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You may remember my post from January where I said I’d be getting on with the start of this Joanie inspired outfit by starting with the green pussybow blouse. It appears to have taken me an inordinate amount of time to complete. I have (in my defence) been quite busy with other things though; the prep for two interviews in two weeks for jobs I didn’t get (unfortunately), babysitting for our lovely friends’ adorable six month old and visits from old friends; it’s all meant that I haven’t been able to crack on as I would have liked to.

BUT here we are and finished in all it’s splendour is my blummin gorgeous 60s blouse a la Joan Harris (nee Holloway).

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So where did I start? Having never made a blouse before I wasn’t entirely sure what material to go for. I decided on a trusty poly-cotton which meant the drape would be a bit stiffer than the one shown in the picture but I did want the collar to be a little stiffer, and as I wasn’t sure how this would all play out I thought not splashing the cash on fancy fabric would be the best option.

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I went about cutting the pattern, fabric and interfacing out and I was quite happily thinking “less pieces, less work than a dress”. Ah, the young sewing fool inside me.

At the end of the first day I’d made the bodice and the collar. It dawned on my when I finished that I’d absolutely breezed the collar this time, I think I’ve been so caught up in worrying about the set in sleeves that I appear to have somehow mastered collars without thinking about it. Pretty good eh?!

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Then it was sleeve making time. I should state, at this point, I have never made a full length sleeve, the previous ones I’ve made have been short/cap sleeves.

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So this was a bit of a learning curve.

A sleeve with a cuff turns out to be very confusing when you get down to the cuff part. In the picture above are the markings to make the shirt fit to the barrel cuff. The part that I’m about to start stitching is the reinforced part which is then turned inside out and makes the opening that you then attach the cuff to.

All looks great on paper, all does not make sense once I’ve sewn it and pinned it.

It took me half an hour to figure out what it was meant to look like from the illustration on the instructions and the consequent consultation with my husband, to figure out if I was having a particularly bad case of dyslexic brain. Turns out his dyslexic brain was not computing either.

But with fiddling, and pressing, and a few minutes break away from it I had that all too common eureka sewing moment where it clicked. I finally pressed it, attached the cuff and hoped for best. It turned out pretty well and meant the second sleeve was a breeze.

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Then it was on to the dreaded time.

The set in sleeve time.

The time of doom.

Now, I made a little list of goals at the beginning of the year (some have totally fallen by the wayside already) and one of these was to master set in sleeves by the end of 2014. So when I went into this part of making the blouse I did so with a new determination that I would not simply settle for “that’ll do” and I would set these sleeves in over and over until I got them perfect.

Plenty of people gave me advice (thank you everyone for all of your helpful tips and guidance) but I really owe massive thanks to Clare at www.sewdixielou.com for spurring me on when I was halfway through ripping the sleeves out for the second time (and on the verge of having a little cry) who simply said “I never use gathered way hate it. I do it by hand gently easing larger fabric pinning every 1/2″. Then when happy pin in between pins then baste by hand. Remove pins check how it looks then machine”.

Now, this may strike you as odd (but probably goes a long way to explaining more than bit about me) but I never considered for a moment that I should use any other method than gathering.

It’s what everyone had shown me; books, sewing tutorials online, pattern instructions. All gathering. It’s a rule right?

Wrong. I am learning more and more that sewing is about finding what works for you and just because people say you should do it this way, it doesn’t mean you have to do it this way.

In the end I went for a bit of both, I gathered a little and then pinned and pinned. I sewed from the inside of the sleeve ; calmly, slowly, gently and smoothed as I went. Et Voilà! A perfectly set in sleeve!

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So overjoyed was I that I ran about the house and told Tim he should come and look, at which point he did and we embraced and then I did my little happy dance (literally). Then I proceeded to set the other in, with no problem at all and then made Tim come back every five minutes to look at my beautiful set in sleeves on my fantastic blouse.

Needless to say, it wore a bit thin (for him- certainly not for me) after the 50th time, saying that though he was very chuffed for me.

Next up were buttonholes and buttons, which I forgot to buy.  I finally located some small-ish ones and add them to the cuffs and the front of the blouse with a pop stud opening at the top (which is covered when the collar is done up) and here we are, the finished article.

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I really feel like I’ve made sewing skills progress with this blouse.

I have learnt sleeves with openings and cuffs; I have finally managed to successfully set in sleeves and I’ve made a new type of collar. Wholly happy.

Footnote:

As I have said blouse so much in this post I’ll leave you with this little clip from Bottom. I can’t think about the word blouse without thinking about Ritchie giving his famous chat up likes a whirl “my what a lovely blouse you have on”!

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