The project list is reorganised because of new Vogue patterns

It’s New Vogue pattern time! And this collection is much more to my taste than the last one. But first an update on the venerable Vogue 1073, which is progressing. I have pretty much finished the shell and now I’m tackling the lining. This dress is definitely going to need lining. It doesn’t help that my dressform is wearing her usual black t-shirt in the pictures, but the fashion fabric is definitely less than opaque.

Inserting the zip has been the worst part so far. I wouldn’t normally bother with one in a knit, but this dress has such a high neckline you couldn’t get it over your head without it. Normally zips hold no fears for me but this one took four goes to get in without going wavy. The solution turned out to be to interface the back opening edges. It’s still a bit wavy but so much better than before. I’m pretty pleased at how well I got the waist seams to match at the zip.

And I can report that each pair of pintucks on the body took 35 minutes to sew if you include the thread tracing and pressing. There are six pairs. My next project is definitely going to be something that sews up more quickly than this.

And speaking of next projects, I think I’m sorted for project ideas until 2012 and beyond. The new Vogues are out, in the US anyway, and I assume they’ll hit the UK in the next week or two, and there are some really good ones.

Everyone seems to like V1265 and it’s definitely my favourite. I’m wondering if I could get away with this at work with a contrasting vest underneath, because it’s unfortunately bra-unfriendly. I bet you get a good swish off that back skirt though!

I’m surprised I like V1268 as much as I do. It’s very 1980s, which might be what saves it from the country and western look you’d normally get with that much orangey-brown suede. I bet it would look great in grey.

And then there’s V1276, a coat pattern with a hood! This one is a Today’s Fit, which have completely different sizing from the main range.

As for the rest, there’s a lot of designer party dresses shown in very shiny blue fabrics. There are lots and lots and lots of jackets. There’s a pair of jeans. The Very Easy range has two ‘custom fit’ day dresses which come with pattern pieces for different cup sizes, although I can’t help thinking they have strangely similar necklines. About the only thing that’s missing is some more interesting skirts. Definitely a good collection. I hope it gets to the UK soon.

How to look like a hot air balloon

I have Vogue 1238 on my project queue. This is a dress that could definitely go very wrong with a bad choice of fabric. The suggested fabrics are ‘moderate stretch knits only’. Vogue’s version is made in tasteful shades of beige, one shiny, one dull.

The chances of my being able to find that sort of fabric at a reasonable price (for reasonable read ‘extremely cheap because this highly experimental dress needs the best part of 4 yards so forget making it out of silk jersey’) are slim to non-existent. Besides I think beige might make me look even more corpse-like than normal. Although at least there’s no danger of being mistaken for a weather balloon.

Here are some colour combinations I might be able to find in stretch fabrics.



None of them looks quite right to me. I can’t help wondering if this would work with a really lightweight woven cut on the bias as the contrast fabric. Maybe something black with a bit of sheen combined with matt black jersey.

Of course what this is really about is avoiding sewing the Burda dress with pleather bits that’s sitting on my sewing table. I’ll run out of excuses soon.

Managing the project queue

Ever buy fabric or a pattern for a project and then never use it because something else came along and distracted you? I’m not so bad with fabric, but I do have a box full of patterns that haven’t been made up yet. And unless I keep getting the things out of the box I forget what I’ve got planned. The ones below are just the current top six or seven. I mean ten.

I’ve tried a few things to keep track of projects in the past. Notebooks are OK but I like to be able to easily add photos and not have to carry something heavy around with me. A lot of people like Evernote, which is a powerful general notetaking service, but I don’t get on with any of the clients or even the web version for some reason. Pattern Review‘s pattern stash feature is just that – a pattern list – so isn’t quite enough.

Nattie recently pointed out My Sewing Circle to me and I think this might be the answer. It seems to be a version of Ravelry for sewists. It lets you catalogue your fabric, pattern, and project lists. The pattern database is distinctly spotty (at least compared to Pattern Review‘s comprehensive list), and I’m never going to get round to cataloguing fabric that doesn’t already have a pattern waiting for it, but I really like the project category. You can add patterns and fabrics to projects, make notes, and upload photos. So I’ve added my current project list to it and am hoping it will help avoid distraction. At least until the next Vogue Patterns collection comes out.

How much is too much? Planning for shopping

My muslin of Burda 132-04-2011 is still sitting there, looking at me accusingly. And I’m still pretending I can’t see it. Ever have a pattern you just can’t seem to get started with?

I don’t think there’s anything really wrong with the pattern, I know I like this style and I love the fabric. I’m just too tired right now to work on anything new. So it’s obviously the right time to start planning for fabric shopping at the weekend. I always try to take a list with me when fabric shopping because otherwise I get completely overwhelmed by the choice and make really bad decisions. But of course I will make exceptions for fabric that I fall in love with.

What I do have trouble with is buying the right amount of yardage. I make a list of the patterns I want to make, and their approximate yardage requirements. Fabric in the UK is sold by the metre not by the yard, but as I always need to lengthen patterns I just look at the number of yards the pattern calls for and then buy that many metres. And then I add a bit more on, to be certain. Can you see where this is going? My stash is full of small pieces between half a metre and a metre in length that are left over from projects where I bought far too much fabric, and my mother is never short of fabric for her quilting. On the plus side, when I do mess something up I almost always find I have enough fabric to cut the problem pieces out again. This has saved a couple of projects in the past.

Do you always buy the exact yardage? Does it work out for you? I have a couple of patterns with huge yardage requirements to buy fabric for this time around, so I am going to make more of an effort to get the amount right – just buying the yards in metres would be silly when the pattern calls for four and half yards to start with.

Leaving the comfort zone

I started sewing my own clothes in part because I wanted very particular styles that weren’t available in the shops. I had a definite image of what I wanted to sew and for a while I made that. And very good it is too being able to make things in silver fabric and that actually cover the bits I want to cover (not modesty, just a case of feeling the cold!)

However I’ve been quite surprised to find that making my own things has led to wearing styles I probably wouldn’t have contemplated a few years ago. For example the 70s jumpsuit, which started out as a bit of a joke:



I’ve been amazed how much I’ve actually worn this. It does help that it’s warm and I can fit thick tights and a long-sleeved top underneath.

So when I saw this orange wide-legged YSL jumpsuit in Harper’s Bazaar (while waiting in the Chinese takeaway of all places) my first thought was ‘I wonder if I can make one like that’.

Might have to wait for the weather to warm up a bit first though.

Tartan skirts

Remember this?

It’s polyester tartan fabric I bought in Glasgow to make a knockoff of a Yohji Yamamoto dress I saw years ago. I can’t really remember what the original looked like, but my plan is to morph the bodice of Vogue 8143 (line art below) and a full skirt from some other pattern.

I had originally been thinking of using the skirt from the new Vogue 8701 but yesterday I realised that I already own Vogue 8633 which comes with an option for a very full skirt. Here’s the line art

Vogue 8633 view d and e line art

Now I’m just wondering how to lay the pattern pieces out on the fabric.

There is a seam down the centre front of the skirt although the line art doesn’t show it. The skirt is a full circle skirt made from four identical pieces. The pattern piece has the straight grain line running parallel to the centre front and centre back seams.

I wonder if it’s advisable to try to cut the front out on a fold to avoid having to match the pattern on the centre front seam. I have quite a lot of fabric to play with (it was cheap!) but clearly not enough to cut an enormous circle skirt out twice.

I think it makes sense for the centre front of the skirt to be on the straight grain of the fabric regardless of whether there’s a seam or not. That way the skirt will contrast with the bias cut bodice. However I’ve been Googling for pictures of tartan circle skirts and most of the ones I have found don’t work like that. They have a centre front seam but cut so that the fabric is on the bias at the seam. I did find one picture where the grain was positioned the way I’m intending and it didn’t look obviously wrong, but I wonder if there’s something I’m missing here. Insights most welcome!

Self sabotage

After my last couple of projects I thought I’d go for something really quick and simple. Ideally a pattern that could be cut and sewn in a weekend. I need some more skirts and I have a yard of red wool left over from my Vogue 8667 dress.

I went though all my Burdas in search of a pattern and found number 124 from February 2010. Perfect: it’s unlined, needs less than a yard of fabric, and is just my style. You have to trace Burda magazine patterns so that adds a bit of time, but not too much. Right?


The first problem was that it’s a petite size and I’m not. But how
hard can it be to add a bit of length to a straight skirt? Burda’s otherwise comprehensive sizing chart doesn’t give skirt length or hip depth numbers, but I measured myself and the pattern and worked something out. That and the tracing took an evening.

Then I realised I’d really have to line the skirt because my wool is itchy. But I don’t have enough lining fabric left over to make the skirt up as-is in lining fabric, so I had to go back to the pattern and turn the insets into darts to make a lining pattern that would fit onto my fabric. That and cutting out took another evening.

Now it’s the weekend but I’m not sewing this weekend because I have other things on. At this rate the simple skirt is probably going to take longer than the rather more involved jumpsuit project, even though the actual sewing part of it will be quick. I hope I’ve not just jinxed that too!

When it’s finished I am going to revisit the jumpsuit, having got some great advice from Inkstain and Elizabeth on how to alter and style it – thanks both!

Thank you Vogue

A while ago I mentioned wanting to knock off a tartan Yohji Yamamoto dress I saw in Selfridges years ago. I finally bought some fabric for it in Glasgow.

But the trouble is that once I started trying to sketch it I found I couldn’t recall very much detail about the style. It definitely had a full skirt and an exposed metal zipper down the front, and I think it had a V-shaped neckline at the front and back. I’ve googled for it but not come up with any pictures I can identify as that particular dress. My mental image of it is starting to morph into the Vivienne Westwood Sunday dress so I may not even be remembering the shape of the skirt correctly, never mind the rest.

I’m therefore giving up on trying to reproduce the original and am just going for a full skirted, sleeveless, tartan dress with an exposed zip. I really like the draped neckline of the Sunday dress so I’m going to put the zip in the back rather than the front. And it looks as though I won’t have to attempt to draft anything, because Vogue have got two patterns that between them do what I want.

First is Vogue 8413 which I think has been around for a while. I never really noticed it before because the picture on the envelope didn’t appeal to me. It’s an Easy Options style for wovens which includes a bodice option with a cowl neck. Here’s the line art.

Then in the new winter Vogues there’s Vogue 8701, a wardrobe pattern which includes a dress, trousers, skirt, and jacket. The dress is almost exactly the silhouette I’m after although once again I don’t like the envelope picture. Amazing how different something can look in the line art.

I’m hoping I can find a way to combine the two styles successfully, although I really want the skirt and bodice back of 8701 with the front of 8413 which might be a challenge! The new Vogues aren’t out in the UK yet so I’ve got some time to think about it.

Westwood skirt muslin

As my last project turned out to be a big disappointment I couldn’t wait to get started on something new. I’m going to try to make a version of a Vivienne Westwood skirt. The style is called Philosophy. I originally saw it while browsing in the Vivienne Westwood shop in Glasgow. There are some good pictures on Net-a-Porter. It comes in a few different fabrics.

It’s basically a pencil skirt. There’s a drape at the front which is made by a pair of pleats that are caught in the right side seam. On the back of the skirt all the shaping comes from two darts, both on the left, which slant towards the right. There’s a zip in the left side seam and a narrow waistband. The hem is on a slant at the front and back and so the length doesn’t match up at the side seams.

My starting point was to draft a basic pencil skirt block to my measurements. I used Metric Pattern Cutting for Women’s Wear by Winifred Aldrich. I measured myself (that was a nasty surprise…I blame the Glasgow restaurants) and started following the book’s drafting instructions for a tailored skirt block.

I immediately hit a problem because the book would have you use a fixed measurement for the length between your waist and hip which you read off from a table based on your pattern size, ie your bust size. I really don’t see how this can produce a correctly fitting skirt on a person who isn’t averagely proportioned. I’m pretty tall and my waist-hip length is 20% longer than the one in the table. In the end I just used my own measurement at the appropriate point rather than the one from the table. Much crumpled paper later I had a very plain pencil skirt block which looked far too big. I carried on regardless.

The next part was a lot more fun. I cut the block into pieces along the existing dart lines and the lines where I wanted the new darts and pleats to be, and moved the pieces to close up the old darts and make gaps where the new ones are. I wanted the pleats to be extra deep so I spread those out further by cutting all the way to the opposite side. I have no idea how you’re supposed to draft this stuff properly; I just made this up as I went along with a bit of inspiration from Make Your Own Dress Patterns.

From the pictures of the original made up in stripes it was obvious that the hem’s on the straight grain so no head-scratching about where to draw the grain line! Here’s what it looked like at this point.

I cut it out, adding approximate seam allowances, and sewed it up. It was a bit too big on the waist and tight on the hips so I altered those, but on the whole the fit was surprisingly good. The front shaping came out right straight away but there was a funny wrinkle at the back. I also should have pressed out that crease in the fabric before taking pictures…never mind.

Lengthening the darts and taking the waist in a little improved the wrinkling.

It’s still not perfect but I think it’s good enough to go now, so at that point I ran around the seam lines with a black marker and took the muslin to pieces to use as a pattern. I drafted a waistband by the unscientific method of tracing the waistline of the muslin and adding width to that curve. Now I just have to work out how to line it.

Fabric shopping in Glasgow

I can really recommend the fabric shops in Glasgow. Good thing I have a lovely husband who was prepared to put fabric in his suitcase because I ran out of space in mine.

I only managed to visit Mandors and Remnant Kings but that was more than enough. They’re both central, easy to get to, and strangely situated well above ground level.

I started with Mandors. This is huge. As well as dressmaking fabric it sells haberdashery, furnishing fabric, and patterns. I only looked at the dressmaking fabric and there was enough of that to occupy me for a long while. The range was amazing but I think the best things were the woollens. After a lot of agonising I settled on some beautiful red tweedy stuff for Vogue 8667. I never know the correct names for fabrics so it may not technically be tweed. It’s 100% “pure new wool” woven and a lot more chunky and textured than suiting fabric. There are fibres of two different shades of red.

Incidentally what is the difference between “new” and other wool? Do they recycle wool? Is “new wool” the first stuff off the sheep, kind of like extra virgin olive oil? Does it make any difference in practice?

Mandors is quite pricey but much better value for money than the West End in London. Pity the train fare to Glasgow more than redresses the balance! The whole shop is very well organised. Fabric is arranged by type and colour. Every bolt had the price, fibre content, width, and care instructions attached. You take a ticket to get in the queue for cutting and can mark bolts you’ve selected so they don’t get tidied away while you’re browsing for other things. It wasn’t busy enough to justify any of that while I was there but that was a weekday. I suspect Saturdays may be a different matter.

I nearly didn’t find Remnant Kings at all. The address is Argyle Street, one of the longest and busiest shopping streets in Glasgow. I wandered up and down searching while my iPhone was insisting I was right on top of it. I couldn’t see it until I looked up and noticed a sign in a first floor window. The entrance turned out to be round the corner from the street address.

Remnant Kings was smaller than Mandors and had a lot less stock, but they had just finished a sale and hadn’t got their new stock in yet. As well as dressmaking fabric they also do haberdashery and a very small range of furnishing fabrics. There is also an odd little corner full of cheap plastic accessories for fancy dress – devil horn hairbands and the like. However there’s another branch that I didn’t visit that specialises in furnishing fabric.

I got 4m of cheap and cheerful poly viscose tartan to attempt my Yohji Yamamoto knockoff and a beautiful black wool remnant with a gold stripe from the bargain bucket that’s going to be a Vivienne Westwood skirt knockoff.

Remnant Kings is a lot cheaper than Mandors but everything’s still well laid out and labelled. Except my tartan but trust me to pick up the only bolt without a label in any shop. In shops where only samples are on display I always pick ones that the staff can’t locate the bolt for. Apologies here to anyone who’s ever been behind me in the queue.

And if that wasn’t enough I found the August Burda in WHSmiths! It’s been quite difficult to get hold of round my way since Borders closed down. There’s lots of really good things in it but that’ll have to wait for another post.