Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life

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#SummerOfBasics – Shades of Grey blouse (#105 – Burda 11/2016)

August is upon us and suddenly time is catching up on me. This year I’ve given myself extra sewing deadlines because I’m entering the #SummerOfBasics challenge in addition to the Independent Pattern Month over at The Monthly Stitch.

In my last post I detailed my proposed plans for my outfit. I finished my first make, the Burda top back in June. (Just a little late with my posting). This top is featured in the November 2016 edition of Burda Style magazine. It is a simple top with long sleeves finishing in an elastic cuff, a round neckline with pleats and a front slit. There are raglan sleeves and a waist tie.

Burda Top

I bought the fabric for this top from Sewn Bristol. It is a beautiful double-gauze fabric in two shades of grey – rather plain, but then this is a basics challenge!

Neckline of Grey Top

My first step when I started this top was to see if I could find any other bloggers who had used this pattern. I’m glad I did this research, because they highlighted a couple of points that I incorporated into my top. First of all, there are slits between the body of the top and the raglan sleeves at the front. Allison C left these out of her version as she thought the slits would reveal bra straps. I omitted the slits too for the same reason. The second modification I made was to the ties at the waist. In the pattern these are made from one layer of fabric. I can understand why this is the case, as using a jersey the ties could be very heavy. However, I decided to cut four of the tie pattern pieces and made a double-layer tie. Apart from the tidier finish this afforded, this meant that I could also take advantage of the double-faced nature of the double-gauze fabric. I kept the outside of the tie in the darker grey and the inside uses the lighter grey side of the fabric. When I knot the ties this gives an interesting tow-tone effect.

The pattern suggests using jersey, but as I had a woven fabric I used woven braid to finish the neckline. Other than this I made no changes to accommodate using a woven fabric, since the pattern is a loose style.

Needless to say the pattern had the usual excrement-level instructions which seem to be the norm for Burda. A fair amount of interpretation was required. I think I’m finding the whole Burda experience less daunting these days, but I put this down to my own perseverance rather than any improvement in the quality of the instructions.

Shades of Grey Top

I’m nearly halfway through my skinny jeans. It seems at the beginning of August that I still have plenty of time, but with about two weeks of holiday lined up this month I know I’m going to be pressed for time. I was up in Scotland at the weekend and thought that I would grab a few minutes in Glasgow to bag myself some Shetland yarn for my hat. Disappointingly, there were long flight delays and the time I set aside for shopping didn’t happen, so I’ve ordered online.



Burda 11/2011 Knit Wrap Top #114A – The Top with an Identity Crisis

About this time last year, which seems a very long time ago now, I purchased a beautiful tissue knit in Britex Fabrics in San Francisco. At the time I was very inexperienced with sewing with knit fabrics and I left it in my stash and decided to tackle it only once I felt confident that I wouldn’t ruin it.

Sadly, this isn’t a post about using that fabric, because I still haven’t plucked up courage. I decided to do a dummy run first. I bought some lovely soft black jersey from The Sewing Studio in Bath and selected a pattern. I really wanted a pattern that would work well with the draping look that a tissue knit would give. I came across this top – Burda 11/2011 Knit Wrap Top #114A. I must admit I fell in love with the way this pattern is modelled. Great fabrics can really show off a simple pattern to great effect and this pattern really looks great in what I think is a gauzy cotton knit or a linen knit. I really am a sucker for the locations and aesthetic of the Burda photoshoots too, I wish my photography looked like that! Anyway, aspirations aside, I thought this would work well with the Britex fabric and the soft black jersey would be a good test for the pattern.

I transferred my pattern from the PDF (tracing size 38 ). I didn’t make any adjustments, at first. The reason for this is that I did a whole lot of measurements and placed my waist, bust and hips on the pattern. I decided that these corresponded pretty much where the pattern intended them to be. I did discard a considerable part of the length – Burda patterns are always so long. I thought it was a little odd that my shoulder to bust measurement fitted with the pattern. I’ve adjusted this particular measurement so many times on patterns, I was a little suspicious that this seemed to fit my dimensions.

I was reassured sufficiently though and went ahead and cut out my fabric. I decided though that I was sufficiently suspicious about the placement of the wrap edge that I would tack everything together on the bodice and see how it looked before the machine sewing. I’m glad I did because I wasn’t that happy with how the wrap appeared. It didn’t seem to work where it was; I just wasn’t sure whether it was supposed to go below the bust where it attaches to the side seam or above. I then looked at the pattern again –#114A definitely places the wrap below the bust, but how about this photo from the Burda website, #114B, this looks above like it wraps over the bust to me:


And then, I truly confused myself looking at other blogged versions of this top.  Here are some of my other favourites:

Sewing Sveta’s green jumper

Frogs in a Bucket’s houndstooth version

A sheer knit version

A Bright orange version with an extra band for the hem

As you’ll see, it’s a confusing picture with the placement of the wrap varying wildly. Hence, I’ve nicknamed this top as “The top with an identity Crisis”. I think the look works well either way.

However, after much deliberation, I made up my mind about the placement of the wrap. I played it safe and the wrap goes over the bust. I’m going for the warm boobies version! I made the changes on my garment and machine stitched it. I’m hoping I made the right choice. What do you think? Does the wrap placement look fine?


Burda Wrap Top 1

I did have one problem with the instructions. As usual, being Burda, they have a spelling mistake (slef-facing) and at least one instruction which is utter gobbledegook. So, I looked online and found some great photos of the step on the Slapdash Sewist‘s website:

The worse thing about this rubbish instruction is that they published this pattern in the BurdaStyle Modern Sewing: Wardrobe Essentials book and the instructions here come with pictures. Why on earth don’t you get these instructions with the PDF pattern? (Deep sigh, Burda, tell me why?)

I’m probably overthinking this, but I’m slightly concerned that the neckline might droop after lots of wear and I explored other posts on this top for opinions. There are some bloggers who have made this top repeatedly. Clearly, they regarded it as a success. And others have been less happy with it. I noticed Amy at Sew-well made this top, but then it became a refashion in a later blog post.

At the moment the top is going through an extended period of evaluation. Normally RTW tops styled like this are way too revealing, therefore it isn’t a style that I normally wear.Perhaps I just need to get used to this loose type of neckline? I think the sleeves are too long too. They are deliberately cut long in the pattern and perhaps with a lighter knit fabric it would be easy to bunch up the extra fabric up the arms, but in this fabric that doesn’t seem to happen.

I’m not convince yet whether this is the pattern I’ll use for my treasured tissue knit fabric from Britex. Are there other tops that would look good in a sheer knit with a lot of drape?




An unseasonal make

This poor top has remained unfinished and unloved in my stash for many months. I was just about to put in an extra effort to finish this top during August, before a long weekend. But the weather forecast suggested that it wouldn’t be worn, so I put it off. In fact, since I haven’t been anywhere hot this year and it hasn’t been especially hot in the UK this year, sadly I don’t think I would have worn it anyway. Anyway, it’s now December and I need to diminish my stash before it takes over the living room, so with just the spaghetti straps and the hem to add, this was easy to finish.

The fabric is a cotton lawn that I picked up in Fashion Fabrics. The bright and cheerful hot-air balloon fabric really caught my eye. I decided to use a pattern (Gathered Tube Top 03/2012 #125) from the Burda magazine I’d bought in Italy. Actually, it isn’t much of a pattern, more of a set of instructions, since the top is constructed from just two rectangles of fabric!

Air-balloon top

The technique used for shirring here is a little different from that which I’ve used before. Previously I’ve always hand-wound a bobbin with shirring elastic and therefore added the elastic as the lower thread when machine-stitching. The Burda technique suggests laying the elastic in a straight line on the wrong-side and zig-zagging over it. To be honest both techniques work well. Although, there is the added advantage with the Burda technique that you can adjust your top by pulling more or less on the shirring elastic to tighten or loosen it.

Close-up of shirred detail

I felt a little wary about wearing a strapless top, so decided to add some spaghetti straps, which are just turned tubes of the same fabric. I think that this top is most likely to be used to go to the beach. It slips on and off easily and would be a good cover-up for going into a cafe or a shop.

Now I just need to dream up a beach holiday for next year, unless we have an unexpected heatwave in March!


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Burda Blouse with Tie Band

When I was making the Burda Bicycle Blouse I took step-by-step photos as I went through. The instructions that came with the pattern weren’t particularly clear and I wanted to make a record to make it easier to make the blouse next time around.

I just thought I’d share these instructions, just in case they benefit anyone else. Some of the photos are not particularly good. The light isn’t very good this time of year and I found I couldn’t wait till I was in the house at peak sunlight hours to take all the photos!

Burda Blouse with Tie Band Instructions

Burda chiffon blouse


Burdened by Burda Bicycle Blouse

When you’re thinking about what to make next, what is it that attracts you to a particular pattern? I’m often inspired by other people’s makes and also, without a doubt, I’m influenced by the photos from the pattern company. The fabric and the model styling the pattern really can be a deciding factor for me.

There are so many fantastic pussy bow blouses I’ve seen in the blogosphere lately. Here are a few examples I’ve admired:

Did You Make That’s dogstooth Pussy Bow Blouse

Evolution of a Sewing Goddess’s spotty blouse

Handmade Jane’s bow blouse

I could have used the Sew Over It Pussy Bow blouse or the new Oakridge blouse from Sewaholic or even a vintage pattern. But no, I didn’t go for those patterns, I decided to go with this pattern from the Burda website. The fabric is funky. The hat and glasses are very chic. Not so sure about the faux snake skin mini and the leopard skin tights, but hey, she’s a cool cat!

Burda chiffon blouse

I will totally agree that I had just made my life so much harder with this choice. I usually find that the indie sewing pattern companies their instructions very carefully, whereas Burda’s instruction are often scant. But no, I still wanted the cool cat blouse!

Anyway, it wasn’t long after I downloaded the pattern, that the head scratching began. Just a few points that annoyed me about the instructions:

  • There is a poorly translated sentence -“stitch to one long of the binding stip…”. Yes I know what that means, but a bit of native speaker editing would have been helpful.
  • There’s mention of views B and C. What happened to A? Presumably you have to buy that separately.
  • The instructions explicitly state that interfacing is needed, but there’s no instruction for where to use it!
  • And just to be picky, while I’m at it, a spelling mistake – “right side otu”

In general, I shouldn’t complain too much I managed to sew this blouse, and I’ve been wearing it today. I’m not totally sure that I got the construction as it was intended. The sleeve vents would have remained a total mystery, but for a bit of deductive thinking and a similarly constructed blouse from my wardrobe.

Burda Blouse Completed 1

The fabric is a cotton voile from Truro Fabrics and the result of some impulse clicking. Since the instructions didn’t actually describe where to place the interfacing, I decided to use it in both the neck tie and the cuffs. The fabric is semi-sheer, so I used some black polyester organza as the interfacing; not that I knew for sure where the interfacing should be placed. I’m not sure it was required for the neck tie. What do you think? Is that neck tie too stiff?

Burda Blouse Completed 3

I also wasn’t sure about the length of the neck tie. With the neck tie in a bow, it looks like the loose ends should be longer. Lori’s version of this blouse really rocks, but she has made her neck ties quite a bit longer. I would have done the same except this idea came to me too late and when I wouldn’t have been able to cut the extra length from the fabric in one piece. So I stuck with more or less the recommended length, plus about 15 cm more.

Burda Blouse Completed 2

Just to prove that spring is finally here, the park had a carpet of crocuses this afternoon. Aren’t they beautiful?



Braving Burda

For a long time I have really admired everyone’s creations from Burda patterns. I like the collections that Burda produce, they seem to nod more in the direction of contemporary everyday wear and have a large number of trouser patterns, which is something that other publishers don’t really bother with much. But sadly Burda scares the daylights out of me! I downloaded a pattern recently from their website and, as I normally do before attempting a project, I tried to read through the instructions. They were utterly incomprehensible! Now, I don’t in any way consider myself any sort of expert when it comes to sewing, but I’ve usually managed with the instructions provided by Simplicity, Butterick etc. Sometimes I confirm how to approach something by looking at a video tutorial on YouTube, and generally speaking I manage quite well. But Burda patterns are something else! The instructions for the pattern I bought were so scant I really didn’t feel brave enough to contemplate starting the project.

Anyway, this last week I was away in Italy on holiday, hence the lack of posts. Sadly, I didn’t get to bore Mr and Master Steely with a trip to a fabric shop, but we did go into a newsagents. I don’t know if Italians particularly buy more magazines than people in the UK, but their newsagents are always well stocked with a huge array of publications. There were magazines to satisfy Mr Steely (motorbikes) and things to satisfy Master Steely (lego). This meant I got a good long look at the craft section. I found this Burda publication that I have never seen in the UK. It’s called “Scuola di Cucito” (Sewing School) and seems to be a basic wardrobe with simple designs with decent step-by-step instructions (hurrah!). I immediately grabbed it. It seems, after all, I might be able to make something from a Burda pattern. There may be a little head-scratching over the Italian, but I could do with expanding my vocabulary!

Burda Sewing School Cover

So here are a few pictures from the magazine that attracted me:


This is a bit of a cheat’s blouse, as it doesn’t have a collar or proper cuffs, but it has a sophisticated simplicity about it.

Burda blouse


Also, I do like the trousers (above) too. They don’t have a conventional waistband, but in the silky satin used in this book they look very smart.

Long Shirt

There’s even a very simple knit top, which I think I may end up doing as an introduction to knits.

Burda Long Shirt


I also love the leather skirt, but could I get away with wearing it?