Category Archives: Blouses

A Practical Decision

A practical decision, made out of desperation, that is! It is a rare occurrence that I stop working on a project before it is completed, but that’s what I decided to do with my cashmere coat, skirt and blouse ensemble. Quite simply, life got in the way, without asking me first! Robbed of sewing time for one reason or another, I had to make a decision: should I quietly and gently fold my unfinished skirt and blouse away for a summer sleep, and get busy on my Spring sewing? Or should I plow through and continue work on this wool ensemble as the allure and charms of Spring sewing beckoned me on? Well, Spring’s charms won, especially as I am now facing middle-to-late May deadlines for a silk dress to wear to a wedding and another fancy event.

But I had promised photos of my coat, so before everything goes in the cedar closet until next September, I thought I should share the progress I did make. Even on a cool Spring day, this Cashmere coat felt glorious to wear, even briefly.

A Practical Decision

A Practical Decision

I am very happy with the lining!

I am very happy with the lining!

A Practical Decision

A Practical Decision

This coat is very warm and buttery soft.

This coat is very warm and buttery soft. These photos confirm for me that I need to reset the working buttons, making longer thread shanks, to accommodate the bound buttonholes.

The skirt is a six-panel slight A-line style.  Because the fabric is heavier than I would normally use for a skirt, I wanted to eliminate darts and a waistband, to help control the bulk. I decided to make a waist facing made out of wool challis (used for the coat lining and the blouse), and attach it to a skirt lining made of Bemberg rayon. The skirt is completed except for the hem.

This shows the waist facing, with the Bemberg lining attached to it.

This shows the waist facing, with the Bemberg lining attached to it.

Making a blouse out of wool challis demanded some special considerations. The fabric is finely woven and lightweight, making me hesitant to use waxed tracing paper to make any markings on it. So, I decided to thread trace all the seam lines and markings. This is, of course, the process one uses for the construction of a classic French jacket, so I am comfortable with it. It sounds time-consuming, but it goes fairly fast, and is fool-proof.

This shows my muslin pattern, cut on the seam lines, and with the darts cut out, so that I could tread trace along all sewing lines.

This shows my muslin pattern (with the changes I made to it), cut on the seam lines, and with the darts cut out, so that I could tread trace along all sewing lines.

Click on this for a close-up look at the thread tracing of seam lines and darts.

Click on this for a close-up look at the thread tracing of seam lines and darts.

I got as far as having both sleeves completed, the body of the blouse put together, and the collar pinned in place. I am feeling good about my progress, and I know I can pick this up again, knowing that I really am in the home stretch on this particular project.

The pinned collar, placed along the neckline.

The pinned collar, placed along the neckline.

One of the sleeves pinned in place.

One of the sleeves pinned in place.  The sleeves are three-quarter length.

Good-bye to Winter and Hello to Spring!  Right now it feels wonderful to be focusing on silks and linens, bright colors and feminine fancy things. I am “desperately” happy with my decision!

21 Comments

Filed under Blouse patterns from the 1950's, Blouses, Coats, couture construction, Dressmaker coats, Mid-Century style, Uncategorized, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, woolens

Mellow Yellow

How did I go from this . . .

A collared overblouse.

A collared overblouse.

to this?

Mellow YellowIt all started about a year ago when I saw this fabric – called Devonshire Cream Geometric Cotton Eyelet Batiste on the Britex Fabrics website. I sent off for a swatch and then ordered enough for a “blouse” although at the time, I wasn’t so sure what kind of a blouse it would be. I knew I would want sleeves in it. While the body of the blouse would need to be lined, the sleeves could be unlined to show off the gauzy design in the eyelet.

Eyelet overblouse - fabric

Inspiration finally struck a short few weeks ago when I got a small catalogue from J McLaughlin clothing company. Pictured in it was this “Lotus Blouse”:

Eyelet overblouse - JMcL #2-2

Eyelet overblouse - JMcL #2-3

As soon as I saw the “square” design in the fabric, I thought of my eyelet – and then it did not take long for me to decide to make my own version of that blouse. The construction details? Well, I knew I would have to make those up as I went along. I started with the pattern shown above, a classic early 1960s short overblouse that zipped up the back. What could be better? It really didn’t matter that the neckline would be changed, sleeves added, inches added to the length – the basics were there and so I made a muslin/toile.

I cut an underlining for the body of the blouse from a lightweight linen/cotton blend that I always keep on hand. I marked the seam lines of that underlining with waxed tracing paper and then used it as my “pattern” for the eyelet, which allowed me to make sure that all the lines and corners of the eyelet matched across seams. I hand basted the underlining and the eyelet together which made machine sewing the darts and seams very precise.

In order to put a sawtooth edge on the sleeves and the bottom of the blouse, I knew I would have to cut fabric on the bias. But first I had to decide how deep to make this self-trim. I did some experimenting to figure that out:

Should it be this narrow?

Should it be this narrow?

Or would a wider trim be   better?

Or would a wider trim be better?

I decided the wider trim was necessary to make the proper impact.  Here it is pinned onto one sleeve.

I decided the wider trim was necessary to make the proper impact. Here is a sample of it pinned onto one sleeve.

Once I decided the proper width of the trim, I set about hemming it by hand.  Here is a photo of that “hemming” process.

On the right you can see one "peak" already stitched.

On the right you can see one “peak” already stitched.

Having the trim cut on the bias gave me flexibility in attaching it to the sleeve and bottom edges. Then finishing the inside raw edges provided its own challenge. I had already used Hug Snug rayon tape to finish the interior seams. The soft, non-bulky nature of this wonder tape gave me the idea to use it for finishing the armscyes and the interior sleeve edges.

I made a bias tape out of the underlings fabric to bind the neck edge.  Seam edges are encased in Hug Snug.

I made a bias tape out of the underling fabric to bind the neck edge. Seam edges are encased in Hug Snug. Click on the photo to see more detail.

The actual hem on the blouse presented me with three edges (the fashion fabric, the underlining, and the bias trim) to control and hold together. I used Hug Snug again, this time flat and sewn with a catchstitch (a fabulous idea I just got from Lilacs and Lace blog, which I will use again and again! Thanks, Laura Mae!)

The catch stitch is done across the width of the Snug Hug tape.  It is the perfect technique for this application.

The catch stitch is done across the width of the Snug Hug tape. It is the perfect technique for this application.  Again, click on the photo for more detail.

I had some difficulty finding an 18” separating zipper that was lightweight enough for this blouse. I still think the one I finally ended up using is a bit heavy, but until I find another one, this one will have to do.

Mellow Yellow

I still need to add a hook and eye at the top!

I have always loved overblouses. They are comfortable, classic, versatile, and just a little bit different of a look. I think this one fits that description well – I like it!

I could not resist styling this blouse with a hat!

I could not resist styling this blouse with a hat!

Mellow Yellow

Mellow Yellow

Mellow Yellow

Pale yellow shoes help complete the outfit!

Pale yellow shoes help complete the outfit!

After Mellow Yellow, where do I go? My next project is anything but mellow – or yellow, for that matter.  June will find me thinking – and making – fancy, but not frilly. Details soon . . .

35 Comments

Filed under Blouses, Eyelet, Mid-Century style, Uncategorized, underlinings, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s

Good Bones

Can a pattern have good bones? I think so. When I purchased this blouse pattern a while ago, I did so knowing that I would not be making a blouse that looked exactly like any of the three illustrated on the pattern envelope.

Blouse pattern - PP collar

I have always liked a feminine-looking blouse that opens in the back, and I have always liked Peter Pan collars (which seem to come in and out of fashion). I also like a blouse that is fitted with darts through the body of the blouse. You can easily see the darts illustrated above. The thumbnail views of the blouses also show the darted fitting in the backs of the blouses.

Blouse pattern - PP collar - rear views I found it interesting that these blouses are constructed with zippers in the backs. I am not fond of blouses that are zippered up the back, but I knew that I could easily make the back into a buttoned closure.

January Jumper blouse Interestingly, this pattern is from a narrow period of time when Vogue initiated their “new” sizing, which added a half-inch to sizes 8 and 10 in the bust and in the hip. I believe this new sizing was only in effect from about 1968 through about 1972 or ’73. In any event, it helps to date this particular pattern.  When I decided to make my blanket dress into a jumper, with a blouse matching the yellow lining, I went to this pattern for its good bones: darted fit, back opening, and pretty sleeves.

I re-cut the neckline so that it was wider, following the neckline on my completed jumper. The Peter Pan collar was too wide to my thinking, so I narrowed it by about an inch. Instead of using facings, I bound the raw neck edge with self bias binding. The hand-stitching on that is hidden beneath the collar.

January Jumper blouse

You can see the wider cut of the neckline of the blouse in this photo.

You can see the wider cut of the neckline of the blouse in this photo.

IMG_1073

I added two inches to each of the the back seam lines so that I could button , rather than zip, the back, and I took a bit of the width out of the sleeves so they would be a bit less flow-y (is that a word?)

IMG_1069

The slightly fitted bodice helps it to lay without bulkiness underneath the jumper. I found vintage mother-of-pearl buttons in my button box, two smaller ones for each sleeve and five slightly larger ones for the back. Why it always give me satisfaction to use buttons I have on hand, I don’t know, but I was feeling quite delighted with my finds!

IMG_1077

Unfortunately, I am having problems with the main lens I use for my camera, so I had to resort to my old “point and shoot” for these photos, which makes them adequate, but that’s about all. Also, I’ll have to add photos of me actually wearing my new jumper and blouse at a later date, due to this inconvenience. My apologies…

January Jumper and blouse

Less than a month ago, when I was “planning” out 2015’s sewing, I did not envision that January would also produce a blouse to wear with my blanket dress. But that is one of the charms of fashion sewing – the spontaneity of a project that says “Me, Me, choose Me!” And so I did, and I am not only happy with the result, but delighted to have a tried and true “good bones” blouse pattern to use again and again, whether in the plan or not.

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Filed under Blouses, Buttons - choosing the right ones, Love of sewing, sewing in silk, Uncategorized, vintage buttons, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s

Thinking Time

There is one more Summer Dress in my head, begging to be made. However, this one needed some thinking time before I could start it, to help me decipher the correct pattern (or patterns) to use. The fabric is pretty special, so I don’t want to make a mistake. What to do to fill up this time I was spending thinking? It seemed the perfect opportunity to do some really simple sewing, as in “Easy Tunic Top”.

Last summer, while in JoAnn’s for one of my frequent thread or zipper trips, I stumbled onto some pretty linen/cotton blends – and on a whim, purchased two lengths.   One I made up immediately into a tunic dress; the other one has just sat around, keeping company with other lengths of fabric folded neatly on my “linen” storage shelf. After finding (in an Etsy shop) this classic tunic top pattern, now out-of-print, I decided this might be a good time to use that second piece of “whim” fabric.

View A is the top I like best...

View A is the top I like best…

No matching necessary on this "whim" fabric.

No matching necessary on this “whim” fabric.

I really did not want to go to the trouble to make a muslin, when I could look at the pattern and make a good guess as to its fit on me. It is loose, as tunics are – so all I did in preparation was to transfer the lines and markings from the tissue pattern onto a sturdier pattern paper.  I decided to line the body (not the sleeves) of the tunic, as the fabric is lightweight, and in the sunlight it could be “revealing”. I used a very lightweight rayon voile, which I get at Dharma Trading. I finished the seams with Hug Snug binding tape, which is just so easy to use and makes such a nice finish. The more I use it, the more I wonder how any dressmaker can live without it!

This shows both the seams finished with Snug Hug and the white voile lining.

This shows both the seams finished with Hug Snug and the white voile lining.

Because I was making the front placket out of the same material as the rest of the top, I knew I would need to do something to differentiate it, so I used a nice, low-profile cotton lace around the edge.

Thinking time - lace

I decided to make the sleeves three-quarter length, which is my favorite sleeve length. At first I wasn’t going to put any lace on the edges of the sleeves, but then it just didn’t look quite right without anything, so I added it.

I attached the lace with the straight edge at the bottom of the sleeve, with a narrow margin of fabric showing,

I attached the lace with the straight edge at the bottom of the sleeve, with a narrow margin of fabric showing.

Thinking time

DSC_1324Thinking time

Now come the True Confessions . . . I’m not sure this top is quite “me”. I think I would like it better in a navy blue and white print. I would also take it in a little bit if I make this pattern again – as I think it looks a bit baggy. (However, since the only way into it is over the head, it can’t be too tight!) I have also decided that I am happiest sewing something that is more of a challenge. I’ll remind myself that I actually said this next time I am in a project that tests my sewing mettle!   That may be soon, as the “thinking time” for my final Summer Season dress is now turning into “doing time”. Here is a hint as to what I will be working on:

Thinking time - tagAny guesses, anyone?

13 Comments

Filed under Blouses, Linen, Uncategorized

The Necessary Blouse

Fashion sewing is an interesting combination of inspiration, aspiration, indulgence and necessity, manifested singly or collectively.  My newly completed bow blouse is an example of a bit of all of these motivations rolled into one.  This is the blouse I made to go with my No. 2 Chanel-inspired jacket, made from the same red and navy blue geometric print silk with which I lined the jacket.

The Necessary Blouse Inspiration came from several sources.  I was mostly inspired by the pattern, which is copyright 1957 by The Conde Nast Publications, Inc. (Vogue Patterns) – so much so, that I purchased it in a size larger than I usually wear, as that was what was available – and with vintage patterns, one is never sure to find a favorite one again soon – or ever.

Looking at blouses 1957

Some of the aspects of the pattern which appealed to me are: 1) the “dropped” bow shown in views A and B; 2) the various sleeve lengths; 3) the shaping in the body of the blouse – soft and understated, but very feminine.  Just for fun, I looked through a few of my Vogue Pattern Book Magazines from 1957 and 1958, to see if I could find examples of this blouse pattern.  That was easy!  Here is one sketch and one photograph of Vogue 9227:

The blouse was featured in the December/January 1957-58 issue.

The blouse was featured in the December/January 1957-58 issue.

Part of a feature entitled "A new era for the soft BLOUSE."  In the August/September, 1957 issue of VPB.

Part of a feature entitled “A new era for the soft BLOUSE.” In the August/September, 1957 issue of VPB. 

After making a sheath dress to coordinate with my Chanel-inspired jacket No. 1, I aspired to pair my Jacket No. 2 with a suitable companion, too.  A bow blouse seemed to be a versatile and useful solution.  And then it became a necessity!   I decided my Jacket No. 2 would not be complete until I finished this blouse.

Back view

Back view

Step number one was to make a muslin (of course), knowing that I would need to alter the pattern to fit me correctly.  Sure enough, I needed to take out the bagginess in the bust and body of the blouse, and I needed to shorten the sleeves.  I went to my favorite book on making alterations which guided me through the correct changes:

I highly recommend this book.

I highly recommend this book.

My muslin showed me that the sleeves were also a little too full for me and for current 2014 styles, so I removed some girth from them as well.  I was skeptical of the bow (cut on the diagonal) when I looked at the pattern and then the muslin.  Would it be too full?  Made up in muslin it seemed a little overwhelming.  But, my silk was so lightweight and fine, that I decided it might just be okay, using the original dimensions.

Here is the bow/collar ready to be attached to the body of the blouse.

Here is the bow/collar ready to be attached to the body of the blouse.

This blouse went together quite as planned, although I worked on one side where the bow/collar joins the corner at the front facing for hours, until I had it inserted correctly.  I kept making the same mistake over and over, which was a little irritating.  I also added some extra hand-sewing, understitching the facing by hand and hand-stitching the hem.

Hand understitching looks just so much nicer than machine stitching!

Hand understitching looks just so much nicer than machine stitching!

When I started the blouse, I had not yet picked out buttons, thinking I would use some that I have in my vintage collection.  But then I was on Waechter’s website and found these buttons, which seemed just about perfect:

The Necessary Blouse - button

These buttons measure 5/8″. 

(Sadly, Waechter’s is closing their business in Asheville, N. C., to my great dismay.  This makes me even more grateful for Britex Fabrics in San Francisco, from which I purchased all the fabric for this blouse and my Jacket No. 2.)

Sewing with vintage patterns is such a pleasure in so many ways.  For example, the sleeve vents had their own separate pattern piece:

The instruction sheet from the pattern . . . .

The instruction sheet from the pattern . . . .

The vent sewn on . . . .

The vent sewn on . . . .

. . . . and the finished vent.

. . . . and the finished vent.

Another classic vintage aspect is the proscribed use of snaps  – in this pattern, at the waist and below, which takes bulk away from the “tuck-in” part of the blouse.

And that bow?  Once I had it made up, was it too much?

I think the bow is just about perfect.

I think the bow is just about perfect.

I am very glad I didn't tinker with the size of the bow!

I am very glad I didn’t tinker with the size of the bow!

Shown with the jacket.  I really like how the collar on the blouse shows a bit when i have the jacket on.

Shown with the jacket. I really like how the collar on the blouse shows a bit when I have the jacket on.

The Necessary Blouse

A comfortable fit.

The Necessary Blouse

Would be nice with a navy skirt as well …

The Necessary Blouse

Whew!  Blouse and jacket turned out as I had hoped!

Whew! Blouse and jacket turned out as I had hoped!

I am feeling quite good about indulging in the extra fabric and extra time needed to make this blouse.  Now that my No. 2 Jacket is complete, I can indulge in my other current project – my color-blocked coat –  which might add a new word to the vocabulary of fashion sewing – obsession!

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Filed under Blouse patterns from the 1950's, Blouses, Buttons - choosing the right ones, Chanel-type jackets, sewing in silk, The Conde Nast Publications, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, Vogue patterns

Date Night

For a number of years now, Thursday evening has been “date night” for my husband and me.  That’s what we call it, but it really just means that we always go out for drinks and dinner.  It is always one of my favorite nights of the week.  Part of the fun of it is the “standing reservation” we have at a favorite local “drinkery/eatery”, where we are always met by friendly staff and a “kitchen” that knows our favorite choices.  Because we so often go to this same place, I like to mix up what I wear.  I doubt anybody actually notices, but it is just one of those things which is important to me!  Anyway, my new blouse is going to be a colorful, welcome addition to my Thursday night wardrobe.

Made from pink silk which i purchased in the 1980s.

Made from pink silk which I purchased in the 1980s.

As I stated in my last post (distanced from this one by a sojourn to California, from which I did not return empty-fabric-handed…!), I based this blouse on a RTW one I have worn for years.  I always remember the good advice given on page 86 in 101 Things I learned in Fashion School (by Alfedo Cabrera with Matthew Frederick.  Copyright 2010, Grand Central Publishing, New York, New York):  “When in doubt, look in your closet.  When unsure about how a garment you’ve designed should be constructed, look at your own wardrobe:  We all have at least one pair of fly-front pants and a garment that buttons down the front.  It doesn’t take much time or effort to pull it out and replicate or adapt what one sees.”

A little book filled with great information

A little book filled with great information

Of course, I wanted to start with a basic blouse pattern, which I could tweak to recreate my old favorite one.  At this point, you might ask, “How difficult can it be to find a basic, long-sleeved, banded collar blouse pattern?”  A lengthy search through my patterns produced exactly one with some of the lines I wanted.  Just looking at it kind of made me cringe.  But then I realized that, with certain changes, it would probably be just about perfect.  Copyright 1972, this Simplicity pattern looks about as dated as it is, but its “bones” are still good!

Date night Simplicity pattern Among the details I needed to change:

1) The collar band was much too wide, so I narrowed it by about 50%.

2) The collar was too big and too pointed, so I redrafted it to match the collar on my green blouse.

Changes to the collar band and the collar.

Changes to the collar band and the collar.

3) I eliminated the back yoke.

4) I made the front and back pieces a little straighter at the side seams, and then added two darts to the back to take in some of the fullness and make the blouse curve over the hips  a little more flatteringly.

Date Night

5) I loved the “sportshirt” sleeve plackets on my green blouse, so I went to my 1972 Vogue Sewing Book to find out how to add them to this blouse.  I narrowed the cuffs, too.

I practiced on muslin first!

I practiced on muslin first!

I am fairly happy with how these plackets turned out.  I can't ever remember making this type of placket before, so I guess it was a first for me!

I am fairly happy with how these plackets turned out. I can’t ever remember making this type of placket before, so I guess it was a first for me! 

6) I eliminated the front button band.

7) I added side slits and narrow topstitching to all the edges, just like on my green blouse.

This shows the sleeve heading, which I narrowly topstitched.  Click on the photo for a better look.

This shows the sleeve heading, which I narrowly topstitched. Click on the photo for a better look.

Here is the topstitching on the front edge.

Here is the topstitching on the front edge.

Oh, there is more, but you get the idea.  I made a permanent record of all these changes with a whole new set of pattern pieces.

When it came to choosing buttons, I hoped to find some vintage ones to compliment the bright pink.  I found this gray pearl set (picked up somewhere for 50 cents), and the iridescence in them shimmered a bit of pink.

The holes on two of the buttons were a little off center, but fortunately, I only needed 8 of them!

The holes on two of the buttons were a little off center, but fortunately, I only needed 8 of them!

The process of making this blouse was fun and low-stress: I interfaced the collar and cuffs with silk organza, of course, but other than that, there were no underlinings, no linings, no bound buttonholes to worry about!

Date night

Date night

With a cashmere blend scarf, for a dressier look.

With a cashmere blend scarf, for a dressier look.

A vintage scarf to go with this vintage fabric!

A vintage scarf to go with this vintage fabric!

I’m looking forward to wearing this blouse often, but especially for date night, which just so happens to make “date day” also fun and low stress: no dinner to plan and cook  –  which means more time in the sewing room!

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Filed under Blouses, Buttons - choosing the right ones, Scarves, sewing in silk, Uncategorized, vintage buttons, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s