So much love for the self-drafted Dolce dress of dreams

Remember that divine Dolce fabric I was compelled to buy, back at The Stitch Festival 2020? Well it just got stitched up. And boy oh boy it didn’t disappoint. 

I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do with it at the time. But I knew it was going to be fabulous, even if I simply draped and cinched with a belt! It’s an Italian cotton metalassé according to the selvedge – a cotton and lycra Jacquard according to M. Rosenberg’s web listing. But all the same a quality weighty, textured stretch fabric of dreams. BTW, I pre-washed at 40 degrees and those colours still popped! And heads up, there are 3 singular metres left remaining on their site if you’re a sucker for a crazy-ass in-yer-face designer print as much as me!

Despite the try-hard distraction of the print, the texture of the metalassé holds it’s own

Ultimately, I decided to let the design speak for itself. Any clever design lines were going to get lost and I wasn’t going to jeopardise one bit of that amazing artwork if I could help it. That meant no darts, no pleats, no tucks, no waist seam. Mmmmm. A full length maxi dress for ultimate impact. That is the end goal. But first to trial a short sheath to test the fit. I bought enough to have a long and a short version, psychically of course!

I’ve drafted a few woven dresses in the past, for me and others, but I’ve only recently worked a knit sloper. So earlier this year I practised on some turtle neck rib-knit tops to test the fit – see black one here, and red one there. All I had to do was extend the bodice pieces to a dress length and omit the sleeves. I didn’t want a turtleneck but I did want a jewel neckline so I didn’t alter that much either.

Though I was happy with the results I knew that the template might not translate in this weightier stretch. Comparatively, the rib-knit was light weight and had way more stretch. I should really have trialled a sleeveless version too but impatient me couldn’t wait any more and I just went for it.

The pattern pieces simply consist of a back a front and some self binding for the neckline and the armholes. And cutting it out was a joy. Not only because is was dead quick with a rotary cutter and all, but it was so satisfying – no slippage, no stretching… just a lovely little satisfying crunch as that blade sliced through!

I first sewed the shoulder seams, after applying my favourite iron-on stabilising tape [aff-link] to limit any stretching, then I sewed the side seams using my overlocker. The first try-on highlighted a bit too much ease in the armholes so I nipped 1cm (so 2cm in total) off the end of the shoulder and graduated to zero at the neckline. 

Happy with the rest of the fit I pondered the effect of facings over bindings. I have a love-hate relationship with separate facings – they always flap around and need ironing flat. The only ironing I don’t begrudge is pre-cutting out, and not post assembly! I much prefer an all in one neck and armhole facing that curves over or under bust. But this fabric is quite heavy and I feared the result would be too chunky.

So I decided on bindings which would mean trimming the seam allowances back a bit to allow for the additional 1cm wide strips to sit comfortably.

Looking at the back I can see that  I would need to lower the armscyce next time. It’s comfortable and all but the knock on effect of taking out the ease on the shoulder has raised the underarm. Not a biggie though. That leopard over my shoulder is a dammed fine distraction!

As you might imagine, the thing that took the longest with this dress was consideration of placement. Both back and front are good. Like stupendously good! There was no pattern matching necessary. It was just plain choice. Well, and the want to not decapitate the chap on the front! I decided I didn’t like the idea of someone on my back but I did like the possibility of the back side being prettier than the front. So that’s the way the cookie crumbled.

We had such fun taking these shots yesterday. Dan had recently been on a walk shooting birds along the Grand Union canal and suggested it might throw up some lovely backgrounds for the shoot. He wasn’t wrong and I was very humbled by all the wonderful comments from passing strangers, about my dress. It’s so effortless to wear. Though not quite the weather to wear without tights yet. No-one needs to be blinded by the intensity of my pale pins so soon into the year! In any case. It’s very short. I’m sure the world isn’t ready for my pants either!

More is more, when it comes to tights!

We walked to Westbourne Park, with a cheeky peek at some market stalls in Portobello along the way. Couldn’t resist this odd fabric from a vintage stall. Anyone want to hazard a guess as to what this is?!

If you can bear to watch this space for another year or so, who knows what kind of crazy dress this will turn into!

And there we started our walk, all the way to Paddington basin where we sat for a lovely lunch and a cheeky beer or two in a beautiful Victorian pub. 

A bus ride back through the remnants of a demonstration in Hyde Park was quite exciting. A few more beers and a takeaway to round off a fabulous day of doing what we both love. Bring on the sunshine – we want more London days like this!

So a gazillion thanks to Daniel James Photographic and not forgetting Dibs who blogs at Dibs and the Machine , sells incredible designer fabric at Selvedge and Bolts and who was instrumental in making me buy this fabric in the first place!

Another turtle neck top complete – in time for MemadeMay

May is one of my favourite months for many a reason. The weather is warming – I so can’t bear the cold – and I’m more likely to get out more for walks and to visit my favourite places and people after a long hibernation period. It’s also the month that the lovely So, Zo What Do you Know? hosts the #MemadeMay challenge. Now it’s fair to say that each year this flurry of instagram selfie shoots gets easier for me as my wardrobe becomes fuller. But Lockdown has narrowed my choices somewhat by what fits and I’m going to have to make some more clothes. Shame, eh?!

I’m kicking off with a new turtle-neck top, using the same self-drafted pattern as the black one I made not so long ago, which I might add might possible be my most worn thing ever, already!

Nothing needed to change but I really wanted to see if I could elimate some little folds from the underarm, across the bust. I figured that underarm armhold point might be sitting a bit high, so I lowered it a quarter of an inch and adjusted the sleeve to match.

It does fit a bit more comfortably but didn’t reduce the wrinkles! Haha. Still a lesson learned though. I luckily only adjusted the paper pattern. The digital version remains. But I am going to flatten off the sleeve head. It does seem to force my shoulder end to sit a little too high and it does measure a couple of mm’s longer than the armhole and because its a stretch knit there is no need for ease, so it will probably help. I do like the power of being able to tweak patterns here and there. It gives me a little buzz of control!

Once again the lazy in me couldn’t be arsed to set up another spool let alone the twin needle for the hems. So I zigzagged as usual. I kind of like the contrast of the zigs in between the black lines.

And I got the neck right this time! No silly amount of stretching. Just enough to fit. And its even more comfortable than the last.

The fabric is once again from Minerva.com. It’s a polyester rib knit in a lovely bright red colour with a narrow black stripe running round. I even made sure to match the stripes at the side. To be fair I wasn’t going to worry about it but the fabric behaved so well, it was harder not to!

This isn’t the end of stretchy tops. I definitely need them right now. And there is still room for improvement, and welcome opportunity for experimenting with different fabrics. Watch this space!

Handkerchief hem dress

ooobop design hankerchief hem dress

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

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

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

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

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

ooobop hankerchief hem dress
Channeling Blondie and Parallel Lines!

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

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

ooobop hankerchief hem dress

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

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

ooobop design hankerchief hem skirt detail

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

So how did I cut the skirt?

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

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

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

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

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

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

ooobop hankerchief hem dress

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

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

ooobop hankerchief hem dress

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

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

A blue half circle skirt

blue half circle skirt

This is my new half circle skirt. Self-drafted and made in a cobalt blue poly crepe.

Sounds pretty simple hey? Well to be honest, in principle it was. And it would have been a swifty project if I’d have remembered a couple of simple things.

ALWAYS MARK YOUR SELF-DRAFTED PATTERN PIECES AS SOON AS YOU’VE DRAWN THEM

Why? Well in my case, I have a fair few circle and half-circle skirt pieces that I’ve not only drafted for myself, but for others too. And in my haste I’d just labelled them ‘skirt front’ or ‘full circle’ and one just said ‘circle skirt piece no SA’. The latter was helpful, at least to know that I needed to add a seam allowance but none were any help at all to know if it was the right waist measurement, the right length, a full or half circle etc. What a twit!

blue half circle skirt

So first job was to redraft another, to my size. And second job was to ensure all that info was written bold and clear on the pattern piece for future use.

I’d already prewashed my fabric, so that was a win. The number of times I’ve been fired up to sew and didn’t have prepared fabric to hand is way too many to count. But swifty projects aren’t very swifty at all if you haven’t factored in to…

ALLOW A CIRCLE SKIRT TO HANG AT LEAST OVERNIGHT BEFORE HEMMING

Sewing a circle or half circle really doesn’t take that long but don’t bank on whipping one up, hours before a party because it has to hang at least overnight to allow the weight of the bias fabric to drop. This will almost definitely result in an uneven hem and will need levelling before hemming. I put mine on a dressmakers dummy but I’m sure if it was hung evenly on a pegged coathanger, you would achieve the same result.

So next there’s the levelling. I put the dressmakers dummy, wearing the skirt, on a table so that the hem is at eye-level. I use a metal rule from table top to my desired length and then mark all round with chalk or pins, rotating the whole dummy rather than spinning it (that’s another long story). I then go round a 2nd time to double check the measurements.

Once trimmed I sewed a quarter inch line of stitches from the edge and pressed up a hem. I stitched and in this case didn’t need to turn over again. But that might be necessary if fabric is more fraying.

blue half circle skirt

The lining of course needs the same treatment.

I rarely hate on any aspect of sewing, but I discovered this morning that I truly hate levelling, trimming and narrow-hemming lining fabric for a circle skirt, like massively!

It appears I’ve only made one other half circle skirt before, but it was so long ago, it’s well and truly worn out! So as much as I love this colour blue – quite unusual for me actually, don’t you think?! – I feel I must make a replacement black one too. And maybe a red as well!

I must at this point just big up my 12 year-old daughter who took these lovely photos for me. It was a very impromtu shoot as I was doing some shots of my eldest daughter who was face-painting in the park. Little Miss O brought her own camera along for some practice and certainly did me proud. Look out dad, someone’s hot on your heels!

A skirt most fitting for my friend

Fitted pencil skirt

Meet Ms Moneypenny. AKA my lovely friend, Katy. Modelling the skirt she won in the school auction, made by yours truly.

And prepare for a whole host of lovely shots taken by Mr Ooobop, AKA Daniel who I am nagging like mad to get his portfolio up and live so I can share more of his lovely photography with you.

fitted pencil skirt modelled in the garden

Getting the fit right on ones own self is one thing but the pressure to get it right for someone else is far more terrifying! I suppose it’s a good kind of terrifying because it does make you learn very fast and not settle for anything less than a good fit.

I got a bit lucky with Katy. One measuring session, one draft of the pieces, one test skirt for a fitting, and one final fitting for the actual skirt. Probably by the power of flook but selling it in as skill!

Katy happy in her new skirt

This lovely little impromptu shoot revealed Katy’s hidden modelling talents. Took to it like a duck to water, she did. And check out those pins… we don’t get to see them very often!

sitting pretty with flowers

Such a pretty garden too. Could easily be confused for one in the Med! I wish I’d have taken a shot of Mr O as he was clicking away. He was revelling in the whole session. Lying on the floor, up in a tree, peeping round Grecian columns…! I was blissed out with G&T in one hand and hot dog in the other!

Katy modelling pencil skirt

And of course there were props…

back view with Frankie the puppy

Meet Frankie Knuckles, Katy’s 11-week old border terrier puppy. She has stolen everyone’s heart, obvs!

Holding Frankie the puppy

And there was photobombing, of course!

photobombed by children

Oh how I love this shot…

Katy modelling with her daughter

It’s such a great feeling to make something for someone who means so much to you. Especially when it fits them so well. It’s also the only time you can really get away with unashamedly staring at your mate’s bum.

You can just about see where I hand-picked the lapped zipper, and of course where I – ahem – matched the checks across the back seam (*polishes nails*)

See now, you’re all looking at her bum!

back view of skirt

The waistband pattern runs through centre front but waist darts rather mess up the plan. When I next make a skirt with this kind of fabric (it’s 100% gorgeous wool by the way) I might be inclined to create side seams on the waistband, as on properly tailored skirts, so that I can match the checks on the back too. This would also allow for expansion if ever needed.

front detail of skirt

I leave you all with a parting shot of the adorable Frankie. A fine model herself and because I just know she stole your heart too!

puppy border terrier

Here’s to more sunshiny days, fabulous photos, cute puppy dogs, fantastic friends and great opportunities for wonderful sewing projects. Cheers all x

Mono dress & faux film noir!

self drafted dress film noir
10.30pm.
The air is heavy.
Rain spatters relentlessly against the rattling windows.
Daniel and Janene each propped horizontally on opposite sofas. Mood is low. The bank holiday weekend is nearing it’s end…

Daniel: Got anything you need to shoot?

Me: Actually yes. But nothing fancy. Just need some pics of that trial dress I self-drafted.

Daniel: Ok. Go to it. Heavy on the make up. Big on the heels. And find a hat.

Me: But . . .


And that’s how these crazy shots came about! Quite literally out of not wanting to end our soggy bank holiday with the grumps!

So this is the dress:

mono dress full length

It’s my next leap on from my first ‘proper’ foray into pattern drafting. I’d tweaked the bodice and I’ve drafted a few pencil skirts to know the drill, and so I thought I’d pair the two together and make me a dress!

There were a few toiles along the way I can tell you! And this one still isn’t perfect. Goodness knows how but I think I need to take at least 2 inches out of the back bodice. My thoughts on this were confirmed at the time of drafting the back skirt section when I noticed there was precious little difference from the hip line to the waist line! I measured the bodice and double checked all measurements and just assumed it was meant to be.

However. I did have to do some trimming just under the waist line after I’d tacked it all together. And I thought I could live with it until I realised the side seams were a little bit too forward.

This really is no big shakes. In fact this is such a giant leap forward for me, the knowledge I’m gaining all the way is so totally rewarding. And luckily I have a heap load more of this fabric that was so kindly given to me by my fabulously talented milliner friend, Jayne Hepsibah. She wasn’t sure what it was but I’ve given it a burn test and it burns to a very fine pale dust. I wasn’t expecting that at all as it’s quite a weighty, almost upholstery style fabric with a bit of stretch! So I’ll make another soon to confirm my findings and rectify the problems.

The other niggling thing is that the armholes on the front could do with widening a bit. I wore this dress to a party a couple of weeks ago and all that dancing and waving of arms resulted in a little chafing round the sleeve edges.

I have some very similar fabric, but in crazy tropical colour, waiting in the wings once I’ve sorted out the issues. Can’t be neglecting the crazy inside when it’s raining outside!

self-drafted dress film noir style

There’s a fair few influences going on with this dress. The neckline I poached from a 40s pattern in my stash. The bold crazy fabric has echos of Kazz the Spazz who still continues to be one of my heroes despite her blog being no more *sniff*, though I’m sure she’d do it more justice with colour! And the overall design came about whilst doodling in my Fashionary book and watching Madmen!

Even though it’s far from perfect and hardly a ground-breaking design, there’s a huge amount of satisfaction that it didn’t come out of a commercial pattern envelope and that I had to make it up to my own instruction!

I self-lined the bodice. And considering the weight of the fabric, it behaved beautifully. With a bit of understitching round the armholes and neckline of course. A good test for the next run when I intend to make that neckline a little bit deeper, but still keep those nice angles.

self-drafted monochrome dress

And the hat! Let me tell you about the hat. Well I don’t happen to have any vintage hats just lying around. I’m sure Mr. Ooobop is convinced I have an actual ‘wardrobe department’ upstairs. I don’t sadly. But what I did have was this cheapie fascinator that I got from the pound shop, onto which I gathered some glittery tulle. Genius, non?! I’m sure some Russian veiling would have been classier but I’ll happily settle for this one… for a quid!

customised fascinatorWe had such a hoot doing these photos. Mr O was able to practice with his new birthday flash attachment and I couldn’t resist the addition little faux film noir-ness with my magic Photoshop wand!

This dress totally called for black and white pics and I wasn’t about to protest. I find black and white photography considerably kinder, compared to full on colour, especially at the end of a knackering weekend!

I’m so glad I’ve got such a pushy boyf, really! I’d never have got the get up and go let alone the camera skills to do this by myself! We really did have a lot of fun with this.

Shame neither of us smoke anymore, otherwise we could have got some proper authenticity going. However we did manage to fashion some obligatory venetian blind shadows!

head shot blind shadows

And it’s a fine way to capture the drama after the last glass of Prosecco got spilled!

vintage scream film noir

I do hope you all had a restful weekend with some making going on, of course!

Self-drafted retro top

retro check top

A couple of months ago, I signed up for a local adult education course to learn how to draft a bodice. The need for a go-to-template is great now. My need to save hours in a day is bigger than ever and so the idea is, that if I have a master block, I won’t have to keep reinventing the wheel, each and every time by having to make alterations to a preprinted bodice pattern. I would also very much like to realise some of these gazillion designs floating around my head and create them for other people too.

The course was cheap. Just £85 for four Saturdays, 10-3. And the teacher was lovely. There were 5 other students at first class and 3 at the last. So we pretty much had one to one teaching for the last session. pattern-drafting tools

To begin, we were instructed to pick a set of body measurements from a table of standardised sizes, that matched closest to our own body measurements. My first furrowing of brow. The whole point of me wanting a custom fit is that I don’t fit standard. Even my shoulders dropped an inch with that first instruction! As is usual for me I just kept shtum. But someone else in the class just couldn’t, and with gusto unabashed, questioned the task out loud! Hoorah for the confident ones!

The teacher assured us it was easier and quicker to go from a standard set of measurements whereby most of the calculations were done already and then make alterations to fit, afterwards.

And so I did as was asked. But the confident one did not! She used her own measurements and although, indeed I finished drafting first, she had a better fitting first toile. Funny, that!

But, with fear of the wind changing, I relaxed my jealous scowl and approached the teacher with questions on how to fit this bodice… that really didn’t fit at all!

She drew on me with red pen. The neckline needed to be made deeper. The side seams taken in; the bust point needed to be moved; the fullness taken out of the bust; the back bodice needed shortening; and the shoulders were too long. Mmmmm…..!

first bodice muslin

OK. Not a problem. In fact quite a few extra lessons in alterations were absorbed in the process so I didn’t feel too robbed.

I made the above adustments and sewed another toile. A better fit but it still needed changes. A third toile and although I knew it still wasn’t perfect. I was determined to draft my actual top and make it before the end of the course. I thought it would be useful to have the teacher hold my way throughout the process. And it was.

I ended up with a completely wearable top. She helped me to draft the collar and showed me how to create the facings. I based the design on a pattern I already owned. Did I just state a distain for reinventing wheels?! There is a method in my madness. I want to be able to create things that I see in pictures, everywhere, armed with a knowledge base of skills to custom fit, rather than have to have a standardised pattern that doesn’t ever fit. And of course this top is a great vintage design and I love it!

self-drafted retro-style top

But there are issues. The underbust is too big and it doesn’t feel perfect enough. In fact it’s true to say that it’s too big all over.

back view of top

 

The material was a cheap soft cotton with quite a loose weave so that probably didn’t help my fitting issues either. But it is comfy!

I added the zipper at the side, in true vintage stylee and owing to the bias cut funnel-like collar that rolls over the back. I also added a shaped extension to the waistline so that I can tuck it in without bulgy lumps round my middle. I usually wear it tucked in with a wide belt but I wanted to show it in full for the post. I’m quite happy with it hanging out too!

retro check top full length

self-drafted top side view

I made another one up last night, with some alterations. I took a little out of the side seam allowance and made the waist darts more concave at the point. There wasn’t much improvement to be honest. In effect I made the best of a bad job and went to bed in a huff!

I am irritated that with all of the alterations that were made in order that this bodice fits, the pattern pieces are really irregularly shaped now. And owing to the massive darts that were removed horizontally from the back pieces (to reduce the excess fabric), I won’t ever be able to pattern match across the back 🙁

There is no way I am going to be beat though. With renewed vigour, I got up early this morning to draft another from scratch. I used my real body measurements along with some armhole standards, and low and behold it was a pretty close match. I just have to make a couple of small amendments. The armhole gapes at the front and there is a bit too much excess over the bust and so I have cut and closed a dart at the armhole on the pattern, to reduce the gape. The mid-armhole at the back gapes a little too, and I have smoothed the excess up to the shoulder, and remarked the shoulder seam to both front and back pieces.

And best of all, with this new draft I get to have a perfectly straight back seam so I can have a continued pattern across the back if I so please, yay!

Wow! this really is a learning curve.

Hope to share some more new Ooobop designs soon. Ones that actually fit! So come back soon and in the meantime, don’t forget to enter the Giveaway if you haven’t done already. Only 3 days to go!

TTFN x

PS. All credit to Mr O, of course, for the lovely photos and a lovely day out with the children on the Southbank

 

A festive full circle

Tartan full circle skirt

Here’s a little something that wasn’t on my mahoosive Christmas to do list! So it’s a small miracle that it’s being blogged here and now. Each and every year at around about this time, I say out loud, over and over that next year I will start earlier with Christmas prep: do my accounts in September, the Christmas presents in October, get the cards sent in November and not take on quite so much work so I can ease in gently and revel in the lead up! Perhaps next year I might take note.

So with all this month’s stressy stuff going on, how on earth did I get it together to make anything new? I stole sleep. Robbed it, right from under my own nose. Three whole precious hours. Doesn’t sound like much in the grand scheme of things but when you are only averaging about five to six as it is, the motive would have to have been significantly necessary. Well I did need an outfit for the office lunch!

tartan circle skirt

I’d like to say it was an impulse make but to be honest I spend a lot of time dreaming about what I want to make so when I eventually get round to making it, it feels like I’ve made it before, at least 4 or 5 times in my head!

I love the Westwood/punk/vintage/rockabilly vibe of tartan. I know that it has deeper, traditional roots and I even have some distant Scottish blood so it feels highly appropriate and very festive!

tartan circle skirt

The skirt is self-drafted full circle with a waistband and lapped zipper. I didn’t line it and chose, instead to finish the insides with Hong Kong seams and a bias finished hem. I feel slightly guilty for machining the hem but I think that’s a small price to exchange for some shut-eye! I’m wearing a tiered organza petticoat underneath. Just one layer. Just to give it a bit of poof!

twirling in tartan circle skirtAnd I went for a shorter length this time. I’ve recently been hooked on below the knee pencil skirts so this 17 incher feels much more party like. Just had to be ready for any embarrassing fashion blunders in this blustery weather.

Tartan was most definitely the right fabric for the job.
The drape is perfect.
It doesn’t need lining.
Its a dream to sew.
Bit fraying but with quick work and seam binding , that’s not really an issue.
It doesn’t crease
Its totally machine washable.
It only took a metre . . .
. . . and only cost a fiver!

tartan circle skirtI didn’t have too much trouble lining up the horizontal patterns but if I allowed a bit more time I could have evened up the design at the sides a bit more. I did however leave it to hang for the statutory 24 hours before trimming and hemming. I know how worth it that bit is now!

I can’t see me getting anything else sewn this side of Christmas, unfortunately. I simply have no idea how I thought I might have chance to finish my coat. The muslin is made and I know what adjustments I need to make but the fabric is going to be looking longingly at me for a few weeks more, I think.

So in the meantime I will just have to resign to the wardrobe what is and twirl in my new tartan . . . while I’m running around like a headless chicken!

tartan circle skirtThanks as always to the fabulous Daniel Selway for his tireless photography favours.
And also to the wonderful Jayne Hepsibah-Sullivan whose Hepsibah Gallery window makes a perfect backdrop!

Me Made May 13: My final days

So here we are. The final days of Me Made May ’13! I feel quite sad in a way. But relieved. And accomplished. And enlightened. So thank you SoZo for setting this brilliant challenge. I didn’t realize quite what a knock on effect it would have. Or how it would make me feel. I wholly recommend this challenge to anyone who has yet to take the plunge. 

I really didn’t think I would make it to the end of the month. For sure there were repeats and some days no photo evidence at all. In reality, taking a photo of yourself every day is really difficult. Easy at first with all the initial enthusiasm for the challenge but then harder each day as the sun disappears, the hubby sets of earlier for work and the outfits get more tight-fitting the older they are!

But the journey was worth it. It was fantastic to focus each day on each hand made garment and realise where I’ve come from and what I’ve arrived at. Confirmation on what I’ve learned and achieved was invaluable. I don’t have time to stop and think properly about most things these days, especially what I’m going to wear on any particular day. So this was a fantastic excuse for self-indulged focussing, on past experience as well as some future plans. Oh yes, of course the flip side of the coin has meant my project list has increased ten-fold. But hey that list always makes for sweet dreams, if nothing else!

So to wrap up… the final days of  Me Made May ’13.

Jersey cowl neck top

DAY 22: Silk touch jersey cowl top and wool pencil skirt
Neither of these are blogged, I made them so long ago. But the cowl top is made from a free pattern on Burdastyle by Ichigogirl. Its the same as the stripy one I made. The skirt is a Simplicity pattern that my mum gave me to kick start my sewing antics. It has a little vent on the front knee. I didn’t line it, unfortunately and this is something I would never do with wool now. I should really go back and line it. It would hang much better and not stick to my tights!

Day 23 black self-drafted pencil skirt

DAY 23: Black self-drafted pencil skirt
This is possibly the most worn and practical of garments in my wardrobe. It fits like a glove, because I drafted it to my exact measurements. It’s properly lined and the lining is even properly attached to the vent. The waistband incorporates a woven interfacing so it doesn’t roll and is fastened by a hook and bar instead of a rubbish ‘eye’! It was a fantastic learning curve making this skirt. So absolutely worth all the effort that it feels fantastic to wear. I always imagined a whole weeks worth of these to choose from and I still think that is highly necessary. They are perfect work skirts and glam up nicely for a spontaneous evening out too!

DAY 24: Stripy wool mini A-line skirt
A miserable day. No sunshine at all, so the woolly skirt came back out. No photographer today I’m afraid. I’ve come to realise how much I wear this skirt. Mostly when I can’t think of anything else to wear. It fits; it’s comfortable; it goes with DMs… and it keeps my butt warm!

Day 25 mmm13 Elisalex shortened

DAY 25: The shortened Elisalex
Today was the 20th anniversary of the day my dad died. Always a sad day. But always a good excuse to don a pretty dress and catch up with my wonderful brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews. The cemetery is a bit of a trek from the bus stop so I needed to sport something easy to walk in. Small heels means small skirt in my world so there was only one thing to do. And that was to chop the bottom off my test Elisalex dress! So glad I did. The duvet cover did good! Although I love my longer rosy version, it’s kind of ‘for best’ but this cheeky little version is now a great little throw-on when-the-sun-shines-and-go dress!

DAY 26: Grey pencil skirt
No photographic evidence today. I wore the first pencil skirt I ever drafted which still fits pretty well. Its lined but has no vent. I was taking things one step at a time back then and to learn to create a vent was information overload! I have to take pigeon steps but it still works. It’s a good staple, though a little boring. It’s days are numbered as soon as the others are on the cutting table!

Day 27 goat eating dress

DAY 27: First summer dress of the year
Today we went to the Surrey County Show. An ideal place to sport a full on flowery frock. Not such a great idea to wear in the goat tent though! Note that Mr O sought his photo opportunity before letting me know what was occurring! I still love this dress but I need to take some volume out of the back. I didn’t notice before but it gapes at the zip. I’m pretty sure its a simple fix. And hopefully it will fit better.

Day 28 Danielle dress

DAY 28: Danielle dress
Now here’s a blast from the past. Almost 2 years ago to the day. It was a bit of a squeeze, I can tell you. So much wrong with this dress but I still like the vibe of it. The fabric was a charity shop find, unsure of the content but it’s soooo itchy and scratchy. I thought I was being out there by using red lining but that turned out to be a no-no with the pale open weave fabric on the skirt! I can’t really breathe in this dress and you can tell by the pull across my chest but this dress is a lovely reminder that I should make another that fits in a much lovelier fabric.

Day 29 button back top

DAY 29: Button back retro top
I was fast running out on day 29 so it was a great propmt to rectify some issues with some garments I don’t tend to wear any more. This one in particular was really annoying to wear because I made the neckhole too small. I really liked the jewel neckline but in reality it kind of chokes you to death. Only problem was that the first buttonhole started right at the top, so to lob a centimetre off the neckline would halve my first buttonhole. My need to wear a me-made top spurred on a quick fix and I replaced the buttonhole with a press-stud and sewed the button on top so nobody will ever know!

Day 30 vintage pencil skirt with pockets

DAY 30: Vintage pencil skirt with pockets
Not yet blogged but again, a hurried make out of desperation but boy I’m glad. I’ve been meaning to make this for yonks! It still needs some fine tuning and this is really just a test garment but I will fill in the details when I blog it. But what’s more to say? Its a pencil skirt with pleats and front pockets… hooray!

Day 31 1940s shoe dress

DAY 31: 1940s shoe dress again!
A shameless repeat but one I’m prepared to wear again and again. This is by far one of my favourite dresses. It gets comments from total strangers as I stroll down to Sainsbo’s. It’s cool and comfy and is covered in shoes! This is the item of clothing that I need at least 5 more of. Along with 7 pencils skirts, my wardrobe should have at least 7 of these too!

And so we leave the month of May and venture on to pastures new. A prom dress for my friend’s daughter is on the go, FBA’s and all, a bespoke pencil skirt for my daughter’s birthday present and another that was bid on by my friend at the school auction. (Far too nervous to ask what she bid!)

Thank you as always for your wonderful comments and support x

Me-made May’13: My first week
Me-made May’13: My second week/
Me-made May’13: My third week/