The corset pattern that no one likes: Butterick B5797

 

corset B5797 on me

Butterick B5797 is not a very popular pattern. It is a so-called “fashion corset”, which will NOT give the support or desired waist-cinching effect of a real corset. It definitely offers some support though.

However, I was looking for something I could wear out dancing (currently preparing for Uproar in the Dam), something that would give me the look of a corset, while also offering light support. Most importantly, I didn’t want to deal with grommets or clasps. I wanted something I could whip up and then close with a zip.

Seeing the pattern, I thought it was perfect for me. I really liked the option to put shoulder straps on, although I ended up not doing it, as I found it supported itself nicely (with a bit of additional boning) and stayed up without any problems.

Sizing

The sizing on Butterick patterns is relatively confusing to me. I tend to go for a US size 14, which would put me at a UK 16. Famously, there is usually some ease calculated into the pattern size one is meant to choose. If I went by their sizing chart, I would end up at a size 20, which I would absolutely swim in. As B5797 is only available in size 6-14 or 14-22, I thought I’d rather take in something that is too big, so I went for the bigger one.

I made the size 14, but graded the chest area up to a 16. It fit pretty ok when I made a muslin, but it was very hard to see the final form before putting the bones in. Once I had done that, I ended up taking the back and front seam in by about 1 cm each.

I must say though, I am pretty glad I got away with using the size 14. There is almost no pattern I can use in just one size without either grading it down in the waist or grading it up in the bust and hips, but I find Butterick especially difficult and often find significant sizing differences between their patterns.

Fabric

I used black duchess satin for the outside of the corset and lined it with a purple owl print cotton. The satin is quite thick and a lovely quality. However, I overlocked all the edges on it, as it frays terribly.

The owl print is so cute, I could wear the corset inside out. It is possible, although closing and opening a zip from the inside is quite hard. Also, unfortunately, the lining has some wrinkling issues.

B5797 lining front

This is the wonky looking lining. As this was my first time putting in a floating lining, I underestimated how precisely it had to match the outside to lay flat.

Boning

The boning I used was Rigilene. It is very lightweight, but gave exactly the support I want. Contrary to the pattern, I added boning channels on the outside of all the seams (except the front seam) by making my own binding out of the satin I used. I also added additional boning by putting two more boning channels on the inside of either side of the garment, as well as two boning channels next to the zip.

Rigilene can be sewn through. It feels a bit like cheating, but it was the only way I could get additional boning in, as I decided to do that quite late. Some of the boning channels cross, so with steel or even “normal”plastic boning, that would have been a much more difficult task. In addition, once I did the topstitching, I could just sew over the ends of the boning to secure it.

B5797 stitch detail

You can see the boning channels I added to the outside, as well as one of the ones I stitched on the inside of the corset shell.

Making corsets is fun

I very much enjoyed making this and will probably make it again. I really like the look it gives me without being uncomfortably tight. I plan on wearing this with a colourful tulle skirt, which I am also currently working on, but I am sure it would also look good with jeans or a circle skirt and petticoat.

I know it is not perfect. There is an amount of rippling in the fabric that any corsetmaker would snuff at, my topstitching is never entirely straight and the lining has all sorts of wrinkling problems. For my very first corset, I thought it was a great project though.

 

B5797 back

B5797 corset flat

B5797 side detail

B 5797 front 2

 

A self-drafted coat (in camouflage) made with Burda 6921

camouflage coat Burda 6921 me side 2

This week, I am well excited. After what seems like an eternity, my new camouflage coat finally came together. And as if that was not enough, the weather decided to get colder and give me a chance to wear the coat out every day now. I am so happy with this one, I would have hated to leave it hanging in the wardrobe.

Yesterday was a sunny day and I got my husband to take pictures of me in the coat! He seems to like it a lot, as he keeps telling people that it is really nice.

A bit about the pattern

This is my third time working with Burda 6921 and I decided to change a few things and also add a hood. What I love about the pattern is the way the collar/back of the coat works. Even though I didn’t do a collar at all, the hood still stands up somewhat against the back of my neck, so that I never get too chilly there.

Burda 6921 is pretty well-suited to an hourglass figure, which makes it a great base pattern for me.

The sizing is fairly accurate. I am a German size 42 (UK 14), so that is what I traced and cut and it fit me pretty well. This seems to be true for all Burda patterns, or at least the ones I have encountered before. The only adjustment I made is grading down to a size 40 (UK 12) around the waist.

I pretty much never go off the size charts on the back of any pattern, as that would put me at a UK 22. I did this only once, with my very first pattern, which ended up looking like I was lost in a stylish potato sack. (I am currently working on a Butterick pattern and there the size is always such guesswork…) With Burda at least, I know I can use my “store” size.

On the other hand, Burda patterns require you to add seam allowances. That’s ok when you do it once, but every time I get this pattern out, I have to do it again and it’s starting to annoy me. Next time, I will make new pattern pieces on Swedish tracing paper that will include seam allowances.

What did I add?

I self-drafted a hood. This is my second time attempting a hood and I think I did rather well. It is definitely big enough for my head and would have probably accommodated my dreads when they were longer as well.

I also made some small alterations to the width of lower half of the sleeves, as I thought that a wider sleeve would suit the look of the coat better.

I widened the lapel and added a zip to be closed on the side front of the coat. Again, I didn’t think buttons would be suitable for this coat.

Normally, the inside of the lapel is meant to be made of the same material as the outside of the coat. However, my husband convinced me to use the lining fabric instead and I think he was absolutely right.

This is the original sketch I made for this coat

This is the original sketch I made for this coat

 

The Fabrics I used

The outside fabric is a ripstop I bought from ebay. It is very sturdy and originally meant for military uses. It’s wind-resistant and shower-proof.

For the lining, I bought a shiny polyester satin. While it was cheap and looks really nice, it was certainly a pain to work with and kept fraying very very badly. Next time, I will overlock the edges before working with it.

 

And here it is in all its glory

I do apologise for the dorky faces I pull…

 

camouflage coat Burda 6921 me front

 

camouflage coat Burda 6921 back me

 

camouflage coat front me Burda 6921

 

camouflage coat walking

 

camouflage coat hood Burda 6921 me

And here is a bonus picture of the grumpy jerk that tried to prevent this coat from happening 😉

you are not sewing now

 

Burda 6921: a work in progress

A few months ago,  I made view A of Burda 6921 and am actually still getting lots of wear out of it (since the summer has proven to be a bit rainy and cold for this time of year).

Still though, I haven’t completely given up hope to see more of the sun this year and am currently making it again, in a shorter version, to be worn in the morning/evening on hot summer days.

The front panels of this one are going to be shorter than the others, so it looks a bit victorian (or what I imagine that to look like). I changed the collar to be a bit bigger, as the small collar bothered me on the original. The sleeves will be button-fastened at the wrists, so that I can unbutton and then roll them up. That is, if my shipment of buttons ever arrives at my door…

I made the decision to add a lapped slit in the sleeves with three buttons for a closure on a whim when cutting out the pattern, so I ordered some more of the buttons I had intended for the front, but guess what? DHL is on strike again… I know I could add different buttons to the whole coat and just go and buy them, but I really like the ones I already have for the front closure…

Well, I’m sure I’ll still be working on sewing it together till the end of the week, so DHL, you have 4 days to deliver. Also, it would be really nice if I could get that parcel from the UK, which, according to RM tracking, arrived in Germany on the 4th (19 days ago…)

Ok, I’m sorry. I will stop ranting now. I guess I should use the time to actually finish this coat. Let me tell you though, it is quite a bit of work.

Despite not being overly difficult (it is classed by Burda as intermediate) – and if you make a few shortcuts (as I do), it’s not overly tedious either – it still takes an amazing amount of time to make a coat.

I am a lazy seamstress and try to avoid all the handsewing the instructions suggest. I didn’t baste a single stitch on the original and only handsewed the very middle of the hem to finish it up. Everything else was machine-sewed. And yet, it took me about two weeks (mostly evenings and weekends) to finish everything.

The most difficult thing is probably fitting the collar on. I am still on the fence about having the whole lapel on the front panel of the coat. I know that this is the proper way of doing it, but, as a home sewer, I think it would be easier if it was a separate piece. As it is, the instructions ask for the sides of the back collar to be sewn onto the top of the lapel first, then for the bottom of the back collar to be sewn onto the back. It is rather awkward and the instructions are a bit unclear if you’ve never made a coat with a lapel before. Both times, it took me an entire evening to sort out the collar and lapel.

I think that this is something most people say about burda patterns in general though. Often, their instructions make you feel like you should already know more about sewing than you do, and are taking for granted that you know what they’re talking about. Things are not as well explained as on other companies’ patterns.

I might be wrong here, but in my experience, this is pretty much a tradition for all things German. We are expected to know stuff already or have been shown it by our mums/nans/aunts or whatever other female with sewing skills available. Never would we turn to a pattern to learn how to do the stitches it requires. 😛

I always find it such a luxury to work with a non-German pattern, where seam allowances are included and instructions are super detailed… (This, btw, also goes for recipe books…)

Oh yeah, I forgot to say, this pattern does not include seam allowances. The first time I made it, I looked at the pattern pieces and thought “hmm, they look a bit small”… Luckily, I had only cut into Swedish tracing paper at that point.

And here is my work in progress:

 

 

I haven’t sewn the lining into it yet and the whole thing needs to be hemmed. Then of course, I will need to make button holes and sew some buttons on.

The summer dress made of “blue lizard” fabric

When I got all my new fabrics, I knew which one I wanted to work on first. Even though my husband said I would look like a blue lizard in an item made of this, it just had to be the ridiculous snakefoil jersey, didn’t it?

It’s a pretty lightweight fabric with plenty of stretch, so I knew a summer dress would be possible. Where I would wear such a thing, is still a mystery to me, but I somehow couldn’t keep away from the fabric. Maybe it was because it is so shiny, or maybe I have a yearning for outrageous dance clothing to an extent that even I didn’t realise. Somewhere in my mind, it says that it would be perfectly ok to wear a dress made of blue lizard fabric to a summer festival.

In any case, making the pattern was really easy. I simply used the pattern I made from taking apart my old dress in this post and changed the neckline so it wouldn’t be as low as it was before. I basically just cut the whole top of the bodice as a square to adjust later.

The neckline I had in mind, would be gathered at the top and end in a collar around the neck. I actually ended up pleating it, cause I felt too lazy to gather.

I also attempted to make more of a molded shape for me, not by adding darts but by cutting out and reshaping a whole section of the bust:

DSCI0210

 

 

I forgot to line up the seams with the skirt seams, so I need to remember to redo that for future dresses. I added a waistband to “hide” that fact a bit, or at least in my mind, make it look a bit less obvious.

This is the dress:

The back of the skirt is slightly longer, although I realise now that to really get the effect I wanted, the difference in length between front and back should have been larger. Since I only had about 1.5 metres of fabric, that was not an option though.

The waist sits a bit lower than I wanted and the bust seams sit just a bit under the bust, so I will redo the collar and shorten the bodice a touch.  The whole dress was sewn with my overlock machine.

To finish the edges, I used the rolled-hem foot of my overlocker. This is the second time I have used it, and while the hems are not as rolled as they could be, I really like the finish.

Here is the finish on the arm:

 

DSCI0215

And here it is on the skirt:

DSCI0216

 

 

DSCI0217

 

 

Unfortunately, the fabric has a tendency to lose it’s colour. While trying it on, I suddenly saw lots of white specks all over the front of the dress. When I tried to brush them away (don’t know what I was thinking), more appeared! It seems the blue “varnish” comes off the edges of the little metal plates that the coating is made of. I wonder how that would fare in a washing machine. I probably have to hand wash it, and even then I’d be worried about the loss of colour.

I am very tempted to do this again and improve on it, but since the quality of the fabric makes it so hard to rework it or even wear it more than once, I think I might have to find a better fabric first.

Butterick pattern B5209

I have made one dress from this pattern, so far. I can tell you already though that I will be using it again, and again, and again.

It’s pretty much a perfect fit in my size without any alterations. When you’re used to trying to do full-bust adjustments and taking in everything around your waist, this is just amazing. If anything, it is maybe a bit too small around my waist (while still having enough room for my boobs, yay!)

This leads me to think that vintage patterns from the 1940s are something I should look out for. On the pictures, the drawings are very much showing an exaggerated hourglass-figure, but I was worried that this wouldn’t mean the pattern itself was actually made for that, especially since it has been updated to fit modern sizing.

Here are the pattern pieces for the top part:

the pattern pieces

 

I am quite high-waisted, so the midsection of the dress is a tad long, which leads to it being a bit small. Next time, I will simply take it up about an inch and then add the skirt. So yes, it’s not quite perfect for me, but taking out an inch is a really small and easy adjustment.

I also made this dress into a maxi-dress, as I wanted to originally make a 70s-style garment, but reckoned that this would be the closest pattern to what I wanted.

I am still on the mission to make the 70s dress from this post, but summer is fast approaching… Also, I have had this chiffon fabric for about a year and I finally wanted to make something with it.

What I really love about this dress is that it’s actually a halter-neck in version A and then you simply add a back and sleeves to make version B. This is so clever and I would have never thought of it. Plus, it looks really good!

The construction was very easy. Just like every Butterick pattern, the B5209 comes with detailed instructions and pattern markings. All the stitches used in the instructions are explained in a glossary.

This is the front top pieces all sewn together:

 

front piece

I didn’t use a lining, but the instructions are very clear about how to insert one.

Most of the trouble I had while making this garment were fabric-related. The chiffon was a nightmare to cut, as it was sliding all over the place. By the time I got to the skirt, I realised there’s no way I didn’t need to overlock all the seams, as it was fraying like crazy, so I switched from my normal machine to my overlocker.

I actually finished with a more or less rolled hem. It isn’t really making those typical waves, but I do think it looks rather nice. This was the first time that I used my overlocker’s rolled hem presser foot and I found it to work really well, even though I clearly don’t have the tensions right yet.

The finished product looks a bit more elegant than hippy, to be honest, but I still think it is really lovely and I will make sure I wear it this summer (with an appropriate undergarment).

 

Other dresses I made from this pattern can be found here, here and here.

The Merrylock 3040 – a review

In my search for a coverlock machine, I inevitably stumbled on the very reasonably priced Merrylock 3040.

At 329 €, it is the cheapest coverlocker I have seen anywhere. I even searched ebay and most used machines still go at a higher price on there. It is also just within my price range. I cannot (yet) imagine spending 500 € or more on a sewing machine.

Although he price in itself also gave me some doubts. A machine that cheap could only be terrible, right?

Well, it has two reviews on German Amazon, which give it 4 and 5 stars respectively. Technical information about the coverlocker is sparse though. They both say they are happy with it, nothing about the actual functionality.

So I scoured the internet for some reviews. They are incredibly hard to find and involve going through old forum discussions on German sewing websites. I also found one (and that was the only one) blog entry in English, which dated back to 2011.

It seemed to me that most people who own one or had owned one either hate it or learn to get along with it. The general consensus seemed to be that it has a few quirks, but that if you can live with them, it gives you good results.

I was willing to give that a go. If I found it really unusable, I could always return it.

Here’s what I think about the Merrylock 3040:

First, it doesn’t look of inferiour quality to me. It is made of plastic, like most machines now.

You can use it to make coverstitches with one, two and three needles. I generally use it with two needles to give my jerseys the finish that is used in manufactured clothing.

The manual is a little bit useless if you want to work on knit fabrics. I really don’t understand what this machine was made for or why you would buy a coverlocker if you didn’t want to use it on knit fabrics… It gives you all kinds of ideas for what tension to use for which fabric, as long as it’s not a knit.

That aside, changing thread is quite easy with the tweezers provided. It comes in a little plastic box, together with some screwdrivers and extra needles.

The tension is really “interesting”. I have cursed this machine several times while trying to get little balls of knotted thread out of its interior. Luckily, it is very easy to get to. It didn’t seem to matter how I changed the individual thread tensions though, everything seemed to yield the same result. I am not very patient, so in the end, I looked up the tension for the two-needle stitch in the manual (!) and adjusted it to be slightly looser (by 0.5 on the dial) for the knit. And that was all the magic it needed, apparently.

Now it stitches very neat seams. I have also not yet missed any stitches or snapped a thread while sewing.

I have used it on two different fabrics: one a jersey knit and the other a very thin polyamid knit. In both cases, it does not seem to like going over the slightly thicker bits of any hem where the seams meet. If I’m too quick in trying to go over them, the differential feed will move the fabric forward more on one side than the other, or not at all. I have sort of “solved” this by using the hand wheel when going over those bits and lifting the foot to give the fabric more room. That works fine for me, but takes a bit of time.

This is actually my one problem with the machine. The foot is just so low. There is barely enough room to get the fabric in there to begin sewing and I cannot imagine what it would do to a thicker fabric than I have used thus far. I also find that the differential feed protrudes from the plate quite a bit more than on my overlocker (a Huskylock 560 ED). While I am sure that this is part of the problem, if you could loosen the foot just a little bit, I’m sure all fabrics would fare much better. As it is, even on the lowest setting, it is very tight.

In short:

The Merrylock 3040 is absolutely ok for the price. It is not a huge joy to work with, but I am willing to live with that while I can’t afford a better one. It makes beautiful stitches as long as there aren’t too many layers of fabric or crossing seams. If there was more room between the foot and the differential feed, I’m sure it would yield perfect results.

As a sidenote:

I read that the seam-crossing problem can be alleviated with a so-called “midwife” (although that might be a purely German term). Apparently one can make it out of an old credit card by cutting a square out of the middle of one of the sides. The card then goes under the foot with the cut-out square positioned where the needles go into the thread. This is meant to even out the foot. I have not tried it yet.

 

Update!

Since I bought the machine, there have been several reviews by German bloggers under the hashtag missionundercover.

I found the ones by Prülla, and by Johys Bunte Welt to be the most helpful.

Even if you don’t speak German, I recommend looking at them, as they show how the stitches look on jersey. Everyone seems to have that problem with overlapping/crossing seams though. 🙁

Update II

I have been sewing with this machine for almost a year now and when I made this recent dress, I realised that I am not having as many problems as I had when I started. Please have a look at that post to see how nice my coverlocked hems come out now.

The beautiful 70s GDR sewing magazine

... and how I tried to make sense of it.

A little while ago, I was looking for some patterns for a 70s dress (which I still want to make, but I will cover that in another post). It seems that most modern patterns don't have the style that I want for this, so I turned to ebay to find some vintage patterns or magazines from the time.

I only saw the cover of this 1970s magazine, but I instantly loved it. Admittedly, it being a GDR sewing magazine might have played a role in this decision. It is a lovely glimpse into the past, and (so I thought) I could ask relatives and work colleagues, who had inevitably made their own clothes at that time, to help me.

However, not being able to see inside, I didn't know what I was in for. First, I loved the look of it, even though it was already falling apart in my hands. The cover came off pretty much as soon as I opened it, but I didn't really expect anything else. It is a very thin magazine, but there are a number of patterns to be found.

On the few pages, one can find (very wide) trousers, lots of blouses, some jackets and skirts, and most importantly, a lot of dresses.

 Here are some examples

Since printing a whole magazine in colour was expensive and therefore unusual, some of the pictures are in black and white. I don't think this is a problem, as it's the cuts I'm interested in. However, describing something as having red binding to make it stand out and then showing a black-and-white picture seems somewhat crazy.

I had looked up GDR sizing before, but the pattern actually gives the indicated measurements. I will explain it here:

size  m76 m82 m88  m94
bust (in cm/in)  84/33  90/35  96/38 102/40
waist (in cm/in)  58/23 70/28 76/30 82/32
hips (in cm/in)  90/35 96/38 102/40 108/43

 There are bigger sizes, as well as short and tall sizes, but the ones above are the standard that seems to be used for most of the patterns.

My initial thought was to just use the patterns in m94, which is closest to my measurements, and adjust it slightly in the hip and bust area.

Little did I know that the items in this magazine were only meant to be sewn in the size they were displayed in. Therefore, the pattern for each piece of clothing is only in one size. That size is mostly m82. I'm going to have to adjust them dramatically to fit me.

Now, let me give you a glimpse of the beautiful maze that is the pattern pieces:

 

My current method for copying the things I actually want to sew consists of taking the pattern, pinning swedish tracing paper on top, copying the lines onto that with a marker, then cutting them out. I know I should really invest in some copying paper and a tracing wheel...

The swedish tracing paper has the massive advantage of me being able to see what the patterns look like, sew them together as a very rough mock-up and manipulate them however I want.

For this maze of patterns, I am going to mark the patterns I want with colour pencils and then try and trace them. It's going to be really hard not to destroy the brittle paper (which is newspaper quality).