Monday, January 30, 2012

Newsflash - English BurdaStyle Website Creative Director is Leaving

Alison Dahl, the Creative Director and Editor of the BurdaStyle website (English version) is leaving.  You can read her good-bye post here.  She has been working with BurdaStyle since 2007, and was the author/creative director of the BurdaStyle Sewing Handbook.

A few thought about what this could mean for us Burda fans:

(1) She mentions "structural changes" as being the main reason for her departure.  I am rather curious as to what these changes might entail.  The English Burda website has always stood out as being radically different from the other Burda websites.  Of course, I only found this website after the major changes happened a few years ago, so I can only compare the current iteration with those versions from other countries, and not with previous versions of itself.  However, it has always struck me as odd that the English Burda website has next to no mention of their magazines or envelope patterns.  It was months before I realized I they were more than a download service.  I always wonder how many sales they lose simply because the information isn't readily available?  I am hoping that these suposed "structural changes" will include having more information and previews about the magazines and envelope patterns.  I don't mind searching for things on the German and Russian websites, but sometimes I feel a little bit sad and left out that we don't have the same previews and announcements in English.

(2) I am hoping there might be additional features added for searching user projects.  Right now the organizational structure is minimal, at best.  As a company, I would think BurdaStyle might want to highlight projects made using BurdaStyle patterns as a way to boost pattern sales, although I do know that they have the "Make It" label for such things.  I hope they still let users post projects though - it has been a great way to boost the activity of the online sewing community.

(3) Perhaps they will finally offer more of the Burda patterns as downloads?  The German Burda website offers over 1500 of the magazine patterns for download, dating back to around 2009, with a few as early as 2006.  Having digital downloads of a pattern seems like it would be a great way to still make money from OOPs and other older patterns.

What about all the other BurdaStyle users out there - what are you hoping comes out of this structural change?  How do you think BurdaStyle can improve, and what do you want them to keep around for the future?

Pattern Review: Simplicity 9887

This is yet another of my older projects that I wanted to post to my blog in order to keep a more complete catalog of finished items.  Since I am obsessed with The Wheel of Time book series, I have long wanted to make myself costumes from these books.  One of the most recognizable costumes is that of the Aes Sedai (the power-wielding characters from the books).  In their organization's structure, someone who is learning to use the Power starts off as a Novice and is only allowed to wear white dresses.  Once they are deemed worthy and pass a test, they are moved on to the Accepted level, and their gowns are adorned in stripes of the seven colors representing the seven sects (or Ajahs) of their society.  I decided that I would first make a cape for the Accepted (since it would be easier) and then later make the dress.  I have since decided that I want to use a different fabric and re-do this costume, but I thought I would still post the version that I have completed, which was made from Simplicity 9887:

Simplicity 9887
My version is based both on what I had envisioned when I read the story, but also on the artwork from New Spring the graphic novel.

The inspiration for my design
And here is what I made:

My Accepted cape

The neck closure is a button and gold trim loop

A view of the hood

The colors of the Aes Sedai - Brown, Grey, White, Red, Yellow, Green, and Blue
As a side note, I realize that in the drawing the color order is Brown, White, Grey, Red, Yellow, Green, Blue, and my color order is Brown, Grey, White, Red, Yellow, Green, Blue.  The color order I have used is actually more accurate and is the one described in the books.  I spent quite a while researching it before I actually started on my costume.  It is also documented in this article.  So, technically, I am right and the picture is wrong, just in case anyone was wondering.

Here is my official review:

Pattern description:  Hooded cape variations.  Included variations of length and sleeves or no sleeves.  I made a full length version with no sleeves (view D).

Pattern sizing:  (XS-S-M-L-XL).  I made a medium, though in the future I would probably make a small or extra small because I found the shoulders to be a bit too broad for me.

Were the instructions easy to follow?  Yes, very easy.  Pattern is pretty simple to make.

Did it look like the photo/drawing when you were done with it?  Yes, very much so.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?  I really like all the variations available with this pattern, although the versions with sleeves use a LOT of fabric.  I think this is a great pattern to make a variety of costume pieces.  No dislikes.

Fabric used:  White lycra spandex.  I know this is a weird material to make a cape out of, but I was able to find a lot of it for a cheap price in a bargain bin, so I thought it would be good for costume making.  I would really like to make this again in a more realistic looking fabric.  I also used satin ribbon for trim.  I glued the trim on, but next time I want to sew the ribbons together, and then sew that onto the front of the cape, as it will probably look neater and be more durable.

Pattern alterations or design changes you made:  I didn't want a seam going around the shoulders, so I simply cut out the fabric with the two pieces overlapped to make one continuous piece.  Also, I added the trim and changed the closure a bit, and I omitted the tassel that was supposed to go on the hood, but these are minor changes in order to re-create the costume I was trying to make.

Would you sew it again?  Would you recommend it to others?  Yes, I will totally sew this again!  I want to re-make the costume piece I already made in a different fabric, but I think this is the perfect pattern for a lot of costumes, so I plant to use this again quite extensively in the future.  I highly recommend this pattern, as it has a lot of great options and many sizes.

Conclusion:  Great costume pattern!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A muslin and Sewing Space Update

First off I want to say thanks to everyone who commented on my last post!  I really like being part of the online sewing community - such a great way to find sources of materials as well as inspiration and support.  I decided to get some vintage buckles on Etsy because I want a color for this project, but I do have plans to order some of the awesome looking leather style buckles for some of my future projects (thinking ahead to the Classic Trench part of my sewing challenge).

I just finished the muslin for my new raincoat pattern, Burda 7360:

My revised pattern choice

Here is how it looks on me, a straight size 40:

The front - a much better fit in the shoulders.
But too small in the hips, though that can be fixed.

I should have pulled the back down a bit lower for the picture...
Though I think it pulls up a bit in the back because I need more space around my hips.

The back - I think the shoulders look pretty good.
Overall I think this is going to be a much better pattern than the last one I chose.  As far as adjustments go, I think I need to add +1" length at the top lengthen line, and possibly 1-2" at the lower lengthen line (because I want a slightly longer coat).  The sleeve length seems ok, but the pockets need to be raised (probably 1.5" because of the extra length I will be adding).  All of this in addition to grading out to a size 42 (or 44) below the waist.  With any luck I can have the rest of the prep work (pattern alterations, fabric cutting, etc) done and be ready to sew by next weekend.

In the mean time I am hoping to whip up some tops, but there are some skating events this weekend, so I don't know if those will get done or not.

Also, I thought I would show some updated pictures of my new sewing space.  My mom cleaned out some shelves and made room for a pressing board!  Here are some new pictures:

Sewing machine and serger (I cover them during the week when I am not here)
Bookshelves with sewing books
And a pressing board on the right!

Here is my sewing library!

Bottom shelf - general technique, couture techniques, fitting, and machine operation books.

Top shelf - fabric guides and project books.
Eventually I want to add books on fashion history as well.
So what I really want to say it, Thanks Mom!  I really like my new sewing space.  I miss having everything all together, but so far it has been working out alright with transporting the projects back and forth.

In any case I am hoping I might get some sewing done tonight, but even if I don't I can at least have a lot of stuff ready to go for next weekend.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Joann's Haul and a Rant

So I went looking for patterns and I got 4 that were on my list.  Mostly a bunch of tops that I saw made up on Pattern Review and really liked:

M6513 - From the latest McCall's collection

V8670 - This past December I decided I need a turtleneck for next December.

V8699 - I saw this on PR and it looked so much better than the drawing.
And my pretty:

V1154 - It caught my eye and followed me home.
As expected, no new Vogue patterns as of yet.  Maybe in time for the next sale, but I won't plan on finding those for at least another month.

I any case, I also got a few other things while I was there...

Button possibilites for the raincoat.

Pretty sequin fabric!

So, I did spend a bit more than I intended to, but that blue fabric is gorgeous!  I am happy it came home with me, and now I have to weigh whether it will be used for a skating costume or a party dress.  Decisions, decisions...

So that was the happy part of my day.  Now for the rant...

One thing I went looking for at Joann's was a 3-bar belt slider (2" long), and I couldn't find any!  I thought for sure this would be an easy find at Joann's, but no.  So, like any modern seamstress, I turned to the internets for help... and again I was failed!  I searched for "tri-glide slider" and "plastic belt buckle" and was pretty darned disappointed.  I mean, if you want to order 10,000 from China you can get cool things like this:

Fun sparkly belt buckles
But when you are looking for individual units your options are the rather utilitarian:

The options I have been left with are: (1) try to find a vintage shop that still sells those 80s t-shirt buckles (remember when we could pick these things up for $0.25 at the mall?) or (2) look for vintage buckles on Etsy and Ebay.  If anyone else has an good ideas please feel free to comment - several hours on the internet has left me at my wit's end!  Actually, to be fair, I spent way more than a "few" hours searching and let's just say last night's sleep totals to about 2 hours.  Yeah.  I do tend to get obsessively fixated on things, especially when they are related to sewing.  And I know these things must exist - I did find a few options at Fashion Fabrics Club and my other online sources, but they all were full of rhinestones or looked like carved wood which is not the look I am going for.  I am really hoping for something plastic, since this will be a raincoat and I don't want the water to damage the buckle.  In any case, if you have any good ideas please help!

I suppose it depends on the buckle I find, but any opinions on my button choices are welcome:

Right now I am digging the swirly buttons on the left - they are clear plastic, so they pick up a bit of the fabric color and look like they match perfectly!  However, I am also liking the green/blue circle buttons too.  Originally I had thought I would find a gold belt buckle, but now that that is turning into such a hassel I am glad I got some alternative choices, and I doubt the gold buttons will end up on this project.

Also, another thought - I am debating about the closure method on this raincoat.  The pattern (muslin is in progress at the moment), has a hidden button placket, which I might be ok using with the blue/green circle buttons (3 will be visible when closed), but I wouldn't want to waste the cool swirly buttons if you can't see them.  However, I am also pondering going with my original plan of fabric covered snaps, and just sewing the buttons to the outside for decorative purposes.  I suppose I should test out a buttonhole on the rubber fabric before I make any real decisions on this front (heck, I should just finish the muslin!), but I like to plan ahead with the sewing projects to I know what I am doing.

In any case, feel free to chime in about buttons, buckles, or thoughts about the jacket closure.  Or any other sewing things that have been bothering you lately.  What sewing notions do you have a hard time finding?

Pattern Review: Simplicity 5840

Alright, so this is a project I completed quite some time ago, while I was still in my "everything I sew must be a costume" phase.  But in an effort to have a mostly complete record of my sewing adventures posted to this blog I thought I would post this pattern review.

Simplicity 5840
When I made this I wanted a general purpose fantasy style cloak that I could wear with the fantasy style costumes I was wanting to make.  I found the velvet fabric at a Joann's Red Tag sale, so I paid only $4.50/yard for the main fabric (which is a good price for velvet, even though this is not the best quality), and the lining fabric was $2/yard.  The trim was a bit of a splurge, but I think it really makes the piece, so I am happy I bought it.

My blue velvet cloak!

The clasp fastener

My fancy trim

The hood

Open view - you can see the lining on the left.
Overall I was really pleased with this project when I made it, and now I think it is possibly one of my favorite costume pieces I made.  While I don't know how much I would wear the dresses I made (now they are too big and I can see the many fit issues), I would totally wear this if there was occasion for it.

Although it has been a while since I made this here is my attempt at a pattern review:

Pattern Description: Hooded capes with sleeves and men's fantasy costumes.  I made the hooded cape view B.

Pattern Sizing: (XS-S-M-L-XL).  It has been a while since I made this, but I think I made a Medium.  If I were going to make it again I would make a Small because I have lost some weight since them.  Also, there is a generous amount of ease, which is good for the cape, especially if you are going to wear it over another costume piece that has slightly bulky sleeves.

Were the instructions easy to follow?  Yes, very easy.  It is a fairly simple pattern so there isn't anything too complicated.

Did it look like the photo/drawing when you were done with it?  Yes, very much!  Actually more than usual because I chose a very similar color to the envelope picture.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?  I really loved that this pattern had sleeves.  And it was nice that all sizes were included together.  Also, I think all of the variations available in this pattern are great - it would be perfect for making a Jedi costume, though that is not what I used it for.  No dislikes.

Fabric used:  For the outside I used velvet, and I lined it with a polyester lining.  I also used very wide decorative trim.

Pattern alterations or design changes you made:  I changed the location of the trim slightly, since I used a larger trim and didn't want it going around the back.  Also, I added a lining which wasn't called for in the original pattern.

Would you sew this again?  Would you recommend this to others?  Yes, if I decided I needed or wanted another cloak with sleeves then I would definitely use this pattern again.  I think the pattern is great and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to make a fantasy type costume.

Conclusion:  Great pattern!  It is hard to find a cloak with sleeves, and this pattern worked out just perfectly.  I love my finished version, and I would definitely use this pattern again in the future.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Newsflash - Spring Vogue Patterns Announced!

The latest Vogues have been released and you can see them here.  Overall I have to say that I think this is a pretty great collection - there are several patterns that I want to buy, and several others that are very similar to patterns that I have bought (I don't need another version, but I do like the style).  In any case, some of the more notable styles:

V8801 - Men's jeans!  Always nice to see a man's pattern that isn't scrubs.

V1282 - A Donna Karen Pattern I predict will take Pattern Review by storm
Here are my favorites, that I am going to put on my "to-buy" list:

V1280 - I love this dress!

Here is the line drawing - fabulous!

V1281 - I also love this dress!

Another one where I thought the line drawing sold me.

V1289 - another pretty dress

V1293 - I love the jacket!

V8787 - I wasn't impressed by the photo

But I love all the options included in the pattern!

V8789 - I don't usually go too vintage, but I LOVE this dress.
There is another Vogue pattern sale at Joann's in a few weeks - with any luck these might be in by then.  Although in reality I am probably going to have to wait 2 sales cycles to get these.  What are everyone else's favorites?  Did I miss anything amazing?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Pattern Sales: McCall's and Vogue

Thursday Jan. 26 - Saturday Jan. 28 Joann Fabrics will be having a sale on McCall's ($1.99) and Vogue ($3.99) patterns.  Although the new McCall's patterns have been out for a while, this is the first time they will be on sale (at least in my area... we get patterns here very slowly), so I will probably go in and pick up one or two things.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Pattern Review: BS 10-2011-127

I am excited to be posting the official review for my first completed project of my 2012 sewing challenge!


Readers of my blog know I have been obsessing over these Burda pants since last October, and finally I have a pair of my own:

My grey pants!

My attempt at posing...

Another front view

The back - the wrinkles near the waist are
where my shirt is tucked in, so actually
I think I got the fit near perfect and I like it.

Another view of the back waist - I love the fit!

The front closure - I should have sewed the hook a little closer to the end.
An easy fix if I decide it is necessary.
I am super pleased with my pants!  I wore them to a conference the other day, as well as to a buffet lunch and sat in them for a 3 hour drive home.  I am happy to report that they were incredibly comfortable, didn't bag at the set or knee, and, if I do say so myself, looked pretty darned good.  Even better - I have about a yard of this fabric left over, so I am thinking I might be able to get a pencil skirt out of the remainder.

As much as I love these pants, though, I still think I prefer the Vogue 1051 pattern.  This pattern hits a bit higher on the waist, which for me would be a bit uncomfortable if I hadn't used such a stretchy material.  However, I am still going to call this pattern a TNT - are people allowed to have multiple TNTs for a certain type of clothing?  Or is the idea that you have only one TNT for pants, for a dress, and for a shirt?  Perhaps I am breaking some sort of rule here, but I guess I figured any pattern that you want to re-use multiple times could be considered TNT status.

In any case, here is my official review:

Pattern Description:  Fitted trousers with flared leg and patch pockets.

Pattern Sizing:  Burda sizes 36-44.  I used a size 42 at the waist and 44 at the hip.

Were the instructions easy to follow?  Mostly, yes.  The most complicated parts are the pockets and the fly front.  I didn't really read the instructions for the waistband as I have made several pairs of pants before, but those didn't look too overwhelming.  I think it helped that I have made welt pockets before, and done fly fronts before using other instructions.  I think it might be good to have alternative instructions if these are your first pair of pants.  Also, I just want to mention that I did use the Burda instructions for installing the fly, and while I think I found the Vogue 1051 instructions easier (the other pants pattern I have used), I did get a flatter insertion with the Burda instructions.  I know there are many good tutorials online and I think I should study those before I try pants again, just so I can see what other techniques are available.

Did it look like the photo/drawing when you were done with it?  Yes, mostly.  In my finalized version I left off the patch pockets because I didn't really like the way they looked in my muslin variation.  I thought that the flare looked a bit more pronounced in the photograph, though probably it just seems that way because the model and such long legs and must be wearing very high heels.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?  Well, I loved the style of these pants when I saw them in the magazine, and I still really like it now that I have made them.  I will say that the waistband is much higher than I am used to, but was still comfortable since I used stretchy fabrics.  The only thing I didn't really like about this pattern were the pockets - when I made my muslin version I thought they weren't very flattering and the way they are inserted into the side seams made them pucker oddly.

Fabric used:  A grey polyester/rayon/lycra blend from Hancock Fabrics.  It was very stretchy and pretty soft, very comfortable to wear.

Pattern alterations or design changes you made:  Well, as for design changes I left off the pockets on my final version.  As for alterations, I made quite a lot.  First, I shortened the leg by 2 inches in the calf area.  I have not had length problems with Burda pants in the past, but when I traced these I noticed they looked long, so I measured the in-seam.  The extra length is all in the lower leg, so I assume Burda thought we would all be wearing these with super high heels.  I took out the length mid-calf so that the proportion of the hips and the flare would be the same.  My other alterations were in the center back seam - I took out 1/2 inch to deal with the gapatosis issue, but had to remove quite a bit through the entire center back seam to prevent a weird bubbling effect over my rear.  I noticed that when I took in the waistband by the same amount it came out too short, so I might recommend adding a bit of length to the waistband if you don't need to make fit alterations in this area.

Would you sew this again?  Would you recommend this to others?  Yes to both!  I really like the style of these pants, and I think they can be flattering to many people.  The waistband is a bit higher than I am used to, but it is fairly comfortable in a stretchy material.  I think my favorite pants pattern is still Vogue 1051, but this is a close second.  I have a lot of patterns I want to test, so I don't know if I will be making another version of these soon, but I do like these and would love to have another version of these eventually.

Conclusion:  Love these pants!  This is a great pattern and I love the fit and style.  I have been in love with this pattern since the magazine came out, and I very pleased with my finished results.

So that was the first garment of my sewing challenge - just 11 more to complete it!  I had hoped to be starting the actual sewing of the raincoat next weekend, but my failure with the pattern muslin has pushed me back to the beginning of that project.  Which is annoying because the weather is mocking me with some pretty bad rain storms this past weekend.  In any case, I am still debating between patterns, but I am hoping I can have the new muslin ready to sew up next weekend.  In the mean time, I am thinking I might cut out my "every occasion top" to sew that up next weekend.  Since I have already used this pattern (McCall's 6078), it should be a quick project.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Sewing Challenge Update

Alright, so I thought I would post an update on the progress of things for my 2012 sewing challenge.  I finished the muslin for the Burda pants, and the fit was pretty good.  I have decided I don't like the patch pockets - they are too stiff and make the pants pucker funny around my hips, which makes me look sort of wide.  So I decided that in the final version I was going to leave the pockets off and just have a simple grey pant.  Perhaps in the future I will add a different type of pocket, but for now I think the pocket-less style is most flattering since these are so fitted.  I am glad I took out the extra length in the leg - the length is nearly perfect now.  I also had to remove 1.5" in the center back seam as part of a swayback adjustment, but other than that I really like the style of these pants.  And, actually the pocket-less version was very fast to sew up, so I now have finished pants!  But no pictures yet, so the review will be happening a bit later.

Pants muslin - with pockets

Side view

Back view

Pocket close-up
I am still debating if I am going to finish these and make the "wearable" (as in, add a hook to the waistband).  Not exactly a high barrier, but, well, I am lazy so it remains to be seen.

As for the raincoat, I am still at the muslin stage, as my first pattern choice was a bust!

Raincoat muslin - not a good fit

I think the back yolk is part of the problem

Usually I have a great fit right away with Burda, but with this muslin there were a lot of problems - the sleeves are too tight, the neck is to small, and despite the fact that the back is very billowy, it felt tight across the shoulder.  Now, I could go up a size, but I think there would still be a lot of fit problems to deal with.  I think that I don't love this pattern enough to deal with the hassel of making all these changes.  Plus I have reconsidered the wisdom of attempting a set-in sleeve with the rubber-backed material, and I think to give myself a higher probability of success I might look for a raglan sleeve pattern instead.  I am still planning on making a hood though (detachable or otherwise).  At the moment I am debating between the following two patterns:

I would be making view A

Very similar style - I would have "fake" buttons and still use fabric covered snaps.
I do like that this one is a bit longer, though I could always add length to the first pattern.

In the mean time, I have done some experimenting with sewing, pressing, and water-proofing the seams on the rubber backed fabric.  I am happy to report that with the teflon presser sheet and seam-sealing tape, I think the results will turn out to be quite spectacular.

A look at the seam-sealant tape after application
(I should perhaps use a little less heat as it seemed to
make the fabric color bleed/transfer a bit too much)

After pouring water on the seam it still beads up and rolls off the fabric - success!
All in all I am quite pleased with the seam sealing tape.  This fabric doesn't really press well (you can see in first picture that is does crease, but doesn't stay folded), so I am thinking I may need to add topstitching to the pattern, in order to keep everything having a nice clean edge.  More updates about pattern selections and full review for my pants to come later!