True Bias Shelby Romper with stars

ooobop True Bias Shelby Romper suit

All the kisses for the sewing community today. But mostly for The Foldline and their generous Instagram campaign: Random Acts of Kindness and to Amy aka AlmondRock, for tagging me! That in itself presented a fuzzy, warm virtual hug but the prospect of getting to choose a pdf pattern of choice was such an awesome treat!

I was literally that kid in the sweetshop. I don’t know if you’ve visited The Foldline’s pattern store recently but it is mind-blowing. So many super stylish patterns – Indie and Big 4. Put some serious quality browsing time aside before you head on in!

After a delightfully long peruse fuelled with umms and ahhhhhs a-plenty, I decided on the True Bias Shelby pattern. Especially after I spied Patsypoomakes‘ version – which was definitely the deciding factor.

The Shelby is a very versatile design that delivers a v-neck, princess-seamed dress and romper suit in both maxi and mini lengths, with 2 sleeve options.

True Bias shelby pattern line drawing

So reminiscent of my 90s youth – styled with DM’s, lockdown hair and a pair of shades to hide the baggy eyes. Much the same as I would have done thirty-odd years ago except hair probably would have been  loaded with half a can of Elnett, crimped and backcombed for added bigness!

I have never used a True Bias pattern before and I really didn’t know what to expect with regards sizing, clarity of instructions, general fit and ease of sewing etc, so I opted for some super drapey stash fabric to toile it. After all what were the chances of a romper fitting in all the right places, first time round and without a ‘hungrybum’ feature?

I didn’t think for one minute that this was going to fit without some inevitable adjusting but I was going to enjoy the process all the same. I clipped and overlocked and pressed all the seams and it brought so much joy to see it taking shape. I diligently followed every step of what is probably the clearest most concise set of instructions I have ever encountered all the while believing this was destined to be a test garment only.

ooobop True Bias Romper set back view

The more I progressed with the sewing the more it became apparent that I wasn’t going to look like a giant baby (I did have some initial doubts) and it was going to be a perfect fit and I was beginning to feel a bit sad that I might not have used the best fabric for it to be actually wearable. It looks pretty decent in the pics because it was a relatively cloudy day today. But it’s really sheer. Like hold-it-up-to-the-light and-see-absolutely-everything sheer!

I am determined not to let these go to waste and so my lightbulb moment came with the discovery of my ever-so-nineties Pineapple Dance Studio cycling shorts! No one would really know in any case, and everyone is saved from seeing my actual butt!

ooobop True Bias Romper set back view

Princess seams always produce the smoothest and flattering lines IMHO but the waist ties at the back cinch in a waist I never knew was there! Creating them was a breeze with my Clover Easy Loop Turner and they are the perfect length and width to effortlessly tie into a cute bow.

You can totally tell how much thought and consideration has been put into drafting this pattern. I had no choice but to work on it in small, often hour-long stints and yet it was so easy to pick back up on where I left off each time. Even at my most tired after a very long working day, the instructions were so clear, the illustrations were brilliantly presented and it sewed up so effortlessly. I couldn’t recommend this pattern more if I tried!

ooobop True Bias Shelby

 

 

 

Perfecting the self-drafted shift dress

 

shift dress front view

Happy Easter everyone!

With my smalls all grown up and my grandsmalls out of reach (care of covid), Easter Sunday provided some respite from work so I could find time to pick up on a WIP that’s been waiting in the wings for so long I’d almost lost interest!

But it’s THIS fabric that’s keeping me going. The delightful D&G piece of art I scored at The Stitch Festival 2020 in February. Gosh… those were the days. When you could go out willy nilly, meet up with your mates and hang out in fabric stall paradise…

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

I bought it without a plan – rookie mistake number one – but to be fair, I can only see one road to realisation with this digital masterpiece. A simple shift dress.

The design of the fabric sings so loud I want as little disturbance to the design as possible so I set about drafting a perfectly fitting shift to do it justice. There’s not a chance in hell that I will rehearse it in the fabric itself and the closest I had in stash was some very graphic stretch upholstery fabric, gifted by my lovely milliner friend Jayne. It was quite a big bolt and even after I tested (rather badly) a self-drafted pattern and documented the whole film-noir experience , I still have masses left!

shift dress pattern pieces pinned to fabric

Very interesting, looking back, to see that I’ve got pretty much the same issues… with the back bodice. Different set of circumstances though. In that last attempt I had a zip up the back and I’ve since learned how to do a sway back adjustment to get rid of the ripples.

But… because I like making life difficult for myself. Oh and because I don’t want to separate the back piece with a centre seam, the back in this instance is cut on the fold, and the zipper is (in true vintage styleee) at side left.

So I had to sacrifice the back contouring and add it to the back diamond darts instead. I considered nicking some from the side seam too but thought I’d await the results first. Proof is in the pudding, right?

Well it’s no surprise. I have pooling. Bloody bain of my life! So predictable that it’s boring now. There must be a way of doing the same adjustment to a back piece cut on the fold. Do you think? Please let me know if you have any experience with this. I will love you forever!

shift dress back pooling

In the meantime. The easy adjustments to be made are to get rid of that horrid funnel neck thing I created. That’ll teach me for avoiding a full-on facing piece – lazy bones loser that I am! A classic boatneck it will be. And to shave some more off that front armhole with a little off the edge of the shoulder. Also perhaps to increase the length a bit. I do like short skirts but if I lengthen it I think I’ll get more of the design in too!

One more test and I think I might be there. We’ll worry about placement in the next post, lol!

The Stitch Festival 2020 – my highlights

  • The Stitch Festival 2020

I don’t know about you but this year has been a slow starter for me. Full on with actual work but slow to get sewing, not a lot of space or energy to glean inspiration or motivation. But a trip to The Stitch Festival last week was just the ticket!

Like many others I was a bit confused by the rebrand – Previously named the Spring Knitting and Stitching Show, which was a bit of a mouthful to be honest – apparently it’s been changed to distinguish it from The Knitting and Stitching Shows later on in the year.

This year’s Stitch Festival ran from Thursday 25th until Sunday 28th February and was held at the Business Design Centre in Islington. Just a short tube ride for me but apparently easy enough for everyone I met travelling from further afield.

I went without a plan and especially planned not to buy fabric.

But with minutes of arrival, I found myself fondling some awesome vintage bark cloth fabric at stand H49: Olive Road London.

Olive Road Fabrics
Fabrics on sale at the Olive Road stall

I didn’t realise it was genuine vintage at first and was about to kick off when I saw exactly the same curtain fabric I’d purchased in Brighton 5 years ago which I made into a Capital Chic Martini dress. For a split second I really thought I had mistakenly bought a modern take on a vintage fabric – that I’d been sold fake vintage! And then the lovely stall holder reassured me it was genuine and we had a good chat about how it must have been as super popular then as it is now!  I wanted all her bark cloth, especially a small piece of rose print that caught my eye just as I was moving on.

Soon after I waved to Tilly on her cute little stall. Always so cute. And always so busy. It was delightful to catch up with her at her recent book launch party for Make It Simple , so I didn’t feel quite so cheated of chat!

Tilly and the Buttons stall
Tilly and the Buttons stall

It was impossible to avert eyes at the fabric stalls. They were many and they were all fabulous. I particularly loved how The Textile Centre displayed their fabrics, deliciously draped on hanging mannequins. And some at just £5 per metre. Such a tease. One of the few things that holds me back from buying is that I must have a plan before I go adding aimlessly to my stash. I loved that black and green wiggle-dress fabric on the corner but I was ridiculously restrained.

The Textile Centre stall
The Textile Centre stall

In fact I was so proud of my power to refrain until I chanced upon M. Rosenberg & Son‘s stall. Gets me every time. One of my favourite purchases from them was the sparkly dog-tooth I used for my vintage Butterick coat. And their powers of lure was just as strong this year. How on earth was I supposed to walk past this?!:

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

I didn’t of course. Just as I stopped to take a closer look, I heard my name called across the other side of the stall. I looked up and was so excited to see Dibs Maxwell who I first met very many years ago, online at Dibs and the Machine. She now sells specially selected and stunning fabric at Selvedge and Bolts. Defo worth a browse! She fought her way round to my side and we hugged a big hug! No photo sadly to display we just carried on from where we left off, chatting and laughing (always laughing) And then she made me buy the fabric!!

We wandered over to see Sew Me Sunshine and The Foldline who shared a stall together. They too were chocca with customers so we said our hellos and terra’s and went on our merry way.

Sew Me Sunshine and The Foldline
Sew Me Sunshine and The Foldline

I wandered a little more in search of an expanding sewing gauge. But I couldn’t find one for looking. What I did want more at this point was a little sit down and a bite to eat. The cafe area looked fab with lots of healthy and delicious options but I tend to bring my own to events like this. Basically so I can skip the queue and guarantee I will get a truly plant-based option, not one that’s had the cheese flipped out of it! I sat on the mezzanine level along with like-minded visitors, looking down on the visitors buzzing around on the various levels and planned my next move.

I noticed that John Scott (John Scott Sewing World) was about to do a talk in the next half hour so I took a seat near the front of the hall and stroked my D&G fabric while I waited. I really didn’t expect the hilarity and the fun that followed. I recognised John but I can’t say I really knew that much about him at that point. Within seconds I was in stitches hearing about his stories in the film and TV industry. He really is an amazing story teller.

I loved hearing how his signature bridal wear included beading as much on the back if not more than on the front of a wedding gown, given that most of the photo opportunities involve the back view of a bride when she is talking to her guests!

I gasped when he told of the ballgown that he made for his mother to wear to a party and that was spotted by Princess Margaret across the room. She asked who the designer was and that’s how John began making couture dresses for the Royals. Hilariously, his parents were still largely unimpressed that he was a dress designer at that point and only started coming round when they saw his name among the credits of a Bond movie. But the acceptance came when after all the big blockbuster films – like Tomb Raider, Love Actually, and Notting Hill and all the TV shows, including the Catherine Cookson epics and Poirot (whereby all the costumes were made authentically to 1920s and 1930s fashions) – he joined Richard and Judy for a slot as the resident fashion expert on This Morning and stayed for 10 years! Now his mum was truly proud and told all her friends!

Seriously I could have listened to John all day. He was so uplifting. I felt like I’d been having a chat with an old friend. Plus I got a cheeky photo with him afterwards!

Cheeky hug with John Scott
Cheeky hug with John Scott

I left the talk inspired and hanging on to Johns best bit of advice to ‘let the universe guide you’.  I generally do that but I loved that he reinforced the mission!

Next stop was a little stall run by Stef at Wear Your Art. She was demonstrating her brilliant dye sublimation crayons. I’ve never seen these before and I was blown away with how vividly they transferred to fabric.

Stef from Wear Your Art
Stef from Wear Your Art

There are two processes: the first is to draw a design on paper, place it face down on the fabric and the iron on the reverse to transfer. The second is to draw directly onto the fabric, place a protective piece of paper on top and then iron to fix design in place. The latter results in a richer colour especially if the fabric is man made. It works on natural fibres too but not quite as vividly.

Wear Your Art dresses
Wear Your Art dresses

 I can’t wait to use my crayons to create a truly original piece of art to wear! If you fancy some too and didn’t grab a pack at the Stitch Fest you can order a set from Ebay here.

Nearby I spied the entries for the Stitch Festival Dressmaking Competition and I was so impressed with the entries. I picked three faves . . .

This is Weapons of Mass Reconstruction by Debra Wade:

Debra Wade dressmaking competition entry
Weapons of Mass Destruction by Debra Wade

She based the shape on the simple classic Kimono. The theme was inspired by Afghan war rugs, Russian tanks (named after flowers) and the patchwork reflected rebuilding over scars of terrorism.

It incorporated the contrast of delicate fabric and brutal imagery in a way that was both camouflaged and pretty.

Appliqué detail
Appliqué detail

No pattern was used and the materials were mostly reclaimed linen and cotton, tablecloths, clothing and curtains. I just loved the concept and the end result.

10.4tog jacket by Gillian Foster:

Duvet jacket by Gillian Foster
Duvet jacket by Gillian Foster

No pattern was used for Gillian Fosters 10.4 jacket either. She set about combining her love of watercolour painting, freeform stitching and a reclaimed duvet to create her masterpiece. I’m so fired up to be more free with my sewing already – oh the possibilities!

I also loved this outfit by Hannah Gait.

Eveningwear by Hannah Gait
Eveningwear by Hannah Gait

It was part of her graduate collection inspired by the blues of a midnight garden: using wool and silk fabrics with an embroidered vine design of her own. I’m not sure it befitted the evening-wear category but I would certainly wear this outfit at any time of the day.

A little wander on from here led me to a small collection of garments by Swanky Modes I had a quick look and a read before I went in to hear Esme Young talk.

Swanky Modes collection
Swanky Modes collection

It was lovely to hear Esme talk about her life and work. I knew nothing about Swanky Modes, the 70s Camden boutique she set up with her St. Martins Graduate friends, Judy Dewsbury, Melanie Herberfield and Willie Walters. So fascinating and inspiring to hear how they set about, creating crazy one-off outfits from bedding and shower curtains and practically anything they could get their hands on.

Esme Young talked about her life and works
Esme Young talked about her life and works

The small selection of costumes on display included 

  • The Pyjamas from Bridget Jones
  • Dale Winton’s luxe suit from Trainspotting 2
  • The nurses outfit from Trainspotting 2

Dale Winton and Rachael Flemming in Trainspotting2

    • Dale Winton and Rachael Flemming in Trainspotting2
  • The Padlock dress worn by Grace Jones
  • The amorphous dress created by Esme’s fashion brand Swanky Modes
  • Daywear from the Swanky Modes label

Just as I was leaving the lecture theatre I spied Susan Young from SusanYoungSewing and ambassador for SewOver50 across the room. Always a treat to bump into your sewing friends but not least of all when they introduce you to two very lovely Sewing Bee contestants: Janet Pool and Juliet Uzor. I bloody love the sewing community!

I’m buzzing at this point. I can’t believe that a single ticket not only gave access to such a massive selection of quality stalls to buy from but also quality talks and demos a-plenty with a familiar face or ten to bump into along the way!

I wasn’t quite finished yet. I hovered around some more cool looking demos – embroidery and crochet – before I was drawn into the marvellous space hosted by King’s Ely Independent School, Cambridge.

Kings Ely Independent School, Cambridge
Kings Ely Independent School, Cambridge

The display was an amazing array of A-level textile students’ work. I was literally blown away with the high level of concepts and craftsmanship. The first one that caught my eye was entitled A Sense of Place by Katherine Wood:

A Sense of Place by Katherine Wood
A Sense of Place by Katherine Wood

I loved the mossy textures and fantasy woodland vibe along with the dripping threads and natural earthy colour tones.

I spoke to one of the school’s retired tutors who was delighted to show me around the exhibits. She was so proud of the student’s work and rightly so.

Photographing the gorgeous garments by Kings Ely students
Me, photographing the gorgeous garments by Kings Ely students
Elizabeth Charlton Movement and Transformation
Elizabeth Charlton Movement and Transformation
Lottie Webster Movement and Transformation
Lottie Webster Movement and Transformation

The passion for their subject was evident in the carefully chosen materials and colours and not least of all, workmanship. I couldn’t take my eyes off this coat of printed and embroidered hessian patchwork pieces. So original and so impressive.

Rebecca Keene coat
Rebecca Keene coat

And then this stunning dress … with a ruff no less. I do love a ruff. Such fabulous colour and textures formed with well considered placement of organza and chiffon and the copper metalic threads reflected the light so brilliantly. I really want to make a dress with a ruff now.

Dress with Ruff by Beatrice Whymark
Dress with Ruff by Beatrice Whymark

Thank you Kings Ely School, for such an awesome and motivating feast for the eyes. You are all very talented artists and designers and I will be waiting patiently for the day I see your names in lights and telling all that I saw your work first at The Stitch Festival 2020!

Believe it or not there was much more to see and do but sadly I have to end here. I’m as exhausted writing this as I was at the end of my day at the festival! I left with a couple of hours to spare, buzzing with new ideas, more motivated than ever and clutching my bag of stunning D&G fabric.

Thank you Stitch Festival 2020. I had a blast!

Portrait tote bag

personalised tote bag

What do you gift an incredibly lovely, clever, successful and well-travelled friend who doesn’t really care for ‘stuff’?

I didn’t know either but I figured something handmade and personalised would be the answer. So I set about creating a tote bag with an appliquéd portrait of the ‘birthday girl’ on the front.

To be fair I’m sure this bag still counts as ‘stuff’ but with a nod to usefulness at least!

I took the photo of Katy at the pub where we met before we set off for the wedding of our mutual friends. She looked amazing in her gorgeous hat that was made by our amazing milliner friend, Jayne Hepsibah. And it seemed to me an all-round perfect pose for a stitched portrait.

portrait of Katy

This project has been on my reminder list for weeks. But (note to self) January is a ridiculously busy month in the world of children’s publishing and in my capacity as a freelancer this basically results in all work and absolutely no play. Read no sewing time at all!!

So, true to form, I started making it in the morning and had it ready for the party that evening!

It’s a pretty time-consuming but relatively simple process.

I enlarged the image to the correct size, on screen and then flipped it (so she was facing in the opposite direction) before printing out a copy on regular plain printer paper. I scribbled on the reverse with an HB pencil to create a carbon layer and then drew around the key areas of the image to leave a traced line onto the backing paper of some double-sided fusible webbing.

I cut around these pieces with extra allowance before ironing into the reverse of my selected fabric pieces. That way, when they were trimmed, each piece was as accurate as poss and the sticky bit reached to all the edges and points.

applique pieces arranged

Then I ironed them in position on the bag front piece  in order that there was a little overlap in places. It was so satisfying to see it come together at this point.

And then for the machine embroidery I used a regular black polyester thread. (Moon brand) with a white embroidery bobbin thread. I believe you can get it in black too but white seemed to work fine with no show-through. I also delighted in using some water-soluble stabiliser which is just amazing.

I used a Sharpie pen to draw the linework onto the stabiliser and then overlaid it onto the working area before sandwiching all into an embroidery hoop. Luckily my hoop just about fits under the presser foot so I could ‘draw’ all the finer detail using the freehand embroidery foot. Black thread  for the most part. And then silver metalic thread for the ring and watch, metallic red for the feathers. Worked a treat. No puckering. No skipped Stitches.

machine embroidery detail of feathers

Even more satisfying was the action of peeling away the stabiliser. The little remaining fragments are washed away with cold water. Like magic!

stabilizer peeled away

Once dried, I sewed up the bag using some black cotton twill from stash and included a gingham lining and an ooobop label of authenticity, of course!

inside of lined tote bag

I’m so pleased with the result. Not least of all because it documents  fond memory of a lovely day we spent together, but it includes some memories in the fabric, too:

The calico is from a toile of a favourite dress; the hat is leftover from the red corduroy dress I made for my granddaughter and the silk lips are from my memade 50th birthday dress. All small scraps I couldn’t bear to part with but that now have the best use!

I loved making this so so much. Guilt-ridden in fact, for the joy it’s given me in the process of creating and giving.  Add to that all the memories that bubbled to the surface along the way and you end up with a bag full of sentimentality.

Here’s to good friends, great parties and an eternal basket of spectacularly inspired sewing projects!

Other things I’ve created employing appliqué

Martini dress

Personalised bunting

More personalised bunting

Zipper pouch

Camp collar shirt

selfdrafted camp collar shirt

Did I imagine that Christmas and New Year break? Feels like it happened a lifetime ago… can I scroll back a few weeks pleeeease – it’s all a bit too much already! Any one else feeling the same?

I know I mustn’t complain. Too much work is the least of concerns for a freelancer. I’m just craving a sewing project soooo much! There’s so many in my head I’m literally going to burst if I don’t get to make at least one of them soon.

front view of shirt

But it’s dark now… and I’m exhausted – story of my life. So I’ll just settle for a little fix from blogging a recently-made shirt for now.

I already had this animal print cotton fabric in stash and it was just enough to rehearse a new self-drafted design. One of the upsides of designing my patterns digitally is that I can test a pattern layout on computer screen to see how much fabric I’ll be needing. And also plan the positioning of pieces for minimum waste without having to crawl around the living room floor ‘playing giant Tetris’ while the fam barks at me to get out of the way of the telly – I don’t have a proper cutting table, see.

Side view of camp collar shirt

My recent self-drafted adventures have included a 70s style dress with flared sleeves and a Christmas Dress with bishop sleeves. Both of which use the same bodice block and knowing it worked both times meant I just had to add a bit of extra ease, add a button extension and lengthen to the hipline for a great fitting shirt. The sleeves would be simpler than both trialled before, and I found a great video tutorial on Bluprint to draft a one-piece collar. So what could go wrong?

Well this is where I classically mess up because I try and run before I can walk. I’ve never actually made up a straightforward self-drafted sleeve for myself yet. Just flared ones in both cases. So there was never any trouble with fit. But as my block stands, it’s too tight. Luckily I had my suspicions and made one sleeve up in calico to check first. Lord knows where I went wrong. But I seriously must have got lucky previously! To rectify (badly) I have slashed and spread to the sleeve cap. And it works, kind of. But it is still a bit snug. In fact it’s a bit too tight under the pits too so I need a revisit to this pattern before I make another.

Back view of shirt

I’m going to lower the underarm point and redraft that sleeve with less haste (read less excitement) and less speed! Because I’ve got more plans going forward and I’m going to need those pattern pieces spot on!

The collar worked out perfectly. It’s a camp or Hawaiian collar, so Suzy Furer told me on the Bluprint video tutorial. Basically a collar and stand, all in one. I did check out another tutorial on YouTube for the construction. It was kind of obvious but I just needed some reassurance.

hawaiian collar

Suzy advised to ditch the waist darts front and back but I really quite like the fitted aspect of it and I’m convinced that if I lower the armscye by half an inch or so more and sort the sleeves out it will be a much more comfortable fit.

So the consensus is that it’s not the greatest self-drafted shirt in the world but it’s a great starting point and I’m looking forward to a new and improved one. Might have to buy some new fabric though… I’m feeling stripes!

Have you kicked off the New Year with a new project yet? Pray tell. I’ll do my best not to get too jealous!

Operation Christmas Dress complete!

handmade tartan dress with teardrop opening

Hopes were fading to get this dress finished on time for Christmas Day. But the sewing gods were looking down on me, somewhat favourably and I sewed them cuff poppers on quite literally at the stroke of midnight on Christmas Eve.

Oh how I love ‘the night before Christmas’ – When all the shops are shut and there’s nothing more to be got. The street outside is quiet; the Christmas tree lights twinkle at their brightest and that sweet little shot of sherry slips slowly down the hatch! Perfect time of year to have some hand sewing going on in front of a festive telly-box movie, too!

Tartan Christmas dress front

This dress is most definitely worthy of an ooobop original issue number 2. The turtle neck dress I recently made almost had a tear drop neckline but in an effort to walk before I could run, I saved it for this time.

The process was exactly the same:

  • I dreamt the design
  • I drew it in my Fashionary sketch book
  • I self-drafted the pieces from my previously created blocks, using Adobe Illustrator
  • Printed and tiled the pattern pieces
  • And sewed up the finished article.

This is proving to be my favourite method of dressmaking to date! That said, I’ve got so much still to learn and I’m anticipating some frustrating times ahead so I’ll still be checking out Indi and vintage sewing patterns when I need some respite!

To edge the teardrop – thus avoid lining or facing – I dug out and dusted off the bias tape maker. To be fair I don’t think its much quicker than the manual ironing method but it’s a bit more fun… when it works!

Close up detail of teardrop opening

I’ve messed up many a time binding edges so this time I knew to start with sewing the right side of the binding to the wrong side of edge of the teardrop opening. I used my quarter inch foot for a consistent seam and took it real slow. Any unevenness is corrected when the binding is pressed in position to the front. (It doesn’t matter if it’s a bit wonky on the back because it won’t be seen. The entire reason for starting on the back!) I then clipped the seam in the curved areas before slowly and carefully top-stitching close to the edge on the right side to finish the binding, where it does matter! That final press is so satisfying.

I then used two more folded bias strips to bind the neckline from back to front, concealing the top edges of the teardrop, and continuing the topstitch to the ends to form the ties. I sewed across the ends of the ties to prevent too much fraying. I’m happy for it to fray a little.

Now lets talk bishop sleeves – Lovely big billowy bishop sleeves! They’re a bit trendy at the moment but to be fair they’ve never been out of favour in my fashion world!

close up of sleeve and cuff

I took my sleeve block piece and similarly to how I flared it last time, created 4 slash points and spread the pieces till the width was a little more than thrice my cuff measurement. I didn’t deduct the length of the cuff from the sleeve as I wanted the fullness to overlap the cuff which it kind of does but the structure in the fabric doesn’t really make it perform as it did in my head!

The cuff is sewn akin to the binding to hide the seam and there’s a small overlap for the poppers.

Walking in my new dress

I really want to rehearse another, even more fuller bishop sleeve on a blouse made with a lighter viscose. Just to see how differently it behaves. I really want to add some lovely button loops and buttons to the cuffs too which I didn’t do here mostly because of time restraints, hence the poppers!

The rest of the dress is constructed the same as the turtle neck one: inserting an invisible zip in the back. And I must add how chuffed I was at just how invisible it turned out with all those checks matching up either side.

Back view of dress

After all that work I didn’t wear it on Christmas Day. I decided to spare it from the cooking splashes and wine spillages and wore it out on Boxing Day instead. Despite it’s festive feel, I will be wearing this dress at every other time of the year and occasion for when tights and sleeves are necessary. The fabric is 100% cotton except for the metallic gold thread and is so comfy to wear. Not surprising that I debated using the fabric for PJs initially!

striding out in my new tartan dress

It carries a lovely little memory too as I purchased the fabric on a sewing blogger meet up organised by @ClaireSews for when @liblib came to visit all the way from Austraila. We chatted over coffee and shopped our little hearts out in the Goldhawk Road. I wasn’t supposed to be buying more but @ella_yvonne convinced me it had my name on it! Always such a treat to meet like-minded sewists IRL.

I’m not holding much hope for completing anything new before New Year so I’ll take this opportunity to wish you all a fabulous, creative and healthy 2020.

All the very best of wishes and lots of love from Janene xxx

Treasures for my Treasures

Amelias first tree decoration

In a few days time I’ll be wondering why on earth I didn’t make all my Christmas presents. All that joy that could have been had by hand-crafting beautifully personalised gifts for all my friends and family yet instead I chose to race around stinking hot, over perfumed shopping malls for expensive and ‘box-ticking’ presents. But as I sit, still with a work to-do list up to my ears, I’m currently fully aware why I didn’t quite get round to it!

I did at least manage to rustle up two little decorations for two of my favourite little people – my grandchildren!

Blakes first christmas tree decoration

This is their first Christmas on planet earth and my first Christmas as a Nanna! And boy am I loving it!

My Christmas tree is filled with decorations either gifted by others or that have been bought at Christmas Fayres in good company. And every year I dec the tree the memories all come flooding back. And I loved the thought that a personalised tree decoration might be a ritual of sorts or a cute keepsake at the very least for Amalia and Blake.

I’d love to report that I stuck to my sustainability guns for not buying new fabric and used leftovers instead. But that would be a complete lie. I couldn’t fight the the vision of lovely linen and festive …. ticking!  It just works, right?! I did reclaim some ribbon and rooted around the button tin for the perfect vintage buttons, though.

Amalia first Christmas memento reverse

And if you are interested in the process for these little decs …

The lettering is my handwriting. I perfected it at first on paper within the confines of a heartshape for Amelia and a circle for Blake before tracing onto Solvy water soluble stabiliser. I love this stuff. It’s so much fun! There’s a link to buy this below but you could also use a transfer pencil if you had one to hand. That will wash away too. Anything that doesn’t leave a mark on the finished article.

template for lettering

I then placed the Solvy with the wording on top of the plain linen and then sandwiched them between the embroidery hoops, tightening enough so there is no movement but not too much to stretch the fabric. It just helps to achieve more even stitches and less puckers.

Mostly I used a chainstitch and stem stitches in places using 3 strands of red embroidery thread. Gold metalic embroidery thread for the stars on Blake’s one.

Front of Amalias tree decoration

Once the design was finished I washed away the stabiliser with cold water, patted dry with a tea-towel and finished the drying process by ironing.

My paper template then served as a pattern piece to centralise the design and cut the shape around the lettering allowing an extra quarter of an inch for seam allowance. I cut a matching piece for the reverse.

With right sides together I seamed all round, leaving a small gap for turning and clipped the seams for smoother curves.

Polyester toy filling was pushed into the seams before I steamed them for extra smoothness! One they were filled I slip-stitched the opening closed.

I found the red metallic beaded trim at Sarah’s Haberdashery stall in Shepherds Bush Market and I oversewed it along the seam line.

detail of the red metallic beading

Finally I used a length of ribbon for the loop and sewed it in position on the reverse, adding a little vintage button in both instances to cover the stitches.

I savoured every little wonky stitch of this project, as I reminisced at how much has happened this year. I’m so very proud of my children, and what they have become. And my heart is literally bursting with love for my ever increasing family (bffs included) and what they mean to me. I do hope my little treasures will cherish these as they grow older nearly as much as I’ve loved making them!

Reverse of circular decoration

So how did you all fare with making gifts this year? Or did you get caught up in the rat race like me? Let me know how you wrestle with your conscience and please give me tips how I can be more productive next year.

In the meantime I would like to thank each and every one of you for sticking with my sporadic posts. It means a lot to still have you reading them and I’m forever grateful for all your lovely comments and continuing support.

Wishing you all the very loveliest of Christmases and the bestest of New Years ever. See you on the other side!

Love Janene xxx

Materials mentioned (affiliate links):

Tools mentioned (affiliate links):

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!

Double Pinwheel quilt block

Double Pinwheel quilt block

 

This is my latest quilt block from The Art of Quiliting magazine, issue33. This is the Double Pinwheel or Beginner’s Joy. There appears to be a few different designs of the same name when I did an online search but the fundamental  elements of a small pinwheel within a larger pinwheel remains constant.

Switching the dark and light toned fabrics allegedly makes the sails revolve in opposing directions although I can’t really see it in this one!

The order of events were to stitch together the green gingham patches with the small white triangles and then stitch the red floral pieces to the small crimson triangles. These triangles were then joined along their diagonal edges to make the four quarters of the block. The four quarters are laid in their final positions so that the pinwheel appears to be rotating clockwise and then pinned together and sewn in two pairs along the centre seams. Finally the two halves are sewn together with the final seam pressed open.

I fully intended to show this one as step by step process but completely forgot. Will try to do that with the next block – block 27 which is  a simple but cute nine-patch and a little rest from all those points!

Name: Double Pinwheel or Beginner’s Joy
History: Beginners Joy was first recorded in the early 20th century and apparently reflects the maker’s delight in joining the 16 pieces together accurately… I get that!
No. of pieces: 16

Progress report:

Block 1: The Double Four Patch
Block 2: The Whirlwind
Block 3: The Sailboat
Block 4: The Shoo-fly
Block 5: The Trafalgar
Block 6: The Windmill
Block 7: The Chequer Square
Block 8: The Diamond Square
Block 9: The Cactus Pot
Block 10: The Sawtooth Star
Block 11: To come!
Block 12: The Windmill Sails block
Block 13: The Basket of Flowers block
Block 14: Susannah
Block 15: Road to Oklhahoma
Block 16: Chequer Star
Block 17: Nelson’s Victory
Block 18: Fair and Square
Block 19: Diamond Pinwheel
Block 20: Whirligig
Block 21: Old Maid’s Puzzle
Block 22: Whirlwind Square
Block 23: Windblown Square
Block 24: Basket of Flowers block revisited
Block 25: Churn Dash
Block 26: Windmill Square
Block 29: The Windmill Sails block
Block 30:  Double Pinwheel

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: