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Emily

the stash collection: vogue 8772

For a long time, I didn’t give much thought to making blouses. I wasn’t interested in designing them or sewing them, and after many a too tight sleeve or lackluster fit, I had all but given up on women’s blouses and developed a habit of shopping in the men’s department for shirts. To be fair, the guys have all the best colors, and I never had to worry about the sleeves being too snug or the buttons pulling across the bust. Those days, thankfully, are behind me, even if I do still have a few men’s shirts hanging on my side of the closet. The more I saw myself in the mirror wearing a men’s shirt, the more noticeable it became to me. It’s a cute look in the summer, with the shirttail tied around the waist and the sleeves rolled up, but it’s not entirely practical in other situations. So, my search for the perfect blouse began.

The moment I saw Vogue 8772 in the pattern book, I knew it was meant to be. The versatility of this particular pattern was especially appealing, to make no mention of the darts which give the blouse a lovely shape. The pussy bow option? Stop it, I’ll make it in every color on the planet before it’s all said and done. And the blouse with the classic collar is just that, a classic. I think the short sleeve option would be absolutely darling with a cuff added. So vintage and summery! So, after careful measuring of the pattern and myself (twice, per the rule!), I cut the pattern for the first time in chambray, the very chambray in this post. The great thing about blouses is that they shouldn’t be too tight, so getting the fit right is less of a challenge than a dress or pants. I didn’t make any fitting adjustments to the pattern which is part luck, part no need because it’s just fine as is.

For the latest version, I chose this navy blue poplin print. I found it at the fabric market in Amsterdam last spring, and I’m so excited I finally had the right project for it. It fit right in with the other fabrics in this little stash collection.

I’ve made this blouse three times now, and I enjoy making it even more every time. I think that’s the beauty of working with a pattern more than once–you’ve worked out any kinks and construction is smooth and enjoyable. Back in December, I blogged about the red plaid linen version of this blouse, which I love. However, I didn’t get into the particulars about the fit, and a number of you have asked me about that.

This blouse is designed to be fitted, so expect a blouse that follows the shape of your torso. There are front and back darts, as well as a small shoulder dart in the back. I have bigger arms, so I can tell you with confidence that these sleeves are great. Plenty of room, yet not too big.

As much as I love a good full skirt, I think this blouse would be absolutely unstoppable with a super fitted, ultra sleek pencil skirt, one that falls to mid-calf and really elongates your legs. Now my mind is swirling with ideas . . . maybe I need a new pencil skirt? Nah, I’ll save that project for later. Back to the blouse: I edgestitched the neck ties, which the pattern doesn’t tell you to do. I think it’s a nice detail.

The buttons required some extra attention. They are slightly unusual, with one single bar down the middle, so they tended to slide around as I attached them. Normally, I can sew buttons on without using the matchstick technique, but this time I actually used one to help keep the button in place as I sewed it. Doing this also helps keep the button from being sewn completely flat against the fabric. Too tight buttons won’t button easily and will create ugly puckers.

The pattern instructs you to sew the button plackets the opposite way I’ve done them here. My fabric has an obvious right and wrong side, so I had to fold the placket towards the inside. Otherwise, the wrong side of the fabric would show on the right side, which wouldn’t have been good.

In contrast, the chambray blouse looks like this:

Here’s a quick tip for marking darts: use your awl and punch drill holes in your fabric at the circles on the pattern. Tracing paper and a tracing wheel works well too, but I don’t always like getting tracing paper on my fabric. Drill holes are an industry technique used to mark pocket placement, darts, buttonholes, etc. I will punch a hole 1/2″ from the top and bottom of the dart, and then drill slightly to the inside of the circle so that when I sew next to the drill hole, I’m actually sewing exactly where I need to.

I have this blouse cut out (and half assembled) in white poplin, so I’m excited to finish that one soon. Then, I’m moving on to some new patterns for spring. Can’t wait to show you! As always, let me know if you have any questions. Happy sewing!

the stash collection: butterick 6129

When you set out to create a new wardrobe essentially from scratch, as I did last year, you learn some things about yourself along the way. It’s impossible not to, what with the challenges you inevitably face throughout the process, the time invested into each stitch, the thought and care that goes into each garment. None of these concepts were new to me, as I’m sure they’re not new to you. When you’re creating something worthwhile with your own two hands, it’s a prospect that comes with its own set of uphill battles and special set of rewards and satisfaction. What’s still new to me–and an absolute delight, I must say–is having the chance to create something for myself, without the pressure of trying to sell it or worrying about deadlines or stressing out about consumer response. Design and fashion and sewing are fun for me again. It’s a reminder to never let this thing I love and enjoy so much become a burden, like it was for a long time.

Making clothes takes time and I haven’t yet met all my wardrobe needs, but I’ve made a big, healthy dent in my to-do list. Over the past few months, I’ve learned that there a a few things I like to do to help keep me engaged in sewing, and one of those things is creating collections of projects. I like the challenge of “playing designer” and putting fabrics together and thinking about texture and pattern and movement. It keeps me on my toes, and I don’t have to tell you how fun it is to spend a couple of days playing with fabrics and carefully choosing patterns. Anyway, I knew after Christmas that I wanted to do something that sort of cleansed my palette, if you will. No big, exciting color stories yet, no new fabrics. The first collection of the year would be simple and classic–and I would use only fabrics from my stash.

You see, my birthday is in January and, even as a grown woman, I still get a little cash for Christmas and my birthday. Do I save it like the adult in me says is the smart play? Do I buy legit things like groceries or gas or other necessary household items? Of course not, who do you think I am?! I buy fabric, because I am the person who cannot turn down the opportunity to freshen up my stash a little bit. Now, I like to balance the scales whenever I buy new fabrics, so I make myself use some of what I already have before treating myself with the new goods. That brings us to The Stash Collection, a group of projects I made using fabric I had in my stash. In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that one fabric is new. In my defense, it was on mega sale for $4/yard, and it goes so perfectly in this group that I had to give it a pass. Had to! Coincidentally, it is the fabric for this first project, Butterick 6129. But first, the whole collection.

Left: top is Butterick 5997, skirt is Butterick 6129, a dress pattern I converted to a skirt.

Middle: top is Vogue 8772 (my favorite blouse pattern), skirt is Vogue 1486.

Right: Vogue 9197.

If making small collections for yourself is something you’d like to try, here’s a tip: choose your patterns carefully. Balance out a difficult or more time consuming garment with one or two easy pieces. In my case, the dress and converted skirt took the most time and attention, so I intentionally went with more simple blouses to keep from being too overwhelmed. I made all of these pieces in about 3.5 weeks.

In my stash I had some poplin shirting in white and navy with a bird print (from Amsterdam last spring), a striped sateen that I’ve had for ages, and a nice mid-weight dark denim that would make a beautiful skirt.

tips for making sewing plans

As much as I love sewing and cutting fabric and draping and adjusting patterns and actually being knee deep in fabric and projects, I am someone who needs time to prepare. I need time to think. It’s just as fun–and important–to me that I invest the time thinking about my projects as it is bringing them to life. I love the challenge of deciding what projects to tackle next based on my needs and aesthetics, it’s a thrill to rediscover fabric in my stash that I’d long since forgotten, and editing colors and textures to create a group of workable and sensible garments is my idea of a good time. I’m guilty of pouring time and energy into less-than-practical one-off garments all the time, but I’ve found that I enjoy myself to the max when I’m working on a little collection of sorts that I’ve planned out in advance. It makes achieving your sewing goals much easier.

When I was in business we had to work so far in advance that it was a constant challenge staying inspired, because you were always trying to anticipate trends and consumer needs. Now that I’m just sewing for myself, I still work ahead because sewing takes time, but I’m also in a position to enjoy working in the moment. It’s much more fun when you can work a month out from something as opposed to 18 months. Even though my lead times are shorter now, the planning I learned in college and practiced in business is something I can apply to my personal sewing endeavors.

So, when it’s time to figure out what to sew next there’s a few things I do to inspire new ideas, keep me engaged in the process, and stay organized the whole way through.

First things first, get a calendar and use it. Are there special events coming up that I need to prepare for? Do I need to include a cocktail dress on my to-do list or can I stick with casual separates this time? (As luck would have it, I need a cocktail dress for an event in March, but more on that later.) I’ve been sewing long enough now that I know about how long it will take me to make something, so it’s helpful to glance at a calendar if only to make a note about a production schedule. For example, if I know I need a pair of linen pants in three weeks, I know I can fit those in along with a dress and maybe a blouse or two, all in three weeks time. I used to cram so many projects into a short time frame that I was always disappointed in the end because I couldn’t get to everything. Now, I’m more realistic about what I can actually finish in a given amount of time.

Take notes like you’re being graded on it. I’ve gone through tons of notebooks over the past few years. Notes, swatches, measurements, ideas–everything gets written down. I find it’s helpful to cut a swatch of a fabric anytime I buy something new, and catalog it in my design journal. I don’t use new fabric right away all the time, so this is easier than constantly digging in drawers. I also keep a sketchbook on my desk where I draw ideas, which is especially helpful for handbags and clutches because I can draw them to scale for a better idea about size and proportions.  

Visit your closet, and take inventory. Last summer, I discovered that I need to invest in sewing a handful of skirts and dresses with an elastic or drawstring waist in flowy, breathable fabrics that don’t need to be lined. For instance, loose fitting linen skirts and pull on rayon dresses. I have quite a few fitted, more formal dresses, but those simply will not do in the Texas heat. I also need some easy to wear, pullover blouses to go with these summer skirts. Now that I know what some of my needs are, I can adjust my projects accordingly. It might be a bit tedious to do six blouses all at once, so spread it out and do other fun things at the same time. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be doing two or three blouses, all different in design, along with skirts and dresses. Keeps it interesting. (Side note: please don’t be impressed with those wooden hangers. I got those when I was in business so things would look nice at shows and poo-up shops. Highly unlikely I would invest in them otherwise. In fact, Ty’s side of the closet is where all the plastic and mismatched hangers live!)

Plan your colors. This is something I picked up along the way in business. We produced so much in house that we had to be meticulous in production to make the most of our time and resources. That meant an assembly line based primarily on color. So now, when I think about a group of projects to make, I like to choose fabrics and colors that keep me from changing the serger thread too often. I have two machines, so I keep white thread in one of them at all times, and I use the other one for knits or other colors.

Refer back to line sheets, textbooks, and old notes. Sometimes, if I’m not feeling inspired I will look back at my college projects or handouts. I’m always reminded of a great neckline or silhouette that might become the starting off point for a new design or project. The internet is also a wonderland of information, if you don’t hang on to every little thing like I do.

Pick your patterns. I absolutely love using patterns. We had to draft each and every pattern ourselves in business, so now that I don’t have to work from scratch I am one happy girl. I still adjust things quite often, but having these patterns is such an advantage. Plus, they’re inspiring and more and more on trend lately, so it’s easy to get excited about sewing. I spent a lot of time last week looking through the patterns I had and also taking advantage of the pattern sale at JoAnn. I bought up a number of new patterns for spring and summer, which I cannot wait to use. These are but a few of the patterns I’m using over the next couple of months.

That’s it! Investing the time into planning your projects is so worth it. Don’t worry about the time away from your machine either–this part of the process makes the time you do spend creating your projects even better. And let me know if you have any planning tips that help you in your sewing journey. I’d love to hear all about it!

Have a great week!