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.


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!


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.


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.


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!

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?


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_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.


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.


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


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…


Vintage 1950 Vogue Jacket

vogue 2934 jacket

And here it is, at last, that tasty little Vogue jacket as inspired by that classy little lady, Ms Nicole Needles. It had to be done. I couldn’t resist!

The pattern is V2934, a reproduction of an original 1950 design. Such a clever and very simple pattern that would whip together so quickly if it weren’t for all the hand stitching. Which, strangely enough, I didn’t mind at all.

vogue 2934 jacket

I’m loving the dolman sleeves and the big cuffs which nicely balance out the short cropped cape-like body.

vogue 2934 jacket

I used sew-in canvas for the interfacing. Really great stuff! It molded beautifully around the neck and shoulders and was the perfect weight to maintain the shape whilst still allowing drape at the front.

vogue 2934 jacket

Initially, I had a slight concern that this shape might make me look like a Weeble, given my lack o height, but I do believe it does nothing of the sort! In fact quite the opposite. It is amazingly flattering for a jacket that is more like a cropped cape and I love it!

vogue 2934 jacket

It is also so warm and so snug. The outer fabric is a wool blend, exact content unknown but at £6 per metre I’m not really that concerned!

But the inside fabric, however…

vogue 2934 jacket

It is the most lavish lining I have ever used. 100% red silk satin, baby! Costing more than the main fabric –but boy does it feel lush.

vogue 2934 jacket

Did you know these things were called frogs? Neither did I till very recently. But they do the job so perfectly. Takes a while to do them up but I’m sure I’ll get quicker with practice!

vogue 2934 jacket

vogue 2934 jacket

vogue 2934 jacket

OK. That’s quite enough of that serious posing Janene. What this jacket really speaks, (apart from sugar-gliders) is aeroplanes!

vogue 2934 jacket

vogue 2934 jacket

vogue 2934 jacket

vogue 2934 jacket

So never let it be said that black jackets are boring! Or indeed difficult to make. If you don’t mind a spot of hand-sewing the old fashioned way this is such a walk in the park.

vogue 2934 jacket

vogue 2934 jacket

Before I sign off I’d just like to give Little Miss O a mention. While we were busy being crazy she was so patiently sitting and drawing the most beautiful picture that I just have to share with you.

drawing at the Park

Pictures by Daniel James Photographic

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

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!