Vintage Blackmore 8194 dress

Blackmore 8194 vintage dress

I needed a dress for a wedding. Not just any old wedding but a beautiful Indian wedding where I couldn’t hope to compete with the finery of silks and saris. No pressure, then! I rifled through every kind of fabric and bored all the Goldhawk Road shop owners senseless with my dilemma, during the weeks leading up to the big day.

Blackmore 40s dress

I diligently visited a roll of paisley brocade in A-One Fabrics, three days on the trot, properly umming and arrring out loud. But it wasn’t quite right. I ordered some gorgeous cotton satin roseprint from Minerva thinking … actually who knows what I was thinking. It was all wrong until I spied a roll of drapey green fabric at the back of the shop. 100% polyester it transpires. My inner snob rose to the fore but I bashed it back down when I handled the weight and the smooth silky texture and noted the lack of crease when I screwed it into a ball. And oh the colour! Not to mention the price tag of £4.00 a metre. I wasn’t arguing at all!

I already had this pattern in mind: Blackmore 8194. It’s not dated but I’m guessing late 40s. Vintage Patterns Wikia has it down as 1950s but also claims that Blackmore published paper patterns between 1845 and 1940, so that doesn’t add up!

Blackmore 8194 sewing pattern

I was sold on the waist and hip detail, the softly gathered side fronts that fall from the hip and that cheeky little key hole detail with the bow tie feature.

Blackmore 8194 dress keyhole detail

Incidentally the bow tie itself is some vintage liberty homemade bias binding that I inherited.

I made a quick bodice toile in the original size, half knowing it was too small, but wanting to test the pattern without sleeves. Inevitably I changed my mind and graded the pattern up a size. Redrawing the pattern allowed me to add the seam allowance on too. Something this pattern didn’t allow for which also shows it’s age a bit, I think.

Blackmore 8194 vintage dress

I’m quite used to vintage patterns without markings or seam allowances but one thing that struck me as a bit odd with this one, was an instruction to “Make darts in the back bodice where shown by dotted lines in diagram”. Quite literally the diagram which is the tiny pattern layout illustration on the back of the packet. So it’s anyone’s guess, really!

Inserting the gathered panels into that front skirt panel was a bit tricky but quilting skills have taught me how to clip and pivot at a point, so it wasn’t too terrifying. Again, the instructions are loose: “Gather upper edge of side fronts to fit hip yoke of front as in sketch and stitch together matching VV to VV.” Simples, lol!

Blackmore 8194 inserted panels

I’m pretty pleased with the outcome. And it worked well for a wedding where colour was the order of the day. But there are niggles: I forgot to add seam allowance to the sleeves which actually doesn’t appear to make much difference but I did sew them on back to front! How much difference that makes will show in the next version which I’d like to make soon while it’s all fresh in my head; The waistline could do with a bit of ease. I like how it’s nipped in but it’s not that comfortable! And although the fabric is nice and drapey, I’d like to try it in a lawn or a lightweight cotton so that the neckline and the darts press sharper. I also neglected to do my usual adjustment to take out the excess fabric from the back bodice. I cheated instead by removing the zip and trimming the centre back seam… not very well!

Blackmore 8194 vintage dress back view

Considering I pretty much sewed this up the day before and was hemming on the morning of the wedding, I think it turned out pretty well. The niggles can so easily be sorted next time round. And to get change from a tenner is such the ‘Brucey bonus’ that I feel it prudent to reward myself with some lovely lawn!

I don’t have any of the official pictures from the day to share as yet but I’m sure you can imagine how stunning all the ladies looked, as did the men in their exquisite flocked and braided coats. I can’t begin to tell you how gorgeous my friend the bride looked. But I did shed actual tears – in a good way – when she walked into the room. Such an honour to have been invited to such a special day. And I’m so glad I went to the bother of making a dress, especially.

Blackmore 1940s dress

Photos by the wonderful Daniel Selway
Location: St Pauls, London
Shoes: Lola Ramona
Handbag: vintage from local Fara Charity Shop

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!!

Burda Brigitte Blouse

First I must apologise for those who have had issues trying to comment on my blog over the last week or so. I won’t bore you with the tecchie issues but suffice to say all is now good at Ooobop HQ! (touch wood!) Thanks for bearing with.

It feels so good to be able to write a post. I knew how much this blog meant to me but didn’t realise quite how much. I found out quick enough when I thought I’d lost nearly 2.5 years of work! I’ve been such a bloomin’ grumpy pants all week, Mr O will tell you for nothing!

I feel like I should be making a bit more of a dramatic re-entrance, but I’m afraid we’ll just have to make do with a humble gingham peasant blouse.

burda gingham boatneck blouse

It’s a very nice gingham peasant blouse though. Care of Burda’s June 2011 edition Mag. It’s also available for download here where it’s featured in a sheer fabric.

I’ve made three sleeveless ones before but this one has long sleeves and no elastic. And it presented a fine oopportunity to create some bias gingham binding around the neckline and cuffs which is always lovely!

burda gingham peasant blouseThe fabric was sold to me as Egyptian cotton, which I had no reason to dispute. It is smooth and cool to the touch and feels like fine quality. But the pyromaniac in me is compelled to do a burn test, always. And the little black crumbly ash that resulted, confirmed the fibres as a poly blend, doh! Win some lose some. Should’ve sniffed a rat at £5.99 really!

But not a worry as it still feels nice against my skin and it’s not snug on the pits so remains a good choice for a warm summer’s day or an office with failed air-con.

The instructions suggested a gathered hem into another bias band but I was nervous about too much poof around my middle and given that I almost always tuck in my tops I just did a standard hem. But, note to self, I didn’t increase the length enough to compensate, and with one wave across the street, it comes untucked, whether I’ve tucked it in my pants or not!

burda gingham peasant blouse

It’s very quick to make if you can even up your gathers quickly. I faffed a bit too much with my gathers as usual, but it still got completed in an evening.

I love the raglan sleeves and the boatneck. So easy to wear. Great with a pencil and equally a circle skirt. And the plan is to make some capri pants one day, just like Burda’s styling, to come somewhere close to that retro Brigitte look.

burda gingham peasant blouse

Peasant blouse: Burda pattern, handmade by ooobop
Skirt: self-drafted & handmade by ooobop
Belt: H&M
Shoes: Rocket Originals
Photography: © Daniel James Photographic

 

Self-drafted retro top

retro check top

A couple of months ago, I signed up for a local adult education course to learn how to draft a bodice. The need for a go-to-template is great now. My need to save hours in a day is bigger than ever and so the idea is, that if I have a master block, I won’t have to keep reinventing the wheel, each and every time by having to make alterations to a preprinted bodice pattern. I would also very much like to realise some of these gazillion designs floating around my head and create them for other people too.

The course was cheap. Just £85 for four Saturdays, 10-3. And the teacher was lovely. There were 5 other students at first class and 3 at the last. So we pretty much had one to one teaching for the last session. pattern-drafting tools

To begin, we were instructed to pick a set of body measurements from a table of standardised sizes, that matched closest to our own body measurements. My first furrowing of brow. The whole point of me wanting a custom fit is that I don’t fit standard. Even my shoulders dropped an inch with that first instruction! As is usual for me I just kept shtum. But someone else in the class just couldn’t, and with gusto unabashed, questioned the task out loud! Hoorah for the confident ones!

The teacher assured us it was easier and quicker to go from a standard set of measurements whereby most of the calculations were done already and then make alterations to fit, afterwards.

And so I did as was asked. But the confident one did not! She used her own measurements and although, indeed I finished drafting first, she had a better fitting first toile. Funny, that!

But, with fear of the wind changing, I relaxed my jealous scowl and approached the teacher with questions on how to fit this bodice… that really didn’t fit at all!

She drew on me with red pen. The neckline needed to be made deeper. The side seams taken in; the bust point needed to be moved; the fullness taken out of the bust; the back bodice needed shortening; and the shoulders were too long. Mmmmm…..!

first bodice muslin

OK. Not a problem. In fact quite a few extra lessons in alterations were absorbed in the process so I didn’t feel too robbed.

I made the above adustments and sewed another toile. A better fit but it still needed changes. A third toile and although I knew it still wasn’t perfect. I was determined to draft my actual top and make it before the end of the course. I thought it would be useful to have the teacher hold my way throughout the process. And it was.

I ended up with a completely wearable top. She helped me to draft the collar and showed me how to create the facings. I based the design on a pattern I already owned. Did I just state a distain for reinventing wheels?! There is a method in my madness. I want to be able to create things that I see in pictures, everywhere, armed with a knowledge base of skills to custom fit, rather than have to have a standardised pattern that doesn’t ever fit. And of course this top is a great vintage design and I love it!

self-drafted retro-style top

But there are issues. The underbust is too big and it doesn’t feel perfect enough. In fact it’s true to say that it’s too big all over.

back view of top

 

The material was a cheap soft cotton with quite a loose weave so that probably didn’t help my fitting issues either. But it is comfy!

I added the zipper at the side, in true vintage stylee and owing to the bias cut funnel-like collar that rolls over the back. I also added a shaped extension to the waistline so that I can tuck it in without bulgy lumps round my middle. I usually wear it tucked in with a wide belt but I wanted to show it in full for the post. I’m quite happy with it hanging out too!

retro check top full length

self-drafted top side view

I made another one up last night, with some alterations. I took a little out of the side seam allowance and made the waist darts more concave at the point. There wasn’t much improvement to be honest. In effect I made the best of a bad job and went to bed in a huff!

I am irritated that with all of the alterations that were made in order that this bodice fits, the pattern pieces are really irregularly shaped now. And owing to the massive darts that were removed horizontally from the back pieces (to reduce the excess fabric), I won’t ever be able to pattern match across the back 🙁

There is no way I am going to be beat though. With renewed vigour, I got up early this morning to draft another from scratch. I used my real body measurements along with some armhole standards, and low and behold it was a pretty close match. I just have to make a couple of small amendments. The armhole gapes at the front and there is a bit too much excess over the bust and so I have cut and closed a dart at the armhole on the pattern, to reduce the gape. The mid-armhole at the back gapes a little too, and I have smoothed the excess up to the shoulder, and remarked the shoulder seam to both front and back pieces.

And best of all, with this new draft I get to have a perfectly straight back seam so I can have a continued pattern across the back if I so please, yay!

Wow! this really is a learning curve.

Hope to share some more new Ooobop designs soon. Ones that actually fit! So come back soon and in the meantime, don’t forget to enter the Giveaway if you haven’t done already. Only 3 days to go!

TTFN x

PS. All credit to Mr O, of course, for the lovely photos and a lovely day out with the children on the Southbank

 

Moneypenny chic

wool tartan pencil skirt

Some time ago. Like a very long time ago. Like I’m too ashamed to admit how long ago, I was approached by one of the mums at the school gates who asked me if I’d like to contribute something to the school auction fundraiser. ‘Of course. I’d love to’, I said. ‘If I could only think of something of worth that anyone would want to bid on!’

The auction happens once every two years and for a school as tiny as ours, it raises an astronomical amount of spondoolies for much-needed improvements in and around the school.

A holiday for four, in Sardinia; Two tickets for the Tennis Championships at Queen’s Club; An Aston Martin Photoshoot and Drive; a John Broadwood upright piano… this is the level of contribution. So you can sympathise with my dilemma!

‘Oh,’ I said ‘Argghhh!’ I said. ‘I’m afraid I’m clean out of anything like that.’ But the clever mum, with a tilty head and a cute face pleaded,'”But could you not make something?’ Uh oh. Here we go, I thought. What could I make without knowing who I’m making for?
‘I guess I could make a made-to measure-skirt.’ I said. Apologetically and realising how dull that sounded up against all else.

The theme was Bond with the opening lot announced as a James Bond goodie bag. Mine was listed at no. 17: Miss Moneypenny Chic

catalogue entry for skirt

Oh how very clever. However just a little bit scary. Of course I had no idea who was going to be bidding on my skirt. I couldn’t even be at the event so I was keen to know who bid and for how much the following morning.  £20, £50? Are you kidding? My friend Katy bid – after a proper fiesty bid-off with another mum – a stonking £300!

Pressure or what! This skirt had to be bloody good. Not only because Katy is my dear friend but it had to reflect the quality to match that price.

First things first. I took some measurements and drafted the skirt. No ready-made patterns going on this time. It had to fit good and proper.

I made a test skirt in a cheap fabric. Which incidentally she really loved too so I must finish that off… at some point!

We went fabric shopping together – perks of the job! – and came out with this beautiful Westwoodesque wool fabric and some beautiful two tone lining to match.

wool tartan and lining

One of the great things about pencil skirts is that they only take a metre of fabric. So you can afford a better quality of cloth. This gorgeous wool was from my favourite, A-One Fabrics. In the Goldhawk Road, of course!

I took my time with this skirt as is clear from the start! I made sure the pattern was centralised and so the front darts were incorporated symmetrically. I’ve learnt by experience and plenty of dogs’ dinners! The design follows through from the centre-front of the waist band too. If you don’t look too close!

pencil skirt front darts

I inserted a hand-picked, lapped zipper. I didn’t want any wonky machine stitching going on! And amazingly enough I got the overlap of the lap matching the fabric pattern on the other side too!

hand picked lapped zipper

Asides from attaching the lining to the vent – which always scares me but always works out somehow – I mitred the corner of the hemmed vents. So much neater and to be honest, the only way I’m ever going to do it from now on. I also hand made the inside button loop. I did this to stop the pull on the waistband which happens if you just rely on a hook and bar.

mitred corner and handmade button loop

And of course the icing on the cake was having the first ooobop label sewn in. I have made my own rule about only inserting one when the garment deserves it. And in this case I think it does!

ooobop label in skirt

I hope soon to be sharing some photos of this skirt with the lucky winner wearing it. Mr ooobop is poised and ready with his camera!

Flora – my new bestie!

Flora dress By Hand London

I can’t tell you how delighted I was to be asked by the By Hand London girls, to pattern-test for them, back in January. All honoured and everything I was!

The package arrived with goodies galore and a link to my fabric of choice from Ray Stitch. How could I resist this gorgeous Liberty Tana Lawn?!
Liberty Tana Lawn

But hang on a minute. The dress in the pictures doesn’t look at all like this fabric!

Well, you see, I kinda messed up a bit. I was clever enough to make a muslin before I cut into this buttery lawn, but I stupidly pre-empted adjustments that so didn’t need to be made. Three more muslins later with differing versions of the same adjustment, I was fast running out of time. What was I thinking? I rushed through the final version before I’d properly corrected MY mistakes. And I emphasise MY mistakes because By Hand London’s Flora pattern is spot on and when I came to make the one you see in the pictures, I made no adjustments whatsoever save a bit of an increase to the waist. Doh! Me and my meddling!!

Thankfully I still have just enough of the lawn to replace the front bodice and I certainly will do that and post it as soon as I can. I just love this dress soooo much!

Flora dress by hand london

So what is this fabric that isn’t Tana Lawn, then? Well my friends, I should have called this dress the Four Quid Flora because that’s exactly what it is! £1.99/m special dress fabric from Dave the Drapers in Shepherds Bush Market! I had a spare zip and some leftover lining so literally this dress cost me just £4. I can’t vouch for any natural threads going on but do you know what? I really don’t care. It has a sheeeeen! So shiny. It shimmers in the sunshine! And it has body. Enough to hold that beautiful structured shape yet just enough drape to create soft pleats and barely any creases.

flora by hand london dress

The dropped hem is clearly the most striking feature about the skirt section. And so I had to take care to finish it all good and proper. It’s not often your insides are on display to the general public! And hey, another Brucey bonus about this fabric is that the polka dots reproduce beautifully in reverse on the wrong side. Or perhaps it was the right side. Who knows? Dave certainly didn’t!

flora dress by hand london

I must just give a quick shout out to Turners flower shop on Hammersmith Broadway, for kindly letting us shoot outside their pretty shop.

And also add that Mr O was risking life and limb to take these photos. I might have been on the pavement but he was practically lying in the middle of the road. Not ordinarily quiet round this neck of the woods! His dedication knows no bounds!

flora dress

I wholly recommend the Flora dress to anyone. Beginner or advanced. Such little input for such incredible output! And so quick to make… so long as you don’t pre-empt unnecessary adjustments like I did! And boy is it flattering. A lovely vintage style neckline and a full structured skirt. Who could ask for anything more? The first place we stopped at, two ladies commented on how they loved my dress. Ego trip or what?!

flora dress on Hammersmith Bridge

It has been such gorgeous weather in old London Town this week. I’m so loving the brighter mornings and I even got to come home from work in daylight this evening. I feel more energised and ever more ready to get on with some more sewing. I feel a few more Floras coming on for sure.

These last couple of pics were taken on Hammersmith Bridge. My favourite bridge of all the bridges in London. And just so perfect to stroll across at sunset.

flora dress on hammersmith Bridge

Now who remembers the Flora ads? I certainly do! Definitely worth a giggle!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JmS3t5R3O6M]
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_piSsGckJw8]