Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life


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?

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January Quick Make – Covered coat hanger

I have been very keen to try out shirring for a while. I can see great possibilities for creating tops, but I haven’t had the courage yet to launch into a big project yet. I thought that creating a padded hanger would be a perfect practice project. Obviously, it is possible to create these without the shirring, but the elasticity of shirred fabric, means that it will easily mould to the shape of the coat hanger without need to create a “hanger-shaped” pattern and I think it just adds an extra frilly-ness to the whole thing.

Apologies, for the quality of the photos on this post. I will improve them when I can. There has been nothing but rain for weeks and the light is really poor for taking photos. Anyway, onwards with the post.

You will need:

Wooden coat hangers


Fabric of your choice (I used cotton)

Shirring elastic (It only appears on the inside of the garment, so don’t worry too much about colour matching. White or a dark colour will suffice for most projects)

Loop turner

Matching Ribbon


1. Unscrew the hook from the wooden part.

2. Cut a long strip of wadding roughly 5 cm wide and wrap it tightly and evenly around the hanger. Wrap more wadding around the coat hanger if you wish the hanger to be more padded. Use a couple of stitches to hold it in place. Mark the place where the hole for the hook is, so you can find it later!


3. Next work out how much fabric you need for sewing the cover. First, work out the height required. Lay the hanger on the fabric and work out the amount required for the front and back, plus 1cm seam allowance for both sides. This worked out as 16 cm for my hanger.

As a rule of thumb when a fabric is shirred the width is reduced roughly to a half of what it was. So measure the length of the hanger and add seam allowance of 1cm at each end. This worked out as about 50 cm for my hanger. I therefore worked out that I needed 100 cm in length. It is better at this stage to calculate the amount of fabric to be used generously, it can always be trimmed afterwards.

4.  Cut out a square of fabric corresponding to the height (16 cm) and length (100 cm) worked out in the previous step.

5. Now it’s the time to do some shirring! Use regular thread in the top spool holder. The colour should match your fabric. The bobbin should be wound by hand, putting about as much tension on the elastic as you would if hand-winding a normal thread: Don’t pull it tight on the bobbin, but also don’t allow it to be slack.

6. The top tension should be set slightly lower than usual. Also, the stitch length will need to be lengthened. It’s worth trying to see what works on a test piece of fabric first.

7. With the fabric right-side up, sew in parallel rows, using the presser foot as a guide. Start by lining it up with the edge of your fabric – this will be where you make your first line of stitching.

8. The machine sounds worryingly louder when shirring, but this doesn’t seem to be a problem. Continue shirring subsequent lines. It gets a bit trickier as you add more lines and it’s necessary to hold the fabric flat as you sew, but not pull the fabric through the machine. If the elastic runs out half-way through the line, just rewind the bobbin and continue with the line where you left off, just secure the stitching with a few backward stitches.

Coathanger (shirring close-up)

9. For my coat hanger fifteen lines was sufficient to cover the front and back of the coat hanger with elasticated fabric. You may need less or more, depending on how padded you wish your hanger to look. When you’ve completed all your shirred stitching, place the shirred fabric right sides together and sew a seam with a 1cm seam allowance to create a tube. Leave a 1-2cm opening in the seam so that you can fit the hook through.

Coathanger (shirred fabric)

7.  Sew up one end of the tube, again with a 1cm seam allowance. You will need to leave the other end open to insert the hanger.

8. Turn the fabric tube the right way out and feed the hanger into it.

9. Close the opening on the open end using slip stitching

10. Screw the hook back into the hanger.

11. I decided that the metal hook of the coat hanger didn’t look very slightly. I decided to cover this with my fabric too. Cut a bias strip from my fabric. Next, fold the strip in half, right-sides together and sew the length of the strip. Trim so there is not too much excess fabric. Using the loop turner turn the strip to the right-side creating a fabric tube.

Coathanger (bias strip)

12. Pull the fabric tube over the hook and secure in place with a few stitches. Don’t worry about being too neat as this will be hidden by the ribbon.

13. Add a ribbon to mask the hole the hook goes through. Cut the ribbon to the right length. Fold the ends of the ribbon over and sew them in place to prevent the ribbon from fraying.

Coathanger (finished)

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Pyjama Trousers Part 2 – Thin fabric problems

When I started sewing my pyjama bottoms, I got a problem with doing the zig-zag stitch on the leg lengths.

After a search on the internet I found this problem is called “tunnelling”. Basically, this is where the fabric is pulled together by the tension in the stitch. I suppose it is because my fabric is rather light. The “flimsy-fabric” alarm hadn’t been ringing though at the start of the project, as it isn’t what I usually expect with a woven cotton fabric. However, it happened and I didn’t like the look of it. At the back of my mind was the fantastic silk / cotton blend fabric upstairs, waiting for the day when I am experienced enough or brave enough to sew it.


My internet search also gave several suggestions for a fix:

1. Use a different stitch

All the suggestions here, aren’t possible on my ancient Singer. Is it time to face facts and get another machine?

2. Hang the stitch off the edge of the fabric

This sounds possible, but a bit fiddly.

3. Sew with tissue paper

I tried this and found that it was largely successful, until I pulled the tissue off the fabric and this pulled the thread enough for the “tunnel” to reappear. However, after I examined the lengths that had been done with this technique, there did seem to be some improvement.

4. Use a different technique

French seams may be the answer. I’ll definitely do this next time I use the fabric.

5. Don’t worry!

Yes, even though it may annoy me, perhaps I should just relax and live with it! After all, this is only visible on the inside.
There is a lesson for me in this – it’s all good learning. I really should check how a new fabric behaves on a scrap piece first, before I attempt the project.