Autumn sewing

Summer’s definitely over in my part of the UK. The schools have gone back for the autumn term, the nights are drawing in rapidly, and I even needed to get my winter coat out one evening last week. I’m sorry the summer’s gone, but on the other hand I really prefer the autumn and winter seasons for all things fashion and sewing-related.

Look at these gorgeous coating fabric samples that came from Stone Fabrics last week. I wasn’t planning to make a coat, but now I’m wondering if I can carry off that chartreuse colour. I’d love to use the bubblegum pink, but I just dyed my hair bright red again.

Coating samples

I have several great coat patterns in my stash. Could I possibly find time to make two coats?

My eyes are crossing

A few weeks ago SewingElle posted about a wonderful striped Anthropologie dress. It has several diagonally slanted panels on the waist and skirt with the stripes running in different directions on each panel. The effect is very eye-catching. After reading her post I fell in love with it too and wondered if I could get a similar effect by making up my beloved Burda 117-02-2012 in stripy fabric.

Here are the style lines of Burda 117-02-2012. The back has a strong line of mirror symmetry down the centre back seam but the front is very asymmetrical. The large triangular panel on the skirt has borders with three other areas, two of which also share a border. This means at least three directions of stripes are required if they are to change direction on every seam.

Burda 117-02-2012 technical drawing

I did a bit of research (well, checked all my sewing books) to find out the official line on How One Should Align Stripes. I didn’t find a lot of help in most of them, although as always Ann Ladbury’s The Dressmaker’s Dictionary had some definite opinions on the subject. Did you know that the traditional direction for diagonal stripes is from the left shoulder to the right hip? I certainly didn’t.

There’s a school of thought that horizontal stripes are widening. There’s another school of thought that they are slimming. Ms Ladbury seems to prefer horizontal stripes on the whole, but says that vertical ones can be ‘improved by being broken’. I’m not sure who’s right, but on the whole I think I prefer horizontal stripes for large areas. Compare these two variations. The one with mostly horizontal stripes looks a lot nicer. By the way, I’ve put a border round my favourite in each of the following pairs of options because I’m pretty sure the pictures won’t come out side by side on all screens.

Stripes back view verticals and horizontalsStripes back view - midriff vertical, skirt horizontal, upper back horizontal

So I chose to put horizontal stripes on the large triangular panel and diagonal ones everywhere else at the front. There are two possible ways to arrange the diagonal stripes, below. I think the version with the stripes almost perpendicular to the neckline is best because in the other one the neckline looks a bit awkward. The problem is that the stripes won’t be quite parallel to it.

Stripes front view - midriff slants top right to bottom leftStripes front view - midriff slants top left to bottom right

If the front of the dress has a lot of diagonal stripes then the back ought to have some as well. However I want to keep the stripes on the back skirt horizontal so as to match up at the right side seam with the large horizontal striped panel on the front. This gives these two options for the rest. There’s not much in it, but the one I’ve picked gives me a little more matching on the right side seam than the other one.

Stripes back view - midriff upwards chevrons, skirt horizontal, upper back downwards chevronsStripes back view - midriff downwards chevrons, skirt horizontal, upper back upwards chevrons

My final choice is this pair.

Stripes back view - midriff upwards chevrons, skirt horizontal, upper back downwards chevronsStripes front view - midriff slants top right to bottom left

Of course now I have to get round to actually making the dress. I have some fabric (of which more another time) but there are a few things ahead of it in the sewing queue and I may well change my mind about the placement between now and then! There are many other options. All the stripe variations I’ve drawn can be found here.

Tracing-fest

I’m writing this on Sunday evening for posting on Wednesday, because my part-time teaching has just started up again and I expect to be spending the next few evenings marking piles of past papers. At least, I hope I will be. It’s worse to have nothing handed in at all!

I spent the day tracing BurdaStyle patterns from the excellent new issue (February 2012). I don’t do this often because it involves rearranging half of the living room so I can pull the big table out. But there are two absolute must-sew patterns in this issue so it was worth the effort.

This one is model 117. It is a three-and-a-half-dot rated pattern, which is quite a way outside my comfort zone. But I like the design so much I am going to give it a try. I’ve jumped on the digital croquis bandwagon and I think the style works on me.

This is model 111. Burda has it in two versions, one black all over and one with colour blocking. Much as I love the colour-blocked version, it looks slightly odd on my croquis. I think the problem is the diagonal seam across the chest. It’s not all that flattering on me so I don’t want to emphasize it. I’m going to go for all one colour with this one.

BurdaStyle patterns come without seam allowances. The instructions would have you add them with chalk directly onto the fabric, and I know some people are so good at this they can just eyeball the necessary width rather than measuring. But I much prefer to have patterns with seam allowance included, which means a long extra stage of drawing it onto the tracing. However I recently discovered that if you strap three Tesco cheap-and-cheerful-brand pencils together with an elastic band, you get a 1.5cm seam allowance tracing tool. With two pencils and a little padding you can get a 1cm version as well, which was useful for model 117 which has some 1cm seam allowances.

This saved a lot of aggravation, if not much actual time. I now have four patterns hanging up in the sewing room all adjusted for length and ready to be made up, so hopefully that’s it for tracing for a long while.

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.