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!

Vogue robe in a luxurious Liberty silk – my wfh wardrobe is looking better already!

I generally don’t have a go-to order for dressmaking. My thought processes vary according to mood, need and weather. Sometimes choosing pattern first and then pairing an appropriate fabric, sometimes the other way round, especially if I’m fabric shopping in real shops and then an idea will spring to mind while I’m stroking and bouncing and draping and holding all the materials aloft. The latter is a dangerous game though, and hasn’t helped stash mountain at all!

But when Minerva approached me with some Liberty silk offerings I was quick to choose which fabric but wasn’t so quick to pair a pattern. What a gift! But wow… what a blooming responsibility! What pattern would best showcase this heavenly fabric?

I needed a project with damage limitations. It had already arrived at a super work-busy point in time and there was only room for assignment within small allocated time-slots throughout the weeks.

Mood and need and weather came to the fore. I was so tired of shuffling round the house in my tatty old dressing gown. Sometimes I don’t even bother getting out of it to work – there’s actually no need when I’m working from home and nobody is going to see me. But a silk robe would have me sitting more upright, feeling so much better about myself, plus it’s getting warmer so I really don’t need to be enveloped in velour anymore. I had a need to swan around in silk! And a robe would be simple, right?!

In an ideal world I’d have drafted the pattern myself. I’m getting quite fond of the maths. But with time not on my side that wasn’t going to be a great option because it would need toiling, too. So a quick scout on the web presented me with V8888. A delightful selection of nightwear to accompany a very stylish robe. I ordered it from Minerva.

I also ordered a very large cutting mat and a new blade for my Fiskars rotary cutter. I’ve worked with silk satin only once before and it was a slippery beast. My scissors slid around the dining room table and I was cursing at every snip. But weighted down and cut slowly and carefully with said cutter, this time I had no problems at all. I was amazed at how little it frayed, especially with all the extra handling involved. Most of the seams except for the armholes are sewn with a French seam. And because I only had one shot of this, I checked and double-checked and triple-checked each side and pairing of seams before sewing. It was totally worth it of course because the inside is so neat and the robe so much stronger as a result.

I chose the longer sleeves for the shorter version of the robe. Because I like that look and it’s way more classy. The shorter sleeves involved a band of lace at the hem and that would have been far too fussy for the design of this fabric. I wanted to keep it as simple as possible.

But I had not anticipated all the rouleau loops. Haha. There was me, thinking simple robe tied at the waist with a belt. The belt was actually such a joy to make and press. So satisfying. But the loops I left for another day. And another day. Until I didn’t really have many days left to submit the finished article!

So I cracked on. And fell at the first hurdle. My smallest loop turner was too fat. The smallest drinking straw I had in the kitchen drawer (for the drinking straw/kebab stick trick) was too fat as well. So I remembered a trick my mum taught me, by tying the long threads left at the end of the seam to the end of a bodkin, or large-eye needle, and pulling through, eye of needle first. So satisfying that I was weirdly excited to do the rest and even made a little graphic tutorial for my sister in law!

There are two inside ties – one front left and the other inside right side seam. There are two belt loops inset on each side seam and there is a thread loop at the right front opening. I’m thinking of doing a tutorial for that too as it was quite fun to do.

I am so grateful to Minerva for the opportunity to sew with this fabric because it has definitely delivered some more valuable experience as well as a super luxurious wfh outfit! I must admit I was terrified of cutting into it at first but once I got going, any fear was allayed, largely due to the quality of those threads. It’s so stable, on grain and not at all like the silk I previously sewed that was fragile enough to catch on the rough skin of my hands! Liberty silk is most definitely worth its price point.

And just to note, it does make me sit straighter, it feels amazing to wear and it has got me out of doing the washing up!

Daniel is of course the man behind the lens and this was such a fun shoot. The look on my daughter’s face was priceless when she poked her head around the bedroom door to see what we were up to. Even more so when Dan said ‘Its not what it looks like’!! Haha. We are so doing our best at being embarrassing parents!

Please note: I am an Ambassador for Minerva and the fabric was given to me free of charge in exchange for a review. I purchased the pattern and all notions required. To see the original article and more of my Minerva Makes. Please visit my Minerva profile.

Self drafted Turtleneck knit top

black rib knit top worn with plaid shorts

The last thing I made was this turtleneck rib knit top. Most probably up there with some of the most boring things I’ve made, but actually a top that ticks a lot of boxes.

I self drafted it for one and learned something new in the process. I’ve self drafted a fair few patterns for woven fabric to date, like this Liberty Lawn summer dress, a few shift dresses like this batik one, and more recently my handkerchief hem dress  to name a few. But I’ve never thought to self draft a knit pattern. Why would I? Its akin to reinventing the wheel as there’s so many great basic knit patterns out there. But I do love a challenge. And also have another agenda in the shape of some very special stretch fabric that is still waiting to be made into a well fitting dress so if I master a moulage in knit then I’ll be one step closer to designing a knit dress, right?

Black ribbed knit top flatlay

The process was actually very simple. In a nutshell removing the darts and any ease to create a close fitting shell that stretches around the curves of the body. I used my self-drafted woven moulage as a starting point and made the adjustments from there. I found a great lesson on Craftsy, by Suzy Furer and also referred to my favourite sewing book: Patternmaking for Fashion Design by Joseph Armstrong.

knit sloper pattern pieces

I tested it first on some nasty nylon fabric. To be fair I don’t know what the fibre content is but I’m certain there’s not an ounce of natural anything in it! Looks kinda cool with its graffiti design though. But I messed up royally on the turtle neck itself. Such a stoopid mistake. I made it 10% smaller than the neck opening which was fine. Sewed it in a circle to check it would go over my head which was fine too. Then stretched it as I sewed in place, much as I would sew a binding on a scooped neckline. Realising I had excess (as a result of over stretching) I cut off about an inch and a half, maybe even 2 inches more to make it fit. And that was where I went so wrong. I can just about get it over my head but its akin to being slowly strangled if I’m wearing it for more than half an hour!

toile of knit top in a synthetic graffiti print fabric

Everything else was just fine, though. Just made a massive note to self to not mess with the collar piece!

I especially loved that it was all sewn on the overlocker save for the hemming, so was super quick to whip up. One very important thing gleaned from sewing knit tops before is to stabilise the shoulder seam to stop it stretching out. I used some Prym iron on stay tape (aff. link) for the first time and it was so easy to apply in a straight line. Its been subject to a few 40 degree washes since and it’s still totally intact. Definitely no going back to sew-in tape now.

So then I made the black one with ribbed knit I bought in the Minerva sale for a snip! And I love it. Its so versatile – goes with all my skirts and shorts and also is a great under-layer for some of my self-drafted dresses, on a chillier days. Topped with a cardi for an extra layer its a definite win win win!

It’s just so classic, with a nod to retro too and has already had soooo much wear that it will probably wind up being the most sustainable item of clothing in my wardrobe for that reason alone.

I’d love a couple more of these. A leopard print one for sure and perhaps a red one … predictable much! But first I have to make something a bit more exciting. And I’ll tell you all about that real soon.

In the meantime, here’s to boring practical clothes that go with absolutely everything and for a quick sew fix too!

Are you sewing much over lock down? I’m struggling to get as much sew time due to work pressures – everything is taking so much longer so I feel like I’ve lost so many hours in my day. But all things considered, it could certainly be much worse!

Wishing you all well in any case.

Janene x

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

Retro Butterick 5880 in red leopard print

B5880 dress

Big thanks to Marie @stitchoddyssey and Kerry @kestrelmakes for their great insta challenge, #sewvintageseptember, without which this dress would still be in tissue form, in its little envelope, nestled with the other hopefuls! The challenge encouraged us to sew up our neglected vintage patterns, something I’ve been meaning to do for such a long time. Plus it presented so many inspiring posts as everyone uploaded their gorgeous creations. I’m late to the finishing post but I’m so jolly glad I got there!

B5880 on the Serpentine bridge

I used to sew so many more vintage dresses than I do of late. When I first began sewing I inherited (read stole) a few from my mum’s collection – just basic skirts and tops. And then my love for them grew so much that years later I found myself bidding silly money for 40s and 50s patterns online. I loved the cover art, the pre-cut pieces, the prompts to hand finish and the unfailing elegance of the times.  I learned how to style the finished garment without conforming to an entire vintage look (totally ignoring the wails of the purists!) and made them my own. I’ve included links to some of my faves at the end of this post.

B5880 retro Butterick dress

So what happened? Why don’t I sew vintage so much any more? Well basically, I discovered indie patterns. And later learned to draft patterns myself. And those vintage pattern boxes have since remained closed owing to the rip-off number of hours in a day! That said, I have left a couple of patterns, loose on the top of the pattern box tower, just in case I get a miracle few hours spare to schedule them in!

The pattern I used for this dress is Butterick 5880. A retro reproduction from 1951. I love the sarong-style side drape and the neckline with its little fang-like indents!

Retro Butterick 5880 pattern envelope

It screamed leopard-print at me from the off. But I can never find the perfect scale print in a perfect colour way, let alone the actual perfect fabric weight.

I asked in pretty much all the stores along the Goldhawk Road with not an ounce of success. A block colour probs would have worked fine and that was my next plan and was just deciding on red or black (of course) until I spotted this red, black and grey print in Classic Textiles. It was definitely an Hallellujah moment!

B5880 dress modelled on the Serpentine bridge

So my vision of Rockabilly chic was restored and off I skipped with some cheaper poly for the toile – I always try to mock up in as close a fabric as poss to get best fit – and some anti-static fabric from the little shop next to A-One (never can remember it’s name but the owner is always so friendly and kind). I paid £6.50 a metre for the lining. Pretty much the same as the main fabric because I didn’t want cling or spiky static stuff going on. It ironed like a dream and feels so silky to the touch – red of course!

I only mocked up the bodice. Knowing exactly what the issue was going to be – pooling at the back! The back piece is cut on the fold so to get round this I traced and cut the piece in two, adding seam allowance and taking 2 inches of ease out but cutting and slashing on a line drawn from a third of the way up from the bottom of the armhole, across to the centre back.

B5880 back view

I sewed out a dart on the mock up to check it worked before cutting out my main pieces.

And here is where the fun started. That wrap piece is huge and because I wanted to keep the entire length of the skirt (I know right… where has Janene gone!) I had no chance of cutting out on my tiny kitchen table. I remember thinking laminate flooring would be a great idea in the living room so I could cut larger pieces. And it is mostly. But wiggling crepe and shiny scissors meant I was crawling around on the floor for aeons! Getting up and straightening up afterwards was an insight into being a hundred years old!

Back view of skirt and heels

And just as I’d finished I had to cut the lining, too. All the moaning and groaning that day – you’d never have guessed it was my favourite thing to do!

The bodice came together pretty swiftly. I’m always a bit scared to clip so close to the point of a ‘V’. And you can see a smidge of the lining as a result. But I’d rather that, knowing its stronger as there will be some stress on those points at times. But kudos to the Vilene G710 Light Woven Iron On Fusible Interfacing I got from Minerva Crafts. It was such good quality and it was definitely key for providing just enough structure so that neckline doesn’t roll out.

B5880 retro butterick dress neckline

I pinked the seam edges and the lining edges. Mostly so there would be no additional bulk on pressing. But also because it’s fun!

The main skirt pieces are dead simple to assemble too though I did overlock those seams. The bodice seams are enclosed and it felt safe to pink but when this dress ultimately gets tossed around with a wash load of other stuff, I worried the skirt seams would be more vulnerable and susceptible to fraying. And I didn’t want that after all the effort invested.

Now let’s talk wrap! All I can say is that I’m jolly grateful for that QR code bottom left of the pattern cover, that links to a very good tutorial by Professor Pincushion. I read the instructions included with the pattern about 50 times over and still couldn’t work it out. But the video was instrumental in working out those pleats.

B5880 retro butterick dress shot in a tunnel

I had assumed the wrap was a singular piece. And it would probably work just as well assuming ones fabric is double sided. But I like how much neater it’s finished by being faced. It adds a fair bit of weight though, and there’s quite a bit of stress where that pleated section joins the waist seam so will have to keep an eye on that. The full lining adds even more weight to this dress but its not a bad thing. It slides on with ease, helps the dress to hang better, prevents any show through and feels so special to wear.

B5880 dress and London telephone box

Following the marathon hand finishing session (shoulder seams of lining, joining bodice lining at waist, hemming, French tacks) I almost forgot about the belt! That was pretty simple to whip up though. It’s basically an interfaced tube, sewn, trimmed and turned. Though the turning was not fun at all! Once pressed, the flat end is folded over the central bar of the buckle and hand stitched down. Luckily I had a small collection of vintage buckles to choose from – the asymmetric red one was a clear winner.

Although this is clearly a 50s dress design, it could so easily pass as 80s and be dressed down with Doc Martens and a denim jacket but for the purposes of our shoot on Sunday, I felt the need for glam – heels, care of Shelter Charity shop, Long velvet gloves from British Heart Foundation charity shop and Sunglasses, a lucky find in Cancer Research charity shop. Stockings bought from What Katie Did.

Adjusting stockings on a bench by the Serpentine, London

And yes, actual stockings! I’m so out of practice and really nervous of them pinging loose and ending up round my ankles. But they felt so good to wear with a dress of an ‘appropriate’ length and added to the feel good factor.

The weather wasn’t the least bit inspiring at the weekend but Dan was so keen to shoot with his new camera insisting that there’s no such thing as bad weather as far as photography is concerned. He’s mostly right of course, especially looking back at these photos, and I’m so pleased his eagerness helped me to meet the challenge deadline, but I might argue that wind is the exception to his rule!

 Windy day and wild hair

Some of my other favourite vintage makes:

Photography by Daniel Selway

Testing the Tamzin dress

BHL tamzin dress by ooobop

It’s been a while since I’ve taken on any pattern testing. I’ve been trying to claw back time so I can focus on a whole host of things that I want to work on and develop and I managed to resist the urge until By Hand London contacted me to test the tremendous Tamzin dress. How could I possibly refuse?

It’s so floaty, so folksy yet so cool and classy all at the same time.

And if you hadn’t noticed already there’s some beautiful bonus details which bring the added charm.

A square neckline is always a favourite of mine. I love the clean lines and that it shows just enough skin to keep it classy. The external front and back neckline facing is such a neat finish. I’m sure it helped that I used quite a lightweight fabric to get that topstitching nice and consistent but the proof will be in the pudding when I get my hands on some lovely linen for the next version. I just can’t resist the urge to embellish that facing much like Elisalex did.

BHL Tamzin dress made by ooobop

Incidentally the fabric I used for this was won over a year ago, in the #brightsewing challenge hosted by @thepinkcoatclub and @theunfinishedseamstress. (I had entered my Yellow shiny appliquéd number!) Part of my prize was a voucher which went towards this amazing Atelier Brunette diamond viscose fabric from SisterMintaka. It is such a beautifully soft and draping fabric that I was almost too scared to use it. I wanted it to be for something special and, well now you see it!

I didn’t quite have enough for the full length of skirt – its quite hungry on the yardage due to those pin tucks and the sleeves pieces are huuuge! – but to be fair, I had already decided on a shorter version so there wasn’t any heartache involved. Except I sewed the pin tucks too small!

And let’s just take a moment to ogle at the pin tucks on the sleeves. Aren’t they simply divine?!

By Hand London Tamzin Dress sleeve detail

Before I read the instructions I had anticipated a right royal pain in the arse time of getting them even, especially with drifting draping fabric but there is a nifty technique included to make life so much easier and perfectly sized and spaced pint tucks to boot!

Now you may think I’m being lazy here but another selling point of this pattern is that there are no closures on this dress other than the delightful back ties. I don’t hate sewing zips as much as I used to but the joy in not having to sew one at all is immense!

BHL Tamzin dress handmade my ooobop

I chose the variation with the ties that start from the side front and wrap around the back. There is another version of the tie that starts from the back. But I wanted all that ribbon detail and for it to cinch me in at the waist.

I think you can probably tell already how happy I am with the result.

BHL Tamzin dress made by ooobop

The instructions were super clear, and it was a joy to sew. Not complicated at all but I must add that it’s not the quickest dress to whip up – those added details come at a price of a couple of hours more but it’s totally worth it.

Are you sold? Or have you made one already? I’d love to know what you think either way.

Handkerchief hem dress

ooobop design hankerchief hem dress

Lockdown forced me to buy fabric online. Not my favourite thing to do but needs must when Covid pulls the rug!

I headed straight to Minerva – amazing selection; easy to navigate website and very competitive prices. I’m also a fan of the accompanying videos that showcase the fabric in action so you can get a fair impression of the weight and drape.

I was on a roll with the Shelby rompers, having made a starry one, a tropical one and an upcycled one in relatively quick succession, and my plan was to make a plain one that was a bit more casual and downplayed for those days when you want to be slightly less visible. Read: any excuse to go back to black!

I’m a sucker for black. But even moreso for a black fabric with a texture. And linen is a firm favourite. So I figured this crinkle cotton striped linen gauze would tick all the boxes. Black was sold out unsurprisingly, so I went for charcoal which actually champions those slubs with way more contrast.

But when it arrived I was a bit miffed. It wasn’t at all as I’d imagined. It was a bit scratchy, a bit wonky with it’s loose weave and worst of all, following a prewash it contracted to half the width! That lovely slubby texture totally worked against me, didn’t behave at all like regular linen and was almost elastic! – I was dead scared to make it into a romper. What if one leg ended up longer than the other, lol!

ooobop hankerchief hem dress
Channeling Blondie and Parallel Lines!

Despite the disappointment I rejoiced in the realisation that I’ve come far enough into my dressmaking journey to know when a fabric isn’t going to cut it. And the tantrums are few and far between now, because I’m quicker at finding solutions. Also the fabric completely softened after a prewash and I was more determined than ever to let this fabric do the talking.

So I went off piste. Not accidentally I’m sure because I’ve always got a catalogue of crazy designs in my head and sometimes they make it to a page in my Fashionary book so they’ve got a better chance of being realised. A summer linen dress incorporating a fitted sleeveless bodice, with a v-necklline and a handkerchief skirt would be it’s destiny.

ooobop hankerchief hem dress

I reached for my bodice sloper, added a v-neckline and narrowed the shoulders. I also swung the darts to fashion a double French dart for no good reason other than I’ve never done it before. And I really like the result!

The vertical stripes of this linen lend themselves perfectly to the bodice but I decided to switch the stripes horizontally for the skirt section because I much prefer how horizontal lines fall at the sides. There was precious little worry how it would all hang for cutting it on the cross because I was playing to it’s wonky nature in any case. And it turned out good. In fact more than good. I love it!!

ooobop design hankerchief hem skirt detail

I have to cite a few influences here: Liz from this year’s GBSB for sticking to her alternative fashion style. I realised I was drifting away from mine and she’s unknowingly reeled me right back in! My bestie Laura Bird who loves an All Saints asymmetric number, always sporting an ‘interesting’ dress and Burda Style for first introducing me to a hanky hem!  I made my first maxi dress here and a second silver one here  and they are still my favourites though this is my first short dress with a handkerchief hem.

So how did I cut the skirt?

I decided on the length of the skirt (the depth) and factored in seam allowance and hem.

I made the width of the skirt to the following calculation:

Front piece (cut 1) = half waist measurement + (2x length of skirt) + 8inches for 2 box pleats + (2x hem allowance)

Back piece (cut 2) = quarter waist measurement + (1x length of skirt) + 4inches for 1 box pleat + seam allowance + hem allowance

I marked the centre of the front piece and 4 inches either side to tack the box pleats. I overlocked the bottom of the bodice piece and the top of the skirt pieces before pinning and sewing in place. I sewed up to the side seam on each piece and then sewed the seam allowance of the extra fabric along the top edge. After the centre back edges were overlocked, I inserted an invisible zip and enclosed the top part of the zip with the facing.

Finally I hemmed all four edges of the skirt and mitred the corners. And oh what a neat little finish that is!

ooobop hankerchief hem dress

I know it’s not the most groundbreaking dress. But I made it to my own order and an image in my head and it really feels good. The fabric feels good against my skin in this heat and I love how carefree it is.

I finished up sewing it yesterday morning in good time for Dan to have a practice with his new camera. (Clever, hey?!) And I’m delighted with the results. Thank you oh clever talented husband of mine!

ooobop hankerchief hem dress

Also…new shoes!!  Buffalo hologram numbers that literally turn rainbow in the sunshine. And yes I know I’m probably channelling 90s Spice Girl. And no… I’m not about to grow up anytime fast!