Monthly Archives: March 2015

Burdastyle Alexander Blouse

Burdastyle 6062 AlexanderBlouse

How well do you research your sewing projects before you get sewing?

This make really got me thinking about how much research and project planning people do before starting a new sewing project. My methods are usually to check on sites like Kollabra, Pattern Review, Pinterest and to do a google search for other bloggers who have made that garment. I mainly look for inspiration, to see what modifications people make and also to learn about potential pitfalls or problem areas that are handy to know about before I start. I also sometimes make a toile, but usually only if I’m working with special or expensive fabric.

Sometimes though, and in the case with this project, I just get so excited about a make, that I forget about all the research and just jump in full steam ahead. I think more often than not, this comes from having very little time to myself, and even less time to sew. I am naturally an impatient person, I rush a lot, I like to do things quickly, be efficient, and then move on to the next project as quickly as I can. I just can’t seem to shed this sense of urgency. Does anyone else ever feel this way? I wish I could be more relaxed!

I suppose this approach, doesn’t always make for a bad project, but it does feel like luck when it all turns out ok. With this blouse in particular, I saw a tweet promoting the pattern, took one look at it and fell in love with the pattern details. I paid my £2.99 and it was stuck together, and traced in a flash. I knew exactly what fabric would work with it, a delicious umbrella print I’d been saving for something special, and well the rest is history. It jumped to 1st place above all my other wips and planned projects. Only patterns this pretty get to be naughty queue jumpers!

So, I’m admitting to you all that I rushed this, and I am kinda sorry. The blouse itself is stunning, and I had no problems with the construction, it’s just a lot shorter and high wasted than I realised. It would look great with a pencil skirt, or a pair of high-waisted trousers, but as I find most high-waisted garments pretty uncomfortable I don’t really own any, so have nothing to wear with it. I was also hoping for a top that could be worn to work, with a pair of jeans, and the peplum would fall to the hipline. It wasn’t until after I finished the blouse I saw this:

The Blouse I wanted to sew - photo taken from the burdastyle website

The Blouse I wanted to sew – photo taken from the burdastyle website


The blouse above is a modification to the pattern I made, more details on that blouse here

The post even says:
‘After hearing the feedback from our users we made this top better by dropping the waistline by 2″ and we doubled the length of the peplum, so it would hit the hips in a flattering way.’
Yes this!!!! This is what I should have done, and I probably would have if I’d done my research properly, and taken my time. Luckily I think I have enough fabric left to make it again, and I just may do that. The question is, will I learn a lesson from this? I hope so.

Project Stats

Fabric: A mystery dressmaking fabric from Abakhan
Cost: £4 fabric, £3 pattern, £3.50 for 6 self covering buttons (I already had some in my stash)
Pattern: The BurdaStyle Alexander Blouse
Time: 10 hours
Difficulty: Intermediate

Burda Alexander Blouse Front 6062

The Pattern

Burda describe this pattern as a ‘work of art and quite a unique pattern’. Whilst I’m not sold on its cultural significance, it is a lovely pattern with some really pleasing features. I love the buttons at the front and back, the neckline, and the ruffled sleeves. It was released in 2010, in memory of Alexander McQueen. I am wondering if it is inspired by one of Alexander’s designs, If so I’d love to see the original.

It’s actually a complete coincidence that I finished this blouse on the day the new Alexander McQueen exhibition, Savage Beauty opens at the V&A. It’s on from March 14th – August 2nd, and I’d love to go and see it. Are any of you planning a trip? To get a sneak preview I highly recommend watching Private View, Tinie Tempah on Alexander McQueen. It’s on BBC Iplayer for 11 months, so you’ve got plenty of time to see it, and get a glimpse of what this inspirational designer was about.

Unusually for Burda, this pattern included seam allowance, and the instructions were great, coming from a separate downloadable 12 page PDF. They included helpful diagrams too. I’d day they still require you to have a good grasp of sewing skills, and in some places lacked details. It would have been nice to have more direction on the pleats. I also think there was a mistake in that it mentioned needing interfacing, but then didn’t tell you where to use it.

Materials

The fabric is probably a polyester/cotton blend, but it feels kind of like viscose. It has a silky sheen, and a wonderful drape, plus the print is just adorable with all those teeny tiny umbrellas. It seems right to be using it in a country where on average it rains once every 3 days. Yes that’s the hard truth people, never leave home without an umbrella!

Hooray - no rain today!

Hooray – no rain today!

Sizing / modifications

I cut a size 44, which I ascertained from my full bust measurement. This is the largest size this pattern goes up to. It’s a shame the pattern doesn’t accommodate for larger sized women. Is this standard with BurdaStyle?

Garment Assembly

Main bodice

Sewing this blouse was super fun, as it had enough tricky and fiddly parts to keep it interesting. I spent quite awhile marking out all the pattern pieces, as there are a few pleats and darts which shape the blouse. There are also 5 buttons on the front, and 7 on the back, which I wanted to be perfectly spaced.

The blouse is two main pieces, the left side and the right side which included the sleeves. They are joined at the shoulder already, so include the front and back panels in one. This will lead to problems when using a fabric with a pattern, as on one side the print will be upside down. I suppose this could be rectified by cutting as 2 pieces and then joining them together at the top of the sleeve, but I didn’t catch on to this until after I had cut my pieces out. No big deal.

Showing the shoulder darts

Showing the shoulder darts and upside down print

The darts were placed at the shoulders, and were fairly unusual in that they were curved darts that went from the front arm pit to the back. Sewing them was a bit fiddly, and I was thankful I put the effort in to marking my fabric.

I had trouble doing the pleats, and wasn’t paying attention to what direction they should be going in. I did the same on both sides, when I should have mirrored them. This was really obvious when on, and it completely distorted the shaping. It just looked rubbish. I unpicked them without too much bother, and the correct shape of the blouse was revealed. It pulls away from the side seams and scoops gently towards the centre line.

Sleeves

The sleeves are then gathered, and fitted in to the dart seam just sewn. The sleeves are really pretty. I love how they loosely cascade away from the shoulders. I really wanted to finish them with a rolled hem using my overlocker, but I chickened out at the last minute and just used a narrow hem. I think next time I’ll be braver, especially after seeing that the Slap Dash Sewist used the same technique on her liberty print version.

Button loops and buttons

The button loops were made from sewing 0.5cm strips, and then turning inside out. At times like this my Prym loop turner is my best friend, and makes an infuriating task quite simple. I like this kind of fixing, and it saves on having to sew button holes plus looks really elegant.

I chose to use self cover buttons, and used a combination of 11mm plastic and metal self covering buttons from Prym. I also used a Prym universal button cover tool, which again is a total sanity saver. Covering buttons without one is not my forte and not my idea of fun. I was wondering about the difference between the plastic buttons and the metal ones. Once covered you can’t tell the difference, but my sources tell me that the metal ones have a habit of coming apart. Do you have a preference between metal or plastic buttons? Do you notice much of a difference?

The top uses 7 self covered buttons at the back, and 5 at the front

The top uses 7 self covered buttons at the back, and 5 at the front

Finishing touches

The rest of the blouse was fairly plain sailing, adding the facings and the peplum. It’s worth saying here that all my seams were finished on the overlocker, and I’m still getting away with using that red thread. I finished off by making a belt, and hand sewing belt loops to the side seam of the blouse at the waist. To do the belt loops, I used this this tutorial from Professor Pincushion. It’s a technique which I’ve not used before, and although not perfect, they turned out ok for my first time.

My hand sewn belt loops - you get a photo because it's the first time I've used this in a project

My hand sewn belt loops – you get a photo because it’s the first time I’ve used this in a project

General happiness rating

I’m still totally in love with this pattern, and would recommend it highly to people, especially if they wanted a top to go alongside high-waisted bottoms. It’s a way off being a garment that I feel fits in with my wardrobe, and is modest enough to wear to work. However, I know what modifications I need to make, and I might have another blast at it right away. Either that or make a pencil skirt to go with it. Any suggestions on what would work with this top?

BurdaAlexanderBlouseFront

I’ve hopefully learned a lesson that taking the extra time, actually saves time, and if I can remember this in the future I’m winning. What do you all think of my blouse? Please share your tips and advice for how you plan a project before you start sewing. Are you more gung-ho like me, or are you always very thorough and rigorous in your approach? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Happy stitching everyone, love Amy xxx

Lacy Trio of Tees – a make for White Tree Fabrics

TrioOfTees

One of the benefits of being part of the White Tree Bloggers Network, is that they sometimes ask if you’d like to be involved in a fun challenge? When that challenge involves sewing, and one of your favourite sewing based TV programmes, there is only one sensible answer. Yes please!

Some of the fabric used on the Great British Sewing Bee was supplied by White Tree Fabrics, who have the most excellent selection of lace I’ve come across online. You can find vintage lace, lace trims, stretchy lace, printed lace, bridal lace, guipure lace, the list goes on! White Tree sent me something similar to what was used on the show, and I had to create an item of clothing.

I was kindly supplied with a pretty pink leaf pattern lace. I felt a little deflated when I saw the colour. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lovely colour, but when pink and lace combine you just get something so feminine, so romantic, and so floaty that it’s just miles away from any style I would actually wear, or more importantly feel comfortable in. So therein the challenge lies, how do I use this fabric to create a garment that feels me?

It was exactly like being on the sewing bee, only without the time limits, the tomfoolery and the well turned out Patrick grant. So OK, maybe not exactly like being on the show, but I was given a challenge to create something wearable in a fabric that I’m not that used to working with, in a colour I wouldn’t wear. It didn’t feel easy, and I wasn’t sure how to go about it.

When I thought about a dress, I ruled it out for being too pink and bridal. A friend suggested a dressing gown, but again, it all felt too Mills & Boon. It wasn’t until I was scrapping about in my T-shirt drawer that I realised I was really short on tops, and the eureka moment struck. I’d make a T-shirt, and not only that, I’d make three T-shirts, a trio of tee’s! Surely if I make three garments I’m bound to like one of them. My reasoning felt sensible, and after all I did really want to win garment of the week. *Reality check* Amy you are not actually on the sewing bee. Oi! Who burst my Patrick bubble?

T-Shirt 1 – Lacy Crop Top using Megan Nielsons Briar T-Shirt Pattern

megannielsonbriar

The Briar pattern is an incredibly versatile pattern which includes a cropped and full length top with 3 sleeve lengths. It is designed for stretchy fabric and knits so I took a bit of a gamble using it for this lace, which has no stretch at all. I tested it out in a jersey first, and then went up a size for the lace, cutting a size large. I modified the pattern slightly to accommodate for the scalloped lace edge, that I wanted to make a feature of for the hemline and the sleeve hems. This just meant changing the scooped hems to a straight one at the front and back. Easy peasy stuff, and it turned out great, plus it was massively time saving when it came to hemming, hurrah!

lacytee0003

This was the first top I made, so I was still getting used to working with the lace. I cut my pieces out on the cross grain, so that I could used the scalloped selvedge edge as my hemline. I decided french seams were the neatest (after many failed overlocking attempts), and worked really well with the delicate fabric. I used them at the arm and side seams. As the fabric is semi sheer, it’s worth the effort, as they can be seen from the outside.

lacytee0004

The garment only consisted of 4 seams, so went together in a flash, which just left the neckline to finish. A friend suggested I try satin bias, which I thought would work really well. My other option was to use the lace itself, but I wasn’t sure how well this would work, and thought the satin would make a nice contrast. I found a good match for 40p a metre.

lacytee0012

I’m happy with how it turned out, the fit is good and the neckline looks pretty. My only gripe would be that the satin bias is heavier, and stiffer than the lace, so it does sit a bit rigidly when on. If working with the lace again I’d try and find something more lightweight to work with.

All in though, a success. I like the length of this top, and how when combined with a colourful tank it adds a nice splash of colour. I’ll definitely wear this again, and I feel I learned a little about working with delicate lace along the way.

T-Shirt 2 – Lace/Jersey top using Simplicity 1424

simp1422

I picked this pattern up in one of the simplicity half price sales, so I think it was only about £2.50. I liked the A and B versions, and didn’t have any plans for it other than it might make some nice summer tops. For this make however, I decided to give view C a go, as I could visualise this working with the lace as an overlay. I wasn’t sure about the open back on this pattern. My instincts told me to modify it, so it was similar to the front, but I decided I’d give it a go as it was, just because it was different. The pattern asked for lightweight woven fabrics with drape, but I wanted to try it with a jersey I had that provided a good contrast with the lace.

lacytee0008

I enjoyed making this top, as I got to experiment with a few techniques. The narrow hems on the front and back pieces were done using my double needle, and required some focus to keep the curves precise. The jersey hemline looked fab (apart from I used 2 different colour grey threads in each needle, which was a bit lazy of me and I won’t do again), but the lace hemline didn’t work so well. It was neat enough in places, but where the weave was very loose it bunched up a little and I think I’d do it differently next time.

lacytee0010

Attaching the 2 pieces together at the arms and neckline was fun, and I was really excited to flip it over for the big reveal. I couldn’t wait to try it on. Unfortunately when the moment came I really hated it on me. The fabric just ballooned out over my ski jump chest, and there was really no way to tame it or make it more flattering. I don’t have many loose fitting clothes in my wardrobe, and perhaps this is why. A family of 4 could camp out under that tent. Perhaps with a drapier fabric it would look nicer, but I’m not sure if I’ll make it again. We all have styles that don’t work for us right?

lacytee0009

So I’m afraid this is a bit of a fail for me. At least I enjoyed the make and can take away a few lessons with me. This may be one of my first handmade garments off to the charity shop!

T-Shirt 3 – Lace/Chiffon top using Vogue 8877 Misses’ top

vogue8877

I came across this pattern whilst browsing the Vogue patterns on White Trees website, which they have a fantastic selection of. I thought it could work with a lace yoke, and as the pattern recommended lace, crepe, georgette or jersey I thought I’d give it a go. I picked up a cheap georgette from Leeds market for £2 a metre. I actually struggled to get a good colour combination. What do you think of my choice? I liked it when I put the fabrics next to each other, but now the top is made I’m undecided. In terms of weight though, the fabrics are well matched, so in that respect it was a good choice and the yoke seams look neat and tidy.

lacytee0005

The pattern is described as ‘very easy Vogue’ and it lives up to its name. Not much to go in to detail wise with this pattern, but I think it’s got the potential to be a good wardrobe builder, and I’d like to try a long sleeve jersey version sometime.

lacytee0007

This uses the lace cut on the grain, so the sleeve hems are finished as narrow hems, as is the main hemline. I think I prefer the pattern of the lace when cut on the cross grain, as I did for the first Briar version.

lacytee0014

Again I decided to use satin bias to finish the neckline, but this time opted to use contrasting stitching. But alas, the time had come for me to learn another lesson. See below:

lacytee0015

Notice those holes? They were left by the pins when I attached the bias to the neckline. Unfortunately no amount of pressing will get them out. I’m confused how this happened this time round and not when I used the same techniques on the briar top. In future I will test out if pins leave marks in the fabric, and when I feel like treating myself, I’d love to buy some wonder clips, a handy little alternative to pins that would have prevented this problem from occurring.

Judging time! How did I do in my own Great British Sewing Bee Challenge

Well, in the absence of any real judge I guess it’s up to me to cast the final assessment. I set myself the challenge to create something that I would wear, from a fabric I would never really buy. The winner for me is easily T-shirt 1, the Briar Lacy crop top. I think this is partly down to the pattern, which is very simple but so wearable. It’s the closest fitting garment out of the 3 I made, and I just feel so much more comfortable in it, and that it can be really versatile depending on what I wear underneath it. In second place I’d choose vogue 8877, which I’m happy with as a garment, but I think it’s a bit on the purple/pink side, and well, a bit Pat Butcher. This obviously leaves Simplicity 1424 in last place. Pretty well made but it’s just no good on me. I wonder if the other style of t-shirt included in this pattern would work any better for me? What do you all think? Which is your favourite out of the three?

Things I learnt about working with lace

  • French seams work marvellously
  • Overlocking seams didn’t work at all. Because of the fairly loose weave of the lace, there was nothing for the loopers to sit against. I think you’d get better results with a denser/stiffer lace perhaps
  • The fabric easily catches. Any piece of rough skin or loose nail easily snagged it. Work with care and moisturised hands :)
  • Binding works well for edges, but consider finding a fabric of a similar weight for best results
  • Be careful when pressing. Use a low temperature and a press cloth. Sometimes you can just get away with finger pressing seams
  • It’s a really fun fabric to sew, and not too difficult on a machine at all. When combined with a similar weight fabric or as an over-lay it can totally come in to it’s own
  • Experiment with cutting on the grain and cross grain, as you may prefer the pattern one way to another, and get to make use of a detailed edge if the lace has one

Other musings

You may have noticed I’ve had my hair done. Not looking especially polished in these photos, but I love it. I’m really happy with the colour and might even be brave enough to go shorter on the length next time. I’ve also started up my running routine again, and with the help of some acupuncture (which is brill!) I think I might have my achy hip under control. I’m really feeling the oncoming energy of spring, which I’m sure will manifest in many creative ways. I’m currently thinking about whats next on my sewing table. I think it will either be this lovely Alexander McQueen style Burda #6062 blouse, or this Issey Miyake Vogue 1320 coat.

Happy sewing people! I hope the lighter evenings and longer days are blessing you with more sewing opportunities.

<3 Amy

Tartan Emery Dress

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Hey everyone, how ya doing? Enjoying the first signs of spring? The dress I’m showing off today has been cut and waiting to be sewed since November! It was supposed to be my warm over-winter dress, but with this and that I just didn’t find the time to get it made. Although, it is still officially winter until the Spring Equinox on March 20th, and with this being England you can be certain there will be plenty more chances to wear it. I’m quite a cold person really, I always feel a chill so having a dress with long sleeves is something I’ve wanted for ages, but is missing from my wardrobe. My colleague Paul, (who gets away with statements like this because he’s really funny), says, the trouble with women is that they are either too hot, or too cold, and never the right temperature. Do you think he is right? Well you know what they say about cold hands, is that you have a warm heart. Either that or you need to knit a pair of gloves.

Anyways, over to the dress. I wanted something smart but casual enough to wear to work. My workplace is really relaxed about dress code luckily, so I can get away with wearing what I like. I often start early, at 7am, and it takes awhile for the office to heat up, so this little number should keep me cosy on those chilly mornings.

Christine Haynes Emery Dress

Project Stats

Fabric: A poly/cotton blend from B&M Fabrics with a little stretch
Cost: Fabric £4 metre, zip £2.50, Bias tape £1 – all in £15.50
Pattern: Christine Haynes Emery Dress Sewing Pattern
Time: Sewn up over a weekend
Difficulty: No sweat

Christine Haynes Emery Dress

The Pattern

The Emery dress needs no introduction. It’s a tried and tested favourite with so many bloggers, erm Sarah from A million Dresses likes it just a tad! I think I’ve seen so many versions of this dress curiosity just got the better of me and I needed to try it for myself.

Christine Haynes Emery Dress

Materials

I picked up this tartan after cooing over my stepsisters tartan dresses she wore to death this winter. Now she is 18 I might just have to pass the baton of coolest person in the family over to her because she is so trendy and in to fashion in a massive way. I guess once you get to 30, you kind of transcend cool. It’s something for the youngsters to cling to whilst still finding out their identity right? Even though I’m in to making my own clothes, I like to think I do it more for the creative process, than for any kind of desire to look cool or be different. I’ve got the confidence now, to not give a crap what anyone else thinks, which I guess in turn leads to greater individuality, and coolness! Well I like to think so anyway.

Sizing / modifications

Emeryweb10

I made a size 12 without making any modifications apart from taking 4 inches off the hem and it turned out spot on. If I was going to pick fault I think it gapes a little at the back neckline, but it’s a minor point. The dress is so comfy, and even passes the massive lunch test.

Garment Assembly

Tack It Pattern Marker

The bodice

If you’ve made dresses before, Emery is a pretty standard method, with excellent instructions to follow. I started by marking the pattern pieces carefully, and used a new gadget for this. My mum gave me a Singer Tack It pattern marker which she found in the charity shop she volunteers in. It’s all in its original packaging, with instructions, and I’d guess is from the 60s or 70s. It’s like a stapler that you use with carbon paper, and it transfers pattern marks on to both sides of the fabric. It’s really easy to use, and because it’s felted on the bottom, it glides really easily when you need to move it about. It’s a nifty little tool to have, and I’m happy with how accurate my darts look on the finished garment. I was most impressed that after all these years, the original carbon paper still worked!
Christine Haynes Emery Dress

The Skirt

After finishing the bodice, and the bodice lining, I moved on to the skirt, which included 2 in seam pockets. The skirt is then gathered using 2 rows of loose machine basted stitch. I usually just gather by eye, and hope for the best. Is there a more technical method that any of you use to make sure the gathers are equal?

Christine Haynes Emery Dress

Finishing the inside

Look how tidy it is! I’m so happy with the inside of this garment. I think the red I used for the lining, along with the red overlocker thread really compliment the fabric. Honestly, these little things just make me so happy each time I look at it. Plus, check out my bias bound hem. If ever I get dressed in the dark, and go out with my dress inside out, it’s a little bit less of an embarrassment when it looks this good.

Christine Haynes Emery Dress

Emery Dress Bias Hem

Emery Dress Bias Hem

General happiness rating

I finished the dress last Tuesday, and since then have worn it three times, so I think you can say I’m pretty besotted with it. I find that the fit is really flattering, and this makes me feel comfortable and at ease in it, which says a lot about how successful your makes are. I think I’ve found out why this pattern is so popular, and I’m sure I’ll be coming back to it sometime.

Looking back over these photos, I can see that my garden needs a massive tidy. No that’s not a euphemism…or is it? I guess I’ll have to give up some sewing time to get that sorted, but if I think about getting prettier blog pictures, then I guess that’s an incentive.Happy sewing everyone!

Amy xx