Still sewing with a plan

I’m making Vogue 9299, a blouse from their Easy Options range. This one really lives up to the name: two significantly different sleeve options, two collars, and two lengths; one with a straight hem and one with a curved one. There’s also a cuff variation on the puffy sleeve option.

Vogue 9299 envelope cover art, somethingdelightful.com

I’m making this as part of my attempt at sewing a wardrobe. It’s going to be in black cotton poplin so should go very well with the black pleated culottes and black jeans I’ve already made. It might also work with the silver drawstring waist trousers and the planned lantern trousers, but we’ll see.

I had to adjust the pattern quite a lot. I bought my fabric online a while ago, and the website said it was 150cm wide so I bought three metres to do the view with the long body, the shirt collar, and the puffy sleeves with cuffs. I checked the length when it arrived, but didn’t think to check the width. And when I came to use it, it turned out to be 115cm. No way was the view of the pattern I wanted fitting into that, especially as I always need to lengthen tops and sleeves. And I really wanted the curved hem version, but it was more the sash and the shape of the hem I liked than the extra long body length. I compromised by tracing that view with my usual 5cm extra length addition, which gets added between the bust and waist, and then taking 20cm length out below the waist. After that I was just able to squeeze all the pieces out of the cut I had. It helped that it was a generous three metres. I even had room to add a hidden button placket. And it’s satisfying to only have little scraps left over. I couldn’t even get a face mask out of what’s left.

Being lazy, I googled how to draft the hidden placket rather than trying to work it out for myself, and came across a tutorial from Threads. It has a nice little touch where you sew the under layers together by machine between the buttonholes. It doesn’t show on the outside but keeps everything sitting really flat. Definitely using that one again.

I’m getting on with sewing it together very slowly. I’m doing it in the evenings and really struggling to see what I’m doing on the black fabric. I need better light bulbs for the sewing room!

Flared jeans: Burda 118 04/2009

I picked this jeans pattern to make because I thought the shape was refreshingly different to anything I’ve worn in recent years. I remember having a pair of blue denim trousers from TopShop in the early 2000s with this style of leg. The pattern itself dates from 2009. I could have sworn bootcut jeans were over by then and we’d moved on to skinnies. Anyway it’s Burda 118 04/2009, which has great reviews online. The technical drawing is below but I think the real thing is much tighter on the thigh and lower on the waist than the diagram suggests.

Burda 118 04/2009 technical drawing, burdastyle.ru

I was aiming to reproduce some jeans I’d seen in a Dior ad, so I altered the shape and placement of the front patch pockets and added back ones to match. I found I didn’t need to add anything to the length of the pattern, which is very unusual for me. I added 2cm as insurance anyway and ended up removing it again by making slightly deeper turnips. I also went down a size because the fabric I used has a lot of stretch. It’s Empress Mills’ 7.5oz premium denim. It was a pleasure to work with despite the stretch. The colour is called black but it’s really more of a charcoal. I didn’t have any black top stitching thread and used a very dark grey I had lying around, which turned out to be a great match. And once again I’m baffled as to why top stitching thread is sold in such tiny reels. I always need two to do a pair of jeans.

They haven’t come out much like the inspiration garment; they would need much more ease and a higher waist for that. The style is also different from the bootcut jeans I remember wearing twenty years ago which had a very low rise. These are much easier to wear.

This is the third garment in my vague plan to sew some things that go together and although I’ve managed to stick to the list of planned garments, all I’ve made so far is trousers. So definitely a top next.

Thanks to my husband for the photos and the quarantine haircut. The UK is back in lockdown with only essential services open so it was clippers or nothing. It feels much better to have it short.

Unusual jeans pockets

I’m making flared 70s style jeans right now. The inspiration for these came from a weird coincidence. I bought the April 2009 issue of Burda off eBay to fill in a gap in my collection, and when it arrived style 118 caught my eye.

Technical drawing of Burda 118 04/2009 flared jeans with front patch pockets
Burda 118 04/2009 flared jeans with front patch pockets, burdastyle.ru

It has a definite resemblance to these Dior jeans which I’d just seen featured in a big glossy ad in a recent issue of Vogue. Something about these really attracted me, although I have to say I wouldn’t pair them with a matching denim sleeveless jacket.

Flared cotton jeans, Dior.com

Well I was looking for an interesting trouser pattern to go with a piece of black denim I have, and the Burda pattern has excellent reviews, so it had to be done. The pockets on the Dior jeans are much larger and lower than on the Burda style, but the basic lines are much the same. Both are high waisted with back darts instead of a yoke. The Burda has turn-ups and the Dior has an ordinary jeans hem. I think the Dior waistband is wider, and it has additional patch pockets on the back. It’s possibly also baggier in the thigh area.

Luckily the Dior site had some good photos of the style laid flat which give a good idea of the size, shape, and placement of the pockets. Here are the back ones.

Flared jeans, Dior.com

And here’s where I’ve got to so far.

That’s the really fiddly part done…just need to sew up the seams and put the waistband and belt loops on now. I’m probably keeping the turn-ups from the Burda style too. Maybe next week I’ll have something finished to show.

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.

Silver trousers again: Vogue 1347

Work on the Merchant and Mills Strides trousers continues. But here’s a trouser pattern I recently finished instead.

Long time readers of this blog know I have a thing for silver trousers. I usually have at least one pair in my wardrobe and they get a lot of wear. Recently I’ve changed shape – I lost weight while sick – and my clothes no longer fit. Things should return to normal soon but in the meantime I need some trousers that don’t fall down. Enter the bottoms from Vogue 1347, wide leg trousers with a drawstring waist. No link to the pattern because this one is out of print, although it’s often available second hand on eBay and Etsy. Here’s the line drawing.

Vogue 1347 line drawing, McCalls

The lines of the trousers are pretty simple but this is a Ralph Rucci designer pattern so the finishing is amazing. If you followed the pattern instructions closely you’d get an absolutely exquisite garment: fully lined without an exposed seam allowance anywhere. I’m afraid I didn’t bother with the lining at all, and my seam allowances are finished with the overlocker. I’ve never seen such comprehensive instructions for lining trousers with a fly front anywhere else though, so I may come back to the pattern in future just for that.

I always find things drop out of inseam pockets on trousers so I added zips to mine. And I couldn’t be bothered to make a long skinny drawstring out of self fabric so mine is an acrylic cord. The fabric itself is Lady McElroy Uttoxeter, a black and white tonic twill that looks silver from a distance. It’s no longer available anywhere I’ve looked but this particular piece came from Sherwoods Fabrics.

And now the obligatory back view, because this is a sewing blog after all. I’m standing up straighter than I usually would which I think explains the folds. They have plenty of room anyway, and would even if I was at my normal size. I normally need to go up one size for the hips in most sewing pattern size charts, but this pattern has so much ease built in I didn’t bother when I traced it. I added 5cm to the length, as I usually do with Vogue, and they’ve come out just above floor length which is perfect. The hem allowance is a huge 8cm so there is a lot of wiggle room even without lengthening the pattern but I wanted to be sure to have a deep hem.

I’m really pleased with these. They are a lovely shape and I like that they have a proper fly front despite the adjustable waist; it makes me feel slightly more dressed up. And it’s so nice to have something that fits.

Thanks to my husband for the photos.