Windmill Sails quilt block v2

Windmill Sails or Louisiana quiilt block
Windmill Sails or Louisiana block

I began making these quilt blocks when my very lovely neighbour bought me a subscription to the Art of Quilting magazine… about 7 years ago now – and it has remained a WIP for some time since. But progress has been resurrected thanks to New Crafthouse #sewyourselfsustainable and Sewisfaction #seweverdayseptember Instagram challenges. They both prompted a declaration of #slowestmake and I can’t think of anything else that would ever take me as long!

I’m pretty sure the reason I’m dragging my heels is because my love for sewing dresses is tenfold more, but I don’t want this quilt to remain as an unfinished pile of blocks in a basket, pretty as they are. I want it strewn across my bed like this:

So this lovely block is another colourway of the Windmill Sails or Louisiana block. The magazine usually gives a short history of each design but there wasn’t one included this time. Presumably because its exactly the same as block no. 12 and they might have hinted at a repeat! A bit cheeky of the publication really. They’ve just sold me the same template with different fabrics! There is, however, an additional template included for a Dresden Plate cushion cover. But hey I’ve got a quilt to make, don’t need any further distractions!

You’ll note I’ve skipped blocks 27 and 28. I’m guessing at some point I separated them out of the pile to encourage me to crack on but I haven’t a Scooby where I might have put them.

Luckily Hachette are still selling back issues and I’ve just ordered the missing ones at a reduced rate here. Just in case they are lost in the ether.

So fingers crossed I am back on track and the next one will appear soon!

 

Name: Windmill Sails or ‘Louisiana’
History: Each of the fifty states that make up the USA has its own emblematic quilt block. This represents the southern state of Louisiana
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
Block 29: The Windmill Sails block

Vintage Simplicity 6772 shirtdress revisited

simplicity 6772 vintage shirt dress

There is joy to be had when you revisit a pattern that you know only needs a couple of tweaks. Even more joyous when the pieces have been sat in a basket, all cut out and are ready for a simple sew-together.

I’d almost forgotten about it. Though to be honest, the main reason for it sitting pretty was that I was unsure about the colour. I liked the pale blue, linen-like fabric when I scored it cheap all that time back from a closing-dowm sale in Ealing, but I just didn’t have a plan and so it took up residency in stash mountain for a very long time before it’s destiny was decided.

A little burst of consciousness about the wastefulness of my impulse buying spurred me into action to finish any WIPs before buying any more fabric and so I paired it with vintage Simplicity 6772 – one of my favourite vintage shirt dress patterns.

simplicity 6772 sewing pattern

I used this pattern first in 2015 from suiting fabric – my worky shirtdress – which is perfect for an Autumnal wardrobe and it gets a lot of work-wear. This next version was going to be great for those warmer months.

It sewed up beautifully. I took a smidge out of the ease of the sleeve head; shortened the hemline a little and I just loved the way it shaped up with all those darts. I used to hate sewing them but it really doesn’t bother me now especially when on realising how important they are for a great fit. It comes together pretty quickly, with no lining, and precious little hand sewing except for the hem and attaching the under-collar to the neckline.

simplicity 6772 handmade shirtdress

The only thing that bothered me with this pattern and fabric combo was that it looked a little ‘nursey’! I’m so not used to wearing light colours – my usual palette very much centres around red and black – and it was going to take a bit of getting used to, so I added some black buttons to subtract some of the ‘clinical’!

And I’ve been very happy wearing it until a ‘friend’ jokingly asked why I was dressed like a nurse. The cheek of it! Really struck a nerve and I was not best amused!

So, not to be defeated, I had a little rummage in the trim box and found some lovely ribbon-insert braid – just enough to edge the collar and sleeves.

I’ve just spent a lovely long weekend away in Devon with Mr O (hence the random poses in fields of cows) and this was a great little hand-sewing project to complete in the hotel room when those ominous black clouds did their thing outside.

ribbon-insert trim on collar

And I’m really happy with the results. I think it’s a little less ‘care-worker’ and much more ’50’s diner waitress’ now. But that’s ok. I can live with that!

simplicity 6772 trimmed collar and sleeves

I’ve got more love for it now. Which is a good thing because this dress is so easy to wear and so flattering, IMHO! All thanks to some great pattern drafting and lots of perfectly placed darts.

back view of simplicity 6772

The journey of this dress definitely provoked some thinking about my buying habits. My bad, bad buying habits where I’m swayed by a bargain and the belief that a cheap length of fabric will have an ideal use at some point. Unless it’s of fairly good quality and at the very least within my preferred range of colours, it’s not going to be put to use without compromise. And I don’t want compromise. It won’t feel right and that in itself will not be a fair exchange for all the hours of work invested. And also, I’m so over that ugly box tower of fabrics looming over my bed. Lesson learned… I hope!

Photos by Daniel James Photographic

What I wore to the Dressmaker’s Ball 2019

ooobop wearing V8814 dress

‘Get me to the Ball!
‘There is a Disco at the Palace!
‘The rest have gone and I am jealous!’

Just like Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhyme about Cinderella when she was stropping out about a lack of invite, this is exactly how I was feeling when I learned too late about the first dressmakers ball in 2017.

Needless to say I subscribed to all the hashtags and signed up to get news of the next one and snapped up that ticket as soon as it was live.

The event is organised by team Crafty Sew and So and this year’s was at The City Rooms in Leicester.

The minute I had that ticket secured, my head flooded with all the possibilities for a free range, self drafted no holds barred gown of dreams, all for me. Elizabethan ruffs, balloon organza sleeves. Crinoline skirt. Bustle perhaps? I had a year after all.

designs for ooobop ballgownTruth be told and no surprises here, I decided on the dress with just over 10 days to go. You know how it goes ~ work, family, work and more work. And I’m a little bit sad to say that my all time avant-garde number ended up straight out of a packet.

Vogue pattern V8814

A lovely pattern for sure but the proof was in the making: No toile time. No anything time. Time? Definitely a thing of the past. Enjoy it while you can kiddos. It passes you by on the blink of an eye with every added birthday.

Now let’s discuss this slinky Vogue number V8814. I chose floor length, version C. I was going to a ball after all and visions of slow-mo sweeping skirt-motions danced in my head. I opted for the one with plunging neckline and crossover straps at the back. The bodice is snug to the hips and then all the volley is in the circular skirt.

I am so grateful to those pattern companies who display the finished sizes on the pattern pieces. Lord only knows why quite so much ease has to be added. I’d have swum in the suggested size according to actual stats!

And I am so delighted to have chanced upon a pattern that for all it’s sophistication was a total breeze to put together! The only area that needed fixing was the neckline which gaped a little so I hand-sewed some 5mm wide elastic along the inside of the neckline, stretching slightly to pull it in more to the chest. And the only tricky bit was convincing Pants I didn’t need his help!

Pants the cat helping me sew

I’d bought a singular ticket to the ball just because I worry about making plans with people and then have to cancel due to work commitments. Plus I knew that I would meet people there. The sewing community is such a welcoming and fun place, of that I was certain.

But that didn’t stop me from being self-conscious in front of the photographer. I’m so spoilt by Mr O’s awesome willingness to oblige my blog shots that I forget what it’s like to stand and pose in front of someone you don’t know! Thank you TKL Photography for bearing with me and thank you Tamsin, for posing with me and making me feel a little less awkward!

ooobop with Tamsin from Pimp my Curtains

We decided upon fishbowls of gin to relax us even more!

Tamsin and ooobop drinking gin

It was such an amazing evening. A ballroom brimming with stunning guests all adorned in bespoke, handmade attire, dancing to some really cool covers by a brilliant live jazz band. I spent most of the evening gawping at stunning outfits and discussing them, clinking and raising a glass at every opportunity to the brilliant hosts and the awesome sewing community.

And look who else I found: Marie from A Stitching Odyssey and Amy, blogger at Almond Rock and editor of Love Sewing Magazine.

judges at the dressmakers ball 2019

Not at all trying to fraternise with the judges before the catwalk competition – honest, guv!

So why have I taken so long to blog about this dress?

In short.

The fabric.

I’m ashamed by my panic purchase of glittery fabric.

‘I want a dress! I want a coach!
‘And earrings and a diamond brooch!
‘And silver slippers, two of those!
‘And lovely nylon panty hose!

Perfectly weighty and with great drape for the skirt, I chanced upon it in the Goldhawk Road. It appears to be a red lace bonded over a synthetic satin with glitter glued in the gaps of the lace.  I joked about the fire-hazzard potential should I stand too close to a candle, given the probability of not a single natural fibre involved. But it was met with a straight face. The seller was already was unhappy that my need for five yards meant discarding the first couple of metres on the roll as the lace was clearly bonded in sections. Lucky I noticed the join because he sure as hell wasn’t going to point it out!

But I did not question the glitter. 

Recently, my day job has involved lots of work relating to the harmful effects of plastic on the environment, and though I haven’t come across any reference to glitter in the books as yet, this quote by Alice Horton, a research associate at the UK’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, jumped out at me and touched a nerve:

“While there is currently no evidence specifically on glitter being bad for the environment, it is likely that studies on glitter would show similar results to those on other microplastics”.

And now I feel bad. For not thinking it through. For the trail of glitter I literally left behind. I don’t exaggerate when I say that I left a red glittery bum shape on my seat when I stood up after dinner. And I’m sorry for anyone who sat in my place afterwards and took a little piece of me home with them.

To this day I’m finding that damned stuff on my shoes, in the carpet, on the cat… It’s never going to go away. And then it’ll end up in the sea and all the poor fishes will be lunching on it.

And I know I can’t un-do it. But I can not-do it again. No more more glitter for me. I need to think before I buy. I just can’t cope with the guilt! Or do you think I’m over-reacting?

Vogue Designer Original 1486

Vogue 1486 rose_dress side view

Now here’s a pattern that’s been hanging around in my stash for a considerable amount of time. And I’m so glad I held onto it because I knew it would do me proud one day.

Vogue 1481 designeroriginal

It’s a Vogue Designer Original by Alberto Fabiani allegedly from 1976. Though the shorter version A on the envelope could easily pass for 1980s.

Alberto Fabiani pronunciation
Tickled by how the pattern envelope feels the need to help with the pronunciation of Fabiani’s name!

I love the simplicity of this dress. A speciality of Fabiani it seems. Cut-on sleeves; a ‘lightly’ gathered skirt;  no lining; extension of neck-binding for ties.

Vogue designer original floor length dress

Vogue 1486 floor length dress

I needed a dress to wear to my friend’s wedding and having made her wedding dress (yes, I promise that’s coming soon!) I didn’t have much time, brain-power or nerve left to deal with anything too complex. So this was the perfect pattern. Least I hoped it would be!

I had no fabric-shopping time either so it had to be made from stash. Surprisingly, for all it’s floor-sweeping sumptuousness it takes a mere 2.4m of 60 inch wide material. – Am I the only one who mixes metric and imperial?

This gorgeous rose-print, poly crepe was literally screaming at me from The Textile Centre‘s stall at the Spring Knitting and Stitching Show earlier this year. It’s got the drapiest of drape but was super easy to sew. Pretty sure I only paid £5 a metre. And jolly lucky I had the nouse to buy 3 metres, not having had a plan for it and all.

Vintage vogue 1486 dress

In the past I have been cautious to trace and preserve my vintage patterns. Partly to preserve as near to perfect, the little packet of history that it is. And potentially so I can sell it on should I want to later. But this envelope wasn’t in such a good state to start with so I dove right in and slashed, spread and taped the original to meet my measurements. It felt a little barbaric but liberating at the same time. And hey, It’s still there for another making, all resized and ready.

So what were my findings?

I threw this out to my Insta-audience to see who might pre-empt some pitfalls with the design. And of course they were blindingly obvious, lol! For such an accomplished designer, and ‘master tailor’ who created exquisite evening gowns for a living, you’d have thunk that Fah-bee-ahny would know what happens when you create a low ‘V’ neckline at the front along with a low ‘V’ back, especially with the ‘help’ from silky, drapey fabric. Let’s just say I was relieved to figure out what happens before I hit the dancefloor at the wedding! Or even as I walked into the church… can you imagine?!

So this was a first for me: some little fasteners attached to the inside shoulder seam to attach to my bra-strap. Just had to make sure the bra strap was tight enough not to slip down, lest… doesn’t bear thinking about!

Vogue 1486 maxi dress

I also sewed that front wrap section down because that in itself was an accident waiting to happen.

The sleeves were another issue. Absolutely love the style of them. Perfectly airy for the sunshiny day that it was. But I’m sure most of my dance moves involved arms by my side. Side-boob city and all that!

Vogue designer original maxi dress

The only other thing, that’s not technically an issue, more of a ‘why would you even do that?’  – was the length of the straps at the back. They are an extension of the binding on the neckline but one extends about 3 times the length of the other. I checked and double checked the instructions, and the notches on the pattern pieces but that’s exactly as it’s intended. A design feature, possibly but… why?! I’m so irritated by it and will definitely make them both the same size if I make it again.

All issues aside. It worked perfectly for a wedding dress guest – sans fashion faux pas – and I’ve worn it again since to another wedding, recently. It’s so easy and comfortable to wear, hardly creases and works for both posh and boho-casual – winner, winner vintage dresser!

vintage vogue long dress

More maxi dresses I’ve made:
A very Shiny Burda Maxi
The one I made for the Marylin Manson gig
The one I made to go camping in

Photography © Daniel Selway

Etta’s embellished sundress

Etta wearing her dress
I’ve taken on a few sewing commissions lately and this dress was very nearly another until it turned into a fabulous collaboration.

Etta had scored a bagful  of beautiful Asian braids from Portobello market and asked if I could either make her a white tiered-dress or show her how to make one so that she could then embellish with the trims she’d found.

Asian braid

I so love an idea that’s sparked by the decoration! Much like decorating a room to match the cushions!

I haven’t properly ventured down the teaching road to date so I thought I’d give it a bash. And Etta would be a great guinea pig to rehearse my teaching skills!

Sewing a tiered skirt would be the easy bit but I needed a quick and simple bodice pattern to work with and that is totally when my nine-year collection of Burda mags comes into it’s own!  In order to find what I want, I just search up the pattern options online and then note the magazine issue number. I’d like to report that I file my mags in date order to complete the efficient process but sadly that’s not the case!

Took a wee while to get to March 2013 but it was worth it for the perfect sundress bodice pattern. Nice and simple for a beginner too.

Burdastyle dundress

On first inspection I though the skirt part of the dress was made of gathered tiers but that would have been too flooky! Stitched on lace gives the illusion of tiers, here, but Etta wanted the real deal so we just needed to trace the bodice section and we would make our own tiers.

The look on Etta’s face was priceless when I explained we would have to first locate the lines to trace it off!! Luckily for her there were only 2 small pieces and a couple of straps.

bodice pieces

This was to be Etta’s maiden go on a sewing machine. She was a natural!  I must also give credit here to Brother for the 3-speed control on my Innovis 1250. The slow settings are great for stopping the over-enthusiasts from veering off piste!

Brother speed setting

Once the bodice and straps were sewn, Etta put it on so I could measure down to the desired length of the skirt.

To create the tiers we divided that measurement in half and accounted for seam allowance on each section (adding a bit extra for the hem on the bottom tier). Now we had the depth of each tier, I’m pretty sure we took double the width of the base of the bodice for the length of the first tier and doubled the length of the first to get the second.

I showed Etta how to make gathering stitches by using a wide machine stitch either side of the seam line; pulling up the gathers to fit, and then sewing the seams between the gathering lines. It helps to keep the gathering neat and in line.

Here’s a photo of what the dress looked like before it was trimmed. Etta had chosen a lovely white cotton twill which had a lovely weight to it.

dress without trims

We managed to sew most of the dress in a day, and I took it away to insert the zip and hand sew the bodice to cover the raw edges of the skirt inside. Etta had traced, cut and sewn every other piece herself.

hand finishing the insides

It’s a really interesting experience sharing knowledge. I’m sure all you teachers will be rolling your eyes at me now. For the most part I’m a doer. I rarely look up. And it never occurs to me how far I’ve come either in my day to day job as a designer or indeed my other part time passion as a seamstress. So on the rare occasion when I’m teaching someone I always worry about not knowing enough to share – that the pupil might know more than I’m about to teach – a terrifying thought! Is that a certified phobia?!

In reality the polar opposite has been the case. And I’m always asked lots of questions, to repeat procedure or simply slow down. Which is totally reassuring and absolutely fine by me!!

The deal of this exchange was to be some fabulous photos for my blog. And Etta stepped right up to the mark and took these beauts in her Granny’s lovely garden.

Ettas dress

Ettas dress

Ettas dress

Just love it when a plan comes together… doesn’t she look gorgeous?!

Vintage Butterick coat with added sparkle!

butterick 547 coat by ooobop

Returning to a sewing pattern you’ve worked with before is like turning to an old friend for advice and reassurance – you’re assured of the fit, the skills needed and prepped for pitfalls along the way. Mostly!

And if like me, you paid a pretty penny for the pattern, you’ll get immense satisfaction from apportioning the cost. I won Butterick 547 fair and square by charging straight  in to this crazy bid war! So now the pattern only cost £25 for each coat which sits marginally better, lol!

Butterick 547 coat full length

I made the first version in 2014, truly believing it would be my forever coat – my dreamcoat – but sadly there was an issue with the fabric that I didn’t foresee. So I had to make another in something more stable.

I found the ideal fabric at The Great British Sewing Bee Live show a couple of years back. Pretty sure the seller was M Rosenburg and Son . It’s a fabulous giant dogtooth with teal metallic highlights. It’s got a great weight and a great drape, and it’s stable weave means no stretching or kinking at the hemline.

vintage Butterick coat by ooobop

I just adore the fit – snug to the waist and lapping round my legs – the silhouette is truly 50s. Four buttons to the waist allows for the lower ‘skirt’ to separate as I walk along and a flash of the blue lining does everything to attract attention and some lovely comments.

ooobop vintage coat sunrise and swan

butterick 547 vintage coat

Sewing the shell pieces was a breeze but I stalled when it came to the welt pockets and the button holes. They call for a little more concentration and I had to psyche myself up before cracking on with that stage. But I practised on scrap pieces to remind myself of the process. The main thing that worried me was the fraying of the fabric and those tiny welts for such thick fabric. But I remembered seeing how some bloggers employ the help of Prym Fray Check and it definitely helped. In fact ended up using it on all the inside seams too. I know the seams are all ultimately hidden by the lining but sealing those edges just reassured me that it will hold together over time. Nothing to do with an unthreadded overlocker and a dose of lazyitis, I assure you! I also invested in a Clover buttonhole cutter to cut the reverse of the bound buttonholes. I can’t tell you how satisfying that little crunch feels when it bites through the coating to create a perfectly straight line. No faffy snipping with pointy scissors any more!

vintage handmade coat bound buttonholes

I don’t usually go to that much effort for many of the garments I make but I have to say, it’s always worth it. Buttoning up this coat becomes quite the ceremony. Especially with those heavy vintage buttons … feels so good!

butterick 547 button detail

So actually, all the tricky bits were a breeze. But I shouldn’t have been so smug so soon as I had a minor meltdown about the sleeves. (Fat lot of good my old friend is!) I’d shortened them at least an inch too much the first time round and forgot to unfold that pleat in the pattern pieces for this time round. But I was inspired to use the leftover fur for some cuffs. I sewed them on with half the hem allowance and folded them back with an inch of the fluff to the inside (if that makes sense) and voila – the perfect length and actually a stylish feature to compliment the furry lapel. I can also fold them down to extend beyond my fingertips if I forget my gloves!

Vintage coat cuff detail

Butterick 547 collar

Most of all I loved all the hand-stitching on this coat. Sewing on the buttons. Sewing down the welt edges, sewing in the lining and catch-stitching the hem. I found it really satisfying and very relaxing. I just took my time and relished each stitch, very aware at how far I’ve come with finer stitches over the years. A marked difference from the whinges about it being such a chore the first time round.

I love that most people have no idea that this is sewn from a vintage pattern. Which verifies it’s classic style.  It really is timeless and classy and at some point I will make it simply in black for a more formal occasion. And then I can apportion that pattern cost further!

butterick 547 salute

I’m so glad I made it in time for the cold snap. I really hate the cold so much and yet I’ve never got enough of the right clothes. Mainly because I am now completely allergic to buying RTW and I’d sooner sew than knit. But hey, the only numb part of me on the day we shot this coat was my toes!

Lola Ramona boots

And I have to address the photos of course, taken by my wonderful hubby  – mostly known for his rock and roll bass playing but also a superstar behind the lens. You can see more of his photos at Daniel James Photographic. He was keen as mustard to get up and out before 6 in the morning, taking the bus to Kensington Gardens  and walking to Hyde park before the sun rose. And it was glorious. So pretty and quite breathtaking as the mist rolled in from the Serpentine as  the swans and the Mandarin ducks preened themselves in the golden rays. So magical.

butterick 547 vintage coat

I’ve had a Google to see if anyone else has made this coat up but so far have drawn a blank. Surely I can’t be the only one? Maybe that’s why I ended up paying the earth!

ooobop sitting on a bench

Thanks as always for popping by. Hope you’ve got some lovely plans lined up for the weekend. And I’ll look forward to bumping into some of you at the Spring Knitting and Stitching Show next week… eeek!

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

zandra Rhodes bust

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

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

zandra rhodes floor

inside Zandra Rhodes penthouse

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

zandra rhodes rainbow penthouse interior

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

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

zandra Rhodes talking

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

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

“Being boringly hardworking” was her exact reply.

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

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

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

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

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

zandra rhodes for spring knitting and stitching show

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

zandra rhodes egyptian knit

zandra rhodes egyptian knit

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

I'm part of the Spring Knitting and Stitching Show

zandra rhodes knitwear

Who have you most enjoyed designing for?

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

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

Is there another Royal you’d like to dress?

“I think Kate. Or Camilla!”

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

What colour would you choose?

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

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

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

Then her mobile starts ringing.

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

Zandra on phone

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

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

But you are Zandra Rhodes! I’m thinking.

Back to the questions and some of my favourites:

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

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

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

Do you dress up when you are working?

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

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

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

Phew! Faith restored.

What annoys you?

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

Resonation maximum magnitude… Me too!

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

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

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

zandra rhodes press event

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

zandra rhodes with ooobop

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

The Giveaway! *Now closed*

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

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

The rules are:

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

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

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

DIY Dior-inspired tulle skirt

tulle skirt front

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

tulle skirt back view

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

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

dior style tulle skirt

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

dior style tulle skirt

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

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

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

twirling in tulle skirt

ooobop tulle flamenco pose

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

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

dancing in a tulle skirt

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

ooobop tulle skirt with London bus

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

wearing tulle skirt in Trafalgar Square

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

Doctor Martens with tulle skirt

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

ooobop tulle skirt front view

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

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

No more repeat-wear shame

selfdrafted quilted skirt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Oh I love that skirt/dress’.

If only they’d have stopped right there…

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

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

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

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

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

quilted mini skirt

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

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

Someone didn’t go home last night!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adjustoform lady valet dressform bust

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dressform tailors dummy

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

adjustoform dummy from side

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

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

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

lady valet wooden base

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

dressform metal device

So was it worth the investment I hear you ask?

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

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

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

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

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

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