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!

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!

Vintage Vogue 2934 jacket revisited

Vogue 2934 jacket

I first made this Vintage Vogue jacket and blogged it back in 2013 (see here) but somehow, sometime soon after, I managed to loose it! It’s still a total mystery.  Quite possibly a drunken misplacement and if that was the case I’m so annoyed at myself. I hope sincerely that someone found it and loved it as much as I did.

But hey, the advantage of being a crazy sewing lady is that one can whip up another at will, right?

The pattern is a reprint of Vintage Vogue 1950s cape-like jacket.

Vogue 2934 sewing pattern

It’s a great pattern and comes together really swiftly. Two backs (for a centre back seam) and two fronts with cut-on dolman sleeves and clever neckline darts that create a superbly structured stand up ‘collar’. There’s quite a lot of hand stitching inside but I actually enjoyed that bit. Not just because I took it to the park one sunny afternoon to finish off!

vogue 2934 collar detail

It helped of course that the fabric I chose – a remarkably cheap flocked, brocade-type of furnishing weight fabric from Dave the Drapers in Shepherds Bush Market – had the right amount of structure to hold that shape, but I was a bit worried throughout the process that there wasn’t quite enough drape for the swing back.

Vogue 2934 jacket by ooobop

And there wasn’t really. It stuck out like a comedy shark fin! I should have taken a side view photo to prove that I wasn’t being a drama queen but I was so fixated on solving the problem and not throwing in the towel and instead of grabbing the camera, I grabbed my purse and dashed to the nearest charity shop in search of a weighty chain.

After all, that’s what Chanel did, right?

chain weight in hem of jacket

To be fair I’m sure House of Chanel has a special kind of chain and rules on how to sew it in – anybody know? I just stitched every other link with a couple of stitches for security and hey presto, it worked a treat!

Incidentally that picture above also shows the detail of the lining I bought from Oxfam. It was totally biding its stay in my stash for this immensely appropriate pairing!

As with anything you make twice, it’s always good to change things up a little. I felt the black frog fastenings I chose last time sunk shamefully into the fabric so I went for a contrasting gold set and matching metallic braid to edge the cuffs, second time round.

gold frog fastenings

It was the best choice! This jacket is so much fun. I love the textures, the overall shape and the slightly bonkers nod to a Christmas drummer boy! I’m not saving it for best and I’m definitely not letting it out of my sight!

vintage vogue jacket by ooobop

School reports (or shorts to the layperson!)

I have created some fabulous projects recently (blows own trumpet): A mother-of-the-bride dress for me, an original and self-drafted dress design for a new customer and a tiered dress that I helped a friend to realise from some fabulous sketches she’d made. But before you get too excited, those posts are very much waiting on the back burner of the publishing pile until I can get hands on the photographic evidence.

In the meantime I have a small and rather underwhelming pair of shorts to report. Or ‘school reports’ as the cheeky cockney mister would have them called!

wearing handmade in Quadrophenia Alley
Classy shot in Quadrophenia Alley, Brighton!

This is third time out the packet for Simplicity 2659. Such a great little pattern that came free with Sew Magazine a good few years ago. I made my first ever pair (see here) in May 2012 where I declared it a small baby step towards the making of actual long pants / trousers. And I followed up with a second more wintry pair here. Simplicity 2659 easy chic Six years on I still haven’t made any ‘longs’ for me but I did make a couple of pairs of satin brocade jogging pants for my youngest so I guess that counts… in a toddler step kinda way. I’m itching to try drafting a proper pair for myself as I’m convinced its the only way to get a proper fitting pair. Just got to find some time… and the courage!

handmade shorts simplicity
Even classier shot, in Brighton, day after Pride!

The only thing different I did in the making of the shorts this time was to invest in a facing rather than use this twill tape to finish the waistline. Twill tape worked great for the last two versions. It certainly is a quick and unfussy operation but I didn’t have any left and couldn’t even wait the single day for a Prime delivery! So I measured 7cm down from the waist of both the front and back sections and traced off the top portion of the pattern. I then closed up the darts to form facing pieces, cut the pieces and sewed the right hand side seam and pressed open. The zipper is on the left and so the left hand side of the facing was going to be slip-stitched to the zipper tape. With right sides together I sewed the facing to the waist seam of the shorts. I understitched that seam allowance to the facing, close to the line of stitching to prevent it rolling out and also tacked the facing to the front and side seams.

Talking zipper – I hand sewed it in this time. Just because I had a spare mo and also because I had the inclination. I like the little visible little prick stitches and it feels like I have more control over the insertion. I always seem to miss catching in the underlap of the overlap when I sew by machine. If you know what I mean?! I finished off with a hook and eye at the top. lapped zipper I just love the turn ups. In fact I get a little moment of joy from sewing the bias strips onto the hemline. It’s like they bring the party to an otherwise ridiculously small and simple garment. And of course because they are cut on the bias there is a contrast in the direction of the fabric pattern. In this case the diagonals meet the vertical lines in the fabric. I can’t explain why this makes me so happy. It just does! You might have to imagine what they actually look like as it appears that it’s harder to shoot a pair of black shorts than actually make them! simplicity 2659 shorts And I finished them up just in time for a little day trip to Brighton. This weather is still  up until Sunday was sweltering in the UK and I’ve decided that minimal coverage of body is the only way forward! Ordinarily I’m a little bit shy about too much naked leg on display but in Brighty, anything goes and nobody bats an eyelid so I was happy as Larry paddling in the sea…. simplicity 2659 shorts … and sitting astride a scooter, care of Mod Roy! But boy did I feel like a traitor. My dad was a rocker after all! (Spot the guy who seriously wanted to feature on ooobop!) With Mr O on Modroys scooter Incidentally. The top I am wearing is handmade too. The pattern I used is Butterick B4685 . I made it from some fake linen border print fabric along with a matching skirt and blogged it here.

Pattern-free cowl skirt in African wax fabric

Cowl skirt front

I’m pretty sure I once said I’d never make clothes for anyone else. But owing to my rubbish memory I now seem to be making a habit of it!

Lucy is one of my beautiful returning customers. and I love the challenges she throws my way. It seems I’m happy making things for other people so long as they are not boring things, lol!

Lucy has a way more interesting social life than me and loves pinning her favourite styles on Pinterest for future reference. It’s a great way for us to share the possibilities of what she’d like me to make next. Most of what she pins, slightly terrifies me but I already overcame my fear of sewing trousers by making her a jumpsuit (which you can see here). She was so delighted with the outcome and that spurred me on to investigate the method of making a cowl skirt.

I’d seen them before, but couldn’t for the life of me work out how to set about it until I came across this tutorial on YouTube by Ruralafricanshop.

It’s a pattern-free tutorial that transforms a length of fabric like magic! Thank you Ruralafrican shop!

I set about making one for myself first. You know, just to test the waters (*read, because I really wanted one too!) and the great thing about sewing with African wax fabric is that it is so darned cheap you can afford to toile it and make one out of the same bolt. Which is clearly the best thing to do in order to see the results for real.

I found me some red and black, of course. It’s quite an unusual colour palette among the wax cotton shelves it seems. Everything else under the sun but not much red and black without other colour interference. I just love the sunbursts. It’s got a great graphic feel about it. And totes lends itself to this crazy sculpture of a skirt!

It cuts some pretty cool shapes with one little turn here and there:

cowl skirt by ooobop

It looks so elegant from the back.

cowl skirt by ooobop back view

And does it’s finest heart-shape impression in the wind!

cowl skirt by ooobop

The trial was a success. I added a few refinements to the instructions, re neatening seams, interfacing the waistband and inserting an invisible zip on a centre back seam. And I rehearsed using different lengths of fabric to see the difference in length of the skirt. The pleats were formed by eye rather than maths.




Lucy supplied her own fabric which was the chosen fabric for the event. And it was a little bit lighter than what I’d used so the pleats and the drape worked even better the second time around. And the border on the fabric worked beautifully on the waistband.

Lucy cowl skirt detail

She is far taller and way more leggy than me so I made sure the length was appropriate, and warned of the shortness of the front seam!

To be fair, she’d rock a potato sack but still, what joy to see her wearing another ooobop special… I was chuffed to bits when she sent me these photos!

Lucy wearing cowl skirt by ooobop

Lucy wearing cowl skirt by ooobop

I’m not stopping here. African wax fabric is such a pleasure to sew. And I’m ready for my next challenge. Bring on the party!

Other things I’ve made from African wax fabric:

Jumpsuit and baby dress

Self-drafted wax print dress




Gypsy dress and panel placement

 

ooobop soladida gypsy dress front

I am flexing those self-sabotage skills again. I have had notice of my daughters wedding for almost a year and with only a month away, have I begun making my mother of the bride dress? Don’t be daft. But I did make another Sew La Di Da French Gypsy dress. And I must say, I’m not even a little bit sorry!

ooobop soladida gypsy dress front

I totally blame that upstairs bit at Misan Fabrics, in the Goldhawk Road, where they have the most desirable remnants on sale, way cheaper than the fabrics they have downstairs. There was this 3.5m bolt of bright red panel fabric that was signalling from the top shelf. I didn’t have a clue what I’d do with it at that point. Cutting it up for headscarves was an option. But not a very exciting or fulfilling one. Maybe posh napkins or a gathered skirt? Seriously, I’m so uninspired sometimes. I spread it out on the table and looked to the assistant for a suggestion. A shrug of the shoulders translated that she wasn’t the least bit interested and was I going to buy it or not? The reason I was stalling was that the label said £10. I didn’t imagine for one minute that meant for the whole lot. So when the penny dropped, so did the idea that I could indeed make a gathered skirt but with a French Gypsy dress bodice attached to the top of it… for a tenner!


It’s great to revisit a recently-made sewing pattern: It’s already been traced; the fit is established – though I had to keep in mind that the fabric I used last time had a bit of stretch – plus having rehearsed it already, it’s a more confident sew and the process is therefore quicker.

ooobop soladida gypsy dress bodice

There was an issue of placement though. There were not going to be any happy accidents here, oh no! The skirt was dead easy to work out. I just used the width of the fabric for front and back and then halved the back for the seam allowance and zip. But I did think to make sure the panels aligned from the same point at the top/bottom… just before I cut, lol

The midriff – which I must have told you a hundred times before, is my favourite section of a dress – deserved a small floral border that came from the centre of the larger panel. I like how it kind of looks like a giant buckle from a distance. The little floral bits at the side were a bonus.

ooobop_soladida gypsy dress midriff

That same little patterned square worked for the sleeves just as well.

ooobop soladida gypsy dress sleeve

Back bodice pieces always give the most placement jip when there’s a zip to factor in. So annoying. Even more annoying when I’d already cut the back skirt pieces apart and could have made life easier for myself if I’d have thought it out properly and allowed for a side closure instead. But then I had a little brainwave and made sure that the placement didn’t need any matching up. I just needed to make sure the design was the same distance away from the zip on either side. Which it is. Kind of!

ooobop soladida gypsy dress back

The only section I’m not crazy about is the front gathered bust section. There wasn’t enough plain red and I didn’t want to repeat too much the ‘lacy’ edging of the panel section. I can live with it though!

I still had enough duchesse satin left over from the last time to make the black binding which is lucky because I love how it outlines the dress at the top.

My new dress had it’s first outing today and proved to be very picnic-worthy and received lots of lovely comments. It also attracted some attention on our little shoot in the neighbourhood earlier this evening. One passing stranger couldn’t resist joining in and worked it so well it would be rude not to include him. Thinking of you, Karen (didyoumakethat). I didn’t even have to tell him what it was for!

ooobop soladida gypsy dress guest

Thanks as always to the lovely Mr O for these lovely photos. x