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 138 03/2014 toddler top

I’ve always been reluctant to sew children’s clothes. So small and fiddly! They grow out of them so fast! And (in the UK at least) kids’ clothes are very good value for money in the shops so it isn’t remotely economical to make your own.

But…My little boy has a really nice top made out of soft shell. It has raglan sleeves and a neckline zip so it’s easy to get on and off. It’s one of his favourite things to wear. He’s also almost grown out of it and I haven’t been able to find a similar replacement. And it looked fairly easy to make – five pieces and a zip – so I decided to try to reproduce it.

My first try was to trace the original top to make a pattern. That went fine. And then I realised that I’d just traced a garment that was too small when the whole point was to make a bigger version. Unsure how to grade it up I went looking through my Burda stash and came up with Burda 138 03/2014, a raglan sleeved t shirt pattern for toddlers.

Burda 138  03/2014

Burda say this is a girl’s top, but I can’t see anything remotely gendered about it.

I traced it out one size bigger than my son’s current size because I wanted it to work as an outer layer with a t shirt worn underneath. I then made a collar pattern piece to fit the Burda neckline, copying the approximate shape of the one I’d traced from the original garment.

I made the new pattern up in the leftovers from my husband’s green fleece hoodie to test it. The zip was a lucky find in my stash; it was too heavy for the project I bought it for but it was ok for the fleece. It could have done with being a little longer though.

Burda 138 03/2014

Here’s the back view. It turned out really well; it fits with a bit of growing room, and my little boy likes to wear it. It’s not perfect. I tried to flatlock the hem and it’s slightly uneven; also I didn’t do a perfect job on the zip and collar. You have to look super close to see though. And it sewed up fast: I put it together in about 90 minutes.

Burda 138 03/2014

So I forged ahead with the real thing, made in bright red soft shell from Empress Mills with a matching red zip. This time I bought an extra long zip and cut it off at a few cm longer than the intended finished length. Instead of trying to recreate a zip stop I laid the end of the zip opening on top of the zip teeth so the zip continues below the end of the opening, and top-stitched right over the teeth. The original top is constructed like this. Obviously I made sure it was a plastic zip rather than a metal one first, but I still broke a needle in the process.

Burda 138 03/2014

And it looks nice but it’s a very different garment than the green one! The soft shell I used for the red version is quite heavyweight; it’s really a coating fabric. This is more something for wearing to the park than around the house.

The red fabric is lovely and bright and it top-stitches beautifully. I did a top-stitched hem because wonky flat locking would have stood out a mile on this fabric and you can’t unpick because the needle leaves permanent holes. Getting around those tiny sleeve hems on the machine was tricky though. I’d use this fabric again for a coat, but not a sweater.

Burda 138 03/2014

I’m quite tempted to make a third one of these in a cute snowflake print fleece I’ve seen online. Or there are lots of other child friendly fleece prints out there. I won’t be going into sewing children’s clothes regularly though!

Burda 120 12/2018 men’s hoodie

Burda 120 12/2018 hoodie

This is the first piece of menswear I’ve made for a long time. It’s Burda 120 12/2018 made up in dark green fleece from Empress Mills, for my husband. This is a nice easy to sew design and doesn’t require a lot of extra supplies beyond the fabric. The only notions used are a couple of eyelets and a cord for the hood drawstring. I didn’t even try to match the cord colour to the fleece but went with a black one. I had no idea what to search for online for the cord, so ended up getting one from Maculloch and Wallis when I was in London last. I think it’s this one which they describe as ‘acrylic wool cord’.

The hood seam is flat felled so no hood lining is required. The picture below shows it a bit more clearly.

Burda 120 12/2018 hoodie

This pattern is the one with the detailed instuctions in the issue of the magazine it comes in, and they’re pretty good with one exception. They have you set in the eyelets, sew the drawstring casing shut, and then feed the cord through one eyelet, along the casing, and out the other. They suggest wrapping the end of the cord in sellotape, presumably so you have something to grab and can easily feed it through the eyelets. I don’t know about you but that sounds like a recipe for intense frustration to me. I threaded the cord through the eyelets before sewing the casing shut and that worked fine.

Speaking of eyelets, here they are along with the setting tool. I used 6mm ones. I’d never used eyelets in sewing before, and found they needed a surprising amount of whacking to seal them firmly in place. I was thumping away during my son’s nap praying it wouldn’t disturb him; luckily he slept through it. And it turns out that backing the eyelet area with a scrap of extra fabric is really important to getting a good result. As well as the scrap fabric I also added a small piece of interfacing but I’m not sure how much that helped; it’s the extra thickness that makes the difference.


The pattern is well drafted – everything fits together nicely – but there isn’t a whole lot of ease. Next time I might go up a size, especially if using a very stable knit. Anyway I’d recommend this one as an easy sew with good results, and my husband’s been wearing the finished object a lot so that’s a definite success. And as a bonus there was enough fabric left over to make a little top for my son, of which more anon.

Blue Burda 114 11/2011

Blue Burda 114 11/2011

It’s been a while since I posted. Despite the silence I have been sewing a lot, but for other people. This top is a Burda 114 11/2011, for my sister. It’s difficult to get an accurate impression of it when it’s flat because of the unusual neckline; it needs to be on a body. Here’s Burda’s picture.

Most people who have reviewed this pattern comment that they needed to size down and the neckline is much higher than on Burda’s photo and that has been my experience too. Here’s my first version.

I made a bit more of an effort with the insides on the blue one than I did on my own grey version of this; I overlocked the seam allowances and finished the hems with a flat lock hem. The fabric is a blue and white heathered jersey that came from Misan a few years ago. The inside is covered in loops like a terry so hopefully it will be warm despite being very lightweight.

My own version of this has proved very wearable. The only thing I have doubts about is the sleeve length. They’re meant to be extra long, but I think it’s overdone. I like my sleeves longer than average but these are ridiculous. I keep thinking about using the sleeves from Burda 119 01/2013 instead, which have gathering at the end so they look extra long without actually covering your entire hand. They need a lot of fabric though.

Next up: a foray into menswear.

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.

Vado jeans finished

I finished my Vado Bootstrap skinny jeans at last – just as there has been another glut of articles saying that skinny jeans are dead and we’ve all got to wear wide legs now. Oh well. I like wide legged trousers but nothing is as practical as skinnies.

I talked a bit about the sewing process in previous posts but I stand by my assertion that if you didn’t know how to make jeans the instructions that come with this pattern aren’t enough.

What the instructions are good for is some little details that give a nicer finish. Things like top stitching down the outer side seam from the waist to the end of the pocket bag. The method for the fly front led to the best top stitching I’ve ever done on a jeans fly. You make the fly closure before sewing the front crotch seam, which is sewn as a lapped seam. It sounds tricky but it works nicely and means you have a much flatter space to do the fly top stitching on. I was determined to do a better job on the top stitching than my usual slapdash effort and these changes helped.

I’m slightly less keen on the way the photos showed to top stitch the ticket pocket, with a leg of top stitching continuing past the top corner of the pocket and into the waistline seam. If everything was sitting perfectly flat this would be hidden under the outer hip pocket but the whole front pocket area tends to move about and reveal it. Also I don’t see a good functional reason for it: one less end of top stitching to tie off I suppose?

And I haven’t sewn the fly button in quite the right place…I’ll have to do that again.

Anyway the important thing is, was the custom fit pattern an improvement over my usual Burda jeans pattern? I made one small adjustment while sewing them, which was to take in the centre back seam along the yoke and reduce the waistband length to correspond, but otherwise they are sewn up as drafted.

Well it’s win some lose some. The fit on the crotch and legs is a bit better than my Burda patterns, although having carefully compared photos of these and the various Burdas the difference isn’t as huge as I thought. It was really nice not to have to lengthen the pattern. Really nice. Yes it’s a simple alteration to do but it still takes time, finding the sellotape, and clearing a big enough space on the dining table. The back pocket placement is also pretty good, which I was worried about based on the pattern photos where they looked much lower than they’ve come out on me.

The bad news is that the waist is too large. In the picture above I’ve pulled them up to where they should sit, but in practice they tend to creep down and look more like this.

Here are some full length shots. I am not really nine feet tall by the way. It’s a combination of a low camera angle and the jeans having a very high waist. Thanks to my other half for taking the pictures!

They’re a bit too long for the boots I’m wearing here but I prefer jeans to be on the long side.

The real question is whether next time I make jeans I reach for this pattern or something else. I think I will use this one, but I’ll definitely adjust it. Not just the waist either; I prefer jeans front pockets to have an extension that reaches centre front. They sit flatter that way. The pockets on these are also too deep for this style; it’s not so easy to extract things from the bottom of them. They’d be fine with a looser leg.

I’m glad I made these and they’ve got me a step closer to my perfect skinny jeans pattern, but more iterations are definitely required.

Burda 114A 11/2011

Pathological fabric and Burda 114A 11/2011

Burda 114A 11/2011 front view

This was a quick but not an easy project. The pattern is Burda 114A 11/2011, a fairly simple wrap over knit top. The pattern photo shows it made up in a very loose and drapey sweater knit; you can see it’s slightly transparent.

I got some fairly similar stuff from Croft Mill’s sale recently. It was an end of roll so there’s no more available. It’s a loosely knitted polyester sweater knit in various shades of grey, black, and white. It came with a warning that it was tricky to sew and they weren’t kidding! You can stretch it a long way and it doesn’t snap back. I spent a long while trying to get it arranged on grain and without tension before cutting, but one of my sleeves still ended up 10cm longer than the other, and the back hem edge was on a steep angle. This was particularly obvious because the fabric has a subtle striped effect. I took my shears and cut the extra fabric off freehand, following the stripes, to end up with two matching sleeves and a hem that is on grain. I think it’s worked surprisingly well considering how misshapen my first attempt was. I really should have cut the whole thing out single layer.

Burda 114A 11/2011 back view

Most people who have made this recommended going down at least one size. I did size down but I also made my usual length additions and they weren’t needed. The sleeves are meant to be extra long anyway, but I think the body has come out much longer than on the model photo.

Burda 114A 11/2011 right side view

The neckline on the model photo is very low but most people who have made this have found it comes up much higher and more wearable, me included. I can arrange it to be lower but it naturally settles as you see it in the photos.

I constructed this mostly with a straight stitch on the sewing machine using a ball point needle and slightly lowered needle tension. I tried the overlocker on a few seams but it didn’t like the loosely knit fabric at all. The fabric caught around the loopers at one point and required some vicious hacking with scissors to free it. The overlocker seems to have survived the experience but I lost a bit of width from the top around the bust area (I regretted using only 1cm seam allowances) and after that I didn’t risk overlocking again. I left the remaining seam allowances raw and sewed the hems with a wide zigzag positioned to go over the raw edge of the hem allowance. Hopefully it will hold up. Knits generally don’t ravel but this one might be an exception.

Burda 114A 11/2011 left side view

I really like the finished top. I’ve seen a few versions of this in more stable knits and those looked pretty good too, so I might give it another go at some point. In a more stable knit this would be a great first knit project because there’s no neckband to deal with. I think I need a break after this particular version though; my next project is going to be made from nice well behaved denim.

Thanks to my husband for taking the photos.

Burda 114A 11/2011 full length

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

Again, again, again: Vogue 1247

I don’t normally find that sewing clothes is any cheaper than buying them, but this project is one of the exceptions. The pattern is one I’ve made several times before: a modified version of the skirt from Vogue 1247 (previous versions: green, silver knit, grey). The fabric is the scraps left over from my silver jeans. I had plenty of suitable top stitching thread to go with it left too.

The technical drawing for the pattern is below but my version has some changes.

Vogue 1247 line art

I am trying to use more things from my stash, and amongst my zips I had a metal one of about the right length with a large silver decorative puller. It was a good match for the fabric but there was no way I wanted the puller digging into the small of my back, so I moved the zip to the side seam.

Close up of zip

The puller meant it had to be installed as an exposed zip. I used a lot of Wonder Tape to hold the zip in place while I stitched it because you can’t pin or baste this fabric anywhere it might show!

I wasn’t sure what to do about the waistband. Previous versions I’ve made of this skirt have an invisible zip which stops just below the waistband, and a hook and bar closure on the waistband itself. I couldn’t find a picture of an exposed zip installed like that, but I was worried that it wouldn’t stay closed without the help of an additional closure at the top; the waistband is close fitting and so takes a lot of strain. In the end I stopped the zip just under the waistband and made a small overlap on the waistband with a hook and bar to hold it. Seems to work and looks fine.

Another change I made was to add a centre front seam and top stitching along it and the yoke seam. The front of the skirt is very plain and I thought it needed something to break up the expanse of shiny silver.

Silver skirt with centre front seam

Here’s a back view. Yes it needs pressing, but on the other hand this is how it really looks after I’ve been sitting down.

The reason I keep going back to this style is the pockets. They are well placed and nice and big. I’ve got my purse, keys, and phone in them in the modelled photos.

I had a lot of trouble figuring out how to style this. I thought black would look too stark against the silver and so tried various grey tops and tights, but they all looked wrong. It would probably work with a white top and bare legs but the UK is well into autumn now so that’s not going to be an option for a long time. The black top and tights seems to be the best option.

Modelled photos taken by my husband; flat ones by me.

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.