Vogue 1390 front view full length

This is my version of Vogue 1390, a Sandra Betzina Today’s Fit pattern. I say ‘my version’ because while I didn’t alter the design I made a lot of changes to the method of construction. But the style lines are what really count and the reason why this pattern’s been on my to-sew list ever since it came out. Here’s the line art:

Vogue 1390 line art

I combined the colour blocking, lining, and neckline of view A with the tucked front panel of view B. My tucks are more numerous and narrower than the those in the pattern. They were such an effort to sew they got their own post. But apart from the tucks the dress comes together very quickly indeed because there are no closures.

The shell fabrics are a medium weight linen/cotton blend from Truro Fabrics in black and charcoal. The lining is a fairly heavyweight black acetate/viscose satin from The Lining Company that I had left over from another project. There’s no interfacing other than around the pocket edges.

I think the line art misses one minor aspect of the style: the bottom bands look rectangular in the drawing but the pattern pieces narrow slightly towards the hem, giving the dress a very subtle egg shape. It’s just about visible in the picture below. I like the effect; it adds a little extra interest while still being very wearable.

Vogue 1390 front view

The back of my dress is very plain. I very much admire Angela’s lovely version of this pattern at Collected yarns which has tucks on the back too, but I haven’t the patience to make two tucked panels.

Vogue 1390 back view

I added very tiny horizontal pockets in the side panels. I would have liked them bigger, but the width of the side panel limits them. I made them just deep enough to hold my phone; any deeper and small items would slip down beyond the reach of my fingers. With 20/20 hindsight it might have been better to add larger vertical pockets in the side panel seam but I was worried they might sag and spoil the line.

Vogue 1390 side view

So what did I change in the construction?

The pattern as designed uses an unusual method where each side panel is cut twice and the two parts seamed together at the bottom edge. The front and back hem bands are cut double with a foldline at the bottom edge. They are attached to the front and back panels and those units are then seamed to the side panels. As everything is already finished at the bottom edge by this stage there is no need to construct a hem. As a confirmed hater of hemming I completely approve of this method, but I also had doubts about my ability to join the panels accurately enough to avoid a step at the panel seams. I was also worried the seam allowances might poke out at the hem as there would be nothing covering them.

I ended up using a much more traditional construction with single layer side and hem panels and deep facings around the bottom edge. The dress lining is bagged: attached to the yoke facings and armscyes according to the pattern instructions, but then machined to the hem facings via a gap left in one of lining seams, which is subsequently top-stitched shut. The armscyes are finished with bias strips which are top-stitched down. Facings would have been possible there too but the top-stitching doesn’t show much in these colours. There isn’t a single hand-stitch in this dress.

Vogue 1390 front view

As usual with Vogue I made one size smaller than the size chart suggested. That normally works out fine but on this one I could do with a bit more ease at the bust. If I make it again I’ll go up a size or do a full bust adjustment; Today’s Fit is sized for a more straight up and down figure than Misses so it’s my own fault for not checking the chart more carefully before picking a size. I didn’t make any fitting changes to the pattern other than adding my usual two inches to the length above the waist.

I am very happy with this dress. The design is beautiful and it was fun to sew. Might be a while before I make anything else with tucks though.


Vogue 1390 has been in my pattern stash and lurking on my to-sew list for a while. I particularly like the tucked front panel of view B.

Vogue 1390 line art

When I finally came to take the pattern out of its envelope to trace it I was surprised to find that the front panel wasn’t quite as I’d remembered it. The image I had was of fairly narrow tucks with gaps between them. In fact the fold of one tuck lies on top of the stitching line of the next and they are very wide: each tuck takes up 13.5cm of fabric leading to a finished width of 4.5cm. They are also described throughout the pattern instructions as ‘pleats’ although the envelope says ‘tucks’. After some dithering I decided to adjust the pattern to have the smaller tucks with gaps I’d imagined. This used less fabric, but meant sewing a lot more tucks.

I started out by trying to make an accurate pattern piece for my version but soon realised that turn of cloth might be a problem: if each tuck takes up even a tiny fraction more or less fabric than I had allowed for then the panel would come out much too narrow or too wide once the error had been multipled by 14 tucks. Finally I cut a centre panel piece that was as wide as I’d calculated plus quite a bit extra, and just started making tucks from the centre until I got to about the right width. My tucks take up 3cm of fabric each, with a finished width of 1cm, and have a 1cm gap between them. It was not a quick process, especially as I was trying to be extremely accurate!

The long metal ruler was a great help, not least for checking the panel wasn’t pulled off grain when I laid it down to mark each tuck.

Straightening V1390 tucked panel

Measuring position of next tuck

Tucks need the foldline to be marked from the right side. I used black chalk in the hope that it wouldn’t show much if it didn’t brush off the fabric easily, but I still ended up washing the panel at the end to get all the chalk out. And the black dust made a terrible mess on my hands and the ironing board.
Chalked tuck position

Folding tuck and checking depth

Sewing tuck

Finished tuck

When I’d made enough tucks I laid the centre panel on top of the two panels it attaches to and compared with the lining pattern pieces to make sure I’d overlapped them at the right place to get the correct total width. Once adjusted for width I sewed on the side panels very close to the last tuck seam.

Tucked panel with sides attached

I realise now there was a good visual reason for the wider tucks in the pattern in that the width balances the untucked side panels better. But I’m committed now so we’ll see how it looks when the dress is made up. That might yet take a while. Better hope I still like the style as much when it’s finally done.


Arab-islamic work dress front

One of my Christmas presents was an unusual sewing pattern ‘book’ called Mappamodello. It contains patterns for very geometric styles developed by the designer Nanni Strada in the 70s. The dress above is her ‘Arab-Islamic Work Dress’. It’s the only one I’ve made up so far but I suspect there will be more in the future.

I’ve described the object as a book but once you unpack it what you actually have is two very large pieces of paper. One is the (huge) pattern sheet, and the other includes brief notes on the history of each of the styles and some photographs and technical drawings of the designs. The only thing resembling sewing instructions provided is the key on the pattern sheet. The pattern for the dress I’ve made up didn’t entirely match the photographs and diagrams, but I found the process of reconciling the differences enjoyable. Having said that I made a fairly major mistake with this one which I would have avoided if there had been a photograph or a diagram of the back view as well as the front. More on that in a moment.

The designs are all one size and entirely flat in the sense that there are no seams or darts. They work by wrapping around the body and fastening with ties. The size is adjusted by fastening the ties more or less tightly. Most of the styles are very fabric-efficient and they almost all include pockets. You can see some of the fitting ties on the Arab-Islamic work dress in the back view below. If you’re familiar with the Walkaway dress it’s a similar ‘apron’ style. I was a bit cynical about the ‘one size fits all’ claim and added a few inches of length to the pattern for insurance. It probably wasn’t needed but does give a nice deep hem.

This particular style is supposed to be wearable in two different ways, but this relies on making the back neckline identical to the front neckline so you can turn the dress around 90 degrees and stick your arms though the neckline slits, tying the top neckline slit ties over your shoulders. The original ‘sleeves’ undo at the underarm, and those pieces then wrap over your chest and back, and presumably tie at your sides. As you can see I didn’t make a slit on the back of the dress so I haven’t got anywhere to put one of my arms through when I turn the dress around. I don’t think I’ve lost too much as wearing it that way doesn’t look very comfortable in the model photo.

Arab-islamic work dress back

I think the style I have made up is one of the earliest in the series. There are several very similar dresses in the book and it’s interesting to compare the later ones with the earlier. The shape of the neckline and sleeves evolves, the ability to wear the dress in two ways is dropped, the pockets become more complicated, and some purely decorative features creep in. I suspect the later versions make slightly more practical garments! Mine shouldn’t be worn without leggings and a t-shirt underneath because of all the gaps.

The book doesn’t go into any detail about fabric choice. For one or two of the designs it mentions ‘glazed cotton’ or ‘lacquered cotton’ which sounds to me like crisp fabrics. Accordingly I made my dress up in a polycotton poplin on the grounds that it’s got a crisp hand and is cheap enough for an experiment, but I think something with a bit more drape would actually have been better. By the way you need wide fabric for this style – 150cm/60″ – which limits the choices. I couldn’t find wide poplin from any of my usual sources and ended up getting it from eBay. The dress is mostly one huge pattern piece nearly the whole width of the fabric and well over two metres long. It makes efficient use of fabric. I only had small scraps left over.

Arab-Islamic National Dress front

So does this pass the wearability test? I’m not sure. These photos were taken on a bitterly cold and windy day so you are not seeing the dress or me at their best. It does feel a bit like wearing an academic gown only not as warm. Despite the book’s claim that the styles work for all seasons I think this one is only for spring and early summer days.

This all sounds rather negative but I really enjoyed the process of working out how to make the dress up. I’d like to give some of the more sophisticated versions a try, using better fabric. I think there’s a great dress in here somewhere.

Arab-Islamic National Dress front

And in other news, I am in the current issue of Vogue Patterns magazine! Very flattered: thanks Vogue!


Burda 103-07-2010 front view

With some makes the pattern comes first and with others it’s the fabric. In this case it was definitely the fabric. It’s a fairly heavy-weight stretch denim with a thick coat of gold paint. The underlying fabric is a brownish black, not that you can tell. I’m a sucker for anything metallic, and stretch denim in any colour other than blue is scarce in the UK, so I snapped this up as soon as I saw it. Originally I thought I might make a jacket, but I eventually realised that jeans would get far more wear. These are Burda 103-07-2010, a skinny trouser pattern with a little extra seam interest. It’s a really good pattern; I’ve made it a few times. Technically speaking it’s not actually a jeans pattern as there are no flat-felled seams or rivets involved, but made up in denim it certainly gives a similar look.

The side seams are shifted a long way forwards and there’s an extra seam down the back of the leg. I made view C where all seams except the inseam are top-stitched. Here’s the line art, which omits the top-stitching:

Burda 103-07-2010 line art

You can see how far forward the side seams are in this shot.

Burda 103-7-2010 side view

I added back patch pockets and lowered the waist about an inch. The original pattern is designed to hit the natural waist. I also added a bit of length to the legs beyond my standard adjustment for extra height.

Burda 103-07-2010 back view

I had a bit of trouble choosing top-stitching thread. The gold paint is bound to wear off over the lifetime of the garment so I wanted to pick a colour that would work with both the gold and the base fabric. My first choices were black or a bright brown, but the black was too harsh with the gold and the bright brown clashed. I ended up with a dull brown which looks fine with the gold but not so good with the brownish-black base fabric. I guess I’ll just have to wash these as little as I can get away with.

I bought a new packet of size 90 denim needles for this make and broke most of them doing the top-stitching; the waistband was particularly difficult. I had to switch to size 100 in the end which worked a lot better. Here are some detail shots:

Burda 103-07-2010 top-stitching
Burda 103-07-2010 top-stitching

The belt loops were slightly tricky. The pattern would have you sew a skinny tube and turn it out. I tried, but the fabric was far too thick to turn. It might have worked if I’d cut the belt loops on the bias but I didn’t want to waste fabric. In the end I cut a rectangle three times the width I wanted, overlocked one edge, and folded it in three as in the picture below. When I top-stitched the belt loops I was careful to go far enough in to catch down the overlocked edge.

Belt loop construction

But the real question is how practical are these? I made them a few weeks before writing this post and they have actually had some wear at weekends. I think they look best dressed down with boots and a sweater.

I’ve got two more metres of the fabric left…maybe a skirt?

Burda 103-07-2010 front view


Burda 117-11-2014 front

This is a project that didn’t quite work. The fabric isn’t quite right. It’s a stretch denim that is too lightweight for the style and an odd shade of black. The fit isn’t quite right either. I don’t think it’s the fault of the original pattern, which is Burda 117-11-2014, described as ‘skinny pants with insets’; more what I did to it. Sorry, Burda. Here’s the line art:

Burda 117-11-2014 line art

I liked the overall shape in the drawing but not the placement of the insets, so I decided to go for some padding and quilting at the knees instead. I traced the quilting lines from another Burda pattern, 106-03-2013. Unfortunately I did it very slightly too high up the leg and the padding I used was a bit thin: just a layer of boiled wool left over from another project, backed with cotton. As a practical feature it just about works – I was very grateful for the padding when I found myself having to kneel down on a concrete floor to reach something at work recently – but it would work a lot better if it was a few centimetres lower.

Burda 117-11-2014 close up

The sizing is off because I’ve increased in circumference this year and the last two pairs of Burda trousers I made came up much too small. Determined not to make the same mistake with these I measured myself and decided to cut a size and a half larger than normal. I did not think to measure the pattern. I may have cut too generously, or perhaps there’s more ease in the pattern than one might expect from trousers described as ‘skin-tight down to the ankle’; of course they are much too large. It’s not all bad though. It might look sunny but was extremely cold when we took these and I was able to get two layers – tights and leggings – on under them. But yeah, look at those wrinkles. Skin tight they are not. I also added less length than I usually do, because Burda trousers always seem to turn out longer than I expect. This was the ‘correct’ decision because objectively on me they are exactly the length the pattern is intended to be, but I want them to be longer! I normally wear them tucked into knee boots because they feel too short.

Burda 117-11-2014 back

Although it may sound like these are a complete failure they’re not. I made them a couple of months ago and have worn them about once a week, mostly at work. And denim trousers usually get better with age.

Burda 117-11-2014 front


Stylearc Hedy dress front

Remember the 80s? Big baggy tunic tops worn over leggings, a triangular silhouette, lots of lycra. This is the Style Arc Hedy dress, and it would fit right in there. For me it was love at first sight.

Absolutely the best thing about this dress is that it has pockets cleverly integrated into the design. They’re standard inseam pockets but the way they are placed in the curved front seams means they hang very well and don’t mess up the lines of the dress.

Stylearc Hedy dress front

I made this in a shiny grey mystery knit bought on Goldhawk Road last year. I don’t know what you’d call it. It’s a fairly stable doubleknit construction but the hand is very drapey and slippery, and it’s shinier than most of the “scuba” knits I’ve seen. There was a lot of the stuff around at the time; I saw it in several different shops and lots of colours were available. It washes well and needs no ironing at all. It’s completely artificial fibre but I guess in the right light it could double for silk jersey. Come to think of it, this pattern would be amazing made up in silk jersey. Love those seamlines.

Stylearc Hedy dress back

Here’s a better look at the underlying shape. The dress comes in two lengths and this is the shorter, “knee-length”, version. I deliberately didn’t make any pattern adjustments so it is not a surprise that it came out pretty short – I normally add between two and four inches length to most dress patterns. I like the proportion as it is though. I think the pattern runs true to size although with so much ease it’s hard to tell. Anyway I made the size closest to my measurements rather than going down one as I do with Big Four.

Stylearc Hedy dress front wide

It’s a fairly easy sew. You don’t need an overlocker. I used mine for the side seams and to finish some edges because it’s fast, but the rest of the dress was constructed on my regular machine. I sewed the hems with a regular zigzag stitch because I was too lazy to fight with my twin needle and I wanted to wear the dress quickly.

The pattern instructions are Burda-style minimal, although unlike with Burda there are diagrams provided for the trickier bits, such as folding the neckline pleat. I like that the instructions include interfacing everywhere it’s needed. I’m very impressed with the overall quality of the pattern. Everything matched up beautifully and the industrial-standard seam allowances used made sewing it easy and accurate.

It has already passed the wearability test. I made it just before Christmas and it’s been worn about twice a week ever since. There may be another one of these soon if I find the right fabric.

Stylearc Hedy front


Vogue 1335 and 1247 front

I never intended this top and skirt to be worn as a set, but I think they work together and produce a sort of 60s effect – maybe a bit Courrèges? My first thought when I looked in the mirror was ‘oh dear this is Jackie Kennedy goes into space’. I therefore decided against wearing big sunglasses for the pictures.

They’re both made from mystery silver sweater knit which I bought on Goldhawk Road some time in 2014. The new garment in this post is the skirt. I had 4m of the fabric and I made two fairly fabric hungry tops out of it, but there was just enough left after that to make the very practical skirt from Vogue 1247.

The top in the pictures dates is based on Vogue 1335 and the details are here. The other top I made is Burda 109-10-2015.

Vogue 1335 and 1247 front with pockets

This top is quite long, which makes the skirt pockets less useful than they might otherwise be when worn together.

Vogue 1247 silver front

The pockets on this implementation of the skirt can sag a bit when you put things in them. The pattern was not intended for knits. The pockets on my woven version behave much better than this. I probably should have done something to stabilize the top edge when I made the knit one.

Vogue 1335/1247 back

Despite being made in a knit this skirt still needed a zip because it’s lined in a woven – a heavy black polyester satin lining fabric which was also left over from another project. The original design isn’t meant to be lined but it’s very easy to do: cut out the skirt fronts and backs again in lining (folding the pocket bag extensions out of the way) and sew them up with tucks instead of darts, leaving a gap in the top of the centre back seam for the zip opening. I then machined the lining opening edges to the zip opening edges on the skirt shell, and then basted the shell and lining together around the top before adding the waistband. This gives a nice neat finish without any hand sewing required around the zip. I did hand sew the shell hem though; the fabric is actually a very fine silver and black stripe and a machined hem would have looked a bit odd as it would have cut across the stripes.

Vogue 1335/1247 side

Despite the woven lining the skirt is quite drapey and shapeless in the knit. Very different from the woven version! The top in the pictures has more body than the skirt because every piece on that is interfaced.

Vogue 1247 silver side

The only thing I interfaced on the skirt was the waistband. If I was doing this over again I’d definitely interface the whole skirt but it’s perfectly wearable as it is. I made it a month or two ago and it’s been in fairly regular rotation for work. I normally wear it with the black polo neck jumper in the picture above which is an old make loosely based on Burda 122-04-2011.

Thanks as ever to my husband for taking the pictures!

Vogue 1247/1335



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