Style Arc Toni in tencel twill

Here’s probably my last summer project of the year. It’s Style Arc’s Toni dress, yet again, this time made up in tencel twill. This is my fourth version of this particular pattern. Previous versions were in mystery grey synthetic, black lightweight viscose, and white sateen. The grey and black versions were worn until they were rags, and the white one is starting to look a little sad, so I’d been thinking of making another.

And then we went on holiday to Rye and I took the opportunity to visit Merchant and Mills’ shop. I was only intending to have a browse. The fabric prices are fair but they’re definitely not cheap: they specialise in high quality fabrics, mainly natural fibres, in beautifully tasteful muted colours. But they had a dark grey tencel twill reduced because of some minor damage close to the selvedge, and it’s perfect for a Toni, so it had to be. It’s exactly the sort of thing the pattern was designed for, although I also think it looks pretty good in a much less drapey fabric. Right now it’s still available here.

I’ve shortened the pattern a lot from the original. I also shaved a bit off the centre back seam at the top because do what I may the collar and facing never go in right without this adjustment. The original pattern seems correctly drafted – the seamlines match – so I don’t know what is happening when I sew it. I also made the pockets deeper this time. They’re hidden away in those side drapes.

The armscye on this pattern is a bit odd; there’s no shaping at all. The side seam just stops at a certain point and you turn the seam allowance under on the opening and stitch it down which works because of the lack of curves. I find the drafted arm opening is a bit large and tends to reveal bra band. This time I sewed the side seam up about 3cm higher than the pattern marking which has improved things. It hasn’t affected my arm mobility either.

I only have one very slight complaint and that’s that the fabric picks up little marks very easily. It’s beautifully soft to wear though, and the marks don’t show in photos so I’m living with it.

I expect this won’t be the last of Toni but I’ll be waiting until next year to make another now. Thanks as always to my husband for the photographs.

Burda 112A 03/2012 culottes in silver grey denim, seated, in botanic garden

Burda 112A 03/2012 culottes

Burda 112A 03/2012 culottes in dark silver denim, front view, in a botanical garden

This is one of those projects that came from the fabric rather than the pattern. I had a surprising amount of this dark silver denim left over from my trenchcoat and wanted to do something with it. It’s very heavy fabric and hasn’t the slightest stretch which limited my options considerably. After going through my entire Burda collection I found 112A 03/2012, a pair of straight cut culottes. Burda made them up in canvas, so they ought to work in a heavy non draping fabric. Here’s the technical drawing. The back pocket detail is a little unusual but otherwise they are fairly plain. I traced my usual Burda size and set to work.

Technical drawing of Burda 112A 03/2012 culottes

Burda describes these as ‘roomy’. Well my fabric choice probably didn’t help, but I’ve had to let them out considerably on the hips and waist to be able to wear them at all, and they’re still quite close fitting even now. I really should have gone up a size. If you’re thinking of making these check the finished measurements carefully before cutting – I wish I had!

Burda 112A 03/2012 culottes in dark silver denim, back full length view, in botanic garden

Having said that, I really like the style. They might be from seven years ago but the shape seems very modern to me with the very high waist and wide cropped legs. The length is good, and the heavy fabric helps the wide legs to hang well. I never like that effect you sometimes get with wide legged trousers where the legs collapse and cling to your calves. This pair could practically stand up on their own so there’s no danger of that happening. There is something a bit off with the balance though, as you can see below with that diagonal fold running towards the back. I’m guessing if I’d made the next size up that wouldn’t have happened.

Burda 112A 03/2012 culottes in dark silver denim, side full length view, in botanic garden

I would never have managed to get the centre back belt loop sewn over the centre back seam in this bulky fabric so I replaced it with a pair sewn one to each side. I’ve yet to find a belt that goes with them though.

The back pockets are excellent: very roomy and well positioned. They don’t look huge here but they easily hold a phone.

Burda 112A 03/2012 culottes in dark silver denim, back detail view

Despite the size issue I’ve worn these a lot. By the time we managed to photograph these (thanks as ever to my husband for patiently taking a great many pictures in difficult light) they’d been worn and washed multiple times, and the fabric is starting to show some fade marks. I’m tempted to make them up again some time but the thought of tracing the pattern over again is putting me off slightly. Maybe next summer.

Burda 112A 03/2012 culottes in dark silver denim, side view, in botanic garden

Sometimes the reviews are right: Burda 118 09/2010

Burda has really great outerwear patterns, and one in particular has been on my to-sew list for years: number 118 from the September 2010 issue. It’s modern, architectural, and it doesn’t hurt that the sample is made up in white which I always think looks wonderful for outerwear (yes I know it’s not remotely practical but I can dream.)

Unfortunately the pattern has terrible reviews. The instructions are said to be dreadful, which isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker, but everyone I’ve found who’s reviewed the pattern itself says it is astonishingly oversized and the sleeves in particular are over long. It’s a Tall pattern but the only difference between Burda’s Tall and regular sizes is supposed to be in length measurements, and even that doesn’t account for the sleeve problem.

But despite all this I still find myself wanting to give it a try; I haven’t found a similar enough pattern anywhere else. So I traced it, going down a size and reducing the sleeve length, and made a toile. When I first put it on I could see exactly what people were talking about. The front wasn’t too bad but the back was vast. At that point I only had one sleeve in and hadn’t pinned up the hem or marked the location for the closure. It looked so awful that I wasn’t sure I could be bothered to complete the toile and left it a few days. But eventually I returned to it and here’s what it looks like now. I’ve not removed the seam allowance from the front opening edge, although I have folded it down on the top of the collar.

It’s still boxy, but the style is meant to be roomy. Marking the front closure in the right place and pinning it there has improved the baggy back view. I suspect shoulder pads might help it more, as would making it out of something a bit thicker than calico. The features all seem to be in about the right place on the body. The next shot shows my hands where the pockets would be.

And there’s certainly no difficulty reaching forward or raising my arms.

The instructions are as bad as everyone says. Most of the space is taken up with an oddly described method to sew the front zip pockets which I’m not convinced would work all that well – assuming I’ve followed it correctly anyway – and then they skim over the rest of the construction.

The drafting also seems a bit off. The armscye in the side panel comes to a sharp point at the bottom which can’t be right. I had to round it off to sew it smoothly. The pattern comes with hem allowances built in which is unusual for Burda, but they’re oddly skimpy at only 3cm. It’s tricky, although not impossible, to make them deeper because of the way the side panel comes to a point just where the hem starts to angle down towards the front of the coat. I suspect facing the hem would work better than turning a hem up.

So, am I going to make this for real? I’m on the fence at the moment. The pattern still needs a lot of work because I haven’t made pieces for facings or lining yet, and I need to sort out the armscye problem. My current warm winter coat is worn out so I need to replace it with something this year, and this style ticks almost all my boxes. Maybe if I find the right fabric.

Burda Fantasy wardrobe planning

My sewing output isn’t what it used to be and consequently I’ve been concentrating on making practical clothes. But I’ve been enjoying making fantasy wardrobe sewing plans lately. The ‘sewing with a plan’ challenges I’ve seen up to now haven’t worked for me – the rules never produce the type of things I like to wear – but I’ve come up with my own personal challenge that I’ve been having fun with. The idea is to take a Burda magazine pattern collection and find suitable fabrics to make it up into a coherent capsule wardrobe. That’s really all there is to it.

Burda has done some collections I really love over the years: Hong Kong Garden from February 2012, Big Picture from November 2013 and New Shapes from September 2010 (the patterns for that last one are on the website but there’s no page for the collection as a whole.) But when I come to look at any of those three as the basis of a capsule wardrobe they aren’t very satisfactory: the separates don’t work together, or there are several pieces of outerwear and not a lot to go underneath them. So sadly they were all non-starters.

Right now I’m going with Ready for Business from August 2017. It’s fairly small – eight patterns – and has a good mix of pieces: three dresses, a coat, a skirt, one pair of trousers and two tops, both of which work with the skirt and the trousers. I don’t understand the title because it doesn’t look very office formal to me, but then I don’t work in an office with a dress code, so that’s all to the good.

On to the fun bit: picking colours and fabrics! I mostly wear black, white, and grey and try to stick to one colour head to toe if wearing separates. I often wear yellow shoes and handbag, so I needed colours that won’t fight with yellow.

Starting with a couple of the dresses:

110b 08/2017 is for lightweight knits. Burda’s version is stunning in white, which I’m quite tempted by, but I think it would be most practical in black. I’d use viscose-elastase jersey which is easy to find in black.

111b 08/2017 is a 60s style dress with a beautiful boat neck. Burda’s version is in wool jersey but that’s practically impossible to come by around here. I see this made up in black boiled wool which is a lot easier to source.

Moving on to the separates there’s 112a 08/2017, a boxy top, and 101 08/2017, a long narrow skirt with an interesting feature zip. I’d make both of these up in the same black boiled wool as the 60s dress, with a really nice shiny metal zip for the skirt, to make a two-piece dress. The boxy top could also be worn separately over the ruched jersey dress for a bit of extra warmth. I don’t think the top’s neckline is compatible with the 60s dress neckline though.

The other separates are 104 08/2017, a knit top with a wide drapey collar, and 121 08/2017, narrow trousers with unusual chevron shaped pockets and ankle zips. I’d make the top in the same black jersey as the ruched dress, and use black ponte knit for the trousers. They could be worn together or mixed with the black boiled wool separates.

That’s an awful lot of black. The last two items are where I’d break out into something more exciting. The last dress, 109a 08/2017, is a classic wrap dress which needs a stretchy knit. I’d make this in zebra print jersey. It’s not as easy to find as leopard print but I’ve located three options online in the UK so I think it’s viable.

And finally the coat, 108 08/2017. Everything else is so neutral that this is a safe place to go wild with colour. The original pattern calls for non-fraying fabric for a raw edge finish but it shouldn’t be hard to adjust for something more conventional. I’ve got my eye on some cerise wool/poly melton for this one. I also found a bubblegum pink wool coating. And my third option is non-fraying: a weird and wonderful silver mesh faced neoprene-alike fabric.

I estimate that’s at least six months worth of sewing for me so I doubt I’ll make all (or any!) of these up for real. But it’s fun to plan, and I am wondering if I could get away with a bright pink coat over a zebra print dress or if I’d look like a madwoman.

Three views of Burda 105 02 2019 trench coat

Finished at last

I finally finally finally finished my coat. It got a bit frantic towards the end when I came to sew the lining in and realised I’d seriously messed up. I went to pin it around the back vent and realised it was impossible to attach the lining to the coat on the overlap side because the vent facing wasn’t wide enough to reach the lining stitching line. Cue puzzlement as I tried to work out what had happened and how to fix it.

I eventually discovered I’d cut off almost the entire overlap facing by mistake at a much earlier stage in proceedings. I was supposed to just trim it a bit. I can’t even blame Burda because their pattern instructions weren’t wrong, I simply cut on the wrong line. That’s what comes of being lazy and using the same pattern piece for the left and right back instead of making separate ones.

After some swearing I cut a rectangle out of scraps, ripped out the vent stitching, sewed the rectangle on to the edge I should not have cut along and put the vent back together. It’s not perfect but can’t really be seen from the outside. If you squint there’s a tiny ridge where the seam allowance of my repair lies, and that’s all.

Outside view of coat vent
Inside is another matter, but at least it’s neat.
Inside view of coat vent

Luckily everything else has gone pretty smoothly. I’ve been following a sewalong for Ready To Wear Tailoring from Pattern Scissors Cloth for this project and it’s been a huge help. My coat’s a little bit different to the one in the sewalong, not least in having the nearly fatal vent, but thanks to Sheryll’s advice about adjusting the pattern in advance the potentially awkward steps like the collar and lapels were easy to sew. It gave me a new appreciation for Burda patterns too; I noticed that several of her suggested pattern adjustments to allow for turn of cloth were already drafted in. It’s Burda 105 02/2019 although I’ve shortened it from the original length and reduced the ease at the waist.

With perfect timing I’ve finished this just as the UK weather goes insanely hot, so I haven’t worn it even once yet. Normal cool and cloudy service is expected to resume next week though. But in the meantime here it is on the dressform.

Butda 105 02 2019 on dressform

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.

Trench coat progress

It’s been a while but that’s because I’ve been sewing a coat. Only a summer coat, but it seems to go on forever. I’ve almost finished the collar and lapels. Just top stitching left to do on those.

The pattern is Burda 105 02/2019 which is a simplified trench coat pattern. It has storm flaps and the traditional collar, but just wraps to close rather than having buttons. Here’s the line art.

Burda 105 02 2019 line art

I’m making it in a dark grey denim which I was worried was too heavy for the style but it’s working out OK so far. Its reluctance to crease made it surprisingly easy to sew the collar and welt pockets without getting any puckers.

Here’s a longer view. The side seams aren’t sewn yet. I’ve made the belt though. Most patterns have you do that sort of thing last but I prefer to get it done right at the start.

There still seems like a very large amount left to sew. What’s making it easier though is my new gadget: a very bright clip-on LED light that I can attach to the shelves by my desk and position to shine right on the sewing machine needle.

I don’t know if I’ve just been unlucky but out of my three machines, two have light bulbs which tend to slip out of their fittings if I sew quickly, plunging the work into darkness. And even when the bulbs shine reliably none of them are all that bright. The LED light makes a huge difference. It was a present from my husband, so thanks!

Trench coat toile take two

Thanks everyone for all the advice on fitting my coat. I’ve made some adjustments to the toile and it is vastly improved already.

I’m making Burda 105 02/2019, a single breasted trench coat style. Here’s one of the model photos.

Burda 105 02/2019 trench coat model photo

My first toile came out looking oversized on me. This was a particular problem because the fabric I am making the coat from is on the heavy side for this style so it was going to look very bulky indeed when pulled in with the belt. I went off and did a bit of browsing for images of trench coats to see what sort of shape would work better for fabrics without much drape. Burberry have some good ones in leather and metallics (the gold crocodile leather was a particularly spectacular version). The hem on theirs tends to be mid knee rather than mid calf and they are much more shaped in the body, having front and back princess seams. They often style them with the collar turned up too.

I didn’t really fancy adding princess seams, but I shaped the side seams and the centre back seam on my toile to nip it in at the waist, and took a whopping five inches off the hem. I also shortened the sleeves slightly. My husband wasn’t available to take photos so excuse the awkward mirror selfies.

Burda 105 02 2019 toile take 2

It definitely still needs shoulder pads – unfortunately I didn’t have any handy when I was fitting – and I think the back vent needs to start a little higher now I’ve shortened it so much. But it looks a great deal better already. That odd wrinkle on the sleeves seems to have gone too, but I’ll look at those more closely once I have the shoulder pads.

Trench coat toile

My next project is the coat that I was talking about back in December. Only now we’re coming into summer I’m making a trench coat rather than an overcoat. Years ago I had a cheap, bright red cotton trenchcoat from H&M which I loved; it was so easy and fun to wear. I wore it out many years ago and now I want to make something similar but hopefully a bit more durable.

The H&M coat was slightly unusual for a trench coat in that it was single breasted and so avoided the widening effect of the usual double breasted button closure. The closest design I’ve found in my Burda collection is 105 02/2019 (model photos below) which hasn’t got a closure at all. I can live with that as long as there’s an overlap to keep the wind out, which there is.

Burda 105b 02 2019 model photo

I also looked at 103 04/2018, which is a similar wrap over style but with the addition of an asymmetric drape at the front. I love that style but eventually decided that the fabric I have for the coat (a grey denim with a subtle shine) has too much body for it.

I’m not normally one for making test garments but a coat is a large commitment so this time I made the effort. Here it is. I’m three different sizes in Burda from 36 at the bust to 40 at the hips, so I’ve blended between the three and added my usual 5cm length on the bodice and sleeves. Otherwise this hasn’t been adjusted at all yet.

Burda 105 02 2019 toile close up front view

It seems a blousy above the belt at the front compared to the model photos. The black and white sample in particular looks much slimmer fitting than mine. The shoulders are OK and I have a reasonable amount of arm mobility. The sleeves are a bit long but I prefer them like that.

Burda 105 02/2019 toile back view

It also blouses at the back.

I’m not sure about the hem length here. The hem hasn’t been turned up yet but it is going to end at the widest part of my leg when it is. Not the most flattering length. I’ve looked at a few Burberry trench coats online and they are generally hemmed at the knee.

Burda 105 02/2019 toile left side view

The side seams are hanging straight. There’s a wrinkle on the arm I don’t understand and am a bit reluctant to try to remove in case it results in not being able to reach forward.

Burda 105 02/2019 toile right side view

Here’s an action shot of sorts. It stays closed fairly well when walking.

Burda 105 02/2019 toile front view

I am tempted to take darts in the front and back to slim it down a bit, otherwise I fear it’s going to look very bulky when belted. Thoughts welcome!

Grey cargo trousers: Burda 121 02/2018

These cargo trousers are Burda 121 08/2018. It’s an unpromising looking pattern if you go by the model photo, where it’s made up in a rather unlikely silk satin – the notes say it is an ‘evening style’ – but then photographed and styled to look like the model is camping or hiking. But the line drawing is much more appetising.

The project came about after I saw a picture on a Reddit street style group where the poster was wearing an all grey outfit with loose trousers tucked into boots and thought it was a great look: very comfortable and practical but a bit different. What makes it work in my opinion is the shape of the trousers. The Burda pattern with its gathered ankles and utility styling was the closest thing to it I could find in my pattern stash, and as a bonus it’s a Tall pattern so I didn’t need to make many adjustments. I added 2.5cm length and traced my usual size. The fit is about right. They are by no means low rise though, despite what Burda says in the pattern description. Maybe low rise in the current decade means something less extreme than it did in the 1990s?

These trousers have so much detail and require an amazing number of notions. Five zips, a buckle, loads of top stitching thread, petersham ribbon (not elastic despite what the pattern description says) for the ankles, and a button. I substituted a snap from stash for the button, and cotton herringbone weave tape for the petersham because I wasn’t convinced petersham ribbon would knot nicely.

I’m pleased with the zips I found; they have slightly fancy pullers and the grey tape is less harsh against the grey fabric than black would have been. The fabric is a lightish weight grey denim from Sherwood’s Fabrics. I sewed it with a size 90 denim needle and did the top stitching with a size 100 denim needle. I interfaced the waistband, fly underlap, and belt with Vilene F220. The top stitching thread is various shades of grey Coats Double Duty and Gutermann Topstitch I found in my stash so it doesn’t all match if you look too closely.

Here’s a shot of the ankle ties. I probably should have substituted elastic because I suspect they’re going to be annoying to tie and untie, but they do look nice. I guess I could always replace them with elastic later.

I am really pleased with how the trousers came out, but I have to say the pattern isn’t up to Burda’s usual high standards. Burda never provides pattern pieces for any piece that’s a rectangle, just a table of dimensions which confusingly usually include seam allowances although the pieces that are traced don’t. However the dimensions given for the waistband piece in this pattern don’t seem to include seam allowances or even the waistband underlap, so if you cut it according to the table it would be much too short. The fly front underlap piece dimensions are also wrong unless the piece was intended to be cut on the fold, but I couldn’t see that mentioned anywhere, nor is it shown on the fold in the layout. I’m very glad I checked everything before cutting.

I’m also unconvinced by the instruction to make the belt by sewing a long thin tube and turning it out. It would work in the original silk satin, but not in denim. Instead I pressed the seam allowances on the long edge of the belt to the wrong side, folded the belt right sides together, sewed across only the short ends, turned it out, pressed, and then top stitched around the whole thing to close the long edge. No awkward tube turning required.

Another thing I did to make the sewing easier was to make a template for the zip pocket opening markings. It’s just a piece of cardboard with a slot cut out the right size for the zip, but it made it much easier and faster to mark the four pocket openings accurately.

It is of course still distinctly cool in the UK so this is how I actually wore these most of Bank Holiday Monday; with a thick cardigan on top.

I don’t think I’ll make these again in a hurry because they are so very time consuming, but I’ll definitely hang onto the pattern in case the right piece of black denim should come my way. I think I’m going to wear these a lot. Thanks as ever to my husband for taking the photos!