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

Vintage Laura Ashley Romper

Shelby Romper Suit by ooobop against a white wall

Last weekend was a Godsend. Seriously. As a sewist, who wouldn’t relish permission to sew your undivided heart out for two full days whilst tuned in to all manor of inspirational videos and chat from the best kind of community ever. I’m talking the #SewingWeekender hosted by The Foldline and English Girl at Home, obviously. The event that sparked so much joy and raised so much money for such great causes.

And hey, I made a new outfit in the process, too!

ooobop shelby romper against white wall

I’m not sure if I can ever stop making True Bias Shelby Rompers now. This is my third and still I’m not done!

This wasn’t the intended fabric though. I had factored in some crinkle cotton linen gauze, but following a prewash, it crinkled to half the size and became all elastic and everything. I set about ironing but got bored after the first 20cms and swapped it up for a really old pair of curtains instead. As you would!

Ordinarily I have a reputation for exaggeration, but in this case I’m not joshing. I bought these Laura Ashley curtains in a charity shop many moons ago. Quite excited by the vintage factor. Had to look up those roman numerals though . . .

MCMLXXVIII

MCMLXXVIII = 1978 for the less Roman among us!

I bought them when I was dead broke. And still argued the West London inflated charity shop price! They served my previous two addresses as actual curtains and have sat wantingly in stash mountain for the last 10 years. So I think you might relate to my happiness at using them to make my third True Bias Shelby Romper suit.

ooobop shelby romper walking

I get it now. Using the same pattern over and over. If it ain’t broke and all that. Such an easy gig when it works straight out of the packet. I made my first ‘trial’ one in a very lightweight (quite see through) star-print viscose. And I love it still. The second, more improved version realised in a tropical print viscose and it’s so interesting to see the difference when it sews up in a fabric with a bit more structure. The silhouette is accentuated even more and feels good against the skin being 100% cotton and all. Feels even better knowing how many lives it’s lived and yet 42 years on its still many more years away from a landfill!

That said, there was a little issue with the tiny back straps. They didn’t turn as easily in curtain fabric. It’s a bit of a toughie compared to viscose. So following a wee tantrum, I re-cut the pieces on the bias – remembering a video tutorial I’d watched about cutting rouleau loops on the bias – and it bloody worked a treat. Thank goodness I had enough fabric left!

ooobop bias straps for shelby romper suit

This isn’t the end of this particular project. I’ve got plans. Mostly to mess things up! You know what I’m like with my colour palette – there’s not a scrap of black going on, save for the buttons. So I’m going to add some paint. Just a bit. And not quite sure where and what. But watch this space!

Thank you Daniel once again, for my lovely photos. Especially when the clouds dictated we should never have strayed further than the garden gate, let alone to the riverside. But I’m jolly glad we did.

ooobop shelby romper hammersmith riverside

 

Shift in the right direction!

ooobop self-drafted shift dress

I’m so happy right now. Doesn’t take much – just a shed load of sunshine, some quality time with the fam and success at last with the fit of my shift dress.

In case you’ve missed any part of me whittling on about this process, my mission has been to achieve the best fit I can using my own dress pattern with minimal seam lines – ie a darted dress with both front and back pieces cut on the fold – so as not to disturb the print of a very boldly designed fabric that I have in mind to sew next!

self-drafted shift dress in a vintage batik fabric

The fabric I used here was the best test so far because it too required careful pattern placement. You can see the first version I made here and I just realised I didn’t even get round to blogging the second so here is an actual shot, instead!

Self-drafted dogtooth shift dress

I was gifted the gorgeous batik fabric a few years back, by a lovely friend who had inherited it from her parents. When she saw it featured in my instagram post she was so happy to see it again and so pleased that it was being put to good use. I kinda felt duty bound as I remember her telling me that her parents used to travel for to Thailand and Indonesia  quite a lot in the 60s and 70s for work and that they always returned with gorgeous authentic fabrics. Proper sentimental value and vintage, too!

ooobop self-drafted batik shift dress

This piece in particular is undoubtedly a hand-blocked batik. Though this is based purely on my own research and I could be wrong so please correct me if you think different.

It wasn’t very wide but I knew it would be perfect for the third trial of my shift dress, knowing I was very nearly there with the fit. I wouldn’t have risked it otherwise!

It’s such a fine quality cotton. Actually feels so natural against my skin, which is an odd thing to say but I have worn cotton before that doesn’t feel nearly as good. And it completely stood up to a stroll in 24° of Shepherds Bush sunshine today.

ooobop self-drafted batik shift dress

I was intrigued by the selvedge of this fabric. Why would it have just one edge of border decoration? I put out to the wonderful, ever obliging sewing community on Instagram and the very clever Meg from @cookinandcraftin suggested it was very likely to be used for a hemline and a centre front detail for a sarong when wrapped. I loved knowing this and was determined not to waste this detail so I set about cutting my pieces on the cross grain in order to make the best use of the design.

ooobop_self-drafted shift dress in batik

But I hit a snag and realised just in time that the cross grain had absolutely no give at all, and considering the style and fit, it could have been a disastrous move. So I cut on the long grain, as I have trialled twice before (if it ain’t broke and all that) and cut the border separately to seam along the hemline with a generous seam allowance which is overlocked and pressed down on the wrong side. It actually helps to add a bit of weight to the bottom of the dress too.

ooobop shift dress and shades

I made a few other tweaks to the pattern since version 2:

  1. I widened the shoulder straps by 1cm having struggled to pull the dress through the facing during construction, as per the ‘burrito-method’! The fabric I am going to use for the next one is much thicker and I don’t want to risk damaging it or pulling out any stitches in the process.
  2. There was still an element of pooling at the back (swayback issues as usual). And even though I added a quarter of an inch more at the hips since last time – with some improvement – it didn’t seem to solve the issue as much as I’d like.
  3. Then, just this morning, I saw that Cortney from @s.is.for.sew on Insta detailed how she lengthened her back darts to resolve a similar issue. So I moved the bottom point of the diamond dart down 2.25″ and continued the widest part down longer before tapering off. It worked a bloody treat!

ooobop self-drafted batik shift dress

ooobop batik shift dress

And so I do believe I’m ready to cut into that prize D&G fabric that I got from The Stitch Festival 2020 – only dilemma now being, how the hell do I choose my favourite placement of the design? I anticipate this being the longest part of the process!

Dolce and Gabbana fabric at M Rosenberg's stall
Dolce and Gabbana fabric at M Rosenberg’s stall

Thank you as always to Daniel for these amazing shots down the alley of the Laundry Yard in Shepherds Bush, London. For anyone who knows, you’ll know what a brave move this was!

Self-drafted Batik shift dress by ooobop

Ooobop original 70s style dress

ooobop original 70s style dress
ooobop original 70s style dress

The thing I love most about sewing is the eternal learning curve. I will always be on a joyful journey of discovery because there is no chance I will ever learn it all in my lifetime but with every little milestone I reach I get a little buzz of excitement which propels me to the next level and this little dress is prime example of my progress.

It might not be the most ground-breaking, couture class garment you’ve ever seen but its mine, all mine – an ooobop original

I dreamt it, I drew it, I drafted it, I sewed it.

sketches of the dress
Love drawing the possibilites in my Fashionary sketchbook

For sure, I’ve sewed and drafted for other people but never as successfully for myself. I’ve been bouncing between lessons on Craftsy’s Blueprint and instructions from various pattern-making books but it transpires the reason it took me longer to fit myself was my own dishonesty. Denial of my actual measurements. Reluctance to accept the differing pattern shapes to the examples given. Even cheating my measurements knowing it would look better if I nipped in certain stats. Desperate. IKR!

wearing ooobop original 70s style dress
Striking a pose in Notting Hill

And it just goes to show that you can’t cheat at maths. On the fourth attempt at a moulage (a close fitting blue print from which one adds ease to create a master sloper ) it bloody worked! I was so happy . Literally danced around the room in nowt but a pair of pants and the moulage for a good half hour. And then it dawned on me all the possibilities.

Classic pose with a classic car
Classic pose with a classic car

But first I had to add ease to create the sloper. Another milestone reached as I’m getting much quicker and more efficient at drafting in Adobe Illustrator. Luckily I use this programme for my job as a graphic designer and can justify the substantial Adobe Creative Suite subscription. But it makes it all the more satisfying that I am getting untold extra benefits from its use. My space is so limited at home and the prospect of getting out and putting away all the giant drafting materials is exhausting in itself, before I’ve even put pencil to paper. Drawing patterns using my laptop and being able to store them digitally thereafter is literally life changing, for me!

Sloper created using Adobe Illustrator
Sloper created using Adobe Illustrator

Once I’d drafted the sloper, the only other piece left to draft was the turtle-neck collar. That was a case of simply measuring the neckline and cutting a bias rectangle piece to that length and 6″ wide. It was sewn like a bias binding around the neckline. I left the back edges open to insert a zipper to the top of the neckline then folded the facing part of the collar to the inside and finished by hand.

Striking a different pose with the classic car. Loving the silhouette
I do love the simple silhouette of this dress

I had originally planned an extravagant bishop-style sleeve but I didn’t think I’d have enough fabric for such indulgence, so I settled on a slightly flared sleeve instead – slashing and spreading my sleeve sloper from wrist to sleeve cap.

And while on the subject of fabric, let me tell you how I came by such a perfectly suited piece. Every now and then I venture out on a little sewing people meet-up. One of my favourites is  organised the London Stitchers Meet Up.  The last one I attended was held at The Blue Boat in Fulham and involved a fabric swap. Such a great idea to downsize that stash and to swap a piece or two that might not have plan attached, for something that triggers an instant course of action. Interestingly enough I had no plans on bringing any fabric back home. I’m trying to use what I have and not buy/acquire anything new but the stars instantaneously aligned when glanced over Giorgia’s shoulder to see it sat wantingly in the corner.  It was a beautifully soft baby needlecord (I think) with a vintage style montage print. I always maintain I’m more about texture than print but there are always exceptions to the rule. Thanks so much to Lauriane Loves Sewing for bringing it to the table. I do hope I’ve done it justice.

ooobop original 70s style dress

So why am I creating so much more work for myself when there are plenty nuff awesome patterns in the world? Each stage of sewing this dress confirmed what I good idea it was. The notches aligned perfectly. The bust darts hit where they were supposed to, the shoulders finished on my shoulder line. And I confess I stood and I stroked and I marvelled at how well they did, for quite some time.  No puckers, nuffink.

Marvelling at the inset of my sleeve caps
Marvelling at the inset of my sleeve caps

Add to that the waist sitting where it is meant to, no pooling in the small of my back and Bob is definitely my lobster! Gotta love it when an invisible zip becomes super evasive too!

Back view of dress with no pooling
Back view of dress with no pooling

Well I think that’s just enough of me blowing my own trumpet and time for me to big up the talents of my super lovely, supportive husband, Daniel. I’m always the first to run out of steam, just knowing there’ll be a hundred good shots even if I am pulling a stupid face in 50 percent of the contact sheet. But he always want’s just one more. And its always for good reason and I thank him from the bottom of my heart.

Lying on some steps in my 70s style dress
In response to ‘Just one More’!

And he’s available for booking. He loves an event. So good at capturing those  off the cuff, journalistic poses. So if you have an upcoming event and in need of a trusty photographer please do check out his portfolio here or contact him at danieljamesphotographic@gmail.com.

Thanks for swinging by. Your readership and comments mean the world to me and add so much to my journey. Wishing you all a gloriously productive weekend. xxx

Previous attempts at self-drafting:

Vogue 2494 for Mother of the Bride

V2454 Vintage Vogue evening gown
V2454 Vintage Vogue evening gown

Special occasions call for special dresses and I don’t think I’ve had call to make anything more special than a mother-of-the-bride dress for my daughter’s wedding.

But what would it be? I had a whole years notice but in true ooobop to-the-wire styleee, I left myself a couple of weeks before the big day.

That’s not to say I spent days and weeks and months googling and mulling, dreaming and virtually making in my head, the hundreds of possiblilites.

I really didn’t know what I wanted. But I did know I didn’t want to look like a run-of-the-mill MOTB.

Have you ever googled to see the expected format? Pastel shades, sensible knee-length skirt, coordinating jacket with statutory three-quarters of a sleeve, satin and lace, obligatory big hat, and nude tights… Would I conform? Not a chance!

And then I remembered this gorgeous vintage Vogue pattern that I’d bought before I even knew what kind of special occasion it was going to be for!

Vintage Vogue V2494 sewing pattern
Vintage Vogue V2494 sewing pattern

It’s an original 1948 design. Full of elegance and style. Wasn’t too sure that a five foot four sausage shape could work it as well as the cover girls but the vision was strong and I was so delighted to have made a decision at last. Just had to root through a million other patterns to find it!

The only experience I’ve had sewing vintage Vogue patterns before was the V2934 jacket which I made twice, first here and again (after I lost the first one) here, and more recently the Vogue Designer Original 1486. Interestingly all have the cut-on sleeve element and each of them reasonably uncomplicated to sew.

I anticipated a rocky ride with with the construction and fit of this dress though, especially as I’d left no time at all to properly test it but the beauty of this pattern is that it has ACTUAL body measurements printed on the pieces. And I can’t tell you how grateful I am for this small mercy.

I had full intention of toiling, especially as the plan was to go full on lavish silk satin. Not every day your daughter gets married. I knew the price was going to be hefty. This dress only calls for 3m so I knew at the very least I was looking to spend around £100. But I did the sensible thing of looking around before I committed to the first fabric I found.

V2494 full length dress
V2494 full length dress

John Lewis’ haberdashery department at Westfield, White City had not long opened and so I headed to check out their stock. Got chatting to a lovely sales assistant who was mesmerised by my pattern choice and eager to show me some ‘just-in’ peachskin fabric. I’d heard of it but never had the pleasure of a feel. It draped beautifully and suddenly the option of a more forgiving matt appearance became instantly more appealing, moreover the price of just £8 per metre! It was only available in red. But hey. That was ok. Kind of a no-brainer, really!

The making up of this dress was deceivingly simple. It was down to my haste that markings were confused and I’m so glad I rehearsed that little diamond opening on a different fabric. As you can imagine, there are a fair few positional points on that front piece and my first attempt saw me reposition it some distance lower than it was meant!

V2494 detail of peephole
V2494 detail of peephole

Despite the tricky diamond peephole and that lovely inset panel the front, the rest of the construction was a breeze: There is no lining. So the peachskin was a perfect weight to not warrant an underlayer.

The sleeves are cut on, negating any need for tricky easing or setting in of sleeve caps. And that beautiful drape at the back is connected to the shoulder seam and simply hand tacked to the shoulder once the pleats have been arranged.

There was hand finishing of course: The hem at the hemline, as standard, and the hem of the drapey bit. I knew this would have to be neat as it clearly states on the pattern: “single-layered drape, (wrong side shows)”. So I just took little slip stitches in matching thread all the way round. This is where the fabric let me down a little bit as it syntheticicity wouldn’t allow a decent press and it resembled more of a rolled, rolled hem. But it was ok. Just a little bit annoying. Silk in this instance would have behaved a whole lot better I’m sure.

V2494 back view of dress and over the shoulder drape
V2494 back view of dress and over the shoulder drape

I confess I didn’t fully finish this dress until the morning of the day. Early hours of the morning I was still finishing the hemming and sewing a button loop (rather badly) on the back. I always intended to have just the one little button as opposed to a whole line of them as suggested but still managed to make it wonky! I do love that little vintage button though. It was just waiting for this dress.

V2494 Vogue dress button and loop
V2494 detail of button and button-loop

I didn’t manage to get any suitable full length shots of it on the day hence a reshoot by Daniel almost a year later! It’s a bit tighter on me now than it was on the big day but that’s no surprise as my nerves ensured a low cal intake on the lead up! And to be fair I’m not entirely sure when I’d wear this again. So it’s on with a dress cover and resigned to the back of the ‘drobe until a suitable situation arises.

However there was one shot in particular that just about sums up how stylishly and elegantly I carried off that dress – and pretty much sums up the non conformity of our fam! Brilliantly captured by Daniel of course.

V2494 Mother of the bride with bride
V2494 Mother of the bride with bride © danieljamesphotographic

Note that I did succumb to wearing a hat. Not just any old hat, mind – an exquisite and original ‘piece of art’ that was beautifully handmade by my wonderful milliner friend Jayne at Hepsibah Gallery in Hammersmith. Again, I’m not sure I did it as much justice as it deserved but it certainly felt wonderful to wear and made me feel so very important!

From left: Youngest dort, Samaria, my mum (also wearing handmade) my daughter Stephanie, her husband Daniel and me!
From left: Youngest dort, Samaria, my mum (also wearing handmade) my daughter Stephanie, her husband Daniel and me!
Shoes: Irregular Choice (old)

The English Tea Dress #013 by Simple Sew

Simple Sew English Tea dress

This was exactly the kind of pattern I was looking for when I was actually hunting for something else! I’d put it aside (read, under the sofa) as a not-so-taxing project for when I got a few hours down time. The back cover blurb was all-encouraging of this, too.

Like many other sewing people, I’ve been on a mission to work through my stash fabric before buying anything new, in the name of sustainability and also the hope of gaining some floor space in my bedroom!

Simple Sew English tea dress

And this dress pattern is perfect for all those 2m lengths I purchased. It requires 1.90m of 60″ fabric for all sizes 8-20 – sleeves and all – which is pretty damned economical really.

Love Sewing Magazine and English Tea Dress sewing pattern

I had 2m of what I believed to be 45″ wide cotton fabric and that almost fitted the bill. I just had to shorten the skirt by 2inches to fit all the pieces on. Especially as I then found out that it was only 43″ wide. I’m guessing it shrunk in a prewash – better to have found out at this stage of the game though! But still I had to count my chickens that all the pieces fitted considering the direction of the design. Upside down shoes would have been disastrous!

All went swimmingly but I’m amazed at the lack of notches on the pattern pieces. There was one to mark the front sleeve placement and ordinarily that’s pretty crucial but in this instance the sleeve pattern folded near enough symmetrically so it wouldn’t have made a spot of difference.

Simple Sew English Tea dress

But that was it on the notch front! Piecing the front and back facings together had me thinking, which is a bit lucky as it prompted me to place over the bodice neckline to check I was sewing the pieces together the right way round. It would have been so much more helpful to have a marker on each of the shoulder seams.


TIP#1

Mark notches on the facing pieces so you remember to sew them the correct way round

facing instructions

And if I’m being picky (moi?!), the side seams of the skirt would have benefitted from a notch or two. They are bias-cut and hence a little stretchy so a midway marker would help prevent a potential pucker! I’ve marked mine for future use.


TIP #2

Align skirt pattern pieces at side seams and create notches for more accurate alignment


Adding to the facing part of the story – it was very useful and imperative actually, to include the snip at ‘X’ –the point of the V-neck. It did press nice and flat but I included 2 additional stages here:


TIP #3

Under-stitch the seam allowance to the facing to prevent it from rolling out at the neckline.


and then:


TIP #4

Hand stitch the facing to the shoulder seams to secure it in position stop it from popping out.


I’m being picky again. I know. But from past and bad experience, I can’t stand a flappy facing!

So all went well, despite lack of notches until I got to the sleeve section. And of course I wasn’t content to sew the options illustrated on the packet or in the accompanying issue of Love Sewing magazine (issue 15). Not only because I’m contrary but the 3rd non-illustrated nor photographed option was the best IMHO. The 3rd option being a half length, cuffed variety!

But, forgive me for being old and slow (and of course picky)… but how would you interpret these instructions?

cuffed sleeve instructions

Especially when the cuff was near enough the same length as the bottom of the sleeve. And yes I did double check I’d cut the correct sizes!

cuff piece next to sleeve
Bottom of sleeve not much wider than the cuff piece.

I spent way to much time thinking about this stage and then went off piste with this tip:


TIP #5

Measure your arm circumference, comfortably, just above your elbow and add 1.5cm seam allowance to each end. Trim cuff piece to this measurement. Press in half horizontally to crease the centre/ (ultimately the bottom) of the cuff. Gather the bottom of the sleeve as stated and sew right sides of the gathered edge to the right side of one raw edge of the cuff piece.

cuff piece pinned to sleeve
Cuff piece pinned to sleeve along raw edge. See the crease in the middle.
cuff sewn to sleeve
Cuff sewn to sleeve. Spot the deliberate mistake!

Gather the sleeve head as instructed – although, having said that, it’s not really instructed from where and to where on the pattern piece, so I just mirrored the notch to the back and gathered between the two points. Sew the underarm sleeve seam all the way down to the bottom of the cuff. Press sleeve seam open. Press under 1.5cm on the remaining raw edge of the cuff and then fold the piece to the inside of the sleeve along the pre-pressed fold. Hand-stitch to the inside seam line to form a binding and finish the cuff. Remove gathering stitches and press.

Having worn this dress and seeing how the cuffs have curled, I might also use  a light fusible interfacing to stabilise the cuff next time.


I hand finished the hemline of the skirt, of course. Just because a machined one would irritate me having invested so much time to go lazy at the last hurdle!

So where do you suppose I might have worn my English tea dress as soon as I made it? No prizes for guessing of course!

Enjoying a vegan cream tea
Vegan cream tea at The Ginger Bees cafe in Kingston-upon-Thames

Mr O and I went to The Ginger Bees cafe, Kingston-upon-thames riverside, for the most delicious vegan cream tea. Well, mine was vegan – Mr O went full on full cream!

Mr O and his cream tea
Mr O enjoying his full on full cream, cream tea!

I booked the day before on recommendation and we were not disappointed. The lovely couple who bought the café just a year ago have something very special going on here. Thank you so much Gavin and Beth for looking after us. It was such a treat and the perfect occasion to showcase my new tea dress!

Beth and Gavin, owners of The Ginger Bees Cafe in Kingston-upon-Thames
Beth and Gavin, owners of The Ginger Bees Cafe in Kingston-upon-Thames

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

Vogue Designer Original 1486

Vogue 1486 rose_dress side view

Now here’s a pattern that’s been hanging around in my stash for a considerable amount of time. And I’m so glad I held onto it because I knew it would do me proud one day.

Vogue 1481 designeroriginal

It’s a Vogue Designer Original by Alberto Fabiani allegedly from 1976. Though the shorter version A on the envelope could easily pass for 1980s.

Alberto Fabiani pronunciation
Tickled by how the pattern envelope feels the need to help with the pronunciation of Fabiani’s name!

I love the simplicity of this dress. A speciality of Fabiani it seems. Cut-on sleeves; a ‘lightly’ gathered skirt;  no lining; extension of neck-binding for ties.

Vogue designer original floor length dress

Vogue 1486 floor length dress

I needed a dress to wear to my friend’s wedding and having made her wedding dress (yes, I promise that’s coming soon!) I didn’t have much time, brain-power or nerve left to deal with anything too complex. So this was the perfect pattern. Least I hoped it would be!

I had no fabric-shopping time either so it had to be made from stash. Surprisingly, for all it’s floor-sweeping sumptuousness it takes a mere 2.4m of 60 inch wide material. – Am I the only one who mixes metric and imperial?

This gorgeous rose-print, poly crepe was literally screaming at me from The Textile Centre‘s stall at the Spring Knitting and Stitching Show earlier this year. It’s got the drapiest of drape but was super easy to sew. Pretty sure I only paid £5 a metre. And jolly lucky I had the nouse to buy 3 metres, not having had a plan for it and all.

Vintage vogue 1486 dress

In the past I have been cautious to trace and preserve my vintage patterns. Partly to preserve as near to perfect, the little packet of history that it is. And potentially so I can sell it on should I want to later. But this envelope wasn’t in such a good state to start with so I dove right in and slashed, spread and taped the original to meet my measurements. It felt a little barbaric but liberating at the same time. And hey, It’s still there for another making, all resized and ready.

So what were my findings?

I threw this out to my Insta-audience to see who might pre-empt some pitfalls with the design. And of course they were blindingly obvious, lol! For such an accomplished designer, and ‘master tailor’ who created exquisite evening gowns for a living, you’d have thunk that Fah-bee-ahny would know what happens when you create a low ‘V’ neckline at the front along with a low ‘V’ back, especially with the ‘help’ from silky, drapey fabric. Let’s just say I was relieved to figure out what happens before I hit the dancefloor at the wedding! Or even as I walked into the church… can you imagine?!

So this was a first for me: some little fasteners attached to the inside shoulder seam to attach to my bra-strap. Just had to make sure the bra strap was tight enough not to slip down, lest… doesn’t bear thinking about!

Vogue 1486 maxi dress

I also sewed that front wrap section down because that in itself was an accident waiting to happen.

The sleeves were another issue. Absolutely love the style of them. Perfectly airy for the sunshiny day that it was. But I’m sure most of my dance moves involved arms by my side. Side-boob city and all that!

Vogue designer original maxi dress

The only other thing, that’s not technically an issue, more of a ‘why would you even do that?’  – was the length of the straps at the back. They are an extension of the binding on the neckline but one extends about 3 times the length of the other. I checked and double checked the instructions, and the notches on the pattern pieces but that’s exactly as it’s intended. A design feature, possibly but… why?! I’m so irritated by it and will definitely make them both the same size if I make it again.

All issues aside. It worked perfectly for a wedding dress guest – sans fashion faux pas – and I’ve worn it again since to another wedding, recently. It’s so easy and comfortable to wear, hardly creases and works for both posh and boho-casual – winner, winner vintage dresser!

vintage vogue long dress

More maxi dresses I’ve made:
A very Shiny Burda Maxi
The one I made for the Marylin Manson gig
The one I made to go camping in

Photography © Daniel Selway

Vintage Butterick coat with added sparkle!

butterick 547 coat by ooobop

Returning to a sewing pattern you’ve worked with before is like turning to an old friend for advice and reassurance – you’re assured of the fit, the skills needed and prepped for pitfalls along the way. Mostly!

And if like me, you paid a pretty penny for the pattern, you’ll get immense satisfaction from apportioning the cost. I won Butterick 547 fair and square by charging straight  in to this crazy bid war! So now the pattern only cost £25 for each coat which sits marginally better, lol!

Butterick 547 coat full length

I made the first version in 2014, truly believing it would be my forever coat – my dreamcoat – but sadly there was an issue with the fabric that I didn’t foresee. So I had to make another in something more stable.

I found the ideal fabric at The Great British Sewing Bee Live show a couple of years back. Pretty sure the seller was M Rosenburg and Son . It’s a fabulous giant dogtooth with teal metallic highlights. It’s got a great weight and a great drape, and it’s stable weave means no stretching or kinking at the hemline.

vintage Butterick coat by ooobop

I just adore the fit – snug to the waist and lapping round my legs – the silhouette is truly 50s. Four buttons to the waist allows for the lower ‘skirt’ to separate as I walk along and a flash of the blue lining does everything to attract attention and some lovely comments.

ooobop vintage coat sunrise and swan