Tag Archives: Burda

Still faster than knitting

asparagus sweater

I’ve really been enjoying the sweater knits I’ve added to my stash this past year.  Quality sweater knits are truly a joy to sew with.  Besides being warm, it’s just so gratifying to be able to make a sweater in a couple of hours.  You can’t knit that quickly, and largely because of projects like this, I have zero interest in picking up a couple of needles and yarn.

This past week I’ve been working with this lovely pale green wool/cotton knit that I picked up at Mulberry Silks in Carrboro, NC.  It has a sort of waffled texture, but it’s a bit hard to describe.  It’s not quite crocheted, not quite waffled–in short it’s it’s own thing.  I washed it (cold + gentle cycle) and then threw it in the dryer (no heat) because I live in a real house where my laundry once in a blue moon does not get done by me.  Wanting to not end up with another shrunken sweater, I thought I’d get the shrinkage all done right up front.

The problem is that it shrunk a bit too much and I didn’t have enough fabric to make what I wanted.  I toyed around with the idea of a basic tee, but that sounded boring, not warm, and like something that would not showcase the beauty of this fabric.  Plus, I really had my heart set on a fat cozy collar.  So I called Mulberry Silks to see if they still had some of this  (It’s “asparagus” Italian wool/cotton knit and it was about $17 something/yd in the sale bin if you’re interested).  “Asparagus” is quite a misnomer–you can see from my pale self that the fabric is a great deal more delicately green than the asparagus that graces my plate.  The wonderful owner said she remembered cutting it for me and was happy to ship it to me.  So, more expensive project than I anticipated, but a RTW sweater of this quality of wool would definitely still cost me a great deal more and I know how long sweaters last in my closet.

asparagus seams

I decided not to serge this fabric and instead chose to leave wide seam allowances and whipstitch them open.  I don’t sew with enough wool, but when I do, I’m always struck by how beautifully it takes to steaming + the clapper.  Those SAs are FLAT.  It took forever to do this over all of the seams, but the inside is gorgeous, and it was nice just to savor the beauty of this fabric a little longer.

Whenever I was getting antsy about how long it was taking me, I reminded myself that I can still whipstitch faster than I could ever possibly knit.  And it took me back to my hand sewing roots.  I can see myself getting into couture kind of stitching.  I think there’s just some fabric that just screams to have special treatment.  You know that spot in Tootsie when Dustin Hoffman is talking about wanting to make Shirley’s hair prettier because “she deserves it”?–similarly, I think there’s fabric that deserves to be pampered.

The pattern is Burda 7433.  I had made it before but was never able to wear it because unfortunately DH shrunk that one, but also, it needed a narrow shoulder adjustment.  I compared it to my TNT t-shirt and adjusted the pattern by 3/4″ which seemed like a lot to me, but that’s what I needed.  The only thing is that I adjusted the front side piece, but missing 3/4″ makes the princess seam line run *very* close to the shoulder seam.  If I ever make this again, I’ll have to move the front/side princess line so that it hits at a better spot.

Here’s the collar without the foldover for those ultra chilly days.


So, yay for a warm sweater, and yay for great fabric stores, and beautiful fabric.  Readers, have you ever had to order extra fabric after your original purchase?

My full review of the top is here.

Happy New Year!


(Burda) simplicity at its best


I’ve been wanting to make a sweater dress since forever.  I bought a black RTW one when I was still teaching for my choir concerts, and as comfortable and delightfully warm as it is, black makes me look like I’m dead…not in the affectionately zombie sort of way either.

When I saw Kyle’s version of Burda 7287 I knew it would be perfect as a sweater dress, though I originally bought the pattern for the fingerless gloves.  I like the shaping they have, and I knew it’d be easy to tack the glove onto the bottom of any sleeve for added warmth this season.


But when I found this orchid sweater knit in Chicago, I knew the whole dress, not just the gloves was in order.  The dress is just a simple sleeveless side dart + back darts + a-line hem.  The pattern does not call for a lining, but this fabric needed the added stability and opacity of a lining.


I seamed the lining at the neck, flipped, and topstitched, but I bound the binding in the armscyes.  I actually like how this looks much better than the neckline from the inside of the dress.

I LOVE the collar.  It adds a great deal of extra warmth, and with a vintage brooch it adds a lot of style.

At first I was opposed to the idea of separates, but now I see the genius of it.  Scarves can be somewhat fussy to tie/retie/drape, but the collar over a plain tee gives you the warmth without the constant restyling.

Also the gloves have been invaluable in my violin playing.  When I first start playing, it has always taken a good long while to get blood moving into my fingers.  There are these exercises developed by the Baroque composer, Francesco Geminiani that I learned about in college that help considerably, but when it’s too cold outside, I need a little extra help.  The gloves warm up my hands but still allow me to play.  Win!


And big collars can often affect the comfort of my shoulder rest and limit my shoulder movements (recipe for tension in me), so being able to take off the collar and just play is wonderful.  I can’t say I’ve ever had that in a winter ensemble.

I thought I’d like to have a less A-line skirt, but since I will most likely always wear this with leggings and boots, and I live in the static capital of the known world, there will be less cling.

So 3 easy pieces to mix and match.  I can’t think of a better basic.  My full review is here.

Bright and sporty

diagonal fold here is not a fit problem, it’s how I’m standing.

For the last couple of years, I’ve been on a mad hunt for warm winter knits.  It gets cold in our house and having sweaters for layering is always a good idea in CO.  After my last couple of shopping ventures, I finally have a good stash of 5 different sweater and sweatshirt knits that should fill some serious gaps in my cold weather wardrobe.

First up is this sweatshirt from sweatshirt fleece I picked up at Vogue Fabrics (Evanston store).  I’d bought Burda 7434 a couple of years ago but never really came across the right fabric.  I like the sporty ribbon casing.  The pattern has all of these pleats–2 in the front armscye, 2 in each sleeve, and 2 on the front and back that chevron at the side seams (they also chevron on the sleeve, though it’s less obvious).  There’s also a sleeve pleat + topstitching detail.

I kind of see why this pattern hasn’t been reviewed before…finding the right fabric is a bit problematic.  The pleats require some drape so they flow nicely, but the sleeve topstitching seems to suggest a relatively stable fabric.  It’s also a fairly figure conscious top which seems to negate the pleat/drape aspect a little.

The good:  my fabric is delightfully cozy in this pattern.  It’s not too often that you come across a sweatshirt that is figure conscious, but this one is, and it brings the warmth of the fleecy side right next to me which really helps a cold girl out.  Also, the pleats chevroning at the side seams is a cool detail.  The directions in the pattern for the neck casing/tie are excellent.  Most Burda envelope instructions leave me scratching my head, but this pattern’s directions really work well.

The not so good: Not a fan of the pleat detail in the armscye–it really just looks like a gross fitting error.  Bust pleats don’t work if you’re over an A cup.  They just don’t.

The leggings!

I went looking for ITY at Denver Colorado Fabrics a few weeks ago, and for the first time, I came up with nothing (strange given how much ITY they typically have).  So I bought a couple of yards of something labeled “cotton/poly/spandex 4 way stretch knit” in “peach” from Ebay.  Buying fabric from Ebay is a bit of a shot in the dark.  This is slinky, not cotton anything, and it’s not “peach,” it’s nuclear cantaloupe.  BUT, it is comfortable, and it made a shockingly fast version of Burdastyle 1-2011-130.

This will be my TNT leggings pattern.  As you can see in the line drawing, it’s got good shaping below the knee, and the optional skirt allows for a lot of possibilities to mix and match and also just simplifies wardrobe options.  As much as I believe that leggings are NOT pants, the skirt makes these perhaps a little bit more respectable.  Nuclear cantaloupe is good for kicking around the house, but I will be looking for better colors NOT on Ebay in the future.

My review of the sweatshirt is here, and my review of the leggings is here.

Wovens and pregnancy, broken mirrors, and being easier on myself

It’s been wadder city around here (and crazy face making I guess–I blame my lack of sleep and very funny kids).  Well, not exactly wadder…more like really beautifully finished complete garments that biff it because my changing body changes faster than I can crank stuff out of my sewing room.

Exhibits A and B:  Burda 7198, theoretically a great top for maternity–built in A-line shape with sweet little godets in the side seams.  Problem: my cup size grew between my muslin and getting both versions sewn, so I need more width in my upper chest that I usually don’t.  The stress point being the placket, split on the stronger cotton chambray in the wash and shredded in the wearing (yay for having an undershirt on that day) on the poly-masquerading-as-silk-and-I’m-so-sad-that-it-did-because-it’s-such-a-pretty-print.  

Solution:  as dull as it is at times to stick to knit tops during pregnancy, that give inherent in the fabric prevents tragic breakdowns like these plackets that result in wasted time and energy.  If you really want a woven maternity top, just buy it; if it’s ultra boring (because you know it will be), buy a white one and dye it.

Exhibit C: The Saggy Bottom Girl and Burdastyle 6-2010-129 (Saints alive!  Have I learned nothing about fitting pants?!)

Problem: I only pinched out 1/2″ in the back crotch and didn’t do my usual part 2 alteration to fix the same issue (cut the inseam a size smaller).  This coupled with overestimating how big my hips really are (I cut a 40–should have gone for the 38, possibly a 36 with some added room for my hips–Burda maternity sizes are larger), and picking a thin but sturdy denim, I have cones off my back end.  Cones, people.  I have only 8 more weeks, and I was very conservative in fitting my flat backside because I was afraid that I’d overfit and then not have anything in the last couple weeks.  I also couldn’t see too well to really get an idea of what I needed to do because several weeks ago #1 broke my small full-length mirror I use for fitting (he was walking on it–thankfully, on the backside and it was covered with fabric on the wrong side because I used to use it as art in our apartment and took it down when I needed to fit–so no bleeding child, just a broken mirror).  He’s been paying me back a quarter at a time (thankfully, it was a $10 purchase–easily the cheapest thing he could have wrecked in my sewing room), and he finally finished yesterday.  Bright side: my topstitching is great on these jeans, and I really like the color of this denim, so saggy bottom or not, I’m going to enjoy these.  

Solution: Don’t fit pants without the aid of at least 2 mirrors that give you a proper view of your tushy.

It’s really hard for me not to take all of this personally.  I’m the type that likes to do everything excellently, and I generally stink at realizing that there are times that my ability to do just that is limited and that that in and of itself is not some sort of moral failing.  The thing is I can’t control everything that happens anywhere–I can let it get me down, or I can wear my saggy bottom but smashingly pink topstitched jeans with pride, knowing that someday–soon, likely, I’ll get back to where I want to be.  Failure is part of the creative process.  Failure is part of the creative process.  Blech…I could use less failure.

Houndstooth dress!

Noah: Is that your new dress, Mommy?

Me: yes (grateful that I’m wearing a real garment instead of whatever summer heat has driven me to of late)

Noah: You look like the marshmallow.

Me: What? (plumbing the depths of 3 year old logic)….oh, right, the marshmallow.

My child, with his crazy memory for patterns of all sorts makes the connection to the beloved stuffed footstool that I silkscreened and sewed that we roll all over the basement.  I do not indeed look like an actual marshmallow.  Glad that he/I clarified that for me.

I’ve had this ITY in my stash for some time.  I bought it on a whim at fabric.com (when do you not buy on a whim at fabric.com?), happy to see one of my favorite patterns rendered in knit fabric.  When I got it, I was disappointed how thin it was and that it had almost a slinky texture to it.  I wanted to send it back but didn’t want to deal with it.  Instead I just put it off to the side somewhere.  When I came back to it, I concluded that I still love the pattern, and the blue is really lovely, so why not let it be a maternity dress?  It will get heavy use for the 1 or 2 seasons that I will use it for, and then I can pass it along.  Yes, my general preference is to make garments from nicer fabrics that will look nice for a long time, but periodically you just make a bad purchase, and it’s good to do make some quality lemonade out of it.

I pulled out Burda 6-2010-132 again because I had already made it and knew (in principle) that it worked for me.  The problem was I was never particularly thrilled with the fit of it…it seemed to pull away from my body along the sides.  I think my maternity strategy in the past has not been to sew for where you’re at but just to make everything enormous and hope for the best.  Ah, live and learn.

When I pulled out the tissue, I saw that I had traced a 34 in the neck and shoulders and a 38 below the armscye….no wonder.  32 is my magic Burda shoulder size, and after trying on the brown and aqua dress and confirming that it was indeed falling off my shoulders, I graded it down again to a 32 and came into a 36 on the sides through my torso and I kept the 38 in the hips.  I also did a small dartless FBA ala Louise Cutting (if you’re a Threads Insider, there’s a fantastic video for doing this–it allows you to add for the bust without adding to the waist or hips–awesome) to take care of the pregnancy crazy.

I just so happened to have the right color of blue to use as contrast (now I remember why I stocked up on solid knits).

My construction tip is to use quality clear elastic for the ruching in the side seams.  Shoot, use quality clear elastic whenever there’s gathered bits.  Monkeying around with it is worth the momentary frustration–it’s simpler, more even, stronger, and much better looking than anything you do with multiple rows of gathered stitches.

That silly empire line definitely makes me feel pregnant, but I’m nearly 26 weeks, so maybe it’s time, and maybe it’s okay.  At least I don’t look like an actual marshmallow.  As for the fabric–it sewed up really just fine, and once I put a slip under the dress, it’s quite lovely and feels as nice as any other ITY.

My full review of the dress is here.

A buttony sort of skirt

After my jeans, I’m pretty in love with buttons.  I’ve made my peace with my buttonholer and the two of us are getting along so smashingly that buttons are popping up on a lot more things than they used to.

Enter my camel skirt for the Wardrobe Basics Sew Along.  I knew immediately that I wanted to do something in wool (remember I have no wool skirt in my closet after the laundry ate this one), and with CF buttons.  I love Colette Pattern’s Beignet skirt, but it’s high-waisted which is a bad, bad look and a very uncomfortable style on my short waist.  It occurred to me that I could just add a button placket on a skirt with a CF seam.  Up popped Burda 2-2007-105.

vs.Modell Photo

It is a pencil skirt with a CF two way separating zipper.  It also has adorable little slot pockets in the yoke seam.  The instructions for the zipper were a little convoluted, so I was glad that I was doing buttons down the front this round.  I think if I sat down with them that they would work, but they are far from obvious, which sadly is often the case with Burda instructions…but at least they do work.

Also the instructions for the slot pockets were missing any talk about the second half of the pocket cut from your self fabric.  I serged the top of the self side of the pocket and folded it over and topstitched and then serged that piece with the lining, keeping the bottom edges of the pocket even. This meant that when I sewed the pocket into the yoke seam, I had to flip the finished edge of the self side over the seam allowance on the yoke just in the pocket area.  I was surprised that this did not create bulk and did not make the pocket flip out or do weird things.   In future, I think a better solution is to sew the pocket lining to the skirt front, and the self side of the pocket to the skirt yoke and join them after you sew the yoke seam, but I will test that theory.

I picked up a 1 yd flat fold (so rare to find just one yard) of this fabric at Denver Fabrics for $10.  $10/yd is kind of pricey for me, but it was the perfect color, had lovely flow, and was a great weight for a skirt.

I kind of got literal with putting buttons ALL the way down the skirt and put one directly in the hem area.  By the time I realized it, I had already cut the buttonhole.  Oops.  It looks a little dorky, I’m not going to lie.  I will just unbutton that bottom button and pretend it’s not there.  I will mention that I marked all the lines for the buttons with the Frixion pens by Pentel.  Have you tried them?  I heard about them via Amity, but then one of the ladies in my fitting group let me try hers at our last meeting.  The ink erases with rubbing…there’s little erasers on the ends of the pens, but an iron literally zaps out the ink.  To boot, the pens have a very fine line and there’s lots of colors.  Why can’t actual fabric markers be this awesome?

There’s limited button color choices in camel, so I opted for small 5/8″ cover buttons instead.  I didn’t realize that this would be the path of pain and character growth, but I will not soon be using such small cover buttons again unless my fabric is super lightweight.  This is not the thickest wool, but it was not easy to poke the fabric into the teeth without it bunching up.  I used the end of a small paintbrush to help the process, but I still had to trim out some excess to get the backs to snap into place simply because there’s so little room in such a small button for fabric excess to hang out.

As for fitting this skirt, I’m relatively happy with how it turned out.  I’ve never successfully completed a pencil skirt.  They’ve always pulled horribly across the hips or not fit in the waist, etc. etc. etc.  Since I’ve slimmed down, I’ve had a lot fewer fitting issues with my hips, so I cut a straight 34 and forged ahead.  I did have to borrow from my seam allowance in the hip area–sewing 1/4″ seams through my hips and back to my usual 3/8″ below that, but that did the trick.  The fit is not perfect, but it’s the closest I’ve ever come with a pencil skirt.  I’ll keep working with it as I would indeed like to attempt the CF zipper.  I wouldn’t mind doing another skirt with CF buttons, but I’ll probably opt for a non-pencil skirt since pencils are not very practical in my stage of life.

ETA:  My full review is here.

Unconventional fitting techniques

What do you do when you have a wool jersey top that’s too big?  Get sick and have a loving husband accidentally throw it into the wash because you’re too out of it to tell him otherwise.



My sewy friend Linda helped me put in shoulder pleats to bring in the shoulder on this Burda top.  I’m really sad I didn’t get a picture of it before it got thrown into the wash because it definitely was an improvement from the original fit, and the wool was so pretty.  Now it is fitted well, but sadly the original texture of the wool was a bit compromised.  Also, that awesome felty feel and resulting lengthwise shrinkage makes it totally necessary to wear an undershirt to avoid exposure and cut down on skin irritation–something that wouldn’t be that big of a deal if it wasn’t so fitted.  Since this is not the first time (and hey, I’ve shrunk plenty of sweaters myself) that the laundry ate my wool, we’re going to have to put up a bag for items that need special care in our closet.

The upside of the shrunken state of the sweater is that you can see the cute details of my jeans.  Theoretically with the length issue, a skirt is probably a better pairing for it, but the only one that I can think of that would work is grey.

Readers, how do you avoid laundry disasters?

2011 in review

Yes it’s a week late, but It’s always helpful for me to take a look back on my goals and see how much I accomplished before I dive into a new year.  This was a big growth year for me in my sewing.  I think every other year has also been a big growth year, but I think this is the first year where it’s really started to show that this is not my first rodeo.

  • I made a coat!  I felt completely ready to take on this task that daunted me last year and the year before.  I took my time, and gradually it all came together in something I love love love love love to wear.  Actually, outerwear is coming to be a part of my sewing, which is great because Colorado is a place you have to layer clothes.
  • This whole pants thing is starting to make sense.  I’ve made three pairs of jeans now and this latest addition BWOF 8-2008-122 is showing some real growth (I’ll save info on this latest addition when I can get some pics).  There’s also the grey green cords below and these Sandra Betzina jeans.
  • I had a baby and then had to scramble to figure out how to deal with my changing size.  I’m still figuring it out.  From delivery till present, there’s about 50 pounds…not a small amount of change.  I think you can see the change most obviously in my dresses:
  •  I think there is some serious petite-ing learning coming my way.  And my ever present annoyance [how do you account for a full bust without adding to the waist?] is rearing its ugly head.  I’ve been cheating by adding to the side seams, but I have no extra fluff on the sides anymore and even less waist.  Arghh.  Back to the drawing board I will go in 2012.
  • Making the boys clothes is kind of fun.  I tend to sew just for me because I know how to fix what I have going on and it’s too time consuming and not often appreciated by recipients how much goes into that enough to inspire me to sew for them (the brilliantly cheeky Selfish Seamstress sums it up well).  But most of the time the boys are very appreciative, and there’s little to no fitting issues that need to happen.  Plus, I can scour the $2/lb bin for fabric for them and sewing their clothes helps me up my construction skills.  And they’re darn cute.  Win win for everyone.  Can’t we all just play with boxes wearing robot pjs?

For the new year I’d like to:

  • Keep puzzling through this whole pants thing
  • REALLY figure out the full bust/small waist and narrow shoulders conundrum
  • Learn to make welt pockets that aren’t hideously ugly
  • Sew something with silk…it’s just sitting there waiting for me.

Altering non-maternity patterns for your pregnancy

I must have been taken by the print of this fabric because it literally has the same feel as the gym shorts from my 6th grade P.E. class.  Thankfully, this top does not come with the nasty athletic girls, the teasing, and the coach with the Rod Stewart spiky mullet (no lie–Rod Stewart was her hero) that those hideous blue shorts did.  Over a tissue weight t-shirt and jeans, that nastiness can’t be felt anyhow.

Aside from that, this was an easy tunic (if you can call something that hits you at mid-thigh a tunic), and I’m so glad to have something in my preggy wardrobe that’s not colored maternity dark and bland (don’t get me started on RTW maternity lameness).

BWOF 02-2008-122(a non-maternity tunic that works great as a maternity tunic)

What I learned (or more encouragement really for other pregnant sewists out there):

Why you should alter non-maternity patterns when you’re pregnant:  Maternity patterns are few and far between as far as all pattern companies are concerned.  There’s a few patterns, but they’re not terribly interesting, and the sizing is weird in my opinion.  Worse yet, if you do a search for “maternity” on Polyvore, you can see that with little exception, a few basic silhouettes are repeated without much interest, care, detail, and in a woeful color selection.  Not personally wanting to spend 9+ months in t-shirts, I’m left to alter existing patterns. 

For some valuable help on adding fabric for your expandomatic tummy, check out Rostitchery here.  I’ll add that to add for that extra full bust that accompanies pregnancy, I trace off my normal shoulder size and swing out an extra size from my normal at the very bottom of the armscye and continue that size down.  That becomes my base size that I work from.  This is nice and simple, does the job, and prevents the mess that FBA’s can become (if they work for you, you are a lucky gal).

It sounds like a lot to do, but really, it’s no different than making any other alterations other than the fact that you’re attempting to hit a moving target.  As for picking patterns to alter for maternity here are my tips for success:

  • Knits, especially those with lycra are your friend: stretchy fabric is way more comfortable when you’re growing in all directions.  You will probably have more success with knit patterns whilst pregnant, but you can also make up woven patterns in a knit like I did on this top. 
  • Find styles with minimal seaming: less seams = less altering = more time that your tired pregnant self can spend with a cuppa reading a book with your feet up buried under a nice blanket.  Empire seams and seams that hit above the bust are very easy to add volume to and will give the eye a focus other than your obvious anatomical addition(s). 
  • Look for patterns with pleats and gathers: since these features already create volume, it’ll be nice and simple to add more where you need it.
  • Feel free to choose styles you wouldn’t wear while not pregnant: I would NEVER in 8 million years wear an empire-waisted, tunic, or billowy, shapeless anything non-pregnant.  The combo of my petiteness and hourglass shape and lack of definition at the waist adds weight to my figure 100% of the time.  Not having a waist makes it possible to pull some of these styles off, and I figure when I’m in the temporary state of pregnancy, it’s fun to play around.
  • Take advantage of online communities: Patternreview has such helpful people on it.  Burdastyle has had some helpful maternity tutorials in the past as well.  I promise you someone will walk you through finding specific maternity patterns or altering a pattern for maternity on these sites and others if you just ask.  Shoot, I myself would be glad to help you.  You can always email me at elizabethmadethis@yahoo.com.

My review of this particular pattern is here at Patternreview.

Now for that cup of rooibos and Barbara Kafka cookbook I picked up at the library…