One of my favourite fabric companies is Amothreads, they sell a variety of deadstock fabric on their website for a really good price. When I was scrolling Instagram one day, I saw this really lovely blue and yellow flower print cotton which I instantly fell in love with, and it was only £3.95 a metre! I knew I had to have it but I wasn’t sure exactly what to make. I’m really into 1940s style at the moment and I thought it would make a lovely blouse or dress. I put up a poll on Instagram to see what my followers thought I should make but then it dawned on me: I could make a matching set! I had only made my lemon ensemble a little while before and I loved the versatility that matching separates gave me. I had also recently made my smooth sailing trousers and the pattern comes as a set with a matching blouse so I thought it would be a fantastic opportunity to give it a go. I decided to pair it with the skirt pattern from the Jemvintagepatterns 1940s beach set as I really enjoyed working with it before. I bought 4m for this project and when it arrived I was good to go!
As I had already worked with the skirt pattern, I decided to start with this part of the outfit. However, from my previous version of this skirt I knew there were a couple of things I wanted to change, the first one being the pockets. I had drafted my own pockets on the lemon version of this skirt and they were a bit too narrow. When I made my orange linen Simplicity 8447 trousers, I had tried using the pocket pattern from the In The Folds Wide Leg Pants as it’s a really good size, and this was really successful so I decided to try it here as well. As before, I folded away the inner edge of the pocket pattern as I didn’t want it to interfere with the placket. I also graded the side seam edge of the pocket pattern to fit with the curve of the skirt piece.
To make the pocket, I cut out two pocket bag pieces, the one that would sit against the front of the skirt from a plain white bedsheet and other other from the flowery fabric. I cut a triangle off the top of the side seam edge of the white pocket piece to match the edge of the finished slash pocket with an addititional 1.5cm of seam allowance. I cut away the same triangle from the front skirt piece. Then, I sewed together the pocket bag pieces (flowery piece right side up) with my overlocker. I matched the two diagonal edges right sides together then pressed the pocket bag up and understitched the pocket bag edge. I then basted the pocket bag to the skirt piece at the side seam and top edge. This is definitely easier to do in practice than it is to explain but hopefully the pictures help!
With the pocket inserted, I could carry on with the skirt construction. I did not line this skirt like I did with the lemon ensemble as the fabric is opaque enough without one – this made the rest of the construction a lot easier. Firstly, I sewed together the side seams then finished them with the overlocker; I pressed the side seams to the back and the centre back seam to the side. Next, I sewed the placket. The placket is made by pressing back a 7.5cm strip from the centre front and pressing that in half to made a double fold. I did get confused and pressed back 7.5cm then 1.5cm from there of seam allowance but I realised my mistake when the placket looked far too wide – I should’ve paid closer attention to the instructions! I finished the placket edge by hand then left the skirt on my mannequin to stretch overnight.
The next alteration I wanted to make to this pattern was to add darts to the back of the skirt. I had issues with the lemon version of this skirt fitting on my waist and had to adjust the skirt once I had attached the waistband and I wanted to avoid that this time! To make the darts, I first measured my own waist and the waist of the skirt to work out the difference (taking into account the additional width on the waist of the skirt to accomodate the placket overlap) which came to 2.75″. I divided this measurement by 4 (two darts and half the dart triangle) to figure out the width of the dart once I’d pinched it out. I also converted this to cm because I find small measurement easier to work with in metric which came to approximately 1.7cm. Next, I tried on the skirt to map out where the darts should go and transferred this to the paper pattern. I made the darts 10cm long and about 1/8 inch larger then sewed them into the skirt. I also cut down the waistband to 33″ to accomodate the changes I’d made to the skirt.
I sewed the waistband on in my usual way, adding interfacing with a net seam allowance to reduce bulk and finishing it by hand. I wanted to leave the skirt to hang for longer so it could stretch and I hadn’t found the right buttons for this project so, at this point, I pinned the skirt onto my mannequin and moved on to the blouse.
Before cutting out my Smooth Sailing blouse, I made a quick alteration to the pattern. According to the measurements, I am a size 18 on my bust and waist but a size 20 on the hips. Using my french curve, I graded the pattern to a 20 on the hips and made sure to cut marks the darts on the waist according this size once I had cut out the pattern. I’ve never graded a pattern before cutting it out before, I tend to work according to one size and make alterations afterwards but this worked really well!
Following the pattern, I started with the pockets. Once I’d pinked and pressed in the seam allowances, the pockets ended up too short so I lengthened the facing at the top by 0.5cm, only a small amount but it makes a big difference on such small pockets! The pockets didn’t perfectly match with the markers on the front of the blouse so I aligned each of them with the armhole side edge and topstitched them in place.
I made this set during the heatwave in mid-July, so on this particular day I didn’t fancy getting out my overlocker as well as my main machine. Instead, I did as much as I could without it. I sewed the tucks in the front of the blouse, attached interfacing to the front facing and yoke facing and sewed the gathers at the top of the front and back pieces to their yokes. I had considered cutting a second yoke to face the back of the blouse with but it would have interfered too much with the front yoke and wasn’t really necessary so I saved myself the effort.
The next day, when I decided I could be bothered to get out the overlocker, I finished the yoke seams, pressed them up and topstitched them in place. Then I sewed the shoulder and side seams and finished them on the overlocker. I did have a bit of an issue with finishing the side seams as the curve from the waist to the hips is quite sharp. At first, I overlocked the side seam edges together and pressed them back but this caused a lot of puckering. So, I undid the overlocked seam, pressed the seam open and overlocked the seam allowances separately. In hindsight I probably should have notched the seam at the waist but I’m a bit wary of notching because it causes a point of weakness in the seam. In any case, sewing it like I did has worked fine!
Next, I started working on the collar. I made a really basic error when sewing the collar pieces together, I sewed one right side out and the other wrong side out, but I fixed that very quickly! I pressed it out and topstitched the edge for a neat finish. I followed the instructions and sewed the facing up to the dot (which corresponds with the edge of the collar) then pinned in the collar. I basted the collar in place before removing the pins and pinning the rest of the facing in place.
To finish the collar, I overlocked the whole edge and cut a bias strip out of the scraps to sew along the back edge of the neckline – it only goes up to a couple of inches beyond the shoulder seam to reduce bulk along the lapel. I sewed this in place on the machine and finished it by hand.
With the collar complete, I could move on to the sleeves. I absolutely loved working on these sleeves, they have a cuff feature which I’ve never used on a sleeve before. To make them, I sewed the underarm seam of the sleeve and cuff together and finished them on the overlocker. Then I sewed the cuffs into the sleeves right side together, fold the cuff along the foldline, press back the seam allowance and hand sew the edge in place over the seam. To finish, I just pressed the cuff up by about half its width.
Sewing the sleeves into the blouse was a breeze as well because the sleeves head is gathered tightly between two notches rather than eased in – these gathers give the sleeve a lovely shape and great volume! I sewed the sleeves in place before finishing the edge on the overlocker.
To hem the blouse, I overlocked the bottom edge before folding back the facing and sewing it on the hemline. Then I pressed up the hem and sewed it by hand. To finish the skirt hem, I used the pattern piece as a guide to level the hem the sewed a narrow double fold hem by hand.
I found the perfect buttons for this project from Rhubarbjumbleshop, when they arrived they were just the right colour and style to suit this 1940s project! I sewed all 14 buttonholes and buttons by hand which took me about three days but it was so worth it! I used a double -thickness white cotton thread to sew the buttonholes which was really successful, it didn’t get too tangled and is the perfect weight for a buttonhole. I finished off the skirt with a popper sewn between the second and third button to keep the placket in place.
I absolutely love this set, the print is so summery and the separates are so versatile – I’ve put together a few outfits to show this off in my photos! The alterations I made to the skirt have made it fit perfectly and the pockets are very successful, I’m going to continue using this pattern from now on when I’m adding pockets to garments. Now I’ve made my own I can see why the Smooth Sailing blouse is so popular; it’s really easy to put together and the instructions are very clear, and it’s a fantastic vintage staple. It has the option to button it right up to the collar which makes it perfect for wearing with jumpers, or it can be worn more open. I’m looking forward to wearing it both with the skirt and with other outfits all through the summer and into the early Autumn!