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Manequim magazine - March 2015

21 April 2015, 13:33

The latest issue of Manequim magazine is here (well, latest to its international subscribers, anyway – it takes a while to make its way to me), and even though it’s not a hugely fantastic issue, it’s still better than the last few Burda magazines IMHO, which have been in a real slump this year! But let’s take a look at my picks for this month, where there’s hardly a ruffle in sight…

There are only three Plus-sized patterns in most issues of Mannequim, but the selections this month look really wearable – a casual day dress, a tunic with gathered sleeves, and a versatile trouser pattern.

Instead of the usual “Patterns in the style of X designer” section (maybe they’ve run out of iconic designers?), this month we get 1950s-style patterns instead. I’m not hugely interested in this decade most of the time, but I love this sleeveless blouse with the gathered bust seam and tie neck. I think I have a piece of silk or two in my stash that may be perfect for it, too!

Now, I’ve been subscribed to Manequim for a few years now, but this is a first in all that time – lingerie patterns! Squeeeeeeeal! Mostly the patterns are for lounging or pyjamas, like this robe and pyjama set, but I think the camisole might be nice on its own, too. I need to do some comparison with the Seamwork Savannah camisole pattern (which I already own), and not just because the two magazines have vastly different idea of what their readers want to see in a lingerie model!

Carrying on with the lingerie feature (of course!), we have patterns for both a bra and boxer shorts. Though I’m not sure how helpful the bra pattern actually is, since they’ve given it a regular pattern size (38) instead of a bra size (say, 30D). So I guess you’d have to compare the pattern pieces to your own bra draft, by which point you might as well just make your own pattern…

Two interesting patterns here, but neither I could particularly see myself wearing as-is – I like to idea of little sheer panels in a shirt’s sleeves, but I very rarely wear this sort of button-down shirt. And you need to look closely at the trousers, but they’ve got a really cool pleating feature going on at the waistband, which I’m interested to apply to a TNT trousers draft to see how it looks since I’m definitely not into the wide hems! (Also, is it just me or does Madalynne have a Brazilian doppelganger??)

And finally, there was a feature chock full of blazer patterns, but as I don’t really wear those very much, I was more interested in the handful of patterns they paired with them, like this stripey, strappy vest top. Unfortunately, they covered it up quite a bit in the feature, so I’ve pasted the photo from the “Mix and Match” bit at the back so you can see it a bit better.

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Comment [2]

Ask Melissa - activewear fabric and larger busts

15 April 2015, 12:35

Like anyone who’s had a site for a while (nearly 10 years, in my case!), I get an astounding amount of random email questions sent to me each day. Answering every single one of them takes up a considerable amount of my time, and sadly, I never get to reply to as many as I’d like. And frankly, sometimes I just get sick of telling people over and over that just because I posted about X magazine five years ago doesn’t mean I know where you can buy it! Or telling people that no, I don’t work for Burda/Patrones/Manequim/Lekala/whatever and I really can’t help you with your customer service issue.

For some reason, though, I received an unusually large amount of random questions while I was on holiday in NYC. I was moaning about it on Twitter, and Stacy suggested I compile them into an “Ask Melissa” column, which I thought was an excellent idea. I’ve spared you the truly random, boring ones, or the ones too specific to be applicable to anyone else, and instead just included a few here which others may be interested in.

Activewear Fabric Suppliers


I came across your website today and wanted to find out where you source the fabric for the sports clothes you make. Would you be able to tell me?

I’ve compiled a big ol’ list of suppliers (which I do my best to keep maintained!) over here!

Support for Large Busts


I’ve been admiring your work for several years now, having discovered you through your many rave reviews at patternreview.com. I’m not the best with knits, but I am about to try this summer, starting with your workout wear. I do CrossFit and high intensity classes, and am just giving up on finding clothes that will support my busty bust but fit my small rib cage. I am 32 DDD to G; can you recommend any of your patterns over the others for supporting large breasts? We spend a lot of time bouncing, upside down, etc. and form-fitting and supportive would be dreamy. And I see you even do bras; another reason I admire you!

With girls like that, you’re really going to need a very good sports bra underneath anything you’re wearing. I’ve got a good friend with 32I breasts and ShockAbsorber really seems to be THE brand for the well endowed. Grab a couple of those and wear them underneath your pretty, self-sewn exercise gear to get the best of both worlds, really! My XYT Workout Top has a built-in bra, but it’s really only going to be supportive enough for A-C cups, really, because it’s a compression-style bra, and larger breasts really need encapsulation-style, which is a MILLION times more difficult to sew on your own (and one I’m unlikely to produce a pattern for with all the engineering requirements involved!).

As for what to wear overtop of your supportive sports bra, well, in all of my top patterns I provide FBA instructions so you should choose a pattern size based on your High Bust measurement (while wearing your sports bra!), and then size up just the bust area accordingly. This should give you a much better fit in the body and bust, but of course, try this out in some cheap fabric first!

In terms of which is the easiest to do an FBA on, it’s probably my Surf to Summit Top pattern, as that has princess seams.

Exercise in hot & humid climates


Came across your write-up on Seam Work Mag about Activewear Fabrics. Very
insightful, by the way. I am in the process of starting a sportswear
apparel line in Africa, specifically in Nigeria.

I’m still trying to narrow down what the best fabric or combination of
fabrics would be best in this climate (hot, humid). Apart from the ones you
wrote about, are there any others you would recommend?

First of all, best of luck with your new sportswear line, that’s super exciting! Living in London, I only have the smallest personal experiences with running in hot weather (we might get a handful of days each summer where it’s over 30C/86F!), but from everything I’ve read, the main issue with exercising in hot and humid weather is directing sweat away from the body, and preventing chafing.

The first issue can be addressed through using wicking fabrics, like Supplex and aerated polyesters like DriFit, that move the moisture away from the body to the surface of the fabric where it can evaporate more easily. The chafing issue is mostly addressed through design – moving seamlines away from high-friction areas of the body wherever possible, and making these flatlocked (as flat as possible) when they can’t be moved.

Spoonflower activewear fabrics?


I’ve been a follower for quite some time and am a long time runner. Your story is quite inspirational. I recently purchased several of your patterns and am finally taking the plunge to make active wear. I found your post about where to buy work out fabric very helpful but have a follow up question. I am interested in spoonflower’s performance fabric and see that you enjoyed the pique more than the straight performance knit. My question is this: would you recommend the pique for just the tops for your patterns? And would the straight performance knit work for leggings?

Good question! The Spoonflower performance fabrics are fairly similar, but the Performance Knit has a smoother hand, and slightly less stretch, whereas the Performance Pique is more matte with a very subtle texture (far, far less than most piques!), and a bit more stretch, though in both, you get a bit of white show-through if it’s stretched nearly to the limit so you’ll want to try and avoid that.

The super, super important thing to remember, though is that BOTH Spoonflower performance fabrics only stretch in one direction – not two! Nearly all activewear patterns are drafted for two-way stretch fabrics (that is, fabrics that stretch both horizontally and vertically, not just horizontally). So if you make up my patterns straight off the pattern in a one-way stretch fabric, you’ll find that they feel a bit too short!

So you’ll need to add a little vertical length into my patterns, like I showed on my purple zigzag XYT Top.

In nearly all of my pattern instructions, I include adding length as one of the Common Fit Alterations, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to do, but I’d advise you make up the pattern in two-way stretch fabric a few times first to perfect the fit and get the hang of it before you graduate to using one-way stretch.

In terms of whether the Spoonflower fabrics will work for leggings, yes, with the caveats above! Myself and others have made shorts and leggings from them, and they’re a nice weight for tops or bottoms, in my opinion.

(And remember you can buy specially designed Spoonflower-printed fabrics for some of my patterns, too!)

——
So that’s it for now! I hope you enjoyed these answers, and, umm, please don’t send me any additional random email questions for the next column. Because seriously, I get enough already!!

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Comment [9]

Burda magazine April 2015

9 April 2015, 12:45

Apologies for the delay in reviewing this issue! I know a fair few of you use my reviews to decide whether or not to buy them. My subscription copy arrived before we left for NYC, but I was too pressed for time in finishing my jeans and getting the other posts scheduled that I didn’t have time to scan this until after we returned home.

But there should still be time to order this should you like any styles more than I do!

“Hi, I’m too thin. Can you show me a dress that will instantly add 50 pounds to my bust, waist, and hips, rendering me something akin to the Michelin Man caught in a ruffle explosion? You can? Great!

This is probably my favourite from the issue, as I always enjoy a good 3D construction – in this boxy top, the back wraps over the shoulder to form the sleeve. The square neckline is also a good look, but I’m unsure about the overall silhouette. Perhaps it could be improved by a fabric with a softer hand?

This drop-waisted dress is definitely channelling the 1920s, though the kangaroo pocket modernises it a bit. There’s also top version version of this pattern that could really work if you’ve only got a metre of fabric to play with but, beware that super LOW neckline!

Here are two striped dresses – the one on the left seems to be made in way too stiff a fabric for the style (see the orange and beige version further down), but the concept seems sound. The one shown on the right has a clever wrap style that would work for a lot of body types, and also has the advantage of illustrated instructions, too.

On first glance I love this designer Cacharel dress with its boat neck and lattice back, but IMHO the recent La Maison Victor version is far more wearable and bra-friendly. I bought a dress with a very similar silhouette (nearly identical to the Maison Victor one, in fact) last summer in France, and it’s a style I’ve seen all over in NYC and London. If you still don’t trust me that this shape dress with back interest is a serious trend, then look no further than the latest Vogue designer patterns

Behold, a skirt with a built in crotch arrow! With bonus crotch ruffle, in case the eye wasn’t drawn to your nether regions enough already…

These high waisted trousers are the vintage reprint pattern for this issue (though it was easy to overlook as there wasn’t an original sketch included) and they come paired with a boxy top to match. To be honest, I’m unsure about this look – mostly unsure whether I dislike the patterns, or just the gross shiny fabric they made them in.

I don’t normally like many jackets, but this oversized blazer looks very modern and easy to wear, especially made up in a calming neutral. The dress on the right is the same pattern as one of the stripey ones above, but sewn in a more appropriate fabric, so the back flows rather than sticks out like a tail.

The Plus section is unfortunately mostly horrific caftans, but this sheath dress looks wonderful – classy and easy to fit, with room for customization and a nice split skirt detail.

If you’ve got this issue, what did I miss? Were there any that you loved that I loathed?

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Comment [3]

A week in New York City

7 April 2015, 15:03

James and I have been talking about returning to New York City at some point for a while now. We last visited on our honeymoon back in 2010 and had a fantastic time. We’ve also since acquired a rather expensive immersive theatre habit and really wanted to see Sleep No More before it closes (I’m guessing later this year). We’d seen Punchdrunk’s London show, The Drowned Man 4 and 5 times over the course of a year, and knew that a similar show, based on Macbeth, would be well worth the trip. So James booked the flights for my birthday and tickets to see it twice in that week.

And then we heard about the immersive show Then She Fell (set in a disused hospital in Brooklyn, based on the works of Lewis Carroll, and limited to 15 audience members per showing), so booked that, too. And then ended up seeing Sleep No More for a third time directly after the second showing. Because it’s that good. Frankly, it’s two weeks later and I’m still kinda living in a dream world in the fictional McKittrick Hotel. Snippets of songs get stuck in my head, people say things that trigger a memory from the show, I look down and see a drip of fake blood on my shoe from one of the scenes… that sort of thing. I honestly cannot recommend either show enough. So, so worth the money.

But this isn’t a site about immersive theatre, nor is it about the excessive amount of cocktails and brunch we consumed, nor the sleep we didn’t get, or the great quality time we got to spend with my cousin in Brooklyn or the many friends who’d moved back there. So I’ll stick to the sewing-related highlights or we’ll be here all day!

Of course I couldn’t go to New York and not visit the Garment District, but my fabric stash is looking pretty healthy these days and I didn’t really have an entire day to kill wandering around. So I enlisted the help of some professionals! Oona and Ginger were my fantastic tour guides through Mood, Spandex House, and the myriad little haberdashery shops in the Garment District, but also in choosing a man creche (err, bar) with great cocktails!


Here we are each holding up our most obnoxious Spandex House purchases. Yes, mine has bacon all over it.

We made a tactical assault through Mood, mostly hitting up the wool jerseys to get some luuuuuuuuscious merinos, but also because I wanted some super stretchy denim to make more leggings. Then they introduced me to Spandex House, which, on top of having literally anything you could image printed onto lycra, also have a sizeable stash of wicking supplexes in great colours upstairs for $12/yd.


My purchases!

I also had a shopping list of various threads and zippers (zippers are so freaking cheap in America it makes me cry!!), and then I also picked up a magnetic pin catcher since it was half the UK price, and a light bulb for my US-import sewing machine. Which ended up being the wrong type. Sad face.

It was so, so nice to finally meet up with Oona and Ginger, and I love that just sharing a common hobby means we can instantly connect without any kind of initial akwardness, and the same was true when I met up with Carrie for a Sunday run through Brooklyn!

We started in Chinatown, crossing the Williamsburg Bridge into Brooklyn, where she led me along the waterfront to some amazing views!

It was pretty crazy windy and cold along the water, but totally worth it, as she was an expert tour guide in amoungst all our general chatting. We carried on up through Brooklyn, across the bridge into Queens, and then we parted for a final selfie before I carried on over the Queensboro Bridge and then back down 1st Avenue (past the United Nations building!) to my brunch date in the Lower East Side.

In total, I ran for about 2hr15min and through three boroughs and across three (very steep!) bridges, too. So not too shabby considering I’m running London marathon in a few weeks.

I also just managed to squeeze in a visit with Nora from Kollabora just before we left, too, which is always a pleasure. I’ve known Nora back from her days before the US BurdaStyle site was starting up, and whenever we’re together it always feels like no time has passed at all.

And, as a parting glimpse, here’s some final shots of me on the High Line with my newest birthday jeans and my Patrones winter coat, made in 2011 and still going strong!

It was so cold and wintry the whole time we were there that both saw very active duty. But I’m not sad at all that we returned to Springtime in London, as I’m more than ready to sew and wear some lighter-weight styles!

But yes. Go see Sleep No More. At least twice.

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Comment [9]

Manequim magazine - February 2015

27 March 2015, 13:29

When this latest issue of Manequim magazine landed in my post box, I had to stifle a laugh and a double-take that I hadn’t accidentally received a copy of Seventeen magazine from my childhood. Could they have possibly chosen a more 1990s, off-putting cover image?? Like, totally!

Here are the Plus patterns this month: a tunic, simple cowl dres (similar to that Vogue Donna Karan one everyone in the blogosphere sewed up!), and a parka jacket.

Are twist dresses done yet? This one feels really similar to a Pattern Magic design, albeit with a novel back.

From the designer (whom I’ve never heard of & didn’t note down) style section this month, a cute little skort with a panelled front.

I absolutely adore all parts of this image – the styling of the photo, the fabrics the garments were made from, and the patterns themselves! The pussybow blouse and trousers aren’t particularly special, but that pleated waistcoat – wow! I’d personally add some sleeves to make it a more wearable jacket, but isn’t the front shape lovely?

This asymmetric, side-tie dress might be my favourite from this issue, but it’s really hard to see the details in this particular photo. It was featured later on in the segment where they mix and match the different garments laid flat, and you can see the details much better there.

There’s a special feature on skirts this month, with a lot of wearable designs. This first, wrap skirt isn’t offered in my size, but the design lines mean you can take prettty much any skirt that fits you and draw on the new seamlines to recreate the look yourself (and before I get asked for the 456876546th time, this is what I generally do if a pattern isn’t offered in my size or one size up or down).

And finally, from the same feature, I really liked the seamlines and subtle colourblocking on this pencil skirt. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a hem detail quite like this before!

I’m currently on a much-needed holiday – please keep in mind that, while I will be reading comments as they come in, I will not be able to respond until I am back home.

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Steeplechase Leggings - on sale now!

11 March 2015, 21:15

My Steeplechase Leggings pattern is finally available to buy! Yay!


How awesome is the cover illustration I commissioned from Lauren Cox? I wanted to change up the design a bit for 2015, so I got in touch with her and I created a back cover for the first time as well!

The official pattern description:
These leggings have no inseams! Instead, a curved, outer seam runs from the back of the ankle up to the centre front, where it joins a separate yoke piece. There’s an optional, hidden back pocket, elasticated waistband, and your choice of three lengths: biker short, capri, or full length leggings.

I am seriously SO excited to finally release this pattern – I’ve made up so many samples for myself (and my athlete-model niece) and I even ran a half marathon in a pair on Sunday, too! Even if you’ve never had problems with inner-leg chafing, you’ll suddenly wonder how you ever managed without these – they’re just so comfortable to wear!

And if you’re an equestrian, then you’re in luck, because these are great for riding, especially if you add a little bit of silicone grip to the inner knees – which I’ve marked on the pattern for you, because these pieces look weird! Seriously, get your “WTF face” ready when you look at these pattern pieces, because I guarantee they’re unlike anything you’ve seen before! But they’re still super quick to sew up – most of my pattern testers said they only took 2-3hrs to make, including piecing the pattern together!

But don’t take my word for it, I pulled out some great quotes from my pattern testers (who will seriously hold me to account if anything’s not right, which is why I love them so much!):

Annnnnnd, by way of a launch celebration, I’ve got a coupon code for you all! Use SADDLE10 for 10% off all purchases from shop.fehrtrade.com until 25 March (my birthday!). (Paypal users take note that you’ll go quite far through the checkout process before the discount box appears, but it will!)

And of course, keep your eyes peeled here over the next few weeks while I show off some of the samples I’ve had to keep quiet for so long!

buy!

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Comment [9]

Book review: The Great British Sewing Bee: Fashion with Fabric

26 February 2015, 14:01

This is not an unbiased review – if you recall, I worked behind the scenes on the production of the third series of The Great British Sewing Bee tv show, then again on the Children in Need specials (which were actually recorded after the main series, despite airing first), and right after that was done, I started work on the book which accompanies the series, The Great British Sewing Bee: Fashion with Fabric, under the amazing, dedicated, and super talented Claire-Louise Hardie (aka “the thriftystitcher”).

But even though I spent several months as part of the sewing team who developed, adapted, sewed, illustrated, and assisted with the patterns in this book, I have zero financial stake in the sales of this book – I’ve already been paid for my work, regardless if there are zero sales or several million. So this review is unbiased in that regard anyway.

But really, I mostly want to show you all what’s in this book, because a) myself and the team worked really freaking hard to deliver a book chock full of quality patterns, and b) because it really is the perfect book that intermediate/advanced sewists have been craving for a long, long, time. Don’t get me wrong – there are some easy, beginner styles in here, too, but there are loads of projects that are more advanced and have really interesting shapes and design lines.

It should really say something that I spent months of my life sewing up these patterns (both the ones you see as samples in the book, but many, many test versions you don’t see) and I still want to make a ton more. Seriously.

But let’s start with the patterns, shall we?

It’s a great sign that the pattern sheet stack is nearly as thick as the book itself, and each sheet is labelled on the upper right corner so you can see which patterns are printed on that sheet as you flip through the stack. The patterns need to be traced (here’s how I trace a pattern, btw), but they’re colour coded and really nicely spaced out – waaaaaay easier on the eyes than Burda’s pattern sheets, for example, and the sheets themselves are printed on hefty paper, a bit like the old KwikSew patterns. And the sheets aren’t freaking enormous like Vogue’s ones that cover my entire lounge!

Here’s the size chart, which ranges from size 8 (B32.5/W25.5/H36in) to 20 (B45.5/W38.5/H49.5in). Since there are also kids and mens patterns, too, there are (obviously!) different size charts for them. But there are also a few garments in the book which you draft from your own measurements, so if you’re outside the size range you can still make a few things (like Lorna’s curtain skirt from episode three!).

There’s the obligitary section at the start of any sewing book explaining about the supplies you need, how to trace a pattern, sew hand stitches, etc. To be honest, I always just skip past these since I know what I’m doing. But there’s also a section on common fit alterations like an FBA or trouser fitting alterations, too.

But onto the patterns themselves! I haven’t highlighted every single one, but rather pulled out my favourites (or ones where I’ve sewn the sample you see in the book!). For each pattern, you also get a “hack” variation which re-uses the same basic pattern pieces but in a new way to get a totally different look. IMHO, Claire-Louise did a great job in putting new twists on these patterns and showing how you can really make them your own.

In the Cottons section, you get a pattern for capri trousers, which you may recognise from the first episode!

Now, I’ve never been particularly on Team Jumpsuit, but I really like this jumpsuit pattern, and it totally grew on me throughout the book development progress – so much so that I’m planning on making this myself! If you’re not on Team Jumpsuit yet either, then you may be interested in the “hacks” for this pattern, which allow you to make a frilled camisole top or casual trousers instead.

Here you can see the adorable girls board shorts (which I made!), which combine jersey and quilting cottons in a really nice and easy-to-wear way. There are also patterns included for the longer, boy’s boxer-style shorts and the elephant ballerina costume, both of which featured in episode two.

And for the men in your life, you get patterns for a classic men’s teeshirt and cargo shorts, in addition to drafting instructions for a kilt, too. I’m proud to say that I sewed the samples for the teeshirt and the cargo shorts sewn in the book, and they’re both really modern styled – exactly the sort of fit your man would expect.

The Leather jacket is probably the most advanced pattern in the book, but my god is it ever lovely! There are full instructions for working with leather, sewing that zippered, welt pocket, and the pattern includes separately-drafted pieces for the facing and lining, too. The “hack” for this is a tweed and faux-leather version that is really very stylish, too.

In fact, having recently tried on my muslin for the Burda Jan 15 jacket yet again and found it’s still not fitting right in the shoulders, my next move is going to be to frankenpattern the Burda style lines onto this leather jacket pattern, as I know this fits me well from trying on the early samples!

And now we come to my absolute favourite pattern in this book, possibly favourite from the entire last year – the Drapey Dress. In my opinion, this pattern alone is worth the purchase price of the book. When we were developing this pattern, each and every one of us on the sewing team tried it on, and everyone looked great in it – seriously!

It’s an avant-garde shape, with a wide fit through the bust and shoulders, narrowing to a slimmer fit through the hips, but the length and diagonal lines make it really slimming indeed, and the side profile is really minimal, too. It also has pockets! Pockets! You can make it with long or short sleeves, so it works for most seasons, and it slips over the head, so there’s no fastenings to sew, either. It’s also easy to sew on a regular sewing machine (no overlocker needed!), and when I’ve sewn these, I’ve constructed the entire front on my sewing machine even though I own an overlocker. Best of all is how I feel when I wear it – super chic!

If you’re still skeptical and wondering how it looks on a non-model, well, here I am wearing the first ever drapey dress sample, early in the pattern development procress in a hotel room in Bolton last summer…

I’ve sewn 6(?) of these already and I still want to sew another for myself! That’s how great this dress is.

There’s also a stripey “hack” of this (which I also sewed), which adds on longer sleeves, changes the orientation of the stripes, and shortens the hem…

One of the more straightforward patterns is the lined, Lace pencil skirt, which can also be “hacked” to be a short, A-line tweed skirt. When I say straightforward, I mean in terms of design – lace requires careful planning and cutting, but there’s a really versatile pattern hiding in there, too.

It’s a really great, basic skirt that has NO darts in the front, two darts in back, an invisible zip in the CB, and nice shaping. And you’ve actually already seen me wearing it, when I made it to match my green jacket but couldn’t tell you where it was from!!

And finally, there’s a chiffon pussybow blouse pattern, but I actually like its sleeveless, collared, “hack” version even better.

If you pick this up in a book store you’d see a lot of patterns shown on on the back cover, but this isn’t even all of them!

My only slight disappointment with this entire book is that there aren’t any technical drawings of the designs, just photos. I think as a sewist, tech drawings are something I really like to have, and I’m honestly not sure why they weren’t included. It takes a little bit of extra time to look at the model photos, pattern piece fabric layouts, and kind of draw a picture in your mind, but I find it easier to remember a style’s details in drawing form.

But really, that’s my only disappointment – not even a complaint, really. The patterns are varied, fashionable, and well drafted. The photography is fun, clear, approachable, and fashionable without obscuring the design details. The instructions are really well illustrated – I didn’t do the illustrations but I did a lot of technical illustrations to assist the actual illustrators and I’m well chuffed with the final results! And I think the projects are both engaging for intermediate and advanced sewists, and aspirational for beginners, too.

Honestly, this is the best sewing book I’ve seen in a long long time, and one I’d buy even if it wasn’t affiliated with a tv show I love.

…or that my name is listed in at the back!

This is a book I’m really, really proud to have been a part of.

If you haven’t already clicked through to buy this yet, you really should do so now, and show publishers that there is a demand out there for well-produced sewing books that aren’t just for beginners! Buy on Amazon (UK)!

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Comment [15]

Manequim magazine January 2015

25 February 2015, 13:27

Well, it wasn’t just me, then – loads of you also thought the March Burda was a total stinker! Well, here to mop up your tears with an injection of Brazilian sunshine is the January edition of Manequim magazine (the issues take a little while to make their way across the world to my postbox…).

First up is a pattern from the “soap style” section, a rather nice little top with a collar, gathered back yoke, and long front zipper. Also of note is that this style is available in the full size range for regular Manequim patterns, 38-48, meaning pretty much anyone could make this or use this as a basis for sizing up other shirt patterns which aren’t in your size…

From the cover, I rather liked the design of this flirty, fun little summer dress, and even moreso when I saw it’s made in neoprene (which I assume is actually scuba). The asymmetric hem with the pleated layer is a great little detail.

There’s no designer-style section this month, instead they’ve disappointingly used the 1970s as the design inspiration instead. IMHO, the 70s are the worst decade for fashion so I was surprised I liked even a single pattern from it! But this little camisole stood out, not just for its frill and open back, but also because it uses less than a meter of fabric and is offered in multiple sizes.

I don’t know where you would find a zipper long enough to stretch the whole way down the back of this dress (or you could just make do with a shorter, invisible zip I suppose!), but the real feature here is in the front, anyway! Brazilians love to show a little bit of skin, and the cutaway abdomen in an otherwise demure gown is a really interesting design detail.

I’m usually prepared to be disappointed by any magazine feature that tries to do “sports luxe” since I invariably laugh at the impracticality of actually exercising in such clothes. But I attempted to just look at the clothes for their own sake, and I liked the piped seaming on this short, flippy skirt.

Likewise for these shorts and parka – not great for actually working out (if you wanted running shorts, you’d be much better served by my Threshold Shorts pattern!), but as summer casualwear, they’re cute enough.

Most issues, Manequim just publish three Plus-sized patterns, but twice a year they do a full feature full of Plus designs, and this summer it’s all about beach wear! The collection starts off with two swimsuits – a bikini and one piece that look great for supporting larger busts and/or adding foam cups, too.

I’m a total sucker for a good skort pattern, and this one reminds me that I really must make one this summer! (If we have a summer – never a thing to be taken for granted in England!)

And finally, again in the Plus beachwear spread, a casual jumpsuit and what looks to be a nice enough shirt (though Manequim label it a “parka”). IMHO Manequim are much, much more in tune with what works for Plus bodies than a lot of the pattern companies out there, and the whole spread looks very wearable indeed.

Coming up next: an insider’s review of the third Great British Sewing Bee book, Fashion with Fabric!

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Burda magazine March 2015

23 February 2015, 12:20

I’m of two minds when I get a pattern magazine in the post and there’s really nothing I want to sew from it. On one hand – “arrgh! What a waste of my subscription money!”, but on the other, well, at least there’s nothing new to be added to my already-overflowing Must Sew list, right?

I don’t often comment on the covers of magazines, but seriously, did no one at Burda HQ look at the “aloha hawaii” writing overlaid onto the skirt of the same colour and not foresee problems?!? Maybe we should reclaim “aloha haw” and get it trending on twitter, pff.

Oh geez. Let’s start with the abomination on the left – to me this looks like she took a burlap feedsack, wrapped it around her waist, and borrowed some man’s belt to hastily cinch it together. The jungle background isn’t helping, either, all I can think is that she’s on some survival tv show, forced to cover herself with whatever’s available. The unwearable jumpsuit on the right is almost chic in comparison – if you overlook the fact that it’s open to the navel ad requires wearing something else underneath it (the jumpsuit in the upcoming Sewing Bee book is far, far nicer).

This dolman-sleeved woven top is quite a nice take on a woven tee (which are much more frequently short sleeved or sleevless). I’m not completely sold on the underbust gathering, but that could easily be converted to pleats or darts. Still, a nice enough staple to have in your pattern arsenal.

This wrap dress is probably my favourite of this issue – I rather like the waist treatment, and the deep pleats at the skirt are flattering, too. Overall, a really nice, fresh take on the usual wrap dress.

I couldn’t bring myself to scan each and every hideous wedding gown in the wedding feature. With every single one I thought to myself “ugh! What a horrible, ugly dress. If I saw a bride dressed in that I’d pity her, and then think less of her for choosing to wear that out of all the dresses in the world…”. And then I’d turn the page and think the exact same thing all over again. Ugh, Burda, I know you do weddings every March, but if you haven’t got anything good, just repeat some old ones, or do that thing where you copy famous vintage celebrity gowns, remember that? Those were great! These are just depressing.

I love the concept of creating colourblocking by overlaying fabric onto existing tops or dresses. But Burda’s method sucks! Yes, why don’t we interface jersey, then clip and press back the seam allowances and then, to top it all off, hand stitch them in place (so that as soon as you move the stitches pop!). Yes, why don’t we…

And to top off this stinker of an issue, I give you… the frumpiest pair of dresses to ever grace the pages of Burda, conveniently placed on the same page of the Plus section. Seriously, the poor model looks like she’s three times larger than she is, and the fabric just looks cheap and nasty, like someone was let loose in the quilting cottons section of Joann Fabrics. Ugh.

The designs I didn’t pick out from this issue I was just pretty ambivalent about – I know there was lots of asymmetry which is usually my thing, but this all just seemed a bit too quirky and hastily tacked on to an otherwise standard design. The good news is, I’ve got a Manequim magazine to show you later this week, and it’s a bit better!

What about you, did you like this issue? I know some people found a lot to like in it, so maybe it’s just me!

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Comment [21]

A Mountain of Your Makes (Part Three)

20 February 2015, 14:33

We’ve made it – thanks for climbing the mountain with me! I hope these last few makes of yours are as inspiring to you as they are to me. I always love seeing my patterns go off and have a life of their own – being interpreted in ways I’d never imagined, changed to suit different bodies, activities, and tastes, and truly become your own.

Katherine’s Surf to Summit rashie



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AZGreyGirl’s two different striped Duathlon capris



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JessieBear’s Surf to Summit with ingenious thumb-hole mitts and piping



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Elizabeth’s rainbow leopard Surf to Summit for her sister



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Kathy’s XYT Workout Tops with mesh upper backs



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Kerry’s two new Surf to Summit tops



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SJ’s flaming Surf to Summit Top



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Katherine’s Pnuema-meets-XYT Top mashup



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If I’ve missed yours and you’d like to be included in the next roundup (likely in April after my next pattern release), please comment below with a link or email me with some photos.

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