Monday, July 19, 2010

Vogue 1165 Sandra Betzina blouse

Where do I start? This was the project from h**l. Who would expect it? Not I. I have had lots of success with Sandra Betzina patterns. Usually her instructions are excellent and the fit works for me with my usual alterations. The one other reviewer of this blouse here on PR didn't seem to have any trouble. Maybe I have lost it. Indeed, some of my issues were caused by myself but most came from problems with the pattern. I would say probably driving a pin through my thumb was my own fault although if I hadn't had to redo the sleeve after trimming the seam allowances I would not have had that pin so near my thumb. A little neosporin and a bandaid fixed that mishap.

Here's the pattern description from the envelope: "A line shirts with pleat detailing and darts in front, choice of snap or button closures. View A has long, pleated sleeves with placket. View B has three quarter length sleeves". I would call the front detailing tucks as they are not pleats. This has Today's Fit sizing A through J. I cut my usual size B at the shoulders, sleeves, and neckline and size C at the sides except I added even extra in the seam allowances there.

It looks like the pattern photo especially since I used a white fabric. My tucks pucker. Not surprising since they are all sewn on the bias. I happened to look at the Power Sewing forum where Sandra answers questions about her patterns. Someone had asked about the puckering tucks problem on her own project. Sandra said she has made the blouse 3 times and never had a puckering problem. She suggested a technique to help with that using a fusible thread inside the tuck. Of course at this point all my tucks were sewn so I didn't try that. I've decided that the puckers are a design feature.

Another problem I had with the tucks involved my marking technique. It is very important to mark the lines carefully. Sandra suggests tailors tacks. I started doing that but it was way too time consuming. So I switched to a tracing wheel and transfer tracing paper. Of course I used red to show up on the white. (I just got out the transfer paper envelope and there I see that they admonish me not to use red or blue on white fabric. Why do I notice these things after the fact?) I also did it on the wrong side since I usually mark on the wrong side. Once the tucks are sewn the marking is on the inside and were very resistant to removal. After lots of blotting with water and scrubbing with soap I finally resorted to washing the whole blouse front, soaking it with lots of suds, to be sure it would come out before I spent more time on the project. At that point things had gone along okay and I hadn't put a whole lot of time into this. Little did I know, what with the collar and sleeves and other issues that this blouse would take around 20 hours to sew!

There were a few problems with the instructions. The collar was quite confusing primarily because on the pattern piece it says to cut 2 on the fold. I did that and interfaced as instructed. I spent a great amount of time trying to make the collar work with both those pieces. Finally I looked at the cutting layout and noticed that only one collar piece was shown. That helped. It made a lot more sense with only one collar piece. However there was still a problem with step 24 and it's illustration. If you have done this type of procedure before you will be able to do this but not because of the instructions in this pattern. It would be simple to make it clear by saying "temporarily tuck the body of the shirt inside the collar to stitch around the corner of the collar to make a clean facing." But they didn't say that.

My next issue with the instructions involved the sleeve placket. I have done these before but it has been a long time as I don't make shirts much. The instructions were vague. Sandra says "if sleeve plackets and neckbands are your nemesis, I have made a DVD called "Shirts and Blouses" where construction is demonstrated in close camera work." A few more words in the pattern instructions would have been more helpful.

About the sleeves: Sandra has this sleeve sewn in flat. I'm not sure why except some sewers think that is easier. Not in this case. The sleeve has a high curve with easing and was not easy to sew in flat. She does mention to sew with the sleeve on top. I stupidly ignored this particular instruction because I like to have the sleeve underneath to allow the feed dogs to help with the easing. However in this case, because of the curve of the sleeve cap, it is very hard to stitch around that curve without catching the sleeve in the stitching if it is underneath. Don't ignore this instruction. I serged the sleeve edge with the garment on top and this led to disaster. Yes, I cut a slash in the sleeve top with the serger blade.  This is why I had to rip the sleeve off, cut a new sleeve, sew on another annoying placket and resew the sleeve in place (this time with the sleeve on top).

Finally after all this trouble with the sleeves I finally got to the point where I could put on the shirt only to find that the sleeves were too tight at the sleeve cap. Never have I had this as a fitting issue. Usually sleeves are too loose on me. Maybe my arms have grown lately. Once again I removed the sleeves and sewed them on with the tiniest possible seam allowance (which led to pin in finger episode). They are still a bit tight and not terribly comfortable but wearable if I don't raise my arms or try to dance.

Next the cuffs: not too much trouble here. If you have figured out the collar sandwiching then the cuffs will be easy. One small issue on the cuffs: if you use the size button recommended and place the buttonholes as marked on the pattern, the buttons will bump into each other.

Before I started this epic adventure I thought I liked the style with the diagonal tucks and spread collar. Now I don't. I did like several nice tips that Sandra included. One was to use Steam-a-seam 2 Lite for the hem applying it to the right side of the fabric at the edge. Then you iron up the 5/8ths hem while the paper is still on the steam-a-seam. After the hem is ironed up you remove the paper and turn under the 1/4" edge and press it in place. This makes a curved, turned under hem very easy. I was happy to use that trick on another project with curved flat felled seams.

I used a white pima cotton with a woven in design purchased in Cairo a few years back. My size alterations were as mentioned above. Also I dropped the dart which I always have to do. The problem with doing that is that the lower dart will cross into the tucks. Thus one must shorten the dart. Of course I didn't realize this until after the fact so a bit of ripping and restitching was necessary.

Now that I am recovering from this experience I am liking the style again. Hopefully some of my suggestions might help you if you try this. This garment has 53 steps of construction, some of which are confusing. Why is it labeled "Easy"?