A Year of Sewing Burda

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Even to those abroad who don’t celebrate… it really is a lovely holiday. No pressure. Just sitting around eating and drinking with friends and family. I normally go mad cooking and baking but this year I’m only on pumpkin pie duty. I get to sloth around in PJs until late afternoon, so spent some of my free time organizing patterns.

Our lovely postman brought me the new Burda yesterday. A good mail day! It’s the only magazine to which I subscribe–the rest of the mailbox is just junk (well, bills). The last few issues have really caught my eye; I’ve been inspired by the way they’ve been on top of all the urban leather and faux fur trends lately.

My fave has to be this persian lamb cocoon-like coat.

(My late grandmother had a groovy couch upholstered in this stuff so I’m partial to it.)

A great leather top à la Isabel Marant:

Leather shorts and chiffon blouse, yum:

I still love Burda mostly for its design point of view–or just that it risks having one from time to time. The great thing about sewing, of course, is the ability and freedom to shift a pattern’s style to your own, regardless of a pattern company’s aesthetic or demographic. But I still like to be inspired by design rather than having to re-imagine it.

Still, getting a new Burda gave me some pause. The magazine alone adds exponentially to my pattern list! And I’m probably at the point, as I’m sure many sewers get to, where I feel a bit overwhelmed by the project wish list (and my pattern collection). So I decided to weed stuff out this week. It might be Ebay time.

So I went through a year’s worth of Burdas and made a big Evernote catalogue of all the patterns I liked. I weeded out those that felt like repeats, and some of the statement pieces. I always get drawn to the crazy cover styles, but I think I need fewer fantasy garments on my sewing list. I kept all the ones I’ve already traced. That still left about 15!

I’ve only been sewing from these magazines for just a little over a year. Looking back, there was the Number Six Dress:

Which, by the way, gets the most search referrals to the site. No, not sewing. Battlestar. (Hello, Cylons!)

The silk shorts (sadly I traced and made the wrong size! but they were beautiful to look at!):

The drapey white shirt:

My silk tank was a recent Burda make, and I’ve nearly finished two other garments (just waiting for my serger to come back from repairs!).

Two years ago I’d never even heard of Burda. All I had known back in my first sewing life were the mainstream pattern companies. Since then I’ve been a rabid collector of patterns far and wide. Over the past year I dove into Marfy, Colette, Sewaholic, Hotpatterns, and several other little off-the-beaten-path pattern makers. I mean, I have Sewing Pattern ADD.

Every pattern company fits so differently, and I’d really love to focus on understanding fit more in the next season of my sewing, rather than acquire new patterns. I’d like to keep sewing from Burda especially, mostly for their designs, but need to work out their sleeve shaping and bust fit. The Burda sleeve caps and armscyes are quite high and narrow compared to other patterns, which sometimes looks odd on more casual shirts.

Truth be told, I love the idea of having on hand my own blocks (tnts, what have you) to work out my own designs, and have already worked from a Burda t-shirt to design several top styles. Maybe that will be what the next season of sewing is all about for me!

And before I leave this post, I’ll add that I’m very very thankful for the amazing and colorful man next to me. I’m glad we found each other. He’s almost as much of a fashion nut than I am. He’s a theatrical character and makes everything brighter around him. (He screeches Bob Dylan and Broadway tunes at the top of his lungs every morning to wake up.) Someday I’ll introduce him, but in the spirit of Tasia’s recent post, I am thankful that he supports my crazy sewing habits.


Out with the Old Sleepwear, I Think

Have you ever fantasized about sitting at a vanity, powdering up before bed in a long bias-cut nightgown with a matching housecoat? I think there’s one such scene in Holiday Inn but I can’t be sure. I was pretty obsessed with that movie’s clothes as a teen, so to me 40s glamour will always mean Ginger Rogers floating around a piano.

I wonder if the lure is not just the glamorous style but the whole concept of a bedtime ritual. The time it takes to undress as much as it takes to dress.

{Carole Lombard}

Then there’s also the long-gone distinction between boudoir and the rest of one’s wardrobe. I mean, how could those beautiful buttons be wasted on sleeping!

When we were first married, D bought me some becoming camisole nighties but they have languished in my closet in favor of the old t-shirts and yoga pants. The thing is, I get cold at night, even in the summer. There was the minky pajama set that I wore to death for two winters straight, but finally threw them away for diplomacy’s sake. They were not D’s favorite, to say the least, and I’ll spare you from the names they suffered. He wants to talk to someone other than a fuzzy potato creature putzing around the house late at night. Fair enough. I want to be warm. It goes back and forth.

I’m trying to come up with some pajama ideas that combine the best of both worlds. Clothes that gives me a hint of that nighttime ritual, feel pretty enough, but still putz-friendly. As much as I love silk, I just don’t like wearing it in bed, so I’m thinking about what I can do with knits.

I have this cotton knit fabric:

Which needs some kind of drapey design for the big swashy print. For the top, I like this popular pattern from New Look, with the kimono sleeves and hip bands:

But I don’t need a new pattern to do this. It looks so easy to draft and I’ve already created a batwing-like top from my Lydia t-shirt pattern. It would just need a few modifications.

For the bottoms, I waded through all my Burda issues and found a couple elasticated waist pants that are slightly wide-legged. This is from the November 2009 issue, made for a woven but I’m sure would do fine in a knit:

I also have this Kwik Sew pattern but I think these bottoms with that top might be a bit too banded and harem-ish? Perhaps I’ll save this pattern for another pajama experiment.

Do you ever get in a pajama rut? Do you keep your night clothes separate from day clothes?


Bramaking and Dreams of Stella…

Frankly, I could fill a whole drawer with Stella McCartney bras.

So pretty, girly, vintagey. Earlier this year I indulged a visit to Underwear, a local lingerie boutique and got to touch and try some of Stella’s bras in person. The laces and materials are as pretty and soft as pictures seem to show.

Although if I really had the dough, it might be a luscious set from Carine Gilson, a Belgian lingerie maker.

Lovely lovely lovely–silk appliqued lace!–and putting one out, oh, about $500 for a bra.

If there was one thing I’d love to sew for other women, it’d be bras. Body confidence is such an intimate and complex combination of things, but I’ve noticed when clothing fits and seems mysteriously made for someone’s exact body, it can really affect a sense of self. It’s amazing how beautiful, great-fitting undergarments can imbue confidence and celebration of one’s body.

I know y’all have those pilling three-year-old bras in your drawers. Most of the time I’d rather be buying shoes, and I get lazy and ignore the bra needs until the elastic is beyond dead, but when I finally replensish with just one or two sweet bras that fit, I feel like the rest of my clothes are fun all over again. Bonus.

I like pretty underthings but have never found a style that feels like the magical “it”. Fit and comfort gets sacrificed for style or vice versa. I’ve gotten spoiled by getting more fit-conscious as a sewer, I’m sure. Anyway, I fall in between sizes–either a 32B or 32C or 34A depending on the manufacturer–and almost always look for demi-cup styles. Soft-cup and bralette types are very comfortable and perfectly fine for me, but sometimes a smaller gal likes a shapely underwired bra.

Seeing the beautiful bras on Novita’s blog gave me motivation to pull out the bramaking kit I’d bought over a year ago from Bramakers Supply. The kit included all the notions and fabrics for one bra, along with their “Linda” bra pattern. The fabric for cups is Duoplex, a kind of shiny non-stretchy type of knit, and the band fabric is powernet. Not exactly my dream bra fabric but I really needed the hand-holding of a pre-assembled kit.

According to the pattern, I measured a 32B, but I decided to test out the underwires first. The wire for a 32C felt more comfortable and was closer in diameter width to my closest-fitting bra, a 32B. I decided to forge ahead and make the 32C pattern but with the depth of the B cup. I did this by splitting the B cup and spreading it out to the width of the C, making sure the underwire length was the same.

The construction itself is fairly easy–working with small pieces leaves so much less room for error. The seam allowances are small and exact. The instructions on this pattern are very clear and detailed. There were a couple of hiccups, though… One was getting the trim sewn on neatly where the bridge and underwires intersect. I fudged it enough to work…


The other had to do with what might be a pattern error along the center back.

The pattern calls for a 2-hook closure (and is what came with my kit), but the band seems accidentally drafted for 3 hooks. I fiddled with the elastic till it curved correctly into the hooks, but in the future, I probably won’t use 5/8″ elastic–seems unnecessary for a smaller bra.

The final bra feels pretty close and fits well enough to wear, although I think I’d like to test out the 32B pattern separately. There’s only so much one can tell from fitting the cups. I really had to complete the entire bra to get an idea of fit and once it was all together the bridge seemed a little narrow, the underwires too close together. (In bras, as cup sizes increase, the bridge gets narrower.)

The question becomes, what shape is supposed to be happening and how close of a “natural shape” do I want?

The full-coverage style of this pattern is pretty new to me. It might seem cute on the hanger but it’s a tad medical-looking on the body. I’d love to modify or try something closer to a demi bra or a contour t-shirt style, which could certainly change the fit. Most of my bras also have a vertical seam or dart (like the Stella and Carine Gilson bras above) rather than the horizontal seaming of the bra pattern. It seems a bit old school, but maybe that’s just an association I have. But I look forward to re-shaping and playing around the the design details in future bras.


In Progress: The Good Times Dress

Finally, I have moved more than halfway through my ready-to-sew garments from the summer. The latest is a little bit of Studio 54.

This is Hotpatterns Good Times Dress, which is inspired by a DVF style, and in a totally glam silk jersey. I might be having a silk jersey crush. It’s so lovely and easy to sew, and skims the curves in a very flattering way.

I originally cut this dress for a friend who was performing in a 25-year reunion concert with her band. This was back in July and I didn’t really have time to complete it but I probably needed an excuse to cut it out. I’d always wanted to try Hotpatterns as I’ve accumulated a few. I’d bought the lovely hibiscus-colored jersey from Gorgeous Fabrics over a year ago, for a project for another friend and we ended up going with something else. In the end, I really wanted that fabric (and dress) for myself anyway!

As you might notice, the dress remains unhemmed (the sleeves and hem will be about four inches shorter). This is because I’ve decided to put the dress in time out for awhile so I don’t make any more holes or mistakes.

It took me a couple of days to figure out the yokes. The HP instructions have you roll up the bodice into its yoke “like a sausage” for a clean finish, much like the “burrito method” in shirtmaking. The problem with doing it this way is that the neckline is already closed, making it impossible to turn inside out. Ask me how I know–I had some kind of origami puzzle going on after sewing it according to the illustration.

To do this correctly, one must roll the entire garment (including the opposite yoke), into the yoke, sew and then turn out through the open armhole.

After figuring out the yokes, my serger started acting up. It needs a tune-up like last year. I kept ripping out a lot of serged stitches before I figured out that the problem was not with me or my needle but my machine. I wound up poking a big hole in the garment where the pocket goes, and had to sew over it.

I’m exaggerating by pulling on the dress but sometimes pockets in knits just don’t lay well. I love pockets but might just serge them out of the picture when I come back to the dress.

The whole pattern is basically a bunch of rectangles, which I think is pretty clever in its simplicity. The sleeves are sewn in at right angles to the straight line of the shoulder. I’d probably call them kimono-style, with a square armpit. But I can’t figure out how to sew that intersection of seams at the armpit without all the bunching and this is the point where I stopped before I ripped out yet another seam.

I love the proportions of the shapes in the dress. It has just a little bit of waist-shaping but otherwise relies on the drape of the fabric and ties for style.

I’m excited to see this done and will be back modeling this dress. It’s too much pretty to waste.

In the meantime, I’m going to have to set aside the rest of my project list since most of it requires a fixed serger (except the bra) and I’m ready to get on with some fall sewing!


Fall Color Inspirations

Hurrah for fall! (And thanks all for the birthday wishes!) I love how the light starts to sleep. I love the smell of decay and compost and fall-blooming flowers. It’s probably my entire motivation to for gardening in Texas. There is nothing like those cool mornings and starting from a fresh palette after the hard summer. (I’m sure it works in reverse in spring-oriented climates!)

Back in July I was already oogling over the mustards, ochres, turmerics, old gold colors that showed up in a lot of fall trends. I’m finally getting around to making up my list of fall inspirations, and put together a color palette as a start:

{Marc Jacobs Spring 2011, Gucci Fall 2011, myrakim at Etsy, Mucha sketch, my fall palette, Jaeger Fall 2011}

I’ve been really inspired by other bloggers who use Pantone or Colour Lovers to come up with schemes. I might form an addiction to Pinterest. Finally, I can collect all those visual ideas and save my hard drive.

I really enjoy planning my wardrobe seasonally as a creative exercise. It helps me define my mood and personal life goals for the next few months–visioning through fashion!

Once I get a mood, I start thinking about actual pieces I’d like to add to my wardrobe. I make a huge, unruly list of dream clothes, shoes, accessories and then pair it down to the manageable and affordable (I have a budget twice a year). A little over a year ago I started adding sewing projects into the list, as I finally started sewing enough to rely on it for fashion.

My sewing ideas are also unruly at the moment but I have a few things I’d really like to try, like a take on the saffron cropped jacket:

It’d require some drafting, and probably be my most ambitious sewing project yet, so we’ll see how far I get.

And something like this 60s-ish coat dress.

I love the military silhouette and found a similar style in a pattern, but am thinking it’s those colors that are really attracting me more than anything else (can you tell I liked that collection?).

Practically speaking, fall and winter planning is difficult for me–I love fall clothes the best but serious outer layers are only necessary for two months and the rest of the year just plain hot. So while I’m having fun plotting fall ideas, I’m trying to look ahead to February, when I usually ditch my must-have-wool-cape fantasies.

How do you keep track of sewing or fashion inspirations? Do you make plans with fashion or do you just go as you go?


Happy Birthday to Me

I’m an autumn baby and I love having a cusp-of-things kind of birthday. I always associate my birthday with big change. Fall, rather than mid-winter, always feels like the new year to me. (I always felt like New Year’s resolutions were so strange… maybe I live on the Jewish calendar!)

My birthday was a week ago and we decided to leave Texas for the much greener pastures of the borders of Yorkshire.

Somehow we didn’t get any actual pictures of me facing the camera but I have to say the scenery upstaged us anyway. Apparently this is where they shot parts of the final Harry Potter.

A few days later our friends took us for a lovely day at Chatsworth estate. (This has also been home of many film sets, including being Mr. Darcy’s “Pemberley” in the last Pride and Prejudice.) My lovely friend Jen is a textile artist in Sheffield–I had to include this because I love how her colors looked against the sky that day.

I’m 41. It sounds so big to write that down. Did you know that Winona Ryder turned 40 last month? To me, that’s the official sign that Gen X is going into middle age. (Did you see her in Black Swan? Strange and gory.)

My 40th year took me by surprise. I didn’t want to think it’d be a big deal, but it was. I was suddenly crowded with unexpected thoughts, as perhaps many women are, about the rest of my life–about health, children, career, places to live and how to manage it all. All good questions. I started this blog as one of my new resolutions (it started right before my 40th), as a way of challenging myself to write and focus on one particular passion.

I share the same birthday week with my mother and her mother (both seamstresses!). I’m happy to say that my grandma is 102 as of last week, and she’s a sharp and witty lady–she is now mostly blind and no longer sews or knits, but on her birthday last year told me she listens to audio books now, about 20 a week!

Here’s to new horizons and giving oneself permission to change routes!