This blouse may look familiar to long-time readers. I've sewn this pattern before, most recently last fall in a soft floral tropical wool. This time I sewed it in crisp white cotton (from a thrifted sheet, like most of my projects) and trimmed it with a thin cotton lace from one of my very rare trips to Hobby Lobby. The construction of this blouse is simple because it is so loose and has no darts. Since the cotton was prone to fraying, I took my time and made faux French seams on the inside. I edge-stitched the collar, front placket, and cuffs, to keep it all looking neat. I made the buttonholes by hand, as usual, and used some thin-line buttons from JoAnns fabric stores that were in my stash to finish it all off. The most time-consuming part of sewing this blouse was sewing on the cotton lace after I was done with everything else. But I think it was worth it for that little bit of extra visual interest.
This year I've experimented with sewing printed fabrics and wearing lighter, softer colors. But I always feel most comfortable in plain black and white, and making this simple shirt reaffirmed that for me. If I could only wear three colors, I think they would be black, white, and brown. I'm never dissatisfied when I finish sewing a white blouse because I know I can wear it at anytime, anywhere, in any situation, and with any other color. You can't beat a white blouse for versatility. The only thing that gets quite as much wear in my wardrobe as my white shirts is probably this old black skirt made from my favorite Simplicity 7880 pattern that I am wearing here.
Mr Rat took these photos on our Sunday morning stroll through the park with Gia before we headed off to church and family time. The local schools are back in session this week, and it feels as though there is already a slight autumnal cast to the air, even though it is only late August. The mornings feel cooler, some of the leaves are starting to crisp at the edges and fall on the summer-green grass, and at last the day-time temperatures are dropping down about 10 or 15 degrees from the extreme heat we've had the last two months.
Do any of you do anything special to mark the changing of the seasons? Are you thinking ahead towards your next season's sewing plans? My next few projects will be in more autumnal hues and I'm even starting to think about what I need to sew to be ready for winter's snow. It feels like the year is shifting again----this one has been so full of changes----at least when I sit down to sew and to paint, I can feel steady and centered for a moment, like a rock in the middle of the stream.
I finished this blouse a while ago (and took the photos a few weeks ago, too) but kept delaying making a post about it. The pattern is a Simplicity E.S.P. (Extra Sure Pattern) from the late 1970s or early 1980s, judging by its cover. I made my version out of a twin-sized navy cotton-blend shirt from the thrift store and on-sale thin-line buttons from JoAnns fabric stores. It all came together well and easily except the collar, which somehow was missing its notched look the first time around. I'm not sure if I was clumsy when I was cutting it out and it ended up a little long, or if it is a small flaw in the pattern itself, but I fixed it easily enough by unpicking the collar a little and making the seams smaller where the notch is---hard to explain, but it worked to make the notch visible between the upper collar and the shirt top where the bottom collar folds over.
The blouse has several interesting features: a yoke with gathers in the back that extends into a forward shoulder seam with gathers in the front. I forgot to cut a yoke lining when I first cut out the blouse, so I used a piece of blue and green plaid cotton from our scrap basket, which gives it a nice bit of secret interest on the inside. The sleeves are actually sewn into two parts, which are sewn together and the bottom and overlapped at the top and then eased into the armholes. They have a narrow seam along each edge, and then tie over the arm. When I started wearing my shirt, I found that they were flopping open all the way to my shoulder when I reached for things, so I sewed the top of the slit together for about two inches so the sides of the sleeves don't move around and gape so much.
I really like how this blouse turned out: a practical, camp-style shirt with a little extra style and interest in the sleeves. It is easy to wear, easy to wash, and cool and comfortable in this summer heat.
In these photos I'm wearing my new blouse with my three-year-old ochre skirt, which unfortunately just got a hole last week. It was in an obvious part of the skirt near the waistband. I couldn't figure out a way to repair it inconspicuously, so I took out the waistband interfacing, the zipper, and the skirt hook and eye to reuse on other projects, and put the rest of the skirt in the scrap basket (to get used as rat bedding for Daisy and Marigold, most likely).
I've been thinking a lot about the problem of fairness, and how difficult it is to attempt to be fair in one's actions towards others in a world where we are born into such radically different and often unfair circumstances. It is hard to try to live morally and ethically; it is surprisingly hard to live while causing as little harm to others as possible. We are often implicated in unfair practices just because we are ignorant that those things are happening on the farms where our food is grown, or within the factories where the items we buy and use daily are made. This article from Vogue Australia brought this dilemma freshly into my mind with its revelation that the fashion industry is the second largest industry in the world that practices slavery, right behind tech gadgets and just above fish, cocoa and sugar cane. The article quotes from the most recent Global Slavery Index that about 40 million people are trapped in slavery worldwide-----a truly heart-rending statistic. 71 percent of those enslaved people are women.
I don't mention this article just to make us saddened or to open our eyes to pain of others (although I think it is a good think to be aware of the pain of others---so we can do what we can to alleviate it). I mention it so we can consider that our efforts to sew our own clothes are never a waste of time. Yes, clothing may be cheap and plentiful and we don't have to spend time making it ourselves. But that kind of fashion comes at a great human cost, much greater than the pleasant hours that we spend sewing our own clothing. We sewers know that every time we put a hand-made garment on our bodies, we don't have to wonder if someone suffered to make it. I think that is a wonderful gift, and I'm thankful for it every day. I hope that we sewers can help educate other people to have more respect for sewing and the skill and time it takes to make clothing. If we join the growing movement to help garment workers gain fair wages and good working conditions (Fashion Revolution has interesting ideas about how we can help agitate for change), then everyone who gets dressed can share our innocent and untainted pleasure in putting on our clothes.
Day 1 - Tuesday May 1 -
I wore my 1970s Simplicity 5497 striped cotton dress with white collar and cuffs, along with a homemade black velvet bow pin. I should sew this pattern again. I really like it.
Mr Rat wore his recently completed tan linen shirt.
Day 2 - Wednesday May 2 -
I wore my checkered blouse and my long black Simplicity 7880 skirt. My necklace is homemade with black agate beads.
Day 3 - Thursday May 3
I had some errands to walk to, so I wore a very simple and practical outfit: my denim jacket made from Simplicity 3573, which is actually a robe pattern (this is one of the sewing projects I made during the winter and haven't caught up reviewing here on the blog yet, so you will likely see another post about this jacket sometime soon) and underneath that, although you can hardly see it, is my denim skirt made from 1950s-reproduction Simplicity 8458. And though you can't see them in this photo either, I am wearing homemade sodalite earrings. My straw bag is thrifted.
Mr Rat wore his chambray western shirt.
Day 4 - Friday May 4
I wore my blue bandanna dress along with a necklace I made myself from sodalite nuggets.
Day 5 - Saturday May 5
I wore my navy and white gingham dress, which was perfect for the warmer weather we got this weekend. We were so busy that my best photo for the day was this candid snap Mr Rat took of me making faces at Gia trying to convince her to kiss me.
Day 6 - Sunday May 6
I wore my blue roses dress made from a vintage 1970s wedding dress pattern. I haven't reviewed this one for the blog yet---it was a dress I made back in January when I was longing for spring----so you will likely see some photos of this again soon.
For this shirt, I chose a tan linen fabric. I felt like the natural color and rough texture of the fabric was appropriate for the style of this shirt. I took my time working on some of the details like getting the pockets to match as perfectly as possible, finishing seams, and carefully putting in even top stitching on the collar, pockets, and cuffs. I made a few changes to the original pattern. My version of the shirt has a placket on both front pieces of the shirt which made it necessary for me to draft a larger collar. This turned out to be fortuitous because it added an extra 3 cm or so that made the fit a little more appropriate. I am really happy with the outcome. The fit is excellent and the design is classic.
Mr Rat and I went to Southern California to visit our parents for Thanksgiving, and oh it was sunny and warm! Thanksgiving day hovered around 90 degrees in my parents' backyard, where Mr Rat and I took these photos of my newest attempt at 1990s-era Simplicity 8620. Although I like the pattern, I haven't had much luck with my last two versions: the first (reviewed here) was too wide in the shoulders and the fabric wrinkled badly and didn't drape well enough to really suit the looseness of this blouse pattern. The second (reviewed here) had wonderful drape, but the first time I tried to wash it I made the mistake of putting it in the washing machine on the delicate cycle and it came out weirdly warped and unwearable. I should have tried washing it by hand.
This version is made from a mystery floral fabric that I found at the thrift store a while ago. It has a gentle drape, and I suspect it is actually a lightweight wool, given the hand of the fabric and the way it behaves under an iron. It frayed badly, so I was careful to finish all my seams, mostly with a faux flat-fell finish, and to bind the armholes with some grey rayon seam binding that was also from the thrift store. I decided to use self-covered buttons, which I made with a kit from JoAnns. The fit is the same as my last black rayon version, with a narrow-shoulder adjustment, although this time I decided to add the large collar, which ended up being rather dramatic, but looks nice with the bishop sleeves, I think. I edge-stitched all the seams, sewed the button-holes by hand, and sewed two snaps to the top of the button-placket area, to help keep the blouse closed and neat where the collar meets.
Although the style, color, and pattern are somewhat of a departure from my usual earth-toned solids, I'm pleased with how this blouse turned out, and foresee it being a versatile blouse for all kinds of weather---the lightweight wool making it warm in cooler weather and wicking away moisture to keep it cool and comfortable in warmer weather. On Thanksgiving day I wore it with a homemade necklace made of autumn jasper and my brown Simplicity 7880 skirt (reviewed here).
Now that we are back in Utah, we are also back to grey landscapes, grey clouds, and heavy coats. How do you adjust to the weather when you are sewing? Do you readers always sew seasonally? I thought this blouse might be unseasonable, but I think it turned out to be just right for November in California, and I am hopeful it will make many reappearances here in Utah in the spring.
“You guys have an awesome dayyyyyyy!!!!” the vagabond called to us as he hopped onto the back of his grocery cart and sped away down the sidewalk. We were taking a few photos in front of an abandoned drive-through fast food restaurant on a recent Friday evening. I speculate that it was once a Long John Silvers back in the early 90’s but its most recent tenant appeared to be a fast food Biryani Indian restaurant. I felt like the setting reminded me of some of the neighborhoods near the beach in Oceanside, CA where I spent much of my youth.
This is my second version of the Aloha shirt from the Japanese pattern company Sunday and Sons. I have decided that this pattern will be my go-to Hawaiian shirt pattern from now on. The fabric comes from Island Fabrics located in the fabric district of LA and is sold as “bark cloth.” I used the fabric reverse side out like all traditional Hawaiian shirts and carefully matched the pocket to the pattern on the shirt. I appreciate that this shirt has a slim fit since many Hawaiian shirts I come across tend to have a boxy shape. Although the shirt is fitted it still maintains flexibility and comfort since it includes pleats on the upper back and side slits at the bottom hem line. One thing to keep in mind about these Japanese patterns is that the sizing runs a little small. I use the large shirt pattern even though I typically wear a medium.
Hawaiian shirts have always been an important part of my wardrobe for both casual wear and dressy attire. The great thing about a nice Hawaiian shirt is that by changing from shorts to slacks you can go from the beach to dinner at a nice restaurant without too much trouble (and vice versa). I am really excited to have a pattern that reliable produces excellent results every time!
Note from Mrs Rat:
Usually we take our photos in local parks and the monastery garden up the street. They show one side of California: lush year-round flowers, redwood and olive trees, and lots of sunshine. But for Mr Rat’s most recent Hawaiian shirt, we decided we would take our photos at an abandoned restaurant near the grocery stores where we usually shop. It is the other typical side of California: empty, decaying store-fronts, palm trees, weeds and trash and broken glass, and of course---strange encounters. Mr Rat mentioned the encounter with a friendly homeless man while we were taking these photos----a few months before, in the same spot, we watched with astonishment as over a dozen police cars sped down the street (we found out later there had been a shooting at the motel a block away). A different homeless man was walking by and told us in a disgusted voice: “This happens all the time around here.” And it does----in California.
At long last, I have fulfilled another one of my new year’s sewing resolutions: to find a vest pattern that fits. I’ve had 1970s-era McCall’s 5297 for a while, but only just got around to sewing it, and I’m glad that I finally did. For a first attempt, I think it fits pretty well, although I might make a few minor adjustments the next time I sew it: changing the slope of the shoulders a little to make the neckline more snug, and maybe bringing in the sides at the waist to make it a little more snug there too. This time I didn’t make any fitting adjustments, and I think it is a very wearable ‘muslin.’ Whenever I start to feel bad about fitting (it is so tempting to want everything to fit ‘like a glove’), I think of Nancy Zieman’s advice at the beginning of all of her fitting books: she says not to over-fit your clothes, because it can take the joy out of sewing. And I think she is right. When we only focus on the flaws and the minor problems, we don’t realize how wearable and comfortable the clothes are that we make, and wear them happily and un-self-consciously.
I made this first version out of a one yard scrap of wool (one of the delights of vest-making---it takes so little fabric!) that I bought at the thrift store for two or three dollars. The buttons are from my stash, the same ones that I used on my recently finished black rayon blouse, in fact. The only design change I made was to make the buttonholes smaller and add more of them so I could use smaller buttons. I think this makes it easier to wear, as it doesn’t bunch so badly when I’m sitting down, and I like the look of so many buttons in a line---it makes the vest look as though it could have come from the 30s or 40s as easily as the 70s or beyond. I interfaced all the facings, pinked and stitched all the inner seams, graded the seams around the bust, stitched down the darts in the back shoulders so they would stay flat, and edge-stitched all the seams and edges of the vest. I think this gives the vest a crisp appearance, even though the wool was very springy to work with and difficult to press.
I’m wearing my new black wool vest with one of my Simplicity 7880 skirts, and my peter-pan collar blouse. My brooch is a vintage Taxco sterling silver rose from Mexico.
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?
In my quest to find the right Hawaiian shirt pattern I came across this pattern book by Sunday and Sons called “Shirt”. The book contains 4 basic patterns entitled “Sport”, “Dress”, “Military”, and “Work”. Each basic pattern contains 4 variations giving you 16 types of shirts to fulfill any aspect of your wardrobe. The “Sport” shirt pattern contains a variation for this Aloha shirt which I have completed here. Overall, I felt like this pattern exceeded my expectations for design, fit, and finish. To start my review I will just say that this entire book is in Japanese however, they provide enough translations (measurements, titles, and sizes) and clear diagrams to make this doable even if you don’t know Japanese. There were only a few Japanese symbols that I needed to study and match on other pages to figure out a few sizing charts. Also, the patterns run on the small size. I usually wear medium and am a 38 Regular coat size, but in this pattern I was large and the shirt is fitted. Another aspect of working with these patterns is that you have to trace them all out on tissue paper and add seam allowances as they do not include them in the pattern. The pattern recommends 0.6 cm seam allowances but next time I will probably do a standard 5/8 inch to give a little more fabric to work with for seam finishes. For this shirt I used a cotton/polyester blend fabric that I sewed together using the reverse side of the print to mute the tones as all traditional Hawaiian shirts are done. The shirt came together nicely and the diagrams were easy to follow. The fit is slim but I have full range of movement and no tight spots in the shoulders or back. The only issue I came across was some improvisations I had to make for finishing the inside of the collar but this was minor. I will definitely use this pattern for my next Aloha shirt and I am excited to begin making other shirts out of this book as well, all of which look very promising!
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.
Mr and Mrs Rat
Mr and Mrs Rat like to sew