Friday, 17 April 2015

McCalls 5815: brilliant blue jacket

This latest finished project of mine was such a hard journey, and I'm so pleased I've finally finished it. Let me introduce McCalls 5815 in a brilliant blue colour:

This is the Nanette Lepore bow-collar jacket knock-off, although obviously I've made the view without the bow, which is now OOP:
McCalls 5185
This pattern was given to me by my sewing friend Sandra back in January and it's exactly what I love in a tailored jacket - a fitted silhouette with an interesting collar. Plus it is in size 4 - 12 so I thought I'd get it to fit across my narrow shoulders pretty well. Plenty of others have had success with this pattern and raved about the fit, so I just rashly jumped in and made it. I haven't made too many McCalls patterns so I'm not as familiar with their fit as I am with say a Burda pattern, so I should have made a muslin rather than just rely on a flat pattern measure check because there are a few things that haven't turned out too well and I need to muster up the energy to fix.

Firstly, those sleeves! This pattern has the most ridiculous sleeves I've ever seen - they are super long and super wide, which is obvious from the line drawing. I figured I could narrow them after I had sewn them up, but that didn't quite work because the seam line runs from the shoulder seam down the centre of the arm instead of towards the back like a traditional two piece sleeve. Because of my forward shoulders it meant that seam was really obvious and didn't hang straight at all.

So I dashed off to the Fabric Store to buy some more fabric and I cut a traditional two piece sleeve from another McCalls pattern. They still aren't great, I can see from the photo above that they are still a bit too baggy and I could take them in slightly more. There's also some wrinkling going on, partly because of the linen fabric (which can't be helped) but also partly because I'm not very good at altering the sleeve cap to match the forward shoulder adjustment I do to the armscye- more practice is needed there I think.

The second issue I have is with the fit - it looks too big especially around the bust along the princess seam and possibly at the hip because the bottom juts out a bit. I cut a size 6 at the top, grading out to a size 10 at the bottom because I didn't want it to be too tight since it is a jacket meant to be worn over other clothes. But you can see from the photo above and the one below that I should take in a bit more along the princess seams.

The back could also use a bit more of a sway back adjustment as well I think, to get rid of those wrinkles. And I also need to move that bottom button lower, but that's an easy fix compared to the rest.

Ok enough of the bad, I really love the key feature of this jacket: that large, pleated collar:

It's absolutely ginormous, but I think shawl collars are quite feminine and I love that pleat at the back of the neck which gives the collar shape around the front too. And to veer back to the critical again, I should have graded the collar seams better because they show through a bit too much for my liking.

Some other notes: I left off the draped pockets because my fabric, a stretch linen bought from The Fabric Store in January during their sale, was way too stiff and the pocket didn't drape but rather just gaped open. I don't tend to use pockets in jackets so I left them off. I also left off the fabric rose from the collar as well because I thought it looked a bit silly, and because I have an extensive brooch collection that I prefer to wear than a rolled up bit of fabric.

The jacket is fully lined in a stripy blue acetate lining that has been in the stash for years. Normally I use plain lining fabrics that closely match the outer fabric, so this is a bit of a departure for me:

I'm wearing it with a black pencil skirt that I made in February and didn't post because it was too boring to justify a post of its own. It's made from Burda 1/2011 #112 which has a wide waistband that I have substantially modified (see this post):

The fabric is what makes this skirt a little bit special - it is a textured polyester with raised hexagons that I bought also in January from Tessuti during their sale. It was a remnant, so this skirt cost me a grand total of $10.75, since I already had the lining in the stash and the zipper is recycled from another skirt.

So overall, I really like this jacket but I do need to do more fitting work on those sleeves and princess seams. Of course had I made a muslin I would have discovered this before making the final version. I can recommend this pattern to anyone who has this pattern (since it's OOP) and wants a feminine jacket but really think about using some different sleeves! I probably won't make this jacket again because it's such a distinctive look, but it will make a great addition to my corporate wardrobe.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

March Burda of the Month: 03/2015 #118 piped seam dress in lovely Liberty fabric

Once again I'm posting my monthly Burda project late although I did actually finish sewing it in March so I squeaked it in. I had no excuses either since the issue arrived in my letter box in the first few days of March, but I did have to think hard about what to make (there wasn't that much that excited me in this issue), and I made a muslin as well so that's almost like making it twice.

Here's my finished project:

I made the dress with piped seams (03/2015 #118), which looks like this:

This is a petite sized pattern (Burda sizes 17-21) so I thought it would be wise to make a muslin just to make sure that the wide waist panel actually sat at my waistline and below my bustline.  I graded from a size 17 for the bodice, and then out to a size 20 for the waist panel and skirt, so a muslin was needed to make sure I blended the sizes properly. I don't often make muslins, so here is photographic proof that sometimes I am sensible!

You can see in the above photo that I did take out a bit of width at the waist and top of the skirt line, which is to be expected when I was trying to grade between 3 sizes. But the waistband hit the right spot on me, so lengthwise the bodice was fine.

The gathers below the bust and at the waistline aren't particularly visible due to the fabric I have used, but they do give a nice shape to the front without adding too much volume:

Speaking of the fabric, this is a lovely Liberty print in a mid weight cotton that has been in my stash for years. I'm not even sure where it came from but I think this is the perfect pattern to finally use it - I suffer from decision making paralysis when it comes to beautiful fabrics far too often. The red piping I used is slightly too bright to match the red in the fabric but I couldn't find a better match and I think it looks ok anyway.

I have to share a back view for no reason other than to show off my matching of the piping at the centre back invisible zip - getting these to match up can be so frustrating sometimes but this time it just worked out so well.

So it wouldn't be a Burda post without some complaint about the instructions,would it? So here goes: the instructions are extremely unclear about the hem bands on both the skirt and sleeves. In the magazine there is a short version (a lacey wedding dress for the 'confident bride') which is minus the hem band and this longer version which has the hem band, so you would naturally assume that the longer version merely has the hem band sewn on to the bottom of the skirt. But when I made the muslin I discovered that the skirt without the hem band was the perfect length. The pattern indicates a placement line marked for the piping but it doesn't say cutting line. The instructions aren't too clear either - it seems to suggest that you sew the piping in place along the marked placement line and then sew on the hem bands so that the hem bands are doubled layered. It was all very baffling but I'm glad I made a muslin so that I didn't waste any of my precious Liberty fabric.

Anyway, long story short - if you are of normal height and plan to make this dress with the piping around the bottom make sure you check the skirt length! When I made my muslin I didn't make the sleeves, so it wasn't until after I had sewn the sleeves on that I realised that they were also too long to add the piping and hem band, so I've left it as is. Doesn't look too out of proportion to me, so I can live with it.

I probably should have made the muslin with the sleeves set in though, because they are a little tight across the upper arms - the dress is still wearable and not overly tight, but it is a close fit and you can see some drag lines around the arms:

Since I am human and not a perfectionist, I was a tad bit lazy and didn't line the dress or put the buttons and loops at the top of the zip at the centre back. I merely topstitched the piping down around the neckline and sleeves to stop the piping flipping out, and I made the invisible zip as usual (I did add a hook and eye to the top of the zip after taking this photograph though!). It looks messy inside but it's ok on the outside and that's all that counts to me.

So overall I really like this pattern - it was well fitting for me without any major or unexpected fitting changes required apart from the length issue and is quite flattering I think for my pear shape with its a-line skirt shape and emphasis on the waistline. I'm thinking about making making this pattern in a solid colour for a work dress, because as much as I love this Liberty fabric it's a little too twee and sweet for my work wardrobe.

Finally, check out this photo of Toby - he's recently had his third birthday and already he's more than half my height! I am definitely going to be the shortest person in my family in only a few short years I think.

Friday, 10 April 2015

March sewing roundup and winter 1961 vintage sewing patterns

So here I am breaking my blogging drought with a blog post that will be boring to practically everyone apart from myself - but since I don't keep records of my sewing beyond my blog it must be here I'm afraid. Feel free to skip on to another blog and come back next week when I have some beautiful Liberty loveliness to share.....

March just flew by in a blur of the mundane ordinariness of life, and writer's block of all things. I'm sure I've mentioned before that my day job is in environmental planning policy and legislation, and we have been very busy lately preparing a significant new piece of infrastructure legislation to be introduced very soon into parliament. And since I've recently started working a fourth day each week, it means most of my week is spent writing highly technical and legal documents, briefings etc so it's very hard to switch gears sometimes.

Anyway I'm hoping this inconsequential blog post will break my block and I can get back to normal posting, because I have been sewing a little bit in the last month and have quite a few things that need to be photographed and posted, including my March Burda project which indeed was finished in the month of March.

Sewing: 3 garments (and yet I had such high hopes for this month!)

Fabric out: 3.8m this month, 21.8m year to date

Fabric in: 2m this month, 12m year to date

And so to brighten up this post, this  month I'm sharing some pages from the 1961 winter fashion pattern catalogue from the Australian Home Journal. I've come to realise the mid 1960s may be my favourtie decade fashion wise - the period after the 1950s full silhouette had fallen away but before the mini skirts and hippie outfits of the late 1960s had taken hold - the suits with cute and feminine detailing and the tailored dresses in this catalogue are right up my alley. And I would love to have a house with an open rung staircase, indoor jungle and grasscloth wallpaper like the second photograph below!


Monday, 9 March 2015

Vogue 1826 - the leftover top

I've nearly finished setting up my newly revamped sewing room - all that is left is a new cutting table and a few bits and pieces such as shelving and hooks etc. It's taken quite a lot of trips to my parents to bring everything out of storage, and even more trips to Ikea to buy some new storage units but it's looking great. Previously my sewing room was a mish mash of leftover pieces of furniture that I made do with, so it was neither beautiful or highly functional. Not this time though, it's becoming a lovely space. Photos to come, I promise.

Anyway my point in telling you all of this is because I'm publicly airing some rules I'm setting myself  on use of my sewing room in the hope I feel obliged to keep them! They are probably things most of you are already doing, but if you're guilty of breaking these rules then at least you know you're not alone....

1. Clean up at the end of each project. A quick vacuum of my sewing space and a general clean up would probably take all of 10 minutes, yet I'm usually eager to get on with my next project or so over the one I've just completed that I never bother doing it. 

2. Pack away at the end of each project. Similar to rule no.1 - I'm very guilty of leaving pattern pieces out of their packets, spare buttons floating around and left over bits of fabric in little piles everywhere. Which leads me to rule no.3....

3. Deal with fabric scraps!!! Last year when I was cleaning out my sewing room I was drowning in fabric scraps. I took a huge bag of large cotton pieces suitable for quilting to the Fabric Cave for resale, a few bags of smaller pieces and dress fabrics went to Toby's daycare centre and Anna's out of school hours care centre for craft activities, and yet I still had to throw out bags and bags of small scraps in the rubbish which I felt terribly guilty about. I'm just not a quilter, a prolific crafter or a maker of bias binding from left over fabrics or any of the other good uses for fabric scraps.

So this year I'm aiming to use up the leftover bits of fabric straight away in another project if possible and not let them linger in large piles in my sewing room. And if not, then I aim to make regular donations of fabric rather than let it get out of hand.

Hence this post. After I made my January Burda dress in the bright purple and green polka dot print cotton I had quite a bit of long skinny pieces of fabric left and since I loved the print so much I really wanted to make it into something wearable. So in February (yes I'm a bit behind in my blogging) I used them to make a shell top which I've made many times before:

Vogue 1826 Michael Kors shell top in purple print

I used Vogue 1826, an OOP Michael Kors pattern which is my TNT for a shell top. Because it's princess seamed with a centre back seam, the pattern pieces are long and narrow so I can squeeze it out practically any leftover piece of fabric.

Construction wise there's not much to say about this - I used bias binding around the neck and arm holes instead of fully lining it like I usually do, so it's a little tighter than other versions but still wearable. I also used an invisible zip down the centre back which is actually as the pattern is designed, but I usually make it with buttons down the back because I like that look. The stiffness of the zipper makes the fabric pool a little in my swayback, but I can live with it:

Vogue 1826 Michael Kors shell top in purple print

And best of all, it livens up a very dull gunmetal grey suit I sometimes wear when I need to be serious at work!

Vogue 1826 Michael Kors shell top in purple print

So I'm off to a great start, but it remains to be seen how long I can keep it up. I once set myself the rule of no new UFOs which in the last year has failed, but then again I also set myself the rule of sewing one Burda pattern each month which so far I'm complying!

Monday, 2 March 2015

February Sewing Stats

This month I am very pleased to announce that I bought NO fabric or patterns at all! In fact I only bought 1 black zipper and some white overlocking thread. Admittedly, February is the shortest month of all but still, I went a whole month without buying fabric or patterns.

Sewing: 9 garments (5 for me, 3 for Anna and 1 for Anna's friend), 1 repair to husband's shorts. I'm so behind in my blogging, so you're just going to have to trust me on these projects!

Fabric out: 9.5m this month, 18m year to date

Fabric in: 0m this month, 10m year to date

So to end the world's most boring post, I thought I'd share some photos from the 1957-1958 pattern catalogue from the Australian Home Journal. I have quite a few of these pattern catalogues, but sadly no actual patterns but they are still pretty to look at. Enjoy!

Australian Home Journal Vintage Sewing Pattern Catalogue 1957

 Australian Home Journal Vintage Sewing Pattern Catalogue 1957

Australian Home Journal Vintage Sewing Pattern Catalogue 1957

Australian Home Journal Vintage Sewing Pattern Catalogue 1957

Australian Home Journal Vintage Sewing Pattern Catalogue 1957

Australian Home Journal Vintage Sewing Pattern Catalogue 1957

Friday, 27 February 2015

Burda of the Month: 2/2015 #128 the seam crazy top

My February issue of Burda was really late in being delivered this month - it didn't arrive in my letter box until the 21st of February which was really annoying. It wasn't worth the wait though, because there's not much in this issue that's really my style, but because of my Burda challenge I forced myself to pick something: a boxy top that I thought I'd be able to write a sarcastic hate post about. Funnily enough though, I like how it turned out!

Burda 2/2015 #128 angular seamed top with slit neckline

The pattern I chose is the slit neckline blouse  #128, which is described as a straight cut with "panel seams to give the blouse structure and visual interest".

Burda 2/2015 #128 angular seamed top with slit neckline
images from Burda Style
The recommended fabric is jersey, and looking closely at the magazine photo it appears to be a textured, thick fabric. I had a mystery knit fabric in the stash which was textured and slightly stretchy which I didn't realise is actually a length of wool fabric until I pulled it out of the washing machine with the unmistakable smell of wet dog and a few tell tale signs of moth holes in one corner. I think it might actually be wool crepe that has been washed a few times and shrunk considerably, because it has that sort of texture, is a bit spongy and presses really well.

Those seams lines certainly are very interesting, and I particularly like how the triangular piece on the lower front lines up with the upper back yoke piece at the side seams. Although all those intersecting seams are a bit bulky and despite pressing it really well it still bulges out a little bit.

Burda 2/2015 #128 angular seamed top with slit neckline

It felt like I was sewing the sleeves completely wrong because they turn out terribly twisted, but once I'm wearing it it's actually quite comfortable and hangs properly because it hugs the arm and elbow.

Burda 2/2015 #128 angular seamed top with slit neckline

I should have made a forward shoulder adjustment like I need to do to everything I sew that has a shoulder seam, because I can see in that photo above that the should seam is sitting back a little bit too far, and the front of the top is lifting up higher than the back. Luckily it's not a high neckline so it's not uncomfortable, but it is quite short in the front. This pattern is sized for petites, which I can usually make with no problems since I'm not overly tall, but this seems a tad on the short side to me.

Burda 2/2015 #128 angular seamed top with slit neckline

True to the description in the magazine, it surely is a straight cut top, aka boxy and shapeless. I admit had to fight every urge in my body to take in every seam a bit to give it more shaping because it looked like I was wearing a big white pillow case. But in the end I just shaped the centre back seam to account for my sway back and took in the centre front seam by 2cm just to make it slightly more fitted, but not skin tight. The back neckline seems a lot lower than the technical drawing suggests:

Burda 2/2015 #128 angular seamed top with slit neckline

The armscye front and back turned out weirdly though. Looking at the technical drawing and the pattern pieces, the armscye is supposed to be pointed, not curved.

Burda 2/2015 #128 angular seamed top with slit neckline

However I had a difficult time setting in the sleeves and trying to get that pointed effect, and what I ended up with is just a strangely curved armscye instead!

Burda 2/2015 #128 angular seamed top with slit neckline

 The only change I made to the pattern aside from taking in the front and back centre seams was to finish the neckline, hem and sleeve edges by pressing under 1.5cm and topstitching with a twin needle. Burda always recommends cutting narrow strips of bias fabric for bindings, but since these flap about and need to be topstitched down anyway I figure I may a well cut out that extra step of sewing a binding on.

So my verdict: an interesting but simple, casual top that was well worth sewing, despite my initial low expectations. Overall, an interesting version of the Burda boxy top! Bonus for my choice being a quick and simple project too, so that I could complete it within February. Who knows when the March issue will arrive though..........

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Burda 9/2007 #128: simple skirt in a stunning floral

Sometimes a project is all about the fabric, and not the pattern. It certainly is the case for my latest finished project - a simple straight skirt:

black floral pencil skirt burda 9/2007 #128

Nothing too groundbreaking about the skirt style, but oh! the fabric. It is so gorgeous. It's one of the pieces I bought in January from Tessuti during their sale - a cotton with slight stretch in a dark floral print on a black background with white mini polka dots:

black floral fabric

Because the fabric is rather busy, what with the polka dots and a floral pattern, I decided to keep the pattern relatively simple. I say 'relatively' because even though the pattern is a simple shape, it needed quite a lot of fitting changes to make. I used a pattern from a 2007 Burda magazine, one of the random issues I used to buy purely because I really liked the patterns before I started subscribing in 2009 and took the good issues with the bad. Being such an old pattern it's not available for download on the Burda Style site, but for reference it's skirt #128 from 9/2007 which looks like this:
Burda 9/2007 #128 pencil skirt

The thing is though, that this skirt is actually a plus size pattern and is mid calf length with a godet at the back, so I basically grafted the bits I liked - the wide waistband and pockets - onto another pencil skirt that I had made recently (this one here). It took a bit of fiddling to get the fit right, and even a muslin (yes I do make them sometimes) but in the end I think it's turned out great.

I love those pockets, they sit really flat against the body without gaping open but aren't too deep either that causes funny lines or extra bulk in the pelvis region.

black floral pencil skirt burda 9/2007 #128

The pattern for the side hip piece extends all the way across the front of the skirt, which helps keep the front flat and stops those pocket pieces flapping about or folding back on themselves. This is an excellent feature that Burda patterns quite often incorporate but not always:

black floral pencil skirt Burda 9/2007 #128

Even though the skirt is quite straight and not as pegged as I made my last pencil skirt (here), it's still a close fit and looks quite flattering from the side view. This is probably dodgy pattern making on my part, but I usually angle the seam line in below the zip towards the hem line so that it sits close to the body without making it too tight overall. I put in a walking vent so it's still comfortable to walk in. As I said, it's probably all sorts wrong but it works for me.

black floral pencil skirt Burda 9/2007 #128

So if you're wondering about the grey tshirt I'm wearing in some of those photos above, the explanation is that I was trying to be cool like a Pinterest worthy fashion blogger. These are my inspiration photos:
gray tshirts with floral skirt
credits l-r:;; 
And this is my reality:

black floral pencil skirt Burda 9/2007 #128

Not quite as cool. In fact I quickly realised that I'm a middle aged mother of two working in a government job taking photos in my sewing room and not a cool fashion blogger running about town with a photographer boyfriend in tow to scout out quirky locations for a public photo shoot! So my reality is I probably won't wear a slouchy grey t-shirt with this skirt because it just looks like I forgot to take off a tshirt I wore to bed when I got dressed in the morning, and instead I'll wear it with a tailored cotton shell top (made here) and more than likely with a black blazer on top because it's really cold in my office:

black floral pencil skirt Burda 9/2007 #128

black floral pencil skirt Burda 9/2007 #128

So overall - really happy with this project despite my cranky face in some of these photos!