I’ve been making trousers in a very special wool fabric. The colour is difficult to describe; the best I can do is “warm grey”. There are both brown and grey threads in the weave but from a distance it looks like a solid colour. Finding matching notions for fabric isn’t always possible but I wasn’t expecting this one to be so difficult to match. In the picture above are four YKK trouser zips in colours (left to right) named “stone”, “light grey”, “dark grey”, and “charcoal grey”. They’re sitting on top of my fabric. I took the photo in natural light. Stone is far too light. Light grey looks green, dark grey looks blue, and charcoal grey is too dark. Those are all the greys available, and the YKK brown shades are all far too brown. I’m going with the charcoal grey (far right) on the “always go darker” principle. No doubt I’ll find uses for the other three.
I should know this by now, but it's amazing the difference fabric choice makes to a pattern. Earlier this year I made Burda's 104c-02-2017 culottes pattern in a drapey viscose crepe fabric. Not at all the recommended fabric for the pattern, but the end result was great and I've worn them a lot. So I made them again, this time in a stretch cotton sateen from Fabric Godmother. This fabric is much more the sort of thing the pattern designer intended. The pattern specifies "lightweight trouser fabric with some body". The originals were a little large so I took the waist in slightly as well, and here's the end result; you wouldn't think it was the same pattern.
And here is the viscose crepe pair for comparison. I seem to have worn the same top for both sets of photos: not intentional.
In the spirit of full disclosure I should say that the sateen pair were worn and washed several times before we got around to taking pictures, and were put on straight from the drying rack without ironing, whereas the viscose pair were photographed in their 'just finished' state.
The viscose pair sit much lower on me and have a nice swish, but feel a bit big. The crepe tends to grow with wear which doesn't help, although a wash shrinks them back to the original size.
The sateen pair feel much more structured and look slightly shorter because they sit higher. The shinier fabric means they tend to show marks and creases more easily than the crepe ones.
The pattern has fake back pockets which I skipped on the new pair. They were a pain in the neck to sew on the originals and I wasn't happy with the positioning. The trousers look OK without them I think. The sizing on the new ones is better but still not quite right. They fit at the waist now but seem slightly too small on the bum. I didn't change the pattern there so that's just the effect of different fabric.
This pattern has lots of belt loops, which means there is a very long thin tube to turn inside out. Not my favourite sewing activity and not easy in a fabric with body. I tried a new-to-me technique involving a chopstick and a straw. I was cynical about it before I started but it worked! You sew up one end of the fabric tube, poke the straw into the tube, and then push the closed end through the centre of the tube using the chopstick. I can't find the instructions I used now but this article covers the technique: https://angelleadesigns.com/tutorials/how-to-turn-a-narrow-tube-of-fabric/ . I suspect it relies on the straw being an appropriate diameter for the size of tube. My straw was narrow and I think it would have failed on thicker fabric.
The belt came out the right length this time. On the previous pair it was extremely long which looks good in pictures but is a pain in the neck to wear. I must have cut it on the fold by mistake or something like that. In fact the whole waist area is better in the sateen. Again it's the effect of using crisper fabric. There is no waistband, just a facing, and it needs some body and a lot of tacking in order to make it stay put. I stitched my facing down in the ditch of the side and centre back seams on both pairs but I should have done it at the pleats and darts too.
I'm very happy with both of these. Both are in high rotation at the moment.
This is Vogue 1305, a dress that at first sight might seem hopelessly impractical. It’s floor length, with only one sleeve and an open back. But it’s made for knit fabric and with a little bit of tweaking I think there’s an interesting but wearable summer dress to be found here. Here’s the envelope photo (no link to Vogue because the pattern’s no longer on their site):
I checked out a few reviews before making this and I’m very glad I did! Thanks to Erica Bunker, Helen Sadler, and The Mahogany Stylist for very useful information about this pattern.
It’s clear that it runs amazingly long. I normally add four inches to Vogue patterns and I didn’t add a thing to this; it’s still slightly too long for me. Other than in length it is unusually small. I normally make a 10 in Vogue; this is a straight 14 and it’s just right.
The shell fabric is a lovely viscose jersey from Croft Mill which was a birthday present. The lining is a black polyester mesh from Tissu Fabrics; no link because it was an end of roll. Matching coloured lining fabric would have been slightly better than black because the dress is lined to the edge, but grey mesh wasn’t available.
So on to some details. The left side has a walking split. As drafted it’s very short which makes this practically a hobble skirt. I lengthened mine to just above the knee so I can walk comfortably.
There’s a tiny bit of lining peeking out at the left armscye despite understitching. I should have interfaced the seamline there and also around the neck.
I added pockets by creating a horizontal seam across the front and putting inseam pockets in there.
Here’s the right side with all that wonderful draping. Several reviewers mentioned that their drapes flattened out and they had to sew pleats into the side seam to get the correct effect. Mine fall the correct way naturally. I suspect the difference might be that I didn’t skip adding the lining, which gives the shell a bit of extra support because the lining and shell seam allowances get sewn together down the right side seam. I also fused a strip of interfacing down the centre front and centre back seam allowances to help support the weight of the drapes.
The original style has a centre back opening that goes down to the hips. I shortened mine to just above bra band level.
The dress isn’t very forgiving when seen from the back. It really clings at the hips; I’m very glad I made my true size which has a small amount of positive ease there. Even with that wiggle room it pays to choose undies carefully. I’ll admit it took a lot of trying to get a photo of the back I was happy to put on the Internet. Not that this will stop me wearing it.
The pattern claims that you can wear the dress in a second way by putting your head through the sleeve seam opening. In fact if you look up photos of the designer original (I’ve collected a few on my Pinterest board for the pattern here) it’s worn that way in some shots. And it’s true that you can wear it like that, but only if you don’t mind the world seeing an inappropriate amount of chest though the original head opening. It’s OK if I stand extremely still but I will not be wearing it in real life like I am in the picture below.
The pattern itself was a lot of fun to sew. The lining is inserted by bagging out so there is no hand sewing in this dress other than attaching the button. I constructed it all on a regular sewing machine – I threaded up the overlocker but never felt the need to use it. The instructions were fairly easy to follow but it helped that I’d made this sort of thing before.
This definitely isn’t a good ‘first knit’ project because the pattern pieces are huge. They were pretty difficult to cut out because I only had space to do one at a time. It really was a case of cutting piece each in turn while praying Vogue’s layout was correct and I wouldn’t run out of fabric on the last piece. Adding the pocket seam made the cutting out easier by reducing the size of the front pieces. It did all work out in the end but it was much the hardest part of making the dress.
One problem I noticed about the pattern: there are incorrect bodice lengthen/shorten lines on some of the pieces in my copy. And most people will want to shorten this dress.
So what’s the verdict? I love how it looks. It’s not quite as easy to wear as I’d hoped; a few inches off the length would help. I certainly couldn’t wear this to work. I can see myself making a shorter version at some point though.
If you’ve been reading sewing blogs for a while you’ll have heard of frosting sewing versus cake sewing. Or for those of us in the U.K., icing versus cake. Icing is the pretty, impractical stuff we love to sew but rarely wear, and cake is practical basics. This is a cake project: a simple black long-sleeved t-shirt in wool jersey. I know I will wear this until it goes into holes.
I’ve made a couple of these before using a pattern I mashed together from an old McCalls dress pattern (no, I don’t know why this seemed like a good starting point either) and while I loved them and wore them to destruction they nevertheless had a few fitting niggles. So this time I started off with the close fitting stretch t-shirt block from Metric Pattern Cutting for Womenswear and adapted from there. I was going for a combination of these two Rick Owens tops: the shaped hem of the tank with the ultra long sleeves of the t-shirt.
I copied the raw hems and the feature centre back seam of the originals. My centre back seam is just overlocked wrong sides together with the four thread overlocker stitch and pressed to one side. I find it surprisingly difficult to sew that seam correctly because my brain’s so used to doing it the other way. I have to keep chanting ‘wrong sides together, wrong sides together’ to remind myself.
I like it a lot. It’s not totally perfect: I’m wearing it over a long sleeved cotton t-shirt in these pictures which tends to produce extra wrinkles, but even so I’ll add a touch more ease next time as I don’t think all the wrinkling is down to the extra layer. The good news is that the fabric is a reorderable one – John Kaldor Isabella wool/viscose jersey – so I can get the exact same fabric again for next time. I might also shorten it a little but I haven’t quite made my mind up about that yet. The fabric was a birthday present and it’s lovely! Warm, stretchy, great recovery. It’s also extra wide: 170cm, so I got this top out of only one metre.
This was such a quick project to sew. Cutting out took about five minutes and sewing maybe an hour and a half, and that’s only because I was going very slowly and carefully because I didn’t want to risk making a mistake with the posh fabric.
I sewed it with size 75 stretch needles. I guess you could construct something like this entirely on the overlocker, but I did the seams on the sewing machine first for accuracy. I find if I sew with a fairly long stitch length even a straight stitch has enough elasticity to use on a knit.
Already planning another one of these in another colour…maybe in the gunmetal grey.
Not every sewing project works out well. Here is a recent failure: Vogue 1268 in green fake suede fabric. You might be thinking it’s pretty strange to make a long-sleeved, lined, polyester dress in summer and you’d be right. Not all stash-busting is a good idea. And that was only the first mistake.
V1268 is a Guy Laroche designer pattern that came out a few years ago. The envelope photo is below. It’s got an unusually baggy top half, and all the reviews of the pattern that I’ve found mention that the bodice runs very long. After reading the reviews I checked the back length on the pattern tissue. It has a handy marking to show how much blousing there’s meant to be, and it’s a very generous amount. If you remove the blousing allowance then the back length matches the Vogue measurement chart, to which I’d normally add 5cm, but given the reviewers’ comments I left the bodice length alone and added about 5cm to the skirt length instead. I also added side seam pockets, hem facings, and tweaked the lining pattern so I could do a bagged lining with the skirt lining completely attached to the hem and front facings. The original dress has a raw hem on the shell fabric and the lining is hemmed separately and attached to the dress at the front facings and waist seam.
Here’s the back view. I didn’t do a good job on pressing the hem but let’s ignore that for now. There’s a bit of pulling at the back hip which I notice is present on Vogue’s model too. The waist is close-fitting. I made my usual size (for Vogue this is one size down from what the size chart indicates) and while it’s not uncomfortable there isn’t a lot of expansion room at the waist. I probably should have traced a size bigger. This seems to be happening more and more with Vogue for me despite checking the finished garment measurements before cutting. But overall the back isn’t bad.
But now look at it from the side. The right bodice front is much too long and sags unattractively over the waist seam. There is no sign of this in the pattern photo, but the model’s shoulders are amazingly square. Could there be shoulder pads in there? I could swear the pattern doesn’t mention them. It might explain why the sleeves are a bit longer on me than the model too.
I thought about trying to take up the extra length at the waist seam but the slanting shape of the right skirt front means this involves losing width in the wrap, and I really don’t like wrap dresses with a skimpy overlap. I finished the dress in the hope that it would be wearable in the end despite the bodice, but I’m pretty dubious now I’ve tried it on.
On the good side: my bagged lining worked perfectly. Behold the entirely machine-finished hem/facing/lining junction! And just ignore the lack of pressing.
There are other good things about this make. The sleeves went in easily, which was good because the fake suede does not like to be eased, and they are comfortable to wear with a good range of motion. I like the cuffs too. In fact if I’d shortened the bodice front on the pattern in advance I think I’d be really pleased with the result.
I’m going to hang onto the dress until the autumn as I don’t think I’ll know how truly wearable it is until cold weather comes along. My hopes are not high but perhaps the magic wardrobe will transform it in the next few months.
Culottes are something I never imagined I’d want to wear. I hesitate to say they’ve come back into fashion because I wouldn’t know, but they have certainly started to look appealing recently. It may just be the effect of swapping fashion magazines for Burda and pattern catalogues.
These ones are Burda 104C 02/2017. They are a very high waisted style with front pleats and a tie belt. They are more like cropped wide legged trousers than what I normally think of as culottes. Dr T made a great version of this pattern that moved them right to the top of my sewing list.
Mine are made in viscose crepe from Truro Fabrics. It’s more drapey than I think the pattern is designed for but it’s what I had in the stash. The fabric requirements say ‘trouser fabrics with some body’. The crepe gives them wonderful movement but some of the details like the belt loops and the high waist would have been better in a crisper fabric.
One slightly odd detail is the fake back pockets. I think trousers usually look better with some sort of detail on the backside but there’s something not quite right about these. I think they’re a bit too small and also need to be higher up. But that might not be the pattern’s fault: the whole garment is sitting lower on me than it should. This style of trouser cannot stay in place if there’s any ease in the waist at all; I should have realised that and traced the waist a size smaller than I did. As it is the whole thing slips down a few inches on me.
The really good thing about these are the huge hip pockets. They look fine even when fairly full of junk because the style is so voluminous. The tie belt is nice too although it’s come out much longer than I expected. I usually cut them a little longer than the pattern suggests but I don’t remember adding that much length. Unless I tie a bow the ends are down by my ankles. Dramatic, but not the most practical of features.
I interfaced the waist facings and fly underlap with Vilene F220 and used a mystery lightweight stretch woven interfacing on the pocket edges. I could have done with putting lightweight interfacing on the fly facings too and maybe the hem area.
Vogue 9064 is a pattern that’s been lurking in my stash for so long it went out of print before I sewed it up. That’s not quite as bad as it sounds as this one seems to have had an unusually short shelf life. It was released in winter 2014. I’m not sure exactly when it went out of print but we’re now in spring 2017 and it’s definitely no longer available. I guess it didn’t sell well because I can’t find any reviews of it online. Which surprises me, because I loved it as soon as I saw it. Here’s my favourite view from the envelope art. The top is the piece I was drawn to, but the skirt is included as well. There’s also a pair of simple elastic-waist trousers.
I’ve been trying to sew from my stash lately so I didn’t have a lot of fabric choice for this project. The grey and black linen I used was left over from my Vogue 1390 dress. There wasn’t enough of either colour left to make the pattern up exactly like the envelope. I’ve made the sleeve bands much deeper and cut them from the contrast colour, and added a deep hem band to match. There’s no collar either.
It looks like a very simple kimono sleeve top at first glance but it’s a little unusual. The sleeves are kimono sleeves (cut in one with the bodice) at the front but regular sleeves at the back. You have to set in half a sleeve on the back bodice, which gives you a t-shaped back to go with the t-shaped front, and then sew front and back together along the overarms and underarms. I don’t understand why it’s designed like this because it seems to give the worst of both worlds in some respects; the baggy fit of a kimono sleeve with the aggravation of having to set in a sleeve. Having said that it’s very comfortable to wear, and there wasn’t a lot of ease in the back sleeve seam so it was more straightforward to set in than I expected. Maybe someone who knows about pattern cutting can explain the choice?
I’m slightly surprised the front contrast panel doesn’t go around to the back. I’m not sure if I like that or not. I wasn’t bothered enough to alter it though.
The linen frays like nothing on earth so I flat felled all the seams except the centre back. I’ve somehow avoided ever making flat fell seams in the past and was pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn’t difficult, even on the curved seams. I did the slightly easier version where you sew the fabric right sides together first so all you see on the outside is a top stitched seam. It also helps that linen presses well.
The centre back seam has a zip so I pressed that one open and overlocked the seam allowance edges. I could have bound the edges instead to get a really clean finish throughout, but didn’t think of it in time. The zip itself isn’t absolutely needed but it certainly makes life easier when getting dressed. I might skip it in a stretch fabric. It’s a centred zip because that’s all I had handy. Don’t look too hard at my topstitching.
I made my usual Vogue size, which is one smaller than the pattern envelope suggests. I checked the ease before picking the size and it fits fine but I really wouldn’t want it any smaller than this. Doesn’t help that I didn’t lower the bust darts so they’re not in quite the right place.
I’m pretty happy with the end result. I’d like to make it again in something warmer for winter: boiled wool maybe, or melton.
- Black and grey linen from Truro fabrics
- Size 90 universal needle and black thread
- Vilene F220 interfacing on the neck facing and along the zip seam
- Flat fell seams throughout except centre back
- Next time bind the centre back seam and lower the bust darts