This is the best hot weather dress I have ever made. It’s Vogue 1482, a Rachel Comey design. The UK is going through an unpleasantly sticky heatwave at the moment and this dress has been a lifesaver. It’s so light and airy it feels like not wearing anything at all.
Here’s the line art.
It’s basically a great big sack which means no real fitting is required. I added my usual two inches to the length, but at the hem rather than above the waist as I normally would because the long diagonal seam makes it tricky to add length anywhere else. I also added my usual two inches to the sleeve length by adding an inch to both parts of the sleeve. And finally I made the recommended size instead of going down one size as I usually would with a Vogue pattern. When you’ve got this much design ease in a style a little more won’t hurt, and it’s insurance for when my bump gets larger.
The fabric is a very lightweight viscose from MacCulloch and Wallis, which at the time of writing is still available here. I suspect this may be the type of fabric known as challis. It was hard to cut out because it shifted a lot, but easy to sew and press. It moves and drapes beautifully. The pattern calls for French seams throughout and for once I actually bothered to make them. Mainly that was so I didn’t have to buy new thread for seam finishing, so I can’t claim this is sewing to any higher standard than usual for me. I don’t have any thread at all that matches the pink fabric, never mind the number of spools I’d need in order to thread the overlocker as well as the main sewing machine. So the dress was sewn using only the sewing machine with a random spool of purple polyester thread I had lying around. The purple blends surprisingly well, even where there is top-stitching.
The centre back opening isn’t needed as the neckline’s more than wide enough to go over the head, but I like the effect. I think many people would want to make the opening shorter though. It only just clears the bra band on me and I have a long back. It’s closed with a little loop made from the fashion fabric and a self-covered button. The instructions for creating the loop didn’t work very well for me; I followed the measurements on the pattern carefully and it came out too chunky. I replaced it with a much skinnier version. Otherwise I followed the pattern exactly and everything worked out.
The pocket is great. Very large and in just the right place. I thought it would be odd to have only one pocket but it seems to work. And it’s beautifully finished with more French seams. I wonder if left-handed people might want to flip the front pattern pieces so the pocket is on the right though?
And finally for laughs here’s the full flying squirrel effect.
There is definitely going to be at least one more of these. I can see it being nice in a drapey jersey fabric, or a crepe de chine – basically anything lightweight and drapey.
Filed under: Dresses, Dressmaking, Finished, Maternity, pink, Sewing, thread, Uncategorized, Vogue | 42 Comments
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This is Burda 130-06-2010, the first real maternity pattern I’ve made. I have to say I cannot tell the difference between the fit on this and some of the blocky women’s dress styles you can find in any issue of Burda. I thought it might have extra width around the bump area, but when I traced the pattern it was essentially rectangular. The zip serves no purpose that I can see.
I picked the style because I like the notched collar, and it looked simple enough to sew up fast. I cannot say whether the instructions were any good because the pattern came from a German language copy of Burda 06/2010 I bought on eBay. When I bought it I thought I might be able to get some help with the construction from Google Translate but what came out was so confused it might as well have still been in German for all the good it did me. I found that comparing the instructions in an English language Burda with the German issue and looking up a few important nouns was much more helpful. The structure is exactly the same in English and German so you can tell what each paragraph is about from the order they come in. Based on that I was at least able to find out which pattern pieces had seam allowances included and what to add to those that didn’t.
The intended method of construction for the collar remained something of a mystery. There seemed to be two possibilities: sew the shoulder seams, attach the lower collar facing to the lower neckline first and then construct the rest of the collar as you would a notched jacket collar; or make up the whole collar unit first including all the facings and then stitch the lot to the dress. There is no back neck facing and the neckline seam is finished with binding, so either would work.
In the end I went for the second option, using the instructions for the collar on my black Burda jumpsuit to help construct the collar. Then I sewed the shoulder seams, attached the collar to the neckline, and bound the collar seam. Finally I sewed the side seams, adding side seam pockets which are not in the original pattern, and hemmed the armsyces and bottom edge. It seems to have come out OK! The neckline seam isn’t totally smooth around that deep v neck but the collar covers the puckers. I should have used a smaller seam allowance around the collar instead of Burda’s standard 1.5cm and then maybe I could have got it in flat. Next time.
The fabric is a lovely golden coloured cotton poplin from Misan Textiles; a birthday present from my parents. The original dress was also made in poplin but the collar looks softer than mine. I used Vilene F220 to interface my collar, which is a lightweight fusible, but Burda’s version used G785 which is even lighter than F220 and also has some stretch.
This dress benefits from being worn with a loose belt to contain some of the volume above the bump. Partly that’s because the cotton has quite a bit of body; I wanted something crisp. I think you could also make this up in a drapier fabric and then you wouldn’t need a belt. Years ago I had a similarly shaped ready to wear dress – no darts at all – made from a navy artificial silk that never needed a belt, although it probably wasn’t quite as wide as this one as I remember it being a bit of a wriggle to get on as it didn’t have a zip. I wore that one until the seams started to give way.
I added in-seam pockets.
I’m happy with this and I love the colour. It’s just occurred to me that if I’d bothered to put in the zip I could convert it later on by adding some darts, but a belt is fine too. And now I have enough clothes that fit to get me through a working week again.
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I’ve been wanting to make the Stylearc Toni dress ever since I saw it on Kristin’s blog. It’s a style I’d wear at any time, but it’s particularly good right now as I’m pregnant and rapidly running out of clothes that fit. The Toni isn’t a maternity style but it has plenty of room for a bump. It also has pockets, shoulder coverage, a nice high collar, and sews up quickly: all good points.
The length is unusual. From the pattern illustration it looks like it’s meant to hit at the bottom of the calf. I normally have to add a lot of length to most patterns but my flat pattern measuring suggested this one would stop just below the knee on me so I didn’t bother. I must have gone wrong because it’s come out at midcalf, which is the length I try to avoid above all others. If I make this again I’ll shorten it. I wouldn’t want to make it any longer unless I made it up in a stretch fabric, as the hem width is very narrow indeed and I’d struggle to walk in it comfortably.
I made this up in a very silky lightweight woven fabric that came from the Misan Textiles sale room. I’m not 100% sure what the composition is but it’s definitely man made. I picked it because it’s very drapey and has a certain resemblance to the silk the pattern recommends, but it’s also tricky to press, has a slight tendency to cling, and frays at the slightest provocation. And yes, it’s monochrome again. But at least it’s not black.
Stylearc patterns use much smaller seam allowances than most home sewing patterns: 1cm on the main seams and 6mm around necklines and anywhere with tight curves. I was worried that the seam allowance at the collar would fray away entirely before I finished sewing it but it worked out in the end. And the small seam allowances make it much easier to sew accurately, and accuracy is essential for the tricky stage of setting in the collar and sewing the front seam.
Other than getting the collar sewn in symmetrically this is a very easy make. I couldn’t figure out one of the steps, which seemed to be about understitching the outside edge of the collar which sounded like a very odd thing to do. The actual words were ‘sew a flat stitch’ so perhaps it was topstitching that was meant instead, although I can’t see any topstitching on the technical drawing. The step was optional and skipping it doesn’t seem to have caused problems. I added topstitching to the armscyes, which are finished by neatening the seam allowance and turning it back. Topstitching isn’t mentioned in the instructions but I don’t see how else the seam allowances could be expected to stay put unless you hemmed them by hand, which as far as I’m concerned is not an option.
The back of this dress is extremely plain. There’s a centre back seam but it’s entirely straight so you could just cut the back on the fold. Another time I might do that. I suppose removing the seam makes the back even plainer but I had a hard time making that long straight seam look acceptable in my tricky fabric.
The side drapes are fun. Mine stick out quite a bit more than the technical drawing suggests they would. The pattern suggests optionally sewing a small weight in on each side to make them stay put. I overlocked a scrap of fabric around a couple of pennies for each side and sewed that to the seam allowances but it doesn’t seem to have made much difference as the drapes still tend to pop out when I sit down. I like the pointy effect though.
Here’s the obligatory ‘look, I have pockets’ shot. I am trying very hard to avoid making things without them these days.
I had some serious doubts about this dress while I was sewing it. I fell out of love with the fabric very quickly, and when I put the dress on my dressform halfway through construction it looked more like a very unflattering choir robe than a dress.And then I sewed the side seams and that transformed it completely. I wore it for pictures (where it caused hilarity amongst local dog walkers), and kept it on afterwards, then the next day I found I wanted to wear it again which is unusual for me. I’m not sure if I’ll make another of these; it’s a fabric hog and most of the fabrics that would be suitable are expensive; but the one I’ve got is definitely a success. The pattern was beautifully drafted and Stylearc have a lot of unusual and attractive designs. I think I’ll be making more of their patterns in the future.
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So one thing about overlockers is that most of them come with a feature called differential feed. This lets you vary the ratio between the rate at which fabric is fed in and out of the area under the presser foot and needles. It is supposed to be a magical fix for tricky fabrics where seams won’t lie flat. If the seam is stretching out you make the inward feed faster than the outward feed, and if it gathers or puckers you make it slower.
This sounds great in theory and you can find loads of blog posts explaining it. It’s also what my machine’s manual suggests to do to correct stretched or gathered seams. But it never really works for me. I can see a small difference when I adjust the feed, but I often find I get gathered edges on lightweight fabric even with the differential feed down at the minimum. This sample is a case in point: three thread overlock seam finish on a lightweight fabric with the differential feed at 0.7 and everything else at the default settings. Awful.
The problem seems to come from the needle thread; the loopers look fine. Reduce the needle thread tension, and suddenly all is well.
Does this happen to anyone else or is it just that my machine has overenthusiastic tension?
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Here’s version 2 of Burda 106-04-2014, the x-wrap dress. This one is made in one of the most awkard fabrics I have ever tried to sew: a very lightweight, slightly sheer silk. I normally steer well clear of such things but it was a very cheap bolt end in the sale room at Misan Textiles, there was just enough of it for the pattern, and I couldn’t turn down that almost fluorescent orange colour.
I hate cutting out shifty fabric. I did a bit of googling for tips for dealing with lightweight fabrics. A lot of sites suggest spray starch but there seems to be no consensus as to whether you should press starched fabric with or without steam, and lots of warnings about potentially burning the starch and marking the fabric if you get the iron too hot. Eventually I came across this recipe for using gelatine to stiffen chiffon before cutting and sewing. The method seemed pretty clear and sensible so I gave it a go – thanks Jo! The gelatine I could get came was in leaves rather than a powder and was ‘platinum grade’ – apparently there are lots of other grades available and they have different setting power which makes it kind of tricky to substitute. I think I used three leaves to three litres of water. It certainly stiffened the fabric and made it a lot easier to cut and sew. The downside is that you can’t use any steam when pressing or the fabric might go sticky. And the fabric didn’t press well without steam as you can see from the generally wavy effect. I washed the dress once it was finished but it doesn’t seem to have completely removed the gelatine as the fabric is still less fluid than it was when I bought it. On the upside it doesn’t wrinkle as badly as I thought it would. These photos were taken after wearing the dress all day. I didn’t press it at all before we went out to take them, so what you have here is what it really looks like after a day’s wear. Maybe more washing will gradually soften it up again.
I already posted about my fitting and facing changes but I also left out the zip as it’s not needed, and slip-stitched the shawl collar down to the outer neckline seam to make it stay put. I couldn’t use interfacing with this fabric so the sharp points where the wrap pieces grow out of the front of the dress are reinforced with bias squares of the outer fabric sewn to the wrong side along the seamlines. I kept the inseam pockets, which are a lot easier to sew when you don’t put a zip in the seam right next to a pocket.
I tried to take a little more care with the hem on this version but it’s even worse than the brown one: uneven and very wavy. I hoped it would look a bit better after washing the dress and pressing with steam but no. I’m not going to unpick it as I don’t think a second attempt’s likely to be much better and the fabric might not survive the experience. It looks less fragile in the pictures than it is in real life.
I don’t think this is as successful as the brown version, but it’s a perfectly wearable summer dress (well OK, wearable with a slip) and I love the colour. The fitting changes seem to have worked too. Two copies of this pattern is enough for now, but it’s one I might go back to at some point.
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This was my first version of Burda 106-04-2014. No sooner than it was finished I started working on a second one and took the opportunity to tweak the pattern a little. The version above isn’t bad, but the sleeves are a little constricting and I felt I could do with a bit more room in the bust. I don’t know you’re meant to do a full bust adjustment on this sort of pattern but here’s what I’ve done. The picture below is the front pattern piece, which is cut on the fold.
In the pictures below red areas are bits I’ve added and blue is where I have taken away. I slid a chunk of the front out sideways to give a bit more bust room, and reduced the shoulder width so that the shoulder seam would be sitting on my shoulder point rather than slightly over it.
Those two changes affected the length of the armscye so I had to make the sleeve wider to match. No bad thing as the original sleeves felt slightly tight; I’d been planning to flatten the sleeve cap anyway.
That’s it for fitting alterations, but the fabric I’m using is slightly transparent and so I also needed to do something about the neckline finish. The original design has a skinny back neck facing which is a single interfaced layer, overlocked on the outer edge. That clearly isn’t going to look good in a sheer fabric. Also the facing didn’t behave well on the first version and had to be top-stitched down to keep it in place.
I did a bit of snoop shopping to see how this sort of thing would be handled in ready to wear clothes. I found very few summer dresses with facings. Most were lined. A few, mainly in casual fabrics, had the neckline seam covered with a strip of binding. The ones which did have facings all had a centre back zip with the facings sewn to the zip tape to hold them down. The facings themselves were invariably much wider than those on the Burda design.
I didn’t fancy trying to bind the neckline seam in slippery silk, and I had nothing to line the dress with, so I had to stick with a facing. Although the original design has no centre back seam I had already had to add one because of a shortage of fabric, so I figured I could sew the facing to the seam allowances on that or stitch in the ditch to hold it in place. To try to make it look nicer I made the facings much wider around the neck than the original and cut two copies of each piece. Those then get sewn right sides together at the outer edge and turned out to give a facing with slightly more body than a single layer and a very clean finish to the edge.
And here’s what it looks like. Acceptable if not brilliant, and probably the best I could manage with lightweight silk. It is not well-pressed for excellent reasons I shall go into in my next post, and I should have done a french seam on the centre back but life’s too short. It’s wearable and the facings stay put and that’ll do.
Next up, modelled finished object pictures.
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Burda is sometimes unfairly accused of churning out endless boring patterns based on rectangles. There are certainly plenty of boxy tops and dresses in the magazine (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) but also no shortage of more complex designs like this style, 106-04-2014. This is a wonderfully practical summer dress: it is very roomy, has pockets, and protects my shoulders and neck from the sun. I was very boring and made it up in practically the same colour and type of fabric as Burda’s sample: a greyish brown silk. Mine’s from the sale room at Misan Textiles.
Here’s the line art.
I was very glad this was the illustrated ‘sewing course’ pattern for the month with detailed instructions; the x-wrap detail isn’t technically very difficult to sew once you have worked out what’s going on, but the pictures were a great help in determining which edges to sew to which. Burda’s usual terse instructions probably wouldn’t have been enough.
I made a couple of very minor changes, which were to top-stitch the hem and to top-stitch down the back neck facing to stop it flipping up. I didn’t do a brilliant job on either but I can live with it.
I love that the dress has pockets although I did have a bit of trouble with them. The side seams of the front are cut slightly on the bias and they stretched out very slightly despite my applying strips of interfacing to the seam allowances. The pattern also has a zip in the left side seam. Successfully combining a zip with an inseam pocket, wriggly fabric, and a bias edge took a couple of tries and a bit of hand sewing to get a good insertion. And then after all the faff getting the zip in I found I can get in and out of the dress without it, even though the fabric has no stretch at all.
I swear that weird wrinkle below the pocket isn’t normally there. In fact this side of the dress is the one without the zip and hence has the better pocket insertion.
When this issue of Burda first came out I remember reading a review where someone (sorry, can’t remember who!) expressed the opinion that the hem on this dress was never going to hang well. It’s a bit odd. It looks fairly straight when I’m walking.
But not so much when standing still. I considered interfacing the hem to try to reduce the wavy effect but after making samples I found I preferred the softer hem.
Anyway despite all the quibbling I really do like this dress. It’s a slightly unusual style but easy to wear. The silk feels very luxurious and was worth all the sewing problems. I have just cut out a second one, in a rather more experimental and even more temperamental fabric. Wish me luck.
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