Sweet off- white blouses are a staple of many women’s wardrobes and for good reason. So, when my friend Sally brought me a 7 yard piece of vintage China silk, embroidered here and there with ivory flowers, a blouse was my first design idea. The embroidery was centered on the narrow fabric in a series of panels, perhaps just for that purpose.
Here is the story’s fun twist. In 2019 while awaiting the arrival of the Downton Abbey movie, I re-watched the entire 6 seasons of drama. Much to my surprise, in season 4 episodes 7 and 8 is the very blouse that this fabric had been embroidered for. It is worn by the Countess, Cora, for her daytime activities and it is a tunic length blouse. The reverse button on my remote control got lots of use as I watched and re-watched the occasional scene where the blouse is being worn in order to annotate the details. Now I had the design idea, just no time available in our busy travel season to create it.
Time to Get the Project Started
While at home during the pandemic, we began seriously testing the Carpe Diem Dress and Tunic pattern. This was the perfect pattern to make Sally’s lovely blouse. Plus, it afforded me a reason to re-watch this most favorite of costume dramas to revisit the design.
As with any new project, I prepared the pattern and pre-washed the fabric on the gentle cycle. I chose a sunny day so the fabric could lay outside to dry. Once dry and pressed it was laid on the clean cutting table to plan the positioning of the embroidery.
Fussy Cutting the Fabric
The Center Back seam allowed me to position the two long narrow embroideries on the back. Because Sally is small, I needed to combine the front and side pieces to accommodate the largest embroidered panel.
The other two mirror image embroidered panels became the sleeves. I cut the sleeves a bit wider to accommodate the embroidery. The fabric is very thin, but there were several yards of unembroidered silk that I cut as lining for the front, back and sides.
Sewing it together
The blouse was made according to the Carpe Diem directions except that the sides did not have to be stitched onto the front. It was a little tricky but I stay stitched the armhole angle and put a clip in the seam allowance which allowed the sleeve to be stitched to the side panel and then inserted to the front/back. Once the construction was complete and the lining inserted, the armhole was bound with a bias binding to finish all the raw edges.
To accommodate the two layers in the body, a small bias binding was used to finish the neck edge. I double turned the hems of the blouse, the lining layer and the sleeves, hand stitching each hem in place. Thread chains were stitched at the hem to connect the two layers. Watch the video of making a thread chain on our YouTube channel or in the Facebook archive if you would like to give it a try. (The video shows you a thread chain at the shoulder, but you make it the same way at the hemline. Good luck.)
The bias binding at the neck was secured with hand stitching and the neckline is closed with a button and loop. The sleeve hems were folded into a pleat with matching buttons securing this in place.
What Inspires your sewing?
This Carpe Diem is so simple and elegant. Good thing I am such a costume drama fan, I might have missed the inspiration. Do any of your clothes reflect your costume drama binges?
Have you ever seen this sort of embroidered yardage before? I have done some internet searching, but cannot find any information about its age and where it might have been created. Please share what you know if you are familiar with this sort of fabric set.
Keep an eye on Facebook and Instagram this week to see some more details. I will also post some other fun Fit for Art makes in Sally’s closet.
Happy Sewing, RAE
Want to read more? These blog posts are about fun sewing adventures using Sally’s fabulous fabric collection: Two Jackets from one Lining, Button Quandaries, Coat stitched from a Quilt, Sweet Cupcake Dress.