I will show details when I blog about this blouse - which may be in the next month or so :)

Test version vogue shirtV1412 Vogue blouse pattern env

Next blog post will be my green ultra suede skirt and a wool challis shirt I made that coincided with St. Patrick's day. Good thing as I have now worn this outfit a few times but it will be put away until next fall - getting way too warm here for that.

Happy Spring sewing - bring it on!
Beth

Today's garden photo, these little grape hyacinths. I put the bulbs in years ago and they come up every year. But they are so tiny as to be hardly noticeable. But cute and such a pretty color.

IMG_0174

Friday, March 8, 2019

Silk charmeuse in pink for SewHappyColor week

Could pink be the happiest color? I saw a hashtag on Instagram for this month that I have no problem participating in, which is #SewHappyColor.  Just about my whole wardrobe is a bright color, as you probably know it's the rare item in a neutral shade that makes into rotation for me.

But this color is in another category. In all the photos it looks so saturated, and probably also due to the type of fabric it has a sheen as well. It was a bit tricky to get photos of the actual color and I'm not sure any of them are exactly how it looks in person. In any case - this shirt is very luxurious to wear and I'm so glad I finished it before our warmer weather arrives. The silk fabric is from Stone Mountain as well as the buttons which match perfectly. I always find fantastic buttons there.


Pink silk shirt 4
Because it is stretch silk charmeuse I decided to do my hidden buttonhole placket which I've done on a lot of silk shirts and blouses. Particularly on stretch silk - the buttonholes are a bit tricky and there's always one that misbehaves. It never fails that it's the top one that shows the most so to circumvent that issue I do the hidden buttonhole placket and hide them all :)


pink silk shirt and collar buttons

I don't put a button on the collar stand, and you may not even have noticed that it was missing.  My shirt my rules! I never button that one up and it's just kind of annoying to do the buttonhole in the silk there so I skip it.

By the way, most all the tutorials and how-to's that I wrote on the original Craftsy blog have been updated onto their new websites, so you can still read them. I have a page here on my blog menu at the top, you can see them all listed and click over to read any.


Hidden buttonhole placket example

This one on the hidden buttonhole placket is one of my best, if I do say so myself :) and here is the link. 

Here's a couple of views of the placket in progress on this silk version.

Pink silk shirt hidden buttonholes 1

pink silk shirt hidden buttonholes 2

For all my button front shirts I use the same pattern which is this dull looking Simplicity pattern. And I've never ever sewn it just as the pattern is designed. I have a couple of different placket variations, and have used it for a popover and a tunic. I think once you have a shirt pattern that fits as you want then it's really fun to change that into other variations. My most recent version using this same pattern is this one in Liberty cotton/silk.  Which I noted in that post was version no. 15 so I guess this silk charmeuse one is the 16th. I think based on how many shirt patterns I haven't bought I can purchase some new dress patterns!

Blue silk blouse pattern S2339

One of the changes I've made on this shirt pattern is to rotate the bust dart into shoulder gathers. I'm not sure that it worked as well on this fabric as it does on cotton but it does avoid the dreaded pointy dart which can happen on satiny fabrics.


Pink silk shirt yoke view


Pink silk shirt 3

Of the various silks I find that stretch silk charmeuse is the most difficult to sew, but the most wonderful to wear. I did machine baste the sleeves in, which I generally do, and found this little boo boo which is super easy to fix and then sew in the sleeves with a regular length stitch and no pins.

Pink silk shirt sleeve fix


Pink silk shirt cuff and buttons

Yeah those buttons could not match any better - and they were just a lucky find on the wall of buttons at Stone Mountain.
Pink silk shirt 2

grey saler jacket 1

And another look at this shirt along with the wool blazer which I wrote about in my previous post. These two items are a match made in wardrobe heaven.

So that's the latest on my silk shirt. Next up are a couple of pieces that I just sewed in a new-to-me color palette. Not as bright as this, I'll say they are jewel-tone adjacent. And just right for the next holiday on the calendar, St. Patrick's Day.

Sewing class updates at Hello Stitch Studio: next week we have a rare weekday class on the schedule, which is my Adjust the Bust class on Thursday Mar. 14.  There are a couple of spots still available and you can sign up for just the morning session, which is hands-on lessons where you will learn to do the various adjustments, or include the optional afternoon session is where we adjust the specific pattern of your choice.
Looking forward to the rest of March we have the Sew a Wrap Dress class on Mar. 23. Pick any wrap dress and I will help you with fitting before you cut out your fabric.
April is going to be really busy - we have our Level I: Learn to Sew series again as the last two sessions were sold out, so that starts on Sat. Apr 6. The Level II: Make a Dress class also starts on Sat. Apr 6. On Sunday April 7 is the Bondi Dress class - that was so popular last summer and we decided to get it on the calendar in time for spring. Then after that weekend on Monday I sleep in!
Finishing out April we have the Lander pants class on April 28.
In May we have the following classes scheduled: Knit T-shirt, Wiksten Haori Jacket, Jeans weekend workshop and Copy your Favorite Garment.
All the class info and registration can be found here.

There are lots of daffodils around and I see the roses starting to leaf out - so spring will be here in no time. With all this rain I'm planning for a great garden year. Sometimes just the planning is enjoyable - even if what I'm thinking of doing never materializes. And with some initial effort (well a lot of effort) you put the plants in, treat them right and then while you are sleeping they grow and grow. As opposed to those lazy fabrics that don't sew themselves, right?

Thus speaks a person who might or might not go to the garden center and succulent sale on Sunday whether or not there is a space to put any new plants in her garden.

Happy Sewing, Beth

Here's a camellia that lives near the front porch. A few years ago it was a big messy thing that was starting to obscure the view out of the front window. So I chopped it down to stumps and kind of hoped it would croak so I could replace it with something a little more interesting. But it sprouted and a couple of years later is again putting out these flowers. I can understand why so may camellias are planted here in the bay area, they are hardy, green all year, and while messy when the flowers drop they are so colorful in bloom.

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Monday, March 4, 2019

Blazer jacket with velvet collar, Pauline Alice Saler jacket in check wool

It seems like jackets are having a moment. Or at least a resurgence in popularity. Perhaps it was kicked off during the last two elections and the pantsuits worn by women candidates, or maybe we were due a return of 80's fashion, which means oversized jackets, suits and dare I say, shoulder pads. Either way I'm happy for this development as I've always loved sewing blazers (also wearing them) and feel like the sewing community is starting to feel the same way.

So during January when I had to wait on finishing the blazer I sewed for Heather, I sewed up this blazer jacket for myself. I have a older jacket in my closet that I can't part with, it's black and white houndstooth check I made using a Ann Klein Vogue pattern ages ago. It's slightly dated and I shortened it a while ago, not entirely successfully (you can see it worn here).

But I had so much use out of that jacket I decided I needed a new one in my wardrobe. This version is the Pauline Alice Saler Jacket pattern. This is my second version, as I tested this pattern for her in 2016. I think she is one of the few people that make outerwear with nice details and I always look forward to seeing what she comes up with. (other coats I've made from her patterns, neither one for me as it happens, the Quart Coat and Hemisferic Coat.

grey saler jacket 1

I was out for a glass of wine with a friend and figured I would take a few photos of this jacket but to my delight we happened to walk by this window display which seems perfect for a sewing obsessive like me.

The fabric for this jacket is something I ordered from Fabric Mart I think just after Christmas. On the website it looked more black/white to me and I was slightly disappointed when it arrived and it looks more like grey, the checks are smaller than I anticipated. But it is a really nice quality wool, perfect for this type of jacket.

check jacket front

I decided to make the collar as a contrast and used black velvet for the upper collar, and then black wool crepe for the under collar and the pocket welts. Both small remnants in my stash. I hoard all pieces of velvet and velveteen for uses just like this one because while I love to wear wool I have an aversion to anything itchy touching my neck. Problem solved!

Saler jacket velvet and wool collars

Pressing velvet is a very specific technique and also I have a needle board, or velvet board which I've had for a long long time. Every time I mention it I get asked about it, the brand it Dritz so it's not some exotic item but I think very few fabric stores carry them. I just did a search and they are between $ 70-140 on various places so if you see one at a garage or estate sale buy it!


needle board for pressing velvet


Collar details on Saler jacket

But using the needle board generally means no worries on pressing things like this velvet upper collar. I use it on other napped fabrics like corduroy and velveteen, even some wools.


Grey saler jacket 3

I rarely button up jackets like this but it was very chilly! OK chilly for us here in N. Cal.


Grey jacket in front of window display1

By the way - I will do a blog post next on the shirt I'm wearing - it's not quite that color in real live but almost. I just got the latest iPhone and am still figuring out the various photo settings. (and I miss the home button!)

Let's talk buttonholes. I wanted this jacket to have a traditional look so I opted for stitched buttonholes and used my ever trusty Singer and the best buttonhole attachment, and chose the keyhole buttonhole template.

check jacket button pocket


Singer with buttonhole attachments

That's my Singer (one of them) and the buttonhole attachment. It works on all the Singer Slant Needle machines.

Here is a sampling of buttonholes made using this attachment. It uses templates, the metal keyhole template is shown below. So you can't change the size of the buttonhole once you have chosen the template. I find the templates available cover all the sizes needed, and since I made this reference sample I've found more templates at sales (including a round one that is perfect for making the holes on a belt).

buttonhole samples

It's definitely the opposite of electronic - it makes quite a noise but I like it as you can go around as many times as you want, with the exact same pattern so you can make a good thick buttonhole which is ideal for a lot of fabrics. If you're super interested in all things buttonhole then I did a post about this ages ago, with a lot more photos and details plus video of the thing in action.  Here's the link.

Back view, and it fits me a lot better than on this dress form.

check jacket back on form

Saler jacket inside hand stitch

A little inside peek because everyone seems to like seeing that :)  I do a combo of hand stitching of seams and fusible interfacing.


grey saler jacket 2

Yeah I'm on a roll with the silk shirts lately and now have a few sizable scraps which I'm figuring out how to combine into one jewel toned extravaganza of silk top-ness. Stay tuned!

Note this jacket has shoulder princess seams which make it very easy to get the right fit at shoulders waist and hips. I use my measurements and veer between sizes and then adjust when I have it sewn together, with a bit of nipping in at the waist or hip as needed.

check jacket on form


check jacket hem lining

Purple satin lining because that's what I found in my box of linings. A slightly weightier lining but perfect to add a bit of heft to this jacket. I love a nice satin lining and while I don't usually go for any novelty lining a suitably jewel toned one is OK with me.

If you use the search box in the right hand column you can find all kinds of jacket and coat posts with lots of details. Also as I mentioned in my previous post you can look at the Highlight "Wool Jacket" on my Instagram profile page to see all the steps in the wool jacket I sewed recently for Heather.

Up next - I just finished another Burda magazine item, and an ultra suede version of skirt Vogue 1247 - that perennial favorite. Plus a Tamarack jacket as I taught that class over the weekend with lots of really fun jackets accomplished. Coming up a fitting class on Thursday 3/14, and then check the web page for Hello Stitch, classes are really filling up fast. There might be one or two spots open in the wrap dress class which is on Sat. March 23. Something new - I'm going to do a Culotte class as that seems such a great wardrobe item for spring/summer (or anytime). And Ash jeans again - in the beginning of June. Hope to see you there :)

In other news, should I mention that I saw the first tulip in my garden this morning? While we are still in the midst of a very rainy winter (which is great for our water needs!) I think spring is on it's way. At least here it is, I feel for you all in the polar vortex!


grey saler jacket on steps


Happy Sewing, Beth

today's garden photo, these pink camellias are so messy but such a pretty shade of pink.

IMG_0094


Tuesday, February 26, 2019

McCalls 6172 Wool blazer version 2 in Shetland wool from Britex in SF

This jacket shows why I like to make a pattern more than once. When you find a good pattern and get all the fit adjustments worked out, then why not make it multiple times? After all, our wardrobes consist of a lot of basics, be it button front shirts, or a pencil skirt, a fit and flare dress, a knit t-shirt. It's the fabric that makes things look completely different, and also the small details like stitching, pockets or even length that change up the look a lot. I find myself less interested in buying new patterns, particularly for items when the patterns are often so similar. But fabric, I have a lot of restraint but I could find endless pieces to add to my stockpile.
Fortunately my friend and muse Heather usually knows exactly what she is looking for, and when we make a trip to Britex we always find it. How could you not?  their selection is amazing. I grant that you don't go there for bargains or bulk buys. Last time we went shopping we selected this wool as well as 3 silks for coordinating tops. (I say we, because she lets me have a veto which I do exercise against really tricky plaids and stripes).

H blazer front view2

We took these photos early on a Sunday morning when we were both free. She was on her way to her office to get in some quite-time work undisturbed by clients or her employees. So it was a jeans and t-shirt day but perhaps that shows the versatility of a nice blazer jacket - you can toss it on over just about anything and look put together.

I have a lot of photos of the construction on this jacket - far too many to post but as I was constructing this jacket I took pictures and video which I uploaded to my Instagram Story and saved to a Highlight.

Wool jacket highlight info


A lot of people have viewed as I've posted this over the past months and I appreciate all the comments and direct messages 😊. The whole series is there and I'll leave it up so it will be a reference.
But for those of you who like to see the insides of garments - here is a sampling of what I included in the Highlight.

H blazer inside interfacing lapel

Jacket front. I do my own thing when it comes to interfacing, and it all depends on the weight and structure of the fabric. Let's get a round of applause for this pattern which has the collar and lapel roll lines marked on the pattern. You can see that I mark the angles on corners which makes stitching so much more accurate and it goes faster as well. Also I always want to make sure the two jacket fronts are exactly the same so more markings help with that.

H blazer inside under collar

Above, collar attached and now clipping, trimming and grading seam as needed, prior to catch-stitching it down with silk thread.

H blazer lapel corners


H blazer front pocket view

Somebody is liking their pockets!
Since I did a fair amount of fit adjustments to the front pattern pieces I had to decide where to place the pockets and I'm very happy with how they turned out. Here's a look at them in progress. Again the color of this fabric is so different in every picture.

H blazer pocket details

By the way - as I mentioned above this is the second time I've made this pattern, both for Heather. The first one was a solid navy blue that was really a test version - here's the blog post on that one which has a lot of the info on making fit adjustments on this pattern as well as some other info.


H blazer back view

H blazer on form

H blazer full lining

Lining sewn in by hand, and a small pleat at the bottom edge so that the lining has space to move and not tug on the bottom edge of the jacket when worn.

H blazer side view

Side view and you can see how a two-piece sleeve curves nicely to follow the shape of the arm. Also in the background is a jacket I've sewn for myself, another version of the Pauline Alice Saler jacket in wool with a velvet collar. I started Heather's jacket the week after Christmas and since I had already made one version I just needed her to come by for a final fit check on this one. But she had the bug that was going around so it ended up being postponed for several weeks - but I was still in wool jacket making mood so I decided to do that one. And have already worn it a couple of times. It goes so nicely with a couple of silk shirts - a blog post on those items next.
Also in view is my sewing room table, which is not the most beautiful worktable you can see on the web but it is really functional. I got a few questions on that so in my next Random Threads post I'll show some details and tips on how I made it.

H blazer sleeve buttons

I love this picture! It really shows how well the lining color and the buttons complement this. Which should be credited to the lovely salespeople at Britex who know what they have in stock.

Here are the 3 silks we also found that day which will be tops to go with this jacket. Not sure which fabric will be used for what top pattern I just got Vogue 1412 so that will be for at lease one of these.

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H blazer showing lining

Someone really likes that fancy lining :)

H blazer front view

So that's a wrap on this wool jacket. Is it spring yet?  Although last week I traced a couple of distinctly wintery patterns from the recent Burda mags so I will have to get to those quickly.

Update on classes at Hello Stitch Studio:  Classes are filling up quickly - so if you want to register I suggest not waiting. I do have a fitting class on a weekday coming up, on Thurs. March 14. After that we still have some spots open in the Wrap dress class (Sat. Mar 23) and in April we have a Lander pants class (always fills up fast) and the Bondi dress class. Tessuti patterns has come out with a really nice new dress pattern, the Coni dress so if the sleeveless Bondi dress is not for you perhaps the alternate one will be just the thing.

Jacket making is in the air - have you seen the sneak peeks of the new Closet Case pattern? which will probably be available to order when you read this. I'm starting to plan for a Jacket Making weekend workshop in October, as I've had a few people from out of town ask me if we are doing that this fall. Since we have a bit of time I'm open to suggestions and questions. It will definitely be a Sat. and Sunday class, but possibly we could add a shopping day and a dinner together. All kinds of possibilities. Message or email me if you want to make a suggestion or with questions. By the way - tentative date, the weekend of October 19.

Happy Sewing, Beth

today's garden photo, this camellia which has big sticky blooms that the bees and hummingbirds love, but if you look closely at the photo above you can see that they fall in a messy heap creating an unintentional red carpet. That red/yellow combo though, so striking.

red camelia



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