Still sewing with a plan

I’m making Vogue 9299, a blouse from their Easy Options range. This one really lives up to the name: two significantly different sleeve options, two collars, and two lengths; one with a straight hem and one with a curved one. There’s also a cuff variation on the puffy sleeve option.

Vogue 9299 envelope cover art, somethingdelightful.com

I’m making this as part of my attempt at sewing a wardrobe. It’s going to be in black cotton poplin so should go very well with the black pleated culottes and black jeans I’ve already made. It might also work with the silver drawstring waist trousers and the planned lantern trousers, but we’ll see.

I had to adjust the pattern quite a lot. I bought my fabric online a while ago, and the website said it was 150cm wide so I bought three metres to do the view with the long body, the shirt collar, and the puffy sleeves with cuffs. I checked the length when it arrived, but didn’t think to check the width. And when I came to use it, it turned out to be 115cm. No way was the view of the pattern I wanted fitting into that, especially as I always need to lengthen tops and sleeves. And I really wanted the curved hem version, but it was more the sash and the shape of the hem I liked than the extra long body length. I compromised by tracing that view with my usual 5cm extra length addition, which gets added between the bust and waist, and then taking 20cm length out below the waist. After that I was just able to squeeze all the pieces out of the cut I had. It helped that it was a generous three metres. I even had room to add a hidden button placket. And it’s satisfying to only have little scraps left over. I couldn’t even get a face mask out of what’s left.

Being lazy, I googled how to draft the hidden placket rather than trying to work it out for myself, and came across a tutorial from Threads. It has a nice little touch where you sew the under layers together by machine between the buttonholes. It doesn’t show on the outside but keeps everything sitting really flat. Definitely using that one again.

I’m getting on with sewing it together very slowly. I’m doing it in the evenings and really struggling to see what I’m doing on the black fabric. I need better light bulbs for the sewing room!

Flared jeans: Burda 118 04/2009

I picked this jeans pattern to make because I thought the shape was refreshingly different to anything I’ve worn in recent years. I remember having a pair of blue denim trousers from TopShop in the early 2000s with this style of leg. The pattern itself dates from 2009. I could have sworn bootcut jeans were over by then and we’d moved on to skinnies. Anyway it’s Burda 118 04/2009, which has great reviews online. The technical drawing is below but I think the real thing is much tighter on the thigh and lower on the waist than the diagram suggests.

Burda 118 04/2009 technical drawing, burdastyle.ru

I was aiming to reproduce some jeans I’d seen in a Dior ad, so I altered the shape and placement of the front patch pockets and added back ones to match. I found I didn’t need to add anything to the length of the pattern, which is very unusual for me. I added 2cm as insurance anyway and ended up removing it again by making slightly deeper turnips. I also went down a size because the fabric I used has a lot of stretch. It’s Empress Mills’ 7.5oz premium denim. It was a pleasure to work with despite the stretch. The colour is called black but it’s really more of a charcoal. I didn’t have any black top stitching thread and used a very dark grey I had lying around, which turned out to be a great match. And once again I’m baffled as to why top stitching thread is sold in such tiny reels. I always need two to do a pair of jeans.

They haven’t come out much like the inspiration garment; they would need much more ease and a higher waist for that. The style is also different from the bootcut jeans I remember wearing twenty years ago which had a very low rise. These are much easier to wear.

This is the third garment in my vague plan to sew some things that go together and although I’ve managed to stick to the list of planned garments, all I’ve made so far is trousers. So definitely a top next.

Thanks to my husband for the photos and the quarantine haircut. The UK is back in lockdown with only essential services open so it was clippers or nothing. It feels much better to have it short.

Unusual jeans pockets

I’m making flared 70s style jeans right now. The inspiration for these came from a weird coincidence. I bought the April 2009 issue of Burda off eBay to fill in a gap in my collection, and when it arrived style 118 caught my eye.

Technical drawing of Burda 118 04/2009 flared jeans with front patch pockets
Burda 118 04/2009 flared jeans with front patch pockets, burdastyle.ru

It has a definite resemblance to these Dior jeans which I’d just seen featured in a big glossy ad in a recent issue of Vogue. Something about these really attracted me, although I have to say I wouldn’t pair them with a matching denim sleeveless jacket.

Flared cotton jeans, Dior.com

Well I was looking for an interesting trouser pattern to go with a piece of black denim I have, and the Burda pattern has excellent reviews, so it had to be done. The pockets on the Dior jeans are much larger and lower than on the Burda style, but the basic lines are much the same. Both are high waisted with back darts instead of a yoke. The Burda has turn-ups and the Dior has an ordinary jeans hem. I think the Dior waistband is wider, and it has additional patch pockets on the back. It’s possibly also baggier in the thigh area.

Luckily the Dior site had some good photos of the style laid flat which give a good idea of the size, shape, and placement of the pockets. Here are the back ones.

Flared jeans, Dior.com

And here’s where I’ve got to so far.

That’s the really fiddly part done…just need to sew up the seams and put the waistband and belt loops on now. I’m probably keeping the turn-ups from the Burda style too. Maybe next week I’ll have something finished to show.

Burda 108 07/2018 pleated culottes

Here’s the first new item from my wardrobe sewing plan. These pleated culottes are intended to be a more wearable version of hakama (traditional Japanese pleated trousers) which is a look I’ve always liked.

Here’s the technical drawing. The pattern is 108 07/2018.

Technical drawing of pleated culottes Burda 108 07/2018
Burda 108 07/2018 pleated culottes technical drawing from burdastyle.ru

Burda’s version is made up in pale blue and styled with a matching letter jersey and striped sandals for a very prim and preppy look. However I’m aiming for something somewhat more samurai than Sandra Dean! Despite this I didn’t need to make changes to the pattern other than adding length: the 5cm that I always need to add to Burda trousers and then another 4cm on top. All the difference is in the fabric and styling.

Woman in pale blue pleated culottes and letter jersey
Burda 108 07/2018 model photo, burdastyle.ru

The fabric is a cotton drill from Empress Mills. This is quality stuff: really sturdy, blackest black, and stable. It’s such a pleasure to sew with well behaved cotton.

Cotton isn’t the ideal thing for pleats because they won’t stay pleated after washing. I’ve edge stitched mine to try to make them stay put. The process is a bit different from Burda’s method. I first basted the pleats down the whole length of the leg, pressed them very well, then pulled out the basting and edge stitched all the folds from the top edge to just above where the hem would turn up to (of which more in a moment). To keep the pleats stitched down over the hips I then top stitched them down over the previous edge stitching to the point where they’re supposed to release. My edge/ditch stitching foot worked overtime on this project. I spent a whole evening just on the main pleating, and most of another folding and stitching the pleats at the hem after doing the hemming. It would have been easier to make the hem before pleating, but that relies on knowing exactly how long you want it to be in advance.

They’ve come out well though and they make some great shapes when in motion.

The culottes fasten with an invisible zip at centre back. I thought I’d done a pretty good job putting it in at the time but there’s a bit of pulling in the photos – see the drag lines pointing to the bottom of the zip.

The back view on these is very plain. Real hakama would have additional overlapping pleats at the back, but I have an office job and I imagine back pleats would look less than great after being sat upon all day. Hakama also fasten with ties around the waist and have long triangular gaps at the side waist; they’re intended to be worn over a long top so the gaps don’t reveal anything. Burda’s version has a conventional side seam instead, which handily allows for inseam pockets. There’s also a self fabric belt, which cleverly hides any slight mismatching that may have happened when sewing the innermost pleats, which are supposed to meet each other exactly at the centre front seam. Again this isn’t right for real hakama, where the centre front pleats should overlap.

I initially only lengthened these by my usual 5cm, but when I tried them on I realised I wanted them longer. I managed to squeeze out some extra length by facing the hem instead of turning it up. In the highly unlikely event I make these again I’d add even more to the length.

I’m very pleased with how they’ve come out. I have nothing else like them in my wardrobe but they go with most of my existing tops and I like the unusual shape. The eagle-eyed may have noticed that I’m wearing trainers in some of these photos and ridiculous heels in others, and I think they work with both. The top is my Rick Owens knockoff from a couple of years ago. Time will tell how practical these really are; they’re comfortable to wear but the real test will be how much effort they are to wash and iron.

Thanks to my husband for immensely patient and creative photo taking as always!

Virtuous sewing: Burda 120 12/2018

I announce a grand plan to sew a mix and match wardrobe for myself, and then my very next post is about a project that’s not on the list. But I haven’t deviated from the plan yet (that’ll doubtless come later) because this one was sewn a couple of weeks ago. It’s Burda 120 12/2018, a hoodie for my husband.

I made this up once before and found it ran a little small. I sized up for this version and it is a much better fit.

It’s very satisfying bashing the eyelets into place with a hammer, and the finish definitely improves with practice.

The fabric is a grey poly fleece from Tia Knight. It’s tricky to photograph! The one below gives the best idea of the colour.

And now back to sewing the wardrobe. The pleated culottes are nearly done and the 70s flared trousers are next up!

Sewing with a vague plan

Planning my sewing out in advance is anathema to me; I’m always being distracted by some inspirational image that crosses my path. In the past this led to the accumulation of patterns and fabric for many projects which never reached the machine. For the last couple of years I’ve had a rule of not purchasing anything more than one planned project in advance in order to control the stash, and until very recently this was serving me well.

And then I needed fabric for my next planned dress, and none of the online sources I’d identified were doing samples because of the pressures of Covid. So I gambled, and ordered two lengths of promising sounding fabric. Both were sensible basics: plain black non stretch medium weight wovens. My theory was that whichever one didn’t work for the dress would rapidly get used for trousers.

You can guess what happened. First it turned out I hadn’t read the fabric description on one of the fabrics properly. I thought it was non-stretch cotton denim, but it turned to be one of those ultra stretchy denims which are mostly man made fibres, so completely unsuitable for my plans. The other one was stable but far too heavy. But all was not lost; both would be good for trouser patterns. But I was still without fabric for the dress, which needed a tricky combination of characteristics: stable enough for making buttonholes and welt pockets, light enough to make pleats, and with enough body to support sticky out bits.

So it was back to the hunt. I identified two more possibilities, but still no one was doing samples. So I ordered both. And this time, both were suitable. But I wasn’t going to make the dress twice, so I now had three lengths of fabric left over. And the lid wouldn’t go on the box that holds my fabric stash.

Clearly it was time to mend my ways, so I started actually planning in the hope of avoiding any more accumulation. First of all I identified trouser patterns from my ‘want to sew’ list that would go with the new fabric. I have some medium weight non stretch black denim, some medium weight very stretchy black denim, and some heavy weight black cotton drill.

And then I looked for top halves to match them, all from patterns I already owned. I included my recently made OOP Vogue 1347 drawstring trousers in the planning for tops because I don’t have many cold weather tops that work with them.

And here is what I came up with.

The bottoms are (left to right) Burda 108 07/2018 pleated culottes for the heavy non stretch drill, my already made silver Vogue 1347 drawstring trousers, some sort of 70s style high waisted jeans for the stretch denim, I’m currently thinking Burda 118 04/2009, and Burda 106 02/2020 lantern trousers for the medium weight non stretch denim. Why those particular patterns? I don’t wear a lot of colour so I’m looking for unusual shapes. I’ve always fancied trying a hakama (Japanese pleated trousers), but they aren’t exactly practical for my lifestyle. The Burda culottes are a more wearable take on that look. The lantern trousers and the 70s jeans are other interesting shapes I don’t have in my wardrobe at the moment.

Then for tops (left to right) I have the overshirt with strap details from OOP Vogue 1347, to be made in black linen; Burda 116 01/2020 cropped sweater in black boiled wool; Burda 105 04/2018 dart front shirt in white cotton. These should all go with all the different trousers, and also my existing grey Merchant and Mills Strides and my grey Burda Oxford bags. I might add another of the Burda dart front shirts in black.

I’ve started sewing the Burda pleated culottes. Who knows whether I’ll manage to stick to rest of the plan! It is six new items, which will take about six months for me at my current rate. I doubt I’ll manage to avoid distractions for that long. On the plus side every single one is something I want to make in its own right; nothing is there just because it goes with something else. I’m quite excited about some of the combinations that will be possible. So fingers crossed.

Vogue 1376 vintage Montana dress modelled pictures

So here it is at last, my vintage 80s dress. It seems odd to think of 80s patterns as vintage, given I remember the decade quite well. But at the time I definitely didn’t appreciate fashion and had never heard of Claude Montana.

The pattern is Vogue 1376 from 1984. I’m almost certain the original designer dress is the one in this advert. I did consider constructing a blue cardboard triangle to put on my head but you’ll be pleased to hear sanity prevailed. My styling efforts are limited to 80s style stripy blusher.

This dress is all about the enormous shoulders. The bodice front and back are only joined together from the waist down in order to achieve that very triangular shape. Decency is maintained by side insets placed in the gap and topstitched in place. One of the insets is visible in this side view. What you can’t see here are the two shoulder pads each side required to support the shape.

Here’s a back view. I added quite a bit to the length. I always add 5cm to the bodice on Vogue but on this one I added another 3cm to the skirt. I’m very happy with where the hem has ended up. For once I’ve managed to hit the magic length which covers the knee but doesn’t make my legs look oddly proportioned. I’m wearing ridiculous heels here for photographic purposes but I think this would look OK with flats. I browsed through a lot of YouTube videos of Montana fashion shows while identifying this pattern, and was surprised by how low and practical many of the shoes were. Not how I remember 80s style. Is it just that heels got even higher later on? I remember fashion suddenly declaring that flats were OK after all at some time in the second half of the 90s, and how refreshing it was to be able to find shoes that were both attractive and practical.

There are a lot of details on the back: there’s a button closure, pleats, and a belt. On the original design the belt appears to be patent leather, but I stuck with self fabric and a lot of interfacing for mine. Incidentally the fabric is gaberchino from Empress Mills. I think this design needs something not too heavy, but with a bit of body to it.

The front has the amazing pocket flanges which echo the triangular shoulder shape and the overall outline. The whole thing is very thoughtfully designed.

Surprisingly it’s not all that close fitting, as you can see here. I made my usual size and I seem to have more ease than on the original. I don’t think I’d want it any tighter though.

I’m pleased with this, although who knows how much I’ll get to wear it in the near future. It was a lot of fun to make anyway.

Wearability: epic fails

I’ve finished my vintage Montana dress, but no photos as yet. Time instead for another wearability post. This one is about some absolutely epic wearability failures: things that barely left the wardrobe until the day I threw them out or passed them on. Failures are much more interesting to read about than successes, right?

First up is Vogue 1400, a Guy Laroche shirt dress made in black cotton poplin. It’s a more complicated design than it looks at first glance: there are shoulder cutouts that are not visible in this shot and the breast pockets have a complicated construction that leads to the effect of them floating on the chest with no visible stitching.

But those are details; it’s basically a very baggy, boxy shirt dress. And that’s its downfall: it’s so wide that when I lift my arms the whole thing lifts up. It also needs a belt to look good on me, so every time it pulls up I then have to tug it back down under the belt again. Way too much aggravation for what should be an easy summer dress. It might have been more wearable if I’d made a much smaller size, but somehow I doubt it. It got a few wears and was then passed on to the charity shop. At least the fabric wasn’t precious.

Next is a real blast from the past. This is Burda 106 03/2011. At the time I made this I’d been sewing only a few years and subscribing to Burda for less than a year. I made this one because I was fascinated by the egg shaped silhouette, which at the time seemed very unusual. Cocoon and egg shapes seem more mainstream in 2020, or perhaps it’s just that years of looking at sewing magazines rather than fashion magazines has retrained my eye.

I still like the shape. But my fabric choice was very bad: an online purchase that was billed as ‘linen look’ but turned out to be a very scratchy and coarsely woven polyester. I hadn’t yet realised that sewing with bad fabric is a waste of time and made it up anyway, making a complete mess of sewing the gathers at the neck along the way. I wanted this to wear to a wedding, but in the event I wore another, more comfortable, dress, and this one never made it out of the wardrobe.

I don’t think this is a bad pattern and I’ve kept my tracing. Perhaps one day I’ll tackle it again, if I ever need a new fancy dress.

And then we have this. It’s an amazing Alexander McQueen pattern; it was a free download from ShowStudio some years ago. It’s an unlined jacket with a complex pleated back.

I enjoyed making it and it looks good in the photos. But it’s very slightly too small; the pattern is one size and comes without any indication of what size it’s for so I had to guess a bit and got it wrong. And it’s a fussy item to wear. It doesn’t do anything to keep you warm or covered up, what with those wide short sleeves which aren’t connected at the underarm at all. The pleated back isn’t practical for sitting or lounging. About the only place I might wear this is to an exhibition, on a warm day.

I didn’t give this one away because it was such a lot of work to sew. It resides in a box under the bed. But I’ve not missed it at all.

I think what all three of these have in common is that they weren’t comfortable to wear, whether it was because of fit, fabric, or just the design of the garment. I’m firmly resolved only to sew with good fabric. Fit and design are a bit harder to get right up front.

Utterly impractical sewing

Remember this? It’s a old Vogue designer pattern I bought earlier in the year because it is everything I love about the 80s.

It hasn’t just been sitting in my pattern collection; I am actually making it up. It’s been quite a journey so far and it’s not done yet. But I have finally got it to the point where it looks like a dress, so I thought I’d post some progress pictures.

The pattern envelope does not lie. The shoulders are seriously wide. Consequently the waist looks tiny. It hasn’t got shoulder pads in yet either, so those shoulders are going to be even bigger when it’s done.

The hip pocket flaps form amazing sticky out fins when the dress is on a body or dress form. My other half said it reminded him of a 50s Cadillac. Underneath them are welt pockets.

The fabric is gaberchino. It needs to be something that is drapey enough for the pleats in the bodice back but has enough body to make the more structured details. I’ve used a lot of interfacing to beef it up in places.

Here’s a better view of the shoulder and neck. The pins are holding the armscye facing in place as I haven’t topstitched it yet.

And here is the back; there is a lot going on there. There are going to be buttons and button holes on the upper back bands and at the collar and the back half-belt. My dress form has a much shorter waist than I do so it won’t be quite so blousy on me.

I still need to add insets under the arms, do a ton of topstitching, put the shoulder pads in, and make all those buttonholes. Oh and hem it, too. There is loads of work in this and that’s without making any effort to make the insides look nice – the pattern doesn’t call for anything special there so it’s all overlocked seam allowances. It’s a wonderful pattern though; beautifully drafted and full of interesting details. It’s been a lot of fun to sew.

I’m coming to the conclusion that the end result is going to be less wearable than I’d originally thought, what with the high neck and the very narrow skirt. But it will be a spectacular dress for going out somewhere fancy in, if we ever get to do that again. And when I finish it I will do my best to get some good photos…I’d better look up some 80s makeup inspiration.

A woman in grey trousers and white shirt sits on grass

Merchant and Mills Strides finished

A woman in grey trousers and white shirt stands by a window

When I last posted about these trousers I was struggling with the pockets. But as you can see I finished them and I’m very pleased with the results. These are the Merchant and Mills Strides. They don’t seem to be available as a standalone pattern but are part of the Merchant and Mills Workbook, a collection of six patterns making up a wardobe. The Strides are described as classic menswear style trousers. They’re straight legged, very high waisted, and have slant pockets and pleats on the front. Mine are made up in a mediumweight non-stretch grey denim. It’s heavier than any of the recommended fabrics for the pattern but it’s unusually soft and drapey for denim, which makes it work. I’d link to it, but it seems to have sold out.

Closeup of grey trousers

I really like the fit on these but it’s only fair to say that other people have had mixed results. The sizing is a little hard to fathom as there is no size chart provided, only finished garment measurements. The size numbers look like they’re meant to match UK retail or Big Four pattern sizing, but in fact they aren’t equivalent. I’d say to go down at least one from your usual size. There’s no inside leg measurement given but after checking the pattern I lengthened the leg something like 8cm, which is more than I usually do.

What I ended up with is close fitting on the natural waist and roomy everywhere else. Very comfortable to wear. The pockets worked out ok after I recut the back piece longer to match the front one, although I’d prefer them to be a bit deeper overall. If I’d used the original pattern pieces with the shorter back piece they’d be far too shallow for a phone (at least for the size I made; I haven’t been back to check the others).

A woman in grey trousers and white shirt stands by a white wall

The pattern is described as inspired by classic menswear but it’s simplified from traditional men’s trousers, which makes it a much easier sew. There is no centre back seam on the waistband for adjusting the size and no back pockets of any sort. However there is a very nifty shaped fly guard with an internal button closure to keep the front lying really flat. I had a bit of difficulty with the button placement on that – the buttonhole seemed placed much lower on the pattern pieces than on the diagrams in the instructions – but that might have been my mistake in tracing and marking. I made it work but next time I’ll check the pattern pieces really do line up before making the buttonhole. Interestingly the photos in the book of the insides look more like how my fly guard ended up than the diagrams do.

Here’s the back view. I get those wrinkles under the backside on most trousers. I suppose I could take some length out of the back crotch curve to try to deal with it but it doesn’t really bother me.

A woman in grey trousers and white shirt stands by a window with her back to the camera

I’ve been wearing these a lot since I finished them. They feel effortless to wear but I’d like to think they have a Katharine Hepburn vibe. And I love the proportions I get when tucking in a top to the high waistband. It’s as if they were drafted for me personally. I’ll definitely be making this pattern again.

The shirt is Style Arc’s Juliet – another one I have plans to sew again. Thanks to my husband for taking the photos.

A woman in grey trousers and a white shirt sits on grass