Hold onto your hats Theydies and Gentlethem, because I am about to tell you something shocking. What I want to tell you is that it’s normal to fail. As scandalous as that might sound, I believe that it doesn’t matter how old we get or how experienced we are, we will always make mistakes. And I don’t say that in a completely negative way either. Certainly failure is disappointing, mistakes are frustrating, and wouldn’t it be great if things worked perfectly all the time? Well, sure. But how good does it feel to come out the other side of a series of failures with one precious success? How much do we learn from when things go wrong, versus when there’s not a single bump in the road? How connected do we feel to others when they share their mistakes? Personally, I love those stories. So let me share the story of the many failures that led to the amazing success of the Lottie Blouse.
It all started with a few poor decisions about patterns. Encountering the largest vintage pattern haul I had ever seen in person I took quite a risk and bought several patterns despite their prices being very steep. I was besotted with their designs, and didn’t think through the practicality of making them. This turned out to be a big mistake. Not only had I used up my sewing budget for some time, but when I set to testing the patterns – after spending a whole weekend bulk preparing muslins, I discovered none of them worked for me. Either the patterns required a level of skill that I simply didn’t have in terms of understanding and construction, required a certain level of pattern grading and drafting that I simply don’t have yet, or had features that meant that I couldn’t stand how they looked once constructed. As you can imagine, I got increasingly dispirited as I went through muslin after muslin, unable to produce the garments I’d so been hoping to make work.
I certainly don’t regret trying the new bulk preparation method. I am a huge fan of that style of getting everything set up in one go, because the preparation is my least favourite part of sewing. However, it was a challenge to be faced with so many issues in quick succession. I was really disappointed in my judgement in purchasing the patterns and the realisation that I wasn’t quite so levelled up in my sewing as I thought I was. So it took me a little while to lift my spirits after that, and realise exactly how much I had learned. I can now do several different kinds of tucks and darts that I couldn’t before, namely duck darts and tuck pleats, which release their fullness at the top. I also learned that I love princess seams, and bodices with darts over simple bodices without shaping. But as you can imagine I was feeling rather low when I finally came to do the Lottie Blouse. A pattern I had found secondhand, and decided to bring home because it looked almost identical to one of my favourite tops, and would therefore not have the same issues as the other patterns I’d had no luck with.
As it turns out, it seems like all my failures had been leading up to this one success. I first cut out a straight size 12, in the sleeveless version, and made up the bodice portion only to check fit. I was surprised to find that the hips were a perfect fit, and that the bust portion only looked one size too big. Pull-over tops are usually something I avoid because they have to be huge in the bust area to get over my head and hips, resulting in me looking like I’m wearing a sack. Not so for this blouse. Also, the length was pretty perfect on me, which is quite shocking for someone who normally has to take up the waist. I noticed the armholes also looked a bit too wide, and the keyhole portion was outright scandalous where it was sitting. So I bit the bullet, and made use of all my prior failed grading attempts to fit this pattern.
The good thing about the Lottie Blouse is that the bodice is made of two pieces cut on the fold. So even though I traced out the size 10 on top, all I had to do on the folded side on both the front and back piece was keep going down the straight line to the length of the 12 and come across to the bottom and up the other side to a specific point. I marked a notch roughly where it would need to grade down to the 10, and also marked the base of the size 10’s dart on the front bodice. Laying my tracing over the top, I made a relatively straight line from this point to my notch, as the original side seams were also quite straight. I then traced out the back bodice piece, copying the new side seam shape I had created. I then cut out the required pieces, and set to on my machine.
The only thing I will say is that the pattern instructions are severely lacking. I’m guessing that as it came with a magazine, the magazine probably had much more detailed instructions. My pieces also didn’t seem to have been printed all that well, as some of the notches were so faded I didn’t realise they were there in places. So there was a bit of muddling through, as it called for bias binding on the neck, when it actually meant for you to use a piece called “neck binding”, and it didn’t contain any advice about finishing the collar seams, or topstitching the collar and bow. As I have already tried several pussybow blouse patterns before (with no success), I had some ideas of what to do. But I suspect the lacking instructions may be a challenge for others who also don’t have access to the magazine issue it belongs to.
However, I am overall incredibly pleased with how this wearable toile came out (thank you secondhand sheet Gods! You provided such a glorious sheet for me to use as fabric). The fit was absolutely spot on, with the bodice being tight and shaped enough to be flattering, but not impossible to pull on over my head. And the secondhand bias binding I had in my stash happened to be white, which worked perfectly for the armholes. The keyhole portion was a bit awkward, I don’t think I clipped my seams nearly well enough. But the position of the bow hides all of that, so I’m not too fussed. It was also very, very quick to sew. So I would’ve finished it in one craft evening with a friend, had I not lost an intense game of thread chicken with the bobbin halfway through finishing the hem! So it turns out every failure that came before it taught me how to make this top a success!
Pattern: Simple Sew, Lottie Blouse
Views Made: Sleeveless Version, size 10 in the bust, graded to size 12 in the hips
Pros: Pattern has very few pieces, and because both the front and back bodice are cut on the fold the amount of seams are reduced. No odd centre front seams here! It’s also relatively fit friendly, as I found grading it very simple, and I suspect the bodice style would also not be too challenging for anyone with more ample bosoms than me.
Cons: Instructions were very lacking, and done in a bit of a strange order. It would probably make more sense if you had the magazine that went with it.
Would I recommend it for beginners: On the one hand, construction is fairly easy, but on the other hand, if you can’t fill in the gaps of the instructions it’s probably going to be a bit disastrous. So I don’t think I would, unless you had access to some kind of tutorial.
Would I sew it again: Absolutely, and when I find the perfect fabric I will be making another one.