Tilly Agnes top with hacked sleeves

Tilly and the Buttons Agnes sleeve hack

I feel like I haven’t posted anything in yonks though I did publish a write up about my By Hand London Rumana Coat over at Minerva. That’s the deal, see. They send me choice fabric, I whip something up and give them an exclusive write-up in exchange. If you haven’t seen it on my instagram grid @ooobop, do hop over to here at my Minerva profile to have a looksee!

The coat was such a lovely project to work on but if you’ve worked on one before, and if you don’t get much time to sew, you’ll know just how long it takes in short bursts. As soon as I finished it I promised myself that my next project would be a quicker one. A Tilly and the Buttons Agnes top – Just the ticket for a swift sew on a spare Saturday morning.

Tilly Agnes top in crushed black velvet

For clarity I cut it out the night before, but seriously, this top was ready to wear by lunchtime.

It helped that I’ve made three others before: One in a navy/ivory striped cotton jersey, a plain black cotton jersey one and a navy/red/ivory striped one in a gorgeous French Terry. Each time I opted for the ruched neckline and those gorgeous puffy sleeves but this time I thought I’d change things up a bit with a bishop sleeve.

To do this, I took the regular full length template and slashed from the hem of the sleeve to the arc of the sleeve cap. I spread the pieces, traced the result and repeated the process again with the new piece to create the flare.

I was tempted to go larger still but was worried the fabric would be too bulky gathered in at the wrist.

Tilly Agnes sleeve hack detail

The fabric is a gorgeous stretch crushed velvet from Fabrics Galore. I bought it eons ago when we were allowed to go actual fabric shopping. It was definitely earmarked for an Agnes and I’m so pleased to have stuck to plan for a change! My only concern was the extent of stretch compared to the jerseys I’d used before.

I measured the bodice pattern pieces and physically stretched the fabric to guesstimate the result and I’m glad to report that it fits. Albeit very snuggly! There would be no hope if there were any remaining mince pies to be had!

Though it has to be said,  I do like the contrast of the close fitting body against the draping sleeves. Luckily!

To sew this top you begin by stabilising the shoulder seams with some tape or ribbon or suchlike. I skipped this stage with one that I made with disastrous results – the shoulder stretched out like Billy-O! So I made sure to obey that instruction this time.

And then on to that neckband. Oh boy was I in for a ‘treat’ this time.  The object is to stretch the doubled over loop of fabric as you stitch it around the neckline. Well, the crushed velvet, as soft and lovely as it is, definitely wasn’t designed for such treatment. And it curled up like a goodun on the raw edge I wanted to sew. It became a nail-biting 8-stage process of pressing, pinning, unpinning, pressing, basting, pressing, sewing and eventually overlocking which thankfully sliced off the curl and the bulk thus making the topstitching way easier. I decided against the ruching at the neckline to avoid tempting fate!

Tilly Agnes top detail of neckline

From this point on it was seriously plain sailing. The sleeves are set in flat. No ease necessary on the cap. The side seams and underarm seams are sewn in one go. I used the overlocker for this – so satisfying! I hemmed the bottom up with a Zigzag stitch, mostly because I’m too lazy to set up another spool and swap out the needle for a twin one! In. Any case the stitches were going to sink in to the velvet so it didn’t really matter.

And finally I cut some Prym 7mm standard elastic (Aff link) just a bit wider than my wrist and wide enough to go over my knuckles plus bit extra for the overlap. (Its all very calculated round here!) I threaded the elastic through a gap in the sleeve hem that I sewed up and zig zagged the overlapped ends before sewing up the gap.

And then my hacked-sleeve Tilly Agnes was ready to go!

Tilly Agnes sleeve hack

I love that she’ll be a staple in place of any boring long sleeve Tee and can be dressed up or down owing to the slightly more luxurious fabric. Just got to remember to pull those sleeves up if I’ve got soup for tea!

And I’m so glad this was as successful as was envisaged because I have just taken delivery of a new length of equally gorgeous stretch velvet from Minerva in leopard print which I can’t wait to make!

Thanks to Daniel for my impromptu photoshoot. We went for a walk trying to avoid people and ended up down the back of the bus garage… such glamour!

Tilly Agnes top with sleeve hack

And thanks to you my lovely reader,  for taking the time to read my ramblings and for your continuing and valued support. Hope you are also managing to find joy in the small things to keep you happy in these weird times.

More soon
Janene x

Vintage Simplicity 6772 shirtdress revisited

simplicity 6772 vintage shirt dress

There is joy to be had when you revisit a pattern that you know only needs a couple of tweaks. Even more joyous when the pieces have been sat in a basket, all cut out and are ready for a simple sew-together.

I’d almost forgotten about it. Though to be honest, the main reason for it sitting pretty was that I was unsure about the colour. I liked the pale blue, linen-like fabric when I scored it cheap all that time back from a closing-dowm sale in Ealing, but I just didn’t have a plan and so it took up residency in stash mountain for a very long time before it’s destiny was decided.

A little burst of consciousness about the wastefulness of my impulse buying spurred me into action to finish any WIPs before buying any more fabric and so I paired it with vintage Simplicity 6772 – one of my favourite vintage shirt dress patterns.

simplicity 6772 sewing pattern

I used this pattern first in 2015 from suiting fabric – my worky shirtdress – which is perfect for an Autumnal wardrobe and it gets a lot of work-wear. This next version was going to be great for those warmer months.

It sewed up beautifully. I took a smidge out of the ease of the sleeve head; shortened the hemline a little and I just loved the way it shaped up with all those darts. I used to hate sewing them but it really doesn’t bother me now especially when on realising how important they are for a great fit. It comes together pretty quickly, with no lining, and precious little hand sewing except for the hem and attaching the under-collar to the neckline.

simplicity 6772 handmade shirtdress

The only thing that bothered me with this pattern and fabric combo was that it looked a little ‘nursey’! I’m so not used to wearing light colours – my usual palette very much centres around red and black – and it was going to take a bit of getting used to, so I added some black buttons to subtract some of the ‘clinical’!

And I’ve been very happy wearing it until a ‘friend’ jokingly asked why I was dressed like a nurse. The cheek of it! Really struck a nerve and I was not best amused!

So, not to be defeated, I had a little rummage in the trim box and found some lovely ribbon-insert braid – just enough to edge the collar and sleeves.

I’ve just spent a lovely long weekend away in Devon with Mr O (hence the random poses in fields of cows) and this was a great little hand-sewing project to complete in the hotel room when those ominous black clouds did their thing outside.

ribbon-insert trim on collar

And I’m really happy with the results. I think it’s a little less ‘care-worker’ and much more ’50’s diner waitress’ now. But that’s ok. I can live with that!

simplicity 6772 trimmed collar and sleeves

I’ve got more love for it now. Which is a good thing because this dress is so easy to wear and so flattering, IMHO! All thanks to some great pattern drafting and lots of perfectly placed darts.

back view of simplicity 6772

The journey of this dress definitely provoked some thinking about my buying habits. My bad, bad buying habits where I’m swayed by a bargain and the belief that a cheap length of fabric will have an ideal use at some point. Unless it’s of fairly good quality and at the very least within my preferred range of colours, it’s not going to be put to use without compromise. And I don’t want compromise. It won’t feel right and that in itself will not be a fair exchange for all the hours of work invested. And also, I’m so over that ugly box tower of fabrics looming over my bed. Lesson learned… I hope!

Photos by Daniel James Photographic

Curtain call for the Martini!

capital chic martini front

Sadly this is my first and very likely my last post of December. But I’m not going to duff myself up because… it’s Chriiiiiissssstmaaaaasssss!

Just one more day of work to go. I repeat, just one more day day of work. Excited? Me? Yes siree. But also determined to hold that wonderful thought and not to get stressed out that I’ve not yet scratched the surface of my shopping list nor yet contemplated what is to appear on the Christmas dinner table!

But let’s get priorities in order. Let’s blog this latest outfit of mine. This two-piece garment of brilliance that’s been so patiently waiting in my inbox! It’s the Martini pattern by the very cool and talented Sally of Capital Chic. I’ve been a fan of her amazing Charity Shop Chic refashions for like aaaages so when she asked if I’d be interested in trying out one of her new patterns I was flattered beyond belief. It just took me a hundred years to get round to finding the absolute perfect fabric to do it justice!

So just how delighted do you think I was to find this amazing set of vintage bark cloth curtains with ‘Martini’ written all over them!!

vintage bark cloth curtains

They were peeking out behind a rail of really naff shiny peachy curtains in Snoopers Paradise, Brighton. I’d almost given up hope of finding any vintage fabric at all. And as I gave one last despairing glance backwards, there they were, glowing, calling me. I literally ran back like a crazy woman, in case anyone else spotted them before me and whipped them out like my life depended on them. Nostalgia screamed from every thread. I’m pretty damned sure we had these curtains in our living room when I was a kid!

Here’s a little intro to Snoopers Paradise if you haven’t had the pleasure…

I think I might possibly be a professional snooper!

And oh the beautiful irony that this pair of the coolest curtains were to be refashioned into a Capital Chic outfit designed by the queen of charity shop chic, herself!

And so they became my Martini. Why oh why isn’t bark cloth made any more? It sews like a dream, it doesn’t crease, it presses beautifully, it has body and holds its shape, and washes like a dream. I think I am actually in love with this fabric. The colour too, actually. I knew I loved it, lairy as it was, but I’ve had at least three random people comment on how ‘very me’ this lime green is. And there’s me thinking I’m all red and black!!

This is probably my most impressive invisible zip insertion to date. Once again, Thank you for all the advice on my invisible foot purchase. How ever did I manage without it?! The zip totally sinks into the centre seam of the back skirt. And the top has a separating zip. I so love that there’s always something new to learn about sewing. This is the first time I’ve ever had to shop for one of these, let alone sew one on a garment!

capital chic martini close up back

The construction of this two-piece is very simple if you pay attention to every word of the carefully presented instructions. I say this only because I’m definitely one for skipping an instruction or two and thinking I know better. But Sally knows her onions and her technique for sewing an all in one lined bodice is genius, as is her explanation on how to line a vent in the back of a skirt.

The waist is high on the skirt as you can see and is supported by bones sewn to the darts and the seams in the lining (which makes for six). But if I had to add one thing to those instructions, it would be to file those bones more roundy at the top, because boy do they dig in if you don’t sit up straight or lean over without hoiking up your skirt!

Also, The top worked out surprisingly short. Totally my fault for not toilling and so I defo need to add an inch or two next time. I’m no spring chicken and I’m not sure that the world needs to be exposed to any amount of my midriff so I sewed an inch of ‘modesty lace’ to the hem. That said I’m still horrified by the amount of skin that still shows. I’m hoping that this is because the lens was low!

capital chic martini front

I love the cutaway armholes in the top. Even if they do highlight the squidgy bits of my arms. But I will go a size up next time to lessen the squeeze. The beauty of this two-piece design is that you can have a totally separate size top to bottom. Which is what I am. You could also add a contrasting colour top to bottom as Thumbelnina did. and if you were really clever you’d make two or three sets that you could mix and match!

Watch out crazy curtains…. I’m on a mission and I’m coming after ya, big time!

capital chic martini back

A little alteration. No fear!

Acne Studios dress
Acne Studios dress

I normally steer well clear of other people’s alterations. Mostly through fear of screwing up and from past experience, lack of self-belief has led to an incredibly frustrating and stressful process. I’d sooner stick with making from scratch to fit from the off.

But I got brave last week. I succumbed to the pleading eyes of my friend who’d bought a posh dress (see above) that didn’t fit properly and she needed it urgently for a do! Classic baggy armhole syndrome! It fitted like a glove elsewhere, helped by the cut and the give of the lovely viscose crepe but in turn, that’s what highlighted the poor fit around the armscyes.

I don’t have a before or after picture of my friend wearing the dress I’m afraid, so you will have to bear with and picture the problem.

I went in with an open mind, ready to admit defeat if I thought I couldn’t fix it, but instantly set about pinning the excess to see what would happen. About 3/4 inch under the arms and 1 cm off the right shoulder – interestingly enough – et voilà!

We’re still not sure if the dress was made on the wonk or if my friend actually has one sloping shoulder. She used to be a personal shopper and regularly carried bags on her shoulder so it is a distinct possibility I guess!

The armholes and neckline were faced and the dress fully lined so I had to unpick the dress from the facing and pull the internal side seams through the hole to mark the adjustment before sewing. For RTW I was dead impressed at finding a French seam inside the lining! Though that flummoxed me a bit in terms of how I would sew it! I just sewed it anyhows and pressed the seam to the same side it sat originally. I took in the same amount from the facing. That had an open seam so it pressed nice and flat once I’d unpicked the original line of stitching. To finish, I pinched the edges together and did a tiny ladder stitch to ensure no stitches were visible.

underarm alteration
Left: inside of underarm alteration. You can see where I left excess in the lining. Right: Crepe hides a multitude of sins. In this case you can barely see where I pressed the new seam to the back despite it being 3/4 inch wider at the armhole edge.

The shoulder seam was completed in much the same way apart from an added opening I made in the shoulder seam lining to make the stitching easier. Everything was ladder-stitched up good and proper afterwards.

shoulder seam
Inside shoulder seam

I also took 1 1/4 inch off the bottom. I marked and cut 3/4inch off, then made a small 1/4 inch double hem.

quarter inch hem
Quarter inch double-hem

The only thing I’m jolly glad I didn’t do before I tackled this little project was to Google it. I hadn’t heard of Acne Studios but having been suitably impressed with the quality of this dress, I went off to investigate further. Their range is mostly not my cup of tea but there are some very stylish numbers going on… and some very hefty price tags to boot. The dress was nearly £500! And I know that she was stung for £60 duty too. So what if I’d messed up?!  What if the iron had been too hot? What if I’d missed a stitch and made a hole with seam ripper? What if I’d snagged the fabric? Doesn’t bear thinking about!

Any hows. Its done. No screw ups. One very happy friend off to a very posh do. And a few more added strings to bow… phew!

Have you overcome any sewing fears recently?

Virgin wool win!

front of basler skirt

I visit charity shops on a regular basis, almost always blinkered, and head directly to the fabric section and back. But a couple of weeks ago I was drawn magnetically to the back rail and to this wonderful tartan skirt.

tartan pleated skirt
The lady who served me knows me all too well and said she just knew it had my name on it!
The label read ‘Basler Collection’, which I hadn’t heard of but I was assured it was sign of good quality.
Back at base and on further inspection, that was verified…

Basler label generous seam allowance
The seam allowance is very generous for RTW. Even on the lining seams.

French tacks held the facing in place.

The pattern matching is faultless, across all pleats and seams.

And an internal button and loop adds that extra safeguard to zip-ups and unintentional zip-downs. Fine quality zip too!

internal button loop

The hem is blind stitched by hand. Though I can’t guarantee this was an original feature.

I only say that because the detective in me has spied that the previous owner had made adjustments to make it smaller… by making two fat darts at the back of the skirt. Inclusive of the lining. Very lazy and detrimental to the positioning of the side seams but I suppose that’s the sewing-snob coming out in my know-it-all self!

fat darts

All the above aside, this lovely skirt was way too big for me and way too granny-long. And so my mission which I chose to take to the table, was to fix it and properly. I put my £7.99 where my mouth was and turned this beaut into something that should have already have been in my wardrobe.

Yes I know I could have made one from scratch. It’s not that tricky. But not for anywhere that price tag. The label says 100% virgin wool. Virgin, I tell ya! I even had to Ask Jeeves what that was! Transpires that stuff can sell between £20 and £80 per meter!!

And so I was already quids in. And so I decided it was worth the work.

First to unpick those fat back darts.

Initially, I was going to pin the excess at the waistline whilst wearing the skirt. But have you ever tried to do that without stabbing yourself or at least getting both sides even.

Common sense prevailed thank goodness and I opted to measure my waist, measure the waist of the skirt and deduct the first measurement from the second…. doh!

Once I determined how much I needed to lose (6 inches in total!), I divided by 4. I needed to mark 1.5 inches down each side from the top of the waist band and gradually blend in with the side seam where it felt natural. I was quite keen to keep the width of the pleats and to create a more A-line silhouette at the same time

I needed to separate the facing from the skirt and also the lining from the facing. More detail was revealed in a 1cm fusible stay tape at the top, sandwiched between the main fabric and the facing.

inside facing
Inside, between facing and main fabric – small seam to unpick
right side facing unpicked
Right side facing: Top edge of waistband unpicked.
side seams chalked
New side seams marked with chalk along a French Curve
excess cut away
New seam sewn and excess fabric cut away

Once I’d stitched and pressed the seams open I tried it on for fit.
All was good so I evened up the seam allowance and overlocked. I left a generous SA as before as there’s every possibility I’ll need an increase after Christmas. This skirt is definitely in for the long haul, baby!

I didn’t reduce the width of the lining. Merely pleated the excess to one side. Never a worry to have the lining bigger than the skirt.

Lastly, I just needed to shorten it. Luckily this skirt was cut perfectly so all I need to do is follow the horizontal line of tartan to cut.

I overlocked the edge, pressed well and hand stitched with invisible stitches

New Hem
New hem

Ta darrrrr!!

Me in my new perfectly fitted Basler tartan skirt!
I wish I’d have taken a before picture now. There is such a difference. The shaping has made a much better silhouette and the shortening of the length has made if much more modern!

Not quite as exciting as a brand new make. But I’m so glad to have gained a great quality skirt at a fraction of its worth and to have given it a second life… and of course the feel good factor of having donated to a good cause in the meantime. Win, win, win!

back of basler skirt

And throughout the whole sewing process some totally fond ‘virgin’ memories sprang to mind …