Thursday, April 9, 2015

A Jacquard Coco

Schnittchen Coco
I've been on a mission to find patterns with shoulders that fit me because they are the most difficult part of my body to fit. My shoulders are square and angled forward, and Burda's shoulders, for instance, never fit properly and require all sorts of adjustments. I figure if I can collect different types of shoulder blocks that fit, then I should be able to use them to adjust any pattern I like. That's the plan anyway.

Schnittchen Coco

Scnittchen's Malu Jacket's shoulders were spot on, but of course dolman sleeves are never as much of a struggle as set-in sleeves. So I was very curious to try the Coco Jacket for a fitted set-in jacket shoulder. Plus, it seemed like it could be a great staple pattern to have.  As it turns out, I am very pleased with the fit. The shoulders are square enough and have that forward tilt. I also really like that the sleeve is a two piece, so even though it is quite slim, it's very comfortable.

These were my alterations:

- Slight swayback adjustment (the pattern already has some shaping in the back).
- Shortened the sleeves a couple centimeters (the length was neither here nor there on me).
- Took in the side seams at the hips. This pattern has a lot more shaping than your usual boxy jacket, and I'm pretty straight up and down.

Schnittchen Coco

We took these pictures in a village named Créon in the Entre-Deux-Mers region (famous for its wine) near Bordeaux. The central plaza, called Bastide, with arches running all around is typical of the region. It was windy, as you can see, but so nice and sunny. I'm so happy spring is finally here!

So, the fabric... It is a cotton jacquard.  Pretty, right? But it frays so badly!

This is what happens pretty much as soon as you cut it, so I had to serge all the edges immediately. Even if you interface it, it frays. After I'd sewn on one of the sleeves, it pulled out partly from the seam and I had recut it and resew it entirely. It was a quite battle!

Here's what the wrong side of the fabric looks like:

I actually really like the way the wrong side looks because the colors seem more vibrant, and I considered using it as my right side. But I was concerned that all those threads would get caught on things, and this fabric was giving me enough of a hard time already. The right side is more subtle, but it's pretty too.

When I run into this much trouble as I'm making a garment, I tend to prepare for the outcome to be a disappointment. Does this happen to you too? I hate to give up though, so I never leave a garment unfinished and I always finish what I'm working on before I allow myself to start something new. As it turns out, it was worth it because I really like this little jacket after all. And I also know this basic pattern is a great staple that I can use over and over again.

Schnittchen Coco

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Spring Coat

Burdastyle 08/2014-102

Spring is definitely on its way. Afternoons can be quite warm when the sun is out, but mornings and evenings tend to be much cooler here throughout spring, so I wanted a lighter weight wool coat in a soft color. And by the way, this is my second green coat!

Burdastyle 08/2014-102

The pattern is from the August 2014 issue of Burdastyle. I was drawn to the oversized pockets and the curved drop shoulders. Drop shoulders have a reputation for making broad shoulders, such as my own, look even bigger. Maybe they do, but I like them anyway. I think in this case the roundness has a softening effect.

Burdastyle 08/2014-102
 I made very few alterations. I raised the pockets by about 3 cm because they were really low, reduced the front overlap a bit because I like my buttons, or snaps in this case, not to be too far from the edge (about 1,2 cm works well for a coat, I think).

Burdastyle 08/2014-102
The pattern features a wide pleat at center back, but it is intended for a more lightweight cotton fabric. I thought my mid-weight wool would be too bulky for the pleat, so I removed the center back seam entirely.
I really like the seaming detail at the back shoulder, running down the sleeve. It has no function other than adding interest to the back view. I interfaced that seam because it worried me that it was cut on the bias, so I figured it could use some support, and it turned out fine.

The fabric is a kind of tweed that looks like a solid, but up close you can see that there are variations between different shades of light green, going from a pale chartreuse to a more earthy beigey green.
I love those bronze snaps!

The paisley lining is a rather substantial viscose twill I've had in my stash for several years. I didn't intend to line this coat with it, but these two fabrics are so happy together, it was made to be! Interesting optical effect here: I look armless, Venus de Milo style ;)

I used this tutorial for sewing the hem/facing/lining junction. Such a great technique! I highly recommend it.

The pockets are lined edge to edge in the same fabric and sewn on by hand with tiny fell stitches. It may not be as sturdy as machine sewing, but I like the sleek look. Pockets and fronts are stabilized with a soft weft-insertion interfacing.

So this is really a transition piece. I feel like sewing with the season this year, rather than ahead of it which is my usual strategy. This way I can wear the things I make immediately!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Waistless Dresses

I've done a lot of thinking since last week about what dress styles would best suit my body shape. I decided to go through some Burda magazine archives to refine my ideas. I always use Merine's Pinterest boards for this sort of thing. She's been keeping them updated for years and has them organized by category (dresses, skirts, coats....) so I find them extremely helpful. Thanks for making this wonderful ressource available to us all, Merine!
So, I gathered some line drawings and I thought I'd share them here, in case they might be helpful to others.

I see 6 categories of dresses that don't mark the waist and that I could possibly envision myself wearing. I draw the line at dresses with lots of gathering above or below the bust: that's just too much volume for me! So keep in mind that these are my subjective choices, based on my personal taste and experience and they might not be ideal for you. I'm showing only Burda patterns here because it's easy, but I'm sure there are plenty of similar styles in other brands.
Most of these styles are pretty classic, so I think you could wear them for years!

 First, the shift dress

These dresses skim over your midsection and create a flattering uninterrupted vertical line. Burda has some excellent shift dresses, and I especially love this one, with its interesting insets and cute hip pockets:

Burda 06/2013-116
This one is all over the internet and it seems flattering on everybody, plus it has sleeves:

Burda 09/2012-109
And here's a very simple, but very smart looking version, perfect for summer (jewels optional):

Burda 04/2013-109

Second is the sack dress.

These are a roomier than shift dresses.
I made this tunic dress last spring and I wear it either belted at the hips or unbelted.


Now this is as basic as it gets, but it would be kind of perfect for summer in a pretty cotton print:

This one is slightly egg shaped and I think it has really interesting style lines.


Third is the empire dress.

These do often tend to look really youthful. This one for instance I think is gorgeous, but I wouldn't sew it for myself. On the right person though, that person being Sasha, it would look amazing ;)


I could see myself wearing this one though. I think it would be really pretty for summer in a flowy fabric:


I know this next one has a lot going on, but I've seen some simplified versions, sleeveless or shortened, that were really beautiful. Burda has lots of empire maxi dresses, but on most of them the skirt is gathered all around which isn't necessarily a very flattering look. This one has strategically placed gathers that would create a lovely drape in a fluid fabric :


Fourth is the drop waist.

I personally need a drop waist to hit at the high hip. Depending on your shape you might get away with a much lower waistline. The patterns I've selected for this section all have long sleeves for some reason, but you know you can modify them as you please.

I like this looser, fluid style. This is very "années folles":


Hmm, I'd never even noticed this one before, but it's nice and casual, and those welts on the hip line add interest. This one is really low though, but could easily be raised to high hip. This dress is from Burda Easy Fashion Magazine, and there are many different versions, short sleeved, sleeveless, with pleated or flouncy skirt, peter pan collar, patch pockets...

Burda Easy Fashion Magazine, Winter 2012-5D

I've made this next one twice and it's my favorite dress for the beach. Any shirtdress belted over the hips would give you that drop waist look.


Fifth, diagonal interest

Through clever draping or piecing, these dresses keep the eye moving on the diagonal so it won't linger on your waistline.

This particular pattern is a classic, and I've been meaning to make it since forever. Maybe next winter!


This next one is pretty bodycon, but in a substantial enough fabric, it could do wonders for your figure, especially with the colorblocking shown in version B:


This one has a strategically placed draped overlay and calls for a stretch woven, so it should be more forgiving than many knit wrap styles:


Finally, the faker

These dresses have clever style lines which, through optical illusion, might effectively fake a waist.

This one is gorgeous, and it has pockets!


This one would not only make your waist appear slimmer, but also add curves to your hips, if you need them:

And this one may seem unexciting compared to the previous two, but its geometry is perfectly balanced. The waist seams on the sides are broken up by vertical lines so the effect is slimming.  I've seen some gorgeous versions on the Russian Burda website's user forum.


Will I make any of these for spring? I haven't made up my mind for sure yet. The purpose of this little project was to consider some possibilities, and that's just what I'm doing at this point: considering. Many of these styles are a lot more structured than what I'm used to wearing but I think it might be fun to try something different. I really do like that first shift dress!

how about you? Do any of these styles catch your fancy?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Faux Suede Wrap Dress

This project began with a fabric. I had this stretchy faux suede, really lovely,  velvety, and with a lot of drape, and It seemed a natural for a wrap dress. I did consider making a shirtdress, because I love shirtdresses, and because : Halston...

But my fabric was very different from his. 70s faux suede was much stiffer and with no stretch, and I just didn't think it would work. I did use a 70s pattern for my wrap dress though, this Edith Head for Vogue number:

I love 70s styles and I think pattern enveloppes were often really beautiful at the time. Since I have collected a few, and have been meaning to sew more from them, I've decided to join the Vintage Pattern Pledge over at A Stitching Odyssey. I won't promise to sew a predetermined number of vintage patterns, because it seems too arbitrary. I don't like to plan too much with my sewing and would rather just go with the flow. But taking the pledge will help keep on my mind that sewing these beauties up is better than just keeping them in a drawer, untouched. So here goes...

I pledge to sew some of my favorite vintage patterns this year, specifically patterns from the 70s.

So, back to my dress. The cool thing about this fabric is you can leave the edges raw. No need to finish the seam allowances and instead of turning the hem up, I cut it with a rotary cutter... veeery carefully. And I think now that the best way to explore the qualities of this fabric would be in a style with all raw edges and no darts. Because of its softness, it really isn't great for sewing neat darts. Mine all have dimples at the end, as you can see here. Plus this fabric doesn't like the iron, so it is better to keep the seams to a minimum. I do hope to find more of this fabric and I think I will make something very different with it next time!

So, going forward toward spring, I'm sewing a mid-season coat right now, and I know I'll need to sew some more dresses. I'm thinking a lot about finding the best styles for my shape, because in all honesty, no matter how alluring wrap styles can be, a thick belt around my waist is not the most flattering option for me. Instead, I think I ought to focus on either empire styles like this one I made last year, Green Twist Dress, or dresses that belt at the hips rather than the waist. It's hard because the vast majority of pretty dress patterns on the market seem to have a defined waist.
If you're in the same predicament, I'd love to hear which dress styles you're happiest with and if you've found great patterns to sew them with!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Birthday Dress - Vogue 1422

Vogue 1422, Tracy Reese

My daughter asked me to make her a dress for her birthday and I was overjoyed, because really, it's so much more fun to sew pretty dresses than my usual boring basics. I would sew more for her if she'd let me, but I have learned that she'll only wear the clothes she has specifically requested. And the things she does ask for, she tends to wear a lot. She picked the pattern, Vogue 1422, a Tracy Reese design. She was attracted to the classic style which reminded her of Audrey Hepburn. She also picked the fabric, a silk blend cloqué in very bright shades of pink, shot with silver threads. She has always loved pink and I love that she hasn't outgrown it!

The pattern is designed with an organza underskirt in addition to the lining. I skipped the underskirt because, even though the fabric is rather outrageous, this is meant to be an everyday dress. She'll wear it to school or wherever she likes and it needs to be washable. The pattern also calls for different types of lining for bodice and skirt. I lined everything in Bemberg.

Vogue 1422, Tracy Reese

When I first muslined the bodice, it looked like a shapeless sack. I had to completely reshape it and ended up making three muslins. Although she is tall, my daughter has a petite torso and the bodice needed to be shortened a lot. The pattern has lengthen/shorten lines at the waist, but I had to take tucks in the upper chest and upper back as well, and also take in the shoulder seams. The back waist needed to be taken in quite a bit, and after playing around with the back waist darts, I ended up drafting princess seams instead, which also solved another issue: gaping armholes. You might spot the princess seam here:

Here's what the wrong side of the fabric looks like. It is backed with very fine synthetic threads that melt at the touch of an iron! Also this fabric frays like crazy, so I had to serge all the edges as soon as I cut them.

It feels so good to be sewing and blogging again after a long break (I was very busy). I'm thinking of spring now and planning some seasonal transition projects.

Last year I sewed her a shirt, which you can see here if you like : Birthday shirt

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


2015 got off to an awful start here in France. We all went from shock to sadness. Many people found solace in the demonstrations of solidarity. For me, there was something really ominous in these gatherings. I can't help feeling sick to my stomach, because as we all know, this thing isn't over.
So I just want to give anyone out there who needs it a big hug. I know I need it.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Magenta Wrap Cardigan

I love this color!
It's amazing the effect colors can have on one's mood. Putting on a bright sweater helps take the dreariness out of winter.

This is based on McCall's 6559, the same pattern I used here, but with even more modifications.
I originally cut it the same way as my yoga wrap, but this jersey being more stable and less drapey, it just didn't work as well. I decided it needed more structure and added bands and ties.
I still have mixed feelings about ties on a cardigan. For me, a cardigan should be easy to put on and take off, and ties tend to be fiddly. At least in this one, I don't have to thread them through any loops. Plus the fabric, a fine wool/cotton blend is lightweight enough that I can wear it all day and forget about it. If it were heavier, I would want to take it off as soon as I step inside.

I can also tie it up more tightly like a traditional ballet wrap. It would work well this way worn as a top, with nothing underneath.
My ties are just long enough to come around to the front in this case. I couldn't make them any longer than this as my fabric isn't very wide and I already had to piece them at the side seams.

This cardigan is entirely constructed on the serger. The only slightly complicated part was figuring out how to manage the transition where the band becomes a tie. Here's how I did it (I wouldn't be surprised if there was a better way): The band is folded lengthwise, then serged onto the cardigan. So this part of the serging ends where the body of the cardigan ends. The tie parts are then serged inside out, going only so far as to leave enough of an opening to turn them right side out. Finally, the opening is slip-stitched shut. Does this make any sense at all?

I left the edges of the sleeve openings at the wrists raw. I like them that way.

What are your favorite winter brights?