Lacroix blinds… sweetie!

christian_lacroix_blinds

This has to have been my best charity shop find ever. 2 x 3m pieces of Christian Lacroix Souvenir fabric. A little Googling confirmed I had sealed a very special deal at £6 a piece!

Interestingly enough. My first thoughts were not Roman blinds at all. Moreso a tea dress, Dolly Clackett stylee of course. Though, don’t hold your breath. I still have three metres of the stuff left!

The detail on the fabric is amazing. I especially love the Spanish postcard, the button badges and the random Lacroix labels.

For anyone who has has squeezed in my quirky kitchen for a gin coffee, they will know it rates far from the well-appointed kitchens of West London. It is after all about 5 foot square and doubles up as a kitchen-diner come sewing room! But that is no reason to forgo an opportunity to dress up a window. A window so deserved, I might add. It has worn the same shabby polka dot curtain for far too long.

kitchen shelf

And so when I bought the yards of loveliness home and put it on the kitchen table, it screamed Roman blinds. I’ve made a few before. The first ones were a bit daunting but they have got easier each time. If you fancy making yourself some, I posted a tute here.

I’ve yet to add a cleat and an acorn and take down the old curtain rail (and clean the window), but just had to post while I had daylight to shoot!

christian Lacroix blinds open

I’m so not a ‘designer’ girl, though little things sure do please little minds. And in the inimitable words of Jennifer Saunders: “It is Lacroix, sweetie!”

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

Pinstripes & parasols

pinstripe skirt

Now there’s nowt very exciting to say about a pinstripe pencil skirt. It’s pinstripy and pencilly… and that’s about it really. But it can’t possibly go without documentation, especially since Mr O and his buddy the camera made it look more interesting than it actually is!

pinstripe skirt outside St. Pancras station

I self-drafted the pattern so it fits well and it used up just under a metre of leftover wool-mix fabric and  a piece of purple stash lining which makes it cost-free, sort of!

pinstripe skirt and parasol

The main reason for making a garment so dull, was to rehearse the fitting process before I make a long awaited-skirt for my friend, who bid for it in the school auction! (More about that soon hopefully). But dull and boring as it may be, this skirt does make for a great go-to for work.

back of skirt

I made it a last week but needed some divine inspiration before shooting it. And then I spotted these beautiful brollies over at Masato Studio Boutique! (Yes, they are brollies and not parasols but that would kind of ruin the whole alliteration thing, don’t you think?)

Red Umbrella

It was well worth the investment. Total distraction from skirt but much more interesting photos… win! My little red beauty is made by Love Umbrellas. They do some really cute heart shaped ones too. Rainy days most certainly wont get me down any more!!

pinstripe skirt

Mr O took these shots around St Pancras Station, London, today, Just after I had the most lovely lunch with some of my favourite sewing ladies: Amy, Sally, Clare, Rehanon and Alison. They had all done their fabric shopping in the morning and I was so pleased to catch them for a couple of hours and a couple of G&Ts over at Drink Shop & Do. Boy I love that place! Should have really got Mr O up earlier to get an impromptu shot of us all but heyho can’t have it all!

St Pancras Station

Should I stay or should I go?

As with regards all things cushty and uncomplicated in my life, the little crazy in me feels an uncontrollable urge to mix things up a little!

And so my friends, I am toying with the idea of going self-hosted. Why? Well I am still asking myself the same thing, really. But mostly because I like the sound of more control!

I am planning on leaving the safety net and support of WordPress.com to go it alone with WordPress.org.

I want to have more fonts at my fingertips and mix my own colour palette. Can you hear that frustrated graphic designer banging her head against a brick wall! I did a coding course a year or two ago and it seems a shame not to put my hard learned knowledge into practice too. Perhaps a little online shop further down the line. . . Really getting carried away now!

This isn’t an imminent operation but I am close to pressing that export button. My massively main concern is that I may loose some of my wonderful WordPress followers in the process. Not the Email subscribers among you, you are safely nestled in my adoring arms. But apparently there is no function that will export the WordPress followers list which is such a shame. I so don’t want to leave you behind.

It is of course the comments and support of you, my fabulous followers that keep these posts coming, that inspire new work and encourage me to take on bigger challenges, learning so much more in the process. And for that I can never be grateful enough.

So just as a heads up, if you would like to hang on to your ooobop! notifications (unless of course you want me off your back!) then please add me to your Bloglovin’ list or whatever other blog reading service you might use or indeed subscribe by Email as I believe that will transfer.

And please, please, please, you got to let me know, if you have any advice or wise words of experience to spur me on… or put me off!… please do. I’m going into this a bit blind and so worried I’ll ruin everything.

Thanks in anticipation for sticking with me, kids! I’ll keep you updated as and when I press that button (this indecision’s buggin’ me!) xxx

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!

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

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!

Me-made Malta

Me made in Malta

The Dress That Nearly Wasn’t, dress!

We only just came back last week but wow!… our trip to Malta seems a lifetime in the past.

First time any of us had ever visited the island. Or at least spent any quality time there. And the first time ever we have all been abroad, together as a family! So it was a very precious week indeed.

We stayed in the north, in Mellieha in a beautiful villa with a private pool. It was hot hot hot, even on the day of the storm. Such a fierce one in fact that my eldest daughter’s flight had to make an emergency landing in Sicily, poor love! But all was ok in the end and we certainly made up for lost time when she eventually touched down!

I’m not going to harp on what larks were had or how divine the country is; it’s fascinating history or how peaceful and it was and how immensely friendly the Maltese are… I am simply using this post to express how delighted I was at having some functional me-mades in my suitcase.

It will probably come as no surprise that the top one, and the two following below are all based on the Elisalex dress by By Hand London!

Love of lawn dress

For the Love of Lawn dress. And a rare picture of me and my lovely, care of smallest dort!

vintage rose Elisalex dress

Vintage Roseprint Elisalex Dress

First Summer dress

First Summer dress: Simplicity 2442

70s Dress in Blue, McCalls 2399

70s Dress in Blue, McCalls 2399: A rare picture with my teen son, Alfie

The ubiquitous scabby doorways are so fabulous for showcasing outfits! I wish I could find just one street load of these in London. Ones that wouldn’t have a grumpy resident chasing you off their doorsteps would be a bonus too!

Asides from the usual swimming, sun-worshipping, reading, eating and drinking (sometimes we just changed the order), I did actually manage to get a little sewing in too.

A lickle bit of hand embroidery on a shirt that shall be revealed in all its entirety at a later date:

embroidered initials

Hand embroidered initials

I’m bracing myself for normality next week: kids back to school (yay!) and me back to work (boo!) And I’m getting excited about Autumnal projects. This chilly weather can do all it likes to try and dampen my spirits but it will not triumph over the joy of sewing new things that will keep me warm!!

Happy sewing, peeps! x

Skirt-shorts (not skorts, ok?)

stripy skirt shorts

Anyone with a nine year old daughter will completely understand how increasingly hard it becomes to appease one’s little darling in the wardrobe department. My offers of handmade dresses and skirts are still mostly being politely refused but I’m ok with that because it keeps the project list nice and selfish!

skirt shorts

But every now and then she gets a bee in her bonnet about a must-have item of clothing that even Primani just can’t deliver. This weekend it was a pair of skirt-shorts. Not skorts, you understand. There is a difference apparently. I could see the little foot-stamp brewing when I Googled pictures of skorts and it was a while before the penny dropped. The rolling eyes of a nine year-old are a picture I can tell you!

stripy skirt shorts

Getting the picture was one thing. Getting the pattern was another. Only one thing for it. Had to self-draft. I’m not quite ready to share my winging-ways until I’ve perfected it. But suffice to say it worked, kind of. Well totally if you judge by the response of the recipient!

I’ve had this stripy jersey in stash for some time. Yes! Can you believe it? Another piece of stash successfully busted! Doesn’t appear to have reduced the pile any though.

stripy skirt shorts

I used the side-cutter attachment on my Brother Innovis to create some faux overlocked seams and I used a regular zig-zag stitch for the hem and the elastic casing.

The ‘brief’ was to create shorts that looked totally like a skirt. Mission accomplished though I think perhaps I made them a little too full – the waistband is really tightly gathered. Little Miss O assures me they are comfortable enough but I think they could do with a little less volume.

stripy skirt shorts

Who would have guessed that a pair of skirt-shorts would encourage such climbing skills? Making them was easy enough. Getting them off her to put them in the wash might be an entirely different matter!

stripy skirt shorts
Beautiful photos as always by my very talented fella, Daniel Selway.