Thursday, May 12, 2022

Burdastyle Prom Dress

Sometime last month I got an email from an old work friend. Her daughter was prepping for her senior prom and she wanted to have a dress made from some very beautiful silk that her aunt had brought back from Malaysia many years ago. Mom wondered if I might be wiling to give it a shot. I confessed that I had never sewn with silk. Also, I had never sewn a formal dress. Also, I've hardly ever sewn something for someone who isn't me. But I said that if they came by we could take a look at what she wanted and, if we thought I was competent, I'd give it a shot.

They didn't have a pattern picked out, just some photos that Prom Girl had pinned from the internet. I was pretty sure that someplace in my decades of Burdastyle magazines we'd be able to find a few contenders. By now I probably have a pattern for pretty much any style of garment that's been made in the last 40 years. They came by with their silk and their images and, miracle of miracles, we found a pattern that (1) Prom Girl liked, (2) I thought I could execute and, (3) might fit on the 2 yards of 45 inch wide one-of-a-kind silk at our disposal.

This shot is from the final fitting. The hem is just pinned up, but otherwise the dress, she is done. Huzzah! It fit her pretty well, if I do say so myself, and we stayed within our remit: two yards of fabric are left for Big Sister.

Here's the pattern that we used. It's from a Burdastyle special issue from Autumn/Winter, 2013. Slim cut, but not too fitted. Four darts, and a fishtail in the back to give some walking ease. The style was straightforward enough that I figured I could focus all my anxiety on handling the fabric. Did I mention that I'd never sewn silk before?

We put together a muslin to verify that the style was indeed in Prom Girl's wheelhouse. She liked the look, but decided she preferred it strapless. We also ditched the fishtail in favor of a thigh-high slit. As an aside, it's pretty fun to dress someone who looks like a million bucks in an old sheet.

Here's muslin number 2 with the requested changes. We took the top edge in about half an inch at each side seam to preempt any wardrobe malfunctions at the punch bowl.

Then it was time for me to do some serious research on handling tricky fabrics. I watched this video by Lifting Pins and Needles, which was super helpful. Based on her tips, I cut the pattern out in a single layer, keeping pins within the seam allowances, and I hand basted the heck out of everything. I also talked through my sewing plan with the lovely folks on the Bridal and Formalwear Sewing forum on Bless them, they gave me the courage to proceed.

This is the cutting layout for the silk. As you can see, things were tight. There were actually four yards of this beautiful and terrifying fabric, but Prom Girl's sister had dibs on two of them. They'd made a pact that each sister got half.

I interlined the dress with some deep red bemberg. I know nothing, but I thought the floaty silk would benefit from some extra structure in the seams. I interfaced with silk organza, which I also used to reinforce the slit and the zip.

To be extra careful that my pieces didn't move around or stretch out, I cut the interlining pieces first. I kept those pinned to the pattern pieces, laid them out on the silk, then pinned and cut out the silk. Then I hand basted the interlining and silk pieces together around the edges before I removed the paper pattern pieces. I've had that "whoa Nellie" experience of getting to the end of a long seam and finding that one layer of a tricky fabric had somehow grown inches longer than its mate. I never want to go there again.

That plan worked a treat. The pieces fit together perfectly. 

I hand picked the zipper, just to be sure things stayed smooth. I really did not want to have to pick out any machine stitches from that delicate silk.

Here's a back view of the finished dress.

And here's that slit in action.

Prom Girl's mom very kindly sent me a photo from the night of. 

All in all, it was a great experience. Prom Girl really liked her dress. Turns out she'd told her Mom that she'd been dreaming of having a prom dress made from this fabric since she was a freshman. Awww. 

I feel like I leveled up my sewing confidence. I wouldn't say I'm in a rush to sew with silk again anytime soon, but I know that I can if I want to. I'd just do my prep and work one stitch at a time.

My pattern review is on here.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Burdastyle Oversized Linen Shirt

Summer should be here any day now, so I sewed up a breezy linen shirt from the April, 2022 issue of Burdastyle. This is top #118. It's an oversized button-up with a forward yoke.

Here's the line drawing of the front:

And the back:

And here's me posing to show that it sews up pretty much just like you'd expect.

I used a mid-weight linen from the FabricsStore in a color they call Willow. They describe it thusly:

"Pale, hazy tones of dawn swept across Paul Nash's dreamy scenes, suggesting a place where all is hushed and still. The warm, pastel green of WILLOW linen was one of his recurring colors, invoking the cold light of frost-bitten grass, whispery strands of freezing fog or dreamy forms that seem to fade into distant, heavenly skies."

I was expecting it to be a bit more yellow. I can't wear oranges or yellows at all, but sometimes I can get away with a yellow-green. This color is a bit more on the minty side. I was a tad disappointed when I first opened the package, but now that I see it in shirt form I like it just fine. It was easy to work with and I bet it will be comfortable to wear once the weather hots up.

I have two more pieces of linen awaiting me in the fabric closet upstairs. I'm thinking pants #111 from this issue of Burdastyle for the Chocolate and a remake of a Burdastyle jacket pattern from back in 2013 in the Black. Though, as the owner of a Great Pyrenees I have no business wearing a black jacket.

My pattern review is on here

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Burdastyle Camp(er) Shirt

 This is another camp shirt sewn to amuse a grandchild. In this case I'm aiming at my grandson, who is very into RVs. He and my son are working on his Mom, trying to persuade her that they need to buy a $55,000 camper. This is the same son who, as a child, preferred fancy hotels with room service and hated hiking because he didn't want to get his sneakers dusty. Go figure.

Last time I made a camp shirt I used another Burdastyle pattern, blouse 116A from the April, 2012 issue. I like that one pretty well, but I'd say this pattern has a more traditional fit. It's cut longer and looser, with a pleat in the back to add extra ease.

Here's a closer look at that pleat, and also at the RV print. 

This pattern has a back yoke, but no inner yoke, so the seam between the yoke and back is visible inside. This is the first time I've made a shirt like that and part of me imagined shrinking from the visible seam allowance. But, heck, it's a camp shirt, not a dress shirt, so I made it according to directions. And it isn't bad at all. If you top stitch that baby down it's  just like any other inner seam.

I'm pretty well supplied with camp shirts at the moment, but you never know when a cute print is going to come along. I'm glad to have two patterns traced out that work for me.

I'll pack this top for my upcoming trip to SoCal to see the grandkids. I'm hoping Miles gets a bigger kick out of the RV shirt than Margot did out of the mermaid shirt. 

My pattern review is on here.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Archer in Linen

 I seem to be developing a linen problem. I keep getting these emails from the Fabrics-store in the middle of the night. Their write-ups are impossible to resist. Here's what they had to say about this cut, which is a lightweight linen in Cobalt: 

"Dark, brooding and dramatic, the intense blue of COBALT linen was ideal for Renaissance painter Jacopo Vignali's heightened, operatic scenes. 

A leading painter in the Florentine Seicento, Vignali's Baroque paintings were defined by flowing swathes of jewel-toned fabric in midnight blues and crimson reds; set amidst theatrical, directional light, these richly toned colors amplify the romantic agony and tragedy of his stories."


And when it arrived, I wasn't disappointed. It's lightweight and almost sheer, with a bit of a sheen and very nice movement. And the color is a really lovely deep blue; almost navy but brighter. Beautiful.

I used the Grainline Archer pattern, which I've made a fair few times before. I really like the fit, and there's a sew-along on Youtube that really helps with the fiddly parts (hello, collar stand and sleeve plackets).

I hear that linen improves with age, becoming softer and more comfortable with each wash. If that's true, this will be my favorite shirt of all time. 

And I won't feel too guilty about the three other hunks of linen I bought this month. 

My pattern review is on here.

Monday, December 6, 2021

Shark Puppet

 I'm quite ahead on my holiday shopping this year. Turns out, this is kind of dangerous because I keep thinking of new things that I should gift to my loved ones. 

I'd gotten a surf tee shirt for my great niece. She'll look darn cute in it, but I got to thinking that a tee shirt isn't a very fun present for an 16-month old. I started poking around the web, looking for a quick something I could make her and stumbled over a puppet Pinterest page. Bingo!

How hard could it be to draft up a hand puppet pattern, I thought. Well, after a few hours of fiddling around I determined that it was going to be harder than I'd imagined. I hopped into Etsy and found a pattern that looked cute and also do-able with the time and materials I had on hand. $5 later, I downloaded a shark puppet pattern that was worth every penny. 

The pattern is from The Tucson Puppet Lady, who has a plethora of puppet patterns available on her website. Though I'm happy with my toothless shark, I wish I'd seen her website before I bought via Etsy. Her site has much more to choose from and includes very helpful video tutorials for each puppet. Those tutorials would have saved me from attaching this guy's fins wrongly. But, since he can't swim anyway, I'm going to leave them as is.

Like a lot of kid sewing, this puppet involves a surprising number of little pieces and can feel a tad finicky to put together. The instructions are great though, so it only took me a couple hours to go from concept to shark.

The pattern is written for polar fleece, of which I had none. I did, however, have a piece of sweatshirt fleece and a piece of ponte, both gray, hiding in my scraps closet. Along with some felt squares left over from my granddaughter's doll I had all the elements required. Except for the white felt for shark teeth. Hence, my shark is toothless. But my great niece probably won't notice that for a few more years.

The puppet is sized for adult hands. I picture my nephew performing for her, on account of a 16-month old isn't coordinated enough to do a lot of puppeteering. So maybe this is really for my nephew to play with? I bet Baby Jeanne will be enjoying the heck out of it all though. 

The Tucson Puppet Lady has a ton of free felt hand puppets that look super easy to do and simple enough to work that a toddler could have some fun with them. Maybe for her birthday in August?

The eyes are always the trickiest part of a toy sewing project. The line between cute and demented is a thin one. I'm hoping this guy tips over onto the cute side of the divider.

My pattern review is on here, if you're interested.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Mermaid Shirt

I sewed up another Burdastyle camp shirt in honor of my granddaughter. She came for a visit a couple of weeks ago and she's very into mermaids right now. She didn't seem too wowed by it, to be honest. She did say that she wanted a mermaid shirt too, but it has to have purple mermaids and I'm not sure I can track down the right fabric. 

But I like this shirt just fine, and that's what really counts, am I right?

I used blouse 116A from the April, 2012 issue of Burdstyle, which is probably one of the first Burdastyle patterns I ever traced out. I can tell because the tracing job is not very good. No wonder I've had trouble getting the collar on right in previous versions.

Here's a close-up of the mermaids. 

And here's a shot of the buttons I used. Pretty nice color match, I think, and the touch of gold brings out the yellow sea weed. I got these buttons ages ago at an antique store in Illinois.

I lengthened the top a couple of inches. It's pretty darn cropped the way Burda shows it. Otherwise, I made it just like they drafted it. I like the fit of this top. It's loose enough to be cool and comfortable enough to wear working in the yard, but it also works for a visit to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium with grandchildren. We kept an eye peeled for mermaids, but no luck.

Side view for you.

I finally went through my closet to cull the herd last week and realized I have a lot of woven tops, and a big whack of them I like enough that I just couldn't get rid of them. My normal routine has me grabbing a tee shirt every morning, but I think it's time to give my wovens some love.


It's November 22 and it's almost 80 degrees outside. Camp shirts aren't just for summer anymore here on the Central Coast.

My pattern review is on here.


Sunday, November 7, 2021

Corduroy Archer

I made The Man a corduroy button-up shirt for his birthday in September and, somewhat to my surprise, I kind of enjoyed the sewing process. I felt a little more competent working the steps that generally make me hyperventilate: the collar stand, the sleeve placket and the cuffs.

I realized that I kind of wanted a corduroy shirt for myself and I might even enjoy the sewing-up part.

I had a pattern I liked, the Grainline Archer, and I even had a piece of baby wale corduroy in my stash. I think I bought it with a pair of Landers in mind, but decided it was a little too light-weight for a pair of pants. Just right for a cozy shirt though.

I'd made a couple of Archers back in the day but the details were fuzzy, so I took a look at the sew-along videos on the Grainline Youtube channel. They are a goldmine of information for sewing any button-up shirt.

I used most of the Grainline techniques, but I threw in a couple tips from Janet Pray's Islander sewing system also, to wit: 

I burrito-ed the cuffs as well as the collar stand and back yoke.

I hemmed the bottom edges before sewing up the side seams. This trick makes it much easier to hem those curvy areas without getting little puckers.

And I think it looks OK on the inside. Better than puckers, anyway.

The shirt is not perfect, for sure, but as far as the sleeve plackets and collar stand go it's the best I've done so far. Cuffs, I had a few issues, but luckily the worst of it is covered by the overlap when the cuffs are buttoned and no one can see anything when the cuffs are rolled up. Those issues, BTW, were not caused by a faulty burrito. That step worked great. I think I have to blame lackadaisical pressing.

I actually had some fun sewing this shirt. Enough fun that I've ordered some cobalt blue linen to make another one. I'm thinking that burrito action will be easier to perfect in a fabric that isn't as beefy as flannel or corduroy.

How many button-ups does one gal need? Apparently, at least four.

My pattern review is on here.