Sunday, October 29, 2017

Missing for seven months, but back at last…and revisiting a favorite, the Burda 124 July 2011 kimono pattern

There are two reasons I haven't blogged much in the last seven months with many apologies to the handful of subscribers who have stuck with me for seven years, through travel and sewing adventures, terrible illness, and life's usual garden-variety highs and lows.

One reason is, sadly, purely mechanical. I lost access to this blog via a stupid neglect of a dying email address and failure to set a recovery number or address. After many months of trying to get Blogger to produce one single human employee (epic fail, let me save you time, there are none and the Blogger Forum volunteers can only try so far) I managed last night to get an AOL employee in Romania, a kind and charming human, to sit tight with me for the better part of an hour, half a dozen 'captchas,' not a few comic AOL tin-can-men alerts of disfunctional webpages, the recovery of a 2010 credit card's last four digits, and…you get the idea.

Hey, AOL Help rocks.
Blogger Help sucks.
I know they get dissed for being a last-century company, but Miss Bi***ca on the Aol Help Desk 1-800 number did her job with patience and humor—and there was no fee.

BUT the second reason for no blogging and for the inertia about reclaiming the blog itself is that I didn't actually sew very much. Is it possible that this blog inspired me, and without it, I saw no need for new clothing? I think I didn't understand how much the blogging, the community of you people, the support and learning process of fellow sewers had been an integral part of my lifelong hobby which I carried on alone for the better part of the seventies and eighties. The sewing community has transformed completely into something vibrant, proud and dazzlingly creative—no more apologies for 'loving hands at home' being a shameful fallback.

But shame there still is…witness: Earlier this year, I tried my second jumpsuit, this time a Burda Easy SS 2017 pattern, using some IKEA Ditte blue cotton, below. I even ran some black embroidery stitching around the mandatory ruffle sleeve and cropped the trousers to get a summer 2017 vibe. Low cost, maybe Swiss 10 francs all told.

What I realized about all these off the shoulder styles of the past year is that an active woman will find she is constantly pulling the damn neckline back down to affect the 'Carmen' style. Well, this Carmen does housework, and as practical and fun as this summer down-time fashion was to use as a sort of instant-dressing option, the discomfort factor was high. I have loosened the neckline elastic somewhat, but this one goes in the 'lake vacation' pile for tossing on after a swim.
The big news of our summer was the marriage of the model goddaughter to her dreamboat in England in September. (photo above) For this I needed a special outfit. As she was born in Tokyo, coincidentally in the same hospital as her betrothed, (standing left in photo) I thought a kimono would be a sentimental touch. I ordered silk from Thai Silks but when it arrived, I didn't like the shiny side of the fabric which looked cheap compared to the mat inner surface. So I reversed it, with no one the wiser. The lining was a very light lining silk, home-dyed candy pink.
As you can see above, the finished kimono went over a purchased navy blue jumpsuit from Promod on sale. I added pink and blue roses ordered online to the white hat, a gift from my daughter years ago.
And so it goes. The goddaughter is all grown up now. So is the daughter. 

But I've got my blog back! Is anybody out there?

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Winter Downs Comforted by Needles

No, not acupuncture needles, or at least, not yet.

I'm wondering where the sewing mojo went this winter. Maybe a lack of outings requiring that I actually get dressed was a factor? I've been living in rotating pairs of Promod leggings in black, gray and navy under motorcycle boots and pullovers/jackets for months.

But that can't be it entirely. For decades sewing was an essential therapy and joyful hobby, whether I wore the items often or even needed them. Perhaps it was a question of identity and hope? There were once days, when seeing a Ralph Lauren, YSL, or Donna Karan Vogue Designer Pattern just released, that I went bananas with excitement, investment, and effort. Voila!

That was decades ago. It wasn't just appreciation for some pretty spectacular, highend patterns, but also that I worked in radio, television and print journalism, an important incentive. I was 'out and about.'

I was also inspired by the stylish women in my family before me: a French Canadian grandmother who sewed up fine British wools purchased in Toronto, an aunt in p.r. in Detroit, a mother married to a television director in Hollywood. These ladies didn't ever let themselves 'go'. They were hanging on, right to the oncologist's last deathbed visit.

I have recently counted up all my Chanel-type jackets from Vogue 7975 and another OOP Vogue (five makes) and all my tie-neck or ruffled blouses (maybe 10) my eternal white shirts same, my black skirts and trousers, my kimonos (4) etc., safari jackets or vests (lots) and saw that I had fixed on my style some years ago. "Parisian lounging in kimonos on safari," or something…

I guess it's obvious that I'm not going to veer off at my age into vintage 50's looks or looks I wore already like the 70's bellbottom and peasant blouse or the 80's padded career woman/disco queen or 60's sheaths.

Perhaps it was with this full closet on my conscious that I stopped sewing for many months through the winter.

Oh, the tone of despair! Sorry!

Meanwhile, knitting filled the gap:

This was a new variation on the Best Baby Sweater in the World for a new mother who hates the pink/blue gender thing. I ended up with a classic mini-Aran, sort of "Ralph Lauren for Human Bean" look. But I fear that the classic wool blend, rugged enough for facing gales on the Irish Sea, might be a bit rough on the sprog's skin. Next time, I'll be use to upgrade to softer baby yarn.

I made socks, too, using leftovers from my stash bag. I always use the two-socks-simultaneous method to avoid the dreaded 'Second Sock Syndrome,' and because I colorblock, etc., it's a sure way to make sure the socks match exactly. My heel-turning is still pretty hellish, requiring a few tacked-in stitches at the sides to close little corner holes, but every recipient reports that these socks are just nifty in ski boots and frigid UK winters.

I hadn't knit socks in about five years or so, so it was good to refresh that skill while watching the news, etc.
Here is a second pair, still on two double-pointed circular needles, for those of you who don't know what I'm talking about: Notice that one set is painted with nail polish so that I keep the rounds worked on the right circles.

And, third, while managing a full house for the week of Christmas, I knit Burdastyle's Jan 2016 beanie to go with the Burda Easy fake blue mink fur Wilma Flintstone vest reviewed below. This was the first time I'd ever heard of an Italian cast on and it took me three goes to really believe that I was supposed to use a stray string that was removed after the cast on. Wasn't the whole thing going to fall apart in my hands? Um, no, it worked, although I didn't trust my French skills and checked with YouTube videos in English to get the idea.

A new skill. I'm not dead yet.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Wilma Flintstone vest and a quick cashmere kimono coat, both from same pattern, Burda Easy A-W 2016-2017

I'm a little late to the fur vest trend, and I'm not sure why. I live in snow country, after all, a fur vest requires only one metre of fabric plus lining, and it takes about an hour to sew. I guess I didn't luuuurrrve any of the fake furs on offer in town until I spotted one just made for me—dark blue mink-like fur with a lovely 'hand,' and even better, on sale as a remnant.

I had already traced out the Burda Easy master pattern for this winter, which offers jacket, above-knee length fur vest, a full-length wool vest, a sleeveless jacket, and a full long coat version.

These patterns are meant for beginners who want trendy fashion super fast, but for my blue-fur 'Wilma Flintstone,' I inserted pockets borrowed from my Narnia Burda fur coat made some years ago. I also added fur hook closures at the neck and waist, (closeup above)

And I made the full coat version in a lightweight black cashmere blend (just above) but, because I'm a grown-up and don't have any excuses, to the Easy pattern I traced and sewed in a full lining and added a belt, topstitching the edges of the coat and belt at 10 cm.

It's snowing like blazes right now, so here I am, making the best of the frozen weather.

Heftvorschau Easy HW 2016

Monday, August 29, 2016

Quick Burda Easy SS 2014 halter top. Make one. You will be smiling.

As a palate cleanser amid my problems with the Serenity-blue linen jumpsuit, I whipped up this Burda Easy Spring-Summer 2014 halter top out of a good quality cotton batiste print for an Italian family wedding. Not for the ceremony, obviously, but for the endless befores and afters.

We stayed at the famed Cenobio dei Dogi hotel in Camogli outside Genoa. I say 'famed' with my tongue in my cheek because I think the UK's brilliant Steve Coogan made it famous in a comedy road movie about traveling through Italy. It was an amazing hotel and, although I'm not in principle a fan of in-law events that last three days, the hotel swimming pool, breakfast buffet, stunning beach views and luxe atmosphere were all a big plus.

So this 'aunt-in-law' suddenly needed a true hot-weather weekend wardrobe—not usually a high-priority for Swiss mountain village residents. I took far too many long white shirts and skinny white jeans for day, but my off-the-shoulder silk Carmen dresses from Burda's Spanish issue years ago, were up-to-the-minute chic for the evenings.

Back to this halter. I think people often underestimate the style quotient of Burda Easy. Their latest Autumn-Winter 2016 magazine has me drooling over their quick jogging pants, culottes, waterfall coats and vests and paperbag waist skirt, because I think my appetite for complicated projects has faded for the moment, yet I too want a quick jolt of autumn fun. I might add a lining or two to the outerwear, but generally, I never regret my Burda Easy makes, even as I am turning my nose down in snobbish memory of years spent on Vogue Designer YSL and Ralph Lauren patterns from decades ago.

Life is short, kids. And if Vogue still produced breathtaking patterns like those, I'd go back in a shot.

And to my own shame, I never learn that it's a mistake to ignore Burda Easy's trend signals. If I'd sewn that quick Carmen top or jumpsuit from this last summer, I'd have been right on the money. I felt like a million bucks after copying the Burda easy zebra fur mini with motorbike zippers (despite my seniors' movie discount card) two years ago. My first-ever Burda Easy project was a tulip skirt in quality gabardine that felt just right.

And this top is not only easy, it's practically debile, as the French say. It takes one hour, maybe two, if you drink tea while you sew. I chose the option with a simple hem, but there is a banded version, (pictured.) I didn't even need to do a proper fastening at the upper back, but finished it with two very neat squares of interfaced fabric, as directed, on both tie ends and then sewed them down for security. I can slip this over my head with no problem. btw This is a strapless bra number and the armholes run deep, so be warned before you cut the side length and measure it up if you think you might be risking too much side-boob.

To add insult to injury for those of you who think one has to labor hard over the needle, these white pants cost only a few francs at the Swiss army surplus store. They are actually drawstring waist medical white cotton scrubs to which I added buttons/buttonholes on the fly. I also have a Swiss Army super-mini-knife, always in my bag, for cutting flowers along the road using the honor-pay system can, and a Swiss army khaki jacket for 5 francs that is Woodstock festival ready. Love Swiss Army surplus.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Burda Jumpsuit 01/2016 #110B rather epic fail

I had rather high hopes for this jumpsuit, considering how I usually experiment and fudge with less expensive fabrics. (see the Burda cotton shirt below costing about 5 francs) and invested far too much money (for me) in a quality blue linen. It was even the Pantone color of 2016, Serenity Blue.

But I should have listened to my daughter whose yoga trousers I made from the same pattern and ended up far too low in the crotch. I ended up hoiking up the bottoms a full two inches which made the leg length just right and the rather baggy bottom sit more comfortably around the hips.

BUT this was nothing to the problems I encountered with the top. As you can see, on the silk model the top just drapes nicely around the elasticated waist, but with a linen, I look like I need to tuck the shirt in.

The cutting out of the plastron also gave me problems, because the pattern requires you to cut the bodice on the fold but is very unclear as to whether you need a seam margin added to accommodate the button placket. I ended up not knowing whether it was inserted into the bodice with a 1.5 seam or a 10 cm seam or 'seam included' in the fold or what?

Then the upper bodice, which I had cut at my usual 38-42 pear shape, was far too tight across the upper half after I inserted the &*%$^ plastron, so I ended up taking out the front shoulder seams to within a micrometer of their life and zigzagging over the seam interior for security. Normally, I never have to do that with Burda.

All of that was discouraging, but I finally overcame wadder depression over the Sf100 francs spent on fabric and finished it, only to realize that linen doesn't travel well. Creased City. Believe me, this was ironed before departure and hung on the car's backseat hook, not packed.

Suffice to say, when I donned this outfit for a morning walk around the beautiful mountain resort of Verbier during our visit to see fiddler kid play in the wowza annual classical music festival, my husband asked, "Why are you going out to lunch in pyjamas?" As this outing was something I had been looking forward to for months, I felt a little, shall we say, blue?

Not good. Though child was very kind (we were, after all, buying him a much better lunch than the musicians' canteen has on offer,) and said, "There's a violinist in my section who has one of those outfits.'

The jumpsuit is very comfortable, but that's because I'm essentially wearing something far too baggy and ill-fitting. Luckily, we had wonderful music to enjoy. Here is our fiddlerkid backing a rather well-known Welsh god of singing, and the only reason I don't put his name here is far from disrespect, but because I don't want this awful jumpsuit photo to pitch up when fans Google B**n T***f***l!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Burda 'origami' shirt 07/2016 #114 here I go again with the weird white shirts for summer, love this one! PLUS Ten More Days for E-Book Bargains

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For example, you like historical novels for lazy summer reads? Try this Roman espionage series here:

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Meanwhile, I see you're still here, so back to sewing! Here is a quick white shirt, Burda's 'origami' shirt 07/2016 #114 that I used as a palate cleanser after quite a frustrating struggle with a linen jumpsuit. (More on the jumpsuit later.)

In the harshest summer morning Swiss mountain light, you can see the structure that is built into this shirt, although it's been ironed to appear pretty flat to the ordinary eye.

Anybody recall that last summer I went out on a limb and did two of Burda's weirder white shirts—one a Kenzo knock-off detailed here, Kenzo knock off white shirt
 and the other, a Margaret Howell 'big shirt' look
Fugly Margaret Howell big white shirt look

that I saw daringly worn only by Solange and which required some modification to keep the back pleats in place while wearing?

Okay, I've already re-worn both this summer and, heartened by the success of using cheap IKEA Ditte cotton bleached super-white for super-cheap experimental summer white shirts, I tackled this checkboard origami baby, July's model 114. What was the risk? At most, a few hours,  5 francs worth of fabric and five or six recycled buttons.

NB, once bleached stark white or home-dyed, Ditte is an excellent fabric to work with for experiments, muslins or models that are a little too memorable to be endless investment classics. For example, I used Ditte for my Celine 'painted blouse' knock-off as well as well as for a second go-round with the April 2010 grandfather shirt from Burda which I wear all the time at home year-round.

But be warned that this cheap, cheap 100% IKEA cotton is a bit spongier in hand than more expensive broadcloth. It requires starch and a strong hot ironing arm to approximate a 'crisp' look like the one you see in the blue grandfather shirt.

For this summer's experiment, I didn't have the requisite wash-out interfacing onto which the Burda people wanted me to position the pre-seamed and turned tunnels of fabric into a checkboard pattern for the plastron. So I just interwove, pressed and then machine-basted the prepared and turned pieces onto my tissue paper with the grid marked in pencil, zigzagged tightly around the edge of the plastron, keeping the pattern tissue paper free, and then carefully removed the basting stitches and paper to use for the weaving of the remaining pieces into the second side. Before zigzagging, I trimmed away all the extraneous hang-over of the tunnels for a finished look.

Before final insertion of the tricksy woven plastron, I double-checked the alignment of my checker-boarding and saw that two of the tunnels needed adjusting, so that required a little picking and restitching around the end.

The rest of the blouse/shirt was so easy that I'm tempted to do another, this time making the plastron some kind of variation, like pintucks or horizontal pleats or maybe a contrast fabric or color.

So here's my version. I luuuurrrve it to bits, worn in the photo above with the 2-2014-109 white skirt, also made for pennies from IKEA's white Lenda fabric My Ralph Lauren look for pennies

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Copying Sonia Rykiel's spring 2016 using Burda 119 from July 2014

I was noticing a NYTimes fashion piece on Sonia Rykiel's shop today which included this photo:Notice the sundress on the right? I checked Rykiel's runway for this spring/summer collection and here is another version: So...whipping out my trusty ringbinder of Burda technical drawings going back years, yup, I found it and I'm certain that any of you could replicate this look in a day or two using Burda's similar dress from July, 2014, model 119, widening the straps, lengthening the flounce by maybe two inches? and skipping the elasticized waist.

I'm tempted myself, but first I have to finish cutting out a linen jumpsuit in sky blue.
More later!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Coming up for daughter, sloppy looking yoga pants from Burda, January 2016

Update to the update below: She reported that they are very comfy and the waist is pretty perfect but hates the low crotch (might be the weight of the knit dragging down?) and the length. So I'm advising her not to cut a thing, but to hoik up the trousers at the waist and fold in the excess behind the ample ruched waistband. I'd hate to see her unpicking all the stitching and elastic tunnel holding in the waist, but she'll only be able to lift the trousers up to the top of the pockets, about 10 centimeters.
Well, we tried, but she sounded game, and two pairs are involved—at some expense. We'll see if her roommate, who actually has more experience and a sewing machine, can help out.

Are you still working out in tight leggings? Or running shorts?  Oh, darling, to hear my 23 year old daughter tell it, that is so 2015. She has ordered up some of these in size 35-39 but looooong, like 111 cm long.
I'm working on two pairs, in soft, flowing black poly with thinner poly knit lining and gray viscose, very drapey, with the same black tricot knit lining. These hardly seem athletic or streamlined to me, especially if you're hanging upside down in some yoga contortion, but  in this case, daughter is in an intensive MA course in film-acting in London where students are required to wear only dark workout clothing. Let's hope she's not hanging upside down, but flooooowing, like Gypsy Rose Lee's drama teacher in the unforgettable The Trouble with Angels, a childhood favorite of mine and hers. "Willllooooows, willlooows, ladies."

UPDATE, hard to say how they'll look on her, because they're sent off to London now and we'll wait for photos. I had to leave the waist elastic open in center front for her to adjust. Overall, this is a very easy pattern, except for the construction of that very high, ruched waist which has to be stitched at the sides against a bias ribbon as a stay. We'll wait to see if these are a hit or get binned behind my back! With this customer, one never knows. The gray viscose was much, much bulkier than the black poly at the waist, and I'd advise anyone trying this pattern to work with thinner poly before trying the soft viscose shown in the photo.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

In the meantime, here's January Burda!!!

Well, finally finished Book 6 in my pen name historical fiction action adventure series, and now that it's up for pre-order on Amazon, etc. realized my coat pattern was still not completely traced after sitting on the library table for over a month. I feel like I've been swimming through Jello.
Got depressed when I saw that the coat style I wanted and was tracing was for sale in the shops for only 179 francs, which is not that much when the fabric I want isn't even available and would cost almost as much here in Switzerland even if I could find it.
We persevere.
Meanwhile, here is Burda bashing already into the new year with these designs for January! I've never felt so backlogged with sewing ideas, no time and no fabric!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Babies just ready for winter and the Best Baby Sweater in the World is at Work!

One of the payoffs of whipping up Elizabeth Zimmerman's famous
baby sweater is getting those photos back within a few months as winter starts to close in. Again, I recommend this pattern as incredibly fast and clever, since the lace pattern allows the sweater to expand as the baby grows for up to six months. But as you can see, some of the mums in my extended family put the sweater on many weeks too early, hence all the happily rolled up sleeves.