A few weeks ago my husband was working in Shanghai, so I asked him to bring me back some washed silk. He mentioned it to his client and she told him about a massive fabric market, with tailors on one floor and fabric on another, he had a couple of hours spare so off he went. It's not easy choosing fabric long distance, he sent me so photos of prints but I realised that going for plains was going to be a better bet, so I asked him to choose greens and blues and he came home with three lots of 2.5 metres. It cost a mere £5 per metre, a quick Google tells me it's around £25 in the UK, so this was is mega bargain. What's even better is that he'll be going regularly for the next few months, in fact he's just returned from another visit and has brought even more silk. Major Husband points!
As it's winter I'm not going to be making any floaty dresses, but I do love to make shirts so it was clear to me that I would use the fabric to make some gorgeous shirts to waft around in. So when I saw The Blouse pattern by The Avid Seamstress I thought I'd give it a try. I bought my sewing pattern from The Foldline which arrived really quickly in fab envelope - I'm a sucker for some nice packaging.
I haven't made anything from The Avid Seamstress before, but I like their aesthetic and have only heard good things. The blouse is a simple shirt, there are no darts so it drapes well, has three quarter sleeves with elasticised cuffs so no fiddly plackets to deal with and although it is collarless, it wouldn't be hard to add one if you wanted. I was really impressed with the sewing instructions they're probably the most detailed I've seen, they come in a booklet with photo instructions so they're incredibly clear and full of lots of tips. I've made a good few shirts but this is a great pattern for anyone who hasn't and wants to give it a go, it's very handholdy.
The pattern comes in a broad range of sizes from a UK6 to a UK 22 - and they give you the finished garment measurements which I really think all pattern companies should do. I chose a size 5, which is a UK16, my bust measurement falls between a 14 and a 16, my hip measurement was spot on for the 16, but I carry a lot of weight around my middle so my waist is more of an 18 however the finished measurements told me that there was a lot of ease as it's a draped style so no need to make any adjustments in the torso. However I realised that I was more of an 18 for the bicep, so I cut a 16 for everything except the armhole and sleeves.
There was no way I was going straight into using the silk, so I made a toile from some fabric from my stash, fully expecting it to be a wearable toile as this loose draped style is usually easy to fit. However it really wasn't wearable at all, the armhole was very high up under my armpit was tight and although the sleeve fitted there wasn't much ease, also it was a bit tight across the chest when I moved my arms up. I have to say I was surprised, I've never had any issues with getting shirts to fit, especially across the chest as if anything I often have to remove fabric like I did with the apron dress.
I took off about 2.5cm at the lower armhole and redrafted the sleeve to fit so making them both larger. In order to give me more room across the chest I thought I'd just add a 2cm back pleat and so I made another toile to see how it worked. It was much better, but still very tight across the chest at the front, in fact the armhole was sitting in on my chest rather than the arm so there wasn't enough fabric from armhole to centre front. So toile number three was made adding extra fabric at the armhole/chest and this one worked. I realise that it would have been useful to take some photos of each toile, this blogging business is new to me, so bare with - I know for next time.
Really at this point I should have put the pattern away and come back to it another time because by now I hated it. It was taking ages to get the fit right and I just fell out of love with it, but I ploughed on.
Sewing with the silk was a lot easier than I thought it might be, I made sure to use a fine needle on my machine and lots of entomology pins from Merchant and Mills, which didn't leave any holes in the fabric. I know some people use a walking foot with fine fabrics, but I didn't feel the need to as it wasn't too hard to sew and I have to say it did feel lovely to be handling such a soft fabric. The only other change I made was to the seam finishing, the instructions have you overlocking or zigzagging the seams but for this kind of fabric that felt a bit downmarket. I didn't feel that this design leant itself to a flat felled seam so used French seams and just made sure to add a little to the seam allowance as it's drafted for a 1cm seam. This worked really well, even on the armhole.
I feel that the finished result is ok, there's probably nothing wrong with it, but I just didn't enjoy making it by the end and so it doesn't fill me with joy. However if there weren't the fit issues (which of course may just be me) I'd say it's a great pattern for anyone who hasn't tackled shirts and now I've sorted it all out I probably will come back to it, just not for a while though.