Friday, June 26, 2015

Tribal Print Pretty Blouse

In the Summer of 2010 my grandpa gave me a sewing machine and at first I didn't really use it. My mom had an old one that she seldom used, and since I had learned how to sew on her machine, I was more comfortable operating that particular one. I hadn't really seen the value of owning my own machine and learning how to use a different one.

Around this time I would watch Lauren read blogs, but I had absolutely no idea what a blog was. I too eventually started reading blogs, mainly sewing-related ones. I thought that it was amazing that people sewed most of their and their kids' clothing for fun. My mom would sew our Halloween costumes, but our everyday clothes were ready-to-wear. I was impressed and wanted to sew more. I talked to Lauren about this idea and she too took more of an interest in sewing. Her sewing machine was inoperable, so that meant that we would need to use mine. Not an issue, I just didn't know how to use it. Of course Lauren figured it out pretty quickly and then taught me how to use my own machine.
I've always associated the packaged patterns at JoAnn as Halloween/elementary school  biography costumes. I recall my mom loading up all four of us kids in the car and heading to JoAnn when she needed to make one of us a costume. We would start by flipping through book after book, brand after brand, looking at various patterns and trying to visualize how a simple dress could be made into an elegant queen's royal dress. After what felt like hours sitting at that table we finally got to look at the fabric. By this time though we were all tired and hungry and just wanted to go home. So, my mom would go through the aisles of fabric by herself. Once she finally got her fabric choices cut and paid for everything we were able to go home. I remember watching her cut out the numerous pattern pieces, pinning them to the fabric, and then cutting out the various fabric shapes. She would then bring out her sewing machine and for a week or so, until the dress was complete, the kitchen table turned into her sewing room.

There had to be an easier way to go about this garment sewing business though. I didn't want to spend tireless hours searching for a pattern and corresponding fabric.
Lauren showed me that a few bloggers create clothing patterns that they either offer for free or for purchase. At this time I was against paying for patterns so I went for the free options. Don't worry, I no longer have any qualms about paying for patterns and happily do every time I see something I want to sew. Somehow I found the "Pretty Blouse" on Sew Mama Sew and immediately knew that's where I wanted to begin. Thanks to my stubbornness, I had to start the project right then. I didn't want to spend time shopping for fabric; I just wanted to start. Luckily Lauren had a bin full of fabric and she let me use whatever I wanted. I didn't know the difference between fibers and picked fabric based on the print alone. Lauren warned me of the consequences, but I didn't want to pre-wash or iron my fabric; I was ready to start cutting. She told me I should at least wait until we went to her house so I could use the cutting mat and rotary cutter. But since my mom never used those items, I didn't think I needed to either. I just started. I sewed together the yoke and  shoulder seams, but I became frustrated and stopped after that. For several years this project sat in my "unfinished bag".
Like the paint chips, this unfinished blouse moved across the country with me. Once I was all settled in, I realized that if this project was worthy enough of being shipped across the United States, it had better get finished. I pulled out the unfinished top and the other untouched pieces and just stared at it. What was I thinking? It was so obvious this quilting cotton hadn't been washed and will most likely shrink. I couldn't even sew a straight line then; the seams were so uneven. The fabric was fraying because I didn't use sharp scissors. This Pretty Blouse wasn't going to turn out so pretty.

Thankfully I got frustrated and stopped sewing when I did. I decided that I needed to unpick everything I had managed to get my hands on, and just start over. Not only did my sewing skills improve in the past five years, but my measurements changed as well. I laid out all of the already cut pieces and cut them down to one size smaller. Even though I knew the fabric would end up shrinking once the finished garment was washed, there was a big difference in the bust measurement between the small and medium sizes. Because this top is only fitted at the bust and I had plenty of wiggle room even with the smaller size, I went ahead and chopped the pieces down. The edges were no longer frayed and I already felt so much better.

I used French seams throughout and like always, I think this made the finished piece look a thousand times better. The only real issue I had whilst sewing were the silly sleeves. Since I was using French seams, I knew I needed to first sew the sleeves to the bodice, wrong sides together. I knew that and I still messed up three times. That was not fun to seam rip, but it had to be done.
Once I set the sleeves correctly, the rest of the top was a breeze to finish. I ended up taking about five inches off of the length. I have a short torso for my height, and I think this top looks a lot better on me when it's shorter. All I had left to do were the neck binding and the hem, which I could've easily finished in less than a day. However, I procrastinated once again and let my unfinished garment stay incomplete for way too long. After being hung up all alone in the corner of my room for well over a month, I finally sat back down at my sewing machine to finish the blouse. My favorite little detail to add in handmade garments now is a cute little tag made from a piece of twill tape stamped with the correct size. I think the tag makes the piece feel more fun, but even more importantly I really appreciate the functionality of it. Now I no longer have to worry about recording which size I made for each handmade garment.
I'm glad I finally finished this Pretty Blouse; it only took me less than five years! It's not my favorite thing I've ever sewn; I'm not a big fan of the puffy sleeves. But, I am grateful to have finished it and been able to transform the original mess that is was (circa 2010) into something actually wearable. It's also interesting to see how my style has changed in the past half-decade; the flowy, peasant blouse tops that I always felt I needed to wear back then are a complete 180 to the solid, simple knit tees I gravitate toward now.