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Get to know BurdaStyle member and variation designer Melissa Fehr (aka: squirrellypoo) and check out a behind the scenes look at the creation of her beautiful project based on our Dress Pattern from The BurdaStyle Sewing Handbook!

When I heard there was a BurdaStyle book being planned, I just knew I wanted to be a part of it! I had been a beta tester for BurdaStyle before the site even launched, and I’ve always felt that it was such a great resource for encouraging more people to sew and be creative and share ideas.

So last year I expressed my interest to be a contributor, and I was invited to submit some ideas for pattern alterations on two patterns for the book. I sat down with the details for the dress and coat patterns and just brainstormed for a week, drawing up loads and loads of ways I could take those basic patterns and morph them into something totally new. Some ideas were simple like, What if I lost the coat sleeves, shortened it at the waist and made it in fur? Or, What if I added sleeves to the dress, lengthened the centre front and made it a wrap dress? Eventually I paired down my sketches to about eight and submitted them for consideration.

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I wasn’t really expecting any of my submissions to be picked for the book (my drawing skills have gone way downhill since high school art classes!), so I was ecstatic to learn that not only was I picked to be a contributor, but my dress variation was picked to be one of only two dress pattern variations in the entire book! Then it dawned on me that the tight deadlines would coincide with the few months I needed to sew my wedding gown! So I did some hardcore time management and set aside the better part of a month last summer to document my pattern alteration, write the new sewing instructions and sew up the sample for the book, PLUS get it sent off and done before the deadline!

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It’s a good thing I’ve had so much practice writing out my instructions for you all whenever I come across incomprehensible pattern instructions (or ones in languages I don’t speak!) as I found the process of writing the instructions for this much easier than I was anticipating. And even though I’m no drafting whizz, I’m fine at altering existing patterns, and it helped that I was thinking in terms of pattern alteration when I came up with my proposals (rather than just sketching based on whim!). I tried to create the instructions exactly how I myself would sew a garment like this, with sensible finishing techniques and hints about things like underlining and invisible zips.

The dress which was chosen I had designed based on a dress I had seen a few years ago when I’d attended London Fashion Week, in a show by the Irish designer Paul Costelloe. He featured a princess seamed dress where the seam curled around into a pocket at the bottom, with contrast fabric on the sides of the dress, and this style just got filed into the back of my head as a great, wearable look to pursue further some day. I added the tie collar onto the original V neckline as I think it’s a really great accent since you can wear it with the ties long, or tied into a bow for a pussycat look, or even fasten with a vintage brooch if you’d rather.

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I also like that my design only needs a small amount of fabric for the side panels and tie collar, so you can get away with only buying a small amount of really posh silk and use a cheaper, coordinating fabric for the rest of the dress. I made my sample in two different silk crepes, and I’m always amazed at how many sewists are intimidated by silk! Silks are probably my favourite fabric to sew – they take a nice crease and are wonderful to wear, and only need a few extra seam treatments to give you a lifetime of joy from the garment. And silk garments are one place you really can save money sewing your own over buying RTW – have you seen the cost of a silk dress these days??

I can’t wait to hold the finished book in my hands and see all the other contributions from my friends online!

5 Comments

  • Jane_large

    Feb 13, 2012, 06.10 AMby janesweetdresses

    awesome.. thank you for sharing.. i love the dress.. and your book as well..

  • Missing

    Feb 8, 2012, 09.27 PMby hankorange

    Melissa, I love the dress you created! Bold and classy! Now I think I must try working with silk! Thank you for sharing your dress! amy

  • Ee8014d4ca996c57355c462f568cd1e7ab199fe2_large

    Feb 6, 2012, 06.01 PMby mirela

    Congratulations Melissa for the book and this article too! The dress is beautiful, so classy! P.S. Silk is my favorite fabric too!

  • Missing

    Feb 4, 2012, 01.03 AMby rochelle49

    Melissa what a grand idea! I like your suggestions of materials, too. Congratulations on having your designs admitted to the Burdastyle book!

  • 150x125_large

    Feb 3, 2012, 09.47 PMby squirrellypoo

    Oh this is a nice surprise! I had no idea this was going up today or I would’ve coordinated the post on FehrTrade.com too…

    • This is a question
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