The end at last: Burda 119 10/2012

This is the very last item in my current wardrobe sewing plan, and now I think I’m done with sewing with a plan for a while. It’s Burda 119 10/2012, a close fitting v necked long sleeved top. I chose it because I thought having a layer to go under the summery v necked short sleeved dress might make it wearable into the autumn. I also thought the top might be wearable with jeans. In these photos I’m wearing it with my straight legged black denim trousers from the plan.

Here’s the line art. It’s a very low cut design which means the neckline doesn’t show when worn under the dress. Despite this it stays in place beautifully – no worries about bending forward. The fabric probably helps. It’s John Kaldor Isabella wool/elastane jersey in charcoal. Super stretchy and quite warm, highly recommended. I got mine from Sew Essential but I’ve seen other fabric shops stock it.

Burda 119 10/2012 line art, burdastyle.ru

I made a right mess of tracing and cutting this one. I somehow missed adding the placement marks for the front pieces and ended up guessing where to attach them, getting it completely wrong, and then having to rip out overlocked seams in black thread on black fabric. I also got immensely confused as to which side of the front wrap goes on top. The two fronts are not mirror images – the side that goes underneath isn’t full length. I cut out the larger, top, piece first, suddenly thought that I’d done it the wrong side up, hacked it down to be the under piece and then realised I had been right the first time. I didn’t want to waste fabric by cutting new front pieces so my shirt ended up with the right front on top although Burda’s has the opposite. What threw me is that women’s clothes normally close right over left.

There’s not a lot to see on the back view, but I do like Burda’s technique for the back neckline. It’s finished with a narrow stretch binding strip turned to the inside and top-stitched down, which is something I often see in ready to wear. I’m less keen on the hems. The hem allowance given for the sleeves is 6cm, which was impossible to sew with the machine – I couldn’t reach inside the very narrow sleeve far enough to sew close to the edge without the whole thing getting caught up around the presser foot. I ended up trimming the sleeve hem allowance back quite a bit to avoid hand hemming. I’m not sure what the function of such a deep hem was; I don’t feel like I’m missing anything.

While I doubt I’ll wear this on its own much – I don’t want to blind people with the glare from my pasty chest skin – I think it’ll be a useful under layer. But now I’m off to sew less practical and more fun things for a while. Thanks to my husband for taking the photos!

Change of direction

For about the last year I’ve been steadily sewing through a couple of wardrobe plans, with a bunch of pieces designed to mix and match. I rarely wear colour so I’ve been sticking to black, grey, and white so everything goes with everything. A couple of weeks ago I finished the last piece, a fairly plain black v neck top – photos to come – and started thinking about what to do next.

While I’ve made some pieces I really love from the wardrobe plans, the whole mix and match thing isn’t working as well as I expected. I don’t mix my separates up much: for each bottom I know the top that goes with it best, and rarely pair it with anything else. But it is nice not to have wardrobe orphans, so perhaps the solution is to sew outfits rather than whole wardrobes. And that has the advantage that it’s slightly easier to add a bit of colour…and after a year of grey even I’m ready to introduce some variation.

I cautiously set out with Vogue 1567, a Paco Peralta design which comprises a boat neck knit top and a dramatic skirt.

Vogue 1567 line art: a dolman sleeved top and draped skirt

Here’s the result. Dress form photos only because I haven’t had a chance to do modelled ones, but I’m really excited to wear this.

A dressform wearing a blue and black striped top and a long black skirt stands in front of a bookcase

Admittedly the skirt’s black. This is because it’s a huge fabric hog and I already had a suitable length of black poplin in my stash, but I haven’t made a coloured top for…well, I can’t actually remember.

I’m also planning a yellow dress, a green jacket, bright blue trousers. There’s a bit of white in the scheme too because it’s bright. I’m not going too overboard: the blue and green fabrics have been lurking in my stash for years.

Blue, yellow, green and white fabrics on a grey tile floor

We’ll see how long this lasts.

The refinement process

One of my favourite designers is Rick Owens. Unfortunately pieces of his post-apocalyptic vision are seriously expensive to buy, and even the more basic and wearable designs are pricey. One of these basics is a skinny wool knit t shirt with an exposed back seam, a deeply curved raw hem, and extra long sleeves. I made a knockoff of it a couple of years ago and have worn it so much it’s now starting to look a little sad. Here it is when it was just made.

The neckband has stretched and gone wavy since then. I made it too long right from the start and only aggressive steam pressing ever made it sit flat. I’ve also never been 100% happy with the shape of the hem; it’s a little too long. So this is version two, made out of the same John Kaldor Isabella wool jersey as the first one, with a shorter neckband and reshaped hem.

Weirdly it seems to fit better too, but I think that’s because I’ve changed shape rather than any improvement I made to the pattern.

I only made it a couple of weeks ago and have worn it four or five times already so this is a definite win! Thanks to my husband for the photos as always.

Burda 111 06/2021…sort of

This cardigan is what remains of my version of Burda 111 06/2021. The original design’s extended fronts join in a loop and go around the back of the neck. I sewed it up according to the pattern and spent some time figuring out how to make it lie neatly. But it just doesn’t work in the very drapey bamboo jersey I picked; as soon as I move the loop pulls itself into a long skinny tie rather than an elaborate drape, which looks very odd. I also seriously regretted my decision to ignore Burda’s finishing instructions for the edges. Burda says to fold the raw edge under twice, press, and topstitch. I decided life was too short and my fingers too sore for this, and did a twin needle hem instead. But the wrong side shows enough when the loop is draped around the neck that it looks bad: I never managed to trim the inside edge on a twin needle hem completely evenly. In this case I even made some holes by trimming too much and had to darn them. So sorry, Burda, you were right on that one.

After several failed attempts to fix the messy drape in place by connecting its edge around the neckline I gave up and picked up the shears on the grounds that I couldn’t make it any less wearable than it already was. I cut the loop apart by cutting out the original joining seam. This was not only therapeutic, I like what I’ve ended up with even though it’s very different to the garment I imagined.

This is how skinny that draped section goes when hanging in the bamboo; it’s meant to cover half the chest.

Burda’s instructions say to use ‘fine jersey’ . I’d interpret that as something slinky – hence the bamboo – but I think what’s actually needed is fabric with sufficient body to not collapse under its own weight. Cotton jersey without any elastane might do, or a ponte. I’m not sure what Burda used, but in the model photo it looks quite heavyweight.

Burda 111 6/2021 model photo, burdastyle.ru

The pattern has a hook and eye at the front so instead of tying the fronts they can hang loose and still provide a bit of coverage. I’m surprised to find I like it styled this way. The shape is interesting. And there’s always the option to tie the fronts up if I suddenly have to climb a ladder or something.

The back view is completely plain and the back is not at all fitted. I found it looked sloppy on me with the original loop arrangement, but oddly seems better with the fronts loose. Perhaps the weight of the fronts dragging down draws it closer in to the body.

This was made as part of my current wardrobe plan, so I’m wearing it with the trousers and crew necked t shirt (not yet blogged) from the plan. Thanks to my husband for the photos.

Burda 110 05/2008

Finally some modelled photos of Burda 110 05/2008, part of my current wardrobe sewing plan. The weather’s turned cooler so while I’d originally intended to wear it on its own, I’ve had to put the pleather leggings from the same plan and a t shirt underneath. And as we went to a park on the other side of town to take the photos there are creases and the pockets are laden down with hand sanitizer and the like. So this is definitely a realistic set of photos!

Here’s the line art. Note the distance between the bottom of the pockets and the hem; this is meant to be a very short dress.

Burda 110 05/2008 line art, burdastyle.ru

And compare with my version, which has come out a lot longer. I think the explanation might be that hem allowance was already included on the pattern pieces and then I added it again. Normally you have to add both seam and hem allowance to Burda magazine patterns, but sometimes when there is a feature at the hem like the drawstring casing here, or a turn up, the hem allowance (but not the seam allowance) is already included. I have checked the instructions and it doesn’t say it’s included, but every other version I’ve seen of this one is a lot shorter than mine. I’m not sure the longer length of mine is the best proportion on me, but it does make it wearable with bare legs.

For once Burda have come up with a pattern with an interesting side and back view. Those cargo pockets can hold a lot of stuff. I was a bit worried I’d made permanent shiny iron marks on the pocket corners while trying to press them but the fabric recovered very well after a steam. It’s Merchant and Mills 8oz sanded twill in Aubin grey. It’s a beautiful fabric: it has a very soft hand but is also sturdy. I’d definitely use it again. Burda’s fabric recommendation for this one is poplin which seems a bit on the lightweight side to me.

The belt loops held on with snaps look good but the back ones do occasionally unsnap themselves when getting out of a car.

I’m pleased with the collar and front zip. It was a lot of effort. Overall I’m not sure the style works for me though; the whole thing seems like it needs to be a bit crisper. Maybe I should have used poplin!

Thanks to my husband for patiently taking the photos as always.

Another oddity with Burda 110 5/2008

I’ve finally finished Burda 110 5/2008, a biker style mini dress with lots of fiddly details and hardware.

Burda’s famously terse instructions all worked out in the end and I’m pleased with the result, but there’s one feature I don’t understand. Here are the lower pockets, which are bellows style, so there’s a pleat strip between the front of the pocket and the dress body to allow expansion room. (Burda calls them poacher’s pockets but I don’t think I’ll be fitting any stolen rabbits into these.)

They have rivets on the bottom corners. Rivets are normally placed to reinforce areas of stress, but I’m not sure I’ve got these right. Burda’s instructions say to ‘keep the pleat piece free’ while attaching, and in the technical drawing they definitely don’t look like they are meant to go through the body of the dress.

Burda 110 5/2008 line art, Burdastyle.ru

So I’ve just put mine through the pocket front where they achieve nothing but decoration. I couldn’t even catch the seam allowances down with the rivet on most of them because I added the rivets after sewing the pockets to the dress. Had I realised earlier that they don’t go through the dress front or near the attachment seam I could have done them before, which would have been much easier.

So does anyone know how these are meant to work? I’m perfectly happy with the finished dress, and the pockets are never going to be asked to hold anything heavier than a phone, but I’m curious.

Burda 101 2/2021

This dress is a bit of a departure from usual for me. I don’t often wear colour, never mind prints. I’d originally been planning to make Burda 101 2/2021 in a very luxurious grey Tencel twill as part of my wardrobe sewing plan, but then I read some slightly worrying reviews of the pattern. Here’s the line art: what it doesn’t show is that you’re meant to cut the bodice on the bias, which combined with the weight of the long skirt means the bodice tends to grow.

Burda 101 2/2021 line art, burdastyle.ru

I didn’t want to risk my expensive fabric on a possibly dud pattern. I also couldn’t see any good reason for the bodice to be on the bias in the first place. The original Burda version is made in a horizontal stripe which produces a nice effect with the bias grain, but in a plain I thought it would work perfectly well cut straight. Time for an experiment.

Enter this mystery print fabric which has been in my stash for years. I got it on Goldhawk Road in London. It’s a lightweight twill and at the time I thought it was polyester based on the price. I did a burn test when I pulled it out for this project, and was amazed to find it’s most likely silk – certainly not polyester anyway. But I have never found a project for it and it seemed like a good choice for this one because there aren’t many seamlines to break up the print.

So I traced the pattern off and rotated the grain line on the bodice pieces. I also eliminated the centre back seam which isn’t needed if you’re cutting on the straight grain, and would interrupt the print. I completely missed that the front facing is meant to be cut on the fold and added a seam allowance to that. I made my usual fitting adjustment of lengthening the bodice. That was slightly tricky to do at the front because of the shape of the pattern pieces with the cut-on sleeves and the ties meant I couldn’t cut straight across and spread. I had to cut a step shape in the pattern piece instead, so the length got added below the cut-on sleeve at the outside edge and above the ties at centre front. And I added side seam pockets which are sewn into the waist seam at the top in an attempt to avoid sagging.

Cutting out was an ordeal. I did it single layer because of the print, which meant working on the floor. I should have stabilised the fabric with starch or gelatine because it wriggled about all over the place. Some of the cut pieces bore very little resemblance to the original pattern. And I completely messed up matching the print at the skirt side seams. I didn’t even try at the waist because the ties hide it there. But amazingly when I sewed it up it all fitted together. The print lines were useful for making sure things were on grain at the hem and waist seam.

I was really careful not to stretch out the neckline edges, but I still had to rip and resew the centre front intersection a couple of times to make it sit right. The bodice looks best slightly bloused over the ties, but the slippery fabric means it tends to slip down. I should have put some elastic in the waist seam but I didn’t have any handy.

I promise the hem isn’t as wonky as it looks, the bodice has just slipped down on one side. The sleeve bands tend to move about too: in most of the photos the right one has sneakily unfolded itself.

I do like the big block of print that ended up sitting on the upper back. The bow on the other hand just vanishes into the print.

I added a tie on the inside so I can attach the point of the v neck to my bra and avoid flashing people when I bend over. It’s a bias tube made from a scrap and caught in the stitching that attaches the facing to the centre front seam. You can also see my lazy overlocked seam finishes here. I’m forever seeing people on the Internet assert that overlocking is a sign of poor quality, but I’ve never had an overlock finished seam fray and fall apart in the wash yet.

So what’s the verdict? I like this dress and have worn it out of the house, but I won’t be making a version in the Tencel. Not because this is a terrible pattern, just a little fussy to wear. It needs plenty of ironing and the skirt isn’t a great length on me. Best kept for garden parties and summer weddings. Thanks as always to my husband for the photos.

Closet Core Patterns Blanca Flight Suit modelled photos

A woman in a black jumpsuit and yellow trainers leans against a bench

I posted about this jumpsuit last week but now I have photos of it on me, thanks to my husband, and it’s always easier to talk about fit when there are pictures to look at. This is Closet Core Patterns’ Blanca Flight Suit. I normally stick to Burda and Vogue patterns, with occasional diversions to Style Arc, but I had a clear idea of the sort of jumpsuit I wanted to make and even with ten years of Burda back issues I couldn’t find one with all the right details. Blanca had everything I was looking for, so I decided to risk an unfamiliar block and sizing system, and sprung for the paper pattern. Here’s the line art:

Technical drawing of a  jumpsuit  with various sleeve and arm options
Blanca flight suit line art, closetcorepatterns.com

It comes with several options to change the look up a bit, although nothing radical: short or long sleeves, two belt versions, two breast pocket versions, optional tabs for tapering the leg and optional press studs for tapering the arm. I added the optional tabs and press studs on mine and did the breast pockets with zips, the buckle belt, and the long sleeve. A jumpsuit is a big project so I wanted to be able to wear it a few different ways. Below is with wide sleeves and trouser legs.

A woman in a black jumpsuit and yellow trainers sits on a bench

I think one of the cleverest features about this is the back. There are top stitched pleats to give a little interest and extra reaching room. And it does need it: this is designed to be fairly snug, especially on the hips. (Excuse the keys in the pockets in the picture below).

Now obviously it would have been sensible to make a toile before diving into a big project with a pattern company I’d not tried before, especially as they have their own sizing system. But my sewing time is limited, so instead I carefully consulted the very detailed table of finished garment measurements provided to choose a size and decide on adjustments.

I ended up making the sizes my body measurements put me in (sizes plural because I am more pear shaped than the Closet Core block) but that was because my fabric is slightly stretchy; it’s Empress Mills’ 7.5oz premium denim. I added 5cm length to the bodice and sleeves, and 6cm to the leg. The body length has come out fine overall but the waistband is lower than I expected; definitely below my natural waist. And I wouldn’t want the legs any shorter.

I was slightly surprised by quite how close fitting it turned out. I knew there wasn’t any ease at the hip, but from reviews I’d read I’d expected the bodice to be more blousey. It’s not a bad thing, but I’m still debating if I can safely wear it to work. And if I made this again in a nonstretch fabric I’d size up one. As it is, it requires a slight wriggle to get on but once there it’s comfortable.

Here it is with tapered arms and legs. I wasn’t expecting to like this look as much as the wider option but in fact I think it works.

Despite the sizing surprise I’m very happy with the way it’s come out. I even found myself browsing the Empress Mills denim section to see if any of the other colours the fabric comes in caught my eye for a second version. But as I’m still slogging my way through my wardrobe sewing plan, that’s going to have to wait a while.

All the hardware: Closet Core Blanca flight suit

This is the Blanca flight suit from Closet Core Patterns. It wasn’t on my original wardrobe sewing plan, but it fits in well with the other pieces. And I wanted a project that would make use of one of my birthday presents: a hand press. This gadget makes installing press studs (or rivets, or grommets) absolutely painless. Each type of hardware needs a different set of dies which screw into the press, but once they’re on, installing hardware takes seconds and requires very little strength. No more loud hammering noises, and it sets the studs perfectly straight every time. The only problem is that it’s so simple it’s all too easy to get overconfident and install a press stud on the wrong side of the garment. Luckily there were no disasters on this project.

Blanca has press studs on the sleeves which can be used to turn the wide sleeve into a tapered one.

And tabs on the ankles which can be used to taper the leg. The pattern calls for buttonholes and buttons here but I wanted to keep things consistent, so more press studs.

It’s a very well thought out pattern with a lot of options. I went for all the bling with the zipped breast pockets and the buckle belt.

I struggled a bit with the zips on the pockets and my topstitching is distinctly wobbly. I probably would have done better with lighter weight zips. But these were a good match for the teeth on the centre front zip.

It took me a lot of searching to find the buckle. Once I figured out the right search term (surcingle, if like me you didn’t know) they’re plentiful on eBay. They seem to mainly be used for horse blankets of all things.

I was complaining about my inability to sew good belt loops the other week. These ones aren’t bad. I made them as flat as I could with the folding in three method, and kept the turn under short. I didn’t hammer them but pressed them as hard as I could before sewing them on. Still not perfect, but better than the last lot.

There’s just one thing I’d like to change about the pattern, but I’m not sure how. The underlap for the front zip has an overlocked edge that’s visible when the collar is open. That edge needs to be pretty flat so replacing it with another seam wouldn’t be great. Perhaps bias binding on the edge?

Modelled photos coming soon I hope.

Two down, seven to go

We finally managed to get some photos of my new Burda jacket on me – thanks as always to my husband for taking the photos. I’m still figuring out how to best style it. I made it as part of a wardrobe plan, but it is only the second piece I’ve completed. The dresses and trousers I intend to go underneath currently exist only in my head. But here it is with the pleather leggings from the plan. The jacket itself is Burda 105 02/2021.

This is not a garment I reach for first thing in the morning. It comes into its own when I’ve started work for the day and realise it’s a bit chilly in the attic. It goes over almost anything and the short sleeves are surprisingly practical. I don’t suppose I’ll be wearing it in the depth of winter, although I could see the style working in a heavy wool as a wearable blanket.

Here’s the Burda line art. I always like it when people show the pattern designer’s version when I’m reading a review of a pattern, as sometimes the finished object comes out very different from how you’d expect. This one is perfectly accurate though. I chose to really play up the top stitching on my version with light grey thread. It’s mostly straight lines but even so I did have to unpick a few times because there’s no hiding a wobble with this colour.

Burda 105 02/2021 line art, burdastyle.ru

I still don’t think I’ve cracked styling this. Hopefully when I complete the rest of the plan (around Christmas, at the rate I sew) I’ll have more options.