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A bit of everything

17 February 2012, 14:20

Housekeeping time! I’ve got lots of little bits to update you on, either with my in-progress project, upcoming things, or small projects I managed to gloss over at the time…

So in no particular order:

My purple coat

Progress is slow on my purple jacket/coat from the Winter 2011 MyImage magazine, not because of anything to do with the coat, but because life keeps getting in the way. I’ve finished the shell and I’m onto the lining now, so I’ve just got to finish constructing the lining, attach the two together, flip, and sew the buttonholes.

I’d prefer to do the buttonholes on my vintage buttonholer attachment, but the templates I have aren’t big enough for my enormous (2.5 inch?) buttons. Anyone know a clean way around this? Can I set the buttonholer to do double-length holes somehow?

In any case, I should be able to finish this coat this weekend and (hopefully) get a photoshoot in. Not long now before I can do evenings photos again – it’s already light out when I go running before work!

Gift update

My go-to baby gift is to sew a changing mat, with a hand towel on one side, and nice fabric on the other with big, deep pockets and ties to fold it all up. I had two baby boys arrive in January, so both sets of parents got changing mats with this awesome Alexander Henry vintage robot fabric. 1 meter of it wasn’t quite enough to stretch to the pockets, too, so I filled in with some scrap denim.


My BurdaStyle Book contributor experience

6 February 2012, 14:49

This is a mirrored post to my spotlight on the BurdaStyle blog. I wrote about my experience back in September before the book came out!

When I heard there was a BurdaStyle book planned, I just knew I wanted to be a part of it! I had been a beta tester for BurdaStyle before the site ever even launched, and I’ve always felt that it was such a great resource for encouraging more people to sew and be creative and share ideas.

So last year I expressed my interest to be a contributor, and I was invited to submit some ideas for pattern alterations on two patterns for the book. I sat down with the details for the dress and coat patterns and just brainstormed for a week, drawing up loads and loads of ways I could take those basic patterns and morph them into something totally new. Some ideas were simple like, What if I lost the coat sleeves, shortened it at the waist and made it in fur? Or, What if I added sleeves to the dress, lengthened the centre front and made it a wrap dress? Eventually I paired down my sketches to about eight and submitted them for consideration.

I wasn’t really expecting any of my submissions to be picked for the book (my drawing skills have gone way downhill since high school art classes!), so I was ecstatic to learn that not only was I picked to be a contributor, but my dress variation was picked to be one of only two dress pattern variations in the entire book! Then it dawned on me that the tight deadlines would coincide with the few months I needed to sew my wedding gown! So I did some hardcore time management and set aside the better part of a month last summer to document my pattern alteration, write the new sewing instructions and sew up the sample for the book, PLUS get it sent off and done before the deadline!


Great basic - grey flannel trousers

24 January 2012, 15:03

As I mentioned last week, I got gifted some wonderful grey flannel from Claire (however did she know I like grey? ha!). It’s so soft and lovely that initially I thought it should become a dress, but then realised I’m likely to get much more wear out of a really chic, comfortable pair of dress trousers.

I had just received the January edition of Burda magazine and so these jumped out at me – #122 (also now available as a pdf download if you missed this issue).

There’s nothing particularly earth-shattering about this design, but I just thought it looked nicely versatile, and something I could wear to business meetings as well as just team with a teeshirt if I fancied it. These also have the illustrated instructions for this issue, but I could sew trousers blindfolded by this point, so the instructions didn’t make much difference to me.

I did notice, however, that they do the particularly dumb construction technique of tucking one leg inside the other and sewing the crotch seam last – this makes NO SENSE to me, as it means you can’t check the fit until you’re 95% done. Whereas if you do the outer seams last, you can pin and adjust the fit in the thighs and hip before you sew it up…

These photos were taken after sitting in a car, then sitting through a big Sunday roast so there are more wrinkles here than I usually have! The fit on these feels a bit closer than with most Burda trouser patterns I’ve sewn, but it also might just be because I haven’t sewn trousers in a non-stretch fabric in a while.


Piling up...

21 December 2011, 13:24

The number of posts I want to write is piling up at an alarming rate, and I have no time to do anything about it, what with work being crazy busy (I hate all of you who get tons of time off at Christmas – I only get 3 days off in total! And my days have mostly been solving one problem, and having five new problems pour in while I was fixing the one, then moving on to the next in a To-Do list which never, ever gets cleared.) and us spending all our weekends working on the boat (last weekend we spent 15 hours building the subfloor down there. No, don’t feel jealous – the boat blog is being neglected, too).

So rather than stress about the amount of things piling up, I’m going to present my pile to you in pictorial form.

This is what James’s desk looked like this morning. It’s supposed to be my temporary cutting table while we’re building in the hold. How can I possibly cut the bias Ruby Slip or Holly’s maxi-dress fabric on this?? I’m pretty sure Bosco isn’t responsible, though he does look a bit shifty there…

I finished my vintage midi skirt ages ago, but have had zero time to document, or photoshoot or anything. So here’s two photos to test the hem length (which is why it’s just basted here)

I sewed a little waistcoat for James’s nephew out of this Tardamask fabric on Spoonflower. It’s got hidden pockets inside! He’s 7, and the biggest Dr Who fan ever, so we’re excited to see his reaction on Christmas.


Burda's Roland Mouret "Macha" knockoff dress pattern - detail photos

14 December 2011, 12:58

First of all, thank you all so much for all your comments and praise on my Charcoal pinup dress! I knew I really liked it, but it’s nice when so many others agree.

One thing that I hadn’t realised in the magazine discussion, nor sewing, nor wearing it out, however, is that this dress pattern is a very close knockoff of the Roland Mouret Macha dress, which was shown in his Spring 11 RTW show!

(Photo from Style.com)

Really, the bodice seaming is all identical, but there are a few differences:


The charcoal pinup sheath dress

12 December 2011, 15:13

I feel like this post should have a warning, like those awful, dated jokes – Dangerous curves ahead! But to be honest, I’ve been running like a mad woman for the past few months, finally running much faster and further than I ever did before I got ill, so I’m relishing the chance to show off my running body right now*.

This dress was in the Sept 2011 Burda magazine, but it’s also available to buy as a download pattern on Burdastyle.com if you missed that issue (or believed the blog hype that it was a bad issue, gasp!). I really loved this pattern from the second I saw it, and all I really needed was a little nudge from BurdaStyle and I was totally sold on making this as my double-duty James’s birthday dinner and Christmas party dress.

Though on reflection, it might be a bit too sexy for my office party.

As this was a close fitting sheath with a non-stretch fabric, I opted to go right ahead and make the only fitting alteration I ever make with Burda patterns, and even then it’s only occasionally – I removed 2cm above the waist line across all the vertical panels so the waist of the dress is more in line with my own.


A very beginning sewing lesson

1 February 2011, 13:02

On Sunday I taught a very beginning sewing lesson to three friends who all wanted to learn how to sew and have been begging me to teach them for months! I decided we would learn to use the machines and make a simple bag, and that would probably be more than enough for a first lesson. So I set up my little red machine, my everyday vintage machine, and made space for Veda to bring her new (purple!!) John Lewis mini machine up in the saloon…

The Sewing Machine Driver’s Test

After showing everyone the various parts of the machines, I put an old or blunt needle in each and I had them “sew” on the lines while the machine was unthreaded. The object is to get every single hole touching the line on the page, and when we did this in my home ec class in middle school, the teacher circled any errant holes (if we had more than three, we’d have to repeat that sheet). You start with straight lines, then corners, then a spiral, and finally wavy lines. My girls did great, but opted to redo the last two sheets to get some practice in!

Download my Sewing Machine Driver’s Test here! (Pdf, 200kb)

They all said that this really helped them to get comfortable with the machine and said the curves of the bag were way easier because of it!

The bag

Then we moved on to BurdaStyle’s (free!) Charlie bag pattern, and I showed them how to trim and tape the pattern pages together, then how to lay out the pieces and obey grainlines and learn how to find the selvedge.

I really didn’t like that BurdaStyle’s instructions have you trim off the seam allowances on the bag handles and then overlock them (wtf? What beginner sewer has access to an overlocker??) so I had my girls make a facing for the top of the bag. It got them to practice sewing curves, the importance of clipping the seam allowances, and flipping inside out! And I personally think it’s less fiddly than bias binding when you’re just learning.

Here’s the one I made earlier, to refresh your memory…


Happy 2011!

1 January 2011, 00:15

My favourites of 2010:

Standout moments in sewing land:


Honeymoon lingerie - two more nightgown muslins

30 August 2010, 20:20

After my first muslin of a potential honeymoon nightgown knocked that pattern out of the running, I turned to the slip dress pattern (#219) from the May 2010 issue of Manequim magazine as my next candidate.

This is a simple bias dress with bust darts and bias edge on the neckline. The pattern calls for you to have two lengths of bias edging – the longer one finishes the neckline from the front bust peak, under the arms, around the back and up to the other bust peak. The shorter length of bias finishes the neckline in the centre front portion and continues up to form the straps. Since I didn’t have any suitable lightweight muslin in my stash, I sacrificed this bamboo-printed Robert Kauffman cotton I’d bought on a binge at equilter.com about 6-7 years ago. I hadn’t decided what to do with it between then and now so I figured it’d be good for a wearable muslin.


Springtime Heidi dress

30 April 2010, 13:59

I’ve been doing so many bits and pieces over the last fortnight, between making and fitting the bridesmaids’ dresses, doing some experimental pattern drafting, and a huge amount of gardening that it feels like I started sewing BurdaStyle’s Heidi dress months ago! It really didn’t take very long to sew at all, it was more that I was doing in in small chunks around everything else that made it last so long from start to finish!

I bought this brushed cotton fabric in Brighton last June for (a rather expensive for me) £10/m, but I liked the print too much to care. I also lined this with a silk/cotton voile from Goldhawk Road which makes it really airy and lightweight for spring and summer.


IKEA print Alexander dress

2 April 2010, 13:47

As soon as I saw BurdaStyle’s “Alexander” blouse I feel in love with the floaty gathered sleeves and the retro-styling, but I also knew this blouse was meant to be a dress!

I had some pretty IKEA “Josefin” fabric in my stash since last June that I’d bought for £3.99/m and was just waiting for the perfect pattern to come along. This seemed like a great match, and as a bonus, I probably only used a little over 2m of the 3 I bought here, so there’s enough left over for something else, too.


Vintage flowered Alexander blouse

1 April 2010, 16:56

Before I jumped in with both feet in my quest to turn BurdaStyle’s “Alexander” blouse into a dress, I thought it wise to first make the pattern as intended – a cute blouse with flowy, gathered sleeves, front and back buttons, and a vintage-inspired peplum.

I had some vintage flower-print lightweight cotton in my stash that had been in my Granny’s stash for some time and she’d given it to me last time I was over in the States. As it turns out, she’s ill at the moment and in need of some cheering up, so I thought it fitting to send this blouse back to her since she liked the print so much and we’re roughly the same size!

Unfortunately this is one of those patterns that look SO much better on a real person than a dress form, but you’ll see that when we get to the dress!

Here’s a view of the collar , which I altered using Gertie’s “drafting a convertible collar” tutorial. This was a super easy way of lowering the quite high collar and adding a little something extra to the neckline:


Pre-birthday miscellania

23 March 2010, 11:27

Birthday dress!

My LMB draped birthday dress is finished, so thank you to everyone who commented on my muslin! I’ll be having the photoshoot tomorrow so you can see it on my big day itself on Thursday (no, not THAT big day, that’s in September!). I’m really happy with the way the final dress turned out, and the silk jersey is just so gorgeous to wear…


My new labels also arrived this week (albeit with an eBay shipping mishap).

For some reason Cash’s aren’t offering the silver/black I had before, so I went with GB Nametapes for this lot. I’m not 100% convinced on the font I chose for “Fehr Trade”, but I love that I could get the URL printed smaller this time around. Considering that the last lot of 120-some lasted me just over two years, I have a feeling I’ll get used to this design soon enough.


Looking beyond my birthday plans, I am super excited that BurdaStyle are coming to London next week, so I (of course!) need something new to wear to their mixer!


Lime running jacket, mittens & hat

5 January 2010, 21:19

I really really liked this fleece jacket, KnipMode 12/2008 #21, ever since the issue came out, and I’ve been waiting for the right time to grab some bright fleece and make it ever since.

It uses lycra edging tape (which Pennine Outdoor thoughtfully stock in addition to all the right high quality fleeces and chunky zips!) to bind the sleeve and neck edges as well as act like a sort of piping-without-the-pipe along the princess seams and that top yoke edge.


Nautical but nice

15 August 2009, 12:46

I made the KnipMode puzzle trousers back in hospital (#12 from the May 09 KnipMode), but I wanted to add a quick and easy knit top to it so a few weeks ago, I also made a BurdaStyle Lydia top in navy and white jersey to realise the Breton shirt I’ve been wanting for a while now.

These photos were also taken a few weeks back, but it means you get to see my red wig, and the rather photogenic crane barge that’s now two boats over from ours…


Gold silk Eclair dress (and bonus purple bow tie!)

11 May 2009, 14:22

Sorry for the delay – I finished the Colette Patterns “Eclair” dress last week but couldn’t quite squeeze in a photoshoot until we were actually at the wedding venue on Saturday (the very nice London Canal Museum in King’s Cross. Though all the tiny canal boats made me feel like the 50 Foot Woman in comparison!).

If you recall from the previous post describing the invisible zipper details, I’m making this newly released dress pattern in gold silk crepe, with aubergine silk crepe ties and gold silk habotai lining.

I was a beta-tester for this new pattern company, so mine was only a rough photocopied draft, but it was enough for me to see that this is a definite keeper! I’m really jealous now after seeing the finished storybook packaging that I almost want to buy it again, just to have a pattern as beautiful as the dress itself!


Black microfleece three ways

29 January 2009, 15:21

I had a few metres of black microfleece leftover from interlining my winter coat and I thought I’d put it to good use since it takes up so much room in my limited stash (and as you read yesterday, I have lots of new fabrics coming in!)

So to start off, I made yet another of my favourite BWOF sweatshirt, which I’ve already made before in red velour and also in blue fleece (twice, actualy, as I made one for a neighbour, too).

(My neighbour Lucie was hosting our mooring’s craft night so I thought we’d do a photoshoot in a finished boat for a change!)


Reprinted Burda patterns

15 December 2008, 12:37

I’m a huge fan of Burda World of Fashion magazine (BWOF) (elsewhere in the world known as Burdamode), but because the patterns are only available for one month only, sometimes it’s frustrating to miss a really good pattern when you seen it sewn up months later. I’m guilty of that myself, but Burda thankfully choose a few patterns each year from all the hundreds (if not thousands?) published in the magazine to reprint and repackage as Burda envelope patterns.

Burda envelope patterns have the same drafted patterns as appeared in the magazine, but they include seam allowances and have much better sewing instructions, with helpful diagrams and tips. The good thing is, these stick around for much, much longer than just one month, and are sometimes easier for people to buy in stores than the magazines.

So in the interests of friendly copycats inspiration I thought I’d fill you in on some of the garments myself and others have made from BWOF that are now more widely available in case you missed that magazine issue…

My tweed kick skirt is now Burda 7895

My tuxedo inspired suit is now Burda 7762


Birthday blue sweatshirt

8 December 2008, 14:07

James’s birthday was on Thursday and since we can always use more warm, comfortable clothes around the boat, I decided to try BurdaStyle’s free Amin pattern that was just posted a few weeks ago. The example made in the photos uses a thick and chunky sweater knit, but I opted to make James’s as a more practical sweatshirt that could be tossed in the washing machine at will.

It’s got really nice lines for a mens pattern – princess seams (or would that make them “prince seams”?) that flow nicely into concealed hip pockets, but I decided to make these one better and create an iPhone pocket-within-a-pocket –


FehrTrade in Burdamode!

9 September 2008, 14:11

I’ve been featured in quite a few press clippings before, but I must say, to appear in my favourite magazine is extra exciting! The German edition of Burda magazine (named “Burdamodenmagazine” there and “Burda World of Fashion” here) runs a monthly special feature on creations made from Burda Style patterns, and months ago I was asked if I could send over some bigger photos of my trousers and vest combo for inclusion in the magazine!

We ended up having a new photoshoot to get some better (and bigger) images, and the end result has finally been published in the September 2008 issue!!


Sleeping beauty mask

27 August 2008, 12:07

I was in such a buzz of sewing activity on this bank holiday Monday that I finally got a chance to make BurdaStyle’s Marcel sleep mask pattern that I’ve been meaning to sew for ages now!

One sleep mask is for myself, but the second one is a surprise for my friend (and will-be bridesmaid) Gez (who got it slipped through her letterbox last night!).

The adorable kitties fabric is from a tunic she gave me that was a bit too long for a shirt but too short for a dress, so I chopped off some length and saved the offcut to make something for her. The grey fabric is from a skirt her auntie gave me years ago that I completely forgot I even had until I dived into my scraps bin looking for something to use here. The dark grey backing was the skirt itself, and the shiny (silk?) casing used to be the waistband of the skirt. So it’s an entirely recycled sleep mask!

There aren’t any instructions for the pattern, but it’s very easy to make one and would be a great project for beginners:



1 July 2008, 14:15

After weeks of patient but persistent requests, I continued my serger high this weekend and finally made my fiance BurdaStyle’s Pete teeshirt in gorgeously soft bamboo knit from Wazoodle we bought back in August (I sewed the brown bamboo into a wrap dress and leg-of-mutton top already).

Since we were over at our friends’ place for a barbecue anyway, I let James have his photoshoot with his two favourite things – cats and beer! Whatta guy…


Pucci playtime cowl neck top

30 June 2008, 12:56
This weekend I finally got a chance to properly play with my new toy and whip up a few knit tops to see what this baby could do!

First up was BurdaStyle's Sadie top (with the added cowl neck) using some lovely Pucci-esque printed knit which you may remember from last Spring's tunic top. I was really just keen to use up the stash fabric on something very quick and easy, and also in case something went horribly wrong on my first serger attempt and the whole thing became a wadder!

Luckily no such thing happened and I got a decent summer top after an hour or two...


I love a man in yellow

2 June 2008, 17:18

I started work on this shirt so long ago it almost seems amazing that I finished it at all! I was first held up by buying some machine feet for this project back in the beginning of April, and here it is in June and I’m finally showing it to you (though I did finish it over a week ago so it was technically May!).

I’ve made quite a few button-down shirts for my boyfriend James over the years, but after reading through Shirtmaking: Developing Skills for Fine Sewing by David Page Coffin I had the epiphany that they were all really badly done and I couldn’t possibly ever go back to my old ways after that. Really, I cannot recommend this book highly enough – even if you never sew menswear, it is essential reading for all shirt and blouse construction.

So instead of using the old Simplicity pattern (OOP 5273), I thought I’d break with tradition and make my first long-sleeved shirt for him using BurdaStyle’s Jakob pattern. According to his measurements, I made a size 52 and it fits him perfectly. He also adds that he’s “a textbook 15 1/2” in dress shirts in case that helps anyone at all.


Collar Me Bad

12 May 2008, 11:41

Yesterday was a beautiful, warm and sunny day – I’d already done all my DIY work on Saturday (plus cooked and hosted a three course charity dinner for 5!) so the day was all mine to relax and sew for a change!

I’ve been slowly working on making BurdaStyle’s Jakob pattern in a lemon yellow linen/tencel blend for James, but it’s been slow going because I’ve been trying to unlearn all my bad habits and follow David Page Coffin’s “Shirtmaking” book to the letter. I cannot say enough fabulous things abut this book – really, within 5 pages I knew I could never, ever go back to my old ways. Even if you never sew menswear, it’s still a must buy in my opinion for its techniques in dresses, shirtwaisters and the like.


Pattern matching

17 March 2008, 11:39

I should have some photos for you very soon of my beautiful silk blouse, but in the meantime, I’ve started thinking about sewing up my next pair of jeans, using some brand name Levis 3% lycra denim from Crybaby’s Boutique (though it appears to be sold out now!). It’s all washed and dried (in my neighbour’s tumble dryer) and pressed and ready to go, but now I have to decide whether I’ll stick with my tried and true jeans pattern, Burda World of Fashion 08/2006 #109, or whether I should a new pattern, BurdaStyle’s Anita skinny jeans pattern.

So my first thought was to compare the two patterns to see exactly how different Anita is from my usual pattern. It fits me like a glove, but has back darts rather than a yoke, which is my only aesthetic issue with it. Now, the BWOF pattern (in brown paper) does not have seam allowances and Anita (in white paper) does, so if the two patterns were exactly the same there should be 5/8 inch of white showing all the way around the edges.

Here’s the waistband pieces:


Cheap frills

10 March 2008, 11:18

Late last week I finished sewing up my version of BurdaStyle’s free JJ pattern as the penultimate piece in my FW/08 Collection (I’ve still got to put the finishing touches on my Jean Paul Gaultier Patrones skirt and these last two substitutes round out the Collection!).


Mutton dressed up glam

19 February 2008, 09:36

First was a top I saw as a user-submitted pattern on BurdaStyle, but it was only uploaded as size 36 and would’ve required lots of grading on my part to get up to a 42. Luckily though, she also submitted How To showing exactly how to draft her design from a standard knit sloper! Hurrah!


Dude looks like a lady

26 October 2007, 22:05

As part of my FW/07 Collection, I decided to embrace the menswear trend and create a pinstripe suit, borrowing from classic tailoring, but updating it all with feminine elements.


Eyes on The Prize

27 July 2007, 17:52

BurdaStyle held a pattern competition in June and July to search for new styles to turn into open-source patterns for their site, with a prize of $500 for the winner (not quite as impressive with the devaluing dollar, but still a nice chunk of change)!

I’d done loads of pattern alterations before, but never created a pattern from scratch. I had a vision of a simple lined sheath with a gathered, dropped, and curved shoulder seam and a wide neckline. The side opening could be buttoned, zippered, or even corset laced, and since it was lined you could even make it out of semi sheer or holey fabrics like lace. I saw a lot of possibilities in my mind’s eye, but even after 3 muslins, the shoulder seam still didn’t work out quite the way I wanted, but that was more down to my sewing than the pattern itself. Still, the pattern was simple versatile, and left wide open for customisation, which didn’t seem far off the ethos of BurdaStyle itself.


A skirt for the hurt

16 July 2007, 15:30

I ponied up the $1.50 (76p) for BurdaStyle’s Alexis 7945 skirt on Monday. On Tuesday, I printed out all the sheets, taped them together, then trimmed them down to size 42. On Saturday I got out some offcuts of grey summer wool leftover from my Mouret Galaxy dress and some assorted bits of lining, and sewed it up right then and there.

And then on Sunday we dropped a fridge on my foot. Oww. So pardon the fact that I’m barefoot, but at least the X Rays say it’s not broken.


Such a tease

26 May 2007, 19:55

The last few days’ time and spare thoughts have been devoted to my entry in BurdaStyle’s Design and Pattern competition. The last few nights I’ve spent cutting, pivoting, and taping pattern pieces, making quick and dirty muslins out of bedsheets, then repeating the process. I even had a burst of inspiration while I was waiting for Emma Pollock (her of the Delgados) to come on stage on Thursday night and scribbled some ideas into my notebook then and there.


Diamonds and silver

28 November 2006, 12:16

What better way to celebrate the start of the Christmas party season than with a luxe new top that shimmers in the lights? I made Burda 8132c for the pre-launch of BurdaStyle.com, a new community-based sewing site that’s launching in December 2006. I’ve written up a TON of tips and tricks for the site, so I’ll amend this article with a link to those once it goes live.