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.


Tuesday 13 July 2021

Burda's 'origami?' or 'Japanese?' wrap dress, February 2/2021/101

This dress couldn't be simpler to make and I imagine what determines the outcome, even more than usual, is your choice of fabric. I used a pure cotton remnant from Coupons de St Pierre in Paris ( 
who supply offcuts of 3 metres each for a song. It took me a while to get them to ship into Switzerland where I have to make sure that every order comes in under Sf60 including postage, so the total doesn't double because of added import taxes (EU to Switz).
I chose a floral that looks rather Japanese because the wrapped tie design struck me as slightly reminiscent of an obi tied at the back of a geisha's waist. My fabric might even be a quilting cotton, since it isn't drapey or see-through but it is certainly lightweight and I wore a short slip underneath for a little body here in the Swiss mountain summer.
I might have lengthened the skirt slightly, but not by much, and I included a bit of side slit to ease walking. The folded cuff is interfaced and sewn down which I like (not rolled, like in Burda's photo) and I finished off the seam edges inside with a simple zigzag stitch. (I don't have a serger, and frankly, have survived over 50 years without one.) 
My one complaint about the design is that this dress begs for pockets, which I will add.
From the front, the design can have a slightly dowdy housecoat feel to it, (needs a necklace to improve the plain V neckline) but the bow over the butt at the back is very saucy, if done in a crisp fabric. Linen might also be nice. Burda used a viscose for their rendition (see below) which might reduce the perky bow effect, but seems to have made their bodice more flatteringly drapey. (Mine comes off as a bit boxy.)
Anyway, it was perfect for a recent Sunday lunch here at home where I did all the cooking and didn't want to wear anything floaty or unwashable over a gas flame and spattering frying pan.
I would say this is a perfect dress to throw on for an elegant breakfast buffet in a really nice hotel resort, or sightseeing with hat and sandals. Not as vulgar as shorts or as revealing as a sarong, but very easy to pack flat, light and simple as a bathrobe, yet flirty and fresh.

Monday 5 July 2021

Another blue shirt with inserted, full dolman sleeves Burda 113, April 2020

 As part of a wardrobe that's becoming rather 'capsulized' around variations of French, cornflower, or light blue, this was a wildcard, a blouse with a difficult and voluminous cut that demands sharp interior corners to accommodate large dolman sleeves. Notice in the Burda photos just above the difference that fabrication makes--in the crisp cotton you get fuller sleeves and a good peek at the interesting design, while the viscose green on the righthand side droops to ill effect.

Unfortunately, I did my version in a strange blue viscose ordered online that lacks enough crisp hand to keep the definition. This blouse seems to be an unconscious echo of the drapey Burda blouse I made last year in a similar blue with a similarly strange diagonal cut and less than successful flouncy sleeves. 

It seems that I just can't learn this lesson. If you want to get into architecturally-cut blouses that show off novelty lines, don't sew them in shapeless viscose!

Anyway, it's a cool-looking, loose-fitting piece that demands very hot weather, crisp white pants and a Greek shore.

Next up--I confess to an experiment with Fibre Mood, a nostalgic dip back into the McCall's pattern world of my youth and the famous (almost) Burda origami twist V-neck dress!

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.