My date with Zandra Rhodes plus a FREE GIVEAWAY to the Spring Knitting and Stitching Show 2019!

zandra Rhodes bust

Sometimes life brings you cherries. Or is it lemons? – better still an invite to an intimate audience with Zandra Rhodes! I graciously accepted the latter, of course. It would be rude not to. There then followed the inevitable what-to-wear meltdown.  My wardrobe is basically monochrome. But the tulle skirt and striped Tilly Agnes top served me well. And off I tottered to Bermondsey, South London – home to the London Fashion and Textile museum and Zandra Rhodes Rainbow Penthouse!

Clip-clopping over a jewel-emblazoned  stone floor, overlaid with that iconic wiggle design, I knew I’d arrived at the right place. I took the lift up to the Penthouse. The door opened and the colours were right there – shouting loud. Shouting this is totally Zandra’s pad!

zandra rhodes floor

inside Zandra Rhodes penthouse

And there was Zandra busying around in her gold-tipped pumps, book under one arm, croissant in the other, dressed impeccably in a bright red and pink kimono-wrap jumsuit. The design of which was all hers of course – that iconic lipstick print, still living on from when it was born circa 1968.

zandra rhodes rainbow penthouse interior

Zandra graduated with from the London College of Art with a degree in textile design. She worked hard alongside the likes of Hockney,  Ossie Clark and Warhol. The pop art revolution was very evident in her work

Aside from her successes she talked about her many knock backs. How for instance she approached Sandersons to sell some of her designs. They said her work didn’t sit at all well alongside their typical wallpaper collections. But all the same, purchased a single rose print in support of her, with the prediction that she would either fall flat on her face, or be a huge success. Well its very apparent what happened after that. And Zandra had no intentions of adapting!

zandra Rhodes talking

Zandra talked about process, how she first designs the print and then the  garment design follows on, inspired by that print. She walked over to a silk chiffon dress adorned with another of her iconinc designs – the ruffle print. Edgy romantic boho chic. Right there in the room. Noticeably, she didn’t once call for her assistant to retrieve or pass her anything. She just got up from her seat to show us, herself.  I’m already impressed by this and one of the questions asked, confirmed my thoughts.

What would you say is the secret to the longevity of your career, Zandra?

“Being boringly hardworking” was her exact reply.

This is not entirely a surprise already. She is sharp, witty, down to earth and recalls every major pitstop of her working life to let us know where she came from and how she landed up. So much pride but not a scrap of arrogance, no sense of entitlement, though relishes the title of Dame. And there’s reason behind that relish. She is bemused by how ‘quiet’ British Designers are on the global stage. She truly believes that the UK is home to some of the most talented designers in the world yet they disappear in to the fading archives of our memories.

“Does anyone know of Jean Muir?” she says?

Embarrassingly, I knew the name and had to look her up as soon as I left. How could I not know about this amazing designer hailed as the ‘English Vionnet’?

So I can see how being honoured as Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire would help to get the word out! And I am certainly hanging on to Zandra’s every word right now.

On display, were posed some mannequins adorned in Zandra’s vibrant and most signatory creations that hadn’t seen the light of day for many years.

zandra rhodes for spring knitting and stitching show

It was such a privilege to see the black and gold knit dresses from her 1985 Egyptian collection. I love how the chains are worked into the design and the scarab inspired embellishments. On the second mock-wrap dress, the interaction with the stripes and the placement of the graphics is so striking and I would totally wear this today.

zandra rhodes egyptian knit

zandra rhodes egyptian knit

The chosen selection had been preserved in boxes and almost forgotten about until the planning began for her forthcoming retrospective: Zandra: 50 years of fabulous which will be held at the London Fashion and Textile Museum in September.  These were but a few of the exclusive selection that will also be making an appearance at the Spring Knitting and Stitching show 28th February – 3rd March 2019. Have you got your ticket yet? Read on to see how you can win a freebie!

I'm part of the Spring Knitting and Stitching Show

zandra rhodes knitwear

Who have you most enjoyed designing for?

Zandra described the pleated sleeves on the iconic Freddie Mercury outfit as one of her favourites. And the pink off-the-shoulder chiffon dress for Princess Diana. She chuckles at the prospect of a royal coming to visit her studio in Bermondsey for a fitting and describes how she went, garments laid over her arm to the palace!

There are things you have to consider when making dresses for the Royals. For instance Diana was quick to rule out any wrap dresses, claiming that the paparazzi would be waiting outside the car, willing a gust of wind and the ‘perfect shot’!

Is there another Royal you’d like to dress?

“I think Kate. Or Camilla!”

We all agreed that we’d love to see either.

What colour would you choose?

“I have no idea,” Zandra says sharply! (High five to the the no-faff response) And recalls that the original sample dress for Diana was black and shocking pink. “The royals never wear all-black outfits.” she adds.

I never knew that but it makes sense that black garments are reserved for funerals and sombre occasions. The Queen herself is famed for standing out in a crowd in her colourful outfits. And I suppose it makes a reporters job a little easier!

It is around this time that the telephone rings – a loud classic landline tone. Zandra continues talking to us and then with a little irritation says. “Just ignore it. It’s just an emergency line. No one knows that number. If they really want me they’ll call back.” The ringing continues and Zandra asks her assistant to take it off! “I’m not at home!” she yells across the room.

Then her mobile starts ringing.

“Hello?” she answers. “Oh hello darling……”

Zandra on phone

An upbeat and casual conversation continues before us. Plans being made to meet in Brighton. It feels a bit rude to be listening in but it would have been far more rude for the twenty or so of us to up and leave the room!

She signs off. Places the mobile on the table, leans forward to say in a cheeky voice, “I hate to name-drop, but that was Hilary Alexander!”

But you are Zandra Rhodes! I’m thinking.

Back to the questions and some of my favourites:

Do you wear clothes designed by others or do you only ever wear your own?

“I always wear my own. But if on the very odd occasion I do wear a pair of jeans I will paint them to make them my own.” She showed us examples from her book of a painted jacket and jean set. I can’t show you that. I’d have to actually kill you!

I’m inspired already. I painted a design on an outfit once (see here) and I want to do so much more now.

Do you dress up when you are working?

“Oh no. I’ll often wear a tracksuit to work in…”

Zandra in a tracksuit. Trying really hard to compute. Really hard.

“But fully made up and with jewellery of course.”

Phew! Faith restored.

What annoys you?

Interruptions! Constant interruptions and not enough time. There’s always something that stops you getting on with what you actually want to do.

Resonation maximum magnitude… Me too!

And what advice would you give to students or young people starting out?

“Don’t let people put you off. Believe in it enough yourself and the world will follow you. It justifies you in the end if you feel it inside. It might not bring you riches. But work hard and you will be successful.”

I take a big massive gulp of air at this point. Holding on to someones every word could be a sure path to suffocation if there were to be too many! I’ve heard people say this before. But not with such conviction. And certainly not from the mouth of such a wonderfully passionate and iconic 78 year old who claims that she’d hate to have nothing to do and has absolutely no plans on hanging up her tools. In fact secretly I’m pretty sure she’d love us all to bugger off so she can cut some potatoes up for a new print design. And yes she has used potatoes!

zandra rhodes press event

Writing this post and reading it back has left no doubt in my mind just how much of a fix inspiring people and seeing their work gives me. It’s like an injection of energy that gets me wanting to learn, create and explore so many more things. Cue starstruck photo opportunity with Zandra:

zandra rhodes with ooobop

I can’t wait to see the rest of Zandra’s exhibits at the Spring Knitting and Stitching show. And it’s really soon. So who wants to come too?

The Giveaway!

I have 5 pairs of complimentary tickets to give away and to get a chance to win, all you have to do is:

  1. Subscribe to my blog if you’re not already
  2. Leave a comment below and include the words ‘count me in’! Or hop over to follow me @ooobop on Instagram and leave a comment there.

The rules are:

  1. The winners will be drawn at random from an actual hat.
  2. You need to be able to travel to London Olympia for the show
  3. The tickets are valid Thurs 28th Feb: 10am-5.30pm, Fri 1st March: 10am-5.30pm & Sun 3rd March: 10am-5pm (Saturday is excluded)
  4. Giveaway closes at midday GMT on Monday 18th February  and winners will be announced later that day.
  5. Should you win, your postal address will be required so that I can post you the tickets.

Good luck everybody! Hope to see you there. Don’t know about you but I’m off to rifle through the salad drawer!

All views and photos my own and words spoken by Zandra best I can remember.

DIY Dior-inspired tulle skirt

tulle skirt front

I’ve been inspired to make a tulle skirt for a very long time. I’ve made a few for others – my favourite was an orange one for ‘Amelia Fang’ – but still I wondered long and hard about what kind of tulle skirt would I make for me. And where on earth would I wear it tbh! A lot of what I make might be considered a #sewfrosting entry but I often wear party clothes as office attire so it would never go underworn. So long as I didn’t go for ‘sugar-plumb fairy’ all would be good.

tulle skirt back view

And then one day, whilst browsing the ‘glossies’ in my local hairdressers, I spotted that Dior tulle skirt. I gasped once at the skirt and twice at the price – a whopping great £3,100!

Now I don’t doubt the craftsmanship and experience deployed at House of Dior and I am totally au fait with the arduous task of gathering grief and the time it takes, but still that price point means I’ll just have to make my own. Lifelong story of life!

dior style tulle skirt

It would be unfair to say that Dior was the original designer inspiration. It was more Molly Goddard that initially sold me, with her transparent chiffon baby doll dresses worn over jeans with clompy boots. But still that image prompted the action.

dior style tulle skirt

I love the cheeky transparency of the tulle and the sideways looks it attracts from passing strangers. I do have modesty shorts underneath by the way –  I’m not brave enough to show the world my actual pants! But should the occasion arise for less cheek, I can always rustle up a simple petticoat of black lining.

It’s so much fun to wear. Currently loving it styled as shown with fitted jacket and high-heel Doc Martens but can also see it with a T-shirt and trainers, versus a corset and some sparkly shoes. In your face, repeat-wear shame… I’m even wearing this skirt to Sainsbos!

And it’s perfect for twirling in. Doesn’t take much to release my inner gypsy spirit. I could dance all day!

twirling in tulle skirt

ooobop tulle flamenco pose

I’ve been reining in my fabric buying for a wee while now but with a firm idea of what I was going to immediately make, I could justify a few metres of tulle. I just had to endure a few eye-rolls!

The construction at House of Ooobop was very basic: there are fundamentally two layers of two gathered tiers of tulle. The top layer is a soft pin-dot tulle. It has a bit of stretch cross-wise so I made sure to keep the ‘straight grain’ long! The under layer is a mid-weight tulle – not too stiff, not too soft – so it gives the necessary structure to the floppy tulle on top.

dancing in a tulle skirt

Once gathered, the top edges are attached to a satin waistband with button closure. And the beauty of tulle is that there is no need to hem – thank goodness. I was clean out of black thread at the end of this! But should anyone want a more detailed tutorial, please leave me a comment below and I’ll gladly do a follow up post.

ooobop tulle skirt with London bus

Mr O (aka Daniel James Photographic) took these amazing photos of course. His patience and dedication to the cause unruffled by my whinging about the cold (and the smell of horse poo!) … and that my feet hurt from all the walking we did.

wearing tulle skirt in Trafalgar Square

But the latter is largely due to wearing my new Christmas Docs from my lovely hubby, fresh out the box without wearing-in first. No pain no gain though!

Doctor Martens with tulle skirt

So I’m totally New Year’s Eve ready, and of course I am also appropriately ready for  the much awaited Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition at the V&A museum in February… which is really soon. And I’m so excited! Who’s coming?

ooobop tulle skirt front view

Thank you so much for reading this post, and for all your lovely words of encouragement over the years. I have been a little lapse in the writing dept of late but I’m not stopping blogging any time soon. I’ve got some lovely projects coming up in 2019 already and some I didn’t even get round to posting from this year. So keep tuned and all will be revealed!

Wishing you all an amazing New Year, fuelled with happiness and good health and all things sewing of course! xxx

No more repeat-wear shame

selfdrafted quilted skirt

I made a skirt in 2016. A self-drafted mini skirt, in a black quilted fabric. And I wore it for the umpteenth time to my local today.

I wore it with pride. Because I made it. Because I feel comfortable in it and because I’ve created something that is so versatile, it gets to be office wear as much as an invitation to party.

The same skirt worn with handmade M7542 lace top
The same skirt worn with handmade M7542 lace top

And it occurred to me that I’ve overcome one of the most ridiculous anxiety inducing things without really much effort at all…

The shame of being seen to wear the same thing more than once!

Social media hawks will ditch you for a lack of frock variation in your feed but that aside, and certainly before the world went online I grew up with a wince every time I had to show up wearing something I wore ‘the last time’.

And yes, people have commented. But not always bad though:

‘Oh I love that skirt/dress’.

If only they’d have stopped right there…

‘Isn’t that the one you wore to Sally’s, last week?’

And that would get me thinking about what they were thinking. How I was being judged. And then I’d get all stressed out. So unnecessary!

The same skirt worn with handmade Vogue 2934 jacket
The same skirt worn with handmade Vogue 2934 jacket

Like many families of the time, money was quite short when I was growing up and I simply didn’t have many clothes. And those that I did were almost always mum-made.

That in itself was an issue with my school friends who wanted to know where I got my skirt from. And I used to mumble “my mum made it” hoping it would go unheard. But it never was. It was amplified by an expression of sympathy. And I couldn’t ‘sit with them’ – home made clothes were simply not cool! And the comments came thick and fast. Thank goodness for school uniform – the only clothes you can not be shamed for wearing on a daily basis!

quilted mini skirt

As an art college student, the freedom to wear whatever I wanted – even if it was from a charity shop – was so exciting. But still the look of ‘didn’t you wear that, yesterday?’, from students… and ‘friends’!

And as a studio junior with a plimsoll on the first rung of the career ladder at an advertising agency. The self same thing. Only different words now:

Someone didn’t go home last night!”

Oh the horror! One thing to be shamed for poverty and assumed lack of laundry skills, but another to be tarred with the dirty stop-out brush!

The same skirt worn with handmade BHL Sarah blouse
The same skirt worn with handmade BHL Sarah blouse

And it didn’t stop at day wear. People actually remembered that you wore ‘that same skirt’ to last year’s party. Damn you long-term-memory-people!

So why now am I simply not bothered by those judgy eyes and cutting comments?

Well I kind of feel like I’ve got the upper hand now.

  • I’ve addressed some confidence issues.  Read: got older and wiser and care less about what other people think
  • I have the back up of a new society who thankfully champions sustainability – reminding me to reduce waste by only making what I need – I simply can’t ignore those giant mountains of textile waste – and  laundering only when necessary to sustain the life of the fabric and also the reduce water waste.
  • My clothes are made by me now. I’m proud of the collection I’ve amassed, of the time I’ve dedicated to make them and have absolutely no intention of ditching any garms until they are deemed irreparable or unwearable. So until that day you definitely will see many more days of this skirt. I’m shouting loud and proud at the number of times I’ve worn it (if only I could remember!)
Same skirt worn with handmade vintage wing-collar shirt: Butterick 556
Same skirt worn with handmade vintage wing-collar shirt: Butterick 556

Do you have a favourite item that makes repeat appearances or do you do battle with repeat-wear shame?

Disclaimer: The right to repeat wears does not get upheld at the expense of cleanliness! I draw the line at being remotely stinky and appreciate fully when there is a real need for laundering!

Why buy a dressform, tailors dummy, mannequin, dressmaker’s stand thing?

Adjustoform lady valet dressform bust

I managed a good few years of dressmaking without a dressform… tailors dummy… dressmakers mannequin… whatchamacallit! I didn’t consider myself at all worthy of such a professional tool. I don’t have room enough to swing a mouse in my house let alone space to accommodate an extra lodger, with a price tag.

But one day I took surprise delivery of a delightful pair of such assistants – one male and one female. Mr O had sought to surprise me with this very generous gift. Strings attached of course.

I’d always contested that it would be too tricky to make him shirts what with him being the illusive musician and the need for checking fit and all. So hats off to his persistence and problem solving skills!

I did make him a few shirts. Years ago, mind. And the tailors dummy was great for checking all the aspects of shirtmaking. It’s become a little redundant of late though.

But the female dressmaker stand  was dressed and draped repeatedly and undoubtedly earned her keep. The main issues I had with the female one were the colour and all the plastic bits. When I stood back from the mannequin and looked at my displayed work I couldn’t help wishing she was more classy – more graceful and more like those neutral coloured dressmaker stands with the tiny wooden ‘heads’ that didn’t distract from the garment and had better pinnability to boot! I also had illusions of practicing draping techniques to create some crazy unique styles and I just wasn’t inspired to work on this blue, now-rickety dressform.

She didn’t age well. The adjustment cogs became stiff. I think they were quite tight to start with. The covering got a bit patchy and loose in places. it wasn’t particularly padded, was difficult to pin to and the hem gauge accessory at the bottom just broke off one day. I never managed to use that part of it to be honest. Ended up with a more wiggly line than I would have created without it!. Instead I would stand her on a table and measure the hemline up from the table with a metal ruler, turning as I went.

But that in itself was a bit of a disaster one day when I realised the body had become loose on the stand and was spiralling down as I turned it.

She almost got her marching orders that day but guilt set in when the more caring me realised how ungrateful and wasteful I was being. She did the job… but she wasn’t nice to work with. That’s all. But that’s such a thing!

Well they do say ‘be careful what you wish for’. (I wished so much to have a nicer dressform, I can’t tell you.) One fateful day earlier this year my ‘delightful’ son had a proper tantrum and vented spleen on blue lady dressform. Rather her than me to be honest, though to be fair, the ensuing bisection was way more of a shock to him than it was me. He had no idea I was upstairs and had witnessed the attack and that I spied on him as he tried to reassemble the twisted wreck, quite-rightly panic-stricken.

Oh the joy on two counts of asking ‘does anyone know how my dressform came to be broken?’. He fessed up, with shameful apology and offered to contribute to a new one. I couldn’t take his dosh. I was too happy that I now had an excuse for a replacement.

May I introduce Adjustoform FG202 | Lady Valet Small 8-Part Adjustable Dressmaker’s Dummy. Naked as the day she arrived. And almost perfect in every way…

Dressform tailors dummy

I first caught sight of her at John Lewis Department store. And I know you shouldn’t judge on looks but that is definitely what drew me in for a closer inspection. The adjustment wheels turned easily – way easier than my previous model. The wooden stand is way more attractive and sturdier than the flailing metal legs of before and the ecru body covering is much easier on the eye and conducive to shooting garments of all colours. Best of all it has boobs!

adjustoform dummy from side

Well, kind of… I do exaggerate! But there is definitely more boob than I had before which helps immensely when checking, shooting or simply displaying a garment. As expected there is no means to change a cup size so a good workaround is a bra stuffed with a pair of two of secret socks! Or I have seen more accurate ways of padding the body with batting to create a more closely replicated size.

Although I was sold already, I’ve learned to reccy online and resist an impulse buy. In any case it wasn’t available to buy in store at the Westfield branch so I found one – a whole £40 cheaper – on Amazon. I took full advantage of the free delivery with my Amazon Prime subscription and she arrived box fresh the following day.

Assembly was a doddle. I didn’t question that there was no instruction booklet, deeming it superfluous to requirement in any case: The body slots into the pole and is tightened with a screw and the feet slot into the base.

lady valet wooden base

I later found said booklet under the flap of the box as I crushed it for recycling. But I’m glad I did as I would have never guessed to rotate the metal device at the base of the stand to hold the feet on. If you don’t do this the feet fall out of their slots when you pick up the dummy!

dressform metal device

So was it worth the investment I hear you ask?

Yes is the short answer. I definitely needed one since more often I am dressmaking professionally. I can leave a circle skirt to hang for the bias to drop, I can achieve a level hem in the absence of a client. I can stand back and see how the garment looks and hangs and I can rotate the body to see how it works at all angles.

The only shred of doubt in my mind is that I know that my Adjustoform Lady Valet is only a slight upgrade, mostly for aethetic reasons and will never be a substitute for a real person’s proportions

This isn’t a one size fits all. And so even with padding will only ever be as near as dammit. Only when I progress to super successful fashion designer extraordinaire status (in my dreams) can I afford the space and the expense of an army of models in varying sizes.

There is better padding on this dressform compared to the blue one but only of marginal difference. You still hit underlying plastic unless you go in at an angle with those pins.

The gaps in the adjustment areas not conducive for draping. For the records I haven’t ventured down that road properly yet. I tend to work with existing or self-drafted flat patterns, but if I wanted to drape and pin a design I would be better off with one of those other kinds of dressform/tailors dummy/mannequin/dressmaker’s stand things with collapsable shoulders like they had on the Great British Sewing Bee.

Do you use one of the aforementioned? What are your views? And pray tell… what on earth do you call it?

Vintage Vogue 2934 jacket revisited

Vogue 2934 jacket

I first made this Vintage Vogue jacket and blogged it back in 2013 (see here) but somehow, sometime soon after, I managed to loose it! It’s still a total mystery.  Quite possibly a drunken misplacement and if that was the case I’m so annoyed at myself. I hope sincerely that someone found it and loved it as much as I did.

But hey, the advantage of being a crazy sewing lady is that one can whip up another at will, right?

The pattern is a reprint of Vintage Vogue 1950s cape-like jacket.

Vogue 2934 sewing pattern

It’s a great pattern and comes together really swiftly. Two backs (for a centre back seam) and two fronts with cut-on dolman sleeves and clever neckline darts that create a superbly structured stand up ‘collar’. There’s quite a lot of hand stitching inside but I actually enjoyed that bit. Not just because I took it to the park one sunny afternoon to finish off!

vogue 2934 collar detail

It helped of course that the fabric I chose – a remarkably cheap flocked, brocade-type of furnishing weight fabric from Dave the Drapers in Shepherds Bush Market – had the right amount of structure to hold that shape, but I was a bit worried throughout the process that there wasn’t quite enough drape for the swing back.

Vogue 2934 jacket by ooobop

And there wasn’t really. It stuck out like a comedy shark fin! I should have taken a side view photo to prove that I wasn’t being a drama queen but I was so fixated on solving the problem and not throwing in the towel and instead of grabbing the camera, I grabbed my purse and dashed to the nearest charity shop in search of a weighty chain.

After all, that’s what Chanel did, right?

chain weight in hem of jacket

To be fair I’m sure House of Chanel has a special kind of chain and rules on how to sew it in – anybody know? I just stitched every other link with a couple of stitches for security and hey presto, it worked a treat!

Incidentally that picture above also shows the detail of the lining I bought from Oxfam. It was totally biding its stay in my stash for this immensely appropriate pairing!

As with anything you make twice, it’s always good to change things up a little. I felt the black frog fastenings I chose last time sunk shamefully into the fabric so I went for a contrasting gold set and matching metallic braid to edge the cuffs, second time round.

gold frog fastenings

It was the best choice! This jacket is so much fun. I love the textures, the overall shape and the slightly bonkers nod to a Christmas drummer boy! I’m not saving it for best and I’m definitely not letting it out of my sight!

vintage vogue jacket by ooobop

School reports (or shorts to the layperson!)

I have created some fabulous projects recently (blows own trumpet): A mother-of-the-bride dress for me, an original and self-drafted dress design for a new customer and a tiered dress that I helped a friend to realise from some fabulous sketches she’d made. But before you get too excited, those posts are very much waiting on the back burner of the publishing pile until I can get hands on the photographic evidence.

In the meantime I have a small and rather underwhelming pair of shorts to report. Or ‘school reports’ as the cheeky cockney mister would have them called!

wearing handmade in Quadrophenia Alley
Classy shot in Quadrophenia Alley, Brighton!

This is third time out the packet for Simplicity 2659. Such a great little pattern that came free with Sew Magazine a good few years ago. I made my first ever pair (see here) in May 2012 where I declared it a small baby step towards the making of actual long pants / trousers. And I followed up with a second more wintry pair here. Simplicity 2659 easy chic Six years on I still haven’t made any ‘longs’ for me but I did make a couple of pairs of satin brocade jogging pants for my youngest so I guess that counts… in a toddler step kinda way. I’m itching to try drafting a proper pair for myself as I’m convinced its the only way to get a proper fitting pair. Just got to find some time… and the courage!

handmade shorts simplicity
Even classier shot, in Brighton, day after Pride!

The only thing different I did in the making of the shorts this time was to invest in a facing rather than use this twill tape to finish the waistline. Twill tape worked great for the last two versions. It certainly is a quick and unfussy operation but I didn’t have any left and couldn’t even wait the single day for a Prime delivery! So I measured 7cm down from the waist of both the front and back sections and traced off the top portion of the pattern. I then closed up the darts to form facing pieces, cut the pieces and sewed the right hand side seam and pressed open. The zipper is on the left and so the left hand side of the facing was going to be slip-stitched to the zipper tape. With right sides together I sewed the facing to the waist seam of the shorts. I understitched that seam allowance to the facing, close to the line of stitching to prevent it rolling out and also tacked the facing to the front and side seams.

Talking zipper – I hand sewed it in this time. Just because I had a spare mo and also because I had the inclination. I like the little visible little prick stitches and it feels like I have more control over the insertion. I always seem to miss catching in the underlap of the overlap when I sew by machine. If you know what I mean?! I finished off with a hook and eye at the top. lapped zipper I just love the turn ups. In fact I get a little moment of joy from sewing the bias strips onto the hemline. It’s like they bring the party to an otherwise ridiculously small and simple garment. And of course because they are cut on the bias there is a contrast in the direction of the fabric pattern. In this case the diagonals meet the vertical lines in the fabric. I can’t explain why this makes me so happy. It just does! You might have to imagine what they actually look like as it appears that it’s harder to shoot a pair of black shorts than actually make them! simplicity 2659 shorts And I finished them up just in time for a little day trip to Brighton. This weather is still  up until Sunday was sweltering in the UK and I’ve decided that minimal coverage of body is the only way forward! Ordinarily I’m a little bit shy about too much naked leg on display but in Brighty, anything goes and nobody bats an eyelid so I was happy as Larry paddling in the sea…. simplicity 2659 shorts … and sitting astride a scooter, care of Mod Roy! But boy did I feel like a traitor. My dad was a rocker after all! (Spot the guy who seriously wanted to feature on ooobop!) With Mr O on Modroys scooter Incidentally. The top I am wearing is handmade too. The pattern I used is Butterick B4685 . I made it from some fake linen border print fabric along with a matching skirt and blogged it here.

Pattern-free cowl skirt in African wax fabric

Cowl skirt front

I’m pretty sure I once said I’d never make clothes for anyone else. But owing to my rubbish memory I now seem to be making a habit of it!

Lucy is one of my beautiful returning customers. and I love the challenges she throws my way. It seems I’m happy making things for other people so long as they are not boring things, lol!

Lucy has a way more interesting social life than me and loves pinning her favourite styles on Pinterest for future reference. It’s a great way for us to share the possibilities of what she’d like me to make next. Most of what she pins, slightly terrifies me but I already overcame my fear of sewing trousers by making her a jumpsuit (which you can see here). She was so delighted with the outcome and that spurred me on to investigate the method of making a cowl skirt.

I’d seen them before, but couldn’t for the life of me work out how to set about it until I came across this tutorial on YouTube by Ruralafricanshop.

It’s a pattern-free tutorial that transforms a length of fabric like magic! Thank you Ruralafrican shop!

I set about making one for myself first. You know, just to test the waters (*read, because I really wanted one too!) and the great thing about sewing with African wax fabric is that it is so darned cheap you can afford to toile it and make one out of the same bolt. Which is clearly the best thing to do in order to see the results for real.

I found me some red and black, of course. It’s quite an unusual colour palette among the wax cotton shelves it seems. Everything else under the sun but not much red and black without other colour interference. I just love the sunbursts. It’s got a great graphic feel about it. And totes lends itself to this crazy sculpture of a skirt!

It cuts some pretty cool shapes with one little turn here and there:

cowl skirt by ooobop

It looks so elegant from the back.

cowl skirt by ooobop back view

And does it’s finest heart-shape impression in the wind!

cowl skirt by ooobop

The trial was a success. I added a few refinements to the instructions, re neatening seams, interfacing the waistband and inserting an invisible zip on a centre back seam. And I rehearsed using different lengths of fabric to see the difference in length of the skirt. The pleats were formed by eye rather than maths.




Lucy supplied her own fabric which was the chosen fabric for the event. And it was a little bit lighter than what I’d used so the pleats and the drape worked even better the second time around. And the border on the fabric worked beautifully on the waistband.

Lucy cowl skirt detail

She is far taller and way more leggy than me so I made sure the length was appropriate, and warned of the shortness of the front seam!

To be fair, she’d rock a potato sack but still, what joy to see her wearing another ooobop special… I was chuffed to bits when she sent me these photos!

Lucy wearing cowl skirt by ooobop

Lucy wearing cowl skirt by ooobop

I’m not stopping here. African wax fabric is such a pleasure to sew. And I’m ready for my next challenge. Bring on the party!

Other things I’ve made from African wax fabric:

Jumpsuit and baby dress

Self-drafted wax print dress




Gypsy dress and panel placement

 

ooobop soladida gypsy dress front

I am flexing those self-sabotage skills again. I have had notice of my daughters wedding for almost a year and with only a month away, have I begun making my mother of the bride dress? Don’t be daft. But I did make another Sew La Di Da French Gypsy dress. And I must say, I’m not even a little bit sorry!

ooobop soladida gypsy dress front

I totally blame that upstairs bit at Misan Fabrics, in the Goldhawk Road, where they have the most desirable remnants on sale, way cheaper than the fabrics they have downstairs. There was this 3.5m bolt of bright red panel fabric that was signalling from the top shelf. I didn’t have a clue what I’d do with it at that point. Cutting it up for headscarves was an option. But not a very exciting or fulfilling one. Maybe posh napkins or a gathered skirt? Seriously, I’m so uninspired sometimes. I spread it out on the table and looked to the assistant for a suggestion. A shrug of the shoulders translated that she wasn’t the least bit interested and was I going to buy it or not? The reason I was stalling was that the label said £10. I didn’t imagine for one minute that meant for the whole lot. So when the penny dropped, so did the idea that I could indeed make a gathered skirt but with a French Gypsy dress bodice attached to the top of it… for a tenner!


It’s great to revisit a recently-made sewing pattern: It’s already been traced; the fit is established – though I had to keep in mind that the fabric I used last time had a bit of stretch – plus having rehearsed it already, it’s a more confident sew and the process is therefore quicker.

ooobop soladida gypsy dress bodice

There was an issue of placement though. There were not going to be any happy accidents here, oh no! The skirt was dead easy to work out. I just used the width of the fabric for front and back and then halved the back for the seam allowance and zip. But I did think to make sure the panels aligned from the same point at the top/bottom… just before I cut, lol

The midriff – which I must have told you a hundred times before, is my favourite section of a dress – deserved a small floral border that came from the centre of the larger panel. I like how it kind of looks like a giant buckle from a distance. The little floral bits at the side were a bonus.

ooobop_soladida gypsy dress midriff

That same little patterned square worked for the sleeves just as well.

ooobop soladida gypsy dress sleeve

Back bodice pieces always give the most placement jip when there’s a zip to factor in. So annoying. Even more annoying when I’d already cut the back skirt pieces apart and could have made life easier for myself if I’d have thought it out properly and allowed for a side closure instead. But then I had a little brainwave and made sure that the placement didn’t need any matching up. I just needed to make sure the design was the same distance away from the zip on either side. Which it is. Kind of!

ooobop soladida gypsy dress back

The only section I’m not crazy about is the front gathered bust section. There wasn’t enough plain red and I didn’t want to repeat too much the ‘lacy’ edging of the panel section. I can live with it though!

I still had enough duchesse satin left over from the last time to make the black binding which is lucky because I love how it outlines the dress at the top.

My new dress had it’s first outing today and proved to be very picnic-worthy and received lots of lovely comments. It also attracted some attention on our little shoot in the neighbourhood earlier this evening. One passing stranger couldn’t resist joining in and worked it so well it would be rude not to include him. Thinking of you, Karen (didyoumakethat). I didn’t even have to tell him what it was for!

ooobop soladida gypsy dress guest

Thanks as always to the lovely Mr O for these lovely photos. x




Self-drafted Liberty lawn dress

Liberty Lawn dress by ooobop

What a glorious weekend. Unlike almost everyone I know, I didn’t make any plans and for a while I was fighting the fomo as I scrolled through hundreds of family getaway posts. But today I am glad. Not only have I ticked off a few niggly household jobs but I’ve had lots of me time to stop and think and evaluate. Those kind of days are as rare as hen’s teeth despite a generalistic view of ones freelance ‘flexibility’.

self drafted dress by ooobop

I did however manage to squeeze in a lovely river walk with Mr O who kindly took some photos for this blog post. He’s so busy with plans for a new show (a very exciting show that I will tell you about soon) that it’s quite difficult to sync a weekend together. But we managed a trot from Hammersmith to Barnes and back and talked and laughed… a lot!




Liberty lawn dress by ooobop

I’m wearing another self-drafted dress. I don’t self-draft nearly often enough, mostly because it’s a time-hungry process but every time I do I’m reminded of how much more satisfying it is to make a dress that is totally bespoke.

Now it’s not the most original or ground-breaking in design… that comes later (lol)… but it fits. Because I made it fit following various stages of tweaks. My pattern pieces look such a mess with all the scribbles and notes but they are truly important scribbles and notes which tell the story of the journey of fit each time they have been used.

self drafted bodice pattern ooobop

My first fitting was practised on a retro-style top in 2014. The next time I used the pattern was for this wax-print dress – same bodice but a half-circle skirt. I had minor issues with the neckline and corrected it for the third fitting: my skulls and roses dress.




The beautiful fabric is of course a luscious Liberty Lawn. It was a birthday present from a very thoughtful friend. I had 2 metres and didn’t want to waste any of it. The bodice is self lined which feels so good against my skin and was perfectly breathable for a hot sunny stroll. I drafted the armholes to cover that squidgy boob-fat bit (is that the technical term?) and so that the straps don’t fall off my shoulders. That combination involves a fine balance as my shoulders are quite slopy. There is a zip in the left hand side –vintage-style –  so that I didn’t have to split the fabric on the back piece.

Dress design by ooobop

For the skirt section, I took the whole 60″ width to make a dirndl. For anyone who’s tried – I’m sure you’ll share my appreciation of how damned satisfying it is to gather lawn. And out of respect for such a beautiful fine fabric, I hand- sewed the hem. Not only does this fabric gather beautifully but there’s a pleasure in pressing it too. It just stays and makes the whole hand stitching thing a breeze.

Dress designed by ooobop

I give small leftover scraps to my local primary school for them to use in their craft projects and I’m sure they’ll be delighted with the quality this month. I’m certainly glad that I didn’t have to bin them. I absolutely could not have brought myself to have even put my foot on the bin pedal!

Our walk was lovely. The air was filled with warm wisteria  perfume. Not too dissimilar to doughnuts I think. Or is that just me?

Liberty lawn dress with wisteria

And can I just mention my shoes. Quite a step away from my usual heels and platforms. They are Lotta from Stockholm Clogs. Handmade and verified well made! And they come in all sorts of styles and colours. Go check them out! I’m not sponsored by them. I’m just very happy to pass on a good find.

Handmade dress by ooobop and Lotta from Stockholm clogs




French Gypsy Dress

1952 French Gypsy dress

And finally, after two years of waiting in the wings, and following a match-made fabric and pattern eureka moment, my French Gypsy Dress is finished and worn already.

The pattern is by Sew La Di Da Vintage, and I knew I would love it but I could never quite decide on the fabric. The samples shown on the site and exhibited at the shows I’ve visited are so gorgeous I could never hope to get close. I love the packaging and the styling of all the patterns.

Gypsey Dress sewing pattern

I found the fabric online at Minerva Crafts, which is unusual for me. I much prefer shopping in real life! I have to touch and feel and think about it and walk from shop to shop and talk about it with the assistants before I make a call. But when I found this beaut on a random scroll, I didn’t give a second thought to what it would feel like or indeed what it was for – I just loved the colours and the black background of course. It’s a stretch cotton sateen. Quite sturdy, moderate stretch and a great lack of creasibility!




Thing is, I didn’t connect to two to begin with. And when sometime after I considered pairing them I thought it would be too weighty for the gathered upper bodice and sleeves. Though I knew the skirt would totally benefit from a bit of weight and the silhouette would be awesome.

French Gypsy Dress back

Then I got busy and all sewing plans were out the window until I got a free weekend. Woohoo! A whole undisturbed Saturday and after a pep talk with my mum it was full steam ahead. She basically said, “What are you so scared of? If it all goes pear shaped you can just get some more fabric.” Which is true of course, if not a little bit wasteful. And I could have tested on something else first but I had a window of opportunity and I wanted a new dress right there and then!

And I couldn’t be more pleased. It fits in all the right places, is flattering and comfortable too.

Construction-wise its really quite simple. The most complicated thing is taking time to make those bodice and sleeve gathers even. I know now after heaps of lazy and rushed gathering attempts in the past, that the key is to sew 2 rows of gathering stitches, either side of the intended seamline and there’s every chance your gathers will keep evenly distributed and pucker free.

1952 French Gypsy Dress

I made the binding for the neck and sleeve edges from some leftover black duchesse satin. I was prepared to rip it off if it didn’t work because I wasn’t entirely sure if it was the right kind of fabric for the job. But it was. Just perfectly right, actually!

There is a length of elastic inside the bias casing that starts and ends on the back sleeve seams. This is such a great idea because it allows for the dress to be worn on or off the shoulders and keeps the back bodice pieces completely flat. Incidentally there are no darts in the back pieces of this dress. Instead, the instructions call for a brilliant fitting stage whereby the back seam is pinned to fit and marked with chalk or an erasable pen (you will need a partner for this). Then the seam is machine tacked and pressed open so the creased edges give the perfect guide for zip insertion. It’s such a cool stage of instruction and one that I am definitely going to consider using on future makes. Is this a typical vintage construction method, I wonder?

French Gypsy dress reflection

I’m so happy with the outcome. It brightened a very drizzly day and feels so great to wear. And better still, it’s another strike off my #makenine2018 – wahooo!

I might try poomfing the skirt more with a layered petticoat and styling it up with flowers in my hair. Definitely a contender for what to wear when the Frida Kahlo exhibition hits the V&A this year.

Well it’s back to work tomorrow. But I’ll be returning with a head full of plans. That’s the trouble with a bit of time off!