Skulls and roses dress

Ooobop Skulls and Roses dress

This dress is round three of my strive to perfect a self-drafted bodice pattern. It follows on from a self-drafted retro top, blogged in 2014 and my recent wax cotton print dress.

There’s something wholly satisfying about returning so soon to a pattern that you know will work. And I’m sure it will be even better to come back to following a few more tweaks.

The neckline on the wax cotton dress gaped just a little so I fixed that and refined the curve of the neckline too. There was also some gaping at the back bodice armholes, so I took out some excess and transferred it to the back waist darts.

Ooobop Skulls and Roses dress

The fit is much better but V3 dress – already underway – will have a little more fine tuning and then all I need to do is stay the same shape… forever! 😀

The skirt on this one is a simple gathered dirndl. Easy to make, easy to wear, easy to dance in. And also a little less of a Marilyn fashion risk than a circle skirt on a blustery day.

The invisible zip is set on the left side of the bodice as before, but this time I remembered to keep the back piece as one, so the pattern isn’t split. And plus, I’m rather digging the burrito method of self-lining. Have you tried this yet?

I’m chuffed that this was another piece of fabric that emerged from from the bottom of stash mountain. I’m sure Dan had his eye on this for a shirt at some point but I think he forgot. And I shamelessly neglected to remind him! The colour scheme is my favourite kind and I love a little nod to rockabilly.

This dress has been worn and snapped to death already with no time to blog until now. It’s been my go-to for all number of events – clubs, festivals, gigs and even the office. I’ve got to put it to the back of the wardrobe for a bit now, though, because I’m sure I’ve clocked the look that says: “Someone didn’t make it home last night!” 😮 I did. Obvs!

Daniel took these photos for me, on our date night last night. Multitasking. Always! I’m standing in front of St Paul’s church in Hammersmith. Such a beautiful grade II listed building among all the modern architecture and the hustle and bustle over and under the flyover at the broadway. It’s been a place of worship since the 1600s! So much history on a little patch of green.

Ooobop Skulls and Roses Dress

Light was fading and our tummies were rumbling as we snapped these in a hurry en route to The Gate – one of my favourite veggie restaurants. Dan agreed that there was no lack of meat on the plate. My only regret was that I didn’t have enough room for desert. They looked so awesome! Perhaps my next dress version ought to be of expandable material!

Ooobop Skulls and Roses dress

 

10 Reasons Not to Miss The Great British Sewing Bee Live plus 5 pairs of tickets – FREE GIVEAWAY!

GBSB live logo

Are you a sewing-obsessed, GBSB fan like me? Do you love fashion and vintage and tailoring and dressmaking… and Paddy?

In case you haven’t been party to this hot piece of sewing news, buzzing around the blogosphere, read on for why you should totally be at the UK’s biggest, most exciting new dressmaking event at ExCel London, 21-24 September this year. I am talking all things Great British Sewing Bee Live… Yes LIVE!

I spent last Tuesday morning at London’s Fashion and Textile museum, in a room full of superstar sewing bloggers, for an intimate audience with the legendary judges of the TV series, Patrick Grant and Esme Young. I know, right?! We’d been invited to hear a little more about what we can expect from this incredible event. And boy are we all in for a treat!

ooobop and didyoumakethat
Karen and I were just a bit excited to meet Patrick and Esme!

An audience with Patrick Grant and Esme Young is underway @fashiontextilemuseum. Fab crowd of colourful #sewing bloggers.

A post shared by Great British Sewing Bee Live (@thegbsblive) on

1. Patrick and Esme will actually be there, in real life, right there before our very own eyes

Contestants from past shows along with the bravest of audience members will take part in challenges live on stage. Jenny Éclair, comedian, writer and TV personality, will be your host and will ensure the nerves and mishaps are glossed over with giggles. What can possibly go wrong?!

Patrick was asked, “Will there be sewing hecklers at the #GBSBLive Super Theatre?

“I hope so” he replied!

To be honest I would buy a ticket just for this alone. But there’s more…

 

Patric Grant and Esme Young

2. Your chance to be a contestant!

Have you watched every episode, longing to be one of the contestants? Then here is your chance!

Click here to complete an application form. You just don’t know unless you have a go!

3. More than a hundred workshops

Hosted by your favourite contestants and other top stitchers and tutors, the hardest part will be choosing. Seriously, make a cuppa and get yourself comfy before clicking this link to all the amazing workshops on offer. The choice is insane!

Incidentally Patrick was asked who his favourite contestant was. He paused, with glint in his eye… he said, “I loved them all!” What a tease! “No one ever left early. It was always about who sewed the best challenge, not who was the best sewer.”

4. Live Demos

There’s a jam-packed programme of live demonstrations from well-known personalities from the world of sewing and dressmaking as well as contestants from the Great British Sewing Bee. You’ll get all the tips and advice you need to get you on your dressmaking journey, whether you’re a complete beginner or a seasoned professional there will be something for you.

All sessions will be free to attend and are offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

Janome sewing machine workshop gbsb live

5. Dressmaking drop-in clinic

We’ve all got a project or two in that pile of doom and defeat. Dig it out and bring it along to the drop-in clinic where one of our lovely sewing experts will help you to solve your issues and get you back on track.

It’s common knowledge how helpful the sewing community is. And it was really sweet to learn that Esme frequently got a telling off for trying to help contestants on the show! “As a teacher, It’s so difficult to watch people struggling.” Oh how I’d love to have Esme on tap!

6. Fashion Catwalk

From high-end fashion and couture creations to vintage designs, bespoke tailoring and wedding garments, it will be a feast of dressmaking fashion from both independent and larger pattern companies.

There’ll be three shows a day, free to attend on a first come first served basis, along with a daily showcase of garments from leading fashion and textile students.

catwalk gbsb live

7. 200+ (Yes 200+!) dressmaking and sewing suppliers

All your online favourites and more. This is going to be the best shopping trip ever ever ever!!!! Even Esme claims to have the most ridiculous fabric and button stash. She can’t help herself. If it’s beautiful, she just has to have it!

 

8. Garment galleries a plenty for your perusal and delight

This is your chance to get up close and personal with some of those amazing creations from previous shows. There will be a crazy collection of the garments from across the series, including some of the most stunning, the most stand out and frankly the most bizarre designs from the programme.

I wonder if it will include a certain pvc skirt that Patrick sewed for himself… ooops, did I just say that out loud?!

9. The Fashion and Textile Muesem: Liberty in Fashion Exhibition

Dennis Nothdruft (who incidentally Handmade Jane and I met at the Couture Inside Out exhibition and we can therefore advocate as brilliant) has curated a stunning exhibition of Liberty pieces: From romantic, densely patterned garments from the post-war 1930s to the Art Nouveau revival of the 1950s and Swinging 1960s, then Seventies Pastoralism with its characteristic smocking… I’d buy a ticket just for this too!

10. Bloggers delight

Asides from all the magic and mahem, inspiration and excitement of the above I truly believe that this super duper sewing event will also prove to be the best ever blogger meet-up you ever went to, like ever! And if you see me wandering around in a dreamworld, please stop me to say hello. I love nothing more than meeting my readers in real life.

Does any of that lot float your lil boat?

 

Designer and Sewing Bee judge Esme Young said: “Whether you’re a professional tailor or hobby dressmaker, fashion student or vintage fan, there’s something for everyone with a love of sewing, and even complete beginners keen to give it a go.  We hope visitors will leave the show inspired and full of ideas for their next dressmaking project. ”

 

So who’s up for a free pair of tickets then? I have 5 sets up for grabs and you don’t have to do anything more taxing than to subscribe to my blog (top right hand column under the ooobop logo, if you are viewing on a pc, or scroll to the bottom of your phone screen) and then leave a comment below. You have up until Friday 14th July 2017 when the giveaway will close. 5 lucky winners will be announced on Sunday 16th July.

Good luck everyone!!

And don’t forget to hop over to the GBSB Live website for all the latest info.

I’ll leave you with a picture of pure glee. The faces say it all!

See you soon, sewing lovers x

 

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

Martini and Open the book

Martini dress for Open, the book launch

So I did it again… mixing business with pleasure. With no regrets – just pure delight in my two worlds working together again, so effortlessly, so cohesively this time.

Lets start from the top. By day, my hat-wearing is in the graphic design department of mostly publishing houses where I design covers and inside pages for children’s and young adult books.

Late last year I was asked by Pan Macmillan if I would like to design the inside pages for a very cool book by radio and TV presenter, Gemma Cairney. This is the point when all my senses got seriously ignited and creative juices whisked up on hyperdrive. Errr… ok… like yes totally please… honour all mine and all that!

Open is exactly what it says on the tin: “A toolkit for how magic and messed up life can be”. All those taboo hard-to-deliver subjects laid bare, on the page, cool as.

I don’t often shout from the rooftops about my work unless I truly believe the hype but in this instance, with Gemma at the helm, loud-hailing her invaluable advice and support, awesome art direction from Rachel Vale who also designed the gorgeous cover, fellow designer, and wonderful person Tracey Ridgewell, and a plethora of edgy art from illustrator Aurelia Lange, I was in my element and couldn’t possibly keep shtum.

Here’s a little taster of what’s inside:

open spreads

This book involved a proper dream team, of that you can be sure. Just check out the thank you’s at the back. It’s all inclusive and that’s what made it such a pleasure and an honour to be working as part of #teamopen on this very important and unique book. Boy do I wish I had this book when I was a teen.

It was a lot of work in such a short space of time and yet when it was all over and the proof copies were in, it seemed like a distant blur. And then I got an invite.

So when one gets an invitation to a very special book launch party, whereby the dress code is ‘fantastical and dazzling’… what is one to do? Make it, right?!

Open by Gemma Cairney

I didn’t have much time to plan. A couple of weeks in fact. So I needed a tried and tested pattern. All hail the Capital Chic Martini! I have only made this once before, in a vintage bark cloth (see here) but always knew there would be a need for more versions. Thank you so much Sally for such a brilliant design. I love it so much!

capital chic martini dress

The fabric had to be shiny – no doubt about that. And preferably yellow. Though the thought made me squirm. It could all go horribly wrong and I might possibly end up looking like some gone-wrong banana.

But I set to, with some weird synthetic shiny stuff from the Goldhawk Road, quite thankful that a no-smoking policy is ever present. All the time with a niggling urge to customize the dress somewhat. Then I chanced upon some pink fabric of the same kind in another shop. And appliqué stars just happened.

And then the night before, at quite literally the 11th hour,  I had a thought that I could paint one of the illustrations from inside the book, on the dress. Excitement overload!

I couldn’t possibly go ahead without first asking Aurelia’s permission – Open‘s incredibly talented illustrator – so when she got back to me with an absolute yes, it was all stations go, and I made a stencil from sticky-back laminate paper and used black fabric paint to daub one of her many cool iconic illustrations. I just love the end result.

martini dress aurelia illustraion

 

The party was immense. At the Women’s University in Mayfair, with period rooms bursting full of the most inspirational and creatively talented people. Jaw awe to say the least. I’m so proud of Gemma and I’m not even her mum! And just look how she rocks a sequin or two!

Gemma Cairney and ooobop

It’s insane that I managed to whip up this dress at a time when my workload has been so bonkers. But it just goes to prove that passion triumphs over ever everything. Even shut-eye! I will totally sleep when I’m dead.

I learned a lot from this project. Mostly that I respond well to a hefty deadline; I love that my job brings such creative people and projects to my table. But also that I relish a bespoke brief and a perfect opportunity to create an out-of-the-ordinary outfit for a party. I’ve just got to learn to deal with the attention it gets. Didn’t factor that in, lol!

capital chic martini dress

Daniel took these photos for me a couple of weeks ago. Just love the yellow against the green. He is so clever to have by-passed the daffs in in the local park to get to a scuzzy railway arch… who knew?!

 

capital chic martini dress

By stark contrast I’ve just finished three of the prettiest bridesmaid dresses in floral Liberty Lawn, that I hope to share with you after the actual wedding. So I must be due something more for me, hey?! Plus there are plans for a @Mccallpatternuk #thecocktailhour dress for the @eveappeal. More on that soon.

Are you more productive with a looming deadline or do you do just as well without? And would you be more inclined to make or buy a short-notice party dress? I’d love to know.

Till next time, my lovelies. Happy sewing! xxx

Your comments are always brighten my day and inspire me to write another post. Thank you.

Alix in Black Watch

BHL Alix dress in Black Watch tartan

This is my second version of the By Hand London Alix Dress. The first was a test version that I didn’t get round to blogging but in any case this one is way better!

Alix is such a great design. Echoes of the 70s and of the 40s even, with its flattering midriff and gathered bustline. Incidentally, the first version I pattern tested had box pleats at the bust line which didn’t work for me so the gathered option is way better.

I love the full sleeves, made possible by the shoulder pleat and the elasticated wrists. Pays to be a bit generous with the elastic though. The first one I made pretty much turned my hands blue!

Another plus for this dress is that there are no fussy closures. No zips, no hook and eyes, no buttons… nada! Just a lovely long sash to tie as tight or as loose as you like. The neckline is perfectly wide enough to get over even my moon head and theres a pleat at the back to balance out the fullness of the front.

Alix in black watch back

And no lining! Just good old serged seams. Which works fabulously for this poly viscose tartan. I have been meaning to use Black Watch variety for some time, since I made my BHL Sabrina dress back in 2014. I loved how it made a contrast against the Royal Stewart tartan but still remain nervous that someone will shoot me down for mixing of the clans!

I’ve been wearing this to work – a lot – and it is perfectly comfortable to wear sitting down, standing up, running for the bus and climbing stairs. And its a no brainer for getting ready in the morning. Cue plenty dernier tights and a trusty pair of Doc Martens!

Sewing Dots for RNIB

Tilly and the Buttons Fifi pyjamas

I get so resentful when I don’t get any sewing time. And I don’t sport a good grumpy look either. So with back-to-back work deadlines this month, I needed to find a little sewing project that I could tap into in between marathon stints in front of the screen to retain balance and sanity… for everyone concerned!

#sewdots was brought to my attention on Instagram. Instigated by the brilliant Rosie of DIY Couture and writer of No Patterns Needed. She also works for the RNIB – Royal National Institute for the Blind – where she learned about their campaign that runs every October called Wear Dots Raise Lots. It highlights the impact of Braille and raises money for their services. It encourages the wearing of dots to raise awareness, encouraging people to hold dotty parties, or coordinate with colleagues and pick a ‘wear dots’ day for the office.

So Rosie has upped the ante to encourage the sewing of dots too!

The idea was to use fabric from stash and donate what you would have spent via the JustGiving page she has set up. Simples!

This was all shaping up nicely. I had two pieces of coordinating red and white polkadot fabric. And I had a Tilly and the Buttons Fifi pyjama pattern on my to do list. A pattern that needs little space to cut out and can certainly be achieved in manageable chunks of sewing time.

The Shorts took 40 mins, including cutting out time. And including unpicking my first elastic attachment!
The camisole happened a week later… over 3 days: The cutting and stay stitching in one shift, the main body sections sewn together in another, and the binding made and sewn on before work one morning. I sewed on the bow and attached the back straps just now!
But I’m sure if you had dedicated and uninterrupted sewing time, you could easily rustle this set up in a couple of hours.

handmade polkadot bias binding
Handmade polkadot bias binding

This is such a neat and gratifying garment to make. all the seams are ‘Frenched’ and it’s as neat inside as it is out. It really doesn’t need much fabric and if you are lucky enough to have coordinating scraps, the design possibilities are endless.

French seams
Lovely neat French seams!

And to boot, I have a lovely set of PJs at last! It appears I’ve made them for everyone in the household except me. I know they are slightly out of season but I really don’t care. I’m going to make more.

Theres still days left this month if you’d like to participate. There’s some great prizes up for grabs too!

Doesn’t have to be a garment of course. Could be a much smaller project still,  like a sleep mask or a headband or a scarf!

I can totally assure you that sewing and giving is a great self-indulgent, feel-good combo too. Good work Rosie!

 

Personalised bunting

personalised bunting Maddie

When I’m busy at work, it’s so tricky to find sewing time or the energy sew when I get home! But it’s imperative that I fit some in at least, or I start to feel resentful about my day job and that’s a bit pointless because, hey… I need to pay the bills so I can at the very least keep a roof over my sewing table!

And so bunting was last week’s fix. One for baby Maddie and the other for her big brother, Charlie:

personalised_bunting_charlie

Bunting in itself isn’t very taxing to make: With right sides together, I sew the two diagonal sides of each triangle set, leaving the top edge open for turning; trim, turn right-sides out, and press. Once I have as many as I need, I pin and sew to a length of bias binding, allowing enough for ties at the ends.

But in order to personalise ones bunting it pays to have some double sided Bondaweb to hand. And do not sew the triangles together until you’ve appliquéd the letters.

I traced the individual letters from a printout onto the peel-off paper side of the Bondaweb – making sure the letters were first reversed. If you don’t do this the letters will read back to front!

I then ironed the tacky side to the reverse side of the fabric and cut out the letter shapes. You can then peel off the backing and iron the letter to the front side of the bunting to keep the letter shapes perfectly in position as you sew them on.

I happen to have a cool appliqué stitch on my sewing machine but a zigzag stitch is perfectly good enough. Just keep it nice and slow and pivot around any corners and curves.

personalised bunting applique

It’s also a good idea to tack the open top edges together before you pin and sew to the bias binding strip. Just keeps them nicely in position and stops any pesky puckers!

I find it strangely satisfying to have a pile of appliquéd bunting triangles on my table and admit to just sitting and admiring before I launch into attaching the bias binding!

personalised bunting for charlie

I just love browsing for fabrics that coordinate together. And if you happen to love them it makes sewing the bunting so much more satisfying. But it does make the giving-away part of it more difficult. Lucky it is personalised!

personalised bunting Maddie

So there you go. The joys of bunting. A mood-boosting, sewing fix of a lovely gift. What’s not to love?!

How do you cope when you are short on sewing time? Do you just accept the break or do you find smaller fixes too?

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.

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!

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!!