Nikita’s Prom Dress

Nikita prom dress title pic

I’m grinning like a Cheshire cat and welling up with pride as I sit poised to write this post. Meet Nikita, the sister of Jessica who was the lovely recipient of my first ever hand-made prom dress.

I knew there was another one on order, a year ago. After all you can’t make for one without the other can you?!

But what joy. What an absolutely pleasure to have another opportunity to make such a special dress. I’ve learned one hellofalot in this last year. Fitting mostly. This little beauty only took two fittings. I quite forget how many Jessica’s one took! I’ve learned not to be scared of cutting into the fabric. Learned how to be honest with measurements, how to be brave with fabric choices and mostly that I CAN make a dress befitting of a princess!

Nik modelling dress by the wooden door

Up until a few weeks ago, all Nikita’s dreams of her school leavers prom were wiped out when her school declared no funds for such frivolities, after all, this year. Everyone was gutted for her. Especially knowing how hard Nik has worked throughout her last school years… despite being asleep for most of them! Normal teenage behaviour you might assume but no, unfortunately for Nikita she suffers with narcolepsy. An awful condition which means she has to take very strong medication to keep awake. Lots of things trigger a collapse. Not least of all a fit of the giggles.

I reprimanded her dad recently, for his insistence on telling jokes one after the other but Nikita assured me it was fine because his jokes were so rubbish! She has the best S.O.H. ever!

It was such a relief when her school confirmed the prom would actually go ahead. But then a little panic set in when I realised I had a couple of weeks to pull off the dress.

Nikita wearing prom dress at Fulham PalaceI think by now you have the right to safely assume that Mr Ooobop, AKA the lovely Daniel Selway has been behind the creation of these blinding photos!

Helped by a scorching summer’s day and the beautiful setting of Fulham Palace, he has blown me away once again with his amazing self-taught skills.

Nikita wears ooobop prom dress at Fulham PalaceThe dress itself is fashioned from the same materials as Jessica’s, only in stronger colours. Red Duchesse Satin and Black polka dot tulle.

The halterneck bodice section is Simplicity 3825. Inspired by Nikita’s leaning towards a Marilyn-esque dress.

simplicity 3823 sewing pattern

I’ve had this pattern in my collection for some time and I’m so glad it came into good use.

I basted a layer of the dotted tulle over the bodice pieces and treated them as one for the outer pieces. Inside the bodice is self lined with the red satin. Its a good medium weight and gave the dress some necessary structure whilst not losing out to optimum swishy drape for the skirt.

Oh just look how divine her smile is!

By the fountain at Fulham Palace

The skirt is a full circle, of course. One can’t pose over street vents if the skirt doesn’t rise above one’s head! But actually a more demure pose was to be found next to a water fountain in the grounds of Fulham Palace!

Nikita sitting by the fountain in her prom dress

And lest I forget! There are the now signatory and obligatory 10 metres of soft-as-you-like dotted tulle that adorn said circle skirt. And no tears this time. I knew what to expect. I knew to pin section by section and I knew to baste… and to breathe!

walking barefoot in Fulham Palace gardens

walking away, barefoot

The back of the dress is genius in design. It has a wonderful elasticated panel which keeps the bodice fitted nice and snug with no gapes. I just love the effect that is created with the gathered netting over the liquid shiny satin.

back of prom dress bodice

 

ooobop prom dress in the parkI can honestly say that this dress is testament to everything I love about sewing. Not only about what I get out of the whole deal but what everyone else gets too. Nikita loved her dress and I feel so honoured to have made an original number for her. Mummy Tina was delighted to see her daughter have the best time in her new dress, Daddy Tim was very happy that I’d fulfilled the brief of a ‘modest’ dress and we are all so happy with Daniel’s outstanding photos.

Nikita will do well with whatever she choses to do. Of that I am sure. Nothing is going to hold this little lady back!

prom dress front

In the apple orchardAnd the talents didn’t stop there, oh no. Nikita’s lovely sister Jessica did such an amazing job of her make up for the prom and also today before the shoot. I’m so miffed I missed out on todays events. Slogging away in an icy office when I could have been out on location with the dream team in Fulham Palace!

Jessica doing Niks make up

So thank you girlies, for making a crazy sewing lady so happy and thank you Daniel for making my blog so pretty and thank you lovely readers for making it all worth it.

Portrait of Nikita

Camping it up in a Burda Maxi

Burdastyle Maxi DressThis is the Burdastyle Maxi dress from May 2014 issue and it literally took an evening to trace and make, plus a morning to finish seams and hem.

I love the gathered front loop detail created by some clever drafting and a drawstring. The straps are a lovely and incredibly practical feature too. Each strap is folded in half and the fold is attached in position to the front bodice. This creates a double strap which separates over the shoulder where the visual is 4 spaghetti straps at the back. No irritating slips off the shoulder. No embarassing wardrobe malfunctions!

And I have to mention the fabric. I went in asking for linen lawn. I knew it was a bit of an ask and I’d anticipated the screwed-up-face response that I got in each and every shop. I even predicted the suggestion of cotton lawn instead. No, no, no. Burdastyle definitely stated linen lawn. Kind of a contradiction of terms really, so I’m wondering if its a translation thing. Anyone know?

So with no linen lawn and an urgency to make this dress before I went away, I asked if they had anything soft and drapey. No not polyester. Eewww sweaty! Though to be fair it was very soft and drapey. No not cotton. It’s not nearly drapey enough. Too crispy and neat. Apart from the lawn, possibly. But oh the creasing. I was tempted by tangerine muslin. Really tempted. But I’d have to have lined it for modesty purposes and I really couldn’t be arsed. I was about to give up when the viscose was presented as an option. Only in black or white but also only £4.99, with all the softness and drapeyness I could ask for. Bargain! Done!

And what a joy to work with. I took my time to cut it out because it did move around a bit on the table. especially when I was cutting on the bias. It has got a little natural stretch to it. But to be fair. It is drapey, black and relatively casual so no glaring errors are going to cause a stir here.

I made it a couple of weeks ago when I last went camping so this was it’s second trip out into the wilds of West Sussex!

So there I was, minding my own business, floating around the campfire in my new maxi dress, relishing the soft swishes of viscose around my ankles with stars in the sky and Mr O at my feet. Doesn’t really get much better than this . . .

. . . then this happened . . .

Burda Maxi Dress photobombed

Right on cue!

It’s a small miracle I got the first picture sans bombing to be honest!

I was going to leave out the in-seam pockets to hurry the process. I never really got the excitement when other people go on about pockets. But I’m glad I did and boy do I understand now! Torch and lighter in one, cash and phone in the other. Look, no bag!

And who wants serious posy photos any hoos?!

Burdastyle Maxi dress photobombed

You get to see how the straps separate at the back in the picture above. Clever, no?

You can also get an idea of how the elastic at the waist cinches the bodice in to create a much more flattering silhouette than it would have done otherwise!

You must also be feeling my delight at the depth of my in-seam pockets!

The bombing barrage came from nowhere. Actually it came from all angles. Sabotaged good and proper by a gang of onesie-clad cheeky girls!

Photobombed by onesie girls

The absolute cheek of it!

photobombed by the girls

Hang on a minute. Remind me whose shoot this was?

There was only one thing for it . . .

Maxi dress bombs the children

Seriously ladies, this dress is great for camping. It’s great for slinking down the shops too. And methinks in a drapey sandwashed silk it would be super sexy and glamourous, no?!

If you don’t have May’s Burdastyle mag then here’s a link to where you can download a pdf pattern.

And for anyone who is keen to know more about the delights of viscose, here is a fine clarification of the making process and its properties.

Hope you all had fun sewing times this weekend. Or maybe you were out camping it up too?

 

 

 

 

Drawstring party bags

ethical drawstring party bag

This weekend my youngest daughter celebrated her 10th birthday with a stand-up paddle boarding session down at Brentford Lock. And oh my did they have fun! The weather was perfect… 25 degrees C for all ye of little faith!

For those of you who haven’t heard of this newish craze, one stands on a board, much like a surf board, and paddles down the river!

paddle boarders on pontoon

They started on their knees and were up on their feet in seconds. Took to it like ducks to water, they did!

So what has this got to do with sewing, or the price of fish, I hear you ask. Well. Let me tell you. This week has been so stupidly busy. More stupidly busy than ever with Mr O working away in Monte Carlo; my work as manic as ever and children with stuff going on! So busy that I forgot to get the party bags. And I’d scare you silly if I described the look I got when I picked up LMO from netball last Friday and admitted that I hadn’t managed to get hold of any.

Don’t panic I said. I have a plan I said.
Which is? she growled.
We’ll make them I said… with a furrow of an eyebrow.
What? All 15 of them?
Why the devil not I said with amazing confidence given my state of pure exhaustion!

So after dinner was done and the plates cleared. Out came the machine and the pinking shears. And a little cottage industry was born. I measured, cut and sewed. LMO pinked and pressed and took charge of threading the cord.

2 hours later, 15 cute little drawstring party bags, fashioned from a second hand John Lewis duvet cover, with cool aeroplane print to boot, stood at ease for a photoshoot!

 

Instant gratification.

ethical party bags

Now it could be argued that this task was well over the call of duty. That costed out they would have commanded a stupid price. And that a cheap bunch of paper party bags would have totally saved me the bother (Had I remembered to get them). But what I got in exchange for this tiny sewing project was 2 hours of precious one-on-one time with my daughter. Not to mention a cool stash-bust. That cover has been in my fabric box for eons. Oh, and not forgetting the Brownie points for the ethical factor!

I loved teaching her and she loved learning how. We laughed and we sewed and we made ‘the best eco-friendly party bags ever’. That in itself is priceless!

Full party bags

 

 

Mono dress & faux film noir!

self drafted dress film noir
10.30pm.
The air is heavy.
Rain spatters relentlessly against the rattling windows.
Daniel and Janene each propped horizontally on opposite sofas. Mood is low. The bank holiday weekend is nearing it’s end…

Daniel: Got anything you need to shoot?

Me: Actually yes. But nothing fancy. Just need some pics of that trial dress I self-drafted.

Daniel: Ok. Go to it. Heavy on the make up. Big on the heels. And find a hat.

Me: But . . .


And that’s how these crazy shots came about! Quite literally out of not wanting to end our soggy bank holiday with the grumps!

So this is the dress:

mono dress full length

It’s my next leap on from my first ‘proper’ foray into pattern drafting. I’d tweaked the bodice and I’ve drafted a few pencil skirts to know the drill, and so I thought I’d pair the two together and make me a dress!

There were a few toiles along the way I can tell you! And this one still isn’t perfect. Goodness knows how but I think I need to take at least 2 inches out of the back bodice. My thoughts on this were confirmed at the time of drafting the back skirt section when I noticed there was precious little difference from the hip line to the waist line! I measured the bodice and double checked all measurements and just assumed it was meant to be.

However. I did have to do some trimming just under the waist line after I’d tacked it all together. And I thought I could live with it until I realised the side seams were a little bit too forward.

This really is no big shakes. In fact this is such a giant leap forward for me, the knowledge I’m gaining all the way is so totally rewarding. And luckily I have a heap load more of this fabric that was so kindly given to me by my fabulously talented milliner friend, Jayne Hepsibah. She wasn’t sure what it was but I’ve given it a burn test and it burns to a very fine pale dust. I wasn’t expecting that at all as it’s quite a weighty, almost upholstery style fabric with a bit of stretch! So I’ll make another soon to confirm my findings and rectify the problems.

The other niggling thing is that the armholes on the front could do with widening a bit. I wore this dress to a party a couple of weeks ago and all that dancing and waving of arms resulted in a little chafing round the sleeve edges.

I have some very similar fabric, but in crazy tropical colour, waiting in the wings once I’ve sorted out the issues. Can’t be neglecting the crazy inside when it’s raining outside!

self-drafted dress film noir style

There’s a fair few influences going on with this dress. The neckline I poached from a 40s pattern in my stash. The bold crazy fabric has echos of Kazz the Spazz who still continues to be one of my heroes despite her blog being no more *sniff*, though I’m sure she’d do it more justice with colour! And the overall design came about whilst doodling in my Fashionary book and watching Madmen!

Even though it’s far from perfect and hardly a ground-breaking design, there’s a huge amount of satisfaction that it didn’t come out of a commercial pattern envelope and that I had to make it up to my own instruction!

I self-lined the bodice. And considering the weight of the fabric, it behaved beautifully. With a bit of understitching round the armholes and neckline of course. A good test for the next run when I intend to make that neckline a little bit deeper, but still keep those nice angles.

self-drafted monochrome dress

And the hat! Let me tell you about the hat. Well I don’t happen to have any vintage hats just lying around. I’m sure Mr. Ooobop is convinced I have an actual ‘wardrobe department’ upstairs. I don’t sadly. But what I did have was this cheapie fascinator that I got from the pound shop, onto which I gathered some glittery tulle. Genius, non?! I’m sure some Russian veiling would have been classier but I’ll happily settle for this one… for a quid!

customised fascinatorWe had such a hoot doing these photos. Mr O was able to practice with his new birthday flash attachment and I couldn’t resist the addition little faux film noir-ness with my magic Photoshop wand!

This dress totally called for black and white pics and I wasn’t about to protest. I find black and white photography considerably kinder, compared to full on colour, especially at the end of a knackering weekend!

I’m so glad I’ve got such a pushy boyf, really! I’d never have got the get up and go let alone the camera skills to do this by myself! We really did have a lot of fun with this.

Shame neither of us smoke anymore, otherwise we could have got some proper authenticity going. However we did manage to fashion some obligatory venetian blind shadows!

head shot blind shadows

And it’s a fine way to capture the drama after the last glass of Prosecco got spilled!

vintage scream film noir

I do hope you all had a restful weekend with some making going on, of course!

Brigitte (over)exposed!

brigitte scarf at the brackenbury

I may have missed the party (sorry Tilly) but that doesn’t mean I was going to miss out all of the Brigitte action, oh no!

This is my animal-print chiffon version of the Brigitte Scarf from Tilly and the Buttons‘ gorgeous book: Love At First Stitch. I was so honoured to be invited to the book launch and get me a signed copy. (Managed to make that bash, obvs!) Seriously, if you haven’t invested in this book yet then I whole-heartedly advise you to do so, tout de suite. The photography is amazing, its got real patterns at the back and it goes without saying that the designs are to-Tilly-beautiful! (soz)

brigitte_exposed_3

I’m trying desperately to grow my hair out a bit. It’s taking an age. So while it’s at that God-awful in-between stage, it makes perfect sense to adorn said mop with a beautiful distraction. Cue Brigitte!

brigitte scarf

If it’s good enough for Bardot it’s most certainly good enough for me!

It truly, only took a jiffy! I cut it out and whipped it up while I was waiting for dinner to cook. The suspicious among you, on Twitter… yes I’m looking at you, O Doubting Thomasina – Ms Seams Odd Louise…. suspected dinner was being cooked for me. A girl can only wish but must also remember to be grateful for small mercies when your boyf already has the compulsory skills of music, dance, shoe-shopping and of course… photography!

Brigitte over exposed image

I adore these shots Dan took today. He was practicing an over-exposed technique and I personally think he hit that nail right on the head. No pesky wrinkles or blemishes and lovely bright colours to boot. More o’ these please Mr O!

 

Self-drafted retro top

retro check top

A couple of months ago, I signed up for a local adult education course to learn how to draft a bodice. The need for a go-to-template is great now. My need to save hours in a day is bigger than ever and so the idea is, that if I have a master block, I won’t have to keep reinventing the wheel, each and every time by having to make alterations to a preprinted bodice pattern. I would also very much like to realise some of these gazillion designs floating around my head and create them for other people too.

The course was cheap. Just £85 for four Saturdays, 10-3. And the teacher was lovely. There were 5 other students at first class and 3 at the last. So we pretty much had one to one teaching for the last session. pattern-drafting tools

To begin, we were instructed to pick a set of body measurements from a table of standardised sizes, that matched closest to our own body measurements. My first furrowing of brow. The whole point of me wanting a custom fit is that I don’t fit standard. Even my shoulders dropped an inch with that first instruction! As is usual for me I just kept shtum. But someone else in the class just couldn’t, and with gusto unabashed, questioned the task out loud! Hoorah for the confident ones!

The teacher assured us it was easier and quicker to go from a standard set of measurements whereby most of the calculations were done already and then make alterations to fit, afterwards.

And so I did as was asked. But the confident one did not! She used her own measurements and although, indeed I finished drafting first, she had a better fitting first toile. Funny, that!

But, with fear of the wind changing, I relaxed my jealous scowl and approached the teacher with questions on how to fit this bodice… that really didn’t fit at all!

She drew on me with red pen. The neckline needed to be made deeper. The side seams taken in; the bust point needed to be moved; the fullness taken out of the bust; the back bodice needed shortening; and the shoulders were too long. Mmmmm…..!

first bodice muslin

OK. Not a problem. In fact quite a few extra lessons in alterations were absorbed in the process so I didn’t feel too robbed.

I made the above adustments and sewed another toile. A better fit but it still needed changes. A third toile and although I knew it still wasn’t perfect. I was determined to draft my actual top and make it before the end of the course. I thought it would be useful to have the teacher hold my way throughout the process. And it was.

I ended up with a completely wearable top. She helped me to draft the collar and showed me how to create the facings. I based the design on a pattern I already owned. Did I just state a distain for reinventing wheels?! There is a method in my madness. I want to be able to create things that I see in pictures, everywhere, armed with a knowledge base of skills to custom fit, rather than have to have a standardised pattern that doesn’t ever fit. And of course this top is a great vintage design and I love it!

self-drafted retro-style top

But there are issues. The underbust is too big and it doesn’t feel perfect enough. In fact it’s true to say that it’s too big all over.

back view of top

 

The material was a cheap soft cotton with quite a loose weave so that probably didn’t help my fitting issues either. But it is comfy!

I added the zipper at the side, in true vintage stylee and owing to the bias cut funnel-like collar that rolls over the back. I also added a shaped extension to the waistline so that I can tuck it in without bulgy lumps round my middle. I usually wear it tucked in with a wide belt but I wanted to show it in full for the post. I’m quite happy with it hanging out too!

retro check top full length

self-drafted top side view

I made another one up last night, with some alterations. I took a little out of the side seam allowance and made the waist darts more concave at the point. There wasn’t much improvement to be honest. In effect I made the best of a bad job and went to bed in a huff!

I am irritated that with all of the alterations that were made in order that this bodice fits, the pattern pieces are really irregularly shaped now. And owing to the massive darts that were removed horizontally from the back pieces (to reduce the excess fabric), I won’t ever be able to pattern match across the back 🙁

There is no way I am going to be beat though. With renewed vigour, I got up early this morning to draft another from scratch. I used my real body measurements along with some armhole standards, and low and behold it was a pretty close match. I just have to make a couple of small amendments. The armhole gapes at the front and there is a bit too much excess over the bust and so I have cut and closed a dart at the armhole on the pattern, to reduce the gape. The mid-armhole at the back gapes a little too, and I have smoothed the excess up to the shoulder, and remarked the shoulder seam to both front and back pieces.

And best of all, with this new draft I get to have a perfectly straight back seam so I can have a continued pattern across the back if I so please, yay!

Wow! this really is a learning curve.

Hope to share some more new Ooobop designs soon. Ones that actually fit! So come back soon and in the meantime, don’t forget to enter the Giveaway if you haven’t done already. Only 3 days to go!

TTFN x

PS. All credit to Mr O, of course, for the lovely photos and a lovely day out with the children on the Southbank

 

Burda Shorts

Burda Shorts

It’s amazing what just one metre of fabric can turn into. Give me a morning off work and a pile of Burda back issues and who knows what will fly off the sewing machine! This is a great little pattern from February 2013 Burda Style magazine. They work so beautifully in linen but I think they are a bit more rebellious in wool tartan! The fabric was bought for another pencil skirt but – yawn – I fancied something a bit more casual.

Burda Tartan shorts

It’s still parky enough for 60 derniers and boots but the nip’s not enough to deter a rising hemline. And shorts are a safer option over a short skirt. Far less stressful when it’s still a bit blowy!

Hip pockets

The pockets are a great added extra. They help to define the shape and add a point of interest. Plus they are deep enough for keys, purse and phone… hands free! I took time to understitch the lining and of course the wool pressed beautifully flat.

Of course, there is a pattern-matching issue when one has limitage yardage. But I did manage to match across the front and back seam, which I decided was most important.

burda tartan shorts front

burda tartan shorts back view

I need to tinker with the fit a bit, if I’m to make these again. The waist is a bit big in proportion to the hips for me. And the back needs shortening a bit. I’m still faffing with getting a perfect self-drafted bodice so trouser/short drafts are on the far back-burner. But one day, all knowledge WILL be mine and then there’ll be no stopping me, bwhahahahaha!

burda tartan shorts

 

burda tartan shorts

The photos were of course taken by my wonderful Mister. And these beautiful pastel-coloured London houses are just a few streets down from us. I love how everyone keeps their front gardens ship shape and the colours so fresh. Helps to my pics look great too!

Coloured houses in Wingate Road

 

 

Moneypenny chic

wool tartan pencil skirt

Some time ago. Like a very long time ago. Like I’m too ashamed to admit how long ago, I was approached by one of the mums at the school gates who asked me if I’d like to contribute something to the school auction fundraiser. ‘Of course. I’d love to’, I said. ‘If I could only think of something of worth that anyone would want to bid on!’

The auction happens once every two years and for a school as tiny as ours, it raises an astronomical amount of spondoolies for much-needed improvements in and around the school.

A holiday for four, in Sardinia; Two tickets for the Tennis Championships at Queen’s Club; An Aston Martin Photoshoot and Drive; a John Broadwood upright piano… this is the level of contribution. So you can sympathise with my dilemma!

‘Oh,’ I said ‘Argghhh!’ I said. ‘I’m afraid I’m clean out of anything like that.’ But the clever mum, with a tilty head and a cute face pleaded,'”But could you not make something?’ Uh oh. Here we go, I thought. What could I make without knowing who I’m making for?
‘I guess I could make a made-to measure-skirt.’ I said. Apologetically and realising how dull that sounded up against all else.

The theme was Bond with the opening lot announced as a James Bond goodie bag. Mine was listed at no. 17: Miss Moneypenny Chic

catalogue entry for skirt

Oh how very clever. However just a little bit scary. Of course I had no idea who was going to be bidding on my skirt. I couldn’t even be at the event so I was keen to know who bid and for how much the following morning.  £20, £50? Are you kidding? My friend Katy bid – after a proper fiesty bid-off with another mum – a stonking £300!

Pressure or what! This skirt had to be bloody good. Not only because Katy is my dear friend but it had to reflect the quality to match that price.

First things first. I took some measurements and drafted the skirt. No ready-made patterns going on this time. It had to fit good and proper.

I made a test skirt in a cheap fabric. Which incidentally she really loved too so I must finish that off… at some point!

We went fabric shopping together – perks of the job! – and came out with this beautiful Westwoodesque wool fabric and some beautiful two tone lining to match.

wool tartan and lining

One of the great things about pencil skirts is that they only take a metre of fabric. So you can afford a better quality of cloth. This gorgeous wool was from my favourite, A-One Fabrics. In the Goldhawk Road, of course!

I took my time with this skirt as is clear from the start! I made sure the pattern was centralised and so the front darts were incorporated symmetrically. I’ve learnt by experience and plenty of dogs’ dinners! The design follows through from the centre-front of the waist band too. If you don’t look too close!

pencil skirt front darts

I inserted a hand-picked, lapped zipper. I didn’t want any wonky machine stitching going on! And amazingly enough I got the overlap of the lap matching the fabric pattern on the other side too!

hand picked lapped zipper

Asides from attaching the lining to the vent – which always scares me but always works out somehow – I mitred the corner of the hemmed vents. So much neater and to be honest, the only way I’m ever going to do it from now on. I also hand made the inside button loop. I did this to stop the pull on the waistband which happens if you just rely on a hook and bar.

mitred corner and handmade button loop

And of course the icing on the cake was having the first ooobop label sewn in. I have made my own rule about only inserting one when the garment deserves it. And in this case I think it does!

ooobop label in skirt

I hope soon to be sharing some photos of this skirt with the lucky winner wearing it. Mr ooobop is poised and ready with his camera!