An ooobop original jumper for all reasons!

I like that there’s never a strict order of process. Often I pick a pattern and go looking for the right fabric. Sometimes the other way round. Driven by need or pure desire but in this case it got changed up a bit more.

Diane from @Dreamcutsew was kindly giving away some fabric on Instagram and I just couldn’t pass up her wonderful piece of cable knit jersey. I didn’t have a Scooby what I was going to do with it – I didn’t even know this kind of fabric existed till then!

I considered a cushion cover, a hat, some gloves – even some slippers! (I still have a small piece left so this could still be an option) But it sat for sometime, perched on the top of my own stash until I had a flash of inspiration. And then it came – in the shape of a hashtag challenge: #magamsewalong (Make a Garment a Month) hosted by @suestoney and @sewing_in_spain. This month the theme #naturalnovember was set by guest host @gigi_made_it, and that really got the ball rolling.

I loved how free-range the brief was;

☑️ Make something from a natural fibre
Now I’m pretty sure there wasn’t a speck of natural fibre in that cable knit but I did have a raggedy moth-eaten merino wool jumper which met its demise in an accidental hot wash. I’ve no idea why I kept it but I’m jolly glad I did because I decided to add some black detail. I generally stick to the safety of any colour palette that involves black!

☑️ Choose a make reflecting the weather and rhythms of the season where you live
The weather was definitely a factor in my need for a jumper. I don’t have nearly enough and I can never find any I like that I can actually afford!

☑️ Make something in a nature-inspired print
I figured stars are pretty nature-inspired, aren’t they? And an appliqué is an acceptable swap out for a print.

☑️ Use earth-friendly, sustainable materials in your make
So the main fabric was a leftover piece from another sewist, the appliquéd bits were upcycled from an old jumper. The gold thread was a few leftover strands from a previous project and the only additional notion was the cuffing/ribbing that I bought from Minerva.com

☑️ Make something that totally expresses your natural true self, unconstrained by cultural norms or trends
I’ve been so wanting to make something that does just that. It harks back to my 80s days where I was probably the most experimental with my clothing. Big batwings and balloon skirts the lot! I actually had puffball shorts too!

☑️ A make that occurs without (much) effort. As always, interpret creatively and be natural

I freestyled the pattern. Based on a RTW jumper I already own and simplified further. No shaping for armholes and rectangles for sleeves gathered in at the cuff. That meant less waste too! I shaped the shoulders slightly and cut a V neck but the back piece is fundamentally a rectangle also.

The project began with a very rough sketch! Please do not judge my Adobe Illustrator skills on this sketch alone – I might never work again!

Once the main pieces were cut out, I began by stabilising the shoulder seams. Even though it was going to have a relaxed drop shoulder I still didn’t want it to stretch out. After sewing the front to the back along the shoulders I added the cuffing along the neckline. Incidentally I used a wide shallow zigzag stitch on my regular machine throughout and then overlocked the edges for a smaller neater finished edge.

To make the appliqué shapes I first fused some doublesided fusible stabilizer to the black jumper pieces (sans moth holes) and then cut the shapes. I ironed the pieces to the front of the jumper and to the sleeves while they were flat. I then handstitched all round with a tiny blanket stitch. I’m still not entirely sure how the points of the stars will hold up over time but we’ll see. The big gold stitches are purely for decoration and to complement the glittery gold stripe of the ribbing.

When all the pieces were in place, I closed up the underarm and side seams. I gathered the wrists of the sleeves by hand with reasonably big stitches and then stretched the cuffing to fit, sewing right sides together. I did worry that it might be a bit bulky but it doesn’t feel uncomfortable at all. Just extra warm… and that’s totally fine with me. I can’t stand the cold!

The final step was to add the ribbing to the hem. I really like the contrast of the stripe and the added glitter just makes it pop!

I really loved the whole process from hatching the idea to wearing the finished jumper! It feels so great to be wearing something that is totally unique and totally me. And all thanks to my Insta fam.

I’d like to say this is my new way of working. I’d so love to get even more creative and original about all that I make and I will, in time, but I’ve already got an indie pattern in mind for my next dress. One I’ve never tried before. Watch this space to find out more!

Dan of course is behind the lens of these super shots… we took a 5 minute walk up the road where he’d already planned to factor in some twinkly lights. He is so very good at this and I’m so grateful but also aware that he’s getting more photography gigs of late, so I better keep that leash tight!!

Happy weekend everyone!

Seven useful tips for a rocking pair of M7726/M8168 shorts

M7726 shorts handmade and modelled by Janene @ooobop

I was inspired to make a second pair of these McCall shorts (see here for first pair) by the lovely checked suiting fabric I saw and snapped up in the Crafty Sew and So sale and was then spurred on by the #magamsewalong #rocktober instagram challenge hosted by @suestoney and @sewing_in_spain, themed by @salixsews.

close up of M7726 shorts handmade by Janene @ooobop

I’m still a bit scarred from that loose weave fabric I used last time, but oh the rewarding joy in using a more stable fabric. I did however underestimate the time and patience in cutting and matching those checks though.

TIP 1: Cutting out

I laid out the fabric in a single layer and cut all the pieces individually, using a rotary cutter for more accuracy. I find the fabric moves less and you can get consistently close to the edge of the curved sections.

I flipped the first set of cutout pieces onto the remaining fabric and pinned it in position to cut the corresponding pieces so the checks would line up. And most importantly I marked ‘WS’ (wrong side) on each piece!

detail of front section of shorts overlaid and pinned onto fabric to match checks

TIP 2: Marking the pieces

I know we are constantly reminded to do this. I’m lazy and often don’t – just marking as I get to the correlating instruction, if I feel I need to. But in the case of these shorts it’s crucial to get those marks on, and visible.

I used a combination of tailor’s chalk and tailor tacks and made sure to distinguish the small circles versus large circles, not forgetting the squares and the centre front line versus the fold lines! It seems like such a faff but you’ll thank me later!

TIP 3: Finishing the seams

I overlocked all the edges of all the pieces, after I sewed the seams but I finished the fly section before I added the zip.

I never paid any attention to finishing when I first started out sewing but learned quickly when my favourite memade shirt literally fell apart at the seams!

Also advisable to finish your seams in a matching thread. This doesn’t always matter but read on to tip 7 to find out why.

TIP 4: Tacking is important

When you have such a large and noticeable check pattern, or any pattern tbh, any slight stretch or movement of the fabric can lead to a mis-align of the design. So hand tacks, in a contrasting colour, are a really great way of keeping things in place while you sew.

Believe me, I always try to dodge this bullet thinking I can go quicker without and even this time I tried simply pinning the pleats in position before I sewed and twice had to unpick because the line of the checks formed a ‘step effect’.

TIP 5: Tying up loose ends

To finish off the topstitching neatly, leave a longer thread than your automatic machine cutter might allow for. Take a hand sewing needle and thread it with the loose thread on the right side. Push the needle and the thread through to the wrong side and tie together a few times with the bobbin thread. Trim a few mm’s away from the knot.

detail of how to tie up loose ends with threaded needle sticking out of the front side of the fabric

TIP 6: The roll-up

I used a strip of fusible interfacing to sandwich in the middle of the rolled up hem. The suiting fabric I used was a little sturdier than the last fabric I used but still very soft and I didn’t want the cuff to flop down. It was a good way to use up those little scraps of interfacing too – I hate throwing them away! I also did a blind catch-stitch about a cm inside the top edge of the roll up to keep that cuff in position. Just for good measure!

I wanted a slightly bigger roll up than I did last time but the positioning of those checks played a big part in how much and where I pressed that last fold. As a result the pocket bags have a tendency to show when I’m seated. Slightly annoying and not a biggie, except that’s where I first used non matching (white) overlocking thread. I thankfully changed it up when I remembered that the side seams were going to be visible on the roll-up!

Janene standing with hands

I wore these shorts 5 days straight after I made them – I love them so much. And I think that’s largely due to the time and patience I invested in making sure those details were on point. I even matched the belt loops for goodness sakes!

They are so comfortable to wear, lovely and warm with tights and I love styling them with boots. Its given me a great opportunity to test them out with all my different tops (breaking all the ‘rules’ for pattern mixing) so I’ll be sure to share that with you soon, too.

I do hope these tips come in useful, for this project or any others you’ve got on the go. And please share any additional ones you might have in the comment section. One of my favourite things about sewing is the prospect of it always being a work in progress. There’s more than a lifetimes worth of tips and techniques to keep us busy and sharing them is half the fun!

In the meantime I’m pondering my next project. Could be an actual jumper, a work-out piece or a self-drafted dress. Decisions, decisions…!

Postscript! I’ve since found out that this McCalls pattern has been rereleased under M8168, Taylor McCalls

Other shorts I’ve made:

Simplicity 6772 shirtdress on fire for the #sewvintageseptember challenge

I love it when sewing stars align. Like when Minerva sends a call out to promote their new fabric ranges, and the ideal fabric screams to be made up from my go-to 60s shirtdress pattern during a month when one of my favourite annual Instagram challenges inspires me to dust off those vintage pattern boxes.

Well those flames spelled out the obvious, to me. A retro Rockabilly shirtdress.

The pattern is vintage Simplicity 6772 from 1966. And a perfect project for sewing up in between busy work shifts. I’ve sewn it up twice before – in dogtooth and in blue – and that gave me confidence to forego any toiling though I did make a few fitting adjustments, namely extending the bodice length by quarter of an inch and lowering the bust and top points of the waist darts. There are 12 darts to this dress: 4 diamond waist darts on the front, 4 on the back, 2 bust darts and 2 shoulder darts which seems very excessive but actually this is very commonplace to vintage patterns and all the better for shaping.

The fabric is a Robert Kaufman cotton poplin which I received as part of the Minerva Ambassador programme. I’ve used poplin only once before, for my self-drafted sundress but cannot fault the quality. It is such a lovely genuine medium weight, imho – not too light and not too heavy. The weave is such that it’s an absolute joy to hand finish the hems – so easy to pick up a single thread for a catch-stitch and it presses so effortlessly too.

Another advantage is that it doesn’t crease as easily as regular shirting cotton. Prior to taking these shots I’d been walking around in this dress and sitting down for a couple of hours and it still looked pretty neat.

My dresses usually get shorter as the months get colder but this time I opted for a to-the-knee rather than an above-the-knee hemline for a change. The actual pattern suggestion is quite a bit longer but I think I’ve hit the sweet spot. And the little kick pleat at the back looks more sensible when it’s longer in any case.

In order to keep that kick pleat nice and flat and in position, I stitched it down with with a few catch-stitches inside. I think you can tell how much I enjoyed hand stitching this fabric!

It’s amazing how a quality fabric can make so much difference to the whole sewing experience. For instance, pressing as I’ve mentioned before but also for turning nice sharp points on the collar sections and the corners of the front facings. Setting in the sleeves was a breeze, too.

I decided the buttons had to be plain. I’ve exhausted my stash of black buttons and so I robbed some off a previous dress that won’t get any wear over the next six months at least, on account of it being too summery. So I have plenty of time to replace them!

It was fun to take this dress out for it’s maiden stroll around Soho and stop for a coffee in Bar Italia. I used to hang out here a lot in my clubbing days. A pit stop after dancing the night away when you weren’t quite ready to go home – a quality hit of caffeine and always someone interesting to yabber away to. Some things never change!

Fab photos by Daniel James Photographic

Roll over taggy blankets, there’s a new taggy T- in town!

Let’s face it. There’s not much gratification to get from making children’s clothes – So much effort for such a few amount of wears, if any. And I’ve recently refrained, until a request for my grandson came in: My son cannot find plain unbranded quality cotton toddler T-shirts that don’t have stupid slogans, or images on them and wondered if I’d care to oblige.

At first I was reluctant, especially after recently refusing a similar request for a grown up. But then I realised I could add a very tiny but genius design feature here which would tick two boxes, and make this project more worthwhile.

Anyone else know a toddler with a silky label obsession? I mean, that’s kind of what the taggy blanket (afflink) was invented for (for anyone who doesn’t know, a taggy blanket has lots of silky ribbon loops sewn around the edge of a small piece of fleece fabric and serves as a comforter. ) Or perhaps this is what is responsible for the silky label obsession to start with. Who knows?!

Blake is no exception and loves a label. He’ll find them every where – blankets, cushions, stuffed toys and especially on his own clothes. Trouble is they are always on the inside and he insists on pulling up his top to get at them.

I had a flash of inspiration when I was at the Crafty Sewing Camp, as I sewed my sweary label to the outside of my Ankara dress – far too good to hide inside – that I should sew a label to the outside of his T-shirts! Its kind of like a toddler taggy T- with less chance of a draught, especially with colder months coming up.

For the T-shirt , a quick Google led me to Diby Club and a great free pattern with lots of style variations with very detailed instructions. Such a lot of work invested to give for free. It made me a bit suspicious tbh but I knew proof would be in the making of it and there was zero chance of me wasting any amount of time, drafting a pattern in any case.

I didn’t need to refer to the instructions as I’ve sewn various tops and T’s but I did take heed of the measurements for the neckband as clearly it had been tried and tested on a fabric with the same suggested amount of stretch.

I sewed most of it on the overlocker and was quite excited about doing a blind hem on the body and sleeve section with the overlocker too, until I tested it on a scrap. It was a bit of a heavy finish for such a small garment, especially in this amazing premium cotton jersey. So I just overlocked the edges and hemmed with a zigzag on my regular machine. Again, too lazy to set up the twin needle but its just as cute and I’ve had no complaints! Incidentally I bought this fabric from Minerva. It washes beautifully, presses and recovers well. Lots of different colour options, too.

Blake wasn’t very impressed when I asked him to try it on but when I pointed out the label, there was no hesitation and within seconds of his arms pulling through, went into his little silky stroking trance mode which is generally an indication of nap time! One happy customer and one very happy Nanna who ultimately enjoyed making such a boring project and also seeing it appreciated in real life. You know what? I might even make another!

It was a fantastic little no-brainer of a project to palette cleanse and gear me up for something a little more involved and with #SewVintageSeptember here already, best I get cracking with my next project.

Do you ever sew for little ones or sew something really boring before starting a more complicated project?

Theres a lot to love about a Libby Shirt

I’ve already had people ask if the fabric I used for this shirt was leftover from my latest sheath dress. I’m clearly set in my colour palette ways!

It isn’t, but its a close contender I found it on a pile of Ankara bundles when I was looking for pyjama fabric. And was pleasantly surprised by the light-weightness of it and of the lovely sheen. The shop owner told me it was cotton satin – I didn’t realise that Ankara prints came in any other weight other than the usual medium/heavy structured cotton. Definitely keeping eyes peeled now for different kinds.

And I did have a plan for a lovely lightweight pair of pjs until I saw all the lovely Libby shirts on Insta and that instantly changed things up. I bought, downloaded the pdf pattern, printed and cracked on with tiling the pages together that same evening.

I’ve only ever made one Sew Over It pattern before – the Joan dress – which Im still in love with. If only I could squeeze myself back into it… It was a tough enough wiggle from the outset!

And because of that, I made sure I was being totally realistic about my choice of size this time. Yes I have been known to cheat myself! But to be fair, it does state on the instruction booklet that “Sew Over It patterns tend to have less ease than other patterns as most of the designs are intended to have a closer fit.”

This time ironically it appears I’ve erred on the bigger size! But it really doesn’t matter as it’s so lovely and cool to wear on a humid day. No touching underarm seams and a slight blouson back which really keeps it all nice and airy.

There was nothing complicated about the construction. Though I took time to make sure all the little circles and notches were clearly marked on my fabric pieces. Especially as far as the collar pieces were concerned. And they fitted together a real treat. The fabric pressed nice and sharp too as you’d expect from a quality cotton and a bit of hot steam. And I marvelled at the results. for some time before carrying on with the rest!

I had just about enough fabric to make this shirt and not an iota of thought was given to pattern matching. It would have been very difficult in any case with the design being so random and all. It was looking to be a nasty mismatch at the centre front with the half circle meeting the full circle but I think I’ve got round that by disturbing the design with some black button holes and buttons. I’ll just keep telling myself that!

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I cut the longer length version so that I could make up my mind if the cropped length was going to suit me or not. Before I hemmed, I tried it on and cropped was definitely the way forward so I just overlaid the front pattern piece onto the shirt and trimmed to the line. I did however go back to check If there was one back piece for both versions as I wasn’t sure if it was quite right for the back to stay longer. There isn’t and it doesn’t matter. I’d just assumed the back would be cropped too.

I love how the finishes are considered in the instructions for each seam. It comes together so neatly that you are prompted to stand back and admire your progress at each stage. The cuffs in particular are a great way to bind the sleeve hems. And the facings do a great job of housing the overlocked hemline at the centre fronts too.

I would definitely make this shirt again, perhaps in a slightly more draping fabric next time. Maybe a viscose or liquid-like silk satin for a posher version!

I love the style of this shirt, the cropped length option and the cut-on sleeves. Such a timeless vintage vibe. And a very easy fit.

All I’ve got to do is make some bottoms to wear with them, haha. I’m forever in need of simple black skirts or shorts but I just can’t bear to make something that boring. Needs must though!

Photography by Daniel James Photographic

Thanks to Dan for taking these shots under really difficult circumstances. Nagging wife and failing light is never a winning combination. But I love them!

Fitted sheath dress in a graphic Ankara fabric

This is the dress I completed at the Crafty Sew and So camp, weekend before last which feels like a dreamy distant memory already, since I’ve been buried deep in work projects ever since. Thank goodness I realised the importance of taking a simple no-brainer project with me as I had anticipated a lot of chat and I didn’t want to be getting stressed out by fiddly details… or miss out on all the goss!

Sewing a sheath dress is a good test of fine tuning a fit as woven fabric has no forgiveness whatsoever! And I’m pretty sure I’ve nailed it now. It feels like it fits in all the right places and its amazing how that feeling transmits a confidence when I wear it. Well I can hardly blend into the background with this graphic print in any case!

I was hoping the Ankara fabric, with its strength and weight, would give good structure and I wasn’t disappointed. If you’ve sewn with it before, you’ll appreciate how your shears slice so accurately through the threads and the joy of ironing those sharp seams – especially helpful when pressing those understitched facings. They are so never going to pop out!

The dress pattern is simply a front and a back piece and an all in one facing to finish the armholes and the neckline. The zip is at the left side – something I learned from sewing a lot of vintage dresses and a method that means the back piece stays as one so there is no need to pattern match across a zip.

I would normally have tried harder to match across the side seams but I was working with a remnant here, left over from this crazy cowl skirt project, so I was limited with my placement options. Very happy that I used stash fabric though!

And whilst we are on the subject of side seams, I’d like to draw attention to the sweary label that Manisha from Manisha’s Fancy Fabrics kindly and appropriately gifted me from Sew Me In (explicit) Labels. Because, despite the simplicity of this dress, I had to unpick 3 seams at least due to distraction of talking and mostly laughing my head off. In case you need any confirmation, sewing alongside likeminded makers who share as much passion about dressmaking, is incredibly good for the soul but a little bit detrimental to productivity!

This won’t be my last sheath dress for a number of reasons:

  • Its a lovely no-brainer of a sew, once the fit is mastered
  • It uses precious little fabric
  • Its can be office-appropriate in a suiting fabric, casual in a cotton, dressy in a satin
  • It can be customised so easily

Thanks to Dan for these lovely photos. We were in Charlotte Street, and very much drawn in by the blue of the shopfront. We haven’t been up town for a long while and it was good to see the buzz is still there, with lots more pedestrianised areas for al-fresco drinking and dining.

Keep tuned for some more of my pattern drafting adventures. I’ve got a few plans up my sleeve!

The making of McCalls M7726 shorts – an unexpected triumph!

M7726 shorts made by ooobop
M7726 shorts made by ooobop

One of the many reasons I wanted to sew my own clothes was so that I didn’t wind up wearing the same as anyone else. Not to stand out from the crowd necessarily but just so I could be me. 

But every so often the sewing community manages to turn that ideal on its head and makes me want to sew the things other people have made, haha… oh the irony!

M7726 shorts made by ooobop

In particular McCalls M7726 shorts. As spied on Giorgia’s Insta feed over at @1stitchforward. I mean, come on…. super classy matching fitted jacket and all! 

In between then and now, I have been careful not to overbuy fabric. It’s crazy to think that I’ve never got the right kind to use, despite a toppling stash. But when I saw a little Chanel suit on the YouTube FF Channel – a fitted jacket and shorts in their signatory bouclé, I think – I remembered some fabric I was saving for a ‘particular something’!

M7726 shorts made by ooobop
M7726 shorts made by ooobop

Now I’m not trying to pass this awful fabric as bouclé. But I did envision it as giving a similar vibe. Ten out of ten for naivety…!

I’ve no idea what this fabric is. But I’m sure you can see from the flat lay below, just how vulnerable to pulling it is. It didn’t take long before I realised it didn’t have a straight grain either! I sulked for a bit. And sweated over countless placements of the pattern pieces. Didn’t matter how I manipulated those bunched criss-crossed threads, they just did as they pleased. So I followed the selvedge for the ‘straight’ and ignored the ‘grain’ because there wasn’t one… seriously frustrating!

M7726 shorts made by ooobop

Once the pieces were cut. I had another sulk because I was convinced they were going to look so wonky. And the fraying! More like unravelling! It is such a loose weave. I abandoned it at this point knowing no amount of overlocking would hold those edges.

And then a brainwave. A roll of Prym seam tape to the rescue. Literally a whole roll! Every edge of every piece I taped down. And then overlocked for good measure. I’m still yet to wash them so I don’t know how well it will hold.

M7726 stabilised pieces

After I did this it was more enjoyable to sew. The impending feeling of failure was much reduced and I serged on. But I definitely ruled out the prospect of a matching jacket!

M7726 shorts made by ooobop

Tailor tacks were many and necessary to align all pieces. Though not fun to pick out at the end! I had to be super careful of not pulling out threads of the actual fabric!

But as the shorts started to take shape, I began to love the project. And I felt pride in not giving up.

I love how neat those pockets are. Probably due to the stabiliser tape. But the edge stitching gives a sharpness too.

No such word as ‘cant’ !

All was going well and then I had a wobble over the belt loops. How on earth was that going to work in this fabric? With lashings of Prym Fray check. Thats how!

The instructions were to make a long tube and then cut to size. ie: sew along the long edge, trim, turn, edge stitch and cut into 3 separate pieces. In fall-apart fabric? That was going to be a joke. I considered other options and with some great suggestions from IG followers as a safety net, I went ahead to try – just in case it did work. Thanks to that stinky stabiliser, it actually did.

M7726 belt loops for shorts

Though the bodkin wanted to poke out between every thread of that fabric tube along the way. Boy I’ve become a determined soul in my old age!

And finally the leg hems. My initial thoughts were not to roll them them up as suggested as I think its a bit of a scruffy finish with the side seams showing and all. I sewed another pair of shorts here – sadly outgrown – whereby bias cuffs were sewn as turn ups. It’s a much neater technique that hides all the raw edges and side seams. But then I had a little think and noticed that the open seams are kind of camouflaged so I opted for the more casual look to the turn up as per instructions.

M7726 shorts made by ooobop

For such a little project there were plenty of painful and lengthy processes but lots of new lessons learned too: Believe it or not, this was the first time I’d sewn a fly zipper, and belt loops! And I’m pretty damned chuffed with the result. I genuinely thought they were heading for the recycling bin so soon into the project and yet now I have a great pair of shorts for all seasons!

M7726 shorts made by ooobop

We took a little wander at sundown with Dan to shoot under the flyover at Hammersmith. In truth we didn’t have the energy to go further afield – it was very hot!

I can’t wait to sew these again, in a more stable fabric of course. It will be a breeze. Breeze! Oh how I want actual real life breeze right now. Bring on the storms!

Bring on the summer, I’m sundress ready!

Janene is posing with her right hand on a low white wall with trees and bushes in the background. She is wearing her handmade sundress and sunglasses and smiling with head back

I had absolutely no plans whatsoever when I placed my order for this delightful Robert Kaufman cotton poplin fabric, which is usually a very bad mistake. Rash decisions with no end goal ultimately end up with more material languishing in stash mountain for a considerable amount of time. But I had to have it! I don’t generally like novelty prints but I think this can be classified more as graphic print or typographic print – very appropriate for a graphic designer anyways! And I absolutely love it!

Janene is leaning against a tree holding a piece of grass, wearing her handmade sundress

When it arrived I was in awe of its texture. I don’t think I’ve ever worked with cotton poplin before – the cottons I’ve worked with have been much smoother and crease a whole heap more. You can see the weave of the threads on closer inspection of this one and it’s got a marvellous matt quality to it.

Janene is posing straight on with both hands on hips wearing her handmade sundress and sunglasses

It feels very similar to some vintage batik fabric I used last year for a sheath/shift dress and I love how that one feels against my skin. So after much deliberation, I decided upon something much the same – fitted for sure but with all this roasty toasty weather we’ve been blessed with, I also liked the idea of baring my back and cutting away the shoulders to air a bit more skin!

Janene is posing with her back to a low level wall alongside the river with trees and bushes in the background, wearing handmade dress and sunglasses and smiling

But I had to get my skates on. Not only did I have a Minerva review deadline, there was an Insta hashtag challenge I was determined to join in with, too.

So typically, I decided to make things just a tad more difficult for myself by designing, self-drafting and sewing my own fitted sundress!

Janene is posing in her handmade dress and sunglasses with one hand on hip and the other in a mock salute

I traced my existing sloper template to include princess seams and a V-neckline, increasing the underarm curve slightly above the bust across the side front where it meets the centre front piece seam and the ‘strap’ that is graduated to the shoulder and meets a back extension to form a buttoned halter-neck.

I created a facing for the whole of the top half to the waist. I did consider making it shorter but I may add a lining to the skirt section at some point.

To finish the seams, I trimmed and pressed the seam allowance to the side and topstitched alongside the joins to create a kind of faux flat felled seam finish.

Close up detail of the bodice section to show the faux flat felled seams

It’s not a bad fit for a first trial. I did do a mock up of a shortened version and its seemed to fit just right but its amazing what issues a little real life walk-around brings to the fore.

It transpires the back section collapses a little and could probably do with a bit more support. Maybe some interfacing would have given more structure or perhaps I need to add bones in the side and centre back seams? Or maybe I just live with it. What do you think? That said, I love how effortless it is to wear right now and I don’t particularly want to have to sit so upright in it all the time!

Back view of the dress that Janene is wearing to show that it is collapsing a little.

Needless to say, I’m not deterred. It’s so perfect to pair with espadrilles and I’m sure I’ll be donning trainers with it at some point, even flapping around in flip flops – DM’s too, probably. They’ll all go well with it, which proves its very much my kinda dress!

Janene is sitting on a log in the shade wearing her handmade dress, sunglasses and espadrilles. She is looking into the distance with her left hand on her shoulder and the other on her lap.

By the way, the fabric is called ‘Out of Print’ and if you like it as much as I do, here’s a link, but you’ll have to be quick. I don’t think theres many metres in stock.

Thank you so much to Minerva of course for gifting this lovely material as part of the Brand Ambassador programme. And also to the lovely ladies of Instagram (@sewing_in_spain, @Rocco.Sienna and @SewSarahSmith) who are hosting the #sewtogetherforsummer challenge which involves sewing a summer dress before 21st June. There are so many great entries already which have totally inspired and spurred my project along – do have a looksee! Sometimes deadlines are a good thing… Yay! I did it!!

Janene is walking towards the camera but looking to the side, holding a blade of grass. She is wearing her handmade sundress and sunglasses and espadrilles.

One more thank you to my Daniel for finding this ideal little suntrap along the river and for taking these fabulous photos.

So much love for the self-drafted Dolce dress of dreams

Remember that divine Dolce fabric I was compelled to buy, back at The Stitch Festival 2020? Well it just got stitched up. And boy oh boy it didn’t disappoint. 

I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do with it at the time. But I knew it was going to be fabulous, even if I simply draped and cinched with a belt! It’s an Italian cotton metalassé according to the selvedge – a cotton and lycra Jacquard according to M. Rosenberg’s web listing. But all the same a quality weighty, textured stretch fabric of dreams. BTW, I pre-washed at 40 degrees and those colours still popped! And heads up, there are 3 singular metres left remaining on their site if you’re a sucker for a crazy-ass in-yer-face designer print as much as me!

Despite the try-hard distraction of the print, the texture of the metalassé holds it’s own

Ultimately, I decided to let the design speak for itself. Any clever design lines were going to get lost and I wasn’t going to jeopardise one bit of that amazing artwork if I could help it. That meant no darts, no pleats, no tucks, no waist seam. Mmmmm. A full length maxi dress for ultimate impact. That is the end goal. But first to trial a short sheath to test the fit. I bought enough to have a long and a short version, psychically of course!

I’ve drafted a few woven dresses in the past, for me and others, but I’ve only recently worked a knit sloper. So earlier this year I practised on some turtle neck rib-knit tops to test the fit – see black one here, and red one there. All I had to do was extend the bodice pieces to a dress length and omit the sleeves. I didn’t want a turtleneck but I did want a jewel neckline so I didn’t alter that much either.

Though I was happy with the results I knew that the template might not translate in this weightier stretch. Comparatively, the rib-knit was light weight and had way more stretch. I should really have trialled a sleeveless version too but impatient me couldn’t wait any more and I just went for it.

The pattern pieces simply consist of a back a front and some self binding for the neckline and the armholes. And cutting it out was a joy. Not only because is was dead quick with a rotary cutter and all, but it was so satisfying – no slippage, no stretching… just a lovely little satisfying crunch as that blade sliced through!

I first sewed the shoulder seams, after applying my favourite iron-on stabilising tape [aff-link] to limit any stretching, then I sewed the side seams using my overlocker. The first try-on highlighted a bit too much ease in the armholes so I nipped 1cm (so 2cm in total) off the end of the shoulder and graduated to zero at the neckline. 

Happy with the rest of the fit I pondered the effect of facings over bindings. I have a love-hate relationship with separate facings – they always flap around and need ironing flat. The only ironing I don’t begrudge is pre-cutting out, and not post assembly! I much prefer an all in one neck and armhole facing that curves over or under bust. But this fabric is quite heavy and I feared the result would be too chunky.

So I decided on bindings which would mean trimming the seam allowances back a bit to allow for the additional 1cm wide strips to sit comfortably.

Looking at the back I can see that  I would need to lower the armscyce next time. It’s comfortable and all but the knock on effect of taking out the ease on the shoulder has raised the underarm. Not a biggie though. That leopard over my shoulder is a dammed fine distraction!

As you might imagine, the thing that took the longest with this dress was consideration of placement. Both back and front are good. Like stupendously good! There was no pattern matching necessary. It was just plain choice. Well, and the want to not decapitate the chap on the front! I decided I didn’t like the idea of someone on my back but I did like the possibility of the back side being prettier than the front. So that’s the way the cookie crumbled.

We had such fun taking these shots yesterday. Dan had recently been on a walk shooting birds along the Grand Union canal and suggested it might throw up some lovely backgrounds for the shoot. He wasn’t wrong and I was very humbled by all the wonderful comments from passing strangers, about my dress. It’s so effortless to wear. Though not quite the weather to wear without tights yet. No-one needs to be blinded by the intensity of my pale pins so soon into the year! In any case. It’s very short. I’m sure the world isn’t ready for my pants either!

More is more, when it comes to tights!

We walked to Westbourne Park, with a cheeky peek at some market stalls in Portobello along the way. Couldn’t resist this odd fabric from a vintage stall. Anyone want to hazard a guess as to what this is?!

If you can bear to watch this space for another year or so, who knows what kind of crazy dress this will turn into!

And there we started our walk, all the way to Paddington basin where we sat for a lovely lunch and a cheeky beer or two in a beautiful Victorian pub. 

A bus ride back through the remnants of a demonstration in Hyde Park was quite exciting. A few more beers and a takeaway to round off a fabulous day of doing what we both love. Bring on the sunshine – we want more London days like this!

So a gazillion thanks to Daniel James Photographic and not forgetting Dibs who blogs at Dibs and the Machine , sells incredible designer fabric at Selvedge and Bolts and who was instrumental in making me buy this fabric in the first place!

Another turtle neck top complete – in time for MemadeMay

May is one of my favourite months for many a reason. The weather is warming – I so can’t bear the cold – and I’m more likely to get out more for walks and to visit my favourite places and people after a long hibernation period. It’s also the month that the lovely So, Zo What Do you Know? hosts the #MemadeMay challenge. Now it’s fair to say that each year this flurry of instagram selfie shoots gets easier for me as my wardrobe becomes fuller. But Lockdown has narrowed my choices somewhat by what fits and I’m going to have to make some more clothes. Shame, eh?!

I’m kicking off with a new turtle-neck top, using the same self-drafted pattern as the black one I made not so long ago, which I might add might possible be my most worn thing ever, already!

Nothing needed to change but I really wanted to see if I could elimate some little folds from the underarm, across the bust. I figured that underarm armhold point might be sitting a bit high, so I lowered it a quarter of an inch and adjusted the sleeve to match.

It does fit a bit more comfortably but didn’t reduce the wrinkles! Haha. Still a lesson learned though. I luckily only adjusted the paper pattern. The digital version remains. But I am going to flatten off the sleeve head. It does seem to force my shoulder end to sit a little too high and it does measure a couple of mm’s longer than the armhole and because its a stretch knit there is no need for ease, so it will probably help. I do like the power of being able to tweak patterns here and there. It gives me a little buzz of control!

Once again the lazy in me couldn’t be arsed to set up another spool let alone the twin needle for the hems. So I zigzagged as usual. I kind of like the contrast of the zigs in between the black lines.

And I got the neck right this time! No silly amount of stretching. Just enough to fit. And its even more comfortable than the last.

The fabric is once again from Minerva.com. It’s a polyester rib knit in a lovely bright red colour with a narrow black stripe running round. I even made sure to match the stripes at the side. To be fair I wasn’t going to worry about it but the fabric behaved so well, it was harder not to!

This isn’t the end of stretchy tops. I definitely need them right now. And there is still room for improvement, and welcome opportunity for experimenting with different fabrics. Watch this space!