Burda Style Book Blouse #3

Burda Style Book Blouse

The Goal: This shirt, my first version of this pattern, is my most worn and most favorite shirt I own/have made. I sewed it back in August of 2012 and it’s starting to show it’s age. If I didn’t wear that top so much it would probably have a longer shelf life.


A few weeks ago I noticed the fibers pulling away from the stitches on the center back seam so I sewed the seam allowance a little tighter but that fix doesn’t help the problem of fabric straining on that spot. The fabric is just getting worn down.

I know eventually that seam will be the death of my beloved shirt so I decided I need to make a replacement.


The Pattern: The base blouse pattern from The BurdaStyle Sewing Handbook. Having made it twice already I was pretty confident I could make it again easily. For the number of pieces in this pattern it came together remarkably quickly.

I love the longer sleeves and the peplum. Most of all I love that it’s a peplum shirt I can put on without a zipper and adjust the drawstring however I want.


The Fabric: A cotton voile from Form&Fabric. It’s City Lights Night by Leah Duncan for Art Gallery Fabrics (look who saved her selvage…).


The Changes: The cuffs are slightly shorter than the original pattern. I combined the front and back yoke pieces into one so there’s no real shoulder seam.


And I cut down the top of the sleeve cap because it seemed so tall. On my first version I kept the original sleeve piece but I usually have to iron down the gathers else I get this high shoulder pouf that I don’t like.


To accommodate that back seam strain that I had in my first version I added a little more width to the center back and sewed narrower seam allowances.


Also, this isn’t really a change but I wanted to use a ribbon rather than cutting bias strips and sewing my own drawstring. Unfortunately I didn’t have any black ribbon long enough. This green one is just temporary until I buy a replacement.


The Results: Just like my other two, I love this shirt! And I hope it will last at least as long as the others in my wardrobe.

So Many Japanese Pattern Books!


If you read a lot of sewing blogs you’ve probably figured out by now that the publisher of such delightful Japanese pattern books, like the one I used to make the shirt above, like to pass out their wares for review to lots of bloggers. Sorry if you’ve already read a bunch of book reviews lately, you’re in store for another – but there’s a good part – I have a new top to show off and you can enter to win one of three sewing books!

Ok, I’ll get to the meat of this review then give you the giveaway deets towards the bottom.

The Goal: I have to admit that while I had great success with my dress I made from the book Drape Drape last year, my attempt at a top from the new Drape Drape 3 was, well, a fail. That doesn’t mean it won’t work for others and I only tried one project from the book (House of Pinhero made an awesome dress from this book).

I was pretty bummed out about that but when I got these other two books: Feminine Wardrobe and Stylish Dress Book I decided to try again.


The Pattern: This is the first project from Feminine Wardrobe, a peasant style top. The pattern was really simple and with the raglan sleeves and elastic waist it didn’t require much fitting.


I made a M (sizes range from XS to L) and with this blousy style I think could have made an S.


The Fabric: I made it using a rayon and I took a hint from the book and added cotton crochet trim on the sleeves and hem.


The Changes: I knew that if I added the elastic lower on the hips where it’s shown in the book photos that either it would keep trying to slip up or it would look way too blousy for me so I put the elastic at my waist instead.

(shorter sleeves, maybe?)

The Results: As much as I want to love this shirt, I don’t. It’s just not my style. I think it would look better with shorter sleeves or as a dress but I doubt I’ll take the time to do it. It’s ok, though, my shirt already has a new home and someone who does love it so that makes me happy.


So here’s a more detailed critique of all three books. First of all, Feminine Wardrobe and Stylish Dress Book are pretty similar.

(Stylish Dress Book design)

Each has a bunch of basic designs that are all altered for different effects – new sleeves, adding a collar, etc.

(Drape Drape 3 dress design)

In Drape Drape 3 every design is unique.

(Stylish Dress Book instructions and illustrations)

What I love about all three books is the helpful and detailed illustrations. You could make all these garments without ever reading a word, the drawings are so good. Still, the written instructions are helpful.

(Feminine Wardrobe dresses)

All the patterns are layered on top of each other on large sheets of paper – Burda magazine style. The pattern pieces are very well labeled and pretty easy to trace. While Drape Drape 3 includes seam allowances, Feminine Wardrobe did not. 🙁

(Another Drape Drape 3 design)

However Feminine Wardrobe and Stylish Dress Book listed measurements in both metric and imperial. Drape Drape 3 was only metric.

Like the other Drape Drape books, #3 offers an interesting approach to pattern sewing and many designs are pretty challenging and they’re all definitely creative! Feminine Wardrobe and Stylish Dress Book give you great jumping off points for whipping up a cute dress over a weekend and you can put your own spin on the simple designs.

Alright, on to the good part, right? Time for a giveaway! I’ll pick one winner per book. To enter just leave a comment and tell me which book you want (or first and second choices) and if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook submit another comment telling me so for a second entry!

I’ll pick a winner on Tuesday, June 24 at 12pm CST. Good luck!

An affordable guide for pattern grading…?


I mentioned that I bought this book on Twitter a few days ago (yeah, I’m back on Twitter, go follow me and I’ll follow you back!).

I don’t exactly remember how I stumbled upon this little booklet, maybe it was through a review of this authors pattern design books. Anyhow I was intrigued when I found the “Grading Workbook” on FashionPatterns.com.


The author, Connie Amaden-Crawford has some legit pattern and sewing related books published but this “workbook” is nothing more than than printer paper photocopied and spiral bound… kinda sketch… but at less than $20 it was worth a shot especially since I’ve had no luck finding so much as a textbook on pattern grading online, and if any existed they were out of print and very expensive.

I was hoping this would be a good reference book for the kind of at home grading I want to do – luckily it seems to fill that need just fine!

I know there are a lot of you out there interested in this sort of thing be it for releasing your own patterns or just sizing up vintage patterns for your own use.


This book teaches you the shift method of grading while showing you pictures of slash and spread for reference (to show where space needs to be added in a particular pattern piece).

It covers the basic bodice, skirt, pant, sleeve, yoke, collar, waistband, facing and cuff pieces. If you understand the concepts of pattern drafting you can apply all these grading methods to more advanced pattern pieces (because in essence, every pattern piece is just a variation on a basic design).

Learning on these basic pieces are important because they show you where the pattern pieces “grow” and where they don’t (like how darts can often grow longer but not wider when grading).


The shifting concept is relatively easy but what you have to figure out about your grade are the “breakdowns,” the length and width increase between each grade. In the worksheet examples they give you precise measurements to shift each portion of the pattern piece up, down, out, or in. However when working on your own you need to figure out how much width and length to add and where based on your own measurement charts.


The book gives you some blank pattern pieces to practice with and a little ‘fill in the blank’ quiz in each section.

What’s nice about the shift method is that it’s easy to use in Adobe Illustrator but the pictures for the slash and spread method are helpful if you have a hard time visualizing the grade (like me). The book offers decimal conversions in addition to fractions for each shift point, nice when the computer only takes decimals.


Unfortunately this book is only printed in imperial, not metric measurements.


The book mostly covers women’s wear patterns but it discusses some of the changes you’ll need to apply to men’s and children’s patterns.

Overall the workbook is brief – less than 90 pages and it’s pretty uncomplicated. If you’re just starting with grading and want a good guide without paying an arm and a leg I’d definitely recommend it. For the price you can’t go wrong. There’s lots of space to add in your own notes and it’s spiral bound so it lays flat. I think this book’s going to get a lot of use in my sewing room…

Drape Drape book drop waist gathered dress


Laurence King Publishing was kind enough to send me a copy of Drape Drape by Hisako Sato to try out. It’s my first experience using a Japanese pattern book so I wasn’t sure how hard it would be or if the sizing would match me (Japanese ladies always seem to be a little shorter and lot thinner than Americans).

Hisako teaches you not how to drape on a dress form but rather the techniques that go into draping: gather drape, tuck drape, slack drape, and by combining them, drape drape. It’s a great intro into the concepts behind draping.


If you’ve never worked with Japanese sewing books and are considering buying one read this post and I’ll tell you all my opinions. 😉

I’ll talk about the dress I made first then discuss what I thought of the book.

The Goal: I wanted an easy first project from this book but I also wanted to make something that would be really wearable. Some of the designs in Drape Drape are pretty impracticable for me or aren’t my style but they’re all challenging creatively in someway.


The Pattern: I chose no. 3, the drop-waist gather drape dress. It’s got cute gathered sleeves in front and a partially gathered skirt. What’s cool is that it is all one big piece cut on the fold. The neckline piece wraps all the way around to the center back and the sleeves come forward over the shoulders to make a cap sleeve effect. The only real seam is the center back. For the neckline and armholes you just fold back the edge rather than needing facings or collars.


The Fabric: I used a black rayon/poly/lycra ponte knit from The Common Thread in Austin. It’s a little stretchy when it needs to be but it is also very stable and has good recovery and is easy to sew. The book doesn’t offer much in the way of recommended fabrics other than the fabric they use for the sample. Hisako used a wool jersey for the book version. I think the ponte worked perfectly for this project..


The Changes: The only big difference is that I didn’t put in a center back zip. I can easily pull the dress on. I did add a slit in the back with a button and elastic hook but after wearing the dress I don’t think I even needed to do that. Other than that I made a very small hem (I don’t think I even referenced what the hem was supposed to be) because it was already pretty short on me.


The Results: I am really surprised how much I like this dress. Not that I expected not to like it, I thought it was cute in the picture but I like it even more in real life! Since it’s black it’s versatile and the solid color brings the focus to the cool seaming. And since it’s a knit it is so comfy and wearable! Don’t you love a dress that is both cute and comfortable?!


By referencing the sizing chart (in centimeters) I decided that I was a L in the bust and waist and an XL in hips and height. I’m 5’6″ and this dress was supposed to be drop-waisted. I cut a straight L, figuring that with the gathers my larger hips could still fit easily but because of my height the waist line sits almost at my natural waist instead and the skirt is a wee bit short. Something to make note of. Slashing and spreading the pattern piece would make it easy to lengthen it.

The sizing ranges from prepubescent girl to Parisian runway model S to XL. For a reference the XL bust is only 35.5″.

Now, I know that gathering isn’t the most difficult of the Drape Drape draping techniques but it was a great starter project for the book and now I’m looking through and finding ideas for what I want to try next.

So let’s talk about the book itself.


The Layout: The images, like a lot of other Japanese books, are minimalist and editorial. Each project has a picture of the final product front and back on a dress form and there is also a detailed line drawing (really helpful for clothes photographed in dark colors).


In the front is a short section on the different types of techniques as well as stitches and seam finishes Hisako recommends. It’s useful enough to read through but not too packed with information that it would bore a more advanced seamstress.

This might be nitpicky but one thing I didn’t like was that every project name had the word “drape in it.” This might not seem bad but when you’re flipping through trying to find a specific project or looking for your pattern pieces and every project has a similar name, it is easy to get confused.


The Designs: These designs may not be for everyone. They’re not exactly “safe” styles, if you know what I mean. You’d need to be sans-bra most of the time if you were to wear these designs on their own. However after making this dress I’ve been thinking outside the box. The cape jacket would make a great layering piece.


The loose flare drape dress or the loose drape tank top could easily be a fun beach cover up. The v-neck drape drape dress would be gorgeous any way you style it.


Making the loose drape frilled tunic or the gather drape blouse with some tap pants in a nice silk would make an adorable lounging pajama set.

Not every design uses knit and many knit designs could be made with wovens if you’re not that comfortable sewing knits just yet.


The Instructions: This book was translated from the original Japanese and at times can read a little awkward. There are a few terms here and there that I’d never heard used in sewing before but nothing that I couldn’t figure out. Sometimes the instructions are just an order of work and aren’t very detailed but the text is made up for by the great illustrations. That’s seriously the best part of the book. Some of the pattern pieces look CA-RAY-ZAY but the drawings help bring everything together in a logical fashion with lots of arrows and notes.


The Patterns: All the pattern pieces are printed on both sides of two big sheets of paper. Each sheet can fit easily on a table, unlike Burda Magazine pages which are the length of a football field. However like some other books/magazines with layered pattern pieces they expect you to trace there is no real differentiation between pattern pieces or sizes by color changes or dashed cutting lines. But, on the other hand there are seam allowances included (praise Jesus!!) and lots of notches and notations.


Overall Drape Drape is a really cool little book. If you’re an advanced beginner who has worked with patterns before you’ll no doubt find at least one design that you’ll like and can make fairly easily. If you’re a more advanced seamstress some of the complex designs will really peak your interest.
But, if you normally need to do several fit adjustments on patterns and/or you are bigger than Twiggy you may find it difficult to re-size some of these pattern pieces.

I’m really glad I got to test out this book ’cause now I have an awesome new dress!