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?