An outfit for Amelia Fang

Laura Ellen Anderson with ooobop

Not for the first time, my day job and passion for dressmaking have come together and partied!

Like when I made an apron for Ellie Simmons to celebrate the launch of her book Ellie’s Magical Bakery, and when I made myself an outfit for Gemma Cairney’s launch party for Open the book. And it only bloody happened again!

Imagine my excitement when Laura Ellen Anderson asked me to make her an outfit for her book launch of Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball!

I’d seen the cover of the book already – designed by the super talented Tiffany Leeson at Egmont Children’s Books  – and was called in for a meeting with Laura to discuss the outfit. There wasn’t too much to discuss to be honest, because Laura’s adorable illustrations gave me all the information I needed. So I took a few measurements, scribbled a few plans and couldn’t wait to get started.

Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball cover

If you follow Laura on Twitter – @Lillustrator – you will know how busy she is, not just with her marathon illustration and writing sessions but also flying from workshops to events like nobody’s business! This lady needed some wings at the very least!

Amelia Fang takes the starring role of this ‘terrifying’ tale. She’s fun, fiesty and loyally flanked by her friends, Florence the yeti, Grimaldi the reaper and Squashy her adorable pet pumpkin. When spoilt-brat Prince Tangine captures Squashy they must escape the party to plan a daring rescue! In their race against time, they come to realise things in Nocturnia may not be quite what they seem . . .

It really is such a fun read. The characters are so endearing and I loved it! And so say loads of other readers… it was voted book of the month at Waterstones in October, too!

I started with the petticoat. I figured it was going to take the longest to make. But also the colour of that tangerine made me so happy! It has a poly satin lining and waistband and three double-tiered layers of netting. The joins are prettied with orange satin ribbon and hemlines are finished with orange satin bias binding. I created the waistband to include 4 channels of narrow elastic. I find this helps to move the gathers around if you want to position the volume more at the back or at the sides. I’m not a fan of too much poof at the front! It looks way better, too!

tangerine petticoat

Next was the skirt. I cut a full circle from some black duchesse satin as the overskirt and box pleated some black and white striped cotton for the underskirt. I just love it’s Tim Burtonesque edge. The best find was the orange foil-like fabric for the detail on the overskirt. Oh how it tied in perfectly with the orange foil detail on the cover!

To prevent the shiny bits from fraying, I faced the pointy tips and just pressed under the long sides before topstitching to the skirt. A duchesse waistband sealed in the top edges and an invisible zip at the back was the only notion needed.

Amelia Fang with Unicorn

And then the wings. I have my milliner friend, Jayne Hepsibah Sullivan of the Hepsibah Gallery to thank for the introduction to animation wire. And for a genius solution to making a posable framework that I could cover with bat-like faux leather. They attach as a neck piece that ties at the front with black satin ribbon. The wire has no memory so the wings can be positioned at will. Oh, and I couldn’t resist adding a few cockerel feathers left over from my significant birthday dress. Such fun!!

Amelia Fang wings

The launch party was just fabulous. Held at The Crypt of St Pancras Parish Church, London which was originally designed and used for coffin burials from 1822, when the Church was opened, to 1854, when the crypts of all London churches were closed to burials. It was the perfect choice of venue. And everyone looked amazing… Prince Tangine especially!

Prince Tagine

Laura Ellen Anderson with Sarah McIntyre

Gutted I didn’t get to say hello to Sarah McIntyre. She looked incredible!

But I did get to meet so many other lovely people at the launch. It was such a coven of creative talent – writers, illustrators, art directors, musicians and photographers… It inspires me so much to hear others talk so passionately about their work. And it was thrilling to get so many compliments on Laura’s outfit. I loved making it as much as I loved seeing her wear it. And I was just buzzing with pride.

Amelia Fang launch party

I have clean forgotten that I ever said I couldn’t imagine sewing for anyone else. I guess its a very different story when your customer is so cool and perfectly lovely and you get to make a one-off, bespoke, fun outfit for her. I take it all back…

“This is most definitely my favourite kinda ‘work’!”

Big massive thank yous to Tiffany for putting me forward, to Laura for such an awesome opportunity and to Laura’s mum for the fabulous photos.

And Squashy would like to remind you that he is not just for Halloween… Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball would make a perfect Christmas pressie for 7-9 year olds. And it’s on Amazon right here! (affiliate image link below) Along with the next book in the series, Amelia Fang and the Unicorn Lords:


Bugsy’s showgirl and a lot of tears.

Bugsy Malone Bangles

Friday was my daughter’s last day as a primary school child. The final school pick up was an emotional one to say the least. There’s been 8 years of to-oing and fro-ing from that lovely little school, including those spent there by my son. And in those 8 years both Dan and I have accumulated as many good friends and memories as our children. Tears were inevitable!

The last couple of weeks have been jam-packed full of parties and celebrations. Back to back, I kid you not! And last week the year 6 children, directed and inspired by their fabulous drama teacher Arwen from Dramatic Dreams, performed an amazing version of Bugsy Malone.They turned all this around in the space of about a week. Pure magic, I can tell you. And I can also tell you how much of a relief it was when I remembered I’d already made a flapper-style dress for my neighbour’s daughter a couple of years ago. So no stressful last minute sewing for this performance… hoorah! Little Miss Ooobop was Bangles.

Bangles sitting on edge of stage

The dress was a simple design. There’s not much hip definition in a year 6 child or a requirement for such in a flapper dress for that matter, so a tube of lycra it was, with a nifty box pleat at the front and back neckline. The rows of fringing were a little more challenging. Sewn on with a zig-zag stitch to retain the stretch but careful not to stretch the fabric too much as I went along.

Waitress in Bugsy Malone

I properly squealed when I found the lovely stretchy sequin trim. It finished the neckline beautifully and was perfect for the feather headband too. Long live Shepherds Bush Market!

Bugsy Malone show girls

The photos you see are of a now-not-so-little girl who not so long ago wouldn’t have been seen dead on stage. She hated any amount of attention and the idea of people watching her on stage made her feel positively sick. I’m so glad that she took those after school drama classes and I’m so proud of her for jumping high over those hurdles. It seriously bought a tear to my eye watching her confidence soar on stage in front of parent-packed audience.

Bangles in Bugsy Malone

It’s true to say I am so very proud of ALL of the children. All singing, dancing, performing, netballing, chess-playing, footballing, maths and English prize-winning activities aside, they are a truly amazing bunch of kind, caring and gorgeous children and there is no doubt in my mind that each and every one of them is destined for an amazing future.

Bugsy Malone show girls

Oh good Lord. I’m off again!!! 🙁

Bugsy Malone show girls

This may be good bye to primary school years but I’m sure it won’t be goodbye to costume making. Besides the Dorothy dress and the Wild Thing for World Book Day, I also made a Poison Ivy cape for my eldest daughter who left school a long time ago!

All credit for these beautiful photos goes to Michelle Moradi.

Wild Thing for World Book Day

Where_The_Wild_Things_Are_costumeI think I may be subject to mass mum-hate if I proclaim a love for World Book Day. But I do. (Eek!) Don’t get me wrong, I get my knickers in a knot as much as anyone else but I secretly relish the challenge. After all, it involves a must-do sewing project. And that’s always a good thing.

My daughter was very clear about what she wanted to be this year. I’ve come to realise recently, how very grateful I am for people who think for me. I constantly have head soup! Someone thinking on my behalf is better than doing the dishes for me or hoovering the stairs. I’d even go as far as saying that it was better than someone cleaning the bathroom for me. Not that I know what that’s like but you catch my drift?

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Anyhows, youngest dort was dead set on Max from Where The Wild Things Are. Easy I thought. A white onesie and we are sorted! Not. Not when youngest dort has other plans, like a white onesie in a faux fur of the furriest kind. I kid you not, this stuff is horrid and has left serious evidence throughout the whole house!

Where The Wild Things Are costume

I’ve never attempted one of these before and certainly didn’t have a go-to pattern but this is where I can justify my 3 year collection of Burdastyle magazines.

Low and behold in January 2013’s edition…. a wookie jumpsuit! Thank you Burdastyle. Really. Thank you!!

wookie costume

The only problem I had was that the size only went up to age 8. My daughter is 9 but a good 4 inches taller than a regular 9 year old! And so I cut and spread and taped and so properly graded the jumpsuit pieces. But then I looked and shook my head in disbelief at the sheer size of the pattern and took out an inch and a half.

Well you can guess the rest. The first test garment was too small. But no biggie because it was only a tester and better still made the basis of a Thing One costume for her bestie! Bestie’s clever mum did a very fine job of sewing on the the all-important detail as well as taking care of  the gorgeous Hermione Granger!

Thing One costume

So once I added those inches back in I just cut and sewed… and got fluff everywhere!
The good thing about this stuff is there is no necessity for neatening of seams, no hems and no need for careful catch-stitching. I actually did double interface the ears with sew in canvas to make them stand up but not be too stiff. The zip was surprisingly ok to sew in, by hand but trimming the fluff so as not to catch on the teeth was really annoying!

Where The Wild Things Are costume

I can’t take all the credit for this one. LMO made and hand painted her own fabulous crown and check out that wonderfully fluffy tail. A tail that Max himself would have been soooo proud to wear. Mr Ooobop himself took on this task while I was at work. He chose the fur and shaped it perfectly before stitching it with his own fair hands. I am so uber impressed.

Where the Wild Things are CostumeI think we can safely say that Little Miss Ooobop was suitably impressed too! And what better place to hang out after school than the local park, in the trees, being photographed by her multi-talented dad!

Where The Wild Things Are costume

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Where The Wild Things Are costume

Hope your tales of World Book Day were as fun!
And wishing you all a lovely sunny weekend wherever you are.

(One can dream!)

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Party skirt for Princess Gabrielle

princess skirt collage

You may have seen me whinging (and crying) on Twitter about this skirt. And now I’m looking at it I really am bemused by how a tiny skirt for a 3 year old could have given me so much jip!

The skirt is made from 3 layers of the most atrrocious fabric: Purple polyester satin for the underskirt, purple soft netting to add poofiness in the middle, and a top layer of glittery pinky-purple stretch tulle… with an off grain ribbed effect which was already stretched out of shape.

So the first issues began with the cutting. Purple polyester all cool apart from the fuzzy fraying threads that combined when handled to form a faux cobweb mass much like you’d buy for decoration at halloween. I was covered in the stuff and even the cats managed to get it wrapped round their chops and were in a right old pickle till I unwound it from their teeth!

I telephoned my mum to ask for some advice on cutting the netting and tulle and she advised to measure and run a line of pins as markers. Great advice but I can’t tell you just how many pins I picked up from the floor afterwards! You have to weave them in and out or else they just drop out!

And lastly and most annoyingly that glittery stretchy nightmare stuff. Because it had a horizontal ribbing, I thought it would be a doddle to cut but nooooo. It was all wonky and stretched from the outset. I’m not entirely happy with the edge to this layer but hey its going to be on a twirling whirling 3 year old party girl who’ll be boinging on a massive pink inflatable castle for most of the day so I think it might go unnoticed!

Now I wasn’t going to admit to the most stupid mistake I made. Because I still can’t believe I was that stupid but hey. We all learn from them….

When I’d finished… or when I thought I’d finished… I thought the waistband was looking a bit too bulky and however much I trimmed the inside elastic, it still came up bigger than the intended 50cm. A lot of head scratching, a goodnights sleep and a eureka moment revealed that I’d cut the waistband not 2x the waist measurement but 4x the waist measurement. I’d measured the strip with it folded, like a complete dingbat!!! Here’s the evidence:

too much bulk on waistbandI did laugh at myself, through the tears. I have been so busy with work this week and I’m amazed I actually got any sewing done. But I’m so glad I did. Gabrielle’s birthday party is tomorrow and I can’t wait to see the photos of her wearing her princess skirt. I’m sure they will make for better viewing than the above! Watch this space 🙂

ooobop! review: Burda Style January 2013

Burda January 2013 cover

One might be advised to take the following review with a pinch of salt. I am ill and grumpy and should never have ventured out on this cold, wet miserable day to get hold of my belated issue. Belated, not because of any neglect on my part to pick it up sooner but because Smiths clean forgot to put it on the shelves. I think I might have got a poor sales assistant busted as a result.

My glee turned to gloom when I flicked though the first section, before I got to the checkout. The ‘Party’ section. Really? Not my kind of party. What no LBD? No slinky numbers, save the Bacofoil one. Maybe overload of purple has left me unable to think outside of the box. mmmm…. what do you think?

Burda January 2013 partyThere were a couple in this section that left me a little more hopeful. Gosh I am being so negative, soz! Strange though because I don’t really do strides or leggings but quite fancy a pair of leather ones, Given my determination to grow old disgracefully! Still not very partyish though.

Burda January 2013 party in purpleBut hang on. Here we go. This is far more up my street. A section entitled the Aenne Burda Collection. Five reinterpreted dresses and a coat from the 50’s and 60’s. And I love each and every one of them! Though I really want the button band on the pink dress to be narrower. I don’t need my midriff highlighted quite so much!

Aenne Burda collection dresses and coatLoungewear, leisurewear, sporty home knits, whatever… not really a fan of such garments. Even though I could be accused of hypochrisy as I sit here, sniffling in my sloppy pjs and age-old baggy T!

But never say never. These patterns do come in handy from time to time and they whip up quick so long as you don’t have an aversion to stretchy jersey fabrics. I’ve made a few peasant tops but I think one in a lovely drapey viscose jersey with long sleeves might be a more glamourous casual addition.

Home story loungewear

So was the glamour saved for the Plus Section as per usual? Nope! I like the green dress and the waterfall fronts of the jackets. In fact I quite like the layering and the colour palette but I might give the huggy bear waistcoat a miss!

Burda january 2013 plus section

And just in case you need a fancy dress costume…. there is certainly a mixed bag going on here!

Looks like a lot of work to pull of a Hungry Caterpillar costume but wouldn’t that be a hoot?! I always gloss over patterns like these but on closer inspection there is always a bodice or a sleeve pattern that could be borrowed. Not forgetting random dressing up days at school!

Burda January 2013 fancy dressThere are lots of lovely little crafty projects in this issue too, like detatchable collars, a bead-embroidered neck band, bejewelled bangles and shoes plus these adorable teddies made from recycled jumpers and blankets. No actual pattern for these but the instructions and inspiration is all that is necessary.

bunnies from recycled jumpersWell in case I don’t touch base before the new year, here’s wishing you all a fabulous 2013. Thank you for faithfully sticking with me and for all your wonderful comments. It is already so difficult to remember life pre-ooobop! I’m hoping to get more stealthlike in my attempt at stealing sewing time in the new year and so be much more productive. But what good would that be without having you lovely lot to share it with.

Truly Grateful.

Much Love

Janene x

A cape for Poison Ivy

poison ivy front

Meet my biggest little girl! Hardly a villain but seriously rocking the whole Poison Ivy thing!

It’s not often I get asked to contribute to her wardrobe. It is in fact never! So I was very honoured by the request to make a capelet for her Halloween costume. Yes I know this is a bit late in the day, soz, but I wasn’t allowed a sneak preview on the day (something to do with me being an embarrassing mum at her last party I would think!) and had to wait patiently for photographic evidence so I could share it with you.

poison ivy back

It was a very fun and quick project and even ‘biggest little’ was impressed! If you knew her like I do you would know how amazing that is!

poison ivy

Here’s a better picture of the stand-up collar. You cant see it for all the red luscious locks!

cape on manequin

The exterior is a bright green poly satin fabric with red satin lining and I used some glitzy buttons at the neck to cover the ends of the ribbon. Should have sewn them in the collar stand really!

It was a very simple project for quite an effective fancy dress accessory…

First I measured the neck (plus ease) and the measurement from the neck, over the shoulder to just below the elbow. Using Pi (22/7) I worked out the radius to draw the neck hole and from that circumference I could mark the length of the capelet and draw the circumference at the hem (plus SA)

circumference formula

Have you ever wondered what that little hole is for at the end of your tape measure? Well I sure have found a use. If you position and hold down the tape measure at the distance required, on the centre point, or corner of your paper, you can put the point of a pencil in the hole at the other end and draw the arc of the circle. Its not as accurate as a compass but I don’t have a set of compasses that large and this method was good enough!

draft circle

I folded the fabric into quarters and pinned the pattern, making sure it was butted to both adjacent sides.

folded fabric

pinned patternI did the same with the lining and cut out. This is not my favourite fabric to work with, I hasten to add!

cape liningNext up, I pinned the self to the lining, right sides together, using lots and lots of pins. I am telling you, this is soooo not my favourite fabric to work with. It slipped and slid all over the place!

pinned lining and selfThen I cut the front opening. You can see just how far out I was with the cutting/positioning of this slippery stuff!

cut opening

But I saved the situation with a genius idea to round off the corners! And note my next exclusive dressmaking tool…. a dinner plate!

round cornersI stuck in some more pins before I attempted to sew around the base hem and up the front openings. But it still took 3 or 4 attempts. It was like a couple of magnets repelling against each other!

more pinsI left the neckline open while I constructed the collar. First I made the collar stand. The measurement for which was the neck measurement (plus ease) by 5 inches (I think!)

I folded it in half, lengthwise and applied fusible interfacing to one side.

interface collar standTo make the ruffle, I cut a strip the same width only twice as long, folded, pressed and seamed the short ends, right sides facing. I gathered the raw edges to the same length as the collar stand.

ruffleI don’t have pics for the next stage but hopefully it will make sense. I sewed the short ends of the collar stand together and turned right side out. Matching raw edges, I pinned the ruffle to one side of the collar stand, right sides together, careful not to catch the underside.

collar ruffleI turned the ruffle up, hiding the raw edges inside and gave it a press to keep it in place. I then folded in the seam allowance from the remaining side and topstitched in place.

finished collarAgain I am missing a few pics, but to finish off I sewed the base of the collar stand (the folded edge), right sides facing, to the neckline of the self side of the cape. I then folded and pressed in the seam allowance on the lining and top stitched to the other side of the collar, very close to the edge.

poison ivy cape

Buttons and ribbons were then sewn in place.

Hope this gives you some insight. So sorry for the missing pics. I will be more diligent with my tutes next time!

This is indeed a very fun and quick make… but I would advise a woven fabric just for sanity’s sake!

The Daphne dress

In between the quilting and the vintage dresses and the obsessive pattern buying I’m quite often being art-directed by Little Miss Ooobop! for her next dressing up party outfit. Today was her friend’s birthday party, Scooby Doo was the theme and she wanted to be Daphne.

Daphne from Scooby Doo

Burda Style 10/2010 came in handy, and not for the first time, with a great kids pattern for a long T shirt. The original had a button placket and long sleeves which wasn’t an option for Daphne’s dress. Believe me, LMO does her homework good and proper. The only requested variation was that the dress had short sleeves in case it was sunny. She wasn’ t wrong, that daughter of mine… what a glorious sunny day we had today.

The fabric is a mauve stretch cotton jersey which we found in the first shop we went into! And at £3.99 a metre, a bit of a bargain too! The satin bias trim was from my favourite haberdasher stall in Shepherds Bush market for 40p a metre! No other notions. A v-neckline makes sure of that.

Daphne pose

To alter the pattern I simply cut the the body back and front on the fold, ignoring the placket shape. I lengthened by 4 inches and changed the neckline to a V-shape. And shortened the sleeves of course.

I used the trusty side-cutter to do a faux serge on the seams. Honestly it works like a treat! And I used a stretch stitch to finish the hems on the skirt and the sleeves. I have finished a v-neckline with stretch jersey once before, on my spotty top, and it was great to practice it once again. In fact I think I did a much better job this time!

LMO with missL

The hairband is quite literally a tube of the stretch jersey. A head measurement minus an inch. No elastic involved. I just relied on the stretch of the fabric and it was fine. I wasn’t going to get too bogged down with it as it was going to get ruined by orange hair spray in any case!

The neckscarf is half a metre of finest lime green polyester, seamed all round with a gap for turning! Actually I was lucky to be served half a metre. Apparently only regular customers get that deal!

The only tricky thing about this project was getting said daughter to pose. It’s getting harder and harder to get her to willingly and graciously pose. It normally involves hard cash but today we got off light with a double scoop ice-cream!

Daphne with ice cream