Vogue Patterns 8772 Blouse: Short-sleeved Version


This has been my summer of blouse-sewing. I cranked out several sleeveless renditions of Vogue Patterns 8772 in June, which I’ve been wearing and enjoying a lot.

Next, I tried a version with sleeves.

The collar, I see, doesn’t cover the neckline seam. Call that a pilot error–it’s not a fault of the pattern. I just didn’t fold the collar down right.

Yes, now I see I didn’t fold the collar down right for the photo.

I was wondering whether I’d need to add a little width to the back pattern piece to allow for a more freedom of movement in the sleeve versions.

In a sleeve version I think I want a little more width in the back pattern piece.

This blouse is perfectly wearable, but next time I’ll try adding 1/4th inch width in the back pattern piece across the shoulder area, giving a total of an extra 1/2 inch in the garment, and compare.

I also put my new blouse to the O-H-I-O test, which is extremely important in the land of the Ohio State University Buckeyes:





It passed.

(Photos by Cynthia DeGrand)

Butterick 6026, Blouse by Katherine Tilton


I was browsing recently through a lot of photos my photographer had shot in a session last fall and realized I’d never gotten around to writing about this Misses’ top designed by Katherine Tilton that I’d made.

I just looked through my notes to recollect what changes I made. They were the usual ones: folding out a little excess, which raised the underarm, the waist, and the positioning of the pin tucks. I think I narrowed the back piece a little, too.

I’d never made pin tucks before. I knew I had to do these 1/16″ tucks precisely so that the neckline edge would be the right length for properly attaching the collar. My sewing machine manual showed how to use the blind hem attachment–

to make the pin tucks:

You seasoned pin tuckers are probably laughing up your sleeves, but I was amazed that I was able to achieve accurate results easily after just a little practice.

I chose a cross-dye cotton for a practice run.

The fit turned out fine.

But even though I enjoyed making this blouse I don’t have plans for another one.  For one thing, I’m actually not keen on the effect of the pin tucks on me.  I think the lines draw the eye toward this poofy middle, where the viewer may wonder whether I had seconds of everything at the brunch buffet last weekend.

I mentioned this suspicion to a friend, who assured me it was all in my imagination.  Maybe so. I still think there are more flattering looks out there for me, like the Vogue 8772 blouses I sewed a few weeks ago.

Also, I like having a blouse I can choose to wear tucked or untucked.  This blouse is one to wear untucked only, to show off those radiating lines.

Speaking of showing off radiating lines, when I first saw Katherine Tilton’s pattern I was reminded of Ginger Rogers in The Gay Divorcee.

Now that is a striking effect!

(Photos of me are by Cynthia DeGrand .)


Vogue Patterns 8772: Easy Options Blouses


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


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)

More Than What Meets the Eye


One morning late last week I piled five jackets, a blouse, and my mannequin Ginger into my nifty red folding utility wagon.  After a two-minute commute I arrived at my sister Cynthia’s studio for our photo shoot.


Trying to look “natural”.

Almost as an afterthought I brought my latest creation: mint-green flannel pajamas.

I wasn’t sure at first that I’d even write about these pajamas.  They were so ordinary.  What could I possibly say about them?


Butterick describes this as “Misses’ top, shorts, and pants.” The word “pajamas” is not used.

I could always write a standard review.


I won’t keep you in suspense. My review is: They’re just fine. Thanks, Butterick.

And the alterations?  I shortened and/or narrowed:

  • the top front and back pieces
  • the facing
  • the pocket pieces
  • the sleeve and sleeve band pieces
  • the pants leg and pants leg band pieces

Flat piping inserted between the pocket and the pocket band. Next time I’ll plan a contrast piping.

The pattern shows optional piping.  My flannel was so luxuriously thick, self-fabric piping with a filler cord was out of the question.  I tried using the flannel in a flat piping for the pocket and sleeve band.


The flat piping inserted between the sleeve and the band added bulk to the seam, so I skipped piping the front edge and collar. But a lighter, more flexible contrast piping would look nice.

That was still pretty thick and stiff inserted into the seam.  So I skipped piping altogether for the front opening, collar, and pants leg bands.


The ripply collar: a mistake, or a design feature? You choose.

I don’t know how I did it, but I bungled sewing the collar smoothly onto the neckline.  I was in too much of a hurry to get this project done to see whether the problem was at the pattern-drafting stage (Butterick’s fault) or at the pattern piece-cutting stage (my fault).

If I sew these pajamas again I’ll find the source of the rippling problem and fix it before I cut any pieces. This time, though, I’m calling the rippling a “design feature.”

Wow, what a boring review.

But wait! There was something interesting thing about this pajama-sewing project. It really brought home to me that the things I sew are collections of associations I make and stories I tell myself.


The fabric. What others see is a nice cotton flannel.  But what I remember is how I found this beefy flannel, in a color I’d never imagined myself in before, priced at $3.00 a yard on the clearance shelf at Sew to Speak‘s new home.  The amount left on the bolt was just what I needed.

I was in a hurry to just choose something and get on with sewing up these pajamas for an upcoming trip, so I took a chance on mint green.


An ordinary button and an ordinary buttonhole? Hardly.

The buttons.  What others see are ordinary buttons. But what I remember is where I was, and why, when I bought those buttons.

I was at Persiflage, a dealer (no longer there) that sold vintage clothing and trims at Alfie’s Antique Market in London. And I came to Persiflage to deliver a copy of the current Threads magazine (June-July 2012), which contained my article, “Shopping Destination: London, England,” to the shop owner. Only the shop assistant was there, I remember. She received the copy with enthusiastic thanks and assured me the shop owner would be delighted that Persiflage had been included.


These buttons and fabric were meant for each other!

While in the shop, naturally I had to inspect the jumble of vintage buttons spilling out of a couple dozen little drawers.  I found nothing spectacular. But something drew me to four homely little buttons in a deep mint shade, and they returned to the States with me.

To be honest, later I asked myself why I ever bought them:  I’ve never worn mint green! When would I ever use them? Two and a half years ago, when I was packing up my sewing room for our move to Ohio, I put them with a pile of other buttons to give away–if I could find a taker.

Then I got preoccupied with, oh, about ten thousand other tasks, and forgot about finding foster homes for my orphan buttons.

Then it turned out that those homely, mint-green buttons were exactly what this pajama top called for.pajamas_1900-220x460

The buttonholes.  You could be forgiven for thinking these buttonholes are as ordinary as they come.  But what I see is the Magic Key Buttonhole Worker attachment for my family’s trusty old sewing machine.  And I had always viewed this gadget with suspicion and fear even though it had a reputation for turning out a good result.

But when my sewing machine’s reverse mechanism finally gave up the ghost a couple of weeks ago, I couldn’t make buttonholes.  Then I remembered: a block away, at Cynthia’s, was the sewing machine we grew up with and this Magic Key  contraption.  If I was going to finish this pajama top in time I’d have to learn how to use this thing.

And under Cynthia’s tutelage, I did–at least well enough to produce four decent buttonholes!  Having overcome my initial fear with this modest success, now I’m curious to see whether I’d like the keyhole buttonholes this gadget produces.

It was thirty years ago last month that I bought my sewing machine. Certainly the things I’ve sewn on it, including muslins, must number in the many hundreds now. Wearing clothes I’ve made stopped being a novelty long ago (although I always count the bigger successes as minor miracles).

Elasticized waist, capacious pockets--pretty standard.

Elasticized waist, capacious pockets–pretty standard.

But it was these everyday (or everynight?) pajamas that got me thinking how much just one ordinary sewing project can foster a rich network of happy associations.  Think, then, of what a lifetime of sewing projects can yield.

The other day I was flipping through the latest Lands’ End catalogue that had arrived in the day’s mail. When I saw the prices for their pajamas I gloated that mine had cost only a fifth as much.  But then, mine had cost lots more in time to produce. I admit it: I’m a slowpoke.

But in the end, I feel richer making my own clothes, and I don’t mean only, or primarily, in monetary terms, because maybe in that regard I’m only breaking even.

Even when my collar turns out ripply,  I’ve almost certainly enriched my fund of associations, as well as my fund of knowledge, in ways I am still discovering, and benefiting from, thirty years on.

I call that a net gain.


Mint green may be my new favorite color!

It’s Easy, All Right–If You Know How


Yesterday I sewed my buttons–the ones I bought recently at Taylors Buttons in London–on my 1941 McCall “mannish jacket,” which I sewed according to Kenneth King’s “old school” method in his Smart Tailoring DVD set.

This still needs a good press. I think I'll ask Kenneth for pointers on how to do the job right.

This still needs a good press. I think I’ll ask Kenneth for pointers on how to do the job right.

They look just right. In coloring, size, and style they fit right in with this tweed.IMG_9091 (327x460)

IMG_9103 (460x345)

The buttons probably date from the 1940s, as does the McCall pattern.

That was very satisfying.

I haven’t decided whether to sew this button on the sleeve vents. Although Maureen at Taylors Buttons told me that Savile Row tailors have used the same size button on men’s jacket fronts and sleeves, I’m wondering whether doing that on my significantly smaller jacket would look odd.

Would one button this size look odd on this sleeve vent?

Would one button this size look out of proportion on a sleeve this size?

I think I’ll wait and ask my classmates when I take Kenneth King’s tailoring class in Cleveland the end of July.  They’ll be happy to weigh in. Then I’ll decide what to do.

In addition to resolving the sleeve button issue I also need to give this jacket a good press or take it to a reputable dry cleaner. But again, I thought it would be great to take advantage of Kenneth’s fund of knowledge. Maybe my jacket can be used as an example for pressing dos and don’ts.

So the tweed jacket is as done as it can be for now. Time to turn to part two of my Smart Tailoring DVD project: making another jacket, this time using Kenneth King’s “new school” methods.

Two years ago I sewed this pattern in linen. For the "new method" project I planned to use this fabric and these vintage buttons.

Two years ago I sewed this pattern in linen. For the “new method” project I planned to use this fabric and these vintage buttons.

Monday I watched the first segment, “Pattern Work.” All of the tasks were straightforward: draft lining, back stay, and body canvas pieces, and adjust for turn of cloth.

All the tasks, that is, except one. That’s where I hit a snag. Rats.

On the DVD Kenneth says,

Here we have the body front. In the “old school” we had a separate collar piece. For the “new school” we draft the collar piece onto the body, as you can see here. You will join it at the gorge line so the entire piece is cut as one with the body. It will eliminate this seam later in the construction–it simplifies it tremendously.

If you’ve never sewn a notched-collar jacket you may not know how terror-inducing that highly visible stitching crossroads can be to get right–twice. The notch can be bulky, lumpy, uneven, and unfixable. With many hours of construction behind you, your only reward may be one ugly, unwearable jacket.

IMG_9104 (370x460)

From Threads magazine, May 2006, Kenneth King’s article on perfecting notched collars.

In the video Kenneth next turned his attention to drafting the front lining and facing and said nothing more about how to join the under collar and front pattern pieces. But surely the Threads magazine article, “A Notch Above,” in the Bonus Material section, would fill the gap.

IMG_9105 (329x460)

It would be so great to unlock the mystery. Once I understand this I may wonder what had been so confusing.

Well, my knowledge gap was apparently too big. As I’ve said before, I don’t easily grasp patternmaking principles. Once again, my low aptitude for structural visualization was getting in my way.

There is one thing I do know about patternmaking, though: you must focus with laser intensity on accuracy. Otherwise, don’t bother.

I pulled the under collar and front pieces from the jacket pattern I was planning to use, and laid them out. Unlike the pattern pieces illustrated in Threads, mine did not look like jigsaw puzzle pieces naturally fitting together. My pieces still had seam allowances on them, which could account for the lack of fit. But even without seam allowances my pieces did not nestle as I had hoped they would.

The curve in the under collar doesn't match the curve of the neckline. Is there a mistake here? My linen jacket turned out fine.

The curve in the under collar doesn’t match the curve of the neckline. Is there a mistake here? My linen jacket turned out fine.

Either there was a principle at work here that I didn’t understand, or an inaccuracy in my pattern pieces, or both. I didn’t know how to define the problem, so I didn’t know what to try to solve it. It was time to consult an expert.

Tuesday I met with my patternmaking teacher, who agreed to see me before her evening class got started. When I explained about combining pattern pieces to eliminate seams, she said this was something she’d done back in her patternmaking days in the fur industry.

IMG_9109 (460x372)

“It’s that easy.” Perhaps a step-by-step, illustrated process would help me understand this. I certainly hope so.

What I thought would take 15 minutes for Nina before class took much longer, because she tried to teach me along the way, and ended up making the design challenge into a demo for her students. When I left the classroom an hour and a half later I had a rough draft of the new pattern piece and a recommendation to make a muslin to test the result. But–not Nina’s fault–I was still confused how to test my pattern to make absolutely sure it was right before I proceeded.

I left with this rough draft of a single pattern piece. Where to go from here, exactly?

I left with this rough draft of a single pattern piece. Where to go from here, exactly?

As I left the classroom I was already thinking it would be best to learn Kenneth King’s method from Kenneth himself next month. I would reluctantly shelve my “new school” jacket project for now and turn my attention to other sewing projects for five weeks.

IMG_9113 (460x416)

The original lapels. (Regretfully, the top bound buttonhole is a little too high.)

But I suspect that this turn of events has a silver lining. Trying on this Butterick jacket today, I was a little dissatisfied with the style. The front buttons up higher than I like. Would it be easy to change the roll line and lengthen the lapel?

IMG_9115 (460x402)

I folded back the lapels and pinned them down. This length is more flattering on me.

IMG_9114 (395x460)

Would it be easy to change the roll line for next time?

And then I keep wanting to pinch out some fullness under the arm. And maybe raise the armhole a little…

Or maybe it’s time to choose a different pattern. When I do make a “new school” jacket it will be a more flattering cut and worth the wait.

Yesterday I began looking at my UFOs and patterns, pondering what projects I wanted to pursue between now and Kenneth’s class in five weeks. I gazed at my fabric stash as if standing before an open refrigerator wondering what I was hungry for.

Working steadily on my “old school” jacket for months I learned to put on the blinders to all those other tempting sewing projects. I may have learned too well though. Now I don’t know what to do next.

Well, just not yet. I am letting myself savor the possibilities.