Vogue 1501

This is going to be a tricky dress to write a blog post about because I made it right at the end of last summer and have forgotten some of the details. As soon as I finished it the weather turned cold, and so I didn’t wear it last year at all. Now summer is back it’s finally having its moment.

The pattern is Vogue 1501, a Rachel Comey design. It’s got some beautiful and unusual details. The bodice is only attached to the skirt for a short distance along the front, floating free elsewhere, and there are thickly padded shoulders.

The pattern is written to produce a neatly finished inside without a single exposed seam. What it is missing is any reasonable way to hang up the finished dress in a wardrobe. A couple of long ribbon loops sewn into the waistband at the side seams would have been a useful addition! As it is I have to hang it using a skirt hanger connected below a regular hanger with a bit of string.

Here you can see the inside of the skirt and the waistband with all the edges either bound or sewed with french seams. It’s beautiful but it took forever.

I think I made my usual length additions on the bodice. If I was making this again I would take a little of the extra length out because the pleats in the bodice tend to collapse. I notice the skirt is a smidge shorter on me than the model which I find is a more flattering look, but I can’t now recall how I got to that point. I do remember getting the skirt pattern piece upside down more than once while sewing though; all the pleats mean it is very wide at the top.

The back has a nice little keyhole opening which adds some interest but mine’s not hanging quite right on the body. The keyhole is slashed into the pattern piece. It looks to me that I needed to make the button loop longer to account for the lost width from the allowances at the keyhole edges. Apart from that little annoyance I really like the back view. The open back is airy without showing lots of skin.

Now let’s talk about the shoulders. I read a lot of reviews of this pattern before making it up and every one skipped the padded shoulders. The pattern has you insert a gusset into the outer shoulder shell/facing seam to make space for a pad that’s supposed to be 2cm thick. I decided to give it a go but I’m not 100% happy with the results and I think the pattern could be improved to give a better finish. The gusset as drafted is symmetrical. It’s a long thin oval with a point at each end: the same shape as a marquise gem. But a shoulder pad has a curve in it to shape over the shoulder, so the gusset should be a crescent shape: concave on the side closest to the shoulder. The facing’s armscye should be made slightly shorter than the shell armscye to match the shorter length of the concave edge. If you make it up as drafted you inevitably end up with wrinkles on the underside of the shoulder where there is too much fabric trying to fit into too little space. They aren’t very visible in these pictures (hooray for black fabric, it hides a multitude of problems) but I assure you they’re there and you can also see them in Vogue’s model photos if you zoom in, so it’s a problem with the original designer dress and not the adaptation to a home sewing pattern.

Speaking of fabric, this is made from a poly crepe I got from Barry’s Fabrics in Birmingham last summer. It was great value and I’m very happy with it; it drapes beautifully and feels nice to wear. It was a little tricky to make the narrow hems for the back bodice edge in this fabric though. A silk or cupro twill would be absolutely perfect for this pattern.

Despite all the niggles this is a good summer dress for me – not too fluffy and very wearable. I can’t see me making another one soon but I’ll hang onto the pattern just in case. It would look amazing in white linen.

Thanks to my husband for the pictures.

Burda 101B 06/2016

Marmite top: Burda 101B 06/2016

Burda 101B 06/2016

Don’t laugh, but this simple creation was originally inspired by an awesome Rei Kawakubo sweater from the 1980s. I’d post a picture but I haven’t been able to find one that’s definitely legal to use on a blog. I encourage you to click the link to see it! Anyway it’s black, knitted, very rectangular in shape, and has panels that weave over and under each other. I considered trying to knit something similar before sanity prevailed and I realised that what I actually wanted was a boxy black knit top with some interesting texture and no complicated knitting was required.

I came across this unusual sweater knit from Empress Mills while browsing their website. It’s loosely knitted in a wide rib pattern. And that seemed to go quite nicely with Burda 101B 06/2016, a simple kimono sleeved top designed to show off stripes.

Burda 101B 06/2016 garment photo

Burda’s stripe placement is fine for striped fabric but mine has raised ribs which I think would look peculiar running parallel to the hem, so I put the horizontal ribs on the top half and the vertical ones on the bottom. Cutting it out was a challenge. I knew it would be obvious if the ribs weren’t perfectly aligned so I made full sized pattern pieces and cut it single layer instead of on the fold. That took up a lot of paper and space.

I went all the the place with sizing. The top half is cut in the largest size the pattern came in, and the lower body in my usual size. This was in order to get a bit more depth over the bust because on all the model photos the horizontal seam seems to be too high. I also didn’t add any length to the lower body when normally I would need at least 5cm. I wanted this to be fairly cropped. I wish I’d straightened the side seam. This is one of those patterns that can be a dress or a top depending on where you hem it, and so it’s got a bit of waist shaping for the dress version that the top doesn’t need.

Burda 101B 06/2016

The original pattern has a turned and stitched edge at the neckline but I made deep facings and blind hemmed them to the body to make sure they stay put.

I was really pleased with it when I finished it and put it on with my black asymmetric wool skirt. The next morning I put it on with my black wool trousers and hated it. I switched to my black jeans and loved it again. The black jeans are what I’m wearing in these photos.

Burda 101B 06/2016
Burda 128 10/2010

Burda 128 10/2010 modelled pictures

Burda 128 10/2010 black sateen

Here is my latest attempt at a practical winter dress, Burda 128 10/2010. I’m not saying it’s a bad pattern: it’s certainly not bland or boring. But it’s not the easiest thing to wear.

I almost never make toiles and there are a few fit issues. I could have done with a bit more room at the hips and there’s something a bit off with the hem at the back – but I’m going to have to lengthen it anyway so that can be fixed at that point.

Burda 128 10/2010

Side view, although it’s very difficult to see any detail. The bust point is a bit high for me. Burda doesn’t mark that on magazine patterns.

I wore it to work today (with very thick tights!) and it was ok, but definitely only suitable for a day spent mostly behind a desk.

I might tackle lengthening it this weekend. And then after that I have several much more colourful projects (for other people) lined up!

Thanks to my husband for the photos.

The lure of the little black dress

No model photos today but I have a finished object to talk about. It is Burda 128 10/2010, a little black dress with inset panels, a boat neck, and amazing leg-of-mutton sleeves. I first made it up in 2011, the first project I made using my what was then my brand new overlocker.

Here’s Burda’s version:

And my previous version, in black double knit with silver pleather panels. This one was given away a long time ago. I usually don’t regret getting rid of clothes in the slightest, but this is one of the very few things that I eventually wished I had kept.

Burda 128 10/2010

A few months ago I spent hours going through my entire Burda stash looking for a winter dress pattern. I wanted something with long sleeves and a highish neck (so I can fit layers underneath), that fits my personal style, and at least has the possibility of having pockets added. There were not many that fitted the bill and this pattern looked about the best to me. Never mind that these days I live in jeans and jumpers; I had done the analysis and this was going to be the ultimate wearable winter dress.

The new version is made in black stretch sateen for both the panels and the body of the dress. I rarely wore the silver and black version because it was too dressy for work.

I added welt pockets to the panels this time. They aren’t perfect; they never are! I can’t seem to find the sweet spot between cutting too far and getting a hole at the corners, or not cutting far enough and getting a pucker. The imperfections always stop bothering me after a wear or two though.

I also added zips to the wrists. When I started making this I could have sworn the original had these, because the sleeves are very tight at the wrist, but no. Don’t Burda designers ever have a need to roll up their sleeves, for example to do the washing up? Surprising when Burda tends to put ankle zips in any pair of trousers that’s even vaguely close fitting.

You can probably guess what happened. My new version is not the practical garment I was hoping for. It’s pretty close fitting and has come out unexpectedly short. I added 10cm to the pattern when I cut it out and it’s still short! Oddly the previous version looks like it came up much longer but I don’t think I hemmed that one, which was made in a stable knit. I did put the shoulder pads in this time which I skipped before, and I suppose that might have taken away a tiny bit of length. I think they’re the actual pair I bought for the first dress. I can’t think why else I’d have a set of raglan shoulder pads in my stash.

This one is going to have to sit in the wardrobe for a while until I figure out what to do with it. It isn’t the only little black dress I have stashed in there not being worn!

Neutral basics: Vogue 8866

Vogue 8866 top in black scuba front view

This is another pattern repeat: the top from Vogue 8866, a wardrobe pattern now sadly out of print. (Grey top, blue top, sparkly dress from the same pattern). The envelope picture doesn’t do this one justice at all. But the technical drawing reveals interesting seamlines. I’ve lightened my photos slightly in the hope they’ll be visible there too.

Vogue 8866 line art

It is made from some bargain black scuba knit I got from the Birmingham Rag Market. I constructed this almost entirely on a regular sewing machine with a straight stitch, using a size 90 stretch needle and lowering my thread tension slightly. Most of the seams are top stitched so don’t need to be super stretchy. The scuba doesn’t need any seam finishing either because it doesn’t fray.

I originally cut out the dress version of the pattern and added side seam pockets. But I got them in the wrong place – too low – and they wouldn’t sit flat. I couldn’t face redoing them and I knew I wouldn’t wear a dress with no pockets so I cut the whole thing off at the hip and made it into a top.

A more carefully planned change was to swap the back neck opening and snaps for a short invisible zip. It stops just above the back yoke seam. It’s just enough to get the top over my head but no more.

Vogue 8866 top in black scuba back view

I haven’t bothered hemming this. I didn’t want to fight with a twin needle. I ran the hem and sleeve edges through the overlocker with a fairly short stitch length to give the impression of some sort of intentional finishing and that’s good enough.

I think this will be a useful basic top. It goes with most of my other clothes and it’s good for layering. It’s not the most exciting thing I’ve made this year but it’s the basics you wear the most.

Photos by my husband, taken on a very windy and sunny day so excuse my hair. I’m wearing the top with my gold Burda jeans here but it should go with most of my jeans and skirts.

Now I come to write this blog post I realise I’ve never made any of the other items from this pattern, and there’s an excellent pair of culottes and a skirt in there too. Maybe some time soon I’ll have a go at those.

Vogue 8866 in black scuba, Burda 103-07-2010 gold jeans, Fly boots

Burda 117 02/2012

The sewing police will never take me alive

Burda 117 02/2012

It’s so difficult to get photos at the moment! There’s very little daylight and the garden is now a sea of mud covered in building supplies which doesn’t make for a good backdrop. Hence the indoor shots, as ever kindly taken by my husband.

This pattern is an old favourite, Burda 117 02/2012. The technical drawing is below. Previous versions: black wool knit, red knit, colour blocked ponte, failed version in red and white stripes.

Burda 117-02-2012 technical drawing

This version is made in black scuba from Birmingham Rag Market. The fabric was an absolute steal; I think the amount I used for this dress cost me all of two pounds. It’s pretty forgiving: stable, no need to finish any seam allowances, and it presses pretty well for what must be polyester. It definitely required a stretch needle and a few tension adjustments to get a good stitch in it on my sewing machine though. I sewed the whole dress with a longish straight stitch as that has enough give for a stable knit fabric.

I made a few changes to the pattern. There is meant to be a back zip (not shown on the technical drawing, oddly) but it’s not needed so I skipped it. I also skipped the shoulder pleats; I prefer a strong shoulder line to a rounded one. On previous versions I also shortened the skirt but this one’s at the designer’s intended length. These days I think it looks better long; perhaps it’s a sign of age!

I added inseam pockets in the diagonal seams on the front. Those worked out better than they had any right to. I was in two minds about it, but I knew I’d never wear the dress without pockets so I had to try.

Burda 117 02/2012

I also changed the front closure completely. The left bodice front piece (the bit which underlaps) is designed to attach to the right front with snaps, and so the pattern piece only extends just as far as needed to do that. I’ve always sewn the opening shut and not bothered with the snaps in the past. That works, but the closure doesn’t always sit quite right. This time I decided to extend the left front to run right under the right front and catch it in the underbust seam so the front becomes a true crossover style. Only I tried to do this by mirroring the right front pattern piece, forgetting that the underbust seam is on a diagonal. I ended up with a left front that still wasn’t long enough to catch in the seam, and no fabric left to recut because I’d already used up the rest of it cutting out something else. I managed to save it by stitching the left front down along the line of the right front dart. The insides are a complete mess though; there’s a flapping raw edge running from centre front to the right dart on the inside. Scuba doesn’t fray so it will hold up, but the sewing police won’t approve.

Burda 117 02/2012

There’s also something odd going on with the seam allowances around the sleeves. This is my error from when I originally traced the pattern and I always forget to go back and fix it. It looks OK from the outside but the inside is another mess.

So not my best work but it’s wearable. I’m not sure how to style it either. For these photos I didn’t put it with a lot of other things but it’s more likely to be worn with a long sleeved t shirt and leggings underneath.

Vogue 1573: unintentional mom jeans

Vogue 1573 front view

So I wanted to make a pair of black jeans to fill a gaping hole in my wardrobe. I wanted a skinny jeans style with a bit of seam interest, and the trousers from Vogue 1573 looked absolutely ideal. Here’s the line art. Look at all those pieces! It’s one of the designer patterns, a Guy Laroche style from Autumn 2015.


V1573 line art

I don’t have the patience or the time for toiles, so I just dived straight in. I was slightly hampered from the start by the fact that I’d ordered the smaller of the two size ranges but my pattern envelope arrived containing the larger one. I’m pear shaped, and based on the finished garment measurements I calculated my hips needed a 12. Luckily that is where the ranges overlap so I had that one in the envelope. I traced the 12 and graded the waist down. I used 14 for the lower leg because I have footballer calves, and added 7cm to the length, 3cm of which I took out again when hemming.

And it appears I have inadvertently made mom jeans: high waist, tapered leg, baggy thighs and seat. These pictures were taken after several washes, so they’re better than they were straight off the machine, but there’s still plenty of excess fabric.

Vogue 1573 front view closeup

I always have extra folds of fabric under the bum on trousers but this pair is really baggy there. This picture is not the worst one we took. I haven’t made woven trousers from a Vogue pattern before and I suspect part of the problem is the standard Vogue crotch curve doesn’t suit me. Burda’s is better on me and I understand that they draft for a different body shape.

Vogue 1573 back view

Anyway this all sounds a bit negative, but I have in fact been wearing these a lot. They aren’t the most flattering jeans I’ve ever made but they are practical and comfortable, and I don’t have another black pair right now. Incidentally the fabric is Black Marl stretch denim from Croft Mill. The pocket lining is black cotton poplin I had scraps of left over from something else, the interfacing is Vilene G405, and I used up two of those 30m spools of Gutermann topstitching thread.

Vogue 1573 side view closeup

Apart from the sizing I actually really liked the pattern. The method used for the pockets was new to me and gives a very clean, bulk free finish on the inside. I’ll be using that one again elsewhere. The belt loops are also a bit unusual. They are sewn into the waistband seams at both top and bottom rather than sewn into the top and bar tacked at the bottom. Then the top waistband edge is top stitched right over the belt loops. My machine found that very heavy going, and I can’t say I think it’s an improvement over the usual method, but it was interesting to give it a go. I didn’t like the instruction to hand stitch the waistband facing down though. I stitched in the ditch from the right side, although the sewn in belt loops got in the way a bit so I have little gaps in the facing stitching.

I was puzzled by the waistband grainline. The waistband is cut in such a way that centre front ends up almost on the bias which isn’t conducive to making a nice neat front closure, and my buttonhole is a bit sad looking too.

Some reviewers said they found the fly construction instructions confusing. The method used is almost exactly the same as Burda’s, which has always come out well for me, but I ran into problems with the fly top stitching on these. I couldn’t fold the fly shield completely out of the way as instructed because of how it was attached, so I had to do the curved end part of the top stitching through all the thicknesses. Then the fly shield edge fell exactly along the line I wanted to stitch along, so my stitching line kept falling off it leading to skipped stitches and tension problems. I managed, but it took about four tries. I think if the fly shield had been longer then what I did would have worked, but I’m not sure I got the construction quite as Vogue intended in the first place.

I might have another go at these, but grafting the style lines onto a jeans pattern that fits me better in the first place. So they are a partial success, and I expect I’ll wear them to shreds anyway because who doesn’t need a pair of comfortable jeans?

Vogue 1573 action shot

Vogue 1548: weird but wearable

Vogue 1548 front

This is my Vogue 1548 dress, yet again. I finally have pictures of it on me rather than on the dress form or the floor.

One of the things that drew me to this pattern was that the style looked as if it might be fairly wearable in day to day life. I made it up in a black wool and polyester blend gabardine from Croft Mill. This is a lovely fabric that looks good but is surprisingly tough. It can tolerate a lot of pressing without picking up iron marks, and takes a pleat well but doesn’t crease much when worn. At the time I wrote this there was some left here.

Vogue 1548

So how is the dress to wear? The sleeves are a little restrictive, which is visible in the pictures. The skirt is quite short. I added 3cm to the skirt length on top of the usual 5cm I add to bodices, and I would not want the dress to be shorter. The waist seam of the dress is well above the natural waistline which disguises the length in photos, but I was very conscious of it when sitting. Altogether it’s a dress that you can’t just forget you’re wearing. But it was comfortable enough for a day in the office and I really enjoyed wearing something with such a definite Look. It kind of reminds me of the clothes in the Nikolai Dante comic strip.

Vogue 1548 back

The sleeves are very long. I’d normally add 5cm to Vogue sleeves, and here I added nothing at all. I like a long sleeve, and I think the original is meant to have them a bit on the long side. On the pattern photo and the runway photos they are well over the model’s wrists. But I think the pattern length is excessive even allowing for that. I also think the cuff circumference is larger than it needs to be.

Other than the sleeve this pattern runs smaller than most Vogues I’ve made: which doesn’t mean small. I still went down one size from the measurement chart.

A lot of the pictures of this dress you find on the Internet show the plastron partially unbuttoned. This doesn’t work for me at all. The neckline edge of the buttoned side ends up sticking up in an annoying way – picture below – which it doesn’t on the original dress. I wonder if my bodice length alterations have messed up the way it hangs.

Vogue 1548 front half done up

The bodice was not easy to sew. It has very deeply curved princess seams and sharp Dior darts. It was difficult enough in the wool shell fabric; the lining was even worse. My darts have ended up pointy despite loads of pressing. They’re also in the wrong place, which was my laziness in not making adjustments. The plastron hides all; another reason I love it. But here is what it looks like without.

Vogue 1548 front without plastron

I haven’t got a good picture of the pockets I added to the skirt, but they’re ordinary side seam pockets. I put the pockets in upside down at first by mistake because the skirt pattern piece is much wider at the top than the hem. The pleats take all the width up to produce the dramatic tulip shape. As always I wish I’d made the pockets bigger. But I got the height right this time.

So the verdict is that I love this dress. I won’t wear it every week but it won’t be stuck at the back of the wardrobe either. And now I’m off to sew my next project: something so simple it has no pattern and where most of the seams are straight lines.

I need a lie down: Vogue 1548 finished

It’s finished. I sewed the last few buttons on today. The finished version of Vogue 1548 is both brilliant and weird, and I suspect it is one of the most complicated things I have ever made.

Modelled pictures will have to wait a bit but I do have flat and detail shots, and some construction notes.

Here’s the full length view. Those gathered bands at the cuffs and hem were surprisingly tricky. I did the cuffs the standard way: sewing two rows in each seam allowance with a long stitch length and low tension and then pulling up the threads. The end result wasn’t very even. For the hem band I tried zigzagging over a heavy thread (two rows again) and pulling that up. That was very slow and fiddly but slightly easier to control.

And here’s the back. The centre pleats don’t quite meet at the zip because I needed a little extra room there. But I’m pleased with how well the waist seam and the top of the zip are matched up.

Less pleased with the back neck facing which has an annoying mismatch where it’s sewn to the zip. I don’t do hand sewing if I can possibly avoid it, so I did the all-machine method for attaching the lining and facing to the zip and got a bit sloppy. It won’t show when the dress is being worn so I decided not to unpick it.

I bagged out the lining, again to avoid hand sewing.

The sleeve linings have little pleats at the cuff.

The really special feature of this dress is the plastron. It has a lot of precision top stitching and 12 precisely placed buttonholes. I didn’t try to use the original pattern markings to position any of that because I’d had to alter the pattern piece to add a lot of length and they all needed redrawing. I made up the basic plastron and then used a patchwork ruler and marked new guidelines directly onto the fabric with chalk. To stop the layers shifting under all the top stitching I put some fusible web inside the plastron before closing it up. That worked well although I suspect quilters may have better methods.

Here’s the dress without the plastron. The neckline is pretty but I doubt I’ll wear it like that because the buttons look a bit odd to my eye.

One last picture with a better view of the amazing sleeves. I can’t wait to wear it.

Vogue 1548 sleeves

I’m currently working on Vogue 1548, a recent Guy Laroche design. It has everything I love in Vogue designer patterns: a really unusual style with loads of interesting detail. Quite how wearable the end result is remains to be seen…I have to finish it first and it’s very slow going. So far I have a bodice (without a lining or a zip) and two sleeves (not attached to bodice).

Vogue 1548 line art

And what sleeves they are. There’s a weird pointy bit near the elbow, two very curved insets (one inside the other) decorated with self-fabric binding, and gathered cuffs. I don’t usually bother with construction pictures but these sleeves deserve to be commemorated. Below is the small inset just having been sewn into the larger one. The pattern pieces are just behind them. They’re sewn wrong sides together and then the seam allowance is trimmed, encased in binding, and stitched down on the right side of the fabric.

Vogue 1548 inset seam

The binding is supposed to be self-fabric bias binding. Normally I’d just use ready-made rather than faffing about making my own, but for this pattern I think the binding needs to match the sleeve fabric perfectly or it’ll look odd. Vogue’s instructions blithely say to do this by constructing a long bias strip about 25mm wide and then pressing over 6mm on each edge, giving approximately 12mm finished width. No further details about how to achieve this impressive feat are given, but then it is a ‘plus difficile’ pattern so I guess you’re supposed to know what you’re doing. I don’t know about you but pressing under exactly 6mm by hand on a wriggly bias edge is completely beyond my sewing skills and any attempt would certainly lead to burnt fingers and much cursing. Good thing there are bias tape folding gadgets to be had. Slow but effective.

Making bias binding

Here’s a picture of the bound edges basted down before being sewn. That was another massively fiddly job. In the very unlikely event I make this pattern again I would just sew the insets right sides together and top-stitch them. And I haven’t even got to the cuffs yet.

Vogue 1548 sleeve binding basted