Saturday, November 23, 2013

Burdastyle Coat-dress 1: Planning a couture project

There is hardly a morning in Nicosia without the sun. Weekend breakfasts take place on the terrace among blossoming bougainvilleas, jasmine, gardenias, or  even roses, and it is difficult to comprehend that the winter is almost here. In summer, the island looks mostly like a desert. Now, in November, when the first rains start watering the thirsty soil, nature wakes up and spreads it's green cover across the valleys and hills, followed by rivers - virtually dried up in summer, but gaining strength now, conquerring their riverbeds again. Even birds suddenly reappear after a long summer break

Only when the dusk starts falling, and the temperatures rapidly drop, we pull on warmer clothes, cocooning in wool, making fire and heating houses that soak up all the warmth they can get. This is when you wish you made some progress with your coat dress during the day...

...Oh well, back to business. On my facebook page, I promised you some dress planning notes and so, here they are.

First of all, when I start working on a complex project that is based on a commercial pattern, I like to read instructions and note the steps, the techniques that may be different than in the pattern instructions, or where I am not yet sure how to proceed. If the project is not based on a commercial pattern I would write up a brief order of sewing, which helps organize the project better. Maybe I am a control freak but I like to know where I am with the project.

As I go, I write what (couture) techniques I am going to use for every step, or what extra steps are needed to improve the quality of the garment. Let's take Burda instructions for this dress, for example.


"Clip allowances of fronts and back into corners. Then stitch each sleeve to armhole edge, from corner to corner... "

These inward corners absolutely need to be stabilized, and this is not part of the instructions! I guess Burdastyle designers assume we know it. So, it is really up to you to figure out what techniques you will use - making the planning process even more important.

But let's rewind a little and cover the fabrics and the steps that precede sleeves.


I got my fabrics, here, the raspberry colored wool, in a slightly darker and warmer hue, to give you an idea. (The blue wool is for a skirt)

It is an easy decision with this style and the wool. I will pick organza underlining and silk crepe-de-chine or charmeuse/satin for lining. That's enough layers to be able to wear the dress over a light turtleneck sweater for a more casual occasion. In addition, silk organza will protect the wool from wrinkling - perfect for travel and packing.

All fabrics will need to be pre-treated before I baste the underlining to the main fabric - I will try to put together a post with some tips.

I will also line sleeves ( I don't know why Burda doesn't), so I will have to adjust the sleeve pattern for lining and include it in my lining fabric calculation.


Darts on wool can be bulky and, unless you balance them on both sides of the stitching line, one side will just look bulgy and unsightly. In addition, I would like to topstitch them, as in the original dress, and this makes it even more important that the fabric is distributed evenly on both sides.

Topstitching on the Gucci dress. Source:

I won't be talking much about stabilizing seam allowances by catch stitching them to underlining and similar steps. You will see as I go.


"Press sleeve hem allowances to inside and sew in place by hand"
The hem allowance will be catch-stitched to the organza underlining - noone will detect a  single stitch from the right side of the fabric. Perfect example of why it is good to underline.

But what's more important here is the use of a faced hem. A strip of fabric (organza or something heavier) is placed on the hem crease line, making the crease softer and rounder.


Burdastyle recommends using hook-and-eye tape and snaps. The Gucci dress has a hidden button closure - easier to close and more reliable. I think this one is up to you. I am not sure yet what option to choose, but I like the idea of a hook-and-eye tape with a contrasting placket to prevent hook-and-eyes from digging into skin.


That's it for today. My notes are longer, and I will have to continue tomorrow or on Monday. Things are busy around here these two months and I will have to balance quite a few projects (most sewing) at the same time, but there are some good news on the way which I will share with you, of course!

By the way, if you want to see other sewers progress with their Christmas dresses, here is the link to the German Me Made Mittwoch blog. It is a great blog, for every Wednesday, all German- and non-German speaking bloggers upload images of their Me-Made projects. I love this format more than the original me-made-(month), because it is only once a week and more or less stress-free. And now, the lovely seamstresses behind the blog are hosting this dress sew-along, which I was too keen to participate in.

Back to the dress - please do comment, ask questions, make suggestions - I love it all!


  1. I'm so happy that you are back to blogging! And I just love your posts about couture techniques!
    You were asking for questions, so here are mine:
    I'm still not getting the underlining thing. For some fabrics, I'm really afraid that underlining them will make the whole garment too stiff. That happened to me once when making a silk dress and underlining it with silk organza. In the end, I would have liked the dress much more if it would have been more drapey. But I still don't know which material to use instead for underlining a flowy fabric?
    Then, why does the hem of a sleeve or a dress have to be round in couture sewing? Shouldn't it be pressed either?
    Hope that you still love all comments and questions ;)
    I'm looking forward to see your progress on the Gucci-burda dress!

  2. I love hearing about your planning! I sometimes fall short with this. I'll get to a point in a project and decide that I don't want to do as written and then have to figure things out. It wastes time!

  3. Welcome back! Could you do a separate post on balancing darts, please? I am curious to know how you do it.

  4. I always learn something new from your posts. Will have to remember the silk organza in the hemline to give it a softer look. Will be reading along as you make this amazing dress to capture more tips to apply to my own sewing!

    1. Thank you Carolyn! It is always nice to hear a compliment from a seasoned sewer like yourself! Hems can be interfaced with different fabrics, one important thing is matching the weight of both. I will experiment, but I think I will go with something heavier than organza.

  5. So excited to hear more. I always learn so much from your projects and everything I learn adds so much to my own sewing. So glad to have you back as I have said about a hundred times already :)

  6. Ich bin sehr gespannt auf dein Kleid (Schnitt und Farbe passen grandios zusammen!) und freue mich auf deine Ausführungen zu den Abnähern und allen anderen nähtechnischen Extras!
    Liebe Grüße,

    1. Danke, Nastjusha! Ich würde auch gerne das alles auf Deutsch schreiben, nur ist die Zeit leider sehr knapp. Lass mich aber bitte wissen wenn etwas nicht verständlich ist - ich werde versuchen es auf Deutsch zu erklären!

  7. This dress is adorable. I am sure you will make stunning couture piece!

  8. I always learn so much for you. I am glad you are settled and back to writing again. Your fabric choice looks lovely and I can't wait to follow along as you share your progress.

  9. I like the softer hem for this that the interfacing will give. I remember reading a comment on someones blog, I don't remember whose, that blogger needed to give her hem a good press. Duh. It's going to be gorgeous. I hope that you'll show how you stabilize the corner.

    1. Hi Nancy! Thanks for coming by again :) There are a few ways to stabilize corners I learnt, I will try to show at least the one I used for my dress.

  10. i just did my first balanced dart last week-- i think it was from your tutorial at burdastyle? whether it was yours or not... you are, as ever, inspiring.

    1. yay, someone is using it :) so nice to hear familiar voices, Oona - I mean read, but still. I am starting to miss the Garment District and the outings :)

  11. I like your idea of adding couture touches to a "normal" pattern, very inspiring indeed. Your dress is going to be perfect!

  12. I like your interesting and detailed posts, thanks for joining the weihnachtskleid-Sew-Along!
    I forgot to mention that we like to have a backlink to the Me-Made-Blog in your posts as it is usual in all sew-alongs. It would be nice if you can complement this, thank you!
    All the best, Katharina

    1. Sure, Katharina! It's done :) thanks for visiting

  13. Thank you for taking the time to share your process! Adding couture details and construction, and detecting areas of a pattern's construction which can be improved upon are the kind of things I aspire towards in my own sewing, and it's very inspiring to be able to look ahead at where you are and learn from your superior experience :) Looking forward to your pre-treating tips! :)

  14. Thank you for sharing your planning thinking and notes. I look forward to following your progress!

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  16. I always understand something new from your content. Will have to keep in ideas the sleek smooth soft silk content in the hemline to provide it a better look. Will be studying along as you create this awesome dress to catch more suggestions to implement to my own sewing!

  17. Great Color as well as the dress. Continue success,

  18. The dress is beautiful, just like in the picture. The seller has great customer service and I received my dress way in advance of the expected delivery date! Thank you designer!
    Rebecca Minkoff Purses

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