2017, 2018 and other tidbits

2017 makes 2
Vogue 1491, DD3’s middle school frankpattern formal, Burda 04/2010 #112

I’ve been enjoying all the year-end reviews that have popped up in my reader over the last 6 weeks or so.  It’s crazy how 6 weeks seems like it’s a lifetime ago, and obsolete.  One reason I really hate social media these days.

I haven’t blogged very much this past year for a variety of reasons, and it seemed to be a reflection on what I’ve actually done creatively in my sewing life.  But after reading Naomi’s wrap-up post I thought I would set up a similar Excel workbook to track my makes. And my fabric inventory.

Lo, and behold! I actually sewed 62 garments during 2017!  I was so surprised! Only about half got photographed or blogged, some were thrifted, and only a handful haven’t been worn yet, as I decided in December to sew up a collection of short-sleeved summer tops.

2017 screen shot

I must say, compiling this list was encouraging.  I sewed a lot last year!  It makes me feel  I can move on to 2018 with a right good will to getting some of the larger projects going that I have been purposely avoiding out of fear for the last couple of years (fear of fitting, fear of less-than-perfect execution, fear of garment-lifestyle clashes).

And speaking of 2018, there has been a lot of kerfluffle in the sewing universe about the 2018 Burda Challenge.  I’m sure Burda appreciates all the variations on this challenge every single year, although each iteration to date hasn’t gotten a lot of social media attention.  When I participated back in 2013, only a few bloggers were interested, but this year, I guess the right person with enough clout in the sewing blogosphere decided to get on board, so everyone’s talking about it.  I think credit should be given where credit is due, however, and so here’s to ReadyThreadSew and Pattern Review with the idea of a year-long challenge from waaaaay back when.  I always find it amusing when the masses jump on a bandwagon that’s been around for a while simply because they hear a louder or more popular voice talking about it.  No rant intended!  It’s just my observations from the sidelines. 😉  Ideas need persistent, loud, popular voices in order to take root and get people on board.  But that smacks of politik, and I am not going down that rabbit hole.

Anyways, I’m looking forward to actually getting photographs of all my 2018 makes – both successes and failures – and sharing them with you this year.  I’ve tried IG for the last year, and it is sooooo not my thing.  I’m a sideline girl, and although I occasionally like to scroll through my feed and see what you all are up to, posting prolifically is not my style.  Of course, this article went a long way to explaining why, never mind that I like my neurons and my privacy.

That said, this year I have resolved:

  • to actually blog and share my makes this year, and not get dopamined-up and depressed on my IG feed.  There is a small part of me that screams, “But you’ll be missing out on so much!”, and I’ve decided to ignore it and stay true to my watching-from-the sidelines self.  Sharing all my makes is also not really in my comfort zone (I often feel I have nothing interesting to say, or any pretty pictures to share), but I have also resolved this year to…
  • take baby steps.  Baby steps in healthy activity, in French, in social settings; permission to be creative, including TAST (an embroidery and stitching challenge); and..
  • sewing up some of my prolific stash, including ticking off the
  • 2018 Burda Challenge box and a
  • Year of the Jacket personal challenge with each make.  I have so many beautiful coatings in my stash, and I really want to attempt a French jacket, so I have set this as a many-birds-with-one-stone step.

And here’s a teaser, although I probably won’t blog any of these, as they were last year’s makes.

2017 makes
Collection of lace and silk tops from BurdaStyle & Vogue; brown skirt Burda 02/2006 #114; blue linen trousers Burda 12/2011 #133; and a stack of tops from Simplicity 4076 and BurdaStyle


Miss R’s Floral Graduation Dress

A few months ago I was asked to help a good friend shop for her daughter’s prom/graduation, as she didn’t feel she knew quite where to start navigating the maze of promdom.  I suggested we go on a reconnaissance mission, push the boundaries on all pre-conceived notions of likes/dislikes and appropriate/inappropriate and see where we ended up.  Everything can be duplicated, regardless of the RTW price tag, I assured her.

So we went shopping.  And Miss R tried on everything from red sequin Vegas showgirl gowns to pink sherbet blinged out cotton candy dresses, to mom-approved middle-aged dowdy navy blue gowns that made her look old, and, well, dowdy.  At the end of the day, she settled on a navy beaded full length blouson dress for her prom and something made from this skirt, purchased at a steep discount by moi a few weeks after our reconnaissance escapade, for her graduation ceremony.floral skirt

The RTW beaded gown was hemmed and happily worn a couple of weeks ago.  The floral dress, however, required a bit more time and effort.  The end result was lovely, imho.  I found some stretch cotton for the bodice, and shortened the RTW skirt.  It was a few sizes too small for the client, so I used it all up making it a lovely knee-length pleated skirt.R's dress

The inside of the bodice has a boned corselette.


It’s lined in washed muslin – perhaps not the greatest choice, but comfortable in hot summer weather.

bodice interior

I kept all the petticoats and the lining from the original RTW skirt.


The bodice has a deep V back, hence the necessity for a built-in corselette.  Here’s a couple of pics from one of the last fittings.

Some pulling and drag lines in the bodice.  So frustrating trying to eliminate them because the stretch cotton kept losing it’s shape and stretching itself out, and, of course, the snugger and tighter the better.  Between you and me, I wasn’t 100% happy with the fit of this bodice when it was all said and done.  The fabric was so lightweight and because it was stretch I didn’t (felt I couldn’t) underline it.  My mistake, in retrospect.  *sigh*  It fit beautifully before this set of pictures, just skimming the body instead of straining across it.  Ah well.  Always lessons and ‘should haves’ to take away from each project I make.  :/

In the meantime, here’s a couple of pictures of DD1’s prom dress.  It was RTW (I know, bad seamstress mom), but she fell so head-over-heels in love with it and it was impossible to find a similar fabric to make the skirt, so I caved and bought it.  I did need to alter the shoulders (forward/sloped shoulder) on the top to get the bodice to sit correctly, and some reinforcement was added through the bust.  I have to say I was surprised at the amount of reinforcement required in the bust area to keep it from collapsing on DD1.  Some US manufacturers/designers must be getting the message that most women are not B cups these days and are making busts bigger.  The skirt is huge.  HUGE.  Five layers of petticoats huge, with horsehair braid in the hem. Dressing up is such fun, isn’t it?

Red Christmas

Burda 11-2012-121 redShe’s so pretty.  Isn’t she pretty?  She’s so pretty!   OK.  Enough mummy bragging. Down to the sewing stuff.

This was the last of my sewing projects with a December 24th due date:  DD1’s Christmas dress.  She chose this lovely gunmetal brocade with red flocking to be made up in dress from Burda’s November 2012 issue (click on the image for more details).  I muslined the bodice once after making a square shoulder adjustment and rotating the darts to the side seam.  This was my first time rotating a dart, too.  I would say it was minimally successful due to lack of practice.  Try and learn, right?

The fabric has a softer drape than the skirt required, so I underlined it with a soft net.  This seems to be the Christmas for stiff underlined skirts – lots of frosting fun!  I left off the pockets (what’s with pockets in a party dress? Isn’t that why you have blinged out clutches?) and I pressed the seam allowances towards the skirt because of the way I attached the lining.

Burda 11-2012-121 backBurda 11-2012-121 frontI am disappointed in this bodice after sewing up Vogue 8615, which went together beautifully and fit so well. I always have issues with the shape of Burda shoulders and I find the sleeves they draft a PITA to set.  I don’t know if this is because I choose the wrong sizes or because they lack all the markings that Vogue typically has.  Burda sleeves always seem to have a ridiculous amount of ease in the front – as though the sleeve head was drafted backwards – and never enough in the back. I have been experimenting with removing ease, but I haven’t mastered it yet.  And, quite frankly, sometimes I just don’t want to think through stupid re-drafting adjustments; I just want to sew something without having to think about it and have it work perfectly! I should have done a prominent shoulder blade adjustment for her R shoulder blade, but I didn’t:  I ran out of time.  Sewing by candlelight made me appreciate the amount of time that went into sewing garments before electricity and modern machinery became the norm.Burda 11-2012-121 sideI lined it in bemberg and drafted my own neckline facings and understitched them.  Why does Burda never suggest understitching for facings in their instructions? Or facings?  Both are required for a perfectly clean neckline finish, IMHO.  And one more confession: I left about 3 inches too much ease in the waist of this dress, but the advantage was lots of comfort room for dancing Christmas Eve away at our family gathering.

Blue Christmas

chinese brocade dressIsn’t this the most amazing colour?  In some lights it’s cobalt.  Other times it looks what in my mind I call “blueberry”.  And the highlights are baby blue, but other times they look turquoise.  It’s a visual feast, embodied in my DD3’s new Christmas dress.  She leapt at the fabric when she laid eyes on it, and after perusing The PatterV8615n Stash, chose this little classic number called Vogue 8615.  The selling feature was the BIG SKIRT.  Now, the brocade as has decent amount of heft, as most brocade does, but as you can see from some of the versions on PR (click the pattern image to see) the skirt falls rather flat.  The pattern does mention a purchased petticoat, which I think helps the skirt stand properly.  But I didn’t want to make a separate petticoat, and DD3 didn’t want to wear a separate petticoat.  Isn’t it nice when we’re on the same page with our clients?  🙂

I had in my mind this BIG SKIRT from Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, and since we watch this film bi-annually, I was quite sure that I could copy the stiffness of it.  If you watch this scene you’ll notice that the skirt actually bends, like there’s 20 layers of organza underlining.https://i0.wp.com/the-dandy-life.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/white-christmas-vera-ellen.pngI chose to use a stiff netting as underlining – just one layer – and the effect is similar.Vogue 8615 skirt interiorThe hem was fun to make.  Vogue suggests a narrow 5/8″ hem, but I wanted more support in that BIG SKIRT, so I turned it up 3 inches and micro-pleated in the extra fullness into purchased 1-inch-wide bias binding (that’s super stiff for some reason) and hand-stitched it to the underlining.  I did not press the hem.  The skirt is 6 yards in circumference, consisting of four panels.  The centre of each panel is cut on the straight grain, which means each seam is on the bias.  That was another reason I underlined it with stiff netting.  🙂  Netting on the bias doesn’t grow, and I was surprised, after cutting fashion fabric, that this brocade would if I’d let it have it’s own way.Vogue 8615 backThe dress is straining on Vintage Judy through the shoulders, but the V back fits DD3’s shoulders perfectly because I raised it by 1.5 inches and did a short-waist adjustments to keep it sitting properly.  I debated putting a waist stay into the dress, but didn’t.  I may add one if today’s wearing suggests it would be a good idea.  (Today is DD2 and DD3’s piano recital.)  Vogue 8615 beaded zipperThe zipper is hand picked, and can I just say it was such a massive pleasure putting a zipper in by hand again?  So much simpler than a lapped zip or an invisible zip and completely fuss-free. After inserting the zipper, I made an additional pass over the stitches and added iridescent beads.  It’s my first use of this decorative technique. Vogue 8615 blueThere’s a lot of pattern in this brocade, with a repeat that I ignored except on the CF bodice seam.  You can see from the pic above how the BIG SKIRT folds in on itself rather stiffly.  So pretty, even if I do say so myself.  I’m really liking this pattern, too.  It comes with custom bodice sizes A through D cup, two sleeve lengths, and seriously, peeps – who couldn’t love that BIG SKIRT?

Green Christmas

Burda 2-2013-148 greenMy DD2 needed a new Christmas dress this year, having outgrown every single one in the closet, including all the ones made in previous years for DD1.  I always knew the day would come when all three of my girls would be all the same size – albeit with their own very different styles and colouring and shape.  *sigh*  It just seems like I’m not quite ready for them to not be so little anymore.  It’s so funny when I think about making new dresses each year for them because they were growing so fast.  And then there’s been the lull over the last few years where I just needed to make one to fill in a gap.  This year, I’m making three new pretty dresses.  This is the first one, and it was done a couple of weeks ago for a party she attended.Burda 2-2013-148 bodiceWhen I asked her what she wanted, she requested a repeat of a previouslyBurda 2-2013-148 made green taffeta dress with a lace bodice which she has worn for a coupe of winters.  But I couldn’t find the exact same lace when I went looking, so settled for this silk organza for the bodice of the new dress.  I used this dress from Burda’s February issue, which will fit into my Burda 2013 Challenge nicely.  There were no fitting issues or construction challenges with this garment.  I haven’t made up the sash, only because DD2 doesn’t want a sash, and I know she would never wear it even if I did put the time into making it.  Besides, she’s a bit beyond a sash-and-bow style.

Burda 2-2013-148 necklineThe dress is sized up to a child’s 152, and DD2 is really an adult size 36, so I added the required width, and pleated the neckline to get a close fit.  And no, I did not put any thought into pattern placement for the embroidery.  I wanted it to sit where it may, and be done with it as it seemed rather random anyways.  The bodice is underlined with the green taffeta, and the sleeves are only organza.Burda 2-2013-148 backI did not have any green zippers in my stash and didn’t have the time to run out to get one (I was sewing this under a time crunch for that party deadline!!!), but found these buttons in my stash.  It’s been a while since I did a back button closure on dresses for my daughters, and this was a nice touch, I thought.  I added a fly for extra coverage. And pink lining!  DD2 loves pink and it adds a touch of whimsy.  It also picks up on the pink embroidery in the silk:  one row of squares is flat silk, the other circles done in metallic threads.Burda 2-2013-148 fly openingI adjusted the suggested length of each ruffle layer to about half, as the taffeta has a lot of body and too much would be too poufy!! Each layer of ruffles is attached to the skirt proper, which is then gathered and attached to the bodice.tiered skirt

I also thought I’d bead the bodice after constructing the dress, of course.  It was rather an afterthought, and now that its done, I’m not crazy about it.  I wanted it to have that little something extra, but the beads don’t really show up that well, at least in the photos.  The fabric is very “alive” in real life, and I obviously don’t have the photography skills to capture it to show you.  It’s a pretty dress, and DD2 is happy to wear it, which is win-win.beaded

Summer Party Dresses

Well, here’s the girls’ party dresses – finally.  I did take pictures on the evening of the wedding, but they were horribly overexposed and goofy and not very good generally speaking.  DD2’s dress was fine, but DD3’s yellow dress reflected every single possible iota of light, and if there were any decently lighted shots, she was pulling silly faces – not very flattering!  So I had them do a re-take this past Sunday.B 02-2011-146 pink twirl

I made DD2’s dress of the most glorious fuchsia Swiss cotton.  It’s just divine to look at and handle and the colour, I think, is spectacular. The sash is a lavender duppion.  DD2 loves intense colours.  sashbow.jpgI used Burda 02-2011-146 for both dresses.  The pattern calls for about 5 yards of fabric per dress to make the big super-twirly skirt.  Unfortunately, there was only about 2 yards of the cotton, so just made it up and cut as many panels of the gored skirt as I could to get as much fullness as I could.  And to do that, I had to put a seam down the CF of the skirt.  DD3’s yellow seersucker was cheaper and there was a full bolt of it, so I was able to get a bigger skirt, although I didn’t do the full 6 half-circles the pattern called for. B 02-2011-146 steppingI originally cut the bodices for both girls a full size 152 because they are very close in size.  Sewing for DD2 is a bit of a challenge because she’s very petite and it’s difficult to get the right proportions in a garment for her.  The size 152 fit her perfectly, although I could have made a 1/2 short waist adjustment.  But otherwise this dress is perfect.  The skirt is 27 inches long, not the 36 inches Burda wanted for the full-length look.  I wanted a wearable dress, not a special occasion dress. B 02-2011-146

See how perfect this bodice fits?  I was initially a little concerned about the front gaping, as the neckline is cut on the bias.  But I interfaced the lining and it worked beautifully.  She’s got just enough up top to fill it out a little, and I think it’s the best dress neckline I’ve seen on her.

Burda 02-2011-146 front She loves her Lelli Kelly’s.

DD2's lelli kelly Another shot of the bodice.  Needless to say, she really likes this dress.DD 2For DD3’s version, I cut the neckline on the straight grain, and boy, did it gape.  She sat beside me during the wedding ceremony, and I took one glance sideways and wished I’d tacked the CF.   As it was, I had to re-cut the bodice after the first fitting because the seersucker didn’t look so great with the neckline cut on the bias, and the bodice was HUGE on DD3.  I’ve slip-stitched the overlap in place for these photos.  I should have done a petite adjustment on her dress, although I did cut it down to a size 140 for the final version, but I didn’t, and it’s not horribly noticeable except when she wears the dark satin ribbon in these pics.  For the party I’d made a light blue duppion sash similar to DD2’s that was a lovely compliment to the pale yellow.  This is my first Burda Style kids pattern, and I’m really impressed with how the patterns fit through the shoulders.

sarah bella party dressesThis is a better picture of the yellow seersucker.  It’s a very pale lemon colour that looks ivory.  Needless to say it was really difficult to photograph decently.  She’s moving a snail in our garden below.moving a snailYou can see the fullness of the skirt in this picture.  And I left out three of the semi-circles called for by the pattern!twirlings

I fully lined both dresses.  This isn’t called for by Burda – they only suggest lining the bodice – but dresses wear better fully lined, even if they are for children, and I was a bit concerned about coverage for the yellow dress.  sistersThe only other fussy little thing I did was add sash holders to keep them in place.  I used self-fabric for the Swiss cotton and narrow satin ribbon for the yellow. And thanks to everyone who weighed in on the purple maxi dress.  I’ve had to put it away for a couple of weeks because I’m doing some significant sewing on request.  I’m hoping to post on those projects, but the purple dress will have to wait for a while.  Who knows?  With the hot steamy summer we’ve been having I may even get to wear it through a hot September!

Vogue 8182: The party version

Thanks for all your encouraging comments about N2’s silk party dress.  I’m happy to report that she wore the dress and it fit very well considering I was sewing it only from measurements without the luxury of proper fittings and muslins. The sparkle tulle was a big hit.

And I took all of your lovely advice and made myself a party dress for the wedding this past weekend, too!  BTW, do any of you have DH’s that really take poopy pictures?  I had to pinch the life out of DH’s backside to get him to grimace for the picture above.  And it’s the best of about 17 shots.  *sigh*  But anyways…. back to my party dress.  It’s based on Vogue 8182, and you last saw it on me waaay back here. I fell in love with the design back then.  I was thrilled beyond words because I had managed to fit the bodice so well – the first time ever.  For this version I used Anna Sui silk chiffon from my stash purchased from Fabric Mart eons ago.  The outer layer of the skirt has a very fine dashed pinstripe in rust all over it and gives the chiffon a blush colour.  I used a plain ivory chiffon as the second layer in the skirt and lined it all with silk habotai in a slightly darker shade. Both the chiffons have little ovals in satin marching orderly throughout in perfect rows.   It’s really pretty fabric.  IMG_3715

Remember this Vogue pattern from a few years ago?  When I saw the silk for sale at Fabric Mart I recognized it as the silk used in this dress.  And it was the right price, so I bought yards of it.anna sui dress The most difficult part of Vogue 8182 is the midriff.  It’s got an overlay cut on the bias and the fabric droops all over the place.  Pulling it taut does NOT work.  I had forgotten that annoying part from my previous version.  On this dress I stitched rows of gathering stitches every 3 inches or so across the midriff pieces and pulled them up to fit the lining/underlining.  Then I pressed them into place.V 8182 midriffAnd hand tacked every single pleat so that they stay in place during wear, washing and hang drying.  I chose to interface the midriff with muslin.  Here’s my tacking stitches:V8182 midriff tackingI was in such a flurry to get this dress finished in time to wear that I forgot two things I meant to include:  bra strap keepers and a waist stay.  You can see from the photo below that the shoulders are slipping off slightly, and would have been kept in place properly with the keepers.  I’ll be adding them tomorrow before I put it away in my closet for the who-knows-when next airing.

IMG_3804I substituted the skirt pattern from Burda 06-2011-118, which is basically a full length six-gored skirt.  Hemming it was a bit of a chore:  each layer is about 4 m in diameter and doing baby hems on chiffon is paramount to a profound exercise in torture endurance.  The side zipper is hand picked.  I remember the mess I made of the invisible zip from the first version and decided I’d save my sanity and just do this one by hand.V8182 zip And now for the bad news.  Every garment has a mistake or flaw in it, and despite the prettiness of this dress, I’m annoyed about several things.  Although you can’t see it, the hem is completely AWOL, but there is no length to even it out so it’s perfect.  This is bugging my inner perfectionist no end.  All I see is an uneven hem every time I put this on.  Ugh.  And I’m very sorry I was rushed with the bodice.  After I had basted it all together I tried it on and was horrified at the fit.  The midriff was a full size too big and the bodice gaped a good 2 inches in the front AND the back.  What the heck?  The previous time I’d made this dress I had actually taken the time to make a proper muslin and kept it as a pattern in the envelope.   I assumed it would still fit, so I blithely went ahead and cut it out before fitting it.  Wrong.  I had no idea I’d change size/shape so much in such a short time?  Unless there was a lot of tweaking I did in the first dress that I don’t recall, because my notes don’t reflect any other changes.  Here’s a shot of the inside.V8182 interior I shortened the bodice by about 1.5″ at the shoulders, and I took out about 3/4″ too much which is really what is causing the  shoulders to pull downwards.  *sigh*  I should have re-fit the midriff prior to deciding what to do with the bodice, because the alterations would have been very different.  I had so wanted a perfectly perfect dress that I would be pleased to wear with sewers pride, but the truth is I just didn’t feel my best in this dress or that I’d done my best in this dress. V8182 It was a lot of fun to go swishing around in yards of chiffon, but I’m disappointed in the overall effect.  I’d love to take the bodice apart and do it over, but I doubt that will ever happen.  Never mind.  It was a fun fairytale wedding at a castle, complete with men in uniform, cannons and swords.  (They even used one to cut the cake!!)  An event like this happens once every couple of years, and I thoroughly enjoyed every single second of getting dolled up and dancing the night away!

Wedding Dresses


My DH’s 2nd cousin is getting married at our local castle in August this year, and as DH’s family is Portuguese, you know the family wedding-of-the-year is a big family party.  And party dresses are required.  Preferably new.  So I’m sewing party dresses for DD2, DD3 and hopefully – time permitting – myself.


DD1 is planning on giving her grad dress another airing with the shoes.  A sneak peek of the girls’ dresses, which are finished and waiting, will have to suffice until they’re worn with proper primping and nice pictures are taken.  The fuchsia dress is for DD2; the yellow for DD3. I’ve also been commissioned to make a red dry-clean-only party dress for Niece #2.  I imaged something in silk taffeta or duppion, but couldn’t find the right shade for the right price anywhere until I hit my local thrift shop.thrifted red silk I didn’t take any pictures of its interior.  It’s a custom garment, made locally – the label had the phone number of the seamstress!  It was very well made: completely lined and finished beautifully, and there’s enough fabric to make the princess-skirted halter-top party dress Niece #2 desires!  And speaking of dresses for weddings, please click on over to Toferet’s Empty Bobbin and see Molly’s gorgeous silk wedding gown!