My Vintage Dreamcoat!

My vintage Dreamcoat

And so I present the focus of all my dreams since first bidding all my hard-earned pennies pounds on vintage Butterick 547. It’s taken nearly seven months to realise the nagging vision that was persistent even throughout my busiest months.

At least 2 of the 7 months, were taken up with searching for the ideal fabric. Quite incredible seeing as I’m a stone’s throw from the Goldhawk Road. I watched London folk on a daily basis, as they paraded their neutral tones around town, and that was inspiration enough to fuel a rebellious approach and lead me to an online supplier of ‘quality coating fabric’ – Fabric Dreams. Of all the samples I requested (which were incidentally free of charge and free of postage!) this non-wool, fabric was my favourite. I confused myself with this choice at first believing a quality coat must be in wool. But I went with gut and gut came good!

vintage Butterick 547

The hardest bit about the construction was having enough space to lay out the pieces. They were huge. I knew I was going to have to lob off the usual 4 inches from the bottom but I wanted to construct the original length in case I had a later moment of maxi-madness!

vintage coat butterick 547

This coat was seriously made in hourly bursts. If I had no hours left at the end of the day, sleep was stolen. I could not have done it any other way. Full time freelanceness which often runs into the evenings, with school runs and domestic chores to boot, means little or no time to sew. But UK weather waits for no seamstress and I was seriously going to freeze my butt off unless I got a wriggle on. Good enough motivation wouldn’t you say?!

vintage coat B547

The only issue with working in hundreds of little shifts is that I probably spend as much time getting stuff out and putting it away as I do on actual sewing time. But hey ho. Got there in the end. I really must stop dreaming about one of the children’s bedrooms being a sewing room. Terrible mother!

vintage dreamcoat

I interrupt this post to big up my amazing and wonderful bestest friend and boyf in the whole world, Daniel. I swear this coat wouldn’t look half as good if it wasn’t for his amazing photography skillz! I owe him so many waistcoats, it’s untrue!!

The other great thing about him being chief Ooobop photographer, is that we get to mooch around London together finding lovely locations. Today was mostly the British Museum. Feel like a bit of a fraud for not actually looking at one single exhibit. But we did have a cultural day at the V&A yesterday, honest guv!

vintage dreamcoat back

The coat is made of eight panels which create such a lovely shape. There was stacks of ease and I think I could have pinched out a bit more but I like how it feels and I wouldn’t want to feel restricted in it at all. Interestingly enough, even though the ‘skirt’ is not a circle, letting it hang overnight, the hemline dropped in the same way. A lengthy process to level up the hem, and check it at least 5 times before cutting, was quite painful but worth it.

vintage coat at the British MuseumLining this coat was quite a chore. Even though I chose a real quality, strong, gold lining, it frayed like Billy-O. So I serged every open seam. Because I can. Because I now have an overlocker BTW!! But because I am a newbie overlockerist I got all smug and complacent with the speed and completely hacked through the side-back panel. I swore a bit. But didn’t have time for a proper sulk. I’d come far too far enough down the line to be crying over torn lining. Luckily for my sanity, I had over-bought said gold lining by a metre and a half and so I cut another piece, dutifully unpicked the ruined one and half an hour or so later it was as if nothing had happened!

An entire evening and a morning was spent entirely hand-sewing in the lining with tiny stitches. Around the armholes, down the side seams, all around the facings and neckline and of course the hems. What joy!

But what warmth!

warm vintage coat

I’ve stubbonly been walking around in my draughty Vogue jacket, lovely as it is, refusing to buy a coat, lest it meant I would never finish this one. But now I have. And boy, it feels good to be warm. Bring on the snow!

Of course the warmth may not have been totally down to the coat. Mr O insisted this was a great photo of me having a cheeky snifter! He’s such a bad influence.

cheeky_snifter

A little wander into Covent Garden was lovely on such a bright winter’s day. This coat is great for twirling in too!

twirling vintage coatAnd a little venture into Neal’s Yard to soak up some more colour, if that was at all possible!

vintage Coat Neals YardThank you all for your support and patience throughout my first coat-making venture. It feels amazing to be wearing something so functional, yet so strikingly original and properly fitted. I won’t divulge cost of this project as it has scared the living pants off me but I can honestly say it was worth every single penny pound!

Advertisements

Vintage coat in progress

And so, six months after my gruelling battle to win this beauty of a pattern, work has begun, in earnest. When I was bidding the for pattern, I had the finished coat, clearly in mind and so to be faced with 19 pattern pieces and the usual vague set of instructions, the fear set in.

Butterick_547

I’ve made a jacket or two, I’ve even tackled the wicked welts. So what was I afraid of? Doing it justice, I think. If I was going to go to the bother of making a coat – not just any old coat, but the coat of my nightly dreams since battle was won – I needed the right fit, the right fabric, the finest construction, let alone the neatest bound buttonholes. (Something I hadn’t yet conquered !)

I live near fabric heaven, The Goldhawk Road. And so finding the right fabric should have been easy, right? Easy enough when your expectations aren’t stationed on the moon! I searched high and low and eventually found this amazingly eccentric fabric, online at ‘Fabric Dreams‘. Quite apt, really! I initially had tangerine wool in mind so I ordered a few different free samples and then sat under the letterbox for all of 4 days!

When they did arrive, it was a no-brainer. Even though the fabulous, firey fabric was 100% not wool (and not just tangerine, but an entire fruitbowl of colours) and the others were, it screamed at me to be given a chance and so I agreed to put it centre stage. After all, if I was ever going to go to the bother of making a coat, there’s no way I wanted it to go unnoticed, oh no!

I even made a toile. Just the body section. And this confirmed my need to loose some circumference. I had my suspicions that the coat would be a little big, and it was, but was worried I’d loose the nipped in shape if I took it in at the top and let it out at the waist (the usual Ooobop sausage-shape adjustment!). So with some careful measuring, re-measuring, a little panicking and some more measuring, I took out half an inch, vertically, all the way down, from each of the front and back pieces. So as not to affect the silhouette of the design. Incidentally, like a good girl, I had pre-traced all the pieces!

And then to cut the real fabric. Ooooo the suspense, the fear, the excitement! The pieces are massive. I know I will eventually chop off about 6 inches but I wanted to start long so I could make that decision later. But that did mean I had to cut out on the floor. My kitchen table just ain’t big enough! And that, in turn, meant I had to wash the floor… doh! Always something to hamper a plan! Still took three roll outs of the fabric and continual shooing of cats.

cutout_on_floor

Honestly, why do they insist on laying where I’m cutting? It’s not like there’s no other piles of fabric in the house!

Cat on fabric

An hour and a pair of stiff legs later, I had a wonderful pile of cut pieces. It’s quite tricky to cut though the ‘corded’ texture but it doesn’t fray.

Yesterday I sewed the main body sections and oooed and arrred as I steamed those seams open. For all it’s 100% not woolness, it presses beautifully. And I haven’t had to clip any curves either.

pressed seams

It was getting late last night and I did hesitate to start on the bound buttonholes but knew my dreams would be sweeter if I at least had a go. So I tried a few tester ones on some scrap fabric using the instructions on the pattern sheet. They were rubbish! So I went to YouTube to find someone who’d show me how. They were rubbish too! And then I remembered Karen’s fabulous Ebook download which proved to be the perfect method and I’d even go as far as saying I loved doing them!

bound buttonholesbound buttonholes reverse

Practising those stood me in good stead for making the welt pockets too!

welt pocketsPretty camouflaged huh?! Thats without the invisible stitching which is yet to be done. I’ll be fishing around for ages trying to find a way in, when it’s finished properly!

I pondered for ages, wondering what kind of collar I should have. Should it be the big dramatic scalloped one? One of the self same fabric to keep it simple or a little furry shawl collar? I opted for the latter, after going round in circles. Mostly in the shower!

Faux fur is fast running out in the Goldhawk Road. The good stuff anyway. I’m told by reliable sources that no more will be ordered as summer stock will soon be on it’s way! So I was well chuffed to find this short pile, soft-as-you-like, faux fur. Works a treat.

faux fur collarThough I’ve made fantastic headway this weekend, there is still a lot of work to be done. The sleeves, the length, the hem, the lining and the facing behind the buttonholes. But it will be worth it I’m sure. I can feel those sub zeros honing in over the next few weeks but hey, bring ’em on. I’m going to be snug as some bugs!

Scrap-bustin’ thank yous and superstitions

scrap busting thank yous and superstitions

Quality scrap-bustin’ that is! The word scrap doesn’t and shouldn’t be associated with a gorgeous piece of turquoise silk and some beautiful vintage cottons. But scrap-bustin’ it is until I think of something else!

This little zipper pouch was inspired by a combination of prompts. I often frighten myself with all the intended ‘must-have-a-go-ofs’ that lurk in the back of my brain. The first to come to the fore, was a spot of free-motion embroidery. I spotted some lovely work by @thebobbinbird on twitter and that certainly set the ball in motion. I also needed a way of saying ‘thank you’ to my colleague’s mum who kindly donated a sack load of zips to me! (I’m not kidding about the sack. I’m still bringing them home a handful at a time because they weigh a tonne!) And I have been itching, for so long, to incorporate these tiny pieces of beautiful fabric, into a worthwhile project.

butterfly pouch

Now this is of course free-motion embroidery in the loosest sense! I pinned the tangerine-print butterfly pieces to the silk, lowered the feed-dog and using Sulky metallic thread and an embroidery foot, I ‘walked’ the stitches, free style, around the butterfly wings and to draw the curly antennae. I really loved the process, as I thought I would, and I’d love to be more adventurous next time. Perhaps even incorporate the technique on a garment or two!

butterfly applique detailI love the free nature of it all. The wonky lines and the fraying edges and the grain of the fabric. Quite a relief from some of the more precise methods usually employed in dressmaking. And oh how those colours pop!

I had to use one of the millions of zips, of course! Would have been daft not to! And I covered the ends of the zip to act as stoppers and also because I had cut the length of the zip to fit.

covered ends of zip

The lining is a gorgeous vintage printed quilting cotton. Again part of another generous donation to me from a lovely friend and neighbour. I made small hand stitches around the opening edge to make sure it didn’t get caught in those rather hefty teeth!

pouch liningAnd the superstition bit? Well I’m not entirely sure how Mrs J will use this pouch. She may well use it as a purse so to be on the safe side I’m including a shiny penny to ensure good luck and prosperity. It is bad luck to give an empty one. Does anyone else do this or is it just me… and my mum who made me believe this?!

I think you may be seeing a lot of zippered projects to come. But if you have seen or employed any innovative uses recently I’d be very interested to hear about them!

zips

For the love of lawn

Red rose print cotton lawn dress

What have you ByHandLondon girls done to me? How am I ever going to make another dress that doesn’t involve an Elisalex bodice?

red rose cotton lawn dress

To be fair, it was the fabric that led the dress time. A three metre bolt of cellophaned gorgeousness that has patiently lain in wait for about 18 months at the bottom of Fabric Mountain. It is a rose printed cotton lawn. So silky soft and so very light, in need of a failsafe design. I haven’t seen this print anywhere since and I wasn’t about to bugger it up in a moment of madness. So, having made some fine fitting adjustments to the Elisalex-with-FBA-test-garment, I was able to go straight to and cut.

red rose cotton lawn dress detail

I toyed with a sleeveless version but having seen a few with sleeves and knowing that I wouldn’t suffer the consequences of plastic under pits, I had to give it a go.

I knew the bodice would be an even better fit than the last one as this fabric has a magical elasticity about it. Not a strand of spandex to be had. Just to do with the fineness and high yarn-count of the weave I think. It really is such a luxurious material. I can’t believe I’ve waited so long to use any.

red rose cotton lawn dress over shoulder

I used the whole 60″ width of the fabric to create the gathered skirt but it looks and feels half as poomfy as the vintage rose version. Just because it is lighter. Further confirmation that at some point I must make a full on layered petticoat. I say ‘make’, because I know I will find it impossible to go buy one, even though I am wincing at all that endless, time-consuming, middle-stare-inducing gathering involved!

red rose lawn dress in the park

The sleeves were easy enough to set in. Well if you inset them the right way round that is! I was wondering why, when I tried it on, the sleeves insisted on twisting round. I thought at first that the FBA had reduced the armscye somwhat, but oh no. Just a tired, dippy moment last night.

Note to self (and to anyone else who has ever made the same mistake): 
2 notches on a pattern piece indicate the back; 1 notch indicates the front

I had the moment of clarity, as I often do, standing in my blurry morning haze, under the shower head. A Eureka moment, kind of. So, following this one, I ran downstairs in a towel to check the notches on the sleeve. A bit tricky when you’ve clipped all the seams (doh!) but sure enought, that’s exactly what I’d done.

red rose lawn dress

You’d be forgiven for thinking that that was the end of my dippiness. But oh no no no. Having unpicked them and swapped them over, I then proceeded to pin the hem edge of one of the sleeves to the armhole. Can’t believe I openly admitted that. But better out than in, I say!

red rose lawn dress profile

Quite a bit of hand stitching re bodice lining to armscye and waist seams and hand hemming. Only because I feel like I’m cutting corners if I do otherwise. But I have temporarily machined the sleeve hems just because at that point, Mr O was politely tapping his foot with a camera round his neck.

Best not upset the photographer, hey?!

red rose lawn dress on the kerb

All is rosy in an Elisalex

Elisalex in red roses dressHooray for Elisalex! I want to shout it from the rooftops! I am sooooo happy with this dress. Does it show?!

We had the loveliest day yesterday. Sunshine, park-life and the company of great friends. And the perfect day in fact for an Elisalex showcase!

Elisalex dress in rose print

This is the first independent pattern I have purchased. I’m mostly persuaded by the charm of a vintage pattern but having seen lots of gorgeous examples modelled recently I was totally sold on this dress.

Those girls over at By Hand London have my total respect. Not only does this dress look amazing on everyone who wears it, I kid you not when I say what a joy it is to make. Just one test garment and boom, on to the real one! No faffing, no head scratching and no time-consuming fussiness about it.

I know a few of you have voiced concern over the shape of the tulip skirt – and I have to admit, I did waver myself – but believe me, I am not of minimal hip or butt for sure and although the shape is all about that area, it flatters beyond belief! This is also the most easy to wear dress ever. Not out of place for a picnic but would also go down a treat at a wedding or a party or a shopping trip…

Elisalex dress in rose print

I made this one with a great score of stretch cotton fabric that I shared with Dolly Clacket, whilst on our Goldhawk Road shopping trip organised by House of Pinheiro. It’s totally machine washable and has enough stretch to fit so comfortably without losing shape anywhere at all. It was a dream to sew. Hardly fraying at all. The skirt is nipped in at the hem so that little bit of stretch helps for bigger walking steps too!

The only worry, working with this fabric was how to line the bodice. Given the stretch, I didn’t want an un-stretchy lining. And given the princess seams I wanted as smooth a finish on the inside as there was on the outside. Given that stretch lining doesn’t appear to exist anywhere on the planet I bit the bullet and self-lined. There was a minor moment of panic when I thought this just might make for too much bulk. Its heavier than your usual woven cotton which is great for the structure of the skirt… but it worked a treat!

This pattern is defo a keeper. Any dress that can be rustled up in a couple of evenings and makes me this happy is worth making again, and again… and again!

Elisalex the perfect picnic dress

Thank you, as always to my wonderful though crazy, dog-biscuit munching, talented photographer hubster, Daniel x

daniel eating dog biscuits

How my Elisalex ‘test garment’ happened!

So much has happened over this last week. Starting with last Saturday when Rachel hosted her massive meet up! There have been plenty of fine reports of that wonderful day so I am going to cheat big time and point you in the direction of here and here oh and here!

I will however post a few of the pics. Just because I think they are great and our photographer for the day, Digpal Singh deserves bigging up because he was amaaaazing!

Rachels meet up

Miss Demeanour and Me

Miss Demeanour and Me

Anyhoos. One of the meet-up missions was to shop till we dropped in the Goldhawk Road. By this time I’d been so excited to meet everyone, I clean forgot my fabric shopping list and got completely distracted by the presence of Elisalex dresses modelled so beautifully in real life by these lovely ladies:

Amy, Roisin (wearing Elisalex) and Nicole

Amy, Roisin (wearing Elisalex) and Nicole

Lovely ladies inc Tara (wearing Elisalex) on right

Lovely ladies inc Tara (wearing Elisalex) on right

So I bought this fabric with the Elixalex in mind. Got a great deal by tempting Roisin into sharing 5 metres of hefty, stretch-cotton floral with me. £12.50… bargain!

floral fabric for actual Elisalex dress

For those who have yet to discover this fabulous dress pattern (I’ve a feeling I might be one of the few!) It is so brilliantly and readily available from By Hand London. I loved meeting the brains behind this fabulous site on Saturday. Meet Charlotte and Elisalex herself.

Elisalex and Charlotte

Elisalex (left) Charlotte (right) also modelling the Elisalex skirt.

I ordered my pattern as soon as I got home that Saturday evening. A miracle given no of G&Ts that were consumed beforehand! And it arrived PDQ. I’m still so busy with work and there was little hope of me achieving anything else this week but I tell no lies when I say how quick it was to put together. The instructions are very clear and it really is such an adaptable pattern that will tranfsorm with any style skirt or sleeve option. And so here is my first ‘test garment’.

Elisalex test full length

I repeat ‘test garment’ because I had no intention of actually wearing this one out of the house. But Mr O insisted, if I wanted him to take the photos.

Elisalex test pleat

Why you ask? Because it’s made out of a Duvet cover! It’s a pretty 100% cotton, Ikea, duvet cover but bedding all the same! LMO insisted on an ice-cream so there was only one thing for it!  Elisalex test buying ice cream A trip to the local cafe, that sells what transpires to be the most delicious ice-cream ever!

Elisalex test licking ice cream

Elisalex test eating ice cream

I’m actually glad I wore it out. It was a good test drive. Whilst I’m completely smitten with this skirt style on everyone else, Mr O’s rendition of You Can’t Touch This, did nothing for my indecision! It does take a lot of getting used to. I kept the length… and it is quite long. But it does mean I have to take ladylike steps with a wiggly walk which I quite like. I also like very much, that despite the blustery weather, the wind could not blow this skirt up if it tried! Unlike my first summer dress of this year! Proper Marylin behaviour in that one! I Love the princess seams.

Elisalex test princess seam

And I adore the shape of the back… just pretend you didn’t see the bra strap!

Elisalex test back

And I just can’t wait to make the real one in the fabulous floral! I would now like to remove this song from my head. So please take it and enjoy!

Party skirt for Princess Gabrielle

princess skirt collage

You may have seen me whinging (and crying) on Twitter about this skirt. And now I’m looking at it I really am bemused by how a tiny skirt for a 3 year old could have given me so much jip!

The skirt is made from 3 layers of the most atrrocious fabric: Purple polyester satin for the underskirt, purple soft netting to add poofiness in the middle, and a top layer of glittery pinky-purple stretch tulle… with an off grain ribbed effect which was already stretched out of shape.

So the first issues began with the cutting. Purple polyester all cool apart from the fuzzy fraying threads that combined when handled to form a faux cobweb mass much like you’d buy for decoration at halloween. I was covered in the stuff and even the cats managed to get it wrapped round their chops and were in a right old pickle till I unwound it from their teeth!

I telephoned my mum to ask for some advice on cutting the netting and tulle and she advised to measure and run a line of pins as markers. Great advice but I can’t tell you just how many pins I picked up from the floor afterwards! You have to weave them in and out or else they just drop out!

And lastly and most annoyingly that glittery stretchy nightmare stuff. Because it had a horizontal ribbing, I thought it would be a doddle to cut but nooooo. It was all wonky and stretched from the outset. I’m not entirely happy with the edge to this layer but hey its going to be on a twirling whirling 3 year old party girl who’ll be boinging on a massive pink inflatable castle for most of the day so I think it might go unnoticed!

Now I wasn’t going to admit to the most stupid mistake I made. Because I still can’t believe I was that stupid but hey. We all learn from them….

When I’d finished… or when I thought I’d finished… I thought the waistband was looking a bit too bulky and however much I trimmed the inside elastic, it still came up bigger than the intended 50cm. A lot of head scratching, a goodnights sleep and a eureka moment revealed that I’d cut the waistband not 2x the waist measurement but 4x the waist measurement. I’d measured the strip with it folded, like a complete dingbat!!! Here’s the evidence:

too much bulk on waistbandI did laugh at myself, through the tears. I have been so busy with work this week and I’m amazed I actually got any sewing done. But I’m so glad I did. Gabrielle’s birthday party is tomorrow and I can’t wait to see the photos of her wearing her princess skirt. I’m sure they will make for better viewing than the above! Watch this space 🙂