Good in parts? Autumn Vogues

First of all, thanks for all the insightful comments on my sack-like dress. I’ve worn it out of the house a couple more times since the photos were taken, and I’ve decided to keep it as it is rather than trying to make it match the original or even give up and recycle the fabric. Although now I’ve seen MaciNic, Lisa, and The Perfect Nose‘s versions I’m tempted to try the pattern again in a more suitable fabric one day.

Oh and for those who asked about my shoes, they are Melissa; that particular style’s been discontinued but there’s still plenty of plastic goodness on their UK site at Not that I just had a quick browse while checking the URL or anything.

But on to what is normally my favourite pattern collection of the year; the autumn Vogue release. They are only on the US site at the time of writing. And while it’s an improvement over the 2013 spring and summer releases, I’m still a little underwhelmed.

First things first: one thing I really approve of in this collection is the photography. No wacky poses this time round (remember Spring and Autumn 2012?). This time every style is simply photographed front, back, and both sides, and often there’s also a closeup of an interesting detail. There are more photos overall than I remember in previous collections, and in many cases at least one of the pattern variations has been photographed too.

The designer patterns just aren’t grabbing me this time around. The two Donna Karan designs are the best of the bunch: Vogue 1361 is an interesting day dress and 1365 a useful coat. But the more I look at the dress, the more I think I’d be tugging at it all day long to make it lie correctly.

Vogue 1361 pattern photo

1362 isn’t for me but it’s what Vogue designer patterns are all about: a strikingly unusual style that I wouldn’t want to try to draft myself.

Vogue 1362 pattern photo

The others are all things I think I could easily find versions of in Burda. Take 1363 for example. Possibly I’m missing something here? Nothing wrong with it, but if I’m going to be paying Vogue designer prices (eye-watering in the UK and they’re never less than half price even in sales) I want a pattern with wow factor or some unusual detail, and this isn’t it.

Vogue 1367 pattern photo

The non-designer patterns have much more interest. I’m not a jacket wearer myself, but there is a trio of jacket patterns with clean, unfussy lines that are tempting me: 8932, 8931 and 8937 (below).

Vogue 8932 pattern photo

And three very different coats: the asymmetric 8933, cosy and easy 8930, and interestingly egg-shaped 8934 (below).

Vogue 8934 pattern photo

Very Easy Vogue has some great simple patterns with a twist. 8926 is a stylish casual jacket (if you click through be sure to look at the tech drawing and not just the photos) and 8925 is a simple princess seamed top that could be used in lots of ways. Although I can’t decide if 8919 (below) has been murdered by horrible fabric choice or whether the seam lines are just in a bad place.

Vogue 8919 pattern photo

The Custom Fit pattern 8936 is for a peplum top with skirt and trousers. I am not a fan of the peplum, and the fake leather Vogue chose to make this up in isn’t helping, but I think the proportions on this one are fundamentally really good. I’d like to see it in a different fabric.

Vogue 8936

There are three Easy Options patterns: 8927, a set of blouses, 8928, a set of skirts which while an interesting basic pattern don’t offer a lot of variation, and 8936, a colour-block dress that’s probably my favourite item in the whole collection.

Vogue 8923 pattern picture

It’s also good to see another pattern for men: 8940 is a man’s coat and trousers.

So on the whole there’s a quite lot to like this time around, but the collection as a whole doesn’t rise to the heights I expect of Vogue. Things are definitely improving though; I’m looking forward to the Winter release!

What did you think? Am I missing something about the designer pattern? Would you wear the red Donna Karan? And can that peplum be saved?

Birmingham blogger meetup

Saturday was such a great day. Marie and Kat organised a sewing blogger meetup in Birmingham. Check out Marie’s blog post for pictures. We shopped, ate noodles, swapped a ton pf patterns and fabric, and then shopped some more. But absolutely the best bit was talking to like-minded sewists all day about fabric, sewing, and patterns.

So what did we buy? Quite a few of us bought some of this sparkly heavyweight knit from the Rag Market. When I saw Kat’s I had to get some of my own. I’m seeing this as a cowl-necked, long-sleeved knit dress worn with a big belt.

Sparkly heavy knit

This one came from the Rag Market too. It’s a really bright blue with a hint of purple. My camera insists on rendering it as a sort of sky blue. I tried reading the camera manual, but no amount of fiddling with white balance and lighting was effective so what you see here is courtesy of the GIMP. The fabric itself is a lightweight, silky texture and very narrow.

Strange blue fabric

I think it would work well as something like one of these two patterns. The 80s one is one of the ones I got from Katie in the swap! And coincidentally it has a layout and yardage for 90cm fabric. Were fabrics narrower in the 80s or something?

Possible patterns for strange blue fabric

I got bright pink lining for my chartreuse coat. Claire and Alice spotted it in the Fancy Silk Store. Here are the two fabrics together. Yummy.

Coat fabric with lining

I also found the fabric for my sister’s birthday dress which was lucky because her specifications were somewhat exacting. I’m not posting a picture of it just yet because she ought to see it first, but suffice to say I’m certainly looking forward to sewing with it. (And if she doesn’t like it after all I have an alternative plan for it…is that bad?)

Thanks again Marie and Kat and everyone else who came along!

The sewist’s decision making process – a lament

I’m making Burda 120-12-2012 in a glorious turquoise knit fabric.

But it’s slightly transparent so I need to draft a lining. This is breaking my brain. I need a distraction. A really simple project.

I have a copy of Vogue 1250 somewhere. I am the only sewing blogger in the world who has not yet made Vogue 1250. Also I have the perfect fabric in stash: the remains of the eye-popping jersey I used for the psychedelic dress.

Vogue 1250 and fabric

Not sure how much fabric it needs. Go to the primary to-sew queue (the pile of patterns wedged into the bookcase) to get the yardage. Start leafing through the queue. Forgot I had that nice 70s maxi pattern, Simplicity 6344. That would look good in black linen with a white collar. But Vogue 1250 is absent.

Turn out box which contains secondary to-sew queue of patterns and favourite pieces of fabric. Damn, Vogue 1287 is also a perfect work dress. But I don’t have any suitable fabric for it. Resist urge to look for fabric online. No Vogue 1250.

Turn out box which contains old patterns and tertiary to-sew queue. Curse self for not filing patterns in any sort of order. No Vogue 1250.

Turn out box containing fabric stash. Maybe it’s gone in there by mistake. Hey, some Liberty Tana lawn left over from the Death Star dress. Quite a bit of it. Enough for a shirt dress? Unfold to measure. Can’t find measuring tape. Sewing room floor now entirely invisible under patterns and fabric (it’s a very small room). Also, have no shirt dress patterns. Resist urge to look for shirtdress patterns online. No Vogue 1250.

Go through to-sew queue again, just in case. Nope. Sort fabric into leftovers and large pieces. Find red swirl print cotton lurking at the bottom of the fabric box. Must find a use for that, but there’s only enough for a sleeveless sundress. Pity we don’t seem to be having a summer this year.

Resist urge to go online and buy second copy of Vogue 1250.

Clear up sewing room. Carefully file primary, secondary, and tertiary to-sew queues.

Look down back of bookcase. You know where this is heading, don’t you.

Go to bed feeling pleased.

Next morning, see Burda 116-08-2011 on Allison’s blog. Like Vogue 1250 but with pockets!

Put Burda 116-08-2011 at head of sewing queue.

Swirly thing alert

I had a day out in London with a friend yesterday. Now technically we were supposed to be looking for furnishing fabric, not dress fabric. But we found ourselves having a quick look in the shops down Berwick Street, and she pointed out this amazing viscose knit, and it was reasonably priced.

Viscose knit print

Viscose knit print

So it had to come home with me. And now I need to find a pattern for it. I really want a maxi dress; I’ve seen some fantastic Pucci silk jersey maxis out there on the Internet and I should have enough of the fabric for that sort of style: floor length, long sleeves, and a very deep v-neck. However my fabric’s four-way stretch and very slinky so I need to pick the pattern carefully.

Having spent the day going through my entire collection of Burdas, the big four websites, and all the vintage maxi patterns on Etsy, I think my best option is
Vogue 8489 (line art below) because the interfaced bands around the collar and V-neck will provide some support. I’ll probably double up the fabric in the bodice too. The pattern’s not a maxi but I ought to be able to lengthen the skirt quite easily.

Vogue 8489 view F line art

I suspect I’m going to have to do something to stablize the shoulder and armsyce seams. I’ve heard about sewing clear elastic into them but that sounds like it might turn out bulky. Or is clear elastic much thinner than regular elastic? Anyone out there got any recommendations?

Slow burner? Vogue summer 2012 patterns

The sewing blogosphere and its feline helpers have already reviewed the new Vogue patterns, and in the main the reaction has been one of disappointment. And on first glance at the collection I had to agree. It didn’t even strike me as particularly fugly, just uninspiring. There is one honourable exception in 1305. I don’t think I’m very likely to make this, but it’s spectacular nonetheless.

Vogue 1305

After a few days I went back to it and had a closer look. Turns out there are a few things I like after all, they just aren’t the designer or vintage numbers.

Take 8808. The sample appears to have been made up out a pair of curtains, but imagine it in a solid colour. The long version would be both glamorous and comfortable. The knee length version would make a great day dress.

Vogue 8808

And then there’s 8814, another really verstaile, simple style – and heaven, it comes in custom cup sizes so no FBA.

Vogue 8814

I’m still going to wait until the sale though.

How can I resist? Bargain patterns in Derby

Thank-you all so much for the advice about trouser fitting! I feel a lot more confident tackling this now. When I used to wear RTW trousers I could usually find ones that fitted apart from the leg length so I’m hopeful this is going to work out.

Not that I’ve actually started yet. I can’t get to my ironing board because it is covered with the results of a shopping trip. I was in Derby at the weekend and while it’s not a noted Midlands shopping destination, it’s got some things that are definitely of interest to sewists.

First up: the Eagle Market has fabric stalls. This is the market in the Westfield shopping centre. There is another one in Derby Market Hall which has some haberdashery but not fabric. The Eagle Market is not as cheap as the Birmingham Rag Market, but the fabric tends to have better labelling. I wasn’t intending to buy fabric, but I came away with 3 metres of a rather nice medium weight grey doubleknit.

However the best thing is a haberdashery shop called Hook and Eye. It’s not the sort of place you’d find very fancy gadgets, but they have an impressive and reasonably priced range of things like buttons, zips, thread, and elastic. They also sell patterns, and in the shop they have a countertop of boxes absolutely stuffed with recently out of print patterns. They are selling these for two pounds fifty a pattern. That includes out of print Vogue designer patterns. You know, the ones that would have been fourteen pounds when they were in print. And they have a lot of them, many of which I recognised as fairly recent. I only managed to look through two of the boxes. I came away with three. The Chado Ralph Rucci (V1135) is one I’ve always wanted since I saw it on Pattern Review. The Michael Kors (V1191) looks like a useful classic work dress. And the Easy Options (V2218) is for my sister who expressed a liking for it earlier this year. I hadn’t realised it had gone out of print since then so I’m really glad I spotted it.

Out of print patterns from Hook and Eye

Hook and Eye doesn’t have a website but its sister shop Strand Wools does, at, and that site includes some of Hook and Eye’s stock. If you’re a knitter, Strand Wools itself is apparently well worth a look too.

I will sew shorts this week at some point. I really will. And now to start putting things away.

Is Burda dumbing down?

I’m a big fan of Burda Style magazine. I started buying it in 2009, and eventually got a subscription. I don’t make something out of every issue but I think I get my money’s worth.

Burda has a rating system for their patterns which uses dots. It seems to combine both difficulty and time, so one dot is ‘quick and easy, great for beginners’, one-and-a-half is ‘Easy to sew with simple features’ and two is ‘Easy to sew but more time-consuming’. The highest rating is four dots, the description of which is ‘Challenging, detailed, and time-consuming – for pros’. Those almost never appear in the magazine; I think there are five such patterns in my whole Burda collection, including the glorious Karl Lagerfeld jacket pictured below.

When I started out, two dot patterns were about the hardest I could contemplate making. These days I’d tackle a three dot pattern (‘Intermediate difficulty, for advanced learners’) without a qualm and have even managed to make a three-and-a-half dot dress. But I’ve been thinking there have been fewer difficult and detailed patterns in the magazine lately, and an awful lot of one and one-and-a-half dot sack dresses. Now it’s possible for a one dot pattern to be great, and I can think of at least one example in the amazingly simple and versatile 105-05-2010 – my version’s below and there are many others on Pattern Review. But in the main I find the very simple patterns a bit dull and they certainly seem to be multiplying.

Burda 105 05/2010

So I set out to check if Burda really is sneakily reducing the difficulty level of the patterns. I worked out the average dot rating for the issues in my collection, skipping patterns for children and accessories, and plotted a graph. (Argh I just noticed my y-axis label’s fallen off the plot. Sorry. Also I deliberately didn’t start the y-axis from zero.)

And actually, although it looks as though there’s a slight downwards trend, there’s so much variation that I don’t think there’s any real evidence that the patterns are getting easier. (No I didn’t do a proper regression analysis or anything like that. I could have, but that would have involved getting out a stats textbook to remind myself how to do it properly. You may call me a lazy slacker if you like.)

I’m putting the impression of easier patterns down to the extra editorial emphasis that’s been placed on them in recent issues. They get a special ‘Easy’ flag in the ‘All Styles at a Glance’ pages and there’s always an ‘Easy sewing’ section with very detailed instructions for one of the patterns in the magazine in addition to the ‘Sewing course’ pattern each month.

What do you think? Has Burda got easier? And even if it hasn’t, what sort of patterns do you prefer to find in it?

Yet another review of the new Vogues

Like half the sewing blogosphere I’d been waiting impatiently for the spring Vogue patterns to come out. They’re now up on the US website although as I write this they’ve yet to become available in the UK. But that’s OK, this time I think I can wait.

First impressions of the collection? What was the photographer thinking with those poses?

Doesn’t that hurt (1286)? She seems to be putting all her weight on one knee. The other foot isn’t in contact with the floor!

Is she trying to do the Eagle in four inch heels and a tight skirt (1280)?

How many cans of hairspray were involved (1281 and numerous others)?

What, you wanted to hear about the actual patterns?

There are a lot of lovely designer dresses there, including the three above, but somehow very few of them are ‘must-sews’ for me. There are a lot of dressing-up clothes there. I haven’t got a wedding to go to until June so I won’t be making any of the above any time soon.

Of the day dresses, two really stand out for me: 1285 and 1287. 1285 is a smart mock wrap dress, although I’d make it up in something a lot less transparent.

Vogue 1285 envelope photo

1287 has pockets and pleating and why on earth did they make up the sample in a fabric that hides the style lines? Not that it doesn’t look beautiful, but go and look at the line art. There’s more there than the photo shows. However it isn’t a million miles away in style from my favourite Vogue 1220.

Vogue 1287 envelope photo

The Very Easy range is often a bit blah, but this time they have this wrap dress 8784, which looks like a real classic. In fact it strongly resembles the sadly out of print Vogue 8379 but with a bonus extra skirt option.
Vogue 8784 envelope art

So in conclusion, I think this is a strong collection but not one that I’m going to rush out to sew. The ones I might wear are very similar to patterns I already own. This time I can definitely wait for the sale.

Ugly ducklings – patterns with hidden potential

Is it just me or are pattern envelope photos and illustrations misleading? I’m fairly sure this is why I buy so many Vogue patterns. The pattern envelopes are simply more attractive than the competition. And yet the envelope art usually bears little relation to the end result. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen someone produce a dress that I have greatly preferred to the original in the envelope picture. It makes me wonder what pattern gems I might be missing out on because the company has made the sample up in a pastel floral print or something alarmingly polyester. (I have nothing against pastel florals on other people. People whose skin, unlike mine, isn’t naturally a sort of pale grey colour.)

So here are my two favourite ugly duckling patterns. Despite the envelope art, they made up really well.

First is Simplicity 3775, straight out of the pastel floral category. This is a fantastic dress. Mine’s made up in a burgundy wool jersey and it’s great. Its best outing was getting me through the 2010 general election in reasonable style. You want something very warm and comfortable to wear when you’re waiting for the count after a 20 hour day of campaigning, and if you have to look vaguely smart too then this is the dress for the job.

And here’s Vogue 8413. I don’t know what it is about this one. The whole thing is slightly scary-looking. I can’t make my mind up whether it’s the styling, the hungry expression the model’s wearing, or just the colours they’ve picked. I wouldn’t have touched it if I hadn’t really needed a pattern for a woven cowl-neck dress. And that is a shame because it’s a lovely style and has a lot of good reviews if you go out there and look. I grafted a circle skirt on to the bodice and it became my Yohji Yamamoto-inspired dress.

So do you have any ugly duckling patterns? Do share!

Pattern of the year – the last make of 2011

Happy New Year! I’m actually writing this post on December 31st. Come Sunday morning I expect to be lying in bed nursing a small hangover after our traditional New Years Eve barbeque. It’s the only night of the year I manage to stay up late any more.

Vogue 1220

The dress above is my last make of 2011, Vogue 1220 in grey cotton sateen. I made it once already in navy blue sateen and it came out scandalously short. Despite the lack of length I have worn it a lot, always combined with very thick tights. The blue version also needs a slip because the sateen sticks to tights and wrinkles at the slightest excuse.

The grey version has another two inches of length added to the bodice over my usual two, making four in all, which brings it to about the right length. It is lined in black cupro.

Vogue 1220

Lining was pretty easy because the dress is finished with facings all the way round. I cut out the main pattern pieces in the lining fabric (leaving off the foldback self-facing on the front pieces) and made them up in the same way as the dress but without the front pleats to give a bit of ease. Then I pinned the lining inside the dress shell and and finished the facings over the top of it. I had to invisibly hem the lining to the dress around the neck to make it stay put there. I didn’t line the sleeves. I basted the lining to the dress at the armsyce and finished the armsyce with the overlocker after setting in the sleeves.

The buttons nearly caused this dress not to get finished at all. I marked the button placement incorrectly and didn’t notice until I’d sewn five of them on. Sewing on buttons is absolutely my least favourite sewing activity. But here they are, all attached in the right places at last.

Vogue 1220

This is my pattern of the year, narrowly beating Vogue 1239. It’s comfortable, flattering, and it has pockets. I’ve liked every version I’ve seen made up and there are a lot of them out there. Come on Vogue, give us another one like this in 2012!