Vogue Patterns 8772: Easy Options Blouses

Readers,

Even though summer can be the easiest and most fun season to sew for, I didn’t sew much for summer during our years in Minnesota.  After all, it wasn’t till May that I was finally convinced I could probably go outdoors without a coat, and in September I was bracing myself for the first coworker to make a nasty crack about when the first snowflakes could be expected to fall.

I made this sleeveless blouse but in a shorter version.

To shrink the summer-sewing window of opportunity smaller yet, we often traveled in June, July, or August–sometimes to places with fabric stores selling wonderful cottons and linens for light dresses and sleeveless blouses.  In New York, Chicago, and even Glasgow a citrus-colored handkerchief linen or snappy seersucker would catch my eye and sneak into my suitcase for the trip home–where it would languish desolately in the chill of my basement sewing domain.

Vogue 8772: the muslin

Oh sure, I can hear you say, I could have sewn for summer at another time of year–but that would have required me to, number 1, take off my thermal underwear to try on that dress or blouse, and, number 2, believe that warm weather would ever return.  Ha–I was nobody’s fool!  And so I lived with a serviceable but hardly extensive summer wardrobe for years–not that anybody noticed.

Extra fabric at the waist interferes with a smooth line.

Now that I’m back in central Ohio, I’ve noticed.  In reality and in spirit, summer is definitely here.  The peach trees here are set to produce an unheard-of two crops this season.  Strawberries, corn, tomatoes are all showing up early and in abundance, begging to be used–just like my summer fabric stash.

That gaping armhole must go!

Rummaging through the back of my closet a few weeks ago, I found muslins I’d put away late last August– too late for slowpoke me to fit, alter, and sew those patterns into summer attire. But now, for once, I could consider myself ahead of the game.  I tried on my muslin of Vogue Easy Options 8772, read through my notes from last year, and it really wasn’t long before I had produced a wearable test and three well-fitting sleeveless blouses.

To improve the fit and look called for some simple changes within my very limited but adequate alteration abilities:

  • moving the armhole up a little to avoid annoying gaping
  • raising the bust dart half an inch
  • tucking out an inch or so of excess length in the back waist and shortening the front to match
  • changing the armhole finish from a bias strip to a facing

    Drafting a facing to replace the simple bias strip the pattern called for.

    In the muslin I found the bias-strip facing bulky and I wanted a finish that would distribute the bulk more nicely: a facing.

Wearable test: the armhole gap is still there.

In this drapey linen-rayon the excess at the waist really shows.

Another view of that unsightly, but fixable, ripple of extra fabric in the back.

Could I just fold this out and make it disappear, please?

Next: a seersucker. I do like this blouse, despite my inscrutable expression.

I tucked out about an inch in the back pattern piece. Maybe I could have fussed more with it but I’m happy.

Given my limited fitting skills, I’m fine with this result.

Very important: the armhole passes the volleyball test. (And no, I was not the gym class volleyball star.)

Now I’m happy with the fit. I rifled my stashes to make this version from a cross-dye cotton shirting and handsome black mother of pearl buttons.

Should I take in a little more in the back darts, or would that be overfitting? Possibly the latter.

Pass/fail? It’s a pass. Oh, but what’s going on with that left shoulder?

The armhole passes the hailing-a-taxi test.

Having worked out the fit issues I could confidently cut into a favorite fabric: a summery John Kaldor stretch cotton

Nice.

The–crisp?–feel to this cotton may be due to the spandex, so this fabric doesn’t drape. But the pattern is well suited to this fabric so all is well.

The armhole passes the hailing-a-drone test.

This Vogue Easy Options blouse lives up to its name:  it is easy to sew, and just the sleeveless option by itself is putting variety into my summer wardrobe at a swift pace.

I’ve since sewn a short-sleeved version that was equally successful with a couple of tweaks, which will appear in a future post.

(Photos of me are by Cynthia DeGrand)

Mindful Entertainment

Readers,

The project I’m working on at the moment is so boring (a pants muslin) that I can hardly bear to write about it, much less take pictures of it.  Maybe a professional could style and light a pants muslin brilliantly, but I sure can’t.

Great-fitting pants: worth the effort to make, of course, but not exciting to write about.

Great-fitting pants: worth the effort to make, of course, but not exciting to write about.

The interesting part of sewing pants is, frankly, getting them done.  For my figure, simpler lines in skirts and pants work best. Jackets, vests, coats, tops, dresses, hats, and scarves allow much greater creative range and challenge for me.

To get through the boring parts of projects I like to take breaks by visiting the Vintage Patterns Wiki.  Browsing page after page of vintage pattern envelope illustrations is, I was going to say, mindless entertainment, but actually, it’s the opposite for me. It’s mindful entertainment: I have loads of fun looking at pictures intently and picking out the ones I like the most.

I copy and paste the images of my favorite pattern designs into a Microsoft OneNote notebook I set up for myself for wardrobe and sewing ideas, and add comments that are keyword-searchable.

In pants, simpler is better for me. Tops are where I put the distinctive details.

In pants, simpler is better for me. Tops are where I put the distinctive details.

I can impulsively add any pattern illustrations I like, and if I change my mind, delete them later. Over time I can see which patterns have staying power and whether they have common elements that suggest a wardrobe direction.

Recently I’ve been browsing vintage blouse patterns, to use great fabrics from my stash and to go with jackets I’ve made or am planning to make. What great choices the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s offered! And so many would fit effortlessly into today’s wardrobes.

Here are some of the blouses that caught my eye.  Long live Vintage Pattern Wiki!

1950s. Nice on its own or under a jacket.

1952. Nice on its own or under a jacket.

1952. A chance to use beautiful vintage buttons.

1952. A chance to use beautiful vintage buttons.

400px-Vogue900 (345x460)

1953. Vogue Couturier Design 774. The blouse has a simple shape but has that extra detail that makes it special. When I look at a design like this I think, “I’m glad I sew!” because  I can choose to make this.

1944. The masculine shoulder line of the war years is balanced by gathers and frills.

1944. The masculine shoulder line of the war years is balanced by gathers and frills.

1930s. The importance of a jacket without all the work of tailoring. Interesting collar/lapels, and a chance to use vintage buttons.

1930s. The importance of a jacket without all the work of tailoring. Interesting collar/lapels, and a chance to use vintage buttons.

1930s. It's less the blouse in this case as it's the high-waisted skirt that completes the ensemble that grabs me.

1930s. It’s not the blouse alone; it’s the combination with  the high-waisted skirt that I really like here.

1954. A convertible hood. I like the idea, but would this look good on me, or just strange?

1954. A convertible hood. I like the idea, but would this look good on me, or just strange?

1952. Vogue Paris Original Model 1162. The jacket is gorgeous, but Schiaparelli made the blouse a stunner, too.

1952. Vogue Paris Original Model 1162. The jacket is gorgeous, but Schiaparelli made the blouse a stunner, too.

1952. A nice way to bring the eye up.

1952. One way to bring the eye up.

1953. The diagonal stripes go in the other direction but also bring the eye up.

1957. Could this be a candidate for drapey knits as well as wovens?

1957. Could this be a candidate for drapey knits as well as wovens?

Cheap But Not Cheerful

Readers,

This floral stretch cotton, at ease.

This floral stretch cotton, at ease.

It was a cheap and cheerful fabric of unlisted fiber content that I picked up at S.R. Harris Fabric Outlet a few years ago that was sitting in my stash waiting for a summer project.

It was a perky blouse pattern from 1950 that looked easy enough to fit and a match for the mood of this floral print.

Advance pattern 5455, from 1950.

Advance pattern 5455, from 1950.

Yesterday I finished the revision of the wearable test of the Advance 5455 blouse pattern from 1950. I asked Jack to take some pictures of me modeling it.  As Jack asked me to pose, I found it hard to look happy or proud. I was dissatisfied–but by what, exactly?

Was it the fit?

This last version did fit better than the previous one. At a Treadle Yard Goods salon last week Michele pinned out extra fabric from above the bust and side seams and moved up the bust dart–all good changes.

Was it the fabric?

Not exactly thrilled.

Not exactly thrilled.

My best guess was this was a cotton with spandex. It stretches a lot, and when I burned a sample it smelled like burning paper.

Whatever the fiber content, this fabric was difficult to press.  It emerged from machine washing and drying a little wrinkled, and the wrinkles didn’t go away entirely. Annoying.

There's a lot of stretch in this woven.

There’s a lot of stretch in this woven.

Also, this fabric has a peculiar hand, a stiffness from the synthetic component. The fabric released above and below the waist tucks stands stiffly away from the body rather than draping.

Aha. I’m onto something here. I think I picked the wrong pattern for the characteristics of this fabric. If I want shaping using this stretch woven, princess seams might be the way to go. Certainly not released tucks.

Princess seams might be more compatible with the characteristics of this fabric, which doesn't drape.

Princess seams might be more compatible with the characteristics of this fabric, which doesn’t drape.

Or, another way of looking at it, I picked the wrong fabric for this pattern. It doesn’t show off the pattern to best effect. Maybe a handkerchief linen or Liberty cotton would be better, for the drape and the feel.

And now I’m thinking I picked the wrong fabric for me. When I bought it I was attracted to the liveliness of the colors and the flowers. But this is a small-scale print and can be read as cute. Not a look I’m aiming for.

I thought I could dial it back the cuteness aspect. But it remains insistently cute. Shoulda known.

So the remainder of my cheap and cheerful floral-print stretch cotton looks to be my first donation to the Textile Center’s Fabric Garage Sale in April, 2014. I’ll pin a note to it telling the prospective buyer about my experience with it and wishing her or him good luck.

Time to put this yardage back into the great sewing flow and move on.

Time to put this yardage back into the great sewing flow and move on.

Project: Advance 5455 (1950), blouse

Readers,

The sewing space is 90 percent done,

The sewing space is 90 percent done.

It sure feels good to be back in my freshly painted and much better organized sewing space with the pegboard back up on the wall, where I can see my tools. I missed this place!

When I uploaded the top photo to the media library of this blog, my caption was shortened from “sewing space” to “sewing spa.” How apt!

This is a stretch woven, which stands away from the body a little.

This is a stretch woven, which stands away from the body a little.

Yesterday I pulled the Advance blouse project that I’d started some weeks back and soon was engrossed in finishing it.

It was gratifying to move from step to step with success. I made facings to finish the armholes, sewed buttonholes and attached the buttons, and hemmed. No complications for once.

I like the idea of wearing the collar up, but some well-meaning person would probably turn it down for me.

I like the idea of wearing the collar up, but some well-meaning person would probably turn it down for me.  More shaping at the waist would improve the fit.

Readers, you might think that after sewing a coat, a jacket and an anorak, I would not be fazed by a little old blouse. But I’m always surprised when things go without a hitch. I make no assumptions. Mishaps lurk around every corner.

I swear these buttons were just waiting to be paired with this fabric.

I swear these buttons were just waiting to be paired with this fabric.

Just before lunch I finished the blouse. Then the question arose: how would I get pictures of me modeling it?

Jack’s gone, visiting family for several days. My photographer-sister, Cynthia, is 764 miles away in Columbus, Ohio. I could ask a neighbor to take a couple of shots …nah, I didn’t want to impose.

I like the way the collar brings the eye up. (Oh look--a squirrel!)

I like the way the collar brings the eye up. (Oh look–a squirrel!)

It was time to learn how to take pictures of myself using my tripod (a gift from Cynthia–thanks!) and the timer on my camera.

Again luck was with me. The camera manual had simple instructions that worked the first time through. Within minutes I was simpering my way through a photo shoot on our deck.

Facings finish the armholes.

Facings finish the armholes.

The fit of this blouse isn’t perfect. The bust dart should move up, and there should be some more shaping at the waist. The armhole should be a little smaller. But that’s the point of a wearable test: to fine-tune the fit. I plan to go to the next sewing salon at Treadle Yard Goods to get help perfecting this pattern.

Here's the blouse with with a full skirt and a bolero jacket. The button-embellished pocket would be fun.

Here’s the blouse with with a full skirt and a bolero jacket. It would be fun to choose buttons to embellish those pocket flaps.

Although this blouse falls short of perfect, it’s been so much fun to finish a summer garment on a beautiful summer day, and even learn to take pictures of myself into the bargain.

And it’s been especially fun to be back–

–in the sewing spa.

When Bad Patterns Happen to Good People

Readers,

Advance pattern 5455, from 1950.

Advance pattern 5455, from 1950.

Yesterday I took my blouse project, Advance 5455, from 1950, to my sewing teacher, Edith, to look it over. I’d gotten to a place in the instructions that had stopped me when I made the muslin five or six years ago. I was still stumped.

No wonder. I still don’t quite understand the instructions but it doesn’t matter. Edith frowned and said, “These instructions are bad.” They were directing you to clip where the front and self-facing met before you stitched the collar on.

It’s still confusing to me, but essentially you were told to do something that’s very difficult to do accurately once, let alone precisely and consistently twice, to attach each end of the collar. A simpler method virtually guaranteeing success could be so easily substituted.

Edith didn't like the front's having an attached facing.

Edith didn’t like the front’s having an attached facing.

Also, Edith disapproved of the cut-on facing. A sewn-on separate facing would provide more body and stability at the garment opening. She showed me how I could cut off the self-facing and easily draft a separate piece.

This blouse pattern didn’t come with a back facing. Instead, it directed you to face the back neckline with a bias strip. Edith recommended drafting a back facing.

Where the pattern directed you to turn under and stitch the raw edge to finish the facing, Edith recommended stitching the interfacing to the facing right sides together in a 1/4th inch seam along the unnotched edge, and then turning and pressing the facing for a neat, clean edge.

I cut off the attached facing and cut a new, separate facing.

I cut off the attached facing and cut a new, separate facing.

Here’s where getting an expert opinion saved me so much grief. Edith could see right away where the charming vintage pattern was calling for uncharming construction techniques that were fussy and risky.

I wonder how many potentially good sewers over the generations have been so discouraged by bad design and poor instructions that they’ve given up, thinking “I will never be good at this.”

When I was an avid cook and baker with cooking school and on-the-job training, I used to run into poor recipes and incomplete or even incorrect instructions a lot, even in cookbooks by respected authors. Having worked with experts, I developed some sense of which methods would yield good results and which wouldn’t.  I usually knew where I goofed and where the recipe was a bad recipe.

Neatly interfaced front and back facings replace the original cut-on front facing and bias strip to finish the back neckline.

Neatly interfaced front and back facings replace the original cut-on front facing and bias strip to finish the back neckline.

This very important distinction helped me stay the course and become a pretty good home cook and baker.

It’s going to take me a good while before I can scrutinize pattern pieces and instructions and distinguish the good from the bad as well as I can with a recipe. But every time Edith points out poor design or construction choices, I gain a little knowledge–not just of a specific construction technique, but of how to think through what I’m being asked to do and what result I’m aiming for.

The fault, dear Brutus, may be in ourselves–but it may also be in the pattern.

The goal: this blouse. Maybe someday the skirt, too.

The goal: this blouse. Maybe someday the skirt, too.