plaid wool coat

A couple years ago my husband’s aunt sent me a box of fabric, which included several cuts of Pendleton wool in various weights. No idea where it all came from originally, but there were receipts mixed in with the fabric dated from 1992. (So does 20+ years make it vintage? Egads!) Most of the fabrics coordinate in a pink and teal color scheme—not so much my style, but it occurred to me that this plaid fabric would look great on my 10 year old daughter, Sylvia.

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Since the fabric is crazy bold, I wanted to pair it with a classic tailored style. I used Burda 8/2013 #143, which I’ve had on my favorites list for ages. It is quite a bit of work prepping a Burda coat pattern, but the lack of included seam allowances allows me to add SA widths of my choosing, which I actually love. I followed the RTW Tailoring Sew-A-Long over on Pattern-Scissors-Cloth (instead of the Burda directions), which makes the whole process go so smoothly. Gawd if she released an eBook with all that great information, I would be first in line to buy it!

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I used Pro-Weft Supreme, Medium fusible from Fashion Sewing Supply for the interior structure. This interfacing was an absolute pleasure to work with. It’s very soft and easy to fuse; perfect for a coat. I also used fusible hair canvas for the collar stand and lapels. I lined the coat with a thin poly satin (leftover from another coat project) and then underlined the main body pieces in flannel for some additional warmth.

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Cutting out plaid coating is no joke people. It took me several hours, even though there were relatively few pieces. Each piece was cut individually in a single layer, and painstakingly matched. Despite being suuuuper careful, I managed to cut the back pieces about 1/4″ off from the front. Thankfully, I was able to shift and trim things ever so slightly to fix it. Sheesh, that was a close one!

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I really waffled about whether to cut the welts on the bias or to match them across the front. I cut some scraps of fabric for comparison, and ended up nixing the bias cut. The plaid is so large that it was hard to find a spot where the bias cut looked good. Before diving into the welt pocket construction, I took a practice run on scraps. The coating fabric isn’t super thick, but thick enough to create a challenge getting everything to lay flat. Basting the welts shut and giving it a good press with steam followed by a clapper did the trick.

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Since this is a proper tailored coat, I made sure to add shoulder pads (teeny tiny ones that I made!) and sleeve heads. The shoulder pad is just one layer of thick fleece covered in muslin, and the sleeve head is cut from a scrap of flannel. You can kind of see all the inner structure in this photo where I’m attaching the lining to the facing.

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I decided to make fabric covered buttons for the coat because there was nothing in a store that was going to be just right. Remember how I said I had coordinating wool fabrics? That came in handy here! The pink wool that I used to cover the buttons is lighter weight (I made a blazer out of it a while back) and was just the thing for covered buttons. For the buttonholes, I used top stitching thread to give them a little more substance. My machine does’t have a keyhole feature, unfortunately, so these are just plain jane. I thought of doing them by hand, but these ended up looking good enough.

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For once I didn’t want to rely on top stitching to keep the lapels nice and crisp, so I made sure to under stitch the collar, lapel, and front edge. Then I basted the edges and gave it all a good solid pressing and steaming, and let it set over night. This step makes all the difference in the world on the finished product.

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I couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome on this coat! The pattern is great, the fabric is perfect, and my daughter loves it. Initially, I was worried that the fit was a little too perfect, but It looks like she has a good 1.5″ in sleeve length for growing room. In other words, she should be able to wear it next fall/winter as well.

lisa g.

Easter dresses no. 1 | Burda 07/2014 #136

I decided to make Easter dresses for my girls this year. I have to say, it is pretty nice having three girls to sew up pretty dresses for… keeps me from making myself a bunch of dresses I don’t need. I had a hard time finding good springtime cottons, despite searching my local haunts. It seems these fabrics don’t always show up in stores early enough for me to plan for Easter sewing. I could have ordered online, but eh. Shipping costs are such a buzzkill. I ended up buying a high quality ponte from Fabric Basement. This print was perfect for daughter number 2, Sylvia. She immediately fell for this fabric, and demanded it be hers. Okay, child, yours it shall be.

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I wanted to make her something more special than the typical skater dress, so I decided to try Burda 07/2014 #136. I love how the princess seams go straight into the straps, which have a slight cap sleeve. I ditched the sweetheart neckline and adjusted it to be straight-ish (it actually has a slight curve).

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The pattern calls for a woven, so I sized down in the bodice, but added length so it would hit her waist correctly. The ponte has great drape, but it gets bulky very quickly. For this reason I skipped lining the bodice, and instead drafted an all-in-one facing. I feel pretty clever for drafting out the bodice seaming and maneuvering the square neckline as neatly as I managed. *pats self on back*

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I drafted a 3/4 circle skirt because she likes twirly, and a gathered skirt would be far too bulky and heavy. I measured the skirt length of a dress in her closet and drafted accordingly, but we had not yet gone to her annual doctors appointment where I found out that she grew 3″ in the past year (whut?!) so… oops.

To preserve all the length I did a simple 3-thread (no stitch finger) serged finish on the edge. I think this ended up being a good thing because the ponte probably wouldn’t have hemmed nicely with such a rounded hem anyways.

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Even though this is a knit dress, I did all the construction on my sewing machine. The fabric is really too thick for the serger, plus I wouldn’t have had the control and precision needed to navigate the neckline. I also kept the invisible side zip to make sure the waistline didn’t get strained and risk popping stitches.

I am so happy with how this dress came out! It’s feminine while still giving her the comfort to move around and not feel restricted. FYI, Burda also has a women’s version of this pattern—um, yes, please!

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—lisa g.

burda spring cigarette pants

i know from experience that changing a trouser pant leg to a skinny or cigarette pant leg is rather challenging. if i knew something about pattern drafting (which i don’t) i suppose it would be cakewalk, but the tweaking and re-sewing and trying on is tiring and very not fun! so even though i have a good handle on the fit of my beloved sewaholic thurlows, i decided to try a new pant pattern. enter the burda “spring cigarette pants” a.k.a. 02/2014 #129B.

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the leg shape was exactly what i wanted: clean, slim, and modern. the first thing i did was adjust the rise. these are drafted to hit slightly below the waist. that’s just not a good look for me, so i trimmed 1″ off the back rise and 2″ off the front rise. i usually have to add extra to the back crotch length (the dreaded “big butt adjustment” or worse, “full butt adjustment”), so this was kind of a shortcut. i moved the welt pocket placement and back dart point down by 1″ and re-drew my dart legs.

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my measurements fall in between the 40 and 42, so i played it safe and went with the 42. i didn’t want skin tight pants, however these ended up being slightly too big in the waist. so really that is the biggest difference between the thurlow draft and the burda draft. sewaholic drafts for a pear shape while burda is your standard doesn’t-take-any-specific-body-type into consideration draft. that isn’t a knock against burda, just something to keep in mind when choosing a size.

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other than waistline placement, the only other adjustment i made was to scoop out the back crotch a tad. when i tried them on it felt like i just couldn’t pull them on all the way without giving myself a wedgie. that’s when the scoop thing clicked for me. chances are, your bum hangs lower than er… your lady bits. so by dropping the curve in the bum area, you make space for where your bum actually sits. i’m pretty sure this explains some of the crotch flap issues i’ve had with my jalie pants perviously, and lesser so with my thurlows. the pants were stopping at my bum, but i still needed a good half inch before they made it to my front side. so much crotch talk… sorry!

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i could stand to scoop out the back a tad more (i didn’t want to take out too much because it can affect the width through the thigh), and bring the waist in by a size. overall i am pleased with the drafting. many have praised burda’s pants, and i would definitely recommend this pattern. i particularly love how they shorten the back inseam from crotch to knee, which helps to reduce some of the under bum wrinkles many people complain about when making pants.

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i finished the inside waistband with bias tape to reduce bulk and eliminate the need for perfect top stitching. it just so happens that Morgan at Crab&Bee posted a tutorial on this very finish as i was finishing these pants. i differed slightly in finishing the waistband ends by using this tutorial by thread theory (scroll down a ways to get to that part). it’s the same principal used in finishing the ends of the collar stand in grainline studio’s archer.

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i figured out how to completely encase the welts inside the pocket bags… i fully intend to write up a tutorial!

final verdict:

  • if you’re more of a pear shape, grade down a size in the waist
  • if you tend to have front crotch flap issues, scoop out the back crotch as a starting point. don’t know how much? hold a ruler, or anything skinny and flat between your legs right up to your bum and parallel to the floor and measure the gap. that should give you a good idea of how much to lower the curve. (note: if you don’t have space there and have a pattern that is giving you excess in the front crotch, then that is mostly likely a different issue.)
  • burda instructions, as always, are brief. find other directions if you need hand holding.
  • the waistband is straight, which is probably okay for the higher rise, but i subbed in the thurlow waistband.
  • i did not alter the pant length and they’re perfect for my leggy 5′ 8″ frame

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so will i use this pattern again? partially. i see bright pink pants as a fun thing to have in my wardrobe, so i’m less concerned about fit issues than pants in a basic neutral color that would theoretically get a lot more use. i could stand to lower the rise allover another 1/2″ to closer match the rise on the thurlow, which is perfect on me. i suspect i’ll return to my thurlow and use the leg shape of the burda to get the slim fit i love. in fact, if you want skinny thurlows, it’s worth the price of the burda to not have to figure out the skinny part! (note that the thurlow is drafted for a non-stretch woven, but i’ve determined that going down a size works great for a stretch fabric. skinny pants should always be made in stretch fabric) i’ll finish up by saying that any of my remaining fit tweaks are more about how they feel than about how they look. i think they look great, so i’ll continue to wear them!

a few more gratuitous detail shots…

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i need to add an inside bar closure, i just hate sewing those things on

i need to add an inside bar closure, i just hate sewing those things on

forgot to mention anywhere… my fabric is a cotton/lycra sateen, hence why every wrinkle shows! also these pics were taken post-washing and i suck at ironing. oh, and my top is a tiny pocket tank that i haven’t blogged yet. i think i’ve finally perfected the fit though!

one last thing… i realized that my sewing of these coincides with a current pattern review contest. consider these entered!

—lisa g.

burdastyle | ruffle blouse

my daughter, Anastasia, needed a black pants and white shirt outfit for a recent choir performance. i came across a satin stripe white shirting at Fabric Mart (no longer available) so i bought a few yards to make her shirt and to have enough leftover to make myself an archer at some point. i used burdastyle 10/2010 #148, which has two variations. one is this ruffle front blouse, and the other is a tunic/dress with a drawstring casing. hopefully i can get to the tunic version this spring, because it’s so cute!

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i made a size 134 (oh how it pains me to see her in the “pre-teen” size set!!) and the only change i made was to lengthen the top. looking at the picture from the website the shirt seems a bit cropped, so i added about 1 1/2″ to the length. i used my serger to finish the edging on the ruffle, just as you would for a rolled hem without actually rolling the hem, if that makes sense.

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i haven’t had considerable luck with fusibles on collars and such (i need to splurge for the good stuff some day…) so i cut muslin as a sew-in interfacing for the collar stand and cuffs. i did use fusible on the button placket, and if i remember correctly, i used my roll of knit fusible from Sunni. that stuff is awesome—i use it all the time!

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all in all, this is a great pattern! i’ll be coming back to it many times since it has all the details of a nice button up. it does lack a traditional tower placket, but that’s not a big deal. i don’t mind the continuous placket for a dressier girls blouse, and it’s easy enough to add a tower placket if i want.

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while i’m discussing shirts (as i so love to do) i recently came across some great info. i’ve noticed for ages mysterious topstitching on the inner collar stand of dress shirts. i really couldn’t conceive of what it was there for until i came across this information on The Rusty Bobbin. ah-ha!!! they turn and press the neck edge of the inner stand and topstitch the SA in place before sewing it to the outer stand. LOVE this idea, and can’t wait to try it out on my next shirt! she has several posts there from taking apart a RTW dress shirt, and i highly recommend reading them. also, recently Pam from Off The Cuff did a tutorial on making a two piece tower placket. previously i never saw the merit of a two piece instead of one piece tower placket, but seeing her tutorial opened my eyes. to those of you who live in fear of the mysterious tower placket, that should demystify it for you. interesting things people!

—lisa g.

burdastyle | ballet wrap top

i’ve thought way too much about how to cleanly finish the hem for a wrap top, so i thought i would share my most successful method. my thoughts on this started with my coppelia wrap cardi and my dissatisfaction with the pattern’s instructions. i like the idea of a hem band because often the knits i would choose for this kind of cardigan would be difficult to hem with a twin needle (since i don’t have a coverhem machine in my arsenal). i was determined to find a better way, and was able to have a second (and third) try on ballet wrap tops i made for two of my girls.

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i used burda 12/2011 #143 and made a few pattern changes so i could finish all the edges with bands. i cut 2″ off the sleeve hem (and replaced it with a wide cuff), 1″ off the bottom hem, and simply left the neckline as is on the pattern. the pattern has a wrap around edge binding, so adding the band as i did brings the neckline in a little. however, looking at the picture on burda’s model, the neckline looks pretty wide, and adding a neckband band fixed that.

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so here’s how i do the hem band and ties: take the tie pieces and sew the side and one end, and turn them right side out and press (this burda pattern has you do more of a spaghetti strap thin tie, but i prefer the look of a wider tie). the rest you can see in the following pictures.

i love how easy this is, and so much less fiddly than the coppelia instructions.

as far as this particular pattern goes, i made up the girls standard RTW size (i didn’t measure them for size) and the fit is a little bigger than i would have preferred. however, they should be able to get at least two years of wear with these sweaters. the regulation dance wrap sweaters are $20-25 each, and i made two for under $15, with fabric to spare. this is one of those cases where making it was a huge money saver.

as you can see, the sleeves are ridiculously long. in burda’s defense, Isabella is quite small for her age.

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i don’t have any modeled pics of my other daughter, sylvia, but the fit on her is much better. still large, but not comically so. the girls love their sweaters so much, they’ve hardly taken them off since i made them! they have worn it with dresses, leggings, skirts, jeans, you name it. this turns out to be a much more useful sweater than i would have anticipated.

—lisa g.

burdastyle | fur hood parka

my oldest daughter adores the outerwear that i’ve made her, so when winter coat season rolled around we started checking out coats and patterns. to keep it simple i had wanted to use the same pattern as the jacket i made her recently, just change up a few details. however, that was immediately shot down. darn kids and their opinions. after some browsing she really honed in on the parka style coat. natch, burda had just the pattern so there you have it. easy peasy lemon squeezey. sure…

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i planned to crank out this coat the few days before thanksgiving because i was feeling really guilty that she was still wearing last years coat (she had the audacity to grow a whopping three inches in the past year, so it was all sorts of too small). then of course, the whole family was working through a stomach bug, runny noses, etc, and i generally felt like total crap. i took one look at the excessively long list of pieces to draft and almost cried. why burda… WHY?! clearly i was not in the best emotional state to tackle a coat. wisely, i set it aside for after thanksgiving, and thankfully the viruses we were carrying moved on to other unlucky souls.

once i got over all the pieces i would have to draft, i set to work. i made these super awesome bellows pockets that nearly did me in! ohmygosh four of them. with flaps. those friggin pockets took me hours to make! i was not helped by the fact that my fabric was just a hair too thick for all the layers, and by the fact that there is a substantial lycra content. it didn’t seem nearly as stretchy in the store as it turned out to be when i was sewing. hate. that.

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i added a zipper facing to avoid clothing snags

once the pockets were on, the entire shell took maybe an hour to construct. at that point i felt much better. the lining went together easily, though it was a little time consuming. i decided to interline the body with polar fleece, and the sleeves with flannel. to keep down the bulk at the seams, i flatlocked the fleece where i could, then joined the lining and fleece at the neck, armholes, CF, and hem. i also tacked the lining to the fleece down the side seams. since the sleeves were one piece, i simply underlined the lining with flannel and constructed them that way.

really, things went along just fine until i got to the zipper. there was so much bulk in this area i had a crazy hard time sewing as close to the teeth as i needed to. so, this is where i started to have problems with the pattern. as i understood it, you were supposed to have the teeth covered by the shell fabric (as in a standard zip install), not exposed as i have it. but, because of how far the hood zip comes to CF, i really didn’t have enough room to do it as instructed. and then oh horror of horrors, i couldn’t topstitch around the zipper. SOB! i am crazy upset about this. if you’ve been reading this blog for very long you will know of my obsessive topstitching, and here, of all things, the zip had to go without. between the bulk, the weird zip install, and the stretchiness of the fabric, i just couldn’t get any topstitching to look decent. i tried so hard… seriously, i am mortified over this egregious omission.

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then to top it off, there wasn’t really enough room to sew on the front flap that would have covered the zipper. i’m pretty bummed about that as well. in fact, the whole neckline on this pattern is problematic. it’s so snug she can barely zip it up all the way, and that coupled with the fact that i inadvertently added width at CF makes me feel like something is off in the drafting. were i to make this again i would have to make some adjustments there for sure.

the pattern does have a small facing around the zipper on the inside. i didn’t think of this until it was too late, but i’m pretty sure i could have used that facing piece on the flap side of the shell and seamed the flap in instead of sewing it on top as (i think) the pattern was instructing me to do.

the color is a bit off here but it was the only pic that really shows all the details

the color is a bit off here but it was the only pic that really shows all the details

other than not getting the flap on, the only thing i changed was how i did the drawstring casing. and this is hardly a change, but i thought i’d mention it. the pattern has you sew a casing to the inside of the shell. i did this with some leftover bias tape, then after i had the lining in i went back and topstitched over my original stitching to anchor the lining to the shell all the way around. it’s a small thing, but i thought it might look kinda sloppy on the inside with the drawstring only gathering the shell.

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for finishing touches, i did the fur trim on the hood, and hammered in ten shiny snaps. yeesh those snaps were hard to get in! i’ve only used the pronged type of snap before, so this was a new experience. i had to cut a hole in the fabric and insert them more like an eyelet (where you use a tool to hammer down this tube thing that curls over on itself to secure).

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not gonna lie, this coat was a mega hassle to make! some difficulties were my own doing, some were due to the pattern. the frustrating part is that changing up just a few small details would have made it go soooo much smoother. even though i wanted to burn this pattern by the time i was done with it, i think i may use it again for a lighter jacket post-winter. it would make a really cute anorak-style jacket, or even mix up some details for a military-inspired style. if i ignore the zip/flap disappointment, i really love how the coat came out! it’s so squishy and cozy, thanks to the fleece interlining, and it keeps her nice and toasty warm. anastasia loves it and positively squealed with joy when she saw the pockets. the girl loves her pockets, especially these deep roomy ones. all and all the coat is a win, though i hesitate to recommend the pattern. it’s been a while since a project has frustrated me as much as this one did, and it may belong in the “not worth the effort” category. unless you make a second one and are content to call the first a learning experience.

—lisa g.

button down for my boy

generally my trips to joann fabrics are to restock my machine needles, buy thread, or hit the latest pattern sale. lately i’ve learned to scout out the clearance table on the hunt for a passed over gem, which is where i found this plaid shirting fabric and snatched up the 2 yards left on the bolt for $5/yd or so. i decided to make a new button up shirt for my 4 year old son, oliver. in case you haven’t noticed i’ve been on a shirtmaking kick lately, and who doesn’t love a little boy looking dapper in a mini man shirt?

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i’ve been hunting for a pattern for weeks and everything i found with a regulation collar and stand was either in baby sizes or bigger boy sizes. i finally settled on burda 04/2013 #141 and drafted my own collar. it’s a mandarin collared shirt, so at least half the work was done for me. i took some measurements,  eyeballed it and called it a day. even though this is a kid shirt, i was able to pull out the collar tricks i’ve learned from david coffin’s “shirtmaking” book. i should get royalties for hawking that book title so much, but it’s a must-have!

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i swapped out the welt front pocket (why a welt front pocket, burda?) for a regular front pocket. there was no back yoke, so i slashed the back piece and made my own, then added 1″ to the center back to allow for pleats. then, lastly, i nixed the long sleeves in favor of short.

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i decided to add buttons to the collar points because, why not? once upon a time the thought of adding buttonholes and slashing into the collar left me quaking in my stilettos. not so much any more, i guess i’ve grown comfortable with the shirtmaking process and fear it so much less than i did a few short months ago. [pats self on back]

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i made a EUR 110 (US 5) and it’s still pretty big, but this is fine by me. he’s small for his age, and generally i’ve found the sizing on burda’s patterns to be pretty reliable; at least he should be able to get a solid year of wear out of it. next time i think i’ll make the collar a little wider, but overall i’m pleased that i have a good pattern for when he needs another mini man shirt.

—lisa g.