The Pencil Atelier at the Port Eliot Festival

port eliot wardrobe dept
The quiet before the storm!

I have just recently returned from the most exciting and inspiring 4 days away at the most amazing festival, ever – The Port Eliot Festival in Cornwall, UK.

Lucky old me was asked to join the Pencil Team to fuel the 80s theme and bash out some rara skirts for lots of festival goers who would then participate in the fashion show finale at the end of the week. It all seemed a little bit daunting at first, not least of all because raras aren’t the quickest things to whip up and with minimal resources and in a tent!

ooobop sewing at Port Eliot festival

But we did have leccy and we did have good fabric. Boy did we have a substantial stash! Sponsored by Chloe no less. No expense spared for our budding fashionistas!

fabric sponsored by Chloe

So the afternoon before the first session we arrived at a prototype. For Paul! A willing and most encouraging volunteer who was delighted to be my model and first happy customer!

rara_skirt_for_paul_1

The order of the day was raw and ready! Overlockers didn’t get a look in and hey, who needs a hem anyway?! We had 2 shifts a day–one for each rara–at the very least, times 7 sewists: 4 fashion students from the Glasgow Clyde college; 1 amazing consultant stylist; one very wonderful experienced seamstress/mother/grandma to everyone… and me!

Bumble teaching sewing

To emphasise the ‘raw’, we barely used scissors, save to snip the ends of the fabric before ripping near-as-dammit lengths for main skirt and flounce sections. I accounted for double waist measurement for the width and measured just above the knee for length. The measurements for the layers were guessed… and hoped!

lanyas rara skirt

So we started flat, gathering the flounces from bottom to top. But not a gathering thread in sight. Way too much faffing! We just pinched and manipulated those strips under foot and zigzagged into position, covering each layer of stitching with the next flounce above.

rara skirt in progress

When sufficient layering was complete, we stretched and sewed the waist elastic (measured comfortably stretched against the body) to the top edge of the skirt using a wide zigzag stitch – making a casing was taking too much time. If there was any excess fabric beyond the end of the elastic, it was simply trimmed off. Then there was just one back seam to stitch up.

Each skirt took about an hour and a half on the whole, including a lot of chatting and demonstrating and getting the children to have a go. Some were willing. Some were quite happy to sit and chat and have a bespoke skirt made before their very eyes. I know I would be!

rara skirts

Little Miss O was in charge of printing the designer labels!

designer Pencil Atelier labels

Every customer had their own ideas. How many flounces, what fabric combo and whether or not there were additional ribbons and bows. In fact it seemed the younger the customer the more determined they were to inject their own creativity. However much we tried to push the gold mesh it often got declined! They wanted pinks and blues and yellows. And oh the relief when only one frill was requested!

port_eliot_amelia

I can, hand on heart, say that the most amazing music to my ears was hearing that most of the pre-teen children I sat with knew how, or regularly operated a sewing machine. Mostly of their own! How refreshing is that. No surprise that it wasn’t from the teaching of schools or after-school clubs, but by the willingness of their fabulous grandmas. It really was so encouraging to hear. Sewing isn’t disappearing anytime soon, fellow sewingistas! There are grannies out there championing this all-important and special skill that so needs to be nurtured and that makes me sooooo happy.

These twin sisters were a prime example. They love making their own dolls clothes and hope to make their own clothes one day. Fashion student, Megan made the skirt on the left and I made the one on the right, independently, guided by each allocated twin.

The twins wearing their rara skirts

And the results were fascinatingly, coordinated!

rara skirts for the twins

The sewing sessions were fast and furious but no less creative and fun. So much so that immediately after each one we stayed behind when everyone had left to make use of the fabric and whip up our own outfits.

after hours sewing in the tent

It was such a delight to meet these Scottish student beauties. So much energy and passion for sewing and fashion. And so much fun to have around.

Fashion student outfits

Whilst rara skirts flew off the sewing machines at one end of the tent, hand-painted slogan T-shirts were being pegged up at a rate of knots! A massive resurgence of 80s brilliance.

And then, when the last session finished, and the chilled dandelion and burdock tins where handed out (ok, so maybe there was an odd swig of the strong stuff!) then it was time for the fashion show. Paints were cleared, and in their place, a spray of silk flowers were jiggled into a jug, and the models were prepped by Jenny, Ruler of Pencil!

Jenny Dyson backstage ready for show
Shot by amazing society phogotraher, Darren Gerrish – port Eliot Official

Just check out these amazing head-dresses made at one of Piers Atkinsons workshops! The single only downer for working at the festival was that I didn’t get to make one due to clashing of classes!

headdress by Piers Atkinson

head wear by Piers Atkinson

They were all so excited. rehearsing their moves: A flick of the hair, crossed arms, over the shoulder attitude, pouts galore, working those raras and T’s!

Hay bales outlined the catwalk and the music began. It was simply brilliant!

Pencil Atelier fashion show

pencil atelier fashion show

I felt a wave of emotion once the children danced off. And moreso when one came back to hug me and thank me and tell me it was her most favourite skirt in the whole world. I properly cried!

But moods surged the next day whilst taking photos at the Rubbish Olympics. Another amazing concept drummed up by Jenny! Human dressage, Egg and spoon race without said egg and spoon, pencil tossing, Zoolander musical statues and more. Quite difficult to photograph when you are splitting your sides laughing but here is one of my faves. They were ‘Best in Show’ of course!

Human Dressage
Human Dressage

Such a glorious place, such amazing creative people, such talents and inspiration. Port Eliot is such a magical place. I truly hope it returns next year. And I think you should all come too.

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!

 

Joan dress: not so little, not so jumpy

Joan dress front view

When I first heard of the Joan Dress, by Sew Over It, the first thing that entered my head was a nursery rhyme I remembered as a child, from the Ladybird book of Nursery Rhymes. It went like this:

Here am I
Little jumping Joan
When nobody’s with me
I’m all alone

Not particular ground-breaking stuff but that poem coupled with this awesomely terrifying illustration has stayed with me ever since!

Little Jumping Joan

Clearly I wasn’t purely channelling Joan from Madmen !

I’ve been after a classic dress for some time and I do believe that this one totally fits the bill whilst still fuelling my lust for vintage.  I used a green wool crepe, underlined with a silk organza and fully lined with a gold lining, all from stash. I don’t usually happen to keep a supply of such luxurious fabrics, moreover it was reserved for another dress which I am still a bit too scared to attempt! But it has been hanging along for too long now and in any case saved me a trip to the shops!

The leaf-buckle belt I made is just the icing on the cake (whilst disguising the fractional misalignment of darts… shhh!):

close up of leaf buckle belt

Now I will let you into a little not-so-secret, secret. Fully underlining a dress (excepting the sleeves), especially if you’ve limited the ease, means you can’t jump, you can barely sit, nor eat, forget picking up anything you’ve just dropped or even attempting to zip up the last couple of inches… oh and sneezing is a no no for sure! Needless to say this is the first time and most probably the last time I will do this, unless of course I have no reason to attempt the latter.

Joan’s first outing was to the Foldline‘s launch party at Sew Over It, Islington where I met the lovely Lisa in person. Such a gorgeous shop and such a talented lady. I explained the issues I had created for myself and Lisa politely explained that silk organza is used in corsetry for just those holdy-in kind of reasons! So I had kind of corsetted my whole body! There were so many yummy snacks on the table and I just daren’t!

Joan Dress profile

There was, however, a method in my madness. I had made a dress in wool crepe once before – Vogue V8280 in fact – and I had only lined the skirt in a thin silk lining. Although the wool crepe fabric was good quality it creased like Billy-o every time I sat down. I also found it a bit too drapey on it’s own to hold any structure for a pencil skirt. And then I had a silk organza lightbulb moment.

I still stand by my reasonings for underlining the skirt. It worked and looks far better than the other one did but I would definitely need more ease in the top half if I were ever to underline a bodice again!

The whole process of underlining wasn’t as daunting as I’d previously thought. In fact I quite enjoyed it. I traced the pattern onto the silk organza pieces using an air erasable pen. The funny thing is, I did the tracing on one evening, forgetting the magic qualities of said pen and put the pieces to one side to be continued the following evening. Well you can guess the rest… doh!

air erasable pen

So after I’d retraced the pieces, I pinned and then basted the pieces to the wool crepe. Strangely satisfying! I also basted the darts which made for easy sewing of–!

underlining with silk organza

Basting done, I cut out the main fabric and sewed all the pieces as per instructions, which incidentally were very clear and concise.

I do so love the little neck-tie detail, making it all things Joanie. The little collar effect at the back of the neck too. I especially like how the wool crepe behaved for this. It was definitely the right fabric for the job. I am also in love with my zipper insertion! Nowadays I don’t even attempt an invisible zipper without my invisible zipper foot. Can you see my zipper? Can you? No? Oh jolly good! Boy does that please my tiny mind!!

Joan Dress back view

You may also notice that I made a pleat at the back rather than a slit. I’m not very ladylike when it comes to an open vent and nine times out of ten I will rip it. Nothing to do with me not being arsed to fathom the instructions at all… honest, guv!! 😉

Well, I’m guessing there may be a couple of comments regarding the shoes. Bought by Mr O of course. Another of his amazing, jealousy-fuelling qualities is that he adores shoe-shopping… for me! And he gets it right all the time. They are from Iron Fist and are the Sugar Hiccup, teal and black with glitter skull. I can’t actually walk in them very far, it may not surprise you to know. But they look darned good and they are a very lucky match for Joan!

Iron Fist shoes

And no, of course I didn’t manage to reach that leaf!

Vintage Butterick clutch cape

butterick 2556 clutch cape

Until I found the pattern for this I didn’t even realise there was such a thing let alone that I wanted one so much! On Googling ‘clutch cape’ one is presented with all manner of cape styles accessorised with a clutch bag but only one or two images of a vintage pattern oh and one fox fur version for a snip at $1,285.00! I can only assume it came into being and then disappeared from the world of fashion in a puff of smoke through lack of demand.

Well of course, that makes me love it even more!

butterick 2556 clutch cape pattern

The idea is that you can rest your hands in the naturally forming pockets where the shawl collar meets the hem. It is also the only way of holding it on in gusty weather as there is no other system of closure. But even without such gusts it does sit in place quite nicely due to the shaping of the shoulders.

There’s not much choice to be had in the Goldhawk Road faux fur range at the moment. I am assured that it arrives in October. But I don’t have patience of saints and I settled on this textured black fur fabric at £14.99/m. It only takes 1.25 yds but I bought 1.25m to be on the safe side and it was plenty enough. I like the pattern of the texture and it is actually quite silky for being faux.

butterick 2556 clutch cape

There’s some dart shaping on the fronts and back piece which you wont be able to see of course. And there is interfacing sewn into the collar to give a little structure. And so that if I want to look like a wicked stepmother it will stand up and stay up!

Youngest daughter tried to halt plans by saying it was plain weird and even Mr O made noises about me looking like Basil Brush. But they know full well that those kind of comments just roll off my feathered back!

butterick 2556 clutch cape back view

There is very little to construct and therefore it was very simple to make up, however I had to re-read the instructions to make sure I hadn’t missed anything re the lining insertion. The lining consists of the front and back pieces sewn in the same way; sewn together at the hemline, with right sides facing and then, having pressed the seam allowance all round, hand-stitched to the cape. Of course the problem that caused was that the lining was visible at the hemline. It needs to be shorter.

So, given my ever growing annoyance for things I’ve not done properly, I dutifully unpicked it (which is no mean feat if you’ve ever stitched lining to fur with small stitches!) and chopped off the seam allowance from the hemline and reattached. I could have gone half an inch more to be on the safe side but that seems to have done the trick.

It’s perfect for days like today, deceivingly sunny with a sneaky chill in the air. I haven’t begun any autumnal sewing yet and my polka dot Flora dress most certainly would not have got an outing today with bare shoulders. And it wouldn’t look out of place with an evening gown or ‘casualled’ down with a pair of jeans if that’s what takes your fancy.

butterick 2556 clutch cape front

In an effort to find a location with no gawping passers-by, these photos were taken down the side of Shepherds Bush Empire. I knew this building was quite old, built in 1903 in fact, but didn’t know that of all the acts performed there, Charlie Chaplin was one of them!

I was just saying to Mr O how sewing and blogging and photography has changed how we have taken notice of our surroundings. There is so much history to be had, right on our very doorstep!

ooobop review: Burda Style August 2015

Burda Style August 2015 cover

Grab yourself a cuppa, some delicious snacks and pull up a chair. This may take some time. The little gasp of joy I inhaled when I picked up the latest issue of Burdastyle is about to manifest itself as an exhalation of excitable word spray!

That said, the cover is probably the least inspiring of images. I don’t know, something to do with a grubby looking pink jumper teamed with a skirt that doesn’t make much sense but don’t diss that skirt till you see it later on…

The first section is titled ‘Call of the Wild’. It’s mostly about animal print but get behind that if it scares you, to see some of the sophisticated lines that are very camouflaged by it.

Burda Style August 2015 magazine
For instance this sheath dress (A). The print totally hides it’s streamlined seamlines but what a shape. Further on you’ll see some colour blocking to illustrate them. I love the neckline. Not too dissimilar to the BHL Flora dress which we all know and love. Skirt (B) is a classic pencil with gold buttons along the front two dart lines as far as I can make out. They are kind of hidden in that print too but it’s a nice detail all the same.

The choice of contrasting blue pleated panel with the print on dress (C) is a little mind boggling to say the least. I don’t hate it, I don’t think. Just not really sure about it. It’s an add-on rather than an inset. I much prefer the version that comes later.

Animal print parka (D) I can deal with though. This one’s made from polyester poplin so it’s very lightweight and it’s got lots of pockets too!

I’m loving the contrast of ribbing against animal print chiffon in this shirt (E). I’m loving that it’s described as easy to put together too!

So here is that skirt from the cover (F), teamed with a top that also has ‘an enhanced added panel’. It makes much more sense altogether, if you like that sort of thing. Definitely better balanced. But perhaps still a little odd!

Not so keen on this flared jacket (G) though. I think I’d prefer a more cropped look like the Vogue jacket I made (and have since lost… I’m so gutted!!). It kind of looks a bit maternity at this length.

Next section is Western. Fringe, kilim, wool and leather. Not generally my style but there are still some lovely things going on here.

Burda August 2015 Western

I can just picture the envy of all my camping buddies if I were to turn up in that blanket coat (H) Its made of Jacquard and leather. A most special kind of parka!

The dress (I) is all a bit too much for me. The kilim design and the long bodice. I’m sure if the accented rib knit sat on the actual waistline it might appeal more. In a different fabric though.

This funny little garment (J) is classed as a waistcoat. It’s not for me, I’m afraid. But the urban western leather suit (K) totally is! I’ve only ever done an alteration on a leather skirt, never sewn one from scratch so all the topstitching on those panels scares me but excites me in the same breath! There’s a sewing class included for the jacket too.

And could this tailored blazer (L) be any more stylish if it tried? I properly love this jacket!! And I don’t even mind the ruffles that poke out on the little top (M) Though I foresee a nightmare and an expensive tantrum if 100% silk chiffon were indeed to be used! The ruffles on top (N) only decorate the front.  but looking at the back view, I quite like the way that only the sleeves are ruffled.

Loving the dropped hem on this midi skirt (O) and especially how the centre front seam is embraced with diagonal stripes. A cotton/wool mix – I bet this skirt feels amazing.

The Timeless Beauty section brings forth polished cuts, sophisticated fabrics and delicate colours…

Burda August 2015 Timeless Beauty

Here’s that funny little waistcoat again (P). A little more classically acceptable in leather, wouldn’t you agree? But I don’t like ruffles enough to deal with a full length dress worth of them! This dress  (Q) just says ‘pain in the backside from beginning to end’ or ‘patience of a saint’ however you look at it!

Here’s another version of that top and skirt (R). A touch more casual but still very elegant. The sweater/slacks combo (S) is not really my thing though.

And just look how much more elegant that kilim dress gets to be in grey poly crepe (T)!

Shirt with accent and skirt with buttons (U) are a good office combo and I even like the variation on that blazer in velvet with details (V). Or do I?! Maybe it is a bit odd. But the classic sheath dress (W) is not only good as a classic staple, it’s designed for tall sizes too. This issue is definitely teaching me that there is sophistication to be found in plain colour dresses. Step away from the print!

There’s some cute little Cowgirl tunics and dresses in this issue. Some lovely details going on and I adore the fox purse. Surely that’s not for children alone?!

Burda August 2015 Cowgirls

The next section is called The Art of Colour. Lots of colour blocking with high tech fabrics.

Burda Style August 2015 Colour

For instance you can now see some of those seamlines in that first sheath dress that were previously hidden by animal print, in this colour blocked version (1). It’s made from a high-tech reversable jersey, though you’d have to have darned neat seamwork to reverse this I would have thought! I find the blocking of this top (3) is quite jarring and unnecessary. It’s like one of those optical illusion vase pictures where you’re not sure whether to look at the black or the white bits. But, strange as it still is, because of the different colours employed, I’m quite diggin’ the weird pleated panel on this dress (4) now.

Whilst dress with no pleats is refreshingly, classically simple (5).

The giant pleat of fabric in the teal top (7) quite appeals now. Just with that contrasting neckline. Turns a very ordinary T shirt into something far more interesting.

There’s a lovely choice in the Plus Fashion section this month.

Burda Style August 2015 plus fashion

Who doesn’t love a shirt-waist dress (9) ? I’m currently working on a second version of the 60s shirt dress I made but I’ve already got sleeve and pocket envy, looking at this one.

The pretty cape collar dress (10) is so pretty but this fabulous bohemian knitted coat (11) is a total winner. Just imagine how cosy that would be in Astrakhan (71% new wool, 19% mohair).

I love the lace cuffs on that blouse too (13). Guipure lace in case you can’t see. Totally poshes up a peasant blouse! That neckline is repeated on the tunic dress (15) and the short sleeved version (16) too which incidentally works beautifully with leather strides. I think I want some.

And that just about wraps it up as far as this months gorgeous garments are concerned.

Did you get your issue yet? Any thoughts? Any faves?

BHL Zena dress tested

bhl zeena dress front

So here is my version of the newly released Zeena dress pattern by the By Hand London girls!

It’s had so many wears since I sewed it I’m sure most of you have seen it already but it wasn’t quite right to post deets until the official launch date, which is today, hooray!

This dress is a seriously easy sew. There are no sleeves to inset, It is not lined, having just a neck facing, and you could even skip the pockets if you wanted to make it faster. Though I kept them in as a useful device for holding the skirt down on a blustery day!

The fabric I’ve used is very lightweight and drapey. A lovely donation from Handmade Jane. Hot orange with metallic gold spots. And why not?!

I foresaw issues with the sleeves and the tucks on the bodice if I were to use anything firmer. The skirt would probably be great though. Perhaps another option is to have lightweight bodice and midweight skirt. Those pleats would certainly stand to attention then!

bhl zeena dress back viewBut the more casual nature of this dress is what sold it to me. Especially on balmy days like today. Whilst I do love the fitted princess-seamed bodice of the Elisalex dress, (For the Love of Lawn, The Dress that Nearly Wasn’t, Speed Sewing for Sumer ) It feels more relaxed and cooler when the fabric isn’t so close to ones bod.

There’s lots of fabric going on in that skirt but the classy box-pleats take away that awful poof at the belly as is sometimes caused by gathering. I didn’t take a closer side view shot but I can tell you that the in-seam pockets sit hidden, perfectly inside those pleats. I don’t usually get the whole love affair with pockets but it does seem right somehow for a Zeena. I’ve only ever sewn them in one other dress I think, my Burda Maxi. But that was all together for more practical reasons!

bhl zeena dress side front view

It’s a bit shorter than I’d usually go for but I quite like that. I’ll like it better still once my pins have got some colour on them. They don’t get out very often these days! But there is a longer skirt option included in the pattern if you are after something a little more demur, along with three-quarter sleeves as a choice too.

I can’t guarantee what changes were made to the pattern once I’d tested it but I can say that I had no major issues with this one as I tested it. When I make it again I’m going to go crazy with French seams. Which I should have actually have done this time to save on the finishing!

One tip for those pleats though. Make sure you baste them along the top and down the pleat a bit to properly hold them in position before you sew skirt to bodice. I was a bit lazy with the basting and the pleats separated a little bit. Other than that it was a breeze. And I totally recommend it.

Here’s a link to the By Hand London Page where you can buy the Zeena Dress pdf download if you fancy one yourself. Happy sewing!

Photography by Daniel James Photographic

On being bothered!

vintage simplicity pattern 6772

It’s been an eventful few days. Asides from the usual back to back workload, there was Holly Johnson on Thursday, Fleetwood Mac on Friday and a whole sunny day with the children at Pools on the Park in Richmond on Saturday.

I was therefore a little jaded last night. Like a hologram, in fact. a pink frazzled sleepy hologram! I wanted to sew. But the pattern I wanted to sew, typically wasn’t in my size, let alone relative to my proportions. I knew it needed some grading and it pained me to think I had to put some effort in before I could just sit and sew. I made another cup of tea. Did the washing up. Put a laundry load on. Flicked through Facebook. Made another cup of tea. I certainly could have graded and cut out the damned thing instead of doing all that, and by that time it was 9.30pm.

So I got cross with myself and my refusal to do what I’d arranged with myself to do. And set about it. The punishment being that if I fannied around anymore and didn’t put my mind to what was needed to be done I’d just lose more sleep-time. And I was tired, I can tell you!

So with the infamous Nike strapline loud and clear in my head, two back-to-back episodes of Eastenders lined up on iplayer, I got tracing and marking and cutting like a good’un. The bodice needed one set of grading, the skirt section another. And the darts needed redrawing and repositioning. I don’t know that I’ve ever employed the cut-and-spread method of grading so properly before. I’ve thought about doing it but it always seems like so much work. It really isn’t! No more winging it with adding a bit here and a bit there on the side seams!

graded pattern pieces

It’s a shirt dress by the way. Simplicity 6772 from the 1960s. I’m making version 3, the blue one on the right. Not my usual style of shirt-waist dress like the ones I made previously: the 1940s shirt dress and the shirt dress revisited, but a more casual, straight like shirt dress that buttons all the way down. I will skip those bound buttonholes though. The fabric is a suiting fabric, a lightweight wool-blend, confirmed by a burn test that revealed a crumbly kind of ash, signifying more poly than wool! So it doesn’t deserve such couture details. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!

It’s Sunday afternoon and I’ve done the hockey run, put another wash-load on, seen my daughter off to the Park Club and had lunch with my son. Mr O is on his way to a wedding gig and I kid you not, I just actually heard a pin drop!

So now the pieces are cut out, darts marked and pinned and I’m now about to embark on the part I love the most. And fingers crossed, will be so pleased that I bothered to grade those pattern pieces. If it does work out good I will no longer have to miss out on those fabulous vintage pattern bids for being the wrong size.

vintage simplicity 6772 cut out

I won’t tempt fate. In fact I won’t waffle on any more as I now have a couple of hours of very valuable sewing time on my hands. Just have to avoid the distraction of the sun. Repeat. Just have to avoid the distraction of the sun!!

 

Retro Butterick ’57 halter-dress

butterick b4512 halter dress
I made this dress to wear at my sister’s wedding last month but ridiculously didn’t manage to get any full-length, blog-worthy pics. So yesterday, we took a lovely evening stroll down to Fulham Reach for these shots.

butterick b4512 halter dress

It took a bit of effort to ditch bags, change outfit, reapply slap and head straight back out after a long hot day at the office but I’m glad we did. The light was lovely – no jacket required, and it took no time at all to chill out on the banks of the Old Father Thames!

butterick b4512 halter dress

A swift G&T softened the self-concsious blow of twirling around like a loon in full view of passers-by. And it wasn’t till after we’d finished that I clocked a security guard behind a smoked glass door applauding from his ringside seat!

butterick b4512 halter dress

The pattern is Butterick B4512, a retro 1957 reprint. It’s a halter-neck bodice with optional collar/pussy bow. I cut my own circle skirt though I believe simplicity’s one is a circle too. I just didn’t want to split the front skirt section. It would have messed with my dots!

Butterick B4512 sewing pattern

butterick b4512 halter dress

I knew I might have issues with the fitting of the bodice but I was time short as always and used a lovely cherry print fabric for my first attempt. Alas it was too long overbust if that’s a thing. So I had to take an inch out horizontally. I could have gotten away with it, pesky kids or not, but my inner perfectionist nagged to get it right. So I adjusted the pattern pieces and re-cut in some stash polka dot. This fabric has subtle stretch which I knew would work with me!

butterick b4512 halter dress

Once I’d sorted the issues it really took no time at all. Only the bodice is lined. I think the most surprising thing was not even having to level the hem after letting it hang overnight. It didn’t distort at all!

butterick b4512 halter dress

We treated ourselves to a long overdue child-free dinner date at the Blue Boat afterwards. The same place where we shot my not so boring pencil skirt! I got lots of compliments at the bar. I didn’t feel like I had to justify why I was wearing it. After all, why save a party dress for best? On whose say so? Not mine!

butterick b4512 halter dress

I’d love to try this pattern in other fabrics, even a plain one. It’s kinda formal fancy Hepburn from the front but the backless feature and the swishy skirt make for party factor. The petticoat was a happy find in an Oxfam charity shop on the way home from work one day. I’ve been meaning to make myself one for ages, determined to make everything I wear, but couldn’t ignore this beauty for a fiver!

butterick b4512 halter dress

It’s very strange with youngest daughter being away this week (She’ll be tucked up in her sheep shorts now, no doubt) but at the same time so lovely to be spending some fun times with the Mister and his clever camera skills. Long may this sunshine and warm weather hang around. These evening strolls totally make me feel like I’m on holiday!

ooobop review: Burda Style June 2015

burdastyle june 2015 cover

The skies may be grey and the sun may not be out but the June 2015 issue of Burda Style magazine most certainly is. And that’s enough to brighten my day!

There’s all sorts of summer fun going on this month. Opening with a cool, light and breezy dress (A). I’m not so sure I can pull off as much elegance as the model wearing it, but with a careful fabric choice, perhaps. I’m intrigued by the wide collar top (E). Moreso that it’s linen. I love linen.

Burda june 2015 section 1

Dress (G) looks like a comfy number. I don’t do comfy as a rule but if I can get over that fabric choice I think a plain colour jersey would make more of that gathered front detail.

The floral dress (B) is for teens and definitely not for my pear-shaped bod but I’d quite like a lace dress like (B). Burda suggests adhesive bra pads to avoid a bra strap. No big pants allowed here either!

Once again I’m having to get past the crazy print on top (C) to envisage a slightly translucent white or black lightweight cotton fabric. The skirt looks fun and easy though.

Great to see some teen designs in this issue. Almost always the kid stuff is for the little ‘uns. Just how cool is that Sergeant Pepper jacket (H)? I so wish my daughter would let me make that for her. She’s more likely to go for the parka though.

I’m so tempted by the jumpsuit (D), even though I haven’t worn a pair of trousers in years. Sold by the midriff. I do like a midriff! I might have to do something about the halter pieces though. Looks like a lot of fabric going on there.

I do like the seamlines on dress (F). Bit difficult to see here but they are panelled seams in corset-style. But I like dress (J), more. The front rouching and the neckline has a certain Asian chic about it. It’s made of jersey, would you belive it? So no zipper going on here!

The Happy Hour section takes us on a night out with lots of black and gold going on.

Burdastyle June 2015 section 2

I love the contradiction of a lace bomber jacket (K)! The interesting front seams are highlighted with satin binding and it has pockets, of course.

Top (Q) looks very elegant tucked in here but the contrast definition with the skirt doesn’t work for me. Especially with all that front drapey pocket business. Too much volly where I really don’t need it!

Ah see… I much prefer this dress (L) in one colour. Though I don’t think the shot does it as much justice. Looks a bit lop-sided here with one shoulder shorter than the other. It is an ‘easy’ make so it might be worth a try.

Cute little tube dress (P) here for all you daring ladies. And this certainly would be an easy one to put together for an emergency going out dress… just two side seams needed in that metallic jersey print.

I love how Burda fills the void in my lack of fabric knowledge. This dress (O) is made of metallic twill! Never have I come across such stuff.

And I love the corsetted detail on dress (N). One would totally have to pay attention to perfect fit and stitching on this one though. That satin highlights every glitch.

Lace is a great choice for this elegant top (R) A shortened version of dress (L). The armholes and neckline are beautifully bound with organza. Not sure why the hem would stay raw though.

And I maintain my love for the jumpsuit (M). Especially if I could get my hands on some gold metallic, viscose linen weave! Super stylish!

Next up is the Sunshine section, kicked off with this pretty shirt dress (S). A Peter Pan collar is enough of a change to give it a cute edge but I think I’d ditch the lower flounce. Not sure why that section appears to be cut on the bias too. Bit jarring with those stripes.

Burdastyle June 2015 section 3

Love the paper bag shorts (T)! Not sure if I could carry them off with a detailed top section though. It would have to be a plain T or similar.

Really like the yellow ensemble (Y). Especially now I can see more detail on that skirt. The buttons could contrast and be a lovely feature. The collar feature adds a little vintage-style twist. Gorgeously cool for picnic days in the park.

Love the shirt dress (W) cropped to a shirt too.

However I’m not too impressed with the colour section. Mostly because I don’t like the chosen colour palette. All too much for little old me, I’m afraid. And I’m finding it hard to see past the colours to focus on the designs. Short of my latest make, I tend to have black or red as a base colour and work up from that. My pick would be the Kaleidoscope tube dress (6). In black, probably. Call me unadventurous!

burdastyle june 2015 section 4

Plus Fashion goes all out adventurous on us though . . . on safari…with some mad sleeves!

Burda style june 2015 plus section

You can’t really see the detail in dress (9). The volume of fabric is concealed by the detail of the print but you can hopefully pick out the rouched seams all the way down to the wrist in dress (12). My favourite piece in this section of the mag is the ankle length lace coat. Or ‘chasuble’ as Burda calls it. Learn something new every day!

So whaddyafink? Have you got yours yet? Have you already whipped something up? Do tell x

 

Nothing boring about a pencil skirt.

pencil skirt
New pencil skirt, handmade pinstripe jacket and Lola Ramona shoes

I’m standing in a post office queue, assuming a vintage Vogue packet pose. Right foot slightly forward, knee turned inwards, right hand resting limply on the barrier, opposite hip cocked. Left elbow is tucked just above cocked hip with forearm projecting at 45 degrees. Cheap handbag rests in crook of arm. Left palm is face up with index finger extended accusingly. I’ve practiced this before. In the mirror. But not in the post office And not in this skirt.

pencil skirt close up
Much like the aforementioned pose but in better surroundings!

It’s a new skirt. A boring pencil skirt. Least that’s what I thought I was making when I started cutting it out it 3 weeks ago. It’s a self-drafted pencil skirt which makes it bespoke. But without any fancy detail, no flounce, no welts or clever rouching just the standard double darts front and back. That’s why it tooks 3 whole weeks to finish. Countless 10 minute-intervals of boring sewing was more than enough time to ensure I didn’t actually die of  boredom. Absolutely nothing to whet my enthusiasm here. It’s proper boring knee-length too. Not short and sexy, not longer to deserve a vintage vibe. Just a normal length. The kind of length that abides by school rules. Where’s the excitement in that?

But now its finished and its hugging my hips and I’ve had some thinking time in the queue I’m coming round to the idea that perhaps I’ve not given this skirt enough credit.

The fabric is pure quality. A linen wool mix I think. (I’m never totally sure about fabric content), In shades of indigo, black and speckled with ivory, so soft it moulds perfectly to my frame but with enough body to keep a tailored shape. Karen kindly bought it for me as a gift from Mood Fabrics, New York so long ago I can’t remember when. I knew it was destined for a pencil skirt but my inner fashion designer head is always craving an off-the-wall statement garment. Who knows what’s stopping me?

pencil skirt at Harrods Depository
On the riverside near Harrods Furniture Depository

But if post office queues are good for anything – apart from gleefully acknowledging that everyone else’s huffing and puffing indicates that they are far more stressed than you – it’s got to be thinking time. Not to be wasted. A valuable moment to contemplate. There’s not much time for that at any other point in the day. And so, after a little contemplation I conclude:  My new skirt is actually not as boring as I initially made out.

Resuming my pose, I’m reassured that this skirt is after all, classic. It’s timeless, sexy even, regardless of standardised length and it smacks of quality.  It’s also classy which is why I’m standing like a 50s illustration on a sewing packet. It deserves the justice of a proper showcase. Moreso, given that no ‘Big Four’ pattern helped me out here nor did this skirt have a shady RTW past. It was born of my own fair hand, and my sewing machine. You can tell by the standard 2 inch hand-stitched hem and the perfectly lined vent if you want proof. And hey, it perfectly matches my Spencer jacket that I made years ago! My pride is my therapy right now. And no up-and-down stare from any one of these crazy old ladies is going to take it away.

Pencil skirt back view
I just love a pair of stripy heels!

I leave the sighs of the post office behind me, lowering my pretend vintage sunglasses from my head to my nose, and wiggle-walk to work like a Mad Men extra.

On entering  the office, the first thing my  colleague says is, “oooh… lovely skirt. Is that new?! I love the colour, it fits so good and the length is perfect!” She doesn’t sew. She just says all the right things and I love her!

Please note: The photos were clearly not taken in the post office – that would be truly boring – but instead, by the riverside, Hammersmith, by my ever trusty photographer, Daniel. We went for lunch at the Blue Boat. A relatively new establishment on the river. ‘Poncey’ as aptly described by the waiter (when he sincerely apologised for not having Gordons or Schweppes on the drinks list) but nonetheless brilliant in service, and the food was bloody gorgeous!

Posing outside the Blue Boat
Outside the Blue Boat restaurant, Hammersmith