Saturday, July 25, 2015

Back to Basics, why not Summer Ralph Lauren Whites? Burda's jeans skirt model 2-2014-109

At the end of the day, (actually at the beginning of the day, but let's not get technical) I spend a lot of my working time alone at my desk writing novels. There is no wardrobe regime for this but Shower and Show Self-Respect. During the winter my 'uniform' often ends up whatever sweater suits me on a black bottom—skirt or trousers. That's why a lot of my sewing is for the evening concerts we attend in Geneva.

I'm getting a little long in the tooth to realize so late that neutral bottoms are also a summer solution, in reverse. I love white pants or a skirt with an interesting top, it's looks so classic, so Ralph Lauren-on-Long Island. Okay. Why don't I have a whole slew of white bottoms in my separates closet? I can sew, can't I?

Sadly, the two pairs of Burda jeans I so lovingly sewed in 2010 are now way too tight for me. Sadly, because I worked hard on them, but also sadly because the 20 pounds of weight I had lost in 2009 was from life-changing/ life-saving surgery/illness/treatment.

I am no longer a size 40 at the hips, but back to the 'let's call it 44', (but at least I'm here to tell the tale, so end of sad and thanks to my doctors, again.)

But also end of Burda 2010 white jeans. I still have one nice pair of 44 white linen trousers from Promod, (I'm wearing them in my previous post about the Philip Lim silk top sewing and dyeing debacle) but only one white bottom, a jeans skirt, that I really love for everyday.

So I pulled out a TnT slacks pattern, Burda 108B-8-2010 (or wearing my khaki version in the Croatian airport here: and some really, really cheap, heavy white IKEA cotton and went to work.

This is the third time for this basic pattern. IKEA's twill or 'serge'  is 100% cotton with no stretch, so they're not quite great, but they will soften with washing and at least they are white, basic, and long enough. (I have a very long inseam, so I lengthened size 42-44 by 4 cm.)

I also realized my favorite A-line white jeans skirt (from a grocery chain rack!) here,

was just not quite right. Good for making breakfast. Good for going to the post office. Good for the endless and complicated rubbish recycling tasks required by Swiss ecology laws. But at my age, (see photo above) this size 42 is a trifle too short, a trifle too jeansy for a silk shirt with that silver button, too loose in the waist at the back, and yet too tight at the hips, witness the wrinkles. (okay, I'm actually a size 45.) I'm constantly yanking it down over my hips whenever I stand up.

So I reached for my bulging ringbinder of photocopies of all of Burda's technical diagrams since 2008 and found two possibles, ending up with this one, 2-2014-109
 which is the most 'lady-like' of the three options and used in the magazine as the bottom of a jacquard skirt suit. The other options are a ripped up denim number and a safari style with cargo pockets. I traced all three variations, just in case. This looked like becoming something of a sloper for me.

 Here's the result, a true 41-45. I compromised with single top-stitching down the front for durability and along the back yoke seams and pocket edges but no contrast double-stitching jeans-style.

I'm still interested in Burda's 'Romy Schneider model,' above, from another issue, which is even more elegant and anA-line like my beloved grocery shop number. I may still do that one, too, again for mere pennies in white IKEA twill. 

Anyway, for the moment, I've got my Ralph Lauren look down, and might now make one or two more. Total cost about 5 bucks each for the trousers and skirt because I'm using recycled zippers from my stash.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Bellbottom culottes, even culottes, again?

I want to stop you all right where you are, right now, just stop.
The UK's Guardian newspaper today is touting linen culottes as the best outfit for a day at the office when you'd rather be at the beach—far better than a beachy outfit that just looks pathetic and wistful or a tight sheath that is office appropriate but too tight and hot.
So the fashion editor models her outfit du choix:
Okay, it's neat and cool looking, especially if you go to the site where it's sold and see the cool cutout back: 
which is actually a bit dorky put together like that, whaaat those bell-bottom culottes!!! But after my outsized Solange Knowles outing (see review below) I'm catching on that wide and dorky is cool this season. This outfit makes you look like an extra in Willy Wonka's chocolate factory.

But wait, that's not my point. My point is that this linen outfit, which is hardly something you're going to be wearing as often as your favorite jeans, costs, (drumroll.....) a total of 540 pounds sterling. (837 US dollars or 1150 Australian dollars or...) well you get my point now, don't you?

Culottes come and go. I'm old enough to know this, trust me. They're cool now but, no, not that cool. Not unless you're already somewhere in Nice on your yacht. In which case, you've worn culottes out and have moved on to...I don't know.

I suppose that there are a number of fashion generations separating my last culotte outing and today's version.
We sewists wore them back in 1977, when Vogue gave us Christian Aujard, Yves St Laurent, Ralph Lauren, Givenchy and Dior.
Christian Aujard...those were the days.

Now Donna Karan has given us a fantastic look, but I can't quite call her baggy creation above 'culottes',  while Burda went with something much closer to a skirt silhouette for March and something identical for April. Compare this model

with these appearing in April's issue. Is there any difference? 

However, there seems to be a significant difference between the DK trouser-like silhouette and the wider, skirt-like Burda offering. Or is it just that Karan used a heavy silk-like fabric with soft drape versus Burda's cottons with more body?

Meanwhile there's a quickie version without the elegant Karan waistband for cheaters, below in sequins from Burda Dec 2014.

Anyway, sew some culottes. Or don't. But please, don't drop a lot of money you'll never see again. That's why we sew.

September 2015 Burda You're broiling, right? but Moscow and Munich are gearing up for autumn

Just when you thought it was safe to go outside...ha ha... and maybe even sew up some culottes from the summer Burdas for that August barbecue, the Burda people gotcha! You are toooooo late. Soooo behind.

It's time for September sewing!!
September sewing?
Yikes! I just mastered my 'Croquet Margaritas' recipe and bought a new glass pitcher to serve them in.

Well, as these previews are from the Russian site, we can forgive the autumnal nipping at our heat-wave'd sewing sneakers. Maybe it's getting chilly in Moscow or something...Or those Oktober Fest Heidi's want a head start on their costumes up in Munich. I'm afraid after some great spring and summer issues, these seem a little meh, but then, I have no yodelling dates on my calendar.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Kenzo blouse/shirt Burda February 2015

Here's my take on the February 2015 Burda modified knock-off of the Kenzo SS 2015 runway model.

(This is the last of my three summer shirts. I wore the 'boy shirt' with back pleats, now stitched down at the waist, to a rehearsal at the Verbier Music Festival yesterday. The run-through was in the village school gym, where the astounding Russian maestro Valery Gergiev was training up the VF orchestra including my fiddler kid lost in the Forest of Bows.

But after two hours of Tchaikovsky in blistering morning heat, I stood up with a crumpled and miserable mess at my back where the pleats had been. Still don't get that design...)

This, on the other hand, was fun to sew, shaping from shoulder 38 to 41 waist, and even more fun to wear, in a modified broderie anglaise fabric approximating the Kenzo look. It's a cotton-ply mix that doesn't crumple like the broadcloth.

Only one thing, I just can't button my shirts up to the neck. I guess this is a generational thing, but I. just. can't.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Blue Skies, Fresh Summer Shirt, Burda grandpa shirt, again, from April 2010 in this year's blue

I stitched up, as I said yesterday, three fresh summer shirts. One of them was the Kenzo wiggly peplum number and another was a 'Margaret Howell' camp or 'boyfriend' shirt, already reviewed.

Meanwhile, light blue seemed to have its moment in the last week or two, judging by the German Burda's choices pictured here and the Guardian newspaper's fashion page below. And blue is my favorite color.

So with some super-cheap IKEA cotton, home-dyed the requisite color of a clear day in spring, I turned to a beloved Burda 'grandfather shirt' pattern, sewn earlier in thin batiste (when I was recovering from the Serious Illness and almost thirty pounds lighter here)
from my favorite  issue of all time, April 2010, and ran up the blue version, (pictured above) lengthening the sleeves a little.

Burda's cheapo cotton is practically free, but it is heavier than the white batiste I used for the first version. This is more a sort of chambray that softens with washing and is good for a Swiss summer evening over a swimsuit by the lake.

I cut only the needed length of 'natural' colored cotton off my IKEA stash and washed it with  'whitening' detergent so that I had as white as possible a base for the dye to grab hold of, then ran it through the machine with a box of blue dye. Total cost for a sturdy shirt, less than ten bucks.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Margaret Howell boyfriend look/fugly Burda #113 /trendy, arty Solange Knowles shirt?

The designer Margaret Howell offered a 'boyfriend' shirt look for this summer. 
 Goodness knows why I tackled such a look when it doesn't even flatter a young woman walking the runway. It features the sort of architectural genderless purity that requires either a waif-life commitment to fugly (as shown) or some flamboyant red lips and black nerd glasses to prove you have to wear a really weird shirt to downplay your incredible sexiness.

"I'm too sexy for my shirt"
Or you are Solange Knowles in transit. Her shirt is even bigger than mine:

I fit neither category—androgynous or sex bomb . But I bought the white broadcloth anyway.The only big deal of Burda's 'wide white shirt' #113 from February 2015—an unflattering, exaggerated silhouette—was a fan of pleats running down the center back yoke—

which in my case, of course, won't stay put. You also have to wear it with the top button closed—True Nerd— or else the whole shirt rides up your chest and shifts to the back. (see second photo below)

Pictured here, it reminds me of a maternity shirt from the 1950's. Worse, once I washed all the sewing markings off the shirt, the pleats disappeared from the back and the shirt had, of course, completely lost its Reason to Live.

As of writing, this baby needs some help before it is wearable. 

The choice is to topstitch down each and every pleat to emphasize the fan-look, or to press down the pleats again and fix them at the back of the waist line, to effect a sort of peplum fan. It's what Burda did with the long dress version, so I'll try the latter, knowing that if that doesn't improve the shirt, I can rip out a single line of stitching and resort to all the topstitching bother.

UPDATE: I did a double row of stitches 10 cm apart across the pleats in the back just at the waist line and now the blouse looks much better. It will be much easier to iron down those pleats, too.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Um, sorry, I've been here's a peek of Burda's designs for August 2015 including the Cowboy Look...My comments

Ironic, isn't it, that because I've been so busy sewing, I've lost touch with my fellow sewing bloggists.

I've sewn a one-armed black knit sheath, the Kenzo white blouse, a Margaret Howell look-alike white shirt as well as my YSL knock-off red 'Carmen' dress and I'm just now finishing a pale blue version of my favourite 'grandfather shirt' from the same April 2010 go-to Burda.

Uh, no photos yet.

But I have been lurking a lot to get inspiration from you guys. Still can't get up the gumption to go with a jumpsuit, two years on.

Meanwhile, I found the upcoming Burda designs for August, but don't see too much that spins my sewing spurs without the photos. I say, 'spins my spurs' because the German house of Burda has gone again for the 'Western look.' Odd how much I love the 'safari look' which is a fantasy style, but loathe the cowgirl schtick.

Apart from the current season's fling with fringe, I don't see how it plays very far. Nonetheless, a fantasy about cowboys and Indians runs through German fantasy life and may be linked to a dubious line of children's adventure books from the 1930's written by a guy named Karl May. My husband, now in his 70's, smuggled these sagas about Winnetou and Old Shatterhand under the bedcovers of his Swiss monastery boys' school with a flashlight to devour Karl May sagas.

I really don't know anybody who wants to look like an extra from a Clint Eastwood movie.
Do you? Yet, the Claudia Cardinale-on-the-Texan-plains does strike some mittel-Europeans hard. Fifteen years ago, we signed the kids up for a local badminton club and found it was run by a clique of hardened country-westernized Swiss dressed top to toe in boots, hats and fringe.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

St Laurent knock-off, the peasant neckline...again with Burda 2010-4-112B

Anybody remember the ruffled Lanvin look that was doing the rounds some years ago? It looks like St Laurent has returned to this favorite trope with their own collection for Spring 2015.

When we deconstruct this look, it's an elasticated ruffle peasant neckline with variations of skirt below and by my count this is the 4,579th time St Laurent uses it. You can big up the ruffle (there's another Burda pattern that puts wire in its oversized ruffle) but I get more mileage out of clothes with a little less oomph.

I'm taking up a length of pure silk I've had around for literally twenty-five years, inspired by the return of red and black as a combination in various collections this year. Since I don't need St Laurent's trailing skirts, I'm going with a dress pattern used before in blue silk, a Burda pattern from April 2010.
The 2015 St Laurent version
The Lanvin look from about 2009

My daughter wearing my Burda 2010-4-112B mimicking the Lanvin Lady above
Burda 4-2010 
 Burda 4-2010

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Enough of Winter and Work! A weekend at the Montreux Palace, Get Your Read-A-Free-Ebook Week Coupons and more sewing!

Are you enjoying the Great British Sewing Bee? I am, not least because Season Three has been dominated by male sewers and already, it's quite obvious that Neil, the married military man, is going to win hands down. Still the challenges are daunting, especially that last one, a traditional kilt. Just too hard.

My own Burda Easy zebra 'challenge' is finished! By laying all the pattern pieces to imitate the finished skirt, I avoided headaches with zebra stripes going the wrong way. I think the piecing adds just enough interest, PLUS, this serves as a wearable muslim in case I wanted to invest in a real leather skirt. The fit at size 44 was perfect, but look at what happened when I added a whopping 13 cm to the hem. This is a mini-mini as drafted.

 If you're not interested in sewing, perhaps you'd like some free reading? YES, it's Read an E-Book Week again and collect below your coupons for 100% FREE E-BOOKS!

But perhaps you'd also like to celebrate with me. The end of winter is on the horizon.

Most of our winter 2014-2015 looked like the picture outside our house on the left, (plus my husband is looking at his third major operation in the last twelve months as soon as we can get him a slot in hospital.) We had a great Christmas with the three adult kids and their grown friends but somehow around now snow starts to look like 'white mud' and we both needed a break. (don't give up, the free book coupons are coming...)

Unfortunately my husand can hardly walk until he gets some new parts. The Montreux Palace Hotel offered him a great 3-for-2 nights deal over Valentine Day Weekend, so we decided to celebrate our birthdays by disappearing to their spa for a 'staycation' forty minutes' drive down the freeway and shutting off the phones. Notice behind my husband in the red bathing trunks, one of Switzerland's legendary cruise boats is making its rounds of Lake Geneva.

The Montreux Palace Hotel is one of those landmarks of civilization that should be on everyone's bucket list. The author of "Lolita" Vladimir Nobokov, liked it so much, he moved into one of the wings and lived there full time. Since his day, they've installed one of Switzerland's premiere hotel spa and gym complexes without changing the Belle Epoque decor in the main building or the casino opposite. And then there's the annual Montreux Jazz Festival in July to lure you here if sybaritic lounging around isn't enough for you.

So use this coupon number to download these free e-books from Smashwords clicking on the 'if you like' links below:

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Zebra Fur Burda Easy Skirt FW 2014 and why I should give a f...inger about 'age appropriate'

The other night I was dining with some friends on the staid side, (all of us on the wrong side of 60.) One of the guests described her son's girlfriend as 'blowsy, blonde and wearing some leopard print thing.'
There was an awkward pause at the table as everyone realized I was blonde and wearing a leopard print sweater. I actually got a flustered email of apology from the guest the next day who realized she could have been misunderstood. But she wasn't misunderstood. I know that in the world of Talbot/Land'sEnd good taste, no one my age wears a leopard print sweater...or a leather jacket...or half the other things I love to wear.

These are the same people who probably hate my crocodile leather skirt, which I just tightened and shortened for good measure. I love this lady, but I don't care what she thinks of blowsy blondes in leopard print.

Which brings me to my next defiant act—to sew up the zebra fur skirt in the last Burda Easy mag, even though
1. I'm too old,
2. I'm sure it's going to be deemed in garish taste in certain quarters,
3. It's almost too late in the season to be embarking on a fur project.

TOUGH! Here goes! (I'll be adding a lining, eliminating the lower zippers and lowering the hem to just above the knee (by 13 cm.)  Otherwise, no drastic changes so far.