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


Share the joy

Read More

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!

Share the joy

Read More

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. . .


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


matching thread.



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! 😉


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!



Share the joy

Read More

Vintage western shirt #3… of the linen kind


70s shirt Butterick 5007

It’s been a while since I made Mr Ooobop something. Quite shameful really for all the lovely photos he takes for me. So I’m delighted to have finally finished his latest shirt. And he loves it, thankfully!

The hardest bit for me was being back behind the camera again. Well out of practice I was. But luckily Dan has more patience than me and was very obliging as I got him to mill around on Barnes common!

This is the third version I’ve made from the same pattern – Butterick 5007 – A 70s men’s western shirt.  The kind of shirt you have to imagine beyond the pattern pic:

butterick 5007 pattern cover

Mr O is quite good at that. Non-conformist to a T for Taurus he is, and believes very firmly that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. So all that needed to be altered this time was the choice of fabric. The flowery fabric used in the last shirt I made him was gorgeous but faded so quickly in the wash. Such a shame. So he chose this gorgeous black linen with embroidered details.

butterick 5007 shirt

When we came to buy the fabric. I didn’t think I would have a problem with pattern matching because the little embroidered motifs were quite sparse but that’s where I massively slipped up. Didn’t really consider placement, did I…doh!

Placement isn’t really that difficult if you take time and consider each piece and where it’s going to sit with the adjoining pieces, of course, but when you’ve purchased only just enough fabric for the job and it was end of roll, it creates a problem or ten.

You can move the pieces around to work as much as you like but sometimes that ain’t very economical and you end up short of material for all the pieces. Luckily enough I had some spare plain black linen floating around because what was left didn’t leave suitable areas for the cuffs, collar stands and one of the pockets. I also used some of the plain stuff for the underside of the pocket flaps.

butterick 5007 mens shirt

It’s a close-fitting shirt, which required a bit of fitting but that was done on the first version, which incidentally has disappeared from my blog but here’s a pic of it. I just love the vintage Laura Ashley curtain fabric I rescued here. The beard, not so much!

B5007 with double bass

In all cases, the pointed collar is large. He likes it that way. But I did include a stiffer facing this time so it is even more exaggerated!

The back and front yokes are cut on the bias. Fine for the back but I did some serious head-scratching on the placement decisions for the front yokes. In my head I wanted the design flipped and symmetrical. Why my brain couldn’t let it lie I have no idea!

70s shirt back yoke

70s shirt front yokes

I love how the above picture shows the texture of the linen. It is one of my favourite fabrics to work with. And I’m told it feels great and is dead comfy to wear too! Also shows up some of the painstaking topstitching. I had clearly forgotten just how long this takes. It can’t be rushed. And I couldn’t do it at night-time. Sewing black on black with stupid crap low energy ethical lightbulbs is not good for anyone’s health. So I’m glad I waited for weekend daylight hours to get a neat job.

You can’t see from these photos, and you probably wouldn’t have noticed in real-life and close up either, but I interfaced the cuffs and button band in a white fusible woven interfacing. French stuff. Great quality in fact. But when I cut the button holes it was a little irritating to see the white edges. So I got my Sharpie out and coloured them in… shhhh!

The buttons aren’t an exact match for the blue in the embroidery which bugs a bit but I’m keeping eyes peeled for a closer colour. They can always be replaced at a later date. But I so wish I’d put the buttons on the other side of the cuff. Mr O doesn’t often do his cuffs up so you don’t get to see them side on!

70s shirt shaped hemline

He also doesn’t like to tuck a shirt in much. And so it’s great that the shaped hemline gets a showcase. I used a bias tape to finish the edge because I forgot to lengthen it again I much prefer how it looks.

B5007 in black linen

It was really lovely to catch an hour or so of the sunshine in Barnes, today and especially lovely to spend a little time with this fella. We’ve been like passing ships lately. And he’s off again now to do a gig in Kent! So what’s a girl to do? Crack open a bottle and crank up the sewing machine I guess! Tough life on a Sunday afternoon, hey!

70s western shirt for men

Happy sewing, everyone!


Share the joy

Read More

Vintage Butterick clutch cape

butterick 2556 clutch cape

Until I found the pattern for this I didn’t even realise there was such a thing let alone that I wanted one so much! On Googling ‘clutch cape’ one is presented with all manner of cape styles accessorised with a clutch bag but only one or two images of a vintage pattern oh and one fox fur version for a snip at $1,285.00! I can only assume it came into being and then disappeared from the world of fashion in a puff of smoke through lack of demand.

Well of course, that makes me love it even more!

butterick 2556 clutch cape pattern

The idea is that you can rest your hands in the naturally forming pockets where the shawl collar meets the hem. It is also the only way of holding it on in gusty weather as there is no other system of closure. But even without such gusts it does sit in place quite nicely due to the shaping of the shoulders.

There’s not much choice to be had in the Goldhawk Road faux fur range at the moment. I am assured that it arrives in October. But I don’t have patience of saints and I settled on this textured black fur fabric at £14.99/m. It only takes 1.25 yds but I bought 1.25m to be on the safe side and it was plenty enough. I like the pattern of the texture and it is actually quite silky for being faux.

butterick 2556 clutch cape

There’s some dart shaping on the fronts and back piece which you wont be able to see of course. And there is interfacing sewn into the collar to give a little structure. And so that if I want to look like a wicked stepmother it will stand up and stay up!

Youngest daughter tried to halt plans by saying it was plain weird and even Mr O made noises about me looking like Basil Brush. But they know full well that those kind of comments just roll off my feathered back!

butterick 2556 clutch cape back view

There is very little to construct and therefore it was very simple to make up, however I had to re-read the instructions to make sure I hadn’t missed anything re the lining insertion. The lining consists of the front and back pieces sewn in the same way; sewn together at the hemline, with right sides facing and then, having pressed the seam allowance all round, hand-stitched to the cape. Of course the problem that caused was that the lining was visible at the hemline. It needs to be shorter.

So, given my ever growing annoyance for things I’ve not done properly, I dutifully unpicked it (which is no mean feat if you’ve ever stitched lining to fur with small stitches!) and chopped off the seam allowance from the hemline and reattached. I could have gone half an inch more to be on the safe side but that seems to have done the trick.

It’s perfect for days like today, deceivingly sunny with a sneaky chill in the air. I haven’t begun any autumnal sewing yet and my polka dot Flora dress most certainly would not have got an outing today with bare shoulders. And it wouldn’t look out of place with an evening gown or ‘casualled’ down with a pair of jeans if that’s what takes your fancy.

butterick 2556 clutch cape front

In an effort to find a location with no gawping passers-by, these photos were taken down the side of Shepherds Bush Empire. I knew this building was quite old, built in 1903 in fact, but didn’t know that of all the acts performed there, Charlie Chaplin was one of them!

I was just saying to Mr O how sewing and blogging and photography has changed how we have taken notice of our surroundings. There is so much history to be had, right on our very doorstep!

Share the joy

Read More

So totally Made Up with this dress!

Burda 0315 maxi dress on the lawn

Marylin Manson gig is a couple of months away so I’ve got plenty of time for make up and hair but the dress needed to be made in time for Karen’s Made Up Initiative September deadline. And by George, I did it with 10 days to spare!

I love how that little charity challenge had me think on my toes and come up with the goods quicker than I usually do. And I love how it made me think out of my usual box too.

walking in burda maxi dress

This is an unusual maxi dress from Burda Style mag. Well, unusual for me! I previewed the contents of that March 2015 issue as I do sometimes, to selfishly earmark things I would like to make so that I don’t have to physically rummage through the hundreds (tens) of actual issues on the shelf. And it paid off once again.

The hankerchief hem is what gives this dress its character. It’s effectively a square skirt drafted onto a fitted bodice. And works beautifully with stripes, or the horizontal pleats in this fabric, to highlight the draping sides.

hankerchief hem

The bodice has a lovely fit too with some long diagonal bust darts for shaping. Sorry, no chance of seeing them. They are totally cammo’d!

The fabric I chose isn’t your regular jersey, as Burda suggests, but it has just as much across-stretch which meant no need for zips or closures. Result! It’s black with splashes of silver dye/paint across it and the aforementioned horizontal pleats add a great texture to the overall design.

As you can see, I omitted the sleeves. I really liked the almost raglan seamline and wanted to retain that shape.  To do this I raised the top of the under arm seam by 1″ and just redrew the curve of the armhole. That left a very narrow shoulder seam of course but that’s what I loved about it. There was a facing piece for the neckline, I just had to draw one for the armholes given no sleeves. But having done that I realised there would be a clash of facings so I faced both armholes and neckline simply with black bias binding instead. It was a breeze and finished it off so neatly.

ooobop standing by waterfall

I didn’t have to overlock the inside seams because this completely unnatural fabric doesn’t even fray. Incidentally I didn’t even hem it for the same reason. Just made sure the hemline was a fold line of one of the pleats!

walking away in the maxi dress

Instructions were given to sew the in-seam pockets after the rest of the dress was put together, leaving the pocket holes unstitched. Bit odd I thought but not unreasonable. The only unreasonable thing was how exactly my brain responded to that. First I couldn’t decide what way round the pockets got to sit and then, because I’d decided the underside of the fabric would be the inside of the pockets, I can’t tell you how much of a sweat that brought on!!

Burda maxi dress by the riverside

I did consider leaving them out altogether… whilst having the first of the hissy fits. But then I considered how this would be a brilliant back-up camping maxi dress. And that meant it had to have pockets for matches, torch, bottle opener etc. See, to all who doubt, I can be forward thinking when I want to be!

ooobop standing by a waterfall

And that was really the only fiddly bit. Yes I know now how daft that sounds. But if I were to have used an ordinary fabric, say jersey, as Burda suggested, it would have been a total doddle!

I’m sure you’ve already guessed that the talented Mr O took these pics. Most impressively, I might add following his return from three consecutive gigs this weekend, in the pouring rain, on pretty much nought sleep! He’s a keeper! 😉

burda maxi dress shot overexposed

Share the joy

Read More

A good cause and some odd fabric

manson dress in progress

I’m sure, by now you must have heard about Karen’s (Didyoumakethat) Made Up Initiative, a brilliant scheme to fundraise for the National Literacy Trust. And by the looks of it, heaps of you have signed up already: 114 donations to date and £1,224 so far.

As much as I’d like to partake, sewing challenges, blog hops and other sewing teasers don’t get much of a presence on my pages, mostly because of time restraints but also because I just like to do my own thing in my own time. I’ve got deadlines coming out of my ears on a daily basis and to self-inflict any more would be ridic!

But, and this is a big BUT for sure… this challenge is different. It relates to a industry where I am strongly connected and brings both work and personal pleasures together. I can’t bear the thought that children be deprived of such a basic life skill especially in this country. Access to books and help with reading should be a given, not just for the privileged. The National Literacy Trust helps to make this happen, all the while inspiring and motivating children to read for enjoyment by engaging them in fun and exciting workshops.

So what have I pledged? It’s an odd one. Not one of my run of the mill vintage makes, not a boring pencil skirt for sure; no quilt block (even though the last one I made was in January!), no funny hats and I need a little recovery time from the Boer War jacket already…

It’s a new dress for me to wear to a Marylin Manson gig coming up in November! And there’s a few birds being killed with this Made Up stone!

I’m working with this very odd fabric. It’s a hundred percent synthetic, don’t you know. With a bit of elastine thrown in for good measure. Kind of pleated with splashes of silver paint thrown all over it. No prissy prints for Marylin, oh no! I found it in A-One Fabrics at least four or five months ago and have always wondered what I could do with it. Little Miss O has presented me ‘that’ screwed up face and steered me with a ‘walk away from the goth fabric’ grab of the arm each and every time. But I literally went running back to the shop when I found this damned good reason for it.

The pattern? Drum roll… It’s a Burda pattern at long bleedin’ last. From Burda Style March 2015. I’ve been longing to work with another Burda pattern. The only draw back is the pain of tracing the wretched thing but when I think about it, I trace to preserve most of my vintage ones, so it’s no different really. If you can get over the spaghetti junction of other lines set to confuse you!

It will look kinda like this but with no sleeves…

burda maxidress 03 2015

I’ve made a wee start. And already realised that I’d overlooked the pain in the backside bit which is the matching of the ribbons. This is the back centre seam. Not done very well!

centre back seam

I hope to make some headway today. It looks like a doddle but I’m not going to count my chickens just yet!

Has the Made Up Initiative inspired you to make something new?

Share the joy

Read More

Make a PINsentry card reader case


Barclays PINsentry case

It’s one of those annoying but imperative things that live in the bottom of my handbag. Forced to live there because I need it, always: The PINsentry machine. But the trouble is, there’s all sorts of other stuff residing at the bottom of that bag too: bobby-pins, small coins, powder-puffs, crumbs… you get the picture. And these things are not conducive for a healthy device. It’ll get sick and at somepoint refuse to recognise my card at the most crucial time. Two previous ones have already met with their demise. In justified protest, no doubt.

So after all these years, I decided to do the honourable thing and replace the obligatory deflated bubble-wrap protector for something slightly more glamourous. And I have decided for the good of the nations PINsentry card readers to detail each step in the making so you can give yours a better future too.

Please note that this size fits the regular Barclays Bank PINsentry machine for other sizes you will need to adjust the template.


  • 2 small pieces of fabric each measuring at least 320mm x 160mm
    (1 kind for the outer, 1 contrasting piece for the lining)
    I cut mine from Cath Kidston fat quarters
  • Small piece of wadding (final size: 212mm x 137mm)
  • Choice of closure: velcro, button or press stud
  • Matching thread

Step 1

Print out the template from the link here: PINsentry_machine_case_pattern (making sure you print it at actual size) and cut the following pieces from your fabric:
1 x case outer in main fabric
1 x case lining
1 x wadding piece
1 x flap outer in main fabric
1 x flap lining

pieces for pinsentry case

Step 2

With right sides together, sew flap pieces together with 1.5cm seam allowance, leaving the top edge open as shown in (A) below. Trim the edges close to the stitching (B).


Flap construction

Turn the right side out and press. Top-stitch a quarter inch from edge, all round, excluding top edge.

flap topstitched

Step 3

Position the flap with right sides facing to the outer fabric piece as shown below. The flap should sit 20mm in from the left side. Sew along the top, inside the seam allowance. About quarter inch from the top edge.

flap to outer

Step 4:

Now to make a ‘sandwich’ of all the pieces! Following the image below, first place the wadding on the bottom, then your outer case piece with the flap attached, and lastly your lining piece, face down on top.

Stitch all pieces together along the top edge as shown.

fabric sandwich


Fold back the lining piece  and give a good press.

top edge sewn

Trim the wadding so it doesn’t extend past the fabric edges. And also trim the wadding close to the stitching on the reverse seam as below, right.

trim the wadding

Step 5

Fold the assembled pieces over – right sides facing – to make one long tube with lining at one end and the wadding at the other as shown below.  Make sure the central seam matches:

fold over assembled pieces

Now stitch all round, leaving a gap to turn through in the bottom of the lining as shown by the black line below:

stitch all round

Trim seams all round, close to stitching but don’t trim the fabric above the opening (C).

Clip and then ‘box’ the corners of the end with the wadding, as show below (D). Just sew diagonally half a cm or so in from the point.

trim leave opening

Step 6

It’s getting exciting now! Turn through, give a light pressing and sew the open end of the lining closed. You can slip stitch by hand or just machine stitch over the end as no one will ever see inside!

turn through and close end

Push the lining inside the outer case and admire those box corners!

right side out

Step 7

All that’s left to do is to hand sew some velcro or closure of choice and snuggle your PINsentry machine safely inside.

velcro finish


Sure beats a dilapidated placcy bag!

PINsentry machine

Little things like this make me smile and this little thing is no exception. There’s something quite cleansing about stepping away from the larger projects (I’m looking at you, Boer War Jacket) to get a sewing hit from the smaller ones.

But don’t worry. I’m not ditching the bigger stuff. Oh no! Just procrastinating…. just a little! 😉


Share the joy

Read More

Plans for this Boer War jacket

Boer War Jacket Project
This jacket has seen better days. Though it can be forgiven for it’s ripe old age of 110 years or so. It’s an authentic British, Boer War military jacket. And it’s in need of a bit of love. The owner assures me it sees him through many a British summer festival period and so a bodge job on the lining will do.

But I can’t do a bodge job, can I? Not like what he means. It’s not in me. It might be a bodge job as defined by the thousands of tailors and historians that are currently whispering plans to send me to sewing hell (if such a place exists). But I’m going to do my best.

I state ‘plans’ in the loosest sense of the word. I actually haven’t got much of a clue. But I’ve decided to fly in the face of criticism and go with gut.

Externally it’s grubby. Very grubby, but, that’s mostly it. That red wool is sturdy stuff! It’s incredibly dense and felted, I’m sure. And there is not a single tear or hole in it anywhere. The collar however, is mostly dilapidated and detached and there is an epaulet missing. I’ve got fingers crossed that it’s missing at the back of Kev’s wardrobe somewhere.

It’s the inside that’s a mess. The silk lining and parts of the padding is ripped to shreds and that is the main issue.

Incidentally, here’s an interesting fact for you. Did you know, that the reason these jackets were lined with silk, wasn’t to be all posh-like. It was so that if and when a soldier were to be stabbed with a sword or dagger, the silk lining would wrap itself around the blade as a barrier against infection. Clever eh?

Still makes me cringe a bit with some of the staines on this jacket. I’m hoping Kev made them more recently through cider or festival food spillage and that’s where the authenticity stops!

So, now I’ve put it out there, I’m duty bound to bloody well get on with it. I’ve been sweating about this for far too long. And it’s time for action.

This will be done in little shifts with lots of thinking and head-scratching in between and I’ll try and fill you in as I go along.

Ever bitten off more than you could chew?!

Share the joy

Read More

A Very Happy Mail Day

Yesterday was a very, very happy mail day. There I was, beavering away like a goodun, working from home, though at just about tipping point from the bloody noisy builders banging about next door, when not one, but two substantial thuds landed on the front door mat. My fuse was half blown and I was about to yell at the usual runaway estate agent delivery boy, when I remembered  what could possibly be in those two packages.

Package number one:

ooobop moo cards

This is the second batch of cards I’ve ordered from Moo. The third if you count the ones I ordered for Mr O. The first ooobop ones were way before I’d decided on my identity and so I’d ordered the cute little mini ones. But they’ve since run out. I secretly wanted them to run out when these fabulous new square formats were introduced to the range. My logo sits so perfectly in the middle and there’s plenty nuff room on the reverse to add details plus another image. Plus, they properly match my garment labels too!

If you’ve never used Moo before I wholly recommend them for a fabulous service and great quality. There’s even a real person on the end of the phone if you need any help. Though the process is a very simple step-by-step online operation.

I’m not being paid to big them up, by the way. I properly love them! And if you fancy some of your own there’s link here you can use which gives you 10% off your first order:

And I get rewarded in ‘moolah’ if you place an order. And so do you once you’ve placed your order and recommended a friend.

I don’t make any money from my sewing but I do make lots of friends. Like for instance I got chatting to a lovely lady the other day on the bus who was knitting with some fabulous yarn that looked like pencil shavings! I couldn’t resist asking her about it and within seconds we were chatting all things sewing and knitting. She had run out of cards but luckily I managed to dig out the last remaining dog-eared one from my bag just before she had to get off at her stop. It was then that I realised how useful they are and how I must get some new ones. I’m never quick or dexterous enough to tap in a new contact on my phone in a hurry. I come over all fingers and thumbs, so these are perfect!

And so what could possibly be as exciting in the next package?

Package number two:

I can’t tell you how long I’ve waited to get a copy of this film. I don’t even know anyone else who’s ever heard of this film: The Yellow Rolls Royce! Anyone? Anywhere? The last time I watched this film was nearly four decades ago so I was hoping my love for it wasn’t a romantically distorted view! How could it be. Check out the all star cast: Shirley MacLaine, Omar Sharif, Ingrid Bergman, Rex Harrison, Jeanne Moreau, George C. Scott, Alain Delon, with surprise appearances from Art Carney, Joyce Grenfell and Lance Percival!

The Yellow Rolls Royce dvd

So why does this news belong on my sewing blog (besides the fact that I love watching an old movie while I sew)? Well. As I watched, and I indeed loved, I remembered exactly why I truly loved it so so much. Not just because I absolutely fell head over heels for Alain Delon at a very illegal age, I also totally fell in love with Shirley MacLaine and her wardrobe. She was a gangsters moll. ‘Fidanzata’ to George C. Scotts character of Paolo Maltese. And even at that age I wanted her clothes, her hair, her make up: tight wiggle skirts and dresses, stripy halter tops, swing skirts and chiffon scarves. Black, white and red, candy pink with black trim, polka dots, chiffon and fur. Pretty sure they were faux!! And there was me thinking it was all about Alain. Ha! I’m going to watch it again and again until I’ve clocked every item in her wardrobe and then make them all!

Shirley MacLaine Yellow Rolls Royce
Source: Fookdamorph
Shirley MacLaine Yellow Rolls Royce
Source: Who2 Biographies

I just adore all the black buttons down the back of that pink dress. Mine would be red of course! And if you click the source for the image below you will get a little clip of the movie so you can see where I’m coming from!

Shirley MacLaine Yellow Rolls Royce pink dress

I could just watch this film over and over. In fact I just watched that clip 3 times! This will now be my favourite movie to sew by.

Do you watch movies while you sew? What are your besties?

Share the joy

Read More