I am not a number

My husband’s first comment on this dress was “It reminds me of something.” He can’t remember what, but I have a feeling that it’s the costume Patrick McGoohan wore in The Prisoner – a dark blazer with distinctive cream trim around the edges. If you’ve no idea what I’m talking about, there’s a page of pictures at this site http://homepage.ntlworld.com/sixofone.society/prisoner-costume.htm. And while The Prisoner is an iconic piece of TV, Patrick McGoohan’s very prim and proper 60s secret agent is not quite the look I was going for.

The construction of this dress is pretty neat. I guess it’s probably standard for a cheongsam style, but I’ve never even worn one before, much less made one. The long white stripe on the side is mostly sewn into the side seam. Where it curves off onto the bodice it’s sewn down to the front in the ditch for a few inches, and the free end is held in place with snaps so you can open it to get your head through. There’s an invisible zip in the other side seam to give enough space for getting in and out. I’m amazed how unobtrusive the snaps have turned out to be. I’ll post more details about the construction next time as I haven’t taken any pictures of the inside yet.

The pattern is model 111 from the February 2012 issue of Burda. The long and wriggly pattern pieces for the white bands were a real pain in the neck to trace and cut out. Burda recommends block fusing interfacing to the fabric before cutting, and that turned out to be a big help.

Here’s a back view. Not much to see. The contrast collar and sleeve bands save it from the coffin back effect though.

I’m actually very pleased with this dress, despite the accidental Number Six effect. It’s smart but unexpectedly comfortable!

Be seeing you.

Is Burda dumbing down?

I’m a big fan of Burda Style magazine. I started buying it in 2009, and eventually got a subscription. I don’t make something out of every issue but I think I get my money’s worth.

Burda has a rating system for their patterns which uses dots. It seems to combine both difficulty and time, so one dot is ‘quick and easy, great for beginners’, one-and-a-half is ‘Easy to sew with simple features’ and two is ‘Easy to sew but more time-consuming’. The highest rating is four dots, the description of which is ‘Challenging, detailed, and time-consuming – for pros’. Those almost never appear in the magazine; I think there are five such patterns in my whole Burda collection, including the glorious Karl Lagerfeld jacket pictured below.

When I started out, two dot patterns were about the hardest I could contemplate making. These days I’d tackle a three dot pattern (‘Intermediate difficulty, for advanced learners’) without a qualm and have even managed to make a three-and-a-half dot dress. But I’ve been thinking there have been fewer difficult and detailed patterns in the magazine lately, and an awful lot of one and one-and-a-half dot sack dresses. Now it’s possible for a one dot pattern to be great, and I can think of at least one example in the amazingly simple and versatile 105-05-2010 – my version’s below and there are many others on Pattern Review. But in the main I find the very simple patterns a bit dull and they certainly seem to be multiplying.

So I set out to check if Burda really is sneakily reducing the difficulty level of the patterns. I worked out the average dot rating for the issues in my collection, skipping patterns for children and accessories, and plotted a graph. (Argh I just noticed my y-axis label’s fallen off the plot. Sorry. Also I deliberately didn’t start the y-axis from zero.)

And actually, although it looks as though there’s a slight downwards trend, there’s so much variation that I don’t think there’s any real evidence that the patterns are getting easier. (No I didn’t do a proper regression analysis or anything like that. I could have, but that would have involved getting out a stats textbook to remind myself how to do it properly. You may call me a lazy slacker if you like.)

I’m putting the impression of easier patterns down to the extra editorial emphasis that’s been placed on them in recent issues. They get a special ‘Easy’ flag in the ‘All Styles at a Glance’ pages and there’s always an ‘Easy sewing’ section with very detailed instructions for one of the patterns in the magazine in addition to the ‘Sewing course’ pattern each month.

What do you think? Has Burda got easier? And even if it hasn’t, what sort of patterns do you prefer to find in it?

Passing on the Liebster blog award

Last week Magpie Makes kindly nominated this blog for the Liebster Blog Award. Thank-you so much!

Liebster Blog Award

The way this blog award works is that you nominate five other blogs you enjoy with less than 200 followers and link to them. This was really difficult to do as there are so many I wanted to nominate. I’ve managed to choose the five sewing-related blogs below. I know not everyone does the blog award/meme thing, but I always really enjoy these blogs – I hope you have a look and like them too.

And the other thing I want to say is thank-you all so much for the lovely comments about my Burda dress with the exposed zip. I am definitely going to have to get the mirrorshades.

Not quite Blade Runner

Isn’t the Internet amazing? I thought I’d ruined my white cotton drill fabric but Sewing Elle and The Perfect Nose came along with some advice that resurrected it. It’s now cut out and interfaced. And Clare S nominated this blog for the Leibster Blog Award. Thank-you so much, all of you! I’m going to have to give some serious thought to picking five other blogs to pass the award on to; there are so many great blogs out there.

So what have I been up to? Finishing Burda 117A-02-2012, a knit dress from the February Burda that is proving extremely popular in the sewing blogosphere. In the magazine it was shown as both a colour-block and plain version. I’ve seen two great colour-block versions from FehrTrade and SewTawdry but I went with the plain black version on the grounds that I wanted the exposed back zip to be the main feature of my dress. Consequently you can see absolutely none of the pattern’s many seamlines in the photos. But rest assured, they are there. I traced all those lines, added seam allowances, and then matched them all up. And they do match. Honest.

The back zip is what really makes this version. I got it from Klein’s in London. My zip isn’t actually functional. The fabric is stretchy enough that I can pull the dress on over my head, and I feel a lot safer from wardrobe malfunctions knowing that centre back seam is sewn firmly shut. I also really like the cap sleeves. You can’t see it in the pictures but there’s a small pleat at the top which gives them a nice curvy shape.

This got made to the accompaniment of the Blade Runner soundtrack and I was hoping it would come out a little bit cyberpunk, but I’m not sure it really has. Maybe if I add mirrorshades?

Not a snowy landscape

Thanks so much for all the lovely comments about my coat! I have been wearing it every day to walk to work. Although almost all the snow has gone from round here it’s still pretty cold. This, however, is not a snowscape.

It’s how the fabric for my latest project came out of the wash. Or rather, how one of the fabrics came out. The dress has two different coloured fabrics: a black base and cream trim. Both are lovely medium-weight cotton drills with a little cross-way stretch. The black fabric has come out of the wash with barely a wrinkle. I almost don’t need to press it before cutting. But I rather fear the white isn’t going to recover from its trip through the machine no matter how hard I press! Still, at least I found out now rather than after finishing the dress. It may be saveable; I’m going to get the iron going and see.

Does this look familiar?

Here’s my new coat, Vogue 1276 by Sandra Betzina.

Here’s the pattern envelope photo.

And this I found while browsing on Net-a-Porter. It’s from Rick Owens Lilies, one of my favourite lines.

While strikingly similar it’s not quite the same style. The Vogue has a much fuller skirt and lacks the extra-long sleeves. But it has all the features that appeal to me in the Rick Owens coat. Pure serendipity!

Snowy Sunday

I finished my winter coat just in time. Those in the UK will know that we had a lot of snow on Saturday night! We took these pictures on Sunday morning, before getting down to clearing the paths and digging the car out of the snow.

It’s Vogue 1276, a Today’s Fit pattern. I was instantly attracted to it by the dramatic collar.

Which handily turns into a hood.

I lined it in a heavy acetate-viscose satin from The Lining Company. I like the bright yellow against the grey, although most of the time it’s not visible. The fashion fabric is a grey boiled wool-poly blend from Stone Fabrics.

I really really like this style. Good for striking dramatic poses. Nice roomy pockets. And it keeps my ears warm.