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

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.

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!

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.