Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Burda May Early Preview Posted

The Russian Burda website has posted the early preview for May.  I have to say that, although it is early to tell yet, I am excited.  Or, well, at least I am not bored.  Which means there is potential for me to be excited.  May is typically the "spring dress" issue, and this year looks like no exception:

Pretty!  Maybe not something I would sew for myself, but pretty nonetheless.

Want!  I haven't really been on board with the whole maxi dress thing,
and I know the top on this is pretty basic and fairly low cut,
but something about this dress just makes me want one.

Hmmmm... Not sure if I am a fan?  Maybe I need to see the line drawing...

Also not sure if I would sew this for me, but it is a nice spring dress.

Aside from the dresses there wasn't too much of note in the preview, but here are a few other things to look at...

Ruffle skirt.  I think I have other ruffle skirts I like better, but this might be of interest.
I will wait for the line drawing to pass judgement.

What???  A Burda bikini pattern that doesn't look like a diaper?
Actually, the top provides more bust coverage than many of their dresses do.
I think I approve...

Usually I am not a fan of the sack tops, but for some reason I find this one oddly appealing?
Perhaps it is just a nice photograph...
Or maybe the sunny weather has me thinking of summer already.

I can fly I can fly I can fly!


It is just so drab.  And ill fitting.  Not a fan.

Not really a fan of the skirt, but I may find use for the top pattern.

I know they want me to look at the kid, but I am looking at the back of that shirt!
Crossing the fingers that it is a pattern (but probably not).
All in all May looks like it will at least be better than April.  So, what do you all think?  Are you excited for the May dresses?  Or are you bored by the baggy beach wear and cover ups?  Anyone else want to cross their fingers on the knit top in the kids photo?  Feel free to discuss in the comments!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Newsflash: New Jalie Patterns

The Canadian pattern company Jalie just announced their latest patterns on their main website.  Jalie offers a nice selection of activewear patterns, but many of their tops/jeans/jackets are super popular as well.  Personally I find most of the latest patterns for every day clothes to be a bit boring, but there are a few new leotard patterns that might be of interest to the skating seamstresses out there.

J3241 - A nice leotard pattern with contrast fabrics.

J3240 - Another leotard pattern with a skating skirt attached.

J3239 - Leotard pattern with leggings attached.
J3247 - Athletic crop top and shorts.

J3242 - More athletic undergarment patterns.
For the seamstress who isn't interested in athletic gear, there are a some regular clothing patterns:

J3248 - A draped cardigan pattern.

J3246 - Maxi dress.

J3245 - Raglan t-shirt and tank top pattern.

J3243 - Elastic waisted pants.

And, because it is so hilarious:

J3244 - Footie PJ pattern!
Personally I prefer my Kwik Sew leotard patterns to the Jalie patterns I have used, but I do like that all of the sizes are included with Jalie, so if I need to sew for small children I won't have to look for a different pattern.  I might order the activewear patterns at some point in the future, but I think I can pass on the everyday clothes.  Either because I find them sort of boring (like the maxi dress) or I have something comprable already.  Has anyone else sewn with Jalie?  How do you like their patterns?  Do any of the new ones tempt you?  Feel free to discuss in the comments!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Book Review: The Gunslinger

Since my reading plans have been delayed by the paperback release of the fifth volume of a Song of Ice and Fire series, I am taking a bit of a detour.  Not that I don't already have books stacked to the sky that I want to read, but when a friend offered to lend me one of their books I felt the need to push it to the front of the queue.  At this point I have to note that the backseat of the car of said friend sort of looks like they raided the fantasy section of the local bookstore and never bothered to carry any of the books into their house.  This is most decidedly not a bad thing.  Anyway, despite distractions and limited reading time I still managed to pound my way through Stephen King's The Gunslinger in only a few weeks.

The Gunslinger is the first Stephen King novel I have ever read, so I cannot compare it to any of his more current (or more popular) works.  Based on information in the introduction and Wikipedia, the original story of The Gunslinger was published in installments in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in the late 1970s.  The book I read contained the original five installments, but had been updated and revised so as to be more cohesive with the sequels that now comprise The Dark Tower series.  The book I borrowed also had several full color illustrations by Michael Whelan, who recently did the cover art to A Memory of Light.  Regardless of anything else, it is always a joy to see a story come to life through the artwork of Michael Whelan.

The Gunslinger is the story of Rolland, the last gunslinger, who is on a quest to catch The Man in Black.  He suffers through various hardships caused by a combination of the harsh desert environment he is traversing, as well as magical traps set by The Man in Black.  It is an interesting mash up of a coming of age story/start of a hero's journey with fantasy and science fiction elements set against the backdrop of a spaghetti western.  At the end of this first book in The Dark Tower series I am left... wanting more.  I think this novel feels very much like a beginning.  It does have a full story arc, and the characters are given enough of a background to be interesting to the reader, but the technicalities of the science fiction and fantasy elements are still a little vague.  They do get explained, but the explanation is really more of a lead-in to the further adventures of Rolland as he begins his quest to find the Dark Tower.  There is something of a resolution, but really this story is just the set up to a much larger adventure.

Also, I feel as though I need to ponder the writing style a bit.  I hope that this statement doesn't offend anyone, but the style of this book is what I tend to call "writing for guys."  I don't really know how to explain it, but it is the sort of style where the main characters don't really have a lot of emotions, or at least not in a way that is overly apparent to the reader.  If the character is feeling something it is stated outright in a rather straightforward manner.  Things aren't pondered so much as intuitively known.  For some reason "writing for guys" always seems to take place in a setting with a wide open sky.  I am not complaining about this.  In the context of the character and the setting, this style actually works quite well to give the old west feel to the novel.  However, after reading several books where the emotional states of the characters are examined in intricate detail, and the characters themselves ponder the complex and contradictory nature of their feelings, well, the contrast is a bit jaring.  In some ways the writing in The Gunslinger feels overly simplified, with things being told rather than shown, but then again the simplicity adds to the flavor of the world that is being created.  So, perhaps it isn't my favorite style of writing, but I can appreciate it in the context of the story.

If I have the opportunity to continue reading about the adventures of Rolland then I will, but I don't know if I am going to actively seek out the remaining books in the series immediately.  I am intrigued and I do want to know what happens further along in the story, but I am not so anxious to do so that I will ignore the growing mountain of books that has taken over the space around my bed.  Perhaps at some point in the future I will follow Rolland in his quest for The Dark Tower, but for now I will be sticking my nose in a very different sort of book...

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Newsflash: Burda Easy Preview Posted

The Russian Burda website has posted the full preview of the Spring/Summer Burda Easy.  The early preview had been on the German website a while ago, but since I didn't see anything super exciting I decided to wait until the full preview came out to make an assessment.  As is often the case with me and Burda Easy: I am not impressed.

I mean, I love a nice, quick, simple pattern just as much as anyone else, but I also appreciate fit and detail as well.  It seems like a lot of the designs in this issue are oversized or very basic.  So much so that I didn't even think it worth re-posting photos of many of the styles here.  In any case, I will take a peak at a few of the more noteworthy looks:

This jacket is probably my favorite design in the entire issue.
Not enough to make me buy the issue, but it is a cute jacket.
The shorts aren't too bad either.

A variation of the brown jacket, with a softly tying waist detail.

The line drawing looks cool at least.

This dress is cute, but I think I could find something similar
in one of the regular Burda issues I already own.

The top looks like a less fitted version of the asymmetrical top from the February issue.
I like the skirt, but apparently I am just craving a circle skirt at the moment?

The waist tie detail on this skirt is ok.

Though I actually preferred the twist detail on this skirt until I saw...

The line drawing!  Is it seriously just a piece of fabric wrapped around the body?
Am I the only one who worries about it falling off?

This looks so sloppy!

Straight jacket couture?

My first thought: My teenage daughter is so not leaving the house in this!
(At this point it is important to note that I do not currently have any children.)
My second thought: Damn I am getting old!
So, what do you all think?  See anything that will tempt you to pick up this magazine?  Are you a fan of Burda Easy's simplified designs?  Or do these leave you board and uninspired?  Does it feel like the Burda Easy designs are geared towards a younger audience than the regular issues?  Feel free to discuss in the comments!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Awesome Book Finds

I was at a used book store, and while their selection of sewing books was limited (well, nonexistent  they had a surprisingly large collection of books on textile production.  Being trained as a scientist and a known fabric junkie, I couldn't pass up a book that contains both molecule line drawings and descriptions of how embossed fabrics are made.  Here's a peak:

Books about fabric production.
From Textile Fabrics and Their Selection:

Discussion on hand screen printing.
Harvesting silk from silkworms.
From Textiles:

Schematics of fiber shapes.
A wool molecule!
Information about how knit fabrics are made.
Rollers used to make embossed fabrics (cool!).
Ok, I think everyone knew I was a fabric-o-holic, but now the real truth is out - I am a total fabric nerd.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Pattern Review: Patrones 249-4

Ok.... so I haven't been a very good seamstress so far this year.  I haven't been sewing many of the basics my wardrobe requires.  I haven't been getting much done for my clients.  For the first month I hadn't even been sewing much at all...  And now I have gone and made myself a party dress.  And not just any party dress; no I went and made a 1920s inspired party dress.  1920s, the decade of loose fits and dropped waists.  Which, longtime blog readers may realize, are not exactly my thing.  Nope, not my thing at all.  In fact, if I had to pick any decade to avoid it would probably end up being the 1920s.  So, astute readers, I am sure you are asking why would I then go ahead and make a 1920s inspired party dress?  Well, because I was invited to a 1920s speakeasy themed party.  And it was indicated that a lot of people would be dressing up for said party.  And, let's face it, given my pattern stash, my fabric stash, and a week's worth of time how could I not rise to the challenge?

Of course, I tried to think of anything in my wardrobe that I could wear instead, but, well, the 20s not being my era I utterly failed.  So I started flipping through my (virtual) pattern catalog and located several 20-ish patterns from Burda and Patrones.  I debated between historical accuracy and using my time wisely on a dress I might wear again in the future.  And I debated between the relative safety of English-instructions-and-I-sort-of-know-how-it-fits Burda versus the oooh-pretty-but-how-the-hell-do-those-pattern-pieces-fit-together-and-did-google-translate-just-tell-me-to-"insert it in the behind gender" Patrones.  Not to mention I wanted to do this on the cheap, so I spent more than a few hours raiding the fabric stash and debating over my fabric selections.  In the end I decided to go "1920s inspired" rather than the historically accurate route And settled on the Philosophy Dress from Patrones No. 249, style #4:

Patrones 249-4 - Philosophy Dress

Hair and make-up hopefully added to the costume approach, but the dress itself could be worn present day without seeming out of place.  Actually, between color blocking and metallics, the dress itself is right on trend!  Or, well, would have been last fall.  It isn't really a very springy color.  But that is ok.  I also made a headband accessory to go with it.  In the end, even though it isn't my usual style, I am pretty proud of my dress:

1920s inspired party dress.
I used some basic online tutorials to get a fairly accurate 1920s style of makeup.
The back has a center back seam and darts to add shaping.
I used the wrong side of the fabric for the contrast yoke.
Close up - the waist knot detail is an interesting mix of looking
easy but actually being sort of complicated to construct.
You can see the side front panel seam here - but it is really
hard to notice because it just looks like part of the gathers.
Here is a look at how the front top pattern pieces sort of go together.
(Note that the center piece is cut on a fold, so will be twice as wide in the actual dress.)
I also made my headband to go with the dress.  It isn't exactly 20s, but a recent haircut
left me longer than a bob, but short enough that I needed something there
to keep it in place.  I thought it looked decent at least.
I think the large collar on this jacket (not me-made) adds to the 1920s vibe.
Charleston baby!

Here is my official Pattern Review:

Pattern Description:  Draped dress with contrast yoke and dropped waist.  Back has zipper and darts for fitting.  The magazine calls it the "Philosophy Dress" so I am assuming it is from the Philosophy brand.

Pattern Sizing:  Patrones sizes 40-44-48.  I traced a 44 and graded out to a 48 at the hip.  For comparison I typically trace a 40/44 in Burda.

Were the instructions easy to follow?  *giggle* *snort* Pardon me while I laugh... No.  Not at all.  With Patrones I typically know enough Spanish to figure out the instructions for which pieces to trace, and what type of fabric to use, but I often have to turn to Google Translate to attempt the construction instructions.  Normally I would ignore the instructions but this dress was a real puzzel to figure out and I needed some idea of construction order to figure out what went where.  I am glad I made a muslin - I had to rip out every seam I stitched on that and start over from scratch... Mostly because some of the pattern pieces weren't fully marked as far as I know and I got super confused.  It was sort of like being given the pieces to a Donna Karen Vogue pattern, missing half the markings, and with no instructions.  Fun...  Anyway, here is the best I can figure as far as instructions go:
  • Sew shoulder yokes separately and attach one yoke piece to body front at mark A. 
  • Apply right and left side fronts according to marks B-C. 
  • Prepare the folds shown in the center of the front body and stitch about 2 inches.  Press these about 20 cm. to be well marked. Baste like folds indicated in left selvedge along lines drawn in the pattern and press about 40 cm. so that they are well marked. Finish the draping waist sections on the left and right front sides with a rolled or narrow hem. 
  • Stitch the pleats of her skirt and join the skirt to top front according to center front line and mark E.  Continue skirt attachment to both left and right side front pieces.
  • Place the strip of right front across the body and attach to left side at mark X, baste.  Form knot with opposite front passing over the strip on the right side and then cross over it and again under the right side to form several knots.  Use hand stitches at several points to secure the knots and draping.
  • Sew darts in back panels and attach to back yoke pieces.
  • Sew side seams. 
  • Sew center back zipper and finish center back seam. 
  • Finish bodice armholes with bias strips. 
  • Apply yoke lining right sides together on the neckline, flip to inside, and attach to yoke/bodice seam allowance.  Make hem, add hook and eye to neckline closure.

Did it look like the photo/drawing when you were done with it?  Ummmm, yes?  The photo itself is a bit over-saturated (a stylistic magazine shoot thing) so some of the details are hard to see, but I think my dress looks remarkably like the original, especially considering I was kind of making it up as I went along.  The drafting is good (scratch that - the drafting is excellent), so once I figured out where things were supposed to connect it turned out pretty good.

What did you particularly like/dislike about this pattern?  Likes:  Ok, so I will preface this by saying that the whole baggy dropped waist style is NOT my favorite look, but I was making this for a 1920s themed costume party (but I wanted to make an updated dress I could wear again and not just a costume, so this is more "1920s inspired" than historically accurate).  However, that being said I have to say I love how much shaping there is to this dress.  The back panels have darts and a nice curve over the hips, and the front and side panels for the top also add shape to a dress that could easily have been a sack.  This dress has made me really appreciate how much subtle fitting goes into a loose-fitting dress.  I love the gathers at the dropped waist too - confusing as all get up, but pretty.  And figuring it all out made me feel super smart, so I guess that is a point in its favor?  Dislikes:  It is confusing to make!  The instructions are not good.... Or, well, they don't translate well.  And the center top pattern piece lacks the "B" indication mark, which would have made figuring out the pattern piece puzzel much easier.  Oh, and this was the orange pattern.  I don't often complain about tracing magazine patterns, but I hate tracing the orange patterns.  Very difficult to see.  So I guess it is possible I missed a few marks that might have been printed?  The pieces all seemed to cross each other at inconvenient locations on the pattern sheet as well, which only made it worse.  So, not my favorite pattern to prepare.  Also, because many pieces need to be cut on the bias (some so they will hang on a straight grain and others so they hang on a bias... trust me it works) so it is a bit of a fabric hog.  At least considering you are making a relatively short dress that seems minimalistic (but really isn't).

Fabric used:  I used a metallic polyester knit that had been sitting in my stash for over 4 years.  Originally I had bought it for a skating costume, but my mother was not a fan of the color, so it sat and waited.  Of course, after I made this dress my mother was surprised I didn't use the fabric for skating.  Sigh.  I think it is happier being a party dress anyway.  The original pattern calls for a gauze (for the yoke) and crepe satin (for the dress) combination.  I had considered some satin-like fabrics in my stash, but I thought they were all too heavy weight.  I wanted to make sure the draping looked easy and effortless, and not too tortured or stiff, so I went with my knit instead.  I think this would be perfect for a silk knit or silk chiffon/silk charmeuse combo though.

Pattern alterations or design changes you made:  Well, I made a muslin out of some terrible $1 poly terrycloth like material that looked way better online than in person.  I am glad I did because I ended up (1) taking in the width of the upper back by 1" (2) increasing the width of the back skirt by 1" (3) raising the underarms by 1".  I also cut 5/8" hem allowance on the skirt, but did a narrow hem, so I probably added 1/4" in length?  I might have done well to add half an inch more.  As far as the design goes, the only real difference was not using a zipper back because I used a knit instead of a woven fabric.  Oh, and I used the backside of the fabric as the yoke contrast, rather than using a gauze fabric (I would have used a stretch mesh, but I didn't have any color matches on hand.  Oh well, at least now I can wear a regular bra under it...).  Also, I don't know if I followed the instructions exactly right (due to difficulty with translation) so there may have been some unintended alterations.  I have a dress though, so at this point... meh.  Whatever I did, it worked.

Would you sew this again?  Would you recommend it to others?  I don't know if I would sew it again, mainly because it is such a distinctive dress, not really suited to every day casual use, and also not my favorite style to wear.  If I did sew it again I would get some really sumptuous silk charmeuse though and try it in a woven.  I think it would be gorgeous.  And I would make the skirt slightly longer.  I would recommend this pattern to others if they like the style and are up for a challenge.  The dress itself did not take long to make (though my using a knit sped things up a bit there, I am sure), but figuring out how the pieces went to together and tracing them took nearly twice as long as actual dress construction.  The pattern is very well drafted and a fun puzzel to figure out, but you have to be adventurous and determined to get it to work.

Conclusion:  I don't often give a "Great for Advanced Sewers" rating to a pattern, but I think this one deserves it.  While I feel like there are alternative resources for construction advice for things like pants, jackets, and shirt, this was a very unique dress pattern from Patrones, so it really took me quite a bit of head scratching to puzzel it out.  The line drawing isn't very helpful, the photograph is over saturated to the point of blurring the details of the dress, and some of the pattern indication marks may or may not have been printed on the pattern sheet (again, the orange is difficult for me to trace and easy to miss things).  I am very happy with my resulting dress though, and I am more than a bit smug at figuring out how the pattern pieces twist themselves into a dress.  I love that though this is a loosely fitted dress, it still has plenty of shaping in the back and on the side seams.  It looks simple and easy, but it comes from subtle but fantastic drafting that is actually quite complex.  All in all I have to say it is sort of a brilliant pattern, if you are willing to put the time into figuring out how it works.  Super happy with my results!