Vogue Cocktail Hour dress V9241

V9241 cocktail dress

cocktail hour eve appeal

The first time I’d heard of the Eve Appeal was when I took part in last year’s Vintage Sewalong campaign. They are the ONLY UK  national charity that raises awareness and funding research into the five gynaecological cancers so it wasn’t too much of an ask for me to join in the Cocktail Hour once again, and help McCalls promote a range of Vogue patterns that raise good money for such a great cause.

Last year I made Retro Butterick 5813 for the Big Vintage Sewalong 2016. This year I chose Vogue 9241, a fabulous design by Kathryn Brenne.

V9241_PATTERN_COVER

A little bit Helena Bonham Carter, A little bit Anne Robinson, perhaps… but totally full of character and no doubt a talking point at a cocktail party. Sadly the only cocktail party I’ve ever been invited to was the one at The Knitting and Stitching Show at Ally Pally and I was typically too busy with work to attend. Though I prefer to think that I have been to loads and they were so good, I’ve clean forgotten all about them!

But if I do ever get another invite (nudge, nudge) I would be proud to wear this dress. It would rock a room of standard LBDs and not leave without comment.

I chose this design because of that awesome collar, of course, and because it reminded me of my birthday dress – the skirt section at least – and I considered using silk dupion, the same. But not only do I not like doing things twice, I find the suction of creativity too much to bear if I copy what’s on the packet. ie a red silk dress. I felt like black would have hidden too  much of the detail so I went a bit off piste and used a pinstripe suiting fabric instead, lol!

V9241_cocktail_dress_4

I wanted those pinstripes to emphasise the godets and that collar. Actual stripes would have been a bit too cray-cray (mmmm…. maybe next time though?!) I really wasn’t 100% sure it would turn out as special in what is effectively a boring cheap suiting fabric!

But it did. And I am so happy. Which is lucky really because I hadn’t left any time to change it up!
This dress really isn’t as complicated as it looks. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s a doddle but really just more time-consuming than anything. It needs a fair bit of yardage too so watch out if you’ve got any big ideas on fancy pants fabric. It could end up costing an arm and both legs!
V9241_cocktail_dress_5
One thing which I must point out is that there is an error on the layout and pattern pieces. The instructions say to cut 2 of front which threw me a bit because there was no reference to use it anywhere. The layout plan indicated the same. I wondered if it could be a facing/lining of sorts but a quick Tweet message to McCalls confirmed it was an error and that they had contacted the US office to amend.
This pattern has a massive amount of ease. It’s so helpful to have body measurements and corresponding size table on the packet but better still to clock the ease on the pattern pieces themselves. Not all pattern companies do this so kudos to Vogue. With that info at hand, I realised I could afford to drop a whole dress size. I’d suspected I might have to do this because the pattern image itself looks a little bit roomy. I like things more snug, like a hug!
V9241_cocktail_dress_6
The collar is sewn front to facing, then the wire is sewn to the seam allowance of the outer curved edge before turning out. The wire is sewn in using a wide-ish zigzag stitch making sure to keep the needle either side of the wire. Requires a fair bit of concentration. Frightened the bloody life out of me when I took my eye off the ball and the needle clonked on the wire!
V9241_wired_collar
This is the second time in a month that I’ve had the need for animation wire, the first being for the wings of Amelia Fangs outfit. I ordered some more off Amazon. Affiliate link here:

I ordered all three weights as I really wasn’t sure what constituted ‘medium weight’. Initially I tried the lightest one but it was a bit flimsy so I opted for the 2mm diameter.
I’ve been having a lot of fun positioning the collar in all sorts of ways. But there would be more fun I’m sure if my fabric was sturdier or interfaced to give it a bit more structure. I could go totally could go totally Maleficent! This pinstripe stuff is very soft with quite a bit of drape which still works well, mind.
V9241_cocktail_dress collar
The skirt is all about the godets. How do you even say that? Godettes or godays? A little care is needed to insert the points accurately into the open seams of the bodice but if you’ve ever made quilt blocks with inset seams you will be walking it!
I noted the length was kinda granny for me. So I lobbed 4 inches off before I cut it out. And it reaches just shy of knee length now. But by nature of how the godets are tied up inside, I can just as easily lower the hem a couple of inches or so if I must be more demure!
I pretty much followed the instructions to the T but I could have done with taking some of the excess out of the back bodice length – that’s always an issue for me. But skirt seciton moves around and drapes so unusually, I don’t think it’s a biggie! And I hand stitched the bias facings of the armholes, rather than topstitch as instructed. Call me old fashioned!
V9241_cocktail_dress_3
So I am the last entry on the Vogue Patterns Bloggers Calendar 2017. I initially thought that was the best position to be in but the mash-up of anxiety and inspiration was building with each gorgeous post that popped up, every month.  In case you didn’t catch them all, click here to the amazing contributions from all the fabulous sewing bloggers. I just love how everyone has put an individual spin on their own cocktail dresses.
I do hope that some or one of these at least will inspire you to buy a pattern from the Cocktail Hour selection and rustle one up for yourself. Or maybe even buy one for a gift for a sewing friend. All helps towards the amazing work done by the Eve Appeal.
Thanks to The Foldline for including me in the line up, to Dan for the fabulous photos and also to Aska and Tom at the Thatched House in Hammersmith for allowing us to shoot them in their lovely pub.
 

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:


Shiny Burda Maxi

Shiny Burda Maxi dress

Introducing my most shiny dress to date!

I’m all up for revisiting patterns of late. Especially ones that just work and need little or no revisions. This was one of those.

It’s a hankerchief hem maxi dress from March 2015 edition of Burda Style magazine – one of my absolute faves. I first made it almost two years ago, and blogged it here! Clearly a dress befitting of the London summer climes!

silver burda maxi dress overexposed

I knew I was going to make another. It’s such an easy one to put together. And when I stumbled across a similar ruffle fabric but in silver, it was pinned and cut in a jiffy. A lovely sewing afternoon at Tilly and the Buttons studio got it all sewed up but it was proper sweaty work with all those metres of metal fabric draped over my knees, so I saved the hand-finishing till… this morning!

metal burda maxi dress over exposed

By hand-sewing, I mean the armholes and neckline which I finished with bias binding. I couldn’t be arsed with a flappy facings!

The fabric has a little stretch and has no need for finishing of hems or edges. Which is lucky, because there’s lots of them going on with the hanky-hem! Feels a little like cheating but when I see it photographed I’m assured it matters not.

It is also strangely transparent when you hold it to the light. But thankfully the metalic silver finish reflects with such distraction that you can’t see my pants!

wearing burda silver dress laughing

The original Burda pattern includes sleeves. But I much prefer it sleeveless. It seems to work better with the v-neckline and creates a bit more elegance.

Dan took these wonderful shots, of course. Assisted by a dose of delightful sunshine at the ‘New Way In’ at the Victoria and Albert Museum. I get so excited by new space. Much like my printed design work, I’ve learned over the years, that space doesn’t always have to be filled with stuff! People were gathering and marvelling… at the space! All helped of course by the awesome stone work, some cleverly conflicting angles and some lovely reflecting glass and metals. I felt quite at home in my new dress and didn’t mind the attention it got, for once!

Silver Burda maxi dress

At one point, another photographer not only asked to take my photo but asked who the designer of my dress was. Oh the flattery. But oh the awkward pose for her!

Silver burda dress being shot

The satisfaction of finding an edgy fabric and pairing it with a quirky pattern definitely floats my boat and it’s something I should definitely dedicate more time to. It gives me such a little buzz of butterflies when it works.

And of course Burda mags are a fantastic resource for inspiration. All those issues I dissed for abject weirdity will definitely be revisited in a new light!

Fun in a Burda Maxi dress

That said, I have some lovely commissions for other people that will have to take precedence over any new dresses for moi over the next coming weeks. I’m not complaining at all. They are really exciting projects so keep tuned!

Silver Burda dress at the V&A

Silver Burda Maxi dress front view

And where will I wear this dress – apart from to wander around the creative white spaces of London? I’m thinking festivals, parties, gigs and galleries. Maybe the office doesn’t get graced this time round!

Metal burda dress sitting on a wall

silver burda dress at the Victoria and Albert Museum

 

Self-drafted wax print dress

wax cotton dress side view
I’m not entirely sure how this post got shot and written today. We arrived home from Glastonbury Festival at 6am this morning – a little tired and emotional to say the least! Thank goodness for a great set of shades picked up for a tenner on site, from a pop up vintage shop (ironically, usually based in Portobello… just up the road from me!)

So, the dress… It’s mine, all mine! No pattern, vintage or otherwise was used in the making-of and I’m just a little bit proud.

I really wanted a new dress but without any faff. I really, really wasn’t in the mood for trialling various test versions – I’m getting so impatient in my old age! – And then I remembered that somewhere, in some pile or other, there was a pre-existing bodice block from a class I took about 3 years ago. To date I’ve only used it once, for a retro-style top, which is madness. Because it fits!

I only wanted a sleeveless bodice for the top, nothing fancy so it seemed daft to reinvent the wheel. I simply lowered the armscye and the neckline. Luck was on my side because this resulted in precious little gaping as often happens without any contouring. But I will nip a bit off the upper back neckline next time.

wax cotton dress self-drafted

My usual sway-back adjustment was already done and most importantly the bust area was a perfect fit.

Whilst we focus on that area, can we just talk placement? I’d love to be able to claim absolute intentions but the truth is, I was led my a small issue of just the right amount of fabric and nothing more, so I can only claim a happy accident – the likes of which Madonna would champion, I’m sure!

I just love this wax fabric. And I knew there would be further adventures when I made Lucy’s jumpsuit and Amelia’s baby dress.

wax print dress back

One of the most incredible things about this fabric is the price. A 6 yard bolt of Wax cotton can vary in price between £10 and £150, depending on quality, print, manufacturer etc. That said, this lovely red cloth was just £10 and retained all colour and structure after a regular 40° cycle and spin in the machine and it was so satisfying to sew with. More importantly I landed a fabulous handmade dress for a fiver!

The skirt section is simply a half circle, the same self-drafted pattern I used for my black and my blue crepe skirts.

african wax print dress skirt

The zipper is inserted on the left side, like most of my vintage-style dresses but also because I didn’t want the seam of the skirt to go down the front with the focus on broken up print. No excess for pattern matching either!

The belt I’m wearing was a steal from Oxfam at £1.50 and does a perfect job of hiding the connecting waist seam which obviously is interrupted and mismatched but I’m not so sure there’d be any way round that anyway. It’s not actually that bad but still annoys the pants of me enough to cover it up!

wax print dress side view

Daniel came up trumps again with these fantastic photos. They were taken at Freemasons’ Hall in Covent Garden, today. Such an awesome building with a massive star on the steps for me to stand in the middle of! I can’t believe how he gathered up the energy to do this after that long drive back. Or how he made me look so respectable after nought hours of sleep. He is such a superstar. So supportive. I am one lucky lady!

 

Blackmore 9266 So-Easy!

vintage blackmore 9266 dress

I’ve been neglecting my vintage patterns of late. But that did allow for some exciting rummaging and little squeals of delight when I found some treasures I’d completely forgotten about. And I just love that ‘aha moment’ when found pattern meets perfect stash fabric. Proper romance that is!

This is Blackmore So-Easy 9266. Not sure if it’s 50s or 60s as it’s not dated. The instructions were a little more explained compared to the last 40s Blackmore pattern I used but I enjoyed making both just the same.

vintage blackmore 9266 sewing pattern

I knew this dress wasn’t going to fit straight out of the packet. It was already too small and any dodgy fitting on this was going to shout from the rooftops. So it needed time and patience to grade it up properly and work through 3 toiles before I was ready to cut into the real stuff.

Once all the adjustments were transferred to the pattern pieces – grading up, shortening the back bodice substantially, taking out some excess from the overbust and increasing the waist – it was fundamentally a very easy to sew dress.

vintage blackmore 9266 dress

There’s no lining. The bodice is simply faced at the top edge. I must remember to tack this down in a couple of places on the inside, as the photos totally reveal how it peaks out at the back if it’s not poked in to start with.

I do so love recreating an original vintage dress but I should know by now how the drawings on the cover cheat so much! The skirt on the cover looks tapered and very fitted but in actual fact, not only is cut straight, it has a wide kick pleat allowance which gives the visual appearance of being even wider at the hemline.

I took it in quite substantially to arrive at this shape – like 4 inches each side seam! – and I sewed the kick pleat down too. I hated the granny hemline. Not flattering on my vertically challenged frame for sure. This does, however, mean that I have to walk very lady-like and in heels and therefore one helluva lot slower than normal. Not such a bad thing when for most of the time I’m rushing around like a lunatic with giant strides in Docs or trainers.

vintage blackmore 9266 dress

The fabric is bark cloth. Found in a little basement fabric shop in Waterloo ages ago. I love the texture so much, the colours are fabulous and it sews up beautifully. I made a Martini dress from bark cloth of the vintage kind but I have to say, this modern weave was definitely more grain-stable and less prone to stretch. It’s not usual to find this stuff in any old fabric store. Certainly a void of it in the Goldhawk Road. So if anyone has a link to a favourite UK store, please let me know. By the time shipping is added to the original Hawaiian brands, the price is rocketed!

Now, I would just like to touch upon the issue of straps. Fally down straps!! I felt sure that I had sussed the right width, length, the right position and before sewing them down, I walked around the house for a few hours with them pinned to make sure of their position. Ulitmately the ends of the straps would be sandwiched between the facing and the top bodice so better to get them in the right position first. I thought I’d cracked it. Made sure to sew exactly as pinned. But the buggers still fall down!! It really is the bane of my strappy-dress life.

vintage blackmore dress

To be fair, It doesn’t help that I’ve got sloping shoulders. But I do think also that I made the bodice a touch too wide for my over-bust and so the straps sit too close to the edge of my shoulders. Another little adjustment to bear in mind for next time.

Clever lady Clare, from River Elliot Bridal also had a great solution which was to sew a narrow elastic inside the strap to generate a little more grip. Must give that a go too.

I’m hoping the stormy skies keep at bay and glorious sunshine keeps coming over the next few months so my current favourite newbie gets more outings. But all the same, the fickle in me is furiously flicking through the collection to find the next new fave to make… because I can!

vintage blackmore 9266 dress

Photos by Daniel James Photography
Location: Hammersmith
Shoes: Lola Ramona

A blue half circle skirt

blue half circle skirt

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

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

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

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

blue half circle skirt

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

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

ALLOW A CIRCLE SKIRT TO HANG AT LEAST OVERNIGHT BEFORE HEMMING

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

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

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

blue half circle skirt

The lining of course needs the same treatment.

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

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

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

Big Vintage Sewalong: Retro Butterick 5813

Big Vintage Sewalong dress

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

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

retro butterick 5813

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

retro butterick 5813

big vintage sewalong dress

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

Big Vintage Sewalong Butterick 5813

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

retro butterick 5813

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

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

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

Big Vintage Sewalong dress

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

retro butterick 5813

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

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

retro butterick 5813

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

retro butterick 5813

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

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

retro butterick 5813

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

retro butterick 5813

retro butterick 5813

retro butterick 5813

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

retro butterick 5813

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

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

Born to be a gypsy girl

gypsy girl top and skirt

I gave up Flamenco dancing when I was 7 months pregnant with son. My teacher told me that if there was an ounce of gypsy blood in me I would continue dancing right up until the baby was born. Clearly my o-neg wasn’t cutting it. Lord knows how any amount of footwork is achieved when one is the size of a whale!

Anyhoos, just 4 years of practice and 17 years later there is still undeniable evidence of gypsy in me. Even if I’m not a real one. The dancing, the music, the earrings, the roses . . . the dresses. I think I’m just going to have to grab that bull by the horns and start over again.

gypsy girl dancing

But before I drift back to when I had time on my hands, lets talk about this outfit. It’s not a dress. It’s a top and a skirt. Separates, like!

I literally snatched the fabric out of the hands of the shopkeeper when he showed me some precuts on the counter. Just how hard is it to find border print these days? I knew it was going to be a skirt already but I had enough to make a top and my lightbulb moment was realising I had the perfect pattern in Butterick B4685. I’ve made it a few times before and blogged one of them here. Another version even served to complete Dorothy’s World Book Day costume! But this is the first time I’ve included the flounce on version C. And this fabric was perfect for the job.

Butterick 4685 top

I do have an issue with the fabric though. Mostly I find the shop keepers in the Goldhawk Road honest about the content. At least where they are informed themselves. And some even do an on the spot burn test for me if I ask. But this one (who shall remain nameless) confidently told me it was linen lawn. I had no reason to disagree. After all I’ve never purchased linen lawn before. But it sounded good and most importantly, implied of natural fibre. It is lovely and soft and lightweight. Perfect for keeping gathering bulk to a min. But I got that suspicious sweet smelling odour that hit my nose when I ironed it and felt compelled to do a burn test myself.

gypsy skirt and top back view

Surprise, surprise. Not an ounce of natural fibre to write home about. Well maybe one fibre in a million. It did crumble a bit betwixt forefinger and thumb so not 100 per cent plastic. Gah!! I hate the dishonesty. I probably would have still bought it with a bit of a haggle attached. But why glam it up when its so easily sussed?

I’m not too cross because I’m very happy with the outcome. I’m just cross with the bull****!

gypsy girl in the orchard

So the skirt is just a self-drafted gathered rectangle on a waistband with an invisible zip in the side. Unlined and therefore so quick to run up. Though I did hand-sew the hem because it pleases me!

gypsy skirt and top

Dan took these photos in and around the grounds of Fulham Palace, London. Such a beautiful and understated palace which is openly used as a museum and wedding venue and picnic grounds! The gardens are so immaculately kept. And the perfume from the wisteria was gorgeous!

gypsy style with wisteria

gypsy girl by outhouse

And as has become the norm, we had some more interest from the local residents. Clearly cleaning up from the picnics!

squirrel with a sandwich

And once again outposing me on the log shot! I’m sure Mr O does this on purpose. It had bugs and cobwebs and everything on it. Eeeewwww! Can I just say out loud. I hate sitting on logs!!

gypsy girl on a log

I love this outfit, not only because it brings out my inner gypsy, not even just because I made it  (well that as well!) but because its a style that never goes away. I’m as happy wearing this kind of dress now as I was in the 90s and the 80s and I’m pretty sure there’s photographic evidence of me wearing a dress very similar in the 70s! Or maybe I’m just plain old fashioned. Who knows. Who cares. I’ll make more anyway!!

BHL Sabrina dress v3

sabrina front view by fountain

This is my third Sabrina dress. And the best-fitting one yet. The first one was the result of a pattern test for By Hand London and the second, more recent version, was made so I didn’t keep wearing the first one all the time! It was also meant to address some of the fitting issues. But if you read that post, you’d see that I only created more!

But this one is certainly close to the mark with regards a perfect fit.

Most dress patterns come up too big across the back bodice for me. It’s not something I’ve ever properly addressed before I made a Sabrina, mostly because I didn’t know how. But it was as simple as taking a horizontal dart from the centre back and tapering to the armscye.

Sabrina dress back view

If I’m honest, it’s still a little snug across the hips. Probably because this fabric is less forgiving. It’s a sturdy brocade-like viscose. It has shiny woven ‘characters’ on a matt background which works great in the sunshine. The shop assistant guessed it was a polyester, which at £8 a metre stumped us both a little, so he took a sample outside to do a burn test. And it turned out there was more than just a little natural fibre in there!

viscose brocade close up

I also hemmed little bit shorter than the other two.  The skirt section flares out perfectly, especially in this fabric. Perfect for a bit of flirty, flarey fun!

sabrina silhouettes

bhl sabrina battersea

The weather was gorgeous on Wednesday as it is today, and promises to be on the weekend too! So Mr O suggested Battersea Park for our shots. I wasn’t too sold on walking from The Kings Road in Chelsea in high heels but he is mostly and annoyingly right with the no pain, no gain philosophy!

sabrina dress

I remember saying, not so long ago, that I couldn’t bear to make the same thing more than once, given all the amazing options out there. But I’m happy to make as many as it takes if it means I get the perfect fit, and the perfect fabric of course. I still have plans for more of these using some more challenging fabrics but those plans are on hold for a little while, as I focus on what I’m meant to be doing: Dan’s blazer and my Big Vintage Sewalong dress for example… ooops!

The By Hand London Sabrina dress pattern comes in two variations. This one and a lovely strappy button-front one…mmmm… no stop it, Janene. Focus!!

 

BHL Sabrina in animal print

bhl sabrina dress in leafy arch

I felt the need to sew a failsafe dress. No fancy features, no pattern matching and preferably no lining. One that I’d made before that fits just right and whips up quick. So here she is: The By Hand London Sabrina mark 2 in animal print.

I’m working on a couple of complicated projects at the moment, re Mr O’s #Blazerof2016 and my dress contribution for McCalls Big Vintage Sewalong and I don’t know about you, but whenever I’ve got a lot on, instead of getting on with it, I need a pleasant distraction just to up reduce the stress factor. A little bit of selfish sewing goes a long way in my book!

by hand london sabrina dress

I pattern-tested By Hand London’s Sabrina dress way back in October 2014 and I can honestly say it’s had more wear than any dress I’ve ever owned. To the point that I’m now a bit embarrassed that everyone in the office must think it’s the only dress I own! The fit was pretty good on the first one and all I really needed to do was remove some of the excess fabric from the back.

bhl sabrina back view

So I just needed to pinch out a horizontal dart on the pdf print out I’d kept and well, Bob should have been my lobster… but!

The finished dress came up huge and I just couldn’t fathom why. For sure my choice of fabric had more drape and less structure than the tartan. It’s a cotton/wool blend that I got at a bargain price from Classic Textiles in the Goldhawk Road. It has a little give but no stretch as such. I could only assume that it moved when I pinned it and perhaps I should have used weights. But following a really thinky night’s sleep it dawned on me. And I was horrified to find that I’d paid no heed to the version 1 and 2 lines marked on the front pattern piece. Version two is cut wider for a front fastening and I’m pretty sure I’d placed that pattern line on the fold instead. OMG no wonder I had to take the side seams in an extra inch each side AND pinch an extra quarter inch from the princess seams. It fits now, kinda. But I wish I’d have got it right first time and saved myself the bother of make-shift fitting, doh!

bhl sabrina dress

If I had cut it correctly from the off, it really would have sewn up in less than 3 hours. Not including a hand-sewn hem though. That takes a little time but I much prefer the finish to that of a machined hem, don’t you?

bhl sabrina hemline

This style of dress is so perfect for donning in the morning. No finding a top to match the skirt. Black tights, fancy shoes and perhaps a cardi if its chilly. A simple shift with a draping skirt that falls off the hips. Room to accommodate a cheeky plate of chips and a pint at lunchtime and worn with cardi for when the hot-blooded colleagues take control of the air con.

bhl sabrina dress

Mr O (aka Daniel Selway) took these photos for me, of course. Now that the children are getting older we are just beginning to enjoy a couple of spontaneous hours here and there, zooming off for pints shoots and today’s wander took us to Richmond Hill. I lived there some years ago but quite forgot how breathtaking the views were. And despite the chill factor, the rain held off and it was lovely to wander about the gardens and blossom trees. Actually it was more like an ungainly stagger in those heels If I’m completely honest!

sabrina dress under the blossom tree

That path was a lot steeper and muddier than it looks and Mr O believes I should suffer for my art. Short of a pigeon-toed pose, I’m trying to emulate a snow-plough ski stance here, in order to not fall flat on my face!

bhl sabrina in the blossom

A little stroll around the more wooded areas drummed up a bit of attention from the local wildlife too. This cheeky little robin insisted on following us around. I’d have loved for him to have created an extra splash of red on my shoulder!

robin redbreast in Richmond

Mr Jackdaw was very keen to join us for a cup of tea but I was thankful for him keeping a polite distance.

jackdaw in Richmond

And this wide-eyed and bushy tailed little fella was definitely keen to get in on the action. He looks much more relaxed on his log than I do on mine!

squirrel in Richmond

So that’s my little weekend fix. I managed a whole two days without working; sewed a new dress; got some running in and managed a cheeky afternoon out with Mr O. How was yours?