Friday, 29 October 2010

Burda Style magazine - the turtleneck top

Thanks to everyone for your very nice comments about my shiny black satin and lace ‘glamorous’ dress featured in my last post. However, I clearly cannot spend all my time drinking champagne at Claridges whilst wearing fancy outfits. No, I’m afraid that my everyday life requires something a little more basic. Cue the turtleneck top, pattern 121, from the September issue of Burda Style magazine.

This top turns out to be a nice cosy garment to wear with jeans, it keeps the winter wind from chilling my neck and, with a little bit of styling, it’s not totally boring. I particularly love the overlong sleeves. I used a rayon knit that is very soft and drapey but not too fine. And making this top gave me the opportunity to use my cover stitch machine for the hems (I am thrilled to bits with my new toy).

I think quite a lot of people have already made this pattern and I have no doubt that many more will be making it throughout the winter. It is shockingly easy to make. Here’s the technical drawing

It’s just a front, back and sleeves and there are so few instructions needed that even Burda have managed to make them not too inscrutable! I did depart a little from their instructions in that instead of adding 5/8” seam allowances I added only ¼” because I think that smaller seam allowances work much better when using a serger to construct a garment. Also, I attached the sleeves in the flat – i.e. before sewing the side seams. I decided this would be much easier than having to set them in afterwards.

Before I go, I must mention my trip to Yorkshire the week before last. If you ever get a chance to go to Yorkshire, jump at it. It is very lovely and I had a wonderful time. While I was there I bought some fabric in Leeds market

Firstly an African print cotton – it might seem a little bit odd to go to Yorkshire and buy African cotton but the lady who ran this stall had so many lovely prints that I just couldn’t resist. Next a remnant of purple knit fabric – there’s about a yard and it only cost £2.50. Lastly some very nice 100% English wool which is a sort of denim shade of blue with tiny black squares – I think this will make a very nice skirt.

I also visited Duttons for Buttons, in Harrogate. They claim to be the largest stockist of buttons in the UK and I believe them, it was a real treasure trove. I could have spent hours in there but I contented myself with about twenty minutes and just a couple of purchases. So, I bought some fabric I don’t need and some buttons that I don’t know what I’m going to do with. But I’m very happy with all my purchases and isn’t that what we sewists do when on vacation?

Have a great weekend everyone ….

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Butterick 5520 - the shiny black dress - finished!

When I received a party invitation that said ‘dress glamorous’ I immediately thought of the black crepe back satin fabric that has been sitting in my stash waiting to be transformed into a special occasion dress. The pattern I decided on was Butterick 5520. I combined the black satin with some black lace and came up with this dress.

I used the black satin (purchased at Paron Fabrics in New York) for the main body of the dress, the sleeves are made from the lace (from Gorgeous Fabrics) that I underlined with a nude coloured silk satin (from a store in the Goldhawk Road in London). Here is a close up of the bodice

I lined the bodice and skirt with black bemberg rayon and the sleeves are lined in a nude colour – here’s a picture of the inside of the bodice.

As you may have noticed, I actually took the trouble to change the colour of the thread when I was understitching around the neckline so that there wasn’t a line of black stitching around the part of the neckline where the sleeves are (a small detail but it does make it look nicer inside). Once all the different fabrics were cut and the sleeves were underlined, this dress wasn’t very complicated or difficult to make up. Basically it’s a sheath dress with raglan sleeves but you can mix and match various fabrics to give it different looks. Here’s a reminder of the pattern envelope.
I decided against the peplum (although I do like that style) because I felt that, for a short person like me, there was enough going on with the shiny black satin and lace without breaking me up in the middle. I wanted to look sleek and shiny (you see I paired it with shiny patent shoes).

When my husband and I walked into the party (which was lavishly located at Claridges Hotel) there were a lot of very glamorous dresses being worn – I whispered to my husband that I bet I was the only one there wearing a home made dress! But I think it did just fine – I passed for ‘glamorous’ and the nice thing about making your own is that it fits right and no-one else is going to be wearing the same dress, (oh, yes, and it didn’t cost hundreds of pounds!).

As I mentioned in my last post, I am currently working on making some t-shirts so that I can put my new coverstitch machine through its paces but I took a little break from sewing to spend a weekend visiting friends in Leeds, (which is in Yorkshire, in the north of England). I bought some fabric, visited a wonderful button shop and fell in love with Yorkshire but more about that soon ….

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Let's talk coverstitching and style advice .....

Look what has just arrived in my home

Yay, lucky me, it’s a Janome Coverpro 1000CPX! I’ve been getting into sewing knits recently and, although using my sewing machine and serger produces pretty good results I was, wistfully, telling my husband that to get really professional looking hems I need a coverstitch machine. Clearly not wanting to get into the whys and wherefores and technical details of exactly what a coverstitch machine is, let alone the comparative benefits of various models, he generously told me that if I could locate what I wanted, then it would be mine! (I think that my DKNY double knit dress, from my last post, that he likes so much helped my case here).

I found my machine at an excellent UK store called Sewing Machines Direct, it cost £369 plus they threw in a large kit of threads and several pairs of scissors and they do next day delivery (and tell you the hour it’s going to arrive!). So, I’m just getting the hang of using it (it’s actually pretty straightforward) - here are my attempts at a triple coverstitch and a wide double coverstitch

A bit wobbly but not bad for a first attempt - I love that you can stretch the fabric as far it will possibly go and none of the stitches pop! I am very happy with this machine, although I do realise that I’m going to have to make an awful lot of t-shirts to offset such extravagant expenditure! So, my friends, what I want to know is – have you got a coverstitch machine on your wish list or do you already own one? What model do you have and do you think you get good value from it? Do you have any great coverstitching tips for me?

By the way, I am very proud and flattered to be able to tell you that style advice from me is now being taken up by New York’s sewing elite. I just casually threw a sartorial suggestion over to Peter, author of the world's most popular men’s sewing blog, and did you see what he made of it? Check it out here. Fabulous! Stick with me and you, too, could achieve such casually sophisticated glamour.

In the meantime, I have finished my Butterick dress and will be posting about that as soon as I have got some pictures. Then, I guess, I see some t-shirts in my very near future.

Friday, 8 October 2010

It's fast, it's easy and it's DKNY!

If you’re in a hurry for a designer dress, Vogue 1179 is a great way to go, this must be one of the fastest dresses I’ve ever made.

Black is always tricky to photograph - the above picture gives you an idea of the general shape but not the detail so here is a close up so you can see how the pleating at the front looks.

The fabric is a double knit (purchased from Gorgeous Fabrics) which hangs very nicely but is substantial enough not to be flimsy. Here’s a reminder of the pattern envelope

This is one of the few garments I have made without first making a muslin – I just dived straight in. Halfway through cutting it out I did have some misgivings – I had a nasty suspicion that it was going to turn out to be a shapeless sack but, although it is certainly loose fitting, I do think there is something about the cut that makes it work – Donna Karan certainly knows her stuff!

A couple of the reviewers on Pattern Review have mentioned the tightness of the armholes – and I think they’re right. Usually I have to raise armholes by about an inch (I think I have freaky arms and shoulders!) but this time I didn’t and I really like the way they fit. I did as the pattern recommended and sewed clear elastic round the armholes and they don’t gape at all. But if you want to make this dress and you have regular arms you might want to lower the armholes a bit!

I followed the instructions exactly except where they tell you to sew the side seams before attaching the collar. I decided to attach the collar first because that way I would get a better idea of how the dress was going to hang and fit (because I could undo the basting for the pleats at the front) and could then adjust the side seams if needed.

When I finished this dress I thought that this was going to be one of those garments that I liked but my husband wouldn’t be so keen on but, somewhat to my surprise, he loves this dress – it’s turned out to be a real winner in his eyes!

Before I go, here’s a question, what do these fabrics have in common?

Answer – they are all being used in my current project, which is this pattern, Butterick 5520.
I am making the view on the right. The fabrics in my photo are (from left to right) lace for the sleeves, nude colour silk satin underlining for the sleeves, black silk satin for the body of the dress, nude lining for the sleeves, black lining for the body of the dress. Phew – that’s some cutting out to be done – this one isn’t going to be as fast as the DKNY dress!

More soon ……
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