Tropical Shelby

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

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

Tropical print version of True Bias Shelby Romper

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

Ooobop Shelby Romper

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

close up of buttons sewn on with orange thread

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

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

ooobop Shelby Romper

Lovely photos of course by Daniel Selway

 

Operation Christmas Dress complete!

handmade tartan dress with teardrop opening

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

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

Tartan Christmas dress front

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

The process was exactly the same:

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

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

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

Close up detail of teardrop opening

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

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

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

close up of sleeve and cuff

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

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

Walking in my new dress

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

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

Back view of dress

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

striding out in my new tartan dress

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

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

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

Ooobop original 70s style dress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sloper created using Adobe Illustrator
Sloper created using Adobe Illustrator

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

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

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

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

ooobop original 70s style dress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Previous attempts at self-drafting:

The English Tea Dress #013 by Simple Sew

Simple Sew English Tea dress

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

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

Simple Sew English tea dress

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

Love Sewing Magazine and English Tea Dress sewing pattern

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

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

Simple Sew English Tea dress

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


TIP#1

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

facing instructions

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


TIP #2

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


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


TIP #3

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


and then:


TIP #4

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


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

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

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

cuffed sleeve instructions

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

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

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


TIP #5

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I wore to the Dressmaker’s Ball 2019

ooobop wearing V8814 dress

‘Get me to the Ball!
‘There is a Disco at the Palace!
‘The rest have gone and I am jealous!’

Just like Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhyme about Cinderella when she was stropping out about a lack of invite, this is exactly how I was feeling when I learned too late about the first dressmakers ball in 2017.

Needless to say I subscribed to all the hashtags and signed up to get news of the next one and snapped up that ticket as soon as it was live.

The event is organised by team Crafty Sew and So and this year’s was at The City Rooms in Leicester.

The minute I had that ticket secured, my head flooded with all the possibilities for a free range, self drafted no holds barred gown of dreams, all for me. Elizabethan ruffs, balloon organza sleeves. Crinoline skirt. Bustle perhaps? I had a year after all.

designs for ooobop ballgownTruth be told and no surprises here, I decided on the dress with just over 10 days to go. You know how it goes ~ work, family, work and more work. And I’m a little bit sad to say that my all time avant-garde number ended up straight out of a packet.

Vogue pattern V8814

A lovely pattern for sure but the proof was in the making: No toile time. No anything time. Time? Definitely a thing of the past. Enjoy it while you can kiddos. It passes you by on the blink of an eye with every added birthday.

Now let’s discuss this slinky Vogue number V8814. I chose floor length, version C. I was going to a ball after all and visions of slow-mo sweeping skirt-motions danced in my head. I opted for the one with plunging neckline and crossover straps at the back. The bodice is snug to the hips and then all the volley is in the circular skirt.

I am so grateful to those pattern companies who display the finished sizes on the pattern pieces. Lord only knows why quite so much ease has to be added. I’d have swum in the suggested size according to actual stats!

And I am so delighted to have chanced upon a pattern that for all it’s sophistication was a total breeze to put together! The only area that needed fixing was the neckline which gaped a little so I hand-sewed some 5mm wide elastic along the inside of the neckline, stretching slightly to pull it in more to the chest. And the only tricky bit was convincing Pants I didn’t need his help!

Pants the cat helping me sew

I’d bought a singular ticket to the ball just because I worry about making plans with people and then have to cancel due to work commitments. Plus I knew that I would meet people there. The sewing community is such a welcoming and fun place, of that I was certain.

But that didn’t stop me from being self-conscious in front of the photographer. I’m so spoilt by Mr O’s awesome willingness to oblige my blog shots that I forget what it’s like to stand and pose in front of someone you don’t know! Thank you TKL Photography for bearing with me and thank you Tamsin, for posing with me and making me feel a little less awkward!

ooobop with Tamsin from Pimp my Curtains

We decided upon fishbowls of gin to relax us even more!

Tamsin and ooobop drinking gin

It was such an amazing evening. A ballroom brimming with stunning guests all adorned in bespoke, handmade attire, dancing to some really cool covers by a brilliant live jazz band. I spent most of the evening gawping at stunning outfits and discussing them, clinking and raising a glass at every opportunity to the brilliant hosts and the awesome sewing community.

And look who else I found: Marie from A Stitching Odyssey and Amy, blogger at Almond Rock and editor of Love Sewing Magazine.

judges at the dressmakers ball 2019

Not at all trying to fraternise with the judges before the catwalk competition – honest, guv!

So why have I taken so long to blog about this dress?

In short.

The fabric.

I’m ashamed by my panic purchase of glittery fabric.

‘I want a dress! I want a coach!
‘And earrings and a diamond brooch!
‘And silver slippers, two of those!
‘And lovely nylon panty hose!

Perfectly weighty and with great drape for the skirt, I chanced upon it in the Goldhawk Road. It appears to be a red lace bonded over a synthetic satin with glitter glued in the gaps of the lace.  I joked about the fire-hazzard potential should I stand too close to a candle, given the probability of not a single natural fibre involved. But it was met with a straight face. The seller was already was unhappy that my need for five yards meant discarding the first couple of metres on the roll as the lace was clearly bonded in sections. Lucky I noticed the join because he sure as hell wasn’t going to point it out!

But I did not question the glitter. 

Recently, my day job has involved lots of work relating to the harmful effects of plastic on the environment, and though I haven’t come across any reference to glitter in the books as yet, this quote by Alice Horton, a research associate at the UK’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, jumped out at me and touched a nerve:

“While there is currently no evidence specifically on glitter being bad for the environment, it is likely that studies on glitter would show similar results to those on other microplastics”.

And now I feel bad. For not thinking it through. For the trail of glitter I literally left behind. I don’t exaggerate when I say that I left a red glittery bum shape on my seat when I stood up after dinner. And I’m sorry for anyone who sat in my place afterwards and took a little piece of me home with them.

To this day I’m finding that damned stuff on my shoes, in the carpet, on the cat… It’s never going to go away. And then it’ll end up in the sea and all the poor fishes will be lunching on it.

And I know I can’t un-do it. But I can not-do it again. No more more glitter for me. I need to think before I buy. I just can’t cope with the guilt! Or do you think I’m over-reacting?

Etta’s embellished sundress

Etta wearing her dress
I’ve taken on a few sewing commissions lately and this dress was very nearly another until it turned into a fabulous collaboration.

Etta had scored a bagful  of beautiful Asian braids from Portobello market and asked if I could either make her a white tiered-dress or show her how to make one so that she could then embellish with the trims she’d found.

Asian braid

I so love an idea that’s sparked by the decoration! Much like decorating a room to match the cushions!

I haven’t properly ventured down the teaching road to date so I thought I’d give it a bash. And Etta would be a great guinea pig to rehearse my teaching skills!

Sewing a tiered skirt would be the easy bit but I needed a quick and simple bodice pattern to work with and that is totally when my nine-year collection of Burda mags comes into it’s own!  In order to find what I want, I just search up the pattern options online and then note the magazine issue number. I’d like to report that I file my mags in date order to complete the efficient process but sadly that’s not the case!

Took a wee while to get to March 2013 but it was worth it for the perfect sundress bodice pattern. Nice and simple for a beginner too.

Burdastyle dundress

On first inspection I though the skirt part of the dress was made of gathered tiers but that would have been too flooky! Stitched on lace gives the illusion of tiers, here, but Etta wanted the real deal so we just needed to trace the bodice section and we would make our own tiers.

The look on Etta’s face was priceless when I explained we would have to first locate the lines to trace it off!! Luckily for her there were only 2 small pieces and a couple of straps.

bodice pieces

This was to be Etta’s maiden go on a sewing machine. She was a natural!  I must also give credit here to Brother for the 3-speed control on my Innovis 1250. The slow settings are great for stopping the over-enthusiasts from veering off piste!

Brother speed setting

Once the bodice and straps were sewn, Etta put it on so I could measure down to the desired length of the skirt.

To create the tiers we divided that measurement in half and accounted for seam allowance on each section (adding a bit extra for the hem on the bottom tier). Now we had the depth of each tier, I’m pretty sure we took double the width of the base of the bodice for the length of the first tier and doubled the length of the first to get the second.

I showed Etta how to make gathering stitches by using a wide machine stitch either side of the seam line; pulling up the gathers to fit, and then sewing the seams between the gathering lines. It helps to keep the gathering neat and in line.

Here’s a photo of what the dress looked like before it was trimmed. Etta had chosen a lovely white cotton twill which had a lovely weight to it.

dress without trims

We managed to sew most of the dress in a day, and I took it away to insert the zip and hand sew the bodice to cover the raw edges of the skirt inside. Etta had traced, cut and sewn every other piece herself.

hand finishing the insides

It’s a really interesting experience sharing knowledge. I’m sure all you teachers will be rolling your eyes at me now. For the most part I’m a doer. I rarely look up. And it never occurs to me how far I’ve come either in my day to day job as a designer or indeed my other part time passion as a seamstress. So on the rare occasion when I’m teaching someone I always worry about not knowing enough to share – that the pupil might know more than I’m about to teach – a terrifying thought! Is that a certified phobia?!

In reality the polar opposite has been the case. And I’m always asked lots of questions, to repeat procedure or simply slow down. Which is totally reassuring and absolutely fine by me!!

The deal of this exchange was to be some fabulous photos for my blog. And Etta stepped right up to the mark and took these beauts in her Granny’s lovely garden.

Ettas dress

Ettas dress

Ettas dress

Just love it when a plan comes together… doesn’t she look gorgeous?!

Why buy a dressform, tailors dummy, mannequin, dressmaker’s stand thing?

Adjustoform lady valet dressform bust

I managed a good few years of dressmaking without a dressform… tailors dummy… dressmakers mannequin… whatchamacallit! I didn’t consider myself at all worthy of such a professional tool. I don’t have room enough to swing a mouse in my house let alone space to accommodate an extra lodger, with a price tag.

But one day I took surprise delivery of a delightful pair of such assistants – one male and one female. Mr O had sought to surprise me with this very generous gift. Strings attached of course.

I’d always contested that it would be too tricky to make him shirts what with him being the illusive musician and the need for checking fit and all. So hats off to his persistence and problem solving skills!

I did make him a few shirts. Years ago, mind. And the tailors dummy was great for checking all the aspects of shirtmaking. It’s become a little redundant of late though.

But the female dressmaker stand  was dressed and draped repeatedly and undoubtedly earned her keep. The main issues I had with the female one were the colour and all the plastic bits. When I stood back from the mannequin and looked at my displayed work I couldn’t help wishing she was more classy – more graceful and more like those neutral coloured dressmaker stands with the tiny wooden ‘heads’ that didn’t distract from the garment and had better pinnability to boot! I also had illusions of practicing draping techniques to create some crazy unique styles and I just wasn’t inspired to work on this blue, now-rickety dressform.

She didn’t age well. The adjustment cogs became stiff. I think they were quite tight to start with. The covering got a bit patchy and loose in places. it wasn’t particularly padded, was difficult to pin to and the hem gauge accessory at the bottom just broke off one day. I never managed to use that part of it to be honest. Ended up with a more wiggly line than I would have created without it!. Instead I would stand her on a table and measure the hemline up from the table with a metal ruler, turning as I went.

But that in itself was a bit of a disaster one day when I realised the body had become loose on the stand and was spiralling down as I turned it.

She almost got her marching orders that day but guilt set in when the more caring me realised how ungrateful and wasteful I was being. She did the job… but she wasn’t nice to work with. That’s all. But that’s such a thing!

Well they do say ‘be careful what you wish for’. (I wished so much to have a nicer dressform, I can’t tell you.) One fateful day earlier this year my ‘delightful’ son had a proper tantrum and vented spleen on blue lady dressform. Rather her than me to be honest, though to be fair, the ensuing bisection was way more of a shock to him than it was me. He had no idea I was upstairs and had witnessed the attack and that I spied on him as he tried to reassemble the twisted wreck, quite-rightly panic-stricken.

Oh the joy on two counts of asking ‘does anyone know how my dressform came to be broken?’. He fessed up, with shameful apology and offered to contribute to a new one. I couldn’t take his dosh. I was too happy that I now had an excuse for a replacement.

May I introduce Adjustoform FG202 | Lady Valet Small 8-Part Adjustable Dressmaker’s Dummy. Naked as the day she arrived. And almost perfect in every way…

Dressform tailors dummy

I first caught sight of her at John Lewis Department store. And I know you shouldn’t judge on looks but that is definitely what drew me in for a closer inspection. The adjustment wheels turned easily – way easier than my previous model. The wooden stand is way more attractive and sturdier than the flailing metal legs of before and the ecru body covering is much easier on the eye and conducive to shooting garments of all colours. Best of all it has boobs!

adjustoform dummy from side

Well, kind of… I do exaggerate! But there is definitely more boob than I had before which helps immensely when checking, shooting or simply displaying a garment. As expected there is no means to change a cup size so a good workaround is a bra stuffed with a pair of two of secret socks! Or I have seen more accurate ways of padding the body with batting to create a more closely replicated size.

Although I was sold already, I’ve learned to reccy online and resist an impulse buy. In any case it wasn’t available to buy in store at the Westfield branch so I found one – a whole £40 cheaper – on Amazon. I took full advantage of the free delivery with my Amazon Prime subscription and she arrived box fresh the following day.

Assembly was a doddle. I didn’t question that there was no instruction booklet, deeming it superfluous to requirement in any case: The body slots into the pole and is tightened with a screw and the feet slot into the base.

lady valet wooden base

I later found said booklet under the flap of the box as I crushed it for recycling. But I’m glad I did as I would have never guessed to rotate the metal device at the base of the stand to hold the feet on. If you don’t do this the feet fall out of their slots when you pick up the dummy!

dressform metal device

So was it worth the investment I hear you ask?

Yes is the short answer. I definitely needed one since more often I am dressmaking professionally. I can leave a circle skirt to hang for the bias to drop, I can achieve a level hem in the absence of a client. I can stand back and see how the garment looks and hangs and I can rotate the body to see how it works at all angles.

The only shred of doubt in my mind is that I know that my Adjustoform Lady Valet is only a slight upgrade, mostly for aethetic reasons and will never be a substitute for a real person’s proportions

This isn’t a one size fits all. And so even with padding will only ever be as near as dammit. Only when I progress to super successful fashion designer extraordinaire status (in my dreams) can I afford the space and the expense of an army of models in varying sizes.

There is better padding on this dressform compared to the blue one but only of marginal difference. You still hit underlying plastic unless you go in at an angle with those pins.

The gaps in the adjustment areas not conducive for draping. For the records I haven’t ventured down that road properly yet. I tend to work with existing or self-drafted flat patterns, but if I wanted to drape and pin a design I would be better off with one of those other kinds of dressform/tailors dummy/mannequin/dressmaker’s stand things with collapsable shoulders like they had on the Great British Sewing Bee.

Do you use one of the aforementioned? What are your views? And pray tell… what on earth do you call it?

Pattern-free cowl skirt in African wax fabric

Cowl skirt front

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

cowl skirt by ooobop

It looks so elegant from the back.

cowl skirt by ooobop back view

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

cowl skirt by ooobop

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




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

Lucy cowl skirt detail

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

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

Lucy wearing cowl skirt by ooobop

Lucy wearing cowl skirt by ooobop

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

Other things I’ve made from African wax fabric:

Jumpsuit and baby dress

Self-drafted wax print dress




Gypsy dress and panel placement

 

ooobop soladida gypsy dress front

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

ooobop soladida gypsy dress front

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


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

ooobop soladida gypsy dress bodice

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

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

ooobop_soladida gypsy dress midriff

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

ooobop soladida gypsy dress sleeve

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

ooobop soladida gypsy dress back

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

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

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

ooobop soladida gypsy dress guest

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




Burdastyle satin joggers

I’m definitely on a Burdastyle roll this year. And largely thanks to Saturday Night Stitch who prompted said roll with her #burdachallenge2018 over on Instagram. I didn’t commit to a set number of projects because, knowing me, I’d end up self-sabotaging my own plans (because that’s my favourite hobby apparently) and not make any at all! So in not making a declared commitment I’ve made two glittery bell-sleeve dresses, one black, one red (quelle surprise), a red raglan sleeve top which I’ve yet to blog and these awesome satin joggers that I made for my daughter:

Satin joggers by ooobop

I feel I can say ‘awesome‘, not to big myself up but because the fabric choice and the style was all down to Little Miss O. It’s very rare that she will accept a hand-made offering these days, preferring a high street label or a funky second-hand designer deal from Depop. So when she came to me with this request I couldn’t wait to get started.

I’m so thankful for my collection of Burda mags. There’s always a something I can use or adapt but in this case, the exact pattern I needed was nestled inside issue 04/2017. And if you don’t have it in your collection it’s available as a pdf download from the Burda website

Burda satin joggers
Satin joggers from Burda Style issue 04/2017

I was a bit worried about the non-stretch factor of a satin brocade but the cut of the pattern was excellent. Allowing enough room to negate the need for expansion!




She didn’t want to include the zippered pockets. She felt that it would upset the shape of the leg, create more bulk and look ugly… Who’s the dressmaker round here?! She also rejected the drawstring at the waistline so I just incorporated an extra channel of elastic instead. talking of which, I’m a bit irritated by the ‘roll’ of the elastic. Doe’s anti-roll or non-roll elastic really make that much difference? Please let me know I’ll invest if it does. My loyalty to my Shepherds Bush haberdashery stall is strong but I feel I could possibly betray allegiance for the sake of a well-behaved elastic. Just don’t tell!

I included 3 channels of 1cm elastic at the waist. This technique worked so well for Amelia Fang’s petticoat so I didn’t see why it wouldn’t work so well for these.  The instructions called for 1.5cm width. Maybe that’s where I fell down. Or maybe that there was more fabric to gather at the waist for the petticoat and so less room for the elastic to move around.

satin joggers waistband

It’s not such a biggie when they are on. Seems to straighten out. I did stick to the instruction of 2cm wide elastic for the 2 channels at the ankle cuff and that seemed to stay in place a bit more.

satin joggers ankle cuff

These joggers sew up real quick. Especially if you’re leaving out the pockets. And even quicker when your daughter needs them in half an hour because she is going out and has ‘literally nothing to wear’. These inimitable words groans are recited literally every week accompanied by a stomp up the stairs. I’d like to say they took half an hour though the threading of the elastic probably took that long! But it really wasn’t much longer than an hour or so.

satin brocade joggers

She’s had so many lovely comments about them and already wants another pair in black with pink stripes. I’m sure she could find those in the shops but to be fair, I really like that she wants me to make them. I like that she dictates how she wants them and recognises faults and fitting issues in RTW styles. It might sound a bit princess-like. But it’s also a learning curve. She can see what time is invested and she can see what works and what doesn’t. She’s currently in the process of making herself a slip dress that she is sewing all by herself along with a group of friends, all making the same. I’d like to think that I’ve got something to do with that but I don’t like to pressurise her. I prefer just to plant the seed!

So the trade-off for a second pair was that I got to take some photos of her wearing them for my blog post. Ordinarily not too much to ask but you’d think I was asking the impossible – sabotaging her schedule and ruining her whole life! I managed a five minute shoot. With no head. And a lot of huffs. Oh those hormones. Oh the joys!