Vado jeans part two

My custom Vado jeans are coming on nicely. I haven’t got the waistband on yet but so far the fit looks pretty good! I still have wrinkles under the bum but fewer than on my Burda jeans.

The only adjustment I’ve made to the pattern is to pinch out a little bit on the top of the centre back seam because I had gapping there. Of course the waistband will make a huge difference so no photos as yet.

I’ve been trying a new sewing gadget I got for Christmas on this project. I’ve read that in industrial sewing pins are not used at all. On the rare occasions fixings are really needed they prefer clips apparently.

Clips are also good for anything that might show pin marks. Obviously it’s not a problem with denim, but I thought I’d try them out anyway when I sewed the long leg seams.

They’re pretty easy to use. It’s harder to remove them quickly while sewing than it is with pins, but the fabric sits so much more flat than when pinned that it’s worth it. I need a better container for them than a plastic bag though. Definitely a useful addition to the arsenal.

Unfortunately just as I was finishing the leg seams on the overlocker I had a spectacular needle failure. It got to where the inseam crosses the crotch seam and the needle bent instead of going through the layers.

The overlocker seems to have survived the experience but I still haven’t finished the jeans. Maybe this weekend.

Vado Bootstrap skinny jeans part one

This project is the last one I bought fabric for in the summer. I wanted a new pair of jeans but I am not a fan of traditional blue denim, so when I saw some dark yellow denim in Barry’s Fabric Warehouse I got a couple of metres despite not having a pattern lined up. I say it’s dark yellow, but I think that’s actually the wrong side of the fabric. The other side is a classic jeans blue. The wrong side was originally off-white but has been overprinted with the yellow colour. I am using the yellow side regardless of whether it’s the ‘right’ one.

I’ve made lots of pairs of jeans over the years from various Burda patterns. They have all been good enough to get worn but the fit isn’t quite right: I get lots of folds under the seat no matter what I do. Rather than go through yet another round of tweaking I decided to give the Bootstrap Vado skinny jeans pattern a try. This is a custom PDF pattern that’s generated to match your personal measurements. It comes from the Bootstrap Patterns website, which supplies custom PDF patterns from a range of designers. Vado Designs has a few others besides the skinny jeans; in particular there’s a bootcut jeans pattern that quite a few other sewing bloggers have written about. All the reviews I’ve read have been positive which is a good start.

I haven’t finished sewing the pattern yet, but I’m about halfway so I thought I’d blog about my impressions of using the custom pattern before I get mired down in the details of fit.

The pattern is very customisable. We aren’t just talking hips, waist and inside leg: there’s the rise, the knee, thigh, and ankle sizes to enter. You can also select your desired paper size and file format, choose whether to add seam allowances (for a small extra cost) and even select the degree of stretch of your intended fabric.

I don’t think the process of taking and entering measurements is particularly easy. I found it helped a lot that I already had a pair of ‘almost right’ jeans that I could use to sanity check things like the desired rise and waistband measurement.

I really like that the pattern comes with non-overlapping pieces so no tracing is required. I got my pattern printed at a reprographics shop on A0. Annoyingly I’m tall enough that the pattern overflowed onto a second sheet by a few inches, but it was wonderful to just cut out a pattern without needing to trace it in order to add length or make any adjustments for once…although we’ll see how well it fits when it’s done.

One curious thing I’ve noticed about my final pattern is that there is absolutely no shaping in the back yoke seam. I’ve long suspected I have a flatter backside than average so this may just be the effect of the customisation, but it will be interesting to see how it fits. I’m not making a toile to check because it would need to be done in the same or very similar fabric to be useful.

The fabric length estimate is no help at all. This isn’t a surprise for a completely custom pattern and it does warn you of that. Having said that, I looked at it, decided it was a massive overestimate and then struggled to fit my pattern into two metres of fabric which is normally plenty for jeans for me. The problem is the waistband piece. The waistband is one long piece and the grain runs around the waist. My waistband piece is rather curved so it took up a huge amount of space as there weren’t many other pieces I could lay alongside it to fit into the curve. My Burda patterns have the waistband in several pieces which are cut on the cross grain. I think I prefer that even though it means more seams.

The pattern comes with fairly detailed instructions (at least by Burda standards) but if I didn’t already know how to sew jeans they would not be sufficient. In places what’s shown in the photos doesn’t match the text, and they miss some fairly important information. In particular they don’t give any direction as to which side to sew asymmetric details like the ticket pocket and the flat felling on the centre back seam. Having said that, I’ve learnt a few things from this pattern. The method given for the fly is clever and different to any I’ve tried before, so I am intending to give it a go. The instructions also have a very slick technique for the front pockets which gives a nice clean finish.

So far I’ve constructed the back, the front pockets, and am about to tackle the fly. Watch this space.

Top five of 2018: goals

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Time for the last of the Sewing Top Five of 2018: Goals. Once again I haven’t got a tidy list of five things but I do have a big project in the early planning stages so I’ll talk about that.

A few years ago I made a winter coat from Vogue 1276. It was my first attempt at coat making but it was such a success I’m still using it. It’s starting to show its age though: the lining has ripped around the armscyes and the nap has worn off at the wrists and where I fasten the belt. Incidentally, what is it about coat linings ripping at the armscyes? Every coat I have ever had, whether ready to wear or home made, has done this. I’ve tried reinforcing the seam with tape and using stretch lining but it still happens. Anyone know how to prevent this?

So I need a new coat. I have been looking for a pattern for a while. It needs to be long: below knee length. It also needs to have a proper closure which wraps over; so many coat patterns close edge to edge which is no use in the cold. And I would prefer it to be fairly streamlined and unfussy in shape.

I think I have it down to three.

First is Burda 107 10/2011 : an ankle length double breasted coat.

I’m not wild about the buttons; I think I’d replace them with snaps. I like the size of the pockets, but patch pockets aren’t great for putting your hands in.

Then there’s the option of repeating Vogue 1276. I’d link to the pattern but it’s out of print now.

The only reason I’m dithering is I’m not sure it’s absolutely the most flattering style for me. But people often ask me where I got my current one,which is always nice! I know the pattern works and it is already traced and adjusted. And I would also like to improve on the construction I did last time. I remember being very annoyed that the pattern said to sew in the sleeve lining entirely by hand and gave the reason that it was too complicated to explain how to do it by machine. Since then I’ve learnt how to bag linings and I suspect I could make this without needing to hand sew anything.

Finally, Burda 120 10/2017 . Another one I can’t link to, unfortunately.

This seems to be a magazine exclusive; I can’t find it on the English language Burda site at all. It is one of their ‘designer’ patterns. Now obviously the colours it’s shown in are not going to be suitable for the rainy, muddy UK winter. And even if I could pick three other colours that would work, it’s doubtful I could find the chosen three in matching coating fabrics. But I think this pattern might be successful made up in one fairly light colour with top stitching to emphasise the seams. A grey would be practical and still allow the seams to be seen. But it’s a four dot pattern (Burda’s highest difficulty; there are very few of those) and there are no reviews of it that I can find, so I’m not sure what I’d be letting myself in for here. And yet I keep coming back to this one.

I’ve been going round in circles about choosing for weeks. I really want to make the last one but it’s very risky. The Vogue is a safe but slightly boring choice. And the other Burda ticks all the right boxes but somehow doesn’t thrill me. So I guess my goal is to have chosen a new winter coat before winter is actually over!

Top 5 of 2018: Highlights and reflections

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On with the Sewing Top Fives of 2018. I’m combining Highlights and Reflections because I don’t have a tidy list of five of each and anyway I think they’re related.

I’ve been actively trying to change the way I plan projects and purchase fabric and patterns over the last year and a bit. I have much less sewing time than I used to, so I wanted to get more successful projects out of it. My fabric and pattern stashes were also starting to expand beyond my storage space so I had to do something about that. This is what I did and how it worked out.

The first thing I did was to catalogue everything I already had. I use spreadsheets for fabric and notions, and Pinterest for patterns. Why both? Pinterest is great for cataloguing patterns but not as good for fabric. What I want in a pattern catalogue is primarily pictures of the envelope art. I can quickly and easily find photos of most of my patterns on the web and add them to my Pinterest pattern stash board with a couple of clicks. The picture is then automatically linked back to the original web page for when I want to look up yardage or recommended fabrics. At least it is until the original page goes away: I got caught out when Vogue took down all their Donna Karan patterns and all my links broke. I should start pinning the envelope back pictures as well as the fronts but I haven’t done that systematically yet.

The Pinterest method isn’t good for fabric and notions because most of my stash wasn’t bought online so there are no handy photographs available. Even for the pieces that did come from an online shop it’s very rare for the original shop page to stick around for long; it usually vanishes once the fabric sells out. You can upload your own photos to Pinterest of course but there was no way I was going to photograph my entire fabric stash. Using a spreadsheet instead also means I can sort and filter by things like fabric length and width.

I also made a Pinterest board for my current wardrobe. This was fairly easy because I’ve been blogging for so long that I had photos of practically every item of clothing I own on the blog. This has been surprisingly useful. It helps me identify wardrobe gaps but it also reminds me what I already have so that perfectly good garments don’t get forgotten about.

Finally I keep a Pinterest board for the sewing queue with one section per project idea. It contains inspiration images, possible patterns, and sometimes fabric photos from online fabric shops. I also look through the virtual stash to see if I have suitable patterns or fabric for the project and add them to the section.

Has it worked? I think it has. I have bought far fewer patterns this year and the fabric stash is steadily reducing in size. I’ve also had quite a successful year in terms of projects: most of what I made is in regular rotation. I can also do a lot of the planning stage of a project while commuting on the bus, which frees precious sewing time.

The system definitely isn’t perfect. I’d like to do something with the spreadsheets so that I can easily access them when on the move; unfortunately everything I’ve tried so far hasn’t been very satisfactory. I also don’t have my magazine patterns catalogued, although Burda Navigator is a huge help for browsing. I don’t know of anything similar for any of the others though.

And I have to mention one more highlight: a fabric shopping trip in Birmingham with Elaine of The Demented Fairy and Kim of The Material Lady. It was a lot of fun! And thanks to the new planning regime I’ve already used two of the three bits of fabric I bought and the third is on the ironing board waiting to be cut…

Top 5 of 2018: Misses

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Continuing with the Sewing Top Five of 2018 series, here’s the post I always find the most interesting to compile and to read other people’s version of: the misses. This year I had a very hard time coming up with a list of five misses which I guess is a positive! None of these are complete failures. Rather they are things I haven’t worn very much or am not totally satisfied with.

The first is my Vogue 1548 dress. I said at the time I loved it and I still do, but I have only worn it three or four times. It’s a dress I can only wear to work, not on a weekend, and it has a strange problem for work wear: the lining is so ultra slippery that it affects my posture when sitting and that eventually becomes uncomfortable and annoying. Such a shame. Replacing the lining would be a pain but I may have to in order to make it wearable.

Vogue 1548 front

Next up is something I’ve worn a lot despite the bad fit: Vogue 1573 jeans. The pattern is hugely oversized even by Big Four standards. Like most people I almost always need to go down one size from the chart; on these I should have gone down two sizes in most places and maybe three on the waist. The waistband is cut in a way which means important bits end up on the bias, which doesn’t help. At the time I said that I’d like to try grafting the seam detail on these onto a pattern that fits me. But since then I’ve gone off that idea as well; the seamlines aren’t in a flattering place on me. The reason I still wear these is that they’re only pair of black jeans I own.

Vogue 1573 action shot

The next one is arguably not a failure at all because it’s easily my most worn make of 2018: my ikat kimono dressing gown. But I made it very slightly too small in order to be able to match the pattern on the rather expensive and narrow fabric I chose. That was a false economy: I’d spent ages looking for the perfect fabric in the first place and I wear the end result most days, if only while cleaning my teeth. It would have been worth buying the extra length and making it generously sized.

Ikat kimono

This next one is a miss for a combination of things: a fabric that’s not quite right, a pattern that doesn’t really suit me, and sewing mistakes. It’s Style Arc’s Mara shirt dress made up in cotton poplin that is a little too light in weight for the style. I messed up sewing the sleeve vents which annoys me every time I wear this. But fundamentally I think this style doesn’t really suit me. It might be better without the belt and the breast pockets, and with a different length hem. This one will probably go to the charity shop next time I have a clearout.

Style Arc Mara front view

The final one really ought to have been a success. I’ve made Burda 116 08/2011 several times before in this exact cotton poplin fabric from Tissu, and they were all great favourites. The originals wore out some years ago and I didn’t replace them because they are impossible to cycle in and at the time I was commuting to work by bike. Several years passed and I switched to getting the bus, so this year I returned to the pattern and made another. But the new one just doesn’t look as good as the originals. Maybe it’s the shade of pink, maybe it’s that I’ve changed shape and can no longer get away with such lightweight fabric, maybe it’s the styling. Anyway I wore it in the summer heatwave but I suspect it’ll be purged before next summer.

Burda 116 08 2011 front view

I don’t think these five have a lot in common, although I do note that every single thing I made this year was a neutral colour (silver is totally a neutral) except for the pink and blue dresses above, and they are the two biggest disappointments. Since I stopped dying my hair fewer colours seem to suit me. Those are the only two I will likely get rid of, so that means that the rest of the year’s output has done pretty well.

Next time: highlights and reflections.

Top 5 of 2018: Hits

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I’m away from my sewing machine at the moment so Gillian’s Top Fives of 2018 blog series has come along at a particularly good time. It’s been a good year for sewing though: I’ve made fourteen things but had a hard time narrowing the hits down to just five.  I’ve decided to choose the things I’ve worn the most rather than the most technically challenging or dramatic projects. And because they’ve all had a lot of wear I now have more to say about what works about these projects and what doesn’t.

First is Style Arc’s Juliet shirt made up in white cotton poplin. I made it in the summer but it’s kept going for autumn and winter, worn over a long sleeved white t-shirt. I like the extra-long length and the asymmetric tie. Next time I’d make the sleeves full length as the three-quarter length is slightly annoying.

Style Arc Juliet

Then there are my silver jeans The pattern was originally Burda 103B 07/2010 but it’s been modified quite a bit from the original. Any slim legged jeans pattern would do; the silver foiled fabric is what really makes these. Unsurprisingly it’s fading; they’re more of a dull silver now than the mirror like finish shown in this photo, but they still get worn about once a week. I find they work best with a very casual top and boots.

Burda 103 07 2010 front

McCalls 7727 shirt dress doesn’t seem like a practical pattern with its dramatic high-low hem but I have worn this a lot more than I expected to, and I really love wearing it. It’s made from the same cotton poplin as the Style Arc Mara shirt. The length is slightly too much in real life: it drags on stairs, and it catches on my shoes. I’d also do French seams on the sleeves next time because the overlocked seam finishes show when I roll the sleeves up. But a dress which caused someone to mutter ‘Princess Leia’ as I swished by in it has got to be good.

Vogue 8956 was my first project of 2018. The day we took the pictures was very sunny and the fabric is black wool flannel which soaks up light so it was hard to get shots where any detail is visible; this one is about the best. The skirt is very warm and practical, and the wrap front stays put surprisingly well. I think this is a really good pattern. It’s easy to sew and the end result is no fuss to wear despite looking very dramatic.

My favourite project was unplanned: a friend of my mother’s gave me the white cotton sateen fabric from her stash and there was just enough for Style Arc’s Toni dress, a pattern I’d already made up twice. It’s intended for drapey fabrics but it works really well in this heavy cotton with very crisp interfacing in the collar. I wore it a lot in the summer. Despite the sculptural shape it’s actually very comfortable and being cotton it washes well. When I first made it I was concerned that the drapes didn’t stay put when I moved but I no longer notice that.

White Style Arc Toni front view

So that’s it for the successes…next time the failures!

Burda 114A 11/2011

Pathological fabric and Burda 114A 11/2011

Burda 114A 11/2011 front view

This was a quick but not an easy project. The pattern is Burda 114A 11/2011, a fairly simple wrap over knit top. The pattern photo shows it made up in a very loose and drapey sweater knit; you can see it’s slightly transparent.

I got some fairly similar stuff from Croft Mill’s sale recently. It was an end of roll so there’s no more available. It’s a loosely knitted polyester sweater knit in various shades of grey, black, and white. It came with a warning that it was tricky to sew and they weren’t kidding! You can stretch it a long way and it doesn’t snap back. I spent a long while trying to get it arranged on grain and without tension before cutting, but one of my sleeves still ended up 10cm longer than the other, and the back hem edge was on a steep angle. This was particularly obvious because the fabric has a subtle striped effect. I took my shears and cut the extra fabric off freehand, following the stripes, to end up with two matching sleeves and a hem that is on grain. I think it’s worked surprisingly well considering how misshapen my first attempt was. I really should have cut the whole thing out single layer.

Burda 114A 11/2011 back view

Most people who have made this recommended going down at least one size. I did size down but I also made my usual length additions and they weren’t needed. The sleeves are meant to be extra long anyway, but I think the body has come out much longer than on the model photo.

Burda 114A 11/2011 right side view

The neckline on the model photo is very low but most people who have made this have found it comes up much higher and more wearable, me included. I can arrange it to be lower but it naturally settles as you see it in the photos.

I constructed this mostly with a straight stitch on the sewing machine using a ball point needle and slightly lowered needle tension. I tried the overlocker on a few seams but it didn’t like the loosely knit fabric at all. The fabric caught around the loopers at one point and required some vicious hacking with scissors to free it. The overlocker seems to have survived the experience but I lost a bit of width from the top around the bust area (I regretted using only 1cm seam allowances) and after that I didn’t risk overlocking again. I left the remaining seam allowances raw and sewed the hems with a wide zigzag positioned to go over the raw edge of the hem allowance. Hopefully it will hold up. Knits generally don’t ravel but this one might be an exception.

Burda 114A 11/2011 left side view

I really like the finished top. I’ve seen a few versions of this in more stable knits and those looked pretty good too, so I might give it another go at some point. In a more stable knit this would be a great first knit project because there’s no neckband to deal with. I think I need a break after this particular version though; my next project is going to be made from nice well behaved denim.

Thanks to my husband for taking the photos.

Burda 114A 11/2011 full length

Neutral basics: Vogue 8866

Vogue 8866 top in black scuba front view

This is another pattern repeat: the top from Vogue 8866, a wardrobe pattern now sadly out of print. (Grey top, blue top, sparkly dress from the same pattern). The envelope picture doesn’t do this one justice at all. But the technical drawing reveals interesting seamlines. I’ve lightened my photos slightly in the hope they’ll be visible there too.

Vogue 8866 line art

It is made from some bargain black scuba knit I got from the Birmingham Rag Market. I constructed this almost entirely on a regular sewing machine with a straight stitch, using a size 90 stretch needle and lowering my thread tension slightly. Most of the seams are top stitched so don’t need to be super stretchy. The scuba doesn’t need any seam finishing either because it doesn’t fray.

I originally cut out the dress version of the pattern and added side seam pockets. But I got them in the wrong place – too low – and they wouldn’t sit flat. I couldn’t face redoing them and I knew I wouldn’t wear a dress with no pockets so I cut the whole thing off at the hip and made it into a top.

A more carefully planned change was to swap the back neck opening and snaps for a short invisible zip. It stops just above the back yoke seam. It’s just enough to get the top over my head but no more.

Vogue 8866 top in black scuba back view

I haven’t bothered hemming this. I didn’t want to fight with a twin needle. I ran the hem and sleeve edges through the overlocker with a fairly short stitch length to give the impression of some sort of intentional finishing and that’s good enough.

I think this will be a useful basic top. It goes with most of my other clothes and it’s good for layering. It’s not the most exciting thing I’ve made this year but it’s the basics you wear the most.

Photos by my husband, taken on a very windy and sunny day so excuse my hair. I’m wearing the top with my gold Burda jeans here but it should go with most of my jeans and skirts.

Now I come to write this blog post I realise I’ve never made any of the other items from this pattern, and there’s an excellent pair of culottes and a skirt in there too. Maybe some time soon I’ll have a go at those.

Vogue 8866 in black scuba, Burda 103-07-2010 gold jeans, Fly boots

Again, again, again: Vogue 1247

I don’t normally find that sewing clothes is any cheaper than buying them, but this project is one of the exceptions. The pattern is one I’ve made several times before: a modified version of the skirt from Vogue 1247 (previous versions: green, silver knit, grey). The fabric is the scraps left over from my silver jeans. I had plenty of suitable top stitching thread to go with it left too.

The technical drawing for the pattern is below but my version has some changes.

Vogue 1247 line art

I am trying to use more things from my stash, and amongst my zips I had a metal one of about the right length with a large silver decorative puller. It was a good match for the fabric but there was no way I wanted the puller digging into the small of my back, so I moved the zip to the side seam.

Close up of zip

The puller meant it had to be installed as an exposed zip. I used a lot of Wonder Tape to hold the zip in place while I stitched it because you can’t pin or baste this fabric anywhere it might show!

I wasn’t sure what to do about the waistband. Previous versions I’ve made of this skirt have an invisible zip which stops just below the waistband, and a hook and bar closure on the waistband itself. I couldn’t find a picture of an exposed zip installed like that, but I was worried that it wouldn’t stay closed without the help of an additional closure at the top; the waistband is close fitting and so takes a lot of strain. In the end I stopped the zip just under the waistband and made a small overlap on the waistband with a hook and bar to hold it. Seems to work and looks fine.

Another change I made was to add a centre front seam and top stitching along it and the yoke seam. The front of the skirt is very plain and I thought it needed something to break up the expanse of shiny silver.

Silver skirt with centre front seam

Here’s a back view. Yes it needs pressing, but on the other hand this is how it really looks after I’ve been sitting down.

The reason I keep going back to this style is the pockets. They are well placed and nice and big. I’ve got my purse, keys, and phone in them in the modelled photos.

I had a lot of trouble figuring out how to style this. I thought black would look too stark against the silver and so tried various grey tops and tights, but they all looked wrong. It would probably work with a white top and bare legs but the UK is well into autumn now so that’s not going to be an option for a long time. The black top and tights seems to be the best option.

Modelled photos taken by my husband; flat ones by me.

Burda 117 02/2012

The sewing police will never take me alive

Burda 117 02/2012

It’s so difficult to get photos at the moment! There’s very little daylight and the garden is now a sea of mud covered in building supplies which doesn’t make for a good backdrop. Hence the indoor shots, as ever kindly taken by my husband.

This pattern is an old favourite, Burda 117 02/2012. The technical drawing is below. Previous versions: black wool knit, red knit, colour blocked ponte, failed version in red and white stripes.

Burda 117-02-2012 technical drawing

This version is made in black scuba from Birmingham Rag Market. The fabric was an absolute steal; I think the amount I used for this dress cost me all of two pounds. It’s pretty forgiving: stable, no need to finish any seam allowances, and it presses pretty well for what must be polyester. It definitely required a stretch needle and a few tension adjustments to get a good stitch in it on my sewing machine though. I sewed the whole dress with a longish straight stitch as that has enough give for a stable knit fabric.

I made a few changes to the pattern. There is meant to be a back zip (not shown on the technical drawing, oddly) but it’s not needed so I skipped it. I also skipped the shoulder pleats; I prefer a strong shoulder line to a rounded one. On previous versions I also shortened the skirt but this one’s at the designer’s intended length. These days I think it looks better long; perhaps it’s a sign of age!

I added inseam pockets in the diagonal seams on the front. Those worked out better than they had any right to. I was in two minds about it, but I knew I’d never wear the dress without pockets so I had to try.

Burda 117 02/2012

I also changed the front closure completely. The left bodice front piece (the bit which underlaps) is designed to attach to the right front with snaps, and so the pattern piece only extends just as far as needed to do that. I’ve always sewn the opening shut and not bothered with the snaps in the past. That works, but the closure doesn’t always sit quite right. This time I decided to extend the left front to run right under the right front and catch it in the underbust seam so the front becomes a true crossover style. Only I tried to do this by mirroring the right front pattern piece, forgetting that the underbust seam is on a diagonal. I ended up with a left front that still wasn’t long enough to catch in the seam, and no fabric left to recut because I’d already used up the rest of it cutting out something else. I managed to save it by stitching the left front down along the line of the right front dart. The insides are a complete mess though; there’s a flapping raw edge running from centre front to the right dart on the inside. Scuba doesn’t fray so it will hold up, but the sewing police won’t approve.

Burda 117 02/2012

There’s also something odd going on with the seam allowances around the sleeves. This is my error from when I originally traced the pattern and I always forget to go back and fix it. It looks OK from the outside but the inside is another mess.

So not my best work but it’s wearable. I’m not sure how to style it either. For these photos I didn’t put it with a lot of other things but it’s more likely to be worn with a long sleeved t shirt and leggings underneath.