Fitting woes

I had some denim left over from my grey cargo trousers, not enough to make an adult garment, but far too much to throw away. I’ve made simple elastic waisted trousers for my little boy before which were successful, so I set to and cut out Burda 127 03/2018 in what I thought was his size. These are pretty detailed: slash hip pockets, a fly front, welt pockets on the back and one of those useful adjustable waistbands with buttonhole elastic.

Obviously I wasn’t going to do back welt pockets or belt loops in such tiny trousers, and I noticed that my son’s similarly styled ready to wear trousers don’t have a zip inserted in the fly front, so I planned to skip that too. It sounds odd but the fly is so short that it works.

And then life got in the way and the cut pieces sat in the sewing room for a few months. You can probably guess what happened. I finally made them up last week and they don’t fit; he’s obviously grown a lot since I cut them.

They have a strangely short back crotch length even accounting for being a size too small. I think they also run long in the leg which is why they’re rolled up.

So not my most successful piece of sewing. I definitely made the wrong size, but I’m not convinced the pattern is quite right for my son either. So he got new ready to wear trousers instead, and I’m going back to making dresses for me! I’ve finished the black Burda dress with all the gathers, and am well on the way with the project after that. Just need to find time to take photos.

Burda 112A 03/2012 culottes in silver grey denim, seated, in botanic garden

Burda 112A 03/2012 culottes

Burda 112A 03/2012 culottes in dark silver denim, front view, in a botanical garden

This is one of those projects that came from the fabric rather than the pattern. I had a surprising amount of this dark silver denim left over from my trenchcoat and wanted to do something with it. It’s very heavy fabric and hasn’t the slightest stretch which limited my options considerably. After going through my entire Burda collection I found 112A 03/2012, a pair of straight cut culottes. Burda made them up in canvas, so they ought to work in a heavy non draping fabric. Here’s the technical drawing. The back pocket detail is a little unusual but otherwise they are fairly plain. I traced my usual Burda size and set to work.

Technical drawing of Burda 112A 03/2012 culottes

Burda describes these as ‘roomy’. Well my fabric choice probably didn’t help, but I’ve had to let them out considerably on the hips and waist to be able to wear them at all, and they’re still quite close fitting even now. I really should have gone up a size. If you’re thinking of making these check the finished measurements carefully before cutting – I wish I had!

Burda 112A 03/2012 culottes in dark silver denim, back full length view, in botanic garden

Having said that, I really like the style. They might be from seven years ago but the shape seems very modern to me with the very high waist and wide cropped legs. The length is good, and the heavy fabric helps the wide legs to hang well. I never like that effect you sometimes get with wide legged trousers where the legs collapse and cling to your calves. This pair could practically stand up on their own so there’s no danger of that happening. There is something a bit off with the balance though, as you can see below with that diagonal fold running towards the back. I’m guessing if I’d made the next size up that wouldn’t have happened.

Burda 112A 03/2012 culottes in dark silver denim, side full length view, in botanic garden

I would never have managed to get the centre back belt loop sewn over the centre back seam in this bulky fabric so I replaced it with a pair sewn one to each side. I’ve yet to find a belt that goes with them though.

The back pockets are excellent: very roomy and well positioned. They don’t look huge here but they easily hold a phone.

Burda 112A 03/2012 culottes in dark silver denim, back detail view

Despite the size issue I’ve worn these a lot. By the time we managed to photograph these (thanks as ever to my husband for patiently taking a great many pictures in difficult light) they’d been worn and washed multiple times, and the fabric is starting to show some fade marks. I’m tempted to make them up again some time but the thought of tracing the pattern over again is putting me off slightly. Maybe next summer.

Burda 112A 03/2012 culottes in dark silver denim, side view, in botanic garden

Grey cargo trousers: Burda 121 02/2018

These cargo trousers are Burda 121 08/2018. It’s an unpromising looking pattern if you go by the model photo, where it’s made up in a rather unlikely silk satin – the notes say it is an ‘evening style’ – but then photographed and styled to look like the model is camping or hiking. But the line drawing is much more appetising.

The project came about after I saw a picture on a Reddit street style group where the poster was wearing an all grey outfit with loose trousers tucked into boots and thought it was a great look: very comfortable and practical but a bit different. What makes it work in my opinion is the shape of the trousers. The Burda pattern with its gathered ankles and utility styling was the closest thing to it I could find in my pattern stash, and as a bonus it’s a Tall pattern so I didn’t need to make many adjustments. I added 2.5cm length and traced my usual size. The fit is about right. They are by no means low rise though, despite what Burda says in the pattern description. Maybe low rise in the current decade means something less extreme than it did in the 1990s?

These trousers have so much detail and require an amazing number of notions. Five zips, a buckle, loads of top stitching thread, petersham ribbon (not elastic despite what the pattern description says) for the ankles, and a button. I substituted a snap from stash for the button, and cotton herringbone weave tape for the petersham because I wasn’t convinced petersham ribbon would knot nicely.

I’m pleased with the zips I found; they have slightly fancy pullers and the grey tape is less harsh against the grey fabric than black would have been. The fabric is a lightish weight grey denim from Sherwood’s Fabrics. I sewed it with a size 90 denim needle and did the top stitching with a size 100 denim needle. I interfaced the waistband, fly underlap, and belt with Vilene F220. The top stitching thread is various shades of grey Coats Double Duty and Gutermann Topstitch I found in my stash so it doesn’t all match if you look too closely.

Here’s a shot of the ankle ties. I probably should have substituted elastic because I suspect they’re going to be annoying to tie and untie, but they do look nice. I guess I could always replace them with elastic later.

I am really pleased with how the trousers came out, but I have to say the pattern isn’t up to Burda’s usual high standards. Burda never provides pattern pieces for any piece that’s a rectangle, just a table of dimensions which confusingly usually include seam allowances although the pieces that are traced don’t. However the dimensions given for the waistband piece in this pattern don’t seem to include seam allowances or even the waistband underlap, so if you cut it according to the table it would be much too short. The fly front underlap piece dimensions are also wrong unless the piece was intended to be cut on the fold, but I couldn’t see that mentioned anywhere, nor is it shown on the fold in the layout. I’m very glad I checked everything before cutting.

I’m also unconvinced by the instruction to make the belt by sewing a long thin tube and turning it out. It would work in the original silk satin, but not in denim. Instead I pressed the seam allowances on the long edge of the belt to the wrong side, folded the belt right sides together, sewed across only the short ends, turned it out, pressed, and then top stitched around the whole thing to close the long edge. No awkward tube turning required.

Another thing I did to make the sewing easier was to make a template for the zip pocket opening markings. It’s just a piece of cardboard with a slot cut out the right size for the zip, but it made it much easier and faster to mark the four pocket openings accurately.

It is of course still distinctly cool in the UK so this is how I actually wore these most of Bank Holiday Monday; with a thick cardigan on top.

I don’t think I’ll make these again in a hurry because they are so very time consuming, but I’ll definitely hang onto the pattern in case the right piece of black denim should come my way. I think I’m going to wear these a lot. Thanks as ever to my husband for taking the photos!

Vado jeans finished

I finished my Vado Bootstrap skinny jeans at last – just as there has been another glut of articles saying that skinny jeans are dead and we’ve all got to wear wide legs now. Oh well. I like wide legged trousers but nothing is as practical as skinnies.

I talked a bit about the sewing process in previous posts but I stand by my assertion that if you didn’t know how to make jeans the instructions that come with this pattern aren’t enough.

What the instructions are good for is some little details that give a nicer finish. Things like top stitching down the outer side seam from the waist to the end of the pocket bag. The method for the fly front led to the best top stitching I’ve ever done on a jeans fly. You make the fly closure before sewing the front crotch seam, which is sewn as a lapped seam. It sounds tricky but it works nicely and means you have a much flatter space to do the fly top stitching on. I was determined to do a better job on the top stitching than my usual slapdash effort and these changes helped.

I’m slightly less keen on the way the photos showed to top stitch the ticket pocket, with a leg of top stitching continuing past the top corner of the pocket and into the waistline seam. If everything was sitting perfectly flat this would be hidden under the outer hip pocket but the whole front pocket area tends to move about and reveal it. Also I don’t see a good functional reason for it: one less end of top stitching to tie off I suppose?

And I haven’t sewn the fly button in quite the right place…I’ll have to do that again.

Anyway the important thing is, was the custom fit pattern an improvement over my usual Burda jeans pattern? I made one small adjustment while sewing them, which was to take in the centre back seam along the yoke and reduce the waistband length to correspond, but otherwise they are sewn up as drafted.

Well it’s win some lose some. The fit on the crotch and legs is a bit better than my Burda patterns, although having carefully compared photos of these and the various Burdas the difference isn’t as huge as I thought. It was really nice not to have to lengthen the pattern. Really nice. Yes it’s a simple alteration to do but it still takes time, finding the sellotape, and clearing a big enough space on the dining table. The back pocket placement is also pretty good, which I was worried about based on the pattern photos where they looked much lower than they’ve come out on me.

The bad news is that the waist is too large. In the picture above I’ve pulled them up to where they should sit, but in practice they tend to creep down and look more like this.

Here are some full length shots. I am not really nine feet tall by the way. It’s a combination of a low camera angle and the jeans having a very high waist. Thanks to my other half for taking the pictures!

They’re a bit too long for the boots I’m wearing here but I prefer jeans to be on the long side.

The real question is whether next time I make jeans I reach for this pattern or something else. I think I will use this one, but I’ll definitely adjust it. Not just the waist either; I prefer jeans front pockets to have an extension that reaches centre front. They sit flatter that way. The pockets on these are also too deep for this style; it’s not so easy to extract things from the bottom of them. They’d be fine with a looser leg.

I’m glad I made these and they’ve got me a step closer to my perfect skinny jeans pattern, but more iterations are definitely required.

Vado Bootstrap skinny jeans part one

This project is the last one I bought fabric for in the summer. I wanted a new pair of jeans but I am not a fan of traditional blue denim, so when I saw some dark yellow denim in Barry’s Fabric Warehouse I got a couple of metres despite not having a pattern lined up. I say it’s dark yellow, but I think that’s actually the wrong side of the fabric. The other side is a classic jeans blue. The wrong side was originally off-white but has been overprinted with the yellow colour. I am using the yellow side regardless of whether it’s the ‘right’ one.

I’ve made lots of pairs of jeans over the years from various Burda patterns. They have all been good enough to get worn but the fit isn’t quite right: I get lots of folds under the seat no matter what I do. Rather than go through yet another round of tweaking I decided to give the Bootstrap Vado skinny jeans pattern a try. This is a custom PDF pattern that’s generated to match your personal measurements. It comes from the Bootstrap Patterns website, which supplies custom PDF patterns from a range of designers. Vado Designs has a few others besides the skinny jeans; in particular there’s a bootcut jeans pattern that quite a few other sewing bloggers have written about. All the reviews I’ve read have been positive which is a good start.

I haven’t finished sewing the pattern yet, but I’m about halfway so I thought I’d blog about my impressions of using the custom pattern before I get mired down in the details of fit.

The pattern is very customisable. We aren’t just talking hips, waist and inside leg: there’s the rise, the knee, thigh, and ankle sizes to enter. You can also select your desired paper size and file format, choose whether to add seam allowances (for a small extra cost) and even select the degree of stretch of your intended fabric.

I don’t think the process of taking and entering measurements is particularly easy. I found it helped a lot that I already had a pair of ‘almost right’ jeans that I could use to sanity check things like the desired rise and waistband measurement.

I really like that the pattern comes with non-overlapping pieces so no tracing is required. I got my pattern printed at a reprographics shop on A0. Annoyingly I’m tall enough that the pattern overflowed onto a second sheet by a few inches, but it was wonderful to just cut out a pattern without needing to trace it in order to add length or make any adjustments for once…although we’ll see how well it fits when it’s done.

One curious thing I’ve noticed about my final pattern is that there is absolutely no shaping in the back yoke seam. I’ve long suspected I have a flatter backside than average so this may just be the effect of the customisation, but it will be interesting to see how it fits. I’m not making a toile to check because it would need to be done in the same or very similar fabric to be useful.

The fabric length estimate is no help at all. This isn’t a surprise for a completely custom pattern and it does warn you of that. Having said that, I looked at it, decided it was a massive overestimate and then struggled to fit my pattern into two metres of fabric which is normally plenty for jeans for me. The problem is the waistband piece. The waistband is one long piece and the grain runs around the waist. My waistband piece is rather curved so it took up a huge amount of space as there weren’t many other pieces I could lay alongside it to fit into the curve. My Burda patterns have the waistband in several pieces which are cut on the cross grain. I think I prefer that even though it means more seams.

The pattern comes with fairly detailed instructions (at least by Burda standards) but if I didn’t already know how to sew jeans they would not be sufficient. In places what’s shown in the photos doesn’t match the text, and they miss some fairly important information. In particular they don’t give any direction as to which side to sew asymmetric details like the ticket pocket and the flat felling on the centre back seam. Having said that, I’ve learnt a few things from this pattern. The method given for the fly is clever and different to any I’ve tried before, so I am intending to give it a go. The instructions also have a very slick technique for the front pockets which gives a nice clean finish.

So far I’ve constructed the back, the front pockets, and am about to tackle the fly. Watch this space.

Burda 103 07 2010

Full on Cyberman silver jeans

I’ve made various pairs of silver jeans over the years, but never in fabric quite this reflective. It’s a foiled stretch denim from a new-to-me company, Top Fabric. I found it in their online shop a while ago but ummed and aahed about it for quite some time because it’s quite pricey and narrow enough that my favourite jeans pattern would need at least two metres. Anyway I was lucky enough to get fabric money for my birthday, so here are the ultimate silver jeans.

Burda 103 07 2010 front

The pattern started life as Burda 103b 07/2010 but I’ve made it five or six times over the years and tweaked here and there each time. The most dramatic change is probably lowering the waist by a couple of inches. The original pattern is astonishingly high waisted; something I often find with Burda trousers. I also added the back pockets to the pattern at some point. Looking at this version I think they need to be a bit larger and closer to the centre back seam. Maybe I’ll fix that next time.

Burda 103 07 2010 back

One thing I really like about this design is the extra panel down the side of the leg. It’s just about visible in the picture below.

Burda 103 07 2010 side

The top stitching caused much agonising over thread choice. I went with a very light grey and it seems to have worked well. I did the buttonhole and bartacks for the belt loops in regular thread in the same shade. I find I get a much better result that way; neither of my machines likes making dense zigzags in thick thread. The rest of the stitching and seam finishing was done with black thread because the base fabric is black.

Burda 103 07 2010 front closeup

The fabric is a bit more difficult to work with than regular stretch denim. You can’t unpick without leaving marks and the foil surface is very slippery. I used Wonder Tape instead of pins to hold things in place while sewing the fly front and back pockets because pin marks would have been very visible.

Burda 103 07 2010 back closeup

The fit isn’t perfect in that I have my usual problem of folds under the bum. But I have only worn these for try ons so far. I find the fit on skinny jeans improves after a bit of wearing time. My gold jeans had the same problem when I made them and now they’re much better. The silver ones currently feel quite tight but again I expect they’ll ease up with wear.

I’m hoping these will be very versatile. I’m wearing them with a t shirt here but I think they’ll also work with a big white shirt, and worn under either of the white dresses I’ve made recently when the current heat wave finally breaks. And I think I have just enough scraps of the fabric left to make a Vogue 1247 skirt too. Silver is a neutral, right?

Burda 103 07 2010 front

Vogue 1573: unintentional mom jeans

Vogue 1573 front view

So I wanted to make a pair of black jeans to fill a gaping hole in my wardrobe. I wanted a skinny jeans style with a bit of seam interest, and the trousers from Vogue 1573 looked absolutely ideal. Here’s the line art. Look at all those pieces! It’s one of the designer patterns, a Guy Laroche style from Autumn 2015.


V1573 line art

I don’t have the patience or the time for toiles, so I just dived straight in. I was slightly hampered from the start by the fact that I’d ordered the smaller of the two size ranges but my pattern envelope arrived containing the larger one. I’m pear shaped, and based on the finished garment measurements I calculated my hips needed a 12. Luckily that is where the ranges overlap so I had that one in the envelope. I traced the 12 and graded the waist down. I used 14 for the lower leg because I have footballer calves, and added 7cm to the length, 3cm of which I took out again when hemming.

And it appears I have inadvertently made mom jeans: high waist, tapered leg, baggy thighs and seat. These pictures were taken after several washes, so they’re better than they were straight off the machine, but there’s still plenty of excess fabric.

Vogue 1573 front view closeup

I always have extra folds of fabric under the bum on trousers but this pair is really baggy there. This picture is not the worst one we took. I haven’t made woven trousers from a Vogue pattern before and I suspect part of the problem is the standard Vogue crotch curve doesn’t suit me. Burda’s is better on me and I understand that they draft for a different body shape.

Vogue 1573 back view

Anyway this all sounds a bit negative, but I have in fact been wearing these a lot. They aren’t the most flattering jeans I’ve ever made but they are practical and comfortable, and I don’t have another black pair right now. Incidentally the fabric is Black Marl stretch denim from Croft Mill. The pocket lining is black cotton poplin I had scraps of left over from something else, the interfacing is Vilene G405, and I used up two of those 30m spools of Gutermann topstitching thread.

Vogue 1573 side view closeup

Apart from the sizing I actually really liked the pattern. The method used for the pockets was new to me and gives a very clean, bulk free finish on the inside. I’ll be using that one again elsewhere. The belt loops are also a bit unusual. They are sewn into the waistband seams at both top and bottom rather than sewn into the top and bar tacked at the bottom. Then the top waistband edge is top stitched right over the belt loops. My machine found that very heavy going, and I can’t say I think it’s an improvement over the usual method, but it was interesting to give it a go. I didn’t like the instruction to hand stitch the waistband facing down though. I stitched in the ditch from the right side, although the sewn in belt loops got in the way a bit so I have little gaps in the facing stitching.

I was puzzled by the waistband grainline. The waistband is cut in such a way that centre front ends up almost on the bias which isn’t conducive to making a nice neat front closure, and my buttonhole is a bit sad looking too.

Some reviewers said they found the fly construction instructions confusing. The method used is almost exactly the same as Burda’s, which has always come out well for me, but I ran into problems with the fly top stitching on these. I couldn’t fold the fly shield completely out of the way as instructed because of how it was attached, so I had to do the curved end part of the top stitching through all the thicknesses. Then the fly shield edge fell exactly along the line I wanted to stitch along, so my stitching line kept falling off it leading to skipped stitches and tension problems. I managed, but it took about four tries. I think if the fly shield had been longer then what I did would have worked, but I’m not sure I got the construction quite as Vogue intended in the first place.

I might have another go at these, but grafting the style lines onto a jeans pattern that fits me better in the first place. So they are a partial success, and I expect I’ll wear them to shreds anyway because who doesn’t need a pair of comfortable jeans?

Vogue 1573 action shot

Burda 115-09-2015

Black Burda 118-09-2015

I’ve made these trousers once before but you always tweak a pattern second time around don’t you? I always seem to anyway. They are Burda 118 09/2015, wide legged menswear style trousers with turnups.

Burda 115-09-2015

The first version was a little too big in the waist. Perhaps because they rode lower than intended they also seemed slightly too long. This is a Tall pattern to start with and I didn’t add any length. For this pair I took in the waist and left the length alone, and they’ve come up a fraction too short. It’s not enough to make me unstitch the turnups and let them down, but next time I’ll add a very little to the length, maybe 2cm. There probably will be a next time although not for a while.

Burda 115-09-2015

This view shows the pleats and the very forward position of the side seams. When I took the waist in I did it by removing width just from the back pieces. There’s no space to take it out of the front.

Burda 115-09-2015

The fabric is a really lovely black wool flannel from Croft Mill with a little bit of elastane in it. It isn’t enough to make it stretchy but I guess it helps reduce creasing. Sadly it’s now sold out. The pocket bags are a scrap of heavyweight black satin lining I had left over from another project, and I used Vilene G700 interfacing. The pattern calls for interfacing on the waistband, welt pockets, and fly shield. I also put it on the front pocket edges but I still managed to stretch them out a bit.

These are practical trousers. The pockets are huge and they’re very comfortable and warm. But I like to think they’re a bit stylish too. I’ve mainly been wearing them with this black wool jersey t-shirt but I think they’d go with a short boxy top as well.

Burda 115-09-2015

Grey skinny jeans – Burda 115-03-2014

Burda 115-03-2014 grey

I am in desperate need of practical clothes. By practical I mean warm, has pockets, and washable. So I made Burda’s classic five pocket jeans pattern again, in grey denim this time. I had a pair of grey skinny jeans ten plus years ago when Kate Moss made them achingly trendy, and I still have a soft spot for the style even though it probably now looks extremely dated.

The first picture (above) is how I’d normally wear them at this time of year, but below they are shown without the thick cardigan. The top they are shown with is Vogue 8866.

I adjusted the pattern a bit after my first attempt: took a bit off the leg length, did a full calf adjustment, took in the waist, and shortened the front crotch. Most of the adjustments worked well but I took way too much off the length. I’d forgotten what it is like to wear trousers that are too short. Annoying. I also messed up the fly and that zip tends to peek out a bit, but that was entirely a sewing error.

Burda 115-03-2014 grey

Side view. I actually bothered to sew the ticket pocket on these, something I never use. Not sure it adds much but I did nice topstitching on it so that’s something. Talking of topstitching, I did fake flat fell seams on the inside legs with a double row of topstitching, and single topstitching on the centre back seam, the yoke, and the fly.

Burda 115-03-2014 grey

Single topstitching on the back pockets, apart from the top edge. I never do designs on the back pockets. I can’t come up with anything I really like and I don’t mind them plain.

Burda 115-03-2014 grey

I’ve still got lots of wrinkles on the back leg, although I think the front fit isn’t bad. The fabric has 2% Lycra (this one from Croft Mill) which helps.

Burda 115-03-2014 grey

So altogether not the best pair of jeans I’ve made. I’ll wear them but I know I can do much better!

Burda skinny jeans 115-03-2014

People talk a lot about finding TNT (tried and tested) patterns; ones that fit beautifully and get made again and again. I don’t have any TNTs and most of the time I don’t want any. But every so often I think it would be nice to have a standard skinny jeans pattern that I could cut out and make without too much thought about fitting.

A few years ago Burda did a pattern for what they call ‘five pocket trousers’ which is exactly the sort of thing I’m after. It’s available here as a PDF, or style 115 from March 2014 if you have the magazines.

For my first attempt I used left over fake leather from a previous project. It’s a heavy scuba jersey with a plastic coating so fairly forgiving fit wise, but tricky to sew. I left off the back pockets, the ticket pocket, and the belt loops. The only thing I top stitched was the fly front. I didn’t dare try to make a buttonhole but used a trouser hook to close the waist. Here’s the result:

Burda 115-03-2014

I think they’re pretty good for a first try. The shiny fabric shows every single wrinkle so the photos are not flattering the fit.

I made my usual Burda adjustments (trace a size smaller for the waist and add 5cm to the leg length) and also changed the waistband from straight to curved to try to avoid gapping. That wasn’t enough to accommodate the big difference between my waist and hips, and next time I might take the waist in a bit more. I’d also prefer a wider waistband.

Burda 115-03-2014 jeans

I had to use a walking foot to top stitch the fly front, and also when stitching in the ditch to secure the waistband. The hems were hand sewn because I wanted a good finish and even with the walking foot the fabric dragged a little; you can’t pin this stuff without leaving permanent marks and you certainly can’t unpick so I didn’t want to risk machining the hems. I still haven’t got my hands on a Teflon foot but I hear they are a good solution.

Installing the zip without pins was also tricky; wonder tape helped a lot there.

Burda 115-03-2014 jeans

If I was making these in a stretch woven as intended I think I’d try making a full calf adjustment as they are noticeably tighter there.

The pockets have come out surprisingly well. The pocket lining is a scrap of heavy polyester stretch satin I had left over from another project. Normally I’d use cotton poplin for lining jeans pockets but I thought the stretch factor of the satin would be more compatible with the scuba.

Burda 115-03-2014

So overall a success. Haven’t quite dared wear them to work yet but they are good for weekends. I’m going to make the pattern in stretch denim next.

And I’ve still got some of the scuba left. What possessed me to buy four metres I don’t know. I don’t think it has enough body for a jacket, I don’t wear skirts much, and how many pairs of fake leather trousers does one person need? I’m currently debating whether to have a go at copying those Gareth Pugh styles with appliqued leather patches that look a bit like armour, but I suspect the appliqué would be immensely time consuming to sew, and one thing I certainly don’t have is a lot of sewing time. Maybe in a year or two…

Style Arc Genevieve coming up next!