Sunday, December 30, 2012

Last days of 2012

This isn't the wowza item I would have liked to give you for the end of this year, but it's perfectly respectable as a "found" dress made from a forgotten remnant of wool mix in a pin-stripe and burgundy poly satin lining. I'm not sure the neckline is for me, as I don't have a formidable and flawless chestbone area, but for what's it worth, here is Burda's sheath from the July 2011 edition as discussed in a previous post. (Yes, it's that bright in the Swiss mountains in the winter! The gray cashmere cardigan is really not even necessary in the midday sun up here.)
This photo shows that weirdly, I've lost weight around the waist since I fitted this dress a few weeks ago. It's not actually wrinkled around the midriff—I am. I can either add a belt or take it in some more, as I'm planning to wear it at the annual Geneva Writer's Group Agents and Editors weekend in early February.
The cause of the weight loss may be the stress and exercise of entertaining whole hordes of incoming gangs of now-adult friends of my once-children. It was one thing to hand out crisps and cookies to a gaggle of little kids, but now it's a question of ten strapping Swiss men and gorgeous women at a table for dinner and breakfast at one go, and another, and another to come when the Cambridge graduate friends arrive from the UK.
We took a family walk yesterday in the "backyard" which is actually 80 sq. kilometers of cross-country ski trails. I feature my daughter so often in the dressmaking posts that I thought I'd share the two sons for a change as they relish their break from English weather.


This last is a sentimental shot to do with crafts: Notice the small folding screen in the back on the grand piano depicting the Three Magi in felt on a red background of corduroy? It was crafted by my late father as he coped with very radical surgery and followup from cancer in the early sixties, based on a project he found in one of my mother's issues of McCall's magazine. We treasure it for obvious reasons. The tree is hung with dozens of stuffed figurines based on the Nutcracker Suite from a OOP Vogue Craft pattern from the late 70's, another treasure we bring out every year and that took me truly decades to complete, doing one or two every post-Xmas week. I think there are a few shepherdesses still to do, but give me a break.
 I don't think I've shown this room before, the sitting room with the fireplace, converted in the 1960's from the former winter shelter for the goats and cows. In the background you see the hall leading to the kitchen and its bookshelves, which is followed by a dining room and then a library. It's a pretty big old farmhouse, built in 1789, which grew and grew. It usually takes houseguest a full day or two to figure it out, as it's built into a hill and there is a back door on an upper floor which leads onto the backyard, three front doors, two back entrances, and six bedrooms, two of them converted to offices.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Between Aug, 2011 and Jan 2013, nothing changed?

Funny to watch how some designs kind of "melt down" from the designer version to the bare basics for beginning sewists: The fashionistas all made this Donna Karan knit dress, with its lovely fitted three-piece back, right off the bat, when it appeared some years ago:
  Burda made it a one-day project by eliminating the three-piece back half.

And Burda now says, you can get something like that cowlneck dress in ONE HOUR by sewing this version and adding a belt to pull it in.

Hmmm...

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Burda "Classic" Magazine issued last month

Last month, Burda issued an out-of-series special, called The Classics, based very loosely on a Chanel look, and I nabbed it with high hopes. Unfortunately, I find the styles just a tad clunky and boxy, as if they took everything I hoped for and stripped the designs down one notch too far. It's not labelled "Easy," so it's not part of that series, but still, the items look under-designed. Check out the whole magazine, by clicking here: Burda Classic Collection
This issue would be a great start for people who like to draft their own Frankenpatterns, need a work wardrobe that doesn't scream 'trend-slave,' or for a young sewist who wants to build her pattern library with some fundamentals she could play with.
But some of the styling relies too much on judicious accessorizing.

As I was just blogging about the option in the Style archives for 'shovel-neck' sheaths, (and I ignored many more nice designs for Plus sewists,) here's the Classic offering, which gives us a fitting seam, Empire-style, under the bosom and two darts, as well as three sleeve options. As you can see, it is a classic design, lacking the little edge that brings these dresses closer to the Galaxy look.



Monday, December 10, 2012

A Tale of Two Dresses, Burda July, 2011


I had to take a break from drafting novels. I'm a third into the second book in a trilogy of historical adventures set in Late Rome. But a bit of sewing was very relaxing over the last two weekends.

I've finally finished the red knit cowl-necked dress, (without a zipper, it's  as simple to sew as a T-shirt) and will blog about it once I get up a photo (when it stops snowing!)

Meanwhile, I had a remnant of pin-striped wool/mix of only just over one metre (150cm wide) that I thought would make a good pencil skirt long ago. But it's been sitting alone in my sewing box (I don't really keep a stash) for two years-plus. I finally  decided to take it out and use it.

I realized that a pencil skirt just wasn't enough motivation for me. Then, I thought of my daughter's "shovel-neck" sheath dresses, made twice; once in underlined lace and the other in a high-tech pleather and lined. Both were hits with her, but were so short that, of course, I could have made either version in a metre or less.

Could I squeeze a sheath for a grown-up out of so little fabric?

I looked at two designs, both from Burda. Although they are very similar, and both are designs that offer ample seaming for a nice fit, notice that the pieces of the second front give you more leeway in squeezing the most out of a short length of fabric than the awkwardly-shaped front of the first dress cut on the fold. I think I would have preferred the more generous sleeve of the first over the second, but I only noticed this too late. (I didn't sew the sleeves for the daughter's two dresses.)

This is one of the reasons I like the Burda Style magazines. People complain that they repeat themselves, but in fact, the Burda people tweak and vary hot designs to give you variations to suit your materials and desired "feel." I'm going to blog in my next post about a third shovel-neck sheath offered in the Burda Classic Collection magazine of November.

Here are the technical designs for the pattern used for daughter's sheaths, model 115 from October 09, and below that, the model from July 2011 I settled on, as photographed above, for the pin-striped remnant dress. I think of both as the sewist's quickie take on a fancy Galaxy dress, so popular years ago.



I made a couple of simple changes to this dress. First I added a burgundy satin lining, (also bought as a cheap remnant of one metre) underneath the inner front facing and substituting for the upper back facing. I omitted the interfacing on the sleeves as I didn't want wings, just sleeves, and as I had three layers rather than two at the neckline, didn't interface that either. 
Most important, I wanted more pieces (and more flexibility) for an economical cutting layout. So I inserted the zipper into the middle of the center back, adding a seam  where otherwise I would have been "cutting on the fold."

I used Nancy's technique for sewing the lining directly onto a sheath dress, stitching the neckline to the facing+lining and then sewing the raw edges of the outer sleeves along with the lower sleeve opening in one go, as if the sleeves were simply extensions on a sleeveless dress. I'll confess my corners on the dress neckline were a bit wonky, as it was difficult to align the dress seaming to a facing that had no seaming. (Note that to squeeze the facing out of my metre of fabric, I couldn't get it up to the fold. So I added a center seam. Next time, I'd just cut a lining in the color of the outer fabric with the same seaming as the dress pieces and discard the facing piece altogether.

I also shifted the walking vent to my new center back, from the side vent shown above.
I always prefer a back zipper construction to a side zipper placement because sewing the side seams absolutely last before hemming means that you can pop on the dress at the end of construction and simply mark chalk along where the side seams will give you a glove-like fit. (If the zipper were in place on one side, you wouldn't have that kind of symmetrical fitting flexibility.)

As I say, photos of the two finished dresses to come.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Overwhelmed...but checked out Burda's December issue

Sorry, I managed to cut out the red dress, heeding Allison's warning to cut my front on the straight rather than bias, especially as I'm using a knit. I'm also eliminating the zipper, so it should really be no more difficult than a T-shirt, but I'm having trouble finding the time.

Also discovered I might have enough of a remnant in pin-striped wool to make, not a straight skirt as planned, but the modified Galaxy type dress from July, 2011's Burda. I've laid that out and let it "air" hoping that the pattern paper will shrink and the fabric will grow in the dark of night while I sleep.

But it seems that there's too much to do and somehow I can't compartmentalize to sneak in an hour of sewing. It's very hard for me to sew for myself when I should be extending energy for others. These are the weeks that I should be mail-ordering up a family Christmas (Switzerland's choice of presents has been exhausted over fifteen years), cleaning out the fridge of yuk (not started, just eating down to the bottom in preparation) tending to a couple of hospitalized friends, looking in on a feisty nonagenarian whom I adore, hosting a few in-laws and others, and most of all,

writing three new novels.

Yup, it's hard-core desk time, (no, not hard-core fiction!) for publication next year under a new pen name. I started the historical research just for fun and like Alice, fell down a rabbit hole into another world. I'm immersed in a parallel universe of the past, which requires no particular wardrobe or even fresh air for me, as my husband is doing all the cooking, etc. as I draft out narratives and work with three corkboards covered with index cards full of story elements, etc. I come up for oxygen twice a day to check sales of the other books which are ticking along quite nicely and communicate with colleagues, e.g. for the freshly-designed mystery covers now online. Like most of you, I do go to work every day and for the life of me, I can't figure out how some of you churn out dresses as if you were sewing for a living. Unbelievable!

In case you want to know how bad this is, I've worn the same cardigan and jeans now for about two weeks, save for washing them.


Meanwhile, the December Burda preview isn't doing much for me. There have been so many great patterns backed up on my list of to-sew's, this is no tragedy. However, I spotted two classics, shown above, in case you're young and building up a wardrobe of items that will see you through more than one season. I suspect that these come from the same pattern, so that makes two great stand-bys from one tracing session. That coat is so Burberry, Emma Watson would drool.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Stop Press! Another Burda Peplum

Well, before you cut out that Burda peplum posted right below this posting, and go to all the trouble of mixing and matching bodices and waistlines, Burda 'heard the word' and gave us an alternative top without the sloping waistline and droopy butt.
Boy, is that action!
Some of the items from the November preview are  just up on the Russian site here but what I discovered by poking  on the red list at the bottom of this page is the full selection feature by feature and the newer peplum style below, which is just a cut-off version of their cocktail dress in satin.

Next up, my new red ruched dress from the October Burda, all traced fabric preshrunk and now I have to cut it out.
118-102012-M

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Adjusting the Burda peplum dress waistline (August model 113)

The August Burda version
Some of you may remember that Burda's Lanvin-look-alike caught my eye weeks ago, but some indefinable niggle held me back. Finally, I realized after looking at it for far too long that I was bothered by the mismatch of waist and belt line on the cover model. The belt fell too obviously well below her raised waist seam, in effect ruining the drape of the front peplum piece.
 I think its looks dumb.
Now it turns out I'm not alone.
The Lanvin Original


The original waistline is too high to add a belt.
I've been cruising the great Russian Burda site, admiring what those eastern babes do with Burda and stumbled across a lady who solved the problem with the fine results here. She could win a Knock-off contest, hands-down. And if I read (actually I can't! I'm trusting Google's translation,) the secret to getting that peppy peplum, she borrowed the bodice of No. 133 in the same issue and got on with the rest of No. 113, using the long-sleeved version.

The "Russian" solution


So far, I've cut out all these pieces and am looking for fabric, but I think it's worth a muslin as the sleeve and neckline seams vary considerably. Normally, I hate muslins. I publish this photo with a major apology: as I don't read Russian, I've lost her name and the original post and if any Russian Burdists out there can help me give her credit, please comment soonest!

Friday, September 28, 2012

My Goddaughter on BURDA'S Style blog London recap!

Wow! I was just flipping through Burda Style Blog's rundown on the latest clothes from London Fashion Week here;
Burda's Style blog, London recap
when I scrolled down to find this:


which was one "WHAT THE...?" moment because this chick looked AWFULLY FAMILIAR...
YES! behind those mysterious shades I recognized "H,"  my own goddaughter "walking" London Fashion Week! (confirmed by a quick check with her Mum) Isn't that Temperley dress pretty and doesn't she look great?
She looks a helluva lot better in the photo Burda's running of her this week than what the venerable Viv Westwood did to her on the catwalk a few days before, in granny glasses and specs, here:
Just shows what a pro she is, but how much one difference one dress can make!


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Liebster Award and von Furstenberg knockoff

Some time ago, Cyberdaze gave me the Liebster Award (for underread bloggers, if I understand correctly) and now that it's my turn to pass it on, I find myself in a quandry. Every blogger I like is read over the limit of 200 followers.
Worse, this award asks that I find not one, but eleven people to tag, with no "tag backs."

Well, I'm not getting far with this, and for weeks I've randomly looked for blogs. Now, I'm crying "uncle" and I'm begging for nominations from all of you out there, preferably sewing blogs that we all need to discover; no language requirement, (e.g. I'm discovering so many good Russian and German sewists through Burda.ru, but I can't read Russian and can't determine their eligibility level!)

Meanwhile, Diane Von Furstenberg's site for this season showed the new dress above which looked awfully familiar. Check out Burda April 2011. The DVF dress seems to feature more skirt and less bodice but they're awfully alike in spirit.
Hmm, I'm tempted, although the armpit-high leather gloves are a little offputting.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Safari Looks Part III Styling the Safari Look

This is an easy post because the safari look is really simple. It's a rough but "efficient" look. It's a great look for cold and rainy summers. It says you've stored away your winter style even if you're working in an air-conditioned office through August. You are still are ready to negotiate over a conference table but you are also ready to hop on a plane for Kenya, Singapore or Sydney.

Warning: Indiana Jones did not spend his mornings matching hat to satchel. And it's easy to get this look wrong if you mix your references or go too far.
You want to look summery, chic, sexy, adventurous and even dangerous.
You don't want to look like you're auditioning for The Lion King or a Tarzan remake.  Or worse, that you're the mother of a lost Cub Scout outing. No pith helmet (I was joking in Part I) or matching cargo pants, please. If your total pocket count has reached double digits, you're ready for the Style Crocodiles.

Personally, as I worked as a foreign correspondent in Asia for twenty years, I know for a fact that newbies wearing flak vests with loops for their bullets, or big photographer vests with a thousand pockets looked like turkeys. You only get to wear one of those if you actually shoot in war zones.

Shoes should be sandals, leather platforms or if you're really irreverent, desert boots, as above. You'll look dorky in ballet flats, stilettos, office pumps or rubber flipflops.

If you're a safari beginner, stick with leather or straw elements. I know, Michael Kors gave us gold cuffs and chunky jewellery, but that goes horribly wrong if your jewellery is too twee.

Notice in Part II of my safari posts that even on the Paris catwalk, Givenchy's black and white "urban safari" accessories were straw, sandals and an ethnic print handbag. And that lady was ready to lunch at the Ritz.

You're off and running if you immediately throw on a suitable scarf or cheche in linen or cotton. Leave the Gucci silk squares at home. You need something that looks like it could double as a turban or sand guard. Something that would keep the grit out of your teeth if you were escaping a desert storm in the arms of Ralph Fiennes. Something that might double as a skirt when your pants wear out on that desert island in Year Four.

Sunglasses are a must. I didn't have to tell you that, did I?

Please don't overdo the jungle/batik/Hindu Kush prints. If your scarf is busy, make the bag leather casual. If your scarf is plain,  go wild with the bag or belt. It's a knowing reference, not a bargain basement souk haul.

As the waist is usually somewhat defined, the belt is key. Self belts are the norm, canvas belts with a metal buckle are good and ethnic belts better. If you want to tamp down the uniform effect, try mixing the jacket with a frilly skirt or feminine dress underneath for the "I borrowed it from my Desert Rat boyfriend" effect.

Or reference, "I've lived here so long, my bottom half has gone jungly with a sarong skirt.





Perhaps the most important accessory is a good tan and a healthy body. (And yes, a fake bake covers both bases.) If you don't look like you could survive the fashion trek, you may be left behind in the dust.

Safari looks II: Color and sewing designs/patterns

So you're setting off on your own Safari Hunt for the perfect look for you? Here are the patterns you need.


This year many designers showed "safari looks" which on the catwalk can range from the conservative jacket to your way-out-there jungle sarong. In fact, if you look carefully, designers are always returning to this fashion trope. Sometimes a magazine like Elle will just do a whole page of safariennes, and the color scheme is almost always khaki, sand, white, black and brown, but sometimes they give you one jolt of unexpected color. This makes the safari jacket very casual.
(I've always been fond of this number and wonder why I haven't turned out a turquoise safari jacket yet. Oh, dear, life for the sewist is just too short.) 
Look how Givenchy took it up to the heights of Haute with that fantastic hat against a chic black and white combo. 

But basically, we're talking about desert colors. These jackets are almost always unlined. So this is a cheap sew. All you need is brown, taupe, white, tobacco or khaki green cotton, a lot of plain buttons and a lot of thread. These babies need topstitching all over, which is why they last a lifetime in the field.

Here below are some nifty designs in no specific order that give you an idea of the variety of safari silhouettes you can play with. I've mixed them up chronologically to illustrate the timelessness of this wardrobe theme. I've even included some truly ancient numbers, dating back even as far as the late seventies (by Christian Aujard) and an interesting Indochine version by YSL from the eighties.

(And I'm not even going to drag you through all my safari dress options, which are really just shirtdresses featuring plackets/pockets/epaulets. I've got one by Ralph Lauren which took to me Singapore and back for two years.)

Can you spot which one I used for my white canvas jacket to Croatia?



















So, now sew your jacket, vest or shirt. Or take a trusted shirt/shirtdress pattern and add epaulets to the shoulders and flapped pockets to the bodice. In any event, it's best to have a fitted bodice and a waist defined either by cut or belt.
In Part III, I'll talk about styling the safari look.
(Part III follows)