Classic Tailoring Techniques for Menswear: book review and Giveaway!

classic tailoring techniques for menswear

Today I would like to share a review of a great book that is already my best friend and bible for #Blazerof2016. The lovely people of Bloomsbury Publishing have not only sponsored me this fabulous book but have also sent an extra copy for one other lucky reader!

The title of the book is Classic Tailoring Techniques for Menswear: A Construction Guide. And this is the 2nd edition written by Roberto Cabrera and Denis Antoine since it first published in 1983.

My bookshelves are home to all sorts of sewing literature but when it came to ventures in proper tailoring techniques, none of them books scratched that itch, if you know what I mean.

I am a woman on a mission with a man’s jacket to make before June is out. Jamie has already completed his stunning plaid blazer and panic was beginning to set in fast. But now I have my trusty guide I feel the journey will be easier.

If ever I was doubting the ‘why’ of tailoring, the short and concise intro reassures the reader of the unsurpassable techniques over faster more modern ways to achieve that impeccable finish. It gives a brief but insightful history that inspires a preparation for a very slow but satisfying journey ahead!

classic tailoring for menswear intro

The contents include the following chapters: Tailoring; The Pattern; The Fit; The Fabric; Layout and Cutting; The Jacket; The Pants; The Vest; and Alterations.

There then follows an extended table of contents which allows the reader to go straight to the finer points within each chapter. The Jacket is clearly my primary concern and so when I come to pockets, I now have all the necessary information to create a welt, cash, patch, double-piped or double-piped pocket with flap should I choose to add one… or all of them!

As a book designer myself I’m very particular about presentation and I am a stickler for levels of information. So I’m very happy to report that I found the inside layout to be very clean and concise. The font is classic and unfussy, a good size with comfortable space and set in good readable chunks.

I must admit, at first I was disappointed by the black and white photography. It does appear take away some visual interest but on further inspection, all becomes very apparent. The hand-stitches which are crucial to the tailoring process along with other key marked areas are highlighted in red against the greyscale photography and therefore are easily recognised without distraction. It’s a more sophisticated approach than the sole use of line-drawn illustrations and diagrams which can sometimes be too graphic and disassociated with the real thing. Colour photography would have looked lovely – especially to see some of those coloured tweedy fibres – but style over substance would have been useless in this instance. I’m after good, clear and immediate instruction and this is what this book delivers.

The reality of the photography delivers on other levels too: you can identify the lay of the fabric, how it ripples, how it rolls, how it behaves. You’d never get that across with any amount of linework!

That said. This book also displays some fine line drawings which hone in on the tiniest details.

All the tailoring and understructure supplies you will need are clearly listed and defined along with necessary techniques and hand-stitches. And there is a  very well explained section on how to take measurements. The repeated photo of the man in white pants is a little distracting but as I mentioned before, far more preferable to a line drawing. It’s easier to see exactly where on the body those measurements should be taken. Nothing left to the imagination here!

classic tailoring taking measurements

And fitting is obviously a major part of the process. This section does good to address posture and body imbalance and how to identify the issues. I’m focussing on the jacket here and where wide shoulders and a stooped posture adjustment might come in dead handy, but should I venture into tailoring trousers in the future I’ll be ready for any amount of bow-legs, knock-knees and flat bottoms!

There is brief but great insight into the world of wool fabrics that are used in tailoring. The weights, the textures and the usages; naps, shrinkage and how to straighten a grain. This section may have benefitted from some colour just to see those checks and stripes pop, but again. It’s just the information I need. I can go see and stroke any amount of fabrics up the Goldhawk Road for that kind of fix!

Laying and Cutting Out covers exactly how the professionals do it. Great to see the hands at work and of course a vital section on matching plaids/checks and stripes.

classic tailoring for menswear

When I got to the Jacket section I was a bit overwhelmed. So much stuff to learn. But that is the whole point. I want to learn. And I want to have reference to it all. I want to get good at this and there is no fast track way. Just slowly and properly and remembering to enjoy each little step-by-step instruction. I’m really looking forward to making some shoulder pads. There’s a great how-to with a pattern at the back of the book. Incidentally there are also traceable patterns included for a French fly and a French tab and some other elements that I’m not going to pretend I know what they are yet!

The Trousers and Waistcoat sections are just as detailed. Covering the classic tailored processes for each stage. No stone unturned, it would seem.

The final section covers Alterations, which will prove invaluable if I ever I fancied some more unselfish sewing further down the line. And already I am inspired to pick up on the advice for relining a jacket. Something I have been putting off for so long (see this Boer War jacket). It is so simply and brilliantly explained that it makes me feel daft for every doubting my capabilities! And if you ever need to alter a pair of trousers for the man who has muscular inner thighs, look no further.

In fact, it’s all there: what you need, and what exactly you need to do to achieve each stage of a perfectly classic tailored jacket, waistcoat or pair of trousers. Brilliantly presented and clearly explained… in black and white (and red)!

If this little review of Classic Tailoring Techniques for Menswear has whetted your appetite, click here to be taken to Fairchild Books – an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing– where you can buy one for yourself and peruse all the other amazing fashion titles they have on offer.

Or if you fancy winning yourself a FREE copy, simply leave a comment below and let me know how you are getting on with #Blazerof2016 or indeed any other tailored garment you have plans for. Entries will be drawn on 30th April and the winner announced on 1st May 2016. It really is a fabulous prize – good luck!

Both the review and the giveaway copyies of Classic Taloring Techniques for Menswear were kindly given to me free of charge by Bloomsbury Publishing. All opinions expressed are my own.


Nothing boring about a pencil skirt.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ooobop! review: Burda Style December 2014

Burda Style Magazine December 2014 issue
Over the last few months I’ve been having a spot of bother getting a copy of my favourite mag from my local WHSmiths. Well from any Smiths actually. They are getting slack in their orders of big quantities or sometimes any orders at all!

But last month and this month, I decided to order it from an online newsagent and I think this is the way forward for me. It costs an extra £1.60 for post but I get notification of it’s arrival date and it is delivered within 2 days. I love the sound of the thud of the post landing on the mat and I certainly don’t miss the queues to the awful automated cash desks at Smiths!!

So here we are. Although not overly festive. But that’s ok.

The opening section, although very monochrome displays some lovely structure with a touch of shimmer.

Burdastyle December 2014 art deco section

A: Described as a long blazer but I think more a classy occasional coat. I love the asymmetry and I’ve seen some gorgeous silk-like viscose fabric that would work amazingly well. Could really do with one of these. I don’t have any party outer-layers! Burda suggests it could be a mini dress too.

B: I didn’t join the ‘peplum gang’ when they first got fashionable. But I might be persuaded by this one. I really line the clean lines of this top. It’s got a midriff that has sold me and I like the slit at the neckline.

C: A classic sparkly sequin jacket. But not for me I’m afraid. Too shapeless. Too scratchy. And I can just imagine all the cat fluff that would get stuck around the sequins!

D: Quite like this dress. Very classic and very flattering. It’s actually an extension of top B. But I would question that choice of fabric. Impossible to pattern match and so the optical illusion draws attention to a pokey out belly even when the model doubtfully has one!

E: Probably not that clear from this little pic but this is a sparkly turtle neck top with blouson sleeves and a lovely wide cuff. Love the silhouette and for me it’s a perfect work to night out top. There’s a tute to help the process. This one’s on the list!

F: There’s that peplum again! I’m not that enamoured with it but I like the idea of mashing some interesting fabrics together: Pinstripe suiting, lace and embroidered something!

G: This is a great skirt. The fabric choice is stunning. Graphic and structured. You can’t really see the detail but involves a hip yoke and a deep pleat at the centre front.

H: This outfit isn’t my thing. I don’t like the silhouette. I don’t do culottes or drawstring waists. Not on the list!

I: This lacy top looks so pretty in the picture. You’d never be sold by the line drawing. It looks really wide and strange but the draping effect is a winner.

The next section gets some red in with some festive flair!

There’s some cute little girls garments here but only up to age 10. LMO is 10 but wearing age 14 clothes so as much as I’d like to make her coat B, I’ll have to sort my grading skills out or just admire them on the page.

Burda december 2014 festive flair

A: Lovely simple dress with a structured skirt and a petticoat underneath. None too girly but still with a pretty fitted silhouette.

B: Double breasted child’s coat with cute peter pan collar. Sewn up in top notch wool it is truly a classic forever coat. Well at least the child grows out of it! I think I like the grown up dress too. Love the simplicity, the red, the deep pleat and the neckline. But the sleeves are worrying me. They look kind of too big at the top.

C: A raglan blouse (or peasant top in my book!) and an extended version as a dress. Like both. And they would be very simple to make for presents. Don’t have to be too precise with the sizing either.

D: Scarf blouse and skirt with ties says it all. Too much flounce for me. They are both made in crepe too. Maybe that’s what is putting me off asides from the dipped pink and coral combo all clingy like that. Proper girly Christmas wrapping!

E: But just in case that scarf business appeals, here’s another variation on a dress with longer ties to tie in two places. Genius. But not on the list!

F: I think this is the same little girls dress as A but without sleeves. I don’t mind mums semi fitted brocade number but it does look a tad mumsy at that length to be honest.

G: They lost me at ‘loose cut’! And drawstring!

H: Boxy jackets always look good on children! The simplicity of the style can make way for some statement fabric.

A departure from girly to freestyle. Some very interesting fabric combos. And I like that.

Burdastyle December 2014 Free Style

 A: Hopefully you can just about make out the giant underbust fringe! It’s a maxi top sewn in a crushed jersey knit with an asymmetrical draped collar. I don’t wear strides but if ever I did I may have to pair up with one of these. Just because!

B: This is indeed a master piece! Military made beautiful. Slightly fitted wool coat with trumpet sleeves, asymmetric collar and buttoning. And that gorgeous design you can see up one side is appliquéd lace no less. I’m still revelling in my coat from February but I can totes see myself in this. Maybe next year!

C: Described as a bell skirt. Nothing much to see here but some lovely overlaid fabric and trim has planted some seeds for sure.

D: Gotta love a cape. Proper sturdy one too. I do want a cape but not this one with its belts and panels and epaulettes. It looks a bit overly involved for me. Don’t dislike it though.

E: There’s that top again. Same as E in the first section but in a totally different fabric. Making it more jumper than blouse for a more casual approach. You wont be able to see from the little pic but the seams are ‘outwardly open’! Why? Imagine how irritating when everyone and their aunt asks if your top is inside out!

F: In interesting patched shirt using patched stretch jersey, stretch faux leather and wool. You could use any kind of combo but I’m finding this all a bit too much. I do very much like the leathery sleeves though. The skirt looks more interesting than the pencil skirt it is but even though it is relatively straight I think that top needs to be worn with a much less interfering bottom half!

G: Pretty sure this is repeated from the festive section but I love how much more retro it appears with a shorter hemline.

H: Tube dress with rolled collar in a stretch knit lace. Great on the right bod. But not on mine!

I: I like this dress. Lovely defined bodice and flouncy skirt in an overlaid lace tulle. Sold on the colour too. Eliminates girly girly and makes it more day time. I can’t decide whether I like the sporty grosgrain straps or not. Actually I do!

J: I’ve been thinking of a poncho. Not like the one my mum made me wear in the 70s but something understated like this one. In truth I’m being lazy so as not to have to get involved in a cape! Its just a rectangle with minimal sewing, yay!

Burda’s designer pattern this month comes with a nod to Jean-Charles de Castelbajac. I love these little insights into the lives of designers. JC professes to be inspired by love andcuriosity. I like that! Just as much as I like this straight cut mini-dress with its massive pocket details and topstitched standing collar. burda december 2014 JC de castelbajac dress

I’ve made pj bottoms for 3 other members of my family but never for myself. It’s just occurred to me that I’ve got the most raggedy selection of nightwear and that things must change. Here’s some pretty things and one seriously crazy pair of pj bottoms!

Burda december 2014 nightwear

 A: Cutesy bustier and French knicker set. Piping, ruffles the lot!

B: Isn’t the idea of a boyfriend shirt that you just nick one off your boyfriend? I’m not sure I can afford to invest that much time into making a proper nightshirt. Piped collar, inverted back pleat, button placket, breast pocket with embroidered monogram and inseam pockets too!

C: Lovely little ballerina slippers. Could be a lovely little Christmas present perhaps.

D&E: A traditional set of pjs. What’s not to like? Love the cool crisp blue.

F: This is a knitted coat and I want it! I don’t want to knit it though. I’d be bored of it before I finished it, I’m that slow. But I’m sure someone out there would love to whip this up.

G: And theres those crazy palazzo trouser pjs! Can’t do those. I’d get myself in a pickle for sure.

H: Camisole and French knickers. Now you’re talking. Maybe this is my Christmas present to me!

I: This nightdress is pretty too. Ruffles top and bottom are a bit cake-like for me but I like the elasticated empire line.

As is traditional, it’s the plus fashions that bring the party to the fore.

Burda December 2014 plus fashion

A: Long jacket and pencil skirt. A classy pairing. The jacket comes with an optional belt but I’d leave that out unless you want the dressing gown look!

B: Low cut V-neck tunic top. I love the contrasting black band around the neckline. Very feminine and perfect with pencils and skinnies.

C: Bit odd this ‘volant’ tunic. Burda’s word not mine! Longer at the back than the front with ruffly bits. Not really my cup of tea.

D: Described as a peplum dress but someone more sophisticated than that I feel by the way that the centre point extends. Very jewel-like indeed. I’m not keen on the colours but greens and blues would do it for me. Or blacks and reds! A lot of precision sewing though. Only for the more patient among us!

E: Ah! There’s that long jacket with the belt. See.

F: Can’t make my mind up about this skirt. Its fundamentally a pencil with satin bands that run down the back. Apparently they make the bottom look slimmer. Are big butts out now then?

G: In the right drapey material this tunic dress would be gorgeous. I’d prefer not to look like a galaxy but I do like the contrast of the black bands and a busy print.

H: This colour-blocked peplum blouse is a no from me. Too much like hard work. Too much going on in such a small space. But I bet somewhere out there, there is a quilter who is itching to get going on it!!

Well that just about wraps things up. I hope you enjoyed the sneak peek. I failed in every way to make this a shorter exercise but no regrets. I thoroughly enjoyed spending the time to look closer at each garment. And of course it always makes for a great record to come back to.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend x


A skirt most fitting for my friend

Fitted pencil skirt

Meet Ms Moneypenny. AKA my lovely friend, Katy. Modelling the skirt she won in the school auction, made by yours truly.

And prepare for a whole host of lovely shots taken by Mr Ooobop, AKA Daniel who I am nagging like mad to get his portfolio up and live so I can share more of his lovely photography with you.

fitted pencil skirt modelled in the garden

Getting the fit right on ones own self is one thing but the pressure to get it right for someone else is far more terrifying! I suppose it’s a good kind of terrifying because it does make you learn very fast and not settle for anything less than a good fit.

I got a bit lucky with Katy. One measuring session, one draft of the pieces, one test skirt for a fitting, and one final fitting for the actual skirt. Probably by the power of flook but selling it in as skill!

Katy happy in her new skirt

This lovely little impromptu shoot revealed Katy’s hidden modelling talents. Took to it like a duck to water, she did. And check out those pins… we don’t get to see them very often!

sitting pretty with flowers

Such a pretty garden too. Could easily be confused for one in the Med! I wish I’d have taken a shot of Mr O as he was clicking away. He was revelling in the whole session. Lying on the floor, up in a tree, peeping round Grecian columns…! I was blissed out with G&T in one hand and hot dog in the other!

Katy modelling pencil skirt

And of course there were props…

back view with Frankie the puppy

Meet Frankie Knuckles, Katy’s 11-week old border terrier puppy. She has stolen everyone’s heart, obvs!

Holding Frankie the puppy

And there was photobombing, of course!

photobombed by children

Oh how I love this shot…

Katy modelling with her daughter

It’s such a great feeling to make something for someone who means so much to you. Especially when it fits them so well. It’s also the only time you can really get away with unashamedly staring at your mate’s bum.

You can just about see where I hand-picked the lapped zipper, and of course where I – ahem – matched the checks across the back seam (*polishes nails*)

See now, you’re all looking at her bum!

back view of skirt

The waistband pattern runs through centre front but waist darts rather mess up the plan. When I next make a skirt with this kind of fabric (it’s 100% gorgeous wool by the way) I might be inclined to create side seams on the waistband, as on properly tailored skirts, so that I can match the checks on the back too. This would also allow for expansion if ever needed.

front detail of skirt

I leave you all with a parting shot of the adorable Frankie. A fine model herself and because I just know she stole your heart too!

puppy border terrier

Here’s to more sunshiny days, fabulous photos, cute puppy dogs, fantastic friends and great opportunities for wonderful sewing projects. Cheers all x

Burda Shorts

Burda Shorts

It’s amazing what just one metre of fabric can turn into. Give me a morning off work and a pile of Burda back issues and who knows what will fly off the sewing machine! This is a great little pattern from February 2013 Burda Style magazine. They work so beautifully in linen but I think they are a bit more rebellious in wool tartan! The fabric was bought for another pencil skirt but – yawn – I fancied something a bit more casual.

Burda Tartan shorts

It’s still parky enough for 60 derniers and boots but the nip’s not enough to deter a rising hemline. And shorts are a safer option over a short skirt. Far less stressful when it’s still a bit blowy!

Hip pockets

The pockets are a great added extra. They help to define the shape and add a point of interest. Plus they are deep enough for keys, purse and phone… hands free! I took time to understitch the lining and of course the wool pressed beautifully flat.

Of course, there is a pattern-matching issue when one has limitage yardage. But I did manage to match across the front and back seam, which I decided was most important.

burda tartan shorts front

burda tartan shorts back view

I need to tinker with the fit a bit, if I’m to make these again. The waist is a bit big in proportion to the hips for me. And the back needs shortening a bit. I’m still faffing with getting a perfect self-drafted bodice so trouser/short drafts are on the far back-burner. But one day, all knowledge WILL be mine and then there’ll be no stopping me, bwhahahahaha!

burda tartan shorts


burda tartan shorts

The photos were of course taken by my wonderful Mister. And these beautiful pastel-coloured London houses are just a few streets down from us. I love how everyone keeps their front gardens ship shape and the colours so fresh. Helps to my pics look great too!

Coloured houses in Wingate Road



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!

My Vintage Dreamcoat!

My vintage Dreamcoat

And so I present the focus of all my dreams since first bidding all my hard-earned pennies pounds on vintage Butterick 547. It’s taken nearly seven months to realise the nagging vision that was persistent even throughout my busiest months.

At least 2 of the 7 months, were taken up with searching for the ideal fabric. Quite incredible seeing as I’m a stone’s throw from the Goldhawk Road. I watched London folk on a daily basis, as they paraded their neutral tones around town, and that was inspiration enough to fuel a rebellious approach and lead me to an online supplier of ‘quality coating fabric’ – Fabric Dreams. Of all the samples I requested (which were incidentally free of charge and free of postage!) this non-wool, fabric was my favourite. I confused myself with this choice at first believing a quality coat must be in wool. But I went with gut and gut came good!

vintage Butterick 547

The hardest bit about the construction was having enough space to lay out the pieces. They were huge. I knew I was going to have to lob off the usual 4 inches from the bottom but I wanted to construct the original length in case I had a later moment of maxi-madness!

vintage coat butterick 547

This coat was seriously made in hourly bursts. If I had no hours left at the end of the day, sleep was stolen. I could not have done it any other way. Full time freelanceness which often runs into the evenings, with school runs and domestic chores to boot, means little or no time to sew. But UK weather waits for no seamstress and I was seriously going to freeze my butt off unless I got a wriggle on. Good enough motivation wouldn’t you say?!

vintage coat B547

The only issue with working in hundreds of little shifts is that I probably spend as much time getting stuff out and putting it away as I do on actual sewing time. But hey ho. Got there in the end. I really must stop dreaming about one of the children’s bedrooms being a sewing room. Terrible mother!

vintage dreamcoat

I interrupt this post to big up my amazing and wonderful bestest friend and boyf in the whole world, Daniel. I swear this coat wouldn’t look half as good if it wasn’t for his amazing photography skillz! I owe him so many waistcoats, it’s untrue!!

The other great thing about him being chief Ooobop photographer, is that we get to mooch around London together finding lovely locations. Today was mostly the British Museum. Feel like a bit of a fraud for not actually looking at one single exhibit. But we did have a cultural day at the V&A yesterday, honest guv!

vintage dreamcoat back

The coat is made of eight panels which create such a lovely shape. There was stacks of ease and I think I could have pinched out a bit more but I like how it feels and I wouldn’t want to feel restricted in it at all. Interestingly enough, even though the ‘skirt’ is not a circle, letting it hang overnight, the hemline dropped in the same way. A lengthy process to level up the hem, and check it at least 5 times before cutting, was quite painful but worth it.

vintage coat at the British MuseumLining this coat was quite a chore. Even though I chose a real quality, strong, gold lining, it frayed like Billy-O. So I serged every open seam. Because I can. Because I now have an overlocker BTW!! But because I am a newbie overlockerist I got all smug and complacent with the speed and completely hacked through the side-back panel. I swore a bit. But didn’t have time for a proper sulk. I’d come far too far enough down the line to be crying over torn lining. Luckily for my sanity, I had over-bought said gold lining by a metre and a half and so I cut another piece, dutifully unpicked the ruined one and half an hour or so later it was as if nothing had happened!

An entire evening and a morning was spent entirely hand-sewing in the lining with tiny stitches. Around the armholes, down the side seams, all around the facings and neckline and of course the hems. What joy!

But what warmth!

warm vintage coat

I’ve stubbonly been walking around in my draughty Vogue jacket, lovely as it is, refusing to buy a coat, lest it meant I would never finish this one. But now I have. And boy, it feels good to be warm. Bring on the snow!

Of course the warmth may not have been totally down to the coat. Mr O insisted this was a great photo of me having a cheeky snifter! He’s such a bad influence.


A little wander into Covent Garden was lovely on such a bright winter’s day. This coat is great for twirling in too!

twirling vintage coatAnd a little venture into Neal’s Yard to soak up some more colour, if that was at all possible!

vintage Coat Neals YardThank you all for your support and patience throughout my first coat-making venture. It feels amazing to be wearing something so functional, yet so strikingly original and properly fitted. I won’t divulge cost of this project as it has scared the living pants off me but I can honestly say it was worth every single penny pound!

Vintage coat in progress

And so, six months after my gruelling battle to win this beauty of a pattern, work has begun, in earnest. When I was bidding the for pattern, I had the finished coat, clearly in mind and so to be faced with 19 pattern pieces and the usual vague set of instructions, the fear set in.


I’ve made a jacket or two, I’ve even tackled the wicked welts. So what was I afraid of? Doing it justice, I think. If I was going to go to the bother of making a coat – not just any old coat, but the coat of my nightly dreams since battle was won – I needed the right fit, the right fabric, the finest construction, let alone the neatest bound buttonholes. (Something I hadn’t yet conquered !)

I live near fabric heaven, The Goldhawk Road. And so finding the right fabric should have been easy, right? Easy enough when your expectations aren’t stationed on the moon! I searched high and low and eventually found this amazingly eccentric fabric, online at ‘Fabric Dreams‘. Quite apt, really! I initially had tangerine wool in mind so I ordered a few different free samples and then sat under the letterbox for all of 4 days!

When they did arrive, it was a no-brainer. Even though the fabulous, firey fabric was 100% not wool (and not just tangerine, but an entire fruitbowl of colours) and the others were, it screamed at me to be given a chance and so I agreed to put it centre stage. After all, if I was ever going to go to the bother of making a coat, there’s no way I wanted it to go unnoticed, oh no!

I even made a toile. Just the body section. And this confirmed my need to loose some circumference. I had my suspicions that the coat would be a little big, and it was, but was worried I’d loose the nipped in shape if I took it in at the top and let it out at the waist (the usual Ooobop sausage-shape adjustment!). So with some careful measuring, re-measuring, a little panicking and some more measuring, I took out half an inch, vertically, all the way down, from each of the front and back pieces. So as not to affect the silhouette of the design. Incidentally, like a good girl, I had pre-traced all the pieces!

And then to cut the real fabric. Ooooo the suspense, the fear, the excitement! The pieces are massive. I know I will eventually chop off about 6 inches but I wanted to start long so I could make that decision later. But that did mean I had to cut out on the floor. My kitchen table just ain’t big enough! And that, in turn, meant I had to wash the floor… doh! Always something to hamper a plan! Still took three roll outs of the fabric and continual shooing of cats.


Honestly, why do they insist on laying where I’m cutting? It’s not like there’s no other piles of fabric in the house!

Cat on fabric

An hour and a pair of stiff legs later, I had a wonderful pile of cut pieces. It’s quite tricky to cut though the ‘corded’ texture but it doesn’t fray.

Yesterday I sewed the main body sections and oooed and arrred as I steamed those seams open. For all it’s 100% not woolness, it presses beautifully. And I haven’t had to clip any curves either.

pressed seams

It was getting late last night and I did hesitate to start on the bound buttonholes but knew my dreams would be sweeter if I at least had a go. So I tried a few tester ones on some scrap fabric using the instructions on the pattern sheet. They were rubbish! So I went to YouTube to find someone who’d show me how. They were rubbish too! And then I remembered Karen’s fabulous Ebook download which proved to be the perfect method and I’d even go as far as saying I loved doing them!

bound buttonholesbound buttonholes reverse

Practising those stood me in good stead for making the welt pockets too!

welt pocketsPretty camouflaged huh?! Thats without the invisible stitching which is yet to be done. I’ll be fishing around for ages trying to find a way in, when it’s finished properly!

I pondered for ages, wondering what kind of collar I should have. Should it be the big dramatic scalloped one? One of the self same fabric to keep it simple or a little furry shawl collar? I opted for the latter, after going round in circles. Mostly in the shower!

Faux fur is fast running out in the Goldhawk Road. The good stuff anyway. I’m told by reliable sources that no more will be ordered as summer stock will soon be on it’s way! So I was well chuffed to find this short pile, soft-as-you-like, faux fur. Works a treat.

faux fur collarThough I’ve made fantastic headway this weekend, there is still a lot of work to be done. The sleeves, the length, the hem, the lining and the facing behind the buttonholes. But it will be worth it I’m sure. I can feel those sub zeros honing in over the next few weeks but hey, bring ’em on. I’m going to be snug as some bugs!

ooobop! review: Burda Style January 2014

Burda Style Mag January 2014

I had secretly planned to make the December 2013 issue of Burda, my last review. It takes an age to put together. And if I’m ever to make a new years resolution, it must be to claim back more time for more sewing. But it proved to be a rubbish plan. And it appears that I am indeed a love-struck addict of  all that is Burda Style magazine!

So here I duly kick off with some snuggly 2014 fashions of the faux furry kind…

faux fur burda Jan 2014

As much as I want to, I can’t possibly  dive into one of these projects. My pattern is traced, my fabric ordered and delivered and my instructions await for a vintage 50s masterpiece. I just need some time… and space! Boy will the pinned pattern pieces take up a whole of the living room floor!

Have well and proper earmarked that little furry cropped jacket, though (above, bottom, left) . I can totally see myself in it! (innit!)

Happy New Year is the next section. Reporting a bit late for a New Years Eve number but really some goodies here for any party any time… or just any time really!

party clothes burda January 2014

Loving the batwing waterfall top (1st row, 2nd col) which comes with an ‘easy to sew’ verification. I’ve just got a few tension issues to sort on my newly inherited overlocker and I am well on my way to knocking a few of these beauties out, I tell ya!

The o-so-cute bustier (bottom row, col 1) is a fabulous party separate. In a quality shiny black, it would rescue any old skirt or trouser in a jiffy. But it would be exceedingly traitorous of me to detract from the Georgia dress before I’d even started!

Another ‘easy’ option is the cerise one-shoulder dress (row 2, col 2). Big attention seeking effect incorporating scant sewing time equals massive win!

Now I’m forever trying to stray from all that is monochrome. It doesn’t make for a very colourful blog, for one. But how can I ever move on when such striking temptation is blatently bowled in my general direction?

black and white burda january 2014

I love the neat mod look, I love the fat stripes of that jacket in the first pic and I love how the skinny stripes behave in the long sleeved jersey shirt. Some interesting points of gathering to achieve all that psychedelia! Thinking this may well be a job for my overlocker too!

Now even if I hated each and every one of this issues patterns (which I don’t, obvs), I would pay double the cover price. Double I tell ya! Just to get this Master piece pattern of ultimate gorgeousness….

aquilano rimondi dress

Such a flatering shape. I love the neck. I love the colour. I love the contrasting leather. I will make this dress. At some point!

Now I’m not really one for fancy dress. But Burda certainly does us proud each and every time there’s an excuse for dress-up. No exception with this months selection of saloon characters, superheroes and exotic animals from the jungle, the sea and even the circus! Take your pick. Creative costuming for the whole fam!

role play burda jan 2014

And if mermaids and snakes don’t do it for you then feast your eyes on all that is classy and plus size.

plus fashion burda jan 2014Burda love a bit of Asiatic influence and I’m personally loving the black and the red (obvs) but I’ll leave the rest of the commentary to you, my lovelies.

Here’s hoping that 2014 buys us all some more precious time to sew some more wonderful creations. Love and luck and the very best of health to you all. Now go party your lil sock off!! xxx

ooobop! review: Burda Style December 2013

Burda magazine december 2013

Good grief! How did it get to be nearly Christmas? How do I get to be so not ready every single year?

Well thank you Burda Style magazine for the memory jog but I’m not sure I have enough disposable hours for many more makes before the big day.

I am sorely tempted by your cover dress though. More on that further down.

Merry Christmas is the opening section. Of course!

Burda magazine december 2013On first sight all looked a little uninspiring to be honest but on closer inspection there are some nice surprises. The long-sleeve top (top left) is made of lamé jersey. A very simple make, made all the classier with some glitz. The polka dot dress next door is a chiffon overlay dress, gathered at the waist, over a slinky satin bustier dress with spaghetti straps. I rather like the surprise of that one. And the pink crepe dress (bottom row next to the terrible peplum skirt) makes a beautiful shape (or would do if the hem was trimmed even!) It has a wonderful pointed yoke at the waist and a deep inverted pleat in the skirt. Lovely sleeves and a cute row of black buttons on the right shoulder. I approve!

Now back to that terrible peplum skirt. I don’t know what to say about it really. I just don’t think it works. No integration. No added flare. Just makes the body look cut in half! Just sayin’!

The next section is called Cruise Collection. For those already looking forward to summer! If anything, the garments here are more Christmassy than in the Christmassy section!

Burda magazine december 2013

This is my favourite bunch this month. Buttery washed silk, organza, satin and chiffon. Yes to private stash of all those fabrics and colours please! The cover dress looks even better here (bottom row, 2nd column) It’s a short sleeve version of the polka dot dress in the first section. I’m guessing you could make one underdress and have different overdresses for different occasions! (says me with ardent fear of sewing with chiffon!)

Free Spirit is the next section. Lots of paisley and fine fabric:

Burda magazine december 2013

This amount of opulence isn’t normally my bag but I keep coming back to the gold metallic jersey evening dress. Not sure where I’d wear it. Might have to invent a night out! Either that or strike a pose down at the Southbank with a hat at my feet!

The check bouclé trench coat (bottom right) looks right cosy though. A little bit of Vivienne Westwoodesque styling never goes amis!

Passion for Detail is the next chapter. And I so wish I didn’t have a headache.

Burda magazine december 2013All a bit much for me, sorry! Except for the wrap skirt with exposed zip (top row, 3rd col). I like that! In fact I might like more of this section if the crazy wallpaper didn’t do my head in so much!

Just take a looksy at this cute crocheted bag. Isn’t it sweet? It’s ages since I crocheted and I don’t even think I did it right the first time, but this is thick yarn and big hook with only 16 rows to contend with. I can feel a little Christmas holiday train journey project coming on.

crochet bagAnd hooray! A man project! Well, just a little token one :-/

mans tieLoving the couture-style silhouett of the designer style outfit, below.

talbot runhof dressAnd finally we reach the plus fashions. Businessy and feminine this month. The flounce dress in a wine coloured duchesse is my favourite here. After saying that opulence wasn’t really my thing! I’m not sure I would personally be so bold but I do think it is very striking.

Burda December 2013

In other news. I have bitten the bullet and ordered my coat fabric. I think I will be giving Joseph a run for his money. It truly is a fabric of many colours! I will keep you posted as and when it arrives. I’m a little bit excited and a little bit nervous. But most of all very freezing and so totally in need of a coat!

Keep warm folks and see you real soon! x