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 Burdastyle.ru
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 burdastyle.ru
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:


  1. Ahhhh. Now I especially understand the frustration. You could’ve potentially gotten everything you wanted and had to settle. :(

    They’re all beautiful tees but I totally get that feeling.

    What shorts pattern are you using??

  2. The triangular inset looks totally Burda-intentional. =) I still haven't found where I read about this twist thing. Maybe I was dreaming...hmm...