Shiny Burda Maxi

Shiny Burda Maxi dress

Introducing my most shiny dress to date!

I’m all up for revisiting patterns of late. Especially ones that just work and need little or no revisions. This was one of those.

It’s a hankerchief hem maxi dress from March 2015 edition of Burda Style magazine – one of my absolute faves. I first made it almost two years ago, and blogged it here! Clearly a dress befitting of the London summer climes!

silver burda maxi dress overexposed

I knew I was going to make another. It’s such an easy one to put together. And when I stumbled across a similar ruffle fabric but in silver, it was pinned and cut in a jiffy. A lovely sewing afternoon at Tilly and the Buttons studio got it all sewed up but it was proper sweaty work with all those metres of metal fabric draped over my knees, so I saved the hand-finishing till… this morning!

metal burda maxi dress over exposed

By hand-sewing, I mean the armholes and neckline which I finished with bias binding. I couldn’t be arsed with a flappy facings!

The fabric has a little stretch and has no need for finishing of hems or edges. Which is lucky, because there’s lots of them going on with the hanky-hem! Feels a little like cheating but when I see it photographed I’m assured it matters not.

It is also strangely transparent when you hold it to the light. But thankfully the metalic silver finish reflects with such distraction that you can’t see my pants!

wearing burda silver dress laughing

The original Burda pattern includes sleeves. But I much prefer it sleeveless. It seems to work better with the v-neckline and creates a bit more elegance.

Dan took these wonderful shots, of course. Assisted by a dose of delightful sunshine at the ‘New Way In’ at the Victoria and Albert Museum. I get so excited by new space. Much like my printed design work, I’ve learned over the years, that space doesn’t always have to be filled with stuff! People were gathering and marvelling… at the space! All helped of course by the awesome stone work, some cleverly conflicting angles and some lovely reflecting glass and metals. I felt quite at home in my new dress and didn’t mind the attention it got, for once!

Silver Burda maxi dress

At one point, another photographer not only asked to take my photo but asked who the designer of my dress was. Oh the flattery. But oh the awkward pose for her!

Silver burda dress being shot

The satisfaction of finding an edgy fabric and pairing it with a quirky pattern definitely floats my boat and it’s something I should definitely dedicate more time to. It gives me such a little buzz of butterflies when it works.

And of course Burda mags are a fantastic resource for inspiration. All those issues I dissed for abject weirdity will definitely be revisited in a new light!

Fun in a Burda Maxi dress

That said, I have some lovely commissions for other people that will have to take precedence over any new dresses for moi over the next coming weeks. I’m not complaining at all. They are really exciting projects so keep tuned!

Silver Burda dress at the V&A

Silver Burda Maxi dress front view

And where will I wear this dress – apart from to wander around the creative white spaces of London? I’m thinking festivals, parties, gigs and galleries. Maybe the office doesn’t get graced this time round!

Metal burda dress sitting on a wall

silver burda dress at the Victoria and Albert Museum

 

Skulls and roses dress

Ooobop Skulls and Roses dress

This dress is round three of my strive to perfect a self-drafted bodice pattern. It follows on from a self-drafted retro top, blogged in 2014 and my recent wax cotton print dress.

There’s something wholly satisfying about returning so soon to a pattern that you know will work. And I’m sure it will be even better to come back to following a few more tweaks.

The neckline on the wax cotton dress gaped just a little so I fixed that and refined the curve of the neckline too. There was also some gaping at the back bodice armholes, so I took out some excess and transferred it to the back waist darts.

Ooobop Skulls and Roses dress

The fit is much better but V3 dress – already underway – will have a little more fine tuning and then all I need to do is stay the same shape… forever! 😀

The skirt on this one is a simple gathered dirndl. Easy to make, easy to wear, easy to dance in. And also a little less of a Marilyn fashion risk than a circle skirt on a blustery day.

The invisible zip is set on the left side of the bodice as before, but this time I remembered to keep the back piece as one, so the pattern isn’t split. And plus, I’m rather digging the burrito method of self-lining. Have you tried this yet?

I’m chuffed that this was another piece of fabric that emerged from from the bottom of stash mountain. I’m sure Dan had his eye on this for a shirt at some point but I think he forgot. And I shamelessly neglected to remind him! The colour scheme is my favourite kind and I love a little nod to rockabilly.

This dress has been worn and snapped to death already with no time to blog until now. It’s been my go-to for all number of events – clubs, festivals, gigs and even the office. I’ve got to put it to the back of the wardrobe for a bit now, though, because I’m sure I’ve clocked the look that says: “Someone didn’t make it home last night!” 😮 I did. Obvs!

Daniel took these photos for me, on our date night last night. Multitasking. Always! I’m standing in front of St Paul’s church in Hammersmith. Such a beautiful grade II listed building among all the modern architecture and the hustle and bustle over and under the flyover at the broadway. It’s been a place of worship since the 1600s! So much history on a little patch of green.

Ooobop Skulls and Roses Dress

Light was fading and our tummies were rumbling as we snapped these in a hurry en route to The Gate – one of my favourite veggie restaurants. Dan agreed that there was no lack of meat on the plate. My only regret was that I didn’t have enough room for desert. They looked so awesome! Perhaps my next dress version ought to be of expandable material!

Ooobop Skulls and Roses dress

 

Who is Daniel Lismore?

Daniel Lismore book cover

I couldn’t wait to be a grown up. Quite simply so I could be who I wanted to be without permission. I lived in the ‘burbs and being different in any way shape or form was a fast track route to ridicule. I didn’t have a particular yearning to stand out from the crowd. I just wanted to experiment with different ways of doing and wearing things.

School uniform meant I had to dress the same. Fair do’s. And you’d be forgiven for thinking that was a safety net. But boy, if you had the wrong shaped skirt, roundy- instead of pointy-toed shoes, and were void of a ‘flick’ then you definitely couldn’t ‘sit with them’!

So when I announced I was off to art college it was a sure sign of who my friends weren’t:
‘So I guess Oxfam’s gonna be your new Chelsea Girl, then?’ (Well, yup!)
‘Off to join your hippy tribe?’ (If that’s what it takes!)
‘You’ll come running back, you’ll see’ (Er, don’t think so!)

I set sail – on a Red Bus Rover – to London and didn’t look back.

I love that people here don’t bat an eyelid at what you wear. That charity shop chic is a thing and that handmade is relished. I love that even my bad hair on the baddest of hair days gets an occasional compliment and I love having so much inspiration around me.

And why am I telling you all this? Because it was all stirred up by Daniel Lismore. Someone I’d been following on Instagram for some considerable time without even questioning who he was and where he’d come from. I just loved his extravagant outfits; his spectacular selfies with countless celebrities; all the amazing places in the world that he travels to and the ‘confidence’ he ooozed. Well, about that…!

Daniel LIsmore

It never occurred to me to find out who he actually was. I was quite happy not knowing until curiosity got the better of me and I checked his profile: ‘Public Figure. Artist living as Art. Circuit Ambassador @Tate. Brand Ambassador @illamasqua. Cool Earth Ambassador.’ Then I needed to know more!

One of his Instastories announced a talk at the V&A with Hilary Alexander. I just love the V&A. Love Hilary too. So I booked my ticket. And I wasn’t disappointed.

Daniel’s words resonated loud and clear when he talked about the teasing, the bullying and how his looks set him completely apart from his classmates. He came from a small village in the Midlands and his struggle was undoubtedly harder than mine. But still so many of his words rang true.

At 16 he knew for sure that he didn’t want to be like everyone else. He was inspired by an eccentric aunt who loved to mix and match fashions and his passion for upcycling and styling began. Dressing-up became his armour. Not to be on show so much as to be a platform from which to observe his onlookers.

Daniel Lismore

Beneath all the swathes of glorious fabric and striking make up is an even more, incredibly beautiful person. Strangely enough, one who looks very much like my eldest daughter – I hope Daniel won’t be offended by that. My daughter certainly isn’t! – And believe it or not, someone who comes across as insanely shy. That was the biggest surprise for me and yet the thing that made most sense.

It wasn’t a surprise to know that he was snapped up for modelling early on. But the nightlife was what floated his boat more. Dressing-up his way and meeting cool people at cool London clubs, he became a living artwork for all that he wore. Daniel believes that fashion is art, and who am I to argue?!

From overseas charity work, to activist operations at the side of Vivienne Westwood, Daniel’s life is never dull. And an appearance in Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie was one of the stepping stones to his first exhibition co-curated by SCAD and presented at SCAD FASH: Museum of Fashion and Film, Atlanta, USA.

Daniel Lismore Be Yourself

The exhibition was called Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken. I love those words. It’s like the perfect mantra when I’m losing a bit of faith in myself. And I love the book, titled the same – a small window to the exhibition that I would have loved to have seen it in real life.

The photography is amazing. All outfits are fashioned and styled by Daniel. Layers of exotic fabric, textiles, jewels and souvenirs from his travels, all pinned together – not sewn as I found out from the talk. Though he does immerse himself in embroidery from time to time. Lots of the accessories and fabrics are donated, many from celebrities. Boy George was the previous owner of the hat he was wearing at the V&A talk. And much like us sewing bloggers he finds it extra hard to resist the beautiful fabrics he comes across on his travels.

Daniel Lismore

Don’t worry. I’m not about to be sporting Mickey Mouse hands or a Roundhead military helmet any time soon. Though I have been entertaining the idea of a ruff… just a small one, mind!

If like me, you like nothing more than pouring over slick coffee table books loaded with lush alternative fashion inspiration then go grab yourself a copy. Daniel Lismore: Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken is available in all good bookshops or just click right here:

This post has not been sponsored. All words and views are my own. Event ticket and book purchased with my own funds. Images © Colin Douglas Gray, photographer and kind permission given by Rizzoli USA. Apart from the last one. The one with me looking awkward. Some kind lady at the V&A talk took this for me when Daniel signed my book!

ooobop with Daniel Lismore

 

 

 

 

Winners of the GBSB Live tickets and a discount code!

For all those who have been avidly watching their screens today, I must apologise. I totally meant to announce the winners this morning and then I got sucked into a festival and just arrived home, late and beat! So in a not very fancy way – no funky movies or drumrolls – comments have been cut into strips, folded and drawn from a colander, at random by Daniel.

Without further ado, the winners are: Shelley, Anne, Andrea, Fraggle and Beth (see comment strips below)

Congratulations! You have each won a pair of tickets to the event. I will pass on your Email details to the organiser and she will inform you of how your tickets will be sent.

winners gbsb live

Thank you to all who participated. For those of you who are still looking to go to GBSB Live 2017, I have a little compensatory code for you that will give you £1.50 off the regular ticket price for advanced sales. Click on this link to purchase your ticket and just type in the code: OBD where instructed, in the box at the top.

It’s just all too exciting. Hope to see some of you there!

 

10 Reasons Not to Miss The Great British Sewing Bee Live plus 5 pairs of tickets – FREE GIVEAWAY!

GBSB live logo

Are you a sewing-obsessed, GBSB fan like me? Do you love fashion and vintage and tailoring and dressmaking… and Paddy?

In case you haven’t been party to this hot piece of sewing news, buzzing around the blogosphere, read on for why you should totally be at the UK’s biggest, most exciting new dressmaking event at ExCel London, 21-24 September this year. I am talking all things Great British Sewing Bee Live… Yes LIVE!

I spent last Tuesday morning at London’s Fashion and Textile museum, in a room full of superstar sewing bloggers, for an intimate audience with the legendary judges of the TV series, Patrick Grant and Esme Young. I know, right?! We’d been invited to hear a little more about what we can expect from this incredible event. And boy are we all in for a treat!

ooobop and didyoumakethat
Karen and I were just a bit excited to meet Patrick and Esme!

An audience with Patrick Grant and Esme Young is underway @fashiontextilemuseum. Fab crowd of colourful #sewing bloggers.

A post shared by Great British Sewing Bee Live (@thegbsblive) on

1. Patrick and Esme will actually be there, in real life, right there before our very own eyes

Contestants from past shows along with the bravest of audience members will take part in challenges live on stage. Jenny Éclair, comedian, writer and TV personality, will be your host and will ensure the nerves and mishaps are glossed over with giggles. What can possibly go wrong?!

Patrick was asked, “Will there be sewing hecklers at the #GBSBLive Super Theatre?

“I hope so” he replied!

To be honest I would buy a ticket just for this alone. But there’s more…

 

Patric Grant and Esme Young

2. Your chance to be a contestant!

Have you watched every episode, longing to be one of the contestants? Then here is your chance!

Click here to complete an application form. You just don’t know unless you have a go!

3. More than a hundred workshops

Hosted by your favourite contestants and other top stitchers and tutors, the hardest part will be choosing. Seriously, make a cuppa and get yourself comfy before clicking this link to all the amazing workshops on offer. The choice is insane!

Incidentally Patrick was asked who his favourite contestant was. He paused, with glint in his eye… he said, “I loved them all!” What a tease! “No one ever left early. It was always about who sewed the best challenge, not who was the best sewer.”

4. Live Demos

There’s a jam-packed programme of live demonstrations from well-known personalities from the world of sewing and dressmaking as well as contestants from the Great British Sewing Bee. You’ll get all the tips and advice you need to get you on your dressmaking journey, whether you’re a complete beginner or a seasoned professional there will be something for you.

All sessions will be free to attend and are offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

Janome sewing machine workshop gbsb live

5. Dressmaking drop-in clinic

We’ve all got a project or two in that pile of doom and defeat. Dig it out and bring it along to the drop-in clinic where one of our lovely sewing experts will help you to solve your issues and get you back on track.

It’s common knowledge how helpful the sewing community is. And it was really sweet to learn that Esme frequently got a telling off for trying to help contestants on the show! “As a teacher, It’s so difficult to watch people struggling.” Oh how I’d love to have Esme on tap!

6. Fashion Catwalk

From high-end fashion and couture creations to vintage designs, bespoke tailoring and wedding garments, it will be a feast of dressmaking fashion from both independent and larger pattern companies.

There’ll be three shows a day, free to attend on a first come first served basis, along with a daily showcase of garments from leading fashion and textile students.

catwalk gbsb live

7. 200+ (Yes 200+!) dressmaking and sewing suppliers

All your online favourites and more. This is going to be the best shopping trip ever ever ever!!!! Even Esme claims to have the most ridiculous fabric and button stash. She can’t help herself. If it’s beautiful, she just has to have it!

 

8. Garment galleries a plenty for your perusal and delight

This is your chance to get up close and personal with some of those amazing creations from previous shows. There will be a crazy collection of the garments from across the series, including some of the most stunning, the most stand out and frankly the most bizarre designs from the programme.

I wonder if it will include a certain pvc skirt that Patrick sewed for himself… ooops, did I just say that out loud?!

9. The Fashion and Textile Muesem: Liberty in Fashion Exhibition

Dennis Nothdruft (who incidentally Handmade Jane and I met at the Couture Inside Out exhibition and we can therefore advocate as brilliant) has curated a stunning exhibition of Liberty pieces: From romantic, densely patterned garments from the post-war 1930s to the Art Nouveau revival of the 1950s and Swinging 1960s, then Seventies Pastoralism with its characteristic smocking… I’d buy a ticket just for this too!

10. Bloggers delight

Asides from all the magic and mahem, inspiration and excitement of the above I truly believe that this super duper sewing event will also prove to be the best ever blogger meet-up you ever went to, like ever! And if you see me wandering around in a dreamworld, please stop me to say hello. I love nothing more than meeting my readers in real life.

Does any of that lot float your lil boat?

 

Designer and Sewing Bee judge Esme Young said: “Whether you’re a professional tailor or hobby dressmaker, fashion student or vintage fan, there’s something for everyone with a love of sewing, and even complete beginners keen to give it a go.  We hope visitors will leave the show inspired and full of ideas for their next dressmaking project. ”

 

So who’s up for a free pair of tickets then? I have 5 sets up for grabs and you don’t have to do anything more taxing than to subscribe to my blog (top right hand column under the ooobop logo, if you are viewing on a pc, or scroll to the bottom of your phone screen) and then leave a comment below. You have up until Friday 14th July 2017 when the giveaway will close. 5 lucky winners will be announced on Sunday 16th July.

Good luck everyone!!

And don’t forget to hop over to the GBSB Live website for all the latest info.

I’ll leave you with a picture of pure glee. The faces say it all!

See you soon, sewing lovers x

 

Self-drafted wax print dress

wax cotton dress side view
I’m not entirely sure how this post got shot and written today. We arrived home from Glastonbury Festival at 6am this morning – a little tired and emotional to say the least! Thank goodness for a great set of shades picked up for a tenner on site, from a pop up vintage shop (ironically, usually based in Portobello… just up the road from me!)

So, the dress… It’s mine, all mine! No pattern, vintage or otherwise was used in the making-of and I’m just a little bit proud.

I really wanted a new dress but without any faff. I really, really wasn’t in the mood for trialling various test versions – I’m getting so impatient in my old age! – And then I remembered that somewhere, in some pile or other, there was a pre-existing bodice block from a class I took about 3 years ago. To date I’ve only used it once, for a retro-style top, which is madness. Because it fits!

I only wanted a sleeveless bodice for the top, nothing fancy so it seemed daft to reinvent the wheel. I simply lowered the armscye and the neckline. Luck was on my side because this resulted in precious little gaping as often happens without any contouring. But I will nip a bit off the upper back neckline next time.

wax cotton dress self-drafted

My usual sway-back adjustment was already done and most importantly the bust area was a perfect fit.

Whilst we focus on that area, can we just talk placement? I’d love to be able to claim absolute intentions but the truth is, I was led my a small issue of just the right amount of fabric and nothing more, so I can only claim a happy accident – the likes of which Madonna would champion, I’m sure!

I just love this wax fabric. And I knew there would be further adventures when I made Lucy’s jumpsuit and Amelia’s baby dress.

wax print dress back

One of the most incredible things about this fabric is the price. A 6 yard bolt of Wax cotton can vary in price between £10 and £150, depending on quality, print, manufacturer etc. That said, this lovely red cloth was just £10 and retained all colour and structure after a regular 40° cycle and spin in the machine and it was so satisfying to sew with. More importantly I landed a fabulous handmade dress for a fiver!

The skirt section is simply a half circle, the same self-drafted pattern I used for my black and my blue crepe skirts.

african wax print dress skirt

The zipper is inserted on the left side, like most of my vintage-style dresses but also because I didn’t want the seam of the skirt to go down the front with the focus on broken up print. No excess for pattern matching either!

The belt I’m wearing was a steal from Oxfam at £1.50 and does a perfect job of hiding the connecting waist seam which obviously is interrupted and mismatched but I’m not so sure there’d be any way round that anyway. It’s not actually that bad but still annoys the pants of me enough to cover it up!

wax print dress side view

Daniel came up trumps again with these fantastic photos. They were taken at Freemasons’ Hall in Covent Garden, today. Such an awesome building with a massive star on the steps for me to stand in the middle of! I can’t believe how he gathered up the energy to do this after that long drive back. Or how he made me look so respectable after nought hours of sleep. He is such a superstar. So supportive. I am one lucky lady!

 

Blackmore 9266 So-Easy!

vintage blackmore 9266 dress

I’ve been neglecting my vintage patterns of late. But that did allow for some exciting rummaging and little squeals of delight when I found some treasures I’d completely forgotten about. And I just love that ‘aha moment’ when found pattern meets perfect stash fabric. Proper romance that is!

This is Blackmore So-Easy 9266. Not sure if it’s 50s or 60s as it’s not dated. The instructions were a little more explained compared to the last 40s Blackmore pattern I used but I enjoyed making both just the same.

vintage blackmore 9266 sewing pattern

I knew this dress wasn’t going to fit straight out of the packet. It was already too small and any dodgy fitting on this was going to shout from the rooftops. So it needed time and patience to grade it up properly and work through 3 toiles before I was ready to cut into the real stuff.

Once all the adjustments were transferred to the pattern pieces – grading up, shortening the back bodice substantially, taking out some excess from the overbust and increasing the waist – it was fundamentally a very easy to sew dress.

vintage blackmore 9266 dress

There’s no lining. The bodice is simply faced at the top edge. I must remember to tack this down in a couple of places on the inside, as the photos totally reveal how it peaks out at the back if it’s not poked in to start with.

I do so love recreating an original vintage dress but I should know by now how the drawings on the cover cheat so much! The skirt on the cover looks tapered and very fitted but in actual fact, not only is cut straight, it has a wide kick pleat allowance which gives the visual appearance of being even wider at the hemline.

I took it in quite substantially to arrive at this shape – like 4 inches each side seam! – and I sewed the kick pleat down too. I hated the granny hemline. Not flattering on my vertically challenged frame for sure. This does, however, mean that I have to walk very lady-like and in heels and therefore one helluva lot slower than normal. Not such a bad thing when for most of the time I’m rushing around like a lunatic with giant strides in Docs or trainers.

vintage blackmore 9266 dress

The fabric is bark cloth. Found in a little basement fabric shop in Waterloo ages ago. I love the texture so much, the colours are fabulous and it sews up beautifully. I made a Martini dress from bark cloth of the vintage kind but I have to say, this modern weave was definitely more grain-stable and less prone to stretch. It’s not usual to find this stuff in any old fabric store. Certainly a void of it in the Goldhawk Road. So if anyone has a link to a favourite UK store, please let me know. By the time shipping is added to the original Hawaiian brands, the price is rocketed!

Now, I would just like to touch upon the issue of straps. Fally down straps!! I felt sure that I had sussed the right width, length, the right position and before sewing them down, I walked around the house for a few hours with them pinned to make sure of their position. Ulitmately the ends of the straps would be sandwiched between the facing and the top bodice so better to get them in the right position first. I thought I’d cracked it. Made sure to sew exactly as pinned. But the buggers still fall down!! It really is the bane of my strappy-dress life.

vintage blackmore dress

To be fair, It doesn’t help that I’ve got sloping shoulders. But I do think also that I made the bodice a touch too wide for my over-bust and so the straps sit too close to the edge of my shoulders. Another little adjustment to bear in mind for next time.

Clever lady Clare, from River Elliot Bridal also had a great solution which was to sew a narrow elastic inside the strap to generate a little more grip. Must give that a go too.

I’m hoping the stormy skies keep at bay and glorious sunshine keeps coming over the next few months so my current favourite newbie gets more outings. But all the same, the fickle in me is furiously flicking through the collection to find the next new fave to make… because I can!

vintage blackmore 9266 dress

Photos by Daniel James Photography
Location: Hammersmith
Shoes: Lola Ramona

Martini and Open the book

Martini dress for Open, the book launch

So I did it again… mixing business with pleasure. With no regrets – just pure delight in my two worlds working together again, so effortlessly, so cohesively this time.

Lets start from the top. By day, my hat-wearing is in the graphic design department of mostly publishing houses where I design covers and inside pages for children’s and young adult books.

Late last year I was asked by Pan Macmillan if I would like to design the inside pages for a very cool book by radio and TV presenter, Gemma Cairney. This is the point when all my senses got seriously ignited and creative juices whisked up on hyperdrive. Errr… ok… like yes totally please… honour all mine and all that!

Open is exactly what it says on the tin: “A toolkit for how magic and messed up life can be”. All those taboo hard-to-deliver subjects laid bare, on the page, cool as.

I don’t often shout from the rooftops about my work unless I truly believe the hype but in this instance, with Gemma at the helm, loud-hailing her invaluable advice and support, awesome art direction from Rachel Vale who also designed the gorgeous cover, fellow designer, and wonderful person Tracey Ridgewell, and a plethora of edgy art from illustrator Aurelia Lange, I was in my element and couldn’t possibly keep shtum.

Here’s a little taster of what’s inside:

open spreads

This book involved a proper dream team, of that you can be sure. Just check out the thank you’s at the back. It’s all inclusive and that’s what made it such a pleasure and an honour to be working as part of #teamopen on this very important and unique book. Boy do I wish I had this book when I was a teen.

It was a lot of work in such a short space of time and yet when it was all over and the proof copies were in, it seemed like a distant blur. And then I got an invite.

So when one gets an invitation to a very special book launch party, whereby the dress code is ‘fantastical and dazzling’… what is one to do? Make it, right?!

Open by Gemma Cairney

I didn’t have much time to plan. A couple of weeks in fact. So I needed a tried and tested pattern. All hail the Capital Chic Martini! I have only made this once before, in a vintage bark cloth (see here) but always knew there would be a need for more versions. Thank you so much Sally for such a brilliant design. I love it so much!

capital chic martini dress

The fabric had to be shiny – no doubt about that. And preferably yellow. Though the thought made me squirm. It could all go horribly wrong and I might possibly end up looking like some gone-wrong banana.

But I set to, with some weird synthetic shiny stuff from the Goldhawk Road, quite thankful that a no-smoking policy is ever present. All the time with a niggling urge to customize the dress somewhat. Then I chanced upon some pink fabric of the same kind in another shop. And appliqué stars just happened.

And then the night before, at quite literally the 11th hour,  I had a thought that I could paint one of the illustrations from inside the book, on the dress. Excitement overload!

I couldn’t possibly go ahead without first asking Aurelia’s permission – Open‘s incredibly talented illustrator – so when she got back to me with an absolute yes, it was all stations go, and I made a stencil from sticky-back laminate paper and used black fabric paint to daub one of her many cool iconic illustrations. I just love the end result.

martini dress aurelia illustraion

 

The party was immense. At the Women’s University in Mayfair, with period rooms bursting full of the most inspirational and creatively talented people. Jaw awe to say the least. I’m so proud of Gemma and I’m not even her mum! And just look how she rocks a sequin or two!

Gemma Cairney and ooobop

It’s insane that I managed to whip up this dress at a time when my workload has been so bonkers. But it just goes to prove that passion triumphs over ever everything. Even shut-eye! I will totally sleep when I’m dead.

I learned a lot from this project. Mostly that I respond well to a hefty deadline; I love that my job brings such creative people and projects to my table. But also that I relish a bespoke brief and a perfect opportunity to create an out-of-the-ordinary outfit for a party. I’ve just got to learn to deal with the attention it gets. Didn’t factor that in, lol!

capital chic martini dress

Daniel took these photos for me a couple of weeks ago. Just love the yellow against the green. He is so clever to have by-passed the daffs in in the local park to get to a scuzzy railway arch… who knew?!

 

capital chic martini dress

By stark contrast I’ve just finished three of the prettiest bridesmaid dresses in floral Liberty Lawn, that I hope to share with you after the actual wedding. So I must be due something more for me, hey?! Plus there are plans for a @Mccallpatternuk #thecocktailhour dress for the @eveappeal. More on that soon.

Are you more productive with a looming deadline or do you do just as well without? And would you be more inclined to make or buy a short-notice party dress? I’d love to know.

Till next time, my lovelies. Happy sewing! xxx

Your comments are always brighten my day and inspire me to write another post. Thank you.

Adventures in African Wax

Lucy jumpsuit New Look 6446

Be careful what you wish for!

Last year I was only thinking that I should up my sewing game a little. Make it a bit more of a challenge. Take on some sewing commissions. It’s all very well making clothes for me. I’ve had a fair bit of practice at it now and I’m pretty sure I know what works on me, how to source a pattern and self-draft any modifications and what adjustments I need to make to make it personalised and fit good. I’ve sewn a few things for others (a flapper dress here, a man’s shirt there and a skirt for a friend name a few), but mostly I sew within my comfort zone.

I’m not about to launch myself as a full on dressmaker – I don’t have enough hours outside of my job – but I’m certainly ready for sewing different shapes and sizes, and I’m definitely up for creating some cool and original garms that don’t exist on RTW rails.

As I said, I was only thinking. Then I saw a plea for help on FaceBook from my daughter’s friend. For a dressmaker who could help with some outfits for her baby’s Christening. I couldn’t help myself!

Though what I was agreeing to was a little bit daunting, bearing in mind I have never made a pair of trousers to date – Lucy wanted a jumpsuit. But quite specifically a jumpsuit with a flounce, no gathers at the waist, and with very, very long legs!

Well, I thought. What is a challenge if it’s not challenging? I didn’t have time to sweat the small (or big) stuff – it was wanted for the end of January! I had 4 weeks outside of a full time day job to create a jumpsuit and a baby dress. All hail the deadline, for the prevention of dilly-dallying!

New Look 6446 provided the basis of the design. Was great to find that Handmade Jane had made a lovely dress version and could report that it was dead easy to make. Although I was about to complicate matters!

After a few idea swaps on Pinterest, I asked Lucy to send me a photo of the fabric she’d chosen so I could do a rough bit of Photoshop-trickery and show her the proposed changes to the pattern design. I’m a visual person myself and can always explain in pictures, better than in words!

New Look 6446 with modifications

It was already apparent that the legs were going to be super wide if I just extended them so I had this very firmly in mind: Elegant wide leg trousers. Not so much of the ‘Lionels’!

The changes to pattern included: an extension of the front bodice piece, by incorporating the band; ditching the straps and instead, drafting a flounce (which is fundamentally a circle piece); adding a lining to the bodice; lengthening and tapering the leg and reversing the direction of the front pleats.

I visited Lucy with the first toile proudly folded in a bag along with a box of pins, a tape-measure, some chalk and a notepad and pencil. Felt like a proper dressmaker, I did!

Of course, nothing can really look that beautiful in calico and I was a bit nervous that she would be disillusioned by the sight of her bod being swathed in so much of it. But when she tried it on and stood in front of the mirror I think I might have squealed louder than she did! It pretty much fit first time. Just a few more changes – mostly because this lady is loosing baby weight at the rate of knots!:

I duly pinned and made notes to shorten the flounce, take a couple of inches from across the arms, some excess from under the arms, shorten the back bodice, take a pinch in from the waist, and add even more length to the trousers. Lucy’s legs properly do go up to her armpits!

Lucy jumpsuit notes

The only thing left bothering me was how to handle or prep the fabric. This was my first time working with African wax fabric and I dreaded a prewash in case all the colour would come flooding out. Or would it turn to a drapey mess? I wanted to loose a bit of the stiffness but I didn’t want to forego a wash in case it shrunk thereafter!

This is where it helps to be part of an amazing sewing community. We all indulge in love of sewing but we all have our own specialities, different experiences and best of all a willingness to share them.

Dolly Clackett of course has made a plethora of pretty dresses, many of which are of said fabric. And she was my first point of call. She gave me all the confidence I needed and I duly prepped a sample piece by washing at 30 degrees. The result was beautiful. It softened slightly but retained body. And lost next to no colour. I can’t quite describe how the fabric feels inside but it’s akin to a fine suede!

So I used that first washed sample to rustle up a dress for baby, first.

New Look 6745 modified

The pattern I used was New Look 6745. Which doesn’t look to be in print any more. I made this dress for my daughter about 25 years ago so I’m delighted that the pattern got a 2nd use. Just had to add a ruffled, cap sleeve though! Was fun sourcing little pink buttons to go on the back. I used pink satin bias binding to face the neckline and arm holes.

The success of this and the reception it got on Instagram was the next confidence jab that propelled me into cutting the pieces for Lucy’s jumpsuit. That, along with less than a week to go!

I can’t tell you what a joy it is to cut, how beautifully it behaves under the needle. No fraying to speak of and so easy to press. I’m so using this fabric again.

Lucy jumpsuit New Look 6446

As Handmade Jane said, the pieces sewed up with no complications. I had however, underestimated the time difference in sewing a toile v sewing the actual garm! Overlocking open seams of trousers seemed to take forever. The curved inside edges of the flounce against the straight top edge of the bodice was a little tricky to keep neat so that meant some slow-sewing and there was a fair bit of tiny hand stitching to finish the lining against the zipper tape and the top edge of the bodice. And of course the tiny hemming of the flounce and the hand-hemming of the trousers.

Lucy jumpsuit New Look 6446

But it was worth it. So many people at the party said so many lovely things about it. Bursting with pride, I was! Such a great feeling to see someone feeling so good in something you’ve made.

The party was lovely. Lots of friends and family had had their outfits made in the same fabric by various dressmakers across London. But I got to make for the stars of the show!

Do you sew for other people? Would love to hear of any experiences you’ve had, good or bad to help me on my way. Any tips will be most appreciated!

 

Alix in Black Watch

BHL Alix dress in Black Watch tartan

This is my second version of the By Hand London Alix Dress. The first was a test version that I didn’t get round to blogging but in any case this one is way better!

Alix is such a great design. Echoes of the 70s and of the 40s even, with its flattering midriff and gathered bustline. Incidentally, the first version I pattern tested had box pleats at the bust line which didn’t work for me so the gathered option is way better.

I love the full sleeves, made possible by the shoulder pleat and the elasticated wrists. Pays to be a bit generous with the elastic though. The first one I made pretty much turned my hands blue!

Another plus for this dress is that there are no fussy closures. No zips, no hook and eyes, no buttons… nada! Just a lovely long sash to tie as tight or as loose as you like. The neckline is perfectly wide enough to get over even my moon head and theres a pleat at the back to balance out the fullness of the front.

Alix in black watch back

And no lining! Just good old serged seams. Which works fabulously for this poly viscose tartan. I have been meaning to use Black Watch variety for some time, since I made my BHL Sabrina dress back in 2014. I loved how it made a contrast against the Royal Stewart tartan but still remain nervous that someone will shoot me down for mixing of the clans!

I’ve been wearing this to work – a lot – and it is perfectly comfortable to wear sitting down, standing up, running for the bus and climbing stairs. And its a no brainer for getting ready in the morning. Cue plenty dernier tights and a trusty pair of Doc Martens!