How well do you research your sewing projects before you get sewing?
This make really got me thinking about how much research and project planning people do before starting a new sewing project. My methods are usually to check on sites like Kollabra, Pattern Review, Pinterest and to do a google search for other bloggers who have made that garment. I mainly look for inspiration, to see what modifications people make and also to learn about potential pitfalls or problem areas that are handy to know about before I start. I also sometimes make a toile, but usually only if I’m working with special or expensive fabric.
Sometimes though, and in the case with this project, I just get so excited about a make, that I forget about all the research and just jump in full steam ahead. I think more often than not, this comes from having very little time to myself, and even less time to sew. I am naturally an impatient person, I rush a lot, I like to do things quickly, be efficient, and then move on to the next project as quickly as I can. I just can’t seem to shed this sense of urgency. Does anyone else ever feel this way? I wish I could be more relaxed!
I suppose this approach, doesn’t always make for a bad project, but it does feel like luck when it all turns out ok. With this blouse in particular, I saw a tweet promoting the pattern, took one look at it and fell in love with the pattern details. I paid my £2.99 and it was stuck together, and traced in a flash. I knew exactly what fabric would work with it, a delicious umbrella print I’d been saving for something special, and well the rest is history. It jumped to 1st place above all my other wips and planned projects. Only patterns this pretty get to be naughty queue jumpers!
So, I’m admitting to you all that I rushed this, and I am kinda sorry. The blouse itself is stunning, and I had no problems with the construction, it’s just a lot shorter and high wasted than I realised. It would look great with a pencil skirt, or a pair of high-waisted trousers, but as I find most high-waisted garments pretty uncomfortable I don’t really own any, so have nothing to wear with it. I was also hoping for a top that could be worn to work, with a pair of jeans, and the peplum would fall to the hipline. It wasn’t until after I finished the blouse I saw this:
The blouse above is a modification to the pattern I made, more details on that blouse here
The post even says:
‘After hearing the feedback from our users we made this top better by dropping the waistline by 2″ and we doubled the length of the peplum, so it would hit the hips in a flattering way.’
Yes this!!!! This is what I should have done, and I probably would have if I’d done my research properly, and taken my time. Luckily I think I have enough fabric left to make it again, and I just may do that. The question is, will I learn a lesson from this? I hope so.
Fabric: A mystery dressmaking fabric from Abakhan
Cost: £4 fabric, £3 pattern, £3.50 for 6 self covering buttons (I already had some in my stash)
Pattern: The BurdaStyle Alexander Blouse
Time: 10 hours
Burda describe this pattern as a ‘work of art and quite a unique pattern’. Whilst I’m not sold on its cultural significance, it is a lovely pattern with some really pleasing features. I love the buttons at the front and back, the neckline, and the ruffled sleeves. It was released in 2010, in memory of Alexander McQueen. I am wondering if it is inspired by one of Alexander’s designs, If so I’d love to see the original.
It’s actually a complete coincidence that I finished this blouse on the day the new Alexander McQueen exhibition, Savage Beauty opens at the V&A. It’s on from March 14th – August 2nd, and I’d love to go and see it. Are any of you planning a trip? To get a sneak preview I highly recommend watching Private View, Tinie Tempah on Alexander McQueen. It’s on BBC Iplayer for 11 months, so you’ve got plenty of time to see it, and get a glimpse of what this inspirational designer was about.
Unusually for Burda, this pattern included seam allowance, and the instructions were great, coming from a separate downloadable 12 page PDF. They included helpful diagrams too. I’d day they still require you to have a good grasp of sewing skills, and in some places lacked details. It would have been nice to have more direction on the pleats. I also think there was a mistake in that it mentioned needing interfacing, but then didn’t tell you where to use it.
The fabric is probably a polyester/cotton blend, but it feels kind of like viscose. It has a silky sheen, and a wonderful drape, plus the print is just adorable with all those teeny tiny umbrellas. It seems right to be using it in a country where on average it rains once every 3 days. Yes that’s the hard truth people, never leave home without an umbrella!
Sizing / modifications
I cut a size 44, which I ascertained from my full bust measurement. This is the largest size this pattern goes up to. It’s a shame the pattern doesn’t accommodate for larger sized women. Is this standard with BurdaStyle?
Sewing this blouse was super fun, as it had enough tricky and fiddly parts to keep it interesting. I spent quite awhile marking out all the pattern pieces, as there are a few pleats and darts which shape the blouse. There are also 5 buttons on the front, and 7 on the back, which I wanted to be perfectly spaced.
The blouse is two main pieces, the left side and the right side which included the sleeves. They are joined at the shoulder already, so include the front and back panels in one. This will lead to problems when using a fabric with a pattern, as on one side the print will be upside down. I suppose this could be rectified by cutting as 2 pieces and then joining them together at the top of the sleeve, but I didn’t catch on to this until after I had cut my pieces out. No big deal.
The darts were placed at the shoulders, and were fairly unusual in that they were curved darts that went from the front arm pit to the back. Sewing them was a bit fiddly, and I was thankful I put the effort in to marking my fabric.
I had trouble doing the pleats, and wasn’t paying attention to what direction they should be going in. I did the same on both sides, when I should have mirrored them. This was really obvious when on, and it completely distorted the shaping. It just looked rubbish. I unpicked them without too much bother, and the correct shape of the blouse was revealed. It pulls away from the side seams and scoops gently towards the centre line.
The sleeves are then gathered, and fitted in to the dart seam just sewn. The sleeves are really pretty. I love how they loosely cascade away from the shoulders. I really wanted to finish them with a rolled hem using my overlocker, but I chickened out at the last minute and just used a narrow hem. I think next time I’ll be braver, especially after seeing that the Slap Dash Sewist used the same technique on her liberty print version.
Button loops and buttons
The button loops were made from sewing 0.5cm strips, and then turning inside out. At times like this my Prym loop turner is my best friend, and makes an infuriating task quite simple. I like this kind of fixing, and it saves on having to sew button holes plus looks really elegant.
I chose to use self cover buttons, and used a combination of 11mm plastic and metal self covering buttons from Prym. I also used a Prym universal button cover tool, which again is a total sanity saver. Covering buttons without one is not my forte and not my idea of fun. I was wondering about the difference between the plastic buttons and the metal ones. Once covered you can’t tell the difference, but my sources tell me that the metal ones have a habit of coming apart. Do you have a preference between metal or plastic buttons? Do you notice much of a difference?
The rest of the blouse was fairly plain sailing, adding the facings and the peplum. It’s worth saying here that all my seams were finished on the overlocker, and I’m still getting away with using that red thread. I finished off by making a belt, and hand sewing belt loops to the side seam of the blouse at the waist. To do the belt loops, I used this this tutorial from Professor Pincushion. It’s a technique which I’ve not used before, and although not perfect, they turned out ok for my first time.
General happiness rating
I’m still totally in love with this pattern, and would recommend it highly to people, especially if they wanted a top to go alongside high-waisted bottoms. It’s a way off being a garment that I feel fits in with my wardrobe, and is modest enough to wear to work. However, I know what modifications I need to make, and I might have another blast at it right away. Either that or make a pencil skirt to go with it. Any suggestions on what would work with this top?
I’ve hopefully learned a lesson that taking the extra time, actually saves time, and if I can remember this in the future I’m winning. What do you all think of my blouse? Please share your tips and advice for how you plan a project before you start sewing. Are you more gung-ho like me, or are you always very thorough and rigorous in your approach? I would love to hear your thoughts.
Happy stitching everyone, love Amy xxx