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

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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

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

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