Sunday, March 27, 2011

Deconstructing a Blouse -- A Sewing Experiment

Yep, that's me -- Nothing to Wear, that looks good anyway. In this terrific book, Jesse Garza and Joe Lupo advise you to throw out everything in your closet that no longer fits, and I thought, "Well, why not? I've waved bye-bye to menopause and the need for a working wardrobe." (not that those two conditions are inclusive -- but come to think of it, they're both pains!) So, to my closet I trudged, and believe me when I say I donated BAGS of stuff to charity. But midway through all the tossing and cursing, I started looking at those clothes in a different light. Why not use some of them for sewing patterns? I mean, it's the devil you know -- right? I can't tell you how much money I've wasted on commercial sewing patterns that were never meant for short, plump people like me.

So I collected some likely pattern experiments: pants that fit just right but for an extra inch or two in the waist and high hip; jackets that need just a dab more fabric in center front and back; and blouses that fit my shoulders and arms perfectly but strain across ye olde bustline.

Making a pattern from a fitted blouse was first on my list. Here's a "before" shot of a blouse identical to the white one I ripped apart for a pattern: Gapping, pulling, stretching -- I feel like a sausage stuffed into a casing.

So to begin: On the white blouse, I marked my actual bust point on the blouse front. (That's the black dot in the picture below, way below the blouse's bust point -- Who do these companies use for fit models? Teenagers??) Then I took the garment apart completely -- removed the sleeves and collar, ripped the seams, and opened up the darts. I ironed each piece to fusible webbing (Wonder Under) because I'm going to have to add fabric here and there:
Then I trimmed away all the excess fusible webbing from the edges.
Now to alter the front so that this "pattern" will fit my peculiar figure. Because I have more junk in the front than in the trunk -- and because all that junk has headed south with age -- I had to change the blouse's front. I used the excellent instructions in "Easy Guide to Sewing Blouses" by Connie Long: and drew boxes around both front darts, which are supposed to end about 2" from my bustline and actually point to it. I also reshaped and shortened the vertical front dart:
I removed the paper backing from the Wonder Under, cut out the dart boxes and repositioned them. I also enlarged the front by cutting along the side seamline and moving it over about a half-inch at the bottom. The sleeve and arm opening fit fine, so I didn't want to change the upper side seam. Next I had to extend the horizontal dart into the new side seam allowance. Then I ironed the front with repositioned bust darts and side seam to a piece of muslin:
With that done, I trimmed the excess muslin, leaving 1/2" seam allowances all around. This gave me a stable pattern piece, with all alterations glued in place by fusible webbing:

I didn't have to alter anything else, so I just added 1/2" seam allowances to the back, sleeves & cuffs, collar and collar stand. Then I was ready to cut out my new blouse. I bought this fabric at JoAnn's -- It's a pretty cotton lawn from Lisette Co.:
And I stitched, using Connie Long's excellent instructions. Here's the result:
I've been sewing since I was a very young teenager, and this is the first time in MANY years that I've been so pleased with the fit of a garment I've sewn. This blouse is very comfortable with just the right amount of ease. I have three more pieces of Lisette fabric, and some gorgeous turquoise silk that I've been saving -- I can't wait to get started on my new blouse wardrobe! If you sew also, I hope my experiment helps you!


  1. That looks fantastic! The fit is perfect, and the color really looks good on you--or what I can see of you. Nicely done!

  2. Thank you, Liesl. I didn't have my face made up when my husband snapped the photos!

  3. Found you on Ravelry. Really like your design and posts. I have been meaning to try out the ideas in this book; now you've given me the inspiration to try. Noticed you have an affinity to Cape Cod? You might enjoy my postings from the island of Martha's Vineyard.

  4. Thanks for the comment. I just visited your blog and love it. I hope to visit the Cape Cod area soon!

  5. Thanks so much! So inspiring. Makes me want to get doing that myself right away.