Nearly perfect: Style Arc Juliet

Style Arc Juliet

Here’s Style Arc‘s Juliet shirt being worn. This is an asymmetrical style with a front tie that is sewn into the side seam on the left and grows directly out of the front bodice piece on the right. It’s an interesting variation on a classic shirt. These photos were taken with it in its fresh off the sewing machine state, hence the relative lack of creasing.

I really like this shirt. But at the same time I want to pull the pattern apart and change things to make it even better. For one, the back is unshaped and quite plain. I think it could do with some darts, and I’d like a yoke to break up the large expanse of fabric. I’m also not entirely convinced by the three quarter length sleeves. They look good in photos but I prefer full length. Incidentally this pattern runs very long in both body and sleeve. I have lengthened it, but not nearly as much as I normally would need to. Otherwise I’d say it’s true to size.

Style Arc Juliet

The asymmetric tie was what originally drew me to the design but now I’ve sewed it up I find the conventional left side tie (the one sewn into the side seam) a bit unsatisfactory. It doesn’t sit as nicely as the right tie. Next time I’d do the left front as a mirror image of the right front piece with the grown on tie. That will use a lot more fabric; the pattern piece for the right front is so big you couldn’t cut it on the fold even on wide fabric.

One other interesting little detail on the pattern is the stepped hem. The back is about 5cm longer than the front. I wasn’t convinced the difference was enough when I saw the pattern pieces; maybe it would look like a mistake! But I went with it and the effect is growing on me now.

Style Arc Juliet

I’ve put the shirt with my silver jeans here, but I suspect it’ll go well with a wide variety of bottoms. It might even work tucked in? I will have to experiment.

Thanks to my husband for taking the pictures.

Style Arc Juliet

Style Arc Mara front view

Style Arc Mara shirt dress

This dress seemed to take forever to make. I started it during the heatwave and with hindsight a cotton shirt dress with lots of fiddly details wasn’t the ideal project for weather that’s too hot to have the iron on. I got there in the end though. I’m hoping this will be a useful transitional dress that will work for autumn as well the summer.

Style Arc Mara front view

The pattern is a very classic shirt dress style: breast pockets, two piece sleeves with proper cuffs, and a hidden button placket. The pattern drawing on the Style Arc site is wrong, by the way. It shows a tab for rolling up the sleeve and there isn’t one; also the pattern has two buttons on the cuff and the drawing shows only one.

I’m slightly surprised there’s no back yoke in the design. The back of the dress is extremely plain; the only detail is the centre back seam.

Style Arc Mara back view

The fabric is a wide (150cm) turquoise stretch cotton poplin from Tissu Fabrics. The pattern says it takes just under two metres which is pretty good for a long sleeved dress. I didn’t really believe the length estimate on the pattern and was quite prepared to buy more fabric if the pieces didn’t fit on the 2m I had, but to my amazement it was fine, even with my usual length additions. I had just enough left to cut a second pair of the breast pockets when my first pair went wrong but the rest of the scraps were so small they went straight into the bin.

Those breast pockets are a tricky sew. The pocket pieces have rounded corners which you are supposed to press under, and it’s hard to do smoothly. I had most success when I made a cardboard template of the curves to press the fabric around but even so they’re a bit jagged. Another time I might line the pockets as making the curves would be a great deal easier and there would be less chance of burning my fingers. As well as the breast pockets there are inseam pockets on the side seams.

Style Arc Mara front view

The instructions are pretty minimal. They suggest making a plan in advance for which seams to topstitch but don’t actually tell you which ones to do. I definitely topstitched the wrong sleeve seam. You can only do the one you sew first, and I think it’s best to top stitch the one that runs into the cuff opening because by sewing that seam first you can do a much better job on finishing the cuff opening. Mine isn’t great because I sewed that seam last and I won’t be rolling the sleeves up on this dress as a consequence. Which is a pity, because I suspect they were designed to be worn with the cuffs turned back given how long the sleeves come out.

Another thing I’d do differently next time would be to add some interfacing to the placket. It’s a bit wobbly in this fabric. It would probably be fine in something heavier.

Will there be a next time? Possibly. It’s a pattern with very good bones but this particular version has a few execution problems that bother me; a more experienced sewist probably wouldn’t have had the same issues. The weather’s cooling down here so I probably won’t make another this year but I might revisit it in spring. Maybe in a bold print?

Special thanks to my husband who managed to take the photos while simultaneously toddler-wrangling.

Style Arc Mara front view

Burda 116 08 2011 front view

Schiaparelli pink Burda 116 08/2011

Burda 116 08 2011 front view

This is an old favourite pattern, Burda 116 08/2011. Five or six years ago I used to have three versions in my wardrobe; it was my perfect dress at the time and it sews up really quickly so it was easy to have multiple versions. I made it up again this summer at the height of the heat wave. The fabric is a stretch cotton poplin from Tissu fabrics in bright pink. The original pattern was meant to be made in something drapey, but I find I like the effect in a crisp fabric.

It’s taken a while to get photos and the first opportunity was a very windy day so excuse the strange folds. Thanks to my husband for patiently taking photos from several angles while we tried to keep out of the wind!

I made some very minor changes to the pattern. I added 1cm to the side seams below the waist for a total extra 4cm circumference because the original hasn’t got a lot of ease at the hips. The pattern has you make bias strips to finish the armscyes. I cut an extra strip to bind the inside edge of the cowl too as it makes a much nicer finish than overlooking it. I added some interfacing to the back collar and the pocket opening edges.  And finally I cut four of the pocket pieces rather than two so that I could have the pocket bags loose inside the dress rather than top-stitched to the dress front.

Burda 116 08 2011 back view

I think the fabric is very slightly too light in weight for this style, but I love the colour. This time around though I am noticing a few little issues that I wasn’t conscious of in previous versions. The sleeves are a bit restrictive, and the cowl neck has a mind of its own. I keep thinking that I won’t make another of these, but I also keep wearing it. Maybe I’ll make another in a heavier fabric. Sateen perhaps? I don’t think I want something as drapey as a crepe.

Burda 116 08 2011 front view

Burda 103 07 2010

Full on Cyberman silver jeans

I’ve made various pairs of silver jeans over the years, but never in fabric quite this reflective. It’s a foiled stretch denim from a new-to-me company, Top Fabric. I found it in their online shop a while ago but ummed and aahed about it for quite some time because it’s quite pricey and narrow enough that my favourite jeans pattern would need at least two metres. Anyway I was lucky enough to get fabric money for my birthday, so here are the ultimate silver jeans.

Burda 103 07 2010 front

The pattern started life as Burda 103b 07/2010 but I’ve made it five or six times over the years and tweaked here and there each time. The most dramatic change is probably lowering the waist by a couple of inches. The original pattern is astonishingly high waisted; something I often find with Burda trousers. I also added the back pockets to the pattern at some point. Looking at this version I think they need to be a bit larger and closer to the centre back seam. Maybe I’ll fix that next time.

Burda 103 07 2010 back

One thing I really like about this design is the extra panel down the side of the leg. It’s just about visible in the picture below.

Burda 103 07 2010 side

The top stitching caused much agonising over thread choice. I went with a very light grey and it seems to have worked well. I did the buttonhole and bartacks for the belt loops in regular thread in the same shade. I find I get a much better result that way; neither of my machines likes making dense zigzags in thick thread. The rest of the stitching and seam finishing was done with black thread because the base fabric is black.

Burda 103 07 2010 front closeup

The fabric is a bit more difficult to work with than regular stretch denim. You can’t unpick without leaving marks and the foil surface is very slippery. I used Wonder Tape instead of pins to hold things in place while sewing the fly front and back pockets because pin marks would have been very visible.

Burda 103 07 2010 back closeup

The fit isn’t perfect in that I have my usual problem of folds under the bum. But I have only worn these for try ons so far. I find the fit on skinny jeans improves after a bit of wearing time. My gold jeans had the same problem when I made them and now they’re much better. The silver ones currently feel quite tight but again I expect they’ll ease up with wear.

I’m hoping these will be very versatile. I’m wearing them with a t shirt here but I think they’ll also work with a big white shirt, and worn under either of the white dresses I’ve made recently when the current heat wave finally breaks. And I think I have just enough scraps of the fabric left to make a Vogue 1247 skirt too. Silver is a neutral, right?

Burda 103 07 2010 front

McCalls 7727 front view

McCalls 7727 shirt dress

I’m trying to make more wearable clothes, I really am. It just depends on the definition of wearable. And what could be more sensible and practical than a shirt dress? Well this particular shirt dress all but has a train, so I don’t suppose it really counts as sensible, but I love it anyway.

McCalls 7727 front view

The pattern is McCalls 7727 which comes with two views, a tunic and a dress, both with a sash and a dramatic high-low hem. There is a sleeveless option or full length sleeves, so it’s easy to produce four different looks. It’s a great pattern but my goodness it’s a fabric hog. I made the dress length version with long sleeves so the worst case. I skipped the sash and ignored the pattern layout, cutting some of the pieces out upside down, and I still used five metres of wide fabric. It’s ivory stretch cotton poplin from Tissu Fabrics, and it’s great quality for a pretty low price.

Cutting this out was very hard work. If you make a lot of McCalls/Butterick/Vogue you’ve probably noticed the special instructions they always include for when there are pieces cut in pairs that need the full fabric width. The cutting layout has a big asterisk which means you fold the fabric in half across the grain, cut down that fold, and then turn the top bit around 180 degrees. Then the nap on both pieces runs the same way, and you can cut the pairs of wide pattern pieces out of that.

It is really difficult to realign the two layers once one is turned over and on this fabric, which has no nap that I can detect, it absolutely wasn’t worth the effort. Next time I’d just fold it crosswise.

McCalls 7727 back view

I meant to look up all the best ways to sew shirt collars and plackets and all those fiddly shirt bits, because we all know pattern instructions don’t always give the easiest method, but in the end I just switched my brain off and followed the pattern. Not only did their methods work beautifully, they were easy too. One exception: I didn’t slip stitch anything down by hand but stitched in the ditch from the right side.

McCalls 7727 3/4 view with pockets

The sleeves can be worn rolled up – the pattern includes a tab and button to do that. I wish I’d french seamed the sleeve seams because the overlocked seam allowances show when the sleeves are rolled up.

Speaking of the sleeves, these went in with no ease stitching and very little pinning. There’s lots of mobility in the arms too.

McCalls 7727 sleeves

I was originally going for a sort of Carolina Herrera look with this: a wide floor sweeping skirt with pockets, a crisp white shirt on the top half, and a very tight, defined waist between the two. But floor length skirts are definitely not practical and I think the high-low hem is a nice compromise which keeps the drama without sacrificing the ability to run up stairs. Not so sure how it’ll cope with a crowded bus though.

I added the pockets; the pattern doesn’t have them. It also doesn’t have much in the way of a waist, relying on the sash or a belt to pull it in. I thought having a white sash would make the whole thing look bridal, hence the belt.

I don’t think I really achieved my vision – the skirt should be in a contrasting colour for starters – but I’ll wear this and that’s the main thing.

Pictures all by my husband. We did these in the early evening and the light has worked out nicely.

McCalls 7727 back view full skirt

Style Arc Toni front view

Style Arc Toni dress the third

White Style Arc Toni front view

This dress was an experiment which worked out far better than I expected. The pattern is Style Arc‘s Toni ‘designer dress’, which I’ve made twice before in very drapey fabrics as the pattern recommends. I loved both versions, but sadly neither fabric aged gracefully and both have now been thrown out. However I’d always suspected that the pattern would also look good in something crisp and structured. So here it is in white cotton sateen, and I think it’s the best version I’ve made yet.

White Style Arc Toni side view

I’ve shortened the pattern 10cm from the original length as I found it’s much easier to walk in that way. Otherwise this is made up straight out of the packet in a single size; the fit is very forgiving.

White Style Arc Toni back view

In previous versions I sewed weights into the drapes to keep them in place, but that wasn’t entirely effective. For this one I tried to encourage the drapes to stay put by tacking the seam allowances together in a couple of places. They still move about a bit. I think I’m just going to have to embrace that. I think I was trying to adjust the drapes in the picture below!

White Style Arc Toni bending front view

The crisp fabric really gives the skirt some volume. This pattern is a bit of a fabric hog, but I got very lucky: a friend of my mum’s was destashing and passed on 3m of this sateen. It’s an unusually narrow width; only just over a metre; and I used it all. Thanks Sue! I interfaced the collar and facings with Vilene G405. I wondered if that was going to be too heavy but it worked out OK because you need something fairly supportive for the collar on this one. I also added strips of interfacing on the front pocket opening edge.

White Style Arc Toni back view

I did some top stitching around the sleeve openings. The pattern just asks you to turn the allowances under there, but I don’t see how they’d stay put like that. I tacked the neckline facing to the seam allowances to make it stay in place but that could have been topstitched down as well.

White Style Arc Toni front view

Of course the big question is how wearable it is. It has the obligatory pockets (built into the pattern so no need to add them) and once shortened it’s quite easy to move in. The colour isn’t entirely practical but it’s easy to wash. Only time will tell for sure, but I’ve worn it for a day at work this week and was happy with it.

Pictures all by my husband (and his fancy new camera lens!)

White Style Arc Toni front view

Vogue 1573: unintentional mom jeans

Vogue 1573 front view

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


V1573 line art

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

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

Vogue 1573 front view closeup

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

Vogue 1573 back view

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

Vogue 1573 side view closeup

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

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

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

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

Vogue 1573 action shot

Ikat Kimono

Ikat kimono

This project came about because of dire necessity. A few years ago I made myself a kimono style dressing gown out of cheap and cheerful cotton. In terms of number of wears it’s probably the most successful thing I’ve ever made, but it is showing its age! I’d been resisting replacing it for a long time because it was still basically functional, if tatty, but when it developed huge tears running across the front from under each arm I finally caved in. And after using it for seven years I had thought of a few improvements I could make too.

Here is the new one.Ikat kimono

I had a hard time finding fabric. I originally set my heart on an ikat fabric I saw on Pinterest, but there were no details about the source in the pin and I couldn’t find anything like it in my usual online fabric shops. Eventually I gave up on the idea of ikat and started considering prints. After hours of online searching I still couldn’t find anything I really liked that wasn’t outrageously expensive. I very nearly splurged on a beautiful but pricey palm leaf print, but luckily I sent off for samples first because when it arrived I found I didn’t like the feel of it. Finally I looked in John Lewis more in hope than in expectation, and there was the very fabric I’d seen on Pinterest in the first place. It turned out to be a John Louden fabric called Cross Hatch in black and white, although the black looks dark navy to my eye.

Once I had the fabric in my hands I found it was quite a tricky one to work with. The weave is very open so I had to line it. I don’t normally finish seams on lined garments but I had to do these otherwise they’d have frayed to nothing. It’s also narrow – 110cm – and a kimono takes up a lot of yardage even on normal width fabric. Finally you have to match that very geometric pattern, so it consumes even more fabric than you might expect. But it is pretty and I like the irregularities that come from the ikat weave.

Ikat kimono back top view with mirror

The ‘pattern’ is a very basic kimono pattern, ie all rectangles. I originally got it from a cosplay website that has sadly ceased to exist or I’d link to it. Anneliese’s Fibres and Stuff was the site name (be careful if you google it because the domain it was hosted on has recently been redirecting to a site serving malware). There are no paper pattern pieces involved. You work out the sizes of your rectangles based on your body measurements and chalk them straight onto the fabric. I’ve made a few of these over the years both for myself and other people, and always been happy with the results. I normally make them with what I understand are the traditional kimono sleeve style for younger women: very wide ‘swinging’ sleeves which are only attached half way down the armscye, so there’s a gap under the arm. It looks great but isn’t so good for toddler wrangling, or decency when answering the front door come to that, so this one has narrower sleeves with no gap.

This time around I added a few refinements. It has belt loops and a hanging loop. Those were made from some cream coloured twill tape I had lying around that was almost the same colour as the shell fabric. There are large patch pockets on the front, although they are invisible in these pictures. I interfaced the belt with Vilene F220 to give it some body. I wish I’d done the same with the collar. It works OK without interfacing in something crisp like cotton poplin, but this fabric needs a bit of extra help.

I bagged the lining and it’s not quite right; the lining is too short for the shell so there are sometimes wrinkles at the hem. I measured really carefully but I think the shell fabric grew. But it’s only a dressing gown so I’m not going to go back and fix that. I’m very pleased with the pattern matching though. There is a centre back seam but it’s almost invisible.

Ikat kimono back view

I was a bit frustrated with this when I finished it because of the hem issue, and also the fit isn’t quite right – I had to compromise slightly on the width of the panels in order to match the pattern and not require a truly outrageous amount of fabric. But it’s grown on me and I’m going to wear it anyway because it’s a vast improvement on the torn one. I hope this is going to last me the next seven years!

Ikat kimono lounging view

Vogue 1548: weird but wearable

Vogue 1548 front

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

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

Vogue 1548

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

Vogue 1548 back

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

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

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

Vogue 1548 front half done up

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

Vogue 1548 front without plastron

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

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

I need a lie down: Vogue 1548 finished

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

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

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

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

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

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

The sleeve linings have little pleats at the cuff.

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

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

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