Techno trousers: Vogue 1378 in neoprene

My search for interesting cycle-friendly clothing continues. The latest effort is the trousers from Vogue 1378, a Donna Karan design. I could swear I saw these on Net-a-Porter at some point recently, but they’re gone now.

Vogue 1378 line art

The pattern calls for a two-way stretch knit. I used some thin neoprene I got from Cloth House a couple of years ago. It’s not got quite as much stretch as the pattern calls for. From what I’ve read about the pattern sizing the style comes up big and most people have had to go down a couple of sizes. Given my choice of fabric I decided to play it safe and make my usual size in Vogue, which is admittedly already one size smaller than the measurement chart would suggest. When I measured the pattern that gave zero ease at the hip.

They have come up pretty slim fitting. The size at the hip worked out fine but the calves are tiny. I had to let them out dramatically below the knee! They also come up long in the leg and short in the waist. I’m 5’10” and didn’t have to lengthen the leg at all, but the waist is a lot lower than the promised one inch below the natural waist.

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The original design has a long slit at the ankle which gives a slightly flared effect. You can just about see it on the line drawing. I wanted trousers that were tighter fitting at the ankles so I overlapped the two pattern pieces for the lower leg and cut them as one, but kept the decorative top-stitching. If I make these again I’ll use the two separate pattern pieces for the lower leg but sew the slit shut so as to continue the decorative lapped seaming down to the ankle.

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Here’s a better view of the lapped seams. I posted some details about sewing those last week. Suffice to say this very thin neoprene is easy to mark and sew: chalk markings, a Universal size 90 needle and a longish stitch length work well. Thicker neoprene like the stuff I used for my little black dress is much more temperamental.

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And here’s a back view. The fabric has drunk all the light again, but yes there are wrinkles. However they’re pretty comfortable to wear and I don’t think I’d want them much tighter.

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I wore these to work this week. I compensated for the lack of pockets by putting my grey kimono jacket over the top. No one at work batted an eyelid at the fabric…or at least if they did notice they were too polite to say anything! And I can report they’re comfortable and warm to wear, especially on the bike.

Sewing with no light

Thanks so much for all the great advice about how to fix my trapeze dress. I finally found a source of zips of the right style and length on eBay, so I’ve ordered one. Fingers crossed it does the job.

Meanwhile I’ve been making the trousers from Vogue 1378, inspired by Shams’ version.

Vogue 1378 line art

I’m using a very lightweight neoprene instead of the doubleknit the pattern recommends. It seems to be working out pretty well, but the frustrating thing is that the neoprene is black, and I’m sewing by artificial light, so it’s impossible to see any of the cool seam detail when trying them on. They just look like black leggings.

I did manage to get some photos of the lapped seams using the flash on the camera. The eagle-eyed may notice that the picture of the quadruple top-stitching below doesn’t match the technical drawing. I decided to omit the slits at the ankle.

Thin neoprene is fantastically easy to top-stitch. It’s stable, smooth, and very easy to mark with chalk. I made a paper guide for the curved top-stitching lines in the picture above and transferred the lines to the right side of the fabric using a chalk wheel. The chalk just wipes off with a damp cloth when you’re done.

Vogue 1378 seam detail

For the lapped seams I marked the stitching and placement lines with chalk. I didn’t bother making templates for that but used my seam gauge. I used a few pins here and there to hold things together while I sewed, but they don’t seem to have damaged the fabric.

Vogue 1378 seam detail

As well as the lapped seams there are also some regular seams. I sewed those using my machine’s triple stretch stitch for maximum durability. Pressing those open was something of a battle. I had most success when I pressed with a fairly hot iron and no steam, and then put a heavy book on top until they cooled.

Vogue 1378 seam detail

Hopefully I’ll have some daylight pictures of the finished object next week.

My evil twin

This is the dress my evil twin in a parallel universe would wear.



This is my second version of Vogue 8319, yet another sleeveless sheath dress.
Version 1 has been one of my all time favourite dresses. I made it in a bright orange and blue doubleknit. Sorry about the murky photo. Hopefully you get the idea.



Version 2 is made out of two black fabrics. They have very different textures to provide a contrast. The sides are a very heavy wool jersey. It’s got a very matt surface and is so thick it all but stands up on its own. The front panel and shoulder yokes are in a very thin neoprene which is fairly smooth and so catches the light a bit more. At least it was sold to me as neoprene, but it seems to lack the central foam layer that provides the padding and insulation in what I think of as neoprene. You certainly wouldn’t want to make a wetsuit or a laptop bag out of it. The upside of this variety is that it’s very easy to sew as you can treat it like a thick doubleknit. I used a size 90 universal needle on this one and sewed regular seams using my machine’s stretch stitch. It doesn’t drape very well, but it also doesn’t crease.

I modified the original pattern slightly. You can see from the envelope picture that the princess seams don’t go all the way down to the hem.

I also took the zip out of the back as it’s not needed.



I made facings out of the doubleknit to finish the neck and arm edges, but left it unhemmed.

However as my evil twin has yet to put in an appearance, I just have to wear the dress myself. It’s a hard life.

Very little black dress

Here’s the final version of Burda 122-09-2010 in neoprene. I had lots of trouble finding shoes that go with it. I have tried on practically every pair I own and it looks best with these wedge ankle boots. Bizarre.



Since the trial version I’ve made a few adjustments.
You can’t see a whole lot in these photos as the dress is black, but the number of wrinkles in the back is greatly reduced.



I did end up taking width out of the back waist. I really didn’t want to put a zip in so I was pleased to find it is still possible to get it on and off without a zip, although it involves a lot of undignified tugging. However once the dress is on it is very comfortable, and the thick fabric is great – no visible lines from what’s underneath despite the close fit.

Hopefully the seamlines are a little clearer on this photo. You can also just see the red underside of the fabric around the shoulder. I’m calling it a Christian Louboutin homage.



I ended up making the final version out of the old, creased neoprene I made the trial run from because my newer piece turned out to be much too thin to work with this pattern. The old stuff is about 2mm thick whereas the new stuff is so thin you can barely see that there’s a layer of foam in there at all. I’ll have to find something else to do with it.

Inside-out dress

I’m making Burda 122-09-2010, which is a knit dress with all the shaping in the seamlines, in neoprene. This is my trial run, made from an old piece of neoprene which got creased in storage. I’m wearing it inside-out in the pictures because the right side is black and wouldn’t photograph very clearly, whereas the red side shows up nicely.

Here’s the front view. I had to take a wedge out of the centre front, which is what the short black seamline running from the neckline is for. I also had to cut the front neckline down by about an inch.

The original pattern was a petite and I’m taller than average so I had to add quite a lot of length to it. However I got this slightly wrong. The first seam down from the neckline runs over the bust rather than below it. I measured pretty carefully, so I’m not quite sure what happened there.

The back needed quite a lot of adjustment. I had take three darts out of the top to accommodate my rounded shoulders! I quite like the interest the extra seamlines add so I’ll probably keep this in the final version rather than adjusting the pattern pieces to remove the darts.

I think the back piece needs to come in a little around the waist too, although if I make it too much smaller I won’t be able to get into the dress! I was going to add a zip, but right now it doesn’t need it and I don’t really want to have to put one in if it can be avoided.

I sewed most of the seams by pushing the two edges (with no seam allowance) up against each other and zigzagging over the top, but this would have been practically impossible for the long vertical seams on the back. I did these by using the hinge method that Elizabeth posted about recently for sewing fur. I can report it works a treat on neoprene too.

I’m really liking this dress so far. It’s comfortable and very warm. I think it’s wearable as-is (well, it is if I turn it right side out) but I am going to adjust the pattern pieces and make another version.

Neoprene – my current favourite fabric

Thanks everyone for the nice comments about Vogue 1087! I said I was going to sew something simpler next, and my plan is to make this Burda dress. It’s from the September 2010 issue.

I already made the matching skirt in neoprene. It was a success, so I thought I’d try to make the dress as well. This attempt is going to be a muslin (possibly wearable, possibly not) because I’m not sure of the fit. The pattern is petite and I’m quite the opposite! However the neoprene I’m using is a really old piece that’s been sitting in my stash so long it’s developed permanent creases, so no loss if it doesn’t work out. And if it does work out, I have a better piece I could use to make it again.

Neoprene is a a pain in the neck to sew but it is amazingly easy to cut out. You flop it down on the floor and it lays nice and flat straight away. It doesn’t seem to be possible to distort the grain because it’s so elastic it pulls straight back into shape again. And best of all, you can just chalk round your pattern pieces on the wrong side and then cut out the chalk outlines.

It couldn’t be much easier.

You can see the creasing in the picture from where I folded the fabric for storage, not knowing any better at the time. Luckily I was able to avoid the worst of it when cutting my pieces out. And yes, it really is that shade of red. But that’s what I’m going to use as the wrong side; the other side is black.

I suspect the sewing isn’t going to be quite as simple as the cutting out.

Neoprene skirt

Burda 116-09-2010

Here’s my finished neoprene skirt. (Details on how I sewed the neoprene are here.) The pattern is from BurdaStyle September 2010, pattern 116. The neoprene’s creased because I left it folded up in my fabric stash for much too long, but it doesn’t show too badly. Creases in neoprene are permanent – apparently the little bubbles in the structure collapse if you put too much pressure on them and then that’s it.

Excuse the silly face I am pulling in the next picture, not quite sure what happened there!

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The skirt is really warm. I was glad of that when I wore it to a New Year’s Eve barbecue! It’s also very comfortable. I think this would be OK for wearing to work in winter as my workplace is very casual.

I’m not sure what I’ll be sewing next except that it’s got to be warm – the weather round here is still pretty chilly. Time to drag the stash out and find a piece of wool!

Sewing neoprene

Before Christmas I decided I’d have to sew from my stash over the break as I wasn’t going to be able to do any fabric shopping. One of the stranger pieces of fabric I’ve got stored is a couple of yards of neoprene. This was bought on impulse while shopping on Goldhawk Road last year, despite having no idea how to sew it or what to make out of it. When I got it home I googled and discovered that sewing neoprene is not for the faint of heart. You need a really powerful machine and most home sewing machines aren’t up to it. I’ve seen people recommend all sorts of different needles and techniques, and the only thing they all agree on is that it’s difficult and you need to experiment a lot to find what, if anything, works for your machine. So the neoprene sat in the bottom of the wardrobe, taking up rather a lot of space, while I tackled less ambitious projects.

I got a walking foot for Christmas which is supposed to make sewing tricky fabrics easier, so now was clearly the time to either tackle the neoprene or get rid of it.
Burda did a great knit skirt pattern in September 2010 with a lot of seam detail that I thought would be a good choice. After months of neglect the neoprene had developed permanent creases (I didn’t realise you mustn’t store it folded!) and so I needed something with fairly small pattern pieces in order to be able to avoid the creases when cutting. Here’s the line art for the pattern. Sadly it doesn’t seem to be one of the ones available for download from BurdaStyle.

Burda 116-09-2010 line art

After a bit of experimentation I found that the best way to make seams was to cut the pieces with no seam allowances at all, press the cut edges up against each other, and sew a wide zigzag stitch over the top from the right side. I tried cutting one piece with seam allowance and one without and lapping them, but my machine skipped more stitches that way. Using pins across the seamline to keep the pieces together before sewing worked pretty well and didn’t seem to leave permanent marks, although I was careful not to leave them in for long. Here’s a seam pinned before sewing with a sewn one beneath it.

I tried various different needles because I’ve seen recommendations for everything from ballpoint to leather needles! I found the size of needle made more difference than the type. Larger is definitely better. My neoprene is about 2mm thick and behaved best with a size 100 jeans needle. 100 was the largest needle I had around; an even larger one might have been better. A size 100 ballpoint needle wasn’t quite as good as the jeans needle. I didn’t have any size 100 universal or leather needles to try.

The best stitch to use on my machine was the widest regular zigzag stitch, with a slightly longer stitch length than I’d normally use for a zigzag, and sewn as slowly as the machine would go without sticking. Stitch length turned out to be important. I found if I set it too short I got a lot of skipped stitches. Three step zigzag didn’t work at all because the stitches were so short half of them were skipped. I suspect things would have been even worse without the walking foot to help feed the fabric.

Finally I found I needed to set the needle tension really high, outside the normal range. My machine usually needs the tension set on the high side of normal at the best of times, but this was exceptional.

After all that I still didn’t manage to avoid skipped stitches completely but where there were obvious gaps I just sewed over the seam again. This looked fine in black thread on black neoprene. On the inside of the fabric (which is bright purple!) it looks a bit messy so I couldn’t make the skirt reversible. It would probably work better with thinner neoprene.

Pictures of the finished skirt should be coming soon, I’m waiting for some daylight!