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.

Probable failure: Vogue 1268

Not every sewing project works out well. Here is a recent failure: Vogue 1268 in green fake suede fabric. You might be thinking it’s pretty strange to make a long-sleeved, lined, polyester dress in summer and you’d be right. Not all stash-busting is a good idea. And that was only the first mistake.

V1268 is a Guy Laroche designer pattern that came out a few years ago. The envelope photo is below. It’s got an unusually baggy top half, and all the reviews of the pattern that I’ve found mention that the bodice runs very long. After reading the reviews I checked the back length on the pattern tissue. It has a handy marking to show how much blousing there’s meant to be, and it’s a very generous amount. If you remove the blousing allowance then the back length matches the Vogue measurement chart, to which I’d normally add 5cm, but given the reviewers’ comments I left the bodice length alone and added about 5cm to the skirt length instead. I also added side seam pockets, hem facings, and tweaked the lining pattern so I could do a bagged lining with the skirt lining completely attached to the hem and front facings. The original dress has a raw hem on the shell fabric and the lining is hemmed separately and attached to the dress at the front facings and waist seam. 

Here’s the back view. I didn’t do a good job on pressing the hem but let’s ignore that for now. There’s a bit of pulling at the back hip which I notice is present on Vogue’s model too. The waist is close-fitting. I made my usual size (for Vogue this is one size down from what the size chart indicates) and while it’s not uncomfortable there isn’t a lot of expansion room at the waist. I probably should have traced a size bigger. This seems to be happening more and more with Vogue for me despite checking the finished garment measurements before cutting. But overall the back isn’t bad.

But now look at it from the side. The right bodice front is much too long and sags unattractively over the waist seam. There is no sign of this in the pattern photo, but the model’s shoulders are amazingly square. Could there be shoulder pads in there? I could swear the pattern doesn’t mention them. It might explain why the sleeves are a bit longer on me than the model too.

I thought about trying to take up the extra length at the waist seam but the slanting shape of the right skirt front means this involves losing width in the wrap, and I really don’t like wrap dresses with a skimpy overlap. I finished the dress in the hope that it would be wearable in the end despite the bodice, but I’m pretty dubious now I’ve tried it on.
On the good side: my bagged lining worked perfectly. Behold the entirely machine-finished hem/facing/lining junction! And just ignore the lack of pressing.

There are other good things about this make. The sleeves went in easily, which was good because the fake suede does not like to be eased, and they are comfortable to wear with a good range of motion. I like the cuffs too. In fact if I’d shortened the bodice front on the pattern in advance I think I’d be really pleased with the result. 

I’m going to hang onto the dress until the autumn as I don’t think I’ll know how truly wearable it is until cold weather comes along. My hopes are not high but perhaps the magic wardrobe will transform it in the next few months.

In two minds: Drape Drape 2 No 11 one piece dress

Drape drape 2 no 11 bodice closeup

This dress is from the Drape Drape books by Hisako Sato: specifically Drape Drape 2 style number 11. It’s an unusual pattern even by Drape Drape standards: there is only one pattern piece for the whole dress and it’s absolutely gigantic. The logistics of cutting out such a style at home would normally put me right off, but I was looking out for an interesting breastfeeding-friendly pattern that I could make quickly from stash fabric, and this ticked all the boxes. The neckline falls well below the bra band: I’m planning to wear it with a tank top underneath.

It takes nearly two metres of extra wide (165cm) fabric. You also need to cut a rectangular strip of self-fabric to make a casing for the waist elastic and provide a couple of cuff pieces to finish off the sleeves. I have the Japanese language edition of the book and I know no Japanese so I can’t tell what the recommended fabrics for the style are. Going by the pictures the body is done in a very drapey knit; I’d guess a single knit; and the cuffs are some sort of sequinned stretch fabric. I used an extra wide lightweight viscose single knit from Tissu Fabrics that had been lying around in my stash for a couple of years. Amazingly it’s still available for sale here at the time of writing. The cuffs are a doubled piece of the body fabric.

The only place in the house where I could easily make room to spread enough fabric out was the conservatory, which has a tiled floor. Hard on the knees, although it was nice to have lots of light while cutting. I had to pin the pattern piece to the fabric before cutting. Normally I use weights not pins, but I didn’t have enough weights to hold the shifty fabric in place so it was pins or nothing. This wasn’t ideal as they left a few holes in the rather fragile fabric. Transferring the markings was a challenge too. I cut out right side up but needed to mark the waistline casing on the wrong side. I was a bit dubious about using dressmaker’s carbon paper over the hard tiles so I pinned along the casing lines as well as around the pattern edges and then after I’d cut around the edges I flipped the lot over and chalked along the pins marking the casing. I guess tailor tacks would have been a better option but I didn’t have sufficient patience for that!

Sewing was far easier than cutting out. You could easily sew this up in an evening although I did take a couple of shortcuts: it’s not hemmed yet and I skipped making the openings in the overarm seams because in my opinion that feature really reduces wearability.

And here it is. Dressform shots only because my baby has not yet arrived and the waist is not compatible with a bump.

Drape Drape 2 no 11 front
Drape drape 2 no 11 back

It hasn’t come out how I expected. The first peculiar thing is that my version hangs completely differently than the one in the book. In the book version the skirt hangs evenly whereas mine’s really pulling to one side. My fabric has only one-way mechanical stretch which might explain this. Two-way stretch fabric with some lycra would probably have worked better.

The second odd thing is the sleeves. Now admittedly this is probably made worse by choosing insufficiently stretchy fabric, but the left sleeve is incredibly tight; I can’t raise my left arm above shoulder height. The first picture is the left sleeve and the second is the right. Hopefully you can see from the pics that the left sleeve is skinny and grows out of the waistline whereas the right sleeve is wider and starts higher up. It’s hard to say how much of a problem this is right now because it’ll fit me differently once the baby is here, but the sleeve lacks mobility even on the dressform so I’m not optimistic.

Left:

Drape Drape 2 no 11 left sleeve

Right:

Drape Drape 2 no 11 right sleeve

So as yet I don’t know if this is going to be a wearable dress or not. It was fun to make and I’m glad I finally found something to do with the fabric, but I may have to file this in the ‘failed experiments’ pile. Drape Drape often works out like that for me. I have made up a few different ones and they either become huge favourites or never get worn at all. Oddly enough, I’ve even had one pattern turn out both ways when made up in different fabrics. I’ll try to come back with a wearability update on this one at some point.

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