Part two of my end of year roundup. I’m using the old Sewing Top Five series headings. The official blog series is no more but I’ve been doing it for years and it’s interesting to compare with last year’s post, well interesting for me anyway, so I’m sticking with it. I covered hits and misses last week. Now I have highlights, reflections, and goals left to cover.
Highlights: I gave away some of my pattern collection this year and it felt great. I realised I was damaging the patterns by cramming them into inadequate space. So I picked out the ones I knew I’d never sew and put them on Freecycle; rather to my surprise they were snapped up and that gave the rest some breathing room.
I’m still collecting patterns but trying to be much mindful about it. I think the only brand new envelope pattern I bought this year was Vogue 1853. That was for my husband and got sewed up before the year was out so doesn’t count as collecting. Instead I’m stalking eBay for vintage patterns, but I’m only buying ones I really love and might actually make. It’s dangerous though. I started off just looking for Claude Montana designs, but then the work of a couple of other 80s designers caught my eye too. Hopefully some of those will feature on the blog next year.
I thought about giving up my Burda subscription because there was a period where the designs didn’t speak to me at all. Happily it improved this year so I’ve renewed. I can see why people feel they’ve been repeating designs, but I am currently finding two or three appealing patterns that aren’t repeats in each issue which makes it worth it for me.
I also discovered the COPA pattern archive this year which has been great for dating vintage patterns. When I first found out about it you needed to apply for a user account to use it, but the pattern database is now accessible online without even logging in.
Reflections? I wasn’t as productive this year as last but I had one of my best success rates. I made fourteen things of which eleven get regular wear. Even the three that didn’t work very well have been worn out of the house on occasion.
I did less wardrobe planning this year. I sewed the 80s wardrobe I’d planned in 2021, but after that I gave up on drawing up elaborate plans and made three jumpsuits in a row instead. But I enjoy the planning and it leads to better outcomes on the whole, so I shall likely go back to it in a small way.
I just checked back on last year’s goals and was surprised to find I’d actually achieved them all. I made up some of my vintage patterns, made some clothes that weren’t black or grey, continued to reduce the fabric stash, and carried on blogging.
I’m having a hard time coming up with goals for this year. I have some vague plans: making up a vintage 80s Dior dress pattern and some clothes inspired by recent Saint Laurent collections. The Saint Laurent knockoffs are going to require some hacking of existing patterns to realise, so perhaps my goal should be to start adapting patterns rather than making them up as-is. I also need to make some practical things this year: a new dressing gown is one of them.
Time for an end of year roundup. There isn’t an official Sewing Top Fives blog series this year, but I’ll carry on using the format of hits, misses, highlights, reflections, and goals anyway. It’s Top N this year though as I only made 14 things in 2022. Admittedly there were two and a half coats in that 14…I’m counting Vogue 1476 as only half a coat because it’s more of a blanket with sleeves.
So onto the hits. It was a good year but I’m going to pick just one item to feature: my 80s coat. Most of what I made this year is getting regular wear, but this one in particular makes me smile every time I put it on.
The pattern is vintage Vogue 1767 from 1986, by Claude Montana. I love the colour and the boxy shape is very easy to wear.
I didn’t have many complete misses this year. I made three things that for various reasons don’t often get worn and here they are.
First up are the trousers from the same pattern as the green coat. They are a classic 80s carrot shape. I made the mistake of making two very similar pairs of trousers: these from vintage Vogue 1767 and another pair from vintage Vogue 1476. I prefer the 1476 pair and I don’t reach for the style enough that I use both.
Next is the Claude Montana tunic dress. The pattern is vintage Vogue 1071. The problem with this is that I’ve yet to find weather conditions it works for. It looks bad with tights, but it’s too thick and warm to wear when the temperature allows bare legs. It’s a conundrum. Possibly tights would work with different footwear, but I don’t know quite what.
It seems odd putting this dress in misses because in some respects it was a highlight of my sewing year: the pattern (vintage Vogue 1652, another Claude Montana design) is a rare one that took me ages to find a copy of, the construction was unusual, and the finished garment is spectacular. But I don’t wear it. I can’t help thinking there’s a brilliant garment in this pattern somewhere but this one isn’t it. Different fabric and a less fussy closure are required.
Suggestions for fixing any of those most welcome!
Happy Christmas all if you celebrate. I’ll cover the rest in an upcoming post.
I’m shamelessly using the old Sewing Top Fives series from Gillian and the Sewcialists as the template for this post. There isn’t an official Sewing Top Five blog series this year but I’ve always enjoyed doing it in previous years so here is my version for 2021. Since I started writing this post Gillian’s posted their own top five so it’s not quite dead. Gillian if you’re reading this many thanks for the inspiration.
The usual top five categories are highlights, misses, non-sewing highlights, reflections, and goals.
My highlights will be over quickly because this year my favourite pieces work together as two complete outfits so only two pictures to show. First up, a dress, jacket, and t shirt (not seen in the picture).
The dress is vintage Vogue 1308 by Claude Montana. The jacket is Burda 105 2/2021. Underneath the dress is a v necked Burda top made up in wool jersey. The top now really belongs to the dress as I never wear it with anything else; I need the extra warmth from putting a layer under the yellow knit fabric. The jacket is also essential because it provides pockets.
The other outfit is simpler: a jumpsuit and another wool jersey top (again not seen). With a pair of thick tights underneath this is the perfect thing to wear for work.
The jumpsuit is the Closet Core Blanca and the top is a simple t shirt based on Winifred Aldrich’s drafting instructions and made up in wool jersey. The Blanca is such a favourite I keep thinking about making another. This one is made from Empress Mills 7.5oz stretch denim which comes in a wide range of colours; maybe a blue or green next time?
On to the misses. Luckily I don’t have a lot of these this year. The first one is very recent; Vogue 1558. I have only worn this for blog photos.
This wasn’t an ideal style choice for me and then I doubled down on it by picking unsuitable fabric which stretched more than I wanted. I’m glad I finally used the pattern, which I’ve had since it was released, but I think this version is going to be relegated to the dressing up box. Lots of people made helpful suggestions for saving it, but right now I’m just not loving the white enough to rework it.
The Vogue 1378 pleather leggings have had a couple of wears but aren’t a favourite. Odd because I have worn previous iterations of this pattern to pieces but this pair is too shiny. I’m hanging on to them though because a very warm and almost waterproof pair of slim trousers can be a useful thing to have in winter, and they don’t take up much space.
And finally the Burda 111 6/2021 twisty cardigan which I immediately cut into a non twisty tie front cardigan. I’ve worn it a couple of times but it needs warm weather and a day when I don’t mind dealing with the fussy ties. I doubt I’ll still have it this time next year.
Non-sewing highlights is the one I skip because this blog is strictly for dressmaking. But I can come up with some sewing-adjacent highlights: finally finding a use for the green wool coating that’s been in my stash since 2012; having an LED light strip for my main sewing machine – I really can’t recommend that enough; introducing a bit of colour into my grey and black wardrobe; getting a heavy duty snap press; discovering Claude Montana’s 80s patterns for Vogue which led me down a rabbit hole of fashion history.
On to reflections.
Advance planning my sewing in ‘wardrobes’ still works well for me; I thought I’d get tired of all the restrictions but in fact it’s been great to make things that are planned to go together. I sewed my way through an entire second wardrobe plan this year and many of the pieces became favourites.
I was unusually productive this year – 25 pieces in all, not all of them blogged – because I used a lot of fairly quick patterns, repeated a few, and didn’t make a coat. I doubt this particular trend will continue though. I like making new-to-me patterns and I really enjoy a complex project. And I’ve just started a lined coat which will require home made shoulder pads, so look for my next finished project round about the end of February.
My pattern stashing habits changed. I’ve always been a pattern collector, primarily Vogue and Burda magazines, but this year I didn’t buy a single Vogue pattern. I suspect the problem with Vogue is that they’ve almost completely stopped doing designer collaborations. What I loved was finding images of the original designer’s styling of the garment, which usually turn out a lot more appealing to me than the toned down version shown on the pattern envelope. I’m obviously still not good enough at seeing the potential of a garment from the envelope photo. I do have my eye on their recent men’s coat pattern for my husband but it’s yet to reach the UK distributor.
Burda abruptly stopped working for me round about the August issue, after a couple of years of being absolutely on fire. It was so sudden I wonder if they’ve had a change of designer. My subscription runs until the summer so I’m still getting the magazine and hoping this is a temporary thing.
I discovered a few great sewing blogs this year. But I’ve been pretty bad about commenting on Blogger blogs because every browser I can install on my phone simply fails to display Blogger’s captcha popups, and I cannot find a way around it; it’s so frustrating, especially as the sewing blog world is still shrinking rapidly. So thank you so much to everyone who blogs their sewing! I’ve been trying to use Instagram a bit more as it seems that’s where a lot of sewing bloggers have migrated to, but an Instagram post isn’t the same as a long form blog post.
And finally goals. I have a lot of those. I want to make up the 80s Vogue patterns I’ve collected; in particular 1476 from 1984 and 1071 from 1983.
I intend to carry on expanding my colour horizons by making some blue pieces which will hopefully work together. In fact I’ve already turned a length of stashed royal blue satin into a pair of fancy joggers and now I need to make a top that goes with them.
I want to keep the number of items in my fabric stash spreadsheet at or below the current total of 40. Having 40 lengths of fabric make it sound like I have a huge stash, but the majority are leftovers of less than a metre or lengths of lining fabric; there are only five or six pieces left that would make a complete adult garment. I need to find things to do with all those big scraps though, or rehome them.
And finally I want to carry on blogging regularly and discover new sewing blogs. Suggestions very welcome!
Last of the Sewing Top Fives of 2020: goals. I didn’t complete most of last year’s goals, so I’m setting the bar low for 2021.
I want to complete my sewing with a plan wardrobe. This should be achievable. There are three more garments to go. I already have fabric for the last pair of trousers, and I have the fabric and have even traced the pattern for the white blouse. The third piece is a simple Burda top that I’m having some doubts about now I’ve read a few reviews of it. I may replace that pattern with something else.
However I think I may have to make an extra wardrobe piece to replace the black blouse that didn’t fit. I’ve got a fairly basic Burda shirt pattern lined up for that. So maybe it’s four more pieces. That should take me until April or May. After that, all bets are off. I’m hoping the world will look quite different by then, and who knows what I’ll feel like sewing.
Next up in Sewing Top Fives of 2020: reflections. I skipped the non-sewing highlights prompt because I like to keep this blog focussed on the clothes and not everything else going on in the world. I guess that makes it a Sewing Top Four.
I only set four sewing goals for 2020, which were three patterns I wanted to make and to carry on with my project to sew my way through my Burda wishlist. And I failed almost completely: I made only one of the three patterns and stopped sewing the dresses after January. I never do well with New Year resolutions. The two patterns that didn’t get made weren’t the most practical of items: a particularly ridiculous Vogue coat which resembles a turtle, and a sleeveless wrap jumpsuit. Where I live, sleeveless works for about one month a year. However I don’t find myself all that disappointed about the failures. The jumpsuit pattern is great and I might go back to it in the spring, but the coat is probably a project best kept for a point in my life when I have a lot more free time. And as for the dresses…well, I don’t have the lifestyle for most of them and my wardrobe space is very limited. So I doubt I’ll go back to those.
I did try something new this year: sewing with a plan rather than making whatever happens to take my fancy next. The aim was to make pieces that work together and use up some stash fabric. It took a surprisingly long time to come up with a suitable set of projects and I’m still working my through the list. At the rate I sew, even the eight garments I have planned will take six months. I’m half way through now, with four finished garments.
I’m honestly surprised I’ve stuck with it even this far, although it helps that I already have most of the necessary fabric. I am starting to get slightly bored, although that might be because I’m currently working on an involved Vogue designer pattern in black fabric with miles of black topstitching at the darkest time of year; I seem to have been making it for weeks and it’s still not done.
Three of the finished items from the plan have fitted right into my wardrobe. The one failure was down to poor fit rather than the choice of pattern. So it’s been mostly worthwhile, but if I carry on planning in advance like this I need to find a better balance of short and long projects. And I do miss the fun of planning frivolous projects based on my latest whim.
On the subject of patterns, I’m slightly saddened by what’s happened to Vogue Patterns this year. It’s not the rebranding of the parent company from McCalls to Something Delightful, although I don’t love that. Vogue are still by far the most interesting of the Big Four ranges, but they’re clearly winding down the designer pattern section. The designer’s name is no longer a prominent part of the marketing, and there are fewer and fewer designer patterns in each release. Conversely Burda magazine is going from strength to strength, so I haven’t bought any new envelope patterns all year.
I did buy and make up a vintage envelope pattern though: a Claude Montana Vogue from the 80s. It was beautifully designed; if modern Vogue designer patterns cease to be an option I’ll certainly be stalking eBay for vintage ones.
eBay has also supplied a few back issues of Burda this year that filled in some gaps in my collection from before I subscribed. I was struck by how different the magazine was ten years ago. There were fewer patterns per issue but they were very much more detailed. And of course the patterns were spread over eight sheets rather than four back then, so they’re much easier to trace than modern Burda. I can see myself sewing up a few things from these old issues next year.
Well that was an unstructured ramble. Next up: goals.
This is my favourite part of the Sewing Top Fives blog series: the failures. There’s much more to say about the projects that didn’t work than the ones that did. When I went through my projects for the year I found three that didn’t work out. Which is one less than 2019, so that’s progress.
I’d completely forgotten this Burda dress, from my long abandoned attempt to sew my way through my Burda wishlist. It looks all right on the dress form but the fit was horrible. No prizes for guessing why there are no photos of it on me.
I chose the wrong fabric for the pattern, made some misguided experimental fit adjustments, and added pockets in a bad place. A sad waste of nice fabric. I still occasionally hanker after the dress that inspired the project though: Luv’s fitted white dress from Blade Runner 2049. I was intending to use this pattern as a base to reproduce it once I’d worked the bugs out. One day perhaps, but definitely with a different pattern as the starting point.
The next one seemed like a success at the time I finished it, and I still like the way it looks in photos. But sadly it’s so low cut and boxy that it’s only suitable for lounging; anything involving movement, never mind bending over, is extremely dicey. I wore it to take my son to the playground once. Never again. I haven’t thrown it out because I cling to the hope that I might one day have a lifestyle where I can wear it; that or I find some magical underpinning for it that I don’t mind people seeing.
The last one should look familiar because I only posted this blouse two weeks ago. The fit is definitely not right; odd because I’ve been sewing Vogue for years and I thought I had a good handle on how their block fits me. Maybe this one’s just a bit unusual. Anyway I haven’t decided what to do with it yet; probably wear it less done up but with a camisole underneath. I can’t face setting those sleeves again to try to fix the pulling.
Interestingly my historic failures are predominately down to poor fabric choice, but this year it’s been more of a mixture. Not sure if that means I’ve gone forward or back, not that it would be statistically significant anyway.
I’m continuing to sew my way through my wardrobe plan. And this week all I’ve got to show is a pile of black linen pieces that’s supposed to become a shirt eventually. I can barely see to sew it, let alone photograph it. So the appearance of the Sewcialists’ annual Top Five blog series is a welcome distraction.
The first prompt is Hits: the best or most worn things you’ve made this year. I don’t think mine are exactly either: they’re the things that make me feel good every time I wear them.
First up is Burda 121 04/2020. This is a very unusually drafted top – the front and back pattern pieces are identical – that I made more on a whim than anything. It was a quick sew and used up some fabric that had been sitting in my stash for years. I wasn’t expecting to wear it much. And yet I find myself reaching for it frequently. Even in winter I’m still wearing it over a long sleeved t shirt.
Keeping the casual theme, my silver drawstring trousers have also been a winner. I made them at a point where weight fluctuations meant most of my existing clothes didn’t fit. It felt so good to have something to wear that didn’t need constant adjusting. The pattern is a Ralph Rucci and has the incredible level of finishing you get on his designs. I didn’t sew all the fancy details it called for, but they still feel luxurious.
Next up more trousers: my Burda flared jeans. These were another slightly experimental project. The shape came out very exaggerated; I was slightly concerned I might look like I’m on my way to a 70s fancy dress party. But it turned out that I love them. It’s not just the style but the fabric (Empress Mills 7.5oz premium denim) which is nicely black, has just the right amount of stretch, and amazing recovery. No baggy knees here.
The next one appears much less practical: my Burda pleated culottes. Admittedly they aren’t something to wear if it’s raining as they turn into a heavy damp mess. But on a dry day they’re a lot of fun. I like the fact that the style mixes femininity and toughness.
But last and best is my silver quilted coat. Yes it’s the same fabric as the drawstring trousers. And I have on occasion accidentally left the house wearing both together. But this gets worn most days so that’s not surprising. It’s not waterproof but is thick enough to cope with ordinary rain, and it’s very warm. The colour’s good for visibility after dark too.
So that’s it for my top five hits: next up are the misses.
And here is the last post of the sewing top five of 2019 series: goals. To make it more interesting I’m not making any concession to practicality. This is what I currently want to sew regardless of climate and lifestyle.
First up is a quilted winter coat in silver. As soon as I saw Burda 114 11/2019 I wanted to make a metallic version. Here’s the technical drawing. I’m intending to skip the bow.
This one is quite likely to get made. I really need a warm winter coat and I already have a fabric in mind for it: an amazing bright silver foiled denim. I still need to do a toile and gather quite a lot of supplies apart from the shell fabric so there’s a way to go.
I was lucky enough to get some of the recent Vogue patterns from my wishlist for Christmas (thanks!) and the one I am really itching to make is V1645, the Rachel Comey Standfast jumpsuit. The pattern envelope recommends ‘cotton blends’ but some versions of the original were made in a fabric that’s described as ‘white pebbled foam’. I still can’t quite work out what that might mean. I think I’ll play it fairly safe and look for a tencel denim for my version. I’m not sure what to do about the buckle detail. The original has a self fabric covered buckle but I quite fancy using a metal one. The trouble is I’m not sure if that will make it tricky to wash.
And the last one is a real stretch: this amazing Pamella Roland Vogue coat/cape. It’s out of print and I can’t say I’m entirely surprised because it’s not exactly practical. But I do love it.
I’m also carrying on with my project to work my way through my wishlist of Burda dresses, and in fact my next couple of posts will be about the next two on the list. That seems like more than enough plans for one year. So thanks to the Sewcialists for running this blog series again, and on to 2020.
So, on to sewing reflections for 2019. I find this is the hardest post in the series to write so apologies if it’s deadly dull.
For a while now I’ve been trying to reduce my fabric stash by sewing from stash where possible, only buying fabric one project ahead, and always getting samples before buying fabric online. The idea is to make better choices and sew up new fabric before I can change my mind about it. I managed to stick to that for most of the year. I also gave away some stash fabrics I knew I would never ever sew because the colours and prints didn’t suit me.
The stash has shrunk somewhat as a result, but there’s still a way to go and it’s getting more difficult to reduce it. I’ve already sewn up the easy stuff and am now left with lengths that I am struggling to find a suitable project for. There’s one length of green wool coating in particular that’s a problem. I don’t sew it up because I’m not really convinced the colour suits me, but I can’t part with it either. This picture gives some idea.
I can’t possibly dye it; I’d need an industrial dye vat for that much heavy wool! Nor am I really up for sewing an entire coat for someone else. My current hope is that I’ll find a coat pattern I love that’s sufficiently out there that I wouldn’t risk buying new fabric for it.
I’m also on a pattern buying diet. This year I only kept up my Burda subscription and didn’t buy envelope patterns. Again this is getting slightly harder now because Vogue, my favourite brand after Burda, are really on a roll at the moment.
I did buy the Bootstrap Vado custom jeans PDF pattern this year which was a fun experiment. The fit was better for me than unadjusted Burda jeans, but it was not perfect enough for me to get over my general dislike of PDF patterns and go back for more yet. I might consider Bootstrap or Lekala again for something I was finding really difficult to fit though.
The other thing I’ve been trying to do this year is to feed Kibbe style advice into my choice of projects. (If you want more on Kibbe, check out Doctor T’s in-depth blog series). I’m pretty dubious about style typing systems in general but some of the ideas in this one work for me: it recommends I wear vee and boat necks, monochrome colour schemes, dark neutral colours, long lines, and avoid any fussy details. Of course I also have my own rules: pockets are essential, metallic is a neutral, everything must be machine washable.
I’m not sure using Kibbe has made a huge difference to how I dress – part of the reason I like the system is that it agrees with my existing ideas about what suits me – but it did make me consider choosing longer skirt lengths, which I’ve found aren’t as dowdy as I would have guessed…or maybe this is all a coincidence as fashion’s just come around to longer skirts. Anyway I shall carry on keeping his recommendations in mind, and doubtless reject them the minute they clash with something I really want to wear.
On to the next sewing top five post. This one is ‘Highlights’ – for things that aren’t sewing projects, which were already covered in Hits.
I’ve got one that vaguely relates to the subject of this blog. We finally finished building our extension. It took nearly a year and there was a grim few weeks when we had to move back into the house before the kitchen was finished; we also didn’t have any windows! But it’s lovely now it’s done and it turned out the new kitchen island makes a handy cutting table. And there is no longer a leaking and decaying conservatory in my blog photos. Before:
And after…this is obviously taken from outside the house but that patio is where the conservatory was.
And here’s part of the new kitchen and dining room with the island.
I’m so glad it’s finished…it’ll be a while before we can face anything like that again!