Advice please

20130219-091614.jpgYesterday I managed to pick up a copy of the latest Burda in the newsagent and, excitingly, it has lots of very nice patterns for basic pieces. For example there are some slim, simple trousers, a longish pencil skirt and a sheath dress, all useful patterns that I can imagine getting a lot of wear out of. Most excitingly of all there is a jacket pattern (101 and 102) that I think can be used for a casual spring jacket, to wear over jeans, or for something more formal to wear to work.

Strangely, the picture in my magazine has the girl wearing a full length top. This picture came from the Russian Burda website which is obviously less fussy about flesh being on display!

20130219-092255.jpgI have been thinking about making a jacket for some time but have not been able to find a pattern I like. I have, however, read up on tailoring techniques and quite fancy having a go at interlining with organza and structuring a collar with pad stitching.

The instructions in the Burda magazine are a little vague (as ever!). When it comes to the collar it seems that beyond a bit of fusible interfacing there is very little required to structure it. At a couple of places they suggest you build a “little extra fullness” in but I am not sure what that means.

So a couple of questions for you more experienced seamstresses. Firstly if you were making this jacket would you use fusible interfacing as well as, or, instead of organza interlining? Secondly should I make the lapels of the jacket with hair canvas and pad stitching or would this make it too structured for the style? Thirdly if I decide to go without the hair canvas etc. what does building a little extra fullness in entail? (Or to put it another way am I just trying to make this too complicated? Should I just go with the flow and follow Burda’s instructions?)


Incidentally I love the biker jacket in this issue too!


Wiksten Tova (the second!)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALast summer I made a denim dress using the Wiksten Tova pattern, which got worn and worn and worn. It was loose and comfortable but stylish and I got lots of compliments when wearing it. Once I had finished it I immediately decided to make a second, this time using some linen from Cloth House, Berwick Street. The fabric is blue on one side and pink on the other giving an overall mauve appearance, I love the look of it but it’s been a pain to work with. I documented the problems I had with it in this post last August. In the end I gave up in despair and threw the dress on the “too difficult” pile.

Recently I have decided it’s about time I tackled the “too difficult” pile rather than start another shiny, new project (are you impressed?). Actually the pile has grown so large it’s now threatening to take over the sewing room and I really don’t have any room left to start anything new.

I had two problems with this dress originally, the first was the fabric, it’s beautiful but refuses to sit neatly and frays as soon as you look at it. I ended up having to cut an extra front because my first one looked ok but took on an off grain slant once I had sewn the inset into it. The fraying problem made the inside a terrible mess, even after finishing the seams with a neat zig-zag. Fortunately I now have an overlocker so I spent half an hour finishing it as neatly and tidily as you could hope for!

The second problem was with the fit. Despite having sewn a toile and a successful dress with the same pattern this one just did not want to work. It was tight across the back and I found I could hardly move my arms. I also found it was a little tight across the front which caused the inserts to stretch open.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI tried letting out the seams across the back and the front but I still couldn’t move my arms far. Fortunately I now have a block that fits me and when I held it up against the pattern on the dress I could see the problem immediately. The sleeve has a higher and narrower top than my block which I fixed by cutting off about 2cm of the top. It’s still not perfect but I can at least move my arms.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHaving finished the dress I am not entirely sure whether I will like it as much as my first one. The front is not as fitted as I would like (probably because I let out the seams) and, perversely, I still have the problem with the insert falling open. I may have to stick a button on it to stop this happening. I also feel the back is still a bit uncomfortable and could probably do with being a little wider.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs it’s foggy and barely managed to reach 4C outside I am finding it difficult to muster up much enthusiasm for this summer dress at the moment. It may be that once summer comes I will find it indispensible and be able to forget all the problems I had with it, but for now it’s going back in the wardrobe.

Tweed Dress

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis has been sitting on my pile of work, waiting to be hemmed for the last week. Yes, I decided to go ahead and make shift dress 107 from Burda’s September issue using my beautiful piece of Scottish Tweed. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI found the fabric in Cloth House, Berwick Street. I’m not sure if you can see the colours in the pictures but it is a green and navy herringbone with fine mustard and pale blue window pane checks, which are almost indistinguishable. It’s a bit huntin’, shootin’ and fishin’, if I wanted to I could use it to make plus fours.

In order to make the dress a little more slinky than my toile I pinched an additional centimetre on either side of the long curvy darts, extending them up so they met my bust point. I also took a centimetre off the sides from the waist and down through the hips. This makes a massive 8cm taken off the waist, it’s still quite loose but now has a bit of shape.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe tweed is very thick and I was worried that if I used the same fabric for facings it would be too bulky and itchy against the skin so I made a full lining out of mustard coloured bemsilk (from MacCulloch and Wallis) and used that as a facing. I also lined the patch pockets, cutting the lining on the cross grain and interfacing it, tips I found in a book to ensure the lining is strong and smooth. The seams have all been serged to death; now I have discovered a cheap source of thread I love my new serger!

Today will be a perfect day for trying out the new dress; it’s a cold, bright day and I’m off to my knitting group later this morning.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Agent Orange

Warning this post contains a lot of orange!

My boyfriend bought our flat a couple of years ago; before I met him. He was attracted by the square Victorian rooms, the high ceilings and the large windows and undoubtedly it has the potential to be a wonderful flat but years of neglect by the previous owners have left it in need of some renovation. Cosmetically, the worst feature is that the entire flat has been painted in various shades of grey ranging from mild depression to downright suicide. Don’t get me wrong, I like grey and as part of a well thought out colour scheme it can look very elegant, but when it’s only grey, and slightly shabby looking grey at that, it’s just miserable. Unfortunately sorting out the non-cosmetic problems in the flat have had to take priority so a couple of years down the line the grey remains and may still be there for a while yet.

In order to cheer up at least one corner of the flat Hugo decided the colour scheme for the small sitting room was going to be orange and grey. He started off by buying a new lamp…


…and then moved on to installing a wood burner with orange tiles surround….


….and then built new dressers and painted them orange….


…and lastly asked me to make some curtains.20130213-121837.jpg20130213-124856.jpg

We chose Gunilla fabric from Ikea. I am a great fan of Ikea fabric, it’s good quality, comes in a range of pretty designs and, best of all, is only £6 a metre.


The windows were all replaced with double glazing last year which means the curtains are only needed to add a cosy feel to the room so I decided to make them very simple and light weight with no lining or inter-lining. I rather like the way the light filters through making them appear cheerful and bright

Curtains aren’t difficult to make, the only problem with them is managing the vast quantity of fabric; these windows are huge and even with simple pencil pleats they took 12m. The most difficult part of the process was finding somewhere to lay them out so I could measure them accurately.

20130213-121959.jpgThere are three more rooms to curtain, two of which have even larger windows and will probably require blinds as well as fully lined and inter-lined curtains.  I also want to replace the cover on that sofa as well, so it looks like I’ll be busy for quite a while.

Incidentally this is my 100th post, the first one was sent out on 21 February 2012, so I’ve almost been blogging for a fully year.  I must admit I did wonder when I started whether I would keep it up, but I find it increasingly enjoyable to record my progress and, in particular, to read all your lovely comments.  Thank you!

Shift Dress Toile

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen I’m not working I have a habit of wearing more or less the same thing – either jeans or a denim skirt, a long-sleeved t-shirt and one of my hand-knitted cardigans.  This uniform is casual, comfortable, but also scruffy and lacking in any style.  In an attempt to get out of the rut I have decided to make myself a winter dress.  I have a lovely piece of tweed which I think will make a really nice Mary Quant type shift.

In September Burda showed a shift dress pattern (107 09/2012) in a number of guises, it came in a sweatshirt which Melissa made up; a lady like, below the knee, a-line (OK frumpy) knit dress; a short sleeved lace dress and a short shift similar to the one I want to make.  On the Burda website I found this  dress which is the sort of look I am trying to achieve.

I find it a little odd that exactly the same pattern pieces are used for such different fabrics, indeed if I were to make either of the longer dresses I would probably cut a smaller size than that used for the looser sweatshirt or shorter shift.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlthough I am pretty much a standard Burda size I didn’t want to cut into my good fabric without making a toile.  As I didn’t have any calico to hand I decided to make up the dress in this furnishing fabric from Ikea.  In part this is because the fabric is not very drapey, a little like my tweed, and in part it’s because I like the colours which seem quite spring like.  Well, we did have a bit of sunshine today and there are snow drops in the garden so I can hope that spring is on it’s way.

The dress was very quick to make.  It has long curvy darts in the front and an interesting dart at the top of the sleeve which is sewn in one with the shoulder seam.  Apart from that it couldn’t be simpler.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe fit is very loose and the shape is quite flared.  It’s comfortable and casual, has long sleeves and will get me out of my rut but I’m not completely convinced it’s what I am looking for.  I’m not sure what is wrong but maybe the shape just doesn’t suit me.  You can see in this photo that it gives me quite wide hips (OK the fabric doesn’t really help).  I’m not really used to wearing such a loose style and such a high neck line.  It may be that the problem I have with it could be fixed it I tried a sleeker fit.

What do you think?  Should I go ahead or should I use my lovely tweed for something different?  Do you have any good patterns for a simple shift?