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.



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!



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.



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 :)


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)



  1. Mel, this is freaking rad! This shirt looks like a tailor made confection! And thank you for breaking down the alterations you made- it’s really interesting to see what changed from your first version.
    Epic work as always, lady! :D

    1. mmmm confection… thanks Amanda!! You know how sometimes you finish something and you surprise yourself at how much you like it? ’tis a good feeling Cheers!

  2. This is so beautiful! Well done on the details especially. And I think you’re right about the year of the shirt… but I’ve realised that I’m just not a button-down blouse person at all. I’ve made a couple, only to have them languish in my closet. I’m happy to keep admiring them from a distance, though!

    1. Yeah I know what you mean – it’s not a garment I would choose to wear normally! Were it not that they form a part of the ‘construction industry uniform’ of jeans and a button up shirt, I probably would never think to own such a thing. But thank you – I’m rather taken with it! :)

  3. Fabulous effort there on your shirt…I confess, I find shirt sewing very difficult. The fabric is such a gorgeous colour and print. Enjoy wearing your beautifully fitting shirt.

  4. You did a fantastic job and I loved reading through your process. Great tip about interfacing with lightweight fusible and then underlining in silk organza. I’m sure the cuffs, collar, and placket have great body and stiffness.

    1. Thanks Maddie! That little thing with the organza has definitely paid off. The flimsy voile is flimsy no more (at least, at the collar and the cuffs) :P

    1. Absolutely! And I’m a complete turn of cloth convert. I can totally see how such a think would make a big visual difference to a bag… Thanks so much, Anna :)

  5. Gorgeous shirt – you’ve really done that fabric justice, and the details look immaculate. Oh and the photos are lovely too – what a great setting.

    I haven’t yet made a shirt this year but I am definitely in the “thinking about shirts” camp!

    1. Thanks Gabrielle! I’d been admiring so many shirts from afar this year, it was definitely time to rise to the challenge. They’re a lot more fiddley than they are actually difficult. I look forward to the day you decide to try your hand at one :)

  6. Ooh such a pretty shirt, it really suits you and I like it dressed down in the lovely, rustic setting. I bet it would also look fantastic dressed up with a fab skirt and shoes. I was very interested to read all the tips and tricks you have for fitting and sewing shirts. I’ll file those away for future reference!

    1. Thanks Meg! I was actually really stuck as to what to style it with – we went on a little day trip yesterday and I wanted to wear it for photo ops… but I couldn’t exactly wear business attire! Turns out I rather like it with jeans :)

  7. Excellent! I agree that it fits better than your previous custom-made favourite. Love the fabric, too.

    I think the difficulty of sewing shirts is overrated. They require precision more than magical skill – and yours is nicely precise! At least, that’s my opinion. I’ve got a few more shirts coming up soon, I think… they wash well and always look so polished for work.

    1. I think you’re SO on the money there, Kat. After slowly working my way through it, I was wondering why the heck I was so intimidated by them. It’s all about the precision, and you get to have fun with cool seam finishes, too! They do use a lot of thread though :S One 250m spool was just short of the mark! I’m planning to be frugal with thread on the next one to see if I can’t squeeze it all in one. :) Thanks!

  8. This looks so professional and polished!
    I haven’t yet attempted a proper button down shirt but I’ll be referring back to this post when I do.
    Nice work!

  9. That shirt is just gorgeous, you’ve done an excellent job! Silk organza is also great for a press cloth. I’m about half way through my first Craftsy course- knitting socks. Have done a gauge swatch but that’s it so far.

    1. Oh I couldn’t agree more – it’s fabulous because you can actually see through it to make sure you’re not pressing a crease in rather than out! Thankyou :) And go you with the knitting!

  10. oooh great job! so glad you finished this shirt. being slightly obsessed with the shirt this year, i love seeing other people make them up too! need to get me some of that silk organza… sounds so dreamy. :)

    1. Thanks Lisa! I’m feeling much the same way. There’s a lot of love here for the button up shirt now! Silk organza IS totally dreamy. I think I may be addicted…

  11. Melanie, this is an absolutely beautiful shirt. Not only sewn to perfection and fit but the fabric is gorgeous and suits you perfectly. This is your colour!!

  12. It’s wonderful you gorgeous lady :) I also love how informative your post was, and it has me craving this silk organza stuff. It sounds like a miracle drug lol. What a great product! I really want to make a shirt too!

      1. Thanks Jo! Glad you enjoyed reading it :) Silk Organza is seriously fabulous stuff. It’s never not done the right thing by me! You absolutely should try – fitting it troublesome, to be sure (when is it ever not, though?), but actually sewing it is a lot easier than it looks. As for the armscye, I’ve read that the Big 4 are particularly notorious for having an oversizes armscye – it scoops down to far, and this gives you a lot less arm movement. I brought it up in this shirt by about 3cm – but yep, this means you have to change the sleeve head shape, too! What I usually do is measure the seam line on the bodice (called ‘walking the seams’) front and back, and then compare it the seam line on the sleeve. Depending on fabric, you should have some extra for ease – I did about 4cm in this case? I then alter the shape of the sleeve head to get the right seam length in there. It’s tricky and I’m still learning about the relationships though…. this is definitely my most successful attempt yet though. Practice pays off!

  13. Wow, this looks amazing!! I love everything about it, especially your fabric choice. Not that I ever go shopping for business shirts, but I can’t image being able to find anything in a fabric as fabulous as this :)

    Bet you can’t wait to wear it to work :)

    1. heehee, as a matter of fact, I’m wearing it right now! If it weren’t for the need to wear business shirts to work, I would rarely wear them. So this baby will get a lot of wear time mostly by default… although having such a wonderfully comfortable/fitting shirt to wear does make it a pleasant thing! Thanks Jenny :)

  14. lovely! can you get Threads in aus? last month’s issue had a great section on fitting the armscye that might help? can send you my copy if you like? drop me an email/ tweet me if you want me to send!

    1. Hi Joanne! I subscribed to Threads a few months ago and I’m certainly glad I did. When I received that issue I got so excited! I devoured that article and have re-read it many times since. It was a great help in changing the sleeve head on this pattern :) Thank you SO much for offering though, I’m blown away by your kindness :) x

  15. Totally gorgeous shirt!! I love the fabric you chose for this – it really complements the ruffles! Also – turn of cloth – totally genius! will have to remember to alter this on my shirt patterns! I adore your whole outfit here – those shoes are awesome!

  16. Aren’t you the proud little shirtmaker – and with good reason too! It looks fabulous. Love your choice in fabric. That warmer shade of blue has always been one of my favourites. I would have faced the ruffles too – gives a much nicer finish. I don’t think I’ve ever made a shirt for myself. I made a bunch of them for my husband though. I struggle to actually wear a collared shirt with comfort and ease. It always feels like I’m pretending to be someone else (if that makes sense). Maybe I need to think about how I can jazz them up – like adding a ton of ruffles!

  17. Perfect shirt! And it fits you like a glove ;) I don’t even mention the fabric: such a enchanting splash of blue in the middle of Australian autumn!

  18. Well done! your shirt looks fantastic! And I think you are right; those ruffles must be the fabric hogs, I find 2,2m is enough for a man’s shirt for my husband and sons… who all require waaay bigger shirts than a petite lady like you!

  19. That fabric is really special and you did it justice – your shirt is gorgeous, especially the ruffles. I know what you mean about getting a good fit in the armscye – what a huge difference it makes to my comfort.
    Well done!!

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