Broderie anglaise: failure & success

I’ve had a beautiful silk/cotton broderie anglaise for a couple of years, and couldn’t decide what to do with it.  I had two pieces, for a total of about 2.5 metres or so.  What to do?  I can’t see myself wearing a dress made of this pretty fabric, although I really do like it.  But I needed some tops to wear for the summer, so I opted for two, the first of which was Vogue 8392.Image result for vogue 8392

And since it’s the Year of the Sleeve, I thought maybe I’d try that little trend, too. I underlined the top in a cotton voile, and bound the neck edges and opening with it.  Then I thought I’d get fancy with the sleeves. I purchased a 5cm wide trim to add to the bottom of the sleeve, and cut one flounce to make it, well, flouncy. It was so pretty!

Vogue 8392 sleeve

And it looked like a box on me. Ugh.  I dont’ know what it is about flounces, but I love the idea, and hate the reality of it on me. Maybe these aren’t just dramatic enough. Perhaps more flounces would have been better. But I don’t think it’s the sleeves that I dislike about this top.  I’m sorry I don’t have photos of it.  It was too horrible to photograph; I put it on, and took it off.

I think it was the neckline. This is the second garment I’ve made with neckline pleats, and I just don’t like them. The first one is this dress, and I haven’t worn it at all this year because I just hate how the neckline pleats add more bulk and volume above my chest than I’m comfortable with.  I was rather disappointed. I had hoped this would be a pretty top that I would like to wear. I’ve taken the flounces off the sleeves and put it aside for the thrift shop.  Perhaps someone else will think it’s perfect.

So, on to the next blouse, which I’ve made before out of silk chiffon, and quite liked.

Burda 10-2010-118 drawing

I did not bother underlining this.  I also cut the tie a bit in between the suggested lengths and considerably narrower than either version. This is with my previously-blogged pleated trousers.

Burda 10-2010-118, rolled trousers

I used French seams throughout the construction.

broderie interior

And, just to see if it’s really possible to tell the difference between a pair of brown capris (unblogged) and a skin-tone camisole, I took this picture. I was pleasantly surprised that slight differences in under layers won’t be too noticeable.

broderie underneath

This is another winner of a pattern, in my books. I’ve made this top three times, and never regretted any version of it. 🙂

Burda 4-2010-143 front

I do NOT want to make this dress

About one month ago I was asked if I made custom dresses.  I demurred, but the emails persisted, so I gave a quote for the job once I’d seen the dress I was to copy.

But I can tell you that the bodice looked like a very bad attempt to copy an Herve Leger bandage-type bodice, with a very large piece of cotton sewn to the bottom of it in a huge circle skirt.  In the pic that I’m supposed to work from for this project, the skirt fabric looks like it’s been wasting away in the back of a closet for about 18 months, it’s so creased.  And the ‘bandages’ of the bodice are AWOL.

Ms. Rs materials

My quote for labour/design was deemed acceptable, and I was given a bag with the goodies you see above:

  • about 1.7m of waistband elastic for the bandage bodice
  • 3m of 115cm wide very lightweight poly crepe (pictured on the left)
  • 3m of 150cm wide heavy jersey for the lining (pictured on the right)

The dress is supposed to be a pullover dress – no zipper or other openings, thank you!

I have been avoiding this, but today is the first fitting.


I am not working with anything else so I must make magic from these fabrics.  I really don’t know how I’m going to copy that bandage bodice, which is why I’m loathe to tackle this project, so wish me luck.

The skirt will be a piece of cake, I’m sure – a simple A-line jersey lining with a double-width gathered poly crepe skirt stitched directly to the waistband elastic.

The bodice will require samples, trial, error and something called faking it.

I hope it works…

I hate Elsa

Yup.  You read that correctly.  I hate Elsa.  I hate her because she’s got a dress that is impossible to replicate without doing a full toile with numerous fittings and fussy floaty fabrics that would make the dress an investment, not something to make for your 15-year-old DD2 to wear to school and one party.

McCalls 7000 train

Ugh.  I was truly looking forward to this project.  I love the colours of the dress and the sparkly sequins and snowflakes.  The fabric alone had me excited to pull this one together.  But I well and truly hate this dress.  I hate this dress so much I’m probably going to pull it apart and remake the stupid thing because I’m so disappointed in it.  I don’t think DD2 will wear it again, but at least mom will be happier with it!


I find DD2 is very difficult to fit.  She’s petite, and getting the proportion correct/flattering is always a challenge.  So, needless to say, she always shows up my limits as a dressmaker in the fitting department.  And that frustrates me.  But frustration is good, right?  It means one is pushing through to the next level of mastery.  I measured twice, and cut once, and this is what it fit like at the end of the day. *headdesk*

McCalls 7000 bodice

In my defence,  I couldn’t find any fine stretch mesh or tulle for the upper bodice and sleeves, which would have been ideal.  I plan to go hunting for that and remake this thing ‘properly’.  So, for lack of any better option, I used the snowflake nylon organza-type fabric for the sleeves and upper bodice.  The sleeves I cut on the bias so they would easily follow DD2’s movements.  The bodice is not as fitted as I would like it to be.  I cut it straight out of the envelope, since the bust measurements matched DD2’s measurements, but the shaping is all wrong for her.  I debated altering it, but decided against it because a) I wanted enough ease to keep it comfortable during the day; and b) it was always in the back of my mind that it was going to be remade properly with a stretch upper bodice/sleeves once Halloween was done.  As it is, the organza pulled away from the top of the bodice and some of the neck binding by the end of the school day (which included bowling, btw).

McCalls 7000 back details

Why I didn’t think of cutting the upper bodice on the bias is beyond me.  Oh.  Wait.  I did think of cutting the upper bodice on the bias but was afraid it wouldn’t lie flat and would grow out of shape.  So I cut it on the straight grain.  See?  Bad, bad, ugly bodice.

McCalls 7000 Elsa

The sequins were from hell.  They won’t stay in place, so it looks like sequins are missing in places, and they had to be trimmed from the seam allowances, which I expected, but also contributed to my decision to not alter it until I get the stretch mesh/tulle.  *sigh*  I decided to underline the sequin jersey with polyester lining for this version.  The bodice is also lined.  I bound the neckline and cuffs with skirt fabric (satin-backed polyester crepe), and the armscye seams with lining.

McCalls 7000

The best part is the attached cape.  The nylon is sheer, lightweight and very floaty.  It’s quite lovely when DD2 is walking.

McCalls 7000 attached train

There’s a CB zip (I put it in by hand to accommodate the sequins) to the top of the lower bodice.  The upper back bodice has a button and thread loop.  The attached cape is split to just below the bottom of the zip. See?  It’s the best part of this project.

it IS kinda pretty

This version is a wadder for me, but once I get my hands on some stretch tulle, and do a good job on this, I’ll publish an “Elsa Improved” post for your entertainment.

Salvage September Project 1

Back in Me-Made-May earlier this year, I whipped up a version of Vogue 1179. I used a poly-lycra roll end from my stash in a reptile-ish print.  But I wasn’t happy with it because it really needed an FBA to hang properly.  And I felt like a frump every time I wore it.  Definitely a wadder project, although I really really like the idea of this dress.  I just don’t feel stylish wearing it.  I even gave away my earlier red version because the fabric was only an 11 oz rayon-lycra and I felt so self-conscious wearing it.

MMM15 Day 27

So I took the latest rendition apart and saved the fabric by turning it into one of Burda’s shapeless boxy tops that take 30 minutes to trace, cut and sew (Burda 05/2012 #109+110).

Burda 05-2012-110

I’m surprised at this, OK?  I have never gravitated towards shapeless anything, but this was a gamble I was willing to lose.  I like it.  If it wouldn’t look weird, I’d wear this top three times a week. Why?  There is nothing special about it. It’s just an over-sized box with a wide boat neckline that can maybe sorta fall into a cowl-ish shape on the front.

Burda 5-2012-110 cowl top

I made it more interesting for myself by adding the shoulder ties and pulling them up to about a 10cm width.

Burda 5-2012-110 front

Lots of room in this, I think, is what I’m liking.  It’s not figure conscious, which translates to comfort, physically and psychologically, perhaps.  It was a good use of the fabric.  And now that I know I like shapeless tops and they don’t look as horrible as my mind’s eye insisted, I’m not afraid to try more.

Burda 5-2012-110 back

Blue dress disaster salvage

blue skirtWhat a beautifully done narrow waist binding, eh?  This was my solution to the Burda Disaster of last year.

chalked waistline

I cut off the bodice and made it into a skirt.

front waistline

Why?  A couple of reasons.

First, I could not recut the armscyes the three inches higher they needed to be.

Burda 11-2012-138 side back

Second, I didn’t have enough fabric to fix all the drag lines on those sleeves.  But I did put in a little more work than simply chopping off the bodice.

I took the entire thing apart, and re-distributed the fullness through the bodice pleats.  I pin basted the changes, but this looked pretty good.

Burda 11-2012-138 re-pleated front

Actually, I thought it was a big improvement from the excessive bustline fabric folds in the original version.


I’m still really drawn to the idea of this dress, so I do have plans to make it up again in the (near) future.  I carefully noted the bodice changes: about a 3/4 reduction in the CF pleats.  In other words, I altered out my FBA.  And I raised the armscye by about 3 inches.  All the changes are well-documented, so here’s to my new blue skirt, and another successful version of this dress in the future.

Edited to add:  The skirt is a great addition in my wardrobe – I’ve already worn it a few times, and I’m happy with the blue addition.  But I’ve moved on from this dress, and won’t be making it up again.  Here’s to a new year of sewing, with lessons learned and applied and more muslins, less wadders.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Warning: A Miserable Project: Burda 11/2012 #138

Burda 11-2012-138 adjustedSome people blog all their pretty perfect outfits and look pretty and perfect, which is all good and uplifting and encouraging and all, but let’s be realistic.  A lot of the garments I sew for myself take a lot of work and reworking and fitting and tweaking before I’m happy enough to wear them for a blog post photo shoot.

Well, this dress project is pissing me off because, well…. let’s be honest here.  Because I’m an idiot and didn’t bother to do a toile prior to cutting, which was beyond necessary because my fabric is wool crepe.  I quote from the pattern instructions:

Recommended fabrics:  Jersey of wool or wool blends.  Use stretch jersey fabrics only.

Yeah, I know.  But I really wanted to use this particular teal wool crepe (I love wool crepe) and I wanted to make this particular dress because the bodice looked interesting, and I needed a wildcard for that Tying-Up-Loose-Ends idea.

At least even Karl Lagerfeld himself makes mistakes matching fabric with design sometimes.  (Don’t believe me?  Watch the documentary Signe Chanel in it’s entirety here or here or buy your own copy. There’s a lovely silk velvet gown that one petite main spends twelve full days sewing by hand, only to have the master admit his original fabric choice isn’t working.)

I measured, allowed for the lack of ease in the fabric, was a good girl and did an FBA leaving the armscye unaltered….FBA Burda 11-2012-138And it failed miserably.  This is before tweaking. The sleeves are the perfect length and it looks good, right?Burda 11-2012-138 front before adjustmentBut I can’t move in it.  See what happens when I move my arms? armscye problemThe armscyes are very low.  Actually, a full 2.5 inches lower than they should be, and it’s because the top of the front armscye is entirely on the bias.  Well, mine was, because I had the brains foresight to do the required FBA. Yes, I was warned when I posted of my SWAP plans, but I’d already cut it out by then, so I just (uselessly) crossed my fingers and hoped.  See the pulling? The sleeves won’t let my arms go anywhere, so the bodice is stretching across all its bias glory to allow for arm movement. I could not reach forward or put my arms over my head if someone had held a gun in my face.

This is after tweaking, with the too-full-but-with-room-enough-to-move sleeves of the wrong length.  Burda 11-2012-138 front The re-cut the sleeves v.1 were from  Vogue 8615:  a 3/4 sleeve with an elbow dart, which was still too tight.  (?!?!)  When that didnt’ work, I thought I may as well go the whole hog and use what I know to be a loosey sort of proper fitting sleeve with wearing ease from Burda 5/2010 #112.  The original sleeve is in tissue overlaying the sleeve pattern I eventually opted to use.sleeve adjustments I used silk organza selvedge to stay the armscye and eased in about 2-3 inches of stretched bias on the bodice front into what the measurements on the pattern dictated the armscye should be (about 9 inches from shoulder to underarm).    Ridiculous.armscye fixAnd now I have this.  See all that fabric trying desperately to shrink into the armscye?  And I couldn’t recut the bodice or reduce any of the fabric from the pleats because the FBA needs the ease to fit successfully.Burda 11-2012-138 bodice adjusted It isn’t pretty and perfect, but I can raise my arms, see?  Doesn’t look great, but let me tell you, from a wearability perspective, it’s 100% better than the original version.Burda 11-2012-138 armscyeThe sleeves are loose enough that they move when I need them to now, and the armscye sits high enough that it basically stays in place when my arms move.  But it’s got to be the ugliest bodice I’ve ever seen on myself.Burda 11-2012-138 sideSo do I like anything about this dress? Yes.  I love the fabric.  I love love love wool crepe.  And the back fits well.IMG_5461 Burda 11-2012-138 backThe hemline finishing – fell stitched to the hem allowance because I wanted a clean finish.Burda 11-2012-138 lining hemMy silk lining.Burda 11-2012-138 liningBut I really hate the fit of the bodice and sleeves on my version of this dress.  I think I’ll chop it off and make a skirt.  So much for this loose end!

unintentional denim rescue

Burda 1-2010-136 side backI’ve tried again.  I was so hyped after making my first pair of jeans that I wanted to try again, only this time I was going to try to fix those pesky smile lines in the back.  And I wanted a pair that was heavily topstitched in a dark indigo denim.  The fabric is from my stash – a length of stretch denim blend purchased at a roll end party from Emma One Sock this past year.

I got cocky distracted this time around and didn’t measure properly, so this is a rescue post.  First, I had to add width.  Yup.  I wanted a pair of jeans that fit a little looser than my previous pair, but I didn’t add the extra inch or two of width when I cut.  *headdesk* So, after offering them to DD1 and DD2 (neither of whom were particularly enthused about a new pair of mom-made jeans) I put them aside and went to bed.  For the second day.  During the night, of course, inspiration arrived and I added a strip about 1 3/8 inch wide down the sides.  Piece work was required because I was using scraps.Burda 1-2010-136 cute backI was pretty dayum pleased with myself for this little bit of ingenious rescuing.  Of course it turned the jeans into dress jeans because the legs are wider than I wanted them to be.  My DH thinks they’re too wide.  I will not pick out all that topstitching, so they’re staying wide.  *humph*Burda 1-2010-136 side frontBut let me tell you, I had a saaaagaaaa of fitting frustration that drove me to distraction.  They’re still not the way I want them to fit, but they’re pretty good.  And I think I’ve finally figured out how to fix those lovely little smile lines.  Of course, I learned it too late for this particular pair.  But I now know.Burda 1-2010-136 backAnd they’re too short, damn it.  I wonder how stupid they’d look with a hemline add-on…Burda 1-2010-136 sideY’know… maybe something a bit flared and cut on the bias, because that’s all the scraps I have left!

The Blogiversary Wadder Ledger

Since I can’t sew while my house is in chaos, I’ve been thinking and reading and looking at things related to sewing a LOT.  Mostly I’ve been thinking about how experimental it all seems to be for me, with successes mostly being regulated to garments I sew for other people.  I don’t have any trouble constructing and finishing garments well, but fitting myself is an elusive science, and I don’t always want to make that @!(#* muslin.  So I end up fitting as I go, which in the case of the Saga of Capris this past spring, means basically I’ve made myself three muslins.  So I should just get over myself and make the muslins already.

Anyways, I thought it would be interesting to catalogue all the garments I’ve made and haven’t kept, and the reasons for letting them go.  Whenever I do catalogue, I start seeing patterns, and this helps going forward.   And I thought I’d share them with y’all, since this blog is about failures, mistakes and successes.  You can click the pics to get to the original posts.

1. Vogue 1175: Donna Karan dress.  I love this dress.  It’s so far out of Normal Clothing Universe that I love it.  But the linen was too heavy and I wasn’t sure about the colour.  So I thrifted it with plans to make it again sometime out of something lighter and darker.2. All my recent Vogue capri makes.  My go with the Burda block has made me absolutely dissatisfied with every pair I made this spring.  I have cannibalized them all for notions, however.

3. The first version of Vogue 8182.  This shrunk after I washed it because I hadn’t pre-shrunk the silk. I was very sorry to part with this dress, and have kicked myself every time I see pictures of it for not pre-treating the fabric before sewing it up.  Never mind.  Lesson learned. Another thing: this dress was made with my first-ever duct tape twin, and it made a tremendous difference in getting the fit right through the bodice.  My twin eventually collapsed, and I’m still without a double. But thinking about this dress and how easy it was to “fit myself” using that dress form makes me kick myself for not having DH wrap me up in duct tape again.4.  The tank from Simplicity 2603. I hated the finishing.  Hated the top.  Hated the pilling on the fabric.5.  This wrap top from Simplicity 4076.  I wore it until the fabric was so badly pilled it became an embarrassment to wear.  But I liked the pattern and it fit well.

6.  A Karl Lagerfeld blouse.  I actually never wore this, although it was fun to make. I’ve wanted to make this blouse since I was a teenager, and I finally got around to it just to make someone else happy in a thrift store! 🙂V1900 batwing sleeves7.  My first plastron from BurdaStyle.  I wasn’t happy with the fit (no required FBA was done) and it shrunk after washing.  I’d like to make this again, if 4 ply silk wasn’t so expensive.  It was a nice top.7. These trousers from Vogue 8434.  I initially loved them and they seem to look good, but I decided last year that they looked dowdy, so I cannibalized them for notions and trashed the fabric.  The RPL was starting to pill anyways, and I hate that.v8434 front8. A tulip skirt.  The fabric was left in stash, so I made this on a whim, mostly to try out the silhouette.  But I cut the lining a size smaller than it should have been, which made it uncomfortable to wear, and I had to always remember to suck my belly button into the front of my spine while wearing it, so I sent it out of the house to bless someone else’s closet.b skirt8. My fringe dress.  I never did like the way it fit, regardless of that lovely fringe.  And every time I’m tempted to make something out of RPL, I remember this dress and the trousers in #7 above, and move on.v2396 full front dartless9. The first woven version of Burda 9/2012 #111.  It needed a lot of tweaking through the shoulders and width down the sleeves, not being made of jersey and all.  D’oh.  Didn’t think that through prior to cutting and sewing.b09-2010-111a full 10.  Both this top and the skirt.  The top was too short and the FBA too big (it was a jersey) for me to wear comfortably.  And the skirt was eventually tiresome, even if it was bias linen in a lovely olive green.  I always used to hate my hips in it.MMJ 1411.  My bombshell dress. It was the first garment I ever cried in frustration over, and after taking pics for the blog, I never wore it.  I always hated the bodice. ‘Nuff said.

12.  This muslin.  I was sorry I wasted the linen on it. I’m still sorry.DSC0347413. These trousers and the jacket.  After years, I finally thrifted that jacket.  The trousers, although I was sorry to see that beautiful wool crepe go, had to leave.  I hated the high waistband after all.montana jacket14.  This OOP Vogue blouse that looks like Vogue 8747, but is cut completely on the bias.  It gave me nightmares every time I put it on.  And the trousers. The shirt was made out of fabric that was too drapey for the pattern, and the trousers just got worse the more I wore them.  Looking at them now, I know what’s needed, but I thrifted them both.  I didn’t even bother cannibalizing them for parts.v7751 r315. The shark fin skirt.  Bad fabric choice, and I’m still lamenting this one.  I loved the fabric, but it would have been much better in a straight skirt.  I wore it once.B 2-2011-103 detailAnd there you have it.  Just looking at this catalogue makes me appreciate how much I’ve learned through trial and error, and brings home – yet again – just how much I need to think through fabric/pattern marriages and make a muslin. This post marks my blogiversary, and in the last three years of taking pictures and scrutinizing my sewing skills, wardrobe and style choices, I’ve learned a lot.  I know I’m making more garments that fit better and that I’m happy to wear now that I’ve been logging more sewing hours, scrutinizing fit, poring over tutorials and books, and reading a gazillion sewing blogs.  Also, I am amazed at how helpful the camera is in tweaking fit.  I really hated taking pictures at the beginning, but I’m thankful that it helps me pinpoint things that need improvement.  I’m also surprised at how a lot of these garments don’t look so bad in retrospect, although I’m not sorry I let them go, because I wasn’t comfortable wearing them even though (from today’s perspective)  they didn’t look half as bad as I thought they did at the time I made the decision to pass them on.

Making a muslin DOES save the day


Another idea I like, but I don’t think I’ll do.  Thank goodness I’ve decided to do more muslins.  I’m starting to like the idea of the extra step of doing one.  Remember this lovely Burda 12/2011 #119 blouse?

B 12-2011-119charmeuse

Well, I’ll have to go looking for something else, because I don’t really fancy this.  I honestly would never wear this.  Even as a dress.  I’m not crazy about the front pleat or the under bust bow.  Such a cute blouse in the drawing, too, but not in my real life!  And that neckline has been raised by about 3 inches.  Maybe too much from this photo, but definitely necessary to avoid a wardrobe malfunction. >_<


Shoulders are too tight, the hem requires more width, and the side view is appalling.  Jeepers.  Sometimes muslin photos make me wonder what the heck I was thinking, or why I bother!  Maybe I should make up a croquis.  Although it wouldn’t have given me the full onslaught of the side view horror show.IMG_7994

Moving on…..

SWAP Wadder

So much for this idea.  A nice idea, but better left as an idea.B 05-2012-113


In all it’s unpressed glory.


But thought I’d like to try it on anyway.

front 2

Should be worn without a tucked-in sweater.


This is why I gravitate to the tailored, underlined and lined, long-and-involved skirt ideas.  Made of woven fabrics, peeps.


‘Nuff said.