Friday, February 22, 2013

The Theater Dress - Burda Project 11/2012

Finalmente - its finally done! 

You would think it was difficult to make.  Not so. Making Burda's "theater dress" was easy. Getting it to fit my daughter who lives in another state was the difficult part.

It all started around the time I received my November issue of the Burda magazine. I'm new to the Burda universe. Though I have been a visitor to for some time now, this was only my third issue of the pattern magazine. In general, I love the international flavor of the website and magazine. I am truly intrigued to see what people around the world are sewing and amazed at how many young people are into the craft in a serious way. Since my personal goals revolve around perfecting my garment sewing skills, I love the fact that that seems to be Burda's forte as well.  

Just a day or two before receiving my November issue, I happened to be perusing a women's clothing catalog where I saw a darling dress that I thought would look lovely on my daughter. A relatively simple dress with 3/4 sleeves, a fitted silhouette done in a teal-ish green ponte knit that would be perfect for the office or could be dressed up for an evening out.

When I began paging through the Burda magazine that arrived the following day there it was. The same dress I had just seen in the catalog. Well, not exactly the same, but the lines and silhouette of the dress were essentially the same. Right then and there I decided to make Burda's "theater dress" for my daughter.  A simple task I thought. Something she could wear for the holidays, possibly for our Christmas eve party.  Boy, was I wrong! What I thought would take a few weeks turned into several months to complete.

Burda Magazine 11/2012 - Theater Dress
While I love and will continue to be part of the Burda universe I do find fault with Burda's focus on women so much younger than me. While I am the first to appreciate youthful silhouettes and modern day styles, I no longer have a 'youthful silhouette'.  So, unfortunately, many of the patterns offered in the magazine simply don't suit me.  On the other hand, many relate quite well to my daughter, who fits both Burda's age profile and has a figure well suited to many of their stylish garments.

It was the first time using one of the patterns from the magazine. It was also the first time using their sizing specs. What an eyeopener that was!  And, I thought multi-sized patterns were a challenge! It was also the first time making my daughter a dress from a distance where I couldn't easily fit her. 

I changed the style of the Burda dress ever so slightly. The long sleeves became 3/4 length, and the dress length was shortened considerably to suit my daughter's taste. I also added a vent to the back of the skirt and fully lined it. My fabric of choice was a teal-ish green colored, medium weight ponte knit, similar to the catalog dress.
The design of the dress was pretty simple so making the actual dress was pretty straightforward. Getting it to fit my daughter was altogether another story. A rather fitted dress style, getting the fit just right was pretty important.  So, I started with a muslin altering the pattern specs to fit my daughter's bust, waist and hip measurements. 

Since she lived several states away, I waited until she was visiting home for the Thanksgiving weekend for her first muslin fitting. Despite having cut the pattern to her measurements, the fit wasn't even close! Everything was 1-2 sizes too big and the back didn't fit at all. Back to the drawing board. Almost all of the bodice details had to be adjusted - front and back darts, armholes, neckline, and don't get me started on fitting the back. With so many adjustments I now had to wait until she returned home for the Christmas holiday to see how the revised muslin would fit.

Christmas arrived and we commenced once again refitting the muslin. Still too big! So more adjustments and additional alterations to the pattern. In the hustle and bustle of the holidays getting my daugther to even sit for a fitting was itself a challenge. When I finally got her to try the dress on again it was literally the day before she was to return home. She tried on the dress, and the back was still not right. OMG!!  There was no time to finish it before she jumped on her plane home, so once again, more adjustments and waiting. 

Fortunately, I was able to pin the last of the alterations in place before she left so I could complete the dress in her absence.  All in all it turned out beautifully. Off went the dress in the mail to my daughter with a prayer this final version would finally fit her.  And, indeed it did! Hurray! Double Hurray!

In the meantime, I made a duct tape dressform of her in hopes future projects won't be so problematic. I have a blouse in the works which will test the dressform sizing.  We'll see.

As for more Burda pattern projects, I'm a bit leeryWhile I am fully aware of the fitting challenges garment sewing represents, its something I am determined to master. As such I have declared 2013 the year I master the art of fitting.  I'm just not sure it will be with a Burda magazine pattern. 



Monday, February 18, 2013

My Latest Handbag - A Drawsting Silhouette

Many years ago I was the handbag buyer for a major department store here in Detroit, called J.L.Hudson (its now Macy's). The job called for frequent buying trips to NYC, L.A., Italy and Asia in search of handbags and small leather goods for the chains 20+ stores. I bought fabulous bags for the chain representing a wide range of price points, from inexpensive bags to beautiful one retailing for hundreds of dollars. I loved that job as well as many of the bags I bought for the store. So much so, I maintained huge stashes of bags. In fact, I always kept several in my car so that I could match my bag to whatever outfit I was wearing before I entered my workplace as a way to both enjoy all the beautiful bags I owned and to promote them. 

Now I make them, in most cases, for less than $20 a bag. Granted, the ones I make aren't constructed from fine leathers or represent the style du jour. Nor, do they display the many designer nameplates I purchased for the store. Nonetheless, they are equally practical, functional and fun to make.

I continue to always take note of handbags people are carrying these days. And, I am always in search of a great handbag silhouette to replicate. Easier said than done, given many of today's overdone and sometimes ridiculous styles. At a recent family gathering, however, my sister was carrying a new bag she had purchased while on a vacation in Northern Michigan that managed to catch my attention. It was a darling drawstring style bag made of several pastel colors of leather, in a color-block fashion. The overall style was both clever and practical. Not too big, with straps that could fit comfortably over the shoulder and with plenty of pockets inside and outside to store cellphones, keys and other assorted personal items. 

This could definitely be made in fabric, I thought, and I had a stash of fabric that would suit the style. What I had consisted of some black nubby textured upholstery fabric along with a coordinating print and a great Japanese inspired cotton print for the lining. Great for making an all-season bag and sturdy enough to last a season or two. 

Since I didn't possess the bag I had to design it based on my memory of what it looked like and how it was constructed. 

I find upholstery fabric works quite well for handbags.  It provides good body, sound structure and durability to the bag. Nonetheless, I always add a good medium to heavy weight interfacing to them. The same is true for the lining. Adding a fusible interfacing makes the lining more durable, which is especially important for the pockets which take all the wear and tear. 

I'm pleased with the way the bag turned out. In fact, after the bag was made, I saw it again and was amazed at how closely I interpreted the bag's dimensions and style components. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Samples Week

Project Runway Dress

As I often have to do these days, I spent the last few days making samples for the classes I teach at Joann's.  Since many of the classes featured last session will be repeated in March and April, I only had to sew 2 new samples - a simple apron and this dress.  

The class is designed to teach students how to sew with knits with or without a serger. Therefore, the dress is made in a fairly lightweight jersey knit. A knit just weighty enough so as not to curl at the edges which made it relatively easy to work with  -- a lesson I would like to pass on to the students.  I chose a solid color as opposed to a fun print to show off the many style details of the dress -- its front pleating, waist wrap treatment and pleated skirt. 

I don't have a serger so I employed the usual sewing techniques for sewing knits on a regular sewing machine. The jersey was hefty enough so I didn't need a walking foot to reduce pressure when stitching the seams. Simply loosening the tension a bit was sufficient. Selecting a small zigzag to stitch most seams provided enough stretch throughout the dress.  To finish the seams I used my lock cutter which has become my go-to tool when sewing with knits. For those unfamilar with this tool, it secures to the machine much like a walking foot does.  Its basic function is to finish a seam edge with a zigzag stitch while at the same time trimming the seam with its built-in cutter. 

Finished seam with Lock Cutter
 As is the case with most of the Joann classes, the pattern is from Simplicity #2145.  It's from their Project Runway collection which is component driven. You can mix and match sleeve and front and midriff treatment options to create the style you want to make. Sleeve options include a short sleeve, long sleeve and a three quarter sleeve. For the dress the neckline can feature a cowl treatment or pleated V-neck with either a wrap or drape midriff option. For the class I will be teaching, students will be making the dress with the short sleeves, the pleated neckline and the foldover wrap treatment. 

I made the dress in a size 8 which when finished looks more like a size 4 or 6 -- very small in the back and the pleated front rests very high. I used an invisible zipper in the back which gives the dress a very nice, clean finish. Overall, the dress turned out great.  It isn't a style I would ever wear, but for someone with a small, thin frame the dress is a winner.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


To promote BurdaStyle's newly released book "Sewing Vintage Modern" the website held a "Comment to Win" contest. Anyone could enter a comment on their blog site relating to the concept of the new book. Two entries won a copy of their new book and I was one of them.  Very exciting!

For those unfamiliar with the book it is essentially a collection of patterns. The patterns are designed to create modern interpretations of looks inspired from the 1920's to the 1980's. Examples include a lovely drop-waist flapper-inspired dress reminiscent of the 1920's, and sailor styled bell-bottom pants so very 1970's. 

I learned how to sew in the 60's so I am a bit partial to the looks of that era. Clothes Marlo Thomas wore on her TV comedy "That Girl" are what come to mind when I think of clothing from the 1960's. And, who can remember the Mondrian color block dresses,  or the beautiful clothes worn my Jackie Kennedy? Unfortunately, the patterns for that decade in the book are just so so. 

I'm not sure how many of the patterns I will make for myself, but there are several that would be lovely on my daughter. It's a very nice book and I am quite grateful to have won a copy.