F3449: Stitches to Style Blouse

What to do when you adore the picture/line drawing of a pattern, only to sew up a muslin and find you look utterly ridiculous?

The pattern is Marfy 3449, which I’ve adored since laying my eyes on it. According to the Marfy catalogue it’s “A flowing, collarless shirt with a ruffle down the centre at the front, satin trim at the side, and sleeves gathered at the wrists and slightly at the shoulders.”

Marfy 3449 from the 2014-15 Catalogue

Marfy 3449 from the 2014-15 Catalogue

My ridiculous muslin was sewn up in a specially bought hot pink polyester because it was virtually identical in weight and drape to the fabric I envisaged this being made up in. Had I been invited to a dress up party where I would have like to have gone as Joan Collins, a pirate or someone from Days of our Lives, this would have been utterly fabulous.

Alas, that was not my intention. It did however, fit me perfectly through the shoulders and the bust. What this muslin doesn’t show is the gathered cuff – I recall feeling more OTT that this WIP instagram snap would imply!

Marfy 3449 Muslin

I figured if I toned down the sleeve cap height (I’ll admit – this effect was enhanced by the body of my chosen fabric, and the fact that I’d pushed all the ease up to the top of the sleeve cap), slimmed down and removed the bell cuff on the sleeve (which once elasticated looks exactly on me as it does in the sketch) and raised the level of the front split by 5cm (warning – this one is very low cut – right down to below the root of my bust) then I could probably handle it.

Once I adjusted the fit of the bodice by my normal Marfy adjustments (taking it in below the bust to account for me being two different torso sizes) I compared it to one of my all time favourite and regularly worn make – the Blue Blotch Blouse. Many times fitting issues with woven clothing only become apparent after a bit of wear, and it was clear to me that whilst that blouse is a very comfortable garment, it did need some more width across the shoulders (I’m broad). This Marfy pattern had that, which was great.

I hesitated on my ridiculous adjusted muslin for nearly two weeks on whether or not I would proceed with the real thing, and I’m SO glad I did. I really love the end result! The flounce makes me smile every time I look down or catch it moving as I walk.

Marfy

Everytime I take a photo that has me smiling with my lips together, it just looks like I’m oddly pouting. Usually those photos get instantly deleted, but the weather/lighting was doing weird things on this particular afternoon, so the fact that it was the best colour match to the real deal won through.

Marfy 3449 Blouse 2

The fabric is one I’ve been wanting to sew with for over a year. It’s a pretty substantial silk twill fabric, chartreuse with off-white polka dots – cool to the touch and with a subtle matt texture. I scored this at one of the fabulous End-Of-Financial-Year-Sale’s at Stitches to Style a few years back.

The hem of this shirt (which you can’t see from the sketch) is straight, split at the sides and the front is slightly shorter than the back. I altered this to be curved and with more of a pronounced ‘hi-lo’ hem.

The ruffle – a challenge to finish because of the weight and thickness of my fabric – I chose to sew a hand-rolled hem on. I used this youtube video to get me started – it’s a really simple and (if you like hand sewing) enjoyable thing to do. I haven’t quite yet mastered my rolled hem foot on my machine on straight edges – so no way was I going to risk it on a shaped edge!

How well the ruffle sits depends solely on how you clip the seam allowance (Anne from Clothing Engineer has a wonderful post on how clipping can affect your flounce/ruffle here). I clipped every 7mm or so along the length of each ruffle – and it really does sit wonderfully.

Marfy 3449 Blouse 4

Marfy 3449 blouse 11

Marfy 3449 Blouse 9

The sleeves I copied from another Marfy blouse pattern instead of adjusting the sleeve cap, because they were also a lot wider than what I felt comfortable in. The original sleeves recommend finishing the cuff with elastic (to enhance the bell shaped cuff – a feature I really like in principal but not so much on me in reality), I drafted a simply slim cuff that I can pull over my hand easily.

Otherwise this blouse is finished with French seams except for the front seam – a challenge because I knew it would be visible. I’ve bound each side to enclose the heavily clipped seam allowance. A bit heavy, but effective.

Marfy 3449 Blouse 3

Marfy 3449 Blouse 8

For the neckline I initially thought bias binding, but drafted a thin, curved collar so it would sit flat. I suspect that I am missing a pattern piece for the neckline, as the back bodice pattern piece has a notch around the neckline indicating that something should be matched to it – and I only had pattern pieces for the front, back, sleeve and ruffle.

Marfy 3449 Blouse 6

Probably should have steamed those pin holes out first...

Probably should have steamed those pin holes out first…

Also – the ‘satin trim’ down the side is not a pattern piece, but rather a DIY addition. I left it out.

Another work horse blouse, complete – I’ve already worn this to work a few times and I love it both tucked into skirts and untucked over pants. The silk does crush easily, so it’s not a travel-suitable blouse – but it’s so substantial that it feels like it could withstand a LOT of wear, much more so than the delicate silk/cotton voile I made the Blue Blotch Blouse in. Much to my devastation, I think that blouse will only last another year… massive sad face!

mccalls 5929

M5929: The Blue Blotch Blouse

I’m calling it – 2013 is officially the year of the shirt. It certainly seems that everyone is either sewing or has sewn a button-up shirt this year – silk, crisp cotton, fitted or flowing. And if you’ve done neither, then I’d hazard a guess to say you’ve at least daydreamed about sewing one up after seeing so many gadding about the blogosphere? Mentally sewing is just as good as actually sewing, you know.

As for this little shirt that could, I’d like to say a big thank you for your wonderfully helpful comments on my first attempt at fixing a problem I thought was a sway back. As it turns out, I completely misdiagnosed the problem and that fabric pooling was actually generated by me overlooking that fact that my shirt was indeed, too small… oops.

So I added that additional ease in at the side seams of my original pattern, and whaddyaknow? No fabric bunching at my back waist. In fact, all I needed was a bit more shaping in the back darts and some fairly major changes to the location of the armscye seam (by raising it under my arm and taking out some of the fullness around my shoulder). I swear, getting the shape of the armscye ‘right’ will forever be my fitting nemesis.

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All up, I’m really quite happy with it. I really do think it fits me better than the made-to-measure one I bought a few years back – I’ve got a good range of arm movement and it’s not at all tight across my upper back. Comfortable to wear and no unintentional bra-flashing occurrences either! For a shirty-first timer, I’d count that as a win.

The fabric is a Cynthia Steffe silk/cotton voile from EmmaOneSock, and I love the random splotchy pattern of it. It may look like a voile, but it behaved like a rebellious silk whenever I brought it within a meter radius of my sewing machine or iron. In other news, I was flabbergasted at exactly how much fabric a fitted shirt chews through. I thought I’d have yardage to spare! Nope. This puppy chewed through a whole 2.6m. Sheesh. I blame those bias cut ruffles!

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I had wanted to do flat felled seams, but that didn’t seam right against this uber-lightweight, floaty fabric. So I French’ed then topstitched ‘em down. Likewise, ‘proper’ cuffs didn’t seem like a good match either, so I stuck with the pattern’s very lightly gathered cuff option. Simple, but entirely lovely.

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The pattern instructions are actually pretty good – I glanced over them mostly unless it was for something more detailed (like the placket). The only technical change I made was to face the ruffles – I preferred the idea of having the seams enclosed here, it also gives a bit more structure to the ruffle. If you didn’t want to face your ruffle, you’d want a fabric that doesn’t have an obvious right and wrong side. I also changed the collar design to account for turn of cloth – by 2mm.

Can you spot the collar seam along the edge? Nope, neither can I!

Can you spot the collar seam along the edge?

Nope, no collar seam here either. Thank you, Turn of Cloth.

Nope, no collar seam along the edge here either. Thank you, Turn of Cloth.

Interfacing is pretty important when it comes to shirts. I didn’t want anything too heavy backing onto the voile however, so I interfaced the placket, collar and cuffs with my favourite lightweight fusible, then included a silk organza ‘underlining’. This worked well and gave the collar a bit of bounce where it might have otherwise flopped, and worked wonderfully to stabilise where the buttonholes went whilst still keeping a soft, un-starched look about it. Seriously that stuff is the closest thing to a miracle worker. If it were a wrinkle cream, it would actually deliver the results the ads always promise you (when really they’re just lying through their teeth). The more I use it, the more I want too!

And – great news for us Aussies – Sew Squirrel is now stocking silk organza in her online store. This stuff can be hard to come by in Australia, and I’ve yet to see it cost less than $25/m in store (in some places I’ve seen it at $40/m – whaaaaaat!!!) – which is why up until now I’ve been ordering it from the States. No longer will I have to pay outrageous postage costs to get my fix! A sure fire win :)

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During the making of this I watched portions of Pam Howards ‘The Classic Tailored ShirtCraftsy course – there were some seriously golden tips in there, especially about sewing on buttons. Only ‘portions’ because I’m impatient and Pam is a slooow speaker. Her southern drawl is gorgeous, don’t get me wrong. I just like my information delivery to be faster than slow. So I think that means I can officially say I’ve ‘done’ one of my five Craftsy courses!

General conclusion? Making fitted shirts is totally achievable and the finished result is really very acceptable. It’s kinda totally cool that being unlined, there is not a single exposed seam in this garment. I have three other stash fabrics just crying out to get sewn up as shirts now…

The Stats:
02:00  Pattern Preparation
02:10  Toile (cutting/sewing/fitting)
04:35  Fabric Preparation (cutting/basting/interfacing)
13:35  Sewing
22:20  hours

Fabric Utilisation = 2.6m
Stash total remains = 83.7m (Goal = 50m)

M5929: Swaybacks and Centreback Seams

I’ve been sewing for just over two years now, and I’m noticing the result of spending all my money on fabric rather than RTW clothing is that a few specific items are beginning to look a little… threadbare.

I wear button-up shirts to work during the week – they add a little professionalism to my uniform of jeans, steel-caps and hi-vis.

But when I started working in an office environment, it seemed ludicrously expensive to pull together an appropriate wardrobe – a really good quality shirt starts at $170+, and I’m too fussy to have just bought standard high street fare (which falls apart after 6 months of wear anyway). So to bridge the gap between my french champagne taste and my cask wine budget, I turned to second hand. I tried top-end shirts on in shops and then scoured eBay like a hungry hawk, and over-time ended up with a fairly substantial collection of silk and cotton shirts for a fraction of the cost – many of which I’m still regularly wearing today 4 years down the track.

At one point I did splurge though – I had a shirt made to measure when I noticed in their shopfront they were having a rather rare half-price deal. It was a really cool experience – I got measured up in store (there was 14+ measurements taken), then I went back for a fitting a few weeks later once it had been made before finally getting to take it home a month later. I was a little unhappy with it at first, because it seemed so much bigger, but after wearing it once or twice, I was in love. It made me realise exactly what I’d been putting up with by wearing standard sized fare – not only was it extremely comfortable, but I had a full range of movement without having to worry about that front button popping open, or having the button placket strain to give the person next to me an eye-full of whatever bra I was wearing that day.

That shirt has been in retirement for some time now, and I’m thinking I’ll probably cut it up and use it as a pattern base at some point. But for the meantime, I’ve been using it to adjust the McCalls OOP pattern I’m using to sew up my first collared shirt – 5929.

Copying my made-to-measure shirt to get the darts in the right place worked a treat, the fit through the front is great, if a little tighter fitting that I would like – which is easily fixed. I’m planning to make this out of a lightweight silk/cotton voile blend – a bit different to the starched calico I’m using to test the fit. Most of the strain is around my hips and at the tops of the side seams next to my bust:

toile 1 front

However, at the back – apart from it being more obvious here to me that it was a little tight – there was that annoying pooling of fabric around my waist, which I’d already pinched out and sewn up (about 3cm all up), tapering to nothing the side seams and perpendicular to the grain line:

toile 1 back

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I thought for comparison, I’d whack on my made-to-measure shirt to compare – here’s the front and back:

MTM frontMTM back

Once I’d transferred the swayback adjustment to my pattern piece, I realised that as my shirt doesn’t have a centreback seam (I also don’t WANT it to have a centreback seam) that I couldn’t just leave it as is – the ‘cut on the fold’ edge was no longer straight:

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After a bit of reading and googling, and then reading and googling some more, I decided to try two different methods at adjusting my pattern. I felt like I had some time to kill whilst I waited for a particular Marfy pattern to arrive in the mail – at which point this project would be dropped like the hottest of hot potatoes to work on that.

First up – this method at swayback adjustment (from Fitting and Pattern Alternation (1992) by Liechty, Pottberg, & Rasband, pages 140-143) which resulted in a very square shoulder seam:

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Sewn up and attached:

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There’s still some pooling (ignore the tightness, I’d yet to attack that), but at this point I’m wondering if it is even logistically possible to get rid of this and still not have a centre-back seam. And I’d probably want to soften the squareness of the shoulder seam as well.

Ok, so let’s try method number 2 for comparison – I’m taking this from Sherry’s (Pattern Scissors Cloth) blog, she did an amazing post on altering for a sway back way back in 2010. I’ll admit, I fumbled around with this method for several days trying to figure out both how it worked and why, even testing it on mini-pattern pieces to get my head around it.

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In the end, I just didn’t get the logic of it. I attribute that to the fact that Mr poppykettle and I are smack bang in the middle of the Live Below the Line challenge, and I am SO DAMN HUNGRY right now that I swear my brain isn’t functioning properly.

So I step back and try to think coherently.

I vaguely (very vaguely) remember reading somewhere that when fitting, you should always work top to bottom. And then a mini lightbulb moment… and all of a sudden it makes complete sense. If I add in the extra width at the sides, then the fabric pooling will be reduced – surely. I’ve been reading KathleenS’s PR Review of Simplicity 2339 (she was the runner up in PR’s Fitted Blouse contest in March this year) and staring intently at her flickr photos and I’m nigh-on convinced this will solve it.

Thoughts?