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!

Wet look leggings: Burda 130-01-2011

Ages ago I had a pair of wet-look leggings from Topshop that I wore under skirts and dresses to add a bit of interest. They were always slightly too small for me, and the seams strained alarmingly from day one. Pregnancy finished them off completely. Just before my baby arrived I bought a length of wet look scuba knit from Tia Knight so I could replace them. It’s been over a year now and I have finally got around to sewing the fabric up! The exact same product code is no longer available, surprise surprise, but this one looks very similar and I think the product photo is the same as the one in my order confirmation.

Burda wet look leggings 130-01-2011

The pattern is Burda 130-01-2011, a very basic leggings pattern. There is just one pattern piece on this view; not even a separate waistband. The pattern has a second view which has an overskirt added to the design. Not something I intend to use any time soon but it makes it a little more versatile.

It’s designed for stretchy knits and my scuba is fairly stable so I measured the flat pattern carefully and sized up quite a bit; I’d normally make a 40 on hips and legs and what I ended up with was more like a 44. One adjustment I didn’t need to make was length. I am tall and yet the standard length on this is more than enough for me. Perhaps they are meant to be worn scrunched up? Worth checking if you make these yourself. I didn’t hem mine but even allowing for that they are too long.

Burda wet look leggings 130-01-2011

The fabric was a challenge to sew. My sewing machine could not feed it at all if the coated side was in contact with either the foot or the feed dogs. I ended up sewing the waist casing on my overlocker because I couldn’t get it through the regular machine. I did it the way you’d sew a hem on an overlocker: folding the fabric as you do to use a blind hem stitch on a regular machine and using a flatlock stitch to catch the raw hem edge to the fold. It’s not at all beautiful and the elastic tends to twist, but it was better than nothing. Another time I’d make a completely separate waistband piece and overlock it on. And I’ve since picked up some tops for sewing pleather type fabrics from Alex; that’s a good thing as I have quite a bit of the scuba left over. For what it’s worth I used size 90 needles on the overlocker with this, and on the regular machine a size 100 ball point, which worked fine as long as I only sewed the fabric with the wrong side out.

Burda wet look leggings 130-01-2011

The fit is OK – which is to say not brilliant but considerably better than my Topshop leggings. The front crotch depth is too long and the waist could do with being a bit smaller. There’s a reason I’m wearing a long top in the photos. But I would never wear these in real life without something over the top that covers my bum so I don’t think it’s really cheating.

These aren’t the greatest thing I’ve ever made but they fill a wardrobe hole and didn’t take long. If anyone’s wondering what happened to my Style Arc jacket I did finish it but it took forever to get photos…watch this space.

More colour matching

IMG_1968

The last grey fabric I tried to sew with proved impossible to colour match, so I wasn’t hopeful about finding top-stitching thread to go with my current project. The fabric’s a grey denim and I wanted top-stitching thread in the same shade for a subtle effect. I haven’t been able to make it to a physical sewing shop for a while so I crossed my fingers and ordered Gutermann Sew All and Top Stitch in shade 036 online; a colour variously described as “light black”, “dark grey”, “grey”, and “charcoal” by different vendors. And lo and behold it’s almost a perfect match. Funny how these things happen.

Burda 104c-02-2017

Nothing but repeats: Burda 104c-02-2017 culottes again

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.

Burda 104c-02-2017

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.

Burda 104c/02/2017

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.

Burda 104c-02-2017

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.

Burda 104c-02-2017

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.

Burda 104c-02-2017

I'm very happy with both of these. Both are in high rotation at the moment.

Toni dress closeup

Stylearc Toni dress

Toni dress closeup

I’ve been wanting to make the Stylearc Toni dress ever since I saw it on Kristin’s blog. It’s a style I’d wear at any time, but it’s particularly good right now as I’m pregnant and rapidly running out of clothes that fit. The Toni isn’t a maternity style but it has plenty of room for a bump. It also has pockets, shoulder coverage, a nice high collar, and sews up quickly: all good points.

Stylearc Toni dress

The length is unusual. From the pattern illustration it looks like it’s meant to hit at the bottom of the calf. I normally have to add a lot of length to most patterns but my flat pattern measuring suggested this one would stop just below the knee on me so I didn’t bother. I must have gone wrong because it’s come out at midcalf, which is the length I try to avoid above all others. If I make this again I’ll shorten it. I wouldn’t want to make it any longer unless I made it up in a stretch fabric, as the hem width is very narrow indeed and I’d struggle to walk in it comfortably.

Stylearc Toni long view

I made this up in a very silky lightweight woven fabric that came from the Misan Textiles sale room. I’m not 100% sure what the composition is but it’s definitely man made. I picked it because it’s very drapey and has a certain resemblance to the silk the pattern recommends, but it’s also tricky to press, has a slight tendency to cling, and frays at the slightest provocation. And yes, it’s monochrome again. But at least it’s not black.

Stylearc patterns use much smaller seam allowances than most home sewing patterns: 1cm on the main seams and 6mm around necklines and anywhere with tight curves. I was worried that the seam allowance at the collar would fray away entirely before I finished sewing it but it worked out in the end. And the small seam allowances make it much easier to sew accurately, and accuracy is essential for the tricky stage of setting in the collar and sewing the front seam.

Other than getting the collar sewn in symmetrically this is a very easy make. I couldn’t figure out one of the steps, which seemed to be about understitching the outside edge of the collar which sounded like a very odd thing to do. The actual words were ‘sew a flat stitch’ so perhaps it was topstitching that was meant instead, although I can’t see any topstitching on the technical drawing. The step was optional and skipping it doesn’t seem to have caused problems. I added topstitching to the armscyes, which are finished by neatening the seam allowance and turning it back. Topstitching isn’t mentioned in the instructions but I don’t see how else the seam allowances could be expected to stay put unless you hemmed them by hand, which as far as I’m concerned is not an option.

The back of this dress is extremely plain. There’s a centre back seam but it’s entirely straight so you could just cut the back on the fold. Another time I might do that. I suppose removing the seam makes the back even plainer but I had a hard time making that long straight seam look acceptable in my tricky fabric.

Stylearc Toni back view

The side drapes are fun. Mine stick out quite a bit more than the technical drawing suggests they would. The pattern suggests optionally sewing a small weight in on each side to make them stay put. I overlocked a scrap of fabric around a couple of pennies for each side and sewed that to the seam allowances but it doesn’t seem to have made much difference as the drapes still tend to pop out when I sit down. I like the pointy effect though.

Stylearc Toni side view

Here’s the obligatory ‘look, I have pockets’ shot. I am trying very hard to avoid making things without them these days.

Stylearc Toni front view

I had some serious doubts about this dress while I was sewing it. I fell out of love with the fabric very quickly, and when I put the dress on my dressform halfway through construction it looked more like a very unflattering choir robe than a dress.And then I sewed the side seams and that transformed it completely. I wore it for pictures (where it caused hilarity amongst local dog walkers), and kept it on afterwards, then the next day I found I wanted to wear it again which is unusual for me. I’m not sure if I’ll make another of these; it’s a fabric hog and most of the fabrics that would be suitable are expensive; but the one I’ve got is definitely a success. The pattern was beautifully drafted and Stylearc have a lot of unusual and attractive designs. I think I’ll be making more of their patterns in the future.

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Fitting the Burda x-wrap dress

Burda 106-04-2014

This was my first version of Burda 106-04-2014. No sooner than it was finished I started working on a second one and took the opportunity to tweak the pattern a little. The version above isn’t bad, but the sleeves are a little constricting and I felt I could do with a bit more room in the bust. I don’t know you’re meant to do a full bust adjustment on this sort of pattern but here’s what I’ve done. The picture below is the front pattern piece, which is cut on the fold.

Burda 106-04-2014 front pattern piece

In the pictures below red areas are bits I’ve added and blue is where I have taken away. I slid a chunk of the front out sideways to give a bit more bust room, and reduced the shoulder width so that the shoulder seam would be sitting on my shoulder point rather than slightly over it.

Burda 106-04-2014 alterations

Those two changes affected the length of the armscye so I had to make the sleeve wider to match. No bad thing as the original sleeves felt slightly tight; I’d been planning to flatten the sleeve cap anyway.

Burda 106-04-2014 sleeve alterations

That’s it for fitting alterations, but the fabric I’m using is slightly transparent and so I also needed to do something about the neckline finish. The original design has a skinny back neck facing which is a single interfaced layer, overlocked on the outer edge. That clearly isn’t going to look good in a sheer fabric. Also the facing didn’t behave well on the first version and had to be top-stitched down to keep it in place.

I did a bit of snoop shopping to see how this sort of thing would be handled in ready to wear clothes. I found very few summer dresses with facings. Most were lined. A few, mainly in casual fabrics, had the neckline seam covered with a strip of binding. The ones which did have facings all had a centre back zip with the facings sewn to the zip tape to hold them down. The facings themselves were invariably much wider than those on the Burda design.

I didn’t fancy trying to bind the neckline seam in slippery silk, and I had nothing to line the dress with, so I had to stick with a facing. Although the original design has no centre back seam I had already had to add one because of a shortage of fabric, so I figured I could sew the facing to the seam allowances on that or stitch in the ditch to hold it in place. To try to make it look nicer I made the facings much wider around the neck than the original and cut two copies of each piece. Those then get sewn right sides together at the outer edge and turned out to give a facing with slightly more body than a single layer and a very clean finish to the edge.

Burda 106-04-2014 facing alterations

And here’s what it looks like. Acceptable if not brilliant, and probably the best I could manage with lightweight silk. It is not well-pressed for excellent reasons I shall go into in my next post, and I should have done a french seam on the centre back but life’s too short. It’s wearable and the facings stay put and that’ll do.

Facings on orange x-wrap dress

Next up, modelled finished object pictures.

Mappamodello Arab-Islamic Work Dress

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!