Yet another review of the new Vogues

Like half the sewing blogosphere I’d been waiting impatiently for the spring Vogue patterns to come out. They’re now up on the US website although as I write this they’ve yet to become available in the UK. But that’s OK, this time I think I can wait.

First impressions of the collection? What was the photographer thinking with those poses?

Doesn’t that hurt (1286)? She seems to be putting all her weight on one knee. The other foot isn’t in contact with the floor!

Is she trying to do the Eagle in four inch heels and a tight skirt (1280)?

How many cans of hairspray were involved (1281 and numerous others)?

What, you wanted to hear about the actual patterns?

There are a lot of lovely designer dresses there, including the three above, but somehow very few of them are ‘must-sews’ for me. There are a lot of dressing-up clothes there. I haven’t got a wedding to go to until June so I won’t be making any of the above any time soon.

Of the day dresses, two really stand out for me: 1285 and 1287. 1285 is a smart mock wrap dress, although I’d make it up in something a lot less transparent.

Vogue 1285 envelope photo

1287 has pockets and pleating and why on earth did they make up the sample in a fabric that hides the style lines? Not that it doesn’t look beautiful, but go and look at the line art. There’s more there than the photo shows. However it isn’t a million miles away in style from my favourite Vogue 1220.

Vogue 1287 envelope photo

The Very Easy range is often a bit blah, but this time they have this wrap dress 8784, which looks like a real classic. In fact it strongly resembles the sadly out of print Vogue 8379 but with a bonus extra skirt option.
Vogue 8784 envelope art

So in conclusion, I think this is a strong collection but not one that I’m going to rush out to sew. The ones I might wear are very similar to patterns I already own. This time I can definitely wait for the sale.


I’m writing this on Sunday evening for posting on Wednesday, because my part-time teaching has just started up again and I expect to be spending the next few evenings marking piles of past papers. At least, I hope I will be. It’s worse to have nothing handed in at all!

I spent the day tracing BurdaStyle patterns from the excellent new issue (February 2012). I don’t do this often because it involves rearranging half of the living room so I can pull the big table out. But there are two absolute must-sew patterns in this issue so it was worth the effort.

This one is model 117. It is a three-and-a-half-dot rated pattern, which is quite a way outside my comfort zone. But I like the design so much I am going to give it a try. I’ve jumped on the digital croquis bandwagon and I think the style works on me.

This is model 111. Burda has it in two versions, one black all over and one with colour blocking. Much as I love the colour-blocked version, it looks slightly odd on my croquis. I think the problem is the diagonal seam across the chest. It’s not all that flattering on me so I don’t want to emphasize it. I’m going to go for all one colour with this one.

BurdaStyle patterns come without seam allowances. The instructions would have you add them with chalk directly onto the fabric, and I know some people are so good at this they can just eyeball the necessary width rather than measuring. But I much prefer to have patterns with seam allowance included, which means a long extra stage of drawing it onto the tracing. However I recently discovered that if you strap three Tesco cheap-and-cheerful-brand pencils together with an elastic band, you get a 1.5cm seam allowance tracing tool. With two pencils and a little padding you can get a 1cm version as well, which was useful for model 117 which has some 1cm seam allowances.

This saved a lot of aggravation, if not much actual time. I now have four patterns hanging up in the sewing room all adjusted for length and ready to be made up, so hopefully that’s it for tracing for a long while.

A new hope – coat muslin

My husband’s first reaction to my muslin of Vogue 1276 was to proclaim “You should not have come back, old man!”. I’m not entirely sure if it was Obi-wan Kenobi or Darth Vader he was reminded of. Personally I quite like it – and Jedi normally wear their robes ankle-length, not mid-calf.

I haven’t got a picture of the back where the hood is sitting straight. It has a tendency to lie in funny positions when worn down. I can also see I’m going to have to take out all the extra length I added to the bodice. The actual back waist length on this pattern is about two inches longer than what’s given on the size chart. They didn’t match up when I measured the tissue, but the difference was so big I assumed I was measuring the wrong thing and went by the size chart – which incidentally had a slightly different measurement in the version inside the envelope than the one on the back of it. This is the first time I’ve tried a “Today’s Fit” Vogue, but I have to say based on this I’m a “Yesterday’s Fit” girl!

I really like the effect when the hood is worn up, and the hood was the reason I chose the style in the first place.

I ordered this pattern before Christmas, having fallen in love with the envelope picture. When it arrived I started to have second thoughts. It needs a huge amount of fabric because the skirt is cut on the bias, and the instructions are disappointing. I was expecting something a cut above normal pattern instructions from this range. However based on the muslin I think I shall go on and make this up. I’ve got a piece dark grey boiled wool from Stone Fabrics that might just be large enough.

And by the way, I’m afraid I haven’t been leaving many blog comments this week. It’s not through lack of trying; I’m suddenly having real problems commenting on Blogger blogs. The word verification always comes back incorrect. I’ve even been to look on Blogger’s Known Issues page and there’s no help there. So I’m not ignoring anyone on purpose, just hoping this gets fixed soon.

Ugly ducklings – patterns with hidden potential

Is it just me or are pattern envelope photos and illustrations misleading? I’m fairly sure this is why I buy so many Vogue patterns. The pattern envelopes are simply more attractive than the competition. And yet the envelope art usually bears little relation to the end result. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen someone produce a dress that I have greatly preferred to the original in the envelope picture. It makes me wonder what pattern gems I might be missing out on because the company has made the sample up in a pastel floral print or something alarmingly polyester. (I have nothing against pastel florals on other people. People whose skin, unlike mine, isn’t naturally a sort of pale grey colour.)

So here are my two favourite ugly duckling patterns. Despite the envelope art, they made up really well.

First is Simplicity 3775, straight out of the pastel floral category. This is a fantastic dress. Mine’s made up in a burgundy wool jersey and it’s great. Its best outing was getting me through the 2010 general election in reasonable style. You want something very warm and comfortable to wear when you’re waiting for the count after a 20 hour day of campaigning, and if you have to look vaguely smart too then this is the dress for the job.

And here’s Vogue 8413. I don’t know what it is about this one. The whole thing is slightly scary-looking. I can’t make my mind up whether it’s the styling, the hungry expression the model’s wearing, or just the colours they’ve picked. I wouldn’t have touched it if I hadn’t really needed a pattern for a woven cowl-neck dress. And that is a shame because it’s a lovely style and has a lot of good reviews if you go out there and look. I grafted a circle skirt on to the bodice and it became my Yohji Yamamoto-inspired dress.

So do you have any ugly duckling patterns? Do share!

The job isn’t finished until you’ve tidied up

I’ve finished my mother’s kimono. Except I haven’t, because the sewing room looks like a bomb has hit it. Every surface is covered with fluffy polyester threads, including me. I think I’m going to have to vacuum everything, and I doubt the ironing board cover is ever going to be the same again. I never liked that ironing board cover anyway.

I had just enough fabric. I had worked out yardage for 45″ and 60″ width fabric before going shopping. When we found the perfect fabric in a 36″ width I had to do some hasty mental arithmetic. It worked out in the end. We will draw a veil over the fact that I got the sleeve lengths totally wrong and had to add deep cuffs. I think they look really good so clearly it was inspiration rather than incompetence!

The picture’s an in-progress shot, just after I’d finished the collar but before sewing up the sleeves. I’ll share photos of the final result after I’ve given it to my mother. And now to attempt to clean things up. I love the fabric but I’m going to be finding threads from it for months, I know it. Do you guys have to tidy up straight after finishing a project, or is it just me?

Binding feet

This little thing is magical. It’s a binding foot. I’ve had it for a couple of years but never got round to using it until this week, when I realised I was going to have to bind fifteen metres of raw edges on my mother’s kimono. I’d normally use a narrow hem for this, but that clearly wasn’t going to work with the poly brocade fabric we chose. It ravels as soon as you look at it. The edges show so binding it had to be. I armed myself with a large roll of satin bias binding and the binder foot instructions.

I am a girl racer on the sewing machine. I like to sew as fast as possible. This is probably the reason why I’ve never had great success with my rolled hem foot, which requires slow and careful feeding. Not so with the binder foot. It takes care of feeding the bias binding correctly all on its own. I just sat there keeping the cut fabric edge aligned with the foot and the pedal right down. Here it is in action.

The end result is pretty good. Right side.

Wrong side. I think if I was doing this again I’d probably reverse the fabric and feed it wrong side up to get the slightly narrower edge on the right side, but I’m still really pleased with the results.

Of course it wasn’t perfect from the start. I found the hardest thing was figuring out how to start and stop neatly – something the instructions that came with the foot didn’t mention at all. I had most success when I started by sewing just the binding with no fashion fabric. After a few stitches I stopped and inserted the fashion fabric into the foot, pushing it all the way to the point where the feed dogs would catch it. A tapestry needle was a great help for that.

At the end of an edge I found the best thing is to keep sewing right off the edge of the fabric. The foot is then sewing the binding together with no fabric between. Then cut the binding off behind the foot, insert the next edge at the front, and start sewing again.

The bound edge has a tendency to pucker slightly. A good press afterwards seems to help with that. Now onto the assembly of the kimono.

Upside down dragons – patterned fabric and symmetry

Thank-you all so much for the nice comments on my last post about Vogue 1220. I can report it stands up to wearing at work pretty well.

What I’m doing at the moment is making a kimono for my mother. I’ve made kimonos before. The one the one I posted about last year was made from a patterned fabric but I made no effort to match the pattern or worry about which way up it went, and the other couple I’ve done were solid colours. My mother has picked some lovely dark blue and gold Chinese-style brocade with dragons on it and I decided to put some effort into laying it out to best effect.

Here’s the fabric design. I’ve darkened the picture so that the design shows more clearly, but the base colour is really a midnight blue rather than black. The medallion-like motifs are about three inches across and turn out to be curled-up dragons when you look closely, so the whole design is made of dragons and little clouds.

Warning: geekery ahead. At first sight the design looks as if it has a fairly small pattern repeat, something like the cell I’ve drawn below. I assumed the design was ‘one-way’ and had a good look at the curled-up dragons to see which way up they should be placed.

But when I looked more closely I saw that half the curled-up dragons are upside down. The pattern repeat is twice as large as I thought. Whichever way up the fabric is used, half of all the dragons will be upside-down. I’ve drawn the real pattern repeat below. It’s actually rectangular but I must have taken the original picture on the skew.

At this point I thought that the design had two-fold rotational symmetry – in other words you could turn it upside-down and it wouldn’t make a difference – and I started trying to figure out its wallpaper group. It’s possible to classify 2D repeating patterns, such as those on wallpaper and fabric, into exactly seventeen distinct types. I thought I had one of the five types with two-fold rotations. Once you know what rotations there are you start looking for reflections to narrow it down to the exact type. There clearly aren’t any ordinary reflections in the pattern, so I started looking for glide reflections. Then I spotted the clouds. Have a look at the two I’ve circled below, which are next to what appear to be otherwise identical (apart from rotation) dragon motifs. The two clouds are different! The smaller cloud only appears in one orientation within the design, so it is a one-way pattern after all. It’s the simplest of the wallpaper groups, called p1. Once I started looking for it I found a few of the other cloud-like motifs were strictly one-way as well.

It still doesn’t really matter which way up this particular design is placed as long as it is consistent. I put the centre back on one of the vertical lines of medallions, and then tried to lay the rest out so that the pattern matches at the side and sleeve seams as well as possible. I don’t think I’ve done a completely perfect job on the matching, but the fronts and back will demonstrably be the same way up even if you have to squint at the small clouds to tell. I would never have noticed something like that before I started sewing. I’d like to find some wearable fabrics with more elbaorate wallpaper groups.