Saturday, 30 July 2011

Inscrutable Burda Instructions

Dear Sewers and Readers
As you may know I am in the midst of making a liberty shirtdress from no 117 from the May 2011 issue. Warning:  there may be a rant approaching. Firstly I have to say I love Burdastyle magazines. They are more likely to have some items that are just a bit more up to date than any of the big pattern companies. They draft for a body that resembles mine a bit more than any of the big companies except maybe Kwik Sew. They presume that you know what you are doing which is both a blessing and a curse. Occasionally they come out with an issue that makes me go "Ah I'd like to sew this and this and this".
In regard to their instructions, I have a love/hate relationship. This is how it went with this dress. I think to myself "Hey I've been sewing for a long time. I've made shirts and dresses and shirtdresses. I can figure out what they mean". Then I read through the instructions and sure enough and there is always a bit concerning a shirt or coat collar where I go "What the heck do they mean?" then "Never mind, I'll just go ahead and do what I think they mean". I assembled the collar, easy enough.

When I sewed them together I closed off the angled seams at the bottom, 'seam 7', then stitched the collar to the neck then thought 'That doesn't look right". I'd misread the instructions. Out with the unpicker.

My make -do tracing - waxed kitchen paper and texta!

At this point I think If only I had a picture or three, I wouldn't care if they don't write anything!" Luckily there was a picture of the collar in another closeup of the dress.

This of course, matched the line drawing. I had a little 'boy do I feel dumb' moment. You treat 'seam 7' as part of the collar and attach the collar all in one go. I think. Well that's what I did and it worked. If someone can decipher their instructions and post a detailed explanation I will be truly grateful. I'm not sure if there was a pivot point as I had already trimmed the collar seam allowances on my first go around.

collar/facing sandwich

The instructions do say to make a sandwich - by that I mean attach the back facing to the front facing extensions, sew the fronts closed to the centre front points, then making a collar sandwich. I had reached the stage where this was what I was going to do whether they said to or not!
Rant disclaimer: The collar, the front, the sleeves, are all beautifully drafted. I modified the back and unpegged the skirt but I'm sure on the right body they would be good as well. I'm still pleased with how it is all going. The little inbuilt collar stand is so comfortable.

I'm working on the voile lining as the liberty is too lightweight on it's own, dark but almost sheer. Oh and the hem is not uneven but the way I am standing..
More to follow stay tuned!

Saturday, 23 July 2011


Dear Bloggers
I went onto the BBC website to see what was going on in the world and to check the weather forecast and I see that the singer Amy Winehouse was found dead in London this afternoon. I know this is a sewing blog, usually full of sweetness and light but sewing is creativity and self expression as is music. Amy's music expressed a lot of things for me of love and loss and struggles with demons. I did not realise that she is younger than my daughter. She always seemed such an old soul and as one report put it "She was never going to be a pop puppet". She was unique and now she is gone. Love is a Losing Game

I will miss her music.
I will miss the fact that she will not write any more songs.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Work In Progress

Dear sewers, bloggers and assorted visitors,
Yesterday I had a half day at work and came home and Got Stuck Into Business. While two loads of washing were spinning away I tweaked the Burda Shirtdress 117/5/2011 pattern I've talked about  previously to fit my short rectangular body.

This alone took an hour. They say to measure nine times and cut once, well I really did. I was doing my altering and modifying as I went along. I wanted to take out the foofiness and gathering of the back bodice piece.
I figured if it made the model look swaybacked then it would be rather unflattering on my swayback. I put darts in the back bodice at the waist to match the darts in the back skirt. I scooped out the back neck and I made a square shoulder adjustment. I straightened out the pegged skirt, for walking and buttoning ease. Comparison shots of the original back bodice and my alterations are at the end f this post.
Then, dear reader, I ironed up my rather crushed and laundered liberty, figured out the placement of the roaring twenties ladies and then took a deep breath and cut. I don't have the time, material or luggage space to make a muslin so I want to get this right. Liberty is so lovely, so precious, that cutting into it is hard even under ideal conditions. It's enough to make one turn to a spoon or two of sugary sustenance.

A girl has to keep up her concentration

Cutting into Liberty.

I'd cut out the fabric, but not the cotton voile lining or any interfacing. I wanted to get the main pieces sewn up to trying on stage to see if everything was all right. I'm glad to report that so far, everything is just fine!

Please forgive the rather unsophisticated backdrop of my bed linen. The original back bodice piece is on the left. It gets gathered along the waist to puff up out the back. My altered back bodice is on the right.
The following photo is of another dress, no 128 from the same issue which has the same 'foof' treatment. I can see what they were aiming for but it doesn't work on this girl and I know it wouldn't work on me This dress is cute though. I may make a modified version of it.

Lastly, this is what the back bodice pieces look like in comparison. You can see where I scooped out the back of the neck. The collar pieces and facing have been extended at the fold line by 1 cm to match up. The angle of the shoulder has been straightened a bit (sorry this doesn't show). The width at the bottom point of the arm scye is my back width from armpit to armpit plus 2 cm ease (I'm talking one half as shown here, 4 cm in total)
The mid back length is my measurement from my back neck bone (C6 for anyone medical out there) to my true waist, plus 2 cm ease. Added to this are seam allowances of course. The side bodice matches the length of the front side bodice. I compared my new back bodice piece to another standard back bodice piece in the issue and knew I was on the right track. Nevertheless I was relieved when everything sat well.
I have one rather intriguing collar to go..
Happy sewing

Sunday, 10 July 2011

The Ugly Fabric Swop Skirt

Dear Sewing bloggers,
Some months ago, in Brussels during this year's European PR Get-together, I acquired a piece of 'ugly' fabric.

Which became this skirt

The fabric - whose was it?

Some of the suspects

There is always a ugly fabric swap and this one took the form of pass-the-parcel.
I have to admit this piece ended up mine after a bit of furtive re-swapping had gone on and most of us had something that didn't make us secretly think charity bin, dye-pot or where's my shovel .. I jest dear reader. My previous pieces of outstandingly ugly fabric are still at home in storage because I do intend use them someday. Honest.
This piece at least was cotton of not too bad a quality. I thought of making a lined vest then I saw that there was a fault in the print down the centre of the whole piece. Aha - another challenge. I decided to make a simple pull on skirt with a six inch deep yoke and a gathered skirt, with a lining. I wanted a full skirt so I could wear the skirt and ride my bike. The lining was to beef up those gathers and preserve modesty. The gathering would also hide the fault in the print.

The skirt is self- drafted if you can call what I did drafting. It was more a case of measure, mark and cut on the material itself. The yokes were six inches deep. The width was half my hip circumference plus an inch of ease, the top edge had no ease but remained big enough for me to pull it on when finished. The skirt piece was a simple rectangle twice the width of the yoke piece and enough length to hit at the knee and two inches extra for hem. The front and back of the skirt are the same. The lining, made of inexpensive cotton voile has a really deep hem of five inches to give it a bit of weight.

The yoke is self faced. I left a little hole in the facing for elastic. Then turned the facing to the inside and stitched a line for the casing.

Measuring where to stitch.

The inside finished

I really like the contrasting lining that echoes a bit of deep brown-red in the flowers. I considered leaving it long enough to show beneath the skirt.  When I finished the skirt I hopped on my bike and cycled into town (a common mode of transport in Oxford) and found that the skirt needs a weight at the hem to stop it flipping back a bit when I am pedaling. The lining, thankfully behaved itself. I think I needed a deeper hem on the skirt itself. I'll sew some little pockets and a few removable pennies will do the trick. 
Happy Sewing,

Sunday, 3 July 2011

I'm sewing again

Dear Readers of the Sewing Persuasion I know that you will understand  my need to acquire a sewing machine for my new home, even though it is a temporary one. I have a three month contract to nurse in a hospital in one of the UK's lovely medieval towns, the ancient seat of learning - Oxford. While this city has many architectural delights and cycle paths and plenty of bookstores and intriguing second-hand stores, it does lack in the sewing department. It took me a while to hunt down a second hand machine. I wanted something cheap but functional. Well I got cheap but functional was another matter, I had to call in an expert, also found via the internet to unjam and service my machine. But he did and now she goes like a rocket. This my 'New Home' in her new home.

The sewing machine man said I should be able to resell it quite easily. Now I can sew up my little stash and ease my soul with the smell of sewing machine oil as well. It feels so good. the first thing I did was an alteration. I'd seen a man's cotton shirt in a shop here and tried it on just as a whim. It fitted perfectly around the neck and shoulders but the sleeves were too long and it was too tight at the hips.

 So I took off the cuffs and unpicked the sides of the shirt to make deep vents and used the cuffs cut in half lengthways to make overlapped edgings for the vents.

So viola! Cross dressing.

I'm hoping you wouldn't know it was a man's shirt unless I told you. Next project:  a definitely female skirt!