Friday, December 30, 2011

Burda 09-2010-111 High-Neck Wrap Blouse

Burda 09-2010-111 Thumbnail

I fell in love with the Burda 09-2010-111 wrap blouse as soon as I got the magazine.  It only took me a year and change to get to it, ahem.

I first did a wearable muslin out of this plaid silk dupioni from The Carol Collection (which somehow didn't make it into the photo of all the fabric, but I'm positive that's where it's from).  I had it in mind for a different pattern, but when I pre-washed it--and thank goodness I pre-wash silk by hand--the bleeding was more like hemorrhaging.  It used to be a very crisp plaid with no white parts, now it's more like tie-dyed into vaguely plaid shapes.  So glad I pre-washed!!!!

Collar Pleats

It's a fairly simple pattern, if a bit fussy.  You have to mark pleats at the neckline and a dart near the hemline.

After the first version, I considered whether I should sew the collar pleats after the center back seam was sewn.  I decided to follow directions, but as you can see my pleats are embarrassingly offset.  Well, I mean, not *that* embarrassing--I don't think anybody actually cares--but still, offset.

Mark and Interface Dart
I like the button and loop closure on the original pattern, but was skeptical that it would work for me.  It would be a flattering look for a rectangle or a large bust, but a small-busted pear such as I requires waist definition and I figured I would need to do a tie.  I got the project to the point where it could be pinned together to try on and decided, yep, I need the tie.

I planned to sew the tie into the dart, so I reinforced it with interfacing, cutting out a triangle of interfacing just inside the dart seam lines so it wouldn't be too stiff.  I marked the dart on the right side with tailor's tacks, and then drew a chalk line down the center of the dart.
Stitch Tie Into Dart

I constructed the tie--I had to piece it for the plaid version so I amused myself by calling it "madras"--and then pinned the tie about 1.25" down from the dart apex and just to the side of the marked center line; it doesn't matter which side you choose, but it does need to be next to the center line rather than at it so the dart will fold properly.

I stitched the tie in place, and then stitched the dart, enclosing the tie.

The sleeves as drafted (on this version of it) are meant to be overly long and then scrunched up with a tie.  Several reviewers mentioned that the tie was impractical and kept dragging through food and dishwater.  Just as well, because I didn't have enough of either fabric to make the really long sleeves.  For the plaid version, I finished the edge of the sleeve with self bias tape, and made a bishop sleeve with a cuff for the green version.

Plaid Front
Burda 09-2010-111 Green

The pattern works much better in the fluid olive georgette than the rather stiff dupioni.  I would never recommend it for anything like a cotton, and I wouldn't make it again in dupioni.

I like the blouse enough to make it twice, obviously, but it is not my One True Wrap Top pattern. The drape on the green version is gorgeous, but it is a little fussy to keep closed, and the style is not amenable to a strategically placed snap.

There is also more fabric billowing under the arms than is flattering for me, I think.  I always feel self-conscious about that because to me it's like a giant neon sign saying "SMALL BUST HERE.  BOOBS TOO SMALL TO PUSH OUT THE FABRIC PROPERLY."  But the style is not really amenable to an SBA, which would completely change the look anyway.

I'm glad I finally have a replacement for my beloved McCall 5314 green silk wrap blouse.  I didn't know I needed a broad back adjustment when I made that and the seams are going to burst if it's worn again.  :(

All photos are here and the pattern review is here.


Sertyan asks:

I have been reading about many SBAs in your post and would love how to do them, I read about 'narrowing' the dart. How do you narrow a dart?

I have made a post with all my different SBA methods explained and illustrated here.  Hope that helps!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Butterick 5677, Joan Holloway Colorblock Dress

B5677 Thumbnail

I have a whole Pinterest board on colorblocking, but one of my favorites is this VPL Lichen Shift Dress ($525).  I really love those curved lines and the contrast print rather than using two solids.

I am also into the curves on this Helmut Lang ($485).  It makes great use of the colorblocking medium to enhance the figure.  While there is much to be said for fun geometric colorblocking like this one, for pure figure flattery, curves are where it's at.

So it was a no-brainer to pick up Butterick 5677 at the first available opportunity.  When I got the faille knit I used as the contrast here from Fabric Mart for $1.99/yd a couple months ago, my plan was hatched.

Butterick 5677 Line Drawing

The first thing I did was the write the numbers of the pattern pieces on the back of envelope, as shown at left.  I highly recommend you do this, as it makes every subsequent thing easier.  The first thing is to choose your contrast panels.  In the pattern envelope example, I feel like they went just a bit too far.  I have never been a believer in "get all the way dressed and accessorized and then take one piece off."  Restraint is not my motto.  But I felt by making the sleeves contrast it just went too dangerously close to formal cheerleader category.

If I were to make this again, I think I might combine 2 and 3 in to a single panel and make it contrast.  I feel that the upper slice of contrast in panel 3 is too thin compared to the width of panel 5 on the lower half.

To make sewing easier, I wrote the pattern number on the back of the cut fabric pieces.  Make sure you do this in a chalk that wipes off and/or won't show through!

Creating Full Sleeve
The dress does not come with full length sleeves, just the cap sleeves in the line drawing.  As it is made with ponte/double knit, however, it seemed to me suited to be a long-sleeve dress for cooler weather.

Because the sleeves are cap, you can't just lengthen them, you have to draw in the lower curve of the armscye.  This took me SO LONG to figure out.  I really do not have a 3D mind.

Eventually I got the sleeve pattern figured out, marking the shoulder, neckline, sleeve hem, and joining with piece 2 (front) and 8 (back).

Extend Cap Sleeve Armscye Curve

Then I used the helpfully included lining pattern to draw in the lower armscye curve.  After I finished I realized it would have been easier to use the connecting piece (2 or 8) that completes the armscye.   You can see here how the copied lower curve is the same as the bodice.

You can see both sleeve pattern pieces here

Hand tack match points

There are a lot of seam intersections in this pattern.  I was impressed with how well all the pieces fit together, which is my general experience with the Muse line.  They are well-drafted patterns that sew up nicely.

To improve my odds on the seam intersections, I took a hand-tack at each match point before sewing the seam.  A meticulous person would have hand-basted the whole shebang from armscye to the lower seam intersection, but I am not that person.  I didn't get it exactly perfect, but the match is pretty darn close.

Bias Tape Neckline Finish
The dress is meant to be lined, and the neckline (and armscye, on the cap sleeve as drafted) is finished with the lining.  Lining a double knit seems unnecessary and would add bulk so I skipped that.

The neckline is fairly wide, and needs to be snug in order to fit closely.  I first tried to finish the neckline with a facing, drafting from the lining and sleeve pieces, but it was just too bulky and a little stretched out (operator error). 

I never would have considered finishing a knit neckline with a woven bias tape until Amanda suggested it on her blog, but in this instance it was the perfect solution.  The neckline more than ample to pull over the head without stretching, and it needs to be very stable.

I used this tutorial to make a giant pile of bias tape.  I think my math is correct here.  I used a piece of fabric about 54" x 22".  Using length times width, the area of that piece of fabric is 1188 inches.  I then reduced the width to 2 1/4" (the width of my bias tape--I prefer a wider bias tape), making the length...528 inches, or more than 14 1/2 yards.  That is a lot of bias tape, my friends.

I did not use Amanda's (very neat) method for finishing.  I folded my bias tape in half and sewed the raw edges together to the right side of the neckline, slighting easing in the neckline as I did so; the bias tape is probably about 1/2 inch shorter than the neckline.  Then I turned under the bias tape and pressed.  I hand tacked the bias tape to each seamline.  It stays in place nicely and gives a flat, snug finish on the neckline.  So much better than my disastrous facing.

Totally dig the dress, and it is just as I imagined.  The only thing I'd change in the future is to combine panels 2 and 3 (and 8 and 9).  The upper contrast strip looks skimpy and unbalanced compared to the width of the lower contrast strip.  Combining those two pieces would be just about perfect, I think.

I was highly impressed with the fit out of the envelope.  The only changes I made were to do a swayback tuck in the center back, and to add an 1.25 inches to the length.  Keep in mind that I am a shortie.  My final hem ended up just about at the cutting line on the pattern.  This is drafted SHORT.

I see that I still don't have a perfect fit in the back (it seemed good in the mirror, but the photos say otherwise).  I think I need to pin piece 11 to the back (piece 10) and take a little swayback width out of that as well.

One of my friend's husband's bands (The Burning Hearts) was playing a show on Friday and I wanted to wear the dress.  I'm not going to lie to you, I wore it out with the horrible faced neckline.

The boyfriend approved, asking if I had worn my rock'n'roll dress for the occasion.  I played along like it was a rock'n'roll dress, but really it is so Joan Holloway!  (I couldn't resist the opportunity to put myself in an office at Sterling Cooper in my thumbnail photo.)

I am just now watching Mad Men on Netflix.  I was kind of annoyed before at how everyone was all, "Oh, Joan!" but now I totally get it.  She is confident and sexy, but not in any way cheap or insecure.  If Joan were plopped down in the here and now, I feel this is totally what she'd wear.  It's all about curves, but is completely covered up and tasteful.  It's all about illusion.

I'm not sure I'll make another of these--it's quite distinctive and colorblocking has a habit of looking extremely dated fairly quickly (judging by 80s colorblocking).  But I suddenly had a vision of one in orange, red, and hot pink for summer.  So dynamite.  If only I knew a reliable source of good quality double knit in a million colors...

All photos are here and the pattern review is here.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Winter Work Tops: Tridux

Yes, it's that time of year again.  The time of year to try to imagine separates for work that have sleeves.  I don't know why sleeved tops are so different from sleeveless ones.  I don't have too much trouble envisioning, creating, and wearing cute summer tops.  And yet, stick a sleeve in the picture and my mind goes blank and grumpy.

So I did some snoop shopping.

It appears that I am not alone.  The offerings are SAD.  After going through literally THOUSANDS of long and 3/4 sleeve tops on Saks, Nordstrom, and Bloomingdale's I found a handful of interesting pieces.  There's nothing I want to copy outright, I don't think, but I identified some elements that I like.

The best of the bunch is this one (Velvet by Graham & Spencer, $174).  Sequins are having a moment and I do like them, but I think for day I'd go for something a little more matte, lol.

But I love the way this drapes from the shoulders and LOVE the shaped hem (I would tack it in place to mitigate the fear of belly show-through, horrors).  I haven't seen any patterns like this, so if you have suggestions I am all ears.

Something about this piece (BCBGMAXAZRIA Marlene Studded Sleeve Top, $278) speaks to me as well, but it's definitely more about mood and elements than the whole top.  Of course it's a given that I love the color(!!!), but what I'm really into is the shape of that sleeve hem.  I just picked up Burda 7519 at the Joann sale (LOVE that they are now putting Burdas on sale occasionally) and am going to see if I can work something out like this sleeve hem.

I also like the banded hem, but in reality that does not work for my pear-shaped body.  I need waist definition, and it needs to be relatively high.

Although I still like the classic tie top, with a lower neckline as in this one, I really dig the scarf top on this Philip Lim ($375).  It still has flair but is not too girly.

I would make the scarf a little smaller and shorter, but love the pull-through loop.

In case you were wondering, ruffles are still a thing.  I cannot believe how much longevity this trend has had.  They have been in style for at least 4 years now; I can't remember far enough back to know if it's been longer.

I still saw plenty of your usual ruffles around the neck, but there were some creative twists.  My fave is this RED Valentino sweater ($395) with the asymmetric shoulder ruffle.

I also appreciated the feminine but not-too-sweet take of this Boss Black; the "ruffles" are straight strips of fabric sewn diagonally across the blouse.  Takes it up a notch in terms of being taken seriously as a professional versus girly girl ruffles.

I'm always drawn to pieces like this (Chelsea Flower Wrap Front Silk Blouse, $275) with the billowy dolman sleeve, or this fabulous kimono sleeve top, but in reality they end up horrible on me, as in this project.  But it doesn't stop me from looking.

You can see all my picks here.

And that's really kind of it!  There is a whole lot that is shapeless out there.  Cutout shoulders are another trend I'll pass on.

Would it be terrible if I made an entire wardrobe of winter tops that are all variations on the cowl and the wrap?  Because that's all that's appealing to me right now.  This is why I wear dresses!!!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Visit to the White House and a New Dress

State Dining Room
When we did the Tweed Ride, my friend Courtney mentioned that she was thinking of planning a White House holiday tour and asked if I'd like to join. I said of course, and asked her who her friend is. To see the White House (at least for people who live here--I don't know how out-of-towners do it) you have to have a friend who works there and can get you in. It turns out that her job is considered part of the White House and she *is* the friend. How wonderful! So yesterday morning we headed over to see the White House all dressed up for the holidays.
Felt Trees--Want
The decorations were somewhat modest for, well, the White House--a mansion of size and importance--in keeping with the economic times, but they were all clever, festive, and still tasteful. I just LOVED these felt trees in the entrance area. I don't decorate for the holidays because I'm not religious and because I always travel to Texas, but I could actually see having one of these adorable little trees. And check out the giant felt Bo!

Button Bo! Bo was quite a decorative theme. There was a Bo in just about every room/display. My absolute favorite was this Bo made of buttons! Could you die? It was just so clever and absolutely adorable. This wasn't the only place that buttons showed up. I glanced down at the tree skirt of the large family tree (decorated by the children of active duty service members) and noticed that the tree skirt was sprinkled with what appeared to be antique and vintage military buttons. Clearly, one of the decorators knows a little something about sewing.

Gingerbread White House Display The annual Gingerbread White House is always a big attraction. It keeps getting more and more elaborate and amazing and this year was no exception in this perfect replica of the White House in white chocolate. Apparently, it took six weeks to make. It was surrounded by macaron trees. I think white chocolate is gross so I'm ok with many pounds of it being used to make a decorative objects, but I had to object to wasting perfectly good macarons--very difficult to come by in the States--on decoration! Though the trees were cute.

McCall 6363 at the White House Of course I had to have a new dress for my visit! I bought this giant border print fabric on G Street's $2.97/yd table last November and thought the red flowers would be holiday-evocative without being too literal. I made it into another McCall 6363 knockoff, as described in this blog post. I didn't make any changes to the pattern--even did the same picot elastic trim on the neckline! I'll try to get a better picture of it later but there's really nothing new to tell about it. All photos of McCall 6363 are here

Trena at the Portico

Again in keeping with the festive spirit--and the quite cold weather--I wore my Vogue 8307 Armani-style coat. It's just about getting too cold to wear this, but I love the cheery color and the shape of the collar so I've been wearing it as much as possible until it gets well and truly below freezing.

Washington Monument, White House, Flag Here's my parting shot as we walked out of the White House and back to real life. I love the way the clean lines of the White House, the Washington Monument in the distance, and the colors of the flag converge. It was quite a different feeling to be on the inside of the White House grounds looking out, and not one I'll repeat too often LOL.

With all the real trees in the White House, and the wonderful decorations, and the high school choir singing wonderful a capella carols, this is a magical way to get in the holiday spirit!

All the White House photos are here.

Friday, December 2, 2011

McCall 6279 Trench dress

M6279 Thumbnail

I fell in love with McCall 6279 as soon as it came out. Although I bought the Butterick 5598 Suzi Chin trench dress when it came out a couple of months later, I like the McCall better and when I found this seersucker-esque fabric on the $2.97/yd table at G Street I couldn't wait to make it.

Pseudo SBA I cut my usual size in the pattern, 8 at the shoulder and bust, 10/12 (somewhere in between) at the waist, and 12/14 at the hip. As usual for a princess seam, I flattened the bust curve on the side front for a small bust adjustment. Once it was put together it was still a little loose at the bust and waist, so I took in the side seam on the front only to fine tune the fit.

Back (Unstyled) In addition to the SBA, I did a swayback adjustment similar to this as per usual. I have a hard time fitting dresses without a waist seam--to get a true fit would require so much distortion that it would change the grainline and alter the hang of the fabric. So you can see there is still some swayback bunching. I would be hesitant to take it in more, however, because it could use a smidge more room along the back princess seams for the booty. It is not tight, but it is more fitted in that area than the rest of the dress and I'd like just another inch of ease. If I tried to take more width out at the swayback, the curve back there would become too extreme and would point and pooch over the booty. I guess this is what is meant by over-fitting.

Self-Drafted Back Facing I have not made too many items with a back yoke and a collar, so I can't recall how the neckline is usually finished (I probably should have looked it up). The directions for this dress have you tuck the neckline's raw edges into the collar sandwich. With my fairly thick fabric, I thought that would look sloppy, so I created a back neck facing. This was not a perfect solution as it added bulk to an already bulky seam (two layers of collar plus inner and outer yoke), but it did give a neat finish to the neckline. I will have to research this issue before I make the pattern again.

Questionable Topstitching I thought the tiny pinstripes of this fabric would work better with the pieces, creating fun directional stripes effects, but instead it just looks sloppy (and I forgot to cut the back yoke on crossgrain, boo). I tried to rescue it with some topstitching, but that just made it worse, as you can see at right.

I never use the marked button placement on a pattern; because I am short and have a very specific preference on where the top buttoned button is placed (about 1/2" above the center hook of my bra--I have no cleavage, so I can totally get away with this for work) the marked placement never works. But although I actually carefully marked the two rows of buttonholes on the dress, using a ruler and everything, they came out so uneven!!! I couldn't really tell until I had cut open the buttonholes and sewn on the buttons, so nothing to be done.

Front I really love the look of this pattern, but this dress is a fail for me. When I got it to a point of try-on-ability, I realized to my horror that this seersucker stripe of white, charcoal, and red resolves into the color of chewed up gum at a distance of more than 12 inches. The bluish-pink color is the same hue--though a different shade--than my skin, as you can see in this photo. Wearing it as a jumper with the red shirt makes it a little better, but it is just too disappointing. I also don't like the armscye finish; the bias tape kind of sticks out and doesn't lay well.

I wore the dress one time--the day I took the photos--and then gave it to a co-worker who is almost the exact same size and shape as me, but with long dark hair and a rosier complexion (no blue undertones). She reports that it fits like a glove and the color looks fine on her. I hope she wears it to work one day!

Although this project was a fail, the pattern definitely is not. I spent 6 months on the hunt for the right fabric earlier this year and now I have to go on it again! I'm still contemplating the copper denim I got in New York, but still thinking it would be too much.

All photos are here and the pattern review is here.


Brenda asked about the bra strap keepers I bought at Steinlauf & Stoller. They do not seem to appear on the S&S website (I've looked before and also just confirmed). Dritz calls them "shoulder strap guards", I call them bra strap keepers. When I described what I was looking for to the guy working the counter--a little length of ribbon with snaps on each end that you sew into the shoulder seam to keep your bra strap in place--he figured out what I was talking about. They are in bins at the front of the store. Your best bet is to call or email asking for the name of them and whether they'll sell them by mail. They come in black, white, and beige, and are 90 cents per pair (at least in-store they are). These little things are invaluable! I hope you can get some.


Still haven't heard from Abby or Lydia re: the stash purge I have up for grabs.  Neither of you left any contact information. If you're still interested, please leave a comment on this post with an email address where I can reach you. Don't write out the full email address to avoid spam harvesters--write it something like "example at yahoo."  (Anyone else in the DC area is welcome to respond as well--you come pick up the fabric, and you must take the whole lot.)  Will be listing it on Freecycle soon.