Sunday, November 4, 2018

The Little Black Dresses in my closet--the travel/concert capsule wardrobe weekend solution, plus a new model, Burda Easy's bandeau sheath, SS 2018

Chanel said a lady can go anywhere if she has a LBD. The venerable Parisian perfume house Guerlain has even issued a series of perfume flankers over recent years, dedicated to the idea that the LBD is whatever you make of it, from tutu to black leather jacket.

For the end of September, I was planning a Fri-Mon weekend in London to visit offspring. Having last year left an overnight bag of toiletries, makeup, and black cotton T and leggings as pj's with the litter, I wanted to travel ultra-light, with only a medium-sized black leather backpack to weigh me down airport-airport-bus-tube.

The first stop would be a performance of the English National Ballet with FiddlerKid leading a string section  (so proud!) Then museums and lunches and coffees etc. which were all incredible fun, to meet up with each kid and (in some cases, their partners.)

The obvious solution was to wear a black knit dress over a black camisole over black tights and short zipped boots (there would be a lot of city walking, so the ankle boots were low-heeled but not rustic) under a black Promod trench, to be perked-up from the crypt-heavy-blackness with bright jewelry and Hermes-style colorful silk scarves.

So I carried only:

1. pull-on black Vogue OOP trousers in ponte. Kind of a neutral no-style at all statement.
2. black and brown sailor-stripe T

The weather was cool but sunny and it all worked incredibly well. I left the T and trousers behind in the carryall for next time. They don't do much here at home. I did consider leaving the dress instead...which is why...

While I was packing, I reviewed a collection of my LBD's sewn and purchased over the years. With one professional musician in the family, not to mention our love of subscription tickets to concerts anyway, it turned out I had quite a few BLACK concert basics to layer under Chanel-ish jackets, kimonos, or glittery tops. Photos below for some of the sewn options:

1. Donna Karan Vogue Designer OOP dress (worn already to Univ. of Cambridge concerts ten years ago)
2. Burda one-shouldered ponte sheath (worn already as the Verbier Festival summer option two years ago. Burda shows it as part of a clever ensemble, offering a one-shouldered opposite-side overlay which makes it a two-sleeve, warmer dress. A SWAP possibility for the future? Not photographed yet, unfortunately)
3. Burda Chinese-style short-sleeve sleeved sheath w/ exposed gold zip (worn last year on a similar London weekend. CyberDaze (see link in sidebar just made on of these too!)
4. Burda short-sleeve sheath in cloqué (only suitable for evening because of shimmery fabric. Decade-plus old.)
5. short-sleeved, collarless purchased viscose H&M wrap dress, showing its age. I'm considering using that classic Vogue DVF knock-off pattern to make a new black version of this with its 3/4 cuffed sleeve and collar detail. I know I'll use it a lot.
6. spaghetti-strap georgette slip dress (too long, flimsy-floaty for autumn city daywear)
7. two pull-on black knit pencil skirts (required more tops. Stayed at home)
8. floor-length slip dress in cotton knit (only suitable for summer resort wear)
9. Vogue Options wool sheath (way too warm for September. Yoke style outdated)

In the end, I took the viscose wrap dress because it was right for day-to-night and I'm too fond of the home-sewns to consider I might leave one of those in London.

But when I got home, I added this new LBD to my collection which I hope has day-night potential for travel. I've worn it already to a concert at Victoria Hall in Geneva. I liked the Meghan Markle neckline vibe.

Burda Easy SS 2018
This is Burda Easy's SS 2018 knit sheath with the bandeau neckline in a black viscose solid enough to give the collar some body and resilience. With the neckline pulled low, it works as an elegant evening cocktail dress but released higher up with a shawl or scarf or under a cardigan, it can go out in the day. As usual, the collar bounces off the shoulders a bit too much if I'm overactive. I'm considering finding a way to keep it down without permanently tacking it.

Here are some looks at the other LBD's I've mentioned above:
Chinese sheath dress Burda 2-2012-117A, much worn, much mended

Donna Karan Designer Original OPP origami wrap sheath (Daughter is wearing a Burda Galaxy-knockoff sheath in black lace over plain lining. Start them on their LBD's young!)

Vogue  OPP sheath with yoke seaming
Burda cloque sheath

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

a workhorse pattern...using workhorse fabric...Burda's 'Grandfather shirt' from April 2010, 2015, and 2018

As unglamorous as it is, sometimes there is a workhorse in your wardrobe that you made without too much thought the first time, had to remake because you wore the first one out, and golly, have to make a third time because it's proved to be a wardrobe staple.

That's the case with a white cotton batiste Burda shirt I sewed in April, 2010 pictured below. It's rare for me to wear something into a fraying rag, but this cotton was too delicate for a shirt I reached for every week and laundered to death. There was just something about the formal pin-tucked front and the simple 'grandfather collar' that I felt was an old-fashioned classic and could take any scarf or any necklace. And because it was homemade, I tended to grab it when I didn't want heavy housework activities to risk damaging a more expensive silk blouse or expensive shirt. And it died a noble death.

So in 2015 I dyed some sturdier IKEA cotton a pretty sky blue and remade the grandfather shirt for pennies, also pictured below, correcting the sleeve length and figuring that the sturdier cotton would hold up longer. Because it really is a no-nonsense workshirt that has stood up to all kinds of kitchen, garden and laundry abuse, I was rather surprised to see a few weeks ago that the edges of the interfaced button placket are sprouting little holes from three years' wear and tear along the interfaced fold.

Now I'm really a cheapskate, so when I realized that my beloved blue shirt and I were enjoying our last autumn together, I grabbed some more IKEA cotton I'd previously dyed to toss over a dressing table during the 'Pink and Blue Pantone Season' two years ago. I prefer blue but what the heck. This shirt is often the first step of my day after pyjamas and before a midday swim at the public pool, then shower, real clothes and lunch. This is not a fashion statement, it's a uniform. Pink will match the dawn sky.

So here we go again—a pink 'grandfather' shirt so humble it will be worn non-stop on those mornings heading into the kitchen for a long cooking-and-freezing session for a mob of visiting musicians, for an afternoon weeding the last of the summer chard, or a morning scrubbing, dusting, ironing or vacuuming.

I made one more improvement on the pink version. I usually roll up the sleeves, so I remembered to finish these with French seams. This clean finish is usually reversed for see-through fabrics but it'll take the shirt up a notch from homemade looking. And I took even more care with the tucks and topstitching.


Friday, August 17, 2018

Second part of my Burda retro-hippie adventure with Nos. 114 and 115, June 2018, inspired by Elle magazine's peasant blouse feature

'You look nice,' my husband commented as I set off for town wearing this ivory cotton version of Burda No. 114/115 June 2018. His appreciation was timely as I needed a little encouragement. This is not my usual 'look,' or at least it hasn't been since 1972, my university heyday of embroidered Romanian blouses.

If the blue blouse version of this retro-hippie style was easy to carry off lakeside over a bathing suit, (see previous post) I wasn't sure about the full length dress at all with these sleeves.

First of all, I am a very active cook in the kitchen. The sleeves (borrowed from the blouse version of the pattern) working over a gas burner are just begging for trouble. On their first test drive, they flopped all over the place and my grown daughter grabbed my arm and rolled the flounce out of the flame's way just in time.

Second, I cut a 42-45 but the design turned out to be pretty full already without me needing to be so generous for my hips.

Third, my choice of ivory risks taking this in the direction of a nightgown (or weirdly like some Franciscan priest on mission in the tropics) needing very definitive accessorizing. Hence the leopard print scarf around the waist (which is not defined in the design. A tie belt is included in the pattern.)

If you want to see how different this design can look in a bright silk, check out Ellen's version, here: Ellen's Sewing Passion.

Fourth, the dress as drafted is a little too long. I didn't need to add my usual four centimeters to a Burda hemline. I suspect Burda's model below is about six feet tall. Again, a scarf hipwrap helps reduce the length a little as well as define the hip area from ballooning out.

I adjusted my plans a bit as I tackled this project. To add the recommended lace insert into the flounced sleeves just took it one step too close to bedtime. So I skipped the lace (mine was too stark white anyway for ivory, as I'd bought it originally for the blue version of these sleeves, viz. previous post) and decided to hoik up the boho effect with leather belts, ethnic scarves and earrings.

I've posted Elle's inspiration page on the ethnic blouse. And below is a closeup of my version, sans embroidery, braiding, lace, and a lot of the other seasonal trademarks of the retro-hippie, leaving only my handmade ties and tassles made from embroidery thread bought to match the ivory tone of the fabric.

NB I made the tassles more expertly the second time around compared to the blue blouse, remembering this time to work fifteen tie threads to be braided into the strings through the embroidery thread bundle's dual ends before cutting the embroidery thread packet into two neat sections for tassles, then securing the tassles with a 'neck' of encircling thread tightly fastened, and only then braiding the 15 strands of dangling embroidery thread into strings. I bought five packets of embroidery thread to be safe. This saved me all kinds of headaches trying to attach a finished tassle neatly to a separate braid.

So if my husband likes it, I'll probably wear it until the weather turns and experiment with jewelry and waist effects—but then, he's an old hippie himself.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Next up Burda 114 and 115, June 2018, variations on a retro hippie theme with home-made braid and tassles for lakeside coverup

This BurdaStyle pattern calls for lightweight fabric but because I couldn't find a nice light cheesecloth, I bought two colorways of a more waffley pure cotton—baby blue for a blouse version and ecru for a dress. The fabric type is a bit heavier than I'd like, but I went with it.

This stuff wasn't cheap and was actually hard to work with. Imagine—I got quite a shock when I laundered and machine-dried this crinkley cotton from my local fabric store —it wrinkled up so seriously that I was left with only enough for a baby shirt!

So, to rescue my yardage, I ironed it out ferociously with a firm pressure and a lot of steam and voila! it was almost back to its original width. Well, aren't I soooo glad I didn't cut out the pieces and then wash them...only to see them disappear.

BUT once I'd cut out my ironed fabric, sewn up the blue blouse, and ironed it again, the sleeves nearly dropped to my hip. Giraffe-baby! Whoops! All I can guess is that this fabric is a moving target.

For the moment, I re-stitched the mid-sleeve seam up by two inches to shorten the sleeves, knowing full well that after one wash, the thing is going to shrink to baby-sized again. If I have to, I'll let the sleeves back out to the original seam. (I didn't cut off the excess fabric just in case.)

This was a question of planning one thing and doing another (does that happen to you too?) as the fabrics and patterns came together. I had bought white lace to make the flounce-sleeved blouse version and planned to make the ballon-sleeve version of the dress as above. (I'd skip the grommets on the blouse featured on the cover of the mag. I'm just not young enough to go that whole lace-up look.)

Instead, I decided to stick with the dress version's simpler tie attaching both necklines. (It looks like the tie gathers the neck but it cheats and only connects the collar ends.)

This all reversed when I saw what was left in stock at the fabric store. There was only enough blue  on the bolt to make a blouse. So, swap the white lace over to the ecru dress version?

I toyed with a lot of ideas for multi-colored ties or purchased cord, but in the end, went with braids and tassles homemade using embroidery thread perfectly matched to the color.

I can't wait to wear this as a lakeside coverup in a week's time camping with the extended family. Now, on to the dress with the lace inserts in the flounced sleeve.

I'm not risking another ironing-changeling giraffe sleeve.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Japanese workshirt, Burda Easy Spring-Summer 2018, self-bias binding using a bias tool, obi ties— maybe I did something wrong???

Once I'd dyed my white IKEA cotton a grocery-story-bought indigo, effecting some modest shibori references with a couple dozen rubber bands, I judged the result didn't have quite enough pizzazz. Actually, it didn't have any pizzazz whatsoever.

My genuine antique Japanese kimono,  (see my tutorial on the Burda kimono) has small flecks of gold paint. So I decided to echo my faint white circles with gold paint to kick the shirt up a notch. This added seven francs' cost plus brush to the cost of my dye for my 'free muslin.' It wasn't entirely a success. I wasn't in a patient, artistic mood and some of the gold brush strokes look too much like Frankenstein stitches—but for a ten-cent 'early morning shirt' I intend to wear gardening or cooking or writing before my pre-lunch shower, it was enough.

Burda calls for bias binding along both long neck edges. I knew I shouldn't cheat there by just overturning a hem once or twice, because the neckline needs stability and there is no facing otherwise.

I checked out what bias binding I had in my stash and didn't like brown or black. This gave me a chance to pull out one of my few really classy sewing accessories. (I don't own a serger or overlocker, a buttonhole gauge, or a walking foot. I'm so 1980!) But while we were at the UN in New York for five years for the ICRC, I had a chance to pick up a few nifty sewing tools. The two Clover bias binding makers I nabbed are below:

Using the smaller of the two, I was able to use up scraps of my cotton for home-made binding to ensure that the interior edge of the cross-over neckline was super neat and clean.

BUT a warning: these obi-style belt ties are really, really, really long and a time-sucking drag to double hem-stitch. I'm suspecting I did something wrong in the cutting because why would they have to go around twice!!?? They're more like Egyptian mummy bindings than waist ties!

Other than that, the construction of this shirt is as Burda Easy as they come. Perfect for any beginner. For a muslin first-go, I'm glad I tried it out. But if I use something more expensive than Ditte cotton from IKEA, I'll know I can shorten the ties considerably.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Burda's Easy's two Spring-Summer shirts for 2018

I always keep an eye out for Burda Easy's seasonal signal as to the shirt/blouse silhouette of the summer, (reduced to its simplest interpretation for beginners,) e.g. two summers ago, they gave variations of the off-the-shoulder ruffled Carmen top/jumpsuit/dress.
Last year, that morphed into a blouse/dress version of the ubiquitous 'cold-shoulder' tank with straps and a wide droopy ruffle.
This year, the first of Burda Easy's two basic tops is this:

These look to me like variations of a traditional Japanese farmer's wrap-top with the very wide belt referencing an obi-style waist. Notice, these are not meant for soft knit fabrics, but crisper wovens which give the right pert sleeveless effect. To me, the shirt version looks practical and  refreshing, with wide sleeves (blue version, below) or without, (white version, above.)

BUT I find the lime dress version looks too simple a design for daywear, resembling a hotel massage wrapper or beach coverup. Maybe that's avoidable by opting for the drawstring sleeves (the sprigged blue dress above.)

Anyway, I dyed some cheap IKEA white cotton dark-blue with a Japanese tie-dye effect (thanks to some strategic rubber bands) and have cut out my sleeved version of the shirt. Below are some inspiration photos as I get sewing.

Have no fear, Burda Easy thinks shoulders can still be worn 'cold' this spring, if you like, but my experience with Burda's second summer 2018 top/dress—this one for knits—is that this kind of neckline doesn't stay put. I sewed this similar design from Vogue Patterns

many years ago which presented this problem. As soon as you lift your arms, the bateau neckline bounces up and becomes a cowl. Anybody know how to avoid this? Maybe by tacking the collar down at the sides somehow?

Friday, March 16, 2018

UPDATED: My Easter Adventure Reproducing the Jill Sander 2018 'Blue Egeo Cocoon Coat' or the Velveteen Rabbit Coat

(UPDATE) So here's my tribute to Jill Sander's blue spring coat waiting for a final press and two snap closures. It's obvious that my plush fabric means the coat has more bulk than Sander's flannel version. Also, Burda's pocket design set into a waist seam makes the pocket openings more obvious, (evident also in the Burda model photo).
Probably for this reason, Burda designed a smallish pocket. I missed the welt breast pocket, but okay. And I had to recut the collar as the plush was going in the wrong direction on the first piece.

Sander used a thin white lining (through which I can see the seam surplus on the photo,) but I preferred a sturdy blue satin, (below). Mine is also a 'duskier' powder blue, which is fine, and about an inch shorter, even though I lengthened the Burda design by 4 cm and took up a very modest hem. And of course, as I'm not size zero, my coat will inevitably look less linear than Sander's model. But overall, I'm pleased. I think it will see me through the next two months of intermittent snowfalls and tulip-pushing which typifies a Swiss mountain springtime.)


I haven't been sewing for a while because domestic concerns tended toward house repairs, family visits, aging friends in need, and did I say, house repairs? Plastering, painting, kitchen machinery all on the blink, etc. all while surviving a 'Christmas season' of skiing visits/musicians' retreat/ daughter and new boyfriend, ending mid-February.

There was also the usual work, like, you know, work, on two new novels, almost drafted.

Besides, I have more clothes than I need. BUT I also fell in luurrve with the Jill Sander 'Blue Egeo' coat for Spring 2018. I have no idea what Egeo means in Sanderworld, but I suspect it describes someone with such an outsized ego, they demand an extra letter.

Argh, notice this: Jill Sander's coat costs 2,290 Euros and if you want it from Modus Operandi you have to pay a deposit of 1,145. You know, like a mortgage? And they won't deliver it until April.

So my quest began for fabric. I found the perfect color on the website of the Swiss people, (happily no customs rip-off!) They offered a choice between a hard-boiled wool that could scrub a burnt pot shiny and some stuff that looked very nice on the web: a healthy half of wool, cotton, viscose, and then some abbreviations that told me, 'From this point on, you don't want to know.'

I needed many days after the coat fabric arrived in the post wondering what this stuff was. It wasn't flannel, too thick. It wasn't knit or poly fleece. It was too soft to hold the tailored line and not the tight woven quality of a good wool velour. It was only after a week of pondering the weird label that I realized I'd bought stuffed animal plush. Gorgeous, but weirdly fragile at the weave and with a take-no-prisoners nap.

Well, now I was up against it: committed to underlining the whole thing for body along with interfacing the collar and front pieces. Maybe too much warmth for an Easter coat? What I had on the cutting table was not the Jill Sander Ego Coat but the Velveteen Rabbit in the Alps Spring Coat.

Total cost so far for fabric, lining, and preshrunk IKEA cotton on hand for underlining= 130 Swiss francs or so.

I searched a lot on Burda Style, (as I've archived all the mags and technical drawings back to 2009) and finally settled on this baby, No.120 from December 2010. Yup, it took that far back to find a coat with a narrow lapel, cross-wise pockets at the waist, and the boxy shape with no cut-away at the front hem or weird waist panel insert.
I added 2 cm to the hem on a 42-45 cut but I fear that's not enough to replicate Sander's length.
The shoulders will have to come in and possibly need some modest padding, but the back kickpleat is the easiest to manage I've ever sewn, dropping straight from the waist seam and requiring no diagonal cross-seam half down the leg.

Underlining is a drag but in this case, it has been paying off as the coat takes shape. The plush presses surprisingly well, well enough for me to spot this booboo (just below) at the rear waist which will need a tweak to align perfectly.

Half the collar done at midnight last night. More later....

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Missing for seven months, but back at last…and revisiting a favorite, the Burda 124 July 2011 kimono pattern

There are two reasons I haven't blogged much in the last seven months with many apologies to the handful of subscribers who have stuck with me for seven years, through travel and sewing adventures, terrible illness, and life's usual garden-variety highs and lows.

One reason is, sadly, purely mechanical. I lost access to this blog via a stupid neglect of a dying email address and failure to set a recovery number or address. After many months of trying to get Blogger to produce one single human employee (epic fail, let me save you time, there are none and the Blogger Forum volunteers can only try so far) I managed last night to get an AOL employee in Romania, a kind and charming human, to sit tight with me for the better part of an hour, half a dozen 'captchas,' not a few comic AOL tin-can-men alerts of disfunctional webpages, the recovery of a 2010 credit card's last four digits, and…you get the idea.

Hey, AOL Help rocks.
Blogger Help sucks.
I know they get dissed for being a last-century company, but Miss Bi***ca on the Aol Help Desk 1-800 number did her job with patience and humor—and there was no fee.

BUT the second reason for no blogging and for the inertia about reclaiming the blog itself is that I didn't actually sew very much. Is it possible that this blog inspired me, and without it, I saw no need for new clothing? I think I didn't understand how much the blogging, the community of you people, the support and learning process of fellow sewers had been an integral part of my lifelong hobby which I carried on alone for the better part of the seventies and eighties. The sewing community has transformed completely into something vibrant, proud and dazzlingly creative—no more apologies for 'loving hands at home' being a shameful fallback.

But shame there still is…witness: Earlier this year, I tried my second jumpsuit, this time a Burda Easy SS 2017 pattern, using some IKEA Ditte blue cotton, below. I even ran some black embroidery stitching around the mandatory ruffle sleeve and cropped the trousers to get a summer 2017 vibe. Low cost, maybe Swiss 10 francs all told.

What I realized about all these off the shoulder styles of the past year is that an active woman will find she is constantly pulling the damn neckline back down to affect the 'Carmen' style. Well, this Carmen does housework, and as practical and fun as this summer down-time fashion was to use as a sort of instant-dressing option, the discomfort factor was high. I have loosened the neckline elastic somewhat, but this one goes in the 'lake vacation' pile for tossing on after a swim.
The big news of our summer was the marriage of the model goddaughter to her dreamboat in England in September. (photo above) For this I needed a special outfit. As she was born in Tokyo, coincidentally in the same hospital as her betrothed, (standing left in photo) I thought a kimono would be a sentimental touch. I ordered silk from Thai Silks but when it arrived, I didn't like the shiny side of the fabric which looked cheap compared to the mat inner surface. So I reversed it, with no one the wiser. The lining was a very light lining silk, home-dyed candy pink.
As you can see above, the finished kimono went over a purchased navy blue jumpsuit from Promod on sale. I added pink and blue roses ordered online to the white hat, a gift from my daughter years ago.
And so it goes. The goddaughter is all grown up now. So is the daughter. 

But I've got my blog back! Is anybody out there?