Pocket problems: Merchant and Mills Strides

Update: a kind reader informs me that the problems I describe in this post were down to an error in the first edition of the book I was using that has been corrected in subsequent editions.

Well I’m baffled. I’m making the Strides trousers from the Merchant and Mills Workbook. These are high waisted straight legged trousers. I’ve got Burda patterns in similar shapes but the appeal of the Strides is that they have a very traditional menswear fly and front pocket construction which sounded like it would be an interesting thing to sew.

There are not all that many reviews of the pattern out there, but a few people have made them up and blogged about it, so I was aware of a couple of things to watch out for before I started (thank you Ruth for mentioning the left/right confusion in the fly instructions). But no one else seems to have had trouble with the pockets. They are your basic slanted hip pockets for trousers which I’ve made lots of times before; the interesting bit is that instead of the back pocket bag being cut as part of the hip yoke and therefore made in the shell fabric, the bag is made entirely from lining and has deep facings of shell fabric attached.

You start off by attaching a facing to the back pocket bag like this; this piece is the bit that would normally be made entirely from shell fabric.

Faced pocket piece

Then the front pocket bag gets lapped under a very deep self facing on the front trouser edge and stitched down. Then the facing is folded under and the pocket opening edge is topstitched. Odd to have that overlocked edge visible at the edge of the facing, but pretty sure it’s what is intended, going by the diagrams. And admittedly I could have gone for a closer match with my overlocking thread colour which would have looked better.

Back pocket bag and self facing

Next you lay the back pocket over the front one and stitch the edges together, like normal. But mine do not line up.

Back pocket bag laid on front, not lining up

Now obviously I could just trim off all that extra on the front pocket bag, but that would make for some very shallow pockets.

I tried a few things. If I line up the bottoms of the bags things don’t match up at the waistline, which would be disastrous. If I line the pocket up at both ends there is way too much extra length in the middle to be eased in, and it would lead to lots of gapping at the pocket opening anyway.

I double checked that I’d sewn the facings to the pocket bags at the correct points, but what I’ve done clearly matches the diagrams on the pattern instructions. I checked I’d traced the pattern pieces correctly – yes. Normally I’m pretty good at checking patterns line up when I trace them, but I obviously skipped it with this one, because here they are.

Paper pattern pieces for pockets not lining up

I even checked the errata for the book on the Merchant and Mills website but there was nothing about the Strides, although kudos for posting errata at all. I think it’s entirely possible I’ve lined something up wrong, but I can’t for the life of me see what or how.

So I swore and cut new, deeper, pocket bags. And another set of facings because no way am I ripping the old ones off the original bags. Here’s an old pocket bag next to a new one. The difference is subtle but it’s there.

Old and new pocket pieces

Much better with the new ones; it lines up now.

New pocket bad overlaid, lining up

So I sewed the pocket bags together and moved on, and then discovered I’d completely run out of thread in any shade suitable for the fly front. I’m not a massive stickler for matching but I think the fly topstitching would look a bit odd in either black or white. The new reel of grey I ordered last week seems to be stuck in the postal system somewhere in the depths of East Anglia. Gah. I’ve a feeling these won’t be finished for a while.

If anyone else out there has made these, did you have the same thing with the pockets? Have I missed something?

Ultimate 80s

Last week took a rather unexpected turn and I ended up first in A and E and then having surgery. I’m home now and feel a lot better – thank you NHS! And I bought a sewing pattern to cheer myself up so I thought I’d share it because this has got to be the ultimate 80s power dress. It’s Vogue 1376, I think from 1984. The design is by Claude Montana.

Vogue 1376 envelope photo

I’m pretty sure it’s the dress from this magazine ad.

Ad from Vogue (image from Pinterest)

I even found a YouTube video of the Montana 1984 spring/summer show with several models all wearing the same dress.

Here are the line drawings.

Vogue 1376 view A line drawing
Vogue 1376 view B line drawing

I love the pockets. They’re quite fancy welt pockets made using a clever technique that was new to me. The pocket bag is sewn on to the pocket opening, turned through, and then folded up and back to form the welt. There is no separate welt piece so it’s much less faff. And then that triangular flap gets sewn on top, hiding the beautiful welt. Or the not so beautiful welt if it goes wrong.

The pattern doesn’t have a photo of the dress back which is a shame as there’s a lot of interesting detail there. The video shows that the back belt is made of a different fabric which looks like leather. I think I’d stick to self fabric though.

The shoulder pads are immense. The pattern says 2.5cm thick. I think it would take two sets of modern ones to get that height. It amused me to see that at the time Vogue offered a shoulder pad pattern which the envelope suggests as an alternative to buying pre-made pads.

Although it’s obviously very much of its time I think there is a wearable dress in here. Just need to find the right fabric.

Pattern prep: Vogue 1466

This is my next sewing project: the jacket from Vogue 1466, an out of print Donna Karan design. It may seem like the wrong time of year to be making a wool jacket but I am almost always cold even in sunny weather. It’s worse now I’m working from home as my work area is the chilliest room in the house. I want something a little bit smarter than a jumper or cardigan, but not as structured as a suit jacket. This design is unlined and can be made in boiled wool for a bit of give, which is ideal.

I was puzzled by one feature of the pattern. There are separate left and right back pattern pieces because there’s a back vent so one side has an underlap. But there are some other small differences between those two pieces. The shoulder line is slightly longer on one than the other.

And the one with the longer shoulder line is also slightly longer in the body. Neither difference is huge but it’s enough to be noticeable when sewing.

I can’t see any reason for the difference. There are no separate left and right pieces for the sleeves, nor the jacket front and side pieces. I can only assume it’s a mistake. When I traced the pattern onto paper I used the longer shoulder line for both pieces and the longer body length. I’m making a toile for this one so I should see if it’s worked fairly soon.

Pattern adjustments

So I’m making Burda 116 09/2018, very slowly indeed. It’s got quite a lot of pieces and I’m making things slightly worse by adding hip yoke pockets, although I’m also skipping the zip and most of the lining.

I’ve got a longer than average torso so I always add 5cm to the length of dress bodices to make the waist match up with my actual waist. I started sewing with Big Four who always put a lengthen/shorten line between the bottom of the armscye and the waist. Adding a ton of length there can leave the bust point too high, but it’s easy to do. But I notice Burda recommends doing it differently: adding only 2/3 of the extra length there, and the other 1/3 above the bust point. Which lowers the bust point but means changing the armscye and sleeve too. So in a fit of enthusiasm I decided to try that this time. Here are my adjusted front bodice pieces.

I’m…unconvinced. That looks like a huge change to the armscye to me. I’m carrying on for now but I won’t be surprised if the sleeves fit strangely.

All The Burda Dresses project

I’ve been feeling a complete lack of sewing inspiration lately, while still really wanting to make things. Some kind of system for choosing projects seems like it might help with that. I have had a Burda subscription for quite a while and I know how to make their draft fit me, so I decided to sew my way through my favourite Burda dresses from the collection.

Obviously there are a lot of dress patterns to choose from in ten years of magazines. If I just put everything that caught my eye on to the list it would be completely impossible to get through it. So I narrowed it down by only including ones which either have pockets or are easy to add pockets to. After that I tried to analyse which are likely to suit my figure. I’ve been finding Doctor T’s series on Kibbe style types very interesting. No style typing system is ever going to work for everyone but this one is useful for me because I clearly fall into a particular Kibbe category and more importantly, I generally enjoy wearing the kinds of things Kibbe recommends for it. (Dramatic, if anyone’s interested: lots of long vertical lines, monochrome colour schemes, angular shapes).

Don’t worry I’m not about to go through the whole list of patterns right now…for one thing it’ll be deadly dull and for another I doubt I’ll actually manage to sew them all. But here are the first three. I’ve made one and two, and the third one is in progress.

The first one is 110 08/2017. It has long vertical lines so that’s an instant win. I added pockets hidden in the pleats across the skirt front. I bought shoulder pads (a Kibbe recommendation) but my fabric choice meant they’d be far too visible so I ended up not using them.

Burda 110 08/2017 line art

Here’s how it came out. It’s not perfect but it’s been getting a lot of wear.

Then there is 117 02/2012. At first sight this doesn’t look like an ideal selection according to Kibbe’s guidelines; there’s too much waist emphasis and it’s not long enough. But I’ve made it five times before and the versions done in solid colours have been firm favourites (the colour blocked one and the striped one, not so much). I think it works because of the angular seaming and v neck. I added pockets in the front seams and left off the shoulder tucks which gives a stronger line. Pictures of all that next week.

Burda 117 02/2012 line art

The one I’m working on now is 116 09/2018 which reminds me strongly of the white dress worn by the character Luv in Blade Runner 2049. So, erm, secret evil replicant cosplay.

Here’s Luv.

Luv from Blade Runner 2049 in a white dress

And here’s the Burda dress.

Burda 116 09/2018 line art

The lines of the dress are not quite the same: hers has a separate collar and the princess seams continue into the skirt; there may not even be a separate waistband section as it is always styled with a belt. But the overall shape is similar. I’m not making mine in white though, at least not for the first version. If it works I might do it again in white scuba just for fun.

I’ll keep posting about this as I work my through the list, although I’m certainly going to allow myself to sew other things in between – I still need a winter coat after all!

Burda Fantasy wardrobe planning

My sewing output isn’t what it used to be and consequently I’ve been concentrating on making practical clothes. But I’ve been enjoying making fantasy wardrobe sewing plans lately. The ‘sewing with a plan’ challenges I’ve seen up to now haven’t worked for me – the rules never produce the type of things I like to wear – but I’ve come up with my own personal challenge that I’ve been having fun with. The idea is to take a Burda magazine pattern collection and find suitable fabrics to make it up into a coherent capsule wardrobe. That’s really all there is to it.

Burda has done some collections I really love over the years: Hong Kong Garden from February 2012, Big Picture from November 2013 and New Shapes from September 2010 (the patterns for that last one are on the website but there’s no page for the collection as a whole.) But when I come to look at any of those three as the basis of a capsule wardrobe they aren’t very satisfactory: the separates don’t work together, or there are several pieces of outerwear and not a lot to go underneath them. So sadly they were all non-starters.

Right now I’m going with Ready for Business from August 2017. It’s fairly small – eight patterns – and has a good mix of pieces: three dresses, a coat, a skirt, one pair of trousers and two tops, both of which work with the skirt and the trousers. I don’t understand the title because it doesn’t look very office formal to me, but then I don’t work in an office with a dress code, so that’s all to the good.

On to the fun bit: picking colours and fabrics! I mostly wear black, white, and grey and try to stick to one colour head to toe if wearing separates. I often wear yellow shoes and handbag, so I needed colours that won’t fight with yellow.

Starting with a couple of the dresses:

110b 08/2017 is for lightweight knits. Burda’s version is stunning in white, which I’m quite tempted by, but I think it would be most practical in black. I’d use viscose-elastase jersey which is easy to find in black.

111b 08/2017 is a 60s style dress with a beautiful boat neck. Burda’s version is in wool jersey but that’s practically impossible to come by around here. I see this made up in black boiled wool which is a lot easier to source.

Moving on to the separates there’s 112a 08/2017, a boxy top, and 101 08/2017, a long narrow skirt with an interesting feature zip. I’d make both of these up in the same black boiled wool as the 60s dress, with a really nice shiny metal zip for the skirt, to make a two-piece dress. The boxy top could also be worn separately over the ruched jersey dress for a bit of extra warmth. I don’t think the top’s neckline is compatible with the 60s dress neckline though.

The other separates are 104 08/2017, a knit top with a wide drapey collar, and 121 08/2017, narrow trousers with unusual chevron shaped pockets and ankle zips. I’d make the top in the same black jersey as the ruched dress, and use black ponte knit for the trousers. They could be worn together or mixed with the black boiled wool separates.

That’s an awful lot of black. The last two items are where I’d break out into something more exciting. The last dress, 109a 08/2017, is a classic wrap dress which needs a stretchy knit. I’d make this in zebra print jersey. It’s not as easy to find as leopard print but I’ve located three options online in the UK so I think it’s viable.

And finally the coat, 108 08/2017. Everything else is so neutral that this is a safe place to go wild with colour. The original pattern calls for non-fraying fabric for a raw edge finish but it shouldn’t be hard to adjust for something more conventional. I’ve got my eye on some cerise wool/poly melton for this one. I also found a bubblegum pink wool coating. And my third option is non-fraying: a weird and wonderful silver mesh faced neoprene-alike fabric.

I estimate that’s at least six months worth of sewing for me so I doubt I’ll make all (or any!) of these up for real. But it’s fun to plan, and I am wondering if I could get away with a bright pink coat over a zebra print dress or if I’d look like a madwoman.

Vogue 1548 sleeves

I’m currently working on Vogue 1548, a recent Guy Laroche design. It has everything I love in Vogue designer patterns: a really unusual style with loads of interesting detail. Quite how wearable the end result is remains to be seen…I have to finish it first and it’s very slow going. So far I have a bodice (without a lining or a zip) and two sleeves (not attached to bodice).

Vogue 1548 line art

And what sleeves they are. There’s a weird pointy bit near the elbow, two very curved insets (one inside the other) decorated with self-fabric binding, and gathered cuffs. I don’t usually bother with construction pictures but these sleeves deserve to be commemorated. Below is the small inset just having been sewn into the larger one. The pattern pieces are just behind them. They’re sewn wrong sides together and then the seam allowance is trimmed, encased in binding, and stitched down on the right side of the fabric.

Vogue 1548 inset seam

The binding is supposed to be self-fabric bias binding. Normally I’d just use ready-made rather than faffing about making my own, but for this pattern I think the binding needs to match the sleeve fabric perfectly or it’ll look odd. Vogue’s instructions blithely say to do this by constructing a long bias strip about 25mm wide and then pressing over 6mm on each edge, giving approximately 12mm finished width. No further details about how to achieve this impressive feat are given, but then it is a ‘plus difficile’ pattern so I guess you’re supposed to know what you’re doing. I don’t know about you but pressing under exactly 6mm by hand on a wriggly bias edge is completely beyond my sewing skills and any attempt would certainly lead to burnt fingers and much cursing. Good thing there are bias tape folding gadgets to be had. Slow but effective.

Making bias binding

Here’s a picture of the bound edges basted down before being sewn. That was another massively fiddly job. In the very unlikely event I make this pattern again I would just sew the insets right sides together and top-stitch them. And I haven’t even got to the cuffs yet.

Vogue 1548 sleeve binding basted

Worth a second look: Spring 2015 Vogues

The Spring Vogues are out! Pause for hyperventilation.

In all honesty I wasn’t expecting to love this release. Spring pattern releases are almost always disappointing for me because so few of the designs are practical for the weather around here – spring in the UK requires long sleeves and lots of layers. And with this particular collection there was no immediate wow factor either. Normally there are a few knockout designer patterns that leap off the (web) page at me but not this time. This release requires a close look, but it’s worth taking the time to do so.

The designer section is normally full of spectacular dresses. And it still supplies a few: look at the amazing seam detail on the bodice of the Kay Unger design, V1432.

Vogue 1432

I’m not entirely sure why Vogue picked both V1434 (Isaac Mizrahi) and V1433 (Tracey Reese) for this release, as they are suspiciously similar princess seamed poufy skirted party dresses – surely one would have done and for my money it would have been V1433, which comes with a petticoat. But there’s also the much more grownup V1431 (Tom and Linda Platt), a long-sleeved pencil dress with a bodice overlay detail I’ve not seen elsewhere.

But this time around we’ve also got plenty of wearable but interesting separates. The Ralph Rucci pattern, V1437, is a case in point: jacket, skirt, and blouse with lots of detail.

Vogue 1437

And look at the back of the blouse in V1440, the Donna Karan pattern. This one also has an interesting jacket and it’s not alone; this is the best release for jackets I can remember.

Vogue 1440

There are two Marci Tilton Vogue Designer Originals this time around. V9089 is a romantic blouse, and V9081 is a colour-blocked dress and cardigan. Something about 9081 doesn’t really work for me – perhaps it’s the colours because I like the shape.

Vogue 9081

There are two Sandra Betzina patterns. V1442 is a knockout. It reminds me of something from Japanese pattern books or Burda when it goes wacky and nonetheless makes it work.

Vogue 1442

The other one, V1433, is also appealing – at least if you look past the sample fabrics to the line drawing. To me this design is crying out to be made in solids not prints.

Two vintage Vogues as usual – V9083 and V9082. No date that I can see, but they look like fifties designs to me – or thereabouts anyway. I presume this must be what sells best, but I’m afraid I’m thoroughly bored with these and long for something from the late sixties or the seventies.

Vogue 9083

There are two custom cup size patterns: V9078 is an Easy Options dress and V9092 is a Very Easy Vogue top, trousers, and dress.

9078 is a rare miss for Easy Options in that it doesn’t have many options. The two skirt variations are very similar indeed, and the other options are the usual short sleeve/long sleeve/sleeveless choice.

9092 is much more appealing, although it gets points taken off for having fake pockets. I vaguely recall a YSL look from a few years ago with a tunic top and slim trousers made up in a charcoal grey wool and although some of the details are different I think this would be a great starting point for knocking that off.

Vogue 9092

Very Easy Vogue is back on form. I love these culottes/palazzo pants (V9091). The designs in this section are all interesting, although I’m not sure how flattering the jumpsuit variation of V9075 will be in practice. That one hasn’t been photographed whereas the dress variation has, which may tell us something. (Edited to add: jne4sl and Isaspacey have pointed out I’m wrong, it is in fact the jumpsuit variation in the photos. I confess I didn’t look at the back view where it’s a lot more obvious!)

Vogue 9091

On the subject of photography it’s excellent, as it has been for the last few releases. More views of the garments than ever and plenty of detail shots. It really helps.

And as for the rest? There are some real gems this time around. V9077 is a very interesting shirt dress with enough variations that it really ought to have been the Easy Options pattern. I’m definitely buying this one; I love the bands.

Vogue 9077

I’m torn on V9097. I love the idea but I’m not sure how well it will work in practice and there’s no photo of it. The fabric suggestions given (Silk Crepe, Silk-like Broadcloth, Heavy Georgette, Lightweight Linen) don’t seem to lend themselves to making that top corner at the left neckline nice and crisp.

Vogue 9079

But the real standout is V9096, this amazing jacket. Do click through and have a look at the other views too because if the version below is too fussy there are not one but two simpler variations on the same idea. I like the middle one myself.

Vogue 9096

Overall I’m loving this release. There’s lot of patterns here that I could wear in real life, but with the sort of detail that inspires me to actually go out and sew. I’m already thinking about fabrics for some of them and they haven’t even hit the UK yet.

Searching for styling pictures

I’m a big fan of Vogue patterns but I find I often have to look past the envelope art to the technical drawing to spot the best ones. The problem is that styling and photography is so subjective! Vogue give us several good clear shots of each pattern they photograph these days but I’m always interested in more views. And of course for the designer patterns there are often runway shots of the same garment to be found on the Internet.

So I started putting together a collection of Vogue pattern photos with other photos of the same garments for my own reference. (See I’m not just idly browsing style.com, I’m doing research.) If anyone’s interested there are links to the designers I’ve done a pattern image hunt for here. It’s all on Pinterest at the moment because that was the quickest way to set it up. Hopefully I’ll add more as I find them.

Winter Vogue patterns review

Hooray, the winter Vogue patterns are out! Is it sad that I look forward to each new Vogue release?

I always go to the designer patterns first (does anyone not?). This time they are almost all occasion wear. If there’s any common theme beyond that it’s seam detail and cutouts.

Cutouts can easily be over the top but the 1423 and 1424 both look very wearable. The one below is 1423.

Vogue 1423 envelope art

Donna Karan does not disappoint with a wonderfully OTT metallic one-shoulder wrapped style, 1427. I have no need of this dress, nor ever will, but I’d love to try it on. One very minor quibble: there are no finished garment measurements on the envelope for this one. Vogue been great about putting these on the envelopes of late, and all the other patterns I checked have them.

Vogue 1427 envelope photo

The two designer patterns which aren’t evening wear are nonetheless very smart. There’s a sharp day dress from Anne Klein, 1420, with interesting lapels.

Vogue 1420 envelope art

And then there’s 9046, a lovely, feminine, style from Claire Shaeffer. It’s not me at all but I can admire those tucks from a distance!

Vogue 9046 envelope art

I didn’t find any must-buys in this section which is most unusual. It may be because I have absolutely no need for posh frocks any more, but that doesn’t normally stop me. And sadly there’s no Ralph Rucci pattern, but we did get two last time so I can’t grumble too much.

The Easy Options pattern, 9050, is a princess seam dress with pencil or flared skirt, and two-piece sleeves with two length options. It must be difficult to get a lot of interesting style detail in a pattern that has to be both easy to sew and provide many different options, but this one succeeds. The neckline shape and seam detail at the waist keep it from being dull and all the variations look very wearable.

Vogue 9050 envelope art

Very Easy Vogue seems to have a focus on daywear this time out. There are one or two styles with interesting details. 9049 has unusually shaped lapels, pockets, and fake pocket flaps. And 9048 is a simple dress lifted by the addition of a collar. There’s also a nice basic princess seam jacket, 9068. 9056 is the inevitable peplum top. The peplum trend seems to have been going on forever; I won’t miss it when it finally dies.

Vogue 9049 envelope photo

There are two vintage patterns: 9051 is a day dress that I think is from the 40s, and 9052 is a day dress and jacket combo that’s described as circa 1949. It makes a break from the occasionwear of the designer section, but I’m slightly disappointed that both styles seem to be from the same era. I say this every time, but I long for a day when the vintage patterns are from the 60s or 70s.

Vogue 9051 envelope art

The Marci Tilton patterns are appealing. 9070 is a raincoat with lots of interesting detail. The sample is made up in a shiny burnt orange fabric, which gives a very creative vibe, but if made in khaki or black this could also be a very utilitarian look.

Vogue 9070 envelope photo

There’s also 9060 which is an unusual skirt, and 9057 a simple top.

The rest of the collection is very small and mostly consists of casual tops. There are also three wardrobe patterns, 9067 which is very casual, and a slightly smarter one in 9066. 9066 is also the custom cup size pattern. The pick of this section for me is the third wardrobe pattern, 9064, a boxy top with unusual seamlines combined with very simple skirt and trousers.

Vogue 9064 envelope art

Overall impressions? I’d like there to be more daywear in the designer section and that could probably be balanced out with dressier styles elsewhere. It seems to be a smaller collection than last time which might also be why I found less to like. The photography continues to be spot-on with lots of clear views of each style. And I’m still grateful for the much wider range of finished garment measurements on the envelopes.

Fundamentally though this collection didn’t dazzle, unlike the autumn release. My overstuffed pattern box is grateful but I’m now looking forward to spring.