In the last year, I have made my Mum two versions of the Afternoon Blouse by Jennifer Lauren Handmade – one as a birthday present and another because the first one was such a success! This is a fab pattern – really easy to follow and I was able to whip up both in a couple of days. The real challenge for me was the pattern matching across the centre front seam, and if you want to know my top tips then please read on!
The first version of the Afternoon Blouse that I made for my Mum started with the fabric. I had recently subscribed to the mailing list of the shop Sew Me Sunshine, and it was here that I saw a wonderful mid-century print cotton that I knew would be perfect for Mum. I sent her the link and I was right – she loved it! The second top I made was out of fabric we had bought before I found this one! We had found it in our local fabric shop and Mum really loved it and I promised I would make it into a top for her at a point in the future – after the success of the first Afternoon Blouse, Mum decided she wanted one exactly the same.
The next step was finding a pattern. We agreed a simple pattern, with limited darts and shaping, would do the best justice to the busy pattern of the fabric and this led us to the Afternoon Blouse. It is a simple A-line top, with grown on sleeves and a placket with two different views at the front. Mum like the rounded placket best so that’s the view we went with!
As the design of the top is so simple, I wanted to really put in a lot of effort into the finer details – especially pattern matching. This was really challenging with both the versions of the top I made as there is a seam right at the centre front so any mistake would be glaring! To make sure the pattern would match, I cut each pattern piece out one at a time.
With the furniture fabric, I pressed the seam allowance on the centre front, then matched it with the fabric, then pinned the pattern piece in place to make sure it would match.
With the flowery fabric, I initially didn’t think that there was a pattern repeat but when I measured it I realised there was one approximately every 8cm. So, to make sure the pattern would match, I cut out one front piece, then placed it over the fabric right sides together (accomodating the seam allowance) to make sure they would match. I used pins in the centre of the flowers to anchor the pattern match.
My strategy for getting a precise pattern match on the centre front seam essentially involved a huge amount of pins. I started pinning at key points in the pattern: edges of motifs in the furniture fabric, and the centre of flowers for the floral fabric. I also pinned perpendicular to the fabric so I could *carefully* sew over the pins. I know that this is a big no-no in sewing machine technique but it kept the pattern joined exactly where I wanted it and I was very careful.
With the most challenging part of assembly complete, I could get on with the rest of the top. Essentially, you sew the facing, side and shoulder seams then sew the facing to the top. I finished exposed seams with my overlocker but finished seams that would be hidden with my pinking shears. I also notched the curve of the facing at the front and round the neckline. I also understitched the facing around the neckline – but not that far into the placket, I just pressed this well.
Finishing the side seams did give me a bit of headache as the pattern recommends cutting notches but I’m always reluctant to cut notches as they weaken the seam. However, this is the best method and my compromise was to finish the side seams up to the armpit with the overlocker, then finish the underarm with pinking shears and cut notches.
I also strayed from the instructions in finishing the hem of the sleeves. the pattern wants you to finish them before sewing the side seams but I did it the other way round – sewing the side seams then sewing the hem. I finished the sleeves and hem of the top with a 0.75cm double fold hem on my machine.
I finished off both tops by securing the facing with short rows of straight stitches at the centre front and the shoulder seams. Then both tops needed a decorative button at the front as a finishing touch!
I was so pleased with my pattern matching on both these tops. Not only do they match across the centre front seams, but they match across the plackets as well. As far as the pattern goes, I really recommend it – it has clear diagrams and instructions and it’s perfect for a beginner. Mum absolutely loves both versions of the top and I’m sure I’ll end up making the dress version for her at some point in the future!