Sunday, October 26, 2014

Burda Style 11-2011-114A A Sweatshirt Alternative

Lately I've been on a mission to make some comfortable tops that I can wear to work on casual Fridays.  An added challenge is the coming colder weather, as well as the fact that my office is also quite cold.  Although jeans and sweatshirts are perfectly acceptable, I find myself wanting to step it up a notch.

I rediscovered this pattern while poring over back issues searching for something else.  And I remembered this houndstooth ponte which I originally ordered "on spec" to possibly be made up into a shift dress.  When it arrived, it didn't speak shift dress to me, so into the stash it went.

I figured why not give it a  try with this pattern.  I was hoping for a warm, snuggly top that was casual enough to wear with jeans, yet different enough to be work appropriate and not look like just another sweatshirt.

Here is the original top from the Burda issue.  As you can see the fabric used is very lightweight and semi sheer.  I knew going in that my heavier ponte might not give me the desired results, but I decided to forge ahead and go with my gut.

The pattern itself is quite clever.  And EASY.  This is the illustrated sewing course from that particular issue and the course, although quite helpful, could be simplified even more.  It walks the beginning sewist through thread tracing the facing and the lines at the sides where the front edges line up, but none of that is necessary.  You can literally just fold and baste.

All of that gathering at the neckline is the result of the long back yoke which scrunches up and falls in soft folds around the neck when worn.  There is not a gathering stitch to be had in this pattern.  All of the seams are straight or very gently curved, and of course, in a knit, gentle curves are a snap to sew.

I assumed when I decided on this pattern, that I would need a cami or a t-shirt underneath, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that my neckline came out very modest- no cami or even safety pins needed.    This is probably due at least in part to my heavier fabric, which doesn't drape as much as whatever was used for the model.  It's also possible that the magazine version fits the super slim fashion model more loosely...

You can see the seaming in the back below.  The yokes are cut in one piece with the fronts.  You fold one neck facing down and then wrap the other around it and sew the CB seam.  When you pull the one facing out of the other, they both automatically fall into place with a nice enclosed seam and finished neck edge.  All that is left at that point is to sew the lower back piece on with one long, slightly curved seam.

The pattern is offered in sizes 34 to 42.  I graded up to a 44 at the bust and on to a 46 at the hip.  It was very easy because all I really had to do was add to the side seams.  I made my customary 3/8" petite adjustment above the bust and added 1 5/8" of length at the waist.  Once I got everything basted together and tried it on, I realized that I really should not have added to the length at all.  This pattern is drafted long.  That's the first time I've run into this problem with a Burda pattern.

The extra length really worked against me.  The pattern has definite waist shaping and is very straight at the hip, which you can see in the mannequin photo and the tech drawing.  Not only did the top turn out way too long, but when I trimmed it to the desired length (I removed about 2.5") I ended up with some of the side hip flare at the hem.  You can see it in a couple of the photos above.  I really should go back and trim the sides to be a bit straighter and fix the hem.

I also shortened the sleeves by about 3 inches.  They are drafted extra long.  My arms are short and I didn't need the extra fabric calling attention to that fact.

The front is literally two mirrored pieces laid one on top of the other and you can see above that most of the front is two layers.  I knew that could be a problematic with the heavier ponte knit fabric, but I also knew that warmth was a major consideration and I really like the way the ponte worked for this top.  I wore this to work to road test it and it really was warm and comfortable, snuggly even, all day long.  I felt like I was wearing a sweatshirt, but no one else knew because it didn't look like a sweatshirt.

I am seriously thinking of making this again and removing the extra waist length.  I would also remove some of the back yoke length.  You can't really see in the photos, but I get some bunching at the high back where there is just too much fabric and not enough neck to distribute it along.  I  highly recommend a muslin even though the top is super easy.  I wish I had made one because I could have avoided these two issues and had a better garment.  I still have a wearable garment, though, and wear it I will.

In other sewing news, I have four projects cut out and waiting to be sewn:  A top and a dress for the Princess, and a top and a dress for me.  There will soon be more sweatshirt action here at House of Frog.

Happy Sewing...

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Burda Style 01-2014-135 A "Camo" Dress for Fall

 Okay, it's really not "camo" but more on that in a minute.  This is Burda Style 01-2014-135, the jersey dress from the plus section of this year's January issue.

If you missed it, it's probably because it was pictured like so:

It's actually a very nice dress with soft, feminine details and a retro vibe to it.  I wanted to make it the moment I saw it, but I didn't have any suitable knit fabric on hand, and several trips to my favorite fabric stores didn't turn up anything inspiring either.

As you can see, the design is relatively simple- the V-neck bodice and the skirt are gathered onto what Burda calls a "wide inset waistband."  Bodice and skirt have CF seams and the skirt features a waterfall effect in front with the front hem being noticeably higher than the back.

I cut my standard 42 at the shoulder (had to grade down one size) 44 at the waist and 46 at the hip.  I folded out 3/8 above the bust and added my 1.75" length adjustment to the waistband, making my band much wider than the model.  Actually, I think the waistband, as drafted, is skimpy.  Adding the extra width not only helped with the fit, but the proportion as well.  At least for me.

As it turns out, my fabric is so busy, it's hard to tell there even is a waistband unless you look closely.

About this fabric...  I found this knit print at Joann couple of months ago and I just fell in love with the colors and the print.  It seemed very "fall" to me as well as suitable for this dress.  I had felt all along that it needed a floral or an abstract print to look right.

The picture doesn't do this fabric justice.  It's a gorgeous combination of pink, fuchsia, maroon, coral, taupe, black, gray, slate, tan...  I see another color every time I look at it.

JoAnn calls this Floral Camo Pink Rayon Spandex Jersey, hence the title of this post.  It's not really camo, more like an abstract floral.  It is, however, rayon spandex jersey.  I have no idea how I lost my mind and bought this because I hate sewing with rayon knit.  I guess I was seduced by the pretty print and wasn't thinking straight.  It was absolutely horrible to sew.  It wanted to shift and stretch and I had to fight to get it to go under the presser foot.

The finished dress, however, is incredibly comfortable to wear.  The fabric is soft and stretchy and feels like a comfortable pair of old pajamas.  But it did necessitate a few "tweaks" to the construction.

When I sewed the gathered bodice and skirt to the flat waist band, the seam was a mess.  The gathered portion wanted to drag under the presser foot and the whole thing just wanted to slide along the thread after the seam was sewn.  It also stretched way out while sewing.  I was worried about the seam being stretched out and about the fabric growing while wearing and having the dress loose it's shape.

To remedy that, I used double fabric in the waistband.  Since I eliminated the zipper (I can only imagine the nightmare of inserting a zipper into rayon knit!) and the dress needs to go on over my head, I felt interfacing wouldn't allow the waistband to stretch enough.  In order to keep the waist from bagging out, I stabilized the waist seams by sewing clear elastic onto the seam allowances.  It worked great- after road testing I can report that the waist fit perfectly and never gaped all day.

As you can sort of see, with the busy print, the back of the dress is cut very narrow.  And long.  Very long.  I removed 3 inches of length from the skirt pattern pieces.  This would have hit me at the bottom of my calf as drafted and I felt that length would not be flattering.

 The front, on the other hand is cut fuller with the CF seam at an angle to the waist.  That's what forms the drape in the front.  The hem is above my knees at CF.  Because of the way the skirt is designed you really need to decide on the length before you cut.  And it's tricky- I think I got a decent length with a happy medium between short in front and long in back.  When I road tested this by wearing it to work, my co-workers teased that it's "business in the back, party in the front."

I opted for a hand sewn hem, partly because of the shape, but mostly because I knew trying to hem this unruly fabric by machine would be a disaster and I would end up ripping it out and doing it by hand eventually anyway.  (I don't sound bitter, do I?)

One other thing- I did raise the V-neck by about 2.25 inches.  The bodice front has a nifty cut on facing that you join with a cool, dart-like seam.  I simply sewed the fronts together from the tip of the dart a little higher.  It worked because the fabric is so stretchy- a more stable fabric would have bubbled and pulled.  My neckline looks almost frumpy in the photos, but that's because I just pulled the dress out of the dryer where it got a steam refresh before the photos were taken.  I almost lowered it back down an inch but I'm glad I didn't.  The dress did "grow" a bit throughout the day and the neckline stayed modest.  Besides, this is a work dress and I don't need to show more than this while on the job.  If I made this again, I would raise the neckline the right way- by adjusting the pattern before cutting out.

So the long story short is I got a great dress.  I like this a lot.  I like the way it looks and I like the way it feels when I wear it.  I still love the print and the colors are perfect for this time of year.  I'm just going to block out the sewing experience from my mind and next time a rayon knit tries to seduce me in the store, I'm going to put it down!

The pattern itself is a winner.  It's easy enough to put together (2 dots) and the style is pretty and flattering.  The only thing to be careful of is the length of the skirt- you have to find that balance before cutting your fabric.  I can see myself making this again, but not any time soon.  There are too many other patterns calling my name.

In other sewing news, I made a decision on which dress to make out of the teal knit.  I cut out 08-2009-137, the funky shaped dress with the rounded skirt, dolman sleeves, and stand-up collar.  Cross your fingers for me!

How is your fall sewing going?

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Burda Style 10-2014-105

It's very rare that I actually make something out of Burda the moment I get my hands on the issue.  But that's exactly what happened with this project.  I got the magazine two weekends ago and I made this dress last weekend.  Today I had the perfect combination of time, good weather, and an available photographer, so here is Burda Style 10-2014-105, "Dress with Boat Neckline."

I wouldn't really call it a boat neckline, but I like it.  It's actually a gently draped neckline on a very simple dress.

The front has a fold-back facing, exactly like a cowl neckline and the back shoulders wrap over to the front and are stitched down to the front forming a draped, but modest neckline.  The sleeves are drafted extra long for that ruched look that Burda likes to show.

This is a very simple dress to make.  In fact, it's a 1.5 dot pattern.  There are only three pattern pieces, which are well drafted and go together perfectly.

The pattern is offered in sizes 34 to 42.  I graded up to a 44 at the bust and to a 46 at the hip.  It was super easy due to the simple design.  The sleeves are very long and narrow.  I removed five inches of length and then did a full bicep adjustment to give myself an extra 1.5" of width.  I didn't want the sleeves to be tight.

I added my standard length adjustment at the waist.  There is a little bit of fabric pooling in the back, which I may try to adjust if I make this again.  It doesn't bother me because no one but a fellow sewist would even notice.

My fabric is a zig zag patterned ponte knit from Hancock Fabrics.  I bought it last year during some retail therapy, and I knew as soon as I saw this pattern that it would be perfect.  In fact, that's one of the things I like about this pattern- it's a perfect way to showcase a printed/patterned fabric or a textured fabric like the one shown in the magazine photo.

I did attempt to match my pattern.  You can see in the photo below that I did pretty well at the waist, but further down the side seam, things get a little "off."  No bother.  Once again, no one but a fellow sewist will notice.

I love this neckline.  It's very modest.  It's not quite drapey enough to fall like a cowl.  In this ponte at least, it wants to fall to one side in a more origami-like fold.  It's okay with me.  I feel comfortable and covered at the same time.

I'm really pleased with the way this turned out.  The weather is still quite warm and nice right now and I'll probably wear this with pumps and maybe some nude hose for the time being.  Once the colder temps arrive, I will try it with tights and black boots.  I could also see it with a red or a royal blue shoe for a pop of color.

I'm not sure I need another one of these, but I can see making the top version, which is exactly the same, just cut off at the hip.  There is also a pieced/color blocked version offered in the magazine.  The Princess likes it too, and I already traced and cut one out for her in a much more colorful striped knit.

If you have your eye on this one- go for it!  It's a great pattern, and easy to fit and sew- a great dress from a great Burda issue.  Happy Fall Sewing!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Decisions Decisions

There has been sewing at House of Frogs.  I have not one, but two finished dresses to show, I just haven't had time, light, or an available photographer all at the same time, so no photos yet.  In the meantime, I'm trying to decide what my next project will be.

I have three yards of a gorgeous, deep teal ponte knit that's just crying out to be made up into a fall dress.  So last night I dragged out my stash of Burda mags and found several patterns that have been percolating in the back of my head and that might be suitable for my fabric.  Here's what I bookmarked:

11-2011-120 A/B:

I loved this the moment I saw it.  There are actually two views offered- one that looks like the tech drawing with the ruffle ending a bit above the hem, and another (below) with the ruffle going all the way down.

It looks relatively easy to make, would fit on my fabric, and with the long sleeves and collar it looks like it would be warm and comfortable for fall and winter.  The ruffles and gathers in front would also hid my tummy and other lumps and bumps.  What I don't like is that Burda calls for clipping seam allowances and hemming those front ruffles.  That does not excite me.  I'm thinking possible rolled hem?  Or maybe even raw edges?  


I love this.  What a smart little sheath with cool seaming and pleats.  There are also some very nice looking, flattering versions of this floating around the web.

My only concern here is that this has a waist seam, which is sometimes hard for me to get in just the right place.  And how will it look when it's finished- will I decide it needs a belt?  And if so, what color, what width?


This dress is absolutely gorgeous and very dramatic, and yet, I think it would be work appropriate.  It also has more of an empire waist which means I could easily make my waist length adjustments without  worrying about distorting the bodice pleats.

My concern here is bulk- will I be able to make all those pleats and have them line up and lie correctly in a ponte knit?  This also has a neckline facing- will I be able to get a nice, crisp collar edge?


This funky little dress has been in the back of my mind for some time.  The tech drawing makes it look like it is supposed to be loose and rather round, but the model photo shows a more close fitting dress.  I wish the model wasn't wearing the scarf.  I'd love a better look at this.  The generous stand up collar and the dolman style sleeves look comfortable and very fall/winter appropriate.  The section seams of the skirt are not only nice design details but would make adjusting the fit/shape easy as well.

Really the only thing worrying me here is that the tech drawing and photo don't seem to really show the same garment.  I suppose a muslin would solve that mystery easily, though.

So now I have to make a decision.  Has anyone out there made one of these patterns?  Do you have any feedback to share- positive or negative?

And stay tuned for finished projects.  For once I have actually made something out of the latest Burda issue within a week of receiving the magazine!