Holiday, Wedding, Funeral

Burda 7378 is a sleeveless dress with pleats radiating from a raised waistline and two darts at the back.  Last summer when I bought the pattern, I wasn’t sure if my beginner’s skills would be up to a pattern marked “average” but having been rather intrigued by pleats that feature so often on Ready-to-Wear clothes, I thought I’d at least get some insight into their construction.  Rolls and Rems provided an easy-to-work cotton poplin (at £4.95 a 115cm-width metre) and invigorated en route by the fabric’s fantastic colour I quickly set to work.

After this:

And this:

And this:

I ended up with this:

I wore my Burda 7378 on my last summer holiday and loved the contrast between the colour of the dress and my tan (those were the days!).  Though the pleats weren’t perfectly executed, I still gained much satisfaction looking down at them.  After my hols, being very much under the impression that the pattern was a thumbs-up, I made two more versions.

A sophisticated, funeral-friendly black:

 And a shot-silk version, fully lined in an oyster acetate:

Here’s a close-up of the fabric.  It’s by John Kaldor and was bought at a considerable discount from Geoff Rosenberg.  The colours are to die for!

So, having finished all three, imagine my disappointment (here we go!) when I put them on for the purposes of this photo shoot only to be told by my DH that this pattern makes me “look fat”.

Huh?  Now he tells me?!  Ok, I admit that a couple of times last summer when I wore the lime dress to slap-up meals, I thought to myself: “Thank goodness there’s enough room in here!”  In fact, I’d even made a mental note to recommend this pattern to anyone accommodating a 4-5 month-old fetus!

And in case you think it’s the stiff poplin, let me emphasise that the two more drapey fabrics don’t make it much better: this really isn’t the pattern for you if your waist is the particular feature you like to accentuate.  Maybe the dress would look better in View A – a maxi.  But I’d still hesitate to recommend it if you aren’t tall.

If all this hasn’t put you off and you decide to give this dress a go, here are a couple of notes on sizing and modification:


If you’re between sizes, go down: you’ll be fine!  My three dresses are size 10 (US: 6) though I’m 12 hips on a good day.

Sewing the Straps and the Lining

By following the pattern instructions, you’ll be attaching the lining to the fashion fabric at the neckline and armscyes, handstitching the lining to the zip then sewing the dress straps as in the diagram above.  The lining straps are then machine-stitched before the garment is turned to the right side and the fashion fabric straps are slip-stitched (Step 14).  The best of my attempts at this produced:

It wasn’t so simple with the silk!  But you don’t have to follow the instructions slavishly!  Having for some months now been an avid reader of the Slapdash Sewist, I now know that there is another way.  If you’re averse to handsewing and if the slip-stitch isn’t your best couture move, I refer you to Slapdash’s All-Machine Clean-Finish Sleeveless Bodice Lining Tutorial.  Especially recommended if you’re making the long, fully lined version of dress.

Good luck and let me know how it went!

P.S. I don’t care if it does make me look fat: I’m ready for that Holiday/Wedding/Funeral…

Love Missile NL 6459 F




It’s great to come across a pattern that yields a flattering garment with the minimum of hassle; it’s greater still when that pattern comes with enough variations to create an entire season’s wardrobe. New Look 6459 is a sleeveless dress with darts to the bodice and some definition to the waist which gives it a feminine silhouette.  It lends itself to anything from a beach bum dress to quite respectable evening wear (more on that later).

Here are a couple of versions I made previously: some of the first garments I ever made, both now dying of old age. 

For the Summer 2012 version (which, given the weather, I shall mostly be wearing with boots, a cropped cardie and a brolly), I’ve made View F in a soft lawn by John Kaldor, bought for £8 a metre from Geoff Rosenberg.  

I bought the fabric while finishing my Mad Men Challenge dress when, still in a vintage mood, I was drawn to the Betty Draper-like print of the deep pink roses and leaves on a purple-grey background.  It’s quite a departure from my usual loon prints!

A beginner making this pattern (marked “Easy”) could follow the instructions, as I did the first time I made it, and end up with a very good dress.  But with a little modification, NL 6459 View F can be upgraded to a fantastic dress!  Here are a few notes which you may find helpful:

1 Beware of Cutting the Bodice from a Printed Fabric

Beware of the centre front seam on the bodice and cut carefully if using a print fabric.  The Front Bodice has a centre seam which is at a slight diagonal.  This is necessary in order for the straps to be straight on the grainline.  The first time I cut the bodice and sewed the centre seam, the break in the flowers ruined the look of the front:

This simply wouldn’t have done, being just below the cleavage and something of a focal point.  I decided to make this piece my bodice lining.  The second time I cut the bodice front, I made sure the stitching line fell on the “blank” parts.  The result is more professional and presentable:

2 Suggested Improvement to Bodice Lining

The instructions call for the bodice and the bodice lining to be sewn together to the skirt and the zip to be attached to both.  I did this when making this dress in 2008.  The inside looks like this:

Ok, but not ideal to have the ugliness of those edges staring up at you every time you disrobe!  An improvement would be achieved by the following:

a) After step 19 in the instructions, edge-finish the bottom of the lining.  I do this by pressing under 0.5cm and zigzaging.

b) Stitch bodice to skirt and attach zip at centre back.

c) With right sides together, stitch bodice to bodice lining.  Leave the short edges of the straps unstitched.  You will be turning the garment to the right side through these gaps!

d) Stitch the side of the lining to the zip.

e) Push the garment to the right side through the gaps and press.

The result it the more pro this:

Please note that you would not be able to do this with Views A-E as the bodice and the straps are not in one continuous piece.

3 Option for Strap Adjustment

When stitching the bodice to bodice lining, there’s an area of 3cm on the back which is to be left unstitched.  This is to allow for the insertion of the strap in one of the final stages of the making of the dress.  It means that the length of the strap can be adjusted to suit.  My tip is to leave a wider area unstitched (4cm-5cm) so that at the fitting stage you can:

  •  fit the straps to the left or right of the suggested positioning,.  This is useful if you want to hide your bra straps when wearing the dress.  Choose the bra you want to wear with the finished dress and wear it to the fitting as the position of bra straps can vary a lot.
  • angle the ends of the straps slightly towards the centre if your shoulders are like mine slightly sloping
Consider these variations:
  • Find a smart fabric, cut the skirt pieces some 10cm-15cm longer for the dress to cover the knees (find the most flattering cut-off point), put some interfacing in the bodice and you’ve got yourself a number elegant enough for theatre.
  • Make the dress from a stretch jersey.  Sure, it’ll cling mercilessly to your stomach, as jersey dresses tend to do.  Hell, you might even feel the need to sign up for Pilates classes.  But this is a small price to pay for the fact you won’t have to insert a zip!!

Right, I’m off to go make this again…


After making the universally popular Polar Bear, I was keen to see how the Burda 9596 Pattern for a girl’s coat would turn out in a different fabric.  My brief was to make a fun and smart cover-up for those colder days that await us in the next 6 months of our so-called British Summer Time.  I wanted to use corduroy.  As a little girl, I loved the corduroy flares that my grandmother had made me, and when I’d grown out of them, she converted one of the bell-bottoms into a pencil case for me!  There was something very friendly and tactile about those velvety ridges.  

It took me a while to find the right fabric.  The shops had a limited range of corduroy in colours too dull for childrenswear, though some great needlecord samples came in the post from Brisbane Moss and Myfabrics.  But a trip to Goldhawk Road proved decisive.  I found a vivid purple at Orya Textiles and though I had some misgivings about the thick ridges (5 wale  is the kind of thick corduroy used in upholstery), I spotted some lime-green cotton satin  a couple of doors down in Unique Fabrics and, being a big fan of purple and green together, I grew determined to make the two work.  The total cost of the fabrics came to £20 with another £4 for the buttons from MacCulloch & Wallis

View A of the coat is  quite fancy – with a peplum, topstitching and contrast cuffs.  Much as I love it, I realized that the lime and white polka dot fabric that I’d bought for the cuffs would have been too much!  So I made a last minute decision to go for the subtler View B with the length of View A (so as to keep the swingy skirt).  I used the polka dot fabric for making the bodice lining, i.e. the inside parts that don’t need to be as slippy, whereas the sleeves and the skirt were lined with lime cotton satin.  The only other modification to the pattern was the coat hook I added (pretty essential in a coat, I think).  It was made from a tube of fabric and inserted between the collar and the back facing (pattern piece 14).    

I’d say that there a three parts to making the Burda 9596.  The first involved cutting out the 15 pattern pieces, marking them and applying the interfacing.  This seemed to take ages.  It was nerve racking having to stick to the grainlines so carefully: the up and down ridges would have given away the slightest mistake.  But the second part – machine stitching – was relatively quick and straightforward.  It’s a real moment of joy when the first sections come together and the coat begins to reveal its character!  

The last part involved lots of handstitching.  After a couple of hours of sewing the lining to the thick coat hem (which I haven’t done entirely evenly), my fingertips were so sore I had to take a day off before being able to face the buttons.  

My daughter has named her coat Violet and seems pleased with it, though wondered why the lining is in two fabrics (the spots alone would have done!).  She also pointed out that the coat is too big.  I wish I’d know that a spring coat doesn’t need to accommodate layers of warm clothing underneath,  or I might have graded it down.  Hopefully, by the time I get to make Burda 9596 again, I’ll be closer to being a pro sewista and will manage to pull off a perfect version!

Finally, a couple of literary references that kept popping into my head as I wrote this.  For the youngest readers and their mums, my daughter and I recommend “Corduroy” by Don Freeman.  This  beautifully illustrated story features a teddy bear in corduroy dungaress and a kind girl called Lisa. 

Corduroy also features in the opening lines of one of my favourite  Anne Tyler novels, “Ladder of Years” :

This all started on a Saturday morning in May, one of those warm spring days that smell like clean linen. Delia had gone to the supermarket to shop for the week’s meals. She was standing in the produce section, languidly choosing a bunch of celery. Grocery stores always made her reflective. Why was it, she was wondering, that celery was not called ‘corduroy plant’?



Anne Boleyn

“Do you need help getting into that dress?” was the first comment on my new Simplicity 2305.  I was struggling to get my head and arms through at the time.  

It got worse.    

Because it was cold, I’d put the dress on over a long-sleeved base layer in the same colour (black) and the combined effect of the two garments was a certain “Leg of Mutton” appearance in the sleeves.  Now, I have nothing against Leg of Mutton sleeves.  They can have a wonderful dramatic effect, as in this picture, and if I were  very, very evil, I’d have sleeves like this all the time.  But they make this dress look like period costume.

“It’s a bit…. Henry VIII,” continued the familial commentary.

“A jester! You look like a jester.”

“Too grim for a jester.”

“Anne Boleyn,” said my daughter finally.  “You look like Anne Boleyn.”

So there you have it: my new Anne Boleyn dress.  See the pale strip of neck between the dark hair and fabric.  How helpful for the executioner to have a marker on which to land his axe so cleanly… 

So why do I look happy wearing it?  Two reasons.  Firsly, the relief at finishing a project that had me making so many mistakes I feared I was going to blunt my entire collection of seam rippers in the process! Sometimes it’s not good to rebel against pattern instructions.  For example, there’s a reason why a neck band strip is cut on the bias: so that it lies flat.  But no, I thought I’d be cleverer (ha!) and go against the grain, thereby matching the waist band and cuffs.  The result was a wrinkled neck band which refused to lie flat and no amount of hot pressing was going to persuade it otherwise.  Luckily, the mistake was fixable.  Other aspects of the design were new to me and I didn’t find the instructions as plain as I’d have liked them (I wouldn’t recommend this pattern to a beginner).  I usually struggle with zip insertion and here for the first time I was in a situation where the top of the zip opening was stitched closed (the sleeve seam).  The instructions on attaching the waistbands were clear if you know what you’re doing, but I got mixed up between the symbols for the facing and interfacing so some serious unpicking took place at this stage as well.

I’ve been desperate to make this dress since first spotting the pattern in the Stash of the Slapdash Sewist and I was lucky to find for it the finest needlecord (21 wale).  It came from the Cloth House, No. 47 and wasn’t cheap.  So after stumbling in the making of it and then having to get used to its strange silhouette, I am delighted to find that it’s very flattering.  It must be the large sleeves which make the waist appear smaller in contrast.  I can tell that I’ll got lots of mileage out of it so whilst it’s not a perfect dress (see below), the Anne Boleyn is a good wardrobe staple.

Recommended modifications

Are you’re thinking of making Simplicity 2305?  If I were to make it again, I’d ring some changes: 

  • Making the neck wider.  Not plunging as in View B, but just so there’s less material and more collar bone on show.  It might even work in an off-the shoulder design.  
  • I’d extend the sleeves to a 3/4 length, with the cuffs tapering to the shape of the forearm.
  • Although I’ve added lining to the skirt, it stops 1cm above the optional slit on the right hand side.  This still leaves rather a lot of material gripping the knees so I think losing the slit and extending the lining would work better on heavier fabrics, especially if you intend to stride about in it. 
  • Last but by no means the least: I’d fit a longer zip.  Although I’d used a zip longer than the recommended 12″, the dress isn’t easy to get into and the UK size 10 with a size 12 skirt can’t go over the fuller bosom of my dummy (she’s 92cm/36″).  But if the headless thing won’t wear it, I certainly will, and lots.  


A few years back, the Diane Von Furstenberg-style wrap dress was all the rage.  I desperately coveted one but resisted the high street offerings after hearing horror stories of how merciless this  style is on less-than-flat stomachs.  Which is why this New Look 6429 Faux-Wrap Dress Pattern for Stretch Knits seemed a lucky find.  Two of my all-time favourite garments (a dress and a swimming costume) had similar ruching and, contrary to what you might expect, the extra fabric was flattering, covering up the belly at the same time as the gathers drew the eye to the curve of the waist.  Also the folds felt nice.  

The first time I made View B, a big test was stitching together the three sections in the lower back.  Pulling off this important focal point requires total precision in the marking and the stitching, which wasn’t obvious to my beginner’s mind.  The end result wasn’t all that geometric. 

There’s a lot of flare to this skirt and the instructions call for it to be machine-hemmed.  I didn’t find this “easy”: there was an excess of fabric which couldn’t be pinned away.  Only by doing some reading did I come upon the solution: ease-stitching the extra bulk.  Also, I sewed the hem by hand which I believe looks better.

So, imagine my disappointment when after hours of labour I tried the dress on and thought it looked pants!  Clingy on the belly, gaping at the bust.  And the soft, thick jersey made me feel huge

The dress was quickly slammed onto the Charity Shop Pile.  

The reason why it’s still here is that my husband got wind of my intention and with untypical concern urged me not to trash it, nay, declared it to be the nicest dress I’d ever made…   What could the explanation be?  Well, the clue is in the photo on the envelope.  Notice how the model is sticking out her chest and bottom, and her coltish legginess…?  Yes, the spirit of this design is a brazen “come-hitherness”: it’s feminine, revealing and, ahem, appeals to a certain audience. 

Fast forward a few years: when I found this lightweight jersey (at Geoff Rosenberg’s Fabric Show) with explosions of lovely colours that remind me of fireworks, I thought it time for a NL 6429 remake.  I adapted the pattern by narrowing the sleeves and reducing the flare from the hipline by a total of 10cm around the hem to make it less flouncy (this made it quicker to hem too!).  I’m quite happy with the more up-t0-date silhouette.  But the size 12 feels too big on my size 12 frame, especially around the neck and the bust which is too gaping.  In the photo, I’m wearing it with a “modesty“!