Pattern tweaks

I need to have pockets in clothes these days. I know a lot of people say they ruin the line and it’s just as easy to carry a handbag. But for me if a garment doesn’t have pockets it languishes in the wardrobe, unworn. And it often happens that I fall in love with a pattern that doesn’t have them and need to add them. This one is a case in point. It’s Burda 110B 08/2017. I found it when messing around with fantasy wardrobe plans earlier this year, and it hasn’t let go of me.

Burda 110b 08/2017 model photo

Sometimes it’s obvious where you can put pockets but this one’s a little difficult. Although the skirt is a basic pencil skirt shape with side seams, there are both pleats and gathering just where a side seam pocket would normally go.

The gathering means it also needs to be made in a fairly lightweight fabric. But as it’s close fitting that has the potential for showing off things I’d rather hide. So I’m going to add an underlining layer to give some extra coverage. My plan is to cut another set of skirt pieces but with the extra fabric for the pleats and the gathering removed. I’ll pleat and gather the outer pieces and then baste the inner pieces to the back of them.

But what about the pockets? Rather than trying to put them into that lumpy side seam I’m going to try to hide them inside the horizontal pleats. I’ve cut the outer front piece across the fold line of the middle pleat and added seam allowance, plus an extension on the top piece to form the back pocket bag. I would have added an extension to the bottom piece as well but I don’t have quite enough length of fabric to fit such a big pattern piece into the layout. Instead I’ve made a separate pattern piece for the front pocket bag that I should be able to fit elsewhere on my layout.

I’ve a feeling this one’s either going to be a triumph or a complete disaster. Wish me luck.

Burda Fantasy wardrobe planning

My sewing output isn’t what it used to be and consequently I’ve been concentrating on making practical clothes. But I’ve been enjoying making fantasy wardrobe sewing plans lately. The ‘sewing with a plan’ challenges I’ve seen up to now haven’t worked for me – the rules never produce the type of things I like to wear – but I’ve come up with my own personal challenge that I’ve been having fun with. The idea is to take a Burda magazine pattern collection and find suitable fabrics to make it up into a coherent capsule wardrobe. That’s really all there is to it.

Burda has done some collections I really love over the years: Hong Kong Garden from February 2012, Big Picture from November 2013 and New Shapes from September 2010 (the patterns for that last one are on the website but there’s no page for the collection as a whole.) But when I come to look at any of those three as the basis of a capsule wardrobe they aren’t very satisfactory: the separates don’t work together, or there are several pieces of outerwear and not a lot to go underneath them. So sadly they were all non-starters.

Right now I’m going with Ready for Business from August 2017. It’s fairly small – eight patterns – and has a good mix of pieces: three dresses, a coat, a skirt, one pair of trousers and two tops, both of which work with the skirt and the trousers. I don’t understand the title because it doesn’t look very office formal to me, but then I don’t work in an office with a dress code, so that’s all to the good.

On to the fun bit: picking colours and fabrics! I mostly wear black, white, and grey and try to stick to one colour head to toe if wearing separates. I often wear yellow shoes and handbag, so I needed colours that won’t fight with yellow.

Starting with a couple of the dresses:

110b 08/2017 is for lightweight knits. Burda’s version is stunning in white, which I’m quite tempted by, but I think it would be most practical in black. I’d use viscose-elastase jersey which is easy to find in black.

111b 08/2017 is a 60s style dress with a beautiful boat neck. Burda’s version is in wool jersey but that’s practically impossible to come by around here. I see this made up in black boiled wool which is a lot easier to source.

Moving on to the separates there’s 112a 08/2017, a boxy top, and 101 08/2017, a long narrow skirt with an interesting feature zip. I’d make both of these up in the same black boiled wool as the 60s dress, with a really nice shiny metal zip for the skirt, to make a two-piece dress. The boxy top could also be worn separately over the ruched jersey dress for a bit of extra warmth. I don’t think the top’s neckline is compatible with the 60s dress neckline though.

The other separates are 104 08/2017, a knit top with a wide drapey collar, and 121 08/2017, narrow trousers with unusual chevron shaped pockets and ankle zips. I’d make the top in the same black jersey as the ruched dress, and use black ponte knit for the trousers. They could be worn together or mixed with the black boiled wool separates.

That’s an awful lot of black. The last two items are where I’d break out into something more exciting. The last dress, 109a 08/2017, is a classic wrap dress which needs a stretchy knit. I’d make this in zebra print jersey. It’s not as easy to find as leopard print but I’ve located three options online in the UK so I think it’s viable.

And finally the coat, 108 08/2017. Everything else is so neutral that this is a safe place to go wild with colour. The original pattern calls for non-fraying fabric for a raw edge finish but it shouldn’t be hard to adjust for something more conventional. I’ve got my eye on some cerise wool/poly melton for this one. I also found a bubblegum pink wool coating. And my third option is non-fraying: a weird and wonderful silver mesh faced neoprene-alike fabric.

I estimate that’s at least six months worth of sewing for me so I doubt I’ll make all (or any!) of these up for real. But it’s fun to plan, and I am wondering if I could get away with a bright pink coat over a zebra print dress or if I’d look like a madwoman.

Top five of 2018: goals

top 5 of 2018 logo

Time for the last of the Sewing Top Five of 2018: Goals. Once again I haven’t got a tidy list of five things but I do have a big project in the early planning stages so I’ll talk about that.

A few years ago I made a winter coat from Vogue 1276. It was my first attempt at coat making but it was such a success I’m still using it. It’s starting to show its age though: the lining has ripped around the armscyes and the nap has worn off at the wrists and where I fasten the belt. Incidentally, what is it about coat linings ripping at the armscyes? Every coat I have ever had, whether ready to wear or home made, has done this. I’ve tried reinforcing the seam with tape and using stretch lining but it still happens. Anyone know how to prevent this?

So I need a new coat. I have been looking for a pattern for a while. It needs to be long: below knee length. It also needs to have a proper closure which wraps over; so many coat patterns close edge to edge which is no use in the cold. And I would prefer it to be fairly streamlined and unfussy in shape.

I think I have it down to three.

First is Burda 107 10/2011 : an ankle length double breasted coat.

I’m not wild about the buttons; I think I’d replace them with snaps. I like the size of the pockets, but patch pockets aren’t great for putting your hands in.

Then there’s the option of repeating Vogue 1276. I’d link to the pattern but it’s out of print now.

The only reason I’m dithering is I’m not sure it’s absolutely the most flattering style for me. But people often ask me where I got my current one,which is always nice! I know the pattern works and it is already traced and adjusted. And I would also like to improve on the construction I did last time. I remember being very annoyed that the pattern said to sew in the sleeve lining entirely by hand and gave the reason that it was too complicated to explain how to do it by machine. Since then I’ve learnt how to bag linings and I suspect I could make this without needing to hand sew anything.

Finally, Burda 120 10/2017 . Another one I can’t link to, unfortunately.

This seems to be a magazine exclusive; I can’t find it on the English language Burda site at all. It is one of their ‘designer’ patterns. Now obviously the colours it’s shown in are not going to be suitable for the rainy, muddy UK winter. And even if I could pick three other colours that would work, it’s doubtful I could find the chosen three in matching coating fabrics. But I think this pattern might be successful made up in one fairly light colour with top stitching to emphasise the seams. A grey would be practical and still allow the seams to be seen. But it’s a four dot pattern (Burda’s highest difficulty; there are very few of those) and there are no reviews of it that I can find, so I’m not sure what I’d be letting myself in for here. And yet I keep coming back to this one.

I’ve been going round in circles about choosing for weeks. I really want to make the last one but it’s very risky. The Vogue is a safe but slightly boring choice. And the other Burda ticks all the right boxes but somehow doesn’t thrill me. So I guess my goal is to have chosen a new winter coat before winter is actually over!

Top 5 of 2018: Highlights and reflections

top 5 of 2018 logo

On with the Sewing Top Fives of 2018. I’m combining Highlights and Reflections because I don’t have a tidy list of five of each and anyway I think they’re related.

I’ve been actively trying to change the way I plan projects and purchase fabric and patterns over the last year and a bit. I have much less sewing time than I used to, so I wanted to get more successful projects out of it. My fabric and pattern stashes were also starting to expand beyond my storage space so I had to do something about that. This is what I did and how it worked out.

The first thing I did was to catalogue everything I already had. I use spreadsheets for fabric and notions, and Pinterest for patterns. Why both? Pinterest is great for cataloguing patterns but not as good for fabric. What I want in a pattern catalogue is primarily pictures of the envelope art. I can quickly and easily find photos of most of my patterns on the web and add them to my Pinterest pattern stash board with a couple of clicks. The picture is then automatically linked back to the original web page for when I want to look up yardage or recommended fabrics. At least it is until the original page goes away: I got caught out when Vogue took down all their Donna Karan patterns and all my links broke. I should start pinning the envelope back pictures as well as the fronts but I haven’t done that systematically yet.

The Pinterest method isn’t good for fabric and notions because most of my stash wasn’t bought online so there are no handy photographs available. Even for the pieces that did come from an online shop it’s very rare for the original shop page to stick around for long; it usually vanishes once the fabric sells out. You can upload your own photos to Pinterest of course but there was no way I was going to photograph my entire fabric stash. Using a spreadsheet instead also means I can sort and filter by things like fabric length and width.

I also made a Pinterest board for my current wardrobe. This was fairly easy because I’ve been blogging for so long that I had photos of practically every item of clothing I own on the blog. This has been surprisingly useful. It helps me identify wardrobe gaps but it also reminds me what I already have so that perfectly good garments don’t get forgotten about.

Finally I keep a Pinterest board for the sewing queue with one section per project idea. It contains inspiration images, possible patterns, and sometimes fabric photos from online fabric shops. I also look through the virtual stash to see if I have suitable patterns or fabric for the project and add them to the section.

Has it worked? I think it has. I have bought far fewer patterns this year and the fabric stash is steadily reducing in size. I’ve also had quite a successful year in terms of projects: most of what I made is in regular rotation. I can also do a lot of the planning stage of a project while commuting on the bus, which frees precious sewing time.

The system definitely isn’t perfect. I’d like to do something with the spreadsheets so that I can easily access them when on the move; unfortunately everything I’ve tried so far hasn’t been very satisfactory. I also don’t have my magazine patterns catalogued, although Burda Navigator is a huge help for browsing. I don’t know of anything similar for any of the others though.

And I have to mention one more highlight: a fabric shopping trip in Birmingham with Elaine of The Demented Fairy and Kim of The Material Lady. It was a lot of fun! And thanks to the new planning regime I’ve already used two of the three bits of fabric I bought and the third is on the ironing board waiting to be cut…

Colour blocking: Burda 101-10-2014 and Vogue 1408

I’ve always loved colour blocking. And yet I haven’t made a great many colour blocked garments. It’s difficult to find suitable fabric combinations and even harder to place the colours in a pleasing way. I’ve been thinking about this a bit lately because the October issue of Burda provided an excellent example of the pitfalls. The two dresses below are from the same basic pattern, 101-10-2014. The red version is fantastic. The green and grey one doesn’t work at all. If I’d only seen the second version I’d have passed straight over the pattern.

Burda 101A-10-2014
Burda 101B-10-2014

So what is it that makes the difference? I think there are several things. The colours in the red version (which is made from a single piece of fabric with a colour gradient) work together much better than the grey and green. I agree with Jen (NY) that the colour contrast needs to be either very strong or very subtle in order to pull off colour blocking. Washed out grey and green is neither one nor the other. Another case in point: the mix of browns and textures in Vogue 1409 doesn’t work for me.

Vogue 1409 envelope photo

The second thing is the prints. Neither Burda dress is made up in flat colour fabric. The red one is matelassé, ie textured, and the grey and green fabrics are prints. The matelassé is OK because the same texture appears all over the dress, whereas the green and grey prints are in opposition to one another. Different colours and two different prints in one garment is too much fuss to be pleasing to my eye.

And finally the all-important colour placement. The change of colour halfway down the arms and body on the second dress breaks up the line in an unflattering way. I think it might have worked better with more contrasting colours – perhaps the change in colour at the waist would be good for breaking up a long torso – but the placement on the red dress is far more pleasing.

This isn’t simply theoretical. I have Vogue 1408 in my pattern queue, a style that seems made for some sort of colour or texture blocking.

Vogue 1408 envelope art

It’s hard to see on the pattern photos but I think the original is mostly black with two different greys used on the side panels and some of the skirt panels. I haven’t found any other pictures of the original dress online that made the colours any clearer. I like the layout on the original dress but I’ve also been playing about with other options in a graphics program. I started with different layouts of much the same low contrast black and grey as the original. I’m also considering using a shiny black fabric such as thin neoprene with a matte black one, so the grey in the pictures below could stand in for the shinier fabric. I’m definitely avoiding prints.

Vogue 1408 mostly black

Vogue 1408 mostly grey

I prefer the mostly black version, which probably not coincidentally is fairly close to the original; DKNY know what they’re doing!

I also tried out a version with several tones of the same colour graduating across the dress. I really like this one but it would be impossible to get the same fabric in four toning shades in practice.

Vogue 1408 in reds

I also had a go with strongly contrasting colours. I couldn’t make this work at all. The version below is the best I came up with and I don’t like it at all. I think strong contrasts probably work better with straight-edged panels rather than the very curvy ones in this style.

Vogue 1408 in teal/black/grey/white

So I think I’m probably going to go with the mostly black version, assuming I can find the right fabrics for it. Anyone else planning to make this up? Are you going for contrast or subtle?

Jumpsuits

After making four knit dresses in a row I finally feel like tackling a woven project. I am also still in need of interesting clothes that I can cycle in. I’ve been gradually improving my cycle friendly wardrobe over the last year, but I find myself wearing my Burda jeans a minimum of once a week. And then I need tops to go with them. Putting on a dress involves so much less thought than finding separates that go together.

Clearly the answer has to be a jumpsuit. All the convenience of trousers with the simplicity of a dress. Surely that makes up for the aggravation of having to take it off when going to the toilet.

So I went looking for patterns. This is the one that first caught my eye, from Burda April 2014.

burda 107-04-2014 tech drawing

I like the fact that it’s fairly smart, but that notched collar looks complicated. I’ve never made one, and tackling it for the first time with only Burda instructions for help probably isn’t going to produce a polished result.

Then there’s this one from Ralph Pink.

Ralph Pink jumpsuit tech drawing

I’ve seen a great version of this from Kazz the Spazz (sadly no longer blogging). I really like the style (click on the link, Kazz looks amazing in hers) but I’ll admit that the fact it’s a PDF pattern puts me off. I don’t mind tracing at all but I hate assembling A4 sheets.

I’m also not convinced I could do a good enough job with the fly on this one. The instructions say something brief at the end along the lines of ‘attach buttons and work buttonholes in your fly to match’. I’m not sure it works to wait until the very end to make buttonholes in a fly; wouldn’t you want to do it before the whole thing was assembled? Kazz left her buttons off altogether but I’d be worried about the whole thing falling open if I did that! I think this might be a pattern to leave until I’ve got some more experience.

Burda have produced many jumpsuit patterns over the last few years.

burda-103-10-2010 tech drawing

This is Burda 103-10-2010. It looked considerably less boxy in the model photo where it was made up in grey silk and worn with a belt. I think I’d take off the breast pockets. Who needs pockets right over their boobs?

burda-119-05-2010 tech drawing

And this is 119-05-2010. I like the elasticated ankles. This was styled as a safari look in the magazine. I think this one needs the pocket flaps to make the style work, but I’m not keen on sewing fiddly details that are not functional. Yes, I’m very lazy.

And finally the one I’m actually planning to make, Burda 130-09-2011.

burda-130-09-2011 tech drawing

I like the casual drapiness of this style and the turnups at the wrists and ankles. There are no really fussy details. It’s not very fitted, which is probably a good thing as I’ve changed shape a bit and will be trying a new size in Burda in future. The plan is to make it up in a brown cupro fabric I have that looks like washed silk. Fingers crossed!

Ridiculous patterns: planning Vogue 1335

Vogue 1335 envelope art

Anyone remember this Guy Laroche jacket, V1335 from the autumn 2012 Vogue patterns? The considered opinion of the blogosphere at the time was that it is ridiculous, but I confess I’ve always rather liked the style. It’s had a place on my sewing shortlist ever since it came out. I got some bargain wool melton in winter white last month, so the time has finally come to make it up. It may work out well or I may end up looking like a big white football.

Here’s the line drawing. I think there’s a mistake in it. In the photo the front closure is clearly asymmetrical but in the line drawing it looks almost centered. The pattern pieces look much more like the version in the photo.

Vogue 1335 line art

I was curious enough about this one to go and look up the original. You can see a photo at http://nowfashion.com/guy-laroche-ready-to-wear-fall-winter-2011-paris-302?photo=12856. It’s very different: made up in brilliant scarlet, with much less ease, and a double-breasted button closure. It is heresy to say I prefer Vogue’s version? Although I do wonder a bit about the ease. Here are the finished garment measurements:

 

6 8 10 12 14
biceps 17¼” 17⅝” 18″ 18½” 19″
bust 55½” 56½”” 57½” 59″ 61″
waist 42½” 43½”” 44½” 46″ 48″
lower edge width 40½” 41½”” 42½” 43¼” 45¾”
length 26″ 26¼”” 26½” 26¾” 27″

I’m not sure how meaningful the bust measurement is. The armscyes are so dropped that they fall well below the bustline; in fact they aren’t far above the natural waist. However the waist measurement is unambiguous. That’s got nearly 20″ of ease in it. The lower edge looks as if it falls at hip level and is two inches smaller than the waist, giving a much more reasonable 8″ of ease or thereabouts. It’s an interesting silhouette, that’s for certain. I considered going down a few sizes, but even the smallest size would still have bags of room in it. And really the point of this style is the oversized shape, so I’ve cut out the pattern in my usual Vogue size and just added length.

On the subjectr of adding length, it’s one of those annoying ‘no provision provided for above waist adjustment’ designs. I think that’s because the very dropped armsyce gets in the way of drawing the usual adjustment lines. I simply added the length I needed just below the armscye. I don’t think anyone is going to notice if the bust point isn’t in the right place on this one.

The pattern calls for interfacing on the facings and neck bands. I’m planning to add quite a bit more: the fronts, backs, and the top of the sleeves. I don’t want the jacket to collapse into drapey folds when worn!

Watch this space. Hopefully the Michelin Man will be appearing here soon.

2012 inspirations and 2013 goals

I’m running a bit late with this, given that it’s now 12th night so we’re well into 2013. But here are the last two top fives!

Top 5 of 2012

It is really difficult to pick only five bloggers that inspired me in 2012. I get half my sewing inspiration from other people’s blogs. But here are five who particularly influenced me this year.

  • Allison‘s blog is one of the first I ever discovered. I love her style. This year I shamelessly copied her Burda 116-08-2011 dress, including the way she fastens the belt, and it’s my current favourite dress.
  • Kazz‘s style is a riot of colour and interesting shapes. She inspires me to be bolder!
  • Chanel No. 6 is always sharp, witty, and full of interesting observations. Her series on safari style has got me seriously considering trying it out.
  • Pretty Grievances posts hilarious critiques of designer fashion on Wednesdays and always makes me see things I wouldn’t have spotted on my own.
  • Petit Main Sauvage is the most amazingly talented seamstress. If I ever get round to drafting my own sloper it’ll be because of seeing the beautiful things she drafts for herself.

And finally goals for 2013. When it comes to sewing I am not a good planner. I have a huge but ever-changing sewing queue and I sew what I feel like at the moment I feel like it. But here’s what’s on my list at the moment. Any resemblance to what I actually produce this year is unlikely!

  • Make the sparkly Christopher Kane knock-off dress I was planning before Christmas.
  • Vogue 8825, a very 70s raglan-sleeved dress with amazing bell sleeves. I want to make it in electric blue chiffon. This is a huge gamble because the pattern is for knits!
  • Burda 138-11-2012, a vintage sheath dress with a lovely high collar and interesting front pleats. I have some dark green stretch fabric that ought to be perfect.
  • I want to make something from the Drape Drape books. Not quite sure what yet. I got the English edition of the first one for Christmas.
  • And finally one that isn’t a sewing project: get brave enough to take outfit photos somewhere more interesting. Right now most of the photos we take are in front of the brick wall of the garages on my street. It’s a nice backdrop (and amuses my neighbours) but some variety would be nice.

Having said all that, right now I’m hard at work on my sister’s birthday dress. I forgot how difficult it is to match checks so it might be a while!

Oooh sparkly

This is about a dress that is coming about purely through luck.

Back in November Marie and Kat organised a blogger meetup in Birmingham. It was a lot of fun and amongst other things I came back with this fabric, a doubleknit with a metallic fibre on one side. I didn’t spot it myself; Kat pointed it out to me.

Sparkly heavy knit

I was originally planning to make Burda 118A-10-2012, a long-sleeved cowl necked dress with waist gathers. But recently I was flipping through my pile of pages ripped out of fashion mags inspiration folder and came across this picture. It’s a Christopher Kane. The picture had no date but a bit of trawling through style.com showed it’s from fall 2007. Clearly the sparkly fabric was meant to be a knock-off of this dress.

Christopher Kane Autumn 2007

The Christopher Kane dress has raglan sleeves. Also strange bolt-like bits on the shoulders that I am not going to copy.

I went through my whole pattern collection and found I didn’t have a single close-fitting raglan-sleeved knit dress or t-shirt pattern. Even my collection of Burdas had nothing. I vaguely thought about drafting something; I even got Metric Pattern Cutting off the shelf and looked up the appropriate chapter. And then I put it back because drafting involves rearranging furniture to make enough space to draw, and also requires daylight which is short supply in the UK in December.

Then a three-for-one Vogue pattern sale happened and I realised the knit dress from Vogue 8866 could save me from the dreaded drafting. The collar and sleeves should be fairly easy to extend.

Vogue 8866 line art

Of course no sewing has actually happened yet, what with Christmas and all. But the fabric’s in the washing machine and the pattern has been ironed ready for when things return to normal.

Have a great Christmas!

On changing my mind

The coat project rumbles on. But something far more exciting happened that I want to tell you about first: I was interviewed by Joanne of Stitch and Witter! She’s been doing a series of interviews with sewing bloggers about their personal style. I’ve been realy enjoying reading it, and I’m so flattered to be picked. I love reading about how other people dress themselves – or maybe I should say I’m incurably nosy. My interview’s at http://stitchandwitter.com/2012/11/22/my-handmade-style-catherine-daze/. You can read Joanne’s whole series here.

So on to the coat. I had a major change of mind about it; specifically the fabric I’m using.

Here’s the technical drawing. The original was made up in plain white wool which looked fantastic. I liked the very stark, plain effect with just the seamlines for interest so I knew I’d want to use a solid-coloured smooth-faced fabric. Sticking with white would clearly have been insane because it doesn’t suit me and it would need dry-cleaning every five minutes. Besides, I have never seen pure white wool coating on sale anywhere.

Burda 104-12-2011 technical drawing

The green fabric came in a pack of samples from Stone Fabrics and I fell in love with the colour. Here it is with the pink lining I got to go with it.

Coat fabric with lining

But I’ve been having major doubts about this project and I think I’ve finally worked out why. I think all I am going to see on the finished coat is the green. The style isn’t bold enough to stand up to the fabric. I think the fabric would work as something short and dramatic like Colette Patterns’ Lady Grey though. That’s a pattern that’s been lurking on my to-sew list for some time.

So I’m making the Burda coat up in this fabric instead. It’s a stone coloured woven wool coating with a very slight nap. From the right side you can’t see the weave at all. I included my hand and the paper pattern in the picture to give a better idea of the colour.

Stone coloured wool coating

Once I decided to switch fabric and use the green for Lady Grey I started feeling a whole lot better about the original project. So I am going to end up sewing two coats this winter after all!