Thursday, October 30, 2014

Book Review: BurdaStyle Modern Sewing: Wardrobe Essentials

By this point it should be fairly apparent to anyone who has seen my blog that I am pretty much a Burda fangirl.  So when I heard about the release of the latest book in the BurdaStyle collection, BurdaStyle Modern Sewing: Wardrobe Essentials, I was rather excited and pre-ordered it right away.  This was, unfortunately, before there were any preview images of the book (not even a cover image).   Once the preview images were released it became rather apparent that this book would not contain any new patterns, and is instead a rehashing of patterns that have been released in the BurdaStyle magazines (mainly in the international versions, though some were used in the US versions as well I believe).

Having had a chance to read through the book I have to say that my list of praises far outdistances my list of complaints, though my complaints may have more weight than my praises, at least for other long-time Burda sewists.  This book is definitely aimed for someone who is not a beginner to sewing, but may be new to using Burda patterns.  The introduction includes information about measurements, sizes, difficulty ratings, pattern symbols, instructions for common techniques (ease pleats, front fly zip insertion, interfacing, invisible zippers, marking patterns, seam finishing, understitching, and a list of common notions and tools).  There is also information about grading sizes and notes about seam allowances (which ARE included for many of the patterns included with the book).  The end of the book contains a glossary and a few pages of instruction about how to use a serger.  The rest of the book gives detailed sewing instructions for the patterns that are included.

The most common complaints about Burda sewing patterns are (1) poorly translated/confusing instructions, (2) the difficulty of tracing, and (3) the lack of seam allowances.  While I would argue that the last can be more of a benefit than a detriment, I have to concede that this book address all three of these issues.  The instructions, while not much different from the original in terms of construction order, are much more readable than than what typically come in the magazine.  Additionally, many of the more complex steps have accompanying illustrations to help clarify the directions.  The pattern sheets are also much improved over the international versions - they are more reminiscent of the previous pattern sheets where everything was much more spaced out and easier to read (circa 2006).  You will still have to trace, but it won't be quite as migraine-inducing as the regular sheets.  As for the seam allowances - the introduction indicates that most patterns are given a 5/8" seam allowance and a  1.5" hem allowance, though some are given more or less as indicated on the pattern.  As with the magazines, you may have to draft your own pieces when making something simple, such as the rectangles needed for welt pockets.  A few other positive aspects of the book - it has a nice spiral binding, which makes it very easy to leave open to the instruction as you are working on construction, the text is quite legible, and the storage pocket in the back makes it very easy to store the pattern sheets as well.

My only complaints about the book are (1) NO NEW PATTERNS and (2) I don't know if I would consider all of the patterns Burda chose to be "wardrobe essentials."  While I think they did a good job of selecting patterns that would work well for many women's wardrobes, I also think they missed a few key pieces that would have been great to include, such as a trench coat, jeans, a moto-jacket, or a really classic sheath dress.  For those interested, the patterns chosen correspond to the following patterns from the international version of BurdaStyle Magazine:

Tweed Remix Dress = 10-2012-118A (Top Variation = 10-2012-118B)
Shirred Appeal Top = 10-2012-114A/B
Make Mine Mod Skirt = 08-2012-135
Class Act Trouser Suit = 04-2013-101 (jacket), 04-2013-103 (pants)
Simple Elegance Blouse = 07-2012-116
Pleats Please! Blouse = 09-2013-118B/A
In The Swing Dress = 08-2012-133 (cover dress)
Mohair is Better Coat = 12-2012-117
It's A Wrap Top = 11-2011-114A/B
Sheer Pleasure Blouse = 06-2013-119
Twice as Nice Jacket/Skirt = 09-2012-101 (jacket), 09-2012-116A (skirt)
Mad for Plaid Top/Skirt = 04-2012-112B/A, 04-2013-118 (skirt)
In Black and White Top/Skirt = 10-2012-122 (top), 10-2012-121B (skirt)
Free and Easy Blouse = 01-2013-117
Red All Over Jacket/Pants = 08-2013-106A/B (jacket), 08-2013-118C/B (pants)

Concluding thoughts: If you are an established Burda user who no longer has the time to raise a brow at the often perplexing instructions and ponder why anyone would complain about the pattern tracing, this probably isn' the book for you.  You most likely already have all of these patterns in your stash, and the additions of seam allowances and extra instructions will probably feel like unnecessary fluff and hand-holding.  If you are somewhat newer to sewing with Burda, then this book might be useful - especially the section explaining what the various pattern symbols mean, as they are different from what the Big4 use.  If you have been scared off of Burda because of the complaints listed above, yet still long for that swanky German styling - good news!  This book is totally going to be your jam.  I highly recommend it as a way to ease into using Burda patterns - it is a great way to get used to the Burda system without having to remember details like adding seam allowances and trying to decipher the magazine instructions.

As for me, well, I'm thinking I might like having these extra detailed instructions around, especially for the "All Over Red" jacket and pants, which have been on my to-sew list for quite some time.  I very much appreciate the quality of the publication, and it might be nice to have an easier time with the tracing.  Strictly speaking, no, I really didn't need this book, though I don't mind having it in my Burda collection.  The question, unfortunately, now becomes: what to do about the upcoming BurdaStyle Modern Sewing: Dresses for Every Occassion?  Do I skip it, knowing that I already have all of the patterns and that the information pages will be nearly identical to those in Wardrobe Essentials?  Or do I add it to my current collection just to fulfill my needs of completion satisfaction?  Well, I suppose I have another two months to decide...

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Newsflash: December Burda Early Preview Posted

The German website and P-an-da blog have the early preview up for the December Burda issue.  I have to say, I'm not loving the official early preview photos overly much - perhaps it is the fabrics hiding details, but everything looks sort of generic and blah.  I am, however, seeing at least a few things of interest on the more complete preview at P-an-da's.  So... jury is out until the full preview with line drawings methinks.  In any case, here is what Burda has shared with us so far:

These first images look really sleek and editorial in the photos...
but is this a coat?  A dress?  I like it as the former, not so much as the latter.

The snake-print lace fabric is cool!
But it does make it a bit hard to see the details of the blouse.

One one hand, I like the top and skirt combo.
On the other hand, I feel like we've already gotten similar patterns recently.

Fancy party dresses for the holidays, yay.
Little girls putting glitter in your hair, not so yay.

Do we get that little coat pattern?  It is so cute!

Hmmm... I'm sort of liking the top, I think.
Another one where I want to see line drawings.

Basic top/skirt.  Meh.

Ah, I was thinking we hadn't gotten enough capes this year.

Of course, the obligatory winter pj section.

My initial thought - I want big fluffy pants!
My second thought - I would totally trip and die a
horrible fiery death if I wore them in the kitchen.
Those giant pockets would be great for holding snacks though.
Or cell phones, if, you know, you want to be totally practical.

Giant slouchy cardigan yay.

Maybe it's the photo, but meh.

Love the top, but thinking the whole thing would be better in a
not-so-shiny-non-satin fabric.

Oversized tunic.  Nothing new here.
So, as I said, I'm not overly excited by the early preview, though a few additional images give me some home that Burda will finish out the year on a good note.  Time (and line drawings) will tell.  Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Newsflash: New McCall's, Simplicity, and New Look Patterns Announced

The winter collection from McCall's is here, the new New Looks are here, and the latest from Simplicity is here.

Overall assessment: I think I found more to love in the fall collections, but there is also plenty here to be of interest.  Lots more costumes/toys/crafts than usual, but that is normal this time of year.  Let's take a look...


M7047 - A Create It! gown.  Love the shape of the skirt!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Newsflash: Burda Vintage Early Preview Posted

One of my favorite issues every year is the "Burda Classics" issue - simple, classic designs that work well in a wardrobe.  This year, however, the magazine has been names "Burda Vintage" and apparently has updated versions of Vintage Burda patterns.  I'm not normally a huge vintage pattern sewer, but, I have to say, I'm super excited.  You can see the announcements on the German and Russian Burda sites, as well as extra images on P-an-da's blog.

I love 50s fashion drawings, so I'm sold just from the cover.

THIS DRESS!  Love it so much.  So so much.
Definitely going onto my sewing wish list.

Not loving the print used here, but the overall style of the dress is rather pretty.

Could they make it any harder to see the dress?
Pretty sure this is the rather basic design shown on the cover.

The bows and dropped waist are not exactly my thing,
but I could see this looking good on others.
Well, maybe in less drab fabrics.

I like the neckline, but I'm not loving all of the pleats around the waist.
A bit torn on this one.

That jacket os so classy!  Lovely.

This coat looks rather simple, but so elegant!

Not loving the boxy jacket, but the pleating into
the sleeve seam is an interesting detail.

Buttons down the back seem a bit... impractical.

I'm sort of liking this skirt, but it also looks like a lot of fabric.
Perhaps in a different fabric with tapered waist ties it would look
less overwhelming?

Vintage bathing suit/play suit aren't really my thing,
but I suppose this could be exciting for people who
are more interested in vintage patterns?
So, what do you all think?  Are you excited by the vintage patterns/vintage inspired looks?  Or did you prefer the more modern styles in the previous Burda Classics?  Anyone else drooling over that gold dress?  Or wishing that Burda had done the same looks in different fabrics?  Just curious - anyone else pre-order?  Or will everyone spend a lot of time searching Ebay?  Feel free to discuss in the comments!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Newsflash: November Burda Preview Posted

The Russian Burda website has the full preview of the November Burda posted.  I've been excited about this issue since the October issue showed up - and I have to say I'm not disappointed.  Even designs that I was a bit luke-warm towards during the early preview seem to have won me over with line drawings and garment photos.  Although I know a lot of people complain that they don't have a need for ball gowns in their daily life, I still enjoy looking at them every year, and I think the designs this year are especially gorgeous.  Let's take a look:

First up, the dresses.  Most of these are quite fancy, from a Hollywood inspired spread.  However, there are also a few simpler designs that could work quite well in an everyday wardrobe.

I've been swooning over this for almost a month.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Book Review: The Magicians

I'd heard a lot of things about Lev Grossman's The Magicians.  It's good, it's not good, it's exciting, it's boring.  People told me it was the sort of book you either love or you hate.  Sword and Laser had chosen it as a book pick a while ago, and SyFy has recently optioned it for a television series, so I decided it might be a good time to check it out and decide for myself.

The Magicians is the story of Quentin Coldwater, a Brooklyn native who, instead of going to a prestigious Ivy League, finds himself able to attend Brakebills, a college for magicians.  There he meets other young magicians, learns how to use his abilities, and searches for a purpose in life.  After finishing school he and his classmates look for a purpose in the wider world, and end up going on a fantastical adventure.

I'd often heard The Magicians described as "Harry Potter for adults."  Well, maybe if Harry Potter were emo.  And if Harry Potter wasn't quite so focused on what he was learning at school.  And if Harry Potter didn't have really awesome friends.  Then sure, maybe.  Except not really.  Because Harry Potter had a purpose in life - to defeat Voldemort.  Quentin doesn't really have a purpose.  He wants one, but he can't quite figure out what it is.  And, as with many talented people who have skills but no way to use them, he looks for distractions.  So, no, it's really not at all like Harry Potter.  More like a story about a random Slytherin extra who isn't cool enough to hang out with Draco.

It's funny because the book tends to generate very polarizing reviews, but I somehow seem to fall squarely into a middle ground.  There are moments when I completely identify with the characters:

The room filled with the collective rustling of paper, like a flock of birds taking off.  Heads bowed in unison.  Quentin recognized this motion.  It was the motion of a bunch of high-powered type-A test killers getting down to their bloody work.  That was alright.  He was one of them. p.22

Then there are other times when their actions are so incomprehensible to me that it breaks my brain (the way the whole snow fox thing played out... ugh).  The pacing is just fast enough to keep me interested, but I don't care quite enough to be fully engaged (I would alternate between reading the book 50-75 pages at a time, or nothing at all.  It took me 3 days to read the last 25 pages).  The whole time it felt like I was finding moments of brilliance, but only after digging through pages of whiny emotional drudgery.

I don't know, perhaps it is the age I am reading this book.  I feel that if I'd read it when I was younger I would have found all of the characters to be whiny, emotional, and making stupid life choices.  I think if I were reading this a bit older I wouldn't have the patience to deal with all of their mopey-ness.  But I'm sort of at that age where everyone is questioning what they are doing with their life, and why people have made bad decisions and hurt them, and how they can deal with all the pain and problems life has dealt them.  I would be lying to say I haven't had some (well, many) thoughts similar to Quentin in recent years.  But it doesn't really mean I want to be like him.  I lived in an honors dorm when I attended my undergraduate university - it is somewhat surprising how frighteningly similar some of these characters are to people I've known.  Which I suppose should make me more empathetic to the character's behavior and situations.  Of course, I don't talk to most of those people anymore, so, then again, maybe not.

Overall I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this book.  There were times when I rather enjoyed the prose, and others when I found it tedious and dull.  There were times when the characters were totally my people, and other times when I wanted to close the page on their little world and never return.  There were periods of this story that I would read obsessively, and other times I had to force myself through it.  I think my main issue with the book as a whole is that the characters never seemed to learn or grow from their experiences.  Each new slight wounded them in some deep way, but it didn't really force them to grow as a person (as a magician, yes, but as a human being, no).  In some ways I found this rather realistic (we don't all learn the lessons we need right away), but in other ways it was troubling and annoying.

In the end I don't know if I would recommend this book.  I think it is the sort of writing that one either connects with, or doesn't.  I'm in a rather oddball place of feeling like I appreciate much of the writing, but I don't know if I actually like the story.  I suppose I will continue with the series, but I don't know if I feel the need to jump into the second book right away.  Living in their world is rather depressing, and the real world is depressing enough without Quentin reminding me of that fact during my reading time.  I definitely need some time away from these characters before I deal with their future adventures.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

MLP Pillowcase

Last year I decided to make my friend some mildly embarrassing pillowcases for the holidays.  I have since used the same tutorial to make some really cute camera pillowcases for my sister, and have now decided to use the same tutorial to make another friend some My Little Pony pillowcases for her birthday (she really likes to read the comics).  Apparently my new mission in life is to make awesome pillowcases for everyone.  I've got plans to make some for my mom, and a few other fiends for upcoming birthdays/holidays.  They are just so easy!  And I can use all the crazy character cotton prints that I can't think up a more logical use for.  Anyway, here it is, from the Friendship is Magic series:

Pillow cases!!!

My friend likes Rainbow Dash, but reminds everyone of Pinkie Pie.
And I'm definitely the Twilight Sparkle of the group, so this print is perfect!

Anyway, this was a quick gift that I whipped up during the aftermath of Project Dirndl.  It's always sort of gratifying to make something quick, easy, and cute that is appreciated by others.  So, yup, pillowcases have now become my thing.  Don't be surprised if you see more of them in the coming months.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Newsflash: New Vogue Patterns!

The new Vogue patterns are here!  It definitely seems like cut-outs are going to be the next big trend, and I have to say I'm kinda digging it.  As for the other designs... well, it seems like there are a lot of patterns playing with a lot of volume, and there also seem to be a lot of fairly simplistic dress designs.  There are some interesting designer patters, but I feel like it is a bit difficult to see any of the details in the photographs because there were so many dark fabrics.  I know that Vogue doesn't make fabric choices for the designer patterns, but I felt that I had to look at the line drawings to really see what was happening in most of the designs in this release.  Overall I have to say I'm not as excited as I was by most of the earlier fall releases from BMV, but there are at least a few patterns here that I'm considering adding to the stash.

V1423 - Belville Sassoon.  I'm actually really liking this dress.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Project Dirndl Completed!

The alternative title for this post should be Pattern Review: Burda 7443/Pattern Review: Burda 7057.  It's been so long since I've done a pattern review I've almost forgotten how to do them!  It's been nice using TNT patterns to make things this year, but I've missed testing out new patterns.  It's something I want to change over the next few months.

When I was first asked to make the dirndls for Oktoberfest, I had intended to use patterns from my magazine stash, but after seeing example images and discussing possible styles with my clients, it was obviously going to be much easier to use Burda's envelope patterns, although I did end up using a top from one of my older magazines.

I used this pattern (with alterations) for the first dirndl,
and the apron and skirt for the second.

I used the bodice from this pattern for the second dirndl.
BWOF-09-2006-131.  I altered the top to be used with the first dirndl.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

What the Fabric: In Defense of Sean

During the recent Project Runway American Girl challenge, Sean was called out for using the wrong sort of symbol for the Peace Sign:

Sean's unfortunate applique.

But then, when I was recently shopping in the LA fashion district I saw this: 

Hippie dippie, Sean-sign spandex.
So, yes, Sean got it wrong.  But, then again, if we are seeing it pop up in other places, then who can really blame him?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Newsflash: November Burda Early Preview Posted

The early preview photos from the November Burda are up on the German and Russian websites.  I've been excited for this issue ever since my October edition showed up in the mail.  I'm pretty much still super excited.  Additional images on p-an-da are awesome too.  I know a lot of people don't care much for the gowns and evening wear, but I always love seeing them in the magazines.  Maybe I don't need to look like a movie star most days, but if I ever do, I want to have options.  And after project dirndl, well, I'm kind of at the point where I'm never going to say never.  Anyway, I still want to see the line drawings, but, yeah, I'm pretty sure November is going to be a great issue.

I've been obsessing over this dress since the magazine arrived.

Not sure how I'm feeling about the shredded fabric bits
(does it look too much like mummy wraps or toilet paper?)
but I do love the bodice on this dress.

Dramatic!  The collar might be a bit crazy, but the rest of it I like.
I want to see the garment photo/line drawing for this.

A more wearable version of the tan dress from above?
Either way, I like it.  Definitely want to make this one.

Interesting how fabric choice and styling make such
a big difference between these two photos.

This is the same dress as above, but I'm liking it a lot more in the red.

LOVE this coat!  The large collar is dramatic and awesome.

Ooh, I like this one too!  The print is so cool!

Not really a fan of the poof, but maybe that is just me.

I wasn't a fan of the sleeves on this top at first,
but they are sort of growing on me.

Pants with leather details, I think?  

Yeah, we've seen a million pleated skirts, but I rather
like this one.  Maybe it is just the print or the styling,
but I think it's cute.
So, anyway, early photos, yay.  November issue, yay.  Can't wait to see more of the gowns and the coats in this issue - they look totally fabulous.  I'm pretty much sure I'm going to be loving this issue regardless of what anyone says, but feel free to discuss the potential horror of wearing a mummy gown in the comments!