A digression about hair

This is supposed to be a blog about sewing clothes. But that involves a certain amount of posting pictures of myself wearing my productions, and it seems a bit odd not to mention my drastic change of hairstyle at all. So here we go: after struggling to grow it out for six months I’ve cut it all off.

I am so much happier with it this way. Reactions from other people have been varied but I wish I’d taken the plunge earlier.

Baggy trousers – Vogue 1417 again

Vogue 1417 trousers

I bought Vogue 1417 for the caped top I blogged about a few weeks ago, but there’s also a trouser pattern in the envelope. And being in need of more trousers I thought I’d give it a go.

This pattern is not my usual style. I normally wear skinny trousers and these are more than roomy. They also have an uncomfortable resemblance to tracksuit bottoms. However they have pockets and looked like a quick sew with little or no fitting required so worth a try.

Vogue 1417 view b line art

I made these up in a polyester double knit from Tissu Fabrics. The pattern is designed for ‘moderate stretch knits’. I think these would be great in a wool double knit if I could find such a thing – polyester isn’t the warmest thing to wear in the winter. I’m unconvinced by the pattern envelope suggestion of cotton knit. In my experience 100% cotton knit goes baggy as soon as you look at it. Maybe one with some lycra in would work.

The pattern runs enormously large. With a Vogue pattern I normally go down one size from what the size chart tells me to make. For this one I went down two sizes after checking the flat pattern measurements, and they still sit a little below where they should on the waist. Good length though. I added my usual two inches to the length. They look a bit long here because I’m wearing them over boots rather than heels, but they’ve come up similar in length to the ones in the pattern photo.

I think the most interesting feature of these is the very deep front pleats. All of that fancy back seaming might as well not be there if you make them in black. I can’t see it at all in the pictures, nor do I notice it when putting them on or washing them.

Vogue 1417 back view

I love the pockets. The pocket bag is made of lining fabric to reduce bulk. They are nice and deep, and constructed in a clever way that reinforces the opening edge and gives a very clean finish inside.

Vogue 1417 side view

These have been getting a lot of wear since I made them. They come out at least once a week because they’re comfortable and practical. However I still wonder if they’re too casual for work. (This is ‘too casual’ purely in my own eyes. There is no dress code whatsoever.) So this is a strange pattern that I’m wearing to death but I doubt I’ll make again. At least not unless I find some wool doubleknit.

Art teacher meet urban warrior: Vogue 1410

Vogue 1410

This is Vogue 1410, a Lynn Mizono pattern described by McCalls themselves as Art-Teacher Chic. I normally aim more for futuristic than artistic, but the adjustable length and drawstring detail in this one really appealed to me so I bought it in the last pattern sale.

Here’s the original for comparison. The only pictures I’ve been able to find of it online are the Vogue envelope art – anyone seen it elsewhere?

Vogue 1410 envelope pictures

I didn’t want to look too much like I knit my own yoghurt (rampant hypocrisy from someone who makes their own clothes I know), so I made this up in black and am wearing it with a pair of wet-look leggings from Topshop which hopefully don’t look too ridiculous.

The suggested fabrics list on the pattern envelope covers quite a range: Stretch Poplin, Seersucker, Silk Dupioni, Lt.Wt. Wool Crepe. That seems to run the gamut from very stiff (dupioni) to very drapey indeed (crepe). I wanted the skirt to have an exaggerated shape so I went for a cotton poplin from Tissu Fabrics. It has 4% lycra which I thought might help with the inevitable creasing you get with cotton but it didn’t. All these pictures were taken after wearing the dress all day so creases abound.

Vogue 1410 back view

The neckline on this dress is really wide. I don’t normally have to adjust that for Vogue patterns, but I wish I had brought it in a little on this one. You can see it gapping in the side view below. I notice that in one of the envelope pictures the shoulder of the dress is falling down the model’s arm, so I presume it’s meant to be like that. The neckline and armscyes are finished with a narrow hem. Another time I would probably change this to binding because I always find binding has the effect of drawing an edge in, whereas narrow hems tend to stretch it out even more.

Having said that I’m pretty pleased with the way the narrow hems came out this time. I’ve never had a lot of success with those in the past. I used the method where you sew a line of stitching close to the edge, crease and press along that line, and then turn the edge up once more over that, press, and stitch. The pattern suggested something slightly different but I find this one works best for me.

Vogue 1410 side view

The dress length is adjustable. There are buttonholes in the seam allowances at the end of the side seams, and three pairs of buttons sewn into the side seams on the inside of the dress so you can loop the hem up to different heights. Above I’m wearing the dress with the hem buttoned to the middle pair of buttons. The shortest length is too short on me, and the second longest one isn’t particularly flattering so no pictures of those. But here it is unbuttoned completely. I doubt I’ll wear it like this much, but it makes an interesting shape.

Vogue 1410 full length

The back shaping is unusual. You sew a pair of very square pleats on the outside of the dress front and back. The front ones get pulled in by the drawstring, but the back ones stick out like fins. A few people who have made this have stitched the back pleats down to the dress, which looks nice, but I’ve left mine sticking out. I interfaced both the front and back pleats to make them good and sharp.

Vogue 1410 full length back view

I added side seam pockets. They ended up a bit low because I didn’t want to interfere with the button placement; they’re where that big shadow is in the picture below. The dress is french seamed throughout so I had to find out how to do french seamed pockets. This tutorial from Deborah Moebes was very helpful.

This is a seriously quick sew. Even with the french seams and adding pockets I managed to make this in a day.

Vogue 1410 full length side view

So, the final question: is it art teacher or urban warrior? Or a bit of both?

Vogue 1410


After making four knit dresses in a row I finally feel like tackling a woven project. I am also still in need of interesting clothes that I can cycle in. I’ve been gradually improving my cycle friendly wardrobe over the last year, but I find myself wearing my Burda jeans a minimum of once a week. And then I need tops to go with them. Putting on a dress involves so much less thought than finding separates that go together.

Clearly the answer has to be a jumpsuit. All the convenience of trousers with the simplicity of a dress. Surely that makes up for the aggravation of having to take it off when going to the toilet.

So I went looking for patterns. This is the one that first caught my eye, from Burda April 2014.

burda 107-04-2014 tech drawing

I like the fact that it’s fairly smart, but that notched collar looks complicated. I’ve never made one, and tackling it for the first time with only Burda instructions for help probably isn’t going to produce a polished result.

Then there’s this one from Ralph Pink.

Ralph Pink Lux technical drawing

I’ve seen a great version of this from Kazz the Spazz (sadly no longer blogging). I really like the style (click on the link, Kazz looks amazing in hers) but I’ll admit that the fact it’s a PDF pattern puts me off. I don’t mind tracing at all but I hate assembling A4 sheets.

I’m also not convinced I could do a good enough job with the fly on this one. The instructions say something brief at the end along the lines of ‘attach buttons and work buttonholes in your fly to match’. I’m not sure it works to wait until the very end to make buttonholes in a fly; wouldn’t you want to do it before the whole thing was assembled? Kazz left her buttons off altogether but I’d be worried about the whole thing falling open if I did that! I think this might be a pattern to leave until I’ve got some more experience.

Burda have produced many jumpsuit patterns over the last few years.

Burda 103 10/2010

This is Burda 103-10-2010. It looked considerably less boxy in the model photo where it was made up in grey silk and worn with a belt. I think I’d take off the breast pockets. Who needs pockets right over their boobs?


Burda 119 05/2010

And this is 119-05-2010. I like the elasticated ankles. This was styled as a safari look in the magazine. I think this one needs the pocket flaps to make the style work, but I’m not keen on sewing fiddly details that are not functional. Yes, I’m very lazy.

And finally the one I’m actually planning to make, Burda 130-09-2011.

Burda 130 09/2011

I like the casual drapiness of this style and the turnups at the wrists and ankles. There are no really fussy details. It’s not very fitted, which is probably a good thing as I’ve changed shape a bit and will be trying a new size in Burda in future. The plan is to make it up in a brown cupro fabric I have that looks like washed silk. Fingers crossed!

Space clothes: Vogue 1335 modelled

I like space clothes: the sort of thing BBC costume designers came up with for 70s and 80s scifi shows. Vogue 1335 definitely fits the description. Unfortunately we don’t have a post-apocalyptic wasteland round here to use as a backdrop for photos, so my garden will have to do.


The original looks like this:

Vogue 1335 envelope art

Finishing this project coincided with one of the UK’s rare heatwaves. I’m wearing this with my Vogue 1378 neoprene leggings and a black wool jersey top derived from Burda 122-4-2011. And I’m melting. The jacket shell fabric is wool.


Here’s the back. It holds its shape pretty well. The diameter at the waist is actually greater than at the hem on this design.



This is meant to be an oversized style but the sleeves in particular are very long. I added the usual two inches to the length that I always do with Vogue patterns and ended up removing it again. I also added two inches to the body length, which again I normally do, and that was about the right amount.


The pockets are very roomy.


They’re pretty high upon the body, but I think it works with the design.


The fasteners are a little bit fiddly! I’m glad I didn’t need the internal snaps that were on the pattern as well as external fasteners.


Not such a good picture of the jacket, but I like the Doctor Who monster pose. And it’s about the only shot I have where any of the lining is visible. The lining fabric is a heavy poly satin that just adds to the insulation factor.


So there it is. I’ll have to wait until the end of summer to wear this for real, but I’m really pleased with the result.


Chain mail wedding dress – Burda 106-03-2011

And having got your attention with that silly title, here it is. It’s not really chain mail, of course, but it is a wedding dress pattern: Burda 106-03-2011.

Burda 106-03-2011

The fabric is a very coarse polyester woven. The threads are two different colours; there’s a fine black one and a much chunkier white one. It was described as ‘linen-look’ on Minerva Crafts’ website but there really is something vaguely metallic about it. It’s very drapey but also quite heavy; perfect for this style. Here’s a close up.

Linen look polyester from Minerva

This is the technical drawing of the dress. I added inseam pockets to it and eliminated the seams that divide the collar into three pieces; however that proved to be a mistake. I think if I’d left the collar as intended I’d have been able to sew the lining to the zip by machine; as it was I had to hand sew it. At least there was some cricket on the telly yesterday to sew in front of.

Burda 106-03-2011 line art

You can just about see the pockets here. The neckline gathers are very uneven. Some of that’s down to the coarse fabric, but I probably should have unpicked it and had another go. Too late now. Probably only another sewist would notice?

Burda 106-03-2011

The pattern calls for lining in self-fabric. The polyester I used is both see-through and rough to the touch, so I lined in grey poly taffeta instead.

Burda 106 03-2011 lining

It closes with an invisible zip up the back. I used lots of interfacing in the collar. I only interfaced the basic pattern piece, not the seam allowances; that made the polyester much easier to work with. I also interfaced the centre back seam. This was in part to reinforce the slit and zip area, and in part because I made a horrible mistake while cutting and only had very small seam allowances to work with on that seam. The fashion fabric frays very badly so the interfacing provides some much needed strength.

Burda 106-03-2011 zip

I’m pretty proud of that zip! Went in smoothly first time and I don’t think you can see the end.

Burda 106-03-2011

This style comes up really long. I lengthened it my usual amount, and then cut all that off and more when I hemmed it. Without the heels it drags on the floor. The hem was fiddly to sew because it’s very pegged. I did it with my machine’s blind hem stitch and foot. I’d hoped the stitches would vanish in the texture of the fashion fabric, but they’re a bit more visible than I’d like.

Burda 106-03-2011

The lining hem hangs free except at the back slit.

Burda 106-03-2011 lining hem

I’ve always been a bit on the fence about this style; it’s fundamentally egg-shaped which doesn’t seem like it would be flattering on anyone. It looks OK on Burda’s model but fashion photos can be very misleading. However I found I kept coming back to it when browsing my Burda collection, so I’m glad I finally found some fabric and made it up. I really like the end result. I don’t think the fabric photographs very well though; it seems to come out much lighter than it looks in the mirror. The style is comfortable but I think has just enough shape to look like a dress and not a sack. And I bet I can fit lots of cake in there. I have a wedding to go to next month so it’ll come out for that, weather permitting.

Burda 106-03-2011

The frostiest frosting: Vogue 8866

I’ve recently made two fairly serious, involved projects which definitely count as sewing cake; aka classic and versatile garments that underpin an outfit. So it was definitely time for a quick and frivolous project. Even better, I had one already planned and waiting to go: a knockoff of a Christopher Kane dress in some sparkly doubleknit. By no stretch of the imagination could this dress be described as practical, classic, or versatile. But I love it.

Vogue 8866

The pattern is Vogue 8866 with a few adaptations to better match the inspiration dress. I doubled the height of the collar and added extensions to the sleeves with thumbholes. I also added small shoulder pads, all the better to get the 80s space opera look, and lengthened the skirt by a couple of inches. I don’t normally get on with just-below-the-knee skirts but it seems to work for this style.
Vogue 8866

I made a few changes to the construction. The collar on the original closes with a hook and eye. I was dubious about that staying closed, so I extended the collar to make an underlap and used four small snaps instead.

I sewed two different kinds of seam. Seams where I wanted a very flat effect, such as the centre front and back seams, were sewed on the regular sewing machine and pressed open. The rest were overlocked. The overlocked ones won’t press flat and so are slightly more visible; I deliberately overlocked the back yoke seam to gave a bit of interest to the back view. The original design has top-stitching but I doubt it would show up against the texture of the fabric so I haven’t bothered.

Vogue 8866

The fabric itself is great stuff. It’s very thick and elastic black doubleknit with a silver thread knitted in. I got it from the Birmingham Rag Market last year. Despite probably being entirely polyester and plastic it pressed quite well; by which I mean I didn’t manage to melt it despite cranking the iron up well above the ‘synthetic’ setting. The right side is somewhat scratchy so I used scraps of black cotton jersey as a neck facing and to line the sleeve extensions. This was partly why I made extensions rather than just lengthening the sleeves; the lining’s attached like the inside of a shirt cuff so it stays firmly in place. I top-stitched it in place around the thumbhole.

I couldn’t find a belt that resembled the one in the original look so I went for the shiniest one I own. It came from Karen Millen some years ago; long before I started sewing anyway. The shoes are Mel Toffee Apple wedges.

So does this dress have a place in my wardrobe? Or indeed anyone’s? I think President Servalan, an 80s scifi villainess and one of my style heroines, would definitely wear it. Of course she’d be carrying out some ridiculous plot to clone herself, take over the Galactic Federation, or steal a fortune in gold. I’ve been wearing it to laze around the house. I’d better get plotting.

Oooh sparkly

This is about a dress that is coming about purely through luck.

Back in November Marie and Kat organised a blogger meetup in Birmingham. It was a lot of fun and amongst other things I came back with this fabric, a doubleknit with a metallic fibre on one side. I didn’t spot it myself; Kat pointed it out to me.

Sparkly heavy knit

I was originally planning to make Burda 118A-10-2012, a long-sleeved cowl necked dress with waist gathers. But recently I was flipping through my pile of pages ripped out of fashion mags inspiration folder and came across this picture. It’s a Christopher Kane. The picture had no date but a bit of trawling through style.com showed it’s from fall 2007. Clearly the sparkly fabric was meant to be a knock-off of this dress.

Christopher Kane Autumn 2007

The Christopher Kane dress has raglan sleeves. Also strange bolt-like bits on the shoulders that I am not going to copy.

I went through my whole pattern collection and found I didn’t have a single close-fitting raglan-sleeved knit dress or t-shirt pattern. Even my collection of Burdas had nothing. I vaguely thought about drafting something; I even got Metric Pattern Cutting off the shelf and looked up the appropriate chapter. And then I put it back because drafting involves rearranging furniture to make enough space to draw, and also requires daylight which is short supply in the UK in December.

Then a three-for-one Vogue pattern sale happened and I realised the knit dress from Vogue 8866 could save me from the dreaded drafting. The collar and sleeves should be fairly easy to extend.

Vogue 8866 line art

Of course no sewing has actually happened yet, what with Christmas and all. But the fabric’s in the washing machine and the pattern has been ironed ready for when things return to normal.

Have a great Christmas!

The slowest project ever? Velvet shorts

Thanks so much for all the lovely comments about my Burda coat. I couldn’t have got the fit right without the help of the sewing blogsphere; you’re all wonderful!

I haven’t sewn anything new I can show since finishing the coat. I’ve been tracing patterns and making a muslin for a dress for my sister. But I do have a little project I made earlier this year and never blogged about. I think this garment has had the longest gestation of anything in my entire wardrobe.

When we were undergraduates, a scarily long time ago, one of my friends had a pair of black velvet short shorts which she wore with black tights. She always looked amazing in them: sophisticated and sexy. So when I made my first pair of shorts this spring and shortly afterwards got my hands on a remnant of black velvet I knew what I was going to make.

Burda 111 06/2011

The trouble with black velvet is that it drinks up the light even more than most black fabrics so there’s not a lot to see in the pictures. The shorts haven’t got much in the way of external detail anyway. They close with a zip in the side seam and they have inseam pockets. The original Burda pattern (111-06-2011) had patch pockets on the back but I wanted a very smooth line so I left them off.

Burda 111 06/2011

I lined them in cotton poplin and bound the edges of the waist facing in black cotton bias. I love this finish on waistbands. It’s easy to do with a binder foot and it looks so neat and tidy.

Inside waistband of black velvet shorts

I’m not saying how many years it is between the original pair of shorts and my copy. I’m claiming this is a completely timeless style!


Does the camera lie? Realism in project pictures

Ever had the experience of not being able to get a decent picture of a garment you’re really pleased with? Or then there’s the project that you’re not very happy with that nevertheless seems to photograph well. How much effort do you go to for project pictures?

I started thinking about this because recently I was looking for feedback on a failed project. I made an effort to photograph it in the way I would for something that had worked: put some makeup and pretty shoes on, took quite a few shots and picked the better ones. It doesn’t look as bad in the pictures as it feels. But I really would not wear this dress out of the house. And going in the other direction, here’s a dress that I do wear but that didn’t photograph at all well.

So while photos are very interesting to look at, and I certainly enjoy looking at pictures on sewing blogs, can we really trust what we see? The acid test has got to be how something actually feels to wear.

I rarely wear things in real life in exactly the way I photograph them. If I’m getting dressed for work there are lower heels, rather more layers, and usually I forget to put lipstick on. So the pictures aren’t realistic in that sense. But for me a part of the fun of blogging is styling things in a way that I’d like to be able to wear them; if only I didn’t walk to work and have a job that involves climbing ladders and heavy lifting. I should say, I like the job and I like the walking. I just wish they were more compatible with my favourite shoes.

Here’s a rare picture of one of my projects styled as it is usually worn, although you’ll have to imagine the pockets stuffed full of the junk I drag around with me at work.

Burda 116-08-2011

And here’s the grey version of the same dress styled in the way I usually do for blog photos.

Burda 116-08-2011

I tried wearing the shoes I’ve paired with the grey dress to work one time. I ended up walking around in my socks and getting the bus home. So I can’t say the above picture is realistic in the sense that this how I normally wear the dress, but I don’t have a problem with putting it out there. It’s how I’d like to wear the dress, and I think getting close to the look you aspire to have is a big part of the fun of sewing for yourself. I really like blogs which project the owner’s personal style. Check out Ooobop!, Kazz, and Alice‘s blogs for the sort of thing I mean.

Finally there’s the question of how much editing to do. My normal procedure is to get a lot of shots, pick the better ones, crop them, and maybe adjust the contrast. If the colour’s really off I’ll adjust that too. For me, doing any more editing than this crosses a line between an image that’s real, even if not representative of daily life, and one that’s artifical. I don’t have any objection to photo editing to produce a good image, but I’m avoiding it on my own blog because here I’m trying to achieve looks that exist in real life. Full discolosure: I did once edit some flyaway hair and a lamp post out of a set of photos. But I try not to make a habit of it.

So I’m pretty sure my own photos are not truly ‘realistic’ in some senses of the word, although I try to keep them ‘real’. But I’ll keep on producing them this way for the blog because it’s enjoyable.

Do you prefer realism or fantasy on sewing blogs? Which do you aim for?