Ever the Wearable Muslin: aka Burdastyle 2013-02-113

OK, last one in my current batch of 3 to write up.

This one started out as Muslin no. 2 for my Burda 2012-09-123, aka T-Shirt Block. It was a wearable muslin, but with a not very flattering over-stuffed sausage look. So as planned, I cut a new front with more drape, and reused the back and sleeves. Plus old front became the facings.

The Pattern

Cool photo. I was seduced. And the back & sleeve again look basic enough to re-purpose my wearable muslin. The front drape I thought would work much better for this thin and drapy fabric.

Style Shots & Mug Shots

5-style-14-mug-1F 4-mug-4SR 4-mug-3B   5-style-5 5-style-4

Fabric & Notions Used

Size Used

Another one graded down to a size 34, ignoring standard instruction for a 38.

Changes Made

Fitting changes

I’m still experimenting with pattern-to-Block comparison as a quicker way to make fitting changes. So don’t quote me on what I’m doing – I’m fumbling. So far it hasn’t worked out too badly for me yet. But it’s early days. And there are probably better, more logical ways to do this that I have yet to discover.

OK, let’s start with the back since it’s much more straight forward. Sort of.

2-alt-1 2-alt-2 2-alt-3
  1. I took the easiest way out, the least change option by aligning the pattern & Block at the underarm level. The above waist side seam then almost match exactly. So all I had to do was to trace the new shoulder seam and lower part of the armscye.
  2. I then moved the pattern up until the below waist side seam almost match exactly & make a note of how much I had to move up.
  3. That amount is then overlapped at the waist line.

Next the front. Not so easy. In fact it’s all a blur. I’d call it Black Magic, except the result wasn’t exactly magical. This is what I can piece together afterward.

  1. I start with the easy part – the front facing. Again aligning at underarm level and CF. In this case size 36 came closer in width. So I use that as guide & marked out new shoulder seam & side seam.
  2. I think for the actual front I just overlapped the same length at the waist level as on the back.Smoothed the side seam at the waist. Then matched the front & back side seam from the hem up & marked the waist level on the front.
  3. Next compared the front side seam from waist level up against the Block, grading out to size 36 at the underarm level so the CF would align & the front wide enough at bust.
  4. Finally, pivot & slide on the underarm point so the armscye align again with the original pattern & CF is still aligned (wide enough). Marked the new shoulder seam and called it done!
Design changes
  • 2-alt-13I extended the CF drape’s cut on facing a bit because the short stub I see on other people’s versions looks a bit untidy to me.
  • I extended the facing length as well, originally intending to try adding a built-in shelf-bra that I see in a few of my Victoria’s Secret t-shirts / dresses.
    3-sew-exp2-6The shelf-bra didn’t work out because my fabric was too thin, so every bump shows. In retrospect I should have extended the facing all the way down to the waist where the extra drape in the front means a looser fit, so bumps less likely to show through.

Verdict on the Instruction

Appalling. I did read the instruction because of the more complicated design details. And I did eventually made sense of it. But I’d highly recommend you check out these blogs for photo-illustrated instruction: netcheria.over-blog.com (in French), The Couture Academic, SMF Designs & Friends.

Again, I deviated in places to suit my experiments. So here’s what I did:

  1. Front details prepared per instruction.
  2. I chose not to interface the entire facing. In stead, I stabilized only the shoulder & neckline with Vilene Bias Tape. Sewed shoulder seam. Overlocked hems.
  3. Sewed facing to bodice at neckline per instruction. Almost. See Oops & Improvement A below…
  4. Finish off the front drape per instruction. Almost. See Oops & Improvement B & C below.
  5. Sewed sleeves to bodice with facing handled like underlining.
  6. Sewed sleeves & side seams with facing handled like underlining. See Oops & Improvement D below.
  7. Finished sleeve & bodice hem with stretch seam.
Oops & Improvements
  1. 3-sew-exp2-5I made a boo-boo during cutting and end up with a gash right by the neckline in the shoulder area. As the front takes up a bit of fabric, and I’m still not 100% sold on this color, I decided not to recut a new front. Instead I tried patching the gash with a bit of iron-on interfacing on the wrong side, and top-stitching along the neckline for reinforcement. It’s good enough for yet another “Wearable Muslin”!
  2. 3-sew-exp1 Some of the Pattern Reviewers mentioned that the heavy drape has a tendency to pull the facing to the outside. So I  top-stitch the front bust seam to the facing to prevent the facing from shifting – see photo showing the stitching from the facing side. I think the extended facing and drape fold-over bit also help. I don’t have the same facing flopping out problem in my finished top.
  3. What didn’t work out so well is my attempt to control the hang of the drape.  I wanted the drape to be more dramatic. So I tried stitched down pleats instead of gathering at the fold-line.
    3-sew-exp2-1 3-sew-exp2-2 3-sew-exp2-3
    But the stitching was too visible in the finished result. Plus the way I overlocked the end and folded over the neckline meant the drape wasn’t hanging smoothly. So I had to unpick the pleat stitching. But I did learn from the process that irregular pleats – just bunching things up – gives me a nicer, more natural looking drape than regular pleating or gathering. In fact, I wish I had done the same with the bust gathering. Standard gathering just produce an unflattering big puffy mono-boob look.
  4. 3-sew-exp2-4The shelf-bra Oops. Well, this might not have been an Oops if I had used a more substantial fabric. The shelf bra idea is basically facing that goes down to your underbust with elastic sewn to the bottom edge so it forms a nice extra support for your girls. I had to take the elastic out. But the longer facing that’s sewn into the armscye and side seam does help support or counter-act the weight of the front drape nicely.

Would I sew it again / Would I recommend it to others

After all that I have to say I’m a bit Meh with the result. It’s partly the color. That one styling shown above was about the only combination that I could come up with. Nothing else in my wardrobe want to play nicely with this color and shape.

The mono-boob look also is a bit disturbing. Fine on younger, flatter busts. No so fine on my short-waisted torso with “maturing” girls. Maybe irregular pleats instead of gathering would help. Maybe a lower, deeper V-neckline might also deflate the melons a bit.

So learn from my mistakes. And if you are a perennial jean wearer by all means go for this. There are definitely other makes of this pattern out there that look really flattering on their owners.

In the meanwhile I’ll be wearing this around the house as one of my growing pile of slob-out wearable muslins!

Now back into the rabbit hole for my next batch. I think I should give myself a break from complicated pattern fitting puzzles and whip up a batch of easy T-shirts now that I have a TNT T-shirt Block. What do you think?

Golden Cowl Neck Tunic

OK, one last make for the holiday. This time it’s a restyle job. And it was an eleventh hour job. I was still up at 7am the day we flew out trying to finish it. So sewing quality is quite iffy. And fit can be improved a bit in the back, as usual. But I’m fairly happy with the design overall.

Without further ado, I present….

Before: Tarty


This was a convertible dress from Victoria’s Secret. And as I’ve written recently, I’ve gone off convertibles because they’re quite fussy to wear with high risk of wardrobe malfunctioning.

This one I find especially tarty because of the ruching on the skirt CB. I don’t have curve down there and normally I’d appreciate a bit of shapely illusion. But this is way too much attention.

But I loved the fabric. It’s gold, but not a brash metallic. And it’s so soft and drapy. I especially loved how a cowl neck styling look in this fabric. I’ve tried to find more fabric like this and bought some duds on the way.

So I took this dress apart and tried to make something more classy out of it.

After: Classy & Glam (I hope)

Au natural…



gold-cowl-tunic_s4-1…Or worn with hem turned up and held in place by elastic waistband threaded through the hem.


…Or a shallower cowl neck by ruching both shoulder with broaches.

It obviously can’t be worn as a dress by itself, what with the side slits. But I do still have the skirt portion of the original dress left. I might make that into a more modest pencil skirt to wear under this. Then it might look like a dress too.

As it is, I was thinking more of the Pakistani kameez, or Vietnamese ao dai as inspiration. I love how those combination of tunic and pants look in soft drapy fabric.

The Making

Originally I was going to use McCall 6078 sleeveless cowl neck T-shirt pattern again. But as my fabric pieces are reclaimed, they weren’t wide enough for the front pattern piece. So, necessity being the mother of invention, I played around with draping the fabric on Big Bertha. I was sure there was enough fabric. I just need to figure out how the fabric need to be positioned.

This is what I ended up with:

gold-cowl-tunic_0drape-1gold-cowl-tunic_0drape-2gold-cowl-tunic_0drape-3The front is one piece of fabric split into top cowl portion draped on the crosswise grain, and the bottom on the usual lengthwise grain. The back and side panels are from the second piece of fabric draped on the usual lengthwise grain.

gold-cowl-tunic_2measuregold-cowl-tunic_3patTo tidy up the pieces, I measured up the draped front bottom, side, and back roughly. Then I modified my tentative knit slopers to match the measurements.

The cowl piece is marked with pins at strategic places like underbust seam side and CF, shoulder seam, etc. while it’s still draped. I marked only one side and mirror image that on the other side to get the cowl a bit more symmetrical.

Here’s a diagram (not to scale) of roughly what the cowl neck piece is shaped like:

gold-cowl-tunic_4det_4The cowl neck extend to the CB to form a collar. To some extent you can control how low the cowl neck is by changing the angle of the collar CB seam.

To control the drape a bit, I also turn the outer edge of the back collar inside and slip stitch it to the back neck edge.

My cowl was a fair bit low cut. To preserve my modesty and also add more drape – can you ever have enough? – I added a separate rectangular piece inside the main cowl. The top two corners are tacked to the cowl neck edge about two inches below the shoulder seam (neck edge)…



The bottom two edges are attached by thread chains to the underbust seam where it meets the side panels. I’m not sure if the same trick would work on other cowl neck (or even surplice / wrap) tops. But it certainly is worth experimenting with for those that threatens to expose your girls!

So there you have it, from tarty to classy (or Grecian-inspired anyway) in 24 hours. Or maybe 48.

And I would like to thank Big Bertha. I couldn’t have done this without her. Even though she’s getting a bit lumpy. (Me also, but in different places.)

The ever festering dress

I’m on route to my brother’s graduation with nothing to do on the flight. So finally, some time to catch you up on the gazillion projects I always seem to be working on (if not finish).

First off, a lemon.

It started life as a RTW dress from Camden Market. As expected of the Camden aesthetic it’s a bit Lolita Goth. It’s an interesting combination of a thin stretchy knit that clings for the long sleeve top and a floaty soft muslin for the A-line gore skirt. Inside the skirt at each vertical seam there’s a twill tape that allows you to draw up the skirt to form irregular bubble hem.


I liked the dress well enough, but that knit top was never going to keep its shape with a full skirt dragging it down. So I decided to multiply my investment and turn each section into a separate garment.

First off, the skirt. I thought I’d keep to the Victorian Undergarment feel and keep it light and airy in thin China Silk and as a pull on with no zip, no closures. After much agonizing I settled on a spaghetti strap camisole top with empire waist in the front slopping to a natural waist in the back. I didn’t have the right shade of matching off-white, so I went for what seems like a complementary shade light mocha, along with a lovely organdy ribbon with gold scroll print for a border.

camden-dress2-dsgn camden-dress2-detail-3

For pattern, I base it on my most recent bodice sloper result. camden-dress2-patternThe bust darts have been pivoted into one single French dart, and bodice cropped at under-bust in the front. The back waist darts have been pivoted out, resulting in a continuous curved back piece. But I then had to pivot the dart back in to make the waist big enough to slip the dress on. OK, no big deal I thought and continued my merry way finishing the damn slippery top and attached it to the skirt.

Boy was I wrong. The result was less than stellar. The combination of the color and silhouette just does not work for me. Especially in the back where the unflattering puffy band of the back bodice cuts my body into unflattering proportions.


The angle of the straps also look a bit weird. But I had to shift them so close to the CB to prevent the straps from falling off my sloping shoulder / muscular neck.

I tried my best to style it to no avail. So it’s a case of “Sounds Good In Theory…”


But fear not. The dress isn’t going to be binned. camden-dress2-detail-2

The doubled spaghetti straps with matching bows are too pretty to bin. I’m just going to dissect and multiply the dress again and turn this lemon into a lemon meringue. Stayed tuned to find out what becomes of 1 that became 2 that then became 3 dresses.


Burda Style, it’s complicated

Being formerly American, I’m fairly new to the world of Burda Style magazines. Most of my past pattern purchases have been Vogue Patterns. But since I started lurking on other sewists’ blogs a year ago, I started buying the odd issues. I did consider subscribing, but (A) it’s not any cheaper, and (B) our love affair has not been true and constant. Towards the end of last year there were a few months of love-ups. But recently it’s been mostly blah disappointments.

That’s until the current issue. I saw this picture in the July 2012 issue and I just had to get it:

“But it’s just a simple square top!” I hear you protest. Well yes. I didn’t exactly buy this issue for the patterns. I bought it for the image of this scarf fabric. Because it reminds me of another Restyled Ready-To-Wear in my closet…

Like my newly decorated sewing room, the colors and pattern make me happy.

It’s from Top Shop, a second-hand top I think. There was only one on the rack and it’s made from this 70ish plasticky polyester. I wish the fabric were smooth drapy silk, for the original design might have worked better. As it was, I had to restyled it to avoid looking puffy. Here’s the Before & After diagrams (click on the images to enlarge and see the details):

The alterations:

  1. To create a slimmer silhouette I cut apart the sleeves from the bodice along the original stitching lines. Sewed the front & back side seams I just created about 2/3 way up. Hemmed the remaining part of the slits to create Japanese style kimono sleeves. (See close-up photo below.)
  2. To further slim it down I replaced the elastic gathering at the waist with loops at the waist side seams that pull the extra fullness towards a couple of buttons on the back. (See enlarged After diagram above.)
  3. For a bit of Greco-Roman flair – and that all important extra wearing option – I opened up the shoulder / sleeve top seams part-way to create slits. (See top two photos below.)
  4. Lastly a decorative waist tie thrown in for good measure. A couple of venetian beads weigh these fabric tubes down.

Et Voilà…

I like it too with a couple of shawls for a remotely English Civil War inspired look. In my rather irreverent muddled head anyway.

And back to Burda Style 7/2012…

I’m hoping to track down scarfs like the one used in that series of patterns. Sadly Roeckl, which supplied the ones used in the magazine, doesn’t seem to have that exact pattern anymore.

Anyone has suggestions for where to look?

Baby step back to sewing

My first sewing project post redecorating is a simple restyling of an old H&M leopard print slip dress.

It never fitted properly on the top. Plus with typical London Summers, there wasn’t much chance of this Tropical Baby wearing it as a slip dress. So it was mostly worn under a black tee.

But the ill-fitting top showed through as unsightly bumps. I finally decided to chop off the top and make it into a proper skirt.

The Alterations

Shape-wise it was neither here nor there. Too loose to be a pencil skirt, but too narrow to be an A-line skirt. As a dress it worked, just. For the longest time I had a brooch scrunching up all the excess looseness into a drape at the center bust line. As a skirt that won’t work well – I don’t want bumps under untucked tops. Nor do I want a gathered waist as it might look too frumpy.

So I added front darts and gathered all the looseness into a pleat positioned at one of these darts. I also deepen the back darts for a better fit.

Rather than waistband I raised the waist 1″ and complete with shaped facing. I’m avoiding horizontal lines at the waist because my low bust and short waist already make my upper body look squat.

The fabric actually is a bit stretchy – it’s a poly-spandex mix. I could have made it into a pull on skirt. But I wanted a tight fit around the waist and avoid bagginess from over-stretching the fabric. So I’ve kept the invisible zipper that was already in the dress. I also stablized the waist seam with clear elastic sewn into the waist seam allowance – a trick I picked up from a few Victoria’s Secret skirts and dresses.

So here are the mug shots:

Gosh my bum’s flat. Like Great Plains flat. Ah, the joy of aging. Not.

The obligatory Frou-Frou:

Now no project of mine would be complete without the non-committal extra frilly bits. So it is with this skirt.

The decapitated top has been turned into this hook on sash.

The front left & right top pieces were stitched together on 3 sides. Ditto with back left & right top pieces. Both turned inside out, pleated at the open end. One has the pleated open end’s seam allowance turned under. The second one’s open end was then tucked into first one’s open end, then slipped stitched in place. I used a flat skirt / pants hook for a secure and discreet attachment to the skirt.

On the skirt side, I added a blanket stitched thread loop at the waist seam edge. It’s unobtrusive when the sash isn’t attached, but close enough to the skirt right side so that the sash would hang right when attached.

So there you go, a few more years squeezed out of an old dress! Told you I was Scottish in my previous life. Don’t ask me to do a Scottish accent though.