Sunday 18 December 2022

Sewing for 2022 was limited...but a preview warning of coming (disasters?) attractions for 2023

Yes, I did some sewing this year, but it seemed rather more like a case of 'oh, God, now what?' than Wow! I tried to learn how to sew a bathing suit to replace some worn out functional black one-piece suits I wear three times a week, (more on that in a coming and very painful post) and to sew a bathrobe to replace one that my mother had given me thirty years ago, which had become little more than a sentimental terrycloth rag. The delays, disappointments and dirty fixes on both projects are in the coming posts. Just warning you in advance.

Also, this year I'll be tackling Patrones yet again, determined to find out why I can't get the fit right after my patchwork-print dress. I'm finding the measurements gap between the Burda parameters between bodice and hips hard to believe, that armscythe too deep, etc. Perhaps a basic toile is in order. Their styles are marvelous and forward-leaning. A shame to leave those mags under-utilized.

Meanwhile, happy holidays to my few followers and a general wish for more peace, kindness, health, and sanity for 2023.

Tuesday 9 August 2022

Easy Burda cotton dress 2B, Issue 3, 2022,

 Well, this was really meant as a quickie test dress to see if I like this version of the loose ruffly summer trend of 2022. It has the vibes of a Fibre Mood pattern but being Burda, it holds back just a notch on the fullness in the sleeves, the silhouette, and the ruffle variation. I want to be on trend, but not feel I'm wearing a little girl's doll dress—

which is what I'm seeing in some of the French indie patterns so popular this summer. I saw a fair amount of 'buffet dresses' during our Italian holiday. Too much ruffle, too froufrou, and too voluminous for someone my age.

I cut the neckline in size 40, tapering to a 42 in the bust and a 45 for my hips. I got 3 meters of this 100% cotton from Coupons de St Pierre for only 10 Euros and it's still on sale here: the cotton I used and I ran it up in a day and a half, counting the tracing, adding seam margins, and cutting out. I made a self-belt and inserted pockets, too, to elevate it a bit from Burda Easy's minimal design. I opted for the longest ruffle of the three Easy options.

In the end, I'm very happy with the result as a fresh casual dress, today worn on the hop to a neighbour's small lunch on her delightful enclosed veranda offering a fresh mountain breeze.

 If the season were longer—though who knows if this hot weather will ever abate!—I might make one like the Broderie Anglaise shown above.

Tuesday 12 July 2022

Burda sun dress April 108/4/ 2022 and matching quilted cotton jacket, 120/2/2021

Not the most flattering photo in Italy by my husband, showing I should wear the dress lower on the waist, but otherwise it turned out well. I think the placement of the casings as marked doesn't take my short waist into consideration. Lesson learned.
Also I used a very soft fabric which delivers a less crisp effect than the cotton used by Burda which gives a nicer result with the pleats around the neck, but the dress was almost weightless to wear in the midday Italian heat. 

I'm especially proud that the dress and its matching jacket were both squeezed out of 3 metres of double gauze cotton purchased for practically nothing from Coupons de St. Pierre online. 
One of the dirty fixes as I ran out of fabric was to use elastic for the interior of the two dress ties that finish at both hips and only use the main fabric for the ties outside the casings.
I made two alterations to the jacket—I added pockets using bits of the IKEA cotton that I dyed pink years ago for a T&T Burda shirt pattern and second, I lengthened the sleeves to eliminate the knit wristbands. I just dislike knit wristbands or any bomber jacket references.

The patchwork lining for the jacket will look familiar to anyone following this blog. Some of the pink silk came from the wedding kimono I sewed some years ago, other remnants were from the slew of three pink dresses I made last year.
 I tried using a binding foot to make the finishing job easier, but the quilting padding got stuck and I wasn't willing to hot-press the seam margins flat, so in the end, only hand finishing the second edge of the binding gave me the quality finish I wanted.
I covered three large snaps with the pink gauze fabric but the fabric is just too thick for the snaps to 'take.' I may come back to this if I'm convinced the jacket needs closures but on a summer evening, I can do without.


Tuesday 5 July 2022

My thoughts on Fibre Mood, with a debut dress "Harmony," Book 14 2021...not entirely a success but instructive


I've been eyeing the Fibre Mood fan club here in Europe for some time. They use a lot of linen and broderie anglaise and give off an artistic, somewhat bohemian vibe, drawing on loose, blousey artistic silhouettes evoking lofts in Amsterdam, country walks in Provence, and Paris galleries. You couldn't imagine anything farther from the fitted Dior New Look or tailored Chanel bourgeoise lady look or the classic Ralph Lauren Hamptons look or the Armani Milanese suited executive or the New York activewear mood if you tried.

The Harmony blouse might have been the wrong choice for a woman of my age--the nautical look was meant for four-year-old English princes and Shirley Temple. To offset the Lord Fauntleroy effect, I should have stuck with the Fibre Mood fabrication for women over 50--plain linen or lightweight denim.

But no, I saw a quilting cotton online for pennies with a tiny anchor motif on a navy background and thought, why not? I used a discarded pillowcase for the white trim and red buttons on the fiddly neck closure on one side. The result was a cool, light dress for early buffet breakfasts at an Italian hotel over the last few blistering hot weeks, (photo above in Liguria) But the dress looks too twee for Geneva city wear and too seaside for Swiss mountain wear.

My first take on using a Fibre Mood pattern? I was less than thrilled with their diagrams' very fine lines, fiddly unfamiliar colored notation system, but most of all, with the disappointment of having no written instructions inside the magazine's printed manual. I had to keep checking and rechecking explanations for the complicated construction of the bodice framing trim insertion on my computer. (That is not a proper sailor collar you see, but an inserted trim.) I was raised on the bold, black and white diagrams of the Big 4 patterns and when I buy a pattern, I expect the instructions to be included. I think Fibre Mood do it online so they can offer multiple languages beyond Vogue's English and French.

Fibre Mood also advises a 10 cm seam allowance to be added, but again, I'm used to adding 1.5 cm to everything. What with the computer here, the big book there, and still not understanding how I was supposed to turn those corners, flipping here and there, it was a muddle. I also found the construction of the neck placket hard to read for the same reason of unfamiliarity with their system.

I suspect this is a problem of simply not being used to such a different style of colored graphics and the need for a computer. Their styling is growing on me and their latest magazine is very tempting. As the French say, I may 'crack' again.


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.