Sunday, January 31, 2010


 Vogue 8639

Most of us acknowledge that Burda Style, formally know as Burda World of Fashion has poor
instructions.  Sometimes they are fine and sometimes, like the tailored jacket I'm making for Alex, they are laughable.  if I need help I go to my sewing library, which is fairly extensive, or my collection of Threads articles, which is also pretty extensive.
I learned to sew with Vogue patterns.  Before I ever bought a sewing book I relied on their instructions. I always expect more from them and they seldom come through these days especially with their Very Easy Vogue patterns.   I shopped the latest Vogue sale with Sigrid's list, among them Very Easy Vogue 8639.  I decided to buy it to try their new Custom Fit for  ABCD cup sizes. Sewn as per their instructions and  you are guaranteed to get that loving hands at home look which is my major complaint about  these patterns.  You expect them to be fast as well as easy.  After all there are few details and they are pretty simple designs.  But, with all the handwork in the instructions, this isn't fast or easy, certainly not for the beginner who is probably not very adept at hand sewing yet but is attracted to these patterns because they are 'Easy' Nor is it  durable.  A shirt designed to be thrown in the washing machines should be  able to hold up to multiple washings and some abuse.  Hand sewing just isn't meant for that.  This shirt has a yoke that can be entirely sewn by machine but not according to Vogue.  It's not hard to do, just a little different and every sewing expert has a method for sewing it on entirely by machine.  But, my favorite instructions in this pattern are for hemming. "Turn facing to inside.  Make 5/8" narrow hem at lower edge, folding in fullness at corners"  Right.  Can't they show how to sew a mitered corner  here?  It's not hard and is much more professional and actually much easier.  On top of which, this hem will show from the front when you wear this top so a well finished interior is a must.  Connie Long, in her Easy Guide to Sewing Blouses has a well illustrated and simple method for constructing a yoked blouse that will be durable and professional looking. 
I will make this shirt in a light weight, white linen from  my stash and you can be assured that I won't make it with Vogue's instructions.  I'll also add some buttonholes.  I don't like the off centered button placement with loops.
I like to read instructions and plan out my garment before I ever get to the cutting out stage.  As you can see, with even a simple garment like this different  construction methods will assure a much better outcome.  One I will even wear. 

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Look what the mail brought me!  The January and February  Knipmode magazines are courtesy of Sigrid.   I'm heading over to Joann's today for the Vogue sale to get her some patterns in exchange.  There are some interesting pieces that will be making my sewing list.  The other is the new spring summer Burda Plus.  When the sizes start at a 44 I can easily grade them down for the upper body.  There are a couple of things in here as well that I may be sewing.   I need to grade down and lengthen because the ones I like are petite sizes.  I haven't done this before, but I don't envision that it will be hard.  Of course there is never enough time to sew everything I want to.


The latest weather report has the temperature dropping into the low 20's by Saturday. Just in time I've finished my wool pants.  Black and white in a bold twill weave.  This is the first pair of lined pants that I've made in years and I am happy with them.  I think that I need to add a touch more length on my ride side.  I still have a bit of a diagonal wrinkle on that side.  Which also means I'll have to remove the same amount on the left side. Not the end of the world certainly, but perfection is nice occasionally and seemingly within reach.   Recently Sigrid wrote a post about her offsetting the end seams of the waistband to give a really flat, bulk free finish to the ends of  a waistband.  I didn't get it quite right last pair, but these are perfection and it will be my regular method from now on.  Judy Burlap has published several articles in Threads on reducing bulk by offsetting seams in different ways.  I've used her miter method for sleeve vents and it is a thing of beauty.  If you've bought that Threads DVD her methods are yours to try.  The current issue of Threads has another of her articles on tailoring, lapels  and collars in particular and she makes it easy to get a really professional finish.   I'll post a picture of me in my pants later.  

The Selfish Seamstress left a comment on my last pants post.  She has a tnt pants pattern but each pair she sews still fits a bit differently, sometimes fitting perfectly, sometimes pinching.  Every fabric has a different fit unfortunately  I get around this by pin fitting every pair of pants.  I also like to have cut my crotch depth a bit on the short side and I sew it lower  to fit, 1/4" at a time during sewing.  Think of this process as  trying on countless pairs of rtw pants in a store.  Not all pairs of pants even in the same brand, will fit you the same way.   If your fabric has  lycra  you'll want to  fit them really close, tight even, other wise by the end of the day they'll be falling off!

Have you been wondering what happened to my Tory Burch knockoff with nailheads?  A disaster.   I couldn't get the nailheads to stay on the sweater and in the process of falling off they left holes behind.  I have enough fabric left to cut another front and my dh was kind enough to take it apart at the shoulders for me.  I need to cut another front and I think that I'll just make a wide neckband on a wide scoop neck.  I also promised my dd that I'd finish her jacket.  It's hanging on the outside of my fabric closet staring me in the face when I walk by it ont he way to my machines and my studio every day. 

  It's cute, it fits her and she'll stop complaining that  I haven't finished it..  I'm really bad at sewing for others.  My dh keeps making noises too. He'd like a sport coat.  The only sewing I've done for him in 37 years of marriage is hemming pants and assorted repairs.  My excuse is that I can never find a pattern that I like.   I found one.  The peaked lapel sport coat  in the January issue of Knipmode is perfect.   Back burner for now, but he really deserves it.  Maybe a Chanukah present.  That certainly gives me plenty of time.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Kudos to Vogue for a great new website design.  There are multiple views of the new patterns and it loads quickly and is easy to navigate.  The only thing that they need to tune up is the Marfy patterns.  At least half of the ones I looked at yesterday had no pattern descriptions or yardage amounts. 

Unfortunately the web design is better than the patterns.  Don't get me wrong, there are some really pretty dresses here and that's the problem.  This one from  Anna Sui is cute and girly.

As is this one from Rebecca Taylor.

This is the other offering from Rebecca Taylor.  That's a lot of skin to wear to work.
None of these are what I'd call work friendly.  If you want to be taken seriously you won't wear any of these to work.   I guess I see most of these as garden wedding wear.  I don't see a lot of women wearing things like this around town, that's for sure. To my mind most of these are pieces that if made won't get a lot of wear.   I wore my Botega Veneta knock off to dinner at a really nice restaurant on Mother's day and I felt really overdressed.  I do love this Donna Karan dress and I think that this would work under a jacket.  It's not too exposed, except maybe the back armhole.

The more casual stuff is just too boring to even talk about.  Boring and badly proportioned.
But, hey, maybe I'm wrong.  After all I don't work in an office.  Where would you wear these clothes?  Do you feel  like I do that there's a  disconnect between these offerings and your life?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

My Obsession With Pants Continued

Finished!  Not quite perfect, but pretty darn close.  Close enough that I am happy to wear them.  I have had quite a journey getting here.  Years in fact.  I am not a woman who can make a pair of pants out of the envelope so I've striven to get a tnt pant that I can make over and over again without having to go through major machinations to sew up a pair of pants.  I live in pants and I can't easily buy a pair that fits well and frankly, I can't afford a pair of really well made pants in high quality fabric.  I can however afford to make them.
These are a gorgeous silk and wool blend from Emmaonesock.  You can see the sheen from the silk in the pictures. I  paid $24 a yard for this fabric, or $60 plus a zipper, thread and well, the pattern I've gotten my moneys worth out of it.  Not cheap but what can I get for $60 in RTW?  Certainly nothing that is either made well or fits me.
I started out with Hot Patterns Razer pant because the basic draft is good for me.  The L shaped rear crotch works with my flat rear end.  The back on these was pretty easy  to fit.  One thing I did need to add 1/2" for my high right hip.  I took off 3/4" on the left side after I fit them. I also added  1/2" at center back.  I should say that these were the latest adjustments to this pattern.  I had already straightened out the cf and done a flat  rear end alteration which also straightens the cb.

  These have side front pockets and a faced fly front.  I have made them this way but with my uneven waist my pants look  better with a contour waistband and I prefer not having a waistband at my waist so I don't usually make a straight band.  The pockets just add width to my already wide hips, so I skip them.  Not having details at the hip area is better for my figure and doesn't show through tops I don't tuck in.  I sewed up these pants with the changes I showed in the last post, but this fabric doesn't have any lycra in it and I sewed the seams at 5/8" in the hip area.

As I looked at these pictures, I realized that I'd forgotten to interface the hems.   They could use the weight.  Am I going to take out the hem and add it?  No way.  It will do for this pair, but it is something that should be done on non stretch pants hems.

The other thing I did was change the construction order.  Usually you'd sew the pants together and then add the waistband but if you want to be able to easily take them in if you loose weight, that makes it harder.  I also leave the  crotch unsewn for about 1 1/2" before I sew the inseams.  After sewing on the separate waistband pieces I pin fit the side seams and try them on.

The first picture above is one of the side seams.  I cut a separate band piece for each section of pant.  I attach them to each piece and fit the pants.  I sew the facing to each section and then sew them up the side, and rear.  I fold down the facing and stitch in the ditch.  Then if I need to adjust the fit there is much less ripping involved.  You can see where I've attached the facing and need to fold it down and stitch.  The other thing that I've learned is that the facing needs to be slightly smaller at the lower edge  than the waistband to fit smoothly.
I am finally happy with the fit and now I can make lots of pants without having to make a muslin every time.  I also took this pair of pants an narrowed them to an 18 1/2" hem (these are 22" wide) so that I can make some narrow pants to wear with tunics. 

BWOF 110 1/09

I finished this top at the end of last year and just got around to photographing it today.
The fabric is acetate lycra, otherwise known as  slinky from Emmaonesock  that was an end from Chico's. 
It's also in my favorite kind of print:  animal!

See above for the top with my wool and silk pants
Here it is with an earlier jacket you may remember,  the Hot Patterns Riviera Cardigan.


I usually make a real fba, even in a knit.  Here I cut a 42 in the shoulders easing out to a 44 in the bust and a 46 plus a bit in the hips.  I also straightened out the side seam to make it less form fitting.  I narrowed the shoulder and did a forward shoulder adjustment, changes I regularly make on any pattern.
I should have raised the cf because, true to Burda it was too low.  I added a hook and bar to keep it in place.  Since I want to make this again, I altered the pattern raising the cf.

They  are the usual poor Burda  instructions for knits.  I always change the construction order so that I put in the sleeves flat.  Who sets in a knit sleeve? Burda and the big 4. 
I lowered the cap height by folding out a 1/4" better for a knit and making it easier to sew flat.
The pattern calls for making a French binding at the back neck and turning in the raw edge on the front neck and sewing it down.  Why on earth would I  do this?  Knits don't ravel.  My knit was also too thick to make a nice French binding at the back neck. But, again, why make it this way?
Instead I added 3/8" sas all the way around stabilized the neckline with  a  fusible knit stay tape that I'd recently bought and turned and stitched it down with my coverstitch machine.  Easy and it looks good.

I will be making this pattern again.  Absolutely! I love how it fits and looks.  I wish Burda featured more knits like this.  It's a little different and the front gathering is good at hiding a less than flat middle.
Good top and a  well drafted pattern.  Thank you Sigrid for reminding me about this one!

What's up next?  More pants.  I am cutting out a pair of wool black and white twill weave pants.  This fabric was  bought at Paron's half priced annex for $12 a yard; a bargain for such great quality.  These I plan on lining in Bemberg rayon.  After these, I am actually planning on starting spring sewing ahead of the season!  Wow what a concept. 

Thursday, January 14, 2010


 I am obsessed with pants fit.  Not just mine, but I look at womens rear ends to see if any of them actually wear pants that fit.  Not too many do.  I own a lot of fitting books and every article Threads has ever published on fitting and I still have had problems.  Until I read the latest article Kenneth King wrote for the current issue of Threads magazine.  There was another one  in September 2002, #102 also outlining his method.  But what really got me to make yet another muslin of my pants were the pictures that Mardel posted of Kenneth King fitting her pants on her   at the Sit and Sew she attended last fall.  I've learned a lot about fitting over the years and even came close to perfect fit.  Then I went and gained some weight and proceeded to totally screw up my former TNT pattern and even that one wasn't perfect!
Enter Kenneth King.  Not in person unfortunately, but in the form of his articles and his cd The Trouser Draft.  That was one of the patterns that I screwed up totally and I didn't feel like starting from scratch again, so I started with Hot Patterns Razer pant which fits me remarkably well except for the drag line in back and the front crotch.  I repeatedly have gotten what I refer to as the front pleat.  It's like have a skirt with a single front pleat, but only mine shows up on pants and starts around the crotch.

This is from  Kenneth Kings  The Trouser Draft

  I've gone to fitting classes and heard the sentence:  "The drag line points to the problem."  This was never followed up with an explanation that met with my satisfaction, and so it became  a quest for me--I came to believe that to understand what this sentence meant would explain the underlying principle of fitting."

Having read a lot of books and articles on fitting I can really relate to this!

KK:  " The object of the game here is to achieve the correct outline of the pattern, to fit the three-dimensional shape underneath.  At first it seemed logical to look to the edges of the pattern to achieve this.  A paradigm shift here for me was to look to the interior portion of the pattern, for the information I needed to adjust the outline correctly.

Over time, I came to understand that, when there was a drag line in a garment, it represented an incorrect relationships of square inches (in the interior of the pattern piece) to the figure it was draping.  Correcting the interior square inches of the pattern would automatically correct the outline of the pattern."

He goes on to discuss three types outcomes: Net loss, Net Gain, and no Net Change.
It really works!  I re-read his section on pants and the new article in Threads, which by the way is the first of a series, and made my muslin.  I pinned out those pesky pleats at the crotch.  I pinned out the wrinkles I always get below my stomach.  These were net losses.  I also had a net gain at the back drag line.  I have a high right hip.  This one I cheated on.  On my last pair of pants I measured down from my waist to where the drag line met my side seam.  Then I lowered opened the zipper and lowered the side until the drag line disappeared.  I needed about 1/2" more on that side.  I slit the side seam on my pattern at the correct place  front and back and added in that amount at the seamline.

You can see the oval sections that I marked from my pinning out the wrinkles and drag lines. This is the amount that I removed from the closest seamlines.

Here you can see how I transferred the markings to my pattern.  The horizontal lines are used to transfer the exact measurement of the pinned area to the seam lines.  You'll notice the quirky curve below my crotch.  It works.  I am in currently making these up and should have them ready to photograph in a few days.  I did have to lower the left side to remove the extra I needed for the right side.  In these pants, without pockets it doesn't matter, but I if I make a pair of jeans, which I am planning to, it will matter as the amount I lowered the left side is a very noticeable 3/4".  I think that I am going to transfer that amount  and lower  the pocket edge and see if that works for me.  I'd either have to do this after I cut the pants out or cut it separately and have different left and right pattern pieces.

It's also time to re trace my pattern.  I've made so many change that it becomes confusing after a while.  The other thing that I've learned over time is to make changes on copies and to date everything so that I can go backwards to an earlier version if I have to.
These  look nothing like the HP Razer pant I started with.   I added a contour waistband and eliminated the side front pockets. (They always gape on me no matter what I do and they add bulk that my hips don't need.)  I do like the back crotch on the Razer, which is why I used it as my base.  The other reason that I prefer a waistband is my uneven waist.  You'll notice that the amount I removed from the front waist gives me a very curvy seam line.  It is very evident if I make a faced pant and hidden if I use a waistband, either contour or straight.

If you have fitting issues, I really hope that you'll buy this issue of Threads, or if you have the new DVD take a look at the earlier article.  His method is simple and effective and you don't really need to know why your muslin has wrinkles to eliminate them and get a garment that looks like it was draped on you.

Hopefully I will remember this epiphany and use his method in the future.  It works better than anything I've done in the past.  You might also want to buy his cd, The Trouser Draft because the fitting section on pants details his method in great detail and the articles he did for Threads only covers jackets.  The only downside to this is you really need a fitting buddy if you have lot of changes to make in the back.  Upside is that the person only has to be able to pin out wrinkles, not be knowledgeable about sewing.
Happy sewing.


Monday, January 11, 2010


Before I get started on the post, I want to thank you all for the lovely comments and congratulations on the birth of our first grandchild.  He is of course, wonderful.

Now to the topic.   I spend a lot of time looking for garments on high end websites like Net a Porter for ideas of what  I want to sew.  Then  comes the obsessive trolling for patterns to see if I can even come close to what I envision because my pattern drafting skills are not up to drafting from scratch.   I also spend a lot of time trying to figure out if it will look good on me and be worth my time to sew.   I'll use my croquis to give me a feel for how the style will look on my body if I am in doubt.  If its a Vogue pattern I'll look at the  key to figure flattery.  Which often makes no sense to me and isn't really helpful at all.

According to the chart I am a triangle.  I am of the small shoulders and large bust variety and my width is at my upper hip, just below my waist so I am often puzzled by their choices.   I need bust darts and fitting seams.  I also find drop shoulders or too much width across the bust line to be unflattering and I often see both of these in a recommended garment.   I like how I look in a pencil skirt but a triangle rarely appears on one of these.

# 1168 is a new Donna Karan that has a triangle in the guide.  (its the one in the upper right) This has a sleeveless top with not one fitting seam or dart in sight.  There is no way that this will look good on me, but on a small busted triangle it may look quite nice.  How about #1167, the one in the lower left.  The photo must have been clothes pinned in back for the photo, because the drawing of the jacket looks like a shapeless rectangle.   There are bust darts, but it will fall straight down from a large bust  and make me look larger than I really am. You'll notice that this is actually supposed to be suitable for all body types.
#8624 is another one that will add pounds to my figure.  Look at those wide wings from underarm to hip.
Obviously this set of 4 keys is just not enough to really decide figure flattery.  There are other systems out there that work better, but they are rather  cumbersome.  So what do I do?  I could keep to the tried and true, but that would be boring.  If it's something I am unsure of I'll draw it on my croquis.  I look at the proportions especially .  Will it divide my body in unflattering ways?  Is it the right length for me.  Sometimes just adjusting the length will be enough.  Are there slimming seamlines?   The Knipmode dress as drafted would have fallen at an unflattering point on my legs so of course I shortened it but what attracted me to be honest, was how good it looks on Oprah who is not a sylph.  Not exactly my figure type, but a curvy woman too.

I have a drawer full of patterns I haven't sewn and sometimes its because I let the pattern seduce me, not seeing the unsuitability of their lines.  Fortunately I only wasted a few dollars, not my fabric or my time.   I have a harder time as I get older finding chic, interesting garments to sew.  I still want to look stylish.  I'd have an easier time of it if I worked in an office where I was required to dress up a bit.  But I don't and finding interesting looks that suit my life is often difficult.  This issue of Vogue pattern magazine has some lovely things, but the best of them are dresses that are of limited use to me.  I do like the Rachel Comey top and skirt, #1170  third down on the right above, obviously making the skirt longer, or just making the blouse.  I also like the  knit dress from Donna Karan that I think will look good on me. It's the third down on the right below.  There's a sale coming up at Joann's so if I invest a few dollars in them it  won't hurt all that much if I don't make them.  I've been sewing more from Burda Style (BWOF) lately and there I am on my own in figuring out what will look good on me.

So dear reader, how do you decide what to sew?  Do you agonize as much as I do in choosing patterns or do you make quick decisions?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


We're back!   I am smitten.  So far Jakob is a really easy baby who sleeps and eats.  Josh and I cooked  Shabbat dinner together on Friday.  We made a childhood favorite of his, what the kids called yellow chicken because of the turmeric.  Its from Copeland and Marks The Varied Kitchens of India and this is from the chapter on the Jews of India.  It's sweet and sour and has shredded carrots cooked in the sauce.
The brit was on Sunday.  I counted wrong, and traditionally the brit would have been on Saturday, but without a moyel in the community, this one drove in from Baltimore, it's hard to have one on shabbat.  Jake was a real trooper,as soon as the Rabbi put his diaper back on after his circumcision he was asleep.  Here are some pictures from the brit and at dinner afterward.  My MIL will be 90 this summer and my bil and sil drove her up. Unfortunately it was just too much for my Dad to come up from Florida.  There is no easy way to get to Roanoke and he just can't fly by himself anymore.

Josh and Seth       Josh is wearing his bar mitzvah tallit(prayer shawl) and it was full sized on him back then.  He's grown a bit.                                     

I bought this issue of Knipmode just for this dress; a selection of 3 outfits that Oprah was photographed in are showcased.  There are no designers credited, so I think that they just drafted it from the photos.  Sigrid and I are both of the opinion that the  garments  Knip drafts from designer patterns and doesn't publish a picture of their version leave a bit to be desired.  They don't seem to fix all the kinks.  I had to make a few changes in the draft on this, but on the whole I am pleased with the dress.  I shortened it, and then didn't shorten the front ties.  Woops. But, I like it anyway.  It is a Spanx dress however. 

This is a plus sized dress and I am at the high end of regular, so I can usually grade plus sizes to fit me.  I grade the shoulders down and the hips are fine.  Pear shaped here.    But, honestly the waist shaping was really curvy and if I hadn't  straightened the waist curve it would have been really skin tight and I don't like to showcase my mid section. It has pockets in the lower seams which I really like.
Here's a link to my Pattern Review review.
I have a BWOF top to review that I made before this dress.  I need some photos of that one before that can happen though.
Next up, wool pants, it's cold on Long Island!  We got off easy the last couple of winters and I was a bit spoiled by the warmer winters.  Obviously, not this year.