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!
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.
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.
I buy fabrics for two reasons: because I have a project in mind and I’m looking for something specific, or because I am such a sucker for pretty textiles that I see something I have no project for and think to myself, “That is gorgeous! I must have it! I’ll figure out what to do with it later . . . ” The fabric I used to make this skirt falls into the second category. It’s also one of those situations where, because it was a little on the pricey side, I only had a yard and a half to work with so my options were limited. Normally I order 4- or 5-yard cuts of fabric, which gives me enough material for a couple of projects. I found this fabric at Textile Fabrics in Nashville last May, and it’s a Nanette Lepore cotton print. I’m totally smitten with this fabric, and it was just the thing to get me excited to leave winter behind and start working on spring projects.
With only a yard and a half to work with, I thought the best thing for me to do was a straight skirt. This isn’t my go-to kind of skirt (I love fit and flare so, so much), but it was nice to change things up a bit. I’ve always had a hard time finding straight skirts that fit properly, because I have substantial curves and a small waist, so most things are too snug around my hips and enormous around the waist. I haven’t invested the time into drafting a pattern for myself because fitting yourself is kind of a pain, and I was happy to work on other projects to worry about it too much. When I finally decided to do a straight skirt with this fabric, I thought I’d star by searching for a basic skirt pattern from one of the big companies and make fitting adjustments from there. I got Butterick 5466 and cut out my size based on my measurements. I don’t know how I lucked into this, but I didn’t have to make but one fitting adjustment to the pattern, and it was barely an adjustment. If memory serves me, I spent about $60 on the fabric, and I had the lining, thread, and zipper in my stash. Not bad!
This particular pattern sits about 1.5″ above the natural waist, so it’s already better for my body type than something that sits below the waist. I whipped up a quick muslin and saw that I only needed to take it in a tiny bit in the center back. So, instead of 5/8″ seam allowance, I went with 3/4″, and it worked like a charm. Because this skirt sits above the natural waist, I wanted to add to the length, which would make my legs look longer. I actually wanted it a bit longer, but my fabric wasn’t cut evenly so I had to shorten the length so that I could fit the pattern pieces on my fabric.