Prepping for the Next Project

Sewing is a little bit like house painting in that successful end results are often dependent upon good prep work. Well, I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather be making a muslin (toile), tedious as it sometimes is, than sanding, spackling, and cleaning walls or woodwork. And sometimes, a pattern reveals unknown charms as its toile comes to life.

Such has certainly been the case with my next project, a three-part ensemble, the first of which is a blouse, to be made out of lightweight and shimmery silk dupioni. This is to be a dressy blouse in which I want to emphasize the fabric and some amazing French buttons I found for it. Because I love a notched collar which can be raised up at the back of the neck and frame the neck and face in the front, I looked for a pattern which had that feature, but also some feminine sleeves. Among the possibilities in my pattern collection was this Vogue pattern from 1958.

Of course, View A is my version of choice.

After studying the pattern pieces, I determined it had just about everything I was looking for, even though the pattern art doesn’t make this look like a particularly fancy blouse.

The back of the pattern envelope often gives important information, such as placement of darts. This one also told me that the collar has a center back seam, which is a stylistic detail I like.

I was especially intrigued by the small diagonal darts you can see here on the “blouse front” and “collar and interfacing” diagrams. The instructions were to graduate the dart down from 1/8 of an inch at the center point to nothing at both ends. I discovered that little bit of shaping makes a huge difference in the way the collar turns, allowing it to emphasize the neckline.

Click on the image for enlargement.

I show the collar flat here, but I intend to wear it with the back of the neck standing up.

The sleeve pattern called for three tucks (also visible above on the pattern diagram) as well as gathering at the cuff, which I knew would add a gentle feminine silhouette, especially in dupioni. And the cuffs are French cuffs, but very petite ones, with a small angled turn-back, which is just such a lovely feature. The only thing I could not determine was if the sleeves were too short for my “vision.” Of course, that is what muslins/toiles are for, and indeed, the first sleeve was too short. I added a three-inch extension to the next sleeve, knowing I could always take it up. I finally settled on lengthening the pattern by 1.5 inches.

Here is the blouse with the original sleeve on the right (as you are looking at it, actually the left side of the blouse), and the sleeve with an extension of 1.5 inches opposite.

I believe the longer sleeve looks less like 1958 and more like 2017. I love using vintage patterns, but I don’t want to look vintage!

The toile also told me that the top button needed to be lowered, and I needed to add a bit of width around the hips. I originally thought I might not want to use the released darts at the waistline, but I love the effect they make.

It’s not often that I stand back and admire a muslin, with its loose threads, its uncut seam allowances and lumpy corners. I am usually anxious to tear it apart so I can quickly proceed to use its pieces for my working pattern. Of course, I will be doing that, but until then, I will marvel at all the design secrets it has revealed to me in its humble cloth.


Filed under Blouse patterns from the 1950's, Blouses, Pattern Art, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s

19 responses to “Prepping for the Next Project

  1. Debbie Hixenbaugh

    Karen, that is lovely and I love your inspiration. Can you please tell me what dress form you use? Is it built and padded for you? I would like one but have read so many different thoughts about whether they are worth it, I would like to know your thoughts. Thank you.

    • Hi Debbie. I, too, wondered if a dress form would really be worth the money. I was thinking of the expense of getting a Wolf form, specially made for me, which can be very expensive. When I finally decided to get a dress form, I relied on some thoughts from a class I took with Susan Khalje, who said a more inexpensive form can be just as useful. I happened to order one from Amazon (!) from “Just Mannikins” I think is its name. It is a style with “collapsible shoulders.” I have padded out some of it, but I really need to do more. A size 6 happened to be very close to my size and shape, but I could definitely improve the likeness! It has been invaluable to me. I really don’t know how I sewed for myself without it. Hope this helps, and so sorry for my late response. We are traveling and I’m not on top of things right now!

  2. I love all the little construction secrets hidden in this pattern. Who would guess such little things made such a tremendous difference in fit. I don’t sew very many vintage patterns, but every time I do, I’m so impressed with the attention to details which make the garment so special.

  3. I’m really looking forward to seeing this in silk dupioni. I,too, love a collared shirt.

  4. Such wonderful, feminine details in this classic blouse, it will be gorgeous in silk!

  5. Elaine

    Such a lovely blouse – I learn so much from your generous sharing of your fab sewing projects

  6. Mery

    I just love it, and this is so interesting. It’s going to make great blouse(s), eager to see. Any time you wonder whether or not to mention what lines of vintage patterns need updating, perhaps thinking surely everyone can see that, I humbly beseech thee to remember us readers who aren’t quick to see what we’re seeing. Your blouse is going to be lovely and flattering.

  7. Mery

    I’ve been keeping odd hours sitting with an ill loved one. Your blog by the little light of my phone is good nighttime company. Tho I’m usually up in the wee early hours & never nap, my previous post was before fully awaking from a morning snooze, and I have to chuckle that it doesn’t make much sense even to me & I know what I meant, duh.🙄 I appreciate the fine engineering built into good vintage patterns, and you’re right, it’s a shame they’re not spelled out in descriptions tho everyone enjoys discovering hidden treasure. As for how to make them modern, you’re the master. Each person is more acute in various sensory areas. Give me abstract reasoning and mathematical relationships any day but my visual skills are so weak that I once bought a new car without noticing its color. 70’s wide collars, good that somebody told me. These sleeves, now that you mention it I see how right you are and what a difference it makes.

  8. I always admire your eye for details. Lengthening the sleeves makes such a difference!

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