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!

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

Tilly Agnes in French Terry

Tilly and the Buttons Agnes top
Tilly and the Buttons Agnes top

Despite my latest drafting adventures, I’m not about to give up on the tried and tested patterns I know and love. And the Agnes top by Tilly and the Buttons is one such gem.

I made it first in 2016, using a black and ivory stripe cotton jersey and it’s been one of my favourite go-to tops ever since. So much so that I didn’t want to change a single thing about it.

Detail of rouching on the sleeves
Rouching with stripes for max effect!

I just love the silhouette. The statement sleeves take full responsibility for this, of course – such clever drafting and  a simple rouching achieved  by stretching and sewing a short length of 5mm elastic along a guideline inside the upper part of the sleeve. Add to that some gathering on the sleeve cap for extra poof… et voila!

There’s a cheeky bit of rouching down the centre front, too – using the same technique – which is super flattering.

I used a French Terry for this one. A cosy navy, red and white stripe – making it extra French! I scored it at Crafty So and So’s lovely shop in Leicester, which I was so excited to visit the day after I attended their awesome Dressmakers Ball in March this year.

French Terry: One of its sides is flat, while the other side is with cross loops. It can be 100% cotton or be made from a variety of fibres, sometimes with spandex (also known as elastane or lycra). It is often warp knitted, and the term French Terry is colloquially used for all warp knitted Terry – source: Wikipedia

The fabric is a bit weightier than the first one I made, giving those sleeves a bit more structure. However the neckline didn’t work out as well as before. But I think that’s largely due to the neckband being slightly too long and having not stretched quite enough. But it wasn’t a biggie. I nipped in a little dart inside at the centre front and it was sorted in a jiffy. In fact it sharpened the v-line a bit more.

V neck accentuated with a wee dart inside the binding
V neck accentuated with a wee dart inside the binding

I confess I was too lazy to bring out the twin needle and not brave enough to sew completely on the overlocker, despite having the option of 4 threads now. I just stuck to the devil I knew and sewed with a regular zig-zag stitch. And amazingly enough, a regular needle. Very surprised I didn’t need to dig out the ball-point!

I just love how Agnes brings a bit more style to the table than a regular T. And I love to wear it with a pencil or circle skirt. What other kind of skirts are there?

Worn with a classic pencil skirt
Worn with a classic pencil skirt

I’m seriously so happy with it. And so in love with French Terry and will definitely seek out more of the same when I come to make another. Which I will.

So much fun in a Tilly Agnes
When you look up and a passer by is mimicking your serious selfie poses!

DIY Dior-inspired tulle skirt

tulle skirt front

I’ve been inspired to make a tulle skirt for a very long time. I’ve made a few for others – my favourite was an orange one for ‘Amelia Fang’ – but still I wondered long and hard about what kind of tulle skirt would I make for me. And where on earth would I wear it tbh! A lot of what I make might be considered a #sewfrosting entry but I often wear party clothes as office attire so it would never go underworn. So long as I didn’t go for ‘sugar-plumb fairy’ all would be good.

tulle skirt back view

And then one day, whilst browsing the ‘glossies’ in my local hairdressers, I spotted that Dior tulle skirt. I gasped once at the skirt and twice at the price – a whopping great £3,100!

Now I don’t doubt the craftsmanship and experience deployed at House of Dior and I am totally au fait with the arduous task of gathering grief and the time it takes, but still that price point means I’ll just have to make my own. Lifelong story of life!

dior style tulle skirt

It would be unfair to say that Dior was the original designer inspiration. It was more Molly Goddard that initially sold me, with her transparent chiffon baby doll dresses worn over jeans with clompy boots. But still that image prompted the action.

dior style tulle skirt

I love the cheeky transparency of the tulle and the sideways looks it attracts from passing strangers. I do have modesty shorts underneath by the way –  I’m not brave enough to show the world my actual pants! But should the occasion arise for less cheek, I can always rustle up a simple petticoat of black lining.

It’s so much fun to wear. Currently loving it styled as shown with fitted jacket and high-heel Doc Martens but can also see it with a T-shirt and trainers, versus a corset and some sparkly shoes. In your face, repeat-wear shame… I’m even wearing this skirt to Sainsbos!

And it’s perfect for twirling in. Doesn’t take much to release my inner gypsy spirit. I could dance all day!

twirling in tulle skirt

ooobop tulle flamenco pose

I’ve been reining in my fabric buying for a wee while now but with a firm idea of what I was going to immediately make, I could justify a few metres of tulle. I just had to endure a few eye-rolls!

The construction at House of Ooobop was very basic: there are fundamentally two layers of two gathered tiers of tulle. The top layer is a soft pin-dot tulle. It has a bit of stretch cross-wise so I made sure to keep the ‘straight grain’ long! The under layer is a mid-weight tulle – not too stiff, not too soft – so it gives the necessary structure to the floppy tulle on top.

dancing in a tulle skirt

Once gathered, the top edges are attached to a satin waistband with button closure. And the beauty of tulle is that there is no need to hem – thank goodness. I was clean out of black thread at the end of this! But should anyone want a more detailed tutorial, please leave me a comment below and I’ll gladly do a follow up post.

ooobop tulle skirt with London bus

Mr O (aka Daniel James Photographic) took these amazing photos of course. His patience and dedication to the cause unruffled by my whinging about the cold (and the smell of horse poo!) … and that my feet hurt from all the walking we did.

wearing tulle skirt in Trafalgar Square

But the latter is largely due to wearing my new Christmas Docs from my lovely hubby, fresh out the box without wearing-in first. No pain no gain though!

Doctor Martens with tulle skirt

So I’m totally New Year’s Eve ready, and of course I am also appropriately ready for  the much awaited Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition at the V&A museum in February… which is really soon. And I’m so excited! Who’s coming?

ooobop tulle skirt front view

Thank you so much for reading this post, and for all your lovely words of encouragement over the years. I have been a little lapse in the writing dept of late but I’m not stopping blogging any time soon. I’ve got some lovely projects coming up in 2019 already and some I didn’t even get round to posting from this year. So keep tuned and all will be revealed!

Wishing you all an amazing New Year, fuelled with happiness and good health and all things sewing of course! xxx

No more repeat-wear shame

selfdrafted quilted skirt

I made a skirt in 2016. A self-drafted mini skirt, in a black quilted fabric. And I wore it for the umpteenth time to my local today.

I wore it with pride. Because I made it. Because I feel comfortable in it and because I’ve created something that is so versatile, it gets to be office wear as much as an invitation to party.

The same skirt worn with handmade M7542 lace top
The same skirt worn with handmade M7542 lace top

And it occurred to me that I’ve overcome one of the most ridiculous anxiety inducing things without really much effort at all…

The shame of being seen to wear the same thing more than once!

Social media hawks will ditch you for a lack of frock variation in your feed but that aside, and certainly before the world went online I grew up with a wince every time I had to show up wearing something I wore ‘the last time’.

And yes, people have commented. But not always bad though:

‘Oh I love that skirt/dress’.

If only they’d have stopped right there…

‘Isn’t that the one you wore to Sally’s, last week?’

And that would get me thinking about what they were thinking. How I was being judged. And then I’d get all stressed out. So unnecessary!

The same skirt worn with handmade Vogue 2934 jacket
The same skirt worn with handmade Vogue 2934 jacket

Like many families of the time, money was quite short when I was growing up and I simply didn’t have many clothes. And those that I did were almost always mum-made.

That in itself was an issue with my school friends who wanted to know where I got my skirt from. And I used to mumble “my mum made it” hoping it would go unheard. But it never was. It was amplified by an expression of sympathy. And I couldn’t ‘sit with them’ – home made clothes were simply not cool! And the comments came thick and fast. Thank goodness for school uniform – the only clothes you can not be shamed for wearing on a daily basis!

quilted mini skirt

As an art college student, the freedom to wear whatever I wanted – even if it was from a charity shop – was so exciting. But still the look of ‘didn’t you wear that, yesterday?’, from students… and ‘friends’!

And as a studio junior with a plimsoll on the first rung of the career ladder at an advertising agency. The self same thing. Only different words now:

Someone didn’t go home last night!”

Oh the horror! One thing to be shamed for poverty and assumed lack of laundry skills, but another to be tarred with the dirty stop-out brush!

The same skirt worn with handmade BHL Sarah blouse
The same skirt worn with handmade BHL Sarah blouse

And it didn’t stop at day wear. People actually remembered that you wore ‘that same skirt’ to last year’s party. Damn you long-term-memory-people!

So why now am I simply not bothered by those judgy eyes and cutting comments?

Well I kind of feel like I’ve got the upper hand now.

  • I’ve addressed some confidence issues.  Read: got older and wiser and care less about what other people think
  • I have the back up of a new society who thankfully champions sustainability – reminding me to reduce waste by only making what I need – I simply can’t ignore those giant mountains of textile waste – and  laundering only when necessary to sustain the life of the fabric and also the reduce water waste.
  • My clothes are made by me now. I’m proud of the collection I’ve amassed, of the time I’ve dedicated to make them and have absolutely no intention of ditching any garms until they are deemed irreparable or unwearable. So until that day you definitely will see many more days of this skirt. I’m shouting loud and proud at the number of times I’ve worn it (if only I could remember!)

Same skirt worn with handmade vintage wing-collar shirt: Butterick 556
Same skirt worn with handmade vintage wing-collar shirt: Butterick 556

Do you have a favourite item that makes repeat appearances or do you do battle with repeat-wear shame?

Disclaimer: The right to repeat wears does not get upheld at the expense of cleanliness! I draw the line at being remotely stinky and appreciate fully when there is a real need for laundering!