In the tech industry, there’s a term “Minimum Viable Product”, which means the absolute minimum you can do to get code out the door. It’s not your best work, but it works.
Like half of London, we had tickets to see Secret Cinema’s performance and screening of the first Back to the Future film, where they recreated the entire 1955 town of Hill Valley, California, complete with about 20 business, the clock tower, full fun fair, a cast of hundreds of actors, you name it. We were also all asked to assume an identity (I was “Tiffany Hyslop, developer!”) and dress in 1955 styles. Now, I’ve only got one 1950s dress pattern (which I made into that Porsche dress a few years back) but it’s too big in the bodice now and would require too much work.
The pink version was the wrong colour for the 1950s and definitely too short, so I bought some striped cotton poplin from Minerva that had the right vibe, and figured it’d be close enough.read more >>
Yikes! I actually made these leggings back in early July, but then it was so hot and sunny for weeks that I couldn’t bear to do the photoshoot, even though I was wearing them in the evenings a lot. The impetus for these was that my beloved pleated “denim-look” leggings had come to the end of their life through heavy use. I’ve been trying to find the time to sew a new pair of denim-look leggings over the entire summer, even buying in the fabric ahead of time so it was all ready to go, but alas, other work had gotten in the way.
But then I finally had some spare time so I pulled out my denim-look jersey and Vogue 1378 – the Donna Karan separates pattern.
I’d made these leggings a few months ago in grey ponte, and I really like them – except for the floppy ankle opening things. Those really annoy me, limit my shoe choices to heels, and generally just don’t work for me. So I’d already altered the pattern by overlapping the two ankle pieces and drawing a new seam line where they intersect, and I used the modified pieces here.
Seen here with my new Yellowtail Camisole – more on that later this week!
I don’t sew many “Big Four” patterns these days, but when I do, they’re invariably Vogues, and even then, they tend to be the designer patterns. The Big Four are really bad value in the UK, for starters, but then I also hate fighting with massive sheets of tissue paper, playing the “how much ease?” roulette, and dealing with outdated construction techniques. Give me a magazine maze to trace or pdf to tape together any day!
But I do love great and interesting seamlines, so when the Donna Karan coordinates pattern, Vogue 1378 was announced, I immediately wanted to make those leggings (the wrap top? Meh. I’ve seen a thousand like it).
Since there was a sale on Vogue patterns a few weeks before I was due to visit my parents last November, Stacy very kindly bought it for me at sale price (even without shipping, it was like a third of what I’d pay here) and it was waiting for me when I arrived! Thanks Stacy!
But for all the aforementioned reasons, I never quite got around to making it until now – the thought of unfolding all that tissue to trace the tons of pieces just made me choose other patterns instead. But eventually I realised that I really needed some basic, all-around trousers, so out they came! By my measurements, I should be a size 16, but I opted to throw all caution to the wind and make a size 14 instead, as I wanted them to be close fitting, like leggings. Having gone down a size, I now think the ease is just right – not stretched tight, but not baggy either.
(Photos shot whilst holidaying in the medieval Breton town of Dinan, in France! Paired with my Manequim birthday silk blouse)
Last week I mentioned a few projects I’d been working on, including a little satin jacket to wear with both my purple Matthew Willamson birthday dress and my swirl sheath dress. Well, the Welsh wedding was over the weekend and we managed to squeeze in some photos in the hotel room before the big bash so you all can see how it coordinates with the Matthew Williamson sheath!
I didn’t have enough of either satin to make the entire jacket in one colour so I decided to colourblock it. Since there weren’t many seams in the jacket itself, I just drew some extra seamlines onto the pattern pieces for my colourblocking.read more >>
Woo! I knew if I waded through enough mediocre issues we’d get to a good one again! This November issue is the Fall fashion spectacular I’ve been waiting for, and it’s so good I’m even lusting over half the Plus pattern…
First to catch my eye was these foldover trousers, sized for Tall ladies. They really remind me of my KnipMode foldover trousers, which I still wear every winter and still get compliments on!
I love this biker jacket with its off-centre zipper and dramatic collar! It simultaneously reminds me of both my purple MyImage coat and that designer Manequim leather jacket (which I still want to make!), though this is designed for ponte knits in the body, and stretch leather in the sleeves. On closer inspection of the instructions, I noticed it’s unlined (apart from the sleeves) so that big collar is only just one layer of jersey. Also, I think the collar looks way more wearable in the catwalk comparison photo than on the model!
Here’s an example where it pays to really have line drawings and photos of a pattern – I initially loved the tech drawing, but when I saw it on a live model, I realised those pleats right over the hips would probably not be the most flattering…
From the Little Black Dress feature, I really like this sheath dress for stretch wovens – the slim, zippered sleeves are a particularly nice detail, and a great way to show off some short, posh zippers (hello Riri!). The vertical skirt seams might be a touch overkill though, but they don’t appear to be for shaping anyway so could be eliminated I imagine.read more >>
Thank you all so much for your patience! I finished sewing this dress in time for my 34th birthday on Monday (and I proved it by showing you dressform photos and talking in depth about the construction process!) but such a rich, dark colour really requires daylight to shoot properly, and today was the first opportunity we’ve had.
Another reason I wanted some great photos of this is because it’s an incredible pattern with some seriously striking design lines and beautiful details, and frankly, it deserves to be seen properly! In fact, it’s a true designer pattern, and from Matthew Williamson, no less! It was printed in the September 2012 issue of Burda magazine, but you can still purchase it as a pdf download if you missed it and want to make your own!
I made mine in some lusciously soft and supple “Ravissant Duchess Satin Plum” that’s been in my stash for three years just waiting for the perfect use, and paired it with a floral lining fabric gifted to me from Veronica when I was in Paris last Spring. Personally, I think these two make the most perfect pairing, even if it’s only me who sees the inside!
As I said on Monday, this pattern is a step up from the usual Burda patterns – more like a Vogue Designer pattern in all its wonderful details, but with the usual precise Burda drafting. I really wanted to do this dress justice, so I did quite a few things the long way, like the fell-stitched sleeves, walking vent, and all the matching seam intersections!read more >>
If you’ve been following along, then you know I’ve been super busy for the past few weeks and it was a bit touch & go whether I’d finish this dress in time to wear to my special Mystery Birthday Dinner tonight. I’m proud to say that I did finish it in time, thanks in no small part to the snow cancelling our Saturday afternoon plans and giving me time to huddle down and sew! (It did not cancel my run though – we still ran 19 miles in the snow & fierce winds)!
Unfortunately I didn’t finish in enough time to take daylight photos last night (plus it was snowing sideways & not exactly ideal photoshoot weather!), so I can only offer you some dressform photos right now, but hopefully we’ll be able to get a few shots of me dressed up before dinner tonight.
But — while everything’s fresh in my mind, I thought I’d tell you about the construction of the dress, and how I handled some of the trickier aspects of it.
I decided I didn’t want to fiddle about with a muslin for this dress, so I did the next best thing and sewed up the lining first, just to double check that my sole alteration of raising the waist 1”/2cm was right, and everything was okay.
After that I cut out the shell and facings from the purple duchesse satin, and the next hurdle was to attach the curved facings to the curved neckline and sleeves of the lining. The neckline wasn’t too bad, but the sleeves were a total bear! For this reason (and a bit that became apparant later, too), I’d recommend sewing the side seams dead last, after the lining and shell are joined at the neckline and sleeve edges, and then sewing the side seams. This means you can attach the facings flat, for starters…read more >>
My weekend mostly went like this…
On Saturday morning I got up for a 2hr 45min (16+ mile) run in the rain with my two good friends, Chris and Juell. We got soaked, ran along Regents Canal to Camden and then through the heart of the city and back through Shoreditch to home. We were soaked to the bone, but had a great time and I furthered my knowledge of myself, my glycogen storage capacity, and my stomach’s ability to digest medjool dates as a gel alternative. That, and I feel a bit more confident now that I’ll be able to finish Copenhagen marathon now, having dialled back my expectations after being ill for so long.
The above uses the official photo from when I bought the “Ravissant Duchess Satin Plum” from Fabric.com three years ago, but below you can see the actual colour and exactly how much gorgeous lustre it gives off in the light. On the inside, I’m using a lovely floral lining fabric gifted to me from Veronica when I was in Paris last Spring.read more >>
A lot of sewers like to “Sew with a Plan” (SWAP), but I prefer to call this a “Shortlist” rather than a “Plan”, so I’m free to still change my mind and add/remove items as I go along! My main goal here isn’t so much to create a capsule wardrobe that can be worn together, but more to use up fabrics and/or that have been in my stash for a while that I’d really like to just wear.
From the top down, in no particular order:
- KnipMode 12-2005 #10 – I’ve got some non-stretch denim aging in my stash from a few years ago, and I love KnipMode’s style lines for these. My wardrobe is in desperate need of more jeans, hence why there are two pairs in this Shortlist!
- Altered Burda 06-2012 #129 – Now that my stretch satin from Gorgeous Fabrics is in hand, I can finally make the final version of this dress after completing the drafting and muslins back in July. read more >>
- Burda’s pattern is for wovens, RM’s dress is a stretch woven
- Burda’s has long sleeves, RM’s is sleeveless
- Burda’s has a back V neckline, RM’s has a square back neckline
- Burda’s is princess-seamed in the skirt, RM’s appears to be one panel in the skirt
- Burda’s has a centre back invisible zipper, RM’s has a centre back exposed zipper
Ooh I am so excited to show off this dress to you, and even moreso because it has a great origin story!
Did you know there’s a new sewing, knitting, and jewellry-making social network in town – Kollabora? It’s from some of the people behind the original BurdaStyle.com and I helped beta-test their new site a few months ago.
As a big Thank You for sending in tons of detailed bug reports (a nice side-effect of my day job, which involves a lot of online testing, is that I can write a mean Steps to Replication!), they offered to send me any fabric and pattern combo from their shop! They stock loads of great independent patterns like Colette, Wiksten, and Sewaholic, but I thought I should pick something I wouldn’t normally buy myself. So keeping that in mind, I chose this very! bright! fuchsia stretch cotton sateen from Mood + matching thread + Simplicity 1873 (one of the Cynthia Rowley designer patterns).
I made View C – the low neckline & short hem option, but without the button tabs at the waist. I ended up making size 14 instead of my usual Big Four size 16 because 14 was the biggest size in the envelope I was sent, but it turned out just perfect in the end – nicely snug at the waist, but not overly tight. With a skirt this full and pleated, I really think it needs a nipped-in waist, and that’s another reason I didn’t want to add any bulk in the form of the button tabs there, either.read more >>
I don’t often sew Vogue patterns, but I am a massive fan of the Donna Karan patterns’ design and execution, so it’s no surprise that I added Vogue 1280 to my Wish List the second it was announced recently!
Happily, my mom saw there was a pattern sale where she lives in the USA and offered to buy a few patterns for me at US sale prices – she paid less than half the price for the pattern + shipping to the UK than I’m charged just in postage to the UK for the same pattern! I wasn’t planning on sewing a dress right now, but I got so excited when I saw Vogue’s numbered pattern marks for the first time (possibly in response to my complaints regarding Vogue 1259’s instructions), that this dress moved quickly up my Must Sew list.
Like all DKNY & Donna Karan Vogue patterns, this one’s a great mind puzzle to put together! It also has the joy and wonder of looking like a total mess until the very end, when it all comes together into a dress shape. I found it to be true to size, so go with your measurements, not some vague idea that all Big Four patterns have tons of ease. Most of the pieces are cut on the bias (not that it means much in a jersey!), and it hugs the body very closely. If you’ve got any lumps and bumps, though, this is not the pattern to hide them, and so you’ll probably be wearing Spanx underneath in addition to the strapless bra the bodice requires (Full disclosure: I’m not wearing Spanx in these photos!).read more >>
Even though I live in London, I grew up in America, and my family all still live there. A week or two ago, my mom saw there was a pattern sale coming up and very kindly offered to buy me a few if I wanted! There were two Vogue patterns on my Wish List – one was a Michael Kors knit dress that’s now OOP (and her Hancock’s didn’t still have it), but she was able to buy me one of the new DKNY Vogue patterns I was after, plus ship it to me, all for less than half the price we pay for Vogues in the UK on sale!
(Ever wonder what sad souls pay the full list price printed on envelope patterns? Yeah, that’s us. Little wonder I mostly sew with pattern magazines!)
So Vogue 1280 arrived in the post yesterday, and I immediately set about devouring the instructions and construction details of this.
It’s a really interesting, asymmetrical knit sheath dress with a characteristic (for DKNY) lack of side seams, so there’s a lot going on here!
Here’s a better shot of the tech drawing from the envelope. On Vogue’s site, the tech drawing is really too small to see that nearly all the seams are lapped, with a raw-edged piece of trim inserted, and then double-stitched (hello, coverstitch!) on top.read more >>
There came a point about midway through the construction of this where it suddenly dawned on me that I was creating my second draped collar sweater with pieced sleeves of the month. Clearly the sweater knits in my stash were calling out to me, and I’m naturally drawn to drapey styles. Though I really must remember when I’m in fabric stores that 2m really isn’t enough for long sleeves and a big collar!
This the Michael Kors-inspired, collared sweater from the June 2011 Manequim magazine. Last week I showed you details on the construction of the various pieces and altering the size “Small” pattern to my basic knit tee pattern.
The only problem was, when I was laying out the pattern pieces onto my awesome, ex-Versace sweater knit from Ditto in Brighton I realised that yet again, I didn’t have enough fabric to lay out the sleeves without piecing them, argh! I didn’t want to back down since I’d tried to use this fabric for something else last winter, but 2m of a really narrow fabric really limits your possibilities. So I carried on, introducing two seams in the lower arms. Frankly, sleeves tend to bunch up so much around the sleeves that I find the seams kinda get lost visually around that area anyway.
In the end, I was forced to cut the collar on the bias simply because the fabric was too narrow to place it on the cross grain!read more >>
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!
Really, the bodice seaming is all identical, but there are a few differences:
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.read more >>
I went on a wee pattern spree last week! With my monthly supply of pattern magazines, I don’t tend to buy one-off patterns very often, but I’ve been very tempted by some new offerings from independent companies, so I decided to splurge and buy a few.
Cinnamon is a bias-cut camisole or dress, and it’s from their previous lingerie collection. Reading through the instructions, there are a few changes I’m going to make to the cups to improve the finish, but I’m really keen to give this a go, and I don’t have anything similar in a bias-cut already in my magazine archive.
Clover is their first trouser pattern from the newest collection, and I was so excited to try this that I’ve already made up a muslin and my first pair! I knew it was Meant To Be when I tried on the muslin and had zero fitting wrinkles, but even crazier is that I’d accidentally made my muslin in fabric with zero width-wise stretch, which means the pattern is that awesome on me with no stretch to help it along!!read more >>
Sometimes the drudgery of sewing a muslin really gets me down. I like to sew fast, so I don’t sew muslins for every single project, but if I have expensive fashion fabric, or if I’m working with an untrusted pattern brand (or both), I always think it’s wise to do the extra step, no matter how boring it may be.
But part of me always just wants to get on with the good stuff (and the pretty fabric!), so I was thrilled and inspired to see feature called “Give Us a Toile” in the Sunday Times “Luxe” magazine recently. My inlaws subscribe to the Times and they always thoughtfully save their Style magazines for me along with other one-offs like this that they think I’ll enjoy. I love it because they give me something fluffy to read over breakfast and they keep me from needing to buy too many glossy magazines! This particular supplement was published in May 2011, but only recently came to me in a big, collected stack.
The feature took a few couture dresses and displayed them alongside the designer’s original muslin for the garment, which I found utterly fascinating and totally inspiring, especially to see them scribbled over with marker pen just like I do!read more >>
I’ve finally finished Vogue 1259! I don’t regularly sew Vogue patterns (or any envelope patterns, for that matter), but like plenty of other people, I just loved this design as soon as it appeared online, and I just couldn’t wait to sew it up!
I used this mushroom-coloured viscose/cotton/lycra jersey from Tia Knight on ebay, and it was perfect for this pattern. You really need something lightweight and drapey, because there are a LOT of gathers that would get bulky very quickly in anything heavier. Vogue don’t give combined yardages for making the top and skirt, but 3m was just enough for me to make both, in size 16, using their recommended layout.
This pattern is marked as “Advanced”, and I think the top definitely qualifies, both for construction, as well as the cutting and marking, and the following of their instructions (which certainly don’t make things easier!). The skirt, however, could easily be made by a beginner. So if you’re intimidated by the “Advanced” label but like the skirt, go for it!read more >>
While I’ve been showing you all sorts of books and magazine reviews and drafting up free bag patterns for you, what’s been going on in the sewing room, I hear you ask! Well, I set aside April and May to sew my two bridesmaids dresses, and after a long muslin period, I’ve been getting stuck in with the most time consuming portion of the dresses first – the pleated, silk satin (charmeuse) waistband/cummerbunds.
The fabrics were bought over a year ago, so I fished out the bag and got to work on the reeeeeeeally long pleated sections using Burda’s magazine instructions (which are surprisingly helpful) and a bit of info from my The Art of Manipulating Fabric book (thanks, Cindy!). These are knife pleats, one centimeter apart, and Burda called for seven pleats down the band, but after my test piece, it looked a bit sparse at the top and bottom edges, so I decided to go for eight pleats in the final versions.
So in order to help any of you attempting this on your own (and sadly, a Perfect Pleater is way too narrow to help me here), or those of you wondering why professional designers outsource their pleating to professional firms, here’s what’s involved…
How to pleat
Step 1 – On the reverse of the fabric to be pleated, mark chalk lines exactly 3cm apart, one for every “mountain” pleat.read more >>
Now that all the 2009 projects are out f the way, here is the first of my sewing partnerships I dreamed up around the end of the year! This skirt & top partnership consists of an “egg skirt” from the April 2009 Manequim magazine…
…and a cowl-neck sleeveless blouse from Simplicity 2580 (which is a dress pattern that I modified before to become a very versatile top).
I always pictured these two fabrics together, and I am loving the resulting outfit! I really think I got it right in matching both the fabrics and the patterns! I originally saw it as club/party wear, and it turned out that I finished it just in time for a big party on Saturday night!read more >>
In light of NancyK’s conclusion that KnipMode designer knockoffs aren’t as thoroughly tested as the rest of their patterns, I decided to make a muslin of the KnipMode August 09 Marni catwalk blouse before cutting into my nice teal silk satin (charmeuse).
Only now that I’ve got my bedsheet muslin done, I’m unsure about whether I like it or not. Now, you do have to use a bit of imagination here to block out the busy bedsheet prints (in reality, it’ll all be one solid teal colour, plus collar and cuffs):read more >>
First up in my duet of winter knit dresses is this amazing knit cowl dress that fellow sewist Lauriana drafted for me(!!!) this summer. Whilst designing this, she not only correctly observed my size, but also that I adore cowl necks and assymetrical details, and gave me the option for a sleeveless or sleeved version! She’s the best! Since I’m in dire need of comfortable winter dresses, I opted to go for long sleeves this time around, but I would definitely make this again for summer without them.
I made it up in some luscious Dolce & Gabbana viscose knit that I bought at Ditto Fabrics HQ in Brighton in June. It’s been in my stash just waiting for the perfect pattern match, and since it’s such a crazy, busy print, I thought this pattern with both front and back on the fold would be great for keeping the swirled dots intact.read more >>
Step One: Find yourself a pattern with tons of interesting details. In my case, I’ve used pattern #7a from the December 2008 issue of KnipMode magazine.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Burda, but when’s the last time you saw one of their trouser patterns with anywhere near this much detail?? KnipMode are by far my best source for interesting trouser patterns in the last year or so!
Step Two: Find some ex-designer denim like this black stretch denim from Ditto Fabrics in Brighton (50% Cotton 45% Polyester 5% Elastane) from “one of the Italian designers”. It’s listed as black, but when it’s held up to black, it looks blue, and when held up to navy it looks black. Whatever the colour, it’s seriously the nicest stretch denim I’ve ever come across, and it’s really similar to the weave you find in RTW jeans.
Step Three: Sew!read more >>
Ahhh I finally get my designer fix! Patrones may have stopped attributing designer names to their patterns, but it hasn’t stopped me from adding my own glamour to the mix… This short sleeved top with an interesting gathered and buttoned triangular collar is no1 from the latest issue of Patrones magazine, #285:
So where does the Prada come in? Well, the fabric is a gorgeous ex-Prada olive wool interlock from Ditto Fabrics in Brighton. I’ve only ever sewn wool jersey once before, and after the struggle I had to keep that from rolling onto itself in both directions, plus having to use double layers to keep it from being see-though, I wasn’t overly keen to sew with it again.
But oh my god, the difference between these two fabrics is like night and day! This wool interlock is just beautiful – it washed up a dream, behaves beautifully in the overlocker and sewing machine, presses and molds the way you want it to, and is just SO soft you’d never guess it was wool at all. Honestly, this stuff is just amazing to touch.
If you remember, I had some difficulty visualising how the pattern pieces fit together in this top, partially down to my not speaking Spanish, but also due to the 2D nature of the technical drawings and the one limited magazine photo. So I made a paper model to help figure out that the collar actually is detached from the neckline in front (the neckline being bound by a bias strip) and the sleeves have pleats on the upper arm where they meet the sleeve band. If you’re interested in the construction of this pattern, I recommend you open the earlier post in another tab now to refer back to while you look at the perty photos!read more >>