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?


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 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 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 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!

Birmingham blogger meetup

Saturday was such a great day. Marie and Kat organised a sewing blogger meetup in Birmingham. Check out Marie’s blog post for pictures. We shopped, ate noodles, swapped a ton pf patterns and fabric, and then shopped some more. But absolutely the best bit was talking to like-minded sewists all day about fabric, sewing, and patterns.

So what did we buy? Quite a few of us bought some of this sparkly heavyweight knit from the Rag Market. When I saw Kat’s I had to get some of my own. I’m seeing this as a cowl-necked, long-sleeved knit dress worn with a big belt.

Sparkly heavy knit

This one came from the Rag Market too. It’s a really bright blue with a hint of purple. My camera insists on rendering it as a sort of sky blue. I tried reading the camera manual, but no amount of fiddling with white balance and lighting was effective so what you see here is courtesy of the GIMP. The fabric itself is a lightweight, silky texture and very narrow.

Strange blue fabric

I think it would work well as something like one of these two patterns. The 80s one is one of the ones I got from Katie in the swap! And coincidentally it has a layout and yardage for 90cm fabric. Were fabrics narrower in the 80s or something?

Possible patterns for strange blue fabric

I got bright pink lining for my chartreuse coat. Claire and Alice spotted it in the Fancy Silk Store. Here are the two fabrics together. Yummy.

Coat fabric with lining

I also found the fabric for my sister’s birthday dress which was lucky because her specifications were somewhat exacting. I’m not posting a picture of it just yet because she ought to see it first, but suffice to say I’m certainly looking forward to sewing with it. (And if she doesn’t like it after all I have an alternative plan for it…is that bad?)

Thanks again Marie and Kat and everyone else who came along!