Thursday, 1 November 2018

Catching up

It's been a while since I last posted -- since mid-August (which is somehow 11 weeks ago already!!) . Last time, I said I had few easier things on my autumn sewing list left to make, and also I was about to start a major project: a raincoat using a Burda pattern.

In the eleven weeks since then, I have: (a) been away on vacation for a week; (b) suffered a major sewing mojo deficit on and off ; (c) spent a couple of weeks feeling extremely unwell (just for a change); and finally, (d) moved on from autumn into winter sewing.

My sewing apathy is still hanging around. I just feel kind of unexcited about everything. Tracing patterns seems exhausting, cutting fabric out seems exhausting, and sewing stuff up seems exhausting. I guess even writing a blog post seemed exhausting, so I didn't do that either. I am feeling a little less apathetic this week though, so maybe my positive sewing energy is coming back. In the meantime, I am going to catch up this blog up on a few things I did manage to finish during this extended period of blah.

Grey spotty 3/4 sleeve tee
First up, just to mention some little stuff: I made one spotted three quarter length t-shirt, one pair of my go-to ponte trousers using the StyleArc Barb pattern in navy and two pairs of PJs using my new favourite PJ pattern from Burda 01-2017. I didn't take any photos of any of them except for this t-shirt, because nobody cares about PJs or plain navy trousers except for me, and I can see them any time.

On the list of things that people might care about more is this knit tunic from Ottobre 05-2018, pattern #14. It is a raglan dress with cuffs and (although I didn't put one on) a bottom band, but more to the point, GIANT BALLOON SLEEVES.

The magazine page showing the dress (left) and the sweater version, taken from the Ottobre website
I was entirely taken with the dress in the magazine, and I think the model looks adorable in it. However, for me personally, I felt like the fabric they chose to make the samples, especially for the sweater version on the right, did this pattern no favours. I absolutely do not want a sweatshirt with balloon sleeves in a pastel colour. She looks like a children's TV presenter from the 1980s. NOPE.

Ottobre 05-2018-14 raglan dress technical drawings

The pattern actually comes with both the two-piece sleeve with pleats, and also a normal one piece sleeve, in case you want to opt out of the pleated version. For my version though, I thought just making the pattern up in a soft, drapey knit would make the sleeves look full and flowing without making my sleeves look so balloon like. Also, the pattern calls for ribbing which (a) I just don't generally like when I've had RTW garments with ribbed knit bands; and (b) don't know where to buy anyway even if I loved it. I left off the bottom band altogether as I was making this as a tunic and wasn't worried about the length, and made the neckband and cuffs in self fabric. It was very straightforward to trace and cut, and it's loose-fitting so my usual size 44 worked out perfectly, even maybe a little too big.

My version: on the right is the pleated sleeve detail which you can't see at all, really, but it's there, honest!
One problem I had with it was the pockets, and this was mainly down to my fabric. Originally I put the pockets in, but when I tried it on: NOPE. In this light-weight knit, the pockets dragged horribly and the whole dress looked mis-shapen around the hip area. I ended up cutting them off. If you made it in a more stable knit that probably wouldn't be such an issue, but I think you'd want to be careful about how much bulk you were adding.

I've worn it loads since I made it which is always a good sign. In this fairly light-weight knit, it's very drapey. Yes, there's a lot of sleeve, but it just looks like a full sleeve rather than like "And now I will pull an ENTIRE FAMILY OF CHINCHILLAS from up my sleeve! TA-DA!" I would definitely make it again, but if/when I do, I need to make the neckline quite a lot narrower. It's wide enough on me that it tends to slide around and even off my shoulder at the end of a day of wear (not helped by the not-entirely-brilliant recovery of my knit).

Pattern envelope and technical drawings of Burda 6772

Finally, the BIG thing I made back in September but never blogged, which took just about 10-14 days at the start of September, was a navy raincoat using Burda 6772. I made view B, with the fake pocket flaps, wrist and back details, and the longer length skirt with an inverted pleat. I used the pointy collar from view A because I have an irrational horror of round collars. Don't ask why, I just hate them.

Finished navy raincoat - front view
To make this I used a "shower proof" cotton that was (allegedly) a factory over-run for a famous designer. It's actually a great fabric, in the sense that it sews and presses beautifully, and the colour is my favourite neutral of very dark navy. I originally planned to make it with a violently green lining, because I had an inspiration navy coat image with a green lining that I loved. Then, as I was scrolling around a favourite fabric shop I saw the patterned lining fabric and immediately bought that to use instead because I loved it so much.

Problem one with the coat: in practice, this fabric CREASES. I already knew that from the red version I made from the same fabric in another colourway, but somehow the navy fabric is SO MUCH WORSE, or so much more obvious at least.

Finished navy raincoat - back view
It's a while since I made this coat so I don't remember all the details of construction, but I know it was very Burda typical in the sense that the pattern went together as you would expect, and it was an excellent match to the technical drawing. Fit-wise, I am very comfortable now with what I need to do with Burda patterns (rounded back, square shoulder, narrow shoulder, raise the armhole, lower the bust, lower the waist) so the adjustment process was pretty straightforward.

This is the most accurate version for the colour
In theory, this coat had everything going for it, but I have to admit I am not wildly enthusiastic about tit as a finished garment. Normally, a couple of months after I've made something, I've forgotten why I disliked it when I finished it and/or discovered something is so catastrophically wrong with it in wear that it's essentially useless. With this it's just... it's not the best coat. There are loads of little fit issues. I made my usual size (44) and the fit is OK provided I do only wear it in the way I originally planned, which is to say, over a shirt or top without a sweater. I rarely wear fitted tops but when I do I usually add to the width of the pattern at the waist as I don't really have a waist worth mentioning. I thought when I muslined the bodice that the waist fit was going to be OK but now it's finished, it fits but it JUST fits, and for sure I couldn't wear it over a sweater and do it up without straining the waist button.

Lining, pre-insertion. I love this so much as a contrast to a plain navy exterior!
The whole fit is like that: I should have raised the underarm just a little bit higher; I should have lowered the waist just a little bit less. Also, and this is not the fault of the pattern so much as a failure of expectation, the skirt is not as wide and swingy as I really wanted. I don't hate the width of the skirt, but in a perfect world I'd have made something less straight below the waist. None of it is BAD, but nothing about it GREAT either.

The finished inside of the coat
The sewing is the same. There's a lot that went well, but there are loads of places where the sewing is just a little bit wrong in an annoying sort of way. The worst problems I had were with the darts, which I just couldn't seem to sew or press nicely, and also the collar. The collar comes as two separate pattern pieces -- upper and under -- and the under collar is, as is usually the case, just a little bit smaller. I always do this with shirt patterns and typically the difference is very minimal, like 3mm all round. On this pattern piece though, the difference was much more substantial, more like 6mm, and I really struggled to stretch the fabric to fit it together. The end result is that the collar is kind of wrinkled/warped. As I was making it I debated whether or not to re-do the collar but I thought I had steamed into submission. Once it was on the coat and it was too late to fix I realized that was only a temporary fix. Annoying.

In conclusion: this is not a bad coat, it really isn't, but it was enthusiasm sucking. I wanted so much to make a really great raincoat and I got a long way towards that goal but not quite there in the end.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that my worst sewing projects are always the ones I've had planned a really long time and feel very invested in. Nothing ever quite lives up to the mental image I have!
Terrible mirror selfies... and I'm wearing a sweater underneath so it's too tight. I know, it's dumb, what can I say.
Next up: I am not sure. I have some plans for winter but also I am ready to admit I am not super excited by anything. I don't really NEED anything right now, so I might wait to see if the blahs recede rather than force myself to make something and not really enjoy it. When/if my enthusiasm makes a reappearance, I have a few ideas for what to make, but nothing I am really committed to.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Autumn Sewing #1: Easy & Repeats

As usual I am sewing a little ahead of the season so that I have clothes ready in my wardrobe when the weather turns. Also as usual, I've started off with some of the easiest items on seasonal sewing queue.

First, a couple of easy three-quarter length sleeved knit tops. For a while now I've been using a knit top pattern that I adjusted from a very basic New Look pattern back in 2014. It's worked reasonably well but when I was thinking about sewing some new tops I knew I wanted to incorporate the extra shoulder and rounded back adjustments I've started to make this year. I was also slightly concerned that there were some peculiarities in my pattern arising from the many adjustments I've made to it over the past few years. I therefore decided to start afresh with a new basic pattern. I picked out the knit top variations in Ottobre 02-2007 as a starting point.

Ottobre 02-2007 knit top variations. I made pattern 2, except not the split cuffs.

The good news was that there wasn't an enormous difference between my previous top pattern and the Ottobre pattern. The sleeve I was using had gone a bit wonky, and at some point I ended up with a strangely long and pointy curve at the lower edge of the back bodice armhole. These anomalies aside, it wasn't a million miles away. Also, happily for me, it turned out that there was a really close match between the Ottobre pattern and my very favourite RTW t-shirt. I was glad I had compared the old, new and RTW, however, because whereas normally I find a 44 is a good size choice for me in Ottobre, my preferred size/ease is much closer to the 46 in this particular pattern, which, after my fit adjustments (square shoulder, rounded back, overall bodice length) I duly cut.

Versions 1 & 2 of Ottobre 02-2007-02, in white and stripes.
I made two versions, each of these from a single metre of fabric. In the case of the plain white version, I didn't even quite have a metre, more like 90cm and mis-shapen to boot, which is why it ended up with contrast binding and cuffs on the sleeves, and also with a centre back seam. The striped fabric was extra wide (180cm rather than the usual 150cm) so the pattern fit on with no problem even after I stripe matched the sleeves.

Burda 04-2010-114 in turquoise gingham
Next, I repeated a shirt pattern I used earlier in the year, Burda 04-2010-114. This may be surprising because I didn't have the best time making that first version of the shirt and it isn't anywhere near my list of favourite garments for the year so far. In addition to my everything-that-could-go-wrong-went-wrong sewing experience, it's worn much less well than I would like, mainly due to interfacing problems. I used too much of the wrong sort of interfacing and this made the collar and cuffs too stiff. Then the interfacing bubbled in the laundry after about the third wash. That said, all the problems I have with that shirt are really down to sewing error: the actual fit of the shirt is the best I've achieved in a woven top so far. The pattern really only needed one minor adjustment (shortening the bust dart) before I made it up again.
Some details: finished collar (much better this time!) and the bias yoke
I made the same minor construction change as before and did a doubled yoke because I love the clean finish that gives you on the inside. I cut the exterior yoke, as seen above, as well as the cuffs on the bias for a little visual interest (and to save me from having to pattern match at the yoke seam!). The sewing went so much better this time, and I absolutely LOVE my finished shirt. At some point I will have to buy some more plain navy fabric and redo the first shirt.

Latest of many StyleArc Estelles, and a close-up of the fabric (right side = navy/grey stripe, wrong side = plain navy)
Finally, I swore I was going to retire my StyleArc Estelle pattern but when I bought this navy striped ponte I couldn't imagine making anything else with it. I loved my previous Estelles literally to death: two of them finally went into the recycling just last week when I had to admit that they looked absolutely worn out.

My next project: dark navy raincoat fabric, green crepe de chine lining & Burda 6772 view B
I've still got a couple of easy-to-sew wardrobe holes to fill before autumn arrives but next up is a more complicated autumnal garment: a raincoat. I'll be using Burda 6772. If you follow me on Instagram, be prepared for the deluge of posts about it! :D

Thursday, 2 August 2018

More July sewing

I didn't get a tremendous amount more sewn between my last post and the end of July. Partly this was because it continued to be hot for quite a while (it has now cooled down to much more manageable North-of-England-typical weather, thank goodness) and then partly because of a pretty serious but hopefully temporary downgrade in my health, which included keeling over in my local supermarket last week. (For reference, this latter experience is 0/10, do not recommend in the slightest.)

On a happier note though, I did manage to sew a bit around the weather and illness and the two things I finished in July were really great! I've held off on posting them because my photos were really terrible but honestly, I'm not going to get better photos any time soon.

Simplicity 8014 -- pattern cover and line drawing
Thus, first: Simplicity 8014. This has been on my radar since it first came out because it seemed to be my platonic ideal of a shirtdress. I love the idea of classic shirt-waist dresses but I dislike the gathered waists so often seen on patterns. S8014 has a circle skirt type skirt which adds a lot less bulk to my nearly-non-existent waist. I really loved this pattern and my finished dress and I'm pretty sure this is only the first of several versions that I'll make. :D

This dress is made in a light-weight, 100% cotton shirting, in navy/dark blue with a pattern of dots and large circles that look sort of like a moon.

Close-up of the fabric/colour -- I also was pleased with how my collar turned out, which isn't a given as I often struggle with collars/collar stands
There are lots of reviews online for this pattern, though mainly for views C and D, like the cover model. I also like those views a lot too and may make view D, with the curved hem, later in the year. However, on this occasion I made view B, except with the full collar from view A. I made absolutely no other design changes, and only one construction change, which was that I did a double yoke at the back with the "burrito" method, because I much prefer the clean finish you get inside if you do so.

I made a size 16 through the shoulder and neck opening, and then used a size 18 from the armhole downwards. Remarkably, the shoulder width came up more or less perfectly with only that change. I did my usual square shoulder and rounded back adjustments. I love how rounded back adjustments work with back yokes -- so much nicer than sewing in shoulder darts!

Simplicity 8014 View B on Flossie -- I know it looks really drop waisted here, but that's because Flossie is not proportioned like me.
The biggest alteration I did was to add 4cm (~1.5 inches) in length between the bottom of the armscye and the bust point, which both lowered the bust point to the right place and moved the waist down to my actual waist. This seems like a huge alteration and it's also kind of an improvised alteration, in the sense that mostly people recommend that you add length below the bust point not above. However, as it happens the total extra length I need from shoulder to waist is almost exactly the same distance as the extra length I need from shoulder to bust point, so: two birds, one stone. I think the dress looks really drop-waisted on my tailor's dummy, Flossie. I think it's right on me though. I have such an ill-defined waist it's honestly hard to tell, but it feels about right to me (in the photo below, the second button down from my hand holding the camera straddles the waist seam-line).

The only other fit adjustment I made was that, once it was at the point where I could baste the side seams, I found I wanted a little extra space at the waist. It fit OK as I basted it at the correct seam width... until I sat down, and then the buttons pulled at centre front at waist level. I HATE that as a fit outcome. In the end I sewed the seams at about 0.5cm at the point where the bodice and skirt meet to give myself some extra width, and that seemed to do the trick in terms of giving me the ease I wanted.

Horrible quality mirror selfie -- sorry about that!
The actual sewing was easy but, like all collared shirt-type garments, had quite a few time-consuming steps. I really liked the way this pattern went together, and I especially liked the way the little tuck on the short sleeve was achieved. I also really like how it looks on me, and how it moves when I'm wearing it. I think it looks slightly more vintage/old-fashioned than I was quite prepared for but it's still definitely one of my favourite things I've made this year.

In conclusion: This is a really nice pattern, and I am pretty sure I will make this view again as well as the other view in the package.

The other thing I made in July couldn't be simpler from a pattern perspective. This one was all about finding something that fit on a small piece of really great fabric.

My skirt, using a home dec fabric and New Look 6035

I bought 1m of this very expensive linen/cotton home dec fabric earlier this year with the plan of making a skirt. It was a total splurge and I spent like a week putting it in my virtual shopping basket and taking it out again. I eventually pulled the trigger, and was so pleased I did when the real thing turned up in the post. I absolutely love this fabric.

Wardrobe pattern New Look 6035 -- I used view D, an A-line skirt.

Up to now, I've always used small cuts of fabric like this to make straight skirts. I've tried out various patterns but I didn't get a huge amount of wear out of any of the garments I made. Thinking about why that was, I decided I just really don't like how straight skirts look on me. I know they are meant to be universally flattering or something, but I feel like narrow skirts make me look even more top heavy than I actually am. Plus, I often feel like my stride is restricted when I wear them.

This time round, I decided I would try to find a simple A-line skirt pattern with not too much flare and see if I liked it better. I didn't want the A shape to be too pronounced partly because of the look I wanted to achieve but also because I didn't have much fabric AND the print was directional, and a wider skirt wouldn't have fit

After rummaging through my stash I came up with New Look 6035. I'm pretty sure I bought this pattern for the jacket but that's no reason not to try the skirt! It's a three piece pattern -- a front/back skirt piece and two differently shaped countoured yokes for the front and back. Super simple. I made my version about 5cm longer but that was my only change to a basic size 16. The pattern also calls for a lapped zip, but I put an invisible zip in because I prefer them.

Finished skirt on me
The fabric has a lot less give in it than most garment fabrics I use. The waist fits fine, but it's a tiny bit snug over the upper hip and it didn't really loosen up with wear the way a cotton-linen fabric made for the garment market would. It's fine, but it's something I'll bear in mind if I make this skirt again and/or use it for another home dec fabric. I've already worn this more than most of the straight skirts I've made in the past and I like it a LOT, so I think this could be a good go-to pattern for small cuts of great fabric.

(Meanwhile, am I the only person with slight qualms about home dec fabric? I mean, I love this fabric and I don't regret making a skirt of it, but there's always that very slight danger that someone will suddenly go all Sound of Music and be like: you're wearing my living room curtains!)

That concludes my July sewing and also, I think, my summer sewing. Summer is actually still going strong here, and normally I don't switch over to more autumnal clothes for at least another 6 weeks. Although I originally had a few other things planned for this season though I feel kind of over it all, and so, once I start feeling better, I am going to move on to thinking about next season.

Monday, 9 July 2018

Heatwave sewing

Since I last posted I've been, well, (a) ill, just for a change, but more interestingly also (b) enjoying MANY consecutive days of sunshine and warmth in the UK, which is a vanishingly rare occurrence.Yay, sunshine!

I did think (and write) that I really wanted to make some shorts for myself for this summer, but let's be honest, sewing trousers when you still haven't got fit sorted out is traumatic and exhausting at the best of times, let alone in unusually hot weather while feeling under par. So instead, just before the heatwave hit, I dug out three pairs of last year's RTW summer trousers to cut down into shorts. They are notionally one size too big due to intervening weight change, but I decided I could live with them being a bit baggy. Hey presto: wardrobe gap filled. And not before time, since I've more or less lived in my "new" shorts ever since. I still plan to do Yet Another Great Big Trouser Fitting Bonanza at some point this year but for sure not until the weather cools down and I feel better.

In the meantime, aside from the times when I could not face having a hot steam iron anywhere near me and abandoned all thoughts of sewing, I moved on to other, non-trouser related, summer plans. Alas, mostly what I accomplished was a wealth of mediocrity.

1: Dress #1 (Ottobre 02-2016-9/10/11)

I plan to make a few dresses this summer. Dress #1 is simplest item on the list, a shift dress. I wanted a really basic, uncomplicated pattern because I had picked out a busy print from my stash for it. In the end, I went with a pattern from the ever-reliable Ottobre, an A-line knee length dress from the 02-2016 issue.

Ottobre 02-2016 patterns 9.10 and 11
These three patterns (numbers 9, 10 and 11) are basically all the same dress with minor variations in fastening and sleeve length (and 10 obviously is also colour blocked). I didn't want have to pattern match my fabric across a centre back zip so I went with the keyhole back that you can just make out in patterns 9 and 11, with the short sleeve from pattern 10.

I originally bought 3m of the cotton-with-a-bit-of-lycra fabric I used for this dress and I had exactly enough left after using some of it already to make pyjamas last year. Having already made something with it, I already know it doesn't have the best longevity. My PJs faded badly after only a few washes and it really doesn't recover well when stretched. However, I figured it would make for a good wearable muslin: I made this dress fully intending to wear it, but also aware that it might not last very long.

Ottobre 02-2016-11 (but with short sleeves) in a navy/blue/white print

I made a size 44 with my usual fit adjustments (lowered the bust dart, rounded back, square shoulder) but NOT a narrow shoulder adjustment. When I looked at the pattern, it seemed like on this occasion the 44 was a good width at the shoulder for me, and indeed it did turn out that way. As this dress is unfitted below the bust, I didn't bother to blend to a smaller size for my lower body.

Design-wise, I made two small changes: I found the short sleeve to be an unflattering length and ended up sewing a deep hem and turning it up with a little cuff, which I like. I also lowered the neckline by about 3cm. If I were making it again, I would lower the neckline even more to a deeper scoop. I just don't like jewel/high necklines on me at all. Unfortunately, the neckline change meant having to completely re-draw the one-piece facing that goes around the front neckline and the teardrop shaped opening at the back.

Back view: tear drop opening fastened with a single button (looks OK at this distance! Up close, not so much.)
Overall, my finished dress feels very mediocre. If I were making it again, I would not make the keyhole back, partly because the dress functions perfectly well as a pullover with the deeper neckline I drew in, but partly because it looks awful and I hate facings. It looks all right from a distance in this photo, I guess, but up close: ugh, the facings and also, ugh, the way the little crossover at the top came out. Despite my very best efforts, that pointy overlap bit ended up looking really rough and amateur. Also, I need to re-do the rounded back adjustment if I make it again. I merged the dart from the adjustment into the existing back neckline dart, but the outcome of this was entirely too Quasimodo-esque and doesn't look good at all.

In conclusion: as a wearable muslin it is indeed perfectly wearable, but there is plenty of room for improvement. Luckily, all my major problems with the dress are at the back where I can't see them to be annoyed by them, so I'll probably carry on wearing it quite happily.

2: A Wacky Burda Top (Burda 07-2014-112)

Burda 07-2014-112 (images from

Next up was a ridiculous top from Burda. I hardly ever make things from the July issues of Burda because I think the editors get into the swing of summer by drinking gallons of sangria before they pick the patterns for these issues. Nevertheless, this pattern has been on my Wacky Tops list since the issue came out, and, perhaps addled by the heat, I decided to make it last week. Again, this version is kind of a throwaway attempt at the pattern. I had the idea I might make it up with another, much more precious fabric, but I decided to try it out with this very inexpensive patterned viscose first.

Finished Burda 07-2014-112 on Flossie -- looks like a big square of fabric in this view
I made one intentional change to the pattern: I sewed the shoulders a little bit wider than the pattern indicated for bra strap coverage. However, I also, accidentally, omitted to sew the back neck correctly. I actually woke myself up the day after I finished it going OH NO! I DIDN'T GATHER THE BACK NECK! which makes me wonder what on earth I was dreaming about that that was uppermost in my mind when I surfaced from sleep. It means the back doesn't lie as it should, probably, but I'm not really sure it makes a huge amount of difference to the finished product.

But it's actually this shape! See how wide the lower hem is though?
As weird as it is, I actually like this top! I like the way it's sleeveless without actually being the sort of strappy top that has your entire shoulders and arms on show. I like the weird drapery at the sides. I like how floaty and loose it is. I feel vaguely like I should have an urn or a lute to hold, as it feels slightly Ancient Greek in style. On the other hand, I'll probably always have to wear something under it because if you hold your arms up at all you can see clear daylight through from one armhole to the other. Also, the back keyhole is VERY low. If I made it again, I'd cut the keyhole shorter or maybe just omit it altogether and deepen the scoop at the front to make it a pullover. I also think there's too much volume at the lower hem. I think it could do with being a closer fit through the hip.

The (oops) ungathered back neckline and tie and the REALLY LOW keyhole

There is, however, a real sewing flaw in this: the ultra skinny bias binding on the neckline. This is a sewing problem I've had before, especially with Burda who tend to give you tiny seam allowances to work with at the neckline. However, because in this case the binding extends into a tie at the back I couldn't really change it to something easier to sew. I am actually relieved I didn't remember to do the gathering on the back because I can't imagine how I would have squeezed gathers into the tiny binding. I guess the binding looks OK from a distance, but it's dreadful up close.

Close up of the skinny (messy) binding.

Overall: Wacky but fun! However, I wish I hadn't struggled so much with the binding and I'll probably keep looking for a pattern for my more precious fabric as I don't think this is quite right for it.

On me. Observe the massive volume in the side view!
3: A popped balloon (top) (Burda 04-2013-112)

Burda call this top a Balloon Top -- it's basically a simple sleeveless top with wide straps with a second, pleated and twisted layer over the top. I thought this was really pretty in the checked fabric Burda showed it in, and again, it's been on my list a while.

Burda 04-2013-112 Balloon Top (images from Burda)

Alas, my version was a wadder. I got 90% of the way through sewing it, then, as instructed, pinned together the top edges/straps in order to figure out exactly how long they needed to be. At that point I discovered:

Burda 04-2013-112: My wadder version in purple checked seersucker -- front view and side view showing the problem with the back -- straps are only pinned in place but it obviously wasn't working.

(a) I REALLY don't like how high square necklines look on me. Maybe it's because I have fairly square shoulders, but, wow, it was just DEEPLY unflattering. Now, ordinarily if I don't like a neckline I'll hack at it a bit until I do, but it was hard to see how I could fix this one. I tried to pin it in a better shape and NOPE, it wasn't working.

(b) The upper part of the bodice was the wrong size. I've been doing a LOT of narrow shoulder adjustments over the last 6-9 months, one way or another, but somehow I didn't realize that my problems with Burda's shoulder width would also impact this top (which was pretty dumb of me, I admit). It was way too wide at the level of my underarm, if that makes sense, and this of course meant the straps ended up too wide-set as well, even though I cut a 42 through the armhole. I knew from the modelled photos in the magazine that the front might drop into a little bit of a cowl, but I wasn't prepared for the mess at the back. It had just way too much width between the shoulder blades and it therefore stood away from my body and drooped unattractively (much like it does on Flossie in the photo).

(c) My fabric was a poor choice for the pattern. The pattern says poplin as one of the the options (the other being crepe de chine) but I don't think it worked at all well in a crisp fabric. I chose to use a very lightweight seersucker check. I really like the effect of the twisted check, but the fabric made for very bulky seams at the upper neckline edge that couldn't be pressed into submission, and it doesn't have the sort of drape that would have made this look pretty.

(d) My fabric was a poor choice in life. I've said this before but apparently can't learn from my mistakes: CRINKLED FABRICS ARE THE DEVIL. They're awful to cut, they press poorly, they're hard to interface, and just, ugh, no, bad idea. I bought this seersucker earlier this year, sucked in by how pretty the purple/blue/white/silver combination was, but NEVER AGAIN. I spent ages trying to find a pattern I didn't have to interface and, well, see how well THAT turned out. So no: no more crinkled fabrics.

In conclusion: Wadder! I am trying to embrace the learning experience, but I have to admit my internal constructive critique was interspersed on this occasion with me asking myself why exactly I choose to pursue such a terrible hobby.

Rescued fabric made into Ottobre 05-2011-02 PJ shorts
I disassembled the top and this morning recut the fabric and sewed up a pair of PJ shorts from the remnants. It makes for stupidly expensive PJs because I used 2m of expensive fabric and ended up with something I usually only use 70cm of fabric to make, but whatever, at least I was able to salvage something useful from the wadder, right? And my PJs turned out great (as they should do, as they are made with a super easy pattern I've used a dozen times). The other good thing to come from this is that at least I know now that I really don't like that shape of neckline and I'll know to avoid making anything similar! This is relevant because I have two separate dress patterns on my "Burda Favourites" list that have a very similar shape to them -- wide, high, square necklines. I've always been dubious about them, and now I know for sure: NOPE, not for me!

Up next: I have a few more summer things on my list that I want to make soon so that I get plenty of use out of them this year, but I'm not quite sure exactly what I want to make next. I've got three more dresses planned and I'm probably most excited about those, but two of them need muslins and the other involves lots and lots of fiddly sewing. I've also got a pair of hilarious StyleArc trousers that I may just make and see how they turn out, a button-fronted vintage style blouse, and a jacket in my queue. :D

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

You win some, you lose some

I have no sewing friends locally, which is a source of great sadness to me because I would love a fabric shopping accomplice. However, a couple of weeks ago my friend B (who does sew though she is not really into garment sewing) heroically drove up to my city and, in addition to staying up very late to gossip, also went fabric shopping with me. I bought 5 pieces of fabric: three 2m lengths of knit for t-shirts to make immediately, one large scale gingham for a shirt this autumn, and a fabulous snakeskin printed stretch denim for, idk, some time when I can actually make trousers that fit.
Left: three t-shirt knits. Right: snakeskin printed denim. I have no photo of the gingham for some reason.
At the end of 2017, I had decided that for the most part, RTW t-shirts seemed like better value for money than making my own. So far this year I've found that decision to be mostly accurate when it comes to your basic, somewhat fitted t-shirt in a plain colour. However, although I looked for ages, I couldn't find any nice loose-fit tees and in the end I decided I could do much better than anything I'd seen in RTW. I wanted a total of 4 to add to my wardrobe. The first was the striped knit top I made in May, and I've been working on making the other three over the last few days.

Top #1 used the uppermost fabric in the image above. None of my photos capture it at all, but this fabric actually has some kind of sparkly coating on the otherwise plain grey marl knit, so it is quite shiny/sparkly when it catches the light. This makes it slightly more interesting in real life than photos suggest.

Burda 01-2018-105 Garment photo and technical drawing from
For the pattern I had chose Burda 01-2018-105, a very easy, two piece lounging type tee. The front is all one piece and folds over to a sort of faux-raglan back, with a dart that runs from the shoulder to the back seam. It looks like nothing in the modelled photos or technical drawing, but it's actually a great little pattern and I can see myself making this again and again.

I made a size 40 at the neck and shoulder and a size 44 from the underarm down, which produced exactly what I was looking for: it fits through the upper chest and neck and then is loose and swingy below that. I made two minor design changes: I hate side splits with unbelievable fervor (no really, who knew you could feel so strongly about side splits), so I sewed right down to the hem line, and, once made, I found I didn't like how high the neckline was at all and ended up cutting off the neckband I had already put in and turning the neckline into a deeper rounded scoop.

Top #1 (left) and #2 (right): My versions using Burda 01-2018-105
Originally, I had planned to do something entirely different with the blue striped fabric for top #2 (the bottom fabric in the pile above) but then I had a moment of clarity. I looked at the pattern I thought I was going to use (the recent HotPatterns Swingy Tee), which has loads of pieces and top-stitching and a centre front dart. I looked at the fabric, which is a VERY drapey, lightweight fabric that in no way holds any shape. I decided these two were not things that were not fated to go together successfully, and I made a second Burda 01-2018-105, exactly the same except this time I cut the neckline exactly how I preferred from the outset.

Burda 02-2018-129 knit top, images from
So far, so good, despite my neckband problems with top #1. I therefore moved on to top #3, which was another Burda pattern, this time Burda 02-2018-129, a Plus pattern with a twist/knot detail at the hem. My third fabric was a gorgeous, amazing knit in denim blue with a slight sheen and a slubby texture. I absolutely loved this fabric and thought it would look great with the pattern, especially as it has an interesting contrast wrong side that, if it happened to show, wouldn't look bad at all. I traced a size 44, and made several adjustments to the shoulder and neckline -- mainly bringing it in at the neck as I knew as written it would be too wide on me. I also cut short sleeves without the cuff detail. Looking at the measurements, I was concerned it would be too long for me overall, but I decided from the image on the model that the knot detail on the front would pull the top up quite a lot and also the way top is constructed made it really difficult to shorten, so I left it.

My best approximation of the pattern as written: not so much a knot/drape as an unholy mess at the waist
This is one of those patterns where you cut out the pieces and you're like.... um, what? How on earth do these fit together to make that? Sometimes I've made things like this and I've been very confused by the raw pieces of the garment, but as soon as I started to put it together, light dawned and it all made sense (the wacky back drape top I made earlier this year is a case in point, though I have to note that that was the "sewing course" pattern that month, i.e. there were illustrations of the construction).

Spoiler: the light did not dawn in this case. I was actually doing well, and things WERE making sense, and then I got to the point where you connect up the left and right lower fronts at the knot/twist and I just got completely stuck. The best I managed was the photo above. It was wrong, but I had absolutely no idea how to sew it correctly and this was the closest I seemed to be able to get.

Maybe I gave up too soon, or I should have left it and come back to it later, but I felt like I had tried every possible thing with no success, and there were also other problems. The fabric isn't at all what I would consider a heavy weight knit, but the way you put the lower bodice together means there are layers and layers of fabric right at your waist/hip. Really, this needed a very light weight knit indeed if you aren't to end up with a bulky wad of fabric at the hip. The second problem was that although the twist does pull the top up a lot, it was still a lot longer than I wanted and it ended up a really unfortunate length on me. While it would have been difficult to adjust the length at the pattern stage, it was impossible at the partially completed stage.

Rescued loose fit tee, and the only detail that remains of the original pattern -- a triangular inset
In the end, the extra length saved me, because I was able to cut off almost all of the knot/twist details and still have a decent length t-shirt. The only thing left of the original pattern is an unobtrusive triangular inset, which doesn't look particularly weird.

I guess overall, yay, I got three t-shirts from the experience, which is all I really wanted. However, I am somewhat irritated with myself for two reasons: first, that I couldn't make sense of the Burda pattern. I am not someone who wants or needs a diagram for every step of every pattern, but I also don't have the best spatial reasoning in the world. When it comes to these sort of twist/fold/whatever features I think I probably did need more than Burda provides for this pattern. I just could not figure it out at all from the information I had (written instructions, seam numbers, pieces in front of me). I'd like to blame the pattern/instructions, but I am pretty sure it's just me. Needless to say, I heartily dislike feeling incompetent.

The second irritation is that if I had had some foresight, I might have realized sooner that I had made poor choices with my pattern/fabric matches. The blue stripe was much lighter weight and would have been a much better fit for the knot detail tee. The denim coloured knit was almost certainly sturdy enough to have taken the darts and top-stitching of my original planned HotPatterns pattern. I'm very annoyed by this missed opportunity!

In conclusion: a mixed outcome, but I guess I can't win them all.

Next up on my sewing table: I can't put it off any longer, I'm going to have to attempt to make some shorts. D: D: D:

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Put a bird on it

Ta-da! My enthusiasm for sewing came roaring back, and I have therefore made both of the garments I talked about at the end of my last post.

1. Angled front skirt (Burda 05-2017-113)

Burda 05-2017-113 Skirt (Images from

I've been wanting a solid white skirt for a while, but I've been dithering on the pattern. I really wanted to make something with some design interest since the fabric I'd chosen, a plain white cotton twill, was not very interesting (even if very useful, wardrobe wise). Last year I was very taken with this angled front skirt in Burda 05-2017 and marked it for future use. I had to think how to adjust it though because when Burda make their skirt patterns short, they make them SHORT. I had to 10cm to this pattern to get it to my usual "casual summer skirt" length of around 52.5 cm (~21"). Normally length adjustments are a no brainer, but with those angled front seams and separate pieces for hem facings, it took a little more effort than usual.

My white skirt on me. The angled front crosses just above knee length on me.

The only other very minor change I made is that I left off the belt loops/rope belt because I never belt anything. I did make the pointlessly complicated pockets. They do look nice, if not entirely symmetrical in my version because I messed up somewhere, but also: pointlessly complicated.

Pointlessly complicated back pocket. Yes, there were three separate pieces to make it.
Other than that, this is a straight size 42, which is my usual lower body Burda size. Although the rest of the fit is great, it's very loose at the waist. This is not because I have a small waist, at all. In fact, the opposite: I am more of a size 44 waist compared to my size 42 hips. The waistband is just really big. I realized this as I was cutting it out, because it was one of those pieces where Burda just give you a dimension to cut a rectangle, and the dimensions for the size 42 made me raise my eyebrows. But then for some reason I just carried on blithely and then was surprised when it turned out to be quite loose at the waist. Well, duh. You can see on the photo how wide the waistband is compared to the hips. I'm rectangular in shape, but not that rectangular!

White skirt on a hanger. I tried so hard to get a shot without wrinkles, but lol, no.
Overall, I'm actually delighted with this skirt. It's one of those garments where the finished product looks exactly the way I imagined it would, or maybe even better. I will say that every time I work with white fabric I am impressed all over again by people who do e.g. bridal sewing, because keeping a white fabric looking nice while you work with it is VERY HARD. I wasn't helped in this case by the fact this fabric wrinkles if you look at it funny, but even so, it needed washing as soon as I finished it. I swear to you I pressed this skirt within an inch of its life before I took these photos, but wow, no, it looks like wrinkled mess at the back. Luckily I don't really mind looking wrinkled in real life, but I was extremely frustrated by the photo taking experience here.

2. A shirt with a bird on it/June Magazine Challenge (Burda 06-2018-112)

Burda 06-2018-112 - Images from
Next up was a top with a bird on it, also my June Magazine Challenge garment. It's from Burda 06-2018, and the version in the magazine is so eye-searingly awful that initially I flipped right past it without really thinking about it. (There's also a dress version, #111, in a sad sort of beige colour, that was not any more attractive to me.) However, the technical drawing made it more interesting to me. It's a fairly simple, loose-fit woven top, but I was very taken with that pleated detail at the neckline.

My finished shirt, with a close up of the pleated placket in situ. The sleeves should be folded back in cuffs.
 I made a size 44 with my usual fit adjustments -- narrowed the shoulder, raised the armhole, squared the shoulder, did a rounded back adjustment and also added 2cm of length to the bodice. The rounded back adjustment was easier than usual because the back is gathered into the collar. Rather than put a shoulder dart in, I just gathered a little more.

The pattern is rated 3 dots by Burda, which I was initially surprised by as there aren't many pieces, there are no fastenings, etc. The source of their complexity rating is, I think, the pleated insert pieces and how you attach them to the main front bodice piece. I was moderately happy with how my pleating turned out. It is really not perfect at all, but using a busy print hides many of my sewing flaws! Inserting the pieces into the main front piece is not complicated in theory, but actually doing it was a faff. It was just a lot of trying to manipulate the fabric to get seams line up. Plus, I am not a fan of gathering and you have to gather the horizontal seam at the front. I don't know why people always tell beginners to make things with gathers, because sewing gathered seams is hard and it looks crap if you do it badly. Again, my large print disguises many sins here as well.

The pleated insert pieces before insertion

The fabric I used for this is slightly out of my usual style. For a long time I've had an Indian fabric company on my eBay watch list that sells a lot of blue and white, hand/block printed fabrics. I've been tempted quite a few times because I love a blue and white print. I finally bought this piece earlier this year as an experiment. It's not especially expensive: I got 2.25m of fabric for I think something like £9 including postage, though it did take a little while to get here from India.

Close up of the bird -- you can just about see that it appear on the lower right as you look at the photo of me wearing the top. Sleeves still not cuffed for some reason
The fabric is quite narrow -- just barely 110cm wide -- and not the greatest quality. It's 100% cotton according to the sales blurb, but it's thin and quite loosely woven and it's definitely more off-white/'natural' in colour than white. It's lovely and soft though, and the (lack of) weight made it perfect for a summer top. The block printing is good, but it's not 100% perfect, though I think that's part of the charm. I did wonder if the dye would run/fade horribly when I washed it, but it came through the wash/tumble dry looking much as it did when it went in. I'm not sure it's a fabric with tremendous longevity, but I guess I'll see how it goes. I do like the bird though, and it's fancy eyelashes, though I did have to do some creative pattern positioning to avoid Bird On Boob issues.

I originally thought these two garments would work together really well as an outfit, but the proportions don't really work the way I expected. The skirt looks better with tops that hit higher on my hip and that are more close fitting than this top. Still I am sure to get plenty of use from it if the weather stays warm here over this summer.

Next up: I've traced two new looser fit knit top patterns from Burda, and I've got one from HotPatterns that I need to print and put together, which, ugh, yuck, I hate putting together PDF patterns. Still, since construction is usually very quick with knits, I should have all three done in no time once I have my patterns sorted. :D