Monday, 19 February 2018

Frocktails outfit! Burda of the month 10/2017 #109 and Style Arc Skye

Last Saturday night was another fabulous Sydney Frocktails, organised by the lovely Caz of Useful Box. Lots of ladies wearing beautiful frocks, drinks a plenty and a night out in the city sans husbands and kids - all the right ingredients for a great night!

Even though I have loads of outfits already in my wardrobe that I could have worn, of course I had to make a new one. In a fit of efficiency I combined by Burda of the month project for last November with a bit of stash busting to come up with this outfit:

copper top and black pleated skirt

The top is Style Arc 'Skye' and the skirt is Burda 10/2017 #109 which is the cover pattern for that month:

The skirt is a pretty easy project to sew although there are quite a few pattern pieces to it. You just need to piece the yoke pieces together and sew those to the main skirt pieces and then it's just a matter of sewing it up as a normal skirt so it didn't really take too much longer.

The fabric I've used is a raw silk I bought in Cambodia or Laos (can't quite recall) way back in 2008 when I travelled there in my pre children days. It was rather cheap so I have several metres in a few colours that I've never really found anything to make with it. It's a bit thin but stiff at the same time and the black is a bit of a faded black colour.

It looks like Burda have used a jacquard fabric with quite some body for their version, and I was hoping that my stiff fabric would work just the same at making those pleats stand out.After pressing the skirt though it's turned out rather flat.

And I'm just not sure that a pleated skirt is the most flattering cut for a heavy pear shape, even with the flat fitted portion over the hips. I think this skirt accentuates the heaviness of the bottom half of my body.

copper top and black silk skirt

The back of the skirt is a plain a-line skirt, which reduces bulk there, and the lining is also an aline skirt shape. Please excuse my posture in the photo below, I don't know what I was doing but it looks terrible!

I've made this Style Arc top several times now and I still love it. It's a simple shape but it has nice curves and is a very quick sew. The fabric I've made this version from is a metallic woven fabric in a copper colour that I bought from the Remnant Warehouse last year:

The fabric frayed like crazy so I had to overlock every edge, and it didn't really hold a press very well either so the seams look a bit puffy but I think a sparkly fabric pairs well with a simple pattern. The fabric is also quite stiff, so when it was tucked in it was quite bulky which you can see in the photo below :

The top also didn't stay tucked in either, so even though I prefer the look of it tucked in to the skirt I ended up wearing it loose. I have lengthened the front by 3cm so that I don't have any bare flesh showing at the side slits which is my usual adjustment for this pattern and usually sits in the right spot but looks a smidgen too long with this skirt:

Although the fabric wouldn't press that well it certainly did wrinkly around the bottom where it was tucked in - typical! The back neckline is a simple slit opening that I held closed with a hook and eye instead of the recommended loop and button.

So my verdict on these patterns: the skirt is great pattern because it looks exactly as the pattern picture and was an easy sew, but I think it's a frumpy look on a pear shaped body. So I give it a pass for me, but it would look great on other body types, especially in a lofty jacquard or brocade in a fabulous print like Burda has used. The Style Arc Skye top remains a favourite but I will pair it with a more fitted skirt or slim fitting pants so that I can wear it out because it's too bunchy to wear tucked in.

And yes your eyes aren't deceiving you - my hair is now a brighter shade of red! I used a home dye kit on a whim because I was a bit bored with my hair but I didn't want to cut it shorter. I feel like a teenager again with crazy bright hair and it's certainly getting lots of comments but it's only hair - it'll fade soon enough.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Burda of the month: 5/2017 #111 layered dress

I'm still playing catch up with my 2017 Burda of the month projects, and I'm so glad I've made this one because it has turned out so well. This is 5/2017 #111, which is a simple sheath dress with an interesting layered front:

image via Burda Style

I chose to make my dress from a black and white plaid fabric that I bought a while ago from The Remnant Warehouse. It has a slight amount of stretch which was a godsend because this dress turned out very form fitting! I put the two bodice layers on the bias in opposite directions to make them stand out more but that bottom layer is mostly covered up by the top layer and only a corner of it is visible:

Once I figured the pattern out this was a really simple dress but I did struggle to work out the front section until I went back to the pattern layout and discovered that you need to cut out two front bodice linings. Essentially one bodice lining is sewn to the skirt fabric and forms the bottom layer,  the two bodice pieces are place on top and sewed at the neckline and side seams, and the second bodice lining is sewn as a traditional lining that encloses the raw seams.

After the bodice is sewn the rest is just a standard sheath dress. I tried really hard to get the plaids to match since the white lines were screamingly obvious on the black fabric and I think I succeeded. I did have to shift the darts at the back slightly to make sure they were in the black section and not on a white line so they aren't symmetrical but at least the vertical lines match up at the back waist seam, and the horizontal lines match up at the side seams.

I've made my usual size 34 at the bust, grading out to a 36 at the waist and a 40 at the hips and the fit is very snug. The dress is fine because it has that bit of stretch, but I used a non-stretch lining that I had to let out at the side seams as far as it would go because it was too tight. If I make this again I probably would size up from the waist down so I don't feel the need to suck my stomach in all day!

Overall I think this is a great pattern - a simple shape with a point of difference. It would look great both in a solid fabric or with a print fabric for the bodice, or even colour blocking for the different pieces. The shoulder darts are great for fitting to avoid that gaping that I sometimes get in dresses due to my narrow shoulders, and I always prefer a dress with a waist seam because it's easier to fix a sway back. So I highly recommend this pattern, and I think I will make it day, when my to do list is a bit shorter!

Monday, 29 January 2018

Vintage Simplicity 8682: summer dress in a jiffy!

Apologies for all readers in the Northern Hemisphere, but here in Australia we are still sweltering through summer. It has been extremely hot and humid and will probably be really warm for at least another month or more, so it's a perfect time to whip out a new summer dress.

I used a vintage Simplicity pattern that has been in my stash for a long time, picked up in an op shop a long time ago. The pattern cover promises that this is an easy cut and easy sew Jiffy dress and it certainly was! I washed the fabric, hung it out to dry in the sunshine, cut it out and sewed it all in the SAME day!

The fabric I've used is such a fun print. It's a Sevenberry print that I bought from No Chintz of all places, last year during their sale (No Chintz is a decorater/upholstery shop). It's a substantial cotton drill so it didn't need any lining, and it doesn't have much drape which suits the a-line style of the dress. Even after washing and line drying it didn't lose any of it's vibrant colour, and it was a dream to sew and press.

The dress is quite a simple shape, but the curved French darts on the front and two vertical fish eye darts in the back give enough shaping that it doesn't look like a potato sack. I didn't even do a sway back adjustment yet look at the nice fit I achieved in the back:

I didn't make too many changes to the pattern: I added 1.5cm to the sides below the waist line to make sure the dress was roomy around my wide hips and took it in by about 1.5cm above the wais tat the side seams to make it fit better across the bust. It all seemed to balance out in the end! I also reduced the length by about 5cm and used an invisible zip because I find them faster than a lapped or centred zip.

I did lower that neckline slightly though at the front because it's quite a high jewel neckline and felt a little uncomfortable against my neck. Even lowering it at the front by almost 2cm you can see it still sits quite high:

The only change I would make for the next time I make this dress (and there will be a next time since it was so fast, easy and well fitting) is to convert the neckline and armhole facings into a single facing. You can see in the photo below that there isn't much gap between them, and I had to hand stitch the facings down to stop them flipping out. It's a pretty simple matter to do an all in one facing and makes it possible to cleanly finish the neckline and armhole as well.

And I hope you're all enjoying the change of scenery in my blog photos - I took the kids to Shark Beach at Nielsen Park which is part of the Sydney Harbour National Park in Sydney's east today and made my daughter take some photos for me. This is such a lovely harbour beach, with only gentle waves, white sand, clear water and the CBD as backdrop. Despite it's name, there were no sharks today and there is a shark netted area to swim in anyway! Ferries passing by, a rock shelf to explore and a great cafe for lunch - it has it all (except for ample parking, you need to get here early). 


Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Burda 8/2009 #128 - the queue jumper dress

The reason I don't participate in SWAPs (Sewing With A Plan) even though I think they are eminently sensible is because as soon as I make a list of projects to sew I will sew anything but what is on that list! And this dress has just proved that to me again.

Over my Christmas holiday when I couldn't sew I bought a few pieces of fabric and made a list of projects I wanted to make this summer using fabrics and patterns I already own. And it's a loooong list so I had no business buying new fabric and adding to it.

But when I was in Spotlight a few days ago buying thread this beautiful sage green floral cotton sateen caught my eye and before I knew it I had bought it, washed it and made it into a new dress.

This dress is Burda 8/2009 #128 which is from their Parisian collection and unfortunately doesn't seem to be available on line to download:

I've made this dress 3 times before: the first version in a grey herringbone fabric that I made in 2010 and still wear frequently; the second version in a fuschia cotton drill which I wore until the fabric frayed at the shoulder seam from my handbag; and the third version  modified for maternity wear made in ponti knit which I wore until I was no longer pregnant (obvs).

For this green floral version I made the same modifications I made for the second version - used cap sleeves instead of three quarter sleeves and seperated the single back piece into a bodice and skirt so I could continue the waist seam all the way around and better adjust for my sway back. I also re-traced the pattern in a size larger because that grey dress is currently very tight on me, but due to the stretch in the sateen I shouldn't have bothered because I ended up taking it along the side seams anyway.

Unfortunately going up a size has meant it's too wide for me at the neckline and it gapes a bit much like the maternity version above. The first version does this slightly too, which is probably due to my poor posture and forward sloping shoulders, but going up that extra size really exaggerates it. I think I will add two small angled darts at the neckline to reduce that gaping, because it fits ok across the bust. Although I probably should also have re-positioned the bust dart too, because I've breastfed two babies in the years since I made that first dress and things just aren't what they used to be!

Being a pear shape, I am usually loathe to add extra fabric around the lower half of my body but I think this tulip shape is quite flattering as it emphasises my waist more so than my hips. The back is a plain sheath dress so there isn't any volume there, and the side and back views are quite streamlined to offset the front:

The original pattern doesn't include a vent or a split seam at the back which makes walking in it quite restricted. Especially in that grey version I made because the fabric has no stretch at all. For the fuschia version and this version I added a vent extension so I could move normally in this dress, because even though there is plenty of room at the hips the skirt is quite pegged at the hem:

I think the dress benefits from a belt though - without it the dress just lacks a certain something but it still fits ok.

The belt also works to cover up the waistline seam at the front - it appears a bit curved due to the pleats I guess even though it's actually a straightline. Not that anyone would notice this, especially when it's over a rounded tummy, but I think it looks better with the belt.

When I wore this dress to work today I got loads of compliments from my colleagues - from those who know I sew and others who asked me where I bought it from. The fabric is certainly eye-catching, it was a great buy on sale of course because I'm thrifty like that!

I think the quality of sateen has improved at Spotlight, at least this one anyway. In the past I've had problems with darker colours fading quite significantly after the first wash but this one didn't seem to lose any colour and just a small amount of shine after a wash and line dry so I have high hopes for this dress remaining in my wardrobe for many years.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Burdas of the month: 4/2017 #116 and 12/2016 #110 - clothes to survive a Sydney heatwave

Looking back through my blog archives I discovered that I started my Burda of the month challenge way back in 2012, inspired by ReadyThreadSew who sadly no longer blogs.

I didn't do very well in my challenge last year though - I only completed projects from four issues. So this year I'm on a mission to not only complete at least one pattern from every issue this year, but also to catch up on those I missed last year as well! And while I'm at it, I may as well try to finish any issues from the previous years that I missed as well. It's an ambitious goal I know, but the beauty of a self imposed challenge is that there's no penalty if I don't succeed, only personal satisfaction (and a lovely wardrobe) if I do.

My January 2018 Burda issue still hasn't arrived, so I'm starting off with issues from the two previous years. Yes that's right - two for the price of one - I'm starting off with a bang. Admittedly they are two simple projects, but I badly needed some more summer pyjamas since Sydney is absolutely sweltering at the moment.

Firstly, the top. This is Burda 4/2017 #116 (no download at the Burda site strangely) which is a simple singlet style top where the side seams wrap around to the front.

images via

The construction is quite interesting and I definitely needed to read the instructions though it wasn't difficult to make. No seam allowances are added to the pattern except at the shoulders, because that is the only seam sewn in the traditional right sides together. All the other seams are bound with bias tape, and then the back is laid over the front at the side and topstitched down.

The only problem with this method is that it's impossible to adjust the fit at the side after the pattern has been cut out. I cut out a straight size 36 for this top, but in Burda patterns I usually use a size 34 at the bust grading out to a size 38 or 40 at the hip, so not unexpectedly this top is too loose at the top and too tight at the hip. I tried to change the angle of the side seam to overlap it more at the top and less at the bottom, but that meant the underarm edges no longer meet so the armhole binding wouldn't have worked:

So be warned - if you want to makke this pattern definitely make a muslin because if you need to adjust the fit at the side seams you'll need to redraw the armhole edges accordingly.

And now onto the sleep shorts. These are made from Burda 12/2016 #110 (which you can download from the burdastyle site), which look like this:

images via 

There's not much to say about these really - they are simple elastic waist shorts, with a folded down top to form the waistband casing. They took all of about 30 minutes to sew - can't get more simple than that!

The fabric I bought from Pitt Trading in their recent sale for the princely sum of $5 per metre. It's a lovely crisp cotton which I'm hoping will soften in time after wearing and washing. The navy blue cotton bias tape seems to suit the colours perfectly.

And finally can I just say how ridiculous I felt taking photos of myself wearing pyjamas, and then posting those photos on the internet! Thankfully my next finished project is a dress, which is much more my usual style.

My verdict: the top is interesting but I don't think I'll make it again. I had visions of making it in a silky or sparkly fabric to wear with wide leg pants on a hot summer night, but the straps are too thin and the neckline is too wide - it feels like the straps are about to fall down at any minute. Perhaps fixing the size issue might help with that, but I have lots of other patterns to use that it's not worth the time to fix this. It works fine as pyjamas though! The boxer shorts I think will get made many more times again - such a simple and quick pattern.