It is, believe it or not, the Donna dress from the Burda Vintage ’70s special issue. Yes, this one: the dress I planned to sew for “Sewing the Seventies” but it was not to be.
So without making it up as drafted, I played with the pattern to turn it into a bit of a Tessuti Lois dress lookalike*… I added kimono sleeves with cuffs, added a bit to the sides to give it pull-on capabilities, and added some waist ties.
Oh, and I added a facing because I didn’t want to line it.
The fabric is a linen woven out of blue and black threads (anyone know the name of that kind of weave?).
I’ve really loved wearing this dress. Its one shortcoming is lack of pockets, but I don’t really see a good way to add them to this design. And it’s helped me keep my feelings about this year’s weight gain in check. It’s a comfort dress.
What’s your favorite garment this summer or winter?
*Yeah, I didn’t feel like messing with turning those gathers into a dart.
PS: This was also my Burda Challenge item for July, and the only thing I made in July, at the same time.
This story begins in March, when I had neither time nor willingness to work on fitting new patterns. And I thought, “I could use a sack dress, I think.” Enter a smallish piece of green crepe (polyester or silk — no clue, I bought it for a song second-hand) and an issue of Szycie aka the Polish edition of Patrones from June 2017.
Dress #21 fit the bill: it is, essentially, a sleeveless sack with an elasticated waist. What the photo and the drawing don’t show is that the neckline dips much lower on the back than the front, which made it exactly the opposite of what I wanted. Since there are no darts or any other shaping to speak of, I sapped the pattern pieces.
Patrones is chock-full of high street inspiration, and most of the patterns are on the simple side. Unfortunately, only every other size is included on the pattern sheets (usually 38-42-46 in the regular range and 48-52-56 in the plus size range). For me, this means tracing between the sizes, which is no problem with a pattern as simple as this one but, I imagine, could get pretty challenging with a more complicated pattern.
I really had very little fabric, but with single-layer cutting, and a pieced back I ended up with a sack I quite like:
My one reservation is that the armholes are so big on this pattern — and I both added a seam allowance and raised them slightly — that I can’t wear this without a blouse underneath.
I skipped the elastic and made a belt and belt loops instead.
And then I fiddled with the pattern a bit more. I added cuffed kimono sleeves, split the front and back pattern pieces into two, and added elastic and pockets.
The fabric is a rather unimpressive crinkle polyester from JoAnn Fabrics. I liked the color of the wrong side: a nice saturated matte cornflower blue, so it became the right side. Which means the inside of this dress is embarrassingly shiny.
I think this version deserves another try, in a fabric that breathes. I’m thinking, rayon.
Do you like sack dresses? What are your favorite easy to sew and wear patterns? (And did I hear you say Inari from Named?)
I’m that person who posted about not really joining sewing/knitting/photo challenges, right? Just confirming. I am indeed that person. But I’m also currently participating in the Burda Challenge and now… I want to Sew the Seventies. I guess, eventually, the challenges find you 😉
I discovered Sewing the Seventies last year — too late to join, but not too late to enjoy the Steely Seamstress’ posts (scroll through for last year’s posts). Seventies’ fashion reminds of my dad’s craziest clothes, which I only know from photos and his stories. It was also the time my dad learned to sew — taught by his friend’s dad. For him this new skill set meant inventions such as secret pockets for ciggies on a pant leg and refashioning regular pants to make them flared when flares were hard to buy but everyone else seemed to have a pair…
For me, dad’s sewing meant awesome doll clothes during my — very intense — Barbie phase. Later, life got too busy and dad stopped sewing. Much later, I learned to sew myself, thanks to Craftsy and YouTube, and blogs, and books…
My aim with this challenge is to time-travel a little.
While I’ve scored a few authentic 1970’s patterns along the way, I find myself drawn to one particular dress that I found in a Burda Vintage special issue I got as a gift.
The more I looked at the dress, the more I realized how much it looked like a crazy dress my grandma (dad’s mom) owned when I was little. By that point, the dress had been retired to the depths of her closet and I would dig it up for dress-up parties with the neighbors’ kids. My grandma would have worn it to parties in the mid-70s.
The cut was, to tiny me, the height of sleek sophistication, paired with a fabric that today’s me would honestly call bonkers. When you’re about five, nothing beats a combination like that. The dress was green, printed with a pattern of majestic white storks with red beaks and red legs. It was everything. Even if it was — and it surely was — polyester.
If I could find a similar fabric, I’d sew a replica of that dress. (Maybe that’s a fabric designing and printing challenge for the future, come to think of it?)
For now, I think, I’ll make it in a more subdued navy poly print that’s been sitting in my stash for a while.
Without further ado, here’s the pattern:
What puzzles me about the dress is that the sample is sewn up in a sequined jersey but the recommended fabric is embroidered silk?… If I’m reading between the lines correctly, it’s more likely drafted for a woven than a knit fabric. There is a zipper in the back and neck darts.
I think the simplest answer right now is make a muslin.
So here’s my timely follow-up about sewing with quilting cotton despite all the doubts I always have about it.
It’s the print that was the decisive factor in this case, since, to be honest, whenever I’m considering quilting cotton for a garment, I always question that choice. Most of the time, I think it doesn’t work because a bit of give, fluidity, and drape makes a significant difference for how the garment hangs.
But I keep seeing a lot of successful projects that use quilting cotton — maybe the bold prints make up for drape sometimes? Claire’s post lists several shirt patterns and it’s shirts in quilting cottons in particular that catch my eye on Instagram.
And I guess that’s how I ended up choosing this print for yet another version of my favorite Helmi pattern from Named Clothing.
I discovered this print thanks to this dress made by Natasha. The birds kept reminding me of this mitten pattern by Spillyjane, which I made years ago. The birds must have imprinted themselves in my mind because I found myself remembering it repeatedly, looking it up, then deciding against it because what am I going to sew with quilting cotton… until I just went for it before last Christmas.
And that’s how you end up with a print that feels kind of outside your comfort zone but also kind of familiar. There’s a story in there, very different from Daphne du Maurier’s The Birds, unless it’s a sequel in which the birds give up murder, take some marketing seminars, and settle on using subliminal advertising to sell cotton prints.
The Helmi was the obvious choice. By this point this pattern must be imprinted, like the birds. I guess I just have to keep making it. I’m thinking about another version as I type these words…
I went with Esther’s (@estjune on Instagram) suggestion and elasticated the back. I like the look of the original pattern sampleon the model but I don’t think I could pull it off most of the time. I also shortened the bodice slightly and added side-seam pockets, and skipped the hidden placket yet again because I found these buttons in my button box.
And that’s all, folks. Tell me about your sewing adventures.
Hello, and let me clear the cobwebs off this old blog. Thanks to everyone who got in touch here and during my occasional returns to Instagram over the past months.
I have missed the conversations on blogs and over sewing-related content in other places; however, I really needed the time away and FOMO or any other tether of our interconnected world was not strong enough to keep me from what I knew I needed. Which was to be away and focus on what was necessary.
Usually, it’s the online sewing community that gives me a nice sense of temporary escape into a much-loved hobby, but there comes a time when things are not usual any more, and this was one of those times.
Over the years as a pretty avid blog reader I’ve definitely drawn inspiration and a sense of meaningful connection from writers who’ve written candidly, beautifully, and often with a sense of humor and insight, about their experiences of illness, hardship, and loss. Without naming specific people, I want to thank those of you who write about life in this way. You help others by allowing them to think and feel together with you. And, in their own trying times, to remember, and feel less lonely and more capable.
I’ve discovered that I’m not that kind of blogger. I really enjoy blogging as a means to get away from all the emotion-laden real-life challenges. While immersed in them, I try to be there as fully and honestly as I can, but I don’t share it in writing afterwards. Hence the blog silence.
So while I was away from the blog I was with my family as we faced the challenge of terminal illness and loss. My dad passed away after a long struggle against cancer.
We’re here, still supporting each other. Some days are really difficult, others are easier. I don’t have any wisdom to share other than let yourself feel your feelings fully, no matter how strong they are. And be there for the people in your life, in your own imperfect but true way (even if, like me, you can’t write about it).
While I usually enjoy the fact that sewing can take you much faster from idea to its realization than knitting can, in those months knitting helped me work on my patience, while sewing was mostly beyond the attention I had available. Knitting demanded less immersion while bringing a perspective of relief and time to think.
And so I completed one of the most involved knitting projects I had ever undertaken: a cabled cardigan modified from a pattern I had long admired. The pattern is Fleta, from Norah Gaughan’s pattern book #9 for Berroco. I changed the neckline to get a silhouette I find more wearable (as I usually wear cardigans unbuttoned) and I shortened the cardigan slightly.
I haven’t bought new yarn in a long time and this was part of my mission of stashbusting. As you can see, the bottom was knitted in a different type of yarn to use up a partial skein and get the necessary yardage.
Apart from the cardigan, my other important project was the dress I made for the funeral ceremony. I had not planned to sew initially, but searching for an appropriate dress online was really disheartening. There’s a rant in me that I really don’t have the time for right now but… why is there this pervasive idea that women wish to look sexy at all times?… Most of the dresses I was able to find online were too revealing, no matter how I limited the search.
Sewing was my best best, I realized, and reached for the October issue of Burda, in which dress #103 caught my attention.
My photos — taken hastily on a dark January day — don’t do this dress justice. It’s really nice, with clever shaping using double darts and a flattering neckline that doesn’t hit too low (what a relief!).
Bad lighting and posing, good dress.
I was also amazed how little adjusting I had to do in order to get a good fit. I needed my usual broad upper back front shoulder adjustments, but apart from those, initial basting showed I could continue as is, which meant quick work.
Iwould like to make this dress again later. When I do, however, I will finally commit to the one adjustment I keep meaning to incorporate into my Burda sewing but tend to skip — I’ll raise the armhole by 1cm to get a slightly closer fit (and better range of motion).
That’s it from me for now. I hope 2018 is off to a good start for you, not just in terms of sewing, knitting, and other projects 🙂
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:
It’s not the best sketch but it conveys the idea.
Here’s the dress:
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!
Hello! I’m back in the bloglands after some traveling and family time. And back with that great dilemma that every break like that brings up for me. It’s wonderful to see again what everyone’s been sewing, photographing, and writing about while I was away… But, in all honesty, it was really blissful not to keep up with it all. And not to keep others updated on what I was doing.
Thank you everyone who dropped me a line under the blog break post! Your wishes were a wonderful send-off. Here are some thoughts I’ve brought back from my trip.
When sightseeing, I would only take a few snapshots for the family, a la the limitations of yore, as if some “film” were at risk of running out in the camera. I limited texting and email to the absolutely necessary. I walked a lot. I had a notebook with me. I ended up reading a lot.
It did feel a little bit like time travel, unplugging that daily connection that we hardly perceive but use all the time. And then it stopped feeling like time travel, and I simply felt more rested, more focused, and more curious about the world. An undercurrent of mild anxiety stopped buzzing in the background.
I don’t want to be the next person preaching about the benefits of slowing down. I don’t even know how well I will be able to remember what I got out of that period of unplugging.
I’ll try. I don’t think the problem lies in not knowing that you can slow down. I think it lies in the routines that carry us through every day. We get more of a temporary pleasure kick out of scrolling through online content than sitting down quietly with a book, though the latter has a more lasting calming benefit for our mind. We cherish (and remember more clearly) photos when we take them sparingly, we forget the ones we took in quick succession. But it’s all so easy to forget. It doesn’t have a snappy acronym like FOMO or the range of other fears that, likewise, have snappy acronyms that I keep googling, and as I do so I feel old and increasingly not with that next “it” that is the “it” of the quickly fleeting moment.
I’m not about to proclaim this a new trend here. I think I’ll see how well I can keep pumping the breaks on some of my routines and if that will let me accomplish some new goals. It’s probably fair to call this modest plan my attempt at kaizen. I’m not starting a business, just trying to get some of my ducks out of the woods and in a row.
In the meantime, I will have some slow-paced (ha!) catch up posts for you on things I made before the trip.
But here’s one I made when I got back, still pretty jet-lagged.
I had this fabric sitting in my stash for over a year. I bought it at a store with second-hand fabric, yarn, and notions. It was probably donated to the store, so it was unlabeled and on the bargain fabric pile. It feels like cotton, somewhat crisp. I don’t wear stripes too often and it took me a very long time to figure out what I could use this fabric for.
I can’t remember the exact inspiration, but I think I saw a garment somewhere (on the street? on Pinterest?) that used horizontal stripes that balanced vertical stripes in this way, and that’s when I knew it would be a Helmi dress.
I went for my kimono sleeve hack first tried here. Once again I opted also for the simplified button placket. It seems to me that the buttons make a good visual interruption to all the stripes.
Since I’m quite a few inches shorter than what Named Clothing drafts for, I shortened the bodice and skirt by 1.5 cm. And, in a bout of masochism, I finished the hem and the sleeve cuffs by hand. And that would be it. I’m wondering whether to insert elastic into the waist seam. I’m not in love with the boxy silhouette of the unbelted dress. I think it looks pretty cool on the model here but on me I feel like it completes the look of a clueless person desperately googling “FOMO.” Thoughts?
This project is my third one in the #sewtogetherforsummer challenge on Instagram. Many thanks to Monika, Sarah, and Suzy for making this such a wonderful, inspiring, and welcoming sewing challenge.
I wish you all happy summer sewing and till next time.
Another week, another roundup. Again, there were repeats. But there were also two new garments, which I sewed frantically, stabbing my fingers and going slightly insane with all the tubes of fabric that needed to be turned out (belt loops are not my friends).
May 15 was one of those days that forced a costume change. I spent the first half of the day working from home. So first I tried the nightwear-as-daywear trend, donning an Almada robe over a Scout tee sewed in the same fabric (a really lovely rayon from Joann fabrics, which I bought a lot of last year).
Later on I changed into my beloved wannabe ’70s pants and I added a cardigan I knitted a couple of years ago (wool/silk, so pretty warm weather friendly).
May 16-18: a repeat vortex. I wore that Laurel dress on May 16 and again on the 18th, which was a Thursday, so I decided I’d say I did it as a throwback to Tuesday — ha! I have no excuses for the 17th when I wore the Scout tee yet again, but this time with the Beignet skirt.
… And that skirt reminded me of the Beignet skirt I vowed to make right after I finished the first one. I ended up cutting the second one out bit by bit over several months — first the lining, then, eventually, the shell. I had project resistance, which I couldn’t quite explain until I dove into actually making the skirt. It’s not the easiest skirt.
This time I chose to add a lining (thrifted poly print). The belt and shell fabric is a black cotton twill, the pockets are from some sort of a wool/poly remnant.
Excuse the water stain visible in the photo below… and the black on black. Not all photo shoots are inspired, what can I say. I was trying to clean a persistent chalk pencil mark that just didn’t want to go away. I thought it had dried by the time I took the photos but, clearly, it had not.
I still like this pattern a lot. I find it flattering, I love that it has pockets. What I dislike are the belt loops which still this second time around feel like they’re drafted slightly too short and too narrow, like it’s a matter of 2-3 milimeters, but these feel pretty critical.
Another gripe is the belt because, in contrast, it seems too wide. After turning it out I turned it back inside out (ouch, my hands!) to shave off about 1/4″. That’s it for the gripes, it still deserves a thumbs up.
I’m not sure you can spot it in these photos (unlike the highly visible water stain) that my buttonhole luck left me on this one. The fabric wasn’t that bulky, but it was a bit tricky for my sewing machine, whose one-step buttonhole is usually a smooth job. There was some thread bunching on at least two of the buttonholes, which led me to wrangle the fabric from under the foot and push the fabric along. One buttonhole got placed wrong for reasons that escape me. It took some unpicking and creative work with satin stitch to rescue it. It helps that the fabric is black.
Back to the roundup:
On May 19 I wore the new Beignet skirt with finally a different Scout tee (in a lovely Cotton and Steel rayon). And on May 20 I finished McCall’s 6885 and put it on as soon as it was done and pressed. It was sewn concurrently with the skirt — something I do very rarely.
This dress is my second #sewtogetherforsummer project and an ode to shopping the stash. I had a big remnant of that cotton sateen print left since having to buy extra for the first dress I made from it. The gray fabric was a remnant left from this dress.
It would have been a perfect combination if I hadn’t underestimated the stiffness of that tightly woven linen. The dirty secret of this dress is that I can’t button the collar stand: it’s too stiff and the buttonhole doesn’t have enough flexibility. I think I’ll live with that but I’d prefer to avoid it in the future…
This pattern has received some love online. And it’s pretty good but do I have some reservations. Some of them fall into the category “I don’t know if it’s me or the pattern.”
First in that category: the button placket. The overlap is way longer than the underlap and I don’t know what other purpose it served beyond annoying me. Maybe I’m misunderstanding the instructions but I guess you’re supposed to just attach that bottom floppy part to the front of the dress with a mere two horizontal seams and just let it flop about?… Hell no. I just stitched it down around the arrow part… which came out uneven! (Insert your favorite swear word here.) Maybe it’s me, I don’t know…
So I guess it’s just the placket that’s in that category, but that’s not the end of my dislikes.
At the top of my list is the damn tall and narrow sleeve cap.
Whenever I see this sleeve cap shape I want to run screaming. I don’t know who is able to wear these comfortably. I definitely can’t: they turn things into the opposite of secret pajamas. A secret straightjacket.
Apart from that: No pockets, so I added some at the side seams. The collar was really big so I shaved off a centimeter. I moved the waist ties up about an inch — they fell too low according to the pattern, at least on me. I added my usual 3/4″ to the bottom of the armhole on the back piece and did my usual forward-shoulder adjustment and square shoulder adjustment. Not sure how I feel about the shirt-tail hem. I think I’d opt for a straight hem next time.
On the upside: I didn’t need an FBA. The fit in the bust is fine. The fit in the hips is okay, too, though if I make this again I might grade up to the next size.
Last day of my roundup: May 21 and some ’90s inspiration with an Adelaide dress over a black tee (RTW, this one).
So moving on to the last full week of Me-Made May. This one may be my last blog roundup because I’m traveling at the end of the month and will be offline in early June. I plan on wearing me-made clothes but I know I will be away from the blog and IG for a while, so most likely won’t document any of that. And apologies in advance for the silence.
How is Me-Made May going for you? Are you in the no-repeats camp or, like me, going with whatever calls to you?
I’ve never been as sassy as Tove Jansson’s fabulous character but she has remained my inspiration well into adulthood. Jungian psychoanalysts would agree (scroll down for proof).
I’m still amazed that I actually managed to finish this dress.
As I mentioned before, it had been sitting half-sewn since last July. The pattern is McCall’s 7314, one that I picked up at a sale, both intrigued by the loose fit and the way the bodice was joined to the skirt and wary of it. Custom cup sizes was what really sold me on it. If you don’t feel like reading through the nitty gritty below, let me tell you now that I give it a thumbs up. It was pretty easy to fit!
Before we get into the details, let me give a shoutout to the awesome hostesses and participants of #sewtogetherforsummer on Instagram. Sarah (find her also here on IG), Monika, and Suzy have been amazingly engaged in the community that’s forming around the hashtag and encouraging. I was really energized to work on the dress thanks to all the wonderful conversations that happened around my progress shots on IG! Thanks to everyone who chimed in! You helped me make a dress I really love.
I guess it’s fair to say you helped me make a dress that channeled my inner Little My. Maybe I’m only imagining that my fabric choice was almost accidental?…
Details, in semi-random order:
no forward-shoulder adjustment on this one, somewhat surprisingly (which is why you always need to check the pattern before you dive in!)
the bust darts took A LOT of pressing because they insited on staying pointy and sharp even after careful trimming — so pick a soft fabric for this dress!
I barely had enough fabric for the version I chose, so I cut the pockets from a different remnant; I’m proud of my understitching — they’re not peeking out!
I only elasticated the back waistline seam (as the pattern instructs); if you want a tighter fit, you can elasticate the front as well
note to self for next time: raise the armholes by about 1 cm (due to the square shoulder alteration)
The fabric is a pin dot poly/cotton stretch poplin, bought from Fabric.com over a year ago. I recommend using 1/4″ elastic because that’s what will fit through the casing that in this pattern is formed from the seam allowance. Buttons were a lucky thrift-store find from a few years ago.
And that’s about it for now.
Will I make another shirt dress for #sewtogetherforsummer? I would certainly like to, but I have a trip coming up and will try to focus on making some essentials for that. But there will be shirt dresses after the sewalong is over, and I hope I get to contiue the conversations.
If you haven’t joined in #sewtogetherforsummer, do join in. You will enjoy it!