Today I’m going to talk a little bit about the construction of this blouse. Of course, there is a wonderful tutorial in the book, which has very detailed instructions, but I’m just going to show you some of the in-between steps, or a look at things from a different angle.
So, you’ll remember that I cut the collar from scraps, and joined some pieces together? Where possible/appropriate, I covered the seam with iron-on facing, which secured and covered the seam.
As you can see here, I’ve cut the top of the collar in a nice black quilting cotton, and the underside is in the matching printed fabric, which I thought would look nice and make the collar feel continuous with the rest of the blouse – although, to be honest if I’d have had more black I’d have done it all in black, but c’est la vie.
The first part of the bodice construction is to attach the two front pieces and one back piece to the yoke, which is the part that will sit flat across your shoulders, and eventually with have the sleeves attached to it too. To do this, sew some gathering stitches across the top – take your time and try to get evenly spaced lines. Mine are super wobbly, and this contributed to a gather that poufed out in some places, and less in others. I was also surprised that the gather across the back of the blouse was quite light, and didn’t take much work. When the pieces are attached I like to press the seams together and upwards, and to sew them together with a zigzag stitch or overlocker, I think it sits nicely that way. You could also fasten the seams to the outside of the blouse by topstitching, which looks great, but on this particular blouse a portion of the seam will be hidden by the facing, so it’s not a big deal.
It’s also worthwhile stay-stitching the neck and arm holes on the front bodice pieces, the yoke and collar. Stay stitching stays in the whole time, but you won’t see it. and it helps to stabilise curves that are cut on the bias, and prevent them from stretching. (another reason why my facing went a bit wobbly).
Once you’ve stitched your bodice to the yoke, and sewn the side seams (hooray, you have something you can wear!), it’s time to sort the collar out. The collar is constructed from two pieces, sewn together and turned inside-out. Because of the lovely point on this collar, (and who knew it was called a Chelsea collar? I love that!), it’s really important to get a sharp edge. I like to turn the collar out with a metal knife – poking gently gently and pressing over the knife. I think I go this from Melly, who uses a round-edged palette knife to get a sharp edge – but I don’t have one of those so I improvised!
The heat from the iron combines with the knife to make a sharp edge, right down the middle, so handy when you’ve done your collar in two colours, and don’t want the bottom one to show!
Pin the collar to the blouse, making sure that the distance from the collar to the edge of the blouse is equal on both sides. Because its a flat collar with a gentle curve, I found it matched up exactly to the blouse with no clipping needed – awesome! The raw edges where the collar is attached will be covered by a piece of facing material, which will also stabilise the front part where you’re going to attach the buttons and buttonholes. I’ve done mine in pale cream cotton, with a little bit of iron-on facing, which will stop it from fraying.
To finish the edge that isn’t going to be attached to the blouse, Tilly suggests turning up around 5mm and sewing. I’ve made a little seam gauge by marking 5mm on a piece of card, which helps you keep accurate, really useful on hems!
But, I did just whizz round, so it was around 5mm, and my stitching was a little inaccurate – but this is a part that no-one will see, so hey, I have trained myself not to care too much about the small stuff!
So next, gently pin the facing to collar and to the inside seam of the front bodice, along the line where the buttons will be, right sides together. You’re going to flip it outwards afterwards, and the buttons and hem will keep it in place. You can also sew a few catch stitches by hand on the inside along the seam where the gathering from front and back joins the yoke, this will help it sit nicely too.
Once the collar and facing is attached, trim the seam allowances in steps – e.g. trim off 2mm, 4mm, 6mm from the layers of the collar and facing, which will take out a little of the bulk in the seam, and help it to lie flatter. Then, attach the seam allowance to the facing by understitching very close to the seam, again this will really help the seam lie flat and will stop the facing from showing around the neckline – very professional! If you’re not sure what understitching is, here’s a lovely tutorial to get you started.
That’s it for today – we’ve sewn the bodice, attached the collar and facing, so now there’s something really tangible that you can try on and wear – isn’t it an amazing feeling?!
Stay tuned for the next part,