Martini and Open the book

Martini dress for Open, the book launch

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

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

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

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

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

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

open spreads

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

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

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

Open by Gemma Cairney

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

capital chic martini dress

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

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

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

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

martini dress aurelia illustraion

 

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

Gemma Cairney and ooobop

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

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

capital chic martini dress

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

 

capital chic martini dress

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

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

Till next time, my lovelies. Happy sewing! xxx

Adventures in African Wax

Lucy jumpsuit New Look 6446

Be careful what you wish for!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Look 6446 with modifications

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

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

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

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

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

Lucy jumpsuit notes

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

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

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

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

New Look 6745 modified

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

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

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

Lucy jumpsuit New Look 6446

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

Lucy jumpsuit New Look 6446

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

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

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

 

Alix in Black Watch

BHL Alix dress in Black Watch tartan

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

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

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

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

Alix in black watch back

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

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

 

Significant birthday dress

 

ooobop party dress front

Mostly I sew from patterns. Vintage ones, Burda ones, any of the big-four, independent ones, any that take my fancy, really. But when it came to finding a pattern befit of a significant birthday party dress, I was stumped. I searched through the hundreds I owned, I trawled through plenty more online and still I didn’t come up trumps until a visit to the hairdressers presented this beauty in one of their glossy mags.

dior inspiration

Who was I kidding?! But a girl can dream right?!

With a couple of months to go and so many people asking what I was going to wear, the pressure was on and almost too much to bear. I even considered RTW as a get out clause! But following more procrastination and now only 6 weeks to go, cool words of advice from Sally of Charity Shop Chic, put me back on track and sold it to me as a simple circle puffball attached to a bodice of choice.

ooobop creeping through the woods

I just needed a prompt, a bit of pressure and some added faith, obviously!

With all that poompf in the skirt section going on, the quest was for a simple bodice. One I could toile and fit with not much time on my hands. It also had to fit in with a busy work load leading up to Christmas, and be sewn in the the evenings so black was totally out of the question too!

ooobop party dress front view

I remember ear-marking this vintage Weldons pattern as a potential party dress some time back and when I rifled through my patterns for the umpteenth time, it shouted out all the reasons it should be chosen. Simple to fit, no sleeves to insert, flattering neckline, small amount of fabric required and a perfect yoke for a string of cockerel feathers!

weldons pattern 3833

The small amount of fabric issue was quite an issue at this point as I’d already decided that silk was the only way forward. The only way I was going to get a classy, crumpled look and not just wind up looking like a discarded crisp packet!

ooobop in the woods

The skirt section is a greedy full circle with an added 16 inches around the waist to accommodate 4 box pleats: Two at the front and two at the back. The full hem is then gathered onto an a-line, mini underskirt which I self-drafted by closing the waist darts on a self-drafted skirt block, and adding a little flare. Both are attached to the waist seam.

party dress back sunrise

The wonderful Sew Busy Lizzy gifted me the polka-dot taffeta some time back. I love that it found a special use. Not so shiny that it caused static, strong enough to support all that silk whilst adding a cheeky secret air of Moulin Rouge!

polka dot taffeta lining

Having toiled the whole thing in calico beforehand, it transpired I needed 5 metres of dupion silk. Pricey at £25 a metre if one shops in Broadwick Street, London. But £12 if you’re lucky, in Goldhawk Road. I say lucky because I pretty much went in all the shops to get the right colour – a two-tone black & red. And the last one I tried had not only the best colour but offered the best price too.

back view of party dress

For all my fretting, Sally was absolutely right of course. It really didn’t take long to sew. The indecision and worrying took way longer! And fears about working with silk were laughed off when I made the first cut. Literally like cutting into butter. And it behaved and sewed up brilliantly.

And so the finished article partied hard to the band and the DJ with a hall full of amazing family and friends. It went way too quickly though, and I so wish I could press replay so I could get round to spending more time with everyone who came. But I guess thats the downside of hosting ones own!

Mr O aka Daniel Selway took these amazing shots for me this morning. Nothing wrong with a party shot but lets just say there’s a definite improvement of photographic quality in the sober light of day!

party shoes

Happy new year to you all. Wishing you a peaceful, healthy, and joyous 2017 xxx
 

A gold quilted mini-skirt

 

gold quilted skirt front

Nothing ground-breaking to see here, save a self-drafted mini skirt in gold quilted fabric!

I’ve been wearing my black quilted skirt to death, lately so I thought I’d better make another in case my work colleagues think I’m a dirty stop-out!

In fact I’ve been wearing this one on a regular basis now so it may be time for a third!

I made it a while back and completely forgot to blog it. Or rather missed every small good-weather-window to photograph it. So an indoor remote shoot it was. And I’m so going to get into trouble for ‘trespassing’ in LMO’s bedroom! Those pink walls are a complete giveaway!

gold quilted skirt back

I used the same process as last time, namely a shortened version of a self-drafted pencil skirt pattern; added a facing of black cotton twill, this time and an invisible zip.

The hem is hand stitched this time. Mainly because the backing is a woven black affair and easy to pick up on a couple of threads for the sake of invisibility.

It seems I’m in good company with my choice of gold quilting. Have you seen Karen’s (Didyoumakethat) metallic tunic dress? I just love how something simple can literally shine with a crazy fabric!

I also find it amazing that as the months get colder, my hemlines get shorter! Anyone else find the same?

 

Sewing Dots for RNIB

Tilly and the Buttons Fifi pyjamas

I get so resentful when I don’t get any sewing time. And I don’t sport a good grumpy look either. So with back-to-back work deadlines this month, I needed to find a little sewing project that I could tap into in between marathon stints in front of the screen to retain balance and sanity… for everyone concerned!

#sewdots was brought to my attention on Instagram. Instigated by the brilliant Rosie of DIY Couture and writer of No Patterns Needed. She also works for the RNIB – Royal National Institute for the Blind – where she learned about their campaign that runs every October called Wear Dots Raise Lots. It highlights the impact of Braille and raises money for their services. It encourages the wearing of dots to raise awareness, encouraging people to hold dotty parties, or coordinate with colleagues and pick a ‘wear dots’ day for the office.

So Rosie has upped the ante to encourage the sewing of dots too!

The idea was to use fabric from stash and donate what you would have spent via the JustGiving page she has set up. Simples!

This was all shaping up nicely. I had two pieces of coordinating red and white polkadot fabric. And I had a Tilly and the Buttons Fifi pyjama pattern on my to do list. A pattern that needs little space to cut out and can certainly be achieved in manageable chunks of sewing time.

The Shorts took 40 mins, including cutting out time. And including unpicking my first elastic attachment!
The camisole happened a week later… over 3 days: The cutting and stay stitching in one shift, the main body sections sewn together in another, and the binding made and sewn on before work one morning. I sewed on the bow and attached the back straps just now!
But I’m sure if you had dedicated and uninterrupted sewing time, you could easily rustle this set up in a couple of hours.

handmade polkadot bias binding
Handmade polkadot bias binding

This is such a neat and gratifying garment to make. all the seams are ‘Frenched’ and it’s as neat inside as it is out. It really doesn’t need much fabric and if you are lucky enough to have coordinating scraps, the design possibilities are endless.

French seams
Lovely neat French seams!

And to boot, I have a lovely set of PJs at last! It appears I’ve made them for everyone in the household except me. I know they are slightly out of season but I really don’t care. I’m going to make more.

Theres still days left this month if you’d like to participate. There’s some great prizes up for grabs too!

Doesn’t have to be a garment of course. Could be a much smaller project still,  like a sleep mask or a headband or a scarf!

I can totally assure you that sewing and giving is a great self-indulgent, feel-good combo too. Good work Rosie!

 

Tilly and the Buttons Rosa Dress

Tilly and the Buttons Rosa Dress

Introducing my new Tilly and the Buttons Rosa dress.

I was delighted when Tilly asked me if I’d like to test this pattern. I was excited by just the line drawing alone. All I could see was piping and matching buttons and I didn’t falter when the pattern arrived.

I won’t go into construction details, mostly because so many weeks have passed, I’ve quite forgotten them, but also I think it only fair to do that with a tried and tested one.

That said, I love it and its had so many outings already. The legs are still bare, making the most of this warm September, but I have another styled vision of red tights and black patent DMs for the colder months ahead!

I love the 3/4 rolled up sleeves with the tab. It adds such a lovely detail. I’m always doing stuff and sometimes a full length sleeve just irritates me and feels so restrictive. Rolled sleeves makes me feel like I mean business even if I actually don’t!

tilly_rosa_dress_4

I’m pretty sure I jumped at this pattern after making Mr O a few vintage western shirts (See two of them here and here). And I’m pretty sure the only shirt I’ve ever made myself – with a proper collar – is my 50s bowling shirt.

So I was due one. Even if it’s actually a dress! It still has that lovely vintage front and back yoke that I adore.

Tilly and the Buttons Rosa dress back yoke

I used a cheap washed out denim from A-One fabrics in the Goldhawk Road. Was a bit worried about the thickness, with piping sandwiched in the seams, but it worked just fine. Incidentally, the only piping I managed to get my hands on is upholstery piping for sure. It’s not dainty in the least. But hey I wanted statement red piping and I got it!

I apologise to anyone with a phobia of wrinkled clothing. I do have an iron – honest, guvs! But denim is just one of those tricksy fabrics I guess and in any case there is no official term for such phobia so I might just get away with it!

Tilly and the Buttons Rosa dress pockets

I actually sewed down the pockets, whilst sewing on the buttons (intentionally of course ;-)) to save me putting anything in them. Which I obviously would if they were functional. This will ultimately limit unnecessary boob distortion and minimize wrinkle action.

Another thing I really like about this pattern is the in-outness of the waist to hip. Such a lovely shape. And really helpful when one’s waistline is increasingly difficult to define!

Tilly and the buttons rosa dress

I should really declare that I took these shots myself. Not the usual quality delivered by Mr O, because he is away, gigging with his new band. It isn’t my favourite thing to do at all but needs must when your children declare they have better things to do, like walking someone else’s dog or doing Latin homework. Yeah, right!

Happy weekend everyone. Hope you get some sewing in! xxx

 

Vintage Blackmore 8194 dress

Blackmore 8194 vintage dress

I needed a dress for a wedding. Not just any old wedding but a beautiful Indian wedding where I couldn’t hope to compete with the finery of silks and saris. No pressure, then! I rifled through every kind of fabric and bored all the Goldhawk Road shop owners senseless with my dilemma, during the weeks leading up to the big day.

Blackmore 40s dress

I diligently visited a roll of paisley brocade in A-One Fabrics, three days on the trot, properly umming and arrring out loud. But it wasn’t quite right. I ordered some gorgeous cotton satin roseprint from Minerva thinking … actually who knows what I was thinking. It was all wrong until I spied a roll of drapey green fabric at the back of the shop. 100% polyester it transpires. My inner snob rose to the fore but I bashed it back down when I handled the weight and the smooth silky texture and noted the lack of crease when I screwed it into a ball. And oh the colour! Not to mention the price tag of £4.00 a metre. I wasn’t arguing at all!

I already had this pattern in mind: Blackmore 8194. It’s not dated but I’m guessing late 40s. Vintage Patterns Wikia has it down as 1950s but also claims that Blackmore published paper patterns between 1845 and 1940, so that doesn’t add up!

Blackmore 8194 sewing pattern

I was sold on the waist and hip detail, the softly gathered side fronts that fall from the hip and that cheeky little key hole detail with the bow tie feature.

Blackmore 8194 dress keyhole detail

Incidentally the bow tie itself is some vintage liberty homemade bias binding that I inherited.

I made a quick bodice toile in the original size, half knowing it was too small, but wanting to test the pattern without sleeves. Inevitably I changed my mind and graded the pattern up a size. Redrawing the pattern allowed me to add the seam allowance on too. Something this pattern didn’t allow for which also shows it’s age a bit, I think.

Blackmore 8194 vintage dress

I’m quite used to vintage patterns without markings or seam allowances but one thing that struck me as a bit odd with this one, was an instruction to “Make darts in the back bodice where shown by dotted lines in diagram”. Quite literally the diagram which is the tiny pattern layout illustration on the back of the packet. So it’s anyone’s guess, really!

Inserting the gathered panels into that front skirt panel was a bit tricky but quilting skills have taught me how to clip and pivot at a point, so it wasn’t too terrifying. Again, the instructions are loose: “Gather upper edge of side fronts to fit hip yoke of front as in sketch and stitch together matching VV to VV.” Simples, lol!

Blackmore 8194 inserted panels

I’m pretty pleased with the outcome. And it worked well for a wedding where colour was the order of the day. But there are niggles: I forgot to add seam allowance to the sleeves which actually doesn’t appear to make much difference but I did sew them on back to front! How much difference that makes will show in the next version which I’d like to make soon while it’s all fresh in my head; The waistline could do with a bit of ease. I like how it’s nipped in but it’s not that comfortable! And although the fabric is nice and drapey, I’d like to try it in a lawn or a lightweight cotton so that the neckline and the darts press sharper. I also neglected to do my usual adjustment to take out the excess fabric from the back bodice. I cheated instead by removing the zip and trimming the centre back seam… not very well!

Blackmore 8194 vintage dress back view

Considering I pretty much sewed this up the day before and was hemming on the morning of the wedding, I think it turned out pretty well. The niggles can so easily be sorted next time round. And to get change from a tenner is such the ‘Brucey bonus’ that I feel it prudent to reward myself with some lovely lawn!

I don’t have any of the official pictures from the day to share as yet but I’m sure you can imagine how stunning all the ladies looked, as did the men in their exquisite flocked and braided coats. I can’t begin to tell you how gorgeous my friend the bride looked. But I did shed actual tears – in a good way – when she walked into the room. Such an honour to have been invited to such a special day. And I’m so glad I went to the bother of making a dress, especially.

Blackmore 1940s dress

Photos by the wonderful Daniel Selway
Location: St Pauls, London
Shoes: Lola Ramona
Handbag: vintage from local Fara Charity Shop

A blue half circle skirt

blue half circle skirt

This is my new half circle skirt. Self-drafted and made in a cobalt blue poly crepe.

Sounds pretty simple hey? Well to be honest, in principle it was. And it would have been a swifty project if I’d have remembered a couple of simple things.

ALWAYS MARK YOUR SELF-DRAFTED PATTERN PIECES AS SOON AS YOU’VE DRAWN THEM

Why? Well in my case, I have a fair few circle and half-circle skirt pieces that I’ve not only drafted for myself, but for others too. And in my haste I’d just labelled them ‘skirt front’ or ‘full circle’ and one just said ‘circle skirt piece no SA’. The latter was helpful, at least to know that I needed to add a seam allowance but none were any help at all to know if it was the right waist measurement, the right length, a full or half circle etc. What a twit!

blue half circle skirt

So first job was to redraft another, to my size. And second job was to ensure all that info was written bold and clear on the pattern piece for future use.

I’d already prewashed my fabric, so that was a win. The number of times I’ve been fired up to sew and didn’t have prepared fabric to hand is way too many to count. But swifty projects aren’t very swifty at all if you haven’t factored in to…

ALLOW A CIRCLE SKIRT TO HANG AT LEAST OVERNIGHT BEFORE HEMMING

Sewing a circle or half circle really doesn’t take that long but don’t bank on whipping one up, hours before a party because it has to hang at least overnight to allow the weight of the bias fabric to drop. This will almost definitely result in an uneven hem and will need levelling before hemming. I put mine on a dressmakers dummy but I’m sure if it was hung evenly on a pegged coathanger, you would achieve the same result.

So next there’s the levelling. I put the dressmakers dummy, wearing the skirt, on a table so that the hem is at eye-level. I use a metal rule from table top to my desired length and then mark all round with chalk or pins, rotating the whole dummy rather than spinning it (that’s another long story). I then go round a 2nd time to double check the measurements.

Once trimmed I sewed a quarter inch line of stitches from the edge and pressed up a hem. I stitched and in this case didn’t need to turn over again. But that might be necessary if fabric is more fraying.

blue half circle skirt

The lining of course needs the same treatment.

I rarely hate on any aspect of sewing, but I discovered this morning that I truly hate levelling, trimming and narrow-hemming lining fabric for a circle skirt, like massively!

It appears I’ve only made one other half circle skirt before, but it was so long ago, it’s well and truly worn out! So as much as I love this colour blue – quite unusual for me actually, don’t you think?! – I feel I must make a replacement black one too. And maybe a red as well!

I must at this point just big up my 12 year-old daughter who took these lovely photos for me. It was a very impromtu shoot as I was doing some shots of my eldest daughter who was face-painting in the park. Little Miss O brought her own camera along for some practice and certainly did me proud. Look out dad, someone’s hot on your heels!

Big Vintage Sewalong: Retro Butterick 5813

Big Vintage Sewalong dress

Back in March I announced I was taking part in the McCalls Big Vintage Sewalong. My scheduled date to blog seemed an awful long way off then, but all of a sudden today came shooting along like an express train and of course I’d left everything till the last minute!

My pattern of choice was the 1950s Retro Butterick 5813 – Nail on the head, Alana from Flying Purple Hippos.com! – but it wasn’t without a dither. I loved each of the three 1940s patterns on offer too!

retro butterick 5813

As soon as that pattern was in hand and I’d decided on version A, I headed straight down to Goldhawk Road and to the relatively new store, Goldbrick Fabrics, to snap up some gorgeous Italian brocade. I’ve been quite literally ‘stitched up’ (or rather unstitched) by brocade, once before (yes looking at you BHL Georgia!) and I knew as a rule, it has massive ‘give’ issues but this particular brocade is beautifully soft and luxurious with just the right amount of body at the same time and subsequently a little more forgiving.

retro butterick 5813

big vintage sewalong dress

And because the fabric was so special I wasn’t about to employ any gung ho scissor action. So I made a toile like the good girl I am. Fortunately I only had to make a few minor adjustments. Firstly I needed to remove some excess bagginess from the back bodice. I often come up against this issue but this style commanded some serious ease for practical reasons of movement I guess.

Big Vintage Sewalong Butterick 5813

Secondly, I needed to gain a little more girth. My go to adjustment for this is always to add a bit at the side seams but that often results in a loss of shape and a sausagey silhouette, so I thought I’d try a different way by sewing narrower darts and I do believe the result was way better, though, looking at the back view shot I should also have shortened the bodice a tad.

retro butterick 5813

Thirdly, I lobbed a fair bit off the length. I ummed and arred between below the knee or to the knee but I think after seeing these photos, an inch longer may have added a bit more drama. What do you think? I sewed a substantial hem so I could take it down a little I guess.

I wouldn’t recommend this dress to an absolute beginner. There are potentially, lots of hissy-fit inducing features like darts – lots of them, some underbust gathering (which admittedly would probably have been easier in a more manageable fabric) oh and inset panels! Luckily I’ve had some former training with insetting sections of my quilt panels – for example the Whirligig block –which made the instructions and the construction a near enough breeze!

Another thing to be mindful of is the precision of facing the front opening – sewing perfectly symmetrical seams to meet at a single point before turning through. I think the collar is such a lovely feature of this dress. There were no complications in adding it and it has a real neat finish that encloses the lining around the neck edge.

Big Vintage Sewalong dress

It’s fully lined too which means sleeves an’ all! I’ve only ever done this twice to my ever failing knowledge: My vintage plaid dress (which annoyingly seems to have disappeared from my blog) and more recently my Sew Over It Joan Dress. And I must say it feels like a bit of a rip off to have to basically construct the dress all over again in lining, no cutting of corners, darts, gatherings, inset panels the lot! And that means even more seams to overlock too!

retro butterick 5813

But of course it was all worth the effort and it’s so lovely and weighty. Proper quality, like!

I’m not sure whether I cut or sewed the wrist end of the sleeve incorrectly but in any case I opened the seam a little to avoid the puckering that was about to happen. And yes those are 3 little darts for shaping the sleeve. On the fashion fabric and the lining. That’s proper vintage detail!

retro butterick 5813

I chose an invisible zip over a more-authentic lapped one, only because I had one to hand but I’m really pleased with the outcome. It just looks like another side seam. I achieved such invisibility by taking my time for once, pinning and then tacking in position before using a regular zipper foot and then sewing a second time with the invisible zipper foot.

retro butterick 5813

One thing that surprised me was the vent. It’s just a slit with facings either side and the lining is stitched to the facings like a little bridge around the outside. Much simpler than the usual lined vents or kick pleats of most vintage dresses I’ve sewn but it does feel like a bit of a cop out after all the attention to detail elsewhere.

Overall I totally love this dress. It was such a pleasure to indulge in some vintage sewing again. Very long overdue and I’d love an excuse (and some more hours in the day) to make another. But I’d make a few more adjustments next time, namely taking a bit off the shoulders, shortening the bodice a fraction and adding a little more to the waist.

retro butterick 5813

It got some lovely comments as we strutted around Portobello Road and around Notting Hill. Not least of all from the lady who managed to sell me 2 new pairs of sunglasses. Flattery gets you everywhere, see!

retro butterick 5813

retro butterick 5813

retro butterick 5813

Many thanks to The Foldline for the encouragement, for McCalls Pattern Company UK for providing the pattern and fabric. I sincerely hope that lots of people get inspired to buy these gorgeous vintage patterns and that lots of wonga is raised for The Eve Appeal in the meantime.

retro butterick 5813

Special thanks also to Dan for dutifully shooting these amazing photos. We always have such fun. London is so full of amazing places and we’re lucky that most of them are just a short tube ride away. It’s always a hoot when we’re oot and aboot!

Marie from A Stitching Odyssey is next up. Can’t wait to see what she makes.