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.

Summer Sewing

Readers,

My muslin in the process of being pinned and fitted at a Treadle Yard Goods salon.

My muslin in the process of being pinned and fitted at a Treadle Yard Goods salon.

Summer sewing. For various reasons I have never given it its due.

Summer’s not very long in Minnesota, so I don’t wear my summer clothes so much that I get tired of them. Soon enough they get packed away again.

And until recently, in the summer when I wasn’t working I was probably traveling and away from the sewing domain.

And then in colder weather I turn my attention to sewing warm things.

I have managed to sew Jack a lot of summer shirts, though.

Jack sports a shirt I made him last summer.

Jack sports a shirt I made him last summer.

Hmm. I guess that’s because the decision is so simple: “Wow, what great shirt fabric for Jack for summer! I think I’ll sew him a shirt!” Boom. Done.

For my wardrobe, though, the decision process can go on indefinitely. Which patterns shall I use? Fabrics? Buttons? What shall I coordinate with? The curse of the divergent thinker: infinite possibilities.

I’ve tried to narrow down the possibilities recently to several simple summer blouse and pants patterns. They’re at the muslin stage.

I'm making the blouse, but aren't the jacket and big-pocketed skirt great, too?

I’m making the blouse, but aren’t the jacket and big-pocketed skirt great, too?

I’m about to make a wearable test of the blouse from Advance pattern 5455, from 1950. There are no illustrations of the front of the blouse completed, by itself. But the collar appeals to me.  It can be made with three-quarters-length sleeves or sleeveless. I can see both in my summer wardrobe.

I brought my muslin to yesterday’s Treadle Yard Goods salon, where Michele worked her fitting and pattern-altering magic on it.

The next step is making a wearable test from stash fabric. I will try this cheerful posy-strewn stretch woven that just shouts summer. I have a lot of it, so I can afford to “waste” some on a test.

A cheerful, summery print for my wearable test.

A cheerful, summery print for my wearable test.

I like this fabric, but am a little conflicted about it: I want to keep the happy feeling but skirt cuteness and sweetness. Is that possible?

The cuteness factor can certainly be turned up or down by the cut of the garment and the colors of the coordinating pieces.  I’ll see how it goes.

I’d better get cracking. Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.

Transferring changes in the muslin to the paper pattern at a Treadle Yard Goods salon.

Transferring changes in the muslin to the paper pattern at a Treadle Yard Goods salon.