Tropical Shelby

ooobop shelby romper in tropical print
What bliss, when you have precious little time to play with, but you have a sewing pattern that you know fits straight out of the packet! I’m back again with another True Bias Shelby Romper suit. And I love it just as much as the star version… don’t make me choose!

The fabric is a beautiful quality viscose from SewSewSew. Once again the sewing community came to my aid when I asked if anyone knew where I could get my hands on some tropical print. And Amy from Almond Rock so kindly pointed me in exactly the right direction

Tropical print version of True Bias Shelby Romper

I feel all ‘holiday’ in this one, ditching the Docs for a pair of espadrilles. Believe it or not, I’ve never owned a pair owing to my fat feet and inability to squeeze my toots into them. But Asos have a wide-fitting shoe section and I thought I’d give them a shot. Mostly very happy, especially with the fit. I just have to learn to walk in them and keep my heels from lifting out. Any tips?

Ooobop Shelby Romper

Despite having a mahoosive collection of salvaged and inherited buttons, I still couldn’t muster up five that were just right, so I bought from a seller on Ebay Number-Sixty – who have a huge selection of buttons at very reasonable prices. You can’t really see from the photo but they are olive green with subtle swirls and following the last episode of The Great British Sewing Bee, I was totally inspired by one of the contestants, Nicole,  to sew them on with a pop of contrasting orange thread.

close up of buttons sewn on with orange thread

There was one little tip I forgot to share last time which is so helpful. The instructions advise to stitch in the ditch on top of the shoulder seams and centre back seam to secure the facing piece down. I can’t believe up until now I have been painstakingly handstitching the facing to the seams. This advice will be carried through to all my projects where applicable. It’s so much more effective. And quicker!

I really do love this pattern – the ease at which it sews up right through to finished romper suit. It truly is so much fun to wear. So much so that I can’t wait for my next order of fabric to arrive so I can make my next one. Haha… I make no apologies. It really is that good!

ooobop Shelby Romper

Lovely photos of course by Daniel Selway

 

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!

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):

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:

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?

Why buy a dressform, tailors dummy, mannequin, dressmaker’s stand thing?

Adjustoform lady valet dressform bust

I managed a good few years of dressmaking without a dressform… tailors dummy… dressmakers mannequin… whatchamacallit! I didn’t consider myself at all worthy of such a professional tool. I don’t have room enough to swing a mouse in my house let alone space to accommodate an extra lodger, with a price tag.

But one day I took surprise delivery of a delightful pair of such assistants – one male and one female. Mr O had sought to surprise me with this very generous gift. Strings attached of course.

I’d always contested that it would be too tricky to make him shirts what with him being the illusive musician and the need for checking fit and all. So hats off to his persistence and problem solving skills!

I did make him a few shirts. Years ago, mind. And the tailors dummy was great for checking all the aspects of shirtmaking. It’s become a little redundant of late though.

But the female dressmaker stand  was dressed and draped repeatedly and undoubtedly earned her keep. The main issues I had with the female one were the colour and all the plastic bits. When I stood back from the mannequin and looked at my displayed work I couldn’t help wishing she was more classy – more graceful and more like those neutral coloured dressmaker stands with the tiny wooden ‘heads’ that didn’t distract from the garment and had better pinnability to boot! I also had illusions of practicing draping techniques to create some crazy unique styles and I just wasn’t inspired to work on this blue, now-rickety dressform.

She didn’t age well. The adjustment cogs became stiff. I think they were quite tight to start with. The covering got a bit patchy and loose in places. it wasn’t particularly padded, was difficult to pin to and the hem gauge accessory at the bottom just broke off one day. I never managed to use that part of it to be honest. Ended up with a more wiggly line than I would have created without it!. Instead I would stand her on a table and measure the hemline up from the table with a metal ruler, turning as I went.

But that in itself was a bit of a disaster one day when I realised the body had become loose on the stand and was spiralling down as I turned it.

She almost got her marching orders that day but guilt set in when the more caring me realised how ungrateful and wasteful I was being. She did the job… but she wasn’t nice to work with. That’s all. But that’s such a thing!

Well they do say ‘be careful what you wish for’. (I wished so much to have a nicer dressform, I can’t tell you.) One fateful day earlier this year my ‘delightful’ son had a proper tantrum and vented spleen on blue lady dressform. Rather her than me to be honest, though to be fair, the ensuing bisection was way more of a shock to him than it was me. He had no idea I was upstairs and had witnessed the attack and that I spied on him as he tried to reassemble the twisted wreck, quite-rightly panic-stricken.

Oh the joy on two counts of asking ‘does anyone know how my dressform came to be broken?’. He fessed up, with shameful apology and offered to contribute to a new one. I couldn’t take his dosh. I was too happy that I now had an excuse for a replacement.

May I introduce Adjustoform FG202 | Lady Valet Small 8-Part Adjustable Dressmaker’s Dummy. Naked as the day she arrived. And almost perfect in every way…

Dressform tailors dummy

I first caught sight of her at John Lewis Department store. And I know you shouldn’t judge on looks but that is definitely what drew me in for a closer inspection. The adjustment wheels turned easily – way easier than my previous model. The wooden stand is way more attractive and sturdier than the flailing metal legs of before and the ecru body covering is much easier on the eye and conducive to shooting garments of all colours. Best of all it has boobs!

adjustoform dummy from side

Well, kind of… I do exaggerate! But there is definitely more boob than I had before which helps immensely when checking, shooting or simply displaying a garment. As expected there is no means to change a cup size so a good workaround is a bra stuffed with a pair of two of secret socks! Or I have seen more accurate ways of padding the body with batting to create a more closely replicated size.

Although I was sold already, I’ve learned to reccy online and resist an impulse buy. In any case it wasn’t available to buy in store at the Westfield branch so I found one – a whole £40 cheaper – on Amazon. I took full advantage of the free delivery with my Amazon Prime subscription and she arrived box fresh the following day.

Assembly was a doddle. I didn’t question that there was no instruction booklet, deeming it superfluous to requirement in any case: The body slots into the pole and is tightened with a screw and the feet slot into the base.

lady valet wooden base

I later found said booklet under the flap of the box as I crushed it for recycling. But I’m glad I did as I would have never guessed to rotate the metal device at the base of the stand to hold the feet on. If you don’t do this the feet fall out of their slots when you pick up the dummy!

dressform metal device

So was it worth the investment I hear you ask?

Yes is the short answer. I definitely needed one since more often I am dressmaking professionally. I can leave a circle skirt to hang for the bias to drop, I can achieve a level hem in the absence of a client. I can stand back and see how the garment looks and hangs and I can rotate the body to see how it works at all angles.

The only shred of doubt in my mind is that I know that my Adjustoform Lady Valet is only a slight upgrade, mostly for aethetic reasons and will never be a substitute for a real person’s proportions

This isn’t a one size fits all. And so even with padding will only ever be as near as dammit. Only when I progress to super successful fashion designer extraordinaire status (in my dreams) can I afford the space and the expense of an army of models in varying sizes.

There is better padding on this dressform compared to the blue one but only of marginal difference. You still hit underlying plastic unless you go in at an angle with those pins.

The gaps in the adjustment areas not conducive for draping. For the records I haven’t ventured down that road properly yet. I tend to work with existing or self-drafted flat patterns, but if I wanted to drape and pin a design I would be better off with one of those other kinds of dressform/tailors dummy/mannequin/dressmaker’s stand things with collapsable shoulders like they had on the Great British Sewing Bee.

Do you use one of the aforementioned? What are your views? And pray tell… what on earth do you call it?