Tag Archives: blouse

Journal: Back from hiatus edition

Hello, internet. It’s been a while. As promised, now that I’m mostly settled in from the big move, I’m back! Not too unexpectedly, I didn’t get too terribly much crafting done, what with most of my WIPs being in boxes and that whole full-time job thing. However, there were some long flights and a holiday in there, so I have some things to report.

So close!

So close!

Mostly I’ve been chugging along on my spinning, and I am getting so close to the end of the roving. I am pretty excited about that—spinning was a new adventure, and I regret nothing, but until/unless I get a fiber farm and a spinning wheel, it is not going into my set of regular hobbies. I’ve also picked up some gray yarn that I think will complement my hand-spun yarn, with the intent of making a gray shawl with a big color block in it. I’ll keep y’all posted as that progresses, for sure.

bracelets_jan15I’ve made a bunch of tatted bracelets, some as gifts and some simply as something to do on airplanes and such. I am kicking myself for not taking a picture of one of the gift ones, as I think it’s the most beautiful one I’ve made to date; I’m planning to make another like it for myself at some point, though, and I’ll be sure to get a picture then. The ones I’ve still got on hand are pictured at right.

Finally, I started in on another pair of honeycomb mitts, using the burgundy and white yarn left over from my shawl. I made a couple of edits: instead of the single inkline, I’ve made a column of six TSS stitches in each row, and I distributed the increases and decreases evenly on both sides of this column rather than all on one side of the inkline. I like how they are turning out so far, both in terms of color and pattern. Photos:

I also finished the grey and tan silk-bamboo scarf I’ve been working on in the background; I’ve got a pattern written up and will get around to finishing and publishing it soon. I finished the blouse that I was muttering about a couple entries ago, although I don’t have pictures for you today. My other WIPs—the lace scarf and cashmere mitts—are still in progress, but haven’t come out of the protective wrappings I put them in for moving yet.

blouse_fabricOne final crafting-related activity to do with the move is that I’ve had to check out all my local craft stores. So far I’ve just hit the local incarnations of the big chains; I intended to just case the joint and come back when I actually needed something, but on all three excursions I came out with new materials. Between two fabric stores, I came out with fabric for three new blouses (pictured at right) and a pair of slacks. If you’re paying attention, you may have noticed I haven’t yet finished the Great Five-Blouse Project; the plan is actually to put off the last of those for a bit and assembly-line these three on the machine just to put some more options in my closet ASAP.

green_cream_yarnI also bought some new yarn at one of the fabric stores. Some is some cheap baby-sport yarn which will become a low-mental-energy crochet project and then a why-did-I-move-to-a-place-with-real-seasons-in-the-middle-of-winter blanket. The other is something I just thought was pretty and unusual—it appears to be a mesh of white cotton/acrylic threads caging a core of colorful wool fibers. So both a somewhat unusual blend of fibers and interesting from a mechanical perspective. It’s Patons “denim-y”, if you’re interested. I think it will become another two-tone scarf.

multi_threadFinally, at a non-fabric craft store I got a couple more colors of tatting thread. The bracelet I mentioned above being so beautiful came from a variegated colorway, so I’m going to experiment more with that. I’ve got a purple/lavender/white and a navy/denim/white multi.


Tutorial: Cheating hand-made buttonholes

Finished shirt, buttoned, with placket flap pulled back to show buttons and ribbon

Finished shirt, buttoned, with placket flap pulled back to show buttons and ribbon

Today I want to talk about buttonholes. Specifically, I want to talk about how painful and tedious it is to make buttonholes by hand, without a machine. I want to complain that although I have twice as many sewing machines as a reasonable amateur needs, neither of them has a buttonholing feature. Then, I want to talk about how to cheat—making buttonholes, by hand or machine, with only a simple, straight seam and a bit of ribbon.

I’ve been working on button-up blouses lately, so that will be the context for this tutorial; unfortunately the technique that I’ve come up with is pretty much exclusive to rows of buttons on plackets. It could work on fly buttons, cuff buttons, etc., but I leave that as an exercise to the reader. I recommend being familiar with the ordinary ways of making plackets before reading this tutorial: in general, plackets are folded-over areas of fabric that provide reinforcement and stiffness for the buttons. My technique is a form of hidden placket, meaning when the shirt is worn buttoned up, the buttons are hidden behind an extra flap of fabric.

You will need:

  • Fabric for a shirt (or any item with a placket/button closure)
  • A pattern you like, with allowance for ordinary (not hidden) plackets
  • Buttons; since they will be hidden it is okay if they are a poor match or ugly
  • Roughly 2 feet of ribbon, piping, or bias tape; anything narrower than 1/2″ and non-fraying, and preferably matching the color of the fabric. I used quarter-inch satin ribbon; I’ll refer to it as “ribbon” in the instructions but other options are fine.
Pattern piece (McCall's M6035) with allowance for ordinary plackets; note the fold lines and center-front line.

Pattern piece (McCall’s M6035) with allowance for ordinary plackets; note the fold lines and center-front line.

What I mean by “allowance for ordinary plackets” is this: starting from the center front of the garment (often marked on patterns with a dashed line with buttonhole and button positioning marks on it), extra fabric is added, two and a half times as wide as the intended placket; if the final placket will be 1″ wide, 2.5″ is added. The placket width must be wider than the buttons; typically shirts have half-inch buttons (plus or minus an eighth) and inch plackets, but skirts or coats may have larger buttons and correspondingly wider plackets. This added fabric has two folds in it, typically marked with fold lines on patterns: one at half-the-placket-width (1/2″ on shirts) from the center-front line, and another halfway between the first fold line and the edge.


  1. Make sure your pattern has allowance for ordinary plackets, not hidden plackets or a narrow hem or anything else.
  2. Cut fabric piece with center front line (including buttonhole positions) and first fold line marked with pins

    Cut fabric piece with center front line (including buttonhole positions) and first fold line marked with pins

    Cut fabric and transfer markings: mark the center-front line (and button/hole positions) and the first (closest to center-front) fold line. You can mark the second fold line as well, but I did not—it’s recoverable from the first fold line, and I was running low on pins. Make sure you mark the center-front line from top to bottom, not just where the buttonholes are; this will be a fold line on the buttonhole side. If you want to adjust the button/hole positions (I generally make mine closer together to avoid gapping), do it now. Note: I cut my pieces with the straight edge along the selvedge, which helps with construction, but if your fabric has a pucker or anything weird on the selvedge, don’t do this; make sure that the straight edge is as straight and clean as you can, though, as there is effectively less than a quarter-inch seam allowance on it (it’ll work out, I promise).

  3. On the button side (typically left side of the worn garment for women’s shirts, right for men’s), make the placket as normal: fold on both fold lines, creating basically a wide hem, and stitch close to the edge.
  4. On the button-hole side, lay the fabric piece flat with the wrong side facing you. Take your bit of ribbon and lay it right-side-down along the marked center-front line. You want to place just the very edge of the ribbon over the markings, with the rest of the ribbon extending out over the placket allowance (see photo). Pin it down, making sure the ribbon is as straight as possible. Make sure you’ve marked the top and bottom of each buttonhole.
  5. ribbon sewn down

    Ribbon sewn down; if you look closely (click for larger) you can find the tops and bottoms of buttonholes by the knots

    Start sewing the ribbon to the fabric, sewing as straight as you can right over the very edge of the ribbon and through the center-front line of the fabric. Sew from the top of the piece to the top of the first buttonhole, then stop and reinforce the seam. I found this easiest to do by hand, tying knots to reinforce, but it should still be less frustrating than hand-sewing buttonholes for all you machine-sewing folks out there. If you are machine-stitching, use a straight stitch with a fairly short stitch length, and take your time.

  6. Leave a gap for the length of the buttonhole, where the fabric and ribbon run parallel but aren’t connected. If you are hand-sewing, carry the thread across the buttonhole by inserting the needle into the fabric, running the thread loosely along the right side (far side) of the fabric, then coming up at the bottom of the buttonhole, and you’re good to tie a knot and start the next segment. If you’re machine-sewing, finish each segment as you normally finish top-stitching (this seam will be somewhat visible on the outside of the garment); I recommend leaving fairly long tails of thread, then using a hand-needle to hide them inside the finished placket sometime after step 12.
  7. Checking that the buttons go through the gaps I've made

    Checking that the buttons go through the gaps I’ve made

    Sew between the bottom of the first buttonhole and the top of the next, reinforcing at the beginning and end of the seam. Check at this point that your buttons will fit through the hole you just made; if they don’t, rip it out and do-over, and if they slide through too loosely, you can go back and make the gap a little shorter now or do it later.

  8. Work down the rest of the center-front line, leaving gaps for all the marked buttonholes, to the bottom of the piece. Check, as you work or afterwards, that all the holes will accommodate your buttons.
  9. Fold the fabric around the seam line you’ve just made (center front line), right-side to right-side, with the ribbon sticking out away from the folded fabric. Pin and/or press.
  10. Fold the placket allowance wrong-side to wrong-side, matching the cut edge of the fabric with the marked first fold line (if you marked the second fold line as well, just fold along it). Pin and/or press.
  11. Fold along the first fold line, wrong-side to wrong-side, enclosing the raw edge of the fabric. From the front of the piece, it should look like an ordinary hidden placket: an unblemished 1″ strip of right-side fabric at the center-front. From the back, it should look a little weirder; see photos below.
  12. Topstitch all these folds in place, working close to the inside edge of the placket but making sure to securely catch the folded-in raw edge of fabric. If necessary, make two passes. Make sure not to catch the ribbon/buttonholes in this seam; there should be more than half a button width between where the ribbon is attached and this seam.
  13. If you want, for decorative reasons or because you’re worried about the raw edge unfolding, topstitch just the front part of the placket close to the outside edge.
  14. Your placket is done! Still easier than hand-stitching buttonholes, right? Anyway, time to make the rest of the garment!

Note on construction order: I generally make my side seams and bottom-edge hem before making my plackets, but for this construction, the hem really can’t happen before any part of the buttonhole-side placketing. It’s a little weird doing what I consider almost a finishing step, making the plackets, as the very first part of construction, but I think it’s the only way to work it.

Note on working with easily-frayed fabrics (linen blends, satins, silks? I am poor, I don’t know if silk frays): I would recommend trying this technique first on a cotton or cotton-poly blend so you grok the construction before trying it on any fabric that frays. Once you’ve done so, adapting to a fraying fabric is not too bad: the problem is that securely catching the raw edge of the fabric in step 12 is going to be difficult. This is solved by making the placket flap one layer thicker: add an extra placket-width (one inch, for most shirts), or a bit less, to the pattern before/when you cut, adding a fold line at the old edge of the pattern, and transferring all three fold lines. Around steps 10&11 make another fold, making the flap three layers thick instead of two. Then in step 12 you are catching a folded edge instead of a raw edge, which prevents fraying. I don’t recommend this extra thickness if you don’t need it, though, for two reasons: 1) altering patterns scares some people, and 2) the fancy placket is already thicker than most shirts; adding another layer of fabric will make it even stiffer and heavier and risks looking weird.

alt buttonhole

Variant method—the top buttonhole of my green shirt, with the ribbon folded around to hide the end and tacked down. For this one the ribbon was added after constructing the placket; if you follow the instructions above but end the ribbon this way it will be on the other side of the inner part of the placket.

Variant: I prefer the way given above, but if you don’t like having the ribbon run the full length of the placket (because there’s an open collar, for instance), cut the ribbon three-quarters inch above the top of the first buttonhole, before you start sewing; fold the tail of ribbon on a right angle above the buttonhole so it’s pointing towards the middle of the garment, fold the end under and sew it down to the fabric (see photo). In fact, you can construct steps 9-13 first, then mate the edge of the ribbon to the folded edge of the fabric, either with a whipstitch or a slight overlap and running stitch, folding under both ends of the ribbon; this is how I did my first attempt, allowing me to put off placing the buttonholes until the shirt was constructed enough to try on, but I still prefer the method given above overall.

green shirt 2

Green shirt with ribbon ended just above the top buttonhole: note that even with the collar folded down, no ribbon is visible, although the unusually-folded fabric is.

I suppose at some point I should address the question of, well, what happens when you finish the shirt? Is it wearable? Is it going to take hours to get in and out of? To which I answer, I was actually surprised by how well this works. I was expecting it to function, but be annoying to fasten/unfasten, and it is, but much less annoying than I expected; it’s only a tiny bit more annoying than ordinary buttonholes, and I think that even integrated over the lifetime of the shirt, the extra annoyance of using these buttonholes is completely compensated by the reduced annoyance of making them. On the other hand, I would not gift a garment with this kind of placket without checking with the recipient; I have unusually nimble fingers (as do you, if you do much fiber crafting), and I could see the unusual-ness by itself being a problem. As a final note, I used satin ribbon because I have it to hand in lots of colors, but I think the annoyance factor would go down if you use a thicker, less slippery material, like bias tape or piping or non-satin ribbon.

Journal: 15 June 2014

I feel a little silly making two journal posts in a row, not sure why; at any rate I have not been feeling especially creative (although still craftsy as ever) so what’s to do? Since my last post, I finished the patchwork shirt mentioned there, made some things out of embroidery floss, and made a frumpy floral apron so I stop grease-spotting all my trousers when cooking. I also made it out to the store and picked up fabric for my next five projects: button-up blouses, in hopes that I will soon have a job that wants them (wish me luck!).


Blue patchwork shirt, made from stash scraps

First up, the patchwork blouse, Simplicity 1462 in shades of blue. I’m not as pleased with how the colors worked out as I was with the brown one I did, but I think this time around my construction was better than either previous attempt. That is, the collar lies a lot flatter than either the brown or red shirts’ collars, and the seams and hems are all very neat. blue_detailWe’ll see if it grows on me.




Apron with bib up

Next up, the Frumpiest Apron Of All Time. Seriously. I made it for purely utilitarian reasons—after a couple years being frustrated with getting grease spots on my clothes when I make fajitas or chicken tikka masala or basically anything in my big frypan, and simultaneously thinking of aprons as a rather silly frippery, I suddenly put two and two together and had to have one. I don’t always learn fast, but I learn well. apron_detailAnyway I had some floral fabric on hand that I was never, ever going to use for serious clothing, which I think I actually got from my grandmother’s stash (she basically ordered me to go through it one Christmas and take as much as I could pack). I cobbled together a pattern from the front panel of an A-line skirt, a trapezoid for the bib, and a bunch of strips.


Apron skirt with bib folded down behind

The skirt is hemmed, the bib is hemmed on top and bound with the neck straps on the sides, and they are joined by a broad waistband that ties in back. I will probably mostly wear it skirt-fashion, with the top part folded down, but I like having the option of a bib for cooking e.g. bacon. When I was cutting fabric, I planned to put a ruffle around the skirt, but basically wussed out while sewing—I calculated that the ruffle alone would take at least twice as long to sew as the rest of the apron put together, and I wanted it ready to use ASAP—but since I have the strips all cut, I may gradually hem and gather them when I am between projects and attach them at some later date. I also plan to add a pocket or pockets at some point in the future. Despite making fun of how frumpy it is, I am actually rather proud of the construction—the sides of the skirt and bib actually line up well, even though I didn’t do any Serious Drafting With Math or even much measuring, the straps are good lengths and solidly constructed, and the coverage is good.


Apron laid out on floor, showing construction

hearts_braceletWhile the apron and blouse were in progress, I made my way to the fabric store, mostly to get embroidery floss, but also because I was completely out of project-sized fabric (!). The embroidery floss was for a deadline—at the end of this past week, my SO departed to counsel a multi-week residential summer camp, so I made matching friendship bracelets for him and me. The pattern is a slight modification of this one, in a color scheme that he likes and that’s camp themed. headbandsWhile in the embroidery floss aisle, I picked up some floss for headbands—one to match my brown patchwork shirt especially, or brown clothing more generally, and another to match the bright red shirt with off-white flowers and basically nothing else in my wardrobe. The brown one follows the tutorial I’ve posted, while the red one uses my Atlantis edging pattern, slightly modified to make it taper to the ends.

blousesFinally, a glance ahead at my next few sewing projects: I meant to pick up fabric for three or four plain, workaday button-up blouses, just because I am trying to transition from grad school’s jeans and t-shirts to the respectable world and don’t have enough blouses. The store happened to be on a particularly good sale, so I bought five pieces in the end, figuring I’d want that many eventually anyway. I’m particularly excited about the white fabric—I can’t get it to show in a picture, but the fabric has a subtle but lovely paisley design in white-on-white paint, and I love me some paisley. The gray fabric is a fairly subtle floral print, and very soft; the rest are inexpensive cotton-poly broadcloth. I also picked up a new blouse pattern with sleeve and collar variations, McCall’s M6035, which I plan to make some blouses straight from and then use as a jumping-off point for more variations.

Journal: 24 April 2014

Since my last journal post, I finished my green dress and my knitting, and then spent a while blocked and not really wanting to start anything new. Now I’ve recovered, partly thanks to getting a big box o’ yarn in the mail, and have way too many things on needles again, just the way I like it.

SerenityThing 1: During the dead period, I did still want to do some crafting, so I got out my needlepoint. Some backstory: around April of last year, I got myself a printed needlepoint kit from the store because I felt like learning a new craft. I rather enjoyed it, and finished the 5″x5″ piece in good time. I wanted to get a new kit and continue needlepointing, but I had a problem: the needlepoint kits you can buy in your average craft store are desperately twee—much too cute and often more religious than I am happy with. So I thought to myself, self, how hard can it be to design my own? Just take a photo, tweak it a
little bit, and……and many, many hours later I had a couple hundred lines of image-100_1437 (1024x768)processing Matlab code, a map for a counted needlepoint project, and a printout of the colors of floss I would need. Because I am a giant dork, my starting image was the thing painted on the side of the ship in the movie Serenity, pictured above at right. As of today, most of a year after this project began, it looks like the photo at left; the whitish areas are still to be filled in. This project has been agonizing. Largely in a way that is a source of lessons learned, and I’ve already tweaked my Matlab (actually, Octave, as I lost access to my matlab license in August) program to make the next project much, much easier. Still, I hate to waste all the effort I’ve put in so far and start a new needlepoint before finishing this one, so on I slog.

100_1445 (1024x768)Thing 2: I did a bunch of experimental tatting. This has already resulted in four pattern posts, so ’nuff said, but here’s a picture of a bunch of tatted scraps. There’s Cluny leaves, one nested ring, a bunch of Josephine rings, hearts, split rings, spiral chains, and some plain old ring and chain drafting in there.

100_1439 (913x1024)Thing 3: I started on a pair of slacks that I’ve been planning since before I started this blog. They’re in a heavy black material that is the best match I could find to the suit jacket I have, but the material is heavier than I really bargained for so it’s slow going. I’m even contemplating breaking out the sewing machine to finish it. Anyway, I’m using Simplicity 2860, modified to have a side zipper and in-seam pocket.

100_1443 (1024x768)Thing 4: I decided what to do with some of the pretty fabric I got last time I went to the store: I’m making a ruffle-front blouse from McCall’s M5929. I’ve used this pattern before to make a linen blouse that is roughly the dressiest thing I own, as well as reasonably comfortable, so I am rather fond of the pattern. We’ll see how it does in the floppier cotton. I’ve done the major seams, but have yet to do all the fiddly bits, which is the majority of this pattern.

100_1435 (1024x768)Thing 4: My huge box o’ yarn arrived, and I immediately set to work: the majority of the yarn is worsted-weight cotton with which I intend to make a number of potholders/trivets/dishcloths, as well as to use for skill-share parties to teach my friends to knit and crochet. The pattern I have for potholders does well with multiple, coordinated colors, so I’ve separated the yarn into bunches:100_1425 (1024x768) 100_1428 (1024x768) 100_1430 (1024x768) 100_1432 (1024x768)with some left over skeins that don’t really go with anything else.

100_1421 (1024x769)Thing 5: Because I can’t leave well enough alone, I decided to cast on a new shawl in sock yarn. I got a bag of 10 skeins of random colors of the Serenity sock weight yarn that I love so much, and am still thinking about what to do with all of it, but two of the skeins in the same colorway are just begging to be a shawl. It’s the “surf” colorway, and I am making Evelyn Clark’s Swallowtail Shawl rather than drafting my own pattern this time. I am a little short from the amount of yarn it calls for, and don’t see an easy way to reduce the pattern, so I am planning to do the edging in white sock yarn, depending where I run out. Right now I am about 15 rows in and liking the pattern pretty well.