Sister Salamanca

1 Sister SalamancaThe shops are full of cowboy-style shirts with pearl stud openings and breast pockets, usually in denim or check.  For months I’ve been meaning to make my own version; one that’s a bit badass, like something  the Salamanca cousins would wear with their skull-tipped boots while on a (probably murderous) Saturday night out.

1 Guess whatCue experimentation with designing a cheerful, kitschy sugar skull motif.  I made a copy of the yoke in a pearly-silver fabric and sandwiched it between the yoke and the shirt back (which is in a fine Italian needlecord from Fabric House, again).  The skull and the flowers are cut away from the yoke which is zigzag-stitched to the foil.

1 Salamanca shirt yokeThe sparkly pink and magenta bits used to be the fabric wings of my daughter’s Barbie Mariposa doll: yes, I’m mean!!  The green, sew-on jewels were from one of the haberdashers alongside Walthamstow market and I also used some Gutermann metallic thread.

1 Close up

The inspiration for the design of the actual shirt came from an altogether different telly source: Madonna!  Remember her super video for the equally excellent Don’t Tell Me?  I’m not talking of the check shirt she wears at the start but the clingy  leather (or probably even  latex) number she wears just over half-way through, during the line dancing routine.  Click hereMadonna Don't Tell Me.

Oi, eyes off the cowboys!  You’re supposed to be looking at Madge’s shirt.

Oh I see…. You were admiring the dancing.

Me too 🙂

1 PipingFor the body of the shirt, I used an old Butterick 4607 pattern, which I have some reservations about as it’s way oversized (I’m a 12 but made an 8) and a bit on the dowdy side – Madge would not approve.  I changed the bottom edge of the yoke and gave the collar a 70s look.  The sleeves are completely different to the original.  I made them leg of mutton (I wonder if Madge, like me, winces at the mention of the word!), kept the width but then put 5 equally spaced pleats between the bicep and the elbow so that they’re narrowed before widening out again.  I’m particularly pleased to have worked out how to make piped cuff plackets – that was a brain-draining afternoon or two, I can tell you.  1 Cuff

The pearl press studs match the piping and the foil.  To finish off the project, I took a trip to Soho and had the studs inserted professionally at  a cost of £4.40 for 11 by DM Buttonholes.  Much better than hammering them in myself on the chopping board using the steak tenderizer!

Whatcha think?!  If you were a cowgirl broken bad, how would yours look?

1 Reculver Cowgirl

Location: Reculver

Burda 7494

I'm ninety four you know
Black dresses, like black cats, are notoriously difficult to photograph. The detail is easily lost and this apparently is the reason why ‘the little black dress’, usually a girl’s best friend, has fared badly in online sales in relation to frocks featuring prints and bright colours (read all about it).  On screen, it can look a bit boring.

Burda 7494 View ABut while a tiger can woo multitudes with its splendid array of stripes, looking at a plain black moggy (or panther) allows you to notice its equally admirable silhouette.  (If you think my Lemmy’s outline is a little bit scraggly,  can I just point out  he is actually ancient! 😯 ).

There’s much to admire in this Burda 7494 dress.

Burda 7494The faux collar, which attaches to dress front only, is easy to make and is guaranteed to sit flat.  The four front and back pleats create a tulip-like shape, giving the impression of there being more bum than is actually the case as well as narrowing the waist.  Most interesting of all I found the bust darts which are shifted to the centre side of the princess seams.  This creates a nice curve which isn’t difficult to sew (but check out my tips on Princess Seams if you’re new to this).  It’s a design that deserves more boldness than the picture on the envelope or my rendition of the pattern have given it.  If you imagine this same dress in red tartan, with black velvet piping, you can imagine the drama.


I had to make a few changes and didn’t get out unscathed….  1 Cuff

1. I added sleeves (obviously).  You like?!

2. In order to add sleeves, I had to substantially slice off from the shoulders.  The original ended a good inch beyond the usual armscye line which leads me to suspect this wouldn’t suit sloping shoulders.

3. I lowered the neckline 1.5cm, for two reasons.  The original collar is too big (bib-like?) for me.  I also think that a very high neckline makes anything but the most pert bust look a bit, er, southern 😯

4. I went the extra mile by making the dress fully lined (the pattern has lining for the skirt only).

The fabric, by the way, is extra fine Italian needlecord from Fabric House, one of my favourite shops on Goldhawk Road.  The plaid bias binding used for the piping and inside the cuffs came from MacCulloch & Wallis but you can get it anywhere.

Achtung!  Achtung

a) Beware that the neckline, though high, is very wide.   This might not suit you if you like to keep bra straps hidden (or if your neck muscles are a bit strong…).

b) The sizing for the dress is way over (so go by garment measurements) but perplexingly, the size of the lining isn’t.  Measure carefully before cutting because when the lining is tighter than the skirt, it will quickly rip!

Overall, I love the Burda 7494 and it was worthwhile sweating it out drafting the add-on sleeves as I now have a warm day dress for when I want to blend into the general winter gloomth.  This picture was taken a moment after the first one, after a cloud settled over the sun.  See?  Boring….There's no food in that hand, stupid woman