When I first started sewing, I let a beautiful fabric or a recently-released pattern guide my decisions. Even though most of what I wear is black, I bought a bunch of colorful fabric. Even though puffy sleeves and dresses that emphasize the waist are not my jam, I sewed my fair share of them. I ignored pattern adjustments, pattern matching, and polyester, and I ended up with a lot of garments I never wore. But each of them taught me something, helped strengthen my sewing skills, and brought me some clarity about my style and preferences.
I have arrived at a point where I can tell what patterns, colors, and fabrics will work best for my sewing projects, but I have never worked on an overall plan to develop my wardrobe. This year, I decided to join Seamwork Magazine’s Design Your Wardrobe project. I needed a structured, step-by-step approach to help me organize my ideas and work on pieces that would work with what I already have. I followed the prompts, created an inspiration board, and shopped my pattern and fabric stash. I even used the MyBodyModel croquis I bought a while ago but never used. All this self-reflection has helped me developed a plan to guide my sewing for this spring and summer.
Pattern and Fabric
After adding a whole bunch of Peter Pan collar blouses to my inspiration board, I remembered that I had purchased the Violet Blouse by Colette but never used it. I even got the pattern printed with an online print service a while ago, so all I needed was some fabric. I looked through my stash but did not find anything I was ready to work with (I have all this really beautiful fabric that I have been hoarding for what, I don’t know, but I cannot get myself to use it). The Violet is a light and flowy blouse, so I purchased two yards of black rayon and two yards of a very light cotton with cherries sprinkled all over it.
My bust measurement falls between a size 14 and 16. I checked the measurements for the finished blouse and realized I could easily get away with making a size 14. Because of the boxy fit, I knew that I would not have to add any inches to the waist (to the contrary: I have to take the waist in). I would definitely suggest sizing down as this is one roomy blouse.
I made a muslin out of some polyester fabric I bought for $1 a yard, and I realized that as much I light a loose fit, the Violet is too boxy for me. The armscye is too low, limiting arm movement (this is something I have noticed in every single Colette pattern I have made—the armscye is just too low). I also like my Tees and blouses hitting a little lower than mid-hip. Based on the muslin, I made the following modifications:
• removed ¼ inch from the side seams starting at the armpit, reducing the sides by a total of one inc
• raised the armscye by one inch
• added 1 inch to the length of the blouse
I could have taken a bit more from the side seams, and I might to it for the next Violet.
When I sewed the muslin, everything went without a problem. I was quite pleased with how easy it was to attach the collar. When it was time to sew the real thing, however, I had all sorts of issues with the collar. First, I had to recut the collar and facings because the fabric stretched with handling. Then, the collar notches would not line up with the body notches. When I finally got the collar to match, I sewed the underlined side down instead of up. I unpicked and sewed it again, just to realize that I had run out of thread. By the third or fourth time, the collar finally went in as intended.
I followed the instructions from the pattern until it was time to attach the sleeves. For my last makes with sleeves, I have been sewing the sleeves in flat, just like what I do for T-shirts. I do not know if this will work for every single woven pattern I sew, but so far it has worked well. It has reduced the frustration and excessive pin-age of a set-in sleeve, and it makes adjusting the size a lot easier. If I gain or lose weight in the future, all I have to do is adjust the side seams.
Since the rayon is so light, I opted for a narrow hem. I serged the fabric, and then I double-folded, using the serged edge as the guide for the width of the hem.
I have a touch of OCD, and marking buttonholes can take hours. A while ago, I read a blog entry by Sewaholic about this gadget that makes marking buttonhole placement a breeze. I ordered the SimFlex tool as soon as I had finalized my sewing plans for March. If the SimFlex worked as well as I expected, I could save a lot of time since I was planning on sewing two Violet blouses. I was not disappointed. The contraption allows for great precision and efficiency when marking the place of the buttonholes. I was lucky that the original placement of the buttonholes worked well for me (no boobs peeking out). All I had to do was expand the SimFlex and mark the top of each buttonhole. Using a transparent ruler, I then drew each buttonhole half an inch from the edge of the front of the garment.
It was a good thing that I saved time marking the buttonholes because sewing them took a whole sewing session. I used the buttonhole attachment to sew all the other buttonholes but had to accept that the top buttonhole has to be freestyled. The attachment does not handle bumpy seams or thick layers well. I tried sewing that buttonhole five times. I tried helping out by pulling on the fabric a bit, sewed different types of buttonholes, flipped the direction in which the buttonhole was sewn, and tried to sew from the back side. Nothing worked, so I used same technique I used to make the buttons for my Simplicity 1197 coat. After a couple of hours figuring out how to match the machine-made buttonholes, I sewed my own. I finally accepted the fact that the buttonhole attachment does not work for the top buttonhole. I am okay with that now. At that point in time, though, I was cursing in two languages. Sometimes, there are not enough curse words in English to relieve my frustration, so I bring the Portuguese out to soothe my spirits.
The Violet is the right amount of cute. I love Peter Pan collar; its size fits the pattern perfectly, and it sits nice and flat on the body. For those who wear blouses tucked in, the boxy shape of the Violet can be overlooked. I do not, so slimming down the sizes was an absolute must.