Vintage Laura Ashley Romper

Shelby Romper Suit by ooobop against a white wall

Last weekend was a Godsend. Seriously. As a sewist, who wouldn’t relish permission to sew your undivided heart out for two full days whilst tuned in to all manor of inspirational videos and chat from the best kind of community ever. I’m talking the #SewingWeekender hosted by The Foldline and English Girl at Home, obviously. The event that sparked so much joy and raised so much money for such great causes.

And hey, I made a new outfit in the process, too!

ooobop shelby romper against white wall

I’m not sure if I can ever stop making True Bias Shelby Rompers now. This is my third and still I’m not done!

This wasn’t the intended fabric though. I had factored in some crinkle cotton linen gauze, but following a prewash, it crinkled to half the size and became all elastic and everything. I set about ironing but got bored after the first 20cms and swapped it up for a really old pair of curtains instead. As you would!

Ordinarily I have a reputation for exaggeration, but in this case I’m not joshing. I bought these Laura Ashley curtains in a charity shop many moons ago. Quite excited by the vintage factor. Had to look up those roman numerals though . . .

MCMLXXVIII

MCMLXXVIII = 1978 for the less Roman among us!

I bought them when I was dead broke. And still argued the West London inflated charity shop price! They served my previous two addresses as actual curtains and have sat wantingly in stash mountain for the last 10 years. So I think you might relate to my happiness at using them to make my third True Bias Shelby Romper suit.

ooobop shelby romper walking

I get it now. Using the same pattern over and over. If it ain’t broke and all that. Such an easy gig when it works straight out of the packet. I made my first ‘trial’ one in a very lightweight (quite see through) star-print viscose. And I love it still. The second, more improved version realised in a tropical print viscose and it’s so interesting to see the difference when it sews up in a fabric with a bit more structure. The silhouette is accentuated even more and feels good against the skin being 100% cotton and all. Feels even better knowing how many lives it’s lived and yet 42 years on its still many more years away from a landfill!

That said, there was a little issue with the tiny back straps. They didn’t turn as easily in curtain fabric. It’s a bit of a toughie compared to viscose. So following a wee tantrum, I re-cut the pieces on the bias – remembering a video tutorial I’d watched about cutting rouleau loops on the bias – and it bloody worked a treat. Thank goodness I had enough fabric left!

ooobop bias straps for shelby romper suit

This isn’t the end of this particular project. I’ve got plans. Mostly to mess things up! You know what I’m like with my colour palette – there’s not a scrap of black going on, save for the buttons. So I’m going to add some paint. Just a bit. And not quite sure where and what. But watch this space!

Thank you Daniel once again, for my lovely photos. Especially when the clouds dictated we should never have strayed further than the garden gate, let alone to the riverside. But I’m jolly glad we did.

ooobop shelby romper hammersmith riverside

 

Shift in the right direction!

ooobop self-drafted shift dress

I’m so happy right now. Doesn’t take much – just a shed load of sunshine, some quality time with the fam and success at last with the fit of my shift dress.

In case you’ve missed any part of me whittling on about this process, my mission has been to achieve the best fit I can using my own dress pattern with minimal seam lines – ie a darted dress with both front and back pieces cut on the fold – so as not to disturb the print of a very boldly designed fabric that I have in mind to sew next!

self-drafted shift dress in a vintage batik fabric

The fabric I used here was the best test so far because it too required careful pattern placement. You can see the first version I made here and I just realised I didn’t even get round to blogging the second so here is an actual shot, instead!

Self-drafted dogtooth shift dress

I was gifted the gorgeous batik fabric a few years back, by a lovely friend who had inherited it from her parents. When she saw it featured in my instagram post she was so happy to see it again and so pleased that it was being put to good use. I kinda felt duty bound as I remember her telling me that her parents used to travel for to Thailand and Indonesia  quite a lot in the 60s and 70s for work and that they always returned with gorgeous authentic fabrics. Proper sentimental value and vintage, too!

ooobop self-drafted batik shift dress

This piece in particular is undoubtedly a hand-blocked batik. Though this is based purely on my own research and I could be wrong so please correct me if you think different.

It wasn’t very wide but I knew it would be perfect for the third trial of my shift dress, knowing I was very nearly there with the fit. I wouldn’t have risked it otherwise!

It’s such a fine quality cotton. Actually feels so natural against my skin, which is an odd thing to say but I have worn cotton before that doesn’t feel nearly as good. And it completely stood up to a stroll in 24° of Shepherds Bush sunshine today.

ooobop self-drafted batik shift dress

I was intrigued by the selvedge of this fabric. Why would it have just one edge of border decoration? I put out to the wonderful, ever obliging sewing community on Instagram and the very clever Meg from @cookinandcraftin suggested it was very likely to be used for a hemline and a centre front detail for a sarong when wrapped. I loved knowing this and was determined not to waste this detail so I set about cutting my pieces on the cross grain in order to make the best use of the design.

ooobop_self-drafted shift dress in batik

But I hit a snag and realised just in time that the cross grain had absolutely no give at all, and considering the style and fit, it could have been a disastrous move. So I cut on the long grain, as I have trialled twice before (if it ain’t broke and all that) and cut the border separately to seam along the hemline with a generous seam allowance which is overlocked and pressed down on the wrong side. It actually helps to add a bit of weight to the bottom of the dress too.

ooobop shift dress and shades

I made a few other tweaks to the pattern since version 2:

  1. I widened the shoulder straps by 1cm having struggled to pull the dress through the facing during construction, as per the ‘burrito-method’! The fabric I am going to use for the next one is much thicker and I don’t want to risk damaging it or pulling out any stitches in the process.
  2. There was still an element of pooling at the back (swayback issues as usual). And even though I added a quarter of an inch more at the hips since last time – with some improvement – it didn’t seem to solve the issue as much as I’d like.
  3. Then, just this morning, I saw that Cortney from @s.is.for.sew on Insta detailed how she lengthened her back darts to resolve a similar issue. So I moved the bottom point of the diamond dart down 2.25″ and continued the widest part down longer before tapering off. It worked a bloody treat!

ooobop self-drafted batik shift dress

ooobop batik shift dress

And so I do believe I’m ready to cut into that prize D&G fabric that I got from The Stitch Festival 2020 – only dilemma now being, how the hell do I choose my favourite placement of the design? I anticipate this being the longest part of the process!

Dolce and Gabbana fabric at M Rosenberg's stall
Dolce and Gabbana fabric at M Rosenberg’s stall

Thank you as always to Daniel for these amazing shots down the alley of the Laundry Yard in Shepherds Bush, London. For anyone who knows, you’ll know what a brave move this was!

Self-drafted Batik shift dress by ooobop

Tropical Shelby

ooobop shelby romper in tropical print
What bliss, when you have precious little time to play with, but you have a sewing pattern that you know fits straight out of the packet! I’m back again with another True Bias Shelby Romper suit. And I love it just as much as the star version… don’t make me choose!

The fabric is a beautiful quality viscose from SewSewSew. Once again the sewing community came to my aid when I asked if anyone knew where I could get my hands on some tropical print. And Amy from Almond Rock so kindly pointed me in exactly the right direction

Tropical print version of True Bias Shelby Romper

I feel all ‘holiday’ in this one, ditching the Docs for a pair of espadrilles. Believe it or not, I’ve never owned a pair owing to my fat feet and inability to squeeze my toots into them. But Asos have a wide-fitting shoe section and I thought I’d give them a shot. Mostly very happy, especially with the fit. I just have to learn to walk in them and keep my heels from lifting out. Any tips?

Ooobop Shelby Romper

Despite having a mahoosive collection of salvaged and inherited buttons, I still couldn’t muster up five that were just right, so I bought from a seller on Ebay Number-Sixty – who have a huge selection of buttons at very reasonable prices. You can’t really see from the photo but they are olive green with subtle swirls and following the last episode of The Great British Sewing Bee, I was totally inspired by one of the contestants, Nicole,  to sew them on with a pop of contrasting orange thread.

close up of buttons sewn on with orange thread

There was one little tip I forgot to share last time which is so helpful. The instructions advise to stitch in the ditch on top of the shoulder seams and centre back seam to secure the facing piece down. I can’t believe up until now I have been painstakingly handstitching the facing to the seams. This advice will be carried through to all my projects where applicable. It’s so much more effective. And quicker!

I really do love this pattern – the ease at which it sews up right through to finished romper suit. It truly is so much fun to wear. So much so that I can’t wait for my next order of fabric to arrive so I can make my next one. Haha… I make no apologies. It really is that good!

ooobop Shelby Romper

Lovely photos of course by Daniel Selway

 

True Bias Shelby Romper with stars

ooobop True Bias Shelby Romper suit

All the kisses for the sewing community today. But mostly for The Foldline and their generous Instagram campaign: Random Acts of Kindness and to Amy aka AlmondRock, for tagging me! That in itself presented a fuzzy, warm virtual hug but the prospect of getting to choose a pdf pattern of choice was such an awesome treat!

I was literally that kid in the sweetshop. I don’t know if you’ve visited The Foldline’s pattern store recently but it is mind-blowing. So many super stylish patterns – Indie and Big 4. Put some serious quality browsing time aside before you head on in!

After a delightfully long peruse fuelled with umms and ahhhhhs a-plenty, I decided on the True Bias Shelby pattern. Especially after I spied Patsypoomakes‘ version – which was definitely the deciding factor.

The Shelby is a very versatile design that delivers a v-neck, princess-seamed dress and romper suit in both maxi and mini lengths, with 2 sleeve options.

True Bias shelby pattern line drawing

So reminiscent of my 90s youth – styled with DM’s, lockdown hair and a pair of shades to hide the baggy eyes. Much the same as I would have done thirty-odd years ago except hair probably would have been  loaded with half a can of Elnett, crimped and backcombed for added bigness!

I have never used a True Bias pattern before and I really didn’t know what to expect with regards sizing, clarity of instructions, general fit and ease of sewing etc, so I opted for some super drapey stash fabric to toile it. After all what were the chances of a romper fitting in all the right places, first time round and without a ‘hungrybum’ feature?

I didn’t think for one minute that this was going to fit without some inevitable adjusting but I was going to enjoy the process all the same. I clipped and overlocked and pressed all the seams and it brought so much joy to see it taking shape. I diligently followed every step of what is probably the clearest most concise set of instructions I have ever encountered all the while believing this was destined to be a test garment only.

ooobop True Bias Romper set back view

The more I progressed with the sewing the more it became apparent that I wasn’t going to look like a giant baby (I did have some initial doubts) and it was going to be a perfect fit and I was beginning to feel a bit sad that I might not have used the best fabric for it to be actually wearable. It looks pretty decent in the pics because it was a relatively cloudy day today. But it’s really sheer. Like hold-it-up-to-the-light and-see-absolutely-everything sheer!

I am determined not to let these go to waste and so my lightbulb moment came with the discovery of my ever-so-nineties Pineapple Dance Studio cycling shorts! No one would really know in any case, and everyone is saved from seeing my actual butt!

ooobop True Bias Romper set back view

Princess seams always produce the smoothest and flattering lines IMHO but the waist ties at the back cinch in a waist I never knew was there! Creating them was a breeze with my Clover Easy Loop Turner and they are the perfect length and width to effortlessly tie into a cute bow.

You can totally tell how much thought and consideration has been put into drafting this pattern. I had no choice but to work on it in small, often hour-long stints and yet it was so easy to pick back up on where I left off each time. Even at my most tired after a very long working day, the instructions were so clear, the illustrations were brilliantly presented and it sewed up so effortlessly. I couldn’t recommend this pattern more if I tried!

ooobop True Bias Shelby

 

 

 

Camp collar shirt

selfdrafted camp collar shirt

Did I imagine that Christmas and New Year break? Feels like it happened a lifetime ago… can I scroll back a few weeks pleeeease – it’s all a bit too much already! Any one else feeling the same?

I know I mustn’t complain. Too much work is the least of concerns for a freelancer. I’m just craving a sewing project soooo much! There’s so many in my head I’m literally going to burst if I don’t get to make at least one of them soon.

front view of shirt

But it’s dark now… and I’m exhausted – story of my life. So I’ll just settle for a little fix from blogging a recently-made shirt for now.

I already had this animal print cotton fabric in stash and it was just enough to rehearse a new self-drafted design. One of the upsides of designing my patterns digitally is that I can test a pattern layout on computer screen to see how much fabric I’ll be needing. And also plan the positioning of pieces for minimum waste without having to crawl around the living room floor ‘playing giant Tetris’ while the fam barks at me to get out of the way of the telly – I don’t have a proper cutting table, see.

Side view of camp collar shirt

My recent self-drafted adventures have included a 70s style dress with flared sleeves and a Christmas Dress with bishop sleeves. Both of which use the same bodice block and knowing it worked both times meant I just had to add a bit of extra ease, add a button extension and lengthen to the hipline for a great fitting shirt. The sleeves would be simpler than both trialled before, and I found a great video tutorial on Bluprint to draft a one-piece collar. So what could go wrong?

Well this is where I classically mess up because I try and run before I can walk. I’ve never actually made up a straightforward self-drafted sleeve for myself yet. Just flared ones in both cases. So there was never any trouble with fit. But as my block stands, it’s too tight. Luckily I had my suspicions and made one sleeve up in calico to check first. Lord knows where I went wrong. But I seriously must have got lucky previously! To rectify (badly) I have slashed and spread to the sleeve cap. And it works, kind of. But it is still a bit snug. In fact it’s a bit too tight under the pits too so I need a revisit to this pattern before I make another.

Back view of shirt

I’m going to lower the underarm point and redraft that sleeve with less haste (read less excitement) and less speed! Because I’ve got more plans going forward and I’m going to need those pattern pieces spot on!

The collar worked out perfectly. It’s a camp or Hawaiian collar, so Suzy Furer told me on the Bluprint video tutorial. Basically a collar and stand, all in one. I did check out another tutorial on YouTube for the construction. It was kind of obvious but I just needed some reassurance.

hawaiian collar

Suzy advised to ditch the waist darts front and back but I really quite like the fitted aspect of it and I’m convinced that if I lower the armscye by half an inch or so more and sort the sleeves out it will be a much more comfortable fit.

So the consensus is that it’s not the greatest self-drafted shirt in the world but it’s a great starting point and I’m looking forward to a new and improved one. Might have to buy some new fabric though… I’m feeling stripes!

Have you kicked off the New Year with a new project yet? Pray tell. I’ll do my best not to get too jealous!

Operation Christmas Dress complete!

handmade tartan dress with teardrop opening

Hopes were fading to get this dress finished on time for Christmas Day. But the sewing gods were looking down on me, somewhat favourably and I sewed them cuff poppers on quite literally at the stroke of midnight on Christmas Eve.

Oh how I love ‘the night before Christmas’ – When all the shops are shut and there’s nothing more to be got. The street outside is quiet; the Christmas tree lights twinkle at their brightest and that sweet little shot of sherry slips slowly down the hatch! Perfect time of year to have some hand sewing going on in front of a festive telly-box movie, too!

Tartan Christmas dress front

This dress is most definitely worthy of an ooobop original issue number 2. The turtle neck dress I recently made almost had a tear drop neckline but in an effort to walk before I could run, I saved it for this time.

The process was exactly the same:

  • I dreamt the design
  • I drew it in my Fashionary sketch book
  • I self-drafted the pieces from my previously created blocks, using Adobe Illustrator
  • Printed and tiled the pattern pieces
  • And sewed up the finished article.

This is proving to be my favourite method of dressmaking to date! That said, I’ve got so much still to learn and I’m anticipating some frustrating times ahead so I’ll still be checking out Indi and vintage sewing patterns when I need some respite!

To edge the teardrop – thus avoid lining or facing – I dug out and dusted off the bias tape maker. To be fair I don’t think its much quicker than the manual ironing method but it’s a bit more fun… when it works!

Close up detail of teardrop opening

I’ve messed up many a time binding edges so this time I knew to start with sewing the right side of the binding to the wrong side of edge of the teardrop opening. I used my quarter inch foot for a consistent seam and took it real slow. Any unevenness is corrected when the binding is pressed in position to the front. (It doesn’t matter if it’s a bit wonky on the back because it won’t be seen. The entire reason for starting on the back!) I then clipped the seam in the curved areas before slowly and carefully top-stitching close to the edge on the right side to finish the binding, where it does matter! That final press is so satisfying.

I then used two more folded bias strips to bind the neckline from back to front, concealing the top edges of the teardrop, and continuing the topstitch to the ends to form the ties. I sewed across the ends of the ties to prevent too much fraying. I’m happy for it to fray a little.

Now lets talk bishop sleeves – Lovely big billowy bishop sleeves! They’re a bit trendy at the moment but to be fair they’ve never been out of favour in my fashion world!

close up of sleeve and cuff

I took my sleeve block piece and similarly to how I flared it last time, created 4 slash points and spread the pieces till the width was a little more than thrice my cuff measurement. I didn’t deduct the length of the cuff from the sleeve as I wanted the fullness to overlap the cuff which it kind of does but the structure in the fabric doesn’t really make it perform as it did in my head!

The cuff is sewn akin to the binding to hide the seam and there’s a small overlap for the poppers.

Walking in my new dress

I really want to rehearse another, even more fuller bishop sleeve on a blouse made with a lighter viscose. Just to see how differently it behaves. I really want to add some lovely button loops and buttons to the cuffs too which I didn’t do here mostly because of time restraints, hence the poppers!

The rest of the dress is constructed the same as the turtle neck one: inserting an invisible zip in the back. And I must add how chuffed I was at just how invisible it turned out with all those checks matching up either side.

Back view of dress

After all that work I didn’t wear it on Christmas Day. I decided to spare it from the cooking splashes and wine spillages and wore it out on Boxing Day instead. Despite it’s festive feel, I will be wearing this dress at every other time of the year and occasion for when tights and sleeves are necessary. The fabric is 100% cotton except for the metallic gold thread and is so comfy to wear. Not surprising that I debated using the fabric for PJs initially!

striding out in my new tartan dress

It carries a lovely little memory too as I purchased the fabric on a sewing blogger meet up organised by @ClaireSews for when @liblib came to visit all the way from Austraila. We chatted over coffee and shopped our little hearts out in the Goldhawk Road. I wasn’t supposed to be buying more but @ella_yvonne convinced me it had my name on it! Always such a treat to meet like-minded sewists IRL.

I’m not holding much hope for completing anything new before New Year so I’ll take this opportunity to wish you all a fabulous, creative and healthy 2020.

All the very best of wishes and lots of love from Janene xxx

Tilly Agnes in French Terry

Tilly and the Buttons Agnes top
Tilly and the Buttons Agnes top

Despite my latest drafting adventures, I’m not about to give up on the tried and tested patterns I know and love. And the Agnes top by Tilly and the Buttons is one such gem.

I made it first in 2016, using a black and ivory stripe cotton jersey and it’s been one of my favourite go-to tops ever since. So much so that I didn’t want to change a single thing about it.

Detail of rouching on the sleeves
Rouching with stripes for max effect!

I just love the silhouette. The statement sleeves take full responsibility for this, of course – such clever drafting and  a simple rouching achieved  by stretching and sewing a short length of 5mm elastic along a guideline inside the upper part of the sleeve. Add to that some gathering on the sleeve cap for extra poof… et voila!

There’s a cheeky bit of rouching down the centre front, too – using the same technique – which is super flattering.

I used a French Terry for this one. A cosy navy, red and white stripe – making it extra French! I scored it at Crafty So and So’s lovely shop in Leicester, which I was so excited to visit the day after I attended their awesome Dressmakers Ball in March this year.

French Terry: One of its sides is flat, while the other side is with cross loops. It can be 100% cotton or be made from a variety of fibres, sometimes with spandex (also known as elastane or lycra). It is often warp knitted, and the term French Terry is colloquially used for all warp knitted Terry – source: Wikipedia

The fabric is a bit weightier than the first one I made, giving those sleeves a bit more structure. However the neckline didn’t work out as well as before. But I think that’s largely due to the neckband being slightly too long and having not stretched quite enough. But it wasn’t a biggie. I nipped in a little dart inside at the centre front and it was sorted in a jiffy. In fact it sharpened the v-line a bit more.

V neck accentuated with a wee dart inside the binding
V neck accentuated with a wee dart inside the binding

I confess I was too lazy to bring out the twin needle and not brave enough to sew completely on the overlocker, despite having the option of 4 threads now. I just stuck to the devil I knew and sewed with a regular zig-zag stitch. And amazingly enough, a regular needle. Very surprised I didn’t need to dig out the ball-point!

I just love how Agnes brings a bit more style to the table than a regular T. And I love to wear it with a pencil or circle skirt. What other kind of skirts are there?

Worn with a classic pencil skirt
Worn with a classic pencil skirt

I’m seriously so happy with it. And so in love with French Terry and will definitely seek out more of the same when I come to make another. Which I will.

So much fun in a Tilly Agnes
When you look up and a passer by is mimicking your serious selfie poses!

Ooobop original 70s style dress

ooobop original 70s style dress
ooobop original 70s style dress

The thing I love most about sewing is the eternal learning curve. I will always be on a joyful journey of discovery because there is no chance I will ever learn it all in my lifetime but with every little milestone I reach I get a little buzz of excitement which propels me to the next level and this little dress is prime example of my progress.

It might not be the most ground-breaking, couture class garment you’ve ever seen but its mine, all mine – an ooobop original

I dreamt it, I drew it, I drafted it, I sewed it.

sketches of the dress
Love drawing the possibilites in my Fashionary sketchbook

For sure, I’ve sewed and drafted for other people but never as successfully for myself. I’ve been bouncing between lessons on Craftsy’s Blueprint and instructions from various pattern-making books but it transpires the reason it took me longer to fit myself was my own dishonesty. Denial of my actual measurements. Reluctance to accept the differing pattern shapes to the examples given. Even cheating my measurements knowing it would look better if I nipped in certain stats. Desperate. IKR!

wearing ooobop original 70s style dress
Striking a pose in Notting Hill

And it just goes to show that you can’t cheat at maths. On the fourth attempt at a moulage (a close fitting blue print from which one adds ease to create a master sloper ) it bloody worked! I was so happy . Literally danced around the room in nowt but a pair of pants and the moulage for a good half hour. And then it dawned on me all the possibilities.

Classic pose with a classic car
Classic pose with a classic car

But first I had to add ease to create the sloper. Another milestone reached as I’m getting much quicker and more efficient at drafting in Adobe Illustrator. Luckily I use this programme for my job as a graphic designer and can justify the substantial Adobe Creative Suite subscription. But it makes it all the more satisfying that I am getting untold extra benefits from its use. My space is so limited at home and the prospect of getting out and putting away all the giant drafting materials is exhausting in itself, before I’ve even put pencil to paper. Drawing patterns using my laptop and being able to store them digitally thereafter is literally life changing, for me!

Sloper created using Adobe Illustrator
Sloper created using Adobe Illustrator

Once I’d drafted the sloper, the only other piece left to draft was the turtle-neck collar. That was a case of simply measuring the neckline and cutting a bias rectangle piece to that length and 6″ wide. It was sewn like a bias binding around the neckline. I left the back edges open to insert a zipper to the top of the neckline then folded the facing part of the collar to the inside and finished by hand.

Striking a different pose with the classic car. Loving the silhouette
I do love the simple silhouette of this dress

I had originally planned an extravagant bishop-style sleeve but I didn’t think I’d have enough fabric for such indulgence, so I settled on a slightly flared sleeve instead – slashing and spreading my sleeve sloper from wrist to sleeve cap.

And while on the subject of fabric, let me tell you how I came by such a perfectly suited piece. Every now and then I venture out on a little sewing people meet-up. One of my favourites is  organised the London Stitchers Meet Up.  The last one I attended was held at The Blue Boat in Fulham and involved a fabric swap. Such a great idea to downsize that stash and to swap a piece or two that might not have plan attached, for something that triggers an instant course of action. Interestingly enough I had no plans on bringing any fabric back home. I’m trying to use what I have and not buy/acquire anything new but the stars instantaneously aligned when glanced over Giorgia’s shoulder to see it sat wantingly in the corner.  It was a beautifully soft baby needlecord (I think) with a vintage style montage print. I always maintain I’m more about texture than print but there are always exceptions to the rule. Thanks so much to Lauriane Loves Sewing for bringing it to the table. I do hope I’ve done it justice.

ooobop original 70s style dress

So why am I creating so much more work for myself when there are plenty nuff awesome patterns in the world? Each stage of sewing this dress confirmed what I good idea it was. The notches aligned perfectly. The bust darts hit where they were supposed to, the shoulders finished on my shoulder line. And I confess I stood and I stroked and I marvelled at how well they did, for quite some time.  No puckers, nuffink.

Marvelling at the inset of my sleeve caps
Marvelling at the inset of my sleeve caps

Add to that the waist sitting where it is meant to, no pooling in the small of my back and Bob is definitely my lobster! Gotta love it when an invisible zip becomes super evasive too!

Back view of dress with no pooling
Back view of dress with no pooling

Well I think that’s just enough of me blowing my own trumpet and time for me to big up the talents of my super lovely, supportive husband, Daniel. I’m always the first to run out of steam, just knowing there’ll be a hundred good shots even if I am pulling a stupid face in 50 percent of the contact sheet. But he always want’s just one more. And its always for good reason and I thank him from the bottom of my heart.

Lying on some steps in my 70s style dress
In response to ‘Just one More’!

And he’s available for booking. He loves an event. So good at capturing those  off the cuff, journalistic poses. So if you have an upcoming event and in need of a trusty photographer please do check out his portfolio here or contact him at danieljamesphotographic@gmail.com.

Thanks for swinging by. Your readership and comments mean the world to me and add so much to my journey. Wishing you all a gloriously productive weekend. xxx

Previous attempts at self-drafting:

Vogue 2494 for Mother of the Bride

V2454 Vintage Vogue evening gown
V2454 Vintage Vogue evening gown

Special occasions call for special dresses and I don’t think I’ve had call to make anything more special than a mother-of-the-bride dress for my daughter’s wedding.

But what would it be? I had a whole years notice but in true ooobop to-the-wire styleee, I left myself a couple of weeks before the big day.

That’s not to say I spent days and weeks and months googling and mulling, dreaming and virtually making in my head, the hundreds of possiblilites.

I really didn’t know what I wanted. But I did know I didn’t want to look like a run-of-the-mill MOTB.

Have you ever googled to see the expected format? Pastel shades, sensible knee-length skirt, coordinating jacket with statutory three-quarters of a sleeve, satin and lace, obligatory big hat, and nude tights… Would I conform? Not a chance!

And then I remembered this gorgeous vintage Vogue pattern that I’d bought before I even knew what kind of special occasion it was going to be for!

Vintage Vogue V2494 sewing pattern
Vintage Vogue V2494 sewing pattern

It’s an original 1948 design. Full of elegance and style. Wasn’t too sure that a five foot four sausage shape could work it as well as the cover girls but the vision was strong and I was so delighted to have made a decision at last. Just had to root through a million other patterns to find it!

The only experience I’ve had sewing vintage Vogue patterns before was the V2934 jacket which I made twice, first here and again (after I lost the first one) here, and more recently the Vogue Designer Original 1486. Interestingly all have the cut-on sleeve element and each of them reasonably uncomplicated to sew.

I anticipated a rocky ride with with the construction and fit of this dress though, especially as I’d left no time at all to properly test it but the beauty of this pattern is that it has ACTUAL body measurements printed on the pieces. And I can’t tell you how grateful I am for this small mercy.

I had full intention of toiling, especially as the plan was to go full on lavish silk satin. Not every day your daughter gets married. I knew the price was going to be hefty. This dress only calls for 3m so I knew at the very least I was looking to spend around £100. But I did the sensible thing of looking around before I committed to the first fabric I found.

V2494 full length dress
V2494 full length dress

John Lewis’ haberdashery department at Westfield, White City had not long opened and so I headed to check out their stock. Got chatting to a lovely sales assistant who was mesmerised by my pattern choice and eager to show me some ‘just-in’ peachskin fabric. I’d heard of it but never had the pleasure of a feel. It draped beautifully and suddenly the option of a more forgiving matt appearance became instantly more appealing, moreover the price of just £8 per metre! It was only available in red. But hey. That was ok. Kind of a no-brainer, really!

The making up of this dress was deceivingly simple. It was down to my haste that markings were confused and I’m so glad I rehearsed that little diamond opening on a different fabric. As you can imagine, there are a fair few positional points on that front piece and my first attempt saw me reposition it some distance lower than it was meant!

V2494 detail of peephole
V2494 detail of peephole

Despite the tricky diamond peephole and that lovely inset panel the front, the rest of the construction was a breeze: There is no lining. So the peachskin was a perfect weight to not warrant an underlayer.

The sleeves are cut on, negating any need for tricky easing or setting in of sleeve caps. And that beautiful drape at the back is connected to the shoulder seam and simply hand tacked to the shoulder once the pleats have been arranged.

There was hand finishing of course: The hem at the hemline, as standard, and the hem of the drapey bit. I knew this would have to be neat as it clearly states on the pattern: “single-layered drape, (wrong side shows)”. So I just took little slip stitches in matching thread all the way round. This is where the fabric let me down a little bit as it syntheticicity wouldn’t allow a decent press and it resembled more of a rolled, rolled hem. But it was ok. Just a little bit annoying. Silk in this instance would have behaved a whole lot better I’m sure.

V2494 back view of dress and over the shoulder drape
V2494 back view of dress and over the shoulder drape

I confess I didn’t fully finish this dress until the morning of the day. Early hours of the morning I was still finishing the hemming and sewing a button loop (rather badly) on the back. I always intended to have just the one little button as opposed to a whole line of them as suggested but still managed to make it wonky! I do love that little vintage button though. It was just waiting for this dress.

V2494 Vogue dress button and loop
V2494 detail of button and button-loop

I didn’t manage to get any suitable full length shots of it on the day hence a reshoot by Daniel almost a year later! It’s a bit tighter on me now than it was on the big day but that’s no surprise as my nerves ensured a low cal intake on the lead up! And to be fair I’m not entirely sure when I’d wear this again. So it’s on with a dress cover and resigned to the back of the ‘drobe until a suitable situation arises.

However there was one shot in particular that just about sums up how stylishly and elegantly I carried off that dress – and pretty much sums up the non conformity of our fam! Brilliantly captured by Daniel of course.

V2494 Mother of the bride with bride
V2494 Mother of the bride with bride © danieljamesphotographic

Note that I did succumb to wearing a hat. Not just any old hat, mind – an exquisite and original ‘piece of art’ that was beautifully handmade by my wonderful milliner friend Jayne at Hepsibah Gallery in Hammersmith. Again, I’m not sure I did it as much justice as it deserved but it certainly felt wonderful to wear and made me feel so very important!

From left: Youngest dort, Samaria, my mum (also wearing handmade) my daughter Stephanie, her husband Daniel and me!
From left: Youngest dort, Samaria, my mum (also wearing handmade) my daughter Stephanie, her husband Daniel and me!
Shoes: Irregular Choice (old)

The English Tea Dress #013 by Simple Sew

Simple Sew English Tea dress

This was exactly the kind of pattern I was looking for when I was actually hunting for something else! I’d put it aside (read, under the sofa) as a not-so-taxing project for when I got a few hours down time. The back cover blurb was all-encouraging of this, too.

Like many other sewing people, I’ve been on a mission to work through my stash fabric before buying anything new, in the name of sustainability and also the hope of gaining some floor space in my bedroom!

Simple Sew English tea dress

And this dress pattern is perfect for all those 2m lengths I purchased. It requires 1.90m of 60″ fabric for all sizes 8-20 – sleeves and all – which is pretty damned economical really.

Love Sewing Magazine and English Tea Dress sewing pattern

I had 2m of what I believed to be 45″ wide cotton fabric and that almost fitted the bill. I just had to shorten the skirt by 2inches to fit all the pieces on. Especially as I then found out that it was only 43″ wide. I’m guessing it shrunk in a prewash – better to have found out at this stage of the game though! But still I had to count my chickens that all the pieces fitted considering the direction of the design. Upside down shoes would have been disastrous!

All went swimmingly but I’m amazed at the lack of notches on the pattern pieces. There was one to mark the front sleeve placement and ordinarily that’s pretty crucial but in this instance the sleeve pattern folded near enough symmetrically so it wouldn’t have made a spot of difference.

Simple Sew English Tea dress

But that was it on the notch front! Piecing the front and back facings together had me thinking, which is a bit lucky as it prompted me to place over the bodice neckline to check I was sewing the pieces together the right way round. It would have been so much more helpful to have a marker on each of the shoulder seams.


TIP#1

Mark notches on the facing pieces so you remember to sew them the correct way round

facing instructions

And if I’m being picky (moi?!), the side seams of the skirt would have benefitted from a notch or two. They are bias-cut and hence a little stretchy so a midway marker would help prevent a potential pucker! I’ve marked mine for future use.


TIP #2

Align skirt pattern pieces at side seams and create notches for more accurate alignment


Adding to the facing part of the story – it was very useful and imperative actually, to include the snip at ‘X’ –the point of the V-neck. It did press nice and flat but I included 2 additional stages here:


TIP #3

Under-stitch the seam allowance to the facing to prevent it from rolling out at the neckline.


and then:


TIP #4

Hand stitch the facing to the shoulder seams to secure it in position stop it from popping out.


I’m being picky again. I know. But from past and bad experience, I can’t stand a flappy facing!

So all went well, despite lack of notches until I got to the sleeve section. And of course I wasn’t content to sew the options illustrated on the packet or in the accompanying issue of Love Sewing magazine (issue 15). Not only because I’m contrary but the 3rd non-illustrated nor photographed option was the best IMHO. The 3rd option being a half length, cuffed variety!

But, forgive me for being old and slow (and of course picky)… but how would you interpret these instructions?

cuffed sleeve instructions

Especially when the cuff was near enough the same length as the bottom of the sleeve. And yes I did double check I’d cut the correct sizes!

cuff piece next to sleeve
Bottom of sleeve not much wider than the cuff piece.

I spent way to much time thinking about this stage and then went off piste with this tip:


TIP #5

Measure your arm circumference, comfortably, just above your elbow and add 1.5cm seam allowance to each end. Trim cuff piece to this measurement. Press in half horizontally to crease the centre/ (ultimately the bottom) of the cuff. Gather the bottom of the sleeve as stated and sew right sides of the gathered edge to the right side of one raw edge of the cuff piece.

cuff piece pinned to sleeve
Cuff piece pinned to sleeve along raw edge. See the crease in the middle.
cuff sewn to sleeve
Cuff sewn to sleeve. Spot the deliberate mistake!

Gather the sleeve head as instructed – although, having said that, it’s not really instructed from where and to where on the pattern piece, so I just mirrored the notch to the back and gathered between the two points. Sew the underarm sleeve seam all the way down to the bottom of the cuff. Press sleeve seam open. Press under 1.5cm on the remaining raw edge of the cuff and then fold the piece to the inside of the sleeve along the pre-pressed fold. Hand-stitch to the inside seam line to form a binding and finish the cuff. Remove gathering stitches and press.

Having worn this dress and seeing how the cuffs have curled, I might also use  a light fusible interfacing to stabilise the cuff next time.


I hand finished the hemline of the skirt, of course. Just because a machined one would irritate me having invested so much time to go lazy at the last hurdle!

So where do you suppose I might have worn my English tea dress as soon as I made it? No prizes for guessing of course!

Enjoying a vegan cream tea
Vegan cream tea at The Ginger Bees cafe in Kingston-upon-Thames

Mr O and I went to The Ginger Bees cafe, Kingston-upon-thames riverside, for the most delicious vegan cream tea. Well, mine was vegan – Mr O went full on full cream!

Mr O and his cream tea
Mr O enjoying his full on full cream, cream tea!

I booked the day before on recommendation and we were not disappointed. The lovely couple who bought the café just a year ago have something very special going on here. Thank you so much Gavin and Beth for looking after us. It was such a treat and the perfect occasion to showcase my new tea dress!

Beth and Gavin, owners of The Ginger Bees Cafe in Kingston-upon-Thames
Beth and Gavin, owners of The Ginger Bees Cafe in Kingston-upon-Thames