Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life


Shape and Style

I’ve been giving some thought lately to my personal style. You see, it’s more that I’m not sure whether the styles I wear are flattering for me. It’s a hard one to pick apart your personal preferences from objectivity. Aren’t we are all influenced, to some degree, by the latest trends which we see in the shops? Or do we “revert to type” and find our stylistic home with the fashions we grew up with and wore in our teenage years? Another influence that I think has affected me in the past is being restricted to clothes that fit. This meant that for many years I never bought a fitted blouse or a V-necked top. But could these styles fit into my new wardrobe where I am not limited in this way? I have without question stayed away from anything gathered at the waist. Does this fit in with my body type, or is it just a preference formed by habit? These are all questions that I’ve been mulling over.

I wondered if I could find some “objective” analysis using the various body type calculators on-line. The idea is that you enter your measurements (usually bust, waist and hips) and a choice of flattering styles is suggested. Here are a selection of online calculators I have tried:

The Body Type Calculator

With this calculator, you enter your three basic measurements and it suggests one of four body types; Apple, Banana or Straight, Pear, Hourglass.

My Calculated Body Shape: Banana or Straight

Suggested Styles: None, it’s not a style website

Star Rating: **


Marks and Spencer Style Advisor

There are several additional questions about your skin tone and eye colour, in addition to questions about your dress size. There are lots of questions relating to your personal style and colour preferences as well. A comprehensive style guide is available once you’ve created a personal profile.

My Calculated Body Shape: This website doesn’t provide a body shape such as one of the four body types, but did provide a flattering description: “You’re the ideal blank fashion canvas with your slender silhouette and balanced hip to shoulder proportions. Focus on creating a more defined waist and magic up some sexy curves. Tops and dresses with belts, ties or nipping at the waist are your best friends. Details at shoulder and bust create shapely volume. Look for fuller bottoms and skirts that create shape. Straight, baggy clothes are a waste of time.’

Suggested Styles: There are loads of suggestions, both general advice and specific example garments all obviously from Marks and Spencer’s stores, but it does show well what to go for and what to avoid. For example, for tops, I’m recommended slim fit blouses, fitted tops and slim fit t-shirt and told to avoid loose ft tops and blouses.

Star Rating: *****


Shop your shape

Again the three basic measurements are added and one of eight different body types is suggested; Straight, Pear, Spoon, Hourglass, Top Hourglass, Inverted Traingle, Oval, Diamond.

My Calculated Body Shape: This calculator must work a little differently from the others as it suggested my body shape was a Pear or a Spoon from the measurements. Since the description with these shapes doesn’t describe me and differs from the body shape as calculated by the other websites, I decided to ignore this calculation and look at the style advice for the Straight body shape.

Suggested Styles: The suggested styles were divided into Tops, Bottoms and Swimsuits with advice for each one. For example, for tops – find tops with belted or gathered waists with fullness around the bust and hips.

Star Rating: ***

Shope Your Shape

Prokerala Body Shape Calculator

Entering the three basic measurements, calculates your body type. This calculator uses five body types; Apple, Pear, Rectangle, Inverted Triangle and Hourglass.

My Calculated Body Shape: Rectangle

Suggested Styles: There was some limited style advice:

  • Create the illusion of a well defined waist and gentle curves
  • Show-off those wonderful shoulders and belt your waist to create more of an hourglass figure
  • Wear tops with necklines that accentuate your bust

Star Rating: **


Styling Up

This calculator suggests one of six body types; Hourglass, Pear, Inverted Triangle, Diamond, Oval or Straight. Three basic measurements are used for the calculation.

My Calculated Body Shape: This one calculated me as a pear, but with a 1 inch change in my hip measurement I become “Straight”.

Suggested Styles: Suggested styles are divided into Tops and Bottoms. There are also some links to suggested outfits that I could buy. Although, I did notice that these were repeated between the different body styles and in fact didn’t obey the style suggestions for my body type. It was probably best to ignore these.

The style advice included creating a more defined waist, wide V, U or off the shoulder tops and trousers with a moderate or full flared legs.

Star Rating: ***


BonPrix Shape Calculator

This site calculates your body shape from five possibles; Hourglass, Pear, Apple, Inverted Triangle, Athletic using three basic measurements.

My Calculated Body Shape: Athletic

Suggested Styles:

  • Create curves by wearing a wrap dress or add a skinny belt to a dress
  • Patterned trousers add femininity and softens your shape
  • Add detail such as ruffles, beading and studs to draw attention to one area of your body

There is also an option to “Shop your Style”, although I’m not so sure that it was useful for me. It heavily featured dresses and there weren’t any trousers featured at all. I also wasn’t 100% convinced that the selected garments followed the style advice.

Star Rating: ***

Shape Calculator

So Feminine Body Shape Calculator

This calculator asks for the usual three measurements and also your height.

My Calculated Body Shape: Boyish

Suggested Styles: Recommended styles include tailored, figure hugging tops, round or V-neck tops and narrow-cut trousers.  There is an option to look at recommended looks, such as casual, at work and in the evening. but I was rather disappointed with their styles. They really weren’t the looks I was after, with lots of pink girly stuff interspersed with tights (when were they dependent on body shape?)

Star Rating: **


The Marks and Spencer site was definitely my favourite. There was so much advice; there are recommendations for each garment type. I also liked the styles that they picked from their range. Of course, I’m not going to head out to Marks and Sparks for a spot of shopping, especially as their sizes run a bit too big for me anyway. I’m going to head to my sewing machine!

So how did the advice differ from the wardrobe I have? I think I may have found much of this style advice just by trial and error over the years. I do avoid things that are bulky around the waist, for example. Most of my skirts are either slim or A-line, never gathered. I prefer skinny or flared jeans and not baggy jeans. Perhaps my instinct has been good after all.

The next stage for me is to try a few recommended styles that I have found difficult in the past to wear, because of fit issues – V-neck tops and more fitted tops!

There’s quite a bit of advice out there if you want to explore new styles that suit your body type. Some indie pattern companies create styles with particularly body types in mind. For example, Sewaholic patterns specialise in pear shapes. Vogue patterns have figure flattery diagrams to help you decide whether a style suits you.


The Curvy Sewing Collective have a great article on finding patterns for your body type. Why not go and explore?


Jenna Cardigan in Petrol

Even by my standards I have been making heavy work of sewing in the last month. With a couple of short breaks, an “intense” time at work and the school summer break, I’ve only just finished my cardigan. If any of you have noted from my previous participation in Me-Made-May, I have a serious cardigan problem. I wear cardigans to work a lot in the summer and have been relying on three old ready-to-wear cardigans that have seen better days. I have been planning to make myself a cardigan for ages, but somehow it just didn’t happen. For ages I couldn’t decide on a pattern or style. Anyway, I received the Jenna pattern from Muse in a pattern swap through The Monthly Stitch and I suddenly had no more excuses.


I chose a cotton and lycra jersey fabric from Ditto Fabrics.  The fabric is described as “a good quality cotton and lycra jersey that’s slightly heavier than a normal T shirt weight” on the website. I thought this would be a good choice for a cardigan. Unfortunately, the fabric has more curl than an eighties perm and as soon as the support from the pattern pieces came off, it was trying to curve. It certainly was a challenging fabric. I’ve never sewn with a jersey fabric that curled so much (perhaps I’ve just been lucky before), is there any particular reason why jersey curls like that?


The first thing I like about the Jenna Cardi pattern is the different pattern choices. I chose to make the long-sleeved, hem-length option without the shoulder yokes. Lately, I have been getting a bit frustrated with my fabric stash as I don’t have much storage space. I have been looking to pare it down. For this reason, I’m currently trying to order as little fabric as possible. In the past I’ve often used whatever fabric length was suggested by the pattern, but I usually end up with loads left over, usually about a 1/2 metre which really isn’t big enough for another project in its own right. I ordered just 1 metre of fabric for the cardigan and with some radical tessellation managed to eke out enough fabric for all the required pieces. There was hardly any fabric left over, so thankfully I’m not adding to the growing stash. The pattern suggests a whopping 1.8 metres for the long-sleeved, hem-length option, so I’m very glad I didn’t have all that left over fabric. Although I do think Kat at Muse is quite tall and I did reduce the arm length and body length a little.

The garment came together quite easily, but I did slow down considerably when it got to the buttons. There were 8 buttonholes to do and I usually only manage a couple each evening! I had expected to find buttonholes on knit fabric to be tricky, but I stabilised the fabric with some iron-on, wash-off stabiliser and the buttonholes look good. I’m very fond of the combination of those buttons in that acqua shade with the darker teal of the fabric. The only thing that was a real problem in the whole make was the top-stitching. My fabric is quite thick and with three layers to sew through where the top-stitching is needed, my zig-zagger thingy (which I use as a walking foot) wouldn’t work and the fabric went a little wavy and stretched out around the neckline.

Jenna Neckline

This didn’t bother me too much, because when you wear it the neckline stretches anyway and the problem doesn’t show. However, I didn’t want to risk this happening on the button / buttonhole bands. I settled for hand-sewing these in place, but I’m not happy with the finish. Although it is tidy, whoever heard of hand-sewing on a knit fabric cardigan? I’m not sure how this could be overcome really, at least not with the sewing machines I have.

Buttons close-up

Plus, I do think that if you wear the cardigan undone, the overlocker seam on the inside of the button / buttonhole bands can be quite visible. I would like to see a nicer finish there. Any suggestions? Has anyone else used a different finish for this part of the cardigan? My buttonholes still have a bit of the stabiliser attached as I haven’t washed the cardigan yet.


I’ve worn this cardigan quite a few times in the last week and I’m very pleased with the fit and style of it. The main problem though is the colour. It’s an unusual colour. It’s called “petrol’ on the website, although I’ve never seen any petrol that colour. I’m not really sure what possessed me to go with this colour. Sure, I like it, but it goes with hardly anything in my wardrobe. I have lots of black, white and grey, but can I wear it with anything else? The terracotta corduroy trousers are a challenging combination with my new cardigan!


I thought I’d do a little colour experimentation. Perhaps I could make something else that would work well with this top? Playing around with the Adobe Colour site, I managed to get a few more colour options.

Colour Wheel

Using the Create function, it’s possible to pick colours from a photograph.


Colour Wheel

The select a Colour Rule and see what comes up. That colour to the right of my “petrol” colour, looks suspiciously like the colour of my cords. How about the colour on the far right, that seems to be all the rage in shops at the moment. Would that make an interesting colour combination?


Colour Wheel

Quite like the purple colour to the left, not so sure about those swampy yellows though….

What do you think, what colour would you go with? Do you have any clothes that you struggle to integrate into your wardrobe because of their colour?


A trip to Brum in July

It seems that this month I’m doing a bit of catching up with my blog and this is a write-up of a trip I made back a while back.

Rachel of Rach against the machine suggested a Brum meet-up for a bit of fabric shopping back in July. I thought this was an ideal opportunity to wander a little further than my local fabric shops and have the advantage of local knowledge to help me out!

I haven’t been to Birmingham for many years. All I can remember is the subterranean dungeon that is Birmingham New Street Station and a building site around the Bullring. I imagine I haven’t been there for about 15 years. I was pleasantly surprised when I emerged above Birmingham New Street. There is an atrium full of shops above the platforms and the streets around the Bullring have been transformed into a pleasant pedestrian area.

I met up with the other sewers and we spent a pleasant rime browsing the Rag Market. There are lots of fabric stalls. I was particularly taken with the stall selling trims. They were really unusual and looked like they might be intended for Indian clothing. I bought a metre of three different trims. I’m planning to use the two colourful trims for tunics and the lace will look good on the hem of a knit top, I reckon.


I picked up some fabric too. I bought 1.5 m of a sheer knit fabric, which is probably polyester or viscose, but at £1.50 I thought it was probably worth it. It has an interesting embroidered stripe and has sequins on it too. I’m planning to make this into some sort of loose cardigan. The second length of fabric (also 1.5 m) is 100% cotton and a bright corduroy print. It cost £7.50, which I thought was good value. The pattern is floral, but is quite abstract and looks to me like firework bursts. I can see another corduroy skirt for this fabric. I wear my grey corduroy skirt a lot, especially at work and it will be good to have another similar skirt.

Rag Market Fabric

Clearly I’m not a serious shopper, as I only came away with those two fabrics. I’m quite a slow stitcher, and I know it will take me a while to get round to using those fabrics, especially as I have quite a stash already at home. My fellow brum shoppers had huge bags full of fabric and trims by this point!

Rag Market

After exploring the market, we headed to Barry’s. I must admit, I found this store completely overwhelming. My usual experience of shopping in a fabric store is usually a bit more “Let’s find something that will do for….” and now I was confronted with too much choice! Perhaps I need more preparation before entering a store like this. I should have a specific sewing plan in mind, so that I can focus better….. Needless to say, I didn’t buy anything, but this shop definitely, deserves another trip.


Birmingham is quite a way from home, and I felt that I needed to make the most of my day trip and not just shop. I had been browsing “things to do” in Birmingham on the internet and thought that the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter looked interesting. I am fascinated with learning how things were made in the past and I think a knowledge of the traditional methods leads me to appreciate craftsmanship. The Museum of the Jewellery Quarter is built around a jewellery workshop that belonged to the Smith & Pepper jewellery manufacturing firm. The aging proprietors retired in 1981. They struggled to sell the business and when they ceased trading and locked the door, the workshop remained untouched, exactly as it was the day they left. The workshop wasn’t updated after the 1950s and it’s a perfect time capsule. The best thing about the museum is that you’re taken on a tour of the workshop by one of the very knowledgeable staff.

The tour started in the office on the top floor, where complete with old-fashioned typewriters and phones, orders were taken and the jewellery was packaged to be posted to the customers. Smith and Pepper, sold wholesale to businesses rather than directly to the public.

Museum of the Jewellery Quarter (Office)

Unbelievably, they just sent these small anonymous brown boxes via first-class post!

Museum of the Jewellery Quarter (Office)

In the workshop, the day started with the proprietor, Mr Tom Smith weighing the gold out for each of the jewellers. The gold had to be weighed out and weighed in at the end of the day. The jeweller was only permitted a certain percentage loss of gold, depending on the type of work being undertaken. Gold was swept up from the floor at the end of the day and even the sinks led into a reservoir so that any gold from the workshop could be recovered.


The craftsmen’s benches were lit by natural light from above or they were positioned near the windows. Here the craftsmen of the workshop assembled the stamped parts, set stones, soldered and engraved. The jeweller’s workbench is cut out with a jeweller’s apron, made of leather. The apron sat in the jeweller’s lap and serves to collect fragments of gold and stops the craftsman being burnt if anything is dropped.  Work was carried out on the jeweller’s peg. This is the wooden piece that juts out the front of the bench. It is used to balance and stabilise whatever the jeweller was working on. Each bench was also equipped with gas taps. Our guide showed us how the jeweller could change the temperature of the flame and direct to to finely manipulate the jet.


One wall of the workshop has an array of steel dies. These were used to stamp out the gold or silver components for the jewellery. Our guide demonstrated how the presses (below) were used to stamp out shapes. These could be used as pendants. I’d never really thought much about jewellery manufacture before I went on this tour and I hadn’t expected to see that even mass-produced jewellery was made in such a manual way. Unbelievably, Smith and Pepper used to supply jewellery to High Street chains, such as H. Samuel.

Museum of the Jewellery Quarter (Workshop)

The jewellery was polished using these horrific looking machines. I like the “No Smoking” sign behind the machines; a small concession to health and safety, perhaps? Apparently, there was a lady who did gold-plating, in a small room to the left of these machines. This task didn’t take up all her time, so she also doubled as a tea lady. The gold-plating uses a cyanide compound. Would you like to be served tea from a room that has had gold cyanide slopped around in it?


I admit when I got home, I took out my magnifying glass to see if any of my jewellery was made by Smith and Pepper. Sadly, none of it is, although I have quite a few pieces made in Birmingham. This isn’t surprising, though, as Birmingham is still the biggest volume producer of gold jewellery in the country. Altogether, I would thoroughly recommend a visit to this museum. The tour is a very interesting insight into a by-gone era.

It was a very busy day for me, but enjoyable. Thanks to all the Brum sewers who showed me around the fabric haunts of Birmingham! See you again soon.


Black Corduroy Trousers and Possibly a Compliment?

I’ve finally got round to posting about this make! Mr Steely has been extremely reluctant to strut his stuff in these new corduroy trousers, but finally I seem to have managed to get him to pose.

Black Corduroy Trousers 4

These trousers were made as a copy for a much-loved pair that were very thread-bare. In fact, Mr Steely willingly let me pull them apart to make a pattern, because they had become so worn. It’s always much easier to make a copy if you can just take the old pair apart!

Black Corduroy Trousers 2

I made some adjustments to the pattern at his request. First of all, the originals were a bit on the long side so the length was adjusted (easy enough!). Secondly, as Mr Steely is left-handed he wanted the coin pocket on the left-hand side. I was going to leave this pocket off, as I’ve always thought these pockets were a bit small and fussy, but Mr Steely assured me that he keeps his keys in this pocket and the pocket was essential. So it stayed and was even made a little larger.

Black Corduroy Trousers 3

He also wanted a longer zip for the fly opening. Slightly delicate matter here, but the original opening was apparently “not toilet-trip friendly”. I only just made this amendment in time, as I was all set to re-use the zip from the original trousers. (I won’t waste a good zip!).

The corduroy fabric is a black needlecord from Truro Fabrics. I used a grey top-stitch thread. Black clothes don’t tend to photograph that well, in my experience. I’m not sure that these photos give a good impression of the trousers, but I know you all have good imaginations and can perceive all the stitch-craft in them without needing to see every stitch!

Mr Steely tells me he’s pleased with the trousers, although he hasn’t worn them much since I made them. I did wonder whether that was because he didn’t like, but he always brings new clothes and shoes “online” gradually, saving them for best. Perhaps it’s a compliment then that he hasn’t worn them much? For my part, I think these are a successful make and since the autumnal-coloured corduroys I made for myself, I have honed my instructions significantly. I suppose this is the problem with copying RTW (ready-to-wear) garments; the pattern is there, but I have to glean how to make the garment as I take it apart and from any experience making items that did have instructions.

I particularly like the way the back pockets turned out. The motif on them was quite simple, but effective. It was easy to get this design to work symmetrically on the two pockets.

Black Corduroy Trousers 1

I think I’m seeing the beginnings of a new phase in my hobby. People are now asking for me to make things for them. I’m pleased, of course, it is a compliment, after all. I’m just not going to have so much time for my selfish sewing anymore…..


The Horror of Time Management

The last month for me has been a pretty busy affair, particularly at work. I don’t really talk about work much on here, if at all, but it’s getting a mention here because sometimes home and work overlap. At work I have been trying to use a few those time management techniques to help me through my busiest days. And being busy at work has had a knock-on effect at home. I’ve been pressed for time here as well and I’ve found those same time management techniques spilling over into my home life. The lists, the time-vigilance, the prioritising…..and this is bad!

Sun dial

Five tenets of time management to avoid at home:

1. Make a list

I’ve found myself making lists for things I need to do at home. Do I need to make a list to remind myself to phone my friend, compete a sewing project or book our holiday? I’m taking this as a sign that all is not well. Spending time with a friend, going on holiday and sewing are the stuff of my daydreams, something is wrong if I haven’t space in my brain to remember them. These are the things that help me relax and I should be thinking about them, not putting them at the back of my mind, because I’m too preoccupied.

2. Don’t waste time waiting

Sometimes there are times we can’t fill efficiently. It might be while we are commuting on the train or waiting in the opticians. Time management tips suggest how we might fill these moments productively. But do you know what? I need down-time. We all need down-time. Sometimes it is just pleasant to just sit and do nothing, or at least not much. Why not watch the scenery slide past while you’re on the train? Forget planning your next meeting agenda! Why not daydream whilst waiting in the opticians? Forget the messages on your phone!

3. Don’t fall prey to time-wasters

Apparently 31% of us waste roughly 30 minutes daily at work and fill this time with activities such as net surfing, Facebook posting, texting, or making personal calls. Do I waste this amount of time at home? Of course I do! Does it matter if a spend 30 minutes of un-focussed time surfing, or slouched in front of children’s TV with Master Steely as soon as I get home from work? When we are on holiday we don’t call “lying on the beach” a time-waster, so why is unfocussed time an “enemy” the rest of the time? Besides, I can find some interesting things while surfing and children’s TV can be delightful!

4. Prioritise

I really struggle to exclude this time management behaviour at home. Making priorities in my home life is really necessary, but at the same time, I have to be careful otherwise all the tasks heading to the top of the list would be those that other people want me to do. I try to make sure that I do something I want to do everyday – it keeps me sane!

5. Introduce time management goals

Once you are on the time management treadmill, it’s hard to jump off. There is, apparently, always room for improvement. Time management websites advise changing our behaviour over time to achieve increased productivity or even decreased stress.

More targets = more stress

As far as I’m concerned, more targets generally means more stress. I have read this article though. I think I can identify myself as a “Perfectionist”. It might explain why I feel I need Hermione Granger’s time turner to get everything done. On the other hand, perhaps this is what makes me improve as a sewist?

Time turner

By the way, I’ve have spotted the irony of writing this as a list! I really need to ditch the time management at home – it isn’t a recipe for contentment. Enjoy the moment and happy sewing!



Blouse in White Cotton Dobby Part 2

This is my second post about a blouse I have made which is a copy of a shop-bought top. The first post is here.


I’ve now finished my top and I’ll be wearing it for the first time tomorrow. I’m rather proud of this top, but not for the usual reasons. We’re all feel excited when we’ve made a new garment that looks good, but this time I feel that not only is it good, but it’s better than the original top which I copied. The main reason I think it’s an improvement is that I revised the way it was made. I discovered that when I took the top apart to create my pattern there were lots of raw edges just covered with trim. To me that just seemed like a shameful short-cut and I decided to attach the yoke to the front of the blouse by folding the raw edges under and then covering with the trim. Yes, it was still covered by the trim, but I have to wear this top and I need to know that it’s constructed well!

Front Yoke

Unfortunately, my deviation from original construction has meant that the front of the blouse is slightly shorter than it should be because I didn’t add in the extra seam allowance needed by the yoke. I don’t think it is a critical problem though, but I’ll change my pattern to make sure that is now correct.


I have noticed that shop-bought clothes have excessive amounts of trim. In fact, the original top, is a good example of this. There are three different types of trim used – a ruffle around the yoke opening, ribbon used around the edge of the front and back yokes and oodles of grosgrain ribbon around the collar and dangling down the front of the blouse. When I came to making the copy of the top, I was sure that I didn’t need that much trim and I limited myself to the using a grey velvet ribbon around the front yoke and along the bottom of the back yoke and a ruffle along the yoke opening. The ribbon around the collar and the dangling bow just seemed completely unnecessary to me. In fact, I’m not even sure that the ruffle is really needed either. It is a trend I have seen with many RTW items. I’ve often wondered whether the bling dazzles us and hides the lack of quality in the garment.

Another observation about the original blouse concerns the sleeves. Traditional sleeves (i.e. ones with sleeve caps that you ease into the garment) generally are not symmetrical. The front half of the sleeve varies in its shape to the back half of the sleeve. However, in this blouse the sleeves seem to be symmetrical. I guess it doesn’t matter too much they are fairly loose sleeves, but I do think that perhaps the sleeve should have been cut better.

Sleeve pattern

Image from

I have learned a new technique too. I finished the bottom of the blouse and the sleeves with a rolled hem using my overlocker. I have used my overlocker for finishing raw edges and for knit fabrics, but until now I hadn’t been brave enough to fiddle much with the settings. (Let’s face it I haven’t been too keen on changing the thread colour, it usually involves bringing out the manual, because that method of just knotting the new threads onto the old and running them through just doesn’t seem to work well and I usually get a thread break). I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to set up though. I took out one of the needles so that I was using just the right needle and three threads. I then increased the tension on the looper threads and switched the setting to “R” (for rolled) and hey presto! I fiddled a little with the tension on the loopers to get the width of hem just right, but that didn’t take long. This is a finish that is simple and easy to do, but I do think it is far more popular in RTW clothes. I certainly don’t often read about in on sewing blogs. What do you think, do you think this is an interesting finish or a RTW short-cut that lacks finesse?


Overall, I think that this top has provided me with some good lesson. I think that it has shown that I shouldn’t slavishly follow instructions or copy and that branching out is often a good approach when we feel it could improve the garment. The blouse I’ve made actually has a very different vibe to its original. I think my copy has a crisper finish and is less casual. Perhaps my choice of ribbons and construction has accounted for that.

I think I would like to make this blouse again, and really break away from the original, perhaps using a cotton lawn in a darker colour or with a print. I would like to draft different sleeves, some 3/4 length sleeves would suit this top too.



Blouse in White Cotton Dobby Part 1

I’m currently making a copy of an old favourite. The original was probably bought about ten years ago and has been on constant rotation ever since. The reasons I think this blouse works so well are that it is white (goes with everything) and it hovers on the mid-ground when it comes to smartness; it is quite acceptable with a skirt or smart pair of trousers, but equally can be worn with more casual attire, like a pair of jeans.

RTW blouse

The original blouse

Sadly, this top has suffered from being worn to a ridiculously hot office too many times, there are some nasty yellowish stains in the underarm areas (easy to see on the photo below). Also, I managed to melt some of the trim whilst ironing it. It is really in a sorry state and because it is such a favourite I thought I’d make a copy.

RTW blouse

Close up of the original blouse

The first job was to find a suitable fabric and luckily I found a very similar fabric at Stone fabrics. It is a white cotton dobby – why tamper with a winning formula?

My next step involved taking the top apart and creating a pattern. As I had no intention of keeping the original, I was quite happy to cut it up. I traced my pattern pieces onto tracing paper and labelled them.

I spent a long time thinking about what trims to use. The original used a lot of sheer floppy trim for the ruffles and the edge of the bib. I couldn’t find anything similar to that and after a lot of deliberation I chose some velvet ribbon in grey and some wide sheer ribbon in white. I gathered the wide ribbon down the centre to create the ruffles.


I came to a realisation when I was taking the original top apart that it was actually quite a cheap top. On the front of the top, the bib yoke piece at the front had just been placed over the main front piece and the trim used to hide the raw edges of the fabric. Somehow this just seemed quite a shoddy construction technique to me. I didn’t feel comfortable just repeating this method, and so I figured out a way to give the bib yoke a tidier finish. Even though the seam was still going to covered by the trim, I just felt like I was using a finish with more finesse.


I’ve now completed the front and back of the top. I’m going to investigate using a rolled hem for the top’s hems on the body and the sleeves. I haven’t tried this method using my overlocker yet and I’m quite excited about this possibility….more to follow…..