Time to dust off the cobwebs and get the machine back out – actually, more like clean up all the pine needles… they all fell off the tree as soon as we touched it, is that supposed to happen??
I don’t know about you, but I’m kind of relieved to get back to normal, Mini was back at nursery this week, so it meant I had a little bit more time to play with my new machine, with no-one to disturb me. It also meant I finally got to unpack the overlocker, sit back with a brew and learn how to use it.
For my first project of the year, I broke with tradition and made something for myself!
I don’t do this often, mainly as I’ve said before, I live in the perpetual hope that I’ll shed a few pounds. But, Mini’s wardrobe is pretty full right now – having a summer birthday and Christmas means you’re never short of grandparent-gifted items (although my mum does spoil her all year round), so there’s really nothing that she actually needs.
Plus – my ambition for this year is to make a few more things for myself, as well as scrap-busting from my stash, and this project combined a little bit of both.
I’ve sewn a couple of things from Love at First Stitch before, both the Lilou dress and gathered skirt, which turned out okay, but since I made them I feel that my skills have grown, and I’m a lot more confident. I really do love this book, Tilly has a great way of making sewing easy and approachable, and there’s just something so likeable about the honest and encouraging way she writes. It really is like having a friend show you how to make something step-by-step… slowly, and patiently.
If you have a copy of this book, and hopefully Father Christmas popped one in your stocking, you’ll have seen the Mimi blouse, a lovely oversized 60’s style top with a flat, pointed collar and short sleeves. It’s the kind of blouse that you wear loose over jeans, or tucked into a waisted skirt. It uses just under 2 metres of fabric, and includes some intermediate-beginner techniques, attaching a collar, setting a sleeve, sewing buttonholes. I’ve taken photos of the construction of the blouse, hopefully filling in any of the gaps in the original tutorial, just to give a little extra information if you feel like giving it a go!
So I know, right off the bat, I made a couple of mistakes with this blouse – first of all, the fabric choice was not great for this blouse. Because it’s so drapey and flowing, it needs something light, with a little structure – cotton lawn, silk, maybe even a crepe, but I’ve been sitting on 2 metres of cotton (I think poplin?), a very dark blue bird print (almost black), on a cream background, so I decided to use that. I’m not totally won over with the texture of the fabric yet, it has softened up since I’ve been wearing it though, and I really love the print. I’m a sucker for anything with birds on it!!
Also, a cut some of the little bits from scraps – I wanted a black collar and cream inside as I didn’t like the way the birds showed through, but hey, there wasn’t enough, so I had to construct them from scraps. More on this later.
At this point I’ve realised, this is going to be an extremely long post, so I’d better break it down into manageable chunks (if you get to the end, hooray for you!).
You’ll also notice that I extended the arms on the blouse, I’m really into 3/4 length sleeves, but only if I can push them up. I’m going to take you through how I’ve done this too.
Here we go:
Sewing the Mimi Blouse
- Pattern cutting
The pattern sheets that come with Love at First Sheet are really clear, and printed on both sides, with overlapping pieces, for some you could cut them out, but for the most part you need to trace them. I like to use a long roll of drawing paper from Ikea, most pattern pieces will fit without having to tape together other pieces. I use a tracing wheel and dressmaker’s carbon. By duplicating the pattern, you can move the pieces on your fabric to get the best fit, it’s much more difficult to copy the pattern directly to the fabric.
Here you can see the sleeve piece, originally designed for a short sleeve. Copy across the markings at the bottom for the pleat, as well as the labels. I really want to extend the sleeves slightly, it’s far too cold right now for a short sleeve shirt!
To do this, mark roughly half way down the side of the sleeve (there is a matching notch mark here), and split the piece in two. Extending from the middle will keep the shape of the cuff.
I measured the length of my arm, and estimated how long I wanted the sleeves to be – I always push them up so the exact length doesn’t matter too much, but they came out as a nice cropped length. My arms were around 52cms, so the gap in between the two pieces is 28cms.
Make sure you measure the centre line of the pieces, so that when you join them up the shoulder and cuff are aligned.
Fold your fabric with selvedges together, or adjust the fold so that it just covers the width of your widest piece. This will help you save fabric if money is short! Iron the fold so it’s nice and flat, and make sure that the alignment of the pattern is equal along the fold. To check how straight the cut edge of your fabric is, align the straight selvedge with the edge of a table, and lay a long ruler vertically from the edge of the table. It’s a good idea to trim this bit of fabric – usually it’s over your metre allowance anyway, and it stops mistakes when cutting folded pieces.
Don’t forget – you can flip your pieces. This is really important when you have a pattern that has a right-way-up and an upside-down, as the piece will still be cut along the line of the fabric’s design.
As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t have quite enough fabric to cut all the pieces properly, so impressed with the long, curved pieces of collar. Instead of cutting on the fold, I cut two pieces separately, leaving a small seam allowance on the edge that’s supposed to be against the fold.
Place the pieces right-side together, mark the distance between where the pattern ends and the fabric ends to create a small seam.
Iron the team flat and trim it. It will likely be on the inside, so don’t worry about finishing the seams. Try and keep the pieces lined up with the grainline, so that it’s not too stretchy and doesn’t lose it’s shape, unfortunately I ended up cutting some of the facing pieces on the bias, which made them go a little wobbly, but that’s on the inside so I didn’t really care in the end. Practice makes perfect!