Into the blue

Vogue 1220 blue version front view

So here’s my version of Vogue 1220 being worn by me for the first time, as opposed to my dressform. I really like it. But it’s not at all the easy-to-wear shirtdress I’d envisioned. This dress is short.

Vogue 1220 blue version back view

I’m surprised by the shortness because the envelope photo shows it stopping on the middle of the model’s knees. I made my usual length adjustments before cutting it out, but I think I’d need to add another four or five inches to get the hem to the equivalent length on me. I am going to have to invest in some very thick tights.

On the other hand, it has highly practical pockets. More dresses should have pockets. And the little sleeves are a nice change, and I love the pleats on the bodice.

Vogue 1220 blue version

Other than the length issue it’s really comfortable. I was worried that there wouldn’t be enough walking ease but it’s come out fine. It’s a great design and I really recommend it – but I’m very glad I read all the Pattern Review reviews of it first because the pattern instructions miss out an important step in finishing the placket. Some of the reviews also point out alternative ways to do some of the steps to avoid hand sewing. I’m all for that.

I’m definitely going to wear this version, but I think I’ll try making it again and adding some length too.

Blast from the past?

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So here’s Burda 135-08-2010 finished. It comes from the ‘Take one, make four’ feature in August’s Burda. The four patterns are all short skirts, supposedly in the style of the four main characters from Sex and the City. This one is supposed to represent Carrie. Burda made their version up in bright pink duchesse stain and styled it with a stripy T-shirt and a sequinned waistcoat. I have to admit, mine reminds me of school uniform rather more than Sex and the City. But kind of in a good way.

The pleats at the front are a separate panel that’s overlaid onto the front skirt panel. Underneath it’s a very plain straight skirt, so no need to worry about high winds. There’s a zip in the left side seam so no centre back seam. Hmm, I probably should have pressed that hem a bit more. The instructions say not to press the hem or the pleats but I think they look better with a sharp edge.

The pattern is amazingly quick to make up. There’s no hemming because all the skirt panels are cut out on folded fabric with the fold where the hem would be. The extra fabric is folded inside to become the lining. There’s also no need to finish any seams because they are all completely enclosed. There’s a little bit of hand-sewing needed to finish the zip and that’s it. I made it in an afternoon.

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There are a few things that Burda’s instructions missed out. The pleated panel is really heavy and the weight distorted the front yoke seam. I found that sewing stay tape along the seam sorted that out. I didn’t use interfacing because the instructions didn’t mention it but another time I would definitely interface the yoke. And I couldn’t follow Burda’s instructions for finishing the zip at all, so I did the method I always do for finishing zips which is pretty much the one in this great tutorial.

I’m pleased with the end result, and it was really nice to be able to make a garment up so fast. That’s it for instant gratification for a while though, because my next project is a dress made out of some very beautiful red wool I got in Scotland. There will definitely have to be a muslin and some careful fitting before I cut into that!

Disaster is narrowly averted

Thanks everyone for the comments on the Westwood skirt knockoff! Emily H. mentioned a pleated skirt from the August Burda. There are two in that issue and strangely enough one of them was what I was already planning to sew next. I want to sew the other one too but I don’t have any suitable fabric for it yet and I’ll have to grade it, so that’s a way off.

Here’s the technical drawing of the one I’m doing now.

I am making this in a beautiful 100% wool blue and black tonic suiting from Textile King, which is on Berwick Street in London. I really didn’t want to risk washing it so I tried pre-shrinking using a method I found on the Internet. You wash a big sheet and while it’s still wet lay it out flat. Lay the fabric flat on top, and roll the two together. Pop the lot into a bin liner, tie it closed, leave for a few days, then remove and iron the fabric. It worked pretty well for this fabric. It certainly shrunk a bit and it also got softer. When I bought it the fabric had a rather scratchy feel and that’s gone completely. I will definitely use this method again when sewing with wool, although next time I’ll use a towel rather than a sheet as it might crease the fabric a bit less. I’m not a great fan of ironing.

Here’s the fabric. It’s more of a royal blue than the periwinkle shade it’s come out as in the photo.

So where does the disaster come in? The pattern calls for 1.55m of 140cm wide fabric, not that I bothered to check this in advance because everyone knows a tiny little skirt takes less than a metre, right? Wrong. Not when it has pleats and is self-lined.

My piece started out 150cm wide and probably a bit over 1.5m long so I thought I had plenty. The fabric was cut very off-grain, so I probably lost 5-10cm length in straightening that up. I don’t know how much it shrank when I wet it because I didn’t measure, but some. Then I added 5cm to the length of the skirt when I traced the pattern. This becomes 10cm in terms of fabric because the skirt pieces are all cut double with the hem on a fold, another thing I didn’t really think about in advance.

So after I’d cut all the skirt panels I didn’t have enough fabric left for the four yoke pieces. This was a new experience because normally I buy far too much fabric and have large bits left over. Eventually, after much rearranging, I managed to squeeze all the pieces out of the remaining fabric by cutting the inside back yoke out upside down. That’s bad on shiny fabric as the shine might be directional, but it’s the inside piece so it won’t show. And I have marked it very carefully with my new favourite gadget, the chalk wheel. So all was not lost but you can bet I’m going to check the yardage in advance next time.

Burda shirt finished

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I finally finished the shirt. I’m pleased with it although, as always, there are things that could be improved. The fit isn’t quite right around the arms, so I’m getting creases across the top of the sleeve. It’s maybe clearer from the back view where there’s a funny fold near my armpits.

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It’s not uncomfortable to wear so I’m not going to try fixing it on this attempt. I think I know what to adjust if I make the pattern again. The underarm is too high and needs scooping out a bit, and there’s also too much ease in the sleeve cap. I’d also change the position of the gap in the right side seam that you thread the sash through. It’s a bit too high on me so I have to wrap the sash quite carefully to avoid an unattractive gap.

After wearing this to work for a day I have decided I’d also prefer to gather the extra-long sleeves and stitch them in place rather than just push them up every five minutes.

I thought it might go well with my grey cotton skirt (half of an ancient suit)

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It’s OK but it doesn’t really pop. Maybe the sashes need to be longer. Someone also suggested wearing a necklace with it but I’m not sure what colour.

However I’m really pleased I managed to sew a proper shirt collar with a collar stand. I don’t wear shirts much because I don’t like ironing, but it’s good to try something different to my standard sleeveless dress for once. Having said that, the next thing I’m planning to make is Vogue 8644, yet another sleeveless dress. You could probably wear this shirt over a wiggle dress though, or would that just look weird?

New horizons

I can’t remember the last time I sewed something that wasn’t a sleeveless dress. After I finished the balloon dress I’d run out of planned projects and inspiring fabric so I had a rummage through my old copies of Burda and checked out the online pattern stores in the hope of finding something different to spark some creativity. This shirt, 122 from March 2010, appealed:

I have never made a shirt before but this one looks quite easy. The lack of cuffs and buttonholes is a big plus (I never get good results with my machine’s buttonhole function) and for once Burda have provided instructions for a pattern that make sense to me. Of course just because they seem to be clear now doesn’t mean I’m not going to run into horrible trouble while constructing the shirt, but it’s a start.

Having picked a pattern out of Burda I nevertheless also picked up Vogue 8644 and Colette Patterns’ Lady Grey coat. The Vogue is yet another sleeveless sheath dress, but this one has pockets so I’m claiming it counts as different. The Lady Grey coat is something I want to sew but I’m not totally sure my skill level is up to it. I bought it so I could read the instructions. They seem very straightforward but I keep hearing dire warnings in the blogsphere about attempting anything tailored without using ‘proper’ tailoring techniques so I’m not sure if this is a good idea or not.

Finally I have a pattern I bought last month at the Hay Festival from Merchant and Mills – yet another sleeveless shift but this one has an asymmetric seam feature. The pattern is unusual in that it’s a cardboard pattern, not paper, and comes with very detailed instructions suitable for complete beginners. The idea behind the range is that in the shop there are samples of the designs made up in every size, and you try them on before buying a pattern, thus no need to make a muslin. This appeals to my laziness! The designs are very simple classic dress styles. These patterns are beautifully packaged in a cardboard tube.

Having acquired some patterns I then needed fabric to go with them. I didn’t succeed in finding anything for the coat, but I did get this peacock blue muslin for the Burda shirt:


and this metallic drill for the Vogue sheath dress:

I also got some lovely silk to use for the top half of the asymmetric dress but I need to find a toning fabric to go with it for the bottom half, so I’ll save that for later.

Now I’m off to iron and cut out the blue muslin. And try not to think about what on earth I’m going to use to interface the collar. Advice most welcome!