Brainteaser: Vogue 1400

Making this dress was a learning experience. It looked straightforward on the pattern envelope: a cotton shirt dress with very little shaping, rated Easy. But look a little more closely. The chest pockets are not simple patch pockets; they have tiny little gussets. There’s a slightly fiddly shoulder cut-out feature, which you probably can’t see on the first couple of pictures. And to get the prescribed clean internal finish on the neckline facing involves turning under and stitching smoothly around some extremely curved edges. Getting a good outcome on this one doesn’t call for a lot of fitting expertise, but it requires great precision at all stages of cutting and sewing. I found it a moderately challenging project; more of an “Average” than an “Easy”.

Vogue 1400

Here’s the original envelope picture. I kind of wish I’d made mine in white too, although I know that in reality I wouldn’t wear it much if I had. A lot of the detail is lost in a darker fabric, particularly that beautifully shaped neckline facing. I top-stitched mine on the machine (the original is hand top-stitched with a running stitch) and it blends in a bit too much. I also considerably shortened the front and back slits to make my version bra-friendly. Sizing is consistent with other Vogue patterns: as usual I made one size down from the one the size chart suggested and added 5cm length.

Vogue 1400 envelope photo

The shoulders are surprising. The small cutout gives a very square shouldered effect, especially from the back, despite the actual shoulder seam being dropped. If I made this again I think I might pinch out a bit on the back shoulder to soften the line. On the other hand, it’s certainly a dramatic effect. And it’s a version of the current cold shoulder trend that I actually like, which is unusual.

Vogue 1400

Choosing interfacing for this was tricky. The shell fabric is a black cotton poplin shirting from Croft Mill. I interfaced with Vilene G700, a lightweight woven fusible, and I think even that is a touch too heavy. But on the other hand you need some structure around the cutouts and the splits. Self fabric interfacing might work well.

Getting a clean edge on the facing is a nightmare. I block fused it, which was probably my first mistake. The pattern has you turn and press a tiny little hem, trim it down even further, and then edgestitch it. I stitched a guideline along the foldline first which was a great help but it was still tricky to do on the interfaced fabric and I burnt my fingers a few times. I am wondering if the facing would be better made of two layers of shell fabric stitched together and then turned out. Or perhaps even the technique where you sew a layer of fusible interfacing to the facing with the non-glued side of the fusible to the right side of the fabric, turn out, and then fuse the two layers together.

The instructions for facing the cutout edge along the top of the sleeve were similarly fiddly, although there I’m not sure I can come up with any improvement other than binding the whole armscye seam, which is also a faff and means making bias binding from the shell fabric. However there was an awful lot of ‘sew a 1.5cm seam and now trim this edge down’ in the directions where it would have been simpler to just cut pieces out the right size to start with and instruct the maker to use a smaller seam allowance.

Vogue 1400

I sound pretty grumpy here but in fact this pattern was a good workout for the brain and I have worn the end result. It needs a wide contrasting belt to look good, which is faff, but I like all the pockets! I’m kind of tempted to try making it again just to try out my construction thoughts…if only I had the time.

Burda 104c-02-2017

Nothing but repeats: Burda 104c-02-2017 culottes again

I should know this by now, but it's amazing the difference fabric choice makes to a pattern. Earlier this year I made Burda's 104c-02-2017 culottes pattern in a drapey viscose crepe fabric. Not at all the recommended fabric for the pattern, but the end result was great and I've worn them a lot. So I made them again, this time in a stretch cotton sateen from Fabric Godmother. This fabric is much more the sort of thing the pattern designer intended. The pattern specifies "lightweight trouser fabric with some body". The originals were a little large so I took the waist in slightly as well, and here's the end result; you wouldn't think it was the same pattern.

Burda 104c-02-2017

And here is the viscose crepe pair for comparison. I seem to have worn the same top for both sets of photos: not intentional.

In the spirit of full disclosure I should say that the sateen pair were worn and washed several times before we got around to taking pictures, and were put on straight from the drying rack without ironing, whereas the viscose pair were photographed in their 'just finished' state.

The viscose pair sit much lower on me and have a nice swish, but feel a bit big. The crepe tends to grow with wear which doesn't help, although a wash shrinks them back to the original size.

Burda 104c/02/2017

The sateen pair feel much more structured and look slightly shorter because they sit higher. The shinier fabric means they tend to show marks and creases more easily than the crepe ones.

The pattern has fake back pockets which I skipped on the new pair. They were a pain in the neck to sew on the originals and I wasn't happy with the positioning. The trousers look OK without them I think. The sizing on the new ones is better but still not quite right. They fit at the waist now but seem slightly too small on the bum. I didn't change the pattern there so that's just the effect of different fabric.

Burda 104c-02-2017

This pattern has lots of belt loops, which means there is a very long thin tube to turn inside out. Not my favourite sewing activity and not easy in a fabric with body. I tried a new-to-me technique involving a chopstick and a straw. I was cynical about it before I started but it worked! You sew up one end of the fabric tube, poke the straw into the tube, and then push the closed end through the centre of the tube using the chopstick. I can't find the instructions I used now but this article covers the technique: https://angelleadesigns.com/tutorials/how-to-turn-a-narrow-tube-of-fabric/ . I suspect it relies on the straw being an appropriate diameter for the size of tube. My straw was narrow and I think it would have failed on thicker fabric.

Burda 104c-02-2017

The belt came out the right length this time. On the previous pair it was extremely long which looks good in pictures but is a pain in the neck to wear. I must have cut it on the fold by mistake or something like that. In fact the whole waist area is better in the sateen. Again it's the effect of using crisper fabric. There is no waistband, just a facing, and it needs some body and a lot of tacking in order to make it stay put. I stitched my facing down in the ditch of the side and centre back seams on both pairs but I should have done it at the pleats and darts too.

Burda 104c-02-2017

I'm very happy with both of these. Both are in high rotation at the moment.

Short and simple: Rick Owens inspired knit top

Rick Owens style top front

If you’ve been reading sewing blogs for a while you’ll have heard of frosting sewing versus cake sewing. Or for those of us in the U.K., icing versus cake. Icing is the pretty, impractical stuff we love to sew but rarely wear, and cake is practical basics. This is a cake project: a simple black long-sleeved t-shirt in wool jersey. I know I will wear this until it goes into holes.

I’ve made a couple of these before using a pattern I mashed together from an old McCalls dress pattern (no, I don’t know why this seemed like a good starting point either) and while I loved them and wore them to destruction they nevertheless had a few fitting niggles. So this time I started off with the close fitting stretch t-shirt block from Metric Pattern Cutting for Womenswear and adapted from there. I was going for a combination of these two Rick Owens tops: the shaped hem of the tank with the ultra long sleeves of the t-shirt.

collage

I copied the raw hems and the feature centre back seam of the originals. My centre back seam is just overlocked wrong sides together with the four thread overlocker stitch and pressed to one side. I find it surprisingly difficult to sew that seam correctly because my brain’s so used to doing it the other way. I have to keep chanting ‘wrong sides together, wrong sides together’ to remind myself.

Rick Owens style top back

I like it a lot. It’s not totally perfect: I’m wearing it over a long sleeved cotton t-shirt in these pictures which tends to produce extra wrinkles, but even so I’ll add a touch more ease next time as I don’t think all the wrinkling is down to the extra layer. The good news is that the fabric is a reorderable one – John Kaldor Isabella wool/viscose jersey – so I can get the exact same fabric again for next time. I might also shorten it a little but I haven’t quite made my mind up about that yet. The fabric was a birthday present and it’s lovely! Warm, stretchy, great recovery. It’s also extra wide: 170cm, so I got this top out of only one metre.

Rick Owens style top side

This was such a quick project to sew.   Cutting out took about five minutes and sewing maybe an hour and a half, and that’s only because I was going very slowly and carefully because I didn’t want to risk making a mistake with the posh fabric. 

I sewed it with size 75 stretch needles. I guess you could construct something like this entirely on the overlocker, but I did the seams on the sewing machine first for accuracy. I find if I sew with a fairly long stitch length even a straight stitch has enough elasticity to use on a knit. 

Already planning another one of these in another colour…maybe in the gunmetal grey.

Rick Owens style top side hands in pockets

Burda 104C 02/2017

Culottes are something I never imagined I’d want to wear. I hesitate to say they’ve come back into fashion because I wouldn’t know, but they have certainly started to look appealing recently. It may just be the effect of swapping fashion magazines for Burda and pattern catalogues. 

These ones are Burda 104C 02/2017. They are a very high waisted style with front pleats and a tie belt. They are more like cropped wide legged trousers than what I normally think of as culottes. Dr T made a great version of this pattern that moved them right to the top of my sewing list.

Burda 104c/02/2017

Mine are made in viscose crepe from Truro Fabrics. It’s more drapey than I think the pattern is designed for but it’s what I had in the stash. The fabric requirements say ‘trouser fabrics with some body’. The crepe gives them wonderful movement but some of the details like the belt loops and the high waist would have been better in a crisper fabric. 

One slightly odd detail is the fake back pockets. I think trousers usually look better with some sort of detail on the backside but there’s something not quite right about these. I think they’re a bit too small and also need to be higher up. But that might not be the pattern’s fault: the whole garment is sitting lower on me than it should. This style of trouser cannot stay in place if there’s any ease in the waist at all; I should have realised that and traced the waist a size smaller than I did. As it is the whole thing slips down a few inches on me.


Burda 104c/02/2017

The really good thing about these are the huge hip pockets. They look fine even when fairly full of junk because the style is so voluminous. The tie belt is nice too although it’s come out much longer than I expected. I usually cut them a little longer than the pattern suggests but I don’t remember adding that much length. Unless I tie a bow the ends are down by my ankles. Dramatic, but not the most practical of features.

Burda 104c/02/2017

I interfaced the waist facings and fly underlap with Vilene F220 and used a mystery lightweight stretch woven interfacing on the pocket edges. I could have done with putting lightweight interfacing on the fly facings too and maybe the hem area.

I doubt I’ll make this particular pattern again soon but I love the wide legged silhouette. I’ve got my eye on a few other Burda patterns with a similar shape.
Burda 104c 02/2017

Stylearc Toni take two

Stylearc Toni 3/4 view

I don’t repeat patterns very often, but my first Stylearc Toni dress has been such a favourite that I made another. It isn’t a maternity style but it’s roomy enough to work over a bump without too much distortion. I’m trying to make regular patterns with plenty of room on them rather than maternity ones in the hope that they’ll still look OK after the baby arrives.

My original version was made up straight out of the packet but this time I made a few changes. The first dress is a bad length for me: it ends at the widest part of my leg which means I can’t take long strides because the dress is very narrow at the hem and it catches on my calves. That was my fault for not bothering to add any extra length to the pattern. I normally need to add 2-4 inches to dresses. This one’s supposed to end at the bottom of the calf so it probably needed four inches adding if not more. I was a bit short of fabric for the second version, so instead of lengthening it to the intended proportion I shortened it by four inches so it ends just below my knee. I’m really pleased with the way that’s come out. It’s comfortable to walk in and it’s more flattering than my previous version.

Stylearc Toni front view

The fabric is a lightweight viscose woven from Macculloch and Wallis. Right now it’s still available here. It drapes very nicely, which is good for the style, but I used very lightweight interfacing on the collar to go with the fabric and that was a mistake as it’s come out a bit too floppy. This is the same fabric I used the pink colourway of for my first Vogue 1482 dress. It is very comfortable to wear and although it’s lightweight it’s relatively easy to sew.

I lost the pocket piece from the original pattern and had to make a new one. Unfortunately I didn’t make it quite deep enough to be perfect. But any pockets are better than none. The position of the pocket is better on this version because I took out some of the length from the top half of the pattern, raising the pockets up a couple of inches.

Stylearc toni side view

Here’s the back view. Last time I said that the centre back seam could be eliminated, but I’m glad I kept it. I had trouble fitting the collar to the neckline on this version – I probably stretched the neckline out while handling – and having the seam allowed me to fix the mismatch by taking the dress in a little at the top of the centre back.

Stylearc toni back view

Clio made the great suggestion of adding a zip to the centre front seam for breast-feeding access. I increased the seam allowance on the centre front seam to half an inch (or 1.2cm; it was 1cm originally) and interfaced the seamlines to make inserting the zip easier. I also removed the seam allowance from what was originally the centre front seam of the neck facing pieces so I could use the all-machine method of applying facings to the top of the zip and neckline from Kathleen Fasanella’s centered zip tutorial.

Here’s a closeup of the zip, which also shows the collar worn down rather than up.

Stylearc Toni close up

An unexpected bonus: because the only black invisible zip I had on hand was a 24″ one I can put the dress on by stepping into it rather than pulling it over my head.

Since we took these pictures the weather in the UK has turned autumnal and I’ve been wearing this dress with leggings and my grey boiled wool kimono jacket. I’m hoping it will keep going all winter with enough layers. I can even see me making a third version of this one day; I’d like to try it in something really crisp like a cotton poplin to see what happens to those drapes.

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Vertical lines: Vogue 1390 finished

Vogue 1390 front view full length

This is my version of Vogue 1390, a Sandra Betzina Today’s Fit pattern. I say ‘my version’ because while I didn’t alter the design I made a lot of changes to the method of construction. But the style lines are what really count and the reason why this pattern’s been on my to-sew list ever since it came out. Here’s the line art:

Vogue 1390 line art

I combined the colour blocking, lining, and neckline of view A with the tucked front panel of view B. My tucks are more numerous and narrower than the those in the pattern. They were such an effort to sew they got their own post. But apart from the tucks the dress comes together very quickly indeed because there are no closures.

The shell fabrics are a medium weight linen/cotton blend from Truro Fabrics in black and charcoal. The lining is a fairly heavyweight black acetate/viscose satin from The Lining Company that I had left over from another project. There’s no interfacing other than around the pocket edges.

I think the line art misses one minor aspect of the style: the bottom bands look rectangular in the drawing but the pattern pieces narrow slightly towards the hem, giving the dress a very subtle egg shape. It’s just about visible in the picture below. I like the effect; it adds a little extra interest while still being very wearable.

Vogue 1390 front view

The back of my dress is very plain. I very much admire Angela’s lovely version of this pattern at Collected yarns which has tucks on the back too, but I haven’t the patience to make two tucked panels.

Vogue 1390 back view

I added very tiny horizontal pockets in the side panels. I would have liked them bigger, but the width of the side panel limits them. I made them just deep enough to hold my phone; any deeper and small items would slip down beyond the reach of my fingers. With 20/20 hindsight it might have been better to add larger vertical pockets in the side panel seam but I was worried they might sag and spoil the line.

Vogue 1390 side view

So what did I change in the construction?

The pattern as designed uses an unusual method where each side panel is cut twice and the two parts seamed together at the bottom edge. The front and back hem bands are cut double with a foldline at the bottom edge. They are attached to the front and back panels and those units are then seamed to the side panels. As everything is already finished at the bottom edge by this stage there is no need to construct a hem. As a confirmed hater of hemming I completely approve of this method, but I also had doubts about my ability to join the panels accurately enough to avoid a step at the panel seams. I was also worried the seam allowances might poke out at the hem as there would be nothing covering them.

I ended up using a much more traditional construction with single layer side and hem panels and deep facings around the bottom edge. The dress lining is bagged: attached to the yoke facings and armscyes according to the pattern instructions, but then machined to the hem facings via a gap left in one of lining seams, which is subsequently top-stitched shut. The armscyes are finished with bias strips which are top-stitched down. Facings would have been possible there too but the top-stitching doesn’t show much in these colours. There isn’t a single hand-stitch in this dress.

Vogue 1390 front view

As usual with Vogue I made one size smaller than the size chart suggested. That normally works out fine but on this one I could do with a bit more ease at the bust. If I make it again I’ll go up a size or do a full bust adjustment; Today’s Fit is sized for a more straight up and down figure than Misses so it’s my own fault for not checking the chart more carefully before picking a size. I didn’t make any fitting changes to the pattern other than adding my usual two inches to the length above the waist.

I am very happy with this dress. The design is beautiful and it was fun to sew. Might be a while before I make anything else with tucks though.

An apology to Burda 117-11-2014

Burda 117-11-2014 front

This is a project that didn’t quite work. The fabric isn’t quite right. It’s a stretch denim that is too lightweight for the style and an odd shade of black. The fit isn’t quite right either. I don’t think it’s the fault of the original pattern, which is Burda 117-11-2014, described as ‘skinny pants with insets’; more what I did to it. Sorry, Burda. Here’s the line art:

Burda 117-11-2014 line art

I liked the overall shape in the drawing but not the placement of the insets, so I decided to go for some padding and quilting at the knees instead. I traced the quilting lines from another Burda pattern, 106-03-2013. Unfortunately I did it very slightly too high up the leg and the padding I used was a bit thin: just a layer of boiled wool left over from another project, backed with cotton. As a practical feature it just about works – I was very grateful for the padding when I found myself having to kneel down on a concrete floor to reach something at work recently – but it would work a lot better if it was a few centimetres lower.

Burda 117-11-2014 close up

The sizing is off because I’ve increased in circumference this year and the last two pairs of Burda trousers I made came up much too small. Determined not to make the same mistake with these I measured myself and decided to cut a size and a half larger than normal. I did not think to measure the pattern. I may have cut too generously, or perhaps there’s more ease in the pattern than one might expect from trousers described as ‘skin-tight down to the ankle’; of course they are much too large. It’s not all bad though. It might look sunny but was extremely cold when we took these and I was able to get two layers – tights and leggings – on under them. But yeah, look at those wrinkles. Skin tight they are not. I also added less length than I usually do, because Burda trousers always seem to turn out longer than I expect. This was the ‘correct’ decision because objectively on me they are exactly the length the pattern is intended to be, but I want them to be longer! I normally wear them tucked into knee boots because they feel too short.

Burda 117-11-2014 back

Although it may sound like these are a complete failure they’re not. I made them a couple of months ago and have worn them about once a week, mostly at work. And denim trousers usually get better with age.

Burda 117-11-2014 front