I’ve been wanting to make Rachel’s free Brasilia Dress pattern since she released it on Christmas Day, and I finally got the kick I needed, in the form of a big opportunity – ten days ago I was asked to speak at the House of Commons about a new stem cell bill! So of course I needed a new dress, and I figured the red stretch cotton sateen in my stash would be perfect, both for confidence and the connotation with blood.
The pattern is only available in one size (Rachel‘s), but through an extreme act of coincidence, I match her bust, waist, and hips almost exactly, only differing by a centimeter or two. Our lengths, however, are another matter entirely, so I jotted down mine for comparison on the size chart provided:
I was a bit confused as to whether I should adapt the pattern based on the given body measurements or the finished measurements (as there’s a big difference in the lengths between them), so I ended up measuring the pattern myself (which was somewhere between the two given sets) and made this match my lengths.
In the end, I removed 5cm above the waist, added 1cm between the waist and hips, and lowered the front neckline by 7cm (this latter change was just a personal style choice). My bust point was exactly the same placement as on the pattern, though in future I’d shorten the darts so they end an inch or two below the bust rather than right at the apex.
Can you believe this red stretch cotton sateen has been in my stash since 2010? What was I thinking not using it until now?! It really is cherry red and not fuchsia like in these photos, also! The only problem with stretch cotton sateen is that it shows way more wrinkles in photos than it ever does in real like! In reality, this might possibly be the best fitting sheath dress I own.read more >>
Real life is starting to run away from the documented garments on this site, so it’s definitely time for a little roundup of projects which I’ve been working on, yet haven’t quite done a full photoshoot for yet…
The Sherlock coat
The Sherlock coat is 90% done – I’ve attached the lining and flipped it all right side out, but there’s still some hand-stitching to be done. However, this is currently “parked” while James is waiting for the Etsy lady to put up more replica buttons for sale (yes, someone makes buttons that look just like the ones on Cumberbatch’s coat!). When those arrive, I’ll finish the handstitching, sew them on, and make a gajillion keyhole buttonholes with my vintage Singer attachment.
The Rainbow PB Jam Leggings
I used some of my most precious, imported Space Dyed “confetti” supplex to make a pair of my PB Jam Leggings to wear to the Bath Half marathon next weekend, and possibly run London marathon in, too, depending on the weather. These are totally finished and road-tested at Run dem Crew last week (to rapturous compliments!) but I’m waiting until next weekend to do a photoshoot in the race environment.
You saw these in my invisible pocket tutorial, remember?
(Actually, now that I think of it, I still need to show you all my last set of PB Jams and XYT Tops from my big pre-release photoshoot, too!)
The Brasilia Dress
I’ve been wanting to make Rachel’s free Brasilia Dress pattern since she released it on Christmas Day, and I finally got the kick I needed, in the form of a big opportunity – I’ve been asked to speak at the House of Commons on Monday about a new stem cell bill! Omg!! So of course I needed a new dress, and I figured the red cotton sateen in my stash would be perfect, both for confidence and the connotation with blood. Even though it was a rush job, I still made enough time to sew up a muslin first, and the finished dress is now finished, too. I’ll try to do a photoshoot this weekend and the grab a few photos in the Houses of Parliament itself next week! read more >>
I found myself on New Year’s Day wanting to sew something fun and just for “me” rather than my blossoming business. So I looked through my patterns (helpfully online so I did this part while still under a duvet!), selected a pattern then proceeded to trace, cut, and sew this up in an afternoon. Definitely fun, definitely me!
I appear to be the first person online to make this tunic, from the third Drape Drape book, number 9. Sizes were S/M or L/XL and since it’s Japanese sizing and I’m like a 2XL, I made the larger size and crossed my fingers it’d be ok in a jersey. It was!read more >>
I drafted a few patterns over the summer on the Morley College course based on the Pattern Magic: Stretch Fabrics book, this design included. To be perfectly honest, the photos in the book do absolutely nothing for me, so I flipped right past it when reading it on my own:
But the instructor, Moni, saw its potential, and thought that it might be nice in a softer jersey. She was totally right! The sample that was made on the course in similar, lightweight jersey had a chic cowl effect, but without a low neck like you normally get to achieve a cowl.
So I’d been meaning to make this all year, but finally unearthed my pattern pieces on Christmas Eve day, when I fancied sewing something quick that wasn’t workout gear for a change!
The pattern here is essentially just a long teeshirt dress, but with an added very wide (180 degrees!) dart that runs from shoulder to abdomen. It means that it’s a bit of a pain to draft, but extremely quick and easy to sew. On the course, I’d thought ahead and brought my own knit sloper so not only did I draft this to my body (at the time, anyway), but I also kept the armscye unchanged here so I could easily add sleeves!read more >>
Way back in May I was contacted by Lolita Patterns and asked if I’d like to be a pattern tester for their latest design, a mock-separates dress called Sugar Plum. It looked like something I’d totally wear to a business meeting, and their size 12 matched up almost uncannily to my measurements, so I went for it.
The turnaround deadline was tight (only two weeks), so I got shopping right away. The bodice of the dress is for lightweight wovens, and the bottom for stable knits (apparently to make it more comfortable for sitting at a desk all day, how nice!).
I don’t often go for prints, but I fell in love with this dandelion head fabric from Stone Fabrics, and to simplify matters, I also ordered a beige polyester crepe to line the bodice (since the dandelion crepe is semi-sheer), and a navy ponte jersey for the skirt. Normally I’d steer towards natural fibers, but my recent world tour reminded me of the importance of non wrinkling work attire, and I wanted this to unroll from a suitcase without the need to iron!read more >>
I’ve made a few mentions of it over the past few weeks, but James and I are off on a grand holiday to Mexico at the end of September! We’ve been talking about going for years and we’re so excited to have finally booked everything. We decided on the Intrepid “Mexico Unplugged” trip since it stops everywhere we want to go, is a small group & eco company, and provides the perfect mix of taking care of booking hotels and transportation, but doesn’t tell us how to fill our days. Which will mostly be filled with eating and visiting ruins!
Anyway, as this is a different sort of holiday than the past few we’ve gone on, and I have a few weeks left to prepare, I thought I’d share with you the few pieces I’d like to sew before we leave…
As you can see, I’ve included lots of bottoms as those are what I’m most in need of right now after losing weight for my track race! My tops still fit reasonably well, though so I’m happy to just bring along ones I’ve already made to pair with them.
I’m hoping to sew:
- A Christine Jonson Travel Trio Three skirt
- A Cake Patterns Hummingbird skirt
- Self drafted leggings
- A Style Arc Pamela Dress
(I’m cheating a bit by posting this after I’ve started sewing – two of these are done already!) read more >>
This dress has been an awfully long time in the making. The idea started back when I took the Pattern Magic 2 class at Morley College last winter, where we learned a technique called “Fundamentals: Create three-dimensional forms with design lines only” (it just rolls off the tongue, eh?).
Essentially what this means is you sew up a muslin, draw design lines all over it, cut along these lines, then introduce snips of ease until the pieces lie flat, and there’s your new pattern! I did all this (based on a sheath dress from the June 2012 Burda magazine, which doesn’t appear to be on the US BurdaStyle, sorry) last summer, but then the project stalled when I couldn’t find any heavyweight stretch satin anywhere in Europe, and had to import this gorgeous salmon stretch duchesse from Gorgeous Fabrics.
Then there were further delays as I didn’t have a wide enough cutting table to lay out the asymmetric and strangely-shaped pieces, until a few weeks ago when the Thrifty Stitcher invited me to pow-wow at her studio and suddenly my swirl sheath dress was back on track!
Because all the darts from the original pattern (bar one) are now incorporated into a bunch of curved seams, this means there’s a lot of easing going on, so if you don’t like easing princess seams, for example, you really won’t like sewing this. My easing motto is “pin the crap out of it”, and I’m proud to say that I didn’t have any tucks or unpicking in any of these seams. Though I did use 58 pins on just the lower semi-circular seam!read more >>
I’ve found myself at the end of yet another extraordinarily busy week, one where we’ve been out pretty much every single night, and we’ve had a friend over from the States, too. However, I have managed to make progress, albeit slow, on my swirl sheath dress in a series of 10 minute segments snatched here and there.
Since I bought my silver stretch lining fabric on Goldhawk Road last Saturday, I’ve managed to sew and press all the darts (the lining uses the original base pattern so no swirls inside), attach it to the facings, sew the side seam, and attach it to the invisible zipper.
Here’s the back of the dress hanging flat in my sewing cave:
I did the lining hem by machine, but the coral fabric hem needs doing by hand, possibly in the car this weekend. The right side strap also needs a little bra keeper snap strap to keep it in place as it’s a pinch too long. Otherwise it’s done!
It doesn’t quite fit as well as the muslin did when I made it last summer though, but that’s down to me rather than the pattern – I’ve got a big track race next weekend in Sheffield for the British Transplant Games and my trainer has put me on a training diet to shed as much excess weight as possible before the race, as this translate directly into seconds on the track.
She and I were both taken aback by how successful this has been – I’ve lost 4cm (1.5 inches) off my waist and hips and 4.5kg (10lb) in four weeks! If it wasn’t for the hours of running up hills I’d suggest she sell it as a diet plan (the running would reduce its popularity somewhat!). And really, don’t be concerned, as I’ve been stuffing my face with fruit and veggies and lean meats pretty much continuously all month, so I’m not on some idiotic juice cleanse starvation diet or something.
The downside of this is that all my trousers and skirts are hanging off me (my poor Beignet skirt has a cinched paper bag waist now!) and I’m in desperate need of new bottoms. I was planning on sewing up a few pieces for our upcoming Mexico trip next month(!!) but now it’s clear I need to sew as many bottoms as possibly and just pack tops I’ve got already.
I’m still mentally putting together a nice travel wardrobe plan (which I shall reveal in good time), but my immediate sewing plans are thus:read more >>
I had an uncharacteristic free weekend – no races and not much planned, so I ended up getting lots of sewing bits done!
Sewing room clear-out
I’ve only got a small (temporary) sewing cave, and I’m a very tidy, organised person, but I’d let it get a little messy and it was feeling crowded, so after my two hour hill run on Saturday morning, I came back and had a bit of a clear out. I filled a full black bag with rubbish, but here’s what I pulled aside to swap at the Goldhawk Road meetup on Saturday!
Yes, you could be a good home to some pattern, pattern magazines, books, craft kits, or fabric that once lived on board! Now, if I can manage to be good and not fill up the space with things I pick up in the swap or fabric stores…
Remember the last time I made a skylight cover (strangely, I see last time I was sewing jeans alongside it, too!)? I’d only ever made them for the back cabin, where the skylights are peaked, with windows that open like wings, but on the front deck, the skylights are flat and require grills that fit overtop for safety and security.
We had a joiner make a gorgeous new cover for the skylight over our bedroom, but it’s been shamefully covered in tarpaulins for the last few months while I procrastinated swearing my way through sewing another.
Even with a walking foot, the clear plastic is a total P-I-T-A to sew because it sticks to the machine bed, the foot, is stiff and rams into everything, and is generally just awful.
This time around, I got so sick of the stickiness that I grabbed a “newspaper” (tabloid left from our joiner) and ripped off pieces to go underneath and also under the presser foot.
This surprisingly worked rather well, and the newspaper just rips out easily afterwards. Worth remembering if a) you don’t mind newsprint on your fabrics, and b) like me, you never have tissue paper lying around
It’s not my best work, but it’s done and will allow more light into our new bedroom!
If you recall, I decided on a Burda pattern for my non-stretch denim so I sewed up a quick muslin of that on Saturday after my skylight triumph.
The triumph was short-lived.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 >>
I fell in love with the design of the Style Arc “Marita” dress as soon as it was released, and I bought it right away. But that was back in our summer, and I thought the long sleeves would be better suited towards cooler weather, so I let it hibernate a bit in my pattern stash before adding it into my Fall/Winter 2012 Sewing Shortlist.
I bought some wonderful some brick orange (or “rust”) viscose-lycra jersey from Tissu and knew it’d have the perfect drapiness and recovery for this design. Coincidentally, it’s also the same fabric I made the Donna Karan skirt set in – I just love this stuff and you cannot beat the price (£3.50/m)!
The pattern front claims you can make it in one hour, and it really is ridiculously fast to sew! I don’t feel right showing the pattern pieces as I feel that’s giving away their design, and I really think this is ingenious. The finished dress looks really complicated, but in reality it’s just a basic knit dress with one dart and one tuck. That’s it.read more >>
A month on, and I’m still ravaged by the shingles attack that hit me in mid-January. Absolutely everyone who saw my torso said it was the worst case they’ve ever seen (doctors included), and lucky, lucky me, the little bugger caused nerve damage, which means the pain in my side could continue on for months or possibly a year (again, lucky, lucky me). I’m on four different prescription painkillers until the neural-specific one hopefully starts working soon, so I’ve been stuck at home Resting (I hate resting.). The good news is that the doctor says I can now go do the odd half day at work and very easy run here and there as it’s driving me crazy not to, but I’m not to overdo things. But even that’s better than being chained to a couch!
Anyway, I’ve done as much resting as it’s humanly possible for Melissa to do, which means I’ve been lying flat on my back and sleeping for most of the days, but I managed to squeeze in some sewing, almost entirely in 5 minute segments, followed by 20 minutes of rest. Rinse & repeat… These will have photoshoots and proper posts coming hopefully next week!
The amazingly simple-to-sew Style Arc Marita dress:
A grey wool “chic sweatshirt”:
A quick, gathered raglan merino wool sweater from the February BurdaStyle magazine:
I (silently) set myself the challenge to sew one garment from each issue of Burda magazine (aka BurdaStyle) in 2012, and I’m proud to say I completed it! I’m not the sort of person to make New Year’s resolutions, or proclaim lofty goals to everyone who’ll listen – I’m more the sort to quietly commit myself to something, and see if anyone notices what I’m up to before the completion… I do know that Kristy has also been keeping up with the Burda challenge this year, and it’s been fun to see which patterns she’s chosen from the same issues (and on occasion we selected the same pattern!).
There were some roaring successes, a few fails (both my fault and not), and some that I changed my mind on only after months of wear. So I thought it was worthwhile to have a look through all the projects from this year, and my thoughts on each looking back from now…
Link to original post: Great Basic – Grey Flannel Trousers
At the time I said: 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.
My thoughts now: I don’t think these look as nice in the photoshoot as they do in real life. I genuinely love and adore these, and have worn them pretty much nonstop, at least once a week to work, since I made them a year ago. I wouldn’t change a single thing about this pattern, and the silk pocket linings fill me with glee everything I slip my hands inside. I really do need to make some more of these!
Link to original post: The Blue and Black Burda February sheath dress
At the time I said: But really, I just love this dress! It’s so comfortable, and I’ve gotten so many compliments even in just the two occasions I’ve worn it in the past week. I also like it because it reminds me both of my beloved September dress pattern but also of traditional cheongsam dresses…
My thoughts now: I think the pattern is fabulous, but the fabric I chose was too thin, and the upper chest is a bit lumpy where Burda tried to tell me to have a facing when it should’ve just been sewn closed. I wore this a few times a month over the summer, but the short sleeves keep it from being in all-year rotation. I’d really like to sew this pattern again in a ponti jersey, like my other favourite dresses.read more >>
Are you excited yet? I sure am, because this dress is the last in my one-Burda-per-issue challenge for 2012! I set out to sew one pattern from each issue, and I’m pleased to reported I completed it (though much more on that in a bit – I’ve got a rundown post coming).
The final garment in the challenge is the Burda December cover dress (Burda Dec 2012 #112) even though I technically completed in on New Year’s Eve, I’m counting this in 2013’s tally since I’d already written up my end-of-year post by that point!
You may remember that I sewed up a muslin of this over the holidays, but I took inspiration from the long version shown in the magazine and made my final version in some pale pink viscose crepe from Stone Fabrics Super wonderful – flowing, drapey, takes a nice press (though that means it also wrinkles readily!), and has one crepe side and the other rather smoother (I used the crepe on the outside). You really can’t beat it for £6/m! It’s fairly narrow though at 137cm wide, so if you also choose to make the shorter hem length with long sleeves, note that you’ll need 3 meters of it.
This pattern (which also has a longer hem length with long sleeves) has the illustrated instructions for this issue, and man do you need them! It reminded me of one of those Vogue designer patterns where it doesn’t actually look like a dress until the very last step. Note that if you buy the pdf pattern from the Burda Style site, you get the same full, illustrated instructions that appear in the magazine.read more >>
Some (rather racy) panties
Remember how I had flu for 3 weeks earlier this month? Well lucky freakin me, because I got ill again on the first day of my holidays. I’ve essentially felt like crap since two days before Thanksgiving, arrrrgh. So on Christmas Day, I did a little bit of comfort sewing, in the form of some crazy, racy, leopard print and black lace panties.
Avert your eyes now if you’re of a gentle disposition!
I’d never buy leopard print of my own free will, but I’d bought a lingerie grab bag for a pound a while back, and this came from there, and I added some scrap black stretch lace to the sides. Nobody need know what my tastefully dressed exterior conceals…
Burda December cover dress muslin
The big project I wanted to tackle over the holidays is the Burda December cover dress (Burda Dec 2012 #112). read more >>
Last week I told you all about this dress – the pattern details, how I traced all fourteen of those curved, monster front darts, the things I omitted, the things I changed, and the things I’d want to know if I were you, sewing this for the first time.
So if you want to know all the geeky details (including the UK shop where I bought this lovely sage green marl ponti roma jersey!), then you best read that post, because this one’s going to be light on words and heavy on photos!
What I will say again is that this is a reprint of an original pattern Burda printed in 1956, but graded up to the normal Burda size range and included in the the November Burda magazine (or you can purchase it as a pdf here if you missed the magazine).
I’m stupidly happy with this dress – it’s the exact right snug, clingy, long sleeved knit sheath dress that I love to wear in winter. For the past two winters, my favourite dress has been the purple September 2010 Burda cover dress and this dress reminds me a lot of it, with a similar fit and feel.read more >>
It’s a reprint of an original pattern Burda printed in 1956, and one of my favourite running features that Burda magazine have been doing this year. Since the company’s had a very long history, it makes sense that they should look into their archives, dust off a few gems, grade up the sizing to their usual modern range, and translate the instructions!
Contrary to popular belief, this particular one is not a maternity dress, despite the fact that the model clearly looks like she’s “showing”. I can assure you that I do not look pregnant in it one bit, so let’s move on with the catty remarks…
In any case, I finished this one on Sunday night, but considering that it gets dark at 4pm here now, I won’t be able to do a photoshoot until this weekend, meaning you won’t see it on me until next week. By which time I’ll have probably forgotten all the construction details, boo!
So by way of a reminder, I thought I’d type up my thoughts now, then you’ll see the finished design next week. So the “Tell”, then the “Show”!
1. The bodice has seven monster, curved darts, all of which needed to be accurately marked onto the fabric. If you have carbon paper, I suggest you make good use of it, but for me, I remove the inside of the darts with scissors, then thread trace each dart with silk basting thread so I can see it on both sides. Then repeat for the other bodice piece. This took a few evenings, but it was important to get them right, as it’s the focus of the entire dress!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 >>
If you had to choose three (and only three!) things you’ve ever sewn to best represent what you can do, what would you choose?
I’ve recently been tasked with exactly this, and I found it incredibly difficult to decide. I mean, it’d be difficult enough if I was confined to just one type of garment, like “Pick three dresses” or “Pick three casual garments”, etc, but just three, from the hundreds of garments I’ve sewn in the past nine years?! This required thought.
Having said that, strangely, the first of my picks was pretty easy – my Winter Coat.
I made this coat two winters ago and I’m really, really proud of the finish on it. The wool is extremely thick, with bound buttonholes, metal buttons, single welt pockets, a thick silk lining, and (most proudly for me) I didn’t use a single bit of fusible anything in its construction. I wear it to death in winter and I love everything about it.
Should I play my trump card and pick my vintage refashioned wedding gown? Well, alright then! read more >>
I’ve got lots of bits and pieces on the go right now, and I’m finding that I’m being inspired by lots of little things – not just from the fantastic last few issues of pattern magazines (hello, August Burda!), but also some supplies which have found their way to me, like this amazing laser-cut eyelet zipper from my friends Alex & Liz, bought at the V&A shop!
Mine’s skirt-length and now I totally want to make a pencil skirt with an exposed zipper just so I can show this off! After I got mine, I’ve since seen that they’re available on etsy in a bunch of different colours, too.
Not long after that, I was approached by the owner of Lots of Buttons asking if I’d like to try their shop for free. My initial reaction was that the prices in dollars surely meant exorbitant shipping to the UK (boo!) BUT as it turns out, all the orders are fulfilled in Hong Kong so the shipping is the same anywhere in the world (great for the Antipodeans, too!).
So I picked out some basic black horn buttons (just like the ones my stash was missing for my black knit trousers the other week), and some gorgeous overlapping metal buttons I thought would go really nicely on a jacket. All in, these would’ve cost me $10 total (with shipping), which is like half the cost I pay to get nice buttons in central London, with a travelcard cost on top of that!
These arrived in 7 days, too, along with a discount code for my next purchase. I also really like that they seal off each button type in its own clear plastic bag, so you can see what’s inside without them all getting jumbled up together. Genius! So I went from being skeptical to totally pleased and very happy to recommend them in the space of about 10 days!read more >>
Thanks very much for all your feedback on my post regarding the design lines for my upcoming sheath dress – I decided to go with the top design, and save the bottom one for some later colour blocking (maybe in ponte jersey?).
Once that was decided, I sewed up that basic Burda sheath dress (which fit me very well, as expected), then while it was on my dressform I drew rough design lines on to match. After the rough lines were on, I cleaned these up with French curves while the dress was lying flat (these photoshopped ones are just free-handed on top since my black lines on navy blue fabric were hard to see in the photo!)
I then cut apart the Burda muslin along my new lines, and cut into the curves a few times to release any bumps. I then transferred these altered pieces onto a second muslin to test that all my new curves matched up well:read more >>
I know it’s a cliché to say so, but I’ve been very busy lately! So busy that there was no sewing activity whatsoever last weekend (though I did cut and fit an awful lot of insulation for the new boat bedroom, attended two out-of-town barbecues, and raced a new 10km PB in the weekend available to me!). In two weekends’ time I’ve got a friend’s wedding and ever since we were invited, I knew I wanted to apply a Pattern Magic technique onto a sheath dress for this occasion.
Overall, I was disappointed by the June Burda magazine, but I saw dress #129 and knew it’d be a great starting point since I know Burda’s dresses fit me very reliably (and I’ve already raised the waist by 1 inch to make it perfect).
The technique I’m looking to apply here is one I learned on my Pattern Magic 2 course at Morley College, though it’s well documented in the second book, too. Essentially, you make a muslin of a basic block (in my case, I’m using this Burda pattern), draw design lines wherever you like, cut along those lines, and then release any lumps into the curved edges of the new pieces.
So thus far I’ve copied the tech drawing off Burda’s site, raised the neckline a bit, and removed all the darts in Photoshop (since mine will be incorporated into my new design lines anyway), then printed off a bunch of these empty tech drawings onto a sheet of paper.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 >>
I’m feeling pretty good about the past few issues of Burda magazine. For a while there (2010, I’m looking at you!) they really seemed to be only printing boring, shapeless and awful patterns, but I’m glad I stuck around because the past few months have really been a return to form, as far as I’m concerned.
There were quite a few patterns I want to make from the February issue, but only one demanded I drop everything and Sew It Now, the colourblocked asymmetrical knit sheath dress #117:
I know a lot of people complain about tracing Burda patterns, but I seriously don’t have a problem with it. Most patterns take me about ten minutes to trace, I have the pattern sheets on top so it’s not difficult to see the lines, and I do a few at a time.
This dress may have the illustrated instructions for this issue but WOW was this a total bear to trace! It’s printed in red lines, but this sheet also contains the “easy”, pink shaded pattern, so there are multiple points where you need to trace red lines over pink shading. Add to that the irregular shapes of the pattern pieces and you’ve got yourself a headache.
If you can get through the tracing pain, though, you’re really in for a treat, because the tracing took longer than the cutting or construction combined. I sewed this up last Friday night after work and wore it out to a friend’s birthday the next day!read more >>
I’ve finally emerged from the craptacular flu (which then turned into bronchitis) that I’ve been under since Dec 28 – thank you for all your well wishes! For me, it really feels like the new year, 16 days late!
The Ruby Slip was my first garment of 2012, but my second and third aren’t far away…
Grey flannel trousers
Just before Christmas, I met up with Claire for lunch and she gifted me a massive length of wonderful dark grey flannel. It’s so soft and lovely that initially I thought a dress, but then realised I’m likely to get much more wear out of a really chic, comfortable pair of dress trousers. So on Friday night I traced and cut Burda Jan 12 #122, mostly because the issue was handy, but also because they looked to be a great basic. These 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 sewed this on and off over the weekend and nearly completed these despite hardly being at home. As a nice tie-in to my previous garment, the pockets, fly underlap, and waistband lining are all done in the pale green silk leftover from my Ruby Slip.read more >>
I finished Holly’s silk gown on New Year’s Eve, so this is officially my last project from 2011. If you recall, it’s Burda 08/2008 #125 and is one of the designer maternity patterns from this issue (and in my opinion – a really nice maxi dress whether you’re pregnant or not!).
We muslined the bodice portion of this (minus the drape pieces) back before Christmas, and made a few changes: taking a few tucks out of the neckline here and there, and increasing the bust space on the standard size 44.
I totally missed the chance to finish this for her Boxing Day birthday, but I figured I’d be still in time for any January parties before the birth in late January, and we were even scheduled to go over for dinner last Friday, where I was going to bring the dress along and sew up the hem on my little red machine after we ate (the hem is just raw here, as I can’t do that without her wearing it).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 >>
My next two sewing projects to share with you both use the fantastic, charcoal grey, ex-designer poly/viscose/lycra flannel that Neighbour Helen gifted to me just before they set sail for the continent. If I didn’t have the fibre content tag still attached to the fabric, I’d assume it was a cashmere or wool flannel, it’s that lovely!
The first use of the flannel is actually already finished and could’ve been spotted in the swankier parts of Spitalfields on Saturday night – an amaaaaaaazing sheath dress from Burda magazine:
I’ll avoid a long story to explain the Why, but you’ll have to wait til next week to see the photos. But trust me when I say it is a truly stunning va-va-voom dress!
Then this weekend I decided to jump right in and use up the remaining ~2m or so of the flannel and make the vintage Maudella midi skirt pattern I bought in Sheffield a few weeks ago:read more >>
Just to make things absolutely clear – no, I am not pregnant!
But my very good friend (and beginning sewer!) Holly is, so I’m doing some maternity sewing for her over the next few months, and helping her to sew a few things for herself, too. We’ve already had an afternoon session converting regular trousers to maternity versions (and I’m thrilled to report that she’s since gone home and done a few of these herself, too!), but it’s down to me to start the “from scratch” garments.
The first project was to make a “wearable muslin” of this Burda knit dress from June 2010. She picked this pattern out of a lineup, and it’s actually great for a beginner. The seamlines and construction are pretty straightforward, and you get a lot of bang for your buck with this, as there are two sleeve variations and two length variations!
I traced off all the different versions, and used the double tracing wheel I picked up in Budapest to even add the seam allowances on for her, too (something I never bother to do for myself, as I prefer my patterns without).
For this muslin I used some viscose jersey donated by Claire (Seemane) specifically for muslining purposes. The print is definitely too wild for me, but it might come in handy for Holly while she’s got a limited wardrobe. I don’t think it’s an ugly print by any means, and I could see her toning it down with a black or navy jacket or cardigan.read more >>
Remember the vintage dress pattern I graded down to my size a few weeks ago?
Well, I made up a muslin with my grading changes in place, and though I didn’t get any photos of it on me, I did get some on Susan. I realise that diagnosing fit issues on a dressmaker’s dummy is particularly futile, though, so you’ll just need to take my word for it!
On first glance, the worst issue is that there is way too much fabric in the upper back, but also I think I may need to raise the waist seam by an inch, and narrow the shoulders by an inch or so, too.
The skirt length is d-o-w-d-y so I’ll need to shorten all those panels, too (happily I’ve got a “lengthen or shorten here” line on both the bodice and skirt pieces).
While the sleeves themselves fit nicely, there is an unholy amount of excess ease in those sleeve caps, omg. So I’ll need to shave down those caps to take a good few inches out of there.
It wasn’t necessarily the list above that made me lose enthusiasm for this dress, but I can’t really put my finger on what it was. But it turned out that doing all the boring grading reawakened in me a desire to conquer pattern drafting, which I dabbled in when I received “Metric Pattern Cutting” by Winifred Aldrich last year, but didn’t get far.read more >>
I am very pleased to finally be able to show you this dress, which has been quite a while in the making!
I first bought the motif at Mode et Travaux in Paris when we visiting there last summer, but then a few months ago I decided that I really wanted to do something with it, so I started laying out my first pattern ideas. Then I finally decided on a a pattern and started basting the motif onto my linen in preparation for our French road trip, where I painstakingly sewed the motif onto the dress using silver thread and an embroidery hoop.
The finished dress is a variation on dress #102 from the March 2010 KnipMode supplement, but I modified the neckline heavily so that it’d match the motif’s curves. In actuality, I cut the curve of the neckline after I’d completely sewed the motif into place!
Since I changed the front neckline, I also had the widen the back at the neck edge to match the front, too. It means my big head can only just fit through, as it’s much narrower than the original pattern.read more >>
One of my big tasks this weekend was to finally get cracking on my upcoming vintage tab dress, Style Print 1543. It doesn’t have a copyright date, but was estimated to be from the late 1950s/early 1960s by the vintage gurus on Pattern Review. I’ll be making the button-tab view in blue, but since this pattern is for a 42” bust, I’ve got to grade down the pattern to be closer to my 38-39” (depending on the bra!) bust.
My first step was to trace the pattern pieces (read more about my pattern tracing method here) so I wouldn’t have to cut or damage the vintage tissue. Those blue enamel coasters from my mom are the most perfect pattern weights! They’ve even got a nice felt bottom to them.
This pattern has seam allowances (called “turning” here!) included, but they also mark all the seam lines! Heaven! Since I’m going to be altering the pattern anyway, I just traced on the seam lines to make life simpler.
Surely this is the best of both worlds, right? You can choose to use the seam allowances or not (though I understand how this would be impractical on multi-size patterns!)
As I was unfolding all the pattern pieces, I found it really interesting to see the fit alterations the previous seamstress had made. She:read more >>
Well, at the time, I said I’d definitely make a summery version, too, but then again, I often saw I’ll remake patterns and then I hardly ever do, so I can’t really blame you if you thought you’d never see this pattern again!
But you’d be wrong! This dress is just so stratospherically flattering and magical that I couldn’t resist making a summer version in pale pink and grey lace, even though it meant hours of hand basting the lace onto the knit during our French road trip. And then once I was home, fusing metres upon metres of vilene bias tape to the various curved seams so they wouldn’t ripple during wear.
All this before I even constructed a single seam, but you know what – it was totally worth it.read more >>
London has gone super sunny and warm over the past few weeks, so my thoughts have turned to spring sewing and using up some treasures from my stash. Remember the silver chain and sequin motif I bought in Paris last summer? Well I still adore it, and I thought it’d be a great showpiece for a spring dress.
Since the motif is mounted on blue netting, I thought it’d be best to pick a similar coloured fabric for the dress, so that the little spots inside the design which can’t be trimmed away wouldn’t look too out of place. Luckily I’ve had this turquoise linen/rayon mix in my stash for a few years, so its day has come!
I thought it looked good next to the motif, but wow! it looks amazing when I actually pull some through underneath it!
Has anyone worked with motifs like this before? I’m guessing I just get silver lurex thread to match and take tiny stitches the whole way around and trim off the excess netting? Is an embroidery hoop useful (or necessary)? I’m hoping to get the piece cut out and ready to work on during our French road trip over Easter, with any luck.
The next step is figuring out which pattern I’m going to use. I used my usual method for sifting through my pattern magazines (like I did for my wedding gown and my latest winter coat) – since I’ve got all my At-a-glance pages scanned in an online gallery, I flip through them all looking for a suitable pattern, and when I find one, take a quick screenshot of that pattern (Shift-Apple-4 on Mac makes it really easy!), and rename the file to be the issue number so I can find where it came from.read more >>
Cast your mind back a year ago, when I totally raved over a certain Plus-sized La Mia Boutique tunic pattern (La Mia Boutique 12-2009 #19)…
This pattern was SO in the style of my sister-in-law, Aileen, that I proposed it to her right away, and even made the muslin for her almost exactly a year ago! Thankfully I made all the changes to the pattern as soon as I got home from the fitting session, and I even bought the silver silk jersey she wanted from Classic Textiles on Goldhawk Road… But then I totally lost momentum and the altered pattern pieces have been hanging on my pattern rack making me feel guilty ever since!
So about 3 weeks ago, I finally sucked it up and made this for her (rather belated) birthday gift. All in all, it only took an afternoon from fabric cutting to completion – why didn’t I just do this months ago! We finally visited Aileen yesterday to give this to her, so I can now post about it. I didn’t get to see her in it since she had her hands full with her 6 year old’s birthday party, but she texted later last night to say it fits well and she loves it, so hopefully I’ll get to see it at some later family gathering!
Until then, you’ll have to make do with Susan modelling:read more >>
I made no secret of my total love and adoration of Burda’s September issue last year. In my opinion (and many of you!) this was the standout, stellar issue in an otherwise mediocre year for the magazine. I’m slowly working my way through everything I wanted to sew from that issue (some good and some bad!) but now it was the time for the cover dress, #122.
I showed you the pattern alterations I made to “un-petite” this pattern, though I reckon I could have even added a bit more to the middle of piece 2 as my pointiroma has less lengthwise stretch as my muslin knit, making the underbust seam just barely under my bust. The horizontal seam between pieces 3 and 4 hits me right at my natural waist on the sides, which I think is just great. I also took 6 inches off the hem of pieces 7 and 8 so that this is above the knee rather than below.read more >>
Continuing on my quest for more long sleeved tops and dresses as the weather turns decidedly chilly here in London, I’ve pulled out KnipMode 09/2010 #11 from my stash for a quick and versatile knit dress.
The dress is a pretty basic shape – a rectangular skirt (same for the front and back) at a gathered waistline with a basic V-neck bodice and long sleeves. But the twist is that there are two triangular waistband pieces in front to help cover that waist seam, visually cinch in the waist, and create interest in an otherwise basic dress.
And I had the perfect fabric – when we met up with Karen for drinks when we were in Philly a few months ago, she brought me this lovely and soft poly/viscose/lycra(?) jersey for me as a gift! How nice! So I thought it’d make the perfect winter dress.read more >>
As you read last week, I was so inspired by the December KnipMode issue that the day after I received it, I traced out dress #11, the following night bought the navy blue cotton lycra jersey and cut out the fabric, and then sewed this dress last Saturday!
This dress has got some really unique construction – the two front skirt pieces meet at the centre front to form a collar, which then goes up and around your head and comes back down to join the centre front again. Everything is sewed together, though, so there’s no chance of gaping!
The other great thing about this dress is that they’ve chosen this pattern to have the big, illustrated instructions for this issue! So you really only need to sew the shoulder seams and centre back (if you didn’t cut it on the fold like me), follow their illustrations for that really unique scarf collar, waist, neckline, and centre front, and then after the illustrations attach the sleeves, sew the side seams, and do the hems! So what could’ve been a really complicated pattern is actually made fairly straightforward. Yay! Thanks, Knip! (You can download those big illustration in colour pdfs on Knip’s site, too!)
The bad weather and early nights may have kept me from taking photos of me in the dress earlier, but we had a mammoth photoshoot session yesterday so there’s lots to show!read more >>
Dateline – last week…
Wednesday: The new December KnipMode magazine arrived. OMG!! Best issue in a long time, holy crap! (It’s scanned and a preview is coming up very soon!)
Thursday: I traced out dress #11, where the centre front portion of the skirt comes up and around to form the collar, joining back on itself. The pattern pieces were massive and several needed joining together and extending, so it took me much longer than usual.
Friday: Pip convinced me that this absolutely must be in a solid, and since my longest solid knit was only 2m, I either had to run into the West End on Saturday (ugh), wait a week for an internet fabric order, or hope against hope that the lady at Bhopal Textiles on Brick Lane (just about the only non-wholesaler there) had any suitable jerseys, and was actually still open when I walked past.
And score! She was in the midst of closing up (she said she normally closes around 6 or 6:15, which explains why sometimes she’s open and sometimes she’s shut when I walk home) and had a fantastic navy blue cotton-lycra jersey for £3.50/m. So the 3m length cost me £10.50. At first I felt guilty for buying new fabric when I have such an overflowing stash from NYC, but then it occurred to me that I’m sure James spent more than that at the pub on the same night…
So I came home and laid out the fabric and cut out all the pieces, needing almost the entire 3m, even with Knip’s single layer layout! I went to bed with all my pieces ready to go on Saturday…read more >>
Either groan or rejoice, but this is the last of the wedding posts!
The bridesmaids dresses
If you cast your mind back, you’ll remember the selection process, how I fitted and then hand-pleated, the lined, silk jersey dresses for my two bridesmaids, but even after I finished them, there wasn’t a chance to see either P or G wearing their dresses, let alone together!
It was really nice on the wedding day to be able to see both of my great friends looking so happy and nice, and comfortable, too, in the bridesmaids dresses I made for them.
Their colour choices really suited them both, too, and even though I offered to shorten them after the wedding, I know P (in purple) is definitely keeping hers as a wonderfully posh maxidress. (S was my Man of Honour, but no, I didn’t make his suit!)
You’ve seen it in pieces and finally, in comparison with my grandmother’s original gown, but here’s some more photos where you can see the seamlines particularly well: read more >>
I’ve got many, many more wedding photos to come, but as I was slowly going through all the photos from friends and our professional photographer, I realised that there were a lot of parallel poses between my grandparents’ photos and ours.
Big thanks to my Dad for taking the time to scan in my grandparents’ wedding album in hi-res format, and also to our truly INCREDIBLE and AMAZING wedding photographer, Paul Tanner. I’m pretty sure he was the best money we’ve ever spent.
If you’re new to this site, let me back up a minute and explain what went on here. First of all, yes, I sewed my own wedding gown. But that would be too easy (ha!), so I decided to sew it from my grandmother’s gown.read more >>
This will be the last update you’ll get before the wedding on Saturday, so after this it’ll all be finished photos, which is rather exciting!
I almost winced trying on my gown for the final time on Monday night – I thought for certain there’d be some niggling problem I’d have to fix, but no, phew! Everything’s still good. My sister-in-law marked out a nice curve in the train, trimmed it to within an inch or so of the pins, and then I did the hem last night. As it turns out, I’ve still got a good two feet of train left, and the thumb loop is intact, so I’ll be able to easily lift it up for the dancefloor.
The original hem was just a narrow turned hem that’s stitched by machine, so I did the same thing on the new area to keep it consistent. First I folded the allowance over so the fold was at the marked hem line, and I machine stitched as close to the edge as I could get. I pressed this (with the indispensable silk organza press cloth!), then carefully trimmed away the allowance as close to the stitching as possible. I then folded over the hem again and stitched about 1/8” away from the edge, then gave it another good pressing.
But this wasn’t the only hem I sewed last night, no no! I also hemmed both bridesmaids dresses! My sister-in-law was a huge help here, too, by hand basting the hem of each dress very close to the cut edge of the fabric. So when it came time for me to send them through the coverstitch machine, not only did I have a nice line to follow, but the basting kept the silk jersey from twisting underneath like it loves to do.read more >>
Pip came round last night for dinner, drinks, holiday food exchange (French cheese from me and Greek nougat from her!), and her final fitting on her bridesmaid dress.
If you cast your mind back to April and May, her gown is the long, purple, silk jersey Gant exclusive design gown from the Sept 2008 Burda magazine.
I’d completed the gowns back in May, but I left off the tiny covered buttons on the cummerbund and finishing the hem until closer to the day so that they wouldn’t have to worry about gaining or losing a few pounds, or deciding on different shoes before now!
Happily, Pip’s gown fits her perfectly, with minimal overlap at the cummerbund, and really her hem was just about perfect with her chosen heels. But then we realised that if she switched to her comfort flip-flops on the dancefloor, the hem would drag, so I’m going to pull up the hem by an inch.
Then Pip wanted to see me in my gown, and since I hadn’t tried it on since the skirt was attached, I felt it was a good idea. But even though I was capable of wrestling into the boned bodice before, it was proving impossible (and more than a little claustrophobic) with the attached skirt. It was apparent that I had to remove the brass bar at the top of the zipper to allow the top to fully open and give me extra room to squeeze into the gown. I’d thought I might have to, but I kept it in until now since it wasn’t a problem. So now I’ll just need to add one or more hook and eyes to the top of the zipper to keep it all in place.read more >>
Finally I can give you another progress report on the wedding gown! Don’t worry, as you can see below, I’ve been continuing to work on it on my weekends and Wedsnesdays, so I’ve got a lot of progress to cover!
For the first time I got to turn my attentions to the skirt, which is exactly as it was when it was attached to Granny’s dress, albeit separated from the bodice at the (very gathered) waist seam. But there was a prominent blue stain in the centre front (CF) panel at about thigh-height from the blue tissue paper it was wrapped in for 60+ years, so the first step was to unpick and remove that entire panel. I then moved the two triangular sections that had been on either side of it together to form a new CF:
I actually prefer the way these two look together, forming a beautiful triangular, almost art-Deco detail at the CF!
But back to the bodice, where I had completed prickstitching along the entire neck and arm edges. I just free-handed this without my post-it guide and I actually think this looks better than my zipper insertion!read more >>
Apologies for the photo-less post, but with four weeks to go to the wedding, the planning has gone from busy-but-manageable to STRESSAPALOOZA! And as a result, I haven’t had a chance to take the photos of my beautiful lining prickstitching off the camera yet.
But before I forget, I wanted to describe a slight setback I ran into in preparing to attach the skirt to the bodice. To start the process I removed the central skirt panel that contained the blue dye stain (from the tissue paper it was stored in for 60 years), and sewed the two gored sections together, which makes a really unexpectedly beautiful central detail. But as I was lining up the centre front, centre back, and side seams on the skirt and bodice to make the skirt pleats, I kept having excess fabric on one side of the front skirt.
Scratching my head, I measured the front of the skirt, and the CF is indeed central. So then I measured the seam line of my bodice, and ERRRRRRRR! the right side is 27cm to the CF point and the left is 24cm. So that’s why I was having excess skirt fabric on the left but having it match almost exactly on the right.read more >>
Ok after that little lingerie diversion (and a day spent being filmed for BBC1!), we’re back on the wedding gown!
First up was a quick fitting of the shell with all the boning pieces inserted and the waist stay hooked. And I can breathe a sigh of relief, because it’s looking good. A tiny bit of horizontal pulls around the zipper (which can be fixed by laying off the ice cream a bit) and a bit of boning show-through at the centre front (which I’m going to hold off worrying about for now, but I may just shorten that boning piece so it stops below the bust).
So I can push on ahead, safe in the knowledge that there’s no major fitting issues…
First up – I sewed on all 13 original covered buttons along the right side’s zipper, matching up with the original satin loops I placed along the overlap during the zipper insertion step.
On the surface, these look like ordinary covered buttons, but look at the underside!
I’ve never seen buttons like this before in my life! Instead of a shank with a hole, there’s a mound of stuffed fabric to sew through! What a strange vintage detail! I’ve learned so much from taking the original gown apart…read more >>
The next step in my epic wedding gown project was to properly finish the neckline and armhole edges in advance of the lining. Instead of most lined garments where you construct the outer shell, construct the inner shell, then place the two together, right sides facing and sew around the opening edges, in this case Bridal Couture advises us to construct the outer shell, fold in the opening edge seam allowances, then create the lining, with the opening edges similarly folded inside, and then place the two together wrong sides facing and very carefully fell-stitch along the opening edges, prickstitching the lining where necessary.
The next step was to add the waist stay, tacked to the boning channels with bottom edge of grosgrain on the marked waistline:read more >>
With the seams (mostly) constructed and all the seam allowances tacked down, it was time for the boning! Bridal Couture assumes that you’ve got a fairly standard princess-seamed bodice and so advises that you sew the channels to the centre of the underlining pieces at the very beginning before attaching the underlining to the fashion fabric. But my bodice has all sorts of crazy seams and the boning crosses over a bunch of seamlines, so I had to obviously apply my channels after the main seams were stitched, as Susan Khalje advises in this Threads article.
I was originally thinking to make my own channels with silk organza, but then I saw that the Sewing Chest had pre-made and seam-free cotton channels so I bought those and ended up going with that instead to save myself some time. And as Ms Khalje talks about using them herself, I figured it’s okay!
So I started a production line – first I sewed the end of the channel closed with the sewing machine, then I carefully pinned the channel to the bodice underlining where it was needed, then cut the end just before the seamline at the bottom of the bodice. Once all the channels were in place, I then catchstitched them all to the flannel underlining, keeping the bottom free to insert the boning.read more >>
…in which I work with more piping than a plumber and more basting than a Thanksgiving dinner!
When I last checked in, I had cut and prepped all the pieces of the bodice, so it was now the point in my plan to sort out the piping if I was going to do so (and you’ve probably rightly concluded from the title that I did!). I had about 80cm of piping from the original dress’s waist seam, but I realised this wouldn’t be enough to pipe both sides of pieces #2 and #7 like I’d planned. So before I could do anything, I had to make some piping!
Luckily, the dress’s collar pieces were nice and long and on the bias, so this was a piece of cake. I cut four strips of 5cm wide and joined the edges together to make one long strip, then inserted my 2m of satin rattail and ran the whole thing through the sewing machine with the zipper foot.
But as I’ve already established, I can’t be making errant needle holes nor can I afford to use the seam ripper any more than what’s absolutely necessary, so in order to get the piping inserted perfectly on the first try, some hand basting was in order.
First, I basted the piping to one of the pieces, aligning the piping’s stitches with the basted seam lines:
And I did that for all four piped seams:read more >>
I finally got the muslin fixed and finished! Thanks for all your advice, though I haven’t had a chance to reply to hardly any of you, for which I do apologise…
Muslin #3 changes –
- Unpinned the shoulder change, took off the waist stay, and since it seemed to be pulling everything upwards before, I reasoned that it must be too low. I repinned it a little higher and everything seemed to sit nicely and correct those weird problems it threw up before.
- I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again – I detest Rigilene boning! Only someone who hates women could’ve come up with those tiny, needle-like implements of torture. My spiral steel boning for the finished dress arrived and it just feels wonderful.
- No one actually came up with the fix I needed for piece #3’s weird bubble. As it turns out I just needed to flatten the curve a bit below the inset corner. (Before and After are below)
- There’s no way I’m muslining the skirt. It’d literally take a whole week of sewing time to even approximate the panels on the existing skirt, plus the drape and weight of the muslin fabric is totally different, and it won’t achieve much of anything I won’t learn in the actual skirt attachment anyway. End of story.
- Yes, I know about wearing proper undergarments. I’ve been wearing the bra I intend to wear on the day all along (though I got sharpie on it during my muslin marking process so I need to buy another copy of it, boo.). I was not being serious about the push up bra.
So with the muslin done, on with the dress itself!! Hurrah!
First step was to lay the pattern pieces onto the wrong side of my flannel underlining, fuzzy side down (I’d been transferring all my changes onto them and I prefer paper with no seam allowances over muslin with allowances). Once pinned in place, I then chalked the seam lines, waist, centre back and fronts, and the two notches onto it. Then I cut out the pieces with eyeballed seam allowances (when you’re dealing with seamlines, the size of the allowances are largely unimportant).
Next I laid the flannel pieces onto the wrong side of the satin, pinning only in the seam allowances because all the pin holes show on this fabric.read more >>
I’m no big fan of muslins and fitting tweaks, so the title is really reflecting my impatience at still being in the fitting stage. I want to get on with the fun stuff! But I also really want to get the fit and design perfect here as I can’t really go unpicking the vintage satin (the needle holes remain), so here I am, still soldiering on, though hopefully not for much longer…
Yesterday was my day off so I devoted pretty much the entire day to this dress. Right after breakfast I made up Muslin #2 (not shown because no one was around to photograph me), which incorporated the neckline changes and better-drafted add-on straps. There’s no photos, but essentially, I just needed to pinch some fabric out in three places, which you can see here shaded in orange on my pattern pieces:
So I made those changes to my paper pattern, unpicked pieces 1 and 3 from the muslin, cut new ones out, and reattached them, bringing us to Muslin #3. And I was pretty happy with the fit, apart from a bulge above my right breast which I immediately knew the cause of and fixed it on the paper pattern.read more >>
I am very happy to report that my dress for the BurdaStyle book is completely, 100% finished, packed up in an airtight bag and ready to be FedExed this week. HOO-RAY!
I’m afraid that’s all you get to see until next year, to. Boo.
But it means I can now devote ALL of my sewing time to my wedding gown. So the first step is to attack the muslin. I’ve marked my waistline in green, and the possible boning positions in blue. Once I marked my waistline I realised exactly how short the bodice is so I’m elongating it all by an inch so the back and sides aren’t ending exactly at my waist. My waist is an inch higher than the standard measurements anyway so I think this alteration will help (note: I’m not short-waisted. My bust-hip measurement is standard, my waist is just shifted up a tad).
But I really, really need your help choosing the right neckline for this gown!!read more >>
Both bridesmaids dresses for my September wedding are now finished! Since I’m sewing both of these plus my own gown, I stipulated that these had to be knit so that I could sew them early and my girls could feel free to gain or lose a few pounds without too much last-minute alterations hassle.
To refresh your memory, the three of us chose the Gant exclusive design dress from the Sept 08 Burda magazine:
The previous posts about these dresses spanned over a year (from our pre-illness, original wedding date), so to help you find them, here’s a handy list:
- Choosing the pattern
- Going fabric shopping and choosing their colours
- Tackling those pleated cummerbunds
- Finishing the first dress
I made a big push on Sunday to get as much done on the first bridesmaid as I could, and between then and some “non-commuting” time yesterday and today (I worked from home both days so I put the hour I’d normally be commuting to good use!) I managed to finish Pip’s dress, apart from the hem and the covered buttons, which I need to purchase in town tomorrow.
To refresh your memory, I’m sewing the Gant exclusive design dress from the Sept 08 Burda magazine:
I tackled those pleated cummerbunds first to get them out of the way, but even the easier silk jersey portions were not entirely straightforward. With a design this simple, the glory is in the perfect execution!
First thing I was grateful for is my newly-raised cutting and drafting table. Each gown takes four skirt sections this size (front & back, exterior & lining), and they take up nearly the whole table!
I didn’t take any intermediate photos of Pip’s dress, but I ended up doing the entire bodice on my sewing machine after all, so that I could understitch the neck and arm openings more easily. In the end, I only used the overlocker for the long skirt seams.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 >>
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.read more >>
Ok, so to take a brief break from reading material, I thought I should update you with what I’ve been up to in the sewing room…
I had the first fitting of P’s muslin, and there are surprisingly little changes to be made – raising the neckline and armscye, pulling up the waistband by a centimetre, and that’s about it.
So I’m doing a second version of the bodice for her to try on this weekend, and then I unpick the skirt off that muslin and attach it to G’s bodice (the skirt is enormous and I didn’t have enough knit muslin for two!) and have her first fitting while I get down and dirty with the waistband pleating. I’m anticipating the pleating to be the most time-consuming part of both the dresses… (Earlier post about the dresses and colours here)
A spring dress
I finished a nice Springy version of BurdaStyle’s Heidi dress yesterday (finally!).
It was just waiting for a hem for nearly a week, which is a long time for me. It’s nice timing as Spring (or maybe even Summer!) arrived this weekend and it was gorgeous outside on deck with the barbecue going and everyone hopping from boat to boat. I’m hoping to do a photoshoot tonight now that we’ve got daylight for longer in the evenings…read more >>
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.read more >>
Today is my birthday! Every year I like to make myself something new to celebrate in, and this year I’ve paired some luscious teal silk jersey from Classic Textiles on Goldhawk Road (at £16/m) with a gorgeous draped dress from the Feb 2010 La Mia Boutique magazine, #6:
We thought we’d make the extra effort here to give you all a show of our neighbourhood with the dress…read more >>
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! read more >>
As good as my word, I sewed up a muslin for my birthday dress (next week, birthday fans!), which will be the draped jersey dress from the Feb 2010 La Mia Boutique magazine, #6:
I sewed up the muslin in a viscose jersey, chosen for its very similar draping to silk jersey (with the bridesmaids’ dresses also in silk jersey, I bought TONS of this!), but it is pretty thin and see-through so it’s really only ever going to be good for muslins. After sewing a size 44 in the turtleneck and finding it quite roomy, I decided to go with a 44 here, too, even though I should be a 46 according to their size charts. This is sewn up exactly as per their paper pattern, with no alterations.read more >>
I’ve gotten as far as I can on my secret other project while I wait for supplies (mostly new labels – can you believe I’ve sewn through the last lot of 120-odd Fehr Trade labels in the past two years??), so I cut out my muslin pieces for my birthday dress. If you’ve got a good memory, it’s this luuuurrrrrvely draped number from the Feb 2010 La Mia Boutique magazine, #6:
What I normally do for foreign language patterns (La Mia Boutique is in Italian) is look at the pieces and get a brief order of construction in my head. Usually I work from the top down, starting with assembling the front bodice pieces then join to the back at the shoulders, then finish the neckline, then if it’s a knit, attach the sleeves at the armscye and sew up the side seams, or if it’s a woven, do the side seams first them attach the sleeve in the round. After sewing for a while, you begin to see that most pattern instructions have you sew things in roughly the same order, so you can just do those here to suit this particular pattern.
But for more complicated patterns like this one, I like to sit down with a pen and paper and mentally go through the whole process, visualising how the different pieces interact and the pros and cons of doing which seams in which order (like “if I do this first, is it going to make it awkward to serge that?”). It’s a great mental exercise in spatial thinking, and one of the most pleasurable aspects of sewing for me.
And it means I don’t have to type in every single word of the foreign instructions and figure out what the translator’s trying to tell me (sewing terms are not the best translated! )!
So since I was writing these out anyway, I thought my order of construction might help others who were eyeing up this pattern.read more >>
I usually detest tracing Vogue patterns since their tissue paper is so flimsy, utterly enormous and so unwieldy to work with, but this one was surprisingly small since there’s only one view so no need for tons of extraneous pieces. Still not as easy as tracing KnipMode’s compact newsprint, for instance, but not enough to put me off sewing Vogue for months on end like it did previously!
The overall shape of this dress is quite simple, but it’s cut up into a ton of triangles and curves that can be tricky to visualise. So my first step was to lay them all out and see how they went together (seam allowances are included here so they don’t line up nicely like I’m used to though).read more >>
Even experienced sewers do dumb things. I hardly ever make muslins except when I’ve got really expensive fabric (like coating) or when I’m working with a pattern company I’ve not used very much before. But for Burdas, I know I’m a size 42, and that size 42 always fits me.
Until now. I’ve just finished sewing BWOF 05/2009 #117 and (yes I know it’s a stupid thing to do) I didn’t try it on until I put the invisible zipper in right at the end because it’s a PITA to get someone else to pin you in and out and frankly, I still hurt from that surgery so I just like to get into my sewing zen zone and proceed without interruptions. That’s my excuse, anyway.
So what’s Burda’s?? Being polite, I could say this pattern runs small. Besides the fact that Burda patterns don’t run anything, they just fit, every time, with German precision, since when is it okay to have zero inches of waist ease in any woven pattern (seriously – measured dress waist is 30 1/2 inches. Size 42 body waist measurement is 30 3/4 inches on the size chart)? Argh. I think I’m most annoyed because I trusted Burda so implicitly, and because I did such an awesome job on those pointed underarm gussets that so intimidated me (they actually turned out to be really easy – just make sure you thread-baste the seam lines, interface the point, and sew each in two steps like Burda suggests).
I even had to dial Susan down to her absolute smallest setting (39-29-40) to get the dress to fit onto her, and even then the zipper is really straining at the back bodice!read more >>
The second of my winter knit dresses is the cross-bodiced Burda WOF 06/09 #129. I’ve had my eye on this pattern ever since it came out, but I was amazed to see that no one had reviewed it yet on PR, so it’s definitely an undiscovered gem as far as I’m concerned!
I recently ordered a big batch of fabrics from Totally Fabrics (more on that later) in their 40% off everything sale including this brown floral viscose jersey print with shades of teal, fuschia, and grey thrown in. I only ordered one metre (of 1.5m available stock) but when it turned up, it turns out they gave me the whole 1.5m rather than have an awkwardly short leftover! Score! Even so, there was no way I could squeeze this entire dress out of the yardage available, so I had to do a clever amount of fabric Tetris, shorten the hem by 2 inches, make the sleeves 3/4 length, and sew the hidden front bodice piece from a constrasting grey marl jersey.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 >>
Remember that wool, collared Patrones top I made recently? Well, I’m so happy to report that my overly detailed instructions for it weren’t in vain, because Kim’s made this top, too! It’s fitting, really, since she’s the one who hooked me up with this issue in the first place… ;)
Doesn’t she look great? In her own words:read more >>
We always set out to make two dresses for my mom this summer – one knit and one woven, and for the woven one she ended up also picking a KnipMode pattern from my archives, this time #6a from the special June 2009 “40 Years, 40 Dresses” issue.
It may look like a shirtwaister at first glance, but the buttons in front are purely decorative – there’s an invisible zipper in the left side seam and it all just goes over the head for a really easy to wear, casual style.
She bought the bright red twill in America and prewashed it before she came over, and then picked out the buttons on a shopping excursion to MacCulloch and Wallis here in London.read more >>
OK it seems I’ve got a brief respite from my fever right now (although not the headache) so I’m going to take advantage of it to finally show you the lavender knit dress I made my mom while she was staying with us this summer.
She bought the lavender interlock when she was still in America, and then had a leisurely stroll through my huge archive of pattern magazines for a style she liked and I thought would flatter her nicely. So together we decided on KnipMode Aug 2009 #20, which has a surplice top with shawl collar and pleated skirt in both back and front. We were originally going to shorten the sleeves to elbow length, but after trying on the dress, she decided she liked them long and could easily push them up if she needed to.
Once or twice a year, KnipMode produce a few patterns that come in Petite, Average, and Tall patterns, with a few of the pattern pieces changing shape, though as Arielle pointed out, Knip don’t publish their Petite or Tall body measurement charts anywhere! Any Dutch speakers care to volunteer to sort out this mystery for us? They don’t seem to understand it when we email… In any case, I just made the average height for my mom here, as she’s about 5 foot 6 with fairly normal length proportions.read more >>
Apologies for the short intermission this week – I intended to tell you all about the lovely knit dress I made for my mom and show off our great photoshoot, but I’ve been snatched away for the weekend to sunny Camberwell. I can now say I’ve had a headache that’s tougher than paracetemol (Tylenol), codeine, AND morphine, as well as all three combined together!! Don’t worry, it’s sorted now- the drs were pretty sure it was caused by one of my many medicines making my blood pressure spike, but they had to keep me in to dis-count any other nastier options to be absolutely sure.read more >>
I hadn’t planned on making this dress, but I suddenly remembered it was our neighbour Matilda’s fourth birthday today so I went over and took some measurements yesterday, and chose dress #6 from the Fall (Herfst) 2008 Knippie idee magazine:
Remember back at Christmas I made this as a top for my niece? You might also remember Matilda from the knit balaclavas I made her at Christmas…
This time I made the smallest in the size range, 98, after measuring Matilda (who’s turning 4), whereas I’d made the biggest size, 128, for my niece who was barely 6 then.
Here’s the dress, front and back, laid out flat:read more >>
I adore my pink flowered day dress so much that I just had to make another version!
If you recall, I blended two similar dresses from the Feb 09 issue of KnipMode together into one! I took the top half of #15 (on the left) and the bottom of #18 (on the right) and joined them together at the waist seam to make a really comfortable, casual dress for lounging around the moorings.read more >>
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!read more >>
The Colette Patterns “Eclair” dress is not a quick, one-weekend project, but it’s well worth taking my time over and going through all the careful steps in the instructions to get a nice finish. I inserted the side, invisible zipper last night (more on that in a second), so now I only have to attach the lining to the zipper tape, stitch in the ditch along the waistband to join the shell and lining, and hem the two skirts! I’m doing well on time, too, since the wedding’s not until May 9th and I’ve got a bank holiday between now and then, too.
So here’s the invisible zipper on the side seam (yes, I am rather proud of matching the waist seam there!):
You can’t tell on the tech drawing, but this dress has inseam pockets, too, and the instructions have a very clever way of dealing with the pocket, side seam, and invisible zipper area that makes it all nice and neat!read more >>
Thinking ahead towards summertime, I really like to wear casual day dresses around the moorings at weekends (and this year, during the week, too, I suppose). A few years ago my friend Jess bought me a really simple 70s day dress at a vintage shop, and I’ve worn that so much I realised I’d like a few more to fulfil the same function.
So for this day dress, I blended two similar dresses from the Feb 09 issue of KnipMode together into one! I took the top half of #15 (on the left) and the bottom of #18 (on the right) and joined them together at the waist seam to make a really comfortable, casual dress for lounging around the moorings.
The fabric is a really super soft cotton-lycra jersey from Totally Fabrics, but which has now, understandably, sold out (I looked a few days ago to see if I could buy more – it’s that good!). The neck and arm bands are just a bit of black lycra to give a bit of contrast to such a busy print.read more >>
Happy birthday to me!!
Today is my 30th birthday, and as such, I’ve made Burda WOF 03/09 #116 in emerald green silk charmeuse (satin) to wear to my big party on Saturday night!
I tested this pattern a few weeks ago and wrote all about the fitting and muslin work here, and thanks to popular opinion, I did indeed take a wedge out of the back seam to get rid of the swayback wrinkles. Apart from that, I kept the fit the same!read more >>
My 30th birthday is fast approaching, and even though I make myself something special every year to wear on the day, this year I wanted to sew a fabulous dress using some emerald green silk charmeuse (satin) I’d bought years ago and stashed away in the hopes that someday I’d recreate that Atonement dress. I was really excited to see in the Burda WOF March online previews that there was a dress that suited me perfectly – gorgeous gathered, yoked shoulders with floaty sleeves, falling down into a deep V neck with a swooshy gored skirt and plenty of back detail, and shown in my chosen fabric – Burda WOF 03/09 #116.
The timing would be tight, though, since I usually only receive my subscription copy on the 15th or so of the month, but I thought I could pull it off. But then Burda updated the website with the full information, showing it was a *&£@^% petite pattern! Argh! It’s always the way that the designs you like the most aren’t in your size, and with the timeline, I really didn’t think this was meant to be…read more >>
Apologies to any readers outside our little isle (ok, ok I’m know I’m an immigrant, but my naturalisation paperwork is currently sat on a desk somewhere at the Home Office so I think that’s close enough), but this post is really only for those of us in the UK…
First – did you know The Observer are giving away a free dress pattern designed by Alice Temperley to the first 500 people who send in an SAE jiffy bag? Really, I’m so excited about this, I could barely hold off writing about it until I posted my own off. I don’t want all of you ahead of me in the queue, after all!
It’s difficult to see the details of the dress in the photo used in the linked article, though, so I went digging through Style.com’s runway archive and found this “mini Dana” dress in Temperley London’s Spring 2009 collection:read more >>
This dress has been in the works for quite a while now, but yet again I find myself with a new cocktail dress just in time for all the Christmas parties! I first noticed BWOF 09/08 #114 when the issue’s preview came up on the website because the seaming was exactly like a Versace dress worn by Kate Moss in the Fall 2007 Versace ad campaign. Besides being a great designer knockoff pattern, I simply just loved the seaming details, though I’m not terribly keen on Burda’s styling of it as a jumper (in the American sense of the word).read more >>
No, you did read that right – it’s just not for me! Luckily, my niece Megan will be receiving something that ticks two boxes off her Christmas list: “5. New Dress” and “Hannah Montana stuff”. We should all be thankful I didn’t attempt “8. bird costume with bird shoes”!
I found some fantastic Hannah Montana cotton knit from Crybaby’s Boutique and teamed it with some 100% cotton interlock in “rosepink” from Pennine Outdoor to break up the print a bit, then went looking for some nice kids patterns.read more >>
I’m mostly finished with BWOF 09/2008 #114 (which, you’ll remember, is the spitting image of a Versace dress) which I’m making in navy blue silk with a square neckline. The silk is really lovely and drapes beautifully, and I love how it feels, too. I’m super pleased with how the whole dress is turning out, actually, but this morning I noticed the two front seam lines are doing a funny thing towards the hem:read more >>
I’m a bit late in getting the photos from last weekend’s wedding off James’s computer, but I know some of you were waiting to see how the silver linen shift dress and the matching fascinator looked together, so here you go!
This banner was actually up outside the venue advertising an upcoming wedding expo, but it was too good for the bride and groom (and us!) to pass up for photos…read more >>
I’ve been fantasising about making this dress ever since February, and I finally got the right inspiration to make it, and in a lovely fabric that nicely bridges the Summer/Fall/Winter gap. BWOF 02/2008 #103 is a knit dress with raglan sleeves, wide boatneck collar, and a really distinctive front twist leading down into a wrap skirt.read more >>
My grandmother’s wedding dress arrived safely on Friday! I person, it’s absolutely jaw, droppingly gorgeous, even 59 years later. The preview photos I drew the technical drawing from didn’t do it justice, so I’m hoping these photos on James’s DSLR will help to show some of the amazing vintage details.
The dress is entirely silk satin with no lace, embroidery, or beading (just from a mesh panel around the neckline), and the weave of the silk is still perfectly and soft and so very strong still. Granny told me she bought this in a shop on South Street in Philadelphia in 1949, but I’m afraid I can’t tell you the designer as there’s no label and she’s long since forgotten the details. But the workmanship speaks for itself, and it’s very interesting for me to see that they’ve not wasted any silk where it couldn’t be seen – the mesh fabric is used for all facings, the seam allowances are only 1/2 inch, and there’s no lining.read more >>
Burda WOF have just posted a full preview of their September 2008 issue (though only for members at the minute), and this dress practically jumped off the screen at me:
Gorgeous, right? Well, the reason it stood out to me is because those central bodice seams are a spitting image of a Versace dress from Fall 2007. I saw the ad with Kate Moss last year and I loved the design so much that I ripped it out and have had it hanging on my sewing room wall ever since:read more >>
This dress has been fully formed in my mind ever since February, when I bought Burda 7783 and this beautiful linen/lurex blend at Hickeys in Dublin. Luckily, they print the fabric content and washing instructions right on the receipts, so I can tell you with some degree of accuracy that this dress is 53% linen, 44% rayon, and 3% lurex. As far as I’m concerned, this fabric is 100% gorgeous – it’s got a subtle bit of shine under bright lights that really makes it special.read more >>
We visited our venue (and totally geeked-out at the museum!) on Saturday and met with the wedding coordinator there so we now have a date – the rather auspicious 19 September 2009. Or to put it another way, 19.09.09 (09/19/09 for the Americans)!
Good thing we have over a year though, because we’re going to need every single day of that to save up and prepare for it. Oh my, the grand total was an eye opener, and we’re not being frivolous in the slightest with our plans!
Luckily, then, my grandmother has given me her gown from her wedding in 1949. She’s insisted I use it and NOT be afraid to cut it up, saying she’ll cut it herself if I don’t, or donate it to goodwill or sell it on eBay. I think it’s her way of not letting me get too scared about changing it or treating it like a relic or something. In any case, I’ve seen photos of it, but I’m going to make you all wait until it’s shipped over to me, cleaned, and pressed before I document its “before” state properly.
Until then, here’s my rough sketch based on the photos and my mom’s eyewitness account:read more >>
My unofficial knit month continues, this time with an incredibly comfortable “frankendress”! The top half is KnipMode April 2008 #13 (still available to buy from Naaipatronen, fyi), which you should remember from when I made it before in blue for myself and then again for my mom:
I absolutely love my top, and I often find myself in my wardrobe late at night picking out clothes for the next day, holding that shirt and asking myself “wait – did I already wear it this week?”. I just knew I had to turn this pattern into a dress to get even more wear out of it, so I searched my back issues of Burda WOF magazines and found a great knit dress to use for the bottom half: Burda WOF 05/05 #125.
I sat down with the two patterns and sketched out a combined technical drawing and then started thinking about my plan of attack to serge this all together, keeping in mind that it’s a lot easier to construct flat seams than in the round… I didn’t follow my plan exactly, but I did stick to the basic idea, and I’d definitely do it this way again.read more >>
The third linen item in this week’s unofficial linen-a-thon is a cute and very casual shift dress from the May 08 issue of Prima magazine. I don’t think I’ve mentioned Prima much here before, but it’s a UK women’s magazine that features one sewing pattern each issue. If you subscribe you get sent them automatically, but if you pick up an occasional copy at the newsagents like I do, then you need to ring a premium rate number to have it posted to you (it usually works out to a pound or two on your phone bill, which is very reasonable).
Their patterns are usually a bit hit-or-miss with me, but when they get it right, I drop everything to buy the issue, even though this is the first one I’ve actually sewn up. Their sizing is pretty close to the Big 4 patterns and they include seam and hem allowances, and the patterns are printed on newsprint like the pattern magazines. One thing I really don’t like, though, is that they print their sewing instructions right on the pattern sheet so you’ve got to unfold this huge sheet just to read what the next step is if you haven’t cut up your patterns and prefer to trace instead.
On this pattern, I really liked the overall easygoing style and fit of the dress, and the gathered back yoke combined with the standing wide collar really appealed to me. This pattern included optional cap sleeves, which I decided to make to shield my poor freckled shoulders from the sun (when it occasionally shows its face here!).read more >>
When I bought my first La Mia Boutique magazine a few months ago I was instantly drawn to dress #31 in that April 2008 issue:
I loved the duality of the buttoned, tight, and sleeveless bodice with the pleated A-line skirt, and I wanted to accentuate that with contrasting fabric (and, err, leave out the weird knee-highs!). I happened to have about a half metre of lemon-yellow linen/tencel blend leftover from James’s dress shirt, and it was just too soft to let languish in my scraps box! So I decided to use it for the bodice (and lining) of this day dress and pair it with some raspberry-coloured tablecloths for the bottom. I think I may possibly be channelling Spring colours, or perhaps I’m just craving sorbet!read more >>
This past weekend was a Bank Holiday weekend here in the UK, so technically I got another day though it doesn’t really feel that way! I did manage to get some sewing in amongst the DIY, cleaning, baking, running, and hosting, however. I finally finished James’s linen shirt, and even made myself a new day dress from La Mia Boutique using some of his excess linen/tencel fabric and some raspberry tablecloths…read more >>
What a difference a week makes! Spring has finally come to London, meaning I could wear my new dress outside without fear of goosebumps (the reverse – I actually got a bit sunburnt!).
If you recall from earlier, I bought a vintage Porsche cotton duvet cover and pillowcase off eBay for £8 (including shipping). It was in great condition and even had a full wraparound print which meant I had a lot more fabric to work with than I ever imagined when I clicked Bid Now…
I decided it’d work best with a suitably vintage pattern, so I decided to use Simplicity 3780, using a bit of careful pattern placement to get the most out of the different printed areas of the duvet cover (so the stripes along the bottom of the duvet became the red halter straps, for instance).read more >>
I was away all day Saturday hiking near Guildford with our monthly walking group, but a friend staying at ours said it snowed back in London. Ugh. It’s still too cold to wear either the silk blouse or the ikea skirt apart from their hurried photoshoots, so of course I’m sewing practical winter clothes to suit the weather…
Ha! Gotcha! No, I’m sewing a sleeveless, cotton halter-top dress, out of this vintage Porsche duvet I bought on eBay:read more >>
If you have never felt or sewn bamboo fabric before, stop what you’re doing and go buy some right now. Seriously. I’ll wait.
Bamboo jersey is as soft as cashmere, as easy to work with as cotton, machine washes without much shrinkage (or loss of softness), is antibacterial (so if you make workout gear in it it doesn’t stink half as bad as even the techno wicking stuff!), and all the wrinkles steam out of it in the time it takes to have a shower. Honestly, this stuff is wonderful, and I can’t wait until more colours are available and I’m buying every single one.
This wrap dress pattern is originally from the May 2006 Burda WOF, but it’s proved so popular that Burda have released it as a 2 euro download pattern, too. It really is the perfect wrap dress – necklines that don’t move, secure fastenings (two snaps are concealed beneath the decorative belt), and best of all – a full frontal overlapping skirt panel so you don’t have any surprises on a windy walk to work! Coupled with the luxuriously soft bamboo, this really is like wearing pajamas…read more >>
I fell in love with the yellow cocktail dress in the 11/07 Burda WOF magazine, with its wide, square neckline and fabulous 90 degree front darts, and it just so happened that I had just the right amount of butter-yellow duchess satin leftover from James’s pirate coat lining to sew this up. Since the satin was so thick I opted to omit the lining and just go for facings instead, which made this an even quicker project.read more >>
Due to popular demand, the latest addition to my FW/07 Collection is the Go Patterns little black dress, 4001. This dress is not one to be taken lightly, as you’ll remember from my fitting session – it’s much more of an exercise in couture techniques than a quick dress you can whip up in an evening. At several points I got a bit frustrated with my glacial progress and the amount of hand sewing, but the end result is just… breathtaking.read more >>
As part of my fabric buying spree in the States, I bought some gorgeous emerald green silk charmeuse from fabric.com, with plans to make HotPatterns’ Deco Vibe So Pretty dress. As my FW/07 collection is keeping me rather busy, I hadn’t given myself a timeline to make this dress, even though I’ve got all the materials to hand.
But last night James and I finally went to see Atonement at the cinema, and I couldn’t help but notice that the beautiful 1930s evening gown worn by Keira Knightley’s character in the film is very similar to to the dress I’d already planned!read more >>
As explained a few days ago, I was very lucky to be invited to attend a catwalk show at London Fashion Week on Saturday morning. After fretting over what to wear, I settled on this ensemble, which was entirely Fehr Trade, just in case someone asked (they didn’t. Awww.).
But, as I soon found out once the models hit the catwalk, apparently I was right to decide on a cowl top!read more >>
I’m going on holiday very soon, and even though I’m not a “beach person” (try getting me to sit still long enough, my freckly pale colouring nonwithstanding), I know we’ll be going to a few pools and a municipal beach while I’m away. So I aimed towards making a beach coverup that I wouldn’t mind wearing out and about, and I’m pretty happy with the results!read more >>
I’ll have another update very shortly (as soon as I can arrange the photo shoot), but until then, I know some of you have been asking how the Glastonbury dress held up to the deluge of mud…
And the answer is, surprisingly well!read more >>
Back when I got the pillowcases for the famous IKEA skirt, I also bought a Tanja shower curtain that caught my eye from across the store and was conveniently marked down to a fiver.
It’s stayed in my fabric stash ever since, just waiting for the perfect project, which presented itself in the form of this Burda WOF 60s dress from the May 2007 issue. It turned out to be the perfect fabric for this dress, considering that Glastonbury is coming up in a few weeks and I’ve been wanting something special to wear (and let’s face it, if the famous downpours happen again this year, this dress is ready for them!!), and because the pink piping matches my hot pink wellies perfectly.read more >>
The April 2007 issue of KnipMode magazine had a section where they took a bunch of catwalk looks and replicated them with one of their patterns. I loved the easy lines of the John Galliano dress, but so much of my wardrobe is already black and white and I thought I’d prefer a colourful dress for the summer.read more >>
Once upon a time in London there were two girls suffering from sewing distress. The first girl loved to create and dreamt all day about creating beautiful garments. But alas, she was imprisoned in her true love’s family’s home and her sewing tools were all locked away in a dungeon of cardboard boxes. The other girl had all the tools imaginable, but lacked the experience to turn pieces of cloth into wearable gowns and the language to understand the foreign tongue of patterns. So one fair day the girls hatched a plan to combine forces and each create a dress using the resources of the other.read more >>
After seeing celeb after celeb wearing Roland Mouret’s fantastic Galaxy dress and spouting the true wonders of its inner spandex core, I was very excited to see that Vogue produced its own version of the Galaxy dress, Vogue 8280, and I bought it immediately.
Fast forward several months and I finally had the time (and the small waist!) to make this dress using the gorgeous grey tartan wool I’d bought especially for it alongside the pattern. It took me two days of sewing after quite a bit of prep work, but I thoroughly enjoyed making this dress and I absolutely love the end result! It may not have the magical spandex core, but it does have a fully lined bodice and a neat skinny belt I made to further acentuate the nipped-in waist.read more >>
Why is it that we have to stop playing dress-up once we reach a certain age? Sometimes it’s good to have a special dress that makes you feel like the prettiest girl in the room, the one all eyes are on — like a princess, really.read more >>
I’ve finally finished the 1930s Day Dress and debuted it at The Big Chill music festival last weekend. My boyfriend is rather fond of crisp linen suits and his beloved authentic Panama hat, so I thought we’d strike the perfect couple pose strolling around the Malvern Hills…read more >>
I’m terribly excited to finally have begun work on Folkwear’s 1930s Day Dress! I bought the pattern and both the vintage-print crepe de chine and the contrasting teal crepe de chine (which you may recognise from the kimono top a few months ago, but I set myself a goal that I wouldn’t make the dress until my measurements matched that of my dressmaker’s dummy, unpadded (yes, I realise it’s adjustable, but bear with me here). I’m happy to say that I’ve lost the 4 inchess off my waist that held the biggest discrepancy between myself and Susan (said dummy), and I’m headlong into a new project, thankfully with enough summer left for a vain hope to still wear it before the first frost!read more >>
As you may have already read, I started work on a sheath dress made from a 1960s dress pattern. I am happy to report that the dress is now finished, though the end result bears little resemblance to the pattern sketch. Mostly because the pattern sketch does not show a sack of potatoes. Once again I fell into the trap of being entranced by the lovely, stylish drawings on the fronts of vintage patterns, choosing to ignore the little voice in my head that knows you can only trust a photograph on these kinds of things.
I saw this dress while looking through TopShop’s website recently:
I love it, but a) the bastards don’t make it in my size (what the hell, every other dress but not this one?? argh.), and b) I could make that!read more >>
I made this in November 2005 with ten day’s notice. My boyfriend told me that his best friend’s birthday party was back on for the weekend. This wouldn’t cause too much alarm in most cases, but this was her 30th birthday and she was renting out a country house for an entire weekend with a black tie catered dinner on Saturday night.
Yes, I said “black tie” – that means I needed a posh evening gown in 10 days!! I don’t have posh money, but I did have a this pattern, Simplicity 5876, for a vintage evening gown that I fell in love with but had no occasion to make or wearread more >>