Monday, September 27, 2010

Why Can't a Knit Be More Like a Woven?

Even though I don't agree with his opinion, I totally get Prof. Henry Higgins's frustration when, in My Fair Lady, he asked why a woman couldn't be more like a man.  I feel the same way about knit fabrics.

 Why can't a knit be more like a woven?
Wovens are stable, they're so easy to square.
A joy to sew! There's nothing to compare.
And when you move it, it's likely to stay flat.
Why can't a knit be more like that!
(Apologies to Alan Jay Lerner)

Knits and wovens are definitely different.  Sewers who can crank out knit garments are a mystery to me.  I can't get my knits to behave.  After successfully sewing a knit dress, I wanted to make a top from the February 2010 issue of BurdaStyle magazine.  I bought a red 2-way stretch knit that coordinated beautifully with a black and red denim print from my collection.  When I was ready to lay out and cut, the knit just would not cooperate.  I know (because I read it in Sewing with Knits by Connie Long) knits curl up at the edges and that they are supposed to curl toward the right side.  This knit curled toward both sides!  The curling subtracted 3 inches from the width of the fabric.  The pieces barely fit on the fabric!!!!!  In certain light, one side looked like the right side;  in different light, the other side looked more like the right side.   Even folding the fabric was a problem.  It was impossible to fold the fabric squarely because the edges were so rolled-up I coudn't find them, much less align them.  Grrrrr!

After about 15 minutes of trying to fold the fabric and cursing under my breath, I gave up.  Maybe I should have been more patient.  Maybe I should have researched ways to handle 2-way knits.  But, I was too frustrated to be patient.  I solved the problem by ordering a different knit, an interlock from Gorgeous Fabrics.   I've sewn interlocks before and I don't remember cursing so much and being so frustrated.  The new red fabric was easier to work with and was a better match for the red in my denim print.  Gorgeous Fabrics saved the day!

Monday, September 20, 2010

BurdaStyle Magazine 05/10 #137

Those folks at Burda are sadists.  They love to torture their most loyal fans.  And maybe we Burdaphiles are masochists because we keep coming back for more.  When I decided to make this dress,  I thought the collar was the same Burda collar I recently mastered and I was looking forward to sewing it again.  But, Burda had a different idea.  This collar construction was totally different from the typical Burda collar, yet equally frustrating.  Lucky for me, Karen figured it out first and I was able to learn from her frustration and avoid my own.  Thanks, Karen!

If Karen  hadn't figured out the collar first,  I might have given up on this dress.  Just for fun, I compared Karen's instructions with Burda's.   I couldn't make much sense out of Burda's instructions even when I already knew what to do!  I haven't complained about Burda instructions in over a year, but this dress brought back all the bad memories of my struggles with Burda's instructions.

To me, this dress had a "vintage feel".  It reminded me of the shirtwaist dresses worn by Eisenhower era TV moms, but more updated.  I knew I would have to wear a belt with this dress, and I'm not particularly fond of wearing belts.  I think a dark gray belt might look better than a black one.  However, the woven fabric doesn't cling to my body and gives the illusion of a waist.  That's the look I was hoping for.    I used a lightweight twill - pobably a cotton/poly blend – and it worked out well.  The dress was shown in denim.  The twill has the same hand as a lightweight denim.

I tested one of my "great ideas" while sewing this dress.  Burda uses numbers to identify seams.  It wasn't really necessary for this dress, but this information is particularly useful when assembling panels in a skirt and the panels look almost identical when they are separated from the paper pattern.  Rather than write the numbers on the fabric, I used removable color coding stickers.  It turned out, this  "great idea" was only a "good idea". The theory behind the idea was good, but the removable stickers didn't adhere to the fabric very well.  Oh well, back to the drawing board.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Have I Stayed Too Long at the Fair?

I wanted the music to play on forever.
Have I stayed too long at the Fair?
I wanted the clown to be constantly clever.
Have I stayed too long at the Fair?
Billy Barnes

The lyrics to this song reflect how I've been feeling about Burda Magazine.  Burda has gone through a lot of changes lately and I'm wondering if I should stay with my favorite pattern company.

First, there was the name change.  Burda World of Fashion to Burda Style was a minor change and easy to accept.  If only they'd stopped there.  But then, the Burda Fashion website was mercilessly killed.  I have tried, but I just don't get the English BurdaStyle website.  Apparently, English-speaking women who sew from the magazine is not the demographic this website is after.   And if changing the website wasn't enough, the magazine itself has also changed.  The magazine now has only one pattern sheet for all of the styles included, which makes tracing a real challenge.   I used to find relaxation in the mindlessness of tracing, but that's gone now and  I have to concentrate more while tracing.  Finally, to add insult to injury, the last issue of Burda Plus Fashion repeated three of the five collections.  I paid a second time for something I already owned.

Burdaphiles are frustrated with the changes.  Some are talking of not renewing their subscriptions.  But, I'm part of a very small niche:  plus size women (and I don't mean size 14) who want to sew their own clothes.    Burda still offers the best variety of fashion forward styles for the larger woman, as shown by these examples.

I don't know of any other pattern company that offers such a variety of plus size designs – certainly not the Big Four.

Giving up on Burda is hard for me.   I am not ready stop my subscription.  Even with the unwelcoming website, vexing pattern sheets and pattern reruns,  Burda still offers the most fashionable plus size patterns. As long as Burda continues to offer this variety of plus size garments,  I will stay at the fair a little longer.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Burda 7671

I don't sew a lot of knits.  I always seem to get wavy seams and hems even though I use a serger and reduce the presser foot pressure.   So, I avoid knits like the plague.  But, I found a discontinued pattern I really liked for $2.00, a knit fabric I really liked, and I had an occasion coming up for which the pattern was appropriate.  So, I sewed a knit.

Burda 7671 – Dress

Pattern Description:
Long sleeved or sleeveless wrap dress that is gathered along the shoulder and down the sleeve.

Pattern Sizing:
US 18 - 30
European 44 - 56

Were the instructions easy to follow?
The instructions were easy to follow.  I had to read some sections more than once, but that was probably because of my state of mind at the time.  I was so worried about working with a knit I didn't give my full attention to the instructions.  There were no unusual techniques involved.

The gathers on the sleeve and shoulder had to be a specific length.  When gathering the shoulders and sleeve, I cut a piece of stay tape to the finished length + 1 inch or so to make "handles" on the ends.  I pinned one end of the stay tape to the beginning of the gathers and the other end to the end of the gathers.  Then I adjusted them to fit the stay tape and pinned the gathers to the tape before sewing.  The stay tape is very thin and doesn't add bulk to the seam.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I needed a dress for a specific occasion and this pattern was perfect.  Now that the dress is made and I've had it on, I realize I can only wear it if it is chilly in central NY state at the end of the month.

Fabric Used:
I used a cotton/poly jersey knit.  This knit was easier to handle than other knits I sewn.  I didn't get the waviness that discouraged me from sewing knits in the past.  Maybe it was a better quality knit than I'm used to sewing.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
This was an easy dress to make. The style is classic.  I would most certainly sew it again and recommend it.

I learned I have to be gentle with knits.  Knits are like toddlers – they don't always stay where you put them.  But, if handled gently, they are less frustrating.  This pattern has been discontinued and I'm glad I bought when I did.  Now that I'm determined to make more knit garments, I'll probably be using this pattern again.

• § • § • § • § • § • § • § • § • § • § • § •

Sometimes, I feel guilty about leaving the cats alone while I'm shut up in the sewing room. This is what happens when I weaken and let them in:

Tangi oversees construction.

Soleil waits to get in the way of layout and cutting.

Monday, September 6, 2010


Burda 7666

Pattern Description:
Lined dress and jacket.

Pattern Sizing:
Plus sized
US:  18-24
European:  44 - 54

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
Yes, exactly!

Were the instructions easy to follow?
The directions were very easy to follow.  I'm glad this is a Burda envelope pattern with illustrated directions and not a Burda magazine pattern.  The organza overlay is gathered and not the actual front bodice.  The illustrations were particularly useful when constructing the bodice. 

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I thought the design was flattering on a woman of my size.  I also like the jacket - it makes the dress seasonless.

Fabric Used:
The dress & jacket are crepe-backed satin.  The bodice overlay is organza.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
After making a muslin, I lengthened the bodice by 3/4".

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
I have already recommended it!  Snuzal asked for plus size LBD recommendations and I recommended this pattern. 

I loved working on this dress!  I haven't sewn a dressy dress since my daughter's senior prom.  In fact, I referred to this dress as "my prom dress."  It required lots of hand sewing, but I find that relaxing.  I made this dress for a fund-raising Gala and I can't wait to wear it!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A Quilt in the Queue

Charm squares and yardage
Every once in a while I need to reaffirm the value of online sewing resources.    I'm so grateful for the information and support I get from Online Sewing Buddies.  And shopping online is so convenient.  The most recent inspiration came from Lori of "Sew Forth Now" podcast and "Girls in the Garden" blog and Fat Quarter Shop.

Lori recently made a quilt for her daughter.  I admired the design and emailed her about it.  She told me the quilt was made using "Disappearing Nine Patch" blocks.  (This link includes downloadable PDF directions).  This is my kind of block – very easy!  Anybody can make a nine patch!  I found help with coordinating fabrics by going to Fat Quarter Shop and ordering charm pack sets and coordinating yardage for borders.  Just like that,  I have everything I need for the quilt top. 

Lori led me to an easy quilting pattern and I found a source for coordinated, pre-cut fabrics.  My quilting-bug has been re-born.   I may actually achieve my goal of finishing another quilt.