Burda to the rescue

Folkwear Croatian Shirt

Back last year when it was Shirt A Month time, I wanted to revisit some of the Folkwear patterns that I still have from my old hippie days. I enjoy ethnic/folkloric styles, and wanted to make something that had a Euro-type heritage. The Asian styles are beautiful, but as a blue-eyed ex-blonde I always feel like an obvious imposter. Almost like wearing a fake moustache.

So, there was ample yardage of a beautiful rustic linen in stash, and I decided to go out and do the best work I could possibly do to make the shirt and its smock-like embellishment based on pintucks. I pulled dozens of threads to be sure everything was absolutely on grain; even pulled a thread for each tuck. I was super careful with sewn-in interfacing, which involved lots of hand basting. There are also about a thousand little pleats that had to be basted, because the shirt body and sleeves are pleated, not gathered, at the yoke and armscye.

It was a punch to the gut when I got to the point that I could try it on and it looked AWFUL. No photos, sorry. I didn’t have the heart. There was all kinds of fabric bunching up going on around the armscye. A larger gusset didn’t seem to help. So I put it all in a plastic baggie and set it aside hoping to somehow save it later. The pattern I threw away in disgust.

The baggie sat on my cutting table, always in my way, for over six months. This week I decided to either make something of the half-finished shirt, or throw it away, too.

Burda 2011_07_121
Burda 2011_07_121

Those old Burda WOF/BurdaStyle (rantette: I hate those run-on names made from two words) magazines do come in handy. I knew I wanted a style that was somewhat shirt-like, but no buttons, and with bust darts. #121 from July of 2011 had all that and more – those shoulder seams are much more forward than normal – which meant that the pintuck embellishment I wanted to save would extend farther down the front.

The original for this pattern had a silk front and jersey back. No fitting adjustments were needed to make it work in all linen. The little cap sleeves are optional – just leave them off for a sleeveless version if you like.

Alterations: Since this pattern was for regular sizes only, I gave myself a 1/2 inch FBA and some extra fit insurance at the hip. Also made the swayback alteration that I now know I always need. I also decided to round off the hem, keeping the high-low style.

finished at last
finished at last

On the front, I added a horizontal seam. On the Croatian shirt, the tucks were just released where they ended, but cuts made to create the front placket meant I’d have a better chance at a save if the fronts were just cut separately and a lower front sewn on. I fell stitched the folds of the original front bands so the inside would be clean-finished, and then sewed the center fronts together by hand, raising the point of the opening. True to Burda form, that original front slit is way too deep for old hippies. The young ones may enjoy showing more skin. Bias binding finished off the armscyes.

Enough yakking. Here’s the end result, shown with the ancient Kenmore on which it was sewn. 3 yards of 60″ linen and I ended up with a sleeveless top! Ah, well. It does feel good that ALL of the fabric didn’t end up in the trash. There is at least something to show for it. And it still has a little folkloric flair. And I can wear it right away.

For those that may be interested, here’s a closeup of the embellishment. First, a set of pintucks is stitched. The two pintucks on the outside are left as is. The four in the center are mock-smocked – the folds are tacked together or to the shirt front to produce a honeycomb effect. I added the machine made herringbone stitch on what was originally supposed to be the button band. (My Janome with the beautiful buttonholes is in a funk and I’m not sure what to do about her. Meantime I’m sewing things without buttonholes)

pintuck detail
pintuck detail

Here’s another shot where I’ve highlighted the positioning of the tacking stitches, in case anyone wants to duplicate this detail. The thread is passed from one tack to the next by hiding it in the fold of the pintuck. The tacking is worked vertically.

Burda2011_07_121 DETAIL2

Happy sewing, all!


SAM #4

Sweet Liberty!

Shirt-A-Month #4 is Sewing Workshop’s Liberty. It’s also the overlayer part of my spring 6-pak, and can be worn as a jacket over either of the previous matchy-matchy columns. Way to make one garment count towards multiple goals, right?

The skinny (I wish) on this Liberty: The double-sided linen was purchased a long time ago from Fashion Fabrics Club. It was a clear must-have for me. One side matches my eyes and the other side matches my hair. Someone doing historical reinactments could have done the whole Civil War with this fabric if they had had enough. One side for the Union, the other side for the Confederacy. Anyway, the fabric was very special for me and I dithered for years over what to do with it. One pattern after another was considered and cast aside. Finally I decided I wanted to make the Liberty with hems and facings turned to the outside. The irony here is that you could absolutely make the same effect with two contrasting fabrics. The only place the double-sided characteristic of the fabric was utilized was the hems, and you could easily cut a hem facing in your contrast.

Other changes from the pattern: lengthened an inch. I have made this before and did

not really care for the wavy collar in the pattern, so this time I cut a straight band. Also, the instructions call for french seams. Since this linen is pretty heavy, that was not the way to go. Instead, I pressed the seam allowances open and then turned them under, using a triple stitch topstitch on either side of the seam to secure.

This is the way it looks from the outside.

And this is the way it looks on the inside.I’ve only used decorative stitches on my machine a very, very few times. The idea for using the triple topstitch came directly from Carolyn of Diary of a Sewing Fanatic fame.

There must be something about the Liberty that makes me want to use the decorative stitches, though. My previous version (also linen) used a wing-needle and hemstitching along the hem and facing edges.


This is a very fun pattern to make, and not difficult, but it is so distinctive that I may not make it again. But I see that an Eskandar design (at Nieman’s) seems to have a similar hem/vent in a longer length. That might just be different enough to give the pattern a third whirl.

Pocket Picker

A little while ago, Robin of a little sewing wrote of having her bulletin board covered with clippings of basic garments rather than flashy showstoppers. Yep, basic & classic are my keywords. I also favor solid or textured fabrics and generally eschew prints.

Classic style + solid fabric can make for a boring wadrobe and boring sewing, too. Little variations can freshen up your sewing experience. Patch pockets are a feature on lots of simple styles; they give interest to what would otherwise be a big old expanse of plain fabric.

Here’s a little meditation on combining basic elements of patch pockets for lots of variations. I am planning a utility garment with heaps of specialized pockets…and that ties back to my previous post about taking advantage of the special touches available to those of us who sew our own clothes.

So….patch pockets. They are classic in themselves.

Start with a basic shape. Corners can be squared, or rounded and angled to various degrees.

 Pick a method of attaching the pocket. Sew it on invisibly? Edgestitch? Edgestitch and topstitch? How about stitching down the top facing with multiple rows of stitching or something decorative?

Want a pocket that means business and can hold a lot? Add a gusset to make poacher’s pockets. Gathers and darts can also add extra volume.

The shape of the top opening can be changed. The top of hip pockets can be extended up and become belt loops.

Add flaps or bands to the tops. The shape of the flap doesn’t have to echo the shape of the pocket bottom. The pocket tops can be gathered to the bands, or the bands could contain elastic and have a ruched effect.

Add a button (snap, velcro) or tab. Tabs could also be fastened with D-rings if you’re feeling sporty. Zipper openings, too, but I’m not going to bother drawing a zipper.

 Layer pockets – the coin pockets on jeans are just the beginning of the pockets you can have inside or over other pockets. You can also subdivide…like a cigar pocket.

Then you can experiment with applique-type shapes. The ideas that are occuring to me are most appropriate for kiddie clothes, but maybe you’ll think of something more sophisticated.

A pocket is a nice defined area for embellishment of all kinds: decorative seaming, such as some felled seams or slot seams, embroidery like hemstitching, lines of satin stitching, or decorative machine stitches; pintucks; contrast fabric for flaps, bands, or edge bindings.

My pocket-palooza garment is in the planning and fabric selection stage. Lots of measuring is involved so that each pocket accomodates the items it is intended to hold. Pockets within pockets will  be involved. I’m also giving careful consideration to placement – where will the different items be most conveniently located? Do I want to reach across my body to get at them? I want this garment ready to go in the fall. It’s the fabric selection that’s holding me up right now – needs to be strong, light-weight, and cool. And easy to sew because I’m going to be making lots of pockets.

Wearing Art

Fabric.com has had Liberty Tana Lawn on sale and I treated myself to a couple of pieces. Liberty Of London Tana Lawn Pepper Blue/GreenOne is the teeny-tiny “Pepper” print that is so bitsy that it reads as a textured neutral from a few feet away.




Liberty Of London Tana Lawn Strawberry Thief Green/Blue The other is a small piece of the print titled “Strawberry Thief”, designed by William Morris.

 Morris is one of my design heroes. He was a big player in the Arts & Crafts movement in the late 1800s, founding a decorating company with an emphasis on hand-made goods and core principle of fair pay for the workers, viewing artisans as artists. He designed textiles for the firm. He was a painter and hung with the Pre-Raphaelite crowd. He was particularly interested in book arts, printing exquisite volumes at his Kelmscott Press. He was a pioneer in historic preservation. He was also a poet. Even though his poetry doesn’t do much for me, this additional credit belongs on the list.

But here’s the thing – a textile designed by an idol was on sale for a good price, and I only bought a half a yard. Just enough to cover a cushion and have a bit left over, because I’m shy about wearing art.

 On the one hand, I really think that hand-made clothing should fully exploit its hand crafted-ness, including details and techniques that don’t lend themselves to the manufacturing process. I admire art-to-wear on a mannequin. But on the other hand, I’m not comfortable in clothes that draw a lot of attention. Coming up with a balance will take some experimentation. I DO know that I want Peggy L to teach me silk-screening.

 Here’s an experiment. I had some left-over linen, and I had the Sewing Workshop’s Mixit pattern. Many Sewing Workshop patterns are perfect blank canvases for surface techniques. The dartless tank I made is one of them. (The other tops in Mixit are good candidates, too.) The idea was to try some discharge dyeing using a bleach pen, and making a wearable muslin at the same time. A woven tank is a good TNT to have.

 Step one was to thread-trace the outlines of the pattern. I didn’t want to be inhibited by the edge of the fabric when drawing the design with the pen.

 I experimented on scraps with bleach from a bottle before I got the bleach pens, mixing it with some flour so that it would stay where I put it. The experimental pieces took a full 10 minutes for the bleached areas to go to white, so I planned a design that would take a little time to draw.

 Good thing I did another trial when I got the pen – it bleached super-fast! I was all fired up to forge ahead, so decided to just scrawl random circles with a kind of graduated effect, leaving the hem area untouched. And here you see the result. A bit crude because of the lack of planning, but there are some things I like about the effect.  There’s a nice difference between hard and soft edges which you can control by how quickly you draw with the pen. The overall effect reminds me of low-contrast tie-dye. I might do another piece using the bleach and flour mixture in a more controlled design.

 Thoughts on the pattern – there’s no shaping to this tank, so if you want any you’ll have to add it yourself. But because there’s no shaping, the hem is straight across, making it a great a great candidate for a border print. I sometimes need an FBA in most patterns, and this tank would hang a bit better if I made a small one. All in all, the fit is better than I expected from such an unstructured pattern. The shoulder sits well on me, and there’s no armhole gap, so I’m pleased. Add to that, it goes together in no time at all.

 I plan to wear this around the house and see if it makes me feel too much like an old hippy.

Interested in discharge dye? Some links….

Lois Ericson in Threads one of the art-to-wear masters.

Paula Burch some specific information on using a bleach pen.

Vintage Threads this blog post has some good ideas.