I wasn’t really sure whether to blog about the following two blouses and the longer I’ve left it the more I’ve debated shelving the post and moving onto more recent makes. The reason for my dilemma is that I made these blouses all the way back last summer so it feels like a bit of a cheat writing about them now, almost 7 months later. Not only that, but the lilac blouse was the very first garment I made when I returned to sewing last year after a 30 year break. Even though I had sewn a lot in the past, such a long break meant that I was pretty much a newbie, I could remember almost nothing about sewing or how to put a garment together. Having said that, now I look at the photos (and the blouse) I’m pretty happy with how they turned out.
When I was first dressmaking (over 30 years ago) I’d never heard of such things as pattern adjustments – no one talked about them. The pattern was gospel and you followed it to the letter. There wasn’t anything like the internet back then so the only way you learned about dressmaking was from family, at school or by reading books. I learned at school and if my teacher had ever heard of pattern adjustments, she certainly didn’t choose to share that knowledge with her unruly class of 15 year olds (and we were bad, I cringe when I think about it now)
So last year when I decided to start sewing again and began reading about making adjustments to your pattern to ensure that clothes fitted I was like ‘whoa … can I really do that? … how?’
In July last year I came across an online class on the Craftsy platform that was aimed at the beginner who wanted to learn how to make pattern alterations. It is called ‘Easy fitting the Palmer Pletch way’ and it explains in detail their tissue fitting method. As soon as I read more about this method I had one of those light-bulb moments – it just made complete sense to me.
As part of the course you are sent a free copy of the Mccalls 6750 pattern. This particular pattern is designed by Melissa Watson (one of the course instructors.) The pattern contains various alterations already marked onto the tissue paper. By following the course you are able to identify which adjustments you need to make and then you just use the corresponding lines on the pattern to alter it to fit your body shape.
The pattern offers three versions of the blouse, a short sleeve, ¾ sleeve and long sleeve version. I went for view B, the ¾ sleeve.
It is easy to customise the pattern to your own personal preference or size by including or excluding the four darts on the front bodice and the four on the back. You can make anything from a very fitted blouse to a much looser fitting version without any darts. I decided to include just one dart on each front bodice and two on the back, giving a semi fitted result.
Because of the turned over shawl collar which is part of the bodice design, you don’t have to worry about making a traditional collar stand and collar which makes this a great introduction to sewing shirts.
The lilac fabric that I used for my first blouse was a nice cotton poplin from Croft Mill (link here)
It was £5.95 per meter, 115cm wide. I bought 2.5 m as I didn’t know at the time what I planned to make with it but I only ended up using 1.6m in total for this blouse.
The second blouse (the pink tulip version) was made using fabric I picked up at The Fancy Silk Store in Birmingham. It is a really lovely quality cotton and was around £7.99 a meter. I bought 2 meters which was more than enough.
I decided to go with the size 20 for the chest and then grade out to a size 22 at the waist and hips. The pattern gives finished bust measurements but unfortunately it doesn’t give finished waist or hip measurements so I had to use my tape measure and measure the pattern pieces by hand to determine the size I would need around those areas.
Following the Craftsy course I did the following alterations:
A 2” Full Bust Adjustment
A ½ narrow back adjustment
A 5/8” high round back adjustment
A ½” forward shoulder adjustment
A ¾” sloping shoulder adjustment
A 2” sway back adjustment!
Things that didn’t go well or things I would change next time
The course shows you how to make a high round back adjustment and there are clear lines indicated on the pattern. However, after years of bending over to do one craft or another and generally being a sloucher, I have quite a hump on my back (eek that sounds horrible, but it doesn’t look as bad as it sounds.) I decided to do some further learning about high round back adjustments and came across this video on YouTube by Joy Bernhardt: I love Joy’s videos, she always makes me smile when I watch her. She discusses doing the HRB adjustment and says that if you need to do one of 5/8” or over then you MUST incorporate a centre back seam into your blouse. I love the way she matter of factly states ‘Get over it!’ I followed her method of spreading the HRB adjustment over a number of different slashes instead of the craftsy method of just one slash. This did result in a much smoother curve with the added depth spread over a larger area. I do completely get why Joy says you need to add a central seam but I don’t really like one on a blouse design such as this one, it spoils the aesthetic – but as Joy says, I probably just need to ‘get over it’
I had a friend help me do the sway back adjustment. She watched the course and followed the instructions to lift the base of the pattern up until it lay horizontal (mine was almost diagonal at the outset and I had so many pools of tissue around my lower back I could have gone swimming). The pre-marked sway back adjustment line on the pattern only incorporated a small sway back adjustment – nothing like the 2” one I ended up with! Now I definitely don’t have pools of fabric around my lower back, but unfortunately the back hem of my blouse doesn’t run straight, it lifts up towards the centre which makes me think that the adjustment was a tad overdone.
(the pooling on the right hand side of the blouse is just because I had to lift my arm up to use the camera remote)
At the time of doing the sway back adjustment I hadn’t come across any information about needing to ‘true’ the back seam up again. The Craftsy class showed the adjustment being made on a back bodice that didn’t have a centre seam whereas I had gone and put one in. With the sway back adjustment the centre back seam no longer lay straight but at the time I didn’t know that this was incorrect. I have since come across this video from the brilliant Glenda Sparling of Sure Fit designs who shows you how to true the back up after making such an adjustment on a blouse with a centre back seam:
When I started making these blouses back last July I was still learning and I hadn’t, at that time, found out about the need to pre wash fabrics before sewing with them. I wore the pink blouse out one evening when we walked a mile or so to a nearby restaurant. About half way there the heavens opened and I was literally drenched right the way through, my shoes were squelching and even my knickers were soaked – uggh too much information? When we arrived in the restaurant the waiter looked at us and kindly handed us some towels to dry ourselves off – he probably didn’t want wet seats. After drying all round my neck it took me a moment to realise what was causing the bright pink stains on the towel – oops, the colour from the blouse had run so badly that my neck was a shocking pink! I’ve never made that mistake since and always pre-wash my fabrics.
I’m pleased with the length of the blouses at the front but they are too short at the back. I prefer to cover my rather ample derrier up and the back of these finish right across it – nothing like having clothes that signpost ‘oy come over here come and look at this big b*m’. I think this probably happened as a result of the very large sway back adjustment (eek I’m blaming that adjustment for a multitude of sins). If I make this pattern again I will definitely do something to fix the wonky back seam and lengthen the back bodice.
The finished blouses
When I wore the lilac blouse out to meet a friend, who also sews, she congratulated me on my ‘fantastic pattern matching’ on the front of the blouse (her words not mine). If you look carefully, the cherry tree pattern does flow perfectly from one side to another. Now at that point I should have shut up and said ‘oh yes, that took hours of work and so much skill to make it match perfectly’. But me being Little Miss Honest (and who hadn’t even noticed the pattern matched before she pointed it out) instantly blurted ‘Oh that’s just luck, I had no idea what I was doing when I cut it out’.
Now when I look at these two blouses I am really chuffed with them. I still find it hard to believe that they were the first two garments I made after returning to sewing after such a long time away. They are comfortable to wear, I like the shawl collar style and I’m proud of my very first button holes using a button hole foot (back in the 1980s we used to use a zig zag stitch and a careful eye to make button holes).
So this post is long overdue and perhaps I should have given up on the idea of writing it. However, when I look back at how far I’ve come on my sewing journey in just 7 months and how much I’ve learned, I wanted to have a permanent record of the first garments I made when I began sewing again.
Cost to make
Fabric 1.6 m @ – £9.52
6 buttons @ 15p each – 90p
1 m of interfacing – £1.50
1 reel of Guterman thread – £1.70
Total cost of lilac blouse – £13.62
Fabric 1.6 m @ – £12.78
6 buttons @ 25p each – 1.50p
1 m of interfacing – £1.50
1 reel of Guterman thread – £1.70
Total cost of pink blouse – £17.48