Finished Object: “Sisters of Edwardia Blouse”

(The hem on my skirt needed a little help before we took photos...)

This weeks’ Sew Weekly Challenge is “VIP Stash” fabrics- Check out my “Sisters of Edwardia” write-up on Sew Weekly.   I got up off my keester and put together the blouse that’s been living in my head for a while.  It’s based on the several blouses that Lady Sybil and Lady Edith wear on Downton Abbey:

Click to view "Post Edwardian" on Modern Recycled Costumes

I call this pose the "Liza Jane."

The body of the blouse uses less than 1m of fabric.  I used printed silk twill and obsessed over the border fabric until I re-discovered a worn out silk-cotton radiance blouse in my ragbag.  I’m happy it will have a second life, and the faded red radiance tones in with the print.

The sleeves are cut on to the blouse, lie along the bias of the fabric and hit below the elbow with a relaxed fit.  They have a border band of fabric around the hem of the sleeve, the neckline, and the bottom of the blouse.  The blouse needs gussets to allow for free range of motion, and the CF features a minimalistic nod to the “pigeon front” blousing so popular at the time. The blouse closes on the side with an invisible zipper.

I like this blouse, but I plan to shorten the sleeves on the pattern so they graze my elbow and will tighten up the neckline.

I meant it when I said “free range of motion.”  Though it’s a lady-like cut and made of pretty silk twill, I can reach and bend and twist in this top.  Mobility is important to me- after all I’m not a lady of leisure like the Crawley sisters.

I took notes, pictures, and carefully refined my own pattern to streamline the process of offering this as a pdf pattern.  It’s an odd cut, rather different from modern ones but the pattern is clearly marked and the instructions will walk you through the process of construction.

I’m making this up as I go, and I need a little help.  I’m using a sizing system similar to the one I use for the BCT.  That is, you choose the size based on your full bust measurement.  This is a “blousy blouse,” so issues of cup sizing matter less than they would on a fitted dress.  Then you choose the waistband piece based on your waist measurement.  To me, that seems most logical.

I need some guinea pigs in sizes 30″, 45″, and 50″ or 55″.  (Ballpark)  That means I’ll email you with bizarre questions while I’m working on that size, and in a week or two I’ll send you the pattern for testing.  I want to err on the side of caution and make sure to get the sizing/ease right.  If you’d like to help me out this way, please email me with your full bust measurement in the subject line.  (Edit:  Thank you all so much!  I have testers, and the pattern should be ready around the end of this month!)

Color Values

If you’d like to receive an email when I publish this pattern, click here.

Don’t forget to enter the Lace Fabric/ Lace Insertion Giveaway before April 7!

Finished Object: Not A T-Shirt

(worn with Cherry Blossom Blues, altered to 7/8 length)

My husband (and photographer) is down to the wire finishing his ecology dissertation.  We barely see each other except an hour or two in the evening.  It’s been that way for weeks on end.  Today we got up early for natural light photos!  (A Thank You is in order, as he doesn’t really have time to spare for such things.  Thank you!)

I made Burda 08-2009-117 last December and marveled at how easily it went together- no closures, no darts.  It’s simply a semi-fitted, flattering top.  I had the idea to make several in plain cotton without the ruffle and the “Not-A-T-Shirt” concept was born.

Ten months later, I finally got around to trying it.  From cut to hem, this took about 2 hours to make.  If that.  I felled the shoulder seams and went French for the side seams.   This photo captures the odd, luminous quality of the batik the best. It’s almost liquid.

Besides losing the ruffle, I also dropped the arm opening by about 1″.  My bra doesn’t show!  The underarm doesn’t bind!  Talk about side-seam Shangri-la.

The boxy cut doesn’t do my figure any favors (where did my waistline go???), but honestly I don’t mind.  Come high summer I’ll be glad the fabric doesn’t skim my body.  I find I prefer woven natural fibers for hot weather.  Knits don’t breathe as well- besides, I hate the feeling of fabric sticking to sweaty skin.

It’s a comfy mommy shirt, it just has french seams and pretty fabric.  I like pretty utility garments- and why not?

I’m really, really tempted to pick up a few pretty batiks to make more of these tops.  When I press these batiks, I can smell the wax used as a resist.

What kind of clothes do you wear for being mommy?  If you work at home, what kind of clothes do you like?  What do you think about investing in pretty fabrics and fine finishes for clothes you’ll wash and wear every few days?

Coming soon- Finished Chef-Chos!

Feel free to enter the Pretty, Sparkly Giveaway.  I’ll be working with those trims in my next wardrobe “ensemble.”

Houndstooth, Micro Houndstooth

Here’s the 50’s housewife shirt I’m working on.  It’s a part of my Summer wardrobe.

I used the pattern as a “blueprint” to alter my basic block.  Fingers crossed it fits properly.  I like shoulder pleats but have struggled to create them well on self-drafted garments in the past.

I think this shirt needs sleeves to be work appropriate, something about a sleeveless shirt is so casual.  I made a double layer yoke, and decided to use the back neck facing included in the pattern- cut from a contrasting fabric from the same range.  I might go ahead and embroider my initials or a small motif on the facing before I stitch it down.

Tulip sleeves struck me as just the thing, I didn’t want plain sleeves but also didn’t feel like messing around with experimental sleeve drafting.  I like tulip sleeves, but have yet to use them on a garment in my “regular rotation.”

I cut them out tonight, they’ll go on soon.  Front over back or back over front?

I liked the red and pink micro-houndstooth so much, I decided to get some pink and cream.  It reads as a solid unless you’re quite close to the fabric.

Unfortunately, the blue seersucker in my original wardrobe plan didn’t wash well.  It came out of the wash the texture of toilet paper (admittedly, the nice kind of toilet paper) and nothing I try will revive the texture.  Not steam, not cold water, or hot, or a dryer on high, or a clothesline.  Ideas?  At any rate, I don’t want to use the fabric as-is, so I’ll sub in the pink.

Finished Object: The Liberation of Tripoli Blouse

This blouse has a history.

I cut it out the night before a two-hour demonstration class last year.  I taught piping techniques and set-in sleeves.  Demonstration classes can be nerve-racking: thirty or forty-odd people watching you sew, a camera focused on your hands and beaming them to a screen behind you.  I believe I wore a mike that day, too.  It’s tough to keep up a running commentary while applying piping evenly to a peter pan collar, don’t let anyone tell you differently.

When I sat to “dem” these techniques, I broke out in a cold sweat and couldn’t find my tongue- this crowd wasn’t mommy-night-time-seamstresses but a large group of older quilters I respect deeply.  Then I spotted a woman I’d grown particularly fond of at the back of a room- a blond woman I bonded with while teaching her to fit her figure.  She smiled broadly at me.

A year later, the blouse languished in pieces on my work table.  I needed to demonstrate a convertible collar for another class, so I reached for this blouse and taught Sherry’s excellent method.  After that, it lacked only buttons and buttonholes, yet I procrastinated until last weekend.  I’ve been feeling “meh” about sewing and life in general lately, hence the lack of blog postings.

When I finished it, I felt a quiver of fear.

“Darling, is this kitsch or simply outside my comfort zone?” I asked my husband, who is frightfully honest when I make sartorial inquiries.

He paused, considered carefully and said “Definitely kitsch.”

I KNEW IT!  Without cutting the buttonholes, I hung it up.

Then this morning I turned on the news and just like that several month’s worth of blues lifted away.  I saw liberated Libyans pouring into the newly-renamed Martyr’s Square.  They did it!  They really, really did it!  Politics aside, I watched enraptured and laughed with them.  I had to dress for work; as my eyes fell on this bright “kitschy” thing in my closet, I knew it was meant to be the Liberation of Tripoli blouse.  It looks like I feel today.

Cheers to the end of a despot.  The world could do with less of them.

I had to dance a little:

I made this from a favorite 1950’s blouse pattern- Vogue 8872.   I hope every time I wear this silly blouse, I think of today and how I watched crowds of liberated people in a square on the other side of the world and drank a little wine, danced, sang Journey all day long and rejoiced with people I’ll never know, from the bottom of my heart.  I hope I can remember that when the blues circle again.  This is kitsch, but sometimes it’s good to be effervescently bright, hopeful.

Liberation Days are my favorite days.

(Thank you, Mrs. C)

It Kind of Makes My Teeth Ache

I plan to use the stripes as guides for the pleats.  Note the lovely button placket.  I finished the blue flowered blouse, just need to coordinate photography before I can show it.  I’m working with an original pattern and glory in its quirks.  Faced hem on the short sleeve?  Long sleeve faced placket?  I plan to do the long sleeved version, but I’ll use a regular shirt sleeve type placket.

Lately I have more inspiration than time to sew, which is refreshing.  If I make note of an idea, a fabric/pattern combination or an inspiration dress now, I can sew it later.  Sometimes it’s best to let my ideas age. The ones that pursue me months later, persistently demanding attention often become my more rewarding projects.

Like Storm at Sea.

But thisblouse should be finished soon…

Blouses, Blouses Everywhere

Here’s a taste of my sewing lately, they’re all in various stages of completion.  I know I don’t blog about it much, but these are for the Wardrobe Club I facilitate at work.  This month is button-up blouses.  Since I started the club, I find I binge on that garment for the month leading up to the club meeting.  Remember all my knit tops earlier this year?  Club binge.

For my second blouse this month, I used the sleeves from the yellow shirt, and slapped them on a back-buttoning blouse drafted from my block.   I’m not sure about the sleeves, they could be charming or weird.

The blouse I drafted also features exterior darts, like this beauty I found at Roobeedoo’s.  I also decided to use a shoulder dart like the McCall’s pattern.  Several slim darts create a smoother shape than a two or four chunky ones.

The cigar shaped under bust dart on my sloper.  I laid my new pattern on top and divided the dart in two.  That’s the lines with the dots.

Line through the fat side dart to the bust apex, and from the shoulder to the apex.

Snip snip.

Two pieces of the bodice.

When I completely close the side dart, it makes an ENORMOUS shoulder dart.  Fat darts = messy.

Two shoulder darts?

Compromise- slimmish side dart, ordinary-sized shoulder dart.

Mmmmm.. blue and white and gray..

Finished Object: Mirabilis Top

She’s basically a woven button front camisole with bias bands.  I’m beside myself to have a properly fitting sloper.  For as long as I’ve carefully altered patterns to fit my body, I suspected it would work just as well to start from scratch.  True that, and now I’m only limited by the inspiration I can scrape together.  I feel like this has completely changed my sewing.

I took photos during construction, but it all looks like happy Madras cotton and not much else.  In case I need to reference this later (because this is first and foremost my projects notebook):

  • Darts and tucks.
  • French side seams
  • Underarm seams on armbands/facings
  • Arm bands to bodice
  • Facing to arm bands
  • Stitch folded edge of facing down
  • Front placket
  • Front neck bands sewn to shirt
  • Back neck band sewn to shirt
  • Shoulder seam
  • Facings
  • Finish

She’s not perfect but I love her anyway.  As I trimmed the back neck facing seam, I pinked a hole in the back fabric.  Without batting an eye, I interfaced the little hole and darned it.  So she’s a casual top, though I wore her to work tonight.

(Scanning the skies)
My boss is an expert seamstress (among her other virtues) with a sharp eye.  She criticizes my work constructively with no sugar coating so I learn much from her.  For instance, she told me today that busty girls need to make their first buttonhole marking right at the gappage point, and then measure the other buttonholes from the that point.  I usually mark the top and bottom buttonholes, then space the other buttonholes evenly so this was a revelation.  Also, I should remind Future Stephanie that her tops would gap less with smaller buttons, closely spaced.
Maybe it’s my fat ass, maybe it’s my spine, but I have some major back fit struggles.  On my sloper, the CB curves inward over my middle back.  I’d apply that to anything with a CB seam, but for a silly little shirt I left it straight.
Worn tucked in and allowed to settle, the blouse follows my natural waist-hip line instead of puffing out.  Wicked.
In the class, I marveled how woman after woman sewed up her pants muslin and it fit.  I’m not kidding.  I had to re-attach my jaw later that night since it spent so much time on the ground.  After my recent pants fitting struggles, I have no end of respect for the mind who could dream up a way to make pants fit everybody.
This morning I drew up a plus-fours pattern and cut it out.  Remember my knickerbockers fixation?  It hasn’t left me these 8 months.

Expect Plus-Fours with Chinese takeout pockets in the near future.

Drafting the Mirabilis Top

I feel whiny about matching regular plaid; matching irregular plaid causes full-scale temper tantrums.  The colors of this Madras cotton make me smile and matches with 95% of my bottoms so I bought it while anticipating punishment.  I approached this first pattern made from The Pattern Drafter sloper with a few inspiration pictures and the general idea to create a shirt which would require no plaid matching and still showcase the fabric.

First, I traced the basic front to six inches below the waist.  I find tucks quicker to sew than darts and they allow me to take in a large amount of underbust fabric without risking a pointy dart.  To that end,  I left off the dart apex for the vertical dart.

I re-drew a Sabrina style neckline- deep-ish and wide.  I made sure to leave enough shoulder to cover my bra strap.  No one wants to see that.   I dropped the armscythe 5/8″ for sleeveless.  Since I had 1″ of shoulder, I extended that meausrement along the neckline to make a band.  I made another band 1″ wide at the armscythe.  Having done that, I placed scrap polytrace on top of the bands, traced the shape, and added seam allowances as I would for a Burda.  I marked the new pattern pieces so I’d know what they were later, (#ME4788) then added seam allowances to the body of the shirt.

I used a black marker to show the final cutting line lest I should become confused.  The CF measures 17″, so I drew a 17″ X 3″ rectangle with a bias grainline to create a 1″ finished front button placket.

I measured 1″ of shoulder and 4″ down from the CB which was a number plucked from the air and I drew the curve.  I created a back tuck rather than a dart, smoothed the waist angle at the side seam, and followed the same technique as for the front.

Front and back.  The entire process took me about an hour and a half, or the same time it would take me to trace and alter a “new-to-me” pattern.

Cutting layout.  I cut each of the bands double- outer band and facing- on the bias so I left a little extra room for the second cutting.  The front and back wouldn’t fit side-by-side, but I’m not bothered matching irregular plaid at the side seam when it isn’t going to match anywhere else.

Could not resist laying it out “to see.”

The little girl and I went to Chinese New Year Celebrations for the Year of the Rabbit today- such fun!  She took candy from a lion’s mouth- and me without a camera.  Did anyone else know that you can get red bean (actual BEANS in them) popsicles at the Chinese supermarket?  They’re delicious and I never would have tried them except for the sweet old lady who pushed them on me.

Happy New Year!  Let’s put those floods and hurricanes behind us.

Finished Object: Annelise Blouse

(Worn with my favorite hemp skirt, the tiny girl gets so excited about photos)

Annelise first covered my back nearly two weeks ago, she’s the first thing I made in my fevered wardrobe-in-a-week sewing.  She traces her pedigree through Wearing History’s Smooth Sailing blouse married to an exotic Japanese double gauze cotton.  It’s actually two layers of thin fabric, pad-stitched together to make one breezy fabric substantial enough for a blouse or perhaps a dress.  We have various prints at work so I took it for a test drive.  I marveled at the doubled fabric and then promptly forgot about it.  Easy to sew.

(Don’t mind my face, I’m trying to explode a gecko using death rays from my eyes…)

I first made this from a man’s shirt.  It’s wearable, but doesn’t fit me well enough.  The fault was mine, I thought the pattern came from a modern block when it is from a vintage one.  Had I done the appropriate flat pattern measurements, I would have approached it differently.  After Lauren of Wearing History graciously answered some of my pattern questions (I adore the online sewing community!), I realized I should approach the shirt as I would a 30’s pattern.

That meant (for me) working from a 34″ high bust (I usually work from a 32″ to fit my back), altering the front for a full bust, playing with the armscythe/sleeves, and factoring in a little wearing ease.   Some reviewers have reported tightness through the arms, which I think is to be expected from a 30’s pattern.  In this case, I used Zemelda’s sleeves (because I know they fit well) and altered the armscythe on the fly.

Due to the interesting nature of the fabric, I left out the interfacing.  It’s as cool and delicious as possible.  The stripes are slightly irregular and not precisely on grain.  That happens sometimes with printed stripes, rather easy to do if you think about it.  In this case, I chose to align my grainline with the stripe rather than worry too much about grain.  Dear little pockets.  I put my bus card in one of them today.  Talk about handy!

While a common cut for the era- late 30’s/early 40’s- this is my own first whack which I feel fits me properly.  I’m like Goldilocks- this one’s too big, that one’s too small, this pulls at the back.  It’s about getting the right amount of ease for my body and lack of girdle in order to achieve the “look.”  I bought a piece of Liberty cotton covered in a scrimshaw design of clipper ships to make this shirt ages ago, I finally feel confident cutting it.  I may even use huge era-appropriate buttons.

Part of the joy of blogging my sewing is turning the work inside out.  This is by far the cleanest, prettiest convertible collar I’ve ever sewn, thanks to Sherry’s Convertible Collar Tutorial.

I wore this all day running errands downtown and got a lot of looks.  To me, this feels like a really normal shirt, am I missing something?

Update on Trash Wars 2011: I applied for a mini-bin at the council today.  Thanks, Emmi.  My husband plays up being blokey through over the fence chatter to the man of the house next door, he says he’ll discuss composting.  I know it bugs Husband, too.  Between that and having a tiny bin the problem may well be nipped.

Finished Object: Burda Blouse (Shocking Ants Extra)

My second whack at Burda 04-2010-105, in cotton-silk radiance.  I used radiance for my other ruffled Burda blouse and discovered it sews beautifully, washes in the machine, and drapes well for ruffles.

I failed previously, the combination of ruffles and silk chiffon proved lethal, of course it was special fabric I could never replace.  (Just today I had a salvage brain wave for that blouse, so you may see it soon.)  I’m not one to be beaten by a ruffle.  After my recent burda blouse success I felt up to tackling 105.

The Bitch Goddess wouldn’t allow me to use my first ruffle attempts which I finished with a double-fold narrow hem.  The center front of the ruffle pieces curve sharply, my hems looked decidedly angular.   When she’s right, she’s right, so I won’t banish the Bitch completely.  I unpicked, pressed, and applied self-bias with my binding foot.  I thought satin binding would show off both sides of the fabric, so used satin for the arm binding and the collar as well.

Objectively, I think it’s a well-made blouse and pretty.  For personal wear, I’m not so sure.  For one, it plunges precipitously.  Secondly, I know better than to pile ruffles on my bosom.  Finally, this turned out far more twiddly than strictly necessary or anticipated.


  • Typical Burda Instructions.   This deserves a higher difficulty rating based on the oblique instructions and finishing difficulties.
  • I omitted the side zipper.  It’s size 38 with a 3/4″ FBA- I left the extra space below the FBA and I think that allows me to wriggle into the blouse.

Why not model it?  It’s for my work wardrobe.  I’ll model the pieces together and post a composite.  Soon.  Next week perhaps.

I wonder if any other sewists purposefully make “mistakes.”  While planning, cutting and sewing, I did not for one minute forget that I avoid bulky bustlines for a reason- yet I couldn’t resist.  Do you transgress your own rules purposefully, knowing it might end unsatisfactorily but hoping for the best?  How does that work out?

Now the shocker:

Over the past two weeks I noticed more animals than usual invading my house, apparently in search of a dry place to live.  This afternoon I walked into my room and an ant invasion straight from a B-grade movie greeted me.  They swarmed through the window, across the wall, over the floor to my just-emptied laundry hamper.  I picked it up and discovered they built a nursery.  In less than two hours.   It hasn’t rained for several days, I can’t figure it out.

Husband seems to genuinely enjoy mass-murder at times like these.