Sunday, 22 May 2022

Recovering/restyling/rediscovering a "Pink Dress Fail" from BurdaStyle 4/2021/102

To this happy, sunny frock

From this draggy dumpster-fire sack:

Inspired by a fashion spread in the French weekly, Elle last spring, I threw together (with some rather epic setbacks in fabric supply, condition, fitting etc.) three pink dresses. The one I considered the least successful was the muumuu like 'buffet dress.' On me, it just looked like a baggy ton of viscose without definition or style. I never wore it, not once.

BUT, it's now my favorite garment, eliciting repeat requests from my husband. What happened? Not much! All it took was a western-style belt to pick up on the prairie-flower motif and a shorter hem.

 I am not the 'buffet dress' type. Lesson learned.

Tuesday, 19 April 2022

Another alterations story: Daughter found vintage piece for birthday 'recovery'...

Remember my Ralph Lauren hacking jacket alteration, thanks to a find by my daughter in a Soho vintage shop in London?

 She did it again.

New Luisa Spagnoli jackets run some $600 dollars,, so when Actress Daughter on a very, very slim budget found one in a vintage shop in London, she snatched it up for my birthday. It boasted a great true red wool-mix fabric in excellent condition and wonderful Italian Roman head buttons with flawless finishing.

 But it was a size 42, just a bit too tight around the hips and too short in the sleeves, but fine across the shoulders and chest.

Like any good quality jacket, this piece had enough seam allowance to let out the three back seams in the back to about 5cm and to let down the sleeve hem by about one inch. I also moved the front buttons by half an inch. The whole rehab took about 90 minutes.

 It needed a Milanese finish, so I've styled it above a red and black Krizia silk scarf I inherited from my own mother in the 1980's.


Saturday, 9 April 2022

Back to an old love--safari dressing. A 'camp shirt' with gifted fabric from Indonesia, rendered into BurdaStyle, April 2021, 105A

Strictly speaking, lilac, pale mustard, and brown aren't my colorways these days. I've pretty much got an all-blue self-sewn wardrobe for day, with a run of black concert outfits/jackets for those pre-COVID evenings, and a breakout spring selection of cheerful pink/mauve/buff in jeans, cottons, and scarves for the rainiest days.

But when I was gifted a little over a rather narrow meter of excellent-quality cotton batik, I thought, why not? Well, here's why not. One end of the length had a blazing royal blue rectangle (muffled now as the lower back section) which clashed with the overall coloration, IMHO, and there were running borders down both sides which limited pattern placement.

But I do have a soft spot for safari/camp/hotweather wear with an ethnic touch. So I persevered and cut this out very carefully, single piece by piece, to make sure that the border selvages landed at the hems of bodice and sleeves perfectly, and that the only royal blue bits that are visible from the front are perfectly positioned as shoulder pieces.

This is a pattern that I'd already spotted last year but it required 1.30 m of 140 cm wide, according to the mag instructions. Haha, not true—if you're really canny.

Burda featured two versions, one in a Hawaiian mood, below, and the other nautical with stripes. My version pictured above is only short of buttons, but the custom buttons are ready (below) for tomorrow. I need to be fresh to do buttonholes!

I've tried layering the shirt already under two different beige-khaki safari jackets and both tone down the garish print to my satisfaction.

Now all I need is a bit of tropical sun! In case you missed it, I wrote a three-part post on 'safari dressing' in the archives here ten years ago! Everything I wrote then still holds. It's a classic style of dressing for springtime.

Tuesday, 22 February 2022

A 'vintage' 1959 car coat, BurdaStyle October 2021, with some Chanel-look camellia buttons from Zaza of Canada

I don't keep much of a 'stash' but since getting hooked on buying three-metre remnants from Les Coupons de Saint Pierre in Paris (, I've found I can't resist certain bargains. 

So I found myself with some inexpensive poly black bouclé. Because I already have a very loved and sturdy black bouclé Chanel-type jacket of better quality material, I decided to 'have a go' at beefing up this bouclé for a Chanel-feel retro coat. (The last black coat I sewed was the Burda Easy 'waterfall' style that shoots all the way to my ankles and feels like wearing a cozy cashmere blend blanket. But it lacks definition or chic for evening wear.)

For variety, I went for the knee-length October Burda Style vintage car coat which they showed in both iterations in 1959 and in 2021 in teddybear fleece. That's not my favourite fabric, to be frank, though it's in fashion right now. I think it risks looking like a bathroom rug if not kept in very good nick and well-accessorized. 

I underlined my whole coat with lightweight interfacing to add body to the slight 'boule' shape and collar. Notice how I'm styling it with a classic scarf around the neck to enhance the fifties' feel? I also ordered a very sturdy poly satin lining. The pockets are fully interfaced, lined, and hand stitched to the body. There's a nifty 50's style belt draped at the back from the side seams.

The fabric didn't seem like it would take well to cutting in buttonholes, so I decided to order black coat snaps for the interior and to try an Etsy supplier, Zaza of Canada
for a set of Chanel-style 'camellia' buttons in black and white for the exterior.

Zaza of Canada's service was prompt, the order beautifully packaged, and Isabelle's communication excellent, but only one little hitch occurred—probably my fault—one of the buttons' flowers detached from its base. I had to re-glue it together with Cement It, my heart in my throat fearing I might damage the button before stitching it on again.
The buttons are the main event of this coat, so perhaps I should have ordered a backup button or two for the future. I may order other buttons again from Isabelle at Zaza of Canada but with the caveat that these are not workhorse features but handmade luxuries.
Thanks anyway, Isabelle! Great service!

Monday, 21 February 2022

Two Burda Easy blue sweater dresses saw me through another semi-confined winter Covid season

So, it's time at long last to put my two winter sweater dresses to bed and get ready for some spring sewing. But for friends Down Under just approaching their autumn/winter season, I recommend these two Burda Easy models that satisfy the need to be cozy during the simpler life many of us are leading these days (and I can hardly believe it, but I'm actually writing about two COVID winters, not one, that's how strange my concept of time during confinement has become.)

As part of my 'capsule wardrobe' which features a lot of French or navy blue, I purchased two different knits from Coupons de St Pierre, (both synthetic mixes, but not toooooo bad in terms of comfort and quality.) 

The first, actually cut out during the Christmas season of 2020-2021 (maybe the worst Christmas for our family ever, as the London-based daughter was trapped in London by Swiss flight cancellations) was this dolman-sleeved, cowl-neck 06/20 #3C in a navy 'chiné' poly-rayon knit with a lot of warmth and loft. You can see below a close-up of the slightly tweedy knit. I accidentally cut double the length needed for the self belt and ended up liking it worn that way as a kind of feature.

The second, sewed last spring was this turtle-neck with a standard sleeve, done in a slightly dressier, looser navy blue knit with a bit of silver lurex woven through. Again, because these pictures can't do the different knits justice, I've done a closeup of the sleeve.

This second dress is actually a Frankenpattern using the Burda Easy turtleneck top pattern and extending it by overlaying to lengthen in another Burda knit dress to get the silhouette right. I think it could still use some pulling in with a belt.

Burda's website no longer shows these last two patterns as Burda Easy downloads. They seem to have morphed into Burda Catalogue paper patterns...but for the record, these are what I overlaid to get a pattern for a pretty standard turtleneck knit dress.

Both were as promised, quite quick and easy sews. In fact, I think I spent as much time tracing and prepping the patterns as cutting out and sewing up the dresses! And frankly, life right now is still Covid-limited and all my more beautiful or formal clothes for concerts or dinners out are languishing in the back of the closet. The lurex number was just right for a family New Year's Eve dinner at home with a son and girlfriend. I've found myself regularly pulling out the dolman number for any day I'm just damned sick of my denim jumpsuits and stretch leggings.

Thursday, 4 November 2021

So I tried Patrones for the first time..with mixed results

After my long gripe about the repetition of designs from BurdaStyle, I had to put my needle where my mouth was, so to speak, and try another pattern company. Here in Switzerland we get some translated versions of Patrones magazines, delayed by at least one season after translation into Couture Actuelle with instructions that are even more minimal than Burda's, and outlined on the pattern sheet in only half the sizese.g. If you wear a 42,  you might have to guesstimate when tracing between the lines for size 40 and 44. 

But still, some of their designs are very chic indeed. And lately Burda has been looking clunky rather than trendy.

(But in one of the draggiest new developments in the home sewing world, this company sells translated magazines too late in the season or only make their patterns available online to people outside the Spanish market via an app on Google Play for downloading pdfs. For the French market, it seems, they choose to translate some of the mags, but not every one, as far as I can make out.)

Anyway, I grabbed the French version of the magazine above, full of some delicious maxis meant for last spring. I had a bit of a drama trying to estimate whether my size was the same as the German Burda ones, and according to the charts, I had to size up.

I'd seen a lot of patchwork motifs this summer and got a nice, fun viscose for nothing much from Coupons de St-Pierre. The colors were a bit drabber than I expected, definitely on the autumnal side. So I traced out this maxi shirtdress:

and where I would have been a 42 bodice, I went up to 44 and traced a 46 skirt. In the end, I got this:

It wasn't entirely a failure, and certainly educational. The bodice is just too roomy and the armholes too low. I had to take in both sides of the skirt before inserting the side zipper by hand. I shortened the skirt when I saw that it was just all TOO MUCH, too much patchwork business, too much fabric, and way, way too much droopiness. 
After finishing the dress, I did what I should have done from the outset. It turns out that I should have cut a 40 everywhere in the bodie and moved to a 44 in hips and waist.

I don't know about other people's experiences with Patrones, but I suspect the mandarin collar piece was not well drafted, as it proved too short to enclose over the upper edges of the front facing. I re-checked the pattern template sheet to make sure I'd been faithful to the lines. I had to rip and restitch the margin of both front collar curves, reducing my 1.5 cm seam allowance down to a mere 7mm seam to make the piece long enough to enclose and complete finishing the raw blouse facing upper end edges.

I'm also not convinced by the style of the skirt's design. It was made up of two semi-circles which ended up with a lot of the drape collecting at the sides and resulted in bias droop at the sides, while the center of each piece was not cut on the bias, making it shorter in front and back than the sides. I let the skirt hang overnight and remedied the uneven hem with careful handstitching. A skirt this full, should in my opinion, be cut in more equal gores, to distribute the bias droop, like the McCall's maxi described in a previous post about 'pink dresses'.

Fed up a little, I realized I had no inclination to make a man's type tailored cuff in the sleeves, so I binned the interfaced cuffs and went for an elasticated ruffle sleeve which was more in keeping with the feminine feeling of the patchwork. By sheer coincidence, I had three self-covered buttons in my stash left over for many decades from my (now grown) daughter's baptism dress sewn in pink silk. They look fine, and as there was no need to insert buttonholes, I did a dirty fix and just sewed the bodice closed under the buttons.

I've styled it here with a brown leather belt. It's not a dream dress, but not a disaster, as experiments go. I'm not quite sold on Patrones as a substitute for BurdaStyle yet, but I may try a smaller project like a blouse to get the fitting/sizing right.

I wore it to host a luncheon last weekend and got one compliment on it, which was nice.

Wednesday, 6 October 2021

Is Burda going bankrupt? Or just bankrupt of ideas? They're pushing the limit of reselling us old patterns. As far as I'm concerned, sell your shares now...

Don't get me wrong. I love Burda, which replaced Vogue Patterns in my sewing room years ago, (when I began to find Vogue patterns were not only overpriced, especially when mailed from the US to Europe, but just a little...over-designed and bordering on weird.)

Clearly, my happy, youthful days of sewing upmarket classics from Ralph Lauren, Yves St-Laurent and Donna Karan from good old Vogue Designer patterns was never to return. So I collected and then began to subscribe to Burda. I've now got all the issues going back to late 2008. Every one.

And really, I'm worrying about Burda's commercial viability, as they seem to be reducing the number of designs each month and recycling old patterns among those offerings with hardly an apology. I've randomly collected here some of the very recent examples where I've caught Burda's team 'taking our money for old rope,' as the sad saying goes.

Coming up for the November issue, for example, is the new winter coat!!! oh oh...
Do I mean the old trenchcoat here, from October 2015, with the only difference being the gathered sleeve hem?
Howbout the dress they sold me in the September 2021 issue, which looks just like a rehab with longer sleeves of a dress I bought from them in April 2014, below?

But wait, what about the stylish trenchcoat they offered last month?

Oh, oh, here it is looking pretty familiar, from my back issue of November 2012. The only change was in the storm flap at the back.
But surely this is new? That natty October 2021 jacket?

Nope, it's already on my shelf in the November 2011 issue but resized. Gee, thanks, Burda.

And that dress they served up for this month in October 2021's issue? Well, you can see its little brother to the left here, which I already purchased in the issue of August 2009.

Now I'm not going to blame them is their pencil skirt of every season resembles its cousins from years past. Or a classic blouson jacket looks like its elder brother. There's only so many ways you can design a gathered or pleated skirt.
But really. Is there anyone home at Burda? Anyone who might see this post and rethink their rehash policy? I don't have many followers for this blog and I feel like I'm screaming my protest into the void. The magazine seems to have a new editor, a man who might think he's part of a streamlining team, but in reality he might be the costcutting new broom who's taking us for mugs before he merges Burda into some conglomerate for selling off.


Friday, 27 August 2021

Palate cleanser, a Marinière knit t-dress made from elongated pattern from Burda Easy May 2020

After my weeks of fussing over the pink summer maxis from McCalls and BurdaStyle, I needed a quickie palate cleanser. So I threw together this striped T-shirt dress by elongating a Burda Easy boatneck T-shirt pattern from a long tunic into a below-the-knee version.

In the end, it wasn't so easy. This pattern was too rudimentary for my taste. Without a separate binding offered by Burda for the neckline, I ended up finishing the raw edge three times, twice by machine zigzag and then a third roll-over by hand to give the neckline the necessary body to stay flat against the chest and not curl over. I also finished the hem and sleeves by hand using an invisible stitch.

The dress was too big the first time I wore it, (I'd cut a 42-45) and I had to put it back under the needle and take in a good inch on both sides and also insert an open inverted pleat at the center back neckline taking in a full two inches, (a nice design feature in the end) because the 42 was just too large around my neck. Next time I would cut a 40 at the neck. I also had a bit of trouble matching up the black stripes perfectly along both sides and had to entirely rip out and restitch one side altogether.

This dark cotton knit is perfect for autumn and overall, it's just about what I wanted to throw on—a classic French sailor T-dress in a lively combo of colors for not much money from a Coupons de StPierre remnant.

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

The two 'Elle' Pink Dresses Experiment that almost didn't happen...because of fabric disasters. McCall's 7974 and Burda 'buffet dress' 4/2021/102

One of my COVID confinement resolutions over the past 18 months has been to improve my French and learn German, two of Switzerland's four official languages. It's about time! To help my French fluency and vocabulary, I subscribed to the daily Le Temps and the weekly Elle (which is pretty much eye candy, I admit.) There's not much to say here about the newspaper, which certainly informs me about local affairs. As for German, I finished with Duolingo and am now stumbling through murder mysteries by Donna Leon in the German editions by Diogenes.
Meanwhile, each week, (at least until the summer set in,) Elle did a set of dedicated fashion pages every week, which I always found inspiring during these unfashiony, depressing pandemic seasons. There was one page featuring their 'Dress of Spring' in pink ( see below) that I just fell in love with.
 I quickly ordered some viscose crepe and viscose rayony stuff in two retro flowered prints that I hoped would capture the 'feel' of the Elle looks. Please note that these were bargain-basement buys in pre-cut 3 metre lengths from Coupons de St-Pierre in Paris. We're not talking big bucks here.

And I searched far and wide (okay, okay I ran through my decades of Burda for an afternoon) looking at years of maxi patterns. Despite some misgivings about the 'muumuu' effect of a so-called 'buffet dress' on a woman my age, I finally opted to try the April 2021 Burda cover design (see in green below) after watching the Great British Sewing Bee episode on that style. I was taken with Burda's nice detail of turning the endless gatherings into stand-up ruffles along the cascading tiers. (I realize now that a buffet dress was precisely one look this Elle page avoided!)

For the second dress, I was going to settle for a Burda wrap dress when I fell in love instead with a cute model of McCall's 7974 worn on YouTube by the beautiful French sewist, Raphaelle Dvn, (see her version below) but Raphaelle is some forty years younger than I am. I should know better, right? This popular model is supposed to be a knockoff of something called the Cult Gaia Willow Dress. Okay. I'd never heard of it, but I'm not exactly ahead of trends.

For weeks McCalls didn't have a paper version in stock, so I finally broke a longstanding resistance to PDF patterns and downloaded it during a $4.99 sale. I always hate Burda tracing, but I hate printing and scotch-taping computer paper even more. 

I cut out the McCall's dress first. 
DISASTER! Only after I'd suffered through constructing the pattern, reminding myself that one time, long ago, I sewed with Big 4 patterns with seams included, and congratulated myself on an exhausting evening of pushing pins through stiff paper, did I glance down at the floor and see a long and important pattern piece still waiting UNUSED. It was the side back section of the skirt, "cut 2" no less..
And I had no more fabric.
And of course, neither did the good people in Paris, because that is the point of their existence, selling remnants into nonexistence, right?
So now what?
I had only five sections of a seven-section full gathered skirt: two front, two front side, and one back cut on fold.  Anyway, after a night of kicking myself, I resolved to see if the sections of the skirt that I did have would reach around the waist seam, and praise the Sewing Gods, after basting with very narrow seams, they did—just. My dress now featured a kind of thirties-ish fitted and flowing skirt rather than a cottagey, gathered skirt. The result is not what McCalls intended, but perhaps a little less 'milkmaidy' on a woman of my years. (btw, the very low-cut  V-neck required some digging into the lingerie drawer for an almost forgotten nude bra with a very low-cut middle.
The final insult of this project was that 7974 requires 13 buttons 13!!!!@$% and I had to order self-cover buttons all the way from Germany because my local Swiss outlets didn't have any in stock.  Continuing my Olympic quest for Dodo of the Year Gold, I ordered 11 cm size when I should have ordered 15 cm; getting these tiny buggers covered with slippery viscose was the work of a whole weekend and many curses.

Raphaelle Dvn, in Corsica, a lovely sewist on instagram, and Pinterest. Her vlog is great for practicing French comprehension with a slightly regional twist.

And Disaster Two? On to the Burda cover dress. This demanded a mammoth job of cutting out many ever-increasingly large rectangles and again, I was trying to squeeze a 4-metre maxi pattern into a 3-metre remnant. I was pretty crafty by now and managed it by cutting the bottom tier as economically as possible and making up a little shortfall of about twelve inches wide using fabric left uncut elsewhere along the margine of the shortest, upper tier.

This is a slightly kinder V-neck than the McCalls in the bust area—still deep but not 'find me a special bra' deep. Also it asks for rouleau button loops. I hate making rouleau loops. Mine came out like little origami folded triangles, instead of loops.
Also, you can't tell from Burda's line drawing (below) but it includes a simple, non-gathered mini-lining under the neck-facings  down to mid-thigh. This gives you a built-in slip—nice if you're using very lightweight fabric as your main fabric. Not nice, if you forgot to order lining fabric and have to waste time going to a store to get it. (Me, of course.)

But you should use a very, very, very lightweight fabric. Even my crinkly viscose crepe is a little too thick. Because this dress is a fabric hog. You want to feel like you're flowing in the light seabreeze, not drowning in a shroud, readied for burial, right?

But that wasn't the disaster, believe it or not. I could live with the sneaky piecing in the back of the lowest tier, and the pointy button loops, and the missing-lining-fabric-excursion, but only after assembling the dress (by which I mean endless nights of gathering) did I notice a hole and a rip about an inch long, damage from the tagging by St-Pierre in the warehouse, smack in the center front of the upper tier.  Had I examined the fabric before cutting, these tears would have been relegated to the back of the bottom tier or left altogether on the cutting room floor.

Well, I'd had it by then—well past cursing. This whole Pink-Dress-of-Spring-Thing had taken up weeks of my time and spring 2021 was well over! So I just finely machine-seamed these two tears closed and hoped for the best, ironing them as flat as possible. Luckily wrinkly crepe takes an iron well. Can you find them now? I can't— and I'm wearing the damn thing.

But let's be frank. There is a Sad Sack thing going on with this Burda model on me. Notice the lighter fabric on the Burda girl doesn't pull down the Empire waistline like my viscose crepe does. Short of a seabreeze on a terrace in an Italian hotel at sunset, I feel more 'muumuu' than buffet. But before I bin it, I think perhaps I'll raise the hem a few inches and sit on a jungle tree stump in heels like the lady above. Or at least give it a straw hat and some higher wedge sandals...and a cocktail.