Saturday, April 4, 2020

Random Threads #38: quarantine sewing, virtual frocktails and pattern packaging

Let's face it - that fabric stash is coming in very handy right now! It's been a long time since I've written a Random Threads post, the pace of my life was quite busy the last few months and then for a lot of us most activities have come to a screeching stop.

I want to express my appreciation for all who continue to show up and work during this time of social distancing. Medical and emergency personnel, grocery staff, the folks who keep the lights on, the water running, the mail and packages delivered and the garbage picked up. Everyone who has an essential job. They are the strong ones and the rest of us need to do our part to stay home so we can kick this thing. We're starting our third week of shelter at home here in California and it seems to be working.

I've received some very kind emails of appreciation for blogging - heaven knows we all need something to take our mind off the situation and sewing can be that for a lot of us. I expect we will all come out of this with some interesting new wardrobe additions and maybe even no wish to look at a sewing machine when we can be outside doing other fun things.
But until then, let's talk about sewing, patterns and all things that made it to my notebook pages since my last Random Threads.

First up:  Virtual Frocktails   I think we were lucky here in the SF bay area as we had a great Frocktails in late February, which is put on by the Bay Area Sewists Meetup group. Perhaps the biggest attendance yet. Take a look here and here on the group's Instagram.  That was when I had a chance to wear my red coat, which is now put away until probably December!
Now that we are all sheltering and some of the notable Frocktails are cancelled due to Covid, I think Sydney, Twin Cities and Portland might have been scheduled for this month but it will all be virtual which means everyone can join in. I need no excuse to make a new dress and this pattern has been on my to-do list for ages.


This isn't THE DVF Vogue pattern, for the iconic wrap dress, but perhaps this is the #2 version of the DVF wrap dress. I see this pattern currently listed on Ebay for between $ 29 - $ 189. My copy I found at where else, a local fabric rummage sale for maybe $1. (believe me I'm always on the lookout for Vintage Vogue patterns of this type) but this one was a real find. So I'm making the short sleeve version in a pink/navy knit. See you at Virtual Frocktails this upcoming Saturday.

A Modern Pattern: Some words are overused and I think this is the one that drives me crazy, when applied to anything. I see so many new sewing patterns that are described as "a modern version" of whatever it is, top, pants, dress, etc. When everyone uses the same word it loses any meaning, plus I want to say NO it's not. It could actually be an exact copy of an existing pattern from a variety of decades. One of my favorite Instagram accounts is Paperbagwaist, where she shows a "modern" version of a garment juxtaposed with a not so new pattern that is just about the exact same style. Modern has become one of those marketing words that almost cease to mean anything, as we can see that what is described that way is virtually identical to something seen before. So what exactly makes it modern? Is their some other descriptive word that you find overused or just annoying?

Should I put in the work to size down this pattern? Another older pattern in my stash is this Butterick pattern which I keep looking at. It actually looks kind of "modern". Aside from that bit of sarcasm I like this top, it has raglan sleeves, interesting gathers around the neckline and then a flat neckband with front opening. It's just about the exact pattern for a woven fabric I've been looking for lately. It's a size 16 which is two sizes up from my usual size 12 so I would have to adjust the neckline etc. Not all that much fun to do - I always urge people to start with the pattern size that fits the neck and shoulders and then grade as needed in bust, waist and hips.  But with time on my hands I will give it a go.


Benefit of these older patterns, those nice thick printed lines - the downside for some may be that patterns were just one size per envelope. I think this one might have just prior to the change to multisizes. Vintage pattern wiki says this is circa 1977 as well (just like the Vogue pattern above). I also notice in this pattern that the cutting layout is in the instructions next to the item, so it is like 3 separate instructions in one, for the 3 garments. I'll work on it and report back!


Pattern Packaging: I think I've talked about this one before, but pretty pattern packaging does not impress me. I want efficient packaging - so that the instructions are laid out well, there isn't a lot of wasted space in the printed material so that when I go to store it later it takes up as little space as possible. I'm still on the fence as to my opinion on instruction booklets. I think I prefer the large sheet (such as in Vogue/ McCalls etc) partly because I'm used to it, and partly because at a glance you can see where you are going in the process, as opposed to flipping through a booklet to see what a particular step is leading you to. I do work with a few patterns at the studio in my classes where the cutting layout is on the pattern tissue - and yet there are pages in the instruction book with pretty photos of the garments. Which don't get you through the process and every time I see those pages I get kind of annoyed - the pattern cutting layouts could have been included in the instruction booklet. Then there wouldn't be a need to retain a piece of pattern tissue. Especially for beginners, they don't know to look for the cutting layout and don't expect this vital piece of information to be on the pattern tissue. Because they don't even know what it is! I have another peeve about the way the right/wrong side of fabric is shown but I will save that for a future random threads!

Hanging chains in Jackets: Whenever I see a chain used for this element in a coat or jacket I want to ask - doesn't that chain there on the back of your neck bug you when you wear it? It would drive me crazy to have a bit of metal there, and sometimes the chains are quite chunky. I guess if you live somewhere with a cold winter you are wearing a quite heavy coat and then need to hang it up when you go into a restaurant or cafe. A phenomenon which I am unfamiliar with here in mostly sunny Calif. In fact our restaurants or cafes rarely have any spot to put your coat so you end up leaving on the back of your chair. My feeling on this item, the coat hanging chain, is the same as most labels - out they go :)


Mostly Burda: this is a question I've been meaning to ask. For the past year I've sewn mostly from my Burda magazine subscription, to the exclusion of just about any other pattern company. Do you find it interesting to read about this Burda sewing? It seems there is a loyal subset of garment sewers that swear by Burda but they are not exactly the most popular in the sewing world. Previously I sewed with mostly Vogue/McCalls/Simplicity/NewLook.  I've made a few indie patterns, usually for Hello Stitch projects, and haven't sewn any new Vogue patterns in a while. The patterns in the Burda magazine are so varied and I always seem to find 2 or 3 per issue that I want to make. Right now I have a specific type of blazer in mine, with sharp peak lapel and quite amazingly that is exactly the jacket pattern in the February issue. (Feb 2020 # 102) I have a printed denim for the blazer plus jeans for a suit - could be great or tragic. Either way I have time to make it now.
Anyway - I hope it's still interesting for readers of this blog, hopefully so. After all as I often say - there are no new patterns so what appears in Burda now may be in Vogue or New Look next year and vice versa.

What are you sewing now that the shelter-at-home is upon us? Here in N. California we started on March 16 and I think it will go through April at the very least. Time enough to get a LOT of sewing done. It's pouring here today with much needed rain and I have a pot of braciole simmering in tomato sauce on the stove - enough for a family meal plus more to put in the freezer. And I found a new bag of bread flour in my cupboard so perhaps some baking tomorrow. It's hunker down and cook or sew time. I hope the sunshine returns soon as I need some get out and exercise time! All this staying at home I think will lead to some extra inches and I don't want to be adjusting patterns when we can go out and wear all the stuff we have sewn!!

Hope you are all well and we'll get through this,
Happy Sewing, Beth

Today's garden photo, this albutilon which I bought last year ? at the local junior college horticultural department sale. Such great finds there. I hope they will be open for their May sales.



  1. I always hope that by "modern" sewing patterns, they mean modern sizing using the latest body measurement data, and suitable seam allowances (eg not 1.5 cm seams for knit garments) and modern tools and notions (eg iron in interfacing, wonder tape etc) in the instructions. Mostly though, just the modern sizing. Sometimes I use an older pattern thinking it is the same as a modern one, and the sizing or ease is way off.

    Enjoy your virtual frocktails! We have to make our own fun at the moment.

  2. I'm another who appreciates those who put in the effort to write a blog post. You have a lovely balance of knowledge and inspiration. I also appreciate the list of blogs at the side. I love to "surf" from one blog to another.
    I love reading about sewing, regardless of your pattern choice.
    I agree with you about instruction booklets. As an experienced sewer, I'm often just looking for a sewing order. Having to scan through sometimes as many as 20 pages can be annoying. I mostly sew Style Arc so only occasionally have the too many instructions problem.

  3. Please continue to blog about sewing with Burda patterns! I also sew from Burda magazines and am always interested to see your interpretations.

  4. I rarely comment on your posts but I read all of them. I love to read about sewing, and your blog is filled with information and inspiration.

  5. Your blog is definitely one of my favorites! I love your 'style" of sewing so your garments always interest and inspire me. I haven't branched out from the Big 4 patterns but your Burda pattern choices are having a strong affect on me. Please keep blogging. Karen

  6. I love Burda as well and enjoy seeing your makes. I know what you mean about seeing 2 or 3 in each issue that appeal, but I am nowhere near as good as you at making them up!

  7. I honestly don't care much about what pattern a sewist uses...I care more about the journey and seeing the finished garment. So sew as many Burda patterns as you like...especially since you can't get any patterns now unless they're pdf. Which in my case, I'm glad I have such an extensive stock of paper patterns (and a few Burda magazines) since I hate PDF patterns! *LOL*

    Actually I'm glad I've stocked all that stuff in the sewing cave now especially since they're talking May in the NYC/NJ area before the stayhome sanctions? are lifted.

  8. I have Burda magazines going waaay back as Mum was a dressmaking teacher in the 60s through to the 90s and I was using the Burda Moden Magazines from about 15 years old. Love your reviews and comments so please don't stop.
    I suspect that a lot of the people who don't 'like' Burda Style are the ones who find it a hassle or a problem to have to trace off their own patterns, but I guess because I've been doing it as long as I can remember, it's not much of a chore to me and it's a good way to get to know and understand the design before you start. I don't find it any harder to do than the PDF jigsaw of a download and the resulting pattern is easier to use without all the overlaps.

  9. I feel the same way about hanging loops and labels! One of my favourite parts of sewing is not having to cut the label out since I never put one in :)

  10. I am a die hard Burda fan, so I would love if you shared your Burda projects.

  11. Burda is the pattern magazine I mostly use, so I love to read about what you have sewn with Burda patterns!
    Here in Spain we are starting our fourth week of quarantine, we will be locked in at least until the 26th of April. I feel very jealous when I read about sewing-quarantines, it is not so for me. I am now working from home, and with all the family around all day long, and the covid cleaning measures, there is a lot of extra housework to do so I have much less time to sew now!
    Take care!

  12. Yes please keep blogging about Burda, especially when the instructions are so bad. I love to read my Burda magazines before I go to bed. Also, thanks for letting me know that the Twin Cities had Frocktails, I had no idea!

  13. I enjoy your blog posts, even though I don’t sew from Burda magazines. I appreciate your extensive knowledge and skill, as it helps me become a better sewist. Continue to sew what you want, that’s the joy of sewing!

  14. I have that pattern in a size 10. The top has been cut but all the pieces are there. You're welcome to it. I am closer to the size 16 measurements, so I would have to grade it quite a bit and I've just never gotten around to the pattern. I have broad shoulders so a raglan sometimes works well and I like the neckline details.

  15. In my circumstance, quarantine sewing is the best. Lots of uninterrupted time to focus on techniques new to me, and to make several garments almost simultaneously. I may soon be out of work for several months, so I have to make the best of it. Ever thankful for my fabric and patterns stashes.

    I am glad to see the big commercial pattern company updating the look of its lines, without giving up their traditional layout. The big sheet? I grew up with it too, and if something isn’t broken...I get that a booklet might be better for a beginner, for a little while anyway. Some independents are just too precious with the product. Looks and fonts, design styles, these all get dated very quickly, but not information. The big instruction sheet ought to be more like a blueprint, not a picture book. OTOH, I sure wish the big C would pay for an editor or two.

    My pattern stash has at least 1 single-sized pattern, likely from the early 80s, and even though it’s a Vogue, that era had so much design ease, it still fits! Yes, it is not difficult to get nostalgic for the simplicity of a single size pattern.

    As others have commented, it doesn’t matter which pattern company’s products you review. For me, your reviews are thorough and you don’t gush or hold back criticism, which I truly appreciate. Personally, I wish I could buy and get a lot out of Burda. But it has so much potential. I know I would read through it, and then it would likely sit, unless I just really desired to make up one or two particular things. But there is so much of it I would never use. And mostly I can’t get past the thought of tracing pieces out properly and then organizing them for later use. Instead, I spend my time looking for (and occasionally finding!) those elusive unicorn patterns - perfect straight out of the envelope.

    Thanks for continuing to blog during these strange times. It is a dose of calm and comfort.

  16. Oh BurdaStyle~ Most of my hand-made garments are from Burda. I believe that people are put off by the crazy lines on the pattern sheets but the fit and professional drafting beats all of it! They've been in business for 70 years and I put my money on them. With my current collection of 40+ issues I can replicate a lot of runaway styles and never be bored. Also, whenever an indie pattern comes up, I always check if Burda offers something similar. And more often than not they do. Big Four patterns have too much ease, and even though I have quite a few their patterns I am not in a hurry to use them. In one word, I am a huge Burda fan. So please continue writing about Burda patterns and share your tricks.

  17. I like seeing what you are sewing. I hope you sew what you want instead of trying to please an imaginary audience.

  18. I would love to see your Burda projects :) Most of the time they are the only patterns I could find in my local shops, and I always check them.