Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Burda of the month: 8/2014 #132.....sort of

I've almost caught up with my Burda challenge projects that I fell behind on earlier this - only one more past issue to make. And of course the current issue but I'm catching up. It probably doesn't help that I take what should be a simple, quick to make pattern and work on it for a while until it's quite complicated and detailed! But I'm really pleased with the outcome of this project so the extra work was definitely worth it.

So after lamenting that the June and July issues weren't much to my liking, I found picking a project from the August issue just as hard but because I really liked quite a few projects. I've already traced out this cropped blazer with the interesting seam lines, and was highly tempted by this panelled dress and even this kimono style top interested me. But instead I went with this long sleeve gathered knit top, 8/2014 #132:


But I proceeded to change it quite a lot so that my version looks like this:


So what did I change? Apart from the obvious changes - sleeves cropped to the elbows and the gathers on the opposite side (don't know how I managed that!), the other changes are more subtle and arising from my fabric choice and fitting needs. I'm listing them here mainly for my own purposes in case I make this again in future, but if anyone else is thinking about making this top it might be useful too.

1. Raised the gathering line by 10cm so that it sat at my waist line instead of my hips, and shortened the length of the top overall to make it less like a tunic. I could see from the model photo that those gathers sat low on her hips, and I just figured it would be more flattering at my narrowest part so I reduced the length of the bodice above that gathering line until it sat at my waist. This also had the effect of shortening the top which is good because anything finishing mid thigh on me just feels dowdy. I didn't change the asymmetrical hem line, though it does seem less angled across the front, but at the side under those gathers the hem still rises upward:


2. Took in the side seams quite drastically to improve the fit. This pattern is quite shapeless aside from those gathers, and since I've made my top in a wonderful soft but firm white ponte knit instead of a thin drapey knit the pattern was just way too boxy for my liking. So I took the top in 3cm on both sides to get a closer, body skimming fit.


3. Added a centre back seam for a swayback adjustment. Unsurprisingly, I had a lot of fabric at the back because it was way too big and the fabric too stiff for it to pool in my swayback area like a thinner fabric would. Look how much excess there is in the back to begin with, even with the new side seams pinned in:


I cut it open down the centre back and pinned out A LOT of excess, mimicking the curve of my back (and my slouchy posture):


The final product is not perfect as there still are a few wrinkles and ripples, but it's a much better fit:


4. Added an exposed neckline zipper. Before I even cut out the fabric I pinched out 3cm from both the front and back necklines because by the looks of the model it was a very wide neckline. I added an exposed zip to the newly created centre back seam partly to make the centre back seam look like a design feature but also to help get the top over my head! The neckline is probably still wide enough to fit easily enough, but I like the look of exposed zips anyway and I think it gives the back view of this top a lot more interest.


5. Sewed down the pleats. I sewed each pleat down for a few centimetres away from the seam line instead of just folding them down because I found that it sat flatter at the waistline seam line that way. I didn't quite line up those pleats though, as this close up photo shows but no one else will ever notice:


So overall I like this pattern - albeit with the changes I made. I think the original pattern would work fine if you made it in a slinky knit and like the slouchy, tunic style top but I prefer structure and form to my clothes and I think the changes I made really helped that. If you are looking for a simple top with a bit of twist then I can highly recommend this pattern.


Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Winner of the Marbella dress pattern and a history of sewing machines

Thanks everyone for leaving comments on my last post - and particularly thanks to Kennis the designer of the pattern who left a comment clarifying the fitting issues I had with the pattern.

As promised, I did a random number selection for the winner of the pattern which came up as Busy Lizzie who said in her comment that she already has this pattern, so I did it a second time:

Number 8 comment is from Rachel who said:

Thanks Rachel, I'm glad you liked the review! And now I hope you can make a version that you'll get much wear from too and many compliments as well. Please email me at KristyLChan "at" outlook.com so I can email you the details.

And because this post would be extremely boring to everyone other than Rachel, I'd thought I'd share this infographic from Terry's Fabrics website on the history of the sewing machine - the thought of a sewing machine war is very funny!

History of Sewing Machine by Terrys Fabrics
History of Sewing Machine by Terrys Fabrics.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Itch to Stitch: The Marbella Dress in spring floral and a pattern giveaway!

When I accidentally came home month last with a few unplanned purchases from the Remnant Warehouse during their recent sale (admitted to in this post), I thought about making a boat neck tulip shaped dress from the vibrant cotton sateen I had purchased. Much like this short sleeved version I made in fuschia cotton drill using one of my most favourite Burda patterns - #128 of 8/2009 (which I've also made in elbow length sleeve version and even a maternity version!)

But of course since my sewing supplies are now spread between my house, my parents house and the back of my car during open house inspections (where I stash lots of bits and pieces actually!) the pattern was proving a little hard to locate. Then out of the blue I received an email from Kennis Wong, the designer behind Itch to Stitch patterns, offering me her Marbella dress pattern to try out (and presumably publicise here on my blog). And it turns out the Marbella is a boat neck tulip skirt dress, exactly what I was after so of course I accepted.

Image via Itch to Stitch
Now you've probably noticed I don't sew many indie patterns, or get involved in pattern testing. To cut a long rant short, while I think it's great that people are following their dreams to make a sewing pattern, I'd prefer to buy patterns that have been drafted by properly trained pattern makers. I also don't want to pay a lot of money for basic patterns - wrap skirts, shapeless shift dresses and tracksuit pants are just not unique enough for me to part with top dollar. I also don't like pattern testing because I don't like the pressure to make something in a given time and I find it awkward giving criticisms.

So why have I done it this time? Well, Kennis has been sewing for more than just a few years, and while she's not a trained pattern maker the Marbella dress has been pattern tested and reviewed (by more generous bloggers than me!) so I thought I'd give it a chance. Plus it was exactly the pattern I was after so I took that as a sign. And here's my version:



I have to say, I think this fabric is so pretty that it wouldn't matter what pattern I used it would still look good. But that said, I do quite like this pattern although it took quite a bit of work to get it fitting right and it's still not quite perfect but acceptable enough to wear.

The good:

  • the pattern not only comes in sizes 00 to 20, but also comes in cup sizes A to D which hopefully means that for most of us there's no need to do a  fiddly bust adjustment. I made an A cup and the fit at the front came out perfectly:

  • the PDF is better than most I've seen - it has layers built in so that you can select what size to print so you don't have numerous confusing lines. I printed out two sizes so that I could grade between my bust and hip measurements, and only having two lines made it much easier. Also the pages are watermarked to help make it easier to put together, and the pattern pieces are well located on the pages so that you don't get a pattern that is on four corners of four separate pieces of paper.
  • the dress has a yoke at the front and back plus side panels which would really look great colour blocked or piped, although I've gone with a fabric that mostly hides these details!

The iffy:

  • fitting patterns to our bodies is such an individual thing that no pattern could ever be perfectly drafted for, so it's almost silly to criticise on a fitting issue. But I'm about to anyway, mainly because I did notice the same issue I had on a few of the tester's versions. I used an A cup pattern for the bodice, and the fit on the front was perfect but the back was really quite large with a bulge in the centre of my back. And unfortunately you can't discover that until the dress is pretty much fully assembled so I had to unpick the yoke, princess seams and side seams as well as the invisible dress to take it in 1cm at each seam line at the back. And as for the bulge at the back, I noticed that the pattern piece for the back princess seam is as curved (if not more curved) than the front:

I didn't have any other princess seamed patterns around to compare it to see if this is normal, but even though I have quite sticky out shoulder blades I don't have any boobs on my back so I couldn't quite understand why the curve would be so pronounced! Anyway I straightened the curve out and it then fitted much better.
  • I had a huge amount of excess fabric at the top of the skirt at the back. I tried pinning it out in another dart to get a better fit but then it was too tight to sit down so I had just had to leave it as is. It is noticeable though (the wrinkles below my belt there at the back):

I think it's happening because there is so much extra ease in the front due to the pleats, that it gets pulled around to the back when I move because the back skirt is quite fitted. When I try on my other tulip shaped dresses I can see the same issue (although to a lesser extent) so it's not a criticism of this pattern specifically, just an observation of this style of dress.

My verdict:

I quite like this pattern, despite my complaining above! I didn't make a muslin so it was to be expected that some fitting alterations involving substantial unpicking would be needed. But now I've got those bits sorted out the next time should be much easier and quicker to sew because this pattern isn't complicated or difficult. So I probably will make another version eventually, in contrasting fabrics if I could ever decide on what fabrics to use.

Want to try it yourself?

So hopefully I havne't put you off this pattern, it really is a lovely style and having to work on the fit is no different from practically any pattern. I see that the pattern is currently on sale over at Itch to Stitch, but Kennis has graciously given me a pattern to give away to a lucky reader as well. It's a PDF pattern so it's open to anyone living anywhere with an internet connection! Just leave a comment about what you like on this post by Wednesday 12 November, and I'll pick someone at random.

Disclaimer - I was given this pattern free of charge to try with no strings attached and I think I've given an unbiased review. I was offered an affiliate link for patterns purchased via my blog but I declined the offer - if you choose to buy it, good for you and Kennis! 

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Halloween sewing - the simple edition

Halloween is certainly growing on me. Before having children I used to be firmly in the bah humbug camp ("it's an imported tradition"/"no relevance for Australia"/"begging for lollies is unseemly"/etc) but now I realise that it's just an opportunity for the kids to dress up and have fun with their friends - but I still am on the fence about the trick or treating part, it just seems to go against everything we tell our kids (don't each too much sugar! don't talk to strangers! don't go around demanding food!)

Halloween in Sydney is generally quite hot, which rules out quite a lot of costume so this year I opted for simple and sweet. Those sexy Halloween costumes make me shudder, especially when seen on young people. Since my kids are still young, I decided to go with cute and sweet instead:

Anna wanted to dress up as a cat, but in a nearly six year old's mind every dress up costume must involve a tutu or twirly skirt, so her cat costume consists of a black t-shirt that I quickly made up using a simple Kwik Sew t-shirt pattern and an elastic waist skirt made of six layers of black polyester organza (because I have a huge roll of the stuff) with the edges rolled stitch to try to make them stick out even more. A tail made of the same black knit fabric, strands of white wool at the tip and stuffed rather lumpily was safety pinned to the back of the skirt (so she can wear the skirt again in future separately) and a store bought cat ear headband. And how could I not mention the face painting? It was what sealed the deal:

Of course whatever big sister gets, little brother wants too. So I made Toby a mouse costume by sewing an oval of white felt to the front of one his grey t-shirts, a stuffed tail pinned to the back of the shirt, and a mouse ear headband made of felt and hand stitched for that twee look. Worn with a pair of grey cotton knit pants and matching face paint he was good to go too:

Don't let these very cute photos fool you - these two can be quite scary when they choose to be!

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Fabric Pop Up Store (Warning - fabric stash enabling post!)

Earlier this week I received an email from a reader asking if I could publicise her pop up fabric blog store here on my blog. I don't often do this sort of thing, but after looking at the beautiful fabrics over Designer Fabrics Australia at I decided that I just had to share the link.

It turns out that the blog owner, Liz, is a fellow fabric hoarder who has amassed a huge amount of very beautiful and designer fabrics on her travels around the world, including from Paris and the New York fashion district. Unlike myself though, she has acknowledged that she has too much fabric and will probably never have the time to sew them up. So very smartly she has decided to refine her stash and make them available to us fellow fabricholics (provided you're in Australia though).

There is quite a range of different colours and fabric types, in various lengths and some designer and some not. These are all one off pieces, so when the fabric is gone, it's gone. And postage is via Australia Post envelopes so it's quite reasonable (cheaper than buying these fabrics from New York I'd say).

Even if you're not in the market to buy some fabric I can recommend having a sticky beak because Liz has posted some lovely inspiration pictures to go with the fabrics which are interesting enough on their own.

I haven't bought anything yet, but am seriously considering the length of Marc Jacobs exotic birds silk crepe de chine - it's not my usual style but it's very cute. Plus Spotlight is currently having a $5 Vogue pattern sale at the moment which means I could pick up the perfect pattern to go with it too!

Photo from Designer Fabrics Australia

Apologies to everyone's wallets and stashes in advance, but I thought that some of you might like to know!

Sunday, 19 October 2014

July Burda of the Month: 7/2014 #114 Sporty top for the non sporty type

Powering on with my catch up of Burda of the month projects, I made a quick knit top from the July issue. Admittedly I did trace this pattern out a few months ago, but as we all know actually getting started is what takes the most time sometimes!

Similar to the June issue, not much in this issue caught my eye but I always seem to be in need of short sleeved tops in summer, especially those that are little bit different from the standard tee:


I made the contrast v-neck raglan tee 7/2014 #114:


Burda has styled this pattern as a sporty look and I did see that Allison C recently made this pattern in a funky black and purple for gymwear. Unfortunately the closest I get to sporty is tying my hair up in a pony tail - I don't even own a pair of exercise shoes! But this top goes well with a pair of shorts I made last year for hanging out barefoot around the house on a lazy Sunday afternoon:


Burda rates this as an intermediate skill level pattern which I'd agree with. It's essentially a raglan tee which is simple to construct, but getting that bottom point of the v shaped band at the front was really difficult. I re-did it several times before it got close to being acceptable, and whilst I'm calling this top done there is still a little bit of bulging there at the point:


This could be due to the difference in stiffness between the solid fabric (a thick ponte knit) and the stripe fabric (a thinner ponte knit), but is probably just the way I sewed it. In her review Allison mentions that the instrucitons are really good to get a nice finish on that point, but I have to admit to not reading the instructions - the magazine is in storage somewhere with the rest of my sewing stuff so I had to wing it. Lesson learnt - one should at least glance at the instructions before sewing, even if they are Burda instructions!

Because I used a striped fabric I decided to cut the back on a fold rather than have a centre back seam to save on stripe matching. Of course this means that I have a lot of fabric pooling in my sway back which sewing that centre back seam would have resolved, but I realised that all of my RTW tshirts do the same so I'm not bothered by it:



I didn't find this too low at the front which Allison mentioned in her review and which also seems to be the case in this version made by an attractive Russian sewist over at the Russian Burda Style site, but looking at these photos my band seems extraordinarily large, particularly there at the front. Maybe it was a case of dodgy tracing on my behalf but it seems to have avoided that problem for me at least.

Overall I don't mind this pattern at all, and will make it again if I can find two complementary fabrics - I'm hopeless at colour and print matching. If I make this again I will read the instructions to do that centre v neck point a bit better, and would also cut the v neck of the band on a fold rather than have a centre front seam there - I couldn't see the purpose of it at all. I would also use a softer knit than a ponte knit, because the band is doubled it gets quite thick and didn't press well at all so I had to topstitch around the edge of the band to get it to sit flat.

And now onto my next project - I feel a dress coming on, since it's been a while that I've made a dress and now that it's spring I definitely need something cute and comfortable to wear.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

June Burda of the Month: 6/2014 #123 - the not so cheeky shorts

June Burda issue - am I glad to see the back of you! Nothing in particular caught my attention in the June issue, and I was having a real mental block in trying to visualise something to make for my Burda of the month challenge. Honestly, if I wasn't making myself do one from each issue this one would have been put on the bookshelf and forgotten about. But it's not you Burda, it's me! I've come to realise how incredibly difficult it must be for the Burda designers to come up with so many patterns each month that cater for people of varying ages, sizes, styles, sewing skills, seasons, and whether they are new to Burda magazine or whether they have been collecting them for years.

So when I received the June issue we were in the depths of winter, which probably didn't help me pick a project from it. But now we are heading into summer with a few hot days already, I finally decided to make a pair of shorts, because every summer I need a few pairs of shorts to survive hanging out at the playground and yet I never seem to have any! Here's my interpretation of Burda 6/2014 #123 sailor shorts:


The pattern and model photo looks like this:


Kwik Sew do a similar version which I've seen made up by a few people around the internets and I really quite like the look. It's an interesting pattern because essentially the outside front section is a decorative flap that is attached at the inside leg seams and the side seams below the buttons, and underneath is another layer that is basically a short band across the front only as long as that zipper:



There are no pockets which is not very useful in shorts, especially when it looks like there are side pockets. I guess you could put some pockets in the side seam, but it might add extra bulk of which I certainly don't need. I think the back could certainly use some welt pockets to break up that expanse of fabric, because the back view is quite plain:


Now obviously I do not possess long, lithe or tanned legs such as Burda's model, so I took the sensible option of adding quite a bit of length to the shorts, about 10cm I think.  These are still pretty short by my standards, but they are almost veering into frumpy territory, as the front view is not always very flattering:


I'll just have to make sure I stand around posing instead, and develop my own "blue steel" type pose!


The fabric I've used is a heavy stretch cotton bought some time ago from possbily the Remnant Warehouse. It's a printed fabric, light grey with a black cross hatching that gives the impression of a linen type weave, minus the annoying wrinkles. And it goes great with my favourite Liberty cotton shirt too, which is a summer staple for me.


Now onto the July issue - I've already traced out the pattern and cut out the fabric so I'm well on the way to catching up on my missed issues.  

And thanks for the well wishes on selling our house - there has already been a great deal of interest in it, with a lot of people attending the first open for inspection. One down and three more weeks to go before the auction......