Giraffe print blouse – Burda 10/2011 #118

What kind of print do you call this then?

I think it looks like a blue and white giraffe, or a super-magnified lizard skin, or some seriously wonky tiling.

It’s made from this pattern. Just a very simple blouse with just two bust darts. The instructions were short and cryptic (of course, it is Burda after all) and I totally ignored the construction order. Much easier to sew in the armholes flat, then do the sides and the sleeve seams all in one so you can take it in if needed.

This fabric is lush, a very drapey but sturdy vintage crepe, from The Shop on Cheshire Street, AKA my favourite shop on Brick Lane. I can spend ages in there rummaging. All the fabric is folded up on shelves but they don’t seem to mind me pulling it all out and making a huge mess. There are wooden drawers full of lace and trimmings, and everything’s pretty reasonable too. Think this was less than a tenner for 2 metres.

I do think covered buttons look look very polished on a blouse like this, but is there anything worse than making them? So I was lucky to find these at the Peter Jensen sale.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m all about the finished result when it comes to sewing. I love day-dreaming about what I’m going to make – it all looks so perfect in my head. I’m not that interested in construction for it’s own sake. In fact I tend to skip reading sew-alongs and detailed technical instructions on other people’s blogs.

Ironically this always leads me to rush the actual sewing part to get to the wearing, which naturally leads to things I make looking a bit crap. For example, the buttonholes on this are rubbish. Too short and skimpily threaded. (tho luckily I only need to undo the top one to get the blouse on and off).

There’s some kind of life lesson in there somewhere, but it’s probably too late to change my slapdash ways.

I think this is why I hate most things I make immediately after I’ve finished them. They just don’t match up to the vision I had at the start. I usually come round to them in the end (I also made the skirt I’m wearing, I never blogged it because I didn’t like it but meh, actually it’s okay. Apart from the zip at the back.)

Overall I’m pretty pleased with this blouse. It looks great tucked into things, but don’t think I’ll be wearing it loose. There’s a distinct early 90s vibe, I can just see Elaine from Seinfeld rocking it with a massive boxy jacket on top.

(I know the 90s are supposed to be in fashion, or at least a version of them, but it’s not for me. All I can think of is ‘The Rachel’ and oversized Nirvana t-shirts. I seem to remember wearing brown corduroy flares for much of the decade and I don’t want to go back to there.)

Double Peter Pan collar blouse AND my grand unified theory of sewing

So, speediness is not what you come to this blog for. It’s taken me just over six months between talking about sewing blouses and actually sewing one. What can I say, I’m a tortoise, not a hare.

Double peter pan collar blouse

It’s from the original Built by Wendy Sew U book, which was all the rage on the internet, about 5 years ago. I’ve made two versions already, and for this one I wanted to try something a bit different – drafting up a double Peter Pan collar.

Double peter pan collar

The top collar is made from left-over denim from my Beignet. The bottom collar, and main fabric, is some really beautiful shirting from Shaukat, which my mum kindly donated to me after a shopping expedition to South Kensington.

Okay, so in some ways this shirt was successful. I love the fabric, I like the way the collar turned out, and the insides are neat (I overlocked them). But in another way it was a failure – the fit. If you’ll forgive me, I’m going on a bit of a diversion here…

The Yes I Like That grand unified theory of sewing:

To my thinking the most challenging (and interesting) thing about home sewing is that you have to combine three elements, which are completely separate in your average high street garment. They are:

  1. Design. I’m using this word widely, to include: the garment style (whether you buy a pattern or draft it), the fabric and trimmings you use, and the design elements you add or take away.
  2. Fit. Including learning what good fit actually looks like (and I’m definitely still learning).
  3. Making. The actual sewing and pattern-making. All the little tips and tricks and manufacturing skills.

As a home sewer, you’re in complete control of all three. Which is liberating. But also a bit scary.

To me, 1 + 2 are the most important. I find pure technique pretty boring. I like problem solving, but I like having something nice to wear even more. I want the final product to work.

It was the second element that failed here. The first two versions I made fitted well, but the shoulders were wide. For this one I trimmed a tiny amount (honest!) off the armholes and sleeve tops. Well, that tiny amount must have added up, because this shirt was incredibly tight across the shoulders, resulting in a V-shaped wrinkle which was super obvious in the first set of photos I took:

shirt with V yoke lines

I managed to partially fix it by sewing into my armhole seam allowances and it’s not so tight now. The V-lines are still there, but not as prominent. Overall, I’m happy.

The more I make, the more I learn, but it does all seems to break down into these three elements. The hardest two are the fit and matching the right fabric to the right pattern. I’ve got gorgeous fabric sitting in boxes because I just can’t visualise the perfect garment to do it justice.

I’d be interested to know what you think. What’s the most important aspect of sewing for you? Do you think there’s more to it than just these three elements?

(P.S. one more thing! I lined the cuffs with denim as well for a little surprise…)

Denim blouse cuff

70s style Jasmine blouse, from Colette Patterns

Here’s my second Jasmine blouse, from Colette Patterns.

The first one has already gone to the charity shop. I foolishly made it out of some extremely cheap floral polyester which had all the drape and charm of hessian. The combination of the puffed sleeves and the garish print made it look like an early 90s Country Casuals piece.

This one is made from some of the swap fabric I got at the Brighton sewing meet-up, courtesy of Julia from The Secret Life of Seams. I love this floral print, it feels a bit 70s.

I did like the fit of the first version I made, but I wasn’t so keen on the use of a facing to finish the neckline. I’ve noticed that you hardly ever see facings on tops and dresses in RTW. I only have one dress that uses this method, and it’s a big pain to wear as as the facing constantly flips up.

So with this one, I finished the neckline with some bias binding – here is a good tutorial if you’d like to do the same.

I didn’t use the collar pieces from the pattern, as I wanted a longer bow that was easier to tie (inspired by this version from The Sewing Cafe). Instead I used a long bias strip, about 12cm wide, which was attached using the same method they give you in the pattern instructions. Here’s a close-up:

This gives you a lovely draping bow that doesn’t ripple on the edge. You might be able to tell that my tie ends aren’t both the same length – this was a deliberate creative decision (oh alright, I measured them wrong).

The third thing I changed was the sleeves. I took out the ease so the sleeves weren’t puffed, and finished off the sleeve hem with elastic in a casing.

This is a lovely pattern, but the fit is a bit strange on me – I had to significantly take in the front and back centre seams at the top, which has resulted in some strange pulling in the shoulder area.

It’s such a nice style though, I think I’ll make a third version and try and figure out the issues. I’d like to try using the Colette collar pattern pieces in a contrast colour. But I’m going to ditch the facing permanently. Down with facings I say!

Autumn sewing: blouses and shirts

A/W11 Blouses
This is my first Polyvore set! I know I’m approximately 5 years too late for the Polyvore party, but it’s great, isn’t it? Saves lots of time messing around in Photoshop.
One of my A/W11 sewing resolution is to make more shirts/blouses, and there are lots around at the moment for inspiration. I’ve picked out some favourites above in a nice Autumnal colour palette. Luckily this is all fantasy shopping, as they range in price from ‘cheap as chips’, to three times more than my sewing machine cost’

I find it frustrating shopping for blouses on the high-street, as they never fit properly and they’re normally made with 100% polyester so cheap you trail a shower of static sparks whenever you move. But they’re pretty rewarding to sew; they don’t take much fabric and there’s lots to customise. It’s probably wise to avoid using too many ruffles, ribbons, and bows, in case you evoke the Grayson Perry effect, but in general you can mess around with them however you like.

I am planning on sewing one with a flat/Peter Pan collar, which is apparently big this season. The Peter Pan collar’s been around for a while – Carole Lombard was putting her name to them in the 1930s:

Carole Lombard 1930s blouse pattern
Image source: Etsy seller iandrummondvintage

They were perched on top of these AMAZING sunray darts in the 1940s (I want this pattern so much! If you are a 30 bust you must buy it)

Vintage 40s Blouse Pattern Vogue 6226 Size 12 Bust 30
Image source: Etsy seller lisaanne1960

And they went very modern in the 60s. Loving the bowl haircut on the left.

1960s Peter Pan collar mod version
Image source: Etsy seller HeyChica

I think it’s best to draw a veil over what happened to the poor Peter Pan collar in the 80s.

My plan is to use the Built By Wendy shirt pattern from the first Sew U book and add a drafted flat collar. I’ve also pre-ordered the brilliant new Jasmine pattern from Colette Patterns. I’ve been looking for something like it for ages – it reminds me a lot of the Topshop blouse which is bottom right in the collage above, but it’s bias cut so you don’t even have to sew any buttonholes. Bonus.
Do you have any favourite blouse/shirt patterns? What’s the difference between a blouse and shirt anyway?