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 Alja.ch 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?

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Winter Downs Comforted by Needles

No, not acupuncture needles, or at least, not yet.

I'm wondering where the sewing mojo went this winter. Maybe a lack of outings requiring that I actually get dressed was a factor? I've been living in rotating pairs of Promod leggings in black, gray and navy under motorcycle boots and pullovers/jackets for months.

But that can't be it entirely. For decades sewing was an essential therapy and joyful hobby, whether I wore the items often or even needed them. Perhaps it was a question of identity and hope? There were once days, when seeing a Ralph Lauren, YSL, or Donna Karan Vogue Designer Pattern just released, that I went bananas with excitement, investment, and effort. Voila!

That was decades ago. It wasn't just appreciation for some pretty spectacular, highend patterns, but also that I worked in radio, television, and print journalism, an important incentive. I was 'out and about.'

I was also inspired by the stylish women in my family before me: a French Canadian grandmother who sewed up fine British wools purchased in Toronto, an aunt in p.r. in Detroit who merited an NPR obituary for being the 'Auntie Mame of Detroit,' and a mother married to a television director in Hollywood. These ladies didn't ever let themselves 'go'. They were hanging on, right to the oncologist's last deathbed bye-bye.

I have recently counted up all my Chanel-type jackets from Vogue 7975 and another OOP Vogue (five makes) and all my tie-neck or ruffled blouses (maybe 10) my eternal white shirts same, my black skirts and trousers, my kimonos (4) etc., safari jackets or vests (lots) and saw that I had fixed on my style some years ago. "Parisian wannage lounging in kimonos on safari," or something…

I guess it's obvious that I'm not going to veer off at my age into vintage 50's looks or looks I wore already, e.g. 70's bellbottom and Romanian peasant blouses or the 80's padded career woman/disco puff-skirt queen or 60's sheaths.

Perhaps it was with this full closet on my conscious that I stopped sewing for many months through the winter.

Oh, the tone of despair! Sorry!

Meanwhile, knitting filled the gap:

This was a new variation on the Best Baby Sweater in the World for a new mother who hates the pink/blue gender thing. I ended up with a classic mini-Aran, sort of "Ralph Lauren for Human Bean" look. But I fear that the classic wool blend, rugged enough for facing gales on the Irish Sea, might be a bit rough on the sprog's skin. Next time, I'll upgrade to softer baby yarn.

I made socks, too, using leftovers from my stash bag. I always use the two-socks-simultaneous method to avoid the dreaded 'Second Sock Syndrome,' and because I colorblock, etc., it's a sure way to make sure the socks match exactly. My heel-turning is still pretty hellish, requiring a few tacked-in stitches at the sides to close little corner holes, but every recipient reports that these socks are just nifty in ski boots and frigid UK winters.

I hadn't knit socks in about five years or so, so it was good to refresh that skill while watching the news, etc.
Here is a second pair, still on two double-pointed circular needles, for those of you who don't know what I'm talking about: Notice that one set is painted with nail polish so that I keep the rounds worked on the right circles.

And, third, while managing a full house for the week of Christmas, I knit Burdastyle's Jan 2016 beanie to go with the Burda Easy fake blue mink fur Wilma Flintstone vest reviewed below. This was the first time I'd ever heard of an Italian cast on and it took me three goes to really believe that I was supposed to use a stray string that was removed after the cast on. Wasn't the whole thing going to fall apart in my hands? Um, no, it worked, although I didn't trust my French skills and checked with YouTube videos in English to get the idea.

A new skill. I'm not dead yet.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Wilma Flintstone vest and a quick cashmere kimono coat, both from same pattern, Burda Easy A-W 2016-2017

I'm a little late to the fur vest trend, and I'm not sure why. I live in snow country, after all, a fur vest requires only one metre of fabric plus lining, and it takes about an hour to sew. I guess I didn't luuuurrrve any of the fake furs on offer in town until I spotted one just made for me—dark blue mink-like fur with a lovely 'hand,' and even better, on sale as a remnant.

I had already traced out the Burda Easy master pattern for this winter, which offers jacket, above-knee length fur vest, a full-length wool vest, a sleeveless jacket, and a full long coat version.

These patterns are meant for beginners who want trendy fashion super fast, but for my blue-fur 'Wilma Flintstone,' I inserted pockets borrowed from my Narnia Burda fur coat made some years ago. I also added fur hook closures at the neck and waist, (closeup above)

And I made the full coat version in a lightweight black cashmere blend (just above) but, because I'm a grown-up and don't have any excuses, I traced and added in a full lining and added a belt, topstitching the edges of the coat and belt at 10 cm.

It's snowing like blazes right now, so here I am, making the best of the frozen weather.

Heftvorschau Easy HW 2016

Monday, August 29, 2016

Quick Burda Easy SS 2014 halter top. Make one. You will be smiling.

As a palate cleanser amid my problems with the Serenity-blue linen jumpsuit, I whipped up this Burda Easy Spring-Summer 2014 halter top out of a good quality cotton batiste print for an Italian family wedding. Not for the ceremony, obviously, but for the endless befores and afters.

We stayed at the famed Cenobio dei Dogi hotel in Camogli outside Genoa. I say 'famed' with my tongue in my cheek because I think the UK's brilliant Steve Coogan made it famous in a comedy road movie about traveling through Italy. It was an amazing hotel and, although I'm not in principle a fan of in-law events that last three days, the hotel swimming pool, breakfast buffet, stunning beach views and luxe atmosphere were all a big plus.

So this 'aunt-in-law' suddenly needed a true hot-weather weekend wardrobe—not usually a high-priority for Swiss mountain village residents. I took far too many long white shirts and skinny white jeans for day, but my off-the-shoulder silk Carmen dresses from Burda's Spanish issue years ago, were up-to-the-minute chic for the evenings.

Back to this halter. I think people often underestimate the style quotient of Burda Easy. Their latest Autumn-Winter 2016 magazine has me drooling over their quick jogging pants, culottes, waterfall coats and vests and paperbag waist skirt, because I think my appetite for complicated projects has faded for the moment, yet I too want a quick jolt of autumn fun. I might add a lining or two to the outerwear, but generally, I never regret my Burda Easy makes, even as I am turning my nose down in snobbish memory of years spent on Vogue Designer YSL and Ralph Lauren patterns from decades ago.

Life is short, kids. And if Vogue still produced breathtaking patterns like those, I'd go back in a shot.

And to my own shame, I never learn that it's a mistake to ignore Burda Easy's trend signals. If I'd sewn that quick Carmen top or jumpsuit from this last summer, I'd have been right on the money. I felt like a million bucks after copying the Burda easy zebra fur mini with motorbike zippers (despite my seniors' movie discount card) two years ago. My first-ever Burda Easy project was a tulip skirt in quality gabardine that felt just right.

And this top is not only easy, it's practically debile, as the French say. It takes one hour, maybe two, if you drink tea while you sew. I chose the option with a simple hem, but there is a banded version, (pictured.) I didn't even need to do a proper fastening at the upper back, but finished it with two very neat squares of interfaced fabric, as directed, on both tie ends and then sewed them down for security. I can slip this over my head with no problem. btw This is a strapless bra number and the armholes run deep, so be warned before you cut the side length and measure it up if you think you might be risking too much side-boob.

To add insult to injury for those of you who think one has to labor hard over the needle, these white pants cost only a few francs at the Swiss army surplus store. They are actually drawstring waist medical white cotton scrubs to which I added buttons/buttonholes on the fly. I also have a Swiss Army super-mini-knife, always in my bag, for cutting flowers along the road using the honor-pay system can, and a Swiss army khaki jacket for 5 francs that is Woodstock festival ready. Love Swiss Army surplus.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Burda Jumpsuit 01/2016 #110B rather epic fail

I had rather high hopes for this jumpsuit, considering how I usually experiment and fudge with less expensive fabrics. (see the Burda cotton shirt below costing about 5 francs) and invested far too much money (for me) in a quality blue linen. It was even the Pantone color of 2016, Serenity Blue.

But I should have listened to my daughter whose yoga trousers I made from the same pattern and ended up far too low in the crotch. I ended up hoiking up the bottoms a full two inches which made the leg length just right and the rather baggy bottom sit more comfortably around the hips.

BUT this was nothing to the problems I encountered with the top. As you can see, on the silk model the top just drapes nicely around the elasticated waist, but with a linen, I look like I need to tuck the shirt in.

The cutting out of the plastron also gave me problems, because the pattern requires you to cut the bodice on the fold but is very unclear as to whether you need a seam margin added to accommodate the button placket. I ended up not knowing whether it was inserted into the bodice with a 1.5 seam or a 10 cm seam or 'seam included' in the fold or what?

Then the upper bodice, which I had cut at my usual 38-42 pear shape, was far too tight across the upper half after I inserted the &*%$^ plastron, so I ended up taking out the front shoulder seams to within a micrometer of their life and zigzagging over the seam interior for security. Normally, I never have to do that with Burda.

All of that was discouraging, but I finally overcame wadder depression over the Sf100 francs spent on fabric and finished it, only to realize that linen doesn't travel well. Creased City. Believe me, this was ironed before departure and hung on the car's backseat hook, not packed.

Suffice to say, when I donned this outfit for a morning walk around the beautiful mountain resort of Verbier during our visit to see fiddler kid play in the wowza annual classical music festival, my husband asked, "Why are you going out to lunch in pyjamas?" As this outing was something I had been looking forward to for months, I felt a little, shall we say, blue?

Not good. Though child was very kind (we were, after all, buying him a much better lunch than the musicians' canteen has on offer,) and said, "There's a violinist in my section who has one of those outfits.'

The jumpsuit is very comfortable, but that's because I'm essentially wearing something far too baggy and ill-fitting. Luckily, we had wonderful music to enjoy. Here is our fiddlerkid backing a rather well-known Welsh god of singing, and the only reason I don't put his name here is far from disrespect, but because I don't want this awful jumpsuit photo to pitch up when fans Google B**n T***f***l!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Burda 'origami' shirt 07/2016 #114 here I go again with the weird white shirts for summer, love this one! PLUS Ten More Days for E-Book Bargains

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Meanwhile, I see you're still here, so back to sewing! Here is a quick white shirt, Burda's 'origami' shirt 07/2016 #114 that I used as a palate cleanser after quite a frustrating struggle with a linen jumpsuit. (More on the jumpsuit later.)

In the harshest summer morning Swiss mountain light, you can see the structure that is built into this shirt, although it's been ironed to appear pretty flat to the ordinary eye.

Anybody recall that last summer I went out on a limb and did two of Burda's weirder white shirts—one a Kenzo knock-off detailed here, Kenzo knock off white shirt
 and the other, a Margaret Howell 'big shirt' look
Fugly Margaret Howell big white shirt look

that I saw daringly worn only by Solange and which required some modification to keep the back pleats in place while wearing?

Okay, I've already re-worn both this summer and, heartened by the success of using cheap IKEA Ditte cotton bleached super-white for super-cheap experimental summer white shirts, I tackled this checkboard origami baby, July's model 114. What was the risk? At most, a few hours,  5 francs worth of fabric and five or six recycled buttons.

NB, once bleached stark white or home-dyed, Ditte is an excellent fabric to work with for experiments, muslins or models that are a little too memorable to be endless investment classics. For example, I used Ditte for my Celine 'painted blouse' knock-off as well as well as for a second go-round with the April 2010 grandfather shirt from Burda which I wear all the time at home year-round.

But be warned that this cheap, cheap 100% IKEA cotton is a bit spongier in hand than more expensive broadcloth. It requires starch and a strong hot ironing arm to approximate a 'crisp' look like the one you see in the blue grandfather shirt.

For this summer's experiment, I didn't have the requisite wash-out interfacing onto which the Burda people wanted me to position the pre-seamed and turned tunnels of fabric into a checkboard pattern for the plastron. So I just interwove, pressed and then machine-basted the prepared and turned pieces onto my tissue paper with the grid marked in pencil, zigzagged tightly around the edge of the plastron, keeping the pattern tissue paper free, and then carefully removed the basting stitches and paper to use for the weaving of the remaining pieces into the second side. Before zigzagging, I trimmed away all the extraneous hang-over of the tunnels for a finished look.

Before final insertion of the tricksy woven plastron, I double-checked the alignment of my checker-boarding and saw that two of the tunnels needed adjusting, so that required a little picking and restitching around the end.

The rest of the blouse/shirt was so easy that I'm tempted to do another, this time making the plastron some kind of variation, like pintucks or horizontal pleats or maybe a contrast fabric or color.

So here's my version. I luuuurrrve it to bits, worn in the photo above with the 2-2014-109 white skirt, also made for pennies from IKEA's white Lenda fabric My Ralph Lauren look for pennies