07-2011-131: The Lace-but-not-as-you-know-it Dress

07-2011-131 Burda Dress 1

It’s lace, but not as we know it. And that’s why I love it!

07-2011-131 Burda Dress 2

I fell hard for this geometric styled lace when I saw it on the Tessuti blog (they also have it in black), back in January. I hot-footed it in there pronto to get some!

07-2011-131 Burda Dress 3


Totally inspired by the black lines in Chanel’s Spring Summer 2012 RTW collection, in which this lace featured (see here), I wanted to create a bit of an ode to this collection, using the #131 dress from Burda Magazine issue 07/2011 (also available as a down-loadable pattern here). 


Along with the lace at the front panel, I used a wedgewood blue stretch cotton from Clegs, and some black piping inserted strategically in the seam lines and also by cutting up the dress panels to get a diagonal line at the back. 

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Lining, Underlining and seams finished with rayon seam binding

I wanted a dress that I could wear during the cooler months (of which there are plenty where I live) and also I didn’t want my stretch cotton to pucker and crease every time I wore it. This fabric is the same type as the one I used to make my Green Peon-y, and it rather likes to get itself creased! I underlined it in a baby-blue 100% cotton flannelette which proved a solution to both quandries! 

After using a thick silk satin fabric to line my Vogue Suit, I was hooked! I used the same fabric again in black (also from Clegs) which should also insulate quite nicely :) I used the mat side of the silk satin to create the piping by cutting bias strips (same way as you would for making bias tape) then using my regular zipper foot (it’s the only foot I have that lets you get the needle position right to the edge of the foot) to encase the cord in the bias strips. 

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I really love the square neckline of the dress, and the split at one of the sides. My only bother with this pattern? No seam allowances. I would happily pay a bit extra for the pattern if it included these! I made the ultimate mistake when sewing my toile – I forgot to add them. My bad, but an annoying thing none the less.

As other sewists have discovered, the neckline on this pattern is low. I’m usually all for the occasional showing of a bit of decolletage, but even I needed to raise this a little! Using the selvedge of the lace to go over the seam edge also provide a bit of cover up. 

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I used silk thread to baste the lace to the backing so it can’t move independently of the dress. I’m over the moon that I happen to have enough lace left to re-create the gorgeous top below I pinned a short while ago – sadly it will have to wait until I get back – as by the time this post goes live I will be in Ecuador!!! Even better – I made up Pattern Runway’s Sweet Shorts which I am over the moon about – they really are gorgeous! So all I need is some on location photos… coming soon! :D

I’ve even got enough left over lace to make something else… I’m loving the look of this triangular lace panel top!



F2465: Caramel Slice Marfy

F2465 Marfy Top 26

I had whole-heartedly intended this top to be a sorbetto. Not many days pass when I don’t see someone sporting a new version of this nifty and versatile little tank. It even had the balls to push the Big 4 out and claim the #2 spot in Pattern Review’s Best Patterns of 2012 – the first time an Independent Pattern has made it onto this list! Nice work Colette Patterns. 

F2465 Marfy Top 27

But when I made it up in calico, I just couldn’t see myself wearing it. According to the 12 shapes of Trinny and Susannah, I’m a Goblet, (You can take their quiz here, then check out the recommendations for your shape here), which means no clothes with baggy midsections for me. And the Sorbetto was super baggy on me – even with alterations. 

So I took my trusted Marfy pattern (2465) and re-drew the front pattern piece to make it without the front pleating, added in some bust darts and presto – the Marfy that looks kinda like a sorbetto…

…but named the Caramel Slice because I made the rooky error of gobbling down the most amazing piece of caramel slice EVER (lovingly made by Mr. poppykettle of course) at the same time as trying to sew a seam. Unfortunately this meant my fabric came into contact with the delicious delight in my hand. Though I am rather pleased that my fagotting withstood a spin in the washing machine!

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The fabric of choice? A stretch yellow cotton from Tessuti. This pattern definitely does work better with a more drapey fabric, rather than something as structured as this. But it’s still wearable. I was absolutely blown away by Lizz’s fagotted sorbetto with pleats, which you can see here on her blog, A Good Wardrobe. So this top is an ode-to-Lizz! Imitation is the highest form of flattery?

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F2465 Marfy Top 30

I used the same off-white rayon seam binding on the insides, which I love the look of. 

Hand sewing this seam was a very relaxing experience – you can see my 101 on how to do your own hand-sewn fagotting here

F2465 Marfy Top 29

Julia Bobbin’s Dress Challenge

Mad Men Challenge Blogger Button

By now it should be all over the sewing interwebs – Julia (of JuliaBobbin fame) is holding a Mad Men Dress challenge. 

Now, I’m a regular admirer of both the Mad Men aesthetic and Julia’s taste in dresses, but I’m not exactly the biggest dress wearer myself. In fact, I bought a day dress for the first time just about 18 months ago (we’re talking day-dresses here, not fancy ones) and am slowly getting more comfortable with the concept of wearing them (sewing has had a big influence on that). 

I have a rather large (and continually expanding) collection of 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s dress patterns thanks to Etsy – the garments and cover drawings are so pretty so how could I not? But wearing them in real life? Hmm. So Julia’s challenge would ideally be the perfect outlet.

My dilemma – between now and leaving for my South American trip early next week, I’m just not going to have the time to sew it all up. Damn. My Inspiration shot was going to be Joan in this blue high waisted skirt, belt and silky top combo:

And I even found the perfect pattern – a loose silk blouse from a 1983 McCall’s pattern (top right) – which was actually described on the packet as a ‘Disco Top’. Hilarious.

Matched with this me-made skirt and of course assuming a Joanie pose, I think the resultant effect would be Mad Men reminiscent… (and apropos to my soon-to-be jet-setting status) kinda like this:

So whilst I’m not going to be able to officially join in the Mad Men fun, I’ve decided that on my return, I AM going to sew up one of those vintage dresses from my collection – in all it’s completely unnecessary-dress gloriousness:

And you get to choose which one. So – do you prefer the 1960’s Simplicity dress in the full skirt or straight skirt, or the 1950’s McCall’s? You’ve got until the end of March to vote!

V8739 & V8543: The Vogue Suit

V8739 and V8543 3

It’s so exciting to have this outfit finally finished and wearable! It’s been a long time in the making. I got distracted SO many times! And then it was stinking hot… so the last thing I felt like working on was a winter wool suit. But I eventually got my sewing mojo back and dived into getting it done like another life force had taken me over. 

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A few weeks before I finished this suit – intended for office wear, obviously, I got a promotion. A big one, too! The ironic thing is that I will now no longer be based in an office, but on site. Which means I’m swapping my carefully crafted office wardrobe for steel capped boots and hi-vis clothing. Hot. (not). It also means I’ll no longer be able to admire this amazing view from my desk at sunrise: (click to enlarge)


But at least I know that when I get to come back into civilisation for a meeting or what not, I’ll have a little something pre-prepared. This also means I’m going to have to be REALLY organised with future fabric/notions shopping as I won’t be able to ‘just pop in’ on my lunch break…


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The jacket pattern is Vogue 8739 I adore it – it camouflages a bit of a protruding tummy in a very flattering manner! I can see from the photos now that the darts the front are too long though – they should ideally be stopping before they get to the bust point. I’m annoyed I never picked this up! The jacket is supposed to be fully lined… but as I liked the structural seam lines on the back so much, I decided to try and emphasise them with a bit of contrast binding – I really love the finished effect, even if it is in hiding when I’m wearing it! I used the trusty catch-stitch to prevent all of the seam allowances from flopping about the place. 

V8739 Vogue Suit Jacket

The jacket front and sleeves are still both lined, so it’s super easy to wear.  But I won’t ever be doing this particular treatment again… it was tricky! It meant I needed to cover my shoulder pads with the wool so they were camouflaged, and I was at an absolute loss as to how to invisibly include sleeve heads, which it needed – there was quite a bit of dimpling at the shoulder seam on the sleeve side.

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The fabric is a gorgeously soft brown wool flecked with orange and grey, from Emma One Sock – and was a dream to work with. Although if I make a work suit in the future I’ll be looking for fabric with some synthetic content – considering how difficult it was to press in place, it’s creased quite a bit from a day of wear! For the lining of both pieces I used a peachy tangerine silk charmeuse from Clegs – I do love a brightly coloured lining! And my love affair with Charmeuse continues – not only is it an amazing fabric to work with, but it feels divine up against your skin.

I was worried that my wool would be a bit too structural to give the softness the peplum required – and I think I was on the money here as it is a wee bit stiff (and not as floppy as I’d hoped). I would recommend anyone else who wants to make this pattern to stick with a more drapey fabric (like the ones recommended on the pattern sleeve!).

V8739 and V8543 2

The skirt is from another co-ordinates wardrobe pattern – Vogue 8543. I love the curved lines on this skirt, and whilst it’s a bit of a fabric hog (for a straight skirt, at least) it was good fun to put together and I love the visual result of all of those curved lines. 

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When it comes to the skirt – Vogue really needs to kick their editor up the bum for the inordinate number of spelling mistakes, references to incorrect pattern pieces and general confusion caused by the pattern instructions for this number. Oh yes. I won’t even mention the mis-printing of fold lines on the actual pattern pieces. 

V8543 Vogue Skirt Insides
Glorious charmeuse lining and my added fabric facing at the skirt front

I definitely take issue with the fact that there is no facing in this skirt – the lining is simply sewn on at the waistband – not even a whisper of a mention of understitching! Had I not been the wiser, this would be a disaster waiting to happen and I wasn’t going to have my lining ride up. I modified the pattern so it would have a fabric facing at the front which was ditch-stitched down, hopefully avoiding that potential issue.

V8543 Vogue Skirt seam matching

I am super pleased with my seam matching at the side zip though! Wool is such a friendly fabric to work with, so it was easy to baste, push and pull into place before sewing that zip!

V8543 Skirt

My favourite part of this skirt is the kick pleats at the back :) Letting my inner geek out for a moment – I was absolutely fascinated with the pattern pieces for putting this together.

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They allow for so much leg movement! Although it makes hemming a tad tricky (you need to cut the seam allowance so they will lay flat).

Back to the jacket – I did my usual trick of replacing the sleeves from the Vogue 8739 pattern and replacing them with my favourite sleeves from Vogue 8333. A much better look. You can check back here if you’d like to see the difference! I also drafted my own sleeve heads

V8739 and V8543 7

How do I like it? Very much so. I’m simply LOVING the peplum. It’s a great thing being able to have a suit with a bit of femininity!

101: Draft your own sleeve heads

Sleeve heads are designed to support the sleeve cap in coats and jackets (preventing dimpling!) and these days you can buy pre-made shaped ones, or square ones that come in a roll.

I like to make my own as I find the pre-made ones a little on the long side, and so that the shape of the sleeve head matches the shape of the sleeve pattern.  

So if you’re making a jacket or a coat, and you’d like to use sleeve heads, here’s how. 

1. Grab your sleeve pattern piece and trace it (I use a roll of non-waxed grease-proof paper for my tracing activities – inexpensive, easily found and plentiful!). Make sure you include the shoulder seam point and the grainline!

2. Draw in the lines of the sleeve head. Perhaps a little easier said than done? Basically it will be a little longer at the front of your jacket (the longer, sloping side of your sleeve pattern) and shorter at the back of your jacket). I make the sleeve head longer if I’m working with very heavy fabric, but for lightweight fabric like my wool, this should be adequate.

I’ve made this particular one 5cm wide, although I will probably cut it back a little depending on how it looks when inserted. It’s always easier to cut something back than try to increase it!

3. The sleeve head needs to be cut on the bias, allowing it to move around with you when you’re wearing the finished garment. To change the grain line I draw a 2x2cm square at the end, and the diagonal inside of this square is the new grain line. 

Of course if you own a set square, you can just align your ruler and draw in your 45 degree angled line.

4.  Cut out your sleeve heads – for garments that are dry clean only I use a cotton batting that I sometimes cover in lining fabric, otherwise mohair, fleece or flannel work just as well. You can layer them up if you’re working with a particularly crisp fabric that needs a bit of extra support.

5. To put your sleeve heads in, position your sleeve so you’re looking down into it (jacket turned inside out) and pin the head so that the shoulder seam points match:

For this step I’m using pictures from my Octopus’ Garden jacket because I realised that the current jacket I’m making (Vogue 8739)  will not be fully lined, meaning that I needed to be a bit creative with inserting my sleeve head. This is the normal way to insert them – the sleeve head will then be hidden by your lining.

6. Sew them in – with the sleeve head facing down towards the machine (shown in the slightly blurry photo below) so you can see the original shoulder seam. Sew as close to this (if not right on top of it) to attach the sleeve head. 

And that’s it! Sleeve heads will take your jacket from having dimples at the sleeve cap to being perfectly smooth. And it’s little details like this that make all the visual difference!