Virtuous sewing: Burda 120 12/2018

I announce a grand plan to sew a mix and match wardrobe for myself, and then my very next post is about a project that’s not on the list. But I haven’t deviated from the plan yet (that’ll doubtless come later) because this one was sewn a couple of weeks ago. It’s Burda 120 12/2018, a hoodie for my husband.

I made this up once before and found it ran a little small. I sized up for this version and it is a much better fit.

It’s very satisfying bashing the eyelets into place with a hammer, and the finish definitely improves with practice.

The fabric is a grey poly fleece from Tia Knight. It’s tricky to photograph! The one below gives the best idea of the colour.

And now back to sewing the wardrobe. The pleated culottes are nearly done and the 70s flared trousers are next up!

Sewing with a vague plan

Planning my sewing out in advance is anathema to me; I’m always being distracted by some inspirational image that crosses my path. In the past this led to the accumulation of patterns and fabric for many projects which never reached the machine. For the last couple of years I’ve had a rule of not purchasing anything more than one planned project in advance in order to control the stash, and until very recently this was serving me well.

And then I needed fabric for my next planned dress, and none of the online sources I’d identified were doing samples because of the pressures of Covid. So I gambled, and ordered two lengths of promising sounding fabric. Both were sensible basics: plain black non stretch medium weight wovens. My theory was that whichever one didn’t work for the dress would rapidly get used for trousers.

You can guess what happened. First it turned out I hadn’t read the fabric description on one of the fabrics properly. I thought it was non-stretch cotton denim, but it turned to be one of those ultra stretchy denims which are mostly man made fibres, so completely unsuitable for my plans. The other one was stable but far too heavy. But all was not lost; both would be good for trouser patterns. But I was still without fabric for the dress, which needed a tricky combination of characteristics: stable enough for making buttonholes and welt pockets, light enough to make pleats, and with enough body to support sticky out bits.

So it was back to the hunt. I identified two more possibilities, but still no one was doing samples. So I ordered both. And this time, both were suitable. But I wasn’t going to make the dress twice, so I now had three lengths of fabric left over. And the lid wouldn’t go on the box that holds my fabric stash.

Clearly it was time to mend my ways, so I started actually planning in the hope of avoiding any more accumulation. First of all I identified trouser patterns from my ‘want to sew’ list that would go with the new fabric. I have some medium weight non stretch black denim, some medium weight very stretchy black denim, and some heavy weight black cotton drill.

And then I looked for top halves to match them, all from patterns I already owned. I included my recently made OOP Vogue 1347 drawstring trousers in the planning for tops because I don’t have many cold weather tops that work with them.

And here is what I came up with.

The bottoms are (left to right) Burda 108 07/2018 pleated culottes for the heavy non stretch drill, my already made silver Vogue 1347 drawstring trousers, some sort of 70s style high waisted jeans for the stretch denim, I’m currently thinking Burda 118 04/2009, and Burda 106 02/2020 lantern trousers for the medium weight non stretch denim. Why those particular patterns? I don’t wear a lot of colour so I’m looking for unusual shapes. I’ve always fancied trying a hakama (Japanese pleated trousers), but they aren’t exactly practical for my lifestyle. The Burda culottes are a more wearable take on that look. The lantern trousers and the 70s jeans are other interesting shapes I don’t have in my wardrobe at the moment.

Then for tops (left to right) I have the overshirt with strap details from OOP Vogue 1347, to be made in black linen; Burda 116 01/2020 cropped sweater in black boiled wool; Burda 105 04/2018 dart front shirt in white cotton. These should all go with all the different trousers, and also my existing grey Merchant and Mills Strides and my grey Burda Oxford bags. I might add another of the Burda dart front shirts in black.

I’ve started sewing the Burda pleated culottes. Who knows whether I’ll manage to stick to rest of the plan! It is six new items, which will take about six months for me at my current rate. I doubt I’ll manage to avoid distractions for that long. On the plus side every single one is something I want to make in its own right; nothing is there just because it goes with something else. I’m quite excited about some of the combinations that will be possible. So fingers crossed.

Vogue 1376 vintage Montana dress modelled pictures

So here it is at last, my vintage 80s dress. It seems odd to think of 80s patterns as vintage, given I remember the decade quite well. But at the time I definitely didn’t appreciate fashion and had never heard of Claude Montana.

The pattern is Vogue 1376 from 1984. I’m almost certain the original designer dress is the one in this advert. I did consider constructing a blue cardboard triangle to put on my head but you’ll be pleased to hear sanity prevailed. My styling efforts are limited to 80s style stripy blusher.

This dress is all about the enormous shoulders. The bodice front and back are only joined together from the waist down in order to achieve that very triangular shape. Decency is maintained by side insets placed in the gap and topstitched in place. One of the insets is visible in this side view. What you can’t see here are the two shoulder pads each side required to support the shape.

Here’s a back view. I added quite a bit to the length. I always add 5cm to the bodice on Vogue but on this one I added another 3cm to the skirt. I’m very happy with where the hem has ended up. For once I’ve managed to hit the magic length which covers the knee but doesn’t make my legs look oddly proportioned. I’m wearing ridiculous heels here for photographic purposes but I think this would look OK with flats. I browsed through a lot of YouTube videos of Montana fashion shows while identifying this pattern, and was surprised by how low and practical many of the shoes were. Not how I remember 80s style. Is it just that heels got even higher later on? I remember fashion suddenly declaring that flats were OK after all at some time in the second half of the 90s, and how refreshing it was to be able to find shoes that were both attractive and practical.

There are a lot of details on the back: there’s a button closure, pleats, and a belt. On the original design the belt appears to be patent leather, but I stuck with self fabric and a lot of interfacing for mine. Incidentally the fabric is gaberchino from Empress Mills. I think this design needs something not too heavy, but with a bit of body to it.

The front has the amazing pocket flanges which echo the triangular shoulder shape and the overall outline. The whole thing is very thoughtfully designed.

Surprisingly it’s not all that close fitting, as you can see here. I made my usual size and I seem to have more ease than on the original. I don’t think I’d want it any tighter though.

I’m pleased with this, although who knows how much I’ll get to wear it in the near future. It was a lot of fun to make anyway.

Wearability: epic fails

I’ve finished my vintage Montana dress, but no photos as yet. Time instead for another wearability post. This one is about some absolutely epic wearability failures: things that barely left the wardrobe until the day I threw them out or passed them on. Failures are much more interesting to read about than successes, right?

First up is Vogue 1400, a Guy Laroche shirt dress made in black cotton poplin. It’s a more complicated design than it looks at first glance: there are shoulder cutouts that are not visible in this shot and the breast pockets have a complicated construction that leads to the effect of them floating on the chest with no visible stitching.

But those are details; it’s basically a very baggy, boxy shirt dress. And that’s its downfall: it’s so wide that when I lift my arms the whole thing lifts up. It also needs a belt to look good on me, so every time it pulls up I then have to tug it back down under the belt again. Way too much aggravation for what should be an easy summer dress. It might have been more wearable if I’d made a much smaller size, but somehow I doubt it. It got a few wears and was then passed on to the charity shop. At least the fabric wasn’t precious.

Next is a real blast from the past. This is Burda 106 03/2011. At the time I made this I’d been sewing only a few years and subscribing to Burda for less than a year. I made this one because I was fascinated by the egg shaped silhouette, which at the time seemed very unusual. Cocoon and egg shapes seem more mainstream in 2020, or perhaps it’s just that years of looking at sewing magazines rather than fashion magazines has retrained my eye.

I still like the shape. But my fabric choice was very bad: an online purchase that was billed as ‘linen look’ but turned out to be a very scratchy and coarsely woven polyester. I hadn’t yet realised that sewing with bad fabric is a waste of time and made it up anyway, making a complete mess of sewing the gathers at the neck along the way. I wanted this to wear to a wedding, but in the event I wore another, more comfortable, dress, and this one never made it out of the wardrobe.

I don’t think this is a bad pattern and I’ve kept my tracing. Perhaps one day I’ll tackle it again, if I ever need a new fancy dress.

And then we have this. It’s an amazing Alexander McQueen pattern; it was a free download from ShowStudio some years ago. It’s an unlined jacket with a complex pleated back.

I enjoyed making it and it looks good in the photos. But it’s very slightly too small; the pattern is one size and comes without any indication of what size it’s for so I had to guess a bit and got it wrong. And it’s a fussy item to wear. It doesn’t do anything to keep you warm or covered up, what with those wide short sleeves which aren’t connected at the underarm at all. The pleated back isn’t practical for sitting or lounging. About the only place I might wear this is to an exhibition, on a warm day.

I didn’t give this one away because it was such a lot of work to sew. It resides in a box under the bed. But I’ve not missed it at all.

I think what all three of these have in common is that they weren’t comfortable to wear, whether it was because of fit, fabric, or just the design of the garment. I’m firmly resolved only to sew with good fabric. Fit and design are a bit harder to get right up front.

Utterly impractical sewing

Remember this? It’s a old Vogue designer pattern I bought earlier in the year because it is everything I love about the 80s.

It hasn’t just been sitting in my pattern collection; I am actually making it up. It’s been quite a journey so far and it’s not done yet. But I have finally got it to the point where it looks like a dress, so I thought I’d post some progress pictures.

The pattern envelope does not lie. The shoulders are seriously wide. Consequently the waist looks tiny. It hasn’t got shoulder pads in yet either, so those shoulders are going to be even bigger when it’s done.

The hip pocket flaps form amazing sticky out fins when the dress is on a body or dress form. My other half said it reminded him of a 50s Cadillac. Underneath them are welt pockets.

The fabric is gaberchino. It needs to be something that is drapey enough for the pleats in the bodice back but has enough body to make the more structured details. I’ve used a lot of interfacing to beef it up in places.

Here’s a better view of the shoulder and neck. The pins are holding the armscye facing in place as I haven’t topstitched it yet.

And here is the back; there is a lot going on there. There are going to be buttons and button holes on the upper back bands and at the collar and the back half-belt. My dress form has a much shorter waist than I do so it won’t be quite so blousy on me.

I still need to add insets under the arms, do a ton of topstitching, put the shoulder pads in, and make all those buttonholes. Oh and hem it, too. There is loads of work in this and that’s without making any effort to make the insides look nice – the pattern doesn’t call for anything special there so it’s all overlocked seam allowances. It’s a wonderful pattern though; beautifully drafted and full of interesting details. It’s been a lot of fun to sew.

I’m coming to the conclusion that the end result is going to be less wearable than I’d originally thought, what with the high neck and the very narrow skirt. But it will be a spectacular dress for going out somewhere fancy in, if we ever get to do that again. And when I finish it I will do my best to get some good photos…I’d better look up some 80s makeup inspiration.

A woman in grey trousers and white shirt sits on grass

Merchant and Mills Strides finished

A woman in grey trousers and white shirt stands by a window

When I last posted about these trousers I was struggling with the pockets. But as you can see I finished them and I’m very pleased with the results. These are the Merchant and Mills Strides. They don’t seem to be available as a standalone pattern but are part of the Merchant and Mills Workbook, a collection of six patterns making up a wardobe. The Strides are described as classic menswear style trousers. They’re straight legged, very high waisted, and have slant pockets and pleats on the front. Mine are made up in a mediumweight non-stretch grey denim. It’s heavier than any of the recommended fabrics for the pattern but it’s unusually soft and drapey for denim, which makes it work. I’d link to it, but it seems to have sold out.

Closeup of grey trousers

I really like the fit on these but it’s only fair to say that other people have had mixed results. The sizing is a little hard to fathom as there is no size chart provided, only finished garment measurements. The size numbers look like they’re meant to match UK retail or Big Four pattern sizing, but in fact they aren’t equivalent. I’d say to go down at least one from your usual size. There’s no inside leg measurement given but after checking the pattern I lengthened the leg something like 8cm, which is more than I usually do.

What I ended up with is close fitting on the natural waist and roomy everywhere else. Very comfortable to wear. The pockets worked out ok after I recut the back piece longer to match the front one, although I’d prefer them to be a bit deeper overall. If I’d used the original pattern pieces with the shorter back piece they’d be far too shallow for a phone (at least for the size I made; I haven’t been back to check the others).

A woman in grey trousers and white shirt stands by a white wall

The pattern is described as inspired by classic menswear but it’s simplified from traditional men’s trousers, which makes it a much easier sew. There is no centre back seam on the waistband for adjusting the size and no back pockets of any sort. However there is a very nifty shaped fly guard with an internal button closure to keep the front lying really flat. I had a bit of difficulty with the button placement on that – the buttonhole seemed placed much lower on the pattern pieces than on the diagrams in the instructions – but that might have been my mistake in tracing and marking. I made it work but next time I’ll check the pattern pieces really do line up before making the buttonhole. Interestingly the photos in the book of the insides look more like how my fly guard ended up than the diagrams do.

Here’s the back view. I get those wrinkles under the backside on most trousers. I suppose I could take some length out of the back crotch curve to try to deal with it but it doesn’t really bother me.

A woman in grey trousers and white shirt stands by a window with her back to the camera

I’ve been wearing these a lot since I finished them. They feel effortless to wear but I’d like to think they have a Katharine Hepburn vibe. And I love the proportions I get when tucking in a top to the high waistband. It’s as if they were drafted for me personally. I’ll definitely be making this pattern again.

The shirt is Style Arc’s Juliet – another one I have plans to sew again. Thanks to my husband for taking the photos.

A woman in grey trousers and a white shirt sits on grass

Child’s silver bomber jacket: Burda 133 4/2017

Normally the person wearing silver clothes in this household is me. But not this little jacket. This is for my pre-school aged son. One of his heroes is Andy Day, the lead singer of Andy and the Oddsocks, who wears a silver bomber jacket on stage. My son was rummaging through my fabric box and found a piece of silver foiled lycra exactly like the fabric Andy’s jacket is made from, so it had to be done.

The pattern is Burda 133 04/2017, somewhat simplified. No way was I making welt pockets in stretchy lycra fabric.

Technical drawing of Burda 133 04/2017
Burda 133 04/2017 technical drawing, burdastyle.ru

It’s fully lined in white mesh fabric. Seems like overkill for a costume but the lycra is pretty flimsy. I ended up bagging the lining so no hand sewing required.

Inserting the zip looked like it might be a challenge. I used strips of interfacing along the front opening and sewed really carefully. It’s come out quite well.

But I’m kicking myself for not trimming the seams closely enough around the collar. I could open the lining back up and fix it…but I won’t. And I didn’t top stitch the zip either.

Back view for completeness. I’m pleased with the colour of the ribbing against the silver. The ribbing and the zip had to be bought online and colours are always a bit of a gamble when you do that, but this time it worked out.

Incidentally I think there is a mistake in the pattern for the ribbing pieces. The measurements given in the magazine for the cuff piece are far too small; you’d have to stretch it an amazing amount to get it into the sleeve. Luckily I noticed when tracing, and made them quite a bit longer. Other than that it’s a good pattern. And I swear Burda’s instructions are better than they used to be. I had no problems making this up.

I’m very pleased with how it came out. But despite measuring my son and making a size up from what I thought he needed, it’s still only just big enough. I swear they grow when you’re not looking.

This isn’t our first Andy homage. Previously we made the Gizmo prop from his TV show Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures…and then we made the one from Andy’s Wild Adventures too. I just need Andy to branch out into literature now, as that way I’d have the dreaded World Book Day costume covered well in advance.

Stash busting: Burda 105 04/2019

This was a somewhat experimental project. I would never have bought this shirt because the silhouette is totally out of my comfort zone. But it’s been hot and sunny in the UK lately and I burn very easily, so making a voluminous and lightweight coverup seemed like a good idea. My Burda magazine collection yielded 105 04/2019, which fitted the bill. Here’s the technical drawing.

The combination of the loose fit, the clean front, and that architectural pleat at the back was appealing.

The fabric is a cotton shirting from Croft Mill that I’ve had in the stash for a while. I originally bought it for a shirt dress, but when it arrived it didn’t look the way I was anticipating. What caught me out was the scale of the pattern. It has tiny little woven dashes of bright purple and olive green on a white background. The sample I got looked great. But as soon as you have a bigger piece and look at it from any distance the dashes blend with the background and the whole thing reads as a solid greyish lilac colour.

A pastel dress is not a good look on me, so the fabric went into stash and I made the original dress in white poplin instead. I’m glad to have found a use for the patterned shirting at last. And as a bonus: violet, green, and white are the colours of the suffragette movement, and knowing that cheers me up in an odd way.

The main feature of this shirt is the pleated back. Otherwise it’s very simple.

The front closure is made with snaps on the original pattern but I’ve changed mine to buttons on a concealed placket. I didn’t bother putting a button on the collar band. I think it clashes with the otherwise clean finish and I’m never going to do it up.

In practice I’ve been wearing it tied at the waist to tame the volume a little.

Here’s how the back looks when tied. Lots of interesting folds, which bring out the colour of the fabric.

I used rather nice dark grey shell buttons – completely wasted on the front but visible on the cuffs. I think they’re probably a little too dark for the fabric.

I’ve worn this more than I expected to. I can’t see myself making the pattern again, or indeed wearing a lot more lilac, but this one is a slightly surprising success.

Silver trousers again: Vogue 1347

Work on the Merchant and Mills Strides trousers continues. But here’s a trouser pattern I recently finished instead.

Long time readers of this blog know I have a thing for silver trousers. I usually have at least one pair in my wardrobe and they get a lot of wear. Recently I’ve changed shape – I lost weight while sick – and my clothes no longer fit. Things should return to normal soon but in the meantime I need some trousers that don’t fall down. Enter the bottoms from Vogue 1347, wide leg trousers with a drawstring waist. No link to the pattern because this one is out of print, although it’s often available second hand on eBay and Etsy. Here’s the line drawing.

Vogue 1347 line drawing, McCalls

The lines of the trousers are pretty simple but this is a Ralph Rucci designer pattern so the finishing is amazing. If you followed the pattern instructions closely you’d get an absolutely exquisite garment: fully lined without an exposed seam allowance anywhere. I’m afraid I didn’t bother with the lining at all, and my seam allowances are finished with the overlocker. I’ve never seen such comprehensive instructions for lining trousers with a fly front anywhere else though, so I may come back to the pattern in future just for that.

I always find things drop out of inseam pockets on trousers so I added zips to mine. And I couldn’t be bothered to make a long skinny drawstring out of self fabric so mine is an acrylic cord. The fabric itself is Lady McElroy Uttoxeter, a black and white tonic twill that looks silver from a distance. It’s no longer available anywhere I’ve looked but this particular piece came from Sherwoods Fabrics.

And now the obligatory back view, because this is a sewing blog after all. I’m standing up straighter than I usually would which I think explains the folds. They have plenty of room anyway, and would even if I was at my normal size. I normally need to go up one size for the hips in most sewing pattern size charts, but this pattern has so much ease built in I didn’t bother when I traced it. I added 5cm to the length, as I usually do with Vogue, and they’ve come out just above floor length which is perfect. The hem allowance is a huge 8cm so there is a lot of wiggle room even without lengthening the pattern but I wanted to be sure to have a deep hem.

I’m really pleased with these. They are a lovely shape and I like that they have a proper fly front despite the adjustable waist; it makes me feel slightly more dressed up. And it’s so nice to have something that fits.

Thanks to my husband for the photos.

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?