In which I hack a pattern I hadn’t sewn before

Hi there. I posted a photo of this shirt on Instagram a couple (a few? time flies) weeks ago. Funnily enough, I was on the fence about this fabric until I wore the shirt. But the comments expressed so much love for these polka dots, I began to wonder…

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The fabric is pretty stiff: the dots add texture to a pretty densely woven cotton. It is wonderful to sew with — doesn’t budge and shapes pretty easily with steam. But, unlike Jess from New Girl, I don’t usually rock too many polka dots and am never sure if they’re not too twee on me. Also, I’d prefer not to sew darts in it. That’s based on my previous experience with this fabric, where I ended up converting darts into gathers (dress from Day 29 of this Me-Made May roundup).

All fabric doubts dispelled upon first wear. I love this shirt. I think this is one of the best things I’ve made. And it made for a glorious conclusion to what was a summer of shopping the stash. I didn’t announce it as a challenge or anything but just found myself consistently choosing projects based on what fabrics I already had.

So I went sleeveless here not just because it was hot when I made the shirt but because that was what the amount of fabric allowed.

Here are some not-so-great photos of the shirt when worn:

The pattern

The pattern is Burda 7136. I’m glad I took the photo below because I’d never be able to remember that number, and I do recommend giving this pattern a try even though I have yet to try it in its proper incarnation.

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Siobhan made a great version of this pattern with a really neat print here — the bonus is that she offers some criticisms that should give you an idea whether this pattern might fit your body type. I’m shorter than Siobhan and, I guess, short-waisted, so the fit felt all right to me on this first and wild, untested, drive. I obviously have yet to try out the sleeves, so more detailed points will have to come at a later date.

Because I’m definitely going to reach for this pattern again. The only criticism I have right now is the length. I don’t want to be like the guy from those annoying UntuckIt commercials, but I was slightly unhappy with how long the shirt was. Now, I’m not going to start a company and make like I’ve invented slightly shortening clothes, but I chopped 1.5″ off the hem and I think it’s still a decently long shirt. You can tuck it in if you wish, but you can also wear it untucked with low-waisted pants (that ’90s hangover that remains the bane of my existence because, well, it tells you something about my wardrobe and the age of some of its components).

OK, one more criticism: the collar stand is pretty tall, and I double-checked that I was sewing it with the right seam allowance. I was. I think I might reduce it by 1/4″. Maybe with a collar attached it works better. Here, with a pretty stiff fabric it stands tall and proud and so I skipped that collar stand button so as to soften the look of it a bit.

Apart from that, Burda pattern drafting is strong with this one: my usual forward-shoulder adjustment would be in order to get the eam to land where it should. And I think I’d raise the armscye by 1 cm next time.

The inspiration

I hear that many sewists out there despise the word “hack” for pattern changes. I hope no one breaks out in hives reading this. I kind of like it, since it spans changes from breaking and complete remolding to ill-conceived “life-hacks” that don’t really make our lives easier at all. It’s your call where my changes to this pattern land on that spectrum.

So, in the interest of honesty: the idea for this shirt partly came from limitations of fabric amount and my desire to avoid pressing out dart points in this stiff cotton.

And then came something unusual for me.

While I enjoy looking at makes inspired by movie costumes, I’m often not so sure about the appeal of the garment at the heart of the craze. Case in point: that cardigan worn by Keira Knightley in The Imitation Game. I don’t really get what the fuss was about with that one, since there are so many gorgeous fair-isle patterns out there, and with more compelling color combinations. I’m really not sold on the pairing of beige and green.

Whoa, tangent. Stop.

But then I found myself watching another movie about World War II. Miasto 44, a Polish movie about the Warsaw Uprising. And I got stuck on one particular garment worn by Zofia Wichłacz. And that was it. Coup de foudre, my friends. I fell in love. Not even the dust, bomb blasts, and destruction of the city could distract me from studying the details of that one. (By the way, please don’t think I’m taking the subject of the film lightly.)

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Image from Onet.pl

Still, I didn’t want to go full-on re-enactor here. Don’t ask me how historically accurate this garment is because I haven’t looked into that. I loved the gathering over the bust and the collar stand. And I wanted to make something with those details.

I’d love to try this on a shirt dress, though that is going to take more work. But if I do, then probably not in a grayish blue because things might get too somber (even for me). I’m also not a fan of the vertical buttonholes. But, you know, this is something worn by a young soldier of the Home Army, so, again, unless you’re taking part in a re-enactment, it’s probably better to steer things in a slightly different direction.

Feel free to criticize my lack of love for polka dots or that sweater from The Imitation Game. Tell me what film-inspired garments you have sewn. I could use some vicarious sewing pleasure right now because I don’t have much time for sewing.

And, as always, thanks for reading.

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the call of the white shirt

This shirt, specifically. I have to share the pattern photo again, because it’s a rare treat:

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Photo from the book Burda Style Modern Sewing: Wardrobe Essentials.

So much going on there… The pattern book, however, is pure gold and I plan to sew my way through it.

And just to clarify, I made the women’s shirt, not the robe the gentleman is wearing, nor any of the other incredibly distracting things in the photo. It’s not just me, right? There’s an overload of possible narrative in that photo. The collection to which it belongs is apparently called “Honeymooners” but it looks like a vaguely adultery-related scenario. So much tension. Will she escape through the French door?

Where was I?

The shirt. It looked deceptively easy but I wouldn’t have done it without Tea‘s help. I can’t thank her enough. Burda instructions did not alert me to the unusualness of that collar (no surprise there) and the line drawing doesn’t show the way the collar stand attaches to the collar. Need I add that there is no diagram included with the instructions?…

Tea made this beautiful version of the shirt as well as a black one with a scalloped collar, which is not on her blog, but it’s equally lovely and Tea’s photos of its tricky collar saved my sanity.

I’ll try to pay it forward — here’s my crummy photo of the collar and collar stand:

burdabookshirt-collarstand
Collar stand sandwiched inside the collar. Interesting concept but fiddly to sew.

This was a wearable muslin, again. I cut the pattern pieces out and basted the shirt together before committing to the final placement of the shoulder seams and bust darts.

In the end I left the shoulder seams as they were but moved the darts up by 1.5 cm (or 5/8″ if you prefer). My one complaint fit-wise is that the armholes fall a bit low, which limits mobility a bit. (Non-complaint but a fit-related fact: I did my obligatory broad back alteration on the back. For details of this fit alteration see this post.)

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Le look total Burda book: the shirt paired with the skirt from this post (from which I removed the offending pockets)

Confession time: I am trying to embrace white shirts but I have two major hurdles to overcome. Hurdle #1: the fear of spilling everything on myself while wearing white; hurdle #2: memory of high school and college exams to which I usually wore an outfit such as pictured above (long story — the TL; DR version is: school/academic culture demanding more formal attire).

I’ll need to work on figuring out some clever pairings to deal with that second issue. The answer is probably some pants I have yet to sew…

burdabookshirt-front

 

More details:
Pattern:
 Voile Button-Down Blouse from Burda Style Modern Sewing: Wardrobe Essentials
Fabric: white cotton voile from stash (long live shopping the stash!)
Notions: thread, 6 buttons, lightweight fusible interfacing, bias tape for the collar stand finish.
Seam finish and other details: first time trying flat-felled seams (not perfect but not terrible either, I think); shirt hem turned up to basting lines, then stitched; rolled hems on facings.
“Fun” fact: inserting the curved ends of the collar stand into the collar took multiple tries and corrections.

You may have noticed my button placement choice. I decided not to take the buttons all the way to the top — I didn’t like the way it looked on me. I went for this camp collar effect instead. What do you think?

Pattern verdict: So far, I really like it, even though I’m not sure what to wear it with and that strange collar stands out from my neck quite a bit.

how Burda saved my summer sewing

Annemarie (of J’Adore le Cafe Sews) nailed it in her comment on my last post: there’s nothing like an easy but nonetheless exciting pattern to get you out of a sewing slump.

For me that pattern was this blouse (#118) from the 6/2017 issue of Burda. I like the version with the peplum in theory but not sure I’m down with peplums in practice. So I “unpeplumed” it and cut it out to the length of #119.

It is the simplest thing in the world. Because this is no time for muslins, I made up a “wearable muslin” (i.e. a version that might not have worked out at all) in a black cotton gauze I bought on impulse at the beginning of summer.

(More details on the skirt from the photo on the left comming soon!)

What I learned about this fabric:

  • it’s too thin for human use
  • it stretches out from being looked at
  • it sews pretty well
  • it’s awesome to wear on a hot day.

Seriously, this fabric would make more sense doubled. But I had a yard, which didn’t give me much room for experimentation.

Details:
Pattern:  
top #118 and hem from #119, Burda 6/2017
Fabric: black cotton gauze from Joann Fabrics (about 1 yd).
Notions: thread, bias tape cut from the remainder of the fabric.
Seam and hem finish: French seams everywhere, neckline and armholes bound with boas tape, regular machine-stitched hem of about 3/4″.
Mods: none yet, just discoveries. Namely: the armhole was cut a bit too low for my liking (and the gauze stretched out); the neckline was cut a bit too snug, especially on the front. Oh, and back cut in two pieces due to fabric shortages.
Fun fact: I traced the pattern without adding seam allowances and added those when cutting out (I kept telling myself to focus the entire time).

I love this top despite minor reservations. And it immediately set those little cogs in motion, leading me to come up with this plan:

burda118_6_2017_dress-sketch

It’s not the best sketch but it conveys the idea.

Here’s the dress:

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The eagle-eyed among you will recognize this fabric. I made several garments in the navy colorway (dress, robe, tee). I like both the print and, of course, the fact that it’s rayon.

The sketch has the most important details but let me talk you through what I did in order to go from the top to a dress.

I raised the armholes a little bit on this version and I did a forward shoulder adjustment, which moved the shoulder seam to the intended position on the front bodice (it’s lower than the shoulder point).

I added the ties to cinch it in a little when I feel like it (… and hang loose when I’m melting in the summer heat).

Because the longer version of the blouse had ample ease on the hips, I simply extended the front and back pattern pieces by about 12″, then straightened and trued the side seams. You could simply extend them from the hip down to get more of a trapeze shape, but I wanted more of a shift dress silhouette.

And that’s basically it. I’m dreaming of a linen version with a self-fabric belt at the waist, but that may not be in the cards this summer.

Pattern verdict: highly recommended.

Many thanks for the comments on the last post. It was great to bond through our shared sewing dilemmas, but you have also given great tips on overcoming them!

pants #3, or, what I’ve learned so far and why I’m venturing on

Dear readers, my adventures in the scary land of pant/trouser making continue. I’m extremely grateful for all the encouragement I’ve gotten on my previous pants-making posts. Thank you all for your kind words! I’m happy to hear that I’ve also managed to get some of you encouraged by my dive into this intimidating area of garment sewing.

I think it’s worth the risk even if you fail. For one, I’ve been learning just how little I understood about the fit of pants when my choices were limited to ready-to-wear. And even though I haven’t had a “it fit straight out of the pattern envelope” experience with any of the pants I’ve made (well, I basically never do with any pattern), with some patience and basting, I ended up with wearable pants every time. So as I go along I’m learning about fitting and — more importantly even — I am really enjoying clothing my bottom half.

The third pattern I tackled from my sketched list came from Burda 8/2016. The photos from that issue (scroll through these posts for exhibit #1 and exhibit #2) didn’t give me a clear an idea of what those might end up looking like — more like an alluring suggestion. I’m somewhat surprised by where I arrived, though in a good way, I should add.

Today I take you to my messy sewing nook to meet my less-than-clean mirror in these very candid and completely unstyled shots of the new pants:

Totally unstyled but completely me-made: Plantain tee ans stripey socks by yours truly

Gah! That mirror desperately needs cleaning. But the pantsL I’m extremely pleased with them after wearing them out a couple of times and I’m liking them more each time I wear them. But I’m not going to lie to you: it took quite a few rounds of basting and fiddling with the fit before we got there.

Here are some slightly clearer photos. And details.

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I’d say they ended up looking like I imagined the Thread Theory Lazo Trousers would. Or maybe how the Lazos do on the figure type for which they are drafted. I’d say that if you have a flat tummy and a derriere that is not quite as pancake-like as mine, you’re bound to get a lovely result with those. Morgan’s own samples look great, so do Meg’s Lazos (and she has a neat post about them). I’m kind of on the opposite end of the spectrum and the muslin turned out hilarious. I’d show you if I were less self-conscious. The crotch length for which they’re drafted was all wrong with my body proportions and I decided to end it on that one muslin and just shelve the project. Please don’t take my experience as a criticism of the pattern. Morgan’s posts about fitting these helped me diagnose what didn’t work for me, and I can definitely see myself returning to both the pattern and her posts to do some altering that would make these work for me.

Okay, but back to the Burda pattern. Running to Burda from an indie pattern that had a sewalong and fit advice is not a move I can explain logically. And I didn’t follow the instructions for the pattern because I didn’t get most of them. I’m definitely not fluent in the super laconic language of Burda instructions.

Here’s what I did instead, in case you want to follow my path but don’t speak Burda-ese:

  1. I cut out the size according to body measurements, to be on the safe side, and I basted the pants together, leaving the waistband off for that first try-on. (I slipped a length of elastic over the top to hold the pants up.) These pants have slash pockets, which I did not cut out yet; in fact, I superposed the pocket over the cutout and just chalked the spash pocket line in on the inside, so I could baste to fit without worrying about pockets at all.
  2. That first try on gave me some insight (the size I cut was too big, especially in the hips). I recommend basting in the waistband and pinning it closed to get a better idea of the fit. That’s what I did next.
  3. I’m not going to give you my fit adjustments in excrutiating detail since your needs might be very different from mine. I worked with Pati Palmer and Marta Alto’s book Pants for Real People to figure those out. Most importantly, I took the inseam in to accommodate as per the “pancake butt” adjustment (many thanks to Melanie for introducting this phrase to my fitting vocabulary). I also ended up shaving quite a bit off the outseams, especially on the hips. At this stage, I merely chalked in the new seam lines, didn’t cut anything out just yet.
  4. I determined the pocket placement using my new seamlines and cut out the pocket slash line. Then I made the pockets (the pattern instructions didn’t mention stabilizing the pocket openings but I did, with some lightweight fabric selvedges I had kept from an earlier project).
  5. I sewed the darts on the back (they needed some altering after the try on) and the pleats on the front, sewing them down partly, as was suggested in one of the comments to the pattern photos (but not in the pattern instructions, gah!).
  6. Next I tackled the fly front following Sandra Betzina’s tutorial. I’ve watched a few different tutorials for this step, and this one I find the clearest and easiest to follow, hands down. I second the advice on interfacing — I’m glad I stabilized the zipper area.
  7. This pattern didn’t have a fly shield but I added one. Make sure you cut out the waistband long enough to accommodate this if you also want to add one.
  8. Inseam, then crotch seam (where I did a double line of stitching once I was happy with the fit), basted outseam. There was some basting and ripping here before I felt comfortable with the fit, so I’d recommend not rushing this part.
  9. Sew the outseam, add waistband (I recommend interfacing if you’re working with a streth suiting like I was), hem pants.

So that’s my blueprint for sewing these. Pardon me if I dumbed it down inadvertently. Feel free to correct me or add steps I might have forgotten about here.

As you can tell from the two photos above the list, these don’t necessarily look fantastic from all angles. I definitely fretted about the fit and my understanding of how pleats play into it… But the final test for me is not my dubious photography skills but the wearing. These feel comfortable. Not perfect maybe but definitely good enough to fill a woeful wardrobe gap for me.

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Hand sewing: waistband on the inside, hook and eye closures (well, obviously), and hems.

And that’s a milestone for me. So if you wear pants a lot, dive into making them. I’m glad I did. I wish I had more time so I could get on with the next pair, but that will have to wait.

More from me soon. As always, I’d love to hear from you. What are you working on or planning to make?

Seasonal Wardrobe Disorder #2

Some time in the middle of last week I sat down to make the following sketch:

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It was getting warmer and my overall seasonal wardrobe deficiencies were stirring my imagination, so I cooked up a list that reflects my (as yet mostly unfulfilled) shirt and shirt dress dreams and also includes one vanity party dress project (Simplicity 1059), two haunting UFOs (McCall’s 7314, a shirt dress I spontaneously cut out and half-sewed last summer, please don’t judge; and a Colette Beignet skirt for which I cut out a lining but, inexplicably, not the main shell), and a half-baked cardigan hack inspired by Johanna’s brilliant tutorial.

Very nice, but possibly also very unrealistic.

… And cue sudden temperature drop and now the thing trending on Twitter as #blizzard2017, and I’m back to the previous page in my sewing notebook. (I’m also back in the Keaton pants, which continue to be my stylish saviors in this a—-ole winter of cruel deceptions.)

As a reminder, here’s my previous wardrobe disorder remedy sketch, with some actual results:

Ladies and gentlemen, we are almost out of Pipe Dream Province here as most of the sketched items have been sewn. One item remains on the list (but with the pattern cut out, so baby steps are being made!). That last item will likely be Butterick “See and Sew” 5908, subbing for the pattern from Burda Style Wardrobe Essentials that I’ve been too lazy to trace (this one, and yes, I might still change my mind and trace it).

And here’s the current garment-in-progress, pleated pants from Burda 8/2016:

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Magazine photo and my hand-basted pair ready for first try-on, with additional cat hair embellishment.

It seems like it’s all pants all the time here now and like I’m suddenly very cavalier about making them. I’ve by no means become a pant fitting expert overnight but, to be honest, the pairs I’ve made so far look and feel better than almost all the RTW pairs I own, so that motivates me to keep working on new pairs. I stumbled upon this great post by Jasika Nicole about how exhilarating making pants is and: (1) I agree, (2) I bought that Burda pattern, so now that’s some kind of a plan, too.

So it looks like I’ve become more of a planner than I’d imagined possible, and making/hoping to make all these pants patterns, and more than mildly Burda obsessed…

Pants against blizzards, friends. Cheer me up in my snow prison and tell me what you’ve been up to.

seasonal wardrobe disorder

winter-wardrobe

Today’s post is brought to you by my oddly late realization that virtually everything in my wardrobe is completely and totally seasonal. Or seasonally-affected, ha! That truth (which should have been obvious, you might argue) was beginning to sink in when I was putting my Top 5 of 2016 post together and noticing that at the time of writing it I wasn’t able to wear almost any of the clothes on that list if I was leaving the house. 

Then I realized that trying to wear rayon tops at this time of the year was a strange act of defiance only made possible by handknit cardigans. Then I made the Keaton pants, and, finally, the loving embrace of brushed cotton snapped me out of my state of denial.

And that’s when I made the sketch above. That there is the truth about what I need in my winter wardrobe. No dresses and no skirts, it’s no country for them. Only pants, handknits, and knit tops allowed in the presence of snow shovels.

I see the light now and I’m finally replacing my well-worn RTW clothes with me-mades. Here’s what I’ve made so far:

First up, the Keaton pants + a trio of Plantain tees (I already have four long-sleeved ones, I should add).

I feel like I don’t praise the Plantain tee pattern enough. My photography skills are not up to hyping it up more as a basic, but it’s a brilliant pattern that’s helping me replace a lot of not-so-great RTW tops with ones that I really enjoy wearing that are also neutral enough to go with almost everything.

I’m thinking at this point that even if Deer and Doe decide not to go the PDF route I kind of owe it to them to do a transatlantic paper pattern purchase just to express my gratitude for this wonderful free pattern.

Up next, the first fruits of my Burda tracing frenzy (thanks to everyone who offered their tracing tips in response to my Instagram post): two pullovers from pattern 106 from Burda 8/2016.

On the gray one I messed up everything it was possible to mess up because I was sewing when I was tired. I figured (wrongly) that I could do some sewing in lieu of a nap. On the upside I learned to unpick serged seams and I got a wearable pullover in the end.

(Photos clearly inspired by the Leaning Tower of Pisa.)

Size-wise, it was pretty big and I shaved off quite a bit on the side seams. I also didn’t add enough of a seam allowance on the neckline. It was enormous and droopy. What saved it in the end was inventiveness forced by being down to pitifully small and narrow fabric scraps. I used a non-stretchy scrap cut lengthwise with the selvedge included.

The fabric was leftovers from an unblogged Oslo cardigan. I’ve seen some lovely makes from it pop up on Instagram. What I personally don’t love about it is its poor recovery.

On to the second one, also from leftovers. This thick interlock knit had already become a Finlayson pullover (another unblogged Christmas gift) and the black dress from this post.

This pattern is good for squeezing out of leftovers, thanks to the central back seam. By the way, that seam is brilliantly shaped — it comes in on the lower back, thus working as a sway-back alteration. I’m seeing that on many Burda patterns and it impresses me every time.

Not that you can necessarily tell but in those two bottom photos I’m attempting to show off the pleated detail on the sleeves. That detail is my favorite feature of this pattern.

The second time around I only added a seam allowance on the neckline and the central back seam. Still, I “smallified” it once again by shaving off a bit off the side seam.

Oh, and the cuffs are from a textured knit remnant I picked up at Joann a while back. Not that you can actually see that it’s a different fabric in these photos.

I give the pattern a solid thumbs up, “smallifying” efforts notwithstanding, since they’re just my preference, not a pattern issue.

I can’t wait to tackle the two Burda pant patterns I have on that list. The pleated pair is traced already, the other one not yet. The fabrics are pre-washed. I just need to either muslin or dive in with a bit of fake courage.

But after Katie’s post I fished out McCall’s 7445 out of my pattern stash and now I want to make those, too.

Decisions, decisions. I thank you in advance for wishes of an early spring. But I believe Punxsatawney Phil has already said no to that and the snow banks outside my window seem to be feeling very at home.

What’s your seasonal strategy for sewing? 

simplify

Burda Easy blew my mind. (Images from burdastyle.de)

That’s my one sewing “resolution” for 2017. If the result is less than appealing, my excuse will be that Burda made me do it. Because the F/W 2016 issue of Burda Easy is what got the little cogs turning for me.

I noticed that I seem to operate according to an implicit rule that goes something like this: “why simplify when you can overcomplicate?” As you can guess, I never described it to myself in this way until began to realize I have a growing fabric stash and lots of remaining wardrobe gaps.

The issue is not sewing because I’ve convinced myself that I should save fabric for an appropriately ambitious project. Given the remaining gaps in my wardrobe,* it’s become clear to me that I need to balance the more ambitious plans with some simple garments that will get worn on a regular basis.

Enter Burda Easy. Doctor T has a great post about this issue if you want to know more about the designs and see more garment photos. Seeing the clothes in motion was what did it for me. Now, not all of these fit my life and style preferences: the huge vest and coat, and that oversize sweater would both make me look enormous and like I’m drowning in fabric. But a lot of them look really good.

The biggest suprise is how much I’m digging that tunic. It essentially conforms to Anna of the Paunnet blog’s definiton of Burda cutting corners design-wise: “rectangles by Burda” (see here). And yet I want to wear these rectangles. Obviously not now, not in the depths of frozen hell, but I think they will be close to dreamy when the world boils around us mid-July.

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More rectangles for me! Photo from Burda Easy F/W 2016.

But seriously now, here’s the strategy I want to try out this year: for every ambitious project (pants! shirts!) try to add some simple clothes, especially to wear around the house. So more knit tops; ideally, some decent-looking pants to wear around the house (maybe the ones from Burda to replace the ancient worn-out pair of cords I’m reaching for all the time), more shift dresses maybe…

Which brings me to strategy #2:

re-use already fitted and adjusted patterns as much as possible. Not that I haven’t been doing this, but I’ve mostly done it out of resignation when I got fed up with trying to fit a pattern that was turning out to be clearly not suited to my body shape. Funnily enough, given all the Burda inspiration in this post, the Burda bodice is pretty far from my shape (as I discovered when making this dress), so I might hack the Colette Laurel to get something similar to this one:

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Image source: burdastyle.com.

Another simple Burda project I have my eye on is this sweater:

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Pattern and more photos available here.

I might have some leftover knit fabric that would be great for this.

What about you? Any easy sewing plans you’re looking forward to? And how do you stand on New Year resolutions?

*Nothing helps you realize things as clearly as waking up in a harsh winter with one pair of pants remaining wearable in the weather conditions. That’s how you know you’ve been goofing up.

 

a monochromatic mini-wardrobe

A few stray rays of sunlight have broken through the cloud layer, so I bring you another post from the frozen planet Hoth. It’s snowplows and snow shovels outside. Here, inside the house, it’s been cat hair and frantic photo-taking, before the sun leaves us to more gray and darkness.

I maybe easily influenced by all this because my most recent sewing has been strictly in a black-white-gray color scheme. Winter camouflage. And, I hope, a solid core for a professional wardrobe to slowly take over for the RTW pieces that have dominated it so far.

Here’s what I made:

Burda deep pleat skirt (here’s my first attempt at this pattern), paired with my third version of the Astoria sweater from Seamwork

The deep pleat skirt with (from left) a black Plantain/Tonic tee mashup (made last winter, worn a lot), white Plantain/Tonic tee, and Astoria

The tops

In terms of the sewing process, I definitely prefer working with wovens. I can’t deny, though, that I get a lot of wear out of me-made knit tops. Overall, they fit me better and have better necklines than most of what I’d hunted down in the stores.

That said, while these two are tried-and-true patterns for me at this point, I keep refining the fit.

On the white Plantain/Tonic tee I stuck with my usual: the neckline, sleeves, and bust from Plantain blending to the more fitted shape from the Tonic tee under the bust. But I finally resolved the minor issue of wrinkles at the armhole by raising the armhole by 1 cm. I’ll keep that alteration for all my new versions.

I had already made that alteration pre-emptively to my very first Astoria (more details on my alterations to the pattern here). It was a good call and I’m definitely sticking with it if I make more. This one I also lengthened by 1.5″ so I can wear it with pants. I opted for the full-length sleeves this time, which I had to shorten by 4″ to get the desired bracelet length (more like “watch length” in my case).

Fabrics: both found at Joann — white mid-weight interlock knit (a synthetic blend) and a rather plasticky off-black mid-weight knit for the Astoria. The former is pleasantly soft on the body and breathes a bit, and I’m okay with the “rather plasticky” quality of the latter because I layer it over tops.

The Burda skirt

front and back

I really like how simple and clever this pattern is. I repeated most of my alterations from the first version, opting for a narrower waistband and not adding side pockets. I know it’s a controversial position, but I’ve discovered that I like pockets a lot but can often live without them.

Skipping the pockets allowed me to squeeze out one more skirt than planned from the 2 yards I bought of this houndstooth rayon-blend suiting (another Joann fabric, the tiniest houndstooth in their current collection).

Here it is, my bonus piece:

A-line mini based on the pencil skirt from Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing

the skirt with the Thread Theory Camas blouse, which needs a post of its own

I really like the double darts in this pattern. I’ve worn my first version a lot and have been meaning to make another. I only had enough fabric for a mini, and that only provided I cut the waistband on the cross-grain, so I widened the side seams to an A-line and hemmed the skirt with Hug-Snug to preserve as much length as possible.

Both skirts are lined (with regular ol’ polyester lining fabric); the linings have been attached with my first attempt at French tacks. The seams are bound with Hug Snug. It took me a while to get there but I am now a convert to sewing zippers in before sewing the side seams. The zippers I’ve inserted by reversing the sewing order in this way have been the neatest and most stress-free for me. It’s all thanks to Sheryll and her brilliant sewing tips.

I’m saving the last piece for another time — more on the Camas blouse soon.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you about your go-to colors and patterns. Do you like to sew mix-and-match sets? How do you plan your sewing? What inspires or influences you?

the unphotographable dress and some thoughts on wardrobe planning

burda-black-12

I promised better photos of this dress but this is all I got. Would you believe that one was taken on a sunnier day? The clearest thing I can give you is that title and an overexposed flat shot of the bodice:

burdabutterick_dressThose cuff and neckline bands: I naively hoped the instructions would guide me through the construction but all they offered was one sentence simply telling me to sew them on the outside and topstitch.

Let’s do this in a telegraphic style and with more blurry photographs.

Fitting woes

I’ve written about them in the first post about this dress. In short, the Burda bodice doesn’t fit me. Can’t breathe freely, can’t move my arms. So I swapped it out for the bodice from Butterick 6086, which I had to modify further. I slashed the sleeve to get more width on the biceps and I lowered the sleeve cap; I also made a 3/4″ broad back adjustment (while keeping the shoulders narrow, so lots of fun); plus the usual Big Four navigation between sensible ease at the bust and a realistic width at the waist.

It took ages and three muslins but even these photos tell me it was worth the work. I can flap my arms like a crazy bird and the dress still retains a decent shape.

burda-black-collage

what passes for arm flapping among existentialists

Fabrics

Lightweight black polyester crepe from Fabric.com and leftovers of a more stable polyester crepe from this dress for the neckline and cuff finish.

This project marks the beginning of my love affair with spray starch. I could not have done it without the stuff. It helped me cut the black crepe without losing my mind and kept it decently stable for sewing.

Construction notes

Bust darts and seam finish: Those were some big darts, since all the intake went into the lone horizontal bust darts. I trimmed them, pressed them upwards as both the Burda pattern and my sewing guru Sheryll advise, and bound them with Hug Snug. I Hug-Snugged all the seams, possibly because I wanted to risk the sanity I had saved thanks to the spray starch. It was not quick, to put it mildly, but turned out okay.

a dramatization of okay, with modest means

Zipper: invisible, sewn under the neckline finish, with a hook and eye on top. I sewed the zipper before sewing the side seams, thus completely putting the order of construction on its head.

That neckline and cuff finish you might be wondering about: I drafted these pieces from the sleeve and bodice pieces (it’s also what I always do with facings because I never sew anything without alterations). I stitched a line between the piece and seam allowance, trimmed the seam allowance to about 3-4 mm, and pressed the seam allowance under the pattern piece carefully. I’d say that’s a better strategy than notching the curves — it makes the curves smoother. And then I edge-stitched very, very slowly.

Pleats on the skirt: I stitched down the first inch of the pleats and on the back I converted the darts into pleats and aligned them with the vertical back darts.

what kind of dance is this even?

Hem: double-turned and hand-stitched.

And that would be all about this dress if not for a special issue of Burda I got as a gift when I started sewing this.

It was an issue devoted to simple sewing projects that make good wardrobe builders. It left me thinking intensively about my own sewing planning, which often gets overambitious in terms of both difficulty of the projects and their potential for getting worn on a daily basis.

Francesca at Atelier Vicolo N. 6 can give you a better insight into that issue with her two gorgeous dresses from it — they do not defy the camera while devouring light.

To cut a long story short, since first leafing through that issue my plan has been, well, not to make all of those Burda patterns but to simplify my sewing plans.

My first steps toward that coming to the blog soon. Flap, flap.

black dress in a snow storm

Friends, I got almost nothing. I’d been waiting for a long time first to finish sewing projects that were stubbornly in progress, then to take photos. I was hoping for at least one ray of sunlight today, but to no avail. No sun. In fact, right now you probably couldn’t see your outstretched arm if you were unlucky enough to be outside. It’s snowing in that scary Great Lakes endless winter kind of way that makes the lands beyond the wall in The Game of Thrones look like the next town over.

So on this gothically gloomy day I snuck in these snapshots right before the world got swept away. This is the Burda/Butterick mashup dress that I spent what felt like ages fitting.

I can’t help being very critical of garments straight off the machine, so I wanted the photos to reflect the things I’ve spent a while agonizing about. In real life, this dress strikes me as a bit, shall we say, convent-esque. I was aiming for simple elegance but I worry I got distilled conservatism instead. But that’s not what I’m getting from these blurry photos.

What I’m getting from the blurry photos is “I like theater and reading philosophy in bed,” which I’m fine with (though I haven’t been to the theater longer than I care to admit and at bedtime I read almost exclusively novels). I also get “The winter weight hides well, no?” and I honestly like that because that’s not what most of my pairs of pants have been communicating.

Maybe I should only wear this on gloomy days and during snow storms for maximum Gothic effect? The truth about the dress will have to wait until next time. And fingers crossed for power lines holding strong.