Category Archives: Blouses

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.

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

A Lesson from Lilly

Have you ever purchased a piece of fabric on a whim – and then regretted it? That’s exactly what happened to me, here in the midst of July. I saw this piece of Lilly Pulitzer silk fabric offered on eBay, and without giving it too much thought, I bought two yards.

I have always loved most of the Lilly prints and color combinations, and something about this silk just looked fresh and summery to me. I have long wanted to make the pattern pictured below again, and with its Asian flare, I thought the multi-colored, abstract printed Lilly silk would pair well with it.

The date on this pattern is 1958. I made the blouse/tunic a few years ago and still enjoy wearing it. I would like to make view B sometime…

I had several scraps of solid green silk, one of which I thought would be good as a contrast fabric for the button details on the front of the blouse. (The pattern calls it a tunic, but it looks more like a blouse to me.) As it turned out, I used a scrap of green silk out of which I had made a blouse to go with a purchased Lilly skirt way back in the 1970s! I still have the skirt, but not the blouse…

Anyway, I am digressing. When the fabric arrived – in an itsy-bitsy package that weighed about an ounce – I knew I had made a mistake. Yes, it was silk, but it was so flimsy and slippery I wasn’t very sure it could be sewn with any sort of finesse. (Now I know that assessment was correct.) I contemplated saving it for a lining for something sometime, although truly, it would make a flopsy lining.  Deep down, I knew if I didn’t make it right now, I would never, ever use it. And that would be a waste of money for sure.

Well, now I am going to digress. I find that if I purchase a piece of fabric of impeccable quality, I can hold onto to it for months or even years without ever fearing it will never be used. In fact, the better quality the fabric is, sometimes the longer I wait to use it. That allows me time to think about and search for the perfect pattern, time to explore possible dressmaker details for it, and time to savor its beauty. When it comes to silk in particular, I have found that high quality, fine silk, even very lightweight silk, has a substance to it and a hand to it that makes sewing with it a pleasure.

Let me tell you, this was not a pleasure. I slipped and slid the whole way through the construction of this tunic/blouse. My pins would not stay in place, falling out willy-nilly. Clipping and trimming was a nightmare, as the fabric kept sliding in the way of my scissors. I contemplated spraying the entire thing with hairspray to stabilize it! Then, once I had enough of the tunic/blouse sewn that I was able to visualize my green silk accent strips on it, I realized that the green buttons I had planned to use were going to look – awful.

The green of this button is too deep for the colors of this fabric.

Happily, my luck changed just a bit. I went to my button box and found this card of four buttons.

One button was missing, but that was okay, as I only needed four.

They had been a “bonus” addition in an order of buttons from an Etsy shop, and I really thought I would never have any use for them. But guess what? They were just right for this tunic/blouse. At least this one thing was easy!

The blue of the button seems to work well with the solid green.

As you can see, I persevered and finished this monster.

I made an Obi-style sash to wear with it, which I think improves its appearance.

The back of this blouse has a center seam, which allows for some really nice shaping. I haven’t had a chance to get any self-modeled photos made yet, for which I apologize.

Here it is without the sash. In order to keep the slippery sleeves folded up, I had to add a snap on the inside seam of each sleeve.

I haven’t worn it anywhere yet. We shall see if I get any favorable comments; if I do, then perhaps I will eventually enjoy wearing it. At the least, it will stand as a lesson to me – never, ever again to buy any fabric on a whim.

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Filed under Asian-inspired dress designs, Blouse patterns from the 1950's, Blouses, Buttons - choosing the right ones, sewing in silk, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s

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!

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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 . . .

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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?

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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