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.

Silver brocade trapeze dress

This Burda pattern has been on my to-sew list for a long while. It’s 120-01-2012, a short trapeze-line design. This is a pattern that I was drawn to the moment I saw it, but put off making because of a fear that the trapeze shape wouldn’t work on me.

Here’s the line drawing. The dress has a tiny yoke with a very high neckline attached to a six-panel a-line dress body. There are invisible zips in the right shoulder and side seams and side seam pockets.
Burda 120-01-2012 technical drawing

The fabric is a poly brocade from Minerva Crafts. At the time of writing it’s still available here. It’s quite floppy so I underlined it with poly organza. I also lined the entire dress, partly to help with maintaining the a-line shape, and partly to get an easy clean finish on the lower armscyes. The original version only has the yoke lined. You are supposed to finish the lower armscye with self fabric bias tape. I have no faith in my ability to do that neatly with fraying polyester fabric! Instead I made up the dress body in lining fabric and stitched it to the fashion fabric dress right sides together along the armscyes, clipping the lining at the ends of the armscyes. After turning and pressing I sewed the yoke to the dress, keeping the linings on both pieces free, and pressed the seams onto the yoke. Finally I stitched in the ditch on the yoke seams, catching the previously pressed under edge of the yoke lining.

The dress holds its shape quite well. It could probably be improved by adding something like horsehair braid to the hem. These photos were taken straight after pressing so you’re seeing it at its best. Unusually I didn’t feel the need to take any length off the hem, which makes me think this one comes up very short. I did have to adjust the neckline. As drafted it’s uncomfortably high at the front. I deepened it about 2cm and it’s still a touch too high.


I found it very difficult to get the hem level and I’m not sure I succeeded. I aimed to have it level for my normal posture, and you can see here that it makes a considerable difference if I stand slightly straighter. There are a few problems with the fit: the yoke is a little too tight and the side seams are swinging forward, probably because I made no attempt at a full bust adjustment. If I make this again I’ll probably go up a size and make the front skirt pieces longer and wider. But I think this version is good enough to wear.


The back is entirely plain but here’s a picture of it anyway.


The pattern is not quite as easy to sew as it appears at first sight because of the shoulder zip. Finishing off the lining at the outside shoulder edge on the side with the zip is very fiddly indeed. I had to hand sew a little because I just couldn’t get at the last bits with the machine.

I think the shape works ok in practice. I was half-expecting to end up with a dress that I wouldn’t want to wear out of the house. I suspect the key is to keep it short. I wouldn’t rule out making this pattern again some time, although I’ll pick fabric with a lot more body.

Hits and misses

Ever have the impression you’ve been sewing a lot of duds? This year my productivity has been down and I seem to have produced more failures than usual. Right now I can’t sew at all because I’m in the middle of moving and everything is packed up. So it seems like a good time to try to work out how to improve the hit rate for when I can get at my sewing machines again. Is it that I’m choosing the wrong patterns? The wrong fabric? Or something else?

So here are the failures. First of all, Vogue 1317. This really should have worked. It’s a Chado Ralph Rucci pattern, and the (fake) suede I made it up in has a wonderful texture. However I think I’ve only worn it once or twice. The fit is off, and the sleeves on it are drafted in such a way that you can’t raise your arms. It makes for a great shoulder line but it drives me up the wall when I have the dress on. I bought some more suede to have another go at it, but since then I’ve seen some suede skinny trousers, and they appeal much more than another attempt at this pattern.

Vogue 1317

Burda 134-06-2012 also ought to have worked; horrible fabric choice and sizing problems killed it. I might try this one again at some point though. The fit problems (tight skirt, weird length on the bodice) are easy to fix and there’s always more fabric out there. Again I think it would be better in a knit than the woven I used.

Burda 134-06-2012 front view

Vogue 8825 didn’t even get finished. It’s lurking in a plastic bag right now. I can’t quite bring myself to chuck it out yet, but I know I’m never going to complete it. It’s a beautiful pattern, but the style’s really not me.

Vogue 8825 envelope

And then we have two that seemed quite successful at the time, but I haven’t worn as much as I expected.

My violet version of Burda 122-09-2010 looks nice, but it’s too tight and short to be entirely comfortable. I love the pattern, and have other versions that were much better; it just needs a fabric with more stretch than this one. The twin needle hem has broken in a few places but I have no desire to make this any shorter by hemming it again.

Burda 122-09-2010

And Vogue 8866 photographs really well…but I rarely find the right occasion to wear it. And again it’s a little too tight. I’ll certainly make it again, but this version really belongs in the dressing up box.

Vogue 8866

So do they have anything in common? With most of them the problem is that they don’t fit. Which makes sense, because I only stopped wearing ready-to-wear because home-made clothes are so much more comfortable. It’s reassuring that the problem is likely to be fixable: it’s not that I’m sewing the wrong things all the time, just the wrong sizes – or the wrong sizes for the chosen fabric anyway. Hopefully once I get my new sewing space into a usable state my hit rate will improve.

Shoulder pads to the rescue

Thanks for all the good fitting advice on my coat muslin. I was all set to call it good enough and start cutting my fashion fabric, but you convinced me to go back and have another go.

The previous problem I had on the front was horizontal folds on the princess seams. ozviking, Lisette, Claudine, BeccaA, and maria all suggested shoulder pads so I took myself down to John Lewis to pick up a pair. I had no idea there were so many types! I picked a pair labelled ‘small’ with a picture of a set-in sleeve on the packet. No idea if they’re the technically correct sort, but they definitely help. I’ve also taken out a bit of length above the bust seam here as Beth suggested .

Coat muslin 2 front view

Here’s the back view with shoulder pads, a tiny bit of width taken out of the centre back seam, and again with reduced length above the bust seam. (Can I call it a bust seam when it’s on the back?) Clio and Beth both pointed out that the back seemed too wide to start with.

There is still a very small fold of fabric at the back shoulder but it’s really improved. I don’t want to risk trying to get rid of absolutely all the excess, I think I need some of that room to move!

Coat muslin 2 back view

The bust seam was rising up slightly at centre front so I let it out a little there, tapering back to the previous seamline before hitting the princess seams. That’s made a bit of difference.

The waist seam’s still rising up in front and falling slightly below my natural waist in back so I’ll adjust that in the same way as I did the bust seam. Not that you can see the back waist seam in this picture. I’m regretting using black fabric for fitting! It’s not just the photos; it’s quite hard for me to see what’s going on too.

Coat muslin 2 side view 2

This really has been a learning experience, thanks so much everyone!

Bewildering wrinkles

Well I took the plunge. Armed with everyone’s good advice from my last post I put on some music and sewed my coat muslin up, a few seams at a time. Doing it over a few sessions wasn’t too bad. Thanks for all the encouragement and advice, it really helped!

It’s come out pretty well! The most important thing is that I can move my arms, despite having removed all the ease from the sleeve cap. I seem to have forgotten to take any pictures of that. In passing, isn’t it great not to have to keep getting undressed to try a garment on? I did wonder if I should be putting on more layers to simulate a really cold day! However I am wearing several thin layers and a very bulky belt under the coat in these photos, which is my normal winter work wear. I guess if the coat goes over all that then things will be OK.

Coat muslin full length

I had a hard time deciding what, if anything, needed adjusting. Every time I move the wrinkles seem to move as well, and most of them don’t match up to anything at all in my fitting books. The most obvious problem is a wrinkle on the front princess seam. That one doesn’t come and go. I think this is due to excess length above the bust point.

Front princess seam with wrinkle

I took out a tiny amount – about 5mm – above the seam and things are somewhat improved. I think I need to take out a little width from the seam as well, but on the other hand I don’t want to overfit things. I measured the pattern and this style is unusually close-fitting for a coat.

It looks like it needs a full bust adjustment in this picture (taken after taking out the length) because of the way the horizontal seam is rising up and there’s a wrinkle pointing from the waist to the bust point, but I can’t see the problem from the front or in the other pictures I took. Also if I take a pinch of the fabric over the bust there’s actually lots of room there. This is why I find fitting so confusing!

Front princess seam with wrinkle

There’s a similar problem on the back, only more so.

Back view of muslin

But I think I need some of that extra fabric for mobility, because look what happens when I put my arms forward. The excess width vanishes and there’s just a bit of extra length.

Back view with arms forward

Three quarter back view

I’m just going to take out a little length at the back underarms as well as at the front, and stop there. I picked my muslin fabric because it has a similar (lack of) drape to my shell fabric, but the shell fabric is substantially thicker so I guess it won’t make up quite the same and there’s no point worrying too much at this stage. Wish me luck.

I made shorts!

I finally did it. I made shorts. They are not the most perfect shorts the world has ever seen, but I think they’ve actually turned out wearable. I’m really pleased with the results. Thank-you all for your good advice and encouragement! I really can’t imagine sewing without the Internet sewing community.

The pattern is 111A-06-2011 from BurdaStyle magazine. It’s also available to purchase as a PDF download. I picked the style because it has a side zip which I figured would be easier than a fly closure for a first attempt at trousers. The design is extremely simple. The only real detail is the cute patch pockets on the back.

There are inseam side pockets as well. Putting an invisible zip into a seam with a pocket attached was easier than I expected. The side in this photo is the one without the zip, which surprisingly came out looking worse than the zip side. It looks OK in this picture, but it’s a bit wobbly in real life. I think it could use a bit of understitching and stay tape to stabilize the pocket edge and side seam. My fabric is a stretch cotton twill and the pattern is intended for non-stretch fabric.

Using stretch fabric makes it a bit difficult to judge the fit, but I think it’s come out OK. The only thing I want to adjust is to let the side seams out a very small amount. I should have realised I needed to do that in advance, but I didn’t look at the size chart carefully enough.

I hitched my jumper up in most of the photos so the waistband is visible, but in practice I’m far more likely to wear these shorts like this.

I wonder if I can get away with these at work. Perhaps without the purple tights.

Anyway this bodes well for trouser-making! I’ve just acquired some really nice black stretch denim for an attempt at some Burda stovepipe trousers. Wish me luck.

Wrap dress mark 1 – the first muslin

I’ve just done a muslin for my Liberty fabric dress. The pattern is an attempt to reproduce an elderly and much loved Vivienne Westwood wrap dress that has been sitting in a box for the last few years because I wore it to destruction but can’t bear to chuck it. Here’s the now rather sad-looking original. The most interesting feature aside from the amazing fabric is the collar, which extends into a sort of long flap on the left front that gets tucked through a buttonhole on the right front. Alternatively you can wear the flap loose. The original never looked quite right on me when worn tucked in, but it’s effective on the dressform.

Here’s the muslin on me. It needs a few changes, in particular bit of extra width over the hips, but I think I’ve managed to make the collar work!

What changed was that I moved the buttonhole down quite a way. The muslin now has three buttonholes. Here’s the collar tucked into the highest one, which corresponds to the one on the original dress.

And here it is on the lowest buttonhole, which is the one I shall use.

And here’s the collar worn loose.

So this is looking quite hopeful so far. Of course I still have to do all the adjustments, draft facings, and work out how to construct the real thing, but I’m very pleased with this for a first effort.