Twisty tops: understanding Burda 111 6/2021

I just finished making Burda 111 6/2021, a sort of cardigan jacket thing with a drapey twisty front bit (scientific description there). I put it on, and then spent twenty minutes in front of the mirror trying to figure out how to best arrange the drapes. The two fronts extend from the hem and are joined into a long loop with a full twist. Here’s the technical drawing:

Burda 111 6/2021 line drawing
Burda 111 6/2021 line art, burdastyle.ru

I’d chosen black fabric where the right and wrong side were very similar, so it was a bit difficult for me to see what was going on with my garment. So here is my assistant, Gabrielle the Playmobil figure, wearing the same design made up in origami paper with different coloured sides.

Jacket with one full twist, extended
Jacket with one full twist, looped around neck

The flattest way to arrange it is like the picture above. The two fronts cross over and the wrong side of the fabric faces out on the drapes. The direction the fronts cross over depends on which way it was twisted before joining the fronts.

Then I started wondering what would happen with different numbers of twists.

With no twists the fronts don’t want to cross so it ends up as an open jacket. The wrong sides still show.

jacket with no twists, extended
jacket with no twists, lopped around neck

With two twists it likes to sit with one side wrong side out and one side right side out. Might look interesting if you had a fabric with two good sides.

jacket with two twists, extended
jacket with two twists, looped around neck

I tried half twists too, which means the front extensions end up joined right side to wrong side, making the whole garment a Möbius strip with one side and one edge (if you ignore the sleeves). That didn’t work at all: I couldn’t get it to sit flat in the paper version. Whole numbers of twists it is.

Hopefully I’ll get some pictures of the fabric version soon.

Another oddity with Burda 110 5/2008

I’ve finally finished Burda 110 5/2008, a biker style mini dress with lots of fiddly details and hardware.

Burda’s famously terse instructions all worked out in the end and I’m pleased with the result, but there’s one feature I don’t understand. Here are the lower pockets, which are bellows style, so there’s a pleat strip between the front of the pocket and the dress body to allow expansion room. (Burda calls them poacher’s pockets but I don’t think I’ll be fitting any stolen rabbits into these.)

They have rivets on the bottom corners. Rivets are normally placed to reinforce areas of stress, but I’m not sure I’ve got these right. Burda’s instructions say to ‘keep the pleat piece free’ while attaching, and in the technical drawing they definitely don’t look like they are meant to go through the body of the dress.

Burda 110 5/2008 line art, Burdastyle.ru

So I’ve just put mine through the pocket front where they achieve nothing but decoration. I couldn’t even catch the seam allowances down with the rivet on most of them because I added the rivets after sewing the pockets to the dress. Had I realised earlier that they don’t go through the dress front or near the attachment seam I could have done them before, which would have been much easier.

So does anyone know how these are meant to work? I’m perfectly happy with the finished dress, and the pockets are never going to be asked to hold anything heavier than a phone, but I’m curious.

An apology to Burda

Burda 110 5/2008 line art, burdastyle.ru

I’m making the dress above, which is an old Burda magazine pattern from back when it was called Burda World of Fashion. The pattern number is 110 5/2008. It has such a huge amount of detail. This is something where I think the majority of sewing patterns don’t match ready to wear designs – they don’t have a lot of non-functional detailing.

A couple of weeks ago I was complaining about the instructions for this pattern, which make modern Burda ones look verbose. I was also pretty sure they contained a mistake. Well I was wrong: I started sewing it up and it all made sense once I had the actual pattern pieces in my hands. For posterity here are some in progress photos of the centre front zip fastener, which was the bit that confused me. It has an exposed half zip with an appliquéd band.

You sew up the centre front seam to just above the end of the zip slot and then there’s some difficult to describe trimming and snipping to do which ends up looking like this. This is the bit that confused me! But I think the picture below is correct. The seam allowances have been trimmed off along the length of the slot, the remaining seam allowance trimmed diagonally, and a small cut made into what will be the bottom corner of the zip slot. I should have interfaced that area.

Then you press the whole thing flat and sew the zip on like a regular exposed zip but from the wrong side, so the inside of the dress is very cleanly finished. Or would be if I’d interfaced the bottom of the slot…it frayed a bit in one corner.

And finally you appliqué the band over the top on the right side.

Eventually there will be some rivets applied too.

So that’s the front zip in. There are two more exposed zips with bands for the side pockets and then a bunch of other fiddly little bits to sew. Summer will be over by the time I’ve finished this one!

Burda instructions and where to interface

I’m making the pattern below, a 2008 Burda, so it’s a pretty old one. I remember reading lots of online complaining about Burda’s instructions when I first discovered sewing blogs, but once I got good enough at sewing to tackle Burda magazine patterns at all, which would have been a year or two later, I found the instructions were minimal but usually adequate.

Burda 110 5/2008 line art, burdastyle.ru

And then I got my hands on some older Burda issues, back from when it was called Burda World of Fashion, and discovered what people had been complaining about. The older Burda patterns are much easier to trace than the modern ones because the same number of patterns are spread out over twice the number of sheets of paper, but the instructions are definitely worse; I think this particular set even has a minor mistake in that they tell you to attach part of the front band twice, in two different parts of the instructions. And while the current Burda instructions are terse but include every step (apart from finishing seam allowances) the old ones occasionally skip over things.

The pattern above has a lot of fiddly little details: wide belt carriers, shoulder tabs, pocket flaps, and some sort of decorative loop at the back neckline. I picked it in part because of this. Burda made their version in poplin which isn’t the sturdiest fabric for that sort of thing so interfacing is definitely required. And the instructions for interfacing are limited to some shading on the cutting layout to show where to stick the stuff:

Cutting diagram for Burda 110 5/2008

And that’s your lot; there is nothing in the text to remind you to actually apply it. Modern Burda always has a brief line at the start of the pattern instructions which mentions it.

Now if I was making this in poplin I think I’d be happy following the interfacing placement in the original diagram, but I’ve perhaps foolishly decided on something much heavier: an 8oz cotton twill. So do I follow the diagram or cut down on the interfacing? I definitely want it on the collar and zip bands, but I wonder if sticking it on the pocket flaps and tabs is just going to make them difficult to turn out and top stitch. Wish me luck.

All the hardware: Closet Core Blanca flight suit

This is the Blanca flight suit from Closet Core Patterns. It wasn’t on my original wardrobe sewing plan, but it fits in well with the other pieces. And I wanted a project that would make use of one of my birthday presents: a hand press. This gadget makes installing press studs (or rivets, or grommets) absolutely painless. Each type of hardware needs a different set of dies which screw into the press, but once they’re on, installing hardware takes seconds and requires very little strength. No more loud hammering noises, and it sets the studs perfectly straight every time. The only problem is that it’s so simple it’s all too easy to get overconfident and install a press stud on the wrong side of the garment. Luckily there were no disasters on this project.

Blanca has press studs on the sleeves which can be used to turn the wide sleeve into a tapered one.

And tabs on the ankles which can be used to taper the leg. The pattern calls for buttonholes and buttons here but I wanted to keep things consistent, so more press studs.

It’s a very well thought out pattern with a lot of options. I went for all the bling with the zipped breast pockets and the buckle belt.

I struggled a bit with the zips on the pockets and my topstitching is distinctly wobbly. I probably would have done better with lighter weight zips. But these were a good match for the teeth on the centre front zip.

It took me a lot of searching to find the buckle. Once I figured out the right search term (surcingle, if like me you didn’t know) they’re plentiful on eBay. They seem to mainly be used for horse blankets of all things.

I was complaining about my inability to sew good belt loops the other week. These ones aren’t bad. I made them as flat as I could with the folding in three method, and kept the turn under short. I didn’t hammer them but pressed them as hard as I could before sewing them on. Still not perfect, but better than the last lot.

There’s just one thing I’d like to change about the pattern, but I’m not sure how. The underlap for the front zip has an overlocked edge that’s visible when the collar is open. That edge needs to be pretty flat so replacing it with another seam wouldn’t be great. Perhaps bias binding on the edge?

Modelled photos coming soon I hope.

Belt loops and waistbands

Here’s the waistband on a pair of trousers I have just made. They are 7oz denim, which isn’t super thick, but as usual I really struggled to sew the belt loops on. The one at centre back was completely impossible so I used a pair with one each side instead.

I long ago gave up on trying to use bar tacks and now just sew them down with a short straight stitch. I even support the back of the presser foot with a bit of folded scrap fabric but still end up with a wobbly result. My machine is otherwise pretty good on thick fabrics so I can only assume it’s operator error.

So after the latest failure I dug out a few pairs of trousers to see if there’s a better way.

The belt loops on my trousers above are made by folding both edges of a long fabric strip in to the centre, and then folding it in half and top stitching down both sides. They end up as four layers of fabric which makes them very thick. It gives a nice finish though. On some other projects I’ve made them with a narrower strip with one long edge overlocked and folded it in three before top stitching. This gives a flatter loop but the overlocked edge sometimes peeks out, or doesn’t get caught in the topstitching.

Ready to wear trousers of my husband’s use an even narrower strip with the edges folded in once to the centre and then coverstitched. That gives only two layers, but I don’t have a coverstitch machine so that’s not an option. And I don’t think my twin needle would cope with denim.

As well as reducing the thickness there are several different methods of attachment. I normally sew the top end of my loops into the top waistband seam and then after the waistband is finished I fold the bottom end under and topstitch it down to the trousers – if my machine would bar tack them I’d do a bar tack instead. But there are other ways.

The picture below are cargo trousers from a Burda pattern which called for sewing the bottom of the belt loops into the waistband/trouser seam and then catching down the top end instead. It’s not any easier that way around in my experience but it’s an option.

The pair of jeans below is Vogue 1573 which uses a method I’ve never seen anywhere else. Both ends of the belt loops are sewn into the waistband seams. The bottom end is sewn in first when attaching the waistband to the trousers. That whole seam is then topstitched. Next the belt loops are pressed down and stitched down to the trouser leg on the inside of the loop, which is easier than top stitching as it won’t be seen and it only goes through one thickness of the belt loop. Then the waistband facing is added, catching the top end of the belt loops in that seam. The top of the waistband is then topstitched right over the belt loops. It’s easier to get the position right this way, but my machine hated topstitching over waistband and belt loops together, and I was then left with the problem of how to secure the bottom of the facing on the inside. The pattern says to hand stitch, but I stitched in the ditch leaving gaps where the belt loops were in the way. Overall it’s not bad, and probably gives a better result, but it’s a lot of faff.

Ready to wear varies. Trousers seem to be mostly done the same way as the Burda jeans, only with bar tacks to catch the tops down instead of topstitching.

Jeans seem to not catch either end in a seam and just use bar tacks.

But then in RTW they have thinner loops so fewer layers to contend with, and more powerful machines too.

I think the answer for home sewing might be to keep the belt loop as flat as possible so constructing the loops using the three layer method rather than the four layer, at least when dealing with denim. I’ve heard hammering the loop after folding the end under can help too. My current project is denim again and has yet more belt loops so I’ll have a chance to try it out soon.

If you have any top tips for good belt loops I am all ears.

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.

Inseam pockets

Pockets are essential for me these days. Inseam pockets are the kind I use the most but it’s always bothered me how most patterns instruct you to sew them. Generally it goes: sew a pocket piece right sides together to each of the body front and back pieces, press them outwards, lay the front on the back and sew up the side seam of the garment making a detour around the edges of the pocket bag. It’s simple to construct but I’ve always found it a pain in the neck to finish the seam edges neatly afterwards. And if I finish the pocket edges before sewing the pocket I have to overlock around all four pocket pieces individually and that’s really tedious. If you look at inseam pockets in RTW they aren’t constructed like that.

Recently I’ve been using a method I came across in Burda instead. It’s harder to explain but I think it gives a nicer finish and it also means you can put a zip alongside the pocket or make French seams fairly easily. I keep forgetting the steps so I took some photos and am writing it all down here so I can refer to it later.

Sew the front pocket piece right sides together with the front dress piece. Start sewing at the raw edges of the fabric level with one end of the pocket opening. Sew inwards at right angles to the raw edge until you get to the side seam seam line. Pivot, sew along the seam line, and at the end of the opening pivot again and sew out to the raw edge. The stitching should look like three sides of a rectangle with the fabric edge being the fourth side. Clip into the corners of the rectangle.

Close up shot of a clipped into corner.

Turn the pocket to the inside and press. Here’s what it looks like from the wrong side of the dress.

And here’s the right side.

Finish the seam that was just sewn. In this picture the little triangular flaps you get from clipping into the corners are just about visible at the two ends of the seam. I’ll come back to those in a minute. This picture also shows a strip of interfacing. I always fuse a bit along the pocket opening edge on the dress front piece.

Understitch the seam.

Now place the back pocket piece over the front one, right sides together. The wrong side of the back pocket piece will be facing up. Sew just the pocket pieces together around their edges. At the two ends catch in the folded back triangles from the clipped corners.

Finish the edges of the pockets. This can be done by whizzing them through an overlocker.

From the right side it now looks like this.

Baste the pocket bag to the dress seam allowance above and below the opening.

Now the side seams can be constructed as normal, in theory as if the pocket wasn’t there, and finished however one likes.

In practice it’s possible to accidentally sew the pocket shut if you don’t sew very accurately. I find it helps to rub a piece of chalk over the back of the pocket opening on the wrong side of the dress front before sewing. It gives a very clear outline of the pocket edges so I know where to aim.

After I made the samples above I sewed a Vogue designer pattern which has yet another method for doing the inseam pockets, where the pocket bag ends up French seamed and the side seam is bound. I didn’t love the method but it’s a useful variant to add to the toolbox. I’d be interested to know about other methods too.

French seamed single welt pocket

Here’s how the french seamed welt pockets on my current project are constructed, with bonus paper models of the process. I suspect it will be easier to see what’s going on with the paper than with fabric samples. I’ve used origami paper which has one white side and one coloured side. The coloured side represents the right side of the fabric, and the white side the wrong side.

This picture represents the right side of the jacket front with the opening for the pocket marked. When doing these in fabric I like to make the markings on the wrong side and line things up by poking pins through to the right side, but I know some people prefer to mark the right side of the fabric with something that can be removed without a trace, like basting in a contrasting thread.

Square of paper representing jacket front marked with welt pocket lines and grainline

Step one is to sew the welt on. It goes on the lower marking with the opening edge pointing down. The side of the welt that will be visible goes against the jacket front.

Blue paper representing jacket with a piece of brown paper representing a welt laid across the lower welt pocket mark

Then the front pocket bag gets placed over the top, right sides together, with the marks for the opening in the pocket bag aligned with the marks on the jacket front. The pocket grainline marking isn’t right on my model, just ignore that.

Blue paper representing jacket with white paper representing pocket laid over

Then slash the pocket opening through both the pocket bag and jacket front, cutting diagonally into the corners. The right side of my paper pocket piece is brown, which is why brown bits are visible around the edge of the opening. The raw edge of the welt is making the slash in the jacket front difficult to see but it is there.

Blue paper representing jacket with pocket laid over and slashed

Turn the pocket bag to the inside through the opening and press as normal. It should look like this from the front, with the welt covering the opening.

Blue paper presenting jacket with welt pocket opening slashed and turned, The brown welt is visible, covering the opening

And now the clever bit: turn the pocket and welt back to their original positions and place the back pocket bag (red paper) on top, with wrong sides of the pocket bag pieces together.

Blue paper representing jacket with white and red paper representing pocketnlaid over

Sew around the edges, trim the seam allowances close to the seam, and turn the whole pocket back through the hole. The welt points up again and covers the opening. Then sew around the pocket bag again with right sides together, completing the french seam.

Finish as normal: sew the pairs of fabric triangles at each end of the opening together, sew the ends of the welt to the jacket front, and sew the pocket bag as close as possible to the top edge of the opening, sewing through both layers of the bag and the fabric flap from where the opening was slashed, but not the jacket front.

One thing I love about sewing is seeing how things like this get put together. It reminds me of when I was at university and learning to really think in three dimensions.

Bits and pieces

This blog waxes and wanes, but of late I’ve been managing to post consistently every week. I can’t say I’ve made a lot of progress on my jacket project since my last post though. I’ve made the welt pockets…which is basically step one of the pattern. Not a single construction seam has been sewn. I haven’t even made the darts.

The pockets are nice, though. Admittedly from the outside they aren’t the greatest welt pockets I have ever made. Slightly uneven welt, and the ends are a bit squashed.

Single welt pocket in black boiled wool

But the insides are gorgeous. The pattern instructions (Vogue 1466, an out of print Donna Karan design) include a new-to-me technique that makes the pocket bag end up french seamed. Not an untidy or even overlocked edge in sight. I’m not normally one to care about beautifying the inside of a garment, but this jacket is unlined so the pocket bags are going to be seen. I’ll have to go through with the Hong Kong finish the pattern recommends on all the other seams now, simply in order not to let the pocket bags down.

French seamed pocket bag

Anyway I imagine anyone who’s still reading has heard more than enough about welt pockets by now. I also wanted to share a couple of links to blogs I’ve enjoyed reading lately.

Some Use Some Wear is a blog about the evolution of a wardrobe. It’s not a sewing blog, but I enjoy it because the author talks about the stories behind her clothes.

The other one isn’t a single blog – it’s a whole series of blogs about creating incredibly screen-accurate Doctor Who cosplays. They aren’t being updated any more but there’s a huge amount of reading material in the archives. Even if you’re not into Doctor Who, the process the author goes through to source authentic fabrics and develop accurate patterns is fascinating. He covers several of the classic and new series Doctors. My favourite is his Fourth Doctor costume blog and all the others are linked from there.