Thursday, 8 September 2016

Perfecting my pencil skirt: Burda 12/2013 #118

Burda 12/2013 #118 houndstooth pencil skirt

Making a new skirt is such a satisfying project because it's so quick to make and usually turns out pretty good (unlike my ongoing failure to make a decent fitting pair of pants!). However, there is always room for improvement so I keep on making further refinements in the quest for a perfect pencil skirt.

For this version, I've used Burda 12/2013 #118 which I made in a floral cotton fabric 2 years ago and is a good simple silhouette to start with:

Burda 12/2013 #118 houndstooth pencil skirt

I found the pattern to be more a straight shape and not as pegged as the pattern drawing suggests, so for this version I took it in quite a bit at the side seams to get a more fitted shape. I managed to get excellent pattern matching horizontally, but you can see the curved side seam vertically:

Burda 12/2013 #118 houndstooth pencil skirt

I also made the waistband slightly more curved than my previous version - the pattern has a straight waistband which doesn't work for my shape at all. The curve of the waistband is really noticeable on the front due to the houndstooth pattern of the fabric. It wasn't until I looked at these photos that I realise I should have cut the waistband the other way around, but I can live with this because that sort of detail is noticed by no one else!

Burda 12/2013 #118 houndstooth pencil skirt

The back view is ok, pattern matching along the zipper is not so great, and the darts interrupt the pattern as well but it fits well and that's what matters most. The changes I made to the original pattern were to put in a mitred vent at the skirt opening instead of just a split, and to finish the zipper below the waistband so that I could instead use a hook and bar on the waistband - I feel that is more sturdy that extending the invisible zip all the way to the top.

Burda 12/2013 #118 houndstooth pencil skirt

I've fully lined the skirt in a bemberg lining, although since this fabric is a very substantial woven cotton it probably would have been ok without it. I bought this fabric from The Fabric Store during one of their regular 40% off sales last year (or the year before? Time flies when you buy fabric for no particular project!) and the fabric is just lovely. One of those fabrics that I wish I bought more.

A pencil skirt isn't hugely exciting or ground breaking but it is a real staple of my work wardrobe - I've been wearing it with the white wool blazer I made last year during the cold weather in the last few weeks. That white blazer is one of the best things I've ever made, it's so versatile and gets worn so frequently.

Burda 12/2013 #118 houndstooth pencil skirt

Hooray for quick but effective projects I say!

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Kwik Sew 3531: my new favourite tailored jacket

Kwik Sew patterns are the quiet achievers of the pattern world, in my humble opinion. Most of the pattern envelopes are rather dowdy, and apart from using photographs now instead of just drawings they haven't changed much over the years. But their drafting is solid, they offer the essential basics and every now and then one of their patterns will really catch my eye which is the case with this one. Behold my new favourite work jacket:

Kwik Sew 3531 asymmetrical jacket in peach tweed wool

This is Kwik Sew 3531, an asymmetrical jacket in two lengths:

Kwik Sew 3531 asymmetrical jacket

I chose to make the shorter length jacket mainly because I like cropped jackets but also because if you look at that photograph on the pattern envelope there are drag lines from the side seam down towards the centre front which I figure had something to do with the length.

The fabric is the real superstar of this project though - it's a vintage wool tweed piece I bought from the remnants table at the Remnant Warehouse earlier this year. The base colour is a beautiful peach shade, with flecks in varying colours. It sewed and pressed like a dream.

Kwik Sew 3531 asymmetrical jacket in peach tweed wool

The jacket is rather boxy as there are no darts or shaping in the back. I was tempted to add a centre back seam so that I could do a sway back adjustment, but I figured that because the jacket is cropped it would still look ok, especially when worn with a well fitting pencil skirt:

Kwik Sew 3531 asymmetrical jacket in peach tweed wool

Kwik Sew 3531 asymmetrical jacket in peach tweed wool

The other feature I used is a vintage button I bought from an aptly named shop called Buttons Buttons Buttons down in The Rocks (a tourist district in Sydney) - I bought three of  them years ago for a failed project (another *cough cough* UFO) but I decided it looks better on this project. It really is the centrepiece of the jacket front, and acts like a brooch so I tend to keep my accessories with this jacket very simple. 

Kwik Sew 3531 asymmetrical jacket in peach tweed wool

The other feature I really love about this pattern is the inseam buttonhole which you can see in the photograph above. It's such a neat finish and of course saves the stress of doing a neat buttonhole.

The pattern is for an unlined jacket, but I drafted a lining for mine as I really dislike jackets without linings. It's much easier to put them on if the inside is slippery, and I also lack the patience to do fancy seam finishes such as Hong Kong bindings. I found a perfect colour matching piece of China silk in my stash picked up from an opshop a long time ago, it was like it was waiting for this project it's so perfectly matched:

Kwik Sew 3531 asymmetrical jacket in peach tweed wool

The only other change I made was with the button placement on the front. I chose the button placement when I was wearing the jacket and just where the fronts sat best - my buttons are a bit lower and more towards the centre than where they are indicated on the pattern. And looking at these photos I can see that I've put the outside button on the opposite side to the pattern, oops! I'm sure there's some convention about which side women's jackets are supposed to button up, but since I made this and no one else will be wearing it, it suits me just fine! 
Kwik Sew 3531 asymmetrical jacket in peach tweed wool

Although my fabric has a weight suitable for a jacket, I used some iron on interfacing on the neckbands, facings, part of the fronts, upper back and sleeve heads for extra structure. 

Kwik Sew 3531 asymmetrical jacket in peach tweed wool

So overall I can highly recommend this pattern if you're looking for a simple and easy to make jacket. Because there isn't a traditional notched collar needing traditional tailoring techniques such as pad stitching along a roll line or welt pockets it comes together very quickly. I've already worn this jacket several times to work since I made it a few weeks ago and I've received quite a few compliments on it - clearly a winner!

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Completed UFO#4: possibly the last sewing blogger to make the Sewaholic Pendrell?

Some long time readers may be a little surprised at seeing me sew an indie pattern given I've barely disguised my disdain for the majority of indie patterns in the past. But this project was a long term UFO, and I didn't even buy this pattern in the first place so I can reassure you that I am not about to become an indie pattern fan girl anytime soon.

Back in 2013, a lovely reader (who in one of those isn't it a small world kind of coincidences lives close to where I grew up) sent me two Sewaholic patterns that she no longer wanted (hi Reona! thanks again!). I had plans to make the Cordova jacket immediately, but couldn't find a separating zip in a colour to match my chosen fabric and then I used that fabric for something else so as result I still haven't made that pattern.

But I thought I could make the Pendrell top pretty quickly - it's a simple enough pattern and a bajillion other sewers have made it and praised it highly. But I did not like it at all - I found the pattern as I originally made it quite frumpy, shapeless and frankly rather ridiculous with those sleeve caps:

Admittedly, a bright yellow colour probably didn't help but this fabric is lovely - a lightweight wool that drapes wonderfully and for some reason I'm really drawn to yellow. This fabric actually came from a maternity top I made back in 2008 that I couldn't bear to get rid of so I decided to refashion it into this top (hence the uneven hem in the photo above).

I really should have known better about those sleeves before I started making this pattern - I have narrow shoulders and prefer a neat and close fitting garment, anything too wide or fussy around the shoulders makes me feel like I'm wearing something too big. So I did what I normally do: unpicked half the seams, got annoyed and stuffed it into my UFO box to marinate until the time was right.

So the first fix was to those ridiculous puffy sleeves. I thought the top looked too plain without a sleeve, so I cut the original sleeves in half horizontally, keeping just two pleats. This way I kept a pleated cap sleeve but without the excess volume.

The second fix was to get a closer fit. I know everyone else seems to like their versions, but I seriously do not understand why a pattern would be designed with princess seams front and back but instead of using those seams to achieve a close fit it instead needs to be loose because there is no opening in it. It may as well as been a single piece for the front and back with a few bust darts instead. Rant over - I know I prefer a closer fit than some other people do.

So I cut the top open along the centre back and inserted an invisible zip. I had a perfectly colour matched zip in my stash but it was a bit too short, so I left a sort of keyhole opening at the neckline above the zipper to make it work. I think it looks deliberate and I quite like it actually:

yellow Sewaholic Pendrell top

And now that I had an opening in the back, I then took in each of the side seams and princess seams gradually until I got the closer fit that I was after. I didn't make it too tight though because this fabric has no stretch and obviously I still needed to move in it.

yellow Sewaholic Pendrell top

So after all that work am I happy with it? Mostly, but it's not my favourite. I'm not a fan of using bias bindings at the neckline, I think a facing is a neater finish. I also have lots of other closely fitting shell tops that I wear repeatedly but I do like the yellow with black and white and grey outfits so it will definitely get worn. And that's another UFO out of the box and into my wardrobe!

yellow Sewaholic Pendrell top

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Resurfacing...... and winning

Finally all the mundane but necessary things going on in my life are easing up and I hope to get back to my normal easy going, non stressful and placid life! To celebrate, I bought myself three pieces of totally unnecessary but pretty fabric when I was at the fabric store a few weeks ago buying more gold sequin fabric for the school sewing project I've been working on. But not only have I already sewn one of those three pieces into a finished garment already, check out my little blackboard that hangs above my sewing machines keeping track of my sewing statistics:

Can you see how much fabric I've used this year compared to how much I've bought? That's what I call winning! Of course it doesn't make a dent in the extensive fabric stash I already have, but I'm slowly edging ahead in my twisted fabric stash mathematics. And those statistics do not include the 39 metres of gold sequin fabric I've spent the last few weeks making into 28 jackets.

After putting in many many hours I have now finished sewing all those jackets for my daughter's school dance group. Sewing this project was a major pain in the neck and far from enjoyable - the tips of my scissors would always catch the fabric, the sequins would stick to each other and the needle kept getting sticky so the thread stuck because the sequins are actually foil dot stickers. Pressing the fabric was nearly impossible, and there are no facings or linings - the edges are simply turned under and topstitched, but since they are costumes that will be seen from afar and worn two or three times I figured it was good enough and it was the only way to get through it quick enough:

gold sequin top coat with tails pattern pieces

I used Burda patterns as the basis for the jackets, and then altered the pattern to have the pointed cropped front, the long tails at the back and the shawl collar. I think they turned out ok:

gold sequin top coat with tails jacket

This jacket looks a little large on Anna because the jackets are made for the older kids in her school - I have no idea how well they fit the kids I sewed them for though, and frankly I don't care anymore!

And now let us never speak of gold sequin fabric ever again.....

Friday, 15 July 2016

Completed UFOs 2 & 3: failure to fit

Firstly, I want to apologise for not replying to the comments on the last two posts - I know people like getting a response but life has just been so busy lately and I can no longer access blogger through my work computer (I used to work on my blog during my lunchtime) and I rarely seem to have a spare 30 minutes in the evening before collapsing into bed at 11pm most nights. But I do appreciate each and every comment, so thank you for to those that comment and to all that read my posts.

But I have been doing a little bit of sewing each night, and I've been making slow but steady progress tackling my mountain of UFOs. Actually I'm getting a huge amount of satisfaction of finishing things off and ticking them off my list. I quite like problem solving, which is what my UFO challenge is all about - finding the reason why I didn't finish a project and figuring out a way to finish it.

When it comes to sewing problems, fitting pants properly is top of my list. That's the cause of these two UFOs, and while I haven't managed to fix the fitting problems they are finished and that's good enough (for now). There are a few other pants UFOs in the pile too, but that's a story for another day.

New Look 6736 grey wool and black and white print pants

I have one pair of sewn pants that fit me ok, ironically made many many years ago when the only fitting I used to be concerned about was whether I could button up the waistband! So I figured that if I used the same pattern it should all work out fine and in a fit of productivity I cut out two pairs at the same time. As it turned out, they didn't fit very well at all and so they sat in my UFO box for the past few years.

I used New Look 6736, long OOP, which I bought in the early 1990s and despite being rather dated it's an ok pattern with four variations:

I made view D - flat front pants that are longer than capri length on me. One pair I've made in a black and white print cotton sateen and the other is in a grey wool with a subtle pinstripe. Neither look that great, but I was a bit relieved that pants I started making 4 years ago still fit:

New Look 6736 grey wool and black and white print pants

New Look 6736 grey wool and black and white print pants

In 2014 at the Australian Sewing Guild annual convention I attended a pants fitting workshop which I also failed dismally at - I was trying to make fitted pants from a trouser pattern, using cotton drill instead of draping fabrics so despite the best efforts of the instructor it was never going to work out. But I did learn quite a bit about my body shape and the fitting changes I need to do. First thing is I have a hyper extended calf, which in the photos below you can clearly see how the drag lines point to my calf and the side seam has shifted to the back:

New Look 6736 grey wool and black and white print pants

New Look 6736 grey wool and black and white print pants

This can only be fixed before cutting out because the pattern needs extra width added to the calf by slashing up the centre of the back leg piece to the knee and spreading the pattern. So it remains a problem in these pairs of pants, but I know better for future iterations.  

I also have full inner thighs, which means I have to add extra width to the inner leg seams - this also needs to be done before cutting out the fabric so for these versions I just sewed them with a very scant seam allowance but I really need to add about 1.5cm. After much discussion with the ladies at a recent ASG sewing day I think this may be the main cause for the terrible drag lines on the back view:
New Look 6736 grey wool and black and white print pants

New Look 6736 grey wool and black and white print pants

Other fitting changes I have under control are scooping out the crotch curve to an elongated "j" shape to account for my not perky bottom, adding extra rise and removing a small wedge at the centre back seam to account for my sway back, and making sure I measure myself around my widest part (ie my saddle bag thighs) when choosing the pattern size.

So while it wasn't possible to fix these fitting problems for these two pairs of pants, they are at least finished and out of my UFO pile. They are good enough for casual wear, and I'm coming around to accepting that I'll never make a perfectly fitting pair of pants. I am doing another pants fitting workshop in a few weeks with Anita from Studio Faro through my ASG neighbourhood group, so hopefully that will also help me along this torturous journey. But for now, these pants and my new chunky wool jumper are getting me through the very cold weather we're having right now:

New Look 6736 grey wool and black and white print pants

But I'm starting to think that my obsession with making pants that fit perfectly (ie fall smoothly at the back and front) is a little misplaced - I see so many ill fitting pants worn by people every day so clearly hardly anyone else cares. And then I saw these pants for sale on an Australian retail site:

These pants, on a slim and no doubt tall model, look no better than the ones I've made so while I do want to strive for much better than RTW with my sewn items I'm going to give myself a pass mark on these two pants.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Burda of the Month: 06/2016 #104 the sheath dress in boring grey

I finished my June Burda of the month project last week, but I've left it hanging in my sewing room while I contemplate it. I don't particularly love it, but I'm not sure what I can do to improve it. It probably doesn't help that I have a horrible cold at the moment and everything feels blah, so I think I'll leave it for a little while longer before deciding whether to keep it or donate it.

Burda 6/2016 #104 sheath dress in grey

I made 6/2016 #104, which is an A-line dress with interesting seam lines:

Burda 6/2016 #104 sheath dress in grey
A few lovely versions of this pattern have popped up around the blogosphere - Sew Crafty Chemist made this great belted version, and SunnyGal Studio made this lovely blue button front version. Both of these versions turned out great, without the niggling problems I seem to be having.

So what's wrong with mine? Well firstly the colour (or lack thereof) is an issue - I seem to be falling out of love with grey! There was a time a few years ago when grey was my favourite shade of fabric, but this is so dull that I found it boring to sew with. The fabric is a suiting weight poly-cotton bought on sale from Spotlight quite a few years ago, and it has a nice pattern and drape but it just seems so blah.

The next problem is the fitting - you can see from the back view that there are quite a few wrinkles back there. To be fair I didn't make a muslin, but I can usually fit Burda dresses that have waist seams without needing to alter.

Burda 6/2016 #104 sheath dress in grey

There are quite a few wrinkles and bagginess on the front panels as well, especially around my stomach which looks far from pleasing. It's not as bad in real life as it is in these photos, but it's still not good.

Burda 6/2016 #104 sheath dress in grey

I had originally thought about using piping at all those seams, but I wasn't sure how it would work out at that triangular point at the front. Instead I decided to topstitch with an embroidery thread in triple stitch to make it stand out. My top-stitching is a bit wonky, but I'm finding it impossible to muster up the enthusiasm to unpick it and do it again. I did sew that point carefully to avoid any puckers or bulges, but the puffiness comes from the fabric on either side of those seams.

I topstitched the side panels from front to back to make a v-point on the side seams which I really like the look of, but it seems out of balance because the lower seam doesn't do the same. I have a real thing for symmetry!

Burda 6/2016 #104 sheath dress in grey

 I guess I can always wear this with a colourful scarf to bring some life into it:

Burda 6/2016 #104 sheath dress in grey

or over the top of something like this black wool roll-neck sweater which is weather appropriate but reminds me a little too much of my daughter's school uniform:

Burda 6/2016 #104 sheath dress in grey

Or I just chalk it up to one of those projects that didn't quite turn out as well as expected and move on to the next project!

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!