I liked the brown cotton version I sewed from this 1980s era pattern so much that I cut out another blouse using some pale brown and white pin-striped stretch cotton-polyester blend shirting I found at the thrift store a while ago and had waiting in the sewing cupboard. It was simple to make, just like the first time around, the only differences being that I chose to do a plain high collar band without a collar, and that I accidentally arranged the button guide higher than I did the last time. This meant I had to add an extra button on the bottom, but I think I prefer it this way, because having the top button higher and closer to the button on the collar-band keeps the blouse from bubbling at the top or leaving a little gap, as shirts are often prone to do when there is a wider space between the top button and the collar. The striped shirting was not always well-behaved: since it had stretch fiber content it wanted to pucker a little at the seams, although I think it is not so noticeable after ironing. It also had a tendency to fray, so I finished all the inside seams with faux-French seams. As usual, I did my button-holes by hand, and the small white buttons were from my stash---they were clearance purchases at JoAnns from a few years ago.
I am wearing my new blouse with one of my Simplicity 7880 skirts, made of poly-cotton broadcloth, a thrifted vintage shawl, and a homemade necklace made of black agate.
I’m very pleased with the fit and comfort of this blouse. I’m sure I’ll sew it again. I’m finding more and more the usefulness of sewing “tried and true” patterns in different colors and fabrics, with different collars and trims and buttons, etc. It allows for variety while giving me the assurance the fit is already good and it is quick, too, since once you’ve done the instructions once, doing it again is not so hard. It also makes integration into my wardrobe easier, since I know the style and cut of the garment, it is easy to know how to mix and match it with the other silhouettes that I have.
Do you prefer sewing with tried and true patterns? Or do you enjoy the search for ever-new styles and techniques, trying a different pattern every time you sew?
I made this blouse last summer thinking of the wonderful painter Frida Kahlo. She used clothing to shape other people’s perceptions of her identity, so that they remembered her as beautiful, proud, and queenly, rather than vulnerable, injured, and in constant pain from childhood illness and multiple surgeries. By choosing traditional Mexican clothes when her upper-class peers were wearing American-style clothes she chose her own history and made her divided identity (half German, half-Spanish-Mexican) whole in style, if not in fact. She was a woman who was not afraid of looking feminine and wore lots of lace, ruffles, embroidery, and beautiful jewelry. She chose aspects of herself that most people would see as weaknesses and made them her strengths, so that she was memorable, even unforgettable.
I used McCall 6437 cut to a size 8 for the basis of my Frida-Kahlo inspired blouse. I don’t think I will use this pattern again, because the fit around the neck and shoulders is poor for me. It is still a wearable blouse, but I would have to totally redraft the neck and shoulders of this blouse to sew it again, and I don’t think I’m likely to. The blouse itself is not hard to sew, so it could be a good choice for others. The fit is very loose and forgiving, and I like how it looks tucked into skirts. The arm-hole is very low, though, so you have to be wary of easily flashing some underwear when you raise your elbows.
I used bits of lace bought from various thrift stores to trim the yoke, the neck and the sleeves. The blouse is made of plain white cotton, and the button closure is just a simple white button from my button-box. My top-stitching ended up a little wobbly around the yoke, so I did some extra stitching by hand to make it more decorative, and I think that solved the problem in a nice way.
Even though my blouse is simpler than most of hers were, I think it does capture a faint reflection of Frida Kahlo’s beautiful style. It makes me feel more boldly feminine to wear it. Here, I am wearing it with a red jasper necklace and earrings that I made myself, and my brown skirt, previously reviewed here and worn again here.
This recently completed blouse is unusual for me in a few ways: it is made from a recently released sewing pattern, Simplicity 8215, and it is made in a soft, flowing fabric---some silk I bought very cheaply from an alley of remnants in the Los Angeles fabric district a few years ago. If you’ve been following along with our sewing journal, you’ve probably noticed my preference for crisp-soft fabrics like cotton, cotton blends and wool. The silk was intimidating, but easier to sew than I thought it would be. It was heavy enough that it didn’t shift very much when cutting or sewing and I found the drape is forgiving to small mistakes, since they get hidden in the soft folds.
I’ve had the silk for a few years now and wondered what I could make with it until I saw Simplicity 8215 in a recent pattern catalogue at JoAnns and thought immediately that it had interesting design options for arranging stripes. The bow tie and the interesting sleeves drew my eye as well.
I cut my pattern in a size 8, and the only adjustment I made was to sew the inside of the yoke lining so that the raw edges of the top of the body piece are encased inside. I don’t know why they don’t have you do that in the first place, since it is a cleaner finish, but it does take more hand sewing. The buttons are made of abalone shell, harvested off an old worn-out dress shirt and saved in my button box. The blouse is difficult enough I wouldn’t recommend it for beginners, but for a sewer with some experience and patience, I think it is not too hard, and it has a rewarding result.
I am wearing my new blouse with my handmade grey wool Simplicity 7880 skirt, previously reviewed here.
We took Gia to the monastery over the weekend to enjoy the flowers---the roses are so very beautiful this year, enormous and heavy of head, and the lilacs were blooming, and huge bushes studded with white flowers like stars whose name I do not know. It was a pleasure to have some sun in between so many days of low, grey clouds.
When looking for inspiration for sewing projects, where do you like to turn? Pinterest, blogs, and magazines are obvious resources for collecting interesting imagery, as are fashion and art museums---but have you considered the library?
I checked this Dover book out from our local library, curious to see what ordinary American women were wearing in the early 1920s, and found that clothes of that era had a much more interesting variety of trims and embellishments---and that it was full of lots of ideas that could easily be used for sewing projects today. Since I don’t want to cause any copyright trouble, I just took a few detail photos. The book itself replicates an entire Philipsborn’s catalog, so it is quite large, with lots of ‘models’ on each page. For more books like this, try checking the Dover website. They have a large section devoted to historical fashion, and their books are always moderately priced.
Do you have any favorite books for sewing inspiration that you have found at the library?
All of these blouses use a contrasting ribbon bow at the neckline.
I like the idea of doing an oversized collar and cuffs of a blouse in eyelet and then trimming them in lace. Doing embroidery in two colors along the neckline and sleeves of a blouse is also an interesting idea.
It may be unusual to see special lace or cutwork collars added to shirts now, but they add a lot of visual interest. I noticed that many of the blouses have long sleeves with turn-back cuffs, sometimes cut in interesting shapes. This seems like a simple adjustment to draft using your favorite long sleeved, cuffed blouse pattern.
After a week of welcome warm sunny weather where I could wear a cotton summer blouse and feel comfortable, we are in fickle, surprising spring weather again: very cool cloudy mornings, sometimes sunny afternoons, and rain storms expected. I had planned to photograph some more of my homemade spring and summer clothes, but the weather made it necessary to wear more layers and so I decided to make a post about my new just-below-the-ankle length Simplicity 7880 skirt after all.
I finished my new skirt last week and have worn a few times already. It is made of dark brown poly-cotton broadcloth which I prewashed and then cut to 40 inches long and left the bottom on the selvedge so I didn’t have to hem it (which also makes it convenient to wear boots with, since there is no hem for the boot hooks to snag on). It’s a good length for me, I think, combining the grace and coverage of a long skirt with a short enough hem to make walking and climbing stairs easy. I’ve reviewed Simplicity 7880 a few times in the past (here and here and here for instance) and have worn other versions of it in a lot of other reviews, so I won’t write more about it here, but will instead post some more photos of our weekend walk to the monastery with Gia. Even though there was only the slightest bit of sunshine coming through the clouds, the flowers were spectacular: clover, cherry trees, forget-me-nots, poppies, tulips, wisteria, some lingering camellias, and so many others whose names I have not learned yet. What are your favorite spring flowers? Do you have flowers blossoming yet where you live?
I am wearing my new brown skirt with my recently finished brown cotton blouse (reviewed here), a vintage cotton velvet vest (for the details of its construction, you can look at my previous ‘in detail’ post about it), a vintage black crocheted fringed shawl I found at the thrift store last year, and a vintage Mexican silver and inlaid abalone shell butterfly brooch. Mr Rat took all these lovely photos.
I made this blouse last summer from vintage 1970s-or-80s See and Sew 6390 and it has become a favorite warm-weather blouse for its crisp yet comfortable look. The sewing was very quick and easy, since the sleeves are kimono-style and cut in one with the bodice. The instructions for the collar are clear and simple. I edge-stitched the collar and front band, machine stitched the hems on the sleeves and bottom of the shirt, and sewed the buttonholes by hand. The buttons are from an enormous bag I bought at the thrift store several years ago and have been using here and there ever since. The shirt itself is made of white cotton from an old sheet. For anyone looking for a quick, carefree summer blouse, I recommend this pattern. I’ll likely sew it again—maybe in linen next time?
I’m wearing my blouse with a new Simplicity 7880 skirt, just finished last week, made of dark brown broadcloth. I think I’ll be giving it its own post soon, since it is a good length and a versatile color for me. The malachite necklace I’m wearing in these photos (it was Saint Patrick’s day when I took them) is vintage, a gift from family, as are the earrings.
I planned this blouse to be wearable with any of my Simplicity 7880 skirts, any of my sets of homemade jewelry, and any of my shawls that I’ve collected at thrift stores over the years. Unbleached cotton muslin is a beautiful color and so pale and neutral that it matches everything. The 1970s era Simplicity 8356 pattern that I used for my blouse is simple but interesting with its square yoked neckline and slightly puffed raglan sleeves gathered into buttoned cuffs. I used square buttons that I saved off of an old shirt to echo the square neckline. The square neckline takes some patience and precision, but otherwise the sewing is not complicated for a sewer with experience. After having made so many blouses, shirts and dresses with buttoned cuffs recently, I found it interesting that this pattern uses a facing for the sleeve slit rather than a continuous lap or fold and edge-stitch method. I tried to take a photo to show part of the facing going up into the sleeve. As far as finishing details: I did lots of edge-stitching, as usual, and finished my buttonholes by hand since my machine doesn’t like to make them.
All of the necklaces and most of the earrings I am wearing in these photos are made by me. The necklace, earrings and bracelet I am wearing in the first photo in this post are made of rose quartz and chrysoprase. It astonishes me what beautiful stone beads you can buy for so little compared to buying finished jewelry at the store or online. Jewelry making is very quick compared to sewing, and I find it restful to lay out the beads and string them. Do any of you make jewelry? Do you ever plan sewing projects around your accessories or jewelry that you want to wear more often? Or do you ever make jewelry to match your sewing projects?
This necklace is made of an alternating pattern of moonstones, rose quartz (one of my favorite stones) and a pale green bead I can’t quite remember---it might have been adventurine?
This necklace is my favorite: it is made of enormous beautiful tiger eyes. Tiger eyes are my favorite stone of all---I love the way they gleam and glow and shift.
This necklace is made of off-white agate nuggets with silver plated spacer beads.
This necklace is made of pink lepidolite. The stones have a beautiful matte surface.
This necklace is made of alternating brown jade and ocean jasper, one of my new favorite stones along with agate---jasper and agate are so wonderfully varied in color and pattern! I didn’t know until I started beading that jade also comes in so many different colors beyond green and lavender.
This necklace is made of green marble. They are the largest beads I’ve ever used, and I like the way they remind me of a child’s drawing of what a necklace should look like.
One of the blogs that I follow, Zelophehad’s Daughters, posted recently about crafting and its soul-healing and spirit-enhancing qualities. It is an interesting read. The blog author writes about her childhood aversion to crafting and femininity, having internalized masculine scorn for female activities and dress, despising them for being silly and shallow. It made me think of the same conflict in my own childhood, when I wore dresses to school only to be told by my classmates that “It’s not picture-day” and was sometimes teased by my brothers for my puff sleeves and eyelet-trimmed aprons.
Who is afraid of puff sleeves? It is ironic, is it not, that the second-wave feminists should have adopted masculine clothes like jeans, t-shirts and flannels as signs of their liberation? What is wrong with wearing feminine clothes? I think that to wear puff sleeves and ribbons and lace and full skirts (if you like them) can be a sign of respect towards the feminine identity, towards the skillful sewing and interesting designs of seamstresses past, and can also perhaps be subversive in a day and age that asserts that if you wish to appear to be an independent thinker and a serious person, you must adopt the respectable garb of men.
Well, like Frida Kahlo, Louise Nevelson, Simone de Beauvoir, Louise Bourgeois, and other unabashedly feminine women who were undoubtedly very serious people, I am not afraid of puff sleeves or feminine clothes. And here is my latest sewing project as proof: the very puff-sleeved 1980s era Butterick 4625. I made a combination of view D with the long sleeves used for views A, B and C. It surprised me how quickly I managed to finish this blouse. It took me only about 4 days total from start to finish. It was also a pleasant surprise to find out how well it fit. I made a size 8 and despite worrying at a few points that the blouse was going to be too small or the shoulders might be too wide, it ended up fitting very well. Since the sleeves had quite a bit of puff, I improvised some sleeve heads to help them keep their shape out of leftover scraps of the brown cotton I used for the blouse. I made a bow to wear at the collar out of some ribbon and a safety pin, which I can remove to wear a necklace instead, or a brooch. It was nice to make a shirt that fit so well and yet didn’t need any darts. It all cost very little, too, since the fabric was from the thrift store, and the buttons were harvested off of an old shirt of my husband’s when it was worn out and stored in my button stash until I could use them.
I am wearing my new blouse with one of my homemade Simplicity 7880 skirts, this one made of poly-cotton broadcloth.
This is my ‘wearable muslin’ of a 1990s-era pattern I bought recently, Simplicity 8620. I liked the loose fit, the bishop sleeves and the many interesting collar options, so I decided to test it with a two-dollar piece of pink cotton oxford shirting that I found at the thrift store a few months ago. I think this pattern would be better suited to a softer cotton or other fabric with more drape, but I like how the blouse turned out all the same. I made a size 8 and my only issue is that the shoulders are too wide. I am of two minds about this: since I want the blouse to be a little oversized and comfortable, I could treat it as a slightly dropped shoulder and leave it as is in future versions, or I could either cut the shoulders down to a size 6 or do a narrow shoulder adjustment.
Still, shoulders aside, I think the blouse is very wearable and comfortable. I finished the seams very simply with pinking shears and edge-stitched the front neckline and the cuffs. The sleeves have continuous laps, and the instructions were very clear, which made them very simple to assemble. The blouse came together very quickly---maybe about three days of work, including sewing the button-holes by hand. The buttons were scavenged from an old worn-out shirt and saved in my button-drawer.
I am wearing my new blouse with one of my homemade Simplicity 7880 skirts and homemade rose quartz jewelry. The wool Indian shawl was a lucky find at the thrift store.
It was such a pleasure to wear my new outfit on a sunny morning to the monastery garden, where Gia went mad in the clover and made Mr R and I laugh a great deal. But another storm is coming, so now it is back to work on finishing my charcoal-grey wool cape that I have been sewing all month.
This is one of the rare patterns where, when I bought it, I looked forward to sewing both the blouse and the jumper dress included. So often I choose a pattern because I am drawn to one garment or one view on the envelope, but not with this 1970s era pattern. Even though I made the jumper first, about two years ago, I reviewed the blouse first here. I felt that when I reviewed the dress (at last) that I should wear them both together, so you can compare the ensemble in real life with the pattern envelope picture.
I made a size 8, as usual, in black poly-cotton broadcloth. The empire bodice is lined with a piece of thin black and navy checkered cotton voile. The dress takes quite a bit of fabric to make the full length version, but it gives the skirt a grand sweep of fabric that makes using so many yards worthwhile. Although, I think the graceful shape of it is somewhat impeded in these photos by the long grass I was walking in at the monastery gardens. It has been rainy recently, and everything is growing---green, green, green! The grass and clover are lush and deep and there are flowers here that I’ve never seen before---snow-drops and tiny white and yellow narcissus, edging their way out of the ground early into the cold air.
The pattern fit well and needed no adjustments. I found putting the lining in slightly tricky at the time that I made it, since it was my first time inserting a lining. But overall the pattern would be an easy accomplishment for an intermediate sewer, or a beginner with patience. The only differences I have noticed between real life and the pattern envelope is that their version of the jumper seems to have a slightly different shape to the neckline, and the illustrator made it look like the end of the slit on the front of the blouse ends at the top of the jumper neckline, when it actually continues underneath.
Because I am fond of this jumper, and wear it often, I am considering making a winter version, perhaps in lightweight wool, for warmth. Even though I often wear this jumper over a black turtleneck and black tights, or under my favorite wool cape with a scarf (as I did here) it is better suited to spring and summer and early fall than these, the coldest days of the year.
Mr and Mrs Rat
Mr and Mrs Rat like to sew