A festive full circle

Tartan full circle skirt

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

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

tartan circle skirt

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

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

tartan circle skirt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Half-circle chic

half-circle skirt

This is my first self-drafted half circle skirt. Made from the finest poly-crepe and lined with some heavy stretch satin because gravity ain’t that clever!

I nearly went for wool crepe which I think would have worked even more beautifully, but the idea of messing up 2 metres @£40 was a little bit more daunting than @£9!

half circle skirt front view

The drape is lovely on the poly and I’m so chuffed with how flattering it is around the hips, but my oh my does that cause nasty stretchy bias hemline issues.

To draft the skirt, cut and sew together is child’s play. And it was a perfect project to practice a lapped zipper too. But to get an even hem on this skirt required patience of some saints. I blogged the other day about my time-starved, light-rationed sewing time so I won’t harp on any more about that but lets just say a massive learning curve was attained with the help of some basic tools, a bit of determination and a few swear words!

half circle skirt with jacket

half circle skirt front

I incorporated 2 buttons as a closure instead of the usual hook and bar and used black bias binding to finish the hem. And no I did not do it by hand!

half circle skirt detail

I so needed another black go-to skirt. And it feels right to go back to black. I do love a pencil skirt but I also love how swishy and elegant this one feels. A little bit Grease and a little bit Mad Men but also very much me. I can even run for the bus in it! Just need a few more 50s style blouses or peasant tops to go with it now.

twirling in half circle skirtAmazing photographs by Daniel Selway

Shedding some light on a dark subject

Head torch
I am time-starved. Especially when I get home from the office. Even more especially when it’s dark and my energy levels have dropped through the floorboards.

It’s frustrating mostly because I function fully from morning to afternoon, busily beavering away, designing, revising and artworking books like there’s no tomorrow. At lunch, I compose lists on Post-it notes. Lists of what I fully intend to do when I get home. Sewing projects mainly. Finishing off WIPs, drafting new ones and watching YouTube tutorials but then, as I walk through the door, adorned with Sainsbo’s bags, check on the homework, prepare the dinner, feed the masses, wash up and put the children away… someone or something sneaks up behind me and blatently steals my ‘get up and go’!

I find myself making excuses to myself. My best one is: “These damned energy efficient lightbulbs are rubbish. I can’t see a thing!”

I offloaded this woe to a work colleague on Wednesday and she suggested a head torch. Genius! Bhavini always has the best ideas. (Apart from Helen who invented #TuesdayCheeseDay!)

By Thursday I had completely forgotten that my half-circle skirt had already taken 5 evenings. And I had nearly forgotten that I had to unpick the hem already because I stupidly didn’t level it before stitching. Even when I did try to level the hem, apart from the light failing and it being virtually impossible to see where I was marking on a black fabric, the dress-form was slowly sliding downwards every time I twisted it round. So by the time I got back round to the first pin, I was pinning higher and higher! I said nearly forgotten!

Because thanks to Bhavini and her brilliant suggestion, Mr Ooobop’s head torch worked a treat. I could now see what I was doing, without a care that I looked like a complete fool, and that self same evening, my perfectly levelled half-circle skirt was finished.

working with head torch

I’m not sure if you’ve ever had the displeasure of a bias-stretched hem – honestly, two and a half unnecessary inches longer at the front more than the sides! – but I will never ever wing it again.

To get it right, I first measured the length I wanted with a tape measure from the waist, down the side seam to the hem and placed a pin. I then measured up from the bottom to the hemline, using a metal rule and continued pinning the new hemline all round. I rotated the whole dress-form instead of twisting it on the pole this time!

I then marked with tailors chalk, 1.5 cm all round, below the pins and once I’d double checked the markings, I cut off the offending excess.

I used black bias tape to complete the hem. Worked a treat!

I don’t have a shot of the finished skirt to show you as yet – I’m hoping to persuade my trusty photographer to take some at the weekend. But I do have a handy new device in my sewing box… hoorah!

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

Circle skirt for ‘The Producers’

I’m still feeling like I ought to have made some firm new years resolutions. Most bloggers have bitten the bullet, committed to some serious projects and put them all in writing which is so admirable and positive and made me feel a bit of a lightweight until I read a post which reminded me amongst other things that I dont have to join in with every bloggers sewing challenge presented to me!

It made me realise that instead of swearing by the almighty Golden Hands sewing Bible, to sew more furiously and meet far more challenges than last year – whilst juggling a full time freelance career as a graphic designer and being mother, wife, keeper of all pets and chief bottle washer – I should instead get more realistic and concentrate on what is really needed, and what will be cherished. Lets face it. There’s a lot of time-stealing, head-hurting, and sleep deprivation involved in most sewing projects so to make something, purely to look pretty in a wardrobe (I admit to at least 3 from last year) is surely criminal! Life chucks all sorts of spanners in the works and so I’m pained to even state this as my new years resolution (You can tell how committed I am!) but I am going to give it a go.

My first day-saving emergency skirt was started last Thursday evening following a panic text from my friend. She had been desperately searching for a 1950s vintage dress or skirt for her daughter, the lovely Miss Bella, to wear for her next school production of The Producers. Easy, one would have thought, if you were an adult perhaps. But Miss Bella is a very petite 12 year old and to alter anything ready-made would have resulted in a re-make in any case.

ooobop circle skirt

Emergency circle skirt

There’s a lot of tutorials out there for circle skirts, not least of all Casey’s recent circle skirt sew-along, which I completely didn’t have time to follow along with, but in my head I have been rehearsing a way of making my own version for some time. Does anyone else do that?

I had a stash of red polka dot. I forget what it was originally destined for but it was bound to be good for something! And funnily enough I had a stash of netting too. I’m determined to make myself a petticoat one day. But I must say that after my wrestle with a floor load of the stuff, that project might have dropped down the list!

ooobop circle skirt

Amazing how well behaved the netting looks here!

It’s not rocket science to make one of these and it does make good use of maths which all children must wonder what the ‘H’ good is that going to do for them when they grow up! So I’m glad to put this little old formula to use: ‘Gladder’ still that I even remember it, even with my crusty old memory!

circumference formula

Bring back memories?!

I regret I didn’t get time to take in-progess photos but I will be making a follow up post on how to make a circle skirt, the ooobop! way, with diagrams, later on, but first I must make a mad dash to Miss Bella’s house as she is off to dress rehearsal. I’m hoping to get some feedback and photos of the lovely MIss Bella in full costume on stage in February. She will be fabulous for sure!