Exposure risk

Was I unconsciously heading off  underarm shabbiness when I started this project?  Bra shabbiness, on the other hand, might be a consideration. I suppose a matching bra made with the scraps might cut it.

Inspiration was  Melissa’s entry to the Natural fibres contest on PR. Cowls at the underarm feature in almost every book of basic pattern adaptations, but I’ve avoided them  up to now because of the side bra issue. The asymmetric design from the pattern magazine Manequim she used, details here,  gives you one arm to decently strap hang on the tube or wave down a taxi.  Aside from the exposure question, I like the look. Anyone else made one of these? I’d love to know if it worked out, or went its own way with every gust of wind.

I’m working on a draft for a variation of this idea – this is the part done toile.

That’s the cowl sleeve over on the left, waist ties at the right. The Manequim design, going by the pattern thumbnail,  finishes just below the waist shaping. Mine is extended into a shaped peplum. For me, blouses always get more use if they don’t have to be tucked in, but also aren’t so loose and floppy from the waist down that they bunch up under a skirt.

I’ve made this as a wearable toile from a piece of fabric I brought back from London, fibre content unknown. The man on the market said he thought it was linen. It creases like a natural fibre for sure, and takes a hot press, but at £1.50 a yard I can happily bin it if it doesn’t work.

The Manequim design uses a side bust dart on the regular armhole side – I’ve put the dart fullness into waist tucks at the side and have a tie there to fasten it. This bit needs more work, probably bringing the side seam forward half an inch to even up the back and front slightly, and play about with some different arrangement for the ties.

I drafted a deeper cowl than the Manequim model, but checking out Melissa’s photos it looks to fall at about the same place, roughly elbow level.


The main section of the pattern, back and front blouse is cut as one piece, with the cowl between the two, and one side seam.  The facings of the back and the front neck are each cut in one with the facing of the regular armhole. There are four pieces to make two ties, and  front and back peplum pieces. The side seam opens from three inches above the waist, and fastens with the ties. 

Lightweight knit fusible strip used round the neck and armholes, and the sides of the waist opening.

The ties cut as four pieces, stitched, trimmed, turned, and a box pleat made at the end and stitched across to hold it in place.

A narrow hem made on the cowl edge. I used this foot, which does it in one pass, though you have to fiddle about at the start, turning and stitching down the first couple of centimetres before lifting the raw edge into the curve of the foot. 

The pleats at the waist were folded and stitched at the edge to hold them.

The shoulder seams were stitched, and the shoulder seams on the facings.

The facing was stitched round the neck edge, clipped and edge stitched to hold the turnings (understitching). Then it was turned to the WS and pressed.

understitching neck facing

Next, to stitch the armhole part of the facing, the blouse was rolled up bringing the armhole part of the facing round it, to stitch it RS together with the armhole. Its clipped, but the understitching is easier to do after the rolled up garment is pulled through to the right side.

Here’s how it starts, blouse rolled up.

rolled garment

Then parcelled up inside the facing and armhole, ready to be stitched. The shoulder seam is in the middle of the photo, the WS of the edge of the armhole with a strip of interfacing on it on top, and the facing just visible underneath.

The ties were stitched to the side seam at the opening. The side seam of the facing and the garment were stitched as far as the opening.

One side seam of the peplum was stitched, and the peplum stitched at the waist from one side of the opening to the other.

Still to do – the hem, turn under the side opening turnings and top stitch.


About jay

I design and draft patterns
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