Disaster: What to do with a broken invisible zip?

Remember this dress? I made it last year as a bit of an experiment. It’s an unusual shape, and has no centre back seam so there’s a zip in the shoulder and the side so you can get in and out.


Notice anything about the shoulder zip now?

Silver brocade dress shoulder zip

Closer? That’s right, the zip no longer has a slider. I obviously didn’t do a good enough job of sewing the zip in, because the slider came off the bottom of the tape! I had cut the zip off above the original stop to make it fit the dress. The bottom of the tape pulled out of the seam at some point and the slider just slipped off the end.

Shoulder zip closeup

Unfortunately I can’t see a good way to fix this. The dress is fully lined and the bodice lining is stitched in the ditch through all layers at the empire seam, so any attempt to replace the zip will involve a lot of ripping out and hand sewing, and will probably look terrible. I am no use at all at hand sewing.

I had the idea of stitching an exposed zip over the top of the invisible zip, hiding it completely. But I completely failed to find any zips for sale online which combined the right length, colour, and reasonable postage costs. None of the bricks and mortar sewing shops near me had anything suitable either.

Then I thought of putting a frog closure over the gap and mail ordered a couple of these, described as ‘small frog fasteners’.

False frog

Only it turns out they aren’t frog fasteners, they are ‘fake’ frog fasteners. Great if you don’t need your dress to actually open, but they’re not going to work for me. Also I’m no longer convinced a frog fastener would hold the shoulder together well enough.

I’m stumped. Anyone got any bright ideas for fixing this? Or know of a UK shop with a good range of zips?

What’s gone wrong with Burda?

Pile of Burda mags

I’m very fond of Burda magazine. I’ve been subscribing for a few years and, despite my Vogue addiction, I probably sew more Burda patterns than anything else. Last year I had a look at whether Burda’s patterns are getting easier. I’ve accumulated quite a few more issues since then so I thought it was time to bring the stats up to date. Or maybe I am just avoiding cutting out my current project, which involves a single layer layout and endless tailor tacks.

So here’s the average dot rating for each issue of Burda I own, right up to November 2013. I have only included women’s patterns in the stats: no children’s or menswear.

Burda ratings to 11/13

That graph looks pretty flat to me. I fed the numbers into OpenOffice‘s linear regression function and it agreed with me; the regression line gradient is zero. Burda still isn’t dumbing down, whatever it might look like when we see issues covered with the ‘Easy’ banner.

As I was going through my collection I noticed I had a lot of issues which I’d never removed the pattern sheets from. I started counting the number of patterns I’d actually used from each issue. I have only counted patterns which have produced a finished garment; there are a few more I’ve traced but never made up. The most I’ve ever made from one issue turned out to be a meagre two patterns, but that’s not the surprising thing.

Patterns made from Burda

I haven’t made anything at all from issues published in the last year. This despite my last five or six projects being Burda. It used to be that I’d find a ‘must-sew’ pattern about every three issues, but apparently not any more. I just renewed my subscription so I’ll definitely be getting Burda for another year, but when it comes up for renewal next time I’ll be checking whether the hit rate has improved.

I don’t know if Burda has changed or fashion has or I have; I’ve been unthrilled by recent Vogue pattern collections too. Everything currently on my sewing list is a repeat of a pattern I’ve made before.

Anyone else feeling underwhelmed by this year’s pattern releases?

Blood sacrifice

I remember being told as a child that ‘we must suffer to be beautiful’. Well I hope my new coat is going to come out beautiful. It’s certainly causing a little suffering right now! I am sparing you a photo of my left hand, which currently sports an iron burn and several nasty pin scratches. Also I will not show you my right ring finger, which I managed to stab deeply with a needle while sewing the pockets on. I’m pretty sure I didn’t get any blood on the coat. It would show on this fabric.

So here’s where we are so far. Body sewn, collar and pockets attached, sleeves sewn but not set in. I totally forgot to add a hanging loop when I sewed the back facing seam. I am not going back and unpicking it. The pockets aren’t perfect but I hate hand-sewing with a passion so they’re not getting a do-over either.

Coat with collar but no sleeves

I was worried about sewing through all the layers around the collar but my machine coped with it without so much as a wobble. Look at all those thicknesses!

Trimming seams under collar facing

It’s not all bad. I’m pleased with the way the corners came out at the front. Sometimes you turn out a point and it just goes perfectly with no need for poking. Both corners did that; I wish I knew what I did to make that happen! And I still love the style. I think when it’s done I’m going to really enjoy wearing it.

Collar closeup

Hopefully the blood sacrifice will make the rest of the project go a little more smoothly. I’m about to set the sleeves in; wish me luck!


I dreamed about my coat project last night. It went disastrously wrong. And something is certainly stopping me from getting on with it. I have just finished cutting out the pieces for the muslin but I keep on finding reasons not to start sewing it. Must do the washing up. Must tidy the sewing room. Must sort the washing.

Coat muslin pieces

I love the pattern I’m using. But I’m worried I won’t be able to set the sleeves in. I did give myself a little bit of insurance by reducing the ease in the sleeve cap but now I’m also worried I have a pattern I won’t be able to move my arms in. I also love the fashion fabric, but it’s really thick and I’m concerned it might be too much for my machine to sew. And I’ve no idea what needle to use. Or which interfacing. And I really want to make a good job of this.

I know how to deal with a lack of sewing mojo (cleaning the sewing machine always works for me). But has anyone got any tips for complete sewing paralysis?

Does the camera lie? Realism in project pictures

Ever had the experience of not being able to get a decent picture of a garment you’re really pleased with? Or then there’s the project that you’re not very happy with that nevertheless seems to photograph well. How much effort do you go to for project pictures?

I started thinking about this because recently I was looking for feedback on a failed project. I made an effort to photograph it in the way I would for something that had worked: put some makeup and pretty shoes on, took quite a few shots and picked the better ones. It doesn’t look as bad in the pictures as it feels. But I really would not wear this dress out of the house. And going in the other direction, here’s a dress that I do wear but that didn’t photograph at all well.

So while photos are very interesting to look at, and I certainly enjoy looking at pictures on sewing blogs, can we really trust what we see? The acid test has got to be how something actually feels to wear.

I rarely wear things in real life in exactly the way I photograph them. If I’m getting dressed for work there are lower heels, rather more layers, and usually I forget to put lipstick on. So the pictures aren’t realistic in that sense. But for me a part of the fun of blogging is styling things in a way that I’d like to be able to wear them; if only I didn’t walk to work and have a job that involves climbing ladders and heavy lifting. I should say, I like the job and I like the walking. I just wish they were more compatible with my favourite shoes.

Here’s a rare picture of one of my projects styled as it is usually worn, although you’ll have to imagine the pockets stuffed full of the junk I drag around with me at work.

Burda 116-08-2011

And here’s the grey version of the same dress styled in the way I usually do for blog photos.

Burda 116-08-2011

I tried wearing the shoes I’ve paired with the grey dress to work one time. I ended up walking around in my socks and getting the bus home. So I can’t say the above picture is realistic in the sense that this how I normally wear the dress, but I don’t have a problem with putting it out there. It’s how I’d like to wear the dress, and I think getting close to the look you aspire to have is a big part of the fun of sewing for yourself. I really like blogs which project the owner’s personal style. Check out Ooobop!, Kazz, and Alice‘s blogs for the sort of thing I mean.

Finally there’s the question of how much editing to do. My normal procedure is to get a lot of shots, pick the better ones, crop them, and maybe adjust the contrast. If the colour’s really off I’ll adjust that too. For me, doing any more editing than this crosses a line between an image that’s real, even if not representative of daily life, and one that’s artifical. I don’t have any objection to photo editing to produce a good image, but I’m avoiding it on my own blog because here I’m trying to achieve looks that exist in real life. Full discolosure: I did once edit some flyaway hair and a lamp post out of a set of photos. But I try not to make a habit of it.

So I’m pretty sure my own photos are not truly ‘realistic’ in some senses of the word, although I try to keep them ‘real’. But I’ll keep on producing them this way for the blog because it’s enjoyable.

Do you prefer realism or fantasy on sewing blogs? Which do you aim for?

The sewist’s decision making process – a lament

I’m making Burda 120-12-2012 in a glorious turquoise knit fabric.

But it’s slightly transparent so I need to draft a lining. This is breaking my brain. I need a distraction. A really simple project.

I have a copy of Vogue 1250 somewhere. I am the only sewing blogger in the world who has not yet made Vogue 1250. Also I have the perfect fabric in stash: the remains of the eye-popping jersey I used for the psychedelic dress.

Vogue 1250 and fabric

Not sure how much fabric it needs. Go to the primary to-sew queue (the pile of patterns wedged into the bookcase) to get the yardage. Start leafing through the queue. Forgot I had that nice 70s maxi pattern, Simplicity 6344. That would look good in black linen with a white collar. But Vogue 1250 is absent.

Turn out box which contains secondary to-sew queue of patterns and favourite pieces of fabric. Damn, Vogue 1287 is also a perfect work dress. But I don’t have any suitable fabric for it. Resist urge to look for fabric online. No Vogue 1250.

Turn out box which contains old patterns and tertiary to-sew queue. Curse self for not filing patterns in any sort of order. No Vogue 1250.

Turn out box containing fabric stash. Maybe it’s gone in there by mistake. Hey, some Liberty Tana lawn left over from the Death Star dress. Quite a bit of it. Enough for a shirt dress? Unfold to measure. Can’t find measuring tape. Sewing room floor now entirely invisible under patterns and fabric (it’s a very small room). Also, have no shirt dress patterns. Resist urge to look for shirtdress patterns online. No Vogue 1250.

Go through to-sew queue again, just in case. Nope. Sort fabric into leftovers and large pieces. Find red swirl print cotton lurking at the bottom of the fabric box. Must find a use for that, but there’s only enough for a sleeveless sundress. Pity we don’t seem to be having a summer this year.

Resist urge to go online and buy second copy of Vogue 1250.

Clear up sewing room. Carefully file primary, secondary, and tertiary to-sew queues.

Look down back of bookcase. You know where this is heading, don’t you.

Go to bed feeling pleased.

Next morning, see Burda 116-08-2011 on Allison’s blog. Like Vogue 1250 but with pockets!

Put Burda 116-08-2011 at head of sewing queue.

The job isn’t finished until you’ve tidied up

I’ve finished my mother’s kimono. Except I haven’t, because the sewing room looks like a bomb has hit it. Every surface is covered with fluffy polyester threads, including me. I think I’m going to have to vacuum everything, and I doubt the ironing board cover is ever going to be the same again. I never liked that ironing board cover anyway.

I had just enough fabric. I had worked out yardage for 45″ and 60″ width fabric before going shopping. When we found the perfect fabric in a 36″ width I had to do some hasty mental arithmetic. It worked out in the end. We will draw a veil over the fact that I got the sleeve lengths totally wrong and had to add deep cuffs. I think they look really good so clearly it was inspiration rather than incompetence!

The picture’s an in-progress shot, just after I’d finished the collar but before sewing up the sleeves. I’ll share photos of the final result after I’ve given it to my mother. And now to attempt to clean things up. I love the fabric but I’m going to be finding threads from it for months, I know it. Do you guys have to tidy up straight after finishing a project, or is it just me?