Top fives of 2012

Gillian first posted the idea of doing sewing top fives of 2012 at the start of December. So I’m a bit late to the party but going to play along anyway because it’s a great idea and I’ve really enjoyed reading other people’s top fives.

Top 5 of 2012

I made 24 items in 2012. It’s 25 if I count the disastrous second version of Vogue 1250, but since that one didn’t even touch the floor between being taken off and hurled into the scraps bag I don’t think I ought to include it.

So here are my five favourite makes of 2012.

The psychedelic dress, Vogue 8489. I think I only wore this out of the house once, to my friends’ wedding, but it felt great. I love the fabric and the enormous swishy skirt.

My cheongsam dress, Burda 111-02-2012. It was a really fiddly make but it came out well. I’m looking forward to having some warmer weather so I can wear this again. It’s been lurking at the back of the wardrobe for far too long.

Red version of Burda 117-02-2012. February 2012 was the best issue of Burda I’ve ever seen. I got five dresses out of it and four of them were this pattern: black, red, colour-blocked in teal/black/white/grey, and finally in red and white stripes. Three were successes and the striped one was a horrible disaster. The solid red one’s my favourite because it’s a good fabric and it’s probably the most nicely finished of the four.

I was surprised to find I’d made two coats this year. I could have sworn I made the first one in 2011 but I’ve checked the dates and it really was January 2012. I’ve obviously worn it enough that it seems like longer! The pattern is Vogue 1276. I’m a sucker for any pattern with a bit of drama.

But my favourite item of the year is my navy blue Burda 116-08-2011. I don’t think I’ve ever posted a picture of the blue version of this dress here before. I made the pattern up three times; the other two are red and grey. The blue one is my favourite because it works whether I’ve had my hair dyed recently or not!

Strangely these five include both my easiest (Burda 116-08-2011) and one of my hardest (Burda 111-02-2012) makes of the year. There are also two patterns from the same issue of Burda, the February 2012 one. I’ve sewed a lot more Burda this year than before.

Stay tuned for my misses of 2012, coming up soon!

Thank-you secret Santa

I hope everyone had a great Christmas!

Kat’s been running a Sewists’ Secret Santa this year. It was fun shopping for a fellow sewist. I normally really struggle to think of Christmas present ideas but this was the opposite; so many things to pick from.

And here’s what Secret Santa brought me: sweets, fabric, and a pom-pom brooch!

Secret santa

The fabric’s really intriguing. It’s navy blue, slightly sheer, with blue, pink, and silver lines scattered over it. And there’s 2m so I’m thinking a floaty little dress for spring. There are lots of pattern possibilities in my Burda collection.

So thanks Secret Santa, and thanks to Kat for organising!

Oooh sparkly

This is about a dress that is coming about purely through luck.

Back in November Marie and Kat organised a blogger meetup in Birmingham. It was a lot of fun and amongst other things I came back with this fabric, a doubleknit with a metallic fibre on one side. I didn’t spot it myself; Kat pointed it out to me.

Sparkly heavy knit

I was originally planning to make Burda 118A-10-2012, a long-sleeved cowl necked dress with waist gathers. But recently I was flipping through my pile of pages ripped out of fashion mags inspiration folder and came across this picture. It’s a Christopher Kane. The picture had no date but a bit of trawling through showed it’s from fall 2007. Clearly the sparkly fabric was meant to be a knock-off of this dress.

Christopher Kane Autumn 2007

The Christopher Kane dress has raglan sleeves. Also strange bolt-like bits on the shoulders that I am not going to copy.

I went through my whole pattern collection and found I didn’t have a single close-fitting raglan-sleeved knit dress or t-shirt pattern. Even my collection of Burdas had nothing. I vaguely thought about drafting something; I even got Metric Pattern Cutting off the shelf and looked up the appropriate chapter. And then I put it back because drafting involves rearranging furniture to make enough space to draw, and also requires daylight which is short supply in the UK in December.

Then a three-for-one Vogue pattern sale happened and I realised the knit dress from Vogue 8866 could save me from the dreaded drafting. The collar and sleeves should be fairly easy to extend.

Vogue 8866 line art

Of course no sewing has actually happened yet, what with Christmas and all. But the fabric’s in the washing machine and the pattern has been ironed ready for when things return to normal.

Have a great Christmas!

The slowest project ever? Velvet shorts

Thanks so much for all the lovely comments about my Burda coat. I couldn’t have got the fit right without the help of the sewing blogsphere; you’re all wonderful!

I haven’t sewn anything new I can show since finishing the coat. I’ve been tracing patterns and making a muslin for a dress for my sister. But I do have a little project I made earlier this year and never blogged about. I think this garment has had the longest gestation of anything in my entire wardrobe.

When we were undergraduates, a scarily long time ago, one of my friends had a pair of black velvet short shorts which she wore with black tights. She always looked amazing in them: sophisticated and sexy. So when I made my first pair of shorts this spring and shortly afterwards got my hands on a remnant of black velvet I knew what I was going to make.

The trouble with black velvet is that it drinks up the light even more than most black fabrics so there’s not a lot to see in the pictures. The shorts haven’t got much in the way of external detail anyway. They close with a zip in the side seam and they have inseam pockets. The original Burda pattern (111-06-2011) had patch pockets on the back but I wanted a very smooth line so I left them off.

I lined them in cotton poplin and bound the edges of the waist facing in black cotton bias. I love this finish on waistbands. It’s easy to do with a binder foot and it looks so neat and tidy.

Inside waistband of black velvet shorts

I’m not saying how many years it is between the original pair of shorts and my copy. I’m claiming this is a completely timeless style!

Gridlines: the coat is finished

So here is the finished coat at last. These were taken very quickly, shortly before heading into town on what is apparently the busiest shopping day of the year in the UK. Full disclosure: I’ve edited out the signpost that was making an unwelcome appearance in all the front views. The goofy pose owes nothing to photo editing software however.

Here’s the original. I don’t know about you but I always like to see the pattern photo next to the finished item. Sometimes the pattern photo and the finished product are very different, but in this case I think mine’s come out pretty close to Burda’s. Fabric choice helps!

White Burda coat 104-12-2012

The magnetic snaps turned out not to be strong enough for the bottom two snaps, so I replaced them all with regular snaps. I did try to cover the snaps in lining but I think I must have the wrong sort of snaps, or possibly the wrong sort of lining. As soon as I closed the covered snap it tore a hole in the covering on the female half, so my snaps ended up being au naturel.

I’m very pleased with the fit in the end. Thanks so much everyone who gave fitting advice! The bust and waist seams are now horizontal and all those annoying wrinkles on the princess seams are completely gone.

I really like the design of the back of this coat with all the seamlines. Glad I didn’t have to finish all those seams though. My fabric’s non-ravelly and the coat is lined so I left them alone.

The sleeves set in fine. The lining sleeves were a bit more of a struggle but removing most of the sleevecap ease made it easier than it normally is. And there isn’t any excess fabric across the back of the coat but I can still move my arms! The shoulder pads still feel a bit weird but I guess I’ll get used to them. These are the smallest ones I could find.

So how does it wear after a day out shopping? The neckline is very high, which is going to be great on cold days. The patch pockets are not the most practical pockets. You can’t shove your hands into them. In fact you can’t store a great deal in them at all. This is probably a good thing because my coat pockets normally contain a highly sordid collection of old hankies, bus tickets, and receipts. I think patch pockets might work out in the same way changing to a smaller handbag did: I carry much less rubbish around with me these days.

This is definitely a smart coat. I don’t think I could have it as the only coat in my wardrobe because of the pale colour and lack of storage space. But I’m glad I’ve got it an option!

Blood sacrifice

I remember being told as a child that ‘we must suffer to be beautiful’. Well I hope my new coat is going to come out beautiful. It’s certainly causing a little suffering right now! I am sparing you a photo of my left hand, which currently sports an iron burn and several nasty pin scratches. Also I will not show you my right ring finger, which I managed to stab deeply with a needle while sewing the pockets on. I’m pretty sure I didn’t get any blood on the coat. It would show on this fabric.

So here’s where we are so far. Body sewn, collar and pockets attached, sleeves sewn but not set in. I totally forgot to add a hanging loop when I sewed the back facing seam. I am not going back and unpicking it. The pockets aren’t perfect but I hate hand-sewing with a passion so they’re not getting a do-over either.

Coat with collar but no sleeves

I was worried about sewing through all the layers around the collar but my machine coped with it without so much as a wobble. Look at all those thicknesses!

Trimming seams under collar facing

It’s not all bad. I’m pleased with the way the corners came out at the front. Sometimes you turn out a point and it just goes perfectly with no need for poking. Both corners did that; I wish I knew what I did to make that happen! And I still love the style. I think when it’s done I’m going to really enjoy wearing it.

Collar closeup

Hopefully the blood sacrifice will make the rest of the project go a little more smoothly. I’m about to set the sleeves in; wish me luck!

High tech sewing

So I’m making this Burda coat. Very slowly. I might have it done by Christmas if I’m lucky. But I’m enjoying the process because I really, really like the design. One of the things that originally appealed to me about it is the closure; it uses snaps. I love the clean lines they give. Also: not having to make buttonholes. But mostly it’s the minimalism.

White Burda coat 104-12-2012

The pattern says to cover the snaps with lining fabric before attaching them to the coat. This struck me as odd and likely to come out looking messy. Other people might be able to make a neat job of that, but not me. And I couldn’t help thinking the lining would interfere with the working of the snaps.

Then it occurred to me that maybe Burda meant the coat to have magnetic snaps. You’d have to enclose the magnets in some sort of fabric bag to attach them to the coat. This would explain the instruction about covering them with lining. It wouldn’t matter how messy the covering was because the snaps would be sewn between the outer fabric and the facing. And I like the slightly scifi element of magnetic closures.

My local sewing shops do not carry such things, so I went to Klein’s last time I was in London. It seems magnetic snaps come in a couple of varieties: the sort with prongs on the back that you push through the fabric and fold in, which are for handbags, and the invisible or sew-in variety. I had to ask for the sew-in sort. Here they are. That’s a 5mm grid they’re sitting on.

Magnetic snaps from Kleins

Here’s what they look like separated. The side with the bevel is the strongly magnetic side.

Separated snaps

These things are fascinating. I can’t get over how strong they are. According to my googling they’re most likely to be neodymium magnets, which are a type of rare earth magnet. Neodymium is one of the rare earth metals. There’s something undeniably appealing about anything called a ‘rare earth’. (Rare earths aren’t actually rare but it’s still a compelling name).

Neodymium magnets are made from a compound of neodymium, iron, and boron, which was only discovered in 1982 – within my lifetime! Most things I use in sewing have been around in some form or other for a very long time. The zip, which always seems like one of the more modern things in sewing, is over a hundred years old in its earliest form. Overlocking’s been around since the 19th century. I haven’t been able to find out exactly when fusible interfacing was invented but it was certainly around in the 1970s.

What’s the newest technical development you’ve used in your sewing?