Self-drafted blouse

Before you judge me for creating this, I want to clarify that this was an experiment and it is a work in progress! One of my long term goals is to make a well fitted shirt, and I recently bought David Page Coffin’s “Sewing Shirts with a Perfect Fit” book. It’s a great read, and in it he describes a method using foil to create an accurate body form of yourself. So I thought I would use a similar process to make myself a blouse, as a trial-run of a shirt without the collar, cuffs or buttons.

1. The body form

Wrapping myself tightly in foil is not something I have done before, and it is surprisingly difficult! I found it impossible to actually do by myself, as soon as I had one piece in place another piece fell off as I moved. So my boyfriend kindly helped and soon I was all trussed up and shiny, all ready for the oven! At times the edge of the foil poked me a bit (particularly unpleasant under the armpit), but overall it was a painless experience. I then got my boyfriend to mark the foil with dots for key landmarks (e.g. shoulder point, waist points), and seam lines; e.g. princess seams. He found it a bit tricky marking the straight line on a curved surface but I think he did a very good job.

My boyfriend then carefully cut the foil off me and I had my finished body form. I was a bit sad to look at my shape in the foil – there isn’t any shying away from the lumps and bumps, so be prepared for that! I then cut along the seam lines to create the basis for my pattern.

2. The pattern

I traced around the foil pieces onto paper and then added a 1.5cm seam allowance. The foil didn’t really conform around the shoulders, so for that I used armscye shapes from proper patterns that I have as a template. I then sewed up the pre-pattern using some old sheet fabric, and I was surprised that it actually wasn’t too bad! The fit around the bust was very good, and the overall shape was fine. However, the back wasn’t right at all – there was far too much material. Perhaps the foil wasn’t sufficiently tight to my skin at the back.

So I removed some of the material at the back by adding a couple of darts, and I also then added in the sleeves (I took a puff sleeve pattern from my Sewing Bee book, the 1930’s Blouse, so I wouldn’t need to get a perfect match for the shapes). I decided that I wanted a peplum on the blouse so I again took inspiration from the Sewing Bee pattern and cut out the shapes to fit the waistline. I then decided I was ready to sew it up in some proper fabric. I marked the invisible zip position to go in the side and I altered the shape of the neckline to create a square.

3. The blouse

The fabric I decided to use was a navy cotton lawn (I used it before to make my Ogden Cami). It was a bit transparent so I decided to line the front bodice, and at the back create a small facing at the neckline. I sewed the pattern up as drafted, finishing off the edges of the seams with my rolled hem foot. The hem foot stretched out the fabric slightly, but it wasn’t too bad.

When I tried it on I noticed that the top of the front neckline was about 1 inch too wide. I’m not entirely sure how it happened, but I ended up putting darts in the top front by the princess seam and increasing the size of the darts at the back. The puffed sleeves from the Sewing Bee book are “teardrop” shaped, and I used a popper to fasten it together.

4. The final result

I’m happy with this blouse considering it’s a first try but it certainly isn’t perfect. The button closure at the back isn’t very good and comes undone occassionally. I think I needed a bigger side zip because although I can get it on, each time I think I’m going to rip it. The princess seams are all puckered. Also, for me the sleeves are too puffed; they really are quite a statement!. The darts at the front are a bit too visible and I’m still not happy with the fit at the back. There also seems to be a strange excess of fabric under my breasts.

But I’m pleased with the overall shape and I think with a bit of tweaking this pattern could work. It’s all a learning experience!

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