Category Archives: Separates

Hi Ho Silver-Grey Self-drafted Modal T-shirt (American Apparel knockoff)

This one is a knockoff (and hopefully improvement) on American Apparel’s Sheer Jersey 2-sided top – which is pretty much the perfect black tshirt. I got a couple of these tops back when American Apparel was mainly sold in tshirt shops as vehicles for ironic transfers. Now we have a number of AA shops in town, but you think I can ever find this top? Noooooo, not amidst the shiny neon leggings, high waisted shorts and other sartorial nightmares. Besides, since this self-drafted pattern (I traced the original top’s seams) takes a scant .6 metres, I can make my own for well under $10. Who doesn’t love that?

This is my first nearly complete version (I’ve yet to hem it as I’ve yet to preshrink my knit interfacing; not that that’s stopped me from folding the hem under and wearing it out!). Just like the original, the top is reversible (front to back), which I love. Here’s the back view, which can sub as the front view.

'back' boatneck view

The main change I made from the original is the 1″ banded neckline, which was simply the result of some experimentation. AA’s version has a very narrow rolled hem that, try as I might, I just can’t (yet?) neatly replicate on my Brother 1034D serger. My initial plan was to bind the neckline. However, when I returned to the fabric shop to get some thread (they were out the first time), I was too lazy to check the colour with the bolt upstairs. As a result, the thread I bought is a shade too light! So no visible stitches allowed! Besides, I’m liking the band. It also directs attention upwards to the face, which I found I really needed in this light-coloured Modal knit top that shines a light on every bra seam and, well, ounce of backfat. Plus, something must have happened in my tracing/pattern drafting, because my scoop is deeper than the original – I’ll have to fix the pattern. The band gives me back some essential coverage, making the top much much more wearable.

There are two things I wish I knew about Modal before I started – and I confess to totally picking this fabric due to the colour, not the fabric composition. One is that Modal is a stage 5 clinger ready to advertise all of your flaws* and bra seams to the world.

I think the band helps a lot in directing attention upward, but I’m definitely going to avoid Modal for negative-ease knit garments in future! It would be totally dreamy for a draped knit pattern with plenty of ease, like the much-loved Tracy Reece Vogue 1224:

 The second thing I wish I knew is a little more concerning… Modal scorches. To press, I used a press cloth (2 layers of silk organza), and light pressure on a low heat, and it’s still shining like American Apparel’s neon leggings. I’m really not sure how I’m going to press the hem, other than from the wrong side. Will have to research more…

It’s not perfect, and not yet complete, but I’d give this a 7.5/10 (I’m gearing up to teach another course, so yeah, marking is on my mind).

Time: 4-5 hours, mainly because I had to rip out the first band I attached. Ripping out serger seams sucks! Without mistakes, this would be cut and sewn in 1-1.5 hours, if you’re slow like me!

Cost: $16.50. $14.50 in fabric (Modal is $18/metre!) + and $2 thread.

Will I wear it again? Heck yes; it goes with everything, and I’m looking forward to making a few more non-Modal versions!

*maybe not “flaw” but the full topography of your torso that you might not want the world to see.



Lesson learned: you can only make bias tape out of fabric that presses well

Things that are self-evident to everyone except me: if a fabric doesn’t press well, it won’t make good bias tape.

I was trying to make some tape last night out of some poly charmeuse scraps for my next project – the Vogue 1170 Rachel Comey skirt.

Baby has not got back!

The pattern calls for a hong kong style finish on all of the seams, and I strangely loved doing them on my 1247 skirt (review coming soon!). I particularly like flipping up my hem and seeing this lovely contrast tape! Pretty on the inside!

As soon as I started cutting up the poly charmeuse, I remembered how much I dislike sewing with it. I was having visions of tossing every last piece of poly charmeuse I have misguidedly purchased in the last couple of years.

And yet I let myself get to the bias tape pressing stage before realizing – this stuff just doesn’t press. It doesn’t do much of anything that you want it to do. There’s a reason it’s been referred to as Satan’s own fabric!

I’ve been holding on to the pieces in my stash, thinking, they might be good for a pocket, or bias tape, or muslins. Now, I might do a what not to wear style intervention on myself, and ceremonially dump them into the bin.

Vogue 1208 – as a blouse

Finally – a finished project to photograph and show!

There has to be some kind of magic to tucking in blouses. I can never get a clean tuck.

I’m starting a job hunt and doing some interviews. Good times, obvs. The shell that I currently have for my suit is a lovely lightweight neutral knit, but I’m starting to wonder about the wisdom of wearing knits to an interview or with a suit in general. Knits just scream casual to me – even when, as with this one, they don’t look like a t-shirt. I wanted a silk blouse – silk crepe de chine, in particular. Partly because it’s so lovely, partly because I just don’t like the shininess of charmeuse, but also partly because I have a cheap as chips local source for the crepe de chine. Yay Indian fabric shops!

Besides, with this cheap silk source ($10/yard!), I just want to make up some nice silk tops. I was thinking Colette Taffy, which calls for 1 3/4 yards of 44″ fabric in my size (8). I know that Colette typically over-estimates the yardage requirements, but having muslined Taffy up, I think it might take the full amount.

On a sunday when I really should have been prepping answers to behavioural interview questions, I headed down to Vancouver’s ‘Little India’ with my suit jacket in tow to see what I could pick up for a nice shell. You’d think an almost-charcoal grey would be easy to match things to. Maybe I’m a colour perfectionist. It’s tough.

I fell in love with a medium blue silk at the 2nd store I went to, but they only had 1 1/4 yards left. A full half yard less than the Taffy calls for. Alright, I said against my better judgment, I have to have it. I’ll change my plans.

1 1/4 yards of 44″ fabric isn’t a lot to play with. I narrowed things down to three choices: Sorbetto (no photo needed), Simplicity  2593 View B (now out of print), or Vogue 1208, which I’ve been wanting to make as a top – to recreate a silk Nanette Lepore bow-shoulder top I fell in love with a few seasons ago, but, at $275, couldn’t afford.

I squeezed a top length version out of the fabric I had, and it comes down to about my belly button. It’s too short to wear untucked with anything, but tucks quite nicely into a high waisted skirt, like the V1247 rachel comey I’ve paired it with.

Here’s the back view, untucked:

The pattern is super simple with only 4 pieces: one front, one back, a piece for the bow, and a piece for the bow tie. I ended up lowering the front neckline but about an inch or so. I didn’t follow the directions very closely, though they seem easy enough. This is because I didn’t line it, and so with such a simple garment, the directions really didn’t apply to my version. I made some self-bias binding for the neckline. However, I’m not super happy with how that turned out. You can tell on the front view that the neckline doesn’t sit flat as I wish it would.

After wrestling with that for a while – and realizing after the fact that perhaps I should have tried to squeeze out a facing from my scraps – I just did narrow hems on the arms and the hem.

The narrow hems work well on the arms, but I’m not happy with the hem . Maybe it’s because the hem is sewn on the bias, but it’s really rippling (as it does on the original dress). That rippling looks nice on the dress, but it’s kind of weird on the top version (especially such a short top!).

I’m still wanting to change up the hem – this top is still definitely a work-in-progress. I know it can be great so I want to tinker with it until I get it right! I’m thinking of getting some black crepe de chine and adding a 1 to 1.5 inch non-bias band onto the bottom. I’m hoping that the straight grain band on the bottom will anchor the fabric down, and get rid of that annoying rippling (can you tell it *really bugs me*?)

I might take the opportunity to re-do the side seams as well. I knew that one wants to use a longer stitch length when sewing on the bias, but did I remember that when it was time to set needle to fabric? Of course not! So I do have some seam puckering that I hope I can smooth out! With these changes, I think I’ll have a blouse that I’ll really love. Here’s hoping!


Attack of the Clones!: my new old skirt

When I first started sewing in 2010, one of my main goals was to start making the really simple separates that I love to wear but no longer want to spend >$50 on. Trouble is, it’s surprisingly difficult to find really simple patterns for knit skirts, t-shirts, and the like – hence the outpouring of enthusiasm in the sewing blogosphere for Sewaholic’s new Renfrew top – a simple knit top with some neckline and sleeve variations.

About a year ago, I ordered Steffani Lincecum’s Patternmaking for a Perfect Fit which I think is a really underrated book. It teaches you how to rub off existing garments to clone their pattern pieces and, what I love, discusses how this was a common practice for women back in the day (i.e. early to mid 20th century when many women sewed) . I read it cover to cover – as much as one does a technique-filled sewing book –  but as I was caught up in other projects, set it, and my patternmaking plans aside for some time

Essentially, there are two techniques . With one technique, you pin the seams of a garment onto a piece of paper (sitting on foam board or something equally pinnable). Use a pen to trace the lines of perforated dots and voila! Pattern! (Well, of course, you might have to make a few adjustments if your garment has darts or pleats or gathers, etc. The book shows you how.). With the other technique, you drape muslin over an existing garment and… I guess sort out what the pattern pieces look like? Clearly I’m hazy on this method, and have not yet tried it out!

I’ve only used this pattern making method on a couple of basic knit projects without darts etc, and I’m really happy with the results.  The first was a tshirt (I need to make a few more) cloned off of an American Apparel top I bought ages ago. A couple of weeks ago I finally got around to patterning off a knit skirt I bought in… 2002!… and still wear all the time. Yesterday afternoon, I finished a job application early, was a feeling a bit of ennui and decided to try out this new pattern.

Here is the old skirt, bought in 2002 for $70 or $80 and worn hundreds of times since. It’s skirt perfection. Great, simple pattern, flattering as its made with a double knit fabric, and extremely comfortable. It does have an elastic waist, but it’s not one of those elastic waists, all bunchy and gatherey and unflattering. It just expands gently after a big family meal.

My beloved thanksgiving skirt.

And here is the new – an exact clone except for the hem. I found the original fabric in the clearance section of Gala Fabrics in Victoria – imagine my delight! – and bought up their remaining 3 metres for $15. The original had a kind of frayed edge – big long loops left over after a bunch of the weft threads were pulled out. How they managed that on a knit, I don’t know. I’ve left mine as a raw edge for the time being, and will probably serge/hem it in a couple days.

My new old double knit skirt

What I love about this pattern – it’s so fast. While I love the complex projects with detailed seaming, and boning, and all the rest, I really love being able to knock out a skirt in *an hour including cutting* and *using about 3/4 metre of fabric*. I sewed almost all of it on my serger – everything except for the elastic (which I admit I tried and broke a needle on!).

I was so delighted with how quickly this came together – before dinnertime – that I sewed up another between 7 and 8! This one is in a fabric a dear friend bought me as a thank you for helping her get out of a jam. $4/metre double knit in the clearance section at Dressew! I’ll take this kind of thank you gift any day!!

As for the photos – yes, I’m wearing socks 🙂 We took them at my boyfriend’s place, and I only had rainboots with me 🙂

My god I love this skirt!

In sum, the pattern drafting took about an hour (and I’m slow) and I’d estimate about 2.5 hours for the skirts. 3.5 hours plus <$10 fabric = two new skirts that I love. Cannot beat that!


I fleet, I float, I fleetly flee, I fly: adjusting the Colette Taffy flutter sleeves

The two patterns I’m really keen on from the Colette Sewing Handbook are the Taffy – a bias cut top – and the Truffle – a dress with a flounce in front. I’ve only seen one or two Truffles on the interwebs, but a handful of Taffies, and I must say, I find the flutter sleeves quite… big. A little too fluttery for me. They don’t look that way (disproportionately large) on the model, and I was keen to look at the pattern. Is there much of a difference between sizes 0 and 18? Not much, if at all. I wondered if they’d look that way – way big – on a size 8. Only one way to tell, of course…

obvs not a wearable muslin

Yeah, they’re definitely a bit sticky-outy. Like many, I neither want nor need any extra width in my upper body. While reading Adele Margolis’ book yesterday, I learned a lot about putting fullness into patterns via a series of darts… though she never addresses taking fullness out of a pattern. As an experiment, I wanted to see if the inverse worked as well. And it seems to… I’m much happier with the new sleeve:

I love having a before and after on the same garment!

I wanted to document what I did in case any readers or stumble-uponers might also be wanting to tame Taffy’s sleeves. The process is quite easy!

First, I drew in the seam line, and a number of darts – here there are 10 – to take out the fullness. The dart tips are at the seamline, but don’t go into it; I want the seamline to remain the same length.

The sleeve pattern as drafted - looks like a circle skirt!

I spaced my darts fairly evenly from each other – about 1 1/4 inches. It’s quite important to make your dart legs as equal in length as possible.

Second, I cut out my darts:

Third, I taped the darts together. For each of the darts, I brought in the leg closer to the edge in to meet the leg that is closer to the centre.

Lastly, I smoothed out the edges.

The photos of the pattern pieces represent about 8″ of fullness taken out of the sleeve’s bottom edge. I cut and sewed it on, and found that I could still use a bit more taken away.  I added two more darts near the upper edges, and widened a few of the darts around the centre. All in all, I think I ended up taking away about 11″ of fullness from the bottom edge, which makes a noticeable difference to the drape of the sleeve – the sleeve photos is of the larger amount taken away. While re-drawing the bottom edge to even it up, I did sacrifice about a quarter inch of length all around.

I’ll probably go through one more Taffy muslin. I have a small swayback adjustment I need to make – first ever! – plus I’ll be omitting the back ties. I’d like for all the shaping to come from the bias cut. Plus the ties seem a bit 90s to me. Just sayin’

The best laid plans…

No sooner did I post my spring 2012 plans then my bf and I at long last exchanged xmas pressies. He was away with his family until New Year’s, and brought back with him a suitcase of pressies – some of them for me 🙂 But more were to follow in the mail.

In short, on the 9th day of xmas we exchanged, and I am spoiled. Spoiled! Dressmaking shears (x 2!), embroidery scissors, three sewing books that I covet – Claire Shaeffer’s Fabric Sewing Guide, the Colette Sewing book, and Adele Margolis’ Make your Own Dress Patterns – which I couldn’t put down last night or this morning. The chapter on darts is thrilling.

And my sweetheart bought me fabric.

2.5 metres of beautiful, soft, drapey rayon in Claret. Well, I think it’s rayon. It looks a little like linen, but it’s got more softness and drape than linen typically does. It wrinkles up pretty well, so I’m confident it’s not polyester. I was about to do my first ever burn test on it, only to discover that I don’t seem to have any kind of lighter at home. Funny that.

I had a hunch that fabric was coming my way… after all, I got a text while my sweetie was home that was all about what bitches the fabric store ladies were in his smallish prairie city. Which makes me doubly appreciative of the gift! I know how horrible it is to go to a speciality store and to deal with snark. Not cool. I’m triply appreciative because I know how hesitant he’s been to buy me fabric… which colours would I want? Heavy or light? And how much?

The fabric is a bit persnickety – which again, leads me to think it’s rayon. I tried serging the ends before pre-washing, but you could pull the serging way with not too much effort! Even the selvages have a soft fray. As per Claire Shaeffer’s instructions for washing rayon, I handwashed it in lukewarm water, and it’s hanging to dry as I type. The colour runs. Like Usain Bolt. I’ll have to get some retayne (again, a Shaeffer rec. What a great book!!) to seal in the dye.

Now, what to do with my 2.5 metres? I feel like since it’s from a VIP, I should sew it up, and quickly. But I’m getting into paralysis territory… already. Should I do a dress? It would make a lovely Colette Truffle. (But I’m doing a wine coloured dress already… and it would make 3 wine coloured dresses in my wardrobe). Or separates? Again, it would be a lovely Colette Taffy (and I love the idea of making it out of 2 gifts!). I’ve wanted some rayon to re-do my Vogue 1247 top… first sewn in Satan’s own fabric (poly charmeuse). How about a skirt as well – the Cynthia Rowley simplicity skirt I just picked up? Or is this fabric just to delicate to withstand being a skirt…?

Funny – just writing this made me decide… Colette Taffy for sure.  Plus somethin’. I’ve noticed on the Taffies floating around the interwebs that the flutter sleeve can sometimes stand out pretty far from the arm. Is it the sleeve size, or the chosen fabric? My rayon is drip-drapey, and I might think about reducing the size of that circle on the pattern piece.

Built by Wendy “in the hoodie” from Sew U Home Stretch

Soon after I started sewing, I started getting all ambitious with making dresses – which I’ve only worn a couple of times each, if at all. I’m not a dress wearer generally speaking, and besides,  i wanted to start sewing in order to make the simple designs I always wear with beautiful fabrics – like this hoodie. I picked up 2 metres of this fabric – a thin, non-stretch cotton jersey knit – for $5/metre off of a clearance table at Fabricana in Richmond BC, not quite knowing what to do with it. I just thought it was incredibly beautiful – and a good quality knit (the ends don’t curl up… I’ve learned the hard way to just walk away from those!) I thought the pattern repeat with the strong horizontal elements was too much for a dress, and the no-stretch fabric can’t really be made into a t-shirt. It wasn’t long before I realized it’d be perfect for a hoodie. My hunch was affirmed when my best girlfriend saw the fabric and also said, “hoodie.”

(damn if I can’t get the hood all aligned well; my sweetie who usually takes my photos is out of town for a couple weeks so it’s me and my self-timer.)

The pattern – a raglan sleeved hoodie – comes from the book “Sew U Home Stretch: The Built by Wendy Guide to Sewing Knit Fabrics” – also a clearance table find – only $5 –  also in Richmond. This was also my first serger project – my serger also being a bargain… I still feel a little bad for scoring a barely used Brother 1034d off of craigslist for $140 (the girl was a recent grad and needed $).

I simplified the pattern a little by not adding the front pocket – which would have been stripe matching nightmare (getting those stripes to match along the zipper = no fun).  I also cut out the ribbing, and simply lengthened the front, back and sleeve pieces by a couple of inches each, and did narrow hems. I did a size small to ensure it would be nice and snug; I muslined it to ensure the size would be okay through the chest. Nevertheless, I wonder if I might have done the medium size, to get the hoodie to fall a bit more beautifully.

The most difficult part was the stripe matching – natch – and I couldn’t get them all to match completely – happily the non-matching pieces are concealed by hood. The main body serging took about a half hour – and this being my first serged garment, I was going slowly. Of course, the hemming and zipper were a bit more time consuming. I barely squeezed this out of 2 metres – but I self-lined the hood, and had to do the sleeves twice; the first time, I serged off too much, and the left one was uncomfortably tight. I actually had to piece together one of the sleeves – at the wrist – but I don’t even notice it while wearing it. The only thing I’d change – make the hood a bit bigger.  My only letdown is the zipper; I couldn’t find a zipper to match the pink in a 20″ separating zipper, and so I went for a cream – which I find does make the overall hoodie look more casual than I was hoping for. Before the zipper I was pretty confident this was my first garment that really looks like higher end RTW; Separating zippers – at least in my local haunt (Dressew in downtown Vancouver) tend to be so bulky as well; I’d rather a neutral but narrow zipper than a matching one with big clunky teeth. I don’t have another fabric store with good notion selection than isn’t a half hour bus ride away, and I’m just not doing that for a zipper.

Sew U Home stretch is a good book, and I’ve enjoyed reading it. It seems so many of the sewing books coming out now are for total beginners with a toe in the DIY craft movement, and this one is no different. Except that it illustrates Bernina sergers and talks about using your coverstitch machine – neither of which I think any of her target audience would have. But aspirations are good, and I guess it looks better in print than your grandma’s old Babylock BL-4 (the little green tank… I almost bought one a while back). It has three basic patterns (a raglan – which I used;  a crew neck tshirt; a dress), and 5-6 variations for each. That’s the strength of the book – it shows you how to easily manipulate pattern necklines and such, and with no real fuss. The instructions are also well laid out and exceptionally clear.

Like the patterns she did for Simplicity, and her own RTW line, Built by Wendy’s patterns here are pretty loose and unstructured; the hoodie is apparently “streamlined for the female figure,” but I’m not really seeing that. It’s the simplest hoodie you can find, and so perfect for any fabric with directional prints. For my dream cashmere hoodie that I very much want to make this winter, I think I’ll try Hot Patterns 1058 – the Classix Nouveau Sportive Skirt Suit – which has nice princess seams, and cute side slant pockets.

Dotted Swiss Sorbetto – the job interview version

The truth is that I’m late onto the Sorbetto bandwagon. My preferred silhouette is drapier on the bottom, and fitted on top; Colette’s Sorbetto pattern – their summer freebie (which is awesome) is “swingy” – i.e. unfitted. Truthfully, my first thought was… Box. (honestly, it feels pretty sacrilegious to write that, only due to it being the beloved Colette. Colette seems to me to be an absolute model of how to run a small business and I’m a huge supporter, but it doesn’t mean I absolutely love all of their designs (ooh… there’s that sacrilege feeling again…)) However,  summer’s been the season of Sorbetto in the blogosphere, and it was Mena of the Sew Weekly’s 7 days of Sorbetto blogathon that got me thinking that it can be pretty cute. She also gave it some sleeves – which I was going to do, but my sweetie printed out my sleeve pattern before making sure that the test square = 4″x4″ (it didn’t). So they were too small to use. Bummer.

The impetus for this Sorbetto – which fits perfectly into my easy-sewing-August plans – was a job interview at a sewing shop that sells Colette patterns. I said in my application that I *could* sew – in case they wanted me to make up samples or something for the shop – and what better way to make the case than to make a self-stitched Colette garment to wear to the interview. My interviewer recognized it straightaway 😉 (no word yet on the job but the interview seemed to go pretty well, at least in the ‘it lasted an hour’ and not because of rounds of uncomfortable questioning way…) With short notice and a pile of term papers to grade, I only had time for Sorbetto. I also only had time to hit up the most expensive fabric shop in town for this $20/metre black dotted swiss – which I already knew they had –  rather than hunt and peck elsewhere. But let me tell you, I am becoming a convert to the posh fabrics; they sew so *easily*…

I like Sorbetto more than I thought I would, and I *love* it in the black dotted swiss… it’s one of those times where i love the fabric more all stitched up than on the bolt. I do quite like the silhouette with the embroidered linen a-line skirt I’m wearing in the photo, and it looks good with a pencil skirt too. Because I’m an hourglass shape with a larger-than-average bust, I’m always concerned that tops (or dresses) that hang down from the bust don’t give me ample waist definition, and therefore make my middle look much bigger than it is. But with a thin and drapey enough fabric, this doesn’t seem to be a problem (of course, my two other recent tops are Vogue 1247… super roomy… and Burdastyle’s also loose cut 07-2011-105).

Here, you can see how it just hangs down from the bust. It’s fine in a super light fabric, but in anything with any body to it… ugh.

And for the backview. I probably could do a swayback alteration, but… I’m just not that fussed about swayback. At least not in a little top.Well no, I’m just not that fussed about swayback period. And apologies for the wrinkles. These were completely pressed/steamed out for interview!

Construction notes

I didn’t have time to muslin my Sorbetto up, which I would normally do before cutting into $20/metre fabric! I just dove right in and cut a straight 6. I didn’t make any construction changes, other than making french seams throughout.

*Given that the fabric was more $$ than I was expecting (I thought their dotted swiss was around $15/metre… my mistake), I only bought 1.25 metres rather than the recommended 1.5 yards. At least in the smaller sizes – and possibly in the larger sizes too – you do not need 1.5 yards. I used < 1 metre. And that’s after making my own bias tape (granted, that takes a 10″x10″ square). I’m cool with scraps, but not so cool with tossing a 7-8$ scrap quite unnecessarily into my scrapbin.

It took less fabric because I changed up the layout; both front and back are cut on the fold. Colette has you simply match the selvages up to make the fold; I had my selvages meet in the middle, which gives you two folds on either side. Such a fabric saver!

Love the exposed bias binding! I made my own bias tape (self-fabric), following their online continuing bias tape tutorial. It took three tries to get it right, but now I’ve got it – and am super keen to make more… much more! It took me about an hour to run the tape through the bias tape maker and press it into place.

What I’ll change for next time

As others have noted, the bust darts are crazy high. I need to lower those by about an inch.

Also as others have noted, it’s a short little top. I’m happy with the length since I’m wearing it with this particular skirt, but I might make other versions an inch or two longer.

Because this pattern can go very box very fast, I’d consider cutting/sewing it on the bias if not a directional fabric (like my swiss dot).

Burdastyle 07.2011.105 top with flounce

OMG I love this top! It’s pretty and sophisticated, and perfect with a pencil skirt. I cut a 38 with no other alterations to the pattern, other than cutting it  on the straight of grain. The pattern calls for bias cut, but everyone seems to be doing this on the straight grain; this is because it relies on a *very* drapey fabric –  the pattern calls for silk chiffon – and silk chiffon on the bias is, as one sewist put it, diabolical. This directional print obviously would not work on the bias. I think it’s quite important to note that if you go straight of grain, this pattern takes up less than a metre of fabric… good to consider if you might splash out on an expensive silk chiffon or charmeuse (Fabricana has a stunning Nanette Lepore silk in right now…).

I’m learning how certain prints just work really well with certain patterns – and this combination is, imho, a total winner. This version is actually my test garment – cut out of this crazy print that I wasn’t sure I really liked when I picked it up a few months ago. I got it at Dressew – a bit of a bargain basement fabric shop – and at Dressew, I’m never quite sure if I love a fabric because I genuinely love it, or because it seems to look better than the other not-so-nice (or not-so-my-taste) fabrics they’ve got in shop. I always had this “zulu surfboard” print (really can’t think of any other way to describe it…) earmarked for a muslin; I’m surprised and glad it and the pattern go together so well!

I followed many of the pattern directions, since this is a test garment (that I ultimately think I’ll get quite a lot of wear out of). It is a poly, so I’m a little concerned about my top becoming a little oven on warm days; perhaps it is best left for evening wear. I wore it out last evening – it was around 20 degrees – and i was absolutely happily comfortable. I know that Slapdash Sewist felt she needed to make some alterations to make sure it isn’t too revealing, but I found that on me, it isn’t revealing at all, but rather quite modest. Go figs.

Construction notes

Given that this a poly charmeuse, I liberally applied my homemade spray stabilizer to the bias cut binding pieces before cutting them out; stabilizer really and truly is my new best friend. I just put about a fistful of washable stabilizer into a spray bottle from the dollar store, which I filled with about 2.5 cups of hot water. I made sure the stabilizer had dissolved, and let the mix cool down before spraying my fabric nice and wet, and letting it dry. The fabric comes out stiff enough to be manageable, but certainly not crunchy or cardboard. It just makes bias bindings dreamily easy to cut and stitch. I haven’t actually washed it out of the finished garment yet (it’ll come out in the wash easy peasy). I expect this mix will last me about 10 projects. Total cost – maybe $3?

Like the Slapdash Sewist, I finished off the edges of the front pieces with my serger, rather than the closely spaced zigzag stitch that Burda calls for. I just got my Brother 1034D a few weeks ago, and am so in love with rolled hems; still working out the tensions, but only the curmudgeons will notice!

The narrow band is easy, and I prefer it in self-fabric. One of the reasons I love doing muslins is that it lets me get all of my mistakes out of the way, and in this case, I had neglected to “turn in one (narrow) end” of the band before stitching and turning it lengthwise. I simply thought “stitch and turn” – but there’s that one extra step first. I had to double fold the end of that piece over for a quick and dirty hem after the fact to prevent future fraying; this makes that narrow band at the shoulder a bit shorter than Burda intended.

I made another rookie mistake with the shoulder seams… and this is a case in point of how Burda assumes some sewing knowledge. Of course the seams on a chiffon top all need to be enclosed, but I simply followed the instruction to “stitch” without thinking to do french seams on the shoulders. I had to do a makeshift faux flat felled seam (the allowance being to small, and the material too flimsy for me to manage a faux french). I hope I’ve learned my lesson!

I measured out the 118cm they stipulate for the hemband, but it was too short, and so I had to piece a longer bit together.

Here is where I was So glad for other reviews… to put the front together, and to create that flounce, Burda instructs us to “Lay right front on left front, with right sides of both facing up.” Now, I would have *thought* that meant to layer the right sides, with both right sides ultimately facing me (in other words, Wrong side of Right front stitched to Right side of Left front). Slapdash’s interpretation, which I followed, has you sewing both wrong sides together – so that the rights sides are facing out.

I’m not so bothered by the little square on the left shoulder, and I prefer it underneath the band.  I don’t do it in this photograph, but I quite like pulling it over so that it looks like a little sleeve.

Changes to make…

– The bust darts are a bit long; I’ll need to shorten those by about a half inch

– French seams for both shoulder and side seams.

– hemband – it doesn’t actually matter how long the piece is, as you just stitch it  down from the body – much like a cuff on a shirt.  just cut a long piece, and cut off what you don’t need after stitching it up.

– screw contrast fabric; I’m okay with the black hemband , but for my ‘good’ version – out of a silk/cotton voile – I think I might just use self fabric for the hem and shoulder bands.

– I did a size 38 but I may go up to a 40. The really nice thing about this pattern is that you can really play around with the fitting quite easily when you attach the two front pieces together.

– I think I’ll lengthen it by about an inch; it’s quite short.

– I am going to do my next version on the bias, and I’ve already liberally sprayed stabilizer onto the fabric. Really looking forward to another version in yellow!

burda 07.2011.105 – on tracing

With a mountain of grading staring me down, and the end of two contracts, i’ve been throwing all caution to the wind and sewing – as I’ve hardly got any done in the last few weeks. I’m nearly done a little hoodie – destined to be one of my very favourite me-mades – from the Built by Wendy Sew U Home Stretch book – and I just traced and cut out top #105 from July’s Burda issue.


It was my first Burda magazine tracing experience, and I have to say… not so bad. It was *far* preferable to taping together printed pages from downloaded patterns!

This was surprising to me, as I generally don’t enjoy tracing patterns (though my risk averse nature prevents me from throwing caution to the wind and just cutting into the pattern tissue). When I first started sewing, I used tracing paper to transfer the markings to new tissue – but peering to discern the always soft lines was time-consuming and frustrating. Then I started laying tissue over my patterns, and traced over top – this went much quicker, but the markings were never quite precise. Now, I think I have a system down. I picked it up from the lovely book called “Patternmaking for a Perfect Fit” – all about rubbing off existing garments. (Now that I have a serger, I have a few knits I can’t wait to knock off!)

To trace, I pull out a big piece of foamboard, and a piece of plain flipchart paper, both available at any art supply shop. Then I simply place my pattern over top, with a few river stones as sewing weights, and trace the lines with a tracing wheel. The perforations beautifully transfer to the flipchart paper, and I can quickly connect the dots. So easy, so fast. Even adding those seam allowances – hardly as tedious as I thought.