The Little Top Project #5: Spring For Cotton

The Pattern: Simplicity 5645 from 1965 Difficulty: Easy Skill Level: Beginner/Advanced Beginner Do I love it? Yes! I just love Sewalongs, don’t you? Everybody working diligently, and then the photos start pouring in and you can really appreciate all the creativity out there. I love seeing somebody’s vision realized.  I participated in Lucky Lucille’s Spring for Cotton last month. The challenge is to make a vintage, vintage inspired or vintage reproduction pattern using 100% cotton fabric and any other cotton materials you can, like trims and thread. Naturally, I dug through my stash for just the right vintage pattern. Since I had a lot going on in May, with my day job workload tripling (flowers are big this time of year!) and a yard sale at the end of the month, I decided to make something smaller and less involved, like a blouse. Something simple, but cute, and I needed a short sleeve button down anyway. I love t-shirts as much as everyone else, but sometimes you want something casual but less ubiquitous. Plus, I have a healthy, shoe box-sized stash of vintage buttons now and I’d like to start using them before they take over my studio. You’ve seen that Tribble episode from the original Star Trek, right? Yeah, we’re headed there with the buttons.

My material, pattern and vintage buttons for this project.

My material, pattern and vintage buttons for this project.

The winner was Simplicity 5645, from 1965. This pattern was originally made to fit my mother as a teenager. She would have been around 14 or 15 when this was printed, and she told me she thinks Grandma made multiple versions of it for her. I wanted a short sleeve blouse but I knew I didn’t have enough fabric for the tie collar, so I went with that supercute wide, deep v-neck collar on the center drawing. I had bought the nifty tie-dye plaid a couple of years ago and I’ve been unsure what to do with it  ever since. But when I saw this pattern’s yardage requirement, and that it was plaid-friendly, I went for it. But first, I had to redraw the pattern. This one was purchased for a teenager (my mom!) with much smaller measurements than mine are now as an adult. So, as I did with the skirt pattern I posted a couple of months back, I rolled out my freezer paper and traced the pieces. Then, measuring carefully, I made them all a half-inch larger, on all sides.This grades the pattern up two sizes, and I marked the darts in their original positions because I was pretty sure they wouldn’t move very much farther since it wasn’t a large size difference. I am not a big stickler for recreating the exact pattern with all the original markings because I know in my heart I’m going to adjust it somewhere (probably the shoulders and all the darts) and it just seems pointless to worry too much about exact placement of darts that I’m moving anyway.

I then was ready to match plaids. Lucky me, this was an even plaid, and the matching was totally painless as I laid out my pieces, front and back, first. That took some thought, because of the buttons. On any garment that requires some careful matching, you need to really think about how things like buttons and seams affect the overall look of the pattern once it becomes a garment.  Buttons, for example, can move your pattern off-center if you don’t plan for it. Ask yourself: “Do I want the plaid to match up on both left and right sides of my body? Front and back? Should the pattern match up on the sleeves, the cuffs, the collar?” This extra prep work is totally worth it, even if sometimes it might make you grab your hair and yell “AARRGH!” The end result will look so much better if you think about your fabric and how it should work with your garment. Sometimes people choose to intentionally misalign their fabric for an artistic look or do it upside down or diagonally. I bet you’ve seen that someplace and weren’t aware of it. Think about stripes for a minute: vertical or horizontal, of course, or…creating a zigzag with careful planning and diagonal cutting. I have seen several maxi skirts this summer where the fabric was carefully matched and cut so the lines created a chevron look. Cool, huh?

Back to my plaid: the collar was a teeny bit tricky, as there was not a lot of fabric left after I cut my sleeves, cuffs, front and back. There was just enough that if I shaved a few eighths of an inch off I could cut the two collar pieces as a diagonal and it would work. With plaids, it’s not unusual to cut some pieces on the diagonal because you can’t match them 100% anyway since you are a series of curves, and your plaid fabric is straight lines. Take a look at you favorite plaid garment, and chances are, you have a diagonal plaid someplace on it -a back yoke, a waistband, or even an entire skirt cut on the diagonal because it works with the straight lines and it looks spiffy. The next issue I dealt with was fit. The 1960s blouses I have seen tend to have a very loose fit. They are wider than modern blouses, and if you think about the mid and late 1960s fashions, you have lots of A-line dresses and everything is somewhat boxy in silhouette. Lots of loose dresses, blouses and straight lines in complete contrast to the previous decade and early 1960s where everything is very tailored and tight.

Somewhat out of focus shot of my work-in-progress. You can see the pin holding the sleeves on and going down the front in this fitting shot. This is a wide shirt! Time to run it in at the sides.

Somewhat out of focus shot of my work-in-progress. You can see the pin holding the sleeves on and going down the front in this fitting shot. This is a wide shirt! Time to run it in at the sides.

When I tried my blouse on, I was like “Whoa!” I am by no means a large gal, but I swear this thing made me look fifteen pounds heavier. So, I decided maybe we could run this in a bit but still stay true to the style of the decade. So I  pinched here and there and settled on making it about and inch slimmer.

I can tell already that this shirt is going to be a favorite.

I can tell already that this shirt is going to be a favorite.

I knew this baby was going to be worn untucked, so I found a length that worked for me and hemmed it there. I used some topstitching on my cuffs and you can see in the photos that my diagonal collar looks really nice!  I just love the vintage buttons and relaxed fit, and this is one very comfy blouse. I really enjoy working with the vintage patterns and bringing something long forgotten back, to be loved and worn and proud of.

Here you can see the vintage buttons and my good job of plaid matching!

Here you can see the vintage buttons and my plaid matching! That button placket in the middle made it tricky.

One thing I have noticed pretty often in my vintage projects is that the version I choose to make is usually the same version that was made originally. I think it’s pretty interesting that I have the exact same taste in design as my mother and grandmother. Nature? Nurture? Who can say? Maybe it’s just good taste! As I was finishing up this project, I sent a photo to my mother, and I asked her if she remembered this pattern from when she was a teen, and it turns out, she did! She said Grandma made multiple versions of this blouse for her, which makes me laugh, because I also plan on at least one more version of this blouse. I have my eye on version 5, the one with the tie collar. I have this awesome brown scattered floral that would be just so pretty. Maybe with long sleeves, and these pale pink buttons I have in my stash…. Sounds like another blog post to me!

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