Sewing top fives: goals

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And here is the last post of the sewing top five of 2019 series: goals. To make it more interesting I’m not making any concession to practicality. This is what I currently want to sew regardless of climate and lifestyle.

First up is a quilted winter coat in silver. As soon as I saw Burda 114 11/2019 I wanted to make a metallic version. Here’s the technical drawing. I’m intending to skip the bow.

Burda 114 11/2019 padded coat technical drawing

This one is quite likely to get made. I really need a warm winter coat and I already have a fabric in mind for it: an amazing bright silver foiled denim. I still need to do a toile and gather quite a lot of supplies apart from the shell fabric so there’s a way to go.

I was lucky enough to get some of the recent Vogue patterns from my wishlist for Christmas (thanks!) and the one I am really itching to make is V1645, the Rachel Comey Standfast jumpsuit. The pattern envelope recommends ‘cotton blends’ but some versions of the original were made in a fabric that’s described as ‘white pebbled foam’. I still can’t quite work out what that might mean. I think I’ll play it fairly safe and look for a tencel denim for my version. I’m not sure what to do about the buckle detail. The original has a self fabric covered buckle but I quite fancy using a metal one. The trouble is I’m not sure if that will make it tricky to wash.

And the last one is a real stretch: this amazing Pamella Roland Vogue coat/cape. It’s out of print and I can’t say I’m entirely surprised because it’s not exactly practical. But I do love it.

I’m also carrying on with my project to work my way through my wishlist of Burda dresses, and in fact my next couple of posts will be about the next two on the list. That seems like more than enough plans for one year. So thanks to the Sewcialists for running this blog series again, and on to 2020.

Sewing top fives: reflections

So, on to sewing reflections for 2019. I find this is the hardest post in the series to write so apologies if it’s deadly dull.

For a while now I’ve been trying to reduce my fabric stash by sewing from stash where possible, only buying fabric one project ahead, and always getting samples before buying fabric online. The idea is to make better choices and sew up new fabric before I can change my mind about it. I managed to stick to that for most of the year. I also gave away some stash fabrics I knew I would never ever sew because the colours and prints didn’t suit me.

The stash has shrunk somewhat as a result, but there’s still a way to go and it’s getting more difficult to reduce it. I’ve already sewn up the easy stuff and am now left with lengths that I am struggling to find a suitable project for. There’s one length of green wool coating in particular that’s a problem. I don’t sew it up because I’m not really convinced the colour suits me, but I can’t part with it either. This picture gives some idea.

Green coat fabric with pink lining

I can’t possibly dye it; I’d need an industrial dye vat for that much heavy wool! Nor am I really up for sewing an entire coat for someone else. My current hope is that I’ll find a coat pattern I love that’s sufficiently out there that I wouldn’t risk buying new fabric for it.

I’m also on a pattern buying diet. This year I only kept up my Burda subscription and didn’t buy envelope patterns. Again this is getting slightly harder now because Vogue, my favourite brand after Burda, are really on a roll at the moment.

I did buy the Bootstrap Vado custom jeans PDF pattern this year which was a fun experiment. The fit was better for me than unadjusted Burda jeans, but it was not perfect enough for me to get over my general dislike of PDF patterns and go back for more yet. I might consider Bootstrap or Lekala again for something I was finding really difficult to fit though.

The other thing I’ve been trying to do this year is to feed Kibbe style advice into my choice of projects. (If you want more on Kibbe, check out Doctor T’s in-depth blog series). I’m pretty dubious about style typing systems in general but some of the ideas in this one work for me: it recommends I wear vee and boat necks, monochrome colour schemes, dark neutral colours, long lines, and avoid any fussy details. Of course I also have my own rules: pockets are essential, metallic is a neutral, everything must be machine washable.

I’m not sure using Kibbe has made a huge difference to how I dress – part of the reason I like the system is that it agrees with my existing ideas about what suits me – but it did make me consider choosing longer skirt lengths, which I’ve found aren’t as dowdy as I would have guessed…or maybe this is all a coincidence as fashion’s just come around to longer skirts. Anyway I shall carry on keeping his recommendations in mind, and doubtless reject them the minute they clash with something I really want to wear.

Phew. Next up: plans for 2020!

Sewing top fives: highlights

On to the next sewing top five post. This one is ‘Highlights’ – for things that aren’t sewing projects, which were already covered in Hits.

I’ve got one that vaguely relates to the subject of this blog. We finally finished building our extension. It took nearly a year and there was a grim few weeks when we had to move back into the house before the kitchen was finished; we also didn’t have any windows! But it’s lovely now it’s done and it turned out the new kitchen island makes a handy cutting table. And there is no longer a leaking and decaying conservatory in my blog photos. Before:

And after…this is obviously taken from outside the house but that patio is where the conservatory was.

And here’s part of the new kitchen and dining room with the island.

I’m so glad it’s finished…it’ll be a while before we can face anything like that again!

Sewing top fives: Misses

This is my favourite part of the sewing top fives: writing about the ones that didn’t work. And the good news is that I’m struggling to find five complete fails from 2019 – this year there are only four.

The first was a pair of trousers for my son. I traced the pattern (Burda 127 03/2018), cut them out, and then left them for a couple of months. Which was stupid because children grow. By the time I made them up they were much too small.

I wasn’t entirely convinced by the drafting either; they’re intended for that awkward size where the child may or may not still be in nappies, but you’d never fit a nappy under these. What I’ve learnt from this is that it’s a lot cheaper and easier (in the UK at least) to buy trousers for toddlers than make your own.

The next fail was also for my son, but the same pattern (a RTW copy based on Burda 138 03/2014) also featured in my top five hits. I first made it in green polar fleece as a trial run, and he loved it. The red ‘real’ version here is made from soft shell and is not loved – in fact I can’t get him to wear it. I think the problem is that the fabric is too robust. It’s much more of a coat fabric than a sweater fabric. Pity because it’s a lovely colour and I was very pleased with how it came out. I may have to pass this on to one of his friends.

Now on to things for me. I made a toile of Burda 118 09/2010, a coat I’ve loved for years, thinking the pattern couldn’t possibly be as bad as all the reviews said. And I think it could be made into a wearable garment. But have I done all the work needed to fix the many problems with the pattern yet? No. Maybe next year. Maybe never.

This last one is probably my worst fail. It’s a remake of Burda 128 10/2010 in black sateen. It’s a bit tricky to sew and I put quite a lot of extra effort into adding pockets to the design, but I’ve hardly worn it. It’s too short and tight. The first time I made it I used a knitted fabric and I suspect I’ve also put on a few inches since then, so it was silly to think I could use the same pattern pieces this time around. Funnily enough it doesn’t look too bad in the picture. I wonder if there is some styling trick that would mean I can get some wear out of it.

So that’s one poor fabric choice, two fitting fails, and one bad pattern. The only one I’m really frustrated about is the black dress – the too-small trousers were made from leftover fabric, the coat never got beyond a toile, and at least I got one good garment out of the toddler top pattern.

Top five sewing hits of 2019

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It’s that time of year again: Sewing Top Fives. This is definitely my favourite blog series! So without further ado, here are my top five projects of 2019.

First up is a garment that wasn’t for me: it’s a fleece top for my son. I used Burda 138 03/2014 as a basis for the pattern but the collar and neckline is copied from a much loved RTW top. He wore my version a lot until he grew too big for it. I think a big part of the appeal is that his dad has a hoodie made from the same fabric. I should definitely make it again, a size or two bigger.

Burda 138 03/2014

The next one is a pattern repeat; this is the fourth version of Style Arc’s Toni dress I’ve made. It took a few iterations but I’ve got the pattern completely adjusted to my liking now. It’s a great summer dress; very easy to wear but still looks stylish. There will be more of these in the future.

Three is another well loved pattern: Burda 117 02/2012 made in a grey ponte. This is another one where I’ve adjusted the pattern quite a bit over several versions. I think I am finally happy with it now. I have this one and a black scuba version in regular rotation at the moment.

I haven’t made many trousers much this year but this pair of cargoes have been a huge success. The pattern is Burda 121 02/2018. They have a lot of fiddly details but the end result really looks like RTW and I have worn them lots despite a less than perfect fit (hard to see in the picture but they’re too big on the waist). I’m slightly disappointed in the fabric though. It has already faded from a mid grey to a very light grey.

But this has to be the best project of the year, my Burda trench coat. It gets worn most days and it’s the perfect combination of easy to throw on, goes with everything, but still looks like I’ve made an effort. The original pattern is 105 02/2019 but I made a lot of changes to the shaping.

Burda 105 02/2019

Four out of five of these are Burda patterns. This isn’t a surprise: I mostly sewed from Burda this year because I’ve been cutting back on envelope pattern purchases. I have to say that my Burda back catalogue has provided a suitable pattern for practically everything I’ve wanted to make, so there’s a lesson there.

Next up: top five fails.

Top five of 2018: goals

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Time for the last of the Sewing Top Five of 2018: Goals. Once again I haven’t got a tidy list of five things but I do have a big project in the early planning stages so I’ll talk about that.

A few years ago I made a winter coat from Vogue 1276. It was my first attempt at coat making but it was such a success I’m still using it. It’s starting to show its age though: the lining has ripped around the armscyes and the nap has worn off at the wrists and where I fasten the belt. Incidentally, what is it about coat linings ripping at the armscyes? Every coat I have ever had, whether ready to wear or home made, has done this. I’ve tried reinforcing the seam with tape and using stretch lining but it still happens. Anyone know how to prevent this?

So I need a new coat. I have been looking for a pattern for a while. It needs to be long: below knee length. It also needs to have a proper closure which wraps over; so many coat patterns close edge to edge which is no use in the cold. And I would prefer it to be fairly streamlined and unfussy in shape.

I think I have it down to three.

First is Burda 107 10/2011 : an ankle length double breasted coat.

I’m not wild about the buttons; I think I’d replace them with snaps. I like the size of the pockets, but patch pockets aren’t great for putting your hands in.

Then there’s the option of repeating Vogue 1276. I’d link to the pattern but it’s out of print now.

The only reason I’m dithering is I’m not sure it’s absolutely the most flattering style for me. But people often ask me where I got my current one,which is always nice! I know the pattern works and it is already traced and adjusted. And I would also like to improve on the construction I did last time. I remember being very annoyed that the pattern said to sew in the sleeve lining entirely by hand and gave the reason that it was too complicated to explain how to do it by machine. Since then I’ve learnt how to bag linings and I suspect I could make this without needing to hand sew anything.

Finally, Burda 120 10/2017 . Another one I can’t link to, unfortunately.

This seems to be a magazine exclusive; I can’t find it on the English language Burda site at all. It is one of their ‘designer’ patterns. Now obviously the colours it’s shown in are not going to be suitable for the rainy, muddy UK winter. And even if I could pick three other colours that would work, it’s doubtful I could find the chosen three in matching coating fabrics. But I think this pattern might be successful made up in one fairly light colour with top stitching to emphasise the seams. A grey would be practical and still allow the seams to be seen. But it’s a four dot pattern (Burda’s highest difficulty; there are very few of those) and there are no reviews of it that I can find, so I’m not sure what I’d be letting myself in for here. And yet I keep coming back to this one.

I’ve been going round in circles about choosing for weeks. I really want to make the last one but it’s very risky. The Vogue is a safe but slightly boring choice. And the other Burda ticks all the right boxes but somehow doesn’t thrill me. So I guess my goal is to have chosen a new winter coat before winter is actually over!

Top 5 of 2018: Highlights and reflections

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On with the Sewing Top Fives of 2018. I’m combining Highlights and Reflections because I don’t have a tidy list of five of each and anyway I think they’re related.

I’ve been actively trying to change the way I plan projects and purchase fabric and patterns over the last year and a bit. I have much less sewing time than I used to, so I wanted to get more successful projects out of it. My fabric and pattern stashes were also starting to expand beyond my storage space so I had to do something about that. This is what I did and how it worked out.

The first thing I did was to catalogue everything I already had. I use spreadsheets for fabric and notions, and Pinterest for patterns. Why both? Pinterest is great for cataloguing patterns but not as good for fabric. What I want in a pattern catalogue is primarily pictures of the envelope art. I can quickly and easily find photos of most of my patterns on the web and add them to my Pinterest pattern stash board with a couple of clicks. The picture is then automatically linked back to the original web page for when I want to look up yardage or recommended fabrics. At least it is until the original page goes away: I got caught out when Vogue took down all their Donna Karan patterns and all my links broke. I should start pinning the envelope back pictures as well as the fronts but I haven’t done that systematically yet.

The Pinterest method isn’t good for fabric and notions because most of my stash wasn’t bought online so there are no handy photographs available. Even for the pieces that did come from an online shop it’s very rare for the original shop page to stick around for long; it usually vanishes once the fabric sells out. You can upload your own photos to Pinterest of course but there was no way I was going to photograph my entire fabric stash. Using a spreadsheet instead also means I can sort and filter by things like fabric length and width.

I also made a Pinterest board for my current wardrobe. This was fairly easy because I’ve been blogging for so long that I had photos of practically every item of clothing I own on the blog. This has been surprisingly useful. It helps me identify wardrobe gaps but it also reminds me what I already have so that perfectly good garments don’t get forgotten about.

Finally I keep a Pinterest board for the sewing queue with one section per project idea. It contains inspiration images, possible patterns, and sometimes fabric photos from online fabric shops. I also look through the virtual stash to see if I have suitable patterns or fabric for the project and add them to the section.

Has it worked? I think it has. I have bought far fewer patterns this year and the fabric stash is steadily reducing in size. I’ve also had quite a successful year in terms of projects: most of what I made is in regular rotation. I can also do a lot of the planning stage of a project while commuting on the bus, which frees precious sewing time.

The system definitely isn’t perfect. I’d like to do something with the spreadsheets so that I can easily access them when on the move; unfortunately everything I’ve tried so far hasn’t been very satisfactory. I also don’t have my magazine patterns catalogued, although Burda Navigator is a huge help for browsing. I don’t know of anything similar for any of the others though.

And I have to mention one more highlight: a fabric shopping trip in Birmingham with Elaine of The Demented Fairy and Kim of The Material Lady. It was a lot of fun! And thanks to the new planning regime I’ve already used two of the three bits of fabric I bought and the third is on the ironing board waiting to be cut…

Top 5 of 2018: Misses

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Continuing with the Sewing Top Five of 2018 series, here’s the post I always find the most interesting to compile and to read other people’s version of: the misses. This year I had a very hard time coming up with a list of five misses which I guess is a positive! None of these are complete failures. Rather they are things I haven’t worn very much or am not totally satisfied with.

The first is my Vogue 1548 dress. I said at the time I loved it and I still do, but I have only worn it three or four times. It’s a dress I can only wear to work, not on a weekend, and it has a strange problem for work wear: the lining is so ultra slippery that it affects my posture when sitting and that eventually becomes uncomfortable and annoying. Such a shame. Replacing the lining would be a pain but I may have to in order to make it wearable.

Vogue 1548 front

Next up is something I’ve worn a lot despite the bad fit: Vogue 1573 jeans. The pattern is hugely oversized even by Big Four standards. Like most people I almost always need to go down one size from the chart; on these I should have gone down two sizes in most places and maybe three on the waist. The waistband is cut in a way which means important bits end up on the bias, which doesn’t help. At the time I said that I’d like to try grafting the seam detail on these onto a pattern that fits me. But since then I’ve gone off that idea as well; the seamlines aren’t in a flattering place on me. The reason I still wear these is that they’re only pair of black jeans I own.

Vogue 1573 action shot

The next one is arguably not a failure at all because it’s easily my most worn make of 2018: my ikat kimono dressing gown. But I made it very slightly too small in order to be able to match the pattern on the rather expensive and narrow fabric I chose. That was a false economy: I’d spent ages looking for the perfect fabric in the first place and I wear the end result most days, if only while cleaning my teeth. It would have been worth buying the extra length and making it generously sized.

Ikat kimono

This next one is a miss for a combination of things: a fabric that’s not quite right, a pattern that doesn’t really suit me, and sewing mistakes. It’s Style Arc’s Mara shirt dress made up in cotton poplin that is a little too light in weight for the style. I messed up sewing the sleeve vents which annoys me every time I wear this. But fundamentally I think this style doesn’t really suit me. It might be better without the belt and the breast pockets, and with a different length hem. This one will probably go to the charity shop next time I have a clearout.

Style Arc Mara front view

The final one really ought to have been a success. I’ve made Burda 116 08/2011 several times before in this exact cotton poplin fabric from Tissu, and they were all great favourites. The originals wore out some years ago and I didn’t replace them because they are impossible to cycle in and at the time I was commuting to work by bike. Several years passed and I switched to getting the bus, so this year I returned to the pattern and made another. But the new one just doesn’t look as good as the originals. Maybe it’s the shade of pink, maybe it’s that I’ve changed shape and can no longer get away with such lightweight fabric, maybe it’s the styling. Anyway I wore it in the summer heatwave but I suspect it’ll be purged before next summer.

Burda 116 08 2011 front view

I don’t think these five have a lot in common, although I do note that every single thing I made this year was a neutral colour (silver is totally a neutral) except for the pink and blue dresses above, and they are the two biggest disappointments. Since I stopped dying my hair fewer colours seem to suit me. Those are the only two I will likely get rid of, so that means that the rest of the year’s output has done pretty well.

Next time: highlights and reflections.

Top 5 of 2018: Hits

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I’m away from my sewing machine at the moment so Gillian’s Top Fives of 2018 blog series has come along at a particularly good time. It’s been a good year for sewing though: I’ve made fourteen things but had a hard time narrowing the hits down to just five.  I’ve decided to choose the things I’ve worn the most rather than the most technically challenging or dramatic projects. And because they’ve all had a lot of wear I now have more to say about what works about these projects and what doesn’t.

First is Style Arc’s Juliet shirt made up in white cotton poplin. I made it in the summer but it’s kept going for autumn and winter, worn over a long sleeved white t-shirt. I like the extra-long length and the asymmetric tie. Next time I’d make the sleeves full length as the three-quarter length is slightly annoying.

Style Arc Juliet

Then there are my silver jeans The pattern was originally Burda 103B 07/2010 but it’s been modified quite a bit from the original. Any slim legged jeans pattern would do; the silver foiled fabric is what really makes these. Unsurprisingly it’s fading; they’re more of a dull silver now than the mirror like finish shown in this photo, but they still get worn about once a week. I find they work best with a very casual top and boots.

Burda 103 07 2010 front

McCalls 7727 shirt dress doesn’t seem like a practical pattern with its dramatic high-low hem but I have worn this a lot more than I expected to, and I really love wearing it. It’s made from the same cotton poplin as the Style Arc Mara shirt. The length is slightly too much in real life: it drags on stairs, and it catches on my shoes. I’d also do French seams on the sleeves next time because the overlocked seam finishes show when I roll the sleeves up. But a dress which caused someone to mutter ‘Princess Leia’ as I swished by in it has got to be good.

Vogue 8956 was my first project of 2018. The day we took the pictures was very sunny and the fabric is black wool flannel which soaks up light so it was hard to get shots where any detail is visible; this one is about the best. The skirt is very warm and practical, and the wrap front stays put surprisingly well. I think this is a really good pattern. It’s easy to sew and the end result is no fuss to wear despite looking very dramatic.

My favourite project was unplanned: a friend of my mother’s gave me the white cotton sateen fabric from her stash and there was just enough for Style Arc’s Toni dress, a pattern I’d already made up twice. It’s intended for drapey fabrics but it works really well in this heavy cotton with very crisp interfacing in the collar. I wore it a lot in the summer. Despite the sculptural shape it’s actually very comfortable and being cotton it washes well. When I first made it I was concerned that the drapes didn’t stay put when I moved but I no longer notice that.

White Style Arc Toni front view

So that’s it for the successes…next time the failures!