Tuesday, December 28, 2010

My Love Hate Relationship With Burda

A lot of people are giving up their Burda subscriptions annoyed with the designs and the condensed pattern sheets.  I am willing to put up with bad months. In the 10 years I've had a subscription  there have  always been  months where there is nothing I want to make.  Summer issues are usually my least used.  I will admit that the new sheets are more time consuming, but it's not all that bad if you have good lighting.  I have great lighting.  I make more Burda than any other company because when they hit it  the styles are new and often edgy and while the photography is more fashion mag than pattern, the styles are sewn up so well and fit so well  that they say, just like a good fashion magazine, I want  that.  The fit is so good that I know that the drafting is going to be excellent  I know exactly what I have to do to make them work for me.  I make a lot of fitting alterations and I can just go down the list on Burda because the drafting is that consistent.  I have other pattern magazines and the pictures show sewing and fit that just don't measure up so that you wonder if those fitting wrinkles are because the drafting is poor or if they didn't take the time to do a good job.

Now we come to the instructions. A while back there was a thread on Pattern Review complaining that the technical writers couldn't possibly be native speakers.  There was a livid response that they were most definitely native English speakers..  Most of us just didn't believe it; their response was so awkwardly worded.

My favorite lately is when they can't get the sentence structure in the correct order, which is,  unfortunately pretty frequent.   The instructions  are usually poor,  but they degenerate  into the truly awful the more complicated the pattern.  I honestly don't recall them being this bad in past years.  Case in point I was looking at a dress with a pattern for a leather belt.  The leather belt is simple.  You'd think that it would be fairly straight forward to write instructions for something so simple.  Not so.  There is a central piece and two narrower end pieces.  The belt fastens in the back.  You are instructed to sew the end pieces to the center and open the seam gluing them in place.  Oh,  but then they say but first interface the center piece.  Duh. 

I am planning to sew a leather jacket for spring. it's not a simple jacket and there are a lot of instructions. Oy, what a mess  Aside from the usual lets sew it up before we do all those details that are so much easier to do in the flat, they just don't make a whole lot of sense.  I read them at least 3 times.  If I make this jacket I will be writing my own construction order and for the harder parts, working out the construction ahead of time.  I have a large sewing library to call on for technique and lots of experts willing to help if I come up against a wall. 

You can look at Burda in two ways; they have awful instructions so you can't make them, or you can use their great drafting and style and figure out how to do it on your own and in the process become a better sewer.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bits and Pieces and the January Burda

The January Burda arrived in my mailbox yesterday and wow, this is the best issue in years! Even with the Carnival section taking up space  I marked 11, count them 11, patterns to sew!  It must be a record.  I, who never gravitate to vintage, love the retro section.  The plus size section is also fabulous without any of the shapeless crap they've been showing lately.  Really elegant with good fitting lines, which are so important to those of us with larger busts and bodies.  I fall between  regular sizing and plus so if the plus tops start at a 44 it's not too hard for me to cut down the upper body and on the bottom I am between a 46 and 48, so that's pretty good.  I am so excited.  Burda gives me few surprises in fitting, so I prefer sewing them to the big 4.
I have been busy making plans for 6 piece capsules wardrobes  and these fit right in.
Here are my choices.

I have a black and white wool  houndstooth for this. Can't you just see it with those shaped shoulder yokes  on the bias?

Not sure of fabric for this one. But i love the lines of this.  I can't say that I love Burda's fabric choices though.
I like this blouse, but the little print is certainly not me!
I have some gorgeous coating in my stash that would work for this one, but I doubt I'll get to it this year.   It's so hard to find coats that are a little different and this one fits the bill.
Here's the technical drawing for it.

Love the lines of this pencil skirt with the small godet at the hem.  Very nice.

Shorter this is perfect for some light weight sweater knits I have.  I know that there are a lot of these patterns out there and I own several of them, but I like this one the best.

I love the lines on this.  Unlike other similar patterns, it doesn't have bulk under the arm.  The neckline is good on me.  Just not in pink.
 Now for the plus sizes.  I know, this is a spanx kind of dress, but I love the lines of it and again, really good neckline for me. Here it is in a sleeveless top version of it.  If you make this one, make sure you raise the underarm which should be higher without sleeves and I doubt that Burda made that change.
Great pants.  I'll use my tnt pattern to make these work for me.
 I like this jacket too. I need some jackets that aren't 'suit' jackets and this  would make a good spring jacket to throw over pants or a skirt.

That's it.  A lot to sew, but I am excited by all of these.  They really fit my lifestyle and that's what I sew.  

I finished Alex's pants but never had time to get pictures.  When they get to Austin E. will take some pictures for me to post.  

I do have a long term project for Alex.  A wedding dress!  They are not 'officially' engaged yet and there is no date so I have plenty of time to get it done.  We did  pick a dress already though,  a Vogue pattern and she likes it as is, so no design changes.  I will make a muslin and fly her in for a fitting.  She says that she always pictured me making her wedding dress, which is really sweet.  Meanwhile she is meeting the in-laws. Her future mil took her shopping yesterday at Disney, so not Alex.   Anyway, she (mil) picked up a tiara in a shop and said won't this look wonderful with a veil?  Alex's comment was a succinct no.  Three times.  There will be no veil, and Alex in a tiara?  Not happening.  Ah well she will have to work it out. 

Back to sewing for me, my favorite person to sew for of course.  I  worked out the changes to that Burda coat pattern with help from Claire Kennedy's tutorial.  I left in the side seam and the front point, but her instructions were invaluable.  I'll need to sew it with my own instructions because the coat is made of loden, which doesn't ravel so they've lapped seams and it's only lined to the band.   I plan on using a button for mine with a bound buttonhole and putting in the front zipper as well as the sleeve zips, which Claire left out.  I am currently debating whether to make the sleeves out of that leather that Seth so nicely unpicked for me.  

Who's for leather sleeves?
Wool?  I will be interlining the whole thing in lambswool interlining for warmth.

Have a wonderful holiday.


Monday, December 6, 2010

Fitting Alex

Alex and I had our first fitting session yesterday and it went rather well.  She is 24 years old and 5'3" tall and quite thin though curvy. Not an once of fat on the girl!   When she was still in Korea I sent her links to several Burda pants patterns and this is the one she picked.
At 5'3" we won't make the cuffs and she has decided that she doesn't want the waist to be so high.  It's 1 1/2" above  the waist so I'll remove that much.  I cut a 36 at her waist and a 38 at her full hip.  I needed to take out the hip  and take in the waist, though I have to be careful not to over fit  the pants.   She figures now that she can eat bread again she'll gain back the 9 lbs she lost in Korea. She thinks she's too thin and she really is.   I took out the  seams which are there to facilitate shaping it above the waist.  Fabric is the last of the 130's wool and cashmere I had bought at Mood  for her for a 3 piece suit.  It's silky and gorgeous. Neither my dd or my dh, who read this, understood what 130's meant.  It's thread count and fine woolens start at about 100 and goes to 200 which is way more than I can afford! Mood carries fines suitings, which this certainly is.  I'm lining in stretch Bemberg rayon.  I noticed on Net a Porter that a pair of wool pants by Marc Jacobs without stretch had a stretch silk lining.  Pants linings often tear; they don't give and the usual advice to cut them a bit smaller than the outer pant is one of the reasons for this.  I sew the sas at 1/2" instead of 5/8" and just take a tuck at the darts and that helps them to stay in one piece. Stretch  should keep the lining  from tearing without sewing it larger.

Fitting issues in the pants:  Not a whole lot.  Far cry from fitting pants for myself!
They are too long, but that's to be expected.
The tightness in the full hip that I mentioned
The back below the rear end has some wrinkles pointing to the back crotch, so I pinned out about 1/4" here and then took out a little more, you can see it in the right hand picture, and gave her a little more room.  I repinned the side seams at the hip to give her back the room I took out at the center back.  I know that this sounds counter intuitive, but if you think about it, it's like making making the back crotch hook longer but it doesn't change the angle of the inseam which is a good thing. It works.  I got this from a series of fitting articles that Joyce Murphy wrote for Threads several years ago. If you've got old issues or the DVD they are worth looking at.
The pockets are gaping, but I think that this is more to do with the fact that I didn't tape the diagonal than any real issue with the fit.
You can see from the photos that I marked the grainline on the outside and this makes it easy to tell how the pants are falling and points to possible issues.  This is why I don't do wearable muslins!  An oxymoron if ever there was one. 
The grainline needs to be perpendicular to the floor, as does the side seam.  It's a little off here I think, but it's also a little loose as the waist. 

 clicking on the photo should enlarge them
If you change the side seam make sure that both the back and front outside seam are the same shape because if it isn't it will cause pulling.   It looks good when she is standing, but I don't like the excess fabric at the base of the zipper when she sits.  Alex says it's fine, but I'll bribe her with another quad shot vanilla latte and have her try them on again.   I  pinned out the crotch below the zipper to straighten out the front seam and this should reduce the excess fabric there.  Otherwise, they look pretty good and any other fine tuning I can do in the good stuff.

As well as making her pants I am going to alter the matching  jacket  I had sent her in Korea.  It's too boxy(she insisted on fitting this over layers and she would have put on more but I put my foot down)and I didn't like how the sleeves were hanging.  Seth to the rescue. He's the expert seam ripper in the family and   he undid the lining at the hems and took off the sleeves.  I pinned them back on and rotated until the wrinkles disappeared.  The skirt also needed some alteration.  It's high waisted and I put in a too short zipper.  I wanted to alter it when I made it for her, but she kept saying it's fine.  Well it is when she's this thin, but it's hard to get on when she isn't.  I forgot that you need to add the height above the waist to the normal 7" long zipper opening.  Seth took it out and I'll redo this as well.  Now that she's back in the States she'll need the interview suit that we had planned.  We are also going to make her a funky leopard pencil skirt with fabric from my stash.   
That should keep me busy for awhile. 

Saturday, December 4, 2010


When I sat and actually fit the skills that I want to learn to garment, well I didn't really want to make most of the garments; at least not right now.  I will keep the list at hand though, and work my way through the techniques if and when  I feel like it.

Right now I am making a  pants muslin for Alex.  I have never actually sewn pants for someone other than myself and hopefully her young, slim  well proportioned body will make it an easier project than fitting pants for myself has been.  Unfortunately she's still too jet lagged to actually have the patience to stand still during a fitting.  Under the best of circumstances she's not good at this, so I'll sew up the muslin and go on to something else in the mean time.

The muslin, two of them in fact, for my jacket are wadders.  I figured out the fitting issue I was having but I decided that the jacket was just not going to be flattering on me.  I have two possibilities at the moment but I am not sure I have enough fabric for the first one.  I love this Burda coat, 120 9/10 but couldn't figure out how to make it work for me.  The hip band isn't really suitable for my figure.  Then I saw Claire Kennedy's post on how she remade this pattern, eliminating the hip band.  I love it. But the way she eliminated the side seam may make it take more fabric than I have. 

That's the first possibility and this is the second.  This is the short version,  but there's a version that's actually a wrap with a lapel and v neck opening which I prefer.  Finding said coat on the French Burda website is not so easy and I was a tad lazy, so this is the one I've posted. 

 I've got some medium weight wool coating in black to make it in.  What do you think readers?

Sunday, November 28, 2010


I have done one SWAP and one wardrobe and not finished several others.  I also swore off entering any more contests, but this one on Stitcher's Guild is interesting.  There are the usual 11 pieces  but every top doesn't have to go with every bottom which can be very artificial at times.  Instead they have to constitute a collection, which is how I sew anyway.  The twist is that each piece that I sew has to have a technique that is either new to me or that I have not yet mastered.  Because that could be fairly time consuming 3 pieces can be purchased or sewn previously.  So, I only have to sew 8 pieces. Here are the wardrobe options:

Option #1:
6 tops  - t-shirts, shirts, blouses, or camisoles
4 bottoms - jeans, pants, shorts, skirts or kilts.
1 your choice (not an accessory)

Option #2:
2 dresses -single pieces consisting of top and bottom that can be worn alone.
6 tops  - t-shirts, shirts, blouses, or camisoles
2 bottoms - jeans, pants, shorts, skirts or kilts.
1 your choice (not an accessory)

Option #3:
5 dresses -single pieces consisting of top and bottom that can be worn alone.
4 tops  - t-shirts, shirts, blouses, or camisoles
1 bottom  - jeans, pants, shorts, skirt or kilt.
1 your choice (not an accessory)

3 garments may be purchased or previously sewn.
1 may be knitted or crocheted.

Now here's your twist:

Every garment should be made with a technique or feature that you haven't tried, or haven't mastered.  My personal Waterloo is zippers -hate 'em, because I have to take them out and redo them at least once, every time.  And there are several things I've sampled, but have never used on a garment -slotted seams, for one.

That doesn't mean every garment should have a zipper, if that's what you have trouble with.  But at least one should.  And if you never mastered buttonholes, at least one garment should have one.  If you've never made a flat-felled seam, now's the time. Smiley

Because this will be more challenging, I'm allowing one more garment to be purchased so that everyone can be pretty sure to finish in time.  I know last year was more fussy, but this year will be more apt to have pieces that need to be redone, or may even cause a wadder or two.  So to offset that, the total number of garments to be made is one less.

Ordinarily I would be drawn to the first option.  I usually sew tops and bottoms, but I have been wanting to sew some more dresses lately.  My summer dresses were fun to wear and comfortable. So option two sounds like a possibility.   I'd make a jacket or cardigan that can go over most of it, though in this contest it wouldn't have to match everything.  

Now for the new or not mastered techniques. this is the list I've come up with so far.
Blouse with collar and stand
jeans with a flat felled seam
learning how to finally  bind a neckline with my coverstitch binders.
channel quilting
slotted seams
leather binding on a sweater
couture pants ala Claire Schaeffer
Facing to the outside
Neckline placket for a blouse
Spanish snap buttonholes
Combining leather and fabric, though I don't know if this one would count

What techniques do you want to master?  I feel like I've gotten lazy lately with my sewing; only doing fairly easy things and not pushing myself.  The question is, do I want to learn several different techniques, or work on some of the larger projects I've had planned, like my trenchcoat.  I really keep putting off doing this.  I haven't even traced the pattern out yet.  Do I need 11 new garments in my wardrobe, or do I need a trenchcoat, because lets face  it the trench is  a big project. 


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Latest Pants Finished

Now that I have a good tnt pants pattern to work from sewing a pair of pants is a pretty simple thing.  I don't have to play with fit so I've been concentrating on finish.  I sew a simple pair of pants without details at the hip or waist.  With my full high hip and pear shaped figure I don't want to add any bulk to that area, hence simple pants.  What I have been working on is getting the inside to look nicer.  I don't sew a zipper facing.  I don't like the bulk.  I do like using petersham to face my waistbands.  Especially in wool it's is very comfortable.  I interface the outer band with fusible weft leaving it out of the seam allowances which gives a firm straight edge to press the top seam allowance down. when I press under the outer edge  and it  helps line up the petersham as well.  The fabric is a wool and lycra houndstooth from Mood. 

You'll notice that the waistband is extended with the end turned back so that that edge will be finished.  I've lined up the petersham, which is 2" wide, just below the pressed fold.  Both ends of the waistband are extended so that the seam is not at the end of the band.  This gives a flatter, crisper finish.  It's best to make sure that the underlap side is a bit shallower than the overlap so that it is covered when you fasten the pants.  There are several different construction orders for sewing pants, but my order is as follows:
Sew darts and fly front.  Then I sew the inseam and baste the rest of the center back.  I pin the outseams and try it on with some 1" elastic.  I'd be better off having a muslin waistband to baste on, which I plan on making up to have in the studio.  After adjusting the fit (every fabric seems to fit a bit differently) I undo the back basting and sew up the side seams.  I apply the waistband in two pieces sewing the outer band to my pants.  Then I apply the petersham.  I sew the centerback next from the previous sttiching to the top of the unfolded petersham.  I fold it down and stitch in the ditch.. Sew on hooks and hem.  Done.
I actually finished these a couple of weeks ago and have been wearing them quite a bit.  They are  comfortable as well as a being a good fit.  Of course, isn't that part of fitting well?

I have to give credit to Lindsay for her instructions on how to photograph your clothing on the  flat.  I didn't drop out the outside though.  To lazy to spend the time in Photoshop.  I used a roll of white paper and laid it out under the skylight in my sewing room, a footstool placed me high enough above the pants.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Learning to Sew

It's been a long time since I first started sewing.  I relied on  patterns for teaching me to sew at first.  I had some advice from my grandmother, but she had stopped sewing long ago and she didn't really teach me to sew.  I do remember her showing me how to lay out a pattern and she gave me her Singer to use, but other than that?  I pretty much learned how to sew on my own.  My mother didn't sew and no one I knew sewed.   I don't remember why I wanted to learn to sew  but I did while neither of my sisters sew.  
My first and only sewing mentor was my neighbor  at the  first house we owned after I got married.  She sewed everything including suits for her 3 sons.  She showed me how to do a lot and gave me  a copy of the  Vogue Sewing book, my first sewing book which is not only still on my shelf but I still use it occasionally.   I taught myself how to hand tailor a jacket with that book.  Nothing was too difficult; I'd try anything, especially  if it was a Vogue designer pattern.  When my son was about 3 I heard about a store up in St James that not only carried fabulous fabrics, but the owner gave French Couture sewing lessons.  Maybe not so couture, but it was the first time I had real instruction from a really accomplished seamstress.  I learned a lot.  Over the years I've built a library of sewing books that I can look to to figure out how to do almost anything.  I love books and long before the internet I learned how to  find  out how to sew just about anything I wanted,  Which brings me to the point of this post.  I willingly give a lot of my time and knowledge to  people on PR, whether it is my fitting opinions or how to sew something.  Lately I've gotten a bit less willing to share.  No I will not come and do an fba for you in your home.   I don't have anyone to help me pin either, though I will confess that my dh will mark  a hem for me.  I am willing to give of my time, stop being so negative!  It's not magic, just work and perseverance.  You have to put the time in to get the benefits just like any other skill.  A lot of hours and repetition  go into learning how to sew.  There is no easy way.  
Ok, end of rant. 
Have a lovely Thanksgiving everyone.  We will be blessed to share Jakob's first Thanksgiving. I am counting the hours.

Monday, November 8, 2010

New Outfit

Finally, my latest outfit is done. I've been working on planning and sewing groups of garments instead of just pieces.  Here I've sewn  a long sleeved simple t , pants and a  cardigan to pull it together.  The pants are a tweed of an unknown blend from Marcy Tilton.  I think  it has at least a bit of wool after getting a whiff of burnt hair during my burn test.  They are  my tnt pattern using a straight waistband that I shaped to ease it over my full high hip.  I also split it at the back and faced it with 2" wide Petersham ribbon as per David Coffin's pants book.  The Petersham is shaped as well,  as I am doing below  in  the pants I am working on now.

In Lynn MacIntyre's book Easy Guide to Sewing Pants, one of Taunton Press's Easy Guide series, she says to place your waist seam half the width of your waistband below the waist.  In figure like mine with a full high hip this steaming and shaping really helps it fit over my hip smoothly.   I wish that she had had this fabric in other colors because I've been living in them ever since I finished them.  They don't wrinkle much and they are so soft, warm and comfortable.
Both the t and the cardigan are drafted  from my Vogue 8151 tnt t shirt.  The  long sleeved t is in a luscious wool and rayon knit that I picked up at one of my recent visits to Elliot Berman.   The cardigan is a cotton sweater knit from Emmaonesock and it's trimmed in some leftover wool jersey.  I don't love this fabric.  It's a bit flimsy but I do like how it looks with the top and tweedy black pant.
I used to sew my 'good' clothing and then I'd never have anything to wear for everyday.  Now I plan and sew my everyday clothing as mini wardrobes and I have lots to wear for my real life.

Right now I am making another pair of wool pants as it's turned rather cool and damp and I like being warm!  They are   wool in a mini houndstooth bought when Sigrid was here, in fact we both bought the same fabric at Mood.  I had seen a Ralph Lauren ad with a mini houndstooth pair of pants and a larger houndstooth sweater, rather like  the sweater above so I'll wear the cardigan with these pants too.

Storing that fabulous and wide interfacing from Sew Exciting.
I've been buying interfacing from Pam Enry in 3 or 5 yd pieces and at  60" wide,  a challenge  to keep unwrinkled as I unfold , cut a piece and refold it .  Seth, that champion scrounger, came to my rescue.  He  had lengths of plastic pipe about 1 1/2" in diameter and he cut them to fit my interfacing.  I can unwind what I need and neatly re roll it after wards.  I also taped Pam's labels to the end of each roll. Now I actually know what interfacing I am using.  How cool is that?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


If the people around me could hear my thoughts  'what a bitch' would sound out loud and clear.
I go to Starbucks, the grocery store wherever, I look at what women and men are wearing and how they are wearing it. Maybe it's leftover from my pants fitting  journey, but I look at what people are wearing  and I make judgments.  Silently of course unless I am with someone and then I'll comment out loud.   Guys, you look really tacky in muscle shirts.  Both women and men, dirty flip flops are not  attractive at all.  I don't like flip flops really at all but dirty, falling apart?  Get a pair of shoes!  Ill fitting clothing abounds and mom jeans, well there are a lot of those out there.  Women, these are not flattering!  Too short, too tapered and wear them with sneakers?  Bad.    Ill fitting t shirts are another biggy that I see.  Especially on older women and they often have awful designs printed on the front.  Men seem to like the advertisement t shirt.  It doesn't fit them well either.  It's also ugly.  When I see a well dressed man or woman, well what a treat.  At Starbucks on Saturday I saw a man wearing a nice long sleeved knit shirt and great fitting pants.  Nice shoes too.   One in a sea of  badly dressed men.  I did see a couple of women who looked good.  Clothing fit, shoes or boots were clean and polished and not worn down at the heel.  Nice haircut and light makeup.  They looked good without a lot of effort.  It doesn't really take all that much time to look good.  You don't have to spend  a lot of money either.  
It used to be that if you were a feminist you weren't supposed to care about clothing or how you looked,  but to me it says  that you lack self esteem.  It is particularly prevalent in older women.  Hey, just because we are past menopause doesn't mean we can't look good and feel good about ourselves.  I really think that these things go hand in hand.  You have gained some weight?  Baggy clothing doesn't hide it.  You are still worth it.  You can still look and feel good about yourself.  I turned  60 this year and you know what?  I like myself a lot better than I did at 20.  I enjoy dressing well, putting on makeup and having a great haircut.  It's not what I wore at 20, thank goodness, but I look good for the woman I am now.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I am and what a pleasure it is.  I am even keeping it cleaner, though how long that will last is debatable.  I finished a pair of trousers, in fact I am wearing them as I speak.  No pictures yet, because lets face it, they are the same as the last 3 pairs I made.  When I finish the rest of the outfit I'll post a picture.  Actually, they are a little different in that I used David Page Coffin's book, Making Trousers for the waist treatment.  I've just been sewing straight waistbands and using the usual hand sewn hook and bar.  They actually look very nice having learned to use a buttonhole stitch for sewing them on and a waste knot so that they are very neat, but Coffin recommends the non sewing type and I bought some.  I am not in love with them. I think that they make the overlap thicker than when I use the sewn on type.  I used his method of facing the band with petersham ribbon and pressing open the waist seam so everything is thinner and flatter.  It also has a split back band which is best if you ever need to adjust it.  You need to use 2" wide petersham which is not widely available.  I found mine at Pacific Trimmings in NYC,  but it's not on their website and they don't do well with phone orders.  The other place to find it is Judith M a milliner's site.  Theirs is a cotton and rayon mix which shrinks up as you watch when you put some steam to it, so buy extra.  This is the one Coffin recommends and its stiffer than the all rayon ribbon from Pacific Trimmings.  If you are a woman and using this technique, especially if like me, your hips curve out right below the waist, you have to steam and stretch the outer edge so that you have the extra room for your hips.   There are other waist band treatments in his book that call for lining instead and I may try that on the bias next pair.

I don't usually make a fly shield when I sew pants, but I made one for this pair and then ripped it out.  It's just too thick for my taste, even made with one fabric piece and one lining.  The fabric  I used, a wool blend tweed is maybe a little thick for this.  I think I'll stick to leaving them out unless I am making jeans, if I ever get to them!
Next up the knit top to go with these and then the cardigan.

Alex is coming home from Korea  December 2 and I am counting  the days.  We both really miss her but she won't be living here again.  She'll be with us for about 2 weeks and then we will drive down to Roanoke so that she can finally meet her nephew and meet up with her boyfriend.  Then it's off to Austin for them where she will be living.  She is dreaming(literally) of the brick oven Italian bread from the local Italian food store because it doesn't have milk in it(it's also fabulous bread that gets trucked out from Brooklyn 7 days a week) Bagels are on her list too and she wants a bagel and lox waiting for her at the airport.  I'm sure that her father will be happy to oblige her.

I haven't posted a picture of Jakob in a while and he's 9 months old already, can you believe it?  I am counting the days until we see him again too. He and his parents are coming for Thanksgiving.  Seth even found a high chair at a garage sale for Jake.

He's got 4 teeth now and loves feeding himself, especially if it's from Mommy's plate.  Of course I think that he's the most gorgeous baby.  Edited: Apparently I've lost count as he is now 10 months old.  He'll be walking before we know it.  He lets go when standing, so far he still lands on his bottom.

Monday, October 18, 2010

How I Spent My Weekend

Sewing room before move
Edited 10/19.  I removed the captions so that the photos would enlarge and lost some of the text in the process.  I added some photos and rewrote the text.  But, why blogger if you use the caption function do the photos no longer enlarge!?  PITA!!  Well this was only partly successful and I give up.  I will never use the caption feature again.
 Not sewing that's for sure.  Last week I moved everything in my studio and sewing room around on paper and this weekend we did it for real.  I switched places, sewing space/room  now all in the studio and studio all in  the sewing space.  I say space and not room because it's all connected in a loft that surrounds and overlooks my dining and living room.  This is what my spaces looked like before, also before I acquired two vintage machines to add to the  crowded feeling.  I moved the computer to the sewing room even though I use it for work but I was able to fit the printers on a bookcase at the back and free up space on my desk.  The eaves really restricted the height of anything that I put on the end of my desk before.

This was how the studio looked before.  I rarely  used the second drafting table, it just became a dumping ground for pattern pieces and my main work space,  Now it's the  base for my ironing station.  The drafting table on the left and my reference books behind made me feel like I was crowded into a tight space and the sewing room  felt the same way.  Considering how much room I actually have it was in serious need of rearranging.

 Studio after move

My sewing counter and ironing station to the right.
Looking from my sewing side towards the cutting table.  The ironing station and my gravity feed iron are in the foreground.  All of my pressing tools are now easily seen and right at hand.  I have had my pressing ham and seam roll for 30 years at least.

 Looking into the sewing room from my studio

You can see the flat files that I use for my work drawings and for storing paper on the far side.  Just visible to the right of them are the bank of file cabinets that I use to store my patterns and Burda magazine patterns sheets.  They are stored by year in folders and the magazines are on top in holders by year.  You can see it below.  Alex, see how organized I am. 
I display fabric I want to use in the current season on top of the bookcases next to my cutting table. Yeah, like I am really going to sew everything here this fall.  I can always dream.  But, seriously it's good to have it displayed so that I remember what I have that I'd like to use.  I am cutting out a black tweed cotton blend for pants and a cardigan and top next.  Easy sewing where I don't have to stand too long.  My foot is still bothering me unfortunately, but it is getting better.

There are still bits and pieces to put away but it's usable.  The sewing counter, ironing table and my cutting table all have clear surfaces.  I worked in my studio today and it's really a pleasure not to feel cramped.  I have lots of clear surfaces to lay out photographs and catalogs.  Heavenly to have so much space.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Strange Midi Revival

Some years ago and I don't remember exactly when but it was probably at least 20 years or more  ago, designers decided that the maxi skirt/dress was the thing that women should be wearing.  It was a retail disaster.  Women were not interested.  Apparently this is the year that women are going to love it and make it a  retail success.  I regularly troll the retail sites for rtw inspiration and I am on Shop Bop's website mailing list. Yesterday I got an email featuring this maxi look.  Anywhere I go needs a car and I can't imagine getting in and out of the car in this look.
Admittedly I am not the target customer for Shop Bop and street pictures have shown hip young things in this look for summer, but even the Sartorialist didn't photograph very many of them in this look.  It's cute for a long summer dress but are you wearing this for work?  Going up and down subway stairs in this look, with packages?   Some of these are so long that they drag on city streets.  Of course that may be because the HYT can't hem a skirt.  Some of the looks offered look more like evening to me which is a major change from the the short, tight exposed look that's been the norm of late. 
Judge for yourself Shop Bop
Would you wear this look in any of it's incarnations?  The one pictured  is not necessarily a 'young' look.  There is no exposed skin but is this flattering on anyone larger than a size 2 and shorter than 5'10"?  Or older than 25?  I might wear the longer skirt for going out to dinner or at home entertaining, but every day?  Not happening.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Do You Know Any Sewers in Person?

Melissa of Cheap and Picky  commented on my  Meeting Melissa post that she doesn't know anyone in person who sews, but like me she has made lots of friends on the internet who sew.  I know exactly one person here on the island who sews garments, but she isn't exactly next door and we've actually only met in NYC and not out here.  But, how did I meet her?  Through her blog.  I am lucky in the sense that I live near enough to a fabric mecca  that lots of people pass through and because I work for myself I can usually schedule a visit to the city.  It's so much fun to be able to talk sewing and fabric without anyone's eyes glazing over.  Lindsay T wrote that she is mentoring a new sewer.  I'd love to do that.  It would be  wonderful to pass on my  love of sewing to a new sewer.  Of course I am talking garment sewing.  No quilting or home dec sewing is going on here!

On the sewing front can you believe I'm still cleaning up and putting away patterns? In my defense I have had a busy work week  and I can only stand for limited amounts of time because of my foot.  I really let the patterns get out of hand. I had hung  a lot of them up and since  they are mostly Burda I have to make up envelopes with sketches of what they are before I can put them away.  Then I got the bright idea that I should switch my sewing  area with  my work studio.  It's much larger and I am taking up half of it already with my cutting table and filing cabinets and the top of my second drafting table.  My new vintage sewing machines are making the sewing room/space really cramped.   This entails not only cleaning up all surfaces but making a scale drawing.  Seth will not move any furniture ever without a detailed drawing.  Seems a small price to pay for free help.  But I am itching to sew and I keep telling myself that I can't until it's all cleaned up.   So, off to finish cleaning.  I probably won't  exchange spaces until the fall season is over and I have more time though, so I'll get some sewing in before that.
Have a great week.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Burda Style

Over on Burda Style they are featuring 4 Burda magazine patterns for those who want an edgy piece to add to their wardrobe. However click on the patterns and the website is temporarily out of order and under construction.  Dare we hope that we might find both the patterns that they've chosen to offer as down loads,  and an index or preview of Burda Style magazine or even the envelope patterns.  They've got a picture of a summer issue with a blurb about the magazine.. They don't even call it  Burda World of Fashion, but go back to the name of years ago,  Burda Mode.  Or is this the name of the German edition?  They do say that it is published in 99 countries in 16 languages which is pretty impressive. But considering that English has become the global language according to an article in the Times a couple of months back, we are certainly not being given our due.  I know, chauvinism here, but it really has screwed up all the Burda reviews on PR.  Lately the French site's link gets you an error message.  They are trying to make it very difficult to remain a loyal subscriber.

With all the encouragement I've been getting, I need to get working on my trench coat.  I really have to talk myself into starting this as there are umpteen pieces. I haven't counted as that would be somewhat discouraging.  It's not that I  can't do it, it's just such a big undertaking and I need to psyche myself up for it.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


On Friday I took the train into NYC to meet Melissa Fehr of Fehrtrade a great sewing blog.  She and her husband James were spending the last part of their honeymoon in NYC and she scheduled a day for fabric shopping.  We met at Global Leather and that is definitely a place worth visiting, but like many shops in the garment district it is only open Monday -Friday.  I wish I'd thought to take my camera out because they have a huge selection.  She bought enough for 4 projects and knowing Melissa they'll be done sooner than later and you'll get to see them on her blog.
This is the only picture I took.  We were rather wet and bedraggled as it poured off and on for most of the day.

Lindsay T joined us for lunch and then a trip up the street to Botani Buttons.  They've expanded lately, in fact they are still a work in progress.  They've added an Italian line of zippers and their trim section is going to be huge when they finish.  They also have the largest and maybe the best handbag findings I've seen.  Want to make a frame bag?  I've never seen a larger selection.  Quite amazing.  Melissa bought some findings for the leather bags she has planned.  She also bought all the  details she needed for her trench coat.  I finally have everything I need for my trench coat so no more excuses!  I bought buttons with a gunmetal edge and a matching buckle and eyelets. By the time we got to Mood she had pretty much spent her budget but she did find a wonderful trench gabardine.  On our way to the train we returned to  Bottani to buy her findings and buttons for her trenchcoat.

I am still cleaning up my studio and putting away patterns.  What a mess I let it get to be! I am not a naturally neat person, but I can't stand working in chaos so I really have to work at putting things away.  I do have places for everything so I don't have to work on that as well.
But, next up is tracing my trench coat and wool jacket and making muslins for both.
My foot is still bothering me and so I am taking frequent stretching and icing breaks.  
Sewing will not be going on until I get everything cleaned up.  I have enough work that I really need to get my second drafting table cleaned of patterns so I can put some work on it!
Edited:  A comment asked what I am using for my trench.  A few years ago, and it's going on 3 years I think, Michael's Fabrics in Baltimore had real Burberry laminated raincoat fabric.  There's a waterproof layer between the outside cotton twill, black btw, and the striped wrong side, also cotton.  I have a rayon lining also bought from Michael's that's from Burberry, not their plaid, but a stripe in their colors.  I also bought red wool and cashmere for the button out lining, from Banksville Designer Fabrics,  which I am binding in ready made cotton binding.  Ann Rowley who has a Burberry raincoat was kind enough to photograph the details a few years ago.  I am, as you know making a single breasted coat because it's more flattering for me as is the lapel neckline.  I was getting ready to combine patterns when I found the  LMB trench pattern.  Melissa bought some water resistant twill for her trench when we were at Mood and they poured some water on it to make sure that it was water resistant, which is not a bad idea when you buy your fabric. 

Monday, October 4, 2010


Burda Style has teamed up with Mood Fabric to offer a 30% discount for fashion fabrics ordered online from Mood's updated website.  I got an e mail from Burda Style  this morning addressed to members, but  it did say to pass it on to your friends, so I'm passing it on to my readers.  Just enter the code burdastyle30 at the appropriate place at checkout.  Burda Style says that Moods online site encompasses their stores inventory.  No, not even close!  But, something I saw in the store on Friday but didn't want to pay full price for made it's way into my virtual shopping cart, and no I'm not telling what I bought..  No scolding Alex!  Not all the fashion fabrics are covered as I discovered when I added some stretch silk charmeuse to the cart and it didn't deduct the discount.  Fabrics starting with the code PV aren't covered by the discount.  Ah well, I can always get it anytime. 
Have fun!  It's a good deal.  Oh, it's good til October 6th.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Recently I came across  A Sewn Wardrobe, the blog of a  beginning sewer.  She had set a goal for herself almost a year ago to sew everything she wears.  It's an admirable goal and as she found out, not that easy to accomplish because it takes time to make clothing. A lot of time.  She did end up buying  some sweaters and a coat during the year but otherwise, she wore what she sewed. ( I assume she wore things that she already owned that were rtw, but I haven't been following her blog long enough to know for sure).  For a beginner coats are probably fairly daunting and definitely time consuming.  I haven't done it as a formal goal per se,  but recently  I realized  that I do actually sew all my clothing now. If you want to only wear what you  make yourself,  the one thing that has to change is the size  of your wardrobe. You just can't make as many things as you can buy.  For me that isn't a problem.  I am not interested in having a huge wardrobe.  The only things I buy are underwear and sweaters, and I sew some of those too with sweater knits or wool knits. As A Sewn Wardrobe found out it doesn't save you money to sew everything you  wear, especially not if you are  buying your clothing at places like H & M or other stores of that ilk.  I don't sew to save money, I sew because I love to sew and because I am picky about fit and off the rack clothing just doesn't fit me all that well.  The clothing I love and use as inspiration are high end rtw that I could never afford to buy anyway.  So do I save money?   Not on t shirts for sure,  but there are some things that do save you money if you sew it yourself.  Even if I were to add in the cost of my time. Coats are expensive to buy and  using  high quality fabrics and silk for linings I do spend less than something made with  equivalent materials would cost.  But, lets face it, saving money means putting it in the bank and I certainly can't say that sewing has made my bank account grow!  There is a current thread on Pattern Review on whether sewing saves you money and honestly, I never ask this question because it isn't the reason I sew and it never has been.

A question, or several for you.  How much of your wardrobe do you sew?   Would you like to sew everything you wear or is it even within the realm of possibility for you?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

October Burda

It must be a record; the October Burda Style was waiting in my post office box yesterday.   So far the only site where you can see the full issue is  the Russian site.  The German has limited previews and the French site doesn't even have the cover up.  No matter, at least I can link to the patterns there.
I know, this sounds like a bitchy rant against Burda yet again, but no, I love this issue.  In fact the last couple have been great.  There are fewer weird crafts and the home dec is even interesting and if you are into home dec, which you'd have to drag me kicking and screaming to sew,  you might even like and want to make some of this.    Of course the hiking badge thing is bizarre.  Any German readers, do people really wear things like this when they go hiking? My dd hikes and I can't imagine her wearing something like this.  It also seems that it would get caught in the straps of her back pack.
I liked the lace overlay piece but the necklaces were kind of lame and amateurish .  Has anyone made any of the necklaces they've featured in the last year?
This is minor, the reason I buy Burda and keep renewing my subscription is  of course for the patterns and there are lots here that I like and several that would fit both my lifestyle and my body.
I found the trenchcoat I was looking for in La Mia Boutique, but I've been looking for a transitional jacket  for fall.  Last month's jacket that I liked wasn't flattering, so  that's out.  But this one looks like it might be a winner.  It has shoulder princess seams, good for my DD cup bust.  It has a wide shawl collar, but not too wide so that I can actually carry a shoulder bag without it falling off my narrow shoulders, and shoulder pads, both good to widen my narrow shoulders and best, I like it.

This leather jacket is  in the plus sizes, #138.  I love it. 

I love this dress too, though whether I'd make and wear it is questionable.  It's not a sit at my drafting table kind of dress and sadly we don't go out much these days.  I love the leather inserts.  It's in the tall section, and  that raised neckline isn't for my short neck, but that can be changed.  I love the leather inserts and the exposed zippers.  Re exposed zippers, you know I love Riri zippers, and I think I mentioned that Pacific Trimmings had expanded their display and their inventory.  They took up a whole wall and more with them.  Instead of being stuck in bins in basically a dark cave like area in the back they are now  front and center.  They are not the only ones who've expanded their luxury zipper stock.  Lindsay T emailed me with the information that Bottani Buttons has added an Italian brand of fancy zippers,  Lampo zippers,  When I googled them it turns out that Balenciaga uses these in their handbags. Cool.  I need buttons for my trench coat and since I'll be in the city next week on a weekday when all of the notions stores are open, I'll pay them a visit.

On the bizarre front are these pants.  They are stretch pants with leather or faux leather legs. 

They do show the top of them  hidden, so I suppose it's to make these comfortable?  The top is a pattern too, but I don't love this one or even like it.  It's basically a rectangle with holes for neck and arms.
They've  brought back designer patterns with a big name, Karl Lagerfeld.  They are too young for me, but I can see the skirt on my dd only longer.  Like old times they've got an interview with him.  Not a particularly good one but still, it's a start. 
 There is also  the Sewing Academy, with  a well illustrated  lesson on sewing a tailored collar and lapels.  

The other thing they've started, they did it in September too, but I didn't notice it until now, is that instead of that one pattern 4 looks they've started showing current patterns combined with older patterns, all of which are available for download on the German site.   I don't know if these are also going to be available on the English, Burdastyle.com.   

Do you think that all our complaints have actually been heard?   Now if only they'd bring back a real English website. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Pants, Hopefully the Last Installment

This is a pile of my fitting books, including the binder on top of old Threads articles.  Not even all of them because I stopped clipping them years ago when I realized I often wanted the article on the other side.  

It seems that pants fitting has consumed my life for years. Of course I made other garments, but what I thought about most was fitting pants, looking at pants, obsessing about pants.   Now, hopefully I can move on to other, more interesting projects.  Not that I won't make pants, but I won't be blogging about them.   Unless I make some other pattern, but this one has had it's day.  I can endlessly tweak it, but that isn't interesting enough to talk about.  Jeans are actually in my future, but that's for another day.

Readers thought that the gray pants were my altered pair. They are not.  They aren't bad, but they had annoying issues.  Because they are from a drapey fabric it just isn't as obvious.  Soft fabric softens all the wrinkles while a stiffer fabric is much more unforgiving and shows everything
With Claire's help I dealt with the last of the annoying little issues and they really weren't all that big, but I got really obsessive here!

The first pair is a brown tweed with no stretch and the second pair is black twill, also no stretch, both from sales at Michael's.  These are much less forgiving fabrics than my light gray linen and lycra.  The first pair is  pretty perfect.  In the second I decided to narrow the knee another 1/2", which is a total of 2".  Too much for my tilted pelvis.  I could remove more room above back crotch, but I'd also like to sit down.  So, while I like how these look in front, if I want to make narrower knees I either need to accept the wrinkles in back or make them wider.  It's a trade off.  I finished a pair of gray cotton with lycra pants yesterday. I have to say that I am beginning to prefer pants without lycra.  They don't stretch out and bag in the rear end.  They don't have to be sewn so tight that they show lumps and bumps before they stretch out.  I wore the pants.  I let out the side seams to get rid of the bumps.  They were perfect.  I wore them and by the time I went to bed they were too big.  We're not talking a whole day here.  I finished them at 5 pm and put them on.  Again, if they were a soft, drapey pair of pants they would still look good, but not in their stiffer, cottony drape. Sure I could only make pants out of drapey material, but I  need sturdy pants for work.  I guess I'll take them in and just let them be tight until they stretch out.  See what I mean about being obsessed?

Moving on:

I'll be sewing at least 4 tops to go with my new pants.  That will be my transitional wardrobe.  The new Aphrodite top from Hot Patterns and Burda's double top are in the mix.  As well as a cardigan and tank top from my tnt t shirt.  Another top, yet to be determined will also be in there. 
Here are the fabrics that are up for consideration.

 This is an open novelty knit, from Emmaonessock,  for the outer layer of the Burda top and the plain white cotton knit is for the inner.  I am going to reverse the necklines so that the openwork shows at the neck, and like several people I am not going to sew them together at the bottom.  Not a good look for wide hips.

This combination if for the tank and cardigan. The right piece is a cotton sweater knit from Emmaonesock for the cardigan and the gray is a piece of double knit also from EOS which was in a double knit bundle.

The right hand piece is a light weight rayon knit from Metro bought on  PR day,  and it will be for a maybe wearable muslin for the Aphrodite top.  The left rayon knit is from Emmaonesock and is up for contention for the fourth top.
 The bottom two are also from Emmaonesock and they are in contention for tops too.  Both  are in my favorite print, animal.