Monday, June 24, 2013

Burda 09-2009, #121, the long-delayed skirt

I liked the look of this skirt right away when this issue of Burda showed up, um, almost four years ago, but it has taken me until now to get around to making it. It's a great basic skirt: fitted at the waist, full and forgiving through the hips, easy and quick to make but with lots of pleats (two kinds) so you feel as if you are doing something.

The waistband runs a little loose. My waist and hip measurements are toward the upper end of Burda size 42, but the waistband slides down as I wear the skirt. I was focused on whether the skirt would be too small, rather than too big, so I completely missed this until I had already put in the zipper and sewn on the waistband. As another PR reviewer mentioned, the fullness of this skirt feels best when the waist stays snugly where it's supposed to be. The good news is that the pleats are in the same position for all the sizes, so you can put all the pleats in place and then decide how much seam allowance to go with on the sides.

And as for the seam allowance at the top of the front and back: don't bother adding it when you trace off the pattern in the first place. One of the first things you do after getting the pleats in is "Cut off seam allowance at upper edge of skirt." Yes, really. And the bias strip for the waistband? Allowances are already included in the measurements given. So if you really hate adding seam allowances to Burda magazine patterns, this is the skirt pattern for you.

We've got knife pleats in the front

             and box pleats in the back.

My fabric is a charcoal corded cotton from Fabric Mart, sturdy but surprisingly lightweight. (The top picture is closest to the actual color. It's neither light gray nor steel blue, despite what some of my photos show.)

The instructions are clear, and I suspect many sewists wouldn't even have to use them (though I can't keep myself from reading any and all instructions; I blame it on my former life as a copy editor). I did stitch in the ditch (I stitched in the ditch?) instead of edge-stitching on the waistband, and I hemmed the skirt by hand. The invisible zipper is not perfect, but we're getting there . . .

    Happy me.

The PR review is here.

Audio files:

Listening to Johnny Flynn and Laura Marling, separately, though they're also very good together, as you can hear here.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Estou um pouco desanimada.

No, I don't speak Portuguese. It's just that I've been spending some time over the last couple of days with a Portuguese-English dictionary. (Why do we even have such a dictionary? For the same reason we have a Serbo-Croatian grammar, and a Tibetan phrasebook: You never know when these things are going to come in handy, and I have trouble getting rid of books.)

I was looking forward to trying my first piece from the Brazilian pattern magazine Manequim, but I ran into something odd with it. First I want to stress that, after seeing four issues, I really like this magazine. To my mind, the clothes are beautiful and stylish, and many of them have interesting details that could be picked up for use on other garments.

My choice was #266 from the May 2013 issue, a loose-fitting blouse with a nice open V-neck, but minus the epaulets with spikes.

I made a muslin since I wasn't sure how a Manequim pattern would fit me, and I'm glad I did. Certainly I'm not shaped like the model, but the neckline I got is simply not the same. It's considerably higher and smaller. This is not an issue of sizing, because like most Manequim patterns this one comes in only one size.

I wasn't convinced about the construction of the strips down the front, either, which was my favorite part of the blouse as pictured. At the point shown here, the facing is already attached at the neckline; now you're supposed to turn under the edges (at the lines traced in black thread) and topstitch it into place along the neckline and down the center front. Even with all those seam allowances and edges trimmed and neatened up, this seems like an awful lot of fabric trapped inside what should be a very clean design element.

Here's what I think: The version modeled in the magazine is a ready-to-wear blouse, whereas the pattern provided in the magazine was drafted after the fact to resemble the original but does not reflect its construction or even its exact shape. Maybe only some of the patterns are treated this way? Not sure. I don't think I'll make this blouse up, at least not just now: the neckline is fixable, but the armholes are also tight on me etc. etc. I'm not going to give up on the beautiful clothes in Manequim, but you can be sure I'll always make a muslin.

And now a peek into the stash for a little cheering up, courtesy of Gorgeous Fabrics:

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Shape Shape no. 4

Also known as the flared wave skirt. I have used two patterns so far
from Shape Shape by Natsuno Hiraiwa, and I love both of them. I first learned of this book from the blog of the talented and inspiring Carolyn S.

More on the sleeveless scarf blouse another time. For now, here's the skirt.

Several years ago I bought some beautiful raw silk mesh from B&J Fabrics in New York. It was black, woven into a very open grid and then apparently smashed flat, rough but with a nice sheen at the same time. I had no clue what I would do with it, but it was so interesting that I couldn't bear to leave the store without it. And it sat in my stash for all that time, exuding its loveliness and what I thought of as a vaguely Japanese vibe. Finally I came across the skirt pattern and had an aha moment.

And since I am all about blue and black, I made it wearable by underlining with some light blue China silk I had hanging around. This took it away from the rustic, rough quality of the fabric, but I think I liked it even more.

This skirt pattern is quite unusual: it's really one huge piece of fabric that wraps around and attaches to itself in such a way that the grain where it joins runs in two completely different directions. I believe this would make it pretty tricky to alter the length.

You can wear it with the buttoned opening wherever you want, and it will hang in a subtly different way accordingly.

I absolutely love this skirt. In fact, whenever I wear it, I'm surprised that people don't come rushing up to compliment me on it. Haha, I do realize that sounds terrible.

I only dared to cut into my silk mesh because I had already tried the skirt in another fabric. From an even earlier trip to B&J, I had a couple of yards of a rough brown hemp.

Again, this was bought just because I liked it and not because I had any idea what to do with it (a pattern emerges!). The fabric is fairly heavy and stiff, maybe not well suited to garments in general, but I was pleased with how the skirt came out. This one is definitely rustic.

Garden notes:

The rain has been knocking our peonies down into the mud, so I cut most of the blooms today.

Bonus entertainment note:

If you are interested in other places and don't mind spending even more time online, take a look at GeoGuessr. It's seriously fun: You get dropped down at some random place in the world in a Google Earth street view, and you use whatever clues you can find to figure out where you are.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Burda 06-2013, #119, and what I hope is the seam method of pattern alteration

I have a new blouse!

It's a pretty simple one. The point of making it was to experiment with fitting. I would clearly benefit from a full bust adjustment -- many of my tops are either too loose at the shoulders or too tight through the bust -- but I've muddled along without knowing how to do one for a long time.

I don't think the method I used is a common one, but I'm pretty happy with how it came out. It's the seam method from the book Fitting and Pattern Alteration, recommended by Susan Khalje in the Craftsy course I'm working my way through. At the risk of overreaching here as a brand-new blogger, I'm going to try to summarize it, only because I didn't find much about this method online. So just skip this part if you want, obviously.

If I understand the basics of this method correctly (and that's a huge IF; this was not at all easy for me to figure out so please point me toward better information if you can!), the idea is to make your alterations right at the seamline to minimize distortion while at the same time preserving the length of the seamline, so that you don't have to make changes in other pieces that connect to the altered piece. To make this happen, you cut carefully just along the inside of the seamline on your pattern piece, choose points at which to clip "hinges" through the seam allowance just to the outside of the seamline so you can overlap and/or spread as you need to, and then redraw dart lines etc.

Below is what I ended up with. Toward the top of the photo, you can just see an overlapped piece of seam allowance where I made one of the hinges. (The slash through the middle of the dart does not interfere with the integrity of the seamline since that extra fabric will be gone once you sew the dart.)

I give this method bonus points because, since you're working with the seamline, not the cutting line, you don't have to add a seam allowance when you trace patterns from magazines like Burda or Manequim. Though you do have to draw in the seamlines if they're not on your pattern already.

Okay, enough about that. This pattern is straightforward if you've made this type of shirt before. The only change I made aside from the FBA was to place the patch pockets a bit higher, so they didn't outline my "apexes."

This fabric is a loosely woven cotton that Mood offered in an online sale a while back. It is extremely blue. As I was making the blouse, I left it hanging off the back of a chair before I got the collar and sleeves on, and my husband pointed out that it looked almost exactly like a WalMart greeter's vest. So true! It made me laugh, but now I'll always think of that when I wear it.

The back could use some work, or maybe it's just too snug around my hips? Will keep working on how to make my clothes fit . . .

The pattern review is here.

A good dinner for a hot day:
Shred some cold roasted chicken, toss with lots of cilantro torn into big pieces, add a big handful of sliced almonds you've toasted in a dry skillet. Dress with olive oil, lemon juice, and coarse salt. Eat with good bread and wine, preferably outside. Adapted from Forever Summer, by Nigella Lawson, but she uses parsley instead of cilantro.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Getting started

For years my mild obsession with sewing has taken the form of lurking around other people's sewing blogs, fabric shopping at every possible opportunity, poring over pattern magazines and new pattern collections, and, oh yeah, occasionally actually sewing something. In the hope that documenting what I do will remind me that what I want to do is sew more and sew better, I am jumping on this bandwagon right now.

I'll be keeping it simple until I get the hang of this, so please bear with me. Speaking of simple, one of my most frequently used patterns is top D from the ancient Simplicity 5970.

Want to see some more of those?

These take just a bit of fabric and are easy to throw on in hot, humid New England summers.

But that is not all I aspire to, oh no. Sometimes my experiments have worked out nicely, but more often, and seemingly in direct relation to how much work I've put in, I have ended up with a piece of clothing that I'm just not going to wear. This will be a record of my attempt to turn that around. Stay tuned for a look at some of my past and future efforts.

Thanks for reading!

Nature notes:

Two painted turtles were crisscrossing the grass in front of the house yesterday, looking for a place to lay their eggs.

This is a photo from last year; didn't get one yesterday.

I hope our eastern phoebe finds a mate soon, because he is screeching from dawn to dusk.
(I wanted to insert an audio link to the phoebe's call here; so much to learn . . .)