Classic Tailoring Techniques for Menswear: book review and Giveaway!

classic tailoring techniques for menswear

Today I would like to share a review of a great book that is already my best friend and bible for #Blazerof2016. The lovely people of Bloomsbury Publishing have not only sponsored me this fabulous book but have also sent an extra copy for one other lucky reader!

The title of the book is Classic Tailoring Techniques for Menswear: A Construction Guide. And this is the 2nd edition written by Roberto Cabrera and Denis Antoine since it first published in 1983.

My bookshelves are home to all sorts of sewing literature but when it came to ventures in proper tailoring techniques, none of them books scratched that itch, if you know what I mean.

I am a woman on a mission with a man’s jacket to make before June is out. Jamie has already completed his stunning plaid blazer and panic was beginning to set in fast. But now I have my trusty guide I feel the journey will be easier.

If ever I was doubting the ‘why’ of tailoring, the short and concise intro reassures the reader of the unsurpassable techniques over faster more modern ways to achieve that impeccable finish. It gives a brief but insightful history that inspires a preparation for a very slow but satisfying journey ahead!

classic tailoring for menswear intro

The contents include the following chapters: Tailoring; The Pattern; The Fit; The Fabric; Layout and Cutting; The Jacket; The Pants; The Vest; and Alterations.

There then follows an extended table of contents which allows the reader to go straight to the finer points within each chapter. The Jacket is clearly my primary concern and so when I come to pockets, I now have all the necessary information to create a welt, cash, patch, double-piped or double-piped pocket with flap should I choose to add one… or all of them!

As a book designer myself I’m very particular about presentation and I am a stickler for levels of information. So I’m very happy to report that I found the inside layout to be very clean and concise. The font is classic and unfussy, a good size with comfortable space and set in good readable chunks.

I must admit, at first I was disappointed by the black and white photography. It does appear take away some visual interest but on further inspection, all becomes very apparent. The hand-stitches which are crucial to the tailoring process along with other key marked areas are highlighted in red against the greyscale photography and therefore are easily recognised without distraction. It’s a more sophisticated approach than the sole use of line-drawn illustrations and diagrams which can sometimes be too graphic and disassociated with the real thing. Colour photography would have looked lovely – especially to see some of those coloured tweedy fibres – but style over substance would have been useless in this instance. I’m after good, clear and immediate instruction and this is what this book delivers.

The reality of the photography delivers on other levels too: you can identify the lay of the fabric, how it ripples, how it rolls, how it behaves. You’d never get that across with any amount of linework!

That said. This book also displays some fine line drawings which hone in on the tiniest details.

All the tailoring and understructure supplies you will need are clearly listed and defined along with necessary techniques and hand-stitches. And there is a  very well explained section on how to take measurements. The repeated photo of the man in white pants is a little distracting but as I mentioned before, far more preferable to a line drawing. It’s easier to see exactly where on the body those measurements should be taken. Nothing left to the imagination here!

classic tailoring taking measurements

And fitting is obviously a major part of the process. This section does good to address posture and body imbalance and how to identify the issues. I’m focussing on the jacket here and where wide shoulders and a stooped posture adjustment might come in dead handy, but should I venture into tailoring trousers in the future I’ll be ready for any amount of bow-legs, knock-knees and flat bottoms!

There is brief but great insight into the world of wool fabrics that are used in tailoring. The weights, the textures and the usages; naps, shrinkage and how to straighten a grain. This section may have benefitted from some colour just to see those checks and stripes pop, but again. It’s just the information I need. I can go see and stroke any amount of fabrics up the Goldhawk Road for that kind of fix!

Laying and Cutting Out covers exactly how the professionals do it. Great to see the hands at work and of course a vital section on matching plaids/checks and stripes.

classic tailoring for menswear

When I got to the Jacket section I was a bit overwhelmed. So much stuff to learn. But that is the whole point. I want to learn. And I want to have reference to it all. I want to get good at this and there is no fast track way. Just slowly and properly and remembering to enjoy each little step-by-step instruction. I’m really looking forward to making some shoulder pads. There’s a great how-to with a pattern at the back of the book. Incidentally there are also traceable patterns included for a French fly and a French tab and some other elements that I’m not going to pretend I know what they are yet!

The Trousers and Waistcoat sections are just as detailed. Covering the classic tailored processes for each stage. No stone unturned, it would seem.

The final section covers Alterations, which will prove invaluable if I ever I fancied some more unselfish sewing further down the line. And already I am inspired to pick up on the advice for relining a jacket. Something I have been putting off for so long (see this Boer War jacket). It is so simply and brilliantly explained that it makes me feel daft for every doubting my capabilities! And if you ever need to alter a pair of trousers for the man who has muscular inner thighs, look no further.

In fact, it’s all there: what you need, and what exactly you need to do to achieve each stage of a perfectly classic tailored jacket, waistcoat or pair of trousers. Brilliantly presented and clearly explained… in black and white (and red)!

If this little review of Classic Tailoring Techniques for Menswear has whetted your appetite, click here to be taken to Fairchild Books – an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing– where you can buy one for yourself and peruse all the other amazing fashion titles they have on offer.

Or if you fancy winning yourself a FREE copy, simply leave a comment below and let me know how you are getting on with #Blazerof2016 or indeed any other tailored garment you have plans for. Entries will be drawn on 30th April and the winner announced on 1st May 2016. It really is a fabulous prize – good luck!

Both the review and the giveaway copyies of Classic Taloring Techniques for Menswear were kindly given to me free of charge by Bloomsbury Publishing. All opinions expressed are my own.

 

#Blazerof2016: The first toile

blazerof2016 toile front

Welcome to life in the slow lane and my first toile for Mr O’s #Blazerof2016. As anticipated in my last update, the instructions were indeed minimal, which is ok if you’ve done this kind of thing before but I haven’t! When I look at the finished toile I’m wondering what I found so difficult – time is a healer I guess!

It was wholly necessary to make a toile. I already knew the largest size of the pattern wouldn’t be big enough but there was a method in my madness. I wanted to test the construction more than anything and didn’t want to waste time making any preliminary changes to the pattern. Now that it’s made and the process understood I can see exactly what I need to do. I can also see some issues that will need further investigation.

First thing I will need to do is to grade it up a whole size. I will use the traditional cut and spread method. The sleeves need some extra room at the bicep (That news was met with a wry smile!) and I may also need to lengthen the sleeves but that will be confirmed once the 2nd toile is made and the shoulder pads are factored in.

The thing that surprised me most about this design was the lining. Fundamentally, there isn’t much of one but it is a summer blazer so it can be forgiven for half measures! there is a kind of butterfly section that overlaps on the inside back, joining the front facings around the armholes, if that makes sense.
blazerof2016 toile lining

A fine excuse to choose some fun lining fabric I think. The sleeves will be fully lined and the remaining exposed seams finished with binding. Might be nice to make some custom binding to match the butterfly lining. I’m not sure that’s what it’s technically called by the way!

I was a bit concerned about the sleeve caps. There seemed to be more gathering and less ease involved here. Then I read Male Devon Sewing’s post on setting in sleeves where he advises to steam-shrink the eased area of the sleeve caps before sewing in. That will help on the real deal, I’m sure. I’ll see what happens 2nd time round before I properly address this but I may also need to start and finish the ease stitches slightly further apart.

puckers on the sleeve cap

The assembly of the collar and collar stand properly had me confused. I really couldn’t make sense of sewing two concave seams together. But it makes sense now that it adds the roundy shape. The black stitching is where the pressed open joining seam will be topstitched.

back collar up

The topstitching wont be seen in any case once the collar is folded down. Thinking I should use some red melton or similar for the collar stand. It seems to be a feature on some of Mr O’s other jackets. That wont be seen much of either of course. But the joy of knowing it is under there excites me a little bit already!

back collar folded down

The one construction instruction that still didn’t translate was attaching the collar to the lapel. The instructions said to sew all round the edge of the collar to a point, trim and turn right side out. It allows nothing to sink into the top of the lapel seam so unless I find instructions somewhere else, I’m going to stop the stitching further back so I can insert the whole 1.5cm seam allowance of the collar, snuggly in place. You can see in the picture below where I’ve unpicked the stitches already to see if that would work.

collar notch

Burda gives no clue as to how I line the vents on the sleeve cuffs but luckily I read up about ‘fake’ vents on sleeves and so there’ll be no unnecessary fiddlesome lining going on here, hooray!

I’ve enjoyed the process of making a toile, especially getting to write notes all over it so I know what to change and what to remember next time. And I’ve learned so much already, before I’ve even started on the real thing!

So now I’m all set to do some cutting and spreading and will be back with a 2nd toile soon.

While you’re waiting for me, do hop over to see some of Male Devon Sewing‘s amazingly detailed posts for #Blazerof2016. They really are very helpful.

 

The Big Vintage Sewalong

BVS blogger tour

Have you heard about the Big Vintage Sewalong hosted by Butterick, yet?

It was launched just last week as a fun way to raise some awareness and some funds for a worthwhile cause – The Eve Appeal Charity: to date, the only cancer research charity focussed on improving detection, risk prediciton and prevention of all five gynaecological cancers.

From March to October this year, sewists from across the UK will be encouraged to sew one of the featured vintage dressmaking patterns, ranging from the 1930’s to the 1960’s. Money raised from the sale of each pattern will go to the The Eve Appeal Charity. The selection is amazing, but then I’m hugely biased – I’m a sucker for a vintage pattern! You can browse and purchase yours by clicking on the images below or from the official website: www.vintagesewalong.co.uk

And there will be plenty of opportunity to share your finished garments and follow others using hashtag #bvsewalong and copying in @McCallpatternUK on Twitter or @McCallpatternUK on Instagram.

1930s

1930s dress 1930s skirt 1930s blouse 1930s dress

1940s

1940s dress and jacket 1940s dress 1940s dress

1950s

1950s dress 1950s dress 1950s dress 1950s dress
1950s coat 1950s dress 1950s dress

1960s

1960s dress 1960s dress 1960s 1960s dress and jacket

To support the campaign there’ll be vintage workshops, events in store, a vintage tea party, a special supplement in Love Sewing Magazine and a blogger tour. That’s where I come in – scheduled for June 24th, to reveal my chosen vintage garment from the selection above. Can’t let the cat out of the bag just yet but I can reveal that it will come hand in hand with a giveaway of the self same pattern so be sure to keep tuned for details, because it’s a goodie!!

And here’s the schedule for the blog tour:

11/03/16   Katie at What Katie Sews
25/03/16   Portia at Makery
08/04/16   Kate at The Fold Line
15/04/16   Amy at Almond Rock
29/04/16   Elisalex at By Hand London
13/05/16   Jane at Handmade Jane
27/05/16   Jennifer at The Gingerthread Girl
10/06/16   Lisa at the You Tube Sew Over It
24/06/16   Janene at ooobop
08/07/16   Marie at A Stitching Odyssey
15/07/16   Kerry at Kestrel Makes
22/07/16   Fiona at Diary of a Chainstitcher
29/07/16   Karen at Did You Make That?
05/08/16   Laura at Sew for Victory
12/08/16   Nina at ThumbleNina
19/08/16   Charlotte at English Girl at Home
26/08/16   Gabby at Living on a Shoestring
02/09/16   Rachel at House of Pinheiro
09/09/16   Elena at Randomly Happy
16/09/16   Wendy at Butterick
23/09/16   Winnie at Scruffy Badger Time
30/09/16   Rachel at The Fold Line

The Foldline have posted about it here and to keep up to date with all things Big Vintage Sewalong be sure to visit the official website at: www.vintagesewalong.co.uk

Let me know what ones tickle your fancy and if you have an inkling what my chosen pattern might be!

 

A quilted mini skirt

quilted skirt front

This skirt wasn’t on a list. Moreover it jumped to the top of the queue once I’d seen the fabric and decided I had to have a quilted skirt. I knew too that it would be a perfect pairing for my Sarah Shirt that I tested for By Hand London.

When I stumbled across the quilty roll of fabulousness in A-One, Goldhawk Road,  I had a flashback to some seriously stored inspiration: I fell in love with Marie’s quilted pleather skirt 2 years ago and clearly it didn’t leave my head. But I also saw Paloma Faith sporting a pink pvc quilted skirt on The Voice a couple of weeks ago (can’t find visual ref, sorry) which clearly gave a nudge to dislodge to said stored inspiration.

quilted mini skirt back

It’s not A-line, like Marie’s or Paloma’s though it would have been good to eliminate the darts. I figured that Sarah needed to do all the hollering and she needed a small straight skirt to wear underneath. It probably could have been more understated but I wasn’t up for sewing something so boring!

I used an existing self-drafted skirt pattern and shortened it. The poomfy fabric is totally unsuitable for a waistband so I faced it with some leftover heavyweight polyester satin. No interfacing needed. In fact no more bulk whatsoever needed! I did understitch and pressed with a cloth on a low heat but with all my might to get the waist seam vaguely flat!

quilted mini skirt facing

I haven’t lined it yet. Still pondering whether to or not. There are no messy edges inside, the quilty fabric doesn’t fray, but it does rustle when I walk! Might be a bit irritating for my work colleagues when I trot back and forth to the kitchen to make a cuppa. Will road-test it next week and test for ‘tuts’!

No fancy shoot this week (save the glimpses of it on the Sarah Shirt post). Mr O is away gigging with The Redfords, at a wedding fair, and I’m desperately trying to save some time so that I can get on with his #Blazerof2016 blazer toile!

So please forgive me as I bugger off to defluff the table and get cutting into that calico.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend, all x

 

BHL Sarah Shirt in cotton silk

BHL Sarah Shirt

This is By Hand London‘s latest lady, Sarah. Released just last week. A classy swingy shirt to interpret any way you fancy. She’s a dress up or down kinda girl with gorgeous sleeves so I snatched that offer of pattern-testing and got straight on it.

The sleeves are what I love most about this shirt. Nicely full but not so much that they’d trail in your soup. And with a subtle puff on the shoulder, it makes for a great shape. But there’s an alternative short sleeve design with a cuffed hem, if you’d prefer.

BHL Sarah Shirt sleeves

The Peter Pan collar has a roundy and a pointy option too. I went for sharp corners because, well, that’s just the way I was rolling that day. But the roundy collar looks just as good on all the others I’ve seen.

Sarah Shirt collar

Sarah calls for a light to medium weight fabric and I do believe I hit the nail on the head with this black cotton silk. I’ll never get away with not ironing it but it doesn’t crease to madly, even when I’ve left it on ‘one of the piles’. Of course that meant French seams all the way, but that’s ok because it looks dead neat inside and out. the only seams I had to trim and serge were the armholes. The yoke is designed in such a way that it encloses all seams too and with some tiny hand-stitchery to the undercollar, it’s beautifully neat all round. Note that I chickened out of any top-stitching, though!

BHL Sarah Shirt

I used poppers/press-studs for the cuffs though I was very tempted to extend the cuff beyond the sleeve end to make for faux cufflinks or maybe even real ones. There’s always a next time!

BHL Sarah Shirt cuffs

Theres a lot of button holes to sew down the front placket. Instructions call for 10-15 and mine has 12. But they are necessary to get that neat flat finish. My buttonhole action decided to wreak havoc and I ended up having to redo 2 of them. One for bad positioning and one that was just an oversewn mess. Out came a brand new scalpel blade. I wasn’t going to loose a fight over a final detail. Took a lot of patience to unpick but successfully managed to create new ones and dead chuffed I was about that too!

BHL Sarah Shirt

I love the pleats on the front yokes and at the centre back but I was quite surprised at how much swing was involved. It’s not normally a silhouette that I’d go for. I’m usually a ‘tucker-in’ of blouses, but once I saw how it looked, when I wore it loose for the photos I really liked it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained and all that!

Sarah Shirt back view

This isn’t a quick one to run up. But it’s none too taxing either. I’d say the only difficulty with this pattern lies with however challenging your fabric is. Mine required a bit of careful handling and I imagine chiffon or the likes would need a bit of a talking to but a more stable cotton would have been much easier and quicker to work with, I think.

If, like me, you’re sold on Sarah, she’s up for grabs over at By Hand London.

 

Photography: Daniel Selway
Shirt: BHL Sarah
Skirt: handmade (yet to be blogged)
Tights: M&S (I think!)
Boots: Irregular Choice
Handbag: Fara charity shop, Ealing
Sunglasses: Retro Peepers

#Blazerof2016 and tips for tracing Burda patterns

So this week, I finally chose what pattern to use for #Blazeof2016. I’ve decided to make it extra difficult for myself by going for the minimal instructions of the Burda Style magazine pattern from February 2016 issue, and I’ve just got as far as tracing the pieces. It took most of Saturday afternoon but that’s ok because I had an empty house save Phryne Fisher and Jack Robinson to keep me company!

Burda blazer pattern trace

 

The tracing took longer than usual not just because of all the pieces but because I was aware of how easy it would be to miss a notch or a mark of instruction. So I was like a detective myself, scanning the spaghetti lines with eagle eyes! I want this jacket to work so I need to make sure every detail is attended to. It didn’t help that the red lines on the pattern sheet I was following clashed with the red pattern pieces of the featured ladies blouse. This could wind up a very interesting hybrid ‘blouzer’, but let’s hope not!

For anyone who’s daunted by the tracing of Burda patterns – and let’s face it, that’s most of us – the following might be of help:

Top tips for tracing Burda patterns

  • Work on a large clean flat area
  • Use pattern weights or similar to hold your papers in place as you trace
  • Refer to the Pattern Overview to ensure you capture every notch, seam number, slit mark and grainline arrow
  • Tick off each piece in the list as you go
Burda pattern overview
Pattern Overview and Cutting Out list
  • Label all of your pieces with Model No., size and piece description / number
  • Remember seam allowances are not included so write that clearly on your pattern pieces too OR add them to your pieces and mark that they are included*
  • Photocopy the image to file with your pattern envelope if storing separately

*I will be making size adjustments to the pattern so I have left the seam allowance off. It’s way easier to play around with minus SA. And then I will either add it at the end or mark it directly onto the fabric when the pattern is pinned on.

Incidentally, the fabric we’ve decided on is a gorgeous traditional boating stripe from Yorkshire Fabrics. 100% wool, made in England which raises a little smile every time I see that selvedge! Doesn’t come cheap so I’ve wrapped it up like a precious swaddled baby and put it away for safe keeping until the calico version is made good. No chances being taken here!

boating stripe fabric

I really am in the slow lane here but there is a distinct advantage to this. Have you seen how MaleDevonSewing is steaming ahead with his amazing tailoring skills? For anyone else who is pootling along like me, he has posted some cool construction photos and instructions. Most of which I’ve never heard of. All of which I will be employing!

Di Kendall has shared the progress of the lovely striped blazer on her blog and it’s great to see lots more activity from other participants of #Blazerof2016 on Twitter too. Keep posting your progress… I need all the help I can get!! 😉

#Blazer of 2016: Potential Patterns

blazer of 2016

Thank you so much to everyone for your lovely words of support for #Blazerof2016 and especially to those who have signed up. And for anyone who’s teetering on the edge of joining in there’s still bags of time!

Typically my working-week has been busier than expected and there’s been no room for sewing but I did manage a little recce of potential sewing patterns that I’d like to share with you. Don’t hold your breath though. It won’t take long!

This little scout round the web – and to be fair, it was a little scout – has had some surprising results. When MaleDevonSewing suggested that menswear only represented 6% of sewing patterns, he wasn’t exaggerating!

Searching through the contemporary and classics of the Big 4‘s, this is all I came up with:

 

Burda 6813
Source: Jaycotts

 

Burda 6872
Source: Jaycotts

 

Burda 7194 Mans jacket
Source: Jaycotts

 

Burda 7046 Mans blazer
Source: Jaycotts

 

Burda 6993 mans jacket
Source: Jaycotts
Kwik Sew 3485
Source: Jaycotts

 

Vogue 8719 mans jacket
Source: John Lewis

 

Vogue 8988 jacket
Source: John Lewis

Of course there are only so many variations a man’s jacket might display, for example: the pockets, the lapel shape, the vent, if any, button cuffs or not, lined or not etc. No Westwood meeting McQueen with crazy shoulder shapes and asymmetric cross body lapels but that’s ok. We’ll make it interesting in our own way, right?!

So Burda gets the prize not just for the most patterns found but also for their jacket patterns featured in this month’s Burda Style magazine. What were the chances of that?

 

Patterns found in Burdastyle 2/2016
Patterns found in Burdastyle 2/2016

 

How are you getting on with your pattern searching? Have you found any designs by independent sewing pattern companies or have you gone vintage? There certainly seems to be more of those floating around. However, Mr O has a broader chest than most of those 50’s men it seems, hence my Big4 search. But to be fair, to find anything larger than a 44 chest in a modern day pattern is pretty rare too, it seems. Unfairly represented in more ways than one, then!

I think I’ll be going with the pattern on the left hand page of Burda Style magazine. I’m a bit nervous of the minimal instructions but I’ll be calling Jamie to the rescue if I get stuck! So calico at the ready I hope to be tracing and toiling sometime soon.

 

Sew Menswear: Blazer of 2016!

blazer of 2016

It’s amazing where a bit of Tweeting lands you up.

Not for the first time, I recently made friends with another great sewing blogger, Jamie from Male Devon Sewing. He tweeted for suggestions on what he should make next and I cheekily replied that he should make a man’s blazer so I could watch his every move and pick up all his tips! He liked the idea of making a summer jacket and I was genuinely looking forward to watching his every step but then the sewing-table turned and Jamie suggested we have a Blazer-off of sorts! Me and my big mouth!

Mr O has been begging me to make him a blazer for absolutely ages and if I’m honest, I’ve been plain terrified of not being able to follow it through! And if I’m really honest there’s a bit of selfish in me that would rather be making me another (easy) dress!

McQeen Feather print blazer
Source: upscalehype.com

But what am I actually terrified of?  Why would it be so much different to sew than ladies wear? I’ve made a jacket for me before, not the best of fitting and the stripes don’t line up on the shoulders but it’s a jacket all the same and I’m sure I could rectify those issues with a bit of care and attention. And If I didn’t, would it really be the end of the world?

Jamie and I put heads together and supposed because of a lack of menswear being sewn out there that there might just be a fair few of you also fearing how difficult it might be or maybe you’re just plain uninspired. Let’s face it, there’s not much in the way of menswear patterns compared to the plethora of womens’ out here. Like 6% apparently! And so #Blazerof2016 was born as a kick up the butt, so to speak to inject some much needed inspiration and promote a growth in the sewing of menswear!

Quadrophenia style blazer
Source: Bespoke Suit

Although I’ve been sewing for a few years, this is something that is definitely lacking in my repertoire so I’ll definitely be learning on the job, sharing all that I learn along the way. And if you check out Jamie’s jackets you’d be forgiven for thinking he has heaps of experience but he literally only sewed his first jacket a year ago! So we can all hold hands together – and steal all Jamie’s tips! By using the hashtag, #Blazerof2016 and tagging @ooobop and @maledeveonsewing on Twitter we can put out pleas for help as well as posting tips and progress photos. Nothing like a dive into the deep end, hey?!

Make one for your fella, your dad, your best mate, your brother or your son. Lets do it. Lets make someone’s day, add some more skills to our toolbox, encourage more sewing of menswear and more than anything, lets have some fun. Pinstripe, tweed or floral . . . let’s go crazy with colour and print. It doesn’t have to be boring! We’ll be regularly posting inspirational photos and techniques along the way so stay tuned for tailoring fun!

clue check blazer
source: alux.com

We have a good six months before submission day which is good for me because, like most things, I’m going to have to do this outside of work and children! I’ll do my best to blog as many stages of mine as I can and I’ll encourage you to do the same so we can show everyone how cool and satisfying it is to sew a fabulous piece of menswear.

So who’s up for joining us on our quest to scatter some menswear among the dresses of the sewing community? The rules are simple:

  • Make a Man’s blazer/jacket using any pattern of your choice, or draft your own, it MUST be a piece of menswear though!
  • Your choice of fabric suitable for a jacket.
  • Can be fully lined, part lined or unlined (although if unlined the seams need to be suitably finished).
  • Must have some sort of pockets (your choice again: Patch, Flap, Welt).
  • Your choice of vent at the back, either single or double.
  • Your choice to have opening/buttoned cuffs.
  • Jacket to be completed by June.

Please note this is not a scheduled sewalong. This challenge should you choose to accept, is to be completed in your own way, at your own pace, within the 6 months allowed of course.

Leave a comment below with either me or Jamie so we can see who’s in and please add the badge to your blog to spread the word.

blazer or 2016

I’m off to study patterns. Good luck every one!

Vintage Simplicity 7527 and a fond farewell

simplicity 7527 1968 dress Bowie

That news announcement on Monday 11th January 2016 marked the beginning of another very sad week and another goodbye I totally wasn’t prepared for. My first true love, my ‘confidant’, my constant, my hero… my David Bowie.

I’ve always felt alone with my passion for this man but these last few days have seen everyone on my feed, saddened and some devastated as me. Just one of my friends dared to mock the fan hysteria with sarcasm but I’ve resisted the urge to argue and instead, silently felt sorry for him- (who-shall-not-be-named) in that he clearly didn’t experience the love as much as we all did.

David Bowie memorial Brixton

Since 13 years old, when I was accused of being a ‘weirdo’, not fitting into any of the usual cliques, I’ve hung onto his every word – after all, precious few wrote a song called Janine (He wasn’t very good at spelling ;-)) – I loved the fashions, going to most of his gigs: on shoulders of strangers, right at the front on the Serious Moonlight Tour 1983; watching him descend from the underbelly of a Glass Spider in 1987; and we even touched, albeit fingertips, at the Hanover Grand, 1997 when I won a pair of tickets from Capital Radio! I even went to the loo in his dressing room at the Royal Festival Hall 2002. Long story! There were others. And his inspiration is untold. But we never actually met. Something I was holding out for. But actually I’m not sure I could have kept my cool so it’s probably for the best that we didn’t.

simplicity 7527 1968 brixton

So when Mr O suggested Brixton, his birthplace, as a venue for my latest dress shoot it wasn’t questioned. Seemed wrong to pose in front of the memorial so we wandered off to the Village Market. Colder than a polar bear’s toes, it was. So we warmed up on some buckwheat galettes at Senzala Creperie. They were amazing – staff and food!

simplicity 7527 1968 dress

The dress is a vintage Simplicity pattern, no. 7527 from 1968. Another happy Ebay win about a year ago, if I remember rightly. It has been designed for wovens but I figured it would work just as well in a stretch jersey.

simplicity 7527 sewing pattern

Incidentally, this stretch jersey is black with red flecks and allegedly ex-Hobbs. I got it from Dalston Mill Fabrics in the Ridley Road Market, not really knowing then what it was going to be. But it was always going to be something!

simplicity 7527 1968 dress

I’m not sure of the content. But it is very, very stretchy and quite weighty. A burn test revealed a minute quantity of something natural, so I’m guessing a viscose blend as it does have a lovely smooth feel about it.

vintage simplicity 7527 1968 dress

I expected it to come up big, not only because the pattern size was bigger than my usual but because stretch fabric, well… it stretches! There was rather a lot to come off. Five inches to be precise, so I took it, rather dodgily from the sides and a little bit from the centre front and back seams. This is usually totally inadvisable but I was in a hurry and hey, it kinda worked! Wrists dutifully slapped, I’ve since noted how to grade it down properly  and will make another with proper adjustments next time.

vintage simplicity 7527 1968 dress

The best thing about making it in a stretch jersey is that it doesn’t need a closure. I made sure that the turtleneck did fit over my head before I sewed it for real. I tacked the whole thing with a long straight stitch before sewing with a shallow zigzag stitch on my ordinary machine, much the same as I did on my Agnes top. And then I finished the seams on my 3-thread overlocker.

vintage simplicity 7527 dress

I’m not kidding when I say this was a quick project. I cut it out on the Wednesday evening, sewed it on the Thursday evening after work, and wore it on the Friday to a funeral. Needs must when you find that you don’t own (or fit into) a single black dress! Doesn’t look really funeral appropriate in these photos but suffice to say, my goosebump-riddled arms were covered with a respectable jacket on the day.

 

Photography: Daniel Selway

Hat: Shepherds Bush Market
Shoes: Aldo 
Seamed tights: M&S

 

Agnes Rocks!

“Hey Agnes! Where’ve you been all my life?”

Tilly Buttons Agnes by ooobop

Following on from my far-from-successful Burda top, I needed a bit of a sewing massage. A project that would give me a couple of hours of soothing sewing action with the gratification of a good result guaranteed. Plus I am in desperate need of some new tops and fast! – Tilly and the Buttons Agnes top to the rescue!

Tilly Buttons Agnes by ooobop

Ordinarily I’m not sold on making plain T’s. Life is way too short. But this fancy T was just the ticket. I adore those drapey puffy sleeves and the bust-enhancing ruching to the centre front. So ‘casually chic’ if that’s even a thing!

Tilly Buttons Agnes by ooobop

I haven’t sewn this top before but I have sewn Tilly’s Mimi blouse and the Coco top, both of which sewed up and fitted without hitches so I’d have bet big bucks on this being the same. Couldn’t have been more right if I tried!

I obeyed every instruction which if I’m really honest generally makes for a smoother exercise and in any case they are so clear and easy to follow it’s effortless really. I sewed the whole thing with a zigzag stitch on an ordinary sewing machine, as suggested. But I finished the seams on my overlocker. I only have a vintage, 3-thread kind which doesn’t stitch, just finishes, but it does the job beautifully.

Tilly Buttons Agnes by ooobop

The only bit I foresaw repeating a couple of times, was the neckband. But to my surprise it went on like a dream. Tilly has completely allowed for the right amount of stretch so that it doesn’t go all baggy. Though in fairness that could have been down to the quality of the fabric I used – a great quality cotton stretch from one of the shops down the Goldhawk Road. And it’s black and ivory too, (instead of navy and white) which I’m delighted with.

Tilly Buttons Agnes by ooobop

But I am a bit agged by the unavoidable issue of the stitching that shows down the centre of the ruching though, owing to the stripes – sleeves and centre front. I will make a solid black one at some point which will alleviate the problem. But I am left wondering whether I should have stiched with white/ivory thread instead of black. Or would it have created the same problem in reverse?

We had such fun shooting these photos. Mr O had found this area in Waterloo, London, and thought it would create a great backdrop to an otherwise monochrome outfit. He wasn’t wrong. He seldom is. But best not to let him know that!

Tilly Buttons Agnes by ooobop

I don’t often get Mr O all to myself so after a stroll around all the little vintage shops of Lower Marsh Street, we stopped off for a delicious lunch at Bar Cubana.  I could get quite used to these kind of Wednesdays!

Photography: Daniel Selway

Top: Handmade by me – Agnes by Tilly and the Buttons
Skirt: Handmade by me – self drafted half circle
Hat: Second hand – Oxfam
Belt: H&M
Boots: Irregular Choice
Bag: Gift from my daughter – Floozie
Gloves: Gift from Mr O – Alice Hannah