Saturday, 15 September 2018

My last Burda of the month project: Burda 9/2017 #103 the skirt that goes from summer to winter

After having a subscription to Burda magazine for the last 10 years and buying random issues for 5 or so years before that I've decided not to renew my subscription. I've always had FOMO thinking that the minute I cancel my subscription that Burda will release the best ever issue - and admittedly the October issue is looking pretty smashing.

But I've come to realise that with my extensive back issues that I already have a version of about 80% of the patterns in each issue anyway, and I can easily download any patterns that catch my eye. Plus I have a very long list of Burda patterns from past issues that I really want to make and will never get around to with a new issue arriving each month. But if I'm really honest the increasing lateness of each issue being delivered each month was annoying me terribly and contributed to the decision, which is very petty I know!

Anyway, all of this is to say that after many years I'm giving up on my Burda of the month challenge. I started that challenge as a way to make me sew something from each new magazine, but these days my Burda mags are the first thing I reach for when I sew so I don't need that motivation anymore. I will keep on sewing Burda, but it will be from my past issues and I'm instead going to focus on those older ones that I haven't used as yet.

So here is my very last Burda of the month project, funnily enough made back in January from the September 2017 issue, photographed in March and only just now being blogged. Better late than never I guess. The good thing about this project is that it works equally well in summer as it does in winter:

mid length linen skirt

This is Burda 9/2017 #103, which is a pleated, mid length skirt with a narrow waistband. Burda's version is made from sequins, but I think it works equally well in a daytime fabric.

pleated skirt sewing pattern

I've made this from a mid weight linen picked up from Lincraft of all places. I remember 15 or so years ago when Lincraft used to have an extensive range of quality fabrics but these days their offerings are pretty sad. So when I found this linen at 50% off I bought not knowing how well it would wash and wear but I'm happy to report that it has held up really well with no fading or shrinkage.

I really like this pattern - the pleats at the front sit fairly flat so don't add too much bulk at the waist and the plain a-line shape of the back keeps the silhouette fairly slim

mid length pleated linen skirt

mid length pleated linen skirt

It doesn't have pockets though, and I know how some of you absolutely obsess over pockets! I can live without them though - they just add bulk to an already lumpy area of my body. But they would be pretty easy to add to the sides if you wanted to.

pleated skirt

I did reduce the length a bit because I don't have the height of a Burda glamazon and instead just made it slightly below my knew. I think this length makes my legs look a bit stumpy and probably breaks all sorts of fashion rules about not ending hem lines at your widest part but as I'm getting older I've decided I don't care about those things as much any more. Plus wearing this length means I only have to shave a quarter of my legs which is a great thing all year round.

I replaced the singlet top with a turtle neck top and denim jacket and it was warm enough to wear on a mild winter Sydney day just recently.

So to everyone else who is doing their own version of a Burda challenge, whether you've been doing it for years or newly started this year best of luck to you! I've found that by doing this challenge I've made patterns that I wouldn't have normally considered and it did introduce some structure to my sewing so many good things came out of it. But it was starting to feel like a bit of chore that I had to get done each month before I could get onto making other things, so I'm looking forward to just making whatever catches my eye now.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Finally, a pair of pants that fit me!

I started sewing when I was around 19 which means that I have been sewing for more than half my life (explains the size of my stash right?). I have made lots of pants (trousers) in the last 21 years but I have never really achieved a very good fit thanks to my very pronounced pear shape and lumps and bumps around the bottom half of my body. In recent years I've tried pants patterns by nearly every pattern company, including the Sewaholic Thurlows that everyone lauds as the answer to pear shape pants, attended a few pants fitting classes and tried lots of adjustments without quite getting the fit I wanted.

When I was younger, as long as I could get on the pants and do the zipper and button up I was happy enough with the fit.  But now, what I really want are some pants that fall straight at the back of the legs without loads of wrinkles and no whiskers at the front. These latest pants are pretty good:

wide leg linen pants

wide leg linen pants

The pattern is Burda 10/2016 #113:

burda pants pattern

I've made these once before (here) that turned out reasonably ok so I knew it was a good starting point for making further adjustments. I left off the pockets, reduced the length by 15cm so I could wear these with flat shoes and reduced the width of the legs by 2cm because these really are wide leg pants. Look at how wide these legs are still after being narrowed:

wide leg linen pants

I also made significant fitting changes to the crotch curve which is what has improved the way the back legs fall.

Crotch depth and length
I have been watching hours of the very excellent Sarah Veblen Fun With Fitting Pants online class and making multiple muslins of the Eureka! Pants that Fit pattern and have finally realised that due to my wide and ample but low sitting derriere that pants patterns don't have enough length and aren't scooped low enough to fit my shape. All these years I had just been adding extra width to the side seams to accoutn for my saddle bag thighs but it turns out that I needed to add to the inner back leg seam to extend the crotch lenght and scoop the crotch shape so that it is no longer a "J" shape but more of an elongated reversed "L" shape.

The Eureka! Pants That Fit pattern is very useful in terms of fitting - it has all the horizontal balance lines marked and it has three options for the back pattern piece depending on your size. However once you've got the fit right you then need to make fashion adjustments to the pattern - lowering the waist line, adding a waist band or facing and adjusting the leg width depending on what you want. I decided to just transfer the fitting changes to the Burda pattern since the Burda pattern had the look I wanted instead of making further adjustments to the Eureka pattern.

I can highly recommend Sarah's online class, but this tutorial by Maria Denmark and this blog post over at 5 Out Of 4 Patterns are also extremely useful in figuring out the type of crotch curve needed for your particular body shape. I used a flexible ruler and four muslins to get that crotch curve close to what I needed. I didn't take a photo of the Burda pattern, but here are the adjustments I'm currently making to a pair of Style Arc pants (the crotch curve of Burda and Style Arc are very similar by the way) - the red pencil show how much I've added to the inner leg seam and the much lowered curve:

Forward tilting pelvis
Another fitting issue I always have with pants and skirts is that I find the front sits too high on my waist but the back dips too low below my waist when standing, and is even worse when sitting. I always thought that was due to my big butt, but now I think it may be because my pelvis is titled forward (hence my swayback). I now use the cut and hinge method to lower the front and heighten the back which seems to work especially well for pencil skirts too:

Again, the amount needed came from experimentation but I find that 2cm works for me to make the waist parallel. These pants are rather high waisted which is part of the look of this pattern, but this adjustment works well for lower slung pants and skirts too.

wide leg linen pants in rust colour

You can see in the photo above there are still some wrinkles - that's the hollow below my high hip and the top of my saddle bags but I think to get rid of that I would need to make these much looser fitting which I didn't want to do in linen since the fabric would relax after wearing them for a while anyway.

These are the fitting changes I needed to make these wide leg pants fit better, and I suspect that part of the good fit is because there's enough space to drape over my other problem areas! I'm finding it's a whole different story trying to make narrow leg pants - my extended calves and prominent front thighs tend to catch the fabric and cause all sorts of drag lines that I'm still working on reducing in a narrower leg.

wide leg linen pants

This fabric is a heavy weight linen from The Fabric Store in paprika and is one of those fabrics I bought just last week so that's 2 out of 3 now sewn - yay for me! I used the Sandra Betzina method of preparing linen - a hot iron, a hot wash and then a hot tumble dry - in the hope of minimising the amount of wrinkling. It is linen so it will always end up wrinkling after wearing - the photos below were taken after a normal day at the office and do show lots of wrinkles from sitting around but I don't think it looks too messy or sloppy:

wide leg linen pants

black and white top with wide leg linen pants

The top I'm wearing is made from OOP Vogue 2659 pattern that I've had in my stash for years. The fabric is a lovely ribbed knit that I bought in Japan that is so soft. I made this top back in May at the sewing retreat I went to with the sewing guild and it was a very quick sew. I've made this once before in a ponte knit (also black and white stripe!) but this version sits differently because the knit is a bit thinner - it's a bit lower around the back neck than I would like but I usually wear a jacket or a scarf so it's fine.

black and white stripe top

black and white stripe top

So my next challenge now is to make a pair of decently fitting narrow leg pants because while I like the wide leg look I don't want a whole wardrobe full of them! Fingers crossed it's not another 21 years before I achieve that....

Friday, 27 July 2018

Bypassing the stash - the lightning quick project

After many weeks of cleaning up my sewing room it's almost back to normal. We had used it for storage during the last 18 months while our house was being rebuilt so it was full of furniture, books, clothes, bed linen etc but now I finally have unimpeded access to my fabric stash once again. And while I continue to find my stash a thing of beauty, it turned out that the fabric I've bought in the last 18 months didn't quite fit into my shelves, and I knew I had to have a clear out. Here is my stash now:

shelves of colourful fabric

That's the stash after I've pulled out a big bag of fabrics that I love but know I'll never sew with and will instead give away at the next Spoolettes swap day / donate to the Fabric Cave:

big blue Ikea bag of fabric for donation

So keeping in mind that first photo, I really have no business at all buying more fabric. None whatsoever. But of course I did. I haven't really bought much at all this year and had done so well ignoring all sales at the various fabric stores that I would usually flock to at the merest mention of a sale until Wednesday this week. I happened to have a work meeting down near The Fabric Store in Surry Hills and I popped in to have a look at their sale on my way back to the office . I was however a bit restrained and only bought these three pieces:

pile of brown fabrics purchased from The Fabric Store

I haven't even put these into the stash yet - the bottom fabric is a medium weight linen that I'm currently prepping Sandra Betzina style (hot iron + hot wash + hot dryer to minimise wrinkling) to make into some wide leg pants, and the top fabric is a silk cotton that I'm going to hand wash this weekend and probably make into a dress. The middle layer is a medium weight knit that went straight into the wash on Thursday morning, line dried during the day and got sewn into a new top Thursday night!

black and gold print funnel neck top

It helps that I made a pattern that I've used twice before so I already had the pattern traced out, knew how it fitted and knew how to assemble it. It's also a super simple top with three pattern pieces - front, back and sleeves. This is Burda 9/2010 #121, a funnel neck top with super long sleeves:

I've made this twice before - once in a French terry fabric (blogged here) which I still wear quite a lot and another unblogged version. I found the original neckline is a little too tight to fit for my liking so I have widened it by 4cm and shortened it by 4cm which was pretty simple to do:

widening the neckline of the funnel neck top

Now the neckline sits wide open so I don't feel like I'm being strangled, but it comes up high enough to cover the back of my neck to keep me warm and doesn't sit too high either which is exactly how I wanted it.

I also shortened those sleeves by a huge 15cm to remove that scrunched up look that the original pattern is drafted for since I found readjusting those sleeves supremely annoying and this fabric is quite thick for a knit and it just wouldn't have worked.

Because that neckline folds down in half there's no fussing around with a neck band - all that it needs is to sew the side seams, sleeves and hem the bottom + cuffs and it's all done. It makes for a very quick project to sew.

If only I could make something so quickly out of all my other fabric purchases I wouldn't need to worry about the vastness of my stash! 

Saturday, 2 June 2018

McCalls 7194 - cowl neck cosiness

One of the quick and simple projects I sewed whilst away on my sewing retreat was a cowl necked knit top from McCalls 7194. It's only been in the last few years since I bought a cover stitch machine that I've started sewing more with knit fabric and I can see the appeal - so quick to sew and pretty easy to fit!

It looks like this pattern is now out of print which surprises me because it seems very popular. Lots of people have made all the views and they all look really great. I made view A but used the long sleeves of the other views:

I've made this from a knit fabric I bought from Darn Cheap Fabrics on a trip to Melbourne more than 2 years ago (a relative newbie in my stash!) that has little gold polka dots. I'm pretty sure it's 100% polyester and is quite thin without much stretch to it but it's a good layering piece.

I particularly like the big old neckline. Honestly, some days I wish I could walk around like this:

Because my fabric is quite thin the neckline is a bit floppy and falls in on itself instead of rolling over nicely but I still like it. It's pretty cold here in Sydney today so I'm wearing this over another long sleeved tshirt which is causing that bunching around my shoulders but otherwise the fit is fine.

The back is pretty simple view - a bit of gathering around my swayback but more importantly it is long enough to cover up the waistband of my pants and keep my back warm when I was freezing on the sidelines of a soccer match early this morning.

I can highly recommend this pattern. Other cowl neck patterns I've made tend to be quite low in the front and show off too much chest area which can get cold and it's awkward to wear a scarf with it. But this one has a nice high rounded neckline that you can either show by pulling the cowl down like I have in these photos, or hide by pushing the neckline towards the back so it's more turtleneck like. Gotta love options!

And here is a photo from the actual sewing retreat, there were about 35 ladies there each with multiple machines. The room certainly was humming when all those machines were sewing and everyone chatting!

Sunday, 27 May 2018

New Look 6000: revisiting an old favourite

My family finally moved into the new house we have just finished building about four weeks ago which I'm so happy about but boy do we have a lot of stuff! I keep opening boxes that have been in storage for the last 18 months and wonder why we kept this stuff, so I'm also having a major clean out and declutter at the same time. It's so tiring and draining moving and unpacking though - I've done hardly any sewing and definitely no blogging in that time which is so unlike me.

Unpacking some clothes that had been in storage to hang in my new walk in wardrobe (I love this the most I think) I came across this dress I made in eggplant purple ponti knit from New Look 6000 that I made way back in 2011 and realised I still love this style enough to not only keep it in my wardrobe but to also make another one. So here I present version 2 of New Look 6000:

black and white plaid dress

image via
This version is made from a black and white plaid ponte knit that I bought online from It is a lot thinner and more plastic feeling than I expected from a fabric described as a ponte, but I guess that's the chance you take when buying online. I had to line this with a thin black knit fabric to make sure it wasn't transparent and give it enough body to stop it clinging.

I put quite a bit of effort in lining up those horizontal stripes across the side seams and the back zipper when cutting it out, and used a million pins and the walking foot on my sewing machine to sew them up. And they all lined up on the first attempt which was a huge relief because unpicking black thread on a black knit fabric would not be fun. 

Unfortunately I placed the widest black stripe across the widest part of my butt, and with the swayback adjustment and darts on the front view the vertical stripes are all over the place but overall I'm pretty happy with how it has turned out.

black and white plaid dress

black and white plaid dress

back of black and white dress

I sewed this dress last weekend at a three day sewing retreat I went on with my friends from the Australian Sewing Guild. I managed to finish six garments there which was great because I haven't set up my sewing room yet and have done hardly any sewing in the last month. But because I didn't have all my sewing equipment with me on the retreat I didn't have any interfacing to use in the collar and as a result the collar is a bit floppy and folds over on its self. I may fix this one day. Or I may not (I probably won't!).

I also left off the cuff on the sleeves and just extended the pattern slightly to make it a three quarter sleeve. I love the look of that cuff, but it's nearly impossible to get a jacket or cardigan over it and it's way too cold in my office not to wear another layer over the top.

And how cute is this sewing tape brooch? Another gem that I found recently when unpacking boxes - it was a gift from a friend many many years ago.

Overall I love this dress, and hopefully it won't be another 7 years before I make another version!

And now I'm off to unpack some more boxes. I'm looking forward to the day when all the cardboard boxes are out of the house, the landscaping outside is done and curtains have magically sewn themselves and appeared on my windows!

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Swaying palms: Vogue 9021 dress and a bonus Style Arc Skye top

Here we are mid April and Sydney is still having very hot days in the mid 30s. The upside of this very prolonged summer is that I got another wear out of this dress very tropical palm print dress that I made over a month ago. It has been extremely windy the past few days though, hence the inside shots for this blog post.

palm print dress

This is Vogue 9021, a very easy Vogue pattern that is still for sale even though it was released a few years ago now. And true to its label it is indeed a very easy dress to sew since it has very simple lines and there's not much to it really except for those sleeves! I bought this on sale at one of Spotlight's fantastic $5 Vogue pattern sales late last year.
If you google this pattern you'll see that many ladies have made a version of this but I was particularly inspired to make this pattern by this very elegant navy version over at He Cooks She Sews! and this very pretty floral version by Gabrielle at Up Sew Late. I had been searching for some navy blue crepe to make this dress, but I ended up using a very colourful palm print cotton sateen I purchased from Gardams Fabrics in Brisbane at the beginning of this year so in a way I was very influenced by both versions.

As I said, those sleeves are the stand out feature of this pattern and the extreme batwing / fluttery shape really caught my eye.

batwing palm print dress

I usually treat patterns that only have illustrations on the envelope and not photos of the actual garment with extreme suspicion and this one proves my cynicism correct - those sleeves may look lovely but as loads of people have pointed out they pretty much give a direct view to your entire torso if you lift your arms even slighlty:

This is pretty obvious though when you look at the technical drawing of the pattern - those sleeves are open to just a few centimetres above the waistline:

I tried to think of a clever solution, such as making a gusset from the dress fabric that would be sewn from the front darts around the side to the back darts, or perhaps a camisole style top to be an under layer and also attached to the waistline. But it's been too hot to think in these parts and certainly too hot to wear more layers of fabric than necessary so I just did what everyone else had done and sewed up the side seam a little higher until it was decent.

Sewing the side seams up higher does change the look and the way the sleeves fall though. In the photo below, you can see how the sleeve on my left side where I've pinned the side seam up to my bra strap looks more like a traditional sleeve than my right shoulder where it seems the fabric is just draped around my shoulders.

But it was a change I had to live with if I didn't want every one to see not just my bra but my blindingly white midriff as well, and really the change is probably subtle anyway.

batwing dress

Once the sleeves were resolved, the rest of the pattern is very simple and easy to sew. The back skirt has a split along the centre back seam which isn't my favoured treatment because it has the tendency to tear open but when I was cutting out the pattern I forgot to add extra width there to make a vent so I was stuck with it. The dress is not too tight though, so it should be ok.

palm print batwing dress

palm print batwing dress

Even though this dress used a lot of fabric because of those extremely wide sleeves, I had some leftover fabric that I managed to eke out a Style Arc Skye top. This is my go to pattern for a simple top because it doesn't use much fabric and is very quick to sew. I think this might be my fourth or fifth version.

palm print top

palm print top

Whilst it's still very striking in this fabric, it's a bit more versatile than the dress because it looks great when worn with pants or jeans.

palm print top

I'm pretty happy that I finally found the right fabric to make this dress, and that I made the most of the beautiful fabric. Gotta love it when things just work out just the way you want them to!