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!

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Mini Stanley Pyjamas

Mini stanley pyjamas

Little Miss Ooobop has been hassling me for a pair of PJs for so long, bless her. So yesterday, we set off for the Goldhawk Road to track down the very specific ‘cats and dogs’ fabric that she wanted. But of course, the shops were shut. It was New Years Day, after all! In order to relieve the disappointment (me more than her), we drove off, instead, to get a burger and watch a movie!

Now as luck would have it, for all that was closed in Chiswick High Road, Cath Kidston was open! Like some shining apparition amidst the rainy gloom! And there was a sale on. So we duly picked out some Mini Stanley fabric. No cats but very cute dogs!

Cath Kidston mini stanley pjs by the window

I used this vintage Maudella pattern. It’s not dated but could be 1950s if not 1960s. What would you say?

maudella_3162

I’m still working on convincing LMO to have the matching top to the bottoms but I don’t think a 9 year old can see past the ‘fogey’ images on the pattern sleeve!

I dutifully traced the one pattern piece. This is something I make a habit of nowadays. Just purely out of the respect for a tissue pattern piece that has happily existed for between 50-70 years. I don’t want to be the one who destroys that amount of history!

So including the careful ironing of the pieces, the tracing, the cutting, the making and the finishing touches, it took all of 2 hours. This is largely down to the magic of my new, though very old, overlocker, which was so generously bestowed upon me just before Christmas. I didn’t realise what the implications of having one were, until all the seams were serged and the hem edges neatly finished in a jiffy!

detail of overlocked seams

I am still going to have to work on the fine tunings of the tensions but it will so totally do me for now!

reading a book in mini stanley pjs

LMO has spent the rest of the afternoon in her new PJs and I’m delighted to have completed my first project on just day 2 of the New Year. Here’s hoping its the first of many more projects to come.

jumping in mini stanley pjs

Happy New Year lovely people x

Photography by DJ Photographic

Vintage 50s blouse with monogram

simplicity 2195 blouseThis is vintage Simplicity 2195 . . . or a great substitute for a bowling shirt fit for a game with the Spoolettes! Who are the Spoolettes you may well ask? Well hop over to Sew Dixie Lou to get a little insight.

vintage 50s blouse with monogram

I’m gutted I didn’t get any photos of our fabulous sporting event. But if you want a bit of inside info, Charity Shop Chic has posted some great ones here plus you get to see her amazing bowling shirt refashion too!. We sure did rock Bloomsbury Lanes with all sorts of complimentary comments coming from the staff.

I struggled to find an actual bowling shirt pattern but I’m quite glad I found this one as it works very well as an every day shirt. I wore it to lunch today at Carluccios with Mr O. Teamed with self-drafted half circle skirt and my favourite ankle boots from Office.

simplicity_2195_1

simplicity_2195_4I knew the hand embroidery was going to be a challenge for me. The last time I entertained such a thing was at the age of nine. But I thought this would make a lovely project to take on holiday back in August. (An efficient bit of planning on behalf of those Spoolettes meant that this sewing challenge fitted in superbly with my holiday!)

So first in the suitcase was the needle and thread and a hoop and a half made shirt with a piece of freezer paper ironed in position. As with most things I didn’t spend too much time reading up on the best way to go about this and the only transfer pencil I had was red, so I traced my initials from the original transfer, supplied with the pattern, on to the freezer paper. I couldn’t bear to cut up and ruin the original!

I had, however, read somewhere at some point, that ‘padding stitches’ were a good idea to raise the ‘satin stitches’. And so I set about tracing the edge of the monogram with some small running stitches.

monogram

A long process but not too much hardship when you are sat outside a beautiful Maltese villa, watching your children have so much fun in the pool, whilst all 40 degrees of sunshine warms your toes!

All was going swimmingly until I came to pick off the darned freezer paper. Gah! Never again. It took sooooo long!!

padding stitchesBut once it was off It was a pleasure to sew. A bit wonky here and there but it worked, kinda! Just wish I had used some stabiliser on the reverse to stop the stretching that happened too.

monogram_embroidery

I’ve got plans on making a gingham one, just as the pattern cover pic. Yes I’m still harping on about gingham but I happened across some gorgeous egyptian cotton gingham. Well at least that’s what the lady sold it to me as! But to be perfectly honest, it may be a way down the list as this sub-zero-like weather does not inspire me to make anything other than slankets right now!

simplicity_2195 pattern

Postscript:

I completely forgot that I’d asked the waitress to take the following photo. Feast your eyes on a table full of splendidly hand-made bowling shirts sported by an amazing team of beautiful and talented Spoolettes…

Spoolettes

Couture Inside Out

I’m fresh back from the ‘Couture Inside Out – 1950s Paris and London’ workshop at the London Fashion and Textile Museum.

Must blog straight away for fear of forgetting anything! After all I forgot notebook and pen in the first place!

First treat of the day was that I got to meet and enjoy this experience with Handmade Jane. It’s always so good to have like-minded people to raise your eyebrows at, make ‘ooo faces’ with, and give knowing looks to, during a lecture!

It was a very informal 2-hour affair with such amazing content divulged by the lovely Dennis. We donned our white cotton gloves and prepared to soak up all the info we could.

The first thing I learned (and remembered) was the definition of ‘haute couture’. (please spare me if I’ve got this wrong!) It is a term used to describe the highest level of hand-sewn, bespoke garments, in Paris by a delegated team of incredibly experienced seamstresses to strict regulations. Interestingly enough it was a term that was originally associated with the fine work of Charles Worth who was an Englishman.

Of course we have couture in the UK but with much more relaxed rules, apparently!

As the garments were presented, on a white covered table, the polite student audience jostled for position to get a better view and a feel and a photo.

First up was Dior. A gasp as the two Dior creations were revealed from under the tissue.

The fact that both were aged: faded, stained and torn, did not deter from the unanimous awe.

Both dresses were in two pieces which was intriguing. Nothing like a skirt and a top. So much clever scaffolding with fine underskirts attached to the bodices. No waist-stay required.

dior cream dress

Every little bit of both of these dresses were hand-stitched!! Including the tiny rolled hems on all the chiffon layers. Beggars belief!

Please excuse the fuzzy photos taken on a phone whilst being too polite to jostle too much!

dior embroidered dress

dior embroidered dress detail

Next up was a later Dior in a really heavy weight fabric. I will be looking at furnishing fabrics in a totally different light from now on. This was heavier than any curtaining I have ever felt.

It was laid out on the table, ready for inspection! A gorgeously shaped one-piece dress. Made for someone who clearly didn’t eat that much. The waist was super tiny. The seam allowances on the other hand were enormous. At least one and a half inches. All pressed open and hand finished. The fabric had a ridged, pin-tuck like texture. All the rows of which lined up perfectly on the side seams.

dior later dress

No lining, which was a surprise. Though the dress was underlined and interfaced.

dior dress inside

Chanel then graced the table with black contrast dress and two piece skirt suit. Both very classically Chanel.

Chanel black dress

The bling was upfront and out loud on this one but only took shape as a collar detail and chain weight in the hem on the set below.

chanel skirt suit

Chanel only incorporated details if they worked and if they were functional. The little ‘petal’ pockets sit at the hemline, precisely centred with the seams. The chain weights are typically seen in Chanel hemlines. She was obsessed with the way that fabric hung and remained throughout wear and this little trick became one of her many signatures.

chanel_hem_weight

Far removed from the finer details of Chanel but not to be sniffed at, is the work of Balenciaga. This Spanish master draped most of his designs and employed much fewer seams than other designers.

This coat was A blooming Mazing. My rubbishy i-phone photos do not do it any justice whatsoever. Firstly the colour. Secondly the texture of this fabric… OMG. It was hand created to get this incredible effect. And yet the design remained oh so simple. I can’t tell you how much I want this coat!

balenciaga green coat

I didn’t care too much for Balenciaga’s Sarong Dress. But you gotta take your hat off to someone who incorporates so much into the under-scaffolding of something that fundamentally looks like a sarong!

balenciaga sarong

Now, will I get shot for not having heard of Courréges? Probably. As these designs were pretty iconic!

courreges blue dress

Jane got right in there! Impressed by those perfectly bound buttonholes.

courreges coat

Dennis couldn’t be sure of the fabric that this Pierre Balman dress was made. It kind of felt like the sew in canvas that I recently used to interface my jacket! But it was gorgeous and necessary to keep that amazing shape. There were cutouts trimmed with velvet at the hemline and on the sleeves.

pierre balman dress

Of course it goes without saying that every detail counts. Balman even ensured that his labels were mitred.

Pierre Balman labels

The following is a really bad picture of the Ellie Saab dress that Halle Berry wore to the Oscars for Best Actress, The Monsters Ball. In stark contrast to the dresses that were 50/60 years older you can see no seam allowances, no underskirts and no hand stitches to speak of. It is undeniably a gorgeous dress and she looked amazing in it, but it is incredible how standards have changed over the years!

Ellie Saab dress

I cannot for the life of me remember who designed this dress but the fine pleating in the linen was unbelievable. An underlayer of shimmering copper gave a depth to the translucent linen and you could also see where the pleating was tacked.

(Thanks to the lovely Angela, I can now confirm it was Sybil Connolly!)

pleated linen dress

detail of pleat dress

Just when you thought you’d seen it all, something very little left me lost for words. If you look closely at all those painstakingly sewn on eyes, you will see that they are all oversewn with thread!

bound eyes

Now it would have been rude not to have mentioned Zandra Rhodes creations at this very museum. She is the founder, after all!

She entered the fashion world as a textile designer and the following two garments are testament to her designs. I’d never be able to carry these off in a million years but you have to admire her total originality in the way that she designed around the design of the fabric instead of sourcing suitable fabrics for a pre-determined design.

zandra Rhodes tunic

Here is her Knitted Circle dress. So called because the fabric design is made up of graphic knitting stitches. I swear there is more fabric in one of the sleeves than in the whole dress!

Zandra Rhodes circular knitted dress

knitted circle design

Both Jane and I left the workshop in a fuzzy reassured kinda way. It made us proud that we hand made our own clothes, albeit perhaps not to the same level of lavishness but there was nothing on show that we could not have handled. Give us a year or two for a deadline and we would gladly knock one up. But perhaps we might delegate the binding of the hook and eyes to someone else!

I did wonder whether I should have posted in so much detail so as not to spoil the experience for future visitors but really, you have to be there to actually see it. You have to feel and you have to hang onto every word that Dennis speaks because he knows everything there is to know!

The dress that nearly wasn’t

. . . but I’m so glad it is!

Spotty rose dress

Following on from the vintage rose print dress, I fully intended to make the next one from some gorgeous red rose cotton. But I knew I should improve on the fit of the bodice beforehand. I’ve turned once again to my trusty Elisalex bodice pattern. Why fix it if it’s not broke, I say!

I’ve taken the advice from the By Hand London site to perform a full bust adjustment. Something I never thought I would ever need to do for me. But on closer examination of my last version, and the one before, the upper bust was defo a tad too big whilst the fabric was more than snug over ‘the girls’. I’ve always gone by bust size and increased the waist, but never thought to go down a size and increase bust and waist. More than anything I plainly couldn’t be arsed! I must also learn to take bust measurements with whatever bra I mostly intend to wear!

Well. Big fat lesson learned. I now have a properly fitting bodice pattern that fits under arms, across chest, over bust and waist. Not bad for 2 years of (not) trying!

properly fitting bodiceAnyhows. This is not the reason that this particular dress didn’t happen. This spotty rose fabric has been sitting in the bottom of stash mountain for eons. I bought it from a charity shop and quickly decided it would only ever be suitable for a toile after doing a burn test.

Let’s just say I nearly burned down the kitchen in the process. Once the flames died down and the stinky fumes dispersed, my science test revealed that this fabric was totally synthetic and was never going to be acceptable in sweaty weather.

So I used it, with my dramatically altered bodice pattern to make a toile. Really not bothered if at first I didn’t succeed. I really didn’t want to cut into the lovely red fabric without knowing the alterations worked. But they did. Clearly. And all of a sudden I can forgive the fabric for being so unnatural! It’s amazing how blurred one’s vision gets when one is blinded by a darned good fit! I really must learn to be so snobby about fibre content!

front view of spotty rose dress

That said. I am still holding out for some 100% cotton gingham. How hard can it be? A sleeveless number in poly is fine but I can’t imagine having a sleeve, however short, in such close contact with my pits, in summer!

I wore it out to the park today in a sticky 26 degrees. Extreme test for a plastic dress. But because the skirt is so full and the fabric is so thin, it was remarkably cool.

Wearing the dress in Ravenscourt Park Gardens

Smelling the roses

I am still going to do the red rose version but I’m so pleased with this Brucey bonus one that I landed up with in the process! It has a 1950s vibe to it and of course is the perfect base dress to accessorise with a pair of crazy heels.

spotty rose dress

These heels being of the pink, furry leopard-print kind, of course!

sitting pretty on the doorstep

spotty rose dress

And I think you’ll agree that Mr Ooobop worked his magic as usual!

On winning my most favourite pattern yet

Butterick_547I do worry myself sometimes. It’s not as if I don’t have enough patterns. It’s not even as if I don’t own any lovely vintage coat patterns. They just weren’t the right ones. And I just didn’t know it until I saw this one. And I wanted it.

The trouble is, someone else clearly had the same line of thinking, and that person wanted it badly too. We went head to head on Ebay. I even warned my prospective opponent up front, via Twitter, that I really really wanted it. But when the bidding reached £40, still with 3 days to go, I decided to back out.

But I dreamt about the finished coat in the meantime. I had a vivid dream of twirling in a garden. Heaven knows where I was. That was beside the point. It was enough of a sign that I had to get back on that bidding horse. After all, how much in real money would a ready made coat like that cost me in real life? I bags I couldn’t even find one to fit so perfectly for any money.

But I wasn’t that hasty, oh no. I did a frantic 2-hour search online just to check that there wasn’t the self same pattern in hyperspace ready to pop in my shopping cart for a fiver. Of course there wasn’t. In fact there wasn’t a single solitary fitted coat pattern remotely similar, anywhere on the web. I guess that’s why I had such a fiesty opponent to deal with.

Anyhows. To cut a long story of a 7-day bid a little bit shorter. I won this gorgeous pattern for a princessly sum of £50. It made a giant hole in my monthly budget and It’s true to say I would have happily survived without it. But I don’t regret it one tiny little bit.

I’m casually stroking wool in all my local fabric shops. Doing the sums and still constantly dreaming of twirling around in the finished article. But I have to say, it’s doing nothing to help me keep cool at night, I can tell ya!

Princess Jessica’s Prom Dress

I think I have kept you all in suspense for quite long enough. This evening is Jessica and Tom’s leavers prom and so I am allowed to reveal the dress I have been working on for the last few weeks.

I was feeling a bit poorly today so Mr Ooobop, like the knight in shining armour he is, set off with his new birthday camera without sparing the horses. The following photos are some of the loveliest he has taken. And I think you will agree that the beautiful subjects contribute somewhat to the awesomeness too.

Meet Jessica. The most wonderful 16 year old daughter of my friend Tina. Can you now picture the pressure that was to create her a prom dress fitting for such a beautiful princess?!

Jessica having hair styled

Jessica having hair styled

Tayla Harris was in-house hairdresser for the evening and styled Jessie’s hair beautifully. Complete with little jewels to match her necklace.

Hair jewels

Hair jewels

And ooo… look. A cheeky first glance of the bodice! Such a tease, I know!

Hair styled with jewels to match necklace

Hair styled with jewels to match necklace

With make-up, hair and outfit complete, enter Jessie’s Prince Charming – the lovely Tom. I’m so pleased he liked his tie. He didn’t really have much choice in the matter, bless him. It was delivered seconds before this photo was taken. I only finished it this morning! And here we also have a side view of the prom dress. I’m getting there, honest!

Tom's arrival and receiving the tie

Tom’s arrival and receiving the tie

The tie was made to match Jessie’s sash as you can see. And Tom did a much better job of tying it than I did!

Tom putting on his tie

Tom putting on his tie

Tom looking more like Prince Charming every minute!

Tom looking more like Prince Charming every minute!

So now they were both dressed to impress, Mr O worked his magic and took some awesome shots of them together. Don’t they look adorable?

Jessica and Tom

Jessica and Tom

A beautiful portrait of the prom Princess and her Prince

A beautiful portrait of the prom Princess and her Prince

I would love to be a fly on the wall tonight and take a picture of them dancing together. The dress is a circle skirt underneath 10 layers of gathered polkadot tulle so you can imagine just how twirly and frothy it would be.

A little dance to limber up!

A little dance to limber up!

Jessie came to me with a firm idea of what she wanted and luckily for me there was a very similar pattern in one of my old Burda magazines. I’ve got quite a hefty collection now. It’s always a joy to go through back issues and see patterns you didn’t notice first time round. But this one was on the money! The only thing I had to do, knowing how standard the sizing works, was to do an FBA. And I had to learn how to do it pretty quick!

prom dress idea

Thankfully for me, and for Jess, I had recently come across a great set of instructions on the By Hand London site. These totally took the fear factor out of the whole process. And I learned so much. Not least of all to come down 2 sizes for Jessies petite body and then doing an FBA. It took just 4 fittings to get it right but oh it was so worth it.

Side view of the dress

Side view of the dress

The strapless bodice section of the dress is boned. For good reason! This was a first for me too. Though I did discover some fantastic boning in my local haberdashery department that sold pre-cased boning. I just had to sew it directly onto the open seams.

The front and back have rouched tulle stretched across 2 panels

The front and back have rouched tulle stretched across 2 panels

The front and back have rouched tulle stretched taught across 2 panels. I love the way they ‘butterfly’ out from the centre seam. And I love how classic and timeless they both look here. Reminiscent of the 1950s.

Full skirt. 3 layers.

Full skirt. 3 layers.

The tulle overlay is ivory in colour and works so well to soften the pink. Kind of like a frothy strawberry milkshake, don’t ya think?! Of all the techniques involved in making this dress, funnily (or not so funnily) the most tricksy part was gathering all those 10 metres into a 27 inch waist. I even made several gathering threads to avoid breakage but it was still a nightmare. I ended up gathering small sections at a time and pinning it on the underskirt, on the mannequin and then hand tacked it all together before I even thought of taking it to the machine!

The bodice and skirt are lined in full with a slightly darker pink lining. That was one of the easier bits! Unlike the Burda instructions, I sewed the circle skirt lining to the waist seam and then once the bodice lining was seamed at the top, I turned under and hand-stiched the waist seam of the lining over the raw edge of the skirt lining.

Oh yes! How could I forget? The shoes!! Check out these amazing Kurt Geiger shoes that Jessie snapped up in the sale for a mere £29! Pink patent leather with bows and bling!

Kurt Geiger shoes

Kurt Geiger shoes: Pink patent leather with bows and bling!

Have you got loveliness overload yet? I think I have. But hang on I forgot to show you the back. Pretty bow sash and all

back view of the dress

back view of the dress

And so the ‘royals’, unfazed by their impromptu photoshoot, bade their farewells and headed off to the prom.

En route to the prom

En route to the prom

I would so love to have seen everyone’s faces as they walked in together.

Outside the venue

Outside the venue

A massively big thank you to Mr Ooobop for these amazingly professional photos. I would never have got these together myself. I also have to thank Tina for asking me to make this dress for her beautiful princess. It has been such a huge learning curve for me. I don’t deny there was a fear factor involved. I had no choice but to get it right. But that’s how we learn fast, right?!

And last but not least for the ever obliging Jessica and Tom. You make just the perfect models and have brought such beauty to my blog! I am being totally honest when I say that these pictures brought a tear to my eye. I hope you guys had the time of your life! x