RSS Feed

Tag Archives: blouse

Mimi Blouse Redux

Posted on

For this blouse I revisited a pattern I have made twice before, loved, but still had not gotten quite right. Sadly, this one is not the perfect Mimi blouse either.

DSCN7858(b)

Of course, I am also being exceptionally picky here! This blouse is still charming, reasonably comfortable and eminently wearable. It is made from a heavier cotton lawn, so the blouse is a bit more crisp than my earlier versions of this pattern. For the buttons, I lucked out and found some beautiful vintage glass buttons at Stitch Sew Shop in Alexandria, VA. The magenta glass of the buttons matches the flowers in the fabric, and the iridescent finish is even a pale turquoise. If there is a better button for this project, I can’t imagine it!

The problem continues to be fit. You may recall (though I’m not sure why you would, it’s been ages!) that after my last attempt at this blouse, I altered the sleeve pattern piece in order to add fullness to the sleeve hem while retaining the overlapping folds. What a sensible idea! Make alterations while the fit problems and their best solution are fresh in your mind!

Of course, I have since lost the altered pattern piece, so I improvised.

DSCN7408

That’s right, I just cut straight across the bit where the sleeve pattern cuts back in for the double fold. When sewing it up, I simply left out the overlapping folds, which creates a very slightly belled sleeve hem. For my arms at least, this is ideal.

DSCN7860(b)

Yet because nothing is ever simple, releasing the tension on the sleeve hem revealed that the depth of the armhole is just a bit too short on me. Sigh. I was able to cheat on the seam when I sewed in the sleeves, but I will need to make the armhole deeper next time I make this blouse. I am going to get this pattern right, darnit! I like the collar too much to admit defeat.

DSCN7863 (2)

My ongoing obsession with comfortable sleeves which allow the full range of arm movement has inspired me to take a more scientific approach to evaluating this problem area. Thus the Arm Mobility Index was born. What follows is my (admittedly ridiculous) attempt to quantify the ease and comfort of arm movement in any given garment, ranked from worst to best. This Index will enable a more consistent assessment of just how suitable a garment is for climbing trees or retrieving books from high shelves.

Arm Mobility Index

0/10  –  Literal and/or figurative straightjacket. Not a good option for climbing trees or retrieving items from high shelves.

1/10  –  Try as you might, you cannot even get your arms into these sleeves properly. No, just no.

2 /10  –  These sleeves give you T-Rex arms. The T-Rex is extinct. Don’t let these sleeves drive you to extinction!

3/10  –  You need to dislocate your shoulder(s) to get in and out of this garment. Fashion isn’t worth this.

4/10  –  You always end up regretting your decision to wear this shirt/jacket/dress because of how the sleeves fit. Life is too short for regrets.

5/10  –  These sleeves are uncomfortable but wearable. They are fine if you keep your arms by your sides or stick with small arm movements, but they tug uncomfortably if you need to raise your arms above shoulder height or need to drive a long commute.

6/10  –  These sleeves are only mildly annoying. You can still move your arms pretty freely, but you have to fight against the sleeves for larger arm movements.

7/10  –  These sleeves don’t stop you from doing anything but do pull slightly when you move your arms.

8/10  –  The presence of sleeves is at times noticeable.

9/10  –  These are nice, roomy sleeves that allow unrestrained arm movement. You literally never think about the fact you are wearing sleeves (which is clearly an unusual state for me).

10/10  –  No sleeves. Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best.

I would place this blouse project at somewhere between a 6/10 or a 7/10. Perfectly wearable, mildly annoying when trying to reach into cupboards over your head.

 

 

Right. I’m so sorry. Here, have a cat.

DSCN7865(b)

 

 

 

Spirodraft Blouse

Posted on

I have returned at last, dear readers! This year I have been busily writing my dissertation (yes, that’s Dr. Autumnyarn now), but I am very glad to have mental energy for other kinds of creative endeavors again. I intend to get back to my at-least-one-post-a-month level of activity on this blog, which should help me get through the project back-log that has accumulated.

This post is a bit of a project log and a bit of a pattern review, but really, it’s all about this gorgeous fabric.

DSCN7409

It is a cotton voile from Art Gallery Fabrics in a print called “Spirodraft.” I was drawn to the warm mustard color because it makes a nice contrast to most of my wardrobe, but it is the delicate, complicated symmetry of the line drawing that I love most. If you look closely, this fabric has layered, nonsensical outlines and labels that playfully imitate technical designs. Suffice it to say that I think this sort of thing is really cool! But the question of what to do with this really cool piece of fabric has had me stymied for some time. The fabric obviously demanded a sewing pattern that would show off the unusual print, but I didn’t want to be left weeping with frustration when trying to match the print to cut out pattern pieces. The fabric called for something structurally simple and symmetrical to support the busyness of the print. That’s where the Belcarra Blouse from Sewaholic Patterns comes in.

DSCN7676

The Belcarra Blouse pattern is a simple pullover top with raglan sleeves meant for woven fabrics. The shirt has quite a bit of ease and a wide neckline so that it can be easily taken on and off without any zippers or buttons. This sounds like a great concept, but too often I have found that the execution of this sort of pattern ends up giving boxy, awkward results. But miraculously, the Belcarra Blouse somehow avoids the dreaded Boxy Problem. The gentle waist shaping at the side seams keeps the top flattering and also prevents any uncomfortable bunching of excess fabric around the waist. I am always a big fan of raglan sleeves anyways, and these sleeves fit beautifully with no extra fuss.

DSCN7683

The pattern sews up quickly and would make a great project for a novice sewer. I decided to catch stitch the neckline and hem (which takes forever because I am slow), but if you machine stitched everything, it could be sewn in an afternoon. I love the clean lines and simple finishing on this pattern. It includes pattern pieces for a variation on the sleeve with pintucks, which look charming, and overall, this pattern just begs for experimentation with different fabrics or a contrasting sleeve! I’m looking forward to playing around with this one for a long time.

DSCN7681

Most importantly, I would give this pattern an 8/10 on arm mobility. I can comfortably lift my arms above my head while wearing the blouse, but it does ride up a bit. However, the blouse doesn’t actually tug uncomfortably when I am driving or when I wave my arms wildly over my head just to see if I can, so it still gets my seal of approval.

The things I do in the name of rigorous pattern testing.

Overall, I am beyond pleased with how this project came out. The symmetry of the blouse pattern beautifully complements the symmetry of the fabric print. The blouse pairs nicely with jeans or a skirt, and you know I find that kind of versatility almost as important as arm mobility.

Almost.

 

 

 

Bright Red Bicycle Blouse

Posted on

Hello again friends!

DSCN5582

It has been much, much too long since I’ve managed to write a blog post, but these things happen when you are writing a dissertation! This is just a quick post for a quick sewing project. Long, long ago over Christmas break I sewed a wrap blouse using Vogue 8833. I can now attest that the blouse is comfortable, versatile, and durable after wearing it all Spring. This red blouse is made using the same pattern, minus the sleeves and with a different collar. The fabric is a Robert Kaufman Lawn in bright red with tiny white bicycles all over, and I am utterly besotted. I’m looking forward to wearing this blouse to death through the rest of Summer and into the sweltering DC Fall!

Blue Wrap Blouse: Vogue 8833

Ah sewing, how I have missed it! This past semester was demanding enough that I couldn’t justify sparing the mental energy for sewing projects. Knitting is one thing – by now it doesn’t take that much mental effort for me to put together even a fairly complicated project because it progresses slowly. Sewing requires much more focus because when things go wrong, they can go wrong quickly and permanently.

DSCN3173

It has been a pleasure to get back to sewing even though my sweater project has kept me company this Fall. This blouse is the recently discontinued Vogue pattern 8833. It is a wrap blouse with princess seams and a small dart which allows for a good fit without any nightmarish easing of pattern pieces. The pattern has alot of different pattern pieces, but the construction is straightforward and quick.

DSCN3177 (2)

The trickiest bit was figuring out what size to make rather than anything to do with the sewing itself. This pattern is one of those with variations for different cup sizes included right in the pattern pieces. While this is an excellent idea as it can theoretically save a good bit of effort in modifying the pattern for different shapes, deciphering how all the size options on paper translate into an actual garment is far from simple. I ended up making a 14c and am very happy with the fit.

DSCN3183

The fabric for this blouse is a Robert Kaufman denim that I picked up from Fabric.com to round out an order for free shipping. While it wasn’t a deliberate purchase, this denim is lovely – soft but substantial, with an interesting and subtle woven pattern. It washes up very nicely, is easy to sew with and comfortable to wear. 10 out of 10, would buy again, on purpose even!

Wrap blouses haven’t made it in my sewing repertoire before, but they make a welcome addition. I’m particularly enchanted with the collar band on this one. This pattern will definitely see at least one future project; I’m planning a sleeveless version in a magenta shirting from my fabric stash. I don’t know if I will ever sew one, but I can see this pattern easily adapted to a wrap dress too.

DSCN3185

This blouse has made for a quick, satisfying project to get back into sewing, and I am looking forward to wearing it in the new year! These pictures are all taken amidst an old art installation at some nearby athletic fields. They seem rather dramatic from a distance, don’t they? almost reminiscent of Stonehenge or something.

DSCN3195

 

A White Linen Blouse: Vogue 1440

Vogue 1440

Thanks for braving the drizzle to take pictures, Mom!

The Big Four pattern companies – Butterick, McCalls, Simplicity, and Vogue – release collections of new patterns several times throughout the year. Because I am a sewing nerd, I always enjoy looking through the new patterns, over-analyzing the designs, and figuring out unusual constructions (… and cringing at terrible fabric choices, etc). The first time I saw Vogue 1440, I barely noticed it. A sweater/jacket thing is the focus of the main picture of the pattern, and I’m just not that into sweater/jacket things. But once I took a good look at the line drawing for the sleeveless blouse, I was obsessed. Do you see that brilliant, perfect triangle yoke? Do you see it?? I am still excited over the unusual design elements in this top – the crisp collar that relaxes into a gracefully shaped, tunic length blouse and the solid, tailored yoke.

Vogue 1440

With a pattern like this, though, the right fabric is absolutely essential to a wearable result. I knew I wanted a white blouse, but finding a shirting that was heavy enough to be opaque and drapey enough to work with the design was a puzzle. Linen always seems like a good idea. It is cool in summer heat and conjures images of lazy days and effortless dressing. Yet the reality of sewing linen is more often wrinkly (and not attractively so) and stiff and scratchy. It takes years to soften up linen properly, and I do not have that kind of patience. This is why I was pleased as punch to find the lovely Brussels Washer Linen on Fabric.com. It is mostly linen and has all of linen’s best qualities, but the rayon blend helps control the wrinkling, makes the fabric smooth and soft right away, and gives it fantastic drape. I have basically been looking for this specific fabric since I learned how to sew without knowing it.

Vogue 1440

The only modification I made to the pattern was to take in the side seams considerably, maybe four inches in total? The fit is still roomy, which tells you how much I was swimming in it before. Vogue 1440 involves some unusual construction and lovely finishing details – I always learn something while sewing a Vogue pattern! The shaped hem is finished with a narrow bias facing which eases in beautifully (need to remember that trick), and there is a very polished hidden button placket.

Vogue 1440

Of course, the yoke was the most exciting part, and sewing that bit wasn’t pretty. Just before making this blouse, I had been working with sewing patterns that fully spell out each step of construction, so I forgot that Vogue patterns assume a certain level of knowledge from their sewers (-ists?? seamstresses? seamsters? help!). Vogue patterns, at least the more advanced ones, tell you what to do, not necessarily how to do it. At one point when I was sewing in the yoke and the yoke facing, I thought I was looking at a how direction and not a what, so I wrestled with the pieces until I realized that my current interpretation of the directions required breaking all the known laws of physics. But fortunately, once I got my head on straight, the directions were clear enough to follow.

Vogue 1440

This was a fun sewing project to puzzle together, and working with the Brussels Washer Linen was a pleasure. If I made this pattern again, I would move the top button about one inch north, but it is still very wearable as is.  I’m beyond thrilled with how this blouse came out, so I may stop with this one. If I ever do revisit Vogue 1440, I would definitely make it up in a color and maybe shorten it a bit. The tunic length was an unusual choice for me, especially for summer, but it is cute with jeans or khaki trousers and pairs nicely with an open cardigan. The blouse is beyond comfortable to wear and allows you full range of arm movement which I find very important. You never know when you might need to fly a kite or conduct an orchestra.

Citron Mimi Blouse

Posted on

Here we find a second Mimi Blouse from Tilly and the Buttons’ Love at First Stitch. I am still in love with the Chelsea collar and the neat fit at the shoulders! This blouse was made with a cotton voile which is a much more summer-friendly fabric than flannel.

citron voile mimi blouse front

I love wearing and working with voile, but finding budget-friendly voile can be a trick. This pretentiously named fabric is “Bromley Voile Arbor Citron,” and it comprised my inaugural order from Fabric.com. Yes, I have surrendered to the siren call that is online fabric shopping. I love the range of fabrics available (especially apparel fabrics), and if you are careful, you can find quality fabrics in a price range that won’t break the bank. Yet at the same time, I find nothing can substitute for actually handling a fabric before purchasing it. Also, digging through actual piles of fabric is undeniably more fun than scrolling. My best advice is to get your hands on sample swatches whenever possible – it helps to know what you are getting into!

citron voile mimi blouse back

Still, I am gleefully happy with this voile – it was very reasonably priced, the pattern and colors are interesting, and the quality of the fabric is good. The buttons were originally intended for a different project, but they work nicely here with their simple shape. There were two extra buttons on hand, so I added them on to embellish the sleeves. Both the sleeves and the hem have two rows of top-stitching.

citron voile mimi blouse sleeve

Speaking of those troublesome sleeves…. With the other version of the Mimi blouse, the only fit issue was some tightness at the sleeve hem. For this version, I added two inches of width at the underarm seam and thus revealed that I still think more like a knitter than a seamstress at times. You see, modifying fullness at the seams is standard practice in knitting. Sometimes patterns use “full-fashion shaping” in which increases and decreases in the number of stitches are made deliberately visible, and I would say there has been more of this sort of design in the past decade or two. BUT for the most part, in knitting, shaping is concealed at seams whenever possible, simply because it is easier to add there and more discrete. Now when you are knitting, the fabric you are creating has built-in stretch. This means you do not need to be much concerned about additional fullness ending up in the right place – the garment adjusts to fit the body.

Here, have some silliness - this is getting technical

Here, have some silliness – this is getting technical

In sewing, you adjust fullness at the seams too, but as I have learned,  you need to be much more careful about how that fullness is distributed because even fabric with good drape does not behave the same way a stretch fabric will. All of which is to say, I added two inches of fullness to the sleeve hem at the underarm seam as drawn in this picture, and it was not a very good idea. The resulting sleeve tends to bunch up, and when I move my arms, the sleeves still feel a bit constricting despite the added fullness. It is not bad, but I over-analyze everything – why would I stop here?

DSCN2014

Now as I was adding width to the sleeve hem willy-nilly, I had a vague awareness that this was not the proper way to go about things. I read enough sewing blogs and old sewing books for fun that I really do know better. But on some level, I have never been entirely convinced that I needed to make adjustments for fit the way all those fussy diagrams suggested. I mean, all you need is the correct circumference on a garment at any given point on the body, right? Wrong. You can cheat some, but I am learning that woven fabric is not a particularly forgiving Overlady.DSCN2018

So instead I have altered the sleeve pattern piece using the “slash and spread” method. Typically, you would just slice the sleeve pattern vertically at the middle, but there is some complicated folding going on there that I do not want to mess with. Instead, I split the sleeve on either side of the folds and separated the bottom edges to add in the desired width. As you can see from the phantom sketching and the first pattern picture, you end up with a rather differently shaped pattern piece. You can see the final version below.

DSCN2019So now we all know what I should have done! The blouse fits well enough as it is that it’s not worth ripping out the sleeves to fix. The altered sleeve pattern will just have to wait with its brethren until the next time I make a Mimi blouse with short sleeves. I am toying with the idea of making a long-sleeved version first, possibly stealing the sleeve pattern from the Bruyère pattern? We shall see. In any case, I have plenty of projects lined up first, a dissertation to write, and a rather cheerful blouse to wear.

Mimi Blouse in Plaid

Posted on

In my previous post, I talked about some gray flannel plaid fabric – cozy, lightweight and loosely woven. All of those qualities make it a delight to wear and suitable for clothing that can be worn into warmer weather than is typical with flannel. Of course, those lightweight, loosely woven qualities that make it comfortable in a wide range of temperatures also make the flannel miserable to work with, particularly when your cutting surface is an uneven, carpeted floor. Surprisingly, the carpet pile makes it easier to slide the scissors along without disturbing the fabric, but flannel sticks to carpet like the Dickens.

Also, there is the Mostly Benevolent Overlord to contend with…

What can I say? Cutting out sewing projects is always an adventure.

The end result of this particular sewing adventure is a short-sleeved blouse with an unusual Chelsea collar and gathered sleeves. The easy fit makes this blouse breezy in the DC heat but also works neatly tucked into a skirt. The pattern for the Mimi Blouse comes from Tilly and the Buttons book, Love at First Stitch. I continue to be impressed by the patterns from this book – the designs are clean and stylish, easy to wear, and fun to make. The pattern directions are admirably clear and helpfully illustrated with extra attention given to potentially new sewing tasks and techniques. I am slowly sewing my way through all the patterns in the book.

plaid mimi blouse 1

According to the fitting charts, I am between two sizes, but because of the Mimi Blouse’s generous cut, I chose the smaller size. I’m very happy with the fit. The only issue I ran into was that the sleeves were rather too tight around the bicep – a perpetual problem for me. To solve this problem, I simply made a very narrow sleeve seam and did not reinforce the hem facing, but I would definitely widen the hem on any subsequent Mimi blouses. The blouse is wearable, but the sleeves are still more snug than I would prefer.

plaid mimi blouse 3

The folded sleeves are interesting, but I can’t decide whether I love the unusual and flattering collar shape or the soft gathers at the shoulder more. Really, I just love the way this garment sits and drapes from the shoulders. Shoulders can be tricky to fit, but they make such a huge difference in how an entire garment hangs.

plaid mimi blouse 2

The pattern book suggests a number of variations, and given how comfortable and wearable this blouse is, I can see many Mimi blouses in my sewing future. Perhaps, after making up some short sleeve versions, I might try for a long-sleeved one? I am currently very charmed by the paired button arrangement on this version, and of course, matching plaids brings me more satisfaction than is entirely seemly.

plaid mimi blouse 4

… or is that seamly?

%d bloggers like this: