Fitting Style Arc’s Genevieve jacket

No pretty finished project photos in this post I’m afraid; in fact quite the opposite. This is my toile of Style Arc‘s Genevieve jacket. It’s a long line jacket with an asymmetrical closure and a collar I’m not quite sure how to describe. You know what, here’s the technical drawing.

Style Arc Genevieve technical drawing

The suggested fabrics cover a huge range of possibilities: wool cashmere, boiled wool, ponte, brocade and linen. So in my mind that covers both stable knits and wovens, and goes all the way from fairly crisp fabrics (brocade) to floppy (linen). Hopefully that just means that the collar looks good no matter what the degree of drape. Not that it matters as I’m using none of these. My fabric is a mediumweight grey denim with a bit of stretch and an unusual brushed finish on the wrong side.

I’ve made a few Style Arc patterns before and been very impressed with the drafting, but the patterns were all drapey sack dress type things that required next to no fitting. I don’t know how the more close-fitting styles come out. Style Arc have a reputation for having much less ease than Big Four patterns though, so I was expecting to make a bigger size than I do in Vogue. I did a bit of googling and found lots of people saying the size chart is accurate and in particular you should go with your shoulder width for picking a pattern size. Which put me two sizes down at the bust from what I expected and one size down from what I make in Vogue…it didn’t seem very likely. The hip and waist sizes I got seemed much more plausible. So for once I made a toile.

I should mention here that my copy of the pattern is multisized so I could easily blend between the three different sizes I needed. If you buy Style Arc paper patterns direct from the Style Arc site you only get a single size in the envelope. Multisized paper versions are available through Amazon, but not in the full range of styles. Confusingly, you can also buy PDFs from the Style Arc site that come in your chosen size plus one either side. At least you have options!

So here it is. Excuse the hem, I was way too lazy to pin up the hem allowance so it’s just folded and has dropped down in places. I did fold up the sleeve hems.

And actually it’s pretty good. The front seems to fit well. The sleeve length is technically OK but I like my sleeves long so I’m adding a bit more.

Style Arc Genevieve toile front

I need more room in the upper back I think; both length and a tiny bit of width. After rummaging through some fitting books I think a ’rounded back adjustment’ will do at least some of what I’m looking for. It means adding a shoulder dart. And if I wasn’t making this in a stretch fabric I think I’d size up.

Style Arc Genevieve toile back view

Everything on the toile matched up perfectly except in one place: the diagonal style lines were off by 5mm at the side seams. You can just see it below. I’m certain it wasn’t a sewing error but I may have messed up when making length adjustments. I’m honestly not sure how I did that. Anyway it’s easy to fix.

Style Arc Genevieve toile

I know I am now supposed to go and make a second toile to check I have all this right, but I don’t have the energy. Also I have run out of calico. So I’ve adjusted the pattern as best I can and now full speed ahead with the good fabric. Let’s see what happens.

Short and simple: Rick Owens inspired knit top

Rick Owens style top front

If you’ve been reading sewing blogs for a while you’ll have heard of frosting sewing versus cake sewing. Or for those of us in the U.K., icing versus cake. Icing is the pretty, impractical stuff we love to sew but rarely wear, and cake is practical basics. This is a cake project: a simple black long-sleeved t-shirt in wool jersey. I know I will wear this until it goes into holes.

I’ve made a couple of these before using a pattern I mashed together from an old McCalls dress pattern (no, I don’t know why this seemed like a good starting point either) and while I loved them and wore them to destruction they nevertheless had a few fitting niggles. So this time I started off with the close fitting stretch t-shirt block from Metric Pattern Cutting for Womenswear and adapted from there. I was going for a combination of these two Rick Owens tops: the shaped hem of the tank with the ultra long sleeves of the t-shirt.

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I copied the raw hems and the feature centre back seam of the originals. My centre back seam is just overlocked wrong sides together with the four thread overlocker stitch and pressed to one side. I find it surprisingly difficult to sew that seam correctly because my brain’s so used to doing it the other way. I have to keep chanting ‘wrong sides together, wrong sides together’ to remind myself.

Rick Owens style top back

I like it a lot. It’s not totally perfect: I’m wearing it over a long sleeved cotton t-shirt in these pictures which tends to produce extra wrinkles, but even so I’ll add a touch more ease next time as I don’t think all the wrinkling is down to the extra layer. The good news is that the fabric is a reorderable one – John Kaldor Isabella wool/viscose jersey – so I can get the exact same fabric again for next time. I might also shorten it a little but I haven’t quite made my mind up about that yet. The fabric was a birthday present and it’s lovely! Warm, stretchy, great recovery. It’s also extra wide: 170cm, so I got this top out of only one metre.

Rick Owens style top side

This was such a quick project to sew.   Cutting out took about five minutes and sewing maybe an hour and a half, and that’s only because I was going very slowly and carefully because I didn’t want to risk making a mistake with the posh fabric. 

I sewed it with size 75 stretch needles. I guess you could construct something like this entirely on the overlocker, but I did the seams on the sewing machine first for accuracy. I find if I sew with a fairly long stitch length even a straight stitch has enough elasticity to use on a knit. 

Already planning another one of these in another colour…maybe in the gunmetal grey.

Rick Owens style top side hands in pockets

Cognitive dissonance – Burda 103-07-2010

Burda 103-07-2010 bronze jeans

I usually blog about projects very soon after I’ve finished them; often before I’ve worn the garment in ‘real life’. These trousers are an exception I finished them a couple of weeks ago and have lost count of the number of wears they’ve had. They’re one of my current favourites. And yet, when I come to look at the photos, they just aren’t quite right.

The pattern is my tweaked version of Burda 103-07-2010, which I’ve made many times before. They are jeans style trousers with the side seams shifted a long way forward and a section seam down the back of the leg. I have lowered the rise about 5cm from the original pattern, and added a bit around the hips. The fit is all kinds of wrong and has been in every version I’ve made. Lots of excess fabric under the bum and the legs are too long. 

I am forever cursed to make trousers that are too long because of years of not being able to find RTW with sleeves and legs long enough. I’m so afraid of cutting anything too short that I always end up erring on the other side.

Burda 103-07-2010 bronze jeans

The fabric is unusual: a blackish stretch denim with some dark gold metallic threads. Unfortunately the metallic threads are a bit irritating to the skin so I always have to wear leggings underneath these, but it was easier to sew with than many metallic fabrics I’ve tried. It washed beautifully and didn’t mind being pressed even on a high heat. The fabric was unusually narrow for denim and I needed every scrap of two metres to make these. I bought it on Goldhawk Road last year. The sparkle is fairly subtle in real life; these pictures were taken in glaring sunlight.

Burda 103-07-2010 bronze jeans

The fly front on these gave me no end of trouble. I’d shortened the rise on the original pattern, but I think I must have forgotten that when I consulted Burda’s instructions to find out what length zip to buy. The zip is far too long and that led to me ripping out the fly and restitching it some ridiculous number of times. I don’t notice it when I’m wearing it but you can probably see it’s out of proportion in the picture below.

Burda 103-07-2010 bronze jeans

So they were massively aggravating to sew, they don’t fit right, and if I’m honest they’re not exactly the most flattering pair of trousers I own. I don’t think the unusual side seam position is doing me any favours. But I suspect I’ll carry on wearing them a lot; they’re comfortable and practical. I think it might be time to move on from this pattern at last and try one of the many other Burda options for slim trousers next time though.

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Fitting the Burda x-wrap dress

Burda 106-04-2014

This was my first version of Burda 106-04-2014. No sooner than it was finished I started working on a second one and took the opportunity to tweak the pattern a little. The version above isn’t bad, but the sleeves are a little constricting and I felt I could do with a bit more room in the bust. I don’t know you’re meant to do a full bust adjustment on this sort of pattern but here’s what I’ve done. The picture below is the front pattern piece, which is cut on the fold.

Burda 106-04-2014 front pattern piece

In the pictures below red areas are bits I’ve added and blue is where I have taken away. I slid a chunk of the front out sideways to give a bit more bust room, and reduced the shoulder width so that the shoulder seam would be sitting on my shoulder point rather than slightly over it.

Burda 106-04-2014 alterations

Those two changes affected the length of the armscye so I had to make the sleeve wider to match. No bad thing as the original sleeves felt slightly tight; I’d been planning to flatten the sleeve cap anyway.

Burda 106-04-2014 sleeve alterations

That’s it for fitting alterations, but the fabric I’m using is slightly transparent and so I also needed to do something about the neckline finish. The original design has a skinny back neck facing which is a single interfaced layer, overlocked on the outer edge. That clearly isn’t going to look good in a sheer fabric. Also the facing didn’t behave well on the first version and had to be top-stitched down to keep it in place.

I did a bit of snoop shopping to see how this sort of thing would be handled in ready to wear clothes. I found very few summer dresses with facings. Most were lined. A few, mainly in casual fabrics, had the neckline seam covered with a strip of binding. The ones which did have facings all had a centre back zip with the facings sewn to the zip tape to hold them down. The facings themselves were invariably much wider than those on the Burda design.

I didn’t fancy trying to bind the neckline seam in slippery silk, and I had nothing to line the dress with, so I had to stick with a facing. Although the original design has no centre back seam I had already had to add one because of a shortage of fabric, so I figured I could sew the facing to the seam allowances on that or stitch in the ditch to hold it in place. To try to make it look nicer I made the facings much wider around the neck than the original and cut two copies of each piece. Those then get sewn right sides together at the outer edge and turned out to give a facing with slightly more body than a single layer and a very clean finish to the edge.

Burda 106-04-2014 facing alterations

And here’s what it looks like. Acceptable if not brilliant, and probably the best I could manage with lightweight silk. It is not well-pressed for excellent reasons I shall go into in my next post, and I should have done a french seam on the centre back but life’s too short. It’s wearable and the facings stay put and that’ll do.

Facings on orange x-wrap dress

Next up, modelled finished object pictures.

Silver brocade trapeze dress

This Burda pattern has been on my to-sew list for a long while. It’s 120-01-2012, a short trapeze-line design. This is a pattern that I was drawn to the moment I saw it, but put off making because of a fear that the trapeze shape wouldn’t work on me.
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Here’s the line drawing. The dress has a tiny yoke with a very high neckline attached to a six-panel a-line dress body. There are invisible zips in the right shoulder and side seams and side seam pockets.
Burda 120-01-2012 technical drawing

The fabric is a poly brocade from Minerva Crafts. At the time of writing it’s still available here. It’s quite floppy so I underlined it with poly organza. I also lined the entire dress, partly to help with maintaining the a-line shape, and partly to get an easy clean finish on the lower armscyes. The original version only has the yoke lined. You are supposed to finish the lower armscye with self fabric bias tape. I have no faith in my ability to do that neatly with fraying polyester fabric! Instead I made up the dress body in lining fabric and stitched it to the fashion fabric dress right sides together along the armscyes, clipping the lining at the ends of the armscyes. After turning and pressing I sewed the yoke to the dress, keeping the linings on both pieces free, and pressed the seams onto the yoke. Finally I stitched in the ditch on the yoke seams, catching the previously pressed under edge of the yoke lining.

The dress holds its shape quite well. It could probably be improved by adding something like horsehair braid to the hem. These photos were taken straight after pressing so you’re seeing it at its best. Unusually I didn’t feel the need to take any length off the hem, which makes me think this one comes up very short. I did have to adjust the neckline. As drafted it’s uncomfortably high at the front. I deepened it about 2cm and it’s still a touch too high.

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I found it very difficult to get the hem level and I’m not sure I succeeded. I aimed to have it level for my normal posture, and you can see here that it makes a considerable difference if I stand slightly straighter. There are a few problems with the fit: the yoke is a little too tight and the side seams are swinging forward, probably because I made no attempt at a full bust adjustment. If I make this again I’ll probably go up a size and make the front skirt pieces longer and wider. But I think this version is good enough to wear.

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The back is entirely plain but here’s a picture of it anyway.

 

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The pattern is not quite as easy to sew as it appears at first sight because of the shoulder zip. Finishing off the lining at the outside shoulder edge on the side with the zip is very fiddly indeed. I had to hand sew a little because I just couldn’t get at the last bits with the machine.

I think the shape works ok in practice. I was half-expecting to end up with a dress that I wouldn’t want to wear out of the house. I suspect the key is to keep it short. I wouldn’t rule out making this pattern again some time, although I’ll pick fabric with a lot more body.

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Hits and misses

Ever have the impression you’ve been sewing a lot of duds? This year my productivity has been down and I seem to have produced more failures than usual. Right now I can’t sew at all because I’m in the middle of moving and everything is packed up. So it seems like a good time to try to work out how to improve the hit rate for when I can get at my sewing machines again. Is it that I’m choosing the wrong patterns? The wrong fabric? Or something else?

So here are the failures. First of all, Vogue 1317. This really should have worked. It’s a Chado Ralph Rucci pattern, and the (fake) suede I made it up in has a wonderful texture. However I think I’ve only worn it once or twice. The fit is off, and the sleeves on it are drafted in such a way that you can’t raise your arms. It makes for a great shoulder line but it drives me up the wall when I have the dress on. I bought some more suede to have another go at it, but since then I’ve seen some suede skinny trousers, and they appeal much more than another attempt at this pattern.

Vogue 1317

Burda 134-06-2012 also ought to have worked; horrible fabric choice and sizing problems killed it. I might try this one again at some point though. The fit problems (tight skirt, weird length on the bodice) are easy to fix and there’s always more fabric out there. Again I think it would be better in a knit than the woven I used.

Burda 134-06-2012 front view

Vogue 8825 didn’t even get finished. It’s lurking in a plastic bag right now. I can’t quite bring myself to chuck it out yet, but I know I’m never going to complete it. It’s a beautiful pattern, but the style’s really not me.

Vogue 8825 envelope

And then we have two that seemed quite successful at the time, but I haven’t worn as much as I expected.

My violet version of Burda 122-09-2010 looks nice, but it’s too tight and short to be entirely comfortable. I love the pattern, and have other versions that were much better; it just needs a fabric with more stretch than this one. The twin needle hem has broken in a few places but I have no desire to make this any shorter by hemming it again.

Burda 122-09-2010

And Vogue 8866 photographs really well…but I rarely find the right occasion to wear it. And again it’s a little too tight. I’ll certainly make it again, but this version really belongs in the dressing up box.

Vogue 8866

So do they have anything in common? With most of them the problem is that they don’t fit. Which makes sense, because I only stopped wearing ready-to-wear because home-made clothes are so much more comfortable. It’s reassuring that the problem is likely to be fixable: it’s not that I’m sewing the wrong things all the time, just the wrong sizes – or the wrong sizes for the chosen fabric anyway. Hopefully once I get my new sewing space into a usable state my hit rate will improve.

New fabric horizons

Vogue 1317

This dress is made from the most amazing polyester suede fabric. It’s so strokable that every time I put the project down I found myself missing the texture. It comes from Minerva Crafts in a range of colours. It was easy to sew. I needed to use a leather needle but otherwise it was just like any heavy woven.

The pattern is Vogue 1317, a recent Chado Ralph Rucci design. Suede is one of the suggested fabrics on the envelope back otherwise I doubt I’d have thought of it. The other suggestion is lightweight doubleknit. Here’s Vogue’s version. I’m not sure which, if either, theirs is made from. Or what the photographer was thinking when asking for that pose from the model.

Vogue 1317 envelope art

What’s not entirely obvious from either photo is all the top-stitching on this style. There’s a lot: like many of the Chado Ralph Rucci styles almost every seam is edge-stitched and top-stitched. The line art gives some idea of what’s involved. It took me two weeks of serious sewing to complete it all.

Vogue 1317 technical drawing

This is the back gusset seam on my dress. I made an effort with the top-stitching here so it’s fairly even (for me). As the project wore on and on and some major fitting issues become apparent I got a lot more slapdash! Luckily it’s not obvious unless you get very close.

Vogue 1317 topstitching detail

Where this dress went wrong is the sizing. I’d read some reviews which said that it came up very small so I checked the finished garment measurements on the pattern carefully and based on those went up a size from my usual Vogue size. Even then I needed to let out almost the whole of the extra wide seam allowance at the centre back seam. You’re supposed to use that extra allowance to do a bias bound finish on the fabric edges without the zip tape getting in the way. As it is those edges are simply zigzagged and very untidy, but at least I can zip the dress up. Either the finished garment measurements are optimistic, I’ve got a lot bigger, or something I did in the processing of the seams has taken out some width.

This is about the best picture I’ve got of the back. It looks like I’ve lengthened the bodice a bit too much although I’m sure some of those wrinkles are just from the way I’m standing. I certainly overdid lengthening the sleeves.

Vogue 1317

It has tiny little pockets. They’re slightly bigger than this picture makes them appear but you couldn’t safely put a phone or a lot of keys in them. I don’t think they’re entirely useless though. It’s always good to have somewhere to stash a tissue or some screws you just took out of something and don’t want to lose.

Vogue 1317

Although this hasn’t been a completely successful project I can’t help thinking there’s a really great dress somewhere in this pattern. The shape is lovely and the suede fabric is wonderfully tactile. I’ve got some more polyester suede and I’m going to try again, with a bigger size this time. But first I’ll make something nice and easy, I need a break!

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