Sunday, 26 June 2016

A bevy of Burda tops

Every winter I never seem to have enough long sleeved tops to wear in the cold weather, and I wonder what I could have possibly worn the previous winter. Funnily enough when summer rolls around I also seem to lack short sleeved tops in my wardrobe and again wonder what goes on in my wardrobe in the intervening season!

Anyway, winter has finally rolled in to Sydney and I decided to make a number of quick and easy knit tops at my sewing weekend away at the end of May to fill the hole in my wardrobe. All Burda of course, since that's what I seem to naturally reach for these days.

First up I made a simple round neck top with an interesting shoulder insert which I have been planning to make for many years after seeing lots of other versions pop up around the blogosphere:


This is Burda 9/2012 #123, which is still available for download despite being several years old:


I used some metallic gold linen that was left over from another project for the shoulder inserts. It is hard to capture the shine of this fabric, but it really makes this top a bit more dressy than your standard round neck tshirt.


I changed the pattern slightly by leaving out the facing and keyhole opening at the back of the neckline, and instead just sewed on a narrow neckband instead. My black cotton jersey from the Remnant Warehouse is stretchy enough that I can get the top over my head despite the non stretchy linen at the shoulder and no opening at the back. The shoulder insert is only on the front of the top anyway, so it was fine:


Next up I made a Burda 02/2013 #127, a raglan tee with gathers at the shoulder that I've made twice before (although one of those is a UFO that will soon be finished):


I've made my version in a thin pink marle textured knit that has been in the stash for a long time. I'll definitely be wearing my version with a bra though, because I don't have the kind of confidence that the Burda model is displaying in the photo above!

The sleeves and body of this top are very long which I knew from my previous versions and yet I forgot about when I cut this pattern out. The body length is fine because it can be tucked in, but those sleeves are somewhat annoying (not annoying enough to fix though).


I also found that the gathers on the front shoulder aren't as gathered as much as the ones on the back - I did gather them between the pattern markings, but if I make this top again I would not spread the gathers out as far along the front as I have on this version:



Finally I made a super simple stripe tshirt from Burda 2/2011 #106:


I bought some lovely jersey fabric from Tessuti in 2014 when they held their Jaywalk competition - I couldn't think of anything imaginative enough to make from it at the time but this is a good use. The fabric is very soft with great recovery and wears very well.


I did change the pattern slightly by sewing a cuff with vertical stripes for a bit of interest but otherwise this is a straight size 34 pattern. Gotta love working with knit fabrics - so much less fitting required than all the woven jackets and dresses I usually work with.

And check out that pattern matching - side seams and shoulder seams! If only there were awards for such achievements, but I guess I'll have to make do with my own satisfaction.


I've got two other long sleeved tops and one UFO recently finished (but not yet photographed) which should see me through this winter - but I'm sure that in a year's time I'll be once again lamenting the lack of warm tops in my wardrobe!



Thursday, 9 June 2016

Burda of the month: 5/2016 #101 The Origami Top

First of all, thank you to everyone for so many lovely and encouraging comments to my last post. The intent of the post was more to explain my absence and sporadic posing of late, but I am very grateful for all of you that took the time to comment - it's nice to know that so many of you are interested in what I have to say still after all these years!

Life is still going to be a little bit crazy for me for at least the next two months - I have a major work project that needs to be delivered in mid July, my daughter's school fete is later this month which I'm part of the organising committee, and I'll be sewing 28 jackets for the dance troupe at my daughter's school if they audition successfully for the School Spectacular which is in September. Add to that all the usual commitments involved in being a wife, mother and friend - no wonder I feel like I'm busy every moment of the day!

Luckily sewing is not a chore for me, it's (mostly) a relaxing outlet, so I'm certainly still making projects. I was a few days late in finishing last month's Burda project, but it is done at last. And I'm continuing my love affair with colour - this fabric is a very pretty pale coral colour which received many compliments from my fellow sewers at my recent ASG sewing retreat when I started sewing it.

Burda 5/2016 #101 pleat neck top www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

I decided to make 5/2016 #101, a simple looking top with interesting pleats at the neckline:

Burda 5/2016 #101 pleat neck top www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

Unusually for my Burda of the month challenge, I purchased this fabric specially for this project - mostly I've always used stash fabric. The pattern requiring lightweight softly draping blouse fabrics, and surprisingly I didn't really have anything I wanted to use in my stash. Luckily I was at The Remnant Warehouse a few weeks ago buying gold sequin fabric for those 28 jacketsmy daughter's school dance troupe, when I spied this wonderfully soft polyester with a slight amount of stretch for some bargain price.

While the fabric itself is lovely, I'm not sure it's the best choice because those pleats at the front just seem to drape rather than keep the pleat lines like the magazine photo. Plus it's a bit sheer so my bra and the facings show through. I think a lightweight cotton like a cotton voile or thin poplin may have been a better choice. That's also the reason why I chose to leave off the turned up cuff on the sleeve hems, because in this fabric it just drooped and I didn't really want to topstitch the cuff.

Overall the fit was a little bit funny - it was very roomy under my arms and through the back, but there didn't seem to be enough room across the front when I pressed the pleats along the marked lines. Since I'm an A cup it seemed unusual for it not to fit across the bust - if you're better endowed than I and are thinking of making this top it is something to keep in mind. I ended up ironing the fabric flat to take out the pressed lines and have just left it draping where it falls.

Burda 5/2016 #101 pleat neck top www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

Burda 5/2016 #101 pleat neck top www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

Wearing this top tucked in looks nothing like the Burda magazine photograph - they must have a large amount of fabric pinned in the back to get the front sitting that smoothly. I tucked the top in and arranged it properly just to take this photo, but already it puffed out and sat awkwardly, and is especially billowy at the back:

Burda 5/2016 #101 pleat neck top www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

Burda 5/2016 #101 pleat neck top www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

Making this wasn't as easy as it looks though - working out the order of those pleats and the difference between the pleat lines and placement lines took a number of attempts and a whole lot of attention! Burda as usual gives very sparse instructions, so in case anyone else (or my future self) is planning to make this top, here are the steps for getting that neckline right:

First, you do need to mark all those lines on your fabric, because my lazy way of using pins will not work - you need to know the difference between the lines the fabric is folded and the lines that mark the centre front placement lines.

Burda 5/2016 #101 pleat neck top www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

So the first step is to make an inverted pleat at the centre front, by bringing the lines on either side of the centre front to meet in the middle (ie 'first' and 'second' in the photo above). Press these folded lines for about 5cm down from the top.

Burda 5/2016 #101 pleat neck top www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

The second step is then to fold along the left side pleat line (the purple line marked 'third' in the first photo), and then bring this to the centre front so that it lays diagonally over - the vertical orange line should line up with the centre front. Press that folded fabric down. Then do the same with the right side pleat line - you can see in the photo below how it sits diagonally, but the curve of the neckline lines up properly when it's all folded in place. Give it a final press and baste a few stitches across the top to hold it all in place.

Burda 5/2016 #101 pleat neck top www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

Hopefully that makes sense and is helpful! It's quite difficult to describe and it took me a few tries to get this right. Also I don't think it matters if you do left over right or vice versa. Apart from the neckline it is a pretty straightforward project. I wasn't sure if this project was going to work out, so I just overlocked all the seams instead of using French seams which would have suited this fine fabric better but would have been a little bit more effort. I also just machine stitched the sleeve hem and bodice hem instead of doing a rolled hem or narrow hem which also would have looked better.

It is quite bulky at the centre front though, with all those layers from the pleats plus the facing. Again, I didn't want to topstitch since I couldn't find an exactly matching thread colour. I hand stitched the front facing to the bottom layer of the pleats at the centre front where it wouldn't be visible from the outside and I also stitched it down at the shoulders. I've left the back facing free though - fingers crossed it doesn't flip out when I'm wearing it.

Burda 5/2016 #101 pleat neck top www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

Burda 5/2016 #101 pleat neck top www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

This is not my usual silhouette, and I'm not sure I'm going to call this one a success yet - I'll try it with a few different outfits before I declare it a success or not. If I do make this again, I think I'll use the front of this pattern, but use the back and sleeves of Burda 8/2015 #120 (this top with drape front) because that pattern has a neater fitting shape to it. I would also use a slightly crisper fabric to make those pleats stand out more.

I think this may be my first Burda this year that I'm no so happy with, so I guess 1 from 5 is a pretty good rate so far!

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Attempting to conquer my mountains of UFOs again

Hello - anyone still reading along? I've never been a particularly regular or prolific blogger, but I have let things slide in the past few weeks. To be honest, I've been having a bit of a blog crisis and was seriously considering ending it - I am a bit overwhelmed at the moment with life and there just isn't enough time for everything I want to do. Since I don't plan to use my blog to make money or launch an overpriced line of amateur patterns I didn't think I would miss it. And I know I'll never have a flashy blog with amazing photography in cool locations and I don't sew the uber popular indie patterns that everyone seems to go crazy over, so I'm not deluding myself that my blog is a 'must read' for anyone.

But then I remembered what I do get out of blogging - it's a way of keeping track of my projects and alterations made, and it's enabled me to make many new friends and contacts in real life who share my love of sewing. I was reminded of this last weekend when I went on a sewing retreat with my local Australian Sewing Guild - without my blog I wouldn't have met these funny and amazingly talented ladies.

I was also reminded when I sat down to finish a UFO that was started in my pre-blog days (that would be more than 8 years ago!) - without any project notes I have no idea of what changes I may have made to the pattern. Despite several attempts over the years to clear up my many UFOs that are lurking around, the sad fact is that I still have more than a few many unfinished projects from the 18 or so years I've been sewing.

Sadly it's not the first time I've confessed my UFO habit and tried to do something about it - in this post back in 2009 I talked about the very same thing, and I have 18 posts over the years referring to UFOs. Judging by the two big boxes of UFOs I know have I didn't achieve much progress since then, but if my Burda style challenge has taught me anything it's that forcing myself to do something routinely it eventually becomes habit. So I'm declaring my intention here: from now on I'm aiming to finish one UFO each month until they're all gone.

I'm also planning to analyse why I let things become UFOs to see if I can identify patterns or weaknesses that I should also try to address. And by blogging it all, not only am I making myself accountable, but I might even make some of you feel better about your own UFOs, or make those of you that are very diligent to feel mighty glad that you don't even have any UFOs (I bet you don't have a fabric stash either, do you?!).

First up, one of my more recent UFOs: Kwik Sew 3915 Ruched Neck Top


I cut this project out this time last year to take away to a sewing weekend retreat but I didn't get time to make it then, and I forgot about it when I came home and packed all my things away. So no real reason for this one becoming a UFO.

I am really annoyed with myself for taking so long to finish this one - it's a great pattern and top and I've worn it several times already in the last month since finishing it. Funnily enough it took less than 2 hours to sew it, and it only took that long because I was sewing it at one of my ASG neighbourhood group sewing days and there is more talking than sewing going on there!

Kwik Sew 3915 ruched neck top grey black stripe top www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com
The fabric is a wool knit, quite lightweight like a merino although it's a bit scratchier and doesn't have a great deal of stretch. Being wool it presses really well, and was easy to sew with. The fabric is leftover from a maternity dress I made back in 2012, and was originally purchased from the Remnant Warehouse.

Let's talk Kwik Sew patterns for a minute - they used to be a bit unfashionable, with 'sensible' styles that hardly set the sewing blogging world alight. But I think they have great simple styles and the patterns are really well drafted. Now that they have become part of the McCalls company they seem to be trying to make their pattern covers more enticing and modern - but as always if you look beyond the cover picture you might just find a gem!
Kwik Sew 3915 ruched neck top grey black stripe top www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com
I made a size xs from this pattern and it fits me well, although I went off the flat pattern measurements and not the body measurements stated on the envelope.  The shoulder seams are a little wide for my narrow shoulders, and I do have some pooling in my lower back which is to be expected from a pattern without a centre back seam. Looks just like all my RTW tops do anyway, so I'm fine with it.

Kwik Sew 3915 ruched neck top grey black stripe top www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

It's a relatively easy pattern, although I imagine sewing those loops for the buttons on the front would be fiddly in a knit (I didn't bother with them) and getting a good finish at the bottom of that V-neck seam in the centre front proved impossible even though I tried a few times. It has a slight bubble, but it's not too bad and probably not too noticeable at all.

Kwik Sew 3915 ruched neck top grey black stripe top www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

I didn't interface the collar so it's a bit floppy and doesn't really fold over that well as it's designed to. For the next version (that will not become a UFO!) I will use some interfacing, but possibly will reduce the width of the collar so that it doesn't need to be folded over anyway because only the smallest amount folds over and it doesn't really look intentional.

Kwik Sew 3915 ruched neck top grey black stripe top www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

So that's one UFO done from many still unfinished. This is going to be long road, but I just can't let all those fabrics and time invested in half finished projects go to waste, so I am determined to finish a good chunk of them at least. The good news is that I finished four other UFOs last week, so I'm making a good start on my UFO challenge.

Thanks everyone for reading along and commenting on my blog, and especially to those who I sometimes bump into in real life that take the time to say hello - it's always lovely!


Monday, 2 May 2016

Burda of the month: 4/2016 #135 Girls Shirt Dress

I just snuck this Burda project in while it was still April, so I've managed to keep my 100% success rate going for another month at least. Funnily enough I thought I would get my April project finished in March since my magazine arrived a few days before April and I had originally planned to make a simple top for myself. But Anna asked for a new dress, so I set aside my own plans to make this dress instead and for a number of reasons I procrastinated on finishing it until I was forced to by the end of the month deadline.

I made 4/2016 #135, a button front shirt dress for her:

Burda 4/2016 #135 girl's shirt dress in pink and grey plaid www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

Unusually it's not modelled in the magazine, but instead just the garment is pictured.  I think it's a cute dress, and looks nice in the navy blue fabric they've used:

Burda 4/2016 #135 girl's shirt dress in pink and grey plaid www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com


I let Anna pick out some fabric from my stash, and she chose a poly/cotton pink and grey plaid fabric that has been in the stash a long time and was either an op-shop purchase or a gift. It is a lovely soft and drapey fabric, but boy was it difficult to sew with. Not only was it shifty when I was handling it, but pulls in the fabric kept occurring when I was sewing the vertical seams, even though I tried several different needle types. A bit of tugging to pull it back into shape and pressing seem to fix it though.

Pattern wise it's a pretty simple design - just a button down shirt with a three quarter circle skirt. The skirt is self drafted which required a bit of mathematics, but is nice and full. I was pretty close in matching the side plaids - I like the diamond pattern it makes:

Burda 4/2016 #135 girl's shirt dress in pink and grey plaid www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

The collar piece is simply sewn onto the neckline without a collar stand, and then the neckline is worn open to create that notched collar effect. It has a fold back facing that extends to the shoulder seam and then a bias strip is sewn along the back neckline. Again, an easy way to do it and it looks pretty good:

Burda 4/2016 #135 girl's shirt dress in pink and grey plaid www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

The pattern is designed to have elastic sewn to the seam allowance of the waistband which is a method I hate - it's really uncomfortable to wear and doesn't look that good either. Instead, I sewed the seam allowance down to the skirt to create a casing and slid some narrow elastic through - this created a nice amount of gathers at the back:

Burda 4/2016 #135 girl's shirt dress in pink and grey plaid www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

Burda 4/2016 #135 girl's shirt dress in pink and grey plaid www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

The elastic is supposed to stretch all the way around the waist to the centre front, but I found that pulled open the placket because there isn't a button at the waistline. Instead I only used the elastic on the back, which gives it a bit of shape although the front is a bit shapeless but a 7 year old does not need a form fitting dress so it's absolutely fine!

Burda 4/2016 #135 girl's shirt dress in pink and grey plaid www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

Anna's verdict - she likes it and plans to wear it (phew!). I like the pattern and will make it again when I find the right fabric, but next time I will increase the length of the skirt and reduce the length of the sleeves slightly. I will probably add a lining to the skirt as well, because the full skirt will probably cling to tights. The sleeves do have an opening placket which is a bit fiddly, but apart from that it's a fairly easy make and I do recommend it if you are looking for a smart winter dress for girls.

Burda 4/2016 #135 girl's shirt dress in pink and grey plaid www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

Monday, 18 April 2016

4th Birthday Shirt - Burda 9/2015 #139

Thanks everyone for all your lovely comments on the last post - that project clearly struck a chord with many of you because it's been a while since I've received so many comments!

To prove that it's not all sewing dresses for me around these parts, I thought I should post this year's birthday shirt and dress made for my kids on their respective birthdays. I cannot believe that this year Toby turned 4 and Anna turned 7 - I'm some of you long time readers will remember a time before I even had any kids. Clearly I've been blogging for way too long.....

This year I let Toby pick the fabric for his shirt while we were shopping at the Remnant Warehouse a few weeks back and he picked out a pirate print cotton - such a typical boy!

Burda 09/2015 #139 boys pirate shirt www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

I used Burda 09/2015 #139:
Burda 09/2015 #139 boys pirate shirt www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com
This shirt is a miniature man's shirt, complete with opening sleeve placket and pleated sleeves, which made it a little fiddly to make but it is a cute style. I left off the welt pocket at the front because I didn't think it would be that noticeable in this busy print. Instead of buttons I used plastic snaps so that he could get the shirt on and off himself.

Burda 09/2015 #139 boys pirate shirt www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

Size wise I found the pattern to run a little large, but in kids that grow quickly I guess that's a good thing but it was still a little bit of a surprise since I've found that Burda's kids patterns are usually spot on. Toby's measurements matched those for size 104 perfectly and it fits him well around the body but the sleeves and the shirt seem a bit long.

But it certainly doesn't stop him hamming it up for the camera:

Burda 09/2015 #139 boys pirate shirt www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

For Anna's birthday dress (made back in January), I used Burda 08/2014 #147:

Burda 08/2014 #147 striped girl dress www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

This is a super simple pattern - essentially just a rectangle, that I simplified even further by leaving off those ruffle sleeves and the ribbon tie waist - apparently 7 years old is too old for those features! And she wanted this dress shorter, which given that the main reason that I sew her dresses is because she's too tall for RTW dresses there was no chance of that. She is definitely growing up too fast for my liking.

Burda 08/2014 #147 striped girl dress www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

Burda 08/2014 #147 striped girl dress www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

I used a rayon fabric bought from Spotlight quite a while ago, and sewed on some mini pom pom trim around the neckline to jazz it up a little. I also replaced the ribbon at the waistline with some elastic instead. That gap-toothed smile seems to indicate that she's pretty happy with it!

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Castaway to Couture - my grey skirt makeover

The Australian Sewing Guild is once again running a competition called 'Castaway to Couture' which requires entrants to refashion an existing garment into something new. The first prize is a Brother embroidery sewing machine, so if you are an Australian or New Zealand sewer you should definitely consider entering - you've still got until the 31st May so plenty of time. And if you're not going to enter yourself, well then - you should vote for me!!

I don't often bother with refashions since I have such a huge stash and refashions generally take much more time and effort, but the competition was enough incentive for me to finally getting around to doing something with this wool skirt I bought at a garage sale a few years ago for $5. This is what I came up with:
New Look 6968 grey fitted sheath dress skirt makeover www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

I've wanted to do something with this skirt for a long time because the fabric is so lovely. This is an Adam Bennett number, probably from the 1980s, and is made from pure wool. It was deeply pleated , but on me was too big and too long. It was really heavy too, due to how much material was in it.


Originally I planned to keep it as a skirt and make it smaller to fit, but I couldn't just chop a bit off the bottom because it would lose the proportions of the stripes, and I couldn't just take it in at the sides either because it was just one long piece with just one side seam.

The first thing that was required to was to get rid of those pleats. What a lot of work that was! If I didn't like this fabric so much I would have given up and just used one of the many perfectly good pieces of fabric in my collection.

I washed and soaked the fabric many times, and I pressed and pressed and pressed. I used the method Claire Schaeffer describes in her book Fabric Sewing Guide of placing on the fabric some brown paper that has been soaked with a 50/50 vinegar and water mix and pressing it with a hot iron until the paper is dry. It worked wonders at getting the creases out, but that vinegar smell sure did give me a craving for some fish and chips! The vinegar smell goes away though when the fabric dries. Here is the fabric after washing and soaking but before pressing:


And here is the fabric after pressing a few times with the brown paper and vinegar method:


The fabric feels very flat and smooth, but what I hadn't counted on though is that a visible line would remain along the edge of the pleats despite all the washing. You can faintly see in the photo above the visible vertical lines - I've just decided that it is a design feature, and that the fabric has vertical self stripes in addition to the horizontal coloured stripes!

These photos don't really show the vertical lines at all, but in the daylight they are quite noticeable.  The lines are evenly spaced across the front, and I managed to line them up on the bodice and the skirt, so hopefully everyone else just accepts it as a deliberate feature.

New Look 6968 grey fitted sheath dress skirt makeover www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

I used my favourite sheath dress pattern, New Look 6968, which I've used many times before with great success (see here, here, here, here and here!).  Funnily enough one of those previous versions was a refashion too - obviously the simple lines of this pattern and the small amount of fabric needed are perfect for refashioning.

I kept the hem of the original skirt, and managed to cut the skirt and the bodice out of the width of former skirt because it really was a very full skirt. The spacing between the stripes worked out pretty well when I wear it with a belt:

New Look 6968 grey fitted sheath dress skirt makeover www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

Without a belt at the waistline however it looks a bit plain and the proportion is a bit off there in the centre, as the stripe on the skirt is too far below the waistline:

New Look 6968 grey fitted sheath dress skirt makeover www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

There were a lot of stripes to match at the side seams and the centre back invisible zip, but with a lot of pinning and careful sewing I think I managed to get a pretty good match at all stripes, even the one interrupted by the dart at the bust line:

New Look 6968 grey fitted sheath dress skirt makeover www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

New Look 6968 grey fitted sheath dress skirt makeover www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

The reason I love this New Look pattern so much is that it has a waist seam with a separate bodice and skirt which means I can get such a good fit in the small of my back thanks to the waist seam and the darts. I find that putting darts into a single back piece never gets a close fit in my swayback as this style does.

New Look 6968 grey fitted sheath dress skirt makeover www.loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.com

There's not much more I can say about this pattern that I haven't said before - it's a great basic pattern that is quite simple to sew. I made this one a size larger than previous versions I've made because this fabric has no stretch and those previous versions are all a little bit tight now (they must be shrinking while hanging in my wardrobe, I'm sure!). This size is really comfortable to wear, but there is a bit of looseness around the bust and below the waist, but I think a bit of ease is necessary in a form fitting dress with no stretch.

I've fully lined this dress in some lining that has been in the stash a long time, and even used an invisible zipper that was salvaged from another garment, so this really was a cheap project to make. Unfortunately this project doesn't make any dent in my huge fabric collection at all, but it's certainly a great addition to my wardrobe.

So as I said at the beginning, the competition is open until the 31st May and I really encourage fellow Australians and New Zealanders to enter - who wouldn't want a fancy embroidery sewing machine or any of the other great prizes on offer?