#Blazer of 2016: Potential Patterns

blazer of 2016

Thank you so much to everyone for your lovely words of support for #Blazerof2016 and especially to those who have signed up. And for anyone who’s teetering on the edge of joining in there’s still bags of time!

Typically my working-week has been busier than expected and there’s been no room for sewing but I did manage a little recce of potential sewing patterns that I’d like to share with you. Don’t hold your breath though. It won’t take long!

This little scout round the web – and to be fair, it was a little scout – has had some surprising results. When MaleDevonSewing suggested that menswear only represented 6% of sewing patterns, he wasn’t exaggerating!

Searching through the contemporary and classics of the Big 4‘s, this is all I came up with:

 

Burda 6813
Source: Jaycotts

 

Burda 6872
Source: Jaycotts

 

Burda 7194 Mans jacket
Source: Jaycotts

 

Burda 7046 Mans blazer
Source: Jaycotts

 

Burda 6993 mans jacket
Source: Jaycotts
Kwik Sew 3485
Source: Jaycotts

 

Vogue 8719 mans jacket
Source: John Lewis

 

Vogue 8988 jacket
Source: John Lewis

Of course there are only so many variations a man’s jacket might display, for example: the pockets, the lapel shape, the vent, if any, button cuffs or not, lined or not etc. No Westwood meeting McQueen with crazy shoulder shapes and asymmetric cross body lapels but that’s ok. We’ll make it interesting in our own way, right?!

So Burda gets the prize not just for the most patterns found but also for their jacket patterns featured in this month’s Burda Style magazine. What were the chances of that?

 

Patterns found in Burdastyle 2/2016
Patterns found in Burdastyle 2/2016

 

How are you getting on with your pattern searching? Have you found any designs by independent sewing pattern companies or have you gone vintage? There certainly seems to be more of those floating around. However, Mr O has a broader chest than most of those 50’s men it seems, hence my Big4 search. But to be fair, to find anything larger than a 44 chest in a modern day pattern is pretty rare too, it seems. Unfairly represented in more ways than one, then!

I think I’ll be going with the pattern on the left hand page of Burda Style magazine. I’m a bit nervous of the minimal instructions but I’ll be calling Jamie to the rescue if I get stuck! So calico at the ready I hope to be tracing and toiling sometime soon.

 

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Sew Menswear: Blazer of 2016!

blazer of 2016

It’s amazing where a bit of Tweeting lands you up.

Not for the first time, I recently made friends with another great sewing blogger, Jamie from Male Devon Sewing. He tweeted for suggestions on what he should make next and I cheekily replied that he should make a man’s blazer so I could watch his every move and pick up all his tips! He liked the idea of making a summer jacket and I was genuinely looking forward to watching his every step but then the sewing-table turned and Jamie suggested we have a Blazer-off of sorts! Me and my big mouth!

Mr O has been begging me to make him a blazer for absolutely ages and if I’m honest, I’ve been plain terrified of not being able to follow it through! And if I’m really honest there’s a bit of selfish in me that would rather be making me another (easy) dress!

McQeen Feather print blazer
Source: upscalehype.com

But what am I actually terrified of?  Why would it be so much different to sew than ladies wear? I’ve made a jacket for me before, not the best of fitting and the stripes don’t line up on the shoulders but it’s a jacket all the same and I’m sure I could rectify those issues with a bit of care and attention. And If I didn’t, would it really be the end of the world?

Jamie and I put heads together and supposed because of a lack of menswear being sewn out there that there might just be a fair few of you also fearing how difficult it might be or maybe you’re just plain uninspired. Let’s face it, there’s not much in the way of menswear patterns compared to the plethora of womens’ out here. Like 6% apparently! And so #Blazerof2016 was born as a kick up the butt, so to speak to inject some much needed inspiration and promote a growth in the sewing of menswear!

Quadrophenia style blazer
Source: Bespoke Suit

Although I’ve been sewing for a few years, this is something that is definitely lacking in my repertoire so I’ll definitely be learning on the job, sharing all that I learn along the way. And if you check out Jamie’s jackets you’d be forgiven for thinking he has heaps of experience but he literally only sewed his first jacket a year ago! So we can all hold hands together – and steal all Jamie’s tips! By using the hashtag, #Blazerof2016 and tagging @ooobop and @maledeveonsewing on Twitter we can put out pleas for help as well as posting tips and progress photos. Nothing like a dive into the deep end, hey?!

Make one for your fella, your dad, your best mate, your brother or your son. Lets do it. Lets make someone’s day, add some more skills to our toolbox, encourage more sewing of menswear and more than anything, lets have some fun. Pinstripe, tweed or floral . . . let’s go crazy with colour and print. It doesn’t have to be boring! We’ll be regularly posting inspirational photos and techniques along the way so stay tuned for tailoring fun!

clue check blazer
source: alux.com

We have a good six months before submission day which is good for me because, like most things, I’m going to have to do this outside of work and children! I’ll do my best to blog as many stages of mine as I can and I’ll encourage you to do the same so we can show everyone how cool and satisfying it is to sew a fabulous piece of menswear.

So who’s up for joining us on our quest to scatter some menswear among the dresses of the sewing community? The rules are simple:

  • Make a Man’s blazer/jacket using any pattern of your choice, or draft your own, it MUST be a piece of menswear though!
  • Your choice of fabric suitable for a jacket.
  • Can be fully lined, part lined or unlined (although if unlined the seams need to be suitably finished).
  • Must have some sort of pockets (your choice again: Patch, Flap, Welt).
  • Your choice of vent at the back, either single or double.
  • Your choice to have opening/buttoned cuffs.
  • Jacket to be completed by June.

Please note this is not a scheduled sewalong. This challenge should you choose to accept, is to be completed in your own way, at your own pace, within the 6 months allowed of course.

Leave a comment below with either me or Jamie so we can see who’s in and please add the badge to your blog to spread the word.

blazer or 2016

I’m off to study patterns. Good luck every one!

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Vintage Simplicity 7527 and a fond farewell

simplicity 7527 1968 dress Bowie

That news announcement on Monday 11th January 2016 marked the beginning of another very sad week and another goodbye I totally wasn’t prepared for. My first true love, my ‘confidant’, my constant, my hero… my David Bowie.

I’ve always felt alone with my passion for this man but these last few days have seen everyone on my feed, saddened and some devastated as me. Just one of my friends dared to mock the fan hysteria with sarcasm but I’ve resisted the urge to argue and instead, silently felt sorry for him- (who-shall-not-be-named) in that he clearly didn’t experience the love as much as we all did.

David Bowie memorial Brixton

Since 13 years old, when I was accused of being a ‘weirdo’, not fitting into any of the usual cliques, I’ve hung onto his every word – after all, precious few wrote a song called Janine (He wasn’t very good at spelling ;-)) – I loved the fashions, going to most of his gigs: on shoulders of strangers, right at the front on the Serious Moonlight Tour 1983; watching him descend from the underbelly of a Glass Spider in 1987; and we even touched, albeit fingertips, at the Hanover Grand, 1997 when I won a pair of tickets from Capital Radio! I even went to the loo in his dressing room at the Royal Festival Hall 2002. Long story! There were others. And his inspiration is untold. But we never actually met. Something I was holding out for. But actually I’m not sure I could have kept my cool so it’s probably for the best that we didn’t.

simplicity 7527 1968 brixton

So when Mr O suggested Brixton, his birthplace, as a venue for my latest dress shoot it wasn’t questioned. Seemed wrong to pose in front of the memorial so we wandered off to the Village Market. Colder than a polar bear’s toes, it was. So we warmed up on some buckwheat galettes at Senzala Creperie. They were amazing – staff and food!

simplicity 7527 1968 dress

The dress is a vintage Simplicity pattern, no. 7527 from 1968. Another happy Ebay win about a year ago, if I remember rightly. It has been designed for wovens but I figured it would work just as well in a stretch jersey.

simplicity 7527 sewing pattern

Incidentally, this stretch jersey is black with red flecks and allegedly ex-Hobbs. I got it from Dalston Mill Fabrics in the Ridley Road Market, not really knowing then what it was going to be. But it was always going to be something!

simplicity 7527 1968 dress

I’m not sure of the content. But it is very, very stretchy and quite weighty. A burn test revealed a minute quantity of something natural, so I’m guessing a viscose blend as it does have a lovely smooth feel about it.

vintage simplicity 7527 1968 dress

I expected it to come up big, not only because the pattern size was bigger than my usual but because stretch fabric, well… it stretches! There was rather a lot to come off. Five inches to be precise, so I took it, rather dodgily from the sides and a little bit from the centre front and back seams. This is usually totally inadvisable but I was in a hurry and hey, it kinda worked! Wrists dutifully slapped, I’ve since noted how to grade it down properly  and will make another with proper adjustments next time.

vintage simplicity 7527 1968 dress

The best thing about making it in a stretch jersey is that it doesn’t need a closure. I made sure that the turtleneck did fit over my head before I sewed it for real. I tacked the whole thing with a long straight stitch before sewing with a shallow zigzag stitch on my ordinary machine, much the same as I did on my Agnes top. And then I finished the seams on my 3-thread overlocker.

vintage simplicity 7527 dress

I’m not kidding when I say this was a quick project. I cut it out on the Wednesday evening, sewed it on the Thursday evening after work, and wore it on the Friday to a funeral. Needs must when you find that you don’t own (or fit into) a single black dress! Doesn’t look really funeral appropriate in these photos but suffice to say, my goosebump-riddled arms were covered with a respectable jacket on the day.

 

Photography: Daniel Selway

Hat: Shepherds Bush Market
Shoes: Aldo 
Seamed tights: M&S

 

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Agnes Rocks!

“Hey Agnes! Where’ve you been all my life?”

Tilly Buttons Agnes by ooobop

Following on from my far-from-successful Burda top, I needed a bit of a sewing massage. A project that would give me a couple of hours of soothing sewing action with the gratification of a good result guaranteed. Plus I am in desperate need of some new tops and fast! – Tilly and the Buttons Agnes top to the rescue!

Tilly Buttons Agnes by ooobop

Ordinarily I’m not sold on making plain T’s. Life is way too short. But this fancy T was just the ticket. I adore those drapey puffy sleeves and the bust-enhancing ruching to the centre front. So ‘casually chic’ if that’s even a thing!

Tilly Buttons Agnes by ooobop

I haven’t sewn this top before but I have sewn Tilly’s Mimi blouse and the Coco top, both of which sewed up and fitted without hitches so I’d have bet big bucks on this being the same. Couldn’t have been more right if I tried!

I obeyed every instruction which if I’m really honest generally makes for a smoother exercise and in any case they are so clear and easy to follow it’s effortless really. I sewed the whole thing with a zigzag stitch on an ordinary sewing machine, as suggested. But I finished the seams on my overlocker. I only have a vintage, 3-thread kind which doesn’t stitch, just finishes, but it does the job beautifully.

Tilly Buttons Agnes by ooobop

The only bit I foresaw repeating a couple of times, was the neckband. But to my surprise it went on like a dream. Tilly has completely allowed for the right amount of stretch so that it doesn’t go all baggy. Though in fairness that could have been down to the quality of the fabric I used – a great quality cotton stretch from one of the shops down the Goldhawk Road. And it’s black and ivory too, (instead of navy and white) which I’m delighted with.

Tilly Buttons Agnes by ooobop

But I am a bit agged by the unavoidable issue of the stitching that shows down the centre of the ruching though, owing to the stripes – sleeves and centre front. I will make a solid black one at some point which will alleviate the problem. But I am left wondering whether I should have stiched with white/ivory thread instead of black. Or would it have created the same problem in reverse?

We had such fun shooting these photos. Mr O had found this area in Waterloo, London, and thought it would create a great backdrop to an otherwise monochrome outfit. He wasn’t wrong. He seldom is. But best not to let him know that!

Tilly Buttons Agnes by ooobop

I don’t often get Mr O all to myself so after a stroll around all the little vintage shops of Lower Marsh Street, we stopped off for a delicious lunch at Bar Cubana.  I could get quite used to these kind of Wednesdays!

Photography: Daniel Selway

Top: Handmade by me – Agnes by Tilly and the Buttons
Skirt: Handmade by me – self drafted half circle
Hat: Second hand – Oxfam
Belt: H&M
Boots: Irregular Choice
Bag: Gift from my daughter – Floozie
Gloves: Gift from Mr O – Alice Hannah

 

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Windmill Square quilt block

 

windmill square quilt block

That bit of holiday between Christmas and New Years day and up until I go back to work, is such a lovely time for me. I don’t like to make too many plans so I can have optimum time for sewing and baking and general pottering – all the things I wish I could be doing when I’m working! This time round I managed to complete two tops. One yet to be photographed and blogged (after the heavens have closed) and one sadly not-up-to-scratch Burda top. That wasn’t an Ablogogie btw! I’ve also just managed to get in a bit of quilt blocking. I’ve been tricked into thinking I have all the time on my hands now, much the same as I did this time last year when I last made this Churn Dash quilt block! My great-great-grandchildren are so going to love this quilt!

This one is block 26, a Windmill Square – a modern take on the Windmill block. The design also features within the Diamond Pinwheel and the Windmill Sails Block. Historically, the pinwheel is believed to be a good luck symbol, it’s movement suggesting the ebb and flow of fortune.

It is assembled from four identical corners (square blocks) with no tricky inset seams involved. And even with a year out of practice, I have to say I pretty much nailed that centre point! *blows trumpet with great gusto*

I sometimes think I’m cheating by having the fabrics pre-chosen but I’m not sure I’d chose a better selection. All the designs have been perfect to date. The only real snag is that the fabric pieces supplied are just enough to cut your templates from and that doesn’t allow for any personal preference with placement. It always seems to work ok though. I loved getting my tiny iron back out of the basket and being able to focus on the small neat seams.

tiny iron for quilting

And I love that this block is seemingly loaded with luck too! Luck that I will willingly and gladly share with you all. Because we could all use it from time to time!

Block Facts:

Name: Windmill Square
History: A modern take on the traditional Windmill or Double Pinwheel block.
Level: Some experience needed to achieve a neat finish
No. of pieces: 16

Progress report:

Block 1: The Double Four Patch
Block 2: The Whirlwind
Block 3: The Sailboat
Block 4: The Shoo-fly
Block 5: The Trafalgar
Block 6: The Windmill
Block 7: The Chequer Square
Block 8: The Diamond Square
Block 9: The Cactus Pot
Block 10: The Sawtooth Star
Block 11: To come!
Block 12: The Windmill Sails block
Block 13: The Basket of Flowers block
Block 14: Susannah
Block 15: Road to Oklhahoma
Block 16: Chequer Star
Block 17: Nelson’s Victory
Block 18: Fair and Square
Block 19: Diamond Pinwheel
Block 20: Whirligig
Block 21: Old Maid’s Puzzle
Block 22: Whirlwind Square
Block 23: Windblown Square
Block 24: Basket of Flowers block revisited
Block 25: Churn Dash
Block 26: Windmill Square

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Burda cap-sleeve top and a bit of a whinge-up!

burda style cap sleeve top

Once in a while a sewing project is sent to try us. This particular little smart-arse of a sewing project first lured me from the glossy pages of Burda Style around this time 3 years ago. It presented a cool, stylish-looking basic that could rock any skirt, shorts or pair of strides. Edgy with its contrasting shiny sleeve caps, close-fitting for sleekness of style and a raised neckline for a fierce, designer don’t mess with me touch. I should have got that message first time round really!

My self-imposed rule not to impart cash for cheaply made RTW clothes has been obeyed for a good few years now. And I’d say it’s largely been very easy and fun and rewarding. But to summon up the motivation to make what is fundamentally a basic black staple is much harder than making a pretty dress. That’s way more fun.

I cannot even begin to recount the hours spent on this tiny little top. It was definitely a test of patience. Largely because I didn’t do a muslin so no surprises really.

I decided to stick to the suggested fabric which was crepe satin – luckily there was little needed because this fabric didn’t come cheap either. Read on if you can really bear to listen to my gripes!

burda style 2012 cap sleeve top

First gripe: crepe satin. I will think twice before sewing those stupid shiny sides together in a hurry. They move! But having said that, lucky the shiny sides were inside because they also catch on just about anything that is vaguely rough. Like hands, unfiled nails, pins etc etc. It also frays. And so every seam, every edge had to be overlocked. Do not even attempt this top, in this fabric if you don’t have sufficient means to finish every single edge. And OMG, static alert! I tried this top on at least 10 times to check fit and shape of sleeve etc and the electricity ran at least 240v from root to tip of hair. This firmly remains one of it’s unforgiving factors!

The bust darts are way too low for me. I know, I know, I didn’t toile!

There are two zips involved in this top, or else you’d never get it on. One from the neck edge down the top of the left sleeve. And another under the left arm and down to the hem. Fine in principle, definitely not fine if you want two matching shaped sleeves! I bought a couple of quality invisible zippers from Dalston Mill. I remember thinking at the time that I should perhaps invest in more quality notions. I usually get them from Shepherds Bush market for a snip of the price. But it wasn’t such a good call ater all. Sadly the teeth were metal and so the zips less flexible coupled with the instructions to end the zipper a couple of inches from the hem, I ended up with one sleeve fit for a Gary Glitter tribute and another as a deflated floppy thing. Zipper aside, at that point I realised the sleeves were far too roomy in any case. They seemed to fit snugly on the model which is confusing given my substantial arm girth. So I removed said sleeve zipper and shaved a bit off each of the top sleeve seams to ‘smallen’ the sleeve cap.

Removing the zipper was a mare. Black on black, mostly with a crap lightbulb overhead and from hostile fabric that was just goading me to be snagged.

I put a new cheapo lightweight zipper in but made it run from top to bottom this time. Better but still not brilliant. Plus it took 2 goes to insert. Don’t ask! In hindsight I should have sewed another just to the seam allowance on the wrong side of the opposite sleeve to match the shape better. I may still do this.

The sleeve hems are hand sewn. Catching 1 of those damned threads at a time so it doesn’t make a mess of the right side. And the underarm seams are finished with a self made bias strip, hand sewn to the inside also. Slowly, slowly, catchy monkey!

So then there was the neck facing. Could well have been me but I’m totally blaming those Burda-style translations. I have such a problem with visualising even the simplest written instructions. Give me pictures every time. So after the umpteenth read, I gave up trying to understand and went ahead governed by my own hunches! They were rubbish hunches and I ended up sewing the bottom bit of the facing to the shoulder/top sleeve seam. What is wrong with me? I was all twisted and distorted and I was convinced the facing was the wrong shape!

A right proper meltdown ensued. Foot on the pedal-bin pedal, lid raised, dangled over the sprout peelings and prosecco foils, the whole thing was about to meet its demise!

Saved by a flash of possibility. I spared the wretched thing and spread it inside out on the ironing board to instantly see the issue: The lower end of the facing was meant to be sewn around the armhole… of course!!

cap sleeve top back view

More unpicking. More hand sewing. It worked. Kind of. But even though I’d used a stretch interfacing (My own recommendation, not Burda’s) it doesn’t behave the same as the outer and there is still an element of ‘pull’.

Although the sleeves are too big, the body is a touch too small. I clearly overestimated the stretch in this fabric and underestimated the difference in a petite sizing, which this pattern was. I might possibly get away with it in a dark room with a jacket on!

 

The hours involved to create something that is at best a black top, have completely taken me by surprise. I seriously could have whipped up a whole dress in as much time!

If I did it again, I’d go up a size and definitely redraft the sleeves.

I’m glad I didn’t give in though and I’m glad I found a way to solve the main issues. I hate being defeated at anything. I don’t often work with fine fabrics and clearly this is something I need more practice in next year. But for now I’m rifling though some good old fashioned vintage dress patterns where suiting and furnishing fabrics are my favourite friends. Onwards and upwards!

Happy New Years Eve, my wonderful readers. Wishing you all a healthy, productive and successful 2016.
With lots of love thrown in for good measure

Janene xxx

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Curtain call for the Martini!

capital chic martini front

Sadly this is my first and very likely my last post of December. But I’m not going to duff myself up because… it’s Chriiiiiissssstmaaaaasssss!

Just one more day of work to go. I repeat, just one more day day of work. Excited? Me? Yes siree. But also determined to hold that wonderful thought and not to get stressed out that I’ve not yet scratched the surface of my shopping list nor yet contemplated what is to appear on the Christmas dinner table!

But let’s get priorities in order. Let’s blog this latest outfit of mine. This two-piece garment of brilliance that’s been so patiently waiting in my inbox! It’s the Martini pattern by the very cool and talented Sally of Capital Chic. I’ve been a fan of her amazing Charity Shop Chic refashions for like aaaages so when she asked if I’d be interested in trying out one of her new patterns I was flattered beyond belief. It just took me a hundred years to get round to finding the absolute perfect fabric to do it justice!

So just how delighted do you think I was to find this amazing set of vintage bark cloth curtains with ‘Martini’ written all over them!!

vintage bark cloth curtains

They were peeking out behind a rail of really naff shiny peachy curtains in Snoopers Paradise, Brighton. I’d almost given up hope of finding any vintage fabric at all. And as I gave one last despairing glance backwards, there they were, glowing, calling me. I literally ran back like a crazy woman, in case anyone else spotted them before me and whipped them out like my life depended on them. Nostalgia screamed from every thread. I’m pretty damned sure we had these curtains in our living room when I was a kid!

Here’s a little intro to Snoopers Paradise if you haven’t had the pleasure…

I think I might possibly be a professional snooper!

And oh the beautiful irony that this pair of the coolest curtains were to be refashioned into a Capital Chic outfit designed by the queen of charity shop chic, herself!

And so they became my Martini. Why oh why isn’t bark cloth made any more? It sews like a dream, it doesn’t crease, it presses beautifully, it has body and holds its shape, and washes like a dream. I think I am actually in love with this fabric. The colour too, actually. I knew I loved it, lairy as it was, but I’ve had at least three random people comment on how ‘very me’ this lime green is. And there’s me thinking I’m all red and black!!

This is probably my most impressive invisible zip insertion to date. Once again, Thank you for all the advice on my invisible foot purchase. How ever did I manage without it?! The zip totally sinks into the centre seam of the back skirt. And the top has a separating zip. I so love that there’s always something new to learn about sewing. This is the first time I’ve ever had to shop for one of these, let alone sew one on a garment!

capital chic martini close up back

The construction of this two-piece is very simple if you pay attention to every word of the carefully presented instructions. I say this only because I’m definitely one for skipping an instruction or two and thinking I know better. But Sally knows her onions and her technique for sewing an all in one lined bodice is genius, as is her explanation on how to line a vent in the back of a skirt.

The waist is high on the skirt as you can see and is supported by bones sewn to the darts and the seams in the lining (which makes for six). But if I had to add one thing to those instructions, it would be to file those bones more roundy at the top, because boy do they dig in if you don’t sit up straight or lean over without hoiking up your skirt!

Also, The top worked out surprisingly short. Totally my fault for not toilling and so I defo need to add an inch or two next time. I’m no spring chicken and I’m not sure that the world needs to be exposed to any amount of my midriff so I sewed an inch of ‘modesty lace’ to the hem. That said I’m still horrified by the amount of skin that still shows. I’m hoping that this is because the lens was low!

capital chic martini front

I love the cutaway armholes in the top. Even if they do highlight the squidgy bits of my arms. But I will go a size up next time to lessen the squeeze. The beauty of this two-piece design is that you can have a totally separate size top to bottom. Which is what I am. You could also add a contrasting colour top to bottom as Thumbelnina did. and if you were really clever you’d make two or three sets that you could mix and match!

Watch out crazy curtains…. I’m on a mission and I’m coming after ya, big time!

capital chic martini back

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ooobop’s 20 ways to boost your SEWJO!

20 ways to boost your sewjo

You know how it is. One minute – all guns blazing, knocking out capsule wardrobes like they’re going out of fashion, the next – it’s all gone. Just like that. At the drop of a hat. You know – that thing that’s sent to try us – our sewjo!

So how DO we kick start the enthusiasm that was? Read on for some inspirational ideas to get those feed dogs chomping at the bit and hungry for more!

1. RTW window shopping

Have a wander round some local high street fashion stores and remind yourself why handmade and slow-fashion refashions are a far better way forward. Dodgy hems; crap fabric; poor fit; not forgetting the ethical issues… need I go on? But do take what IS on offer: Clock the styles you like, the colours and the closures, note the shapes, the trims, the sleeves, and burn them to your memory or better still, take a cheeky picture of two and store for future reference 😉

2. Pinterest

It’s an old fashioned concept in a digital format and it’s used by millions. Just search for inspiration and there’ll be a board ‘with your name on it’. I made a board called #inspirational fashion to post every thing I’d love to make, or be able to make! Make your own mood boards to pin or repin your favourite fashion finds, tutorials or sewing tips. And have a nosey on other peoples boards. But do be warned. This activity is highly addictive!

3. Movie Makes

Chill out! Where’s the fire? Remember it’s a hobby and the only deadlines imposed are callously created by you. So relax. Watch a movie. One with a prominent wardrobe! I personally like the oldies. As aforementioned, Shirley Maclaine in The Yellow Rolls Royce; Pick an Audrey Hepburn movie, Roman Holiday, Breakfast at Tiffany’s in fact any one you like or Marilyn if she’s your thing: Some Like it Hot and The Seven Year Itch are my faves. And Madmen is always flavour of the month. There’s a reason my Joan dress came about! The Devil Wears Prada, Sex and the City, Titanic…. there’s an endless supply and Netflix is mostly your best friend.

4. Glossy Mags

What do we look for first in a glossy mag? The fashion, of course. I confess that I rarely part with hard cash for a hard copy but a sesh at my hairdressers or any other waiting room becomes such a treat when theres a pile of them for your personal perusal. Vogue, Elle, Grazia, Marie Claire, all those high-end, sharp-edged glossies don’t scrimp when it comes to drool-worthy styling and photography. Dior, Chanel, McCartney and McQueen… they’ve got a top-paying ad after every article to fund fund them so no expense is spared. Re-snap those shots, Instagram them, Pin them, take notes in Evernote. You will feel the fire burning in your belly with every click! (I will have this dress!)

5. Meet up for real

Plan a meet up with sewing blogger pals in real life. It is so good for the soul and infinitely good for your sewjo. (I feel it prudent to warn about online safety issues but I’m assuming we are all grown ups) Like-minded sewing people understand. Friends and partners and children do their best. That’s the difference. Last Wednesday I spent the most pleasurable lunch hour with the wonderful Jax Black aka Mrs Bee Vintage. We talked without breathing, about a gazillion things sewing-related and I went home a far happier and inspired bunny. Most recommended – I swear by it!

6. Rummage and marriage

When was the last time you had a proper rummage in that fabric stash of yours? I mean a proper one, whereby you take every last piece out of every single box – one by one – spread it, stroke it, love it, admire it with a tilty head, ponder for a while, fold it up, and put it back again? Try simultaneously matching pieces with patterns in your collection and see if you can marry them together. I guarantee there’ll be a match made in heaven, you’ll see.

7. What’s on in your area?

Check out any exhibitions or fashion exhibits at local museums. Any period, any style, it really doesn’t matter. Better in fact to make a small departure from your usual comfort zone to trigger something afresh. And just take the time to study, properly. Close up and personal. I am so priviledged to have the V&A, The Fashion and Textile Museum at my beck and call. Handmade Jane and I spent a wonderful afternoon at the Fashion and Textile Museum, there in our white gloves inspecting the guts of such beautiful designer dresses as Chanel and Dior and Balenciaga. The workshop was Couture Inside Out –1950s Paris and London. Art galleries too: National Portrait and Tate galleries for instance. There is just as much fashion inspiration in a renaissance painting as there is on a glossy centre spread. (Just Google ‘renaissance paintings’, o ye of little faith.!) I love the silence of such places, the calm and the space. And more importantly how you get stripped of all niggling distractions the minute you walk through the door. It is proper therapy, I’m telling ya! And you will return to your machine, renewed and inspired.

8. Read all about it!

There’s a world of inspirational reading out there. Finding it is sometimes tricky. But when you do and it lights that spark that was struggling to flicker, the feeling is priceless. I have a few titles I’d like to mention: The Pink Suit by Nicole Mary Kelby as recommended by Didyoumakethat; Vivienne Westwood by Vivienne Westwood, totally recommended by me; The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham (very soon to be screened in the UK) and Mrs Harris Goes to Paris by Paul Gallico as recommended by Dolly Clackett. Outside of the autobiographies and stories, you may want to seek inspiration from some of our favourite household bloggers: Tilly’s Love at First Stitch: Demystifying Dressmaking, Gerties Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book: A Modern Guide to Sewing Fabulous Vintage Styles, Lisa Comfort’s Sew Over It VintageAnd when theres no ‘Bee’ on the telly, Claire Louise Hardy’s The Great British Sewing Bee: Fashion with Fabric feeds us some great challenges instead. I confess it’s been a shamefully long time since I set foot in my local library but the craft section is usually a cosy corner worth visiting and you get all that eye candy for free! But if finding time to read is tricky as it often is for me then Audible is definitely the way forward. This wonderful app has made it possible to me to listen to a book on the tube, at work, whilst jogging, in bed, in fact whereever and whenever you bleedin’ like!

9. Podcasts

A podcast is effectively an independently made radio show. And I always forget how good these are. My first intro to podcasts was Threadcult. Christine Cyr Clisset of Daughter Fish has such a natural interviewing technique and her content is varied and always inspiring. Tilly recommends Modern Sewciety. I love hearing how others got started, what fires them up and how far they’ve come. Seamwork Radio is a relatively new one but Sarai is a natural! Just like Audio books, you can listen on the go.

10. Join the club!

My first and my best and still my most favourite go-to sewing community is Burdastyle. I tentatively posted my first project on there before I knew anyone or very much about sewing. And I never looked back. The support and inspiration you get from such a world is amazing. Free patterns, great inspiration from other sewing people of every sewing level, the ability to interact and get feedback –and for FREE – is worth every minute invested. Other groups that spring to mind are Sewing Pattern Review, which does exactly what it says on the tin. A great place to check out a project before you get stuck in to your own; WeSewRetro which is my favourite resource for vintage and retro submissions and more recently The Foldline, a new, exciting and rapidly growing community of which I have recently signed up to. Join me here!

11. Fabric heaven

Take a trip to your local fabric store(s). No online store substitutes the therapy induced by real-life feeling and stroking and stretching (only in secret) and sniffing of fabrics. What? You don’t do that? Only me then! Allow yourself time. Wander slowly. Looking up, down, left and right AND behind the counter. AND move the front rolls to get to the back rolls. That all important fabric is waiting just for you. For that all important garment that you know nothing about just yet. But when it happens, its going to be jaw-dropping, show-stopping, envy-inducing. All you have to do is browse and let your imagination do it’s stuff.

12. Old news is good news

Who throws old copies of sewing/crafting magazines away? Not me! And I’ll take a wild guess at not you either! Put the kettle on, slip into your favourite jammies, blow off the dust and pile them at your feet. A cuppa and a browse of a Burda Style mag or two is guaranteed to inspire an idea or ten. If you are one of those less hoardie types I’m sure you don’t need a nod, but there are a gazillion great mags on the shelves of Smiths lately. SewLove Sewing, Sewing World, and Threads to name a few UK titles. Sign up and look forward to that monthly thud on your doormat. And then you can have piles like mine!

13. List lovers

Keep a running list of projects you’d love to make. Either digitally or the old-fashioned pen and ink way. Even if looks like you’ll never get a minute to yourself to follow through. You just never know when that moment will happen and when it does you will be prepared to seize the day with an inspired to-do list. Keep it on your person for when you are perusing the aisles of your favourite fabric store. It’s a penny-dropping moment in the making! If you’re bored of seeing the same old, same old on your list then rub it out and add something new!

14. Fashionary fashion

This is a fabulous little thing that I just love to have in my handbag at all times. It’s effectively a book full of naked croquis (body outlines) for you to create your own designs. Bring it out in your lunch hour; Have a go on the tube; whenever inspiration strikes sketch a garment on a pre drawn croqui. After all, that’s the hardest part, isn’t it? Drawing the croqui, that is.  I got mine from the V&A shop. Amazon stocks a slightly different version too. Or if you’d rather spend your money on fabric you could draw and photocopy your own croqui by tracing a photo of yourself, preferably in your undies so that you have a true representation of your silhouette. You could then photocopy multiple pages to form your own very personalised Fashionary-style book!

15. Party time!

Do you have an exciting event coming up? A birthday party, perhaps; a wedding; anniversary or just a blow out with a mate next month? Then picture yourself making your entrance in that amazing outfit you’ve been making in your head for months. The reception is raptuous and your pride is bursting at the seams. So do it. You can. And you will have that dress. And boy it will feel good.

16. Up the Tube

You Tube is a fabulous source for tutorials. My go-to for sure. If your sewjo is ever stuck in a rut because you can’t solve a problem, there’s a wealth of knowledge and selfless help out there just for you. And it’s mostly visual – no reading – which is always a win for me. I’m forever grateful that someone, somewhere in the world has hit upon the same issue and has the answer, a visual one. One I can pause and watch again and again, till it totally sinks in! You can subscribe to your favourite channels and keep up to date with your favourite teachers. And its all FREE!

17. Sign up

Join a class. Improve your skills. Learn a new technique. Meet some like-minded sewing people and make new friends. Have a look at your local authority adult-education classes, they’ll be the cheapest, or Google some private classes in your area. There’s plenty of classes in London  but feel free to add any from your local area in the comments below. My London suggestions are: Thrifty Stitcher, Sew Over It, London Fashion and textile Museum, Morley College, Badger and Earl, Tilly and the Buttons… If the going out bit is the issue there are plenty of brilliant online courses on offer too: Try Craftsy, Burdastyle Academy, or Angela Kane for starters.

18. Bloggers delight

I know this sounds blindingly obvious but actively follow the posts other sewing bloggers. Read about their experiences. Ask them appropriate questions. Tap into their enthusiasm and build yours. It’s what we’re here for!

19. Better to give…

If you are stuck for something to make for yourself, make someone else’s day! I’m all for selfish-sewing but once in a while it’s a great fix to make for a small child or a rellie or a neighbour instead. And it doesn’t have to be a garment. Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries… there’s always an occasion for a quick fix crafting project. Or just rustle up some stand-by pressies for the hellovit! A quick Google gets you any amount of free patterns. Bags, ties, toys, aprons, napkins, headphone cases, purses, hats… I could go on!

20. Never let go

Be your own inspiration. Remind yourself of how far you’ve come, why you sew and what you do it for. Was it the fit? The relaxation that ensued? The social side? Or the endless possibilities for the most amazing wardrobe of garments ever?! Just take a moment to reflect on the best thing you ever made. How did it make you feel? What more did you want to achieve then? Just do it, why don’t ya? Or take a break. You can do that too. Because as scratchy as we get, we’ve come so far there’s actually not much chance of going back. Sewing just gets hold of us by the short and curlies… and never lets go!

I do hope this post has been a helpful nudge in the right direction. Please share any of your other ideas by commenting below and by reposting or Tweeting to any fellow sewing people who’s sewjo may be in need of a boost.

What are your favourite movies, your best books or your most recommended courses? Where do you go to get your fashion fixes? We’d all love to know please!

Happy sewing my lovelies! x

 

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Joan dress: not so little, not so jumpy

Joan dress front view

When I first heard of the Joan Dress, by Sew Over It, the first thing that entered my head was a nursery rhyme I remembered as a child, from the Ladybird book of Nursery Rhymes. It went like this:

Here am I
Little jumping Joan
When nobody’s with me
I’m all alone

Not particular ground-breaking stuff but that poem coupled with this awesomely terrifying illustration has stayed with me ever since!

Little Jumping Joan

Clearly I wasn’t purely channelling Joan from Madmen !

I’ve been after a classic dress for some time and I do believe that this one totally fits the bill whilst still fuelling my lust for vintage.  I used a green wool crepe, underlined with a silk organza and fully lined with a gold lining, all from stash. I don’t usually happen to keep a supply of such luxurious fabrics, moreover it was reserved for another dress which I am still a bit too scared to attempt! But it has been hanging along for too long now and in any case saved me a trip to the shops!

The leaf-buckle belt I made is just the icing on the cake (whilst disguising the fractional misalignment of darts… shhh!):

close up of leaf buckle belt

Now I will let you into a little not-so-secret, secret. Fully underlining a dress (excepting the sleeves), especially if you’ve limited the ease, means you can’t jump, you can barely sit, nor eat, forget picking up anything you’ve just dropped or even attempting to zip up the last couple of inches… oh and sneezing is a no no for sure! Needless to say this is the first time and most probably the last time I will do this, unless of course I have no reason to attempt the latter.

Joan’s first outing was to the Foldline‘s launch party at Sew Over It, Islington where I met the lovely Lisa in person. Such a gorgeous shop and such a talented lady. I explained the issues I had created for myself and Lisa politely explained that silk organza is used in corsetry for just those holdy-in kind of reasons! So I had kind of corsetted my whole body! There were so many yummy snacks on the table and I just daren’t!

Joan Dress profile

There was, however, a method in my madness. I had made a dress in wool crepe once before – Vogue V8280 in fact – and I had only lined the skirt in a thin silk lining. Although the wool crepe fabric was good quality it creased like Billy-o every time I sat down. I also found it a bit too drapey on it’s own to hold any structure for a pencil skirt. And then I had a silk organza lightbulb moment.

I still stand by my reasonings for underlining the skirt. It worked and looks far better than the other one did but I would definitely need more ease in the top half if I were ever to underline a bodice again!

The whole process of underlining wasn’t as daunting as I’d previously thought. In fact I quite enjoyed it. I traced the pattern onto the silk organza pieces using an air erasable pen. The funny thing is, I did the tracing on one evening, forgetting the magic qualities of said pen and put the pieces to one side to be continued the following evening. Well you can guess the rest… doh!

air erasable pen

So after I’d retraced the pieces, I pinned and then basted the pieces to the wool crepe. Strangely satisfying! I also basted the darts which made for easy sewing of–!

underlining with silk organza

Basting done, I cut out the main fabric and sewed all the pieces as per instructions, which incidentally were very clear and concise.

I do so love the little neck-tie detail, making it all things Joanie. The little collar effect at the back of the neck too. I especially like how the wool crepe behaved for this. It was definitely the right fabric for the job. I am also in love with my zipper insertion! Nowadays I don’t even attempt an invisible zipper without my invisible zipper foot. Can you see my zipper? Can you? No? Oh jolly good! Boy does that please my tiny mind!!

Joan Dress back view

You may also notice that I made a pleat at the back rather than a slit. I’m not very ladylike when it comes to an open vent and nine times out of ten I will rip it. Nothing to do with me not being arsed to fathom the instructions at all… honest, guv!! 😉

Well, I’m guessing there may be a couple of comments regarding the shoes. Bought by Mr O of course. Another of his amazing, jealousy-fuelling qualities is that he adores shoe-shopping… for me! And he gets it right all the time. They are from Iron Fist and are the Sugar Hiccup, teal and black with glitter skull. I can’t actually walk in them very far, it may not surprise you to know. But they look darned good and they are a very lucky match for Joan!

Iron Fist shoes

And no, of course I didn’t manage to reach that leaf!

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Leaf buckle fabric belt and how I made it

leaf buckle belt

One of the many selling points of a vintage-style dress is the addition of a matching or co-ordinated fabric belt with a cute buckle. But as much as I love the look, I’ve always gone for the belt-free view just to avoid the extra work. What a shirker!

Until now that is. Until I made the Sew Over It Joan Dress. Apologies up front for the lack of said Joan shots but Mr O has done a bunk again and left me void of quality photography services. She’s all class is Joan, and no selfie is going to cut it, I’m afraid. Hoping to nab some shots in the next few days, though.

I found this cute little buckle, at my first visit to the Hammersmith Vintage Fair a few years ago. I’m not entirely sure how old it is or what it’s made of but it’s a weighty metal, inlayed with tiny turquoise and teal mosaic pieces. Shamefully I don’t even know what kind of leaf it is. Sycamore, grape vine? Any Girl Guides out there? It’s not cannabis thank goodness. That would be far too tacky!

The eureka moment to use it came in tandem with another when I remembered the lovely jade green wool crepe I’d squirrelled away for a vintage Hardy Amies number that I (ahem) put into Karen’s (DidYouMakeThat) Sewlution Jar just as many moons ago. So what a result. A pattern gifted by the lovely Alex at Sew Over It, perfect fabric in stash plus the prize jewel of a perfectly coordinated buckle!

So here’s how I made it. . .

Materials:

Fabric (waist measurement plus 4 inches x width to fit in buckle, plus seam allowance)

A length of Petersham waistband stiffener, 1 inch shy of fabric length and width to match

Velcro

matching thread.

 

Instructions:

With right sides together, pin fabric along the length, marking a gap either side of the centre point for turning. Sew along length with a regular stitch and then change to a longer length stitch or basting stitch for the gap:

pin fabric along length

Trim seam but leave the full allowance along the basted section:

trim seam allowance

Roll the seam from the edge to the centre of the tube and press the seams open:

press seam open

Unpick the central basting stitches to open the gap:

unpick stitching at gap

Turn the tube right side out, pulling each end through the central gap. You can do this by attaching a safety pin at one end and pulling through or if you don’t have one already, I wholly advise you to get one of these loop-turners! You just clip one open end and push the fabric over itself, like so:

loop turner

Give a good press, making sure that seam stays open and pressing the gap closed too.

 

give a good press

Insert the Petersham belt stiffener by attaching a large safety pin to one end and feeding through the central opening to one end. Repeat for the other end.

insert petersham belt stiffener

Ladder stitch the central and end openings closed and give another press:

ladder stitch

Top stitch on the right side. I find the stitch-in-the-ditch foot works a treat for this:

stitch in the ditch foot

Take a moment to admire said top-stitching. It’s the little things, you know! 😉

topstitching

Fold over and hand sew one end to the buckle. All buckles differ but same in principle:

attach one end to buckle

The next step is totally unsympathetic to any vintage techniques but I make no apologies because it works for me. I hand-sewed velcro to the other end to make it adjustable:

attach velcro

It’s foresight you see. There’ll be a few Christmas dinners before the year is out and I’m erring on the side of caution. Should have been a Girl Guide!

Hope you found this tutorial of some use I’ll be back soon to show how it in situ, on Joan!

TTFN x

 

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