Burda 111-02-2012 construction details

Thank-you all so much for the nice comments about my last project! I am overwhelmed. This was Burda 111-02-2012, a cheongsam-style dress from the February 2012 issue of Burda Style. I posted pictures of it on me in the week, but there are some features that don’t really come out in those pictures. And as I’m insanely proud of having completed this dress, here are some construction details. I hope they’re useful.

The dress is made from two stretch cotton drills. The Burda version is silk crepe. I’ve never sewed with crepe but it strikes me as liable to be wriggly. The inset corner at the neckline and the sharp curves on the hem bands involve attaching opposing curved/angled edges which is hard enough in fairly stable fabric. I’m really pleased with how they came out though. I stay-stitched everything along the seamline first and clipped a lot. With the curves it took a few rounds of basting and ripping out to get them to lie flat. The corner worked out perfectly first time, whereas normally those take me a few goes. If only I knew what I’d done differently there!

Burda 111-02-2012 inset corner

Burda 111-02-2012 hem band

The pattern instructions have you finish the inside of the contrast bands by turning under the seam allowance on the raw inside edge and stitching in the ditch on the outside to catch it down. I was worried my fabric was too thick for that to work well so I bound the edges in black cotton bias binding instead of folding them under. I forgot to trim the seam allowance down before I did this so the stitching line ended up on the cream-coloured band rather than the black bias binding. In an attempt to hide the stitching I used white thread in the bobbin and loosened the needle tension a bit to make sure none of it showed through on the right side. This worked better than it had any right to.

Burda 111-02-2012 hem band inside view

I had to turn a few sharp corners with the bias binding. I found this post from Poppykettle on how to get a neat mitred corner very helpful; thanks! You can see a couple of the corners in the picture below. That grey patch on the left is the interfacing I used over the zip insertion area. Whether it was the interfacing or just luck I don’t know, but the zip went in perfectly. But you can see I completely forgot to finish the edges of the arm facings. They’re interfaced so they probably won’t fray.

Burda 111-02-2012 inside bodice

An aspect of this pattern that I’m not very keen on is the shoulder pleat. I think it’s supposed to make the shoulder band lie nicely, but it was difficult to sew on my dress and didn’t add a lot to the shape. At least part of the problem was that I interfaced both halves of the shoulder bands by mistake so they were far too stiff to make such a small pleat in. Burda’s pattern layout diagram shows interfacing for all four band pieces but the instructions say that there should be two non-interfaced ones. I’ll know for next time.

Burda 111-02-2012 shoulder pleat

All my photos have come out with a very blue cast to them despite an attempt at colour correction in Picasa, but the fabric is in fact black. However I quite like the blue effect. I was contemplating another one of these in bottle green with black bands, but I’m starting to think navy and cream would also be pretty good.

Wrap dress construction details

I thought I’d post a few construction details about my wrap dress project because I think the design has some nice finishing touches. This is a copy of a Vivienne Westwood style from many years ago. I think it was from her Red Label line. I wore the original dress until it wasn’t much more than a rag and the style’s long since been discontinued, hence the attempt to replace it by sewing my own. Here’s my attempt at a technical drawing of the original.

Here’s what it actually ended up looking like.

There is very little shaping. The left front panel has a fisheye dart (hidden by the right front panel) and there are fisheye darts in the back, which is cut on the fold so there’s no opportunity for shaping at the centre back. The skirt is very slightly pegged. The belt does most of the work.

There are facings all the way around the dress to finish the edges, including the hem, and form the collar. The lines of top-stitching you can see on the technical drawing are holding the facings in place. The edges of the facings are finished with a neat technique I first encountered on Vogue 8633. You cut out iron-on interfacing in the same shape as the facing and sew them together down the edge you want to finish, right side of fabric to the non-glued side of the interfacing.

Trim and clip round any corners and curves, and finger press the seam open.

Then fold along the seam so that you place the wrong side of the fabric to the glue side of the interfacing, rolling the seam slightly so that the join lies slightly to the wrong side of the fabric.

Fuse the interfacing to the fabric in the normal way. (Is it just me or is fusing a really boring job? Several times on this project I melted my interfacing by not paying enough attention while fusing!) This leaves a really nicely finished edge on the facing. None of this fiddly business of pressing the seam allowances under and hoping they’ll stay pressed while you stitch them down – the glue on the interfacing holds it all in place.

You sew all the facing pieces together in a loop and then sew them to the edge of the dress in one continuous seam, then turn and top-stitch down the fronts and the hem. Around the back of the neck and along the shoulder seams you stitch in the ditch of the collar seam so that the facing is caught over the seam and hides the seam allowances. I really like the fact that the seam allowances on the dress are mostly hidden. The only seams you actually have to finish are the side seams and the shoulder seams, which show for a short way between the neck and arm facings.

The belt pieces are attached to the dress by catching them in the facing seam. The holes that the belt and collar pass through are just large buttonholes. The one on the right panel is reinforced by top-stitching a small interfaced rectangle of fashion fabric to the back of the panel to give it strength. I didn’t bother doing the above finish on the rectangle edges as short straight edges are easy to control; I just pressed the edges under and sewed it on quickly before it had a chance to change shape.

OK, enough with the details. For my next project I’m going for a complete change and not only using a ready-made pattern, but one I’ve made before. That’ll be a nice change of pace.