Saturday, July 30, 2011

Tutorial: Burda Dress Bodice Instructions

Burda, Burda, Burda. I love your patterns, but your instructions are confounding.

If you were confused by the instructions for the 02/2011 Dress with gathered rectangle skirt and cap sleeves, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s how I did it and recommend doing it too. But before we get to the instructions... a refresher on the finished project:

Burda Bodice Instructions

Pattern Found Here

1. Cut out your bodice pieces from BOTH the MAIN FABRIC and the LINING FABRIC.

1 front piece on the fold, 2 back pieces

2. Mark the darts with non-wax tracing paper.

3. Sew the darts.

4. MAIN FABRIC: With right sides together, sew the shoulder seams together. Repeat with LINING FABRIC. Press seams open.

5. With right sides together, sew the MAIN FABRIC to the LINING FABRIC along the arm holes and neck line. Press the seams open. NOTE: You have not sewn any side seams yet.

6. Turn the bodice right side out by pulling the two back pieces through the shoulders. Press seams.

7. Open the MAIN FABRIC and LINING up at the side seam (which is not yet sewn). Match the arm hole seams and edges - MAIN FABRIC to MAIN FABRIC and LINING to LINING. Pin, with right sides together. Make sure the arm hole seams lie flat. Sew the side seam. Repeat on the other side.

8. Your options now are to put a zipper up the back of the dress or buttons. If you choose to buttons you will need to make a button placket.


1. Cut two strips of one of your fabrics. I used the LINING FABRIC. The strips should be 2" wide and however long your bodice is.

2. Stitch rip the neckline in by a stitch more than two inches. The idea is that you are sewing the strip into the seam of the neckline. (Yes, this could have been done when I originally did the neckline, but I hadn't decided on buttons yet.)

3. Turn the garment so that you can put the neckline right sides together. Insert the end of one of the strips and line it up with the center back edge. Resew the ripped part of the neckline seam and turn right side out again. Your strip should now be sticking out of the seam.

4. Fold the strip down the right side of the MAIN FABRIC and pin the edge to the center back edge. Sorry, this photo is from the opposite side from the last photo. I also used pinking sheers on the other side of the strip so I wouldn't have to hem it.

5. Sew the edge of the strip to the center back edge, catching both the MAIN FABRIC and the LINING FABRIC.

6. Turn the strip to the inside of the garment, gently poking out the corner. Press the seam down. If the seam is bulky, clip the seam allowance.

7. On the inside of the garment, pin the open edge of the strip down. Sew the other edge of the strip down, about a quarter inch from the edge.

8. Repeat on the other side of the center back seam. As you can see, I had extra length on the strips. If you do, just cut it off at the end. The strips only need to be as long as your bodice.

9. Before sewing the skirt onto the garment, overlap the button plackets and hand baste them together at the base of the bodice. Then use the Burda instructions to sew the skirt onto the garment.


10. Decide how many buttons you want to use. I used 5. Place one button at the neckline and one at the skirt line. Evenly space the other buttons between these two. I used a ruler. On the side that lies on top, mark where the button holes should go based on where you want the buttons. Follow your sewing machine manual instructions for making a button hole. I did a test run on some scrap fabric.

11. REMEMBER: put your button holes on the placket that lies on top of the other placket. The buttons should be sewing to the lower placket. Sew your buttons on.

Good luck!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sweet Swiss Dot Dress

In my last post (which I know, was forever ago) I complained about a lack of fabric shops in Baton Rouge. Well, my friends, I have discovered a shop I overlooked! It's called Village Fabrics, and it specializes in wedding and special occasion fabric... which means it had some lovely shantung for my bombshell dress! But we'll get to that later...

Village Fabrics also had some lovely white batiste that I purchased to line my Burdastyle cap sleeve dress. Here is the finished product:

Fabric: Swiss dot
Lining: Batiste
Pattern: Burdastyle Dress with Rectangle Skirt and Cap Sleeves
Changes: Buttons up the back instead of a zipper up the side

I rushed to finish this dress in time to wear it to an Enchanted Forest party on Bourbon Street... but ended up wearing jeans due to the presence of a mechanical bison. I didn't end up riding it, but when you hear a mechanical bison will be there, you want to leave the option open. I'm glad I didn't wear the dress - my clothes smelled like Bourbon Street when I got home. (For the uninitiated, its a slightly metallic combination of piss and liquor.)

But back to the dress... the directions were simply awful (as opposed to awfully simple). I love Burdastyle, but I think we all know its big weakness (written instructions). I used a technique similar to the bodice for the Green Goddess Dress, which is Simplicity 2219. I will post a tutorial on how I put the bodice together soon. In the meantime... here are a few more pictures.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Got Silk?

First, I chose the wrong pattern. Now, I think I chose the wrong fabric. Let me tell you a story:

I went to Hancock Fabrics (the only fabric store besides Hobby Lobby in Baton Rouge) to find material for the Gertie's Bombshell Dress Online Course I just signed up for. I picked my way through a sea of polyester (all in ugly colors), just past the dance costume fabric, to a tiny little shelf of silks. Most of them were balled up and shoved on the shelf (that was half concealed by another shelving unit) and the tiny available bit of end-of-bolt dupioni was laying on the dirty floor. ARGH.

Now, I'm not completely aimless. I do have a desired color/print. Something like one of these:

Alas! The only fabric that involved light blue or antique flowers was, of course, in the quilting cottons section. I vacillated, knowing it would never work, trying to convince myself it would. I finally bought a few yards (it was on clearance) and figured I'd decide later. I could always use it for something else.

After bringing it home and washing it, I know I can't use this cotton for this project. I'll have to buy some shantung online. This experience is a good example of my ongoing struggle with the sewing resources available in my city.

Baton Rouge, and probably most places in America, really doesn't have the resources - fabric-wise, or sewing education-wise - to support making your own clothes. Luckily we have the internet, and online fabric stores are becoming more user friendly. Websites like and are offering more style-savvy online classes.

But none of this can beat a little human interaction. I guess I'm frustrated that the in-person sewing world in mid-sized America is dominated by crafting. Not that there is anything wrong with crafting - I just don't want my dress to match my place mats. Or fall apart in the wash. And I'd like to learn more advanced dress making techniques. Or be able to buy non-polyester dress material.

I usually like my mid-sized city lifestyle, but MAN do I wish I lived in in the Big Apple some days. Anyone else get jealous of the big city sometimes?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Wrong Pattern; New Plan

You know... I probably would have really enjoyed Montessouri school as a child. I love jumping into something without reading the directions. A dose of Discovery Learning always does me some good.

That is how I began in my "fake it 'till you make it" muslin making process. I chose this Burda pattern, which I planned to make in some fancy fabric and wear to a couple weddings. I successfully fit the bodice so the neckline wasn't so gosh darn baggy. Here are some visual aids for what I did:

First, I put the bodice pieces together and put them on the dress form inside out (notice that I did not press the seams...oops.)
The neckline was enormous, and at a strange angle. Plus, the waist was just fine. So I took in the neckline by 1/2" on either side, tapering it to nothing under the arm.

This looked right to me.
So I measured and cut the pattern piece, taping it back together with the little wedge removed.

I cut out the lining (left over from my failed July 4th dress... it was supposed to be the sash:(

With right sides together I put the lining and outer bodice together. When doing this, you are actually supposed to handle the shoulder seams differently, so the seams are on the inside. But in my laziness, and since its a muslin, I just sewed them together after the fact.

Here we go! Looking good! I actually kind of like the seam from the neckline to the side. I can see doing some color blocking along those lines at a later date.

What I realized though, in my best Nina Garcia inner voice (my inner voice often impersonates Project Runway it was Nina) - is that it just looks a little bit junior. If I made this dress in an evening wear fabric the whole thing would look best for a teenager.

At the same moment, I stumbled upon Gretchen's announcement, at Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing, that she has launched an online class at This class, thrillingly, is on how to construct a bombshell dress. PERFECT. Not only that, it includes a number of techniques I haven't tried yet - boning, underlining, bust padding, hooray! I promptly signed up and started drooling over fabric online. I've already watched several lessons, and I love love love Gretchen's teaching style. So happy!

What will happen to this little Burda pattern, you ask? FEAR NOT. Sitting on my couch, right next to the dress form (but not quite in the picture), is two yards of swiss dot fabric that will look awesome as this dress. Hmmm... I'm starting to have a sewing queue. Yikes.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Wedding Guest Dress: the other Summer Essential

In March, S and I challenged each other to make our dresses for a gorgeous Baton Rouge wedding we were both attending. Neither of us succeeded. I ended up wearing some Marc Jacobs knock off from four years ago. Oy. S did make her dress for a beach wedding last August... so she still has one up on me.

Since March, my sewing has taken off... galvanized by selling my old law school desk and replacing it with a cutting table. With three out of town weddings approaching - New York City, Minnesota, and Massachusetts -... this month I will be not be stopped!

I'm inspired by several blog posts I've read recently about making a muslin (or test garment), first on Frabjous Couture, and then on Burdastyle. This led me to a series of older posts from Sewaholic (my new addiction! So many awesome resources!) I've never made a muslin - and there is no time to learn like the present.

Now the only question is what pattern to use.

I like the this Burda pattern, but $5.40 is a little steep for not including the skirt... plus Burda tends to have awful instructions.

I also love this Vogue Dress - V1102. I'm a little worried it will end up looking maternity, though. Especially with the empire waist and enormous skirt.

Well, I'm off to Hancock Fabrics to flip through patterns and buy some muslin material. I'm just so excited to learn some new sewing techniques through this project. I finally have the confidence to try something new and know that I can probably fix it if it turns out looking strange!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Palindrome Dress!

Yes, ma'am, this dress is the same backwards and forwards, right to left and left to right. A veritable palindrome. To boot: I made it with one pattern piece - the first thing I've drafted myself.

But before we get to the dress, a few other palindrome faves:

Lived on Decaf; faced no Devil!

Yo, banana boy!

Party boobytrap!

As you can see, my policy is to end all palindromes with an exclamation point. It is absolutely necessary, thanks for asking ;)

Pattern: No lemon, no melon! (no pattern)
Fabric: Cotton jersey, from
Belt: Vintage

My Process

I started with this Old Navy dress from several years ago. It's a knit, and I like how it fits me.

I folded the dress in half and marked the arm hole and hem on (what I think is) quilting interfacing with dots on it. I found it with the interfacing at Hancock Fabrics and figured I could use it to copy and alter patterns. I traced the waist and skirt, adding 5/8" for seams.

I then used my trusty french curve to form the arm holes and neckline.

I cut the pattern piece out of the interfacing. I then pinned and cut two out of my striped fabric (one for the front and one for the back), placing the straight side of the pattern piece on the fold. I was also careful to match the stripes along the side seam. I used the stripe right under the arm as a guide.

Finally, I turned in the arm holes, neck line, and hem by 1/4". It was here that I realized this all may be easier with a serger. Someday....someday.

As you can see, the dress is the same backwards and forwards. I finished just in time for fireworks.

The Truth: My original idea for this fabric was a beach cover up (before I botched my July 4th dress.) Given my intentions, I think I can count this dress toward beachwear for The Summer Essentials Sew Along 2011. Tragically, I only get to the beach about once a year - so having a dress/cover up is handy and efficient. I know this is cheating a little... forgive me?

One more sewing palindrome to sign off? So many dynamos! (over at The Summer Essentials Sew Along flikr group...)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

July 4th Dress Disaster

After loving the look of my Oh My Shirt, I wanted to make the dress version for July 4th. I found some blue striped fabric on sale at Joann's and went to it! I envisioned doing the waist tie in red.

Unfortunately, this slinky fabric is 100% awful polyester and not only unraveled... but bunched when I sewed it together. I also thought it would be cute to do the stripes horizontal for the yoke.

RESULT: It looks like a poorly made convict-print night gown.

Luckily I was able to whip out a new July 4th dress in striped jersey in time for the fireworks. No pictures yet... maybe this afternoon!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Summer Essentials Sew-Along: The Sundress

Finally, I succeeded at making something for the Summer Essentials Sew-Along! After a major sundress FAIL (aka: stripes that look like cartoon prison wear) I decided on a knit maxi dress.

Pattern: Simplicity 2219
Size I used: 12
Size I should have used: 8
Fabric: Rayon/Spandex jersey
Notable traits: an elastic under the bosom

Once again, I trusted the pattern and made a size that corresponds to my measurements (touting only a 1/2 in. ease). Result: an enormous dress. It may have been that the fabric is four-way stretch, but really people, c'mon. Here's a little America's Next Top Model pose for you:

And that's all folks! Check out the Summer Essentials Sew-Along! Some very cool clothes are going on... on the flickr site!