Sunday, July 25, 2021

Helena Wrap Dress from Just Patterns

When my friend Delphine of Just-Patterns asked me if I would like to sew her latest patterns I said yes right away. It's a bit outside of my usual style but this past year that has been my sewing theme, to try new silhouettes and see if I like them. This dress came together so easily and I highly recommend. It's the Helena Wrap Dress from Just Patterns

Helena dress3

I also think this is a case where the fabric choice was just right. Which was a bit of luck, as I had to look around in my stash to find a piece with enough yardage. This is rayon challis I ordered a few months ago from Fashion Fabrics Club and when it arrived I thought it was way too bright even for me. But I decided to give it a try for this and it worked out well. 

Here's the pattern drawing from the Just-Patterns website. 
Helena Tech drawing
Note that the recommended fabrics are mid-weight fabrics with some body such as linen, cotton poplin etc. I'm trying not to buy any fabric these days and have acquired so much yardage in the past year that I determined to use something from my stash. Looking at the design I think it would work for a lot of woven fabrics not mentions, such as silk crepe de chine, or even wool crepe. 

Helena front

I sewed size 40 as it for bust 36" and waist 28.5"  which is right around my measurements however I did add a bit at the waist which I will show below. The fabric requirement for that size is 3 yards of 60" fabric. That is a quantity that I almost never buy! Since I am shorter than most patterns specification (5'3") I can always shorten skirts and then play around with the cutting layout to squeeze the pattern pieces on. 

My fabric was about 2 1/3 yards. I removed 6" from the skirt length before I started cutting out and that helped a lot. I cut the pockets in half and only used the printed fabric for the back half of the pocket, and used a lining fabric for the front half, then seamed it where the fold would be. This is a common change I make on pockets anyway.  The reason I put the fashion fabric on the back is that this is the side that can possibly peek out when the garment is sewn. 

Helena inside fr and back

I also used a red cotton for the inside waistbands, so that also saved some fabric. Since this rayon is a bit limp as compared to some of the recommended fabrics, I put a fairly stiff interfacing on both the outer and inner waistband pieces which worked well. 

Helena dress4

For other fit adjustments, I added some width at the waistband, as the finished garment measurement was just around my waist number and I wanted a bit of extra ease at that area. 

Helena wrap dress front pieces

The amount I added is shown in pink. For the bodice I just tapered it away as it neared the sleeve. Now that the dress is finished I could probably omitted that although the extra in the waist circumference means I can wrap the dress overlapping nicely in the front, probably a bit more than the pattern is designed for. I did omit the sleeve bands, I basted them on but they made the proportions look odd to me, I like more arm showing so you can easily skip then and just put a narrow hem on the sleeves, or a facing if you want them to have more structure. Now that I see the photos and also on the advice of some sewing friends I'm going to take it in under the arm, to make the dress a bit less full at that point and also make the armhole opening smaller, perhaps just by an inch. All these things are not exactly fit adjustments, but more changes due to proportion and making a garment just right for my height and frame shape. 

The instructions on this pattern are very clear and the pattern pieces are well marked. I did read the instructions just to make sure I was sewing it correctly and then I did my own thing - as I usually do :)
The only quibble I have with this pattern is that it has 3/8" seam allowances which I suppose are more professional (?) but I can never get used to them and also they don't allow for any small fit adjustments as you go. In fact now that I like the Tatjana trouser pattern so much I'm going to go back and adjust my tracing to have 5/8" seam allowances. That way I can sew it on auto-pilot, I'm just a robot when it comes to sewing and have to constantly remind myself about 3/8". 

Helena front close up

Helena dress 5 backJPG

I've seen a few versions of this Helena dress made as a top and that is a clever idea, also as a 2-piece outfit which makes it very versatile. 

Up next, I'm sewing a pattern repeat however I think my fabric choice won't turn out as well as my first version (it happens :)  and then it will be time to make a birthday dress. Which I'm not sure about as I haven't worn the one I made last year.  Although it's supposed to be a hot spell this upcoming week and I have a few things on my calendar so perhaps I will reach for that one. 


Big news - in person classes are back on the calendar at Hello Stitch Studio in Berkeley. So happy! Right now I have a beginner class starting in mid-September but we are working on adding a few more so stay tuned. And due to requests from students, I will continue doing live/online classes in the fall as well. So it should be a busy time and I'm really looking forward to sewing with people again. 

Happy Summer Sewing, 

Today's garden photo needs to be something as vibrant as that dress, so it's this dahlia. My dahlias have not been doing very well this year, and you can see from the photos above that the drought has really taken a toll with everything very dry. I have drip irrigation in the areas where there are roses, hydrangeas, gardenias etc. and then sprinklers for the lawn which is mostly a lost cause. I think in the fall a conversion of the lawns to drought tolerant plantings is the only way to go. But that's a project to contemplate on a rainy day (which I hope we have come October!!) as the ground is like cement now and impossible to do any yard work other than water, mulch and hope for rain. 

Dahlia 2021

Monday, July 12, 2021

Chambray Color Block Dress from Burda vintage magazine

The current trend is a a lot of ruffles, gathers and generally items that take a lot of fabric. Perhaps that's why when I look at patterns or magazines I'm drawn to simpler styles, and if something is color-blocked it will always catch my eye. And I don't think the year of a pattern makes any difference, some things are classic and always look good. 

Chambray dress2

This is Burda issue July 1998, it's one I was given recently. So I think that qualifies as vintage, being over 20 years old. Here's the magazine photo, which is such a good pattern for using up some not very big pieces of fabric. My one regret is that I wish I had used the other side of the fabric in the upper block, it is lighter and would make more of a contrast. I think the high contrast of their color selection makes it more interesting.

Colorblock burda magazine pic

Chambray dress 3

This shift dress doesn't really have a lot shaping, it has bust darts that start from the armhole. I decided to make a muslin which I don't do all that often for simple dresses but I could tell by looking at the pattern pieces that I wouldn't like the neckline at all. That high boatneck is just not comfortable to me and I always change them. 

Color block neck darts on muslin
Here's the front neckline on my dress form. This is an old dress form that is adjusted and padded to be pretty similar to my shape, and I keep that pink wool dress on it as I really like the fit of that bodice.  I can then compare all pattern shapes to that one and know that I'm in the ballpark for shoulder width, neckline depth, etc. Here you can see I removed some width across the front neckline by pinning out some small tucks. For a dress like this where I'm sewing a bit fast and loose I fold out the tuck to flatten the pattern in that area and call it a day. In the photo below you can see that I have added to the neckline on the inner edge of the shoulder seam, on front and back to make that boatneck less wide. I also lowered the front neckline about 5/8". I shortened the back waist length a good inch (which is a standard adjustment for me, also shown below. And then I took in the center back seam about 5/8' when I put in the zipper. also a common adjustment for me. I suppose all that narrowing of the shoulders I could do by narrowing the upper bodice but for simple shift dresses I find it easier to do it this way as I can see how much I want to change in small areas. 

Fitting adjustment center back

This pattern piece also shows the color block lines. When I made the muslin test version I just made it like a simple shift dress all one piece, and then once I had the pattern adjustments I traced the extra block sections and then added seam allowances. 

Chambray dress4

I neglected to take any pictures of the back of the dress on my and this one is not ideal as the dress is sticking a bit as I turn but you get the idea. No shaping to speak of and putting in any curves or darts would mess up the block areas. Oh and it was around 102ºF the afternoon when these pictures were taken so it was quickly done in the shade and then onto the cafe for a drink!

colorblock dr front and back

Burda color block tech drawing

I always like to see the technical drawing of any pattern, don't you? I did add about 6 inches to the pattern but making it longer kind of spoiled the look, so I hemmed it above knee, although not quite as short as their example. 

colorblock dr front close up Corner of color block pieces

There's a look at the corners, outside and then on the inside. I put a small piece of fusible interfacing on the corner that needed to be clipped, then I stay stitched it to reinforce, then clipped and sewed to the corresponding section. I think of these as one and done corners, it doesn't pay to have to unpick, redo and start to chew up the seam allowance so it's best to get it right the first time :) 

So that's the latest on my random summer sewing. It was a scorcher this past weekend, around 110ºF for the high so not much of anything was accomplished other than trying not to melt. Up next I have used my Tatjana trousers minus the pleats pattern, (seen in my previous post as shorts) and further remodeled it to narrow the legs. A bit of an experiment and I'm not sure how it went, but I will show all in a post soon. They aren't hemmed yet and I think I will better be able to evaluate when they are hemmed and pressed. 

Sewing classes are on a summer break for new but Hello Stitch Studio is opening back up this month and we are planning in-person classes in September and October. As well as continuing to offer some online classes. At the end of my most recent class I was surprised that people said "you will continue with the online even when the studio opens, right?"  and the reasons were interesting. (time available to participate, distance etc) So I will do both and keep you updated. 

That's the latest. Stay cool and enjoy the summer. Life is looking more like normal here - we are fortunate to have a very low case rate and high vaccination rate so things are good! (if only we could get out of our drought situation - it's always something).

Chambray dress3

Happy Hot Summer Sewing,

Today's garden photo, a new to me plant. This year and last I have tried a lot of new plants and some of them have been great discoveries. This is another one I will plant again next spring, the color is amazing. It's Lisanthus. 


Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Just Patterns Tatjana Trousers as shorts with some design changes

After the last year when I have sewn several dresses (like this and this) that have not really been worn during this weird year, I figured it was time to start off my summer sewing with some more practical separates. (And I will wear those dresses soon:).  Once I made the first version of the Tatjana Trousers from Just Patterns I was really impressed with them and resolved to try them as shorts. You can see my second version here paired with my vintage Vogue tweed blazer.

When I sewed that black pair, I had just read an article in Threads magazine showing how to make fit adjustments to the back of pants which I tried. Fitting magic! or at least a fitting adjustment that was ideal for my needs. 

Here are my finished shorts. Which have no pleats. More on that pattern modification below. 

Tatjana shorts1

Here's the front of the shorts, with the photo lightened a bit so you can hopefully see details. Actually the absence of details, as I removed the the front pleats. This pants pattern has what I consider a high waist, or at least hits at the natural waist which is above where most pants patterns are designed. This is ideal for me as I have a very long rise for a short person.  For comparison the finished zipper length here is 7" whereas on my Ash jeans the zipper is 5.25" long. 

Blue shorts front

I had been thinking about how to remove the pleats for a while and then I saw an Instagram post from @elmeretakespictures who showed how she was removing the pleats of the Flint trousers using a tutorial from the Megan Nielsen blog.  Exactly what I was looking for!  What do we call that when someone posts on the sewing intterwebs the exact thing you are thinking about?  Sewindipity?  I'm going to start using that.  

So here is my explainer of how I did it.  Not exactly a tutorial but hopefully you get the idea. Here's the front pattern piece of the Tatjana trousers with the existing pleat fold lines shown. One small pleat next to the pocket edge and then a larger pleat in the middle. 

tatjana pattern front

To remove the pleats, I followed the method from the Megan Nielsen blog and overlapped the larger pleat, taking up the excess length horizontally by also slashing the pattern there and overlapping. For the smaller pleat I just used my standard method of folding it out in the pattern paper and smooshing it where it got to the end. Then I needed to fill it the top edge to make it smooth for attaching the waistband. I did forget to check the pocket pieces so they didn't catch complete in the waistband seam bt I will go back and add a bit of height to that piece to match the pants front piece. 

Tatjana removing pleats

So that's the front, it doesn't change the waist circumference of the pants nor the rise.  The back I had already adjusted based on an article in a recent Threads magazine. I continue to subscribe to Threads although now they are reducing it to 4 issues per year, they say more content per issue. But I can say that in each issue I learn something, be it a great big fitting revelation or a small tip that makes sewing easier. Plus their website has a wealth of information - I always suggest to people in my classes to check there first if they are looking for how to do something, very reliable information presented well. I took a picture of the cover of the issue I am referring to for the pants adjustment so you can see which one, Jan 2021 and get an idea of the articles. Better Fitting Pants and Muslin to Pattern How-to, both useful. Although some of their features have the same flaw as the pattern companies - fabric choice! see below. 

Threads mag cover

Here's a look at the article, I was very peeved that they decided to photograph this using that print fabric on the pants. Way to obscure the details!  But I wanted to show you how they do the diagrams, they are 

Pants fitting diagrams

Here is my adjusted pattern piece.  I added 1/2" in width at the hip, and about 1/2" in length. This adjustment also makes the dart larger. This pattern has 2 back darts and I could have shifted some of the increase to the other dart but for now I left it as is. I have highlighted in pin the addition. I then needed to redraw the pocket to make it straight but otherwise this is a great way of adjusting just the pants back, adding space where needed and keeping the side seams unchanged. 

tatjana back adjustments

OK I guess you want to see the pants back on me, so here is one picture. It's not likely I will wear tops tucked in with shorts but I think with wool trousers I would. Perhaps if I make this winter I might put pocket flaps just to break up that expanse on the backside and add some interest there. In any case I'm pretty satisfied with these adjustments and now I plan to use this same pattern to make a more narrow leg pant (using this article that I also came across on the Threads website)

Tatjana trousers back view3

blue shorts back

I meant to topstitch around the entire welt pocket which is a detail you see on khaki pants or shorts. Next time. 
One other change I made was to narrow the width of the waistband. As designed it's a bit too wide for me and so I just added interfacing then trimmed away the extra. These shorts gave me an opportunity to use some of the many packages of waistband interfacing I have accumulated after going to many many rummage sales. The type of waistband interfacing only works well on straight waistbands but if your pattern does have one then it is really quick and easy to use and makes a stiff waistband that doesn't crumple. 

Shorts waistband interfacing

Another look at my shorts, plus a top I started a while ago and recently finished. I'm not crazy about it but it's nice to wear on a warm day since it is the most floaty rayon lawn. 

Tatjana shorts2 with Burda top

Top Burda 07-2018

mosaic top front adn back

I quite like the neckline and the upper part but the body had too much fabric so I took out some of the pleats and also some width at the side seam. Perhaps it needs that tie as shown in the pattern. I think it just has too much fabric in the front, not my style. 

So that's the latest on my new shorts. If you make this pattern I defy you to refrain from putting your hands in the pockets at all times. Irresistible!  Worn here with one of my favorite t-shirts, I think it's a McCalls pattern mash-up. Made with this Art Gallery knit from a few years back. Such good quality and I love the fabric. I keep looking at their fabrics but nothing has grabbed me again. Kind of pricey but I only need 1 yard to make a top and considering how often I wear this it's a very good value. 

Tatjanashorts 2

I just started a chambray shift dress with a pattern I found in a 1998 Burda magazine. (Is 1998 vintage? or just old?)  I have one online class for July which is Sew Lab. Just a 3 session class where you can ask any questions and get help with unfinished projects, advice on new ones and just sew together a bit. Then in August I'm taking a break and then we start some in-person classes in September, Yay!!
I will have details soon. 

Happy Summer Sewing,

Today's garden photo, a look at my hollyhocks next to the hydrangeas, which you saw in the photo above. This is the 3rd year for the hollyhocks and they are bursting with blooms. Despite living in dry N. California I do like the cottage garden look, so I'm really pleased with these and will get some other colors next year. 


Friday, June 18, 2021

New spring dress, Burda 07/2015 No. 110

It feels so good to have a new dress finished. In the previous post I showed all kinds of pattern fitting adjustments on this pattern. A lot of my dresses are sleeveless so it's nice to have one with sleeves for a change. I really like this fabric and the color - the fabric was provided to me from Minerva and it comes in a red version too which I might try for a different style. Here's the fabric link. 


That photo encapsulates my mood - I don't want to jinx things but it seems life is getting back to normal and it's so nice to go out with friends to enjoy their company! On a very breezy and sunny afternoon.

The pattern is from an older Burda issue, July 2015. These older Burda issues from the summer months are filled with really cute dresses or tops that suit my wardrobe. I've made a couple of these gems previously, you can see here and here.

Blue poplin dress1

Here's another look at the pattern diagram. I might trace off the #102 dress in the top row as well, perhaps leaving off the sleeves or putting a small cap sleeve but that looks like it would be nice for a lightweight summer fabric as well.

Burda tech drawing July 2015

In the previous post I mentioned that I put in the zipper in the center back, but don't completely sew it, and I wait to finish it until after I attach the skirt. Bobbi commented in my last post that she wondered how I do that. Here's a photo of the back, with the zipper partially sewn in,

Blue poplin bodice back

If you look at the bottom you can see that the zipper is sewn in the center back seam except for the bottom two or three inches. I then attach the skirt pieces, it could be a style with a basic bodice, or a dress like this with a waistband, but the goal is to be able to move the skirt placement up or down a little before completing the zipper. At this point I try on the bodice, and often use a piece of elastic and some pins to see where I want the seam of the skirt to land on the back bodice. Then I sew on the skirt and sew the remaining portion of the zipper. 


That belt has been in my wardrobe for ages, I bought it as I love that color and it has gone with so many items in my wardrobe. It pays to have a consistent color palette. 

Blue poplin back on form


They don't show in any of these photos but I did put pockets. And a little confession, the belt fits but it's not super comfortable (let's blame pandemic baking :) So I made a fabric sash belt. The pattern had the option of a kind of pleated waistband or a very long double wrap sash, however I just made a 2 inch wide sash that I could tie in front. And this photo reminds me that while a lot of my plants are doing fine the succulents definitely need some attention, look at that sad spindly thing on the left. 

Poplin dress wc

So that's my most recent finished item, I am currently making some shorts using the Tatjana trousers pattern from Just Patterns. After that I have some smallish pieces of silk so perhaps some summer tops which seem to be the things I get the most use from this time of year. As it was 108º F here yesterday and today a cool and balmy 104º F. hahahah we are melting and it's only June. Trying not to think about August 😅.

Next month I'm doing a slightly different sewing class for my online class offering with Hello Stitch Studio. We have had really great success with the online classes and even when the studio opens back up we will continue to offer them. Some people have said it's the only opportunity they have to fit in a live sewing class, by doing it online. So I'm working on some ideas for fall, and most likely will do a blazer class online starting in October. If all goes well I will do it in person at the studio as well but all the scheduling is still being worked out. My first in-person class will be in September and will be a beginner class, so if you have some friends that admire your sewing or wish they could learn send 'em our way! Oh, now I realize I didn't say what the July class will be, it's going to be a Sew Lab - which is the only name I could think for it. But it will be a "help you with whatever you are working on" class. So deciphering cryptic instructions, troubleshooting fabrics, fitting help, zipper dilemmas, I will answer any and all questions to the best of my ability. 

So that's the latest. We are hoping for a cool down this weekend, to a chilly 90º ha ha.  The bay area is so strange, at the coast it can be 40º lower that here in the inland area, and by yet miles it's only about 18 miles from SF to my house. And it's not officially Summer yet!! Microclimates everywhere. 


Have a great weekend! Happy Sewing,

today's garden photo is my newest plant discovery, which is Clarkia. I think it's clarkia amoena. I happened across a 6-pack of these at the plant nursery a few months ago and gave them a try. Oo I hope they seed themselves because they are so nice. And of the 6 plants there were a peachy white combo, pink streaked with rose, white and pink, and then that one luscious rose red. These will definitely have a place in my garden next year, just like fabric I will always choose the bright and colorful. Plus one of the nicknames is Farewell to Spring which seems very appropriate right now. 


Friday, June 11, 2021

Fitting the pattern, dress from Burda July 2015 no. 110

It's been ages since I've done the type of post where I show all my pattern fit changes but I have one to show you today. Lately I haven't sewn much of anything that needed some deep scrutiny to evaluate the pattern fit and work on adjustments prior to sewing. I did a couple of dresses last summer which were interesting patterns and that's what attracted me - something to get into during our long long time of stay-at-home during 2020. You can see them here:  red sateen Vogue dress and vintage look Burda dress. Otherwise my sewing the last few months has been doing samples and preparing for online classes. 

However this dress design is something I always noticed when I looked through the Burdastyle website, or it occasionally pops up in my Instagram feed - and I think hmm, I should track down that pattern and sew it up. Combine that with the tiered skirt trend this year and it was the perfect pattern to use with a length of fabric I received from I chose the fabric with a vague idea of this type of dress, and then one day was looking through some older Burda magazines and realized that I had this pattern in one of them.  Here's a link to the fabric if you are interested. It comes in red as well. 

Here's a look at the work in progress, I think I adjusted the waist height a bit after this photo, and it might just be basted together. But I love this fabric, it was perfect for this type of dress. 


Burda mag dress 2015

Here's a look at the pattern in the magazine, it had several views, the long sleeve, the short sleeve I sewed and then also a top version. I skipped the various belt options and can you believe I have that blue belt in my wardrobe, what a perfect match. 

Burda tech drawing July 2015

This issue (which happens to be in French) has lots of really cute things and you can expect to see another of these patterns. 

Let's talk pattern adjustments. I made size 38 in the shoulders, sleeves, neckline, and graded out a bit in the waist to fit. Once I tried it on I could see that I needed more length over the bust, which moved the midriff part to the right place, but it was also too roomy at the center front. I cut it open horizontally across the center front to see how much more length was needed, plus I pinched out some width down the vertical seam.

Muslin no. 1

Here is the second test version, much better. At this point I decided to change the vertical bust darts to gathers. I like that look on a dress with a midriff band. I marked on the center where I wanted the seam to begin as it was too low (or I am not tall enough :) 

Muslin No. 2

Here are my paper pattern pieces for the front. I didn't change out the dart markings, just gathered the space between the dart legs when I sewed it up. Also note some of the extra length I decided to add to the bottom edge, that way I could take some away if it turned out to be too long. 

Burda final pattern pieces

Here's the 2nd test version on one of my dress forms. This one is kind of old, someone gave it to me a while ago and I padded it up to match me as the shoulders on it are quite small and it resembles me a lot more than some of the other types. I keep that lightweight wool crepe dress on the form because I don't like looking at the dials and the various odd bits of padding that are under it, plus that dress bodice fits just how I like. Also the neckline depth, width, and the location of the waist seam are ideal for comparing other patterns. As you can see if you look closely I even have the center front marked with a thread trace so I often tissue fit other patterns on top of this form. However I always do a final fit and adjust side seams on myself, as every fabric differs.  Here's a closer look at that wool dress. 

Muslin No. 2 on form

Once I had the fitting worked out it was just onto sewing. I put lightweight interfacing on the center back seam and put in an invisible zipper. 

Interfacing on back seam

Blue poplin bodice back

Then I sewed the top half of the dress, put in the invisible zipper but left it unattached about 2" from the bottom in preparation of adding the skirt later. I often do dresses this way as I like to adjust where the waist seam is, and also I can fit the top on me without dealing with the skirt portion. 

So that's where I will leave this - next time I will post the finished dress which I actually have worn on an outing. Yay! going out of the house!!

Blue poplin bodice close up

Other projects I have going on now:  I'm halfway through my online jeans class via Hello Stitch Studio, and next month will be a shorter offering. I'm doing a Sew Lab where you can join in to ask questions and get help with your projects. And after that I think we will be scheduling in-person classes. So exciting to get back to that!

Happy Sewing and stay well,

Today's garden photo is this purple penstemon which caught my eye at the nursery. I love the colors but I think it is an early bloomer and the flowers may be gone. Will have to do my research better in the future as I like things that put on a show for a while. But the color is lovely.