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Gaining confidence by sewing a blouse (amazing fabric by Heather Ross)


I have been a huge fan of fabric designer Heather Ross ever since I discovered her work 5 years ago. 

I made by youngest child a quilt with her Nursery Versery prints, as well as some shorts featuring incy wincy spider which I tried to squeeze him back into last month but failed. 

Heather released a new collection last year TigerLily including these ballerinas. My daughter Edie dances so I bought a metre of the cotton in pink to make her a top (still a WIP), then I ordered 2 metres in the cotton lawn for myself. I imagined it would look like a simple pattern from afar, but make people smile (and especially me) when they studied it up close. 

I have been working my way through some vintage pattern books by my teacher Ann Ladbury.  I decided to have a go at the blouse from the book Weekend Wardrobe, which accompanied one of her many series on the BBC. The garments were designed by Caroline Charles but the construction of them is explained by Ann Ladbury in the text.

I am often  too impatient to sew a test garment to assess fit.  There was a risk I would mess up my beautiful (and quite expensive) lawn but I decided just to go for it. I did however check the pattern pieces against a blouse I have that fits well, and the finished collar measurement before cutting out. 

Reading the instructions was like having Ann with me - because they are so thorough and leave little room for error. There are great top tips as with all her books, like putting your interfacing onto the cloth before cutting out, or how to get accurate points at the tip of the collar. 

I made french seams on the shoulders, sleeves and sides as the lawn is light and quite transparent. 

I made my first collar stand and did a lot of top stitching. 

My main tip is always to try and work in balance. I completed one process on the left side of the blouse, and then repeated it immediately on the right. I think once you have your eye in, you work more accurately, especially when setting in sleeves.  I also continually checked that pleats, seams, centre fronts etc were matching up as I went along. 

Buttonholes have caused me some tears in the past. I have learnt that the key is preparation. I put extra interfacing beneath the facings where they would sit and also found that my Janome Horizon coped really well with the finer cloth. I still struggled to breath though whilst stitching them and felt a huge sense of relief when they were finished.

As instructed I made horizontal buttonholes on the collar stand and cuffs, then chose vertical ones for the rest.  Ann gave clear instructions about placement too which seem obvious but super helpful:

1. Don't leave a large gap between the collar button and the first one or it will gape open.

2. Place a button level with your chest

3. Avoid placing a button at your waistline, especially if the blouse is to be tucked in.  

To get the spacing bang on I borrowed Ann's fabulous slim flex measuring gauge. It is brilliant for even spacing and I need to track one down to buy myself. 

I have to say that I think this blouse is my most accomplished make so far. I really took my time and tried to learn as much as I could. I am not a perfectionist when sewing, but I do feel that I am taking a bit more care and time preparing for certain stages. 

I was nominated  for an Entrepreneurial award on Wednesday evening so had a good incentive to finish it in time. I toyed with the idea of customising this black vintage dress into a matching skirt that was a little tutu like. I was thinking Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City. However, I ran out of time and was a little unsure if I could pull it off!

I didn't win the £3000 prize sadly, but my blouse got lots of lovely comments and it was very easy to wear. My daughter Edie said the sleeves were a little Pirate-like, but I think she was just a bit cross that I hadn't finished her top off yet!

Next week I am starting to film my first video tutorials, and will also be doing some with Ann Ladbury in the coming months. Please leave a comment if there are specific procedures/ sewing tips you would like us to cover and we will do our best! Thank you x


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