Monday, 22 March 2021

THE LONG READ; My version of the season's quilted jacket, made from six pairs of old jeans and lined with a patchwork of remnants, using Burda Easy pattern 06/20 #1B

This project was more ambitious that many of my recent stints at the sewing machine. It started with one of my grown sons pulling a pile of used jeans out of his closet over Christmas  in a big clean-up of his childhood bedroom. 
I picked apart all these jeans to see what I could rescue. I became interested in doing a version of the popular quilted jacket with a touch of the Japanese denim work-jacket look, (although I wasn't prepared to go full-on recycled rags with shashiko embroidery.)
 I considered a number of patterns, including a recent, collarless, Burda Style version of the popular Tamarack Jacket. But already, the basic shell of the jacket design above, from Burda Easy last summer, had caught my eye for that extra touch of the mandarin collar.

Well, it's done, at last. Enfin. Nailed it.  But the whole project was a bit of a long-haul bitch, tbh.

First I collected and quilted a lot of blue and white remnants from last summer's dress projects to produce a cotton lining, making sure that the sleeve linings would be in proper slippery fabric, of which I happily had just enough navy blue. 
The next stage of construction was a matter of feeling my way without the benefit of any instructions.

(After patchworking together enough yardage for the lining, see below) I assessed as best I could the placement of the exterior pattern pieces on the denim. One of the reasons to opt for the Burda Easy pattern was the two-piece sleeve. I did not have any jeans piece that could accommodate an entire width of a standard sleeve.
Then after putting in the neckline darts on the four front pieces, I quilted all the denim pieces to the lining pieces one by one, allowing enough extra margin to allow for shrinkage during the quilting and to allow me to re-cut a cleaner seam allowance once the batting was sandwiched inside. The patchworking and quilting of all the elements of the jacket took a couple of weekends.

A more serious drag was next: I constructed the side and shoulder seams and then found myself making bias binding from lining leftovers to enclose all the quilted interior seams that were pressed open. These raw seam edges couldn't be biased together because of the sheer thickness of each seam allowance. In retrospect, perhaps I should have assembled the jacket body and lining body pieces at the side and shoulder seams (I also had to introduce a center back seam to accommodate my narrow jeans pieces) and then quilted those two body pieces together before inserting the sleeves. And then there was the binding of the sleeve seams to do as well, requiring some very hot, tough steaming pressing to get them to behave, pressed outward.

I wasn't sure how to manage the collar which I wanted to ensure would stand high and not flop over. I  ended up constructing a finished collar, very carefully quilting it after slipping the cut batting inside, and then attaching the finished collar directly to the jacket. This left me with a difficult bulk of seam around the neck but I didn't trim it down--that width of fat bulk was going to serve as a sort of stand supporting the collar upwards. I finished it by pressing the whole thick seam allowance affair down into the interior of the jacket and closing it up by hand-stitching an opened-up length of the bias over the interior as a clean facing.

I finished the edge of the jacket sleeves, front and bottom by HAND on both sides of the edges with the 30 cm navy blue cotton seam binding that I ordered online, along with the batting. I used the same bias binding to cover two large jacket snaps. I skipped the inserted pockets in the Burda pattern, as I wasn't sure how to do a clean insertion with all the quilted seams going on, so instead I stole two patch pockets from the jeans scraps to apply to the front.

I also rescued two belt loops from the jeans and found a completely forgotten belt in a shoebox. It's a bit of a tight cinch for me to close the belt and maybe I'm better off letting it hang, hence the belt loops.

But overall, it's been a good COVID confinement project and I think it's a good jacket for casual, work and garden wear.
And apart from the time expended, it was pretty much FREE.


Burda is repeating too many designs...COVID side effect or new policy?

Seen that twisted top design before? I have, and in fact, I sewed it up in the dress version many years ago. But it has just reappeared in a 2021 Burda Style magazine. As did the parka below, in an edition that appeared some ten years ago. So did the elasticated skirt with the slit, above, only a few years ago. In fact, Burda Easy seems to think we just want the same knit sheath dress with a collar variation and yet another pair of joggers or leggings to get by. Come on, Burda. The Easy editions were much better before you increased the number of issues per year.

This 'new money for old rope' approach with Burda seems to have stepped up—or I've just collected thirteen years of Burda only to discover that they always recycle old designs?

For me, the disappointment started with Burda Style monthly reprinting some of their featured retro designs that had been collected for their 'one off' vintage issues of the past, the 50's, the 60's, etc. But they were upfront about that. They weren't trying to sell their vintage greats as if they were new product, but marketing them in a different publication for a wider audience. I could forgive that, as many people passed up those special editions and missed some great designs.

But now, those of us who collect BurdaStyle mags might have noticed that we're often just getting recycled patterns without any admission that these were sold to us already.

Take April 2021, for example: here are two jackets, the one with the button the 'new' April 2021 version and the one with the snapped collar, the version from 2011.


There is a possibility that this is a sad side effect of the COVID crisis which may have reduced Burda's creative possibilities. Okay, that I will certainly understand. In our own extended family, we've suffered two deaths and nine cases to date. People are grieving near and far and what's a little duplication from Burda?

So, no, I'm not going to go on over trivia, but I'll keep an eye out.

Thursday, 4 February 2021

Spring is about to spring again and 'model' goddaughter about to sprout a Hector


Yes, I've been doing some sewing of a rather modest variety: two tube skirts in black and blue heavy stretch knit to fill out my Covid-simple needs— to go with all the blue and black tops that I have. I have of late noticed that my wardrobe is hanging together more colorwise, around a palate of white/cream, black, navy, with red or mustard accents. I reckon two navy and two black skirts over tights and ankle boots are good, staple substitutes for the ubiquitous leggings and motorcycle boots I so often reach for.
(And I needed a backup black skirt for future travel, should I be so lucky. Fiddlerkid washed my London-capsule-wardrobe after my last visit over a year ago,  as a courtesy. But he accidentally put my black tube skirt on his kitchen counter top, which had just been bleached. So...deep-six that skirt!)

Over Christmas, I also sewed an Easy Burda dolman-sleeved cowl-neck sweater dress in a cozy poly-rayon navy knit and I'll blog that after sewing the slimmer turtleneck top in the latest Burda Easy edition for comparison. Belted sweater dresses over tights and ankle boots seem to be just the right balance of being dressed, yet home-comfortable for Switzerland's extended COVID lockdown.

And more on a bigger project to come later. I'm turning a drawerful of old jeans into a quilted jacket for the gardening season to come.

But as you can see, a few January days went into knitting my London-based goddaughter a boyish version of my go-to baby sweater pattern seen so many times on this blog before. (I've done the seagull lace version in grey, pine green, denim blue, ivory, and two different pinks.)

This time instead of doing the prescribed lace stitch or the Aran cable I tried on the ivory version, I invented the 'Jurassic Scandi' navy number pictured above for the little guy due in a month. I reckoned someone about to be christened the virile-sounding 'Hector' won't be into duckies. Sadly, the straight stitch means it won't stretch for a growing baby for as many months as the classic Elizabeth Zimmerman pattern, below.

Tuesday, 3 November 2020

Back to the Future, the second Burda longer dress, (a 'handkerchief') dress meant for autumn, November, 2019 103 A/B EPIC FAIL. Should it see out 2020 or die an (ig)noble death?

 The second autumn dress I sewed up for Fall-Winter 2019 repeat 2019 pre-Covid was another attempt to wear the longer skirts lengths without looking dowdy. I wore skirts and culottes this length in the 70's the first time around and still have some fantastic Vogue Designer patterns from that era to prove it. It's a little harder to wear now that I'm so much older, with wider hips, a shortening torso, and the inability to trot all day in the high-heeled boots that make it work best. But I liked the grace of this silhouette after so many years of tight, knee-length sheaths.

This was made up in a drapey navy-blue leopard viscose print ordered online.  There are two unsatisfactory things about my fabric choice for this design: First, the 'leopard print' is too busy to see any of the waist piecing and second, the underside of the fabric is noticeably different from the printed side. Ideally, the skirt should flow without drawing attention to the two sides of the hemline.

This dress is a fabric hog as the skirt pieces are cut on the bias. I'm not sure I'm really feeling this handkerchief hem. And to do it, I needed 3.5 metres of fabric, almost twice the fabric needed for a sheath dress.

Well, it was a good thing I had extra; I decided that Burda's strange single bow design looked sad, even half-assed. (Even though a secretary wears one of these single-bow blouses in white silk in the recent BBC David Hare thriller Roadkill starring Hugh Laurie.) My solution was to cut mirror pieces of the long tie for a classic pussy bow blouse instead.

This dress was also a frightening reminder of how much my skills and patience have slipped. I forgot how to do a proper invisible zipper and made a bit of a mess of it. Only later did I review Kenneth Lane's excellent Youtube on this particular step and have resolved not to mess up again.

But worse! I misread the instructions and doggedly went ahead putting in the zipper below the collar point, assuming the collar folded down over the zip in the back. Wrong. So I had to add a dirty fix—to close the collar at the top.

Added to that frustration the fact that, in the end, I wouldn't have chosen this fabric online if I'd had a chance to see it up close. It doesn't look like leopard print at all, just a messy, ugly print. An entire long dress of this stuff just looks... awful. I'm not sure how much wear, if any, this dress will see.

UPDATE as of January 2020, not worn once. EPIC FAIL
UPDATE as of February, 2020 worn once under a long navy cardigan to casual dinner out. Looked all right, just, as the cardigan gave it a bit of shape at the waistline.
UPDATE as of March, quarantined, so no need to wear a dress until 2021.
UPDATE Lost weight during lockdown, so took it in at the side seams. Looking at it again and thinking it's okay to bring out for autumn 2020. So maybe I'll post this to ask all of you:
UPDATE okay, it's the one-year anniversary of wearing this dress exacly once. So I put it on and styled it with a similar long cashmere cardigan, this time in beige.

I think it just passes, but hell, it took me a year to figure out what to do.What do you think? Is it okay or the ugliest dress in town?

Thursday, 10 September 2020

ARRRGGH! Trying to delete some spam comment, I lost all your wonderful comments going back at least a year! I'm so sorry! (meanwhile...) Burda Easy Cardigan January 2020 models 4A+C. A modest replacement with a few hesitations.

Okay, I think I've sorted out this new Blogger format and restored all your valuable comments that do cheer up my days. If I missed an important one, let me know...and I'm trying to thank KS below for her kindness about the Epic Fail jumpsuit, and Blogger keeps saying I'm in error, so...arh again.

Sadly, I long had a beloved navy blue cardigan that finally died. I had just successfully built up a capsule wardrobe of navy blue items, (various blue blouses, a pull-on stretch pencil skirt from Burda Easy, navy jeans, tights, culottes, leggings, navy and white striped T's, a navy cashmere turtleneck stolen from my husband,) you get the idea.
For me, navy had become 'the new black' over the last few winters. The jewels in my capsule were two navy-blue jumpsuits to be worn under various kimonos in silky blue prints for evenings with friends at home. I wore one to the wonderful wedding of goddaughter in England under one of my kimonos, blogged already.
But the basic piece that pulled many of these combos together by day was my basic navy cardigan.
Now dead. I scraped it across some wet white paint and when I tried to remove the paint, I rubbed an actual hole in the weave in the front tail.
I have tried here, with only some success, to replace it. With the best of intentions, I ordered a navy blue knit online that turns out to have just a tinge of too much violet to it. And the pattern I chose, which looked quite trendy in Burda Easy in January 2020 may not be my style. The hem is asymmetric, the sleeves are a bit too dolman for my taste and without neater finishing by a knit cuff or elastic, the sleeves require being pushed up the arm not to look a bit naff. There are no buttons, so the tie from Version A is a must, as are the pockets from Version C. I had to make little thread belt loops which I hate doing, too.
But let's give it a winter to break in and I may learn to love it as much as my long, slim-line classic with the buttons.

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

CONFINEMENT SEWING PART II Croquet Dresses for Lockdown Games, Burda Easy March 2020 #4C, Burda Style 6-2020-118, and Burda Style 4-2020 cover model, with Burda's Hollywood homage

During a summer of serious Covid confinement, keeping in consideration my soon-80-year-old husband's lung frailties and my own last decade of serious health treatments, we needed to find a more and immediate source of daily joy here in our Swiss village in hard-hit virus-heavy Vaud. Our three adult kids were in lockdown in London. Our constant worries for them with their employment abruptly curtailed or, in one case seriously overloaded, were sometimes overwhelming. Our routine companions here were also being ultra-careful because of age and health histories and sticking close to home. I continued writing and husband continued his own projects, but...meh...

We had wonderful weather, a large house and garden to enjoy, a vast library of music and books to rediscover, the internet and a new Netflix account, and myriad digital contacts with friends and family. And we've kept our health, fingers crossed, so far. The numbers are shooting up again and we know we're counted among the 'vulnerable.'

But we mourned our cancelled vacation to a beloved hotel on the Ligurian shore in Italy, where the virus has been raging up and down the coast with the coffins piling up, as well as our traditional visits to rough it lakesite at camp with extended Swiss family in Walchwil, not far from Zurich, another national hotspot of infection. I also missed all our usual outings to concerts in Lausanne and Geneva for which I love getting properly dressed.

So, no occasions, no meetups, no sewing?

Working hard as usual, we still needed to play away from the computers on a regular basis. So we settled into a serious season of good old-fashioned American croquet, with suitable iced drinks and lots of laughs. And I sewed three 'croquet' dresses, (as this is a decorous sport, to say the least.) White sneakers were de rigeur.

First, the striped linen-viscose number, with its very loose-fitting, dropped waist and unfitted bodice is my tribute to the 1920's resort of Deauville, using Burda's Easy March 2020, 4C. The only challenge of this model was to match up the stripes and reverse the given layout for the more interesting horizon/vertical effect of the stripes.

The second dress, Burda Style's 6-2020-118, is my tribute to a 1940's tea dress, with its chintzy viscose print, fitted waistband, and slightly puffed shoulder seam. To mature this wrap dress a little for a woman my age, I finished the lower edge of the sleeve without the gathered puff. The construction of this design's waist band extending into ties turned out to be a bit of a puzzle. I had to take it slowly, and translate Burda's cryptic instructions from the French into English with an uncharacteristic level of attention. Their construction of what should have been a straightforward collar was also odd and I ended up just reverting to what I was used to doing with similar collars, using a technique from a book of couture shortcuts.

My third 'croquet dress' is a rip-off of the Pretty Woman polka dot dress, done in a lively red viscose.

This is a beast of a skirt to hem, as the skirt pieces are cut on the bias, but the result gives a really lovely flow. I skipped the slit cut at the back neckline as I found this construction cheaply designed, without a center seam and in the end, unnecessary. The dress slips over your head without any special opening at the back.
This was the featured cover dress of the April 2020 Burda which included a wonderful tribute to memorable dresses from Hollywood, including Julia Roberts' brown version in Pretty Woman. I love the rare occasions when Burda does this.

The Russian cover for the same Burda Style April edition featured Grace Kelly's outfit by the wonderful Edith Head from Rear Window. But notice that Grace's version, in an expensive silk faille? or taffeta? has been carefully lined, while the Burda version isn't. I'd add a lining for more elegance.

CONFINEMENT SEWING, PART I Rescuing the 'Epic Fail' blue linen jumpsuit and a new white Burda Easy Japanese workshirt in broderie Anglaise cotton.

As the late, great Alan Rickman says in the comic film, Galaxy Quest, 'Never Give Up, Never Surrender!'

Remember the 'Epic Fail' blue linen jumpsuit on which I spent so much money for high-quality imported linen, only to end up with a baggy, crumply mess I wore only once, to the Verbier Music Festival when our Fiddlerkid was performing? (below) The Burda Style pattern featured a very long torso and the design was suitable only to Burda's choice of a satiny, drapey fabric that settled discreetly over the elasticated waist. My quality linen puffed out too much.

The waste of such good fabric hurt my heart. I finally bit the bullet and ripped out the waist seam and made a very serviceable work shirt and pair of pull-on pants that I've been actually getting wear out of all summer. Here's my new rescue version, cut in half.

The new white wrap shirt above is a second version of the Burda Easy Japanese workshirt I already blogged, below, (this time without the sleeves.) The white version is a direct copy of the model featured on the cover of that edition of Burda Easy,

which is why I fell in love with the pattern in the first place. Because of its tight wrap effect at the waist, I can get away with a pretty unexciting elasticated waist from the jumpsuit as it was.

The blue ruffled shirt below also covers the 'sin' of the elasticated waistband and is Burda Style 3-2019-111, also blogged before.

My revised, rescued linen shirt goes well with my hardworking jean skirt constructed as learned in Berkeley in 1970. (Vaccuum not included.) Here the excess fabric that ruined the drape of the jumpsuit bodice turned out to give me enough shirttail to tuck it into a belted bottom. 


Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Burda peasant blouse 03/2020 #116

Of course there seems little point in sewing when you're stuck at home for months on end, (not only because of Swiss limits to groupings of five but out of concern for an elderly spouse with chronic respiratory problems.) But before the virus doldrums really hit, I sewed this item, which came out pretty well. I made the mistake of lengthening it by some inches, confusing it with the similar #117 which is shorter with 3/4 length open sleeve hems, so my version could even serve as a bathing suit coverup.
I mail-ordered the fabric, a polyester navy chiffon with a kind of ditzy praire print, with a reasonable hand, from This blouse requires a lot of tedious gathering and I think the interest of the time-consuming double yoke and double tie design feature is lost in the pattern of the fabric I chose. Now that I know it works out, with the double ties and all, I might make another and simpler one that shows off the design.

Friday, 15 November 2019

From trash to class in one pattern...To survive the first rainy days, the Vogue OOP 2614 gray wool wrap jacket and its 'evil twin' the blue snake leather biker jacket.

Have you ever seen a snake this blue? So kill me. I know, the collar! This blue jacket comes from a wonderful Vogue OOP 2614 pattern offering some great options.  When I saw this snake-embossed 'pleather' I splurged without thinking and even found a perfect little gray buckle, but I immediately regretted the per metre cost. It is eye-catching but cheering for the first days of full-on rain here in Switzerland. It pairs well with this great Central Asian scarf gifted by a well-travelled neighbor. It makes the bad weather actually fun.

Wait! The same pattern?? The gray jacket was also made from this SAME pattern, which is some kind of object lesson in the difference changing 'options' and fabric can make. It's made of a very good quality gray-black chevron-weave wool coating and I did some pretty good top-stitching down the princess seams which gives it something extra. From trash to class in one pattern...

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Two autumn dresses.... first one, BurdaEasy, Spring-Summer 2019 (three versions combined for maximum ruffle oomph!)

Skirt hems have been dropping for some seasons but many came with a buttoned-up, ruffled-bodice 'prairie girl' look which is too costumey for someone my age. So I planned two dresses in viscose in my favorite color-way of navy blue to satisfy the urge to try these longer dresses, without going for the bulk of accordion pleats (that would sit on my very wide hips pretty badly,) or spending too much on so much fabric for a look I'm not sure of.
This is concocted from Burda Easy Models 2, A+B+C from the Spring Summer 2019. This design had three variations and I chose the longest and then maxed out the ruffle options, (see tech illustrations below) combining the offerings from three versions into one:

The fabric is a viscose twill, a very good weight for chilly autumn weather which gives some body to the ruffles. I found the perfect boots to wear with this length—some graceful height, a  delicate heel, but not too high.

I did go wrong with this Frankenstein, however. Normally I have to adjust a 51 cm dress hem to 58 to hit at the bottom of my knee. So I automatically added 7 cm to the hem of the main dress body, then added my two ruffles to its bottom. But the dress dropped practically to my ankles which didn't match the photo in the magazine at all. I think I was working with the wrong option's hem? I took in a tuck totaling 8 cm just above the ruffles to form an extra pleat and the dress is still long, but closer to the model shown. I'm generally happy with this dress, though the size 42 neckline is wider than the illustration and slips off one shoulder or another in the wearing.
I've worn this dress twice already to friends' Sunday lunch/tea and it seems just the right style for casual dining without being either overdressed or too casual, especially under a leather jacket and a beige scarf. But it's not a look I'd wear for anything dressier or the office.

I'll deal with the second dress in a separate post...