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:

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

Windmill Sails quilt block v2

Windmill Sails or Louisiana quiilt block
Windmill Sails or Louisiana block

I began making these quilt blocks when my very lovely neighbour bought me a subscription to the Art of Quilting magazine… about 7 years ago now – and it has remained a WIP for some time since. But progress has been resurrected thanks to New Crafthouse #sewyourselfsustainable and Sewisfaction #seweverdayseptember Instagram challenges. They both prompted a declaration of #slowestmake and I can’t think of anything else that would ever take me as long!

I’m pretty sure the reason I’m dragging my heels is because my love for sewing dresses is tenfold more, but I don’t want this quilt to remain as an unfinished pile of blocks in a basket, pretty as they are. I want it strewn across my bed like this:

So this lovely block is another colourway of the Windmill Sails or Louisiana block. The magazine usually gives a short history of each design but there wasn’t one included this time. Presumably because its exactly the same as block no. 12 and they might have hinted at a repeat! A bit cheeky of the publication really. They’ve just sold me the same template with different fabrics! There is, however, an additional template included for a Dresden Plate cushion cover. But hey I’ve got a quilt to make, don’t need any further distractions!

You’ll note I’ve skipped blocks 27 and 28. I’m guessing at some point I separated them out of the pile to encourage me to crack on but I haven’t a Scooby where I might have put them.

Luckily Hachette are still selling back issues and I’ve just ordered the missing ones at a reduced rate here. Just in case they are lost in the ether.

So fingers crossed I am back on track and the next one will appear soon!

 

Name: Windmill Sails or ‘Louisiana’
History: Each of the fifty states that make up the USA has its own emblematic quilt block. This represents the southern state of Louisiana
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

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

What I wore to the Dressmaker’s Ball 2019

ooobop wearing V8814 dress

‘Get me to the Ball!
‘There is a Disco at the Palace!
‘The rest have gone and I am jealous!’

Just like Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhyme about Cinderella when she was stropping out about a lack of invite, this is exactly how I was feeling when I learned too late about the first dressmakers ball in 2017.

Needless to say I subscribed to all the hashtags and signed up to get news of the next one and snapped up that ticket as soon as it was live.

The event is organised by team Crafty Sew and So and this year’s was at The City Rooms in Leicester.

The minute I had that ticket secured, my head flooded with all the possibilities for a free range, self drafted no holds barred gown of dreams, all for me. Elizabethan ruffs, balloon organza sleeves. Crinoline skirt. Bustle perhaps? I had a year after all.

designs for ooobop ballgownTruth be told and no surprises here, I decided on the dress with just over 10 days to go. You know how it goes ~ work, family, work and more work. And I’m a little bit sad to say that my all time avant-garde number ended up straight out of a packet.

Vogue pattern V8814

A lovely pattern for sure but the proof was in the making: No toile time. No anything time. Time? Definitely a thing of the past. Enjoy it while you can kiddos. It passes you by on the blink of an eye with every added birthday.

Now let’s discuss this slinky Vogue number V8814. I chose floor length, version C. I was going to a ball after all and visions of slow-mo sweeping skirt-motions danced in my head. I opted for the one with plunging neckline and crossover straps at the back. The bodice is snug to the hips and then all the volley is in the circular skirt.

I am so grateful to those pattern companies who display the finished sizes on the pattern pieces. Lord only knows why quite so much ease has to be added. I’d have swum in the suggested size according to actual stats!

And I am so delighted to have chanced upon a pattern that for all it’s sophistication was a total breeze to put together! The only area that needed fixing was the neckline which gaped a little so I hand-sewed some 5mm wide elastic along the inside of the neckline, stretching slightly to pull it in more to the chest. And the only tricky bit was convincing Pants I didn’t need his help!

Pants the cat helping me sew

I’d bought a singular ticket to the ball just because I worry about making plans with people and then have to cancel due to work commitments. Plus I knew that I would meet people there. The sewing community is such a welcoming and fun place, of that I was certain.

But that didn’t stop me from being self-conscious in front of the photographer. I’m so spoilt by Mr O’s awesome willingness to oblige my blog shots that I forget what it’s like to stand and pose in front of someone you don’t know! Thank you TKL Photography for bearing with me and thank you Tamsin, for posing with me and making me feel a little less awkward!

ooobop with Tamsin from Pimp my Curtains

We decided upon fishbowls of gin to relax us even more!

Tamsin and ooobop drinking gin

It was such an amazing evening. A ballroom brimming with stunning guests all adorned in bespoke, handmade attire, dancing to some really cool covers by a brilliant live jazz band. I spent most of the evening gawping at stunning outfits and discussing them, clinking and raising a glass at every opportunity to the brilliant hosts and the awesome sewing community.

And look who else I found: Marie from A Stitching Odyssey and Amy, blogger at Almond Rock and editor of Love Sewing Magazine.

judges at the dressmakers ball 2019

Not at all trying to fraternise with the judges before the catwalk competition – honest, guv!

So why have I taken so long to blog about this dress?

In short.

The fabric.

I’m ashamed by my panic purchase of glittery fabric.

‘I want a dress! I want a coach!
‘And earrings and a diamond brooch!
‘And silver slippers, two of those!
‘And lovely nylon panty hose!

Perfectly weighty and with great drape for the skirt, I chanced upon it in the Goldhawk Road. It appears to be a red lace bonded over a synthetic satin with glitter glued in the gaps of the lace.  I joked about the fire-hazzard potential should I stand too close to a candle, given the probability of not a single natural fibre involved. But it was met with a straight face. The seller was already was unhappy that my need for five yards meant discarding the first couple of metres on the roll as the lace was clearly bonded in sections. Lucky I noticed the join because he sure as hell wasn’t going to point it out!

But I did not question the glitter. 

Recently, my day job has involved lots of work relating to the harmful effects of plastic on the environment, and though I haven’t come across any reference to glitter in the books as yet, this quote by Alice Horton, a research associate at the UK’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, jumped out at me and touched a nerve:

“While there is currently no evidence specifically on glitter being bad for the environment, it is likely that studies on glitter would show similar results to those on other microplastics”.

And now I feel bad. For not thinking it through. For the trail of glitter I literally left behind. I don’t exaggerate when I say that I left a red glittery bum shape on my seat when I stood up after dinner. And I’m sorry for anyone who sat in my place afterwards and took a little piece of me home with them.

To this day I’m finding that damned stuff on my shoes, in the carpet, on the cat… It’s never going to go away. And then it’ll end up in the sea and all the poor fishes will be lunching on it.

And I know I can’t un-do it. But I can not-do it again. No more more glitter for me. I need to think before I buy. I just can’t cope with the guilt! Or do you think I’m over-reacting?

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