A couple of months ago I was asked if I would like to sew something for the Sewcialists re-launch, with the theme of ‘tribute month’. I’m a bit wary of sewing on a deadline because it often leads to me rushing something and being disappointed in myself, but the timelines were generous and most of my makes are already directly inspired by other sewists’ makes so it fit in with how I sew already. After thinking about it for about two seconds I realised I was already planning to make a top directly inspired by Heather B!
When I first saw her bee blouse, I actually gasped out loud. I WANTED one, but I figured it was probably an original vintage pattern that I wouldn’t have access to. But no! It was a Mae blouse from Blue Ginger Doll. Not only a modern pattern, but one that I already owned!
I immediately thought of this cotton poplin that I have had in my stash for a long time now. It’s from the Spotlight spots and stripes range, and I bought it because it’s clearly in a different base than the rest of the line and it’s really lovely. But I hadn’t used it because I couldn’t figure out what to make that wasn’t too twee but also worked with the fabric. I knew this would be the perfect match! Especially after I dug a little deeper and saw that Heather had in fact made a version with small spots, as well.
I read Heather’s post for her original Mae for fitting tips. I was initially going to try to do an FBA but I couldn’t work out how to manage it without a dart, which I didn’t want to add in. BGD are already drafted for a D cup, but the the largest size (18) lists the finished full bust measurement as being 1″ too small for me. I decided to muslin it up as a straight size 18 though, given Heather’s experience with it. It was too small through the torso but everything seemed to be in approximately the right place – the bust fit quite nicely although the dart was too far out. I decided I’d copy Heather directly and just add 3/8″ to the side seams below the sleeve portion.
So this version is a size 18 with a size 10 bust dart (the darts are all the same size, just placed differently). I probably should have gone with the size 14 dart as it’s a bit too far in, but not too bad. However, as you can see I do have a fair bit of pulling at the bust. This is exacerbated by the fact that I sewed the armholes up about 1.5″ higher. Initially it fit really well but then when I put it on to take photos you could clearly see my bra. I’m not sure how I thought it was ok in the muslin!
As a consequence of sewing the armholes up higher, the back got tighter. I had to unpick the sideseams and sew them as narrow as I could – I’d already trimmed and understitched so there wasn’t much wriggle room.
I’d say in the end there’s about a 1/2″ total added to the sides, and I could use another 1/4″ at the widest part of my torso. Next time I would do that FBA, even if it did add a dart, and do a small full back adjustment for across my shoulder blades. This is my largest part both front and back, because I hunch so I really always need extra room there.
I would also like to take a wedge out of the centre because my hollow upper chest/low bust/lack of an FBA means it’s collapsing above my bust which throws the whole neckline out and it irritates the heck out of me. I feel like that + the tightness across the bust makes my whole bust look droopy, which is not ideal. If I pinch a 1/4″ out it all fits beautifully, and the whole neckline sits a lot better. Of course, if I’d gone down a size and done a proper FBA, that would also have solved this issue. Oh and while I’m listing things off, I’d also bring that back neckline up, which I did mean to do but forgot. It’s not too bad but it does make the shirt pull forward which adds to the general ill fittingness.
I really took my time sewing those scallops. They are not perfect and one side (the first side I sewed) sits a bit wonky but I am still really pleased with them. The BGD blog had what I’m told was a great tutorial on sewing the scallops, but since the business appears to be pretty defunct the pictures are gone so I gleaned what I could from it, and from Heather’s photos. I enjoyed the process and feel like I learnt a lot by doing it, which I always like.
I did find the instructions a bit baffling and not particularly well written. I seem to have had this complaint with my last few makes – perhaps it’s me? But the things I’m sewing at the moment are fine. Anyhow, I worked it out. I did add interfacing to the back to give that fold some weight, and I’m very glad I did. I find it a bit odd that it doesn’t tell you to do that? I did have to trim the interfaced parts off at the top where there were four layers. I also did the facings in white lawn to avoid the spots showing through.
I thought about just sewing the back up and sewing buttons on through it, since I can pull it over my head without needing an opening. But then I remembered I have a bunch of snaps in my stash and they would be perfect! I really like how they look although they do gape because of the fit issues. Plus it’s always fun to hammer in snaps!
All of the above mentioned flaws are really irritating me now – especially since I had to have three goes at photographing this due to poor weather and also, to be honest, being a bit out of practice! I hope you will forgive the slightly dodgy photos and my tired face. I’m trying to reclaim my beautiful blue wall but it involves balancing on my bed and propping the camera up on a wardrobe shelf and I haven’t quite perfected my technique yet!
Anyway all I can see when I look at these photos are the flaws, and I feel kind of embarrased about them especially because I wanted this to be so perfect as a tribute to Heather – I really took my time and finished everything nicely and then ended up ripping half of it out! But in real life, when I look in the mirror, the flaws are not so obvious and although I can see it pulls across the bust it doesn’t feel restrictive.
I’m anticipating getting a bunch of wear out of this blouse if it ever gets warm again. (It feels impossible right now but I know it will be spring before I know it). I also think that with those few relatively minor tweaks this could be an excellent TNT and a good base for drafting and hacking from. The main part of the blouse goes together so quickly and neatly, and it would be pretty easy to draw in a new neckline or add a skirt, etc. While I feel like there are a lot of flaws looking at these photos, and having listed them off like this, each one just needs a very small tweak to be neutralised, so it shouldn’t be too much work (famous last words?).
Pattern: Mae blouse by Blue Ginger Doll
Fabric: from the ‘Spots and Stripes’ line at Spotlight
Size sewn: size 18 (the largest)
Adjustments made: added 1/2″ to the sides below the armhole. Sewed the armhole up an extra 1/5″ to avoid flashing bra. Added snaps instead of buttons. Cut facings from plain white lawn. interfaced the back fold over placket.
Next time I would: do an FBA, do a broad back adjustment, take a 1/4″ wedge out of the front neck, bring the back neck up about 1/2″