Burda 108 07/2018 pleated culottes

Here’s the first new item from my wardrobe sewing plan. These pleated culottes are intended to be a more wearable version of hakama (traditional Japanese pleated trousers) which is a look I’ve always liked.

Here’s the technical drawing. The pattern is 108 07/2018.

Technical drawing of pleated culottes Burda 108 07/2018
Burda 108 07/2018 pleated culottes technical drawing from burdastyle.ru

Burda’s version is made up in pale blue and styled with a matching letter jersey and striped sandals for a very prim and preppy look. However I’m aiming for something somewhat more samurai than Sandra Dean! Despite this I didn’t need to make changes to the pattern other than adding length: the 5cm that I always need to add to Burda trousers and then another 4cm on top. All the difference is in the fabric and styling.

Woman in pale blue pleated culottes and letter jersey
Burda 108 07/2018 model photo, burdastyle.ru

The fabric is a cotton drill from Empress Mills. This is quality stuff: really sturdy, blackest black, and stable. It’s such a pleasure to sew with well behaved cotton.

Cotton isn’t the ideal thing for pleats because they won’t stay pleated after washing. I’ve edge stitched mine to try to make them stay put. The process is a bit different from Burda’s method. I first basted the pleats down the whole length of the leg, pressed them very well, then pulled out the basting and edge stitched all the folds from the top edge to just above where the hem would turn up to (of which more in a moment). To keep the pleats stitched down over the hips I then top stitched them down over the previous edge stitching to the point where they’re supposed to release. My edge/ditch stitching foot worked overtime on this project. I spent a whole evening just on the main pleating, and most of another folding and stitching the pleats at the hem after doing the hemming. It would have been easier to make the hem before pleating, but that relies on knowing exactly how long you want it to be in advance.

They’ve come out well though and they make some great shapes when in motion.

The culottes fasten with an invisible zip at centre back. I thought I’d done a pretty good job putting it in at the time but there’s a bit of pulling in the photos – see the drag lines pointing to the bottom of the zip.

The back view on these is very plain. Real hakama would have additional overlapping pleats at the back, but I have an office job and I imagine back pleats would look less than great after being sat upon all day. Hakama also fasten with ties around the waist and have long triangular gaps at the side waist; they’re intended to be worn over a long top so the gaps don’t reveal anything. Burda’s version has a conventional side seam instead, which handily allows for inseam pockets. There’s also a self fabric belt, which cleverly hides any slight mismatching that may have happened when sewing the innermost pleats, which are supposed to meet each other exactly at the centre front seam. Again this isn’t right for real hakama, where the centre front pleats should overlap.

I initially only lengthened these by my usual 5cm, but when I tried them on I realised I wanted them longer. I managed to squeeze out some extra length by facing the hem instead of turning it up. In the highly unlikely event I make these again I’d add even more to the length.

I’m very pleased with how they’ve come out. I have nothing else like them in my wardrobe but they go with most of my existing tops and I like the unusual shape. The eagle-eyed may have noticed that I’m wearing trainers in some of these photos and ridiculous heels in others, and I think they work with both. The top is my Rick Owens knockoff from a couple of years ago. Time will tell how practical these really are; they’re comfortable to wear but the real test will be how much effort they are to wash and iron.

Thanks to my husband for immensely patient and creative photo taking as always!

Sewing with a vague plan

Planning my sewing out in advance is anathema to me; I’m always being distracted by some inspirational image that crosses my path. In the past this led to the accumulation of patterns and fabric for many projects which never reached the machine. For the last couple of years I’ve had a rule of not purchasing anything more than one planned project in advance in order to control the stash, and until very recently this was serving me well.

And then I needed fabric for my next planned dress, and none of the online sources I’d identified were doing samples because of the pressures of Covid. So I gambled, and ordered two lengths of promising sounding fabric. Both were sensible basics: plain black non stretch medium weight wovens. My theory was that whichever one didn’t work for the dress would rapidly get used for trousers.

You can guess what happened. First it turned out I hadn’t read the fabric description on one of the fabrics properly. I thought it was non-stretch cotton denim, but it turned to be one of those ultra stretchy denims which are mostly man made fibres, so completely unsuitable for my plans. The other one was stable but far too heavy. But all was not lost; both would be good for trouser patterns. But I was still without fabric for the dress, which needed a tricky combination of characteristics: stable enough for making buttonholes and welt pockets, light enough to make pleats, and with enough body to support sticky out bits.

So it was back to the hunt. I identified two more possibilities, but still no one was doing samples. So I ordered both. And this time, both were suitable. But I wasn’t going to make the dress twice, so I now had three lengths of fabric left over. And the lid wouldn’t go on the box that holds my fabric stash.

Clearly it was time to mend my ways, so I started actually planning in the hope of avoiding any more accumulation. First of all I identified trouser patterns from my ‘want to sew’ list that would go with the new fabric. I have some medium weight non stretch black denim, some medium weight very stretchy black denim, and some heavy weight black cotton drill.

And then I looked for top halves to match them, all from patterns I already owned. I included my recently made OOP Vogue 1347 drawstring trousers in the planning for tops because I don’t have many cold weather tops that work with them.

And here is what I came up with.

The bottoms are (left to right) Burda 108 07/2018 pleated culottes for the heavy non stretch drill, my already made silver Vogue 1347 drawstring trousers, some sort of 70s style high waisted jeans for the stretch denim, I’m currently thinking Burda 118 04/2009, and Burda 106 02/2020 lantern trousers for the medium weight non stretch denim. Why those particular patterns? I don’t wear a lot of colour so I’m looking for unusual shapes. I’ve always fancied trying a hakama (Japanese pleated trousers), but they aren’t exactly practical for my lifestyle. The Burda culottes are a more wearable take on that look. The lantern trousers and the 70s jeans are other interesting shapes I don’t have in my wardrobe at the moment.

Then for tops (left to right) I have the overshirt with strap details from OOP Vogue 1347, to be made in black linen; Burda 116 01/2020 cropped sweater in black boiled wool; Burda 105 04/2018 dart front shirt in white cotton. These should all go with all the different trousers, and also my existing grey Merchant and Mills Strides and my grey Burda Oxford bags. I might add another of the Burda dart front shirts in black.

I’ve started sewing the Burda pleated culottes. Who knows whether I’ll manage to stick to rest of the plan! It is six new items, which will take about six months for me at my current rate. I doubt I’ll manage to avoid distractions for that long. On the plus side every single one is something I want to make in its own right; nothing is there just because it goes with something else. I’m quite excited about some of the combinations that will be possible. So fingers crossed.