Vogue 8866 grey top

I’m getting my money’s worth out of Vogue 8866. It’s a wardrobe pattern so you might expect to get multiple makes from it, but I’ve only used two of the five views so far. And those two are so similar they’re really the same pattern: a knit top which can be lengthened into a dress. The grey top below is the most recent incarnation. Previously I’ve done the dress in a sparkly doubleknit and the top in an unusual textured jersey.

This version is made in a scuba knit from Tissu Fabrics. The colour is evocatively described as platinum grey. Sadly they now seem to have sold out of the grey although there are other colours available. It’s fairly heavy weight with good recovery, but not ultra-stretchy. I definitely should have gone up a size on the top this time. You can see quite a bit of wrinkling below.

Vogue 8866 grey front view

The original pattern has got a keyhole opening at the back neckline and the collar closes with hooks and eyes. For this version I replaced all that with a zip in the centre back yoke and collar seam, which I made a complete pig’s ear of, managing to sew over the teeth in a couple of places. Amazingly it looks OK in the pictures but it only unzips about halfway! It was supposed to be an invisible zip but I ended up inserting it with top-stitching like a centred zip because I hadn’t thought the construction through properly in advance.

Vogue 8866 back view

The original pattern has a lot of top-stitching on the decorative curved seams. I didn’t bother with that on my previous makes, which were in very textured fabric, but on this one it was worth the effort because it shows up against the smoother surface. You can just about see it on the raglan seams in the picture below.

Vogue 8866 grey closeup

I wasn’t very pleased with this make when I finished it, what with the zip and sizing problems. However it’s grown on me. It’s been worn to work a couple of times which is always a good test, although one of my colleagues did compare it to a wetsuit. I guess I can’t complain too much if the fabric’s called scuba knit.


I’ve always loved colour blocking. And yet I haven’t made a great many colour blocked garments. It’s difficult to find suitable fabric combinations and even harder to place the colours in a pleasing way. I’ve been thinking about this a bit lately because the October issue of Burda provided an excellent example of the pitfalls. The two dresses below are from the same basic pattern, 101-10-2014. The red version is fantastic. The green and grey one doesn’t work at all. If I’d only seen the second version I’d have passed straight over the pattern.

Burda 101A-10-2014
Burda 101B-10-2014

So what is it that makes the difference? I think there are several things. The colours in the red version (which is made from a single piece of fabric with a colour gradient) work together much better than the grey and green. I agree with Jen (NY) that the colour contrast needs to be either very strong or very subtle in order to pull off colour blocking. Washed out grey and green is neither one nor the other. Another case in point: the mix of browns and textures in Vogue 1409 doesn’t work for me.

Vogue 1409 envelope photo

The second thing is the prints. Neither Burda dress is made up in flat colour fabric. The red one is matelassé, ie textured, and the grey and green fabrics are prints. The matelassé is OK because the same texture appears all over the dress, whereas the green and grey prints are in opposition to one another. Different colours and two different prints in one garment is too much fuss to be pleasing to my eye.

And finally the all-important colour placement. The change of colour halfway down the arms and body on the second dress breaks up the line in an unflattering way. I think it might have worked better with more contrasting colours – perhaps the change in colour at the waist would be good for breaking up a long torso – but the placement on the red dress is far more pleasing.

This isn’t simply theoretical. I have Vogue 1408 in my pattern queue, a style that seems made for some sort of colour or texture blocking.

Vogue 1408 envelope art

It’s hard to see on the pattern photos but I think the original is mostly black with two different greys used on the side panels and some of the skirt panels. I haven’t found any other pictures of the original dress online that made the colours any clearer. I like the layout on the original dress but I’ve also been playing about with other options in a graphics program. I started with different layouts of much the same low contrast black and grey as the original. I’m also considering using a shiny black fabric such as thin neoprene with a matte black one, so the grey in the pictures below could stand in for the shinier fabric. I’m definitely avoiding prints.

Vogue 1408 mostly black

Vogue 1408 mostly grey

I prefer the mostly black version, which probably not coincidentally is fairly close to the original; DKNY know what they’re doing!

I also tried out a version with several tones of the same colour graduating across the dress. I really like this one but it would be impossible to get the same fabric in four toning shades in practice.

Vogue 1408 in reds

I also had a go with strongly contrasting colours. I couldn’t make this work at all. The version below is the best I came up with and I don’t like it at all. I think strong contrasts probably work better with straight-edged panels rather than the very curvy ones in this style.

Vogue 1408 in teal/black/grey/white

So I think I’m probably going to go with the mostly black version, assuming I can find the right fabrics for it. Anyone else planning to make this up? Are you going for contrast or subtle?


Hooray, the winter Vogue patterns are out! Is it sad that I look forward to each new Vogue release?

I always go to the designer patterns first (does anyone not?). This time they are almost all occasion wear. If there’s any common theme beyond that it’s seam detail and cutouts.

Cutouts can easily be over the top but the 1423 and 1424 both look very wearable. The one below is 1423.

Vogue 1423 envelope art

Donna Karan does not disappoint with a wonderfully OTT metallic one-shoulder wrapped style, 1427. I have no need of this dress, nor ever will, but I’d love to try it on. One very minor quibble: there are no finished garment measurements on the envelope for this one. Vogue been great about putting these on the envelopes of late, and all the other patterns I checked have them.

Vogue 1427 envelope photo

The two designer patterns which aren’t evening wear are nonetheless very smart. There’s a sharp day dress from Anne Klein, 1420, with interesting lapels.

Vogue 1420 envelope art

And then there’s 9046, a lovely, feminine, style from Claire Shaeffer. It’s not me at all but I can admire those tucks from a distance!

Vogue 9046 envelope art

I didn’t find any must-buys in this section which is most unusual. It may be because I have absolutely no need for posh frocks any more, but that doesn’t normally stop me. And sadly there’s no Ralph Rucci pattern, but we did get two last time so I can’t grumble too much.

The Easy Options pattern, 9050, is a princess seam dress with pencil or flared skirt, and two-piece sleeves with two length options. It must be difficult to get a lot of interesting style detail in a pattern that has to be both easy to sew and provide many different options, but this one succeeds. The neckline shape and seam detail at the waist keep it from being dull and all the variations look very wearable.

Vogue 9050 envelope art

Very Easy Vogue seems to have a focus on daywear this time out. There are one or two styles with interesting details. 9049 has unusually shaped lapels, pockets, and fake pocket flaps. And 9048 is a simple dress lifted by the addition of a collar. There’s also a nice basic princess seam jacket, 9068. 9056 is the inevitable peplum top. The peplum trend seems to have been going on forever; I won’t miss it when it finally dies.

Vogue 9049 envelope photo

There are two vintage patterns: 9051 is a day dress that I think is from the 40s, and 9052 is a day dress and jacket combo that’s described as circa 1949. It makes a break from the occasionwear of the designer section, but I’m slightly disappointed that both styles seem to be from the same era. I say this every time, but I long for a day when the vintage patterns are from the 60s or 70s.

Vogue 9051 envelope art

The Marci Tilton patterns are appealing. 9070 is a raincoat with lots of interesting detail. The sample is made up in a shiny burnt orange fabric, which gives a very creative vibe, but if made in khaki or black this could also be a very utilitarian look.

Vogue 9070 envelope photo

There’s also 9060 which is an unusual skirt, and 9057 a simple top.

The rest of the collection is very small and mostly consists of casual tops. There are also three wardrobe patterns, 9067 which is very casual, and a slightly smarter one in 9066. 9066 is also the custom cup size pattern. The pick of this section for me is the third wardrobe pattern, 9064, a boxy top with unusual seamlines combined with very simple skirt and trousers.

Vogue 9064 envelope art

Overall impressions? I’d like there to be more daywear in the designer section and that could probably be balanced out with dressier styles elsewhere. It seems to be a smaller collection than last time which might also be why I found less to like. The photography continues to be spot-on with lots of clear views of each style. And I’m still grateful for the much wider range of finished garment measurements on the envelopes.

Fundamentally though this collection didn’t dazzle, unlike the autumn release. My overstuffed pattern box is grateful but I’m now looking forward to spring.


Vogue 1410

This is Vogue 1410, a Lynn Mizono pattern described by McCalls themselves as Art-Teacher Chic. I normally aim more for futuristic than artistic, but the adjustable length and drawstring detail in this one really appealed to me so I bought it in the last pattern sale.

Here’s the original for comparison. The only pictures I’ve been able to find of it online are the Vogue envelope art – anyone seen it elsewhere?

Vogue 1410 envelope pictures

I didn’t want to look too much like I knit my own yoghurt (rampant hypocrisy from someone who makes their own clothes I know), so I made this up in black and am wearing it with a pair of wet-look leggings from Topshop which hopefully don’t look too ridiculous.

The suggested fabrics list on the pattern envelope covers quite a range: Stretch Poplin, Seersucker, Silk Dupioni, Lt.Wt. Wool Crepe. That seems to run the gamut from very stiff (dupioni) to very drapey indeed (crepe). I wanted the skirt to have an exaggerated shape so I went for a cotton poplin from Tissu Fabrics. It has 4% lycra which I thought might help with the inevitable creasing you get with cotton but it didn’t. All these pictures were taken after wearing the dress all day so creases abound.

Vogue 1410 back view

The neckline on this dress is really wide. I don’t normally have to adjust that for Vogue patterns, but I wish I had brought it in a little on this one. You can see it gapping in the side view below. I notice that in one of the envelope pictures the shoulder of the dress is falling down the model’s arm, so I presume it’s meant to be like that. The neckline and armscyes are finished with a narrow hem. Another time I would probably change this to binding because I always find binding has the effect of drawing an edge in, whereas narrow hems tend to stretch it out even more.

Having said that I’m pretty pleased with the way the narrow hems came out this time. I’ve never had a lot of success with those in the past. I used the method where you sew a line of stitching close to the edge, crease and press along that line, and then turn the edge up once more over that, press, and stitch. The pattern suggested something slightly different but I find this one works best for me.

Vogue 1410 side view

The dress length is adjustable. There are buttonholes in the seam allowances at the end of the side seams, and three pairs of buttons sewn into the side seams on the inside of the dress so you can loop the hem up to different heights. Above I’m wearing the dress with the hem buttoned to the middle pair of buttons. The shortest length is too short on me, and the second longest one isn’t particularly flattering so no pictures of those. But here it is unbuttoned completely. I doubt I’ll wear it like this much, but it makes an interesting shape.

Vogue 1410 full length

The back shaping is unusual. You sew a pair of very square pleats on the outside of the dress front and back. The front ones get pulled in by the drawstring, but the back ones stick out like fins. A few people who have made this have stitched the back pleats down to the dress, which looks nice, but I’ve left mine sticking out. I interfaced both the front and back pleats to make them good and sharp.

Vogue 1410 full length back view

I added side seam pockets. They ended up a bit low because I didn’t want to interfere with the button placement; they’re where that big shadow is in the picture below. The dress is french seamed throughout so I had to find out how to do french seamed pockets. This tutorial from Deborah Moebes was very helpful.

This is a seriously quick sew. Even with the french seams and adding pockets I managed to make this in a day.

Vogue 1410 full length side view

So, the final question: is it art teacher or urban warrior? Or a bit of both?

Vogue 1410


This is a slightly different type of post to normal. Molly from Toferet’s Empty Bobbin tagged me in the Writing Process Blog Tour that’s doing the rounds. I’ve really enjoyed reading other people’s answers to this one. You can see Molly’s post here. And check out the rest of her blog; she has a good line in thoughtful criticism of the sewing world.

What am I working on now?

Right now I’m working on a top from Vogue 8866 – a practical knit top with long sleeves and a high neck.

Vogue 8866 line art

And I’m also trying to organise my thoughts on colour-blocking into a blog post. The October 2014 issue of Burda has the same pattern made up twice in different colour blocked schemes. One looks great and the other very much does not. I’d like to understand what made the difference because I have a DKNY colour block pattern in my sewing queue.

How does my work differ from others in the genre?

I’m aiming for a modernist and slightly androgynous style. I am attracted to experimental patterns, such as my Burda wrap trousers and Drape Drape sack dress.

Drape Drape 2 No 7

I own this Ninja turtle coat pattern and dream of making it up!

Vogue 1332 envelope photo

Why do I write what I do?

At the moment, three reasons.

It started as a way of giving something back. When I started sewing garments I learnt how to do it from a combination of Wendy Mullin’s book Sew U and looking things up on the Internet. The first blog I found was A Dress A Day. From there I discovered Pattern Review and from that the wider sewing blog community. I get so much out of reading other people’s blogs that I wanted to return the favour. You don’t need to be a sewing expert to write a useful review of a pattern you’ve made up.

I then started to find that the blog acted as a useful record of my sewing projects. I often go back to my old posts to remind myself how I did something.

Finally, writing a blog post almost inevitably means taking photos (or rather, getting my very patient husband to take photos). There’s nothing like seeing photos of an outfit to show what does and doesn’t work. So in a roundabout way blogging helps me get dressed swiftly in the mornings.

How does my writing process work?

I find it’s easier to compose a post by putting the pictures in first and then writing text around them than by starting with the words, so I generally don’t start writing until I’ve finished a garment and got photographs of it being worn. I normally only take process photos when I’m using a technique that’s new to me or doing something different to what the pattern recommends, hence the general lack of process posts.

I aim to post once a week, but that’s achieved by not posting more than once a week even if I could, rather than by having a fixed schedule for writing posts.

So that’s it from me. I’d like to nominate SewingElle from He Cooks…She Sews! next. She has a great sharp and modern style.


Burda 130-09-2011 front closeup

So I made a jumpsuit. This is Burda 130-09-2011, which in the magazine looked like this:

Burda 130-09-2011 magazine photo

Mine is considerably less glamorous. I suppose I could have styled it with heels, but that wasn’t really practical for taking photos by the lake. And it does feel more like a garment that should be paired with a headscarf, or possibly goggles and a biplane. I’ll spare you the pictures of me trying and failing to do the classic Rosie the Riveter pose though.

This is made from a very silky cupro twill from Maculloch and Wallis. It looks like sandwashed silk. At the time of writing it’s available here in a few different colours. It feels beautiful, but it’s an odd fabric to sew with. It marks if you so much as look at it. I started out being very careful and pressing it only on the wrong side, and rapidly gave up on that because the iron marked it no matter what I did. But the funny thing is that all the marks vanished after a day or two. I’d just about resigned myself to them and now I can’t see them at all.

I used a blue tip size 70 needle to sew it, and even changed the overlocker needles to size 70 to match. I also used a lot of lightweight interfacing. The pattern has you interface the waistband and the seam allowances around the side zip, but I also interfaced the self facings and the pocket edges. That helped with getting nice sharp edges and I think it made the very wide top stitching around the facings easier to do.

Burda 130-09-2011 front full length

This is a regular-sized pattern. It runs fairly true to size. I made my normal length adjustments but that was all. By the way, when cutting this one out watch out for the hem allowances! Burda magazine patterns normally have neither seam nor hem allowances included. This one has the hem allowances included but no seam allowances. It sounds insane, but makes a certain amount of sense given that you’re supposed to make turn ups of a particular size at the wrists and ankles. I didn’t bother and just rolled them up. Once I’ve figured out how long I want the legs and arms to be I may sew them in place, but they seem to behave OK as they are.

The back bodice pleat is a nice design feature, but is entirely non-functional as it’s stitched shut along the whole length. I could do with a little extra room in the back so I might unpick that.

Burda 130-09-2011 back view

The sleeves are interesting. The shoulder is very extended and has a small pleat at the top which gives it an unusual shape. There isn’t a lot of sleeve cap but you do still have to set them in.

Burda 130-09-2011 side view

This was definitely a pattern where I needed to follow the instructions carefully. There were a couple of steps where they seemed to make very little sense, but if you do exactly what Burda says it does all work out in the end. The construction of the pleats and front facings is particularly pleasing because you end up with a very clean finish inside and the facings all firmly top stitched in place.

For a garment that claims to have a relaxed fit, it’s not an entirely fuss-free wear. I find myself adjusting the bodice quite a bit. I haven’t actually worn this out of the house yet other than for these photos. But it’s going to the pub tonight and I might try it at work next week. At some point I will definitely report back on the wearability of all these Burda patterns.

Burda 130-09-2011 side view closeup


Burda 120-11-2013 top half

Is it a skirt? Is it trousers? No, it’s Burda 120-11-2013!

Burda 120-11-2013 front

Burda describes these variously as crossover trousers and wrap trousers. I’m not sure what I’d call them, but I like them. They are made from a satin-backed crepe I’ve had lurking in my stash for a while. It was originally intended for an impractical Pamela Rolland designer dress that I never got around to making. These, err, lower body coverings are a much better use for it.

This is a Tall pattern and it really is one for the long of leg. I normally have to lengthen Tall patterns, never mind the regular ones, but not these. What you’re seeing here is the length as drafted less about an inch. I could easily have hemmed them shorter still, but I quite like the slouchy effect.

Part of the cause of the extra length is that they’re slightly too big. They are drafted to sit above the natural waist but mine definitely don’t. Another time I’d go down a size at the waist in these. I made what should have been the right size for me but made the mistake of not double-checking the waistband length in the pattern itself. It doesn’t help that the many folds of fabric in the crossover mean there’s a lot of weight hanging off that waistband and pulling it down so you need it to fit closely.

For trousers these are a fairly easy sew. There’s no fly front and the pockets are inseam pockets. I’m finding I get a bit of gapping with the pockets. It doesn’t really matter in practice because there’s so much else going on at the hips with these, but I notice that in the magazine photo the model has her hands in the pockets so perhaps it’s the pattern. You can see the gapping in the side view below.

Burda 120-11-2013 side view

The back is completely plain. Normally I think it looks a bit odd not to have back pockets on trousers, but with these it doesn’t bother me, probably because they are such an unusual shape.

Burda 120-11-2013 back view

The closure is just a couple of snaps. I wasn’t convinced that a snap would be secure enough to hold these up so I switched the outer snap to a hefty trouser hook and bar. Under the wrap section there’s a narrow slot in the right front so you can get in and out of them. I was deeply unconvinced by Burda’s directions for the slot: the pattern has you cut down the centre line of the slot and across at the ends, and then turn the edges of the cut under and stitch them down. That leaves the end of the slot completely unfinished. The end is where the maximum stress is; I can’t see that lasting long without tearing! I faced my slot instead and also interfaced the shell fabric in that area so it ended up looking like this.

Wrong side (before top-stitching):

Faced slot wrong side

Right side:

Faced slot right side

So how do these wear? So far, surprisingly well. They can do some strange things when you sit down, as can be seen below, but they’re really comfortable. The acid test will be whether I can cycle in them which I have yet to try. They’re plenty warm (all that fabric around the hips) so I should get a lot of wear out of them this autumn and winter. In fact strange as they are I can see myself making a second pair at some point.

Burda 120-11-2013 sitting




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